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  • Profile of an Equal Opportunity Eater

    By Sue Ely


    Do you remember the kid in your third grade class who ate chalk? Or the little girl in the back row who ate the paste you used in arts and craft projects? Somewhere in your later education, you learned that this was called pica, which is defined as “a craving for substances that are not foods.”



    Recently, on a snowy afternoon, I was on the phone with Peggy Metcalf, who reminded me that I had once planned to write an article on pica in Norfolks. I had been complaining that my dogs were eating huge chunks of ice in the yard, and then coming in and vomiting the resultant water in random spots all over the house.



    She had just heard of a puppy swallowing a wire staple found in its yard, an object that was still sitting in its stomach awaiting safe, probably surgical, removal. Given that impetus, the rest of our time on the phone was devoted to creating a list of things which our Norfolks had eaten over the years, or which we had heard of other Norfolks swallowing. It included all of the following items:

    Earthworms, dead or alive

    Scat of all kinds


    Socks, stockings

    Wood of all sorts


    Small toys

    Tags from toys

    Berries on trees & vines


    Stones and pebbles

    Tree Bark

    Walnut hulls


    Grass Clumps from lawn mowers

    Moss between the bricks on a patio



    While I do not think that any veterinarian has connected pica with dogs I think we could make a case for Norfolks who seem remarkably capable of ingesting a myriad of inappropriate things, who are almost uniformly food-driven, and who repeatedly  insult their digestive tracts with inappropriate “food,” despite the watchful eyes of their owners.



    Not only do  Peggy and I hope you will share your experiences with your Norfolks and add to the list we generated, but also warn all your puppy buyers that they have just purchased an equal opportunity eater, aka a Norfolk Terrier!  When I was a high school teacher, I often got the “my dog ate my term paper” excuse.  Had all those kids owned Norfolks, I might have believed them!


    (Published in ANTIC March, 2011)