This month’s JAVMA features confirmation of what those of us in the profession for more than a year or two already suspected: veterinarians are a sad bunch, compared to the general population. Consider these stats from the CDC’s first-ever survey of the veterinary population:
1 in 6 have considered suicide;
25% of men and 37% of women in the profession report depressive episodes;
1.1% of men and 1.4% of women have attempted suicide;
That last stat is the only one where vets figure in below the national mean, but before you cheer consider this: it’s because more veterinarians successfully complete suicide.
This preliminary data doesn’t delve into the causes or the proposed solutions, though those are currently hotly debated. Nonetheless, it’s good to see on paper what so many who are struggling have needed to hear: You’re not alone.
After watching my Ignite talk on being a Death Fairy, a veterinarian asked me how I avoided compassion fatigue in my work. I told her I would answer that, but first I have to admit this:
For a long time, I didn’t avoid it at all. I didn’t just float out of vet school and find an amazing job and love every second and plan to be a hospice vet because I knew that was the right thing for me to be. I wish I could tell you I was that organized and thoughtful, but the truth be told I did what most people I know in this field do when they’re stressed: power through bad situations until they became untenable, taking on more responsibility every other second.
So no, I didn’t avoid compassion fatigue. In fact, I burned out and quit. But then I reincarnated, I guess you could say, with a lot more perspective and a healthy understanding of what I’m really supposed to be doing here. But not until after I got really sick, like going to specialists and talking about scary tests sick, did I decide to get my priorities in order. Once that got sorted out, life got really good!
How to be a zen vet in a Prozac profession
1. Don’t underestimate the importance of your co-workers
I think there is no greater indicator of how happy you will be at work than how well your team works together. They will prop you up when you’re down, have your back when things get nuts, and inspire you to do better every day. Unfortunately, the converse is also true. The saying “turd in the punchbowl” exists for a reason.
2. Don’t settle for a toxic environment.
Temporary Like Sadness by Dominic Alves on Flickr
Sometimes you think you’re starting in at the best place on the earth, but something happens. The office manager is stealing. Your mentor turns out to be Voldemort. You get pregnant and can’t work overnights anymore. So many people stick it out in a bad situation because 1) we’re taught not to whine and 2) we’re scared there’s nothing better out there.
There’s always something better out there, but you won’t find it if you don’t look. If you are in an office that is causing you physical symptoms of anxiety, it’s time to start looking for a new job. Living in modern day American comes with certain advantages, like the whole “no indentured servitude” thing.
3. Don’t be afraid to explore.
I had no intention of being a veterinary writer. Blogs didn’t exist when I started vet school, nor did hospice veterinarians. Sometimes you just have to strike out in a direction that looks good and see what’s out there. Because guess what? I don’t care what anyone else has told you, you’re allowed to come back and be a vet if you leave. Taking time off to explore another career, take care of family, get another degree, none of it is a one way valve- unless you want it to be.
4. Set boundaries. Mean it.
Out of every rule I laid out, this is seriously the number one important one. With the exception of the rare shining star who really does want this to be their life, most of us want a life of which veterinary medicine is only a part. This is a profession where it is very easy for it to take over your life, because there will always be more asked of you than you are able to give. Always. It is not a failing to recognize that.
Set boundaries with your clients, your co-workers, and yourself. Take vacations. Exercise. Enjoy your family. Do not let work intrude on this or else you will begin to resent it, and that is the seed of burnout. You can (and should) work your butt off, then go home and play your butt off.
Set those boundaries, and enforce them like your life depends on it.
It was an ironic realization to figure out that point of diminishing returns in terms of giving of yourself. You cannot truly understand compassion unless you’re willing to extend it to everyone, including yourself.
I thought about training for a full marathon, but then the reality what that was like the last time I attempted it kicked in and I remembered that oh yeah, I don’t like to run. I think you can do a full marathon once when you don’t like to run, just to say you did (Rock n Roll 2001 for me), but after than there’s really nothing to prove other than, “oh yeah, this hurts.”
