A personal style blog aimed to entertain and enrich the lives of readers by sharing meaningful and impactful life experiences. Here, readers can find a variety of blog post topics, in addition to a tail-wagging focus on dog blogs!
Author: Sit, Stay, Blog
Welcome! In a world where time is a valuable, precious component of life, I am ever so grateful for the personal time you are taking to read about me and how I began Sit, Stay, Blog!
In 2018, I graduated with a Master's Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and in 2016 I received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology, with a minor in Sociology. While attending my undergraduate institution, I involved myself in a plethora of unique activities which undoubtedly provided me with memorable experiences and a motivation to document and share these experiences with others. One of my most monumental experiences to date has involved being the first student to ever raise and train a service dog, Pinella, at my undergraduate institution. With that experience came both challenges and inspiring moments that I hope to share with you along this magnificent journey of Sit, Stay, & Blog. My primary goal is to connect with my readers on a personal level and create content that is meaningful and relevant to everyone’s interests.
I am forever grateful for your support of Sit, Stay, & Blog, and it is my genuine hope that you visit my blog page and enjoy the content provided throughout!
Meet Vincent! Vinny is described as a “lazy” little puggly-wuggly fur friend who teaches you how to love and be loved. He’s a remarkable little fella who knows how to steal hearts and take naps!
“I guess she’s all right.”
“My ride or die, Hannah!”
Name: Vincent Paterno Keiser
How I Got My Name: I am named after the greatest college football coach, Joe Paterno, PSU Football!
Nickname: Vinny, Vinny Bumper, Bumps, Chubbs, Baby boy
Age: 4 years young!
Birthdate: November 21, 2014
Adoption Story: My sister (Phoebe) and I thought we had our forever home all figured out. Unfortunately, plans had changed, and we quickly became foster kids. We kept our hopes high that we would be able to stay together; however, we knew that it might not be possible because we can be very hyper together. Luckily, we found a forever home with two other Pugs (Abby and Lucy and later on, Clarice) when an animal-loving family took both of us home!
Best Tricks: One thing I have mastered and a skill that can never be taken away from me is my ability to make food disappear!
Collar Color I Sport Best: I have always preferred the “birthday suit,” “nudity” kind of look, but when my human sister (Hannah) makes me exercise, I settle for wearing my blue harness!
My Fur Family: My fur sisters are Phoebe, Lucy, and Clarice who are also all pugs like me! I also have three cat siblings, Nelly, Mo, and Kobe!
Favorite Fur Friends: I like my sister, Phoebe, the best, but sometimes me and Lucy play together!
Favorite Activities: My all time favorite things to do include sleeping all the time and taking trips to the beach with my human family (If it ain’t a dog-friendly beach house, it ain’t for us!)!
Favorite Toy: I love squeaky and conveniently play with him before bed time.
Favorite Treats/Food: My daddy always gives me puppy food, but sometimes mommy spoils me and shares cheeseballs and powdered donuts with me. They are my favorite!
Life Lesson Learned From Vinny: “Accept yourself. As you can see by Vinny’s photos, he does not care about his figure. He is not too interested in exercising and accepts himself as he is. We all love him for that! He doesn’t compare himself to his sisters who are a lot smaller than he is. I think we can learn a lot from him by not wasting so much time changing or hating ourselves.”
Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers! A new year is upon us! Do you subscribe to the “new year, new me” mantra? Did you set a new year’s resolution? We’re officially one month into the new year. Some of you are excelling beyond expectation at your new year’s goals, while others might have dismissed their resolutions altogether. Whatever your status, you set a goal, and that’s progress in and of itself! Be proud!
You might notice some “New year, new me” progress here at Sit, Stay, Blog in the form of a new website design as well as a new domain (www.sit-stay-blog.net)! I’m very excited to share these changes and updates with my readers and hope that it will propel me into a successful year of blogging!
The end of 2018 marked a special time for me — I completed my master’s degree! This monumental experience has reminded me about the importance of pausing to reflect inward on who I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m headed. Through this self-reflection, I’ve learned something: I’ve been chasing happiness.
Chasing happiness is a strange concept. On one hand, you’re trying to achieve happiness (a positive). On the other hand, you’re missing out on life as you’re trying to get there (a negative). As I reflected on where I’ve been, I realized that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time striving to live in the future. “I can’t wait until this semester is over.” “I’ll be happier once I move.” “Life will be easier when I have a 9:00 to 5:00 job.” These statements are a reflection of my eagerness to achieve whatever goals I had set for myself; however, they also represent a grim reality of how we, as a society, operate on a day-to-day basis. We wake up on a Monday thinking, “I can’t wait until Friday.” When we are faced with something we don’t want to do, we can’t wait until it’s over with. We are eager. We chase happiness. We push aside our ability to be mindful of the present so that we can invest all of our energy into whatever a future of happiness looks like. I firmly believe there is nothing wrong with this sense of eagerness in striving for happiness in life. For me, however, I’ve learned it’s important to consider the process in how I get there.
Self-reflection can teach you a lot. More recently, it has taught me that, at any given moment, you are in control of how you feel. You have the power to choose happiness or chase it. You can choose to find happiness in the smile given to you by a passerby. You can choose to be happy about the wet doggy kiss your four-legged friend just greeted you with as you walked in the door after a long, hard workday. Perhaps you can choose to be happy about the teachers who have provided you with the education necessary to read this blog post. In the most simplest form, you can choose to feel happy about the beat of your heart that allowed you to wake up this morning and start anew.
This sounds like a relatively simple concept. However, it requires a change in your frame of reference, and change is difficult. We are a society that resists change because it’s much more comfortable to stick to the status quo. I’ve chosen to embark on this new year with the goal of finding happiness each and every day. I am working to eliminate phrases such as “I can’t wait for…” from my vocabulary and instead am choosing to focus on more present day events that spark my happiness. In this first month of 2019, I have actively chosen to feel happy about settling into my new home, spending time at home relaxing with Pinella and Alex, receiving three job offers, increasing my presence at my favorite service dog organization, reading a new book that broadens my political knowledge base, revamping the look and style of Sit, Stay, Blog, and the list goes on. As this year progresses, I hope to continue to be more conscientious and deliberate about finding a way to celebrate all positivity, big or small, while minimizing my exposure to negative energy.
