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Obese beagle's weight loss inspires healthy choices for dogs and people, too

Wolfgang is eating fewer calories and exercising to lose 65 pounds. He's still happy and playful.
/ Source: TODAY

Wolfgang the beagle started with a modest weight loss goal: to fit through the door.

While some might be ashamed that their weight once made leaving the house impossible, Wolfgang doesn't mind. The 6-year-old beagle just wants to play outside with his friends, and his short weight loss journey has been pretty successful — he’s down nearly 30 pounds since May.

“The vet is really pleased,” owner Erin McManis, 37, an attorney in Phoenix, told TODAY in September. “Wolfgang was found as a stray, but you know there has to be a backstory. How does a 90-pound dog that can barely walk wander the streets?”

McManis and her husband, Chad Schatz, started fostering Wolfgang in May from the Arizona Beagle Rescue.

They had no information about his former owners or how Wolfgang gained so much weight, but they had fostered dogs before and even helped some obese dogs lose weight. After helping a dog named Snickers shed 58 pounds and one named Andre drop 68 pounds, it felt like Wolfgang was a perfect match.

Their veterinarian diagnosed Wolfgang with a thyroid condition and gave him medication for it, along with a recommendation that the pooch eat only 600 calories a day. McManis has been making his meals, a blend of lean turkey and fresh vegetables. Despite being on a restricted diet, Wolfgang doesn’t act like a food hound.

“He doesn’t beg for food between meals,” she explained. “The vegetables are helping him stay fuller.”

The couple also encourages Wolfgang to exercise as much as he can.

"He was only able to walk to the mailbox next door (at first), but he had the desire to keep going,'' McManis said in an update on Wolfgang's progress on TODAY Wednesday.

Despite his size, he’s agile and loves playing with the couple’s other dogs, Fred, 16, and Andre, 12. He also manages to sneak socks from the laundry.

“He keeps them going,” McManis says. “They are helping him stay active, and he is maybe keeping them younger, so to speak. He is not as mobile as he will be. He is definitely playful.”

With Arizona summer temperatures, they can’t walk Wolfgang too much during the day, so they walk him morning and night. They also have a pool, which he loves. But Wolfgang uses it more for self-care.

“He seems to like floating in the pool more than exercising,” McManis said.

He now uses a water treadmill at a local veterinarian’s office weekly and walks for about 20 minutes straight. The first time he went, he noticed a toy floating in the water and snatched it with his mouth. Now, Wolfgang brings his own toy to carry during his aqua exercises.

“He loves it,” McManis said. “He could probably breathe better without the toy, but he can do what he wants.”

Since May, Wolfgang has lost 28 pounds and now weighs 62 pounds. His goal weight is about 25 pounds, but the vet wants to reevaluate the plan when he reaches 50 pounds.

"We hope Wolfgang can be an example that shelter dogs can make great pets, and I think Wolfgang is a good example of what can happen when you don't give up on somebody,'' McManis said on TODAY.

The couple hopes he'll be able to walk for a mile straight by November as part of a fundraiser for Four-Legged Running and eventually fit through a regular doggy door. Right now, he’s using a special door.

Wolfgang did reach one goal: He found his forever home when McManis and Schatz adopted him in August.

"We had a real special connection with Wolfgang and really wanted to see him reach his weight loss," McManis said.

She started social media accounts for Wolfgang so that people who followed him when he was at the shelter could continue hearing news about the pup. Still, she feels stunned by how popular he's become.

“I never anticipated that happening. It was just a way to update people and bring some attention to Arizona Beagle Rescue,” she said. “Our goal is really to bring awareness and let people know that dogs at shelters need to be rescued.”

McManis likes that Wolfgang inspires so many people.

“Wolfgang is trying to encourage people to keep their dogs trim,” she said. “You would have to be so uncomfortable dragging around this body weight. He has such a good attitude. It is helpful for others to see.”