In 2010, 51-year-old Eric O’Grey weighed 320 pounds and took over 15 different medications to manage his type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and depression. The Silicon Valley-based sales rep did most of his job over the phone, working from home and rarely leaving the house.
“It was a day-to-day existence of me and myself and really, the phone and the internet,” recalls the now 58-year-old. He subsisted on what he calls a “window diet,” only eating what was delivered to his home or through the car door, sometimes consuming up to 10,000 calories in one sitting. As he gained more and more weight, his clothes no longer fit and eventually he stopped going outside altogether. He lost contact with his friends and hadn’t gone on a date in fifteen years.
O’Grey’s breaking point was when a doctor told him to purchase a cemetery plot because he’d likely need one in the next five years. He scheduled bariatric surgery, but as a last ditch effort, made an appointment with a naturopathic doctor. Dr. Preeti Kulkarni didn’t write O’Grey any new scripts, but she did prescribe him a plant-based diet — and told him to get a rescue dog.
He went to the Humane Society Silicon Valley and adopted Peety, an obese, middle-aged Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix, whom he picked out “so we would have something in common.” With a new companion to love and take care of, now O’Grey had to get out of the house. They went on half-hour walks twice a day, soon building up to two-to-three miles, and within four months, O’Grey got off his meds and reversed his diabetes. In ten months, he had lost about 140 pounds, dropping from 320 to 185. Peety even lost 25. In no time, a newly energized and slimmed down O’Grey joined a running club; today, he averages five marathons a year.
O’Grey has documented his transformation in a memoir, “Walking With Peety: The Dog Who Saved My Life,” coauthored by Mark Dagostino, out October 10 on Grand Central Life & Style.
But before the book deal, O’Grey first told his story in 2016 in a video for Mutual Rescue, an initiative by Silicon Valley Humane Society to share transformative tales of shelter dogs and their owners. “Eric & Peety” is the ultimate “who rescued whom” story, but make sure you have the Kleenex handy: Peety didn’t live to tell the tale. He passed away from cancer in 2015.
Luckily, there’s another upswing: When the video went viral, O’Grey received an inundation of emails, Facebook friend requests, even marriage proposals from strangers. But one person who reached out made a lasting impression: his high school sweetheart, Jaye.
Although they hadn’t spoken in 40 years, they instantly reconnected. They were married by December of 2016.
And there’s a new canine love in the picture, too. Jaye and Eric now live in Boise, Idaho with Jake, a rescue black lab mix and the ultimate running partner. O’Grey and Jake average 30 to 50 miles a week and run half-marathons together.
Jaye underwent a similar transformation, dropping from 197 pounds and a size 20 to 114 pounds and a size two — following the same method of switching to a plant-based diet and walking every day with Jake. “This will work for anyone,” says O’Grey.
To learn more about adopting a shelter dog, visit your local Humane Society.