Sunday, June 28, 2009

Newspaper column: Attempting to tackle dog's weight proves an exercise in futility

When our dog’s annual checkup ap­proached, I started looking forward to getting praise from the veterinarian about his weight.

Like everyone in our house, Toby likes to snack. And we’ve been told on more than one occasion that he’s a little heavy for his miniature stature.

Because of that, I decided to make a conscious effort to stop giving him treats no matter how long he sits at my feet and stares without blinking. I outlawed table scraps and tried rewarding him with a game of fetch instead of a Milkbone.

Although I didn’t notice a physical change, he did alter his behavior. I no longer feel little furry paws scratching at my legs when I sit at the table. I don’t hear whining or anxious pacing. It seems that by changing our habits, Toby changed his.

So when my husband returned from the appointment with a fresh supply of heartworm pills, flea and tick medication and confirmation that Toby had gained a pound, I couldn’t believe it.

“How is that possible?” I asked, feeling more than a little perplexed.

Of course, he didn’t actually look slimmer, but I chalked it up to the fact that I see him every day and wouldn’t notice a slow, gradual change.

Then, at our next meal, it hit me. Toby didn’t have his nose in my lap, but that didn’t mean he was obediently laying under the table either. When I peeked, it all made sense. There he was, both front paws planted squarely on the bottom rung of my daughter’s kiddie chair, chomping on a morsel she likely handed him.

And I had thought she was such a good eater.

Apparently they had developed a system. If Allison doesn’t like something on her plate, Toby gladly relieves her of the responsibility.

Peas? The last few bites of ham she doesn’t want? An extra grape she feels like sparing? Some cheese she could part with? Broccoli? Bread crust that didn’t get any jelly?

All fodder for the furry garbage disposal waiting anxiously underfoot.

Sure, having a dog to clean up after a toddler’s first attempt at wielding a spoon on spaghetti night is practically crucial. Toby is also good at taking care of all sorts of accidental spills during meal prep, a box of cereal that I pull open a little too vigorously or even the rogue cubes that spit out of the refrigerator door ice maker on occasion.

But clearly I was missing the fact that Toby wasn’t just making away with spills and the occasional cracker from the household’s easiest target. In addition to cutting back on his snacks, I vowed to police Allison’s underhanded dealings at the dinner table, too.

Over the next few days, I started observing their relationship a little more closely. One of Allison’s first words was Tob, which morphed to Debbie and now Tebby. She clearly adores him, talks about him all the time, and when I can’t convince her to sit still in her car seat so I can strap her in, all I have to do is mention we’re going home to see Toby and she instantly stops protesting.

But Allison’s attempt at giving hugs is a little more than Toby is willing to put up with. It’s more like, well, envision a pro wrestler perched on the ropes with arms outstretched and free falling on a downed opponent. Plus, she occasionally steps on his feet, accidentally knocks him off the couch and steals all of his toys.

I guess an occasional chunk of chicken parm handed off by sticky fingers is well deserved for putting up with as much as he does.

And our veterinarian will just have to understand that.


Christina said...

Too funny! I knew this was going to happen after you posted the video of her handing him cheerios from her high seat. What a great system. :o)

the_plainsman said...

A fun read, and so true, as dogs will adapt and change habits very quickly, but in this case, Toby still has his steady co-conspirator!

Good to watch Toby's weight, as want to make sure he and Allison grow up together. As a smaller breed, he already has a good chance of living long if he keeps fit.

Anonymous said...

not too many grapes. they cause renal failure in dogs. Rapidly.

I still have to watch what my husband gives the dog. I've had to snatch chocolate and raisins from his little mouth.

Sara Padrusch said...

What a great team they are! My kids live for our dogs!


Nina's Mama said...

That is classic!

Laura said...

watch out for grapes, raisins, and onions, they can be poisonous to dogs

the_plainsman said...

Good to check back sometimes, knew about onions and chocolate, but not about raisins and grapes.

novelle360 said...

Well I guess it's good Toby doesn't actually EAT the grapes then. I used to get mad that he just tosses them around and plays with them, but not anymore. He treats them like a teenie, tiny ball. Then he gives up on them once his teeth crack the surface.