Poetic Memory



I still taste the air
we breathed that April.
Sweet melancholy,
and crisp blues.

I still feel you,
the soul that’s beside me.
Roan velvet,
whispered in the dark.

I still hear the breath of
our departed love.
Clear thunder heads,
and shuffling grass.

I still see liquid gold,
our flowing banner.
Our war and peace,
a mirage vision lilting on my lips.



P.S. This is extremely retrospective, and isn’t based on recent experience though it was written recently. I don’t feel it needs introduction.


Ink Wings

Flying is only possible in life because someone once lent us their wings and taught us how.

There is an unquestionable power in large animals, even when they are small. They posses an undefinable confidence in their being that has always astounded me.  Today I started in my vet clinics large animal branch and I can’t tell you how good it felt to tumble back into a familiar part of the veterinary world, with some very interesting cases and learning opportunities. Even dealing with an aggressive bull today, while I certainly found myself jumpier than normal and a bit behind the ball in some ways with the other cases, I felt calm, happy, and composed. While I enjoyed my month of pets there will always be something that draws me to animals that outweigh me (by huge amounts).

I can’t say whether it is the challenge of handling them or the satisfaction of feeling capable to do so but, while many vets have suggested I might change my mind, I do still feel inexorably bound to work with large animals.

Perhaps this change is why my mind was drawn back again to horses on my drive home. I miss riding, it used to make up hours of my day almost every day. I’ve been distracted by this, and a phrase came to me (this may be a quote, but I have no idea who from): My boots give me roots, my horses give me wings.

While I know my horses aren’t the only thing that give me wings, I also know that many of the things that act as my wings are not in my life presently. My pets have been wings for me, all of which have passed away except my one cat who lives with my parents (and adores my dad) because my living arrangements are not pet friendly. Random adventures outdoors, especially when I lived out of town, have been little wings for me (it seems time is just very tight for this sort of thing at present). Travelling (for fun) has been my wings at times. All these things have stopped for the most part, due to university, due to commitments, and due to financial constraints. I miss my wings.

I am considering getting three tattoos in the near future to remind me that new wings are always in the making, and to honour the wings in my past:

  1. Line art style mountainscape—so I can look down and know there’s adventure around the corner to find if I just go out and find it. I would do this along the inside of my left wrist because I wear big chunky watches on my left hand and I would have it made so my watch covers it (professionalism and all, it would be nice to be able to cover it up).
  2. A quote, I want it to say: You were a great champion. When you ran, the ground shook, the sky opened and mere mortals parted.—this would be in honour of my first horse Smokey, my original wings. I don’t know where to put this one though, I was definitely considering a single line of spidery handwriting along my rib cage, horizontally, near sternum level but I feel like it might wrap all the way around my back. I also considered doing it in two lines but vertically along my ribs (sort of in line with where my arm rests when I’m standing).
  3. Three paw prints no bigger than a thumbprint—one for each of my border collies who have passed on. This would go along the side of my foot just above the walking surface (and yes I know they fade faster there), the symbolism being that each dog still walks with me. I haven’t decided whether I want them on the right or left and whether I would have them on the inside of my foot near the arch or along the outside of my foot.

What do you guys think? Which do you think would be the best? Would you do all of them? Do you think tattoos are unprofessional? Any artsy people out there who want to draw what they imagine would look good? (I know the invariably cliche tattoo design request, no pressure!)

The Case of the Fractious Feline

Before I begin: to avoid offending any potential feline readers of this (as I know they enjoy the occasional keyboard sitting session) I have omitted the three letter D-word and replaced it with the less offensive terms–Droolers, and Big Paws.

You may have read a previous article on this blog entitled The Case of the Dangerous Drooler. Near the beginning I made the generalization that about ninety percent of the poor behaviours I have observed in the Big Paws are due to parenting failures (directly or indirectly). Although I acknowledge, even perfect Drooler parenting will not prevent all incidents.

Having made that previous observation you may find this one hard to swallow but when it comes to our feline friends I would say probably… fifty percent of their bad behaviour is absolutely not DIRECTLY your fault. Don’t stop reading there though!

So, lets begin. The generalization in my Drooler article about urbanization and poor understanding of animals still holds here (it’s in the first few paragraphs if you want to go back and read it), as do my recommendations regarding pet first aid, knowing when your pet is sick, and knowing how to feed your pet.

Three cat specific notes though:

  1. On health concerns: a panting cat is a major concern. Cats don’t and shouldn’t pant.
  2. On feeding and obesity: statistically while obesity is above fifty percent in dogs (in North America) it is even higher in cats and it is a problem. Obesity puts extra strain on joints and bones and can make your cat unnecessarily sore, interfere with their breathing (either due to fitness level, or because fat is inflammatory), and lowers their life expectancy. We’ll talk about this a little bit more later on.
  3. However, visually obvious, rapid weight loss in cats is also a health concern (I’m not saying you shouldn’t put your obese cat on a diet, I am saying that if you can very obviously see your cat loosing weight over the course of a week, or even a month it isn’t healthy weight loss and there may be another underlying problem or you may have cut them back too far).

This article though, like the previous is going to address feline behaviours and training. A caveat, I am not an expert–this is based on observation and is meant to provide a jumping off point for you to continue learning from.

I’ll start with a story:

The tech walked into the alien landscape, assessing the damage. The room was a disaster, but it would need to be fixed before they could settle in for the next storm. She dragged away the old and tattered blankets and carefully disinfected the counters and chairs, who knew what alien had last inhabited this place.

The tech lay out a new blanket and sprayed it with Drooler Detractor. then swept and mopped the floor. Glancing around the room she took out her spray once more and dispersed it sweepingly across the room, plugging in a nightlight-like contraption that would continue to add more as needed to the air. Examining her handiwork she smiled before sprinkling a salt ring around the whole premises to keep out faeries, and walking out the door.

After attending to her other duties in the community the tech returned to the same door. She carefully made the sign of the cross over herself and kissed her rosary before spraying herself down with Drooler Detractor and stepping across the threshold. The battle that day would be arduous but all preparations had been made.


