A form of torture: Food fast for beloved pet

Published 10:12 am Friday, June 17, 2011

This evening will mark a momentous day for me.

I am coming out of the closet… and eating in front of my dog again.

Living on a farm, for many a greedy pet, can be a rather vile form of a ‘Golden Corral.’

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Despite our best efforts to keep our terriers healthy and thriving by creating meals for them consisting of organic chicken, brown rice and peas. Bonnie and Rosie, with willful intensity, have been known to sample droppings from the manure pile as well as raid the litter box as soon as our backs are turned. This backfired on Bonnie (and I do mean backfired) a few days ago when both her breakfast and dinner reappeared within a couple of hours.

In spite of this, Bonnie looked bright. Her energy level, particularly for a 10-year-old dog with an enlarged heart, was through the roof. However, taking no chances, we took her to the vet the following morning where she was first palpated, then X-rayed and finally given a full blood count, which confirmed our vet’s suspicions that there was no obstruction or infection but, rather, “garbage gut” and probably an irritated pancreas.

Antibiotics were prescribed along with a three-day fast with no more than a tablespoon of prescribed dog food for the first meal, followed by two tablespoons for the next and, if everything stayed put, increased to three for the third. This would be repeated over the weekend until Sunday when she could go back to her regular intake.

This regimen was tantamount to torture for both Bonnie and me. I deny her nothing. We are attached at the hip. We eat together, sleep together – she even lies in the shade of the oaks beside the riding arena while I work horses in the morning. She rises only after hearing me clap my horse’s neck in approval, signaling the end of the session and a cooling-out walk through the field, Bonnie trotting happily ahead with the dignified air of an emissary.

So you can imagine my heartbreak the first night as I made dinner for Paul and me: an enormous salad with smoked salmon and crusty bread, knowing Bonnie and Rosie were sitting directly behind my feet, wiggling, as they anticipated their own meal. Yet, I could only turn and present Bonnie with a tablespoon of Science Diet’s “Please Don’t Vomit on the Rug” Formula while Rosie scarfed up her own dinner, hidden on the other side of the kitchen island.

Bonnie inhaled her tablespoon at Mach III and then, with cocked ears and wondering eyes, silently implored, “Why aren’t you feeding me? What have I done? Please, I’m hungry!”

“I can’t bear this! I can’t!” I cried and, grabbing my plate, dashed up the stairs to our bedroom, slammed the door and began to eat. Within moments the click of toenails ascended the stairs and gave the door a pathetic scratch. Close to tears, I then hid with my wretched conscience in the closet and finished my dinner amid waves of guilt.

Two hours later and feeling peckish for something sweet, I remembered we had some ice cream in the freezer. Unfortunately, we have frequently been guilty of letting Bonnie and Rosie lick the bowls (the rinse cycle, Paul calls it) and I couldn’t face eating Bluebell’s ‘Coconut Fudge’ in front of my beloved dog.

The only other thing that means the world to Bonnie is a tattered Wilson tennis ball and I hastily devised a plan.

“You get the ice cream and take it into the bathroom,” I whispered hoarsely to Paul in case Bonnie’s vocabulary was far more advanced than previously thought.

“And I’ll heave this tennis ball as far as I can, then run in and join you.”

With Seal Team 6 precision, I opened the front door and, displaying a pretty good arm, hurled the ball as far as I could deep into the woods.

Distracted momentarily from her empty stomach, Bonnie shot down the front steps and, with the same alacrity, I wheeled around and shot down the hall to the bathroom, finding Paul perched upon the toilet and consuming, I thought, far more than his fair share. Coming out a few moments later we were met in the hallway by Bonnie, tennis ball still clinging wetly between her jaws, sitting back on her haunches and surveying the entire sordid scene.

Quietly, she placed the ball carefully on the floor and sank down, laying her head upon her crossed forelegs with a deep sigh.

Bursting into tears I cried, “This is so cruel! Surely she can have more than a tablespoon of food?”

“No, she can’t.” said Paul, sternly. “Dr Jeni made that very clear. She’s essentially on a three-day fast.”

Tonight marks the end of the misery. My dog will have the best dinner she’s ever eaten.

Followed, I am quite certain, by a trip to the manure pile.