Monday, April 3, 2017

A Photographic Journey into the Heart of Bolivia

Ron Dubin wanted to get away. He’d had a trying year: Moving across country, from Los Angeles to Florida, coupled with the illness and death of his mother, Dubin was ready for something else.

“(If I had been offered) an assignment in Pompeii the day before it got buried I would have asked if I needed a visa,” says Dubin in the forward of his book, Bolivia, A Journey.

Ron is a man of many photographic talents. Over the last four years, his images have been featured in food and travel publications, regionally, nationally, and online. Dubin has also shot in Peru, France, Italy, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and extensively in the U.S.

Dubin’s book, 86 pages of extraordinary photographs and the stories behind them, offers readers a look into Bolivia’s diverse scenery and people. His landscape images are striking: Bold mountains under remarkable skies. The local creatures, llamas, snakes, and flamingoes, have also been photographically captured in their native habitats.

The photographs of the people, going about their daily lives, give readers a revealing look into Bolivian life. The images document small-town residents going about their daily routine. These images, captured by an impartial observer, offer a glance into another place and culture.

Dubin’s image, The Sisters, captures two siblings at Isla del Sol. According to Ron, they were the most frightening thing about the town. The encounter resulted in him purchasing two palm fronds from the pair.

“She kicked my butt… There are three-card Monte dealers in New York that could learn a thing or two from them,” he says.

The architecture: Basilicas, moments, and ruins, were not overlooked by Dubin’s lens. The buildings, combined with the wide blue sky, are a visual pleasure to view. The images of the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana, near the banks of Lake Titicaca, illustrate the sacredness of the site to both the indigenous and Catholic people.

Built in the 16th century, Dubin explains, “It is a popular custom to get your car blessed in front of the church which considering the roads, couldn’t possibly hurt.”

Dubin admits to knowing little about Bolivia before setting out on his expedition. “What I did know couldn’t fill up a trivial pursuit card,” he says. He did know about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. One of the final images in the book is of Ron brandishing the famous outlaws’ pistols.

Bolivia, A Journey can be purchased at Blurb. Ron Dubin maintains a photo blog at

Labels: A Photographic Journey into the Heart of Bolivia

5 Tips for Meeting a Shy Dog

Whether you’re a meeting a friend’s furry companion or working as a pet care provider, at some point you are going to encounter a dog that is not immediately enamored of you. Some dogs have past trauma that has made them distrustful of new people, while others were simply born less outgoing than the average canine.

If you spend much time around dog owners, particularly those who are active in obedience and agility clubs, you’ll hear the terms alpha and omega get thrown about. An alpha dog is a natural leader, with a dominant personality. These dogs can be challenging for first-time dog owners, because they try to make their own rules, which may not agree with their human’s boundaries. Conversely, omega dogs are at the other end of the spectrum. They are easily cowed, submissive, and are sensitive to loud noises and other unexpected events. Dogs like this can be loyal companions, but require some extra care, especially at the beginning of the relationship.

As a lifetime pet owner who has accumulated over 9 years in professional, hands-on animal experience through employment, education, and volunteering, I have compiled 5 tips to help you put your new acquaintance at ease. There is nothing more rewarding than getting an exuberant greeting from a dog that was once withdrawn.

1. Eye contact When dogs meet for the first time, they try to determine who is more dominant. They may do this by affecting an aggressive stance, barking, or other posturing, but one of the key behaviors is eye contact. Just as children hold staring contests to determine a winner, the dog who maintains eye contact longer is dominant. If you are encountering a shy or nervous dog, do not look directly at her for more than a couple seconds. You don’t want to start a staring contest with Annie, which would make her more upset, and could, in extreme cases, cause her to react defensively, perhaps even trying to bite.

2. Get down Particularly for small dogs, a person standing over him can be quite intimidating. Adult humans are not only taller, we outweigh most dogs by a significant amount. For domestic canines, humans make up part of their pack, or family group. Dominance in canine packs is determined by strength and leadership, so a larger, heavier individual has an advantage over a smaller one. Since you are not trying to assert dominance over Scruffy, get down on his level. Sit on the floor, and watch his reaction. In some cases this is all it takes to win over a shy dog.

