Overweight Shelter Dog Saves Man’s Life (in More Ways Than One)

weight loss, overweight dog, animal shelter

Overweight Animal Shelter Dog Saves Man’s Life (in More Ways Than One)

According to several references, it was eleven years ago that Eric O’Grey’s doctor told him to invest in a cemetery plot. Eric was 51 years old, weighed almost 340 pounds, and suffered from high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems. 

A life of poor diet, lack of exercise, and bad choices had finally caught up with him, and there wasn’t much medical science could do. 

Rather than give up, however, Eric got a second opinion from a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Preeti Kulkarni. This time, he was presented with a completely different solution – eat a plant-based diet and adopt an animal shelter dog. Little did she or Eric know what an influence that advice would have.

Adopting A Dog with a Similar Struggle 

Eric decided he wanted an obese, middle-aged dog and reached out to the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV). He got Peety, an overweight dog with a skin condition who rarely lived inside a home, spending most of it cooped up in a backyard. Peety was scheduled for euthanization. Upon meeting Eric, poor Peety looked sad and dispirited, but it didn’t take long for this rescue dog to start rescuing his owner.

Over the next ten to twelve months, Eric lost a total of 150 lbs. and saw the reversal of many of his health issues. He became an athlete, fueling his new life with his entirely new, plant-based diet. 

The changes for Peety were significant as well. He lost 25 lbs. and became an active, jovial dog. Eric credits their shared “unconditional love” as the reason the two friends were able to make such incredible health progress.

In caring for Peety, Eric also learned to care for himself. Getting Peety the physical exercise he needed to lose weight made it easier for Eric to stick to his own weight loss goals. 

Eric contacted HSSV to tell them just how much of a positive influence Peety had on his life. Around the same time, the organization began a new project – Mutual Rescue. The goal? Show how animals help people and vice versa. It wasn’t long before Eric and Peety’s story got turned into a short film – one that has now gone viral thousands of times over.

So, what can we learn from Eric and Peety? Perhaps “mutual rescue” is the key! Adopting an animal with the same needs as you, allows you to commit to saving each other.

Even if you’re not ready to adopt, consider fostering or even just volunteering at a local shelter.

Animal shelters across the U.S. and Canada are currently experiencing volunteer and foster home shortages.


It’s amazing how animals can affect our well-being and health.

Like Eric and Peety, the key to your new life might be just a shelter visit away.

Eric shares his story of overcoming obesity with the help of his overweight rescued dog, Peety, in his book “Walking With Peety, the Dog Who Saved My Life”.


Auntie’s reading: Peety and Eric, who rescued whom?; Thu., Nov. 2, 2017; https://www.spokesman.com/7blog/2017/nov/02/aunties-reading-peety-and-eric-who-rescued-whom/

‘I owe my life to this dog’: How dogs rescued these 3 people from loneliness and poor health; By James Fell; Apr 10, 2019; Chicago Tribune; https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/sc-fam-when-dog-rescues-you-0416-story.html

Man Credits Shelter Dog With Helping Him Lose 140 Pounds: “He Rescued Me”; https://www.rover.com/blog/mutual-rescue-eric-peety-dog-weight-loss/

Eric O’Grey’s Success Story; https://experiencelife.lifetime.life/article/eric-ogreys-success-story/

See the Life-Changing Transformation This Rescue Dog And Forever Father Made Together; by Kristen Cudd; May 2, 2019; https://k9specialist.com/see-the-life-changing-transformation-this-rescue-dog-and-forever-father-made-together/

He Rescued A Dog. Then The Dog Rescued Him; By: Nancy Schute; March 10, 2016; https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/03/10/469785736/he-rescued-a-dog-then-the-dog-rescued-him

How an overweight shelter dog saved Eric O’Grey’s life; By Amy Chillag, CNN Special Projects; Updated February 28, 2018; https://www.cnn.com/2017/12/26/health/dog-walking-exercise-saves-life/index.html

Man Adopts Dog and Changes Both of Their Lives – The Eric & Peety Story; https://www.joyofanimals.com/eric-adopts-peety-dog/

6 Animal Shelter Myths

Myth 1: Animal shelters are filled with unhealthy, dangerous, stray animals.

According to the ASPCA, 50 percent of animals in shelters are strays.

Not every stray animal in a shelter has behavioral (e.g., aggression) or health issues.

Additionally, not all strays come from dangerous or neglectful environments. Some had previous homes, but the owner(s) decided to let them go free on the street, while others veered too far from home and ended up lost.

