Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Hell is a Frozen Wasteland

I sort of survived the weekend from hell.

I am not speaking of this last weekend, the weekend of Christmas and the holidays and a monster snow storm. Despite the snow storm, this last weekend was very pleasant (cats puking and pooping the truck notwithstanding). 

No, I am referring to the weekend before when there was all kinds of below zero weather and crabbiness galore.

I strongly believe hell is actually a frozen wasteland a la Dante's Inferno, and not a lake of fire like commonly believed.

I'm going to take a stand and say severe cold temperatures and weather changes do not make animals happy. I can only imagine how the poor deer and rabbits felt, going from near-70's temperatures in mid-November to immediate plummet of subzero winterland. No one had time to grow in their winter coats, and even Tess has been ragging out her coat because she is inside so much. There is no need to be fluffy.

It makes vacuuming happen a lot more though.

Generally I leave Tess outside during the day while I'm at work.  In forty degrees, thirty degrees, and even twenty degrees she is fine, especially if the sun is shining.  Snow or snowing doesn't deter her either as she loves to bound through the snow.

Thirty below is too much for her.

Friday, a week before Christmas, it snowed all day, blizzard style.  I'm not talking the big fat lazily floating snowflakes that put one in mind of happily strolling couples, hand in hand, or riding in a one horse open sleigh (no one wants to be in a one horse open anything in subzero temperatures).  This blizzard consisted of the stinging, tiny ice balls whipped around by the bone-rattling/chilling wind that makes one want to actually crawl into the fireplace and set oneself on fire. 

In thirty below weather with wind that basically sucks the soul out of people, the only way to get warm IS to practically set oneself on fire.

Tess has none of that. She barely goes outside to pee when it's that cold.  And if a dog with three coats who is basically made for the outdoors refuses to go outdoors, you know it's bad.  I don't mind snow and I don't mind the cold.  I do mind ice balls and I do mind cold that basically freezes your eyeballs open and gives one instantaneous frostbite.

Saturday the chaos began with the arrival of California Guy and Surina.  Surina has it worse than Tess.  She is four years old and therefore constantly energetic, but she refuses to go outside in the subzero weather (with good reason, she's practically bald she has such thin fur), and therefore releases her energy by bounding through the house, up and down the stairs, and annoying the cats until she gets a paw across the nose which in turn causes her to chase the cats. The cats were already in a bad mood given the weather, and Puckett had just recently recovered from her most recent bout of pouting for whatever reason she had for pouting.  One never knows with her.

Surina also has gotten it in her head that when it's that cold, she doesn't really need to be potty trained anymore either, taking the route of barely getting out the door to pee on my porch.

California Guy put the kabosh on that one right quick. Just because it's cold and there's snow, does not mean the dog gets to pee on the porch because she's too much of a baby to go down the stairs and pee in the snow. I had a dachshund who would do that too, pee right outside the door because she was too much of a snowflake to go out into the snow. That's one step away from just peeing on the floor inside and not even bothering to go outside.

What gets both me and California Guy is that Surina has absolutely no issue with the cold if we take her and Tess for a run, and she'll flop face first into a snowbank with no problem.

We finally got everyone calmed down and Surina disappeared under the kitchen table while Tess went upstairs. 

Sunday morning we were awakened at six in the morning with "pace pace pace, clicking toenails, pace pace, clicking toenails." I thought someone had to go outside.  That and the fact that Surina was upset because Tess was sleeping on the dog bed.  So instead of finding a different place to sleep she hovered, clicking her toenails until Califonria Guy hollered at her to go lay down somewhere.  Almost immediately the ringing of jingle bells could be heard downstairs, testimony that Percy was bored, hungry, or just feeling like getting into mischief by attacking the Christmas ornaments.  I got up to go shoo him and put away said jingle bells.  I was half asleep and had neglected to put on my glasses so when I inspected the railing where I tied the jingle bells to my Christmas lights, I bumped into my wineglass rack, knocking one of the wineglasses off and sending it to the ground.  The resounding crash and shattering causing Califronia Guy to call downstairs, "What happened and are you okay?"

So at seven in the morning in the freezing cold (in thirty below weather there is just no keeping the house warm enough no matter how much I heat, and my tile floor feels like a sheet of ice) we had to sweep up shards and particles of glass, and then get out the vacuum cleaner to make sure we didn't miss any. I would have gladly left it for later in the morning if not for the fact that of course Percy had to prance around in the middle of the glassy mess (I guess he wanted his paws cut up), and Surina had to prance around the kitchen in front of me, blocking everywhere I wanted to go until California Guy hollered at her again and threw her butt upstairs where Tess cowered.  I had to shove Percy up there too, not that that deterred him from coming downstairs and trying to play with broken glass.

Puckett was the only one with the sense to steer clear, and Willow, luckily, was locked in her cage, or she too would have been in the middle of the mess.

We finally got the mess cleaned up and were headed back to bed when Willow started to squall.  Loudly, demanding, like if we didn't feed her immediately she would pass out from hunger.

Have I mentioned that every night I put her in her cage with her food bowl and she has plenty to eat while she's in there?

She just wanted out.

I yelled at her to shut up, California Guy threw the dogs outside to pee, and we went back to bed.

And once again..."pace pace pace, toenails clicking, pace pace." I sat up and yelled "Set your ass down now and don't get up again!"

Surina lowered her body slowly to the ground, eyes wide and staring at me, and didn't move again. Tess wedged herself in a corner between the wall and the bed and made herself as small as possible. Willow was quiet too at that point, shocked into silence by the fraying of our moods.

The adventure didn't stop there. My clumsiness with the wineglass translated throughout the rest of the day where I dropped things, dumped water and tea on things, and then the highlight of my day when we decided we had enough of the dogs' restlessness and took them for a walk.  I made it half a block before wiping out on the slick-as-glass street that nobody had bothered to plow or sand, and came down hard on my tailbone.  I had to lie there for a few minutes to get my breath back, and at first I thought I was okay.  It was clear that I was not when I tried to sit up and the pain in my tailbone was so bad I almost lost my cookies.  Tess came over and sat beside me so I could put my arms around her, and California Guy also wrapped his arm around me and sat with me for a minute until I could actually stand up.

And stop crying.

And stop wanting to puke.

I called it a day.  I managed to hobble to the park so the dogs could run for at least a little bit (not long as Surina was already turning into a frozen dog popsicle - that dog has got to get herself a doggie sweater or something), and then we went home, where I crawled into bed with my bed warmer and took a nap.  Of course when I landed butt-first on the ice, it was so cold that any bruising, swelling, and pain was staunched so I didn't really start feeling it until I warmed up and realized I couldn't sit. Plus, I was nauseated the rest of the day.

I have never been so happy for Monday to roll around.

Thirty below is for the birds.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

On the Tenth Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me

Merry Christmas to me and California Guy.

Christmas is already a stressful time, and traveling at Christmas is even worse. California Guy and I had the brilliant idea of taking all of my pets to Casper to stay with him for four days over the holiday. I didn't have anyone available to watch the cats, and it seemed like a perfect plan for all of us to hole up for four days, out in the middle of nowhere.

My cats, I thought, were easy travelers. Tess is the pain in the ass when traveling. I've taken all three cats on short car trips to the vet or from the animal shelter, and everyone is always pretty chill, especially Puckett. I've never had a problem with them.

Of course I've never tried to put them in the car for two hours before, driving away from their home as far away as they've ever been.

So two days before Christmas, California Guy and I packed up in his truck my suitcase, wine, stocking stuffers, gifts, laptop, and all four pets complete with food bowls, dry food, and canned food for the trip to his home. We stuffed Percy and Willow into their carriers, put Puckett on a towel on the bench between us, shoved Tess in the bed of the truck, and hit the road.

Five Crazy Animals:

The animals have been kind of stressed lately anyway, and I throw Surina into the mix because she's usually hyper and a little nuts, particularly when it comes to food or when she's bored but doesn't want to do anything but chew on everything. Percy's been racing through the house, playing with his jingle balls and trying to yank down the bells I strung along my Christmas lights. The morning before we got on the road, he started to attack the gate to my stairs, trying to crawl up and over it. There was a snowstorm forecasted for Christmas Day, but I really should have known better than to try to take three cats in an unfamiliar truck for a two hour trip.

As we drove towards the highway, Percy immediately began to wail. He usually does. I was unconcerned. Then Willow started to meow. She usually does that too.

Then Puckett became agitated. She kept getting up from her towel, mewing her little squeaky meow, trying to crawl over the console to the back - like there was any room for her back there - and panting.

