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

Foodie Swellness: Hydrating with Bonne O (+ a giveaway!)

Bonne O water

If you’ve ever traveled with me or have followed me on the blog for awhile, you probably know that drinking water is not something I do very often. I drink water when I run, of course, and when I work out, but I haven’t been able to make it a habit to drink several glasses of water daily. I did make a real effort to drink plenty of water years ago when training for my first half-marathon, and found I was frustrated with being in the bathroom all the time. And I noticed that when I stopped guzzling water, my running didn’t seem to be affected, so I stopped drinking it as often (and interestingly, more recent research challenges how much fluid we actually need).

One thing I have been able to do when it comes to hydration is swap out some of the juice and a lot of the soft drinks (I used to consume a half a can daily and now I don’t usually have any in my fridge) and I’ve replaced it with flavoured sparkling water. As you may recall, I tried out Sodastream last year to help me do this, and I was super curious about Bonne O, another at-home machine to make your water bubbly so when this Canadian company asked me to try out their sparkling beverage system, I told them I was in as long as I could share my honest review to which Bonne O said of course.

So, how’s it measure up? My first reaction to the actual Bonne O machine itself is that it’s not very sleek or modern looking. Compared to the modern look of my Sodastream Power, the white machine and overall shape is much less appealing to me than the boxy and more compact shape of the Sodastream Power I have (besides aesthetics, I need kitchen gadgets that take up the least amount of space in my small kitchen, and I feel like Bonne O takes up more counter space).

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Bonne O’s major difference, in my opinion, is the carbonators. What are these mysterious little white pucks that somehow make water bubbly? Instead of the usual heavy canisters of compressed CO2 (the kind you use with Sodastream), Bonne O uses small round pucks, which are made of food-grade materials (think citric acid and sodium bicarbonate) that react with water to create CO2 gas.

Another thing that sets Bonne O apart is you can use it to carbonate lots of different beverages and ingredients. With Sodastream, you’re carbonating water and adding fruit or syrup. But with Bonne O, you can make fruit infusions so that flavours are incorporated during the sparkling process. And, people, you can sparkle wine or your favourite cocktail! Whaaaat. I could get behind some sparkling white wine on a hot summer night!

That said, because I go through phases, lately I’m focusing less on what I’m drinking (my juicer hasn’t been used in while…) and focusing more on cooking, so I’ve been using the Bonne O mostly to drink sparkling water really simply with lemon or lime. But I did whip up some ginger syrup as the Bonne O 100 Sparkling Creations book that comes with the unit inspired me to try the recipe. And the result is delicious, and I like the idea that I’m making my pop from scratch.

So which machine do I prefer? I found that Bonne O, using one carbonation puck, results in exactly the level of bubbliness I enjoy (N.B. You can use half a Bonne O carbonator if you prefer less bubbles). My Sodastream Power, while it offers three levels of carbonation, I found that the results weren’t consistent (I sometimes selected the highest carbonation twice to get a decent amount of bubbles, but sometimes I’d end up with great bubbliness and sometimes less so).

It’s the carbonators that are, in my opinion, the major advantage to the Bonne O system. With my small kitchen’s limited storage and no car to do grocery shopping, I really dislike buying, storing and and returning the CO2 tanks. The carbonators in comparison are lightweight and are in a compact box, and this is what’s won me over. The only thing I feel Bonne O comes in second on is its design, as I mentioned above. Sodastream Power is a much sexier looking machine. If choosing between the two machines, I personally think it boils down to the CO2 tanks vs carbonators and the machine’s design, as I find the actual beverage results pretty comparable if you’re planning on carbonating water (if you’re keen on carbonating wine and other drinks then, of course, Bonne O is the way to go).

And what about that giveaway I mentioned?!

(THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED)

Here it is! You don’t just have to take my word on what Bonne O is like because one lucky winner in my giveaway will win a Bonne O Sparkling Beverage System (valued at $169.99 Canadian/$149.99 U.S.)! The giveaway is open to Canadian and continental U.S. residents. You can enter in three different ways (enter all three ways as each way counts as an entry!):

INSTAGRAM: Follow me on Instagram (@healthandswellness), and comment on the photo related to this giveaway — tell me what beverage you’d use the Bonne O to make. Would you add a certain fruit? A cocktail? Herbs?

TWITTER: Follow me on Twitter (@healthswellness) and tweet:

I love bubbles! And I’d love to win a @bonne_o Sparkling Beverage System from @healthswellness! http://bit.ly/2nCvvQX #bonneoswellness

FACEBOOK: “Like” the Health and Swellness Facebook page, and reply on the photo on the page — tell me how much water you drink daily. I’d love to hear what everyone’s hydration habits are!

This giveaway is open until 11:59 p.m. EST on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. The winner will be chosen at random on March 22, 2017 and contacted via the method they’ve entered to provide their shipping address and contact info.

Thanks, good luck and happy hydrating!

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1 Comment March 14, 2017

Foodie Swellness: DROM Kampot pepper

DROM grinders and pepper

So here’s the truth: I was sent these DROM peppers and two of the beautiful grinders almost six months ago (!) to try out, and I completely forgot about them. I tucked them away and besides was out of town so often last year that I was barely cooking proper meals anyhow. Then I stumbled upon them a few months ago when attempting to organize a little bit of the chaos at home. And I’m so glad I did.

I’ve been cooking more often, thanks to being home for a good solid chunk of time the past month, and it’s been wonderful. I do enjoy cooking (just not the cleaning up) and I definitely enjoy eating! And I’ve gone into full-on nesting mode, which I very much needed. So I finally have had a chance to use these peppers and grinders from DROM.

The DROM pepper is Kampot pepper (as in Kampot, Cambodia) and, much like Champagne and Parma Ham, they have a Protected Geographical Indication. And their flavour (and the fragrance when you freshly grind them!) is incredible. They’re single-origin peppers (meaning that they come from one producer in a specific region — in this case, Kampot, Cambodia). I can tell you that this only deepens my interest in traveling to Cambodia.

Just as good as the pepper itself, though, are the beautiful minimalist design of the grinders. With limited storage space in my kitchen (and way too many small appliances and ingredients in my cupboards!), I have to keep some items on my kitchen island, and these beauties are lovely to have on display (or to go straight from the kitchen to the dining table when people are over). Although you can use the grinder for salt, the pair is actually meant so that one is used for black pepper and the other red pepper (the DROM red pepper is a bit mellower).

Pepper, which you may or may not know, can do your health some good. It’s a rich source of vitamins, can boost mood and research has shown it to have disease-fighting properties. So even more reason to rise and grind! What’s life without a little spice?!

You can order DROM online (and it’s available in some retailers — more info on where to find it is on the website).

 

Leave a Comment March 1, 2017

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