As you probably know, I have a bit of a complicated relationship with the PTA moms. Not moms in general, mind you, just the small subset of Pinterest loving, glue-gun wielding domestic lifestyle experts whose expectations I can never, despite my best efforts, seem to live up to. It doesn’t matter what school we’re at, it happens every time. First it was the art project/pooper scooper incident in kindergarten. Then it was the Have a Very Agro Valentine’s Day episode. And now it’s crudite, crudite that torments the soul.
It started simply enough: an email asking for volunteers to bring in food items for the teachers this conference week. I looked on the sign up sheet and put my name next to crudite: veggies and dip. Easy, I thought, a quick run to the grocery store for some carrot sticks and dip and done.
I forgot where I was.
(Not two weeks ago, I found myself in the midst of a malestrom for the fifth grade Halloween party when all the room moms got together and asked the parents to bring in food. I asked my class parents to bring in pretzels and fruit. The other moms showed up with cookies shaped like rotting fingers with almond nails and jelly blood, and eyeball eggs with veins hand-painted on with food dye. My pretzels were shoved under the table.)
So now, a few minutes after signing up for the veggie tray, I received an email instructing me to be creative! which is always concerning. To illustrate her point, the organizer included this helpful photo:
As to what our vegetables should aspire to be.
Now at this point a normal person would laugh and say, “OK, lady,” and bring in a tray from Costco, but unfortunately I still have the sin of pride to contend with on a regular basis, so I instead spent the afternoon standing in line at the grocery store watching YouTube videos of Martha Stewart blanching asparagus. Three hours of cursing later, with piles of peeled burnt chestnuts and carrot shavings dripping out of my hair like Jackson Pollock on a bender, I came up with this:
This is the dogged tenacity that makes people like me get through vet school even when all indicators point to the “why?” factor. We can’t explain it. We just have to.
I shared this with my friends, and they all got a good laugh out of how silly it was, and then later in the day my friend in Ohio sent me a link and said, “See? You’re not alone.” It was a photo of some artfully arranged food items a group of mothers had arranged for their teachers.
It was, upon further inspection, a photo from my very school from earlier in the day. It had already made the Pinterest rounds and ended up in Ohio, where my friend saw it and sent it to me as an example of Moms Gone Styled. I scrolled through it, looking for my contribution.
Notably lacking? The crudite. They were apparently so lackluster as to have not even rated a Facebook photo, and when I returned to pick up the dish I found they had been shoved in the corner in order to make way for some gluten free turkey wraps with hand-whisked dressings in, of course, Mason jars.
At this point, even a not quite normal person would just give up, which is theoretically what I should do, but it’s become clear to me I live in a parallel universe where I am destined to almost-quite get it, over and over and over, but not get it entirely. This is why I am a veterinarian, the almost-quites of the medical field.
So you know what? I’m embracing it. This afternoon I decided to go on a Pinterest binge and make a little Pinterest and dog-friendly crudite platter my way. Hope you enjoy it.
A bright autumn day, full of promise and gently whispered secrets amongst best of friends, calls for sustenance.
Lovingly hand-extruded kibble, with ingredients sourced from local artisans in an organic human-grade facility in Portland by men with bushy beards. In a Mason jar.
We end our afternoon in the garden of delights (it’s water friendly succulents! We’re eco friendly here in drought-parched SoCal) with hand-cut carrot bones from the local CSA, mint from the garden, words of wisdom from the dog sketched in canine-friendly peanut butter hand ground at Whole Foods. And of course, no pet garden of delights would be complete without the coup de grace:
nitrate free ham roses.
You saw it first here, folks. I’m waiting on sponsors for a YouTube tutorial but I think a ham bouquet is a lovely thing.
One thing I’ve learned about going on vacation, is that I don’t like to relax.
How can I, when there’s so much to do and so little time! I want to see ALL THE THINGS!
And most of the time I vacation with my husband he responds with a blank stare and a “why would you want to do all of that?” So this time around we went to Turks and Caicos, a small island chain in the Bahamas whose island upon which we landed is only 38 square miles, so I think he assumed he would have me boxed in by water and I’d have no choice but to chill out.
