Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day

About a year ago, I sifted through all of my belongings and kept only what fits into my car, then drove from Brooklyn, NY to Atlanta, GA. It took a lot of planning because not only was I transporting my cat, who hates riding in the car, but I also had a bearded dragon. Most beardies do not like change, and she was no exception. I knew she was going to hate making the 15 hour drive just as much, if not more, than Simon. With Simon, I could at least supply him with copious amounts of CBD (don’t worry, it’s very safe), but I actually have no clue if I could do that with a beardie. 

Nevertheless, she was already stressed out seeing changes around our old apartment, and she was also about 8 years old. The average lifespan of bearded dragons is 10 years. I had a whole plan on how to travel with these two nervous babies, which included a crate and Peach’s tank, and still manage to fit my essentials in the car. I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive that long straight through, so I planned to break it up between two days with a night in a hotel along the way. 

I pictured myself sneaking Peach in a travel carrier into the hotel, and cuddling with both of my babies until it was time to wake up and drive another 7 hours to our new home. The reality is that Simon probably would have wanted to play with Peach by bopping her on the head, and then she would get upset and puff out her chin. He may even think her tail is a toy. I had seen it play out this way between them for years. Peach loved interacting with Simon if I held her or if she was safe in her tank. They had some really cute moments together; my favorite memories include moments when Simon wasn’t paying attention and Peach would lick him. Bearded dragons use their Jacobson’s organ to familiarize themselves with their surroundings or new objects by way of licking.

Something that brought the two together was their fondness for dog friends. I had my own dog walking service at the time, and sometimes the small dogs would stay with me while their parents were out of town. Simon loved playing with the dogs! Peach enjoyed watching from her tank or my shoulder, but the moment she was on my bed or on the floor, she went straight for the dogs. Some even let her perch on their backs.

Over the years, Peach and I built a really great relationship. Not many people know that about me because I work primarily with cats and dogs, but Peach came into my life in 2012 when someone I knew couldn’t keep her. She was so tiny and unsure if she could trust me. It took some time, but I learned very quickly she had a big personality. If she did not like something she made it perfectly clear. I used to make her little salads (the smallest food prep, ever) with a mix of different fruits and veggies. Her two favorite foods were blue hornworms and raspberries. She would munch on the berries and get red juice all over her face, but the look on her face of pure happiness was the best thing to watch. Then, Peach would rub her face all over her furniture. She also enjoyed watching tv and dancing to music. Turn on Ciara and that girl would go wild!

Part of my plan for moving was to set up a whole new bioactive tank for Peach. With the proper bugs, plants, substrate, and lights, this system would be self cleaning and ideal living for Peach. Unfortunately, Peach did not make it to Atlanta with me and Simon. Two days before the big move, she became very stressed and her behavior changed dramatically. I was running errands when my sister called, very nervous. Mind you, she does not do well with lizards and hardly ever paid attention to Peach, so for her to call about my beardie was a big concern. She was very lethargic, and wouldn’t eat her blue hornworms. I rushed home to see if I could help.

We tried everything to make her comfortable, but ultimately I wrapped her in a t-shirt and used my body heat to help keep her warm. She went downhill so quickly that there wasn’t much more to do, I could tell she was leaving us. Simon and I laid in bed with her so she knew she wasn’t alone. It was a very difficult moment for me, and while I had helped so many people over the years with the passing of their four legged babies, it’s always the worst experience to say goodbye to one of my own.

The next morning, my sister woke me up with a plan to give Peach a proper burial ceremony. She made a little coffin for Peach with a shoebox and we drove out to the Rockaways. The ideal scenario would have been a viking burial, but the waters were very choppy that morning, not to mention I might get in trouble for lighting anything on fire and sending it into the ocean. Plus, I didn’t own a bow and arrow, so that was out of the question. We found an area on the way to the beach, away from where people congregate, to lay her to rest. Disclaimer: I know this is not the best way to dispose of my lizard, but I wasn’t exactly thinking about that at the time. Nearby, it appeared that a religious or cultural ceremony had taken place, with decorative flags and statues left behind. Left behind just for us, obviously. We honored her by reusing some of the materials we found to celebrate Peach. Sure, I could be sad about Peach’s passing, and I could always think about what if I did something differently, but this is how it played out and I have to acknowledge that. 

