Fat-shaming the dog

Ava, our German Shepherd, has put on some weight.

It’s not her fault.

She’s been on steroids.

Even before the steroids, she has always been a big boned girl, with the vet commenting quite frequently on her size.

“She’s big boned,” I insist.

“She’s extra-large, especially for a female,” the vet will respond.

“Big boned,” I repeat.

“She’s huge, no other way to say it,” the vet states. “She’s not overweight, but she is a big girl.”
There you have it – Ava has a medical diagnosis of being a big girl.

Problem is, Ava doesn’t know how big she is.

In her mind, she is still a small puppy, yearning to cuddle.

Granted, she wasn’t small when we got her; she was 11 months old with a lanky, large frame begging to fill out.

But she still thinks she should be able to fit in a lap or in the crook of our arm, not realizing her massive size.

She was big before but like the best of us, specifically me, she has put on a few pounds.

The steroids are actually to treat a systematic allergic reaction that was triggered by a gluttonous binge eating episode of cat food.

She apparently dove head first into a 16-lb. bag of cat food and only came up for air to make sure we weren’t waking up to catch her.

Two vet visits, steroid shots, shampoo treatments, and a prescription for steroids later, she is still binging but only on her specialty food.

“You get two breakfasts, lunch, and two dinners,” Lamar tells her as she paws at the feed bin.

Ava whimpers her protest. It’s been two hours since her last meal. Can’t he see she is wasting away to nothing?

“No,” he tells her firmly. “No more. You’re getting fat, Ava.”

She lets out a loud wail in protest and even flattens one ear down as if to say they are falling off for lack of food.

“Ava – you are huge. No more food for you.”

She runs – well, ambles at a somewhat fast pace for such a big animal – to me, leaning against my legs as she looks up to me for support.

“Quit fat-shaming my dog,” I tell Lamar.

“She’s fat. Look at her.”

I did. Her soft, big, brown eyes begged me for food. Just a kibble, a tiny nibble, maybe a bite?

“She is not fat.”

“She is too!” Lamar said. “She can barely jump up on the bed now.”

True. But she has always had to do a few laps like an ice skater preparing for a triple Lutz.

“She is just big-boned,” I protested.


I shush him. I don’t want my dog getting some kind of complex or feeling bad about herself. She gets scared when it storms and gets in the tub to hide; as soon as she comes out, she needs a snack. Maybe the over-eating is just her way to cope.

Even if she is happy about something, she runs to the bowl to ding it, as if she wants to celebrate.

I can relate. When I am sad, I eat. When I am nervous, I eat. When I am happy, bring on the cheesecake.

“You see how she came to me when you called her fat?” I asked.

“Yeah, because she thinks she can hustle you for some food.”

“No, she thinks us chubby girls have to stick together. She is coming to me for support.”

“You’re not –” he caught himself before he said anything else.

He realized I was right. I’m always right but this time it sunk in before he said something he shouldn’t.

“Every time you call her fat, she runs to me. She probably thinks my name is ‘fat.’”

I have probably called myself fat so many times in the last few years, the pup may be associating it with me. And, she has made the connection that I call myself fat, then I get upset, and to console myself, I eat some chips and guac.

She thought Lamar calling her fat meant I was going to break out the snacks. Maybe for both of us.

“I’m not calling you fat though,” Lamar said, hoping to clarify things before it went horribly wrong and became a huge molehill. “I am calling Ava fat and she is. Look at her. She is kind of a long furry cylinder.”

Ava looked back up at me and wagged her tail, smiling her doggy smile.

“She’s still pretty though,” Lamar added.

“Next you’re gonna say she has a great personality, too.”
“She does. She has the best temperament of any dog we have had.”

He completely missed the point.

I sighed. “Just quit calling her fat. She can’t help it; she has a medical condition.”

A few hours later, she dinged the bowl again.

“No more food, Ava, you’re –” he caught himself. “You’ve had enough today.”

She dinged again, and another time. After being told no three more times, she sighed and got on the couch. Granted, it took her a few seconds to get up there, but she did.

At least she wasn’t called fat again.

