This weekend I attended a fascinating search-and-rescue dog trial near Monterey, CA. (I’ll be writing about it soon.) The next day I went to the ranch of one couple who have two excellent SAR dogs. When I got there, I was greeted by a strapping older German Shepherd named Bosco, who looked terribly interested in my car, but didn’t bark.
When I came closer, I saw that Bosco didn’t bark because he had a treasure in his mouth. It was a lemon. Round and perfect. When I got closer I could smell its country-kissed sweetness through his puffs of dog breath. He had plucked it just seconds earlier for the occasion. It was his treasure, and he wanted to be sure I saw it and admired it.
About 10 minutes later, I started getting a whiff of another scent — something rather lime-like. I looked down, and sure enough, Bosco was looking at me and puffing up lime breath. His lime was equally photo-perfect (my camera had run out of battery power, alas) — almost tennis-ball green and perfectly spherical. In fact, if it hadn’t smelled like a sweet lime, I’d have sworn it was a tennis ball.
“He thinks tennis balls grow on trees,” says Ingrid LaFontaine, who runs the picturesque ranch with fire-captain husband Ray. “It’s pretty much dog heaven when you have tennis balls growing on trees.”
Turns out Bosco also walks around with avocados in his mouth when they’re in season. Actually, they’re in season now, but he and his three canine compatriots have eaten all the low-hanging avocados off the trees. “They love them,” says LaFontaine. “They eat the edible part, and leave the skins and the pits all over.”
Did Bosco actually eat the citrus fruits or just show them off? He likely chomped down on the lemon and got some refreshing juice, says LaFontaine. (These are not the kinds of lemons that make you pucker. They’re more like a cross between a Meyer lemon and an orange.) As for the lime/tennis ball, when he saw how we were oohing and ahhing over his find, he did what any self-respecting dog would do. He buried it. Perhaps he will make a lime withdrawal from his green savings later.
My dog Jake doesn’t eat this kind of stuff. He likes whatever fare lies languidly on the less-healthy end of the human food spectrum: Pizza, meat, anything fried, anything sweet — particularly ice cream or cheesecake. (Not that he gets these things. He just likes these things. There is a difference. He wishes there were not.)
He had a carrot binge going for a while, but only because our old guinea pig was all about carrots. It was a matter of monkey-see, monkey-want. Porky coveted carrots, so they must be good. It happened for a while with lettuce, too. The same mentality was behind Jake’s recent apple cravings; he wanted them only when we brought apples to a horse. He turned up his snout at them whenever the horse was nowhere to be seen.
This weekend at the SAR event, I met people who told me their dogs eat lots of things they also eat. They’re careful about the potentially dangerous ones, like grapes, apple pips, and onions. But with the smorgasbord of fruits and veggies these dog like, they’d be perfectly at home at a salad bar.
I came home from the ranch and offered Jake a little carrot, and he laughed at me. I handed him a piece of grilled asparagus I’d coated with olive oil, and he licked off the oil and then laughed at me some more.
And I pondered: Where did I go wrong? Why doesn’t my boy like things that are good for him? Why does he crave the soiled diapers he finds in trash cans in the park and the burger bits friends throw him at barbecues, and shun the healthy foods that currently take up a lot of real estate on the food pyramid?
It got me to thinking about Dogster’s readers and wondering what your experience has been with this food business. So I ask: Does your dog like wholesome, healthy people food? If so, what kinds? What’s the most unusual good-for-you item he’s eaten? Or is your dog like Jake, with a penchant for the pudge-making cuisine?