Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Selma

I finally got a chance to see the movie "Selma" the other day. I was out of town for the weekend and since I had some time to myself, I thought I would catch a movie. I also had a movie theater gift card from work (Christmas gift) so it wasn't going to cost me anything. I thought about going out to dinner but I had an inkling of what might be coming with Duncan so I mostly wanted to be alone.  (Well, alone in a theater full of strangers, but you know what I mean).

What I will probably always remember about the movie is that the teenager who sat three rows in front of me  had a mohawk.  This was no ordinary mohawk.  This thing was about ten inches tall. Every time his head would swivel back and forth, I got a new view of it. And I mean to tell you that not one hair moved. Not one.  It was truly a sight to behold. I don't know what sort of product he put in there, but I think it was a close cousin of cement.

The movie itself was amazing, of course. Just knowing that the events depicted had truly happened really ramped up the impact of the film. Something about the effects, the sound, the grittiness . . . I really felt like I was there at times. Every time a white cop hit one of the peaceful civil rights marchers with his nightstick, I flinched. Every single time. I gasped every time someone was kicked or thrown against a cement wall. It just felt very real.

If you haven't seen the movie, I would definitely recommend it. There are scenes that are hard to watch but we know that it all mattered. The work of MLK and his fellow marchers . . . it mattered. It's our shared history and just because things are a little better now doesn't mean it didn't happen.

The same day I saw "Selma," I also finished watching "42," which is the story of baseball legend Jackie Robinson.  I had been watching it on my Kindle via HBO-GO. I couldn't help but draw some parallels between the two films. I think what's most alarming to me is that not that much time has passed since the civil rights movement began. It's been a mere five decades since Selma. It was so jarring for me to hear people (in both films) yelling things like, "Go home, n*gger."

I know, of course, that even though we no longer have separate bathrooms and separate water fountains, racism still surely exists. My friend Maurice helps to keep me ever mindful of this fact (he posts some thought-provoking stuff on Facebook).  I went to high school with Maurice.  He is a doctor who went to Harvard Medical School and yet, he still has to worry about what might happen to him if he gets pulled over by a police officer. He could have a dozen letters behind his name but at the end of the day . . . he's still a man of color who has to worry about these things.

I feel fortunate that I grew up in a culturally diverse environment. I was taught to be respectful to everyone who crossed my path, from busboys to Billy Joel (I did meet Billy Joel when I was a teenager!)  However, I think even I have to search my heart and keep track of any prejudices I might be carrying around. When I was around 19, I was working as an assistant manager at a clothing store. I really liked the manager, a woman named Lisa. She was funny and smart. Anyway, one night she and I were in the store alone and she peered out the front window.  There was a man looking under the hood of her car, tinkering with something. As it turned out, she'd been having car trouble and her husband had driven over to take a look at the engine.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you that my husband is black," she said.

I was embarrassed and shocked. What on earth had I said that would have given her the impression that I was someone who would need to have an inter-racial marriage explained to me in this apologetic way? I searched my brain but could not remember anything I had said. Had I made a joke that just came off wrong? I still wonder about it, to this day. What else have I done, even sub-consciously? Do I walk a little more quickly if a black man is walking behind me on the street? I don't think so but if I'm guilty of such things, I need to be honest with myself and work on it.

Anyway, see "Selma" if you get a chance. It's worth it.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Duncan


Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince:   
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!


Duncan crashed over the weekend. The paralysis in his forelegs (caused by some sort of damage to his spinal cord) rapidly spread to his rear legs as well. By this morning, he could no longer walk at all and was completely miserable. The nerve damage was progressive and irreversible.

We had planned to run some tests this morning but once Duncan took this tragic turn over the weekend, the tests became a moot point. Dr. B called me with the bad news. The decision to euthanize Duncan was devastating but also clear-cut. Dogs typically do fine with three legs. Some even do fine with two (through the use of doggie wheelchairs). But no working limbs at all? That one's a deal-breaker. And so it was that I left work and headed to the clinic to say good bye to Dunk.

Nearly 900 dogs have passed through our rescue. There were just four dogs that I gave some serious consideration to keeping: Griffin, Kenny, Duncan, and Benny. Interestingly, all were males and three of the four were white.

You'd think that after 15 years of fostering, saying good-bye would get a little easier. Or maybe you'd think I'd protect my heart a little more, not get so attached. Well, I can't apologize for my tender heart. I'm just me.

As I sit here at home, with white fur on my sweater from hugging Dunk before and after his death, all I can do is to hope he knew I really tried to do right by him. I don't know where he came from or how old he was or what happened to him, but I do know that I loved him so. Wherever he is now, I like to think he's running on all four legs - possibly feeling just a little bit relieved that I didn't have a chance to neuter him before he died.

