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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in ferricoxide's LiveJournal:

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Sunday, May 8th, 2011
3:42 pm
I Just Don't Get It (The Dog Rescue Organization Edition)

There's a lot of things out there that I just don't "get". So, undoubtedly, I have or will continue to post "I Don't Get It" posts. This post is prompted by the complete and utter dismay, hurt, confusion and fury caused by our attempts to wade back into the doggy-adoption pool.

Back in 2003, when Donna and I were in the first year of our marriage, we'd decided we wanted to add a furry member to our family. We knew that we liked boxers, bulldogs and similar dog breeds. We had a shelter near our house - the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria's Viola Lawson dog shelter. Unfortunately, at the time, they didn't have any dogs that both spoke to us and didn't trigger Donna's (mild) dog allergies. So, we expanded our searches.

Initially, we tried to see if any of the breed-specific specialty rescue groups had any dogs we were interested in. Our first stab at this process was the local Boxer Rescue group. We got in contact with them and ended up selecting a pup named AnnaBelle:


As you can see, she was a lightly-brindled, Bogey-faced boxer with un-altered ears or tail. She was very sweet. Unfortunately, she was overly excited by the presence of our cats. We were willing to work with her to help her adjust. However, the woman who was fostering her decided that we were an unfit household. Apparently, our yard and our house weren't big enough and we didn't have enough time for her. Now, I might have been able to take this at face value had I not seen the house where she was being fostered (I'd gone there to do the initial paperwork). This woman lived in a townhouse not even half the size of ours and it had no yard. Factor in that this woman already had another boxer (or two - can't remember, clearly, at this point) and had a day-job of her own, and all I could think was, "are you fucking crazy?? How is her fostering situation even remotely better than what we were looking to offer that we could be considered unfit for the reasons given?" So, I kind of decided, "lesson learned: don't go to breed-specific rescues. The people that involved with them are well-meaning but a little too into their charges to see the big picture."

That lesson learned, I decided to do a more generalized search. We tried again with the Lawson shelter, but they still had no pups that we liked and didn't trigger Donna's allergies. So, I hit up Google. By way of Google, I found PetFinder.Com. I put in the search string "boxer" and our ZIPcode. Bunches of results came back. There were few fully boxer dogs in the results that weren't in breed-specific rescues. Since I'd already decided to avoid breed-specific rescues, they were straight-out for consideration.

However, I did find a sweet-looking American Bulldog/Boxer mix named Lana that was in the care of "A Forever Home" dog rescue.


Her PetFinder profile said she was sweet-natured, low-key and good with cats and young children (at the time, we were still hoping to have human children). So, we contacted A Forever Home to find out when/where we could meet her. They were having an adoption event at the PetCo in Chantilly, VA in just a few days. So, we put in an application and marked our calender to go meet her. We got there before she did, so we waited. Eventually, they brought her in and I think we fell in love almost immediately. We made arrangements for home inspection and a home visit. In just a couple weeks, Lana was ours and our family was starting to feel complete.

By the next summer, we were feeling the urge to get a playmate for Lana. Things hadn's been going well on the baby front. We'd not yet given up, but we still felt the need for another dog. So, same lessons from the past in mind, we started searching again. We tried A Forever Home, first, before hitting up PetFinder, but they didn't have any pups whose pictures spoke to us (no bullies of any sort at the time). I still don't remember what my search term was this time, but it turned up Puckett:


The above isn't really a bad picture of him.Puckett just was not a classically good looking dog. He was 100% personality. Fortunately, the Picture that his rescue organization (Friends of Homeless Animals) had placed on his profile page captured that personality (I've done a lot of perusing of PetFinder, in recent months, and I've yet to find a picture of a dog that really makes the dog speak to me in quite the same way). So, we called their phone number and made arrangements to visit and to bring Lana along for an introduction.

FoHA is out in the boonies of (barely) Northern Virginia. So, it was a little less than an hour's drive from our house to their compound. It was a beautiful, late-spring day that day. We hopped out of the Saturn and uncarted Lana and tracked down the woman we'd spoken to prior to our trip. She let us into the play/introduction yard and went to fetch-up Puckett. Lana had scurried off to explore  the play yard. Eventually, the staffer showed up with Puckett and brought him into the yard. Puckett introduced himself by rushing headlong at Lana and attempting to bowl her over. He kind of bounced off and the two of them began running around the yard, playing with each other. Things looked good, so we arranged the home inspection and visit.

Later that week, a volunteer came out to bring Puckett for a visit. We needed to ensure he wouldn't try to eat the cats and FoHA needed to make sure our home was adequate for his needs. The visit went well, and by the following Sunday, they brought him back and we signed paperwork on our new boy. So, by June 21st, we were a two-dog househould.

We went along as a two-dog household until December of this past year. Then, we were, briefly, a one-dog household, again. Fortunately, we were able to find a new pup through A Forever Home, again.


Things were right with the world: we were a two-dog household again. Then, Puckett got sick and, all-too-quickly, we were, yet again, a one-dog household. All in the space of about five months, two dogs, gone, and a hole left in our lives, again.

So, I started the search, again. I tried with both FoHA and A Forever Home. Neither seems to have as many bullies, any more, as they did when we got Lana and Puckett. I can only assume that, with things like the Michael Vick nonsense (and the resultant awareness that seemed to spawn TV shows like The Pit Boss and Pitbulls and Parolees) that there's an up-surge in interest in rescuing bullies. This is good for an unjustly-maligned group of breeds, but not so good when you're the one looking to fill a hole in your home. Worse, it seems like the ones that are available for rescue are getting snapped up by breed-specific rescues.

And, that's where we found ourselves: stuck with having to contact breed-specific rescues. I'd learned my lesson once, before, and had avoided them. Unfortunately, it seems that I no longer had the choice on dealing with them. Unfortunately, it seems that what caused my prior lesson to be learned hasn't really changed. Worse, it seems like, with the influx of new "rescuers" the "blinded by good intentions" effect is even worse.

Yesterday, we had a second home visit with this guy:


Yeah. He has a resemblence to Puckett. It was accidental. The first pictures we'd seen of him, he looked only like a white dog with mismatched eyes and batty ears. Wasn't until they sent us more pix that the resemblence became more acute (and, I overheard our neighbors comment to that effect during his first visit).

