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Canines & Coronavirus

When a dog in Hong Kong tested positive for coronavirus last month, pets quickly became part of the COVID-19 conversation. That case may have you wondering if your pets are at risk from this virus, too. Here’s the latest on the virus and your pets.

Is my dog at risk for catching coronavirus?

For now, pets are thought to be safe when it comes to COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence to suggest that dogs or cats will become a source of infection in other animals or humans. And if your dog is usually at home and doesn't come in contact with other dogs or people, and if no one in your household has COVID-19, it is unlikely that your pet will become infected.


Should my pet wear a face mask when in public?

There is no benefit to that. In fact, it's probably fairly distressing for the pet and could cause them to panic.


Can my dog spread coronavirus to humans?

Dogs are not known to be able to transfer it to humans. If you’re infected, your dog or cat could pass virus particles to any human who subsequently pets them. However, this is not a common way for the virus to spread. Still, you should wash your hands thoroughly before and after petting any animal—for many reasons!


Should I stock up on food and medicine for my dog?

In case you have to self-quarantine, you should prepare an emergency kit that includes a 30-day supply of your pets’ medications, as well as at least two weeks’ worth of food.


Is it safe to go to the vet’s office?

According to the CDC, you should avoid making unnecessary trips to areas that are frequented by many people. Contact your veterinarian about rescheduling wellness examinations, elective surgeries and dentistry procedures.


Does coronavirus affect my dog’s walk routine?

It’s safe to take your dog out for walks, but you should avoid letting other people stop and pet your dog (and you must resist the temptation to do the same with other people’s dogs). Many dog parks are closing temporarily to help prevent the virus from spreading, so use your best judgment.


What other precautions should dog owners take?

The best thing pet parents can do is not panic. Stay healthy for your pets by practicing good preventive measures, such as hand-washing and social distancing. Using paw wipes after pets come in from the outdoors is a good idea to halt the spread of germs. Do not abandon your dog because of COVID-19 concerns, and avoid high-traffic areas, like dog parks, where social distancing is not possible.


While animals may not be at risk from this disease, I urge all pet owners to have plans for how to care for their animals in case of any emergency. COVID-19 is no different. Indeed, it serves as an excellent reminder to pull that plan together now if you don’t have one already. Pets are family, and you want to make sure they're taken care of at all costs.

Freewill Astrology: COVID-19 Edition

We interrupt your regularly scheduled horoscopes to offer insights about the virus-driven turning point that the whole world is now experiencing. As you’ve probably guessed, all of us are being invited to re-evaluate everything we think we know about what it means to be human. I refer to this unprecedented juncture as The Tumultuous Upgrade or The Disruptive Cure. It’s fraught with danger and potential opportunities; crisises and possible breakthroughs. And while the coronavirus is the main driving force, it won’t be the only factor. We must be ready for more rough, tough healings disguised as bumpy challenges in the coming months.
Here’s the astrological lowdown: Throughout 2020, there’s a rare confluence of three planets in Capricorn: Pluto, Saturn and Jupiter. They are synergizing each other’s impacts in ways that confound us and rattle us. In the best-case scenario, they’ll also energize us to initiate brave transformations in our own personal lives as well as in our communities. I invite you to meditate on the potent mix of Plutonian, Saturnian and Jupiterian energies. I encourage you to respond to the convulsion by deepening your understanding of how profoundly interconnected we all are and upgrading the way you take care of yourself, the people you love, and our natural world.
In the horoscopes below, I suggest personal shifts that will be available to you during this once-in-a-lifetime blend of planetary energies.

