By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
One day last week, I took my mother Christmas shopping because news anchors say all the stores may run out of everything any day now. Supply chains are apparently tied in knots. So Mom and I shopped. And then, as is tradition, we ate. It was a lovely day, until the crime spree began.
But first I should back up to the lovely lunch. Mom wanted to try a barbecue restaurant she’d heard wonderful things about, so we headed to the next town to try it. Even at slightly past 1:30 in the afternoon, the place was still full of customers and the parking lot was packed – always a good sign.
We each ordered a plate of barbecue along with two side dishes, and we ate every bite. The food lived up to its reputation. It was so good, in fact, I felt bad that my meat-loving husband and teenage son weren’t with us to enjoy it. So I ordered extra barbecued brisket to take home so they could try it that night.
Like a barbecue bloodhound, Tom sniffed the food as soon as I breezed into the house with it. Standing at the kitchen island, he sampled a bite or two before closing the take-home box and promising to save the rest for dinner. Our 17-year-old son also looked forward to a tasty dinner dripping with sweet, savory sauce.
I had a dinner appointment with a friend, so I left around seven that evening. Ten minutes later, as I pulled into a parking lot to meet my friend, I got a call from Tom.
Tom (sounding devastated): “You’re never going to believe what happened.”
Me (panicking and preparing for the worst): “What? Is it bad? What happened?”
Tom: “I was in the bathroom and suddenly I heard noises and scuffling coming from the kitchen. I tried to get there in time.”
Me (Imagining a terrorist has invaded the house wielding a machete): “What was it? Are you okay? Are the kids okay?”
Tom: “He ate it! Mac pulled the barbecue off the kitchen island and he ate it! All of it! It’s gone. It’s all gone.”
Me (Trying to slow down my galloping heart rate): “So you’re saying the dog ate your dinner?”
Tom (sounding like a man who’d been punched in the gut): “Yeah. All of it. There’s none left. He ate a pound and a half of brisket. Forty bucks’ worth of brisket!”
As a woman who has been married for more than two decades, I realized that minimizing the seriousness of this situation would’ve been a mistake. A man needs someone to respond with the appropriate level of outrage when the dog has stolen his dinner and left him without even a morsel of the barbecue he’d been looking forward to eating all afternoon.
When I got home later that evening, Tom was still mourning. The barbecue thief – Mac the Goldendoodle – kept trying to jump in his lap for playtime and pets. Tom leaned down nose to nose with the dog and said, “Your barbecue breath smells delicious, and I am so mad at you.” The dog licked him and wagged his tail, oblivious to any trouble.
This is the first time we’ve ever had an incident of grand theft barbecue in our house. Before now, all our dogs were too short to see the countertop. But Mac is a year old now and has grown tall enough to sniff and scope out anything left behind. The problem with this kind of doggie misbehavior is that it’s what dog trainers call “self-rewarding.” The dog learns that pulling a take-out box off the counter results in him getting his own personal brisket buffet.
Apparently, Mac is a faster learner than we are. Because two days after the “Great Barbecue Heist of 2021,” we accidentally left a sugar cookie out on the kitchen counter. It vanished with one simple turn of the back and approximately two gulps. The day after that, we realized that even the covered butter dish wasn’t safe. Mac pulled it off, nudged open the cover, and then wholeheartedly agreed that butter is indeed better.
Since that third strike, we’ve accepted that food on the counter (without a security guard) will end badly. Dog trainers say the best way to avoid barbecue, butter, or cookie theft is to eliminate opportunities for dogs to let their noses lead them into a life of crime.
So we’ve learned our lesson. Sadly, I’m not sure Mac has learned his. Given half a chance, I’m certain the Barbecue Bandit would strike again.