Thursday, June 21, 2018

Dogs and Cats: Tales that Strike Terror in the Hearts of Owners

I just returned from the #veterinarian with Maddie, my eight-year-old #schnauzer with valley fever. She's on a half dose of her meds, and we're seeing if this has any positive or negative influence on the course of the #disease. Valley fever is a plague in the Southwest, especially Arizona, and it's one of the crazier #fungal diseases out there. For instance, Maddie never showed any #discernible symptoms but when I chanced to test her for the disease, she showed a high titre. So either the test was really wrong-----about three times in a row--or else Maddie's immune system is so good that it's #clobbering the disease but not ridding the body of it.

This is a long way of stating the obvious. Although dogs like Maddie as well as cats, miniature horses and even  bunnies are regularly being used as #therapy animals at nursing homes, hospitals, schools, and all kinds of venues, they also are capable of traumatizing people or just plain breaking their heart.

Wait a second--did she just say that pets are somehow bad for you? That can't be right. She must be losing it!

Well, let me supply you with my #rationale: Most of the time pets are great little practical nurses. They sniff out cancer, they help kids read, they curl up with sick or senior patients, they track down lost kids, the list goes on and on, and if you want proof, contact The Delta Society in Washington state. But although I wouldn't spend a day without my six dogs and two cats, I can tell you there have been times when their high jinx have #scared the willies out of me, sending my blood #pressure into the stratosphere along with my anxiety level. Let me count the ways.

1. As a first-time dog owner, I was ignorant of most everything #doggie. This I blame on my parents, who refused my repeated requests for a puppy when I was a child. So the first time I physically had a dog was when my husband and I moved from our apartment to our first home. My little "Maude" came from a reputable breeder, which should have eased my worries, but somehow I managed to ramp up my #fears to a #ferocious level. About three hours after the pup was dropped off at our house,  I stationed him in our empty living room with food and water. (I had run out during my school lunch break and bought all the basics such as dishes, toys and a collar.) We had papered the floor with newsprint so we weren't concerned about his urinary output damaging our hardwood floors. And as #puppies do, he whizzed a lot, and this is where everything went wrong.

I noticed that wherever he peed, there were red blotches. Click went my #nervous brain, and I was immediately on high alert.  "It's blood," I screamed to my husband, who also lacked for canine experience. I was convinced that somehow Maude had a #urinary infection that was causing her to bleed. So naturally I did the normal hysterical thing: I called the breeder.  She listened to my tale of woe without saying a word, which of course was to her credit. However  I interpreted this as proof positive that my four-month-old #dog was dying.

When the #breeder did speak, she said, "Janice, get a cup, fill it with water, and drip a little on the newspaper." I did what she said even though I thought her answer bizarre at the very least. "What do you see?"

What do I see, I repeated to myself. By now I thought the breeder was beyond eccentric and halfway to crazy. But I humored her and walked back to the corner where I had dribbled water.

As I stared down at the newsprint. I felt like the biggest jerk alive. I also felt relieved. Evidently chemistry was the enemy and not some rare puppy virus. When wet, the colors of the newspaper changed to a reddish hue. My "blood diagnosis" was about as far afield as you could get.

This would not be, however, the first time an animal activity would cause a profound (though short-lived) effect on my physiological being. 2. Fast forward about a dozen years and now I'm a relatively experienced dog owner. #Cloistered in my office tapping out an article on my computer, I heard a deafening silence, which did not bode well with three dogs. Something was awry and it took me only a quick look to reveal the source of my growing panic. The #quartz chess set I had bought in Mexico was scattered all over the living room carpet. Okay, I #surmised, the kids were playing with what struck them as a new toy.

Not until I recovered all the pieces and noticed a rook (a castle) was missing did I learn that I had a big problem. I rightly concluded that one of my pets--at the time I had a collie, two schnauzers and a nine-month-old lab-- had swallowed the missing chess piece. But I didn't know who. About then I started to hyperventilate and think about fainting. But fear also triggers action. Although I was tempted to call 9-1-1 and declare a red code alert, I called my family vet, who said to bring the dog over.

