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on animal adoption *with edit*

hank 1

*edit* I want to thank you all for sending Hank your love and well wishes. He has his antibiotics and some lovely narcotics to suppress his cough. He’s currently high as a kite, having happy little pug dreams.

I understand many people are passionate about EHS. No matter how you slice it, when it comes to animals and animal ownership,we are all passionate. We all have a favorite agency, charity, or society. EHS has a great reputation, and a huge, supportive network of donors, volunteers, and fans.

My post struck all kinds of chords. Some people are very angry, because EHS is a place they support, or adopt from, or donate to, or volunteer with. I understand that my story and my experience has upset those people.

Some folks have said they’ve gone through a similar experience. They are disappointed with EHS and would consider other options for adopting. I thank these people for sharing.

EHS addressed my post on their  Facebook page. I encourage you to visit it. They wished Hank well, corrected my comment on it being a city-run facility, and reiterated the information that was in the brochures issued to my friends when they adopted their dog.

I am grateful for their response. I am glad my post was read by staff @ EHS, and I hope my friends’ visit to EHS raised some awareness to their top-tier staff.

Adopting an animal should be no different than adopting any other creature into your family. Make an informed decision. Ask important questions, and stand your ground if your questions go unanswered.

And now, I am so glad to be getting the hell off Facebook again. Thank you for letting me hop back on for a minute to share my story. heart emoticonsleepy hank

This is Hank. You’ve met him before – on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and, if you’re super lucky, in real life. Hank is my grumpy 8 years old, old-man pug.

I’ve made the decision to come back onto FB to post this. We need to discuss animal adoption.

Hank is sick. My grumpy old-man pug has contracted kennel cough. My sweet man, with his honks and snorts and snotty sneezes – my fella who hasn’t been sick a day in his life – is now wheezing and hacking and having an awful time trying to breathe.

My friends recently adopted a rescue from the Edmonton Humane Society. When we met this doggy, at the lovely new facility in Edmonton’s west end, one of the first things we noticed was his cough. This beautiful Husky dog, who my girlfriend fell madly in love with, looked worse for wear – with a big scab on his face and a scar on his back – he was a rough sight. But he was gentle and sweet and goofy and wonderful. He also had a hell of a cough.

My friend convinced her husband to come meet this fellow, and he fell in love, too. They made the decision to adopt the Husky. He was going to be the perfect addition to their family.

I asked my girlfriend to please make sure he didn’t have kennel cough during the medical exit exam. I asked this question because she and her husband were actually doggy-sitting for me – so the handsome Husky was going to be coming home to my dog.

When the final paperwork was signed, and their family finally had the addition they had been searching for, my girlfriend told me the medical staff at the Edmonton Humane Society had cleared the Husky – it turns out he was coughing due to a scratchy throat from ‘stress’. They called it a ‘stress cough’. While I wasn’t convinced, we were all pretty happy to welcome a new dog into their family.

Their dog and my dog were together only about 15 hours. Long enough to meet and sniff each other, play, annoy each other, and share some toys. As the week progressed, their new pooch became quite sick – his cough worsened and he became a bit lethargic. He went to meet his new vet (not through the Humane Society), who immediately diagnosed him with kennel cough and gave him some heavy duty antibiotics.

Even though their new family member was sick, my friends were so incredibly upset and concerned about Hank possibly contracting kennel cough that they attempted to call the Edmonton Humane Society on several occasions. They spoke to four different people, each of whom passed them off to someone else. No one could help them sort out what we might do or who we could speak to.  At this point, Hank wasn’t exhibiting symptoms, but my friends wanted to know why the Edmonton Humane Society had discharged a sick animal to new adopters. Especially when it was documented that they had asked about the cough.

Now, my Hank is sick. He isn’t strong like a young Husky. He is an old man who is already plagued with poor genetics where breathing is concerned. As soon as I let my friends know that Hank was exhibiting the trademark hacking and shuddering symptoms of kennel cough, they took action.

