communication, condescending twatbags, stupid people, travel

“I’m really sorry about your head injury!” ;-)

The featured photo is a screenshot of a “laugh reaction” I received from some poor soul who is humor challenged and probably has brain damage. Based on the person’s handle, I assume that the person comes from southwest Florida. That explains a whole lot, actually… I’m sure DeSantis benefits from his or her largesse… This is not going to be a particularly “nice” post, so consider that before you read it.

It’s already just past noon on Sunday, a full week after we arrived home following a long vacation. I don’t usually spend a lot of time on Cruise Critic, because I don’t do a lot of cruising. However, when I do cruise, I will sometimes visit the message boards and share my experiences, while gleaning wisdom from other travelers.

Because we cruised on Regent Seven Seas on our most recent voyage, I’ve been visiting that board more often than my usual boards– SeaDream Yacht Club and Hebridean Island Cruises. But, although we really did have a good time on Regent Splendor, I think the experience just drove home to us that we much prefer smaller cruise ships. In fact, being on Regent Splendor made me realize that maybe I’d like to do another SeaDream cruise at some point. So, in the interest of solidarity with fellow SeaDream fans, I started a thread about wanting to go back to a smaller ship.

A decent discussion ensued, albeit with comments from people who haven’t been following that forum for as long as some posters have. About ten or twelve years ago, someone started a very popular thread about “cheating” on SeaDream by using other cruise lines. It got so popular that SeaDream actually used it for their own personal blog (which I’m not sure still exists). I referenced “cheating” on SeaDream, and one of the newer posters– likely unaware of the old joke– reassured me that I wasn’t “cheating” on SeaDream, just trying out different products. Fair enough, and I didn’t bother to explain.

But then some posters got into a discussion about how crowded ports can get when there are a few ships docked. One person– someone who apparently thinks a whole lot about money over all else– commented that the communities who are served by cruise ships “love” it, because it means a lot of cash gets flushed into their economies.

Frankly, I don’t think that’s always true. Yes, an influx of money is a great thing for a lot of people, especially in economically challenged areas. However, I have read about some places not liking cruise ships at all. For instance, in Norway, there’s a campaign going on that actually shames cruisers for being “parasites”, and not taking a “proper holiday” in the countries they visit. Many cruise companies pay “slave wages” and don’t pay taxes to the countries they visit.

Norway, in fact, is going to ban most cruise ships by 2026, unless they meet stringent environmental standards that most ships won’t be able to meet. When we were there, I noticed most cars were electric. The train we took from Oslo to Bergen was also electric, as are the cruise ship/ferries run by Hurtigruten and Havila.

Venice, Italy no longer allows large cruise ships to dock in the city. Instead, they have to dock in ports nearby. It’s because the large ships damage the fragile ecosystem around Venice and make it more likely that the city will be destroyed sooner, rather than later.

Bill and I also had a rather hostile experience when we visited Carriacou, Grenada, back in 2011. I had never heard of the place before we visited there, so I had no idea of how difficult life is there. There we were, getting off our fancy “mega yacht”. I believe I was even wearing a SeaDream baseball hat, because I neglected to carry a hat in my luggage and my poor white skin and blonde hair were taking a beating. In fact, I remember being VERY sunburned on that trip.

We decided not to take the offered excursion, and instead, walked around the town, which was very depressed looking. We stumbled across a museum, which gave us something to do, but was also very interesting. We walked around, looking at the artistic impressions of what had happened to the people on that island. I distinctly remember seeing a painting of a Black person shackled to a tree. It made me feel awful to see that, but I’m sure that was the point. Looking at art is a great way to learn about history, especially the ugliest parts.

There was another white couple in the museum at the same time we were there. They looked like vegan backpackers who slept outside. The man had dreadlocks, and the strawberry-blonde woman, who had a British accent, was very freckled. I remember her asking the young Black woman behind the counter about the history of the island. She was very interested, and the lady was explaining it well. I was glad to overhear what she was saying, in spite of my SeaDream ballcap.

