Obese Dachshund Media Star Locked in Custody Battle

The country's most famous overweight dog is now at the center of a custody battle.

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Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaqua / Disney-ABC via Getty Images

Obie the Dachsund appears on the talk show, "LIVE! with Kelly and Michael" on Sept. 14, 2012.

America’s most famous overweight dog is now at the center of a custody battle.

Obie, a 5-year-old dachshund who weighed 77 pounds when his elderly owners gave him up for adoption, made headlines after his foster owner Nora Vanatta put him on a weight-loss plan and publicized his efforts on a Facebook page titled, “Biggest Loser, Doxie Edition.” Vanatta, a certified veterinary technician, told the New York Daily News that she initially agreed to care for the dog — who came to her with the name AJ — for a short time.

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“Initially, I said that I would foster him for a little while because I would not be able to take care of him financially,” Vanatta said. “But I had no idea how obese he was. It’s going to take a year for him to get to a healthy weight, and I’ve committed to his rehabilitation.”

Under Vanatta’s eye, Obie has lost 15 pounds over the last two months and appeared on NBC’s Today and ABC’s Good Morning America. She plans on introducing him to treadmill exercises and swim therapy, and acknowledges that he may eventually need surgery to remove excess skin, according to the dog’s Facebook page. Vanatta has even set up a PayPal page for Obie, which she says has received thousands of dollars in donations.

But now Vanatta is facing a challenger. The owner of Oregon Dachshund Rescue, the organization that brought Obie to her door, believes she is caring for the canine improperly and has filed a lawsuit in hopes of getting him back.

“The dog was surrendered to me,” Jenell Rangan told the Daily News. “Nora is just a foster. I trusted her to bring him back.”

Although Rangan believes Obie’s appearances on national media were inappropriate, she told the Daily News she was more upset by the way in which he traveled to his TV spots.

“He’s a dog. He’s not a celebrity,” Rangan said. “I was told that Obie was being flown first class, but then I found out he was on a six-hour flight to New York in cargo.”

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Vanatta, however, believes the publicity is nothing but positive. She hopes Obie’s weight-loss journey will inspire others — both people and dogs — to lose weight. “It is so important to introduce pups and kids to a healthy lifestyle and food choices as early as possible,” she wrote on Facebook. “Prevention is the key!” She told KOMO-TV that the dog has already made an impact and that she believed that was why Rangan wanted him back.

“He’s famous and he’s touched so many people and I think they regret not taking him on in the first place,” Vanatta said. Although she acknowledged to the TV station that Obie wasn’t hers, she reportedly doesn’t think the Oregon Dachshund Rescue has rights to custody, either, as no paperwork had been exchanged.

Both Vanatta and Rangan appeared at a Washington County court for a hearing Monday, but the judge unable to determine to whom the dog belongs. For now, Obie will stay with Vanatta, while the two sides prepare for a possible trial, KATU News reported.

“It makes me sick because he was never in her custody,” Vanatta told the Daily News. “I can’t understand why she’s spending money fighting this because he’s so happy.”

Vanatta also said she wants to keep the dog until he reaches a normal dachshund weight, which is between 40 and 50 pounds. She told KOMO-TV that she has Obie’s best interests at heart.

“I just want what’s best for him,” Vanatta said. “And he’s doing well here. It just doesn’t make sense to take him away now.”

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5 comments
nbvanatta
nbvanatta

I wonder who told Jenell that Obie was flying first class.

DogLuvr
DogLuvr

I think that ODR is behaving badly. Obie is clearly doing well with Nora and it would seem that Janell is only after his newfound fame and of course, the money donated to Nora for his care.  This really makes me angry, what is most important here is Obie's well being.  Clearly this is not what ODR has in mind as, it that was the case, Jenell would not be wasting money on legal fees.  She'd be putting dogs first.

Bloody avarice always gets in the way, remember Patrick's ongoing custody battle?  All has to do with celebrity and money.  Disgusting.

nbvanatta
nbvanatta

@Lisa Miles 

Obie was never in ODR's custody and Jenell has never met him.  Why the hell would she want him now and how is she going to provide the care he needs?

PaulaReames
PaulaReames

@DogLuvr My thoughts exactly. It is all about the money and publisity. ODR should stop and think about this custody issue, they/Janell are giving themselves a bad reputation with the very people they need {people willing to foster and love these often mistreated animals} Nora is willing to do what Janell was not, until Janell found out about the publisity and money. Now she just want to cash in on Nora's hard work. Maybe she thinks it is alright, but ODR should know better. No one will trust a company/ rescue that will try to take advantage of them.