Book review/commentary/essay


This is the sequel to THE DOG LIVED (and So Did I). The author, Teresa Rhyne, is a breast cancer survivor, and her dog, Seamus, the beagle, also survived cancer. So much for the first book which I haven’t read. In this second story, Seamus develops another cancer and Teresa determines to find the best way to again fight and win the battle. She turns to a prepared raw meat diet for the dog and she eventually becomes vegan (the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals).

The Author has two knotty issues she grapples with. One is the exploitation of food animals and second, the laboratory testing done on live animals, in this particular case, beagles. Lab beagles are raised to become experimental animals. If they are lucky after their experiment is finished and if they are still alive, some will be given to beagle rescue groups for adoption. Many healthy beagles are simply killed. Part of this story is about Percival who was a lucky lab rescue and Daphne, a rescue from a high-kill shelter in Los Angeles. The other part is about the author and her search for peace and healing after losing Seamus, realizing she has been contributing to animal exploitation by eating meat, and the desire to spread the word on animal testing.

Seamus succumbs to his second cancer and Teresa is immobilized by her grief.  A few days later she learns through a facebook friend, that a beagle needs a foster home to recover from kennel cough in a home with no other dogs. As much as she tries to tell herself, “It is too soon,” eventually she and Chris, her significant other, decide to help. Daphne is adorable, and—has a lump on her chest. By now the author is totally sick of all “lumps.”  The all too common failure of foster parents overtakes them and Daphne becomes theirs, lump and all. Eventually this lump was determined not life threatening and here we have a happy ending.

After Seamus’ passing, they had talked about having two dogs, Daphne sort of came along as an emergency, but for the second one they were going to take one of the Beagle Freedom Project dogs—rescued from a laboratory. (Check it out if you are brave enough) Enter Percival. He and Daphne have a rocky start to their dog relationship, but eventually sort it all out. There is so much “out there” about animal abuses, and this was one that here-to-for I had not had the displeasure of suffering through. I have sent donations to NAVS (again, please check it out), but after reading this book, determined to increase my donations. The author admonishes the readers to find out what products they are using that are tested on animals, and which are not. I was so pleased to learn that my favorite cosmetic company, Arbonne, does not test. But I could not believe ALL the very, very common products that are.

94% of all animal testing is done for cosmetics and household products, leaving only 6% for medical research. On March 11, 2013, The European Union passed a long-awaited ban of the sale of all animal tested cosmetics and is urging other countries to do the same. Vivisection is out-dated science and in many cases is not used to benefit humans, but is only implemented to acquire grant money (and thus profits) for the scientist, school, organization or company conducting the experiments.  For an extensive description of animal testing alternatives, click here.

After the author and Seamus’ survived their first cancers, Teresa was devastated to learn that her beloved Seamus had a second cancer—melanoma of the eye. She delved into diet, exercise and reading everything she could find about how to beat cancer holistically.  In the process, she came up against the whole animal for food thing. The more she read about how big business in the food industries treats the animals it processes for human consumption, the more distraught she became.

This is where the author and I have a slight disagreement. She writes a little one sided about dairy and meat animals in big companies, and lumps the smaller “organic/humane” ones all together in her repulsion. I feel her pain, but I also know that only a few people reading her book will give up eating animals. I think there IS a better way, but perhaps not for all of the meat eating populace. I was raised on a small farm, we had milk cows and they were not tortured to produce milk for us. (I was the one tortured, as I had to milk them before I went to school!)They did not have their calves torn from their sides and eaten as veal. (But I do think the veal industry stinks). She writes about cows being forcibly “raped” to be bred. A cow in heat (necessary for ovulation and pregnancy) can be inseminated by a technician with semen, but they are not hurt. Our cows were artificially inseminated with no trauma or drama. (With dogs this can be different. All dogs in heat do not wish to be bred, and forcibly breeding them can constitute rape in my opinion). Visualize a bull weighing a ton or more naturally breeding a young cow for her first time. My point is, don’t paint all with the same brush.

Later in life our family lived on an Indiana farm. We had milk cows (also artificially inseminated…bulls are not for everyone!) and raised our own beef. I do believe cattle can be humanely slaughtered, as well as I know that many are not. If you can become vegan, more power to you. If you wish to eat animals, do your best to investigate. I know for a fact humane is possible. This book makes it sound impossible. We all as meat eaters can eat less for the betterment of the sustainable resources which are ours to steward and it is better for our health. Another point the author more or less glosses over, but does make, is that vegan isn’t good for all. It just doesn’t work for some people’s bodies.

Her friend Leela had been vegan and had to stop because as she said, “It’s about finding out what works for you—for your body, for your ethics……and it’s clear to me that there is no ‘one size fits all’ in regard to medications, food, exercise salt intake and so many other things.” AND meat (raw) is best for dogs. Even the author admitted that. And where does that meat come from? Like I said, this is a knotty problem. Check out Temple Grandin, a universally loved and respected lady both in the humane treatment of meat animals and autism. She states: “I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we’ve got to do it right. We’ve got to give those animals a decent life, and we’ve got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.”  (and we do not do that in all cases, no dispute there).

It is easier, I do think, to stop using products that are tested (unnecessarily according to the author’s research and also NAVS) on animals, than to stop eating meat. Each must decide what is right for them. However, there never is an excuse to mistreat any animal.

This book is Teresa’s effort to shine a light on these two animal abuses. I say, “God Bless you, Teresa,” and I do give the book 5 stars and two thumbs up!