The woman behind the counter was not nearly as engaging with us. In fact, she seemed downright hostile. We decided to buy one of the wood carvings hanging on the wall. She sold it to us in a distinctly unfriendly way. I left that museum feeling depressed and unwelcome… which I probably was, come to think of it. I’m sure that woman thought she knew everything about us… or our “type”. I could excuse that reaction in her, to an extent. It probably is demoralizing to see well fed white people touring an island where people are obviously struggling.

I have never forgotten that experience, and I’m reminded of it every time I look at the carving we bought at the museum that day. It was a good reminder to me that not everyone appreciates holiday makers/cruisers/people with money, especially when they are loudmouthed Americans. We did have a different, more positive experience later, when we bought another carving from a guy who was whittling wood by the pier.

When the person on Cruise Critic made the statement about how locals in the ports love it when cruisers come to town, I was reminded of that day in Grenada, and the bad vibes I got from that woman. My mom, who also visited the Caribbean more than a few times, also had experiences with people that were kind of unfriendly. It occurred to me that maybe we do look like assholes to them. Anyway, that was a humbling experience, although it also made me not ever want to visit Carriacou again.

I briefly related that story on my Cruise Critic thread, and someone wrote that it was good that we went to those places, since they increased “awareness”, that would maybe inspire cruisers to offer help. The cynic in me thinks that’s a long shot, although I do know some folks with money are also generous with it and donate to charity.

I mentioned that maybe I’m more sensitive to people’s local reactions because I was in the Peace Corps. I added more to the comment, trying hard to be even-handed about it because I didn’t want to start an argument, even though I kind of disagreed with the idea that locals love cruisers because of money. And while my comment about the Peace Corps might come off as “humble bragging” or whatever, the fact is, that experience DID make me a lot more sensitive to how locals react. I can’t help that. I was simply stating the truth about how I changed after I spent two years in a developing nation. Excuse me for living.

As expected, someone thought my comment was just hilarious. They left me a laugh reaction. I was left a little puzzled, since I didn’t write anything that I thought was obviously funny. Since I wasn’t being funny, I was left to assume that the person who left that reaction is either intellectually disabled, or completely lacking in manners and decorum.

I like to think the best of people, so I figured that they probably have a head injury of some sort. That made me feel some pity for them, instead of irritation at the inappropriate reaction. I briefly considered calling them out with condolences for their obvious head injury and the suffering it’s causing for everyone in their midst… but I figured that would only escalate things. It’s tempting to fight rudeness with counter rudeness, but in the interest of being a more evolved person… 😉 (that pesky humanitarian streak I have, thanks to my life changing experiences in the Peace Corps), I decided to simply ignore the slight at the source and just rant about it here, instead. Few people will read this.

I get that people– especially the types who sail on luxury cruise ships– don’t like it when there’s a hint of “wokeness” afoot. To be honest, maybe it is hypocritical of me to notice the unhappy locals when I take cruises. After all, if I really cared about the locals, I wouldn’t have even gotten on a cruise ship, right? Especially an all inclusive luxury vessel like SeaDream I. I’d donate the money we spent on the cruise to UNICEF or CARE or something similar.

Maybe this is a sign that I shouldn’t cruise on SeaDream again, after all. Wouldn’t want to rub elbows with people who not only resent me for taking a vacation on a luxury ship, but also resent me for mentioning that I was in the Peace Corps. Those same people, by the way, usually don’t mind telling me what THEY do for a living… and implying that they have lots of wealth, as they flaunt their wives with obvious “bolt ons” and facelifts. But, what can I say? SeaDream offers a really nice product, and we do genuinely enjoy our cruises with them, even if some of the other passengers can be jerks.

People are always looking for reasons to tear other folks down. They usually do it by making judgments about the external. Since we can’t usually see each other on Internet messageboards, that leaves people to judge what others write in their posts and assume things that aren’t necessarily there.