3. Bribery If you’ve been warned ahead of time that Shelby is shy about meeting new people, bring an extra-special treat! Salami, cheese, or hot dogs are something she likely doesn’t get on a regular basis, and if she associates you with yummy treats, she’ll soon be wagging at the door when you arrive. Be sure to clear any treats with her owner before-hand, you certainly don’t want to cause her a tummy ache, if she has a sensitive stomach. Our dogs have always enjoyed carrots, which are an inexpensive, healthy treat you may already have in your refrigerator, and our veterinarian agrees that vegetables are a great addition to their diets.

4. Slow and steady Some dogs, like some people, have high startle reflexes. If Buddy is already nervous, he’s not going to react well to sudden movements or loud noises. This can be a hard lesson, especially for children, who are themselves bundles of energy, and move erratically. You’ll also want to keep your voice low and soothing. It’s okay to say things that would normally sound silly. Buddy can’t understand what you’re saying, but a soft “Gooood boy, Buddy,” can reassure him that you’re not someone to fear. Using his name reinforces that you are part of the pack (at least peripherally), because you know the name his family calls him. I tend to talk a lot to new dogs, whether they’re nervous or not, so they get used to the sound of my voice.

5. Don’t force it You’ve tried everything you can think of, and still the dog is cowering behind her owner, or worse, in her crate, and wants nothing to do with you. That’s okay! The worst thing you can do in this situation is to force attention on Roxi. So ignore her for a few minutes. Talk to her owner, look out the window, and most importantly, put some distance between the two of you. This will let Roxi calm down, and after a few minutes, she may come out of her shell, especially if you still have that yummy-smelling treat (dog treats in the pocket work wonders).

It may take repeat visits before the dog accepts you, but with these tips in mind, you’ll have some ideas for approaching the dog positively. If you have other suggestions, please comment, I’d love to read your experiences and feedback.

Labels: 5 Tips for Meeting a Shy Dog

5 Tips for Maximizing SEO with Images and Photos

Images and photos are often overlooked when optimizing a website. Although they don’t carry as much SEO weight as they used to, it doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Here are 5 tips to maximizing results through images and photos:

  1. File Name

    The file name is the name of the image or photo that is stored on your computer (i.e. BopDesignLogo.jpg) and is often overlooked when uploading photos to websites and social media platforms. The file name field can provide SEO assistance for your target keywords. Before uploading images or photos to your website or social media profile take an extra minute to include target keywords in your image. Don’t be spammy about the file names. Instead, focus on generating an image file name that describes the image.

  2. Alt Tags

    Alt tags are meant to be an alternative information source for people with screen readers, for users that have chosen to disable images in their browsers, and search engines. The keywords that are included in alt tags are less important for SEO than they used to be, but leaving them empty can negatively impact your website ranking. So take a minute to include an alt tag with every image on your website.

  3. Image Title

    Image titles are the descriptive pop-ups that are displayed when you hover over an image on a website. This is more for website design than for SEO, but it is important to do correctly if implemented. If you are using image titles on your website be sure to keep them short, relevant, and catchy.

  4. Photo Sharing

    Starting up a Flickr, Picasa, or other photo sharing account for business photos and images can provide SEO benefits to your website. Within these accounts you can often add geo-targeting to your albums and target keyword phrases both the captions and descriptive fields. This tactic requires little maintenance and is easy to implement.

  5. Photos on Facebook

    Uploading photos on Facebook is not only a good way to generate communications from followers, but they also open the opportunity to spread awareness. After you have uploaded photos to Facebook it is beneficial to go back and tag people, places, events, or businesses in the photos or images. Tagging your photos will help to get the Facebook page more exposure in other news feeds.

Photos and images will always be important to the design of your website and social media platforms, so take advantage of them by implementing the above optimization techniques.

Labels: 5 Tips for Maximizing SEO with Images and Photos

A Separate Peace Literary Analysis - Symbolism

John Knowles effectively incorporates many varied examples of figurative language in his novel, A Separate Peace, one of which being symbolism. Knowles lays this symbolism in intricate patterns, sometimes making the use of the symbols obvious; and at other times, quite unapparent. His expressions of symbolism are found throughout the novel. His symbolism is revealed in different manners – sometimes through the use of nature, and at other times through the actions and dialogue of the characters. In Knowles’ A Separate Peace, there are many evident accounts of symbolism, including that of the tree, Phineas’ pink shirt and similarity to ancient Greeks, Leper’s name, the Devon and Naguamsett Rivers, and the peace brought upon by the Devon School and its students.

