And Then There Were Four — Akane Scaife September 16, 1999 (approximate birthdate) – December 17, 2014

Akane

If you follow me on Facebook you already know that my oldest dog, Akane, collapsed last night, lost bowel and bladder control, and was in such intense pain that I had to rush her to the vet for euthanasia around 5:45 PM. My vet and his support staff were willing to stay a little late for us, and I am eternally grateful that I had a strong relationship, so that they were willing to help us when we needed it most.

However, my story with Akane obviously didn’t start with her death, although I feel overwhelmed with grief and sadness right now. She gave me much more during the twelve and a half to thirteen years we spent together.

Akane came into my life May 2001, just a couple of months into my stint as a volunteer with Charlyne’s Pound Puppies. She’d been pulled from Town Lake Animal Center (back when the location was still animal control for Austin) by another volunteer, and after a noisy but relatively uneventful meet and greet with Suzuka and Miki the dog who would become Akane came home for foster. Within the week this bug-eyed, petite little ACD x (which I was convinced wasn’t even a real breed until I researched online) had decided I was her human and had no interest in anyone else. I had been debating getting a cat or a third dog for a few months, and much to my roommate’s dismay after Aka refused to engage with any potential adopters at PetsMart I opted to fill out the paperwork then and there and officially make her mine.

The biggest issue upon adoption was coming up with the right name. Akane’s shelter name was Gretchen, which I do like, but it didn’t seem to fit such a tiny girl. My first two dogs had Japanese names, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go that route. Because her coat was a much darker red than the other two Akane nearly became Odile, after the black swan in Swan Lake, but it just didn’t fit. Akane means “red cloud,” and even with it’s popular association with a Ranma 1/2 character I decided it was the best choice for my new girl.

My impulsivity in adopting Akane came back to bite me many times. She was only eight months older than Suzuka and Miki, so she and Suzu had some bad fights over dominance and position in the household. I wondered many times in the first several months if I’d made the right choice in keeping Akane, but I never could get myself to give her up either. Due to my inexperience and mishandling of the issues between her and Suzu Akane developed a fiercely protective streak regarding me and developed some dog aggression issues towards new dogs in the household and reactivity on walks. I also was totally unprepared for her exercise needs although over the years we finally reached a good place.

With some probing at TLAC I discovered that I had been Akane’s third home in nine months, which explains why her natural cattledog instinct to bond to one person or family honed in on me so quickly. She’d been adopted out and somehow ended back at TLAC as a stray and was nearly euthanized before Susan pulled her but was saved at the eleventh hour by a TLAC microchip. Honestly, knowing all these things probably played a huge factor in why I refused to give up on her even when she made me want to tear my hair out and scream.

I had to keep Akane separated from Perdy the entire time they were both alive because the deep seated hatred between them had provoked fights that nearly killed Akane a couple of times (Akane was about twenty-five pounds; Perdy hovers between fifty-five and sixty); Akane was usually the instigator because she had no common sense about which dogs she attacked. Her feisty nature demanded that she keep going no matter what.

Akane loved very few dogs whole-heartedly; the bulk of her affection was reserved for me and trying to make me see that I should only need her. However, she worshiped my male dog, Miki, and she adored my friend, Bernita’s, little corgi/sheltie mix, Romany. Somehow Aka and Romy became soul sisters, and they’d play and cuddle in ways I rarely saw. Her love for Miki was a little more obsessive and often utilized dominance humping and barking in his face to get her way. This legacy has been passed to my six year old ACD x, Patience, who now humps both Suzu and Miki to get attention.

Until she blew out her rear right ACL at twelve Akane ran a couple miles a week with me and ran behind my bicycle several mornings a week. She loved to be moving, and she was a great running companion since her steady pace made keeping going easier.

Akane taught me important lessons about managing dogs and their personalities, how to love them even when they’re sometimes awful, and how to appreciate the dog you have, not be upset about the dog you wanted. Most importantly in the past month and a half she taught me the importance of knowing when and how to let go; last night was the last gift of love I could provide for her.

