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.