Better.

I’m struggling. I don’t even know where to begin because I feel like I’m spiraling out of control. I didn’t even feel this out of control when I was 22 and on a birth control pill that was not working for me. I can barely sleep and all I want to do is cry and eat and drink. I want to drink a lot.

A lot of the pain is me not being over Ricci’s loss. I’m not over that at all. I miss her, I miss having something that made me feel whole when I was feeling broken. Ricci was there through all my big relationships, through all the break ups and the broken hearts and the anger and the depression. Ricci was always perfect, she got me through everything. But she’s not here to get me through this, the most difficult and gutting thing I’ve ever dealt with and I’m reeling without her steady soul to ground me.

Part of it is also that whole pesky being a woman thing. I’m happy to be not pregnant and all but I feel like Mother Nature is kicking me when I’m already down.

And my relationship situation is… difficult and I’m battling with a lot of insecurities. I am just so burnt out from feeling like I care more. And I hate myself for thinking this way but I feel like something is clearly wrong with me. Why else can’t I find a man who cares about me as much as I care about him? Why am I never good enough? No matter what I do, I never feel good enough. I always end up feeling convenient, I’m around because he likes that I like him, I treat him well, I’m nice to him, I boost his ego. But I seldom feel like they actually like me, like they care or that I have any real value in their life. I have been taking on this “fake it til you make it” attitude for so long now, people have told me that I’m so confident and they wish they could have that but the sad truth is I have very little confidence. I have many, many days were I feel worthless and as much as friends tell you that you’re awesome, what the hell am I supposed to do with that? And the worst part is that I hate myself for letting a man, any man, affect how I feel about myself. I don’t want to be that cliche woman who needs a man to validate her and her feelings and her worth but I am that woman. I don’t want to be but I don’t know how to overcome that. I’ve been trying and for awhile I felt like I was doing okay but lately… I’m losing ground. I have never felt so low, I have never felt more expendable and invaluable than I do now. And I don’t know how to feel better. And all I want is my horse and to feel better.

My Incomplete Heart

I never know when it’s going to happen. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing or where I am or who I’m with, all of a sudden I’m crying. It’ll start pouring down rain and I’ll think about how I used to have to race to the barn to make sure Ricci was properly blanketed. She was such a princess, she’d find herself stuck under the lean to in the back pasture because hello, there’s falling wet out there and she cannot possibly get wet. And yet this was the same horse who I would ride willingly through all the giant puddles in the flooding pasture I used as an arena.

She was the best horse. She really did everything perfectly. She was easy and challenging and talented and it really sucks that she’s not here. She could have lived to 50 and it wouldn’t have been anywhere near long enough.

I can remember my worst break up, how devastated I was, feeling like my heart was ripped out. I would chose to do that again, every day, for a year, for the rest of my life, than to ever feel like this. This is so much worse. It’s so much worse than a heart broken by a boy. Ricci has always been the most important thing in my life. I remember being told by numerous people that I needed to sell her. I was too poor, I couldn’t afford it, I needed to sell her. The thought was always so foreign to me and I’d be sitting there thinking don’t make me choose. Don’t pick a fight with me over my horse because Ricci always comes first, I will always, always, always choose her. I told people often that I couldn’t hang out because I was going for a ride. I don’t think many really understood it but she was always more important. I’d put off grocery shopping when my shelves were empty because that day worked better to go see her.

I just wonder how long it takes for a heart to heal. I know it’s incredibly morose but it just doesn’t feel like my heart ever will heal. It feels too shattered and too incomplete without Ricci. I can’t wait to feel “normal” again but I also don’t want to feel normal. It feels… disloyal to be able to move on and to feel alright. It’s not the right way to view it but it is what it is.

I just miss her and I wish she were still with me. For one more ride from our first barn up the hill to the lake. We could walk and run and enjoy those logging roads for hours, she was wonderfully courageous and we always had such a great time. Even though the first time we tried to go up the hill, she was being a total cow and we got into the biggest fight Ricci and I have ever had and I had to back her big cow butt up the hill before she finally realized that spinning around to face home didn’t mean we were going that way. She always spun to the right. It’s funny how much you can learn about another creature. Her habits, what she liked, how she pouted when she barely touched her breakfast and therefore didn’t get “fresh” hay for dinner. She liked to fluff up her hay but heaven forbid you fluffed it up for her, I could never do it in just the right way. She loved eating her apples in one bite. She always had to pick her back feet up really high before settling and letting you have it. She yawned all the time. ALL the time. I have so many pictures of Ricci making her silly yawn face. She loved wearing a blanket, she would happily shove her nose into her blanket. We played tag in the snow. I’d throw snowballs at her and she’d toss her hand and prance away to come back for me to throw more snowballs at her. I could leap on to her back out in the pasture and she’d stand still for it. I could ride her bareback and in her halter to the coffee stand.

Ricci was just… perfect and it feels wrong that she isn’t pouting out in her pasture right now protesting the wind. I really, really miss her.

Impressive Raquel. April 13, 1992 – September 28, 2014.

