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A Court Battle Begins Monday Over Obie the Doxie

Oregon Dachshund Rescue is demanding the dog back from foster mom Nora Vanatta. Now the courts must decide.

 |  Oct 26th 2012  |   38 Contributions


This week brings good news and bad news about Obie the Doxie. Dogster first wrote about the obese pup in September, when his journey to lose more than half of his 77 pounds had just begun. Since then, he and foster mom Nora Vanatta have appeared on multiple talk shows and websites, with the goal of inspiring humans to help their canine companions -- and even themselves -- shed unnecessary and often dangerous extra weight.

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

On Tuesday, Vanatta shared the following update on the Facebook page dedicated to Obie’s weight loss, which has more than 66,000 followers:

“Obie has made it to the 62s now!! Down from 77 when I got him,” she wrote. Nearly 10,000 fans have cheered Obie’s success with a “Like,” and more than 1,000 have commented on the update.

On Wednesday, the news on the Facebook page from Obie's foster mom was not so good:

Dear Obie supporters,

As you have all been following this story and supporting Obie's journey as he in turn inspires you, I must tell you of the awful news I just received.

When Drew Martin Lee initially reached out for help to get Obie out of his dire situation, Jenell Rangan recognized that she didn't have the resources to properly care for him and she publicly shared the letter. I stepped up and said that I would foster him if someone would bring him to me. I had absolutely no idea what to expect but I knew that I could help him. Patricia Malone (Bosello) volunteered to pick him up and bring him to me. I took it upon myself to take him to the vet the next day to get an exam and blood work. Linda Klein graciously stepped up and offered to pay for his first vet visit as well as start a FB page to help with the subsequent care required to rehabilitate him. I am committed to his full rehabilitation even though it will be much longer than I anticipated.

The FB page exploded with supportive people from over 20 countries and many people have donated money for his care. He became very popular and national networks contacted me and asked to share his story. I realized what an inspiration he was to people and that his story was helping so many in their own journeys to get healthy and bring awareness to the effects of obesity on people as well as their pets. The attention was overwhelming at first but I was always thinking of the mission that Obie could share, and I was very careful of what people wanted to write about him. I made it clear that this was a positive thing and that it wasn't about bashing the previous owners or exploiting a fat dog. I turned down several media requests because I didn't like where they wanted to go with the story. Obie has a story and a mission to share and help other people. I am working on starting a non-profit to continue to help and inspire others in their mission to lose weight.

Jenell Rangan, owner of ODR, is now demanding that I give Obie to her and actually deliver him to her lawyer's office. I must appear in court Monday morning (Washington County at 9am). She is claiming that Obie belongs to her, that I am misusing funds, and not providing proper veterinary care.

It is very upsetting that Jenell is using doxie-saving money to take him away from me, especially since she has received donations and support thanks to Obie and me sharing his story. She has admitted to not being able to handle him and that he is doing well with me. He has bonded to me and Hunter & Noggin. She clearly doesn't have his best interest in mind and is only interested in him now that he is famous. I am going to fight for him and I need your continued support. I am not in a position to spend money on a lawyer but it is just not right to make Obie adjust to a new home now. I am asking for your continued support to help Obie stay with me.

Thank you, Nora

Within 24 hours, more than 5,000 comments had appeared on the update, with one supporter starting a Change.org petition and more than 10,000 people signing it.

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

On Thursday, Jenell Rangan of Oregon Dachshund Rescue, the ODR referred to above that rescued Obie and placed him in Vanatta's care, shared the legal summons the group sent to Vanatta (click on the link to read it) and spoke with Dogster.

The court document alleges that the group legally owns Obie and that his foster mom verbally "promised to temporarily care for the dog and provide it the requisite veterinary treatment and attention." The summons goes on to state that Vanatta did not provide the promised treatment but did exploit Obie to earn money off his obesity, with that money not being spent on his care. It also alleges that Vanatta refused to return Obie to the rescue group when asked. The document calls for Vanatta to surrender Obie and pay $5,000 in damages, as well as legal costs incurred by the group.

Rangan said she will provide emails that prove all of the above in court on Monday. In relation to failing to provide "requisite veterinary treatment," she explained that her agreement with the family who surrendered Obie was that he would be seen by ODR's vet, not the vet to whom Vanatta took him. She also said that the group has not seen any of the money donated for Obie's care.

"The group has never received one dime. People have donated to Nora, but they know the dog belongs to ODR and they want a tax receipt. I cannot give someone a tax receipt for donations we have not seen," Rangan said.

In response, Vanatta said Thursday that donations for Obie's care are made through a PayPal account a volunteer with the group set up in her name. When she tied the PayPal account to her personal bank account for withdrawal purposes, she limited access to the account to her alone for security reasons.

"I'm basically in shock that they are accusing me of these things. I'm not breaking any agreement because there was no agreement. They never had Obie," Vanatta said, explaining that Obie was transported from the surrendering family directly to her via an ODR volunteer. "Jenell has never even met Obie." 

She added, "I said from the beginning that I would need financial help. I could provide the time, the love, the experience, but I was not in a financial position to have another dog. I needed help with food and other expenses. Jenell forwarded all of the media requests to me. I turned many down because I didn't want Obie plastered on the front of a trashy tabloid. People love him. People are inspired by him. I have always tried to keep this a positive experience."

Vanatta and Rangan said that they just want the best for Obie, and the court has been tasked to intervene on Monday. We'll keep you posted, but in the meantime, enjoy this video of Obie on a recent trip to the beach:

Who do you think should care for Obie? The rescue group who coordinated his surrender or his foster mom? Weigh in below in the comments!

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