's 2018 Horror Write-off:

The goodest dog

Submitted by Åge (email)

«All dogs are good dogs. But with Chippers, you can make your good dog even gooder. Our team of nutrition experts has been hard at work to give your dogs the glossy fur, the clean teeth, and the healthy organs that they deserve. Chippers, for the goodest dog.»


Bad dog food is nothing new. Some manufacturers don't care what's in their kibble, and with the latest regulation cuts it feels like there's a new contamination case every week. This was a little different though. It was a dog month for us.

It all started with Mary's pug. A wheezing, clumsy, carefully bred little thing. She'd just come home from another long weekend and her dog had disappeared. His collar had been left behind in the middle of the living room. It looked like it'd been torn off, traces of blood. In his place, she'd instead found this huge golden retriever. Possibly a mutt, what with the huge floppy ears, messy fur, and long snout. No collar. Most likely a stray.

To add insult to injury, the big bastard had gone to town on the doggy snacks. The carpets were covered in kibble, and the place reeked. It would take forever to clean, she said. It was a nightmare. It would be sooo expensive. She'd practically forgotten that she called us in to find her dog.

What was odd was that there was no theft, no damage that couldn't have been caused by the big girl stomping around, no signs of foul play. Weirder yet, closer investigation ruled out the possibility of the dog sneaking in on her own. Why someone would break into a rich woman's house just to do a dog switcheroo, we had no idea. With no leads and too many dead ends, I honestly figured that she'd just cooked up a convenient excuse to dump the pug without pissing off her elite dog-loving friends. We never found him.

That was the first dog case that month.

Case two was a runaway. This couple's dog ran away from home. She was an old tired momma beagle, and they were worried that she'd gotten lost. When we did find her, though, she was spry as they come. She didn't look or sound like the pensioner they'd described. But the collar was a match.

They didn't get it either. She'd been overweight and depressed, they explained, so they thought they'd mix things up a bit. New toys, attention, more walkies, different food brands. The newest batch worked pretty well, so well in fact that she'd been uncharacteristically talkative and active as of late. When we placed her back, she paced around for a bit before she took off in a dash and nearly snuck out the front door again. She didn't even look at them. I was worried that I'd accidentally been accomplice to a dognapping, but nope, the background check was positive. Their dog was just acting funny.

Case three was a call from an old lady who wanted us to take a look at her sheepdog. He had been losing his fur and shrinking and his muzzle was funny and he wasn't eating like he used to. She thought he might have been poisoned. What met us looked less like a sheepdog and more like a big rat that someone had given up on shaving halfway through.

When the tests came back the only possible explanation was that he'd always been this way. Blood tests showed no funny business, except maybe that she ought to cut back on the doggy snacks. The great reveal was that he was half Xolo, accounting for the patchy fur. She swore that he'd lost his fur just last week. We could only tell her to take good care of him.

The cases kept rolling in. Lost dogs, angry dogs, ugly strays, pets acting weird. Mostly small stuff and confused dog owners. One day when Jack was uploading the files he absentmindedly scrolled through the nutritions category and noticed that most of the dogs were on a brand that he didn't recognize. Chippers. He brought it to my attention, but I couldn't understand what this possibly had to do with anything. Dog food doesn't dognap dogs, nor does it make their owners forget what their pets look like. And poisoning? If anything, the Chippers dogs were healthier than the average dog. The only case I could see was for mild birth defects, of which there were more than usual. Why they were coming to us to report birth defects in the first place though, I had no idea.

The next big dog case was when the rabbit hole opened up.


Report: Jogger took a shortcut over a field when she tripped over a hole. Before taking off, she heard a bark from the hole she tripped over. Shining her phone in, she saw the reflection of two big doggy eyes. Whine. Big dog was stuck. She jogged back to get help.

When we arrived, we ran into a couple school kids on bikes who recognized it as the rabbit hole. One of their friends liked to come look for rabbits before heading home from school, apparently, and sometimes she brought the two of them with her. I guess they didn't want us to bust their friend for illegal rabbit petting, because they refused to tell us any more.

The big furry cork-stopper had disappeared though, and digging into the hole we found no dogs. Instead we found baby rabbits. Massive baby rabbits. Abnormally long front legs. Snout sloping in. Misshapen paws. Teeth a mess. Silky fur. A long and worrying medical report for sure, but they were healthy, somehow. Birth defects or something.

I'm sure you understand where I'm going with this. This wasn't just a rabbit case. This was a dog case too, now. We found two empty bags of Chippers Vegetarian German Shepherd Mix just a couple meters from the burrow. That girl had probably been feeding them. The school kids had already run away.

My conversation with Jack was still fresh in my mind, and I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something wrong with those bags. So I did some research after work. Tried to find their business page. No google results. No bing results. No reviews on amazon. I called up the nearest pet store, they couldn't find the product listings in their catalog. How long it'd been in circulation was unclear, but I figured they'd been around for a while. My pet theory was that someone had dumped an unwanted supply of relabelled toxic dog food on unsuspecting or unscrupulous shop owners, and now the birth defects were finally bubbling to the surface. Simple. I went to bed.


Investigation round two only answered me with more questions. The bag scraps had no working contact info and what I could make out of the address didn't exist. The pet store owner called me back and told me that their supplier had never heard about Chippers and that his employees had no clear explanation as to how it got to the store. The budget pet store on the other side of town gave the same story. Somehow I convinced them to get rid of all their Chippers stock. I also found out that my neighbor's mixed breed had been juiced up on some mixed breed Chippers kibble, and I was able to send both a blood sample and a food sample to the lab. Then they came back, and they were both headscratchers.

