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HOLLENBECK: The perfect answer for reader’s question on canine hygiene

October 3, 2011

I don’t know if reading doctor columns is an indication someone might have an excessive interest in other people’s problems.
Even if it does, I have to admit I enjoy them. I even learn from them. My favorite is “Ask Dr. Gott,” the one by syndicated columnist Peter H. Gott, which until recently appeared in this newspaper. (I miss him already.)
Not too terribly long ago Dr. Gott answered a letter from someone concerned because her son-in-law was using the same eating utensils as his dog. (I have to think this was probably written by the mother-in-law, but I can’t be sure since there was no writer’s name included with the letter.)
The letter-writer asked what she (again, I don’t know but suspect that she is the correct pronoun) could do to make him stop.
The good doctor attempted to reassure the writer that as long as son-in-law washed the utensils between uses, there is no health reason why he and the dog couldn’t share plates, knives and forks.
(Just for the record, how many dogs have you seen eat with a knife and fork? Just thought I’d ask.)
Doc went on to say that in the event the son-in-law is not washing the utensils after the dog is through, her more immediate concern might be directed toward his dietary preferences since dried dog food doesn’t tend to be too tasty.
I really think I could have answered the writer’s question more succinctly if I had had the opportunity.
My answer would have been: “It’s OK for them to use the same utensils just as long as they don’t do so at the same time.”
That would have gotten her attention for sure.
That’s also assuming the utensils are washed thoroughly between uses, and I don’t know any reasonable person who wouldn’t do so.
Of course, my late mother would have been horrified by my response.
I’ll never forget the time, probably 20 years or so ago, when she was sitting at our kitchen table for a breakfast meal. Both Ed and I, upon finishing our cereal, placed our bowls containing residue milk on the floor for the eager cocker spaniels to finish them off.
Mamma turned pale.
“You surely don’t let THOSE DOGS eat out of the same dishes you do!” (You should understand that the way Mamma could say “those dogs” was akin to ax murderer, child molester, serial killer, etc.)
She was fast approaching the gasping stage.
Ed and I looked at each other and, almost simultaneously, replied, “We’ll wash them before we use them again.”
And I added, “And the water in the dishwasher gets really, really hot. There won’t be any germs left, Mamma.”
She wasn’t having any of it.
“You shouldn’t ever do that again, Lynda Lou,” she admonished. “It’s just not sanitary.”
(I was always “Lynda Lou” when I was in trouble.)
She couldn’t let it alone and added, “You know better than that.”
When Mamma issued a decree like this, she had no doubt the hearer would dare do anything other than what she wanted.
Since our views on animals differed greatly, I usually went ahead and did what I pleased. At those times she would give me one of her “looks,” which you simply had to see to fully appreciate.
But back to Dr. Gott.
The other part of his response I especially enjoyed, the part where he said: “If he (son-in-law) is good to your daughter, kind to the children, brings home his paycheck, puts a roof over their heads and doesn’t lift his leg on the furniture, what difference does it make that he uses Kibbles as snacks?”
I thought that was a dandy response, but he had to add a tag. (He must be at least one of my kissing cousins.)
“Now, if his dog drinks out of the Waterford crystal or insists on using a linen tablecloth with a full place setting of your grandmother’s sterling, you’ve got a problem.”
That’s my kind of doctor.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.

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