Our rescue dogs learned a lot of commands and tricks — sit, down, stay, roll over, etc. Their favorite command was “vacuum.” Woofie, our Dane-Lab mix, would eat anything — even rocks. (He couldn’t digest rocks — or cabbage, or corn cobs — but he’d still eat them. And then throw them up, of course. Preferably on the nice carpet. Or my shoes.) Our other dog, Fey, spent her puppyhood scavenging on the streets of South Central Los Angeles. If it was edible, Fey ate it. If Andy dropped food on the kitchen floor while cooking, all he had to do was yell: “Fey! Woofie! Vacuum!”
The dogs raced to the kitchen and gulped down whatever was on the floor. Fey was partial to meat, while Woofie loved tortilla chips and carrots.
When my Chinese-American in-laws came for an extended visit, our large dogs made Andy’s father nervous. After a few days, Jay realized the dogs would not, in fact, eat him. (Whether or not the reverse was true, I will leave open to your interpretation.)
Fey was seventy pounds. Woofie was eighty pounds. Jay, at maybe a hundred pounds, still took precautions. He carried food with him wherever he went. If Woofie got too close, Jay would drop a piece of food, then move away while Woofie devoured it. Woofie, no dummy, soon followed this marvelous new mobile vending machine everywhere, drooling. By the time Jay left, Woofie was ninety pounds.
Now, just because my rescues could eat anything didn’t mean they should. When I spotted Jay feeding Woofie yogurt-covered almonds, I intervened.
“Jay, Jay, those nuts really aren’t that good for a canine digestive system. Neither is the dairy.” I handed him some milkbones. “Why don’t you give him these instead?”
Jay took the milkbones. I went back to the kitchen. As I worked on dinner and dessert, I was vaguely aware of my father-in-law wandering around the house and yard, trailing a hopeful canine shadow.
A half-hour later, my mother-in-law charged into the kitchen, hand to her nose. “Your dog stinks! He is always farting! Fart, fart, fart!”
Great. I found the milkbones on the patio table, untouched. I found Woofie nose-nudging the half-full bag of almonds in the living room, which Jay had abandoned in favor of watching TV in the guest room. I absconded with the abandoned almonds and pure them into the kitchen trash. Woofie watched, his brown eyes filled with reproach. I felt guilty until he passed more gas. A most foul gas. I opened a window. I t wasn’t enough. I opened another window and turned on the hood fan.
Five minutes later, my mother-in-law decided to be helpful.
“You are so busy cooking, I can take out the trash,” she declared.
“Thanks, Sunny. Wait. On second thought, it’s really heavy, and I should–”
Too late. Sunny was already staring into the trash bag. “Aaiyah! You are throwing away the almonds?! But that is perfectly good food!”
“It’s good for humans, but—”
“Well, it is no good for anyone now!” Sunny stalked out of the kitchen with the trash. Great. Now I had proven that I was a less-than-frugal daughter-in-law, which is less than desirable to Chinese-American parents. I sighed, watching through the window as Woofie followed Sunny into the backyard, where Fey stood guard against potential squirrel invasions.
Fey trotted up to Sunny, tail wagging. Sunny patted Fey on the head. Then she smiled and reached into the trash bag.
“Here you go, doggies,” she crooned. “They were in the trash, but you don’t care, right?”
And she scattered the remaining yogurt-covered almonds all over the patio.
“Noooooo!” I shrieked, running outside. “No! NO VACUUM!”
Only I’d never taught my dogs “No vacuum.” The 150 Pound Combined Canine Food Inhaler continued vacuuming at maximum speed.
“Leave it!” I yelled, remembering a command I had taught them. “Woofie, leave it, Fey, leave it!”
Too late. The almonds were gone. Doggie methane production began in earnest.
It didn’t stop for 24 hours.