A half marathon though, is doable. Still not fun, but manageable. I have decided, along with my friend from the gym who I kind of hate because she keeps inviting me to things such as “Summer Boot Camp!” and “Half marathon! It’ll be fun!” and I keep saying yes, that should we complete this without killing ourselves, maybe, just maybe, we will try and tackle a triathlon before our 40th birthdays.
Do they let people leisurely triathlon these days? All my competitiveness gets used up in my professional life so I have none left over for this.
Anyway, the point is I am doing this and it’s a grind, but I keep remembering that health is a gift and blah blah blah; I’m training with a group because it’s the only way I will drag myself out of bed at 6 am for the long Saturday runs.
Brody doesn’t come with me on those. He can manage shorter distances, but he’s made it clear he’s not yet ready for anything over 3 miles, tops, despite his summer cut. I appreciate that.
This Saturday I ran (‘ran’?) 9 miles, which sounds alternatively fantastic and psssshaw depending on where on the running spectrum you fall. To me, this is the longest distance I’ve done in a single day since I staggered off Mt Meru a few years ago, and that was because I had to since there was no oxygen up at the top.
I’m hunched over because I couldn’t straighten up, not because I voluntarily felt like standing that way. Teri is hanging on for dear life.
So after 9 miles, at the end of which I realized my entire body was numb from the waist down, I came home and sat on the floor to stretch. Soon enough I was laying on the floor, like one of those crime scene outlines.
020 0120 7141 023 0123 7173 Small is Beautiful Floor Black Still Life, by Steve James on Flicker
I began to appreciate why dogs do this, this splat sort of positioning. The wood was cool. Soon I melted and became one with the floor. Why don’t I do this more often? I wondered, and when my daughter asked me why I was doing that I realized it was not really possible for me to make it onto the couch at that particular moment.
Brody was excited I was in his domain, plopping down nose to nose and looking at me like, “Hey! What are you doing here?” He stared at me for a while, and then I decided I needed to stretch if I ever was to have hope of standing up again.
It went about as well as you’d expect.
Dogs don’t understand why we would come into their territory for any purposes other than play, and Brody was having none of it. He laid on my foot, licked me in downward dog, and dumped a soggy tennis ball on my stomach when I tried to stretch out my hip. It’s clear I’m not alone in this.
Dogs are awesome at many things, but sitting quietly by while you sit on the floor and bend into weird shapes is not one of them. If you’re going to goof off, they figure, might as well let me in on the fun.
Anyone else have a dog who simply won’t let you on the floor by yourself?
Why are overweight pets so fascinating to people? The whole 40 pound cat thing, having now been overplayed, is making way for roly poly dachshunds. Obie’s all over the news, as you’ve seen- the 77 pound doxie on his way to health through his foster mom. Although I am glad it has reminded people about the plight of the 50% of US pets who are overweight, I have mixed feelings about the attention he’s getting.
One of Obie's many media appearances, on WRCBTV.
First, the message here: people who overfeed their animals to the point of abuse (and intentionally done or not, it’s still abuse to let a dachshund get to be 77 pounds) get to hand them off with an abashed “whoops!” and then someone else gets to inherit the problem to deal with? And what, exactly, is the news story? Unlike a diabetic dog who’s peeing everywhere and about to head into ketoacidosis, fat is cuter?
Giving a pet lavish media attention for an owner induced medical condition, by the way, makes me shudder for its own reasons. We’ve all seen what happens when people decide to try and outdo one another for the chance to be on TLC. So help me God, if someone creates a reality show about huge dogs on a quest for glory, I’m going to write off humanity entirely.
Articles about Obie state that he’s in good health aside from his massive size, and that Purina has donated food for his weight loss journey. Awesome. Do we know how much has been raised through his Paypal already and what it’s going for, if all he needs is a little less food than he was getting and maybe a dental at some point (he is, after all, a dachshund)? And did they fly him in CARGO from Portland to New York for his Today show appearance, him, a massively obese stressed out dog? What exactly is in his best interest here? (hint: a measuring cup. That’s it, really.) A word of advice to his foster mother, who I have no doubt got into this with the very best of intentions: opening yourself up to public donations can be a double edged sword. Be utterly transparent now, before the tides turn.
