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Pet Prevention

Pet Prevention

As a pet owner, the phrase, “What do you have in your mouth? Give me that!” is a universal experience, and more than enough to put any fur-parent on instant high alert. Whether it’s a trash-bound treasure, a wayward sock, or a flattened critter by the side of the road, we’ve all had to dig *something* out of that stubborn maw.

Sometimes, we’re lucky, and can merely bat away the impromptu snack without further thought. But for many of us, our faithful companions are just as dedicated to sniffing out trouble — with *magnetic* precision — the instant our back is turned. Because of this, our furry friends often manage to get their paws on something they *really* shouldn’t. And sometimes, they leave us panicked and wondering where we went wrong… and if they’re going to be alright.

But even if your critter isn’t chowing down on everything in sight, you’re still likely finding other casualties within the home instead, left by their talented paws. Shredded furniture, shattered breakables, maybe even a restless propensity to redecorate using a style of *feng shui* yet to be documented by modern man. Each beastie has its own preferred flavour of chaos. So with Lucky going dumpster-diving in search of delicacies, and Whiskers batting every breakable to the floor because *he’s* the only work of art your room needs, how are we supposed to maintain any measure of peace within our homes? And more importantly, how can we stop them from getting into trouble that we *can’t* fix?    

Channel Your Inner Animal

The first step to keeping Tigger and Rex safe from their troublesome curiosity is to start thinking like them. When taking preventative action to keep our animals safe, thinking like a beastie is a critical skill to develop and put into practice. After all, it would be fantastic if we could simply *ask* them to not get into alarming situations, but until we master interspecies communication, a big part of keeping them safe is simply to try and think one step ahead instead.

So start taking the time to notice what your critters get into, and whether it’s at certain times of the day, or before or after certain events. Maybe your cat likes to chew on wires first thing in the morning because he knows it’ll get you awake enough to give him flack for it. And if you’re awake enough to tell him how frustrating he is, then you’re *certainly* awake enough to serve him breakfast! Or maybe your dog starts inching towards the garbage can after a particularly tasty meal—or even worse if he waits until you’re not even home to start digging for goodies. If that’s the case, then it may be time to invest in a locking garbage can.

Whatever the case may be, start taking note of your animal’s natural inclinations, and see your home with a fresh new — and most importantly, wild — gaze. For dogs, you could be sure to pack away any tasty leftovers that may be left unsupervised, keep the garbage can locked tight, and hide any socks or slippers that may be lying around. If you share your home with feline friends instead, you could keep an eye out for any breakables near the edges of tables, shelves, or countertops, take the time to reorganize any exposed wires that could be satisfying to chew on, or even cover your couch with a plastic furniture guard that stops them from digging their claws into the material.  

Whatever the case may be, there are always solutions to your woes. Start by doing some research on the common challenges that other pet owners face. This will help you familiarize yourself with situations you may already be dealing with yourself and give you peace of mind in knowing that you’re not the only one whose home is going to the dogs.

Are You Not Entertained?

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.” Dorothy Parker was talking about people when she said this famous quote, but this method of thinking applies just as well to our furry friends. A bored pet will do whatever it takes to get the satisfaction they need. Maybe Rex howls like a banshee and chews the furniture to keep himself busy, while Whiskers finds his entertainment in singlehandedly destroying your snowglobe collection and shredding the furniture. The point is that if we don’t give our animals something to do, they will *find* something — and more often than not, it won’t be something we like.

Thankfully, there are many ways to exhaust your pets enough to be sure they won’t leave your home looking like the epicentre of a hurricane.

One sure way is to work their bodies. Get them running, jumping and playing, for a good hour or two, every single day. And yes, cats need their exercise, too, even if their one true love is naptime! There are also interactive feeders to get them using their snout or paws, and contrary to popular belief, many animals absolutely love working for their food, once they understand how to use interactive feeders. But the more you make mealtime dynamic and fun and make your pet work for their primary currency in an interesting and rewarding way, the less chance they have of finding their fun elsewhere. Everybody wins!

