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Garbage Guts

Mishka’s best friend, Drexler, is the most pampered dog on the planet. His mother studies optimum nutritional strategies and gives him aromatherapy massages and buys him all manner of foul-weather gear. Drexler is a super-fit, extra-small Boston terrier.

When Susan decided a raw diet was the way to go, she bought expensive, 5-star, packaged meals for him. After a few days, he looked more like a sausage than a super fit micro-boxer. He stopped eating and pooping. She took him to the vet. X-rays showed that his gut was filled with undigested food. “Some dogs can’t eat raw,” the vet said, and proceeded to cut the Drex open from pubic bone to sternum and excavated the mess. After seeing the stitches, I started calling him zipper dog.

Another friend’s Irish setter looked like it had mange. He had allergies. After many attempts at trying different diets, she settled on fish and potatoes. We were asked never to give Frasier treats.

When people ask if they can give Mishka a treat, I say, “Sure. How can one little treat do any harm to someone that big?”

But when he ran away from me at the river and found the dead sturgeon and rolled in it, and most likely sampled some lovely putrid flesh, I was worried because many fish in the Pacific Northwest carry parasitic worms that can kill a dog in three days. As it happened, he didn’t die over the next three days, although the 45-minute bath I gave him at Petco that night with the hair dryers going and other dogs barking and being chained so tightly to the wall that he couldn’t move nearly gave him heart failure. It was pathetic, but it had to be done. I’ll sleep with mud and forest products, but not with fish guts.

That was in the winter. In the spring, there’s an enchanted flowering of picnickers and homeless camps in the park beside the river. These people are enlightened Oregonians, which is to say they leave trash all over the place. Carcasses and scraps and used baby diapers and pizza boxes and random items of clothing. Mishka considers all of this his own private smorgasbord. He’ll jump right up on a picnic table and snatch a sandwich if you don’t watch out. I therefore try to keep him away from tables, but I have no control over what’s in the bushes or on the ground or in the overflowing trash bins.

There’s also a nice big floating dock at the park. Mishka likes to check it out, because people live in the sailboats that are tied up to it, and they’re also enlightened Oregonians. So White Boy comes running up from the dock with a gallon-sized plastic bag full of chopped meat of some kind. A nice guy helps me try to catch him. Mishka is snatching at the bag to tear it open as he evades us nimbly, and blobs of meat start falling out. The guy says, “That stuff smells like shit.” The meat was raw and rotten.

“Oh, good,” I thought. “Emergency room tonight for sure.”

One rule of dog feeding is not to change the diet too abruptly. I did that with my first dog and woke up to a living room full of poo. Not the neat, cylindrical kind, either. So, if it wasn’t going to be the emergency room, it was going to be a living room full of poo, because his normal diet doesn’t include ten-pound servings of raw rotten meat. Good thing we have hardwood floors.

On the way home in the car, Mishka silently yakked out a thick stream of meat. I didn’t notice this until the next day, when I was asking him to load up and there was a momentary hesitation while he gobbled up the day-old vomit. “Nice save!” he thought.

No ill effects of any kind. Not even mild diarrhea.

Apart from random sandwiches containing mustard, onions, and other dog-toxic substances, the next bad thing he got was a package of cooked pork neck bones. Never, ever, feed a dog cooked bones. They will splinter and puncture his throat, stomach, and gut. Or they’ll block the gut and require excavation. I envisioned bloody shards sticking out of Fluffy’s tummy by midnight.

What did come out of his tummy the next day were three perfect spheres, one and a quarter inches in diameter, of granulated bone material. The extrusion of which was casual and effortless.

After that, I avoided the river for a while, and went back to the “fenced” dog park inland. But the “fence” was (and is) about three and a half feet of rusted, twisted, randomly broken wire. Mishka is about five-eight when he stands on his hind legs. There’s a picnic area outside the fence.

So that wasn’t working.

We went back to the river, only on weekdays, and only at off-peak hours. This dealt with the picnickers pretty well, though there was still their garbage from the night before. Then the amusement park on the rocky bluffs above the river opened for summer. Did I mention that Mishka can climb a nearly vertical rock face? Nimble, that’s the word.

Mishka has decided that he has a four-hamburger quota per outing. Maybe with a couple of hotdogs for good measure. People smile at him. “He’s so sweet and pretty,” they say.

Or they just shrug. “That dog can have all the food he wants. I’m not tangling with him.”

I gave up.