Surrendered pets may end up in shelters through no fault of their own. Sometimes owners get sick and can’t care for them, or become new parents, or have to relocate and can’t take the animals with them. They are also occasionally surrendered due to severe financial constraints or because the owners decided they could no longer care for the animals.

Petfinder.com provides a percentage breakdown of pets who came from homes:

“In fact, the main reasons pets are given up include:

  • New housing doesn’t allow pets (7% dogs, 8% cats)
  • Allergies (8% cats)
  • Can no longer look after pets due to personal issues (4% dogs and cats)
  • Too many or no room for litter mates (7% dogs, 17% cats)
  • Financial constraints (5% dogs, 6% cats)
  • Time constraints (4% dogs)”

Myth 2: Shelter dogs come with too much baggage like behavioral or health issues.

Some shelter animals have behavioral or health issues, but that isn’t the case for all. Many shelter dogs and cats are healthy with few to no behavioral issues.

According to sources like Be.Chewy.com, a potential adoptee walking into a shelter may find dogs in their cages who excessively bark or move and jump around. And while yes, they may appear to have behavioral issues, that is usually not the case.

Meredith Bowen, an adoptions specialist at Best Friends Animal Society, spoke to Be.chewy.com and acknowledged that animal shelters can be “a very stressful environment for these dogs.” They are in unfamiliar surroundings in close proximity with other dogs who are “barking all the time.”

Bowen also pointed out that in many instances, shelter animals are “incredibly well-adjusted and, despite being in a stressful situation, display very few behavior issues, if any at all.” Any animal that may have a behavioral problem(s) will be “more manageable in a calmer, home environment.”

Myth 3: I don’t know what I’m getting when I adopt from a shelter.

This ties into myth 2. Animal shelter staff is generally already aware of an animal’s health and behavioral issues, and this information is relayed to any potential adoptee. Sometimes, the information may already be displayed on the animal’s cage/bedding quarters.

Myth 4: I’d rather get my dog from a pet shop because they’re healthier and the pet shop is clean.

Looks can be deceiving when it comes to buying puppies from pet shops. Unless you can verify where the puppies came from, you really can’t know what you’re getting. Several reports, including undercover investigations, have revealed the origins of puppies from pet shops.

Many come from mills where the mothers are bred tirelessly in horrid and dangerous conditions to repeatedly produce litters of puppies or kittens. Due to the poor conditions in these mills, communicable diseases spread much faster. Animals in poor health breed with others in poor health, potentially passing hereditary diseases to the offspring.

Puppies and kittens are often separated from their siblings and mother at an incredibly early age, limiting their socialization skills. Animal rights groups have initiated a massive movement to ban the use of animal mills.



If you’re looking for a specific breed, first consider calling your local animal shelter to see what they have. If the specific breed you’re seeking isn’t available, they may refer you to an animal rescue for that breed. Sometimes, breed-specific animal rescues also take dogs and cats from animal shelters.

Myth 5: Shelter animals are dirty, mangy, and riddled with bugs!

This may be true for some incoming shelter animals, but it’s not true once they’re in the shelter and ready for adoption. Thanks to the generosity of public donations, animal shelters can afford to take in “dirty” animals and get them nice and clean!

The staff checks the animals for ailments, fleas, ticks, or other bugs and treats anything they find. The goal of animal shelters is to save lives and help the animals find their “forever homes.” For this reason, they will do their best to get the animals as healthy as possible.

Shelter Animals Make Incredible Transformation A Few Months After Getting Adopted

Myth 6: Older animals won’t bond with their new owner(s).

This is another common misconception. Potential owners are reluctant to adopt older animals out of concern they may not bond with them. Animal shelter specialists state this is the furthest thing from the truth! The animal’s personality is more important than age for owner compatibility.

Older animals can be wonderful additions to families who want pets beyond the potty-rearing age. Older animals typically come with house manners and training. They also usually have lower energy levels than their younger counterparts, thus making them great for people who cannot constantly walk or entertain their pets.

However, some older animals are still full of energy and can also get adopted by active owners!

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the many myths surrounding animal shelters that prevent people from adopting from them.

Shelters that euthanize animals, including healthy and adoptable ones, and no-kill shelters do their best to de-mystify the stigma surrounding pet adoption. Many animals are in shelters across the country just waiting for their forever homes.

To read and learn more about the myths surrounding pet adoption, check out these articles:

Why Adopt a Shelter Dog? 10 Myths About Shelter Pets Debunked

Five Common Misconceptions About Pet Adoption

Myths About Shelter Pets

Shining a Light on Shelter Myths

Why Animal Shelters are Facing a New Crisis

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