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Gill thinks it’s hilarious that I take such pleasure in feeding the various and sundry dogs that end up in my care. There are currently three — a hound the size of a small horse, The Pig (a rather rotund beagle that, since having her cancerous spleen removed, has been trying to fill up the vacant space inside), and Mr. Pants, Crazy D’s energetic little black mop dog.

During our last Skype chat, L’il Sis held The Pig up in her arms to say ‘hi’ to Gill.

“My God, that beast is rotund!” Gill commented before she could censor herself.

“She is not!” L’il Sis corrected. “It’s just all the chicken soup Mom makes for her. She is pleasingly plump.”

I was grinning proudly off to the side of the computer but Gill saw my expression.

“Ma! Why is it you take so much pleasure in feeding those dogs so much food?I thought you were tired of cooking and thinking of meals.”

“Ah, you’ve put your finger on it right there,” I posited. “I hate cooking for you lot — hated it when you were children and hate it now. You were all “oh, I don’t like this” or ‘I can’t eat this or my skin will erupt in a horrid rash” or “beans make me poo funny”. Dogs, on the other paw, are grateful, enthusiastic, eager eaters no matter what glop I put in front of them. It is a pleasure beyond reason being able to feed them and see their smiles …and the love they lavish on me thereafter. They are the sweet children I never had…”

“Ma, you DO understand that they don’t love you so much for your SELF as for your food, don’t you?”

“Do I care why someone loves me? I do not. At my age I can’t afford to be too picky. Why you’ll be happy to know that, when the neighbour brought Jewel (the hound cum horse) across the street to stay with us for the week, she practically dragged him all the way on the concrete. She couldn’t wait to come here to her ‘second home’. It does not offend my sensibilities in the least to have three loving but furry creatures packed into my kitchen, each one gazing more adoringly at me than the other. I tell you, you all could learn something from the mutts.”

Why, even now, Crazy D and L’il Sis turn up their noses at my food — not always, just enough to be mildly irritating. L’il Sis has made great strides in the last year, no longer turning up her nose at the smell of chicken soup bubbling on the stove. She can’t, really, since I’m making it for HER dog. But being vegan is a trial for her. She knows that The Pig loves and needs the goodness of the meat and bones, but she personally struggles with the moral leap of sacrificing one animal for another (hers).

Occasionally I try to pass off one of the ‘cheap chickens’ I have bought on sale at the supermarket on Crazy D. He prefers to buy his meat from an organic farmer. I grant it tastes wonderful, but I refuse to pay extra for it except for special occasion meals like Christmas and Thanksgiving. I figure we still eat better than 99% of the world, so who am I to quibble? Crazy D will look suspiciously at the roast chicken and gently prod it with a fork. (At least he hasn’t reached Gill’s level of surgical dissection technique with carcasses.) Then he prods me (not, thankfully, with a fork) verbally. “Ma, is this one of my nice chickens from the freezer?” He already knows the answer but he’s trying to make a point.

“Uh, I’m not sure . It could have been but the label had come off so I can’t say for sure.”

“Mom…” he says in his sternest tone. “You trying to pull a fast one on me? I buy those good chickens for us both to enjoy. Their meat is much better for you. Those other hens are pumped full of hormones and chemicals.”

“In case you hadn’t noticed, so am I! We make a good pair. Maybe the chicken will add some hormones I’m missing…I can only hope!”

“Well, the chickens are there, Mom. We have to eat them at some point. Can’t let them go to waste.”

“No, we won’t, son. I do appreciate your effort to make me eat nutritious food. But as the old saying goes, ‘I’m a cheap date!”