A post should appear every Sunday.
Sunday October 15th 2022
A few days ago, I read a short article which emphasised the importance of understanding your dog. “I try hard to do that,” I tell myself smugly.
A little minced beef mixed in with her Burns kibble continues to work very well for Her Highness’s breakfast. For her evening meal, I decide, she just needs something tasty with her Burns; that will ensure that she’s keen to eat it.
On Monday, I add two large spoonfuls of Chappie to her dry food. She turns her nose up. Perhaps she’s feeling a bit off. I leave the meal. She’ll eat it later.
What’s the matter with her? Until a couple of months ago, she would demolish her dry food and Chappie with the normal enthusiasm of any hungry dog.
On Thursday, forgetting that I’d opened a tin of sardines in olive oil for her the day before, I add half a tray of very superior dog meat to her Burns.
The little toad doesn’t even sniff the meat, but stands a couple of inches away from her dish, wrinkles her nose disdainfully, and retires. I can’t believe it. It smells good enough to me for human consumption.
Perhaps it’s because the meat contains very small amounts of rice, carrot and peas. I insist that the naughty little animal revisits the kitchen, and give her the ‘eat it’ taps again. She backs away, exits her dining room for a second time and, to underline that she has no intention of eating, curls up on the day bed.
Ellie, my previous dog, loved fruit and vegetables, and would even pick herself blackcurrants, strawberries and blackberries.
Obviously, Isis is not a devotee of healthy eating.
I think about the ‘understanding your dog’ article, and wonder what she is trying to communicate. Once more I tell myself that there is always a reason for an animal’s behaviour. It’s just a matter of its human working harder to discover it.
When I finish my book at 2.00 a.m., she’s still tucked behind my legs, sleeping soundly on the day bed. She hasn’t left the nest since she rejected her food. She must be hungry.
I take her out into the garden, then empty her dish, wash it and serve her a fresh helping of kibble. I add a fat sardine.
She can’t wait to begin, and, apart from contented munching, there isn’t a sound until loud clanks announce that she has finished eating and is giving the dish a good licking to make sure there’s not an edible fragment left.
How different her attitude to food is from that of the ravenous little dog who, soon after she was adopted, swiped a lettuce leaf from my plate as I was eating, and ate a condom she found in a car park.
By the time she reached her optimun weight, she had lost interest in lettuce and condoms. Since then, she has cleared her dish. With a huge amount of noise, yes, but refusing to eat? No way!
Humans become used to their felines being horrified when offered today the same kind of food they were crazy about yesterday. But dogs?
Perhaps it’s an age thing. People tend to eat less as they grow older. Do dogs’ appetites decline as they age? Do their taste buds become fewer so that they need more piquant meals, food which smells stronger and tastes more interesting?
Definitely, it seems. I just stopped writing in order to read several online articles about appetite changes in older dogs. (Little Isis must be over nine now, so reluctantly, I have to concede that she is an older dog.) One writer stated that dogs have a weaker sense of taste than other animals. Interesting. The consensus is that appetite changes are common as they get older, as their sense of smell and taste decline.
That makes sense. So it probably isn’t the trauma of travelling all the way to Cornwall and back in an unfamiliar car, or nasty Human’s embargo on barking while eating.
Isis: Human, you really haven’t been listening to me: I’ve been telling you for ages that fishy, cheesy and real meaty foods are my favourites. It took Tony’s suggestion of offering me mince in the morning to get you to provide me with a decent breakfast. Surely you’re not so dim that you couldn’t work out that I need a decent tea as well!
Obviously you are.