Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Service work in Uganda and an iMovie

First, I will be traveling to Gulu Uganda February 14- May 10, 2016 to work with this The Big Fix Uganda .   I'll use this blog as my sharing platform for the experience

Secondly, I made a composite of this year's foster kittens

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fun with iMovie

You'll need to go visit youtube to see this 1:20 minute trailer.
I have months of footage from several different litters of foster kittens. I had a little guy (named "Google" for his googley eyes) in the recent past who almost didn't make it. "Fading Kitten Syndrome" is the term used to describe young kitties who decline into emaciated, howling heartbreakers. I've never seen this happen to kittens that stay with their mother all the way until 8 weeks. Most commonly it happens at 4-5 weeks when people erroneously think they're  ready to be adopted out.  I had a week of intense intervention work with Google in which he got fluids under the skin, milk through a syringe, and--this is what I suspect saved him-- twice daily I held him up to my adult cat and let her groom him.  One morning, in a sudden blaze of glory, Google was starving for solids and started playing.
And, here's my iMovie kudos to my cat, "Momcat", who had kittens in 2009 but has enjoyed life as a spayed female for six years https://youtu.be/SkAAsEMb6hk

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Substances of Life

"Charlie" the black Lab came to me as a foster dog about 72 hours after having his hind leg amputated. Labradors are joyful, exuberant extroverts under the most dire circumstances. If you aren't in close physical proximity to share their happy wag, however, all that lively energy can twist into anxiety, excessive vocalization, drywall and door destruction and lots and lots of pee and poop smashed around in a frenzy.  It's incredibly hard being a dog in a people world of schedules and commutes under normal circumstances! Add to that, in Charlie's case, recent traumas and handfuls of medication, and despite his clearly loving, innocent nature, his behaviors turned my life upside down for two days. Neutered at the same time his leg was amputated, he had to urinate on any vertical surface. An incessant whistling sound came from him, as if he were caught in a windstorm with a tiny hole in his vessel. If I turned away from him the whining would escalate to a rhythmic barking. To top it off, his incision site continued to leak fluid, wetting his tail and slapping about as he bumped into things because of his e-collar. We tried everything for sleeping arrangements, and eventually I grabbed a sleeping bag and pillow and wandered out to my car at 2 am. During a blizzard.  I took Charlie back to the shelter knowing he'd be better suited to a larger, busier house for his foster time.
        Three hours later, after I'd finally cleaned up all the urine, feces and fluid, and was relaxing with a book and a cup of tea, the animal shelter called. It took the young woman a few moments to get to the point. Charlie had a type of wound infection that required euthanasia. He was dead.
         For a few moments after the call, the still quietude of my clean condo was hollow and eerie. For a very brief time I'd been surrounded by noisy, vigorous, wet, eager and annoying life--by Charlie.  There is no excreta from the dead. There is no urine, feces, vomit, discharge, sweat, semen, or fluid. Those elements are produced (and reviled, hidden, cursed and shamed) only by the living. OK, OK, the dead leak fluid and other foulness but it's decomposition not metabolism; it is not the process of fight, maintenance or repair. I've always wondered why so few European writers and artists craft anything about this subject (Germans may be an exception :)  A whole 900-page novel may never include a single character's act of urination or even mention menstruation. (I suspect male ejaculation shows up more than both of those combined.) Yet these are the things that prove we are alive, that structure our days and inform our brief time on the planet. Like an armistice with biology, Americans enjoy this silent void (pun intended).
           I was recently with some newlyweds sharing a pizza and reviewing our day spent at an event in a public park. One of my friends let out a theatrical sigh, cocking her head in wistful jest "Ahh... that's the restroom where we met on our first date..."  She was referring to the stone monolith on one end of the park built for reception of human bodily need, and not for aesthetics.  It occurred to me that, despite her humor, using the landmark of a public restroom to arrange a first meeting with someone who'd become your life partner was not ironic at all.

Monday, November 16, 2015

I am rotating my (*ahem* proverbial) eggs

In composing a recent email  I was about to write that I lived like an ostrich, alluding to the head-in-the-sand behavior that connotes voluntary ignorance.
But, as with many animal behaviors, our interpretation has nothing to do with the truth.

