Those of us humans who share our homes with dogs, cats, or any other domesticated animal tend to be a unique breed. (Get it? Breed?) We don’t just “own” pets. We consider them furry family members. We talk to them, we lavish them with attention. We have more photos of them on our smart phones than photos of our own human children. We will do almost anything for them, including take them on special trips, take them to pet spas for grooming, buy them special food and toys, and invest somewhat ridiculous amounts of money on medical procedures when needed. Now, I admit that I could be just a wee bit over the top with my love of dogs in particular, but I think the majority of the pet “owners” I know are just a little bit wacky about their critters too.
So last weekend, when our big, goofy, friendly yellow lab suddenly started acting very lame, lethargic and shaky, we got concerned. Ok, I got nervous. Especially when he started whining. He never whines. I started fearing all the worst possibilities, like he had contracted lime disease, or he ate some poison outside, or he suddenly had nerve damage. We kept a close eye on him, I spent a whole lot of time sitting next to him talking to him and petting him, and we agreed on Monday to get him to the Vet. Keep in mind, I am the same mom who when my son was young, would hold off on taking him to the doctor for sniffles until it had progressed into full-blown double ear infections. I may never win MOTY (Mother of the Year) Awards, but I bet I’d be a candidate for DMOTY (Doggie Mom of the Year). See what I mean? We pet people are a little bit off.
On Monday, my hubby (who would begrudgingly admit to being anxious about the dog too) took time off of work to get him into the next available appointment with the Vet. Worried about how he was going to get Mr. Furry into the van if he could barely walk, my husband began to realize that perhaps we were not in crisis mode when the dog got all excited about a ride, and lept into the car with little issue. Hmmm.
Come to find out that thankfully there was nothing serious, and it was determined that he simply had strained or twisted his back leg. He is fairly mature now (just turned 8), and had ACL operations on both rear legs as a puppy (remember what I said about paying for expensive medical procedures?), so it is pretty likely he’s got some arthritis kicking in. And, thinking back, I had taken him for an extensive walk on Saturday. Ok, so I guess we could have held off on our panic.
However, the Vet did tell us one important tidbit. The most likely factor that led to this injury is the fact that he is overweight. Quite. By about 15 pounds.
Our fault. Completely. How embarrassing.
If he was one of his wolf-dog ancestors, he’d be out running miles a day, hunting for his own food, and staying thin and trim. But he’s not a wild animal. He relies upon us for both his exercise and his food. And he spends a whole lot of time in lounge-mode, especially now that he’s starting to slow down a bit. Years ago we fell victim to the big brown seal eyes and have always shared some of our people food with him. Well, clearly, we’ve let that get out of hand. Bit by bit, he’s “eaten all of it” and become a tubby. The wake up call that it could actually be dangerous for him was enough for us to mend our ways.
Now his daily meals are slightly smaller, and treats have been cut way back, and generally consist of baby carrots and pieces of apple. I swear he gives me a boo-boo sad face when he’s all excited to observe my meal preparations, and I share a small morsel of something healthy. He still eats it, but the look he gives me is one that says: “Carrots? Again? Really with this?” And the wacky pet owner that I am, I talk back to him, using motherly phrases like “trust me, it’s for your own good.”
His change in diet has gotten me thinking about control. What if we as adults, our pets, had to rely on others for our food and exercise? What if the decision-making process of what we should eat was made for us, without any choices? Sounds pretty horrible, I know….but perhaps that is a way to consider letting go of some of our excuses.
I, like many, have put on some winter weight. I like to blame of course winter, because I can’t easily get out on my bike after work when it is cold, dark, and potentially snowy. But in reality, I am a member of a gym, and have a treadmill and elliptical in my basement. I like to blame the fact that my knees are often sore with arthritis. But I can take some Aleve and do other types of exercises that don’t hurt. I like to blame menopause for my weight gain. Sure, that is likely a contributing factor, but menopause doesn’t force me to make french fries with dinner, go back for seconds, buy a bag of Cadbury mini-eggs, or stress-eat my way through a row of oreos. That’s all me. No one is forcing me to make my decisions. Just like no one is forcing me to eat only carrots and apple slices. But perhaps I should work harder to find a happy middle ground.
After all, I’d hate to wake up tomorrow more lame, more lethargic and more shaky than I already am when that early alarm goes off. I want to be able to fit into my clothes and take nice long walks with my dog.
Because I’m realizing he’s got a few lessons to teach me.