Chapter 7 of A Life Worth Living – Too Much of a Good Thing

Chapter 7 of “A Life Worth Living – The Story of Sassy”

Click here to read the earlier chapters and learn more about this serial novel

Chapter 7 – Too Much of a Good Thing?

(Late 2002)

Although we avoided a tragedy with Sassy’s little swim in the swamp during the summer, we got another scare later that year when Sassy learned the hard way that if you take something that’s not meant for you, there will be consequences. Just like with our friend The Boz (whose love life continued to suffer as he waffled between relationships), it took Sassy a few hard knocks of her own to learn this lesson– especially when it came to one of her true passions in life – FOOD!

It’s important to understand that Sassy was a veritable connoisseur of delectable delights, a ‘foodie’ as we say nowadays. To be honest with you, she was also a bit of a snob — while most dogs might happily scarf up whatever extra treats and table scraps they could get their paws on, such was not the case with Sassy — when it came to her food, she was clear on what she wanted and if we didn’t give it to her, she simply turned her nose up and stubbornly walked away.

It all started with her dog food — when she was a puppy, Rose and Annie tried giving her the best dog food on the market – even going so far as to buy a brand specifically made for Yorkies. But Sassy was not a fan and so the girls had to take turns making a game of each meal in order to get Sassy to eat. Trying other brands of food (both wet and dry) didn’t really help – ultimately we had to conclude that Sassy just didn’t like food made for dogs.

Eventually Anne and her mom turned to home cooking for Sassy – at first they stated by boiling chicken breasts and mixing them with rice, and so long as they put in some extra chicken broth too, Sassy happily lapped this up. But soon enough, even that wasn’t good enough for her.

“Michael, you’ve got to see this to believe it.” Anne said to me one day when I came over just before Rose was about to put down Sassy’s dinner bowl.

“What’s up this time?” I asked.

“Sassy has apparently decided that she likes the chicken but not the rice. Watch her. She’ll eventually pick out all the chicken chunks and leave a pile of rice behind.”

Sure enough, that’s exactly what Sassy did – despite the rice and chicken being mixed together, Sassy managed to extract the chicken from the dish and either avoid the rice or else spit out what made it into her mouth.

“What a little stinker!” I laughed. “She is too smart for her own good.”

“Don’t worry.” Rose advised, pulling a small appliance out of the cabinet. “That’s what this food processor is for. From now on we’ll just dice the chicken so small that Sassy will have no choice but to eat the rice if she wants her chicken.”

“We’ll get the last laugh yet!” Anne joked, wagging her finger at Sassy.

Now Sassy had long had a habit of looking at whoever was talking (turning her head this way and that, giving every indication that she understood the conversation) and this occasion was no different because it was clear that she was not amused by what Rose and Anne were saying because with a disgusted harumpf Sassy walked out of the kitchen.

“Something tells me that you girls may have won this battle, but the war ain’t over yet!” I laughed as Sassy stewed in the corner, surely plotting her next move.

*****

Meanwhile, the more we learned about the often inferior ingredients put into dog food, the more convinced we all became that home cooking for Sassy was the best thing for her. The concept of human-grade food for dogs was becoming more popular thanks to various news and tv shows highlighting the issue and we bought into that — much to Sassy’s delight.

Although we tried to avoid just giving Sassy anything and everything, her cuteness and persistence often convinced us to give her more than just her chicken/rice stew for breakfast and dinner — as a result she was able to enjoy a number of other treats, so long as they appealed to her nose. Like most dogs, Sassy was a fan of peanut butter, pigs ears, and popcorn, however she had certain “requirements” for each – the peanut butter had to be creamy and she preferred the more expensive options like Sunbutter or almond butter. Her pigs ears could only be a certain size and had to be basted. And her popcorn, well God forbid if you tried to give her just plain popcorn – it had to have melted butter and parmesan cheese on it before Sassy would even bother with it. As for treats made specifically for dogs, they simply went uneaten – even tasty things like Snausages that no dogs resisted didn’t appeal to Sassy. But she was all too happy to munch on Goldfish crackers, real salmon jerky, or potato chips – but those too soon came with a catch.

“Sassy now has to have dip on her chips.” Anne explained to me one day when I couldn’t understand why Sassy didn’t want the chip I was offering her.  “Same goes for crackers too.”