Everything had seemed to go well. The woman who ran the rescue was present and agreed that he wasn't cat-aggressive, just very curious. She offered us the option of keeping him a few weeks to see how things went. She said she'd just need to set us up with a "foster-to-adopt" contract. Unfortunately, she hadn't had the contracts with her. So, she'd need to arrange to come back the next day (today) with the requisite contracts.

In retrospect, this seemed kind of fishy. I mean, what kind of well-run rescue organization doesn't bring the paperwork with them for an adoption visit? When I offered to let her use my computer to download and print any forms she needed, she balked, claiming that she didn't have her login information to get the forms. So, she and the woman who was actually fostering the dog packed up and left indicating they'd bring him and the paperwork by at around 13:00.

Last night, I couldn't sleep. I was excited by the prospect of the new dog. I didn't get to sleep until after 4AM, this morning. Thus, I ended up sleeping in later than I usually do. I came downstairs to take care of my morning medicine and finish readying the house for the new arrival (we'd gone out the night before, after they'd left, and picked up toys a second pet gate to assist with the transition process). I then logged into my computer to read the morning email.

I was really only expecting to see the usual FaceBook notification and miscellaneous spam. Instead, I found a fucking bomb in my inbox:

Good morning Tom,

[The foster] and I have intensively talked about Winston and we both feel that he is going to be "too much dog" for your household. He is still all puppy and needs intensive training and exercise, more than other puppies his age because he is so outgoing and interested in everything. You are working fulltime and Donna seems very busy with her household plus he will need to get desensitized with the cats which will take much effort and patience to do so. Sarah [sic.], your dog is absolutely adorable and we think a little more laid back older male who gets along with cats would be a much better fit for you.

I have asked [the foster] to not bring Winston over today. After all we need to make sure that everybody, dog and human, are happy at the end. Let me know how you feel about it. I would be happy to talk to you about it on the phone if you wish. Thanks, and I am looking forward to your reply.

Each time I read this email, I get more furious. I play back in my mind what could have caused this and can't really find anything. I mean, for fuck's sake: the foster for the dog has a day job. This dog sits in a cage, during the day, while she and her husband are at work. At our house, Donna is home all day and would be able to oversee the transition. We already have a trainer (we've used previously for Cira) who is a pitbull specialist (he has three of his own) to help us with training and adjustment. We have one bully and had two previously. Our pets are well fed, receive lots of attention and get regular medical care. The foster, at the prior visit, had been all too happy with the situation, as had the person that did the home inspection and the person who did our background check.

Judging by how the foster reacted to the rescue organizer's weird conduct towards the end of yesterday's meeting, it seems unlikely that the foster had any part in the decision. I can only assume that something she wasn't willing to discuss changed the rescue organizer's mind. Worse, rather than saying, "I can't place this dog here, we need to find a better fit," it seemed like she chose the ruse to disengage. So, right now, I'm feeling hurt, confused and lied to. It actually feels worse than our first foray into rescues.

Dear rescue organizers: one in 600 homeless dogs ever finds a home. It's great that you care about the dogs you've accepted into your charge, but your level of "caring" blinds you to the ability to place dogs in good homes. Worse, because you're holding onto these dogs for some kind of "perfect" home, you can't accept new dogs. It's your conduct that means that more dogs die than have to. You are the embodiement of "the road to hell being paved with good intentions."

Granted, this isn't true of all rescue organizations. Like I say, we've had good experiences with two places, now. For those two organizations, I feel eternally grateful. Now, though, I'm just really gun-shy about breed-specific organizations. So, I dunno if/when I'm likely to find a pup to fill this hole, because it seems like these groups have cornered the market on the kinds of pups we like.

Current Mood: angry
Thursday, May 5th, 2011
5:39 pm
En Garde?

Every time I see the Tampa Bay Lightning's coach, I think, "he must have gotten that scar in a duel." Seriously, just look at this guy:

Guy Bouche

He looks like he's been in a damned sword-fight (or two). When you see him during a game, all fired up, you're just waiting form him to whip out a gauntlet, slap someone, and then poke him with an Épée.

Current Mood: amused
Saturday, April 23rd, 2011
7:40 pm
That's Just About Annoying

I am a StumbleUpon user. It's a great way to kill time. Sometimes, it's amusing; sometimes horrifying; many times it brings you things that can't be "unseen." And, there are times where it brings you stuff that's just fucking annoying. A few minutes ago was one of those annoying Stumbles. Apparently, someone liked something hosted on MSN's entertainment portal. I don't inherently have a problem with MSN or entertainment sites. I don't even particularly have a problem with the main content of the page StumbleUpon sent me to. No, what I have a problem with is this:

All I can think is "Fuck you, Microsoft." I really don't like a websit telling me "use a different browser" particularly to tell me to use their browser (I can be tolerate being told, "this site best viewed in a more standards-compliant browser, but that's about it. Telling me "use our browser so that the you can see all of the nifty standards we've broken rendered correctly" just pisses me off). Even if I was inclined to change browsers, I wouldn't be going back to that site. Shit like this pisses me off. Makes me want to add MSN addresses to my hosts file's loopback list. 


Whatever asshats thought this was a good idea need to die slowly in a fire.

Monday, April 18th, 2011
10:43 pm
One Step Closer

Just got word back: our adoption papers have been approved (vet and other references checks are passed and the home visit was a "go"). Now, we just gotta get coordinated on when they can bring the new pup over to see if he's good with cats.

Pack Mule

That's Gizmo/Winston with doggy carry-packs on. He's high energy, so, may have to keep him weighted down on walks to help tire him out. And, yes, he's got mismatched eyes.

Sunday, April 17th, 2011
2:08 pm
WTF, Lowes

Sometimes, I don't "get" the phone calls I get from businesses. Case in point, our recent purchase of an outdoor table and chair set from the nearby Lowes. We'd ordered it with delivery and assembly service, with service date being today. This morning, I get a call from the guy at Lowes. They won't be delivering it, today, because they don't have it in stock and that he'd call back, later today, when he had a stock-in date to arrange the delivery. Okay...