Understanding the difference between choosing and chasing happiness is step one. Step two includes implementing action steps into your daily routine to promote feelings of happiness. Action steps include activities that allow you to be more mindful, present, and in touch with your everyday experiences. While not an exhaustive list, below are some of the strategies I employ to reach a state of mindfulness to ensure happiness:
Reading a book
Spending time with an animal (Animals live in the present and are wonderful models to their human counterparts about how to be mindful)
Unplugging from social media
Recognizing your five senses (paying attention to how things look, smell, sound, taste, and feel)
And much, much more!
2019 will be a year of firsts for me. It is the first time in 20 years that my identity will include something other than being a student. I will embark on a new lifestyle that includes full-time employment. I will teach and be taught many new things. I will care for others and be cared for. I will strive to live my life in the present. Most importantly, I will choose happiness.
Thanks for taking time out of your day to read another Sit, Stay, Blog post! Don’t forget to Like and Follow us on Facebook and Twitter! If you have any suggestions for future posts or would like to see your pet featured on Pets on the Net!, leave a comment below or submit your information on Sit, Stay, Blog’s Contact page! 🙂
Meet Brushel! Brushel is described as a “loyal” fur friend who can make you smile with his silly quirks and goofball attitude. He’s a lover, a snuggler, and a remarkable companion!
How I Got My Name: My dad was switching between TV channels when a commercial for a brush hog (whatever that is) came on. Just as he switched the channel, he heard the “ell” part of Russell Westbrook’s (a basketball player) name. In combining “brush” from the commercial and “ell” from the basketball player, he came up with Brushel, and the rest is history!
Breed: Labrador Retriever
Nicknames: Brush dog, brush head, brush, brushy
Age: 2 (soon to be 3…already)
Birthdate: January 14, 2016
Adoption Story: I was adopted on March 26, 2016 at ten weeks old. I kind of picked my owners, they didn’t pick me. While all of my brothers and sisters were busy playing with each other, I ran over to my now human parents and snuggled up against their legs. I’ve had them wrapped around my paw ever since!
Best Tricks: I can “sit” and “lay,” especially if food is involved, and I’m pretty good with “leave its” too! I’m also really good at catching food in the air when it’s thrown to me (and might have even passed this skill onto my fur friend, Pinella)! I’m not too good at paw shaking, however, because I hate my paws being touched.
Collar Color I Sport Best: I sport my green collar the best, and when I pair it with my red harness, I feel all decked out for Christmas!
My Fur Family: I have 3 other feline siblings – Joe, Nittany, and Sue. (Can you guess how they got their names?)
Favorite Fur Friends: I love my kitter siblings, Cousin Pinella, Molly (the neighbor dog), and Lulu and Pepper (the neighbor cats). I also really miss my fur friends, Chloie and Maggie, and try to make friends with NutNut and the squirrels, but they just run away from me!
Favorite Activities: In addition to playing fetch year-round, I love when summertime rolls around because mom and dad take me to the river to swim. I was once a scaredy-cat (or should I say scaredy-dog) to go swimming until one day I saw another dog doing it and decided to give it a try. Now, I love it. I guess it’s true what they say: Monkey see, monkey do!
Favorite Toys: My ball that squeaks when you roll it and my durable chew toys (nothing soft, please, I chew those to pieces!)
Favorite Treats/Food: I eat Purina Pro Plan and love peanut butter (without Xylitol!), apples, bananas, and Milk Bones. I really like having this new human sister though because she always drops food down for me. I’ll eat just about anything!
“When I was going for a walk with my human family and, silly me, wasn’t paying attention and tripped over a rock and it scared the poop out of me (literally all over the road)!”
“When I got to reveal the sex of my new human sibling!”
“Waiting at the window every day for my dad to get home from work”
Life Lesson Learned From Brushel: Dogs teach us how to be better humans. They teach us what it’s like to never hold a grudge and love unconditionally.
Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers! I wasn’t lying to you in my What It Means To: Take a Break From Blogging post when I said I had a busy few months ahead! The most recent of my endeavors: The Hershey Half Marathon! It was fun and exciting. It was nerve-racking. It was painful. It was anything and everything described below.
Dear Diary: My First Half Marathon
Sunday, October 14
(One week until race time)
Emotionally, my nerves are rattling, and I can’t stop the ruminating thoughts. “Next week at this time, you’ll be over halfway through the race.” “Wait, what if you don’t make it past Mile 10?” “What if your injury-prone self decides to get hurt this week?” Today, I took a 4-mile run with Alex to try and capture my best PR (personal record). I know that this is the last these legs will run until next Sunday which is both a relief and anxiety-producing. In between submitting papers for my graduate program and completing work assignments for my job, I know I’ll fit in some walks with Pinella this week to keep my muscles loose and limber. While I truly know very little about how to treat your body when preparing for a half marathon, I know that during this week leading up to the race, I don’t want to push it and certainly don’t want to get injured!
Monday, October 15
Hello, Monday! Less than one week to go! My mind is so preoccupied on the papers I have due, my state licensure exam happening at the end of the month, and preparing for my upcoming midterm exam. Surprisingly, I have not thought about the half marathon much today. This ironically makes me feel more anxious than when I thought about it all day yesterday!
Tuesday, October 16
Bring it on! I’m still not having many thoughts or experiencing any pre-race jitters. I am beginning to question my commitment to the race. What is wrong with me? Am I losing focus?
Wednesday, October 17
Halfway through the week! Today, a thought or two snuck into my mind. I’m starting to get that nervous feeling in my stomach and wondering what this experience will be like. Will there be great crowd support? Will the hilly course be manageable? Will the weather be ideal?
