Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Pepper Predicament - Part 5: Pepper Comes Home

My dad and I drove separately to the vet, since he had business to attend to when we were done, so I led the way. Thankfully, the drive there is super easy. You drive straight down one street for 60+ blocks, make a right, and then just a few blocks later you're there. Et voila!

We went in and I told the receptionist we were there to see Pepper. She called back and Dad and I waited in the lobby. This was the longest we'd had to wait yet, but there seemed to be a pretty good reason. Instead of us going back to see Pepper, they brought Pepper out to us.

When Hubby and I had visited the night before, we took Pepper outside on a walk. (OK, we just wandered around the lawn, but still.) He was fairly stable, but still a little wobbly, so I was pretty excited when the vet tech walked my little man out to us on a leash!

They had us go into a room with a big leather sofa and lots of boxes of tissues (I'm guessing it doubles as the bad news room, or maybe even the euthanasia room...). My biggest surprise of the day came when I sat on the couch and my little man jumped right up after me. What?! This dog couldn't even stand long enough to eat less than 48 hours ago, and now he's jumping up on the couch like it's nothing! Is this the right dog?

We waited for the vet for awhile. She popped her head in to let us know it would be another 5 minutes, and we waited some more. My dad never sat. He just stood there, ready to take on whatever or whomever he had to. I'm so thankful he was there.

Anywhoozles, the vet finally came in and started talking to us. If I had written this sooner, I could tell you more about the conversation, but here's what I remember.

She told us that since they had started him back on the thyroid medication the night before, he had had 2 doses and already she could see a difference in him. Why hadn't we seen it before? Possibly because of the heart meds he had been on at the time. According to this vet (who we'll call Dr. L), everyone was so worried about his heart disease and murmur that we kind of let the thyroid issue take a back seat. But in her opinion, the hypothyroidism is the more pressing of the two issues and should be the focus of our medical attention.

My other surprise of the day was when Dr. L asked what I wanted to do. Did I want to keep him there or take him home. She said if it was her dog, she'd be taking him home. My first reaction was to ask if he was in any pain. If he was in pain and needed more medical attention, then that would have been a factor in my decision. But she said no (YAY!), so I told her I wanted to take him home. She told us she'd have his IV taken out and he'd be cleaned up (hospital policy that all pets get a bath before leaving).

That's when my dad stepped in. As I said, he didn't sit the whole time we were there. He asked a few questions, made a few comments, but was mostly just this presence in the room that gave vibes of "don't mess with my daughter" (or maybe that was just my imagination). At this point he asked about the money, because the figured he had heard were "shocking" for a dog toward the end of his lifetime. Dr. L went to check, and as it turned out we were still within the original estimate. I don't know if the $2700 was a misunderstanding or what, but I was incredibly relieved to see a number under $2k.

The best part of that day was walking my little man to the car, having him hop into the backseat (by himself!), and driving him home. My family had been incomplete while he was gone. Even Maxine could feel it and wasn't 100% herself. Bringing him home made everything right again.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Pepper Predicament - Part 4: Hang On Pepper, Pepper Hang On

I feel like this is a good time to do a recap of the timeline:
  • Monday night: 
    • Pepper gets into the garbage for the second time within a week.
  • Tuesday:
    • That morning he was acting slow and a little weak. He had to be spoon-fed his meals.
    • That evening, he was still slow, but seemed less lethargic.
  • Wednesday: 
    • That morning he seemed to be feeling better and moving quicker. He even made it down the steps himself.
    • In the evening, he was more unsteady than before. He couldn't stand long enough to eat from his bowl, and eventually he fell down while walking (and trying to pee). 
    • Around 7 we took him to the emergency vet. He spent most of the time lying on the exam table, and didn't even make a fuss when they took his temp. He was admitted that night.
  • Thursday: 
    • Hubby called the vet in the morning, doesn't get much from them. Called back later and learns that they want to do an ultrasound, but that the other tests have basically come up empty.
    • I headed over to the vet that afternoon to spend time with Pepper. I spent an hour talking to him and petting him. The most activity I saw from him was right after they drew some blood. He lifted his head, but didn't do much else.
    • That evening, Hubby and I visit. They had just started him back on the thyroid medication. We would check in the next morning.
OK, now we're caught up.

On Friday morning, Hubby called to check in on Pepper again. He spoke with the receptionist, who asked if they could raise our "limit" to $3,000. When Hubby asked what we were up to, she told him $2700. And she said they wanted to keep him another day.