Blood sample: Healthy. Exceedingly healthy, in fact. We had no way to compare it to older results as the only blood report on file was a misfile with a different bloodtype, but compared to other dogs her age she was doing pretty well. No signs of contamination or poisoning. Erica confirmed that her dog had been in very good shape ever since she got on Chippers. That's what made it even weirder when the food sample barely even registered as food.

Weird compounds, barely any nutritional value, lots of sketchy traces, it may have smelled and looked like food but the report sure didn't sound like it. I didn't want to do a taste check. One probe picked up a bit of dog DNA similar to that of Erica's dog... which turned out to be some stray dog hairs. I thought it was odd that despite the lack of nutritional value, most dogs on a primary Chippers diet had been doing just fine. Very fine, even. They said they'd take another look.

Then when I followed up with the pet store owner, he told me the first registered Chippers sale was three months ago. Same story with the budget pet store on the other side of town. The timeline didn't add up anymore, and my birth abnormality pet theory was starting to give way. I felt a sense of urgency. I didn't understand what exactly, but there was something rotten in those bags. I couldn't sleep.


Waiting for my second date with the food test, I did the rounds. I tried to contact the FDA, but pet food doesn't require pre-market approval and they could find no records of Chippers. I contacted even more pet shops with my findings and tried to convince them to get rid of it, most of them agreed the second they could confirm that they had no idea where the bags came from. The test came back from the lab and confirmed that yes, the dog food had some weird-looking contents, but no, there was nothing toxic or harmful or contaminated in any way. There were also no dog hairs in this one. The dog hair from the original batch didn't quite match Erica's dog, by the way. Maybe from a sibling? But no. Erica only ever had one dog.

I felt like I was getting nowhere. There were more weird dog cases at work. I decided to put things into my own hands. I had a leftover bag of Beagle Mix that one of the pet shops dumped on me. And I had a stray who'd been digging into my garbage and breaking into my garage. So between work and phone calls I fed her. She was a thin, golden mongrel with a dirty winter coat and a kinked bushy tail, and as she began to rely on my hand she also began to change.


First couple weeks, not much. Her scratches and patches were allowed to heal a bit, and her fur regained some shine. She had a reliable source of food that she could rely on to the point where she got greedy. She wasn't starving anymore, and she was starting to look healthier.

Third week, I noticed her tail wasn't kinked anymore. It had straightened out a bit. She would come in peacefully every day and eat to her heart's content, and at this point she almost looked like a house pet. Amazing what a good diet can do. She didn't snarl.

Fourth week, I noticed her gait didn't just look different because she was less anxious, it looked different because she was further off the ground. And when I compared her to a picture from the first week, I realized her fur pattern looked different. The shine and grooming of her fur had masked the appearance of white patches. Her battle scars were almost gone.

Fifth week, I realized what she looked like. A beagle. She was on a 100% Chitters diet now, and her changes were accelerating. Diets do a lot of things, but bones? Eyes? Snout? Diets aren't supposed to touch those.

I had to make a lot of phone calls, pull every string. This was out of our jurisdiction now. Luckily, I was kept up to date on the case details and I got to see their test reports. It confirmed my suspicions.


The Chippers dog food and dog snack lines have roughly twenty different variations, most of them corresponding to different dog breeds with a few vegetarian/diet variants. Chemical analysis shows no clear difference from kibble to kibble, but I'm told they smell and look different. Probably taste different too, but dogs show no strong preference. What they're made of, they're still not entirely sure.

When eaten, the dog food meets all nutritional requirements. Apparently. In the long term it gives fur a healthy shine and regrows bald patches, teeth straighten and whiten, injuries heal, one of the latest reports even make it sound like it can reverse the aging process if fed to an older dog. It's like the perfect health food for your dog, with no immediate side effects. But that's only if they're the right breed. Because if you decide to feed golden retriever mix to your beagle or husky mix to your bulldog then weird shit starts happening. It's like they're slowly being molded into the bag's idea of a perfect dog, except every bag has their own idea of what the perfect dog looks like. Huskies turning into golden retrievers, mutts turning into poodles, australian shepherds turning into german shepherds. Every bag has a poster child.

And then there's the recommended daily dose. There weren't any images in the reports, thankfully, but from what I read if you feed something too much Chitters then the process doesn't know when to stop. It turns the dog into a labrador or something and then it just keeps going. Chihuahuas that eat too much St. Bernard become horse-sized shaggy beasts, labradors that eat too much corgi fit into your hand, any dog that eats too much borzoi looks like a fucking mosquito. Giant spindly limbs, sharp pointy noses that go on forever, x-rays that don't make sense. And despite all of this, they're perfectly healthy. Sometimes I wonder if that is their idea of a perfect dog. A dog so much like itself that we can't even wrap our heads around it.

One last thing, though. Most of the team's raids and investigations led to dead ends, but one lead actually led all the way to a warehouse full of past and future products. One aisle had the doggy food and snacks that they busted the door open for, but as it turns out, dog food isn't the only kind of kibble out there. I'm talking cat food, parrot pellets, fish tablets, compound cattle fodder. And then in the corner, something new. Squeaky clean sample boxes straight from the factory. Granola bars and cereal.