I like to think of new ways of doing things. I’ve got to give my parents some credit for this. They made living aboard a sailboat part of the year and windsurfing most windy days fit with full-time careers and raising me. Growing up, I felt so incredibly lucky. I never felt jealous of kids with bigger houses or better toys. Nothing compared to being on the water.
In my sophmore year of high school, I applied to and was admitted into Dreyfoos School of the Arts. As a child writing and art had been imaginative play, and as I grew older they became forms of outlet and self-expression, but at Dreyfoos art and writing became passions worthy of pursuit for their own end.
At Stetson University I majored in English, with my focus in creative writing, and minored in philosophy and psychology. I devoted myself to my writing workshop classes, enjoyed my course classes, and struggled through the requirements. I met my now fiancé, Justin, and graduated with honors.
Together we said goodbye to our parents and college friends and traveled across the world to Taiwan, where we taught at an after-school English program, HESS International Education Organization. We earned our TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) through Hess. I worked with incredible teachers and talented students, and learned more about English than I had thought possible by looking at my native language through their eyes.
When we returned to the States, Justin went to work in publishing, as is logical for an English major, while I pursued an irrational love of dogs. Dogs were all I could think about. All I wanted to do was learn about and work with dogs. “Dogs, dogs, dogs,” Justin said often during those years.
We had fostered dozens of dogs in college and after, and had a sweet fluff ball named Sofie who flew with us back from Taiwan in a little carrier under our seats. Dogs at home weren’t enough though. I wanted to spend all my time with dogs, so when I saw a job as a kennel tech at a family owned dog daycare I leapt on the chance.
I spent my days surrounded by groups of dogs, learning about and managing their social interactions, grooming them, training them, and loving them. I became marketing manager, then general manager. The owners worked full time and the work was minimum wage and had difficult hours, besides being considered dangerous, and so workers were hard to find.
As a consequence I worked long days and often communicated with employees while off work. I didn’t care. I worked there until I knew I had to find something that could pay the bills and not consume my life. I cried saying goodbye to the dogs and the owners looked at me a little funny.
I went to work as a liaison at UF Small Animal Hospital. The job was multifaceted: part cashier, part messenger, part enforcer of rules. Communication was awesome and everyone: doctors, techs, students, hostpital techs, and client services were passionate about what they did. I enjoyed my bustling days surrounded by animals and people who loved them.
Soon I became liaison of zoology, neurology, and integrative medicine. I enjoyed each of these departments for their own reasons, and spent as much time in their treatment rooms as possible.
Zoo medicine was constant bustle, strange noises, glimpses through cage coverings of injured wildlife and sickly exotic pets. Techs were protective of their delicate charges, but as I won their trust they sometimes let me glimpse some of the wonderful creatures when it wouldn’t be stressful for them, like when they were under anesthesia.
Neurology saw some of the most emotionally intense cases in the hospital. Doctors in this department made paralyzed dogs or dogs in debilitating pain normal again. Sometimes they couldn’t, and owners faced heartbreaking decisions. I had the difficult task of discussing finances with owners after the doctors had summarized charges and made up estimates. While it wasn’t my job to help owners make decisions, people search everywhere for clues about what is right when faced with impossible situations. I have been grateful for these experiences as I have faced situations in my own life that have no good solution.
Dogs in recovery from surgery of all kinds, as well as dogs with chronic conditions or diseases of aging, all received therapy from integrative medicine. These were some of the dogs I got to know best, as some came week after week for years, and I loved to lounge on the exercise matts with the dogs when I had down time.
Some of the stories from UF became personal. When a nine month old King Charles Cavalier suddenly and inexplicably became paralyzed in the rear, MRI images revealed that nothing could be done surgically or medically to reverse the injury. It most likely resulted from a congenital weakness that would have presented itself eventually.
The owners had been away when it happened, the puppy and his sibling being with caretakers. The owners were overwhelmed, and decided to wake the puppy from anesthesia and do therapy for a few days while they made up their minds.
It was at this time that I met Winston. He didn’t seem to care at all about his paralysis. We were always chasing after him. He was afraid of nothing and no one. He met every dog, person, and new experience with overwhelming enthusiasm. He threw his all into everything.
What can I say? I fell for him. When the owners decided they couldn’t take him home and they couldn’t afford another week of therapy and boarding, and all the rescues they contacted had turned him down, and no one at the hospital could guarantee more than a week of foster care, I signed the papers, bought a big box of diapers, and brought him home, his donated pink wheelchair in the back seat.
Now I write full time, as well as creating art and teaching. Enjoy my site, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any question or comment, or to talk to me about freelance writing or art.