Having had limited success with contacting anyone by telephone, they took time out of their Sunday to go to the facility. They were met with apprehension – the staff at the Edmonton Humane Society tried to convince them to leave the facility and to either call or email their concerns. They finally met with a facility Operations Manager. This woman was dismissive and assigned blame on to my friends. She told them that “taking their dog home was a risk” and that it was up to them to have “quarantined the dog for a few days”. My friends told this Operations Manager that they had explained the situation to the staff when they adopted their dog, and that they medically cleared him to be around other animals. This Operations Manager then passed the blame on to the medical staff. She was defensive and refused to take any responsibility on behalf of the Edmonton Humane Society in regards to sending a sick animal home.

There are so many rescue organizations out there that need your dollars, your homes, your volunteer hours. AARCS, SCARS, HART, Pawsitive Match, WHARF – to name only a few. These organizations care so much about rehoming animals that they may have slightly higher adoption fees to cover medical costs, food costs, admin costs. They have extensive applications – four to five pages of questions that really force you to think about the responsibility of animal ownership. They want the best for the animals that come into their care, and they truly want these animals to go to their ‘forever homes’.

The Edmonton Humane Society is *edit – a charitable organization that seems to be in the business of churning out animals. Their application process is fairly simple – with the toughest questions being ‘Do you own or rent?’, and ‘Why do you want to adopt?’. It is, simply, a business. Their Operations Manager openly admits it is risky to bring an animal from their facility home – and is quick to assign blame anywhere but to the facility itself. They discharged a sick dog – I am certain they are experts in their field and knew the handsome husky had been exhibiting symptoms of kennel cough – assuring my friends the animal was fine. What did it matter to the Humane Society? They are overrun with animals needing a space. Rehoming the Husky freed up a room for another abandoned dog. Not to mention the financial side – they had their $200 adoption fee.

I believe it is morally reprehensible to discharge sick animals. It is unfair to the animal, for obvious reasons. It is unfair to the adopters, because they fall madly in love and want to provide a safe, healthy, happy home to their new addition. And finally, it is unfair to other fur babies. My sweet Hank, my old man, who unconditionally loves us in his grumpy old-man way – he doesn’t deserve this. He doesn’t understand. And now, we will have to stress him out further with a trip to the vet, doses of antibiotics, and general discomfort. My poor old man.

I hope you will make an informed decision before financially supporting or adopting from the Edmonton Humane Society. Please consider an organization that isn’t bursting at the seams, desperate to discharge animals at any cost.

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learning to unlearn.

cookies

One of the most interesting things I’ve learned to unlearn during this journey to becoming a healthier person is the use of food as a reward. I didn’t realize how often I was making deals with myself. ‘Oh, I can eat this poutine, I’ll just go for a run in the morning….One more donut isn’t a big deal, I’ll walk it off later.’ That walk, that run, that punishment….rarely happened. Something always came up, or I would find a reason to distract myself from doing the physical activity I had promised myself in exchange for a bad behavior.

Coach John said something to me in January of this year that resonated. “Dayna, you’re not a dog. You don’t need to be rewarded for good behavior with food.” And it’s true. I don’t. I absolutely want treats and goodies, but I know I don’t need them. That being said, I don’t bargain with myself anymore. I will eat some poutine if I want to. I’ll have a donut. But now I know I’ll end up with what I call a food hangover. I know my body isn’t being fed what it needs, so it will perform differently that day.

Turns out the bargaining is actually something hardwired into all of us. It’s called an extinction burst. An extinction burst is a plea that comes from the recesses of your psyche as soon as a conditioned response is no longer yielding results. Think Pavlov’s Dog. Or think of a kid who throws a tantrum in the middle of a store when he really, really wants that toy – if you reward him with that toy, bets are he throws a tantrum next time you’re in the store. As adults, it’s no different. We do this to ourselves, too.