Did that sound crazy? Well, it’s actually not that far from the truth minus the salt ring, the sign of the cross/rosary (if your tech isn’t religious, if they are… who knows), and if you change the name of the spray to Feliway, this would probably be for a cat that is known to be difficult but even for a cat that is pretty chill we will take precautions.

So why are cats treated with such caution? Because even the nicest cat at home can become a terror in the veterinarians office.

Why? You may ask. Cats are creatures of insane habit, I mean almost obsessive. Moving their litter box three feet to the left may result in them peeing in your bed in protest, adding a new cat or saying goodbye to an old cat in the household may result in months of mournful nighttime meowing, a new person arriving in the house or someone moving out may result in mild depression or major changes in sleep habits, to name a few of the many changes that can set a cat off.

I mean, don’t even get me started on changing litter or food types. The kicker with the vet is not only could you be changing their environment two to three times (house in general to kennel, kennel to exam room, exam room to treatment room) you are also changing their people; their companions; the smell; the availability of food, water and litter; and the motions and touch being applied to them.

So imagine taking your most neurotic, homebody friend and sending them to… I don’t know, rural Asia. Now try to navigate the newly induced panic attack while performing a slightly invasive medical examination.

Alright, now what can we do about this?

There’s definitely a few things, starting with picking your new queen/king:

  1. Cats have distinct personalities, and while I definitely encourage adoption I would also say you need to carefully consider any cat you intend to have join your family (especially if it is going to have to make nice with other non-human family members, or children). While that grumpy cat sitting at the back of his cage, making funny noises at you might seem the most in need of a rescue he may not be the best fit for your home, or your lifestyle. Age can play a role in determining whether or not a cat will adjust well to a busy household or a multi-pet household (kittens may be more amenable to these situations as they are curious and still learning what they like). This is NOT ALWAYS the case, but don’t disregard it because you want to live in fantasy-land either.
  2. There are tonnes of REALLY nice cats in this world, find one that will love your lifestyle as much as you do and don’t feel bad for insisting on that. It seems inheriting cats is becoming increasingly common, and while I encourage trying to work with an inherited cat, if it is making your life miserable because you two just aren’t compatible that is okay, seek out the right place for the cat so you can both be happy!

At home:

  1. Never allow biting people, playful or not, it is inappropriate and sets a precedent, just like letting them climb up your leg, or scratch at you. There’s tonnes of great toys and scratching posts out there and you should make full use of them.
  2. Provide their food and water to them in the kennel they will someday be travelling in, or make it into a comfortable bed with all the amenities they may want. Frankly, normalize the kennel. Practice closing the door for short, and then longer periods.
  3. Eventually drive them around the block with them in their kennel, or even to a parking spot two houses down if they are freaking right out. Do this once a week or once every couple of weeks so the kennel and the car don’t automatically mean vet. While you’re driving with them put a few treats in the kennel (not too much, no one wants a barfing cat on their hands, and on vet trips this may not be an option as they may need to be fasted for surgeries).
  4. From kitten-hood poke and prod them (gently) in odd and unexpected ways. Flip their ears back and look inside (this is good even if they aren’t going to the vet as it allows you to check for ear mites), open their mouths (super gently, and please don’t get bit, if you don’t know how to do this safely find someone who does), bop their noses (bop gently, not that this is a veterinary procedure, it just teaches tolerance), cradle them in your arms and lift their tails briefly and gently (as though someone needed to take an anal temperature, which generally takes about thirty seconds), get them used to lying in lateral recumbency and dorsal recumbency (on their side and back) and being gently restrained in these positions, get them used to having their legs restrained (gently), play with their feet, trim their nails (again, learn how to do this well and safely from someone who knows). Heck, if you’re adventurous teach them to enjoy a bath (I recently bathed my six year old cat for the first time and he was fantastic, although I recommend a nail trim prior and generally would not try it with a mature cat, but since Piper is… well, Piper I chose to chance it. Just be careful of the eyes, and ears, also RINSE WELL and get a CAT SPECIFIC shampoo as cats themselves are prolific groomers and will most likely be consuming orally any soap left on them which could be dangerous).
  5. Practice the reverse burrito. Okay, this sounds like a joke when you read it but I am dead serious. The reverse burrito is a common low-stress restraint technique for cats undergoing procedures. The normal burrito involves the head being covered (this is also relatively common depending on what is being done). In the reverse burrito you lay a towel out flat and position the cats head near the edge of the towel, with the cat lying on its stomach on top of the towel. From there you wrap the edge of the towel around the cats neck (so that it is snug enough the paws can’t come popping out, but not uncomfortable) and proceed to wrap the rest of the cat up like… well a burrito, tucking the bottom under the cat at the end while maintaining a hold on the neck area of the towel and cradling the body snuggly. My cat is absolutely un-offended by this, and yours could be too!
  6. One final, more sensitive at home management item: MANAGE YOUR CATS WEIGHT. An obese or morbidly obese cat will feel like crap, they will be more sore, more easily loose their breath, and more stressed on a day to day basis than they should be. This can be worked around with simple, and basic calculations of your cats ideal body weight (if your unsure talk to your vet about this) and feeding your cat with that in mind. I understand you probably won’t be weighing out their food everyday, but since most feed bags measure metabolic kCal/g or kg of food weighing will be the most accurate way to figure out how much food your cat should get. Try to weigh out the food when you change the amount your feeding or the type of food (which may differ in calorie density or particle density), particularly when your kitten is in their rapid growth phase, and then find a measuring cup that fits exactly the right amount of food. Also note that your cats metabolic requirements change after they are spayed or neutered (same goes for Droolers). Managing their base stress level by keeping them in their ideal fitness and body condition, can significantly reduce how stressful being at the vet clinic is.