I know, this is probably going to make me unpopular. I understand. Sometimes I have to get into Unpopular Veterinarian Mode. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for a person who takes on a dog like Obie, because yes, it’s a lot of work. Everyone likes to feel good about cheering on a dog like him. Trust me, I do too. I wish him the best and I hope every single cent raised goes to his treadmill account. I just wish we could cheer him on without all the attendant trappings of sideshow circus celebrity because that just makes me feel icky. An owner induced medical condition is not a cause for fame.
At the end of the day, this is the story of a dog who has been failed by the family who stuffed him like a foie gras duck, and the family, friends, and vets who were unable to at any point make them stop. And that’s not really cute at all, is it?
Well, we did it. Brody and I survived our first surfing competition.
Let me start by saying I never would have dared even show my face there had I not known the local surf dog community previously. They’re an accomplished bunch, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars and setting world records and getting on Times Square billboards and the like. They are also really good surfers. Next to them, Brody and I with our handful of goes on the board and our lackluster ability, were total rubes. But like all genuinely cool people, they were happy we, and everyone else, was there.
Brody and I had a quick lesson the day before with our friend Pawl Griffin, the absurdly adorable PBGV that is the P&G Petcare official VP of Canine Communications. Basically his job is to go to various events and be a good ambassador, even if it means surfing. He performed swimmingly, pun intended. He was fortunate enough to be taught to surf by two of the world’s best surf dog instructors, Peter Noll and surf pro Guy Takayama, who had him standing on the board and cruising in within minutes.
It wore him out.
The waves were gorgeous on Saturday. We frolicked in thigh high waves and gently rolled into shore, foolishly convincing ourselves that this was what it was always like. The next day, the day of the contest itself, would prove us wrong. But at the time, we were happy, my hair stayed dry, and I had nary a bruise to show for it.
Brody was in the last heat of the day, shortly after the costume contest where Ricochet and Judy took to the waves in a pile of wet yellow feathers. Told you they didn’t take themselves too seriously (and that is a compliment.)
I, on the other hand, was terrified. The waves were over my head today, choppy and rough under gray skies that threatened to open up at any moment. We had a different instructor for the contest, Secret Surfice Agent Phil, who took one look at Brody and said, “Oh my god, is he, like, 120 pounds?” (For the record, it’s 80.) Nonetheless, after evaluating his sturdy and furry frame, Phil decreed we would surf not on a regular longboard but on a stand up paddleboard, a wide Cadillac of a board that can best be described as a fiberglass barge.
This is why I asked Iams for help. Because there was no way me and my 120 pound dog and a 120 pound paddleboard would survive in those waves by ourselves, life jackets or not. I know my limits. But with Phil steering the board and me charged with keeping Brody on it, I figured we had it made. You saw the picture on Monday. You have to trust a dude in Spam boardshorts.
As we waited for our heat to start, I surveyed the competition. 10 of us in total, each color coordinated with our dog. Some, like the guy with the Go Pro strapped to his dog, were clearly pros. Others were unknowns. Brody and I had style going for us, that and Mike Arms giving us the thumbs up from the side, but that was about it. I silently said a prayer for two things:
1. Dear God, please don’t let us drown or get stung by a stingray.
and 2. Please don’t let us come in last.
I mean, I purposefully kept expectations low.
When the horn blew, we picked up our boards and ran to the water, scattering spectators left and right with our massive floating barge. Getting out into the waves in a competition like this was like storming the beach at Normandy in reverse, Phil rushing out ahead of us, me staggering in the undertow to keep up while getting slapped in the face with water. Dogs hurtling towards you balanced on boards but only moderately capable of steering away, projectiles which you were responsible for dodging. In the midst of this swirling maelstrom, I lifted Brody onto the board, a dead lift worthy of the finest Russian weightlifters, and we got him turned around.
“Are you riding with him?” asked Phil.
“No,” I said. “I think you get less points that way.”
Brody, who up to this point had been fine riding the waves solo, was a little less than thrilled on this occasion, since the second the wave carried him off he was no longer able to see me due to its rather large height. So he jumped off. And jumped off again. To me, paddling expectantly, happy to get on again but really mostly wanting me by his side.
