Dogs are now out-dining their owners

The magical phrase “Buy two, get one free” caught my eye as I was going through the newspaper food advertisements one recent Sunday. It was for some type of canned good. Just as I was positioning the clipping scissors, I realized the ad was for Alpo. In my quest for savings, I have a tendency to overlook such details.

In my defense, at first glance the ad looked to be for some new brand of canned meat.

While the cans were only 13.2 ounces, the photo showed a black stoneware bowl, not a real doggie dish, heaped with more like two pounds of the expertly chunked stuff, the way I’d kill to have my stroganoff beef look.

A ladle was poised above the bowl with a waterfall of thick brown, lump-free gravy cascading over the meat. Lump-free gravy always gets my vote. My mouth watered in response to the copywriters. As Al, the Alpo mascot dog says, “Let the drooling being.”

It’s Purina’s new Alpo Chop House in Gourmet Gravy line of dog food. However, when my husband took me to The Chop House in Portage for our anniversary, my steak didn’t look nearly as appetizing. And the reports of senior citizens reduced to eating dog food suddenly didn’t sound so bad.

My stomach growled involuntarily. I realized I was debating whether the Alpo might go better over noodles or rice. Then something in the ad copy leapt out at me, “With real angus beef or chicken.”

Apparently the fast food restaurants weren’t the only ones jumping onto the angus beef craze that’s sweeping America. “Steakhouse-inspired taste in three mouthwatering varieties: T-Bone Steak Flavor, Rotisserie Chicken Flavor and Beef Tenderloin Flavor.”

I felt resentment toward my dog, seeing as how I rarely get to indulge in T-bones, tenderloin, or rotisserie chicken. It’s one thing to dress your children better than yourself, but I’ll be darned if my pet gets to eat better than me.

At the top of the ad, near drooling Al, was the tagline, “Real Dogs Eat Meat.” Great. Now Madison Avenue is working on my dog’s psyche, calling into question her species worthiness, based on her diet. I added that to my growing cache of less-than-comforting thoughts.

Alpo sounded like a promising proposition for the whole family. I’ve heard tales of people mistakenly eating canned cat food for deviled ham, so why not expand our palates with dog food? Hey, it says on the can they’re excellent sources of protein.

I once stood in the checkout at K-Mart and spied a large canister of beef sticks on the impulse buy rack. I picked it up and read “jerky treats.” Forty beef sticks for only $2.99! A lot cheaper than Slim Jim brand. I had to try them. On the way home I popped the lid and the car filled with sweet smelling teriyaki-seasoned beef.

I bit into one and found it surprisingly tasteless, so I ate only three more. My husband was equally neutral when he tried one, until he noticed what I’d missed: A tiny dog icon on the back of the can. “Gross! We’re eating dog treats!”

That’s what inspired me to buy a can of Alpo Chop House dog food to replace the meat in a dinner entrée. But not just for my immediate family. That would be too hit-and-miss with youngish children who randomly boycott certain dishes. No, making a meaty dish-to-pass for a Fredonia Grange potluck would be a more conclusive test.

Not only did they lap it up, but some folks actually took second helpings and a took few thirds. “Best stroganoff I’ve had since my mom died,” one man said. That gives cause to paws.

“I can never get all the lumps out of my gravy,” said a woman, “I’m glad to see you don’t have that problem.” I told her I just got lucky.

Another woman asked what kind of meat I’d used. I was sure I’d been found out, but unflinchingly replied, “Angus beef.”

“Aha!” she chortled to her husband. “Haven’t I been telling you it’s worth it to pay a little more to get right kind of meat?!” Believe me, it was worth it.

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