If you decide to quit smoking – maybe you’re on day 6 and you get a whiff of that familiar smell – you will find yourself making a deal….’One puff. I’ll have one puff just to stop the craving. Okay, I’ll finish this cigarette and then I will throw the pack away, and I will start at day one again tomorrow.’ When tomorrow arrives, that extinction burst comes back with a vengeance, and you might find yourself at the store buying a new pack of smokes.

When you’re trying to break a bad habit that was formed through conditioning, you have to be prepared for that secret weapon your brain wants to unleash on you. That extinction burst. A great way to work on combating the power of your psyche is to exercise it – set a goal. When you reach it, reward yourself with something meaningful. If you change your diet – let’s say your goal is to stick to meal prep for two weeks – maybe you celebrate achieving that goal by taking yourself out to a movie. That’s up to you to decide. You have the great opportunity to anticipate the extinction burst, to feel it, and to just let it go. You don’t have to get caught up in it – you just have to be aware.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about these behaviours, and about extinction bursts in particular, I encourage you to check out the ‘You Are Not So Smart’ podcast – episode 031 (http://youarenotsosmart.com/podcast/).

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on being a woman.

So – based on my recent research – books, TV, and media seem to portray women in one of four stereotypes. Let’s use Sex and the City characters, just because they’re familiar to most.

There’s the sweet, naïve one who believes in romance. She is conservative, safe, believes in true love, and will one day – after a few bouts of nominal heartbreak – find it. Charlotte.

And then we have the façade of confidence – the woman who sleeps with men and treats them as though they are disposable. She’s jaded, hard, and gives really great blowjobs. Samantha.

Funny how successful women are portrayed as cold and bitchy. Dressed in drab, beige clothes, has enough money to hire a nanny to look after the baby she wants to raise solo, Miranda is strong…but not really. Hard candy shell, but soft and gooey on the inside.

Finally, Carrie. That’s it. She’s the friend who fixes and heals and supports and guides and does it all while looking really awesome and having consecutive great hair days. She is pretty easy to like. Just the right amount of smart and helpful and funny and girly. Is kind of annoying.

So I’ve watched the show, and I’ve watched some chick flicks, and I’ve even had my eyes opened recently listening to friends who just may fall into one of the character categories above.

And if you know me, you’ll know I’m not at all the lady who’s into the stuff…the shopping or the gossiping or the man bashing or the love seeking or….

Um.

After careful consideration, I’m the Carrie Bradshaw. Yup. I’m THAT one. Hopefully not as long-faced, but I do have the lazy eye…

I’ve ranted and raged and complained about that girl. The one that is a bit of a dreamer, a bit artistic, who seems to drop into situations where she falls unwittingly in love with really interesting men. Fsssh, so ridiculous.

Now, in my mid-30s and feeling somewhat confident in life, I feel okay being typecast. I sort of like identifying with a character. Makes my own crazy life seem a lot less….crazy. Someone wrote this – it’s a script – so it must have happened before. This is comforting.

I guess I’m just putting it out there. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not going to start reading books about knitting clubs and shopaholics, but I will continue being this woman who is comfortable in her own skin, who won’t let a few crazy life experiences get her down.

“As we drive along this road called life, occasionally a gal will find herself a little lost. And when that happens, I guess she has to let go of the coulda, shoulda, woulda, buckle up and just keep going.”

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tracks.

…i was going through some old papers today, and found this. dated april, 1999. written by yours truly.

Fuck you

For those blue eyes

And for the smirks – nasty little smiles.

Cause you know

You’re all that and a bag of chips.

Cause you know

What it takes to make me speechless.

Cause you know

With the right touch, the right look, the right words…..

My walls fall down.

My clothes fall off.

Littering your floor with my pretty little things,

Worn to impress only you.

You, who is never impressed.

You, who takes my body and my mind,

And turns me inside out.

You taste me, ruin me, challenge me, please me.

You tear me apart.

Then, finally, you leave me,

In a giant heap, on that same floor.

Tattered, torn, bruised, euphoric.