"Male ostriches dig a sizable hole—up to 6 to 8 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet deep, which is plenty big for their puny heads—in which to stow the eggs. During the incubation period, both mom and dad ostrich take turns rotating the eggs with their beaks, a task that requires them to submerge their heads into the nest, thereby creating the illusion that their heads are buried in the sand." -- some reasonably reputable website I forgot.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Elephant Chow

One of my students asked if Purina made Elephant Chow. Why, yes, they do, under their exotic brand name Mazuri. http://www.mazuri.com/mazurielephantsupplements50lb-5666.aspx

Monday, November 2, 2015


The hardest thing to teach foster kittens is that it is rude to swat/bite/chase someone else's tail when they are taking a poop.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Old Generalist vs. Specialist Dilemma

"If one throws salt at thee thou wilt receive no harm unless thou hast sore places."   Latin Proverb

In the world of biodiversity, ecologists like to divide the foraging behavior of mammals into two categories: The Pandas and The Raccoons. Consider for a moment the panda, who defecates approximately 80 times a day because his sole food source is tough, fibrous bamboo. The panda is a real money-maker. They are impossibly cute, approachable, endearing for their reproductive challenges and visual appearance of asexuality.  And, they are endangered because there's not a lot of bamboo left to eat (there are other factors contributing to dilemma, of course).  Raccoons, on the other hand, are considered a ubiquitous, rabies-carrying pest in most areas of the country. They eat absolutely everything, which gives them plenty of energy to fornicate and make lots more raccoons. In the world of biology generalists are better suited to adapt and evolve.

Then there's humans. Technically, we are generalists in our foraging behavior--willing to eat anything from insects to tripe. But we've got something funny going on with how we ascribe social value and establish in-group solidarity in professional settings. Money always follows The Pandas, the people who go into medicine and then specialize and specialize until they have a PhD in nuclear medicine with a focus on detecting autosomal recessive cancer type X with PET scans (I'm making this shit up, people).  If you have this type of cancer you definitely want this guy!  If you have to come up with a plan to lower the physiologic stress levels of the patients waiting for the PET scan so the results will be accurate, you need a generalist. We are the people who can consider ergonomics, auditory stimuli, chaperones, wait time, parking, and possible hydration levels.... all based on gender and age and prior medical history... and we can do this all at once.  We problem solve.  But I keep coming back to this "Generalist vs. Specialist" issue when I feel like I am locked out of certain professional groups because of my diversity.  I'm not imagining this issue; it's real. BUT, dammit, I am talented in a trapezoidal way and those who are confused... can just suck it.

What do you write?  Fiction (not genre fiction), non-fiction memoir and technical, sometimes poetry.
                          This was a problem when I applied to get into an MFA program.  I had to pick one.
What do you teach? Currently Language Arts and Social Studies for the 2014 GED test.
                          Also licensed to teach biology, but only in Alaska.
Where do you teach?  A variety of different schools in the Denver area.  I miss teaching little kids
                        (this follows 'what grade do you teach'? queries)
How long have you been teaching?  10 years, if you count the 8 years as a sub.  No one in the
                          teaching field counts that, though.
You're a vet tech, where do you work?  Currently I'm not in a practice. I'm licensed as an LVT in    
                         Alaska, but had some challenges with the right type of CE credentials to get a
                        license in Colorado.  but I wrote this book, see...
Do you do cat/dog medicine or large/farm animal?  Both. And have done poultry and reptiles.

Degrees and accolades? For which of the above sub-headings?  Yes. got those, too.

A final thought to ponder: I strongly suspect that there are a higher number of generalists in rural areas, in the non-metro communities that require people to pull capacities and talents from multiple, functional domains.  There is freedom in that.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


I come from a long line of white people. I share nothing in common with most of my students beyond access to the full range of human emotions and having clocked some serious time with the more negative subcategories.  Heritage is a funny thing; sometimes there is a beautiful piece of your family history just waiting for you. Sometimes you have to rummage around a bit until you find what resonates.  Turns out, I come from a long line of women (on both sides!) who thrived with cats, art and service work.  I vowed to only ever own one cat at a time. Still,  it may be time to realize I am "a cat lady".

Sunday, October 4, 2015


"...sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness..." Galway Kinnell, Saint Francis and the Sow

Having spent most of my adult life in Alaska, a snakeless, spider-scarce (yet mosquito embroiled) place, certain creatures of the desert southwest are mythic and exotic. I've had the opportunity to peer inside a tank of tarantulas in a veterinary clinic and realize, with relief, that my shift was going to end before the veterinarian would be able to examine them. I wasn't there to witness it, but I doubt  she completed her task with affection and less than three reference books. I haven't yet met a private practice vet who specializes in arachnids.

This weekend, however, I was the passenger as a friend cruised along the open spaces of northern New Mexico and I thrilled at the sight of actual-real-in-person tumbleweeds, sage, cacti and the occasional adobe dwelling. But something wasn't right. I looked over at her, certain this wasn't someone who imbibed on the sly before noon or was prone to seizure disorders, and not wanting to imply her driving skills were poor.  "Are you... feeling OK? Things are... a little..." I leaned into her as we drifted back into the--fortunately empty-- oncoming lane. "...swervy... with your driving at the moment."

"The tarantulas are migrating." She said with an alarmed timbre in her voice. "I don't want to run one over."


It turns out that male tarantulas in the wild (who only live about a 1/3 of the lifespan of females, due in part to frequently becoming a post-coital snack for females and perhaps to being run over) sojourn out to find the ladies about this time in October every year. Once the male and female find each other, a process that unfortunately involves spider sperm, she sits on the nest for six weeks. No wonder she needs a snack to start to off! My friend's eyesight for these bachelors was remarkable.  Then she told me about seeing an entire migrating "herd" in California once. 
OK, I was with you before, but I just left.
However, when we pulled off at a rest stop and I was able to see one up close, fingering along with his pedipalps, somehow knowing his partner was out there and risking it all, I was beguiled.  It also helped that he was not AT ALL interested in ME. Like my friend, I became an admirer, finding time to look them up on the Internet, bemused by the intricate life cycle, their air of both mystery and horror.

On the very same day, barely two hours later, I was browsing some fiber art and the squad of people behind me started ".. swerved to miss a tarantula. Did YOU know they migrate?!"  
So there we all were, about five people, chatting up the miracle of the male tarantula and discovering, at midlife, there are still things we don't know.  

As for my Galway Kinnell quote... the tarantula already thinks he's lovely enough to go out and get some spider sex, but the rest of us are left to relearn.

Here is a picture of my recent foster kittens to cleanse you brain if you find spiders alarming.
And now I will hit you with a not-funny poem

At the Rio Grande

My palm runs along the barrier bridge, the length of noon-warm steel,
its gap-toothed grin stitched along the road; a meridian between gorge and sky.
The barrier is the unspoken focus of the place,
the way it stands behind sun-smote tourists dreaming of egg-salad sandwiches.
It is the thing that keeps the soft, warm flesh from knowing its own blood and opening its chest to the hot flight of carrion birds.
Why else would the people lean over and laugh “Don’t look down Brian! No, no, don’t...you...”
issuing trusting giggles when they let go of pennies, chewed gum, old movie ticket stubs from linty pockets, to watch the things echo out of view through a trellis of geologic time that finishes in a silver ribbon, the trickle of sweat left on the brow from the carving of the place.

Below where I look, midway down, is the cotton-candy color of a child’s pink jacket.
Blown or tossed or anything other than gone down as accompaniment to the girl.
(Humans do not leave such totem artifacts after tragedy, especially from the young.)
It is recent; the sun hasn’t yet bleached the color infused into the fabric by workers who know nothing of this place, who are far away gazing at their own gorges.
And the wind does not unsteady it, though the wind is at my hair, my eyes, my clothes, knuckling my pace hard enough to intimate that--yes--it could toss me, too. 
The pink is shielded, calcified, gone to its tomb like a Precambrian fish who tells of life only by what is absent.

At the time of loss, there may have been wailing and desperation, anger and ice cream promises shorn from the afternoon, the turning of the car towards replacement and replanning. 
But in the winged drifting down, the utterance of gravity on the shed skin as it was taken, is the frailty of the miss, the near success of the depth in taking what it was entitled to all along, and the revenant terror of this knowing.  
No body rests beneath. There is no proof for the loss.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


...to the men and women who understand the gravity of keeping the wool market strong and the cultural heritage of shepherding alive, who truly understand what it means to owe it all to ewe I present
Sock Summit Flash Mob

Monday, September 28, 2015

October batch

All my August kittens graduated to the adoption center at Denver Dumb Friends' League. One of the young women who runs the foster department had this batch in a carrier waiting for me to "trade down"-- replacing my 2 pounders with 10-ounce fluffballs someone found two days ago. An employee had been taking them home for two days so they didn't have to be exposed to shelter germs.  Bottles and mushy food, mushy food and bottles. They need to more than double in size.

