This is how I know my dog can read

On July 20, 2011 by Eden M. Kennedy

Peewee had been eating the same canned food pretty happily for the last six months and then all of a sudden I couldn’t find it in the store. After digging around a little while I realized that they’d changed the label on the can. Nutrisca food was now Dogswell.

I bought the Dogswell, and yesterday I was trying to figure out why he won’t eat it. We’d always mixed a few tablespoons of the canned food in with another brand of dry food and he’d always vacuumed it right up, but now he was walking away, leaving the whole mess untouched. Did they change the food inside the can along with the label? It looked the same. Was he just sick of it? He rejected all three different flavors. Was he feeling unwell? He was acting normal on all other counts. Was there something else going on?

More to the point: can my dog read?

I feel like they want us to read Dogswell in two ways: “dogs well” (Our dogs, they are well) or “dog swell” (My dog’s doing swell, thanks). The second way is kind of a stretch, as I know no one who uses the word “swell” as a descriptor in the year 2011 unless maybe, MAYBE, they’re over the age of 90. As a child of the 70s I’ve been known to say anachronistic things like “Right on,” and a friend of mine who’s slightly older says “Far out!” once in awhile, which reminds me of John Denver, who was once so earnest, singing about chickens down on the farm, and this friend of mine raises chickens.

But the third way I read Dogswell, and which had to have come up in a meeting or two, is “dog swell” as in Dear God, my dog is swelling, and if we don’t do something soon he’s going to burst.

I know nothing about creating brands beyond the fact that it must be terribly difficult. Even my non-swollen dog who can read knows that. (Not being a member of the Grammar Police, I’m not sure if you’re supposed to use “who” when referring to a dog, but writing “Even my swollen dog that can read” seems callous. My dog, apart from being 7/8 human, reads human gestures and body language at at least a middle school level. He’s no Albert Einstein (nor is he a swollen Albert Einstein) but I’d pit him head to head against any one of those mob wives on TV.)

My point is, if your brand name word play is successful in only two out of three interpretations, and the third one makes dogs who can read walk away from your food because all they can think about is puking or bursting, maybe you should dig a little deeper for a new name. Admittedly, this is coming from a woman who saddled herself with the name Fussy ten years ago, and half of whose search referrals come from people who are clearly misspelling the word pussy. So, yeah, measure twice, cut once.

I just went to their site and laughed out loud because they also have a “Catswell” line. Oh, God, I need to leave the house today.



36 Responses to “This is how I know my dog can read”

  • Does Letterman still have on pet trick acts? Because a dog who can read should merit an appearance. Also, my FIRST interpretation was dogs swell, with the s in both places, so I thought of a whole litter of exploding pups. But I’m not normal. As a feverish kid, I used to have a recurring nightmare that The Three Stooges swelled up and popped. Bad, bad dream.

  • Likely someone in a meeting said, “uh, there’s another meaning to dog swell” and the other people shushed her and said, “don’t be ridiculous. We asked three people and none of them read it that way. Besides. We already designed a logo.”

    • I was hoping so much that you would read this and say something like that. Thank you.

      • Just as likely is that someone in a meeting said “uh, there’s another meaning to dog swell” and the other people laughed and said “OMG, you’re right, we can’t use that” and they all agreed and left the meeting and no one told the agency and they presented it to the CMO in another meeting and everyone was afraid to speak up and they never spoke of it again but no longer look one another directly in the eye.

  • I thought more like “groundswell”, like way too many dogs. And this was laugh-out-loud-wake-the-dog-up funny: “He’s no Albert Einstein (nor is he a swollen Albert Einstein) but I’d pit him head to head against any one of those mob wives on TV.)”. Bingo.

  • Pee Wee has no use for your half assed re-branding! He will not recognize your weak attempts.

  • This is such a swell post….

  • “More to the point: can my dog read?”

    ^that made me “humanspew” some iced peppermint tea on my screen. :)

    is cookie still around? or, was cookie last scene going up the attic to fetch some some snow skis and never seen again? cookie martin in pine valley.

  • F and P are really far apart on the keyboard. I always knew that many people who search for porn on the internet are probably not bright, but come on, people. (I could have left out that comma and made it “come on people” and then there’d be a whole other porn search term that would bring people here.) (And now I’ve gone and typed it out that way.) (Sorry.)

    I wish my dogs could read. They mostly just pee on the floor when I’ve had a bad day. Because clearly they want to show me that it could be worse.