One of the primary pieces of symbolism revealed regards the tree from which Phineas and Gene jump from. Biblically, the tree refers to the Tree of Knowledge. This tree “is the means by which Gene will renounce the Eden-like summer peace of Devon and, in so doing, both fall from innocence at the same time prepare himself for the second world war” (James Ellis 34). Both the tree at the Devon School and the Tree of Knowledge can refer to recollection of implied judgment: Adam ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, even though God directly forbade him to do so and Gene climbs and jumps from the tree, ignoring his conscience and judgment, ultimately due to his ego and Finny’s mocking. In addition, the tree can be thought of as a parental figure for Gene. Gene’s description of the tree was: The tree was tremendous, an irate, steely black steeple beside the river (Knowles 14). When Gene visited the school as a thirty year-old man, his perception of the tree was: “It seemed to me standing there to resemble those men, the giants of your childhood, whom you encounter years later and find that they are absolutely smaller, shrunken by age. In this double demotion the old giants have become pigmies while you were looking the other way” (Knowles 14). Likewise, as a child, parents seem to be “giants of your childhood,” however, as the child gets older, the parents seem to have less significance. For instance, teenagers may spend less time with their parents and will not rely on them as much as they had in the past. Gene was scared of the tree because he didn’t want to jump off of it. This can be compared to how many children are scared of their parents in the sense that they will obey what they say and be afraid of punishment a parent may give. Furthermore, the tree taught Gene a lesson, as a parent teaches his child(ren) lessons: “The more things remain the same, the more they change after all” (Knowles 14).

Another example of symbolism displayed in A Separate Peace pertains to Phineas’ pink shirt. The shirt symbolizes Phineas’ personality. During the time at which the novel was published, 1959, colored dress shirts were rarely worn, let alone prink dress shirts (H.B. Bryant 140). It symbolizes Finny’s fearlessness, especially due to the impacts of the setting, Devon School. At the Devon School “suspicion of masculinity was something to guard against” (H.B. Bryant 140). This was because of the time period and the whole prospect of the Devon School preparing students for war. The act of wearing this shirt shows how unique Finny is and his high self-esteem; he didn’t care about what others would think about his appearance. Moreover, wearing this shirt shows Phineas’ cleverness. He states, ‘”Well we’ve got to do something to celebrate. We haven’t got a flag, we can’t float Old Glory proudly at the window. So I’m going to wear this, as an emblem'” (Knowles 24). Not only does Phineas display cleverness, individualism, and self-esteem in this act, he also shows his resourcefulness. Because he didn’t have a flag to use to celebrate, he chose the next best thing available, a pink dress shirt.

Not only are Phineas’ actions symbolic, the creation of his character and his traits have a deeper, symbolic meaning as well: Phineas shows several semblances and references to the ancient Greeks (Marvin E. Mengeling 84). For instance, “Phineas is described as Greek inspired and Olympian” (Marvin E. Mengeling 84). Primarily, his name refers to the Greek god Phoebus Apollo – “god of light and youth, represented in art as handsome, young, and athletic” (Marvin E. Mengeling 84). Phineas displays all of these characteristics. In addition, Phoebus Apollo helped the ancient Greeks get rid of their fear; Phineas is the force that helps Gene jump off of the tree. Furthermore, Phineas wished to participate in the Greek-created Olympics: “Did I ever tell you that I used to be aiming for the Olympics?” (Knowles 117) Moreover, Phineas was quite athletic, as were the ancient Greeks, and had won several sport awards: “He had won and been proud to win the Galbriath Football Trophy and the Contact Sport Award, and there were two or three other athletic prizes he was sure to get this year or next” (Knowles 51). Additionally, he created Blitzball, just like the ancient Greeks created and popularized many sports, such as boxing.

Another character whose name was derived from another word is Leper. The name Leper comes from the word “leprosy.” Leper is considered an outcast and is teased by his peers. His behavior can be deemed odd and unusual in relativity to the other students’ behaviors. Correspondingly, many people with diseases, such as leprosy, or other defects/deficiencies are unfortunately teased and not included in activities.

