Tuesday, December 20, 2011

INSANE discount on Personal Training

Hi. I recently had a crazy idea how to share my personal training with people at a super low cost. The more I thought about it, the less crazy it sounded until finally, I thought I'd share it with you now. This makes me super excited; I’m so glad I thought of it. So here goes....

Typically, my rates are $80/half hour for single session, or for a small package of sessions. I also work on a retainer basis; being available for as many sessions, phone calls and emails as the client needs for success in the program I’m prescribing. The monthly rate for that is $399, quarterly is $999 and to have my unlimited services for a whole year is $3600.

But now I am announcing my latest product, which is JAG Virtual Training. For the low price of $95, I will offer my unlimited support for a month. This can include phone calls and emails and possible even my creating personalized videos for you. It’s basically everything that I include in my standard personal training monthly support except for the in-person meetings. So by doing all of your training with me electronically, you save over $300 from my regular monthly rate.

This might be what Dad would have called “giving away the farm” but I want to do it and see how it works. So, for only $95 you could get my daily support for the whole month, if you need it. Or you can call me with a question three times a week. Or you can report into me after every meal.  Basically whatever type of support we decide is going to help you achieve your goals, we’ll do it. For a month.

It has been my experience that a month is long enough to make lasting changes in your lifestyle and to have them stick and become part of your life. They say it takes 21 days of repetition to develop an action into a habit. So we can utilize that time period to establish some good habits for you. Whatever you need.

I’m going to limit this offer to the first five people who respond. If the program seems to be beneficial to all parties involved, then I will extend the offer to more people.

So, if you’re interested in some quality training and instruction and some intensive support from an experienced and compassionate trainer, but haven’t been able to afford enough support to make it feasible, this might be your chance. Also, if you have a friend who is thinking of getting support from a professional, this might be a great gift.

To get started, simply send me an email telling me what your goals are and asking to participate in JAG Virtual Training. And we’ll take it from there.

I look forward to hearing from you and helping you reach your goals.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy, Healthy Holiday Attitudes

As we are approaching the holidays, I need to talk about an unhealthy attitude that tends to permeate the traditional proceedings. You may have heard someone say, (or you may have said) “I ate so much last night, I need to work out extra hard today.”
I even see fitness professionals falling into this trap, by advertising a “Burn off Your Turkey Workout Class” for the day after Thanksgiving. 
I resent this paradigm.  I always tout healthful living; which includes a healthy attitude towards eating and exercise.  The holidays celebrations are a part of life and I believe they should be fully lived and enjoyed. But I also have a deep respect for moderation, which should also be practiced within the context of these celebrations.
Keep in mind to start with, you don’t HAVE to overeat at holiday meals.  You don’t HAVE to get drunk at the holiday party. You can eat and drink and be merry without going nuts. I have enjoyed many holiday meals and had a few bites of everything in the spread and was able to walk away from the table without feeling stuffed. Very satisfied, but comfortable.  I allow myself one plate and I don’t go back for seconds. I’ve also had a drink or two at the Christmas party, but not enough to make me sick or to get me to dance naked on the buffet table. (I don’t need to be drunk to do that, but that’s another story).
The bird should be stuffed, not the pilgrims. 
But that isn’t even what really disturbs me.  What rubs me the wrong way is this attitude that people have that they need to be punished for their binges by exercising extra hard. 
First of all, it doesn’t work that way.  You can’t exercise away bad food choices.  You just can’t. Exercise is no match against gluttony.  The number of calories you consume at a full-on Thanksgiving meal is in the thousands!  At an average of 300 calories/hour, you’d need to be on a treadmill all day just to burn that many calories. But even if you did that, that’s still not how it works.  You don’t exercise just to burn off the calories you ate.  You exercise to condition your body.  When your body is conditioned, it burns calories more efficiently. 
Secondly, I don’t like the mindset that exercise is a penance.  It is a wonderful thing, when done correctly.  It can be a treat for your body, mind and spirit when done with the right attitude.  Paying for your sins is NOT the right attitude.  That is a Fear motivation. Exercising out of fear is going to prevent you from getting many of the benefits that it offers you in the way of a healthy, relaxed mind and a boost of self-esteem hormones and endorphins.
Exercise should be a reward for your mind and your body, not a punishment for holiday eating.
So instead of bingeing and punishing, switch your thinking around for the holidays.  Allow yourself to go off your ‘diet’ and enjoy Grandma’s pies.  And then have fun doing your regular type of exercise on your regular schedule, whatever that may be.   
It might not seem like a big deal, but changing that mindset from Fear to Love will go a long way towards helping you live a happy, healthy life-- all year ‘round.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Toenail Armageddon

I have a very common affliction. The scientific name is onychomycosis but we know it better as that yellow toenail fungus.  My mom had it, and my brother has it, so it seems to be something in our genetic makeup that leaves us susceptible to it.

Mine has been going on for a number of years, and I haven’t been too overly concerned about it.  Of course, I wish it weren’t there. It isn’t attractive and its embarrassing.  And since a lot of my work is done in bare feet, I don’t have the luxury of hiding my affliction from my colleagues inside socks and shoes.

I’ve looked into treatments, but the main one, Lamisil, is very hard on the liver and has some scary side effects that range from diarrhea, to losing your sense of taste, to liver failure and death.  All in all, I would prefer the yellow toenails.

I did attempt every ‘natural’ remedy I came across.  I tried tea tree oil, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, clove oil, garlic and sunshine.  Some of them did keep the situation under control and some of them did nothing.  None of them cured it, but in all fairness, I never stuck to any treatment longer than a few weeks before losing interest and faith.

Recently, I had what I’ve come to call my Toenail Armageddon. A conflux of events all centered on my toenails that seemed to me to be a clear sign that something had to be done.

