Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Trials of a Marine Biologist in a Landlocked State

Hi, it's me again!  I'm alive!  A lot has changed in the past three years.  So here's the tale...

I was in Florida.  I was working in a job I loved that barely paid a living wage.  And...I needed a change.  I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do.  I decided to move back in with my dad over in Vero Beach.  Leaving Charlotte Harbor was probably the most difficult decision I've ever made...and yes I cried when I told my boss I was leaving, much to his horror.  I could work at the fisheries lab in Melbourne while I figured out what on earth I was going to do with my life.  What I really wanted...for years, really, was to move back to Colorado.  Yes folks, this marine biologist was born and raised in Colorful Colorado.  I think there comes a time in everyone's life when you decide you need to get back to your roots.  Well, I missed my family, I missed my mountains, and I missed my home state.  So, I saved up a bit of money over the next few months and made plans to move back to the Centennial State.

It was a long, long drive with 3 bunnies, 2 guinea pigs, and 2 buckets of fish.

In September of 2014, I hauled 3 bunnies, 2 guinea pigs, 2 fish tanks' worth of fish, and all my crap almost 2,000 miles.  It was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do (and I've pulled nets in alligator-infested water during thunderstorms).  I took a leap of faith and moved west without a job.  I had family I could land with while I was job hunting, and after a few months, I was offered a position with La-Z-Boy.

Honestly, I was scared out of my wits.  Checking gill nets in murky water at the mouth of a creek during an outgoing tide surrounded by baby bull sharks?  No problem!  Sales?  Sweet Jesus.  Well, somehow I managed to survive the sales world as an introverted scientist.  I had dealt with difficult people people before, but egad, people lose their minds over furniture.  Not to mention that furniture salespeople are considered one of the "least trustworthy" professions out there.  Honestly, that really bothered me, as silly as it seems!  I stuck it out for about a year and a half.  Seriously, unless you really love sales and are a "people person", just don't.  My body tried to tell me to get the hell out by making me suffer from major bouts of IBS.  Yeah.  Fun.
I do at least own some of the world's most comfortable furniture now!  For real, if you can buy La-Z-Boy, do it.
Anyway, on a whim I applied for a job with a pet waste removal service.  Yup, I got the job.  Yup, I am a professional pooper scooper.  I was back outside!  I could play with dogs!  It's also a ridiculous amount of work and is breaking my body.  And I really, really miss doing what I love.  It's certainly been interesting though!  I've met some dogs I absolutely adore.  I've fist-bumped a homeless guy I met.  I have attempted to understand what my drunk customer (at 9 a.m.!!!!!) was saying.  I've been hailed on.  I almost hit a deer before sunrise the other morning...yeah, there has definitely been some excitement.  I need a "real" job now though.  I can't do this forever, and I really need something that pays better, because the cost of living out here is insane!
If you ever want buns of steel and a thigh gap, try scooping poo for a living.

I have basically been job hunting for about 3 years now.  I am exceptionally sick of it...I want a career home.  I miss being with co-workers who are interested in the same things as me.  I am a science nerd, damn it!  Hopefully one of these days, the right job will come along, because I am a marine biologist out of water.
P.S.  Yes, I am still rescuing bunnies, just at the base of the Rockies instead of the edge of the ocean!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Why rescue?

This blog is dedicated to Clover Patch Sanctuary.  They had to make a heartbreaking decision this week - and it was because the irresponsible and neglectful behavior of a backyard breeder.  RIP Pinkie, Linda, Spam, Small, Medium, Large, Crinkle, Tennie, and Mercy.  You were dearly loved.

Some of you may remember my "Why rabbits?" post from a while back.  I have another question to answer.  Some people wonder, "Why rescue?"  Those of us who rescue just know.  I'm going to try to put it into words.

It's no secret that animal rescue is difficult, heartbreaking work.  Rescuers fall into it through different means.  Some people adopt a pet and want to go the extra mile.  Others might find a stray animal and start down the road of rescue.  Regardless of how it happens, each rescuer recognizes the overwhelming need.  We cannot stand back and do nothing.  We feel compelled to do more than adopt.  The drive to save those creatures who cannot help themselves is part of our very souls.  It is not for everyone - and all rescuers are eternally grateful to people who help in any way - those who adopt, those who donate, those who spread the word on social media.  You are all part of the living, breathing web of animal rescue networks.

