Rehabilitating animals takes a lot of heart and determination. Dedicated rescuers experience heartbreaking setbacks along with their hard-earned milestones, and they never quite know what the next case will hold.
Plenty of animals in the USA are overweight, with owners free-feeding or handing off too many table scraps to their spoiled pooches. Kai’s level of overweight was more than mere oversight: It was abusive.
The 10-year-old golden retriever — who should’ve weighed around 70 pounds — weighed an astounding 173 pounds.
The saddest part? His previous owners, who had let the poor creature get to this horrible size, had taken him to the vet and requested he be put down.
“This is the most overweight animal I have ever seen,” the vet said. But, knowing there was more possible for the golden boy, the vet reached out to a local rescue.
At first, when Heggie was matched with Kai to foster him through Misfits of Alberta Animal Rescue, she was overwhelmed with his condition.
The vet reassured her, though, saying, “anything you do is gonna help that dog. Anything that he will let you do is good for him.”
Heggie also told The Western Journal that when the vet first told her the 173-pound dog’s ideal weight was 75 pounds, she thought he was crazy.
“Literally, he went five to 10 steps, and then he would lay down and start panting,” Heggie said, according to Good Morning America.
The pair started walking. It was slow and painful, but they gradually increased their distance as Kai built up his stamina.
“We went to the closest neighbor’s driveway and then the next neighbor over. He learned that I was gonna help him and we were gonna be OK.”
To ease the pressure on his joints and improve his muscle strength, Kai also became familiar with an underwater treadmill, which was a great step to help him trim down without causing more damage to his stressed frame.
With slow, steady work and a closely monitored diet, Kai started going on longer adventures and enjoying time at the park. He slimmed down, and after a year of hard work he’d lost 100 pounds — a staggering amount for a human, and even more impressive for a dog.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Heggie fell for the blond boy and ended up adopting him as her own.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “It’s like raising your child and you look at them and they’re all grown up and you just wonder how that happened.”
“I look at him and forget how broken he was. Now he’s just a regular dog doing regular dog things like everybody else. He truly amazes me every day.”
As anyone who’s experienced their own weight loss journey knows, losing the weight is one thing — keeping it off is another, and sometimes more difficult than the initial loss. According to a post on Kai’s Facebook page on July 19, he’s been doing great maintaining a healthy weight.
“Beach bod stayed on track, even after my vacation!” the post reads. “Today I weighed 31.25 kg (68.75 lbs). That means I’ve maintained my 100+ pound weight loss for over 4 months now.”
Heggie has advice for anyone approaching as difficult a battle as she and Kai faced, and encourages people to not overthink things.
“In our situation, I would just set smaller goals in my mind instead of thinking about the magnitude of what we needed to accomplish,” she told The Western Journal. “So I celebrated each 5-10 kg loss in my mind. For example — just getting below 60 kg, then 55, then 50. I remember thinking if we can just get to 100 lbs I’ll be happy.”
She said it was crucial to celebrate every little milestone that they hit, which included a number of firsts: walking without stopping, carrying a stick while still being able to breathe and walk, using a ramp and eventually even jogging.
Heggie also stresses the importance of having a good veterinarian you can trust and making sure that when you add a pet to your household, you take both their needs and your abilities into consideration to ensure a good match.
It’s clear she adores her golden pup by the way she speaks about him, and she believes that people can learn a lot from Kai’s sunny disposition and can-do attitude.
“Most of all I hope people understand how incredible Kai truly is. I know I’m biased but he exemplifies what we all hope to accomplish in this world — unconditional love and an indelible spirit. He doesn’t worry about tomorrow, or lament about yesterday — he just carries on excited about today.”
“Advantage of being a dog, I guess,” she continued. “We need to learn to embrace each day. Remember, he was an old man when he accomplished such a lofty goal. Surrendered at 10 years old — and look at him at 11! Never give up.”
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