  • I’m just impressed that you actually admitted to not knowing whether to use “who” or “that” when referring to your pup. It’s one of my pet peeves, and I just use the rule that if they have a brain, it’s a who. :)

  • Stupid PR people…why didn’t they ask a dog?

    I read it as dog swell (swollen pup).

    Me and Peewee…great minds, yadayada.

  • Uh-oh…I’m nearly 60 years away from being 90, and I use the word swell in the “How are you? I’m swell, thanks.” sense. On a fairly regular basis, even. I am even more un-hip than I thought. Hmmm.

    (I have similar reading issues with Petsmart — Pets Mart/Pet Smart. Which is not entertaining-slash-horrifying the way that Dog Swell is, but still.)

    • You use swell! My apologies. You aren’t un-hip, just sincere.

      Thank you for pointing out the Pets Mart/Pet Smart thing, that is an ongoing mental hiccup for me.

  • Now I have images in my brain of people walking around holding leashes and their pets hovering over them like balloons. Dangerous balloons.

  • I worked somewhere that named one of its subsidiaries “GABM” which I thought was extremely funny, but everyone else insisted I was crazy, and that NO ONE would ever think to themselves, “Oh look, Gee, a B.M.!” Which either means that I should be in charge of all branding forever or no one should ever let me look at acronyms or labels because I will drive myself and everyone else crazy. Still can’t tell which one.

  • This is similar to when Arby’s started the whole Market Fresh line of sandwiches. One near me kept shortening it on their sign to the MF deal of the day. I giggled every time I read it. Marketing people really need to do focus groups with teenagers or bloggers before they launch a new campaign.

    I also thought of a dog swelling and felt kind of bad for the puppies.

  • According to the Oxford Dictionary (not the PR arm, however), if your dog can read, you use “who”. If your dog can’t read, use “that”. Same applies to children.

  • I like to interpret “dog swell” in a more positive way. Think of the phrase “a groundswell of support”. Maybe a dogswell is a sudden happy influx of dogs. It could be a cheerful gathering.

  • Dogswell reminds me of Cogswell Cogs, you know, one of the companies featured on The Jetsons. George worked for Spacely Sprockets. So, I thought about Dogswell Dogs. In other news, I’m old and spent too much time watching cartoons during my 1970s childhood.

  • Oh my – my twisted little brain went immediately to the “swollen dog” version first! Once again I have disturbed my cubemates with my raucous laughter…heh, thanks!

  • I of course immediately think of a dog with an erection. Dog’s Swell. But that’s how i roll.

  • I think Catswell is better than Catskills which could be meat foraged from the Catskills OR could mean it’s got meat the will kill your cat who perhaps has been racking up large vet bills because she’s been eating the dog’s Dogswell which is causing her to swell. Or maybe the brand means to say Dogs Well – meaning if you have more than one dog they will both be well from eating theDogswell Ditto the cats. I’m going to take a nap now.

  • I am currently NOT working on the marketing/packaging for a new beverage. For that I thank you, no seriously I don’t want to (insert toddler whine here). The client has come up an awful name that we sounds like a really old man’s cologne. Unfortunately every time we google what we think would be a great alternate we find it’s already in use for some other product. One of my favorites got shot down because its already a soft drink in Australia (thanks Aussies).

    So I’m sure that either the creatives sent a huge list and Dogswell was the only thing that the legal department would approve or the owner’s wife thought of it and there’s just no getting around that.

    The more I look at it the more I see dog’s well, as in there some poor pup out there digging for water. Maybe that’s why Lassie knew where to look for Timmy.

  • Great post…thank you.

  • I vote for the interpretation that conjures up images of a groundswell of dogs (a “dogswell” if you will) pawing after the stuff. Relatedly, whenever I see the word “manslaughter” I think of “man’s laughter.” Apparently there’s a subconscious part of me that finds that unintentionally causing another’s death is . . . funny?

  • I say “swell” all the time … I’m not that old … sheeeeesh … ;)
    So yeah, I saw “Dog swell” as in “my dog’s swell, thanks!”

    I can’t suss out our (one remaining) dog. Sometimes he can’t wait to hoover his food. Other times he gives me this indignant look, like, “… what is this?! Dog food?!?!” and ignores it. He pretty much eats the same thing every day. Go figure.

  • Our pets growing up were always food snobs.

  • maybe your dog is slightly challenged and read the label as “dog swill”