dogs

My Bad Dog

Lola was my good girl/bad dog. My Mom and I brought her home as a puppy my junior year of college. I can’t remember why we picked her out of the litter of yellow lab/golden retriever puppies, but she was adorable. She was supposed to be for my high school aged brother, but Lola belonged to everyone. She didn’t play favorites.

I was moving to New Orleans for a few months for my junior winter, so I only had a few weeks with her as a tiny puppy. She cried in her kennel downstairs, a poor idea since she had just left her Mom and siblings, so she spent the night in my bed. She slept in my bed almost every night I was home. I’ve always thought those early weeks imprinted on her because although my time at home has been infrequent, she’s always greeted it with boundless enthusiasm.

Our first car trip I put her in a cardboard box to drive her over to my friend Maria’s house to show her off, but before long she wriggled out of the box and onto my lap. It’s not easy to drive stick shift with a puppy on your lap, but I managed. For twelve years my Mom and I have said “puppy in a box!” and laughed each time.

Whenever I’ve come home she’s gone ballistic. She runs around me in circles until she calms down enough to bring me one of her toys. As she’s gotten older and her arthritis has gotten worse, I’ve taken to sitting on the floor to try and entice her to my lap instead of her frantic laps. It’s had 50/50 success rate.

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She was full of love. When I’d go home to visit she’d continuously check my door to see if I was awake yet. It crushed me when I forgot to tell her goodbye one trip and my Mom told me that she’d waited outside my door the next morning. One of our favorite games was calling her up on the bed, she’d be so excited she’d jump up and roll around and them jump down and run around and then repeat 5-10 times.

Like any lab/retriever she was ball obsessed and she loved to swim. I taught her to jump off the dock at my parent’s pond. She loved me enough that after I had jumped off a couple of times and called for her each times, she eventually couldn’t take it anymore and followed me in. It was all we could do when she got older and more fragile to keep her from jumping off of it in her later years.

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She could have amazing discipline. She’d play tug of war with you and give it everything she had, including menacing growls, but as soon as you told her to stop, she’d let go and sit, waiting for you to tell her when it was play time again. She’d do just about anything for a treat. She also smiled a lot and often looked at you as if she were saying “isn’t this just the best?”

Lola lived to twelve years and she never stopped going in the trash or running off if she was loose for any length of time. She particularly liked to run up the road to my parent’s closest neighbor’s house and shit on their lawn. She also occasionally pooped in the dining room, she had quite a cover job going for a while with my parent’s other dog getting blamed and only got found out when Bogie passed away. She snapped at most of the cats and occasionally bit them if she was feeling particularly grouchy. She never really liked other dogs other than a few exceptions. But she loved us like crazy and she enjoyed every day of life like it was the best day she’d ever had. She was my good girl/bad dog.

Lola’s had multiple lives. She’s had leg problems for a couple of years, had some adventurous dining decisions, and has had some very close calls. I’ve said goodbye to her every time I’ve gone home the last couple of years because I knew each visit might be the last one with her and I wanted to make sure she knew how much I loved her.

Dogs are the worst. They make us love so hard and never live long enough for it not to be crushing when they go. She’s a piece of home that will be missing.

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I Took the Pirate Flag Down

I took the pirate flag down today. I’ve been meaning to do it for a week or two. One day I just looked at it and realized I didn’t need it up any more and didn’t want it up anymore. It was very large and black on my bedroom wall and dominating my space. When I needed to feel more like a badass, more like “fuck the world, I’m still here” it was there. Now life is starting to seem gentler and I’m finding a new way in it and the flag seemed very harsh on my wall.

My birthday was last week and it was weird. Part of the weirdness was I felt like I should feel like it was an accomplishment getting there, but I didn’t, and was annoyed to even feel that way. The after effects of this rough ride are annoying. Now that I’m not putting poison in my body every other week or recovering from surgery I feel like I should be able to be back to B.C. But that’s not the way it works and it’s really annoying/frustrating.

I had a bit of a wakeup call a couple of days ago when I saw this video:

It was hard to watch, but it is also inspiring and a kick in the ass. For most of us, when we hear we need to make lifestyle changes for longterm benefits, we put it off. Or we say “fuck it” and just don’t worry about it. But if I get cancer again in the near future I am going to feel like the worlds biggest asshole for not taking care of myself. I’ve already played the “it can’t happen to me” game and lost big. It would just be supremely stupid for me to go through all this and then not do what I need to do to give myself my best shot.

However it sucks having to make major lifestyle changes. It’s hard. As someone who doesn’t love eating right, exercising, or being the sober friend at happy hour (I have had a year of experience with that off and on now), it’s freaking tough. Then we can add the fact that I’m 31 so this isn’t a lifestyle many friends are sharing and then add the fact I moved somewhere that loves bad for you food and delicious drinks. It just makes me want to burry my head into a pile of pillows and not come out.

