WITH TALES OF NAUGHTY DOGS sure to be told around the country with the opening of the film "Marley and Me," I thought I'd recount a canine story of my own. Ventura County's own version of Marley, a yellow Labrador retriever named Trigger, really takes the cake - and he ingests everything else, too.
Trigger is the semi-beloved pet of the towheaded Tappin clan, a family blessed with a great capacity for forgiveness and a sense of humor. Beth Tappin has even written a short manuscript on her dog's many escapades.
The Oxnard family of four lives in a house set up with a system of baby gates and locks to deter their food-stealing animal. But this canine, who has been dubbed "Garbage Gut" by his veterinarian, knows no rules. He has yet to determine what is actually food.
Now I thought I had it bad the day my own dog ate the notebook containing all my Internet site passwords, but I really do feel sorry for the Tappins.
THE FAMILY FIRST NOTICED something was amiss with one particularly bad habit. Basic biology teaches us that what goes in must come out, but in Trigger's case what goes out goes back in too... "The first time we witnessed this habit," Beth Tappin said, "my only thought was, 'And this dog kissed my kids!' We read about this online and rushed to PetSmart to buy the products they suggested. The gentleman at the pet store said, 'Oh, don't worry, these tablets will make his business taste like ****, no wait, it must make it taste worse than that.' "
Later, the Tappins heard a comedian talking about a neighbor of his who had a dog with this same habit. "He would call his neighbor and ask to borrow his dog for a few hours to clean up his yard," Beth said. "I know it's gross, but I had to wonder if there was money to be made with Trigger."
But Trigger has a very varied palate. He has eaten two couches, acrylic paint on a paper plate (paint, plate and all), the entire contents of many Easter baskets and Halloween bags, cat food cans (whole can, pop top and all, chewed and swallowed), one four-pack of food dye on the area rug (very colorful dog and rug), entire batches of freshly made cookies, whole loaves of bread in their wrappers, cooking utensils, half a can of coffee, seven bottles of Terro ant killer (it apparently only kills ants), one bag of Bertie Botts Every-Flavored Jelly Beans (bag, drawstring and all), four or five soft-sided lunch boxes, two new bags of marshmallows (they came back up in much the same form), and the list goes on and on. He's made numerous runs in the pantry, eating everything from the third shelf down.
THE TAPPINS NEVER KNOW what they will find when they come home or awaken in the morning. "I find myself yelling, "No! No! No! Not the (fill in the blank)," Beth said. "Usually as soon as we get into the hallway you begin to see the problem. It begins with a few scraps of something.
"I am not always the calmest person in the face of disaster," Beth confessed. "I really don't like to admit this, but once I even said, 'I am going to kill you dog!' But that was after five quarts of home-made Albondigas soup was spilled all over the kitchen floor and I had carrots, peas, green beans, corn and meatballs from cabinet to cabinet and in between every mini-blind.
"It took 45 minutes and a shovel to clean that one up."
The rather portly yellow lab is amazingly nimble when leaping from nearby chairs to kitchen counters. "I have even seen him eyeing vegetables in a basket that we hung from the ceiling!" Beth said. One day in desperation the family tried to deter him from the counter by putting masking tape all along the edge with the sticky side out. "That just left us with a dog with eight yards of tape all over his front half," Beth said.
If you put him outside, he digs, roots through the compost bin and snacks on dead gophers and the aforementioned "business." He has gone through four metal trashcans.
SO THE TAPPINS HAVE DECIDED to view life with their soft and gentle-natured eating machine as a character-building experience. What have they learned?
1. A body can process way more than trace elements of aluminum.
2. When life gets you down, raiding junk food is very good.
3. Sometimes there is a very fine line between wanting to hug a pet and kill the pet.
4. Stay away from dead and/or rotting things. They rub off and make you smell bad, too.
5. Your family will still love you when you make a terrible mess of something.
My thanks to Beth for letting me borrow from her very funny manuscript. Happy holidays, everyone!