by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter, 1/1998

‘Twas a few days before New Year’s, and my beloved and I were braving the early morning cold to pick up baby food — well, food for our canine babies. The good veterinarian had long ago advised us that pups were getting a little pudgy and the six dollar bags of generic dry dog food we’d been feeding them was as bad for their systems as say, rock salt, so we’d switched to something more balanced, low-calorie, nutritious, vitamin enriched, and far, far more expensive.

I liked the old days when dog food was a single word: Calo. Alpo. Skippy. Purina.

Now it’s complicated, and usually sounds like, “Chemically equalized reduced fat low-cholesterol vitamin enriched high octane bow-wow rejuvenation prescription.” Worse, now they divide the foods into age and breed groups: For puppies, older puppies, senior, active, lethargic, apathetic, dogs born in February with an affection for Barney videos

I selected a fifty pound bag of balanced nutrition, plopped it into the car, and we took off. That’s when my beloved said, “We have a problem.” I haven’t had my daily morning double shot of Coca-Cola so my initial thought is, “Why is it always “We” have a problem?” but I just automatically cheerfully chirped, “What’s that, sweetie?”

“Well,” she begins, even though we switched them to more expensive low-fat stuff, they’re not losing much weight…”

My heart skips a beat: “Yeah! We’re going back to the cheaper stuff! No more runs to the feed and grain store! Now I’ll have money for lunch again, just like the other kids!”

Alas, that wasn’t where she was going. “We rarely take the dogs out for long walks,” she says.

“Because we’re far too busy,” I think to myself. “That’s true,” I say out loud.

“So I was thinking we should get them a treadmill.” I laughed. “That’s funny, I thought you said ‘get them a treadmill.’ ”

“I did. I saw this thing on TV where you put the dog on the treadmill, and…”

“I saw that, too. George Jetson puts Astro on the treadmill and then he starts spinning around and screams ‘Jane! Stop this crazy thing!’ ”

“No, on Dateline, remember?”

She’s got me there. I remember seeing these Beverly Hills idiots who had health clubs for dogs and cats. They had treadmills and other exercise machines specifically designed for dogs who didn’t get enough exercise. The proud owners, who dressed them in designer doggy workout wear by Nike and Adidas, looked on proudly. What’s next, ads that say, “Your Dalmatian can have that buff puppy body back in six weeks?”

“If we had a treadmill, we could just put them on it and they’d walk,” she’s explaining.

My brain screams, “I’ll take ‘things I’ll regret later’ for $200, Alex.”

“Sweetie,” I begin very carefully. Lets’ look at this realistically. “They’re fantastic watch dogs and great friends, and I trust them with my safety, but honey… They’re, well, dogs. Their job is to guard the house, be good listeners, provide endless affection, and occasionally help fold laundry — but a treadmill? I mean, they’re just not that dedicated. I’ve never even seen them read a fitness magazine, although I know one of them does prefer bottled water.”

She smiles at me and I know the joke is on me. “It was only a pipe dream. It would be nice, though. Imagine the convenience!” she says.

Relieved that a doggy treadmill won’t be appearing on my next MasterCard anytime soon, I agree.

Not missing a beat, she continues, “We do need to take care of their teeth, though.”

“I already told you, I’m not brushing the dogs’ teeth.”

Because I never want to go into work and have this conversation:

Co-Worker: “So Bob, what did you do this week-end?”

Me: “I brushed my dog’s teeth.”

Co-worker backs away slowly: “That’s… uh, nice”

She smiles again. “You don’t have to brush their teeth. They have these new things the dogs chew on. You put the dog toothpaste on it and they chew it — ”

“They make “dog” toothpaste?” I interrupt. “With fluoride, I hope. Does it come in minty gel and tartar control?”

“That reminds me,” she says, ignoring my sarcasm and switching the subject, “they’re due to be groomed.” Well, that’s more money. But the expensive food, the automatic chewy tooth cleaners, the little treats — it’s all worth it. After all, they’re our babies!

But they’re still not getting a treadmill.

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