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.
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.