“Come on!” I laughed. “You’re seriously joking now. I’ve never heard of a dog that won’t eat chips.” I tried again, “Here, girl, you know you want it.” And I waved a Lay’s in front of Sassy’s nose – but to no avail.

“See?” Anne laughed. Then she grabbed a chip, stuck it in some cream cheese dip and offered it to Sassy – who scarfed it up and tried to get more. “I told you.”

It was no joke. Whereas before Sassy would gladly eat any chips or crackers you shared with her, once she discovered there was an option to have dip, all bets were off. From then on, if you offered her a chip, it had better have dip on it, or there would be trouble

But these food experiments didn’t always work out – sometimes they had unintended consequences, as we would soon learn.

*****

“That’s kinda odd, don’t you think?” I commented to the girls as we were sitting in the living room watching TV one evening near the end of Fall in 2002 and I noticed that an agitated Sassy had begun to rub her body against the corner of the wall.

“Hmm. She hasn’t done that before, but I guess she has an itch or something.” Anne said as she went over to pick up Sassy. “What’s the matter, girl? You want me to scratch you?”

At first Sassy seemed to calm down as she sat on a blanket on Anne’s lap, so we assumed everything was fine. Meanwhile, I returned to the bowl of strawberries I was eating. “You know, these California berries aren’t as good as Plant City Strawberries, but since those won’t be available for a few months, they will have to do, right?”

“You’re right, Michael.” Rose held up one of the berries from her bowl. “The ones from California don’t taste as sweet, do they?”

“That’s why you need to put sugar and milk on them like me, Rose. Didn’t you guys do that when you were ki–”

“OK, hold on, girl, hold on.” Anne interrupted as she put a squirming Sassy back down on the floor. “She just won’t hold still!”

We then watched as Sassy immediately rolled around on the floor and then went back to rubbing her sides against the wall.

“Gee, she looks really uncomfortable.” I put my bowl down and walked over to her. “What’s wrong, Sassy?” I tried petting her, but she wanted nothing to do with me as she began to get more agitated. “Anne, did you notice that the areas around her mouth and eyes are a little red?”

By now both Rose and Anne were at my side on the floor. I was holding Sassy as best as I could but it was clear that something wasn’t right – the skin around her mouth and eyes was now turning an even brighter shade of a red and she continued to squirm more and more.

“Oh my, look at her ears.” Rose noted. “The insides are turning red too.”

“Let me see her stomach.” Anne turned Sassy over in my arms, then gasped, “Look at all those hives!”

“I think she’s having an allergic reaction.” Rose said. “We need to get her to the vet.” And she went to the phone to call Sassy’s doctor to let them know we were coming.

It was then that I looked over to the kitchen and remembered the little bowl of strawberries I’d given to Sassy when I’d cut some up for the rest of us. That bowl was now empty.

“Have we ever given Sassy strawberries before?” I asked sheepishly.

“I told you guys not to give her any!” Anne barked, wrapping Sassy in a blanket as we scrambled to leave.

“But Sassy loves fruit.” I replied. “She’s had watermelon, mangoes, oranges, and cantaloupe and never had a problem, right?”

“Well maybe berries are different. Look at her!” It was everything Anne could do to keep Sassy in her arms as there was now no doubt that Sassy was having an allergic reaction. “It’s like she’s trying to crawl out of her skin.”

With our hearts in our throats we piled into the car and raced to the nearby vet, with Sassy now whining and unable to sit still. “Oh God, please help her.” I prayed.

“She’ll be all right.” Rose affirmed, trying to calm down Anne who was crying as she held onto Sassy.

By the time we reached the vet’s office, Sassy’s body was covered in hives, her eyes were so puffy they were nearly shut, and her mouth was bright red. I felt awful looking at her in that condition. Thankfully she didn’t have to suffer for long — the vet was able to see us immediately, diagnose the issue, and give Sassy an injection to combat the allergy. As a result Sassy’s symptoms began to resolve themselves within 15 minutes or so of getting the medicine.

