December 4th, 2013 · Stuff
As a precursor to my new endeavor I have been volunteering at a no kill shelter in the city. There are other shelters that probably need help more than this clean, well-funded establishment, but I am fairly sure that I would want to bring every dog home with me if I didn’t know for certain that they would all find homes. Our canines already outnumber us; we had to move from man to dog to a zone defense when we brought Betty home. But that isn’t to say that I haven’t fallen in love with someone new every day that I have been at the shelter.
Not surprisingly, it has confirmed that I truly love all dogs. I noticed years ago that when someone tells me the breed of their dog, my response is always “Oh I love Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (or Pit bulls or Poodles or Pulis).” It occurred to me then that there are few breeds that I don’t love and none that I don’t like.
I have also realized that while as the t-shirt says, “I love Big Mutts and I cannot lie” I love little dogs too. The Chihuahuas and Terriers and white mop dogs all make me smile. I am particularly drawn to the funny looking ones. They are the literal underdogs and have personalities that nestle right into a corner of my heart.
My current favorite is named Alissa and she is a poodle mix with a bad perm. She is a tiny girl with a round middle and little fur-covered toothpicks for legs. Her fur is coarse and sort of brillo-like and she has little beady sweet eyes that just ooze love. She just needs a spa day and she will be lovely; a deep conditioning or hot oil treatment would do her wonders. But the truth is she is just the sweetest, silliest looking dog and anyone who invites her into their home would be blessed with her unconditional love and gratitude. (I only wish I could be this open and generous with humans, but I am a dog person not a person person – add that to my list of things to work on.)
Each time I visit the shelter I look to see who is still there and hope that my favorites are gone. Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t, but the good news is that they have a safe clean place to live until someone takes them home. On Sunday’s visit my gal Alissa was gone. Her pot had clearly come (or was it her lid).
Thomas Edison said of his initial attempts to invent the light bulb “I have not failed. I have tried 10,000 things that won’t work.”
I haven’t tried that many things, but the point is I haven’t given up the search for what will work and by “what will work” I mean what work I can do that will make me happy while helping to pay the bills.
I define joy by watching my dogs run after a ball in the sun. The flapping of their ears and tongues hanging out sideways is about my favorite sight in the world. My dog’s head resting on my legs when I sleep gives me comfort. Dogs are always in the moment. Granted they have questionable short term memory, so it is easier for them, but each ball chased, each antler chewed is the only ball or antler that matters. The one thing that is guaranteed to make me smile is a dog, any dog. Old dogs, puppies, big and little, they have always had a direct connection with my heart.
The question became how can I get paid to pet dogs all day? I didn’t consider grooming at first. I don’t know if it was fear of the less pleasant parts of the job or just that it just didn’t register, but ever since I have started considering it I have gotten more and more excited about the prospect. One of the first things I did was Google search YouTube videos of expressing canine anal glands. I know that is about the least pleasant thing a groomer is required to do. I proceeded to take a shot at dealing with my boy Goose’s issues and found that it was totally doable. I also spent a couple hours with my groomer. He let me wash two small dogs and brush a miniature golden doodle and chatted about his experiences as he took care of his customers. It was fun. I understand that this isn’t the equivalent to 40 hours a week; 52 weeks a year, but I liked it.
I need to feel a sense of accomplishment in what I do for a living beyond a direct deposit twice a month. A clean, happy dog sounds like a tangible accomplishment that would satisfy beyond the almighty dollar. I have always enjoyed the gratification of a task that produces visible results; mowing a lawn or painting a room. The idea of seeing multiple happy dogs in any given day, in spite of those that might be less than pleased to be bathed, I think would enrich and happi-fy my life.
From a purely practical standpoint the pet care industry is an industry that has not suffered as a result of the recent economic environment. Pet grooming and boarding is expected to see annualized growth of over 5 percent per year for the next 4 years. $53 billion was spent on pets in 2012 and that number is expected to be close to $55 billion in 2013. As a groomer, one is an independent contractor of sorts “earning half of each dog”. One’s income depends on the number of dogs groomed and the length of time it takes to groom each dog. The average is about 6 dogs and our market generally starts their prices at $45 allowing for variables such as size of customer and length and condition of fur. Using those estimates one could expect to earn a gross income of $32,400. And that is as an employee not a shop owner.
