Friday, March 30, 2007

The Most Fabulous Couple In The World

This morning, Mrs. Nator went to an interview. An important administrator at a well know non-profit organization in NYC had heard such good things about her that she wanted to recruit her. Mrs. Nator likes the organization she's with and wants to stay there a while, although she knows eventually she will probably be looking elsewhere to become a Director of Development. Even though she told the recruiting administrator that she didn't want to leave her job, by the end of the interview, the woman was trying to figure out a way to create a position just for Mrs. Nator that she would like.

(Also, Mrs. Nator looks damn hot in a business suit. Not that I think that was the major factor.)

This evening, after I hurt my back, I called the Director of the vet clinic. I told her I had wanted to check in and touch base with her about what the head tech had told me, but I was hoping it could wait until next Saturday, because I injured my back and would have to go to the chiropractor, rather than making my volunteer shift. I emphasized that I really liked it there and wanted to keep volunteering, but since the head tech told me there probably wouldn't be a full-time position there soon, I'd need to look for something else within a couple weeks. I told her I'd be grateful if she had any suggestions for other holistic clinics that might be looking for someone like me.

By the end of the conversation, the Director was telling me there'd been some kind of miscommunication, and that they definitely want to figure out a way to fit me in the rotation and train me to work there full-time. We scheduled a meeting next week with me, her, the head tech and the head of the front desk, so they can work out a schedule for me.

And, I have to say that after stretching, icing, and ibuprofen, my back feels much better. This good news might just have helped a bit, too. What a difference a few hours makes!

Move over, Brangelina: everybody wants us! Aren't we fabulous?

Well, Well, Well

It looks like I'm going to be spared the awkwardness of reporting to my volunteer shift tomorrow at the clinic that's not hiring me, because I've pulled something in my lower back.


Well, this tends to happen during stressful times. Maybe I'll actually get some rest this weekend.

So, no Killer Guac recipe or filled-out meme here today - maybe tomorrow. I'm going home to lie on an ice pack.

Please think pain-free, gainfully-employed thoughts for me! Kiss, kiss!

Thursday, March 29, 2007


I got some deflating news yesterday. The head tech of the vet clinic e-mailed me back, and, in a rather unclear letter, she stated that there were no full time openings there now. I say unclear, because she kept going back and forth saying there might be openings in the summer, or the new vet coming in might need new techs, but overall it just seemed confused and not terribly promising. I don’t think she was trying to yank me around; I just think she is not sure what’s going to happen over the next few months, herself.

Although I was upset to learn this, I don’t really blame the clinic. When the director indicated to me that they were desperate for staff three weeks ago, she probably couldn’t know that they’d have four other people applying in that time, three of whom already have extensive tech experience and the last of whom doesn’t have a current full-time job getting in the way of training. I just really wish this had worked out. I’m sure that for a few days I will be fluctuating between the rational evaluation that it’s nothing personal and this is just how things panned out, personal offense and feelings of rejection, and a more zen assessment that if I’d been meant to work there, it would have worked out, so I’m meant to work elsewhere.

I can also take the positive lesson that I was able to learn a few things while volunteering, and the most important of those was that I like working in a vet clinic and learning the practice. That’s key, because I actually have a direction, now, even if it isn’t my only possible one. I can take that knowledge and look for another vet tech training position, rather than wringing my hands asking what I should be doing with my life. If it doesn’t work out, I have a few weeks to land a new job, so I can send out résumés for web-related jobs, preferably animal-organization related, at the same time. And, even if I do get a vet tech position, it doesn’t have to be THE career of the rest of my life. It’s just what I want to do now, and that’s all good.

This may all sound simplistic, but it’s a real learning curve for me. I’ve always felt that I somehow “should” be incredibly responsible, know exactly what I want to do forever and excel at it. I’m not sure exactly where this came from, although the employment difficulties my parents had in the recession of the 70s, along with the emotional turmoil around their divorce, certainly helped me decide at a very tender age that I was going to have to be “adult” and focused. I actually read a quote by Karl Lagerfeld, of all people, that reminded me of my childhood views:

“I was too exotic for where I was. I hated the company of other children. I wanted to be a grownup person, to be taken seriously. I hated the idea of childhood; I thought it was a moment of endless stupidity.”

This is why I was never terribly socially popular. Not only did I think I was smarter than all the other kids, but I really felt that I was an adult trapped in a child’s body. Perhaps I didn’t always act this way, outwardly, but it was always in my mind. In fact, I remember distinctly thinking at all of age five or six that, now that my father and mother were getting divorced, I would have to pull myself together and take care of my mother. How fucked is that?

Trying to be a responsible adult all of my youth did a lot of good for me. I learned how to work early. I applied myself to school and learning. Although I did do some boneheaded teenage things and tried some drugs and so forth, I kept myself aware and safe while other kids I know were getting pregnant, mixed up with dangerous dates, into accidents, or addicted. I got into my first choice of college and worked to put myself through. I’ve kept a roof over my head, steady employment and some stable relationships. Life has been pretty good.