At the clinic:

  1. Try to find a clinic that has a cat specific exam room (trust me, this is becoming a thing). That way your kitty won’t be getting a nose full of unknown dog when you are trying to keep him chill. Even better if you can find a place with cat specific waiting room accommodations too (this may be in the form of cat shelves which put them up above the fray, a separate waiting area, or even just feliway (pheromone spray) sprayed towels that can be draped over the kennel).
  2. Make your appointment as early as possible during the day (or see if the clinic has a “cat day” where all their appointments are cats, or even just an appointment right before lunch or during a quiet day). This ensures there’s not two german shepherds, a pomeranian, and a great dane hanging out in your cats space before the appointment even begins.
  3. Arrive for your appointment juuuuust ahead of time (like five minutes if you can manage it that close without being late, but don’t be late!) or leave the cat in the car with another family member while you go in and check if the wait time is going to be super long. You could even call ahead if it’s just you, to see if things are running on time, although make it short and sweet because on a busy day this might drive the receptionists a little nutty.
  4. Have a familiar towel in the kennel that is fluffy/thick enough for your cat to feel a little hidden. Also, on the subject of kennels have one that you can remove the top off of if kitty doesn’t want to walk out once you are in the exam room (super handy).
  5. As with Droolers WARN US if your kitty is a known biter or typically aggressive towards yourself or strangers, this really informs our handling approach. We may leave kitty be while we take a history instead of immediately opening up the kennel door.

While kitty temper tantrums may be harder to avoid than Drooler ones, there is still a lot you can do to prepare and “train” your cat for clinic situations. These things are part of the fifty percent of behaviour that is under your DIRECT control with your cat.

The other fifty percent could be them keying in on your indirect reaction to being in medical situations (maybe you’re breathing harder, or your heart is pumping faster) and reacting themselves, it could be a smell on the vet that they aren’t keen on, it could be them having a bad day (Droolers have these too), it could be them feeling one too many bumps on the car ride, it could be that a dog barked as you walked into the exam room. Whatever it is these factors have to be dealt with in the moment, but like with our D-O-G-G-Y friends, setting a firm foundation of correct behaviours prior to arriving at the vet is a HUGE part of helping them cope with the new situation.

Cat handling techniques in clinic have dramatically changed over the last two decades, favouring low stress, and minimal handling techniques in order to improve their experience with us but we really appreciate if you do your part too!

A calm cat is a cat that has blood drawn without blowing the vein (more often, if veins are super friable this may still happen), its a cat that purrs in the exam room and rubs up against the vet, its a cat that stays collected for a temperature, and climbs onto the scale because its just chilling out, exploring, its a cat that will take a treat nicely after its vaccine, and often doesn’t need our help to get its nails trimmed.

Frankly, a relaxed and well adjusted cat is a cat we simply see less often and for shorter periods of time, because it doesn’t have to come in to be sedated to be groomed or to have four people help get its nails trimmed (I’ve seen this happen!), and it’s vaccine appointments take no time at all.





Sunshine Bloggin’ It

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s a new form of chain mail?

Well, I have to say thank you to the Mainepaperpusher (Linda) You should definitely check out her blog… here!

So, I didn’t know what the Sunshine Blogger Award was and with that in mind I’m going to give you a brief rundown of what it is: The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community. (Not my words, the description I got.)

So how does this work?

Well, it’s the bloggy, friendly equivalent of chain mail… which coincidentally I always ignore. So, to those whose blogs I plan to link–feel no obligation to continue the chain, I’m doing it because… well, Linda rocks!

Also note, for many of these blogs I am a silent observer so, well… sorry if you don’t recognize me! Some of them are single posts too, just certain ones I’ve read and liked. To any blogs I follow and didn’t list, or that I comment on regularly and don’t have on here, I mean no offence! I tried to include some of the blogs I less actively comment on or that I recently reread after an absence.

Basic info:

Generally you link back to your nominator.

You answer the 11 unique questions chosen by your nominator.

You nominate another 11 blogs (no tags-backs!).

You make a set of 11 questions for your nominees.

And you put up the Sunshine Blogger Logo at the top of your post and give the rules.

Now, this has been a long time coming. Mainly because I forgot about it, partially because compiling a list became a real process, and partially because I was dragging my feet on unleashing my first ever piece of “chain mail” unto the world. I have decided that it will be my one and only. So, enjoy it guys, in no particular order (if you want to go straight to my answers to the questions from Linda just go past the list)!

Dogtown–I love the simple things and hearing about peoples lives and this blog is one of my favourites for that.

D.I.Y.-ing Machine–I specifically love this post because I relate to it super strongly, but in general I love to see other people accomplishing their creative ideas and this is the place I look to for that.

jhubner73–This one is because it gave me a new Canadian artist to listen to who, honestly, didn’t scar my ears and sounds chill enough to chill me out (a tall order!).

Until Tomorrow— One of those, thank God I’m not alone, posts I read a while back.

Monahchopsis–One of my favourite places for a poetry fix.

Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera–For the love of photography.

Observaterry–A walk on the arty side of my love.

Tea and Bannock— This article fabulously addresses mental health, self care, and a culture of busy people, relating specifically to higher education and I love it!

Hawaii Pacific Review— A poignant poem on breaking, power, beauty, and death and the relationship between it all.

Travel 67— Some striking Geisha’s (I am unsure of some of the terms used) and fabulous photos of the moment.

Sketching Family— Another arty trip.

And an extra little something for those curious clickers…

Now for Linda’s questions:

1. What do you believe is the root of the world’s problems today?

Probably greed, and ignorance. I just hate the “I worked hard for this so I’m not going to share because you haven’t worked hard enough/gone through enough in my opinion to deserve my government-papers-that-confer-value” and the “I-think-Google-and-me-are-smarter-than-my-doctor” attitudes. I mean, don’t enable and do advocate for yourself. However, while you’re at it stop trying to tell me that you need a new sports car every year and don’t want to pay taxes when you won’t step off your pedestal and help out the less fortunate without being forced to, and stop insisting that someone with eight years of education is lying because of twenty minutes of googling. Doing away with those attitudes could help us turn a corner towards supporting all people (regardless of nationality or economic circumstance) and advancing innovation and problem solving.

2. If you could be a television star, what character would you want to be?

Hawkeye, both Dr. Benjamin Hawkeye Pierce and the Hawkeye/Clint Barton at once but in parallel universes (so, not like a Clark Kent/Superman thing where I have to change in a phone booth or anything) and you know, female versions of them.

3. Other than basic necessities, what are 3 things you would take with you as you colonize Mars?

Um, is a bag/box/storage pod of books a single item? I’m going to say yes. So, that, and since its “things” I’m going to say family doesn’t qualify, and pets don’t so… a fairy garden of earth plants, and…my favourite pocket knife.