Just a few minutes ago, the guy calls back. He informs me that he has spoken to their garden department manager and was informed that they don't carry that item. I note to him that I found this rather odd, as I'd taken the bar-code card off of the set that was sitting on display over in the garden furniture area. He agreed that what he'd said didn't make sense and that he'd have to talk to the garden manager, again, since he wasn't seeing the set as being at other stores or being orderable. I noted that this seemed rather odd, as well, since the bar-code card had an entry in their point-of-sale system that had allowed the cashier to ring up the $780 worth of furniture and delivery/assembly services. He agreed and sounded even more confused, but assured me he'd call back with an answer before he left for the day.

Meanwhile, I've got a $780 charge sitting on my Visa, no furniture and no resolution in site. God how I love modern retail.

Saturday, April 16th, 2011
5:04 pm
A Visitation

So, today we braved the torrential downpours and gale-force winds (I'm exaggerating, but not by very much) to go and meet the dog we first saw online as "Gizmo". Having met him, I can agree with the current fosters that "Gizmo" might not be the right name for him, but neither is the "Winston" they've been trying to rename him to. For now, I'm thinking that if he ends up our, we'll probably call him "Dubz" (or "Dubzy"), as his fosters are, sometimes referring to him as just "W". Look at the picture, below:


He seems like the kind of dog that may spawn a thousand names ...Much as Puckett did.

At any rate, today's trip seemed like it was a very good meeting. We walked both dogs, side-by-side, throughout the store, outside and back in again. Initially, they mostly ignored each other. Then they exchanged sniffs. Then a few more sniffs. Then the full on doggy greetings. Then back to ignoring each other. Then more sniffs and greetings. There was a little bit of "am I the alpha?" posturing from both, but neither got too revved up and both quickly disengaged without prompting. 

I didn't want to stay too long, because, not yet knowing how well he'll do with our cats, I don't want to fall in love and be disappointed.. The shelter that the fosters had gotten the dog from had indicated that he'd passed basic cat tests, but, we won't know how he does with ours until he comes to our house for a visit. Hopefully, he does well.

On the plus side of it all, while some of his pix made me think of Puckett, meeting him removed my fears that he'll be too much like Puckett. He's very much a different dog. Still, he shows signs of being in a similar class of awesomeness that Puckett was in. I really hope this works out. 

Thursday, April 14th, 2011
5:51 pm
I Hate You, US Bank

Each and every fucking time I use US Bank's web portal, I hate them more and more.

God. Their web site is just unspeakably horrible.That said, they do seem to make frequent changes to it.

Now, you'd think that they would be changing it to address some of its horribleness. You'd think that they'd try to change it for the better. But, no, such is not the case. Each time they change it, they actually manage to make it worse. I wouldn't think it possible, but, yet, every time they change it, they still manage to fuck it up worse.

This time was a real treat. I'm one of those people that bookmarks websites that I have to visit more than once. Helps with remembering where I need to go. Well, US Bank has decided I shouldn't go directly to that URL, any more. They've now set a redirect on the that URL that now points to a different website. Even better, the navigation on the new site is completely fucking brain-dead. If you click on the "login" button (on the page that has "mortgage" in the URL), it takes you away from the mortgage site and to their personal banking site. Unfortunately, you can't pay your mortgage through that site.

I call in to find out just what the fuck is going on. I'm told, "no, you don't click on the login button," (which, was pattently obvious, the first time you click on it and get redirected to someplace stupid). Instead, "you have to scroll down to the very bottom of the page and click on 'Manage & Pay Mortgage' link." How completely obvious was this bit of navigational daring-do?

At any rate, it's this "Manage & Pay" link that then takes you to the mortgage-specific login. And, to add insult to injury, that mortgage-specific login is the exact same damned page that my bookmark was set to, it's just now at a slightly different URL. Whut. The. Fuck?

The whole point of an online banking system is to make things so that your customer doesn't have to interact with an expensive to employ/maintain human. It really rather defeats the purpose when your web site is set up so horribly that people have to call in, navigate your equally horrible call-tree, find they have to call three different phone numbers (because the "call this number for assistance" phone number takes you to the wrong department and the person at that department can't forward you and refers you to yet another incorrect number...)

I hate you, US Bank. I really do. I have no idea how your CSR's haven't gone on murder sprees, because I gotta think that the number of frustrated people calling in has to be rather high and a non-trivial percentage of those people are a lot less nice about things than I am. After a while, the kind of shit they're hearing on a regular basis has to build up and result in snaps. Ugh.

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011
8:47 am
Too Close for Comfort

So, was searching through PetFinder to see if we could find a pup to help fill some of the gigantic hole left by Puckett's departure. It's kind of a depressing process. You see all these dogs in need, and part of you wishes you could help them all. You know you can't, but still...

At any rate, neither the local shelter nor the rescue organizations we got Puckett or Lana and Cira through seem to have any candidates of interest. Thus, I expanded my search. I have American Bulldog Rescue as a page I'm a fan of on FaceBook. Most of their pups are far away (PA, Florida, deep into the boonies of Maryland). However, when I looked at their "local" affiliate (their Maryland pet listings), I found a link to a dog named Gizmo (apparently, now "Winston"). This was a courtesy posting for BullyPaws. So, I went to their site and looked at his profile.

He looked like a nice dog and is listed as cat and dog compatible. Since we have a staffie and two bengals, this was kind of an important consideration. So, I sent in a "we're interested" email and filled out the initial adoption application form. Yesterday, we got email back, directing us to the person that was actually fostering him. One of BullyPaws' volunteers called to go over the forms with us, to ensure that we knew what we might be getting into (if Winston works out, he'd be our fourth bully rescue and about my seventh dog). We had a nice conversation that gives me hope that we'll be able to work with them.

Winston's foster family got in touch with me via email. They sent me a link to their web site, since they'd posted up pictures of him and stories on his progress. He seems a really nifty dog ...but, oh my, does he have a startling resemblance to Puckett (that I'd not noticed  nearly so much in his BullyPaws profile).

We're set to go meet him, this weekend. We'd visit sooner, but he's about an hour's drive away and life is currently getting in the way of running out to see him. I'm hoping that the resemblance isn't too unsettling. I don't want to have unreasonable expectations. But, then again, maybe it just hints at a dog that's going to turn out to be as great as Puckett was. Tough act to follow, but one can hope, right?

Thursday, April 7th, 2011
11:09 pm
End Times
So, we'd thought that we were going to have to put Puckett down, tomorrow. His cancer was aggressively advancing and he was looking thinner by the day. He was starting to have trouble holding down food or having interest in but all the most favorite morsels - fresh meats, peanutbutter, cheeses and the like. He'd lost interest in his rice and was eating around it. So, we'd switched to all meat & vegetable dinners and hand-feeding him bits of meat, peanutbutter, and cheese any time we passed through the kitchen.

Sometime before I woke up, this morning, he'd scratched open the tumor on his head. Not wanting him to get an infection - even if there might only be a few days (or less) left - I brought him into the bathroom to clean up and treat the wound. My bathroom's a little on the small side. So, to get the door closed to prevent dog-escapes, I have to manhandle him. I decided to just lift him up from his bed and carry him in to make the whole thing easier. It was at that point that I realized just how much weight the cancer had taken from him: he was noticably lighter than his normal 57lbs; he was noticeably lighter than Lana had been when I'd had to carry her body from the vet's; he felt like he might actually even be approaching Cira's 42lbs. So, I knew we were close.

While I knew we were close to the end-date, we thought we had a little more time. We'd already gotten our prefered vets' schedules for the week when Donna had gone in to get him the anti-nausea medications. Friday, both of our regular vets were scheduled to be in. So, we figured, given the recent rate of decline and our preferred vets' schedules, that we'd do it Friday.

Today, when I came home from work, he was still taking handouts, but he seemed like he was doing it because it was his favorites, not because he had any real interest. So, I called and made the appointment. Then, we went out for one last walk, because it was a really beautiful day. I'd have put him in my convertible and taken him for a drive in the open air, but, it was the thick of Northern Virginia rushour (and would have been pointless). Donna had already taken Cira out from a longish walk. I was only intending to take him down to the end of the block and back. The effort of even that was noticeably wearing on him. But, as I was about to turn us around and head home, I noticed Donna and Cira coming up the next street. So, I waited for them to get closer, figuring the four of us could walk back home, together.

Donna wanted to take Puckett on one last visit to our local boarding kennel (Royal Pet Kennel). One of Donna's friends is on staff and was fond of Puckett (in all honesty, I don't know anyone that spent any time with him that wasn't fond of him). So, we extended our walk a little bit and went to see if Donna's friend was in. She was, so, we hung out a bit and let her say her goodbyes to him. Then, we walked home.

Donna opted to stay out on the front porch and enjoy some sun-time in her rocking chair. She fetched up a bag of chips and a drink, got a pillow for Cira to lay on and hung out.

I went in to get Puckett a drink and try to feed him some more treats. He drank heartily - with the sloppy gusto that he'd always sloshed his water dish with. Though, in retrospect, there was a bit of desperation to it rather than just gusto. We'd kind of been thinking that the cancer may have been spreading from his lungs to his kidneys. The water said that was probably true. I left him out into the back yard so he could go to the bathroom. He took what, for recent trends, was a very short break. He didn't seem terribly interested in the usual sniffing about and lolly-gagging that he always indulged in on days as temparate and sunny as today.

I went out front to let Donna know he was seeming a bit out of it. She'd had enough of her chips and handed me them to bring back into the house. I figured, offer one to Puckett. He had no interest. Worried, I went into the kitchen and dipped my index finger into the jar of Jif and offered it to him. No interest. At that point, I knew that we couldn't wait for the planned exit. If he was refusing a finger of peanutbutter, he was in dire straights - probably in pain or discomfort that he couldn't communicate in any other effective way. I went out onto the front porch to show Donna the untouched peanutbutter. We agreed that we should take him down to the vet, post-haste. So, I called and got the ok to bring him in, immediately.

For better or worse, our vets' practice is just down the hill from us. So, it was a short trip - the only thing keeping us from getting there in under five minutes being the traffic along the one-mile route. I was already starting to fall apart, so, I had Donna go in and sign him in while I waited with him in the car. It was a short wait. They sent her out to get me and prepped the room while she did so. I walked him in, taking him down the very long hallway to the euthanasia room. The sign on the door said, "in use," so I thought, "damn: bad day for pets." No, the "in use" was to indicate that the room was waiting for us. They opened the door and directed us in, then summoned the duty-vet.

While we waited, they went through the paperwork with us. It was all too familiar, having just been through it only five months previous with Lana. Yes, we wanted to be in the room for the proceedings. Yes, we wanted the paw print. No, we didn't want to send his remains off for cremation - we'd already called Sunset Pet Services to let them know we'd need to use their after hours service. Then, they took Puckett out to get his catheter put in.

While he was off getting his catheter, I went up to take care of paying. Recently, I've been pumping most of my expenses through my Visa. Apparently, I'd left it at home. All I had with me was my AmEx - the same AmEx I'd paid for Lana's services with. I remarked that AmEx was apparently my personal death-card. Yeah, that's me - find the absurd and grim humor in any given situation. I'm perky like that.

They brought Puck back from getting his catheter in. The vet came in a short time later. She wanted to confirm that we really wanted to be present. She wanted to make sure we were ready for what we were about to see. I cut her off - letting her know we appreciated the cautions, but that we'd been through it just a few months previous, so were well aware of how it could go down and the steps involved.

Pets should never become sick in such short succession to each other that your vet's euthenasia discussion feels like when the stewardesses go through their seatbelt and breathing-mask spiel.

The vet laid a towel down on the floor and Puckett sorta laid half on and half off of it. Mook: always had to be goofy with things.

She prepped her syringes: the three salines for clearing the line; the knock-down anesthetic of milky bliss (Propofol); and the vial I've come to think of a "pink death" (probably some kind of sodium pentobarbital cocktail). Much like the euthanasia talk shouldn't be like the stewardess speech, one should never be familiar enough with the chemical agents to have nicknames for them. Dunno how vets are able to do it - it's such an awful task. Then again, I used to have problems watching the emergency vet shows on Animal Planet.

