blog news, musings, nostalgia, YouTube

It’s New Year’s Eve, and I don’t have much to write…

I just wrote a post for the travel blog that I was going to put on this blog… but then I realized that the content fits better with that blog than this one. The travel blog needs a little love, because most weeks I only update it a couple of times, rather than every day, like I do this blog. So I moved the original post that I was working on for this blog to that blog, and now I’m sitting here wondering what interesting things I might write today.

I see this New Year’s Eve writer’s block thing is kind of a chronic problem, as last year I did a “cross post”. That means I put the same content on both blogs, which I do on occasion. Not everyone who reads this blog reads that one, and vice versa. I’m hoping that in 2023, I can get the travel blog up a bit in hits, so I don’t reach cash out status for my ad revenue after I’m dead. As I pointed out in yesterday’s post, I don’t make big bucks writing these things. 😉

I could probably do a cross post this year, too, and this year’s post is more interesting than last year’s was. Or, at least I think it is. But I’ve got nothing better to do than write this stuff today… Otherwise, maybe I’d play Sims 4, which I don’t do very often anymore, even though I keep buying all the content. Or I’d read more of Jamie Lynn Spears’ book and cringe. She’s definitely no Paulina Porizkova, or even Matthew Perry, in the memoir writing department.

I see that last year, like this year, I’ve been doing chores today. I don’t know what it is about New Year’s Eve that makes me want to do household chores. Last year, I finally managed to get rid of the horrible chalky limescale in our bathrooms. Citric acid works wonders, not just for descaling the taps and the backs of the toilets, but it’s also great for cleaning the coffee maker. I notice that last year, I also hauled my ass up on the stepladder and knocked the scales off the shower head. I think I’ll do that today, too, as it needs to be done. Getting rid of the chalky limescale makes for a nicer showering experience, as there’s nothing to block the jets or cause the water to spray awkwardly.

I guess I do this cleaning because it feels like I should do it for a fresh start. Tomorrow is the beginning of a brand new year. It will bring with it the usual challenges, victories, and disappointments. I usually start the new year with some optimism, even though January and February are, weather wise, the most depressing times of the year, in my opinion. Up here in Hessen, it stays pretty wet and cloudy, and sometimes it gets cold. I would mind it less if we got more snow here, although even snow can get tiresome after it hangs around for weeks and gets all saturated with dog pee and frozen poop. I try to keep the poop cleaned up, but it gets buried, and then it gets all mashed up with the soil.

One thing I do look forward to this year is the prospect of more travel. Hopefully, we’ll go to more interesting places. Fingers are crossed, anyway. Maybe I’ll even take a trip “home” to the United States and see my mom, who hasn’t seen me since 2015. There are some places I haven’t yet been to that I would like to visit… and of course, I would love to go back to Armenia, just so I can show Bill where I used to live, half a lifetime ago.

I see from last year’s post that I hoped for a better year in 2022. Personally, I think I got that, but that’s just me. We did find out that our beloved Arran has lymphoma, but this year, for the FIRST time ever, we were able to do something about it. I know we will lose Arran eventually, but man, it’s such a good feeling to be able to do something, for once, when one of our boys gets cancer. It’s been a learning experience for us, and those of my friends who have been following our experiences.

I have no doubt whatsoever that if we hadn’t done chemo, Arran would be long gone by now. But right now, he’s downstairs snuggling with his favorite person, Mr. Bill. I know that some critics would say that chemo only delays the inevitable, and that the cancer will probably come back with a vengeance… but the alternative would have been that we would have lost him weeks ago. What’s the difference between treating cancer and treating a disease like diabetes? If it can be treated, isn’t too expensive, and isn’t too traumatic, why not? But, I also know that in the United States, this would have been a harder decision to make, because healthcare for people and pets is so goddamned expensive! And it really shouldn’t be. Affordable healthcare should be a right, at least for human beings. Living in Germany has taught me that Americans have gotten this policy so wrong. I hope the onerous high cost of healthcare for Americans can be rectified someday before I’m dead.

I also see that last year, I mentioned my guitar skills. Well, this year, they are better than they were a year ago. I still don’t play super well, but I did manage to post a few songs on YouTube with me on guitar. I’m still a much better singer than guitar player, but in 2019, I couldn’t play guitar at all. So that’s a good thing… I try to practice most days every week, although I do usually take off the weekends, unless I get inspired.

This year, I finally got brave and sang on camera on my YouTube videos, which I never did before. I get very camera shy, and I don’t like putting on makeup or getting dressed. I also don’t want to read rude comments from haters. I have to admit, though, people have been very kind. I get more engagement when I sing on camera, even though I’m not as beautiful as some of the places we’ve visited. And I’ve tried some songs I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, too. I’m hoping for more of that in the new year. Even if no one pays attention to my channel, I do enjoy the process of making the videos. Or, at least making the musical part. I often find myself wishing I’d started when I was much younger than I was. Ah well. Maybe someday, I’ll be reincarnated and get the chance for a do over… except maybe the new me won’t have a knack for music. Maybe I’ll be a soccer player, instead. 😉

My latest… it’s a good song for the New Year. Cheers!

I finally got multifocal contact lenses, too… which I had been needing for ages. I still don’t have bifocal glasses, but I think those are coming, if I don’t have surgery. Next year might be the year I’ll finally visit a doctor… German or otherwise. I haven’t seen one for medical reasons since 2010. That could change in 2023. We’ll see. I am getting old, after all. My body doesn’t seem to recover as quickly as it used to. German healthcare isn’t expensive, so I don’t even have that as an excuse. It’s just that– well– thanks to a terrible Air Force doctor from my younger days, I am a bit phobic of doctors. The older I get, the less I think it matters… except I know Bill would miss me if I weren’t around to make him laugh.

Maybe in 2023, I’ll try something else on YouTube. Maybe I’ll v-log. But again, I hate being on camera, and I like to write more than I like to speak. I also like to watch other v-loggers. If I become one myself, I’ll have less time to watch people like Beau of the Fifth Column, Farron Balanced, or even Trevor Coult, with whom I often disagree politically, but I find hilarious, thanks to his thick Northern Irish accent. I also think I’d go a bit nuts trying to make videos where I speak, because I would invariably mess up, which would mean do-overs, which take a lot of time. I’m kind of a perfectionist, too, so that would be a problem. I suspect my channel will mostly stick to music. At least I don’t attract as many rude comments when I make music. 😉 Perhaps this year, I’ll finally write an original song and sing it on YouTube. That would be something different. A year from now, maybe I’ll be writing about that. Who knows?

