To call Herbie, my family’s rotund former Beagle, a “foodie” isn’t entirely accurate, as that term implies some selectivity in consumption, which Herbie did not have. His time with us was certainly borne of a love of good food, though, more specifically, a love of good drink, having been purchased by my parents from a pet store after their better judgment was drowned in too many margaritas at the nearby Mexican restaurant.
With the droopy eyes and ears of a hound, the barrel chest of a linebacker and a stomach of iron, Herbie’s relish of rations served him well. The kennel cough he’d been harboring became evident a few days after his homecoming, and his forlorn puppy form spent the better part of two weeks at the vet’s office before making a robust recovery. The vet solemnly informed us that most puppies don’t survive kennel cough—the only thing that saved Herbie was that he never lost his appetite.
It wasn’t hard for Herbie to feed his insatiable hunger at our house—Pop-Tarts and cookies frequently dangled from my unsuspecting little brother’s five-year-old hands. Herbie would nonchalantly follow him around the house, looking anywhere other than at his prey, but all the while inching closer until SNAP the tasty tidbit was his.
Herbie didn’t always limit himself to such low-hanging fruit, however. Although he couldn’t see the top of the kitchen table, with a little effort he could plop one paw on top like a periscope and feel around for stray food items. Having watched him locate an Oreo this way, his paw dragging it incrementally towards the table edge and into his waiting gullet, we didn’t have the heart to deny him his prize when he’d shown such initiative. Plus, if the chocolate bunny he’d stolen the previous Easter and the entire pepperoni pizza he’d managed to swipe from the delivery boy hadn’t killed him, then one Oreo wasn’t going to either.
Herbie’s love of all things gastronomic did occasionally lead to his downfall. Smart enough to figure out that when we took three towels out of the closet it meant bath time (we had three dogs), Herbie would stealthily disappear under the guest bed, where he would wait in stony silence while the other two dogs endured the indignity of the garden hose (fools!).
Eventually, someone would be sent to tempt Herbie from his hiding place with a piece of cheese. His eyes would shine coolly out of the darkness beyond the bed skirt, thoughtfully considering the cheddar placed just beyond his reach, weighing his options (one sweet but fleeting moment of satisfaction versus a good ten minutes of backyard rubdown?). As he belly-crawled towards the mouthwatering morsel, we would move it further away. Herbie may have been patient in the pursuit of cheesy goodness, but we all knew who was going to win that game.
Concerned about his weight, we would on occasion attempt to deny him the cheese when he finally emerged, but his reproachful glare—as if to say, “I thought we had an arrangement”—always made us relent.
Despite his ongoing battle with the bulge, Herbie lived an active and happy life—playing ball in the backyard, occasionally digging out under the fence to hunt varmints along the stream, cuddling on the couch with his humans. When he passed away recently after many—ahem, solid –years, we knew he’d come full circle. He started life as a puppy eating to live, and died fifteen years later, living to eat.