One of the calls I received working on the phone lines for the animal hotline was about Rosco, a 12-year-old Standard Dachshund. Rosco’s owner, an elderly lady, had recently passed away, and Rosco was left in the care of her daughter, unwanted. This happens very often, and while many people would do all in their power to keep their mother’s beloved pet in the family, the executors of the estate do not want to deal with cherished little ones who are left behind. As always, when it is not in a dog’s best interest to be surrendered to the facility, and while we could not say no to any dog whose owners insisted, it was my job to try to convince Rosco’s new caregivers that they should try to find a new home for him through their own means instead of being relinquished to the shelter. The lady on the phone would not have it, and I came to understand that Rosco was in poor health. Rosco, she said, was so fat, that he should probably be put to sleep. I was flabbergasted at the idea of euthanizing a dog because he was too fat, and advised her to make an appointment to surrender the dog. Our veterinarians would evaluate him and his prognosis at that point. If Rosco could be saved, he would be.
Rosco got to the shelter, and I went to greet the lady bringing him in. Rosco’s milkshake sure would bring all the boys to the yard, or in technical veterinary terms: Rosco was grossly and morbidly obese. His life, realistically, was in danger if he did not lose his extra pounds. His dream of a bikini season body was nothing more than a sparkle in his confused eyes as we placed a new, but temporary collar with his name, weight, and shelter identification number on it. While I never liked telling people to go ahead and bring their dog into the facility, as it was stressful for both animal and resources at the shelter, this was probably the best thing for Rosco. He had rolls on his tail. His belly, being a Dachshund, dragged on the ground. When he got tired, it seemed he would just push his legs out and rest on it. He was a Dachshund though – his howls and barks at all of the excitement and new people to meet could be heard down the halls. All 42 pounds of him shivered and quivered and jiggled with his anticipation.
I make light of this situation, however, in reality and in all seriousness, Rosco’s life was in danger. Over-feeding your pet causes the disease of obesity, and poor Rosco could not even go up one single step without someone to lift his back end. The least of his worries were his over-grown nails and overall hygiene (I won’t get into the details). At the front end of his worries was the possibility of heart failure and injury being a breed of dog that is already prone to spinal trauma. The excited little guy seemingly passed out on the floor in when he reached the clinic, winded from walking the 50 meters from the surrender room to the clinic. We all hoped that it was as simple as an overactive thyroid to blame for his astounding and sad state. But no. He was just fat. His owner who passed away likely thought she was showing him love when she had given him the same thing that she had for dinner. To complicate matters, he would have to lose the weight relying on diet and exercise only – but at a safe rate. Too much weight lost too quickly would put extra stress on his liver and joints. All of this would have to be done in a foster home where he could have one-on-one attention and a very strict diet of prescription diet dog food, and green beans. Yummo!