#Puglife

Holy shit! I have a blog? I started this one to be real an perfectly honest about the things I feel. And, perhaps someday, to delve into deeper topics that require a lot of back story.
You know how you have that “worst case scenarios that could never happen” in your head? I lived out one of those scenarios in the last week.
 
I have been a pet-sitter since my early days working in veterinary medicine (circa 2002). Even after leaving the field in 2010, I have maintained my licensed private pet-sitting business. This serves both as that obligatory “side job” that so many people my age maintain these days. It also give me a single attachment to a previous life in animal care.
 
My clients value my skills and knowledge. I often work directly with large packs (4 or 5 dogs sometimes) and special-needs (medically or behaviorally). Over that time, I have given pets all manner of medications, fluids, and foods.I have had to separate dogs in the same house when the pick fights. I have force-fed cats that were ill and refused to eat. Hell, I’ve eaten a cup of oatmeal while making a dog a food mix that included bee pollen, wild rice, minced vegetables, and nutritional yeast.
But none of that was like this.
 
I have been caring for a pair pugs for the last six years (I remember, because I specifically talked with them about leaving the field and becoming a cook). Originally, there were two: Darwin and Newton. Darwin was the older, much more delicate and sickly. These clients take a big vacation every early summer, so I’m usually with the boys. During last summer’s trip, I discovered a very suspect mass on Darwin’s rear foot that I feared was a mast cell tumor. He did indeed have some sort aggressive cancer, and I learned that he had succumbed to it a few months later. In response to this deep and terrible loss, the owners got two new pug puppies, and they officially had “picked a pack of pugs”.
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Back in August, when the puppies were barely 8 weeks old

Newton, the older of the 3, has been dealing with a slew of health issues for the last few months, none the least of which was a chronic cough. Before the owners left, he had had a long list of diagnostics done at a specialist. He went on strong antibiotics for a raging infection in his lungs. I started giving these, and tried to closely monitor his feeding. He went from a voracious appetite to almost none over a few days. One day, I arrived home from work and he was practically unable to stand.
I rushed him to the emergency vet, and spent the next 3 hours anxiously awaiting a treatment plan for him. His owners (who had to be reached via phone, as they’ve been on vacation during all this) and I all spoke with the admitting veterinarian about his treatment. He had to be hospitalized, and appeared to be septic from aforementioned lung infection not responding to the antibiotics.
Over the next two days, I split my time between the puppies, occasionally seeing Alexir, and visiting Newton at the vet hospital. It was agonizing to see him that way. And terrible that his owners weren’t able to be around with him. This had been exactly what I had feared for my own dog (Rocky) before I left on a trip to Japan with my husband in March. [In Rocky’s case, he had had a mini stroke, and progressed to the point of passing away before we left. We felt very lucky that none of our friends or family had to be put in that position.]
Two days passed, and the little guy’s condition continued to deteriorate. Every time I saw him, he looked worse. Some minor improvements were popping up, but his breathing was not. During a very tearful phone conversation this last Sunday, I confirmed with Newton’s owners that euthanasia was the most humane choice at this point. And since his legal owners weren’t able to be present, I was given the tasks a guardian would. I signed all of his last paperwork. And, for the second time since March, I held a tired little dog’s paw. I kissed a sweet, furry head and told him how wonderful and loved he was. And again, I watched a canine friend leave this mortal coil and cross the Rainbow Bridge.
His owners are very, very sad. But I also feel that it’s good that they’re able to be away and to have a breather from the situation. I feel like I have failed on a deep level. At its core, pet-sitting is simply making sure that the pets you are watching remain happy and healthy until their owners return. And for one of the three pugs, that is not the case.
The family has been wonderful to me. As much as they are sad, they have been equally grateful of what I was able to do. They know it was a tough position to be put in, and that I (hopefully) handled it as well as one could hope. But they still have to come home to one empty leash. And a clay paw print instead of a wagging tail.
It sucks two-fold, because I have to relive the loss of my own dog again. Life has been too crazy for us to adopt a new puppy, so the pain has remained ever present. Less so as time has gone on, but still there. Grief is complicated like that. You think you’ve turned a corner, and suddenly it all roars back to the surface.
This whole experience has been a welcome reminder of why I left the veterinary field, and what a bitch compassion fatigue can be.
And so, I will continue to reflect on the words of Emily Dickinson:
If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking
“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”
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Newton, a very loved little guy

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Things That Don’t Suck; Also Pinterest is the Devil

Some time has passed since our debacle with our photographer, and I felt it necessary to share some positive words so people don’t think I’m just complaining all the time. Also, there are many things we’ve discovered in our own wedding planning process that I wanted to share with some of my fellow offbeat brides.

