Thursday 27 March 2014

When I'm King ...

Yeah, yeah, I know ... I said I was cutting back to weekly posts, but this one just sort of came about. :)

Dogs and their people will be allowed to play on tennis courts on soggy days 
(without risking $2,000 fines).

This scene will have a lot less heavy metal in it.

Businesses will use apostrophes (and silent consonants) correctly.
Good job, Lucky's!

These two freighters will be the only ones in the inlet.

Cities that never get snow won't be allowed to have hockey teams.

There will be taxes. Yep. The money will be used to provide excellent health care and education for all and to restore and protect the environment. The more dough you make, the more you'll pay ... nothing if you're just getting by, and no loopholes for bazillionaires. Actually, there won't be any bazillionaires, since it's just not possible to make such extravagant amounts of money without screwing people over somehow.

Goofy mascots will be optional.

Chocolate and coffee will be recognized as a food group.
(And the winner of Lotto Max will pay a crapload of tax.)

Shelter dogs and cats will be recruited en masse to work as service/therapy animals.

However, Freddie's nose will go back to sniffing whatever gross things it likes because the Faustman Lab will have received enough support to do away with Type 1 diabetes.

Tell me this face isn't therapeutic. :)

Now it's your turn: what will happen when YOU are king?

Tuesday 25 March 2014

A Diet for Dogs and Diabetics?

For several years I ate a mostly vegetarian diet. I continued to eat fish, but other meats were off the menu. Pasta and rice were the foundations of many a meal; breakfast was cereal, fruit, toast. My reasons? I believed it was the healthiest option, and I was concerned about the treatment of animals raised for food.

Waiting for the delivery truck, behind Whole Foods

Then I started paying closer attention to the ways different foods affected my blood sugar levels. I read some books and articles about a phenomenon I'd already experienced first-hand — the extreme difficulty of matching exogenous insulin doses to carbohydrate intake — and I radically cut back on carbs. While nothing makes Type 1 diabetes easy to control, reducing my carb intake made things a little easier by limiting the impact of one of the four hundred variables that can affect blood sugar control.

Predictably and reasonably, some people asked: "Don't you need carbs to fuel your exercise?"

I used to think so, but apparently not. I haven't noticed any change in my energy levels (other than the usual fluctuations I've always experienced). And, for what it's worth, lots of low-carb/primal/paleo nutrition experts, argue that the small quantity of glucose we do need (for the brain) can be manufactured internally or acquired through a small amount of dietary carbohydrate.

Kinda cute, how this guy identifies himself ...

[This photo has nothing to do with food, except that it was taken on a walk with Freddie during which I was thinking about this post!]

Going back to my vegetarianism, however, cutting back on carbs also meant cutting back on meal options. So I started eating meat again (except for pork — pigs are just too much like dogs for me to think of them as food).

Fortunately, by this time, there were lots of pasture-raised/free-range/drug-free/organic/hippy-dippy/ethical meat choices available (though I realize that, for many people, there's no such thing as "ethical" when it comes to eating animals, and I respect that view ... except when it means feeding a vegan diet to a carnivorous pet!).

There was also, by the time I cut back on carbs, an interesting and growing body of research indicating that sugar and grains are a far more serious health threat than poor ol' demonized fat.

I enjoy eating meat/eggs/fish, and, having experienced various health improvements (not just diabetes ones) after ditching grain products, I can honestly say I'm not missing pasta or bread or cereal (OK, maybe cereal a little bit — but it's very weird not to be tempted much by the likes of hot cross buns and chocolate croissants).

Enter Freddie — befanged hunter/scavenger, digester of raw prey, gnawer of bloodied bones!

Winner of today's pinkest tongue prize!

[Yesterday we tried a new trail. We've now walked 12 of the 33 dog-friendly trails in Pacific Spirit Park! Freddie sniffed much potential prey but caught nothing — not even a low blood sugar, as I was more or less in range the whole time.]

Freddie loves his food, and although much of it comes from a specialty shop for dogs and cats (I've written about the place here), he sometimes eats the same stuff that Paul and I do. The last time I made stew, for example, I set aside a portion of raw lamb chunks for Freddie's dinner and cooked the rest for us (and the guy down at the dog park). I'm convinced by the people who argue that grains are bad for dogs, so Freddie's diet is, like mine, grain-free. He doesn't seem to like vegetables as much as I do, but if you count green tripe, which he loves, then our diets are really quite similar.

The Bone Mat!

AND YET (there's always a "but") ... it's unsettling, to put it mildly, that my dog (not to mention his humans) eats considerably better than most of the world's population. "Steak for everyone" is obviously not a sustainable dietary plan for the planet, even if all the vegetarians were to opt out.

Much bigger brains than mine have been tackling this problem for some time now and aren't in any need of my assistance. In our own little family, however, I'm thinking it might be time to replace much of the lamb and beef with ocean-wise fish and/or to start experimenting with stews of smaller, foresty animals (rabbits?). Food for thought ...

