May 19

Evacuation Packs for Pets

Preparing for emergency situations is becoming a bit of a passion of mine, especially when it comes to pets, who are very often not prepared for. I’m lucky enough to be part of a community of veternary professionals and one of them was nice enough to allow me to publish this. -M

Guest Blog by Jodi Berls

It  was  2008,  and  Hurricane  Ike  had  just  taken  a  chunk  out  of  our  roof.    We  had  water   damage  to  our  home,  no  power,  and  no  way  to  get  in  supplies.    My  husband  and  I   had  to  make  a  quick  decision  –  stay  in  the  house  and  make  the  best  of  the  situation,   or  hit  the  road  with  our  dog,  cat  and  parrot.

Traveling  with  animals  often  is  an  adventure,  and  it  can  be  even  more  of  a  challenge   if  one  or  more  of  your  pets  is  a  bird  or  exotic  animal.    After  my  experience  with   Hurricane  Ike,  I  became  a  real  advocate  of  getting  ready  in  advance.    I’ve  made   “evacuation  packs”  for  my  animals  every  year  as  hurricane  season  approaches,  and   as  our  home  menagerie  has  grown  to  include  two  more  parrots  and  two  pet  rats,  my   collection  of  packs  has  grown  in  number,  too.

This  process  doesn’t  have  to  be  expensive.    I  use  kids’  school  backpacks  that  I  picked   up  at  Walgreen’s  for  less  than  $10.  Most  of  the  contents  of  the  packs  are  items  I   already  had  in  the  cupboards  –  food,  cat  litter,  extra  bird  toys,  treats,  etc.    Each  pet   has  his/her  own  pack,  labeled  with  his/her  name  and  contact  information  for  my   husband  and  I,  plus  a  utility  pack  that  contains  general  supplies  like  paper  towels,   plastic  bags,  pet  medical  records  and  the  first  aid  kit.  Now  that  I’ve  done  the  hard   part  –  thinking  it  through  –  all  I  have  to  do  is  replace  anything  that  may  have  gone   out  of  date  and  store  the  bags  in  case  of  emergency.

So  let  me  explain  that  process  of  thinking  it  through,  because  that’s  the  real  heart  of   the  matter.    It  basically  involves  asking  yourself  three  questions:

First,  where  are  you  going?    Regulations  on  exotic  pets  can  vary  greatly  from  one   place  to  another.    Some  birds  and  reptiles  can’t  be  transported  across  state  lines;   your  ferret  may  not  be  required  to  have  a  rabies  vaccination  where  you  live,  but  that   may  not  be  the  case  at  your  destination.  Make  sure  your  pet  will  be  welcome,  or  at   least  tolerated,  when  you  get  where  you’re  going.

Second,  how  will  you  transport  your  pet?    For  purposes  of  this  discussion,  I’m   assuming  you’re  driving,  which  means  you  need  a  safe,  appropriate  carrier  for  your   pet.    Please  don’t  let  this  wait  until  the  last  minute  –  makeshift  carriers  like   pillowcases  or  laundry  baskets  won’t  provide  your  pet  with  the  security  and   comfort  you  want  for  him.  Ideally  you  want  to  obtain  your  carrier  far  enough  in   advance  that  you  have  an  opportunity  for  your  pet  to  get  accustomed  to  being  in  it   before  the  situation  goes  sideways.

I  don’t  recommend  soft-­‐sider  or  sherpa  carriers  for  long-­‐distance  travel.    They  won’t   provide  any  protection  in  a  car  crash,  and  it’s  too  easy  for  the  animal  to  chew   through  the  fabric  or  leather  if  he  gets  bored.    Species-­‐specific  carriers  such  as  travel   cages  for  birds  are  ideal,  but  they  can  run  as  much  as  $200.    You  should  think  of  the   carrier  as  an  investment  in  your  pet’s  health  and  safety,  but  you  may  be  able  to  do   just  as  much  for  a  lot  less  money:  For  my  pet  rats,  I  bought  a  pair  of  inexpensive   hamster  habitats  for  about  $30  each.    Most  small  mammals  and  many  birds  will  do   just  fine  in  an  appropriately  sized  hard-­‐plastic  dog  or  cat  carrier,  available  at  most
pet  stores  and  not  outrageously  priced.    If  you  think  your  pet  needs  more  padding,   place  a  towel  or  other  soft  material  in  the  carrier.    Make  sure  the  carrier  doesn’t   have  holes  in  it  large  enough  for  your  pet  to  squeeze  out  or  small  enough  to  trap  a   foot  or  toes.