One of the more evident pieces of symbolism in the novel concerns the two rivers, the Devon and Naguamsett. “Gene remembers the freshwater Devon River fondly, for this was the body of water that he and Finny had leaped into many times from the tree. Ironically, after Finny’s accident, Gene does not remember the Devon River with fear or disgust; the river to him symbolizes the care free summer days, a peaceful time” (Telgen 249). The Nagamsett, on the other hand, was nearly the exact opposite:

We had never used this lower river, the Naguamsett, during the summer. It was ugly, saline, fringed with marsh, mud, and seaweed. A few miles away it was joined to the ocean, so that its movements were governed by unimaginable factors like the Gulf Stream, the Polar Ice Cap, and the moon. It was nothing like the fresh-water Devon above the dam where we’d had so much fun, all the summer (Knowles 76).

Gene seems to associate the Naguamsett River with war (Telgen 249). Gene falls into the Naguamsett after a fight with quarrelsome Cliff Quackenbush. The war is always a fear in his mind. Geographically, the Naguamsett is opposite the Devon River, the Devon School in between. If the Devon represents the summer session, the school can be thought of as representing the winter session, and the Naguamsett as the war – Gene’s final destination.

The summer session is a period of escape for Devon’s students, and can thus symbolize Devon as a separate peace. There is a big “contrast between the war being fought abroad and the relative tranquility of the Devon School, particularly in its summer session.” Gene and Finny’s summer at the Devon School “denotes illusion” (Telgen 250). As a whole, the summer session symbolizes how the Devon School is a separate peace. It is apart from the war, although it trains for it. Whilst in Devon, the students are safe and taken care of. For example, by completing his final year at the Devon School, Gene is avoiding military service. Still, he and his classmates realize they will be enlisted or drafted in only a matter of time. The war is “a harsh reality that schoolboys, like Gene, must eventually confront.” (Telgen 250) In this way, the Devon holds the last few years of peace for the upper-middlers and upper-seniors. In Devon’s only summer session in history, the students “defy many rules, still maintain the faculty’s good will, create new games such as ‘Blitzball’ and begin unheard-of clubs such as the ‘Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session'” (Telgen 250). During the summer session, the Masters were much more lenient as compared to the winter session.

“They seemed to be modifying their usual attitude of floating, chronic disapproval. During the winter most of them regarded anything unexpected in a student with suspicion, seeming to feel that anything we said or did was potentially illegal. Now on these clear June days in New Hampshire, they appeared to uncoil, they seemed to believe that we were with them about half the time, and only spent the other half trying to make fools of them. A streak of tolerance was detectable” (Knowles 23).

In this separate peace, Phineas seems to be the leading power of this source of peace.

“The Devon faculty had never before experienced a student who combined a calm ignorance of the rules with a winning urge to be good, who seemed to love the school truly and deeply, and never more than when he was breaking the regulations, a model boy who was most comfortable in the truant’s corner. The faculty threw up its hands over Phineas, and so loosened its grip on all of us.” (Knowles 23)

Although Phineas is the prime example of peace, the whole class, and generation as a whole, for that matter, reminds adults of peace. “I think we reminded them of what peace was like, we boys of sixteen. We were registered with no draft board, we had taken no physical examinations… we were careless and wild, and I supposed we could be thought of as a sign of the life the war was being fought to preserve… We reminded them of what peace was like, of lives which were not bound up with destruction” (Knowles 23-24). As war veterans, the parent generation was “bound up with destruction” and could at times forget the meaning of peace, its importance, or even simply what it was like to be at peace with oneself. Sixteen year-olds were not yet in the war and were free. They were cheerful and “careless and wild.”

Ergo, A Separate Peace by John Knowles is chock-full of symbolism, including the tree, Phineas’s pink shirt and Greek background/references, Leper’s name’s derivative, the Devon and Naguamsett Rivers, and the peace of the Devon School and its students, especially during the summer session. Knowles introduces these pieces of symbolism in a variety of ways, such as the landscape and the characters’ actions. A Separate Peace is overflowing with symbolism, among other figurative language, and Knowles has efficiently integrated it to bring his novel to its highest possible extent.

Works Cited

H.B. Bryant. “Phineas’s Pink Shirt.” The English Record Vol. 18 (1968): pp 5-6. Rpt. In Bloom’s Guides. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008. Pp 140-142. Print.

James Ellis. “Interconnected Symbols.” English Journal Vol. 53: pp 313-318. Rpt. In Readings on A Separate Peace. Ed. Jill Karson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999 pp 33-41. Print.

Knowles, John. A Separate Peace. New York: Scribner, 1987. Print.

Marvin E. Mengeling. “A Separate Peace: Meaning and Myth.” The English Journal Vol. 58 (1969): pp 1322-1329. Rpt. In Bloom’s Guides. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008. Pp. 84-91. Print.

