Sweets, Cheats, and My Dog Charley…


Charley was a special dog. I know you’ve heard people tell you that their dog was the “greatest dog ever,” but I’m not going to make that claim. I’ll simply share his story and let you decide…

I am telling you Charley’s story because he and I had a similar approach to eating. He was the runt of his litter, so we suspect that in his first days of eating, he only got what was leftover. Or, he had to fight with all of his might to get a few bites in before the food was gone.

The Correlation: I grew up working on a line in a restaurant. The line can be a crazy place. During the day, it seems calm, but that is only an illusion. Hanging in your mind is the impending rush and the list of prep work that is longer than the time you have to complete it. Although you get a bite here and there, you often go without eating a full meal. Then, the rush arrives and before you know it, it’s 9:00pm and you haven’t eaten since noon. There are three other people on the line in the same situation. You take turns making food and each person takes a quick break to “chow.” I could pound down a large plate of pasta in 5 minutes or less and most guys would smoke a cigarette in between bites.

Because of this, my table manners are not always the best. I can put forth a good effort, but my mind is wired to pound down as much food as quickly as possible. Similar to Charley, right?

One day, early in Charley’s life, my wife was out of town and I was at school. Charley was home alone and contained to the kitchen. We had recently dipped some strawberries in chocolate for a catering gig I was doing and had the extra chocolate in a Zip-loc bag on the counter. When I arrrived home, I found a frantic dog, wired to the hilt. We still do not know how he did it, but with his runt-like tenacity, he somehow snagged the bag of chocolate and ate every last bite! Except for a little bit that you can see smeared on his bed in this picture:

Correlation: I grew up in a house that did not stock sweets. If, by chance, some sweets entered the house, say a bag of licorice or some cookies, they were quickly devoured. In contrast, my wife grew up in a house that had boxes of candy bars stocked in the pantry. Now, when sweets come into our house, they are treated in the same way that we viewed them when young. My mind knows that they are here and can’t conceive a reason why I shouldn’t eat them until they are gone. It takes every bone in my body to muster the self-control to ignore them. My wife just tries to get some of whatever it is before I eat it all.

That’s why I say in my Chocolate Chunk Cookie videoย that I could easily pound thirty cookies in one sitting. That wasn’t a joke. So, when given the chance to indulge in some sweets, like Charley, I take full advantage.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I love to eat. I could argue that eating is my favorite thing to do. And, just because I have a Paleo website, doesn’t mean that I am immune from the temptation of sweets and other harmful foods.

Back in my hometown of Fargo-Moorhead, there is a grocery store called Hornbacher’s. At Hornbacher’s, you’ll find the three C’s. The sign that hangs in the aisle to warn you of its contents has three words on it: Cookies, Chips and Crackers. These three items are the downfall of many when it comes to diet and self-control. We crave sugar, but we also crave crunch and crunch is best when flour is involved.

Anyways, let me stay on track, make my point and finish Charley’s story.

The point of this article is to share my story in hope that you can relate to it. If you can, then we can share in the effort to battle things we know are bad for us. I don’t think it is effective to be a Diet Despot and preach from a high place that I am good and you are bad. I think it is effective to level with you and help you understand that we are all in this together.

I’m not here to tell you of the purity of my diet. My goal is to help you make informed decisions and rid you of the excuse that eating healthy is difficult and tasteless.

Now, being that it is the Holiday Season, chances are that you’ve slipped up on your diet. I’m not here to judge you. I’m the first to admit that I crushed some cookies in the month of December. I even had some chips and made a crock-pot full of queso dip! I’m here to say, “let’s get back on track.” Christmas is over and New Year’s is no excuse.

So, if you are serious about your health and what you put in your body, then come with me on my Culinary Adventures. I have a lot of rods in the fire that will be formed in the coming year and it is going to be a lot of fun. I’d love for you to be a part of, not only my life, but this project and sharing my passion.

I don’t know if anyone will read this. But, even if one person does, chances are that they’ll relate to what I’ve written. If that’s you, I want to encourage you to put down the cookies, chips and crackers. As I say in my Paleo Poem,

I’m begging you to leave behind this tainted fodder, take your health in your hands and drink some fresh water.

Will you do that with me today?

It is a decision that no one regrets.

You just don’t hear people say, “Man, I wish I wouldn’t have eaten healthy this year!”

Okay. Enough preaching. I’m down off of my soap box.

What about Charley?

No matter what we’d do with Charley, he’d always devour his food as quickly as possible. You would swear there were ten other dogs there fighting over his kibble. If we’d give him ten cups of food, he’d eat it all and fast. It is fair to say that Charley liked to eat as much as I do.

When I arrived home from his chocolate escapade, I rushed him to the vet because as you know, dogs and chocolate don’t mix well. His heart almost exploded, but they were able to detoxify him and he made it through the ordeal.

However, a year and a half later, he didn’t fair so well. Ten days after Samson was born, in July of 2008, Charley was hit by a truck in front of our house. It was a very traumatic experience that did not end quickly. He suffered a diaphragmatic hernia which left his organs pressed into his lungs. He was not able to breathe sufficiently, so was put on oxygen. Two days later, they performed surgery, which was estimated to have a 95% success rate. When they went in, they found the situation to be worse than expected, but were able to sew him up as planned. He was supposed to be back to his normal demeanor within a day, but that didn’t happen. We could see in his eyes how much he loved us and how much he wanted to get up and play, but his body wouldn’t let him.

That night, we received a call at 2:00 am explaining that he didn’t make it.

Charley’s death is the single greatest tragedy that I’ve experienced to date.

Death in pet-ownership is as impendingas the evening rush in a professional kitchen. I don’t often cry, but tears well in my eyes every time I think of Charley or tell his story.

While Charley was taken from us far too soonwe have no regrets about the life that we gave him.

I could go on and on with stories about him, but I won’t. I simply wanted to share his story and encourage you to tell those who you love that you love them.

This picture is the last that I have with Charley in good health. It was taken at Maroon Bells just outside of Aspen, CO. Later that day he was hit by the truck.

So, get out there, guys. Spread the love, make informed diet decisions, and “Keep It Paleo!”

Your Pal and Charley’s Owner,

Paleo Nick


  1. […] We could look back on what we did not accomplish. We could think hard about the bad times, the times we suffered, the times we cried, and the times that time seemed to creep slowly, but what would that do? When I look back on my life, I don’t really remember the tough times, what sticks out to me are positive experiences. If I think hard, I can dig up some bad memories, but doing so benefits me none. For example, in the same week that “The Bro” was born, our yellow lab Charley died. Do I sob daily about Charley? No. Everyday, I thank God for my son who makes me smile more than two pounds of steamy king crab. While I grieved over Charley for awhile, I now only have fond memories of him. […]

Leave a Reply