“I think you need to ride with him,” said Phil. And he was right. First place, last place, disqualification, at that point, none of it mattered. My dog was kind of having fun, but I wanted him to really have fun. So I hopped on board.
I wasn’t really wanting to hop on board, as this meant my bedraggled, sand-embedded visage would be photographed much more closely than I would wish by the throngs of spectators clogging the shore, but what are you going to do. Brody needed me. With me steering behind him, reassuringly talking to him as we glided in, he happily stayed put on the board all the way to shore, looking steadfastly ahead like the Captain of the Surfing Barge that we was.
And seriously? Truthfully? It was a TON of fun. It’s reinforced my desire to get back out on a paddleboard post-haste.
When the horn sounded, we ran in, my daughter helpfully wiping away my badly-thought-out mascara. Brody greeted his fans.
I gave our rashguards back to Chad from Iams, who set up the entire adventure, and sent him to return them. He came back a minute later.
“Guess what?” he said, as I gave Brody a bowl of water.
“We came in last?” I said.
“You came in seventh!” he said, sounding as surprised as I felt. Seven out of ten, a veritable Jamaican bobsled team of a success, not a win but for someone with as little experience as we had, a major success. And then, “Are you ok?”
This was a refrain I was to hear over and over the next two hours. Apparently, in his zeal to get on and off the board, Brody gave me a Wolverine-worthy swipe or two with his bear claws. Love swipes, really. I didn’t feel a thing.
It looks worse than it is, though I’ve decided to skip shorts for the next week because most people are too polite to ask and simply blush and look away. Next year: Teflon wetsuit.
There’s no victory without pain, right? The agony and the ecstasy of extreme dog surfing. I am convinced to this day that had I not gotten on board with Brody, he would have pooped out within another wave or two, gone in early, and we would assuredly have come in last. Which would have been fine too, but how awesome is it that we did better as a team than we did by ourselves. For me and Brody, that is truly our story.
If you want a feel for what this insane beach party is like in person, here’s a video from the day. We’re not in it but a lot of dogs you might recognize are:
OK, so first things first- yes, we surfed in our first competition and no, we didn’t win (the well deserved honors went to the always amazing Surf Dog Ricochet, as it should.) I will be posting about it when I get back later this week and I have the rest of the pictures. I always had a ton of respect for the So Cal Surf Dog group, but after seeing them in action in competition I love them all even more. As busy as everyone was with their own dogs, many of whom were in multiple heats, I saw Peter Noll taking the time to help out novices and getting out in the waves with them so they would have a good time. That’s the kind of people I was with today, who raised thousands of dollars for Helen Woodward and had a wonderful time with their dogs. Win, lose, who cares.
Iams was kind enough to not only sponsor me but provide me with my very own surfing assistant- and trust me, it would have been impossible without his help. That’s Surf Instructor Phil, but I like to think of him as Secret Surfice Agent Phil because as you can tell, he took his job way seriously. We owe all our success to him. Without the pressure of actually thinking we needed to be competitive, Brody and I went out there and had a great time. We looked better going in than coming out- the waves were pretty choppy- but nonetheless, we persevered. But anyway, more on that this week.
Speaking of things I get really passionate about: As you probably surmised, I’m really, incredibly excited about the work World Vets is doing. Last week, I officially joined up with them as the World Vets Media Spokesperson. The press release is here, but to sum up: HOORAY. I love this group and I can’t wait to get even more opportunities to get the word out about the amazing accomplishments of this organization.
I am so excited to be a part of World Vets in this capacity. Thank you Cathy!
And with that in the back of my mind, I’m heading out today to SuperZoo, one of the big pet retail trade shows in Las Vegas. It’s a great opportunity to see what’s up and coming in the pet industry for the holidays, and I’m looking forward to finding some gems to show to you all when I get back. Thank you Tagg for your help getting out there!
If you all can think of anything you want me to keep an eye out for while I’m there (the latest trends in skijoring equipment, perhaps, or what’s new in wall mounted cat beds) let me know and I will do my best to track it down.
