Posts Tagged ‘dog’

9:51 pm - Posted by Gregg

Stress is something we’re all familiar with. And like many, I subconsciously encourage mine with that little voice in my head that urges me to run around like Chicken Little, screaming, “The sky is falling” (whether it is or isn’t).

This kind of negative self-talk can lead me to all sorts of unsavory places. In fact, it was this pesky inner voice that kept me gaining excess weight for years and years. Stress and turmoil were the excuses I would use to overeat to the point of threatening my health, which led to my tipping the scales at over 450 pounds upon college graduation.

As loyal readers of this blog know, I eventually tempered the voice in my head and lost over 250 pounds of excess weight (and have kept it off for almost two decades). But every now and then that “Everything is wrong” voice tries to make a triumphant return. Just turning on the news, discussing diverse political views or simply pulling into rush hour traffic can amplify the voice, which ultimately encourages self-sabotage of one kind or another.

So after following animal advocates including Beth Stern on Instagram for years, I decided I was going to help the world in a small, small way… By fostering kittens that had been separated from their mothers and, otherwise, might not have a chance of survival. As some may know, with warmer weather being more prevalent, “kitten season” is lasting longer and longer. And if cats (feral or domesticated) aren’t spayed or neutered, the kitten population explodes. Not only do these little beings fill up the shelters (creating havoc for older animals waiting to be adopted), but without fosters to care for, feed and socialize them, they’re often euthanized (even at their very early ages).

This proposed good deed involved three precious kittens (each just 3-weeks old). Although my local city shelter didn’t know why, these babies had been separated from their mother and abandoned. So now I was going to be their “foster mom” (so to speak).

Looking back, I realize the kittens were as nervous as I was when I first brought them home. Thankfully they weren’t put off by Latte (my 7-pound dog), but they also weren’t ready to eat or sleep just yet. We all just kind of stared at one another… Until the grey boy (who I named “Gus”) promptly plopped onto his back and indicated he wanted a belly rub. This elicited what I’m pretty sure was Gus’s very first purr. And it was this purr that told his brother (a black boy I named “Bear”) and sister (a grey and white striped girl I named “Gwen”) that everything was going to be okay.

There were certainly hurdles involved. The kittens were so young that around-the-clock feeding was necessary. And none of them wanted to suck on the bottle or eat out of the dish. They wanted to be hand fed. So what did I do? Hand feed them, of course. (Latte had probably let them know I was a pushover.) Before I knew it, I was making sure they had a heat source at night (since they were too young to regulate their own body heat), teaching them to use a litter box (which, because of their small size, was initially a shallow cardboard box lid), putting out plates of fresh cat food (leftovers from the fridge were never tolerated) and constantly re-filling their water dish (which they had decided was just as much fun to topple as it was to drink from).

As days turned into weeks, I got to watch these little creatures grow and discover all that life has to offer. Each was very curious from an early age—quickly outgrowing the small pen I’d purchased, which required purchasing a bigger pen (and then a third pen after that, which I could continually expand). This exercise eventually lead to to them having run of the entire front half of the house. Again… Pushover.

Along with being a foster “mom,” I found myself rushing around, trying to live my “normal life” and still honor all the commitments I had both in regard to career and to personal life. Despite starting this good deed thinking it might calm my inner being, I was actually becoming more manic—living life in a more harried fashion. Until one morning when I was running late and made the “mistake” of sitting on the couch to catch my breath. All three foster kittens (still just weeks old), piled onto my lap and stared up at me—and then each started purring. It was a Zen-like chorus of purrs that instantly made me realize the one gift they’d embraced but that I wasn’t allowing myself to: Being present.

That’s right. Despite a rough start at life, these kittens were anything but bitter or scared. They were ready to roll with whatever the world had to offer. And thankfully for them, it offered me—a somewhat goofy guy who didn’t mind being referred to as a foster mom. And now these kittens were reminding me that during the quieter moments of life, acceptance could happen.

This was the very lesson I’d been struggling to remind myself of in order to quell the recurring negative voice in my head. I was retaught by Gus, Bear and Gwen that only within a peaceful mind could healthy decisions be made. And bonus! Sometimes decisions don’t even have to be made. The mind can just be quiet (in other words, just be). Even if that quiet is sometimes permeated by a chorus of purrs.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that when it came time to send Gus, Bear and Gwen onto their forever homes (and trust me, I found amazing families for them to join—all of whom recognized how special these little souls were) that I cried like a baby. Even in that painful moment of having to say goodbye to three little creatures I’d come to love with every fiber of my being, I reminded myself to reach for quiet, to reach for stillness, to reach for inner peace.

