Food Memories of My Lab
Our 14 1/2 year-old Labrador Retriever, Talladega, passed this past week. He had a very good life and left this earth in peace which is all anyone who loses a loved one can hope for. Talladega came to live with us on September 18, 1999 when he was 3 months old. He wasn’t into eating in his first few years with us. We often had to coax him to eat by feeding him by hand. His motivation back then was play, play, play and play he did.
We never really fed Talladega people food per se, but we did save him scraps of whatever protein we were eating for ourselves and we cooked him his own steaks on his birthday, which he loved. As the years went by, he learned to love chicken to the point where if he smelled it, he would come into the kitchen looking for his share. He definitely was a carnivore as the only vegetables or fruits he would eat were edamame and raspberries. He once knocked over a basket of raspberries at a farm stand at the Newport Farmers’ Market and was able to eat several before he was caught and another time stuck his head in a lady’s basket and stole one—oops!
Talladega was a polite and gentle eater. He never inhaled his food, and he would gently take things from your hand with his front teeth. I would share my fried egg yolks with him after I was finished mopping up the runny yolk with my toast. I taught him how to eat the yolks from my fork without touching it with his teeth. He was really good at it until he got older and lost some of his finesse.
He didn’t beg in those early years; we would sometimes let him lie under the table while we were eating and he would place his paw on my foot to let me know he was there but that was it. He was smart enough to know that if he did anything more he would be banished. He always got rewarded with a piece of whatever protein we were eating for his good behavior.We never worried about Talladega jumping on the table or counter and trying to steal food as that just wasn’t his thing. He did, however, lick a little kid’s ice cream cone once because it was really close and at eye level (couldn’t blame him). He knocked a plate of cookies off of a table another time at an agility class, but not because he was trying to get to the cookies. He was trying to get to the stuffed animal toy that was behind the cookies. Yes, he loved to ‘eat’ stuffed animals. He would rip them open with glee and spew the stuffing all over the floor. He never ingested anything during these acts of violence, he just wanted to take the thing out!
Talladega loved to chew on rawhide sticks, but didn’t like doing it alone. He wanted you to hold it for him and he would bark at his stick until you got down on the floor with him and held it. He would put one of his paws over your arm and he would gnaw on that stick until you got tired of holding it or it was gone.
Things changed dramatically when we got our pug Tojo. Unlike Talladega, Tojo lives for food; it is his #1 priority in life.
Well with the addition of another dog and a piggy one at that, Talladega decided it was time for him to become more assertive about food. The first thing we noticed was the speed at which he finished his food—he started eating like a normal lab. He also started begging, and then barking when he felt it was time to eat. None of these behaviors were rewarded, but he didn’t care.
When we discovered that Tojo liked fruit, Talladega decided he wanted fruit too. Oftentimes he would just chew it a little and then spit it out after we gave it to him, but by God, he was going to have some fruit because the pug was having fruit.
As Talladega got older, he began having some digestive problems, so we had to dial back on what and how much he was eating. We switched him off of big rawhides to bully stick and other smaller chew sticks. He still wanted someone to hold it for him, but they were so much smaller thus harder to hold. He would be satisfied if you just sat on the floor and watched him chew the stick for a while. Once you got up and left, however, he would stop.
The pug loves to chew as well and would often walk around with a partially chewed bully stick looking like George Burns with a cigar. The day came however, when Tojo was introduced to Bonies which are chews much like Greenies except they are shaped like bones. Tojo is a Bonie addict—he will chew nothing else now.
Talladega stopped eating right before he passed which is a significant sign that a dog’s time on this earth has come to an end. I tried feeding him by hand like I did when he was a puppy, but he was having none of it. Talladega’s leftover food and treats were donated to the local animal shelter along with a dry dog food bin and biscuit bucket. I’ve saved his stainless steel food bowls as I am not yet ready to part with them.
Now that he is gone, I will try to train Tojo to eat my discarded egg yolks from my fork—-we’ll see how that goes.
In memory of Talladega (aka BooBoo) June 16, 1999-December 16, 2013
We miss you