I choose to celebrate Peach’s life, just like everyone else I know who has passed away,

humans and animals alike. I encourage you all to do the same, but we all have our own way of dealing with a loss so please do what is necessary for you.

Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day is August 28. It is a day assigned to give us the space to remember, mourn, and celebrate our four legged babies who have moved on from this life. It was created by a woman named Deborah Barnes to honor her cat, Mr. Jazz. Death is something that makes many people uncomfortable, but it is an essential part of life. Instead of fearing or avoiding the topic, I prefer to give our babies the best life possible while they are still here with us. Give your fur babies all the raspberries and blue hornworms they want! Better yet, to help improve the lives of those still with us, you can have their hair tested by us to find what food and environmental intolerances they may have. This could improve their health and overall quality of life. Here at 5Strands Affordable Testing, we help people and pets everyday overcome symptoms they experience daily. https://www.affordableallergytest.com/shop/

Cuddle your babies, and give them all your love while you can. More importantly, appreciate the love they have for you! Sometimes we owe our pets the recognition for the amount of support they give us, and how much they’ve improved our lives. Create the best memories with them, so when we have to say goodbye, we can remember the happiest moments. This makes it easier to celebrate them.

There is no exact way to observe Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day. Only you can understand your relationship with your pets, so it’s up to you to honor them in your own way. Some people find fulfillment in volunteering at a local shelter to pass along the love we’ve received from passed pups. This gives dogs who don’t have homes or families to create memories. It’s therapeutic for both you and the dog. You could also journal about the pet you’ve lost. Write down memories, or tell their story. Social media has brought us closer to people all over the world, so sharing your story about your pets can also bring you some solace. This week, there will be thousands (probably more like millions) of people using social media to create a communal space to express their feelings during this time. By using the hashtag #rainbowbridgeremembranceday you will be part of a community sharing their memories. I hope by sharing my story with you all, that you can find the space to feel comfortable to share yours.

Stephanie

We’ve Got a Gut Feeling… That You Need To Read This

Having a healthy body is vital to our overall well-being; this includes having a healthy gut microbiome. There are many functions that take place in the gut that affect other functions of the body, so it is important to pay close attention to your body’s needs, especially when you have an unhealthy gut. There are some signs and symptoms of an unhealthy gut, and fortunately, there are also ways that you can improve your gut.

Be mindful of your body’s everyday functions, behaviors and reactions to foods and your environment. When you notice on your body’s irregularities and uncommon functions, you should try to ascertain the causes of these symptoms. Common symptoms of an unhealthy gut include upset stomach, unintentional weight changes, consuming a high sugar diet, sleep disturbances, autoimmune conditions, food intolerances and skin irritations. So when your stomach constantly aches for no apparent reason, or your weight is fluctuating, or if you’re having issues with falling asleep and/or staying asleep-these are but a few symptoms of having an unhealthy gut. Other factors may also be contributing to these symptoms because your body is like a machine; you must have everything functioning properly in order for your whole body to be in peak health. Once you know why your gut microbiome may not be functioning correctly, you can then make a change to improve it.

