Tuesday, June 07, 2005


The world's best doggie

So I've told you about Simon, menace to things that are folded, stacked or otherwise put away. And I've told you about Tristan, slave to the cult of Thomas and Friends. I've even told you about Beloved, man of my dreams.

But before there was babies, before we were even married, there was Katie. Katie, perhaps the world's best natured dog. Katie, whom I love as a daughter and sister in my house full of men.

Katie is a golden retriever-German shepherd mix, just turned six years old. She looks like a very large yellow lab, but with the thick ruff of a shepherd. She is perhaps the most patient dog on god's green earth. No dog should put up with what that dog tolerates from my two rambunctious preschoolers and still be as loving and forgiving as her. She is regularly poked, kissed, prodded, laid-on, tickled, examined, ridden like a pony and used as a step-stool to get onto the couch, among other indignities -- and she doesn't flinch.

I have never seen her so much as curl a lip at my boys, no matter how they are torturing her. At her most annoyed, she will open her mouth and use her very large head to knock over and away whomever is pestering her. Mostly, she just gets up and walks away, throwing a look that drips baleful annoyance in my direction. I can clearly read, in her brown doggie eyes, "You did this to me."

Katie was my problem child. She was so wild as a pup that we had to take her to obedience training twice. Puppy classes at the community centre did nothing to curb her wildness, so we took her to a former police dog trainer who laid down the law. He taught us to use one of those awful spiked choke chains because she was obtusely unaware of any other kind of restraint on her and it was the only way I could exert any control over her. Yet she was incredibly submissive, so much so that she'd pee on the floor, writhing on the ground desperate for approval whenever someone approached her. (We're alike in so many ways, my Katie and me.) She was always great with kids, so much so that in the days before I had kids of my own the boys who lived a few doors down would come and knock on the door and ask if Katie could come out to play.

Katie was also our practise child. I remember crying on the phone to my mother, exasperated after she had destroyed something or other and exhausted by her puppy neediness, wondering how I'd ever be able to raise children if I couldn't contain this insanely rambunctious puppy. And when we were going through our diagnosis and treatment for infertility, through two failed treatments and a miscarriage Katie was my substitute child, so much so that I joked in a not-quite-joking kind of way that if we didn't have kids soon, one would find me some day at the mall pushing Katie in a pram with a bonnet on her head.

When Tristan came along, she guarded us through the night on our first night home from the hospital. Tristan slept in a cradle at my bedside, and every time he so much as squeaked, she would jump up and look in on him, shooting me perplexed and anxious looks that clearly said, "It's alive! It's making a noise! Do something!"

As he grew, so did Katie. Literally. Although initially alarmed by his burgeoning mobility around the age of six or seven months, Katie soon realized that the trade off for tolerating the baby was the fact that the baby was a reliable food source. It didn't take long for her to figure out that Tristan in his high chair provided an all-you-can-drop buffet from heaven.

The combination of the new found source of nourishment and the fact that I was too tired to haul both her and Tristan for the long walks we enjoyed pre-baby worked together to inflate Katie's weight rather dramatically. The vet scolded us back in 2003 when she gained 10 lbs in a year and we had to buy two packages of heartworm and flea control medication because she was too fat for just one.

I was quite proud when in 2004, we had her back to a somewhat svelte 99 lbs - she really is a big dog. However, 2004 was also the year that Simon arrived, and subsequently became yet another source of doggie junk food. For a dog who was never fed table scraps pre-children, I think she consumes more people food in the average day than Tristan does. Which seems apt, I guess, because I think Simon consumes more dog food than Katie does.

Last week we brought her back in for her annual check up, and I knew by the sight of her hefty haunches that our trip to the scale would not be pretty. But even I was not prepared for the final weigh-in. In the past year, my plump little pup gained a whopping 20 lbs, an appalling 1/5 of her body weight. She's up to 120 lbs. Egad!

I'm sure that in this age of pampered pets, there's probably some weight watchers equivalent for dogs, but I'm still bitter about the whole weight watchers thing right now. Although I haven't gained anymore this week, I'm still static at a pound over my sign-up weight four weeks into the program. You'd think all the running we do would be helping Katie and I with our weight issues (her getting out of the way of the boys, and me cleaning up the trail of destruction in the wake of said boys), but so far it's not working out for us.

So, my loose affiliation of bloggy weight loss buddies, is it okay if Katie joins our little support group? She doesn't say much, but her heart is as big as, well, it's bigger than her ass, and that's plenty big.