CLAREMONT— Local author Meg Hurley’s “The Dog Who Ate the Vegetable Garden and Helped Save the Planet,” written from the point of view of her dog, Dori, urges everyone to stop eating meat. Dori sets the example: having been converted to veganism, she cheerfully raids the Hurley’s vegetable garden, mowing down everything but the peppery arugula.
“She ate the whole damn thing,” Hurley recalled. “She would literally pull stuff out of the ground and give it to the other dogs.”
The Hurleys transitioned their dogs to a plant-based diet in collaboration with their vet. “It was a steep learning curve for her and us,” she said. The two dogs mill around the kitchen, looking extremely well-fed. Maybe a little too.
“They didn’t reject it. They inhale their meals.” Meg cooks their meals, she said, because they prefer it: “Dorie would rather have cooked than raw broccoli.”
Of course, the main question people ask of vegetarian people has to come up with dogs, who are considered to need more protein than we do.
“All plants are built out of fats, proteins and sugars. There’s more than enough protein in a whole-foods plant-based diet (I say whole foods because you can be a vegan and just live on Pringles). People who eat a whole-foods plant-based diet are never deficient in protein,” said Hurley.
“The biggest animals walking on the surface of the earth — elephants and giraffes and gorillas — all eat plants.”
Part polemic, part narrative, Dori’s story offers a dog’s-eye view of her owner’s eccentricities, especially her passionate veganism. Hurley, like other vegans, links not eating animals to not abusing the planet and not abusing other human beings. Because so many more resources are tied up in the production of meat, many environmentalists now recommend a plant-based diet as an antidote to the rampant pollution destabilizing the climate. Further, using animals for meat requires violence — not just in the process of slaughter, but built into systems of animal housing and handling: tiny cages, electric prods, overcrowded transport trucks, and brutal disposal of unwanted animals, like male chicks.
“The place where I’m coming from,” said Hurley, “is these are really, really important issues. All the books out there give you a lot of material, a lot of scientific data, and it’s horrifying. You shut down because it’s so depressing, and then you can’t do anything. There’s no relief.
“I thought, why not have an animal speak?”
Thus, “The Dog Who Ate the Vegetable Garden” tells of Dori’s life (she was 18 months old to 2 years at the time of writing) with these strange new people and their ideas.
Hurley uses a simple device for Dori’s voice. Of very short sentences. Or fragments. To convey Dori’s thought processes. There are also wordsmashed together and sudden changes in font. It does give one the sense of an animal with a short attention span and definite opinions, and it’s kind of fun.
And Dori (who is listed as the author for the Library of Congress) has her own agenda (those annoying squirrels) and her own learning curve having to do with house manners and getting along with other creatures. She often sighs a big dog sigh to hear another of Meg’s “diatribes.”
“I think vulnerability is critical to this story,” said Hurley. “I’m being vulnerable in having Dori come back at me; she’s my conscience.”
However, Hurley has other works in the pipeline, and will work on bringing those out she finishes the book tour. “The Dog Who Ate the Vegetable Garden” tour will formally launch in Toronto June 9, where the publisher is. Will Dori be writing more books?
“I think Dori’s a Margaret Mitchell,” said Hurley. “She’s done her one book, and I’m on my own.”