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My Dragon is Back

I moved back to Western New York a little over a year ago, and took the opportunity to rent a one-bedroom apartment above a friend in the city of Buffalo, NY. The biggest issue with my living situation is that it’s pretty small and I have two dogs: one Boston terrier named Sunny (fits just fine) and one German shepherd named Leda (a little too big for the space). My apartment is not ideal for a big dog, but I walk them three times a day and do a fair amount of training with them, so it’s not so bad.

The real problem happened last April, when it started getting really warm out, and Leda was too hot and cramped for my apartment. So although it was hard, she lived at my parents’ house 30 minutes away for the summer, where she ran on three acres with my parents’ two other big dogs all day, and I visited her whenever I wanted. It was not easy to leave my dog and I felt guilty about it a lot, but every time I visited her and saw how much freedom she had to run around, I felt ok with the setup. My parents are retired, Leda is well behaved, and it worked out during the hot weather.

But now it’s colder, and Buffalo had it’s first snow yesterday, so I brought Leda back to my apartment (she would be inside in either place). It’s great to have my dragon back. Sunny is happy to have her “muscle” and friend around again, and we are all getting a lot more exercise. I’m liking the added discipline of having a much more active dog around, and she is benefiting from more mental work – I play games like “find it” and work on other types of training exercises with her and Sunny every day. On that note, I was so happy to see that one of my favorite podcasts The Tim Ferriss Show, just released a full episode on dog training, too.

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Ben the Phoenix Cat

Here is a story of how I recently saved a (cat) life!

This past summer, my parents traveled to a few of the National Parks “out west” for a month, leaving my sister and I to take care of their house and pets. My parents have two 13-year-old cat brothers, Ben and Jerry (yes I named them, yes I used to be addicted to Cherry Garcia ice cream). My sister was doing most of the house-sitting and living there every day, while I traveled into town a few days a week to help her when she got busy. So she was seeing the animals every day, while I was gone for days at a time.

One day I came over, and Ben was totally different. He had always been a rather obese cat – eating a lot, never going outside, and barely getting up from the couch. This time, though, he was skinny! And he wasn’t grooming himself. My sister hadn’t really noticed, but since I mentioned Ben was looking weird, she paid more attention and texted a few days later to say he was getting skinnier and more lethargic.

So I took Ben to the vet, who confirmed my suspicions. Ben had gone from weighing 15 pounds to 10, and his blood sugar levels were off the charts. Ben has diabetes! Shit.

The vet said I (really my parents) had two choices: (1) hospitalize him and then give him two insulin shots at the same time every day for the rest of his life, or (2) do nothing and expect him to die within 30 days. Shit.

My parents chose #2 due to his age and their survival-of-the-fittest, raised-in-the-country belief that giving a cat two shots a day for the rest of its life would be cruel and unnatural. So I spent the next two days petting Ben, crying, and beating myself up for not being nicer to him over the years. I wasn’t mean, but he was never my favorite. . .

That night after crying, indulging in a selfie photo shoot with Ben, and drinking a couple glasses of wine, I decided that I owed Ben some Internet research on cat diabetes to make sure that the vet’s “Only Two Options” decree was actually true.

It wasn’t. Did you know that cats aren’t supposed to eat dry food? Did you know that feeding a diabetic cat dry food is just fueling their diabetic fire and killing them even faster? Did you know that Fancy Feast (classic seafood variety pack specifically) has the lowest carb, highest protein canned food you can buy at the grocery store? I didn’t, until I used that amazing tool called Google.

So the next morning, I woke up early, went to the grocery store, and bought Ben and Jerry their first pack of Fancy Feast. Jerry wasn’t impressed at first (he now loves it), but Ben loved it from the first bite. He ate a lot Fancy Feast. And he has been eating high protein/low carb canned food ever since (my mom buys him something from the natural pet store now).

