Because You Never Know

hand-drawn post-it note

When it comes to my dog’s favorite humans, I will never be Number One. In fact, if you handed him a piece of paper and a pen asked him to make a list of his favorite humans, and he were capable of such a thing, he would probably do something like this:

hand-drawn list

If you said, “OK, but who else?” He might then say something like “I guess what’s-his-name, the guy who lives here, he’s all right.”

I am fine with this. Dogs need an alpha in their lives, and Hilary is Rowlf’s. It is settled, and it is not a contest. But I still see it as my job to help Rowlf live his best life, so I try to do that when and where I can.

Which is why he has been eating so well for the past six months or so. We kept his diet to just kibble for almost the first two years we had him, but every once in a while gave him a little bit of wet food, the *expensive* stuff in a can, that resembles something a human might actually eat. Rowlf is not what you’d call a food-motivated dog, and I have many times hand-fed him kibble while sitting on the floor, out of a sense of duty that he will not starve to death on my watch.

But he seemed to really like the wet food when we added it to his kibble, an upgrade that seemed to me equivalent to sitting at a restaurant and letting someone order for you in a different language, and having a plate of raw carrots set in front of you—but then two minutes later having the server drop two slices of pizza on top of the carrots.

Hilary, who is, and I cannot stress this enough, Rowlf’s favorite human, was of the opinion that we should use the wet food sparingly, partly to keep Rowlf from expecting it and then walking all over us, and partly to keep him from gaining too much weight and putting stress on his joints. I casually lobbied, every once in a while, for more wet food, more regularly, maybe even every day.

At some point, after maybe a dozen conversations about the dog’s food, I presented my case thusly:

When we adopted Rowlf, a veterinarian estimated his age at seven or eight years old, based on his teeth. That was two years ago, and who knows how accurate that sort of age estimate is? We really don’t know how old he is—he seems to be getting more and more white fur around his mouth. Wet food seems to make him happy, and if we have no problem affording food financially, we should give the dog the food that brings him joy as often as we can.

And then, swinging for the emotional fence, I said, We just don’t know how long he’s going to be with us.

Hilary nodded, and in her infinite wisdom, said, I guess you could say the same thing about you, or me, couldn’t you?

Our dog currently eats one-third of a can of wet food with every meal. Sometimes a half can.

—Brendan

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