New Family Member

Buying a dog for Christmas was never an option. Everyone knows, that’s the wrong thing to do.

“A dog is for life,” after all. Presumably that expression is referring to the dog’s life? I hope so anyway.

I suppose, “A dog is a 10-15 year commitment, not just for Christmas,” isn’t quite as catchy.

So Christmas was out. Instead, we opted for Easter. So much better.

But then Easter 2020 got cancelled. F***ing corona.

Stuck at home, with all of this perfect house-breaking and training time available, the puppy conversations started again in earnest. There was even a performance (song and dance) by my daughter and her friends, begging for a puppy.

I think my wife and I actually put more thought into planning for the dog than planning a family (sorry kids). The costs, the inconvenience, the training, the breed, what if one of us is allergic, what about holidays? We certainly discussed it for longer than we did having a third child! (“Do you wan-” “Nope. I’m good.”).

But that was just it – this would be our third child. The fifth member of our family. It had to be the right for all of us, and again, for the foreseeable future.

We wanted the kids to have a puppy and have those fun memories when they were grown up. We were also in no denial about the facts that a) the novelty would wear off eventually and b) puppies grow up – and then we have a dog.

So what am I looking for in a dog?

Breed

The kids don’t know a Pomeranian puppy from a poodle puppy. A puppy is a puppy. It’s small, it’s fluffy, it’s cute. It will love them, lick them, fetch a stick for them.

I, on the other hand, was never going to agree to a “handbag dog”. No yappy little rat-looking excuse of a dog for me. I wanted a DOG. A real dog. Not a massive dog, so no lurcher or Great Dane. Not an accessory to try and look “well ‘ard”, so staffy’s and boxers were out. Not to look “cool”, so huskies and Alsatians were out. And minimal chance of the kids being eaten meant that rottweilers and dobermans (is it doberMEN?) were out too.

My ideal dog had to have the following qualities:

  • Intelligent – enough to train and behave
  • Gentle – child-/people-friendly
  • Playful
  • Quiet – minimal barking
  • Short-haired – minimal grooming
  • Endurance – Good for running and hiking, going long not fast
  • A dog – as opposed to a bitch (I’m in for some bad karma soon, but he can enjoy “them for the next little while)

I reappeared from the rabbit hole known as google a few hours later with a clear winner: border collie.

The border collie ticked all of the above, and I was quite excited to read about people running full marathons with their working dogs. I doubt I’ll still be running full marathons by the time our pup is old enough to run that distance, but it gives me a great reason to run regularly and stay in half marathon shape.

Dog Hunt

The next step was to find a puppy online, purchase and collect. Sound so easy right? Well not during lock down. Everyone in the UK had apparently gone through the exact same thought process (which always troubles me) and border collie pups were selling like hot cakes.

Whole litters were snatched up minutes after being posted online, and the prices seemed to be creeping up as well. At one point the only pups that seemed to go unsold, were those on farms in west Wales and the Scottish islands.

Eventually I found a collie-cross a few hours away, made the call and took the plunge. It was love at first sight, and despite not enjoying the car ride home, Ronnie was incredibly excited about his new home – as were my kids. There were some tears of joy when he arrived and lots of cuteness and laughter late into his first night.

I was told that Ronnie is 3/4 border collie and 1/4 Huntaway, so he’s a collie cross. A h-ollie, if you will. Or if he’s been naughty a c-

…oh alright, I won’t go there.

Anyway, judging by the size of his paws and the rate he’s growing, he may well be 3/4 Huntaway and only 1/4 border collie. He moves like a big dog as well…you know, like those 5 foot bodybuilders carrying invisible buckets of water? He’s about 2 foot tall but struts around like he’s Scooby Done That, Been There.

So Far, So Good

Ronnie’s been a dream to train so far, and at 14 weeks old we’ve still got plenty of time for learning new tricks! We’re all greeted each morning by this joyful, loving creature and our family walks in the woods are even more enjoyable now. I can’t run with him as much as I’d like yet as it might damage his bones and “plates”? Also, unless he starts becoming more or a pooch and less of a pussy, he’s not going to be a great guard dog (he growls and then hides behind us).