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Possible crises in the coming months: 1. Your power spot may be challenged or compromised. 2. Your master plan might unravel. 3. There could be disruptions in your ability to wield your influence. Potential opportunities: 1. You’ll be motivated to find an even more suitable power spot. 2. A revised master plan will coalesce. 3. You’ll be resourceful as you discover novel ways to wield your influence.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Possible crises in the coming months: 1. Your vision of the big picture of your life may dissipate. 2. Old reliable approaches to learning crucial lessons and expanding your mind could lose their effectiveness. Potential opportunities: 1. You’ll be inspired to develop an updated vision of the big picture of your life. 2. Creative new strategies for learning and expanding your mind will invigorate your personal growth.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Possible crises in the coming months: 1. There may be breakdowns in communication with people you care about. 2. Contracts and agreements could fray. 3. Sexual challenges might complicate love. Potential opportunities: 1. You’ll be inspired to reinvent the ways you communicate and connect. 2. Your willingness to revise agreements and contracts could make them work better for all concerned. 3. Sexual healing will be available.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Possible crises in the coming months: 1. Friends and associates could change in ways that are uncomfortable for you. 2. Images and expectations that people have of you may not match your own images and expectations. Potential opportunities: 1. If you’re intelligent and compassionate as you deal with the transformations in your friends and associates, your relationships could be rejuvenated. 2. You might become braver and more forceful in expressing who you are and what you want.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Possible crises in the coming months: 1. Your job may not suit you as well as you wish. 2. A health issue could demand more of your attention than you’d like. Potential opportunities: 1. You’ll take innovative action to make your job work better for you. 2. In your efforts to solve a specific health issue, you’ll upgrade your entire approach to staying healthy long-term.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Possible crises in the coming months: 1. Love may feel confusing or unpredictable. 2. You may come up against a block to your creativity. Potential opportunities: 1. You’ll be energized to generate new understandings about how to ensure that love works well for you. 2. Your frustration with a creative block will motivate you to uncover previously hidden keys to accessing creative inspiration.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Possible crises in the coming months: 1. You may experience disturbances in your relationships with home and family. 2. You may falter in your ability to maintain a strong foundation. Potential opportunities: 1. Domestic disorder could inspire you to reinvent your approach to home and family, changing your life for the better. 2. Responding to a downturn in your stability and security, you’ll build a much stronger foundation.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Possible crises in the coming months: 1. There may be carelessness or a lack of skill in the ways you and your associates communicate and cultivate connectivity. 2. You may have problems blending elements that really need to be blended. Potential opportunities: 1. You’ll resolve to communicate and cultivate connectivity with a renewed panache and vigor. 2. You’ll dream up fresh approaches to blending elements that need to be blended.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Possible crises in the coming months: 1. Money may be problematic. 2. Your personal integrity might undergo a challenge. 3. You could get lax about translating your noble ideas into practical actions. Potential opportunities: 1. You’ll find inventive solutions for boosting your wealth. 2. You’ll take steps to ensure your ethical code is impeccable. 3. You’ll renew your commitment to translating your noble ideals into practical action.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Possible crises in the coming months: You may have an identity crisis. Who are you, anyway? What do you really want? What are your true intentions? Potential opportunities: You’ll purge self-doubts and fuzzy self-images. You’ll rise up with a fierce determination to define yourself with clarity and intensity and creativity.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Possible crises in the coming months: 1. You’ll be at risk for botched endings. 2. You may be tempted to avoid solving long-term problems whose time is up. Potential opportunities: 1. You’ll make sure all endings are as graceful and complete as possible. 2. You’ll dive in and finally resolve long-term problems whose time is up.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Possible crises in the coming months: 1. Due to worries about your self-worth, you may not accept the help and support that are available. 2. Due to worries about your self-worth, you might fail to bravely take advantage of chances to reach a new level of success. Potential opportunities: 1. You’ll take dramatic action to enhance your sense of self-worth, empowering you to welcome the help and support you’re offered and take advantage of chances to reach a new level of success.

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The Universe in a Raisin

Life is busy. Who has time to sit and eat at the table, right? Take this food for thought … (no) pun intended! Between 60 and 70 million Americans suffer from digestive disorders. The number of adults diagnosed with ulcers in the United States has risen to 14.8 million, and emergency room visits due to digestive problems is at 8.3 million people. Americans who visit their physician due to digestive problems is at 22.4 million. The cost of health care for digestive disorders has reached $135.9 billion each year. Digestive disorders are on the rise, along with treatment costs.

What’s the fix for this growing health problem? Mindful eating has shown to be a healthy practice for those who suffer from digestive disorders. The number one cause of digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome is stress, because stress weakens the digestion process.

Now, everyone has stress at some point in their lives. Stress is our brain and body’s response to challenges and demands from family, work and school. However, our bodies are not built to stay in a state of stress for long periods of time. Living with stress can cause digestive problems and other chronic diseases.

Mindful eating can balance the stress response and improve the digestive process. Mindful eating means paying attention to our bodies and our food during eating. This is more likely to occur when we sit at the table to eat and when we free ourselves of all unnecessary stimulus—such as the computers, telephones and televisions. Eating with others whenever possible is also a good idea. Mindful eating is more likely to happen when we slow down while eating and chew our food about 30 times before swallowing. Putting our fork down between bites and enjoying the color, smell, taste and feel of our food also enhances mindful eating.

Let’s try this in super-slow motion with a raisin or small food item of your choice.


Seeing & touching
Hold the raisin in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb. Now, pay attention to seeing it, looking carefully as if you have never seen such an object before. Notice how it feels as you turn it between your fingers. Notice where the light catches the surface, the darker spots and colors. Let your eyes notice every part.


Smelling & hearing
Now hold the raisin to your nose. Notice any smell? Now put it to your ear. Does it make a sound? Now put it to your lips, noticing how your hand and arm know where to put it. Notice your mouth watering? Gently place the raisin in your mouth without biting it; just explore the feeling of having it in your mouth, noticing the flavor.


Tasting & swallowing
When you are ready, take a bite—with interest. Notice the taste that the raisin releases. Slowly chew it, noticing the saliva in your mouth, the change in how it feels. Then, see if you can notice when you want to swallow before you actually swallow. Now, see if you can follow how it feels to swallow, feel it moving down your throat to your stomach. You are now one raisin heavier. Great job. End of exercise.


Someone can read the above exercise to you or you can record yourself reading it, then play it back as you practice. Create a setting that encourages your body and mind to relax.