Here are some ways you can improve your overall gut health:

 

  • Lower your stress levels. Stress can affect you mentally, physically and emotionally, so it is important to learn to both minimize your levels of everyday stress and to learn to properly manage the stress that you encounter. Taking slow, deep breaths, meditating, getting fresh air outdoors, and picking up a relaxing hobby, like gardening, are all effective ways to help alleviate and manage stress. 
  • Get enough quality sleep. Adults should be getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night and children need even more quality sleep. When your body is fully rested, it can fully repair itself and recover from the day. When you feel well-rested, your body is more energized and prepared for your daily activities, as well as strong enough to fight off germs you encounter every day.
  • Eat slowly. Because many of us have such  hectic lives, we do not take the time to slow down, eat our food and allow it to properly digest. This leads to indigestion, heart burn and other disturbances in your gut and your body. Chewing your food slowly, enjoying and actually tasting your meal not only promotes a healthier gut microbiome, but it can also help reduce weight gain because you’re allowing the nutrients to be absorbed and your body to tell you when you are full.
  • Stay hydrated. Along with eating properly, you want to make sure you are staying hydrated. This allows your body to be flushed from any toxins it may have along with providing your body with adequate water to aid in bodily functions. You need to drink the right amount of water and in order to determine the amount you need, take your weight, daily activity level, and exercise methods into consideration. There are also online calculators that you can use to find out how much water you should be drinking every day.
  • Take a prebiotic or probiotic. Adding a prebiotic or probiotic to your diet may also aid in a healthy gut. “Prebiotics provide “food” meant to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, while probiotics are live good bacteria (Dix, 2019)”. Not all supplements are the same and not all bodies are the same, so it is best to consult your healthcare provider when choosing the right one for your body.
  • Check for food intolerances. Many of us do not realize that when our stomach becomes upset or our gut has other functional disturbances when we eat certain foods, we are experiencing a food intolerance. A food intolerance occurs when our bodies are not able to properly digest some foods. We may become inflamed, bloated, or develop bowel issues. 5Strands® Affordable Testing provides food intolerance testing for both people and pets. Once you get tested, you’ll get personalized results that will inform you on what you are intolerant to. You can then make the necessary dietary changes.
  • Change your diet. After you know what foods you’re intolerant to, you should then start eliminating foods you are most intolerant to and slow down eating those you are somewhat intolerant to. After 21-30 days of abstinence, you should be able to see an improvement in your gut health and overall health. Also, if you’re not intolerant to high-fiber foods (beans, oats, berries), garlic and onion, fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt), and collagen-boosting foods (bone broth and salmon), begin to incorporate those foods into your diet which will also improve your gut health.

 

No one likes feeling ill or having digestive issues. It is important to pay close attention to your body and it’s needs. It is vital to take good care yourself and every part of your mind and body in order to be the best you. Heeding to these tips and listening to your body is a good step in that direction. Start off with just one or two of these tips until you’re able to efficiently and effectively incorporate all of these things into your daily life. 

 

References

Dix, M. (2019, March 29). 7 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut and 7 Ways to Improve Gut Health. 

Retrieved August 14, 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/health/gut-health

 

#AdoptDon’tStop

I recently crashed a dog party filled (almost) solely of golden retrievers. In fact, it was a pretty casual 151st anniversary party of the breed held here in Atlanta, Georgia. I did not have a dog with me, but I did have my camera, so I was in! Last year, the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland hosted the 150th anniversary party. I just picture myself lying on my back amidst a sea of blonde, goofy, bodies trampling me with love and slobber. This is what I dreamt of leading up to the party in Piedmont Park. The turn out for the party was fairly impressive, but safe to say not nearly as many goldens as Scotland’s party. 

I’m telling this story because I found myself eavesdropping on quite a few conversations. Shut up, we all do it. I can’t not hear what’s going on around me. What I noticed the most was a lot of dialogue about dog breeders. It seemed like everyone knew the same handful of golden retriever breeders (by first name basis, might I add) and were very particular about their choices. Listening to people discuss which breeders they’ve decided to buy their dog from sounds more like collecting glass figurines and less like adopting a new baby. Any time someone has asked me if I can recommend a breeder for whatever type of dog they are looking for, I always give out information for local shelters. It’s not a popular response, but I genuinely believe that shelter animals make for the best companions. To extend that thought, I sat down and made a list of the benefits of adopting a shelter animal.

