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Last year, I sent a friend request to Rodney Habib, a pet nutrition blogger who lives in the wild, crazy world of Nova Scotia. In my world, he’s a rock star and I was excited when he accepted my friendship request and thrilled when we started messaging back and forth like old friends.
Rodney is a very very busy man and takes the time daily to help other dog owners by answering our random questions on raw feeding and dog nutrition. So it makes perfect sense that I would include Rodney in this year's A to Z Raw Feeding series. I considered myself a raw feeding champion, because of the improvements I've seen in our dogs' health. But there are small nuances that we don't easily pick up and that's why I follow Rodney Habib.
I am such a fan girl and Rodney is such a great sport…
Here’s your chance to learn a little more. Everything below that is indented to the right is directly from Rodney.
The Dogs that Inspire Rodney Habib
Recently, Rodney posted about his regret that he hasn’t always been as educated on dog nutrition as he is today and he blames himself for the ill health of one of his dogs, Sammie (the white German Shepherd in the image below).
I bet everyone who is reading this can empathize with that feeling, but my response has always been – thank God for Sammie, because that dog inspired Rodney to learn a new way and share what he’s learned with millions of dog owners (his Facebook is insane with comments).
Thanks to what Sammie has taught Rodney, all 4 of our dogs are healthy and thriving, because not only am I feeding them a species appropriate diet, but I now habitually read the ingredients in all treats and supplements before giving them to our dogs.
Rodney has 3 dogs that he calls his “munkies” and he shared that “each one is a blessing and a giant part of my life.” – ummm, do you see why I love him?
My first dog, Sammie, is the love of life. She’s a 75lbs, 7yr old, white German Shepherd. Sammie inspired and created the pet nutrition blogger in me and has made me who I am today.
My second dog, Reggie (aka “the blogger dog”), is my 65lbs, 6yr old, Red Golden Retriever. He is the doggy model for all my blog photos. ☺
Fun fact: My Reggie was the replacement dog for the aging Reggie (Joe the Golden Retriever) in Tom Selleck’s hit show Jessie Stone. However, he didn’t grow to the size of the original dog character on the show, so the studios adopted him out and I was blessed to bring him into my life!
My third and final pup, and the newest edition to my posse, is Shubie! Named after the most cherished dog park and landmark in my hometown, she is my rescue saved by a FedEX special mission and brought into my life! Shubie is a 30lbs, 2 and 1/2yr old miniature husky.
Dog Nutrition, Chicken Jerky Treats, and Raw Feeding
Recently, there was another chicken jerky scare and I immediately thought of Rodney and Sammie and their experience with the tainted chicken jerky treats. This experience is what helped shape the Rodney Habib we know today. Rodney has been feeding raw for 7 years and here’s his story in his words and I bet you'l be amazed at how many times you’ll relate to Rodney’s experience…
In 2008 I got my first dog and the love of my life, Sammie. Before bringing this beautiful white beast into my life, I had researched like a maniac, as I knew I wanted only the very best for her. My research touched various aspects, but since we are talking about food, let’s stay on this topic. After terrible research into the food category, all signs pointed to the most expensive bag of processed kibbled pellets on the market. Of course, being a young dude at the time, I assumed the more expensive the bag, the better it had to be.
At this point, I also needed the best treats in the world. After nosing around in a local pet shop, all label claims pointed to the flashy, all natural (not-so-healthy) chicken jerky.
Top of the line kibble + “all natural” chicken jerky = seemed like an awesome idea at that time!
That was until about 3 months in when one night, leaning over to pat my puppy, I found her collapsed on the floor. That was the day the universe hit me with a sledgehammer and gave me a massive wake up call. After a trip to the emergency hospital, I came to find I had destroyed 70% of her kidneys with the chicken jerky I had been feeding her. Something that, still today, I will never forgive myself for. But this is a happy interview, so let’s flash forward, shall we?
From that point on, I knew it was time to take control of Sammie’s diet. It was time I researched each ingredient, one by one, before adding them into her bowl, whilst making it with my own hands. I would not trust anyone else with her health, and the chef in me was born! (Not really. I’m a terrible cook!)
As years passed, I became a home cooking champion! I would fill the sink with pots and pans and create the most extravagant dishes. I’m not sure if my dogs really cared about the appearance, because Reggie would normally just open his mouth, shovel everything down in one bite and then walk away! However, I felt comfortable in knowing exactly what they were being fed.
This feeding journey went on until, one day, something dawned on me. While researching for the best synthetic powder to add into my pups’ meals (as I wanted everything to be balanced) I read this analogy about synthetic vitamins vs. natural fresh nutrients:
“Synthetics are not like the real thing: It would be like someone stealing your wallet, taking out all of the cash, cards and identification, making photocopies and stuffing the photocopies back in. They hand your wallet back and say, ‘Same thing, right?’ It’s not.”
Were the synthetic vitamins not the optimal way of feeding my fur crew?