“A Separate Peace.” Novels for Students. Ed. Diane Telgen. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 1997. 249-250. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 13 Apr. 2010.

Sister M. Nora. “Symbolic Landscape.” Discourse Vol. 11 (1968): Rpt. In Readings on A Separate Peace. Ed. Jill Karson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999 pp. 30-32. Print.

Labels: A Separate Peace Literary Analysis - Symbolism

A September Challenge: Read "The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope"

As I pen this column, there are about 70 days left until the United States presidential election of 2012. We will then have a reprieve from watching political commercials. Although a financial boon for television and radio stations, I tend to get headaches from watching people sling mud at each other. Then at the end of many of them we hear those magic words, “I am John the slick politician and I approved this message.” Will they really do all they say they will do? Or is it just another political season where the candidates throw darts at the wall to see which ones will stick and translate to votes in the voting booth?

Because of the upcoming election, I have purposed that in September I am going to read a book that I originally read about 8 or 9 years ago. James Robison, the Texas-born evangelist, published “The Absolutes: Freedom’s Only Hope” in the aftermath of the 911 terrorist bombings of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the doomed hijacked plane that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. As Robison expresses in the Introduction to the book, the premise of his book is that “the absolutes are the foundation stones of our society-and these same principles have been foundational to all stable societies throughout history. When these societies begin to depart from the absolutes, they also begin to decay.” He further invites the reader to explore history. By embracing the moral absolutes of God’s word a society “invites prosperity, success and the blessings of freedom”. Whereas, Robison asserts that when a society ignores them their actions “fly in the face of reality and courts disaster.”

In my weekend radio broadcast on KTLF in Colorado Springs, I have challenged my listeners to join me in reading “The Absolutes” during the month of September or at least some time before the election. I gain nothing from recommending his book. I have only spoken to James Robison a couple of times in my life. Once we spoke at his television tapings of the possibilities of conducting Christian concerts on military bases throughout America. Once played in a golf tournament with him and spoke with James for about 10 minutes. But, if Christians across our land would read “The Absolutes” it would provide a great reminder of those moral absolutes that have made our country great.

I have come to really love social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. I have used them as tools to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, I am also astounded at how many people have no respect for God’s word…the Bible. It is more than just a guideline for living. The Holy Scriptures are more than an advice column or some archaic codex of proverbs. They are God’s living word to us that is amazingly powerful. If you talk to anyone who has come out of a dark past, you will likely hear of how passages in God’s Word gave them strength for living. Hebrews 4:12 speaks to how exciting a book the Bible can be in our lives. Talk to a born again Christian and ask them how important God’s Word has been in their life. Get ready to hear some thrilling stories of how the Bible was used by God to change their life.

I can’t stress enough my recommendation that you read “The Absolutes” in September. But, I encourage you to read God’s Word everyday of your life. My pastor, Dr. DL Mitchell recommends you read a chapter from Proverbs each day and three chapters from Psalms. If you use that method, you will read through the Psalms and the Proverbs once a month…12 times in an entire year. And, it will only cost you about 15 minutes a day. I am sure glad Jesus Christ isn’t up for election. He is Lord of Lords and Kings and that will never change. He is the only one that has ever walked this earth that is truly undefeatable. And, He has given us the moral absolutes that will keep our country great…but, only as we cling to them uncompromisingly.

Labels: A September Challenge: Read "The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope"

A Child Called "It" Book Review

Despite how much there is to absorb and realize in Pelzer’s autobiography, it was unbelievably traumatic to read. At first, when reading about the severe punishments and pain David’s mother inflicted on him, I could not bring myself to believe and understand that these events were factual and really did take place in his childhood. The mother’s methods of brainwashing him were so gruesome, I nearly had to pretend it was all fiction to bear it. I don’t think this book should be read in one sitting but rather over a few days–unless you have a very, very strong stomach. But after I came over the shock that it in fact was true in its entirety, I realized how ignorant I was to the fact that David Pelzer was not the only victim to such child abuse. There are unfortunately many like himself who are or have previously gone through such experiences. All throughout the book, I though to myself, “Why doesn’t he just run away? Why doesn’t he tell an official and not return?”. I now can see how insensitive it was to think it would be that simple. People in such a situation are seemingly under constant stress and pressure and without much help. As seen in David’s case, he did not receive the needed recognition until eight years later. That was more than half his life (at the time) that he had dealt with the unbearable treatment by his mother.

