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The Pet Valu Fit Pet Project

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Kooper and Lisa, redbone coonhounds, both lost weight while in the Free Press’s fit pet project. They are currently at their target weights of 85 lbs. for Kooper and 70 lbs. for Lisa. Both dogs seem leaner, says owner Jennifer Maczuga, and they run at a decent pace again. Two months ago, Jennifer and her husband, Karl, fenced their two-acre yard. The dogs enjoy hunting fireflies and mice all night long. According to Jen, Kooper has dark circles under his eyes from not sleeping and Lisa is as annoying as ever. She thinks her family cares what’s happening outside at 3 a.m. Two cats, Blackbird and Grey Owl, from a farm down the road have joined the family, much to the confusion of Kooper and Lisa. And Jennifer’s husband wants to add bats to the menagerie next spring. We expect on update on the bats’ mosquito-fighting abilities.

Got a fat cat? A double-chinned dog? An obese bunny? A flabby fish?

Chances are you do, because, just like in the human population, there is a growing epidemic of overweight and obese pets.

Which is why we're launching The Fit Pet Project, a once-a-month series of articles in which we'll look at the issues surrounding portly pets.

We're going to be offering helpful tips and tricks to get your pet on the path to fitness, and I'll be sharing the trials and tribulations of my beloved wiener dog Zoe's own weight-loss journey.

Most of all, we want to hear from you. We've created a special email address -- fitpet@freepress.mb.ca -- and we'd like you to send photos of your pudgy pets, along with their names, ages and, if you're comfortable sharing, their current weight and target weight.

We're hoping you'll also share your concerns, advice, and the successes and challenges your pet has faced in their battle to shed unwanted pounds. Your stories can help motivate and inform other owners.

What's in it for you? For starters, we believe you'll end up with a much healthier pet, an animal that will be able to avoid the multitude of serious health risks that go along with being overweight or obese.

Prizes? Oh, yes, there will be prizes! The nice folks at Pet Valu, the sponsors of this project, are kicking in a pile of gift cards, which we'll be doling out by randomly drawing the names of owners taking part. And everyone who submits their pet's photo and information will get a copy of my critter-themed book, Bite-Sized Doug.

If you're a pet owner, we'd like you to join our pack. It's the best way to give your best friend a new leash on life.

-- Doug Speirs

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