While reading last Saturday’s Akron Beacon Journal, I came across an article by Kathy Antoniotti entitled, “Obese Pets a Growing Epidemic in America: weight major threat to health of animals.”
Why do I feel like someone just left a flaming bag of dog poo on my front porch, rang the doorbell, and ran?
Buying Into Shame, Lock, Stock, And Barrel
Antoniotti starts her article with confession and self-castigation for being the pet parent of a pleasingly plump Jack Russell Terrier, concluding her public mea culpa with, “Shamefully, we have to admit that we can no longer pass her undulating fat rolls off as rippling hind-quarter muscles.”
That one sentence is so loaded with social constructs. First, there is nothing shameful in a Fat body; it is a body size and shape as valid, real, natural and admirable as any other. Secondly, “admit” implies you are confessing to a crime and/or accepting blame, as well as implying that up until you “admit” something, you have been denying the existence of a truth. There is no crime in being fat (yet) and the only truth being denied is that bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Then there are the, “…undulating fat rolls …” being relabeled as, “…rippling hind-quarter muscles.” Fat is normal, it is pretty, it is pleasurable; there is no need to describe it as anything other than what it is: Fat.
And There’s Even A Website
The topper on all of this is the existence of a Fat Bias organization that targets PETS. Antoniotti cites the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention as the source of her weight and “health” information (please feel free to send them a letter letting them know that they’re not improving our society: http://www.petobesityprevention.com/).
Upon perusing the site, I saw much of the same old Fat bias and misinformation that has been put out there for humans, now doctored up for dogs and cats. The calculators are incomplete and are set up to focus specifically on weight, further creating a sense of Pet Parent/Pet Size Shame, and they only list a few dog breeds.
Further in the site, there is a more complete list of dog breeds and ‘ideal’ weights attributed to the AKC (which I did double check at http://www.akc.org). I found my dog, (or as close as I can), a Shar Pei mix, Libby. It lists the ideal weight range for a Shar Pei as 40-65 pounds.
Do As I Say …
I found this interesting as Lib’s vet said that she should weigh no more than 26 pounds (she is 40 pounds of love - the very bottom of the AKC range). While giving me the usual dogma about ‘eat less, move more,’ to reduce Lib’s weight and improve her health, the doctor hand-fed Libby two treats, all while telling me to also eliminate in-between meal snacks. I guess vets take the ‘Hypocritic’ Oath.
Meanwhile, ten year old Libby is active, healthy, alert, intelligent, and very loving. Best of all, she could care less that some people are judging her primarily by her size, which shows one of the many ways animals are truly wiser than people.
Have you ever felt or been made to feel pet parent shame over the size of your pet? Have you ever put your pet on a diet solely for weight? What comfort and inspiration do you take from your four-legged friends when dealing with Size Bias or being judged solely on appearance?
Born and raised in Northeast Ohio with her BA and MA from the University of Akron, Mary has 20 years experience in the corporate sector working for local companies and Fortune 500s in customer service, PR, sales, advertising, and broadcast media. She currently teaches English Composition at Stark State College and UA. Her passion is living and teaching tolerance while pushing for Size Acceptance. She hopes to inform as many everyday Americans that the issue of Size is not an issue at all but merely a distraction from the real issues, such as the decline in public education, our infrastructure, economy and healthcare system. Mary loves irritating people by speaking her mind and presenting them with annoying facts, contrary opinions, and life's little ironies; when not doing that, she loves being with her family.