Thursday, October 18
Yikes, it’s getting closer to the weekend which means one step closer to race day! The jitters are building up. As I sat through my evening classes tonight, I could not focus on anything other than the race. I think to myself, “The next time I’m in this classroom, I will have (hopefully) completed my first half marathon.” The thought scares me as much as it excites me. I’ve read about people who DNF (did not finish) a race, and I DO NOT want to be that person. I have set two goals: 1. Finish the race. 2. Maintain at least a 14-minute mile.
Friday, October 19
Mentally, I need at least two more full days before the half marathon. This morning I wake up praying it’s not Saturday. Phew, it’s only Friday! Breathe. I start preparing myself mentally and physically. Aside from reading others’ blog posts about the Hershey Half Marathon, I’m also looking up the best foods and drinks to load into my body.
Saturday, October 20
(It’s the final countdown)
Holy moly! I barely slept last night. I had race-related “nightmares” throughout the night. In the first nightmare, I missed my alarm and didn’t make it to the half marathon on time! Secondly, I forgot my shoes! Who forgets their running shoes? It’s the one thing you need to run a race! The rest of the day, I’m nervous, and my stomach is aching. Alex must have sensed my pre-race jitters because he came back from the store with some of my favorite snacks! My race day bag is packed and ready to go for my early morning journey. The only thing left to do is wait for Sunday to arrive!
Sunday, October 21
I didn’t sleep a wink, but am I surprised? I tossed and turned all night wondering if I would make it on time, if I would hit traffic, or if I actually would forget my shoes. You name it, I worried about it. I get out of bed at 3:30 a.m., put on my race gear, brush my teeth, and head out the door. Before I leave, Alex says, “You won’t fall asleep while driving, will you?” My reply: “I haven’t slept all night. Why start now!?” When I left for the race, the weather was a mild 42 degrees. As I approached the venue, it grew cold, windy, and rainy. RAIN? For my first half marathon? You have got to be kidding me.
A Glance Into The Hershey Half Marathon
As the race began, the skies cleared up, and the weather (thankfully) became quite optimal for a brisk morning run. As we began running, two participants were having a conversation behind me about a race they recently ran and how they “hit the wall” at 10 miles. For the record, I have trained for and now successfully completed a half marathon, but I really don’t have much insight into the running world lingo. I wasn’t quite sure what it meant to “hit the wall,” but I figured it out around Mile 11 1/2.
The first half of the course included a beautiful run around Hersheypark Drive, through Hersheypark, past Zoo America, and through the town of Hershey. Miles 8 to 10 had great crowd support from the students at the Milton Hershey School. The course itself was very hilly. Whereas I usually abide by the rule of “what comes up, must come down,” I quickly learned that in the Hershey Half Marathon, “what comes up, just keeps going up.” The wind picked up around Mile 9 which served as an added obstacle to make it up the hills.
Mile 11 1/2: Cue what it means to “hit the wall.” I passed the chocolate aid station but was so determined to get through the race, I grabbed the chocolate and threw it in my waist pack. At this point, the wind was strong, clouds were overpowering the warmth of the sun, and I was getting low on energy. I had read about the “Miracle Mile” occurring at Mile 12 wherein kids from the Children’s Hospital line the final mile to cheer on runners. I knew if I could make it through this next 1/2 mile, I would reach the “Miracle Mile” and get the encouragement needed to finish. To my dismay, however, I made it to Mile 12, and a mere five or so people lined the street. I was so discouraged and frustrated, but I knew that the real reason for running this race was to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer. I thought of those children with chronic illness who are forced to face repeated and/or long-term hospitalizations and created my own newfound sense of encouragement.
As I neared the end of the race, I was undoubtedly exhausted and my knees were getting sore, but I was blessed with the greatest sight imaginable: my family just before the finish line! My kind little brother left me with a sweet comment to finish up the race: “Thanks for being selfish and taking so long.” Seriously, how encouraging is he? 🙂
I made it to the remaining tenth of a mile. I was so excited to cross the finish line but was incredibly disappointed that the finish line was nothing more than a timing mat. No crowd support. No big finish line banner. Nothing to say, “Hey, look at me! I just finished a half marathon!” I anticipate that the finish line crowd support was much greater for the faster runners, but for slow-mo runners like me, it was anti-climactic. However, these details are simply logistics. I made it, I survived, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with my experiences in finally achieving my goals of not only completing the Hershey Half Marathon but also maintaining an under 14-minute/mile pace!
Life is truly what you make it. If you’re nervous about running/walking in a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or any other race, just go for it! Seriously! I ran my first 5K in June 2017 and pushed myself to complete a half marathon in 2018. You can do it too!
When you are a faster, more well-trained runner stuck behind a slower runner, keep in mind that this may be their first race, they may have a disability inhibiting their ability to run a stellar six-minute mile, or they may just be pacing themselves to truly enjoy their experience. My personal philosophy when it comes to running is that you are your best competition. If you ran a 15-minute mile last year, aim for a 14-minute mile this year. If you’re satisfied at a 12-minute mile, embrace it, enjoy your experiences, and be thankful for your healthy body that enables you to get out and run! Lastly, when half marathons give you a less than stellar finish line experience, you smile big, throw your hands in the air and say, “HEY, LOOK AT ME! I JUST FINISHED A HALF MARATHON!”
Thank you for your support as I worked toward achieving this goal and in celebrating my accomplishment by reading this blog post! Stay up-to-date with upcoming posts by “Liking” and “Following” Sit, Stay, & Blog on Facebook and Twitter! 🙂
Welcome, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers! This blog post is for pet owners everywhere who are inundated with information about the care and well-being of their pets. With advancements in medicine and technology, we have become a society equipped to deal with nuisances such as fleas and ticks, diseases such as heartworm, as well as devastating cancer diagnoses. As more and more research rolls out, however, we are left to decipher the controversial information pertaining to the health and wellness of our pets. One veterinarian screams “Yay, heartworm preventatives for all,” while another advises pet owners to take precautionary measures before considering such products. This controversy invites feelings of confusion and misguidance in pet lovers, and it ultimately becomes our mission to determine right from wrong when it comes to making health conscious choices for our furry friends.