Improving digestion and relieving digestive disorders are only two benefits of mindful eating. Mindful eating can also help with weight loss. According to a Harvard Medical School article, allowing hormones, which are released in the body while eating, enough time to tell our brain when we are full can help us accomplish our weight loss goals. Weight loss is a result of mindful eating, because we eat less food when we allow our brain time to receive the signal that we are full. So, give mindful eating a try for better digestion, relief of digestive disorders, and weight loss. Mindful eating can also be a great way to spend quality time with family and friends.

Harrell is a grad student at the University of North Florida with more than three years of experience as a certified health education specialist and health and wellness coach.

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Guns & Ganja

During the last couple of years of writing this column, I’ve been asked one question probably more than any other, and it’s a question I haven’t really been able to get a firm answer to. That question relates to the uncertain dynamic between medical marijuana and guns. Specifically, is it possible to be licensed to legally possess both in this state? It’s a big question here in Florida, where a gun may be the only thing more popular than drugs (well, that and football).

In response to the conundrum of cannabis and concealed carry, the short answer is, to quote the beloved Björk, “possibly maybe.” I’ve spoken to a number of people, particularly within our veteran community, who claim to have successfully obtained both. Typically, these folks had their gun permits long before medical marijuana became legal in January 2017 and then obtained medical cards to treat the various maladies and misfortunes attendant to their former careers. At the same time, I’ve heard from others who have had their applications for one or the other denied.

Along with seniors, vets have done more than any other group to legitimize the legality of leafy greens in the modern era, and this is yet another area in which they are driving the narrative. One thing is clear, though: Active-duty military are still prohibited from using or possessing the stuff, in any form and for any reason. This also applies to the National Guard, even though they’re not really classified as full-time military. A lot of this is due to federal law, which still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic. So even though citizens can have it here, Florida’s gun laws require adherence to federal mandates—and that means no weed with your weapons.

Technically, you can have both. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, whose office oversees both categories, told the media, “I have both, so I want to make that very clear that I will not be taking anybody’s concealed weapons permit or not renewing them. I see no conflict between the two.” Local authorities such as the Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement would probably raise no objection (especially if you’re white), but any dealings you have with ATF or the FBI will result in termination of your gun rights.

It’s probably best to get your gun permit before your medical card, as going in the opposite order would require you to lie on the application—a federal offense. Likewise, folks living in HUD’s Section 8 housing are also prohibited from puffing on that piff. Piffle? Sure, but rules are rules, and until the issue is dealt with on a federal level (which will not happen until at least next year, and probably never at all), you’re screwed (and not in the good way). You may just have to choose between your guns and your drugs, which is a difficult choice for any true Floridian to make.

Mandatory Family Time

Last week, my youngest daughter planned on attending the SwampCon cosplay convention in Gainesville. This week, she had tickets to see her favorite Broadway musical, Hamilton. Now both of those events—along with hundreds of others in Jacksonville—have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. The CDC recommends cancelling any gatherings expected to have 50 people or more, for the next eight weeks. None of us, including (and especially) our political leaders, were prepared for a pandemic of such frightening proportions. On the bright side, we live in Florida, and researchers believe high temperatures and high humidity just might slow the spread of the virus.

In the meantime, social media and news outlets are advising those who are symptomatic to “self-quarantine” and suggesting that the rest of us practice “social distancing” to prevent infection and transmission. Staying at home is the order of the day. It’s every introvert’s dream! This pandemic also happens to coincide with Duval County Public Schools’ spring break, which has been extended in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading. Parents weren’t expecting an extended vacation, and many aren’t prepared for extended child care costs either. Those costs are a moot point for others, who are unable to return to work due to forced business closures.

For those of you who aren’t thrilled about being homebound with no toilet paper for weeks on end, creativity will be your greatest—and possibly only—ally. My kids and I are working through a list of my favorite zombie apocalypse and germ warfare movies: Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, 12 Monkeys, 28 Days Later and Resident Evil. Serendipitously, Netflix has added Outbreak and Pandemic to its queue this month (how did they know?) while Amazon Prime features The Andromeda Strain.

Sitting around watching movies will eventually grow tiresome, however, so it will be wise to have some activities planned for the kids once cabin fever sets in. If your kids are like mine, nothing bores them like board games. On occasion, I have convinced them to play “Cards Against Humanity” and the “Exploding Kittens” card game. “How?” you ask. By bribing them with snacks, that’s how. You do what you have to do.

Need more ideas? You can make thousands of crafts, art projects and science experiments from common household objects. Teach the young ones how to concoct homemade hand sanitizer using rubbing alcohol, aloe vera gel and essential oil. The stuff is selling for upwards of $100 per bottle online, so this may be your new cottage industry.

Fun and games aside, use this mandatory family time to talk to your kids in an age-appropriate way about how germs are spread. It’s never too early to learn the importance of clean hands. The most common way for this and other viruses to spread is from the hands to the face. Now please go wash your hands!

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