…ok, so he’s no help with the gardening!

So I’m looking forward to:

  • teaching him to play “Hide and Seek” with the kids
  • teaching him to catch a frisbee (he’s mastered fetching a ball)
  • camping with him
  • running with him – maybe even a Parkrun when they restart?

Most importantly though, long after covid is a distant memory Ronnie will still be with us, his arrival having marked the start of this new chapter in our lives.

The Wedge – Audiobook Review

So this morning, after acknowledging that my downward dog needs a lot of work (or sending to the farm) I tried to access the following week of the Wim Hof Fundamentals course (stress management). It was locked, meaning that I’ll be learning patience as a bonus lesson!

After some dire attempts to get more bendy and once my other exercises were done, I did a thirty minute Zwift cycle before my ninety second cold shower. During the cycle, I listened once again to this excellent book – I would highly recommend it, so here’s my review.

Summary from Scott Carney‘s website

Thrive or die: That’s the rule of evolution. Despite this brutal logic, some species have learned to survive in even the most hostile conditions. Others couldn’t—and perished. While incremental genetic adaptations hone the physiology of nearly every creature on this planet, there’s another evolutionary force that is just as important: the power of choice. In this explosive investigation into the limits of endurance, journalist Scott Carney discovers how humans can wedge control over automatic physiological responses into the breaking point between stress and biology. We can reclaim our evolutionary destiny.

Review

Journalist Scott Carney, who also wrote the New York Times bestseller, What Doesn’t Kill Us, seems to be a kindred spirit (except he doesn’t like running? What’s THAT all about?!). His sceptical approach and original goal of debunking Dutch guru Wim Hof, peaked my interest right from the start. His first book was the warts and all account of encountering Wim and his method, that humanised the Ice Man and lowered my reluctance to becoming a practitioner.

While I’m still at the beginning of my Wim Hof journey, Carney writes that it, “gave him superhuman levels of endurance and quieted a persistent autoimmune illness.”

The Wedge is about the underlying technique that can enable a person to have an edge in almost any situation.

In his latest book, Carney travels the globe in search of those who are also exploring the potential of the human mind and body. In doing so he:

  • visits a cutting-edge neuroscience laboratory at Stanford to overcome fear/anxiety
  • achieves flow states by tossing kettlebells
  • explores the benefits of heat from saunas
  • reaches transcendence through breathing routines
  • searches his mind in sensory deprivation tanks
  • hacks his mind with MDMA
  • tries ayahuasca

I really enjoyed this book, and while I’ve already start the Wim Hof Method, saunas and flotation tanks, I still have a long way to go to earn my psychonaut black belt.

“Under certain circumstances, one is actually better informed concerning the real world, if one has taken a drug than if one has not.” – Terence McKenna

I would rather do this without ingesting psychoactive substances, so I’ll experiment with some of the other methods first…but who knows…in future…maybe? You only live once, and Carney really does seem to making the most of his time here. I appreciate him sharing his experiences and experiments – it gives me ideas and encouragement to continue my own!

As this was an audiobook, I need to comment on the narrator, Scott Carney! Yes, I always appreciate the author narrating their own work – when they’re good that is – and Carney is as skilled a narrator as he is a writer.

Thank You

This is blog post number 7 out of 10, and I am really encouraged by the views I’m getting. Hopefully these will translate into some more subscribers, likes, comments, etc.

On the home front – lockdown is going well (F****** Covid-19), Wim Hoffing is going well (except the stretching – I suck – so inflexible) and writing is…well you’re reading this, but don’t expect my novel any time soon!

Procrastination cure? Not yet. Allen Carr’s Easyway need to get onto this!

Take care – be safe and well – peace.

The Wim Hof Method

“Breathe M***** F*****S!”

– Wim Hof

I hate the cold. But I love winter holidays.

This seeming paradox is easily explained by the fact that on any ski holiday I’ve been on, I’ve been wrapped up in a snow suit most of the time. If you’re really lucky, you also get to sit in thermal pools or saunas, and experience all of that beautiful scenery without any discomfort (skiing, snowboarding and apres ski hangovers aside).