When we first dropped him off Wednesday night, we were given an estimate between $1400 and $1950. We had to pay the low end up front, and were told we'd pay any difference when we left. So when we heard we were at $2700, Hubby freaked out. Hell, I freaked out. And when I freak out, I call my mom. I had already called her on Thursday to let her know what was going on, and I had spoken with both of my parents Thursday night to tell them how he was doing and what we knew. So I knew calling her was the best option for me at that moment because she already knew everything going on, but had a more outside perspective.

Mom and I talked through everything and came up with a plan, which I relayed to Hubby. We were going to meet up at the vet (while Hubby was on lunch; I had already called in again) and if they couldn't give us a good, solid reason why Pepper needed to stay another day, then we were going to take him home. I presented this to Hubby, and he agreed. 

Just then the receptionist called him back. He let her know just how unhappy we were with the whole situation. Her response was to suggest we come in and see how well he was doing and "not do anything drastic to hurt his progress." She then mentioned that they could move him to medical boarding for only $46 per night. Um, you're just telling us this NOW?! What. The. F*ck.

So I was doing my best, trying to stay calm (which is hard because normally Hubby is the calm to MY storm) and my dad called. He wanted to check in (not sure if he had spoken with my mom or what). I told him what was going on, and he said he was in the area and asked if it would help if he came by. Good god, yes. If there's anyone who can handle this situation, it's my father. Hubby couldn't get away from work anyhow, so Dad and I ended up going over to the vet instead.

I was on a mission to bring my little man home. Hang on, Pepper! Mama's coming for you!

To be continued...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Pepper Predicament - Part 3: Pepper's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

After calling our regular vet to confirm they were closed for the night, we hopped in the car and headed to the local 24-hour emergency vet (which, thankfully, is about a 10 minute drive from our house). We'd caught someone at our vet's office before they left for the day, so they were able to fax over Pepper's medical history while we were on our way.

It didn't take long before we were in an exam room. A vet tech came and took care of all the normal stuff: temperature, weight, all that jazz. My perception of time is all out of whack, but I don't think it was very long after that before the vet came in. He checked Pepper over, asked us to tell him what happened (which we had already told the receptionist and the vet tech, so we were pretty good at getting all the details out by then). By this point, Pepper was so lethargic and weak that he was simply lying on the exam table, barely lifting his head. It took everything in me not to start bawling.

We learned a few things right away. The first was that the vet believed Pepper's heart murmur was at a grade 4 or 5. Now, grading heart murmurs can be pretty subjective and it obviously varies by vet, but the last we knew he was at a 2 or 3 so that kind of hit me like a truck. The other thing we learned was that they were going to keep Pepper... for 2 or more days. I HATED the idea of him being away from us, but I also understood the importance of monitoring him and keeping him safe. 

One thing that kept resulting in perplexed looks and confusion was that Pepper hadn't been vomiting or had any nasty shits since getting into the garbage. We admitted that we had been surprised by that as well, and no one was sure if that was a good sign or a bad one. 

We were given a rundown of the tests he would undergo: x-rays and ultrasounds to check for blockages, an echo to see how his heart is doing, etc. He would be put on an IV right away to keep him hydrated, and they would be keeping him in an area that has someone on duty 24 hours a day. They offered to take us on a tour of the facility, which we gladly took them up on. They showed up where Pepper would get his testing done, where he would be sleeping, where the other animals would be... I was glad to see that he would have plenty of space (the crate he had there was bigger than the one he shares with Maxine) and that someone would be there to check in on him. After a lot of fussing and near breakdowns, we left our little man in their hands.

They told us we could call or come over to check on him whenever we wanted. We started taking advantage of that the next morning. I had a dentist appointment that morning (yay cavity) and was originally supposed to work before and after, but with my baby in the hospital, I wasn't able to concentrate on anything else. I got through my dentist appointment, got back home, and asked Hubby what he'd learned. The truth was that there wasn't much to know yet. They had done the echo and the x-rays, but hadn't found anything conclusive. They said he had been walking fine when they took him out around 3 that morning, and again around 8, but that when they walked him at 10 he had regressed, and was back to being unsteady and uncoordinated. They decided that the next step was an ultrasound, but after that they were pretty much out of ideas. They suggested we consider seeing a neurologist.

What Hubby said at that point about killed me. "Putting him down is starting to look like a real possibility."

