Monday, March 19, 2012

How My Dogs Keep Me Healthy

The following is a Toastmasters speech I gave today (pictures mostly unrelated and added to reduce wall-of-text effect):

Fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests, I recently realized that I have crossed the line from being a dog owner to being completely dog-obsessed. It wasn't when I bought Patriots bandanas for my dogs - I justified that because of the Super Bowl. It wasn't when I bought a winter coat for Mushroom - she has short fur and gets cold. It wasn't even when I took my dogs to a birthday party that my friend threw for her dog - I figured my dogs would enjoy playing with the other dogs. The moment I realized my dog-obsession was when my friend handed me a couple of birthday goodie bags for the dogs. I love my dogs, and in return, they've given me a healthy lifestyle by making me go outside, stay home, and spend less money.

Sharing is caring. Not sharing means getting yelled at

The first way my dogs keep me healthy is by making me go outside. When it is below freezing and the wind cuts like an icy knife, my dogs need to be walked. When there is a torrential downpour that creates ankle-deep puddles, my dogs need to be walked. When I would rather sleep in on a Sunday morning, bundled up beneath my blankets, my dogs need to be walked. And then there are the gorgeous, sunny, spring days where I'm itching to go outside, and my dogs, unlike my spouse, are happy to tag along. Our typical walk is down three flights of stairs, plus a half-hour walk, and three flights of stairs back up. It's like a StairMaster, a treadmill, and a two extremely cute personal trainers all rolled into one. I also like to take my dogs on outdoors adventures, such as a hike in the woods, a stroll on the rail trail, or a splash in the pond (followed by a bath). Not only do my dogs force me to go outside, they've inspired in me a love of the outdoors.

The second way my dogs keep me healthy is by making me stay home. Dogs like strict schedules. They like to be walked, fed, and put to bed at the same times every day. I can no longer attend late-night parties, because similar to Cinderella, I need to be home by the stroke of midnight, though I face far smellier consequences than a pumpkin carriage. And if I attempt to go out after their bedtime walk? I'll certainly regret it in the morning, because my furry little alarm clocks will start whining and howling if their breakfast isn't served by 9 o'clock. Weekends used to exhaust me because I jam-packed my social calendar and didn't leave any time to recover from my work week. Now, I haven't become reclusive, but I always have a good excuse to head home early.

Super healthy breakfast of bacon and blueberry pancakes

The third way my dogs keep me healthy is by making me spend less money. This is accomplished by making me have less money after I pay for vet bills, dog food, and my apartment's pet fees. My attempts to trim the fat from my budget have also been successful in trimming the fat from my diet. I rarely buy alcohol any more because it's expensive. I don't eat at restaurants very often because they're expensive. I buy less junk food and TV dinners because they're expensive. I've switched to buying raw ingredients like fresh vegetables and lean meats because they're cheaper. While I would love to say that I cook them for myself, my spouse actually does the cooking because we like our food to be edible. We're now paying less money to eat a healthier diet.

When I was writing this speech, I realized that there was a twist ending. I did not need to have a dog to reap the health benefits of going outside, staying home, or spending less. Anyone can go for daily walks. Anyone can go home early and keep a regular sleep schedule. Anyone can cook their own healthy food. (Some of us might require a little help.) But in my case, my love for my dogs was the motivation I needed to live a healthier lifestyle. And for that, I'll give them few extra treats and belly rubs when I get home.

This belly rub incapacitated Badger for at least 15 minutes


  1. I love this! I completely agree with you on all fronts. Being a graduate student, it's really easy to stay inside alllll the time. It can also be very isolating. Having Zoe forces me to go outside multiple times a day, and (as I've said a zillion times!), I have met so many wonderful people through her! And because she's insane, I have to walk her a long time, which is great exercise! :)

  2. You clearly have a strong connection with your dogs. Dogs are said to be man’s best friend for a special reason: they are very loyal and loving to their masters. Have you heard of the dogs trained to help cancer patients recover? They can become very attached to their humans. By the way, that is a yummy breakfast you have there! Well, for what it’s worth it seems your dogs are doing you a favor as well!

    Jeanie Oquin