With the change in season, dinners on the back porch are becoming something of good times, no oppressive heat, no bothersome bugs, and a sweater put on at the last moment as we move the dishes out to the table. We let the chickens out to range, and Pippin, our little Maltese also gets to join us attached to a long leash that he invariable winds around our chair legs.
Pippin has become a nasty little begger. When we had three dogs in the house, the rule was no “people food.” And I made sure that that rule was strictly enforced. Begging dogs at a table brought waves of disgust up my spine (how poorly trained!) and visions of my grandmother cooking up liver (LIVER!) for her dog: Max haunted me.
I would never do something that foolish.
And then two of our dogs died within a few weeks of each other and we were left with a confused and grieving puppy. Although this was the time when our house-chicken Charlie lived inside and became Pippin’s friend, Pippin also, through loneliness attached himself to me. I became his alpha.
If I sat down in a chair, he sat down with me. If I got up to go to the kitchen he followed.
Even as I write this, I can hear him barking in his dreams as he sleeps in the comfy chair in my office (on top of my sweatshirt because he likes the smell.)
And of course, I started feeding him small bits of leftover dinners, which he quickly learned to beg for. Why? Mostly because I felt sorry for him. Poor pup, he’d had a hard time.
I wouldn’t give him much, a tablespoon here, a forkful there. But of course, as anyone knows, once the indulgence line is breached, it leads to more.
I haven’t gotten to the point of cooking food specifically for Pippin, but I have been known to salvage the last hamburger (the one my son wanted for his thirds) so that I can break one half into bite-sized pieces for the dog. And I always leave a bite of my dinner on my plate to give to Pippin later.
When my kids were little, we made them take one bite of everything on their plate (yes, even the Brussels sprouts) as a way to say “Thank-you” to the person who prepared the food. We called these “Thank-you bites.”
I like to think that these bites I’m saving from our dinners to give to Pippin are a way to say “Thank-you, my friend” for being part of our family and a member of our ever learning flock.
Oh, and Grandma – you possessed a wise wisdom of which I was far too young to appreciate.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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