The panting worried me. Panting usually means a cat is extremely stressed and possibly about to puke. Or maybe die.  The last cat I had that panted like that died in my arms from kidney failure.  My Himalayan, Mindi, used to drool when she was very upset, usually when we tried to clean out her ears.

Four Piles of Puke:

An hour down the road Puckett had puked three times and pooped once, and a horrendous stench met us from the backseat of the truck, announcing that someone else had puked and/or pooped. The farther we drove the worse the stench got. Puckett was extremely agitated now, and I held her in my lap as she went rigid with shock and stress. Her head sort of lolled against my leg like she was too weak to lift it. My jeans were covered in barf, and Puckett blew her coat everywhere.  She had also started to drool, ribbons of saliva hanging from her open mouth and covering the bench where she sat.

Three Pissed Off Cats:

From the backseat Percy and Willow both yelled louder and more insistent like we were taking them through a portal to the bowels of hell.  The farther we got the more the smell reeked, and California Guy finally asked if I wanted to turn around and take the cats home.  I was nearly in tears.  At this point I was afraid Puckett would give herself a heart attack. She was panting hard and very quickly, and I couldn't tell which cat in the backseat had made a mess that smelled like rotten tuna mixed with a dead cat.  Maybe one of them had died from the shock by then, I wasn't sure, so I kept calling their names to get them to meow at me.

We turned around halfway to Casper and headed back home.  Puckett sort of sank into a stupor where she went perfectly still while still panting and drooling.  She stopped puking and pooping, though whoever had made a mess in the backseat caused us both to want to hurl.

Two Humans About to Be Sick:

It was another hour home and we drove the whole way without turning the heat on and rolling the windows down periodically. The smell was that bad.  We had managed to clean Puckett up somewhat though she'd gotten puke all over her towel, her paws, and my jeans, but whoever had gotten sick in the backseat was trapped in his or her carrier with the mess. All of that combined with whatever stench was taking place in the backseat was enough to make us both sick to our stomachs and ready to strap the carriers to the roof of the truck. 

And a Cat in the Bathtub:

When we got everyone home, I shoved Tess outside, released Puckett in the house where she immediately slipped under the bed and remained there, and brought Percy into the bathroom to see if he was the one who grossed everybody out.  Percy was clean, just loud and upset, and as soon as I let him out of his carrier he was fine.  He didn't hide and he didn't seem too much the worse for wear.  He went to the cabinet to investigate the state of his food bowl.

We brought Willow into the bathroom and let her out of her carrier.  There were two piles of poop and a pile of puke in her carrier, and the smell was so God awful I nearly had to bend over the toilet myself. Willow's paws and backside were covered in shit so California Guy had to grasp her by the scruff and hold her under the faucet while I rinsed and shampooed her.  She was in so much shock (or maybe just so pissed off) she didn't even scream like she usually does when I try to groom her.  The poor cat looked miserable and pitiful, and she looked even more miserable and pitiful when she was wet.  Wet, she shrinks down to half her size where she's practically just eyeballs and ears.

We got her cleaned up and released her.  She retreated to the dog bed to groom herself and fix the damage we inflicted on her.  California Guy decided to go home and collect Surina and then come back so we could spend Christmas at my house.  I turned my attention to the cat carrier.

I once again nearly hung over the side of the toilet.  I'll spare the details, but even a seasoned shit shoveler such as myself had to stop periodically to gag and cover my nose while I cleaned the thing.  

All in all it turned out to be a fairly nice Christmas.  We decorated my tiny tree, arranged the presents, turned on all the Christmas lights, and watched silly Christmas movies.  Even Surina the chow hound got a pile of ham leftovers to keep her occupied, and Tess got more than her usual number of cookies.

As for the cats, once everyone was back home and clean and secure, they reverted to normal behavior as though I'd never tried to drag them on some crazy adventure.  Puckett only stayed under the bed for an hour before she came out, and Willow forgave the bath fairly quickly.  Within the hour all three of them were dancing around the food cabinet, begging for food.  I was still nauseated and they'd all lost the contents of their stomachs, but hey, they were hungry.

Leave it to the cats to think about food after a nasty-smelling adventure like that.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Guilt Trip

Okay, this is getting embarrassing.

Even fully aware of the fact that I am a sucker and that Puckett can play me like a fiddle, I still fall for it EVERY SINGLE TIME.

I've been traveling a lot which is not normal for me. I'm such a homebody, and I hate packing a suitcase, going through security, dealing with TSA, and taking off my shoes, my jacket, and all my jewelry just so TSA can be sure that I'm not some kind of serial bomber who tries to sneak - horror of all horrors! - a razor on board.  This last time I traveled I had to take my Snickers bars out of my carryon as all food needed to be out (Snickers bars are very dangerous after all), and once my bag went through the security they asked me, very no-nonsense, "You have a candle in here don't you?"

Is that bad?

Candles are dangerous too, you know.  I might decide to light it on board and stink up the entire cabin with the scent of fruity, frosty melon with soft undertones of vanilla. The candle was a gift for my friend, and after TSA confirmed it was wax and not gel, they allowed me to repack it and board the plane.

At least I didn't try to take poppers onto the plane like my friend, the Paleontologist.  In his defense, he'd forgotten they were in there - he is a bit of a scatterbrain - and it did earn him the nickname of the Unipopper, giving him fodder for stories for years to come.  He even made the Denver paper.

In the space of a month I went to Texas for a week and then I flew down to Denver to spend the weekend with my other best friend.

I left a week ago Friday and got home very late on Sunday (after nine), and went to bed pretty quickly.  The next day California Guy came to stay for a night. I guess I didn't pay as much attention to my pets as I usually do because Puckett put up a protest.

I guess Sweetums did not appreciate being left or ignored.

When I got home from work on Tuesday I couldn't find her. Percy and Willow greeted me at the door like they usually do, and Tess was begging to go outside since the poor pooch had been locked in the house for days given the ridiculously cold weather and snow forecast.

No Puckett though.

I wasn't worried. Puckett has several spots she likes to hide in, especially when the weather turns to shit.  He favorite place is between the base heater and my space heater, though she also likes to sleep on the dog bed or next to the cat tree.  That night however she was nowhere to be found. I checked my bed, the dog bed, downstairs by the heaters, under the couch, the cabinets.  I even looked under the bed. 

I was just starting to panic when I remembered that Puckett is pretty good at wedging herself under the bed as far back against the wall as she can so that the shadows conceal her.  I checked under the bed again and there she was.  Her butt facing me, her face turned towards the wall.  I called to her and patted the floor.  She turned her head slightly, but didn't flick an ear so I went around to the other side of the bed and reached underneath to pat her.

She moved away and glared at me.  Then she shifted and turned away from me again.

Okay, so she was pissed.

She's done this before, so at that point I wasn't worried.  I figured she'd come out when she was good and ready.  Also, the forecast had predicted one monster storm coming in with 8-12 inches of snow and negative temperatures.

If I was a cat, I'd hide too.

By Wednesday morning, she had not emerged.  This is uncommon for her.  Every morning she is at the food bowl with Percy, mewing for her food.  Even if she doesn't care to eat the rest of the day, in the morning she has her ritual.  Eat, drink a load of water, use the litter box, and resume resembling a beached whale in her chosen resting area.

I left her alone Wednesday, but by Wednesday evening when she still hadn't emerged I got concerned.  She didn't eat, she didn't drink, and she didn't really respond when I reached under the bed to scratch her ears or tickle her belly.  Not a purr, just a dirty look.

Thursday morning she still wasn't waiting by her food bowl like she usually does, so by then I had had enough.  At least this time when I reached for her under the bed she purred and rubbed against my hand, but she still didn't move.  I told her enough of this foolishness and managed to coax her close enough so that I could drag her out.  She let me carry her downstairs where she refused to eat, gave me dirty looks, and stared at her food bowl like she was wishing something amazingly yummy would appear, or maybe that the food would just magically appear in her mouth so she wouldn't have to take the trouble and energy of eating it.

I offered her canned food and you would have thought I was offering her offal the way she wrinkled her nose and backed away.  Percy and Willow wolfed theirs down, but apparently even canned food on a white china plate isn't good enough for Her Majesty.  She did use the litter box and then slunk upstairs and under the bed without drinking water.  I left her a bowl of food and filled one of my white cereal bowls with water. Sometimes Precious just wants to consume her necessities out of human dishes.

I decided that if she wasn't coming out by Thursday evening I would take her to the vet Friday morning.