The truth is, I am rather “proud” of my Peace Corps experience. It completely changed my life and my world view, and it really was a challenging thing for me to do. But I’m not going to tell you that I joined the Peace Corps because I had visions of saving anyone but myself. I certainly didn’t join because I thought I’d save the world, nor do I think I actually did that much for the cause. I joined because I was trying to find a pathway into meaningful employment. I didn’t end up finding that from my Peace Corps experience, but I did learn a lot. I did come away from that experience with a tendency to pay more attention to how Americans look outside their own habitats. And while some people might not believe it, I think my Peace Corps experience made me into less of an asshole than I might have otherwise been. 😉

Take that comment as you will, since I know a lot of people think I am an asshole. Most of them, like that “brain damaged” laugh reactor on Cruise Critic, and that judgmental local woman in Grenada, don’t know a fucking thing about me and would never deign to try to know anything about me. That’s because most of them are focused on themselves, and to a lesser extent, people in their immediate orbits. But, I’m also not going to tell you that I don’t have that problem, too. I think we all do, to some extent. For the vast majority of people, it’s simply part of being human. Especially the ones who have lots of money.

That’s just my opinion, of course. It’s good that I have a blog for moments like these.

No good deed goes unpunished. I was trying to do something good when I started that Cruise Critic thread. I guess I fucked it up by just being myself. 😉 Lesson learned.

Maybe I should look into booking a trip where I don’t have to interact with anyone else. I seem to be a complete failure at relating to other people. And to the jerk on Cruise Critic with the “head injury”, here’s something to make you feel better… Take two of these and don’t call me in the morning.

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condescending twatbags, dogs, safety, transportation, travel

Yes, you CAN fly your dog safely…

Featured photo is Arran in his carrier before we flew with him from Houston to Frankfurt in August 2014. Yes, we did take off his collar before the flight, as it was required by the airline.

This morning, I stumbled across yet another dog related horror story in the Washington Post. I’ve run out of gift articles for this month, but here’s the link and I’ll offer a quick and dirty recap. A family was moving from London to Nashville with their dog, Bluebell. They flew on British Airways, and somehow, the dog wound up going to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia instead of Nashville. Meanwhile, the dog meant to go to Riyadh wound up in Nashville.

When Bluebell finally got to Nashville, she was very upset after 63 hours in a crate. She’s had behavioral issues ever since her flight. The family is now trying to get compensated by IAG Cargo, the group that handles pet transportation for British Airways, as Bluebell has become destructive and very clingy. She was clearly traumatized by her international flying experience.

I don’t blame the family for wanting to be compensated for their terrible experience trying to fly their dog. It’s inexcusable that these two dogs ended up going to the wrong cities. Airline travel for pets is pretty awful, especially in the wake of the pandemic. It seems to have gotten more expensive in recent years, and we’re hearing more horror stories about dogs dying or being misrouted. However, the truth is, in spite of the horror stories and high costs of flying pets, the vast majority of pets who fly come through the experience with no issues whatsoever.

When we came to Germany the first time, back in 2007, we flew our beagles, Flea and MacGregor, on United Airlines as “excess baggage”. They were on the same flight with us, but in the hold of the plane. When we landed in Frankfurt eight hours later, they were waiting for us at the baggage claim. Flea was pitching a very noisy fit, but was otherwise just fine.

When we flew Delta Airlines out of Stuttgart in 2009, we had a couple of challenges. Flea had prostate cancer and, the day of our scheduled departure, a plane landed in Stuttgart without its landing gear. That shut down the runway, and our flight was delayed by a night while the mess was cleaned up. The next day, we flew to Atlanta with no problems. Once again, in spite of having cancer, Flea was pitching a huge, noisy fit… drawing admiration from southerners who like hunting dogs and drowning out the comments anyone had for us about flying with dogs.

But what was the alternative? Rehoming them in Germany? A lot of Germans already think Americans are shitty pet owners, precisely because some of them don’t take their pets with them when they move. Besides, Flea and MacGregor, both of whom are now at the Rainbow Bridge, were our babies. In those days, American carriers would fly pets as excess baggage. Now, they require people to use “cargo”, which as far as I can tell, just costs more and lands the animals in different parts of the airport.

