In the Eye of the Beholder

sniffing with stella
Pettigrew and Stella enjoy a quiet walk in the pre-Zadie days.

Do dogs feel disgust?

My friend thinks so. And I am hard-pressed to come up with an alternative explanation.

Stella, a past guest blogger (In Her Own Voice: Stella Is this Week’s Guest Blogger), is an adorable golden retriever and Pettigrew’s best gal pal. However, she has an alarming habit of eating trash when we go out together on walks.

Pettigrew has always sampled food items: pizza crusts, chicken bones, and the like, but he was never tempted by paper napkins or other items of garbage.

Not so Stella. While generally an even-keeled dog, she displays a stubborn streak and lightening fast maneuvers when she spies a piece of trash.

Actual trash. Not junk food, but the kind of trash people drop despite signs warning there will be a $1,000 fine for littering.

Before our brains have processed the presence of the item, Stella gobbles it up and fights strenuously to keep her mouth closed. No way is she releasing her bounty.

Stella decides whether to join us on a walk.

But all that’s changed now that a new, young whippersnapper of a retriever has joined her family.

Yellow 3
Zadie, before she shared her preference for trash.

Zadie is Stella on steroids. She will eat everything and anything: mulch, tin foil, receipts. Personally, I wonder if there is goat somewhere in her family tree.

And it seems that Zadie’s antics have soured Stella on her old pastime. Maybe she sees how unseemly a behavior it is. Maybe she doesn’t want to be humiliated in front of her junior by having her mouth pried open against her will.

Or maybe, as my friend says, she’s disgusted by it all.

The other day Stella absently picked up a piece of trash, but promptly dropped it when I said her name with a measure of surprise and disappointment in my voice.

And, for the first time, when I took her leash so that my friend had both hands free to pry Zadie’s mouth open, Stella walked away with me without a backward glance.

Even my friend was shocked that Stella would leave without her.

Stella’s desire to distance herself from Zadie’s unbecoming behavior outweighed even the powerful pull to not leave her beloved family behind.

3 thoughts on “In the Eye of the Beholder

  1. Wow! That behavior is really fascinating! I am actually intrigued by Stella’s change. And I love the line about whether Zadie has a goat in her family tree. That gets to the essence of the issue with real precision.


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