But now that I’m moving further into my adult years I’m missing some of the things I didn’t allow myself as a kid. I miss having a dream and believing I can do it. I miss feeling that I can try new things without worrying that I will fail, end up broke and with no one to help support me emotionally or financially. I miss living for today, rather than having to create a strict plan for the future and adhere to it in order to feel secure.

I haven’t been unemployed since my very early teen years – not once - and there were periods I held several jobs at a time. I rarely had the time or security to be spontaneous and do what I want to do. I was allowing myself so little leeway or free time that six years ago I became debilitated by daily panic attacks. Even now that I’ve changed somewhat and solved that problem, the free time I allow myself is usually spent in a state of collapse or vegetation, trying to gear myself up for my financial responsibilities, rather than in actual rest, creativity or contemplation. I’m boring and bored and stressed, and it’s time to make a change.

So, I will accept that I’m probably not going to get full-time employment at this vet clinic, but I will not let myself feel I’ve failed, somehow. I will take what I’ve learned – both the practical elements and the knowledge that I really am enjoying exploring this possible career – and use it to find another position that I like. I will let myself be upset and uncomfortable about it for a few days – that’s only human – but I’ll remind myself that I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer there, and I have at least six weeks where I’ll be paid my current rate to find another opportunity.

Also, my trusty financial advisor, Mrs. Nator, reassures me that even if I had to go on unemployment for a little while, it would not make me a horrible person who destroyed our lives and forced us to live in the gutter eating cardboard, until she left me for someone more responsible. It may even be okay for me to use some of the time off to rest, putter around and - gasp! - play a little. I also believe that she mentioned that it would help her stick with me if I went back to cleaning the kitty litter at home more often, but that might have just been my imagination. I will let myself imagine better things!

Most of all, I will let myself continue to be excited. Excited like a child would be when discovering something new she likes to do and learn about. Excited as I was when I got my own first pet to care for, or when I could help clients find a lost dog or figure out if their bird was sick when I was doing animal communication. I’m excited to learn about caring for animals. I’m sad that the first place I thought I could practice in won’t work out, but here’s hoping I can convey that excitement to other vet practice directors, and get hired elsewhere.

Change is scary for me. Disappointment has frequently become debilitating. This time, I want to get through these things, and turn them around.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Final Countdown

Not a lot of time to post... less than two weeks until I'm out of my current job!

I've been working hard, training my replacement, who is very nice, and being taken out to lunch and dinner frequently by co-workers. I'm also working full shifts at the clinic on Saturdays and not sleeping much, so I'm beginning to get a little zombie-esque...

That said, I'm positively gleeful. I didn't realize how good it would feel to finally know I'm leaving, even if the future is uncertain. Plus, it turns out I'm getting a month of severance plus two weeks' vacation pay. w00t!

No word yet on the clinic job, but if I don't hear back from the head tech by noon tomorrow, I'll give her a call. Wish me luck...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Day 2

Wherein There Is Trouble In Boo-Boo Animal Paradise

There was something of a surprise for me when I arrived at the vet clinic yesterday morning. Not only was the power on, but there were lots of new faces. Newly hired faces. One new vet and three, count 'em, three new techs.

Whereas everybody was very nice, I found this very discouraging. Here they'd been telling me how desperate they were for assistance, and acting like they were chomping at the bit to hire me, and suddenly here are all these new people getting paying jobs before I can even apply. That was cause one of my disgruntlement.

Cause two was there were just too many damn people there. It turned out to be a semi-slow day, and with the youngest assistant - a kid who looked to be a teenager, the size of a basketball player in baggy jeans, with a soft voice and sweet smile - jumping on all the much of the feeding and cleaning, I began running out of things to do. Not that I missed the mopping, and I still did a lot of cleaning, feeding, administering meds, etc., but I began to feel superfluous. I felt stupid following the techs around reminding them that if there was anything I could do for them or I could observe, I'd appreciate it. I did get to learn how to run the autoclave and observe a skin parasite in the microscope out of that, but pickings were slim.

The nice tech who often guides me took pity on me and got me to collating radiographs (never call them x-rays or you'll sound like a yokel!), and teased me when I got all in a tizzy because the "W" section was alphabetized in the exact opposite order of everything else. (Yes, I am a mess in my home life. This is just a necessary adaptation after years of an overactive perfectionism gland nearly gave me multiple aneurysms. You should have seen how meticulously I used to sort my record albums).

Later, she showed me how to take a heart rate, which, although quite straightforward, I nearly failed spectacularly. The sweet dog we were practicing on was panting heavily, and for the life of me I could not hear anything beyond that, nor feel her pulse beyond her chest expansion (I was also busy worrying neurotically that I was getting my ear wax on somebody else's stethoscope, which was a bit of a distraction). Finally, after feeling that poor dog up for ten minutes I found a spot by her armpit that worked. I still wasn't sure that I got it right, because the rate seemed very elevated. It turned out this was the same dog whose x-rays, I mean, radiographs I'd seen earlier and thought "I'm no vet, but something looks very wrong in the chest region there." Shortly thereafter, I heard she was suffering from some kind of pulmonary disease. It's kind of hard to be proud of my powers of observation when it meant that this sweet pooch was close to death.

