The Clean Plate Club

I have a bad habit.  Whenever I lack something better to do, I worry about potentialities that are utterly beyond my control.  As you can imagine with farming, I have effectively infinite inspiration.  Still, I’ve lately been trying to cultivate a zen-like state of acceptance toward all things agricultural, and, as a consequence, my worry habit seems to have shifted to a more remote topic: the fates of my as-of-yet unconceived children.  Today, for example, I spent about 15 minutes of driving time deliberating as to the best way to respond when a child requests a pet horse.  Big questions, but for some reason, Andrew seemed unconcerned.

Long before I made farm worrying off limits, however, I began to nurse my single biggest child rearing fear: that I might beget picky eaters.  It seems to me (and this could be my neurosis talking) that these days more kids than not are picky eaters.  Heck, by my own definition, I was a picky eater, and I wasn’t that bad.  My problem is that I am a rather experimental cook, and I am loth to sacrifice my penchant for unconventional eating on the alter of Easy Mac and Chicken McNuggets.  I am fortunate in my choice of a tolerant husband, who will try anything I prepare.  That’s not to say that he’ll take seconds of my spicy raspberry soup–there are limits–but he’ll give it a shot, no matter how outlandish.  I’m terribly worried that I’ll end up with one of those kids who won’t eat any fruits or veggies, or maybe one who only wants white bread with butter and I’ll find myself torn between the urge to stick to my guns and the motherly instinct to nourish that little person with whatever he or she will take.

But I never thought to worry that I might get a picky eater for a dog.

When at first Patou didn’t finish his food, I attributed it to his being tied up most of the day (it took us almost a month to get his fence properly set up).  Then, when he finally had free run of the farm, I thought maybe he had eaten something that had upset his stomach.  But finally I began to worry, as he was patrolling the farm both night and day and eating less and less.  I tried enticing him with bits of pork fat mixed in his food; I added rice and chicken stock to his bowl; I even soaked his kibble in the leftover jus from a roast beef sandwich Andrew had brought home, but to no avail.  He’d wag his tail and lick his chops as I approached, take a few bites, and then wander off to munch on bits of dried chicken manure.  Clearly, something was wrong with my dog.

I called the vet and set up an appointment, but in the ensuing week he seemed to skip whole meals.  Where once I had been able to coax him into eating out of my hand, now he ignored the food completely and begged for head scratches instead.  Finally, on Tuesday night, I began to search the internet for advice.  “This could be a dire emergency!”  all of the pages read.  He might have intestinal worms; he might have lyme disease; he might have cancer.  I couldn’t sleep.  As a last, desperate measure before taking Patou to the doggy ER, I ran out to Safeway and picked up a can of fancy dog food, a bag of white rice, and a pound of chicken livers.  If he wouldn’t eat this, I figured, I needed a feeding tube.

Well.  He began scarfing down the canned food before I could even finish putting it in his bowl.  Then I cooked the chicken livers with the rice, added some salt, and offered him that.  No complaints.  No leftovers.  I realized then that I had been gradually shifting his dog food from his old feed (a Nutrena blend cheesily called “Loyall”) to a new feed that I had randomly picked when first buying dog supplies.  I offered him some of his old food, mixed in with the rice and livers.  Accepted.

I’m pretty thrilled that my dog has nothing more serious than an overeducated palate and that I can fix his anorexia by buying some food with a silly name.  Still, I’m not sure how I feel about the larger significance of this series of events.  I caved.  I bought him canned food.  This does not bode well for the children.

Upon reflection, however, I think that my picky dog may have given me a partial solution to my potentially picky offspring.  If those kids of mine ever decide to go on strike against my spicy raspberry soup I’ll offer them the same special treatment I gave Patou: how about some nice chicken livers and rice?

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