Well, it’s time to wrap this up… It’s about 1:45 PM and time for lunch… the very last one of 2022. So, I will now close, and wish you all a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year. Let’s cut this cake and take this year home… so I can take down the fucking Christmas decorations. 😉

See you tomorrow!

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Bill, dogs, family, first world problems

When Bill is away, steroid mad Arran drives me CRAZ-AY!

Holy crap. Tomorrow, we’ll be halfway through December already. I haven’t even gotten to a proper Christmas market yet, although we did get a little snow the other day. They’re calling for some today, but we’ll see if it happens. It’s certainly cold enough!

Bill has been “TDY” this week– that is “temporary duty yonder”, for those of you who aren’t up with typical military jargon. Bill had to go to Bavaria again, as he did for two weeks in October. He used to go on more interesting temporary duty assignments when he worked for AFRICOM and EUCOM down in Stuttgart, but his current job mostly takes him to Bavaria or Poland, with rare exceptions. He has gone to Vegas a couple of times, too. Sometimes I go with him on his trips, but I haven’t done one with Bill since 2019, just before COVID became a global nightmare.

In October, when Bill was last at “Graf”, I was very worried about our old dog, Arran, who was diagnosed with lymphoma. I was actually very concerned that Arran might die while Bill was gone, as untreated lymphoma can kill quite efficiently. But we decided to do chemo for Arran, and in many ways, that has been a miraculous decision. Some long time readers might recall that our dog, Zane, died in 2019 of a type of lymphoma that I think was much more aggressive than what Arran has. It came up while we were on vacation and killed Zane a mere week after he was diagnosed. Arran is our fourth dog to get cancer, and the first one we’ve been able to treat in any meaningful way, other than giving painkillers. Treating him has definitely been educational on many levels.

I am not usually one to want to do extreme treatments. I thought of chemo for a 14 year old dog as “extreme”. I don’t anymore. Arran’s treatment has been pretty minimal, when it comes down to it. For the past eight weeks, he’s gotten weekly IV Vincristine infusions at the vet’s office. He got Prednisolone and Endoxan (pill twice a week), and not even every day. So far, we’ve spent about 1000 euros for everything– vet visits, meds, and consultations. The IV appointments take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The rest of the time, he eats, sleeps, takes walks, poops, pees, snuggles, jumps, and even plays a bit. He still stands guard at the door when someone comes with a package or wakes me from my naps, wanting me to sign up for a service. 😉

I’m starting to think of his lymphoma as more of a chronic disease than a death sentence, as we ease Arran into his final golden days. For his ten years of love and companionship, we think it’s worth it. And starting this week, he doesn’t have to go to the vet weekly for IV drugs. Now, we’re in phase two, which means he only goes every other week, and takes the Endoxan (pills) every other week, and takes Prednisolone every other day. I know the cancer will eventually kill him, but we still have him for now. We’re going to enjoy him for as long as possible… even though that means putting up with some annoyances and inconveniences. That’s what I’ve been dealing with this week.

The Prednisolone Arran takes is lifesaving, and has had some miraculously beneficial effects on his well-being. It also has some annoying side effects. It gives him some really rancid farts that would easily a clear a room of the unindoctrinated. It makes him need to pee a lot, so that has resulted in some household accidents. Arran has never been 100 percent reliable when it comes to his housetraining, anyway. For some reason, he never has learned to tell us when he needs to go outside. He has, though, learned very well how to tell us when he wants to eat. And Prednisolone makes him want to eat a LOT and more often. He’s already mostly beagle and almost all hound, so eating has always been one of his favorite things to do, anyway.

Arran has also become unreliable at home alone, so I’ve found myself spending more time at home, just to keep him from tearing up anything that smells like food. Twice, he’s broken into our makeshift pantry in the basement and made messes (most German homes don’t have built in pantries). He also gets up several times during the night to pee and demand food. Bill often finds himself feeding him at 3:30 AM, just so he can sleep a couple of hours. Today, I made him wait until 4, after he’d already gotten me up at 1:45 for a potty break.

If we were in the States, I might keep Arran in a crate when he can’t be supervised. But we left our crate in Texas, and haven’t seen too many of them for sale over here. Germans don’t tend to leave their dogs at home alone a lot… not that I would need to do that, since I mostly stay at home, anyway. Arran also tends to howl a lot when we aren’t home, and that could be worse in a crate… although it’s also likely that he’d see it as his den and calm down.

If you’re reading this and wondering how Arran gets into the basement to raid it, here’s my answer. Like most German basements I’ve seen, the basement in our house doesn’t have a door. There are just steps that go down to the lowest floor. We bought a pet gate when we lived at our former house, which was originally a communal home. The steps to the basement in that house weren’t conducive for using a spring-loaded gate, because there was a wall and just a metal bannister with no wall to brace against. I also didn’t want to do any “construction” in that house, because our landlady was extremely anal retentive and always looking for a reason to be critical of me, in particular. And, as we found out when we moved, she also looked for every reason to charge us.

The stand alone pet gate worked for a long time. Until very recently, Arran mostly respected the gate and stayed out of the basement. But the steroids make him a demon from Hell, when it comes to wanting and pursuing food. Fortunately, this house has two walls at the basement stairs, so we will probably invest in a more secure gate to thwart his attempts to steal food. The benefit to having such a gate is that it can be open and shut, so I won’t have to step over the gate anymore in the mornings, when my muscles are stiff and unreliable. Even if we lose Arran very soon, the sturdier gate will still come in handy if and when we get another dog. Noyzi is, seriously, a perfect gentleman, so we worry a lot less about him. He didn’t even need to be potty trained when we got him! Can’t believe he was born on the streets of Kosovo!