I'll miss you, Duncan. You were a good boy. No matter what, I do not regret meeting you and loving you.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Well, this certainly sucks



I am sorry to report that my foster boy, Duncan, has taken a nosedive. Duncan (AKA Dunk, Dunkie, Ho-Dunk-Po-Dunk, Ba-Dunk-a-Dunk) came into rescue as a stray. His right foreleg did not (and does not) work.  Other than that, he seemed to be okay. The challenge with a stray is that I don't know his true age and I don't know what his "normal" is. He's never been a big eater (at least not in the three weeks he's been with us). He's not terribly active. However, Duncan manages to get around pretty well and seems like a pretty happy guy. I've been very taken with him - his big googly eyes just make my heart go all gooey.  The young, healthy dogs are easy to place, easy to let go of. The broken ones . . . well, not so much. The more I have to invest of myself, the harder it is.

In the past few days, Duncan has not been himself, whatever "himself" is. He's been stumbling a lot and has been hesitant to get up and move around. He just picks a spot and stays there. He eats, but not much. His neuter appointment is scheduled for Tuesday so I just kept thinking, "We'll see how he does between now and then." I have been fostering dogs for 15 years so I am not one to panic unless there is blood involved.  However, today my husband called me at work and reported that when he went home for lunch, he opened Duncan's crate, and Dunkie stumbled out and went ass over teakettle. "I think he needs to be seen right away," my husband told me.

As luck would have it, Fat Gretchen already had a vet appointment for this afternoon. So, I called the clinic and begged them to let me bring Duncan in as well.  They did some juggling and asked me to get there as soon as I could.  So, I left work immediately, drove across town to pick up both dogs, and then high-tailed it to the clinic. One of the clinic employees saw me outside, with Duncan stumbling in the snow. Gretchen was being her typical useful self by pulling on her leash like some kind of freakin' sled dog.  Anyway, Laurie ran out and helped us into the building and put us in a room.

Dr. B came in and had a look at Duncan. Dr. B knows that I've been in the rescue biz for a long time and that I've seen a lot of bad stuff. So, there's not much point in coddling me or making things seem better than they are. He always shoots it to me straight.  He immediately deduced that whatever nerve damage caused the right leg to go kaput is now doing the same to the left leg. Once he said it, it seemed so obvious. That's why Dunk has been stumbling all around - the poor little dude cannot feel (or control) his forelegs. Dr. B grabbed some forceps and pinched the bejeebers out of both front paws. Almost no reaction on either side. The vet and the vet tech then took Duncan down the hall and ran x-rays and bloodwork.  The x-rays look okay and the bloodwork was fine.  However, a spinal cord injury would not show up on an x-ray.

So, Duncan is staying at the clinic for the weekend so that they can run more tests (including a myelogram) on Monday.  Frankly, it is not looking good and I don't have to tell you that my heart is breaking. I mean, I have to be pragmatic about these things. I can't throw thousands of dollars (of the rescue's money) into a hopeless situation.  However, we can run some tests and see if there is any small chance that there is something that can be done. Dr. B's initial theory is that the root of the issue is either a spinal tumor or a bulging disk. If it's a disk, it's been like this for a long time, so there's probably no way to fix it.

I guess I will just hold out some hope that maybe there is something that can be done. I do love that goofy little dog. Please keep him in your thoughts.

In other news, Gretchen did get a clean bill of health.  She and I got bored after two hours in an exam room and decided to take a selfie. And then one of us farted.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

I'm cheating on you

It's true. I have another blog. It's set to private, though, so no one can see it but moi.  I am just trying to work out some stuff and the writer in me is compelled to tackle that challenge via the written word. However, I am not comfortable sharing it and so, it stays private for now.  Hey, it's cheaper than therapy, right?

I haven't been posting much on this blog because, well, it's January. I think we can all agree that January does not have much to brag about. At work, I don't have another holiday until May. The days are pretty grey. And long. And hum-drum. While we wait patiently for spring, the kid has decided that it's high time we start talking about her birthday (which is 3 1/2 months away).  She's already working on the list of kids she wants to invite to her birthday party. Oh, how it annoys her that she has to suffer through her dad's birthday (in January) and mine (in February) before we can fully focus on the most important birth of all. 

Speaking of birthdays, how embarrassing would it be if I asked for these for my birthday?


I have a pair of roller blades (which need new wheels) but I can't help it - I just really like the old school skates of yore. I take my daughter to the local rink from time to time and unlike many parents, I actually skate. I have a feeling my days are numbered before I'm asked to drop her off and then, you know, go home. If I buy skates, I can exercise my right to skate in my 'hood any time I want.  Well, once the snow melts, that is.