I have been trying to wrap my head around this tragedy and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to come to terms with. My sweet, beautiful, wonderful mare isn’t here with me anymore and it just feels so wrong. We thought she was going to be okay. I thought we had averted the crisis, that she would heal up and we’d move to our new barn and I’d be able to ride her again. The vet that came out on Saturday did a bunch of flexion tests, manipulated all her joints, bent and stretched all her affected legs. We even asked if there was any fractures and he said he didn’t believe that was a concern. So I was prepared to treat it like any other superficial wound. Ricci was being kept in her stall so she could heal, we were going to take a short walk down the road to get her moving and help with the swelling. I gave her some bute, ran a brush over her and asked her to walk. She didn’t want to walk at first but I convinced her. By the time we had gotten out of the barn, she was walking beautifully, with only a slight limp. So Ricci and I walked down the road, stopped for some grass, sauntered along enjoying the early fall warmth. And then she tripped. She caught herself, but she didn’t want to move anymore. I figured she was sore and being a bit of a baby, so we made it a little ways to a nice patch of grass to take a break. She started munching her hay and as she munched, her back legs started to shake. Really shake. I asked her to move and she wouldn’t, I was afraid if I made her, she would fall down. I had no idea what was wrong with her. After a few minutes, it became clear it wasn’t getting better. So I had to leave her there and run back to the barn to get the barn owner. Of all the times for my phone to be dead. The barn owner comes out, she said that was how she was when she first tried to get her out of the pasture when she found her Friday evening. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew it was a big deal. I started calling the vet that saw her Saturday, leaving choked, sobbing, panicked messages on his voicemail. By the time he finally got back to me, I was in hysterics. Ricci was starting to eat less. She was standing there with her head low, her hind legs quaking, her abs were lifted, the muscles in her stomach, back and haunches hard, and she was sweating. I couldn’t even talk on the phone, I had to hand the phone to the barn owner to talk to him. I picked some apples from the nearby trees and fed them to her. I begged her to be okay. And we waited. I called my mom and she rushed out and we waited for what felt like an eternity for the on-call vet to arrive. When he finally arrived, he looked her over before asking her to move. My barn owner was holding Ricci, I was standing with my mom, alternating between getting it together and losing it completely. The vet pressed on her back left leg and she stumbled forward. She couldn’t hold herself up on her front legs alone so she crashed to the ground in a heap, back legs sprawled out behind her and to the side. The vet said it was very clear her femur was broken, we needed to keep her calm and put her down. It all happened so fast. I launched myself at her as she managed to heave herself over onto her side. I don’t know how I managed to stop sobbing long enough to focus but I pulled myself together for her. I laid by her neck, rubbing her face, whispering into her ears and crying onto her cheek. It took awhile for the sedative to take affect and even longer for the fatal drugs to work. I laid down next to her and getting up and leaving was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. To leave my beautiful girl laying there, to know I’d never see her again, it was shattering.

You know that moment in the movies where someone just gives a collapsing sob. It’s loud and heart-wrenching and it almost doesn’t seem like it could be real. Well I can assure you it is. Everything happened so fast and luckily it is pretty blurry, but I remember her falling and I sobbed. I remember the vet saying her femur was broken and I sobbed. If I was standing alone, I think I would have fallen down.

People seldom get it when I say Ricci was my soulmate. She was my heart-horse, she was my favorite and most beloved possession, my favorite being. I love my cats and I’ll be devastated when their time comes, but it’s a different connection. Ricci was everything to me. She was my heart and soul in a way I could never explain. There were more songs playing on the radio that made me think of her than of any person. I found Ricci right out of high school. Her previous owner hired me to ride her, get her in shape and tune her up to be sold. I rode her all summer and oddly, I did not like her when I first started working with her. I don’t even remember why. But all of a sudden, when her owner wanted her sold, I couldn’t let her go. I paid a small fortune for her. I learned how to ride on her. Yeah, sure, I had been taking lessons but I didn’t figure things out until Ricci. She was the perfect partner. She was a joy to ride, you had to work for what you wanted, she didn’t just hand it to you, but she was a willing partner and she would do anything for me. We raced up and down the trails, she jumped any tree I pointed her at, she was perfect. I could throw a six year old on her, feet not even in the stirrups, and she’d listen to that kid. Walk, stop, turn. She was a saint. Worth her weight in gold. I can’t tell you how fun she was. I would ride her bareback and in a halter down the road to the coffee stand for a chai. I could ride her walk, trot and canter in the pasture without touching the reins, controlling her with only my core and seat. We could canter a circle, come down to a trot, change direction, and canter a circle in the other direction. I remember riding her bareback and double with a friend who was pretty nervous and she was solid. She saw a plastic bag on the side of the road, she thought it was terrifying but Ricci was so amazing, she just looked at it and trembled as we walked by. She rarely spooked at anything and it on the rare occasion she did, she was so easy to bring back to you. Ricci could sit in the pasture for months and I could throw her bridle on and ride her bareback down the road, cars and trucks driving right by us and she wouldn’t bat an eye. You were safe with Ricci. Even when she was falling, you could tell she was trying desperately to not knock into anyone. There’s no way I can ever express how lucky I got with her. It was foolish to buy a horse right out of high school, for that much money, but I got the best horse. I wouldn’t trade a single moment of it. I would have lived in my car before I would have sold her.

I got so lucky with her passing too. As traumatic and terrifying as it was, I got lucky. I have no guilt, there was nothing I could have done differently, it wasn’t my fault. The vet believes her femur had fractured on Friday, it’s either what caused her to fall and bang herself up or she fractured it when she was trying to get herself up. He said that with older horses, their bones just become more fragile. She was a tough, tough mare, I’m surprised she was able to act so cheerfully. And I am so, so grateful that it happened with me there. It wasn’t in her stall overnight and alone, I was there and I was able to end her pain as quickly as possible. I can’t pretend she wasn’t in extreme pain her last couple hours but it was over as soon as it could be. Until she fell, she was standing there and trying to be so strong. She was interactive, she nuzzled me, she was amazing and impressive in her stoic resolve to keep herself together.

Dealing with her loss has been very difficult. I cried more than I’ve ever cried before, even the bridge of my nose was swollen and puffy. I could barely sleep and it took all of my strength to get out of bed. It comes and goes in waves. I’ll feel almost partially okay and then I’ll lose it again. The smallest things have been sending me into tears. Like after I got out of the shower and cleaned my ears with a Q-Tip, it was dirty, like it always is when I leave the barn. And I won’t have to clean dirt out of my ears for a very long time. My sweatshirt smells like her and everytime I bring my hand up to wipe my eyes, I breathe her in and it guts me. I cut a lock of her mane on Sunday and I haven’t been able to let go of it. I slept with it clutched in my hands. I’m going to have to mail it to the woman who is going to make my keepsake ring and I have no idea how I’m going to let this last piece of her go. Even though I know I’ll get it back in a beautiful way, I’m terrified to put it in an envelope and mail it. I have to go back to work tomorrow and I don’t know how I’ll get through it. I’m going to have to go back to the barn and get Ricci’s things eventually. I’m going to have to pick up the pieces and keep moving and it’s so daunting. I feel like my world stopped. People have expressed their heartfelt condolensces and I have no idea what to even say. I can’t pretend I’m all right. I won’t be all right for a long time. And oh how I miss her.