When I’m present, that voice in my head shuts up. And then? All is right with the world. Literally. And I’ll be forever grateful to the three little fur balls who reminded me not only that every moment matters, but that every moment can also be filled with joy (even when “accidentally” toppling our water dishes).

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September 27, 2017

Who loves ya, baby?

5:59 pm - Posted by Gregg

One early morning while sucking down my coffee like it was oxygen, I looked out of my kitchen window, down into the courtyard of the apartment building across the way. I noticed a man placing a box with a small plant into the sunlight. At first, I assumed he was doing some gardening. But then noticed he left the box in the sunlight and had walked away. Upon further examination (AKA “not minding my own business and staring out the window”), I saw that the small plant was actually a beautifully maintained Bonsai Tree.

A few days later, I saw the same man once again placing the box with the Bonsai into the sunlight, then leaving it there for a couple hours. I now deducted that after allowing it to soak up some Vitamin D, this man then takes his carefully cared for plant back into his home. (Who says I couldn’t run a detective agency?)

Seeing this man take care of his Bonsai Tree (which is clearly thriving) from time to time warms my heart—and it’s a sight I look forward to seeing when I’m lucky enough to notice this ritual in motion. Whether witnessing the man placing the tree into the sunlight or even just seeing the tree already in its spot fills my heart with joy. This man’s beautiful ritual reminds me of the level of care I need to make sure I’m giving to myself. And this is also the same level of care you might want to be giving to yourself, as well.

When we care for something, it thrives. This can be seen in my neighbor’s Bonsai Tree or even in the happiness level of my dog, Latte. It’s therefore important that we give the same kind of love and care to ourselves—as well as our health-minded goals. This might initially seem like common sense. But often, when we discuss our goals with others, we frame things in the negative: “I haven’t been able to do this” or “I am such a loser when it comes to that.”

When people I know tell me they need to lose weight, I can often detect a degree of self-loathing in their tone. I can relate—knowing how much I hated myself when I weighed over 450 pounds.

This disdain for ourselves is an approach we’ve been taught is beneficial and will likely facilitate change. The thinking being, “You hate how you look, so do something about it.” But after learning to love myself at any size (both before and after I took off 250 pounds of excess weight), I am grateful to pass along what I’ve learned. If we actually love and care for ourselves — even as we are now in this very moment (no matter how many pounds overweight or how far from any goal)—we become more likely to encounter faster success.

If you know a good friend or family member that’s facing a challenge, you want to help them. But if it’s someone you have distaste for, you don’t really care if they succeed in their quest or not. Well, time for you to think of yourself in a more affectionate way and afford yourself the very same degree of care that my neighbor gives his Bonsai Tree or that I give my dog.

Do something kind for yourself today—throughout this day and everyday. And remind yourself why you’re a supermodel (which, for the record, you are). Suddenly, if you’re wanting to lose weight or reach any goal you’ve set out for yourself (health-related or otherwise), you’re doing it because you care, not because you’re disgusted. That’s going to make the journey a lot more pleasant and, I imagine, a lot more successful.

Just like my neighbor’s Bonsai Tree, it’s time for you to position yourself in the warm sunlight of tender loving care—and thrive.

Photo Source: Non Profit Self-Care

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May 28, 2012

Raise the woof

9:15 am - Posted by Gregg

“If your dog is fat, you aren’t getting enough exercise” — Unknown

As some of you know, I am the proud puppy parent to an adorable little ball or fur named Latte. Since he’s a mix of two smaller breed dogs (Maltese and Yorkshire Terrier) and because he was the so-called runt of his litter, Latte’s weight has peaked at just over 6 pounds. Add this to his lighter fur color and I’ve been armed with the aside that ‘Latte is as close to a Size 0, natural blonde as I’ll ever get to being.’

And yet, all kidding aside, I have been very careful to never feed Latte more than he needs – not to mention to always make sure he eats very healthfully and gets enough exercise. People joke with me about being obsessive about Latte’s health and weight. And I must admit that I am. But this is because I’m often appalled at the number of overweight dogs I see when taking Latte to the nearby small dog off-leash park. Out of the corner of my eye I’ll spot what I think is an animatronic footrest waddling across the park – only to later realize it’s an extremely overweight dog.

Any vet will tell you that it’s just as unhealthy for a dog to be overweight as it is for a human to be. And putting a dog on a diet is quite difficult (something I’ve vowed to never have to do with Latte). One look down the dog food aisle at your local grocer (seeing all of the bags of ‘diet dog food’) will show you that the canine population is facing as similar of an ordeal regarding obesity as we humans are.

One of the biggest culprits of this fat dog epidemic is owners – and even trainers – who use food as a reward.

