A Pearl Beyond Price

In a long life of pet ownership—I’ve known feisty, beautiful, stupid, intelligent and just plain lovable canines.

But, I’ve only owned one that was both sweet-natured and felonious at the same time.

Black Pearl, to give her her pedigree name, was the sweetest dog my husband and I ever owned. She was not the smartest dog in the world, but in the field of gastronomic thievery she was without peer.

No food items—or alcoholic drinks—were safe from her ravages. Her “nose” for food was truly phenomenal. Her instinct for delicacies of all sorts was unbelievable—she would yank the fridge door open and pull food off the shelves so she and our black cocker spaniel could then munch away to their hearts’ delights.

Our food bills rose accordingly.

Finally, we found that hooking strong bungee cords from the fridge handle around to the freezer coils at the back was the only way to stop her. One of us would usually forget, leading to loud recriminations of “Who left the fridge door open—again!”

Late last year, we said goodbye to our beloved black lab, who at 14 years of age was pushing the upper limits of her range. Faithful to her true calling, she bowed out after a loving friend had given her a last tidbit from the fridge.

Looking back on her career as a top-notch felon, there are so many “amazing Pearl stories” it’s hard to focus on which are the best.

I think the Drunken Egg Nog Caper remains at the top of the list. It was Christmas, and the house was full of family, adults and children. Every year, my husband makes a lethal brew of egg nog, devised by his father, which we serve in a huge silver bowl, an agricultural trophy won by my grandfather in Wales. There were so many people in the house I had put it outside, precariously perched on the top of the woodpile.

There was a high wind that night, and the next day I found the bowl upside down in the leaves. Sadly, I told my husband there was none left when he asked for his day-after glass of nog.

Later, Pearl appeared in the kitchen doorway, staggering, with her tongue hanging out.  The penny still didn’t drop—it was only when I saw her reeling, and her legs spayed, with a goofy look on her face that I understood it was canine gluttony, not the wind, that was the culprit.

It was the best four-footed imitation of a two-footed drunk I’d ever seen.

After Catoctin Veterinary Clinic’s veterinarian Dr. Robbins, grinning broadly, totted up the copious amounts of liquor, cream and eggs she’d imbibed, he assured Pearl’s anxious owners that she’d be fine.

“If she were a breed like a Labradoodle, I’d be more concerned—not Pearl, she’s got a stomach like a trash compactor,” he said.

So it proved. One day later she left, ushered out by a giggling staff—sober, but with a very sore head. She went to her bed and didn’t move for 24 hours.

When the end came, it was after we’d had guests in for dinner. Later on, I heard her in obvious difficulty in the next room. Kind friends came and got her to eat something—of course, a dainty morsel of salmon from the fridge.

The next day, she went on her final journey, in search, I hope, of finding heavenly manna.

Happy hunting, Pearl.

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