Samantha David is a freelance journalist and writes for various publications including BBC Online, the Sunday Times, the FT, Living France, everything France, and France Magazine

Samantha David, writer

Telling Tales - articles by Samantha David


Dolly's Good Wheeze 

      Dolly's just come home having spent two weeks with a

dog-loving friend while we were on holiday. 

      "She's such a little darling," said Ginny.  "She had us all in stitches, she's so sweet and funny.  You are sure you want her back?"

      Dolly stood there wagging at me and looking smug.  "See, Muma?" she was saying.  "See what a good girl I've been!"

      "The only thing is," continued Ginny, "she didn't like the tins you gave me and in the end, the cat ate them..."

      I raised my eyebrows at Dolly and she gazed back at me, her little black eyes twinkling behind the forest of long unruly white fluff cascading round her face.  In fact, I could swear she winked.

      "No?" I said, "Really?"

      "No, she just wouldn't eat it.  The only thing she would eat was frankfurters.  Oh, and ham."

      "Waf-woof-wig!" shouted Dolly.  Sausages?  Oh I see!  You cunning little Bichon!  Dolly leapt about with excitement and I couldn't help laughing.  She's such a liar, my Dolly-dog.

      "I don't suppose she'll ever eat dog food again," apologised Ginny. 

      "Er..."  What can you say?  The fact is that Dolly is smart enough to know who can be sent off to the shops for emergency frankfurters and who is not to be mucked about by a cute white canine.  Home again, she sniffed at the dog food in her dish, gave me a pitiful glance and scoffed the lot.  She was too over-stuffed to bother with her bone biscuits for the first night or two, but very soon

developed enough of an appetite to knock off her whole ration as per usual.

      I don't believe in pandering to dogs on the food front.  I prefer to keep them (especially spayed bitches) on the peckish side, and I really dislike the sight of a fat lapdog doodling down the street puffing and panting.  I feed my dogs once a day and I give them a couple of small dog biscuits after the late night walk.  Apart from that, they have water available all the time and when I'm cooking they get any raw meat trimmings as a treat. 

      There are those who go a step further and only feed their dogs six days a week, leaving them hungry on Sundays.  The idea is that it does carnivores good to empty their stomachs completely and Jean, who has followed this regime with her dogs for years, says that once they get used to it, they don't even ask for supper on Sundays.

      I'm sure she's right.  I'm just too soft-hearted to

broach the subject with Dolly.  She's nearly ten after all, and she was a rescue dog so I think that she deserves dinner every night.  But I draw the line at the charcuterie diet.  Any more than a fortnight of that and she'd get fat for a start off - apart from making her smell like a sewer.

      Furthermore, dog food manufacturers spend a fortune

researching canine diets and ensuring that their products are properly balanced, contain all the right vitamins and minerals, correct proportions of fibre and protein, etc.  I sometimes read the side of a dog food tin and wonder if Dolly isn't eating a better-balanced diet than the rest of the family.  You can't tell me that by ignoring all that research and scientific testing in favour of a frankfurter fest that I'd be doing Dolly any good.

      Of course, I know that lots of people feed their dogs scraps and make it up with dried foods and dog-rice or pasta and I also know that not everyone can afford the top brands of dog food and I'm perfectly willing to believe that a dog can be happy and healthy on such a diet.  I just think that for a lazy person like me, dog tins plus the occasional biccie are the easy way to ensure a balanced diet.

      Not that Dolly agrees of course.  When we first got her off the streets, she had never eaten dog food in her life and utterly refused to touch it.  But over the years I have developed a fool-proof response to this one.  I put the food down, leave it for 20 minutes and if it isn't

eaten, I pick it up and put it back in the fridge until the next day when out it comes again.  In the meantime I don't feed anything else at all. 

      The longest that any healthy dog will hold out is two days.  (Naturally this isn't appropriate for a dog whose appetite has disappeared due to

injury, illness, mental stress, emotional trauma or breeding.)

      So these days the longest that Dolly will fiddle about with her dinner is 19 minutes - then she sees me coming with "back in the fridge" on my mind, and wolfs the lot.     

      She makes me laugh though because she never gives up.  Of course she gobbles her rations with her tail waving over her back.  Of course she dashes in from the late night potter round the bins to stand on her back feet and beg for biccies and of course she crunches them up with great glee.  But she's also always on the hunt. 

      She inspects the fridge door, just wondering if it would be possible to reach the handle.  She hoovers the house (tail up, nose down) just in case there's a sausage lurking somewhere.  She never comes upstairs to put the kids to bed after tea because we just might leave a whole salami on the table again. 

      (We made this mistake once.  Dolly scrambled onto a kitchen chair, from there onto the table, nicked the whole salami, nipped down again and disappeared behind the sofa where we found her several hours later, looking extremely bilious and trying to hide the metal fastener from the end of the sausage.)

      But her latest trick is pretending to be vicious.  This is because she overheard me on the phone to a friend who's just taken on a very dominant bitch.  I was explaining the theory that feeding twice a day can help bad-tempered dogs. 

      Obviously you don't feed double the rations, you just divide them up so that the dog doesn't ever get too hungry and if you want to make the meals bigger you buy special low-calorie dog food from the vet to give them a full stomach twice a day without actually getting them fat.

      Dolly didn't hear the bit about low calories.  All she heard was "double rations" and she obviously thinks this is a great idea.  She's been sitting on her cushion practising aggressive barking.  "Waf-woof-wig, Muma!  Waf-woof-wig!"

      Sausages, Dolly?  You must be barking! 



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