April 5th, 2015
During my morning radio show recently, I posed my “Brain Buster” trivia question to my listeners: “Scientists now believe that the microbes in this can have a probiotic effect while boosting your immune system. What is it?”
The correct answer: Dog saliva.
I shared a chuckle on the air with my winner that morning, remembering the age-old myth that a dogs tongue is supposedly cleaner than a humans. Maybe what they’re now learning about dog saliva is at least partially true for some dogs. But if most dogs are like Buddy, it’s hardly the case. Over the course of sixteen years, the thought of what reached his tongue would lend testament to my theory.
Almost right off, I recalled the time he disappeared while we were off snow shoeing. No wonder why he refused my calls. I finally found him, knawing on what was left of an already half eaten deer’s leg. And then there was the rotting animal carcass that I could never quite identify. Buddy didn’t mind the fact that it was infested with maggots, he dug right in, gorging like a wild-eyed hyena after a fresh kill. Ignoring my hollers to “leave it” he escaped my grip with seconds to spare and ran off proudly to continue enjoying his prize with the privacy he rightly deserved.
Most dog owners must understand the delicacy a dead animal carcass provides. And if consuming it alone weren’t enough, dogs like Buddy had to take it one step further and roll in it to savor the aroma as long as it could possibly linger. Dead birds were always a favorite of Buddy.
Other than the dog, is there an animal that roams the earth that can consume anything more grotesque than it’s own poop? I would argue no. But for the majority of dogs, it’s a highly desired delicacy that can only be appreciated by a true connoisseur. Chalk it up to simple dog culture maybe. Buddy was no different from the rest. From raw eggs to countless food scraps, he had licked many a floor and never once refused lapping up a spill of anything. I remember Buddy even once enjoyed most of a soiled diaper before I got a hold of him. Oh sure, your dog would have passed it up? Not hardly. Don’t kid yourself, most dogs eat what we humans would deem the utmost disgusting and unimaginable. But I believe if Buddy could have spoken, he would suggest that what is considered “disgusting” is solely in the eye of the beholder. After all, what is so grotesque about licking marrow from inside a thigh bone? Or licking your own wounds for that matter?
I admit that the thought of Buddy chewing away at that infected hotspot scab that summer isn’t particularly appealing. But then again neither is the thought of chewing away at my own toenails. For Buddy, and billions of other dogs, his taste is guided by his deep cultural traits, and no more uncommon than us humans fixing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I wish these scientists studying the cleanliness of dogs saliva could have smelled Buddy’s breath after he enjoyed that dead fish on the shoreline that day. I wish they knew how many turkey carcasses he has pulled from the trash, or the time he digested the leg of a wild one left by coyotes. I might suggest to those studying the purity and organic properties of dogs saliva to stop and move onto something more conclusive, like why dog stomachs can digest things human stomachs would quickly refuse. If future science could learn precisely what makes a dogs stomach so strong, maybe we’d suffer a lot less from food poisoning. In the meanwhile, these scientists shouldn’t waste any more of their highly valued time researching dog slobber because real dog lovers care little about whether or not their dogs mouth is clean or even where it’s been for that matter.
With all the things Buddy has eaten, it’s hard to believe the enzymes in his saliva were high in healthy microbes especially considering how many times he “cleaned” his nether region over the course of 16 years. But if boiling and eating a crustacean that crawls on the ocean floor wasn’t particularly appetizing for Buddy, he’d slobber me with kisses anyway. And even if I was deeply concerned with getting my daily dose of healthy probiotics, I’d still skip the Activia and prefer a full-on face lick from Buddy any day.
JD Green hosts “The Breakfast Club” on Froggy 100.9 FM. He and his girlfriend Charilyn Williams started PAWS, Central Vermont’s only pet bereavement group which meets at 7 p.m. the first Thursday each month at Barre Universalist Church. For more information, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.