When Lee Asher met Tony, a german shepherd at the Sacramento SPCA shelter, he wasn’t in his best health. Weighing a whopping 150 Lbs, the dog was in desperate need of somebody to love him and help him embark on a weight loss journey to get rid of one-third of his body weight. Already a dad to eight other rescue pups, Asher knew he wanted to give Tony a home and get him down to a healthier weight, so he adopted him and started him off on a long adventure to help the canine lose 50 Lbs.
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At the shelter, Tony was shy, timid, and preferred to keep to himself. Rescue workers said the german shepherd was found as a stray a while back, adopted, but then returned to the shelter shortly thereafter.
“I think Tony had really given up,” Asher told the Dodo.
“How a dog is feeling on the inside is what you see on the outside,” he added. “He’d been so used to people not giving him affection; I didn’t want him to think that’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to swarm this dog with so much love so that he knows that he is the most special dog.”
Asher admitted he felt an immediate connection to Tony, even seeing his young self in him. The dog dad revealed that, as a teenager, he had become the subject of bullying in his school as a result of his “severe learning disabilities.”
“I was so tired of getting bullied, one day I ran away from school to a dog shelter. I started going there every day,” Asher said. As a young man, Asher promised he would work his hardest to get all of the dogs out of there and give them a home.
As an adult, Asher became a corporate trainer in Los Angeles, earning an impressive six-figure paycheck and traveling the country to motivate others and teach them to strategize. But even with his successful career, he knew he felt unfulfilled, and quit his job in 2017 with no plan and a $2,500 rent in L.A. “I quit to come up with an idea for something that would be the last job I ever had,” he told the Business Insider in an interview from earlier this summer.
That’s when he founded Asher House, a foundation that aims to encourage prospective dog owners to adopt instead to buy a canine from a breeder. Asher began to travel with his dogs across the U.S.A in a 37-feet-long converted school bus and held multiple events to promote dog adoption. The pack would spend ten months on the road and return to their home in Tahoe, California, for the remaining time.
On his first night home, the german shepherd was visibly anxious and desperately tried to find spaces to hide. “But he was so big, there was nowhere he could hide, really,” Asher told the Dodo.
The extra weight meant Tony’s mobility was very limited, and he found it challenging to keep up with the rest of the pact. According to Asher, the canine was unable to get up the stairs, run, or even hold himself up while eating from his bowl. Yet, with a little bit of love and a lot of hard work, Asher knew he could get Tony down to a healthy 100 Lbs. “He just needs a family that believes in him,” the rescue dog advocate insisted.
Tony’s journey began with long daily walks and fun games to promote exercise, while Asher made sure to document his steady progress.
“The way Tony is going to lose weight is just by doing his best to keep up with the pack,” Asher said. “Even after that first workout, Tony seemed to have more confidence.”
At his first vet visit since Asher adopted him, Tony weighed 147 Lbs. Now three pounds down, the canine still had a long way to go. Two weeks later, Tony could finally stand while eating and even began chasing and fetching treats Asher threw his way. Though Tony might have kept his distance initially, he quickly grew close to his dad and the rest of the pups. So that meant that when Asher had to leave him behind for a work meeting for the very first time, the german shepherd became emotional and tried to chase down the car as it drove away.
“Seeing Tony chase me on the empty road, that’s when I finally knew, he knows that I love him.”
Like Tony, the other eight dogs were rescued from various shelters and were, according to Asher, “special.” Stella, a tall grey pitbull, had struggled to find a home before Asher came along, as many are afraid of her breed – though her dad insists that “all she wants to do is cuddle.” Butters, another critter from the Asher bunch, had been abused before he was abandoned at the shelter. While Asher expected him to be afraid initially, he now describes him as the “most confident little beast.” Then there is Callie, the “demanding” golden retriever, and Bo, whose previous owner asked Asher to “find him a home or take him to the shelter.” Lillie, a massive Caucasian Shepherd Dog, had been suffering “several seizures” per day, and Asher was afraid she “wasn’t going to make it.” Lastly, there is Molly, a pup he adopted from the shelter he went to as a teen, and the mischief chihuahuas Queen and Penny.
Each dog had a unique role to play in Tony’s journey to a healthier weight. Queen and Penny were the first ones to help the gentle giant feel at home, with them both falling “in love with Tony right away.” Excited to meet their new buddy, Asher said the two chihuahuas would regularly jump on Tony, which never prompted a reaction to him.
“If the littles are too much, Bo will actually step between them and let them know –– ‘alright, that’s enough,'” Asher said.
Speaking of Bo, the fit canine took on the responsibility of becoming “100% Tony’s trainer,” motivating the german shepherd to keep up during playtime. And then there is Lillie, who has taken a particular interest in Tony. “Lille and Tony are attached to the hip,” Asher says, “they just adore each other.” In fact, the two have grown so close to one another that Asher now calls Lillie Tony’s “girlfriend.” “You don’t want to mess with Lillie’s boyfriend!”
With many weeks of exercises and mindful eating, Tony eventually reached 123 pounds and could finally get up the stairs on his own, chase frisbees, and even jump obstacles. “His personality is really starting to come out,” the former corporate trainer said. Though 27 Lbs down, Asher knows the dog still have a ways ahead of him until he can join the rest of the gang on the road.
Then at his two-month mark, Tony reached an exciting milestone: weighing in at 115 Lbs, he could finally embark on his first-ever road trip adventure with the Asher clan. Visibly ecstatic, the german shepherd got to experience the beach for the first time at a stop in San Diego, where he ran across the shore with his buddies and even took a cool dip in the ocean. Clearly, this canine was having a blast. While on their trip, Asher made sure to incorporate fun, new activities for Tony to keep him on track, bringing him along to snowboard down a mountain or skate through the dessert.
“Tony is following, running everywhere, remaining active, and of course, having an amazing time!”
During their stop in New York, Tony stepped on the scales once again to find that he was now weighing 102 Lbs – just 2 pounds short of his 100 Lbs goal. “In order for Tony to lose his last 2 Lbs, we’re going to run across Brookly bridge,” Asher said.
And then, what seemed impossible only months prior became a reality: weighing in at 99 Lbs, Tony had finally reached his goal. To celebrate his success, the Asher clan took a trip to the Sacramento SPCA, the dog rescue from which Tony was adopted. When rescue workers saw the german shepherd’s transformation, they couldn’t believe their eyes. Once not able to stand up straight while eating, Tony could now chase around treats and toys like a pro with amazing newfound energy.
“He is just a different dog in every single way,” Asher said, “expect for how loving he is.”
According to the doting dog owner, a healthy family with unconditional love and faith in one another all contributed to Tony’s remarkable success.
“It doesn’t matter the size or what the breed is, we accept each other no matter what,” Asher says.
With Tony’s story, Asher hopes to remind people that there are dogs in dog shelters across the globe who need someone to believe in them and give them a loving home too.
“Rescuing is so beautiful because you saved a life,” Asher says. “If someone goes to a breeder, it means they’re leaving a dog at the shelter,” he added.
What do you think about Tony’s amazing transformation? Do you have a story about a rescue animal as well? Let us know in the comments, and make sure you pass this along to your friends and family!
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