I came home for lunch around two and took care of things like dishes and cleaning litter boxes. As I walked into the kitchen, there was Puckett, mewing and weaving against the corners of the wall like she was demanding to know why the hell I hadn't fed her. She bolted down a bowlful of food, drank a gallon of water, used the litter box, and then sacked out in her designated spot by the heaters.  I stared at her in amazement. I couldn't decide if I was mad at her or relieved that she wasn't dying on the spot.

She's done this before.  I reacted the exact same way before.  You'd think I'd have learned by now.  When she pouts and faces the wall and gives me her butt, she's probably just mad and not sick.  Refusing to eat and drink and use the box is basically punishing me for not paying attention to her or allowing the weather to do something idiotic like snow for 8-12 inches.  She really knows how to get my goat, because she is well aware of the fact that if all is not right with her I start to panic and pay extra attention to her. She draws the line at being dragged to the vet, but she knows how far she can go so that I've sufficiently learned my lesson.

She's kind of a little asshole.

I'm kind of a big sucker.

And I fall for it every time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Always Backup

Nothing shocks you out of living in the past than losing all your data.

I hate smart phones.  I'm going to go on the record to say they are the single biggest pain in my ass since the invention of the laptop.  When these stupid things work, they are the greatest thing in the world, and are so convenient.  When they don't work, one is screwed.  Completely screwed.

The other night I texted a few friends, looked up some things online, then powered my phone off and put it on the charger just like I do every night.  The phone was a Samsung Galaxy S4 or 5 or some such nonsense, and for a year and a half, it has been a pretty good phone. It hasn't given me any problems with the exception of the fact that people could not hear me when I talked to them on it.  I had to set everything to speaker so they could hear me. Otherwise, the phone was pretty reliable.

Or so I thought.

When I went to power it on the next morning...dead.  Completely dead.  There was no blinking green light, blue light, or even red light to let me know the thing wasn't charged.  I thought maybe it just failed to charge which has happened in the past. I have a faulty charger, or else I have a faulty outlet.  I'm not sure which. At any rate, I called Verizon customer service and the very amazing lady in tech support managed to figure out that my phone just wasn't charged and helped me get it back up and running.

This time I took it to the Verizon store to see if they could get it working, but alas, even on their charger in their outlet, the phone did not come alive. It was dead. It had performed that lovely Samsung phenomenon known as "sudden death." Those damn Samsungs are known for this, and I've had two do it to me in the past.

So who's the fool, buying another Samsung?

I wasn't worried. I had everything backed up on the Cloud and it was just a matter of buying a new phone and uploading my life back onto the new phone. After all, isn't that what the Cloud is for? To store your life so that when the laptop/smartphone/iPad/device from hell dies or falls in a puddle of water or the dog pukes on it, you still are able to get all of your stuff back.

Well somewhere between the last time I upgraded phones and now, I had either failed to set my phone to back up to the Cloud, or else smart phones are just stupid like I said because everything I had saved in the last year and a half - pictures, videos, notes, new contacts - was gone. And there was no way to retrieve it because none of it was on the Cloud.

Verizon tech support said as much as "You're screwed."

There are two points to this story.  Three, if you count the one that I am smarter than this, I always back up, and I've worked with these devices for so long that there is no excuse for my negligence.  First of all, always back up. Even if your phone is brand new, make sure you back up everything precious to you, either to the Cloud or to your laptop or SOMEWHERE so that you will not end up in the same boat as I am, lamenting the loss of my adorable photos of my pets.  Among those photos were the ones of Percy posing with my Vampire wine bottles; Tess (who never lets me photograph her) playing in the river; Puckett doing some super cute things like lying on her back with her paws in the air, or sitting behind my coffee table, glowering at me with only her eyes and ears showing above the edge; and Percy and Willow playing in boxes and bags.

The other point is you suddenly realize just how much you live in the past when everything that reminded you of the past is gone.  I had pictures of exes, pictures of get-togethers with people who are no longer my friends, pictures of August, and besides all these pictures, the contact information of certain people that didn't get backed up in the upgrade.  Now obviously some things can be recovered because I can always contact people on Facebook and get numbers back.

The contacts and photos of people I no longer see or talk to - people whose photos and contacts I'm hanging onto only for the sake of memory and to revisit sometimes when I get nostalgic - those are gone. And it feels like a door slamming firmly on my past, telling me, "That's it. No more looking backwards. There is only forwards now. There is nothing here tempting you, pulling you back into the past.  You have to move on. All your old texts are gone, all your pictures, all your contacts that you can't get back."

Back in the day when we didn't want the past to creep up on us we started a bonfire with old pictures, letters, and treasures, and we watched it all go up in flames.  In today's day and age, we just forget to back up.  And as I've said before, I know better.  I back everything up. My novels have like four copies backed up on various flash drives. I back up the hard drive of my computer constantly. I store my music on the cloud.  So I wonder. Maybe this was unconsciously intentional.  Were these photographs, texts, contacts holding me back? Losing the memories of my animals is definitely disappointing, but I can still take more pictures of them, and if I arrange my Vampire wine on the kitchen floor Percy will come over and pose beside them.  The animal pictures I can replace. I however seemed to be dragging my feet about moving on and looking into the future. I seem to be stuck in where I am, waxing nostalgic, and missing the past.

Maybe my phone was trying to teach me a lesson. Well, two. One cannot stay in the past, and one should live every day in the present because at any given moment, everything from the past may be eaten away by a faulty phone, a house fire, or whatever.  It's okay to treasure the experiences we've had, but not at the expense of experiences we might still have.  I don't want the best days of my life to be behind me. I want the best days of my life to still be yet to come.

Once again the lesson of living every day in the present becomes painfully obvious. There is a reason why animals - especially dogs - live each moment in the present.  The past doesn't matter to them. They like what's going on now, even if nothing is. They are concerned with the now and not the then, or the what will be. 

I am now the proud owner of an LG something or other, a product that has never let me down and always gives me notice when it is about to start croaking, so that I can back everything up and upgrade in a timely manner. It also has this fun feature where I can change the color of everyone's text bubbles. My text screen is a rainbow of colors (from the few texts I've had come in since this happened). And it has a ridiculous amount of emoticons to use, too many for any one person to use in a lifetime unless that person only spoke in emojis.  There are some things that are different enough from Samsung that will take some getting used to, and I'm not thrilled that the battery runs down so quickly.  For the most part, though, I'm really liking this phone, and it's pretty easy to use.

I still hate smart phones though.

Some new Percy pictures taken with the new phone. Percy always rises to a photo opportunity.
And yes, these have been backed up.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


While perusing the "news" on Yahoo (and I use the term "news" lightly because those people just do not fact-check when they spew out articles; and the majority of their articles lament Kanye West's mental illness and the breakup of Brangelina), I came across this article.

First of all, true to Yahoo standards, there are so many things wrong with this article that I'm going to quote Mary Jo Shively from Designing Women addressing Julia on an article about a dog who won a car at some auto dealer: "You know what amazes me about this article: first of all, that you read it..."

The conversations on Designing Women always make me wish I worked at their design firm until I realized that our conversations at the library aren't much different sometimes, and we have a parade of clowns coming in to boot.

Anyway, back to the article.  It's a very short article with a video from Country Living about a young German shepherd who jumped her fence, got picked up by animal control, and when her family came to the shelter, she thought they were coming to pick her up. Instead they were there to pick out a different dog. The article left out a lot of details and was written with only quotes from a shelter volunteer giving her account and perception of the situation. I was a shelter volunteer, and I was fifteen when I was a shelter volunteer. I tended to exaggerate stories myself at that time.  The article didn't mention if maybe the family had decided the dog wasn't right for them and wanted to rehome her and get a different dog. I can sympathize with that. I rehomed that hellhound I adopted that tried to rip out Tess' throat one afternoon. The article also didn't mention if the shelter actually adopted another dog to this family (and if the family really was just "trading" the dog in for something else then that just makes the shelter look stupid for adopting another dog to them). The reason the dog was surrendered was stated as she was sad and crying since another died and she wasn't the same happy pup. A lot of the article wasn't clear, other than the fact that a dog was abandoned. If the reasoning behind the abandonment really was because she was sad, depressed, and grieving then that truly is despicable.

Tess has been depressed lately and I'm not sure what to do about it. I'm not going to dump her at the animal shelter, though.  I don't know if some of it is just her getting older and slowing down. She definitely sleeps more. She chews more too. She still loves to go for walks, and she will still go all day long if I let her. She runs and plays and sniffs around, but at home she's usually sacked out on the floor.  She doesn't even sit in a corner anymore and watch me cook in the kitchen. Now she just flat out lays down on her side and goes to sleep.  Some of it could also be the weather. It's getting colder so she's inside more and there's not as much to do. When she was younger she loved to be outside in the cold, but now that she's older she'd rather be inside.

