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Are You in Self-Destructive Savior Mode?

For those of you who work or volunteer with animals, I wanted to let you know that the new session of Compassion in Balance, my 8 week online class, starts June 5th. If you’d like to learn how to build compassion resilience, manage your stress, and feel less exhausted and guilty and more at peace with your work, then this class can help.

I know I’ve been out of touch for a while and I’m sorry this is the first thing I’m posting in months. The truth it, it was a long, brutal winter at my house. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you already know that my cat Gus and my dog Birdie both died just a few weeks apart from each other. I’m not ready to write about it in detail here, because Birdie was such a big part of this blog and telling you about losing her feels like another kind of ending that I’m just not ready for yet. One day.

But what I learned these past few months, as I struggled with my own grief, is that the lessons and tools I share in my compassion fatigue class really work. I knew this before, but everything I teach I just had to test drive all over again this winter. I wish I hadn’t needed to do that, but the silver lining is that I can say with even more confidence that the class strategies can help you.

I hate promoting my work. it always feels weird. But I hate that so many of you are suffering alone even more than I hate being uncomfortable, so I’m just going to make myself keep saying it: Compassion in Balance can help you manage compassion fatigue and reclaim the joy of working with animals.

The class will give you the tools you need to do engage with this emotionally challenging work in a different way, so you don’t have to suffer so much.

power is in balance quote

Here’s a little something I shared on Facebook today. I’ve read this passage from Perseverance many times and maybe it will speak to you as much as it does to me:

 

“What are our limits? How much more work, how many more causes can we realistically take on? How exhausted are we? What signals from our bodies are we denying? How much longer can we keep this up? Do we think we’re doing just fine playing the lone hero?

And finally, why are we afraid to ask these questions? Do we feel that once we see the truth we’ll just run away or withdraw or abandon everything and everybody?

Of course, seeing clearly who we are in this moment – our health, our motivation, the messages coming from our world – gives us the information we need to continue on.

Just not in self-destructive savior mode.”

– Margaret Wheatley

 

You don’t have to do this alone and you don’t have to hurt yourself to keep doing the work you care most about.

Join me this summer and let’s explore these questions and solutions together, okay?

All the class details: http://jessicadolce.com/compassion-balance-ecourse/

To sign up: direct enrollment page 

Use the 50% off code and save $74: SUMMEROFTHANKS

 

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Living with DINOS is now an ONLINE Class!

Holy moly, it’s been so long since my last post! Before I share the big news about the new DINOS online class, here’s the world’s fastest update/excuse, for anyone who cares:

Birdie is really old and has kidney disease now, so I spend all day cleaning up pee pads, but in between mopping, I squeezed in a few more semesters of graduate school, taught a few more compassion fatigue classes, went on a couple hundred walks with naughty dogs, and ate so much vegan ice cream (Thanks Ben. Thanks Jerry.), that I have to do yoga every morning, just so I can still touch my toes. More on that in a later post. 

But guess what else I did? I built an online class for people who live with DINOS!!

It took me 34 years to finish it (I started developing the idea during nap time in pre-school), but it’s DONE and OPEN now!

dinos-online-course-two

Here’s the scoop:

Living with DINOS, is an online self-study class designed to help stressed dog owners feel less burned out, so they can enjoy their dogs (and their lives) more. The course addresses the human issues – stress, conflicting emotions, and isolation – that many people who live with dogs with behavioral issues may experience. Tackling these areas helps to decrease caregiver fatigue.

The whole point of the class is to help folks stress less and have more fun.

It’s geared towards people who are new(ish) to living with a reactive, fearful, and/or aggressive dog and feeling lost or overwhelmed. But anyone who’s feeling conflicted or stressed about living with a challenging dog will get something helpful out of the course.

The class contains 12 simple lessons, 7 worksheets, and a bunch of awesome interviews with people like Dr. E’lise Christensen DVM DACVB, Melissa McCue McGrath CPDT, Sara Scott CPDT, and Kristin Buller LCSW.

Plus, you’ll have access to private discussion boards, so you can talk to one another.

