Hoover - by John Sealander


I should have named my dog Hoover. Spot is just like a vacuum cleaner. I'm convinced that he's spent a good two thirds of his life with his nose less an eighth of an inch from the ground, sniffing out the next tasty morsel to inhale. The dog will eat anything. Over the years, he's developed a taste for old chewing gum embedded in city sidewalks, live June bugs and of the ubiquitous and ever-present horse poop in the park behind our house. They say a dog's sense of taste isn't as developed as yours and mine. Dogs don't distinguish between dill and coriander. They don't go on and on about the fruity bouquet of a California Chardonnay. To my dog Spot, things either taste good and he eats them immediately, or they don't taste good and he spits them out. Needless to say, most things taste good.

Even though I spend far too much time pulling disgusting and seemingly inedible stuff out of Spot's mouth, I still find this simple approach to life admirable. Dogs don't have time for nouvelle cuisine, grilling vegetables over mesquite wood or balsamic vinegars. Their motto seems to be "eat first, think later." If it weren't for my dog's total lack of discrimination about what he puts in his mouth, I could be tempted to adopt this simple, utilitarian style of dining myself.

I don't know if Dalmatians are less discriminating than other breeds, but I continue to be amazed by the things that Spot tries to ingest. Once during a backyard barbecue, he grabbed a sparerib from a nearby serving platter and swallowed the whole thing, bone and all. The X-ray at the vet's later that evening confirmed what we already knew: that he had a five inch long cow bone resting in his stomach. The vet didn't seem nearly as alarmed as I was and told me that my dog's digestive powers could easily put mine to shame. "Feed him a bland diet and something soft like bread for a week or so," she said. "He should be fine." Sure enough, in about a week, the bone had dissolved enough so that what little remained passed easily through his system. I was amazed.

This little episode was only a warm-up act however. About a year later, Spot acquired a taste for salsa. One day, a jar of the hot sauce gets dropped on the kitchen floor, and half a roll of paper towels is used to clean up the resulting mess. The door bell rings and I go to sign for a FedEx package or something. I am gone less than a minute, but when I return, Spot is rooting around in the garbage. It's hard to tell exactly what he's eaten, but he has that look that says he's been up to no good. The trash basket gets safely sealed away under the kitchen sink and the incident is forgotten. Well, two days later, I notice something is very wrong. Spot isn't eating and throws up his breakfast. He then goes out in the back yard and is trying to throw something up again. This time he seems to be making a real effort and nothing comes up for a long time. When it finally does, it turns out to be an entire paper shop towel. When I see the indigestible and seemingly intact blue paper towel, I know immediately what has happened. Spot ate the salsa soaked towels that were used to mop up the broken jar. It was a big jar and lots of towels were used, so I take him immediately to the vet. Lord knows how many towels he'd eaten. The vet feels his stomach and then notices that Spot is walking a bit stiffly. She does a rectal exam and gets this shocked look on her face. Very carefully she removes an inch and a half long shard of glass from his butt. Immediately Spot goes on the X-ray table and when we look at the film a few minutes later we are all horrified to see five or six little white triangles in his stomach and upper digestive tract. Not only has Spot eaten salsa soaked towels, he had eaten the broken glass that was wrapped up in the towels.

Since abdominal surgery is quite serious and carries with it a considerable risk of infection, we decide to see if the glass will pass through his system just like the rib bone did earlier. We feed him lots of bread to help pad the glass and take him to the vet every morning for an X-ray. This X-ray is compared with the previous days X-ray to see if the glass is continuing to move in the proper direction and if the sharp edges are aligned correctly to travel safely through the lower intestine. This process continues for almost two weeks. During this time Spot throws up four more paper towels, poops out another two towels and passes five pieces of glass. Amazingly, there is no internal bleeding whatsoever. Everyone at the vet's office is calling Spot the amazing glass eating dog.

We were very lucky. Now every trash basket and garbage can in the house has a dog proof lid and Spot is never allowed to venture into rooms containing anything remotely resembling food unattended. It's hard to think a dog would knowingly eat glass, but then, he probably didn't know better. He probably just swallowed each paper towel whole and anything that was wrapped inside, including broken glass, came along for the ride.

Not all Spot's scavenging has been this dramatic of course. He has been caught innocently lapping wine from a guest's glass during Thanksgiving dinner. He has stolen several slices of pizza off my plate when he thought I wasn't looking. He's even eaten an entire Brillo pad. Lord know why, but the dog has a taste for soap. The shower doors are always closed now, because he'll inevitably try to eat the soap off the soap dish.

A lot of times I wish Spot wouldn't eat live grasshoppers or try to pull bubblegum off sidewalks with his teeth, but then what else has he got to occupy his time. Dogs pretty much live to eat, sleep and have sex. And since Spot is neutered, that only leaves two out of three. Well, maybe it only leaves one, since I'm convinced that he dreams about food when he's asleep. Everyone thinks he's either chasing something or being chased when those little paws start moving during a dog dream. I know better though. He's really just running as fast as he can toward an inviting open refrigerator.

It's hard to criticize though. A dog's sense of smell is hundreds of times better than ours. If I could smell everything Spot can, I might be spending much of my time with my nose a half inch from the ground too. I know how much dogs love to smell things and catch up on all the doggie news around the neighborhood, so it's hard to tell if he's taking inventory of the other dogs who have passed a certain bush, or whether there's something dead hidden in the grass that he wants to eat. He'll be delicately sniffing the ground like he's studying another dog's scent and then all the sudden he's got his jaws clamped tightly around some new object of desire he's found in the grass.

I live near a small lake and there are few things more disgusting that trying to get a half-rotted dead fish from the jaws of a dog that is determined to keep it. We play this little game every day on our walks. He'll act nonchalant and completely disinterested in all the things he smells around him until he finds something he really wants. Then he'll snatch it so quickly it will make your head spin. I don't know if Spot would ever make it as a drug sniffing dog at airports, but he'd sure catch everyone who bought food to take home at the airport duty free shops.

Remember that movie called Quest for Fire? If they remade it with dogs as the stars, they'd have to change the title to Quest for Filet Mignon. Spot likes spicy things so much though that maybe it would just be Quest for Fajitas. I don't think he realizes just how humorous he is in his role as a canine vacuum cleaner. Once I got preoccupied a little too long and he ate a paycheck that just arrived in the mail. I had to pull it out of his mouth and straighten and paste the remaining spitwads of paper on a piece of cardboard like court evidence before taking it into town to the accounts payable department to get reimbursed.

The classic cliché excuse when that kids always use when they haven't finished their homework is to say "the dog ate it." Spot never ate my homework, but I've had to use this line a little more often than I'd care to admit. He seems content though. In fact I haven't seen him in a few minutes, so I'd better go check and see what he's got his nose into now.

If you enjoy these stories and would like to help this wonderful breed of dogs, please consider making a donation to Dalmatian Rescue of North Texas. Your donation will help Dalmatian Rescue continue to rescue and rehabilitate the hundreds of Dalmatians that are abandoned in North Texas every year. To help give a deserving Dalmatian a second chance, just click on the button to your left. You can use any major credit card to make your donation instantly and no matter what you choose to give, you can feel a little better knowing that you have helped a dog very much like Spot find the one thing it really needs: a home.

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copyrightę1997. Contact John Sealander at: john@sealander.com 21015 readers since 5/16/98