It’s Five O’Clock. Somewhere.

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Youke: I’m hungry. Can you feed me now?

Me: Youke, you’re always hungry.

Youke: I know. But I didn’t get fed this morning and I’m really hungry right now.

Me: Youke, it’s only five o’clock. That’s really kinda early to eat.

Youke: But I did the agility for you today and everything! I’m starving!

Meanwhile, I notice three other hopeful faces listening in and awaiting the outcome of this conversation.

Me: Okay. I guess I can feed you now, even though it’s super early for food. (Big sigh.)

JaYoBaCa race into the kitchen and assume their positions.

I am a horribly mean and stingy human. To make matters worse, my poor dogs don’t even have a set feeding time.

Let me explain this.

Growing up, we never had a set schedule. Eventually, when everyone starting attending school, we had a sort-of schedule. But since myself and the majority of my siblings were “home-schooled,” for many years prior to regular public school attendance, there was no schedule but that of my mother’s own whim. That part in quotation marks and last part of the sentence seem to infer that she was a flake or a bad parent. Neither is true, but that’s a story for another day.

I eventually stumbled upon the knowledge that all of my friends were being fed their suppers between 4 pm and 6 pm, with the preferred time between 4:30 and 5:30. This made sense. For them. It was after all a former mill town and there were still a lot of people that farmed or used to farm. However, this made no sense to my mother, whose preferred time for supper was anywhere between 7 pm and 9 pm. Dinner at 10 pm on a summer night was not unheard of, especially after a fun, adventuresome day at the beach.

My mother was an excellent cook. However, like many with a brilliant gift, there were times when she was creatively constrained or just plain burned out. There were also times when she was nose-deep into a book and had to finish the chapter – or the next five chapters – before she could think about dinner preparation. She was after all trying to feed five, then seven of us. We were lucky. For the most part, we ate extremely well, despite being extremely money-challenged. Still, there were plenty of times where it was soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Because of her marvelous skills, the grilled cheese sandwiches were awesome. Sadly, for many years we advised her we preferred Campbell’s chicken soup over her own homemade soup. I discovered accidentally too after telling a neighbor kid about our sometimes suppers of plain cereal or of eggs, toast and bacon, that it wasn’t exactly traditional among my peers. It was only when I became an adult that I found out one normally has breakfast for a late-night dinner after a night of drunken debauchery. Or if in the proximity of a Denny’s restaurant.

My mother was also fond of sometimes bringing us to the local frozen custard stand and telling us we were going out for dinner.

I see now I was well prepared for life as a single woman.

I have no children to pass along this unfettered way of life to, therefore, I practice this haphazard, some might say, unkind feeding methodology upon my dogs.

I’ve heard the horror stories about dogs waking up their people in order to be fed at 6 am on a weekend morning, or the dogs that don’t understand the strange North American human tradition of time changes in the spring and fall. I know numerous people whose dogs become extremely upset if they’re traveling and have not been fed by a certain time. I’ve vowed not to have those dogs.

And because dogs are not wolves, and are in fact, scavengers, I made the completely cruel decision some time ago that two square a day is not always a necessity. And, guess what prey diet followers? Wolves don’t eat regularly either.

What it really comes down to is that I sometimes lead a rather chaotic life, do not live by a set schedule, am easily bored by a regular routine, rarely eat three regular meals a day and sometimes enjoy ice cream for dinner. Therefore, my dogs don’t have a set time in the mornings or evenings for meals, nor do they always get a certain prescribed amount of of food per meal.

I vary the amount fed by activity level and by judging belly pudge or lack thereof. Really, someone should do that for me.

I rarely feed the dogs the morning of a competition, with the premise being that they’ll be getting umpteen treats throughout the day as rewards for good behavior. In fact, sometimes on competition weekends they receive super special things like meatballs, steak, grilled chicken, jerky, or Jasmine’s personal favorite, canned wet dog food – the more gravy, the better. Depending upon the amount of competition and the in-between runs play activities, they may get a whopping meal that night, or only a half-cup of kibble.

In the summers, when the days are long and we can be out for adventures until 8 pm or later, JaYoBaCa get fed when we get home. Sometimes that’s at 10 pm or much later.

Poor Youke. Despite having such a schedule-dissing human, he insists upon some kind of regularity. The other three are much more free-flowing in their thinking. Or at least they’re not as demanding. Youke can’t tell time, but he knows my tells. He knows that when I go downstairs for the first time in the morning it’s to grind and prepare coffee, so no need for him to rush out of bed. The second time I go downstairs though is to pour water over the beans and since the magical caffeine concoction has to sit for a few minutes, that time can best be served by feeding dogs. The whistle of the kettle used to be a better indicator, but Youke quickly figured out it was the second trip downstairs that was the real tell after the kettle’s whistler broke. So it really doesn’t matter if we’ve arisen at 6 am or 8:30 am. The important part is those trips up and down the stairs. He also knows he and the rest of his tribe get their dollop of cream after I pour my coffee. Since waiting for me to take these actions is annoying for Youke and gets him stressed out with anticipation, he prefers to lounge upstairs on the bed until he hears the refrigerator door open. Once he hears that noise, he races to his chosen spot to be served his special cream dollop. Once that happens, he can relax and resume his intense schedule of lounging.

This weekend was a tad bit stressful for schedule-loving Youke. He only got a half cup of food on Saturday morning. Something about having a stuffed frozen kong later in the morning. He got that, so life was pretty good, and he got to avoid an agility practice. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s not nearly as much fun as a ball is or things like swimming and hiking. When I came back in the afternoon with Brady and Camm, he was able to relax for a while on the couch, catching up on some much needed sleep from his heavy activity load with his momentarily unencumbered-by-employment human.

Life was still pretty good when I left in the early evening because he and the rest of the gang all got a stuffed frozen kong. Practically unheard of to get two on one day! But then I didn’t come back home until well after midnight.

I received the usual happy greeting from JaYoBaCa, but after cooing and grinning at me, Youke gave me an imploring look that very clearly communicated he was going to be fed, no matter what time it was. I fulfilled that request, which made everyone else pretty happy too, but it was late, so not the usual dosage.

Then I had the nerve to skip this morning’s breakfast. Youke, remember that part about how you ate super late last night? I’m sure Youke initially thought it was just going to be a late lazy morning, with brunch being served a bit later, but I loaded him up with Brady and Camm for another agility practice. He was pretty happy about getting some cheese and mostly a lot of ball for his efforts. Still, a spotty dude cannot live by ball alone, hence the conversation at 5 pm about being fed.

In Youke’s world, it’s pretty much food o’clock somewhere, all the time.

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