Now,  about  what  to  put  in  your  backpacks.    For  this,  ask  yourself  this  question:   What  will  you  do  for  your  animal  for  the  next  few  days,  and  what  will  you  need  to   accomplish  those  tasks?    I  can’t  really  tell  you  what  specifically  you  need  to  pack,   because  I  don’t  know  your  animal.    Do  you  normally  feed  live  foods  to  your  bearded   dragon,  such  as  crickets  or  mealworms?    What  will  you  need  to  keep  them  alive   while  you  travel?    Will  your  guinea  pig  drink  from  a  water  bottle,  or  is  he   accustomed  to  having  his  water  in  a  bowl?    Does  your  pet  need  special  bedding?     Special  lighting?    These  are  the  kinds  of  things  you’ll  need  to  consider  when  deciding   what  to  pack.

As  for  how  much  to  pack,  many  experts  recommend  planning  to  be  out  of  your  home   about  three  days  after  a  hurricane,  but  based  on  my  experience  with  Ike,  I  think  you   need  to  be  prepared  to  be  on  your  own  for  a  at  least  a  week.

That  said,  no  matter  how  large  a  vehicle  you’re  traveling  in,  you  will  have  limited   space.    Stick  to  the  essentials:  At  a  minimum,  you’ll  need  food,  water,  any  necessary   medications,  bedding  and  anything  you  may  need  to  restrain  your  pet  if  it  becomes   stressed  out  or,  God  forbid,  injured  or  ill.    For  our  menagerie,  we  always  plan  on   taking  a  24-­‐pack  of  half-­‐liter  water  bottles  reserved  just  for  the  pets.    Toys  and   treats  may  be  good  to  relieve  the  animal’s  stress,  but  don’t  load  up  on  them.

As  an  example,  this  is  what  I  put  in  the  pack  for  my  Senegal  parrot:


• A  quart-­‐sized  plastic  bag  of  Harrison’s  Bird  Food  pellets.

• A  smaller  plastic  bag  of  Nutriberry  treats  and  nuts.

• A  spare  perch  for  his  travel  cage,  and  vet  wrap  to  pad  it  for  his  arthritic  little   feet.

• Two  medications  that  he  gets  a  couple  of  times  a  week.

• A  toy  to  replace  the  one  that  normally  stays  in  his  travel  cage,  and  some  parts   to  refill  the  toy.

• A  towel  for  handling  him  if  he  decides  to  be  uncooperative.

• Two  extra  food/water  bowls.

In  the  end,  we  decided  to  stick  it  out  at  home,  and  we  got  lucky.    The  power  was   restored  after  a  few  days,  and  our  house  was  livable,  if  not  comfortable.    But  if  the   damage  had  been  just  a  little  bit  worse,  or  the  recovery  had  taken  a  little  longer,  we   would  have  been  forced  to  travel.    Now  I  know  the  next  time  a  hurricane  threatens,   we’ll  be  as  ready  as  we  can  be.

May 8

Bad Seeds

If you’ve been paying even half a bit of attention in the SF/F writing world you know about the conflicts that regularly occur throughout the fandom. *Acchhsadpuppieschoooooo* Bless me. There’s plenty of other people talking about it, so you don’t need me to say much.

Here in Kentucky there’s been a recent case of a family who had 10 children removed from their “homestead” and put in state care. (These points are related, I promise.) There are lots of pictures of this homestead online, which boils down to a 250 square foot ramshackle shack covered in tarps with no electricity, running water or toilets. There’s a lot of people online (likely the same people who throw a fit when CPS fails to remove a child who has been physically abused before the ultimate tragedy strikes) going mad over CPS’s interference.

There are days I feel like I’m part of the homesteading community. I don’t have much space, half an acre in the middle of a city block where I garden, try to recycle, reuse and dream of doing more. I don’t know everything going on in this situation. But homesteading, IMHO should NEVER mean ignoring basic sanitation, medical care (the children don’t have birth certificates, social security numbers and don’t get medical care, even when injured according to the charges), food safety and education (the mom boasts that she “uneducates them” or only teaches them when the opportunity arises). Homesteaders take the responsibility for food safety, building safe homes/barns/etc and proper water sanitation on themselves in addition to normal household responsibilities like paying bills. That’s the point of homesteading, to become independent, self sufficient, but still completely safe from real, dangerous things that DO still exist in our world like dysentery and botulism.

This family doesn’t appear to be good example of homesteaders, instead they seem to be hiding dangerous behaviors behind a community that shies from what people consider the norm.

So this is my point, as a member of both of these communities, what responsibility do I have to stand up and say, “Hey, no, these people do NOT represent me or the ideas that brought me to this community.”

This is something I have struggled with a lot, all through my life. In religion, in multiple religions actually, in my circle of high school friends, in the writing community, the autism activism community…I could go on and on. There are a whole lot of people out there who circle the wagons and protect, without consideration. That kind of support can certainly be nice. But can it be dangerous?

I think the Sad Puppies bit shows it really really can. We, as communities don’t have to protect deplorable or dangerous behavior. You don’t have to support a family member by allowing them to steal from you, become violent against you or damage your property.

Personally I draw the line where the well being of a person is at stake, especially when that person cannot defend themselves (which covers people with physical or mental disabilities, people suffering from conditioning that doesn’t allow them to fight back, children, the unconscious, and animals.)

We all have biases and preferences that we cannot avoid instilling in our kids. Mini definitely has my passion for storytelling. Mister has my love of computer puzzle games. I know people who believe the government can’t be trusted and non-organic foods cause cancer. Me disagreeing with them is surface because they also don’t put the well being of their kids at risk. When they home school they have lesson plans and grades and actively seek to be part of social communities so that their kids aren’t isolated. They grow their own food and buy organic only, but don’t come in my house and destroy my kids’ food for not being the same way.

I think it’s vital that we not be afraid to NOT support people or certain behavior. We live in a fabulous world with amazing constantly evolving options. Want to read Orson Scott Card but not fund his anti-gay life? Second hand books and libraries, baby! Want to practice Christianity by not have any part of the repressive hatefests in cultures like Westboro? Then don’t join a church like that. Heck, you don’t even have to join a church!

We aren’t obligated to protect the vultures among us. The opposite, in fact, we are obligated to protect the community itself from harm from their behavior. Do we have to be “social justice warriors”, constantly crusading against any little ill? Of course not. We only have so many spoons and we are allowed to save some for ourselves.

Personally I am in a position of near burn out in a lot of communities, including writing. I just cannot spend time raging online and trying to dominate comment sections trying to make people think I’m right. I’ve spent too much time doing that and not enough actually writing. Which is also why I’m not battling out in homesteading communities either. I have gardens to weed and things to can.

I guess, just…sometimes silence isn’t condoning either, it’s not having enough spoons to fight all the fights.




May 3

Ouerbacker Mansion

There’s a proper haunted mansion not far from here that’s been an item of fascination of mine for a while. After  tax company lost ownership of it to, amusingly, to back taxes it sat empty and deteriorating for a while. When one of its walls started coming down the city stepped in. They stabilized it and sold to to a guy for $1 because he promised to restore the place. But he was unable to secure loans so it sat again empty and falling apart. Finally the city sold it again for $1 and this time I’m happy to say that it’s being worked on!

More history and earlier pictures are available here and here.

I can’t wait to see what it becomes!

themansion (6) themansion (7) themansion (8) themansion (5) themansion (1) themansion (2) themansion (3) themansion (4)

April 22

Everyone’s Best Friend

We lost another dog today. Dizzy was our first family dog. Jason and I had both had other dogs before, but Dizzy was our dog.

He showed up one day, right around the time we were thinking of looking for a dog. He was underweight, intact and made a home in our very tiny backyard. It wasn’t fenced, he had no reason to stay. But he drank out of a puddle for three days until we gave in and accepted that he was ours. And Mister named him “Dizzy-Dog”.

