Last year, when I was a broke philanthropist instead of a broke waitress, I spent a year leading youth on volunteer projects for various nonprofits. This was an absolute blast. My job was basically to be cheerful, make sure the work got done, and that no one was bleeding. Or to administer proper care when someone did bleed. The previous leaders said they never had to break out the first aid kid. Me? Almost all of my summer projects involved a boy who said he was a Parkour champion in Australia. It was only halfway through the summer when I could predict he was about to do something and successfully stop it. I wasn’t there he dived into a creek and broke his arm but I was around when he did somehow cut his foot open in a kiddie wadding pool.
This kid does not matter to my story but he was at the volunteer project I’m about to talk about, and I will probably be telling stories about him until I die. I mean not everyone is an Olympic swimmer who owns several snow leopards, is related to all my favorite actors, and won a donut eating contest at the Irish Festival the same night I was there, even though I didn’t see the contest, but everyone knows that the Irish are synonymous with donuts.
It was the volunteer project I drew the short straw on. I was at an animal shelter with a majority of youth who were 11, and two teenagers that acted like they were. Our main duties were separating newspaper pages into two columns, removing staples from said pages, and stuffing envelopes. This is not a normal project, but we make an exception for this agency because the kids get to play with cats for thirty minutes at the end and operate a big shredder. The shredder is for the papers, not the cats. Secretly, I still thought the perks weren’t enough to make the project interesting, and the kids not secretly and very loudly agreed with this.
It was right after lunch and playing games when we were on the second half of sorting papers. This was the period when cat time was so close but still not upon us, and they were still silly from their break and dreading more newspaper work. At junctures like these the job of the team leader is annoy kids to death with peppiness, conversations, and riddles while they complete their mind numbing tasks. I was surprised how much kids love riddles, and how bad they were at them, but they weren’t having my distractions that day.
We worked in a cramped office with four other people and the kids were trying to find anything more interesting than newspaper pages to occupy their time. One child’s eyes lit up, or at least lost their glassy, bored look, when he spotted a box of desserts on the table. He asked our volunteer coordinator for one of the cookies he discovered. We were at an animal shelter, the cookies were little grainy yellow circles, and the box they were in had bones drawn on it. She offered him one and when all the other kids started shouting “eww!” he cottoned onto what they were. The volunteer coordinator snacked on one and asked if anyone else wanted one. The kids thought this was the grossest thing they’d ever heard. I know because they said so loudly and a lot for a very long time.
The treats came from a special dog bakery, a really cute store that my poor dogs will never experience because holy crap it is expensive, called Three Dog Bakery. I have no idea if they are national or not. Many of treats are made with ingredients that humans normally eat. The only difference is that the flavoring is not what we’re used to because the dogs don’t need it. So she explained that while they will taste different, it was just like eating any other cookie but the sugar and a few other ingredients were missing.
The kids still thought this was the grossest thing they ever heard. The dog treats were perfectly edible for humans, one kid originally wanted one, but no one would touch them even though they were all offered. Having them labeled as a dog treat was too repellant, and they could not wrap their mind around the fact that humans were welcome to eat them. They were “dog treats” and they couldn’t see them as anything else, even the kids that were curious weren’t going to admit that to the others and be labeled a dog biscuit eater for the rest of the summer.
When she turned and asked if I wanted one, I immediately nodded and popped one into my mouth. If it is a cookie and I am allowed to eat it, then I will eat it. I don’t even understand how there is another option. They were gross though. I need sugar. All the kids stared slack jawed at me and waited for me to sprout a tail and start barking or something. For the record, the weirdest thing anyone ate that summer was a live roly poly.
I suppose my point is that, when I walked into my aunts living room today eating a cookie shaped like a sheep, I was not all that horrified when I was informed that it was a dog treat. When I bit into it, it was kind of dense. However, it was also adorable and it had frosting and what looked like coconut shavings. I was told to help myself to anything in the fridge. It was in the fridge.
I did end up giving most of it to my dog. I chipped my tooth a month ago (and massively freaked out over it) so once I learned it wasn’t just a hard cookie and was meant for dog teeth, I shared. I did scrape most of the frosting off it though. He wouldn’t have appreciated it and I definitely did.
I tried to explain my summer story to my family, and that humans could eat these treats, but it was very hard to hear me over the laughter. See, that’s a true family. They got over being grossed out extremely quickly so they could get to the mocking. My mom started barking at me. My eighty two year old aunt joined in. My mom asked “How could you do that… No Nicole, how could e-w-e do that?” I wondered why they were keeping dog cookies in the fridge. My mom retorted with, “You weren’t even drunk!” They. Could. Not. Stop. Laughing. Even when my mother would say something incomprehensible, she would just recover with, “well at least I’m not a dog biscuit eater”. They kept saying woof woof. I turned to my mom and said we should probably leave and pretended to get up. My mom shook her head. I sighed and relaxed back into the couch. “Good girl”, she said.