I’m going to touch on the subject of responsibility, obligation and accountability as a source to drive you to lead a healthier life. If you have any living thing that you are responsible for, be it children or pets, you are obligated to provide for them a healthy, active, and engaging life. End of story. You have the choice to bring these entities into your life. They depend on you. If you don’t do everything in your power to keep them healthy, you are expressly and unambiguously failing at one of your most important jobs. No arguments.
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Because I do not currently have human children, I’ll be focusing this article on the dependents that I do have – my animals. Make no mistake; the following points apply even more heavily to all of your homo-sapien monsters!
Got it? Moving on…
First of all, those of you who are saying, “This crap doesn’t apply to me, I have no dependents,” well damnit, get you some! That is, if you are in a spot where you can afford both adequate time and the financial load of properly raising and caring for an animal, please for the love of all that is important in this world, adopt an animal! Obviously, never make a commitment to another life if you aren’t willing and prepared to see it through to the bitter end. But oh man! What a blessing they are! Animals will improve your quality of life in a way that nothing else really will. What quirks, what entertainment, what love they contribute! The benefits just don’t seem to end.
Animals boost your health in many ways
Having dogs and cats in your household is known to boost your immune system, and make you less prone to allergies. They lower your anxiety levels and mitigate stress hormones. Depression, both normal and clinical, can be eased or chased away entirely. Having animals around lowers your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as lower levels of bad cholesterol. By boosting your serotonin and dopamine levels, your animals keep you in a better place mentally and physically! There really are few reasons not to add one (or two…or three….or more…) to your family! Check out this site for more details! https://petpartners.org/learn/benefits-human-animal-bond/
Now it’s your turn
Your little loves help you out on so many levels. What can you do for them? Keep them healthy. Keep them active. Keep them engaged. What does this all spell out to? I’ll break it down.
- Feed them well: I distinctly do not mean feed them a lot. I mean feed them well. Your animals are part of your family. You are obligated to treat them as such. Just like human kids, they need the appropriate nutrition in appropriate quantities, at appropriate times. Your dog does not need all of your leftovers. They do not need a million treats. Processed ass bread is not some shit that your dog needs to be consuming. Have you ever seen wild dogs hunting a wheat field? No. Much like you, your dog needs quality sources of proteins, carbs, fats, minerals, vitamins, probiotics, etc. Your cat needs more protein than your dog. You need more fiber… See where I am going with this? Being different creatures, we have different needs. Do an ass load of research and find a quality food that is appropriate for your respective animals, and give it to them in appropriate amounts. Feed only healthy treats; and what? You guessed it; in appropriate amounts.
- Keep them physically active: Again, just like you your little friends need to exercise on a daily basis to maintain peak health. Again, it is your responsibility to make sure they are getting an appropriate (if not the bare minimum) amount of daily activity. Always keep in mind what is appropriate for the individual. Hard strenuous activity isn’t right for young ones whose growth plates haven’t sealed; a quarter-mile slow-paced walk isn’t enough for a three year old working breed dog. We’ve all seen stories about (great) pet owners taking their elderly animals to water for some mild exercise that eases arthritic pain. Be that guy! Be proactive, and adjust to their needs as they grow and change. This is kind of the main point of this article – you get out and take them for jaunts, you’re all getting some exercise. Your bond will tighten as your body does. Whoot!
- Keep them mentally stimulated: Mental health is a huge part of overall health! Never forget this. It applies to every creature. Bored horses weave in their stalls. Bored cats push expensive things off of heights. Bored kids draw on walls and dump sacks of flour on your carpet. Bored dogs chew your furniture. Displacement behavior is punished, but all in all, there should have been some other outlet available for this energy. It’s not their fault. It’s yours. Deal with it. You need to adapt to the situation that you have decided to be in. Puzzle toys, chew toys, anything that they respond to needs to be subbed in to keep your dependents stimulated (and your stuff intact). You wouldn’t be ok without mental stimulation either. Play is the answer!
And if you don’t?
Let me tell you a story. This is a true story, it could happen to you. It likely will if you let your babies get into poor health. This is a horror story. One of heartbreak, of pain, of bitterness. This is a story of good intentions that ended with an early death and one of the most difficult lessons I’ve ever learned. This is a story about one of my best friends.
Oh my buddy Jack. My riding buddy, my ranch pal. Jack came into the family as a spur of the moment decision one day when I was fairly young. He was some sort of adorable terrier mix. We called him white lightning when he was young; the little shit was so fast you couldn’t make out anything but a blur of pale fur streaking by when he ran past. His favorite thing was to round up all of the big dogs at the dog park and make them chase him.
Jackson had some coat problems as he grew, and our family was introduced to the idea that mainstream dog food is usually damn poor quality. A corn allergy was causing hot spots, he would chew away the fur and rough at his skin until it bled on his back and legs. We became fairly conscious of his regular diet, and the issue was remedied. But little attention was paid to the extras he got. In a family of fairly inactive people, he got little exercise as he aged. He ate everyone’s leftovers. Several times the curly devil became a footstool, until efforts were made to cut down on his weight. He fluctuated like this for quite some time.