I think she's lonely.  Outside she's lonely because she's by herself. At least when she's in the house she has the cats.  In the past three dogs lived next door, one of whom was Tess' very good friend. They used to play and amuse each other through the fence.  Now it's just her out there in the yard with no dogs next door. I think she also misses Surina and California Guy during the week. On the weekends she perks right up and acts like her old self, even if Surina isn't the most playful companion. I wonder if Tess sometimes feels like half her pack is missing during the week. She's an alpha mentality after all and likes to have her whole pack around her.

Depression is an emotion I identify with all too well and I wonder sometimes if Tess isn't feeding off me. Dogs are very sensitive to moods, and shepherds especially are as close to mind readers as a dog can be. She could just be feeling my mood and reacting. Depression is frustrating because many times there is no major reason to be depressed. I have a nice house, a good job, a steady paycheck, four of the craziest most lovable animals in the world, a nice guy with another crazy dog, and good friends. My life is nothing but good things, but I tend to be affected by the general mood of others around me - people just seem sort of pissed off lately - and what goes on online because I spend a lot of time online for my job. There are days when I can't read one more book review because they are just depressing. Sometimes it's depressing because the critics are so mean (and I mean the professional ones AND the everyday reader ones on Amazon, many of whom need to tone down the vitriol), and sometimes it's depressing because I see all these fantastic, wonderful, amazing books come through and I hate myself because I know I don't have half the talent these authors have. Then I get angry when I read some punk ass jerk's nasty review about a certain book and wonder, "Geez, asshole, rip apart someone's project. Have YOU written a novel?"

Like Tess, some of the depression is loneliness.  I'm around people constantly and I have a few good friends, but I keep in touch with them mostly over texting or social media. I miss the days when I used to go out with a huge group of friends and we'd dance and drink and have dinner and just enjoy being with each other. I miss the days when I'd go out in this town and every other person I ran into I'd have a conversation with because we all knew each other. But we get older and tired, and we move on and feel more comfortable staying home, isolating. California Guy is only here on the weekends, and when he is here we tend to isolate ourselves more because no one really wants to hang out or do anything anymore.  Friends have moved on, moved away, or just plain disappeared, and I know how Tess feels, wondering where her buddies next door went.

Depression is ambiguous. It can come on for no reason at all, because there's not enough in one's life or perhaps because there's too much. It can come because of lack of nutrition or lack of exercise. It can come because of ennui or a wish to change one's career without knowing how, or maybe just a realization that things are changing and one can never go back. I miss certain people, certain times, certain feelings, and most importantly certain feelings certain people gave me. And I miss the innocence and naivete that comes with youth. Wisdom is a good thing, but sometimes too much knowledge can cloud one's mood and overall enjoyment of life.  We know too much. We have too many experiences that are bad. We've been there, done that, and we are tired.  We are tired of rejection, of having our hearts broken, of failing, of watching our loved ones fail or have their hearts broken.  I believe the reason some people keep living in the past because they can't let go of it is that they were less cynical and more innocent. The past is also where my dog was young and vibrant and energetic. The past is where I've had some of my best times.  The future is just full of uncertainties. When we were younger it was full of possibilities and thus we still felt excited at the prospect of it. It was easier to look forward.

Cesar Milan says dogs live in the moment. They don't worry about the past and they aren't worrying what's going to happen next. They just seem to content to stay in the moment of their lives, living each day one at a time. True, Tess misses her friends and this might impact her mood, but it sure doesn't seem to keep her down when something interesting is presented before her like a new bone, a run through the snow, a puppy to play with, a doggie pop. Tess might have her depressed moments, but she still enjoys moments of experiences that bring her joy.

I still do too, but maybe not as much as I used to. I may complain about not going out as much anymore, drinking with my friends and dancing, but part of that is my own fault. I'm just not as spry anymore, and I get tired at ten o'clock now. I can blame age and weight gain, but honestly, Tess doesn't let that stop her from still enjoying her favorite moments.  Now it's just a matter of being grateful in each moment and finding joy in the small things, like my dog does. Maybe I do get tired at ten, but that doesn't mean I can't go out at seven and still have a good time for three hours. Maybe as we get older it's time to aim smaller.  Stop expecting so much of ourselves and stop taking every failure so personally.  Depression is hard to battle, but it can be done.

And on the days when it's too overwhelming, maybe we just have an extra piece of chocolate cake, an extra glass of wine, and stay home from work for a mental health day. Give ourselves a break. One of my favorite things to do is still take my dog on a run along the river. It makes her happy and watching her be happy makes me happy.

After all, my life isn't so bad. I'm still laughing, I'm still enjoying certain people and certain experiences, and there is still chocolate.

However, that trip to Hawaii won't hurt.

I just wish I could take my dog, too and realize that recurring dream I have of us swimming in the ocean together, and running along the beach. There are still some happy dreams to be realized, and there is still the hope that they will be realized.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Big Fat Problem

My cat soulmate, Puckett, is fat.

For those who have been following me for the last few years, this is far from earth-shattering news.  Puckett has always been fat. She was fat when I adopted her at the animal shelter, she gained two pounds since then, and then lost a pound the last time I took her to the vet.

She fluctuates between nineteen and twenty-one pounds.  I think she hovers around nineteen and a half.

And of course precious darling comes with a host of health problems due to her obesity, including pancreatitis, perpetual upper respiratory issues, allergies, and a bad attitude when it comes to not getting her way.

Humans find obesity abhorrent at the worst, and at best, a health condition that needs to be addressed with lifestyle overhauls, medications, exercise, and positive thinking mumbo jumbo, depending on who you're talking to.  Over the years obesity has become a red alert health condition, a disease to be combatted like cancer or heart disease.  This is a positive change from the days of fat shaming and calling obese people names, as if they have no feelings.  Yet, obesity and being overweight, while now a condition to be empathetic and compassionate towards, still carries a stigma, like mental illness.  No one stones you anymore if you have a mental illness or are obese, but there sure is a lot of head shaking, sighing, and "sympathy and understanding."

Every year around the holidays, publishers start putting out the new cookbooks. My job at the library is ordering nonfiction, so I get to see firsthand all the new cookbooks, and they span a large spectrum.  There is something out there for everyone.  Paleo, vegan, vegetarian, low-carb, carb-free, gluten-free, dariy-free, gluten AND dairy-free, vegan-gluten-free...and on and on and on.  Of course there are plenty of "normal" cookbooks too, complete with fat, sugar, wheat, dairy, and - horror of all horrors - red meat. 

It is no surprise then when after the holidays, beginning January 1st, the diet books come out.  And every year there is a new "It" diet.  There's the South Beach Diet and the Atkins Diet and Dr. Phil's 20/20 diet.  There's the Fast Metabolism Diet, the Zero Belly Diet, and the Whole30 diet. My favorites are the one that are just stretching for originality now, just reaching for a niche, like the Bone Broth Diet or the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet.  And then you have the ones that are just marketing their blogs, the gimmicky ones, like the Skinny Bitch Diet and the Hungry Girl Diet or the Shred Diet, whatever the hell that is. Like if I stick to their meal plans I'll have six-pack abs like you've never seen. And the word "shred" has never been something that sounded all that pleasant to me anyway in regards to my body. It sounds like the diet and exercise plan will put me through a meat grinder or something. Sign me up!  And let's not forget my personal nemesis, the Food Babe. I don't know what it is about her, but she just bugs me.

There's also a diet for any number of mental illness or physical issues as well, like what to eat to rebalance your hormones or the adrenal fatigue fix or the thyroid diet. There's probably a diet to fix one's low sex drive for all I know.  Eventually someone will market the "You're TOO Skinny, Eat a Sandwich" diet since people are so weight-loss crazed.

Cats don't worry about this.  How come is it that when people are overweight, they obsess and fuss and starve themselves to the point of such irritability the community is ready to ship them off to Abu Dhabi, but when a cat is fat, it's considered adorable?  Even dogs are kind of gross when they get obese, but the more roly-poly cats get, the cuter they are. Puckett is definitely ginormous, but she has this darling fat little face with huge eyeballs and these disproportionate tiny white paws.  She tends to put out a ridiculous number of pounds per square inch pressure when she stands on my chest thanks to her tiny feet and humungous bulk, but she's still just so cute I have to cuddle and love her.

