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?”