b Papa Dog's Blog: Doggy Dog and the Meat

Papa Dog's Blog

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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Doggy Dog and the Meat

Whenever we have meat for supper (and that’s most nights – sorry, Lisa), I save a morsel for the dog. Sometimes I’ll drop it at the bottom of the bowl as incentive for him to eat his kibble (which doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem as it was when we first got him). Sometimes I’ll let him clean my plate. From time to time, Mama Dog will grumble about my spoiling him, but I explain it very seriously as my way of honouring the dog/human compact. The way I see it, we have a very close alliance, closer than the U.S. and Canada, closer even than the robber barons and the Christian right. No other animal can seriously be considered so thoroughly entwined with the fate of Man, not even by the most deranged cat fancier. When was the last time a cat saved Timmy from the well? Never, that’s when. A cat could give a shit about Timmy, and God help the little prat if he clambers out of the well without some tuna. Since long before recorded history, dogs and people have depended on one another; we for service, hunting, security, protection, and companionship; they for a warm place to sleep and the odd scrap from round the fire. It’s such a pitiably lopsided arrangement I sometimes feel guilty giving the dog only the fatty bits of steak that I don’t like. Here, Doggy Dog, have the steak. Have potatoes, too, they’re good for you. You deserve it. You’re a good dog, and what a wonderful thing that is for my people. You watch over my wife and daughter. If you bark in the night, we take it seriously. I’m not sure you can accurately distinguish the relative threat levels posed by a knife-wielding maniac and a squirrel on the back steps, but still – you’re doing your best and you’d do it whether I ever gave you any of the good food or not.

There have been abuses, of course. When we got Doggy Dog he was so well behaved that we wouldn’t think twice about leaving meat unattended on the kitchen table. He’d never go near it without permission. A few things have changed since then. One, as referenced above, I’ve been spoiling him shamelessly. Two, what was the kitchen table is now Baby Dog’s changing station, and what’s now the kitchen table is exactly chin high for our great big dog.

We first realised the gravity of the situation during one of Mama Dog’s mother’s recent visits. Mère de Mama Dog was a-whippin’ up a mess of mandu, under close observation by the dog. We were in the living room. Something happened – perhaps Baby Dog did something cute – that caused Mère de Mama Dog to come into the living room for a moment or two. When she turned back to the kitchen, Doggy Dog had already conducted a rampage through the mounds of raw pork conveniently located chin-high at the edge of the kitchen table.

Later, when my parents were in town, I was waxing disciplinarian with the dog. His obtrusiveness at the table was getting out of hand. With the addition of the swing and assorted other baby accoutrements, space is ever more at a premium in our kitchen, and Doggy Dog at mealtimes was constantly underfoot. Long ago we read somewhere that akitas have “an almost mystical ability to avoid being underfoot.” We laugh when we recall that. Hah, how amusing! The day the mystical abilities were being handed out, Doggy Dog evidently had a prior engagement. With dinner guests at the table, the situation got close to untenable. If his chin wasn’t on the table it was in somebody’s lap. I had to get stern. I would make him lie down throughout dinner, but of course the second he detected moving food, he’d be up again. I started to get cross with the dog, which I don’t enjoy. I found myself forced to manhandle and dominate. My dad, who is the softy to end all softies where dogs are concerned, surreptitiously dropped scraps under the table, apparently unaware that you need a tablecloth to properly camouflage that sort of thing.

A week or two back, I was having hot dogs for lunch. Mama Dog was doing something on the computer, the bad old computer, which was then at its most cantankerous. She asked me how to do some computer thing. I stood and turned – the desk with the computer is right behind my seat at the table – and spent no more than two seconds answering. When I turned back, there was an empty hot dog bun on my plate with a little chunk torn out of it. Below, there was a happy dog licking a little juice off the floor.

It’s funny now, yeah – well, Mama Dog thought it was funny then, but it wasn’t her lunch. Me, I was too busy seeing red to laugh. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so mad at the dog. I yelled. I told him he was bad, which I don’t think I’ve ever said before. I grabbed him by the collar, hustled him out the back, and slammed the door on him. He’s done bad things before. Four times he’s injured other animals (two dog, two cats; both dogs and one of the cats belonging to friends of ours) and I’ve been able to excuse it as hunting instinct, or Business Between Dogs, but this…this was thievery. This was breaking the pact.

On the other side of the door, he was whining and yelping and scratching. It’s his worst nightmare to be separated from his people. I cracked the door and told him to lie down and stay. He did, and I slammed it shut again. I was still too mad to let him in. I made him stay out until I had finished my lunch. When he came back in, he defined “hangdog.” Since that day we’ve had a zero tolerance policy regarding his face coming anywhere near the tabletop. It seems to be working.

I still feed him scraps. Because he’s my dog, damn it.


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