After that, I got to observe my second anal gland expression (that never gets old), and had a conversation with the head vet about my turtles. I wanted to see if anyone there did exams on turtles, since I've been worried that our monster girl, Edamame, may be eating her plastic plants and is not laying eggs yet. I figured we might need to get her an x-...radiograph, but this vet said, "oh, you can't do that with turtles, it's blocked by the shell." I narrowly avoided giving her the hairy eyeball, because I'd seen radiographs taken of a turtle with impacted eggs just that week on Emergency Vets, but I figured that a.) maybe that took a special machine, b.) most vets are not well-versed in reptiles and c.) bad idea to mouth off to the head vet when I'm not even hired, yet. To her credit, she recommended an exotic pet hospital to me, saying she or no-one else there knew enough about turtles for me to waste my time or money there. She also came up to me later with some books on turtles from her office, with appropriate pages she'd marked with post-its, and said I should feel free to look at them and photocopy what I wanted. It was really very sweet, and I had to go and ruin it by snorting to myself alone in her office later when I realized I already knew everything on the marked pages, including the part that clearly said one way to diagnose impacted eggs in turtles is with radiographs. Smarty-pants me.

And that, plus the stethoscope incident, illustrates a lot about what I was feeling that day. I'm finding myself in a strange suspension between being smart and dumb, the new kid and an old hand. Many of the people there are younger than me, and have less formal education than I do, but they have years of experience in that field. I go there willing and eager to clean litter trays and do laundry because I want to learn how to do what they do and see if I want to do it. At the same time, having that teenager there doing essentially what I was doing got my invisible hackles of ego up. I'm a well-educated, smart woman who's been working in a professional environment for years, taught myself web production and design, and worked as a paid and respected animal communicator. I also happen to be loping towards forty. So, every time someone kindly asks something like "do you know what the normal average temperature range should be for dogs?" or "have you ever drawn blood?" I want to slam my head against a wall, because no. I do not know those things, and I feel stupid about it, and I'm getting paranoid and reading condescension (probably falsely) in your voice because it I'm a fast learner, really I am, and how can I not know those things but know that you can take x-rays, fuck, I mean radiographs of turtles, and feline chin acne is often related to plastic allergies, and canned pumpkin filling treats canine diarrhea, and something was sure the hell wrong with that dog's insides?

So, anyway, stupid and smart at the same time. I suppose it's the price of trying a new career track later in life. I'm just going to have to try to leap at chances to learn and show them that I pick up things fast, without coming across as frustrated and arrogant as the little voice inside me sometimes is. That is, if they even turn out to have an opening to hire me.

I had a pretty good talk with the director of the place again, and she said she'd email the head tech who handles hiring and training, whom I haven't met, yet, so I can talk to her about possibilities when she's in on Tuesday. I felt like a got a few brownie points when I asked if there was anywhere I could stash my bike if I cycled there, and she pointed to her bike behind me in the corner of her office and said that that was how the clinic started - she and her partner, the head vet, had met at a bike show. On the other hand, although she'd sounded desperate to hire me full-time before, this time she mentioned something about "summer openings" when people take time off, which does not bode well. I have enough to worry about considering taking a full-time position that would involve a big pay cut. To have that position be overly tenuous would not be good. She was still very nice to me, but I came away worried. Even if I do get the month of severance my old job's HR said they might give me (which surprised the hell out of me, and I'm not counting on until I see it in my bank account), I will need income fairly soon. If it's not looking probable that they'll hire me by the end of the next week, I may start looking at other clinics. And, in the meantime, it's back to trolling the Interwebs for animal-related office jobs more in keeping with my current resume, just in case.

So, that was the gist of it. I was getting tired at the end of the day, even though it was earlier than I'd left the last time, and rung up Mrs. Nator on the phone. She answered in the tiny, pained voice that says she has a major migraine before she can even form the words. When I got home after the long bus ride, I found her curled on the bare mattress in the dark, my grubby fleece robe wrapped around her upper body and over her face. I promptly flopped down beside her, shoved my face under the lapel with her and passed out. I didn't awake for several hours, and I missed going to a good friend's birthday party. Then, I got my period. Wheee!

On a positive note, I did get to learn more and care for the animals, including OMG-THE-CUTEST-L'IL-FURRY-BUNNIES, Y'ALL! Yep, three silky-soft bun-buns, two up for adoption, and one boarding. They are messy as all get-out, but so inquisitive, and you should see when they get their fresh lettuce and carrot greens, numnumnum...

Moreover, if I'm this alarmed and upset that they may not hire me full time, it means I care about it. I'm not saying a big part of that care isn't that I'd be mad if I couldn't make an easy transition right into a new job without having to hunt any further. But, I think I really do want to try working there, yo. Why else would I be so excited to get there, so anxious to be given a chance, and so shaken when I think I might not?

I may have found something I like, there. How much money is that worth?

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Word on the Pet Food Recall

It's been all over the news: huge amounts of pet food made by Menu Foods have been recalled after a number of kidney failure-related deaths were linked to it. Now, it has been announced that the key suspect ingredient in the food is wheat gluten, and it may have been contaminated with rat poison. Rat poison!

