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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Why Do We Keep Should-ing on Ourselves?

The funny thing about humans is that we are always "should-ing" all over ourselves. We "should" have the house and the kids and the fenced-in yard. We "should" go to college, get a degree, start a career, get married, have children, all in that order. We "should" go to church on Sundays and pray every night and judge each other's sins to keep each other in line. We "should" go to the gym every day and work out, we "should" eat healthy, and we "should" cut out all sugar, gluten, and presesrvatives. We "should" want to do something great. We "should" want to climb that corporate ladder, write that novel, run that marathon, volunteer, be involved.

And if we don't do what we "should" there is always someone around to make us feel bad about it.

It's exhausting.

Why do we let other people influence us into what we think we should want when it's not really what we want?

I've recently discovered that I "should" be doing or want to be doing a lot of things.  I also discovered that when I sit and think about it, it's ultimately not for me.

I don't want to be the director of a library which is the next logical step given my position.  When I applied for new library jobs in Colorado as a means to move up in my field, I realized, after several interviews that it's not what I really want.  That didn't stop my cat-dumping frenemy from making me feel bad about the fact that I'm not as into libraries and my job as she is. She bragged about all her accomplishments and achievements in her job since she got her Master's degree, and it almost made me feel like I didn't have a Master's degree and she was berating me for my lack of interest.  I do have my Master's degree, I was very proud when I earned that degree, and nobody fussed, made a big deal, or threw me a party.

I like my job and I do my job well. I just don't put a lot of effort into advancing in my "career," and I hate committees and conferences where people in the same field sit around and discuss how they can improve things within said field and then never accomlish any of it.  I find it a waste of time I could be using to actually DO my job.

The one exception is writer's conferences.  I love those.

One "should-er" in particular stood out to me a few years ago. She's a gluten free blogger who went on a rampage about using xanthan gum and eating "bread" at all, even gluten free bread.  It was totally unnecessary, she ranted. There is absolutely no reason to have either of these extremely unhealthy items in our diets - EVER.  I spent a day feeling bad about eating gluten free bread and using xanthan gum in my baking before I decided I was never reading that judgmental bitch's blog again.

I shouldn't have three cats. And I definitely shouldn't have five.  I've been made to feel bad over that as well, in the sense of "You have too many cats, and you might as well be a crazy cat lady if you keep this up!"

I like cats. This shouldn't be a problem. But it is.

I should want to go to church every Sunday, volunteer, help and work within the church, tithe, and become a good Christian citizen.  I've recently discovered that while I do identify with Christianity and I follow Christ to the best of my ability, I am not a "good Christian."  I don't go to church, I don't pray nearly as often as I should, and I don't follow "the Christian path." As I got older, I noticed that within the church I used to go to people started treating me differently because I was still single and childless.  There is something wrong with you if you don't get married, pop out a few kids, and live the Christian dream of being 100% involved in your church. To say nothing of the fact that I fraternize with homosexuals, I'm pro-choice, I've engaged in premarital sex, and I follow animal medicine. I've had Christian friends berate me for the medicine cards in the past.  I felt so bad about it that I put them away for a few years, terrified that I would end up in hell if I kept using them.

You know what I discovered about animal medicine cards? They aren't that different from using the Bible and daily devotionals to guide your thoughts and actions throughout the day.  They are just another avenue of doing so.  God created the animals, after all.  It's not such a stretch that He might use them to help guide us through life.  Of course there are those people who will make you feel bad about believing in anything by calling you intellectually stunted, but that's another story.

As I said, there is always someone around to make you feel bad about the choices they don't agree with.  You're either a moron for believing anything other than science, or you're going to hell for not believing enough.

One thing that really stood out to me this summer is the kind of man I'm ultimately attracted to. I'm not talking about the jerks and losers I've picked up, or my bad taste in men.  I think we all run a streak with that.  What I'm talking about runs deeper.  From my Match and Zoosk escapades I met and dated lots of eligible men, most of whom I didn't date more than twice - not because they were jerks and losers, just because they didn't fit.  I narrowed my field down to two men and for awhile I could not decide which one I liked better.  They were both nice men, not jerks or losers.  They were both sweet, treated me like a lady, took me out on dates, didn't push the sex issue, set up fun dates, and were enjoyable to be with. It's been awhile since I dated someone truly nice who was interested in being with  me and interested in me (and not 23).  Suddenly I had two of them.  I'm not used to nice men. I'm definitely not used to two nice men.

