Living Simply In An Age Of Bacon & Cheese-Infused Naturally Shed Elk Antlers

We all want to live better, whatever that entails.

Recently, an element of considered minimalism — or at least a step back from bacchanalian excess — has seeped into our collective consciousness as a good idea, along with the commonly promulgated formula of increasing your sleep, exercise & authentic relationships, and tapping the brakes on things like junk food, social media, and booze.

Buy less crap is the new mantra. Sell, donate or recycle a few tons of accumulated rubble that currently adorns your life. Choose well-made, long-lasting items for things you truly need, so the story goes, and avoid the cheap-chic fibreboard furniture that requires a Masters degree in allen-wrench-&-weird-little-wooden-pellet-connector-piece construction methods. A simpler existence is also a happier, healthier one it would seem. And what could fit better with this wholesome, granola-eating early-to-bed lifestyle than a family dog one might fairly ask. That, my friends, is where my story begins…

Our family got a puppy this year. My three kids and I had been lobbying for one for the last few years. My wife and the 16-year old cat were considerably less enthralled with the idea, but eventually succumbed.

If you are a pet owner you likely already know that animals aren’t really minimalists in the context of a modern suburban family, although it’s perhaps unfair to label them the culprits. My new dog would probably be fine with table-scraps, water from the hose and an old chunk of rope from the garage for a leash. But that’s not quite how we roll in suburbia circa 2019. And so, simultaneous with the arrival of the new dog came a whole lot more crap, of both the literal and metaphorical varieties.

That there would be literal dog crap was kind of a given. But the dog-related crap, that’s another story. Leashes, for example. Suddenly we had not one but three or four of those. And poop-bag dispensers, to help manage the literal crap. I needed a dispenser attached to each leash because I’ll be damned if I was going to be caught empty-handed three blocks from my house in the Nietzschean blackness and biblical rain that is 6:30 a.m. in Vancouver in November. Next came one of those overly-precious doggy raincoats (two, actually, after he quickly outgrew the first), because a drier dog means less work towelling him down post-walk and makes him less malodorous and more acceptable for re-entry to the home in my wife’s eyes. Toys by the dozens, as we quickly discovered our sweet little Aussie shepherd instantly goes serial killer and annihilates any stuffed-animal dog toy — even the “chew-resistant” ones — leaving a scene of white stuffing carnage that makes our living room look like a fluffier version of the abandoned space station in Aliens after the giant bugs have done their thing. There were also beds and mats of various forms that quickly met the same grisly fate as the toys. Next came “treats” of every manner, as we came to learn that our naughty doggo’s only hope for salvation would purportedly be gentle guidance with food-based inducements as reward for good behaviour, preferably using “High-Value Treats” (aka “designer dog $nack$”).

All of which brings me to bones. Dogs, especially young dogs, need to chew. A lot. If you don’t want them snacking on random shoes, couches, neighbourhood children and the like, then you’ve got to provide them with acceptable options on which to gnaw. Which usually means bones. In the olden days, acuiring a dog bone meant knocking down a giant T-bone steak for dinner, and then tossing the leftover bone on the floor for the mutt to snarf on. But time marches on, and so not only do we not eat T-bone steaks on the regular anymore, we are also advised that bones like this are not an appropriate option for our precious floofs, as they can splinter and perforate their little doggy intestines. And so we were introduced to the world of carefully-curated, individually-packaged, suitable for your dog and mine premium dog bones. These delicacies are acquired not from the butcher or the side of your dinner plate, but rather from the giant pet supply store that is another thing that didn’t exist when we were kids but now looms large in your life as a new pet owner in suburbia.

After some early trial and error, we quickly discovered that our particular canine companion was a big fan of elk antlers. They seem to sell quite a lot of these at the pet supply barns that I now frequent, and I can see why. First, our dog loves them and they are long-lasting. He will happily chew on them for an hour or more at a time and then return later for several additional sessions. Even at their exorbitant price, this makes them good value relative to the 10-second-death-count stuffed animals already discussed.

Second, they are very clean. Despite my own T-bone-noshing upbringing, I somehow find myself with a pair of vegetarian teenage daughters and a tidy wife, all of whom were rather grossed out with having spittle-laden bones with random bits of gristle and sinew dangling off them lying all over our living room as though we were living in the middle of a zombie graveyard. (My son, being an 11-year old boy, wasn’t really fussed one way or the other). The elk antlers have no meat or residue on them of any kind, and so are much more acceptable to the delicate sensibilities of my family, in addition to being well-loved by the hound.

Third, the marketing team at Elk-Horns-R-Us clearly know what they are doing, as they cleverly foreshadowed and addressed the nascent animal-rights protests of my daughters over separating sweet little elks from their beloved antlers. No nasty African White Rhino horn-poaching controversies here — these particular elk antlers were 100% NATURALLY SHED! the packaging proudly pronounced. And just like that, a potential liability was flipped to a win — environmental recycling- who can’t get behind that?

And so it came to pass one recent Friday night that I was picking up a few necessities at the pet supply megamart, looking for a carefully curated and individually packaged naturally shed elk antler in the appropriate size ( they come in three different sizes to correspond with your particular breed because of course they do) when a new and fantastic advance in naturally shed elk antler technology was revealed to me: elk antlers infused with BACON & CHEESE! I mean come on — with the exception of my vegetarian daughters and their meat-hating ilk, everyone loves bacon. It’s a known thing. And cheese too? Hell, why not? I can’t say that adding bacon & cheese to elk antlers was an idea that would have come to me if I’d been charged with product development for a pet food company, but since somehow, some way, the people that do have that job had magically harnessed their creative powers to deliver this little wonder to the store rack right before my eyes, I really was obliged to purchase it right there and then. I know you would have done the same in my situation.

So, if you want to live a better life this year, then go ahead and live simply yes. Just recognize that when you’ve got a dog, that isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

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