Over at Dawg Business, there’s a campaign this year to encourage people to have their dogs at a healthy weight, and she’s encouraging people to show their dogs’ waistlines and talk about why keeping your dog in shape is important. It’s something we take very seriously here, because we’ve seen first hand how dangerous canine obesity can be.
A lot of times people think it’s funny to comment about our Greyhounds and how thin they are. I also know that a lot of people are uncomfortable with Greyhounds being at a healthy weight, and I’ve seen a lot of Greyhounds that gained more than the recommended five pounds after their racing days are over. My husband’s grandmother fed Hawk, our second Greyhound, until he threw up all over her floor. However, I know what they are supposed to look like and what’s a healthy weight for them, and I generally ignore the people who think it’s their business to talk about my skinny dogs.
Before we had Lilac and Blueberry here, we had our first pair of Greyhounds, Treat and Hawk, and we fostered dogs straight off the track until a home was found for them. One afternoon I got a phone call about picking up a dog named Xena who had been surrendered by her owners. When I got to the emergency foster mom’s home to get her, I was stunned. She barely looked like a Greyhound. The poor girl literally looked like a stuffed sausage. It broke my heart. On top of that, for two days she’d been living with the emergency foster mom who had decided that she should only have one cup of food a day so she’d lose weight. I took the poor creature home with me and we began working on getting her back in shape.
Xena lived with us for a couple of months, and she was making great gains in her weight loss. We began feeding her the appropriate amount of food and only one treat at night before bedtime. There was no more feeding her while someone cooked in the kitchen or giving her a cookie every time the cookie jar was passed. She also started getting walks every day and going for runs at the baseball diamond on Saturday mornings. Slowly, she was getting back into shape.
I was beginning to really fall for her and starting to dream about her staying at our house. Then a couple came to meet her, and I knew they were perfect for her. They were retired, active and loved to travel. Xena would want for nothing. We let them take her for a little walk down the street and I saw her looking at them adoringly. They fell for her right away, and I’m not surprised. She was an extremely sweet girl. Most importantly, they were committed to helping her get the rest of the weight off.
A couple of months after they took her home, we got a phone call. She’d begun having terrible pain in her neck. She was prescribed crate rest and steroids to help her recover. It’s a testament to her adopters that she continued to lose weight during that time. Not only that, but they cancelled all their travel plans for the summer to get her the best treatment she could have. I was glad they’d adopted her, because we certainly weren’t in a position to get her the care that they were getting for her. She recovered and they kept up the work.
However, a bit later, health problems struck again. The excessive weight she’d carried had taken its toll. Complications arose and after a short stay at the University of Illinois Veterinary College, she passed away from a heart attack. Xena was only nine years old at the time. She’d only lived with her family for two years.
Xena’s story is always at the back of my mind, and we are careful about what our dogs eat. I’d rather have them a little on the lean side than overweight. I know that for a lot of people, food equals love, but sometimes you cross a line. Our dogs will never say “Oh no, really, I shouldn’t have that last cookie!” That’s where our responsibility as their caretakers comes in. Just like sometimes telling children “no” is a good thing, not giving in to puppy dog eyes can be the best thing for your dog. So please, show us all your dog’s waistline and tell us if your dog is currently working towards a healthy weight or why you keep them at the weight that you do.