I’m not the only one around here who’s blaming COVID-19 for clothes that are too tight. The dog's collar no longer fits either.

Being in the house together, all day every day, the dog has trained me to give him a bite every time I take three. He wanted it to be every other bite, but I’m in charge of the utensils.

Dad had a serious problem overfeeding his dogs, basically until all they could do was waddle. It was hard to get him to stop because he’d swear he had no idea why the dogs would steadily be putting on weight. In Dad's defense, he probably really did forget feeding the dog half of his sandwiches, as most days he couldn’t even remember when he’d eaten.

When Dad's first companion went to doggie heaven, it was a sad day. I found the dog lying next to Dad's bed, covered up from head to toe with a coat. After being Dad's companion for eight years, it was obvious we needed to fill that void. We named the new dog Riley, as well, since it was easy for Dad to remember, but this time we choose a beagle mix, so I was hoping for a more active dog.

The beagle was stubborn and wouldn’t move – unless, of course, you opened the refrigerator door. Getting a dog from an animal shelter you’re never certain of its age, although this dog came with zero energy and figured out the situation with Dad within days of his arrival.

Because the death of his former dog was still fresh on his mind, every time the beagle was in a deep sleep, Dad thought he was dead and would cover him with a coat. We had a notebook on the dining room table, with important information like the daily schedule of when I’d be there, when Meals on Wheels would bring lunch, and then added, "if you think the dog is dead, go to the refrigerator and give him a piece of lunchmeat." I could only put a few pieces of lunchmeat in a plastic bag, marked "for the dog," because Dad was feeding him the whole package, which definitely didn’t help the weight issue.

Once, when Dad called and said he was sure the dog was dead, I suggested the lunchmeat and he said it didn't work and he even crawled under the table to rouse the dog and nothing happened. In a panic, I called his next-door neighbor to go over and check. Several minutes later Dad called to say the dog was barking at someone at the front door, which was the neighbor.

I hadn’t thought about Dad's dogs in forever but this story circled back around last weekend while I was cleaning out yet another closet to avoid raiding the pantry again. The dog had been sitting in front of the closet watching me throw clothes into a pile but then suddenly disappeared.

All I could see was the dog's tail wagging under the mound of coats, so I fed him a piece of lunchmeat.

Sandy Turner is a mom, grandma, former caretaker and retired journalist living in Missouri who writes a weekly column about home, family relationships and keeping positive during challenging times.

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