Tag: pets

Healthy Swellness: 2018 Year in review

Miami Beach

2018 was a struggle.

Was it worse than last year? No. 2017 was stressful, and this year was just stressful but rather than feeling super wound up about it, I spent much of this year numb, as though my brain just shut down because I couldn’t manage even the energy and thoughts it takes to get stressed out. I’m not sure if it’s thanks to years of freelancing (which as fun as it may seem from the outside, you have to put a lot of pressure on yourself, or at least I do, and I find it quite anxiety inducing). I had too many days when I just felt like I could only throw up my arms because I just felt I couldn’t adult anymore.

When times like that would hit me hard, it’d take digging deep and reminding myself of the good things I had going on through the year…

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I found better balance in my schedule this year. 2016 left me burnt out with 31 trips, so in 2017 I scaled back but still found myself stressed with being away from home too often. This year, I happily settled into a manageable balance between travel, work and life at home. I traveled nine times plus four road trips (and two same-day trips but those don’t really count, it’s the being away from home overnight that throws my schedule for a loop). Those trips included some favourites, such as Calgary and Banff and Chicago (three times!), and new destinations I’ve long had my list, including one epic drive down Highway 1 in California in a rare vintage Mercedes and the incredible Mexico City. I often had FOMO in the past about travel, but after steady travel for several years now and it being extremely draining, but now I know these amazing places in the world will always be there. It’s not worth sacrificing my sanity to flit around the world every other week. This year I felt much more relaxed and loved having time to take Billie Jean on hikes and to see friends.

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I made new friends and made time for existing friendships. About a year ago, out of the blue, I got a really sweet note from an acquaintance, because, kind and empathetic person that she is, she knew I was ruminating about an altercation she’d been witness to. I’d only met Tiffany a few times in real life on a couple of press trips, but we got to know each other well when I was coming to Calgary for work and she invited me to plan extra days and stay with her and her adorable family and we explored Banff and Canmore together (this part of Alberta is one of my most favourites of everywhere I’ve traveled). And she’s just as fun and awesome as I thought she’d be. In addition to new friends,  I spent more quality time with my old friends. From fun dining out excursions whenever I had a car to the very first solo trip with one of my best friends. Life often gets in the way for us to hang out together regularly but she was able to come along on a press trip with me in December to Miami for a cruise. I’m so happy we were able to spend that time together (plus it was on the Celebrity Edge cruise ship, which is a stunner; I’ll post about that soon).

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I worked with brands I’m thrilled to support. So real talk, this “influencer” world is a mega frustrating realm to work in. With people buying followers and likes or not being transparent, it’s not an equal playing field whatsoever so it can be aggravating. But it is incredibly rewarding when speaking to certain brands about partnerships and hearing how they perceive Health & Swellness and why they want to partner with me, and I see that they really get what I’ve created for my platform. This year included working with brands I’ve long been a fan of including Reebok, President’s Choice, Shoppers Drug Mart, YMCA, Clif Bar, Kind Snacks, to name just a few, plus press trips with Marriott. And let’s not forget Michelob Ultra; besides repping the brand and racing in their Night Race, I had a steady stock of beer all summer, so it was a good summer, cheers!

I started working with some great outlets and people. In addition to having more stability and routine in my life thanks to traveling less, I also started working with two brands on a more regular basis and the teams for both are very supportive and open to my ideas and they’re just a joy to work with. One is You Are UNLTD, a magazine and website focused on changing the convo when it comes to aging. Aging doesn’t mean shriveling up and all sadness, people! And the other is D’FYNE magazine, a fitness and lifestyle magazine for women 40+. I swear that working on that mag makes me want to work out more, these women are fit and so incredibly strong.

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I ran my 12th marathon and, oh yeah, I was on a Nike billboard. While I’m still chasing that elusive BQ, and this year I raced less than usual, I ran the Chicago Marathon for the third time and had a decent result considering I had an awful cold for the race. Despite that, that race weekend in the Windy City will forever be a running “career” highlight thanks to the fun Nike squad, the informative and fun activations I got to attend and yes, that Nike billboard of me on Michigan Avenue.

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Even now looking at this photo of me with the poster, it still doesn’t seem like real life.

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I had to say goodbye to my first fur kid, but my sweet animal kingdom continues to bond. I suffered a huge loss about six weeks ago: my cat Kobe passed away at home. He was 17 years old. Kobe was a chill cat, he minded his own business and wasn’t one to seek attention from other people but of all the pets, he was always the one who wanted the most snuggles from me. I adopted him 16 years ago, so he moved with my from uptown to the east end and to the west end and in that time had to welcome not only a tiny kitten but also a rescue dog into his household and has been there though many upheavals in my life. I wasn’t prepared for him to go, but can you ever be ready for that? I think of him daily, and my heart still feel broken (I think it always will). I miss his presence and loud snores very much.

