Ten p.m., Rico’s housewarming party in downtown Berkeley. A wide-eyed, Birkenstock-wearing ragga sits cross-legged on the floor with a Slinky in one hand and metal crimpers in the other. He twists the wire into a dog on all fours, a hunched man, and an unidentifiable blob. The twists of wire end up upended on the coffee table.
“Taurine,” the short-haired redhead pronounces with authority. She fingers a plastic cup of warm wine.
Sitting on the couch is a mellow co-ed who slaps lightly on a Latin bongo drum, laying down a protest beat. His left hand keeps the beat while his right hand works a small Baggie from his pocket. The plastic bag, filled with about half an ounce of tiny green leaves, arcs through the air into Rico’s lap.
“Taurine,” the redhead says again. A mottled pitbull-pointer mutt noses into her lap and looks at her lovingly. “Dogs need it in their diet. It’s what they add to vegan dog food so dogs don’t get sick.”
Rico opens the Baggie and sniffs the contents. Rico opens the packet of green spice and fishes out a small furry mouse, with a ratty brown feather for a tail. He shakes the leaves from the toy and inspects it critically. “What the hell is this?” he asks.
The drummer laughs. “Catnip. For your cat. Put the catnip in the mouse.”
My wife rubs my neck as I fingerpick the guitar. I ponder: is it right? is it decent? for a dog to eat vegan dog food?