Filed under: Healthy Swellness

Healthy Swellness: Stand up for clean water with Me to We and Brita

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Last fall, I had a chance to attend the launch event for Brita Canada’s partnership with WE focused on the campaign that’s resulted in a borehole in Irkaat, Kenya. This borehole provides a community of more than 1,800 with access to clean water.

This spring, the program is growing in a pretty awesome way. We all make use of reusable water bottles, or we all should be (to cut down on bottles going into landfills, and besides, it’s good for our bodies to stay well hydrated with water). And now, as of March 2017, your purchase of this specially marked Brita Me to We statement bottle (it’s $19.99) will provide a year’s supply of clean water to a person in Irkaat.

I think it’s especially cool because you can actually check online how your purchase has made an impact. On each Brita Me to We product, there’s a Track Your Impact code; enter it online and you can see how you’ve helped make a difference.

The 700-mL bottle features the Brita replaceable water filter (I already use a Brita filter at home because I prefer the cleaner taste) and every reusable bottle has been shown to replace 300 plastic water bottles. I’ll admit that don’t always remember to bring a reusable bottle with me when I head out for a workout other than a run (I’m very careful about hydrating for a run) and I do tend to use my S’well bottle to keep my water cold on hot days. But I like this Brita Me to We bottle because it’s lightweight and I feel like I don’t have to be as precious with it (I’m always scared of scratching or denting my S’well), and the biggest plus of this bottle is that it’s great to be able to filter water on the go.

And of course, there’s the pretty great feel-good factor off knowing this small purchase helps provide clean water for a full year to someone in Kenya.

To get your own Brita Me to We limited edition bottle, you can find it at Wal-Mart, Real Canadian Superstore, Real Atlantic Superstore, Loblaws and Zehrs locations.

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Leave a Comment March 22, 2017

Pet Swellness: Welcome home, Billie Jean

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“What have I gotten myself into???”

This is what I asked myself late the night of February 3rd. This was the night my first official Save Our Scruff foster dog, Billie Jean, was dropped off at my place by a transport volunteer (fostering means I open up my home to a rescue dog until it is adopted, and while in my care, help train it, bring it to vet visits, meet with trainers if needed and learn the dog’s personality so that the organization can find the right home for the dog).

Billie Jean had just landed from a rescue org in the Dominican Republic and she was cowering in sheer fear as far back of the crate as she could. I’d opened the crate door and was trying to convince her it was fine, and had reached in to pet her, and she had snapped at my hand. And I freaked out a little.

I left her alone for a bit, but then sat outside her crate chatting to her, thinking that’d be comforting. After awhile I went to add a blanket so she’d have something soft to sleep on, and she went to snap at me again. WTF. I went to bed and figured I’d figure out what to do in the morning.

I found out from the awesome team at Save Our Scruff that I was basically doing everything you shouldn’t do with a very terrified dog. The talking, the eye contact, the trying to pet her — this is all intimidating and scary. So I spent the day just cooking and hanging out at home, reading online about how to handle scared dogs. In the early afternoon, I saw Billie Jean had exited the crate and was sitting near it, so I sidled up to her slowly and just stood next to her and let her sniff my hand, which I just left by my side (I didn’t reach out — but had I, I would’ve done it palm up; learned this from the reading I’d done that day). She quickly returned to the crate, but a couple of hours later, she exited the crate and went straight onto my bed.

I’d have just let her hang out there alone til she felt less scared, but my cats were hiding in the closet, and I wasn’t sure what would happen if they emerged, so I thought I’d better be in the room, so I shuffled in slowly backwards and lay facing away from Billie Jean. After about 10 minutes, I reached back to let her smell my hand, and then later I pet her. She sat upright and tense, on guard, for about an hour before she felt comfortable enough to relax a little and lie down more comfortably.

