Brook Burton has always had dogs in her life, and when she was still in high school, even joined a dog rescue with her mother in Columbus, Ohio. She currently has two dogs, Freddie, a 12-year-old miniature schnauzer/terrier mix, and Dennis, a 6-year-old Dachshund.

Brook’s pack
Freddie weighs in at a svelte 10 pounds, 4.5 kilograms, but when Brook rescued Dennis in June, 2013, he broke the scales at a whopping 56 pounds or 25 kilograms. His former owner, a relative, had overfed him a constant diet of unhealthy human food, including pizza and burgers. He could barely walk a few steps without having to stop to catch his breath.

Brook told us she rescued him because “there was no way I could walk away from that little guy knowing what his living conditions were and how unhealthy and unhappy he was.”

A new challenge
Despite having grown up with dogs, Brook’s experience with Dennis was something completely different. “I never owned a dachshund before,” she told us, “so this whole experience has been eye-opening for me. Not only did I do a ton of research on this breed and their personalities, but also research on the well-being of dogs, diet and exercise, and what are good treats to give that are natural — like carrots, green beans, bananas, and so on. As a dog mom I grew in so many ways when I took on Dennis, he has taught me so much.”

Even as Brook grew as a dog owner, Dennis shrank. With a combination of diet and exercise and a little help from veterinarians, he dropped an amazing 44 pounds, almost 20 kilograms, or 79 percent of his weight.

Dennis’ weight loss secret
When we asked Brook what the secret was, she replied, “Honestly, people ask all the time what is the special diet, or what did I give him. They make it sound like I gave him some magic pill. But nope! It was just using a very good brand that I respect and always have used. I controlled what he ate and exercised him and the pounds just melted off. Fancy that — just like humans, it’s all diet and exercise.”

Canine plastic surgery
Along the way, veterinarians had to remove extra skin so that Dennis wouldn’t trip on his own belly. For a while, Brook explained, Dennis was too scared to run or walk, so he started just lying around. So far, he’s had three surgeries, performed at the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center. “They did an amazing job with Dennis and helped him become a normal dog,” Brook told us.

Dennis’ legacy
Now, Dennis is indirectly responsible for helping other dogs. Brook became aware of the problem of pet obesity, and how widespread it is. Inspired by the kindness of strangers who helped her pay for Dennis’ surgery, she decided to pay it forward, so teamed up with OSU to start the Dennis’ Legacy fund, with a goal of raising $50,000 to permanently endow the fund in order to help obese dogs and cats in need. The fund will cover half of the cost of consulting with the OSU nutritionist, as well as half the cost of the prescribed diets.

You can see the before and after of Dennis in the video below. His weight loss has been life-changing. “I take Dennis on walks every day now and he loves it!” Brook told us. “He goes crazy for the birds, rabbits and squirrels — mainly the birds, he just wants to catch every bird he sees and eat it. Dennis is so close to his final weight goal which is 10 pounds He’s only 2 pounds away!”

Pet obesity problem
The problem of pet obesity actually begins and ends with the humans. Brook explained, “We simply show our love through food, unfortunately, and we have to learn that there are other ways to show our love to our pets. Our pets need us, we are their voice and they rely on us to make good decisions for them.”

If your dog or cat is obese, she advises, “Seek out a veterinarian and get your animal medically cleared to make sure there isn’t any underlying issue going on causing their weight gain. Once they are cleared, that gives you the green light to get them on the right track with diet and exercise. You can do it!”

If Dennis can do it, so can your dog, and his story is an inspiration not just to people with overweight pets, but to overweight humans as well. Sometimes, exercise and discipline are the best affection we can ever give our dogs.

You can donate to the Dennis’ Legacy fund at the Ohio State University Giving Page. The fund number is 315098.

Is your dog overweight? Tell us how you’re getting her into shape.

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