Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dog on the Blog: Abigail, Fat and Happy

In Memoriam
circa 1994 - 2008

Ricky and I are entering a difficult period. Many of the babies who came to live with us in our early days together in New Mexico are now reaching the end of their time. And while they have had long, happy lives, it is never easy to let them go.

So it is with our sweet Abigail. She came to us from the Albuquerque Animal Shelter in 1995. She was full grown, probably a year or so old. She looked like a small black German Shepherd. But she never grew -- well, she never grew taller! We wondered if she had some Schipperke in her.

Abigail was one of those easy going dogs who never complained and never made demands. She loved to be petted and held, but she would never push you for it. She waited patiently and gratefully accepted whatever you gave her. She was a saintly dog.

She was equally magnanimous with other dogs. She never met a dog she did not like and could not get along with. Abigail was part of our large living room group in San Diego, and had many dog friends in her group.

But a few years back when former best pals and yard-mates, Ivy and Emily, had a knock-down, drag-out dog fight, it was Abigail who joined Ivy in the aftermath, so that Ivy would have a friend and would not be alone. Abby was just that kind of girl. She and Ivy lived together right up until we lost Abigail.

(There was actually an intermediate step that did not exactly work out. After separating Ivy and Emily for a couple weeks, allowing their superficial cuts to heal, we had the bright idea that since they had been such good buddies for so long, this fight must have been an aberration of some kind. We were certain they would be ready to kiss and make up. Ricky sat out on the porch holding Ivy, expecting Doug to bring Emily out on a lead and slowly reacquaint the girls. Instead, Doug opened the door, let go of the lead -- and watched in horror as Emily made a bee-line for Ivy, ears and tail in full vertical position! Unfortunately, Ivy was still sitting on Ricky when the battle was engaged. So when Round 2 of the Great Ivy-Emily Grudge Match began, Ricky was underneath an undulating mass of angry, biting dogs! We quickly separated the girls and determined that their relationship was permanently broken. But I am not sure who got the worst of the fight: Ivy or Emily or Ricky!)

Like many of us, as the years wore on, Abigail struggled with her weight. Our vets in New Mexico and California and Arizona would scrutinize Abby and tell us how much overweight she was, and try to frighten us into doing something about her weight. We had observed Abby at meal time, and it never seemed to us that she was overindulging.

Finally, we asked the vet to check her thyroid, knowing that sometimes hypothyroid will result in dogs and people becoming overweight from an underactive metabolism. We were certain the test results would conclude that Abigail had a malfunctioning thyroid, and with some medication, she would be her slim and sexy self once again.

We were wrong. Her thyroid was just fine.

So we did the unthinkable. We limited her food. We bought her special food, the equivalent of "Healthy Choice" with low calories and low sodium that I am certain was just as nasty as the "Healthy Choice" products for humans. We even started taking her for walks, to make sure she was getting exercise. Those walks resulted in a net loss of 5 pounds -- for me!! But nothing for poor Abby.

After a couple months of this regimen, it seemed to Ricky and me that the sparkle was going out in her little eyes. She would look at us so plaintively, as we served her "diet" food and she could see and smell the normal dinners of the other dogs around her. And she wasn't even losing weight!

One day, we could stand it no more. We vowed, like Scarlet O'Hara, that our Abigail would never be hungry again! It just seemed like she was destined to be our plump little girl.

And we figured that if being overweight shaved a few months off her lifespan, at least she would be happy while she was alive. From that day forward, Abby went back to her regular kibble and she got every treat that everyone else ever got. The sparkle returned to her dancing eyes.

Abigail lived with us for 13 years, and we thought she was at least a year old when we met her. So Abby was roughly 14 years old when it was her time to leave us. I don't think her weight affected her lifespan appreciably.

And I know that Abigail was happy, right up to the end. We miss our sweet Abby, but we are grateful that she had a long life with us.

Jay Hellerich, executive director
smiling dog farms
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wharton, texas

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1 comment:

Barb said...

Jay & Ricky,

I'm sorry to hear the sad news of the passing of your sweet girl Abigail. Those of us who love our dogs as family never get 'used' to losing one.

I'm happy to hear she got back on the kibble she so loved! I'm having the same trouble with my Mastiff boy...the piece of furniture that he is...it just seems that he lives to eat! The times I've put him on a 'diet', he acts as though he's starving to death, and truly detests the 'Healthy Choice' entrees! As you did, I finally gave in and let him go back to his regular kibble. He may be a little on the round side, but he is one very happy dog!