When we moved back to Germany in 2014, we had Zane and Arran. We flew out of Houston on Lufthansa, which is probably the best airline for flying with pets. They flew as “excess baggage” again, but Lufthansa has holds that are light and temperature controlled. Again, no issues at all… They were waiting for us at baggage claim in Frankfurt. I don’t expect we’ll be flying with Arran again, since he has lymphoma and probably isn’t too much longer for the world. With Noyzi, we’ll probably need to hire a pet shipper, which will cost big bucks. But I fully expect he’ll survive the experience just fine. Thousands of animals travel with no issues whatsoever. The horror stories aren’t the norm, which is why they make the news.

Whenever there’s a news piece about an animal having a horrific experience on a plane, there are always a bunch of ignorant, emotionally rooted comments from people, most of whom have NEVER traveled internationally with a pet. They suggest doing things like rehoming the animal or hiring a private jet… or using a boat. To my knowledge, there is only ONE cruise ship that transports dogs and cats. That would be Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, which travels between New York and Southampton, England. So if your pet needs to go somewhere other than across the Atlantic Ocean, you’re out of luck if you want to use a cruise ship. You also have to book way ahead, because there are only 24 kennels, and the cost could be prohibitive, especially for larger dogs, who might need two kennels. And it takes time to cross the Atlantic on a ship.

Chartering a private jet is also very expensive and, obviously, is not a realistic or feasible option for most people. Nevertheless, I saw people writing that that’s would they would try to do if they had to move abroad with a pet. I think they’d come down a few thousand feet if they saw how expensive that option is. People of average means won’t be able to swing the cost. It’s also not exactly the most environmentally sound option.

Some people think dogs should be allowed to fly in the cabin with people. They do things like claim their pets as support animals. The airlines in the United States have now pretty much banned emotional support animals on planes, because people were abusing the privilege and bringing untrained animals onboard, or they were bringing inappropriate animals, like peacocks and pigs. Dogs and mini horses are commonly used as assistance animals, and they can be specially and highly trained to do those jobs and behave appropriately in public spaces. Some people were trying to pass off their untrained pets as support animals, which does a huge disservice to actual support animals and the people who depend on them.

If your dog or cat is small enough, they can fly in a kennel under the seat in front of you. But they have to be really small to be able to do that. Most animals won’t qualify. So that’s why people find themselves flying with their pets as “excess baggage” or in cargo.

Our dogs in the Houston Airport before they went through security. They were so young!

Flying with pets can be extremely stressful and expensive. Sometimes, there are true horror stories caused by negligence on the part of the airlines or cargo staff, or due to the owners’ own idiocy. For instance, there was a very sad story a couple of years ago about people who flew their dog from Korea to Germany. They took their dog out of her carrier in an unsecure location. She got away from them and was killed by a car.

We had our own nightmarish pet transportation story, when we tried to adopt a dog just as COVID-19 was striking. The pet taxi driver who brought him to us took him out of his box before putting a leash on him, and he got away from her and found his way to the Autobahn. People blamed us, as we publicized the situation in an attempt to get him back to us safely, which sadly wasn’t to be. It was pure negligence on the pet taxi driver’s part, and she ended up being sued by the rescue who hired her to bring the dog to us. Yet, even though that happened to us with ground transportation, it’s still not the norm.

The vast majority of pet transportation outfits will get your pet from point A to point B without a problem. That’s true with any form of transportation. Airlines have been transporting pets for many years. But, when these kinds of horror stories are publicized, people are naturally outraged, and assume that flying with pets is inherently unsafe. The outrage then causes well meaning, but highly restrictive laws to be passed, which makes it much more difficult to travel with pets. While it may seem like common sense to tell people they shouldn’t have pets if they plan to move abroad, consider what that might mean for the many animals who are waiting for a home.

A whole lot of people who travel with pets are people who are in the military or work for the government. If all of those people quit adopting animals because they might have to move abroad, that would mean more pets in shelters and rescues, waiting for families. That will mean even more healthy pets being euthanized due to overcrowding in shelters. The people screaming about how “cruel” air travel is for pets never seem to think about that, do they?