Needless to say, taking care of Arran has been more challenging than usual. But other than looking after his increased needs for food, potty breaks, and supervision, I’ve found myself kind of bored as I wait for Bill to come home from his latest TDY. I spent a lot of years living alone, so it’s not like I can’t cope with it. I miss him when he’s gone, though… even though I tend to eat and drink less when he’s not home. I’ve mostly passed the time by watching movies. I was thinking I’d like to add my thoughts on the movies to this post, but now I think maybe they should get their own posts. I have a lot to write about them, and this post has gone on long enough… And it’s mostly about Arran, so my thoughts on made for TV movies are out of place here. I could probably write an entire book about Arran!

So, I think I’ll start a new post… write that, practice guitar, put fresh sheets on the bed, and if I’m lucky, maybe even score a nap. I think I could use one, after all these nocturnal disturbances.

As you can see from the featured photo, Arran is worth it, in spite of being a little shit sometimes. That photo was taken the other day, as Arran copied his deceased beagle brother, Zane, and tucked himself into bed. He almost never does that, so I wonder if Zane was paying us a visit. I’m weird like that.

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controversies, dogs, ethics, healthcare

The surprising judgment that comes with seeking advanced veterinary care…

The featured photo is of Arran and Bill, just a few days ago… As you can see, they love each other very much. Arran is glad to be here with his favorite person. I’m glad we can afford to treat his cancer and keep him comfortable for a little while longer. And I’m grateful that living in Germany allows this outcome for us.

A month ago, I wrote a post about our decision to treat our dog, Arran, for B-cell lymphoma. I was inspired to write that post after reading an article in the Washington Post about the cost of treating major diseases in pets. The article in the WaPo was written by Kim Kavin, whose dog, Blue, was diagnosed with cancer. She decided to pull out all the stops to treat Blue, and it cost a lot of money. Blue initially responded to the treatment, but then suffered a relapse when the cancer came roaring back with a vengeance. Kavin’s piece ran in the paper, and lots of people had negative opinions about it. I felt badly that she was getting so many brutal comments, so I wrote my own post about our decision to treat Arran.

At this writing, Arran has had six chemo treatments. If we hadn’t done these treatments, I feel pretty sure he would have died by now. When we started the chemotherapy on October 13th, he was starting to get sick. He wasn’t eating much, and looked very sad. He spent a lot of time sleeping, and could barely manage a short walk around the block. Now, he eats, sleeps, takes walks, jumps on the furniture, and tears things up. The chemotherapy hasn’t made him feel sick. The only thing I’ve noticed is that he sleeps a bit after he gets Vincristine and/or Endoxan. But he doesn’t have diarrhea or issues with vomiting. He hasn’t lost his fur. He doesn’t even have to take medication every day. And you’d never know he has cancer.

What has his treatment cost us so far? So far, we’ve paid for six weeks of treatment, which consists of weekly IV pushes of Vinistrine, a chemo drug. He takes two Endoxan pills per week– on Thursdays and Saturdays. Every other day, he takes three 5 milligram tablets of Prednisolone. This regime will continue for another two weeks, and then it will change to one that is less extreme. Total cost here in Germany? Still less than 1000 euros. And he feels much better with a great quality of life, while we’ve been able to enjoy his company for a little bit longer. I think he’ll make it to his tenth anniversary with us. That’s all we could have ever hoped for.

This was Arran’s first chemo bill. It covers two treatments. As you can see, it’s very reasonable. The following week, we were billed another 445 euros for four more treatments.

A couple of days ago, The Atlantic ran a story titled “How Much Would You Pay to Save Your Cat’s Life?”, by Sarah Zhang. The story was about the veterinary hospitals in the United States that give cats kidney transplants to save their lives. Their owners shell out $15,000 for the surgery, which involves using a donor cat’s kidney, implanting it in an often elderly cat. Many times, the owners end up adopting the donor cats, too, as they are typically young and healthy and in need of a home. As it is for most humans, cats can get by just fine with one kidney. In one case, the prospective donor got adopted anyway, when the cat that needed a kidney passed from heart failure before the surgery could be done.

It was noted in the article that kidney transplants are the only transplant surgeries available to cats. The donors are not killed. Apparently, transplants are not yet available for dogs, because “the canine immune system is unusually reactive, leading to kidney rejection.”

Zhang wrote about a 16 year old cat named Strawberry who got a new kidney. Strawberry’s owner did not want to be identified, as she feared backlash from people about the cost. The surgery alone costs $15,000, but with travel, follow-up care, and other costs, it can end up being twice as expensive. And Strawberry’s owner didn’t want to deal with a bunch of negativity about her choice to spend that money. Zhang writes that she interviewed a dozen cat owners who had opted for the surgery and also wanted to remain anonymous. One person quipped, “I wouldn’t think of saying to somebody, ‘Wow, that’s an expensive car,’  But people seem pretty free to say, ‘Wow, you spent a lot of money on a cat.’ ”

I remember the very negative and judgmental comments on Kavin’s article in the Washington Post. I expected to see similar comments on The Atlantic’s article. Much to my surprise and delight, The Atlantic’s readers seem to be a lot more open-minded. Or, at least they aren’t as full of judgmental bile about what people will spend their money on, as well as the mistaken belief that cancer treatment is always unpleasant and leads to sickness, as it often does in humans. And one person wrote a very astute comment, which I think really highlights why people tend to have strong reactions to other people’s choices to treat illnesses like cancer in their pets. Facebook user Isaac Suárez wrote:

The issue is not “is a cat’s life worth saving.” A cat is a companion, to be loved and cared for. There is no shame in wanting to preserve this bond and prevent unnecessary suffering.

Rather, the judgement comes from the fact that some have $15k to burn on pet care while the vast majority of people don’t. I know many people who’d happily pay the price to help a friend; I know very few who have the money to do so.

Sadly, a cat with kidney failure is just one of innumerable occasions where the stark class divide of our country manifests. Instead of talking about “are cats worth the price” we should be asking “why is the price so high” and “why do some people have the freedom to make this choice when the vast majority don’t?” As with many topics covered by Atlantic, the question is misframed and a valuable opportunity to address a visceral and important issue is sidestepped.

Another Facebook user liked Isaac’s comment, and responded thusly:

Brilliant and eloquent response! Its heartbreaking that so many must choose to have their beloved pet euthanized because the treatment cannot be afforded or people take on a hideous amount if debt in order to save their pet. Either way, there is a great deal of needless pain.

I also really related to Isaac’s comment, especially as an American who lives in a country where healthcare and veterinary treatments are much more reasonably priced than they are in the United States. If Bill and I were living in the United States, Arran’s treatment would no doubt cost a whole lot more. It would probably be undertaken at a high speed referral center, rather than at our local vet’s office. And we would be paying much more for his medications, as well as every single thing that would be done for him. We love Arran very much, but we’re practical people. He’s already an old guy. I can’t see us spending many thousands of dollars to keep him going. But in Germany, we can easily afford the treatment, and it makes him feel better. So he gets this comfort care at the end of his life, which will allow him more time with us, and give the vet more valuable experience treating lymphoma. It’s a win-win.

Arran and Noyzi welcome us home two weeks ago. You’d never know Arran has cancer, thanks to canine chemo. Isn’t this a result worth paying for? Especially when it’s pretty reasonably priced?

Many Americans resent how some people can afford to provide such advanced care for a pet, while human beings are going without care because they can’t afford it. And yet, so many people continue to vote for the same leaders, who do nothing about this problem. The United States is among the richest countries in the world, yet so many Americans lack the ability to pay for their own healthcare, let alone that of their pet’s. But a lot of us would never bat an eye at buying the latest iPad or tennis shoes. We don’t roll our eyes when a neighbor takes a trip to Hawaii or buys a Tesla. A pet can give a family intangible things that an iPad or a Tesla never can. Why should anyone be ashamed to spend money on their best friends? And why should anyone feel the need to judge someone negatively for making that choice? It’s not as if that person who can afford the advanced veterinary treatment for their dog or cat is going to be paying for their neighbor’s treatment.

I am probably not one of those people who would opt for a kitty kidney transplant, especially on a cat who is 16 years old. But now that I’ve experienced giving a dog chemo, I might opt to do it again for another dog… if I think the dog is well enough to be treated and wants to fight. I would probably pay a fair amount for that option, even if I’m living in the United States, where it will undoubtedly cost a lot more. Here in Germany, it’s a no brainer to give chemo a chance, although not all dogs respond the way Arran has. The response depends a lot on the animal and the type of disease. In Arran’s case, he is resilient, and he has a type of lymphoma that responds to treatment. We have the money. Why not treat it? What makes it any different than treating him for heartworms or diabetes or any other disease that people don’t think twice about treating in their pets? And if someone else has the ability and the desire to pay for advanced treatment for their cat, who am I to judge them? I’m not involved in the aftermath of that decision, and it’s really none of my business.

Anyway… I found Sarah Zhang’s article thought provoking on many levels, especially since we’re dealing with a pet who has cancer now. Arran is our fourth dog to get cancer, but he’s the first one we’ve been able to do anything for… and it really does feel good to do something. I can see, every day, that Arran is glad to be here. No, it’s not fun for him to get intravenous medications every week, but that’s only for about a half an hour. In a couple of weeks, he’ll be getting the IV meds less frequently. We’ll see how long he can make it before it’s time to let him go. I’m just glad we have the luxury of being able to prepare for the end, and enjoying every minute with our beloved Arran. If we weren’t in Germany, I’m not sure we’d have that. This shouldn’t be something that other people judge us negatively for doing, simply because our healthcare system is so fucked up and prices for humans and animals needing medical care are so ridiculously high. It seems to me that Americans ought to be demanding lower healthcare costs. I know that’s the way I’m going to be voting from now on.

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disasters, dogs, Ex, music

“I was a fool to care”…

We’re back from our few days of whimsy in France, capped off by a concert by James Taylor. We came home last night from the show to find that Arran made a big mess. First, there was a pile of crap on the rug. I cleaned that up, as Bill discovered the mess he left in the basement, after breaking through the flimsy barrier Bill tried to erect. We keep some food in the basement, because like most German houses, this house lacks a proper pantry.

Arran got into noodles, old taco shells, chocolate drink mix (which he didn’t seem to get much of, thankfully), and graham crackers. There was chewed up cardboard and plastic everywhere, as well as drink powder, smashed pasta, and other assorted debris that we cleaned up at 11:00pm. Then, I discovered a pee spot on the same rug Arran has designated his own private indoor Klo (German for potty). I don’t know why, but he always chooses my favorite rugs to befoul. The funny thing is, it appeared that Noyzi had nothing whatsoever to do with the mischief making. He was in his bed when we got home, apparently long asleep. He saw me, wagged his tail, and asked for a belly rub.

Arran has always done this kind of stuff, given an opportunity, but the steroid meds he takes make him even hungrier and more determined than ever. Fortunately, he seems to be suffering no ill effects today. Bill usually does a very obsessive job of “beagle proofing” before we go out anywhere. He takes everything up from under the counter and puts the stuff in the bathroom or on top of the counter. And he makes a point of putting the most dangerous stuff in cupboards or high shelves.

Arran tried very hard to make up with me after trashing the basement and befouling my rug.

Unfortunately, we had forgotten about some stuff in the basement that’s been there awhile. We don’t have a door to stop Arran from going down there, though we do use a baby gate. He managed to push past it, even though Bill parked a crate of beer behind it. I guess we’re going to have to build a wall… or maybe invest in a Schrank (portable cupboard). It’s a good thing I don’t go out that often.

In spite of his raid on our dry goods, Arran seems to be fine today. He slept through the night and eagerly ate his breakfast. He could tell I was pissed at him last night, and snuggled next to me, because obviously he couldn’t help himself. Poor guy. We got the bills for his last four chemo treatments. They came to about 445 euros. Added to the first bill, which was under 300 euros, I can still say that German chemo for dogs is very reasonably priced. And even though Arran is naughtier than ever, it’s restored him to his old self… at least temporarily. So, we’ll take it and try to enjoy him, even though he really can be a little shit sometimes. But then, that’s part of his charm.

