I’ve owned dogs for most of my life. I groom dogs professionally. I spend nearly every day around dogs and dog people. So, I like to think I know a thing or two about properly caring for your dog.
But this book proved I still have a lot to learn!
Therefore, my book recommendation for April is The Forever Dog by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Shaw Becker.
If you’re not a dog person, you may find a few tidbits of information that you can apply to your own life and health, but it’s probably not the book for you. Chances are, though, you have a four-legged friend in your life.
This book is stuffed full of all the ways we’re inadvertently hurting those we love and whose health and well-being depend almost exclusively on us. And it’s also full of advice for how we can do better.
What It’s About
The purpose of The Forever Dog is to educate dog lovers on how to extend the health span—as well as the lifespan—of our furry companions.
The lives of dogs are closely entwined with the humans they live with. On one hand, that’s great; we have an ever-present source of affection and interaction in an increasingly lonely world. On the other hand, we’ve become so enmeshed that their health mirrors our own. And let’s be honest: a lot of us aren’t doing so great on that front.
Because of human intervention, dogs are living shorter and shorter lives and suffering from many of the same ailments as humans: cancer, diabetes, anxiety, heart disease, and more.
What I Learned
Some of the advice in this book was new and surprising, and some of it was so obvious and commonsense that I’m still kicking myself for not coming to the same conclusions on my own.
First of all, while I may occasionally indulge in some highly processed foods (*cough* boxed mac ’n cheese *cough*), I know it’s not the best thing for me and shouldn’t be the main staple of my diet. Why, then, did it never occur to me that kibble is essentially the same thing? It’s highly processed and disturbingly shelf stable, two attributes I would never choose for myself. It’s only nutritionally complete because they add all of the nutrients back in the form of supplements. And we’re feeding our dogs this diet every day, exclusively in many cases.
Then, there’s the fact that dogs are natural athletes but spend most of their time cooped up indoors or strolling around the backyard. We need daily exercise outdoors, so why wouldn’t they?
And they need good sleep, a low-stress environment, and mental stimulation. Sound familiar? It’s the constant refrain of most health professionals, but both dogs and humans are living in a world of bright lights at all hours, loud noises, and constant electronic buzzing.
So, the answer is to change our daily routines and serve them a homemade diet, right?
I never realized the risks of making a serious, or even fatal, error. It’s way too easy to accidentally deprive your dog of vital nutrients if you don’t exactly follow carefully constructed and nutritionally complete recipes.
Changes I’m Making in My Own Life
Unfortunately, I operate on a budget, and I’m already buying Monty the best kibble that fits into that budget. So, I’ve decided to supplement that kibble with a spoonful of a puree I make from kitchen scraps, like carrot peels and apple cores, and some basic veggies and sardines. His head just about exploded the first time I added sardines to his meal, and he’s still insanely enthusiastic about mealtime.
For treats, he gets bits and pieces of whatever fruits and veggies I happen to be eating at the moment. He’s developed a taste for just about everything but cucumbers. Carrots, apples, and strawberries are some of his favorites. I just have to be careful not to give him any chocolate, grapes/raisins, or onions, as those are toxic to dogs.
At the moment, he’s chewing on the stem from a head of cauliflower that he pulled out of the trash. Sure, it makes a mess, and I’ll eventually have to sweep up shreds of cauliflower. But it’s an incredibly healthy chew toy.
We’ve also started taking morning walks around the neighborhood. Those are only happening on Sundays for the time being, though, because I’m working on some issues he has with barking furiously at everyone he meets. (Ah, the joys of training a terrier!)
But I’m also taking him on occasional trips to the dog park in town to get him some play time.
And finally, I’ve started unplugging my wi-fi router at night. I don’t know if it makes a difference, but do I really need internet access while I’m sleeping?
What I Liked About the Book
It’s full of practical tips based on scientific studies. The authors also provide recommendations for whatever level of changes you’re ready to make. They espouse the theory that small changes are better than no changes.
What I Didn’t Like
I understand that the statistics and scientific findings in the first section are meant to illustrate the necessity for making changes in our dogs’ lifestyles, but to be honest, it’s a bit scary and depressing. Especially when you realize that their health journeys mirror our own.
The authors also lean toward the extreme side of pet care, which tends to be expensive, time consuming, and labor intensive. While they give practical tips for making small changes, I wish they focused more on advice for how the average person could easily incorporate their advice into our everyday lives.