***Disclaimer: None of the information contained herein is presented to serve as veterinarian or medical advice. Always consult with a trusted veterinarian about the health, wellness, and medical needs of your pets!
In the recent months, Pinella and I have had a variety of experiences that have left me feeling as described above — confused and misguided. This all began in August when I discovered…let’s just say…something that did not belong in her bag of kibble. I called the company, immediately expressed my experience and relevant feelings, and, as a token of their sorrow, was sent coupons…for their food. Now, I consider myself to be a very reasonable individual, and I understand that strange things can happen between the production and distribution of food products. However, I had been contemplating transitioning Pinella to a higher quality food, and this particular experience confirmed my decision that it was, indeed, time. The next step: Researching pet foods. Cue the inundation of conflicting, controversial information. Want to feed raw? Beware of potential bacteria contained in raw meat (Lee, n.d.). Considering a grain-free diet? Make sure you brush up on your reading about the Food and Drug Administration’s investigation into the possible link to grain-free diets and canine dilated cardiomyopathy (Food and Drug Administration, 2018). What is a “high quality” dog food anyway? Watch the documentary Pet Fooled on Netflix, and you tell me!
In addition to grappling with which pet food to transition Pinella to, I had another concern on my mind: vaccinations. Now, to set the record straight, I am in NO WAY against vaccinating dogs (or humans). However, I have done a great deal of reading about the differences between core and non-core vaccines and, again, feel misguided and confused. Core vaccines, such as rabies and distemper, help prevent fatal diseases and are not only recommended but required by law in some states (PetMD, n.d.). Non-core vaccines include those for Lyme disease, canine influenza, and kennel cough (Bordetella) which are reportedly only recommended depending on the dog’s lifestyle and living environment (i.e. tick-prone exposure, frequent boarding) (PetMD, n.d.).
As I looked toward Pinella’s yearly checkup appointment last month, I reviewed her vaccination list and read the following: Rabies, Bordetella, Canine Influenza, and Lyme. Previously, her veterinarian and I decided against Bordetella and Canine Influenza as boarding for her is nonexistent, and exposure to other dogs is limited. That left me to question, is the Lyme vaccine core? Is it a non-core vaccine? While I was not surprised to discover it is a non-core vaccination, I was surprised to learn that the jury is still out regarding whether or not its benefits outweigh its risks. Most surprisingly, administration of the vaccine for Lyme disease is suggested to be controversial and debated by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (PedMD, n.d.). Through further investigation about this controversy, I discovered a report based on research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, wherein it was discovered that 95 percent of dogs exposed to the Lyme disease bacteria, B. burgdorferi, never experienced or displayed sickness from the bacteria (Becker, 2017). In drawing my own conclusions, it appears that the Lyme vaccine, similar to the vaccines for kennel cough and canine influenza, truly is lifestyle-dependent.
So, again, the question arises: Why are these vaccines being repeatedly administered without any investigation into whether or not the pet’s lifestyle warrants a need? The best consensus on the internet points to the fact that vaccines serve as a steady source of income for veterinarians. Thus, decreasing the quantity of vaccines administered leads to decreased income. Ultimately, the burden is placed on the pet owner to piece apart this controversial information and make informed decisions about the animal’s welfare.
Next comes my struggle with flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives. You can do a Google search on any of these products and uncover a plethora of conflicting evidence. Keywords like “carcinogen,” “flea resistance to topical products,” and “side effect of seizures” will pop up. In fact, I did a search for “Flea and tick preventatives – risks and benefits” and discovered a list of alarming news posts (see below). By means of speculation, one can argue the benefits of using these products include reduced risk of contact with fleas, ticks, and heartworm, decreased chance of flea infestation, lessened risk of contracting parasites and other illnesses, et cetera. However, as demonstrated below, there exists research indicating that the chemicals contained in these products may be to blame for various adverse effects. As a pet owner, I remain conflicted yet again, not only with whether or not to use these products but also with the products’ mechanisms of action. For instance, if a flea and tick preventative is not a repelling agent (which many are not), the flea and/or tick can still come in contact with the animal and, therefore, bite and cause irritation and infection. Sure, the chemicals in the preventative will kill the insects eventually (usually within 12 hours of contact), but couldn’t one also argue that by applying these products, we are using the animal as a way to prevent infestation in our own homes (No judgement zone for those who do. I’m guilty of it too!)? Possibly. However, one thing remains consistent throughout: The evidence is conflicting.
As I have reiterated throughout, I am in no way asserting that one care approach for your pet is better than the other because, quite frankly, the research points in both directions. What I am saying is that no matter how many hours you spend digging through scholarly research articles, anecdotal evidence, news postings, and veterinarian blog sites, there are no clear-cut answers. What is of most importance is that you, the pet owner, educate yourself. Watch documentaries. Read scholarly research supported by empirical evidence. Ask your veterinarian questions about their methods of care. Consult with other veterinarians, and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Most importantly, advocate for your pet by making informed decisions about their care. After all, we only want what’s best for our pets, and if you’re anything like myself, you’ll go to great odds to get the best.
As always, thank you for reading. Don’t forget to “Like,” “Share,” and “Follow” Sit, Stay, & Blog on Facebook and Twitter!
Meet Buster! Buster was a faithful, loyal, gentle companion and happens to have been my first childhood pet (well, the first I vividly remember anyway)! Although he lives now only in our memory, he was quirky, fun, and unforgettable! I invite you to read more about Buster and honor his memory with me below:
Buster sneaking in a quick nap!
Buster (top), Chloie (left), Mollie (right)
Buster (left), Chloie (top), Maggie (right)
Breed: Springer Spaniel mix
Age: 22 years young (No, that isn’t a typo…He lived a long, healthy life of 22 years!)
