July 13, 2020
National Pet Fire Safety Day
While there seems to be as many "National Days" as there are squares on the calendar, not all of these are purely commercialized creations. In fact, many raise much needed awareness to serious concerns that otherwise garner little attention. One such date is July 15th, or National Pet Fire Safety Day. With the recognition of over a thousand home fires are accidentally started by pets per year, The American Kennel Club and ADT Security started the annual day to bring this issue and some safety tips, to light in 2009. In researching National Pet Fire Safety Day, I frighteningly came upon a statistic from the American Humane Society that roughly 500 thousand pets are affected annually by house fires. Let's look at how we can protect our pets and families from fires...
Steps to take (Offered by The Red Cross and The SPCA)
- Extinguish open flames when leaving home. Pets are often curious and their investigations can lead to disaster
- Remove stove knobs or protect with covers
- Invest in flame-less candles
- Keep pets near entrances with collars on when home alone. Ideally, the leash should be visibly stored near the door to facilitate evacuation
- Affix "pet alert" window cling(s) indicating number and type(s) of pet(s) living at residence
Fail to plan, plan to fail
- Include your pet(s) in your emergency planning
- Training, training, training...it's extremely helpful to have your pet trained to respond when his or her name is called
- Always remember the airplane oxygen mask guidance (put your own mask on before helping others), if you don't keep yourself safe, you can't be of help to anyone else
So while no one likes to think of their home being engulfed in flames, as I've often heard it said, "Plan for the worst but hope for the best". The team here at RAWZ wanted to highlight National Pet Fire Safety Day and offer some suggestions. After all, we want your pets to enjoy the vitality that comes from feeding minimally processed nutrition!
[caption id="attachment_7156" align="aligncenter" width="450"]
Order a FREE Pet Safety Pack from the ASPCA[/caption]
July 6, 2020
First off, I hope you enjoyed your 4th of July holiday! With everything going on, I'm sure it looked a little different, but hopefully you at least got to relax a bit. All of us here at RAWZ want to wish a happy 244th birthday to America! It was July 2nd, 1776, that the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and just two days later that the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted. The American colonists decided that a better life awaited them separated from Great Britain as an independent country. In their Declaration of Independence, Americans named some unalienable rights, of which perhaps the most famous is “the pursuit of happiness”. I strongly believe it is the right to a self-directed pursuit of happiness on which Independence is built.
Despite what my academic transcripts and being Class Clown of my Senior class may lead people to believe, I have a deeply reflective and spiritual aspect to my makeup. I have to believe it is from this place that the genesis for this post comes. “Celebrating Independence” will be going live on RAWZ’s site the morning of Monday July, 6th. And at the risk of losing any reputation I may have as an early morning keyboard warrior, I must disclose that I’m actually starting to write the morning of Friday July, 3rd , albeit early (Clooney!). The synchronicity of this date is not lost on me, particularly when writing about independence.
It was 14 years ago tonight that I made an awful decision which not only surrendered my independence, but nearly cost me my life. In the early morning hours of July 4th, 2006, after drinking excessively, I got behind the wheel to drive home from a party. A 23 year old recent college graduate, I was living with my parents who had recently moved to Southern Maine, but partying near my hometown about an hour away in Southern NH and was headed home. As a RAWZ fan (hopefully), or at least a RAWZ blog reader, you probably know the story surrounding my brother’s (Andy’s) injury, but I’ll briefly touch on here. Just 15 months prior to this night, Andy fell off a 3rd story balcony while on vacation in Cancun, Mexico. Andy was 18 at the time, and while it’s not my place to tell his story, I will say the accident was completely unexpected.
The fall left Andy with a Spinal Cord Injury resulting in his being paralyzed from the belly button down. After being flown to Houston where he underwent surgery, my family slowly absorbed the severity of Andy’s injury. I’ll never forget the helpless feeling I had looking at him lying in that hospital bed, and yet, despite being his older brother, I was unable to help Andy. Now more than 15 years later, I’m still choked up as I type this. Whether from not always setting the best example, or a form of survivor’s guilt, the feeling of some responsibility, while not as acute, is still with me today. One would think that living through such a traumatic event within my immediate family would have left me living with the utmost caution and safety, but a little over a year later it was me in the hospital bed.