He was wrong, of course. Shortly after arriving, I spotted the telltale signs of what I knew to be an island without an animal control program: stray dogs darting across the street, hiding from the midday heat and humidity in whatever shade they could find. In the Bahamas, these distinctive stray dogs are called potcakes, after the congealed rice and pea mixture scraped up from the bottom of the pot that was traditionally fed to the dogs. Scrappers from the start, these sturdy little guys.
With no official animal control and a population subject to the elements, starvation, parvo, and heartworm, one of the ways to deal with them was through poisoning (a very common and unfortunate way to cope when there is no program in place to help the animals.) Potcake Place is a rescue located on the island, 100% volunteer run and donation based, that exists to help bridge that gap and give these dogs a chance. Visitors are welcome to come in and meet the pups, so of course within 24 hours I mapped the place out and planned a trip.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to find, but I sure wasn’t expecting this:
What they have managed to make out of so little is truly heroic. Enjoy the pictures of these healthy little pups. I guarantee you, before these rescue volunteers took them in they were not this happy and healthy.
The facility is cheery, tidy, and full of happy. It makes people WANT to go in, as evidenced by the steady flow of tourists into the building to play, learn, and offer to courier the dogs back to the States. As the bulletin board shows, they’ve been successful in that as well.
(aside- one in Hawaii?? That’s hardcore.)
Best souvenir ever, right? These people all seem to think so.
Knowing this was ABSOLUTELY NO NO NO out of the question that we would be able to take a dog home, I settled for the next best thing: Potcake Place allows you to be a ‘foster for a day’, taking a dog out and about to give them socialization, exercise, and an opportunity to show off for more tourists on the street.
Who’s available? I asked.
They said, Bran, Rickon, and Arya. Was this meant to be or what? So we borrowed, of course, Arya.
Come on. This is totally relaxing.
So anyway, we spirited Arya back to our little stretch of beach and told her all about the world. How people are pretty cool, if you trust them. How she should enjoy this water while she could because rumor had it she was on her way to Boston on Saturday. She took it all in stride.
Did I mention Arya is extremely photogenic? I hope she goes to someone with a blog. Almost as much as I hope she goes to a Game of Thrones fan.
And she’s great with kids. Seriously, she was awesome.
So awesome, in fact, that when I saw her in the airport departure lounge on her way to a no kill shelter in Boston I seriously considered changing her out with my neck pillow- they’d never know until it was too late. Cooler heads prevailed, of course, and I decided I would instead focus my efforts on trying to convince them to put in an application for a World Vets team to come and help with a large scale spay/neuter effort.
I know just the right vet to help out.
To learn more about Potcake Place, visit their website or Facebook page. They adopt to people all over the United States, even those who have never been to the island; you put in an application, and once you are approved you wait until someone from your area goes there on vacation and volunteers to courier the pup back to you. Isn’t that a great system?
If there’s one thing that’s harder to get a good picture of than a black dog, it’s a black cat. At least Kekoa was easily bribed. Apollo- well, let’s just say this was an all-hands on deck sort of mission.
For National Hairball Awareness Day- which is today, by the by- we were invited by Furminator to participate in their Cats with Moustaches Campaign. The concept was simple: Furminate your cat (cakewalk), glue the hair onto a cardboard moustache (Messy, but elementary), then get a photograph of said cat posing just right with the moustache in front of their face (Level 23 Difficulty), and oh yes the cat and the moustache are monochromatic and the lighting in the house is bad (Pick up the ring, go into Mordor).
This is why we wound up with this picture:
Because without Photoshop, this wasn’t going to happen.
Apollo’s opinion of the matter was somewhere along the lines of, “You will pay for this.” Those of you who follow me on Facebook saw my frantic post about the best pet urine removers this week? I’m convinced that’s payback. And this, my friends, is why he’s so rarely on the blog. He’s antisocial.
