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The Multicolored Overpass I’m Not Traversing

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Something moiself  has been thinking this week:  it’s been over 29 years since we (MH and I) have been a less-than-two-felines household.

We’re down to one, the all-white Nova, as we said goodbye to Crow this week.

It had been a challenging past 18+ months for Crow, with a possible “vascular incident” (stroke?), the progression of her painful arthritis, and finally, diabetes.   After veterinary appointments, blood tests, and consultations, we made an appointment with a veterinary euthanasia service who came to our home to do the deed.

As difficult a decision as it was, we were also much relieved, once having made it.  Crow spent her last days at home, lazing on the carpet in the sun, eating and drinking whenever she pleased.  [1]  We were at her beck and call; I told her she was at a kitty spa.

At the time we adopted Crow (fifteen years ago), all-black cats were the most likely to not find a placement.    [2]    Instead of adopting a rescue greyhound, which was the original plan to add another pet to our family, we went to Bonnie Hayes Animal Shelter,   [3]  opened our house and our hearts, and Crow made herself at home.  Crow had a good life, and she was spared a lingering death.

After the phone call with our veterinarian wherein we discussed treatment and care options, MH and I had a calm, rational discussion.  We considered all the angles – plus the fact, particularly important to moiself, that Crow (like any pet) cannot consent to nor “understand” any course of treatment.  After the phone call, we decided upon euthanasia.  When we agreed that this is what we agreeing to, I asked MH if perhaps we might take Crow on one last trip to the beach, because she seemed to enjoy lying on the deck in the sun.  And we both lost it.

 

A much younger Crow and Nova, circa 2008, playing with Nova’s favorite toy (a Lego helmet).

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Downside Of Loving Them

Dang, these critters tug at our hearts.  And because we care for them properly, they just don‘t die like they used to:  they get good medical treatment;    [4]  they live inside and thus don’t get killed by coyotes or run over by a car or contract illness and/or injuries and/or infection from other animals….  And if they refuse to die in their sleep in their old age, the combination of aging and chronic illness takes their toll, then *we* have to make the life-and-death decisions.

MH’s astute observation:  for all but one of the cats we’ve had who’ve died, there came that awful time when we had to opt for euthanasia for them.  Odds are that, with our remaining cat, the same will (eventually) be the case.  Each time, we knew we were doing the right thing. Each time, it was still heartbreaking.

 

 

Observant readers may notice that moiself   is *not* is reporting that “Crow has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.”  Nor am I using similar euphemisms to describe the fact of her death.  Although some pet owners seem to find such metaphors comforting, they make me…well…emotionally retch.  Moiself  is not a believer in – as in, I’ve seen no evidence for – any kind of “heaven,” for any kind of creatures.  And since I hold no such ideas for humans I see no need to burden our recollections of our animal companions with similar mythologies.

I don’t mean to come off stony-hearted.  Grief is complicated; expressing it, even more so.  I promise not to slap you if you use the RB term around moiself, and I hear or read about “the RB” often enough to know that it makes some pet owners feel good. The only afterlife I give credence to is the only one we can know for sure exists:  that which resides in our hearts and minds.  In that way and in those places, our loved ones truly do continue to live “after” they are gone.

BTW: The Rainbow Bridge, for those of you who fortunate enough not to have encountered the treacle-ism, is a mythical overpass (apparently based on imagery from some cheesy sentimental poems from the 1980s) which serves as a kind of transit for pets.  For example, upon the death of their friend’s chihuahua, RB fans will say that Sparky has “passed over the Rainbow bridge,” into a verdant meadow (or other Nature Setting ®  ) where Sparky will frolic carefree until the time Sparky will be reunited with his “human parents.”

 

While I don’t believe in Rainbow Bridges, I do believe that pictures of baby sloths in pajamas are comforting to everyone.

 

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Department Of There’s Always Something

After we made the decision to euthanize Crow, moiself  thought, once again, about the many rational discussions which can be had as to whether people do or should treat or view their pets as their “children” – a perspective which, I believe, diminishes and misunderstands the reality of and relationships with both animals and children.

Also (as mentioned in a previous footnote), many people, including animal lovers/pet owners and those who are pet-free, hold strong opinions as to the ethics of using advances in veterinary medicine to treat conditions considered fatal just a few years ago – treatments which cost pet owners thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars…and the outcome is, eventually and ultimately, the same.

Pets, like their human owners, are mortal. They’re gonna die. Are you keeping your pet alive – in some cases, using tortuous treatments that humans with the same diagnoses can (and often do) eventually opt out of – because it’s in the animal’s best interest? Or are you prolonging its life (read: extending its dying) or because (you tell yourself) you love it and want to keep it around for as long as possible/can’t deal with its absence…or want to assuage the guilt laid upon you, whether purposely or inadvertently, by yourself or by well-meaning friends and family (or even your veterinarian)?

 

 

“Leigh K—…found herself facing a five-figure bill when her dog, Rutherford, was diagnosed with a brain tumor…. Leigh knew Rutherford needed help when the large-breed coonhound mix struggled to walk a straight line and keep his head up. But you can’t treat without a diagnosis, which meant brain scans, which meant $2,500 down before the technicians would warm up the machine.

Then the real bills started. Radiation therapy was projected to cost between $12,000 and $15,000, which, for perspective’s sake, is a quarter of the average American household’s annual earnings. It’s a sum weighty enough to give even relatively affluent Americans a lightbulb moment on how drastically their lives might be rerouted.”

( excerpts from “My dying dog’s vet bill put me in debt. It could happen to you.”  Vox, 7-25-19 )

 

If my father had lived to see the age of  $3k MRIs for pets,  [5]  he would have scoffed at the very notion.  It’s not that he didn’t like animals, or was one of Those Pet Haters ® .  Growing up in the Parnell family, moiself  cannot remember a time when we didn’t have pets.  My siblings and I were allowed to acquire a variety of critters, from dogs and cats to hamsters and reptiles.  While my parents appreciated their children’s emotional bond with their pets, my father never seemed to have much of an attachment to them.  When I look back via an adult’s perspective, I consider this pet-bonding detachment of his to be due, in part, to his impoverished childhood.

 

 

 

Chet Parnell grew up poor, on a farm, in a place and time when animals were utilitarian.  His family’s infinitely patient and tolerant farm horse, who would let Chet and his siblings climb all over him, was a plough horse.  A succession of family dogs had “jobs” to do – they kept the crows out of the corn and chased the neighboring farms’ dogs and roaming strays away from the chickens, and the barn cats earned a roof over their heads by keeping the mice and rats at bay.  With the exception of the horse, the other “pets” had to hunt for and feed themselves (although my dad’s mother occasionally snuck table scraps to the barn cats, much to her husband’s dismay).

My father’s heart rose to the occasion when our family cat, Mia, died.  Mia, a stray kitten adopted by my family when I was in grade school, had been “my” cat,   [6]  but stayed with my family when I went off to school.  After graduating college and joining the working world, my parents and I agreed that, considering both my inability to pay my apartment rent if I also had to buy pet food and litter, and Mia being an old lady kitty and attached to her home, it was best if Mia stayed with them.  I saw Mia two to three times a year, when visiting my parents, and noted Mia’s increasing frailty with the passage of time.  Pay attention, I pleaded with them.  If there is something wrong with her, take her to a vet, don’t just let it slide.   [7]  I was determined to be dispassionate about it – if Mia was dying, I did not want her to suffer.

One day when I was in my mid-twenties I received an early afternoon phone call from my mother.  She called the private line in the medical practice where I worked, which was a red flag.   [8]  She apologized for calling me at work, said she thought I’d like to know about Mia, and told me the following story.

In the past few weeks Mia, age 20, had grown weaker, lost weight, and developed a tumor on her head.  My parents found a veterinarian who would do house calls; after speaking with my parents over the phone, the vet came to their house with the assumption that he would likely euthanize the cat.  After briefly examining Mia he told them that that would be the most humane option.  My younger sister, by then in college, happened to be at my parents’ house for a visit, and she and my mother became so distraught re Mia’s situation that Chet banished them from the scene.  He shooed his wife and daughter into the house, while he stayed on the back porch with the veterinarian.

After Mia had been euthanized and the vet had left, Chet got a legal pad and a pencil, and a shoebox for the body (Mia would be buried in my parents’ backyard, by the rose bushes she where she would nap in the summer shade).  He wrapped Mia’s body in a towel, placed her in the box, then composed a poem, on the spot, about Mia.

Mom read the poem to me.  I found it overwhelmingly touching then, and still do, after all these years – to think about what my father wrote to comfort his grieving wife and daughter, and also the mere fact that he did so.  The poem’s theme was how gentle and sweet Mia was; how she’d had a good life….   I can remember only parts of it,     [9]   but its closing stanza is etched on my heart:

Mia was loved by the Parnells all;
As there is a time to rise, there is a time to fall.
To be loved by a family is why she was made,
And now our dear Mia will rest in the shade.

As I hung up the phone, my employer noticed the distraught look on my face.  Dr. B asked me what was up.  With all the detachment and professionalism I could muster – which turned out to be none at all – I blubbered, “My family kitty died!” and, tried to tell him how my father had written a poem…

I was a hot mess.  Dr. B placed his hand on my shoulder.  Compassionately, yet firmly, he said to me, GO HOME.

And now for dear Crow, I say, with gratitude for years of love and “tummy time,”  Go home.

 

Crow was a gentle spirit and a good sport.  Here is one of moiself’s favorite pictures of her, one I called, for obvious reasons, *rumpcat.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Supporting Cast And Crew

I cannot say enough good things about the doctors and staff of our family’s long-time veterinary clinic, the (surprise!) feline-exclusive  All About Cats Clinic.  Also deserving of high praise is Compassionate Care, the in-home euthanasia service we used, as per ABCC’s recommendation.  CC’s vet was kind, empathetic, sweet, and competent – she gave MH and I (and Crow, I imagine), a sense of tranquility in an emotionally taxing situation.

“She had a good life,” was son K’s post on our family chat site, when MH informed our offspring about row’s death.  My reply:

“Yes, she did…and though it may sound strange, I dare to say that her death was good, as well.
She was comfy on the carpet, enjoying lots of pets from us, and she just ‘went to sleep,’ as they say. It was one of the more peaceful things I have ever seen.”

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Dead Catz Edition

Hmmmmm.  On second thought….

 

When face palm cat just won’t cover it.

*   *   *

May you experience the distinctive love of, and for, a pet companion;
May the inevitable loss of that love help you to appreciate it all the more;
May you be strong enough to lather, rinse, and repeat;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] But not, oddly, wanting “tummy time” with MH, which, until the diabetes, was her favorite activity.  She seemingly became uncomfortable sitting in laps or being held during her last two weeks – one more piece of the puzzle which help us make the decision.

[2] Fortunately, thanks to deliberate and innovative strategizing on the part of regional animal shelters, almost *all* healthy cats and dogs at shelters who do not have  “behavioral issues” (read: biters) now find homes.

[3] Where I would later volunteer, in cat care.

[4] Too much, some critics say, in that using “human” treatments for cancers and other mortal illnesses – treatments previously unavailable to animals and to which they cannot consent – are essentially torturing pets in order to assuage our guilt….and speaking of the latter, many people on fixed incomes cannot afford the substantial vet bills but feel pressured, if the procedure/treatment is available, to do so, lest they be considered a heartless person who doesn’t really love their pet.

[5] Which was one of the quotes we got for what a brain scan would cost, when we were trying to figure out the “neurological incident” our cat Crow seemed to have suffered. 

[6] And was so named to indicate that – mia is Spanish for mine.

[7] This post needs more upbeat footnotes.  Nah.

[8] My mother was not one to instigate phone calls – that was my father’s purview – and she never called me at work, before or after Mia’s death.

[9] I have a copy of it, somewhere in my file cabinet….

The Skills I’m Not Listing

Comments Off on The Skills I’m Not Listing

A Harbinger of Spring: The Return of Blue Man Group

This year our boys are sporting primroses.

*   *   *

Happy belated birthday to comic actor, author, playwright, composer and founding Monty Python  member Eric Idle.

Idle shares a birthday with my mother-in-law (March 29); they both like to sing…and there is where the similarities begin and end.  While my MIL is a devoted Lutheran, Idle composed many of the Python songs and other naughty bits that crack wise at religion.

Idle, as Vivian Smith-Smythe-Smith, contestant for Upperclass Twit of the Year.

As per his own worldview, Idle has described himself, as in this piece he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, as an Alzheimer’s agnostic.

“I am an Alzheimer’s agnostic: I can’t remember whether I don’t believe in anything or not.
“However I do believe religions are the cause of most of the problems in the world today and there should be a moratorium on the use of the G-word. I think it should be replaced by something less controversial that we can all agree on. Like Chocolate.

“I can quite happily confess that I believe in Chocolate without upsetting anyone. No one ever killed anyone else over Chocolate. (All right, outside of Beverly Hills.) ‘One Nation under Chocolate’ is surely something we can all get behind. But I suppose, like all my ideas, it will be dismissed as just too silly.”

In Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life,  Idle’s Oh Lord Please Don’t Burn Us caps a skit illustrating the absurdity of religious worship.

Idle satirically illustrates the  logical consequence/conundrum for those who believe in a creator god – a deity they credit for “All Things Bright and Beautiful” but who somehow gets no responsibility for the parts of creation that are a bit dicey – with his Anglican hymn parody, All Things Dull and Ugly.

All things dull and ugly,
All creatures short and squat,
All things rude and nasty,
The Lord God made the lot…. 

All things scabbed and ulcerous
All pox both great and small
Putrid, foul and gangrenous
The Lord God made them all….[1]

*   *   *

Happy Trails to You

Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve bid a fond farewell to one of their greatest assets this week, when Sarah Pinnock retired from her position as Wetlands Education Specialist. MH and I have had the privilege of Sarah’s acquaintance for many years. We first met her when we were hiking around the preserve one day, many years ago. Sarah pointed out to us the nesting tree of the JBW Preserve’s resident pair of bald eagles, and showed us bobcat scat on one of the trails and other points of interest.

K graduates in May with a B.S. in Micro and Cellular Biology, and Belle will likely declare her major in Biochemistry or Biology. I attribute my offspring’s interest in the biological sciences in good part to Sarah’s enthusiastic mentoring. She led a series of nature/wildlife biology-themed camps at the preserve, several of which K and Belle attended. My kids adore and admire her, as do MH and I. There aren’t many people who can nurture or appreciate your children’s passion for dissecting owl pellets as well as Sarah.

She has the skill of making the phases of the natural world – from the life cycle of a vole to the water cycle of a wetland – interesting and accessible to adults and children alike. The naturalist who will succeed Sarah Pinnock at JBWP will have some big shoes – knee-high mud boots, actually – to fill.

*   *   *

Speaking of the natural world…

Spring Language Lexicon
Chapter 32: Doot-Doot vs. Deet-Deet

Doot-Doot: the thin cardboard cylinder around which a roll of toilet paper is wrapped and which, when stripped of all toilet paper, may be raised to the mouth of a human being so as to facilitate that human’s pretense of playing a trumpet or similar wind instrument. [2]

Doot-doot

Deet-Deet: Any of the small, long-legged, narrow-billed shorebirds (e.g. sandpipers, oyster catchers, plovers) which dart to and fro, chasing outgoing waves and in turn being chased by incoming waves, their rapid gait making the deet-deet-deet-deet-deet sound (to discerning ears).

Deet-Deets getting ready to deet-deet-deet-deet.

Now you know.

*   *   *

Wednesday was my first of what I hope will be a regular gig of volunteer shifts at the Bonnie Hayes Animal Shelter.  I’m happy to return to serving an animal adoption/rescue organization, after a break from 5+ years volunteering, along with Belle, at one of the C.A.T. humane organization’s outreach centers.

I’ve been searching for “suitable” [3] volunteer opportunities, and have noted a similarity in the animal shelter’s and other organizations’ volunteer application forms. At some point in the form after you’ve provided information relevant to the volunteer position, there is a section where you are asked to list interests, hobbies and other skills. Which strikes me as something you’d find on a dating profile.

The trouble with volunteerism is that nonprofits offer plenty of “opportunities” to take on what are essentially jobs – “real” jobs – without being paid.  One example out of many: with my background working for both Planned Parenthood and a private OB/GYN practice, I thought about volunteering for a reproductive health clinic…until I researched volunteer positions available at the local Planned Parenthoods. Most of the descriptions made me think, Volunteer-schmolunteer –the scope and depth of responsibilities and duties – this is a job. Someone needs to get paid to do those things (like I used to).

I’ve had enough of that – of being expected to work without pay – as a writer.  Along those lines, I left blank the interests, hobbies and other skills section of the BHAS application. I did not list my writing skills; experience has taught me what will happen with that. I don’t want to haul out my good-natured-but-firm-smiling-through-gritted-teeth-turndown/explanation: that I do not work for free (nor do I think anyone should).

Yes, I understand that nonprofits need volunteers to thrive, or even survive.  But volunteerism comes at a high cost to women, who, as NPOs from art museums to educational tutoring programs to animal shelters will tell you, constitute the backbone of the volunteer force. The fact that women are often paid less than men for doing the same job (even in “traditionally female” occupations, for FFS!! [4] ), the fact that women are more hesitant/less adept than men when it comes to bargaining for salary raises – these inequalities are directly linked, I believe, to another frustrating fact:  both boys and girls grow up seeing women doing work – from managing a house/raising children to volunteering in key positions in their school/church/community – without being financially compensated for their work. [5]

So.

I’ll gladly sanitize cat kennels and paint my children’s classroom walls, for free.[6] I will not write your organization’s press releases or grant proposals or edit your newsletter for zip.

*   *   *

My Son, the Micro Aggressor
Aka, This Is How We Lose The Support Of Good People

One of the things that makes me the most proud (or relieved) about my children is that they’ve turned out to be Good People ® . MH and I tried to instill in and model for them the value of applying compassion and reason to all areas of life, including political and social discourse. K and Belle try to think logically, to give people the benefit of the doubt, and look to the natural world for rational explanations of phenomena. Thus, it is no surprise that they support “the good fights” – LGBT rights, civil rights, women’s rights – you know, human rights.

We’ve also tried to teach them, by both example and “decree,” to never assume malice on the part of another person who makes a patently false or absurd statement (or simply a statement with which you disagree) when ignorance or simple difference of opinion would suffice for motive.

Most importantly, we advised them to question everything, even and especially the party line spouted by those whose positions you support.  Errant or exaggerated statements and inappropriate assumptions are to be found errant or exaggerated and inappropriate on their own merits, regardless of the desirable politics or good intentions behind them.

No surprise that both K and Belle have intermittently run into slobbering opposition (read:¨PC attacks and name-calling) when they have questioned some blanket/misleading statements having to do with The Oppressed vs. The Oppressors © .

K had some “interesting” discussions in a Gender and Society [7] class he took at college last year, and I was both bemused and frustrated on his behalf when he recounted the incidents to me.  Stand-up guy that K is, he’s sometimes gotten involved in what he advised me you must never do, Mom, when it comes to online discussions, [8] and I’ve enjoyed being able to tease him about it (You stepped right in that pile, didn’t you?). But his missteps are understandable. For example, he is studying chemistry and biochemistry and organic chemistry, and when he runs across some blatantly whackadoodle statement about the “chemical reactions” that “prove the toxicity” of fluoridated water, he just can’t help but wade in and offer a factual correction. And the fun ensues.

Delusional thinking, by definition, cannot be reasoned with…and yet silence implies acquiescence. You simply can’t reason with some people, and yet you must try [9]  – I hold these seemingly contradictory opinions, a fact K and I have discussed, many, many times. You must learn to choose your battles; you must also learn when the best choice is to say, Cool story, bro, and walk away.

As one wise woman put it,

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and it annoys the pig.

For the hundredth time, Wilbur, there’s no falsetto in the chorus.

Department of Teaching Pigs to Sing

Yesterday K entertained me by relaying the following pig-singing-lesson discussion he waded into, when he commented to a post on FB. [10]

The post began with this excerpt:

“Many white women have said to me, ‘We wanted black women and non-white women to join the movement,’ totally unaware of their perception that they somehow ‘own’ the movement, that they are the ‘hosts’ inviting us as ‘guests.’ “
 – bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center

K: OR maybe they said that because they felt like nonwhite women were not represented by the movement and there were few (nonwhite women that were) a part of it.
Why do people always assume malice behind people’s actions and words? It’s foolish to read into things that damn much.

PDQ [11]: ^^^^ Can somebody please deal with this I can’t

Yes, PDQ, go lie down with a cold compress on your forehead until you can deal with it.  OR, FFS, why bother to respond if all you’ve got is the vapors to offer? OR, FFFFFFS, put on your adult undergarments and deal with it.

Excusez-moi. Back to the transcript. Frail, unable-to-deal-with-it PDQ called upon someone else to respond (I’ll call her SAP), which SAP did.

SAP: 1. Nobody asked you. 2. ______(SAP provided a link to a HufffPo article on the “white savior complex”).

Then there was a lengthy comment by another person, “NAH,” on a tangential topic. K stayed on track, ignoring NAH and responding to SAP.

K: SAP, 1. If you post something publicly about a political topic, you are inviting responses. 2. You seem to think I’m saying that I don’t think this savoir complex exists. That’s not what I’m saying. What I said was that people seem to, tend to, read malice or otherwise hostile intent into quotes, like the one posted.

 NAH: Yeah. Oppressed people tend to be sensitive to the reasonably invisible micro aggressions that reinforce their mistreatment and widespread marginalization. No Shit.

(end of transcript)

Reasonably Invisible Micro Aggressions. Yikes.

As an an uppity woman from the get-go, I’d love to terrify Pat Robertson by leaving my husband to practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and go lesbo, [12] but it’s late and I’ve yet to brush my teeth.  BTW, I cut my feminist teeth on the works of Gloria Steinem, bell hooks, Robin Morgan, Audre Lorde, Kate Millett, Betty Friedan, Alice Walker et al, and I embrace the descriptive legitimacy of the concept of both white and male “privilege.” Reasonably Invisible Micro Aggressions? Never heard of ’em. I feel so…un-PC hip.

That term had my non-thong underwear knotted with laughter. My first thought was, What in the name of Susan B. Anthony are micro aggressions? And if they’re invisible, how can you tell if they’re micro or macro? And WTF is “reasonably” doing in that phrase?

My message to K:

Congratulations – I just found out I am the proud feminist mother of a microagressor.
Even better, one who may be responsible for “invisible” micro aggressions. Sounds like the equivalent of political homeopathy.

Is that your invisible micro aggression or are you just happy to see me?

*   *   *

Liberty is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
(George Orwell) [13]

 

May all of your aggressions be visibly comprehensive, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

  Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1]All Things Dull and Ugly,” by Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Trevor Pka, John Du Prez.               

[2] You know you want to try it: doot-doot-doot-doot.

[3] “Suitable” – there’s the rub. Just try finding something that doesn’t involve meetings and/or committees, which I believe are the scourge of humanity, comparable to alopecia and shingles.

[4] Check out this and other uplifting articles which document how male nurses out earn female nurses.

[5] And also without attaining the respect/cachet that comes from having “a real job” (i.e., a one that pays a salary.

[6] Thank the FSM those days are over.

[7] A straight (but not narrow!) white male in a class with such a name…you can just imagine the traps set for him, by zealously sincere (the worst kind) and humorless “activists.”

[8] Read: do not feed the trolls.

[9] Because sometimes…eventually… good sense will take root.

[10] As usual, I will use acronyms instead of names, to protect the hypersensitive, not-so-innocent.

[11] As in Political Drama Queen. An appropriate acronym for someone who would respond as she did.

[12] In an infamous fundraising letter Roberts described the “feminist agenda” as “a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

[13] I know SCM is thinking, “More footnotes!”