It’s a Dog’s Life

It’s a Dog’s Life

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

It’s a Dog’s Life

If we’re not willing to settle for junk living, we certainly shouldn’t settle for junk food.

~Sally Edwards

We got our precious Corgi, Reggie, when he was just a pup. The breeder made an important request of us before signing the papers.

“If I let you have this dog,” he said, “I want you to promise you won’t feed him table scraps.”

“What’s wrong with the scraps from my table?” I replied.

“They are high in fat, calories, and processed foods, and low in nutritional value.”

His response puzzled me. If my scraps were good enough for my family, they must be good enough for my pet. This made me start thinking about the quality of the food I was eating. I must admit as a teenager I easily captured the title of “Junk Food Queen.” I had to change my diet at age seventeen when my doctor warned me I was headed towards Type II diabetes.

This incident with my dog made me again examine my diet. I was better than the average American — wasn’t I? After all, I did not smoke, drink alcohol, or chew. Added to that, I did not eat many carbs or drink caffeine. I was looking more like a health nut every day. Upon further investigation, I realized much of what Americans consume daily is exactly what this vet challenged me to avoid for my dog. If these foods were not good enough for my dog, then they were not good enough for my family.

I was beginning to see that we have inverted the food pyramid. This contributes to our problems with heart disease, blood pressure, cancer, etc. I decided to change my diet by drinking more water, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, eating lean meats, and further limiting fast foods. It did not take me long to feel and see the difference. My blood work was looking better with every checkup. I admit it was hard to give up the desserts and fried foods that had snuck back into my lifestyle — but what a difference it made in my health. As age creeps up on me, my health means everything. And yes, I can still occasionally eat one of those savory desserts.

I was beginning to discipline my diet when my dog taught me another lesson. At age three, my dog began to have seizures. The vet said Reggie needed medication. We increased his water intake, but never gave him the medication. We had moved to an apartment while building a new home. Our dog was cooped up all day until we got home from work, so we decided to walk him several miles daily. Several months later, I took him to the vet for his checkup.

“How are Reggie’s seizures?” he asked.

“Well,” I pondered, “he has not had a seizure in about . . . five to six months.” We were so busy moving and building, I neglected to notice they had stopped.

“What has changed?” he inquired.

After thinking, I responded, “We have been exercising him each day after work, and we have been giving him more water.”

“Exercise and hydration have great benefits,” he explained. “Dehydration can be a cause of seizures and exercise helps to regulate chemicals in the brain. It appears this new exercise and increased water may have cured Reggie’s seizures.”

I began to think — if all this exercise and hydration is good enough for my dog — then surely, it is good enough for me. I researched the benefits of hydration and found this body of mine must have the right amount of water for thousands of chemical reactions to take place daily, which ensure my good health. My brain and body are comprised of 70 to 75 percent water. I was astonished to find dehydration of cells is a major cause of cancer, kidney stones, and can be a cause of seizures. Exercise also benefits the body by strengthening the heart, lungs and bones, and keeping our brains alert and healthy. We now exercise vigorously 30 to 60 minutes four to five times each week.

Reggie went to the vet for his fifteen-year checkup recently. The vet was amazed at how well he has done.

“He’s almost ninety-nine years old in dog years,” he marveled. “The average Corgi lives about twelve years. He’s beating the averages.”

Reggie can no longer walk several miles with us. In his older years, he can only walk about one mile without becoming exhausted. I am thankful Reggie has made it this long and retained his health. Exercise, water, and diet are clearly the reasons why. We have benefited, too. Our diets are filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and seafood, and healthy omegas and oils. We count those glasses of water and squeeze a lemon or lime to add a little taste. We have even bought an elliptical machine so we can exercise when it is cold or raining.

My dog Reggie was actually not my first lesson in taking care of my body. My first lesson came in my childhood years when my dad worked for U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond. The Senator treated me as one of his own and constantly gave me lectures about food, diet and exercise. My third grade health book was also filled with this same information. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen.

“Don’t eat too much junk food,” Senator Thurmond would always say. “Fruits and vegetables are God’s way of keeping you healthy.”

At age eighty, the Senator jogged five miles each day, worked sixty- to eighty-hour weeks, and kept up with his four young children. When Strom Thurmond died at age 100, the doctor signed his death certificate with these words, “Cause of Death: old age.” Rarely does anyone’s death certificate say that these days.

The Bible commands us to take care of our bodies. The discipline we have developed in this area has helped us to grow in mind, body, and spirit. We now look at our health in a new light. If it’s good enough for my dog, it’s good enough for me. Better said, I should take care of myself as least as well as I care for my dog.

~Ginny Dent Brant

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