Flash was not a kitchen dog. After a long puppyhood, playing hard and long whenever he had the chance, he became a service dog, helping me with Crohn’s disease by chasing away pain. Though he loved to play throughout his life, though he was cheerful and full of zest, he was also the most serious dog I ever met. He plied his trade the way a conscientious person would, tweaking and improving his ability to help me long after I thought he had the job nailed. But a kitchen dog? Not Flash.
A kitchen dog is a dog who hangs out with you when you are cooking, hoping for a slice of apple, a raw carrot to chew as a bone, a snippet of cheese, a raw chicken wing, an herb, some lettuce, a slice of zucchini. A kitchen dog experiments with food. He’s a taster, a lover of innovation, a gustatory explorer. Dexter, my first service dog, was a kitchen dog, and now, Monk, our rescue, has taken on that role.
I like a kitchen dog. I like the kind of company that hangs around but doesn’t ask questions or prattle on about what he dreamt last night or what he plans to do tomorrow. I like the kind of company that’s there, but not intrusive, that appreciates what you are doing, particularly if you tend to send a slice of carrot flying through the air while you are cutting it up for soup. I like the kind of company whose shining eyes tell you he’ll appreciate the smallest gift, a single green pea, a tiny sprig of parsley fresh from the garden. Making soup is much more fun when you have a kitchen dog to clean up what you drop or scarf up whatever you might offer.
But that wasn’t Flash’s way. He might have thought it frivolous to hang around hoping for a bite to eat when, after all, he’d just had a meal, thank you very much. Flash was a thinker, thinking being the point for him. While it is remarkable that other Border Collies sport 200 words vocabularies – remarkable that their human had the hours and patience to teach those 200 words – it is the canine ability for thinking, for understanding concepts, that dazzles me. This was Flash, figuring out on his own how to find more and more ways to improve what he already did so well.
Just this morning, whilst making soup, I noticed Sky lying just outside the kitchen. She had no interest in snagging a carrot or even in watching to see how the garlic was going to be sliced, thick or thin. Like Flash, her mentor, she seemed to be thinking, watching me and wondering how she could give me even more of the incredible help she’s giving me now. No wonder I love dogs so much. One way or another, they are always giving us something we need, even if we didn’t know we needed it in the first place.