Longest. Week. EVAR.

You ever have one of those weeks? You know, where you just get unexpectedly hit with…well, with a whole lot crap?

The week started off well. The Monday after a holiday break is never easy, but the Monday after an extended holiday break is brutal. Only, for me, this year, it wasn’t.

I got up at 6 a.m. I wrote for 90 minutes. I almost hit my daily writing goal (was maybe 100 words short). I got dressed for work, went into the office, and killed it. Stayed 30 minutes late to finish up a few things, then headed home, where I made zucchini soup and a tuna and white bean salad for dinner. I also made some “nutrient-dense” muffins for the rest of the week’s breakfasts.

Logged a little time with the husband, watched an episode of Doctor Who on Netflix, and then logged another twenty minutes or so of writing time, during which I beat my daily goal by 51 words. Afterward, I packed our lunches for the next day and nabbed a little more cuddle time with Joe before getting to bed at a decent hour.

All good things, right?

On Tuesday, I had a doctor’s appointment in PA. It’s about a 25-mile drive that takes less than 45 minutes to do when there’s no traffic. But on Tuesday, we had our first significant snow of the season. Joe decided to drive me; an hour later, we’d only made it about 2/3 of the way there. My morning decaf kicked in and I asked Joe to pull off at the first available exit so I could find a bathroom. He did, the brakes locked up, and we slo-mo skidded into a big ol’ HVAC truck. Here, see for yourself:

Crashed Car

So there was that.

Meanwhile, there was all of this Drama (capital “D” intended) with the tow guy that the state cops called to move our car out of a busy travel lane. I won’t bore you with the details but they took our smashed-up Fusion to a collision center in Chester, instead of the awesome Brandywine Body Shop (which is less than a mile from our house). And how the tow guy took off with our car but left us stranded on the side of the road, in the snow, and how we had to wait for over an hour for our rescue ride.

There were phone calls to AAA and State Farm and the Chester collision shop and our body shop and a million other people. There were problems with the rental car from Hertz, not the least of which included starting the car only to discover the low tire pressure warning light, calling the front desk to ask them to fix it, them telling me they couldn’t, and us having to seek assistance from a rival rental company’s techs across the lot.

Oh, yeah, that was a banner day, I tell you what.

But it really SHOULD have been a banner day, since Tuesday was when my new book, You First, was officially published. My first tween novel! My first novel period in five and a half years!

Picture Perfect

These arrived on Thursday. I literally squeed!

Wednesday was all about digging myself out from the hole I fell into with Tuesday’s shenanigans. Thursday was all about meetings – so many meetings, one right after another, my LEAST favorite kind of work day. It was topped off with the discovery that there was blood in my dog’s urine.


In my dog’s urine.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried. A lot.

And then chased this crying with a viewing of Parenthood, which made me cry even harder.

This morning, I called the vet first thing. They could see Scout. Did a clean urine catch with some Tupperware that is headed for the recycling bin. Drove him over to the vet’s office at 8 a.m. Came home to work. Around 10:30, got a call from the vet’s office pointing out that Scout is scheduled for a dental cleaning on Monday, and did I want them to do it today? Sure, I say. Let’s knock it out.

Around 3 o’clock start having anxiety about the dog. The first time he ever went under anesthesia was for neutering. He was really small and had a horrible reaction to the protocol they used. We almost lost him. So now whenever he needs anesthesia, I usually need a Valium. (Not really. But close.)

At 3:30, I can’t take it anymore; I call the vet for an update. They still haven’t done the cleaning OR run the urinalysis. Great. More anxiety. Call the body shop for an update on my car. It’s still in Chester. They got the collision center to release it but asked State Farm to get it towed. State Farm didn’t. Get a call from State Farm. They chastise me for not returning “several calls.” I check my cell. There is exactly ONE missed call from 1:39 p.m. yesterday.

When is this week going to end?

Not before there is more lecturing from State Farm. It’s interrupted by a call from the vet telling me that she wants to do some radiography on the dog. Great, do whatever you have to do, this dog is everything to me. He has to be healthy. HAS TO.

I cannot deal with one more thing going wrong this week. I really can’t.

At 5:02, I call the vet again. Earlier I was told the doctor needed to leave at 5. I’m worried that there have been no updates. They’re still working on Scout, the front desk chick tells me.

This can’t be good, I think.

At 5:12, the vet calls. I was right. The news isn’t good.

Scout has two sizable bladder stones. They should be removed as soon as possible. By a specialist.

I ask questions. A lot of questions. I’m supposed to be leaving town on Thursday, for Wendy’s and my annual birthday trip. I’ll be back on the 18th. Can I get the surgery done on the 19th?

Risky, the vet says. If the stones get much bigger, Scout’s body might try to pass them. This could mean a blockage. Will someone be home with him 24/7?

Emergency surgery it is. EXPENSIVE emergency surgery.

The first specialist center I call tells me my best bet is to bring him in tonight. He’ll hang out in a crate until someone is available to do the surgery. Since he’s stable, he’d be at the bottom of the triage list. The cost? Between $3,000 and $3,500.

I call the second specialist center. They have zero openings between now and Monday. They tell me to call UPenn. UPenn can’t even schedule an appointment until Monday. If I bring him in for an eval and his situation is deemed urgent enough, they’ll call in an emergency staff. That costs money. LOTS of money.

The first specialist center it is!

Joe gets home from work and I fill him in on everything. Then I go over to CareCredit to apply for financing to pay for my dog’s surgery. We’re approved, print out the paperwork, and head over to Banfield to pick up our groggy dog, all so we can deliver him to the next crate at the next vet center, where he’ll wait for someone to cut him open and remove these potentially dangerous bladder stones.

In the car, I hold Scout tight and start to cry. I’ve had so much loss in my life these past couple of years – I can’t lose him, too. The bladder stone surgery isn’t high-risk but it will require more anesthesia, and as I said, Scout doesn’t do well on anesthesia to begin with. This is what scares me more than anything.

We sign in at the animal ER and are taken back to an exam room. A nurse checks Scout’s vitals. All is well.

An hour goes by without seeing a doctor. Bad things happen at the animal ER. A stray that was hit by a car gets brought in. I can see the blood on its white fur. Another dog comes in having had seizures. We hear its owners sobbing.

Scout in Hiding

Scout hiding under the bench in the exam room. We’d brought him a toy for the crate wait.

Another twenty minutes goes by. Joe and I are both starving. It’s been almost seven hours since I’ve eaten and I’m out of water. There’s a Wawa two minutes down the street. I leave Joe there with Scout and make a quick food run.

I am gone at most 15 minutes. But in my absence Dr. Kelly comes to talk to Joe. Scout doesn’t need surgery, she says. The kind of stones he has can be dissolved by the special urinary food that he’s already on. He’s got a UTI, she says, and the UTI might have caused the two stones to form in the first place. Let’s clear up the UTI, do a culture to make sure we’ve diagnosed the right kind of bacteria, and keep an eye on his urine production. Then, in two to three months, we’ll do another round of X-rays to see if the stones have dissolved or not.

When Joe tells me this, I’m relieved. But I’m also kind of pissed. I’ve spent the past several hours in blind panic over my dog’s health. Needlessly, it turns out.

The doctor returns in another 20 minutes to talk to me. Everything she says contradicts what we were told by Banfield. She wants to do a culture on his bladder, for instance. I say, “Don’t you have to put him under to do that?” She says, “No, not at all.” But Banfield told me that they DO put dogs under for that.

Dr. Kelly takes Scout back to get the culture. I feel suddenly exhausted, like I could fall asleep right there on the exam room floor.

Scout is discharged a short while later. We go over the instructions with a nurse. He trots out of the emergency vet center and hops into the car looking happy. The mood in the car is infinitely lighter than that of the drive over.

We walk in our front door at 9:38 p.m. I feed Scout so I can give him his antibiotic. Then I change into my PJs and prepare for some much-needed couch cuddles with my two favorite men.


The dogs in my life.

Yesterday, I wrote about the whole cat people vs. dog people thing. Today, I thought I’d introduce you to the canines who hold my heart in their fuzzy little paws.

Jake & Daphne

JakeIn November 2003, I moved back home for the first time since I was 17. I wanted to save up for a house, and my parents decided to help me out by giving me a place to live and work. That Christmas, the three of us drove to a rural patch of Maryland to pick out two schnoodle pups. When we got there, we were taken to a barn. The seller opened a door and let in a bunch of puppies and told us to pick out the ones we wanted. Looking back, we’re pretty sure the outfit was a small step up from a puppy mill. But at the time, all we could see was their cute, fuzzy faces.

Daphne was hands-down the prettiest puppy I ever saw in my whole life. I couldn’t stop staring at her on the ride home. And Jake?

Well, he peed on my shoe.

They are funny dogs. Jake always looks a little depressed. I call him Eeyore. He loves playing with bouncy balls. In fact, one time when we got tired of playing ball with him, he ran up the stairs with one in his mouth, spit it out at the top landing, and then chased after it. And then did it again. And again.

DaphneDaphne sometimes acts like more of a cat – like she can’t be bothered with you. She’s moody and at times neurotic. For a while, they had to give her Prozac daily, to keep her from gnawing at her paw, OCD-style. (I forgot to mention that Jake has massive panic attacks whenever there’s a thunderstorm and/or fireworks. It’s bad enough that my mom used to have to give him Valium to keep him from having a complete meltdown. The holistic stuff, like the squeeze machine shirts, just didn’t work.)

Jake was totally a mama’s boy, and Daphne is definitely daddy’s little girl. I love them both like crazy. I helped raise them from tiny fluff balls into grown up doggies. I was the one who removed Daphne’s first tick. The one who took Jake’s temperature when he had his first cold. When I eventually bought my house and moved out, I would come back to my mom’s almost every night just to see the dogs.


Chester was a new edition to the family. My mom brought him back from Florida, after a month-long visit with her neighbor and close friend Charlotte, who has a summer house down there. She saw him at some sort of craft bazaar – a pet adoption thing – and fell in love with him. He’d been badly abused before he got rescued, and he needed a lot of attention.

ChesterAfter my mom passed, my stepfather Mark found it difficult to care for all three dogs on his own. He commutes to his job and is out of the house a lot of the day. So, he hired a dog walker to come each afternoon. Even with the extra help, Chester struggled. He still wasn’t fully housebroken. Mark realized Chester needed more attention than he had to give and tried to find him a new home. There were no takers.

This summer, Mark went to visit his family in Connecticut and asked me to watch the three dogs. I of course said yes. Chester was mostly housebroken by that time, which helped. He was kind of obsessed with me, though; whenever he and Jake and Daph would come stay with me, Chester would sit in my lap and constantly try to lick my face. He’d kick Jake away from me. He wanted me all to himself.

When Wendy came over for our Friday night scrapbooking date, she met Chessie for the first time. And, like my mother, she felt instantly in love. Later she texted me, “If Mark’s still looking for a home for Chester, tell him I’ll take him.”

So, the following week, Chester found a new forever home with the Kinnas. They love him and Wendy spoils him rotten…which is exactly what he needed. They recently added another rescued wire-haired dachshund to the clan: Toby. All dogs are happy and thriving at Case de Kinna.


ScoutMy baby. The World’s Cutest Dog. The first month of his life, I wanted to wring his tiny neck. He bit me. A lot. I would have to hold him in one hand every time I took out the trash, because if I didn’t, he’d escape through the front door and I’d have to chase him across the neighborhood. He was crazy hyper and I was certain he was untrainable. Whenever I went to leave the house, he’d have a complete canine meltdown. I remember going to see the vet and saying, “You’re going to have to give him something to calm him down. He’s crazy. It’s like we’re not on the same team!”

