Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

Building the Obamas the perfect mutt November 9, 2008

 

Obama has been quoted as saying that the new puppy promised to his young girls will be a “mutt like me.” Now I realize that there’s probably a team of experts now combing every humane society, pound, and rescue group in the country in search of the perfect ‘mutt like me’, but as a seasoned dog owner, I thought I’d weigh in with some insight that may prove valuable in their search.

Unfortunately, right out of gate we hit a serious roadblock. It seems 10-year-old Malia has allergies, so they’ll probably be looking to one of the ‘low dander’ or hairless breeds. That immediately rules out the Alaskan Malamute. If you enjoy eating, breathing, and pooping dog hair and removing it from your clothes every 2.2 seconds, then a Mal is your breed! Otherwise? Not so much.

Anyway, with respect to this allergy issue, what fits the bill is pretty damn exotic – American Hairless Terrier, Chinese Crested, Peruvian Inca Orchid (yes, that’s a dog), and the  Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless). Moreover, seeing as they want it to come from a pound, the odds that they’re going to end up with a ‘world’s ugliest dog’ contestant have just shot through the roof.

So at this point, I’d like to pause and make a suggestion that may be a little controversial: I think we need to get some top notch scientists on the case. Generally speaking, I am not one for gene splicing, but the man is about to be President of the United States. We can’t have an animal like this running around the White House. Imagine a whole generation of children growing up with this ugly mug staring at them from the front page and splashed across CNN!? We don’t have enough child psychologists to go around!

That’s why I think some top notch scientific minds need to get their @sses into a lab pronto. We’ve got enough heartburn medications already. Put down the beaker, and let’s get some smart folks focused on developing a hypoallergenic Golden Retriever.

Better yet, in keeping with the spirit of our President-elect, let’s mix up a diverse cultural brew. Maybe a little something from Asia? Chows can be snippy, and Akitas are a little scary sometimes too. Maybe part Shih Tzu or Japanese Spitz? They’re cute and cuddly.

Then maybe a little something out of Africa? An Afghan was good enough for Barbie, and I think that’s an argument that would work with Michelle. Again, the Basenjis and Rhodesian Ridgebacks wouldn’t be my first choice for young kids, but the lab can probably whip up a personality fix or partial lobotomy for that?

Europe? Don’t mind if I do! I’m kind of digging the idea of a Bernese Mountain Dog or a Saint Bernard. Set him up with a little wooden barrel and maybe fill it with Tang for the kids?

Now let’s stir in a little American ingeniuty and sprinkle in an addition from the ‘painfully cute yet descriptive name’ category. That’s right, the high-priced American mutt: Perhaps some Labradoodle or Puggle? Maybe a little Cockinese, Malchi, or a Beabull? Hell, let’s just go crazy and add some Bichpoo.

This would be a dog America could get behind. The Satyr or Centaur for the 21st century. In fact, that gives me an even better idea: Why not throw a little cat in there just to keep it interesting? No one needs to know.

How long does it take to gestate a dog anyway? 54-72 days (according to answerbag.com)???

PERFECT.

 

Brought to my knees by the Bank of America September 28, 2008

So yesterday was a toughie.

I could kind of see it coming by the time I posted my blog, but when something is REALLY bothering me, I tend to keep it to myself. I think maybe I prefer to resolve it, and THEN tell you about it. However, I may be in the midst of a pretty big problem I can’t fix. Or at least that I have yet to see a clear solution to. So maybe you can help?

Here’s the deal: Five days ago, my ATM card quit working. I wrote you a long, highly detailed account of how I figured that out and what I’ve been through thus far to fix it, but it was boring so I deleted it. You’re smart people. You can fill in the blanks.

The card won’t work, and I can’t get any cash. NOT GOOD.

Some of you know that due to an incident in May, I already hate Bank of America and was closing all my accounts. To them I will say, Yes, it’s true, and I am so dumping them when I get home (unless they’re the only bank that hasn’t gone under, and then I guess not), but all my direct deposits payments were set up to go there, and I couldn’t get that changed.

Anyway, yesterday morning, I explained this little problem to Fabri, the strange guy who ran the B&B I stayed at in Trieste. Actually, I wouldn’t call it a B&B so much as a B&b. The little room I had was fine enough. Pretty basic, but whatever. Fabri had some bizarre decorating taste and a serious incense habit. I like incense as much as the next guy, but not when there’s so much smoke that you wonder if maybe a really fragrant forest is burning down next door. But it was for one night, so whatever.

The evening before, Fabri made a big deal about “what time would I like breakfast,” and was very specific about setting a date. Thus, when I pulled into the kitchen at the appointed hour, you can imagine that i was a little bit surprised to find a cappuccino cup, a very small juice box (30% real juice!) with a cartoon hippo on it, and a what looked like a single “Little Debbie” snack treat, still in the original cellophane wrapping (but on a plate). Hmmmm… Where’s the full Irish breakfast? Where’s the muesli and yogurt and cheese? Where’s the beef, Fabri?

Fabri in his eclectic and incense-thick glory padded out and poured me the requisite 1.5 ounces of super strong strangely thick cappuccino, and sat back to savor his hospitality as I struggled to open my Little Debbie wrapper.

Thus, all hyped up on sugar and caffeine, I decided to endeavor a conversation to determine if Bank of America was screwing with me, or if I was somehow dialing wrong. Bank of America kept sending me 888 and 877 numbers, but they wouldn’t work in the pay phones (even when I put money in.) Then they (the phone receiver) always rattled something off in Italian. Fabri thought about this, left for a while, and then came back and offered to try dialing from the phone in his room. He returned, and told me that the recording was saying that 888 and 877 aren’t proper extensions in Italy. And here some kid (via e-mail) SWORE that number would work. Idiots. No wonder the banks are all going under.

Anyway, Fabri had the idea to look on the web site (and laughed rather extensively when he learned that my problems were stemming from an institution called Bank of America), and found a number for the credit card department that would receive collect calls from Europe. Incredibly relieved, I called them that afternoon, but they’re only open 8am to 5pm (of course). When I got to Croatia yesterday evening, I called again. Actually, I called ELEVEN TIMES – all collect, and anywhere from ten to thirty minutes per call. I spent two hours and thirty seven minutes calling. And each and every time I was transferred to the wrong department or the wrong area, and eventually ended up in one of two of Dante’s layers of call center hell:

  1. A queue in which there is some very chipper music that reminds me of The Sims, but which starts to make you feel homicidal after about thirty minutes. I could totally sing you the tune if you were here. Anyway, it is regularly interrupted by a male voice that says, “Your expected wait time is at least five minutes.” Then it starts saying, “Your expected wait time is approximately two minutes” and you start to feel hopeful…for ten minutes. And then back to the five minutes, no wait two minutes, five minutes, two minutes…until finally there is a silence and a sound of fumbling, and you’re hung up on. That exact scenario happened three times.

  1. You have to interact with this CRM system where you must speak to it. Again, it’s a male voice and he sounds pleasant enough. This is to mask the fact that he is actually the devil.

Please tell me a little about why you’re calling today.”

“My debit card is not working.”

Okay, did you say you’d like to hear about a loan?”

“NO.”

Okay. Please tell me a little about why you’re calling today.”

“ My DEBIT CARD will not WORK in the ATM.”

Okay, did you say you’re looking for an ATM location?”

“NO.”

Okay. Please tell me a little about why you’re calling today.”

“I CAN’T GET ANY MONEY OUT OF THE F**KING ATM.”

I didn’t quite get that, could you repeat it?”

“CUSTOMER SERVICE. CUSTOMER SERVICE!!!

I didn’t quite get that, could you repeat it?”

“IF YOU DON’T CONNECT ME TO A HUMAN BEING IN THE NEXT THIRTY SECONDS, I AM GOING TO FLY TO THE UNITED STATES AND BURN DOWN ONE OF YOUR BRANCHES.”

“Okay, let me connect you…”

Silence. Sound of Croatian dial tone.

After the seventh such interaction with that guy, I cried a little. Not a lot. But maybe four or five hot, fat tears. And I felt kind of defeated. And I’m a pretty optimistic person overall, but I really am not sure how to get beyond the 300 departments at Bank of America and talk to someone that can help me. And I didn’t have it in me to call back for a twelfth time, and I’m staying so far out in the boonies that there are no pay phones, and I couldn’t call back last night.

The only thing that brings me even a little comfort is the hope that all those collect call charges amount to at least $500, if not more.

However, rest assured that today has three exciting things on the agenda:

  1. Figure out the train schedule for tomorrow

  2. Find an internet cafe to post this

  3. Call the f-ing Bank of America back and hopefully restore access to my money

Meanwhile, I took the bus from Trieste to Pula yesterday. All was looking good for a quiet journey until an Australian family pulled in at the last second. The man looked almost exactly like my chiropractor (and was equally enthusiastic), and he and his wife had a sulky teenage boy and very bizarre 13-ish girl in tow. I used to have a boss who always referred to her oldest daughter as “special needs.” I never knew what was ‘wrong’ with her, per se, she was a pretty girl and looked normal enough, but she was a bit strange – standing too close, asking weird questions, telling you really off the wall stuff, etc. I’m pretty sure that whatever was ailing my boss’ daughter also had its teeth in this girl.

They came to the rear of the bus where I was, and all took their own row. The girl then proceeded to slam the tray on the back of the seat up and down for about fifteen minutes. The whole bus turned around to look at this at one point or another, but the parents didn’t seem to notice. If anything, they were really hard on the 15 or 16 year old boy, that he was “starting trouble.” No wonder he was so moody. He’s growing up in backwards universe, where the kid with obvious issues is the good one.

Back to the girl, after she tired of the tray, she very suddenly flailed all around violently, as though she were being attacked by bees. This caused me to jump and suddenly go on the alert. If there’s a bee attack about to go down, I like to be prepared, but apparently she was just frustrated because she couldn’t get her foot rest ‘just right.’ This caused her to change seats about 1,693 times.

The enthusiastic dad would call her attention to every last thing out the window on my side. And since she eventually settled in the empty row next to me (it probably was a lot easier to stare bug eyed at me from that spot), she would do things like rush up until she bumped me or throw out an arm out across the aisle until she nearly poked me in my bad eye.

Oh, that’s right. I also failed to mention my bad eye. That’s mostly because I didn’t want to worry you, and also because I didn’t want to further worry me.

So on Friday I put my contacts in, and during the train ride from Venice to Trieste, they started bugging me. It was incredibly hot in the car, and I swear it smelled like cigarette smoke from time to time. I also have these eye drops that I am now very suspicious of. At home I use these “Tears” drops that my ophthalmologist recommended. My eyes are really sensitive, and I react to all kinds of preservatives used in regular products. A refill was in my box that is now on my desk at home.

Anyway, I think there was some accidental leakage, because by the time I hit Spain, I was completely out. I went into the pharmacy and brought the empty bottle. Not one, but three people in white coats consulted about this, and I tried to explain the specifics as I understood them and referenced the ingredients to a degree that was probably insulting. Eventually, one of the guys reached under the counter and came out with a bottle that looked almost exactly like mine.

There are a lot of variations in eye drop bottle shapes, and the Spanish doppleganger gave me hope that this was the right stuff.

Now I’m not so sure. In fact, now I wonder if those people were promoted up from the “Everything for a euro” shop next door and matched my bottle to a lookalike, contents unknown. Sufficed to say, I put a bunch of that stuff into my eyes during the hot,, smoky train trip. At the time, I would have described the effects as “net zero” – didn’t really seem to help, didn’t hurt.

When I got to the B&B, I took out my contacts. My left eye was still pretty pissed off, but I figured it was from the High Holy Mass going on in Fabri’s room. That’s why I was pretty surprised to wake up yesterday morning to find that my eye hurt. Like really, really HURT. Closing it BURNED and made me wince and felt like there was glass in it.

I don’t know about you, but that’s scary. I could be bleeding out from a big gash on my arm and would figure, “That’ll clot. I’ll be fine.” But when it hurts like fire to close your own eyes…!?!? Well, it’s hard not to acknowledge a little low-grade panic setting in.

It’s probably fair to say that if you’re worried about some aspect of your health, the LAST thing you should do is get on WebMD. So that’s exactly what I did. Actually, minus the overuse of some words like “scarring” and “blindness” it was fairly innocuous and just said to flush with water and if the pain continued, go to a doctor. That’s easier said than done, buddy. I’m on my way to frigging Croatia. Know any good ophthalmologists there?

I was spooked enough that I got out my travelers health insurance information, wrote down the policy number, and used the online service to lookup some English-speaking doctors here in Pula. They don’t list eye doctors, but there’s a hospital, so I figured if worse came to worst, I’d start there.

However, as of this morning, it looks and feels fine. I’ll probably forgo my contacts for several days just to be sure (and I looked up doctors all the way to Vienna, just in case) but with any luck I am now just penniless, not blind and penniless (although the latter is a better combination for street-side begging).

Lastly, happy birthday to my dog, Dozer, who I miss very much, and who is three years old today. I’m sure he reads the blog daily, and is probably peeved that I don’t ever mention him, but it’s my general policy to keep this about me and not drag other innocent parties (or at least those I plan to see again) into it. Plus, I know it would be hard for him to reject any statements or make comments in his own defense, as his paws are too large to type effectively. Anyway, attached is a picture of him from last month (sent to me, obviously). He looks beautiful, as always, but he also looks a little down in the dumps. I’m sure he’ll cheer up when I get home in about a month and throw him a big, belated party.

(Also, buddy, if you do figure out how to use those big paws online, maybe consider wiring your beloved master some cash to the Vienna Western Union. Okay? Good boy. Go get yourself bone.)

He ain't no Lassie, but maybe he can figure out how to navigate the BofA automated phone system for me?

He is no Lassie, but maybe he can trot down to my local BofA branch and tear someone's pant leg off as a sign of protest?

 

Be still my broken heart July 24, 2008

It’s 4:12 a.m. where I live, and I should be giving my dog her heart medication. However, I got up and couldn’t find her…anywhere. I scoured the whole house and then went back inside to get a flashlight and after ten minues of searching, my flashlight caught the reflection of her open eyes on the hill in the back yard. From the looks of things, she went out to do #2 and had a heart attack and died. It strikes me that she’s kind of like Elvis, dying on the toilet, only without the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. She actually ate on her own tonight, and I finally allowed myself some real genuine hope that the nightmare of the last 96 hours could end happily. My beef with god has just gotten that much bigger.

Why does it seem all my pets die with their mouths open? And I can’t get them to close after they’re gone? Pixie didn’t look as tortured as Jerry – my cat who died a year and a half ago of skin cancer – but finding her that way will haunt me. My brain simply doesn’t know what to do with all this pain.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking a lot about Neil Young today, probably because I have never felt more helpless in my whole life than I have the last few days. I keep hearing his sad singing:

“Leave us
Helpless, helpless, helpless

Baby can you hear me now?
The chains are locked
and tied across the door,
Baby, sing with me somehow.Blue, blue windows behind the stars,
Yellow moon on the rise,
Big birds flying across the sky,
Throwing shadows on our eyes.
Leave us
Helpless, helpless, helpless.”
 

 

 

Have you ever listened to Lou Reed’s Magic and Loss? It’s an album about death and how to cope with it. I have the CD out in the other room. Tomorrow (or today I suppose it really is) is probably a good day to play it. I first heard the album with Lukas, someone else who’s gone now too.

Life’s like a mayonnaise soda
And life’s like space without room
And life’s like bacon and ice cream
That’s what life’s like without you

Life’s like forever becoming
But life’s forever dealing in hurt
Now life’s like death without living
That’s what life’s like without you

Life’s like Sanskrit read to a pony
I see you in my mind’s eye strangling on your tongue
What good is knowing such devotion
I’ve been around – I know what makes things run

What good is seeing eye chocolate
What good’s a computerized nose
And what good was cancer in April
Why no good – no good at all

What good’s a war without killing
What good is rain that falls up
What good’s a disease that won’t hurt you
Why no good, I guess, no good at all

What good are these thoughts that I’m thinking
It must be better not to be thinking at all
A styrofoam lover with emotions of concrete
No not much, not much at all

What’s good is life without living
What good’s this lion that barks
You loved a life others throw away nightly
It’s not fair, not fair at all

What’s good ?
Not much at all

What’s good ?
Life’s good -
But not fair at all
What a terrible few days this has been. I’m simply stunned – and so terribly heartbroken – by it all. Life is good, but not fair at all.

 

Drama galore redux July 21, 2008

I feel rather like I’ve been I’ve hit by a truck, rolled up like a pancake, smoked about halfway down, stubbed out on a gas station toilet seat, flushed down said toilet, backed up onto a city street, and rolled over by a truck one more time. In other words, it’s been a really long and pretty awful 36 hours. However, in the net, things could always be worse. In light of my emotional and physical exhaustion, I’ll do my best to succinctly catch you up:

I need to call the vet and get a report, but to the best of my knowledge, Pixie is still alive. I’m a total coward, and when it turned out she had cancer, I just couldn’t pull the trigger. She was so happy to see me and looked so lively and so NORMAL it seemed unfathomable to have them kill her. Moreover, my own vet told me she’d had dogs who lived through this same ordeal (small tumor on the spleen – in this case 1″ x 2″ – rupture and then be removed) go on to live another year or two.

The big problem here is that (to quote the emergency room vet at midnight last night) when the spleen tumor burst it “showered her abdominal cavity in cancer cells.” This is pretty much hands down the worst image ever conjured. I friggin hate EVERYTHING about the idea of that. In reaction, I am conjuring up every new age defense in my arsenal: showering her in white light, filling her with golden light, laying on of hands (not that I have any special talent or anything, beyond maybe sheer will), pseudo-Reiki (see again, no real talent or training. I just focused and tried to make my hands get hot. No idea if that’s even a technique). I’m also researching every alternative, far out, and plain old wackadoo theory on cancer. If there’s a supplement or vitamin or diet that can spare her more suffering, I’m bound and determined to find it.

As a side note, here’s an interesting little assertion I found. I have no idea if this is true or anything, just thought it was kind of wild, “

Some doctors implicate fungi as a cause of leukemia. In 1999 Meinolf Karthaus, MD, watched three different children with leukemia suddenly go into remission upon receiving a triple antifungal drug cocktail for their “secondary” fungal infections.

In 1997 Mark Bielski stated that leukemia, whether acute or chronic, is intimately associated with the yeast, Candida albicans, which mutates into a fungal form when it overgrows.

Milton White, MD. believed that cancer is a chronic, infectious, fungus disease. He was able to find fungal spores in every sample of cancer tissue he studied. Some other doctors agree with him. Such as the Italian doctor who has his patients take a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, baking soda, in a glass of water half an hour before breakfast. This alkalinized the digestive tract so that it would help eliminate candida.”

Anyway, I had the vet remove her tumor, and she told me that if she got in there and found any signs that the cancer had spread, she’d put her down. She didn’t. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the removal of her spleen and the general stress of it all has caused a myocardial something or other. Her heartbeat is 240 beats per minute. I felt it with my own hand as I transported her back to the emergency vet for observation tonight. On that note, it’s just wait and see and continue praying that she not only makes it through this, but that I’ve done the right thing and she truly does live another two years or even more.