Akane passed peacefully in my arms and was gone within seconds of the injection; her body was so worn out that she just wanted to be free of it. She looked like she was sleeping, and I know she’s with Romy again (Romy passed a few years ago) running and enjoying as many treats as she wants without anyone fussing about food allergies or weight gain.

To steal from the musical Rent if I measure my time with Akane in love we spent several lifetimes together. I miss my cranky, feisty girl, but I can find peace knowing that she’s whole again and no longer in pain…besides I have to take care of the other four dogs and the three cats. Their lives didn’t stop because my heart is currently breaking.

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Unintentionally Hilarious Holiday Displays

It’s the time of year where you can guess which houses probably have children still at home by the quantity of decorations and lights displayed in the front yard. Sure, some adults adore decorating for the winter holidays (I am not one of them), but outdoor displays are usually a sign of children still believing in Santa. In the past five or ten years inflatable displays seem to have become common because they’re easy to set up and take down and don’t require hours of detangling. However, the inflatables can have unfortunate problems, which combined with other items are unintentionally hilarious.

Funny Xmas Display

Given that Texas barely distinguishes between fall and winter I can’t fault the homeowners for not moving the pumpkins inside before setting up the Frosty sign, even if the juxtaposition makes me giggle. The funniest part about this display is what we can’t see: the Frosty inflatable. The first time I came by the house while walking dogs Frosty had taken a nosedive into the bushes as if he’d been out partying a little too hard the night before. Funny! By the time I made it by with my phone he’d deflated behind the bushes as if hiding in shame for his ribald partying.

Unfortunately, I missed my chance to get a photo of the other offender on my list because the homeowners must have realized what I had seen every time I walked by (maybe they just got tired of me pointing and laughing every time I passed their house), and they replaced the Santa and Rudolph inflatable with a much cooler but also less darkly funny North Pole band with drumming penguin. Santa and Rudolph are classics of pre-fab Christmas displays, so what was so crazy about this one? The inflatable Santa and Rudolph only partially filled either due to a leak or a problem with the motor on the air machine. As a result Rudolph’s legs splayed out to either side and his head kinked back at an awkward angle while Santa’s hand was on the little red-nosed reindeer’s head. If you had a twisted mind like me it looked like inflatable Santa was breaking Rudolph’s neck. With the biker Santa on the other side of the driveway this household presented a much tougher, darker image of Santa than is currently popular! For the record Biker Santa is still out partying with the band.

The runner up for wacky holiday displays isn’t out yet this year. Maybe the homeowners realized the skiing polar bear looked more like he was dropping a deuce on the slopes. One can hope!

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Analyzing ‘The Babadook’ as a Metaphor for Mental Illness

The Babadook

If you haven’t seen The Babadook yet this post may have spoilers although I’ll try my best to be very oblique. It’s just become available in the US, so unless you actively seek out indie horror movies it may not be on your radar. The premise is quite simple: a single mother and her son find a spooky children’s book about a mysterious creature called Mister Babadook, and their reading of the story unwittingly unleashes the spirit in their home. It’s an incredibly effective movie on this surface level, but if you dig a little below the obvious story I believe the entire tale can be seen as a metaphor for mental illness.

Amelia, the main character, lost her husband, Oscar, the night their son, Samuel, was born. The exact nature of his death is never explained, but it seems to have been something car related as the couple sped to the hospital for their child’s birth. While Amelia clearly cares for her son, she cannot celebrate his birthday on the day and stores all of her husband’s belongings locked away in the basement. Samuel suffers from nightmares and overactive imagination, and it’s difficult to understand whether he truly has a behaviour problem or just acts out in response to his mother’s obvious emotional turmoil. Unfortunately, Samuel’s issues about not having a father, which manifest as fear of monsters and not sleeping well, get him into trouble at school and strain the relationship with his cousin, Ruby, and Aunt Claire (Amelia’s sister). When a book titled Mister Babadook appears on Samuel’s bookshelf the story exacerbates the boy’s sleep issues, and the family spirals downward until the conclusion.