I have never had a weight problem. In high school I weighed ninety pounds and in college I weighed ninety-five pounds. All through my twenties I wasn't just thin, I was skinny, almost skeletal. No, I did not have an eating disorder, but I thought about it.  Even though I've never been heavy, I have been weight conscious, I never ate very much, and I tried to eat healthy and exercise. I have a dancer's body since I belly dance and do Pilates.  So I was not pleased a few weeks ago when I looked in the mirror and wondered why I looked four months pregnant. Part of it was bloating - at any given time of the month I am bloated due to impending period, PMS, acid reflux, accidental ingestion of wheat, or post-nasal drip courtesy of my constant allergies (incidentally caused by darling Puckett whose own obesity gives her worse dander than the other two cats).

In the past when I got that four months pregnant look, it was because of my gluten sensitivity. I can no longer pretend it is bloating, however. I have developed middle-age spread. I used to have a flat belly, and underneath the fat pad that has slowly grown over the months, I still have rock hard abs. They just can't be seen from the street. Or up close and personal for that matter. Even when I suck it all in I can't see them. 

Besides the middle-age spread I have also developed ghetto booty.  I no longer consider what I do belly dancing. I twerk, and not on purpose.  My wobbly bits take over. This works when one shimmies, but only if one shimmies in enough flowing material so that one doesn't gross out the spectators.  California Guy did not help matters when he said something along the lines of loving my "big ass."  Excuse me? I have never had a big ass in my life.  He was trying to give me a compliment. My response was to eat nothing but lettuce and go for a long walk with my dog.

My ass now outweighs my boobs, so I look like a pear. I used to teach high school and my students used to make fun of how skinny I was, so I joked back that if I stood sideways and stuck out my tongue I'd look like a zipper. Now if I stand sideways, I have two speed bumps sticking out in opposite directions. I'm not sure what that resembles, but it sure isn't a zipper. Maybe a Treble Clef?

When Puckett naps, which is pretty much all day, she looks like a beached whale.  I haven't gotten that far yet.  But dammit, she's an adorable beached whale! I'm just a thirty-eight-year-old woman who has no excuse for the bubble butt and the fat pad resting comfortably over my stomach. It's like the last year of anxiety and depression decided I needed an extra padding of fat armor to protect me from the world. Puckett wears her fat like a badge of honor, going so far as to use it to get what she wants. She pushes all of us around and throws her bulk into it for good measure. Nobody wants twenty pounds of fluffy cat in one's face. While Puckett uses her size to her benefit, I'm cursing the mirror every time I look in it.

Thank God I don't own a scale.

At any rate, it's three months to Hawaii and I have exactly that long to shed this belly, reveal my six pack abs, and get rid of that coveted ass California Guy likes so much. 

You can't have them both, buddy. It's either that wallet-size bikini on the beach or the ginormous butt.  Take your pick.

Puckett chooses her butt so she can sit on us when we misbehave.  I'm going with the bikini.  I WILL fit into that thing again without the rolls spilling over.

Unlike Puckett, I refuse to succumb to my fat.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bone Wars

At nine years old, Tess has rediscovered chewing.

When I first adopted Tess, she was a year old and chewed her way through a pile of bones and hundreds of dollars.  Every few days I had to buy her another bone to keep up with her crazy energy for chewing.  Rawhide lasted maybe an hour with her so I started buying her actual leg bones of cows with meat still on them to keep her occupied.  She would go through one of those in a couple of days, whittling them down to tiny nubs or swallowing them completely.  She also tore through countless stuffed and squeaky toys, and destroyed several plastic water bowls.

I switched to metal bowls, but it still wasn't enough.  She started playing with her water bowl outside, and I would come home in ninety degree weather to a dog dying of thirst and throwing her water bowl up in the air with glee.

I got it pretty quickly and bought her two large tubs to splash around in and a large rubber bucket for her water.  She loves to splash knee-deep into the water when she drinks, so the tubs were a good idea. She still threw her rubber water bucket in the air sometimes, dousing herself with water, but at least she had the tubs to keep her thirst at bay.

I remember going to Shipton's that day I was finally tired of my dog flinging water everywhere to purchase a large rubber horse bucket, the kind you put grain in, and a huge shinbone, one I could barely carry.  I placed them on the counter and the checkout girl said with wide eyes, "What kind of dog do you have, a mastiff?"

"No, she's a just a little sixty pound German shepherd."

Within a week Tess had that bone whittled down to the size of something she could easily carry around in her mouth.  I kept her in bones that size for several years.

When she was four she sort of lost interest in chewing, and at least she never took to chewing my shoes. She ate the heel off one of my Victoria's Secret shoes once, and after I scolded her and told her no, she never did it again, going so far as to sit on my shoes after another dog attempted to chew on one of them.

Only recently she has begun to chew again, and I don't know if it's because she's getting older and less energetic, or if Surina plays an influence because that dog loves to chew.  California Guy and I have found ourselves in the midst of a bone war.  There are always enough bones to go around.  At his house they each get a bone, and at my house there are several bones that Tess has chewed to convenient size.  Yet each dog always wants the bone the other dog is chewing, and sometimes they both just want BOTH bones.  If Tess is chewing on one bone and happens to leave it, Surina will take the bone and start chewing on it.  If Surina is chewing on a bone, Tess will wait until she drops it and then take it and put it back in the bedroom.  Sometimes she'll chew on it for five minutes, but then she'll leave it and come find us again.

Sometimes it seems like Tess only wants to chew when Surina is chewing.  Then she'll get bored pretty quickly and wander off, and then Surina will go pick up the bone she left behind.

There is no difference between these bones.  At least not to me.  Maybe they smell differently, though I'm sure they both smell like Tess since she's the one who has chewed them to convenient size.

The other night Surina and Tess were both lying around the kitchen table when Surina got up and went upstairs to the bedroom.  She got a bone and brought it back downstairs to start chewing on it.  Suddenly there was growling and teeth, and Tess grabbed the bone and took it back upstairs.  She left it in the bedroom without chewing it and came back downstairs.

Apparently Tess wants all her toys to stay in the bedroom.  She has taken her stuffies upstairs and left them there too, as if she is OCD about where her toys can be left.  She does the same thing with her squeaky toy.  Surina brought it downstairs to play with it once and Tess snatched it from her and took it back upstairs.  I don't know if this is a result of me disciplining her for dropping her bones down the stairs and allowing them to clatter across the kitchen floor, something that causes an immense amount of noise and freaks me out every time she does it.  Finally she just figured out she needed to keep the bones upstairs on the carpeting, and she must assume this goes for the stuffies as well.  She does this with her doggie pops too.  I give her a cookie and she takes it upstairs to eat it. Surina just wolfs hers down right by the doggie pop cabinet, but Tess has to take hers to the bedroom.  I'm not sure when that started, but now everything must go upstairs.

This is a double edged sword for me.  One the one hand I hate the noise of bones clattering across tile floors and down hardwood steps.  On the other hand at least once a day I trip over one of those bones in my bedroom, hurting my foot, because those things are hard and sharp, and I'm usually stepping on doggie pop crumbs too, if I haven't vacuumed.

I thought at first that Tess didn't mind sharing toys as long as they stay in the bedroom, until the morning she and Surina got into it over the only bone outside.  Surina started barking, Tess growled. Hackles stood up everywhere.  I'm not sure who won that little spat, but by then California Guy and I decided to just let them work it out for themselves, mostly because there was a foot of snow on the ground and it was cold and we didn't want to go outside.  There was no bloodshed after all.

We'll just fix the problem by buying two more bones, because we can't seem to get it through our heads that no matter how many bones there are, each dog will always want all of the bones.

And Tess will want all the bones in the bedroom so I can trip over them and stub my toe.

Tess and Surina waiting for their bones

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


I spent the last week in Texas with my best friend, her husband, and her three children.  I had no contact with animals aside from stuffies until Saturday night, when California Guy picked me up from the airport and took me back to his house where Surina was waiting for us.

I've lived almost ten years with the  most codependent, needy, crazy animals I've ever had the pleasure of being around, and I have to say, even they are easier to take care of than children. Whoever goes around judging stay-at-home moms, saying they sit around on their asses eating bonbons and watching reality TV all day while their children play quietly in their rooms, well, those people have no clue.  Being a mom is hard, and those moms who spend all day everyday around their children, I applaud them.

My best friend's children are sweethearts, don't get me wrong.  They are three, four, and six, so they are still very young, and all three of them are smarter than I am.  They have this in common with my pets.  All of my pets except for Willow are too smart for their own good, and my best friend's children have the same problem.  The six-year-old reads at a fifth or sixth grade reading level, the four-year-old does math better than I do - he's adding and subtracting and counting on the calculator like he's been doing it since birth - and the three-year-old is already a master manipulator.  He also enjoys taking stuff apart and putting them back together (not necessarily accurately, but he tries), and I have a feeling that one will be building rocket engines or something by the time he's twenty-five.