Brody, on the other hand, noticed a camera and treats and happily posed free of charge for 15 shots with Apollo’s fur huffed to his face. He liked it.
To see what the other 11 brave cat writers came up with for this campaign, check them out on People Pets. In return for these photos, Furminator generously donated 25 Furminator tools to a shelter of our choice for each participant, so it was worth every second.
I do not profess to know what happens to us after we die. Even those who have strong faith in what will happen to us after we go are sometimes unsure of what happens to our beloved pets. And to them, I quote the great Will Rogers: “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
When someone close to me passes on, be it person or pet, I have a dream about them a week or so later. I don’t know why, if it is a quirk of my subconscious or an actual visit or who the heck knows; the theologians can debate it all they want, but these particular dreams always stick with me long after I wake and give me a good deal of comfort. And yes, I had a dream about Kekoa a week or so ago, right before the funeral service in our backyard arranged by our daughter and very kindly attended by all four grandparents.
But last night I had a different dream, and regardless of what it means it really struck me because it’s the only time I’ve had one like it. Those of you who have been around for a while may remember me speaking about my grandmother Mary, who passed away several years ago and is the person, I believe, who most set me on the path I am on today as a veterinarian. You may also recall my grandfather John, who passed away just under a year ago. It was from him, I later learned, that I got my obsession with adventure and the dream of climbing Mt. Meru, which I accomplished last year.
So in this dream, I am driving around on a grassy hillside and I pull into a driveway, quiet and remote. Another car pulls up, and it’s my grandmother.
“Open the window so I can see your face,” she says. “It’s been so long.”
But I get out instead, and look in her backseat. And there is my dog Mulan, who died of melanoma in 2009, right before I started the blog.
Not Brody! This is Mulan and Emmett, in 2008.
“Is she doing better?” I ask, reaching in as she licks me.
“Of course!” Mary says proudly. “I know how to take care of animals. She is doing very well.”
I peer into the drivers seat. “Is my grandfather up there?”
“Yes,” she laughs. “But he doesn’t want to come out.” Which is typical.
I pat Mulan, and I start to cry.
“What’s wrong?” she asks.
“I just lost another dog,” I said. “She had bone cancer.”
My grandmother takes my hand, and says, “I’m sorry.” She kisses me and I wake up with a wet pillow.
You know how some dreams are. Some are bizarre flights of fancy, some dreadful chasms of dark worries come to fruition. And others, in those rare and brief moments, sweep you up in their elusive beauty and show you something that stays with you long after you wake. They feel real. And of all the people for Mulan to find on the other side, my sweet dog who was abandoned by an owner who didn’t feel like treating her flea allergies and wanted me to euthanize her instead, I’m so glad that at least in my mind, she found Mary.
I don’t know what it means, or if it means anything. But I am so glad it was a dream I got to have.
I was so thrilled to be able to see the Rose Parade this year live and in person. The extras, like seeing Jane as Grand Marshal and getting to meet some absolutely incredible members of the military participating in the Canines With Courage float, was just added icing on the cake. My hosts at Natural Balance were incredibly kind, helpful and amazing to all of us who were fortunate enough to enjoy their hospitality. Hope you enjoy some of the great photographs we were able to take while we were there! Happy, happy new year to you all!
And so it begins
The leading float from the 2013 Rose Parade sets the tone for the day.
The Marine Corps band rests before taking up their tubas at the start of the show.
Spirit of Aloha
The Hawaii Pa'u Riders all hail from the State of Hawaii.
Who let the dog out?
A beagle peeks out from the HGTV "All Paths Lead Home" float.
Mater, Lightning McQueen and Sally race back and forth across the elaborate Disneyland Cars Land float.
Canines with Courage
In one of the most talked about moments of the parade, Army Sgt First Class Eric Pazz leaped from the float to surprise his wife and child in the bleachers.
We meant to do that
Dole celebrates Latin America with a Costa Rica inspired float that includes a fire spewing volcano.
20 dancers representing the Solo Batik Carnival accompanied the beautiful entry from the Republic of Indonesia.
