On most mornings, before I start working, I spend 10-15 minutes playing fetch with Kody. As I’ve explained in Dogs, Dog Food, and Dogma (currently the #1 Hot New Release in its Amazon category, thanks to y’all), the evidence suggests that while exercise doesn’t play a huge role in reducing body fat, it does help build/maintain musculature. And maintaining musculature is critical for optimizing canine health.
Perhaps more importantly, Kody loves fetch. So it’s almost always a part of our morning ritual.
We usually play in the same hilly park every morning. I like hills because sprinting up a big hill is a form of resistance exercise. And resistance exercise is the most effective kind of muscle-building activity.
Now, fall is most definitely here in Salt Lake City. So the grass was coated with a layer of frost when we arrived at the park this morning. And Kody took a pretty solid slip-and-tumble today while chasing his ball across a steep hill at full speed.
He was fine. He popped right back up, snatched his ball, and came trotting back to me, no worse for the wear.
But when he went down I felt an instant blast of emotion. A sharp, “oh no!” feeling of empathy and concern. The sensation was so powerful that I actually took a few steps forward, without even thinking about it. As if to somehow do something to help him.
As I was thinking about it later (as the dog, right as rain, came cruising back to me for another round), I realized that I always experience this little blast of feeling when I see him slip, fall down, or otherwise fail to execute some movement he had intended.
Maybe you have this same kind of reaction to your own dog’s falls. Or maybe (if your dog is more graceful than mine) you have it in response to some other kind of distress. But I reckon that you feel it from time to time too. After all, we all love our dogs. And it’s perfectly natural to feel concern when they’re vulnerable or at risk.
But as I was ruminating on all this, I realized that I never feel this kind of sharp emotional response when I think about obesity, a condition that is far more dangerous than most slips and falls. Am I concerned about it? Yes, definitely. Just not in any kind of physical, visceral way.
In other words, my concern about obesity is the product of cold reasoning, not hot emotion.
That’s because obesity operates under the surface. We only know it’s deadly because of controlled scientific experimentation. Unlike a slip-and-fall, it’s not an obvious danger to our pets. It’s one that we only come to understand by educating ourselves. By learning. By thinking.
But it most definitely is a danger. It causes chronic diseases like arthritis and cancer. And, even more to the point, it kills.
So the next time you see an overweight dog (or the next time you consider the prospect of your own dog becoming overweight), try to remember what likely lies ahead for her. And maybe that will help motivate you to do something to change the animal’s life.
Because a chubby, cuddly dog may not produce motivating pangs of emotion.
But one that’s crippled by arthritis or dying of cancer sure does.
That’s all for today folks. Have a great weekend and thanks so much for your support of Dogs, Dog Food, and Dogma. I look forward to hearing your feedback about it.
— Coach Dan