Rest in peace, my love. My heart will ache for you until we meet again. You were the best damn horse, I have no idea how I got so lucky. I will never forget you, I will remember everything you taught me, and I will miss you every day for the rest of my life. Long live, Ricci love. <3

“Will you take a moment, promise me this. That you’ll stand by me forever, but if god forbid fate should step in, and force us into a goodbye… if you have children some day, when they point to the pictures, please tell them my name. Long live the walls we crashed through, I had the time of my life with you. Long, long live the walls we crashed through, how the kingdom lights shined just for me and you. And I was screaming long live all the magic we made. And bring on all the pretenders, I’m not afraid. Singing long live all the mountains we moved, I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you. And long, long live the look on your face. And bring on all the pretenders, one day, we will be remembered.”

598858_4266968265475_1943588407_n

May 8, 2008

May 8, 2008

May 8, 2008

May 8, 2008

March 23, 2008

March 23, 2008

January 27, 2008

January 27, 2008

July 1, 2007

July 1, 2007

November 20, 2007

November 20, 2007

June 6, 2011

June 6, 2011

Back Camera

January 1, 2012

January 1, 2012

August 29, 2012

August 29, 2012

May 23, 2012

May 23, 2012

Trotting in from the pasture. May 11, 2012

May 11, 2012

23650_1365404808202_5762586_n 29041_1466299130497_755100_n 40964_1532839233958_3442746_n 45619_10200380865057251_1023229660_n 69571_10202715933552504_445254146_n 200603_1854900325284_4524391_n 270200_2140683829693_444286_n 292018_2219981252079_2972101_n 376439_3877966020662_249332471_n 381554_2789349805937_2048604363_n 394666_3877965460648_1409587030_n 399455_3877965140640_1461737314_n 564831_3710601316649_1895374437_n 972222_10200633062162021_852250572_n 1157554_10201182724663240_1907320551_n 1555519_10203949525551533_8033284781637174968_n 1796430_10202389378468831_814335637_n 1970462_10202715989073892_157282116_n 10171031_10202858765843222_4021285708479851542_n 10368395_10203316354122643_5859662059491803242_n 10399865_1187605643334_7600567_n 10547579_10203482164387796_4392267625066950297_n419625_4266980025769_1388499411_n 424207_4043528239614_331557845_n 527299_4266968025469_975289188_n 579625_4243102268840_1849850392_n

A Day in the Life: Compassion Fatigue.

Compassion fatigue is one of those things you don’t quite understand, you hear the term and you kind of know what it means but it’s a broad term to grasp. Like a numbness and disconnect to the everyday hardships that you experience over and over that burn you out. You see so much bad that eventually your feelings about it are curbed. It’s hard to explain to people in different professions, who haven’t had the types of experiences in a setting where compassion fatigue is prevalent. Working in a shelter is hard. Maybe not always physically demanding but it is emotionally and mentally taxing in a way not a lot of jobs are. It wears you down and burns you out. You see the best and the worst. There’s this common idea that my job is all fun and games, playing with dogs and fostering kittens. And it is, a lot of the time. There’s a lot of good things that come along with the territory: saving lives, watching shy dogs and cats come out of their shells and become sweet, outgoing creatures, fostering and socializing hissy pissy kittens, finding fabulous homes for fabulous animals, adopting out a cat who has been at the shelter for several months and simply seeing good people doing good things: bringing in donations, spreading the word about us, children who ask for money or donations for the shelter instead of presents, fabulous pet owners and people who come in and just say “thank you for doing what you do.” There’s so many good things that it can be enough to make you cry. Don’t even get me started on the overwhelming support and generosity I experienced at the Masquerade Gala last fall. It was incredible.