The way I was preparing my dogs’ food at this point didn’t feel right anymore. I was cooking everything to death, killing the nutrients, and then re-adding a synthetic powder to bring it back to life. Wasn’t that like the processed kibble I was feeding in the first place? After more research, born that day was a Fresh Raw Feeder!
After years of shopping for the best deals in town for fresh meat, everything seemed perfect… until one of my pups got sick. Why would a pet eating a daily diet of fresh meat with a dose of herbs and a small amount of veggies get sick? I thought coming away from synthetics would have made their health 1000x better?
This is when I evolved as a raw feeder, as I mentioned at the beginning of this answer. You see, what I had realized was that because I was feeding fresh meat and sourcing it the cheapest way possible (as I was on a budget) I wasn’t sourcing it from the right places. I was purchasing factory farmed, corn-fed meats packed with inflammation and toxins.
Not-so-fun facts: “According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, 70% of all antibiotics used in the United States are fed to livestock. And, as many as six different growth hormones may be given to beef cattle, three of which occur naturally and three of which are synthetic.
Forty-four percent of the corn grown in the US is used for animal feed, and 86% of the corn planted in 2010 was bio-engineered varieties that contained insect- or herbicide-resistant genes (or both).
A high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids has been linked with an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergies, depression, obesity, and autoimmune disorders. In grass-fed beef the ratio is approximately 2 to 1, while the ratio in grain-fed beef is more than 14 to 1.” – eatlocalgrown.com
Because of the toxic world we live in today, the average human urinates seven different pesticides every single day, and at this point I asked myself: “What the heck am I putting into my pets’ bodies?”
Now, over the last two years, I have done my very best to source fresh, local, organic and non-GMO ingredients along with ethically raised, grass-fed meats for my fur team.
How Does it Feel to be a “Rock Star?
Whenever I meet someone who knows me through Keep the Tail Wagging, I’m both flattered and humbled. My goal is to inspire dog owners to feed their dogs a better diet. Ideally, everyone will be inspired to feed raw, but even if someone feeds a better quality kibble, soaked in bone broth, and topped off with Grizzly salmon oil – I’ll do the Cabbage Patch (if I can remember how).
But I’m no Rodney Habib.
The impact he’s making on the pet world is astounding and he’s not alone; he’s part of a team of people who are daring the pet food industry to either give us better quality food or explain to us why their bottom line is more important than our pets' health.
So I asked Rodney how he felt about the impact he’s making on the world…
“I want to be the change I want to see in this world”. Period.
You know, I pinch myself everyday. I have been given the opportunity to write for the largest pet health magazine in the world, host international seminars, and be on a reality TV show. This all stemmed from blogging. I wake up in the morning to thousands and thousands of messages and emails from pet owners around the world. Pet owners, like myself, who not only come to me for advice, but who can relate with my work and to the overall message I try to deliver.
Why? Because of empathy, not sympathy.
What’s the difference?
“Empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection.” – Dr. Brené Brown
Empathy is feeling with others; pet owners who are suffering with the same problems I did and connecting to make a change. This is what I believe is fueling the following of pet owners I am growing today. These pet owners take my work and spread it over 40 countries and 10 million news feeds around the world weekly. For this I am eternally grateful.
Was this my initially goal, you ask? Absolutely not!
Destroying my first pet, my cat Scribbles, in 2007 with tainted melamine vet food, and then destroying my first dog’s kidneys in 2008, was the breaking point and the birth of a different person. The universe called me in 2007 and I didn’t listen. Then, in 2008, the universe dropped a piano on my head to get my attention.
Connection is what got me to where I am today. Connecting people with others to share a common goal: “We want our pets to live forever.”
What Rodney Habib has Done for Me
In one of my many chats with Rodney, I tried to convince him to come to BlogPaws. When he said that he’d look into it, I messaged my raw feeding, pet blogger friends and told them the news. We then decided that it would be a good idea to kidnap Rodney, lock him in a hotel conference room, and grill him for hours on pet nutrition.
Oh, and we’d wear really cool, Mardi Gras masks that looked like dogs and cats.
That’s not creepy, right?
Would you pass up a non-creepy, hour to
interrogate chat with Rodney Habib?
Being a pet blogger is hard. You put yourself out there and 99% of the world loves you, but it’s that 1% that can beat you down and Rodney experiences this on an epic level, which inspires me to toughen up, smile, and move on when I’m faced with a critic. His patience and empathy doesn't seem to have limits.
The best part about Rodney is that he’s like me (and you), but super charged. He’s a dog owner who wants his dogs to live forever and he’s built an entire brand where he shares what he’s learned, making it that much easier for the rest of us to raise healthier dogs.
Rodney is a dog lover, pet nutrition blogger, writer, teacher, philosopher, leader and friend. And I’m endlessly thankful that added me to his To Do list to help me with the A to Z Raw Feeding series this year.
He’s a rock star!
To keep up with the raw feeding series, CLICK HERE and bookmark the post and visit weekly, I will hyperlink each letter as I publish each post. Or you can sign up for the Keep the Tail Wagging newsletter and receive updates weekly to your email box and a code to try The Honest Kitchen for FREE.