I wasn't ready to accept that. I called my mom and talked to her for awhile. She helped calm me down and after talking about things, I decided to go the vet to visit. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have reservations about driving in Milwaukee. Hubby drives me damn near everywhere I need to go, and driving in the city makes my anxiety jump through the roof. I'd already had to drive myself to the dentist that morning, and here I was about to drive to the vet. I wish Pepper could understand how much I love him. I was not just willing to drive to see him, I was determined to. You couldn't have stopped me. Because if putting him down was even an option, I was going to spend as MUCH time with him as possible.

I spent an hour with him that afternoon. They put a blanket on the floor for me to sit on, and they opened the crate so I could get close to him. I talked to him. I pet him. I kissed him and hugged him. He was still so lethargic, I could hardly believe he was my little man.

They stopped by to draw blood from him at one point. He was slightly more alert after that (probably because they had taken him from the comfort of his blankies), but not much. He perked up a bit when he heard another dog getting fed, and they told me that he had been eating while he was there, which is always a good sign. I left reluctantly (only because I knew we'd be back later), and managed not to cry until I got into my car.

Hubby and I came back that evening to talk to the vet. Little had changed, but we were going to try something new. We were going to put him back on the thyroid medication (the stuff we had tried in June for a couple of weeks), because it appeared clear to the vet that the thyroid issues were the predominant concern at the moment. After spending some more time with Pepper, we left, hoping the morning would bring some better news.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Pepper Predicament - Part 2: We Have a Pepper Down

Most anyone who has or has had a dog knows that they love to get into things they shouldn't. Miss Maxine first got into the kitchen garbage within a week of adopting her (which is why we quickly changed to a lidded can) and ate some Arby's wrappers. She once stole some very expensive cheese - this stuff costs about $20/lb - while we were still in the room. She ate 90% of a bacon-wrapped filet before we caught her, has eaten June bugs (ewwwww), and has tried to eat several bees (but hasn't been successful). Sgt Pepper is much the same. In the 6 months we've had him, he has chewed up 3 pairs of shoes, chewed on Hubby's baseball glove, has gotten into the living room trash at least once (I think it was twice), and now the kitchen garbage twice. And those are just a handful of things he's gotten to, I'm sure.

So knowing this, and having experienced similar happenings in the past, when Pepper got into the trash, we expected some kind of... reaction. To put it bluntly, we figured he would puke and/or shit because of the things he had ingested. Especially with the beef trimmings being so fatty, we were sure some doggy diarrhea was in our future. So we waited. He might've had some digestive issues from the first time in the trash, I don't really remember. But the second time, there was nothing. It happened on a Monday evening, and all Monday night he was fine.

When he was a little slow on Tuesday morning, we figured maybe it was catching up with him. I woke Hubby up at about 6:30 to come see him moving slowly and awkwardly, concerned he had eaten something toxic. But he went outside nice enough, did his business (which was normal), and came back inside. No real problem.

Until we tried to feed him. He took a few bites and then went to bed. Now, that may not seem like a big deal. Maybe he was still full from his all-you-can-eat garbage buffet, right? Well, you haven't met this dog. Dogs are motivated by different things. Some are motivated by praise, and simply making you happy is enough to get them going. Some love treats and toys. Pepper is food-motivated. He is never more animated than when he's about to get fed. And once you drop that bowl, all bets are off. Your fingers better be out of there, lest he consume them in his haste.

I followed him back to his crate and watched him. I knew he needed his heart meds, which were mixed in with his food, so I brought it out to him and spoon fed him. I fed him his whole breakfast. He hadn't lost his appetite at all! He was just too lethargic to stand there and eat. Same thing happened with dinner. All day he was a little slow, a little off, but we figured things just had to run their course.

Wednesday morning he was doing better. He went up and down the steps by himself, ate some breakfast from his bowl, etc. Things were looking up! So Hubby and I planned to go to the State Fair that night after work and things were business as usual.

Until we were about to leave. We always try to take the pups out before we go anywhere because Pepper has such a hard time holding it. So out we went... except something was wrong. Pepper was walking like he was drunk, stumbling around and uneasy on his feet. Eventually he went to lift his leg to pee and down he went. He just fell over! Right then I decided the fair could wait; we were taking Pepper to the emergency vet NOW.

To be continued...  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Pepper Predicament - Part 1: Pepper, Destroyer of Kitchens

So to help you go through this the same way we did, I have to start with the Wednesday before everything went down.

Hubby and I went to the zoo for Sunset Zoofari (something our zoo does in the summer where the zoo closes like normal at 5 but reopens from 6-9). When we go places, we tend to leave Maxine in the living room and Pepper in the kitchen. See, Pepper is an old man and has some separation anxiety. Put those together and you tend to come home to a lot of piss and shit. Literally. So while Maxine is free to roam the (carpeted) living room, Pepper is confined to the (linoleum) kitchen. We close the bedroom and bathroom doors, leave out a few pee pads, give him toys and treats to curb some of his chewing, and we have a nice bed in there for him to rest on. 

So on this particular Wednesday, to help Pepper's separation anxiety (and partly due to laziness), we kept BOTH the pups in the kitchen. We thought Pepper might feel better if Maxine was there to hang out with. Well, that and they hadn't finished eating yet, so rather than waiting or forcing Maxine to go without the rest of her dinner, we just put the baby gate up and left. When we got home, we realized this may have been a mistake:

You know you love the '70s floor.
Yes, we came home to a disaster zone. The garbage and recycling were both tipped over (a first in the almost 6 months we've had Pepper). The floor was littered with boxes, paper, coffee grounds, food containers, you name it. An old shoe was used as a chew toy (not a huge deal, but still). Pepper (and possibly Maxine, who knows?) had peed everywhere (both on and off the pads) and took what I call a walking dump (where he takes a shit but can't squeeze everything out in one go, so he keeps trying and in the process ends up wandering a bit, leaving little dollops of crap all over the place). Since Pepper is a tiny little thing (17 pounds) and not always the most active dog in the world, we figured this was a collaboration of sorts. There was, after all, a motivational component to this: a bone from the pork Hubby had made the weekend before was in the trash, along with remnants of aluminum foil that no doubt smelled (and probably tasted) like tasty, forbidden meat. Oi.

The following Monday we went to dinner with a friend. This time we returned to our normally scheduled programming and left Pepper in the kitchen and Maxine in the living room. When we got home, we expected to clean up the standard P&S package that Pepper so thoughtfully leaves for us on a regular basis. Instead, we came home to an almost identical scene. This time the recycling bin stayed upright, but the garbage was down, there was P&S everywhere (including the bed, which we have now just thrown away), it was gross. It took awhile to come to terms with the fact that this little dog (who even on his hind lefts isn't as tall as the bin) had created such chaos. Then we realized there had been beef trimmings in the trash. If there is one thing in this world that motivates Pepper, it's food. And apparently he simply could not resist the temptation any longer. We gave him the opportunity, and he ran with it. Totally our bad.

Going forward, we decided to put the trash can in the bathroom (with the door closed, of course). That decision was not a hard one to make (although I'm still pulling for just getting a bigger, heavier trash can, because one of these times we WILL forget to move it, I just know it), and it has been working pretty well for us. Problem solved, right?

Come on, you know better than that.

To be continued...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Pepper Predicament - Prequel

Part of adopting a rescue dog is being uncertain of the past. Miss Maxine, as you may recall, started as a mill dog who had a litter or two very young. Then she was a farm dog, fed only scraps of people food and (probably) given no real love. Then she was adopted by a couple who brought her back within a month because she wasn't the right fit for them. While we know the general outline, we don't know any of the specifics. With Pepper, it's even less clear. All we know is that his owner died, he was transported from Kentucky to Wisconsin (in the dead of winter), and now he's our little man. Who knows what happened during his 10-12 years of life before us?

Part of adopting an older/senior dog is being uncertain of the future. Maxi was probably about 2 when we adopted her almost 5 years ago, so she's about 7 now (maybe as young as 6 or as old as 8). She still thinks she's a puppy sometimes, and she's always full of energy and excitement. We figure she's got a decent amount of time left with us, and we'll do whatever we can to make sure that's the case. When you adopt an older dog, every day going forward is more precious, but less certain. Pepper is our old man. The people who first rescued him thought he was about 7 years old. Then the vet in WI took a look and decided he was more like 10-12, but probably closer to 10 since he's still pretty spunky. This past week, we were told he was more likely on the upper end (more precisely, we were told he was "older than [we] thought"). We've had him for almost 6 months now, but we have no idea how much longer he'll be in our lives. He's in heart failure, has thyroid issues, urinates ALL the time, and is a crotchety old man. And even though we don't know everything that the future holds, we do know that we're in it with him all the way.

