February 1

More on vaccines, autism, idiots and hate

I’ve been vocal here on the blog and on my Facebook page about my views on vaccines, anti-vaccine people and autism. I’ve talked about the anti-GMO movement and poverty and the struggle to do what’s best for your family and the responsibility to keep what’s good for the community at large in mind as well.

The recent outbreak at Disney has it coming up as a common topic in more and more places. Invariably when you speak out you’re accused of being a shill for the vaccine companies (damn, I WISH that were true because it would be pretty sweet to have income from sitting online arguing with people. Much better than cleaning up blood and poop and restraining biting pets.) On a personal level people assume you’re telling them they’re stupid.

Here’s why I fight. Bad science hurts people. It makes people less likely to seek medical help or fight for good help when they run into assholes in the medical field. As an adult you have the right to this decision. Your pets and your children do not have this choice, they are held hostage to our choices so we much strive to help them.

Furthermore I have this problem with fear. See, so much of the anti-science, anti-GMO, anti-vaccine movements are based on FEAR. On one hand it’s damned insulting that “Autistic” is somehow a scarier thing to be that “Dead”. Chuck Wendig says smart things here about why people start to become scared and why they start letting anti-thoughts take seat in their head.

Once you realize how much of this industry (and there are industries built around trying to sell you cures and trying to scare you into believing you have a condition which needs their cure) is based on creating and preying on fear (fuck I wish writing horror had the same income level as these fear mongers have) you can’t but get pissed off. And when you care about people and you genuinely want to see them well, healthy, when you understand the struggle with a permanent illness…you get pissed off when you see people offering them one more flash in a pan snake oil salesman.

I used to be a workshop leader for the area’s Living Well Workshop. For those who don’t know it’s an evidence-based publicly funded program developed by Stanford to help people with chronic conditions self-manage their care, or those caring for people with chronic conditions better aid those leaning on them. I have a lot of experience in chronic conditions and coping with them. A lot.

I’ve seen people walk in broken and ready to lay down and stop fighting. I’ve been privileged enough to help them find their fight again and chart a path to handle it better. Helping them reach that moment of realization is worth the fight. To put it in layman’s terms if I was a ranger people who prey on illness, injury, desperation and hopelessness would be my chosen enemy.

I’m against the level of rhetoric that these arguments creep into where it becomes a judgment. It becomes a way for some people to be better than others, by being able to afford organic GMO free food. It gets to the level where GOOD parents make these certain decisions for their families and the ones who don’t make those other choices.

But Michele, someone is thinking, it’s not like people are actually saying you are a bad parent if you vaccinate your kids or feed them regular food or GMO food. Except they are.

“Be mad at yourself, because you’re, frankly, a bad mother. You didn’t ask once about those vaccines. You didn’t ask about the chemicals in them. You didn’t ask about all the harmful things in those vaccines…. People need to learn the facts.”

Shaming is NOT what supporting chronic illnesses or supporting the healthy is about.

And shaming people, lying about science and profiting off fear absolutely pisses me off. And maybe you think it’s helping you, and maybe you think I’m mean and stupid and nothing more than a shill for fight it. But I’m fighting for the health of the people I love, even if that’s you. Even if you’re still holding out for a miracle diet or cure. Maybe someday it’ll come. And I promise to be there to put it through some fire to make sure it’s sound before you test your life and health on it.

 

January 17

Pet Apps

So, I have a confession to make. You all know how dog #4 went terribly bad for us last year. But on the second day of 2015 we got a call from a neighborhood friend. They have an outdoor German Shepherd and someone threw a tiny puppy into his enclosure, we think, hoping either tossing her over a six foot privacy fence or the dog himself would finish her off. But that’s not what happened. She ended up with us, and well…I swear there are dogs we’ll say no to.

Anyway, here is Ursa.