4. What is the title of the book you would write if you were stranded on a desert island?

Lessons of Lakes and Rivers: The Mirage Reflections

5. If you were a color, what would it be, and why?

Sea glass teal–because while I’m easily understood as I am now, you’ll never completely know where I’ve been, or clearly see whats inside/who I am. I think never truly knowing a person is true of anyone but the whole not knowing me/where I’ve been isn’t because I’m trying to be cryptic or melancholy, it’s just because of the sheer number of adventures I’ve gone on completely within my own mind.

6. What food do you absolutely detest?

I hate the texture of tomato innards.

7. In the “Queen/King of the World” election, who would you vote for and why?

Ryan Reynolds, because he has a fantastic sense of humour and seems to tell it like it is. I don’t think he would take himself too seriously, and he might even get something done.

8. What is the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?

In an airport parking garage elevator with some singing superstar and her body guard (he’s between her and I and the squish is crazy tight) and she has long dangley earrings. I look over and notice she has a piece of sliced sandwich meat hooked to one of her earrings. So I’m like, “Excuse me, you have a piece of sandwich meat on your earring.” She glances over at her earring, yanks the piece of sandwich meat off and says, “Oh, that’s where it went”, and proceeds to eat it. Throughout it all her body guard doesn’t even move.

9. If you could pick an existing symbol/icon/logo to represent you, what would it be and why?

The Toblerone mountain–to remind myself and everyone who encounters me to explore more.

10. What is your favorite joke that you’ve told more than once?

Oh, cheesy as all get out but the interrupting cow one and less cheesy but also less relevant now unless you change all the names the George Bush and a teenager in a plane one.

11. What is your favorite mode of transportation, even if you’ve never experienced it?

First, horseback, but as it is typically a little too slow… Trains. Love em. Slow enough to see the sights (unless we’re talking bullet I suppose), but fast enough to get you there before your holiday is up. I also love planes, mainly because I find turbulence fun but really there’s less to see. Although, on the unexperienced list would be dragon, hypogryph, and pegasus.

Now, your mission (my eleven questions), should you choose to accept it, is difficult, harrowing even. Know there is no shame in not completing all the objectives, the only true objective is personal reflection (some of the answers here are probably awfully personal so no pressure to post all your answers):

  1. What one thing should someone know about you if they truly know you?
  2. What is one thing you regret doing?
  3. What is one thing you don’t regret doing that others might think you should?
  4. What is one thing you regret not doing?
  5. If you had to get a tattoo what would you get (feel free to draw this one or put in a picture)?
  6. What is your opinion in the debate about doctor assisted suicide/human euthanasia (controversial I know, don’t feel obligated to answer even if you are doing the questions)?
  7. Are freedom and law and order at odds with each other?
  8. If you could make up any word and it would instantly become part of the vocabulary of the world what would the word be, and what would it mean?
  9. If your life where reduced to a single haiku what would the haiku say (in your own words)?
  10. What where the first words out of your mouth after you made the biggest mistake of your life (thus far), do you think they were fair?
  11. If you knew that the love of your life (assume you believed such a thing existed), your true match, had passed away before you ever met them, would you still pursue an imperfect love with someone else?

The Case of the Dangerous Dog

The bark is very rarely worse than the bite.

Wow guys, it’s been two weeks since my last post! The last couple of weeks have been amazing work wise, and fun during my off time, but also super busy. Regardless, I’m back!

I thought today we might talk pets! Specifically dogs, because who doesn’t love dogs. Maybe later we’ll talk about our feline companions.

As you might already know I am a vet student, which means I often deal with your pooch pals when they are feeling NQR (not quite right). I mean, yeah, I also see dogs (and puppies) coming in for vaccines or just a wellness exam but more often you bring in your dog because there’s something going wrong,

Now, I love my dogs, and much of the time I love your dogs too but… well, some dogs…

Let me be clear though, probably ninety percent of the time it is NOT your dogs fault… it’s YOURS. However, it is most often inadvertently your fault so, don’t feel too bad I guess (just bad enough to change a little bit).

I want to step back a second though. Over the last three decades much of the world has undergone massive urbanization, which leads to a disconnect between people and animals. While many people were closely involved with farms or related to people from farms one or two generations ago, today many people deal very little with what the animal industry terms production animals (cows, goats, pigs, horses to some extent etc.).

Those with family pets growing up might also know that while many farm kids have chores and learn a lot about the health of their animals, many kids with pets are not held responsible for paying attention to the pets health, eating and drinking habits, or grooming.

Together, the disconnect from farming and the low levels of responsibility given to young people for their pets means that fewer and fewer people (in the younger generations) know how to administer proper first aid, how to judge when an animal is sick enough to need a vet, how to train their pet, or even what to feed it. Even amongst the older generation there are many misconceptions with pet care because growing up the standards were different.

These are all hot topics but I’m really only going to talk about training today (in which I am not an expert, only a concerned observer). I will briefly say of the rest:

  1. Pet first aid is a thing and taking a course or asking some basic questions of the veterinary technologist at a checkup is super recommendable.
  2. On knowing if your animal is sick–if in doubt call the vet clinic and describe the problem to us–most clinics have fantastic reception staff who will quickly identify if your case requires urgent action or could be booked in for tomorrow or even next week AND if the vet is free they might even present a summary of your case to the vet and give you some free, sound advice straight from the horses mouth. Just please be friendly on the phone and go easy on us if we have to put you on hold, we are often quite busy.
  3. Finally on food, food is not love, and obesity is dangerous. There are myriads of options out there but the most important thing to do is feed the appropriate amount and keep your pet at their ideal weight, whatever you choose. If you choose a raw diet though YOU have a SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY to tell EVERYONE your dog interacts with that it is on a raw diet, especially when there are children involved (due to high risk of E. Coli, Salmonella and other pathogens possibly present in raw meat; and because dog kisses from dogs on raw diets are not welcome in any world including the veterinary world).

Now, back to the topic at hand–training. I personally hold all types of dogs to the same standard: NO JUMPING, NO GROWLING, NO BITING. I don’t care if your dog is a 90 kg mastiff or a 2 kg chihuahua, it should meet these three criteria to be what I would call a good dog. These are super basic standards, but when your pup is feeling NQR they can become more difficult for the dog to keep in mind if they aren’t well established.

