Friday, August 26, 2011

P for Pug Life

Our Pug, Dexter, has had a rough couple of weeks.This really sucks, because the poor little guy has had a hard enough life. We adopted Dexter two years ago from the Minnesota Pug Rescue. They couldn’t tell us how old he was, because he was a former puppy mill dog, but best estimates put him at about a year and a half. Puppy mills are not nice places (this is a HUGE GIGANTIC understatement), so the first year or so of Dexter’s life were filled with abuse and neglect, culminating in him and his sister being left in a large garbage can outside of a humane society. They were thankfully found and eventually ended up being placed with Minnesota Pug Rescue.

Dexter’s former life had obvious effects on his personality and demeanor. When we first met him, he wouldn’t let us near him because he didn’t trust strangers. Of course, given his past, this was totally understandable. He was skittish, flinched at the slightest movement, and spent his first week at our house curled up in the corner of our sectional couch where he could watch everything around him and no one could sneak up from behind. We’d have to be really careful trying to pet him, because if you approached from anywhere near his head, he flinched and dove to the ground in a seemingly uncontrollable reflex response. In addition to trying to gain his trust, we also had to try to potty train him. This was no easy task.

He has changed by leaps and bounds since joining our family. He’s a much more confident, happy, and all around good dog. Words cannot express how much love we have for this silly little dog. The tough road we’ve all traveled since taking him in has bonded us as a family. That’s why the past couple weeks have been so devastating…

It started with his feet. He would NOT stop licking his feet. We thought that his paws might just be dried out as a result of the soap daycare used for his bath perhaps not being fully rinsed away. When a good cleaning and rinsing of his feet and the application of puppy moisturizer didn’t help, and he escalated to chewing his paws, we knew it was time to go to the vet. Musicman made the appointment, and since he gets off of work earlier than I do, he brought him in.

The night before the appointment, I reminded Musicman to have the vet look at the bump on Dexter’s neck. For about a month now, he’d had a bump that started out looking like an ingrown hair but had grown to the size of a large wart or cyst. We’d decided that, since it didn’t seem to cause pain or problem, we’d have it looked at the next time Dexter needed a vet visit. That time had come.

I beat Musicman and Dexter home the day of the appointment, so Lucy and I sat and waited for them to return. When I’d gotten home, Lucy’s mad and persistent barking let me know that she was not at all thrilled that daddy had brought brother somewhere and left her home alone. I had just gotten her calmed down when we heard the car pull into the garage. I was shocked when Dexter came running into the house with a giant plastic cone around his head and neck!

Musicman informed me that Dexter’s paws were infected. As a result, he would be on antibiotics for 10 days, the cone would need to stay on for the duration to prevent further licking, and we’d have to soak his paws in a Betadine solution for five minutes every night. Poor pug! (We went out a few days later and got him an inflatable collar in lieu of the cone. He now looked as though he were prepared for a shipwreck.)

Then, Musicman broke the really bad news to me....

The doctor was pretty sure the lump on Dexter’s neck was a tumor. The needle aspiration they’d done at the office during the appointment caused her to think it should be removed as soon as possible. After removal, they would send it out for a pathology report to determine whether or not it was cancerous. If it was, we’d have to discuss treatment options. The vet said radiation wasn’t a good idea for dogs of Dexter’s size, because little dogs don’t seem to handle it well at all. However, she seemed quite positive that, even if the tumor was cancerous, the surgery would take care of the problem.

We were devastated. How could our poor little dog have cancer? He’d had a hard enough life! This was the last thing he deserved! After getting over the shock and crying for our poor little Pug, we agreed that we’d spend the $400 for surgery. Of course that meant we wouldn’t be going camping, or going to the Minnesota State Fair, or doing a few of the other fun things we’d hoped to do with the few weeks I had off this summer, but that $400 was a small price to pay to possibly prolong our little boy’s life.

We scheduled the appointment for last Friday. We both took last Friday off of work in order to drop Dexter off for his surgery; we both knew we’d be too worried to be able to focus on anything at work. I cried as we got ready to leave the house. Dexter seemed to know something was up as he was extra cuddly. By the time we got to the vet’s office, I was a complete mess.

I felt like a horrible puppy mom and awful wife as I told Musicman I’d wait in the car with Lucy while he brought Dexter into the clinic. I knew I just couldn’t handle leaving my little guy there. Our family short one member, we dropped Lucy off at daycare so that she could run out her energy for the day. A tired dog is a happy dog, and the exhaustion she experiences after a day at daycare would prevent her from bothering Dexter that evening as he tried to recover.

