Optima Dog Food Saga: It’s Done

Most often I feel time is moving much faster than I expect it to. This last month, however, is an exception. It’s hard to believe that it was just over four weeks ago that we got the news about our Optima dog food being contaminated with aflatoxin.

Only a month ago that we began to suspect, and then learned, that our beautiful dog Addie was dying.

These 18 days since she died have been sad, lonely and full of anger at a situation that could never give back what it took from us.

But now, it’s done.

As of this morning, the Chinese distributor of the Optima dog food that killed our dog has paid us compensation and we are closing the book on this painful chapter of our lives.

When, early on, we were told we would need to come up with an amount for compensation, we realized that no amount would equal the suffering and loss we’ve endured. No figure could be attached as a value to Addie, and whatever was paid would never bring her back.

Knowing this, we set ourselves to the task of separating what would need to be a rational and logical decision from the volatile emotions we felt about it. We spoke to a local lawyer friend of ours, and he told us that the last thing we wanted was for this to go to court.

He explained that this isn’t a Western nation, where we might have a case. This is China, and taking it to court would very likely end in frustration and disappointment. Ultimately we’d be lucky if the court ordered the company to pay out anything more than current “book value” for the breed of dog.

He suggested that we try our best to get as much as we can from the company, but ultimately take whatever they will give – as that’s our best chance at receiving any sort of compensation. Dogs (and this might be true in Western law too, I have no idea) are considered nothing but property under the law, and so the best you can expect is compensation for the practical (not emotional) value of that property.

It was with this in mind that we eventually settled with the company for the sum of 10,000 RMB (plus the vet costs, which probably ran about that amount again – but which we never had to pay up front). This figure basically constitutes the cost of Addie (3,000 RMB) and approximately all our expenses in the 10 months of raising her.

In light of the “property” idea, I think the compensation is fair. That it includes an amount, twice that of the purchase price of the dog, which is basically for pain and suffering (something they had no “legal” obligation to compensate for), shows to me that the company is at least attempting to resolve this appropriately.

It’s not enough to bring back our dog, or allow me to forgive what their negligence did, but it never could be.

The important thing to Maggie and I is that we can put this behind us. Each conversation with the distributor, each day we were waiting to resolve this, was just more time when we were forced into remembering with vivid detail the horrible month it has been and the incredible loss we still feel.

Addie was our baby and her death has scarred both of us deeply. I still look for her underfoot, catch myself wondering if she wants to go out and play fetch, and wishing it could have turned out differently. However, at least now we can move forward remembering her life, not her death – remembering all the joy she brought to our home, and believing that the pain of loss makes more vibrant that which we still have.

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