She pumped in the first of the salines to ensure that the catheter was clear. Then, came the milky bliss. Within seconds, he was pancaked. The last voluntary motion from him being a final, vigorous wag of the tail. It happened quicker than Lana's had. Didn't even really have time to see him flutter his eyes. Then, another syringe of saline to make way for the pink death. Finally, the pink death was started in. I felt him leave even before the last of the vial was gone. The vet seemed kind of surprised for me to say it, because it usually takes longer. But, when she applied her stethoscope, she confirmed that he had in fact passed.

Death is funny: you can feel "something" leave; you can see the eyes go from alive to being utterly empty. What was them is just suddenly gone. Even more, you can feel it - whether they were previously conscious or if they've been comatose. Never really understood it until I watched family die. It was really driven home by recently watching two pets be euthanised. I'm not spiritual. I'm not religious. But, when you're there for the moment that someone or something passes from alive to dead, you feel it.

The vet asked if we wanted time with his body before they took him for cleanup. Such an odd question.

I'm generally not the most emotionally demonstrative person in the world. I didn't really cry at the death of my grandparents. I didn't even really grieve all that much when my dad died, two Novembers ago. But damned if I wasn't absolutely racked with great, heaving sobs of grief. For a dog. Not a human. Not my blood relations. For a dog. The rational part of me just can't rectify it other than that the deaths of humans I've witnessed or attended to, I played no part in. Even when you know it's the right thing, seeing to the death of a loved one - even if it's just a pet - is unbelievably hard.

After I got through the worst of it, Donna asked if she should go get the vet staff so they could take care of Puckett's body. Body. Yep. At that point, that's all it was: just a body. Puckett was gone - well and truly gone. She left the room and sought out a staffer. While she was gone, another wave of grief wracked me. It suddenly struck me, "crap: this might trigger a seizure." It was probably just the hyperventilation making me feel weird, but I didn't trust that I wouldn't have a seizure. So, I gave Donna the keys to the SUV and asked that she drive.

The vet techs came in and asked if we wanted him put in a coffin. I've been down that road many years ago when cancer took my rabbit, BamBam. In vet parlance, a "coffin" is little more than a cardboard box barely large enough to hold the body. Sorry, but this was a family member, not something I'm gonna send via FedEx. We'd brought a large towel and his death-shrouds, at any rate. So, I politely declined the box, indicating we'd brought the towel. The techs and I carefully ensconced Puckett's body in the towel - they were nice enough to bring diaper-like pads to help control any post-mortem leakage on the journey home. I picked up the awkward yet disturbingly-light bundle and carried him out to the truck, bundled him into the back seat and set next to him, on it.

Donna drove us home. Traffic seemed oddly light. Then again, the sun sets later this time of year. Puckett's heart had stopped right around sunset, it seems. It was actually well after seven at this point - we'd apparently arrived a little before six PM. What feels like such a quick process actually takes surprisingly long. For both Lana and Puckett, we were at the vet for over an hour's time, each.

She pulled into the driveway. I got out of the truck, went into the house and into the back yard so I could unlatch and open the back gate. I came back down to the truck and carried his body to the back porch so Donna could prepare his body for delivery to the cremation service.

When a pet dies, Donna likes to send them off the right way. She likes to make them a set of shrouds to wrap them in and cover the outside of the bundle with the various names we'd called the pet during their life. The suddenness with which Lana's decline had crept up on us had meant she'd had to place the names using a sharpie. The slow nature of Puckett's decline meant she'd had time to hand-embroider his names into the sunny yellow exterior cloth. With blue embroidery floss, she'd placed names like: Puckett; Pucketty-Puck, Mook, Mooktastic, Mookenstein, Pucklehead and Indawä. The last was just a way of putting into a single word his tendency to always be under foot or "in the way". The yellow cloth was to commemorate the sunniness that was his personality.

It was kind of an odd, yet very fitting procedure. When I laid him down on the back porch, he kind of rolled over onto his back, his body assuming the same playful pose he often had in life. The way his lips sort of drew away (by gravity) even looked kind of like he was smiling.

We got the blue cloth, and placed him carfully on it, tucking his legs up against his body and tucking his chin towards his chest. Then we began to roll him up into the first cloth. As we got near the end of that length of cloth, his tail flopped out. It was like he was trying to wag his tail one last time. We carefully tucked his tail back in and then began rolling him into the embroidered, yellow cloth. Once wrapped up, Donna began to stich him into it. It occurred to me, if we're sending him off this way, we should send him off with a favorite. So, I grabbed one of the previous night's remaining hamburger rolls, slathered it with peanutbutter, and had Donna tuck it in with him.

I came out a while later to check on the progress. Donna had him all but completely stiched in. Much as he'd seemed to try to wag his tail while we did the initial wrap, he'd slobbered through his shrouds. Lana hadn't done that during her wrapup. So, it seemed like yet another, last, Puckett-y thing.

I called Sunset and let them know we were on the way. We drove out the all too familiar route to Sunset. When we got there, I got out and rang the night-bell. The staffer came out, we put his body on the cart, then went inside to fill out the paperwork. Paperwork done, I joined Donna at Puckett's body and we bid one more tearful goodbye to him. Then, we drove home.

House feels empty, somehow. I've got another dog, laying on her dog bed, working on a bone-toy. I've got a cat curled up at my hip as I write. Another cat is skulking about the house. Donna is sitting behind me quilting as we have a really awful zombie flick on NetFlix Streaming. Still, with all this life around me and the noise from the TV, the house feels quiet and empty.

If anyone actually reads this, sorry it was so long. I had to spill this all out so I have it to re-read later. It's gonna take a while for me to process. In the meantime, I can do a version of retail therapy and look through PetFinder.Com in hopes of finding another bundle of life to fill the gaping hole left by Puckett's departure.
8:36 am
Morning Revelations

Got up, this morning to start my daily routine. The last couple weeks, this routine has included letting Puckett out. Used to be, I'd go about my morning routines, alone, and Donna would let the pets out when she got up. Since being put on the steroids, Puckett's allowable time between bathroom breaks is greatly-reduced (he's drinking a lot of water and, naturally, is also producing a lot of urine).

When I brought him down, this morning, I'd noticed he'd scratched one of his tumors open. So, after feeding him some peanut-covered bread and a peanut-covered rice-ball, I took him back upstairs so I could take my shower. Before hopping in the shower, I decided to clean out where he'd scratched himself open. I dunno that he has enough time left for it to get infected, but I don't want to take the chance, either. So, I picked him up to go wash out the wound (he tends to resist going into the bathroom for cleanings and I didn't feel like the fight). He's definitely lost/losing weight. He feels like he weighs less than Lana did and probably not much more than Cira does. So, it's probably safe to assume he's dropped out of the 50lb range. This in a dog whose life-long, healthy weight was around 57lbs.

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
6:26 pm
The Time Draws Close

Ugh. I feel like one of those sign-whackos you see out in front of public spaces. I feel like I should have a sign saying "the end is nigh".

Now that I'm home from work, I'm able to see that Puckett's noticeably skinnier, this evening, than he was last night before bed. I can actually see his heart beating through his chest (though, at least, his breathing doesn't seem labored, right now) and his face is *so* bony-looking.


I'd end it, tonight, but I'm not about to do something that requires me using the "night depository" at the pet crematorium. He deserves better than being left in a drop-box, even if what would be left wouldn't really be him.

I've got stuff at work that pretty much has to be done, or I"d do it tomorrow, during the day. Fortunately, both the vets that have been seeing after him, the past few years, are on duty, Friday. So, assuming he can wait that long (or doesn't experience some kind of miracle before then), we'll take him in and send him off.


Sunday, March 27th, 2011
1:42 am

We were sitting in the living room, watching TV, deciding whether to go to bed or watch a movie, online (we really know how to rock a Saturday night, eh?) when we heard a "boom" rattle the windows. Initially, I'd processed it as the house next door's front door slamming. This struck me as odd, given that the previous tenants had moved out a few days ago. I noticed a car with Maryland plates parked out front. This seemed suspicious, so, we called the EMS non-emergency dispatch number to see if they could send a car by to check things out.>/p>

As I was standing on the front porch, I noticed a strange pickup truck sitting across the street with white smoke curling out the windows. Initially I thought, "some idiot decided to park on my street to hit a doob. If they're smart, they'll notice I'm on the phone and roll out before the cops get here and really didn't think much further of it.

Apparently, the boom we'd heard wasn't from next door. Apparently, something had exploded inside the truck's cab and the smoke was the interior burning. Wasn't until another neighbor, woken by what had turned out to be the truck going "boom", decided to investigate the smoking truck. He walked over, jiggled on the door and it popped open. Thick, white smoke came billowing out. With the sudden influx of fresh air, the smoking interior became a firey interior. So, I informed the dispatcher I was on the phone with that they probably needed to treat this as a 911 fire call.

A little less than five minutes later, Fairfax County police cars started rolling up. One officer pulled an extinguisher out of his car and attempted to extinguish the fire that was now licking up from where the hood and windshield meet. It didn't work.

A minute or so later, the fire trucks rolled up. A fireman walked up, fully fitted out with helmet, fire clothing and oxygen mask and opened the door, fully. Fire came billowing out. 

Unfortunately, my camera's ability to cope with the bright light of the fire against the dark of the night meant I couldn't get good photos of the fire. It was pretty much just an orange flare in the center of the image. After they got the fire knocked down, I was able to take the below picture.

EMS are still outside dealing with the aftermath. I imagine, once they've determined the fire is fully out, they'll flatbed the truck away.

If you're from Manassas (cop that came up asked if we'd seen it before since it was registered to a Manassas address) and missing a big, white crew-cab pickup truck, I think I know where it might have gotten left (and, presumably, set on fire by whoever boosted it). Fairfax County Police Department will be able to tell you where to go pick up the burnt-out husk. Hopefully, your insurance company totals it: I know I wouldn't want it back, at this point.

Saturday, March 26th, 2011
6:58 pm
Too Short A Time

Looking back through pictures, earliest I can find of Puckett are late-June 2004. So, I did some research. Looks like we got him on or about 6/20/2004 (though, our first encounter with him was a week or so earlier). Still... We'll have had him not even 7 years when we finally have to send him on his way. 

Note to self: don't dig for answers you might not like. It was gut-punch enough getting the news of his impending demise. Pinning down the date to one that was far later that you'd specifically recalled just "piles on".

4:18 pm
Fire-and-Forget Memories

So, a lot of people I know write stuff online. They write on LiveJournal. They write on Blogger/BlogSpot. They write on Twitter. They write on FaceBook. They write on any of dozens of other sites. Many, like me, frequently choose to write about things both personal/private and more mundane "public" stuff. However, I wonder if the people that write all this stuff are like me in why they write.

For me, writing online is about preserving memories. Part of preserving memories is going back and periodically reviewing things. For me, it can act as a grounding-force. I can tell whether the high/low/whatever of the current moment is normal, an aberation or part of some kind of a pattern. It can help me remember - or even just refresh - the character, the feeling or flavor of the things written about. It can also remind me of "promises" I've made to myself and to see how well I've done in those.

A big part of why I scatter my writings in so many places (and make the vast majority findable by search engines) is so that they don't become lost. If one site goes away, I don't lose an entire chunk of memories - of my life. To me, what I've written for myself is critical.

As I do with my own writings, I sometimes look back through things friends have written. Sometimes it's just a random perusal. Sometimes it's with a purpose. Sadly, it seems that in a non-trivial number of cases, people write things so that they can get them off their chest ...and then summarily forget them. It makes me wonder, why they're committing it to "Internet Memory" at all? Wouldn't it make just as much sense to write it on a piece of paper and then just burn it? Or, for that matter, why write it down at all? Introspection absent review isn't really introspection.

I swear: the longer I'm around and the more I interact with - or even merely observe - people, the less I understand them.

