Alpo and Iams and deers, oh my!

By Marla Boone - Contributing columnist

Dogs. I love ‘em. Most dogs love me. Two notable exceptions are Baron, a very large, very disgruntled German shepherd who bit me every time he saw me. I didn’t take it personally because Baron bit everyone within reach except the woman who spent a great many of her waking hours repeatedly and, frankly, ineffectively, saying “Baron, no!” Apparently, to Baron, “No!” sounded a lot like “Give it your best shot.” The other dog who may or may not dislike me is Lisa. Lisa is a terminally confused rescue greyhound who wants to taste everything in her world, including me. So, while Baron is undoubtedly filled with malice, Lisa is filled merely with curiosity. The end result, alas, is the same.

But mostly the dogs in my life have been loyal, loving creatures, many of whom were fodder for this column for years. I had a series of dobermans who were endlessly amusing. They agreed to love me unconditionally and I agreed not to use their real names in print to protect the innocent. Those dogs and I had wonderful, endearing relationships. Those relationships, sadly and inevitably, ended. To quote James Thurber, “If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven and very very few persons.” Eventually these dogs most assuredly went to doggie heaven and I was left in a canine-poor environment. Then I became friends with a man who has a great dog. Well, this dog has the potential for greatness if only he can get over being the most bull-headed animal in the universe.

Hunter is, not too oddly enough, a hunting dog. He is a mix of German short-haired pointer and Labrador retriever and he seems to be the beneficiary of the best of each breed. A beautiful dog, he is trained to obey both verbal commands and whistle commands. I had to enter into training myself to be able to communicate with Hunter. One whistle means stop. Two whistles mean do the opposite of what you’re doing. Three whistles mean come back. I also had to learn Hunter’s verbal vocabulary. Stop does not mean the same as whoa. Down does not mean the same as off. Okay is both permission and a release from any previous command. In my enduring confusion, it is possible I have ruined this dog for life but he still seems to like me. He and I are both confused about who exactly is the alpha dog in this affair. Mostly we exist in a state of uneasy detente. I am still waiting for him to kill me in my sleep.

Of all his peculiarities, and they are legion, Hunter’s eating habits are one of the most outstanding. This is a dog, you understand, who will stop what he is doing out in the field to devour the intestines of whatever unfortunate animal crosses his path. It is not required that these intestines be even remotely fresh, not that freshness is a distinction that makes much difference in the world of intestinal entree appeal. I have seen him eat live mice, dead ducks, grass, and, in one of his more discriminating gustatory moments, deer droppings. None of this screams “refined palette” to me.

One infallible way to make friends with a dog is to be a source of food. Optimally, this does not indicate you should let the dog eat your arm or leg. (Are you reading this Baron and Lisa?) In my case, I like to feed Hunter so he knows I am his buddy. I also want to reinforce the notion that if he does indeed kill me in my sleep this might result in his missing a meal.

Hunter’s meals are sacred. He eats at 6:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. This does not mean 6:42 a.m. or 4:13 p.m.. He also gets a treat at 8 p.m. There is very little waffling room in Hunter’s stomach. Hunter’s daddy (his words, not mine) asked me to baby sit for a few days. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to bond with the dog. If I were the sole provider of food and entertainment and door opening for him, Hunter would have to see how valuable I could be to him.

The first morning after Hunter informed me it was time to get up, I went to the kitchen to prepare his meal. Note that I did not let him outside first. Hunter has very firm ideas about priorities and his topmost priority is food. I in turn developed very firm ideas about the size of Hunter’s bladder because he wouldn’t even approach the back door after a full night on his bed until he had eaten. Part of my tutorial for babysitting included the fact that Hunter requires extra stuff on his food. He is already eating dog food that costs more than my weekly grocery bill. One would think that is good enough. One would be wrong. So I obediently put a little meat drippings on his food and presented it to him. He looked at it, looked at me, looked at it, and walked away. He refused to eat it. My parenting skills are largely missing. I figured the dog would eat before he starved to death so I just let him refuse. When Hunter’s daddy called to check on him, I mentioned the fact he wouldn’t eat. “Did you put stuff on his food?” “Yes.” “Did you put cheese on his food?” “No.” “Well, you’ve got to put cheese on it. And mayo.” “I don’t have mayo. I have Miracle Whip.” “It really should be mayo. I don’t know if he’ll eat Miracle Whip.”

My first reaction was disbelief I was even having this conversation and my second reaction was to realize this was an opportunity to show Hunter who was boss. I did cave on the cheese but I stood my ground on the mayo. Call it a draw.

By Marla Boone

Contributing columnist

Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today.

Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today.