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So this has me working on my dog records. You all do keep your dogs records right? I keep two copies, one in a folder just in case something happens at home and a little booklet for each dog that I bought at Petsmart which goes in our BOB/emergency bag, so if we have to get out of dodge we still have all this info. Having this info on hand is VERY important in case of an emergency from being able to prove our dogs are vaccinated if we have to cross state lines to if a neighbor anonymously reports to Animal control that you leave your dogs outside all hours of the day and night with no food, water or shelter.

Can you tell that latter happened to us last year? I was at work, but Jason was home and was able to show rabies vacc dates and city registration for three of the four dogs, and explained that the fourth was a foster. He was also able to show records of heartworm treatment and vet visits for Butch, who was limping because of his back hip issues at the time. (He was also able to show her four friendly, happy, well fed dogs, a 5 gallon bucket of water a dog house big enough for all four dogs to fit into not to mention the holes the dogs dug under shrubs to lay in. Even the Animal Control person asked which of our neighbors we pissed off because the charges were ludicrous.

Keeping records is especially important when you own large dogs, or breeds people tend to be scared of. Rottweilers, pitt bull types, Akitas, Huskies, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Dogo Argentino, Cana Corso….if you own a dog of these breeds or that LOOKS like any of these breeds it’s very important to keep those records and be able to show someone on the spot (it could mean the difference between your dogs being taken or not.

You should absolutely keep hard copies, just in case. But I’ve been toying around with some Apps too.

Pet First Aid by The American Red Cross

This one costs a token fee and isn’t really for pet management, but is totally useful especially if you don’t know when is time to hit an emergency vet and when it can wait until morning. I don’t know what things are like in your area, but here the most reasonable emergency vet starts at $600 a visit, before they even start doing things.

This app also includes disaster management and preparedness tips for pet owners, though this and the first aid tips are limited to dogs and cats.

ASPCA by 3 Sided Cube

This one offers emergency tips even without a connection to the internet, as well as file storage, help making lost posters and (with internet access) access to lost/found pet listings. It’s really nice to be able to put all your pet information (including vacc records and medicines they are taking) in one app with the preparedness info.

FirstAid+Pets

Wow… I got the free version of this one and I’m glad I did. It’s very basic advice, no customization, and not written primarily for English speaking users. Plus, ads run constantly at the top, which means it slowed my tablet down. The pro version might be better, but it also costs.

Petparent

It’s pretty much Facebook for pet owners, only you also have to log in with your facebook account and be online to use it. The only stellar feature I found (that is for my needs/tastes) is it can use your location to tell you where pet friendly locations and events are around you. But not real useful for me because I’m not using a smart phone that’s on a network all the time.

Dogs a-z

This is pretty much a giant list of dog breeds, most with pictures and the breeds link to Wikipedia info pages. My kids are into guessing the breeds of dogs we pass, so they like this one.

APCC by ASPCA

This is a new free app from the ASPCA that allows you to instantly access information about foods and meds that are poisonous to your pets. You can also call directly to the ASPCA’s pet poison help line for advice on how to treat your pet.

Finally, there are a lot of pet apps that help you track your pet’s records and/or set up reminders for when shots or treatments are due. Of the ones I’ve tried my favorites are Pet Health Book Lite because it allows you to track symptoms and sicknesses in addition to weights, vaccinations and such. And Dog Health, which has all the same bells and whistles, plus an impressive interface.

Do you have any apps I should try out?

December 31

2015 n’ junk n’ stuff

So, last day of the year…good fuckin’ riddance.

2014 was a shit year for my family. It started out not all bad. I did get my dream job and start training as a vet tech at a clinic that is pretty darn awesome. I’m out of the corporate world, in a small business that mostly appreciates my work (no one is perfect, you know.) And I saw an uptick in my etsy sales, as well as managing to sell a few paintings as well.

