Many years ago I heard that the behavioral science department of a major university did the following study:
They built a rectangular maze that consisted of one straight pathway (we’ll call “A”) with six straight perpendicular pathways or rows leading off of it (rows one through six). At the end of row number six only, they placed a piece of cheese. Everyday they’d put a rat in the maze at the point in pathway A where it opened to row number one. Everyday the rat would run up and down rows one through six until he found the cheese.
Eventually, the rat learned that the cheese was always at the end of row six and when put in the maze, would ignore rows one through five and go directly to row number six. The researchers let this continue for thirty days and then they moved the cheese to the end of row number two. They put their rat in the maze. As usual, the rat ran immediately to and down row number six but this time- NO CHEESE! The rat kept running up and down row number six but of course, the cheese was not there.
The conclusion of the researchers? The difference between humans and rats is that eventually the rat will try going down a different row in search of the cheese. We, on the other hand, are far more subject to being stubborn creatures of habit, even when we know it is not in our best interest.
Through the years, I’ve done my best to remind myself of this story. It’s my way of trying to keep my mind open to cutting edge information, new ways of thinking about things and new paradigms. It’s helped me in many ways: moving on from situations like jobs or relationships that were no longer healthy or growing, changing eating habits or products I used – basically anything I knew I could improve but for the most part, was also comfortable with or used to.
It is with that in mind that I encourage you to embrace change when it comes to the food and products you use for yourself and your dogs. Just because something has been sold in stores for years doesn’t mean it’s safe. It is more likely to mean that the manufacturer has a huge advertising budget. It really is up to us as consumers to take the time and do a little research of our own. It’s not difficult.
For instance: take a look at some of the ingredients listed on your moisturizer. Does it contain methylparaben, ethylparaben, or propylparaben? Now Google any one of those. You’ll find that parabens are commonly used preservatives included in countless products since the 1920’s. Recent studies have found that repeated exposure can cause cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, allergies, endocrine disruption, and organ system toxicity. Bad enough to be rubbing into your own skin on a daily basis, but how many times a day does your dog lick that skin on your face or hands?
Same goes with perfumes and colognes that are alcohol-based- they are full of potentially toxic chemicals. Ever notice how some people seem to be marinated in scent? It’s because many of the ingredients in those scents actually create addictive pathways in the brain and the “user” can no longer smell it in small amounts. It’s comparable to an alcoholic or drug addict needing more and more to get off.
So what are some alternatives? (is there cheese down a different row?) Clean is sexy. Pure castile soap also comes in peppermint, lavender and almond. Essential oils are wonderful, though some in large doses can be toxic to birds and cats, so again, a quick Google can help you out there.
For moisturizer, I use pure shea butter on my face. I buy it in a small tub. It’s scent-free, effective (use a little and rub in well to avoid it being greasy), inexpensive, and natural (make sure you’re buying pure shea butter not one processed with additives. It will say on the label. If it doesn’t- don’t buy it). As far as body and hand moisturizer, once I started eating more fruits, vegetables and omega-3 rich foods, I no longer needed any other moisturizer (and I live in the desert!). All of these items can be found in most natural markets and health food stores.
I hope this has encouraged you to take a few simple steps to becoming more ingredient conscious for the sake of both you and your pet. And by the way… all metaphors aside, as delicious as it is, I would never feed cheese to my dog. It’s extremely mucous-forming which is hard on the immune system and is usually made with milk full of growth hormones (BST- Bovine Somatotropin: synthesized growth hormones injected into cows for more milk production) and antibiotics. Carrot sticks are a much better treat.