Columns 2006

Where is Lovey when I need her

According to an article in the June 6 Daily News, “Your dog or cat can win money, a year’s supply of pricey pet food and free airline tickets to stay at an �upscale, pet-friendly hotel’ by entering Hill’s 2006 National PetFit Challenge.” In essence, a weight loss competition for your perhaps slightly puffy pooch or tubby tabby.

And I think to myself, “Where is my Lovey when I need her?”

Lovey was a dog who adopted me when I first moved to Barrow. She lived with me through my marriage, a variety of questionable relationships, and the presence of way too many parrots for any one dog to really endure. She did this all with grace and dignity…ok, maybe not with grace and dignity. Maybe what she really did was cope through eating. But then, she was an Eskimo dog in an Italian home.  What other coping mechanism could you possibly expect?

When I was stressed, I ate. And Lovey ate right along with me so I wouldn’t feel so lonely. She loved potato chips.  She also loved pretzels.  She would kill for pork rinds. And she adored fish, raw or cooked, duck, geese, lemming…just about anything she could swallow that didn’t swallow her first.  Yes, she was a good Italian-Eskimo dog.  There was no emotional or physical problem she couldn’t face with courage if she had enough food to calm her nerves.  She and I understood each other perfectly.

When the first take out restaurant opened in Barrow, they specialized in fried chicken.  The take out shop was a short distance from my home.  At least once a month I would hear a thumping on my cold storage porch and I’d open the door to find Lovey hauling home an entire frozen chicken in her mouth.  She wasn’t a big dog.  She was a medium sized mutt of indiscriminate parentage.  But she always made it home with that frozen chicken no matter how many times she had to stop and thaw her mouth along the way.

Once, the North Slope Borough Vet Clinic held a dog contest in Barrow.  The idea was to encourage people to get their dogs their rabies shots by offering prizes for various categories in which only dogs that were immunized could compete.  Immunizations were available at the door as you walked in.  It being the first, and to my knowledge only dog competition ever held in Barrow, none of us was sure about what kind of a turn out we would have. 

We shouldn’t have worried. Pet lovers are the same the world over. They all think their dogs are the cutest, the best, the most loving ever.  And so they came out in great numbers to get the public acclaim they felt was only their dog’s due.

Needless to say I brought Lovey out for the competition knowing she would blow all the others away. And blow them away she did.  You see, by then her eating habits had caught up with her and she was just a tad overweight.  OK, some might say grossly overweight and some might use the word obese.  But they would be rude people.

I entered her in two competitions – the ugliest dog contest and the dog that most looks like another animal contest.  My eyes still tear up as I look at the picture on my desk of Lovey wearing her blue ribbons that day.

She took first place for dog that looks most like another animal.  In her case, a beached seal.  And she got a standing ovation from the crowd when she was crowned ugliest dog in Barrow.  Was there ever a mother more proud than I was that day? There she stood, all three feet and 60 pounds of her, dandruff sprinkled through her coat, bad breath that could stop a train emanating from her mouth, and a digestive system that could empty a room in one silent moment.  I can hardly write the words for the sweet memories they bring back to me.

The vets, god love them, told me time and again that Lovey would die young if she didn’t lose weight.  I was taking years off her life, they said.  I had to have Lovey put to sleep when she was 17 years old.  She died with a potato chip in her stomach and a grin on her face that said to all those vets, “Oh yeah.  Try to take my food from me and let’s see which of us dies young!”

As I said at the beginning of this column, where is my Lovey when I need her? We would win that contest hands down.  Once a champ, always a champ.