We have visited one grooming school and intend to visit a second. The training takes approximately 500 hours, most of which is hands on. Grooming, as it turns out, is more than just baths and nail trims. There are a multitude of hairstyles specific to certain breeds to learn and scissoring skills to master, but I have always said I can be taught anything. My love and respect for animals is already there, I just need to know how to do the job.
I won’t lie. I am frightened. Change is always scary. But at the same time I am excited. I envision a little storefront of my very own in the future. I can literally see it in my mind. It will connect me to my community. I will have regular customers and my days will be filled with flying fur and wagging tails and I will be able to make an appropriate financial contribution to our household income. I want to be happy in my work because life is too short to spend that much time not being happy. I have been blessed in so many ways and maybe it is asking too much to ask for one more blessing, but I feel like it is a sin not to try and find my way. It is a crime not to make the most out of this life. I have the opportunity to take a chance on a dream, and by the way not that outlandish a dream – not trying to be an astronaut or a ballet dancer; I really want to make the most of it.
So here I go again: another career change and another school and another certification. After all this I will be the investment advisor, realtor, culinary artist and hair stylist to the dogs. It is a shame that dogs don’t need investment advice or real estate and that I never learned to prepare dog food at a Cordon Bleu school, but damn if I am not gonna make some pooches pretty while they make me smile.
Early Sunday morning I heard the tell-tale heaving of a puppy’s stomach. I jumped to move Betty to the hardwood floor and there she presented me with the contents of her stomach for Mother’s Day. Then she did it a couple more times, but by the time breakfast rolled around she was fine and I didn’t think anything more about it (except for the paper towel I used to clean it up which I obviously put in her baby book.)
When we got home from work Monday night, Betty started giving me more belated Mother’s Day gifts. She threw up so many times that we called the vet who suggest we feed her small portions of canned food in half hour intervals. We didn’t even make it to the second course. Poor kid couldn’t even keep the good stuff down, so we took her to the emergency room fearing dehydration.
At this point I suspected bulimia. I hadn’t actually seen her binge, but she had just spent the previous week at the dog hotel where she had her first exposure to other female dogs. I just assumed that the pressure from the other bitches coupled with all the messages in the media for girl dogs to remain slender had gotten to her. I envisioned years of therapy which would undoubtedly reveal that our parenting was the real issue.
As it turned out it was sticks. Betty really likes sticks. The first thing she does when she goes out in the morning is grab a good stick and begin to chew. She very much enjoys any chase that ensues as we attempt to retrieve the stick (as a retriever mix, I believe she has this game backwards). This is a very satisfying game for her. She also enjoys grass, leaves, helicopter seeds, gum wrappers and poop, both rabbit and dog. She does not have a very discerning palate. The sticks where the real problem though. She had consumed enough roughage that the emergency vet feared a blockage which could have resulted in surgery. Fortunately twenty four hours, two x-rays and an IV later the offending sticks had found their way out of her body without a scalpel. Betty was returned to us safe and sound.
Betty is now on a strict no-stick diet. Not that we were ever actually feeding her sticks to begin with. That would make the implementation of the new diet much easier. In reality enforcing the diet involves removing all visible sticks from the yard and chasing her around trying to pry sticks and other unidentified flotsam out of her mouth. It is challenging but the $1100 veterinary bill is extremely motivating.
While I definitely appreciate the home-made-ness of Betty’s first Mother’s Day gifts, I think next year I would really prefer a card.
March 12th, 2012 · Venting
Apparently I am uncomfortable with any level of positive self esteem in my life. I began the past two weekends feeling pretty good about myself, but quickly rectified that by going swimsuit shopping one Sunday and then shopping for jeans the next. Both were ill conceived outings I will concede, but I have been working out and eating right and some of my clothes are even a little loose. Clearly I got a little ahead of myself. Unless you got just got voted off Survivor Island on day 32, you should know that neither task will be a pleasant experience, but I got cocky. I thought I could take it.