I've had so many people ask why I do it.  It's hard to explain to others why you willingly subject yourself to heartbreak, ignorant people, financial loss, and spend hours of your time transporting, networking, and don't forget scrubbing poo!  It is frustrating.  We must deal with ignorant and neglectful people - people who see nothing of value in a companion animal...those who would discard them without a thought.  It is a continuous fight to encourage spay/neuter, stop backyard breeders, and asking people to provide basic proper care.

We clean up other people's messes.  Irresponsible breeders.  Post-holiday dumps.  "I got this pet for my 3 year old and he's tired of it".  People who couldn't even think a year ahead for their changing life circumstances.  They just wanted a puppy, a kitten, a rabbit for the the moment.  They did not give a thought to the long-term commitment of having a pet.  Every rescue out, cat, rabbit, guinea pig, bird, familiar with this.  We take in animals who have been forgotten and neglected.  They come in sick, emaciated, with parasites, with overgrown nails.  All because someone just didn't care.  That is what we're here for.  What it all boils down to is that we care so much that we must do something.

We put time, effort, and emotion into preparing these animals to go into a new and happy home.  So many people don't understand why rescues are so "picky" about homes for their animals.  We are picky because we have put our hearts and souls into rescuing each animal.  We love each one.  We have every right to deny a home that we don't feel deserves our animal.

We cry over the ones we can't save.  Sometimes an animal is just too sick or too neglected.  It is a hard truth, but we cannot save every one.  Occasionally they die unexpectedly...perhaps a lifetime of an improper diet has taken its toll.  Sometimes a rabbit will go in for a spay and is so riddled with uterine cancer that it is only humane to put her down.  We cry.  We comfort one another.  And we work to save the next one.

The heartbreak is great, but the reward is worth it.  I love seeing the happy endings.  This is why we do it.  There is nothing quite so satisfying as seeing an animal who came into rescue sick and terrified blossom into a happy, healthy, loved pet.  We had an underweight, urine-stained, ear-mite infested bunny come in a while back.  She has bloomed in her home.  She is lovely - her fur is now beautiful white, and she is happy and healthy.  I am so happy that many people in my family have rescue pets.  My sister has a former puppy mill breeder shih tzu.  She's been a work in progress, but she is learning to trust and know that she is loved and safe.  My brother has a mutt who was a stray in Miami.  He was a day from being PTS.  He was skinny and sick.  My brother and his wife adopted him.  He is the happiest, most wonderful dog you could meet.  My mom has a rescued bunny she loves dearly.  I have 3 rescued bunnies, 2 rescued piggies, and a rescued hamster.

It takes all kinds in the rescue world.  We are all so different, and yet we share this one common goal - to save animals.  It drives us, it breaks us, but it completes us.  This is why we rescue.

Teddy - a day away from being PTS.  He is happy and loved now.

Friday, May 31, 2013

How time flies...

So I realized that yesterday was the 7 year anniversary of me breaking my finger on the boat trailer winch at work.  Why do I remember?  Well, the weather was right at that perfect time of year when being out on the boat is glorious.  Naturally, that's when I broke my finger.  Of course I didn't break it during the miserable months of winter.

It's hard to believe it's been that long.  It was a long and arduous process of healing.  I had 2 surgeries and months of physical therapy.  My pinky will forever be somewhat crooked, but I'm thankful it wasn't worse (and it could have been).

Back during the time when I was dealing with the surgeries, worker's comp, physical therapy, and pain, I wrote these blogs.  Going through it certainly wasn't fun, but I tried to find a humorous side to it!  And so I present my "Never Break a Finger" blogs.  I hope it makes you laugh, because I certainly did while writing them.  And be forewarned - I'm including photos, so this probably isn't for the squeamish!

Part I: Never Break a Finger (October 2006)

Well folks, let me just give you some advice.