1.) Thumbtack (https://www.thumbtack.com/)

This is a place where you as the soon-to-be-wed can search for any number of services (DJ, caterer, photographer, etc). You write up a proposal using the website outline, post it, and within 24 hours at least 4 service-providers will contact you with their bids and details about their business. It is a wonderful tool for those looking to stay on a budget but also maintain some control.

2.) Amazon.com

Everyone in the US probably knows what Amazon is. Most of us have bought books, CD’s, or other random items there. What you might not know is the sheer volume of useful items that go ignored in your searches. As we’re catering our own event, we needed disposable chaffing dishes, compostable plates and silverware, and even napkins. We’re also doing our own flowers, so I found floral wire and tape. I’m telling you, their prices are completely comparable with craft stores and if you are a Prime member, shipping is fast and free. I love it. Especially when I can quell my introvert spirit and do shopping from the comfort of the couch, with some wine. Lots of wine. All the wine.

3.) Friends

Many, many sources mention using friends as a part of their weddings. My beloved book, “The Broke Ass Bride” refers to friends who offer services as “friendors” (instead of vendors). You will often get a decreased rate, or you may be able to ask for whatever favor you are requesting in place of a wedding gift. Just note that weddings seem to be a time where the nature of your different friends come out at their strongest.

Some friends will check in with you often, asking how you’re hanging in there. Perhaps offering a coffee chat session in addition to texts. Others may breeze by with a “Oh, it’ll be great” and move on. And still others may suddenly drop out of existence, caught in the web of their own busy life and the assumption that you’ve “probably got this handled”…or something. My point being to put your trust in friends who have proven themselves to be truly invested in your friend-ship (the boat controlled equally by the actions of both parties). Nothing worse than sinking right before your big day because Hanna decided her appointment with Comcast trumped helping your assemble corsages.

Do not hesitate to offer options if people say “If you need any help, let me know”. Have a list ready, and rattle it off. I personally love being able to help friends (when it is feasible, I still have to bend to the constraints of reality on occasion). Maybe person A is great with organization, or person B loves music, or person C has a huge car. Keep an open dialogue. Be ready to offer suggestions. And try to be understanding when friends can or cannot help. And friends? Please check in on your bride. Many of us (ahem) suck at asking for help or support until we’re already drowning in our own stress.

4.) The Knot (https://www.theknot.com/)

I know. Me? A website with a basic name like that?

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Weddings, and shoes, and best friends, and somehow we have unlimited money!! $$$

I didn’t think it was possible either. BUT, I have been converted. The Knot’s website offers a free wedding website template for you and your fiance, completely customizable AND with the option to host online RSVP. It has been awesome to direct our tech-savvy friends and family to our website. Even better, it is formatted for mobile devices, so our guests can bookmark the page and look it up while driving to access my super detailed directions to our venue. It also covers both bases of etiquette: 1.) Don’t include your registry info in the invitation and 2.) Have somewhere available where people can easily access that information.

5.) Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/)

Etsy is both a blessing and a curse. For any of those currently living in a hole and unaware of the basic premise, Etsy is a digital storefront for independent sellers around the world. Need a wedding ring? Alexir and I bought both on there:

 

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Alexir’s ring, purchased at the shop “AnnaReiJewellery”

Pretty trippy, right? His is a little more understated, with a bit less of the melted gold flecks, but I still think it’s pretty rad.

And the mine. THE shiny:

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They have a multitude of other fun and cutesy items! Our nearly exhaustive list of purchases includes:

  • Both of our rings
  • A cake topper
  • A crocheted shrug to go with my wedding dress
  • A wooden guest book (purchased by Alexir’s mom) with a fairy theme
  • Return address stamps for stamping invitations
  • A second stamp for marking our seed packet wedding favors
  • My wedding jewelry
  • Gifts for parents.

Really, the list could go on and on. It can be a wonderful (albeit addictive) tool. The danger lies in their app, and the accessibility to hundred or thousands of different products you never thought you needed. Which brings me to the devil in the bunch.

PINTEREST

That son of a bitch.

Here’s what I think Pinterest’s logo should look like:

Pinterest devil

Devil horns, fire, regret. Check, check. check.

Pinterest seems like a good idea at first. It appears so innocent. A little art idea here. A home improvement or meal suggestion there. But you know what else seems like a good idea at first? Shots of whiskey. Real talk: NEITHER of them are a good idea, at least not for me.

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Dear whiskey: We are not friends. We will never be friends.

Pinterest is akin to the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. Even when you think you’re right side up, you’re likely still falling deeper. You start with a simple search on rustic wedding decor, and suddenly your feed is awash with a sea of burlap and old wine barrels.

Pinterest

And hair, and handfasting knots, and music, and a million other things

 

I had never seriously considered messing with Pinterest until I got engaged. In fact, the only reason I originally started one was to access a recipe that wouldn’t appear if I didn’t have an account.

Perhaps the biggest danger of this whole thing is sharing your pins with other people.  Since getting engaged, the number of “pins” on my various boards went from 20 to 430. 330 of those are just on my wedding board. I invited my mom, my sister, and my future mother-in-law to share the board. Primarily to get some feedback on things I was considering.

Frighteningly, “pinning” an object is more risky than responding to the novel your friend texted you with a simple “K.”. Both lack the necessary tone to convey the complete message of your intent. Many of my pins were chosen because of a simple color, vague concept, or even a single item in the picture. Sometimes I just thought that shit was pretty.

My family has interpreted many of these at face value, and dove head first into some massive projects. I cannot stress enough how much I appreciate their effort. Nor can I convey how impressed I am at the results they’ve achieved. Lynelle’s fairy mason jar lights are gorgeous. Mom found the exact kind of burlap ribbon shown in a dozen of my pins. My sister helped me decide between shrugs on etsy (because of COURSE you can pin items on etsy, as if your life wasn’t complicated enough).

Simply put, keep your wits about you. Tell yourself “This is my wedding. It doesn’t need to look like some pinterest wedding”. Repeat as necessary to desired effect. Don’t let yourself fall victim to the siren’s song and end up like me, quietly stressing over what we could and couldn’t do with white butcher paper. Getting the side-eye from Alexir as he asked,

“Are you on Etsy?”

“..No…”

“Pinterest?”

**No response**

“I see.”

Besides all that mess. It has been a valuable resource for wedding etiquette. I had NO idea how to address invitations, what my month-to-month deadline was, or how to flow the reception. Now that the overwhelmed feeling at the magnitude of available information has worn off, I can navigate without so much distraction and find what I need.

When all else fails, ask your family. Moms have probably learned about proper etiquette for a reasonable response time on your RSVP’s. Maybe they know secrets to keeping drinks cold or the real history behind that “something borrowed, something blue” rhyme. There IS a historical reason behind all those, you know.

I read it on Pinterest.

8.

Friends don’t let friends pin alone. Talk to your kids about Pinterest.

 

Don’t Tell Mom the Wedding Photographer is Dead

The laundry list of To-Do’s for wedding stuff is reaching its final throws, and so we’ve come to the part that sucks the most: logistics.

Anyone can pin a thousand things on Pinterest (or 307, which is how many my wedding board contains at the moment..), But it is another matter entirely to count, calculate, and collaborate about how to go from burlap bows and milk crates to walking down the isle.

I’ve tried to make each Monday when I set a list of tasks to accomplish for the week. This last week was all about touching base with the only two vendors we’re using: the venue and the photographer. The women of both families visited La Conner Flats last weekend with relative success. So the next step was contacting our photographer.

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The gazebo at La Conner Flats

I had used the website Thumbtack, which I highly recommend. The premise is for a person seeking services (catering, DJ, photography, etc) to post an ad and be connected with service providers. It is a wonderful tool for the bride planning her own wedding, and I really liked the photographer it had found for me.

However, there was some nagging feeling telling me to not use Thumbtack as the main communication tool. I went his website, and opened an e-mail to start. While there, I found a link to his Twitter account. To myself, I mused “Aww…I’m going to see what other weddings he’s photographed this summer. See what I have to look forward to”.

I was greeted with the following at the top of their feed (and consequently, also on their facebook).

Ded

Holy. Shit. Holy shit. OMFG. This cannot be real. ..Maybe they have a friend by the same name?

