Obie Dog's Journey

Obie Dogs Journey

Inspiration can come from the most unexpected of places.

Case in point: the remarkable story of a morbidly obese dachshund named Obie and his quest to shed weight and get healthy.

Obie’s story begins like that of so many other beloved canine companions. He was an adored family pet living a pampered life with his doting “parents,” an elderly husband and wife in Washington state. But the couple’s failing health limited their ability to provide Obie with an active lifestyle, and over time they compensated by pampering him with human food.

By the time the couple’s granddaughter-in-law reached out to dachshund rescue groups across the country in August 2012 begging for assistance, then-five-year-old Obie tipped the scales at an astonishing 77 pounds, almost three times the ideal weight for a standard dachshund.

Shortly thereafter, Portland, Oregon resident Nora Vanatta read a rescue group’s desperate online plea for help with Obie's plight and stepped up to offer her assistance, sight unseen. Armed with a degree in animal science and 12 years of experience as a certified veterinary technician, Nora felt her training would enable her to help get Obie’s weight under control. "I read the story, and I was like, ‘How hard can it be?’” she says. “I felt compelled to help him, and since I already had two dogs, I didn't think it would be much work to have another.” Then she met Obie face-to-face and was confronted with the severity of his condition.

“He was in the back of a small SUV and took up most of the space,” she recalls. “It was shocking to see his size.

We hauled him out and put him in the grass, where he looked up at me and wagged his tail and grinned and waddled a bit, then went potty” she says. “He was a happy dog inside that ginormous body. I realized then I would be able to help him.”

After Obie received the necessary approval of the other members of Nora’s pack–five-year-old dachshund Noggin and nine-year-old black lab Hunter the business of nurturing Obie back to health began in earnest.

First, Obie underwent a thorough medical assessment to rule out any major issues that frequently result from being so obese. With no major health issues identified and the (surprising) all-clear, he then was put on a strict food regimen. “It was important for Obie to lose the weight slowly and steadily, so it was recommended that he lose one to two percent of his body weight per week,” Nora notes. To achieve that goal, she put him on a specially formulated diet of high-protein, low-calorie, low-fat prescription dog food with added fiber to help Obie maintain lean muscle mass while burning his excess fat as energy. The protein also served to increase his metabolic activity and helped him feel “full.” “I think he only ate people food prior, so he was very stubborn at first and took a day or two to try the dog food,” Nora says, “but it helped to have good role models like Noggin and Hunter show excitement at mealtime. I also tried carrots and apples as low-calorie snacks within the first week, all of which he turned his nose up at, but finally, when he saw the other two eating carrots, he decided they must be okay.”

Four days after his arrival, volunteers that helped transport Obie to his new foster home created a dedicated Facebook page to document for those involved in his initial rescue Nora’s efforts to restore him to a proper weight. What happened next was nothing short of extraordinary.

Every day, people from across the globe were discovering Obie’s profile, rallying to support the portly pooch from near and far. “It grew by a couple hundred of followers per day,” Nora says. “I got him August 18th, and by September 10th there were already several thousand people following him on Facebook and the national networks were calling me.” Appearances on NBC’s “TODAY” show, ABC’s “Good Morning America” and "LIVE! with Kelly and Michael" followed, as did articles in the New York Daily News , The Daily Mail, People magazine and more.

Yes, Obie was one hot dog.

But with media attention gaining momentum, it was important to Nora that Obie be portrayed as a weight-loss ambassador, not as a spectacle. "I love that Obie is bringing awareness to obesity and influencing people to take better care of not only their animals, but themselves as well," she said in one of her first postings on Obie’s Facebook page.

And though Obie was adapting to his new diet (and his role as media darling), introducing exercise to his routine was initially out of the question. His weight was so confining that he had difficulty moving. Just taking a few steps wore him out. He was unable to lick his own paws. “It was exhausting for him to walk from one end of the house to the other,” Nora notes. She also had to take measures to protect his sagging underbelly (fondly referred to as his “bosom”) from dragging on the ground and causing chaffing and skin infection by outfitting him with a special body harness. In fact, Obie’s physical activity for the first eight months was limited to moving around the house or the yard with Noggin and Hunter or when he went with Nora to meet and greets promoting weight loss, she says.

Still, the combination of a proper diet and moderate exercise was steadily making an impact, with Obie losing one to two pounds per week on average. And, by April of 2013, Obie had lost an astonishing 40 pounds, more than half of his body weight. However, the large pendulous skin between his front legs was hindering his mobility and needed to be addressed. Thus, Obie underwent a doggie “tummy tuck” April 30th, at Oregon Expert Vets to remove more than two-and-a-half pounds of excess skin resulting from the massive weight loss. “It was getting warmer and I didn’t want him to have to wear his protective garment,” Nora says. “It also gave him plenty of time to recuperate and enjoy the summer while losing the remaining weight he needed to lose.”

Obie was fully recovered within two weeks “and he was ready to go,” Nora says.

Today, at his goal weight of 23 pounds, Obie is living a dog’s life, taking walks on the beach and hikes on the Oregon trails with Nora, Hunter and Noggin (his now- permanent family) while continuing to serve as an “ambassadog.” Fans flocked to Obie meet-and-greets during a late 2013 cross-country RV tour promoting obesity prevention, he recently was the guest of honor at the 14th Annual Wienerfest dachshund celebration in Embro, Ontario, Canada, made a return visit to TODAY and, at the time of this writing, has amassed a Facebook following of 317,000 and counting, bringing together a global community of humans and their pets united by his inspiring story and motivated to make a change.

One morbidly obese woman wrote to Nora that, inspired by Obie’s weight loss success, she had left her home to walk to her mailbox, something she hadn’t done in a year because of her weight. “It’s all about making conscientious choices and realizing where you want to be and what it will take to get you there and be happy,” Nora says. “I’ve get all kinds of messages daily from people who have lost weight thanks to Obie. They say, ‘If Obie can do it, so can I.’”

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Key takeaways from Obie’s weight-loss journey that you can apply to your own efforts at

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