Our dog has always been a scavenger but it never worried me until two severe bouts of pancreatitis nearly killed him. He’s now on a restricted diet of low fat kibble twice a day.

Given the kibble is all he’s allowed, the dog wolfs it down, but it’s obvious, he’d give anything for more.

In the morning I put out two sachets of wet cat food into the two cat bowls and beckon the cats to eat. I stand guard over their bowls until the cats arrive, sometimes too slowly for my likes, and then I close the door behind the cats as they nibble down their breakfast in the hallway.

Back in the kitchen, the dog gets his three quarter cup of kibble dispersed to his bowl.

It’s gone in a fraction of the time it takes for the cats to eat and then when they’ve had their fill, they leave a few scraps behind and I open the hallway door to let them out.

As fast as I can, I whip those bowls out of reach before the dog gets to them and tries to lick them clean.

Even then in the absence of bowls, he licks around the floor and sniffs for any left over scraps or even the smell of food other than his.

I have never witnessed such desperation for food. So desperate that there are a number of times during the autumn months when we catch the dog chewing at something in the kitchen and on closer inspection find he’s dragged in a stash of acorns from under the pin oak in our back yard.

He chews acorns to a pulp.

The dog is so desperate, that on his walks around the neighbourhood on lead, as he sniffs the kerbside grasses and checks out ideal places to shit and wee, we can’t let him linger too long, nose to the ground, in case he finds some scrap of something he considers edible.

Once when I was out in the off leash park with my grandsons, the dog ran into the bushes and came out chomping on a piece of someone’s discarded toast.

I couldn’t retrieve it from the dog, his grip so firm, once a piece of food is in his mouth, you might as well not even bother to try.

And then for the next day, I worried that it’d make him sick, too much fat for his damaged digestive system.

In like manner the dog stole a couple of uncooked sausages that my husband was busy preparing, and we’ve had to keep a firm eye on the salami that hangs out drying in a back room.

Even now the dog is under my desk sniffing for scraps.


When I was young and first in love with my husband, we took to visiting a couple of friends who loved to play EmmyLou Harris’s song, Like desperados waiting for a train.

Guy Clarke does a brilliant version:

It became our song for anyone we considered desperate in any way, out of grief or rage or hunger.

The dog is like a desperado waiting for a train.

I can feel a desperado at times too, waiting for that train.

It’s a relief when the dog stops still and rests and I need not worry about the state of his gut.

Especially at this time of year with all the Christmas distractions around, including those forgotten food scraps.

We need to stay vigilant.

11 thoughts on “Desperados”

  1. Our aging dog is somewhat the same — I start to feel sorry for her and the boring kibble that she is fed every day and has been eating every day for thirteen years, but dealing with her vomit when she’s given something else is just not in me. I think we tend to anthropomorphize our animals —

  2. It’s bad enough when humans have to go on a diet for health reasons and not simply to drop a few pounds. If you’re overweight there’s an end in sight but imagine never being able to eat chips again or chocolate. We, of course, can distract ourselves with other things but when I look at my wee bird I can’t imagine him not being miserable because all he does is eat and sleep, systematically destroy cardboard boxes and squabble with himself in the mirror. He doesn’t even do “the hoppy dance” very much these days which I guess means he’s given up on any hope of anyone having sex with him. I do want my bird to be happy. I know we never set out to care for a bird but we ended up with one and I take the responsibility seriously even if he is a mix of an obstreperous-kid-that-refuses-to-grow-up and a grumpy-old-man-who-refuses-to die. There’re lots of sites out there telling you who you should and should not be feeding your birds but to my mind their lives are short enough as it is without making them any more miserable than they need to be. So I’m never stingy with the sunflower seeds and he’s never slow and wolfing them down. And the wee squeals of joy from him when he discovers something good in his bowl really do do my heart good. I dread the day he ever gets sick. If we turn back his cover in the morning and find him lying on his back then we’ll have a wee cry and look for a shoebox to bury him in. But I’d hate to watch him suffer. It was what I hated about having a baby. A kid can be communicated with, comforted and reasoned with but all you know when it’s a baby is something’s wrong and if it’s warm enough and full enough then the odds are it’s some kind of poorly. At least when cockatiels are ill their nature tells them to hide the fact. So he may even be sick now—he is getting on in years—but I don’t think so. I don’t know what I’d do if he was a dog apart from not letting him perch on my shoulder. At least with animals we do have the option to euthanatise.

    1. I agree, our precious animals have little to go for other than the food and care we give but if food is going to kill your bird, like certain foods will almost certainly kill our dog, after making him very sick, then we have to deprive him, for all that I hate it. Thanks, Jim.

  3. I am told I am over-feeding my cat. 1 sachet of wet food and 1/4 cup of dry. Either/or not both. But he is not overweight and is very active and the disappointment (read ‘cat disgust & disdain) on his face when he finds his bowls empty are not worth the mewling and leg-winding (read begging). I was always very disciplined with my dog’s diets, though.

    A very happy Christmas season and New Year to you and your family Lis, and I hope the coming year brings more thoughts and words from you (and an appreciation of all things food).
    ‘Desperado’ was a favourite song of my husband, but it was the one by The Eagles. I had never heard the Guy Clark one before.
    Kind regards,
    Karen C

    1. Maybe pets are like us humans, they don’t need as much as we have on offer and maybe they have fewer opportunities to burn it off these days. Thank you for all your Christmas wishes, Karen. I hope you also have an enjoyable christmas and New Year. It’s such a tough time of year I find. I’ll be glad when it’s over. Thanks.

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