I know I’ve mentioned having some joint pain once in a while. No big deal but annoying sometimes. Mostly in my shoulders and probably because I have a big chest. Whatever. The thing is that they bother me sometimes. This was partly why the folks put me on the diet. They figured if I lost a couple of pounds it would take some of the weight off my shoulders—so to speak.

I was worried about the diet idea at first. What was that going to do to my routine? Were they going to start feeding me that awful smelling stuff they sell at the vet’s office? You know, the usual fears anyone would have when things are about to change. Turns out the fears were largely unfounded.

The kibble for ‘seniors’ isn’t bad. I don’t know what they do to it to make it better for those of us who’ve been around awhile. Maybe they put squirrel in it. Maybe they think we’re getting a little old to chase them ourselves and they’re trying to be helpful. I can’t be sure, because even though I’ve caught a few squirrels I’ve never actually eaten one. Probably tastes like chicken, and I already get a little of that thrown in with the kibble and salami-looking stuff every day. So, if squirrel tastes like chicken and if that’s what’s in the ‘senior’ kibble it’s kind of lost on me. Oh well. The point is it’s not bad.

I’d been avoiding the vet’s because weighing myself is what started this whole business. After a while, though, when I realized that nothing much had changed, I got curious. Was this ‘diet’ I was supposedly on doing anything? I’ll admit I’m a little hungrier at meal times than I remember being, but that could just be because I’m in good shape, with the metabolism of a puppy.

Anyway, we were taking one of our afternoon walks the other day and when we got to the vet’s I dropped anchor. This is always fun, because if whoever’s holding the leash isn’t paying attention they get jerked backward. I get tugged on the neck, sure, but the slapstick scene on the other end is worth it.

This particular day the doc was holding the leash. “Oh? Are you telling me you want to weigh yourself?” he asked after regaining his balance. “No, I want to get my appendix removed,” I replied. Fortunately he doesn’t understand dog as well as I do English.

He opened the door, I strolled in, sat on the scale, and waited. “Wow! 68 pounds!” Wow indeed. I was a full three pounds under my full-figured high of 71. I guess the diet was working. The problem, though, was that losing the weight hadn’t solved the problem with the shoulders. They still hurt sometimes, particularly if it’s cold out and especially if I have to jump down from someplace. Jumping up is easy. All back legs and lower body. Piece of cake. But jumping down is another story. I can usually find a way to avoid doing it, like by not climbing up something I can’t easily climb down, for instance. Makes sense. But the one place I can’t avoid it is when I’m in the SUV.

Now remember, I love the SUV. I’ve got my own space in back, my own blanket and pillow, my own air conditioning vent, the works. And getting in is as easy as it ever was. But lately getting out has been a problem. Not always, but enough of the time for the folks to notice. If I’ve been in the car for a while, all nice and cozy, sometimes getting up is a little difficult. I feel a little stiff. Plus I’m already nice and cozy, like I said, so maybe I’ll just stay put. Chill out. Don’t really need the exercise anyway, you know? Get plenty of that chasing that screwball Monty who lives next door.

I try to act nonchalant but right away the folks get worried. “Is she OK? Poor Kaya. It must be arthritis.” And on and on. So I get up, but it’s not as easy as it used to be, and I pretend I’m just taking my time, but the folks aren’t stupid and know I’m having a bit of a problem. It doesn’t take too many days like this for them to organize a trip to Centinella Feed.

Now usually I love Centinella Feed. It’s kind of like PetCo, except it’s bigger and they don’t have a bunch of lizards and snakes in cages. But they have every kind of dog food, treat, toy and gadget imaginable. Great place. Really. This trip wasn’t about any of that stuff, though. Soon as we walk in mom asks the lady working there if she has any ramps.

O.K. So the doc likes watching cooking shows, and we hang out a fair amount, so I watch them, too, and I’ve heard about ramps. From what I’ve been able to sort out ramps are like onions. They’re popular with the food weirdos, probably because you can only find them at a certain time of year and you have to go to some farmers’ market to get them. Otherwise you have to be like everybody else and eat onions. Which doesn’t make any difference to me whatsoever. I don’t eat onions, let alone ramps, and even if I did I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen or smelled one at Centinella Feed. Or at PetCo either, for that matter. So imagine my surprise when the lady says, “Sure, right over here.”

We walk to the back of the store, past all the really cool stuff, and I’m looking for the produce section which apparently has just been added since my last visit. Instead she stops in front of a bunch of large cardboard boxes. “Here we are. What size are you looking for?”

Next thing you know they start unpacking boxes and pulling out these folding contraptions that turn into planks, basically. I’m starting to think I need to take them to the vet, have their heads examined or something. But hey, it’s mildly entertaining and doesn’t have anything to do with me, so I might as well enjoy the show. Wrong. They grab a couple of these things and we start walking out of the store, right to the SUV, to be exact. They open the hatch, my personal entryway, undo the leash, and ask me to hop on up. O.K. A little weird, but O.K. I do it and start to settle in, figuring whatever it was they’d come here to do was now done and we were going back home. Wrong again.

They set up one of these planks on the edge of the hatch, right where I do my jumping, and then ask me to come back down. What? You finally realized you forgot to buy me a toy and some new treats and we’re going back in? Fine. Move the stupid plank, please.

Turns out the plank is what this trip was all about, and it’s not called a plank. It’s a ramp. Nothing like an onion. Not even close. And for the next 15 minutes they try to get me to walk up and down the thing, going in and out of the car. I can’t tell you how many treats that little exercise was worth, but it was a lot. At the end of this we reach a compromise. I’ll jump up, like always, but I’ll humor you and get down using the ramp. There.

Though it’s difficult to admit it, using the ramp does make it easier to get down on those days when I’m felling a little stiff and sore. I know what you’re thinking. It’s pathetic. It’s embarrassing. Like having to use a walker or something. What are the other dogs going to think when they see me walking down the ramp?

Let me tell you something. I’m not sure what they’re going to be thinking while I’m walking down, but I’m positive that if they’re still thinking it by the time I’m on the ground I’m going to kick their butts just like in the good old days. Then they’ll be lucky if all they need is a ramp.


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