But there’s a lot of bad stuff too. Angry people who scream and curse at us, who wish pain and death upon us for doing our job. Horrible people doing all the wrong things for their pets, seeing cats declawed, dogs chained up outside and never allowed inside, animals that were abused, neglected, sick, emaciated, terrified, or seriously injured without any [good] owner to care for them. Then there are the puppy mills [not once but twice] and bestiality cases and cruelty cases that sometimes we win and sometimes we don’t. Animals who are being mistreated by their owners, who cower when you say their name or are clearly terrified of their owner. Sometimes we can save them and sometimes we can’t. Sometimes it’s because the judge doesn’t rule in our favor. Sometimes it’s because we don’t have the resources to fix it, the foster home to care for it while it recovers, the space in our kennels to give them time or sometimes it’s just too serious a behavior or medical issue. We are limited but we try. Oh, how we all try. We save a lot of lives and I am grateful for every one. But there are some lives that we could save if we had more room, more support from the community, more foster homes, more time, more resources, if we had gotten to them sooner… There are so many cases where you feel awful, you know the injury or the shyness or the behavior could have been rehabilitated if you could just… but you can’t. And even while you’re mourning the loss of one life, another is coming in and you have to keep going.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about open admission shelters. That is, a shelter that is not a “no-kill.” The simple name, “no-kill shelter,” is already putting out this idea that open admission shelters are “killing” animals and that’s just not true. It’s also extremely unfair to the employers. Every shelter operates differently, every shelter sees awful things, and I can only speak of my experience with my shelter but I will say that people need to open their eyes to the reality of what’s happening. No-kill shelters have to limit the animals that come in. They often do not take in stray animals, usually only transfers from other shelters and rescues. Open admission shelters take in every animal, regardless of age, health, space or temperament. That means they will take in your aggressive dog or your dying cat, your unwanted rabbit or facility permitting, the horse you can’t afford or the pig you can’t contain, no animal is turned away and they do the best they can with them. Sometimes, they best they can do is euthanasia. It can be a mildly unhealthy, possibly treatable 9 year old cat that is shut down, hiding and won’t interact with shelter staff, or a friendly, reasonably healthy 10 year old cat. Without working at a shelter, you don’t understand that people don’t like adopting 9 year old cats. Sometimes it’s hard enough adopting out a 5 year old cat. People want kittens. No matter how much you explain to people that no matter how many years they have with their cat, it will never be enough, whether you have a cat from a kitten to 15 or a cat from 5 to 15. You will be devastated when you lose that animal. There’s a lot of hate about 10 year old cats being euthanized, a lot of trying to turn people away from us, telling people not to support us when the reality is you need to be PROMOTING us and encouraging people to adopt senior cats so that we don’t have to euthanize them. Shelters and rescues everywhere are full and resources are limited. If we had as many people coming in for cats over 8 as we do people coming in for kittens, they would be up for adoption. But as it is, we seldom get people interested in senior cats and you have to draw a line somewhere. What’s worse, a 10 year old cat sitting in a shelter kennel for months and months and months and being stressed and being passed over again and again… or euthanizing it and not making it go through months of stressed kennel life? There’s the space issue too, which is a big one for many shelters and luckily, not one that we run into often. But you do run into it occasionally. No matter how much you reach out and inform people of the importance of spay and neuter, no matter how many programs there are to assist and lower or cover the cost, there is a never-ending supply of homeless pets and not enough responsible homes to take them. Sometimes you have limited kennels, the other rescues and shelters you usually transfer to are full and without anywhere for them to go, you are out of options and you have to pick out the most adoptable ones. There will always be disagreement over the answers and I don’t think there is a correct one. At the shelter, we can only do what we feel is best for the animal and it isn’t easy. You make your decision and it sucks and it breaks your heart but you have to keep going.

There’s also the terrified dogs. Usually a super shy little dog that may make friends with a staff member or two but nowhere near the majority and most can’t even touch it. You know it’s terrified, you know it can likely be pushed into biting if you go in there and try to pick it up or put a harness on too quickly, that it most likely will bite a volunteer who is perhaps newer or not so experienced in canine body language. You also know that it won’t show well to people as it took you, someone experienced with dogs, several days to make friends and that most people don’t want a project dog and it is a liability to have up for adoption. Sure, it could go into a foster home and be worked with but you don’t have one, at least not experienced enough for the amount of training this dog will need or with enough time to dedicate to it- it could be in a foster home for a year before it finds a permanent owner. And it’s not handling the kennel stress very well and sometimes, you need that kennel. So you aren’t left with many options and it breaks your heart. Every time. Most of the the time, a behavior problem like that could be worked through if you just had ________. But you don’t have ________ and you can’t dwell on it, you can’t beat yourself up over “if only” and “what if,” it’s not healthy and there’s another dog coming in that needs a kennel set up. You have to shake it off and not let it break you because you have work to do. Again and again, you are faced with that question; which is worse? How long does this dog have to sit in a shelter, how stressed, how miserable does it have to be, before you make a decision to end it? I’ve heard all the arguments and I’ve seen a lot of name-calling. “You’re a murderer, you’re sick, you could have done something, you could take a pay cut, you could have found somewhere for it to go, you didn’t do enough, if you had just tried.” Unfortunately, there isn’t always something you can do, somewhere for it to go, and I’m sorry, but while I really don’t make much, my job is not a minimum wage job. My job is hard and it is a job that a lot of people wouldn’t and couldn’t do. And on the other hand, even if I was making minimum wage, I’d be sick for murdering helpless animals for minimum wage. We can’t win and we did everything we could. And worse, while these people are fighting open admission shelters and pushing support of only “no kill,” they are missing the big picture: we need to promote spay and neuter and educate. The shelter wouldn’t have so many cats if people would get theirs fixed, there wouldn’t be so many dogs if there weren’t so many irresponsible breeders, we wouldn’t have to euthanize so many aggressive dogs if their owners could understand what chaining a dog up or using a prong collar or hitting it or Cesar Millan-type training does, there wouldn’t be so many pit bulls and bully breeds euthanized nationwide if more people understood the breed. Open admission shelters are not the problem and we are forced to make tough decisions every day because we have to. You quickly realize how many things there are that are worse than quick, compassionate and humane death.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Olympic Animal Sanctuary that was supposed to be housing unadoptable dogs but was in fact an unhealthy and horrid hoarding situation. There are a few problems with this and the first and foremost being that even if the kennels and dogs were managed properly, even if the facility was top of the line with enough volunteers to walk dogs and good food and proper beds and it was cleaned every day, you have to realize what it is- a warehouse. There’s also the story of Mickey, a pit bull left unattended with a child, who it ended up biting, and that dog was sentenced to defanging and life in a shelter. Kennels are stressful, dogs do not deserve to live their lives out in kennels. I do not believe in warehousing, I have seen even the most mellow and nicest of dogs go stir-crazy in their kennels because even when they go on a few walks a day, they get time in the yard a few times a day, volunteers come and snuggle them throughout the day, it’s not enough. There are too many people, too many dogs, too much stress, not enough comfort and no home to truly relax in. It’s not a life. Some dogs can handle it longer than others and generally, cats and small animals handle it better than dogs, but I would rather euthanize my cats than see them live out their lives in a kennel. They deserve a home and there are worse things than death. People will usually agree with that on a basic level but without seeing it with your own eyes, the stress and crazy look in their eyes, the distraught body language, touching it with your own hands, you don’t truly understand what that means or what’s worse.

