The Power of Pets

Plus, Postnatal Weight Loss, Yes U Can: Delaware

Pet Power

When I was 5 years old, we had to give away Flyer, my hamster. Flyer, of course, was named for the Philadelphia Flyers and I truly believed he was worthy of a hamster Stanley Cup. We had to say goodbye to Flyer because I was allergic to him. Soon after, we discovered I was allergic to dogs, cats, horses, you name the animal—I am allergic. So it came as a huge surprise when I was approaching 30 and I received a call that my dad and stepmom had adopted a dog, a Shih Tzu named Tiger.

About 12 years ago, my dad suffered a stroke. When I went home to visit him after his illness, I was struck by how protective Tiger was of my dad. It’s as if he knew my dad had been sick and was determined to take care of him. Out of all the family members, Tiger followed my dad from room to room and waited patiently outside the bathroom for him. I was genuinely struck by the love this little dog was showing my dad. I couldn’t pet Tiger. I couldn’t sit on the same couch as him. But I grew to love him. I was filled with gratitude toward him for the care he showed my family while I lived so far away.

When you grow up without pets, you can miss out on the benefits of this type of relationship. I always thoughts dogs were just animals that barked loudly and needed to be walked really early in the morning. I was so wrong. After observing how Tiger interacted with my dad, I felt I understood my friends and their relationships with their pets significantly more. Pets are part of the family and bring as much love to a family as the family brings to the pet.

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The Delaware Humane Association truly honors this relationship. With opportunities to adopt and care for pets, children and senior citizens alike can benefit from this level of companionship. I spoke with Patrick Carroll, executive director of the Delaware Humane Association, and he elaborated on the wellness and physical benefits inherent to pet ownership:

“Pets can ground you,” Carroll says. “Their companionship, the unconditional love they give can give you more balance in your life. Especially with dogs, the increase in your physical activity level is beneficial as well.”

How many of our relationships can we say are good for both our mental and physical health? For everyone who wants to celebrate and support that relationship, come out with your dog for the Delaware Humane Association’s Tails Around the Tower: The 22nd annual Walk for the Animals on Sunday, Oct. 7.

A couple years ago we lost Tiger and Rusty came into our lives. He gets very excited when I visit. I think he likes it when I sneeze.


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Postnatal Weight Loss: Hollywood vs. Reality

I don’t know about you, but I am getting really tired of watching Hollywood actresses lose their baby weight between leaving the hospital and arriving home with their newborn. I especially love how the actresses who actually choose to take their time and lose weight healthfully get these special headlines in the media like “A-list Starlet Stays Unacceptable B-list Weight. On Purpose.”

Oy. Women have enough trouble with body image as it is. Lately, however, that rapid postnatal weight-loss seems to represent job security for these women and I worry what message that sends to us commoners.

So what is considered healthy weight loss after pregnancy? How soon should these actresses really return to the gym?

I spoke with my exercise guru at the Hockessin Athletic Center, trainer Katrina Clayton (my Katrainer) and asked her what is healthy as opposed to what is Hollywood.

“The times for new moms to return to the gym usually depends on the pregnancy,” she says. “If they have had a good pregnancy and delivery, it is typically about six weeks after a vaginal delivery with no complications or eight to 10 weeks after a C-section.”

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One thing Clayton does stress— wait until you are cleared by your OB/GYN to be sure that it is safe for you to return to working out safely.

Magazines like People (that I only read in doctors’ offices, I swear) post pictures of pregnant actresses staying fit during pregnancy. Clayton confirms that the more fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it is to transition back to that regimen after delivery.

“If the new mom was physically active during the entire pregnancy she would be able to go back to normal activity as soon as she is cleared by her physician,” Clayton says. “If a new mom was sedentary during her pregnancy she should start with low-impact, low-weight-bearing exercise such as walking, biking, and lifting low weights with high repetition.”

When I asked her about a more realistic time frame for postnatal weight loss, Clayton shared the standards.