It seems that schools are the only way abused children will get attention away from home–and that’s if they have responsible, caring teachers. This book made me think not only that I am grateful to have the family that I do, but what we can do for others who have families such as David’s. All it takes is to pay attention and take a caring interest in your peers. There were many signs in not only David’s physical appearance but also his behavior. Unfortunately the teachers saw his poor behavior called for more discipline. Little did they now he acted that way for a reason, which I don’t believe was his fault. I am absolutely positive that if he were to have been raised in a nurturing environment, he would not only have been well-behaved, but he would also have excelled in school because it took both determination and a great deal of wit.

I recently found out that there are two sequels to this book (The Lost Boy and A Man Named Dave). I read a couple summaries on them. Fortunately, all turns out well. In The Lost Boy, Pelzer tells about his search for a foster family. A Man Named Dave is about his adult years, including his enrollment in the Air Force and his eight-year-long marriage. It was somehow reassuring to find out that he is alright now and leads a good life. For further reading, I was slightly intrigued to find that David’s brother, Richard, wrote a book titled A Brother’s Journey. I wonder what he could have written about, but it should be interesting.

Labels: A Child Called "It" Book Review

Adopting a New Pet

When thinking about adopting a new pet such as a cat or dog, there are several things to consider before doing so. Considering all the obligations and requirements before making a commitment is an important first step.

Can I Afford a New Pet?

Pet care can be quite expensive. Besides the obvious requirements such as food and grooming supplies, pets require routine vet examinations and immunizations. Don’t consider getting a new pet if you are financially unable to meet basic veterinary care requirements.

Just like people, pets don’t always remain healthy. They sometimes require vet care other than normal routine exams and preventive measures. If you adopt a pet and can’t afford health care for that pet, you may be faced with an agonizing decision. People who can’t afford expensive treatments and medications are often forced to put sickly or chronically ill pets to sleep.

Do I Have Time For a Pet?

Pets need love and attention just like people. Unfortunately, people who really don’t have time for pets often adopt them anyway.

All pets need attention, but if you work extended hours and can’t be home enough to give a new pet a lot of attention, consider adopting a cat. Cats are independent creatures that don’t usually mind being left alone for several hours at a time. Felines don’t have to go outside, they are content to sleep most of the day, and they have no problem entertaining themselves the rest of the time.

Dogs, on the other hand, are very social creatures. Don’t get a dog unless you have plenty of time to give them the attention they require. It wouldn’t be fair to the animal. Dogs of course must be let outside at regular intervals, and they require lots of love and attention. Some breeds require more attention than others, but dogs in general need to exercise and play on a daily basis.

People sometimes adopt a dog and either chain it up for hours on end or keep it locked up in an outdoor kennel. Don’t get a dog if you are going to ignore it outdoors. Bringing a dog food and water on a daily basis isn’t enough. There is nothing wrong with keeping a dog outdoors as long as it has adequate shelter from the elements, but keep in mind that outdoor dogs still need love, attention, regular nutritious meals, and lots of exercise.

Pet Shops

Some pet shops sell puppies and kittens on a regular basis. Don’t assume that a pet is healthy because it is offered by a pet shop. Most pet shops have a pet’s best interest in mind, but there are those that buy pets from puppy mills in order to make big profits. If you are thinking about adopting a pet from a pet shop, make sure its health is guaranteed in writing.

Private Individuals

Numerous pet ads can be found in newspapers across the country. Sometimes pets are given away for free, and others are sold for profit. Generally a pet can be obtained from a private individual for a fraction of what pet stores charge. Puppies and kittens offered by private individuals still need initial examinations to ensure good health.

When older animals are offered by private individuals, find out why the animal is being given away or sold. Pet owners who love a pet for years don’t suddenly get rid of it without reason. Sometimes older pets are adopted out due to landlord issues, allergies, and other legitimate problems, but older pets are also sometimes given away or sold because of behavior problems, health problems, and litter box issues.

Animal Shelters

The best place to find a new pet is at your local animal shelter. Animals there are desperate for homes. There are “no kill” shelters, but other animal shelters, due to lack of funds and overcrowding, are forced to make the sad choice of euthanasia. When you adopt a pet from the animal shelter, you are saving a life.

Animal shelter employees and volunteers can provide you with the history of the animal you are considering for adoption. Some shelter animals were surrendered by their owner and others were brought in as strays. These animals are all hoping for a loving new home.