How Buster’s Pet Life Began: Buster was obtained from a family friend after being an outside dog. With us, he lived a long, fulfilling life as an indoor pet!
Best Tricks: Riding down the playground slide!
Collar Color Buster Sported Best: Blue
Favorite Things/Activities: Being a lap dog, belly rubs, napping, companionship, bones and treats!
Favorite Fur Friends: His ‘wife’, Chloie, and two daughters, Mollie and Maggie!
Favorite Toy: His rubber pork chop!
Family Favorite Memories:
“Watching Buster go down the slide”
“When he ran away, and we found him with a lady dog”
“How he fathered two great little pups”
“Watching him interact with his fur family complete with Chloie, Mollie, and Maggie”
“How he lived until age 22 on Kibbles and Bits (i.e. McDonald’s of the pet food industry)”
“His survival after being hit by a car”
“Seeing how happy he was when we first rescued him from the snow and freezing cold”
“When we came home from Florida and picked him up at Nan and Pops and saw how happy he was, butt-wiggling and all”
“How he was truly ‘man’s best friend'”
Life Lesson Learned From Buster: Dog’s can be a child’s first best friend. They can teach us how to love and be loved unconditionally. For that, we are ‘furever’ in debt to our four-legged companions!
Summer is undeniably just a few short weeks away from having come and gone. This time of the year is marked by the anticipation of last-minute vacations for some and the reflection of everlasting vacation memories for others. As a spinoff from one of my very first blog posts, “What It Means To: Come Back From Vacation!”, this post will focus on the nitty-gritty of going on vacation: the planning, packing, arranging, accompanying stress and anxiety, and ultimately, the sheer excitement!
In less than four hours, Alex and I will be embarking on another trip to our favorite vacation destination. Vacation for us has proven to be a time for mindfulness. With our undivided attention on the swaying palm trees, salty smell of the ocean breeze, sounds of hungry seagulls flying overhead, and the light sting of a fresh sunburn, we begin to forget about the stresses of everyday life. Suddenly, the student loan payments, anticipated stress of the upcoming academic semester, the hunt for housing, and general worries about the future become minuscule. We become at peace with the opportunity to truly relax for the first time since our last vacation!
From my personal experiences, however, this state of total relaxation on vacation does not come naturally. Thanks to the technologically advanced society we live in, we are “blessed” with around-the-clock access to local news, world news, social media outlets, text messages, voicemails, phone calls, etc., all within arm’s reach. How can one possibly ever relax?
The short answer: It takes work. As you approach vacation, it’s important to make a vow to yourself to limit your digital exposure and plan accordingly for this prior to your departure. For you “worker bees,” your planning might entail advising coworkers, bosses, etc. that you will be on vacation with limited to no access to email, personal cell phones, work cell phones, etc. Setting an automatic reply on your email accounts informing people that you are away from email is another excellent planning strategy! As far as socially, you might consider letting friends and family know you won’t be checking your phone frequently while on vacation. With regard to social media, I’ve found that logging out of all accounts lessens the temptation to mindlessly scroll through the latest posts and updates (possibly because I’m too lazy to type my username and password with each login!). Once you have your plans in place, it’s up to you to abide by them or nix them altogether when on vacation. While it can require a great deal of work to remain mindful, engaged, relaxed, and not pestered by nuisances (digital or otherwise) while on vacation, just remember: “If there’s a will, there’s a way!”
Learning how to mindfully and deliberately relax on vacation is just one of many steps to going on vacation. What about the planning? The packing? The last-minute cleaning? The list could go on, but here are a few strategies to help mitigate any pre-vacation stressors:
When going on vacation, it’s important to start early. While sometimes you can get lucky with last-minute deals at hotels trying to book full occupancy the week before, I’ve found that it’s much less stressful to plan months in advance. For a summer vacation, I personally begin my search for lodging in January and aim to have a place booked by March. Sites such as VRBO and HomeAway are great tools to use to narrow your search when you are looking for something specific. I have used VRBO faithfully upon booking vacation lodging arrangements, and with the help of their filters and my persistence, I’ve rented various cozy, clean, comfortable beachfront condos for less than $700/week! Not a bad deal considering the cost of many oceanfront properties can leave you digging deep into those pockets! Side note: Sometimes hotels offer a discounted rate for patrons who call to book versus those who book online! All in all, if you want to get a good deal, be persistent! Check for deals or seasonal specials on vacation destination websites, hotel websites, and the like. When booking online, be sure that the site is secure and that there exists some form of payment protection included with the website you’re using.
Next: Transportation. Will you drive? Fly? When driving, be sure to do a visual inspection of your car, check and add fluids (if needed), check tire pressures, replace windshield wipers (You never know what kind of monsoons you might drive into on your journey…right, Alex?). Don’t forget to plan ahead for parking! Is there a free parking garage? Free street parking? Do you need to obtain an ID card to hang in your car? Call ahead to your hotel or condominium owner to obtain all the answers! If you choose to fly, whether you’re a first-time or a frequent flyer, the Transportation Security Administration has created a handy-dandy guide for what you can and cannot bring on planes: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/all.
The Making Arrangements:
Next comes the hard part for pet owners everywhere: will Fido stay or will Fido come? Either decision is okay as I assure you your pet will still love you when you return! When deciding to take Fido, assess whether or not they can handle the car ride and the stress of being in a totally new environment. Ask yourself if you can cope with possible changes in your pet’s behavior that sometimes accompanies a new environment.