To be clear, you’ll hear tons of general tips in my interviews with the pros (which may help you address the practical aspects of living with your dogs), but this is NOT a dog training class or a substitute for working with a training or behavior professional.

The class is about YOU (the human) and your needs. Think of it as a companion to any training or behavioral work you’re doing with a pro in your area.

You can read about the class in great detail here. 

All of your questions will likely be answered if you click on that link (so try that first if you’re scratching your head about something now).

The full price for the class is $38, but for you guys – my sweet readers – it’s just $19.

Here’s the coupon code: EARLYBIRD17

Just go to the sign up page and plug the code in at the bottom to save 50%!

The code expires on 2/15/17, so if you’re thinking of signing up some time this year, do yourself a favor and do it before that date, so you can save some $$.

You can start the class anytime you want after that and it’s self-paced (there are no specific times or dates that you need to be in the course), so there’s no rush to participate after you sign up.

The class never expires, so you can spend just a couple of days exploring it or keep coming back to the lessons and discussions for years.

To recap:

More info here. 

Sign up here. 

Use this code for 50% off through 2/15/17: EARLYBIRD17

High five!

p.s. If you’re a dog trainer, behavior consultant or vet behaviorist who likes the class and wants to share it with your clients who have DINOS, I’d love to offer you a discount code to share with them. Just email me (info at notesfromadogwalker dot com) and I’ll give you a special code for your clients that doesn’t expire.

Compassion Fatigue Help for People Who Work With Animals

Compassion in Balance, my online compassion fatigue course for people who work with animals, begins on June 6th, 2016!

 

If you’re a dog walker, dog trainer, shelter pro, rescue volunteer, vet tech, ACO, or any combination of the above, I hope you’ll join us this summer as we tackle compassion fatigue in animal welfare work. You can learn how to better care of yourself, while you care for the world.

boundaries bb.jpg

  • Are you wondering what healthy boundaries are and how to create them at work and at home?
  • Are you struggling to set limits on how much you give, so you can take time for yourself (without feeling guilty)?
  • Do the challenges and sorrows of your work with animals leave you feeling isolated, angry, or helpless?
  • Are you unsure if you have compassion fatigue, but want to find out?
  • Could you use a few stress reduction practices to help you become less reactive?
  • Are you so exhausted that you’re not sure what to do, but know you can’t keep going without making a change? 

 

This class can help.

 

Heather, a volunteer with a pit bull rescue, shared how CiB has changed her life:

“The class helped so much! I learned so many simple, helpful things and decided to form small new habits that have ended up making a huge impact on my mental state. Now I take breaks to breathe, eat, walk and play with my dogs. No matter what is going on, I take breaks now. And I am learning to say NO without feeling terrible (sometimes I say “no” and I feel joy welling up as I say it!) and I feel proud of myself afterward. I’ve also stopped working until 3am because I need boundaries and sleep! These are just a handful of the ways the class has helped me. There are many more!”

And guess what? Heather didn’t even finish the whole class! She got that out of doing about half of the course modules. Pretty neat, huh?

 

Metis, founder and volunteer of a 501c3 animal welfare non-profit had this to say about her experience with CiB:

“Compassion in Balance is the first compassion fatigue class I really “got”. I have taken workshops and seminars about the topic before, but Jessica’s experience in animal welfare and her easy going, humorous writing style really helped me understand compassion fatigue and how to address it in my life.

I suggest this course to anyone and everyone in a caring profession who wants to sustain a long and healthy career. Compassion fatigue might not seem like an issue to you yet – if not, consider the class preventative. If your feeling burned out, spend some time learning coping skills and strategies that will help you learn how to be happy while doing the work you love.”

 

If that sounds good to you, then I hope you’ll give yourself this class as a gift.

You really can make simple, yet powerful changes that will allow you to be well, while you do good work.

And I’ll be there every week for 8 weeks, guiding the way.

Compassion in Balance can be a game changer.

You can read more about the class and what other students had to say about it over here. 

Ready to sign up? Here’s the link. 

