When I met Peety six years ago at the Humane Society Silicon Valley, he'd been in the shelter longer than any other dog. In fact, it was the second time he'd been abandoned. He was 7 years old and about 25 pounds overweight—the one nobody wanted. Except me. I'd asked for a middle-aged, obese dog because I thought we should have something in common.

I was 51 years old with a 52-inch waist, and I weighed roughly 320 pounds. My social life was practically nonexistent—I hadn't been on a date in more than 15 years—and my medical expenses were creeping up to about $800 a month for cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes medications. I knew I'd die if I didn't do something. So I hired a nutritionist, who, to my surprise, told me to adopt a dog because that meant I'd have to go outside and exercise.

Initially, Peety was suspicious—in the shelter he gave me a sidelong look that said "really?" But I took him home, and we decided to keep each other. We went for walks twice a day, and in less than a year I had lost 140 pounds and my health problems were gone. Peety dropped all his extra bulk, too. Eventually we started running. Then I began training for marathons.

And the transformation wasn't purely physical. For the first time in my life, I had someone to take care of other than myself. To Peety, I was the greatest human being in the world, and I wanted to be the kind of person he thought I was. My mantra became What would Peety want me to do? My world—and my heart—opened up. I started volunteering at a shelter and gained more confidence in my job. I'm a sales rep, which wasn't such a great fit for a guy who was too obese to travel, but last year I took a great new position. And after being invisible for so long, I met a woman, whom I married in May.

This past March, doctors discovered a large tumor on Peety's spleen. There was nothing to be done, so we brought him home. I slept next to him at night because he was too afraid to be alone; he'd whimper when we turned out the lights. A few days later, I knew the end was near. I got down on the floor, and he quietly died by my side.

The bond that Peety and I shared was stronger than any I'd had with another being. And while I'm happy I found the dog that needed me most, I wish we could have had more than six years together. But they made all the difference: Today, my life is one I could've only dreamed of having. As it turns out, I wasn't taking care of Peety; he was taking care of me.


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