It was a prize that, individually, neither of them wanted.
And, until they came together, each was willing to leave it strictly alone.

“What do you mean?”  I asked.  My daughter Rachel had said something so foreign that even though I recognized the words coming from her lips, I had difficulty comprehending the meaning behind them.

She said it again.

I turned around to stare at our overweight canine.  Part Pekinese, part teenager, Fluffy spent the better part of each day hunting for scraps of unattended food that she could steal when no one was looking.  As far as I could tell, there was only one kind of food she really didn’t like:  dog food.  Of course, when her hunger pangs reached a certain level she could no longer ignore, she reluctantly lowered herself to tolerate that nasty business.  But, up to this time, Fluffy’s lifestyle constantly proclaimed her ardent disdain for dry, lab-created, nutrient pebbles for dogs, contrasted with her all-encompassing passion for every kind of people food.

Raw butter and other tasty treats left alone up high on the kitchen counter, used to fall prey to Fluffy’s regular hunting trips around the house.  Once we wised up to her tactics, the various treats found new homes in less-accessible places.  Another factor working in our favor was that the new weight that Fluffy’s many food-stealing-forays had brought about now kept her from being able to jump and climb to the heights she had once attained in a single bound.

Nevertheless, any food not kept carefully hidden beyond Fluffy’s reach was soon to disappear.  Anyone not able (or willing) to finish his food at mealtime found a ready-ally in Fluffy, who loved to go around cleaning plates for reluctant eaters.

Although it is true that Fluffy was mostly a meat-and-potatoes gal, she had been seen eating leftover vegetables, and even beans, something I had not known before that dogs could eat.

After breakfast, when the children found that their portions of cooked oatmeal and other cereal had been a tad too generous, Fluffy always hovered near, just in case her assistance was needed.  It often was.

Which made this new tidbit of information even harder to understand:  “Fluffy doesn’t eat oatmeal without sugar in it.

So, the cereal alone was not enough?  This was too much!  Watching how much Fluffy loved all kinds of food, I refused to believe it.  Determinedly, I lowered the oatmeal-covered pan to the floor, convinced that Fluffy would scurry over to help me out a little.

Such presumption was not rewarded.  Although Fluffy did come over to investigate, after one haughty sniff, followed by a dirty look, she ambled off, clearly unimpressed with my latest offering to her.

Apparently, Fluffy had a few food preferences I had not known of before, with a sweet-tooth predominating.  After this, she began regularly to refuse food that was not to her taste.

Enter new pets.  The first of these was a rabbit, named Oreo, who ate all kinds of raw fruits and vegetables which Fluffy had habitually refused before his coming.  The rabbit lived with us for seven years, during which time, Fluffy learned to expand her food palate far beyond her comfort zone, hoping to edge Oreo away from his share.

While the rabbit was still alive, we adopted a puppy for our 12-year-old daughter.  Roosevelt, an energetic blur of German shepherd/ Siberian husky origins, came with his own preconceived food notions.  These, of course, were quickly dispelled by his recurring fear that Fluffy and Oreo might be feasting on a tasty morsel denied to him.  Like Fluffy had done earlier, Roosevelt also worked to expand his palate.

And, yet, there were days when even Roosevelt could not be tempted to try something he knew he wouldn’t like.  Yesterday was one of those days.

It was time to clean the kitchen again, and lurking unattended at the back of the stove hid a small pot of un-eaten white rice.  Knowing that the dogs were always hungry (or claiming to be), I decided to share the rice.  “Roosevelt!”  I called.  “Come, get some food!”

Recognizing the sing-song tone of good things to come, Roosevelt eagerly bounced into the kitchen, only to stop short when he saw the pot of rice.

Narrowing his eyes, he shot me a look that could be interpreted only one way:  “How dare you insult my intelligence and good taste with this inferior offering?  Don’t you know me at all?

Sighing, I bent over to retrieve the pot so that I could scrape the rice into the trash, then begin soaking the pot.  “What were you expecting?” Roosevelt seemed to smirk.

Just then, Fluffy, now 12-years-old, hobbled around the corner to see what all the excitement was about.  She looked into the pot of rice that Roosevelt had firmly refused.  She sniffed its un-inviting aroma for herself.  Looking up at me, she prepared to give me the same haughty look and proclamation that Roosevelt had delivered indignantly only a minute earlier.

Problem was, Roosevelt was still there.  He glanced at Fluffy inspecting the rice.

Like laser-guided missiles, their eyes locked onto each other.  The previously-despised rice had now become a bounty of sorts, a reward neither was willing to surrender without a struggle.   Simultaneously shoving their faces into a pot that was clearly too small to accommodate both of them, they barked, growled and gnashed their teeth while devouring as much of the rice as they could before the other took it.  Although individually finicky, combined they had now morphed into a virtually unstoppable garbage disposal team.

The pot was now clean enough to lie alone in the sink under a thick layer of disinfecting dish detergent after the dogs had been separated, each giving the other a dirty look and a few last unprintable growls of annoyance.  “You guys are ridiculous!” I told them.

The few pennies worth of rice they had consumed crowded out the need for them to eat quite as many morsels of tasteless dog food.  Inwardly, I congratulated myself for saving a bit of the food budget at their expense.  This was probably an encounter that could be repeated in the future with endless interesting variations, if I played my cards right.

As I cleaned the kitchen, I considered the current state of the world.  I had heard from several unrelated sources that the Fall in the Garden did not affect the animals, and that they live even today in a state of perfect purity.  But after this recent demonstration of my dogs’ hidden motives, I again dismissed this notion as hogwash.  Anyone who tries to tell you that animals do not have a sin nature has never met my two fallen furballs.

Gwennon, Fall 2012, yes, about a year ago, but still just as fresh today . . . .

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