How an overweight shelter dog saved Eric O'Grey's life

Life as a 340-pound man had become unmanageable for Eric O'Grey.When he wasn't traveling for work as a salesma...

Posted: Dec 26, 2017 11:45 PM
Updated: Dec 26, 2017 11:45 PM

Life as a 340-pound man had become unmanageable for Eric O'Grey.

When he wasn't traveling for work as a salesman for GE, the 51-year-old rarely left his San Jose, California, apartment.

O'Grey lost more than 150 pounds and has remained the same weight for 7 years

He lost the weight by walking his dog twice a day and going on a whole foods, plant-based diet

He took insulin for type 2 diabetes and about 15 other medications, including anti-depressants and weight-loss drugs.

"My entire life was an exercise in minimizing my movement. I just felt miserable all the time," O'Grey told CNN. "It's just amazing how painful it is to be that heavy. Every part of your body hurts. My cholesterol was 400, which is the walking dead level."

He tried dieting, but nothing worked. Then two things happened seven years ago that inspired him to go see a naturopathic doctor.

O'Grey had an embarrassing incident on a plane when the flight crew had to wait for a seat belt extension for him before taking off. And he saw former President Bill Clinton on the news talking about his new "plant-based" diet.

The doctor recommended a whole foods, plant-based diet like Clinton's. She told O'Grey to throw out everything in his pantry that wasn't on her list.

But she also said something that shocked him. She ordered him to adopt a shelter dog and walk him twice a day for 30 minutes.

"I said, 'Why a dog? Can I adopt a cat instead?' She said, 'Have you ever walked a cat?'"

Meeting Peety

Eric went home armed with new recipes and an order to visit his local animal shelter.

He went to the shelter with visions of the perfect dog dancing through his head, one that never barked or shed or disobeyed commands.

And then the adoption coordinator brought in an obese dog with skin problems.

"His head was hung low and he wasn't even looking up. He was just obviously depressed," O'Grey said. "The dog looked up at me with a clear sense of disappointment I'd never seen on any person or creature."

The adoption coordinator told him they had a lot in common and both needed to work on the same things.

"'You told me you want to lose weight and get outside more," she said. "This dog needs the same thing. So this is the dog that I am recommending for you."

O'Grey took the dog home and named him "Peety" after the pup in "The Little Rascals." And they began going on walks.

A bond is formed

At first, O'Grey could only take his new sidekick about 100 yards before he'd turn back, huffing and puffing and embarrassed.

But Peety seemed to like it.

"He just looked up at me like he was so appreciative."

Their twice-daily walks gradually got longer as Eric began to enjoy his strolls through a neighborhood he'd never explored on foot before.

And Peety, with his striking white and black markings, was a great conversation starter.

"I called him my weapon of mass seduction because everybody wanted to meet him," O'Grey said. "We would walk around town and these women would say, 'Hey, do you mind if I pet your dog?'"

As they lost weight and grew healthier together, the pair developed a tight bond.

"I decided to become the person who he thought that I was. And over time really every part of my life improved," O'Grey said. "I was so reclusive and removed from society at the time that I needed a relationship in my life.

"It turned on certain emotions in me that I'd never really felt before."

From couch potato to marathoner

In less than six months, Eric quit all the medications he was taking.

He barely knew how to boil water, but he learned how to cook the spicy, vegetarian recipes his naturopathic doctor gave him.

"I really began liking my new foods much better than my old foods," he said. "My palate changed entirely and I started craving spicy foods."

And in 10 months, he dropped from 340 pounds to 185 pounds.

Eric began going on dates for the first time in 15 years. He had so much extra energy with his leaner body and healthier diet that he joined a club of runners.

"I was bouncing off the walls, I just had more energy than I could handle," he said.

Over time O'Grey discovered that he loved long-distance running. Today he runs an average of five to six marathons a year.

But he's quick to emphasize that his weight loss didn't come from running. Healthy eating and two walks a day with Peety did that.

In March 2015, Peety died of cancer. O'Grey calls it the "the saddest day of my life."

A new exercise buddy

Today O'Grey lives in Boise, Idaho, where he cooks up dishes like vegetarian paella with purple carrots and marinated tofu. His kitchen has large bins of exotic spices.

He is an evangelist for three things: cooking with fresh veggies and lots of spices, long-distance running and dog adoption.