 "But I don't know which dog to bring," I #wailed. "Then bring them all," he said. I eventually had to bring the "Tres Amigos" and we discovered that the culprit was the puppy lab. Fortunately the vet was able to calm me when he agreed that #expensive surgery wasn't necessary and he intended to get the pooch to barf up the piece, which, according to the x-ray, was in two easy-to-upchuck pieces in his stomach. The vet was better at his job than I was at my dog sitting, and within minutes the rook was tossed up.  This heart-stopping caper was heretofore known as "The Crook Who Took the Rook."
3. One summer we took the dogs and cats to San Diego to cool off from the Arizona heat. Everything was going smoothly in our rented apartment, and I was relaxing in the den watching TV when a tail went by.  #Outside.  In the yard. Near the gate. It was a tail--of the hairy kind. #Serendipity at just that very moment had prompted me to glance over to the pair of windows adjacent to the door. It took only a few seconds for the sight of a furry tail to register as "not normal." I then gave a yelp and opened the door to see my tri-colored tabby debating whether to jump over the fence or stay put and explore the yard. Somehow the cat had pushed in the screen in the room where I had located her and escaped without my hearing anything. 4. Next anxiety-provoking event came when the same tri-colored feline pulled a fast one on me in the laundry room . I was transferring wet clothes from the washing machine to the dryer, tossing them in while thinking of 1,001 other things. Upon completion of my task, I turned on the dryer and was rewarded by several loud thumps. I figured the machine was on the fritz. But no! By mistake the cat had crawled into the dryer and had never exited. My pulse soared and my stomach did flip flops as I extricated the now-dazed kitty from his amusement park ride. Although I agonized over possible  long-term health repercussions from her roller coaster ride, the cat seemed to come through it without a hitch. I, on the other hand, took a xanax and retreated to the couch. 5.This time my tri-colored collie, Clara, was responsible for rendering me speechless and stupefied. In the bad old days I used to thaw meat in my kitchen sink. (Ssssh, don't tell anyone) I had never had a problem except for one time when I came home to find an empty styrofoam plate and some plastic wrap on the floor. With her long elegant nose that she used for poking other dogs to do her bidding, Clara had somehow lifted up the package of raw chicken and deposited it onto the floor where she #guzzled the pieces down, probably with two or three healthy swallows. Fortunately I did know that raw meat generally agreed with dogs-- they weren't vulnerable to salmonella like people--so I didn't worry about #diarrhea and other digestive problems. But still, there was the factor of bones. Clara could choke or the bones could splinter and do internal damage.  Except I remembered--only after an agonizing five minutes of #mental torture--that these were chicken filets, deboned and therefore safe. Except for the problem of what we would eat for dinner, the situation had resolved itself successfully.
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Monday, June 18, 2018

Are You Successful? Take this Test and Find Out

I grew up never believing I was as good or as #successful as the next guy, and it's a common problem or so my shrinks seem to think (some of these good doctors have earned six-figure salaries on just this one patient complaint alone).

 But after all these years of #consigning myself to the role of second-class citizen, I've figured out that success is just one of those meaningless words--like #beautiful or wonderful--that can be tweaked any way you want it. In other words, success is what you make of it. 

Take our #President for example. Here's a man who practically reeks of success by anyone's definition. He's built hotels, put together company #buyouts/mergers, fathered children, married, and earned the title of Most Important Person in the Land (perhaps the Globe).

On the other hand, we could, if we wanted, tweak the word success into its opposite: failure. Trump has been divorced several times, declared #bankruptcy, been sued by countless litigants, did not win the popular vote in the 2016 General Election, and is now being investigated for possible foreign collusion during that election. However, Pres. Trump always speaks in positive superlatives--about everything, himself included. We hear in his speeches and #tweets words like "fantastic," "great," "splendid" and so on. So if the President can blindside his failures and declare himself successful, we can too. After all, we're just being good little citizens and patterning ourselves after our country's leader. 

To help ease you onto the path of Trump-like success, I've assembled a questionnaire that if answered honestly and with an eye toward emulating #Trump's healthy self-image, guarantees you will feel more successful than you did before:

 1. Have you ever wanted something so badly that you did everything in your power to try and get it? (Pay attention here--we're not talking about actually achieving your goal, just pursuing it.)\ A "yes" here indicates that you have the focus and energy of a five-star success, and if you persevere, you will continue to pursue new goals with the same gusto as when you wolfed down those 26 hot dogs at last year's Biggest Eater contest. 

2. Have you ever tried on an article of clothing and found that it didn't fit but you bought it anyway because you knew that if you lost 20 pounds you'd look just great in it? A "yes" here indicates that you have the foresight of an #adventurer and risk taker who is not afraid to invest in his future even if it means standing up to clothing manufacturers who have screwed up the whole size-you-are thing and now offer ridiculous sizes like zero, two, and four. Who are these people who actually wear these teeny #garments? They must be weight-loss enablers who hate our country and want to see it brought down by #anorexics and #bulimics. 