In other news, I *think* I’ve managed to keep my job for the trip. On Wednesday after resigning and hearing nothing, I called my boss and left an angry (for me) voicemail. I told him I deserved better than this, I’d never felt so disrespected, I was ‘deeply, deeply disappointed’ and closed with ‘is this really what you want?”  He called back shortly thereafter and said, “Do you really want to quit!?” I told him no, of course not, but then relayed the conversation I’d had (presumably at his bidding) with E. His reaction? “That’s ridiculous. That’s a ridiculous conversation.” Yeah. No sh!t. Thanks for having her call me.

Lastly, I’ve spent entirely too long booking rooms for the first few weeks of my trip. I figure I need to nail things down through the end of tourist season (August), and I’ll wing it from there.  Thus far, for anyone interested, the booked itinerary is:

  • Iceland
  • London
  • Bath
  • London
  • Edinburgh (flying there)
  • Glasgow
  • Belfast
  • Dublin
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Blarney/Schull
  • Cape Clear Island
  • Dublin
  • Lisbon (by plane, obviously)
  • Madrid
  • Valencia
  • Barcelona
  • Lourdes

WHEW!!!!

Until tomorrow…

 

Atheist prayer July 20, 2008

The blogger and her muse in happier, healthier times (this spring)

The blogger and her muse in happier, healthier times (this spring)

Okay, maybe I’m not a full-throttle atheist like my dad, but I’m definitely not a believer in anything traditional. Likely “spiritual with a very weird belief system involving parallel universes, past lives, quantum physics, shamanism, doing unto others, spirit guides, and maybe a dash of Buddhism” is the best description, and it’s safe to say that traditional prayer is not something I partake in regularly. Nonetheless, like any good hypocrite, in the throes of tragedy, such as I’m in now, I find myself groveling back to God and invoking the sacred words of my Catholic childhood. Hail Mary, full of grace…

My beloved German Shepherd mix, Pixie, is in the vet emergency hospital on dog life support, bleeding internally. Because I live in a stupid town large enough to have a single emergency vet, but too small for them to have access to an ultrasound, nothing is known about WHY she’s bleeding internally. She’s eight and a half years old and otherwise in perfect health. However, this morning she wouldn’t get up, just laid there panting. And when the doorbell (her mortal enemy) was rung, she didn’t respond. Also, according to the emergency vet, after a dog turns six “all bets are off”. They’re in geriatric pet country, and anything goes.

Anyway, with what she knows, the vet feels there are two possibilities:

1. Pixie has a heretofore undetected cancerous tumor on her spleen that has ruptured, and the blood is coming from there. In that case, they could do surgery to remove the spleen, but that would only buy her another month of life. That’s clearly selfish and cruel, so I won’t do it to her. In other words, if I learn tomorrow that this is the fate of my beloved girl, I have to put her down.

2. The long shot and the great white hope: Pixie has an autoimmune disease that is causing this bleeding. In this case, they would likely do several blood transfusions and then put her on a lifelong course of steroids, wherein she would live a normal life. I never thought I’d wish an autoimmune disease on my dog, but considering my options, all the Hail Marys are for this to come true.

The really weird thing is that i had a nightmare on Friday night about my dogs (the other one is an Alaskan Malamute who’s two and a half): I came home to my house and it had a chain link fence. The fence gate was open and the yard was empty, and I knew something bad had happened to my dogs. Someone said, “She’s dead, isn’t she?” and I started panicking and calling “come here, Sweet Girl. C’mon Pixie.” But I didn’t know where to start looking or where she might be. I worked myself into such a panic that I woke up.

I guess that doesn’t actually matter in the big picture, however. For now, I can do nothing except try not to think about it, and try not to fret and bawl and get terrified and start dwelling on how much that dog means to me and how much we’ve been through together and how I feel like my heart has been ripped out of my chest and thrown into a volcano. Thus, in the spirit of honoring the most wonderful dog – and maybe even “person” – I’ve ever known, I’ve decided to post a few pictures and maybe even a little video of her.

If you’re feeling particularly generous and regardless of your religious persuasion or lack thereof, perhaps you might say a little prayer on our behalf…

 

 

 
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