Automatically telling people to simply rehome their pets if they have to move abroad is also a crappy and insensitive idea. Sometimes, that is actually the best solution, but I think it should be a last resort. Pets are family. Our dog, Arran, is very bonded to Bill, and he was passed around a lot when he was a puppy. I think he’d be heartbroken if we left him in Germany. We’d be heartbroken to leave him here.

It seems to me that what needs to happen is airline reform to accommodate pets who need to travel. Think of the animals who have been rescued from meat markets in China, or horrific puppy mills in Virginia, where their fate was to be sold to laboratories for medical research. Our own Noyzi came to us from Kosovo, where he was a street dog. Isn’t it better that he has a loving family? And shouldn’t we insist on being able to get him home with us safely, if and when the time comes for us to move back to the United States?

When we’ve had to fly with our dogs, we’ve done all we could to make sure they traveled as safely and comfortably as possible. That means booking the shortest route with no layovers, and driving as much as we can. Last time we had to travel with animals, we had the luxury of using Lufthansa. People who are flying on the government’s dime typically have to fly on US carriers for as far as possible. Until recently (and perhaps even still) people got around that rule by booking code shared flights through US carriers. That is, they’d book a ticket on, say, United Airlines, but it would be a Lufthansa flight. That way, the animals could fly as “excess baggage”, on the same flight as their owners. It was a lot cheaper, too.

Anyway… we don’t know how much longer we’ll be in Germany. We’re not in a big hurry to leave here. One of the main reasons we don’t want to move is because of having to travel internationally with our dogs. It really is an expensive, stressful pain in the ass. And this is just one area where airlines need to do a lot better. It’s also too bad that people become such judgmental twats when tragedies happen. Some of the people who were commenting on Bluebell’s case were blaming the family for what happened to her. It’s not their fault. They should be raising holy hell with the cargo company that routed her to the wrong city. Sounds like they’re doing just that. I hope they get the money they deserve.

Our sweet Zane, on his way from Houston to Frankfurt. I’m glad we didn’t rehome him. And yes, we did take off the collar before the flight.

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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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animals, controversies, dogs, mental health

Another day on the lymphoma roller coaster…

Today’s post title might be a tad dramatic. But then, I woke up at 2:30 am to Arran needing to go outside. He went downstairs and started to pee on my rug– a place where he’s peed a bunch of times before. But this was the first time I ever caught him in the act. “Arran!” I yelled, as I opened the door, “Go outside!” He went out and did his business, then wanted a treat, because he’s a beagle and Prednisone makes him hungry. I gave him a couple of dog cookies, then went back to bed.

A half hour later, Arran wanted to go out again. He was also obviously starving, so I gave him a handful of kibble. He went out, but not before he dropped a couple of turds on the same rug, which I stepped in with bare feet because it was dark in the room. So then I had to clean THAT up. Then, at about 4:00 am, Arran got up again, and this time he insisted on getting some food. The sound of the kibble hitting the metal bowl woke up Noyzi, who also thought it was time to eat. I made him go out while Arran ate a little more food to stave off his hunger pangs until a slightly more civilized hour.

Naturally, I couldn’t sleep after all of this activity, so I started reading the New York Times, where I read a couple of fascinating articles. One was about “atypical anorexia”, and with it was a photograph of an obese woman who, seemingly paradoxically, also suffers from anorexia. Naturally, there were many insensitive comments, as well as mean spirited laugh reactions. As someone who doesn’t look the part, but has dealt with eating disordered behaviors, that reaction really pisses me off. I thought it was a very insightful piece about a misunderstood problem that is killing a lot of people. If more people would read and understand about eating disorders with an open mind, lives might be saved. I was heartened to see a few stalwart folks speaking up about the ignorant idiots laughing at these women who are suffering from a hellish problem. I’ve about had it with the compassion challenged people in the world… especially the ones who are based in the United States. Anyone who wants to read about atypical anorexia is welcome to click the link, which should take you to the unlocked article.

Next, I read a sad update about a 26 year old retired New York City carriage horse named Ryder who, in August, became famous after he very publicly collapsed while working in Manhattan. After the collapse, Ryder got a new owner, and was sent to spend the rest of his days at a farm. But Ryder was losing weight and, on Monday, collapsed at the farm where he was living. Later, he had a seizure, and his new owner decided to have the Standardbred put down. You can read about Ryder by clicking the link, which is also an unlocked New York Times article.

The vet suspected that Ryder, like Arran, had lymphoma. I have no experience with equine lymphoma, but from what I’ve read, it’s expensive to treat, and horses who are diagnosed with it, are usually in an advanced stage of the disease. On the other hand, for those who have the means, chemo for horses with lymphoma can work. The University of Pennsylvania article I read reported that the mean survival rate for horses being treated with chemo for lymphoma is about 8 months, but that was taking into account horses who had died after just a month, and some who haven’t died yet after a couple of years. I have a feeling that, as it is with cancer a lot of the time, you just kind of have to leave it up to God.

As I know from personal experience, lymphoma often sneaks up on animals, and it varies in how bad it is. Ryder was already up there in years, so if he was still working in August and was ill with lymphoma, it’s no wonder he collapsed. Lymphoma causes weight loss and exhaustion, among other things, and unfortunately, even the best cared for animals can get cancer. While Ryder did have a new owner after his collapse, I wouldn’t necessarily assume the old one was abusive. It’s possible that he or she didn’t yet know that the horse was ill with cancer. There will be a necropsy to determine what ultimately caused Ryder’s demise.

My heart goes out to his reportedly devastated new owner, who doesn’t want to be identified, because people have been sending hate mail. As someone who also got a little bit of “hate” after we lost Jonny, the dog we tried to adopt in 2020 who escaped his pet transporter before making it into our home, I have empathy for Ryder’s owner. People can be really shitty to one another… and they justify being shitty for, frankly, spurious reasons, like tragedies that they negatively judge, often without having all of the facts or giving the situation much rational thought. What would have happened to Ryder if his latest owner hadn’t stepped up to care for him? I’m sure his owner’s loss is truly heartbreaking. The last thing he or she needs right now is shitty comments and mean spirited missives from so-called anti-carriage activists, especially if the cause of death really was cancer. People shouldn’t feel emboldened to harass others with hate mail, especially if they aren’t personally involved with a situation.

I do think that at age 26, Ryder was probably too old to be doing carriage work in New York City. I say “probably”, because I don’t like to make such statements without actually knowing the individuals involved; but in reality, I do think 26 is too old for horses doing that kind of work in a city. It’s a real shame that Ryder didn’t go to a farm earlier in his life. But, I also understand that these decisions can be complicated. One of the reasons I haven’t tried harder to get back into my beloved former pastime of riding is because I get attached, and my current lifestyle doesn’t really allow for having horses.

Horses aren’t like dogs. They don’t tend to stay with one owner their whole lives. And they require a lot of work and money to maintain. When they are part of someone’s livelihood, it’s not so easy to just decide to retire them simply due to age. But I will agree that in a just, humane world, these horses would get more kindness and consideration. On the other hand, I wish that for human beings, too. And most humans can’t afford to just take care of horses as “pets”. I also know that most horses prefer to work, especially when they are specifically bred for certain jobs. Standardbreds are usually bred for harness racing, so it makes sense that Ryder made his living pulling carriages.

I have mixed feelings about the New York City carriage horse industry, which has become very controversial in recent years. I don’t think working in Manhattan as a carriage horse is the most ideal life for equines, especially given that they don’t have a place to be turned out. However, I would rather see a horse working in Manhattan with somewhat decent, but less than ideal care than, say, being hoarded by some mentally ill nut, or being sent off to Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered. Also, I do believe that many of the carriage drivers do care very much about their horses. Why would they choose that line of work if they didn’t enjoy it? As it is with anything, it takes all kinds. I just hope Ryder is resting well, and wish much peace and comfort to all of those who loved him. A lot of people who are against the industry are people who don’t know anything at all about horses.

Well, I suspect I’m going to be tired today, since I didn’t get much sleep… so I think I’ll practice guitar, and consider taking a nap… if Arran will let me, that is.

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complaints, mental health, rants

Certain people remind me why I prefer hanging out with dogs…

Fair warning… this post is kind of cranky and negative. You may not want to read it, but I really felt like writing it.

