Our first dog was a Dalmatian, which is kind of like owning a sixty-pound, beatifully decorated, maniacally affectionate garbage disposal on four legs.
Pepper, as we called her, never met an object she wouldn't introduce to her digestive system. A wicker bed, bark from a plum tree, asbestos shingles off our first house, broken Coke bottles, five-dollar bills from my dresser... You name it, that dog ate it.
One day she ate an entire tube of A&D ointment, a vitamin-fortified vaseline. Why somebody found it necessary to develop and market vitamin-fortified vaseline is beyond my comprehension. We had a tube of it to apply to Our Daughter's nether regions during diaper changes, because we were told that's what parents do. Pepper snuck into the room and downed the contents, container and all, resulting in several days of suffering through an excessively greasy coat and extreme sphinctal clenching.
Our second dog, a poodle named Lily, is much less daring in her adventures. There have been a few blips on the radar. Chewed window blind cords, a few strands of carpet pile when she was a puppy, and a candy bowl raid one holiday season are the only blemishes to an otherwise squeaky clean record. Unlike her predecessor, if Lily heads for something she shouldn't eat, she actually obeys if you tell her to stop, which is why her behavior the other night came as such a surprise.
It happened so quickly, I didn't even realize she had found anything in the grass while we took one last stroll before bedtime. We were barely outside long enough for her to squeeze out an ounce of poodle piddle, so I don't know how she managed to track down this particular object and carry it back into the house on the sly, all the while avoiding the urge to wolf it down.
Just inside the door, Our Daughter looked oddly at the dog and asked "What is Lily eating?"
"Nothing," I said.
Yet when I checked the dog's mouth there it was, clenched between teeth locked tightly down like a steel trap on a wild animal: a McDonald's chicken McNugget.
"Drop it," I told her in that deep, trailing, serious tone we all adopt when instructing domesticated animals and children to stop doing whatever it is they shouldn't be doing.
All I got was a sneering sidelong glance from a poodle ready for a fried nuggety game of tug-of-war, but I wasn't letting go. She eventually relinquished her prize and followed me hopefully to the trash can where she spent the remainder of the evening mourning the loss of her splendid catch.
Ever since, even though I tried to make it up to her the following day with a few pieces of chicken Marsala, I still find her lingering when we pass that spot across the street where wild McNuggets grow.
© 2011 Mark Feggeler