Oh the Places You Will Go

Charlotte pup is 14 weeks old this week!  She got her final Distemper-Parvo booster on Wednesday, and has the go-ahead from the vet to hit the trails. I’m so excited for the weekend and taking her out on the trail. 

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been able to run more than a mile or two with Franklin and Artemis, because of their advanced ages and arthritis. The past six months or so, they have really only been able to go on short walks, and Franklin seems to have slowed down in the past few weeks since Artemis passed away. (He is 14 1/2 years old!) I’m excited to soon have a dog that  I can run with again. Charlotte and I have been doing one to two mile morning jogs around the neighborhood, and she has been doing great on the leash. 

The sense of happiness that I have when I think of running with her on the trails is incredible. I’ll need to be careful with her the first couple of years, because I don’t want to stress her joints too much too early by taking her too far. That part is going to be a real challenge, because I know that hitting the trails will bring us so much joy that we will want to go and go and go…

The excitement I have thinking of the adventures Charlotte and I will have together is so huge, and brings me great joy. I know she will love it, and thinking of how I will be able to watch her explore and learn and grow makes me so happy. Oh, Charlotte, the places you will go… I can’t wait to show you… we are going to have some amazing adventures together!

Forever Artemis

Artemis was arguably one of the sweetest dogs on the planet.  She was also one of the naughtiest.  Probably one key to her being able to get away with figurative murder, was that she always had a look of happiness and innocence.

IMG_2656 2.JPGOne could be walking along a trail with her and suddenly she would disappear.  This would invariably happen at the most inopportune times:  when a storm-front was approaching, when you needed to be somewhere by a certain time, or when you simply just didn’t have the patience to put up with her antics.

 
But that smiling face, once found again, would look up at you and make you realize that all the bad stuff that she did was totally worth it.  This dog had a way of living life to the fullest:  full of abandon and instinct and pleasure.  And one could learn how to forget about all the bad stuff in the world, all the stuff that needed to be done instead of having fun, all the real-world worries, just by watching her live her life through mischief and by not giving a damn that she was being called back to reality.

Over the next few weeks, stories of Artemis and her misadventures will be recounted here in this space, entitled Forever Artemis.

Introduction to Charlotte

A couple of weeks before Artemis passed away, I was taking her to a veterinary acupuncturist to try and alleviate some of her arthritis pain and vertigo symptoms.  We had tried most things:  Adequan injections (a cartilage building medication), daily Rimadyl (an anti-inflammatory), and glucosamine supplement (which she had been on for years).  Daily walks seemed to help, but the vertigo was getting worse despite giving her Meclizine, an anti-nausea medication that is often used for vertigo.

She had been to at least 4 or 5 acupuncture visits and seemed to be improving a little.  The vertigo was a little less pronounced when we got home and for a couple of days after her treatments, so we increased the frequency from once to twice a week.  The problem was, that I work 4 days a week, so one day a week I could go with her, and the other day I had to drop her off for the day.  Thankfully, the vet clinic is also a kennel and doggie-daycare center (Best in State award winner for the past two years), and I could drop her off for acupucture and get complementary daycare until I could pick her up after work.

So on this one day, it was a Friday, I was dropping Artemis off and I looked past the receptionist and there was a sweet little black lab puppy.  “Do you want to hold her?” one of the girls asked.  And I thought to myself, “Well, of course I do!” and I think I said that exact thing out-loud, and I met Charlotte for the first time.

I left for work (I tore myself away) and went about my day and sort of forgot about the puppy, until it was time to pick up Artemis in the afternoon.  I asked if we could go back to the vet clinic and talk to the vet, Dr Verona, to say hello.  “Oh sure, no problem… go on back.”  So Artemis and I walked to the back and there, once again, was the black lab puppy.  She was snoozing on the floor by the couch in the clinic area, and I couldn’t help but pick her up and say hello again.  She was also super sweet, because she was still drowsy from just being spayed that afternoon.

Artemis seemed to like her, and I really liked her, and I asked one of the girls, or the vet-techs as a group, “So, what do I have to do to take this puppy home?”  And I almost couldn’t believe the words had just come out of my mouth, but I meant it.  They looked at me… “Seriously?” asked Camille.  “I’m serious.”  And she said she would make a call, and she did right then and there.  The call went to voicemail and she left a message for the adoption coordinator with a group called CAWS (Community Animal Welfare Society).  The vet techs encouraged me to submit an application for adoption, and give the name of the puppy in the application (her name at that time was Dakota).  I tore myself away from her (it was nearly 6pm and the clinic was closing) and Artemis and I left, hoping for the best.

I filled out the application immediately, and asked a couple of friends who have contacts in the local animal-welfare community to put in a good word or two for me if they had time (and they did).

The next day, I went skiing with my brother in Idaho (a two hour drive away from Salt Lake) and told him and his friend Tim about the pup on the chairlift.  “Do you really want a puppy?” they asked me.  “I really think I do,” I replied.  Tim had a puppy (and an older dog) and was reminding me how much work it is to have a puppy.  “I think I’m ready,” I told them.  They seemed skeptical.  Eight years with two middle-aged and now elderly Golden Retrievers and two cats in the house, and a puppy would definitely change the dynamic of our household.

But in my heart, she was already mine.  I drove home and went to bed that night and asked the dogs, “Would it be ok?” And they looked at me with their soulful eyes, and they seemed to say that I could do whatever I wanted to be happy.  As long as I was happy, they would be happy.  Because that’s what elderly Golden Retrievers say to you, no matter what you ask.

I went running the next day with my friend Ann and my neighbors’ dog Watson (the two-year old terrier).  I was talking about the puppy and telling myself, “It’s ok if she doesn’t come to us.  If it wasn’t meant to be, it just wasn’t.”  But in my heart, I wanted so much for her to come live with us.  I wanted her to be part of our pack.  And then, my phone bleeped with a text.  It was the foster dad, telling me that I could come out to his house that afternoon to come meet her.

“I think I just got a puppy,” I said to Ann as I ran down the trail.  I’m certain my pace quickened.  I got tears in my eyes.  I knew this was meant to be.

I drove out to the foster family’s house and held her.  She was mine.  And I was hers.  My heart belonged to her, it was clear from the moment I held her.

As Artemis got sicker and weaker over the next couple of weeks, Charlotte (I switched her name from Dakota) hung close.  She often curled up in bed with Artemis and I thought there really couldn’t be anything sweeter than this pup bonding to an old, dying dog.  Artemis stayed patient with her, never nipped her despite Charlotte’s nips and ploys for attention, and I’d like to think that Artemis was telling us that it was ok.  She would pass the torch.

A little over month after I came home with Charlotte and three weeks after putting Artemis down, I returned to the vet clinic to say thank you.  I brought some small gifts for the vet-techs (little crocheted change purses that I make, because when I would sit with Artemis while she was getting her acupuncture treatments, I would often be working on a crochet project).  Several of the girls told me that they had put in the good word for me to the adoption coordinator.  “Really?” I said.  “Thank you so much.”  Apparently there were several people interested in Charlotte.  But after they saw the bond that Artemis and I had, they knew that the match had been made and that Charlotte needed to join our pack.

I’m so grateful.  I’d like to think that Artemis passed on a little bit of her sweet magic to Charlotte before she left this world.  Lord knows, Artemis had the sweetest goofball grin.  Let’s hope she took her love of chasing coyotes and deer through the foothills with her.  Next week, Charlotte will get her final distemper booster and take her first outing on the trails.  Time will tell just how much Artemis passed on the Charlotte in those final days.

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Find Your [Writing] Focus

I went to coffee with my friend Suzanne this morning and talked with her about trying to find my focus for my writing.  I’ve been taught that in order to find your focus, you need to know or find your audience, and I’ve had a lot of trouble doing that.  My blog to date seems so random… I just write about my thoughts and interests and I wonder if anyone can really get invested in what I have to say.

I do know that I have at least a knack for telling stories, but I feel that I’ve been at a loss as to how to reach out to people and connect with them.  It’s been a struggle for me and held me back from writing more.

Some writers might say that you should write about what you know or write about your passion(s).  But what if I have so many interests or passions that I don’t know which one to focus on?  I love to write, but do I want to write research-based, informative articles?  Do I want to write about my adventures in a creative sense?  Do I want to teach something?  If you look at my profile and previous posts, you’ll see that interests are: nature, which includes running, hiking, and skiing in the mountains; interacting with my pets, both dogs and cats; baking and cooking; crocheting, drawing, and a little bit of crafting; gardening, but mostly just doing yard work; and music, which is mostly playing the piano when I have a spare moment, but not necessarily following any musician or composer or going to concerts.

I look at other people whom I know:  one writes about organic gardening, another focuses on her passion for nutrition and how to live a healthy lifestyle through healthy eating, another talks about his passion for ultra-running.  I have passion, but how do I narrow my focus to come up with the content that will actually be: 1) interesting enough for others to want to read, 2) keep people interested enough to follow me and come back to reading my work, and 3) be interesting enough for me to continue writing about it?  How did these other people find their focus and find their audiences?

One problem I find is that in our world today, we have so many interests of commitments that pull us in different directions, that it’s really hard to focus on just one thing.  We have our work which gets in the way of individual pursuits.  We have our individual pursuits which distract us from our work.  We have our normal adult tasks which need to be done each day or each week so that our houses and lifestyles and families don’t fall apart.

Something else that I feel distracts us from our focus is that we live in such a digital world, that there are just so many choices out there that it’s hard to be connected to any one thing or group of things.  Social media continuously distracts me and draws me in for minutes if not hours per day.  I feel that I’m just scrolling through pages and posts and not really getting any tangible information that I can actually use.  Articles that I do read need to be less than 5 minutes long, or I lose my focus reading them and move on to the next thing.  Gone are the days of sitting down and reading a newspaper front to back, because the way digital news sites are set up, I really only read the top stories or stories related to a search term.  There’s so little continuity to the site that before I know it, I’ve worked my way through 5 “related articles” and wonder what I was searching for in the first place.  (The term “down the rabbit hole” comes to mind.)

What should I do to find my writing focus and my audience?  I call for comments!

And if you’ve made it this far, thanks for entertaining my ramblings.

What’s in a Name: How Artemis got her name

I don’t remember exactly which internet site I was on, but it was probably one of those “name your baby” sites.  I saw the name Artemis listed under the girl names, and I though, “Huh, that’s an interesting name.  I kind of like it.”  And then I looked up the history of the name by Google search.

People always ask me, “Artemis:  isn’t that a boy’s name?”  And the simple answer is:  no.

Artemis is Apollo’s sister in Greek mythology.  She is the equivalent of the Roman goddess Diana.  Artemis is the goddess of forests and hills.  She is typically seen hunting with her bow and arrow and her trusty dog by her side.

The name couldn’t have been more fitting for my dog.  Artemis was always a huntress, chasing coyotes and herds of deer in the mountains, chasing herds of cattle in the grasslands of Wyoming, chasing birds to the edges of cliffs, and stalking squirrels in Liberty Park.  We would oftentimes be on a walk around the block, and Artemis would put her nose in the air, dig in her heels, and come to a dead stop.  I would follow her gaze and see that a squirrel had stopped on a wire above our heads.  I would have to drag her away to keep her moving on the walk.

She was also quite a forager of food.  She never really got into my pockets to look for treats like Franklin does, but she would root through any yard with fruit trees on our walks to eat plums, peaches, apricots, pears, and her favorite:  crab apples.  Trying to get Artemis around the block in the late summer and early fall was a chore, because she was so busy eating.  I remember passing by one house that had a mulberry tree and she was scraping the dried berries off of the sidewalk with her front teeth in order to eat them.

I traveled to Bavaria with my family one summer (leaving the dogs at home) and on a visit to King Ludwig II’s castle Linderhof, I looked across the courtyard and saw a statue of a toga-clad woman with her dog and her bows and arrows at her side.  “Artemis!”  I shouted.   Likely, the goddess was Diana, as King Ludwig had borrowed heavily from the influence of Versailles and King Louis XIV, who also has a statue of Diana in one of his courtyards and tended to borrow from Roman influence (not Greek).

I often called her Artie for short, but she was never short on energy when it came to hunting.  I bought small lights for the dogs’ collars while working in Nevada on an assignment, so that I could see where the dogs were going on our evening walks out in the desert.  Artemis loved to chase the jackrabbits, and I loved watching her red blinking light darting around the pitch-black remote desert hills.

So, what’s in a name?  As far as Artemis is concerned, everything.  The name couldn’t have been more perfect for her.  I dream that she lives on as my guardian angel in the mountains and hope that she will watch over me as I continue on my adventures.

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Artemis in the hills above Salt Lake City, looking for deer

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The statue of Artemis and her dog at Linderhof

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Dogs with lights:  safety is no accident

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Me and Artemis on Mt Wire above Salt Lake City. This was my birthday 2010, the year my dad remembered to call me on my birthday.  He passed away 11 days later.

 

A Dog Named Artemis

I always thought Franklin, at age 14 1/2, would go before Artemis.  But as it turned out, Artemis, age 12 was the first to go.  She did have a rougher first few years of her life, I’m sure, with her first “family” who decided to abandon her at the county shelter at the age of 4 because they were too busy to care about her on their Christmas vacation only an hour away.  I always worried what would happen to Artemis when Franklin passed away.  She was always so loyal to him, indeed they were loyal to each other, but Franklin seemed to take the lead in the relationship, unless it was to chase wild animals in the mountains, which is where Artemis excelled.  Artemis hung on what Franklin was doing, and I worried how she would fare if she didn’t have him to look up to.

I almost didn’t get her:  Franklin and I visited her in the county shelter one Wednesday while she was in quarantine (she’d been found “at large”).  The two seemed to get along just fine, but by the afternoon, I was rationalizing reasons why I didn’t need another dog.  I called back Thursday morning and said I wan’t going to take her.  I went skiing to clear my head, and by the afternoon, I thought, “What am I thinking?  I totally want this dog.”  I called back to the shelter and the phone clicked over to the emergency number because it was after 5pm.  I would have to wait until the next day when the shelter opened at 10am.

When I called back Friday morning, the representative said, “Oh, I think that dog is already adopted out.”  What?!?  How could this be?  I was sure I was the first to call on her that morning.  As it turned out, was the one whom they were referring to, and the dog was still available.  I went down that same day, filled out the paperwork for adoption, and was ensured that Artemis would be mine as soon as she had gotten spayed.  When I walked into the shelter to sign the paperwork, one of the receptionists said to me, “You know, that dog’s family is stuck an hour away in Logan and can’t pick up their dog.”  All I could think was:  what the hell?  Who would leave their dog in the shelter for two damn weeks.  That family didn’t deserve to have this dog.  She’d gotten out of a neighbor’s yard, got knocked up (as we found out with the spay, she had 10 pups in her belly), got left at the shelter for two weeks, and I, a total stranger looking for a retriever as a friend to my own Golden Retriever, was the only one who cared enough to inquire about her.  I thought to myself, “Screw you, lady, this dog belongs with me.”

After a rough spay surgery and aborting 10 pups, Artemis had a hard time coming out of anesthesia.  She wouldn’t wake up, and stayed at the shelter all day.  At 3pm, shortly before the vet left for the day, I went to pick her up and she wasn’t walking.  The vet helped me carry her to the car.  I was on-call for work as a nurse in the ER that night, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go in.  I gave Artemis some sub-Q IV fluid and got her to get up and pee by about 10pm.

When we woke up in the morning, she had green snot dripping out of her nose, was sneezing, and her breath was so bad that I joked that it could have knocked over an elephant. Kennel cough.  I called the shelter back and said I’d take the antibiotics they offered me if she developed symptoms.

The antibiotics couldn’t be given on an empty stomach and Artemis had no appetite.  I had to puree food in the food processor and feed her with a large syringe.  Franklin just looked at me through the entire ordeal (which lasted about 10 days) like, “What the hell did you bring home?”

Artemis got better and through the years she and Franklin became best friends.  She became my best friend, too.  We had so many adventures together.  Through everything, Artemis was a typical bad yellow dog:  chasing herds of deer and pairs of coyotes across the foothills every chance she got. While we were in Wyoming on a work assignment, I actually ended up going to the gun store and buying a relatively inexpensive shock collar to try and keep her from running off:  or at least from chasing cattle across the grasslands or birds into the road.  She successfully drowned her shock collar into submission by swimming with it in a muck-bottomed pond.  Probably the only positive thing about her being so bad was that she always made Franklin look so good.  As she was running away from us across the hills, Franklin and I would just look at each other as if to ask, “Why does she do this to us?”

One Christmas, as she chased the mule deer through the snow in the foothills near Pocatello, Idaho, my brother watched her and said, “How far is she going to run?”  I was thinking “Wyoming” but I replied, “Until she comes back.”  She was gone for about 20 minutes before she decided it was a losing enterprise and came back.

Franklin was with her until the end, steadfast by her side for the last two days when she couldn’t get out of bed anymore.  We had been dealing with a steady decline due to vertigo (which I blame on her chronic ear infections from neglect the first 4 years of her life.  I was able to get the infections under control with diligent ear-cleaning after about a week) and arthritis.  The combination of vertigo and arthritis must have been scary and painful for her.  We tried anti-inflammatories, narcotic pain medication, nausea medication, and acupuncture to alleviate symptoms, but eventually all those years of going “all out” caught up with her.  I liken her persona to an NFL player:  always in the game with her head down, able to ignore all distractions to focus on her goal, and never feeling pain until she was old and retired.  She had an amazing drive to do what she wanted.

I’m grateful that Charlotte, the new pup, got to meet her and spend time with her even if only for a couple of weeks.  The two got along like true kindred spirits:  Charlotte often resting next to Artemis in bed or between the two retrievers in the final days.  I only wish they had had more time together.

We are getting by, holding vigil for Artemis while trying to settle into a new daily routine.  Franklin tolerates Charlotte and I think he will definitely teach her a thing or two (hopefully not how to steal unattended treats out of humans’ jacket pockets).  Charlotte, at 11 weeks old, has already learned how to escape from her kennel despite various closure-systems, and rings a bell on the back doorknob to let us know when she needs to go outside to go potty.  Franklin is ever-faithful to me and I think he knows that being faithful to me entails being tolerant of the pup whom I seem to be somewhat attached to at this point.

Next up:  What’s in a Name, How Artemis got her name

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Spring rainbows on the Shoreline Trail above Salt lake City, with Franklin (back) and Artemis (front)

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Artemis (l) and Franklin (r) at one of their favorite places:  Round Valley

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Forever friends:  Franklin (l) and Artemis (r)

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Artemis (l) and Charlotte (r) snuggled together from day 1

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Artemis, the day before she left us to go over the Rainbow Bridge

Cold weather doldrums? BAKE!

The weather has finally turned cold!  We had a proper snow storm all day yesterday, much to the chagrin of many residents of the Salt Lake Valley but much to the amusement of many of us (myself included) who love the snow.  This weather really gets me in the holiday spirit.  I love cozying up with the cats in the morning, making it really difficult to want to get out of bed.

The cold weather and holidays (among other things) really get me in the baking mood!  (Other things being:  depression… because of the election… )

Right around the time of the election, I started baking more, probably to satisfy my depression over the outcome.  I baked three pound cakes in the span of one week (and ate every crumb).  Because of my hip injury (which I am now actively rehabbing, instead of just resting), I’m afraid I’ve seen the scale creep up a bit as a result.  I am starting to run again, and get the muscle-imbalance figured out with exercises that I do about 3 times per week.  The weather won’t slow me down as far as getting outside to run:  I love getting out in the crisp, fresh, snowy weather.  I’m really looking forward to cross country and alpine skiing here soon in the next couple of weeks.

So, after the week or so of baking pound cakes, Thanksgiving was upon us, and I ended up baking three pies over the course of a week:  a big apple pie (which needed some extra bake time likely because of the type of apples that I chose.  The apples were a little crispy after an hour in the oven, but softened up nicely after another 45 minutes of baking), a blueberry-rhubarb pie that I took to some friends’ house for breakfast the Saturday after Thanksgiving (no photo, but it was a beaut with a custard-style fruit filling.  I had the rhubarb in the freezer from the previous summer harvest), and a delicious pumpkin pie (I happened to have all the ingredients available in my pantry) with a cashew cream topping that my vegan sister-in-law got me hooked on (she had it for us at Thanksgiving).  While I was waiting for the pumpkin pie to cool (it was 9pm when it came out of the oven), I was eating the cashew cream by the spoonful:  delightful!  Here’s the recipe I used for that.  I also added a splash of vanilla and a sprinkle of cinnamon and a couple teaspoons of sugar to the cream for extra flavor and sweetness.  (I didn’t have a vanilla bean.)

All of this cranking up the oven for baking really warms the house up during the cold, snowy weather!  The house is so cozy with yummy food baking away:  I love coming in from walking the dogs and smelling the pies baking.  Such comfort!  Last night after getting home from work, I looked around the kitchen and suddenly had the inspiration to make pizzas!  I made the yeast dough and sauce from scratch (from crushed tomatoes from the garden).  While the dough was rising, the sauce bubbling, and the oven pre-heating I took the dogs for a stroll around the block.  When I got back from the walk, the house smelled like Heaven.  The pizzas only required 15 minutes of baking and turned out delicious.  And sometimes, being an adult and being required to make your own, good choices means being happy with your decision to put anchovies on your pizza. So good… and salty!  The pizza also had prosciutto cubes, red onion, and green pepper, along with lots of mozerella.  The house was warm and toasty and so, so cozy.

So when the cold weather has you down and you need to warm up, my advice to you?  Bake!

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Getting ready to BAKE!

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Vanilla-chocolate swirl pound cake (marmor kuchen)

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Election night cinnamon swirl pound cake

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Thanksgiving apple pie

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pizza:  anchovy, red onion, prosciutto, and green pepper

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pumpkin pie with vanilla-cinnamon cashew cream

#optoutside #blackfriday #makeadogsday

I am not a “shopper.”  I hate crowds.  I love being outside!  Thank goodness for the mountains, dogs, and walking in brisk weather with a skiff of snow and some sunshine.  The elderly dogs and I hiked near ski area in Idaho (which is not open yet), but they are starting to make snow.  Check out #skitherock and #pebblecreekskiarea.  It’s a great little mountain near Pocatello, Idaho.

Actually, if you tag #optoutside and #makeadogsday on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, Subaru will donate $1 to the ASPCA.  REI is closed on Black Friday, thus promoting the #optoutside hashtag.

Since the ski area is not yet open, it was a nice day on Friday after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) to get outside with the old dogs and go for a little walk.  We went across the creek and up the Green Canyon trail past the snowmaking ponds and the bomb cache, then back down the lift line from the patrol building.  1 mile loop with the old dogs and they have earned their afternoon nap.  I earned a nice plate of Thanksgiving leftovers and will eat a piece of pie here in a bit.

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Transition: FNP to WHNP

I’m a Family Nurse Practitioner and have been in the profession for about 7 years.  Before that, I was a registered nurse for about 8 years.  I really liked being a nurse most of the time:  I liked my patients in the ICU and ER and loved trying to figure out the puzzles of getting them well again.  I knew I needed to reach and grow and get my Master’s degree, but I put it off for several years because my mom was terminally ill and I didn’t want to add the stressor of going to graduate school into my life (she died at age 62 of early-onset dementia).

I went on to graduate school because it seemed like the next step (other than going to medical school, which I flirted with the idea of, and I would have loved being a general surgeon, which is what I would have chosen, but I’m sort of selfish with my time and my pursuits, and I didn’t want to be “stuck” in a profession where I wouldn’t have the flexibility to go out and run or ski or walk my dogs or not be on-call, so I went to NP school).

I’m not going to lie to you:  I thought nursing school and NP school were not all that hard.  I remember getting my coffee and my snacks together on my desk and listening intently to lectures, then looking stuff up when I got home, and passing all of my tests with a fair amount of studying and writing research papers pretty easily.  I actually really enjoy going to school.  I love the structure of it and meeting deadlines and getting good results from the amount of effort that I put into it.

After several years of being an FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner) at a university student health center, I decided I needed more of a challenge and went into family practice and urgent care.  Ugh.  One clinic was totally disorganized, another was disorganized and super busy (it seems I never could see enough patients, no matter how many I saw.  I typically would see 30 to close to 40 patients over 10 and never got a lunch) and the third clinic was so drop-dead boring (I typically saw 6-10 patients in 11 hours) that I felt that it was kind of a waste to be there and not be seeing more patients.  I wanted a happy medium and wasn’t able to find it.

Along came a job at a federally funded women’s health center (think about it:  you probably know the one… ).  I applied for the job, and with the help of some great references who knew the medical director, I got the job.  Yeah, I probably got it because of my skills and my experience, too, but I like to give credit where credit is due, and I tend to be somewhat self-depreciating (like most nurses).  I’m not a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, but I am a Family NP working in Women’s Health (just to clarify).

So here I am, nearly 4 months into my new job, seeing patients and getting the hang of things, and I go home thinking… “I hope they [the patients and the staff] like me, because I love this job.”  Seriously, so rewarding, 99 percent of the time.  And that’s about a 60% increase in enjoyment from my last several jobs.

I never expected to see myself going into women’s health.  My mom never talked about that kind of stuff with me.  I remember when I came “of age” she put a box of maxi pads in the bathroom cupboard and told me they were there if I needed them.  She did stick up for me at my pre-college physical when the MD wanted to do a pelvic exam on me (national protocol from several agencies states that we now start doing Pap smears and pelvic exams at age 21 at the earliest) and I flat out refused.  I was 18 and had never been sexually active and wasn’t going to let some strange MD (even if she was a woman) go down there.  I think they drew my blood and checked my cholesterol too (waste of time:  I was a very active kid and actually ate my vegetables).

So here I am now, looking at va-jay-jays all day long, talking about STIs and discharge and rashes “down there” and what kind of contraception women want and even placing IUDs and implants, and explaining anatomy to women.  Wow, I never would have dreamt it.  And I never would have thought that it could be so rewarding.  The patients are, for the most part, compliant with plans of care and following up on health concerns.  They listen intently and know that they are being listened to.  I’ve never heard so many thank you’s in a day at work.  Never, in 15 years of practice in the medical profession.  I feel like I am empowering women to know more about their bodies and how they function and what they can do to feel better and understand themselves.  I see men, too:  I have had several male patients tell me, “I never felt like anyone listened to me before [at other clinics].”  It’s pretty refreshing to be in an area of medicine where people are not completely entitled (although we get some of those patients, too) and are, for the most part, just nice people who are compliant with their care.

I know some of the staff members at my clinic would probably disagree with me on this view.  But I’ve been in family practice, where patients are quite non-compliant and it seems that most of them aren’t willing to put in the real work to get better.  Many want pain pills.  Many want some sort of pill to fix things instead of exercising and eating healthy.  I guess over time, this patient view just wore me down.  I explained so many times that “you should exercise 30 minutes each day” and “you should eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables everyday” among other recommendations, and I felt that that’s all they were:  recommendations.  Patients would bounce back all the time, not having taken my advice and said, “Yeah, I know.  I didn’t take your advice.  Sorry.  Things are worse.  Can you help me again?”  And I would, and I would go home from work deflated, frustrated, fatigued, and hungry (from skipping lunch) or feeling guilty from eating a family size bag of Lay’s potato chips for lunch and not following my own advice.  I also felt like many of the decisions made at the family practice clinics are made not by the health care providers, but by either insurance companies (who decide whether or not to reimburse the patient or the clinic) or by the business manager (who decides what equipment to have in the clinic and whether it will meet the budget’s bottom line).

So the job change to women’s health (so far) for me is a great one.  Ask me in 12 months:  see if I feel the same way then.  I can tell you, from the support that I currently have in my clinic from patients and staff, I foresee remaining positive about my change of venue.

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Catfight

In a previous post I promised to tell you more about my two cats who recently have begun fighting.  Mimi, my black cat, is about 5 years old.  I’ve had her for 3 years.  Steggie, my black & white cow cat, is 1 1/2 and I got him a year ago when he was a kitten of about 4 months old.  The two had been getting along fine until around the beginning of October (about 2 months ago).

Mimi had been spending more and more time outside over the summer, using the dog door to get in and out of the house.  I never really wanted her to be an outdoor cat, but the fancy dog door that I have (which is supposed to lock down when not in use and then open with a small radio-frequency fob that the dogs wear on their collars when the dogs approach the door) has been kind of on the fritz.  I had left the door in the “open” mode, to allow the dogs to go in and out while I was at work, but Mimi took it upon herself to go in and out as well.

Steggie, who has always had a somewhat odd gait, has never tried to go through the dog door and prefers to stay inside.  In fact, this was a huge ordeal when I was adopting him from Best Friends, as they were trying to figure out if he had an orthopedic issue or a neurologic issue which was impeding his gait.  They attempted to find something wrong with him for a couple of weeks, everyday with me visiting the shelter to see the kitten, and I think they finally got sick of me and let me take him home.  They never did find anything wrong with him.  My vet checked him out and we both agree that it’s pretty cute the way he walks sort of sideways with his hind end.

So, Steggie has never gone outside for more than 5-10 minutes, and Mimi was spending more and more time outside.  I came home from work one evening and couldn’t find her.  I was calling and calling her from the back yard and finally heard her getting into a horrible fight with another cat in the alley behind my house.  She scrambled over the fence and came into the house with nicks and scratches and looked a bit shaken up and I decided then and there that I was going to keep her inside.

The problem was, with all the time she was spending outside, she was getting more and more aggressive towards Steggie.  He would be sleeping peacefully, curled up on the couch and she would walk past him and swat him on the head and growl at him.  She did this every time she passed him.  At first he didn’t fight back, but eventually he decided to start defending himself and would put his paws up above his head (in an attempt to make himself look bigger?) and he looked like a little prize fighter when he did it.

Deciding to keep Mimi inside was not without challenges.  She was fighting, and also decided to start peeing on the carpet in the bedroom and pooping on the carpet in the basement.  Ugh.  I was devastated.  My babies were fighting and destroying the house and I just wanted them to get along.

I messaged a friend of mine in Iowa (whom I met on the West Highland Way in Scotland in 2012).  She has close to a dozen cats and they all seem to get along pretty well.  I’m so glad I contacted her, because she replied, “Oh, my mom is having the same problem with her two cats!  She got a pheromone diffuser and I think things have gotten better.”

Pheromone diffuser?  Apparently this thing emits pheromones which are similar to mama-kitty comforting her kittens.  And there are pheromone collars, too.  There’s another pheromone diffuser which stops cats from peeing inside and “marking.”  What the hell, I thought.  It’s worth a shot.  I ordered about $100 worth of the shit on Amazon and went to the pet store and got the collars.  I also stocked up on Nature’s Miracle enzyme solution and “Urine off” solution, a black light, and started putting the Bissell carpet steamer to very good use.  The last thing I got was a ScatMat which is a small battery-powered mat which, when contacted sets off a small static electrical charge.  Let me tell you, that thing is no joke (I tested it on myself).  Ouch!

So at this point, I’m what… $300 invested in my cats “getting along” and thinking, “They’d better start f-ing getting along!”

The first couple of days with the ScatMat and the pheromone collar on Mimi were marginally better.  Both of the cats “tried out” the ScatMat only once… and have not returned to that corner of the bedroom where they were peeing on the carpet.

The pheromone diffusers arrived in 2 days via Amazon Prime, and I could see some minimal progress over the next couple of weeks.  I remained hopeful, despite getting mixed reviews from friends of mine.

Now, here we are 1 month into the process.  I now have pheromone collars on both cats and the diffusers are emitting glorious invisible clouds of soothing essence.  Yes, you guessed right:  the cats are getting along again (thank God!).  They can actually sit next to each other for several minutes without fighting.  For a while there I was looking at Mimi telling her that she’d better start getting along with her little brother because if she didn’t…  “Don’t make me choose between you!”

So at this point, I feel like the crazy pet-lady, to be sure.  Two Golden Retrievers and two cats in the house… for a while there our little furtopia was quite stressful but we are on the mend.  The dogs are pretty cute about the whole thing.  When the cats go racing and chasing each other through the house (more in play now than fight-club style) the dogs either look up with drowsy wonder in their expressions like, “Who’s making all the ruckus?” or they don’t react to it at all.

So to recap:  Pheromone diffusers and collars for fighting cats are totally worth the investment, but give the things at least 2 weeks if not a month to start having a positive affect.  Also worth mentioning:  I separated the food dishes and water sources by several feet so that kitties can have peace while eating and decreased competition.  I now scoop the cat litter boxes at least every other day (if not daily) whereas before I was doing this only 2 x per week.  (No more cats pooping on the carpet, yay!)  I also got a third cat box with a different kind of litter, and the cats seem to prefer that one (previously was using Blue Buffalo walnut shell litter, and now I’m back to clay Nature’s Miracle litter).  I still have the walnut litter (because I bought a bunch on sale a month or so ago) and will use that up until it’s gone, but I may not purchase it again.

This story brings me anxiety just writing about it.  But things are definitely getting better:  I caught the cats licking each others’ heads the other day when I got home from work.  Kitty-love!  #peaceXOXO

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