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Are risk-takers heroes or addicts?

Are risk-takers heroes or addicts?

What does this have to do with dogs?

I spent this morning with around twenty or so dogs at our local Sunday morning beach gathering and am now supercharged with positive energy! I feel like this is the perfect time to sit down and write my weekly piece.

In the past, I have expressed my frustration about people taking unnecessary risks with the health of their dogs. Despite knowing better, they continue giving the wrong food, engaging in improper forms of exercise, and reaching for quick fixes with pharmaceutical drugs.

My renewed interest in the subject of risk-taking and addictive behaviour began with a recent visit to my chiropractor John, whom I greatly appreciate and admire. "You must watch Meru," he suggested as he handed me a yellow sticky note with the movie's name.

The film is about a group of incredibly accomplished climbers who were the first to ascend Meru, a 20,000-ft peak in the Himalayas that is in the photo below. The movie itself is a masterpiece, shot during thousands of feet of vertical climbing, which is in itself an incredible achievement. These intrepid climbers slept above a black abyss of death in tents suspended by carabiners mid-air.

Mount Maru

In their first attempt at the extremely challenging ascent, the group faced arctic temperatures, days of stormy weather, and numerous avalanches hurtling down the slopes. Exhaustion, frostbite, and running out of food were the main reasons the group aborted their first attempt just a few hundred feet shy of the summit.

The mid-portion of the movie touched on stories about the climbers' friends that have died in various climbing accidents. There was also an interview with the current team leader's wife who lost her first husband in an avalanche.

Also, in between their two attempts at ascending Meru, one of the team members was in an extreme snowboarding accident where he fell 100ft off of a cliff and suffered an open fracture of his skull and neck. He miraculously recovered after enduring months of rehabilitation and decided to go back to Meru. Was he crazy, brave, or determined? What do you think?

As I continued watching, I began to feel conflicted about the climbers' excessive risk-taking behaviour. Should they be seen as heroes or reckless addicts? Do they care about the high likelihood of causing their loved ones suffering and heartache if they die?

Their second attempt was once again plagued with extreme weather conditions, including avalanches and storms, as well as food shortages and sleeping in tents suspended in mid-air. The drama also continued with the previously injured climber suffering stroke-like symptoms due to a lack of blood flow to the brain. In fact, he knew that the blood vessels in his brain had been compromised as a result of his skull fracture before he returned to climbing. It was a pure miracle that this team reached the summit, as many climbers have failed to get to the top.

After watching the movie I shared the story with my friend, who then asked me: "So what happened after they reached the summit?"

"They went down," I replied, and at that moment I couldn't help thinking that none of this made any sense at all.

I wondered why our society admires those who recklessly risk their lives, and as a result, often break other people's hearts. Are they adrenaline junkies? Is it the proximity to death that brings them into "the now" and makes them feel alive? Would they feel low, depressed, and hopeless if they did not climb?

Are they addicts, heroes, or both?

If someone doesn't wear a helmet on a motorbike or doesn't buckle up in the car, most people would see such behaviour as reckless, yet strangely our society often celebrates people who push their lives to the brink of death.

Does it make sense? Could the extreme amount of effort required for these achievements be better directed towards helping others, fighting global warming, stopping war and conflict, or saving people from earthquake rubble? 

What are these extreme sportsmen trying to prove?
Why are they obsessed with exceeding human limits?
Are they selfless or egotistical?
Are they narcissistic?
Is their risk-taking a response to some type of trauma?
What compels them to want to be “superhuman”? To be the first, or the best?

Why is our society more likely to celebrate extreme sports as acts of heroism when in reality they might be a sign of mental health issues or PTSD?  We know that a typical response to trauma is to either become more sensitive or more tough.

As a vet, I have seen many dog lovers taking unnecessary risks.

Their dogs get hit by a car because they let them freely wander the neighbourhood. I have seen dogs suffer from exhaustion after over-exertion when they run behind a bike, injure their necks due to collar injuries, getting paralyzed because of chronic trauma.

If any of you, my dear readers, come on walks with me and use a collar attached to a leash, I find your reckless behaviour very frustrating and often wonder why you risk your dog's neck and thyroid and why you are ignoring my suggestions. If you are wondering whether I am writing about you, you must have a reason.

I will only say something once or twice, and then I will keep my mouth shut, and feel frustrated and sad when you come back to me saying that your dog has a problem.

May I ask why you do not use a Gentle Leash and the Perfect Fit Harness, or something similar? Should I blame myself for not being clear enough in explaining that collars are one of the most common causes of injuriesthyroid problemsorgan disease, and allergy-like symptoms? This is because the vagus nerve originates in the neck and governs the function of most internal organs.

The reality is that no matter what health-conscious dog lovers like you and I do, it is human nature for people to take excessive risks and feed their dogs the wrong food, ignoring helpful suggestions, despite knowing it may affect their dog's health.

Can someone please explain to me why...

When someone suffers an injury as a consequence of extreme sports, most people naturally respond with support and empathy without asking if these radical "heroes" require mental health support?

Perhaps it is time for us to rethink heroism.

The real heroes bravely face aggressors, protect their country, and help others in need. Heroes are people who rescue and protect animals and children from difficult situations and abuse, and bravery is when people risk their own lives in a fire or an emergency. The real heroes are people who work hard to make other people's lives better, and parents who tirelessly provide for their children and pets. The real heroes are people like YOU.

I am doing my best to see the extreme risk-takers in a positive light. I like them, they are interesting people, but I also firmly believe they are addicts who have a difficult time coping with ordinary life. 

Extreme mountain climbers expend tremendous energy and risk their lives for something relatively meaningless. All too often they wind up breaking their loved ones’ hearts. 

Now I am pondering whether the fault lies with a culture obsessed with superhero movies, where being an ordinary human is not enough, and everyday heroes are often overlooked. 

Are you wondering how you can reduce your own unnecessary risk-taking? Whenever you’re in doubt, ask yourself what the worst-case scenario would be, and take the route of least regret.

This advice can also be applied to your health and the health of your dog.

Thank you for sharing this piece. ❤️🐶   

Healthy Dog Tool

About the author

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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