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The other two nutballs, Mya and Billie Jean, are healthy and happy. Mya, since Kobe’s death, seeks much more affection and I love that she’ll often come to snooze beside me now. As for Billie Jean, she continues to adapt to life in the city. She’s much more curious about people in the park and is much quicker to trust people than she was before (even letting people she just meets to pet her). One of the best days this year is when I happened to track down puppy photos from her rescue home in the DR and learned about her origin story. The joy and delight she exudes gives my heart a lift every single day. You have to spend time with her to see what I mean. My bestie who adores Billie Jean has said she’s never met a dog like her, and that part of what makes Billie Jean so sweet and special is because she’s happy, she’s really happy. I won the lottery with my rescue pup and my two cats. Love you and miss you, Kobester.

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So what’s next for 2019…

I didn’t accomplish many things I wanted to in 2018; I didn’t have time to blog about things I’m passionate about as much as I wanted to from the start of the year; for several years now, I’ve been wanting to pick up my reading habit again (I used to read a book a week at least, but haven’t done that in forever). I don’t have a fully fleshed out list of goals, but working on this blog more and reading remain on that list.

I also would like to improve my health and fitness. This year, I came down with what felt like cold after cold. I’m writing this right now sniffling and tired, actually. Thankfully nothing more serious health-wise, but it’s not like me to be under the weather so often and so I need to improve my immunity; maybe just wash my hands a helluva lot more, and take vitamin C. Fitness-wise, I want this to be an epic running year, and I’ll soon be choosing a few key races for spring and fall. I also want to incorporate a little more variety into my workouts, and in fact have already started to by going Spinning, taking a few classes at Studio Lagree and meditating using the app Calm (a gift from partnering with Capital One).

2019 is a fresh start. I still have much to get in order but I’m feeling good about climbing out of this rut. Life is fleeting. Even before Kobe died, I knew his time was near and so I made an effort to dance around the living room with him more often and let him cuddle as long as he pleased even if it meant I was trapped sitting or lying down when I had shit to get done. Nowadays,  I tell Mya and Billie Jean how much I love them every day and smother them with affection, and reach out to friends more, even if it’s just a quick text to let them know I’m thinking of them. The year will fly by in a blink of an eye. So let’s learn lessons from this past year, move on and make the most of 2019.

Wishing you a safe and happy new year, whether that’s out partying or at home and asleep before midnight!

Karen xo

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P.S. Here’s my #2018BestNine. The Chicago Marathon figures prominently (I mean, being on a Nike billboard is effing epic!) plus a few travel photos (Miami and Bowen Island) made into my most liked posts. By no means reflective of my year or what my real everyday life is all about, but we all know how Instagram is, but definitely some great moments from the past year that have helped shaped me into who I am today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment December 31, 2018

Pet Swellness: Billie Jean’s origin story

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Welcome to Who Do You Think You Are: Billie Jean Edition. 

I don’t know why it’s taken me over a year to look into Billie Jean’s origin story. Well, I know part of the reason is I often feel I don’t have time for anything…like all of us, ‘I am very, very busy,” haha. But the main reason is because when I asked Save Our Scruff about her back story when Billie Jean was my foster, all I was told was that she was at the rescue in the Dominican Republic for a year (and she was only a year old when she landed in Toronto, so she’d spent most of her life at a rescue) and I took this to mean little else was known about her.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I was on Facebook reading about another Scruff’s origin story and it included a link to a video of her dog, who also came from the DR. I watched it and then thought “How many rescues in the DR does SOS work with, can’t be that many…” so I clicked through to the Facebook page of Cocomutt Shak Dog Rescue and searched for “Billy Jean” (I changed the spelling to Billie Jean once I adopted her).

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And BAM! Up came an album devoted to her! And my heart just about exploded. I never ever thought I’d see puppy photos of my sweetheart. I now look at them daily (and one is my screensaver, yes, I’m that person now).

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A few days after that, I decided to message Cocomutt Shak. I explained that I’d been Billie Jean’s foster through Save Our Scruff and had ended up becoming one big foster fail. I let them know that she was doing great. I added that when she arrived she was extremely timid and terrified but that she has come so far, is now dog social and is great with people once she gets to know you a little. I asked if they could tell me anything about her as I was curious about her occasional anxieties and just wanted to know where my sweet pup came from.

And the lovely woman who runs it, Tauny, messaged me back right away! So what’s Billie Jean’s orgin story?

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Billie Jean was being sold on the beach, her eyes were barely open and her ears not fully formed yet. When the woman could not sell her, she left Billie Jean on the beach. A beach vendor named Billy knew about the Cocomutt Shak rescue so they called them up and brought Tauny to see Billie Jean.

“We brought her home and she thrived. She was not too nervous here, but here she is surrounded by dogs and only Len and I.”