For critters who need to stay within a limited mobility lifestyle for any reason, you can still tucker them out without doing an entire marathon around town. Teach them new tricks, ones you can practice anywhere you go. By working their brains, you’ll get their entire body involved, which is just as good for solving any amount of restlessness. Start with short sessions, no more than five minutes at a time, as you teach them a handy new trick, like ‘shake’ or ‘spin.’ Once your pet has mastered the basics, you can level up their skills to something more difficult. If ever you’re not sure what to teach, pet trick compilation videos online are a fantastic source of inspiration for what they could learn next. 

And, once again, this method is most certainly cat-friendly as well — and makes for a fantastic party trick when you show off your talented tabby’s fresh new skills!  

Communication Is Key

An important part of prevention, though, is keeping in mind that if your curious critter has already managed to get into trouble once, they have exceptionally keen memories of how to recreate the magic. So instead of losing your patience with them — which, for many pets, gives them the attention, they’re seeking from you — remember that your energy will be better spent looking to the future, and troubleshooting a solution to prevent it from happening again.

After all, if our pets are acting out, it’s not that they’re trying to be difficult. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. They’re trying to tell us that their mental or physical needs aren’t being met, or that they’re not getting as much quality time with us as they would like. Or, in some cases, simply that they don’t understand the rules of the household well enough to follow them. So it’s important to listen during these frustrating moments because our furry friends are only trying to tell us what they need, in the only way they know how. 

And in turn, it’s up to us to find a way to communicate what *we* need back to them, in a way that they might better understand.

Betrayal

Betrayal

I want to talk about betrayal. I think it’s important, because it is something we must all face, at some point or another, in our lives. It can be seen as an opportunity for self-growth, and something to learn significant lessons from. The deceit can be big or small, and it can sometimes cause lasting repercussions outside our control. But I believe that its effects can be mitigated by actions we take to heal ourselves.

Media and entertainment often focus on school years for their material, whether it be grade school, high school, or university. High school years get particular attention, probably because it’s a highly transformative period, one during which we transition from childhood to young adulthood. Things are felt so intensely when we’re children, even as teens and young adults. Along with our changing bodies, and hormonal levels, the sheer importance of our peers and their perception of us, can feel overwhelming. At that age, our whole world seems to play out within school walls and its ensuing social hierarchy.

For some, our first brush with betrayal happens on school grounds, i.e., your best-friend-forever, decides to be someone else’s bestie. And, leaves you on your lonesome until you make a new friend, and learn not to ‘put all of your eggs in one basket’ as a result. It’s a crushing experience that can lead you to learn a positive way to deal with deception early on. ‘Deceit’ can also come in the form of bullying. If we’re picked on, and isolated in our school(s), it’ll absolutely cause lasting changes to our personhood, and how we now view the world. Because we may not have been able to form close bonds during this developmental period of our lives, it can lead us to shun social settings as grownups, have trust issues, etc. It can also lead to childhood anxiety, and social anxiety, all stemming from others’ actions towards us.

Kids find all kinds of reasons to be mean to each other, and to put others down. Popular excuses that have withstood the test of time include; appearance, social class, and any visible sign of otherness (it could be race, religion, sexuality, ideology, artistic talent, illness, etc.). A lot of the issues that can feel unsurmountable for the youth, can be resolved by going to a different school (if one can afford to), getting a makeover (if one wants to), finding clubs or groups that will support that ‘otherness,’ and speaking to a counsellor to properly heal from this ordeal.

Most, if not all, of these options require parental assistance. If one’s parents are poor, uninformed, not in their lives, or living in underserved areas where local alternatives are not available, then it can be tough for a youth to know things are unlikely to change for the better, anytime soon. In other cases, parents choose to be uninvolved in their offspring’s life, and are uninterested in any of the challenges they may be going through. Some parents take it as a personal affront if their child is not ‘popular’ in school. They might even blame their offspring for the bullying they’re going through. Thus leaving them with the belief that they’re at fault and that adults won’t intercede, since the grownups closest to them are refusing to help.

