Issue 30

The Dumpster: Loyal to the Bone

The Dumpster: Loyal to the Bone

I bought a bag of Newman’s Own Organic Second Generation Premium Dog Treats. There were about as many little snacks in the bag as there were adjectives in the title. The treats were for Phooey, a Shih Tzu, who had been getting a Milk Bone reward every time he went outside and dumped his previous reward.

I thought he might appreciate a little variety. Besides, it bothered me that they are called Milk Bones even though there is no such thing as a milk bone—the closest thing is an udder—and the biscuits probably contain neither milk nor bones.

“So sweet of you to buy Phooey treats!” my girlfriend purred. Phooey is her dog. That’s partly why I did it, and wholly why I made sure she saw me do it. “It’s nice that you take such good care of—hey! You did not just eat that dog biscuit!”

I didn’t eat it. It was just a nibble. “They’re not bad,” I replied. “Try one.” I tossed her a dog treat. “I didn’t eat the whole thing.”

Not to be outdone, she tossed the dog biscuit into her mouth just as she heard me say I didn’t eat mine. Her tongue instinctively batted the pass away, and it dropped into her hand. “Oh,” she said. She nibbled a tiny bite. “It tastes like—nothing.”

I shrugged. “Little Friskies taste like Rye Crisps.” She looked at me blankly. As a kid, sitting on the back porch, I had occasionally eaten some of the hard little kibble we set out for cats who weren’t allowed in the house. “I didn’t eat a lot of them.” Her stare began to make me uncomfortable. “They’re filling.”

Before you get judgmental, remember that at some point in your childhood you ate your own booger. I know at some point you went sledding and got cold, and snot ran down your lip and you licked it off. At least cat food is food.

I decided to be a dog food critic. I googled Newman’s Treats, and it returned photos of a groomed Paul and his two groomed dogs. I entered Milk Bone and saw two smiling border collies, a scottie and a chihuahua. When I typed Little Friskies, I was startled by a dozen photos of young boys more or less in their underpants.

Newman’s Own Organic Premium Dog Treats are hard, grainy biscuits molded into little hearts, a cute touch probably wasted on a dog. The cookies are made of organic barley, ground chicken, carrots, apples, rolled oats and rosemary. You would expect it to taste like Thanksgiving dinner.

I took a bite. Prepared al dente, it tasted of cardboard and raw oatmeal.

A Milk Bone is made from wheat, fat—and what do you know—milk and bones, glued together with an epic list of choline chlorides, ethylenediamines and twenty other polysyllabic additives. It has the grainy consistency of wheat bread run over by a garbage truck. It tastes like milk and bones.

I noticed Phooey, on his tip-toes and gasping bug-eyed through my glass desktop, his belly wet with drool. I broke a fat Milk Bone to a size equal to Newman’s Own dainty heart, and held one in each hand.

“This one? Or this one?” I let Phoo sniff each treat, even have a little lick. As I went back and forth, Phooey’s eyes locked on the Newman’s. They did not waver. They did not blink. “This one, or . . .” He began to quiver and squeak, his eyeballs drying out.

I gave him the Newman’s biscuit, which he swallowed whole. He began begging again. I ignored him until his eyes began to cross and I realized he needed to go out.

He emptied himself, making room for more treats, and we repeated the test. Again, he stared down the Newman’s.

But just as Phooey and I disagree on the merits of licking one’s own behind, I’m telling you: hands down, Milk Bones taste better.

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell is a songwriter and humor essayist. His “Dumpster” column closes every issue of Food & Spirits magazine. He has authored two books, including Are You Going To Eat That? (2009), and Of Mice and Me (2017). He also has four albums of original songs. The latest, My Turn Now, was released in 2015. Learn more at michaelcampbellsongwriter.com.


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