Musicman and I went to breakfast and then spent the day at the Minnesota Zoo, reliving our second date, as we tried to keep our minds from wandering into negative “what ifs.” We did end up having a really fantastic day. We were relieved when we finally got the call from the vet that the surgery had gone well. She warned Musicman that they’d removed a wide margin around the tumor, so we should be prepared that Dexter’s neck might look worse than we’d imagined when we picked him up later in the evening.

She wasn’t kidding! When we were finally able to pick up our little buddy, we were stunned by what we saw. This is how he looked the next day:

They shave almost his whole neck!!

The vet gave us pain pills for the next few days, told us she’d call us when she had the pathology results, and had us setup an appointment two weeks out to have Dexter’s stitches removed. As we drove home, all Dexter did was cry. It was so pitiful and so sad, because we didn’t know exactly why he was crying. Was he starving after having not eaten for almost 24 hours? Was he in pain? Was he just out of it? We assumed it was a combination of all three. Thankfully, once we got home and gave him a couple treats and some water, he calmed down and cuddled up for a nap:

Musicman got the call on Tuesday, our third wedding anniversary, that the pathology results were back. I was at orientation for St. Scholastica (happy anniversary to us!), so unfortunately Musicman had to hold on to the news until I got home at 9:30 that evening. The report indicated that the mast cell tumor was cancerous. However, we had fortunately caught it early; it was Stage 1 cancer. The news wasn’t all bad. The doctor had taken a really wide margin and the marginal tissues showed no cancer cells, meaning it hadn’t spread. This means they got it all with the surgery!!!

Though we still have a week to go before his stitches are removed, Dexter seems as though he’s back to normal. He’s gonna have one heckuva badass scar! We joke that this will make him look way tougher. Next time he goes to daycare, he can tell the other dogs that he was shot or stabbed in a knife fight, because that’s PUG LIFE. (Get it? It’s a play on thug life. Yep….we’re totally those crazy dog people.)

The vet warned us that there is a chance that Dexter could get another tumor sometime in the future, so we should keep a close eye on him. However, for now at least, our little Pug is cancer free and we are incredibly thankful and happy! We’re going to continue on as though we have a perfectly health dog, because we do now. And, of course, we’re going to continue to spoil the heck out of both of our dogs and enjoy every single moment we are fortunate enough to have with them.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

B for Back in the Saddle

Hello, lovely reader!! Once again, it’s been a while. I’m hoping this fall, once my school schedule is more stable and predictable, that I’ll be able to have a more stable and predictable blogging schedule as well. And maybe—just maybe—I’ll actually get some readers back and/or will attract more readers.

As you can already tell based on the fact that I have written this post that you are now reading, I survived summer semester. Just barely. It was the most difficult semester I think I’ve ever had, which is saying a lot. I was cursing myself for saving two Prior Learning Assessments (PLAs) until last. What on Earth was I thinking attempting to do two PLAs in one semester?!?! Obviously, I wasn’t. Thinking, that is. Had I actually been thinking I’d have realized how emotionally draining the Death and Dying papers would be and I’d have given myself plenty of time to work on them while allowing for breaks.

I didn’t anticipate just how much I’d drag my feet on these assignments either. I’m usually pretty good about getting myself out of my procrastination mode with a little positive self-talk, but it just wasn’t working this time around. Nope. I dug my heels in. Hard. I did not want to analyze or rethink my personal experiences with death. Especially the “significant” experiences the instructor requested we write about. I wanted my most significant experience to stay right where it was; locked up safely in my head. I waited so long to get started that it became clear that there was a distinct possibility that I wouldn’t finish on time.

Before I’d even started, I’d given up. Instead of working hard to complete the papers I needed to write, I started thinking about what my advisor at St. Scholastica would say to my request to delay starting their program until next fall. Was that even a possibility? I had already been accepted, so surely I could delay my start date without having to reapply. I rationalized that I could spend the fall doing Death and Dying, spring semester doing that ten paper Family and Society PLA (which I hadn’t started at this point either), and summer semester doing the fine arts class I’d still need because I had dropped my music class this summer (there was no chance I’d be able to keep up when I was now panicking because I hadn’t started either of the two PLAs). I had a plan. It wasn’t a good one, but it was a plan.

I battled with myself. I screamed at myself (in my head only, of course) that I at least needed to try to finish the PLAs on time. What if I could do it? There was still time. The final papers I turned in wouldn’t be my best work, of course, but I could at least turn something in. It wasn’t worth setting me back a whole year. Besides, when I’d taken that very first course that explained the process of PLAs, they’d said you basically had to work hard to fail them. In other words, it’s almost impossible to fail them if you hand something in on time.

