Some Like It Hot

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When Jana was a young puppy, she had the strange and (I thought) disgusting habit of shredding, and sometimes eating, the trash. If I left her at home for too long — which, when she was a few months old meant “more than 10 minutes” — she’d empty one or more wastebaskets, usually leaving some of the shredded remains next to the wastebasket. Ick.

I knew that buying wastebaskets with lids or placing the wastebaskets out of reach would manage the problem, but I wanted to stop the behavior. A more-experienced trainer friend had a suggestion: douse the contents of the trash baskets with something very hot or spicy, something that would repel her with its scent or, if that failed, with the first bite. Tabasco sauce, perhaps.

Despite being a bit dubious, I decided to try it out.  The next time I was leaving Jana at home, I liberally sprinkled Tabasco over the crumpled tissues and bits of paper in the wastebaskets. I returned home to a floor clear of shreds … and to empty wastebaskets and a happy dog, wagging her thanks. “Great sauce, Mom, can I have some more?”

Hmmm. Not the reaction I had hoped for.

She’s consistent in her taste, though. Her dad, Moshe, used to give her bits of pita with hummus and schug, a very hot Yemenite condiment that makes smoke come out of my ears with the merest whiff. She now enjoys her breakfasts and dinner with a healthy spoonful of turmeric (a great anti-inflammatory).

I ascribed Jana’s odd penchant for spicy food to her Israeli heritage. Until last week.

We’ve been spending lots of time at the home of Gracie and Scarlett, two Montana goldens whose dad has a beautiful garden. The garden currently is bursting with an abundance of tomatoes, beans, squash and peppers (to Cali’s dismay, the peas are done for the season). Among the peppers that Deni harvested a few days ago were dozens of beautiful jalapeños.

As is her habit, Scarlett (now eight months old) watched like a hawk as Deni harvested and sorted vegetables, pouncing on any that fell to the ground and, when the opportunity presented itself, snatching veggies off the table. Green beans, squash, tomatoes … fine. Then she nabbed a large jalapeño and ran off to her “hiding” spot under the deck. As Deni watched in amazement, Scarlett took a bite, then another and another — until she had eaten the entire jalapeño, seeds, ribs, and all. As if to prove that she can take the heat, she nabbed another the next day and ate it, too. She has not shown any sign of ill effects or even indigestion. She didn’t even gulp down an entire bucketful of water afterward (as I would have).

While I certainly do not advocate feeding spicy foods to dogs, it seems that Jana is not the only girl who’s looking to spice up her kibble, fish, and peanut-butter cookie diet. Who knows? If your dog is turning her nose up at her ordinary meals, perhaps the problem isn’t that she doesn’t like the food — she might just be holding out for the right condiments.

(In case you’re wondering: Jana (mostly)outgrew her trashy habit; now she only shreds one tissue and leaves it for me, and only if she’s angry.)

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