1- An oil blend that I was using contains cedar oil, so it has a yellow tint to it.  I had been using it for about two weeks and it has started to stain my toenails yellow (even the unaffected ones, which I was treating preventatively). 

2- The same oil blend contains clove oil, which my skin is very sensitive to, and it, combined with wearing my Vibrams Five Finger shoes in the rain, caused a rash to form on the top of my toe, just this side of my nail bed.  I’m not sure if it is an athlete’s foot type of rash or just a reaction to the oil and the friction.

3- I wore a pair of black socks after an application of this oil. The oil leeched the black dye from the socks and my toenails absorbed it, giving them a nice, ugly black ring around the perimeter, which really caused the yellow stain to pop.

4- The big toe nail on my left foot became ingrown; it lodged itself under my skin.  I had to dig out the corner of the nail, which left a gaping wound

5- During a Nia class, another dancer and I miscalculated our spacial relationship and we ended up trying to use the same section of the floor to stand on.  The end result was her heel jamming into the ends of my toes, creating a beautiful, painful, purple bruise in the middle toe.

6- The dry skin that I tend to keep under control with Keihl’s lotion, was going unattended due to the extra attention to the new oil treatment, so I was experiencing a renewed drying and cracking on my toes.

All this stuff came together in the same week and my toenails looked like they belonged in a zombie movie.
So it was at this time I decided I was going to ‘bite the bullet’ and take the awful medication.  I went to the doctor (by the way, she told me she’d seen much worse and didn’t seem phased by what I thought was horrific) and got a prescription for a generic version of Lamisil, which is Terbinafine.

My liver is healthy, and I don’t drink much alcohol (and can easily abstain for the three months while I’m taking the pills), so my doctor didn’t think it was necessary to do a liver function test before starting treatment.

I am aware of the list of side effects of this drug: Flu symptoms, diarrhea and muscle and/or joint aches are some of the less disturbing ones.  But there are also possibilities of losing ones sense of taste, liver failure and death.  I’m reassured that the more severe reactions are extremely rare and usually found only in people with compromised livers to start with. I've also read about people becoming lethargic and losing the desire to do strenuous exercise.  That's a major one for me, too. I'm hoping that doesn't happen.

So I started treatment three days ago.

Actually by the second day, I was seeing the rash (see #2 in my list above) disappear.

The first night after taking my first pill, I had severe night sweats.  I woke up in a puddle that soaked my sheets and my pillow.  I ended up sleeping on the floor near my bed because my sheets were too wet to lie on.  I didn't’ feel feverish, or chilly, but I was sure sweating.  To be fair, I also got a tetanus shot on that same doctor visit, so I don’t know if it was that or the Terbinafine that caused the night sweats.

The second night, I sweat again, but only very slightly.  And last night, the third night, I don’t know that I sweat at all.

So far the only other thing I’m noticing is that I have a very strong urge to defecate, and I’m sitting on the toilet about five or six times a day, as compared to my usual once or twice a day.

And this morning, I did feel just a little bit nauseous.  Nothing too terrible.   So far, I haven't tried to exercise, so I can't speak about that aspect.  But I'm planning to do a little workout today, so we'll see how that goes.

My plan is to follow the prescription, which is taking one pill a day for ninety days and then allowing the nails to grow out for another three months, without taking the drug. The treatment basically consists of six months, with three months on and three months off the med.

I hope I wont’ have any other side effects to report, but I do hope I’ll be posting a picture of some really great further progress.

This adventure is very hard for me.  Those of you who know me, know that I’m very highly opposed to the use of medicine.  This decision did not come lightly, but rather it seemed to me that the situation was insisting on drastic action.  I really believe in trusting these signs and signals that are presented to us, and my Toenail Armageddon was a sign.  I’m following it.


This is a picture of my toenails now, about a month later.

In all fairness, I want to say that they cleared up really quickly after starting the Lamisil.  About a week into the treatment, they looked almost like they do now.  And this is how my toenails have looked for years, before the aforementioned Armageddon. 

Does Lamisil work?  I still don't know.  I have two more months of taking the pills and then, according to my doctor, another three months to wait before all of the dead stuff grows out and I can expect clear, fresh toenails.

More to come as it develops.  Thanks for watching.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Kicking the Sweets Habit

Refined sugar and chemical sugar substitutes are like narcotics; they are harmful and addictive.  Without getting into too much science, they cause a hormonal response that leaves the body feeling depleted in a way that can only be satisfied by having moresugar.  Splenda is 600 times sweeter than sugar and not only causes the same hormonal response as sugar, but both create a heavily distorted sense of what level of sweetness is appropriate for our healthy bodies.

The taste of 'sweet' is very important to our palate. Without the taste of sweetness, it is hard to satisfy our appetite as humans. I recommend to my clients that they have a sweet taste in all of their meals and that they make a point to have that taste in the last bite they take of that meal.  The important thing to remember is that the degree of sweetness that we need is much lower than many people use on a daily basis.  Most people in our society are sweet abusers.  The sweetness from a meal could come from a ripe orange bell pepper, many types of breads, milk, cream, certain cheeses, or, my favorite, fruits.

So my first, and most important recommendation is to spend a few days refining your palate by eliminating any added sweetener until you can distinguish the distinct sweet taste in a piece of wheat
bread. It is actually quite sweet when you're not used to off-the-chart sweetness. Then, go back to adding sweetener if you still want to. But now that your palate is more refined, you will notice that your sweet needs have changed and become more realistic and you'll find that you can be satisfied with more natural sources.

Honey is a nice, natural alternative to refined sugar and chemical sweeteners. It can be added to anything cold. You're not supposed to heat honey or it loses its natural, healing properties. Stevia
root is also a natural sweetener, but it has been accused of interfering with carbohydrate absorption, causing gene mutation in lab settings and lowering the sperm count in lab rodents. Pure maple syrup can be used as a sweetener as well.  (Avoid things labeled as "pancake syrup" or "maple flavored syrup"  they're refined and artificial.)

