When you live in a small town, people know you. When you have the privilege of living in a small town in the mountains, people know your dogs, too.
"How's the girls?" asked one of the owners of the brothers feed store when I went to get dog food one afternoon.
"Spoiled rotten," I responded, easing up to the counter. "I've got three divas piled up on the couch at home, probably fussing because I am taking too long to get their kibble. Ava has already had quite the fit when she realized the bag was empty."
Ava the German Shepherd keeps a close eye on the food situation. If the bag gets below the halfway mark, she starts pacing around it to make sure if anyone gets any extra nibbles, it's her. She will even sleep beside the bag, with a paw on it for added protection.
When she was told after their 6 a.m. breakfast - something she has initiated since we've had her - that the bag was empty, she had a fit.
"All gone." I showed her the bag. She stuck her head in to the bottom, licking and snorting for any kibble dust. She even lifted the bag up, her head still enclosed, trying to see if there was any stuck in the corners.
When she pulled herself out, she looked at me all worried and barked.
"It will be this afternoon before I go," I told her.
The dog promptly threw herself down on the floor with a dramatic "whoomp" and laid there, like a great sorrow had befallen her.
"I thought she was gonna need the vapors," I told the brother after I recounted my story to him.
He laughed. "Girl, what would you do if you ran out of food and it was Sunday when we weren't open?"
"Oh, that's happened," I said. "It ain't pretty."
When running errands one Saturday morning, I asked Lamar if we needed dog food. He thought we were fine; he's the one who feeds them, so you'd think he would know. But all he was thinking about was pedaling across some mountain that morning and he didn't have time to go back in to check the food.
"What happened?" the brother asked.
"I ended up cooking the girls some eggs and putting some cottage cheese in it," I answered. "I am pretty sure Ava liked that better."
"Those are some spoiled dogs," he said laughing.
They are beyond spoiled.
I had been trying to fatten Ava up. She was tall and lanky and I was used to my curvy and filled out pit-mix and my athletic Border collie.
But Ava is boundless energy and all legs, running through the yard, chasing bees. So I was feeding her extra goodies, hoping she would gain. I had fattened Venus up when I first met her with chicken broth and wasn't sure why I couldn't seem to put weight on Ava.
She had been itching relentlessly too for a while, until someone mentioned she may have a wheat allergy. After a week on the whitefish and sweet potato feed, Ava quit itching, the fur on her hinney started growing back and she was starting to fill out.
"So she likes her food and it helped?" the brother asked.
"Oh, yes, she loves it. They all do, even the picky one does."
Pumpkin's the pickiest. Angel Doodle will eat paper towels like a goat, so she's not exactly a connoisseur.
"And, it's helped her tremendously. She's still on the thinner side but she's just taller than I am used to. When she stands on her hind legs, she's as tall as I am."
"What are you going to do when she's over 100 pounds and taller than you?" he asked.
"Let her do whatever she wants," I answered. Which she pretty much gets to do now. Dogs are like children and when they are quiet, they are up to something.
One morning, I realized Ava wasn't on the couch or on her yoga mat, which used to be mine until she got on it and refused to get up one evening.
But she was noticeably absent from her sisters, so I went looking for her, finding her stretched out across the foot of my bed. She smiled without opening her eyes and wagged her tail.
She wasn't hurting a thing and she knew it. She was just doing what three other shepherds before her had done and I said when I had another one, I would never fuss about them drooling on my comforter again. I kissed her on her muzzle and let her finish her nap.
"I'm going to say it again," he said, still laughing. "Those are some spoiled dogs."
That they are, I agreed.
"If I come back as a dog in my next life, I hope I come back as one of your dogs," he said.
They are spoiled and they are loved. They are part of our family and they know it. And I think they somehow know how good they've got it.
Just like we know how lucky we are that we have them.
Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the recently e-published novel, "The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery."