When Brooklyn Burton rescued an obese dachshund, she was determined to help him reclaim his life. Two years later, he’s doing better than ever.
In June 2013, Brooklyn Burton, 27, offered to clean up the home of a relative with a hoarding problem. Among the many piles, she found a 56-pound dog named Dennis, so bloated and misshapen that she had no idea what breed he was. “You could tell by his eyes that he was sick and miserable. He couldn’t move more than a couple of steps without plopping back down,” says Brooke, who is from Columbus, OH.
A dog in distress
Dennis was a 4-year-old miniature dachshund, a breed that weighs 10 to 12 pounds on average, but his owner had fed him ramen noodles, pizza, spaghetti—even Twinkies. Dennis suffered from sores where his skin was breaking down between fat folds. “When I approached, he seemed terrified and aggressive,” Brooke says. Brooke, a dog lover with two pups already, begged the owner to let her take Dennis. She didn’t know if the dog was beyond help, but she knew he needed a chance at a normal life.
Once home, the first thing Brooke did was give Dennis a bath, and she kept rinsing him every few days. “He smelled terrible for a long time. Scrubbing wouldn’t get the stench out,” she says. “Every day I carried him outside to do his business because he could barely stand, let alone walk. Then I would hose him down and apply diaper ointment to the infected skin.” The vet prescribed antibiotics and told Brooke to feed Dennis the dry food her other dogs ate—but to limit it to the suggested amount for a 12-pound miniature dachshund. “It felt like Dennis hated me for giving him kibble. He refused to eat at first,” Brooke recalls. “It was hard to deny him treats, because I knew this poor little wiener thought I was starving him.” Brooke was a nursing student and was able to give Dennis the necessary care in her spare time. But when she strained her back from lifting him, she worried about her ability to continue.
Luckily, after a few weeks, Dennis got with the program. “He began wanting to stay by my side, and he let me pick him up without growling.” As Dennis adjusted to his new regimen, he lost 15 pounds in two months. Brooke still had to carry him up and down the stairs to the backyard, but he slowly began to totter around on his own.
By October, he was strong enough to go for a short walk. But the following month, when he was down to 29 pounds, the excess skin from Dennis’s stomach and rear end were dragging on the ground, and he kept stepping on it. Brooke took him to Ohio State University’s veterinary hospital, where the surgeon advised incremental surgeries to remove the extra skin as Dennis got fitter.
It was his only hope, but Brooke couldn’t afford the procedures. Desperate for help, she asked her local news station to do a story on Dennis, which helped raise $1,700. It wasn’t enough for the surgery, but a Good Samaritan was so moved that she paid for the rest. Brooke started a Facebook page to share Dennis’s progress.
Then Dennis’s weight loss plateaued. “There were times when he wouldn’t stop begging me for more food, and I just felt so frustrated. I thought, ‘Why am I working so hard for this dog? He may never be able to lead a normal life!’” Brooke recalls. His supporters on Facebook posted encouragement, which helped Brooke stay on track. Go to next page to see more➟