A Dog, A Man and A List of Things Eaten

Posted: July 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

A dog with a list of things eaten longer than Tim Tebow’s Twitter following

SATURDAY, 31 MARCH 2012 20:20





If dog is man’s best friend, why would he eat his best friend’s couch?

His wall. His socks. Lots of socks. The good leather shoes. A frisbee. His work to-do list. His daughter’s…er…undergarments. The firewood. Baseballs. The “Welcome” mat. Plastic bags.

A bird.

Surely the only character traits of a growing puppy are not his teething and eating habits, but they do stand out at the moment, and are worth discussing.

Ever since this one particular day, I knew our lives would never be the same. It was perhaps the best omnivore moment. While riding in the car with my son one day, Chester cruised in the back seat, checking out the lady canines presumably.

“Hey, John, have you seen my Bluetooth?”

“I think Chester has it,” he said.

“Why do you think that?” I asked.

“Because there’s a blue light in his mouth,” he said.




The number of ingested items is already longer than Tim Tebow’s Twitter follower list, and we are only seven months into ownership. At this rate, he’ll make Jaws look like he was on a hunger strike that summer.

The only list longer than Chester’s inanimate object meal plan would be the things nobody ever tells you about owning a dog, and specifically owning a Labrador retriever.

Read the book “The Art of Racing in the Rain” for a clue into the mind of a lab mix. The main character in the book is a dog named Enzo. He knows his mother was a lab and thinks his father was a terrier. At one point he explains:

“Everyone knows that shepherds and poodles aren’t especially smart. They’re responders and reactors, not independent thinkers….They don’t think outside the box; they are all about convention.”


Convention is not the first word that comes to mind when I think of Chester and his ilk.

Take walking. Nobody told us that walking a lab puppy is akin to strapping on a rocket and a pair of crampons to dig in. All the dogs you see walking calmly with their owners, sniffing a little here, whizzing a little there, sitting on command at the crosswalks. Fantasyland for me and Chester.

At the mere sight of the leash, he basically leaps into the door, like Mike Connors in an old Mannix episode. Once the door is open, he goes through it as if you told him there were a sea of unchristened fire hydrants outside.





Once outside, Chester runs downfield like Barry Sanders, zigging onto a lawn, zagging onto the curb, reversing direction better than a politician caught in a lie. Every well-intentioned dog expert will tell you to get a harness, a spiked collar, a choke collar, watch “The Dog Whisperer” in Spanish, bring treats, teach him who is boss, hold him close, fall into a ball…no, wait, that’s when a grizzly attacks.

I’m thinking something along the lines of a gladiator metal net and a trident.

One time when my daughter took him for a walk, we looked up from dinner to see her outstretched horizontally about 3 feet off the ground with the wind blowing her hair back and one arm attached to the leash which was attached to a streaking yellow missile.

We did not enter this dog ownership thing lightly. Oh, no. Quite the opposite.

The search started sometime in 1995 when we had two kids and a suburban backyard in Colorado. Both my wife and I had dogs growing up. We thought the kids should have one too. But it was never quite the right time. Two working adults. Two small kids. Why not just eat dynamite, swallow matches and be done with it.

Then we moved to New Jersey, and we were told that a dog came with the house, but you had to pay a tax. Just kidding.  Still, not the right time. Two busier jobs now. Three busier kids. We barely remembered to feed the latter, attend the former or take ourselves out for a



walk, much less look after Fido.

However, the moment came when my older son was preparing to go to college, and my wife  thought this was the time to get a dog.

“Oh, great. So you’re replacing me with a dog,” son quipped.

“No worries. He’ll move back into his crate when you come home,” father rejoined.

We picked him out – Chester, not the older son – from a group of five. He seemed to have the most even disposition of the lot and the damned cutest face you ever saw. Look up dog in the dictionary and the photo you will see will be Chester.

They tell you that the first few weeks might be rough at night when they cry. They didn’t say you would have to sleep in the crate and sing lullabies.

They didn’t mention he would chew your hands off in the morning before breakfast, try to climb on the counter while you made lunches and chew your counter stools. They didn’t mention he’d dig more holes in your yard than a colony of prairie dogs. They didn’t mention if you locked him in a small room instead of his crate, he would try to eat his way out. Alcatraz could not hold this dog.

They didn’t mention the weekly food, chew stick, toy and accouterment bills, as well as the spackle and paint costs.

Nobody mentioned that he would try to tear up the grout in the tile floor, because he apparently liked the sound, slice open the screen door to alert you to a trespassing squirrel, scratch off all woodwork paint down to the raw wood or  manufacture enough fecal matter to fertilize Nebraska.

They didn’t mention you’d be traipsing around in the backyard ankle deep in slush, coaxing him to produce this imported material for Nebraska by saying the word “Poopie?” over and over again to the point that Mr. Rogers would have slapped you.

No. Little, if any, of this was mentioned.

As I was writing this, I paused to go up stairs and get something to eat, when I heard the familiar chomping sound.

Another casualty of Chester’s evolution – my wife’s slippers.

I half expected him to say, “Well, you left them here I thought they were for me.”


Oh, yes, they also didn’t mention he’d prostrate himself at your feet at night and then roll over for excessive belly rubbing. They didn’t explain that your children would pick him up like a sack of wheat and make him shake hands with everyone. Or that they would dance with him. They didn’t say anything about him licking your face while bending down to tie your shoe.

They didn’t explain the joy in your heart that comes from watching him race like a colt across a field with his canine buddies, or the camaraderie that evolves from wearing Denver Bronco baseball hats together on the front lawn.

No, they neglected to mention how you’d forgive his sins just because of the way he glanced at you with his tongue hanging out a foot and a half in a wry smile.

They didn’t say you’d fall madly in love with this creature and wonder what life was before him.

Frank Scandale, a veteran journalist, is the former editor of the Bergen Record.


scandaleFrank011012_optBY FRANK SCANDALE

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