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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I've Been Clean for 30 years.
Go Ahead, Smell My Breath

It started so innocently. I just wanted Snoopy to eat some of the brown x’s in her cat dish. I was nine years old and responsible for feeding my next-door neighbor’s Siamese cat while she was a away on vacation, for about a week. I took the task seriously and sat down next to Snoop on the green linoleum floor. We looked at each other, then at her lemon yellow bowl of kibble.

“It’s good Snoop. C’mon, eat some of the yummy food” I coaxed. She blinked her swimming-pool blue eyes at me, then bent down to sniff her food before walking away. I approached Snoopy’s feeding with the same dogmatic zeal Mom and Dad expressed when my finicky little brother wouldn’t eat any green matter on his plate. Without being harsh or demanding, I determined to get her to eat. So, like my parents, I set an example. I picked up one of the crunchy x’s, and bit down on it.

“See, it’s good, Snoopy! Don’t you want some? Mmmm. It’s so tasty!”

She slinked back toward me and I thrilled at the breakthrough. Picking up another kibble, crunching down on it, I discovered that they were in fact, every bit as tasty as I had told her they were. I thought my example had worked, as Snoopy crouched beside her dish and partook of the Chow. I learned years later that cats are communal eaters, and are more apt to eat if they have a companion joining them. I thought she just needed reassurance that the food was OK, so I continued dining with her.

In the days that followed, I couldn’t decide whether the cat chow tasted better from her dish, or right out of the bag. After a while, it didn’t matter. Instead of nibbling on one or two kitty biscuits at a time, I grabbed handfuls from the bag, secreting myself away somewhere to munch on these delectable meat-byproduct crackers.

I suspect my neighbor had discovered my habit, and it was she who suggested to my parents that we get a cat of our own, because as an elderly woman on a fixed income, it was too expensive for her to feed both Snoopy and me. So, on my tenth birthday, Peewee (Yes, I named him. I was ten, ok?), a fluffy gray and white kitten became my new charge. We played together, slept together, and ate together.

I picked the Purina Cat Chow brand of food, under the auspices that “that’s what cat’s like best.” Mom didn’t know it was my kibble of choice. We tried Friskies at some point, which were starchier, less salty, and I didn’t like them as well. The Cat Chow was crispier, sort of like a pretzel, and well, I had just become accustomed to them.

Not a finicky eater by any means, I good-naturedly sampled everything my mother brought home: Friskies, Meow Mix, and the tantalizing special treats that came in a foil packet. These little fish shaped bits resembled chewable vitamins, were textured like clay, and tasted sort of like fishy Playdoh. I didn’t care for them, and never encouraged Peewee to go out of his way to earn them.

Most of the cartoons I watched shared the theme of food acquisition. Sylvester ate birds, Elmer Fudd had a hankering for rabbit, Popeye never went anywhere without his spinach, and there was that fellow who wanted a hamburger now, but would pay for it Tuesday. Yogi and Boo Boo salivated at the thought of what might be in those pic-a-nic baskets.

Everybody wanted food, so I did too. By the time the commercials came on for potato chips, candy bars, soft drinks, TV dinners and, yes, even pet food, I could hardly stand it. I never had an inclination to eat the stinky, pate-like wet food, but honestly, those Gravy Train commercials made my mouth water. I imagined the smell of my mother’s roast beef gravy steaming from the dish, and all I would have to do is add water to biscuits. I loved gravy, I loved kibble. Mom—can I have a dog?

I eventually gave up a shiny coat in favor of French fries and pizza induced acne. But there are moments—brief though they are—when I pick up a bag or box of one formula or another in the cat food aisle—reading the labels, trying to figure out my age in cat years.

Meow, meow, meow, meow,

Cindy

8 Comments:

Blogger MSSunderstood said...

I never hid my taste for the bones. Our elderly neighbor had weiners dogs, we had a fox terrier, and at some point she took to feeding her dogs and ours at the same time, at her back door. Just a snack. Well along the way I happened on to this feast and she offered me one too.....
I'm sure it's been thirty years since my last fix!

12:15 PM  
Blogger MSSunderstood said...

MILK BONES.... there, I've said it!!!!

12:48 PM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

ha HA! Milk Bones? They look like they taste like shortbread. How could you resist?

12:57 PM  
Blogger annush said...

OMG Cindy I can't believe you told this story!
Now I'm going to think of you as "Cindy, the cool blogger who ate cat food".
Not cool.
Heck, I may have to blog about this!

1:28 PM  
Blogger Redtech said...

!!! This is the funniest story I've ever heard!!!

You have such a wonderful way with words!

1:53 PM  
Blogger KlevaBich said...

Never tried the domestic pet food, but the animal chow crackers they used to sell at the Washington Park Zoo (do not call it the Oregon Zoo within my earshot) for animal feeding were delectable. (Remember those cool little red vending machines?) I loved feeding the giraffes and was curious just what a giraffe might find tasty. Mmmm.

I was so dissapointed when I returned after many years to find that one can no longer feed the animals, probably due to fear of lawsuits...or worse.

3:55 PM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

Nancy, I remember the stinky little green pellets you could feed some of the animals at the zoo, I'm thinking it was the petting zoo area with the sheep and goats and bunnies.

Annush, give a girl a break, will ya? I was TEN!! (In people years)

And Redtech, thank you , thank you for visiting WLPF and leaving such a nice comment.

4:03 PM  
Blogger ladyshark said...

when i was a kid, we used to tease our brother about canned dog food- we would get so grossed out when he ate it.

then there was this movie with nick nolte and richard dreyfus.

one of my friends used to give dog biscuits to his baby to teeth on.

if you cough up a hairball..... lol

2:49 AM  

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