Linda Ward

August 27, 2006

Post #2054 – 20060827

Dear Mr. Pinkwater

I have enjoyed your books and radio commentaries for a number of years; my personal favorite is Lizard Music, because it all seems so plausible. (I’m sure it really did happen, just as you reported). I am writing to request a source for the bit you did on NPR about taking the dog to the vet and your wife Jill not accepting the “dog is going to die” diagnosis and cooking chicken. I loved that particular bit, and the tie-in with the people in the two different long-lived communites whose secret to longevity seemed to be that they were such terrible gossips. I kept my Boykin spaniel alive 5 years after her initial estimate of 2 to 8 months (lymphoma)on home cooked chicken and rice (with green beans and sweet potatoes, yum) (oh, and Chemo)and the cat is now 19, in renal failure, eats nothing but home cooked chicken to which she looks forward eagerly enough to keep her keeping on. So I’d love a copy of the essay.

Thanks, and thanks for the great books you write for young people. My personal young people are now grown-ups, but are producing more young people, for whom I am finding copies of things like Pickle Creature. Thanks, Linda Ward

Daniel replies:

""It's bad news,"" the vet said.

""How bad?"" I asked.

""Worst news possible,"" the vet said.

Maxine, the yellow Labrador was fidgeting. She'd had

enough of the veterinary clinic, and wanted to be getting


""So, do you think we should hold off on her booster

shots?"" Jill asked.

""Maxine won't be needing any more booster shots,"" the

vet said.

""So, what I'll do is call you in a couple of weeks,""

Jill said. ""I'll let you know how she's doing, and we can

decide about the booster shots then.""

The vet was starting to look a little scared. ""Jill, in

a couple of weeks she won't be living. Probably, in a week

she won't be living. I did the tests twice. I'm sorry.""

""Well, I'll give you a call, and let you know how she's

doing,"" Jill said.

We left the vet looking perplexed, and led Maxine out to

the car.

""What are you going to do, the chicken thing?"" I asked


""It's worked before,"" she said.

Two years have passed since that visit to the

veterinarian. Maxine is alive, asymptomatic, and in fact

seems to be in a better mood than before she got diagnosed as

terminal and began receiving a generous serving of chicken,

usually boiled, as part of her supper every single night.

Maxine isn't the first pet of ours to seemingly throw

off dire illness and live an extra-long life. It's not that

we believe in the magical powers of chicken--though cancer is

a wasting disease, and getting lots of high-quality protein

isn't going to hurt. The way we think it works is simply

that Maxine wakes up every morning knowing that if she is

still breathing and able to ingest by 4:00PM, she's going to

get all the white meat she can hold.

The vet refuses to test her any more. He says it would

be tempting fate. He also says he wants to come and live

here when he gets old and sick.

I told my mother about the chicken theory, but she was a

woman of no imagination. She's dead now, of course. When

she lived, she was friends with Sula, a Polish

Anthropologist. I never knew what they saw in each other.

Sula was quite the lively intellect, and lots of fun to talk


She was a great favorite of the Soviets. They let her

go wherever she wanted, study what she pleased. What

interested her was that community of mountain-dwelling

Georgians some will remember from the yogurt commercials.

These are the people galloping around on horseback, and

fathering children when they're 97. She would visit these

mountaineers every year, and also spend time on an island off

the coast of Maine, where most everybody lived to be a

hundred or better. This went on for years.

I asked her what conclusions she had come to after all

the study. What did the two long-lived groups have in


""Well, they are all smoking cigarettes. They are all

eating red meat. They are all drinking to excess, they

experience lots of stress, and they are terrible to their


""So, what's making them live to be over 100?""

""They are also terrible gossips.""

That was her theory. They never died because they

didn't want to miss any scandal.

I'm assuming they also put away a fair amount of


Note -- the essay is also available in audio form over here. --Ed