Now I can hear some people already, “Oh, but Joey Chihuahua is so tiny, if he jumps up it doesn’t matter!” Here’s the problem, I have been climbed like a tree by chihuahua’s, pomeranians, and a variety of other small and toy breeds far more often than by mastiffs, german shepherds, border collies, etc. and their nails hurt like heck (nail trimming is also a pet peeve of mine).

Most people acknowledge that a large breed dog jumping up is not okay–they at least try to train them not to, and apologize profusely when they do. With the little guys though, their jumping is treated as a cute parlour trick. Not so, jumping sets a precedent. If you say yes to jumping you are saying, “My space is your space, take it!”

This creates tech/vet/student climbing tinies that try to perch on your shoulder like parrots, or jump off it like flying squirrels. Not only is this dangerous for the dog but it forces us to use increased restraint which is never as nice as being able to hold the dog loosely and calmly, and makes any procedure way more difficult than it should be.

Now for those of you who let your large breed puppies jump and say you’ll train them not too when they’re bigger and it matters, STOP. Think about it, if you want your kid not to throw food at the table do you wait until their five and their hands are big enough to throw significant amounts significant distances? I HOPE NOT!

Now, the no growling rule gets some people. Maybe your looking at me thinking, “Hey, look, he never acts on it. He’s just letting me know he’s not a fan. Plus, how do I stop him.”

If your dog is an adult this may get really difficult, and you may never totally fix it but bear with me and try, for the love of your vet okay? Your dog may never act on his growling with you but how hard do you push its patience? Techs/vets/students don’t have the luxury of saying “Oh, he growled at me as we were trying to get his pre-anaesthetic meds in, I guess we won’t do the surgery today. Lets wait until he’s in a better mood.”

Want to know the magic, no growl solution? Drive your puppy nuts, every day, all day, until he is full grown and barely blinks an eye at you. I mean pull their tail (lightly!), tug at and flip back their ears (if they are floppy and again, lightly!) and make them sit still so you can look in their ears; look at their teeth on a regular basis (lifting up their lips and shifting their head around), even scrape your nail on the surface of their teeth, brush their teeth (even if you think its stupid, it doesn’t have to be daily if you really hate doing it but try a few times a week at least), open their jaws (gently!) and look down their throat (this one takes time an patience to get them to accept it); trim their nails, play with their feet, lightly pinch their toes (lightly!); roll them over, lay them down, make them sit nicely on a scale, lift and move their feet and limbs (NEVER forcing them in any unnatural directions of course!); introduce them to new people all the time, and new environments, and new dogs (all once they have their first set of vaccinations of course); practice playing really energetically with them and then having them calm down quickly, take away and return their food mid-meal etc. Throughout all this REWARD them for every time they tolerate it/every time they succeed in getting closer to the desired behaviour.

When you do all these things make sure not to force anything, and be careful with the amount of pressure you apply. If they do growl at you, give them a firm vocal reprimand and a tap (on the nose, on the shoulder, on the paw) to refocus them (and I do mean a TAP, like you were playing a staccato note on the piano or finger painting a single dot with extreme excitement). Now rinse and repeat until your dog barely bats an eyelash when you do weird things.

Side Note: I would NEVER recommend you have young children try to train this sort of thing, as kids most often don’t know how to ensure they don’t apply TOO MUCH pressure to the dog. After you have established acceptance of some of these things though, you might be able to show your kids how to help the dog continue to grow in some areas like brushing the dogs teeth, or playing and then calming down, or sitting on the scale (with you supervising).

Alright, so your dog is being held to these standards now we come to the final and most important rule: NO BITING. First off–if your dog is a fear biter, or has been known to be aggressive LET YOUR TECH/VET KNOW!

You could even mention it while booking your appointment, it may help us choose a time for your dog to come in (maybe first thing in the morning before other clients are booked, maybe last thing in the afternoon after all the other animals are home) and it will help us to at least attempt to set up an environment that will be welcoming for your dog (we have pheromone sprays that we can use in the room, we can set up a dog bed, or maybe have his favourite treats around, or make sure he always has the same tech/vet, or even have a muzzle ready). We want you to be safe and we want to be safe.

That said, you may have done all the right things, and the vet team may have taken all possible precautions and your dog may still end up biting a veterinary team member because what can go wrong, did go wrong despite everyones best efforts. We understand this can happen even though we use every handling technique that we can to reduce the chance of this happening.

Now, to those of you who think a puppy chewing on your hand is funny… Do I need to say anything more than what I already have?

I will say there is, for sure, a difference between playful mouthing and actual biting but while some handlers may be able to make this distinction and train their dog to do one and not the other MOST PEOPLE can’t. So for most people: DON’T EVEN TRY.

Start with a strict no teeth on a person ever, rule and stick to it. Try to keep a toy handy. Have you ever seen canine unit police officers with Kongs in the side pocket of their pants, just below their guns? I have, and I would recommend it when you’re around your puppy (not the gun, the toy). If they want to chew on something, give them something to chew, just not you (and yes, I know police use toys to reward when the dog bites and get them to release sometimes, I’m not suggesting you use it in that way).

This may not prevent your dog from snapping at a veterinary team member at some point, when they are really pushed to their limit during a treatment or test but it will prevent them from learning that biting is appropriate/okay.

When your dog does snap (at you or anyone), which may or may not ever happen this requires immediate and firm correction (but also remember your dog will only connect discipline to an action for like five seconds after it has happened, so the reaction being immediate and short is important). How you correct depends on your training method, but remember reactions should always be proportional.

Adult dogs though, are a whole different kettle of fish. Established behaviours, which the animals have effectively employed to achieve a desirable result (being left alone, making a person stop doing something etc.) are very difficult to change.

Whether your dog is a puppy or an adult I would recommend obedience training, and at the first sign of aggression towards people or other dogs, or the first time it attempts to bite (and I mean a proper bite not puppy play), or when they begin to show abnormal behaviours, find and consult a professional.

You may want to take a dog to the vet and see if the behaviour is pain or disease related but if it is just bad behaviour there are certified animal behaviouralists out there (and I mean PROFESSIONALLY certified) that develop behaviour modification plans for dogs and even abnormally aggressive puppies. And again, ALWAYS inform the person your consulting of the biting/aggression issue BEFORE they start interacting with your dog.