I hope you’ll join us this summer – class starts in just a few weeks!

 

 

Now Taking Questions!

Well, hello there stranger. Is it OK if I join you?

It’s been a long, long time since we last saw each other.

I’m sorry I didn’t write, but I want you to know that I think about you all the time.

It’s just that with the job and the other job and the job on top of that and the grad school and the old dog peeing on everything, I haven’t been able to think of anything to write during my five minutes of free time that I spend lying on the floor.

I’m embarrassed to admit that it was me who sent you that random text in January. You know, the one that said: SEND ALL THE COOKIES.

Can we just forget about that? Thanks, you’re a real friend.

Anywho, we’ve got some serious some catching up to do, don’t we?

First things first:

Imagine that a professional dog trainer, a veterinary behaviorist, a social worker, and a dog walker all offered to answer your most pressing questions about living with a reactive, fearful, aggressive, or just plain old weird dog.

What would you ask them?

I want to know. Tell me in the comments section.

Here’s why: I’m interviewing some pros for the upcoming DINOS online mini-class that I’ll be offering later this year and I want to make sure I ask them what you want to know.

I’m creating this class to help you guys feel less stressed, more connected to your dogs, and more empowered with good info. Plus you’ll have private discussion boards to talk with each other. Wheee!

The DINOS class isn’t a dog training class, although the info will pair nicely with any dog training you might be doing.

The class will include, among other things, a few recorded interviews with professionals who really understand the challenges you’re facing and have good advice we all need to hear.

So you tell me what questions you have for a: professional dog trainer, social worker who runs a support group for people who live with dogs who have behavior issues, and veterinary behaviorist.

I’ll choose a few of your questions to ask when I sit down to talk with them!

Speaking of questions…

And now for my most favorite thing ever: I’m answering the questions I get through my search results. I haven’t done this in years, but I love it and I wanted another round.

Here’s how it works:

When you type words into a search engine, like Google, results will pop up. If you click on a blog that came up in those search results, then the writer of the blog will see the exact words (the search terms) that you typed into the search engine, which led you to their blog post. Bloggers get a whole long list of the “search term results” that led people to their site.

These search terms crack me up. Sometimes they make me sad. And lots of times they’re good questions that deserve to be answered!

Without further ado, here’s a lightening round of search term Q+A:

 

“List of names for a pit bull dog”

Hoagie

Francis

Snack Pack

Prince Harry

Grandma

Bagel

Garbanzo Bean

Tushie

 

What can I say, I like carbs and old people. And rear ends.

 

pit bull in car

I don’t care what you call me, as long as you call me! Ba dump bump ching!

 

 

“Dog licking its balls”

To clarify, are you looking for photos or advice? Or is that you’re so stressed out by that awful slurping noise, which distracts you while you try to write important emails, that you were looking for an online support group? Help me to help you. Also, here’s the best ball licking cartoon out there.

 

“Why my dog doesn’t stand up for himself.”

Because he’s waiting for you to do it.

 

“Is it bad to let a dog dictate its life to you?”

It depends. Do you have an app to record them telling you their life story or will you have to take the dictation by hand? Because I can’t write as fast as my dog talks, so it would be a bad call for me personally. But maybe you’re a court stenographer, in which case you have the necessary skills to record your dog’s epic stories of relentless ball licking and how they learned to stand up for themselves when other dogs made fun of them for being named Tushie.

 

 

“I am a dog owner in Ireland but hate people with multiple dogs that are not kept on leashes and cant control them.”

Matching! Except I’m in America. Let’s be pen pals!

 

 

“tradmil for dog practice and make metirial Punjab”

Terrific! I’ll see you at 7.

Wait, huh?

Did your dog tell you to write that?

 

I sure do miss you guys. Remember, tell me what you want me to ask the smart kids when I interview them. Put those questions right in the comments for me to read!

Oh, and if you want to be the first to know when the DINOS class will run, please sign up for updates here! I’ll only email you about class info…no spam, ever.

