Pudgy pups strike again- why the story of Obie bothers me

Why are overweight pets so fascinating to people? The whole 40 pound cat thing, having now been overplayed, is making way for roly poly dachshunds. Obie’s all over the news, as you’ve seen- the 77 pound doxie on his way to health through his foster mom. Although I am glad it has reminded people about the plight of the 50% of US pets who are overweight, I have mixed feelings about the attention he’s getting.

One of Obie's many media appearances, on WRCBTV.

First, the message here: people who overfeed their animals to the point of abuse (and intentionally done or not, it’s still abuse to let a dachshund get to be 77 pounds) get to hand them off with an abashed “whoops!” and then someone else gets to inherit the problem to deal with? And what, exactly, is the news story? Unlike a diabetic dog who’s peeing everywhere and about to head into ketoacidosis, fat is cuter?

Giving a pet lavish media attention for an owner induced medical condition, by the way, makes me shudder for its own reasons. We’ve all seen what happens when people decide to try and outdo one another for the chance to be on TLC. So help me God, if someone creates a reality show about huge dogs on a quest for glory, I’m going to write off humanity entirely.

Articles about Obie state that he’s in good health aside from his massive size, and that Purina has donated food for his weight loss journey. Awesome. Do we know how much has been raised through his Paypal already and what it’s going for, if all he needs is a little less food than he was getting and maybe a dental at some point (he is, after all, a dachshund)? And did they fly him in CARGO from Portland to New York for his Today show appearance, him, a massively obese stressed out dog? What exactly is in his best interest here? (hint: a measuring cup. That’s it, really.) A word of advice to his foster mother, who I have no doubt got into this with the very best of intentions: opening yourself up to public donations can be a double edged sword. Be utterly transparent now, before the tides turn.

I know, this is probably going to make me unpopular. I understand. Sometimes I have to get into Unpopular Veterinarian Mode. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for a person who takes on a dog like Obie, because yes, it’s a lot of work. Everyone likes to feel good about cheering on a dog like him. Trust me, I do too. I wish him the best and I hope every single cent raised goes to his treadmill account. I just wish we could cheer him on without all the attendant trappings of sideshow circus celebrity because that just makes me feel icky. An owner induced medical condition is not a cause for fame.

At the end of the day, this is the story of a dog who has been failed by the family who stuffed him like a foie gras duck, and the family, friends, and vets who were unable to at any point make them stop. And that’s not really cute at all, is it?

Filed: Blog, Dogs, Fit Life, Health Tagged: , ,
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363015727 Michelle Cotton

    I so agree with this! Why is this news worthy? I mean, if it’s to bring attention to the fact that people need to take better care of their pets and not overdose them on food the same way they do themselves then okay. But it feels like all these media stories are turning it into a Barnum and Bailey’s side show act. This poor dog doesn’t need to be carted from news show to news show for everyone to see. He needs walks, play, and a little less food.
    It is horrible to me that he even got that way! At what point does an owner stop and think, “Gosh, he can barely reach the ground with his legs, maybe I should put this guy on a diet.” But then, I guess that is the same kind of mentality that allows my neighbors to leave their two dogs outside all day and night and never walk or play with them. Why bother having them if you are just going to make them miserable? But I digress.

    • Sue W.

      Dr. V, Michelle…I wholeheartedly agree. And Michelle, I so agree with you – why have pets if you don’t take care of their needs? They are SO dependent on us. It’s the mentality that their lives are disposable or not important. On the contrary, they are entrusted to us…how will we fulfill our obligations? Show me how you care for your pet and I’ll tell you who you are.

  • Tamara

    I, too, cringe every time I see this story. It’s great if it opens up conversations about proper pet care and nutrition, but that often gets lost in the ‘circus’ you describe. I wish Obie all the best and hope he can get down to a healthy weight so that he can live a long happy life. With the health concerns dachshunds already have, I can’t imagine this won’t affect him longterm. And, yeah, what’s money got to do with it?

  • Lisa W

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

  • Christan

    I definitely agree! I am worried people will start doing this to their animals as a “claim to fame” and that sickens and scares the crap out of me! I posted an “unpopular” article written by Dr. Patty Khuly on Obie’s Facebook page and got almost 40 negative comments, not one positive. So I won’t be sharing this one (even though I want to). Maybe the foster mom will still see it.

    Not only that, but what do you bet some of those donations are going back to the very people that put Obie in this deadly predicament? When I first read the Obie article it said the previous owners were “older” and so I felt bad but a little more understanding. But then I saw the woman on the news and she doesn’t look old to me and certainly not senile or incapable of putting Obie on a diet. Sad story all around :(

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      Oh, Dr. Khuly already covered this? I assume she had a similar opinion? Love that vet. And you posted it on his Facebook page? What a brave person. Unfortunately, the faster they rise, the harder they fall, just you wait.

  • Amy

    I had not seen this story. Since I live with someone who believes in food over playing with the animals, I know how it happens. We fight, and every animal we have had has needed to loose weight. So when the cat comes meowing – the only animal left and the last we will have – she is certain it is for food, not because the cat is bored and wants someone to amuse him.

  • macula_densa

    I feel the same way, Dr. V. And, in previous comments I hope I never came across as suggesting I don’t think this is abuse. I think whenever an animal ends up like this, there is generally some mental/emotional issue on the owners’ part. I just find it so different than other types of abuse because they really believe they are demonstrating ‘love’ in this way. Either way, the attention these cases get really bothers me for the same reasons.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      I agree that the root causes need to be addressed differently. Should we prosecute senile old people for overstuffing their dog the same way we would some idiot intentionally strangling a puppy? Probably not. Outcome wise, though, no matter.

  • Michelle S

    Well said! The thing that makes me cringe (the most) is further stressing this dog with so called public appearances. I thought the exact same thing of the very obese cat, and that poor thing didn’t make it.

  • Anonymous

    Can you hear the clapping!!! It’s about time someone said what needed to be said. This poor dog is in a 3 ring circus. All the traveling is not healthy for him. I hope his foster family can get him down to a proper weight, I realize that it will take a long time. But I’m rooting for him and hope he gets to go home and gets some me time. And as Dr. V says to use the measuring cup please everyone do this it only takes a moment of extra time. I always use a measuring cup when I feed my fur kids.

  • Karen B.

    Very powerful post, Dr. V. Thank you for being so straightforward, it needed to be said.

  • JaneK

    doesn’t make you unpopular with me… wish I could state it so well; I also feel the same way about fat young kids. how a 3 year old gets obese (and I know there are a few with medical conditions but that doesn’t account for all of them) is beyond me….
    been silent for awhile but still reading your blog! love it! I’ve ordered those Charlie Brown book of questions for my 5 year old :) Snoopy was always my fave and she is very interested in animals… thanks for the tip (awhile back!)

  • Elliott

    It’s interesting to compare the type of attention obese humans get to that of pets like this. We do have shows like “The Biggest Loser”, but there’s really no glorification of the people for being fat — it’s only because they’re trying to get out of this unhealthy situation. Unfortunately the majority of the population still seems to view fat pets as kind of cute and worth tolerating because they don’t want to restrict the animal’s diet in any way.

  • http://twitter.com/wantmorepuppies Pup Fan

    This post isn’t making you unpopular with me – I agree 100%. Obie’s plight breaks my heart and he just looks miserable. :(

  • Sarah Whitfield

    I agree with your article. It’s not news worthy at all. However, I do think it speaks to the fact that if you have an animal you can’t care for, you shouldn’t have it all & there are many people out there like that. Poor Obie is proof of this.
    I have 2 golden retrievers & 2 three-legged felines who all are rescues. My oldest golden, Dixie, came from a shelter. Her owners had dumped her off to be euthanized at the age of 7 because they didn’t want her anymore so I fostered her through a rescue & fell in love. I ended up adopting her. The previous owners had over fed her so much that literally, she had trouble walking. I am a runner and I immediately began exercising her as much as she could. She’s lost over 40 pounds & looks great now but still has a way to go. People said awful things to me about her weight & I do think it goes to note that not everyone with overweight pets created this. My vet was out one day & I had the new young vet at the clinic checked Dixie for something & the vet literally chewed me out. I let her have it because people need to realize that most people who rescue these animals are doing the best they can but it’s a slow process.

  • Eviee

    This story, like so many others, illustrates
    how many pet owners fail to act responsibility and care for their animals. I do
    not own a pet (even though I would love to buy a puppy!!) as I feel I do not
    have enough time to care for it adequately.
    There are so many people who call themself ‘animal lovers’ and have many
    pets yet they do not give their animals the required attention. I call myself
    an animal lover despite not having a pet of my own at the moment. I have made
    the right decision for myself (and my hypothetical pet!). Pets take effort and
    involve owners being proactive. I believe that people who do not have the time
    or energy to take their dog on a walk, feed it what it SHOULD be fed or who
    leave it at home by itself all day should not to be pet owners. It is unfair on
    the animals and can lead to situations similar to Obie’s :(

  • NikkiDee

    I could not agree with you more. New-found celebrity for nothing more than having a serious medical condition (or mentally unstable parent in the case of toddlers and tiaras) does nothing to actually help the problem. A good public shaming and education on the dangers of over-feeding/under-exercising pets is what is in order, not a tour of talk shows.

  • http://twitter.com/debslosingit Debra Wilson

    I saw Obie’s story a little while ago, and was disgusted that anyone who supposedly loved their pet would not only allow but encourage this to happen. And as you said, people seem to think outdoing each other is always the end goal. The last thing this dog needs is publicity, and the one thing he does need (you said it- a measuring cup) it very easy to come by. I can only hope this dog does lose the extra pounds and manages to stay healthy through all of it. He doesn’t deserve a life like he has no, and killing with kindness is still killing.

  • dog diapers

    There are so many individuals who contact themselves ‘animal lovers’ and have many
    pets yet they don’t let their creatures the needed interest. I contact myself
    an beast fan despite not having a pet of my own currently.