So in December 2018, when after a hard treadmill session at the gym I had to have a cold shower due to a broken boiler – I was fuming. I literally swore through gritted teeth for the entire duration and I didn’t even feel clean at the end.

But whilst I was horrified at the effect of the experience on my manhood, once I got out, I felt amazing. I was glowing. So alert, so energised. So I went away and googled if there were any benefits to cold showers – other than the mythical damping of the teenage libido.

Photo by Mohan Reddy Atalu on Pexels.com

Enter Ice Man

My web search inevitably led me to Wim Hof, also know and The Ice Man, the crazy Dutch record-breaker and local celebrity. The archetypal new-age, health guru image would have repelled me were it not for his stunts and the mounting scientific evidence for his method. I needed to learn more, so over the next year or so I watched various YouTube interviews with Wim and read the following two books:

Both of these books give an insight into Wim’s tragic backstory, what’s driving him and the science behind his method – they are well worth a read! They’ll tell you what you need to know about the three pillars of the method: breathing, commitment and cold exposure. If you have any health ailments, you should look into Wim and his method – you’re probably covered! It really does seem to be a cure-all.

The Wim Hof Method Benefits

  • Stress reduction – I’m not stressed right now, but once this lockdown is over and I have to go back out into the real world, this could definitely come in handy.
  • Faster recovery from physical exertion – marathon running, triathlons, hangovers…it’s supposedly meant to make you heal like Wolverine! Count me in.
  • Better sleep – as a lifelong insomniac (maintenance, sometimes onset), this would probably be a better option than the two-glasses-of-red-wine method? Long-term I mean.
  • Improved sports performance – back to marathons and triathlons again. Could this give me that edge I need to break the three hour barrier? As an aside, the London Marathon should have been going ahead today – I feel terrible for those runners. I ran London last year (3 hr 24 mins), raising over £2000 for charity and it was an unforgettable experience. I hope they all get to experience something similar soon or run it next year!
  • Enhanced creativity – an obvious requirement for any blogger or novelist. But I’m sure creativity and resourcefulness go hand in hand, so even in everyday life, parenting, etc.
  • More focus and mental clarity – a potential cure for my procrastination?
Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

Just like with Chi Running, I didn’t feel completely confident following the method from a book so I purchased the Wim Hof Method app, which I would recommend for the Breathing Bubble alone! Such a great tool!

Even if all of the benefits above aren’t forthcoming, I will probably continue with the breathing and the showers regardless – they just make me feel great. The breathing gets you naturally high, and the cold shower gets you wired – in a good way. So no more need for weed, beer or coffee? Number three will take me some convincing!

The Fundamentals Course

So I took the bait – hook, line and sinker – and purchased the Wim Hof Method Fundamentals Course. To be fair, I have saved money on petrol over the last month and Wim has reduced the price by 50% during the pandemic in an effort to make it affordable to the masses – so I don’t feel swindled!

I started Week One of the course this morning, and apart from the stretching – which was agony, and I sucked at – it was easy-going compared to what I have been doing already with the app. I acknowledge the stretching is important to open up the airways, and I should do some anyway, but running has made me so tight!

Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com

The breathing was just three rounds, each with a one minute breath hold, which was easy as I have already been holding my breath for up to four minutes by my fourth round, just by using the app.

The homework, was to take a thirty second cold shower, at least five days a week. Again, I’m already up to ninety seconds, most days. But I don’t want to rush through this programme in case I miss something. The slower rate of progress elsewhere will give me more time to work on my flexibility.

So each morning, I will be waking up at 04:30 and doing the yoga stretches – the hardest part for me – before I start the breathing exercises. The cold shower will be after my cardio.

I’ll keep track of any changes I experience throughout the course, and write a proper review at the end, but for now I would say GET THE APP! It is well worth a try, and the science is there – it’s not all WOO-WOO! You don’t have to use it to run marathons or climb mountains bare-chested. It might just make your day to day less painful, more enjoyable and more productive.

THANK YOU

Once again, thanks for reading this – please do subscribe, share, like and comment if you can. This is blog post 6 out of 10, and it is definitely getting easier to sit down at the laptop and tap out some words!

Have a great Sunday! Which for me means FAMILY TIME!!!