Winning the food battle?

Bangsiri takes her medicine enthusiastically now. She cleans her bowl at mealtime. She’s not on vegan food exclusively, but it’s her main food again.

I’ve talked to a few people about her picky eating, and one person said Bangsiri was refusing food because she’s a carnivore. It was the vegan food she was rebelling against. (She refused different brands of vegan and nonvegan food after previously having liked them.) Others said picky eating was typical Yorkie behaviour. I don’t know Bangsiri’s breed mix for sure, but I think she’s probably a Chorkie.

Did it take her three years to decide she was a carnivore, or a Yorkie or Chorkie?

I’m not supposed to give Bangsiri her medicine with food, but I have no choice. I was told to mix it with syrup to form a paste, and to force the paste into her mouth, but that’s easier said than done when she’s struggling to get away. When I tried it, the medicine ended up on her fur.

About a month ago, she was refusing medicine no matter what foods I tried and I got desperate enough to walk into a vet clinic and ask for help. It was embarrassing. Even though I only buy food from this vet—I get Bangsiri’s expensive medicine at another clinic—she did her best to help me. But she couldn’t get a syringe or a capsule into Bangsiri’s mouth, so food is the only option. (The vet’s mother’s name is Bangsiri—a strange coincidence because it’s not a popular name.)

I tried peanut butter again and it worked—for a few days. Then I started using a new brand of (nonvegan) cat food, and clicking when she gulped it down. It worked. More recently I’ve been giving her a capsule in a bit of Recovery brand cat and dog food, which has the consistency of pâté. Occasionally she’ll take a capsule in vegan food, but she plays with it for a while before she eats it. I’m afraid to make any changes to our routine right now.

Bangsiri and I had never gotten very far with training—even when she still liked cookies, she wouldn’t sit for one. When she was at her most stubborn I picked up Karen Pryor’s book Reaching the Animal Mind, which describes how trainers have used the clicker method with dogs, cats, fish, horses, dolphins, lions, elephants, chimpanzees and humans (among many other animals). It sounded like magic.

I have many issues with the way Pryor obtained this information, and with her use of her expertise to perpetuate animal exploitation, but that’s another post. If clicker training could work on a wild animal—if it could get a lion to take his medicine calmly—well, I thought, why not Bangsiri?

I picked up the clicker again after a very long time—and despite serious doubts that I was doing it right, it really seemed to help. She’s happy at medicine time again. She eats regular vegan meals in exchange for a few small pieces of fake hot dog. When I’m busy in the kitchen (I try to look busy when she’s eating, even though I want to stand over her and watch her eat), she’ll come in to let me know she’s cleaned her bowl and ask for her reward.

I often worry that her pickiness will come back, but it’s been a few weeks since she was in danger of making herself sick from chronic undereating.

Now we’ve moved to a new officetel, and she’s adjusting to a whole new environment. I love my little dog baby—I always knew she was an angel, but until now I don’t think I ever knew how smart she was.

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