Last weekend my pack walked to the Fort Lawton military cemetery with my pal Charlie, who hadn’t been there in quite a while. It’s a traditional fave spot for playing fetch, due to its enclosed nature, traffic-free roads and few pedestrians save other dog walkers. The cemetery has been renovated over the past couple of years, most recently with pressure-washed gravestones, refurbished curbs and plantings, updated irrigation, historical panels and walls rebuilt with original stone. It has been such a beautiful restoration that Heather doesn’t want me to run around the grounds unabated anymore. That means no squirrels and no fetch? Why do we come here? The scenery?
We’ll see how long Heather’s new rule lasts, but it was definitely in force the day Charlie came with us. I didn’t even get in one throw while we were there. Maybe that’s why I look so perturbed in this photo.
It’s still January, of course, and after a short stretch of sunny days it turned wet for about 10 days running, And every time we walked in the rain, two things continually befuddled Heather: Why I paused at regular intervals to chow down on the long grass growing along the sides of a trail (a.k.a. “the salad bar”) and why, even more disgustingly, did I keep plastering my mouth to the ground and chomping on mud, much to her loud chagrin.
I cannot deny either act, but in my own defense I note that I’m a picky eater. Not just any old grass or dirt will do. Among the many grasses that abound in the lush Northwest, there’s one variety I particularly favor, and it’s one that’s fairly easy to find anywhere in the world, which is good for me like Starbucks is for Heather. I want dependable, not exotic. When I was back east the past two summers, I discovered some aquatic plants in streams and ponds that I liked, but that’s about the only upper-crust varieties I savor. In the realm of mud, I prefer the moister, denser Northwest varieties to the drier versions I encountered in the Rockies, the Midwest and East Coast. Throughout the land, however, my favorite treats are always the little ridges of mud that elevate slightly from the ground after boots or running shoes have trampled the squishy ground around them. Yum and um!
The way Heather shrieks at me when she catches me at the mud bar would lead many onlookers to think I had bitten a child, or worse. In the greater scheme of things, however, this behavior is no big deal: Eating grass and dirt is common among dogs. According to WikiHow, “eating dirt and grass is a form of pica, or eating things that aren’t food. In some cases, seeking pica is a reaction to a mineral deficiency in a dog’s diet or a parasite infestation, especially in puppies and young dogs. A dog may eat dirt to alleviate anemia or intestinal distress caused by eating something he shouldn’t have.” Most of the time, though, the dogs seeking pica are perfectly healthy. They just like to do it.
So nothing for me to worry about, right? Well, not exactly. Eating at the mud or salad bars could conceivably expose me to harmful bacteria, toxins and foreign objects that could make me (and Mike and Heather) pay later. Some stuff is just too large or toxic for a little pooper like me to handle.
One thing I do want to refute, however, is the common notion that dogs eat grass just to make themselves vomit. I may gag once or twice after chowing down, but I’m not grazing with the idea of blowing my lunch later. What a waste of good food! WebMD says that dogs eating grass is natural, and has been observed in wild dogs as well as domesticated ones. Most veterinarians consider it normal dog behavior. Still, herbicides and pesticides used on lawns can be quite toxic, especially if ingested. I’ll be confining my grazing to untamed park lands, not urban or suburban lawns.