The other reason I keep trying to go vegan: Dogs
My childhood friend and meatless spaghetti made a long-lasting impact
While every other kid I knew was outside playing with other kids, I preferred to sit at a table with my parents’ chain-smoking landlord and watch her play Solitaire. Although the older lady next door who planted flowers was one of my favorite girlfriends, I was slightly closer to the landlord. But every blue moon, her grandson* would come over and mess up our “Golden Girls” time. He was very cute, but I wanted him to get lost. I was elated when he would disappear into the living room to play “Pac-Man” or some other Nintendo or Atari** game.
Around the time they ate dinner, I would usually leave. I can’t remember whether my parents taught me this or if it was an instinct, but I never hung around people’s homes near lunch or dinner time in case they couldn’t afford to feed me. I would never say that. I would just claim I had to go get something or my mother told me to be home by a specific time. But I distinctly recall one particular day when the landlord made spaghetti and asked me if I wanted any. I couldn’t think of a reason to leave fast enough, and she put a plate in front of me before I could protest. But I noticed my plate was different from her grandson’s. He had no meat on his.
I asked why, and he said he preferred spaghetti without hot dogs or ground beef. My mind was blown. I wanted both. Curiosity got the better of me, and I wanted to taste his spaghetti. To my absolute surprise, I liked his better than I liked mine, primarily because the landlord could season food something serious. By the time my parents moved out of that apartment into our first home, that meatless spaghetti idea still stayed on my mind.
That was my first introduction into vegetarian life, in which I’ve been a part of for 18 years (and counting). I could never get into circuses or farms and was indifferent about riding horses at summer day camp. Something about it never sat right with me. I always felt like animals were forced entertainment. The sound of that whip and the look on a horse’s face made me want to go home. I opted out of field trips to aquariums, circuses, farms and anywhere else like it.
Still, I had zero interest in giving up pizza with dairy cheese or salt and vinegar chips, the latter of which has milk in it for some odd reason. So veganism wasn’t of interest to me. I didn’t even become a vegetarian for animal rights. I did it because I just stopped buying meat while I was in college. I was an accidental vegetarian. It took me months (and my pants hanging off my waist because of a weight-training class) to realize I had stopped consuming meat.
My smelly gig: Chicago Fragrance Examiner
The first time I really started pondering on the idea of veganism versus vegetarianism was during the time I was a Chicago Fragrance Examiner writer (back when Examiner.com was popular and I was freelancing for affiliate CBS Chicago). I’m a huge lover of incense, candles, perfumes and colognes. I have stopped men (and women) on the street to ask them what they’re wearing. And about 98% of the time, it was not a cruelty-free fragrance.
I didn’t start off really thinking much about how fragrances were tested, but it was more than obvious from their advertising when perfumes and colognes were cruelty-free. Although I wouldn’t’ve classified myself as an “animal” lover, I didn’t want animals to be hurt. I was none too thrilled when my mother wanted me to take a group photo with her, my cousins and two elephants during a family trip. Hard pass. No thanks. She took the pic anyway. I’m the only one who is not smiling. Maybe I was thinking of the piano keys, figurines, jewelry, chess sets and knives that ivory tusks are made of. Who knows?
Regardless of that, as an adult, I’d owned a Lab mix for 13 years and a German Shepherd for nine years. I tried being a vegan in the middle of my vegetarianism, but California maki rolls and cheese pizza kept getting the best of me (along with those chips). But I couldn’t wrap my mind around dogs being caged up and tested to make sure fragrances were safe for human skin. That fragrance blog made me humor the idea of a vegan lifestyle, even if it was leaning more toward protesting cosmetics than giving up my Sarpino’s Field Roast and Beyond Meat sausage with dairy cheese.