I shared some of Billie Jean’s recent photos, and Tauny told me she still had the beach bracelet they had on Billie Jean’s neck when she first lived with them at the rescue:

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And get this — they had to make the bracelet smaller to fit her week little neck! That’s how tiny she was!

Given puppies are best off to be with their moms until two months (that’s what I’ve always understood and what a quick Google search confirms), I consider it a miracle Billie Jean survived.

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As for Billie Jean’s initial stressed-out state, I think it was due to not knowing anything other than Tauny and Len and the dogs she lived with. She went from living in a three-bedroom house (no kennels or crates) with the doors open so she  could come and go into the yard (which is on a half acre lot) as she pleased when Tauny or Len are home, to being stuffed into a crate, shoved into cargo on a plane and landing in a freezing climate and having a very excited person (me!) trying to show her love ASAP in a condo with a scary elevator and loud traffic and so many people all around . It’s no wonder she tried to bite me out of fear during our first interaction.

What is pretty wondrous is how quickly she adapted to life in the big city. I rejoice each time she playfully approaches someone in the park who wants to pet her or whenever she walks relaxed and happily beside me, but now knowing her beginnings and how her world was turned right upside down by coming to Canada (and making me the luckiest girl ever), every little success of hers is even more special. I’m so proud of her.

Thank you Cocomutt Shak for rescuing the most darling dog. It’s because of your care for this abandoned little beach bum that she made it into my life and I can never thank you enough for working with Save Our Scruff to help find her a forever home.

For more on Cocomutt Shak Dog Rescue, check them out on Facebook and Instagram. And Billie Jean’s got her own Instagram account, follow her @billiejeanxoxo.

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment June 11, 2018

Pet Swellness: How to get my cats and dog to fall in love

 

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Unexpected animal friendships are some of my fave videos. Yes, I’m that person who always shares on Facebook the video of a goat and dog  frolicking, or of a pig snuggling with a mini cow. And let’s not forget the ol’ cat and dog combo — because not all of them fight.

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I adopted Billie Jean recently and a big factor in my decision was how well she hangs out with the cats. She generally ignores them. If she walks into the path or gets in the face of one of the cats, the cat will usually hiss, and Billie Jean usually pauses and either finds another route or scurries by. One cat is more curious, and the other just goes about his own way and ignores BJ. But my dream would be for the cats and Billie Jean to be besties.

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Last week, I had the chance to meet with ” the cat whisperer” aka cat behaviourist and author Mieshelle Nagelschneider at an event held by Arm & Hammer, so I took the chance to ask how I can help the cats learn to love Billie Jean. She wasn’t concerned about the hissing given I have only had Billie Jean about a month, the hiss is just the cats giving a warning, she said, and it’s still early days. The best way to help them all get along, she said, is to create a group scent. When you have multiple cats, they create a comfortable environment by creating a group scent — this is what they’re doing when they rub up against each other, furniture and you. I can help Billie Jean get welcomed into the household by creating a group scent by putting a pair of thin socks on my hands and rubbing the face of each animal in sequence, and repeating this ritual.

The other tactic she suggested I try is a counter conditioning exercise: play with the cats in near proximity to Billie Jean, and that way with their dopamine levels going up as they happily play, they’ll associate more of those feel-good feelings with the dog’s presence.

I haven’t yet had a chance to put these tactics to use for long but I can’t wait to see if this gets them all to love one another and snuggle, which is pretty much my life goal right now.

Arm & Hammer had hosted this meeting with Mieshelle as they’re promoting their new product Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal Slide Cat Litter — and there were two soon-up-for-adoption kittens from the OSPCA at this event making it pretty much the best event ever! This litter has a new technology that allows the litter to just slide on right out of the litter box (so no more scraping or scrubbing) so the task is easy peasy — I haven’t had a chance to pick up a box of A&H Slide yet, so I can’t speak to how well it works. Mieshelle says it’s best to replace the entire litter once a month (to maintain optimal freshness and cleanliness, making it a litter box your cats want to use), so this new Slide will make that monthly task easier and faster (I’ve scrubbed the litter box in the past and it’s not a fun chore). Other litter box tips that I learned:

  • The litter box should be uncovered. Cats don’t seek privacy when doing their business; an open litter box allows them to feel safer as they can more easily able to escape quickly if need be (this goes back to their cat instincts and living in the wild).
  • You should have one litter box per cat, plus one more. (I get this in theory, but it won’t be happening in my downtown condo!)
  • Cats need some light to see (looks like I’ll be needing to get a nightlight for them!)
  • Scoop the litter box once or twice a day, or else your cats may stop covering their business in the litter box.

Stay tuned to my Instagram for updates on the progress I make with Billie Jean and the cat love!

Leave a Comment March 27, 2017

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