That was one of our breakthrough moments in terms of our bonding, but getting her to go outside to walk was extremely draining, physically and emotionally, for both of us, I think. She’s only about 42 lbs but Billie Jean is surprisingly strong if she’s using every ounce of her being to resist me. I had to wrestle her into my arms to get her out of my door (and carrying a 42-lb dog is awkward!) and then she would burrow herself close to the wall or into the bushes.  So “walks” were really just me standing there with a terrified dog that was hiding. And there was no such thing as a quick walk, since the entire ordeal would take over an hour. The trainer’s email said that me facing away from the dog with light tension on the leash would be motivation for BJ to stay with me…which I had a good laugh about at the time, because Billie Jean had zero motivation to stay with me at all. Her only goal was to not be outside at all, and hiding and not moving in any way she could was her life mission. Neighbours would walk by with their dogs and chuckle sympathetically at me with the dog refusing to budge.

I was frustrated, heartbroken for this scared dog, and simply didn’t know how long I could foster this dog for because I didn’t have time to spend four hours a day walking her. I was low on patience. But I don’t like to give up, so I vowed to commit to two weeks of fostering her and seeing whether she’d improve. But I felt that maybe I simply wasn’t cut out for the commitment fostering calls for. Perhaps I’d been lucky with the rescue dogs I’d dogsat for SOS; they’d all been relatively well-behaved and mostly trained. Billie Jean was proving to be a lot of work and caring for her was all-consuming and I had stuff I had to do on top of fostering.

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And then, seemingly out of nowhere, on day 5, Billie Jean decided to walk outside. Getting her out the door eventually got easier as well. And after about a week we were walking more than an hour some days. After a visit with a Save Our Scruff trainer, we started on crate training and she took to that really quickly. Now she understands that meals take place in her crate and sleep time. This also helped her to learn that the bed and sofa are off limits, unless I allow her to (she still attempts to make it happen though! She’s persistent, we share that in common!).

She also got more affectionate with me. One day I walked into the bedroom and I thought I’d scared her, but it turns out Billie Jean was wagging her tail at me. I’d never seen her do that, which is why I didn’t realize what was happening at first. Another day, she was lounging in her Casper dog bed (which Casper generously gave me for my foster dogs) and I was on the sofa and I said “Hi, Billie Jean!” and she walked over, put one paw on my shoulder and licked my face. And I thought my heart would explode.

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I saw that she was great with the cats, and is very quiet (to this day, I’ve never heard her bark; I’ve only heard her growl at some dogs). And given her energy level and lean build and her breed (hound cross), I thought I’d try running with her, and she runs really well. She keeps alongside me at a good pace…but who’s kidding who, she could go much faster, she just maintains my now slow pace.

I can’t recall when I started considering adopting this cutie pie, but I knew with every day that it’d be hard to give her up. And when I got the email two weeks into fostering that it was time to fill out the Save Our Scruff paperwork so that an adoption listing could be written up, I was filled with panic that Billie Jean would no longer be in my life. I told SOS I was considering adopting her, and they gave me more time to think.

And over the next week, I talked to other dog owners about the realities of owning a dog.  I tried to work out which friends would be able to take care of her when I have to travel. I thought long and hard if whether this was the right dog, and the right time of my life for a dog.

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Because I’ve always wanted a dog. When I was living in Montreal, I’d often visit the SPCA there just to see the dogs. I’m always the one petting dogs on the street, even ones I probably shouldn’t be (street dogs in foreign countries, for example). I asked for a dog as a kid (denied!) and as an adult (also denied!), despite dropping hints each and every year how a dog would be the most incredible gift ever. About 10 years ago, I’d read several books about dog breeds and narrowed it down to a handful (with key factors being “good with cats” and “low energy” — this was before I became a runner!). I photocopied the chapters so that when I was ready to adopt, I’d have the info on the breeds that would work well with my lifestyle. It’s my love of dogs that lead me to volunteer with Save Our Scruff in the first place. I have the cats and have volunteered with cats, but I love dogs and cats equally (I think you can be both a cat and dog person!) so when I heard about SOS, I realized it was a way to get some time with dogs, or in the case of doing home visits initially (that is, making sure potential homes for the dogs are safe) that I’d be helping dogs in need of a loving home in my own small way.