And now, on a completely different topic ... it's that time of year again! The time when Heather and Paul start anticipating the summer teaching term and spending increasing numbers of hours engaged in, er, scholarly pursuits.  

Walking With Freddie has, since its inception in late September 2013, been posting almost daily, but, for the next few months, I'll be cutting back to a weekly(ish) schedule. If you've been enjoying the blog and want to be notified of new posts, be sure to sign up for email notifications (on the home page) and/or, if you have a Google+ account, sign up as a Walking With Freddie follower (also on the home page).

Many thanks, as always, for your visit!

Sunday 23 March 2014

Sunday Evenin' Sermon: Shift Judgment to Curiosity

Google the phrase in this post title and the hits will take you to life coaching websites, spiritual websites, conflict mediation websites ... even an article from Forbes Magazine, which promises that shifting judgment  to curiosity will make you not only happier but more prosperous as well.

I first encountered this bit of life advice many years ago, when I was teaching elementary school. It was hanging over the principal's desk. I was in there with a couple of colleagues for a meeting (not my favourite activity), and the single commandment struck me. Being opinionated and oft judgmental myself (not my best quality), I haven't managed to put it into effect with any great consistency ... but the idea has remained with me over the years as a worthwhile and important one.

[Spot the dog.]

One of the things I've discovered is that being sincerely and non-judgmentally curious isn't easy. Questions such as "Why does Darth let his dog act like a maniac at the dog park?" or "Hey, Mabel, how can you stand being hooked up to all those diabetes devices all the time?" aren't really expressions of curiosity at all; they're just thinly-disguised judgments.

And then there's the "I just can't understand how so-and-so could possibly ... blah blah blah" type of comment, which reveals (in my judgmental opinion) that the speaker hasn't really tried to understand at all.

Art, Science, or both?

But managing to shift from judgment to genuine curiosity is a great thing. The principle doesn't require an abandoning of our own views, nor does it ask us to accept everything that other people do or believe. I think it does, however, discourage spontaneous criticisms, as well as those that are made without a decent understanding of the complexities of a particular situation. Questioning before judging gives some thinking space.

I wonder how Darth feels about his dog pinning other dogs down at the park? 

I wonder if he's tried some techniques that haven't worked?

"Hey, Mabel, what was it like switching from shots to a pump?"

"What are the best things about your CGM?"

And finally: It seems like my neighbour really wanted to pet my dog. I wonder what good things she was hoping to get from the interaction? And when I tried to talk to her ... how could that have come across? Threatening? Embarrassing? Food for thought ...

Where the Streets Have No Name

And so ends this evening's sermon. Be curious and have a great week!

Friday 21 March 2014

"Is It SAFE?"

I'm too much of a scaredy-cat to watch the Hoffman/Olivier thriller that the first part of my post title comes from — I can't even watch the famous dental instrument scene to the end. But this morning, like many mornings, I did something that has made a few different people, for a few different reasons, ask me: "Is it safe?"

There are indeed risks ...

Though unlikely in the areas we frequent, Freddie could come face to face with a coyote or a black bear — a showdown in which a Labradoodle isn't likely to fare well.

My blood sugar could crash without any warning signals while Freddie is off sniffing after squirrels.

OK, it's not crashing here (the number that doesn't show up very well is 10.3), but you get the idea.

Despite very good signage (and a Stupidphone equipped with a GPS), I'm entirely capable of getting lost ...

... which, combined with a blood sugar disaster, could be, well, disastrous.

I could slip and sprain an ankle.

A psycho killer could drag me into the forest, where, although someone would very likely hear me scream (and a tree fall), a lot of damage could be done before help arrived.

Apparently Freddie and I could even be electrocuted.

Yes ... some awful-sounding things could happen on a trail walk through the forest — just as awful things could happen on a bicycle, or in a Car2Go, while getting to the forest (and I've fielded the same safety question about those two travel options as well).

So: is it safe? Not 100%. Probably not as safe as a leash walk around the block (depending on traffic).

Is it worth the risks?

Well ...

I think so. And I don't say that blithely. I care about my dog. I care about myself and the people who care about me. There are plenty of adventures that appeal to me in the abstract (racing in the Iditarod? cycling to Tierra del Fuego with Freddie in a trailer?) that I won't ever do because the risks aren't worth it to me. But to live so close to such natural beauty, to love being out in it and yet not make it a part of my life because of statistically possible dangers would feel like a terrible loss.

So Freddie and I will continue to hike the forests — sometimes with Paul, or Leah & pooches, but often just the two of us. If any of our readers are in the neighbourhood and would like to join us, we'd love to see you. Safety in numbers, after all!

Oh, and my aversion to the dentistry scene in Marathon Man? Nothing at all to do with my own dentist, whom I happened to see this afternoon. She's Dr. Mersedeh Shahabaldine, and she's great. She also tells me that my risk of grinding my teeth down to nothing if I don't get a night guard is pretty high. So I'll be seeing her again soon.

Assess your risks and look after your teeth!