All I ever needed to know I learned from eating dog food

Interestingly, Milk Bones do not whiten the teeth or freshen the breath of humans. Apparently a sour, dry, gritty, meat feed pressed into the shape of a mini-femur only clears up Harley’s halitosis. Not that we’d pop them like Icebreakers if they did erase coffee breath.

If you’ve never tried one, aside from tasting like mortar looks, one bite of a Milk Bone will suck the water from your mouth quicker than a ShamWow. To swallow or spit becomes impossible. A horrifying limbo. So horrifying, Milk Bone-boarding was implemented for a short time in terrorist interrogations, until it was discovered that detainees could not talk after, even if they wanted to.

The baby-sitter’s kids told me Milk Bones tasted like Chips Ahoy. I was four years old. Cookies and pudding were all I dreamt about. They knew that. Preyed on it. Blind desire made me a mark. They could have convinced me nickels were Keebler Fudgekins. So I learned the hard way that Milk Bones taste like Milk Bones.

And the experience taught me, and anyone else that was fed kibble at a young age, a few valuable lessons:

1. Don’t be stupid. If it looks like a Lincoln Log and smells like a hamster, it doesn’t go in your mouth. Even at four I could understand that. Just needed some guidance.

2. Don’t be a glutton. Yes, cookies are awesome. But not at the cost of your self-respect.

3. Don’t trust anyone. People will tell you anything to suit their needs. Always consider the person before you consider the request (An hour before I ate dog mints, the same kid said he was going to read my palm and gave me an Indian burn). Handle accordingly.

4. Don’t accept handouts. Especially if people push them on you and you don’t really need them. It’s just a form of control.

5. If you do get tricked into eating dog food, or into doing something else embarrassing, handle it with grace. Easier said then done, I know. But don’t give these people tears. They’ve already tried to take so much else. Dig deep, say it tastes good. Cry later.

6. That said, do not risk your life to prove a point. If something gets harder to chew the more you chew it – as pet food does – do not try to swallow it. For some people that’s a natural reflex. I repeat: Do not leave this world choking on something that all you wanted was to be out of your mouth in the first place.

7. Don’t tell on them, even though you should. It will ruin lesson #8.

8. Plan your revenge well. Wait a few days. Years. Decades. Be nice to them. Make them think you’ve forgotten. Do not retaliate an hour later with some half-baked plan (They snuffed me out a mile away, approaching all slow and sloppy with a water bucket, red-faced and stuttering mad. I was placed in a duffle bag). If you do not wish revenge, which is probably the best way to go, do the opposite of lesson #7 and disregard lesson #8.

9. Dumb things like eating Milk Bones will stay with you all your life. People from the baby-sitter’s still bark when they see me. Learn to live with it, laugh about it. Tell yourself inside, “We won’t get fooled again.”

10. If you have issues with traumatic events from childhood, it is important to express your feelings. I recommend getting a journal, and not publishing your wounds in a weekly column.

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