Final word on this: I have seen more bite aggressive small dogs than I have seen bite aggressive large dogs, despite statistics that suggest large breeds are of greater concern than small breeds. I think a major factor of this may be the level of injury a single bite from a large dog versus a small dog can cause. While the 60 kg dog that was trying to bite me when I touched it’s collar earlier this week bothered me and was concerning, it was a situation a encounter less than you would expect and one that I see mainly in dogs that have lacked directed handling/training. Regardless, don’t think your chihuahua biting is any less concerning.

I’ll finish with a story: I once asked a woman if I could pet her chihuahua and when she gave the okay placed my hand, palm down a little ways from its nose to introduce myself. The dog proceeded to lunge forwards and chew up and down the side of my hand and snarl all the while.

Did the dog break through my skin? No.

Was it’s intent and desire to? Absolutely.

Do I consider it an aggressive and poorly behaved/dangerous dog? A hundred percent.

Was I hurt? No.

Was I upset? Not really.

Do I think it is just as concerning as a german shepherd or malamute or any other large breed biting me? Yes.

Was the owner laughing when it happened? Yes.

Have I seen versions of this happen more than once with small breed dogs? Yes.

I understand the owner was laughing because the dog was biting extremely unsuccessfully however, despite the chihuahua biting me being far less damaging than a large breed dog biting me, I find the behaviour equally disturbing and more often ignored. While a large dog that is known to be aggressive is almost always identified to me by the owner before I even get near it, or gives clear signals that it is going to behave aggressively near the outset of our interaction, a small dog with an extremely extensive bite history is often just mentioned to be grumpy, or a little nervous. A bite history is a bite history: whether they broke skin or not, whether the snapped and missed, whether they were “provoked” it is a BITE HISTORY.

I will never judge you for your dog being a work in progress, my dogs are works in progress until the day they die (I mean, there are always new things to teach and do with them) but I will one hundred percent not love, or even vaguely enjoy being around your dog if you are convinced it is an angel and refuse to acknowledge it has any need for additional training when it is clearly behaving poorly. AND if you laugh when your dog tries to bite me or anyone else, I will politely tell you exactly what I think of the dogs behaviour and yours, because that is not okay.




Pitbulls and Poetry

Today was tough, though by the time you read this it won’t be today. I decided to write a poem about it but one of my favourite writing sites had a short story prompt. The idea was that you would write a short story in six words that would be evocative and emotional, finishing with a word that rhymed with a given word.

I cared for a patient today that, combined with an incident earlier in the week, really disturbed me.

Naturally, I composed a reply for the prompt and posted it but I found that six words was just a bit to small for what I really wanted to say. So, I composed an extremely similar piece with a few more words/slightly different words. I thought I might share it here.


From the Front Lawn of Strangers

Status: FUBAR on arrival

Saturday-night-special: Birdshot smile.

Patient: pitbull, Sweetpea (Jane Doe).





P.S. FUBAR and PBAB are common medical abbreviations, as is Dx: FUBAR means fucked up beyond all repair/recognition, PBAB means pine box at bedside, and Dx is short for diagnosis.

Walking With Death

I grew up around death. While my immediate family was relatively healthy, as the daughter of a vet I began my understanding of death at a fairly early age.

When my dad became independent, starting his own business, it meant my sister and I became little tag alongs. My dad narrowed his business to beef cattle exclusively and many of his ranchers and farmers welcomed us onto their properties with open arms.

When we were young we only went on select calls–fun ones, where there were other kids play with. I remember climbing round bales to watch the animals move from a higher vantage point and giggling with other kids.

Even selected calls aren’t sterilized for children every time though. It’s hard to know exactly what you may encounter and what might have started as a calving becomes a dead calf delivered, or a calving and a quick look at a dead cow, or a diseased animal becomes a lead treatment case and so on,

Dead things just sort of were when I was a kid.

Death never interrupted my life in a significant way and I walked beside it, without apathy, but with a deep consciousness of it as a natural part of the process of life.

As I got older calls stopped being sterilized for me, and I went onto more and more ranches and farms and saw more and more animals: healthy, sick, dead, dying. All this was normal, the healthy ones were always better though, or the ones you knew could be fixed: Calves with broken legs, calvings that just required a bit more finesse, prolapses that were caught early, twins that are tangled up with each other, abscesses, bull testing, preg-checking.

Walking beside death wasn’t entirely bad either though. It was an end to suffering for some, it was an untimely but quick solution for others, it was a gradual process of many years for others still. Altogether death was, not a friend, but a teacher and a necessity.

I knew this was not the way most people saw death. I was very aware that most people shied away from, or postponed death, some people even feared it. What I didn’t understand is why?

My great-grandmother died when I was in my late preteens or early teens (this estimate might be a little off, but there about). It was the first death I experienced that was directly connected to me.

My great-grandmother lived into her nineties (again, an estimate) and saw a lot of life. She was under relatively low care up until the last couple of years of her life, and I remember having tea with her, and her baking all sorts of goodies for us.

She was a sturdy woman who (in most of my memories) possessed a stooped back, eyes that saw very little, a good nature, and a smile. Her hands were knarled from knitting, crocheting, and who knows what else over the years. I remember her very fondly.

I remember her funeral as well. I remember sitting there, wondering if this was truly a moment to be sad? My great-grandmother was a faithful woman who trusted God would take her home. It seemed to me that she lived well until her final days, and suffered for a very short period of time (not that she didn’t have some health concerns prior but she had remained a relatively active woman for her age). I honestly couldn’t conjure up a tear, or a particular emotion that seemed to line up with what I knew I was supposed to feel.

Does that seem callus?

I loved her, but each person, each animal, each spirit in this world has a limited time to be with us. Great-grandma had lived long and well and I accepted that almost immediately, all the while knowing that it was odd I did.

So life went on. A friend of my moms, who lived too far away for me to feel the fallout, passed away from stomach cancer which metastasized. We saw her previous to her death, she had to spit in a cup because swallowing was painful and was lacking her stomach and a large portion of intestine (if I remember correctly). You could see her bones through her skin when I remember it. She was a doctor.