Being left alone to suffer at the hands of your peers, and being blamed for that abuse by the people that brought you into this world, is a huge deception. One that can have lifelong effects not only on your relationship with your parents and/or family moving forward, but on how you choose to change in order to survive.

  • Will you fall into delinquency to vanquish your bullies?
  • Will you repress parts of yourself to fit in?
  • How long will changes, made in response to betrayal during your formative years, affect the rest of your life?
  • How will mistakes made, before your frontal lobes fully form (around the age of 25) alter your existence?
  • What kind of adult will the sum of your experiences turn you into? Text Box: Illustration 3 by Choconstant on Instagram

I think that if we’re lucky enough to survive; grade school, high school, and the environments we were born into, part of our personal growth as adults lies in healing from wounds received during childhood. By disentangling negative external forces from our personal trajectory, we can rectify the past, and ensure that our present is truly what we want it to be. It won’t necessarily be easy, and this work may not be completed quickly, but it is absolutely necessary. And I truly believe that whatever we endure as youths, can be transformed into fuel for a stronger version of who we are meant to be.

                                                            An original blog by:

Nature & Child Development Part 1

Nature & Child Development Part 1

               As a child, I felt as though the place where I most belonged was amongst nature. I felt drawn to it. When I was younger, I would constantly ask my parents to go to the local nature park and explore. I would be the happiest and most energetic when surrounded by trees, bushes, running water, and wild animals. I have always felt this passion inside me. And so, this got me wondering, are any scientific studies looking at the positive benefits of nature? I definitely feel re-energized after hiking up a mountain or running around a forest. But, is there any scientific biases to my personal experience? In order to find out, I decided to read quite a few scientific articles, systematic reviews, and book chapters on the relationship between nature and child development. In this blog post, I would like to relay to you guys what I found. In summary, as a child grows and explores our world, they begin to encounter a variety of new external stimuli, which not only helps them learn about the world around them, but also about themselves. Our natural environment is especially conducive to child development as it gives children diverse opportunities to explore and play. Unstructured child-directed play in nature has been shown to enhance cognitive development, socio-emotional development, motor development, physical activity, and respect for our environment1,2,3,4.

Now, I would like to breakdown each component of development separately for you guys, beginning with cognitive development. Starting from a very young age, children are tasked with “identifying, naming, classifying, and learning about the natural world” 4. Being in nature allows children to be exposed to a plethora of new vegetation, animals, and geological formations. Through trips to the local nature park or nearby forest, children can explore this new and exciting world for themselves (under the guidance of an adult). Personally, I’ve always loved walking through parks filled with tall trees, vibrant flowers, flowing streams, large (climbable) rock formations, small birds, squirrels, frogs and even turtles, never really knowing what is around the next corner. All of these new stimuli can be exciting for a child, which can also act as an opportunity to learn about nature. It really is a different experience seeing a mushroom in the wild vs. at the store, or seeing a wood-pecker in its natural habitat compared to on the television. Being in nature can also influence the type and amount of play. Compared to play in a traditional playground, children playing in nature seem to demonstrate greater amounts of imaginative and constructive play, which can stimulate creativity and problem-solving ability2,5.

               When I was around 10-years-old, my father would often bring us to Parc-nature de l’Île-de-la-Visitation on Gouin Street. At the time, I didn’t even know the name of the park (I only found that out when an adult). As a child, this park was solely known as “The Adventure Park.” I would beg my dad to bring my brothers and I to this park every chance I could. It felt so special to me. If you have ever been, you would know that this park is gigantic. There are multiple paths surrounded by large trees, all connected to each other. The park is flanked by the Prairies River, which has a hydroelectricity dam within it. There are two sections of the park connected by a bridge. Because of its large scale, two separate sections (separated by a river), and large mysterious device creating humongous wave (which I now know generates electricity), this park truly felt like an adventure. There was even one evening where fireflies circled my family. I will never forget the moment when I saw my grandmother surrounded by beautiful lights. From this experience, I can definitely understand how much nature has to offer us and how the amount of diversity experienced may contribute to my development.   

