Bruce waits for Reagan to give him a piece of hot dog

My fawn Pug, Bruce, is a food addict. He’s not picky about what he eats; everything is on his meal plan. Bruce would look like a canine Jabba the Hut if I let him, but to his dismay, I am committed to keeping him at a healthy weight. It’s been a lifelong struggle — for both of us.

Bruce’s food issues were evident from the moment we brought him home. We put down a bowl of kibble as he came in the door, and in less than a minute it had vanished. Our puppy ate with such intensity that we thought someone had been neglecting to feed him.

No food was safe around the 8-week-old Bruce, even though he weighed only a few pounds. We had to monitor every morsel and use food puzzles and long-lasting chews to slow his consumption. Without intervention, Bruce would eat to the point of being sick; within a few moments, he would rebound and try to eat more.

I was so concerned about Bruce’s eating habits that I had my veterinarian father, Dr. Marty Becker, run a series of tests to see if there were any medical issues contributing to his persistent hunger. The tests all came back negative, and my father jokingly diagnosed Bruce with a severe case of “Hungry Pug Syndrome.”

Guard Your Plate

Bruce’s food obsession lasted beyond the puppy stage; everyone who spends time around my now-6-year-old Pug has learned to protect their meals. Although Bruce responds readily to “leave it” and “drop it” — even when he’s being asked to walk away from something tasty — he is always willing to take advantage of unattended food.

Bruce is a nimble ninja when it comes to anything edible. He once outsmarted a doggy barrier in the car to get to an unopened bag of Doritos left on the front seat. An unattended plate of waffles in the kitchen inspired him to climb up a chair and onto the counter to finish the abandoned breakfast.

Bruce doesn’t wait until he’s left alone with food. His best trick is to pretend he’s sleeping — and then as soon as we turn our backs or leave the room, he pounces on our food. Sometimes he’s more daring though. At a recent family party, I was carrying Bruce around in my arms, like a baby. He appeared to be sleeping, complete with Pug snores and all, but he was really assessing the situation. I walked past my grandmother, who had a hot dog in her hand, and Bruce instantly went from asleep to attack. He took the hot dog right out of her hand and ate it in two quick bites. Bruce smacked his lips a couple of times, and then immediately returned to snooze mode as if nothing had happened.

While Bruce is not aggressive around food, he has learned how to get more than his fair share at any meal. He will use his blocky head like a bulldozer to push other dogs, like his Pug sibling Willy, out of the way. When an injured paw forced him to wear a protective cone on his head, he used the cone to shove Willy out of the way and then angled the cone directly above the bowl. In once instance, he even did a mini handstand on his front paws to get to his lunch.

Bruce the Pug

The Kibble Thief

At the doggy day care Bruce frequents, he’s become an infamous food bandit. Before Bruce, the day care never had a problem keeping the dogs from eating each other’s kibble. But when I boarded him over Christmas last year, he learned to sneak off and unlatch the doors of the other dog’s pens with his nose to get at their kibble. Bruce was so stealthy that he could gobble three or four pens worth of food before anyone noticed he was missing.

When I came to pick him up at the end of the week, I went back to the small dog area and couldn’t find Bruce anywhere; there was only one Pug, but he was too chubby to be my dog. A quick look at the dog’s ID tag confirmed that yes, this was Bruce. But he had changed — he no longer had a neck or a waistline. He looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy at the end of an all-you-can-eat Caribbean cruise.

Bruce must have put on at least five pounds during the week — an enormous amount for a Pug — but I have never seen him look so happy. Of course, he was less happy about the immediate diet and exercise plan I instituted to take off the weight, but the temporary satisfaction of eating everything he wanted likely made it all worthwhile.

It’s a struggle to keep Bruce at his ideal weight, but with diligence and exercise, Bruce remains fit. While Bruce may be the canine equivalent of a garbage disposal, I would not trade him for any other dog. Bruce’s unique habits, including his snoring, his desire to fetch all day, and yes, even his appetite are all part of what makes him a special and irreplaceable part of my family.