Friday, February 1, 2008

Don't Bite the Hand That Feeds You

Shadow the dog has diarrhea. Dear husband had to get up 2 times a night for the past 2 nights to let her out. She doesn’t bark, just paces the bedroom frantically, filling it with noxious odors until none of us can take it any longer. We’re not exactly sure what has caused it, but we have our suspicions.

Our neighbor has been leaving food out “for the animals.” Now I have nothing against feeding the birds. Watching our favorite flock of downy woodpeckers, chickadees and tufted titmice outside the kitchen windows is one of the highlights of winter for our family. But I think Frank has something other than birds in mind when he dumps leftover meat, pans of pasta and the like on the ground outside his house. We’ve tried to keep Shadow away from the dumping area, but our houses are so close together, it’s almost like living communally. Whenever she goes out, she makes a beeline over there to see what delicacies await. Burgers? Rice Pilaf?

I asked Frank’s wife about this behavior, and she explained where it’s coming from. He is 75, a child of the depression. He grew up fatherless after age 2. In the country. In Kentucky. His mother supported 5 kids on a teacher’s salary, and they learned to waste nothing. Now that I read this, I realize what a jerk I sound like for even writing about this sweet soul. Who would rank on an elderly neighbor trying to feed the animals?

I guess my question is, what kind of animals are we attempting to save here? We’re not in the country; we’re in the heart of suburbia. The deer are vegetarians and they have my entire garden of hosta to eat. The birds have feeders, and the squirrels get plenty chubby eating what they steal from the birds. Are we feeling sorry for the rats? The raccoons? A wayward fox or two? Ugh.

The other day, Shadow came back with half a pizza in her mouth, which may have prompted this bout of diarrhea. I don’t have the heart to say anything else to our neighbors. In fact, as I write this, I think I’ve realized the best solution is to try harder to keep a tighter rein on the dog.

After all, what do I have to gripe about? The way these neighbors pick up our mail and newspapers for us when we are out of town, no pre-arrangement necessary? The way they laughed it off when Shadow pooped in their yard and took an uninvited dip in their swimming pool? The way they treat our kids like grandchildren, buying presents for birthdays and Christmas that reflect the kids’ interests perfectly? The way their warmth next door has helped our kids learn to hug, talk to, and interact with adults other than mom and dad? Perhaps I’d like to grumble about the homemade cakes for our anniversary each year? The more I think about it, I guess you learn about a whole lot more than just feeding animals in rural, depression-era Kentucky. Maybe there are some life lessons for me there too.

1 comment:

Ali said...

Ummmm EEW!! In DC that would attract a rat colony the size of Texas. I wonder if you could just say in a friendly way that Shadow gets really sick from it, could they please stop. Laugh about it and break the tension.

SO GROSS!! Poor shadow!