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine shared a stale Facebook post about the importance of getting COVID vaccines, even if we don’t know what’s in them. The post also reminded everyone that we don’t know what’s in a lot of things we consume. My friend added the comment that people who refuse to be vaccinated should not be shown compassion or mercy when they eventually get sick with COVID-19.

That post, along with an accompanying judgmental, frustrated, angry attitude, was one I have seen many times since the vaccines first became available. I couldn’t help but feel a slight twinge of irritation as I prepared to scroll past it. I mean, it’s been two years. Most people have made up their minds and don’t necessary want or need a stale PSA/meme/recycled social media post to change their views.

But then I noticed that one of my friend’s friends had written a rebuttal– not against the wisdom of getting inoculated, but against the attitude that people who don’t get vaccinated are undeserving of medical care. I liked what the man said– that there is no “sin” in not getting vaccinated, especially since the initial promises regarding vaccination turned out to be somewhat invalid.

Let me make it abundantly clear that I do believe the vaccinations are good, and I certainly recommend that people get the shots. I have been fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, and I spend most of my time alone in my house. I take my dogs for walks, but other than that, I don’t go around other people. When I do go around others, I wear a mask as required. And it’s not even so much COVID-19 that has forced me into this isolated lifestyle. I kind of fell into it years ago, when I found myself outside of the work world.

I used to enjoy going out on the weekends, visiting tourist sites, and eating in restaurants. But now, thanks to the miserable and ever changing COVID-19 rules in Europe, even that’s unappealing to me. It’s too confusing, inconvenient, and potentially embarrassing to go out into the world. So I stay home and read hyperbolic comments from high and mighty people in the United States, bitching about how uncaring other people are, and how if they get sick and aren’t vaccinated, they totally deserve to suffer.

My friend had posted about how irresponsible and uncaring unvaccinated people were running around “murdering” people by being infectious. From the very beginning, I have cringed when I’ve read or heard someone accuse someone with COVID of “murder”. Folks, at best, someone who spreads COVID-19 might be guilty of negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter. And even that is a stretch, given that people pick up germs all the time, in all sorts of situations, and there are many variables that influence how well their bodies will cope with, and hopefully recover from, any of the germs they pick up.

Murder generally requires premeditation and malice, and using the extreme and alarmist term “murder” is, in my view, an unnecessary overstatement– especially since most people who get COVID do eventually recover, at least to some extent. This situation sucks plenty already, and it’s already caused incredible hardship and grief. We don’t need to make it worse by calling people who spread COVID “murderers”, when they would never fit the definition of “murderer” in a court of law– at least not in the United States.

My friend also wrote that people who are unvaccinated should not have access to medical care. And again, as I have repeatedly stated, I highly disagree with that view– especially from someone who professes to be a devout Christian, as my friend does. I am not particularly religious myself, but I did go to church for many years. And I was taught that Jesus Christ had compassion and mercy, especially for the sick. Jesus would not deny medical care to someone who needs it, even if that person could have avoided severe illness by getting vaccinated and taking precautions.

Moreover, even if the unvaccinated person has wantonly avoided vaccination and adopted an uncaring, callous attitude, chances are good that the person will still be missed by someone. Chances are also good that someone relied on that person and now no longer has them. That person in need could be a child, or an elderly person, or someone with special needs. Now, their life is going to be upended because someone they needed got sick and died unexpectedly… and people are mocking them, to boot! These people who call for us to have compassion and consideration for others are actually laughing at people who have died of COVID. Of course, dead people aren’t the ones who hear the laughter; it’s their grieving friends and loved ones who are left to deal with that.

Ah– but you might say, if that was the case, then the person should have made it a priority to get vaccinated. To that, I might agree– except we never know why a person has avoided getting the shots. It could be because they simply don’t care, or it could be because he or she has to work, and can’t afford to take time off to recover from potential side effects of the vaccine. Or maybe that person lives in an area that isn’t near a place where he or she can get the shots. There are a lot of “food deserts” in the United States. I would imagine that the food deserts are also pharmaceutical deserts. In any case, I don’t think it’s helpful to laugh about someone’s death. It happens to all of us at some point.

