February 29, 2024 | Rome, Italy

A dog’s life

By |2018-03-21T18:36:01+01:00March 5th, 2009|Lifestyle Archive|
Let them eat scarti. But let them eat.

he latest tumble in the economy has tilted my mental play list into “Annie” overdrive. “We’d like to thank you Herbert Hoover” (musical soundtrack) and “Hardknock Life” (Jay-Z “Ghetto Anthem” version) run on a permanent loop in my head.

The crunch, the crash, il crollo — whatever you wish to call it — has affected an entire hierarchy of salaries from executive bonuses to elementary school allowances. Restaurants are closing, health clubs are empty and no one is going to Starbucks. The landscape is grim.

The latest tremor is in the pet sector, where our four-legged friends are getting the shortest end of the downsizing stick. Lately, pet shops have been overrun with overgrown puppies and kitties — “returns.” Adoptions are slowing down while numbers are increasing in kennels and SPCAs.

House pets are no longer Man’s Best Friends, but financial deadweights. Like taking the “fun” car back to the dealer, pets are being kicked to curb while other financial whims — like iTunes songs or brand-name cereal — remain the cat’s meow.

Pet ownership can mean big spending. Budgets are necessary, and with a pet include food and up-to-date vaccines and veterinary care. The bigger the pet, the bigger the expenses, which may be reason enough to give up your Great Dane or Vietnamese Pot Belly Pig. But making your pet redundant is merely a stopgap solution that begs a far larger question, which you have to ask — what happens after the kennel drop-off? The reality is that PaddyPawBucks won’t be taking him to the mansion.

Before giving up on your pet, here are three tips to help make pet ownership a little less onerous:

Left-Overs: The butcher’s scarti (animal and fish remains) are an inexpensive and healthy method for feeding your pets. Since they’re usually tossed, your butcher or pescivendolo will give or sell you scarti for very little. Dog-owners may want to consider raw chicken. Not only is it cheap but it’s also an inexpensive cure for dog halitosis and dirty teeth.

Hand-Me-Downs: Animals must play, but in a poor economy an €8 chewing stick is an extravagance. Why not be creative with old clothes? Rip up and tie together old denim jeans for a chew rope. Likewise, toss an old toy to Fido and Kitty; the used smell will act as catnip. As with infants, children, remove anything that can be ingested. Still need to have a stylish pet? If you can sew, or you know a nonna, re-size old clothes.

Creative Exchange: Instead of cutting out the pet, ax pet walkers, sitters and groomers. If you’ve got time, offer to exchange pet walking for food sharing. Or pet grooming for walking. You’ll make some new friends, get a date or two and be able to justify getting rid of deadweight gym membership.

If you really have no choice, please take the time to research potential adopters instead of dropping your pet off at the nearest kennel or throwing them in the cat sanctuary. There are many people who would love a well-trained, well-loved animal.

About the Author:

Erica Firpo wrote The American's pet advice column from 2006 to 2009. She is a freelance travel and culture writer who lives in Rome with husband, daughter and faithful sidekick Bella. She has worked for Fodor's Rome edition, Luxe City Guides and National Geographic Travel, as well as writing art reviews for Zing and other U.S.-based magazines.