A refresher, if you haven’t memorized all the details of my life, and I hope you haven’t:
Last year, Brody was scheduled to surf in the Helen Woodward Surf Dog Surf-a-thon. We had lessons. We had a board. And, of course, we had Evan the Surf Instructor:
Who is probably blissfully unaware of his cult status in the pet blogging world. But I digress.
At the very same moment we were out practicing our wave technique, someone, somwhere, hit a button they weren’t supposed to and some Very Bad Things happened. As we were driving home from the beach, my husband was punching fruitlessly at the radio as all we got was static, static, static. Traffic had come to a standstill as all the traffic lights were out throughout the entire county, here during rush hour. We had one, and only one, functioning AM station who could tell us only this: Massive Power Loss in the county. Chaos. Insanity. My husband and I looked at each other and independently arrived at the same conclusion: Zombie Apocalypse. Thank god we had Brody with us for protection.
As it turns out, it was nothing as sinister as zombies so much as it was a massive “whoopsie” by an Arizona Public Service technician. And one of the many side effects was this: a malfunctioning waste treatment facility dumped thousands of gallons of sewage into the ocean, rendering Dog Beach unusable for the surf event scheduled that weekend.
It was rescheduled to the week I left for Africa, and it would pretty much have taken a zombie apocalypse to make me miss that trip. That was an unmissable trip, bomb scares, flight delays, and idiotic KLM policies notwithstanding. So to summarize: we didn’t surf last year.
We were invited by Surf-a-thon sponsor Iams to revisit the competition again this year, and as far as I know no one’s fouled the beach so it should proceed as scheduled on Sunday. Brody and I will be hanging out with the So Cal Surf Dogs and the Iams VP of Canine Communications Pawl Griffin, who is making his surfing debut at the competition (he lives in Ohio so I don’t think dog beaches are a regular thing for him.)
I’ll be doing some live broadcasting- out of the water, at least- using my phone and the new Color App. This is an app that allows people to stream one minute of video live from their phone, to your phone. It also posts directly to my Facebook page, but if you download the free app you can actually see us live streaming on your phone, which could be awesome or disastrously hilarious as it will be 100% live.
If you’re interested in trying it out (it’s pretty cool! I use it on my personal Facebook page too) you can download it from your app store or just call **COLOR (that’s **26567) from any smartphone, and you will be sent a text message with a link that takes you to the proper storefront (Android’s Google Play or iTunes) to download the app.
We’re going to do a refresher surf lesson on Saturday, to get Brody’s sea legs back. I’m a little nervous about him meeting a VIP like Pawl, but hope springs eternal that he will behave himself and not hog the instructor or vomit up seawater.
Festivities begin Sunday at 8:30 PST but Brody will be going later in the morning. I’m embarrassed to admit how nervous I am for this.
I went out for a run on Monday and left Brody at home. He was not thrilled, but I saw we had some extreme heat advisories in place for the day and I was worried that even starting at 7:30, it would be too hot. When I began, it was 82 degrees in the parking lot. When I finished two hours later, emerging onto the asphalt even as some ill advised people were just heading out, it was 102. And some of them had dogs with them.
I’m a fan- obviously- of being active with your dog. That is a good thing. That being said, I’m not a fan of pushing them beyond their limits in a situation that is potentially unsafe, particularly when you have an animal like a dog who really, really wants to make you happy and will probably go beyond what they should in order to please you. So when it’s hot, go really early, or really late, or just let them sit out the heat wave and catch them on the other side. It’s ok.
Brody likes to come outside with me when I’m doing things in the yard, and despite having some shady places to retreat to or the option of going inside, he wants to be with me at all times. When he gets hot enough, he goes and jumps in the pool. It works, as long as I’m not planning to go inside right away. I also have two little hot weather tricks that I always pull out during heat waves that the dogs just can’t get enough of.
He's always had a thing for water. From day one.
Cooling bandanas. It’s amazing how good one of these feels on a hot day- the cold material really does a great job helping move heat, particularly when you remember that dogs can’t sweat. Even if you don’t have one of those fancy bead-filled ones, a regular old bandana that’s kept wet with cold water can make a difference.
