Gratuitous Dog Picture

Ein Mäuchen and me

We’d been having a butter situation. I mean, I am one of those people who scoffs at the avoidance of butter. Avoidance of wheat? Fine. Sugar? Ok. Salty crackers? Reluctantly. Dairy products? Sigh. Ok. Alcohol?  On week nights. And even for long periods of weekends. But butter is essential to the flavor of vegetables, and if I’m going to eat vegetables, or eggs, or…lots of things, there has to be butter. Not a whole stick or anything, but enough. I am willing to eat healthy things. I have my blueberries and kale daily. But we all have our limits to sacrifice.

I make omelets a lot in the morning, and these require butter. They used to require a special, expensive omelet pan, but it’s gone now. Another story. Anyway, I’m the only cook in our household, so I’m fairly acquainted with the butter usage in our house, and I suddenly noticed that we were going through an awful lot of butter. But I’m busy, kind of absent-minded, and not always fully attentive to the tasks at hand, so when the butter ran out, I didn’t think that much about it. I’d just grab another stick, and put it on a fresh butter dish, in its place on an open shelf next to the stove, about five feet up.

This had been going on for some time. But eventually the light dawned on me, even when I’m in the midst of plotting out a book.  I knew I’d opened a fresh stick of butter at dinner, and the next morning there wasn’t any.  Odd, I thought.  I asked my husband: Did you use any butter? He hadn’t, as I had known. I turned to look at my dogs, lying patiently nearby, and they gazed back with the usual proportion of adoration, hope, and pseudo guilelessness.

Pete is nearly 12–we think–and not inclined to much in the way of vigor these days. When inspired, he can still run like the wind, but inspiration is more of a once-a-day thing: during one of our walks in the woods, for example, or to chase off a particularly arrogant turkey. But he doesn’t jump much anymore. We have to lure him with treats to get him to come up on the bed to cuddle.

This left Moses, our 125 pound German Shepherd, who has been known to jump horse hurdles in agility classes, and has an intellectual capacity superior to that of a small child. He held my gaze and thumped his tale affectionately. He is a well-trained–and, like both my dogs–a very well-loved animal. He knows the rules. He lies peacefully nearby while we eat. He takes treats gently from fingers. He asks to go out. He comes when he’s called, crashing thunderously through the underbrush when drawn away from chasing a deer, to sit, panting, at my feet. He stays where he’s been told for long periods of time in unfamiliar environments. He is certified to go to schools and hospitals, and it is only my own schedule that keeps him from being certified as a therapy dog. He is my heart and soul.

I’d like to point out, too, that my dogs are well-fed. In addition to ridiculously expensive grain-free organic dog food, they eat fresh chicken or turkey every day; eggs on occasion;  human-grade freeze-dried chicken and turkey hearts as treats; and large, lovely, smoked beef bones from the grocery store butcher shop.

The suspicion in my mind was fully formed. “Listen,” I said to my husband, who needs prompting to do so. “You are my witness. I’m putting out a full stick of butter this morning.” He was skeptical. “That shelf is pretty high up.”

We went our separate ways to work.

He called around lunch time to tell me that the butter was gone.

A little butter isn’t bad for dogs. But too much fat is, causing pancreatitis, which is pretty serious.

The next morning, with some trepidation, I put out a fresh stick of butter. On the counter I put a mouse trap, and covered it with a dish towel, a method I had learned from our dog trainer, but had never tried before. It is not suitable for small dogs, but for big dudes like Moses, it merely startles and stings. Nervously, I tried the trap on my fingers. It hurt.

When we came home, the trap and towel were on the floor. The butter was untouched, and has not been touched since. We caught a very big mouse that day. A very big, very smart mouse.