Monday, August 27, 2007

Arsenic and Ground Beef

My mini-break this weekend took me back to my hometown of
Hartsville, S.C. My Grandparents still live there and I always pop in for a
visit when I find myself in the area. Their home is not conducive to young
children (my daughter came along on this trip) so I have to keep my visits
relatively brief. I introduced myself to Ellen the CNA (their declining health
requires 24-hour in home care) and sat down on the couch for a chat.

My Grandparents have a dog. He is a dachshund, aptly named
“Happy.” He hates children. Each time he is in the presence of my children
Happy bares his teeth, growls and lunges. Because I would prefer that my
children’s blood remain in their veins, Happy is confined to the sunroom or the
backyard for the duration of my visits. Despite his
negative behavior towards children, Happy remains my Grandparent’s beloved and
constant companion. As such, he is treated to all of the best that life has to
offer a dog. I would learn in my visit that the best of everything includes his

During a conversation with my Grandmother, a loud, pulsating
noise came from the kitchen at short intervals. Curiosity got the best of me
and I excused myself to see what Ellen was doing in there. I found
her standing over the stove stirring ground beef and shoving baby carrots into a
Salad Spinner. She shot the shredded carrots into the ground beef mixture with incredible precision. My grandmother and I had already discussed dinner plans and I
knew that she was getting take-out so I asked Ellen what she was cooking.

“Happy’s dinner,” she responded.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Happy’s dinner. I have to cook it once a week. He gets
ground beef and carrots and the carrots have to be sautéed so they aren’t too
hard,” Ellen said, a twinge of cynicism in her voice (not enough in my

I froze. I didn’t know what to say. Part of me wanted to hang a sign
on her neck that said, “I WILL NOT COOK DOG FOOD” and have her stand on the
kitchen table in front of my Grandmother, holding it up in silence like Norma
Rae. The other part of me wanted to give her a big hug and thank her for her
willingness to fulfill my grandmother’s outlandish canine dietary requirements.
Always one to take the high road, I chose instead to whisper under my breath,
“You ought to throw a little arsenic in there,” and walked away.


  1. Did you know that small amounts can be consumed over long periods before becoming fatal? That reminds me, I've got to run down to Sullivan to see the eldest Hale, and help him cook up Dollie's food for the week. She's into boiled hamburger with rice, just a dash of salt, and no pepper. Want me to check on a discount price for one of those anti-bark collars? I wonder what would happen if Dollie got to take her bath, and forgot to pull the collar off? hummmm....

  2. That is so funny! But you know I guess once your kids grow up and move away, you have to fill that "void", and hey like you said, it makes your grandmother happy! I'm sure we'll all have our fair share of void filling to do ;)

  3. Candice-
    Totally agree. I don't begrudge their love for that dog. I understand that life can get lonely when your health confines you to your house and that Happy provides them with much-needed companionship. I just don't share their sentiment.

  4. Papa Dale-
    What is it with the 80 and up demographic and their designer dog food? Dogs have been surviving for years on Purina.

  5. We could send Dempsey to visit your grandparents, and then he could just EAT Happy.

  6. J- I totally agree with you. I don't share the same sentiment either. I can soo picture my MIL doing that now! ha!

  7. I have two dogs who eat dog food that I buy from Costco. However, my mother-in-law brings them food weekly that she cooks herself, carefully chops up and labels, lest we give the wrong canine the wrong gourmet meal. It makes my dogs happy, me happy, and my mother-in-law feel like she's performing a useful task. No complaints here!

  8. I don't even know what to say....but it is VERY funny!

  9. My cats eat Friskies. Not even Iams. I am a bad, bad mother!
    You, however, are quite witty!

  10. Sounds like Happy is a grouchy old hot dog ;) I wish I had someone to make my dinner...

  11. Becky-
    Great idea. What a perfect solution!

  12. Keli-
    At least your MIL is doing it because she wants to and not because she's your paid health care provider.
    My poor cats eat generic Wal-Mart food. It's Special Kitty for us all the way!

  13. Leanne-
    Thanks! Always good to hear.

  14. My Minivan...
    My cats eat Special Kitty. You're a better cat mom than me!

  15. Janine-
    No kidding. He eats better than my kids do some nights!

  16. Whispered under your breath. Love it. Love this blog. Hate Happy for you.