  2. Also, never have your finger too close to the handle of a boat trailer winch when there is tension on it, as this will lead to the problem mentioned in point 1.
  3. If you choose to ignore my advice in points 1 and 2, then break your finger at work (especially if you have no health insurance).
  4. But you REALLY don't want to do this, cause then you have to deal with worker's comp.
  5. Yes, I broke my finger back on May 30th, and I'm still in the rehab process. I did quite a job of breaking it too. You know you really did it when the doctor looks at the x-ray and says, "Wow, you really broke it, didn't you?". That leads to point 5...
  6. Never break a finger so badly that even the doctor is impressed.
Day 1.  Yeah, it was pretty swollen.  The emergency room doctor wrapped it up after giving up on setting it.
When you break it so badly that even the doctor is impressed, that means you get to have metal pins inserted into the pieces of bone floating around inside your finger. Yes, it IS as unpleasant as it sounds, just in case you were wondering. Now, the normal everyday person would just like to keep a bandage over the metal sticking out of the skin, since it JUST AIN'T NATURAL, but the doctor who was so impressed at your skill in bone breakage insists that you keep the site clean. So...not only do you have to change the bandage, but you have to clean where the metal is sticking out of the skin. If you're squeamish about these things....well, you better learn to do it with your eyes closed.

See?  There they are!

Three metal pins were crammed into my pinky.  I didn't think the swelling would ever go down!
So then....on the happy day when they announce they will take the pins out...they put your hand down on a lot of gauze and paper, and get the ol' pliers out. Yes. Pliers. So they douse your hand with iodine solution and tug the pins out. Notice I did not mention any sort of numbing agent. It didn't hurt. Not too bad, anyway. Just imagine someone scraping a metal rod through the middle of your bone. you're left with holes in your hand that lead to the bone. Amazingly enough, they close up in a couple of days.

But you're not done yet. You still have physical therapy. Now THAT hurts. You know it hurts when the therapist looks at you all of a sudden and has to remind you to breathe.

These are the reasons everyone should heed my advice and never break a finger. Oh, and don't pass out on pavement, cause that hurts too.

Never Break a Finger II: Revenge of the Scar Tissue (November 2007)

Well, it's now been 19 months, 1 frustrated physical therapist, 3 worker's comp case workers, and 2 surgeries since I broke my finger. I have learned much along the way…

  •  Never break a finger so badly that you need metal pins in it…because apparently this encourages the formation of scar tissue so insidious it will forever lock your finger into an immovable monument to your accident.
I think the tiny cast was my favorite
The "buddy strap".  Tethered my pinky to my ring finger to make it move.  That got old!
Still crooked
 Yes folks, the devoted hand therapists finally threw their own hands up in the air and ran screaming away from my stubborn digit. They tried every method possible to get my finger free from its state of perpetual…bendy-ness. They tried every exercise and splint available…and even fabricated a super-custom job that quite possibly ended up in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy. I called it Franken-splint. Seriously…they took pictures and asked my permission to publish it.

  • Never break a finger so badly that your physical therapist has to custom build a contraption out of thermoplastic, guitar tuners, monofilament, and various spare parts in a last ditch effort to extend your finger.

So, when Franken-splint failed to scare my finger into submission, the therapists ran away screaming…after they told me I probably needed surgery to release the joint. At that point, I was ready to run away screaming, so I took a year off from the whole mess and lived my life, albeit with a crooked finger.

So, a few months and one new doctor later, I got some advice about surgery. They told me many scary things about cutting my finger open, releasing ligaments and such, and doing it all while I'm still conscious. And through it all, no one could quite explain the permanent bend in my finger. I did get to see their super-nifty real-time X-ray machine. I could watch my bones move! So finally, at the appointment right before my surgery, I received the first explanation that actually made sense. They told me that scar tissue had built up and locked up the joint. Super. So I signed up for the surgery.
For all you women out there who have never had surgery, I learned something else new.