Latte, a trained service dog, had a wonderful teacher who was determined that dogs learn commands and behaviors through praise and love – rather than treats and food. In fact, part of Latte’s ‘final exam’ for becoming a certified service dog required him to travel 30 feet to someone calling him while moving past a number of dog cookies and treats scattered in his path. If he stopped to sniff or eat one of the treats, he wouldn’t have passed (or graduated, as it were). This might sound like a mind game of sorts, but as a service dog (and even for his own safety), it’s important that Latte come when called – no matter what temptations lie in his path.

To be honest, I’m not sure that even if I was on fire and running toward a bucket of water I wouldn’t be tempted to stop if someone laid out chips or ice cream in my path. But Latte? He’s the man. He can do it. And I love that although I have food issues, my dog does not.

What can we humans learn from this? Mainly to keep our kids (be they human or furry) and ourselves from becoming too motivated by food. Love and praise is a much better – and healthier – reward (mentally and physically). Sure, food can often be a treat that can be savored and enjoyed to its fullest. But when held out as a reason to accomplish something, we’re sending others (or ourselves) the wrong message.

Even as you build rewards into your own life when working toward a goal (whether weight loss, career or otherwise related), create rewards that won’t harm your psyche or (heaven forbid) turn you into an animatronic footrest.

And just for the record, a lick from an adoring puppy is one of the very best rewards there is.

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October 10, 2011

Where’s your joy?

9:37 am - Posted by Gregg

The other evening I was quickly walking through my home office when I was suddenly startled by a loud squeak. I looked down to see that I’d just stepped on one of what seems like hundreds of toys that are strewn throughout my home. I try to keep these toys picked up so they remain contained in one of two toy baskets, but most are constantly in use and, therefore, often waiting to surprise me with a squeak attack when I’m hurrying from one room to another.

Looking at the toys, you might conclude that I had a toddler (or two). I do have a wee one that plays with all the toys. And he is two years old. But he’s covered in fur, weighs 7 pounds and is named Latte – an adorable little Morkie (if I do say so myself). And he is truly one of the biggest joys of my life.

To say Latte is spoiled rotten would be an understatement, although he really is one of the sweetest, happiest little guys you could ever hope to meet. And boy, does he love to play with toys. So despite my mimicking the evil Berger-Meister-Meister-Berger and often proclaiming “There will be no more toys!,” there inevitably are more toys – whether received as gifts or bought by this “Daddy” who can’t resist his “Kid.” Thus, there are toys all over my home – usually in various states of play.

So the other evening, when I stepped on a toy and realized I was standing in a virtual minefield of toys, I didn’t get irritated. Instead, I realized that all of these toys that were seemingly making my otherwise well organized home look messy were symbols of joy for me. Representing joy embodied in a 7-pound pooch full of unconditional love… Joy embodied in toys that the said pooch plays joyfully with… Joy embodied in a squeaky toy reminding me to slow down for a second and smell the roses – or count the toys, in any case.

Here’s where I must confess that I didn’t always find joy in everyday objects. Back in the day, when I weighed in excess of 450 pounds, I was constantly looking to food to provide my joy in life. And at the time, I was sure that food was providing just that – joy.

Looking back, I can see now that the massive amount of unhealthy food I was eating was actually doing just the opposite of providing joy. I’d be so miserable after a binge and in such mental and physical pain, that as soon as I had room in my stomach, I would once again seek comfort from food.

This “Food for Joy Syndrome” continued for years and years – until I finally broke the cycle by realizing I had to find other sources of joy to use in place of the food. Imagine my surprise when I realized that food had never really been providing comfort or joy in the first place but, instead, had been keeping me from it.

Living in California, I’m surrounded by self-help gurus who constantly remind us that there is joy in every minute. I used to guffaw at such “nutty-crunchy” theories. But these days, surrounded by toys and other “small” blessings, I realize that there really is joy to be found in whichever direction you look – as long as you’re not looking in the direction of the refrigerator.

I’m not saying food can’t bring us joy on occasion. But food really is more delicious (and potentially more full of joy) when eaten in balance, in moderation and in the right portions. Otherwise, the food isn’t providing joy as much as it’s providing a numbing effect. And that can cut us off from many of life’s other – and very real – joys (including smaller sized clothes, a healthier heart, more self confidence and a less stressful social life).

By breaking ourselves free from the cycle of equating our only joy with food, we free ourselves – not only to meet our weight loss or health-oriented goals, but also to really appreciate everything around us. Whether it’s a lick on the face from a puppy, a favorite TV show, a call from an old friend or a beautiful sunrise, there can be joy in every minute if we set out to acknowledge said joys.

And in times that we’re rushing around, too busy to count our blessings, we can hope for a squeaky dog toy or some kind of other reminder to bring us back into the moment and help us realign ourselves with what’s really important in our lives.