People view euthanasia as murder. The vet who taught my certification class said she once had a vet roommate who was not a shelter vet. While the roommate could be distraught over euthanizing a dog that was badly injured being hit by a car, the other was a monster for euthanizing a parvo puppy because, while sometimes treatable, it is not do-able in a shelter environment. It’s like you are viewed as a serial killer who gets joy out of ending lives, which is the most ignorant statement I think I’ve ever heard. Even when you aren’t deeply attached to an animal, or no matter how much of a good reason you have, you know you are ending a life and it’s not easy. Sometimes it’s a unanimous decision and sometimes it isn’t. Some you agree with and some you don’t, some you assist with and some you don’t. But the truth is, being able to perform euthanasias is a privilege. The vast majority of the time, you are grateful that you can end suffering. You can provide comfort to an animal while it lets go of its stress or pain. It hurts, but you are grateful, because you’d rather euthanize a dog now than have it be seriously injured in a dog fight because it’s very dog aggressive, because you’d rather euthanize it now than risk it biting a child out of fear and having to go through the stress of a bite quarantine before being euthanized, because you’d rather euthanize it now than risk it being abused because people don’t understand it’s fear-based aggression, because you don’t want to see this animal hurting someone or getting hurt because you know how stupid and awful people can be. Sometimes the reasons are much simpler for people outside the shelter to understand; an animal that was hit by a car and in pain, that has serious arthritis and can’t get around comfortably, cancer or otherwise unhealthy and suffering. We also offer public euthanasias, for pet owners to bring in their animal and have it put to rest. These are often the hardest because they are distraught and crying and you know what they’re going through. You’ve been there and you know it hurts.

I often bring home hissy pissy, semi-feral kittens and turn them around. I think it’s hilarious to watch the tiny one-pound kitten hiss at me all ferocious and I love earning their trust, getting them to purr, seeing them turn into semi-normal cats. It’s satisfying and you know you saved their life. But you can’t save them all. I recently had to bring in one of these kittens to be euthanized. Adorable screaming Cera. She was not making progress, she was extremely difficult to handle, she was stressed, she hated all interaction she had with me, she bit me all the time. I tried my hardest, I did everything I could and it wasn’t enough. I will never forget how terrified she was when I put her in the crate, how she was so easy to handle during the procedure because she was scared and I will never stop feeling like I failed her. Logically and realistically, I know I couldn’t have done more but my heart hurts every time I think of her. I feel guilty and I was constantly kicking myself over and over again the week following, thinking of the “what if” and the “if only.” And it’s hard to talk about because so many people don’t understand. Luckily I had many supportive co-workers and I just try to remind myself that four of the five hissy pissy kittens I fostered found a home and that Cera will not feel stress again. It was a final gift to her and one that I don’t regret making because she could have had something much worse.

So no, my job isn’t always fun and games. I’ve seen a lot of cute dogs and adorable kittens, I’ve seen a lot of heavily bred dogs making money for their irresponsible owners, I’ve seen kittens that have been thrown out of car windows, animals surrendered in horrifying shape that clearly didn’t happen overnight, I’ve seen great owners who buy a bigger car so they can more easily drive around with their newly adopted third dog, who move into a new house with a big yard for their newly adopted dog, I’ve seen unrealistic people return animals because they “realized they just weren’t cat people,” I’ve seen people bring in pets for euthanasia that they’ve been holding on to for far too long and people who bring in pets for euthanasia that are starting to suffer and they don’t want to see them go through that. I’ve seen people who don’t care to look for their missing pet and just want to get a new one, and people who come in to look for their missing pet for months. I’ve seen dogs redeemed to extremely grateful owners and dogs redeemed to extremely rude owners. I’ve seen and handled more dogs and cats than the average person will in their lifetime, some of each trying to bite me. I’ve seen a dog who was clearly kicked that bit every time the people in his home crossed their legs, a dog that cowered when you said his name. I’ve seen a dog returned after barely a week that the adopter wasted no time in ruining. Cats and dogs and small animals abandoned in houses or left on the street. I’ve seen newborn kittens and tiny puppies. Dogs with untreated broken limbs and cats with their leg dangling from almost nothing. I’ve seen cats and dogs take their last breath. I’ve seen a lot of good and a lot of bad. And one of the worst things is how hard it is to talk about. Co-workers are living it and it’s depressing to everyone else. It’s a job that requires strength, this idea that you have to be tough all the time and it’s exhausting. It’s okay to hurt and it can be hard to accept that because you can’t let it break you. Every day is a roller coaster of emotion- for me, for every one of my co-workers, for people in shelters and rescues all around the world that I’ve never met. It’s a job that chews you up and spits you out, it warms your heart and it fills you with gratitude. It’s a profession you keep going back to because you know that someone has to. You know that you make a difference and even when it’s hard, even when it breaks your heart, you know you’re doing something good. So you let yourself cry and be sad a little, you shake it off, and you go back to work.

Old Friends

I had a pretty bad falling out with a good friend a few years ago. The whole thing was awful and heartbreaking and ugly. This friend was my very best friend for years. It was one of those friendships that just… worked. Not that my fabulous girlfriends now aren’t utterly and completely amazing, of course. 

The details of the falling out aren’t important. The important part is that I was so mad for so long. I just couldn’t shake her, every time I thought of her I would get so frustrated. This had been going on for about two years. If it came up in conversation, I could play it off like another of my awful stories but internally, I felt like I swallowed a swarm of bees. Sounds like a bad break up, right? It kind of was.

It wasn’t until recently that I really started to think about why I was still so upset. It had been literally years, I’d never been hung up on a boy for that long! I came to the conclusion that I was upset because I missed her. Once the thought crossed my mind, I couldn’t stop. I missed the connection we had, I missed how much we laughed and could talk about everything. It seems like such typical “best friend stuff” and for the most part, it is. I’m not trying to make this too mushy but basically, I idolized this girl. She was a couple years older and just seemed so much more grown up than I was. She was pretty and independent and had a boyfriend that drove. It was just so cool. Being a teenage girl is hard, it was easier to do when I had someone to look up to. And we got through some pretty shitty stuff together. We talked on the phone for hours at a time and we never ran out of stuff to talk about. Like I said, typical “best friend stuff.” Anyways, the point is I missed her. There’s just something about a friend that knows you. 