Kate Moss once said “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” She was unfortunately wrong. Try Commander’s Palace’s bread pudding soufflé. Or Drago’s chargrilled oysters. Or a glass of good wine after a stressful day at work. I could go on and on…

I gave myself a free pass that got too comfortable while I was going through treatment and the immediate time after because I needed something good. When your bones ache, you’re exhausted constantly, having hot flashes, etc, food was the only good thing I had going because nothing else felt good. Now I’ve got to close the book on indulging myself and accept the fact that I got dealt a bad hand and I’ve got to work with what I’ve got. Folding would be stupid with stakes this high. So the pirate flag has come down.

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Just to show it’s not all hard times.

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Gratuitous Wally photo, i.e. how he spends most of his time at my job

Some Ways That Puppies Are Different Than Toddlers

My puppy and I have been together for about three months and have spent a lot of time together. Being a full time puppy Mom (does that sound better than unemployed or just really weird?), I spend more time with my puppy than my husband. (Ok, now it sounds weird).

In the beginning I called him “baby lite” because it is a bit like having a baby. You’re waking up throughout the night, they can’t be left unwatched other than when they’re in their kennel, they can’t really do anything by themselves, and they’re actually babies. However, when they hit the toddlerish age, they stop being comparable to their human equivalents. This became blindingly clear when my four month old puppy tried to get to know the cat biblically. (Yes they’re both neutered). My reaction was a mix of, well this was inevitable, and bad puppy! If my toddler had tried this, I think I’d be taking a long hard look at myself and the messages I was sending. Puppy got put in his kennel and if it had been my toddler, I think there may have been some kind of therapy involved.

Puppies are not kids. You love them a lot and they require a lot from you, but they’re another much more manageable category: dogs, and I’m good with that. Much like toddlers they will destroy things if left alone, but this should only last a couple more months with Wallace, whereas we’d be looking at years with a kid. They do grow up too fast, see below.

My puppy can take himself out to go to the bathroom at any time of day/night as long as we let him out and back in. Toilet training lasted about a month and a half. I’d say this one is a tossup between puppies and toddlers. It’s great that it was so quick, but we still have to clean up the yard. The end game with kids is using a toilet, which is pretty excellent.

Wallace will eat whatever we give him. There is no pickiness here. He will also do just about anything for a treat, which can be an actual dog treat or a piece of cheese or anything that looks like it might be tasty. Right now he has four things that he could be asking for through crying:

1. To go out

2. Food/Water

3. Attention

4. The cat

That’s it. No one will ever launch a blog “Reasons my puppy is crying” other than to look at cute puppy photos. He wears the same thing every day and if it gets dirty, I just use a hose. To amuse him all I have to do is throw a ball. Everything I teach him is to make my life easier: stay, sit, down, no… He’s already a gentleman. I told him “no” when he was trying to bite my hand, so he offered to shake my hand instead as an apology. And the best way a puppy is different than a toddler: I can leave him home alone.

Footloose & Fancy Free

On a scale of a regular person, I am totally not footloose and fancy free, but I broke that scale 8 months ago. Fuck that scale.

I got my last drain out on Wednesday which was excellent. I get to resemble a normal person at my friends’ wedding next weekend and not look like a science experiment. I got it out early because I’m local and I can come in next week and get a giant needle stuck in my booty/hip to drain the excess fluid there. Glad you read that one right? What kind of fucked up world am I living in that I actively chose to make an appointment to get a giant needle stuck in my ass and am happy about it? This is what cancer does to you.

I am doing well though. My comparison is of course not a healthy/normal person, but my first surgery and chemo for 4 months. I’m doing awesome compared to both of those. I have had 5 surgeries since this all started, not counting the biopsies. I really am in crazy town.

I’ve also been only taking advil the last few days so I am back driving again. Miracle upon miracles. I am still wearing my slutty superhero costume, but it’s a lot easier to hide under regular clothes without tubes. I am going to have to start taking something to sleep again as a consequence of not being on pain meds anymore unfortunately. I’ve got these crazy leg things that are like a blood pressure cuff around each of them and squeezes my legs on and off throughout the night to prevent blood clots. I also need to sleep on my back propped up a bit. Totally not how I naturally sleep so it’s a bit tough getting there naturally. Side sleeping is still weeks away unfortunately.

I also stepped up my prematurely 70 years old life style with an elderly person’s shower chair. Pretty tight right? My parent’s shower is huge and has a seat in it so I was good there, but our bathtub doesn’t have that option and I’m not quite dependable to stand that long or be able to bend over and wash my feet easily so I’m rocking the shower chair. Also in the beginning, showering was super complicated right after surgery and I had to sit to do it.

My hair is actually thick now, which is just lovely. Waiting for it to get a little longer so I can actually get it shaped into a style instead of it’s current “Look I have hair!” status. I’ve also got full-blown eyebrows and eyelashes again. Looking like a person more and more.

Walking is still pretty rough, I can go 3-4 blocks currently, which isn’t enough to accomplish much unfortunately. However, we live a couple of blocks away from a lot of things so it’s enough to get what I need in the neighborhood (ice cream, sandwiches, chocolate cake, etc).

Anyways it’s Friday and I’m doing pretty good, so have a beer for me. I’m still on antibiotics, so I need y’all to step up.

(click the photos for captions)

Puppy Love & Insurance Nonsense

Sorry, couldn’t resist. So most of you know that A. and I have wanted a dog for years now. Long ago before we were dating I got a dog in college and he was actually my number one puppy sitter. By the way kids, getting a dog in college is a bad idea, getting a dog because you’re having trouble getting over a bad breakup is an even worse idea. Just. Don’t. Do. It. The only good thing that came out of it was my ex dog sat for me one night that my house was having a party and it was going to be too loud for Layla and she freaked out at his place because it was a strange place and I wasn’t there (plus she was kind of prone to freaking out in general). Long story short, she kept him up all night. A little bit of karma there which he even admitted at the time. But anyways, that has little to do with this other than I was a terrible dog owner once and I have been not so patiently waiting about 10.5 years to try again and do it right this time.

We didn’t get a dog in SF because we were traveling too much and two cats plus a dog in a one bedroom apartment is just too much. Then we finally decided to make the move to New Orleans. My favorite moment in telling someone that we were leaving was with my agency’s head of HR, her immediate response was “Jenna you can get a dog now!” (I’d spent a lot of time with her yellow lab, hi Lux!) We spend over 5 months at my parent’s house with three cats, two dogs, and assorted farm animals. I loved having dogs around again all the time. Especially my bad dog, but good girl, Lola who is a yellow lab/retriever that I was home for when my Mom got her as a puppy. She is the most optimistic creature in the world. Just seeing how happy she was over such simple things lifted my spirits when everything was crappy.

I knew I wanted to get a puppy for several reasons: 1. Not having successfully ever raised a dog (either of us) it seemed best to start with one without baggage, 2. I knew I was going to be home for a bit before getting a job so it was the ideal situation to get a puppy, 3. They are so damn cute.

We started looking on PetFinder weeks before we could bring one home. I used to do this every now and then in SF too, so I’m used to this form of torture. We mainly looked at shepherd and lab puppies. The goal was a family dog that was trainable and we also wanted a big dog if possible. We moved into our place on January 2 and went to look at puppies in Mississippi the same day. There was a litter of 7 shepherd puppies available and it sounded like the perfect situation. We liked the idea based on the advice from our puppy book of being able to get a feel for their personality with their siblings. We were looking for calm. We got to the shelter and were told to just wander around and look at dogs. We found the puppies which were not the cleanest looking group, but still pretty damn cute. It was a really hard decision with 7 adorable puppies all vying for attention. I was glad we’d read the puppy book because we both would have gone for the more outgoing guy who was of course super cute, but from what we read, he would be more challenging to train and require the most attention which wasn’t necessarily on par with our experience and lifestyle.

We went with the puppy formally known as Oblong (seriously what?) who mostly sat around and watched as his siblings mobbed A. He wasn’t scared, but he also was content to just check things out. We brought him up to the front desk and filled out the paperwork and were told we could come back the following Weds. This actually worked out perfectly because it gave us more time to unpack, puppy prep, and get the cats calmed down from the move.

Weds came and I hardly slept from excitement. We felt super prepared to get him with our reading, ok I’ll come clean, Caesar Millan’s puppy guide. I totally agree that Caesar is a bit of a blowhard (he refers to one of the puppies in his book as a canine Gandhi/Martin Luther King), but he also has a lot of good points for puppy training aligning with dogs’ natural behaviors. We were so ready to do everything we were supposed to do with the new puppy, starting with getting him to get into the car on his own and into the kennel using a bully stick (aka dog treat that is made from bull penis, I kid you not). So none of that happened. He just looked at us. We put him in the crate and he was silent the whole ride.

We’ve had Wallace/Wall-e/Buddy/Little Homey/Mcmuffin/little terrorist for three weeks now. We’ve also totally changed training techniques after starting puppy class with the local SPCA. Not because the Caesar stuff was wrong necessarily, but since we’re going to class regularly it makes sense to stick with that training. Puppy class is the fucking best. There are 10 puppies of varying sizes and ages and most of the class is spent watching them play. Wallace’s bff right now is a pomeranian puppy about the size of your hand. I promise I will work on getting a photo.

It’s crazy how fast puppies grow up. See the size difference in three weeks below

He’s also started understanding us better, can go up and down stairs, can sort of run, likes being outside now, and is starting to help a bit on letting us know when he needs to go outside. He unfortunately does not like car rides yet or cuddling. Cuddling with him his hilarious. He screams bloody murder, which we of course ignore and act like he’s into it. His toy collection is extensive. He has tons of stuffed animals (we went to the thrift store and loaded up) and various chewing on toys. He is starting to understand “no” and other displeased noises like “HEY!”.

Soccer puppy

Soccer puppy

One of my favorite things is watching him and Myles (aka the Poop) learning to have a relationship. Myles is very interested in him and will hang around quite a bit. Myles has finally started smacking him instead of just running away (we think it’s best for Myles to try and get the upper hand while he’s about the same size as Wallace and outweighs him). Myles has this intense desire to have someone lick his ears and Nero has never really been into it, so he lets Wallace lick them which inevitable turns into chewing on them and Wallace getting smacked. However, cranky Uncle Poop doesn’t give up. The ear thing happens probably 20 times a day at least. They also play fight a little which is pretty damn cute. I’ve only seen Myle’s tail get fluffed up once with Wallace so at this point he’s less afraid of the dog then he is our niece. Myles also swishes his tail constantly, and even more when he’s annoyed, which is not the best move with a playful puppy.

How weird uncle Nero feels about Wallace

How weird uncle Nero feels about Wallace

Having a puppy while recovering from chemo is harder than I thought. After spending the last 6 months just concentrating on myself getting better and taking care of, it’s hard to have to focus so much time and energy on something else. When I’m tired or need a few minutes I’m used to just being able to respond to that, but Wallace can’t be left alone and if he needs to go out, he has to go out. A. definitely takes the lion’s share, but it’s still tough. I think it’s tough in good way though. It can be frustrating though with being overly tired and I also have a lot of achiness in my hips that make getting up and doing stairs rough at times.

Puppy selfie

Puppy selfie

So insurance nonsense (I wanted to post about both of these and decided to combine into one unrelated post). So as most of you know, I had good CIGNA insurance that I had to give up Jan 1 because they don’t offer it in Louisiana (I had it through California). This really sucked because the best reconstruction place doesn’t take any of the insurances you can buy through the bootleg Louisiana insurance marketplace, but they do take CIGNA. So I bought the best insurance I could (Platinum baby!) and thought I’d be ok because it has out of network coverage. It’s Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana. Prepare for another lesson in fucked up American insurance.

So I called the center for restorative breast surgery and spoke with one of their insurance reps there. They have people come from all over the country because they’re hella good so they have a lot of experience dealing with all sorts of insurances. Apparently even though mine is the best I can buy in Louisiana and is costing me $470 a month, it still sucks. The scheme that the insurance company runs with out of network is this:

In-network means that the insurance company has an agreement with your provider on what the maximum costs for the procedure can be. Neither you, nor the insurance company will pay more than that and your costs are only up to your out of pocket and deductible maxes usually. I think this should sound familiar to everyone. So out of network means there isn’t an agreed upon costs for the service which means that your out of pocket and deductible tend to be much higher. Mine, for example, has an out of pocket cost for in-network providers of $250 and out of network is $1000. Out of network deductible is $3000. So I thought based on everything that I read from the insurance company while purchasing that once I paid my $4000 that they cover the rest. Nope. There’s something called the “allowable amount” which was not mentioned at all in any of the literature when I purchased my insurance (why this is a scam). If the costs for a service are over the “allowable amount” then you are still responsible for the difference. The boob people told me that would be around $32000. Holy shit right? I am now in a very frustrating email exchange with my insurance to figure out how to get an accurate estimate for costs with their “allowable amounts”. So far I’ve just had them email me back telling me I haven’t met my deductible or out of pocket. Clearly a bunch of rocket scientists over there. I tried the phone, but the person was an idiot and no help and it required a 30 minute hold time. I’m also filling out a financial aid request with the boob people to see if they’d be willing to do it not charging me $32,000. I’m not holding my breath (they’ve got to pay for those rhinestone shirts somehow), but worth a shot.

My actual plan is that A. and I are both circling come promising job opportunities and I’m hoping that one of them will offer an insurance that will be in-network for the boob guys. If this doesn’t happen I’ll be back to square one and probably will involve a night of drinking heavily. So let’s all cross our fingers right? My new timing is June (assuming that will work with whatever job I take) and I’d like to go in for surgery on my birthday. I know this sounds totally weird, but if I can’t get it done while I’m 30 (shittiest birth year every) then I’d like to start 31 with fixing things. I have four weddings starting end of March-end of May and I don’t want to miss any so June is the best option also. I don’t feel bad asking a job for 4-6 weeks off because I’m 30 and a chick and normally they’d probably have to deal with my taking 3 or so months off from having a kid somewhat soon, but I can’t do that for a couple of years due to poison and reoccurrence risk, so seems like a decent trade for them