As for the bad, well hell. My mother-in-law died in January, my former place of employment disciplined me and threatened to fire me the day I returned from her funeral, my partner was laid off by his job of 12 years and we’re had a number of adventures at the unemployment and social security offices poorly equip with our Unearned Income of Entitlement (aka the system is unfair and seeks to blatantly punish those who need and ask for help under the guise of “encouraging” people to not continue on social services and make one feel as if the whole world thinks you’d be better off dead than remaining alive), someone dumped a dog with a ton of medical issues in our yard and we couldn’t bear to let him be put down at a shelter so we tried to save him, in the end that dog once he got better showed a dangerous level of aggression, attacked and killed our cat of 9 years and we had to humanely euthanize him (even though we became ridiculously attached to him, and after we’d accumulated a huge vet bill trying to help him), our van broke down (and is still immobile in our driveway, longing for the day when we have money to fix what we hope is a minor hose problem), my partner lost a cousin, the mother of a lifelong friend and one of his high school friends is now battling a serious health issue, he himself has had a few narrow misses with “almost, but not quite” employment, is battling a pretty fierce depression and also just got life changing medical news.

As it stands now I have to get through two checks with reduced holiday hours (because we’ve been closed on Thursdays, which are usually my 10 hour days), still have over $200 in vet bills to pay, will probably slip behind on other bills because of pay and holiday spending, Jason has to wait on more doctor visits before he can be employed, if they even hold the job for him and don’t just fill it with one of the thousands of other people looking for work right now.

It’s been a very rough year, and I hope things turn around, but then I’ve been hoping that all year.

Some of my artist friends and I have taken to choosing a word to represent the year, in lieu of resolutions or goals. Just some element that we want to see happen or work toward. Last year this was my word art:

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At the beginning of 2014 I had reached a point where I had stability in my life. I’d had a job for two years, Jason had been at his job for a while, the kids were doing well in school (in fact my daughter had qualified for advanced placement classes) and it looked like it was time to start really working on things in our life.

I wanted to work on repairing and beautifying our home, even though I didn’t have a lot of handywoman experience. Well the bad news is we know our foundation needs some expensive repairs, but I have patched holes, built on my garden, worked a lot on decluttering and organizing, repaired my washer on my own and I got pretty good at making jam this year.

I wanted to grow more positive things my life, literally and in a social/magical sense. That part has been very hard because of all the struggles with depression and the insane amount of negativity we’ve faced this year. But I have been trying to stay positive. I’ve been trying to give when I can, to share what I do have and to help other people. I would very much like to be able to do more of this.

I wanted to work more on writing in 2014 as well, and at that I’ve excelled. I’ve written a novella, am about 20-30k into the Wolf Heart follow up and I released a short story collection that I’ve been planning for two years. I’ve started querying agents again (no luck yet, but I’m putting my work out there again!) and submitting stories to magazines I’d like to see my name in. I’ve also worked on improving my crafts, through rejoining a workshop, and my other craft by starting to play with painting videos and instructions books.

I think its possible that my 2014 year has been a very powerful one because so much has been stripped out of my life right now that there is indeed some room for major progress. I guess it just doesn’t feel much like progress when you’re looking at an empty lot and bill for demolition wondering where you’re going to live while things are rebuilt.

In 2015 my word is:

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I thought about it for a long time. At first I was going to make it “Hope” as a way to encourage myself to hold out hope, to keep believing that things happen for a reason, and yes, we are pulling ourselves up by our boot straps a little at a time.

But then I started thinking about how I have been internalizing so much negativity and hopelessness lately. I feel so much like I need to punish myself for not doing enough to support my family, for not being able to just fix all these things going wrong. And then I thought about how ridiculous that is. I can’t fix Jason’s depression. I can’t fix his unemployment.

No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t fix Butch’s aggression issues, all I could do is make the best decision for him and my family moving forward. And that decision is freedom. I couldn’t rewire his brain, or go back in time and re-raise him to not be fearful and reactive.