When leaving Fido at home, consider having them stay with a trusted family member, friend, or neighbor. As an alternative, perhaps you can “hire” your teenage niece or nephew to come house-sit. That way, Fido can remain in the comfort of their own home, and you will have peace of mind that your house is safe and secure while you’re away! My sister and I did this yearly for my aunt, and while she presumably enjoyed having her dog and house cared for, I very much enjoyed the mini stay-cations at her house as well (and the extra cash was nice too…Thanks, Aunt Kim!)! If neither of those options are feasible, research local boarding businesses and sift through reviews before deciding which one might be best for your four-legged friend(s). Just remember: As a pet owner, you’re entitled to (and should demand) daily photos and updates of your pooch’s stay-cation (Right, Mom and Dad?). 😉
Now, maybe it’s just me, but it seems like going on vacation presents as the perfect time to scrub the house clean from top to bottom. The bedding gets washed, throw rugs get scrubbed, old clothes get donated, expired foods get tossed, and so on, and so on. Quite frankly, I don’t understand these behaviors. Perhaps it’s the desire to come home to a perfectly clean home? Maybe it’s a way of easing one’s mind that everything at home has been taken care of so that there’s no stresses upon returning home? While I may never truly know the answer, one thing is for sure: I just finished cleaning the last dirty dish in the sink, and I couldn’t feel more satisfied! 😉
Packing can be dreadful, but it doesn’t have to be! The key is to pack smarter, not harder! In my family, I am known as the “master packer,” which I presume is because of my abilities to pack an entire years’ worth of dorm supplies (mini fridge, clothes, microwave, decor, you name it) in the trunk and back seat of my 2004 Subaru Legacy!
Enjoy these generic packing lists for your use when planning your next vacation. There’s even one for Fido too!
Human Packing List:
Clothing (shorts, pants, dresses/skirts, undergarments, shirts, tank tops, belts)
Old personal t-shirt (particularly if your pet experiences separation anxiety)
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed creating it. If you notice anything that I forgot to add to the packing lists, comment below! If you’re like me and haven’t yet gone on your vacation, my hope for you is that you enjoy it and can find peace, happiness, and relaxation. If you’ve already gone on vacation, I hope you feel rested and energized! If taking a vacation is out of reach for you, I hope you can practice mindfulness at home to ensure a happy, healthy physical and emotional well-being!
The lazy dog days of summer are upon us! With warmer weather, it is a normalcy to see an increase in people and their canine companions taking part in fun outdoor activities. Fido gets to go on more car rides during a family ice cream outing, to go hiking, or to go splish-splash in a nearby lake. Although I say this without 100 percent certainty due to a lack of relevant statistics, it is my observations that this warmer weather also appears to bring an uptick in the number of dogs left unattended in their owners’ cars. I wanted to utilize this platform as a way to educate others about the dangers of this behavior and how passersby can safely and appropriately intervene.
Last summer, Alex and I made a quick trip to the store. Upon arrival, we noticed a Saint Bernard puppy (Note: Dogs of all ages and sizes are puppies here at Sit, Stay, & Blog!) pacing back and forth in his owner’s truck. He shifted in the driver’s seat, hopped to the back seat, moved back up to the driver’s seat, and waited. He waited anxiously for his owner’s arrival. We stood by the truck brainstorming what to do and how to respond. The window was rolled halfway down, but that isn’t even excusable for a brisk 60-degree day, let alone this near 90-degree summer sweat box of a day. We made a very classic mistake of excusing his owner’s poor behavior and saying to ourselves “Maybe his owner ran in quick and will be out soon.”
We proceeded to make our rounds through the store, pacing up and down the necessary aisles so that we could get back out to the dog. We checked out in what was probably record timing for a Tiana and Alex trip to the store and hurried back outside. To our dismay, the Saint Bernard was still there, owner-less and panting. Here sat this helpless, loyal companion who was so invested in his human partner, he couldn’t divert his attention toward anything but the direction his owner presumably headed last (the storefront).
Still unsure what exactly to do next, we spotted a security officer parked in the store’s parking lot. We had hope that surely this was the answer we were looking for! So, next, Alex approached the security officer while I stayed with the dog, tried to console him, and did my best to provide any source of comfort that his owner was haphazardly neglecting. Now, what is worse than leaving your dog in a hot car? Reporting said dog in a hot car and getting nothing but sheer disappointment. Alex’s conversation with the officer went something to this effect:
–Alex: “This dog has been in that truck for a pretty long time, and it is really hot outside for him to be in there.”
–Officer: “Are the windows down?”
–Alex: “Yes, but it is too hot out, and that isn’t helping.”
–Officer: “I’m sure he’ll be fine.” (**proceeds to roll up the window to his air-conditioned patrol car)
We were still relatively new to this state, and although I could recite many of the animal rights related laws in our home state, this was new territory. We took the best course of action we knew at the time. Unfortunately, it failed us, and it failed Fido. When we got home, I began looking up what to do in these types of situations, what was legal, and what our options were in becoming more than “helpless” bystanders.
Leaving Fido in a Hot Car: The Dangers
According to The Humane Society of the United States (2018) and further supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)(2018), the temperature inside a vehicle can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit in mere minutes. As an example, an exterior temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit will yield a vehicle interior temperature of 94 degrees Fahrenheit in ten minutes (AVMA, 2018). It gets worse: On a 90-degree day, it only takes 30 minutes to reach 124 degrees Fahrenheit inside the vehicle (AVMA, 2018)!
