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The Food Thief: A Heist by a Food-Driven Dog

Last spring I caught Floyd in the basement a few times, tongue hanging out, tail wagging. Our basement is unfinished, exposed pipe, concrete floor, and cinderblock walls. It’s not a cozy space, and the dogs rarely hang out in it. So, when I saw him downstairs and so happy about it, I noted it. I remember noting it the second and third time I found him down there too. After a brief investigation, I found nothing suspect and finally guessed Floyd had found some remains our cat had left behind. Floyd has always been extremely food-driven, and he’ll eat anything, so I didn’t put any more thought into it.

We think Floyd is a chow-Lab mix. He’s ten, wears three layers of copper-colored fur, and a spotted tongue. Floyd is the most laid-back dog in our pack. Nothing fazes him, but then again nothing really excites him either. He likes to walk, but he doesn’t love it like Adriana, who races to the door when she hears her leash jingle. He likes car rides, but not as much as Meadow, who acts as if having her head out the window is the equivalent of a ride on Space Mountain. But, there is one thing that gets Floyd riled up and that’s food.

I’ve fostered food-driven dogs before, but Floyd takes it to another universe. We feed the dogs twice a day, morning and late afternoon, and he devours his food so fast there’s no denying his obsession. I timed him once. It takes him 8 seconds to finish ¾ cup of dry dog food, two vitamins, and a dropper of CBD oil. Over the years, we’ve tried everything from training bowls to hiding his food under giant rocks, but nothing slows him down.

And I get it. When we found him, he was living on the street and not doing it very well. He was mangy and emaciated, nothing but rib bones and patchy fur. Ten years later, he still acts like every bowl is his last. Because of his passion for food, we have to monitor his weight, closely. He normally weighs between 45-47 pounds, and it’s important to keep it within that range because he’s had surgery on both rear knees, and arthritis is a continuing problem.

So, imagine our surprise when we took him for his six-month dental checkup and Dr. Dan told us he had gained eight pounds! I hit me right then and there that I hadn’t weighed Floyd the month before. It had been two months since his last weigh-in, and back then, he had been a healthy and lean 47 lbs. I was horrified. Sure, he had looked a little heavier recently, but he still wore his winter coat, and with his three layers of fur, he always looked thicker. But eight pounds?! Mason and I interrogated each other about how many treats we give him daily, then we racked our brains about some other possible food source. But, we couldn’t come up with a single reason for his weight gain. How had it happened?

We found out the reason later that night, when Mason went to the basement to fill up the food bin. For years, we kept the sealed bags stacked on the concrete floor without any problems. We piled them next to a huge Tupperware bin, where we mix up two kinds of food. Mace noticed one bag was extraordinary light, like only half-full light. Guessing I’d already mixed half of it, he checked the top, but it was sealed. He scrutinized the bottom, but it was completely intact. He thought maybe Amazon sent us a defective bag.

Finally, after several more minutes of close examination, he noticed a nickel-sized puncture at the back. The hole blended in with all the dietary information, but it was there and big enough to squeeze out a few pellets at a time.

Mason called me to the basement and showed me the hole.  Around the edges, the puncture had grown a little wider, and the plastic coating had worn away, revealing duller copy. It was the only physical evidence of any heist. That’s when it all came together. Floyd had put on eight pounds in two months because he’d been slowly but consistently stealing pellets from a thirty-pound bag of dog food. He had gotten away with half of it too. That’s why I had found him hanging out in the basement last spring, looking all happy and satisfied.

I don’t know what surprised me the most, his craftiness or his restraint. How did a dog who devours his food bowl in seconds have the restraint to steal pellets so slowly? If he would have ripped the bag open, we would have noticed, but stealing a few pellets at a time never caught our attention. Even after ten years of living with Floyd, he still manages to earn my respect.

Needless to say for the last couple of months, Floyd’s been on a rigid weight-loss routine. Although he’s been happy about the extended walks, he’s been downright grumpy about his diet. So, we are all thrilled to announce that last week at his bi-annual checkup, he weighed a healthy 47 pounds.