Let's step back a moment from the case at hand and the investigation of how it happened, and take a look at the bigger picture. If you are a concerned pet caregiver, it's time you learned what's really in most commercial pet food. Studies have shown that a great proportion of brand-name pet food is made of "food" unfit for human consumption. This includes not only any portion of the chicken, fish or cow you'd refuse to eat, but past-expiration meats, rancid grains, additives, and even the bodies of euthanized pets. That's right, in 1990 the American Veterinary Medical Association and the FDA confirmed that not only diseased livestock was rendered into pet food, but cats, dogs and other pets. Meaning that you could be feeding your cat another cat, or your dog could be eating not only a relative, but the chemicals that were used to put that relative to sleep, too. I know, disgusting.

Besides the dubious meats, the large amount of grains in pet food, particularly cat food, is not conducive to good health. Whereas dogs are technically omnivores with carnivorous leanings, cats are built to eat meat, period, with just the occasional bit of vegetable matter sometimes thrown in. Eating food full of corn meal and wheat is like you or me eating candy as our main foodstuff. Believe me, one of my cats would much prefer to eat Saltines and Meow Mix at every sitting, but I can't let her do that, just as I wouldn't feed my child Big Macs and Pixy Stix for every meal. Sure, there are some people who feed their kids that, but we all know that's not healthy by now, right?

Therefore, here's a tip: if you look at the back of your can or bag of cat or dog food and the first few ingredients say "by-products," "meal" - as in chicken meal - or grains, like corn? It is bad pet food. It doesn't matter how much you pay for it, or if the label says "Kozy Kitten," "Fancy Feast" or "Science Diet" - it probably comes from the same factory, and it is not good for your pet. Take a look at the recall list for the recent scare. You'll see everything listed from "generic" grocery store brands to the Iam's and Science Diet pushed at many veterniary offices. They are all pretty much the same, and if you read the labels, you can tell. The one uniting factor in this case is that the type of food was the "cuts in gravy" variety, and if you look at the ingredients, you will realize that most "cuts" are actually formed masses of extruded meat and grain proteins - like the targeted wheat gluten - that have no resemblance to actual carved meat and gravy.

So, why do vets sell foods like Science Diet and Iam's if they're the same as bargain food, and what should you feed your pet? The answer to the first question is pressure and money. There are a few types of SD food that are formulated for special needs animals like diabetic cats or dogs with allergies. Vets often stock these because they are the easiest way to get clients to feed their animals something vaguely within their pets' dietary restrictions. The important thing is to address the specific disease and offer a type of food that the caregiver will actually buy, because it is relatively inexpensive, readily available and requires no preparation, even if it isn't as good for the animal as feeding it higher quality food. Let's face it, most people don't want to go through a lot of effort to feed their pets, or spend a lot of money. So, this food fits a minimum basic need.

However, companies like Science Diet routinely pressure veterinarians to not only stock their foods, but to sell a variety of them. I've heard tales of vets who would not be left alone by major pet food companies. On top of that pressure, selling food can be a vital financial source for veterinary offices. Basic veterinary care is not a high-profit business, so if they have the space in the reception area, most practices will elect to sell food and other products. The clients buy the food because they feel it must be good, since it's in the vet's office, and the practices are not only able to furnish the clients with restricted diet food, but boost their bottom line with sales of regular food. The pressure to sell, therefore, comes not only top-down from the pet food industry, but up from the clients, who want the reassurance of having "vet approved" food available, and from the very monetary needs of the vets, themselves.

Finally, the answer to the second question, what should you feed your pet? As I mentioned, dogs are borderline omnivores who lean towards the carnivorous, and cats are carnivores. This means that both species should eat mainly meat. However, just like you wouldn't eat any meat you happened to find (I hope), neither should they. The food they eat should be reasonably fresh and healthy, just like what you would feed yourself.

Does this mean you should cook specifically for your pets, or feed them a raw or BARF diet? Lots of people think so, and blend raw meats with veggies and probiotics, or cook meat and veggie stews for their animals. But, if that seems too expensive or like too much work for you, you don't have to go whole hog. Other options include:

- Buying commercially-available raw diet mixes. These are blends of dehydrated or frozen veggies and vitamins that you mix in with your own raw meat. These can be found online or at premium pet food stores.

- Buying commercially-available frozen or dehydrated raw-food diets, like "Stella and Chewy's" or similar brands. These are basically like little frozen hamburger patties, only with appropriate ingredients. Just defrost in the fridge, and plop 'em in the food bowl - easy! They are available now online, at many pet stores and in better vet offices, like the one I'm interning in.

- Buying commercially-available canned or dry food that has good ingredients. How do you know they're good? Read the label. If you see meat, like chicken or turkey, first, then limited amounts of grains like brown rice, vegetables and fruits, with a few vitamins or supplements like taurine added, those are good ingredients. As I mentioned, the word "meal" is bad, as are by-products, artifical flavourings, colourings, preservatives or sodium. If the can says "organic" or "human grade," all the better.

Remember, even if you have limited money, there is enough of a range of foods now that you should be able to but something decent. So maybe you can't swing the 100% organic, yet. Try to at least eliminate by-products and corn, or meat "meals". Maybe you won't find them at your local mega-mart grocery store. Look online or at a local pet food store, and you should be able to find something.