So, I found myself responding with most of the above points to my friend, even though I hesitated at first. I added that here in Europe, lawmakers have tackled the problem of unvaccinated people by trying to make life harder for them. In some areas, for instance, unvaccinated people are being fined, and some are losing their jobs over lack of vaccination. Here in Germany, an unvaccinated person often can’t go into a restaurant or a non-essential retail outlet. They can’t go to theaters or sports arenas. Even those who have been twice vaccinated have to show a negative test result or proof that they’ve been boosted. And guess what! The virus is STILL spreading!

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be taking precautions. It just means that all of the preaching and yammering about masks and vaccines, as if they are going to save humanity, is not necessarily based in truth. Vaccines make severe sicknesses and deaths from COVID less likely, but they don’t entirely stop sicknesses and deaths from happening. So shaming people for not doing exactly what they’re told is kind of pointless, since even if they do what they’re supposed to do, they still might get sick. And no doubt about it, every person WILL someday die of something.

Last night, Bill took Noyzi to the vet to get routine doggy vaccines. Before he could get services, he had to show the receptionist his ID, plus his “COVPass”, which is an app on his phone that provides proof that he’s had his three shots. And then, he STILL had to wait outside. Then he was ushered into the treatment room where our sweet Zane was euthanized in 2019, before all of this stupid shit started.

So what prompted this post? Over the past couple of days, I’ve seen several other “tut tut” posts from supposed friends about the importance of masking and vaccines. And folks, I’ll be honest… I am so sick of seeing them. It’s been two years. If people haven’t gotten the message by now, I doubt they ever will. These kinds of PSAs tend to elicit positive responses from those who have already jumped on the bandwagon, and derisive, snarky responses from those who think masking is a waste of time. And then there are people like me, who just want to get on with life and be done with this shit, for better or worse.

Are people really going to put on a mask because they saw this? I also hate the cutesy little slogans, like “mask up”. I feel like telling a person who says this to “fuck off.” I know that’s not nice, but it’s my honest reaction.

Also… as someone who never saw Star Wars, this reference is lost on me, anyway. Bill is a Star Wars fan, so he clued me in. I know people are going to share this shit anyway, so writing this post is really my only action against this practice. I’m also a firm believer that people should share what they want to on their social media accounts. Still, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t vexed by the constant preaching and lecturing.

Not surprisingly, this one comes from the Cook County Department of Public Health.

While I agree that it is responsible to wear a mask when you’re in a crowd of people, I find these kinds of shaming posts irritating and offensive. Because again– those who don’t believe in masking are not going to be swayed by something like this, and those who are onboard with the program will be cheerleading, and people like me, who believe in science, but are fucking sick of reading and hearing about COVID, are just going to be aggravated by it. When I see these posts, I’m just reminded of how much this sucks. Ditto to those who argue with strangers online, and implore them with comments like “Please educate yourself.” as if they are the authority on all things.

I do hope that COVID-19 will present us with a “silver lining” of sorts. Like, for instance, I think our healthcare system needs a massive overhaul, particularly in terms of the financial aspects of it. Obviously, we all need access to affordable healthcare. In the case of a contagious disease like COVID-19, it’s absolutely crucial and essential that people be able to access competent healthcare, even if some people think the unvaccinated shouldn’t get treatment or comfort measures. That person who stubbornly refused to be vaccinated can still spread the virus, you know, even as they writhe in the death throes that some think they richly deserve. It’s in our best interest to take care of the sick people, even if they chose not to be vaccinated or, in some cases, simply were unable to access the shots. You probably won’t know which case they fall under, and honestly, who’s got time to ask?

Maybe this situation will help us prepare for the next pandemic, and you know there will be one. Hopefully, by the time it hits, I’ll already be dead. But maybe some people will learn from this… maybe. Or maybe some really smart person will come up with ways to make mitigating this virus easier and more effective, so life won’t be so shitty anymore. One can always hope. But for now, I’m probably going to continue to be really crabby. At least I still have my dogs.

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