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Living longer is something dog breeders, dog show judges, and dog owners excel at through knowledge of canine health, fake food and vaccine risks…




Vigor and Longevity is a Matter of Choices

Do Dogs Make Us Healthy?

Fred Lanting, GSD Breeder, AKC and International Judge, SAAB Member


As one trained in “the scientific method”, I am perhaps luckier than the average bear in finding a path through the forest of misinformation and pseudo-science.


The heart of true science is clear observation of facts and their repeatable verification, which includes testing of the hypotheses under many conditions. Maintaining health and vigor is a combination of lifestyle, environment, and good genes.



I have plenty of bad genes; I can paper the walls with the names of relatives who’ve succumbed to cancer, stroke, heart attack, and more. But I also know that environment has much to do with whether these “bad genes” will be turned on. Both experientially and by extensive study, I have found the key factors in not only prolonging life but also remaining vigorous and healthy to the end.


You can’t change your genes, but you can protect them and survive what life throws your way. A key to success in health and longevity is ACTIVITY. Call it exercise or manual labor or sport, but it boils down to moving that body of yours around so the muscles retain tone and strength, and the heart and lungs benefit, too.


I exercise my dogs by foot and bike. German Shepherd Dogs need miles of running a few times a week because competing in German-style shows requires great stamina on both handler and dog. It’s not like traipsing around an  AKC or UKC ring a couple of times with little Foo-Foo on a pink leash and working Schutzhund routines require one to be in pretty good shape.


My advice is to get rid of the alarm clock. One of the worst effects of working for a living is developing the habit of a little regular (but not minor) sleep deprivation. If you need an alarm clock, you are not getting enough sleep and I’ll bet you aren’t hitting the sack early enough in the evening. Making very early flights to a judging assignment was routine so “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, etc.” proved true.


It helps to know how to handle stress. Physical work or something strenuous such as jogging your dog can reduce emotional stress and give you time to talk to yourself about what’s bugging you.


You also have to continually remind yourself what life’s priorities are, and to not “sweat the small stuff”.  Now I can hear you saying, “That’s impossible advice to follow when an AKC rep is slinking around the ring while you’re judging” but the principle is still valid. Stress is bad only when there is no outlet for it or you are frustrated in your attempts to handle it.


 I’m sure that 99% are going to tune out halfway through this column but just try to keep up with me when you get to be my age (leaving 80 behind), and maybe I’ll listen to you.


Processed food can be very bad for you but the effects are so gradual that it’s easier to see the hour hand moving on an analog clock. People of all ages are swilling great volumes of high-fructose corn syrup, saccharides, preservatives, residual insecticides and hormones, cholesterol, saturated fats, high-gluten foodstuffs.


I am convinced that my backyard garden gives me most of what I need for health but I also supplement for the sake of having an inexpensive “insurance policy”. I take vitamin E and C for immune system optimization, selenium to help ward off prostate problems, half an aspirin (when I think of it) for my cardio-vascular functions, and a “multi” just in case I don’t get as balanced a diet as I should on some days.


But it is primarily what I don’t eat and what I do, that keeps me from the problems so many people a couple decades younger than I are complaining about.


Originally done to lose some paunch gained after years of being “on the road” judging, I cut out salad dressing and red meat, and immediately lost 20 pounds. What fat and oil I consume is limited to olive oil on my whole-grain bread or to fry my omelets in. I eat no bacon, very little sausage (only a few times a year, and as lean as I can get it) and generally stay away from sweets. My diet is color-coded, in a way, since most of the stuff that’s bad for you is white, I eat instead, plenty of green and orange veggies, and colorful fruit.



My basic diet is a combination of Native American (squash, greens, grains, a little venison or poultry) and Mediterranean (hard-wheat whole-grain pasta, tomatoes, olive oil, lots of flavenoid-rich spices and herbs). Every morning (except the two times a week I have an omelet made with jalapenos and onions from my garden and mushrooms from my own woods), I have cholesterol-lowering oatmeal with fruit and black walnuts from my own trees, with plain live-culture yogurt and a little honey. The amount of meat of all kinds that we eat is very small.


We don’t use doctors or drugs, we get no more than one little cold every couple of years and we know more about our bodies than most physicians would. We monitor the important things every couple years at an annual senior health fair held in a town not very far away. Blood-pressure cuffs at a Wal-Mart, if repeated, are as reliable as those used by the nurse in a doctor’s office.



If you wish to contest my formula, gather a random group of my chronological peers (in their seventies or eighties) and test us with much more than a shuffleboard game or wheelchair race. I’ll even pit myself against those much younger in years. It’s a challenge, a gauntlet that this singular septuagenarian now octogenarian, is happy to throw at your feet.

Copyright ? 2008 21071


Editor's Note: Fred Lanting is a retired organic chemist and college instructor. He has lectured around the world on breeding, judging, canine movement, and CHD (canine hip dysplasia). Click here for Books by Fred Lanting 



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