 

 

How to Talk to Your Gynecologist About Euthanasia

If I tell someone that I work with dogs, it’s guaranteed that that person will ask me for advice about their dogs. This happens no matter where I am.

If I’m getting a massage, I get asked about house training problems. If I’m at the dentist, my hygienist wants to know how she can convince her mother not to be terrified of her pit bull (who is lovely, thank you very much). And when I’m at the gynecologist, my doctor is asking me about her elderly dog’s end of life issues.

Let me say this from years of experience with a variety of gynecologists who have nothing in common with one another except that they all like to talk to me about their dogs while they root around in my lady bits:

After someone’s had their hand in your vagina, it’s pretty easy to talk about euthanasia.

 

So there I was at my new doctor’s office, having never met her before, and she’s telling me about the wonderful dog her family adopted a few years ago from the animal shelter where I used to work. The dog, let’s call him Paps (ladies, are you with me here?), was pretty old now and had a whole host of expensive medical conditions.

His meds were running about $500 a month. My doc said she didn’t mind paying, even though that meant her family wouldn’t be able to afford a vacation this summer. She was really just so worried about her dog.

Was he ok? Was he suffering? Why didn’t she know if it was the right time to let him go?

Everyone kept telling her she’d “just know” when it was time.

 

photo credit: glamour magazine

photo credit: glamour magazine

 

Around this point in the conversation I wrapped that weird plastic sheet around me and sat up. “That’s not true for a lot of us. We don’t just know. Some dogs don’t magically tell us and we can’t figure it out, even though we love them. It’s ok if you don’t know.”

Tears. Hers.

She was relieved to know she wasn’t failing Paps.  Because you know what “you’ll know when it’s time” implies? That if you don’t know, then you suck at loving them.

Doc thought that if she didn’t know the answer to this seriously important question, then that meant she didn’t really know her dog. How awful is that? On top of being torn up that your dog is old and sick, now you have to question whether or not you’re a good dog owner because you don’t “just know”?

I know we mean well when we say this (I know I’ve said it in the past) and it is true that sometimes we do “just know.” But this common advice winds up not only failing, but hurting, a lot of good people.

So, why wasn’t he just passing away quietly in his sleep? Would that happen, she wondered?

Maybe. But with the level of medical care she was giving her dog, Paps, like so many of our pets, was receiving life-extending treatment. It’s not like the old days – for pets or humans. Today we treat a lot of conditions we couldn’t years ago and that means that both pets and people may get to experience a long period of old age. And with it comes full on decrepitude and peeing in our beds (when we’re sober). Which means we need to actively make a choice on their behalf.

So when is it the right time?, she asked.

I told her what so many people have told me over the 15 years I’ve been caring for their pets:

Waiting too long, because we can’t bear to let them go, often results in a shit-storm of guilt later. If we let our pets suffer, because we’re not ready to lose them, then months and years later we’re stuck with a lot of guilt about the unnecessary pain we put them through. Often, it’s better to err on the slightly too soon side, then the slightly too late side of things.

Disclaimer: When I say “soon”, I don’t mean that the minute they have an accident or sneeze or fall over we should rush to put them to sleep (if that were the case I would have sent Birdie to meet her maker – Charles Schulz, I think – about 4 years ago). I really mean when things are already quite serious and the end is near.

But how will I know?

I told her about the Quality of Life scale which would help her measure the, uh, quality, of her dog’s life. She was so relieved to know this existed and that she would have something to help her measure this seemingly immeasurable thing. She thanked me profusely.

Tears again. Both of us this time. And a hug.

Then she stuck her hand back up my hoo-ha and talked to me about my cervix.

Later that night, when she opened my email that shared a link to the Quality of Life scale, Doc was sitting in her sons’ room waiting for her boys to fall asleep. Her boys wanted to know why she was crying. It was because, thanks to the scale, she now realized that old Pap had some life left to enjoy.

And when the time comes for her to make that inevitable and excruciating choice for her family member, now she knew that she didn’t have to hope that she’d “just know.” She’d have some help.

End of life issues are so complicated. People shouldn’t have to hope that a dog walker with no filter and no shame comes into their office for a birth control refill just so they can get sound advice about when they should put their dog to sleep.

Instead let’s make a point to talk about the hard stuff. Leave out the judgement and shaming and let’s do everything we can to help our family, friends, and clients be better prepared, so that they can make choices that support real quality of life for both them and their pets.  And veterinarians, can you please do me a solid and make sure this Quality of Life scale (and hospice information) is easy to access? It’ll save me some weird moments next time I’m in stirrups at the doctor’s office. Many thanks.

 

weimaraner

 

Here are some resources about figuring out when it’s time, including the quality of life scale:

The “HHHHHMM” Quality of Life Scale by Dr. Alice Villalobos

Minimizing the stress of euthanasia by Dr. V of Pawcurious

How to say goodbye by Dr. Andy Roark (with other ways to measure quality of life)

 

And because I get asked about euthanasia for behavioral issues ALL the time, here are some wonderful, non-judgmental, realistic resources to help with that brutally painful and individual decision (really folks, we need to do a better job of openly talking about this too. I’ve had enough with the shaming and bullying around euthanasia. It’s not helping anyone when we go ALL CAPS about something as complex as this):

When is it time to put down a dog who is aggressive to people? by Patricia McConnell

When is it time to put a problem dog down? by Casey Lomonaco

Euthanizing Aggressive Dogs: Sometimes It’s the Best Choice by Phyllis DeGioia, editor Veterinary Partner and VetzInsight

The burden on euthanizing an aggressive dog by Mel of No Dog About It

Goodbye Huckleberry by Ana Poe – I read this years ago and it’s never left me. Such brave, compassionate, honest writing.

 

Meet The Rebel Dog Walker of Williamsburg

 

The other day a reporter from The Forward contacted me to share a story she produced about Gedalya Gottenger, a Hasidic Jew, who decided to become a dog walker.

Hasidic Jews are notoriously afraid of (or at the very least avoid) dogs*.  So a Hasidic dog walker is not your run-of-the-mill professional pooper scooper.

This guy is breaking cultural norms every time he leashes up. I was intrigued.

What I dug about his story is that although his choice to work with dogs is an act of rebellion in his community, the bottom line is that he walks dogs for the same reason I do:

“Dogs are awesome and, uh, I get paid to hang out with them even, so what’s not to like?”

Ain’t that the truth.

I thought you guys might find his story interesting! Take a look at this short video about Gedalya (featuring an adorable brindle dog). You can also read more about him here.

A Hasid’s Best Friend from Jewish Daily Forward on Vimeo.

 

Sending my colleague Gedalya a poop bag high five, from one Jewish professional dog walker to another!

 
*So are lots of people…of all religions. Which is why you should always have your dog under your full control. Putting a leash on  your dog also gives others, who may be panicking at the sight of your dog, a clear visual signal that your dog is connected to you and not about to run up and knock them over. Remember, fear isn’t logical – have compassion, use a leash, and spare someone a cold sweat. 

 

 

New England: Compassion Fatigue Workshop This Weekend!

Dear New England Posse,

Just a quick note to let you know that I’ll be in Wakefield, MA this Saturday, October 3rd giving a full day compassion fatigue workshop hosted by the New England Dog Training Club.

This seminar, designed for people who work or volunteer with animals in any capacity, is open to the public and you can earn CEs!

map compassion fatigue

I’ve got all kinds of things planned for this weekend….interested?

We’ll be covering six strategies and numerous tools we can use to transform and manage our experience of compassion fatigue, so that we can continue to do ethical, effective, and sustainable work with animals.

The full day seminar identifies what compassion fatigue is, its symptoms, and contributing factors. We’ll also take a look at stress management and self-care practices. You’ll have the opportunity to participate in discussions, experiential activities, take self-assessments, reflect and connect with the positive aspects of your work, practice a stress-reduction technique or two, and create a self-care plan.

We’ll be busy learning how to be well, while we do good!

Spots are still available. Join us, won’t you?

