I’ve always been a dog lover, from my first mutt, Blackie, who wandered the hills of Pine Rock Park in search of adventure, to my pedigree collie, Shelley, who barked so much our neighbors were constantly calling the local constable.
Blackie was so named because she was black with a flame of white on her breast. Then there was Tevye, who was given to me by a girlfriend and named after Tevye the Dairyman in Fiddler on the Roof for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, since she was a female and didn’t play the fiddle.
Shelley looked like the reincarnation of Lassie and was named after the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. He was so smart that he barked in iambic pentameter and on some occasions, the barking rhymed.
And now there’s Bella, so named because she is beautiful, a bit spoiled and a bit narcissistic. She’s a mixed breed — part Kim Kardashian and part Miley Cyrus. She loves to bark, too, so I expect the cops will be returning to our home soon to deal with noise complaints.
All my dogs have had different temperaments and lifestyles. Blackie roamed the country roads back when dogs didn’t have to be on a leash and she always came home promptly for dinner at 5:35 when my mother would open the door and yell, “Blackie!!!!!”
Blackie ate better than the average canine. Come to think of it, she ate better than the average American, who subsists on Big Macs, Cokes and Devil Dogs. Blackie, you see, ate leftovers, because in the olden days, dogs were fed table scraps.
She was a lover of fine foods, a true gourmand. My mother gave her homemade veal parmigiana and Yankee pot roast along with lobster ravioli and chicken cacciatore. It doesn’t get much better than that.
One of my friends had a dog named Klink, who lived 16 years on home-cooked Italian food and drank coffee every morning. Another friend owned a very large mixed-breed dog named Jude, who would jump on the table when dinner was over and lick the plates clean.
Sometimes he’d jump on the table before dinner was over and try to snatch food away from family members. Eating dinner was always a challenge because you could lose a finger or two reaching for a pork chop that Jude wanted. You see, Jude had very large incisors and wasn’t inclined to share.
But times have changed. Dogs aren’t supposed to eat leftovers, or jump on the dinner table, for that matter. They’re supposed to eat Gravy Train soaked in warm tap water. And times have changed for me, too. The last time I had homemade veal parmigiana and pot roast was when I had a full head of black hair and drove a 1963 Pontiac LeMans. Now I eat tuna melt, General Tso’s chicken and macaroni with Ragu, while Bella, our resident pampered pooch, eats like Martha Stewart.
When I got home from work last week, I opened the door and was delighted to smell roasted chicken, steamed asparagus and — what could that other aroma be? Couscous or quinoa? I walked into the kitchen and found my wife, Sandy, slaving over the stove as she prepared dinner, scrupulously following a recipe in her new cookbook.
I got excited. No more Chicken of the Sea, no more chicken lo mein for me. But then I saw the cover of the book — Home Cooking for Your Dog, with a picture of a well-fed mutt, resting its paws on the counter and licking its chops.
Life is good when you have four legs.
There were recipes like “Chop-licking Pork Chops,” “Spaghetti Bolognese,” “Grilled Tuna Steaks,” “K9 Quiches,” and other things that made even me lick my chops.
Overnight, my wife had turned into Julia Child, a regular Nigella Lawson for the canine crowd. Bella, however, is particular, so Sandy has to sprinkle mozzarella on top of her meals, which leads me to believe she could be part Italian despite her Lhatese ancestry.
The food looked really appetizing and I was ready to steal her leftovers, until Bella started growling. So I called China Buffet instead and ordered chicken teriyaki, because apparently there’s no sharing in this house.
Whoever said dogs are man’s best friend?
Joe Pisani may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.