As an example, here are some food brands I regularly feed my cats:

- Merrick
- Wellness
- Eagle Pack
- Newman's Own
- Innova
- Wysong
- PetGuard
- Felidae
- Evolve
- Natural Balance (yes, the one by Dick Van Patten of Eight is Enough fame)

There are few more, but you get the picture. I am enough of an animal freak that I'm becoming at vet tech, and I worry about what my "kids" eat. Still, my busy life and budget mean that raw-food meals for them are rare, and mainly I serve them canned and dry, bagged foods. But there are enough brands of this that are decent now that I can pick them up at the local pet food store - or our vet clinic - and know that my critters will be eating healthy grub.

The bottom line on all this is that, with a little bit of extra effort, you can not only help your pet have a healthier, longer life, but you can probably save yourself not only some extra medical care bills for them, but the panic of this sort of poison scare. If the food they eat doesn't come from one of the country's largest, anonymous plants and isn't crappy to begin with, chances are you won't find diseased chickens or contaminated wheat in it, much less chemical toxins or the former residents of the local pound.

Thus endeth the lesson. Thanks for bearing with me, and I wish all of you and your animal pals good health.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

You know you’ve been home sick too long when:

You start to enjoy a nice “Airborne” cocktail.

You can smell yourself, even after a shower.

Your dreams resemble a Busby Berkeley version of Saw III.

The cats are like, “damn girl, you sleep too much, yo.”

Not having chills or the sweats makes you want to do a little dance.

Sunlight burns your delicate eyes.

You’ve watched enough episodes of “Emergency Vets” that you start contemplating checking your cats’ bowels and drilling surgical holes in your turtles.

Ha ha ha! That crazy Hobbes is taking Calvin to a land of dolphins in the clouds!

If I ever find that “Gypsy” who invented this “Cold Care” tea, it’s on, motherfuckers.

What the hell time is it?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Mais Non

Well, all flights to Montreal are cancelled due to the winter storm here. The rest are full until Sunday, so it looks unlikely that we'll be going this time. Not sure if we'll try to reschedule, as our time is limited these days, or just cancel. We bought flight insurance, but need to work out the details.

The good news is, we could go back to sleep after getting up at 4:30 AM. And I'm starting to feel borderline sick, so maybe it's for the best. Lord knows a few days just totally vegging out at home are looking pretty good right about now...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Look How The Sky's All Silverrrr..."

If you get that reference, you are at least as big a goofball as I am.

Yes, we're on our way to Montréal shortly, Natorettes.

It should be cold, but pretty.

Ah, Romance!

Be good, kiddies...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ooh, Ooh!

I missed the Muscle Cars pattern for scrubs!

Who knew medical uniforms could be so bitchin'?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Day 1

Things were a little odd from the beginning. I made myself late lollygagging due to nervousness, and ended up taking a car service to the clinic. The place was dark when I arrived, and it turned out it would be for most of the time I was there. The power was out on the block.

The man who let me in was a vet tech who wasn’t expecting me, but he was friendly all the same and started to show me around the place. My first task was to clean the enclosures and change the litter, food and water for the cats, both boarding and residents. There was the group up for adoption in the reception area, the crotchety crew in the cat room, residents in a couple offices and the group in the ill-named dog ward, which at this time contained no dogs.

Things kind of sped up from there. More staff kept arriving, and every one was nonplussed by the power outage. I was to receive several apologies over the day with the explanation that it wasn’t a “normal” day to start on, what with no x-rays, analysis machines, computers, phones or even lights working in the exam rooms. It probably turned out to my advantage, however. No phones meant fewer clients on a usually chaotic Saturday, and my acclimation was probably easier for this.

The majority of my time was spent cleaning: litter trays, dishes, surfaces and floors. I did more sweeping and mopping alone than I’ve probably done in the last year at home. If nothing else, it got me over the phobia I’d incurred when I slipped a disc while mopping. The physical labour was actually refreshing, and felt like I was doing something useful for a change, rather than sitting staring at a computer all day.

Patients came in and out. One woman brought in her elderly dog who had been seizing, and clearly on the brink of death. She came in shortly after I did at 9:00 AM and sat with him in an exam room all morning. She was still there with him when I left at 6:30 at night, and he was still motionless. She wasn’t ready to put him down, yet, and the staff wasn’t pushing her.

There were an unusual number of euthanasias for some reason. I counted at least four, despite the old dog lingering, and there may have been more. The clinic director apologized to me for it at the end of the day, saying it was certainly not normal, but seemed to happen sometimes during drastic weather changes. I was surprisingly all right with it. I’d had a fear of being overly emotional, but I was mainly just focused and busy. Interestingly enough, I found the same thing that I had when I’d volunteered at a cat shelter in the past: it was the largest male vet tech who was the most outwardly emotional. Several times during the day, young women half his size were bustling about taking care of business, as he paused to mourn over a cat he didn’t want to die. It didn’t stop him from doing what he needed to do, but it was arresting seeing a beefy man frozen on the verge of tears, while ballerina-esque ladies in lavender scrubs brushed by with just a glance.

