During last week’s filming of a webisode on the subject of quantifying obesity (stay tuned for its online debut), we went to Lincoln Road on Miami Beach to catch up with the "dog on the street" — and his or her owner, of course.
In so doing, I came up with a new category of obesity excuses. I call it the "it’s how s/he’s supposed to look" excuse. It happens when owners are convinced their pet — dog, cat or otherwise — is in its ideal body condition based on the general morphology they ascribe to their pet’s breed or type.
In other words, if individual owners happen to assume all orange cats are supposed to be Garfield-style rotund, they’re more likely to think a fat yellow tabby is a perfect example of his/her type. Same goes for pets of certain breeds. Blocky or full-coated dogs and fluffy cats are extra likely to suffer this dubious distinction.
Consider the following examples:
- The English bulldog who is "all muscle," according to his owner, but who happens to be sporting a nice, thick layer of all-over body fat instead. (I can prove it’s fat but you might not want me to.)
- The Labrador retriever whose owner swears up and down that her fat layer’s ideal for her breed, given that duck hunting is a cold weather sport that requires a firm layer of fat. (Too bad this Lab’s a South Florida specimen more likely to attack a sofa than any cold water bird.)
- The Shiba inu with the decided paunch and prominent fat pads whose owner flatly denies is overweight. In fact, he points to a picture of the breed on my wall chart for comparison. "She’s just blowing her coat so she looks fluffier today," he says. (Seriously?)
- The owner of a basset hound whose prepuce practically drags on the ground tries the same trick: "He’s 100 percent perfect for his breed. That’s what they’re supposed to look like and any veterinarian that disagrees with me is one I’d never trust anyway." (Alrighty-then, I’ll just keep my mouth shut.)
- The Persian cat whose owner tries the same trick as the Shiba’s dad: "But she’s supposed to look all fluffy!"
It’s always the same: "My vet and my breeder say he looks great for his breed." Or, "All you have to do is take one look at the breed books to see she’s perfect."
Yet these pets are f-a-t. When you can grab a beagle’s jelly roll and squeeze, he's fat. Still, you can point out a schnauzer’s symmetrical hip pads (you know, the ones that make her back look as flat as a coffee table?) and still end up with a denialist talking all kinds of trash about your veterinary skills.
It’s kinda funny, really, but mostly it's sad. Why? Because when all’s said and done, it’s ultimately the pets that pay for our very human take on their degree of perfection — or lack thereof.
Dr. Patty Khuly