There was once a time when I found myself unnerved by the unblinking stare of the family dog. You know the one.
These days, having lived with at least two dogs – one of whom was raised to be comfortable making prolonged eye contact with people – I don’t notice it so much anymore. If I do, it’s usually to laugh at it, or laugh at the person who actually IS unnerved by it. As if to say, “Seriously? Hah! It’s not like I’ve ever been there!”
But I think we can all agree that the act is more off-putting and potentially even threatening when people do it.
Some dogs are raised better. Some humans are stricter and more consistent about treating their pets, others don’t give them “people food” at all. But most dogs I know do this in some capacity, acting like the dry scrap of wheat toast in my hand is the greatest feast they have ever seen.
Very similar to how humans have an instinctive desire for carbs and sugars – despite having evidence that plenty are available to us at just about any time – I think dogs are worried that they won’t find their next meal, no matter how reliably it comes every evening. Sure, if you eat a particular food that they adore, that might inspire them to stare harder than usual, but no matter what you eat, they recognize it as “food” that must be begged for. They have to make the most of whatever we give them, and once they get it, they look like they just won the lottery.
Lucy, my current roommate’s dog, loves carrots, bananas, and blueberries. Like my old dog, Angie, she will eat just about anything that isn’t lettuce or spinach, but those are the foods she really bounces off the wall for. Literally.
Once, she snuck into my room and managed to score some General Tso’s Chicken before I discovered her and chased her off. After that, she wandered around the apartment licking her lips, completely satisfied and yet clearly experiencing “spiciness” for the first time. On another occasion, my boyfriend left macaroni and cheese on a low table and came back to find Lucy halfway through it. She was very uncomfortable later, but that didn’t matter to her at all in the moment. Dogs lack the gift of foresight like that, but then, people often have it and still make plenty of bad decisions. In that case, are we really much better off than they are?
What is also fun, and much better for dogs than Chinese food, is sticking a bit of peanut butter on their nose and watching them try to lick it off. Even if they manage to get it, they’ll be licking for half an hour.
I love feeding Lucy treats. Angie was bigger and a lot more introverted, but it was still fun to feed her the occasional plain cheeseburger on long drives.
Sometimes, I secretly enjoy seeing or hearing about Lucy getting into something she shouldn’t. Not if it’s poisonous, of course, but the look of utter satisfaction on her face is joyfully infectious to me. Like the fun of getting your best friend hooked on a show you like watching.
Or, perhaps more relevantly, cooking or baking something for a special someone, and watching them really savor it.
Often times, people coast through life, taking all of the minutiae for granted. Food is not the best thing to make an activity out of, but it is something that brings us pleasure as well as sustenance, and it can be easy to sometimes forget that not everyone in the world has the luxury to eat well as we Americans do.
Seeing someone or something (an animal) take such visible, almost earth-shattering joy in something so simple, when we ourselves can forget what a nice, tasty breakfast we had not a few hours ago, reminds me that small moments really do matter. They can pile up together into a bad day, or individually be left to the wayside.
But only rarely do we look for them and appreciate them one at a time, for their contributions to an awesome or at least pleasant day. And the same people who always say to be thankful for the little things can forget their own advice, just like everyone else.
Lucy and other dogs make feasts out of loose crumbs and fallen blueberries, and they love us all the more when we are there and “allow” them those indulgences. I don’t know about you, but I could personally use practice in allowing myself to indulge – or feast on, if you will – good feelings. Basic moments of, say, a rare smile and genuine “thank you” from a customer; a walk on a breezy, but warm, sunny day; or someone hanging back to hold the door for me.
It’s simple, but it’s not beneath us.
Written for the Tuesday daily prompt: Feast.