Read Part 2 here
Nature & Child Development Part 1

Nature & Child Development Part 2

Read part 1 here

Next let’s move on to physical activity and motor development. Closer access to green spaces has been positively associated with physical activity, especially if these spaces had trees, open areas, and playgrounds1,3. Both traditional playgrounds and nature have been related to a comparable increase in moderate-to-vigorous activity in children2. On a personal note, being in the outdoors, especially as a child, filled me with so much energy and excitement. As soon as I would reach the park, I would climb trees, large boulders and playground equipment, run around, and explore nearby paths. I can understand how being surrounded by nature could encourage children to be active and adventure. It’s exciting to not know what is around the bend or beyond the trees. In order to access a greater number of parks as a teenager, I decided to look up all parks within a 40km radius of my house and cycle to them. I would always excitedly cycle towards the unknown, which I am sure kept me fit and active at the time.

Throughout my readings, I also found out that nature can positively impact socio-emotional development and mental health. Kahn & Kellert wrote that “the child’s experience of nature encompasses a wide complex of emotions—wonder, satisfaction, joy, for sure, but also challenge, fear, and anxiety as well. […] From the perspective of maturation and growth, all these and other emotions associated with the child’s experience of nature serve as powerful motivators and stimuli for learning and development.” Experiences with nature are especially influential during middle childhood and adolescence4. During this time, children and adolescents are developing a sense of identity, confidence, competence, self-esteem, and autonomy, as well as a sense of responsibility for life other than their own. Experiences in nature, such as outdoor programs and wilderness camps, can help older children and adolescents cultivate these important qualities through learning new skills, braving the wilderness, overcoming their fears, and bonding with their fellow campmates4. Not only is nature important for socio-emotional development, but psychological well-being as well. Nature can bolster psychological well-being by providing children with a space for “creative play, self-tests of their developing strength and skill, and [a] quiet retreat” 1. While only anecdotal, I can definitely attest to the power of nature to calm the mind. Being in on a quiet path surrounded by trees on a bright sunny day is when I am the happiest and most calm. If I am ever feeling anxious or upset about something, my natural instinct is to go for a walk (or cycle) around the park. It feels nice to be alone with my thoughts, in silence, with a warm breeze surrounding me. Physical activities in nature, such as sledding, skiing, biking, rock climbing, and running, also seem to calm my mind. These activities help keep me focused on the present moment and my worries are momentarily forgotten. If any of you guys have read my previous blog posts, you would know how important these activities are to me and how happy they make me feel.  

All in all, nature seems to have a multitude of positive benefits. I’m glad I got to learn about all of the positives nature has to offer us, and I hope you guys did too. If you have any children or younger siblings, I’d definitely recommend going for a walk in nature with them sometime soon. Fall is a wonderful time to appreciate the changing colours of the leaves. If you are not sure which park to go to, here is a list of all large parks in Montreal: https://montreal.ca/en/places?mtl_content.lieux.tags.code=PR015&orderBy=dc_title .  I hope you guys get out there and have fun!

References

[1] Chawla, L. (2015). Benefits of nature contact for children. Journal of Planning Literature, 30(4), 433–452.

[2] Dankiw, K. A., Tsiros, M. D., Baldock, K. L., & Kumar, S. (2020). The impacts of unstructured nature play on health in early childhood development: A systematic review. Plos One, 15(2), e0229006.

[3] Gill, T. (2014). The benefits of children’s engagement with nature: A systematic literature review. Children Youth and Environments, 24(2), 10–34.

[4] Kahn, P. H., & Kellert, S. R. (Eds.). (2002). Experiencing Nature: Affective, Cognitive,and Evaluative Development in Children. In Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations (p. 0). The MIT Press. https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/1807.003.0006

[5] Parsons, A. (2011). Young children and nature: Outdoor play and development, experiences fostering environmental consciousness, and the implications on playground design.

Stress

Stress

As we get back; to school, to work, and to a more regular day-to-day life, I would like to discuss something else that may be ‘back’ for some of us. And that’s stress. I will share a poem about how I envision and deal with it, and hopefully this will be helpful to whoever reads this.