Thursday, March 24th, 2011
5:45 pm
This Is What Death Looks Like

So, we took Puckett to see the vet, this morning. Much as I'd feared, his cutaneous lymphoma appears to have spread to his lungs. The vet took X-rays, to eliminate the possibility that he might just have kennel-cough. Normally, they take a sequence of three X-rays to get a good view of both lungs and along two axes. The vet only bothered to take one picture (shown below):

Canine Lung Cancer

On the plus side, we didn't have to involve a radiologist to read an iffy X-ray. We also didn't have to subject him to a CT scan. We didn't even have to subject him to the full rigor of being held still for three X-rays. Pretty much anyone can look at the above and know it's bad juju. I mean, that's just a view of one lung from one axis and you can see quite a number of masses. To me, it looks like his lung is a third cancerous tissue, at this point. I don't know how he manages to breath as well as he does.

Hard to believe how fast his clock has been running-out. It was just last month that we got the cutaneous lymphoma diagnosis. And, it was only in the last few days that he just sorta fell off a cliff, symptom-wise. I'd been hoping-against-hope that it wasn't going to be this. I'd been hoping that he'd beat the averages. Unfortunately, the only way he's beating the average is in just how aggressively the cancer has progressed and spread. "Like wildfire" doesn't seem to do it justice.

As I sit here, typing away on my couch, Puckett lies breathing, fast and shallow, next to me. Unless the steroids work miracles (i.e., make his breathing less labored and reduce the irritation in his lungs so the coughing stops), I'm thinking I'm saying my final goodbyes come Monday. In the mean time, I'll try to use these last hours to spoil him (thus, why he's got couch privileges after a lifetime without). Even the other animals seem to "know": Cira's curled up on the floor below him and Grumbles is curled up next to him on the couch. Even Bella doesn't seem to be offended by his presence in her nesting-space.

12:01 am
Winding Down

So, a month or so ago, my dog, Puckett, was diagnosed with cutaneous lymphoma. It's pretty much a death-sentence as it's not a type of cancer that responds well to the usual cancer treatment options and, even if it does respond, it has a high incidence of recurrence. In that month's time, I've seen an 11yr old dog go from an energy level and demeanor that caused most people to guess his age at maybe a third his actual age to seeming like an eleven year old dog.

When I say he used to act like a dog a third his age, I'm not kidding. Included in the people fooled, by Puckett's energy, have been neighbors that have known us more than four or five years (and did pet lookins when we were out of town), vets and vet techs who'd not yet looked at his file. Of course, people new to him, were always immediately fooled.

It just seems like, in the last thirty days, the full weight of eleven years of life have come slamming down on him. The initial diagnosis said that dogs with his condition average about six months from diagnosis. That projection was based on later detection than was his case. So, I was hopeful that he might go on the long side of that death-sentence. With his recent, sudden aging, I'm feeling like I might be lucky if he makes it to summer.

Today, the sudden aging really struck home. Throughout the entire time that Puckett has been with us:

  • He was always the first dog at the door. He was always the most exuberant. This last week, especially, he's no longer at the front of the lineup - he's sorta hanging back, waiting his turn for the hellos.
  • You could always tell when he was near a wall, standing near a table, next to the kitchen island, counters or appliances or even positioned "just right" in a doorway by the loud banging of his tail. And, if he happend to be standing in a corner, where his tail would hit two surfaces, it was a loud, stacatto drum-beat of enthusiasm. His wag was always done with such energy and vigor that, even if it wasn't banging against something, it made is head bob about as some kind of counter-balance. His wag has been so everpresent that he even frequently wags in his sleep (a bit disconcerting a phenomena). He's still wagging his tail, but it's not with quite the same vigor and, it seems more that he's doing it in response to a request for it than doing it unbidden out of shear zeal for life.
  • Except when drawn away by food or not being inside the house, he always followed me into the bathroom. I'd come to make it a habit to leave the door open, lest he stand there bumping at it till I let him in. Today, for the first time, as I sat there with the door open, he remained parked in the living room, resting.

He's also been a bit wheezy and generally tired the last week or so. His legs seem to be stiffening up. And, of course, the "coffin-nails" (what I've come to refer to his skin tumors) seem to be multiplying - as yet, most are detectable just as a disturbance in the lay of his fur rather then yet being felt by a stroke of his fur.

Tomorrow, I take him to the vet. I'm hoping that some of the energy levels and wheeziness are related to it being allergy season: I know my energy is sapped and my breathing gets ragged when the pollen count's really high. However, obviously, I fear that it's more than that. I fear that the vet's going to deliver yet more bad news that I just don't want to deal with, yet. And, if she does, I don't know what the hell I'm going to do.

I've had a number of dogs over the years. Each has been special. I've celebrated the lives of each and grieved the loss of each. However, there's been something special about Puckett. I'm about the opposite of the permanent-happiness that Puckett affuses, so, I fear that losing him will effect me - the impending loss is effecting me - more than any previous pet has.

When we lost Lana in December, it seemed natural to get another dog. This has been how I and my family has proceeded upon losing a pet - try to find another bundle of life to help fill the hole left by the prior one. Cira's been a great dog. She's her own kind of sweet and her own kind of happy. She's not Lana, but I wasn't expecting her to be - any more than any prior "replacement" pet has been the same as its predecessor. Yet, with Puckett, I don't know whether I want to try to fill that hole. Or even if I do, whether I want to do it as immediately as I have with prior pets. Who knows - maybe the severity of the loss will make me want it more than in prior instances. Hell, it might take two dogs to "replace" his energy, presence and shear "Pucketty-ness". Dunno. Any way you slice it, I'm not looking forward to finding out, but it seems to be bearing down on me like a runaway truck. 

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
5:24 pm
Best "Job" Spam Ever?
So, today, I find in my main email account's Inbox, one of those various "job opportunity" emails (you know, the ones that typically flog the "work from home" or "not MLM"). Well this one's job requirements were priceless:
  • Efficacy to proceed efficaciously within a team and independently
  • Native ability to resolve different intricacies
  • Strong communication skills
My favorite is the first requirement. I wonder if the person who wrote that first requirement fulfills the third requirement?


Sunday, March 20th, 2011
11:32 pm
Just... "Wow"

So, when I saw the previews, a few months' past, for Battle Los Angeles, I was fully prepared to not go see it in the theatres (maybe not even on NetFlix/Zune/OnDemand). It just didn't look like it was going to be any good.

