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.