They were polar opposites.  Mr. White Knight was sweet, sexy, safe, hardworking, and a good old ranch boy.  He could dance and cook, he was gentlemanly, came from a good family and was very family-oriented, and he was kind.  Given the jackasses I've dated, kind is no small thing.  I was ready for kind.  Given all of his admirable qualities, Mr. White Knight is what I should want. And I did want him.

Things were going swimmingly there when I went on a date with another guy, and the moment we met at the restaurant I knew he was going to be trouble. I remember thinking as I watched him walk up to the restaurant, "Oh, this is unfortunate.  This is going to complicate things."  It's easier to make a choice when you've got one guy you like above the rest and he's pulling ahead of the pack.  It's a lot harder when you find yourself liking two guys equally for different reasons and you can't pick out which one you want to have a relationship with.

The other guy was what one of my good friends likes to call "Our kind of people." Basically he's a weirdo.  He's a self-proclaimed weirdo. The only thing these two guys have in common is that they are kind and gentlemanly. The weirdo, however, gets me. He's from California.  He likes his rum, has been married before, has the most interesting characters as friends, no relationship with his family, and all kinds of issues generated from his past experiences, to say nothing of his interest in the vampire culture and Marilyn Manson (my friend of the "our kind of people" shares his love for metal and Dungeons and Dragons). He's into nerdy stuff like Star Wars and Comicon and shares my love for all things Disney (he has this thing for Maleficent and Disney villains).  He's zany and goofy and crazy and fun. It turns out as much as I tried to fight against it, I had to admit finally, that yes, he is my kind of people, he gets me, and we just fit.  Mr. White Knight reminds me of the golden boys from high school.  You know those guys, the ones that were handsome and good at everything and nice to everyone.  California Guy is the kind of guy I hung out with in college, and in college I gravitated towards the weird, the strange, and the dark (my best guy friend comes to mind - amazing guy but with the most twisted sense of humor). As a matter of fact he has traits of three of my good guy friends so much that he reminds me of them at different times.  We gel on several levels. There's chemistry and biology. In the beginning he scared me because of his intensity as he is definitely not safe and steady. He and I are like fire and gasoline, but underneath it all he has a heart of gold. I don't have a bad thing to say about Mr. White Knight, but in the end we just didn't quite fit, and even without California Guy in the picture I realized I would have eventually come to that conclusion anyway.  I found myself never quite being able to relax around him because I wasn't quite acting like myself. I think I was trying to be the kind of girl I thought he deserved because he's such a great guy, and I don't always feel like I deserve that. It wasn't anything he did. He was always perfectly lovely. I felt my own inadequacies because ultimately we aren't a match.

As my best friend in Texas pointed out once, there is no escaping the truth that no matter how much I try to live life normally, I seem to attract the strange and the dysfunctional, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.  We might think we should be with sweet, steady, safe, and sexy, but the reality is that might not be who we are at our core. There are some people who are that. I am not that. I am not a perfect little wife, two point three kids, a dog, a cat, a fenced in yard and Sunday dinners with a large family.  I can't be that no matter how hard I try, and people have always tried to make me be that.  It started being a problem when I tried to make myself be that. I kept shoulding on myself. I should want a safe relationship. I should want a linear career and to take the next step. I should want children.  I should want a bigger house. I should get rid of my stuffed animals and stop acting like a child.

I sleep with a giant stuffed Dumbo that California Guy gave me because I told him I always wanted a stuffed Dumbo.  I'm 38 years old and I sleep with a stuffed animal.  I also sleep with two cats, but that's a different story.

Should a 38-year-old woman sleep with a giant stuffed elephant and two cats in a four level town house decorated with shitty chic second hand furniture?

