Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

The Secret To Longevity

Every now and then, during a “fluff” piece on the news, you will see a “centarian” being interviewed as to what was the “secret” to their long life.  And we all sit there in disbelief when their answers reveal that they smoked, drank, and ate fried foods.  But along with those vices, they will add that they enjoyed life.

Today with all the concerns over GMO’s, gluten free diets, the millions of different exercise styles, combined with a much more strenuous and fast-paced lifestyle, we are more likely to witness those much younger than those that live a full century, be fortunate enough to see even 3/4 of a century.  And this in spite of many sharing the same “secret” of smoking and drinking.

Every now and then, as someone hears that at one time I had a golden retriever, and that he lived nearly 15 years, I get asked, “what was the secret to such a long life for him?”

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Just as the woman aged 103 answered so nonchalantly, “I just let Pollo be a dog.”

Though I originally got him from a pet store, it was discovered that he was originally from a puppy mill in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania.  I will never purchase from a pet store again for this reason as most pet stores get their dogs from puppy mills, or if they play with semantics, they buy them from brokers, who buy the animals from puppy mills.  The origin is the same.

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Wow, a puppy mill dog that lived nearly 15 years, in spite of a breed known for developing hip dysplasia, cancer, and cardiac issues?  A breed that is really only known to live 7-10 years as it is?  Seriously, what was my secret?

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I let Pollo be a dog.

He went through his life, doing what he wanted, when he wanted.  Sure, he spent most of his time as my shadow.  He was a good loyal friend.  He asked nothing of me, other than to feed him.

I did not force him to do athletic tricks or perform in agility competitions, many of which animals risk injury due to falls or collisions.  If Pollo wanted to run, he ran.  If he wanted to play ball, he brought it to me, and it would get thrown until he gave me the look, “seriously, you are going to need to fetch this one, I am done.”  If he felt like swimming, he either crawled in on the steps, or would run full speed and fly through the air, Superman style across the water, reaching at least 10 feet through the air before landing in the water.

He enjoyed walks.  He could “smell” snow in the air before the first flake even fell.  I used to joke that he suffered from “grass deafness.”  You now, no matter how much or how loud you call them, they do not hear you, unless you yell something more important like “ride” or “treat”.

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He also enjoyed the company of his family, whether they be my daughters, or other critters (he outlived 3 of our cats).  Whether they used him as a bed, or a ride, he was just content to go through his day as it went.

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All of this seems to satisfy people’s curiosity.  And then they remember one other area that has not been addressed… diet.  This part of his life leaves many shaking their heads.  I have many friends who spend all kinds of money on special diet from gluten free to corn free to other special formulas.  And while I am not promoting a brand intentionally, this is what I fed him, Pedigree dry food.  Sure, he got the different formulas for the stage of his life.  And though I would eventually figure out not to follow the serving chart, I still found ways to compensate for the lesser amount of food from adding “gravies” or French cut green beans, which filled up his belly.  I know not everyone approves of popular brands, but just as the old person on the TV, it worked for them, and the lifestyle I gave my best friend, worked for him.

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My point is this, that as a long term cancer survivor, with many serious and potentially life-threatening late side effects, I can either stress, micro-manage, worry my way through the rest of my life, or I can simply just do what makes me happy.  I know the many things that I face, but I just do not dwell on them.  As my doctors have assured me, they are going to do all that they can to make sure that I get to see the day of being a grandfather.  And with my daughters only entering their teen years now, I will still have a long way to go.

The secret to longevity is, there is no secret.  It is just life.  And the length of life is nothing compared to the quality of life you have enjoyed.

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