The Forever Dog by Rodney Habib and Karen Shaw Becker
When most of us add a pet as a valued family member, it is with a desire for that pet to live a healthy, enjoyable, and long life, which is the philosophy behind The Forever Dog. Every pet I've had has motivated me to learn everything I can to make that happen. Unfortunately, a lot of harmful information about pet health, wellness, behavior, and nutrition is perpetuated as "wisdom" when its goal is to give you a false sense of security, so you purchase products that shorten your pet's life. Fortunately, most of us with pets are getting smarter and are making healthier choices for our pets. However, the fact remains that misinformation is still distributed daily on television and via the internet. If you want your pet to live a healthy, enjoyable, and long life, you must invest time and energy to educate yourself to make wise and healthy decisions for your pet, whose health depends entirely on you. That has become easier with the publication of The Forever Dog by Rodney Habib and veterinarian Dr. Karen Shaw Becker.
I first learned of Dr. Becker in 2017 when the documentary Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry was released. The film exposes the lack of regulation and the philosophy of feeding pets to survive rather than to thrive, which is prevalent among the most prominent companies selling pet food. I knew then that Dr. Becker was on the side of the angels and began following her on Facebook. When her book came out, I knew it would benefit everyone who wants our pets to be forever family members.
The book is divided into three sections. In the first, The Modern, Unwell Dog: A Short Story, the authors discuss how our dogs are living shorter lives.
“In our lifetimes alone, by some measures we’ve witnessed a decline in canine longevity, especially among pedigree dogs. We realize this is a bold and controversial statement to make, but bear with us. Although many dogs are indeed living longer, like people, many dogs are dying prematurely of more chronic disease than ever before. Cancer is the leading cause of death in older dogs, with obesity, organ degeneration, autoimmune disease, and diabetes not too far behind.”
They then note their aspirations for and definition of the Forever Dog.
“We aspire to have dogs that live vibrant lives to the very end—whenever that is.”
“Forever dog (fə-ˈre-vər dȯɡ): A domesticated carnivorous mammal, descended from the gray wolf lineage, that lives a long and robust life free from degenerative disease, in part due to their humans’ making intentional choices and wise decisions that confer health and longevity.”
Part II is titled Secrets from the World’s Oldest Dogs and helps us understand the differences and similarities between our dogs and their ancestors.
“Both ancestral wolves and modern wolves are classic carnivores. They prefer to eat large, hoofed mammals such as deer, elk, bison, and moose. They also hunt smaller mammals such as beavers, rodents, and hares. Their diet is primarily protein and fat, unadulterated by processing.” [Emphasis added]
They also address what they believe to be the factors shortening our dog's lives.
“Understanding the power of food is essential to gaining better health and extending healthy life for you and your dog. Food is the cornerstone of lifestyle medicine.” [Emphasis added]
“Moreover, the nutritional education that veterinary students do receive—much as with medical students—may be biased because courses are commonly taught by nutritionists endowed by commercial pet food conglomerates. Vets get their information largely from within the processed pet food industrial complex—the manufacturers of the very foods that contribute to poor animal health. Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse!”
In addition to discussing nutrition and its effect on our dogs’ lives, the authors also discuss stress, trauma, anxiety, aggression, environmental factors, and our dogs’ needs for movement, mental stimulation, and choices in their lives.
“Giving dogs more choice in all realms of life is a gift; in giving them agency, we respect their need to participate actively in their own well-being (and ours!), which in turn improves their confidence, quality of life, and, ultimately, appreciation and trust in us.”
The book concludes with Part III: Pooch Parenting to Build a Forever Dog, where Habib and Becker help you do some homework so you can improve your dog's life.
“…we will guide you in making changes that work for your specific circumstances, time, budget, and inclination.”
If you want to learn more about how to extend your dog's life, what to look for and what to avoid in pet food and supplements, and how to avoid household and lawn and garden products that have the potential to harm you, your children, and your pet, and much more, you need to read The Forever Dog. You and your dog will be glad you did.
Congratulations to Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, who was awarded the Stange Award for Meritorious Service from Iowa State University and the College of Veterinary Medicine on November 4, 2023. The Stange Award is presented annually for outstanding professional achievement in the area of education, government, industry, practice, or other professional endeavors in veterinary medicine. Dr. Becker is the world's most-followed veterinarian on social media and the co-author of The New York Times bestseller The Forever Dog. She has been a pioneer in promoting a healthier life for our pets.
Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) and the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB)and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of thePet Professional Guild (PPG), where he serves on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairs the Advocacy Committee. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Showpodcast,available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/,the Apple Podcast app, and Don's blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.