The Trouble With Portly Dogs

Our dog used to be such a lean running machine.

When he arrived with us from the local rescue, he was a lithe bundle of well toned one-year old muscle. But he was only seven years old in dog years. Now, at the seasoned age of seven, he is technically a little older than us: he has nearly reached his fiftieth year.

He has all the jaunty swagger of a man in his forties. His socalising is prolific, his acquaintances many. His demeanour may appear shaggy, like some latter day Robert Plant, but he has the unmistakable aroma of a deeply successful dog. The lady dogs swoon and sniff in all the wrong places, the men dogs curry favour with the smallest alpha male they are likely to meet.

But it is impossible to ignore the extra pounds around his middle.

There is a Fat Dog Test. I learned about it from some keep-your-dog-thin reality show, watching portly pooches waddle on for timely slimming advice. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals, there are three vital litmus-test criteria to fulfil.

The first requires you to get down on the floor and view your pet from the side. Is its belly tucked up, the RSPCA asks?

I don’t even know what they mean. I tried scoping Caulay for a tidy belly, desperately trying to dispel images of vain older men tucking in paunches when the Girl from Ipanema walks by. He and I professed ourselves puzzled.

So we moved swiftly on. Can you clearly see your pet’s waist when viewed from above? asked the experts brightly.

I tried an arial view and heaved a sigh of relief. there it was: Macaulay’s waist. As plain as the nose on his engaging but bacteria laden face.

The third test got me, though. “You should be able to see and feel the outline of your pet’s ribs without excess fat covering,” reads the RSPCA advice. I flexed my fingertips. The dog mimed ‘unimpressed’. I gently massaged my fingers into his midriff, waiting for fingertip to hit rib.

The dog stood with the air of a Tolpuddle Martyr at the docks waiting for the ship to Australia.

The response was sluggish. Sure, the ribs were there, but they were languid and lazy, under their deluxe gello protective padding, custom fitted by Macaulay and his incorrigible habit of thieving.

This evening I got in from a day at a new chalkface. I sat in the best armchair and the dog arrived directly, to work my synapses over.

His relentless telepathy had but one aim: to fill his bowl with doggie chow.

“I know what you’re telling me,” I told him. He turned up the telepathic volume, his quarry in sight.His eyes boggled. His moustache quivered in anticipation.

My husband intervened. “He is not to have any tea,” he declared, definitely.

But my synapses were shouting now. The dog had done that mind-melding thing he does, and I couldn’t turn back. He was still staring fixedly.

“Oh, go on, Phil. What has he done?”

It transpires my husband had left a tub of Ardennes pate on a plate on the sofa. The dog waited attentively until Phil’s attention was elsewhere; and then downed the rest of the pate and licked the carton clean.

God help us tonight, when his digestion gets hold of it.

Phil and I negotiated hard: I do not forget the many furtiveΒ plateside snacks Macaulay has received from his Best Friend Phil over the years.

But we arrived at a compromise: half a bowl of doggie chow rather than a whole one.

The diet starts tomorrow.


54 thoughts on “The Trouble With Portly Dogs

  1. Oh poor Mac…and poor Shrewsday household! That pate undoubtedly went down easily and I wonder if he has any regrets! When I overeat and don’t feel well I tell myself I will never do that again…right! I’m relieved that no one, to my knowledge, has stood over me looking down and assessing my waist! Debra

  2. I admit it–I’m betting on Macaulay, and even rooting for him. His mind meld is working across the pond! Macaulay is a Jedi master of what we call at our house The Puppy Dog Face (something that not only my collie, but also my sons can still do successfully, even as grown men, when they come home).

      1. Ha! That’s exactly what I was thinking of Kate- you nmay have something of the mind melding about you too…

  3. Poor Mac, to be subject to dietary restrictions even if in his best interests. I can see some major sulking in the near future and some big time mind melds for sure. Oh well, it is all for the best in the end and if you can keep Phil from slipping Mac the little goodies, you will still have to watch out for Maddie and young Master Felix. They will definitely be players to be watched in this drama.

    1. Alas, the photo is about a year old. He is not a big podgy dog, but he’s not his old lithe self either. We have had strong words over the pate incident.

  4. It’s not a matter of withholding food, but simply supplying a bit less quantity with each offering. A trick I learned from Dolittle’s ( when Minnie was quite young, was to offer less kibble at each feeding, but lace it with a few no-salt-added, canned, green beans. A can or two are added to my grocery list each week, and they’ve been a staple in her diet for years.

    All of you, however, will need to practice looking ANYWHERE but at that entreating, mind-melding (melting?) stare; that, and never leaving the pate unguarded! πŸ™‚

    1. Oooh, thanks for the bean tip, that sounds great! (Although, gas?Always a hazard with Macaulay, must be the King Charles Spaniel half)

      Look somewhere else. Got it πŸ™‚

      1. I don’t think the green beans create the problem that some bean varieties do…at least, I haven’t noticed that issue much with Minnie. If you try this, just be sure the can label specifies “no salt added.” I suspect too much sodium could be a bad thing for dogs as much as it is for us (and the beans taste MUCH more like they’ve come straight from the garden)!

  5. Oh I dread to think what happened later! Ted’s been guilty of such acts. Does he pay the price? I think it’s me! πŸ˜‰ Great post, I’ve seen far too many little chunkers running around, but at 15 Mac can be forgiven!

    1. He’s 49 in dog years but only 7 in real ones, Susan, so I guess we could blame it on middle aged spread. I love the word ‘chunker’ πŸ˜€ I shall use it often…

  6. I used to take Jazzmine to stay with my mother sometimes and wonder who I was picking up when I returned. Jazz always gained several pounds and looked more pig than dog by the end of those stays. Mom claimed she was hungry. I retorted, “She’s a DOG. She’s ALWAYS hungry.”

    It’s tough to look at those pitiful eyes and mournful expressions and say no. All the best to you in the coming days as the deprivation begins.

    In other news, Charleston appears to be getting a bar called……..wait for it……….Rarebit.

    1. Rarebit! I simply shall have to see the menu! What a happy coincidence, Andra!

      Dogs know there are different rule books for different humans, don’t they? You’e right. Dogs have the Homer Simpson thing. They would just keep eating ad infinitum if we let them.

  7. The eyes have it – and they are very hard to ignore (before I owned dogs I had no idea about the eye thing) – my youngest pooch is getting a bit paunchy – it’s all my fault but I was hypnotised by the eyes!

  8. I am looking after my mother in laws little poopy pooch and he is looking positively svelte-like now, send your wee tike over .. Minty loves to be in charge of their work outs! That lamb chases dogs! c

  9. Oh my goodness.. this was soo funny and too accurate! My poor dog has become quite plump from excess food lately due to a new house guest that surreptitiously sneaks him food. Lucky (the dog) also does the whole “telepathic messaging” as well:D xoxo

  10. on the flip side, I’ve been given a hard time because you can feel the pup’s ribs (i’d read that this is a good thing long ago) It seems in the States, peeps not only want to be portly but the dog as well

    (fresh veggie & fruit bites are tossed to z to help round out diet without all of it coming from kibble)

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