But the healthiest way to add sweet to food is by adding fresh fruit.  Throw an apple into your oatmeal or your salad. Cook a pear into your tomato sauce; it cooks down and adds a distinct (natural and healthy) sweetness without being off the scale or causing addictive responses. Pineapple is a wonderful sweetener as well.  Also most dried fruit can add a nice sugary sweetness.  Just be careful to look for fruit without sulfur dioxide, which is a nasty preservative.

Have fun experimenting with your sweet tooth.  It's a joy to retrain yourself to appreciate the natural things in life.  Trust nature to bring you to a state of health.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Eating Less

As a culture, we eat too much.  WAY TOO MUCH!!!

I’m not pointing any fingers.  Maybe you think you eat the perfect amount. Hey, I would have said the same thing about myself until about six months ago. I was recently inspired to begin experimenting with the concept of “LESS” throughout many aspects of my life.

I have improved my mindset and increased my strength and agility by breathing less. (I wrote about that in a different blog post.)  I have also increased my sensitivity and my enjoyment of life by slowing down the rate at which I walk.  (I was living in New York City, among some of the fastest walkers in the world, so it wasn’t easy. But it was totally worth it.) And I've increased my energy level and improved the look and feel of my body by reducing the amount that I ate.

I focused on eating smaller meals and on not just reacting immediately to the hunger feeling.  But I found that living with the feeling of hunger for just a couple of hours made a HUGE difference in my energy and my physique. 

Using hunger properly, I was able to improve the tone of my body, which was already lean and muscular, and found a new level of energy I didn’t even know existed!

Here are some tips to help you, if you’re interested in experimenting with eating less...
A word of caution first.  Please don’t starve. It seems that whenever I tell someone something is good, they assume that more of it is better.  The hunger is only meant to be with you for a few hours each day, not constantly.  And the whole point is that when you do have a meal, all you do is make that feeling go away for about four to six hours.  You don't want to get full. If you find that you’re full, you’ve eaten too much. But on the other hand, if you find that you’re hungry again in two hours, then you didn’t eat enough. Finding your groove may take some experimenting.  Please feel free to let me know what sort of experiences you have with this. And to ask me any questions you have.


1. Protein suppress appetite better than any other macronutrient. Meats, beans, nuts and seeds are good sources. A study from the University of Washington School of Medicine found that a meal containing 30% protein was best for satiety and weight loss. A study at Maastricht University in the Netherlands reported that having casein protein makes you feel fuller. Those are the proteins found in dairy products.

2. Eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast is a major contributor to late day bingeing. People who eat breakfast are far less likely to experience an eating disorder called “night eating syndrome.”

3. Don't cut all the fat out of your diet. Fat is a crucially important nutrient and if you don’t eat it, you will crave it.  If you ignore those cravings and continue to avoid fat, you will become sick. Low-fat diets don't curb hunger as well as those focused on lean protein. Dietary fat provides psychological satiety and satisfaction, as it adds flavor and texture to a food or meal.

4. Eat fiber. Experts say to have 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories of caloric intake. But I honestly don’t know how much that is. Do you? What a crazy thing to say, right?  But you can get fiber by thinking veggies. I have two vegetables with every meal. I also have fruit (NOT NOT NOT fruit juice!!) twice a day. There is also a high amount of fiber in whole grains and legumes.

5. Water isn't necessarily a strong appetite suppressant, but it does fill up your stomach and satisfy a psychological need to consume something. I often use carbonated water because it makes me feel more full. Also, many times we think what we are experiencing is a hunger sensation, when actually we’re just thirsty.  Often a glass of water will curb the ‘hunger’ for another few hours.

6. Some foods make you feel much fuller than others. Most people say that oatmeal gets them extremely full, while a boxed cereal like wheat flakes leaves them hungry.  You need to experiment to find what works best for you. Keeping a food journal will help immensely. Eat a food or meal, and then take note of hunger and how you feel immediately afterwards and for the three hour period afterwards. This type of food/hunger journal will reveal a LOT to you.

7. Give yourself a break.  Don’t stress over any of this, or you’ll be undoing any good benefits. Allow yourself a bite of cake at the office party or feel free to eat the fattening meal your grandmother made.  This is life.  Live it and love it. You’ll be much healthier if you don’t stress about these things, and in the end, when you’re unstressed, it will be much more likely that your body will be at its correct weight.

8.  SLEEP! Oh my gosh this one gets abused and ignored so much, I should have made it number 1.  Research from the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin has conclusively proven that sleep deprivation increases hunger hormones and leads to more inadvertent snacking during the day. DON'T IGNORE THIS ONE! It is a bigger culprit than you think.

9. Keep alcohol to a minimum. In addition to adding excess calories, alcohol distorts your body's perception of hunger, satiety and fullness.  The correlation between drinking alcohol and body fat gain is stronger in men in almost all of the studies.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

