Friday, December 15, 2006


Our dog Pilar had mastered the art of raiding the table at an early age, and realized that she wanted more out of life. She couldn't leave it up to The Man to classify something as food, restricting herself to what society said was edible. So she broadened her horizons, eating things like balloons and rubber gloves. When brother wouldn't play catch with her, she ate his favorite computer game’s disk. And when she felt like having a snack, she'd eat matchbooks, pinning them between her paws and carefully licking the connected heads like an ice cream cone.

Eventually, she ate 5 ant traps in an afternoon. Mom had bought the traps along with a few other things that Pilar usually ignored, like lightbulbs, and thought that our dog could be trusted with them in the car for a few minutes. Pilar thought otherwise. Whether she consumed the traps in a fit of pique after being kept waiting for too long, or just satisfying her boundless epicurean curiosity, we'll never know. By the time mom got back to the car, the damage was done. The vet said that 3 can put a dog in a coma.

Pilar’s mealtime discipline was bad from the start. As the new dog in a house that hosted up to 7 children, Pilar received a lot of table scraps from fussy eaters desperate to clean their plates. My brother and I ate salad by eating the green stuff, and giving the red stuff to the dog. By the time our parents caught on, it was too late. Pilar had learned that not only was people food as edible as dog food, it was usually tastier. She silently vowed to include it in her diet whenever she could.

Pilar recognized that we could no longer help her, so she began to help herself. Our laps were at eye level, and usually draped with napkins. Napkins that ended up dirty. Like Dune’s sandworms detecting the slightest vibrations made by prey, Pilar sensed the subtle odors made by trace amounts of food. Our miniature Shai Hulud would rustle unseen under the table, visible only briefly as a flash of teeth claiming used napkins to be consumed at her leisure. From then on, napkins were kept out of reach, but I'm still clumsy at dinner. I need time to register that in Pilar's absence, anything placed in my lap will stay there. And I still want to warn friends not to put their napkins where the dog can get them.

As food sources became scarce, Pilar resorted to more drastic measures. She started begging for food, much the same way that pickpockets and muggers roam a city begging for wallets. She started innocently enough, staring at her mark in a mute yet adorably optimistic plea. Then she got impatient. Occasionally, she barked her displeasure. As she realized that food would not be offered, she decided that it must be taken. Her expression melted into calculated resolve as she formulated an attack strategy. And then she waited carefully for the split second of inattention in which she could launch her furry little Schlieffen plan. The instant that guards were down, she was up and on the attack. She would twist her neck to open her mouth horizontally, extending her range further, and moving her lower jaw clear to scrape plates clean with her teeth. From above, she looked like a hairy black pac-man streaking across the plates. She'd grab anything within reach, swallowing smaller items whole, and cramming everything else into her mouth, keeping at it until she was dragged away, chewing triumphantly.

After she chewed through her nylon collar, it was replaced by a chain that jingled merrily as she trotted around the house. It bound her body, but not her spirit. The giddy chiming of her new collar was an alarm, warning everyone to finish eating quickly, before she drew closer. Her black wagging tail, cresting gaily above the far edge of the table as she worked her way around the dining room, looked like nothing so much as a shark's fin prowling for its next meal. It added a sense of adventure to mealtimes.

But not many people recognized the warning signs. My friend Josh was visiting when my mother warned him not to let the dog eat his food. He made the mistake of turning his head towards her to ask for clarification. Mom had served from the left, and at that moment, Pilar came zooming in to remove from the right, ending up eyebrow-deep in food before Josh had any idea that something was wrong.

And so she chewed her way through life with gusto, eating food, household items, and the aforementioned 5 ant traps, which only gave her mild constipation. We tried to figure out the reason behind her miraculous survival after eating them, especially given the vet’s grim pronouncement. Maybe Pilar was impervious to damage of any kind? Maybe the traps were defective? Maybe the vet was thinking of a different, more lethal type of ant trap? Maybe the vet was an idiot. We reviewed all the possibilities carefully, and realized that given the evidence, there was only one conclusion at which any rational person could arrive.

It was pretty cool knowing that I had an indestructible superdog.

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