 A ball of fire sits in the centre of my chest,

bright and blistering,

and feeling as if its blaze might engulf me whole.

 Along with its scorching presence, is its tremendous weight,

and my unfounded certainty that,

an elephant sitting on my diaphragm would feel no lighter.

Behind my eyes are a flickering of colours,

red, yellow, and orange tones,

pulsing to the sound of my heartbeat.

My heart, flutters against my breast,

like a wild bird in a cage,

seemingly sure that if it throbs just a little harder,

freedom awaits.

In my head my confidence battles my fear,

  like two gladiators engaged in a deadly duel,

 from which only one can be victorious.

The weapons used are words and memories,

each, is as sharp and unyielding as the strongest steel.

Past failures are brought to the surface,

like ghostly apparitions haunting the depths of my consciousness.

While ensuing accomplishments,

and remembered acceptance of my imperfections,

do their best to drive these phantoms off.

I am consumed by irrational fear;

fear that I will never find my path;

fear that I will never discover my life’s purpose;

fear that my full potential will never be reached;

fear that I am incapable of measuring up to my own expectations;

fear that my imagination will forever exceed my abilities;

fear that in this continual striving lay the seeds of a halted existence;

just fear.

In the presence of this cacophony of sounds and emotions,

            of triumphs and anguish,

            of yearning and anxiety,

            I push forward blindly.

Not knowing if,

this latest endeavour will yield positive or negative ammunition,

for future internal struggles.

Nonetheless, I strive again, and again,

sure only ­­‑ that I will regret any opportunities I avoided,

simply because success was not assured.

On faith

I face my fear of failure,

and visualize myself running full out,

towards that metaphorical wall.

With excitement;

I contemplate that I might slam into this barrier,

or crash right through.

Collectedly;

I grasp that how long either action impacts me,

is mainly up to me.

Assuredly; I realize that,

despite my throbbing heart, blazing chest, and internal warring,

I will eventually find a way through.

Glaringly;

the only common ammunition that my battling selves shared was,

that the times I truly failed were when I stopped trying.

An original poem by:

Summertime

Summertime

I would like to write a humble ode, to the warm fall days, that we have been enjoying on the east coast. It has made summer seem to stretch on, for an extra few months this year. I, for one, feel grateful and blessed to have experienced such warmth, and sun, these past five months. As fall temperatures and weather, begin in earnest, I leave you with my ballad to summer/fall 2021.

I hear a robin sing a joyous melody,

            outside my window.

Another bird joins in,

            and then another,

            until their merriment rouses me from my slumber.

Bemused;

I wonder if I am still half asleep,

            and playing the starring role,

in my own version of Cinderella.

With;

winged companions as friends,

and on the brink of embarking on a wondrous adventure.

After a few more minutes,

I realize that I am fully awake.

And that,         

what I mistook as the continuation of a dream,

was really my feathered visitors’ overture,

to the arrival of summer.

Delighted by this charming wake-up song,

I step out onto my balcony,

            curious to see,

if I interpreted the birds’ ballad correctly.

Immediately,

sun rays hit my skin,     

            they feel warm and delicious,

like cool water on a hot summer day.

My body feels parched,

            and desperate for the energy it can feel,

flowing into it.

With every passing moment,

my senses seem to awaken,

from their winter slumber.

Tentatively,

they stretch out,

drawn to this source of natural warmth,

like flowers in full bloom.

I close my eyes,

to focus on the heat permeating through me.

It is sweet like molasses,

and gentler than the breeze from a hummingbird’s wings.

With my eyes still closed,

I slowly turn and turn,

until my body begins to feel dizzy.

I realize that,

I am instinctively trying to distribute this warmth,

equally throughout my body.

After a seemingly endless winter,

            my mind doesn’t seem to remember,

how inartificial heat works.

That;

            unlike my space heaters,

            this summertime sun will warm every inch of me,

without my having to move a millimetre.

I throw my head back,

to feel its blissful rays,

            caress my face.

Nearby;

I hear laughter,

and discern it to be my own.

My mirth;

has bubbled out in wondrous laughter;

            my very own ode to summertime.

An original poem by: