Sunday, February 24, 2013

Angry & Overdue

Where I'm at now is long overdue to be vented somewhere. I don't have a lot of people to confide in or who understand. No, instead even those who might be willing to listen offer platitudes, the kind you definitely don't want to hear when you're mourning or going through rough times.

WARNING!!! This is not entirely a dog post. It affects my dogs and touches on my life with them, my feelings toward them currently, but it's largely going to be about life in general and what has transpired as of late.

Let's start with Ty. Ty was my on again off again, the man I thought I would love forever, who I will love forever. We were at an off again stage from about 2010-2011. I was at a trial in Elma, Washington with my boys and the dogs New Year's weekend 2011. The trial ran from Saturday through Monday. The place Ty and I were at was bad. He'd done a lot of things to hurt me and after half a dozen years or so of letting him let me down, I was finally taking a stand. Friday night or Saturday morning I got a text from his phone. I ignored it. Saturday night I got a phone call from his number and I again, ignored it. There turned up a voice mail a short while later and when I listened to it, was surprised to hear from Ty's brother, Travis. When I returned his call, I was completely unprepared for what I would hear.

It was the 31st of December 2011 and Ty had passed away in his apartment two days prior. He was 39. Sometimes I had to mourn him like he had left this world in order to get by, but really having left me was something I was entirely unprepared. Devastation doesn't even come close to explaining how I felt. Now, 14 months later, I still face many days not accepting its truth.

That moment, the end of 2011 and start of 2012, was just the beginning of a long string of really horrible things that have just devastated me, shook me beyond what I feel like I can deal with, and make every day a struggle to get by.

January 29 my oldest son turned 16. Without going into a ton of specifics, my history with my boys' dad is really rough. He's always been horrible to me and done a million little things that have devastated me in so many ways. A small sampling of those things include the mental head games he's always played with my kids from the time we separated to present. Basically he also is always Disneyland dad because he doesn't step up and deal with the day-to-day costs of raising kids, so add in the fact that I have boys and they naturally come to a point in life where they want to be with their dad more, it was really hard and my son moved out. The catalyst was his not telling me what he wanted to do for his birthday, not being willing to celebrate it with me, and then being angry that I wouldn't buy him an iPhone.

Between December 31 and January 30, 30 short days, I lost someone I loved and I lost my child - albeit the latter just across town. My year of devastation was just getting started.

On February 8, I went to work like usual. It was a Monday and I held my usual department meeting. There's an employee that I had some issues with for a short while. She was making a habit of challenging me and questioning decisions I made. On this particular morning, I had made a change to how I was going to handle one of our tasks, and she challenged me again. Before I knew it, she had gone into the boss' office. The doors were closed for about an hour. I went about my normal daily activities, keeping an eye on my department and doing my work. I was anxiously waiting for the door to open mostly because I needed to talk to our programmer about a problem I'd encountered.

When the door finally opened he came and got me, although it wasn't to talk about the problem I encountered. It was to go into our president's office and talk. I had worked for the company since November 11, 2002. I worked my way up from customer service representative to lead, then supervisor to manager. The job wasn't my idea of fun every day, but I worked hard to get to where I was and I thought that meant something. I thought my accomplishments for the company, my loyalty, and my commitment mattered. But when push came to shove, a liar's lies mattered more. That morning was just the last in a series of what I learned to be many times that employee had been "visiting" with the boss, telling stories about me, and I was never once given the consideration to except the best let-alone stand up for myself. I was fired three days prior to my ten year, three month anniversary - the three months being significant because it meant I would have earned additional vacation time (up from 10 hours per month to 15). With the job I lost a lot of confidence, a career, medical insurance, and any sort of future stability I could imagine.

So as if the third thing wasn't the charm, a short while later I was served. My ex-husband was taking me to court to take custody of my boys away from me. Not just for my oldest, but for my younger son, too. One of my worst fears come true - again. We've been down this road before. This would be our third custody battle in just ten years. This time around I didn't have any money to fall back on, my SEP-IRA having already been fairly well wiped clean, and my family isn't in any shape to help me. I had gotten a new job by that time, but it didn't make it any easier. I wasn't making nearly the money I used to, and the stress, the time, the distance from Wilsonville to Hillsboro for court, everything adds up. Yet another devastating blow.

