“James, when did you drop food in Doodle’s bowl?” I’m in the kitchen unpacking groceries, while James and Zozo watch something science-y on television. Zo picks up his head while thwacking his tail at the mention of his name. Two more thwacks, and then he drops his chin back on to James’ feet. (“oh hey, mom. boy time.”) Chopped liver, I get it.
“I dunno, 5ish… normal time. Why?”
“He hasn’t touched it. The water’s gone, but the food bowl is full.”
“Maybe he’s not hungry. Are you hungry? [collar jingles] He’s not hungry.”
In the just-over two years since we rescued Zo, never once has he skipped a meal. He’s the definition of food motivated. There’s an alarm in his belly that sounds “I could eat” whenever someone breathes in the direction of the kitchen. The warning bells go off in my head, but I take a breath, shoo Athena off the counter, and finish the chore. I don’t want to be the mom who overreacts.
Next morning, yesterday’s food is still in his bowl, except for the bits scattered about the kitchen during Athena’s midnight shenanigans. We toss the old food, give the bowl a rinse, and replace it with new food. I even sneak a little bacon grease into the bowl to entice Zo. He sniffs at it, wet-vacs his water, and slunks back to his new favorite spot between the couch and the coffee table. He huffs and drops into “down.” His eyes moon in my direction. Something’s up.
“Maybe he got into something outside? Did he get anything off your plate?”
“He’ll eat when he’s hungry, Kari.” I got called by my first name. James is serious.
I chat with my mom during the day, and when she asked after the furbabies I nonchalantly mention that Zo didn’t eat two meals and maybe he’s depressed or something. She laughs (in the way only a mom can laugh and make you feel better/a little foolish) and reiterates the same sentiment: “Maybe he’s not hungry. He’ll eat when he’s ready.”
I boil up chicken for dinner, and he takes two little bites and sulks away. Something is definitely going on.
“Hey buddy, what’s up? You’re still not hungry? Hey baby, I think something’s up with Zo,” James hollers. I’M NOT CRAZY!
After everything with the leash walking and the anxiety and the terror of the world, we thought we might have entered into a period of quiet stability. Silly us.
I do what any rational Type-A woman does: I Google. I scroll through Yahoo! Answers crap, skim some excerpts from dog magazines and land on a veterinarian-moderated forum. Page after page presents possible answers: stomach cancer (holy collie…), the food’s gone bad or is too close to a trash can (weird smell) or it’s stress.
Stress. Of course. We moved. We had a roof leak right after we unpacked. We have neighbors who have dogs who bark. There’s a slightly new routine and more rooms to explore. New sounds and smells. We didn’t think about it, since he’d made the move from the urban-village apartment to the rental house with such finesse.
According to the vet from the post, the best option is to switch up our usual dog food with something a little higher-end. (In retrospect, I think the vet may have been in someone’s pocket.) We head over to the store with a plan to buy a small bag of the most expensive dog food on the shelf. We bring it home, scoop out a serving and wait.
Pupper makes his way over to his bowl and sniffs. He looks at me, at James and back to the bowl. He inhales. It’s like we never put food in the bowl. Two more days of the good stuff, and we start to wean him back to his normal food by mixing in the fancy kibble with his usual food. And wouldn’t you know: he eats around the old food. Oh no sir. No. We add more old than fancy food for the next meal, but he does the same.
It’s done and we can’t convince ourselves to fight him. He burps his delight.
Zo’s got expensive taste. Can’t blame him for that. Although our monthly food budget for the family has just increased significantly… I somehow feel outsmarted by my dog.
Now that Zo’s eating, it feels like things are getting back to normal.
And then Athena divas-out.