Part of adopting ANY dog (really, any animal at all) is love. Unconditional, intense, instant, everlasting love. If you don't love your dog, it's not the dog's fault... Our dogs can drive us absolutely insane. They steal our food, make messes in our house, demand attention at inopportune moments, bark their fool heads off for no real reason, need to be taken out in all kinds of weather, and frequently act like our desire to cuddle them is an annoyance at best. But we wouldn't change a thing. We chastise them for stealing our steak, but still share our bacon. We clean up their messes and blame ourselves for being inattentive. We shirk our responsibilities to make sure our pups know they're loved. We let them bark, take them out in a foot of snow or the dead of night, and we force them into cuddling even if they squirm the whole time. And we do it all because we freakin' love those little furballs more than we can even explain.

And it's that love that means we'll do anything if we think it will help them stay in our lives even for one more afternoon, one more walk, one more cuddle. We know they won't live forever. We might hope and pray that they will, but somewhere inside we know that they will leave us eventually. And as heartbreaking as it is to lose a family member - furry or otherwise - we know that we're better off for having had them in our lives at all. And if we've done things right, we know that they were better off for having been part of our family, no matter how briefly.

This may all seem obvious (especially if you have a pet that you love with all of your heart), but I felt it necessary that I explain all of this before diving into the events coming in the next few posts.

To be continued...

Friday, June 13, 2014

That Girl: Sometimes Words Are Just Words

If you've ever watched "Awkward" then you should understand the "That Girl" reference. Watching "Awkward" is the closest thing to re-living my high school years. You couldn't pay me to actually re-live my adolescence. There is no sum of money large enough for me to agree to it. (If you threatened me with the life of a loved one, then yeah, I guess I'd have no choice, but since that's not a realistic scenario, we'll just move on.) If Jenna were a real person, odds are she would grow up and feel the same. In fact, I think Jenna and I could be pretty good friends. But since she's not real, I'm thankful that I'm lucky enough to have some good friends already. Friends who were never ashamed of me, who would stand up for me, who were (and are) there for me whenever I needed them. 

If you haven't seen it, here's a brief summary:

Jenna, the main character, is a 15 year old girl who loses her virginity to a guy that is ashamed to be seen with her in public. Later that same day, she's blogging about how sometimes being a teenager makes you feel like dying (haven't we all been there?). She attempts to grab some aspirin and manages to trip, break the bottle so pills spill everywhere, bumps the hair dryer into the (full) tub, and busts herself up. Result: Everyone thinks she tried to kill herself and they keep referring to her as "that girl" who did this or that.

I can definitely draw some parallels between myself and Jenna. OK, so I didn't have sex until I was 18, and I wasn't the result of a teenage pregnancy (although my parents have been together since they were in high school). But I had some wacky friends, was less than popular, might've been a bit awkward here and there, wrote/typed up my every thought like it was my job (though I'm not nearly as witty as she is), and I was known as suicidal even though I wasn't. 

As you might know, in middle school, I wrote some kinda scary poems. Morbid? Maybe. But just words.

Then I tried to help out some friends starting an advice column and, in my infinite stupidity, wrote as if I were a girl contemplating suicide.

Again, it was a heavy topic, but it was just words.

I never had any serious suicidal thoughts until late high school, but from about age 13 on, I could just as easily have been "that girl" like Jenna. Maybe I even was. The only thing I ever remember people calling me was "the biggest crybaby at East" (I think I would rather have been "that girl"), but who knows what people said about me? 

Reality: Probably not much. 

In psychology, there are these two concepts known as the personal fable and the imaginary audience that sort of work together during adolescence to make us believe that everyone is paying attention to us and that everything we do is being scrutinized by our peers. But they're not and it's not. Most teens are too wrapped up in their own lives to give a damn about someone outside of their immediate world. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part it's in your head. Unfortunately, that's where teenagers live: in their heads. So it's hard to get away from all those thoughts. Really, really hard.

Jenna actually manages to turn her imaginary audience into a real audience when she lets her private blog go public, which is not a move I would advise unless you're comfortable with people knowing all of your business. I only divulge here what I'm willing for the world to know about me, and while some of it is pretty personal, I'm at a point in my life where I really don't care of strangers or even acquaintances want to judge me for my thoughts or actions. And I know that my real friends won't judge me. Mock me? Maybe. But not judge me.  