River's First Bath

Today was the eighth day after River’s surgery.  The clinic nurse told me that I shouldn’t let him get wet while the wound was healing, but that after eight days I could finally bathe him.  
And he needed it. When the shelter takes in a stray dog, they have a five day waiting period before they are officially documented and checked in.  During that waiting period, they get their basic shots, but no baths or surgeries or walks. 
So River had the stink of whatever he had gotten himself into before being picked up, and then the kennel smell, and then eight more days of unbathed activity.  He was a stinky pup.
So today was the day I was looking forward to.   Bath day.  I wasn’t sure how well he was going to behave or if he’d cooperate at all or if he was going to hate it.
I decided, first to go outside without him and play with the bucket and the hose and the cloths.  I let him watch me from inside for a few minutes.  Then I went back inside, just for a moment. I wanted him to get a sense for how happy I was and how much fun I was having.  I told him, “this is fun!” and I went back outside to play some more, again leaving him inside to watch. 
Then, I went inside and I invited him to come outdoors with me. I kept him on his leash, but let him wander around me, to the extent that his leash allowed, while I continued to gently splash the water, squeeze the cloths and squirt the hose.
When he was curious enough, he came by to investigate. I started rubbing his body with my hands like he enjoys.  At that moment he became completely involved and offered up his body.  So I added a wet soapy cloth to my hands as I continued to rub him all over.  
I’m sure he noticed that he was wet, but he took it in stride. I made sure that the focus of the event was not getting him as clean as possible, but instead my focus was to give him a pleasant experience of being washed; even if it meant he wasn’t washed all that well. 
But he was more than happy for me to scrub him all over with a soapy wet cloth.  And he didn’t care when I re-submerged it into the bucket and reapplied it to him dripping wet. He even let me clean his ears and his paws.  
I made a point not to move quickly or to rub roughly, but I kept it soothing and loving. 
Once he was all washed, I switched to the big towel and started drying him.  I used motions for drying similar to those that I use for the ‘wrestling without biting’ game, so he was very familiar with it, and he used the opportunity to practice playing without his teeth. 
To my surprise, he sat comfortably and allowed me to wash and dry his paws and his haunches, which he typically tends to be more protective of. 
I ended the bath by bringing him inside and brushing him with a rubber brush while I dried off any remaining damp areas. 
He had a great experience, and I don’t think I’ll get any resistance to doing it again next week. His coat is so soft and bright now, and he smells a lot better.
What’s really funny is, after the bath, I took him to his crate so he could chill, and he sniffed the blanket that was in there.  He tried to move it, or adjust it with his mouth, but eventually, he saw the futility and just plopped down on it. Something about his energy told me he was unhappy.
Then it hit me.  Could he be telling me he didn’t want to lay his clean body on that same dirty old blanket?  I took one that was freshly washed and put it in the crate next to him.  He took one sniff of it, and then immediately used his paws to pull that blanket under him.  He kept pulling until the blanket was under him enough that he could plop his head down and his nose was only near the clean blanket.  Later that day, when he had finished his nap and left the crate, I took the old blanket out and flattened out the clean one. 
It’s nice to know that River has some class.
Clean Doggie

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Playing with River

River has fully recovered from his respiratory infection and now is back to his good old self.  

He's got a lot of energy. It’s obvious that he needs a lot of exercise. If he doesn’t expend all the energy that’s coursing through his body, he becomes frustrated and takes it out on those around him.  Not in an unhappy or aggressive way, but he’ll jump and play and challenge you to a wrestling match.  He doesn’t bark, but he does sometimes use his mouth and play-bite.  He’s basically just a big, dopey guy.  And while his jumping doesn’t necessarily hurt me, it’s not a good practice and it could easily hurt someone smaller than me.
Clearly this is not something you want a full grown, muscle-bound pit bull getting into the habit of, so the answer is to give him lots of exercise and to train him that using his mouth when playing with humans is not acceptable. 
For the first week I had him, he was recovering from his neutering surgery and I was told he couldn’t do any exercise for a week, or he could tear his wound open.  So that week, while he was healing, was a rough one.  He didn’t know what to do with all of his pent-up energy.
To his credit, he actually did very well considering he knew nothing about the rules of this house and I knew nothing about him and how his life was before he was discovered tied to that stairwell downtown.  And without the ability to expend his energy, he was definitely wound up.  So we had to forgive him for being rambunctious and just keep telling ourselves, once he can exercise, we’ll have a much better-behaved dog.
During this week of healing, I was able to observe that he definitely wants to run and he loves it. Even during his recovery, I was unable to keep him from running. I mean, of course, I could have prevented him or given him no opportunities to run, but what I mean is I wasn’t into completely stifling all of his energy.  I was struggling with my own desire to let him run versus the advice of the doctor to keep him mellow. Partially because I want him to have all the joys of living a happy, fulfilled life, and partly because I knew if I brought him back into the house without running some of his energy, he’d be a little terror all night. 
But after a few days, I started to run him for about half a block at a time. I kept an eye on his wound and it seemed fine.  Day by day I added a bit more running.  I started a little game called “Go! Stop!” that goes like this:

We’d be walking along, and I’d give him the signal to stop walking, which he obeys beautifully. And then I’d have him wait for a bit so he was relaxed.  And when he was calmly looking around, I’d say to him, “river...” which got his attention, and then “GO!” and as soon as I said go, I’d take off running down the sidewalk.  He would follow. I would only go a few yards and then I’d powerfully shout “STOP!” and I’d immediately stop running and stand perfectly still.   It took him two tries to get the idea.  The first two times, I had to signal with the leash for him to stop, but after those two, he was stopping when I said “STOP.”  And then he would look at me for instructions on what was next. 
There was an upside and a downside to this game. A couple of upsides, actually:  First, he was able to get some exercise, which is good. And the other good news is that he has learned the command, “STOP” which I can now apply to anything he’s doing. (I just command “STOP” and he freezes in his tracks.) But the downside of this game was that he began to misinterpret it.  The running sessions slowly started to morph into him trying to catch me.  He would start nipping at my hands and legs as we were running, and then after doing it a few times, he’d be so excited that even after we had stopped he’d jump around and nip at me.  He was playing, but just playing too rough for my tastes.
It got worse and worse and finally escalated to the point where he was no longer just nipping, but biting and holding onto my hands and drawing blood from my fingers. At that point I tried to ignore him which sends the signal, “if you play this way, I’m not playing.”  But, whereas, that usually will work when he’s less excited, he didn’t relent this time. He just kept going for my hands and the leash.  In the end, I had to pull him down to the ground and hold him down until he fully relaxed. I reassured him the whole time that I wasn’t intending to hurt him and I was pointing out how he was in no danger or discomfort, but that I was simply controlling him.  He relaxed very quickly and we walked home peacefully, albeit with one of us injured.
So I knew I’d have to come up with a new game.

