Charlie’s family dropped him off at a shelter in Denver, Colorado. His family was too busy and didn’t seem to have time for him, and volunteers noticed he was about 35 pounds overweight. As a Catahoula mix, Charlie is already a big dog. However, the extra flab meant that his family fed him and probably didn’t exercise him much. The added weight could also cause health problems.
Charlie was so overweight, shelter volunteers thought the lovable pooch suffered from seizures because he panted so hard on his first walk after coming to the shelter. Staffers surmised it was Charlie’s first true walk in a long time.
Animal rescue group Dumb Friends League found a foster home for Charlie for one month thanks to Alaina Bupp and her husband who took in the beautiful animal. For the entire month Charlie stayed with the Bupps, he didn’t have a single seizure.
Furr-Ever Home, With a Cause for Hugs
The Bupps decided to adopt Charlie into their family. However, they also wanted to continue their foster efforts to help other dogs like Charlie find similar, loving situations. That’s when Alaina noticed Charlie’s special talent. The Bupps brought in a severely underweight Chihuahua, and Charlie took to the little guy immediately.
Charlie understood his tiny companion’s predicament about weight problems. Further, the Chihuahua had trouble staying warm. That’s when Charlie went into action as a 100-pound ball of heat. Not only did Charlie provide a canine hug to the minuscule Chihuahua, but he served as a heat source to keep the smaller dog warm so he could recuperate.
The Chihuahua, figuratively and literally, warmed up to the laid-back Catahoula mix. The pair bonded over healing, and that’s when the Bupps recognized Charlie’s one true place. If he could raise the spirits of one scrawny Chihuahua, would he do the same for others?
Expanding the Mission
Charlie’s parents decided to help rehab other small dogs. Charlie’s confidence made the difference to the smaller dogs who were too timid or bashful upon entering a temporary situation with the Bupps. Charlie, with his hugs, makes smaller dogs feel safe.
In the three years since Charlie’s official adoption, he’s played a critical role in the adoption of 13 other dogs. It’s as if he’s paying his own adoption forward by showing love to other dogs so they can have the same opportunities that he was given by his own family.
Charlie often leads by example. Despite his size, he sleeps in bed with his forever humans. That example, in turn, gives the other dogs confidence to break out of their nervous, anxious shells to form bonds with humans after spending several weeks scared and alone at a shelter.
Charlie is a Catahoula mix, so his confidence may come naturally. Catahoula leopard dogs come from Louisiana as a mix of Spanish mastiffs and greyhounds. These massive dogs were bred to track feral hogs. Catahoulas have striking spots, similar to leopards, hence their name. They also have webbed feet, which makes them great swimmers. Catahoulas work hard and learn quickly, but they can also be lovable pets who are very protective of their families, much in the same way as German shepherds.
Officials in Louisiana named the Catahoula leopard dog the state’s official dog in 1979. The breed is named after a lake in Louisiana sacred to the Choctaw tribe of Native Americans. Settlers needed a way to control the wild hogs surrounding the lake, so they brought in these massive Catahoula leopard dogs to root out the hogs.
Since then, humans moved Catahoulas beyond their hog-hunting origins. Ranchers in Venezuela use Catahoulas to round up wild cattle. In Canada, sled racers use Catahoulas to race dog sleds in professional competitions over the Canadian wilderness. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 2010 as part of the herding group of dogs.
These huge dogs can grow up to two feet in height and weigh between 50 to 95 pounds. Catahoulas are natural leaders as they herd animals and run the pack, which is one reason why Charlie is a great way to socialize other dogs to humans.
Obesity in Dogs
Charlie is already a big dog, but obesity in dogs isn’t a good thing, no matter their natural size. That’s why Charlie’s owners had to get him some exercise and put him on a diet once they adopted him. Obesity can lead to lower lifespans, mobility issues and other health problems. Obesity usually comes from eating too much without a lot of physical activity.
In Charlie’s case, Catahoulas are active dogs that need a lot of movement. Even though he’s a mixed breed, his size predicates that he goes on regular walks and spends time outside. This regular physical activity also provides a way for him to lead when other dogs enter into his world. Hopefully, Charlie’s love continues well into his senior years as he provides warm hugs and leadership for dogs struggling to make it in a shelter environment.