Five months after Peety died, he found solace by adopting a new exercise buddy. Jake, with his shiny black coat, lean frame and boundless energy, is a good match for the new, healthy Eric.

Last year O'Grey rekindled a relationship with his high school sweetheart and got married.

It's been seven years since he started his journey toward a healthier, happier life. He is 58 years old but he says he feels more like 25.

He's co-written a book, "Walking with Peety: The Dog Who Saved My Life."

And for others struggling with obesity, Eric offers this encouragement.

"It's never too late to turn it around," he said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 697533

Reported Deaths: 13138
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion951321706
Lake50779930
Allen38511669
Hamilton33981404
St. Joseph33279535
Elkhart26810431
Vanderburgh21931393
Tippecanoe21440212
Johnson17325371
Porter17012297
Hendricks16631308
Clark12592190
Madison12223335
Vigo12089243
Monroe11237166
LaPorte10601204
Delaware10241182
Howard9555211
Kosciusko8999112
Hancock7842137
Bartholomew7797152
Warrick7657155
Floyd7501175
Wayne6846196
Grant6724167
Boone647399
Morgan6335137
Dubois6052117
Marshall5709108
Cass5657102
Dearborn564674
Henry5545100
Noble532583
Jackson489469
Shelby474095
Lawrence4305118
Gibson424988
Harrison424870
Montgomery414486
Clinton413153
DeKalb402583
Huntington371880
Whitley371039
Miami369565
Knox363589
Steuben358457
Putnam350560
Wabash344677
Jasper341646
Adams336652
Ripley332368
Jefferson306479
White305954
Daviess287999
Wells283580
Decatur278092
Fayette276562
Greene268685
Posey267333
Scott258553
Clay250744
LaGrange249970
Randolph233379
Washington228429
Spencer226731
Jennings223947
Fountain207245
Sullivan207041
Starke199352
Owen190856
Fulton188939
Jay184829
Carroll184520
Perry178536
Orange175552
Rush169324
Vermillion165343
Franklin164435
Tipton160343
Parke143416
Blackford131730
Pike129634
Pulaski112245
Newton102334
Brown98840
Crawford96814
Benton94513
Martin81915
Warren78315
Switzerland7678
Union69410
Ohio55311
Unassigned0405

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1037600

Reported Deaths: 18827
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1203461345
Cuyahoga1048492040
Hamilton774221164
Montgomery49484984
Summit44494904
Lucas39105757
Butler37437566
Stark31094890
Lorain23775467
Warren23688291
Mahoning20622581
Lake19698360
Clermont19305226
Delaware17783130
Licking15970205
Fairfield15493195
Trumbull15377458
Medina14662255
Greene14484233
Clark13433287
Wood12547182
Portage12144193
Allen11216229
Richland10899197
Miami10455211
Muskingum8639127
Columbiana8478225
Wayne8451209
Pickaway8388120
Tuscarawas8311239
Marion8297135
Erie7415153
Ross6636145
Hancock6595123
Geauga6449146
Ashtabula6355163
Scioto625299
Belmont5518158
Union550847
Lawrence5435102
Huron5229112
Darke5225121
Jefferson5210147
Sandusky5087118
Seneca5048118
Washington5029107
Athens493654
Auglaize470484
Mercer467884
Shelby453289
Knox4332108
Putnam417298
Madison416157
Ashland408986
Fulton402165
Defiance395096
Brown383855
Crawford3819100
Logan369676
Preble367995
Clinton356859
Ottawa351978
Highland344858
Williams317574
Champaign317055
Jackson304451
Guernsey303348
Perry286449
Fayette276348
Morrow272639
Henry261266
Hardin261063
Coshocton255957
Holmes251499
Van Wert237462
Gallia232146
Pike230931
Adams226151
Wyandot224153
Hocking207057
Carroll187746
Paulding167538
Meigs140838
Noble131737
Monroe128441
Morgan105722
Harrison104836
Vinton80913
Unassigned01
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
49° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 44°
Angola
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 44°
Huntington
Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 43°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 43°
Lima
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 52°
Rain showers continue Saturday evening, as will a few thunderstorms. Overnight, rain will taper off a little as temperatures drop into the mid 40s. On Sunday, rain chances return in late morning and last much of the day. Temperatures max out in the mid 50s and winds will be brisk at times.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events