How Elsie Achieved What I Could Not

March 16, 2008


[“Can you guess why I’m so happy?”] 

Last week, we took Elsie for her annual checkup at the vet (a place she absolutely loves–go figure).  At the end of the appointment, the vet pronounced her an ideal specimen of canine health.  Not only that; Elsie had lost nine pounds since her previous visit.  Nine pounds!  That’s, like, 63 in dog pounds!  She’s been hanging on to that excess weight for a couple of years, at least. 

This was quite the contrast to our first vet appointment, back in 2002, when she was both underweight and unhealthy. We got Elsie from a Rescue Mission here in the city, because  I was keen to save a little pup that would otherwise face certain death.  But there was also a monetary consideration, as the mission charged only $200 versus the $1200 or so we’d have to dish out for a purebred pup.

I remember the event perfectly: it was a blustery, snow-swept Saturday in February (a day very much like most of last week, come to think of it–except THIS IS MID-MARCH), and we were assured that our little 12-week old fuzzball had received all the pertinent shots, was proclaimed worm-free, and had been given a clean bill of health by their vet. 

As he shoved her into my eager embrace, the scuzzball “attendant” behind the counter drawled, “Waell, you just take her in to your vet on Monday morning, and if there’s any problem, you can bring her on back.”  (Right.  Quick inventory: cramped, smelly, fecal-encrusted and rusty cage in dingy, musty basement; approximately 50 clamoring, whining, unkempt pups crammed into it shoulder to shoulder; Elsie, sweet, reticent, timid, hovering in the back corner, eyes pleading as she silently implored me, “Please!  You must help me! Get me out of here!  Pleaaaassseeee. . . . “). Return her to that torment, under any circumstances?  Um, I don’t think so.

Needless to say, when Monday morning rolled around and we  made it to our regular vet, we were hit with this diagnosis:  worms (yes, the scum-bag guy lied!  Imagine that!), fleas, mange, parasites, broken tooth, and your garden-variety malnutrition. To look at her, you’d never have known; she was nonetheless alert, frisky, and exhibited a voracious appetite (which remains to this day).  We embarked on a series of medications, unguents, and shots to rid her of all the vermin.  Ultimately,  we calculated, restoring Elsie’s health cost us about the same as if we’d purchaed 2.7 purebred pups instead.  Of course, by then  we already loved her so much that there was no question–it was worth it. 


[Elsie, pre-weight loss]

So, now that she’s svelte and healthy, how did Elsie achieve this amazing feat? The same one, I must admit, that’s been eluding me since I started this blog back in November? And, more important, what can I learn from this?

First and foremost, Elsie now has a new sibling to share her time and energy. Ever since little Chaser Doodle arrived on the scene, Elsie has spent most of her time warding off the “let’s play” advances of her baby sister.  Chaser attempts any tack to entice Elsie to play: tug a little on the ear, nibble a little on the collar, poke a bit at the bum, taunt ceaselessly with the Nylabone, or nudge repeatedly with a paw. Sometimes, Elsie just gives in and plays. And play means exercise.

Human Counterpart: Seems I need a new baby or a new playmate. Hmmmn.  Baby may pose a challenge, as both the HH and I have passed our best-before dates for procreation (together, we must be something like 4,732 in dog years). And a new “playmate?”  Well, I’m not sure how the HH would like that one, either. But I do think a dieting buddy is a workable option; most of the women I know are watching their weight, too, so it would make sense to team up. 


[The new, svelte girl]

Second, I’ve cut way back on the treats I offer The Girls, compared to the quantity Elsie received before Chaser’s arrival.  Partly because current dog-training philosophy advises against treats, and partly because I no longer require treats to engage Elsie’s attention (since she’s got another dog to play with now), the number of daily biscuits has diminished by half at least.  That’s like cutting out snacks during the evening, or reducing your meals by 25%.  No wonder she’s lost weight!

Human Counterpart: Cut down snacks.  I may need to establish nap-time between 2:00 and 3:00 (when my blood sugar crashes) for a while, but that, too, shall pass. And fewer snacks means fewer calories.

The Girls also spend a lot of time romping outdoors, running off leash for a minimum of 45 minutes per day. Before Chaser’s arrival, Elsie was walked for the same length of time each day, but never felt the urge to run (or even walk very fast).  Obviously, having a playmate has made a difference.

Human Counterpart: Take a daily romp in the woods.  Well, if I translate this into human terms, what I really need to do is more exercise.  I’ve read that in order to lose weight, the average person must exercise ninety minutes a day.  Ninety!  And once women reach perimenopause (and after), they require an hour a day just to maintain weight.  So if I tally up the hour or so I walk The Girls each day, plus whatever extra I add on with the treadmill or the workout club, I should realistically be able to reach that goal. 