Words cannot express how physically and emotionally exhausting it was to complete the assignments. I ended up using up vacation days at work in order to stay home to write in the hopes that I’d finish the papers on time. THAT’S how long I procrastinated, lovely reader. I’m not proud of it. I hope I learned from it and that such a thing will never happen again. It's just that I was in such a funk that I literally ceased all forward motion. I just could not get started.

I somehow managed to get the Death and Dying project done with hours to spare. And then? I found out they moved the meeting time out a day, which meant I actually got it done with hours and a day to spare. It was not my best work; nowhere near it, in fact. But, it was done.

Though the Family and Society assignment seemed even more daunting, what with ten papers to write, I expected the papers to be easy. I’d done four or five of the same style of papers for this same instructor in the sociology class I took last summer, so I was familiar with the format she expected. Also, each paper only had to be two to four pages. I could do this. Except…

I didn’t anticipate how draining these papers would be either. I had to think a lot about my past. I had to deal with a lot of stuff that came up. I had to write about my dysfunctional childhood, which led to me being a dysfunctional teenager/young adult, which led to entering into bad relationships in which I was abused. It was not fun stuff to think about or relive. I don’t like drudging up the past. I’d moved on with my life and was done with the past. I am a totally different person now. A survivor in a lot of ways. I didn’t want to think critically to apply sociological theories to my life. Panic mode set in again. And, once again, I ended up having to use up a vacation day at work in order to stay home and finish up the assignment.

I did end up passing both PLAs. I am now done with Community College. (Kinda. I’m two courses short, but I’m taking them as part of my bachelor’s program and transferring credits back to Community College in order to get credit for completing my associate’s degree.) I’m ready to move on to the College of St. Scholastica (CSS) and the pursuit of my bachelor’s degree. Kinda.

I have come to the conclusion that I’m burnt out on school, lovely reader. I’m just ready to be done. It’s been a really long two years, and I almost can’t bear to think about the fact that I have sixteen months to a year and a half left until my bachelor’s is complete. Then, a year left to get my master’s degree, should I choose to do that. Right now, that’s looking quite unlikely. Perhaps I’ll get some work experience and take a little break from school before pursuing my master’s degree.

The only things propelling me forward at this point is (1) I already have so much money invested in school that it would be absolutely stupid to give up now, (2) the bachelor’s program will provide a much-needed change of scenery, and (3) I will finally be immersed in studying social work, which is what I have been working so hard to do.

I attended my advisement session a couple weeks ago at CSS and was disappointed to find out that, though I had completed the steps advisors at both schools told me I needed to, I’m over 20 credits short to transfer. It’s fuzzy to me how it all works, and I don’t want to get into a long-winded explanation, but it was to do with the fact that Community College accepted 16 transfer credits from the technical college I attended right out of high school. While I was under the understanding that those 16 would transfer as is to St. Scholastica, based on what the previous advisor had told me, that’s proven not to be the case. I cannot tell you how frustrated and angry I was to find this out!

I had to do a bit of footwork to try to get syllabi from old courses I took back in 1997 in order to see if St. Scholastica will accept them. The social work program coordinator is pushing hard for this to happen, but we won’t know the results for sure until towards the end of fall semester. If the school decides to accept them, great! If not, I guess I’ll have to take 20 extra credits on top of my bachelor’s degree classes. I am not pleased. At all. If they do take them, I’m wondering if I’ll have to deal with the same issue if/when I decide to complete a master’s degree. I’m certain I will. Whatever school I decide to transfer to probably won’t accept the technical college credits either, because the problem is that the technical college isn’t accredited in accordance with new standards that were implemented across the state well after I graduated from there. It’s a sucktastic nightmare. When all is said and done, I’ll likely have completed two whole associate’s degrees (including the technical college associate in applied science), which is pretty ridiculous and unnecessary.

Let this be a lesson for those of you with children. If you want to send your kids to a community or technical college, make sure that any work they do there will be transferrable to other colleges/towards a higher degree should there even be a slight possibility that your child would want to pursue a higher degree. Otherwise, you’ll have wasted a whole lot of time and money on that technical school degree if your child does decide to pursue a bachelor’s.

I hope all is well in your world, lovely reader. I look forward to sharing my journey towards a social work degree and license with you and I look forwad to interacting with you more as I setup a more regular blogging routine.
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