The following post was written by Lori Hiltenbeitel, founder of Dog-lbs: Saving Dogs One Pound at a Time. Her story of personal struggle, how a rescue dog saved her life, and how she’s hoping to give back to more dogs just like Tristan is both heartwarming and inspirational. Read on to learn how one special dog and one special lady were brought together to make the world a better place.
How a Dog Saved My Life, And Inspired Me to Save More Dogs
I had been volunteering with the amazing rescue group, “Recycled Doggies,” based in Cincinnati, Ohio for several months and had fallen in love with the people, and the cause, which is to save death row dogs at county shelters, dogs that have little to no hope of getting out alive. Recycled Doggies saves them and takes whatever steps necessary to find them loving forever homes. Many times the dogs are perfectly healthy, sometimes they need medical attention, sometimes they are just old and have been discarded like a piece of tattered furniture with little regard for what is best for the dog. Some come from horrible situations; this was the case with a dog named Tristan. The dog who would change my life.
I saw his picture and in his face the terror was palatable, his eyes told the story of an unkind existence. He had been betrayed, someone had finally broken his spirit and he looked lifeless. I could not get the picture out of my mind it lingered in my thoughts and planted itself firmly in the back of my mind. While I thought of every reason why I couldn’t possibly foster this dog reciting them out loud like a grocery list, in the end I acted with my heart and not my head when I told Shannon DeBra, co-founder of Recycled Doggies, late in the evening that I would foster him. This was the night before he was to be killed.
I had no idea what I was in for and to say this dog was terrified was an understatement. He spent the first weeks at my place with as much of his body as he could manage shoved under the bed in my spare bedroom. If I looked at him he would shake, if I tried to touch him he would lose control of his bladder, it was heartbreaking. I began softly reading to him every day, trying to get him used to my voice, desperate to find a way to comfort him. He would howl at night so I would drag myself into his room and lie with him on the floor, close by but never actually touching him. One night I was half asleep and felt a wet tickly feeling on my hand, I realized it was Tristan kissing me. As the tears ran down my face, it was in that moment I fell in love with this dog.
Months passed and Tristan made great progress, he still would not go outside and the very sight of the leash sent him right back into being terrified but he adjusted well to the other dogs in my world, especially “Tully” a playful schnauzer who would teach Tristan how to be a dog. They have become inseparable. On October 28, 2011 I knew I could never let him go, that he and I were forever bonded. I adopted Tristan on that day in memory of my father who would have adored him as much as my mom and I do!
Then I found myself asking what else could I do? What impact could I possibly have on other dogs like Tristan who needed someone to take a chance on them? The answer would dance around in my head for a while before I could make myself say the words out loud.
As someone who has always struggled with weight, living most of my life as a morbidly obese person, it made sense in my heart to connect these two things. In the past I had always been able to give up on myself, but I knew I could not give up on the innocent dogs that had no voice. I decided to face my fears and make a yearlong commitment to lose 100 pounds and ask people to donate $1 for every pound I lose. I would have the money go directly to Recycled Doggies so that they could do what they do best – save dogs.
On September 1, 2011 I began my journey weighing 391 pounds. I am now a little over 6 months in and have lost 48lbs to date and raised over $3,000 for Recycled Doggies.
I go to my Dr.’s office every other Thursday and post my results on the website I have created, www.dog-lbs.com. I blog with painful honesty about the struggles I have faced with my weight and the successes and failures as I go forward figuring out how to disarm my toxic relationship with food, and find a different way to live. Eat less, eat better, move more, that is what I strive to do every day. At my heaviest I was over 600lbs, living a life that seemed hopeless, not unlike the hopelessness I saw in Tristan that day, but together we walk forward one step at a time facing our fears and finding our way together at our own pace. Tristan inspires me every day with his courage and ability to trust and love again, when I need motivation all I have to do is look into his eyes that are no longer constantly filled with fear and this is enough to get me through my toughest days.
I invite you all to join the journey to help me, help Recycled Doggies save those that need us the most, and to help keep me accountable by following along on the website and on Facebook. From my Facebook page, you will find updates on Tristan and the amazing strides he has made to date. He loves to be outside now to run and play in the backyard. And, while he is still scared of the leash we are working on it slowly and my great hope is that one day he and I will be able to run a few miles together, free of our fears knowing how far we have come together. Many people will say that I saved Tristan that night, but I will gladly tell you that it was in fact Tristan who has saved me.