Thursday, July 30, 2009

You Gonna Clean That Plate?

Once again a perusal of the NY Times led me to an interesting Well blog entry by Tara Parker-Pope. Tuesday's topic was a California food and restaurant critic who claims that his dog helps him maintain a healthy weight in a career that often requires overeating and sampling of rich foods. The writer's strategy is not what you would expect. He does not sing the praises of going home after a satisfying meal and taking his dog for walk. Instead, his plan involves the doggie bag. He sets aside specific portions of his meals to take home to his dog, a creature with sad eyes and a watering mouth he can't resist feeding. 

Perhaps I am a curmudgeon, but I do not feed my dogs from the table. Muzzy gets to lick out the little yogurt containers, and both dogs get their pills delivered in bread bits or chunks of cheese. But they both know not to expect anything and do not even bother to visit with me during meals. (When guests come over, however, all bets are off. Both dogs circle like sharks, hoovering for crumbs. Naughty things.) What's more, on the rare occasions when I eat out, I rarely order anything that my dogs would find palatable, even if I had any left over. Spicy Vietnamese pho? Sushi? Migas with hot sauce? Even my dogs would say "No thank you."

The blog entry is quick to point out, of course, that not all leftovers are appropriate for pooches, and it provides a link to another article (by a writer for Today/ that identifies foods one should never give to dogs. It covers the usual suspects—grapes, raisins, chocolate, beer—but also two foods that surprised me greatly: avocados and nuts. Avocados are generally too pricey for me to even think of sharing them with my dogs, but I guess I thought that their oil content might be good for skin and fur. Don't do it, the writer of the article insists, because a chemical in avocados poses a serious danger to most pets, especially dogs and cats. Who knew? 

But I have to differ with the writer's claim that all nuts are bad for dogs. He does not identify the particular substance in nuts that causes problems, but he says that walnuts and macadamia nuts are particularly toxic for dogs. Yet, as any Austinite knows, dogs love to munch on pecans. My two spend hours hunting them in the backyard, cracking the shells, and eating the meat. Nothing gets their attention like the sound of my boot smashing a pecan shell. I often feed them the pieces that I harvest. I have never seen my dogs react badly to eating the meat of a pecan (the shells, of course, are another matter altogether). What's more, I don't know how on earth I would prevent them from eating nuts that fall by the bushel in our yard nearly every year. 

Check out the links if you have a chance. 

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