The vet talked me down. He gave me some tricks to try for Scout’s separation anxiety. He told me Scout would grow out of this phase. I didn’t believe him.

He was right.

Now, at nine, Scout can still be hyper. Strangers always ask, “How old is your puppy?” and I’ll say, “Nine,” and they assume I mean months, not years. And he still hates it whenever we leave the house. About a year or so ago, he started biting us on the ass whenever we walked out the door. He’s definitely a pack dog. If it were up to him, Joe and I would be total shut-ins.

These are not the only dogs I’ve ever had or loved, but they’re the ones who populate my now. And they are why I am and always will be a bone-a fido dog person.

Four Barking

Cat people vs. dog people.

This is a picture of me and my fur-child Scout, circa fall 2011.

This is a picture of me and my fur-child Scout, circa fall 2011.

According to a semi-recent study by Carroll University, cat people are smarter and more sensitive than dog people.

To that, I say: bullshit.

Maybe this is because I myself am a devout dog person. I have always preferred them to animals of the feline persuasion. Cats are smelly. They are rude. And they’re just too aloof for my liking.

Dogs are way better. They are loving and loyal. They are super cuddly. They get crazy excited to see you when you come home from work (or even come in from taking out the trash). When you’re sad, they can sense it, and give you extra love. I’ve had more than one dog lick tears off my face.

The Carroll University study also says that dog people tend to be more extroverted and prefer to follow the rules. Okay. I am kind of a rule-follower. But insensitive? Extroverted? No. Not at all.

If you clicked the link above, you know this study came out in June, which yes, was almost six months ago. So why am I writing about it now?

Because I spend a lot of time thinking about the differences between dog people and cat people. A lot of time.

There are several cat people in my life, including my stepdaughter Sadie. (She is kind of obsessed with them.) And, to be honest, my husband Joe is one, too. If you ask him, he’ll tell you he’s an equal-opportunity animal lover. It’s true that in his life, he’s had both types of pets. But when you take him to a pet store, all he wants to do is play with the kitties. He can spend hours shining lasers into their cages, making them go crazy as they chase the red light.

We do not have a pet cat, nor will we ever. Not because I’m a mean cat-phobe, but because I am horribly allergic. Like, if I spend too much time in a cat-filled house, one of my eyes (usually the left) will turn into a cherry tomato. If I’m heading to a house of cats, I will often take Benadryl preemptively. It’s really that bad.

Joe and Scout - Halloween 2013

Joe and Scout, Halloween 2013. Joe walked around and asked people, “Have you met my sous chef? He eats more than he makes!” Like, all night. To everyone we encountered. (It was pretty cute, though.)

What we do have is a dog. Our fur-child, Scout, a nine-year-old Schnoodle. He is my heart, this 11 lb. ball of love. I got him when he was just eight weeks old and small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. He’s so adorable and funny and smart that even people who don’t typically like small dogs fall in love with his fuzzy little face.

Scout adores Joe. He was only about a year and a half when Joe and I started dating, so really, Joe’s helped raise him from a pup. My cat-loving husband is so enamored with our pooch that he once told me, “I didn’t know I could love any animal as much as I do Scout.” (Reason #42 why I married him.)

My canine proclivities are likely genetic; I come from a long line of dog people. The one exception is my father, who is more of a cat person. But everyone else is all about the dogs. At a recent family get-together, my cousins Zach and Josh riffed for like 13 minutes on how cat people are the worst. (I got secret video, but I think they’d kill me if I uploaded it.)

For Sadie’s sake, I am trying to grow more tolerant of cats. And even I have to admit that kittens can be pretty cute.

You know, if you don’t inhale too deeply.