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Published April 03 2011

Swift: Family’s food chain has its share of filchers

I recently watched a nature program about a wolf pack.

As I witnessed the various cubs growling over carcasses and stealing each other’s antelope legs, the realization hit: This is exactly like the Swift household.

You see, nobody eats their own food in our family. Irwin and I covet each other’s food. The dogs covet our food. The big dog covets the little dog’s food, and the little dog covets the cat’s food.

And the cat? Well, he just shrugs and takes another nap.

It starts at the very top, with the alleged alpha dogs. Irwin is a notorious food-hoarder. Maybe it’s a survival skill, spawned by growing up in a mostly male family that could descend on a meatloaf like locusts on a corn maze. Whatever the reason, he acts like his food supply will be cut off at any minute. So he’s always squirreling away candy and snacks.

On any given week, I might find Pringles stashed in the pot holder drawer, M&M’s stowed in his glove compartment or Tootsie Pops hidden in the vegetable crisper – a place he knows I rarely visit.

I’m not proud of this, but I have been known to eat the Pringles and put the container back with socks stuffed inside it. Or I’ll cherry-pick the cherry Tootsie Pops, leaving behind the icky orange and brown ones.

Likewise, Irwin also filches the diet food I buy to counteract the effects of the Pringles. He turns my breakfast drinks into his bedtime snacks, eats my baked chips and commandeers my Kashi. I don’t know why someone would want to eat chips that taste like acoustical tile, especially if he didn’t have to, but Irwin does. Maybe it’s revenge eating.

When the family bipeds eat, the dogs stare and drool at us as if we’re giant glazed hams. In the time it takes to answer the phone, an unmanned sandwich or unattended bowl of oatmeal will magically disappear.

It doesn’t end there. Kita, our toy dog, is a fussy eater, with a stomach the size of a lima bean. So, while our Lab, Jake, will inhale his kibble in seconds, Kita will take all day to pick at her food.

The sight of that kibble, untouched, taunts Jake, who is basically a stomach on legs. He has become a stealth eater – a master at covert dietary operations. Wisely, he has learned the best time to eat Kita’s food is when the rest of the family is distracted.

When I come home from work, Kita will begin yelping and even the cat will jump off his chair to offer a frosty greeting. But Jake will make a beeline to Kita’s food bowl to empty it with one gulp.

He has become so adept at this that he has actually learned to consume her food without chewing. It’s true. He knows the tell-tale sound of mastication will be his Waterloo, so he’s started swallowing food like a pelican.

And even Kita isn’t immune to food-thievery. At some point, she decided she liked the cat’s food better than her own. We are forever shooing her out of the utility room where the cat’s bowls are kept.

For his part, the cat sticks to his own food. Well, for the most part. He likes to jump up on the counters and lick the butter.

You know what they say.

The grass-fed beef is always sweeter on the other side of the kitchen.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525