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Obie the 71-Pound Dachshund's Foster Mom Aims to Inspire

Nora Vanatta hopes taking the weight-loss journey public will help animals as well as humans.

 |  Sep 13th 2012  |   39 Contributions


Obie has arrived. Since the morbidly obese Standard Dachshund appeared on Facebook in late August, media outlets around the world have spotlighted his weight-loss journey. This week, he and foster mom Nora Vanatta appeared on The Today Show with Al Roker for a segment on overweight pets. We caught up with Vanatta and Obie just hours before their interview.

“He’s lost 6 pounds so far,” says Vanatta, who traveled with the now-71-pound Obie by plane from her home in Portland, OR, to New York City for the appearance. “That’s about 2 pounds per week, which is perfect. I want to get him down to 40 pounds, then we’ll re-evaluate. He’ll probably end up between 30 and 40 pounds.”

Vanatta expects Obie’s weight loss to take about a year of diet and exercise. He eats two cups of weight-management kibble a day and also gets two to three “tiny” dog treats.

Obie, who is 5 years old, skips the veggie snacks ejoyed by his four-legged roomies -- fellow doxie Noggin, 5, and Labrador Retriever Hunter, 9.

“I have tried every vegetable,” Vanatta says. “He is just not interested. He’s not food obsessed.”

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Obie Thought Bubble: What am I supposed to do with these?

As for exercise, Vanatta plans to limit Obie’s activity until he loses more weight, as the extra pounds already put too much pressure on his joints. He waddles freely around her home and back yard, though, working his way toward a weight that will let him do hydrotherapy and walk on a treadmill.

Vanatta created the Facebook page for Obie to inspire others, humans as well as pets, to lose weight. The overwhelming support continues to surprise her. More than 32,000 users from around the world have liked the page.

Fans of Obie have donated a variety of items for his journey, including a specially made harness to keep his chest and belly from rubbing against the ground, an orthopedic bed, toys, a scale, joint-support products, and a ramp to help him get in and out of the house on his own.

Purina provides Obie’s food for free, and cash donations help to pay for his veterinary care, which will include dental work and might eventually involve skin-removal surgery if necessary. Surprisingly, other than the extra weight and irritation on his chest and belly, Obie has no other health issues.

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Fellow Doxie Jake sends his support!

Among the many fans who follow Obie’s progress on Facebook are those responsible for getting him into Vanatta’s care. In mid-August, Oregon Dachshund Rescue volunteer Patricia Malone got a call from a woman whose grandparents-in-law owned Obie, then called A.J. The elderly couple was unable to properly care for him and overcompensated with food and treats. Malone put out a request for a foster family on the rescue group’s Facebook page, and Vanatta volunteered.

“I work as an EMT,” said Vanatta, who also has a degree in animal science and eight years experience as a certified veterinary technician. “I kind of go back and forth between human and animal medicine. At my current job, we often deal with morbidly obese patients, so I felt qualified to help him.”

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Obie and Noggin nap in the sun at the Vanatta home.

Vanatta has rescued two other dogs in the past. One was a Silky Terrier she found during a visit with family members in New York. The dog had an untreated broken leg and was being kept in a barn. Vanatta flew the dog back to Colorado, where she lived at the time, then flew the dog to Los Angeles for treatment and to live with a new family. The other rescue involved a dog living on the beach in Oregon.

“I never set out to rescue, but these weird special cases get me,” Vanatta said. “Obie’s a very sweet dog. Things just happen for a reason.”

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Obie and Nora relax in their hotel room after a Sept. 12 appearance on The Today Show.

Vanatta hasn't decided whether she'll keep Obie or he'll go up for adoption once he hits a healthy weight.

“It’s going to be a longer road than I had anticipated," she says. "He’s a great dog, but as a single dog-mom, I don’t know if I’m in a financial position to have three dogs. We’ll just take it one day at a time.”

Or one pound at a time. And if Obie does become available for adoption, more than a few of his 32,000-plus Facebook fans will probably want to apply.

To follow Obie's weight-loss journey, like his Facebook page. To make donations to his care, visit his PayPal account.

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