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.