It’s been two months since Ben’s dead-in-30-days diagnosis, and he is lean, active, and super happy to see me every time I stop by my parents’ house. He could go downhill at any time, but I definitely bought him some time and a higher quality of life.

Today my dad called him “Ben the Phoenix.” I’m so proud.

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if it is to be, it is up to me

I’m loving the storms that have been passing through Western New York this weekend. It’s been great to fall asleep to the sound of rain, hear thunder, and not water my garden with tap water (the plants grow so much faster and bigger on rainwater!). I’ve been helping my sister take care of my parents’ house and pets while they are on a trip out west.  Unfortunately one of the cats, a 13-year-old tabby named Ben, has been rapidly losing weight, so I took him to the vet, and the diagnosis is diabetes. My parents lean towards the “let nature take its course” pet care approach, so I’m doing my best to spend time with him, keep him comfortable, and feel him food that he likes.

Here are the things that have been on my mind this week:

  • I am participating in MIT’s ULab “Leading from the Emerging Future” course for the second year in a row, and the first live session happened this past week. I was able to participate in the live session on the University at Buffalo campus, and meditate at the same time as over 20,000 people from around the world. I’ve never had that “global meditation” experience before (thanks, Internet!), but it was amazing and I felt infused with energy for the rest of the day. Here is the course website, here is the course book, and here is a sister website.
  • Cat nutrition is on my mind for obvious reasons… I learned that cats are supposed to eat wet food, not dry food. All of the cats I’ve known have eaten dry food, so this is a surprise to me. Here is a Quora thread on wet versus dry food. And here is a detailed chart that gives the nutrition information on many cat foods.
  • This weekend I went to my friend’s workshop on making your own herb-infused vinegar for cooking for medicinal purposes. I made mine with stinging nettle, burdock root, and holy basil (infused into apple-cider vinegar). It’s pretty easy to do (I think these instructions are good, although we didn’t warm up the vinegar and I’m sure it will be fine).
  • The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest of the Dakota Access pipeline continues, and there is a growing community of activists at Standing Rock in North Dakota. I’ve had trouble finding information about the protests on a consistent basis through normal news channels, so I’ve been looking at Twitter and searching for #DAPL or #NoDAPL to find the most current information. Below is a video of Van Jones speaking at a rally in DC, and his comments about “water is life, oil is death” are spot on (my favorite points begin at 2:40).
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Ferret-Bindering

There are certain things in life that I discover I really want, and when that passion hits me in the gut, I go to enormous lengths to reach my goal. This all-consuming, tireless effort is what I call ferret-bindering.

The following is an explanation of ferret-bindering:

When I was in middle school, I wanted to have a ferret for a pet, but my parents said no, absolutely not. I did not give up. Instead, I embarked on an elaborate campaign to receive the right to own a ferret.

For over a year, I wrote my parents letters explaining why I wanted a ferret, which I placed under their pillows. I used ferrets as the subject for all of my school reports. I read every book written about ferrets. I poured through my subscription to Modern Ferret Magazine. I surfed ferret websites on the 90’s Internet.

My final feat was a binder about ferrets. I sacrificed a few pages of Modern Ferret and cut out ferret pictures to glue to the front cover (see below). I used divider tabs to create binder sections: a collection of my school reports; Internet printouts; more cute pictures; and then my favorite, “My Ferret Life,” which was a handwritten plan for me to own a ferret (and still keep up with my other responsibilities!). I included a budget, daily schedule, pro and con list, and contracts for me and my parents to sign.

Ferret Binder
My ferret binder in all its glory.

The ferret binder cracked my parents’ resolve after a year-long campaign. For my 14th birthday, they gave me permission to own a ferret (best gift ever!). I was ecstatic.

Ferret-bindering: the process of going all-out to reach your goal, no matter how embarrassing, no matter how many times other people say no, and no matter how much work is involved when you could be having fun with your friends instead.

So why is this relevant? I am ferret-bindering Keeping Things Alive.