Probably not, but I'm beginning to get to the point of "Who cares?" I'm not safe and steady. I want passion and excitement. I'm not a steady, linear career, I want to try my hand at writing and crash and burn a few times if necessary (of course this terrifies me). Maybe open a chocolate shop or a dog training business. I'm not the perfect wife with two point three kids. I don't want kids at all, I don't think, and I want to be able to make that decision without people telling me, "Of course you want children and you'd better hurry up! You're not getting any younger!" I want to sleep with my stuffed Dumbo and eat ice cream at midnight.  I want to bring home kittens or a German shepherd puppy if the mood hits me. Sometimes I just don't feel like exercising, or eating a salad instead of chips and salsa.  I've eaten chocolate cake for breakfast. And I guess a woman my age shouldn't wear short white shorts anymore, but I love my short white shorts.  And I want someone who will go along with all these shenanigans just as enthusiastically and maybe suggest a few of his own.

Leave it to me to go for the weirdo.

But he's a pretty great weirdo.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Missing Out

My dog is always afraid she is missing out on something.  My cats are too, but they aren't as worried because the pull of sleeping twenty hours a day is more important than actually participating in anything they might be missing out on. 

The cats seem to be the most concerned with missing out when I'm in the bathroom.  For some reason they are absolutely certain that something amazing and exciting is going on in the bathroom.  They could all be asleep in various areas of the house, not having stirred for hours, and as soon as I step into the bathroom and open the toilet lid, at least Percy will bang open the bathroom door and march in purposefully.  Puckett usually follows him, or else she sits just outside the door and glares at me from a safe distance.  Willow has tried to crawl into my lap before, thinking that as long as I'm sitting on the toilet, I'm a trapped audience for her purring, kneading, and meowing like I've ignored her for months.

If she can, Tess will squeeze herself into the bathroom as well, but that is only because everyone is already there and she is so afraid she will miss out on something that she has to be present at all times.

Tess can never truly rest.  Even when she is sound asleep on the floor, as soon as I get up to get myself a cup of tea or a chocolate, she is on her feet and glued to my side, ready to follow me wherever I go.  If I move towards the front door, she is right behind me.  I will go outside to check the mailbox, grab something out of the car that I forgot, or dump the trash, and Tess is absolutely convinced that she must go with me because anything might happen.  When I leave for work in the morning, she almost has apoplexy, staring at me through the back door with wide, sad eyes.  "How can you not take me???" she seems to plead with those eyes as I walk out the door.

And I just want to tell her, "Trust me, dog.  You're not missing anything.  It's just work!"

She might be missing out on a bunch of lunatics, but that's another story.

Surina, our new dog friend, is just as bad.  When I'm cooking, she is right by my side, her nose practically glued to the counter or stove, because she is so afraid that I might drop something she will miss.  In my house, no one's going to pick that up, not the cats or Tess.  Anything that falls to the floor is not fair game.  It will instantly be Surina's because she is the only one interested in it.  And yet, she is still worried she will miss out.  So she makes sure to stay in our proximity at all times, lest she miss extra snacks, or a wayward hand just looking for something to pet.  I keep Tess outside most of the day on nice days because she likes it.  Surina, when she visits, is out there with her.  Tess likes to be outside so she doesn't miss out on anything there.  She can chase birds, snap up wasps, watch the cars go by, bark at strangers walking down the streets.  Surina is more worried about what she's missing inside.  She sits by the door and whines so pitifully one would think she is dying.  I don't know what she thinks we are doing inside without her, but once again, she is really not missing out.  Given her food obsession I can only conclude she's worried about all the food she's missing out on.  I put her outside one time while I was cooking because I was tired of tripping over dogs and cats.  One day I'll end up head first in the oven, so it's just safer to roust everyone from the kitchen.  Surina cried so pitifully I'm sure the neighbors thought we were strangling her.  She was so sure the whole pizza was going to fall on the floor, just waiting for her to snap it up, that she couldn't stand the thought of being outside, missing it.

Tess worries about all the exciting things she's missing.  Surina worries about the food she's missing.

I think Percy just worries that someone is using the bathroom without him to assess the situation.  He's very interested in bathrooms and litter boxes and what goes on in them.