“The recommended weight gain for a pregnancy is 25 to 30 pounds,” she says. “If a new mom sticks to that guideline then she will most certainly be able to lose all the weight within a year. A healthy weight loss is one to two pounds a week with a healthy diet and exercise.”

We’ve all known for years that Hollywood has its own set of standards. As much as I want a starring role on “Dexter,” I am just really glad I don’t have to live by them.


Programs available through Yes U Can include: programs: Aquatic Exercise,  Adapted Fishing and Exercise and Weight Training.  All these activities offer assistance to those who need it.Yes U Can

For a lot of people, just joining a gym can be intimidating. Whether it’s the crowds, the complicated equipment or even the fear of using the basic weights the wrong way, it can be overwhelming. So imagine what it’s like for someone with a physical disability to navigate around gyms as they try to use the equipment and accommodate their specific needs. I can tell you firsthand, it’s not easy.

Since you cannot tell from this blog, I will share that I walk with a pronounced drop in my left foot. Occasionally I even need my cane to get around. So one can imagine the balance-related difficulties I have getting myself off the elliptical machine. I am able to do it, but I am holding onto the nearest wall for a good while afterward.

Others living with physical disabilities may not have my level of independence yet still really want that gym experience. And with an unpredictable disease like multiple sclerosis, I don’t know how long I will be able to keep up my mainstream gym life.

That’s where Vickie George comes in. Eight years ago, George and her colleagues established a local program called Yes U Can based at the University of Delaware that is committed to helping people with physical disabilities reach their fitness goals.

Her program trains the trainers in places such as the Brandywine YMCA and Christiana Care’s Eugene duPont Preventive Medicine & Rehabilitation Institute to work with those who need this type of service but cannot find it at their local gym. By bringing the Yes U Can program to local gyms, people with disabilities can work out with confidence and support alongside those who don’t have disabilities.

The program is bursting with success stories:

• One participant had not stood in 15 years. After joining the program, she could use a stander and once again experience the sensation of standing.

• After joining the program, a woman went to see her physician. After performing several balance assessments, he told her she had not been able to do any of those during her last visit. He is now an advocate for the program.

• A woman joined the program and did not just increase her physical activity, she became more outgoing and independent—to the point where she moved out of her parents’ house and is now living independently.

These are incredible outcomes. Yes U Can is working to introduce programs such as rowing, rock-climbing, outdoor-biking, nature hiking, rock climbing and geocaching. I hope to join the program at some point.

Living with a physical disability may not get easier, but feeling comfortable at a gym certainly just did.


Health Events

Saturday, Oct. 6
Boardwalk Buddy Walk & Buddy Fest
Location  Rehoboth Beach boardwalk and bandstand
Time  9 a.m.
More info. Down Syndrome Association of Delaware,


Saturday, Oct. 6
Dewey Goes Pink: 5K run-walk, 1.5-mile walk and Pink Pig Roast
Location The Starboard, Dewey Beach
Time  noon
More info.,


Sunday, Oct. 7
Tails Around the Tower:
Delaware Humane Association’s 22nd Annual Walk for the Animals
Location  Rockford Park, Wilmington
Time  10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
                                                       More info., 571-8171, ext. 301


Thursday, Oct. 11
Paralympian Amanda McGrory
speaks at Yes U Can “Gift of Movement” Dinner
Location  University and Whist Club, 805 N. Broom St., Wilmington
Time  5:30 p.m.
                                                       More info., 286-1399


Saturday, Oct. 13
Walk to End Alzheimer’s
Location  Grove Park, Rehoboth Beach
Time  8:30 a.m.
More info., (800) 272-3900,


Saturday, Oct. 13
Highmark Delaware 5K and Family Fun Day
Location Lums Pond State Park, 1068 Howell School Road, Bear
Time  1:50 p.m. (Kiddie K), 2 p.m. (run/walk)
More info., 421-3221,


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