As a kid, I was a fan of the Poopoo platter at the Chinese restaurant. I liked the blue fire and the drama of the contraption brought to our table, and the fried, oily, sweet and sticky finger foods on the trays. My brother and I also really liked saying “poopoo” out in public.
As I got older, I learned how to cook lighter versions of my Chinese food staples, but every once in a while, when I’m tired and grumpy and do not want to cook, Mom and I order take out Chinese. I’m usually careful to order non-fried dishes, with light sauces, and tons of extra vegetables. If I get dumplings they’re steamed and filled with vegetables. But sometimes the crappiness of the day is so awful that it requires extra special yummy, greasy, sweet food with no redeeming value. Like barbecued ribs, which are, only slightly, a more grown up take on the food in the Poopoo platter.
Before we adopted Butterfly, Cricket was an only dog, and took advantage of her role as only grand dog as often as possible. She knew her best bet was to sit on Grandma’s lap, because Grandma’s guilt buttons are stronger than her hunger buttons. So as soon as Mom had finished with one of her barbecued ribs, she handed it off to Cricket. We were eating special food, Mom said, why shouldn’t Cricket?
I knew that chicken bones were dangerous for dogs from way back, because someone, probably my brother, had given me a vivid description of how the bones could splinter in my dog’s throat or intestines, and pop them like balloons. But since I’d spent a large part of my childhood kosher, I had no idea what to expect of pork bones. I assumed they were the same as beef bones. They looked the same to me.
Cricket sat on the floor with a bone between her paws and not only did she clean off the fat, and gristle, she started to eat the bone itself, crunch, crunch, crunch until it disappeared. There were no signs left, no garbage, just some stubborn oily stains on the hard wood floor. The first one went so well, I gave her my own leftovers. That way I could leave all of the extra fat on the bone and not feel guilty for wasting food.
I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of retching. I called Cricket over and rubbed her back, and she went back to sleep next to me. But in the morning, there were two piles of predigested bone on my carpet and one spot where, clearly, there had been puke and it had been re-ingested.
Much scrubbing later, I found older piles downstairs on the wood floor, and as the day went on the vomiting continued but became less productive, just puddles of spit, preceded by those awful, whole body spasms. I was afraid some of Cricket’s vital organs would be left in those piles on the floor. But after all of that, she was smiling, and asking for Parmesan cheese on her dog food and wondering when we were going to have ribs again.
Sometimes you can only learn a lesson in the most vivid way possible. Just reading it as a list of no-no foods isn’t convincing, but seeing your dog turn inside out does the trick.
I try to be careful about what Cricket and Butterfly eat now. I looked up multiple lists of no-no foods and cross referenced and studied. But Cricket still prefers to eat whatever her Grandma has touched, and blessed for her. She would rather eat a piece of Grandma’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich than a flurry of Parmesan cheese on her dog food that never passed through Grandma’s hands. Food is love; food is relationship, even for dogs.