The first three chapters are recollections of Ted’s life with Merle. It puts the importance of having a dog in his life into prospective. Having suffered the loss of a canine companion he spent so much time with, and shared such a wide variety of experiences with, he comes to the realization that he would like his next partner to live longer. And so begins the long search and in-depth research to discover just how to give his new puppy the longest life possible.
Kerasote traveled the world to interview breeders, veterinarians, and leaders of the animal-welfare movement to help us evaluate the choices we make when selecting our new companions.
He covers six factors that shorten the life span of our dogs: inbreeding; over-vaccination; environmental pollutants; poor nutrition; how the North American shelter system currently operates; and spaying and neutering. There may be some dog lovers who will be quite uncomfortable with his well researched controversial conclusion on some subjects. He gathered the data for the life shortening factors and then explains their feasibility. The majority of readers will be surprised about what Ted has to say about diet, vaccinations, and sterilization. Every issue he covers is grounded in five years of profound and precise research.
Some of the thought provoking topics you’ll encounter in the book:
The Kennel Clubs (British and American) reward appearance over function/health, and how these dog-as-fashion trends are crippling some of the breeds.
- Can a purebred be as healthy as a mixed-breed?
- Too much inbreeding intensifies genetic flaws and health issues in the breed.
Studies are finding that immunizations actually last much longer; growing evidence supports the span between vaccinations.
- Monthly doses of heart worm treatment may be unnecessary, depending on your location.
- Unnecessary immunizations can eventually comprise health, consider
titering to check immunity level.
- Environmental pollutants
I personally found “Building the Dikes” the hardest chapter to read because it’s filled with ways our pets – and humans – are exposed to pollutants. This chapter’s a valuable read, even if you don’t read any other chapter.
- Reducing exposure to the dangerous elements in the vast chemical ocean.
- Society needs to do its collective part to fight pollutants by speaking with our buying power.
- Poor Nutrition
Good to know: Most pet food manufacturers Ted contacted were willing to share information and gave him a tour of their premises with the exception of Purina’s Dog Food Plant and Hills Pet Nutrition.
- Is raw food really healthier than kibble?
- Should your dog be chewing more bones?
- The realities of modern pet food and its history.
- What raw products go into kibble, and what the manufacturing process consists of.
- Shelter Systems
A deep discussion of no-kill and traditional shelters with statistics on kill rates around the world.
- Some interesting discoveries through his shelter research.
- His view on changing attitudes about pet overpopulation and shelter care.
- The heart wrenching day he spent at a shelter in Los Angeles.
- Spaying and Neutering
Spaying and neutering dogs does save millions of unwanted animals from dying unnecessarily in shelters, but there are alternative solutions.
- Should we rethink spaying and neutering?
- The essential sex hormones can help protect your dog from cancers and orthopedic injuries.
- The adverse health effects (cancer) that spay/neutering has on pets.
- The need for preserving hormones in both males and females and why vasectomies for males and tubal ligations for females preserves the hormone flow while eliminating unwanted pregnancies.
Other incredible information for dog lovers contained in the book include: training methods (the e-collar was extremely interesting), the pros and cons of inserting microchips, and an extremely current chapter on cancer with up-to-date treatment options and the latest information, and the importance of socializing and exercising canine companions.
Kerasote also gives us an inside view of small animal rendering facilities and explores common diseases in dogs such as cancer, diabetes, allergies, and adrenal disease to learn about the causes. What makes the book totally entertaining is how he intertwines Pukka into each topic.
While the book is so well written and researched, honestly packed full of information dog owners should know, I’m a tad baffled and perhaps a bit disappointed that he spent so much time and effort on finding the ‘perfect’ pup by his standards as opposed to going to the animal shelter to save a dog in need. The fact that he prefers breeders and advocates breeding is understandable to a certain degree – but the common person doesn’t necessarily have the resources needed to find a low-inbreeding factor in a dog’s heredity. The information in the book might have greater meaning to more people if it began with a shelter pup? Unless you’re looking for a show dog, and are willing/able to do the research, I just don’t see a justified reason to get a dog from a breeder as opposed to rescuing a shelter pet.
Pukka’s Promise is 23 chapters of the most informative, detailed information. At the end of the book you’ll find thankful wishes to the many who helped him in his journey and writing of the book, fifty pages of detailed notes, and a fourteen page index. It’s a wonderful read for anyone who has or has plans to have a dog . . . even if it’s a rescued pup.
Ted Kerasote, author of Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, is the author of several books, including the national bestseller Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog and Out There, which won the National Outdoor Book Award. His essays and photographs have appeared in Audubon, Outside, and the New York Times, among others. He lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.