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September 17, 2011

Strut your stuff

8:46 am - Posted by Gregg

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 1,000 times: “I don’t have time to exercise.” But enough about my first words every morning when the alarm rings at around 4:30am.

I joke, of course. People that know me will tell you I’m a little obsessive about exercise. After all, I used to be one of those people who could never find time to do it – or who used every excuse in the world not to do it. But suffice it to say, there is no excuse. And even if you have no excess weight to lose, you’ve still got to get moving on a daily basis. And I don’t mean to and from the refrigerator.

Thanks to walking, there really is no excuse to not be exercising. It’s the great common denominator that can be done by the youngest of the young and the oldest of the old. No gym required. And yes, a large part of my exercise regime while shedding 250 pounds included walking. Slow at first. A little faster in the middle. And power walking by the end of my weight loss journey (as well as today). It’s this kind of step-by-step attitude that got me to my goal – and it can get you to yours.

The best news is that walking can be done virtually anywhere: around your neighborhood, on a treadmill at the gym (or in your garage), or even at the local mall when the weather outside is frightful. No membership fees required to join the walking club. And along with everything you’ll gain, you’ll also lose – assuming you’re walking the correct way.

Now don’t roll your eyes or – heaven forbid – stop reading this blog entry. It really is easy to commit yourself to a walking program. Along with a comfortable and supportive pair of sneakers, you also need clothes you can comfortably sweat in. Add an iPod with your favorite fast-paced songs and you’re ready to go.

Start out with a few stretches if you’d like. Or begin and end with a slower, more leisurely walking pace. You do want to ease your body into and out of the aerobic walking activity. But in the middle? You want to feel like you’re working – and working hard. This is about increasing your heart’s health while also making you’re figure look oh-so-fine. (And yes, I will be the judge of that!)

Remember when walking that posture is key. This means always standing upright, shoulders back, belly in. In fact, you should be consciously holding your stomach in (as if you’re doing a crunch) during the entire walk. And yeah, I know this is going to make the walk more difficult. But that’s the point. You want to make the walk mean something – which requires working from your core (a ‘core’ element of all successful exercise).

Along with sucking in your gut, you want to pump your arms, back and forth, in opposition to your leg movement. Make sure your feet come into full contact with the ground and lift off accordingly. No twisted ankles, if you please. You also want to maintain a fast pace that makes you feel like you’re working out. That being said, you never want to be fully out of breath or unable to carry on a conversation. But you do want to feel the burn. Or, at the very least, the pace. In other words, you want someone who sees you walking to wonder if you’re a new military recruit. (And the answer, by the way, is ‘yes you are – a recruit dedicated to a happier and healthier life.’)

When walking the blocks (of your neighborhood) make sure you keep an eye on traffic and keep the iPod volume at a level in which you could hear a ‘honk’ from a car (or, if you’re lucky enough, a flattering whistle). You want your legs walking and arms pumping for a continues period, which, yes, means looking like a dope as you wait for the light to change to cross the street. But please, be one of ‘those people’ who stands at the crosswalk stepping in place. Who cares what other people think? You’re going to be a model, damnit. Or, at the very least, a model citizen.

Walking with friends (furry or otherwise) can slow you down a bit. Sure, walking and talking can be fun. But don’t let dishing the gossip or stopping for Fido to mark a tree slow you down. As much as I love walking with my puppy around town, those are usually ‘bonus walks’ for me, because my pooch likes to sniff just about everything, which slows down my pace greatly. So make sure you designate the difference between a dog walk, social walk or exercise-intentioned walk.

The key to successful walking is to get your heart rate up for a sustained period of time – at least 20 minutes and hopefully longer as your walking endurance increases to 30, 45 or even 60 minutes a day. Yes, a day. Don’t let the government’s physical activity guidelines fool you. We are a sedentary society that needs to get up off our butts and MOVE. And walking is a great way to do that on a daily basis.

Besides losing excess weight and feeling great (I just made a poem!), walking’s benefits are many. According to the Mayo Clinic, walking can help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the so-called “bad” cholesterol), raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” stuff), lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of or even help manage Type 2 Diabetes, manage weight, improve mood and help us to stay strong and fit. Who needs more reasons to walk than these? Other than that putting on your skinny jeans won’t require a Hail Mary or pair of pliers to zip them up.

You do not change your physique, your inner health and your life by phoning it in. This is why I get up around 4:30am every morning. I’m at the gym by 5am and finished working out around 6:30am, 7 days a week. Do I hate when the alarm rings? Hell yes I do. Do I love how I feel after my workout? Abso-friggin-lutely. I promise you will, too – once you making working out (walking out!) a priority in your life.

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