Tonight, on our way back from downtown, we stopped in at a restaurant at the Potomoac Yards shopping center. After we got done with dinner, Donna wasn't yet feeling like going home, so she asked to drop by the theatre to see what might be playing. Now, this weekend, there happens to be a few movies I do actually want to see. So, I figured, "what the hell: it's twenty after eight, so, we're probably between showings of everything and we can just drive home after we confirm that." Wouldn't you fucking know it but Battle Los Angeles was set to start in less than half an hour. 


Now, I thought I had suitably lowered my expectations for this movie such that it wouldn't be a complete trial. Little did I know just how terrible this steaming-load was going to be. I mean, sure, if you wanted to sum it up in two words you could simply say, "it sucked," but that wouldn't really capture how truly craptacular the movie was. I mean, it was horrible. The guys from MST3K would probably have been left at a loss. You'd be getting to a part of the movie where you can just taste the pending relief of the movie soon being over. Only, the sadistic fuckers that made this piece of shit, would just be teasing and there'd be another 20 minutes or so ...until the next part where you were sure that it was almost over.

No, if I were to try to sum this movie up in two words, those words would be "irredeemably awful."

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
4:55 pm
How Not to be "That Guy" At a Punk Show

I'll start this off by admitting that I'm an old guy for still going to concerts. I'm 41 as of this writing. I'm not yet the oldest guy at the various showsI go to, but I'm definitely at the upper end of the age spectrum. I've been going to shows since my late teen years. So, I've seen a lot of shows and a lot of changes in how attendees act at shows in that time. I dunno whether it's just my age or if people are actually managing to become more idiotic at shows. However, last night, while riding-out the pit at The Adicts show at The Otto Bar, it definitely seemed like there was an ungodly number of idiots present. In fact, it was one of the worst shows - in terms of sheer amount of audience idiocy - that I've been to in over 20 years of going to live shows.

Let me start by saying, I love a good, active pit. That said, there's a lot of things that can make a good, active pit into a royal pain in the ass like the one at the Otto Bar, last night. Chances are, if you're doing any of the following, you're contributing to fucking up an otherwise good pit:

  • If you're over 150-180 lbs. don't try to crowd-surf. It ain't cool. You're too fucking heavy.
  • If you do decide to crowd-surf, keep your fucking feet under control. While I'm not out to intentionally hurt anyone at a show, if you kick me or one of the people I'm with, I will find you and I will fuck your shit up.
  • Don't try to use random strangers as your climbing-pole to start your surf. I'm a big guy and have a fairly good ability to anchor an area of the pit: that doesn't mean I want you trying to use me like a ladder. If you ask nicely (and aren't obviously way too heavy to be crowd surfing) I'll probably be happy to help you up. If you just start climbing, univited, I'll shug you off. If you take a second shot at it, I will elbow you in the jaw and I will try to loosen your teeth. If you do it a third time, I will slam you down and beat on you. I'm not alone in this.
  • If I see you climing up on something (that's several feet higher than the crowd) in readiness to jump down on the crowd, I will make sure that where you land suddenly becomes devoid of people (see prior note on being big: I am easily able to push a significant number of people more than enough distance to make sure that your landing will be on concrete rather than on skulls.
  • If you get surfed up to the stage, don't belly flop, as hard as you can, onto the crowd. Lay yourself down easy. If your actions hurt me or the people I'm with, you can count on the pain you receive in return being far worse than what you dished out with your idiocy
  • If you violate any of the above more than once, each time you do it in my reach, the repurcussions will be incrementally worse.
  • (and this is a first) If you just had surgery that day, just because you're still drugged up and can't feel the pain doesn't mean it's a good idea to go into a pit. Even if you didn't destroy your stitches, you're probably getting so much dirty-punk funk in the surgical wound that you're risking fun things like gangrene. Personally, I don't feel like having to pay into the public welfare system to support your stupid ass when you lose a hand because you had to go into a pit with an open wound.

Don't be a fucking meathead.

Couple notes to the women out there:

  • Just because your female doesn't exclude you from the 150lbs rule
  • Just because you're female doesn't exclude you from the keep your feet under control (particularly if you're wearing in appropriate footwear)
  • Speaking of inappropriate footwear: heeled boots, flip-flops and too-loose sneekers fall into this category
  • You might want to consider wearing something that keeps you from spilling out of your top
  • You migh want to make an effort to not surf face-side down (I dunno, maybe you're into being violently-groped: if that's your thing, cool)
  • While I won't take the first shot, if you take a shot at me, I will put you down.

Contrary to what the girl-pants wearing under-25 set seems to think, a good pit isn't determined by how many people you injure. If you think it does, then you're, inevitably, going to find out just how hurt it's possible to get at a show. It might not be me, but it will likely be someone you've pissed off as much as you've pissed me off. At least if it's me doing it, there'll be limits to the punishment. Others might not be so "nice" about it.

Friday, March 11th, 2011
7:52 pm
Unexpected Audiences


So, I posted up an article on doing Active Directory based authentication on Linux systems. Specifically, I discussed how to get around issues encountered with using the LikeWise product in a complex (messy) Active Directory environment. I figured that maybe some Linux geek that had to use this product in a complex environment might run into issues such as I had. When I had run into those issues, since it was a "free" version of a commercial product, there was no support to fall back on beyond the product's forums and Google. Neither resource was useful to me. So, in the spirit of "giving back", I wrote my article.

Today, I got an unsolicited email from someone (possibly just a bot) at Centrify. Apparently, they've got web-scrubbers out there either searching for articles on competing products or just the Linux/AD topic, in general. At any rate, they apparently found my article and sent me an email. Basically, it was some sales person trying to elicit interest in their product (Centrify). Since the authentication product chosen wasn't my choice (I just had to get it working outside of the lab), I'm not exactly the best person to spam. I'm just a tech who has to figure out how to make the various steaming piles of technology work.

Now, I get that these guys are trying to move product, and all, but, still... It's a touch creepy when these kinds of things happen. I mean, it's nice to think that someone's reading my tech blog, but it would be much nicer if people were finding it useful and not just as an avenue for trying to sell me stuff.

Oh well: life on the modern web, I suppose.

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