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Garden Salsa

Do you know why I pulled you over? asked the Dayton City cop.

The Husband doesn’t respond at first to those least favorite eight words of the wayfarer. He’s focused on going through the preliminaries of getting out his license.

Well, continues the City’s Finest. To tell you the truth, I normally wouldn’t have bothered with someone just a couple miles over the speed limit like you were. But since you passed me, I just can’t let it go.

And that’s it. A matter of maintaining street cred. We’re moving down a four lane road, this section of State Route 35, and we actually did pass this cop just as he charged. Guilty and guilty, can’t deny it.

We drove away a few minutes later with a well-rehearsed tongue lashing, not suffering ticket for our trouble. But we didn’t tell him about the precious cargo in the enclosed bed of our Chevy S-10 truck. Enough delay already.

Because we’re on our way to the only emergency veterinary clinic in the Miami Valley area.

This all came to happen a few years ago with Jack the Wonder Dog. Our impulsive, garbage overturning, dead bird eating friend. I had come home from work to find our young dog nearly unresponsive on the kitchen floor.

A panicked call to the vet’s office (His gums are white? He’s gone into shock; get him to the emergency clinic) and we wrapped the big guy in blankets and carried him to the truck for the trek across town.

A happy ending to this, as these things go. A couple of days at the emergency clinic followed by another few at our own veterinary office and he was right as rain.

If rain means three weeks of diarrhea, that is.

It still looks like butterscotch pudding, I would lament to our vet on the phone as I collected the soiled newspapers from the kitchen floor.

Then it has form, she said. That’s better.

The stinker of it all (heh. stinker) is we had no definitive idea of what he got down the gullet that brought him to this dire state of affairs. The dog had some sort of weird oral fixation and would swallow anything that could get past his tongue.

Anything, y’all. I’m not kidding.

Did you see the article this past week passed about the internet from Veterinary Practice News declaring the 2014 contest winners of “They ate WHAT?”  No? Well, take a look at what some examples of just how a pet can get your vet’s undivided attention.

I’ll wait here until you get back.

[going for donuts]

Back already? So what did you think when you saw those 43 1/2 socks that defied digestion by the three year old Great Dane?

I’ll tell you what I thought.


This past dramatic event of Jack the Wonder Dog was brought to mind as I caught Micron doing a dine and dash with my patio cherry tomatoes just a few days ago.

Hang in there, ‘lil tomater.
Just kidding.
You’re doomed.

Oh sure, I’ve heard about the shady history of the tomato, thought for many years to be toxic to humans. But we now know this to be folklore of eons past. But still, the metabolism of a canine is, in many ways, different than our delicate balance of hooman bean gut flora. It’s worth a check.

Did you know?  The ASPCA Poison Control website has a database of plants that are toxic to our beloved pets. A good site to bookmark, y’all.

I find that no, tomatoes are not toxic to the mighty Micron and his ilk. A huge relief, of course. But not so fast there, scooter.  It seems that the stems and leaves of the common tomato plant do indeed pose a potential danger.

That I did not know.

My goofy dog doesn’t have an interest in the tartness of the sticky stems of the tomato plant. Instead he focuses his efforts on the low hanging fruit.

You’d think this to be a self-correcting behavior.
And you’d be wrong. So wrong.

Things are just off the Worry Radar, until later when he moves on to the jalapeno pepper plant.


Ok, here we go again.

The good news is that, aside from the will-it-burn-twice phenomena, the jalapeno pilfered pepper popper should move smoothly through the golden retriever alimentary tract.

Although not recommended, really. To avoid stomach upset and other gastrointestinal distress, up to and including some gas attacks possibly toxic to humans watching television at the end of a tough workday, it’d be best to take away the offending pepper from the noshing canine.

Do you need some sour cream to cut that sting?, I ask The Mighty.

No, wheezes Micron. I’m good.

Right. Copy that, big guy.

Enjoy your garden salsa, my veggie stealing dog.

Wish I could.

Oh yeah … that’s good stuff.

What foods are toxic to your dog? 

Well, Micron’s version of salsa is limited to tomatoes and peppers.

Foods potentially dangerous to dogs. Click for people foods to avoid feeding your pet:

Sugar-free gum and candy (xylitol)

Other common backyard dangers to be aware of. Click for list of the top seventeen toxic plants:

Tulip & Narcissus bulbs
American Holly – leaves and berries
English ivy

Worried about something your pet has consumed? Don’t hesitate. Call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline.

We are your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.