The rollercoaster grinds to a halt.

my mama.

as my parents ready themselves to move across the country to their new home, i’m selfishly filled with sadness. It’s been a luxury to have them so close, to have them involved in the Girl’s life, to just have them near.

during my post-holiday purge, i came across a piece i wrote that was published in the Edmonton Journal back in 2006. i’m going to post it up here today, and i’m going to say this out loud – mama, no matter where you go in this world, i will never stop being your cheerleader. i love you so much. xo

‘If I’m ever, ever in a vegetative state, promise me you’ll take me out back & put me out of my misery…like old yeller’

My mother’s words rang around inside my head as I stared at the machines keeping her alive.

The ICU doctors diagnosed her with ‘diffuse axonal injury’, or frontal lobe brain damage to the rest of us laypeople. With extensive bleeding in her brain. And a crushed pelvis. And a giant laceration to the back of her head.

‘You must know that there is a good chance she won’t wake up from this coma.’

Lee Burnell is my mom. She was an independent, hard-working, caring, intelligent, and articulate woman of 54 when she was broadsided at an intersection outside of Calgary.

The ‘powers that be’ didn’t want to lose her the afternoon of May 21, 2002. She had always carried a Do Not Resuscitate order in her purse – and on this day, when she was clinically dead at first sight – the paramedics and police couldn’t find her bag. The option of life wasn’t hers in the days to follow, either, as she showed minimal response to life support; my father and I gave the order to keep her on the machines, for a few weeks at the very least.

The first time she blinked her eyes, wiggled her toes, moved her lips – these were all milestones that blurred together through my tears of pride. She beat the odds the day they took out her breathing tube. From that day forward, my mother never looked back. She was comatose, then in a stupor for months following, all the while struggling to relearn  things I take for granted – speaking, eating, walking, and the oh-so-important social skills.

She was welcomed home at the end of the year, 2002.

I am so lucky to have her in my life, just a few blocks away, where she and my two year old daughter can teach each other, learn from each other, and grow with each other. What better role model could someone have?

Mom, thank you for having the will to fight – I promised you I’d cheer you on the minute I first saw you in the intensive care unit – and you have proven, time and time again, that this cheerleading, combined with your strength and perseverance, are a damn serious force to be reckoned with.

I love you.

Dayna

another year.

34 is around the corner. Literally.

In two weeks, I will say goodbye to 33 – the year of introspection, transformation, chaos and reflection – and I will embrace the pristine, shiny, new 34.

So much has happened this past year. Because I choose to live in the present, there’s not too much to revisit, but I think a few things are worth noting and recounting here – for integrity’s sake.

The Boy is doing well….ish. When we said goodbye in August, he moved back in with his mother. He tried out for, and made, the high school football team. Played the season well, gained a bit of weight, seemed to be on a different path. We see him weekly now, and enjoy our time together. Since football ended though, he’s once again looking gaunt. Skinny, twitchy, and full of strange excuses for the simplest things. HIs mother has pegged his behavior as ‘a bit sketchy’. In less than 3 months, the Boy will be 18. I can only hope for, and think positively about, his future. A lesson learned at 18 years of age may scar him for life – both emotionally and physically. A slap on the wrist no longer suffices as punishment. But I will keep holding on to a bright future for him. I hope he can see it.

The Girl is amazing. Her transformation has been such a delight to watch. With a new teacher this year, she has come out of her shell. No longer an anxious and worried student, she enjoys bringing in things from home to share with the class. A year ago, she was taking up to 10 bathroom breaks a day because her classroom was such a source of anxiety and stress. Looking forward, I can see the tiniest steps indicating success. We might even try to get her to the mall this week, if she’s ready for it.

At 7 years old, she’s reading at a University level. She’s studying reading and comprehension at the highest level the school will allow – which is grade six. Words like obstinate and pressurize bore her, and she complains about the spelling tests (They’re too easy for me, mom!). Her report card was full of A’s, with a few B’s sprinkled in the mix. She passed Phys. Ed. In fact, she received the highest grade possible – an E for Excellence. In last year’s class, she failed gym. Sulked around the house for weeks, and begged to stay home because she was just so ashamed of herself. Hey, maybe there’s a chance that a team sport is possible. I am so proud.