I’m not an expert on film making or even have a degree in film, so my interpretations of the film are entirely my own. Jennifer Kent may simply have wanted to create a terrifying story that is mostly rooted in reality. Given we know that Amelia has not fully recovered from her husband’s death seven years previously and appears to not have sought treatment for herself I find it easy to believe that she is perpetually on the edge of a mental break. Samuel’s sleep issues have kept her from sleeping for weeks at the beginning of the movie. It doesn’t seem like much of a leap that the Babadook is actually Amelia’s descent into a mentally ill state that becomes increasingly more violent and frightening over the course of the movie. Given that the plot explicitly states that the Babadook is inside Amelia at one point I don’t think I’m reaching too far.

However, I go a little more out on a limb with my theory that Samuel’s nightmares are actually a response to his mother’s fragile mental state before the start of the film. As a six year old it’s easier for Samuel to cling to monsters as scary things, but it may be that he’s afraid of how his mother acts when she is struggling with depression or untreated mental illness tied to the death of her husband. From a child’s viewpoint a monster is far easier to comprehend than an illness that doesn’t go away and can’t be seen. It also helps me accept Samuel’s refusal to leave his mother during the worst portions of the Babadook’s actions rather than logically fleeing to the safety of the elderly neighbor.

The ending is a little weird with the mental illness metaphor, but it can roughly be interpreted as treatment helping keep the worst aspects of the disease at bay. Everything is well again to some degree because Amelia has taken control of her mental state once again. The family can move forward because she is not at the mercy of her illness.

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Thoughts on ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1′

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Based on the box office numbers I wasn’t the only one heading out for the third installment in The Hunger Games movies this past weekend. At 10:30AM on a Sunday morning (yay for Cinemark early bird $6.75 tickets) the theater was full but not crowded, and I was blessed with a considerate audience who refrained from speaking loudly during the quieter scenes. I even heard mothers shushing their children as the previews began rolling (although the ages of some of the kids in the theater was a touch questionable in my opinion). The previews were, well, a bit odd…I completely expected the Divergent: Insurgent trailer and given that Elizabeth Banks is in both The Hunger Games movies and Pitch Perfect the ad for Pitch Perfect 2 kind of made sense. However, why are movie studios marketing the third Night at the Museum movie to Mockingjay. I’ve heard they’re fun, entertaining movies, but I don’t think it’s quite the same audience…

How to describe Mockingjay Part 1 itself? IMPACTFUL. When I first read the book I was frustrated by the slower pace and war games, but seeing it on the screen brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion (that said I was crying earlier in the day because I thought my older dog have accidents in the house during terrible weather meant the end was nigh, so I might not be the best emotional barometer for the feels in the film). Meeting Paylor in District 8 and the added scenes of rebellion in Districts Five and Seven really shook me to the core. The books stay inside Katniss’ head, so readers don’t know what’s happening outside of District Thirteen; Francis Lawrence showed us his vision of the uprising, and I, for one, was deeply affected.

The final scenes left me shaken to the core, and I’m so glad I know how the story will finally end. If I had to wait another year to know the resolution I think my heart would have broken. Mockingjay Part 1 has totally upped the stakes in the story, and it’s moved the film making away from bread, circuses, and love triangles. I think this is the strongest addition to the series so far, even if the idea of watching it repeatedly makes me want to curl up in my bed and sink into oblivion.

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Exciting Life Changes plus I’m Injured Yet AGAIN

FBC business card

As of Monday I was officially announced as the newest Fanboy Comics staff member. I’ve been a fan for several years and began reviewing for the site in August 2014 thanks to reviews I posted on this little blog. I know I cut off the FBC logo on my business card shot above, but I wanted to make sure the full title was legible! We’ve been working toward my becoming a staff member since May/June, but life, tons of conventions and other events, and issues with getting my business cards printed delayed the process. My duties are primarily promoting the Twitter account and Facebook pages, and I post a question Monday through Friday to encourage fans to interact with us. Honestly, it’s just moving my comments from the primary FBC page to Twitter and Facebook, and I like talking with other people about their opinions. Hopefully, I can help FBC continue to grow with my chattiness.

On a less positive note my chronic shoulder/neck issues flared up again to such a degree that I went back to the chiropractor yesterday. Sure enough my neck was back to being tight as metal cable, and my back was a little jacked up, too. Unfortunately, I’m still in pain today, and Advil is only taking the edge off. Body, just get me through Gabe’s annual exam this afternoon, and we’re good!

Unfortunately, this latest injury makes yoga a non-starter this week, which is the second time this month. Argh, I particularly need some nice stretching stuff this time of year, and I needed to doublecheck the holiday schedule since I don’t want to drive across town if class is cancelled. I suppose I’ll just have to get over my phone issues and call.

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If You’ve Been Waiting to Pull the Trigger on a MeiLin Miranda Work Now Is The Time!

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Author and friend MeiLin Miranda suffered a house fire last night, and while the family and pets escaped unscathed a good portion of their belongings are too smoke damaged, etc, to be salvaged.  Yes, they have insurance, but processing takes time.  Yes, they do have some items, but any extra monetary help would be welcome.

I have no idea if the family is open to straight donations, so I want to encourage people to buy one of MeiLin’s works today and in the coming weeks to help the family.  Every purchase helps!

For a full list of MeiLin’s works check out her website, .

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No Real Post This Week

As has become the norm lately I’m too mentally and emotionally exhausted to produce a decent blog post.

The culprit this time around is primarily:

 

Dogs and Cats June 27 2013 003

 

my youngest dog, Patience, who has been battling chronic ear gunk since last February.  After having a 12mm ear wax formation removed from her left ear canal in August during a routine dental, my vet and I hoped that Patience’s ears would self regulate after having been thoroughly cleared out.  Unfortunately, that has not been the case.  Her ears were nasty again on the two month recheck, and then this past Tuesday Patience apparently had an allergic reaction to the topical steroid drops we tried to bring down the slight swelling in her ear canals (now we’re on Easotic and Prednisone).  We also started an elimination diet food trial on October 27, which is an absolute terror with four other dogs and three cats in the household.  I’m sure there’s non-allergen free food debris to be hoovered throughout the house.  If the allergen diet doesn’t help the next step is a CT scan to make sure there’s nothing wrong in Patience’s inner ear.  Since the cost of a CT scan is way more than I can come up with easily I’m trying to mentally will Patience into having the food trial work (yeah, I’m sure that’ll be perfect). On the plus side the Proheart injection was cheaper than I anticipated, and there is a prescription formula treat available.  Hopefully, the vet gets them soon.

Dogs and Cats January 1 013

Akane is still trucking, but her back legs are getting weaker and weaker.  I’m having to carry her part of the way on some walks now although she’ll start struggling when she’s ready to get down.  She seems infinitesimally more fragile than she did in August, too, so I increased her food portions.  Aka’s not complaining about more crunchings and munchings, so I think she’ll probably keep going for a bit longer.  I just spend a lot of time trying to mentally prepare myself.

Perdy

Perdy seems to have felt left out of all the sick dog loving, and she came up limping badly on her front left leg/paw last night.  Given Patience’s health concerns plus Gabe needing his annual physical this month (actually, both Gabe and Rhys need annuals, but I’m waiting to see how much more I have to spend on Patience before committing to Rhys’ check up this month) rushing the vet was not in the cards (and I’m not that type of dog mom anyway), so I gave her an aspirin and just made her rest overnight.  Fortunately, Perdy was walking normally this morning, so I guess she just wrenched something a little while wrestling/playing with Patience last night.  It does mean I need to keep an eye on her more than I have been though.

Suzu and Miki are the only dogs with normal health right now, and while at least one of the cats likes to have hairballs regularly they seem to be pretty peppy.  I think rather than using spoons to describe physical well-being related to chronic health issues I’m struggling to having enough emotional spoons these days.   Things are complicated by lack of communication from people in charge of a volunteer opportunity I’d like to participate in, financial complications, and worry about the holidays.  Everything will somehow work out, but it’s tiring while things are getting into place.

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