I didn’t take notes.
I forgot to email the publisher for photos to use.
In other words, I enjoyed Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs so much that I just wanted to read it. I forgot all about being a good reviewer.
What made a book about dog health so interesting?
Ted Kerasote wrote Pukka’s Promise to answer the question every dog lover asks: why don’t our friends live longer?
His research was thorough and long-ranging. Suggested reasons for dog’s short lives include
- over vaccination
- poor nutrition
- environmental pollution
- and the loss of a dog’s sex hormones through spaying and neutering.
It’s the last one that is probably most shocking for people in the rescue community. After all, the spay and neuter campaigns over the past few decades have been the greatest reason for reducing shelter deaths by 90% in my lifetime.
But although dogs could be sterilized without the removal of their sex hormones (hysterectomy or tubal ligation in females; vasectomy in males), the common practice is to spay and neuter. And, according to some veterinary researchers, the common practice is making our animals sicker and causing them to die early.
Is Spay and Neuter Always Good?
How and when to sterilize our dogs is one question I’ve only recently considered.
Honey’s breeder was a nurse. She loves Golden Retrievers. And her science background along with her love causes her to pore through research to learn more to keep her dogs healthy.
When Honey was a puppy, our breeder read a study that showed Golden Retrievers spayed after their first heat had reduced rates of some cancers. The breeder asked each of us to wait to spay our dogs.
To lessen the inconvenience, the breeder offered each of us panties for our pups to wear when they went into heat and promised she’d bathe and groom them for us after the heat ended.
Unfortunately, Honey needed emergency surgery to remove a squeaky she had swallowed and we decided to have her spayed during the surgery to spare her a later operation. But if I had known then what I know now, I would have asked the doctor to perform a hysterectomy and leave Honey’s ovaries intact.
Choosing for our dogs is an ongoing and awesome responsibility. And it’s the story of the choices Kerasote made in raising Pukka that turned the book into an interesting exploration of dog health into a book I didn’t want to put down.
A Dog Making Choices
Kerasote had a dog before Pukka. He found Merle on the side of a river bank when he was around 10 months old and brought him home.
The book Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog described the life of an independent and thoughtful dog who explored his home in Wyoming with the help of a dog door that gave him tremendous freedom.
Pukka’s Promise begins with Kerasote’s preparing to let a new dog into his heart after writing Merle’s biography. And we get to follow Pukka’s young life as he learns about wild animals, other dogs, and life in the mountains.
Just like I did while reading Merle’s Door, I found myself talking back to Kerasote. And wondering if Honey would thrive if given the same freedom as Pukka and Merle.
Although he doesn’t devote the same level of research to the issue, Kerasote believes that dogs need to solve problems and be independent to live the best life. It contributes to their health and longevity.
I can only imagine how worried I’d be that Honey would be killed by an elk or caught in a trap if I let her roam in the countryside where Kerasote lives.
And yet he’s not cavalier about his dog’s safety. He taught Pukka to respect the dangers around him. And while riding in the car, Pukka was always harnessed in.
I can only assume he understands the true risks more than this city girl does.
Thinking About Your Dog
Kerasote makes me think.
Yes, his research into dog longevity was interesting. But little in it was new to me.
Instead, my thoughts are about balancing our dog’s safety with their freedom.
I don’t live in the wilds of Wyoming. But how can I allow Honey to make choices that will reward her curiosity and build her confidence? And perhaps even lengthen her life?
What choices have you made to give your dog her longest and healthiest life? And where does your dog’s freedom to choose for herself come into it?
Update: You can see pictures of Pukka on the author’s website.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own. To make sure I don’t accept a review copy just because I want the book, I give review copies away. I’ll be giving this copy away in the Rafflecopter below. All links are through Amazon. If you buy a book through a link I’ll make a few cents to support the costs of Something Wagging This Way Comes. Thanks so much.