Pet Patch, 2002

If I were into weird juxtapositions, I’d be contrasting the discovery that the first domesticated dog was also dinner with the WTFness of the hometown paper’s celebration of hand-crafted organic dinners for companion animals. I know how removed you can get from the real world when you make over a hundred grand a year, but did anyone in all the story meetings ever bring up the inconvenient reality that 43 million Americans are now on food stamps? Blog after blog is challenging readers to try to live even a week on a food stamp allotment. And the paper underwritten by ads for $3,000 shoes and bags puffs up kibble from scratch. Hope no one tells the poor they can’t burn wood. . . The only good news is that this gives me an excuse to dust off the bulging can of Whiskas on my desk. I bought it on my first trip overseas, to Cornwall in 1986, when I had the crazy idea of collecting cat food from every country to which I traveled. And almost every one of those two dozen-plus countries came through, including Cuba, where people were so poor kids begged for gum (and soap) wherever we went. The only place I was ever stymied was in Bangalore, probably the most Western city in India. My consort’s fixer for National Geographic indulged me with a trek to a supermarket, one where a guy dressed up as Uncle Sam was even waiting at the door. So I mustered my courage to ask about local Friskies. And will never forget how flummoxed everyone was. Not food made from cats but special food for cats? What planet are you from?