My next idea was to take him to a grassy section of the park and throw a tennis ball for him to chase and see if he could be taught to retrieve. That game didn’t work out at all. I would throw the ball and he would run to the end of his leash and be stopped.  Ooops. I know that as a pit bull, he’s not supposed to be off leash.  Ok, so then I would throw the ball and run behind him so he could chase the ball, without being limited by the shortness of the lead, but he was totally distracted by my chasing him and lost interest in the ball. He thought we were reverting back to the old “Attack Jason” game. So I scrapped the ball. 
I had once seen Cesar Millan using a toy that looked like a stuffed animal on a fishing pole, and I thought that might be just the thing. We went to River’s favorite pet supply store and I asked about them. As the clerk was showing them to me, I noticed that River had already chosen which of them he wanted.  He was very interested in the one that looked like a brown weasel, or a ferret, or maybe a squirrel.  But it was some long, thin rodent.
We took that to the park, but I quickly realized the same problem was that my leash was too short.  I had to keep him so close to me, that I was still a integral part of the game in his mind.
Back to the pet store, where I got a 20 foot leash.  Back to the park.  When we got there, I switched his leash for the long one and got out my squirrel. I was careful to let him see the toy in my hands. I held it nearby and shook it a little. But when he tried to go for it, I said ‘no’ and showed him how the toy was mine, not his. He understood.  He laid down and watched me. I set the toy on the grass in front of him and let him smell it.  He stayed relaxed and acted disinterested, though I knew he was very interested. I set him up by saying his name and made sure he was looking at the squirrel when I simultaneously said “CATCH IT!” as I suddenly made the toy spring away. 
He took off after that thing with such vigor! It was easy to keep it just a foot or so in front of him and quickly change directions and make it jump in the air.  He was chasing it and having a ball!  I was delighted to see him playing, using up his energy, and not directly any of it towards me.  The new leash was long enough that he could run freely and yet I was secure in knowing that I had him restrained. 
The toy is actually called a “CHASE IT” but I thought it sounded too much like “JASON” and I didn’t want to create a confusion that might cause him to start running after something whenever someone calls my name.  So I decided that his cue to start playing with the toy is “CATCH IT”
When he did finally catch it, he attempted to kill it. And in fact, if it were a living creature, I’m quite certain it would be dead very quickly. He shook it roughly a few times and then held it between his paws while he chewed on it.  I think we were both surprised when it started squeaking as if protesting every bite he took on it.  It was really a sight. 

Then I thought, “how am I going to end this game?”  I certainly don’t want to get involved with what’s going on by reaching my scab-covered hands into the foray to remove the toy, but I know I have a responsibility to bring the game to an end before he gets tired of it and ends it himself. I knew also, that taking a toy from a dog’s mouth isn’t a good idea.  It doesn’t teach good manners, and it sets up a challenge or a confrontation between what are supposed to be comrades. 
My light bulb moment was when I realized, “this is when I teach him how to DROP”
I walked up to him with a treat in my hand and let him smell the treat.  As he got the scent I started with my command, “DROP it”  “DROP it”  I only got in a few repetitions before he took the treat and as he took it, I casually picked up the toy.  He watched me take it as he chewed his treat.  When it was gone he tried to take the squirrel back from me, but when I told him “NO” he relented. I placed it on the ground in front of me where he could reach it, but I didn’t allow him to take it.  When he relaxed I knew he understood that it was mine, so I waited about another minute and we did the whole game over again.
Using the CATCH IT method of play, he was able to run off a LOT of energy (he was exhausted by the time we were done and very well behaved the rest of the day) and I was able to extract myself from being the focus of the game. My fingers are healing up nicely and he is so happily tired after using his body so much. 
To end the game, after his last successful DROP it, and after, of course, him actively ignoring the squirrel by my request, I let him watch me calmly put it back in the bag to end our play session. I switched his leash back to the short, walking leash, gave him a drink from his water bottle and we made our way back home.
I’m so happy that I was able to discover this game while I still had all my fingers. 

I'm also thinking, now that I have that long leash, maybe i can try the ball again.  I guess we have a plan for tomorrow.
bye for now

