Surely, the best time for a parent to just give up and kill themselves is the moment when they realize that they raised an asshole. And once you’ve realized the steps you actively took that inadvertently made him that way, you might as well just open the window and somersault out.
When I first brought home my dog-son, he was emaciated, had severe heartworm, and (shitteth thou not) had probably three strands of hair to cover his entire gross, skinny body. What was a mom to do? I did what any mother would do: I bled my meager income into bougie-ass, fish-based dog food to help him Miracle-Gro® his fur back and put on some weight. Then, I didn’t stop, and neither did he.
A couple months in, I took him back to the vet for his second heartworm treatment. “WOW,” the vet technician marveled. “You [Leo] got chubby.” Prickled by her threatening tone, I rebutted, “Oh, well, that’s just all his new fur.” She scanned his newly barrel-like torso. “No, it’s not.”
I fought the impulse to backhand that stupid smugness clear off her plain-ass face. But she wasn’t the only one to say something; she was only the first in a new, surging wave of uninvited critiques about my son’s weight, size, and curvaceousness. I swatted them away, as none of those critics were exactly Cross-Fit champions themselves (well, maybe one), but with time, the comments grew too noisy to ignore.
After six months (and roughly 15-20 lbs), I put him on a diet. He has never been the same since.
First, from what I thought was a newly acquired (and probably unwarranted) confidence, he started growling at bigger dogs. Brave, I mused, especially since any of them could fit his entire face inside their mouths, but maybe he just developed small-dog syndrome.
He wasn’t losing weight, so I cut back his portions. Not long after, he bit my boyfriend. But that was an accident, right? Clearly, in his previous life, he’d been beaten by a man of similar size and stature. Plus, he was ‘the other man.’ There can only be one man of the house. Why wouldn’t he be a dickhead to him for forever and eternity? Makes sense.
Then, very recently, I bought him a food puzzle and a maze bowl. Both are for the express purpose of making him work for his food.
First came the food puzzle, per the recommendation of my crazy-dog-person cousin. ‘Engage in this fun thing that rewards you for using your brain!’ He was not amused. It took seven whole days before he figured out the food puzzle, and in that time, he didn’t eat (I put his breakfast and dinner in that thing). Then, when I bought him the maze bowl and put his first meal in it, he looked at me like I just surrendered him to the pound.
I do my best, I really do. This isn’t just about weight loss; this is about health and the self confidence for him to pony-trot through this world knowing that he could walk the length of Prospect Park without dying, if he wanted to. But I’ll admit that I was so fixated on the rewards—like my neighbor saying he’s looking small (“What’s your secret?” she teased)—that I didn’t weigh the potential consequences. Like how he’s now not-so-cool to smaller dogs.
The other day, Leo was approached by a Jack Russell Terrier (I mean, arguably a shitty breed to begin with), whom we hadn’t recognized in the neighborhood before then. True to his breed, he was pretty rowdy.
“Can he say hi?” his owner asked.
“Yea, he’s fine.”
The two tangled their leashes sniffing each other’s privates. Then, a moment of stillness. I don’t know who started growling first, but a bravado contest ensued. It sounded much scarier than it actually was, to be clear. In my mind, it was because the terrier was acting disrespectful and licked Leo’s dick or something.
She pulled her dog back and yelled, “No! NOT fine!” before hurrying away.
A week later, Leo was tangled by a Maltese on one side and a Shih Tzu (both incontestably shitty breeds, I’m sorry) on the other, both of whom were acting very entitled to sniff him wherever. His tail wasn’t wagging, as is the usual case. Then he ugly-snarled at both of them, and their owner screamed, “Jesus Christ!” Before I could apologize, she was halfway up the block, turning back to me periodically to give me the “I hope you die” death-stare. Fair, I guess.
I was so mortified.
No. I’m an Asian parent. I was disappointed. Does he just hate shitty dogs, or has he really become an indiscriminate dickhole to anyone now?
I’m planning to use my friend’s foster dog as a guinea pig (don’t judge me!) to find out, but in the meantime, I wonder: did I just trigger my poor son, the only one of us who has known real hunger? I guess I can see why he would be less enthused by a maze bowl or a puzzle feeder that make him work for his meals. God forbid if I have to do more than work a microwave defroster for mine.
I don’t know where I was going with this post – I just needed to vent to someone.