“She had an anaphylactic reaction.” The vet explained. “Based on what you told me, I would surmise it was due to the berries.” Anne gave me a nasty look, while I tried to avoid her gaze. “The good news is that we were able to treat her in time today. But the bad news is that this is probably not the only thing that Sassy is allergic too. I would advise you to keep a close eye on her,  because based on her extreme reaction today, it’s clear that she is susceptible to a future reactions — some of which could be life threatening. ”

After getting further instructions on how to use Benadryl to help Sassy if a minor reaction was occurring at home, the vet discharged Sassy to us with these last words,  “And no more berries, please!”

As you can imagine, we were all very grateful to see Sassy back to normal and we resolved to keep a closer eye on what we were feeding her — much to her chagrin.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time we’d see Sassy’s allergies rear their ugly head.

*****

We were so scared after the dreaded “Strawberry Ordeal” that for a brief period of time we stopped the home cooking and went back to commercial dog food – trying various brands of wet and dry foods that our vet recommended. However Sassy wouldn’t eat the dry unless it was mixed with the wet, and even then after the novelty of the change wore off (and Sassy realized this was not some special treat but instead her potential new diet) she put the brakes on this idea.

“She won’t eat it, mom.” Anne was frustrated she observed Sassy once again refusing to eat.

As we sat at the dinner table, it was obvious that Sassy was hungry because she repeatedly begged each of us for food, but she wasn’t hungry enough to eat the meal we put down for her. Even after we opened up multiple different flavors of wet food for her to try – Sassy let us know this wasn’t what she had in mind.

“Look what she’s doing with the towel.” I pointed at Sassy who was now using her head to push the towel that her dinner bowl sat on up and over the bowl.

“I think she’s burying her food!” Anne gasped.

“Well, isn’t that was dog’s do?” I laughed.

“I think they do that with bones they want to save. Not with food they should be eating!”

“Well what now?”

After Sassy had covered up the food she didn’t want. She threw herself on the floor to complain.

“I’m going to boil up some chicken and give her that.” Rose got up from the table at her whit’s end with the stubborn dog.

In the end, it wasn’t until after Rose had finished mixing up some chicken breasts and rice (with extra broth), that Sassy finally cleaned her plate.

When we all later moved to the living room to watch some TV, Sassy was all too happy to doze off on a blanket on my lap — full belly and all.

<Sniff, sniff> “What’s that smell?” I wrinkled my nose and looked at Sassy whose tail had fluttered just before a noxious aroma had been released from her backside.

Anne and Rose both laughed when it was clear what Sassy had done.

“She just loves you, honey.” Anne smiled, reaching over to stroke Sassy while she slept.

Just then Sassy’s tail fluttered again and I got another odorous whiff. “Gee whiz, I didn’t know chicken farts spelled Love?”

We all laughed at that, but suddenly Rose changed the subject, “So you two want to move in together but you’re not getting married yet? I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.”

It was a topic that Anne and I had actually broached at dinner. After nearly two years of dating, Anne and I wanted to live together in an apartment closer to work — however the prospect would mean that Rose would also need to move because she could not afford to live in their current apartment on her own.

“Oh, mom.” Anne replied. “Of course we’re going to get married eventually. This is just how it is nowadays. Our lease is expiring here again and Michael and I don’t want to wait another year to do this. Plus, you’ll be able to move back to Brandon and be closer to work yourself. How many times have you complained about the hour commute to your office?”

“I thought you were more old-fashioned than that, Michael.” Rose persisted, ignoring the points that Anne had made. “What does your mother think about you living with an unmarried woman?”

“I think she understands that this is the way of the world now, Rose.” I replied, knowing that she was not really opposed to Anne and I living together because she knew it would happen sooner or later,  but that she just needed time to adjust — so I tried to soften the blow, “Don’t worry, Rose, Anne and I will get married in the near future. You know I love Anne, and you, and Sassy very much. With all my family back in PA, you guys are my only family here. We’ll get married – I just want everything to be special because Anne and you both deserve that day to be memorable.”

What Anne and I both said was true – we had talked about marriage often and both of us agreed that there was no question it would happen in due time. Things between us had always been so easy and we were confident that we’d eventually get married, so there just didn’t seem to be any need to rush it.

Life was good.

We were happy.

Our friends were all happy in love as well and we’d watched as they’d all moved forward in their relationships in special ways. We wanted our time to be just as sweet. I especially wanted to do something memorable when I proposed to Anne but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to go about it yet. We were also still trying to come up with ideas for our wedding – Liz and Kris had eloped in Hawaii earlier in the year and while we didn’t get a chance to join them, we wanted a destination wedding too – it was just a matter of deciding of deciding when and where.

