How A Dog Changed My Diet

Pat is inspired by my friend Gremlin, the dog, to tell us a story of how her dog, Buddy, changed her life forever . . .Animals can be like that, you know.  If you let us in, even a little bit, we'll find a way into your mind, and then, your heart.


While watching today’s touching “Heartbreak to Healing” video about Gremlin the therapy dog it occurred to me that often we don’t fully recognize how much animals can transform our lives. For example, my dog Buddy totally changed the way I eat.

As my spouse tells the tale, we were mid-meal when I looked down at the dinner he’d prepared and announced: “I can't eat this -- I don't eat red meat.”

This declaration apparently came as a surprise because no aversion to meat, red or any other kind, had been expressed during the preceding decades of marriage. But in my defense, I had been considering the red meat issue for some time. I guess I just forgot to mention it to the people living with me, including the person who cooks most of our meals.

When my understandably curious family inquired about this unexpected declaration, I explained that owning a dog – our first -- changed my view.

“You're doing this because of Buddy?” asked an incredulous No. 1 son. “I really don't think he cares, Mom.”

This same son also was astonished months later when I commented that the waitress taking our lunch order seemed perplexed and reluctant when I ordered my vegetarian burger “western style” with barbecue sauce -- and bacon.

“That's because you're the world's worst vegetarian,” he said as he bit into his burger.

OK, so I'm not a strict vegetarian. I confess to a fondness for bacon and shellfish. But I've pretty much given up every other kind of meat because spending so much time with our dog Buddy has heightened my awareness that animals can think and reason, and develop distinct personalities. I’m reluctant to eat creatures with these capabilities.

Even chickens have personalities, according to people who raise them. Yes, I know, so do pigs. I feel really bad about that. Fortunately, I haven't seen any studies or YouTube videos that indicate shrimp, clams, and scallops are in this category, but if I’ve somehow missed this disturbing news, please advise me at once.

So what am I? I can't honestly call myself vegetarian, although the majority of my diet is vegetable-based. And I'd never be a vegan because I love cheese too much (and cheese doesn't kill anything other than possibly humans who've succumbed to cholesterol-related issues).

Fortunately, I’ve discovered that my semi-vegetarianism is not all that unusual and there's a name for people like me -- Flexitarian!

That means we're flexible vegetarians, according to experts like the Mayo Clinic. And we're so trendy that cookbooks are even being written for us.

To quote a Newsweek article: "It might seem like being a vegetarian of convenience isn't particularly inspiring, but a growing number of experts and even some famous foodies are fans. They say that cutting back on meat, rather than abstaining completely, may be a practical compromise that benefits our bodies and our environment."

Flexible? Trendy? Practical? And doing good for the environment? These are labels I don't mind having. They sound so much better than “world's worst vegetarian.”

p.s. If you want to learn more about flexitarian experiences, see our earlier story on Flexitarianism, here.

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