 

Please note: This seminar is not a substitution for professional mental health care. If you’re suffering from clinical depression or are having suicidal thoughts, please seek professional help.

 

When: 9:30am – 4:30pm on October 3rd, 2015

Where: Knights of Columbus Hall, 570 North Ave, Wakefield, MA

Cost: $80, $65 for shelter workers and groups of 8 or more. $10 lunch (optional)

CEUs: 9 – IAABC
CEUs: 6 CCPDT Vet/Tech CE

 

Register Here!

High five and hope to see you there!

Jessica

Free Compassion Fatigue Webinar!

Howdy! For those of you who work or volunteer with animals, I’ve got a little something that you might be interested in: a free webinar about compassion fatigue.  Here are the deetz:

 

cf

 

Compassion Fatigue: What You Need To Know! is a FREE webinar created especially for people who work or volunteer with animals.

Join me live on Tuesday 9/15/15 at 7pm EST for a 40 minute whirlwind tour of compassion fatigue, followed by a 20 minute Q+A session.

You’ll get to see my smiling mug via a video feed and you’ll be able to hear me through your computer’s speakers. During the Q+A portion of the webinar you can communicate with me by typing into the chat box. All you need to join is your computer and an internet connection.

You can register here. Can’t make the live webinar? Register anyway and watch the recording when you have time!

As you may already know, compassion fatigue is the natural consequence of stress resulting from caring for and helping traumatized or suffering people or animals. Almost all of us who work or volunteer with animals experience compassion fatigue at some point.But hardly anyone talks about it. So even though it’s a normal reaction to the stress of our work, we think we’re the only ones who are struggling. Those of you who have been reading my blogs for a while know that I was deeply impacted by compassion fatigue. I wrote about it here. 

I’ve created this introductory webinar – a very brief tour of a very big subject – to help people who work with animals get access to the basics of compassion fatigue: what it is, what the symptoms look like, and a quick tour of what we can do about it!

power is in balance quote

 

And for those of you who already know about compassion fatigue and are ready to meet this occupational hazard head-on with the help of a supportive online community, my 8 week online class, Compassion in Balance, starts 9/28. You can learn more about this totally unique class, designed specifically for people who work or volunteer with animals, on my website.

Ok, off to walk the dogs now (they don’t care about my webinars or classes at all, can you believe it?!).

 

 

 

 

Coming this Summer: Attack of the Atomic Cat Turds!

Well, hello there. It’s been awhile, huh?

The past few months I’ve been doing all kinds of serious stuff like: attending conferences and trainings, creating and teaching a new compassion fatigue class for UFL, and going to grad school.

But that’s not what I want to tell you about. After all these months of total silence on the blog, I’m back to tell you about:

Cat turds.

C’mon, you know you love it.

So, here’s the story. Our cat Penelope (pronounced Peena-loupe, like cantaloupe) was diagnosed with hyperthyroid disease this year. Normally, I’m bummed when our pets whip up new and expensive diseases for us to treat, but it was actually a huge relief to find out that Penelope was sick.

For months prior to her diagnosis Penelope had turned up the My-Cat-Is-A-Dick dial to eleven. For those of you who don’t use Spinal Tap as a reference guide to life, eleven is as high as it goes.

Always a trouble maker, Penelope had upped her game to the max. Her move: sprinting around the house at top speed and launching herself at all of us. And by all of us I mean the other cats, the dogs, friends and family, houseplants, the walls, the windows, the furniture, and all the spaces in between.

She attacked our furniture with so much passion (and by passion I mean a certain, er, how do you say, psychotic, single-minded obsession with demon-spawn-like focus) that it not only destroyed a chair, but it nearly drove our dog Boogie out of his sensitive mind.

Here’s the thing: I am not happy when Penelope scratches the furniture. Boogie is not happy when I am not happy. Therefore, when Penelope creeps up next to a chair and just starts thinking about scratching it, Boogie starts whining.

And if she scratches, he runs over and gives her a nose-butt. Boogie does not enjoy this. He’s not cut out to be a Sheriff. Or any other form of full time law enforcement. Maybe a constable on a small island with a population of 19 in the winter. Maaayyybe.