Click for ASPCA’s database of toxic and non-toxic plants

Ask me about my grand-dog

Here are my grand-kids, says my sister, holding out her smart phone for all to see.

Ooh, we say. Aaah. The phone slowly passes by in an arc for the benefit of those seated at the kitchen table.

Well, that’s only some of them, she continues. A couple of swipes with an index finger and now we’re provided a look at a few more kids in various poses of eating, swimming, and even one in mid-tantrum.


I sit quietly, as I do at these events, clutching my own smart phone in my lap. If anyone’s ready to see photos of dogs, I’m your girl.

Oh wait! I remember now. I have a grand-dog. Heck yes, people. Nobody leave yet, cuz I have family photos too. Hang on a sec and I’ll pull them up.

My Favorite Kid with Jack and
The Kaiser. About [coff] twenty
years ago.

My personal order for a grand-kid is placed on back-order while we await the processing of things like, say the May 2015 wedding. Having reared an only child, and a boy at that, it seems natural that my request is for a little lady girl to spoil with animal face hats and toy horses and the like.

But there’s no hurry, of course. No pressure, you two. And don’t get me wrong; a baby boy would be pretty darn wonderful, too. My Favorite Kid was one once and I liked him a whole lot.

In the meanwhile, we were gifted a grand-dog to keep those grandma hormones placated. My kid was brought up in the company of dogs and so understands the joys, challenges and high rewards of sharing life with a devoted canine friend.

There was talk about dog breeds, with choices ranging widely from the noble to the warm and cozy. What would best fit their lifestyle? A handsome, lean boxer or the smartest bunny-butt of the bunch, the Pembroke Welsh corgi?

My advice has always been that you just can’t go wrong with a Lab or a golden. But all biases aside, the choice was not mine to make.


Still, they chose well. After several trips to area Humane Societies and rescue groups, because it needed to be an informed decision – not an emotional one, Derek and Samantha brought home Elsa.

Dark and freckled and wagging a plume to rival Micron’s own Tail of Wondrous Beauty, Elsa is a mixed breed of what appears to be a sporting dog heritage.

She’s a lovely thing, if a bit outspoken. It’s been my pleasure to be an occasional sitter for the grand-dog.


He went out to lunch with some friends, Elsa, I say. Barking is not going to bring him back any sooner. 


So yeah, everyone is bonding nicely here. After saying good-bye to her previous family and spending weeks in a kennel environment, Elsa is learning to be comfortable in her forever home with Derek and Sam.

Adopting a rescue comes with a set of challenges as unique as the dogs themselves. If you’re lucky, you might get an idea of the dog’s background, but even that won’t be enough to totally prepare the new family.

Some stuff just needs to be worked through. When we adopted Jager, we discovered he had a real problem with men in blue uniforms. Why? Oh, who knows. He was freaky about so many things, that was just another checkmark on the list. Jager’s better about it now.


And the same for Elsa. Some settling down time is needed for mental adjustments. Patience, understanding and a predictable schedule is as important as a safe environment and good nutrition in building a family.

Our conversations now include the phrase, Elsa is doing so much better now. Because she’s learning again to trust.

We don’t know what brought this gorgeous and intelligent girl to find herself in the care of the Humane Society.

Elsa, of course, doesn’t have a clue either.

Derek grew up with dogs in his life. He saw that that dogs are not disposable. A pet is not like a shirt or something bought at the mall. An item purchased because it felt right, yet once you got it home you find that you don’t like the color or fit. It turned out to be dry-clean only, when you wanted something you could just toss in the washer.

We don’t take pets back just because they’re not perfect.

However else I may have screwed up over the years by having only one kid to practice my parenting skills on, at least I got this one family value right.

But no matter, all of this. Elsa is one lucky dog. And her history is merely that. All stuff that happened in the past and she doesn’t have it in her face to deal with it anymore. What’s there to do about it now anyway?

The mind of a dog is one that lives in the moment.

And at this moment?

She knows she is loved.

Meet my new grand-dog, y’all.

What is the plural for Abacus anyway?

dog in office
Your phone was ringing.  So I killed it.
You’re welcome.

So does it feel like it’s been twenty years?, asks a colleague.

No, not really, I say. More like twenty five.

Aw, just kidding. Like I’m sure the boss was just kidding when he said I should be good for another fifteen or twenty more. I worked out the math on that one and didn’t care much for the resulting sum.

