On Friday night David-the-Chef made salmon for our supper, and as he always does, crisped the skins in the hot pan next to our fish. These make the most delectable dog treats, with a little of the salmon meat still clinging to them. Scout-the-Labish never turns down a piece of crisped salmon skin. In fact, he never turns down a piece formerly crisped salmon skin that’s been in the fridge for a couple of days, because salmon is just too good whatever its form. And here, by the way, is how the salmon looked plated, although the chef was mortified I made a photo because he said the food was ‘ugly.’ Compared to what, I’d like to know. And Scout almost always scores some tender bits of our salmon, too, hand fed to him a morsel at a time from a human plate. Life is good, mainly.
But with the exception of a particular antler I bought Scout last year, he has never embraced a good chew bone with gusto, unlike, say, any other dog I’ve ever had. He rarely visits his toy bin, although on occasion picks through it gingerly for a Particular Thing and then disappears with it upstairs; usually it turns up later in a shadowy corner somewhere, or occasionally in the middle of the hallway. But this happens rarely like I said, and only when I am here alone with him.
Yesterday, though, I gave Scout a beef marrow bone I got him while we were on a little jaunt down in Massachusetts for our favorite bread, among other things. He stood behind me in the kitchen while I pried open the packaging, and then the keen Lab nose went skyward as the earthy beef smell escaped the wrapper. The bone was so greasy I first put it in a bowl on the floor for him, knowing he’d probably clean it up in short order.
And in fact, I was hoping this bone might be a game changer for Scout: he has tartar on top of tartar on his molars, says the vet, and soon will have a full dental workup to see whether anything more sinister is lurking in his mouth. If I could get him interested in more rigorous chewing, his teeth might stay cleaner—at least, this has been the case with pretty much every single dog I’ve had ‘til now.
He regarded it suspiciously at first, circling the bowl a few times, sniffing at the bone, licking it, and then moving it around inside the bowl to get at the flaky bits that came loose. That accomplished, he carefully plucked the bone out of the bowl and removed it to a spot where he could better see what was what.
I told Chef David I’ve never seen a dog approach a treat like this: any other self-respecting dog would already have settled in comfortably the floor with the bone held between the forepaws, digging in hungrily. Not Scout. He stood over the thing on all fours and carefully lifted and delicately chewed at its corners with his teeny incisors before he finally relented and laid down with it.
David pointed out that really, Scout is cagy about anything you give him, including his food. You can set a bowl of kibble laced with chunks of ham and Greek yogurt before him, and he will survey the landscape all around him before he starts eating—it’s almost like he’s checking to see whether somebody’s on the horizon waiting to swoop in and snap it up. Or maybe he’s asking permission: is this mine? Really?
I wish my iPhone photos of the marrow bone episode yesterday were clearer, and I wish I could share the soundtrack that went with them. In the end, another doggish lesson revealed itself to the silly humans in the room, if it took a little time to unfold: enjoy life with abandon. And never worry about the grease on your chinny chin chin: you can always lick it off later.