These kids take constant stimulation.  The six-year-old and the three-year-old are both introverts so they are pretty good about amusing themselves, but the four-year-old is not only smart, he needs interaction with someone as smart as he is.

This is not me.

Incidentally, this is the same problem I have with Tess.  If I leave Tess and the four-year-old alone for too long they will both get into some serious trouble trying to find something to keep their busy minds occupied.

Meanwhile Willow identifies with the three-year-old in being as needy and clingy (he's three after all and going through that stage), and Puckett would be a great pal for the girl, as she just wants something big and fuzzy to snuggle.  Percy would get along with all three of them.  He was fascinated with another friend's little one-year-old girl when they came over for a visit.  The little girl had just learned to crawl up and down steps, and Percy accompanied her on every step, almost like a little black cheerleader.  It was really the cutest thing I'd ever seen, and that's just the kind of kitty Percy is.  He loves everyone and everything.

We could probably reserve Percy for the one that is about to be born, as my best friend is pregnant with her fourth, another boy.  Given the way he behaved with my other friend's baby daughter, Percy would be great for a newborn.  If I wasn't already staring at my best friend in awe for dealing with the three she has, I'm definitely bowing at her feet now considering she will have three little boys to run after.  The one who probably really deserves the medal is the girl who happens to be the oldest - all those brothers - but she seems to deal with the boys fairly well.  My best friend is lucky too to have a very supportive husband who is also a very good daddy.

At the end of my visit, I was exhausted so I can only imagine how my friend feels every day plus being pregnant.  I get to be Auntie Anita who shows up for a week, brings presents, watches cartoons with them, and leaves the discipline, diaper changing, and feeding fussiness to their mother.  Not only that, she and I shared the same diet as she is on a low carb diet because of her pregnancy, and I'm gluten free.  I mention this because our diets don't include real food.  I adopted her diet for a week because it was easier just to eat what she eats since she can't have a lot of carbs and I can't have gluten. There was no point bringing gluten free bread into her life just for a week, and I could handle a more restricted diet for a short time.  So not only was I exhausted by the end of the week, I was starving.  My friend and I both ended up limiting our carbs to the point of limiting our calories.  No wonder we spent the majority of my visit watching The Big Bang Theory after the kids were in bed, and being generally irritable.  We drooped around like molting chickens, and I believe now that was nothing but hunger.  Chasing after three kids when one is thirty-eight years old and never having spent much time around children alone (I worked at an animal shelter, I never babysat) drained all of my energy.  Being eight months pregnant, eating nothing but vegetables and meat (and a little pineapple that I brought into our lives), drained my friend of her will to live.

I'm kidding of course.  Her children are her will to live, but I have a newfound respect for her.  I've always found her amazing and strong, but it takes a special kind of woman to be a stay-at-home mom raising three children, and my four pets don't hold a candle to that kind of nurturing.  I complain when I have to clean out litter boxes three times a day.  She's doing fifty loads of laundry a day, changing diapers, potty training, and trying to keep her sanity finding kid friendly foods for dinner that all three of her children will eat without too much whining.  And I think it's frustrating that Puckett has her nose out of joint being forced to eat the I/D food for her pancreatitis, and that Willow won't even touch I/D and has to eat an entirely different food.  It's frustrating enough to feed three cats two different foods.  I'm sure it's more frustrating to accommodate three different children, plus a husband, plus a best friend, all with different dietary needs.

What's more I can crate my animals when they annoy me.  It's frowned upon to lock children in kennels when they are being obnoxious, though one can send them to their rooms.  This usually dissolves into loud wailing as the child lets everyone in a five-mile radius know that the parents have just single-handedly ruined the child's life by making them sit in a room full of toys and children's books for five whole minutes, cruelly shut away from the world.

When I crate my pets (and really, it's just Willow) I usually don't hear a peep out of them.  Actually Willow kind of likes her crate.  I think she thinks of it as her hidey-hole.  My friend's children love to be in their rooms until they have to be.  Then the world has wronged them.

I love those kids.  They are adorable and sweet and they love to snuggle, just like my pets, but I was happy to get home to my animals who are much less work.  Of course as soon as I walked through my front door, I had four litter boxes to clean, and Percy was shouting at me for his food bowl that happened to be sitting on the floor where the Cowboy had left it.  Puckett ignored me as per usual, and Willow started her usual clingy, needy dance.  It took me three hours to clean my house and sanitize the litter boxes in order to get the stench of cat poop and litter out of the air, and by the time I was done, I was really exhausted.  At least by then I'd had real food as I was back to eating my usual pile of gluten free carbs.

And after all that, and having never really thought seriously about being a mother myself, California Guy dropped the bomb of suggesting that maybe we should have a "Gerb" of our own (that's what he calls them, and I'm not completely sure why), because he likes me enough to keep me around and wants to have a family with me.

I could probably handle one.  Three? And with my brood?  And of course the potential German shepherd puppy I might be on deck for? Not to mention Surina?

I'm beginning to understand why women have children in their twenties, not their late thirties and early forties.  Angelina Jolie and her celebrity sisters can brag all they want about working full time and still having children at fortysomething, but they also have the best nannies money can buy, and they can afford the nutritionists and trainers it'll take to get their bodies back to a size two.  From what I've witnessed, nobody can do it all. Good moms deserve a medal, or maybe a parade.  Raising children is not a pretty business.

Raising cats isn't either, but at least I didn't have to push any of them out through a hole the size of a quarter.  This may still happen for me though.  I'm not completely over the hill yet, and I'm not quite forty yet. I may have to change this blog to how to raise a healthy, emotionally stable child among codependent fur babies.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


Boundaries, respect, and polite behavior, it seems lately, have gone the way of the T-Rex.  I don't know if working in customer service has made me more sensitive to the fact that some people are rude and have no boundaries, or if this is just becoming a national epidemic of railroading over boundaries, leaving filters at home, and in general behaving like "Me, me, me!"

At the library where I work, people come up to the desk and reach over it to take pens, pencils, Internet passcodes, and scratch paper right out from under our noses.  I'm still waiting for the day someone comes up and plucks the pen right out of my hand.  Some people still ask, but there are those that seem content to just take stuff off our desk.  We have patrons who collect their prints and then walk behind the desk rather than around it to return to their computers.  Patrons behind the Circulation and Reference desks are frowned upon mostly because the work we do involves personal information of the people we check books out to.  Any idiot can waltz back there and catch a glimpse of a phone number, address, email address or items checked out under a certain name and that is a violation of privacy.  Therefore, do NOT wander behind the desk like you own it.  Public building does not mean public to do whatever the hell people want.  What's next, urinating on the back wall?

Then there are the people that come in drunk, the people who stare at us with hostility until we ask them what they would like rather than just telling us or asking a polite question, and those that make rude comments about other patrons who are doing absolutely nothing wrong.  For example one patron made a comment about having to sit next to a "fat guy" on one of the computers, and another patron asked the length of a library sponsored program so she would have an idea of just "how long was she going to be bored?" And then there's my favorite, the guy who came in and announced to the whole building "I'm fucking drunk!" and then was asked to leave until he could conduct himself in a manner with more decorum.

This doesn't just happen at the library either.  I've had people shove in front of me in line at the grocery store, another lady who leaned over my shoulder at Starbucks before I had collected my drink and change and announce to the whole store, "Venti skinny vanilla latte!" and people who run red lights right in front of me nearly causing an accident.  The sad thing is the majority of people are nice, polite, and generous.  I've had people in line in front of me pay for my groceries.  Many of our library patrons pay for their prints with too much change and tell us to keep it.  People donate money to the library, smile when they come in and say hello, and tell us what a great service we provide.

Unfortunately it's people like the girl digging dimes out of her crotch to pay for her prints who demand the impossible, and then post an unfavorable online review when we can't help them.  For some reason the rudest people seem to stand out the  most because they make their unpleasant presences so much more noticeable than the nice, polite people.  It's like people who must be noticed and be the center of the universe at all times realize that the ruder and nastier they are, the more attention they receive.  They learn this from the media, as per the latest presidential election.

