by Dan Smith
From the age of five to 20 years old, my constant companion was Brownie, my dog.
After Brownie died, I never owned another dog. To be sure, I did feel some guilt at not having a dog to share the young lives of my son and daughter, but by the time Lana and I had children, the world had changed.
Dogs could no longer run free. Living in the city meant all dogs had to be confined and leashed. I could never bring myself to treat a dog that way. My memories of Brownie living a free and carefree life are precious to me. It would not have been the same to keep him inside or in a small fenced yard. The world was Brownie's oyster. A good climber, if anyone left a ladder up on their house my dog would have to be retrieved from the roof.
This entire dog reminiscing was brought on by a dog food commercial. It was not one of those commercials where a bunch of cute puppies are running to the food dish. I was sitting scribbling in a notepad my next offering to this newspaper, when I heard a voiceover say, "Beneful medley now in Tuscan and Romano style." Huh? I stopped writing to look up. Are they talking about dog food? Could it be the ad was for Northern and Southern Italian style dog food? Can dogs now read? I don't know how I could have missed that.
With the commercial weighing on my mind, the next time I was in the local supermarket I took a stroll down the pet food aisle. Oh my!
Right then I realized just how out of touch I had become. What an assortment of exotic names for people to indulge themselves with while trying to feed the dog. I saw something called Chef Michael's Grilled sirloin. Come on, that has to be a fib. There was low-fat dog food and some with antioxidants. I always thought the idea was to get Brownie all the fat I could. The price of those dog foods floored me. I don't remember my folks ever buying actual dog food for Brownie. He ate what we ate. Our dog always loved it when we had pork chops. The bones would be a treat that lasted for a week.
Brownie and I shared everything. I have heard the modern theory that you are not supposed to feed your dog chocolate, but old Brownie was a card-carrying chocoholic. Back then I had never heard of such, so whenever I had a treat I shared it with my dog. Hershey bar was a favorite as was Baby Ruth but a fudgesicle was an indulgence much anticipated by us both.
On the dog food shelf there seemed to be a lot of food containing rice. Celebrity chef Rachael Ray even has a line out featuring beef with brown rice. Really? Brown rice? Brownie was a true meat eater and would only eat rice, bread, mashed potatoes and corn if you covered it in beef gravy.
I found a brand with the unlikely name of One Beyond (interplanetary dog?) that stated the contents were ranch raised lamb and barley.
Brownie would have been fine with the lamb no matter where it was raised, but you could hold the oats.
Now look, I am well aware that there is a considerable bunch of you who are so in love with your pet you have lost all sense of reality. I see them walking their dogs after putting clothes on the poor animal.
Can't we let our dogs have a little dignity? There is a woman near where I live that carries the little dog for a walk. Who's walking who? All the while, the dog is licking her face -- you know one of a dog's most enjoyable talents is the ability to lick its butt.
I want to tell the woman she could eliminate the middleman and do it for him, but I don't think that comment would be accepted in the spirit it is intended.
My dog loved spaghetti and meatballs and only tolerated spaghetti with meat sauce. All flavors of ice cream were shared and I loved to feed him those little Tootsie Rolls so I could watch the tongue work to get it unstuck from his teeth.
Since Brownie lived to be 15, I don't believe all that chocolate was what did him in.
I'm not suggesting you give it to your dog, but I am telling you it is not poison to all dogs. I guess I was lucky to have a dog that could eat anything. Brownie's favorite food was one that had turned rancid. Good to eat; good to roll in. I suppose if you left a can of that gourmet Tuscan Style dog food out in the sun long enough, it may have even been good enough for old Brownie. One last note: In the market I found one and a half isles of pet food and only a third of an isle devoted to baby food. Amazing!
Research tells me there are 76 million dog owners in the U.S. I hope only a small percentage writes to complain about this column.)
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society and The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of two books, "The World's Greatest Beach" and "I Swear the Snook Drowned." Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (386) 441-7793.