And after more than a week of consideration, I decided Billie Jean had to be part of my family, and applied to Save Our Scruff and within a week, was told that Billie Jean would be joining my fur family. That week or so I spent debating the adoption, I truly needed that time to make sure I wasn’t making an emotional decision. But I believe the timing is right. And as much as I may have helped her, she’s also helped me. Last year was a hectic one, and 2015 was an awful one personally. In 2016, I ran around like a crazy person; I know to many people this will sound like first-world problems and that it’ll fall on deaf ears, but I simply traveled too much. I ended the year burnt out and knowing I need to travel less and have  more of a routine and make more time for me. And after five straight weeks at home in 2017, four of them with Billie Jean, who forces me to have a routine (minimum of three walks daily, meals at a certain time — although she’s not that demanding of a dog, tbh), I felt so much anxiety and stress melt away (except for that first week with her — then stress was at an all-time high trying to help this terrified pup adapt to life in Canada!). I’ve already started to turn down travel opportunities (both personal and work-related) so that I can be more rooted at home, but when I do travel, I have support of friends who I know will care for and love Billie Jean as much as I do. And life, thanks to Billie Jean, is better. Happier. More focused on the things that matter.

I’m looking forward to a lifetime of adventures with this new member to my family. I wasn’t expecting to be a foster fail, but am so thrilled that I am.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Save Our Scruff for bringing this beauty into my life and for all of your help along the way.

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Leave a Comment March 15, 2017

Healthy Swellness: Rethink Tires this year as you resolve to get fit!

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As someone who hasn’t owned a car for quite a while, I must admit I haven’t given much thought as to what happens to used car tires when they are thrown away. When it was brought to my attention that just disposing of them means that thousands of tires are just ending up in landfills, it was scary to think about. I feel I’m pretty aware of how much garbage I create in terms of packaging, clothing and the like, but tires, that’s a significant level of waste, to put it mildly.

Knowing this, I was happy to learn about the good work of Ontario Tire Stewardship; since 2009, their Used Tires Program has diverted close to 100 million tires from landfills! How does it work? Well, when you have old tires to get rid of, rather than dropping them at the dump or tossing them with the trash, you bring them to a registered collector and they’ll have your tires hauled so they can be responsibly recycled into new products.

I didn’t realize that tires can be made into other useful items, such as surfacing for playgrounds and flooring for gyms – which you know speaks to me! I had the opportunity to test out recycled rubber flooring in a gym I worked out in recently. The flooring is super soft underfoot and provides a lot of cushioning, it’s easy to keep clean, and it’s slip resistant.

And that cushioning is great not only for any high impact exercises you may do, but also, say, if you drop a heavy dumbbell (which my weak arms have been very close to doing more than once) It’s also a budget-friendly option, so I’d definitely want this in my home gym, if I were to have the space at home.

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With winter here (and perhaps you’ve made some fitness New Year’s resolutions), you may be wanting to do more of your workouts indoors. Consider looking into the repurposed rubber flooring option  and remember, you typically don’t need much space to get in a good workout. So carving out a corner where you can get Zen or do some strength training using your own body weight won’t call for much flooring.

Many of the other ways the tires are repurposed are for the outdoors such as rubber landscape tiles and rubber mulch, which I didn’t even know existed but plan to try in my potted plants in the nicer weather. It can also be used for landscaping bricks, paving, planters and roofing shakes – something to keep in mind for spring when you decide to do some renos or updates. I’m also thinking these tiles would be an easy way for me to spruce up my downtown balcony floor, which I’ve left as the builder made it: plain and grey. A soft rubber flooring would be much more inviting.

So enough daydreaming about the nice weather… and back to the resolutions. In addition to hitting the gym in 2017, remember to Rethink Tires and ways that repurposed tire products can be used in your life. You’ll be doing the planet some good, which is a great way to make 2017 even better than last year.  

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Leave a Comment January 4, 2017

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