Bob and I went to Swim & Sport last weekend so that I could shop for a bathing suit for our spring vacation and since I was having a reasonably high self esteem day, I was up for it. It was actually my idea. After what I can only describe as a traumatic experience, I have some suggestions for swimsuit retailers:
1) Invest in mirrors and lighting that are actually flattering. They don’t have to represent reality. I think most women would be amenable to a little positive distortion and it might sell more suits.
2) Discourage 18 year old sales associates from offering unsolicited recommendations of skirt bottoms, particularly as they talk about eating a Cinnabon for lunch.
3) Tissues in the fitting room. There will be weeping and without them I could only dry my eyes on all the ill-fitting swimsuits.
4) Have representatives from Nutri-System on staff. Some of us have time yet before we hit the beach and might benefit from this type of meal plan.
5) Also invite representatives from the local fitness club to hang out – they could easily sign up a couple of sad chubby ladies a day.
By midweek I had bounced back from the humiliation. By Sunday I had completely forgotten my shame. Yesterday I decided to see if I could find a cute pair of white jeans. What I found was a whole bunch of white jean-like pants that were designed for your average Olsen twin. Every pair I tried on was unbelievably tight, but not in a”grab me the next size” way; more like a “I can clearly see the pocket fabric, I have camel toe and the circulation in my legs has been cut off” kind of way. I wasn’t delusional enough to actually select “skinny” jeans, but they all appeared to be rather skinny, if you ask me. To add insult to injury most were so narrow at the ankle that I had to jump around the fitting room to pull them off my feet. Needless to say no white jeans were purchased, but the term “camel toe sausage casing” was coined for future use.
Luckily I have some time before we go on vacation and I am choosing to consider both of these incidents motivation. Just more exercise, more healthy eating and tempered level of self esteem and I should be all set by the time we go, as long as I keep away from the mall.
The latter part of last year found me fighting a losing battle with fatigue. Not just your average “I don’t get enough sleep” fatigue, but Rip-Van-Winkle-ing-through-entire-weekends tired. I would lay down for a nap and end up sleeping for four hours at a whack. It was a bit crazy pants and weekends became unproductive, not much fun and were over before I knew it.
I went to my (soon to be ex) general practitioner. She and the junior doctor she brought to work with her that day examined me cheerily and offered very vague suggestions as to what might be causing my bone tiredness, but nothing concrete or that gave me any confidence. In the end, they decided to take a liter or so of blood. I was hopeful that the blood tests would show some totally treatable thyroid related issue that would explain my exhaustion as well as the small but consistent spare tire (bicycle not truck) that I have aquired.
I waited impatiently for a phone call from the doctor’s office which didn’t come the following day or the next. I thought possibly that, like heart worm for dogs, no news was good news. But that wasn’t making me any less tired, so I phoned my doctor’s office. Her office person told me that there was nothing to worry about and that I would receive my results in the mail. Really? Mail? As in SNAIL? I had so hoped that my doctor might give a rat’s behind and phone me to personally discuss the results of my tests, but apparently that isn’t the way things are done in 1972 where my doctor has her office. I also asked to have the results faxed to me, but I never received them. Fax machines were quite rare in 1972, so of course.
Eventually the results came in the mail and everything pointed towards healthy. I had a slight iron deficiency which my doctor in her notes suggested might a result of heavy periods. She suggested an iron supplement. A totally reasonable suggestion if I still had a UTERUS. My hysterectomy, a small but rather significant detail, rendered her suggestion moot and forced me to phone her office, yet again. It also made my little tired head explode.
I finally had an opportunity to speak directly with my doctor after several phone calls and she was completely unapologetic. She suggested that iron supplements might still help – uterus or no. She also suggested that my anti depressant might be causing the borderline narcolepsy. When I hung up, I felt defeated. Of course I could decrease my anti depressant but that was kind of a last resort. I felt brushed off and abandoned by my doctor, like she was on to the next more solvable case. Then my phone rang and it was my doctor calling to mention that my family history of colorectal cancer and my personal history of polyps might indicate a bleeding polyp which could cause exhaustion. REALLY? This would have been nice to know when we were on your doctor “play date” like three weeks ago. Are you kidding?