So who cares what random people say about me? Or what someone might have said? Words are just word, especially when they come from someone with no real connection to your life. What someone else thinks of me doesn't have to change what I think of myself. It has taken a long time to understand that, and sometimes I still wrestle with my own opinion of myself, but in the long run it's my words that mean the most to me.

15 years old is now half of my lifetime ago. And it definitely feels like it! Well, most of the time. Sometimes I still feel that insecurity trying to creep into my brain, knocking on doors that have been closed and locked for years to keep the darkness away. I still struggle not to answer, even though I know that nothing good would come from it. Sometimes I wonder if I would be brave enough to face what's hiding in those rooms, and I wonder if I should just open the door and let the battle begin. But the real courage lies in walking past the door without even a glance, leaving the past exactly where it belongs. I might not be strong enough to fight my demons, but I'm smart enough not to let them back in.   

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Blame is Fleeting

You probably knew it was coming, so here it is: my thoughts on the Slenderman stabbing.

I am Wisconsin born and raised. I love my state. I may not love long winters or bordering Illinois, but you put up with the bad to take advantage of all the good. So when something so tragic happens in the place I am proud to call my home, it hurts. I'm not saying it would have been any better or worse if it happened elsewhere, but I think most of us can agree that the closer to home something is (physically or emotionally), the harder it hits you.

I've read several articles about the incident, and I've read a ton of comments about it, and it seems to me that a lot of people are looking to place blame (duh). Some people are keeping it broad, suggesting that the internet is essentially the downfall of mankind. Others are getting quite specific, aiming their frustration toward the people behind Slenderman and I can write those both off as ridiculous notions. 

The internet is always going to have opponents, largely because people love to have something to argue against, so this is just the most recent brick laid on their never-ending path to nowhere. And blaming the creator of a fictional character, or a site that caters to horror writing (a pretty wicked genre if you ask me), makes about as much sense as using a steak knife to eat pudding. Could you do it? Sure. But your time would be better spent doing something else and you're probably just going to hurt yourself along the way. 

I think it was best said in the statement on "...I believe placing blame solely on an interest in reading/writing about horror, paranormal, myths, urban legends, etc for a tragedy would be off the mark. Hundreds of thousands of people read scary stories, play horror video games, watch TV shows about ghost-hunting and all other varieties of the macabre and creepy... and if we could truly blame any violent crimes solely on one specific form of entertainment as the trigger – well, I suppose it would be a relief as we’d be able to expunge said cause and clear the world of such awful happenings."

Also, an unsettling amount of blame is being thrown at the girls' parents. Yes, I understand that it is a parent's responsibility to know what their kids are up to. (In fact, I'm a big fan of people taking responsibility for themselves and their children. That's how it should be!) Monitoring computer and television usage is great. Spending time with your kids is awesome. But let's be realistic: most of us did things that our parents didn't know about. Even if you got caught doing something and were punished, the implication is that you were doing something they didn't know about in the first place. I'm not saying the majority of us were trouble children. It might have been as benign as using a flashlight after lights out to finish reading a chapter (yep, I'm a nerd), but odds are there was something you kept from your parents at one point or another. Does anyone out there truly believe that these girls' parents were aware of their daughters' plans and let it happen anyway?

I'm not excusing the parents completely. There must have been signs that something about these girls was a little off. Too much time online. Overdeveloped interest in horror or fantasy with no visible outlet. Something. I mean, some reports are saying that one girl's brother knew at least something about her obsession, though he admittedly didn't realize that it had gone from fantasy to reality for her and thought she was a "normal" girl. 

I think the hope is that if parents are paying enough attention to their kids, that they will see signs that something is amiss. The reality is that it isn't always possible. Parents don't always have the ability to oversee every part of their kids' lives, and even if they do see something disconcerting, they might not know what to do, or might not get to it in time, or might think they're misreading things. Not every kid who shows an interest in horror stories is disturbed, so at what point do you decide that it's gone from a normal hobby to something that will spark violent behavior? 

And possibly the most important thing here is that no one wants to believe that something is seriously wrong with their child or that their child is capable of something like this. Denial is as strong as it is dangerous, but it's human nature. How many times have you noticed something weird, but just ignored it and hoped it was nothing or that it would resolve itself? Maybe you convinced yourself that a mole you don't remember having has been there your whole life. Or maybe your car started making a funky noise, so you just turned the radio up and kept on driving. And if we don't want to admit that something is potentially wrong with our cars or even ourselves, I can only imagine how hard it would be for a parent to accept that something about their child might not be OK.   

