On December 2, 1938, Roy Goff & Company of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, received a copyright associated with the “Puppy Puddle,” a 9 1/2 by 13 inch paper advertising blotter presented for use as a house training aid. “When an emergency occurs, place this “Puppy Puddle” on the wet spot. Press down lightly with the foot — the job is done.” The text commented helpfully that “time is an element in the efficiency” of the blotter. When the mishap occurred on an absorbent surface such as a rug, the directions recommended that several of the blotters be kept in a “handy place” in “every room in which the puppy plays,” ready for use at a moment’s notice. The drawing of the puppy, who is sitting in his own puddle hollering as only puppies can, looks like a rough-coated fox terrier, a popular dog at the time. (Remember Asta, the urbane canine star in the “Thin Man” films?)
The “housebreaking” directions also suggested that a used “Puppy Puddle” could be left on a tile floor as an attractant, the way that “wee-wee pads” are used by some dog owners training puppies today. This also recalls house training instructions that suggested using a newspaper already soaked with piddle to the same end.
The text on the Puppy Puddle didn’t only offer advice on house training, it also promoted Roy Goff’s “WHITE LABEL BEEF” as the foundation of an elaborate puppy diet prescribed by “a famous University Veterinary School.” This reveals that the Puppy Puddle was actually an advertising giveaway. It even had a blank space at the bottom right where a pet shop or veterinary clinic might stamp its name and address.
Looking for more information on Roy Goff & Co. led me to an unexpected story. LeRoy Goff, Jr., the president of Roy Goff & Co., was more than the inventor of a novelty for training puppies for life indoors. He founded the Canine Catering Company in his garage in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, in 1933. Goff, who was born in 1903 and graduated from Princeton University in 1926, is listed in the 1930 U.S. Census as a well-to-do young insurance broker, owner of a house valued at $85,000, married with a toddler daughter, and cared for by two live-in house servants. Did his insurance business collapse? I don’t know yet. Yet, in the heart of the Depression, Goff built a successful business preparing and delivering high-quality fresh meals for dogs. This was a time when the canned dog food business was expanding, but it was also the unregulated stepchild of the meat and livestock feed industries. Many dog owners viewed canned food with rightful suspicion.
The November 1934 issue of Popular Mechanics, a magazine that was full of uplifting stories about successful home-based businesses, featured Goff’s young enterprise in a one-page story titled “Catering to Dogs Becomes a Real Business.” It opened by noting that “dogs appreciate a fresh, neatly presented meal and their masters like to have them properly fed and healthy. That is why a depression-time business, started by LeRoy Goff II, of Philadelphia, in his own garage with no capital, has grown so rapidly that it numbers 6,000 animal customers…and is now housed in a modern plant in Philadelphia with branches in eight cities.”
The article reported that Goff began by working up a diet for his own dogs with the help of a veterinarian. By 1934, the company’s offerings included a”veterinary meal,” a “kennel meal,” and “a la carte special meals, vegetables and beverages.” Subscribers placed orders from “attractive menu cards,” and the food was delivered to households three times a week. Local veterinary hospitals also used the service for convalescing animals, sending their cars to the Canine Catering Company daily. One-pound meals cost 13 cents for raw food (presaging today’s interest in raw diets for dogs) and 14 cents for a cooked dinner.
By 1938, Roy Goff & Co. offered canned food, the White Label Beef promoted by the Puppy Puddle giveaway. There is more to be learned about LeRoy Goff’s Canine Catering Company of America, Inc. –and apparently the National Archives branch in Philadelphia holds some records relating to inspection of the company’s processing activities. (Here’s a link to information on the records group in the form of a Facebook post on Canine Catering Co. ) I also know that the company was actually not alone in offering home-delivered pet food at the time. Advertisements and other giveaways survive from pet businesses that offered delivery of fresh meat, including horse meat, from the 1930s through the 1950s, when self-service supermarkets developed large pet food aisles and the nature of the pet food industry moved toward increasing consolidation. By the 1960s, Roy Goff & Co. was no longer packing dog food; instead, it became a distributor of pet food and products, providing “professional retail guidance to small independent retailers,” according to a short profile on the website Philly.com.