Feeding My Dog

My husband kept his last name when we married; only our eldest dog, Auggie, chose to hyphenate. Augusta Matson-Johnson does what she wants.

“It’s a good sign when the dog who knows you best connects with your new wife,” I explained to my husband. He agreed. He and Auggie are the best package deal. Like Auggie, I have imagined so many ways to get through the banalities and indignities of daily life. Until a few years ago, I never could have dreamed of sharing it with a man as good as her owner, and her.

Mornings are exciting. After feeding the baby, I walk the dogs, then feed the dogs, then take a shower, then feed the cat. No one waits patiently for me to do this on my own timetable. Two labrador chins rest on my side of the mattress while I nurse, Auggie wanting her walk and Joon wanting her food. If it’s early, I will walk beneath the stars with the dogs, Auggie leading the way with her wagging tail while Joon searches for scraps of anything to put in her mouth. This time is a religion for me.

When we get home, breakfast time in the kitchen is Joon’s purpose in life. Auggie, not so much. Auggie often waits before eating. “She’s reminding us she’s not a dog,” my husband says. This was funny until she stopped eating.

Eventually, I fed her slowly on the floor, pellet by pellet, between my fingers. I did this two times a day around the time our baby was two months old. She took some of the food, so it was worth it. Then she stopped taking the pellets, even from my hands, even one by one. We came up with a series of elaborate rituals designed to stop the cat from eating her food, in case she might want it later. We started using wet food. She took it for a time, and then she stopped.

As a former anorexic, I can relate to the emotional tinnitus Auggie must feel: The stupid, hollow ring of someone’s well-intentioned and totally fucking clueless “Why don’t you just eat?” in response to obvious emaciation and declining health. I suspect there are many reasons why Auggie doesn’t just eat, many of them going beyond her arthritis and being almost 14 years old. But she is weak and we had to do something.

Saturday, we took her to the vet. He expressed surprise that she wasn’t falling over given her dramatic weight loss, and told us to start feeding her whatever people food she would take. He used the word “hospice.” And so, though my husband and I are both vegetarians since childhood and frankly find cold cuts to be disgusting, we now have a refrigerator full of meat.

I pick up some smoked turkey and it’s slimy. I roll it. I smile. I call for Auggie. And she eats piece after piece after piece. This is a time when I could start to get really sad, because I love this dog. But I love this dog. This is a dream come true for her. I am making her sandwiches, feeding her cookies, and giving her exactly what she wants. When she gets up, I hear her, and call for her to come my way, cheering, “Yay, Auggie!” She comes in a little less wobbly now, beaming. We are not sorry and we are not sad. Life is a present moment. It should be so fun.


58 thoughts on “Feeding My Dog

  1. Beautiful piece, and I’m glad Auggie is feeling better. I had a serious scare with my pooch, but thanks to wonderful kennel owners and vets, she’s perfectly healthy again. Loving my two woofs is a religion in and of itself.

    1. Dogs can be more faithful and loyal than a lot of people. A man running an antique store was sad and quiet making his apologies for his lack of help by saying that his dog died yesterday and he felt the loss more than the loss of an absent and neglectful father. He felt guilty. I told him that I was sure he would see his faithful friend again in heaven, if indeed, he was headed there himself.
      He thought I was an angel and rose from his chair to put a hand on my shoulder and a grateful and gently respectful kiss in a cheek.
      I went home and wrote an article, DO DOGS GO TO HEAVEN?

      1. Sharon Nyatanga

        This is so true.dogs are more loyal and i hope to get one sometime this time.next year. I love their nature and they wont bite you in the back anytime soon. ♡amazing creatures

  2. I am glad that you even go against your own convictions when it comes to feeding to give the dog what she needs. Dogs are carnivores – cats even more so, btw – and I always wonder why vegetarians bother with pets who are so dependent on meat.

  3. I work in a shelter for sick/maimed/abandoned animals..Most of them victims of human cruelty, many of them dying simply because they are SO scared of humans/or so depressed that they shiver non-stop and quit eating. Very recently we discovered the wonders that cerelac baby food can do..Puppies who are dying cause they are so weak to lap up or digest milk, or are in semi-coma stage also immediately wag their tail as soon as we bottle feed them with cerelac!! 🙂 One particular dog, probably abandoned by its owner, refusing food for days..shivering NON-STOP also took a few licks of cerelac this weekend! 🙂
    Dogs are like babies. Glad to read this post of yous 🙂

  4. "Occam Blade"

    I think it was photographer Elliott Erwitt that offered, Dogs are like people only with a lot of hair. I’ve always had a dog or two and we continue to this day. They are amazing creatures. I think humans are the ones who need domesticating more than our dogs.

  5. I have 3 cats and I don’t remember anyone in my family ever touching or even looking at meat but now my entire storage is filled with tuna, mackerel and other non-vegetarian delicacies for the gems in my life. I think only people who love their furry friends can relate to the bliss it is to see them eating.

  6. So sad it brought tears to my eyes. Went through the exact same thing with my first Yorkie. So incredibly sad when they stop eating their food. Then they stop eating baby food; reading your blog reminded me of that time. Dogs are our best friends and family.

  7. Good for Auggie. May she be strong and happy all her days. We have an aging Bichon Frise. She is a doll, and it grieves us to watch her struggle with arthritis. She can jump up on furniture, but then she calls us to run to her aid to get down. The vet says she may not be able to see the ground clearly. Whatever it takes, we want to make her comfortable. Blessings to you…

  8. I almost can’t bear stories like this. People love their dogs so much … SO MUCH! – and yet nothing stops the march of that old man, Time … You’re doing some of your grieving now, whatever you think.
    I wish to all the gods that our beloved animals could just – stay forever.

  9. Auggie’s ‘story’ brought a smile to my face–thank you.

    We wouldn’t give anything for the wonderful times that we’ve shared with all of our dogs–especially their senior years.

    Godspeed, Augusta Matson-Johnson . . .

  10. Beautifully written. Auggie is so lucky to have you:-) My Alex is almost 12 years old, and very healthy, so every day I count my blessings:-) The best to you and your family.

  11. Loved this post. A Yellow Lab living to 14 and still alive and happy with her slimy smoked turkey is a miracle. I think your vet’s advice should be followed by all geriatric specialists as well. Peace.

  12. Dogs truly are blessings. They are so sweet, and more loyal and faithful than most people, and should be treated as such. What we have them “learn” from us is just a speck compared to what we learn from them. I hope you and Auggie continue to enjoy your morning turkey together 🙂

  13. I’ve been there. McDonald’s hamburgers were a favorite of our Rainey when she stopped eating her dog food. I, too, am a vegetarian and found it funny that you mentioned how the meat felt in your hand. FYI–McD’s burgers feel gross, too. I’m glad you’re enjoying every day with your pup. 🙂

  14. atkinsonjw3

    I loved your post and I love your courage in sharing that bit about your past. Some of us more than others can relate to “why don’t you just eat?” Or “you know you need to eat”. Nice job with seriousness and playfulness in your writing!

  15. Your post is so beautifully written it brought tears to my eyes. I am remembering Beau’s last days as we struggled to find anything he would eat. Rejoice in any comfort you can provide for Auggie…..and for yourselves. As a hospice social worker who provides bereavement counseling, please know that your path is yours to determine. May you and Auggie find peace, love, comfort and eternal healing.

  16. Beautiful. I couldn’t help but cry while reading your story – it sounds so similar to my time with my rottweiler Job. Auggie is lucky to have you for her family. There is nothing like the love of a dog.

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