[caption id="attachment_1425" align="alignnone" width="300"]
Jim's first solo walk after his accident with Boomer the Scott's family dog [/caption]
While our injuries were different, Andy’s a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), while I sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI); both resulted in substantial losses in independence for each of us. Andy was left a paraplegic, while the TBI resulted in hemiplegia affecting the left side of my body. After a lot of hard work, the unbelievable support of friends and family, and undoubtedly the immense grace of God, we’ve both had amazing recoveries: Andy, who with his wife Katie welcomed a beautiful daughter to the world just over a year ago, and I learning to navigate the ups and downs of living life on life’s terms. As I reflect on our journeys, I can’t help but discuss the profound loss of independence that anyone with a neurological injury can experience. We all strive for self-determination and sufficiency. Although, the early stages of recovery from a life altering disability involve total reliance on others, it is one of the main goals of rehabilitation to develop the most autonomy possible.
Sitting here and writing after 14 years of living with the emotional, physical, and cognitive challenges that result from a brain injury, I have to acknowledge the supports I still receive today. It’s been a non-linear journey of progress with varying levels of acceptance that has brought me to a place of navigating life the best I can while still striving for improvement. While my role with RAWZ has given me purpose and productive work, it is the work of our RAWZ Fund partners who provide independence and activities for “the pursuit of happiness” to individuals living with disability that I’m proudest to be a part of. Whether it’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital’s therapeutic care, the amazing work of service dogs, the life enriching recreational activity facilitated by Northeast Passage, or the supportive community that is, and growth that takes place at Krempels’ Center, all deserve acknowledgement.
While I know my family to be kind and generous, I can’t help but think that had Andy and I not had our injuries, chances are that the motivation behind a company dedicated to improving the lives of people and pets through minimally processed nutrition would not exist. So on this Independence Day, our family and all of us at RAWZ want to express our heartfelt gratitude for all who have joined us in this journey!
June 29, 2020
Fortunately, in present times there seems to be much more awareness of late about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. While often thought of as a condition affecting combat veterans, PTSD can occur in any individual following a traumatic event or experience. In fact, PTSD symptoms in groups of soldiers' returning from the battlefield were often referred to as "shell shock" and thought to only result from combat experience. The following definition is from the Mayo Clinic, a leading American medical research/treatment organization:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
The timing of this post stems from 6/27 being National PTSD Awareness Day. It wasn't until 2010 that the US Senate designated the day, going on to declare June PTSD Awareness month in 2014. Having had some experience with this topic, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of PTSD, but was truly amazed to see its' prevalence in current times. Recent statistics found that across a person's' life, a 6.8% chance of experiencing PTSD exists. Typically, women are twice as likely to live with PTSD, often as the result of sexual trauma. The department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 30% of Vietnam and 14% of the Gulf Wars' veterans are afflicted.
Living with PTSD is certainly challenging, but it is important to note that many effective treatments have been found. Of course, any traumatic event can alter the production and flow of neurochemicals, and medication is often helpful. Ultimately a therapeutic team will decide on the best treatment plan. The following treatment methods have shown evidenced-based promise: Cognitive Processing Therapy, Prolonged Exposure Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and Stress Inoculation.
I can't end a post on PTSD without mentioning the amazing support service animals can provide a handler. Our RAWZ Fund Partner NEADS, has long worked with the VA, even having performed in-services at VA facilities. Recognizing the power dogs can have in helping veterans navigate life with PTSD, NEADS has developed a special program called Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD (https://neads.org/service-dog-programs/service-dogs-for-veterans/service-dogs-for-veterans-with-ptsd/). Some of the specific tasks Trauma Assistance Dogs help with are: retrieving medication, turning on lights and waking handler during night terror (flashback), guiding handler home during moment of emotional overload, or initiating tactile intervention of panic episode.
I hope this post provides a little glimpse into one of the often invisible, and unfortunately stigmatized challenges faced by many living among us. While I've never had a trained Trauma Assistance Dog myself, I can certainly vouch for the power of pets in a time of need!
June 22, 2020
Happy Father's Day!
As I'm sure it is for many of you out there, Father's Day is a really special day for me. Of course, you may be sarcastically thinking, "Of course he's gonna say that, he works for his dad!" But I assure you, if you know my father you already know that it won't get me any extra points!
