Obie the obese Dachshund shot to startdom in 2012 when we became known as the fattest Dachshund, possibly in the world.
How this came to be, and what ensued after his fame, is not something a lot of people know about.
Most of you have only heard of Obie’s before and after weight loss journey.
It’s a very triumphant and happy succes story but the history behind the story tore the local Dachshund community apart.
UPDATED: Originally published November, 2012
Obie’s Origin Story
I first found out about Obie the obese Dachshund in the summer of 2012 while I was on my honeymoon.
Like any good Seattleite, I couldn’t stay away from the Facebooks for three whole weeks so I was surfing my feed in a Bar in Amsterdam’s red light district and stumbled across it.
I recieved an email from the rescue I adopted my Dachshund Gretel from asking if I could take Obie in or if I new anyone that could.
Obie’s situation was unusual – he was 77 lb standard Dachshund and would need a lot of care to make him healthy again.
Obie had been accidentally overfed by his owners who had dementia and who took each sad-eyed stare begging for food to mean they must have forgotten to feed him.
A friend of the family convinced the elderly couple to give up the obese Dachshund because they could not properly care for him.
The family friend contacted the Oregon Dachshund Rescue (ODR) asking for help.
ODR recognized they did not have the resources to care for the dog so they put out a request for someone to foster him on their Facebook Page.
That’s when I, among other rescues and others knowledgeable about Dachshunds, recieved the email about him.
His plight was also shared on social media.
How Obie Came to Live with the Woman Who Saved Him
A woman named Nora, who is a veterinary technician, saw the social media post and sent ODR an email saying she would take Obie.
You can read more on the original story and Nora’s background here.
A woman named Patricia, who was associated with ODR in some fashion but not an official volunteer, picked up the Dachshund and delivered him to Nora.
A Star Was Born
It is not totally clear when it happened but sometime shortly thereafter Patricia suggested that Nora start a Facebook page for Obie.
It’s now known if it was Nora or someone else did it but a Facebook page was started for Obie around August 18th, 2012 called the Biggest Loser, Doxie Edition.
Word spread fast about Obie in the local, Northwest Dachshund community.
Once word got out about Obie’s need (in a matter days it seems), Patricia and some other people suggested, or started, a GoFundMe donation page to help Nora take care of Obie.
The story of Obie continued to spread rapidly and donations started to pour in from all over the world.
Comments left on his Facebook page said things like “he has inspired me to face the fact that my own dog is overweight and needs to go on a diet” and people said Obie inspired THEM to lose weight.
Support for Obie’s weight loss journey and Nora’s efforts grew.
Obie Became a Role Model
Nora said she never expected Obie and his struggle to touch so many people and for him to become a role model.
She began to be contacted by newspapers and TV stations.
She said she felt overwhelmed but was willing to “step up” to to be an inspiration to all and raise awareness for obese dogs everywhere.
Obie, Nora and Patricia flew to New York and Nora and Obie appeared on The Today Show on September 12th, 2012 to share their story.
Then Something Went Bad
On October 24 ODR served Nora with legal papers to get custody of Obie.
ODR claimed that Nora was not caring for Obie properly (he was safely losing weight by the way) and exploiting him for her own gain.
Since Nora was only fostering Obie at the time, ODR claimed that Nora did not have any rights to him.
The problem was that ODR may have never had custody of him during the transfer so they might not have any rights to him either.
Other complications included that Patricia flew to New York with Nora and Obie for one of his first TV apearances.
ODR was being accused of just wanting him back because they saw him as a cash cow (over $100,000 had been donated to his GoFundMe)
ABC News posted an article about the custody battle on Oct 26th.
Fallout over the Obie Custody Lawsuit
Obie was doing well under Nora’s care and the world was rallying to support him.
He was becoming a celebrity of sorts and I, personally, was really happy to see the issue of pet obesity (especially Dachshund obesity) getting some real, relatable media coverage.
He was safely losing weight, beginning to play with his doggy housemates and seemed to be doing well.
Then the Oregon Dachshund Rescue (ODR) came out of left field with a lawsuit suing Nora for custody of Obie with accusations of neglect and exploitation for personal gain.
ODR’s accusations appeared to be anecdotal and not backed up with real fact (at least not to the public).
As humans will often do when emotions run high and facts run low, “facts” and motives are speculated and manufactured.
There was an outcry in the local Dachshund community and ODR became vilified….FAST.
People visited ODR’s Facebook page in droves to make clear that people thought what they were doing was wrong and that Obie should stay with Nora.
I watched online as ODR was ripped apart. Things got downright nasty on the ODR Facebook page.
Previously negative experiences with Janelle, the President of ODR, were brought to light and were more fuel for people to rally behind the “ODR is evil” front.
I watched as the local Doxie community was ripped apart.
People picked sides, passionately expressed their opinions and friends were lost.
The ODR Facebok page was apparently ran by volunteers and volunteers managing the page tried to make a distinction between the PAGE and Janelle.
They did not make a statement one way or another but tried to make it clear that is was Janelle, their president, who made the decision to file a lawsuit and not ODR as a whole.
They tried to draw a line between what was happening at the rescue and the lawsuit.
They tried repeatedly pleading with people to stop all of the nasty posts (or the page would be shut down by Facebook due to profanity).
They tried deleting the most negative comments – presumably so other people wouldn’t feed on that negativity.
None of that worked and “hate posts” continued to come in.
The Dachshund community became further divided.
Patricia, who had transported Obie to Nora and had initially suggested that a Facebook Page created for him, tried to clear things up by sharing her side of the story.