3. Have you ever dropped your cell phone and then told your carrier that it was robbed from you at a mall by a guy wearing a hoodie and little else? A "yes" here indicates that you have the imagination and creativity of a winner and positive thinker who employs ingenuity and a straight face to get what he/she deserves. 

4. Have you ever made a date with someone for Saturday night but then someone else called you with a better offer and you cancelled the previous date without so much as an apology? A "yes" indicates that you have attained a popularity that is probably the envy of all your peers and you need to recognize this as one of the stepping stones to great success. To hell with the first dater--he/she wasprobably going to take you to Chick-fil-A anyway. 

5. Have you ever gotten drunk and vomited in the bathroom of someone you admire just as that very person barged in the toilet and hollered at you? A "yes" indicates that despite all obstacles, you persevere in networking with everyone, even those with questionable manners regarding party and office etiquette.

 6. Have you ever cheated on an #SAT exam by paying someone to take it for you and then refused to give them their full fee because they only got 500 on the verbal part? A "yes" indicates that delegating responsibilities is one of your most admirable qualities and will serve you well in the coming years, but you need to limit your generosity to those who truly deserve it.

7. Have you ever gone out to lunch with a group of people and then had the waitress explain to you that one of your friends paid for your pita supreme while you were outside making a phone call? A "yes" indicates that your timing is exceptional and will continue to alert you to new and better opportunities and that multi-tasking can bring untold benefits.

 8. Have you ever married someone you thought was attractive and intelligent but within a few years discovered he/she had lied to you about his/her college #GPA and probably would not become a Nobel Prize winning author? A "yes" indicates that you (a) successfully used your powers of observation to uncover your spouse's limited intellectual prowess; and (b) negotiated a compromise that promises you untold bragging rights for your #husband's new position as #weinermobile driver.

 9. Have you ever driven a car 100 mph or faster and then wondered if you might have run over a dog or some person crossing the street? A "yes" indicates that you have the moral values necessary to succeed in the competitive world of politics and (lucky you!) the kind of sports car that can go from 10 mph to 120 mph in three seconds. 

10. Have you ever killed a stranger because you didn't like his opinions, he dressed funny, or he reminded you of your Uncle Paulie, who used to tickle children until they cried? A "yes" indicates that you have the courage of your #convictions and you try to live in the present and expunge all reminders of the past. 

How many questions did you answer yes or no to? That many?! This indicates
 that your definition of success is delightfully fluid and will be useful to you as you climb your way to the top of whatever dung heap or reality show you aspire to. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Things that Creep Me Out

