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Issue #34

Canine Orthodontics

John Loeppky

January 15, 2024

 An artistic rendering of two horses, brown with black manes, kicking up at each other. The background is painterly and is meant to look like it is dusk.
When I’m dysregulated, this is what my emotions feel like/Susann Mielke from Pixabay

Dental Hygiene One Bark at a Time

Most of what I’ve learned about dental hygiene in the last seven years has come from my eldest dog.

Let me explain. Lily is seven, a corgi-papillon mix, barks at everything that looks at her sideways, and has been very healthy the entire time I’ve had her. The one exception was that she got a dental condition—one of those hidden ones that we couldn’t have predicted that is common in smaller breeds—and so had to have a few of her teeth out last year. She’s now acting as a parent to our puppy, which is a joyous but loud process.

You may ask what this has to do with cripped productivity. Well, a few issues ago, I was talking about how you can outsource your motivation or executive function to others—not in some grand way—but in a way that allows you to grow together in community while being connected through care for each other. Brushing my dog’s teeth has become a version of that. We have to brush her teeth every couple of days to keep those vet bills low and her happiness high. Almost without fail, when I sit down to brush her teeth (or use her quad hands friendly dental spray, more accurately) I am prompted to brush my teeth. Do I have a habit tracker? Yes. Do I have an alarm set? Often. Does my pup provide a better reminder than anything else? You bet.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you outsource all of your routines in ways that connect with your animals. Lily, and her dog siblings Charlie and Eddie, are both a little too unpredictable for that. What I am saying is that humans don’t always have to be your reminder. We talk often, societally, about how having a dog that needs a walk is the nudge a lot of folks need if they are battling depression; we talk about how cats have this odd duality of being both combative and snuggly during times of need; and there’s a reason that a lot of species have worn the moniker “emotional support animal.” This isn’t a comment on those who just want to push the system’s boundaries, or bring their iguana on the plane with them (we’ll leave that for another day,) but I do take at face value the idea that many animals can support us in our emotional regulation day-to-day. In other words, it doesn't just have to be animals with vests and public facing jobs (remember folks, only service dogs have public access rights) who can serve your own understandings of your pathways to centredness (and, by extension, eventual productivity).

But what about if you don’t have pets? Well, it’s a fairly regular occurrence that we see those in the early stages of emotional distress asking their friends and family on social media for pictures of animals. I am not a psychologist and, to quote Tim Ferriss, I don’t play one on the internet, but I do think there’s a reason we go towards animals a lot of the time when our systems are out of alignment. I grew up, for example, doing equine therapy as part of my physiotherapy regiment. Horses helped me connect, taught me life skills, and also stretched out my hips pretty well. 

So, today’s cripped productivity suggestion is to tangibly think about ways you could connect with non-human emotional regulation. I have friends who follow lists of Twitter accounts that retweet photos of animals. If you went to horse-based therapy as a kid, perhaps you can look at doing that again or dipping your toes in via something like a petting zoo. And, if you have an aversion to animals for whatever reason (no judgement here) perhaps this is a time when you can lean into other sensory regulation activities—like a float tank or somatic-based practices like yoga nidra.

Until tomorrow!


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