Doggie on a Diet

[Possible trigger for weight loss talk. Primarily about animals rather than people, but connected to diet culture.]

As I’ve mentioned before, the hubby and I foster dogs for a rescue organization. Our first foster, Reba, is now happy in her new home, and we have a second foster, Hershey Girl.

Hershey is an eight and a half year old beagle. She’s incredibly sweet, though shy at times and somewhat concerned about cats (largely because my cat Thomas is, well, kind of a butthead).

She has mammary tumors which we’re hoping are benign. Fortunately, they frequently are, but we won’t know anything until they actually do a biopsy. We’ll try to get her adopted out either way, but if she does have cancer, it will most likely become our job to make her remaining time as happy and comfortable as possible and be with her once it’s time to put her to sleep. (She belongs to the rescue, so that would be their call, not ours.)

Hershey Girl is also very fat. Average for a female beagle is 22-25 pounds, and she weighs 37. So, we’re going to try to help her lose some of that. Which, as you can imagine, is a little conflicting for me.

I know dogs aren’t people, and I don’t want to conflate the two or let my feelings about diet culture interfere with taking the best possible care of this dog that I can. And yet, I have to think that if it’s not as simple as “calories in, calories out” in people, is it really that simple in animals?

Heck, I know it’s not. I’m sitting next to a fat cat (Haley) who’s far more active than our other cat (Thomas). Thomas, however, isn’t fat. He has a bit of a belly, but mostly he’s just a big cat. Thomas, the leaner cat, is also the first to the food dish, the first to mew piteously if we haven’t fed him the minute we get up, and the first to get all indignant when we make food for ourselves and don’t give him any. But the fat kitty is also a spayed female, which tends to cause weight gain.

The other tricky thing is that dogs and people have very different internal cues. Dogs tend to be always hungry and not necessarily self-regulate. There are plenty of dogs who would eat their dinner, the rest of the bag of food, and everything vaguely edible on the counter if given half a chance. I know this isn’t true of all dogs (Diamond is sleeping next to a bowl with food left in it as we speak), but it’s pretty common.

People, on the other hand, are usually good at self-regulating if they have access to a variety of food and real permission to eat.

So, while it makes me a little twitchy, we’re going to count calories for the puppy dog, limit treats, and take her for lots of long walks. But, at the same time, we’re not going to focus too hard on weight loss. If a reasonable quantity of high-quality food and fun exercise doesn’t make her a smaller puppy dog, it’s possible that she’s just not going to be a smaller puppy dog, and I have no intention of getting sucked into the “weight loss at any cost” panic. Basically, we’ll worry about keeping her as healthy as possible, with the hope that healthy things will also lead to weight loss, which is likely to be good for a senior puppy dog’s joints and energy level.

She’s been in the shelter for a while, and she was surrendered because her people lost their house. So I imagine that she hasn’t gotten enough exercise for quite a while. And beagles don’t tend to be demanding about exercise, so it’s easy not to get them as much activity as they need physically. Our last foster, Reba, was a crazy, crashy, two-year-old pit bull. If you wanted her to be sane and not eat the couch, you would make sure she got a long walk and the chance to run around every day. Hershey Girl, on the other hand, gets excited when you put shoes on, but is pretty content to snooze on the couch all day. So, with all of that, I’m fairly confident that she’ll lose a few pounds once she has a chance to get plenty of walks.

Right now, she has kennel cough, so we won’t worry about weight stuff until she’s better. She’s currently on the all-chicken all-the-time diet because her throat seems to be bothering her and she wants nothing to do with kibble. I’m not sure Ellyn Satter’s awesome food pyramid applies to dogs, but “enough food” and “acceptable food” are definitely the first priority. And we’re being very conscientious about not pushing it on walks, because exercise aggravates the coughing. This is part of where health takes priority over weight.

The Boundaries of Religious Freedom

So, when the GOP and the Catholic bishops started screaming that Obama had “declared war on religion,” he announced that if employers had religious objections to birth control, insurance companies would pay for it directly instead. Sounds good to me. And yet, for many, that still wasn’t good enough. “What about the insurance company’s freedom of religion?” I’m sorry, if paying for health care is against your religion, methinks you should not be in the insurance business. (Plus, pretty much every health insurance company out there has finally figured out that BC is cheaper than abortions or pregnancy and would much rather insure a woman who has access to contraception than one who doesn’t.)

I’m a really strong supporter of religious freedom, but I don’t think it means the freedom to force your beliefs on other people, or the freedom to not do your job and continue to be paid. I mean, I have every right to convert to Quakerism tomorrow and decide I don’t want to support the military anymore, but I don’t have a right to expect a defense contracting company to keep paying me while I sit around playing Solitaire or rearrange my job so I don’t have to participate in the company’s main business.

My big argument with the outrage about requiring Catholic schools and hospitals to cover contraception is that if a religious organization wants to be an employer, they should be held to similar standards as secular employers. There are already *lots* of concessions to religious freedom for religious employers. Like the church school that got to ignore the ADA and fire a teacher for having a medical condition. Because it was a religious position, they don’t even have to pretend with a straight face that they had religious reasons for firing her.

But secular employees should be treated like…secular employees. If the church doesn’t require someone to be of the same faith to serve in a particular role, that role should be subject to all the rules of employment law.

