While Love City is a well-known celebrity hang-out, most try to stay out of the limelight.
Not so with veterinarian, media personality and lecturer, Dr. Marty Becker who happily signed copies of his numerous books and attended a cocktail reception to raise funds for the Animal Care Center on Tuesday, November 20.
The Good Morning America resident veterinarian and author of Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul as well as several other informative and entertaining books about pets, started out his St. John vacation signing books at the Artists’ Association of St. John gallery in the Lumberyard complex.
That evening Becker attended a cocktail reception where he further entertained St. John residents with his unassuming charm and extensive knowledge about the unique relationship between pets and humans. Proceeds from book sales and tickets to the reception benefited the island’s non-profit animal welfare organization, the ACC.
Becker grew up on a farm and ranch in Idaho and knew he wanted to work with animals from a young age.
From Working Pets to Emotional Bonds
“We had everything from pigs and chickens, cats and dogs, beef and dairy cows,” said Becker. “When I was growing up though, cats were barn cats and dogs were outside dogs who had to guard the ducks or retrieve the cattle. They had jobs.”
During his adolescence, the young Becker watched the relationship between the working farm pets and his family change.
“My generation saw the migration from pets having this utilitarian role to an emotional role,” said the veterinarian. “Why did we welcome that migration? Because the relationship between people was diminishing.”
“We used to have great social networks,” Becker continued. “People used to sit on their porches or park their cars in the driveways and chat. Then people started parking in their garages and not sitting on porches and people got more sequestered.”
It didn’t take long for cats and dogs to get comfortable inside the house instead of out in the barn, Becker explained.
“Honestly it happened in my house and in every other house I knew,” he said. “Once the cats and dogs came in, they never left.”
The animals on the Becker farm, however, didn’t have to wait to sleep indoors before being treated with respect, the veterinarian added.
“My family always respected animals,” said Becker. “My father always said, ‘the better we treat them, the better they will treat us.’”
Love Of Science And Animals
Becoming a veterinarian was the perfect way for Becker to combine his love for animals and love of science, plus he noticed the respect his local vet enjoyed from the community.
“I always loved animals and I always loved science and there was something about the way people revered their veterinarian,” Becker said. “It was just a perfect fit for me. I started the journey at age seven and when I got accepted to school I was one of 625 people vying for 13 spaces.”
While studying at Washington State University, Becker began to focus on the healing power of pets.
“Pets lower people’s blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, increase children’s IQ levels — it all has a scientific basis,” said the veterinarian. “There is a symbiotic relationship between pets and people based on intimacy. To get the health benefits you must have close physical contact.”
No Hidden Agendas
There are a number of reasons pets contribute to the health of their owners, not the least of which is loyalty, Becker explained.
The line between veterinarian and television personality and author began to blur shortly after Becker completed studies at WSU.
“Part of it was providence,” said Becker about his writing career. “It goes back to me being an editor of my high school newspaper. My teacher said I should become a writer, but I told her I was going to be a veterinarian.”
“Then in college a teacher of mine said I was a good writer and should consider becoming an author,” Becker continued. “When I was finishing school Chicken Soup for the Soul just came out and I was studying this affection connection and the healing power of pets. So the book comes out and I’m well-known for the celebratory message of animal/people bond and they actually contacted me.”
Becker was about to contact the editors of Chicken Soup for the Soul about doing a pet lover’s version when Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen had the same idea and called the veterinarian themselves.
From there, Becker’s popularity grew until during a book signing tour, a publicist friend introduced him to the producers of Good Morning America who were looking for a veterinarian. Eleven years later, Becker is featured on GMA about every three weeks, sharing his message of the human/animal bond and the healing power of pets.
Still Loves Pets, People and Profession
The veterinarian, who has published more than 10 books, writes a nationally-syndicated column, tapes segments for GMA and is frequently interviewed by the likes of Ladies Home Journal and other popular magazines, still loves what he does.
“I still have a deep love of animals,” said Becker. “I love pets, people and the profession. I have the ability to communicate on behalf of pets, people and profession.”
“I want to do the best I can,” he added.
In all of his spare time, Becker still practices veterinary medicine at the Northern Idaho Animal Hospital in Sandpoint.
“Between writing and veterinary medicine, I am a voracious reader and researcher,” said Becker. “I have to be. When I’m being interviewed by someone, I have to know what I’m talking about — I can’t just say ‘I don’t know.’”
Becker continues to focus on four fields: the pet and human affection connection; the healing power of pets; the fitness link between humans and animals; and what he calls “edu-tainment.”
“I like people to laugh while they learn,” said Becker. “I know when to silly, sassy and serious. People don’t want to be lectured to, they want info-tainment, so they are learning and being entertained.”
Residents at Becker’s book signing enjoyed themselves and the chance to share stories about their favorite pets, especially ACC board member Bonny Corbeil.
“He’s a true St. John resident at heart,” Corbeil said about Becker. “He’s warm and connecting with everyone. People are buying his books and getting them dedicated to their animals and then sharing stories.”
“There is so much love being shared here,” Corbeil added.
Fellow ACC board member and villa management company Book It V.I. owner, Bill Dove arranged for Becker’s book signing with a little help from author Homer Hickam who owns a home on St. John.
“I sold Homer his home and he rents it through Book It V.I. and we’re friends,” Dove said. “Linda Hickam is a main advocate for the feral cats program in their home town of Hunstville, Alabama. She had a big doing and asked Marty [Becker] to come down and help out.”
Becker, who met Hickam on the book signing circuit, jumped at the chance to help.
“As a thank you to Marty [Becker] the Hickams gave him their house for a week here on St. John,” Dove said. “I thought it would be a great way to raise funds for the ACC and he was interested in doing anything to help here too.”
Books Still Available
Signed copies of five of Becker’s books — “Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul;” “Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul;” “Bow Wow, Curiously Compelling Facts, True Tales & Trivia Even Your Dog Won’t Know; Meow Wow;” “Why Do Dogs Drink out of Toilets?;” and “Why Do Cats Land On Their Feet?” — are still available on island.
Pick up a copy in Cruz Bay at Book and Bean, St. John Properties and Sugar Birds in Mongoose Junction. The signed books are also available in Coral Bay at Big Fish/Little Fish at the Cocolobo complex. The books are $15 each and all proceeds will benefit the ACC.
For more information about the ACC or information on volunteering for the organization, call the group’s animal shelter at 774-1625.
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