Animals have no boundaries either and for some reason their lack of boundaries, respect, and patience doesn't seem to irritate me as much as when people do it.  Don't get me wrong.  My pets' lack of boundaries can still get annoying, but they do it with a cute furry face, whiskers, and big mushy eyes, so they are more easily forgiven.  My cats especially have zero boundaries.  Percy marches into the bathroom even when the door is closed, and just to make his point, he will loudly bang the door open so that it rebounds off the wall.  Then he'll sit at my feet and watch me.  He also waits until I have prepared my lunch and I sit down with it before he very purposefully goes into the box and takes the smelliest dump he can.  That's his trick for getting me up in the morning too.  If he wants to eat, and he wants to eat now, he will run through the house wailing, and then he will lay a stink so bad that I have to get up to clean the litter box.  It will make your eyes water, I'm not kidding.

Willow, if given the chance, will crawl into my lap, work her way up my shirt until and she is in my face, so close that I can smell her tuna fish breath.  She's sneaky about it too.  She likes to be on the bed when I'm in it reading and she starts off at the foot, where the cats belong because I'm allergic to pet hair and don't like animals on the pillows.  Soon she stretches her front legs out and yawns, all innocent, and suddenly her body has oozed forward a few inches.  She does this subtly and over a period of a half hour until suddenly she is right up against my side, close to my pillow.  I will move her back down to the foot of the bed where she waits ten minutes and starts the whole process over again.  On the couch, she starts off on the back of the couch where she is allowed to sit.  Then suddenly she oozes down onto the seat and pretty soon she's in my lap.  I'm not even sure how she got there.  Then there was the other night when California Guy prepared dinner.  Willow and Percy are not allowed on the counter except to use it as a medium from the floor to the ledge above the refrigerator.  They know this.  They usually don't try to get away with it.  Willow jumped up onto the ledge the other night and stayed up there for an hour before jumping down.  Instead of jumping off the counter immediately as she usually does, she sauntered casually across the sink and over to the where the leftover steak was sitting and tried to help herself.

She's helped herself to my tuna fish sandwich before too.  And right under my nose to boot.

Tess came to me with no boundaries.  She stomped on feet, climbed on the bed, jumped on people, barged down the stairs in front of me, shoved me aside in her haste to greet new people - she was a mess.  Nine years later I have her somewhat under control, though she still stomps on feet occasionally.  Surina has no boundaries either.  When she wants to be pet she shoves her nose under our hands and burrows until we scratch her ears.  She's not allowed on my bed, though she doesn't accept this and will still try to sneak on it if we leave her alone in my bedroom.  She has the least boundaries when it comes to food and cooking.  She has actually shouldered me out of the way to glue herself beside California Guy while he's cooking, and she will hover practically in Tess' bowl waiting for Tess to drop food on the floor so she can swoop in and clean it up.  Luckily Tess is not food aggressive or a nervous dog, or we would have had bloodshed several times.

The nice thing about dogs is how easy it is to set boundaries.  Surina and Tess both are extremely smart dogs and it takes me maybe two or three corrections before they figure out pretty quickly what is and is not acceptable.  Surina barged past me on the steps once.  I made her come back upstairs, wait, then follow me down and after that she had it.  She lets me go first now.  When I'm cooking I have to send her out of the kitchen, mostly because I have tripped over cats before and nearly ended up with my head in the oven.  Surina is so in-your-face when one is cooking that I've tripped over her a few times, so I finally had to block her from coming near the food preparation just so she got the message that she is not welcome while I'm cooking. I'm clumsy enough as it is.  I don't need paws and a tail tripping me while I'm handling the cleaver. With California Guy she can do whatever she wants, that's his deal.  I have to make it out of the kitchen in one piece, or at least without second degree burns on my face.  And the other day I finally had to block her from getting in Tess' face while Tess ate her food because she was hovering so closely.  She still had food in her bowl, but she was more concerned about cleaning up after Tess and it was starting to make Tess nervous.  Surina will challenge me once or twice when I block her and try to get around me, but she very quickly learns to respect my boundaries and backs off.  When I first got Tess, I had the same issues with boundaries, but it only took a few corrections (and a couple of knock-down drag-out fights) and she figured out pretty quickly that she needed to respect my boundaries.

It would be nice if people were as easy.  Unfortunately a slap on the wrist of a grasping hand trying to take a pen off my desk is frowned on at the library. I miss the days of the yard stick We are not allowed to touch the patrons, and smacking them is probably grounds for a lawsuit.  With the dogs I just snap my fingers or use my body to set a boundary and they have it.  If I snap my fingers at a person they get offended and huffy because I"m the one being rude.  My coworker once stopped someone from reaching across her desk by saying "Excuse me, boundaries!" and the patron actually had the nerve to retort, "Oh, there are boundaries now?" like there haven't always been.  My coworker responded with "Yes, and you're about to cross another one!"

Personal space is very important and I guess I can't understand why so many people don't seem to understand that they need to respect that.  As an introvert, I value my personal space even more.  I don't like people standing too close to me when speaking, I don't like people touching me for no reason unless I know them very well, and I don't like being calling me sweetie, honey, babes, sweetheart or what have you by people I hardly know. I also don't like it when people show up at my door without calling first, and I really don't like people just walking into my house and going through my things. Given the choice I'd rather a dog or cat in my personal bubble than a stranger who seems to think my body and my space are there to use at their disposal. California Guy is the exception.  He's in my personal bubble a lot, but him I don't mind. When dogs and cats push boundaries, it's not personal.  They are just challenging the hierarchy, see what they can get away with it.  They are usually quite content to have boundaries set so they know where they stand.  People get butthurt when boundaries are set, and if they cross them they seem to think they are entitled to that.  When I correct Surina or Tess or Willow, they don't take it personally and they are back a second later for hugs and cuddles, only this time they wait to be invited.  They don't start disliking me just because I don't let them get away with whatever they want.  I don't seem to get that same courtesy from some people.  Set a boundary and suddenly I'm a bitch or I'm rude or I'm unfriendly.  This is a basic human right, I believe, to have one's personal space and body respected.  We are not, after all, just the supporting cast to other people's self-centered mini-movies.  We are all individuals.

There is a reason why good fences make good neighbors.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Driving Down the Highway

There is nothing more exhausting, more frustrating, and more infuriating then trying to take a trip with my dog via car.

Tess is an amazing dog.  She reads minds.  I never really trained her because she always just sort of knew what I wanted her to do.  She's not food motivated or food obsessed.  She sticks by my side when we walk.  I don't even need a leash on her anymore.  She's not aggressive, she's not fearful, she's not fixated on anything.  I can always snap her out of anything she starts to focus too intently on.

But when it comes to riding in the car, she dissolves into a whining, screaming, coat-blowing mess of bouncing energy.  I see other dogs ride in cars.  Surina is a perfect lady.  One of my girlfriends has two labs both who sit calmly and demurely, looking out the window until they arrive at their destination.  My first shepherd, Flag, was so good in the car.  He'd sit on the back seat and I took him everywhere when I drove around town.  The only quirk he had was climbing into the driver's seat whenever I got out of the car, but otherwise, he would stretch out in the back, especially on long car rides, and just hang out.  Great company, that dog.

Then there are my cats.  These are cats and all of them are better passengers than Tess.  Puckett hangs out on the passenger seat beside me and just chills, looking out the window or watching me.  Percy rides on the backseat, and he might wail a bit, but mostly he's pretty good.  At least he doesn't try to get up front and slide under the brake pedal like my Himalayan, Mindi, used to do.  Willow also rides on the backseat, though sometimes she moves underneath the front seat.  Everyone is pretty cool about the car.

With Tess one would think the world was ending.  It starts as soon as I let her out the front door and start walking to the car.  She knows the difference between going for a walk and going for a car ride. On walks she's relaxed, calm, and happy.  In the car it's a completely different story.  As soon as she jumps into the backseat she starts whining and wailing, pacing from one window to the other.  As soon as I get behind the wheel she barges up onto the console and sticks her nose in my face.  I have to holler at her to get back and sit down.  In the car is the one time she does not listen to me when I yell, or obey the snap of my fingers.  She barely acknowledges me at all.

A few years ago I drove to Jackson Hole to visit a friend and check out a job opportunity.  That was an eight hour drive.  I nearly killed my dog.  She nearly had apoplexy from being in the car for so long, and we stopped every hour so she could get out and stretch her legs.

On one shorter trip, probably to the vet or when I was driving down every night to visit the Drug-Dealing Felon, Tess turned into a whirling dancer and nailed me right in the head with her tail.  It felt like she brained me.  I nearly went off the road.  One of the best things about living in Wyoming where there is almost zero traffic is that when one's dog almost causes one to drive off the road, at least one won't run into another motorist.  The embankment or a tree, maybe, but not another motorist.