I promptly scheduled a colonoscopy and fortunately was deemed clean as the proverbial whistle, which while relieving is a bit beside the point. Who operates like that? Oh, and still tired, did I mention? So ultimately under the supervision of a different doctor I did reduce my anti depressant.
So the good news is that I am now considerably less fatigued. The bad news is that I am now considerably more anxious with a side of neurotic. I also wasn’t able to pin my muffin top on a faulty thyroid. Oh, and now I need a new effing doctor.
November 24th, 2011 · Stuff
As the holidays and winter approach I enter the traditional state of heightened anxiety with an increased risk of depression. Sound like a public service announcement to batten down the hatches, doesn’t it? When it begins to get to get dark before I leave work, my hibernation instincts kick in and productivity slows. I begin to feel slightly overwhelmed at even the most mundane tasks.
Totally sounds like an ideal time to adopt a puppy, no?
While enjoying a weekend in South Haven, Michigan Bob and I made the fatal error of entering a pet supply boutique. We were innocently browsing through the collars and bowls, when a young woman appeared out of nowhere with a little black ball of fur in her arms. She placed the puppy in my arms after telling me that she was up for adoption and I was done. I can usually hold a puppy, enjoy them and then hand then back, but on several occasions in my life I have felt the need to bring them home. This was one of those occasions.
Elizabeth Virginia – we call her Betty – a lab/shepherd mix (or so we are told) came to live with us and if I felt slightly overwhelmed before her arrival then this would probably classify as full on chaos. But it is chaos with puppy breath, hilarious canine hijinks and sweet cuddly baby napping with a side of razor teeth.
Mike and Goose vacillate between tolerating her, regarding her with skepticism and actually trying to figure out how to play with her. She was so small when we first brought her home they were actually frightened of her. Goose walked around for days wagging his tail and growling at her.
For her part, Betty is having a pretty good time. We bought her a $10 dog bed at Marshalls and a pink blankie both of which she embraced immediately. She loves her brothers and want to be with them, but she is smart enough to back off when they correct her and hides under a chair when they play too rough. I would classify her as gifted particularly in the house-breaking area, but I may be biased.
Bob and I are now outnumbered and have had to change from a man to man (or dog) defense to zone, but we seem to have it mostly under control. Bob has been exclusively the one to get up in the night with his “Daddy’s little girl”, which is a little amazing and a lot appreciated. Our dog walker visits a second time each day for the time being and the rest is just canine wrangling: making sure Betty doesn’t jump into Mike’s bowl, watching for signs of squatting and ensuring that Mike and Goose don’t feel usurped by their new little sister.
I am still overwhelmed, but when the dust settles and no one is biting me or each other I am as happy as I can be. I definitely have much to be thankful for.
I prefer boxers, not that you asked. Ever since I had any familiarity with men’s underwear, I have been on Team Boxers. Over time I came to accept the inevitability of tightie-whiteys, but they were considered an unpleasant reality at one point. It has been explained to me that good ole boxers have a tendency to bunch under pants (cry me a river boys and then spend an evening in Spanx) which led to the invention of the boxer brief, a nice compromise. I still would rather a nice oxford cotton boxer, preferably in white, but a boxer-brief is cool too. Not to mention, you can’t exactly wander around your boyfriend’s apartment in front of his roommates in his briefs and t-shirt the morning after and still maintain any dignity.
The one thing that has remained constant in the mater of men’s drawers is that colored briefs of any sort are a deal breaker. Should one arrive at the pant removing portion of an evening to discover tighties of a different color it is acceptable to throw a flag on the play. Colored or, perish the thought, patterned undies are grounds for disqualification. I know for a fact that this has been the subject of many morning-after, snicker girl talks. Patterned boxers are acceptable but if you are going to wear brief or really even boxer briefs, I am going to have to insist upon white.
So imagine my horror when I came across this while shopping for Bob’s undershirts:
and then these:
After way more consideration than anyone should really give underpants, I still just don’t know what to say.
September 19th, 2011 · Stuff, Venting
I have always had a bit of a problem with card shopping. I am pro-greeting card in the a general sense. I like the fact that cards are an inexpensive and (theoretically) easy way to show someone you care. I enjoy receiving cards as well. I find that I actually prefer receiving a nice card to a perfunctory gift; you know the kind grabbed at an airport gift shop, a gas station or a NFL Pro Shop at which one receives a discount. It is the shopping for cards that trips me up.
I find more often than not that Hallmark has not anticipated the sentiments that I wish to convey to my satisfaction. Not only are most cards on the saccharine side, I find rhyming offensive. I don’t know why, but for some reason a card that rhymes seems less sincere than one that doesn’t. It is, I realize ridiculous, in that I have written neither.
The real problem began for me years ago when shopping for Father’s Day cards. All the standard cards spend a considerable portion of the message thanking the father in question for all sorts of activities that just didn’t apply in my situation. My father and I never, save two months after I was born, lived in the same house. He never helped me with my homework, taught me to ride a bicycle, gave me boyfriend advice or any of the other myriad of Ward-Cleaver-like behaviors that are acknowledged in the typical father’s day card. Which isn’t to say that he was a bad father, he did the best he could under the circumstances. Unfortunately for me Hallmark didn’t make a card to thank a well intended, absentee father. I spent most of my Father’s day cards shopping expeditions reading cards, getting to a certain point and shaking my head “no” and replacing them in the rack. Ultimately I would usually settle on a card that I could just as easily give a coworker, something from the “Simply Put” category.
Lately I have come across a new card-shopping obstacle: booze. Now I don’t begrudge the rest of the population a drink or three nor do I think that the universe should begin to celebrate exclusively with diet ginger ale just because I do, but the percentage of birthday cards for women that mention alcohol is kind of scary. I spent half an hour today looking for a birthday card. I had to bypass the one’s suggesting that my wishes for my friend’s birthday included her getting liquored-up which really limited my choices. Not that I have a problem with her getting liquored up for her birthday if that is what she wants to do, but my wishes for her are a little more big picture. There were cards that referenced wine drinking, others with illustrations of cosmos and even one that casually referenced a blackout. I was not indignant by any means, but I was a little frustrated.
I eventually found an appropriate if somewhat vanilla card. While it didn’t speak to all my hopes and dreams for my friend, it did ultimately meet my card requirements as it did not reference liquor and it did not rhyme. I thought I was out of the woods until when shopping for a gift, I found this picture frame:
September 6th, 2011 · Stuff
It has been a stressful summer for our dogs, Mike and Goose. It isn’t the performance of the stock market or the disappointing job numbers or even Washington’s inability to reach any kind of consensus, though I am certain those things weigh heavy on their minds. The stress in our house has been primarily caused by the weather, more specifically the multitude of thunderstorms.It began earlier in the summer with a brief but very violent storm that hit Chicago. The storm knocked down big trees all over the city which in turn took down whatever stood in their way: a fence, a car, a garage or power lines. Bob and I were among the 600,000 people who lost power.
When the power goes out in our home the carbon monoxide detectors emit a sort of chirping signal. Unbeknownst to us, this noise sounds to dogs much like messages warning of the apocalypse. The first of such warnings, I mean chirps, came at 3:15 that morning and I immediately had two large trembling canines on my chest weighing in at about 140lbs total. I slipped out from beneath my protectors and removed the battery from the offending detector, but over the course of that night there were two more detectors that sent them reeling again. When the power finally went back on the three detectors began to chirp again (this time for lack of batteries) which prompted both dogs to try to climb inside my clothes.
That was, thankfully, the only time out power got knocked out this summer, but Chicago has had an unusually large number of extremely thunderous and very lightening-y storms this summer. Mike, being the eldest, reacts to both thunder and lightening in a protective manner. He barks at both and generally behaves as if he would like to kick some storm ass. While I appreciate the sentiment, it is disconcerting if not jarring to have him bark each time the thunder claps or lightening flashes especially at 2:00am. The other side effect of Mike’s protective barking is that it sends an already nervous Goose over the edge. Goose, who will pace and pant at the first thunder boom, begins to tremble as Mike tells the storm to “bring it”. The more violent the storm the closer the dogs want to be to me and while I am glad that I represent comfort and safety, my boys are not lap dogs and sometimes comforting them in downright painful.
Enter the Thundershirt, an ingenious t-shirt for dogs that claims to help calm them in stressful scenarios. The Thundershirt comes in varied colors and sizes and being optimistic consumers, albeit comletely sleep deprived after the last 3:00am storm, Bob and I went out and got a couple for our boys.
Honestly, the miracle Thundershirt does not completely eliminate Goose’s and Mike’s storm related anxiety, but it is greatly reduced. This could be either because the Thundershirt people are geniuses or because any anxiety Mike and Goose feel from a thunderstorm is overshadowed by the humiliation they feel wearing these:
I went to the emergency room Saturday morning, not part of my weekend plans. I had a pain above my ankle that was so severe it made me cry to put weight on it. It started with sort of a soreness and escalated to an actual pain. Bob consulted Dr. Google and decided that it could be a blood clot or thrombosis. Admittedly I didn’t have all the symptoms that were listed, but blood clots sound bad and Bob isn’t one to take these kinds of chances so after some reluctance off we went.
The big city emergency room was not particularly busy as we arrived at 9:30am on a Saturday and a very nice admitting nurse gave me a wheelchair. She took my vitals and told me it wouldn’t be long before a doc saw me. Surprisingly, she was telling the truth. She couldn’t vouch for the kind of the doctor, I suppose.
The resident sent to examine me, however, was a delightfully dismissive and condescending young lad. He explained that I didn’t present with any symptoms that would indicate a blood clot (other than the unexplained pain in my leg, that is). Note to all: do not mention WebMD when dealing with medical professionals. Dr. DBag, as I will refer to him going forward, completely checked out when that website was mentioned. He proceeded to make me feel utterly ridiculous for having sought treatment at all, at one point asking what exactly made me decide to come to the emergency room. In my mind I replied, “I was just jonesing to waste the better part of a beautiful sunny day in a hospital gown being talked down to by an Ivy League punk like you”, but I think I said something about pain and being scared.
When Bob asked about tests to confirm that there was no clot, he said something about “proper use of resources”. Apparently he had already diagnosed me as some hypochondriacal housewife who was looking to refill her Vicodin prescription. Dr. DBag thought I was a waste of “resources” as well as his time. I felt terrible about not having presented with something exponentially more complicated or life threatening. Damn, if only I could have been a hermaphrodite with ovarian cysts and testicular cancer or at least a fancy gun shot wound.
Dr. DBag is the reason people are reluctant to go to the hospital to have things checked out. Well, that and lack of health insurance coverage. Luckily the attending physician was much more inclined to reassure us, even if he had to use some precious “resources” to do so. He ordered an ultrasound as well as an xray. I actually felt the xray might be sort of unnecessary as I hadn’t injured myself, but I was thankful that he was inclined to rule out whatever an xray might rule out.
When all was said and done. I had no blood clot and nor had I broken my ankle. The latter I knew, the former I was relieved to hear. I was not relieved to hear it from Dr. DBag with his patented condescending delivery. I really had hoped to prove him wrong, without having to be diagnosed with ankle cancer of course. Dr. DBag sent me off with instructions on how to care for a sprained ankle. That I don’t have a sprained ankle apparently was not particularly important to him. And by the time I left the hospital my indignation had healed the pain in my leg and I was able to walk on my own, further reinforcing Dr. DBag’s assumption that I was just hysterical and delusional.
Some people are just not suited to patient care. I know I am not. Based upon my observations, the young doctor should probably move into research. His bedside manner is more suited to lab rats and test tubes. Making someone second guess seeking medical advice is never a good idea. If I had been a frequent flyer to the ER, it might explain (not excuse) his indifference, but I think their fancy computers could tell him that I wasn’t. While I was not willing to drop dead to prove my point, I wonder how smug Dr. DBag would have been had his indifference missed a real diagnoses.