Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Old Business (In Which I Alienate New Readers by Presenting Awkward, Out-of-Context Situations)

Hello there friends!  I recently checked my blog and noticed an unusual amount of traffic.  I was confused as to why, until I discovered that the NoSleep site has a link to my blog!  I, um... I don't know what to say to you.  I'm sorry.  You were probably expecting better than this, weren't you?

Let me back up a moment here and recount.  You might remember I wrote a few short stories like Mailbox in the Woods and A Short-Cut Home and Safety Precautions and The Rabbit Story.  Well, I got contacted by a gentleman who produces a podcast called "NoSleep," and he wanted to air my story on his show!  So you'll find it read here, season 4, episode 23.  I was really pleased with the production quality and how professionally the whole thing was.

As long as I'm getting traffic and giving plugs for stuff, check out my boyfriend Andrew's new site, which you'll notice is shamelessly riding my coat-tails and also doesn't link back to mine.  (Weak, Andrew.  Real weak.)

Now, on to business!  Sorry, new readers, but it's time to tie up some loose ends!

Two of my recent posts mentioned that Andrew's cousins decided not to invite me to their wedding out of spite, and that a woman Andrew hit in a car accident last year is suing both of us.

He dented her aura, so she wants both damages for the injury 
and compensation for the rented aura she had to get from Hertz.

Well, the case was settled for an undisclosed amount, and the insurance took care of it, so we don't have to worry about the legal stuff anymore.  Although it really rustles my jimmies that she got anything at all, considering her "injury" seemed really... how to say this... fake.  Like, super fake.  I don't know why I'm even surprised that there's fakeness here in southern California, but yep, here I am, pissed as hell on AAA's behalf.

But as I said, the bright side is that it cost us nothing (well, except my car, which was destroyed), and that now we can rest easy knowing it's over and done with.  

Now, about Ben and Cara, the soon-to-be-wed Spite Cousins (I mean, they're Andrew's cousins, they're not cousins to each other).  (Ben is his actual cousin.  Cara is going to be an in-law.)

Remember how Andy's mother visited in December and rustled my jimmies?

I've been rustled a lot lately.

Well, Ben's mother (Andy's aunt) called her sniffing for dirt.  She asked "how Julie was."

Drunk as a loon!

In a rare show of kindness, she didn't take the opportunity gifted to her to complain about me, and instead told them I was polite and a gracious host.  Thanks, Gail!  I really appreciate that she's trying so hard.  It's a long, slow, uphill climb, but I hope someday, I'll be able to stop posting a picture of a Disney villain every time I mention her.

Maybe someday she'll stop LION about her feelings and we can have an open, frank discussion about our relationship.

Yesterday Andrew and I got a wedding invitation in the mail from Ben and Cara.  Addressed to both of us.  I suspect that after Andrew's mother vouched for me, Aunt Kate talked to Cara and Ben and told them they ought to invite us after all.  In other words, they are trying to save face as opposed to actually feeling regret, but the jury's still out on whether or not we plan to go.  Personally I want to just be straight with them and ask whether we're genuinely wanted or not, but Andy wants to wait to see if more information appears.

That about covers old business.  In new business, we went to Disneyland on Sunday, but it was awful.

The crappiest place on earth!

The mistake we made was accepting free tickets from a friend of a friend, who hung out with us in the park and turned out to be a little nutty.  In between hitting on Jack and talking about her cat, she revealed:

  • She has an eating disorder.
  • She's bipolar.
  • She was kicked out of college at some point for an unspecified psychiatric episode.
  • She thinks her parents, who she lives with, bully her, and that's why she has an eating disorder.
  • Her parents arranged a marriage for her.  (Dunno what to make of this.)
  • She doesn't have many friends 
Now look, I don't want to judge, and I'm not saying any of those problems are really her fault, but when someone who never even introduced themselves to you reveals multiple major personal issues like this, shit gets uncomfortable.  And she only said this to me.  I don't know why (because we're both females?), but I felt so acutely awkward and couldn't even think of a good way to get away, considering she'd just given us these tickets.  I didn't want to be impolite or ungrateful.  She wouldn't un-cling from Jack, though, and kept saying how she was single, and it set off major alarm bells.  I was worried that at any moment she'd unhinge her jaw and just swallow him whole.  At one point while we were alone-ish in a line she started asking me about dating advice and I had to bite my tongue from telling her to back off.  I don't want my (already sort of messed up) best friend to end up with someone with all those issues, but I also didn't feel comfortable being the one to say that.  I mean, Jack should be the one to say it.  But she wasn't acting crazy around Jack, only around me.  (Besides, Jack already had a date lined up the next day with a hair photographer he met online.)  (I wish that were a joke.)

We cut out early, around 5 pm.  The whole thing was so, so, so uncomfortable.  I cried.  Like, a lot.  Disneyland is (was) sacred to me.  Andrew and I had planned to go in lieu of the wedding but with recent updates I don't know what's going to happen.  I'm just trying to forget it happened by memorialising it here forever on my blog.

I guess that sums up everything that's happened recently.  I have to go now because it's Tuesday and we have D&D.  Look here later in the week for a brief recap of a great D&D session we had, in which my big dumb orc character makes an ass of himself because of his total lack of self-awareness, not at all like I do in real life, shut up.

Things were simpler when we were kids.

Here's the crew from one of our games!  Lucious Bloodsmythe IV, the orc, is mine.  
He comes from a long line of absolute morons who fuck up every campaign they touch.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"Free" to a Good Home

I don't know if I mentioned or not recently that I accidentally adopted a third dog. Much like our second dog, Ruby was "unplanned." How, you ask?

The usual way.

Well, I was biking home from work when I saw her. She was on the curb, bouncing in and out of the gutter, entertaining herself in the way that puppies do. Andrew and I had been talking; our conversation came to a screeching halt along with our bikes when we spotted her.  I crouched to call her. "Hey! Hey! Hey! C'mere!" I cooed. She bounded over, her gait uneven with enthusiasm. Her tail wagged with delight and she squirmed when I touched her, unable to contain her glee. I looked around but the area was quiet.  Where was the owner? Adams Boulevard was busy and this particular dog did not seem very smart. After all, she'd literally been in the gutter when I called her to me. So with a shrug, I picked up the dog, put her in the basket on the handlebars, and biked home. It's probably worth mentioning, at this point, that the dog was smaller than most dogs. Smaller than most cats. Less than 5 pounds, she fit easily into my bicycle's basket; when we biked past the school, a wave of "awwwws!" followed us.


We wouldn't have taken her if she hadn't been so small and literally in the street. We have a strict non-intervention policy with most strays. The exceptions are the ones who clearly, desperately need intervention. Our last project, Wobbles, was a blind cat with ataxia and an enormous mass on his neck. For weeks we'd syringed food and water and medicine into him. He hadn't made it, but he'd been comfortable at the end, which is all we could have asked for, really. Anyway, this dog didn't appear sick, or injured. Just small. So small that a bird of prey could have eaten her; so small that no car would have ever seen her. Seeing something so unbelievably tiny in the street pulled at our heartstrings. We shouldn't have intervened... but of course we did. What kind of dog is she? Hard to say. Her teeth were clean and she was obviously a girl. She had the domed head and huge, gelatinous eyes of a chihuahua, but the scruffiness of a terrier. Her skin was freckled like a Chinese Crested. Her demeanor was that of the average puppy.

Banana for scale.

We did what we were supposed to. We made up fliers (in English and the most broken Spanish ever) ("ENTRADA PERRITO!  MUY CHICA!"), checked her for a chip, cold-called people on CraigsList who posted lost dog ads that sounded like her. But nothing came up. We went from "just finding the owners" to "fostering" her.

And then there were three.

We never actually posted any ads to find her a home, though.  Not without shots, we said. She needed all of them, of course. Distemper. Rabies. Bordatella. In the first week, we began noticing small, white, writhing worms in her feces. Tapeworm. We treated it; a fecal test revealed she also had giardia. We treated that too. The first visit was $217, the next was $300, and the one after that was $237.  After a certain point, we were forced to admit we were keeping her.

Say it with me, now: AWWWW.

The oldest dog had a birthday less than a week after Ruby came to us.  We'd named her Ruby so that we could stop calling her "Tiny Dog," which was giving Carlisle a complex. So it was Seamus's birthday, and we made a cake. She ate a slice, too. She went comatose immediately afterward; her entire body was limp, her eyes rolled back in her head, her mouth dripping drool the colour and consistency of the frosting. At first it was funny, then frightening. She threw up the cake in a huge wad that looked largely unchanged from when it had initially entered her body.  Then she bounced back immediately, and we agreed not to feed the puppy cake. A 4-lb. dog could not be expected to digest a generous slice of frosted cake, anyway.

We take cake really seriously in this household.

December rolled in and we agreed to have a small Christmas.

I had to limit myself to one onesie.

I'm not really very good at doing a "small" Christmas.
But more about Christmas in my next post.

The dog's bills were adding up and we didn't want to over-spend.  It was shortly after the third round of vaccinations (after hundreds of dollars on shots ad de-worming) that I asked for a blood test. There was no reason for it. I just had a feeling. An intuitive gut feeling. Her fecals were clean; her worms had gone the way of the cake and she was for all intents and purposes a healthy little dog. She'd picked up housetraining like a pro and already learned "sit." Her baby teeth had fallen out and we were discussing when to get her spayed. But there seemed to me that something was just off.   Maybe it was the cake incident that gave me cause for concern.  Or maybe it was that her movements were awkward, even for a puppy, and she often became lethargic, more than one would expect, even considering the amount of cake we occasionally fed her. The blood test, purely optional, purely voluntary, came back with bad results. Her liver enzymes were elevated. We paid for the blood test, and then we had a bile acid test. Her total serum bile acids were above 100; she was diagnosed with a liver shunt.

Warning: physiology lecture ahead.  Yay science!

What is a liver shunt? In utero, as a baby, your blood circulates with your mother's (by way of the placenta), and you have no need to use your own liver. So there's a large blood vessel (the shunt) that bypasses it. After you're born, the shunt deteriorates and your blood is re-routed through your liver for detoxification. In Ruby's case, the shunt had never gone away; very little of her blood was passing through the liver for detoxification. The result was a slow build-up of poison that would, if left untreated, eventually kill her. But not before taking its toll on her neurological system. The answer seemed clear. She needed surgery. Clamping off the shunt would fix her for life; 95% of dogs respond well to the surgery and live the rest of their lives normally. The surgery was quoted to me at $4800 - $5200. That did not include a pre-diagnostic scan to locate the shunt. Another $1,500. How on earth could I be expected to afford it? With four other pets, one already chronically ill and on medication three times a day, I saw no way. But not treating it seemed cruel, and she was part of the family. She was only a baby with her whole life ahead of her. There didn't seem to be any other option.

Behold the two most expensive fucking dogs on the planet.

With a sigh, I called the credit company and got my limit raised. I began other calling veterinary surgeons to see if I could locate a cheaper surgeon. I could not. The vet called me the next day. She'd felt awful about the situation, and talked to the hospital. They agreed to do all the work on the dog for a capped figure: $5,000. This would include pre-diagnostic scans, post-operative care, anesthesia, spaying, and anything else that needed done while they were in there. We arranged to have the surgery. The dog was blissfully unaware of her situation. She'd hit the dog jackpot. She'd achieved the dream of every orphan: she'd been adopted by someone who literally fed her cake until she was ill.  She went to surgery on Friday and came home Sunday.  As I type this, she's frolicking through the house, bandage flapping around her stomach.  Yet another thing in this world that's just too big for her.

"Free to a good home" my ass.

"Good, good... let the cute flow through you."

"Good, good... I can feel your pity.  She is defenseless.  Take your credit card.  Charge it will all your unexpected veterinary bills, and your journey toward being a crazy, destitute dog lady will be complete."