Pudgy Pups Aren't Happy Pups!
Here I sit, at my favorite ice cream stand waiting for my order to magically appear at the little window. I quickly rationalize that this little cone will not entirely blow my calorie budget for the day. Who am I kidding? Of course it will, but it is the first warm day of a long-awaited summer, and calories be damned! I want this treat. Dozens of people have the same idea—some waiting for burgers or fried clams while others join me at the window from which will soon emerge a variety of sumptuous ice cream treats. I gaze around me at the various shapes and figures thinking that I am not alone in my craving for sweet and cold. People mill around me, talking, laughing, decked out in what may be the first shorts and tank tops of the season.
As I content myself with observing my fellow humans and speculating on their various stories, something waddles into view and plops at my feet. I look down into the liquid eyes of a rotund little figure gazing up at me. It appears to be a pug, although it resembles more of a ball than a dog. It’s deep brown eyes take me in—perhaps smelling the treats I always carry in my pocket for my own pup. Apparently deciding that I am not going to come across with any goodies, the pup waddles away.
“Pooky! Sweetie! ” calls a female voice from somewhere in the throng of waiters. “Come get your ice cream!” The dog cocks her head, listening and then with lumbering steps she heads back toward the voice of her apparent owner.
My mood has altered now. I am no longer feeling carefree and savoring the ritual of early summer indulgences. I feel heavy hearted. Doesn’t Pooky’s seemingly loving owner realize what she is doing to her dog. No, not the ice cream treat. Some dogs love ice cream. Rather this poor animal can hardly move because of her obesity.
Before I started working with service dogs, I may not have realized what being overweight does to a dog. It is so tempting to share when your pet looks at you with those plaintive eyes as you snack on a piece of pizza or a cookie. They seem to be saying “Hey, what about me!” and giving in, you toss a bit to your plaintive canine. But through working with service dogs, I learned the importance of keeping a dog lean. While this is essential for a working dog, it also goes for pets. Being overweight puts undue stress of a dog’s heart, lungs and joints. In fact, by allowing a dog to become overweight you are shortening the dog’s life by as much a two years. I would certainly rather have my pet for an additional two years and not give in to the temptation to give him or her too many treats.
“I don’t give a lot of treats,” one friend argued about his extremely overweight boxer. “He just eats a lot.” He eats a lot because you feed him too much, I wanted to protest. Veterinarians or any good dog book will tell you how much a dog should be fed. Just because you may want to overeat doesn’t mean your dog should be allowed to do so. It is also fine to give treats. It makes you feel good and dogs love them, but if you factor them into your dog’s food budget for the day they will not make him fat.
“But he’s always hungry!” explained this same friend. Just like us, dogs get used to eating a lot if they are used to being given a lot of food. Better a brisk walk, a play time or using treats with little caloric content (for example, vegetables) or treats that have been accounted for in what you are feeding the dog than to give in to Fido’s assertion that he’s still hungry.
I hear my order called and realize that my ice cream is ready. But as I lick my cone – a treat that I had thought about all morning—it doesn’t taste quite a delicious as I anticipated that it would. For over at the side of the food stand is Pookey and her doting owner savoring their ice creams together while Pooky grows more rotund. I can almost see those two years of her life slipping away as she laps the last sweet bit and waddles over to the car. Her owner lifts her in—a jump that a thinner dog might well have made with ease.
“Well,” I say to myself, “that is sure a good motivator to get back on my own diet tomorrow glad that I am in control of what I eat. I know that I carry around a few too many pounds, but that is my choice. Our pets need us to choose for them a healthy and longer life. I end this blog with the hope that maybe Pookey’s loving owner will read it and realize that pudgy pets are not always happy or healthy ones.