I stalked the Facebook pages of the friends and family that had commented on this post with the fervor of a grad student working on their thesis. After many pages and much scrolling, I came across a post regarding the day he had passed away (sometime in July) and that he had been fighting Leukemia.

I proceeded to send the most awkward e-mail of my adult life to the address provided on the website. Essentially stating “Hey…soo…this dude was supposed to be my wedding photographer in just over a month. Um…did he die? Also, if so, I need my deposit back. Thx”. I used much more eloquent wording, but there was no getting around how uncomfortable it was to talk about this.

Worse yet, I had spent the earlier part of the afternoon going back and forth with my mom about the guest list and the umpteenth person for whom we should or should not be saving a spot. I felt like a toddler unwilling to share a shiny toy. Except the toy was my wedding. And the other kid was my mom. And I was probably just being an asshole.

Mom had been planning a dinner party with some of her friends for the next night, and after our discussion earlier that afternoon, I just couldn’t bring myself to drop a big steaming pile of stress on top. Luckily, that’s what sisters are for.

I sent Alissa a neutrally-worded text for her to call me. She did, and an hour long conversation ensued. Not only about the stress of finding a new photographer, but also about the wedding planning in general and that this mess had reached a crescendo of stress and complications without taking time to relax. Tears ensued, because why not.

one does not

Yup

Alissa assured me that she was on the trail of a few leads, and that I should put in a new posting on Thumbtack. I went to bed puffy-eyed and morose. Alexir tried to reassure me, but I was having none of it. I decided my beat course of action was to go back to caring about nothing, and that way I couldn’t set myself up for disappointment.

The next day, both he and I posted requests for suggestions on Facebook. It was wonderful to see how many of our friends had suggestions. Even better, Alissa got back to me that the person she had contacted was on board and free the day of our wedding. I called the guy (Brian) who does photography as a hobby, and tech work as his day job. He was a total nerd, and genuinely put my mind at ease about the whole thing. Crisis averted.

I got an e-mail yesterday from the original photographer’s family about getting my deposit back to be eventually. Bonus. Like the serendipitous nature of our relationship, things fall apart and then get rebuilt in a manner that defies logic.

Since my dad has Facebook, word eventually reached my mom. She reached out via text, and I explained my reasoning for not contacting her sooner. I also made sure to group text everyone once Brian I had confirmed that he would be our replacement photographer.

Every wedding has at least one disaster, which (hopefully) turns into that story you can tell friends and family for years to come. One doesn’t typically expect it to involve the words “So sorry for your loss..”

Dear self: Let go. Trust. Find solutions instead of dwelling on problems. Also, give mom those extra two invitations.

PS: Our other goal for the week was to file for our marriage license. We may or may not have made some mistakes on the paperwork that we discovered once we got home. Never thought I’d have to Google search “How to file an amendment for a marriage certificate”

Is it September yet?

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How The F**k Do I Bride?

As a teen and young adult, I very clearly remember struggling with the concept of society’s view of “normalcy”. A concept where even the word looks cobbled together and contrived. Who chose these things that are so “normal” and why do I have to adhere to them?

Yet, I found myself swept up into the sea of popular opinion. Drowned in “You should” and “Everyone does” and “That’s just how things are”. I dated some very normal people, and had very normal aspirations of getting married and popping out some kids. I sought out a predictable career path, went to a well-known university, etc, etc.

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I swung the other way, and started dating a stoner musician. Yet even he slipped into a deep depression from the pressures of desiring a normal life. He struggled with chronic pain and the failures of western medicine. He fell victim to addiction, and I buried myself in a job where I stayed only for the love of my amazing coworkers. I eventually found myself with a life that felt like a fistful of last year’s christmas lights; mangled, disorganized, and only half-functional.

I spent the last few years of my 20’s cutting ties with the things that didn’t serve me. I quit my job, went to culinary school, broke up with the addict guy, etc. I opened myself up to a host of different possibilities and slowly learning to question anything previously considered “socially acceptable”. See my previous blog for all my forays into cooking, cutting off the tip of my thumb, drinking champagne from the bottle, eating shrimp heads, and other weirdness I’ve experienced in the world of commercial kitchens.