Sure, I’ve been working at P&G Pet Care for a cool two decades, but it’s not like it’s been a quarter of a century or something. But hey, if I put in another twenty years, I’d be that much older too. I can imagine bags under my eyes sagging at the mere thought.

Yowza.  In dog years I’d be … well, let’s say getting kissing-cousin close to the Golden Years. Or what I would prefer to think of as my Margarita on the Beach Years.

And to stay true to any old-timer that’s been around the block enough times to wish there was a park bench halfway through, I have indeed seen a lot of change at our workplace.

Oh, but first allow me to start off here with a gentle, yet firm, smack-down on you smarty-pants out there and let you know we did actually have desktop computers back in the early days. We didn’t use abacuses.

Abacusi? Abaci?

Whatever. It wasn’t any funnier the first time I heard that accounting joke from some young new hire than it was the umpteenth.

Ok, so we didn’t have laptops when I started at Iams. Or Microsoft Office. Or even [cough] email. And maybe I did have to type out purchase orders on an IBM Selectric (that’s a typewriter, you know). But progress trudged onward and we tried like heck to keep up.

dogs in office
I taught her everything I know.

Today in the workplace we still use phones from time and again. Mostly though, mine sits silent on my desk and serves only as a prop to hold up documents for me to read. I don’t get snail mail anymore either. No, instead we have the technology of instant messaging to track each other down like ear-tagged wildlife. And I said instantly, right? As in, whatever you’re doing right now just stop it and pay attention to me because Ima pinging you here. On a good day, you’ll see five or six of these thingies flashing on the bottom on your monitor. Yay, Progress. Keep on keeping on, brother. You rock.

And of course I was around for the P&G acquisition of The Iams Company and experienced the growing pains of doing business as a large corporation instead of a privately held company Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, y’all. But it is different.

Setting all this talk of change aside, there is a particular job perk in our workplace culture that we continue to enjoy.

Our pet friendly office atmosphere.

And it’s been awesome, people. Not gonna lie.

All that stuff you hear about dogs lowering blood pressure, providing a calming presence and being therapeutic just by the good luck of being a dog … it’s all true. Our campus is ridiculously huge. Really, people get lost just trying to find a conference room. Still, we have folk stop by to spend a moment with Micron and they don’t work anywhere within a quarter mile of my cube.

puppy in crate
Puppy Micron power trains for his napping skills.
Level: Expert 

He’s like a guru on the mountain, this dog. What’s the true meaning of life, ask those sojourners who seek peace of mind.

Naps, says Micron. Lot’s of ’em. Rub my belly, oh yeah that’s it, and I’ll tutor you in the ways of nirvanic relaxation, young grazzzzzzzz  [snort].

And sure enough, Micron is a calming influence. All the dogs I’ve brought into the office have done their part in supporting the health and well-being claims of their ilk.

But still.

We’ve had the occasional burp, so to speak.

Jack burps

Right, burps. Remember earlier this month when I was going about all nostalgic about Jack the Wonder Dog and his Incredible Intestines? Perhaps unrelated to his culinary indiscretions, who knows really, a geriatric Jack found himself in need of a splenectomy.  That nasty spleen just had to go, says the vet. So post-surgery, I was worried about my old dog and decided to bring him into the office with me for a quiet day of observation. We were sailing along quite nicely, no problems, for almost a whole hour. Bored with the lack of drama, Jack pads behind me to the coffee station where a grab a cuppa refill.

Um, Food Lady, says Jack. I don’t feel so g … braaaack. I instinctively step back as my poor old dog empties his stomach contents onto the carpet right in front of the men’s room. Huh, was he really outside long enough to eat that much tree bark this morning? Oh, there’s his antibiotic pill, too. Better save that, I think.

But holy St. Ralph, people, the sound of it. It was all so … well, juicy. At nine in the morning, the office has suddenly taken on an after five o’clock feel. There is not a peep from anyone. No keyboards clacking, all conversation has stopped.

I’m apparently on my own here.

Ok, here’s the prob. Jack the Wonder Dog has just performed his favorite magic act – he made food. Experience tells me I have to clean this up real quick-like before he starts digging in. Yeah, and before anyone comes out of the men’s room and plants an unsuspecting penny loafer in the quivering mess. The same aspic gel that’s starting to leak under the restroom door like a scene from The Blob.

Gotta clean this up. Can’t leave the dog. Have to open the men’s room door, lord help me.

Now this was years before my puppy raising experiences made me a master of making canine bio spills disappear before you can blink twice. Think …think … what to do, but the obvious? Yes! I overturn a trash can, pull out the plastic garbage bag and just go to town, scooping up the most heinous part.

