The other day, after coming home from the weekly shopping trip, I presented my beautiful dog Milly with a juicy bone from the butcher.
It was a mutton leg, just starting to pong a bit from age and very generously covered with raw meat and yellow lamb fat. It made me slightly nauseous to lift it out of the bag in its sweaty, sticky, stinky state which of course meant that for our dog it was as compellingly attractive as a brick-sized bar of Lindt chocolate.
Or so I naively thought. I went back inside to wash my hands and finish unpacking the groceries. A few minutes later, I was outside again, filling up the bin with various wrappers when I saw her in the garden, lying on her tummy contentedly chewing away at something wedged between her front paws as the sun warmed her back.
"Ooooh you're a lucky girl," I crooned out loud like a Crazy Cat Lady, "What a lovely bone you have there!" Strolling over to give her ears a scratch, I noticed that she wasn't chewing an old bone: she was chewing an old stick instead.
"Hey hey HEY Furry Face, I spent a whole two bucks on that bone and you're not even eating it! Where did you put it?" Milly stared at me in that uncomprehending but winsome 'I-don't-know-what-she's-saying-but-her-lips-are-moving-and-I-want-her-to-continue-patting-me' expression on her face and continued gnawing at her preferred stick.
Later on in the afternoon she'd found another old stick, courtesy of the neighbour's overhanging loquat tree. This time she ignored the sunny spot and stretched out on the back door mat, slowly grinding her woody prize down to tiny splinters.
This regular activity is tantalisingly frustrating for Love Chunks, who often asks philosophically, "Why can't she be trained to chew it in the garden beds, so at least we'll get some benefit from the mulch she produces?" Instead we have to regularly sweep the pavers, side path, door mat and in her younger and more agile days the top of Sapphire's trampoline and the BBQ.
It got me thinking about how we should be actively encouraging some of those poncy dog breeders (or in-breeders) who are far too concerned about hairless coats, pushed-in-noses and odourless poops to instead come up with a dog who can do some basic chores. For example, if dogs like to eat a few blades of grass every day (maybe it's their version of wheatgrass shots), why can't they be bred or trained to eat only the weeds? And as for dog turds, how come they don't bury them when they very willingly do bury bones, balls and stale bread rolls? Maybe they could be taught a thing or two about hygienic hole-digging from their arch-enemies the cats.
Let's not stop there. How about we embrace the digging genes in their unique species and get them to dig through our compost piles in order to get them rotting down properly, and train them to only dig the flower beds when it's time for spring planting? It wouldn't hurt for them to have a dominant gene for the ability to switch on the timer for the drippers either.
Or to sort out the recycling from the green waste from the ordinary household waste? Perhaps we could get the breeders to work cooperatively with the councils to develop a kind of wheelie-bin harness that the doggies could slip into in order to put the bins out on Wednesday nights and bring them in on Thursday afternoons? Considering too, that our dog will quite happily eat tissues, loo paper and serviettes if she can find them, how about developing a breed that will snuffle up the loose bits of paper and litter that blow down the street after garbage day? Or breeds that will inhale littered cigarette butts as though they were Good-Os?
How about a dog that's able to open the side gate for the meter reader; answers the door when your hands are in greasy sink water and your husband is in the toilet; flicking the heating switch half an hour before you come home or setting the video for the Survivor finale.
My Furry Friend is gazing up at me now, her brown eyes silently imploring me to walk into the kitchen and give the thawing steaks to her right now instead of cooking them for our dinner. It's only 2 in the afternoon; hours before her tea time.
"How about a walk?" She's out of her beanbag and by the back door in a nano-second, flames burning the floorboards behind her. There must be some way to harness that speed and eagerness as an alternative household power source.......