Teenage kid behind me heard me say that and, as I went out the door, says "...aaand they're off to fat camp!"

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Get "ultra mega" kittens with GNC!

I simply had no idea GNC did stuff for pets. And along side the nursing bottle is "Ultra Mega" performance milk replacer! Now kittens can really kick-the-ass of those feather toys!

The Creation of Monsters

I used to feed the tiny foster kittens from a shallow sandwich plate, one from a set of four with leaves and berries radiating from the center in a conspicuous pattern.  Now, if I sit down anywhere, with absolutely anything on that plate, I am immediately accosted by little cats. Something similar happened when I purchased a popular cat food brand's"catmilk" from the store in affordable, shelf-stable boxes.  One of the kittens needed formula supplement during her weaning process to gain appropriately and still spent time with a bottle into her fifth and sixth week.
After she tasted the catmilk for the first time a ravenous gleam entered her eyes and she began following me, vocalizing, curling around my ankles in a cumbersome, shackling way.  It reminded me of opening the gate on a flock of sheep and, while the rest scatter, one full-fleeced adult comes running up to you, nosing all around, butting your thigh or even your tush is you turn your back. That's a bummer lamb, a bottler, an orphan.
In this case, with this kitten, she'll simply turn into that adult cat who gets right into your cereal bowl as soon as you look away.

I'm longing to re-enter the world of fiction, or at least cross the bridge from clever narrative to "artsy fartsy".  I've done this before, with mild success, but I'm actually a less functional human being when I hang out in that space. Perhaps it will be different this time. On a walk yesterday I cast the searchlight along the path of has-been stories in my mind, coming up either overwhelmed or dismissive. Then I realized yer doin it wrong... you start writing and then see what comes out. 

Meanwhile, the island-like clusters of farming stories, blog posts, non-fiction publications in magazines named SHEEP! beckon as well. While looking through old pictures I found my still shot from New Zealand (left). At first I was thrilled at the idea of making it the cover shot for the farm stories. WARNING: low resolution image. I tried a few tricks to modify it, then got tired. I woke up this morning understanding what was really wrong. Though a pleasing image, it is a picture of illness. How? Those hills of tropical forest on the North Island were deforested with slash-and-burn techniques more than a hundred years ago. Soil erosion is of utmost concern, with the concurrent scramble to funnel funding towards planting trees. That green color comes from the aerial fertilizer... I had to stay indoors more than once to make time for the fly-overs on different farms.  If the temperature dips below forty/fifty degrees those sheep die. The drought in the preceding years left farmers telling equally heart-breaking stories. That grass is actually about 1/8 inches in height.  Unfortunately, as with most environmental stories, we can't find a single evil, one perpetrator towards whom we trigger our index finger and direct vitriolic essays. And, from my experience, it's certainly not the third-generation family farmers locked into this situation.
The other picture is of Icelandic sheep. Diverse. Hardy.  In the picture the girls are getting some barley as form of "flushing" before turning the ram in. Not unlike the human mating ritual of a fancy meal before having sex for the first time, grain for girl sheep, before having sex with boy sheep, increases the odds of twinning and tripling at lambing time.

The question I leave with is... what about the picture from New Zealand makes us react to it as "beautiful"?  How do we cultivate the sight to see beyond?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How dogs dream

Ever had the privilege to watch a dog while he's asleep? Did you see him twitch, make running motions and vocalize... as if chasing a tennis ball or a rabbit?

Have you ever seen a dog wake himself with his own bark?

At 4 a.m. I woke myself up from deep sleep by yelling "THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT OF 1882"

The joys of teaching run deep.

Monday, September 21, 2015


Without a struggle, there can be no progress.

I'm going to put this on the board today for my students. We have to practice more convoluted quotes to get them through the 2014 GED; it's a very sophisticated test these days. I tell them that they'll be asked to analyze "any quotes from the dead white guys on the money".  No one quotes
Sacagawea, that I know of. But feel free to correct me.

Let's say that, because this quote applies to life, it can apply to veterinary medicine. Our culture seems to celebrate prodigies, grab-n-go meals, being busy as a sign of virtue, instant everything, and an extensive marketing industry that promises ugly experiences and feelings no longer should be part of our lives. Yet moral (meritorious) qualities aren't handed out at birth or on demand. We have a chance to develop them every time we are handed something that sends us struggling. We may even suffer. I'm not talking about martyrdom, which delivers something to its audience, but the brick-by-brick hanging on when you can't visualize where the mess is taking you. When considering teaching and learning, I'd say this is doubly true. Your brain cells are literally reaching to make new neural pathways to other brain cells. It's why medical school is way too much at the beginning, but by the end you are OK.  You are changing the pathway of your mind. That is bold, brave work and it takes great encouragement.

