The last two weeks have been rough. There’s nothing quite like watching something you care about die. Chewy, the dog I wrote about in last week’s column, was the first thing I’ve ever really seen die. I can’t quite explain that feeling but in the last two weeks it’s changed me.

I’ve always been a doer. I like to go places and see things and I’ve always valued experiences over money. These past two weeks I think that’s been amplified. After Chewy died I promised to take my boys on vacation with me. I’d like to head to Hocking Hills, but I know in order for Caesar, my nearly 7 year old German Sheppard/Labrador mix to do miles of hiking, we needed to start now to get him able to do that by spring.

Caesar’s a pretty active dog, but going from running around the yard a bit to eight miles in a hilly terrain that you’ve never been in would be hard for any dog. Last week I began taking him to the trails here in Van Wert. He did three miles on the bike path, which may have been too much to start out, but he did it. After that we stuck around 1-1.5 miles for a few days. This week we walked around both reservoirs. I could tell that was a lot for him, but he never stops and never loses his drive to “GO!”

Caesar is a healthy dog through and through. He’s not an ounce overweight and for the past several years he’s been 86 pounds year after year. He’s good at maintaining that. As for Caesar’s brother, Jeter, his body and personality are totally different. Because he’s an extra large breed, he spends a lot of time sleeping.

A few years back Jeter had some weight issues. He was underweight at only 80 pounds. After I switched his food, he gained 30 pounds in two years. Now he’s about 15 pounds overweight. Sometimes you can’t win, but I’m determined to get him to a “healthy weight” so he can live a long time. I always get funny looks when I tell people my dog is currently on a diet.

Getting my dogs in shape has made me realize how important it is, not just for humans, but for animals to be fit. Animals rely on us for so much. A fat and lazy dog probably can’t help that he is fat and lazy. I’ll be the first to admit that to help Jeter gain weight when he was underweight, I was feeding him too much. Now, to help him lose that, I measure his food every day to make sure he’s not getting too much. He probably thinks I’m starving him.

Sometimes I think it would be nice if someone could measure my food for me and tell me that this is the healthy amount I’m allowed to eat and I can’t have a bite more. Could you image how much weight we’d be able to lose if something else was in charge?

Unfortunately we don’t get that privilege. On Wednesday I paid the price of having no control when it comes to food and ended up at the doctor’s with severe stomach pains. It turns out that a Taco Bell burrito, pizza rolls, a Monster energy drink, and nachos and cheese are not good for you. I’m still suffering the effects of that meal today.

I’ve always had stomach issues. I know this, yet I still put “bad” foods in my body. The older I get the more I realize that I need to care for myself better at age 25 so that at age 75 I can lessen my chances of having issues. As my dogs get older I realize I need to really be watching all aspects of their health as well.

It’s weird how it takes getting older to care about these things. I bet many of us think, “I wish I would have taken care of myself better when I was younger.” This is a good time to remind myself and all of you, it’s never too late to start.