Carolyn White: Living the Good Life 5-6-13
Since my dog, Darby, tends to be a bit rambunctious, over the past few years we’ve made a number of trips to the vet’s office. Whenever pills are required, instead of wrapping each in steak or cheese I always camouflage them in peanut butter: not only does this prevent her from spitting things out but there’s a wonderful memory attached to it thanks to Aunt Missy in Ohio, who first introduced us to the trick in the fall of 2011.
Starting with Sam, the black Labrador retriever that she crawled around after as a toddler (with a biscuit in her mouth), Missy has had dogs all of her life. Brutus, the family’s second Lab, tagged along whenever we went riding and was so well-trained that he’d heel alongside her horse, Ralph, when needed, as well as fetch the newspaper each morning … and sometimes the neighbor’s papers, also. “He just picked them up because that’s what I’d taught him to do … didn’t matter whose driveway it came from, he was bringing us a paper,” she recently reminisced.
After she was grown and married, Missy adopted Quick Change, nicknamed QC, who was half Lab and half Golden Retriever. The runt of the litter, he had a deformed tongue so she trained him to carry a towel “to prevent him from drooling over everything.” (QC was also able to open doors and turn on water fountains.) After he passed away, Tucker, another Golden Retriever, followed and “would sit patiently while I put a treat at the end his nose before flipping and eating it on command.” And as a puppy, Doc (Retriever number three) had only to be shown the outdoor potty one time, and no matter where they went Missy “never needed to use a leash with him.” Consequently, whenever I had a question on Darby during early puppyhood, Missy was the first person I’d call, and when Darby and I took a trip back to south eastern Ohio for vacation we drove out to the country together to visit her.
By then she and her husband, Tracy, had adopted Buddy, a rescue dog with severe skin problems, and Trudy, a feisty Shih Tzu and Chihuahua mix, and as the three of us, with our three dogs, were gathered together in the living room she decided to give them a treat. “Has Darbonator ever had peanut butter?” she asked from the kitchen doorway, holding up a jar. When I responded that no, she hadn’t, Missy continued, “It’s good stuff — adds oils to their coats,” and after scooping two fingers into it she added, “Watch this, Carolinee.” Missy bent forward and let Darby sniff the strange new substance, but when she went to taste some Missy deftly slid the fingers into her mouth and wiped them against the upper palate. “Here, eat that!” my friend commanded with her deep, trademark chuckle, and instantly, my 11-month-old puppy girl began making absolutely hilarious faces.
Crossing her eyes, wrinkling her nose and sticking her tongue out repeatedly, Darby licked and licked and licked intently while trying to unstick and swallow all that yumminess, and the look in her dark brown eyes was so completely focused yet puzzled it was unforgettable. Ten-pound Trudy, who had discovered that some had stuck on the fur, tried to wrap her little paws around Darby’s muzzle to hold it still (so that she could help lick it off), but Darby raised her head and backed off — she wasn’t the slightest bit interested in sharing. That afternoon, I laughed so hard I was completely doubled over on the couch, and after I had finally caught my breath Missy directed, “Remember this anytime you need to give her medicine. She won’t be able to separate the pill from the peanut butter because it’s way too sticky.”
But it was Tracy who really topped off the afternoon when his wife tried putting those same ones back in once again for a final scoop full. “MISS-EH!!” He bellowed from his armchair, “How many times do I have to tell you not to feed those dogs out of the jar like that?!”
“Oh, shut up, it won’t hurt you!” she teased while winking at me, although she does admit now that they keep two jars on hand at all times, one for human consumption and another for dogs. As for here, Darby goes on high alert every time she hears the lid to the peanut butter being unscrewed -— and eagerly gulps down whatever has been camouflaged inside a spoonful of it. Thanks to Aunt Missy, medications go down slick as a whistle … and I get a smile as I watch. ❖