I favor Tess is in this respect.  Not Surina, because I never worry about what food I'm missing out on. Definitely not Percy since I really don't want to know what goes on in bathrooms. As irrational as it is, I worry that people are all out having more fun without me, more fun than I'm having, or living more exciting lives than I am.  I feel left out a lot.  It's not a rational feeling.  I blame in part Facebook and texting.  I know rationally that people who brag about their lives on Facebook are probably not actually having all that much fun, but I still feel left out. I also know when I'm out with friends and they are texting someone else, they aren't having more interesting lives than I am.  They are just being rude. This is not a feeling I get towards strangers.  I'm not a keeping up with the Joneses type, or worrying that I don't live a jet set life like celebrities.  My sense of feeling left out comes from people I used to be close to, or people I used to be friends with.  As I get older, my friends get promotions, move away, get married, have babies, make couple friends or mommy friends or friends they just have more in common with.  I feel like a stepping stone in people's lives sometimes, a phase they went through during a certain time of their lives when they needed something I could provide, and now that things have changed, they've moved on and I am still in the same place I've always been - same house, same job, same town, same single status.  I don't feel like my life is unfulfilled.  I do feel like my social circle is shrinking and shrinking and shrinking, and every time another friend moves away or gets married or has a baby, I feel more isolated and like maybe I should be doing something different with my life.  Then the Facebook posts pop up - "My ultrasound picture!" or "Check out how many pounds I've lost since my family started this new diet!" or "Me and my husband on vacation!"  Or else it's the tagged pictures. One close friend or another smiling into the camera with someone I don't know, tagging them and posting about how much fun they had.

Does anyone else ever feel like this?  We aren't really missing out on anything.  All of us live our lives and do our things and spend time with friends.  They spend time with us and then with other friends. There is no reason to feel left out because no one is leaving us out.  It's hard not to feel that way sometimes, though.  I've been to weddings and bridal showers and baby showers and I look around and realize that my friends have these other lives that I'm not a part of.  I'm only a small part, sometimes an afterthought.  When I made a list of all the people I would invite to my wedding I had a list of eighteen people, half of which are spouses of my actual friends.  Of that list, only half would come.  The other half wouldn't, not because they don't care about me, but because they have their own lives and other obligations and maybe not the funds to travel.  That's what it all really boils down to.  No one is leaving anyone out on purpose.  And their lives are just as mundane with routine as mine, punctuated with a few exciting events here and there.  Everyone gets lonely sometimes and everyone struggles just to get through the days.

Perhaps this perpetual feeling of feeling left out or feeling that everyone else is having more fun than me comes from having such a small family.  I have two parents and a brother.  We've never had huge family events.  We've never had big holiday plans.  It was always just the four of us.  My parents have always been content with their small family circle and mostly each other.  I've never been a social person. We are a small family who is used to being isolated.  My parents like it.  I used to like it too.

I also blame TV shows like Pretty Little Liars, The New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, The Golden Girls, Hot in Cleveland, and the mother of them all, Friends. These shows revere friendship, and they drive home the idea that your friends are the be all end all and that you should be a family together in lieu of any blood family.

Moving a thousand miles away from everyone and everything you've ever known and relying on a support group of friends rather than family can be the scariest loneliest thing one can do.  Things change and people change and friendships don't stay the same.  Every time another friend moves away or has a baby or gets married I feel like Tess, standing at the back door looking in and feeling left out that she doesn't get to go to work with me.

And then I remember, she's not missing out on anything when she doesn't get to go to work with me.  I'm not missing out really either.  Do I want these people's lives? Not really.  I just miss my friends.  Tess just misses me.

I know how Tess feels so I make time for her and try to do things with her to make her feel included.  I try to keep up with my friends as well, and as I get older I make more time for the people who truly matter and truly care about me and try not to care so much about the rest.  Do I still feel like I'm missing out or that I'm left out? Do I still wonder why some friends no longer want to spend as much time with me? I do, but then I remember I've got some fun and interesting things going on in my life too.  I've got a new friend and Tess has a new dog friend.  We enjoy each other's company and have formed our own little unit that includes all of us - three cats, two dogs, and two isolated humans who have trouble making friends and have no family anywhere nearby.

We might feel left out by the rest of the world, but we feel included with each other. Maybe that's the lesson here.  You're pretty rich when you have a few quality people in your inner circle.  We might be one in millions to most people, but we are one in a million to a select few.  And those are the ones who matter.

Don't worry, Tess, I always come home to you.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

I Don't Want to Grow Up

They say (whoever "they" are) that owners look like their pets.  The longer one lives with a certain pet, the more that person starts to look like the pet, though I think more factors in to this extremely unscientific theory.  One must not only live a long time with a pet, but also have a very strong attachment and bond with said pet.

