It is a long-lost tradition in these frenetic, more individualized times, but in days of yore families came together to eat dinner as a unit. In our house it was a time to discuss the issues of the day, learn the manners of the table, and generally upset Mom and Pop for the remainder of the evening — although that was more a by-product of the first two than a specific goal in itself.
By family I mean in the extended sense, our dogs were also at hand (and underfoot). And as anyone who grew up with dogs in the house can testify, in general parents treated pets better than they did the children, although more times than not they would leave the estate to the bipeds.
In our household dogs could do anything, while we, the children, could do very little. And please don’t think this is some rose-colored remembrance. We were an eclectic family when it came to pets: birds, squirrels, turtles, fish, we co-habitated with each at one time or another. No cats, though. But always and primarily dogs, plural. One great dane and two dachshunds, that was the standard issue. Do not ask why; these things evolve. While the other pets were always treated well, in no way were they in the same class as the dogs, which assumed a status similar to that accorded cats in ancient Egypt.
Dinner was a time when this distinction in treatment was particularly acute. The dachsies, like many canines, had a difficult time regulating food intake. Put food in front of them in any quantity, and they would scarf it up no matter if it outweighed them by a factor of three. In that sense I always thought of cats as a faith-based species, perfectly able to leave their food unattended, with faith enough that it would still be around when next they sought it. Dogs, on the other paw, seemed to be natural atheists, as they took no heed of, nor faith in the future whatsoever. One of our dachshunds, Priscilla, required special attention. Continue reading