Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Metabo" part 1: The Ballad of Lucy the Dog

Lucy the Dog is, arguably, the most beloved creature on the planet. This is a simple fact, and you cannot possibly argue otherwise: If you're warm-blooded, capable of rational thought, and not an evil cat or guerilla bunny, you love Lucy. Even if you've never met Lucy, you love Lucy.

Or so my dad would have everyone believe, which is probably how poor Lucy wound up in her recent predicament.

See, in her heyday, Lucy was a solid mass of muscles, with the razor instincts of her (assumedly) pitbull father and the going-and-going-and-going joy-powered body and brain of her labrador mother. She had been painstakingly trained to treat every situation as a possible game, and go tearing through the house barking wildly whenever she got excited. She spent her days sprawled across the living room couch, gazing out the window and snapping into Aggression whenever she saw a possible threat make its way across our property. (Possible threats include large men, other dogs of all sizes, Girl Scouts, squirrels, and toddlers. ESPECIALLY toddlers.) No small animal in the backyard was safe, as we learned the hard way almost every summer.

And, Lucy the Beloved enjoyed treats of all caliber, from carrot sticks to peanut butter; sampled every mass-market brand that could fit into our already overflowing closet; learned to expect her bright-red Kong every night, the horn of plenty, that spilled forth all of her favorites. No problem. Like I said, she was solid muscle. Like I said, that was her heyday.

Lucy has since slipped into her golden years, and she's not the same doggy-dog as she once was. In her lifetime, she's survived lime disease, attacks from other dogs, botched home manicures that left her goose-stepping about in socks, and a certain temperamental teenage girl accidentally (she swears it was an accident and she felt horrible and lost sleep for real FORGIVE HER) slamming the door on her tail. Lucy shrugged off these peripheral attacks, ultimately; there was far too much fun to be had to sit around and bemoan a virus or an ouchy. Alas, our Lu couldn't escape from her genetics, as we discovered a few summers ago when she bounded off after a rabbit in the middle of her walk, then limped home - and never stopped limping.

It was a congenital condition. One of her back knees was shot, and the other was soon to follow. After a summer spent lying down, she finally needed an operation - a stressful experience for anyone, especially a very pack-oriented dog - and that carried another few months of recovery time. Even after her gait steadied out, she was never quite as spirited, growing easily fatigued and increasingly irritable around unfamiliar visitors, such as my older brother's iron-skinned (and -headed) eterna-puppy. She gained weight. A lot of weight. That's what continued to stand out, the weight gain. We tried putting her on a diet, limiting her treats to the occasional carrot stick and weaning her off the wet dog food that had crept into her bowl during her extended convalescence. She got walked every morning (a necessity, seeing as she had begun suffering from incontinence, on top of everything), yet the weight kept piling on. And then the seizures started.

I never saw this first hand (thank god - I'd have panicked), but during what remained of her walks, if she strained herself at all - pulling at her spiked collar toward another dog, for example - she'd occasionally collapse, phase out, and drool for a few minutes. The second time this happened, my parents brought her to the vet and got some tests done. There, they learned two things:

1. Lucy had gained twenty pounds. Granted, she's a large dog, 70 pounds in tip-top condition, but come on, and this was while she was on a diet.

2. Lucy had metabolic syndrome. This was probably responsible for the seizures, and was definitely beckoning additional pounds.

Metabolic syndrome, incidentally, can be treated with a pill, which has become a regular part of Lucy's regimen. Astoundingly, within days, the old Lu began creeping back into those old bones. Her energy spiked, and her mood improved. She struggled less to keep up with Kasha the Evil Puppy, and required less recovery time. She lost weight, a LOT of weight, 9 pounds at her last weigh-in.

But, see... metabolic syndrome. As soon as I heard that, I laughed. Guffawed. In relief, mind, but mostly for another reason. Trust me, you'll laugh too.

You will. Next time. When I explain.

(Meaning, "To be continued." In case you missed that.)

No comments: