Why my dogs are leashed all the time

It was 12:30 in the afternoon. Time to walk the furballs.

We went outside into the front yard, where the dogs did roughly half their doggie business, and spend a little time whining at a cat at the other end of the clearing.

We walked a few yards down the sidewalk and then stepped into the grass between our condos and the neighbor’s house. There’s a large bush that separates the property. I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t flower and it’s about eight feet tall. Plenty of cover for whatever wants to hide underneath it, which is why I generally keep the dogs away from it. (I don’t feel like untangling two terriers from a mess of branches when they spot a squirrel, which I’d spend every day doing if I gave them free reign over that bush.)

Chance was doing his usual sniffing thing, trying to find a spot that satisfies his exacting standards for what to poop on. Kaylee was rolling in the grass and I was doing my ridiculous “Come on Chance, focus” cheerleading routine for all the neighbors to see.

Chance turned toward the bush.

A full grown whitetail doe – easily 5 foot tall – bounded out of the bush, ran down the grass between condo buildings, and helped any drivers in our parking lot soil their pants.

All three of us stood there dumbfounded.

Now, terriers are a working breed, even if you get the shorties, which are a few generations into “lap dog” breeding. Hundreds of years of farmers have turned them into creatures whose brains are wired to find and kill vermin. I’ve never explicitly trained any of my 3 Jack Russells to hunt, but I’ve picked up dead and maimed toads, mice, and birds for nigh-on 10 years now. Whatever the creature, if they determine it’s not a human or a dog, when moves, they bite, spit it out, see if it moves again, bite, spit, etc.

You may think a deer isn’t vermin, but my friend, according to a Jack Russell’s definition, you would be wrong.

JessieDog’s reaction to deer back in the apartment was to immediately bay like a beagle and try to find a way off the balcony that didn’t involve falling to her death. But Chance and Kaylee have never seen a deer up close before, so I’m not particularly surprised that they had no idea how to react.

And then the smell of that deer blew back to us and small dog cogs and gears in small dog brains started turning. Just before the doe disappeared fully from view, my dogs’ little brains produced a spark that fired off some neurons announcing “OMG THAT’S THE BIGGEST RAT EVER!”

They started barking their fool heads off. Chance did leaps and twists and somersaults at the end of his leash in an attempt to chase the giant rat. I hauled them around the building forcibly, with both dogs pulling every direction, until we crossed the scent of that deer again. Then, suddenly, every blade of grass in the yard needed to be inspected and reinspected and re-reinspected for traces of deer.

It was only once we returned back to the bush that we could get back to the business at hand, and even then, it was a challenge to get everyone back to the house.

Now, my training of my three dogs has never been 100% stellar. And I’m sure if I worked with them every day around deer I could eventually train these two to come when I call even if we’re surrounded by a herd of the World’s Biggest Rat.

But I’m also sure that, if my dogs had been off-leash today, they’d be lost or dead right now. You don’t train the hunt out of a terrier.

Today was a reminder that those signs that say to leash your dogs at all times aren’t just for your neighbors’ protection, or for your protection from litigious neighbors, or for your protection when the police show up to enforce the laws that say your dogs should be leashed. They’re also protection from that rare fall day that a deer decides to jump out of the bushes at noon, and they’re a damn good idea.

Theft of bed & of sleep

5:30 am: Kaylee wakes up, decides to come over & check in with me. She does this sometimes. I say, “Ho back to bed.”

Chance gets up to check in too (scratching at the side of the mattress to get an ear scritch). I tell him to go back to bed too.

He can’t. Second day in a row, Kaylee stole his bed.

Yesterday I left the 2 of them to work it out, which resulted in 40 minutes of Chance scratching, shaking, & whining at Kaylee, then finally stepping over her and curling up behind her. (The current dog beds will sleep two balled-up terriers after all.) Just as he settled, my alarm went off.

Today, I got up, scooped Kaylee out of Chance’s bed, put her down in hers, and everyone was back to sleep by 5:37.

Except me, though I’m thinking that won’t last long.

This had better not become a trend.

Not an improvement

This isn’t the way I wanted this winter to go.

The tonsillectomy I had on Valentine’s Day has finally healed up enough that I should b healthy enough to work. That’s not to say that I’m 100% – when I saw the doc Thursday he put me at about 80% healed but good enough that unless something goes wrong I don’t need to go back for a follow-up and I’m cleared to return to work.

When I return to work, I’ll have missed 4 weeks and a day. Close enough to a month that I refer to it as such. Not normal for a tonsillectomy, which means I’ve spent the last week just trying to get this insurance company to talk to that doctor and that medical staff to call this set of nurses, etc. etc. just to make sure I get paid.

I’ve been out of work so long that the sweaters I bought will almost be a moot point. (Thank goodness they keep the office at iceberg temperatures I guess.) I’ve lost so much weight I don’t know if any of my work pants are still going to fit.

The pneumonia is gone, as far as anyone can tell. There’s still a tiny wheeze in one of my lungs but it’s not the lung that had the pneumonia. The fever broke a little over a week ago. Compared to two weeks ago, I have boundless energy.

Except that I don’t. I have enough energy to get the chores around the house done, and make sure everyone’s fed. I’m no longer napping in the middle of the day just due to the exertion of taking the dogs out, two loads of laundry and unloading/reloading the dishwasher.

The dogs are both healthy again, though Chance took so long to get over the stomach bug that hospitalized Kaylee that I still haven’t moved them back to a mix of wet and dry food – it’s all dry until I’m sure he won’t get the runs immediately.

We’re having other related training issues with Chance that I won’t go into right now. Suffice it to say it won’t be long until I have a professional trainer come out to the house to show me where I’m going off-course.

And then there’s Nighthawk, who is currently sitting behind me at his desk doing therapy. He started feeling sick well before I had my tonsils out, complaining of an occasional sore throat that just might be the same bug that cause my pneumonia for all we know. (I filed to culture anything when I was in.) While I was sick and hospitalized and home sick again, he kept everything under control at home, took care of me and the dogs, and still managed to work more than a few days.

It cost him somewhere around 10-15% of his lung function, which is a lot when you’re not working with a healthy set of full airways to begin with. There was zero hesitation from the doctors last week. Nighthawk’s going into the hospital on Monday for at least a week and will be out of work for at least three.

So now we trade roles. Tomorrow I’ll take him down to the hospital in Philly (a new one – the CF clinic moved) and make sure he’s OK and talk to the doctors about the Plan. Then I’ll come home and get ready for my first day at work on Tuesday. I expect that to be overwhelming and tiring.

It’s a catch-22. If we weren’t hospitalizing Nighthawk I could probably handle going back to work, because I’d have him to support me while I continued to gain my strength. And I’m sure that the benefits company would say that if I’m healthy enough to drive back and forth to Philly every couple of days, then I must be healthy enough to work. (And if I’m not healthy enough to work, then I shouldn’t be driving back and forth to Philly.) But my situation isn’t either drive back and forth to the hospital or go to work. It’s do both or do neither. So I’ll be doing both.

(I might quickly decide I’m doing both with the assistance of some vacation days. But I have to get back before I can leave.)

I have a lot of support from my awesome family, and I couldn’t have gotten through the last month without them. (If Mom hadn’t dropped off delicious leftovers this morning I don’t know what or if we’d eaten dinner.)

I’m glad Nighthawk’s going into the hospital, because he’s sick and he needs the kind of care that they’re able to give him. I’m glad that he has a team of doctors that are all over the problems and care very deeply about improving his health. I’m confident that, barring some other unforeseen catastrophe, he’s going to improve in health. This will not be the trip that kills him.

I’m afraid of this week, though. When last Nighthawk was hospitalized, I was in tip-top shape physically, and the mental strain coupled with the driving and the running everything was enough to wear me down in a week. This week, I’m not going in at the top of my game.

I didn’t want this to happen.

This isn’t the way I wanted the winter to go.

How’s that old saying go? It never rains…

I’d be the first to say that raising dogs and raising children are two different activities. Sure, dogs learn both good and bad habits from each other, and they have emotional needs and the maturity of a three-year-old. They argue and get jealous, make up and play, and work together on arts and crafts (usually using my lawn) in ways similar to children. But they’ll never reach the same level of complexity or depth of understanding that children will. And as heartbreaking as a sick dog can be, a sick child is infinitely worse.

On the other hand…

Last Friday, Kaylee caught a stomach bug. Both dogs are both housetrained and pee-pad-trained, so generally there’s little cleanup to do. But Kaylee’s the poo-first-ask-questions-later type when she gets sick. Wherever she is at the time, that’s where she goes.

I wasn’t particularly worried during the first few bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, but when the back end began to produce liquid that was more red than brown, I called the vet. (It was actually quite a bit more panicked than that, especially since I can’t drive anywhere due to the medication I’m still on, and I’m still in some pain and a lot of exhaustion, but I’m too tired right now to recreate AAH AAH SHE’S GONNA DIE in its original form.)

An x-ray revealed that she hadn’t eaten anything dogs shouldn’t eat and our awesome vet suspected Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE) which sounds a lot more severe in this wikipedia article than it did when the vet explained it. In short, occasionally when small dogs get a stomach bug, their guts get so inflamed they bleed. It can be deadly without treatment (seeing as small dogs don’t have a whole lot of anything in them to begin with) but Kaylee tends to bounce back easily.

And indeed, on Saturday you wouldn’t have known there had been anything wrong on Friday, except that her poo still stunk to high heaven. Which is why when we woke up to a floor covered in vomit and bloody diarrhea on Sunday morning, we were a bit surprised. Still, she acted pretty normal and things didn’t reoccur until 2:00, when she got so sick we immediately wrapped her in a towel, loaded her into the car, and took her down to the emergency vet.

The emergency vet reiterated what our vet had told us Friday – this wasn’t unusual and it wasn’t a death sentence. In fact, despite the fact that Kaylee did a fine job of decorating their examining room when they were doing vitals, they still said she had a relatively mild case. On the other hand, by this point the poor thing was thoroughly dehydrated, wouldn’t eat or drink, and was clearly just miserable. It took no coaxing whatsoever for us to follow the vet’s suggestion that we leave her there overnight for IV fluids, antibiotics, and general looking-after, since they were much more well-equipped to handle any further emergencies that might come up.

The fact that February managed to not only hospitalize me but also hospitalize my dog did not escape notice and quite frankly I could do without ever having another month like 02/2011 again.

Kaylee came home Monday evening looking and feeling 100% better and, except for a bit of tiredness, you’d once again never know anything was wrong.

Which brings us to the point where I can, if not compare my life to parents of humans, at least sympathize… because this morning Chance started with the diarrhea and this afternoon he was vomiting. The good news is we know exactly what antibiotics to put him on and he’s now on them. The bad news is that my little boy feels like crap, there’s a small but real chance he’ll get just as sick as she did, and my carpet cleaner is going to go on strike for cruel and unusual working conditions.

My little kid is curled up in my lap right now – the only place he wants to be unless he’s in the act of being sick. I had to coax him into taking his antibiotic – neither chicken nor peanut butter were powerful enough to convince him to eat. I can hear his belly squeaking and gurgling in protest, although exactly what it could be protesting at this point I don’t know because there’s not a whole lot left in there to object to.

His sister is out like a light in the beanbag chair. She felt good enough to wake me up from a nap earlier by licking my eyelids (that was a joy), but she still wears down pretty fast.

And I know that there are a number of you out there with sick human kids right now – or worse, sick human kids passing the same virus/infection/whatever back and forth to each other.

And all I can say, feeling as overwhelmed and exhausted as I do right now, is that you parents are amazing. Good job.

Needs, or, pruning in order to grow.

The world is trying to shake me at my roots, and I’ve been resisting.

I read an article years ago called The Sex & Cash Theory which says, in short, that if you want to be happy with your life you have to balance the things that pay the bills against the sexy, creative stuff. If you let your life swing one way or the other too far, chaos will ensue.

I’ve never had the problem of letting my life swing too far into the creative endeavors.

I get up, take care of the dogs, go to work, try to solve problems and occasionally create things that are useful. I sometimes feel like I’m genuinely making things better. Whether I succeed or not, it’s exhausting work of juggling competing priorities, competing egos, varying interpretations, and menacing deadlines.

When I’m done working, I come home, take care of the dogs if Nighthawk hasn’t beaten me to it (some days run, well, loooong….), source and prepare some sort of foodlike objects, and try to find something that will take my mind off of the work I left and the work I’m going back to the next day.

If I’m lucky, I get six hours of sleep. If I’m really lucky, it’s not filled with nightmares about work. Then it starts over.

(As an aside, have you ever tried to type around a dog? Chance says hello.)

Even as little as two years ago, I had the energy and drive to create after work. I drew a comic. I worked on the five novels I’ve got written in various pieces around my hard drive. I knit. I cooked crazy-ass things. (I’m pretty sure the peanutbutter fish story has never actually made it into this iteration of the blog. Someone remind me someday…)

But slowly those things have been sliding out of my life. The novel writing was displaced by the comic authoring (except for every other November). The comic was displaced by martial arts. That, in turn, has been forcibly displaced by injuries, health issues for Nighthawk, the holidays, more back issues, more health issues for Nighthawk, a conference, family vacation, and just when I thought I’d be going back, a strained shoulder. And a work deadline schedule that pushes and pushes and pushes. Oh, and more health issues for Nighthawk.

Slowly I’m coming to the conclusion that I’m not where I’m supposed to be, mentally, physically, or emotionally.

Nighthawk’s health has recently provided me with an extremely large burst of nervous energy. On May 12th he’s having oral surgery, but not like the nice friendly “let’s pull a tooth” surgery. More like the “let’s put the lung patient on a respirator, do all the work, take you off the respirator, and give you soft foods for at least a week while trying to keep your calorie count above 3000/day and your blood sugar normal” oral surgery. Not. My. Favorite. Kind.

What do you do with a nervous breakdown on the edge of your peripheral vision? Well, if you don’t have a creative outlet for it, you take it to work and try to get it to be useful. This is somewhat akin to putting a bellman’s uniform on the most violent rabid dog you can find, and chaining him up outside your cube, where he’s in charge of greeting everyone. Not necessarily successful, and generally requires a mop.

The universe has decided to combat this insanity by making April into “Kirabug reassesses her values” month.

The first shake-up came from the conference at the beginning of April. An Event Apart re-fired my desire to create, but not my ability to find an outlet. The inspiration-with-no-outlet problem made everything else worse.

The next shake-up came as a Studio Ghibli movie watched on my iPhone while I was feeling burnt out and sick and tired. Whisper of the Heart reminded me that creation is hard work, and you don’t get better from hiding from it.

When I started writing the thyroid cancer part of the comic, which Christ knows I’d never intended to write back in 2004 when I started the comic, it got hard. No, let me reword that. It got haaaaaaard. I lost the enjoyment of the craft because I was frustrated at my lack of skill. And I lost focus when a new sexy toy (martial arts) caught my attention.

But creating stories is what I was born to do. I create stories in the shower, on the way to work, in the comic. Some of my best web design was expressed in a comic strip, not a wireframe. New ideas are literally scrawled in every file and on every note of every piece of paper I get my hands on. I haven’t stopped creating stories, just because I lost time and motivation. I just started drowning them out in news feeds and bad TV and RSS feeds and comic strips and timewasters.

(By the way, Whisper of the Heart is my new favorite movie. It requires two things: one, that you remember how it felt to be sixteen. Two, that you forget how it feels to be your current age. If you get those two reversed you’ll think it’s horribly corny.)

So I threw out a bunch of distractions. I cut from 78 webcomics to comics folder to 36 core stories I’ve been following for years and still love. I threw out all but 15 RSS feeds (down from 50-ish.) Repeat ad nauseum through Twitter and Fark and Facebook ad nauseum.

Progress. Still, I felt lost, like I’m not sure what I’m creating for.

But tonight Nighthawk and I watched Train (or How I Dumped Electricity and Learned to Love Design. Now, Nighthawk turned me on to Brenda’s twitter feed months ago. He happens to know that I’ve wanted to write RPG video games ever since I discovered Final Fantasy in high school. And game design is a bit of a passion for him as well.

Brenda reminded me tonight that I create to grow. Not everything I create is going to be pretty. Not everything I create is going to be valued. Certainly not everything I create is going to be useful. But everything I create helps me step forward.

I have neglected the pruning. The grass has overrun the garden, and the important branches have been left to wither.

I need to walk away from martial arts. It’s a great experience I will return to, but I can’t fit martial arts, work, and my home life all in the same jar. I certainly can’t do all those things and add any other form of creativity into the jar.

I need to leave work at work.

I need to do hard things again, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

I need to reconnect with my characters and find out what they have to say, before I forget how to speak their language.

I need to give this nervous energy someone to chase that doesn’t wear a tie. Figments of my imagination are suitable candidates.

I need to listen to the earth, stop resisting who I am and what I do. At least for a little while.

It wouldn’t be home if it was calm.

Got home from Seattle veeeeeery late Thursday. By mid Friday my cousins had arrived from England. Friday night we grabbed some dinner and slept well.

This morning didn’t go nearly as smoothly. Almost immediately after waking up, Chance started coughing & reverse-sneezing.

Since the dogs were boarded Thursday night, a cough was good for an immediate trip to the vet for the boy. the diagnosis is, well, a cough — could be a virus, could be kennel cough (for which he got his booster a month ago, so that’s doubtful), could be canine influenza. We were told to expect that he’d get worse before he gets better, and given a prescription for a decongestant in case it gets bad over the weekend. Oh, and we can assume if Chance has it, Kaylee does too.

On the other hand, Chance has been coughing less and less throughout the course of the day, he’s alert, eating fine, and driving me crazy because he’s constantly got to be in my lap. So I’m not panicking yet.

The afternoon settled out with some chores and a nap, and then a big family dinner at my parents’ place, lots of stories, and lots of laughter.

Now we’re home again. My cousins have crashed for the night, and Nighthawk and I are watching the DVR of the Phillies game.

Tomorrow is more time with family and some shopping. I don’t go back to work until the cousins head back to England, so I’m taking time recharging, and I’ll be home more than usual, which is convenient for keeping an eye on the dogs.

So, you know, the usual calm weekend at home.

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