Dogs abandoned in these types of conditions can be subject to the following (The Humane Society of the United States, 2018)(AVMA, 2018)(ASPCA, 2018):
Heat stroke (symptoms of overheating can include difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor, collapse, seizures, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, elevated body temperature)(ASPCA, 2018)
Heat stress (heavy panting, glazed eyes, deep red or purple tongue, vomiting, staggering gait, rapid pulse, unsteadiness)(The Humane Society of the United States, 2018)
Irreparable organ damage
Stress and anxiety
Saving Fido: What To Do
When you find yourself in this passerby role, it can feel out of your control, scary, and intimidating. Here are steps you can take to gain control of the situation and help get Fido to safety:
If you’re in a store parking lot, for example, you can:
Take down the make, model, and license plate # of the vehicle
Notify a manager or security guard and ask them to make an announcement over their intercom system to locate the vehicle owner
If an owner cannot be found, the following steps can be taken:
Call a non-emergency police phone number, the local police, or your local animal control
Wait by the car for contacted individual(s) to arrive
Refer to Wisch’s (2018) Table of State Laws that Protect Animals Left in Parked Cars for more information about whether or not laws exist in your state that prohibit leaving animals unattended in vehicles in dangerous conditions as well as what protections from being sued, if any, exist for rescuing a distressed animal
After researching this subject matter, everything appeared so logical, so sensical. Yet, news stories are published each year about dogs (and kids) dying after being left in unattended vehicles in dangerous weather conditions. To that I say: Do something. Be the change. If you report it and the report isn’t taken seriously (as was the case for Alex and I), don’t stop there. Call again, be persistent, and don’t give up! If you’re someone who is easily forgetful, take action by leaving the dog’s leash or a reminder note on your passenger’s seat, and make the “look before you lock” mantra habitual.
I’ll be the first to admit, Alex and I made many mistakes that day (initially leaving the dog’s side, not making a second report to store managers, not calling the local police department, etc.), but I refuse to wallow in self-blame as it was the owner’s ultimate decision to leave their dog in the car in 90-degree weather. I firmly believe that life hands us these situations as a way to learn from them and educate others about the experiences and knowledge we’ve gained, and from this situation, I’ve undoubtedly enhanced my knowledge base regarding bystander intervention strategies. In the end, it’s important to remember: Our animal friends are essentially helpless, yet full of hope that we’ll be their saving grace. Don’t let a lack of education, fear, or the thought that “someone else will handle it” stop you from being that saving grace!
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If you’re new, have no fear! It’s been so long since my last post that I, too, almost feel new! When I logged into my blog site, it was ironic that my last [unfinished] draft was entitled, “What It Means To: Start a New Semester.” Since you’ve heard from me, I’ve been through roughly 16 tiresome, yet eventful and fulfilling weeks that comprised my fifth semester in graduate school! Truth be told, I’ve gotten a lot of questions in the past few weeks like “When are you going to post on your blog again?” or received comments like “Hey, it’s been a while since you’ve posted.” To that I attest: Guilty as charged! I admit I neglected my passion for Sit, Stay, & Blog for far longer than I anticipated, but I am fully satisfied with my decision to take a break from blogging and focus on my studies and my need for self-care. I utilized my time away to read other peoples’ blogs, gain ideas for future blog posts, and develop strategies to network with others to create meaningful content for my readers. Doing so allowed me to fine-tune my vision for Sit, Stay, & Blog and the type of content I want to create.
With all of that in mind, I wanted to create this casual blog post to bring my readers up-to-date with what I’ve been up to for the last 16 weeks and where I envision myself and Sit, Stay, & Blog to be in the upcoming months! Enjoy! 🙂
With regard to my graduate student life, I have been incredibly busy fulfilling my semester duties, working to advance my career, and becoming immersed in real-world clinical work. As such, I have:
Presented research at 2 Statewide Conferences and 1 National Conference
Attended and presented at the 2018 American Counseling Association Conference in Atlanta, Georgia
Received the 2018 Mary Lou Ramsey Graduate Student Award
Spoken about about Animal-Assisted Therapy at my University’s induction ceremony for Chi Sigma Iota: The International Honor Society in Counseling
Written 20 academic papers
That’s 132 pages and 29,168 words total!
Completed 365 out of 600 required clinical internship hours
Completed 9 credits toward my 60-credit master’s degree
Registered for two required licensure exams
Started both of my summer courses
Life for me doesn’t stop as a graduate student! I’ve also maintained my status as a volunteer at Susquehanna Service Dogs through:
Working to generate continued interest in a Campus Puppy Raising Club at my undergraduate institution
Creating and writing up a formal club proposal and club constitution to be submitted to my undergraduate university
Being granted “unofficial club status” at my undergraduate institution which will (fingers crossed) be designated as “official” in Fall 2018.
Working with fellow club members to raise over $1,000 for Susquehanna Service Dogs
Participating in the 2018 Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community
Creating a Campus Puppy Raising Program guide to be distributed to university personnel for their review and reference when considering college student puppy raising
Of course, I would be a hypocrite if I neglected to incorporate some self-care activities, especially considering the content of my last blog post! As such, I have:
Read 4 books
Blackout Girl: Growing Up and Drying Out in America – Jennifer Storm
Leave the Light On: A Memoir of Recovery and Self-Discovery – Jennifer Storm
Picking Up the Pieces Without Picking Up – Jennifer Storm
Weekends with Daisy – Sharron Kahn Luttrell
Finished four seasons of Friends (I’m now contemplating my judgment for not introducing this show into my life sooner!)
Took Pinella on countless walks and enjoyed Friday afternoon naps together
Visited family back home and spent time snuggling up with my precious childhood puppy, Maggie (see adorable photos of Maggie below!)
Trained for a 10K
Completed my first 2 5Ks of 2018 with Pinella and Alex
In addition to my (hopefully) weekly blog post schedule, here’s what else I’ll be up to throughout the remainder of the year:
Apply for and work through my Animal-Assisted Psychotherapy Certification
Complete the remainder of my internship hours
Work on a journal publication for the research I have presented
Muddle through my thoughts about how to start my book-writing journey
Start a new research project
Conquer upcoming 5Ks and continue my training to (hopefully) prep for an October half-marathon
Take my Comprehensive Examination and the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification
Complete the remaining 5 courses required to graduate with my MASTER’S DEGREE!
My upcoming visions for Sit, Stay, & Blog:
More “What It Means To” content
Featured segments of fellow service dog raisers
Guest pet blogs and appearances
Dog blogs galore!
Maggie is one of my five childhood pets!