The last trip I took with Tess I finally had enough.  I took her down to Casper which is a two hour drive.  I had previously filled a prescription for her for a sedative to make traveling with her easier.  I generally don't advocate drugging animals unnecessarily just like I don't believe in drugging humans unnecessarily.  I refuse to take antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, sleep aids, or allergy medication.  I react terribly to most medicines anyway, and the only time I'll succumb to medication is what I consider legitimate medication at least for my body.  I'll take antibiotics, anesthetics when under surgery, and I do have a slight love affair with codeine laced cough syrup for when I have a nasty flu.  I also have to take Midol occasionally, and that stuff hits me like I'm getting stoned. California Guy just got a whiff of that the other night, and he's either terrified of me now, or laughing himself sick.  I'm not opposed to necessary medication.  I have all my vaccines.  My pets have all their vaccines.  Tess is a very energetic, busy dog and there were a few times over the years I thought about putting her under with some kind of muscle relaxer just to get her to calm down, but I never did.  I just exercised the hell out of her until she was too pooped to poop.

Incidentally she has never been too pooped to poop except once when she'd spent the entire day swimming in the lake.  I couldn't wake that dog up that night with a bullhorn and a cattle prod.

This calming medication the vet gave me for car rides is a Godsend.  The last trip down to Casper was peaceful with no stress.  Tess still moved from one window to the other periodically, but with nowhere near the fervor and borderline insanity from past trips.  She was calm, relaxed, even a bit dopey.  It was heaven.  I sent a silent prayer of thanks to the powers that be for creating acepromazine in 10 milligram tablets.

Of course the ride back home we were back to the usual antics despite the pill I popped down her throat before we left.  I don't know if it's because she ate a whole bowl of food first and the medicine took longer to absorb, or if she'd acclimated to it or what, but she was a nightmare the trip home.  She whined so loud it sounded like she was crying.  The car exploded in a cloud of dog hair as she bopped back and forth, slamming her tail into the back of the front seats, and scrambling onto the console.  By the time we got home I was cussing her and she was trying to climb out the window.  The side effect was that I had to clean out the inside of the car as well as spray the windows down with vinegar to clean off the coating of dog nose smudges.

Next trip I'm giving her a double dose or else I'm renting a truck and she can ride in the bed in a dog carrier. The plan for Christmas is supposedly to drive to Casper with dog and cats in tow as I'll have no one to watch the pets for four days. California Guy has promised to pick us all up and stuff Tess and two cat carriers in the bed of the truck.  Puckett can hang out in the backseat. That'll be an interesting experience.  I'll probably come home minus three pets and only Puckett still alive. Or California Guy will kill all five of us.

Clearly I'm a glutton for punishment.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Non-lethal Injection

I could never be a heroin or meth addict.

Needles give me the heebie jeebies.  They don't hurt. I've been poked many times over the years:  vaccinations, blood draws and tests, finger pokes. The injections are less freaky than the blood draws.  The finger pokes generally don't bother me too much either, though I still get a little faint at the sight of that drop of blood welling out of my finger tip.  That and I always dread the results even though I have no reason to.  Muscle shots are the easiest.  I got a steroid shot in my hip once that had me barely batting an eye.

The absolute worst, though, was the time I had to go and get my baseline hormones tested.  My doctor sent me to the lab to have vials of blood pulled so that they could sift through everything and find out just what exactly is wrong with me.  The phlebotomist pulled eight vials of blood.  I felt like he drained my body of a quarter of my blood supply.  I had to keep taking deep breaths because I felt myself sliding out of the chair.  By the time he was on the last vial I started hissing at him and holding up my cross.  Having my blood drawn doesn't hurt, even the initial pinch of the needle.  Blood itself doesn't bother me.  Anyone else's blood, my pets blood, even my own.  I missed the pit of an avocado with a knife one time and sliced my finger almost to the bone.  The resulting geyser of blood hardly fazed me.  It didn't even hurt.

There is something about watching my blood pour out of my vein and into a little glass tube that just makes me want to keel over in a dead faint.  I have to look away whenever I do a blood draw because I can't watch my blood collect into anything.  That combined with the needle just about does me in.

I could never be a vampire.  And interestingly, I'm dating one.

Just kidding.

Well, maybe a little.  He does think he's a vampire sometimes.

Bottom line, I hate needles.

So leave it to my precious Puckett to be the one pet out of four who needs injections.  I've said it before, that cat is going to drive me to drink. 

I don't play favorites with my animals, but Puckett does hold a very special place in my heart.  Ever since I rescued her pathetic hairless butt from the animal shelter I've been in hyper-protective mode over her.  She can't cough, sneeze, or hack up a hairball without me freaking out and whisking her to the vet.  I fall for it every time too.  Nine times out of ten when I whisk Puckett to the vet there is nothing wrong with her, and my vet indulgently assures me that my cat is not going to die. 

That tenth time gets me though.

Last month I had to take Tess in for her shots.  A week before her appointment Puckett started throwing up.  Every morning she would eat her breakfast and then promptly yak it up on the floor.  Once she yakked, she was pretty much done.  She didn't throw up every time she ate and she didn't throw up continuously.  It was just that initial meal.

Of course the little darling always had to make sure she was on the carpet when she barfed.  I have mostly hard floors throughout my house, but Puckett finds the two rooms with carpeting and throws up there.

At first I thought it was just because she was bolting her food.  Since I can no longer leave food out to free feed my beasts, the time between 9 PM and 7 AM is apparently so long that kitties start feeling faint with hunger and reaching paws out to me with weak voices saying, "Feed me!"  By the time I serve breakfast, Puckett and Percy descend on their bowls like ravenous wolves.

By the sixth day in a row of puking after eating, I became concerned and called the vet to ask if I could just bring Puckett along with Tess to her vet appointment.  They had no problem with this. 

My vet is pretty awesome.  I don't know if they treat me with special treatment because I give them roughly half of my yearly salary, or if they are generally just super nice people, but either way, they are the best.

When the vet called to give me the rundown of my pets, he started with Tess.  He sang Tess' praises so highly, spoke so eloquently of how she was in perfect health for her age, that I started to get nervous, knowing the "but" was around the corner.  I wanted to scream, "What's wrong with my kitty??" but I held my composure.  When he got around to Puckett he basically told me that she tested a low positive for pancreatitis.  I didn't understand everything, but "pancreatitis" always gives me a feeling of dread.  My first German shepherd had that.  It developed into pancreatic cancer.  The vet assured me that while it can be devastating in dogs, in cats it's not as serious and especially not in ones where the test is a low positive.  He prescribed a vitamin B12 supplement to help with the vomiting.

Now came the dilemma.  There is no way I can get medicine of any kind down Puckett's throat.  I tried pills once.  She spat them in my face.  The one time I tried liquid medicine it ended up all over her chest fur and my shirt.  Needless to say holding down a twenty pound cat who enjoys ten times my strength is impossible for a woman my size.  I can't hold down precious and force her jaws open at the same time.  She won't take pill pockets and she doesn't eat treats.

The vet suggested injections.  Oh, dear God.  He sent me home with four tiny syringes and instructions to poke kitty once a week with an injection, and we'd see how she feels after a month.  Needles freak me out bad enough when someone is poking me.  When I'm on the other side of poking I damn near pass out.  I pulled out the first syringe and uncapped it, staring at the needle point and wondering how I was going to wrestle Puckett to the ground in order to stab her and push the plunger in less than a second.  I figured that's how long I would have before she beat the shit out of me and disappeared under the couch.  I nearly passed the needle over to California Guy who used to be a vet tech.

I know what you're thinking.  How can I ever consider working with animals full time if I'm such a baby about needles?  Well, my plan there is to grin and bear it.  And grin and bear it I did.  I grabbed a handful of Puckett's scruff while she stared at me with mushy eyes and purred.  She's used to me massaging the nape of her neck while petting her, so she was unaware of anything untoward.  I quickly rammed the needle point into her scruff, pushed the plunger home, and pulled the syringe out. I braced myself for punishment.

Puckett didn't even flinch.  She never stopped purring.  The only evidence that I had assaulted her was the tiny hard knob the needle created in the skin of her neck.  She threw her head back and rubbed her chin against the wall, and continued to give me mushy eyes and purr.  I proceeded to slam back a glass of wine.

The good news is that Puckett has not puked once since she began her injections and switched to ID food.  She is back to her happy, healthy, fat self with the occasional bouts of allergies.  Me, I will need a Valium the next time I need to poke her, but let me tell you, it's so much easier than trying to force a pill down her throat.  I think all cats should be medicated with needles.  They cause much less drama than pills or liquid.

I never thought I'd say this, but I actually like needles now.

Of course, that still doesn't mean I'm starting that heroin or meth addiction.