Icy treats. We use Kongs that I stick in the freezer and fill with broth, but there’s lots of options on the market. Plain old ice cubes do the trick, too. Anything to help keep the water intake up in the heat helps. Baby food works too, or, if you want to get fancy, we’ve covered how to create your own Frosty Paws at home. Remember these?
What are your favorite tips or tools for keeping your pet cool in the summer heat?
A few weeks ago, I got an email from Peter Noll, one of the local big kahunas in the surf dog scene. He got my name from none other than Judy Fridono, otherwise known as Surf Dog Ricochet’s owner, and they were wondering if I might be interested in hanging out at the Purina Incredible Dog Surf Dog challenge last Friday just in case there was a dog in need of a veterinarian. And you know, I would have gone anyway just to watch, so this was icing on the cake since I got to go and tangentially feel important.
The Purina Incredible Dog Challenge takes place at multiple venues across the country, with the National Championship taking place at the Purina headquarters in St. Louis in the fall. This weekend featured multiple events such as agility, dock diving, and frisbee freestyle- as far as I know the San Diego event is the only Purina IDC surf event, though. So for the elite 12 competitors who were invited, this was a big deal.
We had typical June gloom at 8 am. It was a bit overcast. Most creatures in the water were wearing either a wetsuit or a fur coat.
Last year’s reigning champ surveys the competition.
If you follow the surf dog scene, you know two of the big names: Surf Dog Ricochet and Kahuna Kona, both making excellent appearances on the waves.
Non-competitors made the cut on the fashion front.
I’ve never seen a Westie with as much swagger as this guy. He knew he was the bomb.
The local Surf Divas school sent out an ace team to help with the competition. If you’ve never surfed with your dog, and I’m betting 99% of you have not, here’s the deal.
First, you have to get out there with your dog and get them on to the surfboard. If your dog is over 25 pounds, you may need a helper. If your dog is Brody, you DEFININITELY need a helper. Then you need to drag them out through the breaking waves while they remain still, wait, and get just the right wave for them to catch. You need to hold the board perpendicular to the shoreline so when you shove off, they go straight instead of off to the side. Your push needs to be timed just right with the swell of the wave or else the board turns and they fall off. This is a workout.
For those who master the art, fame awaits.
For those who don’t, well, they’re dogs, and they are at the beach, so they are pretty much as happy as can be regardless.
And what a beach it is. When the sun came out, everyone cheered.
The wise and the brachycephalic know how to stay safe in the sun.
The last heat in the competition was the tandem competition. OK, so remember me saying surfing your dog was hard? Let’s say a 4 or 5 out of 10 depending on the dog’s size.
Try getting on the board and surfing with your dog. 7.
Try getting on the board with your dog and your daughter, then getting your daughter on your shoulders all while riding a wave. ELEVEN. Scott, Tyler and Zoey Chandler: what an incredible father-daughter-pup team.
And the best part about the competition? Everyone was so supportive of each other; when one handler wasn’t able to be there, another stepped in for the tandem competition without missing a beat, because that is how this community is. Nicest people and dogs ever.
As for my own level of difficulty, well, let’s say it was like a 1.5. Because I did have to keep a watchful eye on things and all. And I had to put on sunscreen when I got up, and that took a couple minutes, and I had to pack a first aid kit. Trust me, if someone had a minor laceration, I would have been all over it on that makeshift award stand/surgery table.
Oh yes, I need to check that dog’s tongue, please bring him a little closer for smooches. Trust me, I’m a vet.
Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe how I get to live here.
I leave for Africa in NINE days. That means you have to listen to me prattle on about how excited I am for NINE DAYS. But come on, if a genie popped out of a lamp and said, “look, I’m a little restricted on what I can give you but if I send you back to Tanzania to help out some donkeys for a week would that be cool?” I would pretty much throw myself into his discorporeal arms and breathlessly exclaim that this was EXACTLY what I would have wished for. So yes, I’m excited.
I’m also nervous, because before I work on the donkeys I’m climbing Mt. Meru with the World Vets team leader. I don’t want to disappoint her by developing altitude sickness, breaking my ankle, or dying, all things that are pretty much out of my control. Having never done something like climb a 14,000 peak with a group of strangers in a third world country, I’ve decided it’s best not to think too much about what I’ve committed myself to and just going for it. One day, when I am old, I hope to add this to the long list of things I was too stupid to realize they were insane to attempt at the time. Really, that’s how I ended up in vet school, and in the end that worked out OK, so I’m assuming this will too. Endless optimism.