Whew, I say, wiping my brow. Disaster averted.

When’s lunch?, asks Jack the Wonder Dog.

No, I got this. Really.

This next story goes way back, too. No, keep going. C’mon back … c’mon back … there! We’re circa mid-’90’s and I’ve just met the new Vice President of Canine Communications for The Iams Company. A fresh young thing, she is. Petite, blonde and a just a day short of being fully housebroken.

Kersee, a namesake of the athlete Jackie Joyner Kersee, is just a pup on her first trip to the office. Sure, now I’m a veteran of pets in the workplace, but back then I admit I was taken aback when the pup dropped a package in front of my desk.

Sensitive to my open mouthed reaction, a colleague grabs, of all things, a paper plate and starts to scoop.

Ok, here’s the prob on this one. My new friend and co-worker is pregnant and very much so. Once she leans in start the cleanup attempt in earnest, she begins to gag.

We pause here with a question for you. What would you rather have in front of your desk: a fresh dog pile or a co-worker’s reflux gone wild?

Right. Neither. The correct answer is here, let me take care of this, ok? You go sit down for a minute.

Stop, Drop & Roll

service dog as puppy
Yaxley in his “Before” photo.

Are all these stories going to be about stuff coming out of dogs?, you ask. Because I have an root canal appointment or something I have to get to. 

Hahaha, I say. No, no we have another story that doesn’t involve such things. 
This might have been deer poop.
A cautionary tale of what happens when you start feeling uppity about your dog training skills, we share with you the story of the young Yaxley in A calming influence.

Clicking the link above will take you to the harrowing tale and its dramatic conclusion. No spoilers here, other than I will tell you that I’ve learned my lesson about pre-bragging.

Best to wait until after all is well and done.

three dogs playing
Yaxley, Micron and Karsen share the frisbee.
Or try to King Solomon the thing into thirds.
One or the other anyway.

It’s only slobber

Ok, ok I hear you. Let’s go into the lesser of the dog liquids. Dog slobber’s not so bad when you get down to it, right?

Especially when it’s coating a tennis ball. That’s not gross, people. It’s Good Times slime.

Embracing the knowledge that a tired dog is a good dog, our furry charges get playtime during the workday too.

Another bonus to the pet friendly office is that they have friends at recess. No sitting on the swings all alone for these fellas.

We don’t really call it recess, of course.

Nope, we’ve got a special command for our pups in training. We know and they know – it’s all business in the office for our dogs. Rules to be followed; manners to be perfected; biological events to be internalized.

But in the play yard, they sit and wait. Say it, say it, say our dogs. Please.

Dogs, we say. Release!

dog crate training
Inga and Naoko share a quiet moment in the crate.
Where is the rest of Naoko’s body? you ask.
I don’t know, I say. But it does appear Inga owns the fella.

service dog and puppy
Why. Won’t. It. Sleep?

Trump ya with a Jack

Today we share the story of a good dog with a heart of gold. An otherwise great fellow who just made some very poor choices in life.

One after another. After another.

And so on.

Fuzzy memories of our time with Jack the Wonder Dog came back to me after a conversation with a friend about her own pup’s insistence of his right to nosh upon non-edibles. Now, I don’t want to think of myself as the kind of girl who has to top someone’s story with one of my own that-ain’t-nuthin’ adventures. I don’t want to be that person.

But in the case of Jack, I believe I just might have her trumped. With some to spare.

I admit we made some mistakes with Jack. It’s not all on him, the sweet boy. It’s the mid-1980’s, a time of shoulder pads and big hair perms. Bad enough, but that’s not the poor decisions I’m talking about. Married just about five years, the two of us decided it was time to get the party started by bringing in a new family member.  By the two of us, I do mean it was pretty much just me. I wanted a family dog. It would be practice, I said, while we’re waiting for the right time for a baby.

Made sense to me. Totally.  And still, that’s not the mistake of reference.

Here it is.

So we went to check on a  litter of lab crosses we heard about from a friend of a friend. As I look about the hillbilly haven yardscape, I see the weary mom is a permanent outside dog, her thirteen pups are gamboling about in a filthy pen, and flies seem to be enjoying the communal food bowl the most of anyone. I decide there’s no more checking this place out. We’re gonna save one of these puppies.

They are six weeks old.

Right. Bad idea, that. The hard-earned truth is that taking a puppy before eight weeks means the tiny critter misses out on some prime-time learning from their nuclear family. Rather important life skills like bite inhibition and boundaries during play. And even, perhaps, appropriate table manners.

