I can call her “the happy hogger”, ” the weird waddler”, the iffy bear, or Pepper…what’s in a name? It’s that core being, inside all that shaggy hair, that punky face and the (debatable) lard around her middle, which makes Pepper such an amazing soul to live life with.
We first dive straight into the debate… is Pepper FAT???!! My response is always the same ( call that maternal pride), “NO no, she is just covered with so much fur/she is a woman of substance/she gets the same amount of food and exercise as Biskit—it’s just her metabolism/ you don’t know how spaniels look/wait till I give her a hair cut/etc etc.. but she is never fat.” Yes, I admit to the underlining bit too. And I shall continue to give the same response, come rain, or snow or sunlight.
Cut to the daughters… on this topic, surprisingly, the response is united and unequivocal “Mom, she is really tubby/give her less food/you have been feeding her tid-bits from the table/ STOP FEEDING HER BOONDI KA LADOO”. And I listen and continue to feed and fondle her. There is much rolling of eyes, and getting additional ammo from friends and cousins, but no, she is NOT fat.
And then, one fine summer day in Delhi, when Pepper had divested her winter coat, we went to the Jeevashram Animal Hospital at Rajokri. It was time for the dogs to get their annual vaccination, and it was an opportunity to meet our friendly and excellent vet, Dr Sharma. YD (my younger daughter) and me pulled the dogs into the compound (somehow, they always knew that this is the place for pokes and pain), and there was Dr Sharma, surrounded by parents of pets and his nursing staff. We were at the fringe of this circle, when “What a FAT DOG!” exclaimed the good and surprised Dr Sharma.
Stung to the quick, I went all defensive “no, Doctor, she is just looking fat because of her….fur and loose skin”.
Dr S cut me short and snapped, “Madam, I can see that she is FAT. You have been giving her too much to eat”.
Ah –ha! Time to tell him the truth “but Doc, both the dogs get the same amount of food”. .
Dr S, “Madam, you are giving her too much to eat, she is FAT, and if you like, I will get her weighed and tell you exactly how fat she has become”.
I was about to launch into another defensive speech.. and then, like a movie flashing past, I could see all those defensive patients and mothers of fat kids talking about how they are not fat/their kids don’t eat a thing/ its genetic/ no one had ever said that they are fat… and hey, I had joined the party too!
I kept quiet, got the dogs vaccinated, thanked the good Dr Sharma and walked back to the car. And then, the snorts started, followed by guffaws and howling laughter. YD was having the time of her life. In the midst of her giggles and guffaws, she calls up the ED (elder daughter) “Guess what? Dr Sharma insists that Peppu is fat!! You should see Ma’s face” and I can hear roars coming from the other side of the conversation. In minutes, the guffaws spread all over the family and friend circle. But hey, Pepper is not fat.
She is fabulous.. What else can one say for a dog that has a check-list of games for the day? Each game has a set of rules which have to be followed perfectly. We begin with the “guard-the-sleeping- beauty” in which any sleeping soul has to be saved from anyone trying the touch the sleeper. Growls, gnashing teeth, jumping all over the bed, quilts, full bladders, faces—it all comes to an end if the attacker lies down with the sleeper.
Next, we move to the Mirror-mirror game, which is all about chasing a light ray all over the floor. A friend got her a smart pointer light, which was terrific till the batteries died.. She will take you to the mirror and give meaningful stares till you get the hint.
We also play “games to get stoned with”, “stop water from wetting”, “squeak rescue” and other such intricate sports. Bewildered guests and visitors need constant support to give Pepper the fun and frolic she needs to keep the fat away.. Strange how this word “fat” keeps popping up!
And then finally, when the day draws to a close and we drag our weary bones to bed, Pepper curls up with her favorite toy (a hot water bottle), growls at any attempt to usurp her property, becomes this ton of bricks at my feet and snores so loudly that I watch the trail of moonlight across the room and wait for day-break. Ok, that’s exaggeration rearing its ugly head!
But that snoring mass of black and white fur (with one pink protruding tongue to delineate anterior and posterior portions of dog) is not fat.