Five Reasons Why Owning a Dog is Good for My Health

I quit Weight Watchers.

I know, I know.  Not a smart choice.  But I could not get back into the swing of it after my cruise in March.  And a big part of that was me getting more and more annoyed with the tracking-every-single-bite thing.  It was time consuming.  It was frustrating – especially when I couldn’t find a type of cheese or a type of salad dressing in the WW’s list of foods – and I started asking myself why I was on Weight Watchers in the first place.

Did I want to lose weight?  Sure.  Do I still want to?  Of course.  But not at the expense of my sanity.  And if I had to spend one more minute trying to find shredded cheddar cheese or its equivalent, and how many points it is worth… well, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post right now because my hands would be tied around my torso in one of those lovely white jackets…

And really, it was my doctor’s incessant screeching that made me get on Weight Watchers in the first place.  He was so obsessed with that number on the scale!  And I kept wanting to screech right back at him, “what about my other numbers?!?!”  Everything else is solid:  my cholesterol is awesome, my blood pressure is awesome, I’m not even close to being at risk for diabetes.  My heart function is great.  The doctor I had before Dr. Weight Loss told me once that if my numbers stayed at the level they were, I would live to be 110.

So I realized that my weight – in terms of the number on the scale – should not matter as much to me.  As long as I am healthy and happy, then I should be okay with whatever my bathroom scale flashes at me.

wieght-scale

I’m still working on that part.  Because I do want to lose weight.  But I’m just not willing to track my diet down to the teaspoon like Weight Watchers wants me to do.  Instead, I need to get back into the habit of eating healthier – Weight Watchers was great for healthy meals – and I need to control my portion sizes.

All that said, I am done with Weight Watchers, and rather, I’m focusing on other ways to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  What else can I do besides count every bite of food?  This focus in recent weeks finally led to an epiphany yesterday:  owning a dog is a really, really healthy thing to do.

And here are five reasons why adopting Charlie has been my health boon:

 

Five:  Charlie forces me to maintain a regular sleep schedule

As someone who always feels tired, I have tried (what I thought was) every trick in the book to help with my energy levels.  Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.  Exercise.  Avoid caffeine after 2pm.  Stop drinking alcohol two hours before you fall asleep.  Get at least 30 minutes of sun every day.  Eat light dinners.  All of the above.  Well, it turns out I wasn’t following all of those, especially the “wake up at the same time every morning” thing.  I did that during the week, but I’m sleeping in on the weekends, man!!  Of course, that practice kinda defeats the purpose of the whole “wake up at the same time EVERY morning” idea, but I pretended like I was doing it anyway.

Well now with Charlie, I do have to wake up at the same time every day.  Charlie is on his own schedule, and when Charlie has to go pee, there is no asking him to hold it.  And Charlie has to go pee very early every morning.

But surprise, surprise!  The “wake up at the same time every morning” thing actually works!  I haven’t felt this good in YEARS.  And I realized that not only does the regularity of my sleep patterns mean feeling more refreshed during the day, but I am on the sleep schedule that suits my body rhythms.   I love sleeping in?  Turns out I function MUCH better when I wake up early, even on weekends.  And I start to feel sleepy around 9pm, which means I am in bed and often fast asleep before 10pm, even on the weekends (I am a one-woman wild party, I tell ya).  But that is when I am tired.  And now that I listen to my body rhythms, and fall asleep when I’m tired, I feel soooo much better during the day.

 

Four:  Charlie gets me out there and exercising… even more!!

Owning a dog means A LOT of walking.  And that is how it started:  morning and evening constitutionals around our neighborhood.  But Charlie is a small dog, and that means he has lots of energy.  Lots and lots of energy.  So one day, about two weeks ago, I suggested to J that we take Charlie on a hike somewhere, preferably in a park that allows off-leash dogs.  We found Runyon Canyon, which is called such because it is full of … canyons!  That means a hike in Runyon is a lot of up hill and a lot of down hill.  Talk about exercise.

We took Charlie the first time, and he had a blast.  He loved being off his leash and able to run free.  He loved being in the park, where there were tons of bushes and trees to sniff, and birds to chase.  And the best part – when we took Charlie home, he was exhausted, and he fell asleep on the couch almost immediately.  I also felt great, having gotten out and hiked through an incredible park that offers some of the most spectacular views of the LA area.  Breathtaking, really.

So I decided to keep it going.  It started as a weekend thing; I would take Charlie every weekend morning.  However, I fell in love with these morning hikes so much, I am now doing them almost every day.  It has meant a change in my work schedule, but considering what I am getting out of these walks, it is well worth it.

And to top it off, I still bike everywhere and all the time.  So now I’m hiking AND I’m cycling on an almost daily basis.  I haven’t been this active since … well, since never!

 

Three:  Charlie means there is no such thing as completely and totally lazy anymore

How many of us have had those days where the only movement we made were walks back and forth between the bathroom and the couch, and walks back and forth between the kitchen and the couch?  We didn’t engage any more brain cells than it takes to turn on Season 5 of Seinfeld and watch every episode?  Yeah, we all have those super lazy days where the major accomplishment is actually changing out of our pajamas.

But with a dog, you can’t be that lazy.  At least Charlie doesn’t let us be that lazy.  He wants his walks, his constitutionals around the neighborhood.  He won’t just run out to the patch of grass in front of our apartment complex and “do his business.”  He needs to walk.  So, yes, even on the laziest of days, I am taking him out for a stroll through the ‘hood anywhere from two to four times depending on his whining.  Considering that a stroll around the block is approximately a quarter of a mile in our neighborhood, I figure I’m clocking a mile of walking on my laziest days.

That’s pretty darn good, right?

 

Two:  Dogs are good for stress

Boy are they ever!  Nothing eases the pain of a bad day more than coming home and seeing Charlie bounding all over the place in excitement, shaking his tail so hard, so fast, and so wide, he is actually shaking his entire butt back and forth.  He jumps into my arms and licks my cheeks and nose (I call that “Charlie kisses”), and then bounds around the apartment in pure and utter joy.  How can I not smile at that?

And how can I not slip into a sense of deep contentment when Charlie curls up on my lap and falls asleep?  Or curls up against my legs when I’m falling asleep in bed at night?

Having Charlie has brought a new peace to my daily life.  A sense of calm that is complemented by a sense of happiness… he is awfully dang cute, after all.

 

One:  I love Charlie to pieces

And hand in hand with Reason 2 above, I love Charlie to death, which means I am willing to go the extra physical mile for him.  I do feel at peace when he’s around, and I’m happy to have a little guy like him love me unconditionally the way he does.  The hikes through Runyon kick my @$$, but watching Charlie run around like a looney toon makes it all worth it.  And yeah, sometimes, the alarm goes off at 5am, and I am not. ready. to. wake. up.  But I’ll do it… in part because Charlie recognizes my alarm now, and he crawls up from under the covers to start licking me in the face when he hears it sing, but also because I have such a great time with Charlie – on our walks, on our hikes, or even just hanging out in our Living Room while he eats his breakfast (and tries to help me eat mine).  Owning Charlie makes me want to do the things that J and I do with him.

And that’s the key, right?  Happiness is the key to health.  Not a number on the scale…

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About jnglcat21

An aspiring writer who has a deep love for animals, tall ships, books, and anything that is 3,000 or more years old
This entry was posted in Charlie Chatter : My Life as a Dog Owner and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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