I only got a few hands-on moments with patients, besides petting some of the boarding and resident cats when I had a minute. At one point I gently held a tiny cat, skin and bones, barely breathing, with one lost eye and the other closed. I was asked to touch her and make sure she didn’t fall off the table while they prepared an injection. She didn’t move, and I began to wonder if she would die right there while waiting. I gently stroked her and tried to send her loving Reiki. The large male vet tech entered and was upset – she was another one of his favourites, who had apparently been brought in after being hit by a car in the past. This time she was in to be euthanized. I thought they might do it right then, but apparently they were giving her something else. He took over holding her, and as another vet tech tenderly tried to insert the needle into her small, fragile vein, the kitty’s back legs came to life. Eyes still tightly closed, her body resisted, kicking and squirming, making the insertion difficult. I wished she could just die in peace. The insertion done, they whisked her up and into another room.

For a moment, I wasn’t sure what to feel. But then I realized, I felt that she was ready to go, and it was a good thing that she’d be beyond pain soon. From then on, seeing the euthanized animals gave me less pause. Besides, I had tasks to do.

Due to the lack of lights, many procedures were done in odd areas. An elderly dog, blind and mostly deaf, was examined in an upstairs, unfinished room with a skylight. Slowly, her person lead her down the stairs, explaining that the dog was still fine on the stairs at home, and they didn’t want her to get used to being carried. “You’re amazing, Martha!” the head vet encouraged, as, wheezing and shaking, the dog reached the bottom. It took several minutes for them to coax her down the hallway. She kept expecting another stair step.

A tiny Yorkie puppy was examined at the communal lunch table, where it was bright. The vet would look from the puppy’s tiny face up at me and whisper “she’s so cute," while I munched my cookie. An old German Shepard was laid down in the middle of the floor in the back room, while his person, three vet techs and no less than two vets at a time observed him. He had recently had a tumour removed, and they were checking the wound. While they were there, his person mentioned he had a constant erection. Everyone gathered around to see what the cause was, and whether his glans could be retracted. He maintained the sweetest look of puzzled surrender throughout, a big, former athlete with gray fur on his muzzle. When the problem was fixed, there was the natural joking as a younger vet complimented the head vet, saying she couldn’t have done it. “If we chose by sexual preference, you’d be much more experienced with the area than I am,” was the rejoinder.

Another animal went through some genital changes, the first surgery I’ve ever seen in person. A simple neutering procedure, this one went awry as the aptly named “Snip-Snip” went ballistic on the table. Unable to use the mask, the techs placed him, hissing and twisting, into a plastic box, then inserted a tube to administer the anaesthesia. There was a sudden moment of concern when he began a repetitive, spastic moaning while going under, accompanied by a leg twitch. They hauled him out, and tried the mask again. This time he was fine within a moment, fully out, tongue protruding pinkly.

The neutering was fast and surprisingly a bit violent. (Gentlemen, cover your ears.) At first, it went quickly. The vet made a small incision in the scrotal sac with a scalpel head, and with a quick squeeze, the testicle plopped out with an almost audible pop. As a second vet observed, however, it seemed that the cat’s unusually large balls and penis, along with some tough ventricles, were posing a problem, and I found myself blanching a little as the vet pulled and pulled to get things disconnected. By this time, my view was partly obscured, and I was also looking at the cats in the cages through the window, wondering what they could see of all this. The yanking apparently finished, the operating vet began to tie the tubes in a knot, prompting a conversation with the other vet about how this technique worked better for her than sutures, and neither of them could get the method taught in school to work right. Snip Snip’s parts were shoved back in, his claws clipped, and within a few minutes he was partially awake and stumbling around angrily in his cage. By the time his person came to get him a couple hours later, he was back in fighting form, and rightly pissed off. The largest vet tech had to close the area door and herd him into his carrier with a towel. You go, Snip Snip. Stay bad.

Near the end of the day the power came back on, and I could stop hand-washing dishes and start doing laundry. The towel and blanket pile could have rivaled a small hotel. By then, it was also time for the evening feeding. So, now that I’d been shown how to read their feeding charts, I was able to take care of most of them, including special diets and medicines that went into food, although the pills and shots would be left to the techs. It actually took close to two hours to take care of everybody, in-between other tasks. After that, there was one more mopping, one more load of laundry, and I was ready to head home. As I bought some cans of cat food at the counter, the young receptionist gave me a discount, and then said “oh, you’ll get a bigger discount when you work here. The director said you’ll be starting, soon, right?” I hope this meant I made a good impression.

During the slow rush-hour bus ride home, I took stock. My feet were very sore, I was tired, and extremely hungry (I hadn’t known there was no lunch break, and that we all were to graze when we had a few minutes). However, although I knew I’d be tired and a bit sore the next day, it was nothing as bad as I’d feared, used to sitting my fat ass in an office chair for hours on end. And yes, I felt a little like a peon, having done mostly cleaning all day, and only handling animals intermittently. But I felt good, as well. I had helped animals and the people who treat and love them, if even in a small capacity, and I had started to learn. It was enervating, exhausting, and felt like a day well spent.