  • Absolutely, positively don't listen to the person who tells you to pee before your surgery and doesn't hand you a sample cup. Apparently, testing for pregnancy is required procedure.  So, I listened to the first lady who told me to go pee. She failed to hand me a sample cup. I finished, and upon opening the door was berated by lady 2. Here's how the conversation went:
Lady 2: Did you just pee?
Me: Yeah…
Lady 2: Did you get rid of it all?
Me: I generally try to do that when I pee…
Lady 2: But I need a urine sample!
Me: Oh.
Lady 2: We need to know if you're pregnant.
Me: What if I can tell you I'm absolutely, positively, 100% not pregnant…
Lady 2: (While handing the cup to me) Just see if you can squeeze some out.

So, I go and manage to "squeeze some out", much to her delight, and she subsequently determines I am not with child. They then begin prepping me for surgery. It's at that point I really start to worry about the whole "being awake while they cut into my finger thing". They start poking me with needles, which is never good, and inform me they are about to start the "nerve block". So, they insert some sort of electrode thing into my armpit (thank God I shaved the night before…) and my hand starts twitching wildly. Huh. So somehow that numbs up my arm, they wheel me into the OR, and much to my relief, give me something that at least makes me very drowsy. Here I was worried about being awake, and the stuff relaxes me so much I fell asleep for part of the time they were working on me. I vaguely heard someone say "Done!" and was wheeled into the recovery room. At that point my arm is so numb I can't even move it and it just flops wherever. It's an odd feeling having someone hand your own arm to you and say, "Hold it, and whatever you do don't let go!" Then, they hand me various forms to sign, one of which is instructions not to sign legal documents while still loopy from the surgery. Huh.

The very next day, I began physical therapy. The doctor ran in briefly and said, "Yeah, it was pretty well stuck down". I had kinda figured that out myself. So here I am, a few weeks later, with a grotesquely swollen, yet slightly straighter finger. Was it worth it? Stay tuned…

Pre-surgery #2.  That was as much as it would straighten.
Post-surgery and grotesquely swollen.

Never break a finger III: Exercises, Lies, and Surgical Tape (November 2008)

Well, it’s been one year since the second surgery. I’m sitting here with a healed, scarred, and a not-so-crooked-as-it-once-was pinky finger. Ah, yes, the physical therapy. Well, after the surgery, the giant opening on the side of my finger was being held together by some sort of tapey-stuff. I wanted to keep it on there at least until everything had scarred over so there was no chance of my finger popping open, but the doctor wasn’t so keen on that idea. After a few days, they told me to use it like normal and just wait for the tape to come off. And it did. It was somewhat unnerving since the flaps of skin weren’t quite closed up yet. I didn’t really want an X-ray vision of my finger…without the X-ray. They assured me this wouldn’t happen, and for once, they were right.

I must say, I’ll be happy if I never have to attend a physical therapy appointment again. Since I changed doctors, I had to go to a different therapist. My assigned therapist was named Chip. My apologies to anyone out there named Chip, but all I could think of when he talked to me was that talking teacup from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, who was also named Chip. It’s hard to take someone seriously when you get a mental picture of a talking teacup whenever he opens his mouth. He was kinda whiney too. While I manipulated putty, he elaborated on his personal problems. Maybe that’s part of the therapy? He makes his life sound so crappy, that suddenly the debilitating pain you’re experiencing doesn’t seem so bad!

Another distraction was the prison inmate that seemed to have the same appointment times as me. Seriously, they had his hands and ankles cuffed and everything. Not to mention his armed buddy that stayed by his side at all times. In order to drown out the Talking Teacup’s whining about his life, I imagined creative ways to use therapy putty as a weapon if the need arose. At least I knew that Prisoner Guy had an injury. I also imagined interesting ways in which he may have come by the injury. Maybe he was running from the cops, and a K-9 unit pulled him to the ground! Maybe he got into a prison brawl!! Eh, he probably just slipped in the prison shower.

So, after I finally got in enough therapy appointments, since Talking Teacup was often not there when he said he would be, I got the stamp of approval to go back to full duty at work!! Oh happy day!! I would not be caged in the office entering data every day!! I could kiss Corvel Corporation goodbye!!! No more putty!! No more Talking Teacup!! I was so excited to go out in the field again!! So, wouldn’t you know, the first day I was scheduled to go out was the day the worst cold front of the year came through, and we had to cancel the trip. So, I entered some more data. I still can’t reach the “P” with my pinky.


The final product.
Pinky in the air!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bunfest 2013!

Eek, it's been a while between blog posts!  I will catch up on the marine-related stuff soon!  For now, I shall blog about the hopping good time known as Bunfest.

A great many of us crazy rabbit people had been looking forward to Florida Bunfest at the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast for quite some time now.  Whenever I told non-rabbit friends that I was going to Bunfest, the typical reaction was, "Bun...what?"  Yes, there are events (several around the country) to celebrate our beloved house rabbits.
That's right.
This year was extra-awesome, in that many bunny friends I already knew were going to be there, PLUS many friends I knew from Facebook, but had never actually met.  Several traveled from out of state (from as far away from New Jersey!) to celebrate bunnies and hang out with fellow bunny people.

I left my place the morning of the event.  I live on the opposite coast of Florida, so I got up at 6:30 to get ready to go.  My dad was thankfully in town for a bike race (he is as passionate about cycling as I am about bunnies!), so he was staying at my place and could watch all my critters!  I loaded my stuff into my trusty Hyundai and headed for S.R. 70.  I sang loudly in my car, so my bunnies were probably glad they weren't with me.

Upon arrival, I met up with two friends who were already making a trip back to the car with armloads of loot for their bunnies (they have some lucky bunnies!)  I headed on up the path, and my eyes locked onto the Pet Rabbit Toys tent.  They make some pretty awesome bunny toys, and they sure did some good business that day.  I eventually found some bunny friends I had previously only met online.  It's a little hard when most everyone's profile pictures are their bunnies!  We all eventually found one another and introduced ourselves.

Everyone had a great time.  Lots of people brought their bunnies.  There was a big "Bunny Olympics" area with tunnels and jumps.  There was a bunny toy making station, games for kids, and all kinds of fun stuff for sale.
Bunny in a tunnel
Lots of fun stuff for sale!
We looked around at all the adoptable bunnies.  A few bunnies (and a guinea pig!) even found permanent homes, which is always a happy occasion!  Several of these critters found homes with my new-found bunny friends!

It really was great to hang out with fellow rabbit people, since nobody really "gets" rabbit people aside from other rabbit people!  It's nice not to get weird looks when you talk about binkies or nose bonks.  You knowingly joke with one another about rabbit poop, and totally get why we all praise our bunnies for making nice poop.  Most people look at me disbelievingly when I tell them I have three rabbits (oh, by the way, I recently adopted a rabbit - more on her later!)  Not at Bunfest!  One rescuer at Bunfest thought it was great when she told someone else she has 20 rabbits in her house and they said, "Only twenty?  I have thirty!"  We all shared rescue stories and frustrations.  We talked constantly about the things our rabbits do, and nobody judged us!  We LOVE to talk about rabbits!
Me and my friend Allison - we hadn't seen each other in a while!
All of us hardcore bunny people stayed the entire day.  We had to see who won the raffle of course!  I didn't win anything (I never win raffles!), but lots of other people won some great prizes!  The best thing was that all the money raised (over $3000!) went directly to the rabbits at the humane society.

After Bunfest was over, it was time for the Bunfest After Party!  That's right.  Bunny people know how to have a good time.  We all met up at a local grill & bar.  Yes, the conversation was dominated by the subject of rabbits.  It was awesome to network with other rescue people and get to know them face-to-face.  We had so much fun and met so many great new friends.
Why yes, of course there were bunnies at the restaurant with us.  (These two travel everywhere with their people and are used to these situations)
All in all, it was a fantastic day.  Of course it was a day to celebrate bunnies, but it was also a day to celebrate friendship.  Everyone there came from all different walks of life from different parts of the country, but we are all united in our love for pet rabbits.  Now I am trying to figure out how to pay my way to Midwest Bunfest in Ohio in November!  It is HUGE and so many people are going.  Maybe I can sell bunny poop...