By Sue Nielsen, MD
Pukka’s Promise, The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs” by Ted Kerasote
In the age of Kindles and iPads, I much prefer the feel and comfort of a real book in my hands. “Pukka’s Promise” is intriguing and thought provoking, and the pages turn quickly. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who loves a dog and wants to know more about genetics, nutrition, veterinary care, and has the stomach to read about some hidden awful truths. The author has forever changed me and how I will care for my dog, Rico, and for that, I am grateful.
Within the first three pages, I laughed and I cried; I was hooked. As the author recounted the last few weeks with his beloved dog, Merle, I could not help but identify with the love and connection he felt for his canine companion. His thoughts as he met a young couple with their new puppy, simply stated, “In fourteen years, perhaps sooner, certainly not much longer, he will break your heart. Your entire life from now until then will be colored by him: his woofs, his wags, his smells….” I choked up as I imagined how traumatic it will be when the day comes I will have to let my dog pass on. But, herein lies the greatness of this book, he dedicated years of research to find strategies to help his next dog live a happy and healthier, and hopefully LONGER life. You can too, for at any age, we have the power to improve the quality and quantity of life for our four legged family members.
The author tackles topics that I didn’t even realize could be controversial such as our common spay and neuter policy and routine vaccinations. Is it all healthy for our dogs? Does it really solve the overpopulation problem? Is there a better way? Reading this book, I realized how passive I’ve been with Rico’s health. I’m a physician, I fully evaluate clinical information before making a decision regarding my patients, but not with my dog initially; I simply did what my vet told me to do without even a question of consequences. I didn’t even research after Rico had a vaccine reaction. He was only 10 weeks old and got a vaccine that resulted in significant pain and swelling. I felt awful, those sad eyes looking at me, “Why did you do that??” The author provides great information to help us make informed decisions and offers new, innovative approaches to population control and vaccine schedules. He was balanced in his approach and provided valuable health related information.
Ted also digs into the entire process of how much of our commercial dog food is made, and I learned about “rendering”, a practice to extract valuable protein from millions of dead animals – abandoned pets and animals not safe for human consumption. He describes the process of euthanasia for unwanted dogs and cats lost in our best intentioned shelter system. In addition, how breeding for appearance has surpassed function or health. These are the horrible facts people do not want to know, do not want to face, but until we do, we can’t change the system. Education, truth, and a thoughtful dialogue is where it has to start.
Thankfully, more time is spent on the positive and creative ways we can improve our dog’s health, and advocating to make real nutrient rich food in our own kitchen. He helps us understand the mental and emotional needs of dogs, and how their health is directed affected by their stress level. Advocating safe off leash time to let the dog run, discover his world, and make some independent decisions.
Throughout the book, Ted entertains with the story of his new dog, Pukka. He describes how their bond was created and then strengthened on a daily basis. He is immensely dedicated to Pukka, and very much in love, even though after Merle died, he thought he may not be able share his life with a new dog. He gives me hope that the old saying it not true, “You only get ONE good dog in your life”. That’s because we often don’t want to go through the pain of loss again, and not because there is only one true dog love for us. There are many!!!! And we can enjoy a healthier and longer life with each of them.
Be ready to dig into this book, and stick with it. I think you’ll find it well worth it. I’m reminded of a quote of a life shared with a dog – “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole,” by Roger Caras, an American wildlife photographer, writer, and wildlife preservationist.
If you’d like to reach me, please contact me by email: [email protected], if you’d like to stay in touch with Rico – you’ll find him on Facebook!