I think I'm beginning to look like my dog.  Or maybe she looks like me. When I first adopted Tess, I thought maybe she looked a little like me, mostly because she was small, sleek and thin, and she had a big beak.  At thirty years old, I too was small and thin with a big nose.  Also  my hair was falling out and Tess sheds constantly.  I vacuum up enough fur every week to make a whole new Tess.  When I was thirty I was losing the equivalent of another head of hair.

I also have a tendency to exaggerate, and every movement Tess makes is an exaggeration.

Not only do I look like my dog, I act like my dog.  In the beginning Tess and I had similar energy levels.  Hers was higher of course.  She bounced off walls, launched herself off the top landing of the stairs, crashing into the kitchen cabinets, and she would walk and walk walk and never get tired.  Swimming is her favorite physical activity.  It's one of mine as well, though I prefer dancing over swimming.  Tess likes to dance too.  It's just harder for her on four paws.  I could keep up with her when I was thirty and she was a year old.  We would walk three hours every day, and on weekends we'd cover five miles.  We'd go hiking and swimming, play ball in the back yard, and run around the dog park for a couple of hours.  Then I'd go home and practice my belly dancing.

Ah, those were the days of infinite physical activity.  Now just a ten-minute Pilates session wears me out.

We have similar eating habits.  Tess is not a food motivated dog.  I'm not a food motivated person, though we both really like treats.  She likes her doggie pops and I like my Dove chocolates and wine.  Neither of us eats much and we both eat meals that are low in preservatives, fillers, and grains.  I still eat sugar.  Tess enjoys peanut butter, but most of her diet is made up of limited ingredients high in protein.

Because my dog is a spoiled rotten brat.  She also drinks Dasani water.

I'm kidding about the Dasani, but I am thinking of putting a filter into my faucet because my precious babies don't need impurities and fluoride in their water.

I figure if I'm spending a fortune on healthy eating for myself just so I don't feel like curling up and dying after a meal, I owe my dog the same courtesy.  When I first got her she was eating bowls of Pedigree and the pounds were just falling off her.  I could see her ribs and spine.  The vet informed me that she had an extremely high metabolism and Pedigree, like other commercial dog foods, is full of fillers and grains, stuff that just goes through a dog.  It either makes them fat, or doesn't stick to them at all.  Since I changed Tess' diet to limited ingredients and high protein, she's packed on weight and muscle.

She is not an overweight dog by any means, but she is definitely not that slim, sleek, small German shepherd anymore.

Incidentally neither am I.  I used to be quite small and slight myself.  I weighed ninety pounds in high school.  I managed to gain fifteen pounds in college (for me, the Freshman Fifteen were a good thing) and that was my weight until I hit my thirties.  While I am not overweight by any means, I've definitely noticed an increase in my size.  Not only am I spreading out a bit, I have a tummy now.  I've never had a tummy before.  Also, I'm not thrilled about my tummy.

I spend a fortune on healthy food for me and my dog, and we exercise.  We still gain weight.  Go figure. 

We have reached middle age.

We are similar in personality as well.  She's anxious, I'm anxious.  She has nervous energy, I have nervous energy.  This means I pick at my cuticles and she licks her paws obsessively.  She's a territorial homebody, I'm a territorial homebody.  She's bossy, opinionated, and doesn't take a lot of crap.  I don't know if I'm bossy, but I'm opinionated and do not suffer fools well.  Neither one of us is very social anymore.  She and I used to like to go out and be social. We'd go to the dog park and she loved to play with other dogs.  I liked to run around town and bar hop with my friends.  Now we stay home.  She hates other dogs.  I'm slowly losing my faith in the human race.  Both of us prefer the company of cats over our own kind.

Am I mirroring my dog, or is she mirroring me?