But in the meantime, I’m doing what I can to be adequately prepared. I have about 14 prescriptions, spent more at REI than I care to admit in pursuit of the optimal day pack setup, and I’ve been running up and down Iron Mountain at every opportunity to try and get used to climbing.
I can't WAIT to add a Mt. Meru self portrait to the hiking series. :)
About halfway up today, I realized that I am now within the infamous two week “watch it” window. The window in which, if you fall and sprain your ankle, you’ve just ruined your trip. So I paused, panicked, and spent the rest of the hike gingerly goose-stepping my way up the trail in order to avoid any risk of injury.
Which actually worked out well for me, since it gave me plenty of opportunity to take in the sights. Hawks soaring overhead. Geckos skittering underfoot. I see at least 10 geckos every time I hike. This guy was basking at the summit.
But today, as I was strolling down the hill, a squat, roundish ankylosaur descendant ambled across my path and perched on the side of the trail, waiting for me to pass. I’d never seen one like him before. He was quite obvious on the pale dirt of the exposed trail, but on the rocks, his camouflage was fantastic.
See? Cute, huh?
Since I was in no rush, I took a bunch of pictures, holding Brody to my side and letting the other hikers pass without sharing what I was looking at. I think these guys can squirt blood out of their eyeballs and I figured that might put a damper on their hike.
What do you think he is? Some variation of horned lizard? Anyone know if this is a harbinger of a tremendous adventure or some ill portent?
The internet is obsessed with cats. We all know this. But for some reason, it is particularly obsessed with fat cats. I’m not talking slightly round, I mean morbidly obese balls of fur with little eyes peering out in mute supplication. Pictures of people holding a 25 pound cat dangling helplessly from their arms like a kid in a snow suit are especially popular.
And then they become news items like Meow, who would have been just another sad shelter relinquishment except for the fact that he weighed 39 pounds, which made him newsworthy because- well, I don’t know why, really. You don’t see huge rolly polly labs in the shelter stumbling around with arthritis getting on the Today Show. Maybe it’s because cats don’t advertise their discomfort very well? So you can convince yourself he’s just a happy lasagna chugging kitty and ignore all the other stuff going on?
I just don’t go “awwww” or “heee” or any of that when I see these guys. I get sad.
I see a cat who was just placed into an incredibly stressful situation who is a case of hepatic lipidosis waiting to happen. Unsurprisingly, sadly, Meow died in the shelter.
But then we had Spongebob. And Garfield. And there will be more, because veterinarians are not doing a good enough job counseling people on the fact that a 20 pound cat is not the norm and helping them figure out ways to solve it. And in the meantime, they get all the validation they want from the internet, who continues to eat this stuff up.
When I was in college, I dated a guy for a while who decided one day to show me his family photo album. Towards the back there was a cat-dangling picture, him proudly holding up his cat like a prize bass. I thought he was holding a footstool for a minute, the cat was so huge. He thought it was adorable. I was aghast. We looked at each other differently after that. He asked me when we broke up, “Why?” and I said something about growing apart, but really, we were doomed from the moment I saw that picture. Sorry about that, Jason.
I try to have a sense of humor about stuff- goodness knows we pet people can get a little overly serious at times. I’m fine with dogs in hats, cats in wigs, things that are silly, but I can’t and won’t ever see a serious medical condition as cute. I guess this is why I will never rule the internet.
Anyone here have a major epiphany about their pet’s weight? What really made it sink in that this was a problem?
As regular readers will know, I’ve been on a hiking kick lately. I can’t tell you how much fun Brody and I have had exploring the region together, despite my persistent and uneasy fears about mountain lions that my friend who has spent months researching said lions has done nothing to dissuade. Her only input was, “get an airhorn,” and, “you’re not running, are you? Because then you look like prey.”
No matter, it’s worth it. Better to go out in a flame of glory and be eaten by a cougar than be eaten by the couch.
