Bug Breath - by John Sealander

John Sealander's Songbooks With all the doggie obsessions in the world to choose from, why did my dog have to pick June Bugs? I don't remember when Spot first discovered that June Bugs, those bright green Summer beetles that eventually become lawn grubs, were the canine equivalent of prime rib, but I'll never forget the sound of that first meal. Evidently, the only sporting way for a dog to eat a June Bug is alive. When caught in flight, the bugs buzz loudly as they franticly fly around in the dog's mouth for what seems like an eternity before they are consumed with exuberant crunching noises that are very reminiscent of someone eating a bucket of the Colonel's Extra Crispy Fried Chicken.

One taste was all it took. Now, Spot knows exactly when June Bug season is due to arrive and waits patiently for the delectable insects every year. If they're late, he sinks into a blue funk and slaps at the window with his paw, as if he could somehow command them to appear. If they're early, he's in heaven. Every evening from late June through mid-August the hunt begins just after dusk. Spot will stalk the bugs with his nose to the ground, trying for find stragglers hidden in the thick Asian jasmine ground cover near the back fence. He will stand on his hind legs like a bear looking for honey to reach a bug that has inadvertently come to rest on a low tree limb. For weeks at a time during prime bug hunting season, he will wake me up in the middle of the night with a slap of his paw on the window to begin the hunt all over again.

At first, this annual obsession with eating bugs worried me a little. Were they poisonous? Did they harbor bacteria and strange fungal diseases? The vet said not to worry. June Bugs were completely safe. A little high in calories perhaps, but all-in-all, just another good source of protein. It could be worse, I suppose. Spot could have developed a passion for eating frogs, tarantulas or poisonous house plants. I know there are at least a half a dozen varieties of poisonous spiders in our neighborhood alone.

But why June Bugs? Who knows. Maybe they smell good. Maybe it's the distinctive sound they make that drives Spot wild. All I know is that no other type of insect seems to interest him in the slightest. My dog is not alone in this obsession either. June Bugs seem to be an easily acquired taste among Dalmatians everywhere. I know several other Dalmatian owners with dogs that share a fascination for these Summertime visitors to Southern yards. If Dalmatians showed the same zeal for ridding the yard of the equally common water bugs and roaches, you could hire them out as exterminators. No such luck however. Spot wouldn't eat a cockroach unless you dipped it in peanut butter and served it on top of a smelly dead fish.

I've often wondered what is that causes Spot to obsess about some food groups and categorically reject others. Like all Dalmatians, he spends most of the time he isn't actively bouncing off the walls thinking about food. It's not that he'll eat anything though. He's really quite picky. He loves carrots, but hates grapes. He'll do his whole retinue of tricks for a crust of garlic bread, but if you give him a pretzel instead, he'll spit it out. Since he doesn't find himself in table scrap heaven nearly as often as he'd like, Spot has become equally discriminating about dry dog food. If you put ten brands in ten different bowls, he could consistently rank them from one to ten, always eating his favorites first. You can't even fool him by mixing brands of kibble. He will carefully take the inferior nuggets and spit them out by the side of his bowl.

Maybe this little culinary rebellious streak is one reason he loves June Bugs so dearly. Finally, he's got a chance to eat entirely on his own terms. Instead of a carefully measured bowl of dry dog food, he gets to hunt. For a dog, a backyard full of June Bugs is probably as close as you can get to one of those all you can eat buffets in Las Vegas. The bugs are slow and easy to catch. It's kind of like fishing for trout in a stock pond. And of course, no matter how many bugs you've managed to catch, there's always the thought of another tasty morsel waiting for you under the next bush.

We had a very dry Summer this year and for some reason the June Bugs seemed unusually few and far between. Spot would spend hours looking for his favorite snack every evening, but usually come up with nothing. It was kind of sad in a way. He'd waited all year for this little celebration of canine gluttony, and the bugs ended up being a no show. Personally, I think this year's absence of bugs had nothing to do with the weather. I think he ate them all last year. Or perhaps the bugs are smarter than they look. Maybe after a decade of being greeted by a hungry dog, they have finally learned to avoid our small patch of ground and spend their Summer vacation with our cat loving neighbors instead.

You know you've bonded with your dog when it doesn't bother you a bit that he curls up at the bottom of your bed and goes to sleep right after noisily scarfing down a few live bugs as a bed time snack.

I know that Dalmatians are a venerable old European breed with roots in Eastern Europe. I can't help thinking there's something Oriental about my own dog however. He'd fit right in at a Sushi bar. Every time I see one of those National Geographic specials on TV about some remote Indonesian tribal culture where giant termites are considered a delicacy, I think of Spot. In a world of ant eating, termite swallowing, grasshopper broiling gourmets, Spot would just be one of the guys.

I know people tend to anthropomorphize their pets. Although I'm convinced that Spot shares my attitudes about workaholics, women and warm weather, we definitely don't share the same taste in food. I don't care how many naps we take together on the couch, I'm never going to eat a June Bug.

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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copyrightŠ1999. Contact John Sealander at: john@sealander.com 43713 readers since 8/23/99