I'm a self-avowed #neurotic scared of many things that well-balanced people don't care a fig about. Like, for instance, big parties. Large gatherings overwhelm me. Too much stimuli, human and #nonhuman. I'm surrounded by too many people and too many tables and food trays. My eyes start roving over the entire room, and it's like I'm trying to #gobble everyone and everything up into a tasty cake so I can swallow it and be assured that I haven't missed a thing. Control is my problem and also my main defense weapon, but I usually run out of coping mechanisms early on and wind up standing like a statue with an insincere grin plastered across my face. I hope no one recognizes my #immobility as the frightened paralysis it really is. I'd rather they take me for a long-lost relative who was talked into coming and who doesn't give a shit about anything or anyone. Here are a few more things that I can't tolerate. Other people may also disdain them. Maybe one of those people is you!? 1. Stale cookies. I'm not kidding. One cookie that tastes like sawdust or is soft like rubber and I toss the whole box. The same goes for crackers, taco chips and popcorn. I've done some great house cleaning jobs that way. 2. Socks that shrink a little bit more each time you wash them. I regard them with contempt and wonder why I wasted my money on these losers. Stupidly, however, I still tend to wear them because I'm too lazy to go to Target's and buy more. 3. Off-leash animals wandering near busy roads. This makes me super nervous. Usually I'm driving somewhere and don't know what to do. Should I stop and risk an automobile accident? Should I try to get the dog/cat in my car and hope there's an ID tag? Should I get involved in what may very well turn out to be an #emotional #trauma? The latter option is especially dangerous because it takes me about two seconds to get attached to an animal, and then I get confused as to what to do. I make negative judgments about the owners even if the escaped pooch was let out accidentally. I start rationalizing that the owners are probably drug #abusers or just plain slobs and the animal would be better off in a new environment. With me. 4. Compliments from people pleasers. I don't know what to make of these remarks so I usually let them hang in the air about three seconds, then change the subject. How can I trust people who don't know me from Adam and yet act like they've read all my books and articles three times over and are convinced I'm an undiscovered #genius? I don't buy their praise so usually I just get depressed and consider these compliments undeserved. Then suspicion sets in and I start wondering what their ulterior motive might be. Do they want me to buy some of the stuff they're usually hawking? Do they want me to pay them back in similarly-styled compliments? WTF should I do? 5. Wondering if I'll die from dementia like my mother, aunt, and a lot of other people whose #obituaries I track in the newspaper. I'm still hoping for a cure by D-Day but I have a sneaking suspicion it won't be fast enough for Boomers like me. My friend Rosa says she'll take care of me if worse comes to worse, but that's so not calming. And what about my animal friends? Rosa isn't dog friendly. 6. Comedians who died before they were really, really old. Like Robin Williams, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner. Shouldn't there be an age longevity minimum on these kinds of people. After all, they keep the rest of us laughing, and that's so important! Besides, if death can topple these talented geniuses, I might as well give up trying to outsmart it---bring on the french fries and mint chip ice cream! 7. Artistically arranged foods served to me in restaurants. The supposedly warm meal usually is placed in front of me colder than a door knob because it took these gourmet cooks at least 15 minutes to figure out the aesthetics. Experts call it the "presentation," and they wrestle with earth-shaking questions like should I sculpt the mashed potatoes into a volcano and scatter the veggies around the plate to indicate lava flow, or should I be more daring and cut the meat into a horseshoe and use arrow-shaped spuds and veggies to spell out the patron's first name? The worst part is I never send the ugly mess back because I don't want to seem unappreciative of their efforts. This marks me as a supreme "wuss," and does nothing for my self-esteem. 8. People who only talk about themselves. There's a whole army of these narcissistic souls out there, and when they find a receptive listener (I fall into that category), they chatter on and on and on until you interject something odd that throws their balance such as "Did you know that jello is not the number one dessert for hospital patients?" You get their attention for about a second or two before they continue their monologue nonplused right from where they left off. 9. People (some who I've known for years) who call me "Janet" instead of "Janice." I have an immediate "ouch" response to that but I rarely correct friends, family and acquaintances who commit this grievous error. Go ahead and file that under the "wuss" category too. Or perhaps I'm just lazy or have low expectations. Take your pick. 10. People you do not recall ever meeting but who insist they know you. They either are great liars or they have memorized your profile or resume on #Facebook or #Linkedin. Any way you cut it, they are the enemy since they have the upper hand in any conversation while you search your brain for clues to their identity. Are they the customer reps for vanity #publishers? Do I know them because we shared the same table at the last book convention? Better yet, do I know them from elementary school? 11. Things that actually creep and crawl. Like this past weekend I got hit by a double feature: a loose gecko trapped under my den couch by two cats and a nosy schnauzer; and a spider with huge legs crawling up my kitchen wall. Thank goodness my #husband was nearby (yes, I'm one of those females who won't touch creepie-crawlies, and I don't expect to change even if Gloria Steinem insists). While my #husband did kill the hairy-looking spider with a mop (we couldn't determine its toxic potential), he was unsuccessful chasing down the gecko. As a result I spent the entire day sitting in a kitchen chair instead of on the couch where I normally watch TV or read because I don't like to be surprised by lizards even if they do commercials and are universally regarded as adorable. One day later I did see a dead gecko (save your tears!) on the fake lawn in my backyard.n Yes I did say a real amphibian on fake turf. I have to conclude one of two things: (a) someone--namely a schnauzer--deposited the gecko outside after murdering it or scaring it to death; or (b) this is not the same gecko seen in the den-- this gecko was murdered outside by one of my six schnauzers or died from heat exposure or a bad heart. Of course there's always the possibility that he died from eating some of my fake lawn. RIP Gecko! Stay tuned for more "things that creep me out," especially funeral behaviors--what exactly is the right gesture of condolence? Should you do the TV "Law and Order" thing and say, "I'm sorry for your loss," or should you change the subject to "What can I help you with?" and hope they don't take you up on it? Better yet, should you try to squeeze out a few tears and then scramble for kleenex or sunglasses to show you're overcome with grief too? Is a sympathy or condolence card necessary if you spoke to the official mourner on the phone or attended #memorial services? Handling death is almost easier if you just say you're in denial and your shrink hasn't yet given you permission to process it.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The One That Got Away, cont2

It's clumsy to see an ex-boyfriend at a #festive occasion. For a #neurotic like me, I always flashed back to the "way we were." And since I'm not #BarbraStreisand, I don't always appear calm, cool and collected. (Neither do I sing at these festive occasions, but then I expect you assumed as much). Usually I lack the poise to do anything but stare. What if Ted and I had only spoken to each other? Would my attachment problem have resolved itself or worsened? Would I be a happier ex-girlfriend now or would I be #depressed again? I'll never know. Neither of us ever  broke our implicit vows of silence. Neither of us could tolerate the #discomfort of speaking to each other as one mature married adult to another. Neither of us made a move to change how we related to each other. And then just like that the opportunity to change the dynamics of the #relationship was quashed. It happened like in the movie "Love Story" (which is an inaccurate comparison due to the fact that my guy--Ted-- did not ever pledge his undying love like Ryan O'Neal did so sweetly to Allie McGraw, never mind the on-screen wooden acting. Like "Love Story," one of the main characters was diagnosed with leukemia.

