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Staff photo by Mark Kennedy / With cunning and persistence, columnist Mark Kennedy's Cavapoo, Boise, has negotiated home-cooked meals.

Sweet fancy Moses, I've spoiled my dog.

A few months ago, I noticed our poodle mix, Boise, was not enjoying his regular dog food anymore. It was a good brand, fortified with beet pulp and vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids for "skin and coat nourishment."

But all those fancy ingredients couldn't disguise the fact that it was still hard, crunchy dog food.

Anyway, Boise, who weighs about 15 pounds, would eat late at night. Only after all hope of getting a "last bite" off a family member's dinner plate was gone would he slink away with his tail tucked, seeking out his bowl of kibble.

Boise has an elaborate eating ritual that compels him to carry a couple of bites of food in his mouth to our bedroom, where he chews and swallows in private. Then, he will he return to his bowl for another mouthful. This might be a flashback to puppyhood when he had to compete for food. Or he might just need counseling.

Even his approach to his food bowl is strange. He doesn't like the way his metal dog tag taps against the side of his bowl when he eats. It emits a soft chime, which terrifies him. I've thought of getting him a plastic tag, but I don't want to encourage prissy behavior. (OK, it's probably too late for that.)

I've always known Boise is smarter than the average dog. From a pup, he has been a skilled negotiator. I have the only dog in America who could broker a Teamsters Union contract.

He realized years ago that he could find an inedible scrap of paper, like a chewing gum wrapper, and then pretend to chew it vigorously, as if to say: "Look at me. I'm eating something incredibly dangerous here, but I will gladly trade this poison pill to you for a Nutro brand Crunchy Treat With Real Mixed Berries."

Meanwhile, I would beg him to stop and run to the kitchen to fetch an actual treat, all the while realizing that fetching anything for a dog is an ironic (and possibly moronic) role reversal.

I got so flustered the other day that I reached for his treats and accidentally tossed him a Cascade soap pod. Boise sniffed it and looked at me out of the corner of his eyes as if to say, "You idiot. I'm not eating that."

Which brings us to our present-day dilemma. In the last few months I've gone down a slippery slope. I've gone from feeding him hard food, to generic canned food, to fancy canned food, to, ahem, home-cooked meals. Yes, I cook this dog beef and chicken pieces on an outdoor grill.

The other night, when my wife was out of town at her dad's house, she called to check in. She asked what I had eaten for dinner.

"Well, I had a frozen dinner, and I cooked Boise some boneless chicken breasts with cheese bread," I said without irony.

I later learned my wife told this to her dad, a former pig farmer, who immediately started heehawing. I can see him slapping his knee, too.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure where this fancy dog food trend goes next. Will Boise eventually demand cloth napkins and a multicourse menu? Will I need to hire a chef?

Several times in this descent into madness I've tried to put my foot down and say, "OK, Boise, that's it! You get what you get, so don't pitch a fit!"

But all it takes is a one-day hunger strike from Boise to cause me to lose my nerve and capitulate to his demands.

At the end of the day, I love my dog. He is the sweetest friend anybody could ask for. And I've always enjoyed feeding the people (and animals) I love.

In fact, my wife observed the other night, "You really like feeding the boys special food, don't you?"

"Yes, I do," I said, of our two sons and one male dog. "I think it comes from growing up in a house where there was never anything special to eat."

So, really this is all about me, a 63-year-old softie who loves to please and needs affirmation.

The great thing about getting older is that you can embrace your own eccentricities. I've become comfortable dismissing people who question my actions with four little words: "It's just my nature."

And in case you have any doubt about whom Boise chooses to curl up with at nap time, that would be me.

Email Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.

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