Birch the dog ate a duck the other day.
Well, he ate some duck.
He also ate some lamb.
When shopping for supplies before the quarantine curtain fell, it seemed like a nice idea to get the dog some treats.
I picked up a chew toy, some rawhide sticks, a few squeaky things to brighten the long days ahead. I thought about picking up a tug-of-war toy, but remembered the receding snow had revealed a few redolent ropes that have been moldering in the yard, unseen since November.
As long as I was getting treats, why not get some special food, as well? And by special, I mean the wet stuff.
Sure, bags of the crunchy nuggets might say “real beef” or “real chicken” on the label, but the bag has an expiration date somewhere in the 2030s, and if there’s one thing you can say about real beef, it’s that it is not exactly immortal.
So two days before the stay-at-home order, I went to the pet food store, which had tons of kibble. There was no toilet paper to be had, but kibble in abundance.
Luckily for me, the store had a sale on wet food and the varieties seemed exotic.
Duck? Really? I checked the label, and, sure enough, the first ingredient was duck. The second ingredient was chicken. The third was salmon.
It also had cinnamon, which made me wonder if the dog would take a bite, cock his head thoughtfully, as if to say “I detect an almost ineffable presence of a rare spice, prized through the ages, adding an unexpected nuance.”
Probably not. It’s a small can. It would be inhaled in a single gulp.
The exact composition of your pet’s food is probably not jostling your worries for the No. 2 or No. 3 spot these days. And many of us know of a dog they had for 18 years that ate the most basic chow, just like people remember stories of 101-year-old great-great-grandmothers who smoked a cigar every day and had a jigger of whiskey for breakfast.
But if you’re interested in upping the quality of your dog’s food during the quarantine or you don’t want to make a run to the pet store, there are companies that will ship fancy food to your house, complete with “personalized meal plans.”
To make such a meal plan, the websites ask you to answer a few questions about your dog — size, breed, weight — then come up with a special formula, which is shipped frozen. (In the interests of not biasing you for or against any vendor, just google “fresh pet food delivery” and you’ll see the options.)
There are a couple of things you might want to know if you order food this way:
It’s frozen, and there’s a lot of it, so you may not have room in the already-stuffed freezer.
It isn’t cheap.
But it is convenient.
Perhaps on the other side of all this, when life returns to normal, we will regard expensive, customized, shipped-to-your-house, internet-ordered pet food as one of the ordinary things in a bounteous world.
For now, I’m rejoicing that I bought lots of canned food during my last pet food run.
It saves me from having to go out and I get to see the extra happiness it brings Birch. (There’s also extra drool on the kitchen floor, but that’s OK.)
Birch gobbles up the wet food — duck, lamb, it doesn’t seem to matter — then trots off to the pillow by the radiator to snooze.
Watching his contentment is a great way to end my evening.
I may cringe at the thought of tomorrow’s news. But my dog has a full belly and dry paws. He’s warm and happy and ready to let go of a day he’s already forgotten.
When it comes to lessons of gratitude and endurance, dogs are good teachers.