My alien-like Brussels Griffon is suspiciously hiding his nubby tail behind the couch in front of our front door. I can’t see him, but I can hear him softly mashing on something. I’m not exaggerating when I say that he has an eating disorder. It’s the kind of disorder where he eats everything, including and most importantly, items of poisonous and inedible nature.
This is why, when I hear that familiar chewing, I’m on automatic alert.
“Griff…” I warn in mom voice. (His name is Griff because the people at the adoption place, just gave up.) I peer over the couch, and he’s already anticipatorily staring back at me, unblinking, one ear flipped so it’s on top of his head. His ear does that when he’s up to something.
He gives me a look like, “The fuck you want?” Also, he has stopped chewing – still as a statue. He’s convincing this way; it appears as though there’s nothing in his mouth. I am naively persuaded. I am fooled. I turn back around, and the noise starts up again immediately.
We go another lap: I jerk my head around, he glances up, mouth completely motionless. I turn back around. Cue chewing noise, louder this time and more ambitious.
He’s learned to be secretive about his over-eating. This pile of mulch? Oh, he’s not silently and desperately scarfing it down, no he’s just intently sniffing, has to get his nose real deep in there. The delectable leaf caught in Ozzie’s back fur? Don’t mind him, he’s not trying to paw it out with his little teeny, black nails so he can gobble it up– nope, just trying to get his play on. What about the fur in his dog-brush? Pay no attention at all, just carrying it around in his mouth real casual. Why? Oh, you know, no reason, just being a cool guy. What’s that cottony white stuff stuck to his snaggle tooth? Surely, he wouldn’t stoop so low as to try to eat the other dog’s fur out of a brush. No, that’s just a pure coincidence, must have come from a stuffed toy. Believe.
We had a hell of a time keeping Griff from endangering himself with food. That’s also how he became temporarily obese.
First, he learned how to open the lower kitchen cabinets. Once he did this, he would drag out dangerous items, like three pound bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips (he ate the entire bag, approximately $900 in vet bills), or boxes of dried coconut (even he couldn’t finish the coconut, and he was shitting it out seven times a day for about four days), or canisters of whey protein powder which he then also dragged all over the carpet, his dog bed, Ozzie’s white fur, the couch, and in his water bowl (he was so thirsty for days after this), or packets of sugarfree gum (another vet bill, an easy $600 this time).
Next he learned how to knock hanging items off the fridge by essentially slamming his body weight against it. This was how he managed to consume a sixteen pack of hamburger buns twice, half a package of everything bagels, and an entire bag of garlic croutons. He was straight up shitting yellow.
We were beside ourselves. Mostly because, on top of that, he had also learned how to open the closet which contained the garbage, and he would forage around on an hourly basis, sometimes just eating the wrappers off things. There was no stopping him.
We tried hooks, baby locks, spray bottles, crating (he shrieked so loudly, the neighbor complained). Because we’re idiots, we finally figured out we needed to quarantine the entire area, that he just could not be trusted in or around a kitchen. So, in a light bulb moment, Max ran to Target and purchased the most heavy duty, tallest, most full proof baby gate he could find.
And that’s how we stopped our dog’s eating disorder – indoors at least – just by prevention of sheer force. This is why he has been reduced to eating mulch and bits of parking lot gravel. The gate area is now an area of deep sadness for little Griffy. He stares longingly through the slats, he paws at it, letting his little black feet rest just over the edge, he whimpers and then looks at me like, what have you done, you monstrous woman.
Little does he know, that gate probably saved his life and his health. He’s lost five pounds since we’ve had it. His highest weight was twenty-five, so, do the math.
And what am I doing, on the couch from which Griff is hiding? Funny you should ask. I’m home alone right now, and I’ve just returned from a hunt to the back of the freezer. I’ve hidden something there– it’s in baby blue packaging, square, and filled with sugar and fat. Perhaps you’ve heard of the German chocolate Ritter Sport? I’m not supposed to be eating it, or I’m hiding the fact that I am eating it because I’ve waited until Max has trekked off to his nightly bike ride to pull it out. Also, I’ve already eaten one today, so I’m going for round two.
Plus, I’ve eaten three quarters of a bag of Jalapeno kettle chips after having a twenty minute internal debate about whether or not I should just hop over to Trader Joe’s already and buy a plastic package of peppermint patties. Luckily, I delayed long enough so TJ’s is now closed, although, I still feel that uncomfortable hankering.
And what kind of monster am I? I am no better than Griff. I am a secret eater as well.
We are one and the same.
On the other hand, Max cannot relate. He’s annoyingly thin and annoyingly committed to working out. And while he occasionally enjoys dessert, he’s a committed healthy eater as well. It’s a fucking nightmare.
Once, having come home from a late night at work, he texted me to pick up some ice cream. Never one to turn down the chance at shoveling some food in my face, I raced over to the Publix across the street and bought two pints of Talenti and a triple berry pie (because sale).
Now, I’ve known Max long enough to know that he would wholeheartedly disapprove of this kind of indulgence, but hey man, if you ask someone to do something for you, you can’t complain when they do it.
When I returned, splaying my spoils on the kitchen table (we call it a kitchen table, it’s really two black folding card tables that we’ve pushed together), Max acted appalled.
“What is all that?” He said. “I just wanted, like, one small scoop of ice cream.”
I mean, seriously, he may as well have said to me, “Hey, you fat whore. What’s all this fat-whore shit? I am a normal sized person with normal sized food portions, and you’re a big blubbering sized fat-whore with fat-whore sized portions.” I mean, amirite, ladies?
I grabbed a bowl and doled out a big, old glob of butter pecan and sat on the couch.
“What, none for me?” He asked but sweetly this time.
“Oh, I thought you were so offended by my choices that you might want to get your one small scoop of ice cream yourself.” I said.
“After that comment, you’re lucky I’m letting you have any ice cream at all, you snide creep.” I added, mouth full. Jokingly. Half-jokingly.
I’m just as bad as Griff. If I’m at your house, and for some reason you’re a fancy person with a candy dish, I am eating the candy out of that dish. And I want to eat all of it, but I know that’s rude, and that’s the only thing stopping me.
And if we’re walking into Harris Teeter at three in the morning and I’m drunk and slurry, I am definitely eating the sugar cookies in the plastic bin up front for the little kids. I might even get one on the way out too.
And if I’m at a work holiday function with catered food? I will eat thirty five miniature cheesy biscuits, and I’ll forgo that salad thanks.
If we get those chalky after dinner mints with the check at a restaurant, I will consume each and every one at the table.
I am Griff desperately, longingly staring at the slats to the kitchen, eating away at any scraps I can secretly find on the floor, hoping I don’t get caught. And Max is my psychological baby gate. Warning me to stop eating so much crap. Reminding me what a relationship with food is supposed to look like.
But even though, on occasion, it does physically stop me from binging quite so much, it doesn’t heal that binging desire deep within my heart. It doesn’t stop that weird, weird empty, lonely longing that turns up at seven o’clock on a Sunday night.
And here we are, me and my once fat dog, secretly eating on the couch, like two late-night bingers in a pod, ready to pretend like we aren’t secretly chewing at a moment’s notice. Here we are.