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Loved dogs don't have to be fat dogs Kate Davies | Sat, May 28 2011 12:00 PM

The creature I saw rocking gently toward me brought to mind a cocktail wienie that someone had stuck four toothpicks into to make it stand up. As he swayed from side to side, using the motion to gain forward momentum, I saw that he had once been a miniature pinscher.

But thanks to the excessive culinary attentions of his owners, he was a brown and tan blob that vaguely resembled a small dog. I almost wanted to give him the Heimlich to see if he would cough up a hippo.

His eyes were as gentle a brown as any I have seen, but they did not radiate the happiness that I am so accustomed to seeing from the eyes of dogs at the beach.

His tail wagged, and he grinned a silly doggy grin, but his breathing was labored and he struggled to put a paw on my knee when I bent down to pet him.

Maybe I should have said something to the owner - maybe it might have made a difference for that poor little woofer - but experience has taught me that people don't respond well when you tell them their dog is overweight.

In a society that equates 'feeding' with 'loving', it's not always easy to point out that there is a difference between 'caring' and 'harming' when it comes to doling out food indiscriminately.

I have been guilty of the behavior I speak. When McDuff came to me, he was so badly underweight that I could see every bone in his little body sticking out like the spokes of a broken and discarded bicycle. Wanting to get him happy and healthy as quickly as possible, I fed him too much... but I didn't notice how much until my two closest friends told me he was fat.

I understand how it can happen - the pounds can creep on and when you spend most of your time with your dog, you may not notice. I certainly didn't. I notice when I put weight on because the jeans I normally wear get too tight and I start wearing the ones that I keep in the back of the closet.

We only have ourselves to blame when we get obese, but we also only have ourselves to blame when our dogs do, too.

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