Now, to address today’s blog post title…

As I mentioned last night, Bill and I saw James Taylor perform. This show was originally supposed to happen in February 2022, but COVID numbers were too high at that time, so it was postponed until November 8. Then, James got COVID and had to cancel several shows. Luckily, Frankfurt wasn’t cancelled, but it was postponed. So we went last night and had a really good time. I see from Setlist.fm that James cut a few songs from the show– songs he did in Stuttgart, which was the last show he did before he got sick. Still, it was an excellent concert, and we were happy with the songs he did perform. There was no need for him to do more, especially since I could see that he was probably still a little fatigued from COVID. He still seemed a little pale and shaky to me, but it didn’t stop him from singing, playing, and jumping around the stage like a younger man. And as a fan since, at least, the late 70s, I left the concert hall very satisfied. I was particularly impressed that he took the time to sign a lot of stuff for his fans. I chose not to try for an autograph myself, but I enjoyed seeing how happy he made some of the other concertgoers. James Taylor obviously loves what he does, and that is a joy to see. He’s a lucky man, but we are just as lucky to witness him doing what he was obviously born to do.

One song James didn’t play was one from the 70s called “I Was a Fool to Care”. This song, from Gorilla, an album he released in 1975, was performed at a show in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2015. He looks a bit haler in the video below…

Here, he has a full band. Last night was a more pared down production, but I was in the second row, which was a great experience.

This song is about unrequited love– a man realizes that the woman he loves is not really worthy of his love. She lies and cheats. He’s heard about it through the grapevine, but brushed the warnings aside, even though she’s not a good person. He loves her anyway, even though it’s obvious she’s a liar who is using him, playing him for a fool. I’m not in a situation like that. Thankfully, I managed to find a good partner, and we love and trust each other. However, we both came with baggage… and that includes people on either side of our families who probably aren’t worth so much of our love and attention. It’s hard, though, not to care, if you are naturally a caring, decent person. Or even if you care about other people’s opinions of you…

Recently, I wrote about how my husband’s former wife has “targeted” his stepmother for financial “assistance”. I first noticed it (this time) in the spring. I write “this time” in parentheses, because Ex has a history of using people. She has used Bill’s stepmother repeatedly. In the past, nothing has really been done about it, because Ex has a way of shell-shocking people into being silent. However, we have been on the receiving end of complaints about how ungrateful and unkind Ex is. We have seen, personally, how she has used Bill’s father and stepmother for money and material goods, as well as manipulative tools/flying monkeys against her victims. And now, since he reconnected with his daughter, we’ve heard that this shit has been ongoing with a number of victims, some of whom are elderly and/or infirm.

At least one of the things Ex has been accused of doing is a felony. If she was to be caught and prosecuted, she could be heavily fined and/or spend several years in prison. Ex’s husband works in healthcare, and she has had elderly relatives living with her. She also has two children in the home who have different levels of autism, for whom she receives money from the state. I don’t know if either of them take medication, but I do know that at least one of the elderly relatives was prescribed opiates. And Ex allegedly helped herself to them, which is illegal and potentially dangerous.

As I write this post, I’m remembering that around the time she was bugging SMIL, Ex was also talking about getting a dog for her son. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t cause too much alarm… except that dogs can be exploited for drugs, too. As I was looking up laws where Ex lives, I ran across a 2017 article from the Washington Post about people who use their pets to get prescription meds. I don’t see a gift option for this article, so below are a few excerpts:

Last year in Virginia, a dog owner took his boxer to six veterinarians to get anti-anxiety pills and painkillers for his own use before he was caught, according to Fairfax County police, who said the owner was eventually charged with prescription fraud.

In Kentucky in 2014, a woman was accused of cutting her golden retriever twice with a razor so she could get drugs. And in the early 2000s, a man in Ohio allegedly taught his dog to cough on cue so the owner could get hydrocodone.

Such cases are believed to be rare, but authorities are working to cut off the supply of abused drugs. The Fairfax County Police Department recently published a brochure showing veterinarians how to spot a “vet shopper.”

The clues include: new patients bringing in seriously injured animals, requesting certain medications by name, seeking early refills of prescriptions and claiming that medications had been lost or stolen.

The Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine issued emergency regulations in June limiting the duration of prescriptions that may be ordered for controlled substances. A vet may provide a seven-day supply and a seven-day refill only after reevaluating the animal.

For chronic conditions, the vet may prescribe an opioid for six months but must see and reevaluate the animal before prescribing more.

I absolutely do think Ex is capable of this kind of fuckery. I’d like to think she isn’t– as she comes across as a very nice, reasonable person online, or at least that is the image she tries very hard to project. But again, I know people who know her, and I’ve seen the literal scars she’s left on Bill. I don’t know if she’s abused anyone else in the way she abused my husband, but I do know that people close to her have been burned. She continues to do this stuff, though, because people allow it. It’s easier to look the other way than call the cops.

Some people seem to think there’s nothing we can do about this situation. As I have mentioned more than once, I totally disagree. However, I don’t think I’m the one who should make the report, because I’m not the one who has seen the evidence firsthand. Moreover, SMIL and I don’t have much of a relationship. From the beginning of my marriage to her stepson, she has treated me like a homewrecking interloper. I am neither of those things; however, I am also not a doormat. So I don’t get too close to her, because frankly, I don’t have to, and I don’t really want to. SMIL isn’t my responsibility. Frankly, I find her immature, manipulative, and disrespectful. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care what happens to her. It also doesn’t mean that I never hear from other people who do have a close relationship to her and love her very much. I don’t want to see SMIL being victimized. She isn’t malevolent; she’s just very insecure. And I know that she is loved by many people.

Personally, I think it’s time legal action was taken, but I also know it’s not my call to make. So maybe I am a “fool to care”. Why waste time even thinking about this? It’s not my problem, and some people already seem to think I’m a heartless bitch, anyway. I can’t win, so I might as well do whatever causes me less grief. But because I’m not actually a heartless bitch, I do write about it, which seems to make some people feel like they need to conflate their experiences with ours. These are different people in different states, and what worked or didn’t work for some people might or might not work in this situation. Moreover, it’s just not helpful to tell someone who is concerned about a problem that nothing can be done. Especially when you don’t actually know any of the people involved.