  1. Save & Change a Life (and probably way more than one)

So many shelters are overwhelmed by the amount of animals in their care. It can be stressful and confusing for the animals because they don’t know if their previous family will come back. Rescue groups and shelters do great work by providing food, shelter, and care to homeless animals, so we need to do our part in the community. By adopting a dog or cat from a shelter, you create a vacant space for another animal in need to have a place to stay until they can find there forever home. The ripple effect goes on and on from there. 


Companionship & Socialization

There are studies that show the importance to our physical, mental, and emotional health to have human connection and companionship (see last week’s post about International Day of Friendship). If you’ve ever had a bond with an animal, you understand that companionship of any kind is significant. Not only do you form a strong connection to another living being, but studies have shown that people walking with dogs are portrayed as trustworthy. People are more likely to approach you if you have a dog with you. As a dog walker, I would say this statement is true. I’ve met so many new people and even gotten dates just because someone wanted to pet the dogs I had with me.


Work-out Buddy

Dogs need exercise. When you adopt a dog, you now have to schedule daily walks with your pup. This doesn’t only provide exercise for your new fur baby, but it also provides you with added exercise and creates a stronger bond with your dog. Once you increase your activity levels, it can get addicting. Daily runs with your dog, or dropping them off at daycare while you’re at the gym only benefits the both of you. Take your dog for hikes and fun adventures! Your new pup now holds you accountable for exercising.


Safety

Growing up with an ex-cop as a father, we had a german shepherd and one of her main jobs was to protect the family. She was a great guard dog, who barked anytime someone came up our driveway or rang the doorbell. One night, someone climbed through our basement window, but as soon as our dog began barking, they ran out through the garage door and into the woods. She saved us from a potentially scary scenario. Whether you live alone or with others, a dog is a great way to keep your home safe. Dogs or any size or age can be known to bark anytime someone is at your door. The best alarm system for your home!


Help End Cycle of Mass Breeding

Puppy mills are a dangerous place for any dog. Female dogs are forcefully impregnated and used to birth multiple litters, before they are discarded and usually end up neglected, euthanized or dropped at shelters. Some breeders fall into this category for me. I’ve heard horror stories about breeders who care more about the money they make from the puppies than they do about the animals themselves. I have a friend who heard about a breeder that bred show dogs. This particular breeder had a puppy who did not meet height requirements for shows, and she her tail grew out in an unusual way. Because of these reasons, the poor pup was kept in a crate and not given much attention. My friend adopted her from the breeder, and it took this poor dog a long time to trust us humans. When dogs are bought from pet stores, it supports puppy mills and mass breeders. Please adopt, don’t shop!


Help End Overpopulation

We have all watched Wheel of Fortune at least once in our lives, right? Bob Barker (and now Drew Carey) have always ended each show by reminding us to get our pets spayed or neutered to help control animal overpopulation. There’s truth to this concern. TNR (trap, neuter, release) programs do their part to help stray cat communities from growing. By adopting an animal from a shelter, your new addition is most likely caught up on vaccines and already spayed or neutered.

Adult Dogs Are Already Potty Trained

I’ve often had people come to me, looking very tired, and telling me how they recently

adopted a new puppy. They see how cute puppies are, but forget how much work it takes to train and raise them. I, personally, prefer older dogs. I love the wisdom and clear experiences that old dogs have lived. Plus, they are already potty trained! If you adopt an older dog from a shelter, they have a general understanding of how to behave around the house. That’s a very general statement to make, however, and you may need to provide some training so the dog understands what you’re expectations are for them. Training a new puppy takes a lot of patience and repetition. If you still prefer puppies and young dogs, there are dogs of all ages and sizes in shelters and they can pair you with the appropriate match.


