You lucky dog

Friday 13 June 2014 — Falmouth Dog Park — the day variously believed to be lucky or unlucky

I don’t understand the brouhaha over Friday the 13th. Any folklorist knows Friday the 13th is actually considered lucky, not unlucky, in some cultures. This day, however, can be a psychological trigger for those who suffer from paraskavedekatriphobia — fear of Friday the 13th. This is not to be confused with triskaidekaphobia or fear of the number 13 itself. 

Anthropologically, the “bad luck” appears to be based on a combination of two ancient superstitions — an “unlucky” number (13) and an “unlucky” day of the week (Friday). It’s estimated that between 17 million and 21 million Americans suffer from paraskavedekatriphobia. 

Psychiatrists will be delighted to know I have discovered a simple cure for paraskavedekatriphobia. Short of abandoning the Gregorian calendar entirely and living by the Julian or even the Mayan calendar, just pick up and move to Greece or, if you prefer, to a Spanish-speaking country. In these places, it’s Tuesday the 13th not Friday the 13th that’s considered unlucky. You can then fearlessly go your merry way on Friday the 13th. And there’s always Italy, where Friday the 17th (not the 13th) is unlucky. Unfortunately, it would only be a four-day respite.

The whole thing is giving me a headache, dear readers. Or maybe my headache is the result of the workmen who, at this very moment, are banging away repairing the leaky rectory roof. Nevertheless, Father Peter John will be pleased when it no longer rains in his bedroom.

As I sit here amidst the chaos, trying my best to write this column, my greyhound Transit is snoozing peacefully beside me. He’s a lucky dog. Come to think of it, every day is lucky for a dog. As long as the animal has food, water, and a comfy place to stretch out, the dog hasn’t a care in the world — even on Friday the 13th. This is the reason there has never been a single diagnosed case of canine paraskavedekatriphobia anywhere in the world.

Putting out a bowl of fresh water and leaving an old blanket on the floor are easy things to do. Providing food is quite another matter. Dog food is a very big thing.

According to market research referenced recently in the Wall Street Journal, sales of pet food in the United States last year totaled an estimated $21 billion. Lady Luck smiles upon the pet food industry.

Back in the day when Transit was an animal athlete, he ate whatever his handlers put before him. Working greyhounds eat twice a day, always simultaneously and always at exactly the same time. I have often been in the greyhound kennels when meals were being prepared and served. The dogs eat from stainless steel bowls attached to the inside of their crates. The food is prepared in massive bowls. The menu varies, but the mainstay is always dried kibble (the least expensive). To this is added whatever food is available from the local supermarkets. When the freshness dates passes, some thoughtful stores donate the food to the kennels. It’s perfectly good food. Owners of a greyhound that is bringing in $10,000 a year would never feed the dog something that would make it sick. Whatever it happens to be, the dogs scoff it up. Prudence dictates some foods (cabbage, for example) are best avoided in “the stew.”

Now that Transit has retired from his career in professional sports, he has gradually evolved into an epicurean. He gave up generic kibble long ago and turned to kibble with chicken and lamb flavors. Once he discovered canned food, he turned up his nose at kibbles forever. Now Transit has even gone beyond the premium-priced French cuisine pullet et riz to “Ultra Holistic Superfood.” I am not making this up.

As in almost anything else, there is an exception. Greyhound Justin is still perfectly content with generic kibbles. His palate is not as sophisticated. Occasionally, Justin will take a breather from scoffing down his kibbles and temporarily wander off. Transit will seize the opportunity; leave his own gourmet food, sneak over to Justin’s bowl, and wolf down the kibble. In less than a minute Justin is back at his bowl to find that in his absence the kibbles have somehow disappeared. By then, Transit has returned to his own dish, pretending he has no idea what happened to the kibbles. 

Sometimes, Father Peter John and I feed our two dogs separately. This has its own problems. When I’m feeding Transit, Justin will rush over and complain to me that he has been cruelly abandoned by his master and has not eaten in days. I feed Justin, too. Actually, Father Peter John had fed him just moments before. I can hear Justin snickering at me, but I fall for it every time.

I fear Transit will soon consider me his personal chef — preparing entrees with the freshest all-natural ingredients; whipping up tasty delights appropriate to his breed, age, activity level, and general health for the very finest canine dining experience. 

Even on Friday the 13th, Transit is one lucky dog. 

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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