Labrador drops 78 pounds, is ready for new home

Sam in January 2012, weighing 174 pounds; the dog 10 months later at 96 pounds (with foster parent Tracy Calsavara). (Photo credits: Angie Chauvin and Jason Kryk/The Windsor Star)

When 6-year-old Labrador Retriever, named Sam, walked through the doors of the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society, the staff couldn’t help but stop and stare. But they weren’t noticing his sweet brown eyes or his goofy grin — they were looking at his belly.

In truth, when Sam first arrived at the shelter in January 2012, the lovable yellow Lab was a very heavy boy. While most Labradors range in weight from 55 to about 80 pounds, poor Sam tipped the scale at an unbelievable 174 pounds — morbidly obese for a dog of his breed.

“He was extremely overweight,” says Windsor Essex County Humane Society Executive Director Melanie Coulter. “He had difficulty just getting around.”

Sam’s extreme obesity made it difficult for him to do even the simplest tasks, Coulter told The Windsor Star. Due to his excess weight, the plump pooch was once unable to run without getting winded, and he had issues getting around on a daily basis.

“When he was taken out for a walk, for example, he couldn’t step over a parking curb,” Coulter said.

Sam’s previous owner was going through some health issues and had to give Sam up. When staff at the Humane Society walked through the owner’s home, they noticed that Sam had not one, but two doggy food bowls — one for regular dog food and another filled to the brim with Milk Bones and other tasty treats that, when not given in moderation, can make a pooch pack on the pounds.

Add to that the fact that Sam never got out of the house for exercise, and it became clear just how Sam’s weight got so out of control. “He was kind of, almost, loved to death,” Coulter explained.

Because of the severe risk his weight posed to his health, shelter staff developed a special weight loss plan for Sam and found an experienced foster parent who was willing and able to help Sam transform from flab to fab.

Foster mom and Humane Society volunteer Tracy Calsavara used a consistent combination of portion control and exercise to help Sam lose weight in a healthy way. Swimming sessions at the Essex Animal Hospital’s aquatic therapy center and in the Calsavara’s family pool allowed Sam to gradually build up his endurance.

He also got in plenty of cardio thanks to Calsavara’s four kids and three dogs, which include two Labs and a partially paralyzed Beagle. Initally, Sam had a lot of trouble keeping up because of his weight. But thanks to the exercise and nutrition plan, his energy increased and the weight started coming off.

Ten months of hard work later, Sam has lost 78 pounds and he is ready to find a new forever home. Folks at the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society, including Melanie Coulter, could not be happier with his progress.

“He’s a happy and healthy dog,” Coulter said of Sam. “He’s definitely a big guy, but he’s much closer to where he’s supposed to be.”

For more information on Sam’s success story or if you are interested in adopting the now-svelte Sam, contact the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society at 519-966-5751. If your dog is overweight, please consult your regular veterinarian to develop a healthy weight loss plan.