It Feels Good When You Can Provide a Good Life

This reason kind of goes with reason #1. If you’ve ever done something for another you know how good it feels inside. That gooey feeling inside when you’ve made someone else’s life better, even for a moment, releases endorphins in your body and can become addicting. It feels great to help others, and when our adopted additions open up to us we know they appreciate it. Animals who spend time in shelters can show gratitude for their new environment. Anything from the first time they wag their tail, or give you kisses, or even stand near you by choice will warm your insides!


It Gives You (both) a Sense of Purpose

When I adopted my cat, he was very sick and malnourished. The rest of his family did not survive and he was fortunate enough to be scooped up by my friend before I took him in. He had upper respiratory infections and lungworms in his body. Because of that, I couldn’t let him wander outside alone and I wanted to give him the best possible life that I could. On a personal note, I was going through a break up and feeling pretty down on myself at the time. Having this little ill kitten come into my life, I felt a new sense of purpose. Eight years later, I still hold myself responsible for giving him the best life ever. He’s traveled on trains, gone on road trips, played with dog friends, and loves learning new tasks. Likewise, he brought me out of my slump all those years ago and still gives me emotional support when I need him. He knows when I’m sick or feeling low, and comforts me like I’ve done for him in the past.


Save Your Money to Actually Spend on Your New Furbaby

Buying a pet from a breeder or pet store can be pretty costly. Purebred dogs can sell for thousands of dollars. To continue from reason #9, I would much rather support a shelter and spend the rest of that money on the best care possible for my furchild. Money spent adopting from a shelter often covers spay/neutering and vaccine costs. That money can also help shelters and rescue groups update their facilities to increase the value of life for those animals still in shelters. It also allows shelters to provide better quality food, treats, and toys to the remaining animals.


You Can Find Any Breed

All dog breeds can be found in shelters. Quite often, someone buys a puppy from a breeder or store, but if that dog has bad habits or a health concern, those same people give up ownership or abandon them. If you’re looking for a specific breed to adopt, some shelters provide pictures of available dogs for adoption on websites and social media. You could also call around or visit shelters to see your options. Who knows, if you visit in person you may fall in love with a dog you weren’t expecting. This can also be true of cats. It is harder to find a specific breed from an animal shelter, but some people are not prepared to own certain breeds of cats because of personality traits or health issues. You can also research rescue groups in your area for breed-specific rescue groups for dogs and cats.

Mixed Breeds Tend to Have Less Health Issues

As an extension to this reason, many purebred dogs have tendencies to be susceptible to genetic diseases. In my experience, mixed breed dogs can actually be healthier than purebred dogs.


Shelters Can Provide Reliable Resources For You

If you’re adopting a dog or cat for the first time, then a shelter is a great place for resources in the pet community. They will usually have local veterinarians, supplies stores, pet sitters and walkers, and even brands of food they recommend. You can usually continue a relationship with the shelter long after adoption for help if you have questions down the line. Remember, the goals and intentions of their work is solely for the advancement of care of animals in need. They care about the animals rather than about money.

I hope this list provides you with enough reasons to adopt from a shelter and not to buy from a store or breeder. Shelters will often want to do a home visit, and meet with you before you are approved to adopt. This provides them with the best information to place animals in appropriate homes. They also usually have someone whose job is specifically to match potential adopters with dogs that align with their lifestyles and activity levels. They have systems in place to ensure proper matches for adoption. If you find yourself wanting to help out, but you’re unsure of your readiness to adopt, then consider volunteering at a shelter or become a foster parent!

A concern that many people have when they adopt animals is the history of the dog or cat. Understandably, you may not ever know what your newly adopted fur baby has experienced in its life, but you have full control over future experiences. Similarly, you may realize that your pet has symptoms of a food or environmental sensitivity. Luckily, here at 5 Strands Affordable Testing have designed a hair analysis test to help you determine what would cause such symptoms. With this test, your pet never has to leave the comfort of home, and you would only have to provide us with 10-15 strands of hair to find out what food and environmental intolerances affect your fur baby. We make it easy to provide great care to your pets!

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