I understand that sometimes, people do this because they’re frustrated, or they tried to do something in a similar situation and were dissatisfied with the results. There’s every chance that the same thing might happen in this situation. Or, maybe it won’t. Or maybe nothing will happen. Anyway, I just don’t think being dismissive or skeptical is useful. I just fear that at some point, what Ex does is eventually going to be egregious enough that someone will be forced to take some action. There could even be a tragedy involved. And if something tragic happens, it’s highly likely that people will wonder why no one ever said or did anything about Ex before the issues managed to get to that point.

We can’t win, can we. So maybe we really are fools to care. Or maybe I am… because it’s not really my problem. So, I think I’m going to write on my travel blog… and then go read more of Michael Cohen’s latest book.

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condescending twatbags, dogs, lessons learned, love

No, treating Arran’s cancer with chemo isn’t selfish or pointless…

The featured photo is Arran this morning. He was able to jump up on the bench for the first time in a couple of weeks. Two days ago, he jumped up on the bed by himself. Why? Because he wanted me to share my lunch with him.

Wow… Wednesday, already! Tomorrow, it will be time for Arran’s third chemotherapy appointment. I don’t necessarily enjoy hanging out in the vet’s office for an hour while he gets his treatment, but Bill and I have both been loving the results of the chemo. It’s giving us precious time with a very special and wonderful dog. Arran clearly feels so much better than he did a couple of weeks ago. I still don’t know how much this will cost, but at this point, I think whatever it is will be worth it.

Last night, as I was watching Arran interact with his beloved Bill, I went looking for blog posts by people who have also made the decision to treat canine cancer. I didn’t end up finding any blogs, although I will admit that may be because we were distracted by The Trump Tapes. It’s a new Audible book put out by the veteran Washington Post reporter, Bob Woodward, that reveal 20 interviews he conducted with Donald Trump. I can barely stand to listen to Trump speak, but I decided that book would be interesting, so I downloaded it. Bill and I listened to a large part of it last night, although I will admit as the evening wore on, we were less attentive.

In any case, while I wasn’t paying attention to Woodward’s interviews with Trump, I went looking for first hand accounts of canine cancer treatments. I found an article that was published last summer in the Washington Post. I have unlocked it here for the interested. The piece, by Kim Kavin, was titled “My dog needed advanced cancer treatment. The price tag stunned me.” Kavin, whose article was published on July 24, 2022, wrote about her 12 year old dog, Blue, and the cancerous tumor he developed that was causing him to have a watery eye. Kavin happened to have pet health insurance for Blue, which enabled her to access the high tech treatment for the dog’s cancer. Still, the cost of treating the cancer was formidable. From the article:

It was a cold shock of reality when I added up Blue’s total projected expenses on paper. Getting the best available treatment for his tumor could cost more than $15,000 — and that was if everything went right. I’d already spent a lot. And it was unclear how much time it would buy him.

The oncologist at NorthStar VETS in New Jersey said they make sure pet owners understand up front what they’re getting into financially because many people can’t afford that kind of cost — many don’t have enough money in the bank to cover their own, or their kids, medical care. The call like the one I got is usually the heartbreaking beginning of the end of their pet’s story.

Kavin happened to live near NorthStar VETS, a high speed veterinary clinic that offered advanced oncology services for dogs. She had also spent about $700 annually to insure Blue. Because of that, she had the opportunity to access cancer care for her admittedly old mutt. Kavin still had to use her credit card to pay for the services until the reimbursement came from the insurance company. Also, Kavin explains that there aren’t a lot of veterinary oncologists available, particularly given the huge surge of “pandemic pets”. She was fortunate, though, in that the vets were able to get to Blue and start the treatment before the cancer killed him. Kavin writes:

Within a week, the CT scan and consult with a radiation oncologist were done, and within two weeks of the initial trip to my regular vet, he began the first treatment. About 48 hours after his treatment was completed, he was back to bounding around the park and chasing squirrels in the backyard. He had no side effects other than temporarily needing drops in his eye, which was dry. There was a lump on his face where the cancer mangled some bone, but he’s on the doggy version of ibuprofen and showed no signs of discomfort.

Sadly, in Blue’s case, the cancer did come back with a vengeance in June. In July, Kavin wrote that Blue didn’t have much time left. But she also wrote this:

He has been comfortable, and on pain meds, and I’m at least comforted that I did everything possible for him. We gained another two to three months of walks in the park, swims in the river and snuggles in bed.

If I had to do it over again, I would do the same thing.

I’d pay double.

I’ll be honest. I was very skeptical about trying canine chemo. When we learned that Arran had lymphoma, I figured we would be saying goodbye to him within weeks, especially given that it took some time to get the diagnosis and arrange for the chemotherapy treatments. Arran is 13 or 14 years old, which means that he’s lived a full life. The practical side of me told me that treating him was a dumb idea that would cost too much money, and be inconvenient and annoying for us, even though I know that healthcare and veterinary care is significantly cheaper in Germany than it is in the United States.

I didn’t worry about Arran being sick from the treatment, as I knew that dogs don’t get the same amount of medication that humans do. The focus on treating animals with cancer isn’t so much about curing it. It’s about improving the quality of life for the time they have left. I had expected our vets to give us some steroids to make Arran comfortable, which is what we did for our previous dog, Zane, during the week we had him after he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Zane wasn’t as healthy as Arran is, and we caught his cancer later. I also suspect that the type he had was more aggressive than what Arran has (B cell lymphoma).

Our vet said that they didn’t typically give steroids to dogs with lymphoma that weren’t undergoing chemo. Basically, it sounded like we could choose chemo, or we could just wait for Arran to get really sick and die. Bill had to go away on business for two work weeks this month. Arran and Bill have a very special bond, and I worried that Arran would decline while Bill was away. The vet said she thought that, in spite of his age, Arran was a good candidate for treatment. Moreover, we could get the treatments in her office, which is maybe two or three miles from where we live, rather than at the local high speed vet hospital. So then we decided that we might as well give chemo a try. At worst, the treatment would kill him, which the cancer is eventually going to do, anyway.

