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Dog lovers will delight in reading Pukka’s Promise: the Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs by Ted Kerasote, a new book in which the author shares his passion for longer-lived dogs in elaborate detail. His research is impressive.
The work grew out of Kerasote’s disappointment in suffering the loss of Merle, his dog companion for fourteen years and his determination to select a new dog which would have a longer life with him.
You would have to read the book to appreciate the lengths to which the author goes to learn just what is involved in the life span of dogs and how it can be extended. His research is impressive and seems to parallel the concern we humans have these days for working to extend the duration of our own lives. In my dog days the only thing I remember going to the vets for was an occasional claw clipping for my dog, Mister.
In his search for a new dog the author spends several dog-less years before taking on another companion so that he can determine the best breed to select, the right food to provide, the right chemical-free chew toys and the right genes to guarantee longer life. As the sub title of the book suggests, it is a quest. Kerasote tells you more than you probably want to know about harmful chemicals in chew toys, the problems with grain based kibble and gene selection for longer-lived pets. This book is not about going to the mall to pick out a new puppy!
Enter Pukka, the perfect dog, a golden retriever selected from a breeder in Minnesota by Kerasote as soon as he was born and transported to a ranch in Wyoming to begin what is hoped to be a long life of faithful companionship. Kerasote’s relationship with Pukka is reminiscent of all of the boy-and-his- dog movies produced by Hollywood only this time it is a mature man who is training the dog and looking to it for meaning.
Kerasote’s quest: what’s it all about? Is it the same obsession we have to prolong the human life span, a state of denial that death is a part of the cosmic story? The author admits that hundreds of years of selecting for the longevity gene in breeding dogs would not add significant length to their lives. So, perhaps there is something we can learn about ourselves from the quest for longer-lived dogs. Death is a reality for all even for the stars.
The book has lots of good ideas about training dogs, hints about what to feed your dog, and has interesting stories about hiking with Pukka in the mountains of Wyoming. It is good reading.
There is a lot to be said about spay and neutering, too. Maybe, unless you are a dog breeder, you want to skip the lengthy chapters on the harmful chemicals found in chewy toys, the various cancers which can afflict dogs and discussions about personally shooting elk to provide food for your dog. It’s a dog book! By the way the dog’s name is pronounced Puck-uh.
(This picture I took at the Dog Motel in Cottonwood, Idaho.)