Come with me- on a magic carpet ride
The Kiwanis float gives new meaning to the Flying Nun.
With this parade I thee wed
A lucky couple weds on the "Love Float."
It's a bird...it's a plane
The B2 flyover is one of the most thrilling parts of the Rose Parade. With a wingspan of 172 feet, it creates quite a stir.
We love Jane!
Grand Marshal Jane Goodall continues to promote her message of global conservation.
Prime Time Express
The youngest member of this all female mounted drill team from Texas is a mere seven years old.
The Valley Hunt club initiated the Rose Parade; equine teams are a long standing tradition in the parade.
Live the Dream
The Shriners Hospitals for Children float represents two signature Shriners events- a football game and a golf tournament- that raise awareness of the mission to prove high quality pediatric care.
Oh, the Places You'll Go
Kaiser takes a traditional interpretation to this year's Rose Parade theme.
A sea of flowers
Every surface on a Rose Parade float must be covered in flowers or organic material.
The Pasadena City College Honor Band has been in every Rose Parade since 1930.
The Royal Court
Rose Queen Vanessa Manjarrez presides over the 2013 Royal Court. And yes, they braved the chill in bare arms!
Gabe the Hero Dog
Gabe, a retired military working dog riding on the Canines with Courage Natural Balance float, is also a 2012 Hero Dog award winner.
University of Wisconsin
And the band plays on!
Beverly Hills Adoptables
All the adorable pups riding on the Beverly Hills Pet Care Foundation Float are available for adoption.
Dew Drop By
Sub 50 degree temps didn't keep these fairies from smiling.
Down the line
Spectators lined up and down the entire 5.5 mile parade course in Pasadena.
January 1, 9:15. I’m sitting in the grandstands on Orange Grove Blvd enjoying my first trip to the Rose Parade in Pasadena. Earlier, in the chill dark morning mist, I and a handful of other lucky press saw the Natural Balance Canines With Courage float lined up down the road, and I got to meet the delightful and utterly gracious Dick Van Patten while he warmed up inside a roadside trailer.
When the Canines with Courage float, a full scale replica of the new Military Working Dogs National Monument, passed us in the stands, the crowd around me surged to their feet to cheer on the canine handlers riding and walking alongside the float. More on these amazing soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines later. I had met many of them the night before, but a few, such as the soldier perched up front, I had not met. I thought nothing of it at the time.
Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Willingham with Lucca, memorial creator and Army veteran John Burnam, and “mystery soldier.”
We were sitting about 3 blocks ahead of the main media area. About 5 minutes after the float passed, the parade paused and we heard a ruckus. We craned our necks to see what was going on, wondering if something had caught fire or stalled or something. A few minutes later, Twitter blew up.
“WOW Natural Balance brought to tears!” “Most amazing float ever!” “I can’t believe what I just saw” etc.
And we were confused, because while it was indeed a beautiful float, the reaction seemed a tad bit over-stated. Then, of course, we figured it out: the secret a handful of top level military and Natural Balance execs had kept under wraps for seven months.
In the front row, Miriam Pazz and her son Eric were enjoying the show, flown in from Germany as a special guest of the company. As the float went by, she did a double take. “I recognized him immediately,” she said- him being her husband Army Sergeant First Class Eric Pazz, deployed to Afghanistan the past seven months. It was the best kept secret of the day, a joint effort of the military and Natural Balance to bring a holiday surprise to a well deserving family.
Pazz, nominated for the honor by his fellow soldiers, was selected based on factors such as his distinguished service and his number of deployments. He never imagined actually being chosen. For the past month, he’s kept it a secret from his wife and son, who thought they were going on vacation- without Dad. As the float pulled in front of the stands with cameras from around the world trained on them, well, you know the rest of the story.
I got to meet Eric and Miriam after the parade, when they graciously postponed a private family reunion to talk to press and well-wishers in the post parade area. As with all military members I’ve had the pleasure to meet, they were humble, so generous with their time with the curious public, and so complimentary to everyone they have met along the way. The Pazz family is a credit to the US military- and I’m so honored to have a chance to meet them and witness such an exceptional moment.