A little Buddha belly puppy waddles over and plops to his side to chew on the Husband’s sneaker shoelaces. What we think is the calmest of the litter is instead just suffering a low level version of a food coma. I lift the goober pup to look into his soft brown eyes and declare our new family member as good enuf.

And so we begin the next thirteen years of finger swiping unmentionable items from his ever inquisitive maw. And running like crazy people into a room every time we heard the sounds of retching as we needed to immediately retrieve the offending item before it was re-consumed for another round of tummy rumblies. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the daily task of lining the kitchen floor with newspapers for the green apple two-step attacks while we’re away at work.

The dog held no prejudices to what went down the gullet. He was greeted so many times with an Oh-Sh**-Jack, that he would wag his tail at the nickname. Not exactly a problem-solver kinda guy, he could impress us with his remarkable feats of gymnastics in his counter surfing.

Your dog just licked the turkey, said my sister-in-law.
No, he didn’t, I replied, wiping it off.

We didn’t always walk in on a disaster of overturned trash cans and empty Esther Price chocolate boxes; it may have been simply a twelve-pack of hamburger buns and a full bowl of water to have him digesting a lump like a boa constrictor with a goat.  But then he’d make up for the lack of drama by downing a pork chop bone as sharp as a pointed stick.

A pair of eyeglasses. Cat litter, with or without the kitty snickers. Dishtowels. Carpet. Which is not covered by home insurance. I checked.  And mud went down like he was enjoying a good bowl of kibble.

There’s the evening walk when he grabbed a decomposing bird from the sidewalk, crunched once and swallowed the thing.  I’m forcing back a gag reflex when the dog himself start to do the telltale stomach heaves. And I’m all, no way dude. You ate it, you keep it. And so he did, saving us both from the sights of Rotting Robin, the Sequel.

Some things, however, went clean through. So to speak. Backyard clean-up duty was like coming across a pirate’s booty. Oh, we would say, that’s where that [fill in the blank] went.

Or hey, how about the time when he was recovering from his neuter when he pulled my birth control pills from the counter. And ate the whole shebang – prescription bag, plastic case and all. C’mon, who does this?

A riddle for you … what do you get when a freshly de-testosteroned puppy consumes a month’s worth of estrogen? Anyone? I’ll tell you what you get.  A chance to amuse the staff at the vet’s office.

That hair. Oh my, the makeup job. The fashion trends of the
1980’s were a cruel joke. I remember thinking back then
that I was rocking the pregnant look.
By the way, y’all, that’s actually a selfie (see the remote
cable in my left hand). I was a nerd before her time.

And not long after, our family grew by one more. Despite the rumors by friends and family, there was no connection to the lost contraceptives and welcoming home our Favorite Kid. I did have the presence of mind to get the prescription refilled, you know.

It was really weird timing, though.

Anyway, along with the baby came new and wonderful things to fill that empty space inside Jack the Wonder Dog. Used diapers were a rare delicacy when left unattended for a split second, as well as food splattered bibs. Socks and toddler underwear went down whole and came back up the same way. Then went back down again.

What was going on in that dog noggin to bring about this need to go all Pica: Level Extreme? This same dog that we were told by no less than three obedience schools to “just take him home and enjoy him.” True story. Jack defied any and all training efforts. So was this just part of what made him charming? Did he simply suffer from a couple of misfiring neurons? And do we take on some of the blame by adopting him too young?

Even more intriguing is how the fella never had an intestinal blockage and made it to a full thirteen years old, just about in line with the average lifespan of a dog of his ilk. We would joke about donating his body to science because there must be something preternatural in his gut flora, but well … when the time came we didn’t think it was funny anymore.

We found Mr. ScrubBubble later in the backyard.
Well, pieces of him. I think you know what I mean.

But you know what? For every Oh-Sh**-Jack moment, we had tenfold more in yellow dog inspired smiles. Jack never met a stranger; he greeted everyone the same. Hi!, he would say. I’m Sh**Jack and everybody loves me. You will too.  He was a warm companion for us for years and My Favorite Kid enjoyed his early childhood with a sweet dog, a loyal fellow who showed a never ending tolerance for a toddler’s horseplay.

I guess we could have wished for a smarter dog, one who wasn’t so motivated to help pay the veterinarian’s mortgage. But I don’t remember feeling like we were missing out on anything.

A dog with a heart of gold doesn’t leave much left to be desired.

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