Dog Food

April 29th, 2024

We are packing to go away for Spring Break. The girls and I will be flying somewhere alone without dad for the first time. I am very nervous and therefore coming at it with lists and rules. I have three clipboards going, including a list of what the girls need to pack.

“How many stuffies can I bring?”

I have fielded this question multiple times from both of my daughters, and my answer has remained staunch: three. I’m sticking firm to that number because if they sense any weakness they’ll try like hell to gain some leverage. Furthermore, I tell them, they have to be small stuffies, and their puppies do count, even if they are “real.”

Eliza: “Okay fine, but how many blankets can each stuffy bring?”

Zero!

“How much dog food can I bring?”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Every day, when my kids leave the house, they set their stuffies up to gorge their little fabric faces on a feast of both human and dog food. I constantly come upon baby dolls devouring apples on the counter and multiple little stuffed animals propped up against the dog food bowl, the actual dog tentatively trying to nose in for his lunch. The cat, for her part, will let me know in no uncertain terms she needs me to remove the stuffy that’s been stationed at her water bowl. She has kidney disease for God’s sake.

I tell my daughters they can’t bring dog food to Florida. They can’t bring it in a tin; they can’t bring it in a baggie; they can’t bring it in their pockets. They cannot bring it.

“But they’ll starve!!” This is Eliza again. It’s late and I am tired. “Listen to me very clearly,” I say uncharitably, “they will not starve, because they are not real.”

Tears well up in her eyes, and a look of dark horror passes across her face. Ten minutes later, I am reading The Velveteen Rabbit to them for the hundredth time — their choice, not mine. After they fall asleep, Jon informs me that he’s going to take them aside and give them some dog food to take to Florida “behind Mom’s back.” I am going to have to acquiesce to this.

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When we get to the airport, after passing through security and purchasing more snacks and water bottles than three people could ever consume on a three-hour flight, you know, just in case we are stuck on the plane forever, we immediately have to feed the stuffies. They frequently get hungry, and thirsty, too, which is why we have to give the stuffies some of our freaking Evian water so nobody has a complete conniption in the airport terminal.

On the way to Florida I feel self-conscious about these theatrics, but by the return journey, I’m so used to it that I find myself saying things like, “Girls, when we get to the gate, I need you each to pee, eat a snack, and feed your stuffies.”

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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

When we get home, I empty the plastic baggie of dog food — which has been fed to the stuffies countless times, in states including Vermont, Connecticut, and Florida — back into the dog’s bowl, where the cat eats it, as usual, because she doesn’t like the cat food I give her. She is supposed to eat special food, but she disdains.

The actual live dog, lowest on the totem pole, patiently waits for his turn to nose in amongst the stuffies and have his dinner. 

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