I can’t go back in time and re-raise myself to be a confident, secure person who believes she is someone of value. I can’t change the things that happened to make me who I am. But I can try to work toward freeing myself, from insecurity, from fear and from whatever wiring it is that leads me to blame myself for failures entirely outside of my control. I can work toward NOT punishing myself for “not being good enough” and toward freeing myself from the idea that I will never be good enough.

And hopefully with that freedom I’ll find a way to handle the down swings and the up with grace and aplomb, and be able to also model that to my children and the people around me.

So, here’s to 2015, and a kickin’ New Years Eve celebrating that 2014 didn’t manage to kill us.

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December 19

There’s No Such a Thing as a Bad Dog

Social media has been mad with the story of Bela, a 9 year old German Shepherd whose owner died and who left in her will that he be euthanized, his ashes mixed with hers and they be buried together. People seem to miss the fact that Bela is, by many accounts, including the word of the person who was designated to care for him after his owner’s death, aggressive, possibly dangerous.

In my county any dog who has bitten a person unprovoked (meaning when not being beaten or not defending their home) or bitten another animal is considered “potentially dangerous”. Let’s talk for a second about what that means. Biting is a form of communication for animals, the same as kicking, growling, scratching and stomping. Plain and simple animals don’t rationalize and communicate like we do. They hear, see, smell things we don’t. Their brains work differently, process or become overwhelmed by things differently. Much like a person on the autism spectrum who can be overcome by external stimuli and act out (the infamous “meltdowns”) or someone with anxiety disorder or schizophrenia having a panic attack, only the way their brains works makes them less likely to be able to “rationalize” their way out of it. Not that you can anyway.

When your brain is literally working against you, telling you this or that is a danger or throwing you into a fight or flight situation it can be impossible to fight even when you know you have a condition and know what your triggers are.  Now add in that your life is entirely at someone else’s whim, someone that might be nice, or mean, or likely you translate it as both at times (you know, because people deny dogs the food they want and a dog might not understand that’s because it’s chocolate or loaded with onions and might kill them), you’re territorial and immediately uncomfortable to outright paranoid when not in your territory or when new people come around (and now it’s both!).

German Shepherds are wonderful dogs. I adore them. They are not easy to own dogs. People are afraid of them because of their size, their recognizably and their reputation as a guard breed. They are absolutely not for just anyone to own. They require training.

I worked with one at Petsmart who was a gorgeous boy, never gave me a lick of trouble for anything, didn’t even try to pull me around the salon. He jumped on the grooming table on his own and held up his feet for me. (Some dogs wouldn’t dream of biting, but they will resist nail trims by leaning all their weight on the foot you are trying to hold or trying to yank or hide the foot from you with their bodies. This was funny the first time it happened to me. When a 120 pound lab comes in and I had to hold him standing and fight for his foot and do the trim it gets painful quick. I really appreciate a dog that’ll hold it’s feet up.) But GSDs were one of the most feared breeds in the salon for a reason. That same beautiful wonderful dog that was a pleasure to handle, when in a kennel would snarl and charge the door, flick foam and generally terrorize any dog or any person other than me that walked past him. There were many times that I thought the kennel door would pop open and he’d attack someone. He certainly tried to convince us of that. But when I did open the door it was right back to waiting to be told to come out and staying in a heel and being perfectly behaved.

At my current job we have a GSD who not long ago killed the owner’s cat. He’s bitten multiple other dogs and is something of a terrorist in his neighborhood. He’s pretty easy to give a bath and nail clip to though. I would not want to own him if his owner died and bequeathed him to me. I would not trust him around my other animals or my neighbor’s animals.

Which bring me to a more painful topic. If you’re a regular blog reader you know that at the beginning of the year someone dumped a sickly, intact, heartworm positive pit bull mix in our back yard. If you aren’t my Facebook friend you might not know how this story ends.

