Brian O’Neill: Picky eaters or not, a big night for the dogs


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“We think of dogs as members of the family,’’ Chrissy Trampedach, director of communications for Big Heart Pet Brands, was telling me. ”I know I feel that way about my dog, too.’’

I feel that way. The difference is Teddy is the member of our family we keep on a leash and try to keep from sniffing out and chomping chicken bones or worse when we walk through the park.

Thus it was with no small amount of cynicism that I approached the “Milo’s Kitchen Treat Truck’’ parked by the Willie Stargell statue outside PNC Park on Tuesday night. The truck has been hauling doggie delights around the country since late June, starting with stops in California and ending next month in New York. But is there really such a creature as the one the company identifies as the “gour-mutt’’?

The truck pulled over on the North Side because the Pirates were having another Pup Night, where a dog and its owner can — with proof of vaccination (for the four-legged entrant only, one assumes) — gain entry for $28. It’s long been a popular event. There are but two more of these Pup Nights left this season, Aug. 19 and 26, and they’re standing room only at roughly $4.67 a leg.

Kirby, a cairn terrier like Toto from “The Wizard of Oz,’’ was one of the first to trot up for the free grub. Andy and Sofia Chen, of Shadyside, weren’t even there for Pup Night; their plan was to take Kirby canoeing on the Allegheny River. But the dog seemed to be giving two paws up to the moist chicken jerky bar he’d be given. Mr. Chen said they’d probably use the $2 coupon to get some more next time they were in the pet aisle.

Score one for Milo’s Kitchen.

Chris and Vida Szabat drove two hours from Hollidaysburg with Sampson, their 2-year-old Bernese mountain dog who was born on the same day they were married.

“He’ll eat anything,’’ Ms. Szabat said of the big dog bred to work the same Alpine slopes as the St. Bernard. “He eats lettuce, pancakes, Cool Whip . . . ”

So it was no surprise that Sampson made short work of a chicken meatball that looked so good I had to resist the urge to try one, but I still wasn’t sold on what Ms. Trampedach must have thought a rhetorical question: “Why can’t dogs have treat trucks?’’

That the question is being asked now, for the first time in recorded history, may say more about the needs of modern dog owners than the pets themselves.

The great English writer Graham Greene had fun with the idea a half-century ago with his short story “Beauty.’’ The title character is a pampered Pekingese whose owner lets him drink only Evian water when they summer in France.

Yet, at the end of the tale, Beauty has beaten it for the alleys at midnight, rooting in restaurant trash bins until he makes away with “a long tube of intestine belonging to God knows what animal,’’ and then happily rolls in other dogs’, ahem, leavings.

That’s what most dogs like, whether we like it or not. But I must leave open the possibility that this is not true of all dogs, having now met Diezel.

Diezel was attracting attention on Federal Street by just doing the basics: sitting, staying, walking or shaking hands at the command of his owner, Joyce Zilliot. There is a quiet dignity in a well-trained dog, and Diezel was entirely in sync with Ms. Zilliot, owner of The Kennel Room dog grooming business in Dormont.

“He’s real picky,’’ she said of her 6-year-old mutt, a rescue from a drug bust in Collier. “I’m real cautious about what we do feed him.”

She is wary of Chinese dog food and appreciates Milo’s pledge that all its meat “is made in the USA with 100 percent domestically sourced meat and no artificial colors or flavors.’’ She showed me how moist these treats are, and Diezel showed me how fast he can make one disappear.

About that time, Chuck and Melinda Clark walked up with their full-bred Maltese, Abigail. They’d strolled across the Roberto Clemente Bridge from their Downtown apartment. Abigail didn’t weigh much more than a medium-size bag of dog treats, yet her owner said she’ll eat anything, including buttons.

“We want this dog to have friends,” Ms. Clark said as Abigail mingled.

They’d come to the right place. Dogs, even more than people, appreciate a free meal, and I’ve yet to see one stop to read the labels.


Brian O’Neill: boneill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1947.

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