Day two will come in two weeks, after I’m back from my vacation, and right around the time I start training my replacement at my current job. I’m looking forward to experiencing a “normal” Saturday with rounds, x-rays and full treatments. I’m interested to talk to the resident massage therapist about the hydrotherapy treatments, the vet who’s studying acupuncture to whom I outed myself as a former animal communicator, the vet who had to see a patient in the middle of our conversation about her vet training on a Caribbean island. I want to learn more from the big, sensitive tech, the efficient one who’s planning on becoming a vet, and the kind one who, after ten years, is not sure what she wants to do next. Most of all, I’m looking forward to learning more about myself, and to helping the animals. This may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Friday, March 09, 2007

I Don't Want No Scrubs

Well, actually, I do, because tomorrow is my first day at the vet clinic! Whoopitty-kai-ai-yay!

Of course, I'm nervous. I want to do a good job, but I know I've got a lot to learn. I'm also not used to being on my feet all day, so that will be different.

The pressure is somewhat on because I've wanted to try working with animals for years, and I'm really hoping this will turn out to be something I like and I'm good at. Of course, it can't be too hard, because they're training a 16-year-old the day after me. But, if I do end up liking it, it would be a little humiliating if I wasn't better at it than a 16-year-old. I'm not looking for being a volunteer forever; if I enjoy it, I'll want to aim for a paid position, and probably some further education.

All that said, I can't let myself psyche myself out about it, especially since I'm sure the first few days, at least, will consist mainly of cleaning up poop, piss, blood and vomit. The good part about this is, now I can use this fact to both as an excuse to pawn off cleaning the kitty litter at home to Mrs. Nator, and distract myself from my nerves by asking "what in the world am I going to wear?"

T-shirts and jeans will do at first, but if I plan on staying awhile, and I want something that both gives me an air of professionalism and washes out easily, I'll have to get some scrubs. Now, we all know your basic blue or green plain scrubs, and those are fine, especially at $10 a pop, but it gets boring. That's when a young girl's fancy turns to specialty scrubs!

1. NFL Scrubs. These have got to be my first choice. They're a little more interesting than plain scrubs but, because although I'm a chick, I'm also a big, fat dyke, there's a whiff of testosterone about them. The model pictured is the Steelers, but you know I'd have to get the NY Giants version, dude.

2. Striped or colorblock scrubs. The next step up in simple, yet a bit more interesting than plain scrubs. The colorblocks are made by Dickies, which makes me think that, actually, I could just get a bunch of Dickies work shirts. Being a lesbian, I've already worn them frequently and know they look good on me. As a bonus, they have collars, chest pockets and come in color blocks, too (see fig. 2c).
fig. 2a

fig. 2b

fig. 2c

3. Geek-boy prints. Yes, there are all kinds of prints out there, from cuddly cartoon kittens and victorian florals to American flags and giant, neon polka dots. But why wear those when I can wear Retro X-Men or Marvel heroes scrubs? And yes, flames. Perhaps less nerdy than an embroidered Starfleet insignia, but less potentially offensive than an iron on of Ratfink or The Cramps. Hmm. Come to think of it, I could just get plain scrubs and fire up the jet-printer with some iron-on paper...

4. Hawaiian shirt-inspired prints. Although I don't like the girly foo-foo florals, I have been known to wear retro Hawaiian shirts, and I really have been in love with Hawaii since I visited. The key is to either not go too loud, or just go so over the top that it's visually offensive.

6. And finally, there are the... specialty prints. Yes, these include everything from safari animals and fur-pattern prints to NASCAR and African Kente-cloth morifs. But really, even if you can pass up the "Geishas & Swans" or the... uh, "Disco Witches" patterns, how can you turn down the "British Babes" on Vespas, or the perfect marriage that is "Choppers and Palms"? (I know which ones First Nations would recommend.)

Oh, and fine. Just for the days I do feel girly, Hello Kitty in a kimono. So sue me.

What do you think I should wear?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Howdy, Natorettes!

Thanks for all the comments on my latest update. Let's see if I can answer some of your questions.

Yes, I am excited about trying out working at the vet clinic. I've been thinking of switching to working hands-on with animals for a while, and this looks like a really nice place to start. The clinic is an easy bus ride from my home, has a warm feel, and everyone there seems very friendly and progressive. The ladies who started the place are a gay couple - one is the head vet, and the other is a clinical social worker, who runs the office and also special programs like counselling and groups for people with chronically ill animals, etc.

As soon as you walk into the place, you can see it's different, too. There are big windows and blonde wood in the reception area. Parts of the walls are restored, weathered brick, and instead of the usual IAMS or Science Diet on the shelves they stock human-grade, organic and holistic foods, cat litter, etc., all at reasonable prices. Also in the reception area are several stacks of cat housing where cats up for adoption through their shelter program are sleeping, playing, or haughtily staring at the passing dogs.

The vet we saw was super-nice, and into holistic treatments, as well. She prescribed Feliway and a nutritional supplement that is calming for cats, rather than anti-depressant drugs, and gave us free samples of enzymatic treats that help clean kitties' teeth for us to try. She mentioned that she was studying acupuncture for animals, and we got into a fun conversation about what modalities you could use for turtles - acupressure? Far-infrared, ultrasound or lasers? All of these are good signs that this would be a place I might fit in.

