Blood pressure problems, over $1,000 worth of medication every month – this isn’t the story of a cancer patient or an elderly man with heart disease; it’s Eric O’Grey’s life five years ago. It was a life of depression, social isolation, and a cycle of emotional eating that fueled his obesity, and further withdrawal. At one point, Eric’s doctor read a line of statistics – insulin levels from his Type 2 diabetes, cholesterol in his blood, heart rate and blood pressure – and told him to buy a gravesite, because he would need one soon.

Prompted by a nutritionist, Eric called his local animal shelter and asked for “an obsese, middle-aged dog – like me.” He wanted a companion, a friend, but he got a lifesaver. In Peety, he found someone that gave him emotional comfort, forced him to get out of the house, to walk, to meet people. Less than a year later, Eric lost half his body weight, got his blood sugar under control, and no longer required medication.

It’s the small changes that had a big affect, but it all started with an incredible and easily overlooked gift: our pets, who love us, who encourage us, who make those small changes easier.

Growing up, I always had. That unconditional love, loyalty, and want for fun taught me a lot about companionship, about joy, honestly about God. Take that encouragement – it’s a beautiful moment.