So whom, then, do we blame? The girls? Maybe. They're young, so it seems obvious that their brains aren't yet fully developed. Their understanding of right and wrong is still in the works, as is their capacity for making decisions and moral judgments. This is why younger offenders are typically not tried as adults: they simply don't have the same cognitive abilities as someone 5 or 10 years older. It's also clear that they had trouble distinguishing between works of fiction and the realm of reality, which we can chalk up to youth, mental illness, or a bit of both. But these girls are admitting to feeling little or no remorse. They put aside time and planned this attempted murder. They thought through their actions and they know what they were trying to accomplish. They said that they wanted to become "proxies" of Slenderman, and that they had to kill someone to do so. The key here is that whether or not they believed in Slenderman is far less important than the fact that they were willing to stab someone to death at all.

Honestly, I don't know who's to blame, and I'm not entirely sure it matters anyway. Regardless of the reason these girls tried to murder another girl, someone they called a friend. Whatever the justification, the act was horrendous. So instead of trying to figure out where to point our fingers or direct our anger and sadness, maybe we should just try to focus on what needs to be done moving forward. If mental illness is involved, let's get help for these girls and work on getting help for anyone else who needs it. If they're just sick girls who are OK with stabbing people, let's put them somewhere they can't hurt anyone else. Demonizing a website or the girls' parents isn't going to fix anything. Let's find something that will.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

We Made it Through the Wilderness

Somehow, we made it through.

We went camping this past weekend. This is particularly significant for a few reasons. 

First, this was our first camping experience ever with Sgt Pepper. For the most part, he handled it like a champ. We had 2 minor incidents. 

1) We did kind of wear him out a bit on Saturday when we took a walk in a little park. OK, by "kind of" I mean "completely." Poor kid was so pooped that we had to carry him back to the car. And once we got back to our campsite, he made sure he was touching some part of the water dish at all times (since Hubby had just put ice in there, it was nice and cold), practically cuddling the damn thing. It was cute, but we clearly expected a bit too much from him in the heat. 

2) There was an intense thunder storm Saturday night. This was the first big storm we'd been through with Pepper and it had to happen while we were sleeping in a tent? Of course it did. Little man had super crazy eyes and wouldn't (or couldn't) stay still. We did our best to comfort him, but that thunder was insane. He was terrified. (Miss Maxine, of course, barely noticed anything was going on and slept through the majority of the insanity.)

Second, this was our first camping trip of the year. I always look forward to camping as a little family, and this year was no exception. Aside from the storm and packing up a bunch of wet camping equipment, it was a lovely trip. I'm already excited to plan for the next one!

Third, the storm itself. For anyone who has not heard, a young girl (10 or 11) died at Devil's Lake State Park this weekend. Reports vary a bit, but the gist of it is that a part of a tree fell on her tent during the storm and they were unable to free her. A quick Google News search will bring you up to speed, and is even sharing the story

The family was camping at site 435 in the Ice Age campground; we were at site 338. You can see that these sites are pretty far away from one another (via this map of the campground), but I heard the sirens of the emergency vehicles. I didn't know where they were or what was going on. In fact, we didn't find out about it until late Sunday after we'd been home for several hours. 

The thought of "it could have been us" is one that is lingering in our minds. In fact, before the storm even hit, Hubby had mentioned something about how he was terrible for checking for "widow-makers" (branches that could fall during a storm) when deciding where to set up camp. I kind of laughed it off, but damn. In this case, they're saying the tree looked secure, so I guess it really was just a freak accident. Still, my heart goes out to the family. It should have been a fun trip with lots of happy memories. It should have ended with the whole family driving back home, lamenting the end of the weekend and the horrendous traffic. It should have gone so much differently.

So, assuming you've made it through all that unpleasantness, it might be nice to know that we had a nice weekend, though we were VERY glad to be back home. I'm not sure camping is Pepper's favorite activity, but at least we know what to expect for next time. We made an awesome dutch oven pizza (with Rocky's pizza sauce... YUM!), took in some beautiful sights, spent a lot of time relaxing and talking, and just enjoyed being there together. Yay!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Summer? Is that you?

The first summer "holiday" has come and gone. While I'm already whining about being back at work, I am extremely excited for one thing: Summer. 