In other news….my parents have made the decision to move out to Nova Scotia. Their house is packed and sold, and in three weeks they will drive across the country to their new home in Chester Basin. Selfishly, I’m both disappointed and angry. I feel mainly sad, though – sad for the Girl, for this relationship she’s built with her grandparents and for having to now say goodbye to them. Visiting is a nice thought, but it’s not something that is within our reach at the moment. Spending $2600 to fly to NS just isn’t feasible, and I’m sure Disneyland might be less of an investment – with a better return.

It stung when they moved to Newfoundland – my daughter was 6 months old for that first relocation. In an isolated community on the edge of Canada, the ocean as their backyard, my disabled mother was miserable and felt very alone. Suddenly this dream didn’t seem to be such a good idea. They lasted one year before joining us in Sherwood Park. And we were elated when they arrived. I was surprised to learn of another move out East.

And so this is what tears me apart. It’s when my daughter looks up at my dad, when she runs to him for a hug or laughs at his old-man jokes, my heart melts. She gently tells her friends about her gramma’s brain injury, filled with pride over gramma’s accomplishments. And when she and my mom sit together coloring at the kitchen table, or when they are reading Calvin & Hobbes books – these moments belong to my girl. And now, after a series of impulsive decisions and the desire to start over yet again, these moments will be just memories. And I’m not really ready for it. Not for this.

But ready or not, I have to say the Universe gives me so much. I have my best friend and her daughter living right down the street. When a glass of wine or a bottle feed is in order, I’m there in three minutes. I met amazing strangers while on my solo trip to BC this summer. They were all so important in my journey, and I gathered strength, energy, and knowledge from each of them. A good friend of mine has been offered a position with a major international news affiliate in Istanbul. I’m so proud of her achievements, and she deserves this great post. My family is healthy, and my daughter is becoming stronger and more independent with each day. I have a job I enjoy coming to, and the people I work with are kind and positive. A friend has asked me to join a sports league with him, and I am finally ready to try new things.

As 33 draws to a close, I know that I am happy, and I do my best to give my best each day.

I am blessed.

untitled.

I’m not even sure where to start. Brokenhearted. I guess I’m really brokenhearted.

Yesterday, we kicked the Boy out. He ran out of chances.

I was the literal caricature of a mother clinging on to her son’s legs, crying and begging him to give me a reason to let him stay. He chose to remain silent.  

You see, last week the Boy made a series of choices that resulted in my daughter and I leaving. I can no longer be okay with compromising my daughter’s safety in the name of protecting my drug-addicted Boy. And the husband has to become a firm authority figure in the Boy’s life. I can’t be in control of these things.

No matter how you slice it, no matter how much advice everyone wants to give, this is not an easy thing to do. I love this Boy so much, and I have been lucky enough to love him when his mother and father were too fed up to give him their love. And I know, I know – the Boy has done me wrong time and again. He’s stolen, he’s lied, he has hurt and damaged me emotionally. But none of this seems important when you’re faced with the burden of telling your child they have to go.

When I met the Boy ten years ago, I fell right smack-dab in love with him. I remember the moment, we were sitting eating sushi and he was telling me about batman! school! hockey! ants! football! friends! army guys! I wasn’t fond of kids, and here I sat, in this crappy little express sushi joint, sitting with my new fella and his son, and I just remember thinking ‘My god. This is what life’s all about.’

When he was 10, he and I had a playdate and I let him watch the movie Jackass. I don’t think his mother let me see him for about two months. The tradeoff was great, though – we bonded and delighted over watching a bunch of adult men doing stupid shit to each other, and subsequently we snuck in a dare or two of our own. At 11, he and his cousin were watching Southpark when he came up to me and asked me what a clitoris was. I laughed and told him to ask his mom. Another month or so went by….but the Boy and I still giggle about it.