People had already decided who was in the right and who was in the wrong and this letter only gave people more hate-spewing ammunition.
I Didn’t Like What I Saw
Being so involved in teh local Dacshund community, and seeing my friend groups starting arguements with each other, was heartbreaking.
The fact that Obie’s rescue story was becoming mired in bad feelings really bothered me.
I was watching things for ODR, and the rescue community as a whole, go downhill fast.
At this point, I was trying very hard not to take sides. My primary concern was for the welfare of Obie and any future Dachshunds ODR might rescue.
In my frustration, I sent ODR this letter:
“To whom it may concern –
Hi. I have been following the story of Obie since the beginning.
ODR has taken a real beating lately due to the custody issue.
I DO have an opinion about what is happening now but that is inconsequential. I am posting here wearing my social media and branding expert hat.
No matter what your company’s intentions are, your brand is what people (your audience) say it is.
Your brand is your companies “public face” no matter if the actions are stemming from one person or several employees.
Your brand is what causes people to look at your company in a negative or positive light.
The fact is, it doesn’t matter who is in the right or wrong. A vast majority of your audience PERCIEVE that ODR’s actions are wrong and ODR is getting a VERY bad reputation.
It is even drumming up people’s experiences with ODR from the past and ODR is being painted in a VERY negative light.
People are saying they will no longer support ODR – both by word of mouth (which is one of THE most important things to a companies success – people who love you talking about you to their friends) and monetarily.
ODR needs to figure out how they can heal their image and “save face” here or ODR Doxies will be very negatively impacted in the future.
If ODR is truly thinking only about the dogs, action will be taken immediately to start to heal the relationship with your audience.
I don’t know what that should be. Only ODR can decide what is the correct action but I highly suggest ODR contact a PR firm about this to come up with a game plan if there is no one in-house with these skills.
I suggest you drop the lawsuit, come to a contractual agreement with Nora that works for you both, and spend that lawyer money on cleaning up ODR’s image.
Sometimes it is not about about being right, but doing what is right.
Nora may or may not be doing everything she promised but Obie is losing weight and raising awareness for obese and rescue Dachshund all over the world.
As evidenced on the Biggest Loser page, people have already been inspired to lose weight themselves and get their dogs healthy.
I can promise that a lot of people will remember Obie and consider “saving” their own dog from a rescue the next time they are looking for one.
This issue is so much bigger than, and reaches further than, Obie here in the Northwest!
This also is bigger than ODR. ODR’s actions are giving people a sour opinion of, and instilling doubt about, ALL rescues.
We all know how hard those in the pet world are trying to improve the image of rescue dogs and shelters. ODR is hurting that for everyone and making the rescue community endure a big setback.
Mine is an unbiased opinion about what is happening and a mere plea to save ODR’s image (and therefore continue to do the good work you are doing) and the rescue industry as a whole.
A volunteer responded with thanks and said that was the first constructive feedback they had received since the controversy has began.
As they do not have money for PR, the volunteers rallied together and made some changes on the Facebook page themselves.
I am not so vain to think that my letter was the reason they made efforts to turn it all around but I would like to think I had something to do with it.
On October 29, 2012 Nora and ODR had their day in court.
In his ruling, the judge determined that the custody of Obie was not clear and that he would stay with Nora for now.
In the judge’s ruling, he indicated that this battle will now go into litigation.
I do know that things are still moving along because Nora recently posted about the burdensome court costs on the Facebook page and asked for donations to help with costs.
ODR Moves On
On Nov 2, a final “we’re moving on” message was posted to the ODR Facebook Page.
It is my impression that they deleted anything negative after that because things turned very positive very fast.
They started sharing all of the positive ODR adoption stories people were posting on their page. Only supporters appeared on their page.
Their page took on a very different tone.
On Tuesday, November 11th Nora reported that Obie was down to 60 lbs – a 17 lb loss over 12 weeks (or 1.5 lbs a week).
Obie the Dachshund Gets Tummy Tuck
Obie was 77 lbs at his heavies weight and largest size.
When a dog becomes serverely overweight, the skin get stretched.
Because Obie lost so much weight, he was left with the worst case of excess skin I have ever seen in a dog.
This extra skin was uncomfortable and made it hard for him to move around normally.
Nora, the woman who rescued him and helped him lose weight, said the extra skin also put him at risk for injury and infection.
A bunch of generous people rallied around Obie and donated enough money for a veterinarian to give him the tummy tuck surgery.
For the first time ever, the same “tummy tuck” procedure used on humans was performed to remove the excess skin on a dog.
Throughout his recovery, Nora kept his fans updated.
Obie recovered quickly from the surgery and when the swelling went down he didn’t even look like the same dog.
Over two pounds of skin was removed so post surgery he is within 5 lbs of his goal weight.
So, as prominient member of the Northwest Dachshund community, what IS my personal opinion on all of this?
As I said earlier, my concern was primarily for the welfare of Obie.
Nothing has been revealed, at least publicly, that would lead me to believe Nora was not taking the best care of him.
Obie is losing weight and he seems to be very happy.
ODR did not have the resources to properly care for him in the beginning and no changes in that regard have come to light.
If they couldn’t care for him then, I don’t see how they can now.
The incidence of obesity in dogs has been growing.
In the US, over 44% of dogs are now estimated to be overweight or obese according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.
I’m very glad that Obie, who lost weight and lived a long and healthy life, raised awareness for pet obesity and inspired people around the world.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.