Back in 1984 I was writing dog food commercials. Dry food was where all the big marketing money went. The budget for canned or "wet" dog food was nearly extinct.
Mr. and Mrs. Dog Owner preferred the smaller poop created by the dry
food, among other things. After watching the manufacturing process for
both, I'd go with making dry food over the wet stuff because it's less
disgusting to package pellets than watch boiling beef parts dropping
like vomit into the cans. Gross.
However, part of me was still a purist. I was raised with big hairy
dogs. They lived outside year round, only coming indoors when it got so
cold in the winter their food would freeze. Each dog got a huge can of
"wet" dog food once a day, plus table scraps. Believe it or not,
leftover salad was one of their favorites. The canned food was most
likely horse meat mixed with beef lips and lungs. I tried not to think
about that. Dry dog food didn't seem substantial enough for animals
that needed something extra because of their size, activity, or living
Around the time I started working on dog food in the eighties, National
Geographic had an article about some absurdly long 1100 mile dog sled
race called the Iditarod and a woman named Susan Butcher who had a
chance to become the first female winner.
The article talked about how much food the dogs needed in order to keep
their energy up during the long run and described some of the
concoctions the mushers came up with including stews made with raccoon
What a perfect way to ignite some interest in a dying brand I
thought. Sponsor one of the mushers, Susan Butcher, for instance,
by providing her with all the wet dog food she needed for training as
well as the race itself. Everybody thinks their dog is a champ and the
Iditarod is the Olympics for dog endurance and speed. Plus this Susan
Butcher woman could add some additional luster by being the first woman
to mush cross the finish line.
My boss was very lukewarm. He'd never heard of the Iditarod, not many
people had, so he was very skeptical. He also had his own pet project
-- dry food -- where most of the money would be spent anyway. He could
care less about what I was interested in.
He let me write a commercial that I wanted shot documentary style to
follow Susan during the race, capturing her dogs scarfingup the
client's wet dog food like it was steak. Or raccoon and moose. And, of
course, winning the race. What a great way to breathe new life into a
tired old dog food, I thought.
I didn't get the money to pursue the idea. A woman won the race for the
first time. Ironically, it wasn't Susan Butcher. She and her team were
attacked by a moose along the way. Some of her dogs were killed and I
can't recall whether she was even able to finish.
My boss felt so vindicated by his lack of support. He was almost
gleeful. "See, I told you." Of course, Susan Butcher went on to
win the race the next four out of five years. Effectively putting the
Iditarod on the map.
Unfortunately, she recently passed away, too early, from cancer.
But the Iditarod continues with lots of coverage these days. And, if
I'm not mistaken I think Purina is one of the sponsors now.
It could have been Ken-l Ration.