October 12 is the annual date of National Pet Obesity Awareness Day. It was also the day in 2011 that Peggy Frezon chose to release her book Dieting with My Dog. Peggy Frezon has shared her weight loss experience with her dog and decided to write about their joined path in becoming healthier.
Dieting with My Dog recounts the struggles faced as they lost weight. She not only took back urgency over her health, she realized that she had to take more urgency over and responsibility for her dog’s declining health as her dog became overweight. By writing about the challenges and triumphs, Frezon celebrated the special bond between pets and their owners and how our pets can serve as true friends, cheerleaders, and companions. Our pets can encourage to make better choices in our lives for their and our benefit. In her own words, she describes the books as being a story that “reveals how closely we are bonded to our pets in our trials, and especially in our victories.” It is available at all select booksellers in-store and online.
Frezon was ignoring the warning from her physician that she was overweight and at a high risk of developing chronic health conditions caused by her obesity. The cautionary red alert that told her that she was risking becoming diabetic, having heart disease and experiencing joint and bone discomfort and problems from her excess weight did not strike home until she heard the same warning about her beloved Cocker Spaniel-Dachshund mix named Kelly. Once she heard the same words from Kelly’s vet, she knew that it was not just her that being overweight has placed in harm’s way, she was also placing her best friend and constant companion in the same risk. This sobering thought prompted her to act and decided that she would do what was best for her and Kelly- they would both lose weight together. Since committing to having a healthier life for herself and morbidly obese Kelly, Frezon lost 41 pounds already and Kelly has lost 6 pounds (15% of her body weight.
The first steps Frezon made were lifestyle changes. She chose to eat healthier foods and become more aware of what she was eating. Frezon neglected to include vegetables in her diet and mostly ate carbohydrates and empty calories. She shared many of her poor dietary choices at the time with her dog. She not only started adding vegetables to her diet but instead of feeding Kelly an additional midnight meal she called Kelly’s “second dinner” she began providing Kelly with healthier treats too. Frezon treated Kelly to baby carrots as snacks and luckily, she loves baby carrots. By throwing the carrots down the hallway, Kelly would have to get up and chase the carrots down the hallway to get to her treat and that also made Kelly get exercise. She had to go to her treats instead of her treats coming to her. Small changes such as making a dog retrieve their favorite snack can improve their activity level and help them burn calories, especially if a treat is a reduced calorie treat. Most dog treats are not healthy and of course, should never be more than 10% of your pet’s daily food intake.
Kelly also made sure that Frezon got up and moving and exercised. Frezon credits Kelly as being her “furry fitness trainer”. Kelly needed additional exercise and walks to lose weight and wanting to improve her dog’s health was a great motivational tool to keep them both active and exercising. Frezon works from home and has a job that keeps her in front of the computer all day so often the only activity she’d do was go to the kitchen. When she and Kelly changed their lifestyle, they began going for walks outdoors and Kelly is a demanding fitness coach. She will come up and jump up on Frezon’s lap, get in the way, and place her paw down on the keyboard whenever Frezon had not gotten up in a while to remind her to move, pause and get some exercise with her. This welcome disruption from Kelly led to them both walking and not sitting still.
Frezon learned about portion control from her dog as well. She would give her dog one scoop and thought it was the right amount but for a dog of her dog’s breed and ideal weight, she was feeding her dog four times what it needed and like most dogs, Kelly would finish whatever has put down for her. She was overfeeding her dog by not reading the label. By learning to read labels, she realized it was her responsibility to “make the right choices” for her dog.
The hardest lesson Frezon learned was to not associate food with affection. She didn’t realize that showing her dog how much it was loved with lots of dog treats and biscuits led to obesity and misery did not show Kelly love. A dog needs “really needs is someone who loves her enough to keep her healthy, and to stay healthy for her, too.” according to Frezon’s book. If you and your pet are struggling to lose weight and need inspiration, reading Dieting with my Dog can show how you and your dog can be partners and make the efforts needed to become healthier. Your dog deserves the best you that you can be, and a healthy owner is a better caregiver. A healthier dog is a better companion and will be a cherished part of their life for longer if not carrying excess weight. Fitness and reducing preventable health conditions and minimizing the risk or effects of others can be a shared goal and activity that brings our pets and us closer