So after a few weeks of stressing about it, I decided to reach out to her. We had a stupid, albeit horrible, falling out but did that really cancel out how good of friends we were and how well we got along? We were both at fault, neither of us handled it well, but hey, it was like the worst breakup ever and who ever handles bad breakups well?  All the same though, I was pretty nervous to actually send her a message. I probably wouldn’t have been able to hit send if I didn’t have a glass of wine for courage [don't judge]. And I’m very glad I did. We have plans to get together and catch up and I am so excited. Really nervous, but excited. I’ve already got pre-date jitters!

Anyways, I don’t really have a point. I’m just glad I reached out. It’ll be nice to have her back in my life.

Chivalry: What Makes a Gentleman?

It used to be that a nice gentleman would pick a lady up for a date, open her car door for her when she gets in and again when she gets out, treating her to a nice dinner, and finally walking her all the way to her door when he drops her off, seeing her safely inside. He opened the doors for her, picked up the tab and let her walk in ahead of him, if only so he could discreetly check out her ass. I have been informed that it is now foolish to expect any of these things from a man. Nowadays, it seems you are lucky enough to have a man buy you dinner, much less wait for you to get in your car before he peels out. Well… I think I’d rather be single than date a.man so inconsiderate as that.

So what makes a man a gentleman? What does he have to do to earn that title? Frankly, I don’t think they have to do much anymore. Hey, he bought you dinner. Sure, he opened the door for himself. He ordered first, he talked about himself, he harrumphed over the total, he gets up and walks out without you, leaving you to rush after him and doesn’t even walk you to your car before going in for that kiss. But girl, he bought you dinner and dammit he’s a chivalrous gentleman that you should be grateful for!

My biggest pet peeve, when I’m out with anyone, is when they just rush away from the table without you. Be it a good first date, a bad first date, three years into a relationship, a friend, a colleague, you get the idea. Half the time, I feel like most men I’ve dated are halfway to the door before I’ve even stood up all the way. I feel like that’s rude and honestly, selfish. Whether I like you or not, I will wait for you to gather your things and walk out beside you. My good male friend told me that’s my problem, my expectations are too high and it’s totally okay for someone to do that. Really? So I should just be okay with someone treating me poorly? He basically said I have no right to be upset about anything like that. I should not expect any kind of polite, courteous, or chivalrous behavior unless he is seriously interested in me and obviously this date had gone very poorly and he wasn’t interested in me at all.

So let me get this straight. You have to be seriously interested in someone to be courteous, in even the most common manner. Huh. See, all this time I have been nice to pretty much anyone and everyone because I have no reason not to be. I cannot imagine treating someone like that. So what if you’re on a date and it’s not going well and you don’t want to see each other again? Do we really live in a world where that person straight up doesn’t deserve for you to be respectful? This friend of mine said he is very careful about his body language [i.e. walking away before your date is ready to leave] so no one gets confused. Well darling, I’m pretty sure I won’t consider you waiting for me to put my coat on and grab my purse a marriage proposal.

Then on the other hand, I have another very good male friend. I told him my frustration with this walking out thing and my disappointment with my other friend’s response. This friend told me he has never felt my expectations were too high and I deserve a man that will treat me like an equal and not so inferior that I have to rush about just to keep up and like I belong behind him. Sure, being picked up for a date is impractical and potentially dangerous, online dating being as popular as it is. Likewise, rushing around to open the car door when I go to get out is also a little absurd. But is it too much to expect a man to let you walk in ahead of him? Is it too much to want him to wait for me to at least stand up before he leaves? Now, I don’t really expect a man to wait and make sure I drive away first, although I’d be pleasantly surprised if he did, but I do expect him to see me to my car. If I don’t hear from him, I don’t hear from him. Incompatibility is perfectly acceptable, but being rude for no other reason than being rude is not.

I do not feel my expectations are too high in the slightest. I don’t care how tall the man is, I don’t care if he is a blond or a brunette, if he works in an office or with his hands, and I don’t need him to be a millionaire. I want a polite man who is engaging and interested, who wants to do those little things that add up to so much. He should have a car, a job and a sense of humor. Compassion is also pretty important. Selfishness is unattractive and I will never settle for that. When I am dating a man, I have no problem buying or making him dinner, we can take turns picking the movie or activity, I’ll boost your ego and you can boost mine. I would much rather buy my own dinner and be treated with politeness and respect than have a free meal from an inconsiderate man.

My long and roundabout point is that, while maybe not quite dead, chivalry is mostly in the past. Most men will call themselves an old-fashioned gentleman, but few of them really know what that means. We live in a world where we are only polite when it is convenient to us. We treat most of the people around us poorly and continue to allow it. You have to earn the niceties that should just be common courtesy. And very rarely will you find yourself across the table from a true gentleman, but we ALL deserve one.

The Biggest Mistake.

 

I don’t feel like I have made a lot of mistakes in life, so it’s pretty apparent to me what the worst one was. Dating.

Looking back on the last several months that I’ve been talking, meeting and dating men, I have cried more times than I can count. Because some asshole found a way to undermine my self confidence and make me feel worthless. What about me do all these people not like? What about me makes it easy for them to make me a “good enough until something better comes along?” How many times can one person be told they aren’t good enough and they found someone better? Maybe I haven’t been told that in words, but it has always been made pretty clear.

