I used to read food magazines like they were pornography. I read each word like I was savouring a morsel of butter and brown sugar. I read the last few pages as slowly as possible already feeling the grey clouds looming, my sadness, at the magazine’s end.
Fifteen steps and a click: this was the warning that my father was coming downstairs, unlocking the basement door to put my food rations on a white chair outside my wood-framed, doorless bedroom. He did this wordlessly and without eye contact. Regardless if he was the only person I had seen all week.
For years I had a cup of Cheerios for breakfast with one cup of milk. A peanut butter sandwich for lunch and a cold processed cheese sandwich for dinner.
They say that a certain percentage of dog food is consumed annually by humans and I was one of them.
At 14 years of age, my dad and step-mother arranged for me to start working in the dog kennel at Great Plains Pet Hospital in Newton, Kansas.
After business hours each day, my job was to walk the animals, change their newspaper bedding, feed them, give them water, and mop the floors. Luckily they supplied their waiting room with at least a monthly stash of Country Living and Country Cooking magazines.
Some people who boarded their lucky puppies brought them special treats for their stay. My favourite ones were the type that tasted, and slightly resembled, beef jerky.
I never ate all of their goodies; I’m not a monster. I divided them in half with the puppers.
I did try the dry dogfood once or twice, but I couldn’t stomach it.
One of my favourite dogs and owners at the pet hospital was Barb Burns with her dog Pugger. They hated being away from their Pug and would happily exchange a tray full of warm cookies for his early lease after hours on the weekend.
Yeller was my other favourite. He was a yellow lab with a giant goitre on his neck. He was our blood donor dog and was kept at the clinic for any dog who might need a blood transfusion. I felt a kinship with him as his care was often a matter of utility, but I loved to show him special attention; sometimes, I gave him half of my share of the special treats. He was another animal locked away just like me.