Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring is here and the smell of what? is in the air?

So the weather has turned warm and I was finally out for one of those long bike rides that I have been promising myself for the past month or so. My first long course triathlon is rapidly approaching and it is time to get some hours in the saddle as it were. We were out on the North Shore tooling around the hills of the Gold Coast and dodging landscaper's trucks who were also out taking advantage of the nice weather to tend to their chores, when I was taken back to a childhood memory by a familiar smell. Now the overwhelming odor was chocolate, but that could easily have come from the melted Reese Peanut Butter cups that I use to refuel myself on these long rides, but there was a subtle difference. This was a more earthy smell. Now I remember.

When I was but a lad, back in the day, my Pop-pop worked in some capacity for the EB Evans Company. The company is still in existence (a quick google search will confirm this but that is really tangential to where I am going with this story.) I remember that his company made Ice Cream toppings. You know, Butterscotch, Hot Fudge, maraschino cherries. Sidebar here, don't eat an entire bottle of maraschino cherries, I seem to recall that it will make you puke. Anyway, attempt at self induced cherry poisoning aside, my Pop-pop would bring us all sorts of great stuff to pile onto our ice cream, or dump into our milk. Although I'm sure this didn't help my weight issues growing up, it was a wonderful thing for a pre-teen boy to have access to. Tastes aside, smell is a stronger memory trigger and I remember that he also gave my dad huge burlap bags of old cocoa hulls to use as garden mulch. Back in the early '60s, this was novel. The company perceived this as a waste product and my dad thought it was the best gardening product ever. As a kid, I thought it was wonderful that the entire yard smelled like a gigantic chocolate bar, only more earthy like a truffle soaked chocolate bar.

Now, 50 years later, cocoa mulch is very popular. I guess that as more people have figured out that this is a good mulch and the companies that probably paid to have the stuff hauled away, or at least turned their backs when employees gave their grandsons early childhood spring time memories are selling it by the ton. Add in the new popularity of truffles, the earthy chocolaty smell of this mulch was everywhere this weekend.

But, if you've been reading some of my earlier posts, you know that there is often a flip side to these sorts of things. While I was content to lay out on the lawn and smell the chocolate, dogs are not quite so content. As with some other items, such as carpet, they eat this stuff. Maybe they think it really is truffle soaked chocolate (mmmmmm) or maybe they are less discerning and just acting like, well dogs. The thing is, chocolate mulch has two problems. One is it's chocolate and we talked about that a while ago. There is enough chocolate in the stuff to cause all the problems we mentioned with eating the real stuff. The second problem is it's mulch, not meant to eat and can cause all sorts of intestinal blockage requiring human intervention to remove the garden supply.

Here we are, a young Rottweiler, on the table with a belly full of something. The hands belong to the talented and patient Dr. Spar who is removing all sorts of goodies from the insides of this silly beast, via an opening that didn't exist until a few moments before the picture was taken. The suspect foreign body was carpeting. I don't know if the dog had read the last post and thought it was an instructional manual or if he came up with the idea on his own, but the owner was pretty sure that carpet was the offending material as some of it was passing out the rectum for several days. Well, we all get to be wrong sometimes and this was the owner's time.

The thing is that this pup isn't particular at all. He didn't even care about the flavoring, he just wanted to eat plant material.

This is just a small sampling of the leaves that were removed from his stomach. If my botany serves me well, they were mostly oak leaves. Can't tell you what type, mostly slimy oak leaves from spending the better part of the week inside the dark confines of a dog.
The thing is, we really need to watch what our pets get into. If this had been the cocoa laced mulch, this dog would have had all the signs of chocolate toxicity in addition to the physical obstruction of the non edible plant material. Happy ending tho, leaves out, dog home, and I will ride on the North Shore again this weekend searching out the smells of my childhood.
Keith Niesenbaum, VMD
and for healthier snack options.

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