We’ve been through a lot with him. Being crappy pet owners who couldn’t keep him up to date on anything but the absolute basics to keep him legal, trying to teach him not to pull (which in the end just taught him to follow me around the house.) Three different houses, Mini’s birth and a number of puppies now.

Lots of people say they have the best dog in the world. Dizzy was the kind of dog that other people said was the best dog in the world. Nearly everyone who met him fell in love with him. A number of people said they hoped to have a dog like him at some point in their lives. Until the last two years, when he started dropping weight I couldn’t walk him down the street without getting requests to breed him.

He was rock solid, dependable, calm, cheerful, protective in all the right ways.

Today I took him into work to get an exam because he was losing weight and eating dirt. We found that he’d lost over ten pounds and his stomach was filled with rocks and sticks and a penny (we could see Lincoln’s head on the coin). I expected to go in, run some bloodwork and put him on a higher calorie food. Instead he started to bloat around lunch time.

We don’t know how old he was when he showed up in our yard, but we had him for about thirteen years. I am told this is amazing, that even the vet didn’t manage to keep her rotties past ten.

But it isn’t long enough.

It kind of feels like I’m burying a child.

So here’s my goodbye to the best dog ever. I hope you find a place where you’re always allowed on the bed, someone is always there to blow bubbles for you, kids learn to read to you and every night is bacon and peanut butter night. And I hope you wait for the rest of us.





April 17

Preparing for the Zombie Apocalpyse

I went shooting for the first time ever a few weeks ago. I had never fired a gun before so I was all kinds of nervous about it. Like when I was learning to drive. I expected there to be some sort of cartoony magnetic attraction from “weapon in hand” to “bad shit happening”. (I still expect my car to be magically drawn to the cars parked along the side of a crowded road.)

Ishotit (2)



I didn’t do too bad! And I didn’t shoot anyone one or make a fool of myself at the range.

Like all good hunters I brought my trophy back to hang on the wall too.

Ishotit (1)


I have a sneaking suspicion this is going to turn into an expensive hobby.

March 28

Snippet Saturday

From a short story I’m working on.

Independent Artists

By Michele Lee


Panels One and Two (split scene): Our hero leans against a brick wall in a shadowy alley, watching three men climb into luxury sedan.

Panel Three (left vertical): Our hero pushes off the wall, revealing a hand holding a big motherfucking knife.

Panel Four (mid-page focus, 3/4ths widescreen): Car headlights as the vehicle drives down the street.

Panel Five: Our hero steps into the road with the car oncoming.

Panel Six (right corner): Black with dialog bubble. ″What the f—?!″


* * *


They say you get used to pain, and maybe some kinds you do. I don’t think anyone can get used to a Benz fender colliding with the top of your femur at 45 mph. I roll off the hood, my hip taking most of that impact and snapping. My shoulder snaps when I hit the windshield. I roll over the car as the tires squeal to a stop. Hitting the pavement takes out my right ankle. It feels like some asshole peppered the joint with shattered glass, but I stand on it anyway.

It’s just a body after all.

The driver is already out. It makes him easy to reach.

My knife slides into flesh and up, up, hot, tart blood spilling out over my hands and wetting my T shirt. I add a slash to his throat, not sure how effective it is, but I can feel that I’ve hit something important. Then it’s on to round two, rolling over the hood and stabbing out.

Sloppy. I’m sloppy. I’m familiar with the intent to do violence, but unfamiliar with laws of distance and gravity. But his head is the only thing not behind the door, so I stab stab stab and hope to strike gold.

He falls to the ground, gurgling. Or maybe it’s the other one gurgling because Number Two doesn’t move. Not even when I slam the passenger side door and step forward, twisting a bit on his hand.

Number Three has recovered some. Enough to pull a gun and fire desperately at me. Bam. Bam. Bam. The noise echoes off the dead buildings around us as the bullets piece my stomach, chip off a piece off a rib and then goes wild into the night. There’s enough light that I can see this one’s throat, swallowing fear and my blade.

He falls to the ground. I sit on the pavement next to him, ruined ankle tucked under me, and watch him fish-gasp as his blood runs out into the gutter. He can’t understand what’s just happened. I know the feeling. I have moments when I don’t understand how I got here either.

I’m nice enough to wait until he’s good and dead before I cut into his flesh and start to eat.