Walking With Peety: The Dog Who Saved My Life

by Eric O’Grey (with Mark Dagostino),  2017, Grand Central Publishing

Reviewed by Linda DeStefano
Review translated by Rob English

I love this book!  It’s a true account by the author, who was morbidly overweight, depressed and lonely.  His life was turned around when he decided he either was going to die or make a commitment to change.  He decided to go to a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Preeti Kulkarni, who advised him to adopt a dog so he would have a companion who would require him to go for regular walks and for whom he would feel responsible. At first, Eric thought this was silly advice since he had never had a dog and didn’t want one.  But he dutifully went to a local shelter  and was guided through the adoption process by a woman who explained that he needed to make a lifetime commitment to a dog.  She also wanted to help Eric find the right match.  Eric, somewhat facetiously, suggested a middle-age, overweight dog (Eric was in his early fifties at that point) so they would have a common bond.  The shelter staffer thought this actually would work for both Eric and Peety, who indeed was middle-aged and overweight.  Soon Eric and Peety formed a deep, loving relationship.  

The other advice Dr. Preeti (as she preferred to be called) gave Eric was to adopt a whole-food, plant-based diet.  This wasn’t a diet in the sense of counting calories but rather a reliance on feeling full based on satisfying, healthy food – vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, etc. As it eliminated animal flesh and animal products, this diet is vegan, but not the kind of vegan diet that simply substitutes highly processed, fatty, salty, sugary food to replace meat, dairy and eggs.  It was based on fresh produce and other healthy food.
In his usual humorous fashion, Eric described his first attempt at cooking. As his usual source of food was ordering pizza and other fast food, he had no idea how to cook.  So he burned the rice; the beans splattered all over the microwave, and the broccoli turned to mush.  Undeterred, Eric kept learning – even going to a vegan cooking class – and became a gourmet vegan cook!

Meanwhile, Eric was astonished at the results of his twice-daily 30 minute walks with Peety and his new diet.  He steadily lost weight, and his joints no longer ached since they didn’t have to support so much weight.  Seeing how this way of eating had helped himself, Eric decided to give Peety vegan dog food.  To provide variety, he even shared some of his own food with Peety (being sure to omit foods toxic to dogs, such as chocolate and grapes).  Peety also began to loose weight and became an energetic, enthusiastic dog.  Part of the fun of this book is to see the several photos of Eric and Peety.  Eric has one of himself at more than 300 pounds and then several of himself looking slim, fit and happy.  

Peety was Eric’s bridge to making friends.  As they walked together, people would greet Peety and then chat with Eric.  As Eric lost weight and began relating to people, he had the self-confidence to join a running group. (Today he is an avid runner.)  This led to him inviting his new friends to his condo for gourmet vegan meals.  After 15 years out of the dating scene, he began to date again.
He tells of some of his important relationships with women and – finally – his marriage to Jaye, the woman who was his high school sweetheart.  Peety brought them together because Jaye saw a film about Peety and Eric and many mentions on social media  so was able to learn how to locate Eric after years of searching.  We see a photo of Eric and Jaye on their wedding day.

Dogs, romance, great food, and a happy ending – what more could you want from a book!

For more about healthy vegan eating, contact People for Animal Rights, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse 13215-0358, people4animalrightscny@gmail.com or (315)488-PURR(7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. If no-one is available, leave a message.