Misha and Coco, our ferocious guard dogs, were spayed last week. The vet told Chareva the biggest concern after the operation is that they’ll tear or chew on their stitches. They’re still puppies and still like rough-and-tumble play, so we’ve had to keep them apart while they’re healing. They take turns going outside – on a leash, so as to avoid any rabbit-chasing incidents. They also have to wear big cones around their heads, because they did indeed attempt to lick and chew their stitches. I call them the Cone Heads and keep thinking if I could get them to sit very still on the front porch, I might pick up satellite TV.
That’s Cone-Head Misha in the pictures below.
They came home in a stupor from the anesthesia. Misha was able to walk slowly into the house, but Coco had no interest in leaving the van. I’ve regained most of the range of motion in my knee, but it’s still weak from the surgery and still goes wobbly if I try to carry anything heavy. So Chareva (who is stronger than she looks) lifted Coco from the van and carried her up the patio stairs to the sun room behind the house.
Afterwards she commented that it wasn’t easy hauling a 70-pound limp dog up those stairs.
“Excuse me … did you say 70 pounds?”
“Yes. The vet weighed them before the operation.”
Well, that would make sense. Weight determines how much anesthesia to use.
“How much does Misha weigh?”
Wow. I knew Coco was bigger. They look to be the same height, but Coco has thicker muscles. Pet them both, and you can feel the difference right away. But 18 pounds heavier? That’s quite a disparity.
That’s Coco, minus her cone, with Sara in the picture below.
As I thought about it, I realized my Rottweilers have, according the calories-in/calories-out crowd, managed to defy the laws of physics. If Coco weighs significantly more, then by gosh, she must consume significantly more calories, right? But she doesn’t. When Chareva feeds them the organ-meat mix she buys from a local slaughterhouse, they both get a full pound of the stuff. If she feeds them mackerel and eggs, they both get one can of mackerel and one egg. Sometimes dinner is a raw chicken thigh and leg – again, the same meal for both of them. And no, Coco doesn’t steal Misha’s food.
They were little puppies when we got them. Coco was slightly larger, but we’re talking about perhaps a couple of pounds at that time, as you can see from the picture below.
They’ve eaten exactly the same meals ever since, so according to Jillian Michaels and the other experts in thermodynamics, they should be at almost exactly the same weight. And yet Coco has 35% more body mass. To put that in perspective, if I’m Misha at 190 pounds, my brother Coco would weigh 256 pounds.
I suppose the physics experts would insist that Misha must spend a lot more time on the treadmill or engaging in some other form of calorie-burning exercise, but I can promise you that’s not the case. When we were talking about the difference in their sizes, Sara chimed in to suggest that Coco has more muscle because she’s more aggressive and more active. That’s true; Coco is the feistier of the two. If there’s a noise outside the sun room, she’s the first one bolting out the door. She likes to run and jump and roughhouse more than Misha, who’s more of the sweet-personality “rub my belly” type.
But as I explained to Sara, if they’re eating the same meals and Coco is more active, then Coco should weigh less if the eat-less/move-more crowd is correct. But to repeat: she has 35% more body mass.
Coco is heavier and more muscular because the genetic program in charge of her growth has determined that she’ll be bigger and more muscular. That program is executed by hormones. That isn’t to say calories aren’t involved. She of course requires a calorie surplus to grow, and if we starved her, she’d certainly be smaller. (She’d also be one cranky and miserable dog.)
But Misha is enjoying the same surplus of calories without becoming as heavy. Her genetic program has determined that she’ll be smaller, so somehow she’s managing to burn up the extra calories. Maybe she produces more body heat. Whatever the explanation, no laws of physics are being harmed in the process.
As Gary Taubes has pointed out, ranchers breed some cattle to be bigger and fatter, and it works. They don’t become bigger and fatter because they eat too much and move too little. By the same token, the leaner cattle bred to produce milk instead of well-marbled steaks aren’t leaner because they restrict their calories and spend more time jogging around the barnyard. The genes rule. For some reason, people who work with animals grasp this concept while people who work with humans often don’t.
The breeder who sold us the dogs told us, in fact, that Misha would be smaller. She knew better than to say, “Unless you feed them the same number of calories. Then they’ll end up the same size, because that’s the law of physics, you know.”
Only a diet expert would think like that.