I remember when our family was going through some stuff about a year ago. The Boy and I had a long chat about our relationship, about how I was never his ‘mom’, but reassuring him that my love and admiration far surpassed that of being a parent. He said to me ‘Dayna, I know you’ve never been allowed to be my mom. But you’re better – you’re more like my big sister.’ That hit me so hard. Being an only child, I’d always missed out on that experience – and here he had given it to me. Handed me this thing, this feeling I’d been yearning for. So simple and so profound.

As he was getting ready to leave yesterday, all I could offer were my words. ‘I love you unconditionally. I will support you when you fall. I will pick you up and dust you off and help you heal – but it has to be when you’re ready. I. Love. You.’

…I guess I’m really brokenhearted.

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fragile.

Fear is characterized as an emotional response to a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger.

It seems basic enough. But what happens when you have a child who is in constant fear? A child who is afraid of words, afraid of sounds, afraid of vibrations, afraid of lights, afraid of failure and afraid of success. All of these fears perceived to be real, concrete, and surely dangerous.

This is my child.

She said her first word at six months, and took her first steps at eight months. She was this curious little bald baby, walking long before others her age, and people would marvel at her. She was so bright, so curious, so happy and so calm. So fearless.

Diagnosed as gifted at the age of 4, we were ecstatic. How lucky! A smart kid! It doesn’t get better than this. I remember waving her test results in front of a coworker. This coworker, who has a gifted child (now adult) said, simply, ‘I wouldn’t wish a gifted child on anyone.’ I couldn’t believe that. I could not believe those words came out of her mouth, and I perceived them, at the time, to be brought on by jealousy. Maybe she was mad, because now someone else had joined the elite club of being the parent of a gifted child. The story wasn’t hers anymore.

Now I know. I think I understand.

My child is gifted. She can read at a university level, and my child is six. She loves math. Her math skills are superior to mine. Intellectually, my child is ready to take on the world.

My child is gifted. At the age of three, she would lay awake at night, crying inconsolably, because what would happen to her if she grew up, and couldn’t find a job, and would end up living on the streets? My child, at four, was so angry with her friend one day. ‘Mama! She wants to play princess, and I am so tired of playing princess. I want to play homeless!’ We would go to the mall, and instead of heading to the toy store, my child would sit on a bench, and ask me to pretend to offer her shelter and food because she had nowhere to live. A few months ago, she woke up at 3am, rigid with fear, because she was so afraid of taking a drink of alcohol as an adult, then becoming an alcoholic, then losing her friends and family, and finally, then death.

My child is gifted. She yowls and claws at her skin when putting on a shirt with an exposed seam. She cries and cries, because it burns her skin. When you scrape your knife across a plate, her little hands fly up to her little ears, and she winces and clenches her teeth. If you play music that has a synthesized voice, she runs out of the room and pleads with you to turn it off. She is so afraid of pain, and this is pain that we can’t see.

My child is gifted. She understands death. Her Papa, who she was so close with, she was like his little shadow, had her sat on his knee on a Thursday morning. By Sunday afternoon, he was dead. Warm hugs one day and gone the next. My child was two. She understood the concept of death. That one day you are present, your heart beats, you can love and kiss and hug, and in no time at all, all that’s left is an empty chair where you used to sit. Because of this understanding, my child cannot be alone. She is filled with fear when she senses that no one else is in a room with her. You can hear panic in her voice when she calls you, even if you’re just one room away. My child is six.

Last week she was reading a book. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the book decided to have a scene that was gruesome. It was real, it was concrete, and it was surely dangerous. Tossing the book aside, hysterical and crying and rocking and shaking, my child fell apart. She fell apart because she saw some random words, on some random page, in some random book, on some random day that made her feel fear.

My child is gifted, and my child is afraid. I think I understand.

comic relief.

this comes via http://www.nerdist.com/.

nsfw,  but really really really funny.

you should go check out kyle kinane’s comedy album at iTunes.

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