June 17, 2010

Zero Waste Dog -or Rat ;)

Zero Waste is a family affair... like I said before: in our home, everyone is on board, and that includes our dog.

Meet Zizou. He joined the family about 3 years ago. We wanted a dog that would be small enough to not only fit in our small house, but also accompany us everywhere we go, whether it is by plane, car, bike or foot - we also chose his coat color to match the floor so that his shedding hair would not show :). He now can even sit with us at restaurants with outdoor seating!

We figured a chihuahua would give us just as much love as a big dog. Zizou has been the answer to all our pet needs, and despite a taste for street trash, as a rat would have ("Rat Boy" is his nickname), he has more than exceeded our expectations of the breed. Our biggest mistake was only to give up our search in rescue centers and getting him from a breeder, when 30 chihuahuas showed up at the local SPCA a month later. And although we love our dog, it makes me sick to my stomach that we passed the opportunity: We should have been patient and waited for the right rescue to pop up. Note: We did rescue both of our previous dogs.

Zizou does not need much, and in a society where, despite the recession, sales of pet products and services rose 5% in 2009 to reach $53 billion (sales are projected to reach $72 billion by 2014), we like to keep things simple, minimal and zero waste for him too:
  • He does not have a regular dog bed. He sleeps by the fire gas-insert in the winter, in the bubble chair or on the warm wood deck in the summer, and on the kids beds at night.
  • He has two toys: A tennis ball we found (good for running/exercising) and a rope chew (good for cleaning teeth). Dogs have faves, pick a couple, donate the rest to a shelter (the latter also accepts old towels and sheets by the way). My mother-in-law makes one out of old socks tied together for her dog.
  • Once a month, we wash him with castile soap (buy in bulk if possible) and clip his nails (compost).
  • We usually buy kibbles in bulk at Rainbow or New Leaf (a 50 lbs. bag from the pet store would take our dog years to eat and we do not have room to store such quantity) and since these two stores are hard to get to, I have requested it from our local pet stores, but it is not yet available. For these two reasons I had to buy a small bag last week (with a feeling of being a total zero waste advocate failure), I emptied it into our dog food container and washed the bag. I am filling it with thrift shop donations.
  • We add garlic powder to his food for flea control, the garlic breath dissipates after a few minutes ;)
  • We occasionally feed him our food scraps, because he is a trim and can afford to do so. He is bummed that our meat consumption is down to once a week, but he approves of the white meat (say "chicken" and witness instant excitement).
  • We buy treats in bulk (Petco or the local pet store) but you can make your own dog biscuits too.
  • On walks, we pick up his poop in paper from the recycling can (that's if we can find it, because his poops are tiny and he likes to go deep into ivy... a prude one this one). For a big dog, I would use a few sheets, for Zizou, a receipt will do;). Note: One does not need to justify their newspaper subscription for the need of the free plastic poop scooper. If you still receive the paper, you probably also still buy packaged products. Frozen veggie bags, cereal liner, meat wrapper, etc... can do the job just fine too.
  • When we can find the excrement in the yard, we scoop it with a metal trowel and flush it down the toilet. For the longest time, I read mixed opinions on the subject, but my local water treatment plant assured me that it was OK to do so.
  • I have yet to try it, but in one of my foraging classes, I was told that a tea of mugwort could be sprayed on pets for poison oak prevention before stepping in the wild...
I told my younger son, I was writing an article about zero waste dog and asked him what made Zizou zero waste. He replied: "Easy, he does not bring anything home" ;)

While it is true that he does not bring any junk into the house, he does however bring in loads of affection. Affection that we reciprocate. After all, what a dog needs most is love... and there is nothing more zero waste than love :) is there?