‘Tis the season to gather around the table with family and friends from all over and share feasts in celebration of the holidays. This is also the time of year when the rules of good guest manners need to be dusted off and used . I am the last person to try to tell anyone which one is the salad fork or how to butter your dinner roll, but I can offer some pet related advice.
Invariably on the day after a holiday my day is filled with pets who are creating what we call “carpet emergencies” due to gastrointestinal disturbances. I hear the same story again and again, so this year let’s try to cut down on the post celebration veterinary visits for those families that so kindly hosted the holiday meals at their houses.
The problem often starts with Uncle Earl, whose dog regularly eats old shoes and rusty tin cans without even batting an eye. He misses old Sharky and wishes the dog could be there to share in the food and festivities. His sister has begged, from the instant everyone arrived, that nobody give her German Shepherd, Chuck, table scraps, no matter how adorable or forlorn he looks, because he has a sensitive stomach.
Chuck immediately figures out who the best mark is, and follows Uncle Earl relentlessly, unleashing his most irresistible, forlorn, starving, puppy dog eyes. During dinner Chuck stays strategically placed slightly under the table within easy reach of Earl’s left hand should anything happen to swing down from the top side of the table in his direction.
Of course Uncle Earl relents-- after all the man is not made of stone--and sneaks Chuck the skin from his turkey. Then he offered a little mashed potatoes and gravy for good measure. And he never really did like that green bean casserole with the onions, but Chuck really seemed to appreciate it.
Everyone leaves for the evening stuffed to the gills. Uncle Earl looks over at Chuck, who is wagging his tail and happy as can be. He thinks to himself that only a grinch would deprive the dog of participation in the holiday meal and leaves satisfied with the knowledge that he has done a good deed.
Around 2:00am Chuck awakes with the sudden realization that he needs to get outside to go to the bathroom right NOW. He tap dances and whines at the side of his owners bed, cursing his lack of opposable thumbs that would make it possible for him to let himself out, because nobody seems to be taking him seriously. He dashes for the door, but only makes it as far as the living room carpet before he lets fly with some bloody diarrhea that will require professional services to remove. He repeats the dance at 3:00am and 4:30am. In the morning his owners awake to a lovely, fragrant post holiday surprise downstairs.
I am not sure that Emily Post ever directly addressed this issue, but I have the feeling that if asked she might say that it could be considered rude to feed someone else’s dog all sorts of unfamiliar foods and then waltz back home to leave the owner to spend the next day trying to clean diarrhea from the carpet, or worse, have to suffer the distress and the cost of treating a dog who became seriously ill with a problem like pancreatitis.
Most people who have dogs with delicate flower type digestive tracts rather than rusty tin can digestive tracts already know that their pet has that tendency from hard earned experience, so when they ask that nobody feed the dog they really mean it. Sometimes even the rusty tin can digestive tracts can get overwhelmed with enough weird food, so even if a request wasn’t made, it is always proper to refrain from feeding anyone’s dog table scraps.
If you can master the no people food for the host’s dogs rule and also figure out which fork to use on the salad you should be a welcome guest at almost any gathering this holiday season.