Her kids had been friends with my sister and I. I remember the couple of days (maybe it was a week) that we spent during our holidays with them. She had seemed so tired. I was too young to really keep in contact with her kids (I mean, maybe it was even previous to my great-grandma dieing, my timeline isn’t great), but I sometimes wonder how they felt about things. This may sound terrible, but was it a bit of a relief?

I suppose for me, having walked with death year after year, I see prolonged suffering and I wonder when a compassionate death will finally come. It’s not my mother though and I would never down play the pain this event must have caused for these kids. I was just on the outside looking in.

Then, in high school, at seventeen my spirit died. Odd phrasing yes, but my horse Smokey was… he was my first horse, maybe I’ll post about him another time. Let me just say, he was my lifeline through middle school and high school. I rode for hours, every day, no matter the weather. Smokey was the reason I got out of bed some days, and the reason I bothered to care other days.

Smokey was almost the same age as me when he died. Just after my birthday and just before his (we were only days apart) Smokey dropped out of my life. We had a final ride that… talking about it to a friend recently (six years after the fact) still made me tear up. He passed suddenly, most likely of massive multiple organ failure (I just didn’t have the heart to approve an autopsy to find out).

I cried about it the morning I found him. When a piece of you just breaks off it’s hard to know what to do, but the next day walking past his body (under a tarp), out to the fire that burned for three days to allow us to unthaw the ground enough to bury him on property, I knew he wasn’t there anymore. Even the morning I found him he was cold, and though his body looked little different from normal there was nothing of my old friend left there.

Three days later, most around me would say it seemed like nothing had happened. Today though, writing this, I have tears in my eyes because I still love him but, I have no regret. I am happy he went fast, I wouldn’t have been able to watch him suffer. I count his swift death a great blessing.

My moms dog passed a few years later while I was in Australia.

This Christmas (during my time off from school) my dog, a beautiful twelve year old (approximately) border collie, after slowing down significantly over the summer, seizured. I came out to see her struggling, flailing to get up, drool dripping from her jowls. Up until that point her quality of life had been good, but I couldn’t justify waiting things out over night to see if there was improvement. I could see.

My darling dog was done, she was ready to go. I gave the go ahead and my dad called a vet friend (he chooses not to euthanize small animals). I held my pup while we waited and she calmed down in my arms. I held off her vein for her injection and stroked her head while her heartbeat faded.

She’s beside Smokey, on the back hill and now I’m really crying.

She was ready though, and that’s what mattered. Two months later my seventeen year old cat, still healthy and happy, passed in her sleep. So now all three of them lie together.

Recently, my walk with death has obviously become much more personal and our encounters much more intimate. This week though, I faced one of the most difficult encounters I’ve ever had with death, and it wasn’t because the death was abrupt, or unnecessary. It was because the death was so necessary that it broke my heart.

A dog was brought in, we’ll call him Love. Love was in bad shape, and as animal care professionals my colleagues, boss, and I tried to provide the best care possible.

It became clear that Love was on borrowed time: his paws were cool to the touch, he was devoid of colour in his tongue and gums, and he strained for every breath.

As the vet had the dreaded conversation with the owner, who kept suggesting/asking: “He’s going to be all right though… right?” I held Love as he flailed his paws about and heaved in laboured breaths. I cooed to him, and told him what a good boy he was and finally the decision was made and I helped move Love to where he would say his goodbyes.

For Love though… I can’t imagine how painful these moments were.

In a culture where humans prolong life as a matter of course, we see this in the treatment of our animals as well. I went home very angry after this encounter because I couldn’t imagine leaving things to that point and I called my dad. We talked for a long time.

The fact is though, I can’t be angry with people who haven’t walked the path I have, for not accepting this. We live in a world were death is so sterilized and separate from most peoples every day lives that it is impossible to blame them for being shocked when it becomes the only option. I just wish there was a way to normalize death without people becoming apathetic towards it. So that we all could recognize when to start preparing ourselves and find a healthy way, and a good time to let go so that it minimizes the suffering of the one saying the final goodbye.

I smiled thinking about my great-grandmother today (I wish you could hear her voice in your head saying all her funny little quotes), and I didn’t cry because she had really hilarious things to say, and because she went when it was her time.

I cried when I wrote about Smokey, I cried when I wrote about my dog Niki, and reflected on my cat Angel’s passing. One went too soon, one went too traumatically, and one went peacefully.

I cried hardest for Love though because Love was so far past ready to go but, Love’s people were not ready to let him go.  And that’s not their fault. And I can’t be angry. Yet I feel his pain acutely and he will weigh on my mind as I move towards being a vet.

He will be a part of every end of life discussion I have, not as an example but as the picture in my mind that drives me to provide the best palliative care I possibly can.

Maybe Love will teach us all an important lesson, in letting go, in quality of life, and in dealing with death.



Slow Small Steps

Last weekend I had my first thunderstorm in my summer city. Naturally I went out for a walk, because all cities are the quietest when it rains it seems (or at least in this part of the world). The evening was fresh, beautiful, and, as anticipated, quiet. This left me to think and wander at my leisure with no disturbances despite the fact that it wasn’t raining terribly hard. Being a country girl I revelled in the time to myself in a busy place but I also settled into a Saturday night melancholy. This lead to a poem sorting itself out in my head which I titled Slow Small Steps. Now, this is rather rough, and I haven’t done revisions but I thought I’d share!

Slow Small Steps


I set off down a road I hadn’t seen before

until I found a path I’d never walked.

Down the path I wandered

’till I came upon the water,

and thereupon the green, green grass of home.


Here amongst the willows

and the tall strong trees of childhood

I rest my head upon the rain wet roots.

And I wonder at the sky,

which upon my cheeks does cry


is it lonely for the silence

that no one breaks to comfort?

That no one dares to walk to with a smile.

Does it weep for lovers lost

Or simply for the forest?


Again I walk back home

with more questions

and a poem,

but no more answers

than before I left.


But a sense of quiet solace,

with the cloudy sky above us

draws me closer to the earth

as others huddle in their homes,

and a solitary dog huffs as I pass.



