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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Chris Serico

A miniature dachshund that wasn't so miniature lost almost 80 percent of his body weight through diet, exercise and the help of his owner, who has launched a fund to help other overweight pets do the same.

When Columbus, Ohio, resident Brooke Burton, saw that her relative's wiener dog, Dennis, was tipping the scales at 56 pounds in June 2013, she assumed ownership of the portly pooch.

"Dennis was very depressed and didn't have much of a personality when I first rescued him," Burton, 26, told via email. "You could tell he didn't feel good and was very uncomfortable. He didn't trust [me] fully, [but] I think he realized after about a month I was there to help him, not hurt him."

Brooke Burton / AP

In addition to putting an end to the dog's snacking on burgers and pizza — limiting his diet to dry dog food — the nursing student also made a point to take Dennis on walks and show him lots of affection.

Wrote Burton, "People think I did something magical to get him to lose weight, and really it was just proper diet and exercise and lots of love!"

Burton's approach appeared to be slow and steady.

"I first was told I was crazy taking on such a huge commitment but I didn't care," Burton said of Dennis' weight, now listed at a lean 12 pounds. "I have such a huge love for animals, that I didn't care the time or money needed to make Dennis a normal dog again. I find it crazy people telling me I'm a hero. I just don't see it that way. I'm just a normal person trying to do the right thing the best I can. I would hope that anyone else would do the same thing too. Animals don't deserve to be treated the way they do."

If there's a downside to losing so much weight, it's that Dennis wound up tripping over his excess skin folds, so, he underwent multiple surgeries at a cost of "about $1,000 each, if not a little more" to remove them, Burton wrote.

Eric Albrecht / The Columbus Dispatch via AP

"I truly believe each surgery was worth every penny," she added. "Why not give Dennis a fighting chance to be normal? He never asked to be morbidly obese or neglected and live in such terrible living conditions. He was 5 years old when I got him, and still had the rest of his life ahead of him. I would do this whole process all over again in a heart beat. He is one happy little booger now and I'm so happy I was able to help him."

With a new leash on life, Dennis is just the latest canine reclamation project for Burton, who owns three other rescue dogs: Riley, a 6-year-old English chocolate lab; Sophie, a 10-year-old American chocolate lab, and Kendall, a 7- or 8-year-old Yorkie/terrier mix.

Aware that Dennis' tale has gone viral, Burton is starting to "paw" it forward. She's collaborated with The Ohio State University to launch Dennis' Legacy, a nonprofit venture whose mission is to "support nutritional education and care for obese animals."

But, on a smaller scale, seeing Dennis thrive is its own reward, she added.

"A happy pet teaches you so much; they love and adore you unconditionally," Burton wrote. "He has taught me that you can never underestimate any animals potential. Give them a fighting chance and they will succeed. They need us, just as much as we need them."

Follow writer Chris Serico on Twitter.

This article was originally published Mar. 15, 2015 at 9:37 a.m. ET.