As for getting full-time employment as a vet tech, from what the manager (the social worker) said, there's a big shortage of vet techs in NYC. I would imagine this is partially because it is a relatively low-paying job, especially for those living in an expensive city. It's also a job that can be dirty, exhausting and emotionally difficult, as well as meaningful and fun. The upside to all this is doing something you care about and having 4 day work weeks, at this place.

I have to say the manager's and vet's desperation was a little scary, if reassuring in terms of the chances of me getting hired for pay down the line. In another market, vets might be more choosy about wanting to hire people who've already been through vet tech schools (usually a two-year accreditation) or had on-the-job experience. In this case, however, my showing up and showing immediate interest, along with having some experience as a shelter volunteer, was enough to have them practially begging me to start. (I didn't mention the animal communication work I did. I'm not sure how that may come up or apply, later, but it's not what I'm looking to do, right now.)

Anyway, I'm excited enough that I'm going to see if I can get started this weekend. Everybody put on your propeller beanies (or share FN's) and send me wwOOooo-wOOOoonns for good luck!

Now in answer to FN's questions:

i am also proud to be a Natorette. do we have a song? what about a pledge? i think we should have a beer volcano too.

I think these are capital ideas. Considering my affection for both volcanos and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a beer volcano is a must. Also, you will all wear propeller beanies, whereas I get my official Napoleonic Pyrate Newspaper Hat. Which is fitting, because I just figured out how to burn pirated movie torrents to DVD. The Cap'n would be proud.

As for a pledge and/or song, I haven't had time to work on those, but suggestions are welcome. References to lesbianism, cats, Mrs. Nator, Brooklyn, football, geekery and chocolate are all highly suggested. I do, however, think that the perfect anthem might already have been created right here.

Bye, kids! See ya real soon!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ca Plane Pour Moi

Greetings, Natorettes. Let's catch up on what's been going on in Natorland, shall we?

1. We're not sick anymore! First I had a lingering stomach bug, then Mrs. Nator got it. Thank goodness that's over.

2. Our bathroom is mostly done! It's not exactly as we'd like it: our landlords installed bone white tiling and then painted the new walls and trim in blinding white, so it clashes. They're also insisting it should stay that way, using the excuse that it's "authentic to the period of the building." This is silly, as not only do we have a clause in our lease saying we can paint, but according to catalogues I've seen of era bathrooms (around 1906), they usually had white tiling but different coloured walls. Let's face it, if they wanted it to be authentic, they wouldn't have put in sheetrock or cheap new fixtures and the paint would have had lead in it.

We don't have the energy to contest it, anyway. We're just glad everything seems to work. We'll spruce it up with some nice accessories and leave it at that.

3. My job situation is changing! I had a good talk with my boss, and it looks like they'll have someone new ready for me to train within the next two or three weeks. She'd be happy to be a reference for me and so forth, so all is good on that front. However, as you all know by now, I'm not entirely certain if I want to transfer right to another website job. So, I'm taking a couple different approaches.

In the first approach, I've bought a bunch of web-software related books to update my skillz and am working on an online portfolio. This covers things if I decide I should get a job or temp in this area, once I'm a bit over the burnout of my current occupation. (And let's face it, I'm burned out. What Web Producer worth her salt doesn't realize her blog is appearing strangely on FireFox for months, and still doesn't have the entergy to fix the formatting on her comments page?)

In the second, I spoke to some folks at the awesome new veterinary clinic we took The Schmoo to (she's fine, BTW, just has a little OCD that's making her lick her belly bald), and it looks like I'm going to start interning there in a couple weeks. The head of the clinic said that if it all works out they are definitely looking to hire vet techs, so if I like it and they like me, it may have been the easiest job interview I've ever had.

Ms. Nator is very excited about the vet clinic position. She loves the vibe at the place and is really hoping I will find this new direction makes me happy. I am cautiously optimistic, on my part - very cautiously. I'm glad I'm going to try it out and see what's what, though. The only problem will be if HR at my old job tries to dick me over regarding my unemployment, but I'm hoping that after my discussion with my boss where she said expressly that she would advocate for me with them, that won't happen.

4. Lastly, we're taking a little vacation! Yes, this is probably very financially irresponsible, considering my present employment situation. But, we both need it badly and hey, we'd just about paid off our credit cards, anyway, so away we go.

I wanted to go to a nice, warm beach somewhere, but time and monetary restraints ruled that out. As for going somewhere close to the city, it's just as expensive as going elsewhere in the U.S., if not more so, so we're off to Montréal for four nights in a couple weeks. Yes, it will be cold, but we got an excellent deal on a great hotel, and Mrs. Nator says she will probably want to spend a good amount of the trip lolling in bed, soaking in a jet-tub, getting massages, etc. She's never been, but I remember from my visit there in high school, that when I wasn't drunk or performing in a singing competition (or both), it's a very nice city, with a European feel to some parts of it. I think it will be a nice little getaway, both as a stress reliever for her, and a transitory cushion for me to temporary unemployment. Also, I can start saying everything in an outrageous accent. Zout alors!

So now you know what I've been up to during the radio silence around this blog. Now I can get back to posting stupid commentary and silly pictures!