Nearly Nomad

“The thing about chaos, is that while it disturbs us, it too, forces our hearts to roar, in a way we secretly find magnificent.”  -Christopher Poindexter

Hey y’all! So, update on my summer thus far: I finished my first week of work for the summer. It went well. To be totally honest I don’t think I have ever worked in a more functional workplace. The communication is great, the people are cool and kind, and the animals are amazing. I’ll probably talk more about this later in the summer but today I have other thoughts on my mind.

I would call myself nearly nomadic. For the last three, going on four years, I have spent eight months of the year moving between two locations: my university city and my hometown. The other four months I am… where ever the pasture is greenest, and by pasture I mean job prospects. 

I haven’t spent two summers in the same place in at least three years, and haven’t lived at home for the summer since I was sixteen. To solidify my nomadic tendencies in your minds I might add that I have taken my horse everywhere with me for the last four years, until I sold her this Christmas. I am already looking forward to the next animal that will travel with me (most likely a dog, but maybe another horse, or both).

Even this summer, I am living in a different city than the one I am working in, and so my nomadic-y continues. Today I’ve been thinking about this, as I put out a call on Facebook for church recommendations in my summer city. Looking back on the week I see many instances where my roving lifestyle is apparent—using my roommates library card (because I don’t have one here), having to ask what my other roommate meant when she said “The Park”, discovering new food places, or struggling to mentally place where my coworkers are from when they give small town names to me.

Today I was telling my roommates about something I call “The Tramp Effect”. In “Lady and the Tramp” (yes the Disney movie) there is this scene where Tramp is wandering through the city looking through windows at happy families. The Tramp Effect produces a longing for that love and the community that family (biological or chosen) provides, while you simultaneously appreciate and desire the freedom being outside the window affords. As a young nomad I often feel this effect acutely.

The trouble is I exist in no place consistently enough to feel part of a community typically. Part of this is because I form relationships very slowly and typically maintain most people at arms length with very few close friends, I’m not sure if this personal distance is something I do subconsciously or something other people do to me for whatever reason. In general though, I often feel as though I am looking through a window. Those I would consider close friends/family are scattered very diffusely across my country, and a few are on other parts of the globe. I adore these people, this network of family, who I can count on should I ever turn up in their orbits.

Each move presents a difficulty though, or I suppose a choice—do I find friends in this new place, or do I just work, do me, do whatever, and not worry about it. If I find friends I might feel wanted, I might find a community, and I might love it; on the other hand, if I do me and form a few acquaintances but nothing exciting or deep, I may be lonely but I will also do many things, maybe adventurous things, because I feel the freedom to move about as I want.

This strange no ties type living, I can only say, is not bad or good. Roving simply is. Some days I find it liberating to be able to take detours, to be able to disappear and do what I want without having to think about other people, and other days a part of me questions why people don’t want to love me, or maybe what I’m doing that’s preventing them from loving me.

I guess what it comes down to is that community is important, but during your life you may have seasons (sometimes seasons that last years) of solitary roving, with those you love rotating in and out of your vicinity. I am in a season of wandering, I have been for a long time, and as I search for a new church community that I know I will leave again in a matter of months I once again sit like a Tramp outside a window loving my freedom but wondering when I will be the one inside the house.

With all this in mind I went searching for some words on wandering, so please, enjoy the fruits of my Googling.




“I was forced to wander,

having no one,

forced by my nature to

keep wandering because

wandering was the only

thing that I believe in,

and the only thing that believed in me.”

       Roman Payne


“Wander at will, day after day,

wander away, wandering still

—soul that canst soar! Body

may slumber: body shall

cumber soul—flight no more.”

       Robert Browning

Self Over-Educated

Hey guys, want to know how big of a nerd I am? Well let’s talk about my summer plans in list format!


The adventures I currently have planned are:

I bought “Scales, Chords, and Arpeggios for the Piano” and a three-in-one theory book to improve my musical foundation and plan to play from it for thirty minutes a day (feel free to bug me about this on any post I put up between now and August, maybe then I’ll feel guilty enough to actually keep up with it).

My roomie for the summer and I made a bet which is resulting in an art competition between us, winner gets two boxes of their favorite cereal or two coffees of their choice based on my other roomies judgment.

I have planned out my reading, separated into fiction and non-fiction, and scheduled it week by week with morning and evening timeslots. It’s library time!

I’ll be doing one sketch each morning or at least working on one (again, feel free to harass me about them/ask to see them).

I’m going through all my notes from my major classes last year (starting with the courses worth the most credits first) and compiling them into a single, personal, integrated “textbook”. Also, I am creating a basic cheat sheet for the start of each of my binders.

I am travelling for two weeks in July.

I have two weddings to go to this summer (possibly three).

My roomie and I are going to visit a corpse flower that is blooming in the local botanical garden. (Woohoo! Incredibly large flower that is so stinky it was named after rotting flesh!) Hopefully this is going to occur at midnight, but we’ll see.

One word: Bananagrams. Millions and millions of games of bananagrams.

I found two of the coolest fibre stores in the area I’m living for the summer! One even gets its own dye lots that aren’t available anywhere else (there’s this one that is just… drool). And they both carry roving!

I bought some gorgeous wool to weave a wall hanging with… yep.

I get to work! So excited (and I bought scrubs! The best scrubs ever, they’re so great).


Adventures currently in the works:

Trying to see if the local P.D. will allow me to observe their military working dog training or take me on a ride along with one of their canine units.

Trying to see if I can get a private tour of the national MWD training center (which is a couple hours away).

I am hoping to sign up for a beginner, one day fibre dying course.

Folk festival maybe, I don’t even know if this city has one…

I might do a bit of painting, or a series of detailed portraits of my family (black and white with one colour element).


Adventures being considered in a general sense:

I want to do some hiking, not quite sure where yet.

I am thinking of a couple of small road trips.

I am thinking about trying to swim a couple of days a week again, since I’ve gotten out of the habit.

A figure drawing class… I’m just going to leave that at that.


Yep, I am high on the nerd scale. Most of what I’m planning is moderately educational and totally devoid of risk. I’m a little bit Bilbo Baggins, when really I wish I was more Pippin, and Mary (or Aragorn, but then we’re not staying on the hobbit theme). That said, which of these would you like to see a post about most? Do you have big plans for your summer? Any suggestions for things I’m missing in my summer?