One thing I've noticed lately is that neither of us ever grew up.  This really started to occur to me this past weekend as I watched Tess on our walks.  She kept trying to play with Surina. Surina is a nice dog, but she isn't really a playful dog.  She is four years old, but is more interested in food, birds, or her master.  Tess is nine and a half years old and she still behaves like a puppy.  On the rare occasions I still take her to the dog park, she plays with the puppies, preferring their company to older dogs.  The younger the dog, the more she likes it.  After the initial scrap between Tess and Surina, they have settled into a tolerance of each other in my backyard or in the house. Tess has tried several times to engage Surina in play.  Her invitation is to bound up to another dog, tail up, and a big goofy grin on her face with her tongue hanging out.  At the dog park, puppies will leap at her and either roll across the ground in front of her or allow her to chase them.  Surina puts her nose to the ground and sniffs, ignoring Tess and everything around her.  Surina is a hunting dog, after all, but Tess can't seem to understand this.  The disappointment on her face when her play invitation is rejected is apparent, but she soon gets over it and chases a butterfly or something. Tess is technically a working dog too.  Had I ever bothered to train her in agility or nose work, she probably would have been very good at it.  The problem is Tess wants to play all the time.  Her reward for good behavior isn't doggie treats or food.  She's never cared for doggie treats or food.  A pat on the head or a "Good girl!" work a little better, but what really works is to give her her favorite squeaky toy and engage in a few minutes of play. 

Tess should have lived in a family of little children who would play ball with her all the time.  Tess' idea of playing ball is actually playing keep away because she doesn't fetch, but it's still more fun than herding sheep or doing police work.

Watching Tess it occurred to me that I am just as big of a child.  Tess is a nine-year-old puppy.  Everything is a game to her.  I'm a thirty-eight-year-old child.  I watch cartoons.  My favorites are still old school Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Animaniacs, and Jem.  I love stuffed animals and my house is full of them.  My newest one is the giant stuffed Dumbo my friend gave me.  I once spent $150 dollars on a huge stuffed bear.  In my defense, the bear was a donation from Bank of the West to our annual fundraising library auction, so technically my money went to a very good cause.  I tell myself that, but I still spent $150 on a stuffed animal.  I like toys of all kinds.  I like puzzles and board games, and I still have my collection of 80's My Little Ponies and all my Disney dolls.  I still love things that I loved in my childhood like animated Disney movies, the Monkees, and the Ninja Turtles.  This enthusiasm for all things childlike - particularly the animated Disney movies and Star Wars - is shared by my new friend, Surina's master.  He also loves cartoons, old toys, puzzles, and board games.  We actually had a discussion about our favorite cartoons before and yes, we both buy DVD's of these favorite cartoons so we can watch them whenever we want.

Then there is our immature amusement at bathroom humor.  For some reason, every time either he or I or Surina or Percy passes gas we about die laughing like it's the funniest thing we've heard all week.  I don't know why and he's mentioned before he doesn't know what's wrong with us, but for some reason we can't seem to control ourselves around each other, and then we can't control our laughter.  One night after a particularly musical number of his, I collapsed on the floor unable to breathe for about five minutes thanks to the hilarity that ensued.  Surina left the room with a look of disgust.  Tess does the same thing.  She has freaked herself out before by passing gas and then slinking off, like she's trying to escape her own bodily functions. Percy will clear a room when he lets one go.

It probably doesn't need to be said that Puckett does not do such disgraceful things and Willow is the only one of us who doesn't seem to have digestive issues.

It's no wonder my favorite children's book is The BFG by Roald Dahl.  Whizzpoppers are alive and well and still ridiculously funny even after all these years, and I've never been one to find bathroom humor all that funny.  It really isn't that funny.  For some reason my new friend brings out the child in me worse than anyone else ever has.  In public we are constantly laughing about nothing, just acting like goofballs.  We probably have people glaring at us with disapproving looks when we are out in public and I just know they are thinking "You are in your thirties.  Grow the hell up!"

But we can't, and neither can Tess.  She and I are perpetual children. In the past I've had people who tried to make me feel bad about that.  I have ex-boyfriends who didn't appreciate my nerdy, goofy side, and I've had people ask me when I was going to grow up and stop acting like a kid.  I've noticed, however, that children are quite happy playing all the time and keeping their innocence.  Watching Tess I see that same innocence I've seen in children.  She's an older dog with experience now, but that hasn't robbed her of her playful nature and her happiness when she's engaged in a game.  She's a happy dog and her joy is contagious.  Watching her makes me smile, just like watching little kids play makes me smile.  Playing is fun. Retaining one's innocence battles cynicism and depression.  Ignorance is bliss after all. 

I still like to swing.

Sometimes you have to stop taking yourself and life so seriously and enjoy the silliness and frivolity of it all.

Even if that means laughing at whizzpoppers.