Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fear and Loathing




I’ve tried to sit down and write a post here numerous times over the past month, but it never materializes. The words aren’t there. The motivation isn’t there. And instead of fighting it for no reason, I just accept it telling myself that one day the words and motivation will return. If they don’t, no worries, but if they do, I have this space to fill with them. The last couple of days, however, there have been plenty of words, too many words, crowding out my confused mind and weighing me down like the heavy burden they can so often be.

I need to begin at the beginning.

Last April, almost a year ago now, I lost my beautiful girl Fozzie to cancer. I was (and honestly, still am) crushed that as her caretaker and companion I couldn’t save her, so in a determined effort to find the silver lining to her death, Steven and I set out to rescue a dog who really needed saving. A dog whose time was up and who had no other chance for rescue, which is how we found Honey Bee-- a sick, emaciated little pit bull mix huddled in the corner of her kennel at the county shelter, completely withdrawn, completely out of time. In fact, she was so out of time that we had to beg for an extension to her euthanasia date just to adopt her, which they finally granted. In all actuality, she wasn’t the one we were “looking for” when we set out to the shelter that day, but she was the one who needed rescuing, and so we rescued.


We brought her home, nursed her to health, and she quickly transformed from the broken creature we met at the shelter who had completely given up into a happy lovebug of an overgrown puppy. And despite that we knew nothing about her past or her temperament, she proved to be fine with my other dogs (so long as they stayed away from her food), my cats, my chickens, and even my tiny rabbit and the kittens we fostered shortly after adopting her. There were a few incidents along the way in which she snapped at Digby, my dachshund, always over food and always situations I blame myself for not being more careful to prevent. But no one was ever seriously injured and Honey always responded almost immediately to us.


Fast forward to Sunday. I spent the day kayaking and playing in springs and having a grand ol’ time. I came home to change clothes and let the dogs out before going to dinner. Nothing out of the ordinary. While in the backyard with the dogs, I was walking towards the back door when I saw Honey Bee latch on to Digby’s head and start shaking him. There was no food anywhere like the other times, nothing that I can directly pinpoint as the trigger like the other times, and also unlike the other times, she wouldn’t let go. I tried my best to separate them, but she was entirely unresponsive, which is not like her. I felt my heart stop. I can still feel it stop when I envision what could have happened had I not been a few feet away and had I not finally pried her mouth open just enough to drop him.

I spent the rest of the night cleaning Digby with hydrogen peroxide and cradling him until he stopped shaking and whimpering. His injuries did not appear to be bad enough to call for a trip to the emergency vet, with whom I’ve had numerous negative and expensive experiences, so I held him all night and checked on him every few hours (since I couldn’t sleep anyway) and took him to the vet Monday morning. They cleaned him up again, put staples in his head to close the two puncture wounds, gave him an antibiotic shot and an anti-inflammatory shot, and sent me home with medication.

Relaying what happened is the easy part. Figuring out the next chapter is where the words start jumbling and disappearing altogether. Digby will be ok. His wounds will heal. He will resume his normal ridiculous personality. But beyond that, I’m lost. Completely.

I’m the one who rescues dogs. I’m the one who judges people who give up their dogs or who even consider that an option. I’m the one who trusts that wherever there’s a will there’s a way. I’m the one who believes that I don’t need help, because my love of animals enables me to do anything. And now I’m the one who finally feels scared and alone and overwhelmed and hopeless and frustrated. All things I consistently tell myself I’m not.


I finally have to admit that I have a dog I cannot safely and reliably control and it’s my own fault and something bad could happen as a result. Honey Bee responds positively to men and she responds positively to calm assertive energy more than anything, neither of which I am or possess. I’ve hired enough dog trainers to know that despite my efforts, I’m not a pack leader by any stretch, I’m just their buddy and dogs don’t respect a buddy. When Steven moved out in November, Honey lost her authority figure and as such began exhibiting more and more unstable energy. While I did my best to remedy the situation and be the owner she needs, I have clearly fallen short. It is just me, the sole caretaker of 4 dogs, a house, numerous other pets, who works full time, etc., and I am not infallible.

I don’t know where to turn right now and feel I have no viable options that I’m remotely comfortable with. I have never considered rehoming a dog as an option, let alone turning one over to a shelter. Never. But the reality of rehoming an unpredictably aggressive pit bull to an ideal home in an area of the country already unbelievably overpopulated with pit bulls is slim to none. And even if I did, how could I ever live with myself? On the one hand, I’ve had Digby longer than any of my other pets and I owe him a safe and secure environment. Each time he’s been attacked, it’s been worse than the last time, and I can’t imagine anything worse than Sunday night. But Honey is also my pet, and when I adopted her I made a commitment to care for her forever, no matter what. I know this is not her fault, I know that NO DOG IS BAD.


And yet I also know that I do not possess the superhuman abilities I delude myself into believing I do most of the time. As hard as it is for me to admit, I know I cannot do everything by myself. I have friends with dogs that absolutely cannot be in the same room together no matter what, and they do what they call “crate and rotate”. While it’s certainly not an ideal situation, it works for them, but there are two of them in the house with different schedules and their dogs are older. I feel that Honey is too young and energetic to spend any more time in her crate than she already has to when I’m not home. And keeping them separated for the past 48 hours has already proven exhausting and less-than-ideal for them and for me. But I don’t know what is an ideal situation anymore, or if there is one. Again, I feel scared and alone and overwhelmed and hopeless and frustrated.

And while I'm at it, I’m also frustrated because I’ve spent so much time and energy telling people they’re wrong about pit bulls and using Honey as a positive ambassador for the breed. Everywhere we go, people tell me how beautiful and smart she is. I show them pictures of her nose-to-nose with my tiny rabbit, or with 3 week old kittens, and they ooh and ahh. But even my own dad says “they all eventually snap and their owners always tell you ‘Oh but he was such a good dog until that happened! We never saw it coming!’” You cannot generalize an entire breed, any breed, and dogs are first and foremost the product of their environment and upbringing. I still believe that. If people can generalize my dog and say “I told you so”, then I can still point to the numerous pit bulls who are therapy dogs, law enforcement dogs, army dogs, etc., as well as highlight their history as nanny dogs before they became a status symbol for the wrong people (did you know Pete from Little Rascals was a pit bull?). But the fact that I now feel partly responsible for their bad reputation is more disheartening and maddening than I can possibly convey.

I just don’t know what to do. That’s all that this overly-verbose rambling boils down to. That’s it. I don’t know what to do and I don’t even know where to begin. In an ideal world, I would be able to find her a better home with someone who understands her and is the calm assertive pack leader she so needs. She is loyal and goofy and incredibly smart and beautiful; she deserves the best. But then I remember that that ideal home most likely doesn’t exist, and why should I expect it to when I can’t even provide it for her? I feel like I’m in a room full of locked doors and there is no way out, and I’m left turning circles, aimlessly pawing at the door knobs to no avail, all the while cursing myself like the failure I am.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Holas Amigos


Contrary to popular belief, I am not dead, nor have I intended to take any kind of hiatus from blogging. Sometimes I feel like I'm overflowing with words, while other times I don't realize that a month has gone by since my last post until I sit down to write a new one. Part of that is of course due to always being busy, but part of that is also because I was gone all last week playing in Costa Rica! If you follow me on Instagram, you've already gotten a nice sneak peek into my adventures via cell phone photos, but if not, don't fret because I have plenty more to share here. When and if I can find the time to edit photos and write a post, we'll be set, but at the moment I haven't even unpacked yet, so let me begrudgingly get back into this horrible, awful, no-good routine we so euphemistically call "real life" and I'll get back to you soon. 

Now if only someone could just get me a damned green coconut...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fat Penguins and Florida Mermaids




Back when I lived in Gunnison, a 19 degree day during the all-too-long and all-too-cold winter would be downright balmy. In fact, any temperature in the double digits was considered a positive. But when I spent 2 days in Chicago last week, the 19 degree weather cut right through my clothes and chilled me to the bone. Hell, I'll even go so far as to say 30 degrees in Florida is more painful than 19 degrees in Colorado, and it's funny how different temperatures can feel in different climates. But regardless of the location, I was reminded again last week that I'm definitely a Florida girl and I definitely don't miss cold weather. 


Sure, it's fun to cozy up in fuzzy mittens and scarves and play in snow and imbibe gallons of piping hot liquids, but maybe a of that is good enough for me. Six months? No thanks, been there done that. On the whole, winter weather just makes me feel uncomfortable and out of place, and waddling around like a fat penguin in 20 layers of clothing makes me feel incredibly claustrophobic (not to mention that you then have to take those 20 layers on and off numerous times a day and lug them around with you like a damn sherpa). I know winter is a dream for some people and summer is a burden, and I know from experience that I can tolerate months of bitter cold and blinding snow if I have to (and that I will even willingly go ice fishing in -34 degree weather at 9,400 feet elevation!)... 


 ...but I'll take paddleboarding in a bikini all day and swimming in springs in January over that any day.

I think Jordan may be inclined to agree.

 
 As much as I love winters in Florida, this winter in particular has been exceptionally warm. While paddleboarding the other weekend, I noticed so many blooming aquatic plants that aren't in season, like the above alligator lily (Hymenocallis palmeri) and cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Even around town azaleas are blooming like crazy, months before they're supposed to. So while the weather feels nice, I do worry and wonder about the effect it's having.

   
In the moment, while I worry about the declining state of things I love so dearly, I do try to focus on the positive. 

   
 Even when the negative seems so palpable and ubiquitious. There are so many things I worry about so often, they sometimes feel as though they're surrounding me on all sides and swallowing up the positive. But I still try.

 
But on with the adventure, which I'll largely relay with photos because I can't seem to find the words to accurately describe how I feel at times doing some of the things I do. The ups and downs, the extreme elation and gratitude, and likewise the accompanying worry and solemnity that comes with an understanding of ephemerality. 

I will jump in here to explain this photo, but first I need to mention a fun aspect of paddleboarding Florida rivers: snagging your fin on one of the many submerged logs and thus catapulting yourself into the water unexpectedly. Jordan did this twice during the day and it was wonderful entertainment for me. She was a little chilly the second time after we had already been swimming for awhile and the sun was going down, which is when I snapped this gem. I felt bad laughing at her, but in typical Jordan fashion, she was laughing before even hitting the water. And that is one of the many reasons I love her.

Worries aside, it was a truly beautiful day and one that made me genuinely happy to be alive, and I think that's really all that needs to be said. Moments like these are too rare in the hustle and bustle of life, and should always be recognized for what they are and greeted with gratitude.



Now, if anyone's wondering why I was in Chicago of all earthly places for two days last week, it was to see Wait Wait.. Don't Tell Me live, which for those unacquainted (you should be ashamed) is a weekly news quiz on NPR that I absolutely adore. It's been on my bucket list to see it for ages now, but I never thought I'd actually go until Steven booked me a trip to do just that as my Christmas present this year. I thought just seeing it live would be so amazing, but when they called Carl Hiaasen to talk about the python hunts in Florida, I literally jumped out of my seat!

 What a dream! If you've never listened to this show (again, you should be ashamed), you can listen on NPR on Saturdays, stream it from their website, or download a podcast.
(Excuse the iPhone photos, they don't blow up too well.)

 
 All-in-all, my only interest in Chicago was to see Wait Wait. If I had any expectations of the city beforehand, it was that I'd despise it. I'm not a big city girl and I hate the wind, but I was honestly quite pleasantly surprised. Not anywhere I'd ever want to live, no sir, but much better than I ever expected.

 
 The only other thing I did in my very, very brief visit was go to the Field Museum of Natural History. Of course. Do you know me at all? It was a dream as well and I truly wish I had way more time to spend there. This is Sue, the largest and most intact T-Rex specimen anywhere, named after the woman who discovered her. It's mind-blowing just to stand in front of something like this and take in the reality of what it is.

 Oh so cold! It was a fun little 30 hour mini-vacation, but I do think this suits me better:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pancake Déjà Vu


It seems like every time I sit down to write something here I just, well, can’t. For the most part, writing has been easy for me much of my life, so when I hit any kind of writer’s block I believe it’s best to just wait it out and let it pass without trying to force out some kind of obligatory gibberish simply for the sake of doing so. I think part of my writer’s block issues stems from not reading, because I’ve definitely noticed a correlation between how much I’m reading and how inspired I am to write. But I also think it may have something something to do with the fact that I can’t seem to sit down for more than 10 minutes at a time before I get up to flutter around my house like a manic little moth searching out all the random things on one of my many to do lists that I feel like I have to do. I’m pretty sure that this is a large contributing factor to why I often overindulge in alcohol, because it relaxes me, or at least lends the illusion of relaxation. Or, you know, maybe I’m just drunk so I don’t care one way or the other.

But this week I’ve begun the feat of giving up alcohol for an indeterminate amount of time to 1. Save much-needed money in preparation for my trip to Costa Rica next month for Jordan’s 30th birthday, because booze is expensive and I don’t receive any paid annual leave from work, 2. Lose some residual holiday weight, and 3. See if I actually can since every time I say I’ll give up booze I usually only make it a week. While it may seem like I’m an alcoholic who pours vodka on my cereal in the morning, I assure you I’m not. I just drink more than I'd ideally like to, and I’m sure it has everything to do with constantly trying to attain some level of relaxation. So suffice it to say that not drinking does not help whatsoever in my quest to just sit in one spot long enough to do anything, let alone long enough to write a blog post. 

But luckily I’ve come down with some kind of fever-ridden snot-faced illness of some kind the past few days, so it’s much easier to convince myself to stay on the couch and not move a muscle. Hell, I had a 101° fever yesterday and despite how miserable I felt, it took almost half an hour to convince myself to get up and make the 15 foot journey to the kitchen to take medicine. So thanks to my being sick, you lucky folks get a blog post to read. And being that there’s a flu epidemic, some of you may also be home sick needing something to entertain you, so we’re all winners here. Stuffy-nosed, Nyquil-zombie winners. Hooray! 


I've been meaning to share my photos from a few weeks ago when I took Steven’s parents to DeLeon Springs for a pancake breakfast that turned into a pancake lunch because the wait time for a table was 2 hours. We almost scrapped the whole idea after we learned of the wait time, since we were all starving after the 45 minute drive over, but since we had already made the journey we decided to snack on coffee and cookies to tide us over and explore the rest of the state park while we waited. And I’m so glad we did, because I hadn’t been back since I first took Steven during his first trip here, and it turned out to be such a lovely day. My only regret was that I didn’t take my bathing suit, because on such a warm January day (almost in the 80s!) it would have been a dream to swim in the spring while waiting, but unfortunately I didn’t have the foresight.


What we did do in lieu of swimming was walk the short nature trail to the 500 year old cypress tree (called Old Methuselah), explore the historical display in the visitor center, and watch manatees in Spring Garden Creek. Being that his parents LOVE the most touristy areas in Kissimmee, I am always trying to show them the other side of Florida. 
 
 Alligator skull from the visitor center. I wish it were in my house.

A photo of Sunshine Sally, the waterskiing elephant from when DeLeon Spring was a full-on tourist attraction. I can appreciate the historical kitsch aspect of this, but I'm glad it's no longer that way.

 An attempted recreation of one of the first photos we ever took, which can be seen here. All I can tell is that in 2 years and 2 months, I've just gotten fatter and Steven still wears ridiculous shirts.

Old Methuselah. A 500+ year old cypress tree that somehow survived the rampant cypress logging that claimed most of Florida's old growth cypress. I didn't manage a photo of it in my last post, so I made sure to try and get one this time.

 
Looking into the spring. I want to go swimming!

Manatee in Spring Garden Creek. Some folks were hanging off the dock petting this guy when I showed up. I informed them that they weren't allowed to, and they responded "Ya, well, no one's here to say otherwise." Their demeanor quickly changed after I casually informed them I was an employee of an environmental government agency. What fun.

 The trees around the park are just unbelievably beautiful. I took so many photos of them but this was my favorite. I'm such a sucker for live oaks, especially when the resurrection ferns are green after a good rain. I wish I lived in a fern and oak hammock.

And what stop to DeLeon wouldn't be complete without heading to the old Bob White Orange Packing Plant to see how it's doing? I drove by here a few weeks ago for work and noticed they had plowed down many of the buildings that had burned during the fire last year, along with all of the plant growth. I'm so worried that the next time I drive by, everything will be demolished. It's such a special place that it breaks my heart to know it's only a matter of time before it's gone, like the abandoned farm I loved that was suddenly gone the last time I went looking for it. I'm at least glad I got a couple good photos of some of buildings that are already gone. But other than that depressing note, the day was wonderful. Good food, good sights, good people.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wednesday Night


Lately I keep wondering when and if I will ever wake up and miraculously feel like "a grown up". My grandmother was younger than I am now by the time she was married with 5 children. I know that it's a completely different scenario, but it's still a interesting point of reference. Because here I am at 29 with chicken shit on my foot because I still don't have the foresight to leave slippers by the back door. Which is a pretty decent metaphor for a lot of aspects of my life that make me feel like I will never grow up. 


Nothing to be sad about (I mean, not yet anyway), just something to ponder on a Wednesday night while I wonder if I will ever exist outside of the existential dilemma that seems to occupy my mind most of the time. I don't know if I will ever know what life is or if I will ever be satisfied with it or if I will ever feel that I am at the right place doing the right thing at the right time. And I have to simultaneously wonder if this is more of an internal or external issue. It's not even an "issue", just a lingering thought.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Reset


I don’t think it’s any real secret here that 2012 was not my year for a variety of reasons that I’m not going to delve into again. And as such, I’ve been awaiting its end with great anticipation for months now, and definitely breathed a huge sigh of relief when the clock finally struck midnight on Monday. Part of me laughs at the idea of New Year’s Eve celebrations and resolutions and whatnot, because as pretentious as it sounds, time really is just a concept created by humans. It’s not real. We shouldn’t place so much emphasis on the difference between December 31 and January 1, because the only differences are the ones we construct and perceive (or think we construct and perceive).

But none of that rationalist bullshit mattered to me this year, because I was fully vested in the idea that “2012 sucked so 2013 will be better because it just has to be”.  So I woke up on Tuesday morning and in my sleep-deprived, slightly-hungover stupor immediately started making Hoppin John with all the eager hopefulness and optimism of a religious fanatic throwing money into the tithing bowl. Because despite that I don’t believe in superstition, traditions are fun and I’m just not taking any chances either way. And also, Hoppin John is delicious (and a pretty good hangover meal).

 (I was going to say excuse the blurry iPhone photo, but most of my regular photos are of equal poor quality)

After breakfast, Jordan and I set out to go kayaking, as we had made plans to get up early for an epic day on the river, starting the new year off on the right foot and scoffing at the rest of the world who would inevitably choose to languish in bed on National Hangover Day. I’m always so turned off by “obligatory partying” like birthdays and New Year’s and the Fourth of July and whatnot, so I had zero expectations for Monday night and just wanted a relaxed evening hanging out with whoever wanted to come over, make some homemade pizzas, drink some champagne, and sit by the fire just late enough to ring in the new year before going to bed.

But joke’s on me because I was too busy throwing bottle rockets into a fire at 2 a.m. to remember my well laid plans, and as such we got a pretty late start to the day.. But we didn’t give up, and that’s what’s important, right? Right.

Hey, buddy!

 Dream house. It's good to have goals. 

Winter colors of Florida. Not too shabby.

 
 
What I see when I dream of Florida. 
Well, this and live oak hammocks. And mangrove lagoons. And cypress swamps. And everything else but strip malls and high rises.


I wasn’t sure if this popular river would be dead on New Year’s Day or teeming with all the other people who had the day off work and wanted to take advantage of the nice, warm weather. I’d say it was closer to the latter, and I definitely saw more people than I ideally like to see when I play outside (which is of course zero), but it didn’t ruin my good time. I had such a wonderful, albeit short, day playing outside with the renewed calm contentment of someone who has felt a great hypothetical weight lifted from her shoulders.
 
I think Jordan had fun, too.


I honestly do feel that this year will be better than the last, not because I blindly believe that that’s just how the universe works, but because I’ve been thinking so much about the ups and downs of the past year and how and what I need to do to make this year different. Not everything that happened in 2012 was my own fault (I’m pretty sure I didn’t give my beloved dog cancer), but a lot of it was, and I’m finally ready to take responsibility and not make the same mistakes again. Time may be a concept and change may only be what we create and perceive, but those are still quite powerful notions, and I’m happy for the chance to hit the proverbial reset button and start anew.


Here’s to wishing all of you a healthy, happy, prosperous 2013!