Monday, September 04, 2006

Puppies


Seems like I'm spending a great deal of time lately writing little essays as we did in Comp I in college: Compare and contrast, class, and you've 30 minutes.

Compare and contrast I shall because it seems everywhere I look I'm seeing things that keep me mindful of how I'm going to maintain this weight loss and build on my success thus far. Today's comparison is a tale of two dogs, puppies in our household parlance though they're four years of age and a little over one.

Four year old Bill is a Jack Russell Terrier, a short-legged muscular young fellow. He's all boy, assertive, opinionated, territorial, aggressive, a lover of comfort, snuggly warmth, kisses and play. He is the second love of my life. I wrote about him last April here, just a few days after his fourth birthday. I love this boy beyond reason.

Yesterday, we went here to see about another puppy, one who would keep small Bill a bit more active and, perhaps, a bit happier. Pets and People is a true no-kill shelter; that's my sister there on that link and the second photo shows Karen and the current shelter director, Cindy, along with Karen's mad love Mister, a really bad Corgi mix.

We were going to see a little white dog, fluffy, looking like a teensy little wolf. She looks like a Jack/Westie mix. She's very thin. I insisted on a shelter dog for this possible second puppy. I comfort myself in the face of so many unwanted, unloved dogs, with the knowledge that Bill was a pre-shelter rescue: he is so bad that he'd never have lasted in a normal home. We just pre-adopted him from the horrible place where he was born.

So there was little Miss Betty in all of her thin, wiry glory: a little overwhelmed by all of the noise and activity at the shelter, seemingly sweet natured. They seemed like a good match and didn't fight, so we brought her home. She has clearly been neglected and is hyper-alert, so I'm wondering whether she was intentionally frightened or abused in her other life. She's a great little dog, though, and is sitting on my lap on a pillow as I'm writing this. Billy is sitting on his daddy's lap watching television.

What does this have to do with weight? What? Well, this: I am observing how they eat, behave, interact. Betty is very wiry and thin. Billy is not only muscular he's . . . well, he's fat. He is. He needs to lose about two pounds. Billy's normal day pre-Betty was to get up from his father's featherbed when I get up to make coffee. We'd do the coffee, get a book, retire to the living room sofa to read and ponder life. Billy would snuggle up under the quilt on my lap and sleep until I moved. If I got up, he'd head back to Mike's bed where he'd snuggle under the covers until Mike got up. If he was still sleepy, he'd stay in bed, but most days he'd go with Mike to the den where he'd perch on a couple of tall pillows to catch the morning rays. He'd bask in the sun, warming himself, and he'd sleep.

When Mike ate, he'd get a few bites. He gets a special treat for going outside and he would make sure to at least take a spin around the deck a couple of times to earn this tasty high fat treat ~ cut down to a single BB-sized pellet from the former handful. He would eat his special diet food if need be, but he mostly he would grab food from Mike, who grazes all day. About 7 or 8 pm, Bill gets really active. He wants to play, he runs, chases balls, his old blue ring, runs, runs, runs, wrestles, runs. He gets in about an hour or two of action before going to bed. Billy, my sweet angel dog, is fat and sedentary.

Betty, on the other hand, is constantly in motion. If she sits, it's only for a moment before she's up roaming about, running little trails through the house, moving lightly and quickly on her feet. Did I say she's very thin? Though she survived on scraps from the workers on a construction site before her rescue, she's not insistent on people food treats the way Bill is. She looks the question, then trots off to run another trail. She sleeps a little, but lightly, and if she dozes for a few minutes, she's up and off for another 10.

When Betty eats her dog food, she grabs a mouthful, crunches it up, runs off to do a circuit through the house. Bill steadily munches, never raising his head, until all of his food is gone. Betty doesn't seem to care about the food. Bill finishes and looks around for more. Even eating is active for her because she simply does not eat steadily until it's done. I think she's actually quitting before it's gone because she's no longer hungry. Bill doesn't stop until he sees the bottom of the bowl, then he ambles over to investigate Betty's leavings.

I see this same difference between my next older sister and me. She is very thin, hyper, constantly in motion even when sitting still. I have refined repose to an artform. She perches on the edge of a chair, legs crossed, foot wiggling, talking and waving her hands, arms, every movement sharp and super-fast. I sink into the sofa, snuggling into the assortment of down-filled cushions across the back. I sit with legs horizontal, never moving once comfortably ensconced. I lean back, support my head with a hand, look about the room, engage others only with eye contact and smiles.

Just as Bill and Betty are vastly different, I am different from her and she from me. In the sisterly equation, I am Bill and she is Betty. I don't know if this is genetic, if it's learned, if my behavior grew out of the increasing weight? I think not, because I remember early, early on that nothing pleased me so much as an afternoon spent reading. My sister had a restlessness from an early age that has not abated; neither has my desire for quiet and comfort diminished.

It will be interesting to see if Betty adopts the household tendencies: toward leisure over activity, relaxation over effort, minimal activity over leaping into action. My hope is that she will spur us all to be a bit more active at home, to jump up more, to walk more, to leave food on the plate when we're no longer hungry. I keeping my fingers crossed that Betty's activity level and her desire to play with Billy will help him reduce a bit, just as I've been hoping that my forays to the gym and my improved physical fitness will encourage Mike to return to the gym he once loved.

We shall see. I fear that fat wins out, and sedentary takes precedence over active. I'll fight it with the puppies as I'm fighting it in myself. I hope I win. I hope Betty does.

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