I loved this book and found it full of great information, some that I can use right now and some that I’ll keep in mind for possible future reference. And I believe that learning new things is almost always a good idea. As long as we’re careful not to go too far to extremes.
My book recommendation for this month isn’t exactly a book in the sense we usually think of one. It’s not a novel or a memoir or even a how-to. Rather, it’s a book that’s partially already written and partially waiting to be written by me. I’m talking about a reading journal.
Your life isn’t the same as mine; the things I find valuable might be useless to you. But then again, you might find value in them too.
And one of the things I’m finding value in right now is My Reading Life, a book journal created by Anne Bogel.
February is the month of Valentine’s Day and love. In fact, it’s only a week away!
Now, before you start in on any rants about the commercialization of Valentine’s Day and how it’s a made-up holiday created by soulless marketing departments, greeting-card companies, and candy producers, let me say that I don’t care.
While I’ve been guilty of being a Valentine’s Day grinch at times in my life, I’ve come to realize that you don’t have to buy into all of the trappings to celebrate love.
I agree that the amount of money and the lack of thought thrown into this holiday are ridiculous. But there’s nothing wrong with celebrating love. And what better way to do that than by reading a good love story?
Now, if your lip automatically curled at the mention of romance novels and you’re thinking that they’re all ridiculous and reinforce negative gender stereotypes, let me say that you’re obviously reading the wrong ones. Yes, there are a ton out there that are unrealistic and, quite frankly, unhealthy.
But in honor of the month of love, I challenge you to try something different. Which is why I’m recommending Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid.
As humans, we like to point fingers and deny that something is our fault. Because if it’s our fault, we’re responsible for doing something about it.
Please don’t think this is just another gripe about cancel culture or an attempt to blame victims. This is me looking at my life and recognizing that I’m just as guilty of this tendency as anyone else.
The last couple of years have been hard, and part of what’s been so hard is that we feel helpless in the face of everything that’s going on in the world around us.
And that’s why Extreme Ownership struck a chord with me. And that’s why I chose it for my book recommendation for January.
As Christmas rapidly approaches, so does the new year. For many of us that means new beginnings, a reminder to reevaluate our lives and the changes we want to make. And we most often go about making those changes through our New Year’s resolutions.
But most of those resolutions fail. In fact, it’s become almost a joke in our society, the futility of starting each January with lofty goals, only to abandon them by February.
I’ve always been reluctant to set big goals because (shockingly!) I’m not real big on wasting energy on futile efforts. But I do have things I want to accomplish. Like you, I have dreams and aspiration, things I want to accomplish in my life.
Most of us go about building new habits in the wrong way, like the people who quit smoking cold turkey, determined to make the change through pure willpower. Sure, some are successful, but most start out with gusto But soon the excitement wears off, the willpower wears thin, and they’re right back where they started in no time.
The same goes for making changes in other areas of our lives. Then, we do the same thing the next year. And the next. And the next.
But if we keep doing the same things we’ve been doing, we’ll keep getting the same results we’ve been getting. If we truly want to make changes in our lives and in ourselves, we have to approach the problem with a different plan.
And this is why I found (and still find, since I’ve read it twice now, bought a copy for myself, and plan to read it again after Mom finishes with my copy) Atomic Habits by James Clear so valuable.
I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, so my book recommendations for the next few months will likely reflect that. But never fear: I’ll have some more fiction to pass along soon.
As we start getting into the thick of the holiday season, I thought Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus—known as the Minimalists throughout their books, podcasts, social media, and more—would be a great book pick for this month.
The holidays seem to get more commercialized every year, especially Christmas. Each December, we burden ourselves, our loved ones, and even the people we barely know with stuff and more stuff. And often, it’s not even stuff any of us want. We just feel obligated to give everyone something.
While I’m by no means a hardcore minimalist, I’ve found some great insights and wisdom in this book and hope you can find value in it, too.
As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the best ways to become a better writer is to become a better reader. So, I’ve dug through the mountains of books I’ve read and loved over the years to come up with one I feel worthy of passing on to you all.
In honor October, the month of Halloween, I’m recommending Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews.
Rebecca has a passion for helping you fill the world with great literature and making sure said literature doesn't get passed over for the lack of a little editing.