Dr Chris Blazina and Anna Webb are both experts in their field and their research and knowledge of all things dog combine as a unique and enlightening force to be reckoned with. The pair met when Dr Chris appeared on Anna’s highly regarded A Dog’s Life Podcast, which every week tackles a different hot topic in the canine world.
Dr Chris, who has written a book on the subject, shared with listeners the results of 15 years of research into the bond that men have with their dogs, and the story that made international news, that the majority of men love their dogs more than their closest family members! A bond was formed, and the pair are now teaming up to work on the TV series and book project Humans Are From Hell, But Dogs Are Heaven, which is currently in development.
Dr Chris Blazina has worked as a professor, researcher, writer, and psychologist. His career in psychology focussed on men and masculinity, and how men are taught to be men in current-day society with less than beneficial effects in terms of learning to make and sustain important emotional bonds with friends, partners, and family members.
But his journey took a significant turn when his dog Kelsey passed away. He said: “She was my best friend and portable family through graduate school and the early part of my career. It involved 14 years of making a bond that did change my life.”
After his profound experience of grief at losing Kelsey, Dr Chris turned his research to the study of how humans interact with their dogs. This enlightening research has been the subject of a book, and numerous internationally received articles in the popular press and within his profession. He said: “When I started grieving the loss of my old friend part of that process was to understand why Kelsey was so important in my life. I revisited all the old psychological theories (and newer ones too) about how people handled grief. However, there was only a little bit available about how people deal with the loss of an animal companion—an animal or pet that is like a friend or family member. One of the realisations was grief involving people was a lot like grief with an animal companion. We build an attachment, we deal with loss, and we try to preserve some parts of our bond. The latter part is sometimes referred to as a continuing bond. It is a new way to remember and connect with someone that has been lost. In my case, the work I do involves animal companions is one key way of connecting to the important animal companions in my life past and present. They are my motivation and inspiration.”
He added: “My own story in conjunction with the male psychotherapy clients that I worked with left a very distinct impression. Male clients often showed a different side of themselves when discussing their pets. Even males who were usually emotionally constricted in everyday life with friends, family, and partners showed tenderness when discussing their dogs. Some choked up and others openly shed tears saying they had not even cried like this when a parent died. I realised my story was not unique. Animal companions seemingly broke through many of the male socialised barriers that others could not. It was a special bond that needed more exploration and understanding.”
Dog guru Anna Webb believes all animals, especially dogs make us human, she thrives on teaching people how to make their dogs happy which in turn makes their owners happier. Growing up Anna’s father was the secretary of the Shropshire branch of the RSPCA, this instilled in her a love of animals, not least by learning about animal cruelty and neglect cases at an early age, which taught her to like animals more than people. Anna is the co-host of BBC Radio London’s Barking Hour, and in 2020 launched the A Dog’s Life podcast, which has been nominated for a national award.
Anna co-authored the ’ sell-out’ book Barking Blondes which was published by Octopus. She is the go-to expert on all things dog for many news outlets and has a regular column in MyWeekly magazine in which she is not afraid to speak her mind on dog welfare issues.
Anna is well-known for appearing as the resident dog expert in a weekly slot on the long-running Alan Titchmarsh Show. Anna, who has studied natural nutrition and therapies with the College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies (CIVT), is not afraid to tackle controversial topics and recently spoke out when Formula One Champion Lewis Hamilton announced that he would be feeding his dog a vegan diet.
She said: “You would never give a rabbit a steak, and it’s the same thing. Dogs and cats are carnivores and by feeding them diets which don’t contain meat, instead of being ethical you are being very unethical, and putting your pets at risk. All of these products are very processed, and just like humans are being encouraged to eat these things by big brands so are our pets. But that doesn’t mean it is good for them. Diabetes in dogs is at record levels and that is because most ‘complete’ pet food is 50 to 70 per cent grains, which dogs do not need. These foods are bulked out with things like rice, barley and beet pulp, and beet pulp contains sugars, which is bad for their teeth and causes diabetes.”
As well as Dr Chris’ appearance, topics on A Dog’s Life are varied and no holds barred.
They range from ‘The Palm Dog’ award which is handed to the best dog actor at Cannes, to how the landmark Charity, Medical Detection Dogs train dogs to ’ sniff out disease, including Covid 19, Katrina of Katrina and The Waves to in-depth interviews with Dr Rupert Sheldrake (canine telepathy) and with her ‘house Vet’ Lise Hansen the homoeopathic vet.
Anna added: “On A Dog’s Life we are not afraid to shy away from the subversive, but we have fun too. It’s a winning combination and now that more people have dogs than ever before, now is the time to reach an even wider audience too. “I am loving working on this project with Dr Chris, it’s works as he focuses on the people and I focus on the dogs – just as I like it to be!”