Thursday, September 1, 2011

River's Medical Adventure

Last night after dinner, River took an unexpected turn.  He was sleeping a lot, which I attributed to him being kept active all day. And then, at one point, he raised his head and looked at me.  And I don’t know... I can’t explain how I knew, but he was trying to tell me he wasn’t doing well. 
He seemed very lethargic and borderline delirious and he started to convulse. I would call them convulsions, but Zeke was saying no, that it was more like shivering and not full on convulsions or seizures. 
But every few seconds, he would clench his whole body as if he were bracing against something. He did it most when he was laying down and relaxing.  If I put his leash on, he got up and stood at attention like he always does for his leash, although now a bit less enthusiastic.
When I took him for a short walk, he perked right up. Not to his usually bouncy excited self, but to a state seemingly without discomfort and fully present in the world.  So we went back in after doing some business and went back to chilling.  He laid at my feet while I tried to get back to my episode of Columbo. 
A bit later, as the ‘shivering’ seemed to be getting more and more intense, we thought, maybe this is a problem, and tried calling the vet.  The recording referred us to an all night clinic.  Upon calling them, I was told they couldn’t really evaluate the dog without seeing him, but that shivering and shaking could indicate a lot of different things, none of them good.
So, we deliberated for a while.  How bad is this? we wondered.  Are we being overprotective? Part of me wanted to say, ‘this will pass’ and another part wanted to jump in a cab and take him to the emergency room.  I was flashing on stories of people who did nothing and ended up with an undiagnosed problem than ultimately proved fatal, and I flashed on the story of my mother who rushed me, her first born son, to an emergency room when the little plastic lid to my in-sink baby bath accidentally closed and banged me on the head, and they basically told her to go home and relax.
Finally, when he was having trouble going downstairs, we decided to take him in.  We called a cab and started gathering all the items we’d need for the trip, including some towels and bags to wipe and pick up all of the mucus he was likely to cough up in the cab. 
When we got outside to wait for our ride, again River perked right up and you’d never know anything was wrong with him, unless you knew that he was usually running all over the place, and now he was standing still and looking around. We were perplexed.
Then the driver pulls up, rolls down his window and says, “Oh you have a dog!?”  Yes, I said. “Well I’m allergic, I can’t take him.  I’ll call you another driver.”  I believe very strongly that things happen for a reason.  So I took this as a sign that we didn’t need to go. I told him, never mind, I’ll call up and cancel the request, which I did.  I put him to sleep and he slept through the night, albeit with mild convulsions and vocal utterances of discomfort.
In the morning, he was basically the same.
I called our vet as soon as they were open and they were able to see us right away.
After an examination, she said that he basically has a bacterial infection, which is similar to a human cold.  His reaction is so physical because that’s how his breed handles everything; with full body involvement. She said he was basically bracing against the annoying persistent urge to cough because his throat and probably his whole body is simply fatigued from the coughing.
She gave me some antibiotics and some probiotics to give him, and gave him a prescription for opiated cough syrup so he can get some good rest.
She told me that the cold will run its course for a few more days.  In the meantime, he should be getting lots of sleep and water. She also told me to avoid using ‘soothing, calming’ tones which is interpreted as negative, and instead I should say positive encouraging things like “you’re so good!  Yes, resting and recovering, that’s a good boy!”  Makes sense to me.
She also congratulated us on not making the hasty decision to rush him to emergency for this kind of thing.
So now he’s resting.  I’m actually taking this opportunity to help him get over his separation anxiety.  By leaving him alone while he’s not in the mood to move, I can leave the house and come back, letting him get used to the idea that I always will come back, even if he doesn’t do anything while I’m gone.   Maybe I’m living in a fantasy, but I have hopes that this will impact on him and help balance that little behavioral issue.
Its so hard to watch him suffer.  Wow, I knew that dog ownership had its ups and downs. I’m no stranger to having dogs.  But I expected most of the downs at this point to be all about his struggles with his training.  I really wasn’t ready for this kind of medical situation for many more years. 
Well, as I’ve said, I always believe things happen for a reason.    And then, I knew it had to be this dog.  And I’m not sure what the lesson is here, but I’m ready to learn it. 
Of course, the thought that he’s not going to make it flashed through my mind more than once. I try not to linger on it, but I’m also prepared for that, should we find ourselves going down that road.
But my strongest, most prevailing thought is similar to what I was originally feeling last night, and which was supported by the lovely doctor at Broadway Veterinary Clinic; that he’s got a ‘little something’ that he’ll have to suffer through, but will come out the other end just like nothing ever happened. 
Right now, I have him in his crate, which is covered with a blanket to give him a ‘den’ feeling.  And I covered his body with the shirt I wore yesterday so he has my scent in there with him.  I go in and check on him every ten or fifteen minutes and tell him what a Good Boy he is.
Here’s to speedy, full recovery.
Cheers!  Salut! Sante! Prost!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

River's Trip to Seattle Center

Today's 'road trip' was very stimulating.  He has just been neutered so he's not supposed to get much walking.  But this guy has so much energy, I had to take him with me when I went to pick up my tickets to Bumbershoot at the TPS offices in Seattle Center. We really only went all of six blocks to where we were going to catch the bus.  And it wasn't a quick walk. He's learning not to pull on the leash, so there were quite a few stops and waits and restarts while he was getting the feel for how he's supposed to walk with me.  He actually seemed pretty beat by the time we got on the bus. I know I'm not supposed to exercise him for a few more days, but he would go nuts if I didn't walk him at least a little. 

Then we took a bus ride and then a short walk to the park where he could do his Embryonic on the grass and watch the kids and the skateboarders. Then another walk to another bus (turns out River REALLY likes the bus, the only time he pulled on his leash today was when the bus pulled up and opened the doors. And at the end of our ride, I had to nudge him a few times so he'd follow me off). On our way back home from the bus stop we made one quick stop at his new favorite hangout, the Mud Bay pet supply store. He met a few dogs there and they gave him a treat. I bought him a rubber brush.  During the rest of the four blocks home he was nearly always trotting along at my side and not pulling on the leash.

Enter River

River was found tied to a stairwell down by the waterfront during the weekend of Hempfest here in Seattle. I didn't find  him myself. Someone phoned animal control and they came and put him in the shelter. That's where I met him.

I didn't know this, but it is illegal to tether a dog and leave him unattended in Seattle.  Even if you're just going into the store. It’s also illegal not to have him licensed and registered, so when they found him breaking two laws, they took him in. They kept him for six days before allowing anyone to adopt him, just in case his original owner came in to claim him. 

He doesn't seem to be too familiar with life indoors, so I'm teaching him a lot, and he's a good, motivated learner, and basically eager to please but still alas, a teenager with the requisite short attention span, tons of energy and a slightly rebellious streak.
So I got him. I hung out with him for three days when he was in the shelter.  Well, not the whole time, obviously.  But I did go and visit him three separate times and hung out with him for about an hour each time.