Why haven’t I incorporated any of these tricks yet?  Maybe I needed Elsie as my inspiration. I know it’s worth a try. I mean, Elsie does look marvelous, and, even better, she seems to have more energy these days for frolicking and gamboling.  And lord knows I could use more frolick and gambol.

Yes, Mum, I’d highly recommend it.  I do enjoy my frolicking.  But now, can you do something about getting Chaser off my back?”



9 Responses to “How Elsie Achieved What I Could Not”

  1. steve Says:

    Your lucky , I am afraid our puppies put on quite a bit of weight in the winter because it is just to cold to take them for long walks but as it is now nearing a wonderful 40 degrees they will be lucky and so will I with a bit more excercise


  2. Go Elsie!

    My dogs had to lose quite a bit of weight. Now we take them for multiple walks a day… but what REALLY helped them lose weight is that we stopped feeding them table scraps (except for raw veggies, which they love).

    I wish Elsie could teach them to like going to the vet’s office!

  3. cakespy Says:

    Aww, Elsie! She should be a spokesperson! The Elsie Diet? Much better than that awful Subway guy.

  4. Johanna Says:

    It is all such common sense isn’t it so why is it so hard? I think our environment (eg your snow) makes a big difference!

    I am glad our zinc doesn’t put on weight – she just nibbles at her food when she feels like it – if I did that I would just grow and grow – we did find her licking a bowl that had chilli and sour cream crisps in it last night – now if she got into those habits her weight might be another matter!

  5. Lucy Says:

    Ninety minutes of excercise a day…oh, God…must rethink my daily activity.

    Well done to your beautiful dog for losing such a sensible amount of weight – I know how hard it would have been to take her back to that hell-hole when you first took her home. Funny how those places make you all the more determined to make them happy and healthy!

    Great thoughts here. Snacking (out of boredom) is my weakness.

  6. Ricki Says:

    Thanks for your comment, and welcome! We also experience the cold here (as I am inclined to mention, oh, every so often in this blog), but we trudge outside with the dogs anyway. Your 40 degrees sounds like heaven to me about now!

    Yes, I’m very proud of My Girl. She actually still eats the same way as always (table scraps and all)–the only food related change is the treats. I’m pretty sure running and wrestling for an hour a day or more is what caused the weight change. And our vet is so terrific, I’m sure if your dogs could meet here, they’d love it there, too!

    What an awesome idea! I’ve always wanted to be a stage mother! I can see the dollar signs now. . . (if only we could get Elsie to comply on camera!) 😉

    I agree–it seems so obvious, yet it is SO hard to execute. Of course, Elsie has the advantage (diet-wise) of having someone else control her eating entirely. So perhaps I need to hire someone to feed me according to the Elsie Diet and disallow any extra, whether I want it or not. I think cats are much more sensible that way (my best friend used to leave her cat alone for the weekend with enough food for 2 days, and the cat would pace herself; Elsie or Chaser, on the other hand, would eat 2 days’ worth in 10 minutes, then be hungry the rest of the time!).

    I know–ninety minutes does sound more like a punishment, doesn’t it? Re: the “rescue mission”–I had no idea when we walked in there what the conditions would be, and was completely appalled. I would have liked to take them all home with me, if only I could have.

  7. Cara Says:

    Aww what a sweet story. We ended up buying our puppy from a backyard breeder because we didn’t want to pay for a purebred one. It turned out horrible though because a few days after having our pup we found out he had parvo. $2600 later, he was better, but it was awful. I feel awful for all the other people who bought his brother’s and sisters who could not afford to give the other puppies the care they needed. (The vet told us he had to have contracted it from the former owners).

    I am glad your pup is super healthy now 🙂

  8. Ricki Says:

    Hi Cara,
    Thanks so much for your comment, and for visiting the blog! Sounds like our puppy-purchasing experiences were fairly similar (except for the parvo part–unless I’ve blanked it out of my memory!). We often think about Elsie’s siblings, who were all also there in the cage. I’m hoping that their more outgoing personalities got them scooped up fairly quickly. Glad that your pup is now better!

  9. Lizzie Says:

    Good girl, Elsie! My parents dog Elsa lost a few pounds too once Henry started visiting. His constant attacks on her neck really get her moving.

    I bet Elsie and Chaser sure are happy you saved them. It sounds like you gave them a pretty great life 🙂

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