Let’s not even get into the fact that what the President mandated has already been required by the EEOC for any employer that offers prescription coverage, on the basis of equal treatment of the sexes. Lots of Catholic schools and hospitals already comply with this rule, but it’s convenient to ignore that for political purposes.

Another issue with the whole idea is that there are Catholic-approved uses of hormonal birth control. Have PCOS and take the pill so that you don’t get cysts, or so you actually have periods? That’s not considered a sin. Similarly, as I understand it, married Catholic women who have severe health risks from pregnancy can generally talk to their priest and have him okay contraception. (The second is according to my Catholic sister-in-law.)

So, we aren’t even talking about something that automatically violates their religion, just something that can. Meaning they want to not only deny employees something because it violates their employer’s religion, but that they’re okay with denying it to good Catholics* who need it for other reasons (either that or they think you should have to reveal private health issues to your employer to get insurance coverage).

I think that if an employer has decided to provide insurance to its employees, what they do with that coverage is between them, their doctor, and the insurance company. It’s a benefit that belongs to the employee in exchange for work performed, and the employer has no more right to tell you what to do with it than they do to tell you how to spend your paycheck.

And if we can’t have a public option for health coverage because “oh no, socialism!” then it’s reasonable that the government set some standards on what actually counts as insurance in order to get the crazy costs and lack of care under control. Requiring all insurance to provide cost-saving preventive care free of charge (as part of the coverage that the employee and employer are paying for) is reasonable based on that. While insurance companies save money from birth control, that doesn’t mean they won’t charge for it too if they’re allowed because, hey, they can.

I like the proposed solution; I just don’t think it should have been necessary. I also don’t think it will be enough to satisfy people who think their freedom of religion means that no one should get to have contraception.

*I’m neither Catholic nor opposed to birth control, so please don’t take that as my saying that the ninety-some percent of Catholic women who use birth control are bad Catholics.

I Stand With Fat Kids and With Planned Parenthood

Susan G. Komen pulled its funding from Planned Parenthood “because they’re under Congressional investigation.” Never mind that it’s not a legitimate investigation so much as a “Let’s shut down PP by any means necessary” witch hunt. And also never mind that Susan G. Komen grants go to cancer screeings, not abotions, and that Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of women’s health services in the country.

People have been coming up with new Susan G. Komen slogans on Twitter, and a lot of them are hilarious, frequently “in the I must laugh so I don’t cry or hit someone” sense. My favorite so far is “Does this coat hanger come in pink?”

I signed a petition, gave some money to PP, and am adding Susan G. Komen to the list of groups I won’t support. (It’s a short and esoteric list, including Chik-Fil-A and, as much as is practical, the nation of China.)

Speaking of petitions and donations, the awesome Ragen Chastain is *this freaking close* to posting a billboard in Atlanta to answer the hateful “Strong4Life” campaign. Donating to this campaign helps tell bullied fat kids that they’re not alone, unloved, and broken. We stand with them.

Marilyn Wann is also running I Stand Against Weight Bullying. Send her a picture and a slogan, and you get a nifty poster to spread hither and yon to show your support for kids of all shapes and sizes.

My Tax Dollars!! Rargh Eleventy!

So, in the discussion I’ve been reading about the Susan G. Komen foundation’s awful decision to pull their funding from Planned Parenthood, someone commented that it was wrong to make people contribute to abortion through tax dollars when they have a religious objection to it. Not sure where that came from, because Susan G. Komen is not the government, but maybe they just wanted to go off on how they don’t like it that there is federal funding for Planned Parenthood (which very specifically doesn’t go to abortion).

My initial response is that pretty much everything our government does is going to be against somebody’s religion. None of the Quakers I know are getting tax breaks because they’re opposed to war. Nor do I get to choose not to pay the salaries of the Congressmen who obstruct anything that might help poor people.

Also, taxes don’t actually pay for abortion except in really rare cases where a woman has been raped and qualifies for medical assistance. The argument is that giving any money to Planned Parenthood is paying for abortion because that frees up money for them to do more of that.

But by that token, the government should not give money, even for worthy and good causes, to groups that do something someone somewhere has a religious objection to. Which is everybody, what with religions being varied and mutually contradictory. So I guess we should just stop doing any kind of government grants for education or health or poverty, for fear that the money that pays for these things might go to someone who had an abortion, or is gay, or took the Lord’s name in vain one time. Kids with cancer? Screw em—our sense of religious purity is way more important. And government employees and contractors probably do things that violate other people’s religions on their own time, so we should close the schools and police stations and let our infrastructure rot rather than giving people money that they might spend on gambling or condoms or something.

Taxes just can’t, in any kind of rational system, work like that. I mean, if you ignore the bit about government employees where I get way too sarcastic, I suppose we could allow grants for a specific purpose to organizations that do nothing but that purpose. Like if there’s a state grant to feed the hungry, it has to go to an organization that does only that. Not a church, or a charity that also does other things, because someone might have religious objections to those other things.

So Planned Parenthood could split itself up into several different organizations. And a church that wants to do charity stuff that there might be grants available for could spin off a specific little non-profit. This would be highly inefficient and a colossal waste of money, and as a result people who are being helped currently would not be. And people would still bitch about Planned Not Dying of Cancer’s ties to the evil abortionists at Planned Parenthood.