Late Spring is when Vegas started acting off and was completely out of agility after CPE Nationals in June with pododermatitis bothering her and some sort of injury to her neck or back. Having my baby girl hurt, having my hopes and dreams for MACH somewhat blow up in my face with the injuries she faced at that point, it was just too much.

It's all changed me as a person. For a long while, most of the remainder of last year, I was so devastated I couldn't think straight. So depressed I had bouts of insomnia again. I've gained weight.

Being who I am, I battled through, but it hasn't been easy and I've shed more tears, more days of tears than I can count. For a long while, I slept with Ty's picture and the jar of ashes I had. I even texted him a few months ago, just in case his death was a giant ruse and he was still around and wouldn't be able to resist texting me back.

In July we went to court and the judge appointed an attorney for my younger son. The decision was made at that time for my older son to live with his dad. Between January 30 and that time, I had only seen him perhaps twice. It wasn't what I wanted, but sometimes you have to choose your battles and he wasn't going to stay with me even if I had been able to convince the judge my home was the better place. I hoped at that point we could work toward a better relationship, that I could recover some of the ground lost by his immaturity and his dad's handiwork.

In October we went to court for the final time. I didn't have a lawyer and had met with my son's attorney twice. We ended up settling out of court from the cafeteria on court day. The agreement forced me to move from the town I love, Wilsonville, to Forest Grove, a town I left and hoped to never look back. I graduated from Forest Grove. It has few good memories because of my ex and is not a good enough town to raise my kids. Most people don't understand, can't understand. They assume all moms get their kids. Not so in my case. I've fought tooth and nail and the courts have gone against me, lost my trust, and my ex has lied. So I had no faith in things working out right no matter how much I had to offer. The truth doesn't seem to matter in this county. Money does and a lawyer versus no lawyer is about all that mattered. So not only did I have to move, I had to find a place to rent that would accept three dogs, fit all of us, fit my budget, and was available the end of December as the court order indicated my son needed to be prepared to go to the new school after the Christmas holiday. We were now to share custody, our youngest son spending alternate weeks at each house.

I ended up having to spend $200 more on rent than I was previously, my commute doubled (thus my fuel costs, and even oil changes), I lost child support due to the custodial change, and now I was being ordered to pay child support. The financial impact was more devastating than just about anything. The move would cost me nearly $3000 and an overlap in rent for the month of December.

Since that time, I have also almost had to give up a job that I was just getting settled into. The mileage and added commute time was wearing on me and destroying my truck. With more than 175,000 miles, my truck can ill afford the distance to and from work. And my budget cannot accommodate a car payment, particularly when the truck isn't even paid off. Everything was getting more dire again. I freelance write and have my own side business making dog collars and leashes already. What more could I do?

The stress has been mounting in the past few months again. It's just hard. I passed through the anniversary of Ty's death and still can't believe it's really happened. I lost a cat last summer to a sudden tragedy where he was killed in my backyard. Vegas had recovered from her health issues of last year but now has mental issues with agility and the tunnels in particular. And now, two weeks ago, she hurt herself again and I honestly fear she's not going to heal without surgery and surgery is never going to be in my budget. I'm not making ends meet as it is. She's on restriction and I've been using DMSO and Arnica but I'm not seeing any improvement. If anything, any time I trust her to be okay she does something dumb to further risk worsening the injury. Like today when she slid on the hard floor of the kitchen and landed on her left hip. That's something she never did before this injury and she's done it a few times.

Which brings me to anger. I'm so angry at my life. It's not what I planned for and it's not for lack of fighting like hell to get out. I'm so angry that not only can't I catch a break but neither can my fur-kids. Everybody says if you don't like life how it is, do something. Well I am here to tell you, I have done things. I have done everything I can imagine and it just keeps getting worse. And honestly, I'm so angry at Vegas. I can't help how I feel. My MACH dreams were all that kept me going the last few years. Raising teens isn't easy and the issues I had with Ty weighed heavily often. Vegas' and my success in agility was what kept me going. It was something I could take pride in and feel good about, to look forward to such a wonderful accomplishment.

But now, with everything else so bad, I can't help but find myself angry at her. I know in my head it's not her fault. She doesn't want to hurt any more than I want her to. But just looking at her devastates me more. She whines and cries and whimpers and is generally a big pain in the ass because of the restriction. And I've lost my hiking partner. I am not going to make it up to the mountain this year to play with her in the snow. I can't take her biking. I can't do anything with her and she hates when I leave. She's pushy and obnoxious and it's driving me crazy.