In all seriousness though, I was blessed to have my grandfather, Jim Scott Sr., in my life for almost 35 years. In that time our relationship saw "Grampy" acting as a golf partner, boss, teacher, support, and perhaps most importantly, a true friend. I was recently reminiscing with my 5th grade teacher who remembered him as always being there. Whether it was grandparents' day, a sports game, or awards ceremony (I'm not joking, I think I got one), Grampy seemed to be ever present. Of course, except for when he snuck out for a quick cigar...
While I easily recognize the good fortune of having my grandfather in my life for so long, I also have to acknowledge the unbelievable amount of love and support given me by my dad, Jim Scott Jr. As one can imagine, working in a growing family pet food business requires a lot of work, and I remember my dad as always working. Whether he was on the road generating sales, in the office crazy hours, or manning the booth at trade shows while the family went on "vacation", he seemed to always be on the job.
The lighter side
Despite his commitment to the company, the one thing I fondly remember was him always being there for our activities. A couple of stories I remember fondly, although Dad may not, come to mind. My dad has always been a car nut. Unfortunately, cars are very expensive and not always a congruent passion for a guy working in a growing, but small, family business. I don't know how he did it, but my dad seemed to always find a deal (or so he told my mom) on a car that was "like new". I'll never forget how excited he was when he got what may have been his first NEW car. My good friends, the Reardon's, had driven me to hockey practice one night and my dad was going to meet us there and bring me home. I remembered him saying he'd have his new car that night.
Practice that night was in Tyngsborough, MA at Skate 3. Despite playing for a youth hockey team out of Salem, NH, because of the scarcity of available ice-time nearby, Skate 3 was our home rink. As any hockey parent knows, the ice-times aren't ideal which only made the 45 minute ride to Skate 3 more tedious. Anyways, I remember seeing my dad up in the stands as practice finished up. I hurriedly changed in excitement to see his new vehicle. As we walked out into the full parking lot, I saw he was parked all the way in the dirt overflow area. It was dark out but noticing the puddles around, my dad asked me to "make sure you knock your shoes off before you hop in." After the long ride spent discussing hockey and how nice it was to have a brand new car, we got home. As we pulled into the garage, the car's interior became illuminated, with the two massive mud-prints from my feet on full display...
I can only imagine that he wanted to blow a gasket on me, but I distinctly remember how shocked I was by his calmness. I thought I had knocked the dirt off, which I obviously hadn't, and felt awful as I apologized. I immediately felt better as he explained it was just a car, even though I knew he was rightfully upset, and said he wasn't mad and that he could clean it in the morning.
While I've made my fair share of mistakes growing up, I've yet to exhaust Big Jim's patience (knock on wood). Another vehicle related mishap, that in my defense I have no recollection of, was the time I meticulously washed my father's car. Unfortunately, rather than the appreciative joy I expected after showing my work upon completion, my dad's face looked quite distraught. Keep in mind that I wasn't more than 7 or so at the time when I tell you my cleaning tools had been warm water and a Brillo Pad! Only now can I imagine the restraint it took for him to mutter "good job, thank you" as he surveyed the scratched car.
Unconditional love and support
While those two examples don't involve anything too serious or health related, I have plenty of such examples in my memory. One stands out: After my car crash and TBI in 2006, as one can imagine, I experienced quite a lot of emotional difficulty. Despite the incredible support from family and friends, building a life post TBI is a challenge. I remember one time that I decided to give up and that I couldn't keep moving forward and had isolated myself in my apt for some time. Worried that no one had heard from me, my dad stopped by and found me lying in bed visibly upset. To put this interaction in context, Dad has always wanted us to know how fortunate we are and remain grateful, staying away from self-pity. I may have misinterpreted this encouragement as a lack of permission to allow myself self-compassion. I will never forget him asking me "what's going on?", and after I said that I was having a tough time and really struggling, his understanding. He told me that it was ok to be sad and frustrated, but that no matter what I was loved and to keep doing the best I could. Learning that it was ok to be discouraged and grieve my losses wasn't incompatible with progress in recovery or meant that I'd given up, has been a process that I think really began that day. To me there's nothing I'm more grateful for than this compassionate support.
Happy Father's Day
Whether it's for his constant support or unwavering love, I couldn't possibly adequately convey my gratitude here to my father or my Grandfather's spirit here. On behalf of the team here at RAWZ we want to say thank you to all the Dads out there or already passed: Happy Father's Day!