And Frederick Douglass just rocks.

Next Up: A rehash of that first vet tech job I left out of the storybook.
After taking the VTNE in Olympia WA January 9, 1998 I got into my car and just kept driving. I went to the edge of the continent-- Sequim WA.  I found an empty, 19th century post-office I rented for $350/ month.  The boat launch was within sight. Every morning I'd have the window open in the small shower stall and flocks of seagulls would dive and cry, their voices coming in through the steam sounding like a litter of scrambling, infant pups.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Kitten Farming

I had a flock of sheep once, and I've worked with a variety of ruminants (as well as camels, horses, swine and poultry).  Fostering kittens for a large, metro animal shelter is strikingly similar.

The first thing to consider in kitty farming is your stocking rate. To avoid environmental degradation it's generally accepted the best plan is to have no more than four kitties/100 CUBIC feet (Kitties will make use of their vertical as well as horizontal pasture. In rare instances, if you have a ceiling fan, hanging plants or mobiles, kitties will use their antipodean pasture as well). This means that in an 800-square foot condo a farmer could technically stock 32 kitties. I, however, use a rotational crazing system where bedroom, bathroom, and most closets are fenced off for the moment. Before you invest in your farming start-up remember that kitties have a very low feed conversion ratio; it can take up to five pounds of canned giblets to add a quarter pound to each of your kitties. Somewhere on your farm you need to have a food storage system safe from other scavenging animals.

It's important to let kitties out to pasture at least once daily. This gives you some time to muck out the barn and expose kitties to healthy air and sunlight. DO NOT leave kitties out on pasture full time unless you have a guard animal-- typically a human between the ages of 8 and 16.  Left alone kitties are extremely vulnerable to predators and natural hazards-- getting stepped on, rolled over with the desk chair, stuck in cabinets or the refrigerator.  While you are checking on the herd, if you hear a kitty voice that sounds very, very far away, check under the sink.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The joys of curriculum design

I got to channel my creative energy into composing a unit on diaspora/ human migration using a variety of texts, the story of Navajo-Churro sheep, and this video http://www.cultureunplugged.com/play/6413/A-Gift-From-Talking-God
The stories of our animals are the stories of our cultures.  I was able to attend this past summer's "Sheep is Life" event.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

So what is up with self-publishing??

There's an adage "writers write" that's meant to both encourage and comfort. Those two words bestow identity without waiting for third-party recognition, and they encourage further labor that is isolating and thankless--if not downright demoralizing with the volume of rejection (if you want an audience beyond your mother). Even the worst writer is putting forth great effort to be alone with themselves in their head.

I was a writing prodigy. I opened my first rejection letter at the age of fourteen in 1988 because, at the time, it seemed terribly important to get famous and make a living as a writer. Through the nineties I wrote and submitted, read, wrote, and submitted. I got scholarships to writers conferences. I won a few awards and enough cash to do a couple loads of laundry at the washateria. I wrote my first novel at 21 about a man working in a restaurant discovering he was gay titled Light Breaking Glass. I never submitted it. I wrote my second novel by 29 and it came close to publication... held by an agent for a period and then dropped. It was about two sisters in the 1920s. (I don't have a sister). It was called Picasso's Cat.  My final attempt at a book-length work was called Mother Africa, a work reflecting on my travels overseas woven with a troubling stateside friendship.  It was held by a small press for six months.  I was working on a farm in Massachusetts when the rejection came.  As I was doing paperwork in a converted corner of the hayloft under an eave, my housemate handed me the letter. It was typed on expensive cream-colored paper. I stayed in that loft until well past supper. I wept. I was 33. I never submitted work for publication again.

Let's remember that no agent or publishing company is truly evaluating the quality of the writing being submitted. They are thinking how many phone calls do I have to make to sell this?  If your work doesn't have a clear BISAC code https://www.bisg.org/complete-bisac-subject-headings-2014-edition for shelving and target-marketing you are asking an agent or publisher to go above-and-beyond to explain and convince others to buy your work.   Did my work not sell because there is something wrong with traditional publishing? Absolutely not. Some of my writing really sucked. But the structure of the publishing industry at this time in history didn't help.