I heard about Ted's illness from a relative, but I brushed off the seriousness, saying, "Oh, they have so many more #treatment options nowadays, he'll be fine." Well, he wasn't fine. I could tell by the photos I googled on the Internet. His once lithe and well-sculpted body had ballooned due to the #steroids he must have been taking in preparation for a bone marrow #transplant. When I heard that his daughter married quickly, no one had to tell me why: She wanted her dad to walk her down the aisle, and Ted's prognosis was at best uncertain. Then an odd event--a vivid dream--slipped into my #slumbers one night. I hardly ever dream about reality-based things, but this time, I dreamed about Ted. And when I awoke I had an overpowering feeling of forgiveness and at the same time a satisfying #resolution of sorts. My unconscious was telling me to communicate to Ted. It was a positive message that spoke urgently of understanding, compassion, and release. Of course I never followed through on the personal contact part, and a few days later I learned Ted had passed away. I cannot help but wonder if at some point in my sleep I somehow latched onto his spirit for a few minutes as his soul floated toward its eternal destination. Or is that too sentimental or banal for an answer? It could just be wishful thinking. On the internet I sought closure by writing a few words of sympathy at his site. I'm usually not one to believe in #supernatural phenomena, but Ted's death and #mystical appearance in my dream still #haunts me. Will it fade as time goes by? We'll see.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The One That Got Away, continue1

Since I had concluded Ted was cheap, at least when it concerned me, I was prepared for his #inexpensive birthday gift. What I wasn't prepared for was the lack of imagination that went into the selection. #Stereotypes were popular fodder for Ted, so despite women's #liberation, birth control pills, and Ms. Magazine, Ted figured incorrectly that I would like a fancy compact. He might have bought it in a pharmacy or stolen it from one of his sisters, but in any case, it was not suited to my #lifestyle. I hardly expected a piece of jewelry, but a compact? I was lucky if I had a tube of lipstick at the bottom of my handbag. Later I threw it away. I not only associated it with loss, but I knew I'd never use the damn thing! The break-up had been in my sights long before it happened, so I can't say it was unanticipated. Regardless, it hit me hard, and I mourned Ted's absence more than I had mourned anything up to that point. I walked through my senior year at Kean College in a #depressed trance, and no one cared or remarked about it, not my family, my teachers, or my friends. I was alone with this intense feeling that I was a failure in love. For love was really the issue here. Ted was my first introduction to #romantic love, and I had liked the feeling. I had gotten high on it and the opportunity to use words like "steady" and "boyfriend." In fact, the sense of failure was so confusing that I had to question the quality of my loss: Was I truly missing Ted and his unique personality and ways, or was I missing a male's companionship and attentions? Did I love Ted, or did I love the feeling of caring I had imagined he reciprocated? I discovered it's hard to answer those questions when you're on the losing end of a #breakup. Ted never really broke up with me in the classical sense --he never articulated the desire to discontinue our relationship because he wanted to see other women. He just stopped calling; he dropped out of my life. In a sense he took a coward's way out, but to be fair to him and to the relationship, there was no easy way to say goodbye. If he had verbally expressed his feelings, I might have cried or tried to seduce him or prolong the relationship in any of fifty ways. Some things must end, and our relationship did just that. Except it didn't, really. Since Ted was a cousin of my brother-in-law, I had to go through many years of the discomfort of seeing him and his wife at family weddings, bar mitzvahs and other #festivities. Even with my husband in tow, I found it hard. We never spoke to one another, and I was complicit in this decision. I don't know what Ted's wife knew of our relationship, but my husband was fully #cognizant. However, I'm sure my mate did not really understand the depth or the extent of my attachment to Ted, for that was what it had morphed into. Not love, but an odd attachment to my youth and the innocence and freedom it engendered. At every event in which we were both invited, I noticed that Ted and I would both exchange quick looks at each other. Did he notice I had gained a little weight the way I noticed his increasing baldness? Did he ever think, 'What if' as I had done so many times? Continued next time....