It all results in my being angry. Angry with her, yes. I look at her and I see lost hopes and dreams. I know it's illogical, but it's how I feel. And I don't know how to fix it. I feel so bad when I'm short-tempered with her. I wish I could reason with her, explain to her, help her understand. I wish I had a magic wand to make her better cause I really miss my girl, my girl being whole and well. And every agility trial that comes and goes breaks my heart. This weekend is one we've attended for the past three years. And now we may never run again. I know I'm supposed to think positively, but after what I've faced in the last 14 months, could you? Every day seems to get worse.

I don't know where I go from here but I'm so angry and depressed about life and I just can't figure my way out of it. And at the end of the day, my girlie is here snoring on the couch and I want to cuddle her but I just feel so guilty and it seems like she doesn't even look at me the same any more. We used to be tight. She would do anything for me and likewise, and now I feel like there's a rift. How do you fix such a thing with a dog?

Anyway, so this whole semi-condensed edition is my way of explaining why I am not a very avid blogger any more and also lets me just get it all out there, if for nothing else than for posterity.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Boredom = Trouble

What's a bored, underexercised, cooped up (poor, misunderstood) Great Dane to do? When Mom is spending a quiet Sunday morning bathing the littles, she sneaks off the couch where she was entrusted to behave herself (READ: lay down quietly and not hurt her knee) and steals a plate of butter!
I heard the crash. I came a running! Vegas, too, launched herself onto the couch in hopes of not getting caught. The kitchen didn't fare well. Probably 1,000 pieces of glass plate shattered everywhere, nary a smudge of butter to be found. No wrapper either.

My concern was whether she had swallowed any glass in her buttery feast but my guess now is that she ran when it crashed, the damage (to the butter) having been done before it shattered into a million pieces.

Sigh. April 1, come on quick!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Not Again

Such a foreboding title for this post, I know. But it's true. I have bad news to report. Again.

Saturday morning Vegas came up lame. The doorbell rang while we were still lounging in bed and she, being the terrific guard dog she is, launched bodily off the bed and flew to the front door. After the hubbub she whimpered a bit and didn't want to get back on the bed. In looking back with hindsight being the 20/20 beast that it is, she had been having a bit of a more difficult time to get on the bed for about two weeks - enough so that I'd put out a query on some dog lists for a set of stairs.

I kept her pretty low key Saturday - although we'd had plans to get out and take some walks or do some short hikes, and hoped for the best. I did make her an appointment to see the vet Sunday with the understanding I'd call and cancel if she was better.

By Sunday morning, she was not. In fact, she'd spent portions of the day/evening whimpering quietly from the discomfort and clearly was not putting full weight on the leg. We saw Dr. Bullard at Cornelius Veterinary Clinic, the clinic I worked at more than a dozen years ago. It was fortunate Dr. Bullard was in as he has a significant amount of orthopedic experience, despite not specializing.

The exam was not particularly pleasant - for Vegas or myself - and when he delivered the verdict, I was crestfallen. Dr. Bullard was 95% certain she has strained her ACL, to what degree we don't know. He said (almost verbatim), "I don't know to what percentage, could be 2%, 3, maybe 5%." He was confident she had not fully ruptured the ACL though because her knee was not swollen. He performed the same tests on left and right and consistently got a response (look back) when her left knee was in flexion when he pressed deeply into the drawer.
From a diagram in the vet's office, he showed me the ACL is that tendon in the center of the knee between the femur and the ulna. He described the tendon as many fibers extending between these two bones, making a 90-degree turn and forming a fan shape. Here is another image:
So our game plan at this point is six weeks of strict crate rest. I have a 36" high, 4'x4' x-pen that is now set up in our living room. She is going to go through many, many bully sticks, raw bones, and other entertainment/recreational chewies over the next few weeks, I can guarantee that. The experience has already been pretty rough. She's really, really not enjoying it. I slept on the couch last night so I could be close to her as she was whining otherwise. Tonight I tried to let her out a bit but she almost immediately brought me a toy and wanted to play. This is going to be a tough time.

Here are a couple of articles that explain a bit more about this type of injury:

Subsequent to the six weeks, assuming she's not limping/lame, we'll progress to leashed walks. Right now she's even leashed for potty breaks. She cannot, under no circumstance, stress, strain, twist, put pressure on, or otherwise do anything but rest that leg. The alternative, the possibility of not healing her fully, is unthinkable at this time.