Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate |

Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

So the other night, our dog, George, got into a little scuffle with my parents’ dog, Sabrina.

Ryan was sick and in a cold-medicine-induced haze. He watched in silence as one of our dinner guests started playing with George’s ears, rubbing them and pulling on them. George is a German shepherd with ears as big as sails. His ears are not unlike mudflaps on the back of an 18-wheeler, except rather than deflect mud and dirt, they attract it.

GG doesn’t like it when you go for his ears because they get infected most of the time, and they hurt. It would be like having a bruise and having someone push on it.

Before I continue with our little story, let me just say GG is the perfect dog. He doesn’t bark or whine. He is obedient and sweet and smart. We’re pretty sure he understands English because when posed with options such as “Do you want to come to work with me or stay home and be with Mama?” he’ll just stay put in his bed (of course he would rather be with me) and seems capable of making his own decisions. He can even talk, making these terrific moaning and whining sounds that are very satisfying because they have inflection and emotion behind them, we’re pretty sure.

We don’t talk about the time he killed a marmot or treed the neighbor’s cat or how he has such a sensitive stomach that if you feed him anything other than dog food, like even a popcorn kernel or a grain of rice, he’ll have an unseemly accident in the middle of the only rug in the entire house. We’re also pretty sure he has an eating disorder because he never wants to eat and is not at all motivated by food. It’s always very disappointing for people at the bank and the Hotel Jerome who give him a coveted treat and he spits it out at their feet, the word “blecccch” almost audible from his doggie-genius lips.

I’ve often thought he might even be a vegan, the way he comes sniffing around whenever I’m eating a salad like it’s the coolest thing ever, his eyes searching mine frantically as if trying to communicate, “That is what I want! Macronutrients! Not this high-carb, processed crap you feed me every day! And I want organic! And local!”

Of course my parents think their dog is the smartest, most perfect dog. Hello, they so clearly have an unhealthy attachment to her. They love to brag that she’s an amazing athlete (my dad once clocked her going 28 miles per hour on the mountain-bike trail). They love to talk about how smart she is and tell the story about how she led them out of the backcountry when they got lost cross-country skiing on Rabbit Ears Pass. (My dad went so far as to write this psychotic letter to the editor of the Steamboat paper about it – any other town, someone might question his lucidity, but not in Steamboat. The editor decided to interview my dad further and write a front-page story about it.)

They might not mention how she killed the neighbor’s cat or about her little weight problem. The truth is our little athlete is also a little piglet who, when not being dragged around the backcountry with my psychotic parents, is either sleeping or cruising the house for scraps and crumbs like a junkie trying to score crack. God forbid you should eat something in her presence; she’ll sit on your feet and glue her eyeballs on you like a little bird that has just hatched out of its egg and is looking for something to eat even though its beak won’t open all the way quite yet.

The other thing my parents won’t tell you is that Sabrina is a total attention whore. God forbid you should give another dog a few pats on the head or scratches behind the ears or (the ultimate sin) a tummy rub. Sabrina will slink on over and literally stand on your foot or lie on top of the other dog until you give her attention, too.

That’s precisely what happened when ear-rubbing guy at the end of the table was messing with Georgie’s whole scene. Sabrina comes sauntering up going, “Pay attention to me! Pet me! Pull on my ears! Press on my bruises!”

After a weekend of dealing with that exact scenario, George finally lost it.

I’m sure in dog-speak, he was probably saying stuff like, “God, you are such a pain in the ass! Get a life! Go buy a scratching stick! Go rub up against a tree! Just get out of my face!”

But to the humans in the room it sounded like a lot of growling and yelping. Sure, there was a flash of big teeth and maybe a little (tiny) bit of blood coming from Sabrina’s ear, but still. I’m so sure she totally deserved it.

“A dog like that should be put down,” said my mom’s friend Marlene. “I mean, that is just unacceptable behavior.”

And I’m like, “Marlene! You don’t say that to someone about their dog! That is totally out of line!”

To George and Sabrina, it probably sounded like a lot of growling and scuffling and teeth showing. They probably got scared someone was going to get hurt.

Meanwhile, Marlene’s dog JoJo is an Airedale. The thing has a haircut that looks like it was done at a salon. Marlene and her husband go on and on about how JoJo doesn’t shed and JoJo has hair, not fur, and JoJo speaks five languages and is considering running for Steamboat City Council. It’s all JoJo this and JoJo that.

At the end of the day, I think the dogs all behaved perfectly. It’s obvious it’s the humans who have gone to the dogs.

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