Aside from the physical exercise and the mental stimulation of watching out for predatory cats, we are also enjoying the springtime blossoms and the less frightening forms of wildlife more prevalent in the area. Such as the oodles of lizards.
SO many lizards. Large ones, little ones, basking, scurrying. Despite this reptilian smorgasbord, I was somewhat surprised and not at all distressed that we haven’t come across any snakes. I am OK with this.
You’d think a desert mountain like this would be prime rattler territory- and it is- but they are generally avoidable if you stay to the cleared trails. In fact, the most assertive animal I’ve seen is this one:
Wile E. Coyote couldn’t give two hoots about all the humans around. Behind me, a group of schoolchildren ran amuk in the parking lot. He didn’t care. After spotting this guy I did mention to the woman with the off leash Maltese that she might want to reconsider her plans. (She did.)
My point is, it’s been a real pleasure to get out and commune with nature, especially since our own yards tend to be a little light on the wildlife-side. Except from that bobcat we had, I guess, and the skunk, and the coyotes. Seven years in this house and we’ve only seen a snake twice.
Oh, make that three times.
Today, my daughter opened the front door to go enjoy the afternoon sun, and let out a screech. “There’s a snake out there!” she yelled, slamming the door.
I walked over, thinking it would be another 12 inch gopher snake like the last one. And there, coiled on our welcome mat like the boss that he is, a King snake about 8000000 feet long. Somewhere between 3 feet and 8000000, at least.
He was a Burmese python as far as I’m concerned, a massive beast. It was kind of him to pose directly underneath the front window so we could safely press our faces to the door like a reverse zoo.
He soon realized he had an audience, craning his neck or whatever the heck snakes have to peer up at the five inquisitive primate and canine faces plastered to the glass in front of him. He stuck his tongue out as if to say, “I just came in from the sun for a moment, calm down,” and off he slithered into the front yard, passing right by the statue of St. Joseph huddled headfirst in the dirt like a sad ostrich.
I buried the St. Joseph statue as instructed by the more devout Catholics among you who informed me he is the patron saint of home selling, but maybe my behavior in college is still counting against me since I’m still waiting for him to pull through. So I guess I don’t really need to go far for wildlife, really- I have to find a way to work that to my advantage. I wonder if I should upgrade our MLS to read “Resplendent King Snake viewing from the front porch.” I’m sure that would bring ’em in.
Have you ever tried Gu when you’re out exercising? It’s like trying to swallow phlegm: pasty, sticky stuff that seals your esophagus shut with something that is supposed to be good for you. I don’t care for it (obviously.)
I think Brody feels the same way about biscuits. They’re fine for home, but if you’re out working up a sweat/pant/whatever, a dried out dessicated crunchy thing may not be the most appetizing choice. He doesn’t care for them. So I decided it was my goal for Be Kind to Animals Week to find a power bar or trail mix recipe that we could share. Pre made mixes won’t work: they’re either too salty, too sugary, or too packed with raisins and chocolate chips. Then, I found this recipe, and voila! a new treat was born.
The ingredients: It looks like a lot, but you don’t use much of any one thing.
1/3 c olive oil
1/4 c light brown sugar (I used sucanat)
1/2 c peanut butter
1 mashed banana
1 egg white
1 c whole wheat flour
1/8 c milled flax seed
1 3/4 c rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 c assorted nuts, seeds, and fruits. I used pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds, peanuts, coconut, mango, and banana chips. Remember to avoid chocolate, raisins, and macadamia nuts!
1. Combine olive oil and brown sugar until well combined
2. Stir in peanut butter
3. Add in banana and egg white
4. Combine flour, flax, cinnamon, and baking powder. Add to mix.
5. Stir in oats
6. Stir in trail mix, blending well until dough sticks together.
7. Shape with your hands into flat, round 1-2 inch cookies. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven on greased cookie sheet or Silpat for 8 minutes.
Store in refrigerator for 2 weeks or freezer for up to 4 months! Bet they won’t last that long.
If you want to see the process in action- I filmed at the same time I was photographing it, and boy that gets complex!- here is the video. Added bonus, you get to see whether or not Brody and Koa liked them at the end.