Dogs I have known and loved and nearly killed with kindness

By on July 27, 2019

Who says dogs make better companions than people?  I do, for one.  And with a long history with dogs,  I know what I’m talking about.  As an only child with a mother who worked all the time, and an absent father,  my first dog,  Billy John Lee West, was my first best friend.

Flash forward to the present and I adore my rescue dog, Ginger as well as her adorable pups sitting on my grand daughter Lily’s lap.  There were six pups and we loved every one of them. This was about 8 years go.

The pups’ sire was Oscar, the rescue dachsund who lived with my best friend, Rose.   We thought Oscar and Ginger were just boon companions until Ginger came into heat and Whoa Boy.  There you go.  Puppies.

I only intended to keep one pup out of the litter, but one of the adoptions failed and back came Earnest, after only a month away from his family.  I kept him and it turns out he may be the best dog I ever had.  You can see him in my Lily’s arms.  Oh well,  maybe you can’t tell one pup from the other, but at that age, what do you expect.

So now,  I have four dogs,  the Barker Brothers,  Earnest and Scrappy as well as Jily, the only girl, and the noble Bellamy, a beautiful white god that I rescued from Alabama and had shipped up here.  He is so gorgeous I really should put him to work modelling, but I’d hate to think of him out of the house even for a day.

But, as you might imagine,  life with four dogs is, shall we say, eventful.

The Barker brothers,  progeny of Ginger, the border terrier and Oscar, the dachsund are the youngest kids in the pack and always up to something.  I don’t know if you have any experience with dachsunds, but I’ll tell you their main flaw is that they have those little short legs and unless you are careful about feeding them, they tend to fatten up and look like sausages.

And so I bring you – through the back door – to my issues with Scrappy. He was the cutest, scrappiest, funniest pup in the litter. And he grew up to be wildly intelligent and full of mischief.  He also loves to eat.  Well,  you can see where this story is going. Scrappy,  now a middle aged gentleman of a certain age,  8 dog years  or 56 human years,  is so fat he can hardly walk.

He can no longer climb up the stairs to go to bed in my bedroom.  He can barely go up and down the six stairs to the back yard.  In the last two weeks, we have had three terrible nights, where he couldn’t get comfortable downstairs, couldn’t come up and join his pack, and I was quickly coming to my wits end.  Because when that dog didn’t sleep,  neither did I.

So we had a talk and I discussed with him some of the benefits of going over the rainbow bridge,  the highlights of those endless fields and streams he could roam in heaven, where he would have no trouble walking and could rejoin his mother Ginger and his father Oscar, right there in heaven.

So,  with a heavy heart,  I made an appointment with the vet to take Scrappy down for his trip over the rainbow bridge.  I told him to say goodbye to his earthly pack.

But since the last bad sleepless night was a Saturday,  I couldn’t get an appointment until two days later on a Monday. I would ask the vet to prescribe something to help him out.

As if he had read my mind,  that dog perked up.  Went up and down the back stairs to the yard a dozen times,  looked at me lovingly and wouldn’t leave my side. How could I have ever thought of putting him down?  What was wrong with me?  He implored me with his eyes.

And so by the time Monday came,  I was thinking of other alternatives.  Perhaps we could put him on Rimadyl, the pain killer we’d given to countless hunting dogs.  It helps a lot and makes it possible for them to run 8 miles a day again,  until one day,  Rimadyl, as inexorably as death itself,  shuts down the dog’s kidneys and their life must come to an end.  But the rationale is that you’ve bought them a year or so of good health in the meantime.

So I took Scrappy to the vet and presented his case.  What should we do?

At this point I must interject that I would bet dollars to donuts that veterinarians get sick and tired of ignorant people coming in and making stupid suggestions about their dogs when in fact their hidden agenda is to make their own lives more peaceful.  I read that vets suffer an extraordinary high incidence of suicide.  This is probably why.  It’s people who are the problem.  Not dogs.

You think veterinarians haven’t seen their share of perfectly healthy dogs brought in with their owners ordering euthanasia for those dogs for some cockamamy reason that just boils down to convenience for the owner.  You know I’m telling you the truth.

Well my vet is not like that.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “the only thing wrong with this dog is that you are feeding him too much.  He is so fat he can hardly move and you could cure this yourself by putting him on a diet.”  He only prescribed a doggie sleeping pill so that the dog (and I) could sleep through the night while he started on his new strict diet regimen.

Oh the guilt.  The sorrow.  The shame.  I knew the vet was right.  I had practically killed that dog of mine with kindness.  Cooking for him every day.  Making lavish feasts for him of chicken, rice, carrots and garlic.  Sure he lapped it right up.  He would eat all of his own portion and whatever he could score from the others’ bowls. But as surely as Caligula was wrecked by gluttony, so was my sweet Scrappy, who had been the cutest little puppy you ever saw.

The vet prescribed some heinous dry dog food for fat dogs.  I bought it and put all three of the little fatsos on it. Oh they hated it.  They looked at me as if I had betrayed them, as if I were trying to kill them,  when, in fact,  I was trying to save them.

So now,  we are on day three of the diet.  The little dogs are pecking around the edges of their prescribed dry dog food diet torment.  Big boy, Bellamy, still gets the royal feasts of freshly braised chicken with carrots, garlic and rice.  But I make him eat it in the executive dining room,  away from the diet dog day camp in the kitchen for the others.  You know their sense of smell is thousands of times more acute than our own, and I’m sure those aromas waft from the dining room back to the kitchen where the difference in the dogs’ rations becomes immediately apparent to all concerned.

I would hate to listen in on the dogs’ conversations emanating from the kitchen as well as the dining room.  How they can ever forgive me,  I have no idea.  But then we do know that one of a dog’s greatest assets is the ability to forgive the shortcomings of his humans.

We will see how this goes.  But I am trying.  I do not want to kill my dogs to satisfy my own needs.  Once we get the basics down,  we will start daily trips to the dog park where they can all run free.

Once again, I have to ask you.  Who is on the boot camp regimen?  Me or the dogs.  You know the answer to that one.  But having dogs is a responsibility and I have got to live up to my end of the bargain.  Better diet,  more exercise, more stimulation.

The Eckhardt School For Canine Rehabilitation is in full swing.  We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted. Weigh-ins will be daily. I’ve made a chart to record their progress. This is science.  We have to do it right.  Their very existence is at stake here.  And I’m not kidding. The vet says 8 weeks will tell the tale.

Maybe I could start a new business:  Doggie Diets. Or some such. Stay tuned. Meanwhile,  I’ll fill you in on the joys of Bellamy, that glorious pure white 60 pound hunk of burning love in a pointer-pit cross body.  But that’s for another day.





About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”