-- by Mike Murray
Janna is so sweet, so solicitous, each evening as she locks those big, brown eyes onto mine and pleads: “Please, give me just one more tasty treat.” And then another. And then another. J-Bear is no fool; she knows a sucker when she sees one.
And that’s the problem. Because I love her, Janna is able to play me. She “winds me up like a cheap watch.” She has me wrapped around her furry little paw – and she knows it. My wife Pam knows it, too. Which is why she refers to me as “the weak link.” She is sometimes amused at our mutt’s ability to manipulate me. Other times, she is envious. Always, she worries about the ways in which my indulgence impacts Janna’s health.
Pam’s concern is warranted. A recent visit to the veterinarian confirmed as much. Inherently stout (Janna is part Rottweiler, part Elkhound), she is getting downright portly these days. Sure, there’s “more of her to love.” But that rationalized pleasure will count for little if her excess weight reduces our time with her. If it shortens her life.
There’s an old saying that goes: “If you’re fat, your dog isn’t getting enough walks.” I’m finding out the hard way that there is much wisdom in that expression.
For years, J-Bear was the source of both fun and fitness. Her rescue fosters described her as “a very sweet girl” in their web-site post. They added that “she is currently athletic and high-energy.” And she was. Janna was happy and playful, and possessed of a seemingly inexhaustible supply of get up and go.
It required a couple of lengthy daily walks, numerous play sessions, and several runs each week to satisfy her exercise needs. Janna’s exuberance kept the three of us busy. And trim. Who needs a health-club membership when you’ve living with an active critter?
But things changed as Janna aged. She began to slow down.
I noticed it a couple of summers ago, when elevated temperatures appeared to take a greater-than-usual toll on her. As a seasonal precaution, I had always suspended her jogs from mid-June until mid-September. And Pam and I typically shortened her walks a bit, too – and confined them to early morning and late evening hours – in order to avoid blistering pavement and oppressive heat. But those safeguards now proved insufficient.
Janna suddenly appeared sluggish when the temperature climbed only modestly (to 65° Fahrenheit or so). On such occasions, walks – even ones taken in the shade – required a markedly slower pace. And when the temperature exceeded 75° (and / or when the humidity level approached the dew point), frequent rest stops also became necessary.
Still, things improved when fall arrived. The walks got longer and more enthusiastic. And when the mercury fell still further, most especially when snow blanketed the ground, Janna became her old self: excited and energetic. She eagerly resumed jogging.
But I knew it wouldn’t last. Nothing does. The summer slow-downs provided the initial evidence that Janna was getting on in years. She was not yet elderly. But she was no longer a young Turk, either. Cool winter temperatures encouraged and enlivened her. Each time the mercury rose, however, her energy level again fell. And each drop resulted in reduced activity. And weight gain – for both of us.
Then came a leg injury, and Janna slowed down even more. Orthopedic surgery repaired the damage. But, throughout the months of convalescence that followed, her physical activities were curtailed altogether. And during that prolonged period, she gained additional weight. I did, too. My dog wasn’t “getting enough walks.” Neither was I.
Now fully healed, Janna is rehabilitating. She’s out again, twice daily, for 30- to 60-minute jaunts through the neighborhood. She’s in good spirits. And her fitness level is improving, too. But her weight remains an issue. It's still much too high, as is mine. We’re both paying for our sedentary ways. And for enjoying way too many after-dinner treats.
So, in addition to getting more exercise, we each need to substantially cut back on our caloric intake. I can deny myself much more easily than I can her, however. She’s my baby, after all. And I hate to deprive her.
But I’m going to have to toughen up. I’m going to have to find a way to resist those adorable, imploring eyes. I'm going to have to tell Janna “no” – and mean it. Because I love her.
Copyright © 2009 Michael F. Murray. -- All rights reserved.