There was a Broadway musical in the sixties, and later revived in the late nineties, called “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”. Based on the characters created by the late Charles M. Schulz from his comic strip “Peanuts” the show has a small cast and each character stands out through funny bits and great songs. Of course one of those stand outs is Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s gregarious and fun-loving Beagle.
A highlight of the show is when Snoopy sings Suppertime. The bit starts out with Snoopy day dreaming about dinner and lamenting about how long it’s been since he eaten last.
“My stomach clock just went off. It’s suppertime, and Charlie Brown has forgotten to feed me. Here I lie, a withering hollow shell of a dog and there sits my supper dish … EMPTY!”
Charlie brown eventually shows up with Snoopy’s food dish and all of a sudden it’s SHOWTIME. Snoopy breaks into a vaudeville song and dance routine that always brings down the house. The bit ends with Charlie Brown, who has been off to the side screaming, “NOW CUT THAT OUT!!!! Why can’t you eat your meal quietly and calmly like any other normal dog?” Snoopy responds dryly, “So what’s wrong with making mealtime a joyous occasion?”
And this is Kali at mealtime. The dish comes out and it is Showtime. You’d think she hadn’t eaten in days or that there was filet mignon in her bowl. Her nose goes up in the air, her toes tap on the tile of the kitchen floor, and her butt is swinging from side to side. She follows me to tub with her food and once it’s in her bowl she begins hopping up and down and heads straight to the spot where she eats. I put the bowl down and Kali sits in front of it looking directly into my eyes. Waiting. Waiting for my signal. I pause for a few seconds and then point to the dish.
I’ve thought about trying to change Kali’s behavior when preparing her meals, but hey, what’s wrong with making mealtime a joyous occasion, right? And after all Kali does show great deference as the bowl hits the ground waiting for the OK to begin eating; as if waiting for all the other guests to sit down.
Suppertime is usually around 6:00 pm. That means that Kali begins staring at me around 5:15 and wondering if, like Charlie Brown, I’ve forgotten to feed her. I sit, watching the evening news and Kali sits watching me watch the news. Eventually she gives up and lies down with a sigh to wait it out. As it get’s closer to 6:00 I get up and Showtime begins. Last night, for fun, I got up without giving any clear signal that it “was time”. Kali was lying with her head on the ground and her eyes followed me as I headed to the kitchen to get her dish. But my movement deceived her and I slyly hid her dish from view as I headed to the pantry where we store her the food . All of a sudden Kali realizes that “it’s game on”. She seemed to jump straight up from a lying position and momentarily hover in the air, eyes wide, with a thought bubble over her head that says, “Suppertime?” And so it was.
Smokey and Kali almost always eat at the same time and usually side by side. Smokey is the antithesis of Kali at mealtime. When Smokey realizes its time to eat he calmly walks over to his mat, sits, and quietly waits. He seems to know it’s coming and is very willing to wait it out, however long it may take. Smokey also waits for “the signal” but even once he gets the green light he saunters over to his dish, stretches out his neck from a few feet away, takes a sniff, looks at Kali, and then slowly begins to eat. No big deal. No major production. No song and dance.
When the weather is mild Kali and Smokey will eat outside. If the weather is warm enough Kali likes to sniff around after dinner and will usually lie down on the patio taking in the smells of the mild evening. Last night was a warm night. I placed the food bowls on the ground and gave the signals. As always, Kali was off to the races. A bomb could drop in the yard and she would not deter from the job at hand. Smokey, not so much.
Last night as the bowls were placed on the ground and the signals were given the neighbor’s dog presented himself on the other side of the fence. Smokey hears the dog and makes a bee-line for the fence leaving his full dish of food behind. Next to Kali. Unattended. Vulnerable… Kali is usually very respectful of Smokey’s food but a hungry girl can only have so much will-power. There have been a couple of occasions when she attempted to “sample” a treat or meal of Smokey’s and Smokey has made it very clear this is not OK.
So Smokey heads to the fence line barking and I walk out after him to tell him this is not alright. He agrees and as we head back to the patio where the food bowls are I see Kali’s big face in Smokey’s little bowl. All the food is gone. She takes a lap around the bowl with her tongue and then goes back to her bowl which was still about half full. It struck me as interesting that Kali wouldn’t have finished her bowl before going to Smokey’s unattended bowl. Her head is usually buried so deep in her bowl that it surprised me that she even noticed Smokey was gone. But she did and must have quickly realized that Smokey would be back soon and that she had only a small window of opportunity.
Smokey and I are now standing at his empty bowl. He looks at the bowl and then up at me with his head cocked to one side as if to say, “what the…?” Kali’s head remains buried in her bowl but I see her eyes briefly glancing at me as if to say, “What?” I pick up Smokey’s bowl and go into the house to re-fill it. As I put Smokey’s bowl on the ground – inside the house – I had to admit that I was a little proud of Kali for her strategic thinking. Or, maybe it was instinct.
Or maybe she was just giving her little brother a lesson in priorities.