But before any of that, we felt it was important to live together first. After all, we were both over thirty now and pretty set in our ways. We had to prove to each other that we could get along 24/7 because we both knew there would be a big difference between just dating and being married — with the former, we could always retreat to our separate abodes at night, while the latter would mean we’d be stuck in the same house with no where to go when one of us needed a break. There was also the question as to whether Anne could get used to the fact that, as a bachelor, my level of acceptable cleanliness was not the same as hers. And with Rose not be around to do all the cooking and cleaning, Anne was giving up a number of luxuries too. Would it all be worth it for her to make the transition to me?

Luckily for all of us, Anne was up to the challenge.

“Well, you’re both not getting any younger, so I expect some grandkids soon!” Rose joked.

“Mother!” Anne turned red. “There’s time enough for that. And thanks to my brother Charles you already have a grandson.”

“He’s in England. I want a granddaughter too.”  And before Anne could respond, Rose continued. “Well, I suppose you’ll want Sassy too.”

It was the elephant in the room. And although Sassy was less than eight pounds, she was a very big elephant!

The subject was one that Anne and I had already discussed. “Sassy is your baby, mom.” Anne said softly. “Remember, we got her for your birthday. She loves you and we could never take her away from you.”

“I’m an old woman. Sassy is only 2 years old. She needs to live with you and I won’t hear otherwise.” And with that Rose got up and went into her bedroom.

I looked at Anne, “Gee, that went well…not!”

“She’s just upset because everything is changing.” Anne replied. “Don’t worry, she loves you, Michael, and she supports what we are doing.” Then, stroking Sassy on her lap, she added, “You’ll keep her company won’t you, girl? And we’ll visit you every weekend.”

I came over to sit at Anne’s side – despite what Rose had said, Anne and I had already agreed that her mother should have Sassy to keep her company. Even still the prospect of not being able to see Sassy everyday was the unintended consequence of our move and neither of us was ready to accept it — but the fact remained that if Rose relocated to Brandon to be closer to her work (which made the most sense), she’d be living in a suburb of Tampa that was about an hour south of where we planned to live. It was a hard pill to swallow and leaving Sassy was one reason why I think Anne was never in a rush to move in with me before. And I can say for sure that it’s part of the reason I didn’t push things faster either – I just didn’t want to see Sassy move away.

Nevertheless, after two years of dating, we both knew it was time to move on.

“I’ll miss her.” Anne began to cry softly.

Misty eyed, I couldn’t respond and only managed to shower Sassy with kisses while my mind was racing, How can a dog this small have such a hold over my heart? If she moves away, will my bond with Sassy fade?

 

Sassy’s Life Lesson #7  – Too Much of a Good Thing

 

There’s a great quote from Proverbs that I’d like to share with you today…

Prov 25:16 “If you find honey, eat just enough — too much of it and you will vomit.”

When we think about ‘honey’ we think about something that is sweet, tastes good, and usually comes in such small amounts that we’re always wanting more. Yet with honey or anything else in life, there can be ‘too much of a good thing’ because too much of anything will likely diminish it’s value, reduce your appreciation for it, or be downright dangerous.

In the case of Sassy, we spoiled her a bit too much with foods that she shouldn’t ever have been given — this led to some disastrous consequences. And the same is true for all of us too.

Think of your favorite food — now picture yourself eating it every day for the rest of your life. Yuck — it won’t be your favorite for long after you try to force it down your throat for the 1,000th time.

Do you like wine or beer? It’s great to enjoy a glass or two, but overindulging here could be harmful to yourself and others.

What about money? Surely we could never have enough of that right? Wrong. The world is filled with people who acquired untold wealth and yet rather than make them happier, it only led to frustration. The fact is that most of us will never be satisfied with money, because no matter how much you have, you’ll always want more. And the more you get, the less you actually value it — all too often wasting it on things you don’t need and rarely doing enough good with it.

In the end, it’s the practice of Moderation that maintains our Appreciation for the good things in life.

 

Points to Ponder

What is the ‘honey’ of your life?

What can you do to protect your appreciation of it?

Is there a way you can use your honey to make the world a better place by sharing it with others?

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