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She is conspicuous in her absence.  I expect to see her sitting high on the end of the couch, deforming the cushion, as I walk up the front walkway.  I expect to trip over her when I traipse through the kitchen at night, to find her curled up on a dining room chair in the morning.  I am shocked when she does not bark to welcome the nanny in the morning, or to guard against anyone who walks in the door.  She doesn’t jump on me when I sit on the floor to play with the babies, nor try to eat the beignet I set on the end table as we settled into an evening of “Homicide” after the babies had gone to sleep.

 

Her “stuff” is gone, too – her bowl, her collar, her leash and harness.  There’s a space in the living room that has obviously been swept after her crate was removed to the garage.  But the biggest difference is not in her trappings nor even seeing her in her usual haunts; it’s in my behavior.  I don’t have to seal up the kitchen at night, lest she sneak in there and pee on the chair cushions.  I don’t have to obsessively close the bedroom doors, lest she do the same to our bedding.  No longer do I worry that a stray baby sock or hat on the floor will become a chew toy.  Pacifiers that E. drops will stay put until we clean them, not become squirreled away in the dog’s mouth.  I don’t have to bribe her into her crate before I leave the house, nor distract her with a treat when the nanny comes.  I don’t have constantly hush her barks as she threatens to wake the sleeping babies yet again.  And while she’s torn up a third sofa with her energy and her nails, it won’t get any worse than it is now.  I don’t have to protect our home any longer.  Molly is gone.

 

Mr.Apron took her to the shelter yesterday, took her “back” to the shelter we adopted her from 2 years ago.  Was she defective?  Were we incompetent?  Probably neither extreme is fair, and I have to believe that she’ll be adopted again soon, to a family with the fenced-in  yard she needs, and the attention she craves.  I have to believe she can be rehabilitated, or we wouldn’t have worked so hard, spent so much money on her in the time she wrecked our home, and brought chaos into our lives.

 

I’ll always be sad when I think about having to surrender Molly.  I’ll always look back on her photos nostalgically and wonder if we had tried everything in our power.  Or if we should have returned her long before we did.  But things are so much easier now; I can’t believe how much we rearranged our lives to accommodate that 32-lb dog, how careful we had to be to manage her behaviors and her less-than-desirable attributes.  It’s like we can breathe again, and relax a little in our own home.

 

As I dressed for work this morning, though, I realized it’ll take far longer than 24-hours for the dog to truly leave our lives.  While the dog and her chaos may have left, we’ll still be lint-rollering pieces of her fur off of our clothing for years to come.

Our dog has discriminating tastes.  He’s not exactly like the dog from the beggin’ strips ad, or the dog from the Beneful ad, though he resembles the former.  For years, we have had to coax him to eat his dog food.  Mr. Apron, though not schooled in generations of dog ownership, had never seen a healthy young dog who didn’t fairly squee with joy and anticipation of his food being put down.  As for myself, I grew up in a household where dog food was left out for the animals to graze on throughout the day.  The dogs of my youth managed their appetites and weights just fine, and certainly enjoyed their kibble. 

Finley, however, is different.  He’s not overly picky, per se.  We’ve tried him on every variety of cheap dog chow, and some varieties of expensive stuff.  He just seems to enjoy a little something extra.  I have to say, if I had to eat the same dry food day after day, I’d grow a little bored, too.  For about a year, Mr. Apron had a ritual where he’d make a big fuss of putting a broken-up milk bone on top, as garnish. And sometimes this would work.  Sometimes not.  Unfortunately, we could not just leave it down for him to get hungry, as we soon contracted a fatal case of mice infestation, and guess what food they like best?  Yes, dog food.  They actually managed to chew through the sealed rubbermaid container to get into his foo, so tasty it was to them.  Nor did the old adage of “He’ll eat when he’s hungry”, as there seemed to be no pattern to when it would eat.  I’ve also read that many dogs will eat until they burst, having less of a full/hungry sensation than humans. 

Mr. Apron’s father, on dog-walking duty one day, struck upon the ketchup that began gracing the fridge after I moved in (Mr. Apron himself won’t touch the stuff ), and squirted some in Finley’s bowl.  Hence was born the special sauce.  To this day, it’s the magic elixir that will get him to eat on those days when soy milk is not enough.  Yes, I said soy milk.  I can’t truthfully recall how we discovered this one.  I’m a lactard, as previously disclosed.  I’ve converted Mr. Apron, who never much cared for cow milk, to using soy milk in his cereal.  So when we’re done eating cereal, instead of drinking the leftover dribs and drabs of milk, we pour it into one bowl, and dress Finley’s food.  He waits, attentively, eagerly anticipating the time when the liquid will drop.  He laps up the milk first, then goes for the kibble.  It truly is specific to soy milk.  Once, when Mr. Apron had cow milk in his bowl, and gave that to Finley, he sniffed it, and flatly rejected the whole concoction.  But soy…that’s the stuff.  And it works, at least during the week.  Often on weekends, we have bagel sandwiches, or go out for brunch, or, on rare occasion, make eggs, pancakes, and the like.  On these days, he makes a silent prayer for bacon, cheese, eggs, bagel, or whatever we feel like dropping.  That may not be enough for his dog food, though.  On these days, we resort to another tomato product: watered down pasta sauce.  When we finish a jar of Classico, I fill it back up with water, which takes on the flavor of the sauce.  We slosh it on his grub, and he chows down.  This is especially helpful when we’re at my parents’ house, or dog-sitting, when there are other dogs vying for competition, who may eat his food if he doesn’t get to it fast enough.  Yes, we have our tricks. 

And Finley has his treats.  While generally a well behaved beast, he does bark his head off sometimes for attention, and he has destroyed one hollow-core door and one dog gate, trying to escape unknown assailants (probably flies).  He doesn’t counter surf, doesn’t beg for food audibly, and hasn’t gotten into the trash in 6 years.  He politely sniffs groceries when I come home from the market, but has only one time ever gone into a bag to pull out his favorite food:  broccoli.  Sure, many dogs like carrots, and maybe some dogs like mini-wheats, but Finley is absolutely coo-coo for broccoli.  When it comes out of the fridge for stir fry, or for hors d’oeuvres, he trails that floret like he’s suddenly become a bloodhound.  He sits, focused as a border collie, hoping, praying for a stalk.  We usually give him some of the very fibrous end stalks unfit for human consumption.  We save others in a ziploc in the fridge for use as “green shut-up sticks”, when company shows up and he wants to be the center of attention, or when he’s forgotten how to entertain himself, or when we’d like to be punished later in the evening by his farts.  Yes, he can digest the stalks, and never seems to be in any GI discomfort during or after the treat, but he does let ’em rip later that night.  You know the smell — cafeteria-steamed, army-green florets in a humid lunchroom mixed with locker bologna and some other unidentifiable permanent smell that is probably closely allied with gym socks. 

But hey, he’s happy.  And who can put a price on that?  Finley digs his greens so much that when we visit our crunchy Vermont friends and take him along, he dives headlong into their compost pile.  Worms are great for composting, but I think Finley’s more efficient.  I mean, you’ve got a usable product in 24 hours.  Worms can’t begin to compete. 

How about you?  What do your pets enjoy?  Shredded wheat?  Carrots?  Dried squid?  Apple cores?