Penelope attacking the furniture all day, as if her very existence depended on it, was driving Boogie bananas. Which meant it was driving me bananas. I couldn’t get any work done between the cat scratching and the dog whining and the constant reading of Miranda rights.

So when I found out that Penelope had hyperthyroid and that being a professional asshole is actually a symptom of this disease, I was relieved. It meant the Penelope I’d known and loved for the past 12 years might still be in there somewhere.

The only problem was that I couldn’t get her to take her new medication. Not in pill pockets. Not in wet food. Not as a compounded chicken flavored chewable treat. Not as a compounded chicken flavor liquid poured over and mixed into organic cat food with prayers from me to Judy Garland who, for no good reason, I imagine to be the Patron Saint of Crazy Cat Ladies, that Penelope would just eat it because omg, I have so much work to do and I can’t spend another minute of my life doing the Methimazole Shuffle to get my cat to take her meds.

This happened twice a day.

judy cat

FYI: Judy starred in “Gay Purr-ee”, an animated movie about cats, which you can see here.

 

After collapsing from feline-induced-stress and near bankruptcy from starting a world-class collection of unswallowed Methimazole, we decided to take out a 2nd mortgage on our house and spring for Radioactive Iodine treatment. Basically it’s an expensive injection (over $1k) of iodine that emits radiation to destroy overactive tumor cells and cures cats of hyperthyroid. Medication only treats it, this ends it.

And by Garland, I needed this to end.

But here’s the best part. After she got the injection, Penelope was radioactive.

After getting the injection, it’s illegal to take your cat home until their levels of radioactivity drop below a certain level. This can take a week or two. So Penelope spent 10 days with the best vet tech in Maine (Hi Kathi!) and we all spent 10 days at home enjoying peace in the living room for the first time in 2015. I mean, er, we missed her a lot and were so, so, so sad she was away.

Finally I got the call that Penelope was only a little radioactive and legally I was now allowed to take her home.

But you can’t just take a radioactive cat home. There are RULES and PROTOCOLS.

1. Do not allow your radioactive cat to sleep in your bed.

2. Wash your hands after you pet your radioactive cat.

3. Try not to fall asleep on the couch with your radioactive cat lying on your chest because you’re not supposed to touch them for more than 20 minutes at a time and that nap was definitely an hour and you might grow a third boob where your radioactive cat was lying.

4. Do not throw out your radioactive cat’s RADIOACTIVE POOP.

atomic attack

 

For two weeks, you will be required to scoop your radioactive cat’s turds twice a day into a double bag, while wearing rubber gloves and holding your breath. You should also avert your eyes, just in case one of the nuclear turds tries to make eye contact with you.

The poop must not be stored in your home. Instead, you take the atomic cat turds and dispose of them in a plastic tote, such as a Rubbermaid container, with a locking lid that is lined with a heavy duty garbage bag.

Note: “This tote should be stored outside and away from small children, other pets, and wild animals.”

I don’t know where that magical no-living-things, not even small wild children, might be on your property, but we settled for a random spot on our patio in our back yard.

After this two week poop quarantine is over (which you know because now you are the kind of person who has “Poop Quarantine Ends Today” in your Day Planner), then you add the litter boxes and scoop to the Toxic Tote of Doom. Finally, seal this poop package in three hundred yards of duct tape.

And then you wait. For 80 days.

Legally, you cannot dispose of the Atomic Cat Turds for 80 more days. Because they’re emitting radioactive poop particles.

So you’ll drag yourself back to your Day Planner, the one that you had hoped to one day write things in like: “10 hour massage today” and “8pm – meet Tina, Mindy, and the Amys for margarita night”, and instead you flip to the end of September and mark:

“Throw Out Turds Today.”

Because that’s your life.

Note: all of this is because you have a private septic system. If you’re lucky enough to live with a public sewer system, there’s still some atomic turd gymnastics you’ll have to do, but it’s not nearly as intense. Amateur stuff really. 

