Monday, February 9, 2015

Awesome blogs, anxious dogs and healthy eating ideas for vets: Interview with VegeTARAian Tara Mathews

Blogger Tara Mathews with a chicken.

Tara Mathews is a writer, friend of animals and lover of food. She is the editor of vegeTARAian - a Sydney food and travel blog sharing the adventures of a veg-loving life. I met Tara at a blogging workshop. She was truly ahead of the class and knows blogging inside-out. Her blog rocks. So I had to find out more.

You run a successful blog, vegeTARAian. What does the life of a pro-blogger involve?

Pro-blogger sounds so important and formal! I have a job so I blog in my spare time. Having a food and travel blog is a great excuse to cook new dishes, eat out and take lots of trips to share with my readers.

For many people, food choices are ethical. How is caring for animals reflected in your diet?

I have been vegetarian for over ten years. Switching to a vegetarian diet was driven by my love of animals and the belief that I didnt need to eat them, and that animals shouldnt have to die for me to live. Animal welfare was more important and the idea of eating flesh made me uncomfortable. I hope that this lifestyle choice makes a difference by not contributing to or supporting the reportedly cruel practices of the factory farming industry.

Of course being vegetarian is not for everyone so reducing meat intake, introducing weekly veg dishes and campaigns like Meat Free Week are great initiatives to start people thinking about what they are eating.

Tara's dog Mister Pickles suffers from anxiety, which is now well-managed.
What non-human do you share your life with?

I have three furkids: Krumpet - a 10 year old DSH black and white cat, Chili - an 8 year old DSH tortoiseshell cat and Mister Pickles - a 6 year old brindle staffy x kelpie.

They are all happy, healthy and have very different personalities. Thankfully they get along really well too and I couldn't imagine my life without them.

How did you meet?

I adopted Krumpet from the local pound when she was a few months old. Chili came to stay with me when she was around 18 months old, after being given away by two sets of owners.

Tara and Paige (courtesy Lyndal Photography).
I found Mister Pickles through an animal adoption agency - he had been rescued from a pound in Kiama (South Coast of NSW) and was around 18 months old when he came to live with me.

Youve posted previously about putting Mister Pickles on Prozac. What is it is like being the owner of an anxious dog?

For the first few years everything was good. Mister Pickles had always been a bit timid but as a rescue dog, the vet said this may be due to how he was treated (or perhaps mistreated) in the time before I met him.

Over a few months he started to show signs of anxiety during the day while I was at work. Some days he escaped and some days he hurt himself trying to. When it got as bad as coming home to a pooch with bleeding paws and broken teeth, I knew he needed medical attention.

I'm happy to report that since the medication, Mister Pickles is much calmer. He's still his normal, happy self - just a less hyper and agitated version which is a big relief. I do know that medication is not a forever solution but it's certainly helped him for the short term.

Tara and Mister Pickles (courtesy Cathy Topping Photography).
You mentioned that you really struggled with the idea of using medication to modify his behaviour. What were your major concerns and what changed for you?

I was worried that medicating Mister Pickles would turn him into a dopey and unresponsive pooch. I thought his personality would be compromised and he wouldn't be himself.

What changed was seeing him so anxious that he was hurting himself. I had to stop thinking about myself and focus on doing what I could to make life better for him.

Taking the vets advice and putting Mister Pickles on prozac was absolutely the right thing to do and I'm so glad I followed doctor's orders.

Aside from medication, how else do you manage Mister Pickles' anxiety?

When I leave the house I make sure Mister Pickles has his of toys, fresh water and chew treats with him in the yard. I also have a small radio near his kennel that plays classical music while I'm gone.

What are three traits you look for in a veterinarian?

I prefer to deal with an experienced, personable and caring vet. If you and your pet are being treated with empathy and compassion, this makes for a pleasant experience for everyone.

As visits to a vet can be expensive, I also think it's important to find a vet who doesn't make you feel like you're being given the most expensive option. If you feel like you're being ripped off, you're unlikely to take the vets advice or return.

Whats the most important thing youve learned about caring for the non-humans in your life?

My furkids teach me that unconditional love and adoration are what family is all about. They're all incredibly funny and interesting in different ways, great company and brilliant napping companions.

What could we do to make the world better for non-human animals?

There are many ways that animals need our help and because they don't have a voice, it's up to us to speak up for them.

On the blog I've written about adopting instead of buying in pet stores, Australia's cagedeggs and the horse racing industry. I also regularly donate to animal causes such as Animals Australia and RSPCA to support their campaigns and help spread the word wherever I can.

Foodie question: Vets are notoriously unhealthy eaters. Have you got any tips about easy-to-prepare, healthy snacks that can be munched between consults?

Eating well doesn't have to be difficult or take long! Things like this awesome cheesetoastie, potato, haloumi and greens salad, bruschetta two ways or a potato andsweet potato bake are quick and easy weeknight meals. [You can check out Tara's recipe index here].

Thank you Tara! If you want to find out more about Tara, check one or all of her channels:

Twitter: @vegeTARAian