Pets, Pets, Pets . . .
The 1958 jingle: "My dog's better than your dog, my dog's better than yours, my dog's better 'cause he eats Ken-L Ration, my dog's better than yours" is more than a silly brag. It's a reminder that years ago you didn't need a PhD in biology to be a petowning consumer.
Gee, shopping for a dog food, was much simpler- that's before we pondered store-bought vs. homemade or the raw diet; and before we feared preservatives, aflatoxin and the insidious Chinese import- melamine. Trust me- the manufacturers were duping us, even decades ago. Madison Avenue always tried their subliminal best to make the dog dietary decision for us.
Recently I bought several vintage Saturday Evening Post dog food ads at an antique store near Gramercy Park. They were real eye-openers so I started looking for others. It seems I dug up more than product promos. Although many of the pet food companies like Pard, Ideal and Red Heart, have long vanished, their ads still chronicle the times, and often make political or even odd cultural statements.
"Loose lips sink ships". This 1944 Gaines ad shown reminds citizens to be "Quiet about troop movements, ship sailings, war equipment". The Scotty staring at Uncle Sam had no intention of divulging D-Day details when he asks, "But I can speak for Gaines, can't I?" Nowadays the Surgeon General would never allow a 1950s ad with a Great Dane lighting up to proclaim: "There is nothing like a cigarette after an Ideal meal."
We take the availability of canned pet food for granted. However, during WWII both meat and tin were scarce. In fact right after Pearl Harbor rumors sparked hysteria about a mass euthanasia of American pets to protect precious food stocks. In wartime advertisements Gaines shows puppies that say "only cry babies yelp about meat rationing" and Pard claims "dehydrated" dog food becomes ground beef again with a little water ('twasn't ground beef before the "scientific process"), while later in 1947 Ideal announces their prewar meaty dog food is back in "cans".
Advertising as performance art debuted long ago. In June 1936 Time reported that in Chicago the Ideal Dog Food Company unveiled a "living billboard" that had a 26 ft. wide shed with a glass front, $6,000 worth of air conditioning, awnings, Venetian blinds, a drinking fountain and sleeping quarters to house 6 Boston Terriers. The real barkers clamoring inside would be changed weekly to a different pedigreed pack supplied by the local kennel club. Ideal's CEO waited to launch this off-beat ad campaign until a famous dancer, Michigan Avenue's most vocal SPCA advocate, sailed for Europe.
The celebrities of yesteryear vouched for dog food brands. My 1949 Red Heart ad tells customers "to take a tip" from MGM star "Lassie" who just happens to have weekly radio shows where he/she "in person" tells thrilling tales of adventure, romance and comedy. This magazine clip predated the gender bender male "Lassie"
on TV. Pard hired my favorite dragon, yes; I'm dating myself-"Ollie" of "Kukla, Fran and Ollie"- to have intimate chats with dogs of all breeds. News flash: the pups told him they prefer "Pard Burger." Are you surprised?
Hollywood tie-ins are nothing new. Dog food loves Disney (or vice versa). When "Big Red" opened in theaters in 1962, Friskies gave away a free book (for 4 labels) revealing a "new approach to training" so your dog could be as well-behaved as the illustrious Irish Setter. In 1955 you could get a "Lady and the Tramp" mobile exclusively from Pard; later a 1961 Friskies poster offered a "Lucky" pup toy from "101 Dalmatians"- all "Happy Meal" promotions to appeal to the canine connoisseur.
Mini Gallery- Come "See and Sniff", as a 1941 Pard ad insists. My old time dog food ads should be hanging soon in the refurbished "real room" at Islip Town Shelter (224-5660) Denver Ave. Bay Shore. Come visit; tour the kennels too. You just may find the dog for cat of your dreams. Now as the self-appointed curator of kibble, I plan on acquiring more dog food memorabilia to expand the exhibit to Babylon and Oyster Bay Shelters… Been watching a Lorne Greene Alpo ad on EBAY. Gotta
get this Bonanza for the collection.
For Adoption, back at Oyster Bay Shelter (677-5784), "Puglsey" #1165 is an adorable 6 year old Sharpei/Pug mix, turned into the shelter because of allergies. He is used to kids. See more photos on the shelter's Petfinder site.
Dogs: "Bonnie" #14 Cattle Dog/ Pointer; a female Belgian Sheepdog mix #1167; "Lalah" #1068- Shep mix puppy.
Cats: "Balu" #1126- longhaired gray in the lobby showcase; "Randy"- #1099- outgoing gray tabby.
Special Plea: "Princessa" - a 2 yr. old spayed black Lab mix, great with kids, but not other dogs, needs a new home. Call 631-375-9331.