What I didn’t expect in all of this was to discover the man of my dreams. Nor had I thought that I’d go from “marriage is a sham” to “I think marriage sounds pretty OK” to “I definitely want to marry this guy”. Times change, things change, and allowing yourself the freedom to change your opinions is part of healthy growth.

To clarify, I do not feel like marriage is some “right of passage” or accomplishment. Life isn’t a series of checklists where you “win” when you get married, have kids, and get to yell “Bingo!” when you’ve done all the right things. You are a good compliment for your partner, but you shouldn’t be the only reason they get up in the morning. Many things change, but needing to be self-sufficient with or without a partner does not.

 

change your mind_it's okay

 

That said, planning a wedding is an act of lunacy that seems to be conducted behind closed doors. Until shows like “Bridezillas” came out, I thought that the whole thing went from proposal to “I do” like a magic trick. No one had the Disney princesses planning their weddings. Ariel didn’t have to sit around like “Well, half my family are half-fish, so we HAVE to have the ceremony on the water. Also, my best friend is a fish, so let’s just get it straight that there WON’T be a seafood option. Damn it, Eric! Don’t argue with me on this one!”

I am extremely thankful for the book I discovered early on in my engagement, “The Broke Ass Bride’s Wedding Guide”. Besides being an excellent way to learn how to save money (which is important, this shit is crazy expensive!), it provides clear checklists and suggestions to keep you sane.

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The scary part about any and all of this is NOT the getting married part. Over the year since Alexir proposed, I have fallen even more in love with him. We’ve pushed to have weekend time together, and more similar work schedules. Real life struggles with our pets being ill or the car needing repairs have arisen, and we’ve had the opportunity to learn how to handle these things together.

The real scary part is having to take that ethereal vision of a wedding exactly how you imagine it and throw it right away. The struggle of wedding planning is the blending of what “we” (the couple) want and what “We” (the royal “we”, which includes everyone in your immediate family) want and/or need. If it was just up to us, we’d probably have a bunch of spicy indian and malaysian food at our reception. We’d hike up to the top of a mountain and tell people that whomever could make it up in time could see the ceremony. But we also love our families deeply and want them to be able to share our special day. So we’ll be having the ceremony at a venue that is flat and accessible. We (probably) won’t curse on any of our table decorations (sorry Alexir, we can’t use that “Marriage, fuck yeah!” sign you bought online). We’ll serve food that we enjoy eating, and we’ll probably also have a veggie tray or whatever. I guess I can handle wearing an off-white dress.

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NOPE. Nope, nope. ALL my nopes. I hate this.

 

I have also had the pleasure of discovering there is a veritable bounty of etiquette and traditions that I know nothing about. Engagement parties are a thing? I’m supposed to wear a different dress for the bridal shower and bachelorette party? Do I even own that many dresses?  It is apparently super rude to include registry info in your invitations, so you’re supposed to secretly drop the hint to family members? Are people going to buy me cake plates and…umm..underwear?

And then there is the matter of the guest list. Alexir has a massive amount of family. There are no two ways about it. Which means there has been a lot of wheeling and dealing trying to include everyone and still have a tiny amount of space left for a few close friends of ours on each side. And family has been adding guests on and off. Not that we want to leave anyone out, but since we’re catering our own wedding (did I mention that too?) each additional person means planning for another chair, another space, and another mouth to feed.

Some things we’ve stuck to our guns with. After all, no matter how many weddings our families have been to, this is still “our” wedding. So, no bridal party (though my sister, bless her heart, has taken on the “maid of honor” role without an official title). We’re trying to keep things rustic (not a billion little pearls or gems and hideous frou-frou decorations that sit in a dusty box for 20 years starting the day after the wedding). We’ll be doing a handfasting ceremony in addition to some normal vows.

And our families have, in all honesty, been wonderful. They’ve helped us financially, traveled to chat in person, and been ready to take on complicated tasks. I get call, texts, and facebook messages daily with updates about cool things they’ve found. It is both heart-warming and humbling to have people willing to help so much.

But it is exhausting to essentially have a part-time job in addition to my normal 40 hours of work a week. And sometimes my inner introvert is clamoring for some quiet. So if anyone tries to reach me between now and September 10th and I don’t respond, you can assume I’m updating my 7th wedding Excel spreadsheet, or tying burlap ribbon bows, or maybe having a glass of wine in a silent room with the cat.

It’s going to be a wonderful and amazing day, as long as we all reach it in one piece.

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