Q: If my dog could talk, what do you think his New Year’s Resolutions would be?

A: This is the time of year when we vow to improve our lifestyles for the better in the new year. With our resolutions to eat better, exercise more, and all round be better people, I would argue that your dog could help you with all your resolutions and at the same time fulfill all his New Year’s resolutions.

A significant percentage of the New Year’s resolutions that are made concentrate on increasing daily exercise. Our dogs live for their daily exercise as it is vital to their well being and, if they could talk, would tell you not to spend more money on multiple expensive gyms but to take them out for an extra mile walk or run every day.

Moving faster for longer periods of time increases your health as well as increases your dog’s exercise. This then leads to weight loss which can help you as well as your dog. Weight loss helps reduce joint pain and as you, or your dog, lose weight exercise starts to get easier. Additionally, one of the great aspect’s of having a dog is that on those days when you are feeling like you want to go exercise you have an obligation to your dog to take them along.

When people start taking their dogs out for longer amounts of time to exercise and start to lose weight they will then be more likely to make better food choices. This can relate to how you feed your dog as well because instead of feeding snacks all day long to appease him you can start to give treats such as carrots or green beans that are lower in calories and higher in fiber.

As for trying to improve ourselves as a human beings, all we need to do is watch our dogs as they interact with the world and their families. Their love is unconditional and not judgmental, and they are excited to see you every day. They are overjoyed with small daily experiences such as a drive in the car or spending time with you on the couch. If I could make my resolutions match my dog’s it would include living in the present, loving unconditionally, and taking joy in the little things that matter.

Q: My cat is very old, and I know the time is coming when he will need to be euthanized. My children are young, and I cannot decide if it is better to tell them the truth or to keep them out of the process entirely.

A: Every child and and every family is different so there is no right answer for you, however, it is my belief that children are very resilient and telling them the truth typically helps educate them on death, dying, and grief.

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In my experience, children who learn to deal with grief and death in a healthy way with their family pets when they are young are better equipped when they get older to deal with grief at the death of family members and friends.

Coming to terms with death and allowing yourself to accept the normal process of grieving is an essential part of being a healthy adult. As a parent, it is important to model healthy grief and allow your children to ask questions and be a part of the process. There are also grief support groups to help you if you feel that you might have difficulty assisting your children through the process. You might also want to look for one of the great books that have been written specifically for children to help them through the grief process.

Death and grief are important aspects of life and the earlier a child starts to learn how to cope with grief the better they will be able to deal with it as an adult.

Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at drmiller@canyonpet.com

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