OK, so I know summer doesn't officially start until late June. In fact, according to the calendar, my June 17th birthday is in spring. But calendars can get f*cked because my birthday is in summer, dammit! I never celebrated my birthday at school (unless you count half birthdays), I've had several pool parties, water balloon fights, and melted ice cream cakes for my birthday. Those aren't spring activities, bucko. And since we in the Midwest get majorly gypped when it comes to warm weather months, I'm pretty sure we get a pass in claiming the whole month of June in the name of summer.

Regardless, Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of the summer. Water parks and pools are open, kids (and teachers!) are almost free for the summer, and the camping season is upon us. Yep, after this 4-day week, Hubby and I are taking both the pups camping. It'll be Pepper's first trip with us, and we're hoping he enjoys the fact that he can pee on pretty much anything all weekend long without getting yelled at. We already know Maxine loves camping, so we're definitely keeping our fingers crossed.

An update on the good ol' boy: He spent all of last Wednesday at the vet getting tested for Cushing's disease. As it turns out, the test was inconclusive. He either has Cushing's or thyroid disease, and while both present similar symptoms, the treatments are different enough that we really need to nail down which it is. Our vet is going to have a chat with an internal medicine specialist and let us know what the next step is going to be. It's possible that they'll just run the same test again, but with a higher dosage of the diagnostic drug. 

So what kinds of symptoms does our little man have? Anyone who has seen him knows his fur is thin and he has a bald area on his back that just won't fill in. He has lots of little bumps on his skin, and the skin itself is really, really thin. He's a tiny thing, and even though he has gained 2 pounds since living with us, you can still easily feel (and see) his hip bones and spine, but he has a pot belly. He's really sensitive to temperatures and gets hot pretty easily. He drinks a ton of water and then pees a bunch. Even his heart murmur could be a symptom. 

So far, he's not really in any pain. He does have some mild arthritis, but he's an old man, so that's pretty normal. He still gets around well, jumping on and off the couch, chasing after Maxine, and frolicking in the grass. He still doesn't trust us completely, but he's letting us in a little at a time. Just the other day we a had a breakthrough where he kept wagging his tail while I was petting him. Usually it stops dead, like he's terrified to move if we touch him. But there it went, just wagging along! 

Here's hoping we can show him just how fun summertime is for our little family. :)     

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I'm baaaaaaaaack

So, it's pretty much been forever since I posted. OK, so it's been since December. Still! That's a long time. Here's a brief recap of what has been going on.

December 20-31: Christmas (got an iPad!). New Year's Eve (saw my sisters). 

January: Went to NC to see my bestie. Started spring semester.

February: Adopted a new dog (Sgt Pepper).

March: Work, school, sleep, repeat. Niece (Bestie's baby) was born!

April: Finally done with spring semester. 

May 1-14: Saw Fluffy. Went to our 1st Brewers game of the season.

And now you're caught up.

You might notice some fairly big things in there. The first is that we adopted a new pup. If you're curious about Pepper, here's the description from the shelter: "Pepper is an approximately 10 year old mini schnauzer and was a transfer from Adams County Humane Society. His owner died and he was grieving and shutting down at the shelter, so they asked if we could take him for some more individual attention."

He lived most of his life in Kentucky, so he's not a fan of snow or winter. He's a tiny little thing (around 16 pounds at the vet in March), especially compared to Miss Maxine. He is an older dog and has health problems. He has a heart disease and, with it, a murmur. He's missing most of his front teeth (except for his ginormous canines), has a big bald spot on his back, and doesn't always have control of his bodily functions. He's thrown up more since we got him in February than Maxi has thrown up in the past year. And we have a vet appointment today where we'll probably be getting some blood work done to see how advanced his heart disease is and/or whether we can "fix" his bald patch. 

On the plus side, Maxine is wonderful with him. They sleep in the crate together all day, and then Pepper sleeps in bed with us at night. He gets super excited for mealtime and loves to romp around outside (as long as the weather is good). For the first few weeks we had him, Pepper didn't make a sound (unless you count the wheezing noises he makes when he's relaxed). These days, he barks more than Maxi does, mostly out of excitement. He's still cautious around us, not completely trusting us, but he's opened up a lot since February and already we love him like he's always been part of our family. 

The other important thing is that my new niece was born! Yes, I know, she's not technically my niece. But I am Aunt Riki, and that's good enough for me. If you want to know more about her, check out the Disney Hippy's blog for info and updates. Suffice it to say, she is one adorable, lucky, spoiled, and LOVED little girl. <3

Now that I'm on summer break, I should be back more often to update, but don't quote me on that. I do have my hands full with 2 pups in the house! Here's to my sanity...