Now, if I can stop calling myself that, maybe she and I both can feel better about ourselves.



What Ava wants, Ava gets (10/28/15)

Ava my German shepherd is quite verbal.

Really, she is.

She may not have all the consonant sounds down but she’s got her vowels.

We discovered she could ‘talk’ when we brought her home and I told her she could lie down, that she was home.

She looked at me, all ginormous ears and said, “Ro ram?” She promptly jumped up in the well-worn recliner that had cradled three German shepherds before her and went to sleep.

Now, she’s using her words to be vocal about other things.

Like treats. Ava likes to eat and isn’t ashamed to tell you when she’s hungry.

“What do you want?” we will ask when she paws at us.

“Onnngry,” she will bellow.

“You’re not hungry are you?”

“Ro ram.”

She is so serious about her food that when Lamar opened the big container we store the food in to show her he needed to go to the feed store, she wailed a repetitive, “Roh no, roh no, roh no,” before flinging herself dramatically on the floor as if her greatest fear had come upon her.

She’s quite the drama queen, too.

She gets extremely emotionally – ranging from joy to despair, depending on the status of her treats. If the cookie jar is low, Ava will grab my hand in her mouth to lead me to the jar as if telling me, “Hey, girl, do you not see we are low on the treats here!”

When I return from the store, she checks each bag until she finds her treats, then sits and looks at me impatiently until she gets the first one.

She’s the jive talking treat hustler, blocking the path to the bathroom until you pay the potty toll of a treat. We have since moved the cookie jar into the mudroom, where now she paws the door to indicate what she wants.

She usually wakes me up by nuzzling my face gently in a gesture that seems precious but I have learned her ulterior motive is to just wake me up so she can hustle on. I’ve told Mama it takes me a good 15 minutes to get my coffee in the morning just because Ava is trying to persuade me for a treat.

In an effort to be fair, we always make sure the other two gets treats as well, even though Ava requires twice as many. But, we reason, she is twice their size. Even the vet made several comments on her size, saying she was an extremely large girl. I countered with, “She’s just big boned,” but I’m not sure the vet agreed.

The big-boned girl doesn’t mind sharing the treats but she does have an issue about who gets to be next to Lamar.

Doodle, the pittie mix, is the biggest Daddy’s girl in the world and thinks her designated spot is curled up beside Lamar or on his lap, when she can get her chunky self up there. This infuriates Ava to no end, to the point she will bellow for Lamar to “Oooove Ooodle!”

Lamar is torn. He’s always been a German shepherd guy and he never imagined he would fall in love with some little parking lot pibble who has wrapped him around her chubby paw. (To the point he calls her, his ‘baby girl.’ I’ve even gotten a tad bit jealous.) But he can’t make Doodle move, it would hurt her feelings and she would go behind the couch to pout and cry.

Doodle, instead, handles the situation for him, putting her paw on Ava’s big head and pushing her away, never making eye contact with the big dog.

The two otherwise get along famously, except when Ava overzealously sucks on Doodle’s ears. We haven’t figured out why she likes to suck on Doodle’s head but she does. She’s even done it to Pumpkin, who considers the shepherd her arch nemesis, and was not amused. But what’s a dog to do?

Ava relaxing by her arch nemesis, Pumpkin

Ava relaxing by her arch nemesis, Pumpkin

“Mama, these dogs are running things here. And Ava thinks she’s boss just because she’s bigger and can talk.”

Anyone else would think I was a ditzy dog lady, claiming my dog was verbal but Mama and I both knew her cat, Bennie, could talk.

“Are you letting Ava have her way?” she wanted to know, and I told her for the most part, yes. She’s quite persuasive, persistent, and well, she works those puppy eyes, putting her ears back to show them off to their full big, brown adorable effect. She knows how to work it.

It’s hard not to let her have her way; before she came to us, we had been broken hearted, losing three of our dogs – two German shepherds and the evil beagle—within a month. She had come into our life at a time we needed the peace only she could give. The Border Collie was glad to have her here, even if she won’t admit it.

“I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” I said. “What Ava wants, Ava gets.”
And really none of us would have it any other way.