Saturday, July 25th, 2009


Filed under: dogs,how to,vet — alison @ 08:47

I love watching vets work.

The vet opened the examining room door, looked at Pepe kindly and with happy anticipation, and called him to her by name. Pepe ambled in and we followed. [Cool vet tricks: How well does Pepe see and hear?  How is his gait? How does he respond to a new place? Is he confident or uncertain? Also: Communicate to Pepe’s bosses – yes, we both went – that Pepe is charming and loveable and worth this focussed attention. Establish trust.]

We told her we were there because Pepe’s seizures were getting worse but he couldn’t take the medication he had been offered. We wanted to try an alternative. The vet brought out his file to see what the notes were, commented that it was a thick file. We acknowledged that. We knew he was chronically ill and we weren’t expecting miracles. [Cool vet trick: set up the bosses for possible end-of-life conversation.]

We showed her the video Mark had shot of Pepe having a seizure. The vet had asked for this months ago, but it’s only now that he has them daily and on cue that we’ve been able to catch him at it. She watched once, carefully, asked questions about his apparent state of consciousness, then explained why she thought this wasn’t epilepsy but an epileptiform seizure. [Cool human trick: explain your reasoning so that your listeners know they’ve been heard and understood.]

Mark volunteered that epileptiform seizures were caused by tumours. The vet agreed that this was one cause, then proceeded to examine Pepe, explaining what she was doing at each step. His heart is fine, therefore his seizures are unlikely to be caused by lack of oxygen to the brain. She listened to his lungs and felt his lymph nodes for signs of metastasis but didn’t find anything obvious. [Cool human trick: explain your reasoning to get buy-in for your conclusions.]

She checked his vision. He has cataracts, but he responds normally to light shone in his eyes and can track a moving light on the wall. He reacts to a raised hand and tapping towards his right eye… but not his left. By this time we were anticipating the conclusion: his brain tumor was affecting the visual processing for his left eye. Aha! moment: so that’s why he let someone pet him while I was holding him the other day: he couldn’t see her approach. [Cool vet trick: she particularly wanted to check his vision because she’d noticed him hesitate as he walked into the room, as if he weren’t sure what was there.]

The next step, she explained, was an MRI. We protested: what would be gained? Well, she said, it was the only way to know for absolutely certain that he has brain cancer. We protested again: it doesn’t matter, because we won’t be treating the cancer anyway. She agreed, adding that a scan would be too expensive. [Cool human trick: Ensure the bosses own the decision.]

She proposed a cortisone prescription to reduce swelling. It might help temporarily. I said what I really wanted to know was how to decide when to bring him in for the final visit. Well, she said, daily seizures really are a lot. They’re physically hard for the animal. Plus, his head must hurt him terribly. [Cool vet trick: load up the bosses with information to make the ultimate decision easier.]

I was stricken by the notion of my poor little dog sleeping in dark rooms because he was laid low by headaches: I had assumed it was just general fatigue. I asked about pain medication. Well, she said, she didn’t want to give him morphine because it’s addictive, and he can’t take both NSAIDs and cortisone, but the cortisone is an antinflammatory and will treat the pain. If the cortisone works he’ll be happy and lively and his seizures will stop or be reduced. If it doesn’t work, or the tumour grows and the cortisone stops helping, we’ll know. But with the cortisone we might be able to buy him a couple more months. [Cool human trick: establish reasonable expectations and next steps.]

So far the cortisone seems to be working. He’s happy, has his appetite back, and is pissing like a fire hydrant. Two more months is just about right: he doesn’t like winter, so it’s good to know he won’t have to go through another one.

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Advantage to having dodged parenthood #3876

Filed under: consuming,dogs,family,Mark — alison @ 17:27

Sitting in the airport listening to fathers boast about their children’s achievements, I’m realizing that as a non-parent I don’t invite one-upmanship in this area and am thereby excused from listening to long ramblings about Junior’s university adventures.

*** *** ***

So, like, the other day I’m sitting in the car making sure the dogs don’t suffocate while Mark pops into the store to do groceries. While waiting I pick up the Ikea catalogue and as an exercise I decide to page through and pay attention to exactly what excites feelings of envy. Will it be the quality of the light in the rooms? The well-appointed kitchens? The CD collections? Interestingly, it turns out to be the kids. I am envious of people who have kids to furnish a room for, or build a home for. “Nesting!” says Mark when he gets back. So that’s how the Ikea catalogue works: don’t buy this for yourself, buy it for your family. Noted.

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Overheard at the vet

Filed under: dogs,food,holidays,vet — alison @ 06:17

“Fifty grams of dark chocolate? For a twenty-kilo dog? Ok, I’ll write that down and make a note, but that’s less than half the toxic dose. … Oh, no worries, I’ve been getting these calls all week.”

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

a bee for my bonnet

Filed under: challenges and memes,children,consuming,dogs — alison @ 21:31

I finally went to my suit store and for a little over $400 I bought:
– two lined, tailored suits;
– a soft, unlined fitted jacket;
– a lined skirt.

I am still dreaming about how I can match everything with t-shirts, scarves and tights. Fun!

In other news, I have finally found something to become obsessed with as I transition into my age-appropriate role of batty menopausal pest. (Running the world will just have to wait until I’m post-menopausal, as per Margaret Mead.) The Riot for Austerity. It’s a project in which people set themselves the goal “to cut their emissions by 90% of what the average person in [Australia, Canada or] the US consumes – the approximate amount people in the rich world need to reduce by in order to avoid the worst effects of global warming.”

Which means in my case:

1. Using only 10% of the average Canadian’s annual use of 1,200 litres of gasoline, so 240 litres per year for our household of two.

2. Using only 10% of the electricity of the average Canadian’s 17,000 kW-hour per year, so only 3,400 kW hour for our household.

3. Using only 10% of the heating and cooking energy of the average Canadian. I’m not sure how to calculate this, but if I use the US figures from the site that would mean 285 litres of heating oil per year.

4. Reducing garbage production to 10% of the average Canadian’s 1.35 kg of municipal waste per day. Our allowance will thus be 135 g each per day.

5. Consuming only 10% of the water of the average Canadian household’s daily 1,000 litres of water, which means each of us would use no more than 50 litres per day.

6. Spending only 10% of what the average Canadian spends on consumer goods. That would mean capping at $1,600 per year for our household. That will cover all clothes, toiletries, recreation, household maintenance etc. for two people for a year.

7. Reducing the impact of purchased food by 90%. That would mean that if I purchase 20 food items in a week, I’d use 14 home- or locally-produced items, 5 bulk dry items, and only 1 processed or out of season thing.

The idea is to pick from one to seven goals and within a year, make the infrastructure changes necessary to meet the goal(s) and maintain them after the year is up. I like the idea of this project because nobody’s saying “recycling my newspapers has the magical effect of making the impact of my consumption on the world disappear.” (Bonus! If people are actually achieving all these goals I can forgive them for breeding, which is psychologically beneficial.)

I’m not sure which, if any, of the goals I could meet. We may already be meeting the water one (oops, nope, I water the garden). With a little effort we could meet the food one, and I think we’re already not far off the heating oil one. No idea about electricity. Consumer goods would be a radical change (see beginning of this post). Garbage though – it already takes at least 135 g per day to take care of Pepe’s little incontinence problem. Enlisting his cooperation for my pet project will take some doing.

The other reason I like this project: when I am laid off and not working and rampant inflation has taken hold, being broke will be repackaged as virtue.

*** *** ***
Now, I wonder what Mark is going to say when he finds out.

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

messy (evolution of)

I remember when I was about four or five and my father was trying to get me to put my things away, I finally told him that I didn’t care. If he cared, he should put them away. He called me a princess. I was confused because in the books I read, princesses were always virtuous heroines but by his tone of voice my father didn’t seem to be praising me. I tried to get him to explain but he had lost patience by then.

When I was about ten or eleven I was sitting at the dining room table working on a craft and dropped something on the floor. I was about to lean over and pick it up, when I realised that I didn’t have to. I didn’t need it right away and it was perfectly fine sitting on the floor until I did need it. All I had to do was remember where it was. This epiphany was accompanied by a worried suspicion that I was going to regret my insight.

Anyone I have lived with has, with a single exception, complained about my messiness. With that single exception, none has cheerfully accepted my other contributions to the household as adequate compensation for needing to pick up after me.

When living with that single exception, who did not, after all, pick up after me, rather the opposite, the house was so filthy that when a pregnant friend we were chatting with on the sidewalk needed to pee, we lied and said the toilet didn’t work. I think that was when I faced the fact that there was something seriously wrong. We never discussed it.

In Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride, there’s a scene where a pathetic, dependent character breaks something and there’s glass on the floor. This is one more contribution to a discouraging sequence of events, not because she attached value to the broken thing but because “now she would have to remember.” As in, it doesn’t occur to her to sweep up the shards; instead she will need to spend the rest of her life trying not to cut her feet by not walking in that spot. I was shocked to discover that I was a type.

For a couple of years one of my annual objectives at work in my performance review was to clean up my desk. I never really got around to doing a complete job. My boss eventually gave up. For the past four years or so my bosses have been elsewhere — Winnipeg or Mississauga or Toronto — and have not seen my desk.

It’s not that I like being messy. I don’t even like ordinary cheerful clutter; I love a stark, open, spare space. One of the first things I did upon getting a regular job was to hire a cleaning lady. It’s more that it seems too complicated. I like doing laundry, and do it diligently even if it means hauling it to a laundromat, even if it takes all weekend. Laundry is self-limiting. There is not an infinite amount of stuff that could theoretically be put into a washing machine. Once it has been washed, it needs to be folded and put away. Very simple. Not only that, I know where laundered things go. Clothes have drawers and shelves and hangers; sheets and towels have closets; dog blankets go back on dog beds; soft furnishings go back where they came from. If I start to clean a house I never know when to stop: there’s always something I didn’t get to and feel guilty about, always a decision that I don’t know how to make.

Mark determined that part of my problem is that not everything has a place to go. I feel bad when stuff is lying around in heaps, but it’s not as though changing the situation is always a simple matter of putting it in its place. There often is no place for it, so more radical intervention is called for. When he moved in he put a lot more storage in. It helps. 

Still, the other day someone said that if I were an employee, she’d fire me; that if I were a roommate, I would be out on my ass in two days. She doesn’t even know me that well. It’s just that obvious.

My boss is in town for a day. I cleaned off my desk this morning in preparation, which mostly consisted of stashing papers and the binders into which they are some day to be filed, into drawers and bins where they will be invisible to the casual visitor. Still, I feel better.

Mark has been stomping around crossly for the past few weeks, issuing dark warnings that we both need to change if we value the relationship. I’m not sure I can change, exactly. But perhaps I can put “cleaning off the dining room table every Saturday” into the same doable category as “laundry.”

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008


Filed under: children,dogs,Granny,parenting — alison @ 06:30

In a comment on my last post, Susan said “I thought Pepe WAS a baby!”

Good point. He’s a prosthetic baby.

prosthesis. Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: October 15, 2008).

1. a device, either external or implanted, that substitutes for or supplements a missing or defective part of the body.

For instance, those cool racer feet for someone who’s had their feet amputated, or saline implants for someone who’s had a mastectomy. It’s fairly obvious why someone without feet would want artificial replacements: even if they don’t look or feel like feet, you can still walk and run, which is the important part. Replacing a breast with an implant is a little less clear, because the implant carries risks, making it harder to detect any recurrence of cancer; it doesn’t look or feel like a breast; and the practical uses of an implant are subtle. I’ve thought about it though, and if I had a unilateral mastectomy I think I’d have an implant. Clothes would fit better, but also the weight on my body would be balanced and I would be less susceptible to the backaches that women with a single large breast get.

Anyway. Back to Pepe. I always wanted a large family, and I like babies. I never had the circumstances I wanted to start a family, so never did. I was always certain of my decision, but I missed the kids and babies I didn’t have. Sort of an itchy, uncomfortable feeling that had me looking for something I knew I didn’t want.

Then I got dogs. They aren’t kids or babies, but they occupy the itchy kids-and-baby spot so I can settle down and concentrate on my life instead of my itch. Kind of like a saline implant isn’t a breast, but it holds the clothes in place and allows one to head out and do the groceries without worrying about the alignment of one’s spine.

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