I can tell you who won't be purchasing these skates for me, though, and that's my father. When I was four, I fell and broke my arm while rollerskating. It's been 40 years, but the dude is still traumatized.

I'm also thinking of getting a fitbit. I've been doing a little bit of research but would be interested to hear more feedback. I know there is a new model that tracks heart rate (which seems handy).  I'm not 100% sure I want something strapped on my wrist all the time, though.

So, that's all the news for now. I'm headed out of town for the weekend. The rescue has its annual meeting, so I'm going to stay overnight - in a hotel! All by myself! I was thinking I might try to catch that movie "Selma," too.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to yell at someone to turn off the bad Top 40 music and do her homework.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Stepping outside the ol' comfort zone

When I was a freshman at Texas A&M at Galveston, I scarcely ate for the first day or two because I was too scared to find the student union on my own. I just hung out in my dorm room, eating snacks from a vending machine. I've always been a little bit fearful about meeting new people and encountering new situations, and I'm not what you'd call a great conversationalist.  To this day, if I'm not sure how to keep a conversation going (or how to end it gracefully), I sometimes just look down at the floor, wander away, and hope the other person is not offended.

Today, 26 years later, I'm slightly less introverted than I was then. Having a career that requires me to work directly with clients has helped a lot. Plus, now that I'm middle-aged, I simply care less about what other people think. If you dropped me off on that college campus today, I would loudly proclaim my hunger and then ask for directions to the cafeteria. No one would hear the end of it until I had food in mah belly. These days, I do try to step outside my comfort zone as opportunities arise. I'm fairly involved with my church and facilitate many of the services.  This role requires me to stand up in front of everyone and use a microphone, which can be pretty daunting.

As you may recall, for the past few years I've been coordinating an annual Pride-themed service at my church each summer. Last year, I invited a woman who runs a local Gay Straight Alliance for adults. Her son is a prominent activist for LGBT rights and as his mom, I think she just wanted to do her part as well.  Anyway, every month she invites me to the group's monthly meeting via Facebook. It's always on a Tuesday and I go to yoga on Tuesdays.  However, last night I decided to skip yoga since I had been to the gym the night before and my back was really angry about something. I figured I'd go and check out the meeting, which was held at a local church.

I'd been to this church before because I'd done some web work for them at one time. So, I knew it was pretty big. I parked my car and headed into the building. A man was coming up the walkway behind me.  "Do you know where the community council meeting is?" he asked me.

"No, sorry," I replied.  This told me that there were multiple meetings going on inside the church. Crud. How would I find mine without looking like a doofus? And why is spell check telling me that doofus is not a word?

As I entered the building and walked up the stairs, I was about to look for a body to ask about the meeting location. However, just as I turned the corner, I spotted a beautifully dressed woman who, in all likelihood, had been born with boy parts. "Okay, found my peeps!" I thought.  I walked in and re-introduced myself to the group leader (and reminded her of how/why she knew me).

There were a dozen or so people at the meeting. Some were longtime members of the group and several attended the church in which the meeting was held. There were two couples (women) and the rest, as far as I could tell, were there on their own. I found a seat and waited. It was an interesting, diverse sort of group. The conversation flowed in a few different directions. We talked about Leelah Alcorn, the transgender girl who killed herself a couple weeks ago. Now, I have to say that senior citizens don't always get proper credit for being open-minded and current. There was an elderly woman (cane and all) at the meeting who said she cried when she read about Leelah's death.  If you were a gay or transgender kid, you'd want this lady to be your grandma, hands down. Another woman shared that she is a retired English teacher who told her students that once she retired, she would fight for LGBT rights. And she does.

I felt like there were a few vaguely awkward moments.  The term "gay marriage" was used multiple times and I think the preferred term is "marriage equality" - or even, simply, "marriage." The same-sex couples who were there were asked if they are married.

All in all, it was a nice group and well worth the journey on a cold night. I may go again sometime. I'm hoping to recruit a couple of speakers for the Pride service this summer and this meeting would be a good place to find them.  I am just so glad that those who identify as gay or transgender have somewhere to go. I'm so impressed with the programs in high schools these days, too.  When I was in school, there were no clubs for LGBT kids.  Of course, with the good news comes the bad - like Leelah Alcorn's story.