Two weeks ago today, I sent Bill an angry email, because Arran was getting sicker and was in obvious pain. I was pissed off, because I didn’t want him to hurt. Our first chemo appointment was for the next day. Bill called the vet, who prescribed painkillers. I picked them up and gave one to Arran, who seemed to feel better after taking a dose. Then, on Thursday afternoon, October 13th, we finally went in to see the vet for cancer treatment… You can see from the photos, Arran looks a little bit sad.

I took Arran home with some Prednisolone and Endoxan, another chemo drug. I gave them to him with his dinner. Then, he slept for the rest of the evening, until the wee hours, when he woke me up for a bathroom break.

The next morning, Arran was clearly feeling noticeably better. As he was getting sick, he was not wanting to get up in the mornings. But on Friday morning, October 14, he was up early and ready for his breakfast. He continued to improve all week until last week’s treatment, when the vet said that based on his blood test, Arran’s bone marrow appeared to be working to replace his low red blood cell count. He’s had almost zero side effects from the chemo whatsoever. His lymph nodes have gone back to normal. He’s eating, sleeping, taking walks, and demanding food. Best of all, he made it through Bill’s business trips, and they are now spending precious time together, making their last memories.

Last week’s treatment. It took about an hour.

After I read Kavin’s article in the Washington Post, I checked out the 734 comments that were left by fellow readers. Much to my shock, the vast majority of them were about how stupid, pointless, and even cruel it is to treat canine cancer. I noticed a lot of comments from people who complained about dogs getting treatment that human beings can’t get. Below was the first comment– it was one of eight highlighted by the WaPo:

I’m actually kind of mad that veterinary medicine is expanding into things like cancer treatments and canine dissociative order. I love my pets with every fiber of my being and yet, putting them through these treatments doesn’t seem like kindness. You can’t explain to your dog or cat that scary and painful days at the vet hospital are “for their own good” and will, hopefully, make them feel better eventually. They are just scared and alone and in pain. It’s one thing to improve on surgery techniques so that a dog hit by a car has a better chance to fully recover. Putting them through radiation treatments to get a few more months of walks in the park just seems selfish. I ugly cry when my pets pass on because I am personally devastated, but I know it was time. I don’t want to also feel guilty because I didn’t do absolutely everything the vet suggested.

This was the third comment:

I am a dog lover. I have always had a dog. My Blue Heeler is curled up beside me as I type. I am also a Buddhist who believes, as the Buddha said in so many words, that the root cause of suffering is clinging to the delusion of permanence. Everything ends, and it was this dog’s time. I can’t conceive of putting a canine through chemotherapy with no chance of a cure. But that’s just me….

Still another:

Are you doing this for the dog, or for yourself?  

The overall average lifespan for dogs across breeds is 10 to 13 years. Subjecting a 12 year-old dog to the discomforts and fatigue of radiation treatment, making the last months of life a combination of misery and confusion, doesn’t sound like you’re doing it for the dog.  

There are literally hundreds of thousands of young dogs needing adoption. Give one of them the gift of a long and happy life instead. 

and…

There can be a point where care is more about the humans than the animal.

These weren’t the worst of some of the judgmental, and frankly ignorant, comments left on this piece. Here are a few more samples from the comment section:

  • All who were surveyed said they would do anything to save their pets. But, would they all subject their beloved pets to radiation and/or chemotherapy, not to save them but to prolong their lives for months, a great part of which is treatment and not good times? They have a shorter life span than humans. You will have to grieve at some point. 
  • Would you put a 70-80 year old human through these painful treatments at the end of their life? I hope not. Not even our SCOTUS fools would make someone go through this to “maintain” life!
  • I understand the impulse to do anything you can for your beloved pet. I love my own dog to distraction. But I also feel deeply ambivalent about extended medical treatment for pets. They cannot be protected from the pain that cancer patients go through. They cannot consent. They do not fear death, as we do. The veterinarians are making a fortune off of people’s delusions. Many of these owners cannot afford these treatments, and they are often done on dogs who are within a few months of their natural lifespans. People bankrupt themselves for their pets out of love, but also out of guilt. Think of what you are putting your beloved pet through for the potential of a few more months of limited life. Ask yourself if you are being selfish. Think about whether your vet is taking you for a ride. Sometimes the best thing is to send your dear one off to chase balls in dog heaven, spared from months of agonizing treatments. Think of them, not yourself, and ask it it’s time to let go.
  • I adore my dog, but I am damned if I am going to torture her so my mourning of her death gets delayed by 6-12 months. One of the many reasons dogs are superior to humans is they do hot have our irrational fear of the inevitable.
  • Nope. I wouldn’t do this. You put your dog through a hell which he did not understand.
  • To torment an animal for your own guilt is unconscionable. We had a galah with major medical issues. She received 5 medications twice daily for 3 years. She was clearly miserable. We probably spent $50k between the time she became obviously ill and when she finally died. I hated it. I don’t begrudge the money, my husband’s bird, his money, I had no right to complain. But it broke my heart to see her tortured and tormented and so obviously feeling miserable. I shed a lot of tears over the poor thing. She finally died over a three day weekend when she cratered badly and we could not get her to her vet because they were closed and did not do emergencies. The question, to me is, are you prolonging the agony because of your own guilt? Or for the “benefit” of the animal who has no idea what is happening?
  • It’s disgusting that expensive technology and expertise that could be used to heal people is being used on pets. We are so wealthy and pampered in this country that even the slightest inconvenience and sadness to us is worth the price, we would never consider spending this money on a poor human that we did not know.  Do the right thing, shoot the dog and donate the money you saved to a charity that helps heal people instead. People are more important than pets.
  • Oh, judas priest.  It’s a dog. A 12 year old dog. If it’s in pain, you put it to sleep. Otherwise you let nature take its course. And then you get a new dog. Which you’ll do anyway, since a 12 year old large dog has a life expectancy of around 0. People have their priorities so amazingly f’ed up these days.
  • So many people cannot afford healthcare, and people are using tens of thousands of dollars to extend the lives of dogs, whose lifespans are little more than a decade. That seems gross, no matter how much you love your dog.

It’s not that I don’t see their points, on some level. Like I said, Bill and I weren’t keen on putting Arran through any “painful” treatments, either. But before we made our decision, I noticed how he was behaving. In spite of his swollen lymph nodes, he was still engaged with us, and even wanted to play with his toys. He still wanted to take walks and cuddle on the couch. And you’d really have to see how bonded he is with Bill. He adores him.