Grace Under Pressure: From a quiet early morning on a parade route to the national spotlight, the Pazz family handled the attention with grace and charm
I don’t do stress very well. I get antsy. I eat too many cookies. I spend a lot of time staring vacantly into space listening to my heartbeat drum in my ears as I resist, with variable success, the urge to overreact to every little thing. You’d think I would be better at dealing with this sort of thing by now, but of all the curveballs I’ve weathered in life, this particular move has really unsettled me in a way that makes me entirely sympathetic to those who are simply steering clear of me until everything is in the clear. It’s what I would do in your shoes.
The urge to run is strong. If only I could escape somewhere far, far away, I would feel a lot better. In the absence of an actual physical egress, perhaps a pictorial one will do. (This must be why I’ve always obsessed over National Geographic.) One can’t get much further away than Antarctica. Join me, if you would, for just a moment, to the happy land of Antarctic Emperor penguins, where no one has to argue about closing costs, fish are abundant, and if you want to shove the guy next to you into the drink you can totally make it look like an accident.
The following is an excerpt from the November edition of National Geographic magazine. For the full piece online, please click here. Enjoy!
When an emperor penguin swims through the water, it is slowed by the friction between its body and the water, keeping its maximum speed somewhere between four and nine feet a second. But in short bursts the penguin can double or even triple its speed by releasing air from its feathers in the form of tiny bubbles. These reduce the density and viscosity of the water around the penguin’s body, cutting drag and enabling the bird to reach speeds that would otherwise be impossible. (As an added benefit, the extra speed helps the penguins avoid predators such as leopard seals.)
I can go ahead and add this to the list of things I want to see before I die. Add to the list of things I do not need to see ever again: Buyer Disclosure Lists, escrow closing documents, packing boxes.
My life has been greatly enriched by having an ipad subscription to Nat Geo. It’s saved me from having to read 2010 issues of Life and Style at the doctor’s office more times than I can count.
Thanks to National Geographic for permission to use these fantastic images from Paul Nicklen and the November issue of National Geographic magazine. For more images and interactive video of the penguin zooming out of the water, you can go here. Happy Monday!
Every little kid who wants to be a vet someday says it’s because they love puppies and kittens and think we get to play with them all day. And then we smile, trying not to look too discouraging, as we encourage their dream while thinking of all the cancer euthanasias, anal sac abscesses, and “it-just-started-yesterday-I-swear” 10 centimeter pedunculated, bloody masses.
Some people thrive on all that stuff. Me, I never got beyond the 10 year old version of being a vet. I like preventive care. I like seeing and maintaining health more than I do fixing it once it’s broken. That is boring to some, but it’s what I enjoy. And when I was in Granada with World Vets, my favorite afternoons were the ones we spent doing impromptu street clinics for the outlying neighborhoods, because guess what we got to see?
Healthy pets. Puppies and kittens galore. And we got to do treatments to keep them healthy, and this made me very happy. Preventive care and humane education are crucial to this type of program’s success, and they give us an excellent excuse to go and interact with gaggles of fluffy awesomeness.
Teensy, tiny tongues slay me.
Yeah man, it’s cool, just getting a rabies vaccine. It’s all good.
Why yes, I did know rabies was a zoonotic disease. This is good to know.
All right, who ate frijoles for breakfast?
Lion King auditions are next week, ok, Simba? Simmer down.
Thanks, Dr. Lester.
Let me reward you for your service by being exceptionally adorable.
Yes, I agree, it’s weird that we haven’t seen any- hey, what’s in the bag?
Kittens, that’s what.
No one can resist a kitten. This is why they rule the universe.
Stare deep into my eyes….yes, you’re getting sleepy….yes, you reach for that can of tuna….
I’ll be just as cute in the States as I am here. Thank for adopting me.
Now excuse me while I go take a nap in your pocket.