Long story short. I took him home.

So now, this is my life. I'm totally immersed in trying to make this guy act the way I want him to.
He's very excitable, but I can't take him out to play yet because he just had his operation yesterday.  So he's really confused about why I won't run and jump with him and he doesn't like it when I tell him he can't. Also, he smells like a kennel.  He desperately needs a bath, but I'm not supposed to get him wet for eight days until his wound heals. 
So, this first week is going to be very challenging.
I've already taught him how I want him to walk on the leash without pulling, and he's doing pretty good at that. 
Last night he pooped in the kitchen, but I immediately took him outside to the grass afterwards.  Then, a few hours later (when he wasn't looking) I dumped his poop out of the bag and into the grass out in front, and then I went back in and got him and took him out to let him ‘find’ it. 
HAHA, he was so confused when he noticed his poop out there.  I could see it in his face, "I don't remember pooping out here!"
But then he took the suggestion and squatted and gave me another good poop-- this one on the grass.  This earned him a big, demonstrative “GOOD BOY” a quick body massage and a treat. He's gone twice out there since, and not in the kitchen. I decided to put his food bowl right near where he pooped in the kitchen, to hopefully tap into his “don’t poop where you eat” instinct. 
He has a bit of a cough right now, which I guess is super common for dogs to get in the shelters.  But it should run its course and, like a human virus, clear itself up in a few days.  Nothing to be alarmed about unless it lingers for more than about four days.
There was one moment last night when I had to show River who was boss.  He was getting really excited and jumping around and getting on our futon, even though I was telling him not to.  And then he was trying to bite my hand when I was telling him to cool it.  He wasn’t being aggressive; he was playing, but it was too rough for my taste. So I had to dominate him. I rolled him onto his side and held him there until he relaxed, Cesar Millan style.  The whole time I was saying, "This is good. Just relax. I’m not going to hurt you. You’re a good boy."
I had to get kinda tough, physically, and he didn't give up easily. I have some scratches on my arm from the struggle. He protested a lot at first, and made a horrible sound that I hope we never have to hear again.  But in the end, I'm sure once he realized that I wasn't going to hurt him or take any shit from him, he relaxed. Now he basically does what I tell him, when he can figure out what I mean. I felt like I had to do it at that moment, or I'd lose my 'master' status. And I have to have that from the get-go.
He's not really indoctrinated with 'human owns the house' yet. But he’s learning. Maybe he used to belong to a homeless person or was kept outdoors for the majority of his first year. 
He's extremely energetic. I did not get one of those “lounging on the couch buddies” although, right now, post-walk, post-breakfast, he is actually curled up on the rug. Whew!  He’s been there for about an hour so far. 
He has that hound smell.  I don’t know if its from him or just from being in the shelter around all those other dogs, but he smells like a beagle.  And he sniffs A LOT so he might have some beagle in him.  Thankfully, he doesn't do the beagle howl. Though he sure looks all pit to me. 

So far he does NOT go in his crate. No way, no how. His water and his chew toys are in there, so he goes in to get them but then he brings them out or drinks with his back legs outside the crate. He'll reach in, but not put his back legs in and I don't want to push him in or lock him in until he’s inside and relaxed. So at this point, I haven’t been successful in getting him in his crate. 
I wonder if he's had bad crate experiences in the past.
Seeing him curled up, like he is right now, is so nice.
I hope he's partly just excited because it’s all so new, and as it gets to be more routine, he settles down. But also, once I can run him, that will help with his energy level.
For now, I’ve just been focused on setting boundaries and rules. I feel like I’m all rules now, but I also scratch his ears and hug him and do love-y stuff all the time, too. 
I made him lay in the living room while we ate dinner. I wouldn’t settle for him wandering around or, even worse, standing nearby and watching us eat.
He basically stayed where I told him, although he very slowly and gradually crawled and inched his way closer to us without losing contact with the rug he was supposed to stay on. And then, he relaxed in that splayed position. 
So I felt like, as long as he stayed laying down and basically away from the table, that was good enough for me. 
I'm sure it was a lot to ask of a dog, and he did fine. 
Then he tried to get up when he was done waiting for us.  We were done eating, but hadn't left the table yet, so I told Zeke to wait at the table because I wanted to put River back in his place and have him be relaxed there until Zeke and I could decide when dinner was over, not him.
It took a few tries to get the timing right, but finally, he relaxed in his spot and then I went back to the dinner table and waited a few seconds and then said, “OK. let's get up.” 
My first view of River
So then Zeke and I got up and that signaled that dinner was over. And I let River follow our lead. He got up from his spot and then I started preparing his dinner.
Last night he slept on the floor right next to me.  (We're still sleeping on a futon on the floor--having had no chance to put our bed together yet). I was so thrilled that he slept through the night, except for one moment, when Zeke got up at three in the morning to take a leak, it got River all excited and I could tell I wasn't going to get him back to sleep unless I took him for a walk. So I took him up to the corner and back, gave him a treat and when we got back, he curled back up on the floor and slept calmly through the rest of the night.
All in all--a pretty good first night.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

New York City to Seattle

New York City, July 2011.
Our last pictures as New Yorkers.  Don't we look happy? It was over 90 degrees and humid the day we had to shlep all of our luggage through the city.  We were both drenched with sweat. 
 (Notice the appropriate graffiti on the poster behind Zeke.)

Seattle, August 2011.
Here’s the new house.
The lower right set of windows is the guest room, which has its own, separate entrance and a dedicated bathroom. The lower left set of windows is my office/studio.
The second level is the master suite, the bedroom on the left and the bathroom on the right.
The third level is the living room on the left and the kitchen on the right. The bay window is the dining area.
Behind a security gate, there is a formal outdoor entrance area with stone benches and planters and a back entrance, which I end up using a lot more since it’s so convenient. 
There’s also a two-car garage going to waste at the moment.  But I hope to get a bicycle soon, so I can park that in one of the spaces and maybe I’ll rent out the other side to my neighbor for his motorcycle. 

