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On Friday, while I was deep in the weeds putting together this year’s Young & Hungry Dining Guide, Carrie and I had to do something that will leave a bad taste in our mouths of years: We had to put down our beloved pooch, Coltrane, a.k.a, “Meatsack.” He was old. He had cancer. He was a good dog.

I don’t want to get all maudlin about this, but I did want to pay small tribute to the one creature in our household who loved everything we brought home from restaurants.

Carrie and I used to joke what a great food critic Coltrane would have made. Because of his beagle nose, he’d parse out all the nuances of a dish. He’d catalog every single ingredient that went into a complex sauce, down to the exact location where the carrots were pulled from the earth for the mirepoix. He’d tell you the species of grass that the New Zealand lamb ate before it went to slaughter. He detect every little off note from fish that had turned, vegetables that had lost their sweetness, steaks that hadn’t been aged properly.

And he’d give everything four stars. That was part of Coltrane’s charm: He had 200 million more scent receptors than either Carrie or I, enough to find a mouse in a one-acre field in a minute, but he didn’t give a damn if the mouse was dead, alive, or deboned, braised, and paired with a port-wine reduction.

Yes, Coltrane was an eater, the best one I ever knew. How big of an appetite did he have? Consider:

  • He once tore into my computer bag to gobble down a half bottle of Advil, just because the pills were sugar-coated. (Long story, very expensive.)
  • He used to routinely climb onto the dining room table during parties to hunt for scraps after our guests had assembled in the kitchen or the living room.
  • He served himself first at last year’s Thanksgiving feast.
  • He’d clean the kitchen floor as we cooked.
  • He once snatched a baguette from the kitchen while we were gone and buried pieces of it in two different couches. This may have been his best ploy ever; he clearly knew that once we found the first cache of bread, we’d consider our search over.
  • When he was ready for breakfast on weekends, as I lingered in bed and read the Times and Post, Coltrane would push his way through the newspapers and stand on my chest. And just stare at me.
  • He was known to eat not only meats and vegetables, but occasionally the stray article of clothing left on the floor. We’d routinely find half eaten pairs of underwear in his crate.

Yes, Coltrane had his fetishes, and some days, they annoyed the hell out of us. But today, I miss him so much more than any of those pants or undies.

Photo by Carrie Allan