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Letter From America: Cup Final

"I used to weigh the doggies by standing on the bathroom scale without and then with them in my arms, and then subtract the lesser weight from the greater to determine their avoirdupois. Of late, while Frankie has remained at a constant thirty-seven pounds, Belle’s weight has been unobtainable because my back will not stand the strain of hefting her pleasant but daunting plumptiousness...''

Ronnie Bray wakes in the middle of the night to consider an overweight problem of the four-legged kind.

For more of Ronnie's delicious columns click on Letter From America. Read also his autobiography, A Shout From The Attic.

Our dog Belle is a hulk. To say she is compact is to understate all the bone and meat she packs into her squat but beefy frame. We became a little concerned when she passed the maximum weight for her breed standard at eighteen months. Now she stands (or sits, rolls, or lies wriggling on her back) on the eve of her second birthday, which falls on Saint Valentine’s Day, and is only one of the many reasons she is a sweetheart, she stands I say at well over breed standard weight, and that got me to thinking.

Frankie is a finicky eater who only attacks her food when it comes under threat. The threat need not be significant: Belle passing within a hundred yards of it is sufficient for my little paranoid canine. She eats what she wants and walks away from whatever is left. Belle, in contrast, eats all hers and then waits until Frankie has abandoned her trough and then goes and finishes her sister’s dish. If any food is left after her double dining, she polishes it off the next day.

I used to weigh the doggies by standing on the bathroom scale without and then with them in my arms, and then subtract the lesser weight from the greater to determine their avoirdupois. Of late, while Frankie has remained at a constant thirty-seven pounds, Belle’s weight has been unobtainable because my back will not stand the strain of hefting her pleasant but daunting plumptiousness.

We seek to treat our dogs as we would like them to treat us if we were in each other’s places. We take them to the veterinarian if they look, sound, or smell sick. They get their shots on time, do not roam the streets unattended, and have a daily run in an off-leash dog park where they meet their friends, herd strange dogs, and run until they are tired. We pamper them with doggie treats, the corners of our sandwiches, our left over meat, and regular grooming to make their glossy black and white coats shine, even sparkle!

When it comes to feeding them we use a good quality dog food augmented with tinned meat, green beans, olive oil and a multivitamin tablet crushed to powder. The amounts they are fed are in accordance with the recommended amounts for dogs of their respective weights. Or so we thought.

As an exile trying so very hard to integrate into American society so that I can pass for one if things ever get nasty between the British Isles and our other island across the Pond. Part of this is sacrificing my heritage of cooking in known scientific quantities that are so well-known and clear that a wayfaring man though a fool need not err therein.

I have had to abandon the ounce, the fluid ounce, the twenty fluid ounce pint, the eight pint Imperial Gallon, the kilo, kilogram, and centimetre. I had to embrace the US Cooking Cup before I had got my head around it, had a mental concept of how big it was, how much it weighed, and how many you could get for half-a-crown if there was an ‘R’ in the month!

The cup, ah, the cup! What could be easier than cooking by cup? I can make short crust pastry by throwing into a bowl flour, marge, drips of water, and spots of lard measured by nothing more than my practiced organ of vision. How many cups to an eyeful? I have no idea (Eye have no eye-dea?). However, I digress. Yet it does shed light on my predicament and on Belle’s girth.

The daily quantities of food for my two Champions of Champions are set out on the back of the dog food sack measured by cups. As ever, due to my pathological obedience, I followed the amounts scrupulously to ensure that my doggies did not starve or lack any of the many other things needed to prolong active life and keep them in perfect health.

Belle was (once) eighty-five pounds and needed a tin of meat, and three cups of dry food. To maintain consistency in the amounts I kept a special ‘Made in America’ ceramic cup in the dog food bin from which the specified amounts are dispensed each evening around eight o’clock.

The wee small hours of the morning are responsible for many of my best thoughts. I wake up for a short time and solve the problems of nations, break new frontiers in science, interpret dreams, understand Einstein. I grasp what Professor Unwin meant when he said what it was that he said about ‘Goldiloppers,’ solve the riddle of the Sphinx in Etruscan, crack the riddle of the Enigma Variations (I’ll tell you, later), and comprehend what William Orson Kane saw on his death bed that caused him to whisper “They’re in rows, Bud!”’

Last night my thoughts settled on something more mundane that might not save humanity from itself and rap musicians, but which could be of great benefit to my belching Belgian Groenendael, Bulging Belle. When the mist had cleared from my brain this morning I took the dispensing cup filled with dog food into the kitchen and measured it with an official ‘Made in China’ measuring jug’. The ‘Cup’ held exactly two cups!

Belle is now on a diet and will be the better for it. She must be at least one hundred pounds, but my back will not suffer me to attempt an accurate weigh until she has visibly shed some of her superfluous avoirdupois. Belle has been rescued by continuing education – mine. I have learned that just because something is called a cup it does not follow that it holds a cupful, and my carefully constructed disguise as a Yankee has been blown skywards in smithereens.

Copyright © Ronnie Bray 2006

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