Story submitted 2011-06-29
In September 2003, DRNA had an adoption listing for a very, very fat dachshund named Heidi (photo left). It read in part ..."Heidi is a tragic case of what happens to a dachshund when the owners thinks food = love. She is so overweight that her belly drags the ground and her rear legs struggle to walk even 3 or 4 feet. If she doesn't lose the weight, she will die an early death. If you can help this sad, pathetic girl, please complete an application." Jill from DRNA told us that when she first saw Heidi, she thought 'We're going to have this one for a very long time.'
After discussing it for a while my wife and I decided to adopt Heidi. We had learned a lesson with our own first dachshund, Odie, who had gotten fat (but nothing like this!) and whom we had been able to slim down. With that experience, and having three other dogs to keep her busy, we thought we could help Heidi and arranged to adopt her. She was even fatter than she'd looked in the picture, and every bit as sad. It was difficult to pick her up because she was like a giant ball of dough. She was so fat that DRNA couldn't tell us for sure if she'd been spayed. When we got her she weighed 31 1/2 pounds, and when she lumbered from one room to the next it was an event because you weren't sure if she'd make it.
A few weeks after we got her home we learned that she has occasional epileptic seizures. The first time it happened we'd never seen such a thing and thought she was dying but it turned out to be a seizure. She now gets a tiny phenobarbitol pill in the morning and one at night (with her food) and the seizures have dropped from two a week to maybe one every two or three weeks, and are not as severe. It's not a big thing; we hadn't had a dog with epilepsy before but apparently it's not that uncommon.
It took us only a few months of healthy feeding (quality dry dogfood with lowered calories, very few table scraps - just an occasional taste) to get Heidi losing weight. From 33 pounds at time of rescue, 31 1/2 pounds shortly after we got her, she has reduced to about 20 1/2 pounds now. She not only walks, she runs. (Maybe somewhat like a cow but she runs!) She's alert and happy, she likes attention and she's enjoying life, perhaps more this way than just living to be fed constantly. See the pictures of her before and after her dramatic weight loss.
Heidi loves to lay out in the yard on sunny days, something I don't think she was ever able to do when she was too fat to walk. She lays in the sun and sniffs the air and she's content to do that for an hour at a time.
My wife and I hoped we could contact Heidi's former 'person' to send her a couple of pictures and to let her know her girl is happy and healthy, but apparently it's not been possible to locate the woman, who is in a nursing home if she's even still alive. We know she'd be relieved to see how well Heidi is doing.
Heidi is a very sweet and gentle girl, she doesn't have the greatest eyesight (though she can see), and she's got a voice like a saxophone blast - she uses it to wake us up at 5 or 6:00 am most days, demanding to be fed and to go "out". We're very lucky to have her and we hope she stays healthy as she is now, for a long time to come.
Update July 23, 2006: We've had Heidi for almost three years now and I thought I'd send a progress note.
She's still fine! Her weight, which was 33 when DRNA got her and 31 when we adopted her, is holding steady about 21 pounds. Her health is good. She does apparently have epilepsy and has occasional seizures, so we keep her on phenobarbitol which cuts the seizures by about 3/4. Her eyesight was probably never too good in the time we've had her but I'd say it has gotten worse. We are fairly sure she can see, but not well at all. She knows her way around and does fine.
Today she wanted to go outside (as usual) and relax in the yard, taking in the smells and possibly the sights. One thing for sure, this girl has a sense of smell that is acute!
So all is well, Heidi is having a very happy life and doing fine. Here are a couple pictures which I just took this afternoon. That is a little fatty tumor on her back, I think, nothing that has ever caused her any problems. Her face is getting a little white, as you'd expect when a dog gets to be about 13 or so. Hopefully she'll be with us a long time yet.
Russell and Janet Spreeman
La Porte, IN
Contributed January 2005, Updated July 2006