Exceptional Creatures is a work more market-ready than any of my others, but querying and submitting is a full-time job that takes months, and I find it boring, distasteful work fraught with latent dysfunction. I don't want to write letters that require me to reference where else I've been published and what all my credentials are.

I am disappointed to know that many people are more dismissive of my work because it is self-published. But the real question is one everyone recognizes: Am I happy with my work?  Yes. I love this book; it was a privilege to write and remember. There are some typos and other sentences that make me cringe. There are some scenes that need to slow down or speed up, but it is good work.  I am excited to write the farm and large animal stories next! Enterprising Creatures, I think will be the title.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Paper Clips

I got a climber in the most recent batch of foster kittens. I definitely planned to have my own adult cat in the pic for scale.

I found a paperclip in the kittens' catbox and thought, with clinical remove, how it hadn't passed through the digestive tract so it must have frolicked its way in there somehow.   Back-to-school time means finding office supplies in the litter pan.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Note to self:

Don't forget to write the story about the glow-in-the-dark Virgin Mary in the x-ray room.

Kindle: I have to reformat the book to sell it on kindle. Give me a few weeks. Currently prepping to start the school year with the second-chance kids in Denver Public Schools ages 16-20.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Visiting with foster kittens...

So here we are messing about with the 'text wrap' feature on this blog and displaying evidence that, as my name suggests, I have a strong affinity for felines. The "head shots" are separated by six years. The tiny tabby is from 2009, the little black top-hat is from 2015. Below, I'm wearing a purple shirt visiting with my ghost litter--foster kitties who, one-by-one, passed away before they reached adoption age. That was the week I was walking around holding in my feelings so that inappropriate things like stop lights and fast food commercials made me cry.
         The trouble with blogs is often keeping up with them! But as I've combed through my book manuscript for revision my memory is a trampoline throwing up fresh images and stories that didn't earn their own chapter. This includes my very first vet tech job ever in rural Washington. I took my vet tech exam on January 9, 1998. Why do I remember the date? At that point the NVTE was only offered in hard-copy at different places across the nation at set times. I graduated from Bel-Rea on December 22, 1997 and was determined to take that exam before "I forgot everything" (little did I know my knowledge was IN THERE, stuck!). The closest place the exam was offered next was Olympia WA. So I drove there.  I remember being one of the first ones to finish and leave, filled with gratitude for my comprehensive training and introduction to medical vocabulary. I truly admire OTJ techs. But, I mean...when the doctor says "Grab the 'glyco[pyrrolate]" how are you going to know he means "the anticholinergic drug that protects against vagal induced bradycardia"?  That's the business you need for the licensing test: the language. Ah, language... keys to the kingdoms!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Twist and Hold

     I am not afraid of dentists. Sure, the area of the body with the greatest potential for pain is the head and jaw because we humans pretty much are only brains. We have a lousy sense of smell, hearing and sight. Instead, we have big bubble heads with lots of nerves. But I also believe in the power of pharmacology! Anything that ends in -aine will numb you. Bring it! Benzocaine, lidocaine, marcaine, allocaine...hmm, I need to look up cocaine... I glibly went into the dentist to have a filling and my last wisdom tooth removed; I have dental insurance and there will be no better time. I'll estimate that, over the years, I have removed hundreds of molars in dogs and cats. My first attempts were terrifying--wrenching down on an anesthetized patient, the degree of blood flow measuring your success. I kept calling for the "old" technician, the woman who was large and grumpy and almost forty (ha!) to see if I was doing it correctly, often begging her to take over. Nope. She left me there, sweating and flexing, my biceps burning. Yet I'd never been on the receiving end of a tooth removal. You take something called a dental elevator (as if you press a button and the teeth glide up and out) that is slightly spoon-shaped at the end. You wedge it down into the socket and twist and hold. The holding of the twist weakens the ligaments, the fibrous web that creates the strongest joint in the body between tooth and jaw. When the sulcus spouts large pools of blood you know you're getting somewhere. My dentist did a great job, with the perfect amount of local anesthesia, but I could still hear the fibers ripping away, hear him asking for a different size elevator, and then his apology for needing to go after a root tip. Root tips are like the last pair of shoes and a lamp left from an ex who just moved out -- get it gone or it festers.
     I failed to create a chapter about dentistry in my storybook. Dr. Doran will show up again for sure. And maybe that old technician.