Adoption fees vary from shelter to shelter, but most provide first shots, and some include spaying or neutering. Only healthy animals are put up for adoption.

All things considered, adopting from your local animal shelter is the best choice. You will be giving an animal a second chance at life, and you are guaranteed a healthy pet.

Labels: Adopting a New Pet

Apple Cider Vinegar: Nature's Amazing Cure-All

The old adage that an apple a day keeps the doctor away definitely rings true for the apple’s cousin, namely Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). For a while when I had first taken up running I started suffering from painful Charlie Horses that would wake me up in the dead of night. When I told my mother about these awful leg craps, she suggested that I might be deficient in potassium and that I should consider taking ACV a few times a day mixed with water to boost my potassium levels and get rid of the cramps. It worked!

Not only did the ACV help me get rid of painful leg cramps, but I noticed that after a month of taking it I was starting to lose weight. I have never been a fan of dieting so I was pleasantly surprised that I was shedding some unwanted pounds before my upcoming trip to model in Japan. After doing further research about ACV I found out that it not only helps with muscle pain but is also a natural diuretic reducing water retention, increasing metabolic rates and aiding to break down fat from the foods we consume. The more I researched the more I knew that I wanted to keep ACV as a regular part of my diet.

The health benefits of adding ACV to your diet are seemingly endless. ACV has also been touted as a natural cure-all for centuries in Europe. It can be used to reduce the inflammation and infection in insect bites, eczema and acne when used as an astringent and applied with a cotton ball several times a day. When applied to the scalp it can eradicate embarrassing dandruff, and if you mix 50% water with 50% ACV and used as a foot soak it can kill the fungus associated with Athlete’s Foot.

I also discovered that ACV is not only useful as a remedy for skin problems, but when taken as a tonic before each meal can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The pectin fiber found in ACV helps bind excess fat in your body while flushing it out, it also contains high levels of potassium and magnesium which help relax blood vessel walls thus lower blood pressure. Amino acids in the ACV can also help lower dangerous LDL cholesterol.

While ACV can flush out harmful fat from your body, I found it interesting that it can actually aid in building bone mass therefore fighting the threat of osteoporosis. Since ACV is full of manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium it helps extract the calcium from the foods you eat which is perfect especially if you don’t always remember to take a calcium supplement. If constipation is ever an issue, ACV works wonders as it helps enhance your digestive enzymes making for less bloating and discomfort. It’s easy to see why ACV is considered a cure all!

When it comes to choosing the right type of Apple Cider Vinegar it is really important to make sure that you are buying it in its purest form. It is preferable to buy vinegar that comes from the double rather than single fermentation of the apple. It is essential that the vinegar also not be distilled or filtered because those processes destroy the nutrients that make the ACV so curative and beneficial. Look for a product that is brownish in color and cloudy. Clear versions are far too processed, and chances are that they won’t work as well as the purer forms of vinegar.

My mother suggested taking 2 teaspoons of the vinegar in a 6-8 oz. glass of water before breakfast, lunch and dinner, and that is what worked for me. Others suggest mixing the vinegar with honey to make it more palatable and also because honey has its own health benefits. Either way you choose to mix it, it is best to stick to 2-3 teaspoons in 6-8 ounces of water. Using too much ACV can lead to very loose stools and temporary acidic reflux. As goes for everything, moderation is key! You also want to make sure to rinse your mouth out after drinking this mixture because the acidity of the vinegar can deteriorate the enamel of your teeth just as lemon juice would.

If the smell and taste of apple cider vinegar is not at all appetizing to you, you can now find it in pill or tablet form in most health food stores and vitamin retailers. I still use ACV every day since high cholesterol, osteoporosis and high blood pressure run in my family and have recently started using it in tablet form. I find it a lot more “user friendly” since I’m not always in the mood to drink a glass of water with vinegar right before a meal, and it is easy to pack for traveling. I am convinced that ACV is what helped me lose all my baby weight after both of my pregnancies.

While I can’t say that I am glad to have suffered from leg cramps, I can say that I’m glad that because of them I found out about Apple Cider Vinegar and all of its amazing health benefits. It is cheap, healthy and one of nature’s great multitaskers. If you take a multivitamin every day, try taking some ACV to enhance your health. Your body will thank you!

Labels: Apple Cider Vinegar: Nature's Amazing Cure-All

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