Men have their excuses. We weren’t serious, they tried to stop seeing me but felt bad. But they’re still just excuses. They don’t stop talking to and meeting new people, but they don’t stop seeing me until they’ve met someone better. Incompatibility is reasonable. “Hey, this isn’t working out, good luck,” is a pretty simple sentence to say to someone. But no, so many men seem to think they can keep you around while they keep looking. That for some reason because you haven’t had the “your my girlfriend” talk with me, it’s okay to lead a girl on. A girl that you know has feelings for you. A girl that for so long you put in the girlfriend zone, treating me like a girlfriend and expecting things of me like you would a girlfriend without the actual title. “Incompatibility” isn’t an excuse when you have to say, “I can’t see you anymore, I started seeing someone else.” Saying that “it wasn’t working” at that point is just bullshit. You obviously knew I wasn’t what you wanted ages ago, long enough ago that you had time to find someone else, so why do you think it’s okay to cause someone pain?

There’s only so many times a person can hear “you weren’t good enough” before it chips away at whatever self esteem you’ve built up. The last month or so, I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse about myself. I have been half-heartedly telling myself that I’m worth it but I don’t really believe it at this point. I’m the common denominator, right? Obviously, I’m lacking. That or men really are all just pigs.

There’s always been this saying that you are responsible for how you feel. They didn’t hurt you, you are letting them hurt you. Well I’d really like to meet someone who just decides to not be hurt when someone pulls shit like this. It’s not like I’m just sitting around letting someone take advantage of me, I don’t know it’s happening until too late, my heart hurts.

At this point, I don’t know what to do. I feel like shit. I feel ugly and annoying and incompetent and worthless and I have never felt like that before. Ever. I didn’t cry when I was single. I didn’t feel like garbage. Until I started dating. Dating is the biggest mistake I’ve ever made.

Dating Woes: When “Wow” Doesn’t Cover It

I’ve started and stopped writing this several times over the weekend. I don’t know where to start.

I’m sick to death of men. Let’s start there. They never make any sense. They may think everything they do is so simple and easy to understand but it’s not. I’ve been utterly confounded by more than one “break up.”

I’ve had someone be so concerned that I was seeing someone else. I liked the guy and his ex did cheat on him and I’m really very understanding for a crazy bitch. He would say, “You better not be going on a date or anything. I’m not taking anyone out but you.” Okay, looking back, it’s weird, but at the time I just liked the guy and didn’t pay it any mind. I would say, “Of course not, I really like you, I don’t see why I would try and meet other people.” So you wanna know the funny part? He broke up with me because I was too clingy! Actually, he didn’t even break up with me, he just bailed mid-conversation and never spoke to me again. 

But did you know there is actually a worse way to break things off with someone? Because I sure didn’t! Never in my life have I known a man to just insult a woman until she could find the words, “fuck you!” And this guy started out so great! But I guess there’s a reason they say if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. He always had the right thing to say, he seemed excited about me, it was fantastic. But then he quite suddenly pulled back, trying to talk to him was like pulling teeth. So I called him out on it. Shit happens, I literally give zero fucks if you hang out and drink with your buddies so long as you didn’t totally bail on plans with me to do it. I don’t care if I get a “good morning” text and then don’t hear from you all day. I don’t need 24/7 attention, I just need to know that at the end of the day, you want to talk to me. So then I told him, “I don’t feel like you want to talk to me, if this isn’t working for you, just say it.” He assured me that wasn’t it, blah blah blah, so I let it go. So a few days later when we have plans, he calls me to say he didn’t think he could make it. I asked him why and he said, “I don’t really have a reason.” Oh okay, well then bye. But he wasn’t done. He proceeded to tell me about how he’s super depressed and he’s not over his ex and he tried to have feelings for me which is why he took my phone calls but he just didn’t feel anything. Bad, right? Don’t worry, it gets better. He tells me he was pissed when I called him out for bailing on me, he couldn’t give me as much attention as I apparently needed and that sleeping with me made him uncomfortable. What in the actual fuck? You sure seemed to enjoy it at the time and I don’t recall forcing myself on you!

I admit I started out as a blubbering fool. Upset and crying and disgustingly trying to change his mind. But then I got pissed. Really pissed. I haven’t been that angry in a long time. So I ripped into him. I called him a giant sack of shit and an asshole. He whined, “I’m not an asshole,” and I said, “Oh really? Because from where I’m sitting, you’re the biggest asshole I’ve ever met.” I was floored. And that jerk still felt the need to say, “I really like you, I’d still like to see you. I enjoy your company, I still want to have you over and cuddle on the couch. My life is just a mess right now and I can’t blame you if you don’t want to stick around.” How about you go fuck yourself?

And that was that. I hung up, deleted his number and moved the fuck on. At least as much as I could. I’m really quite alright, actually, but I feel like my faith in men and relationships is all but destroyed. I don’t have the time or the patience to deal with this shit anymore. How hard is it to find someone honest who wants a relationship? Sure, I’ve found good, honest guys but they aren’t looking for what I’m looking for. Which is fine, I wasn’t led to believe it was more, but I still wouldn’t be satisfied with it. I want a boyfriend. I want someone to be excited about me, want to see me, be there for me and let me do the same. I want to snuggle and watch movies. I want a man who wants to be seen with me in public.  

Bah. One day my prince will come, yeah? Until then… I think I’m gonna eat my feelings for a bit. My friend told me, “Let the wrong guy take you out to dinner and tell you you’re pretty.” Eventually, soon even, but not today. I need a break.

Miscellaneous Anectdotes: Damages

Sometimes, it feels like you can’t outrun your past. Or maybe it’s just me that can’t let go. Of course, it doesn’t help when it seems that almost every outcome to almost every situation is saying the same thing; “you aren’t good enough.”

Yes, sometimes I’m melodramatic, but on a completely serious and depressing [for me] note, I really grew up believing I wasn’t good enough. Nothing I ever did, no matter how I looked, I just didn’t stand a chance against the impossibly high standards set before me.

Every relationship I’ve been in, every single one of them, I was left for someone else. Every. Time. It’s easy enough to brush it off the first half a dozen times, but after that? It gets harder. Really hard.