We had another dog who was like Arran when he had cancer. That dog, whose name was Flea, had prostate cancer, which was truly horrible and painful, and defied treatment. He didn’t want to die. It was very obvious to us, even on the day when we decided it was time to let him go. He was still fighting, even as the drugs were taking effect. We see the same spirit in Arran. I hasten to add that our other dogs who have passed– CuCullain, MacGregor, and Zane, did not have that spark to keep going. They were undeniably ready when they passed.

In Zane’s case, he was definitely going to die of the lymphoma on that day, even if we didn’t opt for euthanasia, because he was bleeding internally. In MacGregor’s case, he could have lived a little bit longer with his spinal tumor, but he was clearly in agony. And CuCullain had a very rare, contagious, and painful disease that was certainly going to kill him, but because it was contagious, we couldn’t take him home. We couldn’t afford to keep him where he was, but it would have been pointless, anyway. In those cases, yes, treatment was futile. But it’s not futile in Arran’s case. Treatment can give him some precious time, and allow us the chance to set up his exit from life in the best way.

Begging for treats last night. Two weeks ago, he didn’t even want to eat homemade chicken and rice.

It’s true that Arran will likely die soon. I don’t know how long the chemo will work. I am at peace with the fact that he’s going to die. Neither Bill nor I are expecting a cure. Even if he got cured of the cancer, he’s old enough to die of natural causes. But I can’t deny that right now, he’s feeling much better, and that is priceless. We have the means to do this, and Arran is obviously up for it. So I don’t feel like what we’re doing is “for us”, or pointless or stupid… To a dog, a week or a month is a longer time than it is for a human being. Six extra months may not seem significant or worthwhile to a person, but to a dog, it’s akin to years of a human’s life.

Aside from that, chemo for dogs is not as horrible as it is for humans. If it was, I would never agree to do it. And when it appears that the chemo isn’t helping or is causing distress, of course we’ll know it’s time to say goodbye. Not everyone who opts for canine chemo is out of touch with reality or selfish.

What really stood out to me in the comments on that WaPo article, though, are the truly mean and nasty comments some people had, calling treating canine cancer “gross”, because humans are “more important” than animals are. First off, how do these folks think cancer treatments are developed? They get tested on animals. Every time a vet treats a dog for cancer, knowledge and experience is expanded, and that makes it more likely that they can help other animals or… perhaps even human beings!

And secondly, most people who opt not to treat their pets are NOT going to donate the money they “saved” by opting out of treatment. It would be nice if they did donate to charities that help humans, but most of them won’t do that. Many of the people opting out of treatment their animals are doing so because they can’t afford it, or because they think it’s pointless and will be painful. I’ll admit, a few weeks ago, I thought it was pointless, too. But now I know better. And the vast majority of people who “save” money by not treating their pets aren’t going to be donating that cash to save humans. I doubt the people who suggested donating money for humans would do it, either.

I was glad to see a few people leaving comments that challenged those who posted that treating canine cancer is “gross” or somehow decadent. I especially liked this lady’s comment:

You can’t save all the people, you can give your pet pet a better quality of life. You can be a drop in the bucket to strangers or provide meaningful benefit to someone your family loves and has contributed meaningfully to your life. I’d say ignoring someone who has been unfailingly loving and supportive in favor of a stranger would be gross.

I also love what this commenter, a veterinarian, had to say:

A lot of these commenters don’t actually know much about veterinary medicine. I’m a veterinarian and when you take into account the advanced medicine that is being performed, this is quite a steal. Can you imagine being diagnosed with cancer, receiving gold treatment care (including radiation) and it costing $15,000 total? Is it for everyone? Of course not, but if you can afford it, it should be a choice. I don’t see why spending that amount of a beloved pet is ridiculous but people spend more than that on vacations, cars, etc. additionally, treatment for cancer in pets is very much focused on quality of life and not just “time.” Although surgery of course can be painful and have a recovery time, most chemotherapy and other options on our pets have few side effects. I refer people to oncologists all the time for advanced care and if they decide not to treat, I do my best to provide palliative care and/or euthanasia when it is time. And for people saying animals don’t understand, I agree, but neither do babies and young children yet no one is saying we should withhold care from them.

I would have been all for opting just for palliative care. For some reason, that wasn’t offered to us at this time. I’m glad it wasn’t, because this is a valuable learning experience for all of us– including the vets who are treating Arran. I know that doing this for Arran will inform us for the future, not just for other dogs, but also for ourselves, should either or both of us be unlucky enough to have cancer.

Finally, here is the best comment I read regarding Blue’s saga:

There’s nothing cruel about trying to give our companions the same kind of advanced treatments we have available for humans. For each pet and each family, it’s a decision that must juggle the age of the pet, the expected lifespan after treatment, the budget — with or without pet insurance — and the families’ needs. Not every dog can get radiation treatment, nor can every family afford this for their pets. 

I’ve made this calculation for my own pets, and sometimes it’s a go for treatment, but other times, it’s palliative care and euthanasia. Either way, no one has any business telling pet owners that they’re cruel to make either decision. If it’s not your pet, it’s not your decision.

When the time inevitably comes to say goodbye to Arran, we’ll send him to the Rainbow Bridge with his favorite people around him, loving him as his soul leaves the mortal coil. And, in the fullness of time, after we have had some time to mourn, we know he will send us a successor. All of our dogs have done that… even Flea did that, and he was the biggest “male diva dog” of all of our rescues combined.

Arran has been a faithful, loyal, and loving family member for almost ten years. I would like to see him make that ten year mark. Maybe that makes me “selfish”, but I can tell that the treatment is making him feel better, and giving him extra time with his favorite human. I don’t see that as cruel, selfish, stupid, decadent, or “gross”. Right now, it doesn’t appear to me that the treatment is causing him to suffer, and it’s the least we can do for him, after everything he’s done for us. When the situation changes, of course we will act accordingly and do what must be done. But we’re not sending him to the Rainbow Bridge before that time, simply because other, uninvolved, judgmental people think that treating canine cancer is selfish or decadent! Those people can seriously get bent!

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