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.


For the love of dog


If you had asked me six months ago if I was going to get another dog anytime soon, I would have said no.

I had my two remaining pack members and had decided I would just love them. I was being selfish and didn’t want to put myself through any more potential heartache.

But I think John Lennon said it best when he said life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. (I wonder how many dogs he had…he had to have a few to have that depth of wisdom.)

An innocent post on Facebook led me to our fourth German Shepherd and a new member of our pack. Ava.

Oh, she was gorgeous, all big ears and wide smile in the photo I saw.

The first thing that struck me was how much she looked like Comet, Lamar’s first shepherd and Roubaix’s sire.

Comet had been the 120 – pound hulk of a dog who had been the Gibbs to my quirky Abby-ness. I swear, if he had been able to slap me upside the head, he probably would have.

But he had loved me and I him, as I did Venus and Roubaix – having unique, special relationships with each of them. I will always believe Venus was my true soul mate, my Velcro dog, the one who ‘got’ me; Roubaix was my spoiled boy, the mischievous one, the one who when he grieved himself to death after his mother passed, I couldn’t bring myself to write about him because that made it real.

I had said “no more” – I would love Pumpkin and Angel Doodle and that would be it. No more – such a permanent stance.

Cole had told me when I lost the evil beagle and Venus within a week of each other that the love I had would be greater than the pain.

And here I was, heading to my hometown to get this new love.

I woke up that morning, nervous, anxious and excited.

This was the first time a family decision had been made about getting a dog – usually, it was me, rescuing one and bringing it home, Lamar shaking his head, wondering what kind of crazy dog woman he had married.

I prayed that morning, prayed for her sweet family that was wanting her to go to a good home, prayed for her to adjust well, for our dogs to adjust well, prayed for us all to be a happy family.

But we talked it over, under and through and knew our hearts, no matter our fears, needed this. Needed her.

We wondered what the other two pups would think.

“I know what Pumpkin’s going to tell Doodle,” I said. “‘I told you, I told you – you think you are the baby and just you wait – that girl will bring home another dog. I told you, I told you!'”

I’m not sure if that’s what Pumpkin really said or not, but she got her whiskers twisted. Even though that little border collie had not been happy about her promotion to alpha dog, she wasn’t so sure she was willing to give it up to a new, bigger sheriff in town.

Angel Doodle Loopy Loo hid behind my legs and peeked at her before finding her confidence to shower her with her sweet puppy pittie mix kisses. Ava seemed to relish the attention.

In person, she was even more like Comet – the way she walked, the way she held herself. Her inquisitive nature, her hearing Cole’s loud playing in the bedroom made her sprint to check on him.

She immediately took to following Lamar’s every step, like Roubaix did, being his shadow.
Seeing her hopping onto the couch and the way she laid her head in Lamar’s lap reminded me so much of Comet, I found myself in tears, feeling almost as if, by some small way, the dogs we had lost over the years were being returned to us in some form.

I thought of the times I had fussed about the accidents, the drool, the trash that had been systematically dismantled from the kitchen to the corner of the living room.

How when they were gone, I sobbed and said if I had it to do over again, I would never, not ever, fuss about what my dogs did again.

My time with them was too short and messes and accidents can be cleaned up. My attitude with the collie and the doodle had become one of less fuss, more forgiveness.

Even as I typed this, big Batman like ears peered over the screen of my laptop, before her smile appeared. A quick pup kiss, and she was off to check on Cole again before returning to her new designated spot on the couch.

Cole was right, the time had come where the fear of the pain would be outweighed by the love of a dog.