I came home from my internship and realized he was in incredibly poor health, and had ballooned to an uncomfortable weight. It is so hard to break out of the thought that to feed is to love. This is not so. Drastic restrictions were made to his diet. No extras. Ever. He started to lose some weight, but it was too late. His health had been irreparably compromised, and diabetes had irreversibly set in.
His health careened downhill over a very short time period. He would cry and howl in the night out of desperation to empty his painfully full bladder. His eye’s clouded over and he became entirely blind in less than two weeks. His coat became wispy and brittle. His weight dropped until he was a frail, grumpy old man before his time. I remember every day in this time period coming home from work, he would want to greet me at the door as the other dogs did, but he couldn’t find his way in his new dark world. I’d knock on the floor so he could find his way to me, and I’d sit on the floor with him in my lap while I made sure everyone got their attention.
Oh my heart. My guilt, my grief. I watched my friend deteriorate, I watched him suffer terribly and needlessly for our mistakes. I would hold him and weep, bitterly, just as I do now while I recall this. We laid him to rest the day after my 22nd birthday, and buried him in the yard on one of the hardest days I’ve yet experienced. I loved my Jack dearly. I love him still, and always will. I sincerely believe he would be alive today had he been in good health, as he should have been, throughout his life. He would be old now, and his time would certainly be soon. But it would be the right time.
There will never be another unhealthy animal under my care. There will never be any ambiguity; I will never accept anything else. I have become a hardened steward, strict to the point of anger and condemnation towards any who disobey the rules I have laid out for my dependents. I will NEVER be even partly responsible for the negative effects of poor health again. Not for my animals. Not for any children I may have. Nothing. This is your responsibility as well. Do not make these mistakes, learn from my pain. Obese animals are not cute, it is as clear a sign of abuse as bruises on your face. To feed is not to love. To nourish is to love. Cement the difference in your brain.
Now we have Charlie, Morgan and Leroy. They are very active (especially Mo, the little psycho) and have a closely monitored diet. They get extras as are appropriate in relation to their activity level for the day. For example, Leroy eats whatever he wants to from whatever he hunts and kills. He comes and goes as he pleases, and lives the ideal cat life. Really, I adjust his regular food to his weight in response to the season instead of the other way around. He gets fat during the winter from inactivity and goes on a diet. Sometimes he gets fat in the spring from an abundance of rodents. Either way, I’m sure to be very observant and responsive to whatever story his physical condition tells me.
Charlie and Morgan get the occasional egg, olive oil, pumpkin, plain greek yogurt, water from a tuna can, etc. Morgan sometimes needs higher calorie additives to keep up with her killer metabolism and low desire to stop fricken running around to eat the proper volume of food. Antlers and the occasional sow’s ear or hoof don’t usually get counted into their calorie intake.
How my animals have helped push me onto greater health
Aside from all of the usual great effects of having animals around, my dogs have helped to save my life. My responsibility towards them has pushed me to get outside and keep them and myself active on days when I haven’t felt like doing anything. Without this impetus I truly believe I wouldn’t be so near my goal. Charlie and Morgan have actively helped spur me on to lose almost 122 lbs. Jack’s memory picks up in my mind and gives it the sharp boost it needs to stay pointing in the right direction. Failing them is bad enough, but in failing them I would also fail myself.
My life would be of significantly lower quality without them. I am endlessly and forevermore grateful for their indispensable presence. I choose to love and care for them now, and forever. Past their progression into old age. Past the unparalleled bitterness of their deaths. Through all of it. I choose to honor them always by moving forward and caring for another in their stead. Caring for dependents, nourishing their growth and positive progress is possibly my greatest driving force.
To sum things up
Get outside and play with your little ones! Keep them healthy and happy, and replicate these behaviors for yourself. It is your job!
ADOPT an animal! Dedicate your time and your money towards giving them what they deserve. If you can’t make that commitment, then don’t. Seriously. Same goes for having kids.
Spay and neuter your pets! There are more in the world than we can handle. You’ll also be greatly reducing their risk for cancers, infections, and diseases related to their reproductive organs that they really don’t need to be using anyways. . .
For more information about pet obesity, I highly recommend a visit to this site – http://petobesityprevention.org/
TELL ME ABOUT YOURS!
Share your stories. SHARE YOU PICTURES! Tell me about how your little loves’ have improved your life! Let me know in the comments below, or connect with me on any of the following social platforms. Seriously, and especially about this topic, I would loooove to hear about it!
Now, for the disclaimer – I am not a veterinarian, adventure guide, personal trainer, doctor, nutritionist, or medical authority, this is meant to be only a source of information and inspiration, implementing these techniques into your daily life is something you do of your own free will and at your own risk.
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