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Size and sensibility

“Your dog needs to drop 3-5 pounds.” So began our first-ever
private agility lesson with a handler who has been on the AKC world team. I
thought Lilly looked great at 39 pounds, so I must have made a face because the
next thing she said, dropping her sunglasses just enough to make eye contact,
“This is agility, not conformation.”

And, she was right. Lilly looks phenomenal at 34-35 pounds.
Yes, compared to your typical pet dog, she looks skinny. Stand her next to a
bunch of agility dogs, however, and she looks just right.

The growing girth of people and of pets sets up what trend
experts call “normalization,” where the average, overweight body looks like the
norm, even though it’s not.

It’s like the time I wrote about the marriage of two
professional Ironman triathletes for The New York Times. I was one of very few
non-triathletes at the wedding, and I felt like a moose. Seriously, these
people have body fat percentages in the single digits.

It’s the same with agility dogs. Hang around them much, and
suddenly regular dogs look huge. And, honestly, many of them are.

I feel compelled to remind my veterinarian each time he sees
Lilly that she’s a performance dog. I make sure he knows that’s why I keep her
so lean. He always smiles and says Lilly looks perfect. I guess he too sees too
many fat pets, too much suffering from the long-term effects of excess weight.

My friend JoAnn (Hey, JoAnn!) runs some fast Labs – Chaos,
Hottie, and Bosco. The dogs also hunt, so they don’t look anything like the pet
Labs living in so many homes. You know the ones. They look like big brown,
black, or yellow coffee tables. A little thick and wide.

JoAnn jokingly calls these other Labs “pigadors.”

It’s not just about looks, however. There are serious physical
dangers for agility dogs to carry too much weight through all those jumps, over
all those years.

So, next time you see a dog that looks a little thin,
remember she might be deeply loved, just not with too much food.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.