Although this blog post wasn’t very rich in content, I hope you’ve gained a better understanding of what I’ve been up to and where I am headed in the next few months! My visions for Sit, Stay, & Blog include weekly posts and varying types of new content. If I fall behind on blog posts, refer to the section above regarding “what else I’ll be up to throughout the remainder of the year” and blame it on that! 😉
Thanks for reading! If you haven’t already, don’t forget to Like and Follow Sit, Stay, and Blog on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on all of my upcoming posts! 🙂
Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers! Before I get into this post, I owe a huge THANK YOU for all of the views, likes, and positive feedback on my previous blog post! A special thank you to “Earle the Service Dog” for sharing my post on Facebook and initiating a much-needed discussion about the growing concerns of fraudulent service dogs! 🙂
In today’s post I want to highlight the importance of self-care and provide examples of how you (yes, even the busiest of yous) can engage in a daily self-care routine to promote a healthy mental and physical well-being!
“If you work hard, you’ll get good grades.” “If you work hard, you’ll get a high-paying job.” “If you work hard, your friendships will last forever (most don’t, by the way).”
Familiar with statements such as these? In today’s society, we instill these types of statements in children before they are even able to comprehend the words we are spewing at them. We make promises to kids that if they try hard enough, they can achieve anything. But what happens when we try too hard? Is there such a thing as trying too hard to achieve your goals?
Throughout my life, hard work has proven to be one of my most treasured values. Regardless of the task at-hand, these “If you work hard” statements were unwittingly on a never-ending loop in the back of my mind. They reminded me to persevere until I achieve the ultimate goal — success. As a high school student and throughout my undergraduate experience, my drive for success was at an all-time high. My first two years as an undergraduate student were spent studying, rewriting notes, writing papers, reading textbook after textbook, and if the sun was still shining when I finished all of that, I would start again. I developed this unhealthy mentality that, in an effort to achieve success, every awakening moment had to quite literally be spent working in some capacity. At one point during my sophomore year, I was maintaining five separate jobs, a course load of five classes per semester, and volunteer work. So can you try too hard to achieve success? In short, yes!
It wasn’t until I recently began my graduate program that I (thankfully) started to embrace the concept of self-care. My experiences as a graduate student taught me a crucial life lesson: The absence of self-care can lead to burnout, physical fatigue, and mental exhaustion. I learned that, regardless of time constraints and busy schedules, self-care can and should always be incorporated into one’s daily routine! Now, I have replaced those “If you work hard” statements with “Move over hard work, self-care coming through!”
So what is self-care? In a simple answer, self-care is “you time,” but it certainly extends beyond that. To be a true act of self-care, it should be self-initiated, deliberate, and intended to promote your physical and mental health. It should be something that you thoroughly enjoy, look forward to, and plan out in your daily routine. Reading this may unquestionably invoke thoughts about what constitutes self-care and how it can be incorporated into a busy, parent of three kids, high school soccer coach, full-time employee type of schedule. Have no fear: I have outlined examples for individuals of all abilities below that demonstrate just how simple self-care can be! 🙂
“Move Over Hard Work, Self-Care Coming Through”
Physical Self-Care Activities (Sedentary):
Take a bubble bath
Write, blog, or journal/log your thoughts
Watch a movie, television show, or favorite YouTube channel
Read a book, magazine, newspaper, or Sit, Stay, & Blog posts 🙂
Craft, scrapbook, paint, or draw
Sit outside or at your favorite window and embrace the nature surrounding you
Learn how to play a musical instrument
Deep breathing exercises
Take a nap, rest
Get a massage, manicure, pedicure
Listen to motivating music
Physical Self-Care Activities (Active):
Dance to your favorite beat
Exercise: Run, walk, ride a bike, yoga, go hiking, train for a running race (5K, 10K)
Go shopping, treat yourself to a new book, article of clothing, candle, etc.
Bake your most prized dessert
Cook your famous Thanksgiving dish
Clean, rearrange your furniture (but NOT done as a chore!)
Volunteer at a local animal shelter, service dog organization, hospital, soup kitchen, shelter, etc.
5Ks and 10Ks are incorporated into my self-care plan!
Mental Self-Care Activities:
Replace one negative thought with three positive thoughts:
“I can’t fit self-care into my daily schedule” –>
1. “I can take 30 minutes to take a bubble bath.”
2. “I can spend 45 minutes playing with my dog.”
3. “I can sit down and watch my favorite TV show tonight.”
Create a list of things you are most grateful for
Do a mental check-in and think about your current thoughts, feelings, and emotions
Stay in the moment: Acknowledge 5 things you can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel
Having trouble powering down after work? Mentally tell yourself all of the things you’re doing as you end your day (I am shutting down my computer, I am grabbing my jacket and putting it on, I am turning off the light, I am closing my office door, I am walking to my car, etc.) Essentially, leave work at work and home at home! 🙂
Pets and Self-Care Activities:
Snuggle with your pet
Enjoy a nap with your pet
Take your pet on a hike, a walk, or on a trip to a nearby dog park
Play hide-and-seek with them at home
Place their kibble/food sporadically throughout your home and watch them play hide-and-seek!
Reminisce on all of your favorite memories with your pet
Take them to a pet-friendly pet store and watch their excitement when they pick out a new toy (Don’t forget to skedaddle when you see a working service dog!)
Play tug, fetch…just play!
Read them a book (It sounds silly, but I’m sure they’ll love you for it!)
Tell your pets how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking (You won’t find anyone more nonjudgmental!)
Have training sessions with your pet
Regardless of your busy schedule, it is time that you incorporate self-care into it! If you keep a planner or calendar, start scheduling specific times to engage in your self-care activities. But don’t let it be an added stressor for you: Start off slow and gradually increase your commitment to self-care. In my favorite words from my dad, “Never say you can’t do it, just do it!” 🙂
As always, I want to thank you for reading! Comment below what you do for self-care or what you plan on incorporating into your daily routine to ensure you’re achieving optimal mental and physical health! Don’t forget to “Like” and “Follow” Sit, Stay, and Blog on Facebook and Twitter, and stay tuned for the next post!