Master Bathroom

Living/Dining room

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Yoga with Glenn Black - Day #6

Today was day six.  And I worked, struggled and sweat for three more hours on my yoga mat, swung some kettlebells, tried to lay my left lower leg on top of my right lower leg and tried to be calm and relaxed and endure the discomfort as my hips screamed at me, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO US!?!?!” 
Emotionally, mentally, I don’t know what, exactly, but I seem to have hit a wall. Not physically. I’m doing fine physically.  But I started to get the feeling that I don’t care about yoga anymore.  I don’t see the point anymore. I started to wonder what my life would be like if I never got my hips any more flexible than they are right now. And it didn’t seem so bad. I’m not in any pain.  I’ve never noticed any problems with my hips how they are. It’s never interrupted my quality of life. What happened to, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”
Glenn has talked about the Buddhist concept of beginner’s mind.  And I think I went there. I suddenly became a yoga novice again. So, I can relate to those people who know nothing about yoga and who look at me with a blank stare when I tell them about how long I practiced my Warrior 3 or a Revolved Side Angle Pose, or how hard I’m working to be able to do my Peacock or my Half Moon Pose. 
One of the hardest questions I get asked by people who aren’t ‘into’ yoga is when they say, “why would you want to do that?”  I honestly don’t know. I just do. I want to do it. 
Or do I?
Yeah, I probably still do.  I think maybe just being immersed in such an intense study of it with such a deeply grounded master for three hours each morning for a whole week is a bit much for me. I think maybe “Balance” is rearing its ugly head and saying, “hey, take a break from it for a while.  Even if it’s just for a day.”
But even though today as I struggled physically and matched it with an emotional / mental struggle, in the end, after my Corpse Pose relaxation, I still felt the bliss. I felt such a relief. Not only a relief to be done with the practice for today, but the sense of accomplishment and achievement accompanied by the supreme relaxation that the work provides for my body every time. I smiled at the trees as I walked away from the pavilion, and on my way to lunch I literally said “Hi” to a hedgehog who looked up from munching on the grass as I strolled by.
Oh yeah... This is why I like yoga.  This is why I struggle, because without struggle, are we really alive?
And if I’m not improving, I’m either stagnating or growing worse. And given the choice between those three, I would definitely choose to grow. Even if it does require a bit of a struggle.   What if the caterpillar decided it was too much trouble to put the effort into getting out of that safe, comfortable cocoon? If she decided that there was nothing wrong with being in there?  Sure, nothing’s wrong inside that cocoon, but if she didn’t struggle, we would never see a butterfly.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Yoga with Glenn Black - Day #5

Last night I had a mad craving for chocolate, so I had a vegan chocolate brownie from the Cafe. And whatever that brownie lacked in animal products, it certainly made up for in chocolately chocolateness. It was a chocolate explosion. And since I ate it right before bed, I didn’t really sleep that well.  
So today, I paid the price. I was a bit tired and I could really feel the difference in my ability to be strong and present in class today. I’m always telling my clients about the importance of sleep in a healthy life, and today I was living proof. Some of the things we did today were things I don’t typically struggle with, but I was struggling today.  And some of the things that I typically struggle with, I was struggling with MORE today. I also found it hard to stay focused and aware during my Corpse pose relaxation. 
We did a lot of kettlebell stuff first thing today.  We did many of the standard swings and then a few things that I’ve never heard of before.  One new-to-me skill I did today was laying on my back, putting a six pound kettlebell on my forehead and lifting only my face up toward the ceiling. Obviously, the lifting will help to strengthen the muscles of the neck, but what was really interesting, was when we brought our heads back down to the ground, I could feel it lengthening my neck, as if it were creating a traction and allowing more space between the cervical vertebrae.  It was actually quite refreshing.  We didn’t do a lot of them, but just a few of them did the trick.
And then the other new and impressive thing was laying on our backs with the kettlebell in one hand and the arm extended up toward the sky. Then, without bending the elbow or lowering the kettlebell, we stood up! And then we laid back down, and stood up etc. When he told us what we were going to do, I didn’t believe it.  And then when I was able to do it, I still didn’t believe it. But I did it. Believe it. 
Today we did more yoga than we’ve ever done.  We probably spent a good 40 minutes of our three hour session doing the Warrior 1, 2 and 3, Revolved Triangle, Side Angle and Revolved Side Angle Poses, in addition to our regular repertoire of Bound Angle, Pigeon and Seated Wide Leg Straddle Poses. 
We didn’t have an afternoon session today, so some of us met in the studio and just had our own yoga jam. It was nice to practice and really practice. This is the way yoga should be practiced, I think. We would observe each other and let each other know about misalignments we saw.  And we could assist and inspire each other. We played for about two hours. By then most of the others were gone, but I stayed and laid in Corpse Pose for half an hour. 
I felt wonderful afterwards. 
It was supposed to rain today, and it looked ominously gray most of the day. In fact, it did sprinkle a bit at one point, but it never rained.  And I’m so glad it didn’t.  Not that I don’t like rain. I do. I love it.  But I only have a small amount of clothes and I can’t afford to have my socks wet. I also think it would be a big mess if it rained here.  Lots of mud.
Many of the participants of other workshops are leaving today. More typically, the workshops here are either five days (Mon - Fri) or a weekend. So it’s kind of interesting.  This isn’t a big place so you see the same faces over and over again.  But today it was a whole new selection of faces. 
Tomorrow is the last full day here, and then Sunday we’ll have a half day. I’ve already gotten what I came for, so anything else after this is a bonus.