Dogs–the best medicine. And how you can both live longer. And happier.

DOGS ARE AWESOME. Seriously. Take any situation, add a dog and it transforms into

Dogs. Making life better one doggie kiss at a time . . .

instant awesome. A big puddle of mud? We avoid it. But add a couple of dogs? Instant entertainment. And possibly a YouTube video that’ll break the internet.

Bodhi Doghi keeps me from being critically introverted. When I take Bodhi  out and about, people stop and smile, say hello and ask if they can give him a little skritch. Bodhi and I’ve made a new friend, and I’m not such a recluse.

Dogs can be a financial benefit–hear me out on this: When I took Tahoe the Wonderdog to my booksignings, I typically had more than 40 people lining up to say hello to my dog. And buy my books. If you’ve ever held a booksigning without a dog, you may get three people who don’t avoid eye contact, and one of those three just want to know where the bathroom is. And dogs in vlogs, dogs in blogs, dogs in Youtube videos automatically up your subscribership.

Bodhi also makes me eat better. Many of y’all know I’ve got an eating disorder that started when I was suicidally depressed. I just flat out stopped eating and nearly died. Not because I wanted to be skinny, but because I was clinically depressed.

Enter Bodhi and his fresh meat and vegetable diet.

Because he’s a Border Collie, he won’t eat alone, and he usually takes a bite of broiled brussel sprouts when I take a bite of brussel sprouts. Is he following me? Nope. He’s leading me. Border Collies are smart. And Bodhi’s smarter than me.

And if I would never not feed him three times a day, it stands to reason he’d prefer I eat, too.

When we were still in our lakehouse, Bodhi Doghi and I used to swim and dive and play water-fetch for at least an hour every day. Being outside in the fresh air, getting daily exercise, and well, having fun, made us both happier and healthier. And made writing much easier. And better . . .

A Harvard University recently conducted a study and found that just by owning a dog, it not only has the ability to make you happy but it can make you healthier.

Just petting your dog has the ability to lower your blood pressure, lower your heart rate, making you calmer and more mindful. Owning a dog for those who are isolated within their homes (like most writers I know) forces us to get out of the house (dogs have to potty, ya know). And we all need exercise.

And 41% of North Americans today  have a dog–as opposed to the French, where nearly everyone has a dog, and sometimes their dogs have their own dog. And French dogs are healthier than American dogs, just as French people are by-and-large healthier than Americans–30% of Americans are obese, compared to 9.4 of our French cousins across the pond. With obesity comes diabetes, and an increase in medical costs and earlier death rate.

The BARF diet for dogs! *better than it sounds*

Sadly, we’re passing those bad traits off to our dogs.

And we have to start looking around the world at these statistics.

In North America, the obesity epidemic is up 60% as animals are plagued with obesity, and that statistics continues to climb.

And cancer.  One in two dogs today is diagnosed with cancer. And it’s getting worse. In the 70s, dogs used to live to be 17. Today, they’re only living to be 11. And the Golden Retriever itself is only living to be nine or ten.

When the Broad Institute conducted an extensive study with cancer, which showed that although 10% of cancer is genetic, 90% are the results of lifestyle and environmental factors, the things that are around us.

Since we can’t do much about the 10% genetic-thing, we can greatly influence diet, exercise and relationships.

Racing greyhounds and arctic sled dogs have eaten raw food diets for . Extending those feeding practices to the family pet is a more recent idea, proposed in 1993 by Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst. He called his feeding suggestions the BARF diet, an acronym that stands for Bones and Raw Food, or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. And I’m sorry, but a BARF diet for dogs? It’s just awewome.

Billinghurst suggested that adult dogs would thrive on an evolutionary diet based on what canines ate before they became domesticated: Raw, meaty bones and vegetable scraps. Grain-based commercial pet foods, he contended, were harmful to a dog’s health–caveat here–talk to your vet before changing your dog’s diet and definitely ask your vet before feeding Fido bones–and avoid pork and chicken bones.

While some veterinarians disagree, as does the FDA. The risks of raw diets have been documented in several studies published in veterinary journals.

Potential benefits of the raw dog food diet that supporters tout include shinier coats, healthier skin, cleaner teeth, higher energy levels, and happily, less poop to scoop.

Of course, if you’re going this route, you need to be aware (and wash your hands) from the bacteria in raw meat and some other raw foods. Research reliable sources and sites, and talk to your vet, and if you decide to go this route, read up on how to introduce the new diet gradually.

Since Bodhi and I are both eating better, getting out in the world and getting more exercise (and interaction), we’re both happier. And healthier.

 

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