Then there was one person I didn’t think in a million years would ever chose someone over me and guess what? He did. And oh god it hurt. As much as it sucks to say, it still hurts. As much as I think I’m over it, something will happen and it crushes me all over again. Something little that reminds me of a moment I spent with him and my gut clenches and my heart rips and my eyes fill with tears. As ludicrous as it is to say, I worry that my heart will never be the same. It sickens me that the man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with has hurt me like this, that my feelings for him were obviously not reciprocated in the same way because if he felt for me what I felt for him, he never could have chosen another girl. I know I made my mistakes in our relationship and I know I hurt him, but he always knew that he was it for me, that I never wanted to be with anyone else and I wanted to marry him. Because of the way things turned out, I have this sinking feeling that even if I didn’t make those mistakes and no matter what I did, it would have ended the same way. One way or another, he would have decided that I was old hat and would rather give the new and local model a try. And I hate him for that. I hate myself for loving him so much, for believing wholeheartedly that you could meet your soul mate at 22, and mostly, I hate myself for still being so hung up on him.

And I’m still so angry. I never got to yell and scream about it. I went down whimpering, “why?” when I should have punched his head in. He shattered me in a way I’ve never shattered anyone and I hate him for that.

I feel damaged. I feel like I’ve dealt with so much shit already that I just want a break. I keep my schedule full but that just leaves me burned out and irritable, but if I have too much free time I start to feel like this.

And I know the drill. “You’re young, you have your whole life ahead of you, you just need time, blah blah blah.” I get it. I know my life isn’t over, but that sure as hell doesn’t make me feel better now. I just wish things had been different. I wish I could have grown up feeling worthy with a higher self esteem, I wish I either never met him or we never broke up, I just wish it was different.

But hey. Hakuna Matata, right? =\

Miscellaneous Anectdotes: Dating

Dating. Wow. It doesn’t matter if you meet someone the old-fashioned way, get set up, or try the online thing. Well, I’ve never been set up so I’m just assuming.

I have chosen the online dating route. Partly because I don’t usually get out enough to meet people the old-fashioned way, and partly because online dating gets the important things out in the open from the get go. Are you looking for something serious, do you want kids, do you have kids? Not exactly things you ask on a first date with the cute guy you met at the local coffee shop.

I will say that dinner is not a good first date. If you don’t hit it off really well, it is a really long wait until you can order, and then ages until your food comes. When the food finally arrives, you eat it as fast as possible in hopes you’ll move the date along. But sometimes, your date doesn’t feel the need to hurry it along and when you no longer have the luxury of entertaining yourself with whatever mediocre meal is in front of you, you’re resigned to the awkward silences and even more awkward conversation. All the while thinking that you could be at home without a bra on. You didn’t have to skip that nap or touch up your make up. All of a sudden, that scene in rom-com’s where the lady sets up an “emergency” phone call in case the date goes south makes sense.

You know what else sucks? When you don’t even realize you’re on a date! I can’t be the only woman this has happened to, can I? Or am I really that oblivious? So you’ve got a guy friend and you know, you’re buddies. It’s whatever, right? Wrong. Guys and girls can’t be friends very often. Sometimes, when you’re me apparently, your guy friend says, “let’s hang out!” and you say, “sure!” and unbeknownst to you, you’ve agreed to a date. You find yourself at a nice restaurant being told, “you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” or some such ludicrous pick up line thinking, “wait, what?” Sometimes they aren’t even trying to be a gentleman about it and you get a booty call at some godawful hour of night. But at least those are easier for you to say, “Um, no. Delete my number.”

Then there’s the great – fantastic even – first dates that end up being a really, really bad second date. I don’t know why that seems to be my luck but I’ll find them incredibly annoying the second time I see them. I think it’s them being assholes who think since the first date went so well, you’re hooked for life and they can start being douchey and push for sex. And what is it with men acting like jerks when it comes to sex? They try to make a joke about watching porn, you say TMI, and they stomp their little feet and say you’re either sensitive or snide and undersexed [yes, this actually happened]. Excuse me? We had two dates, I’m supposed to be okay with all your crude talk and being pushy about getting laid? No. Just… no. Get out. The boys who talk way too much about past relationships can get out too.

You can’t forget about the super excited, overwhelming, half in love with you before meeting you guys either. I’ve had a few of those. It’s hard to describe why I find this irritating. Maybe I’m a bitch or maybe I still have this aversion to nice guys or maybe I’m too easily annoyed, but it is what it is. I guess I feel like they’re putting me up on a pedestal and I prefer a more realistic outlook of, “we started talking, it’s going well, we’ll see what happens when we meet.” I want my man to fall for the me he meets, not the me he creates in his mind.

And oy vei, the rejection of it all! My heart goes out a little bit to every guy that I didn’t email back or didn’t see again. Writing up the “About Me” section of an online dating profile is like writing a resume and cover letter for a fantastic job. Most people are uncomfortable talking much about how awesome they are and why they should pick you. it’s not easy! You want to give enough information to entice people, come across as witty and charming, and write in such a way that invites questions. You don’t want to message someone with, “Hi, how’s it going?” It’s an exhausting process and I find it requires wine. So much wine.

Worse still is when you start seeing someone, you think everything is going well, and they just disappear mid conversation. Oh, relationship over I guess. Thanks for the heads up. There is a small window when simply not responding is acceptable, in my opinion. It depends on the situation but if you haven’t talked much, if you’re put off, you can just let the conversation drop and move on. But there comes a point, when the relationship has shifted from a date or two to dating and monogamy, you need to say something if you’re gonna jump ship. It’s rude and a complete and total disregard to feelings and time.

All in all, the process is taxing. From the first contact to the first date, from the primping to the awkward first kiss [that sometimes you're hoping doesn't happen!] and the even worse sloppy kisser that makes you want to pull away immediately and wipe your mouth off. To wanting to see them again or thinking of how to avoid a second date or let someone down easy. Picking the right outfit that makes you look classy and sexy yet still conservative. Shaving your legs and wearing uncomfortable shoes. It all takes a lot of effort.

And a lot of wine.