When the meeting was over, I loitered at the treat table and had some water and mini Oreos. I realized I'd better get home because there was laundry to be done, as always.  Here's where the social awkwardness part comes in again. I didn't really know anyone there, so I threw my paper cup away and then simply walked out, waving to the attendee who was closest to the door. I mean, I figured my departure didn't really require any fanfare. ("Hey everyone, the straight lady is leaving now!") I might still be a bit inept in social situations but I figure . .. there are worse ways to be.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The New Guy

I've now been a rescue volunteer for 15 years. That seems crazy, doesn't it? I think all rescue people are probably a little nutty. I mean, I suppose one must have to be a little off to take in dogs that strangers have abandoned and then let them wreck your house (the dogs, not the strangers).  When I die, if no one can think of anything to say about me except, "well, she did save a few dogs" . . . well, I'm okay with that scenario. I'd prefer that they remember my rescue work instead of my horrible singing voice, questionable driving skills, and iffy fashion choices.

I picked up a new foster dog on Saturday. He was a stray so he needed a name; the kid named him Duncan. I'm embarrassed to tell you where she got that name. If you have a kid in your house who plays Minecraft, you may be familiar with a dude named Stampy Longnose. Stampy has made something like 45,654,870 Minecraft videos. Anyway, Stampy has a dog named Duncan. A make-believe dog, I mean. I'd explain it if I could.

Anyway, Duncan is just adorable. He's a bit of a train wreck, but I took him to the vet today to get started on his vet care. He's lame on one foreleg. It's nothing that can be fixed, though. I have debated with myself whether or not to have the leg amputated, but he uses it enough (mainly for balance) that I don't think amputation would be the right call at this time. He's cryptorchid, meaning that one of his testicles is still inside his body somewhere. That's how I know I've been doing rescue too long - I immediately felt him up and counted his testicles. He's also got a bunch of skin tags, which I'll have removed when he's neutered. The animal shelter didn't give him any vaccinations and he's got some green snot going on, so I'm fairly confident that Duncan's going to break with kennel cough shortly.

I've always said that strays have the nicest temperaments, and Duncan proves my theory once again. He's just an absolute doll.  If I sit next to him on the floor, he balances on his good leg and then hoists up the "bad" leg and flings it across my lap. Then he gives me kisses, and if you could smell his breath, you'd have great admiration for my act of love (in letting him put his face on my face). 

He'll be with us for at least a few weeks and then I'll work in finding him a home. He might be a tough one to part with, but if it's the right home, I'll let him go.




Tuesday, December 30, 2014

These shoes are made for . . . loping along


I've never been much of a runner. Remember the physical fitness testing in school?  Do they still do that?  I remember having to do the flexed arm hang, shuttle run, 50-yard dash, and 600-yard dash. I can't remember what else. Sit-ups, maybe?  I remember doing okay on the 50-yard dash, and even the flexed arm hang. The 600-yard dash, though? There was no dashing involved. I would jog along for a bit and then walk around the track, usually with a couple other girls, while a gym teacher yelled, "C'mon, ladies!" I have just never been much of a distance runner.

So, naturally I'm planning to run a 5K in May. I even got new sneakers for Christmas. I've gone to the gym a couple of times since then. Normally, I go right for the elliptical and then do 40-45 minutes on that, shying away from running entirely. I think it all comes down to high impact vs. low impact. I spend a lot of time doing yoga and cardio and don't have any issues because it's all low-impact - as in, my feet stay on some sort of surface the whole time. Anyway, right now what I'm doing is to run on the treadmill (it's 8 degrees here today so that's why I'm not running outside). I run for a couple of minutes, then walk for a bunch of minutes, and then run for a couple more minutes, etc. My hope is that eventually I'll be running more than I'm walking.

I do have few challenges when it comes to running:
  • My left foot doesn't really like it. This is the foot on which I had surgery in May. You know how when you wreck your car and the insurance company fixes it but it's never quite the same again?  It's like that. My foot doesn't hurt like it did before the surgery, but it will never be "right" again.
  • I'm kind of, um, busty. I just strap 'em down and hope for the best.
  • My hips aren't huge fans of the running. I've been struggling with my bad hips since I was in my 20s. I never sleep very well. My poor husband has been so patient as I've tried out different types of bedding and mattress pads on our bed. Right now, I have a memory foam mattress topper and two mattress pads on the bed. If I ever find the magic combination that allows me to sleep without pain, it'll be the best day of my life. 
So, why persist with the running then?  I guess I just want to see if I can do it. I don't like not being able to do something. I also want to see if I can understand what it is that all of my runner friends are always raving about. Plus, I'm signing up my daughter for the 5K as well (we plan to run a 10K a month later). I figure it's something we can do together. Although my plan is that we'll do some training runs together in the spring, the reality is that she could roll out of bed tomorrow and run miles without stopping. Damn kids and their energy.

I'll keep you posted on my running progress (I'm sure you can't wait).  If you happen to belong to my gym and see me loping along on the treadmill . . . for the love of God, just avert your eyes.