The food didn’t look anything like the plain Purina Dog Chow my family fed our mutt, Charlie Brown.
Charlie Brown’s food was hard and brown and looked completely unappealing.
Moses, the yellow lab who belonged to our neighbors, ate something that looked far more interesting, It, like Charlie Brown’s food, came out of a bag. But in addition to dry pellets, there were softer chunks of some kind of strange, reddish substance. In my four-year old opinion, Moses was getting filet mignon while Charlie Brown was getting hamburger.
I must have expressed such thoughts to my brother, who immediately cooked up a scheme to get me to eat dog food. He shared it with Gusty, the human boy who lived with Moses.
I wish I could say they took forever to wear me down. I wish I could say they bribed me. I even wish I could say they threatened me. Those would all make a better story and would make me appear smarter than I apparently was.
I was at Gusty’s house playing with his sister Anni when he asked if we wanted a snack.
Anni said she wasn’t hungry, but I was always up for food.
“We’ve been eating Moses’ food,” Gusty said.
I must have looked skeptical, because my brother quickly added, “It’s actually really good. You should try some.”
That’s all it took. They brought me the dog bowl and told me to take a handful. I did.
That was by far the worst snack I have ever eaten, but I refused to let on. I don’t know why I pretended, but I did. As the boys and Anni stood watching me, I ate. And as I crunched, I asked the boys if they were going to eat too. They said they were full.
It was only days later, when word leaked out to other children in the neighborhood, that I realized I’d been the butt of a cruel joke. The embarrassment grew in me like weeds during the summer months. The only way I could get rid of the weeds was to start distrusting people.
I’ve had 43 years to get over the incident and learn to trust when I should and to distrust when appropriate. But looking back, I wonder about those small moments that change children forever and shift the way they view the world. I wonder if trying to protect our children too much prevents them from learning tough lessons.
I’ll never know.
What I do know is that memories have a strange way of resurfacing in our lives.
Shortly after we were married, my husband and I adopted our first dog. There was no debate over his name; I simply made a decision.
We named the dog Gusty.
It seemed appropriate, and, for the record, our beloved Gusty lived 16 years. During that time, he ate pounds and pounds of dog food.