We contacted a number of rescues and only one returned our calls, but couldn’t take him. We spend hundreds of dollars treating him for heartworms, then one night he bit my partner Jason. And not a warning bite or a “I was going for the toy and missed” bite. He bit him hard, broke the skin and tried again. We contacted everyone we could think of for help. The message was clear, no one wanted him, and no one wanted to help us try to train him either without at least $60 an hour (that was the most reasonable price and that was a nonprofit humane society).

We adjusted meds, we worked on training with the backing of a wonderful vet team, we neutered him as soon as it was medically safe (and even then we pushed things). He got decent at walking on a leash. He got to where I could hand feed him or pet him while he ate. He still snapped at Jason, and then he started growling at the kids when it was time for a potty break and he didn’t want to go out.

Then one night he cornered our cat of eight years and attacked him, breaking his spine and killing him. The kids witnessed it, in fact the kids had tried to intervene and if I hadn’t insisted that he be wearing a leash while inside so that he could be handled without being touched my daughter would have been bitten too. And he never bit lightly.

The truth was sometimes he was a sweet dog, leaning on you, wanting pets, always happy to see you, wanting to make people happy by sitting and offering a paw. He was amazing for some fairly invasive medical treatment as well. And sometimes when he didn’t want to do what you said, or thought you were close he tried to take chunks out of you. He never trusted us and we stopped trusting him around the time of the first bite.

We talked about building a kennel in the yard and only myself or Jason handling him. He was only allowed in the house with a leash for goddsakes, so that none of us got bitten because he had tried! What kind of life was that? What kind of life would any of us be living, with a dog who was more than willing to hurt us?

We made a last attempt at rehoming him. Gods we made multiple attempts at rehoming him because we were so out of our ability level. But here’s the thing NO ONE WANTED HIM. No one was willing to put time money and effort–RISK–into him when there were hundreds of cute, lovable, not-biting dogs that needed to be saved.

So we made the terrible decision to humanely euthanize him because while he wasn’t a bad dog, he wasn’t a safe one either.

I have cried so much over that damn dog. We all have. We’ve held each other and consoled each other. We did everything right. But you cannot save them all.

Aggression is that deal breaker. It’s the complication that cannot be ignored. Sometimes dogs have situational aggression like cage aggression or they bite when you mess with their feet. You can work around that. You can take steps to modify their behavior and improve the situation and lessen the risk. But aggression doesn’t just risk your skin, it’s can be dangerous to each and every person your dog can or might come into contact with. Your vet, their techs, the mailman, your niece, yours kids, anything smaller than it…And it can end up with other beloved pets (yours or someone else’s) grievously injured or dead. It can end up with huge medical bills, vet bills, lawsuits and insurance issues.

It is not as easy as “Well if you don’t want the dog I do”. And believe me no one wishes it was that simple more than the owners and rescue professionals who have to make these decisions.

December 17

The Other Michele Lees

When I started out I jokingly called myself The Other Michele Lee, and even ended up making that my “writer” name for certain networking sites, my email and other odds and ends. I’m not That Michele Lee, after all. I’m the author Michele Lee.

I’m not this Michele Lee either, though her art is amazing and I adore it.

Turns out that I’m not THIS Michele Lee either. But it might explain why Gutters (a comic culture commentary site) thinks I’m this Michele Lee:

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Maybe someday, though, I’ll be the Michele Lee who started the Legion of Michele Lees, because damn are we a talented bunch.

November 29

On Con Harrassment

I have a question I want to throw out there. Would it help at all to allow con attendees, members, on lookers, committee members or vendors to report harassment anonymously? I’m not a computer/net genius but I wonder how it could be done (a website form, perhaps?”

I will tell you this much, if you have experienced harassment at a con feel free to email me at theothermicheleleeATgmailDOTcom and I will do my best to see that the committee of the con it happened at hears your report, anonymously if that’s what you need. I can’t guarantee they’ll do anything, but if you want to report and are afraid of putting it out there publicly in your own name I volunteer to be your Nom de Plume.

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