And if you’re like me, then you kinda love all of it, because despite having a nuclear kitty, a schedule that revolves around crap, and an empty bank account, after a few weeks you’ll get your old cat back.

Today, Penelope has returned her former self, the one that I love. The one that does not give my pit bull acid reflux or destroy furniture in a single swipe. She still makes direct eye contact with me – to make sure I’m watching – then knocks framed photos right of the wall. But that just means she’s healthy. Praise Judy.

 

 

 

Surprise! I Made a Book: The Official Guide to Living with DINOS

Shut the front door. I made a book! The Official Guide to Living with DINOS is on sale. Right now.

WHAT?! Yeah girl, it is. Look at how pretty:

DINOS book cover

This tiny book took me so long to get done that I thought it would never happen. But let’s be honest.  It once took me an entire year to make a tri-fold pamphlet.. I’m nothing if not slow moving.

Weighing in at just over 60 pages, my book is technically a booklet. I think the let makes it sounds more mysterious. Like it’s a French woman who, unlike me, knows how to wear a scarf the right way.

The booklet is a collection of ten lessons I’ve put together to help anyone who is living with DINOS for the very first time. Some lessons are brand new. Some are old favorites from the blog. But they’re all in one place now, so that the next time you come across someone who is new to living with DINOS and they’re having a panic attack, you can say,

“Breathe into this paper bag, then check out Jessica’s booklet The Official Guide to Living with DINOS. It won’t teach you how to wear a scarf, but it will make life with your dog way easier.”

And no, the book isn’t about dog training. It won’t tell you how to fix your dog’s problems (I’ll leave that up to the experts). The guide is all about how to make it through the day with a dog that needs space. It’s a 60 page pep talk with practical tips.

I know you guys with fearful and reactive dogs are the ones struggling the most, so you were at the front of my thoughts as I wrote this. I’m hoping that dog trainers, dog walkers, and shelter workers who have clients that are feeling really down about their fearful and reactive dogs can offer up the booklet as support. So instead of feeling isolated and overwhelmed, the newbies will feel empowered and excited about living with their not-so-perfect dogs.

Here’s a look at the Table of Contents so you can get a feel for what’s inside:

contents

I was definitely writing the booklet for people who are brand new to the DINOS scene, but I think some of you who have been around since day one will really enjoy this too.

Jenny Williams, Team DINOS member and creator of the 66 Dogs Project, has been reading my ramblings for years. I was truly lucky that she gifted me her brilliant editing skills for the book and after reading an earlier draft, this is what she wrote about it:

“Reading this I laughed, I cried, and I took snuggle breaks with my dog to remind myself of how lucky I am to have him in my life, in spite of (and because of) his challenges.”

 

Crying! Laughing! Snuggling! What more can you ask for from a booklet, right? Seriously though, Jenny’s feedback was the kindest and I hope – down to my toes – that you all feel the same when you read it.

You can pick up a print copy or ebook on Amazon.

Or you can buy a print copy straight from Createspace.

Finally, a big fat thank you to Jenny for the editing and feedback, Nat and Bill for the gorgeous cover design, and my mom for the encouragement, proofreading, and for pointing out that using the term “stewardess” in the book was old fashioned and kind of sexist and, uh, maybe I should use “flight attendant” instead. Good call. Thanks mom.

But, wait. There’s more!

Want to win a free print copy of The Official Guide to Living with DINOS?

Here’s what you have to do:

1. In the comments tell me: Your dog just published their first book. What’s the title?

For example: Birdie’s would be This Beagle Don’t Bark: A Memoir 

And Boogie’s would be How to Touch Your Butt to Your Forehead: Maximizing Your Unique Talents and Creating the Life You Want*

*He’s into self-help books.

2. The deadline to leave your comment is Monday 4/27/15 at midnight EST.

3. One comment will be chosen using randomizer. On Tuesday 4/28 I’ll announce the winner here and on Facebook. I’ll also contact the winner via email to get their mailing address, so I can send out the book!

So go, one tell me: What’s the title of your dog’s book?

 

4/28/15: The winner was just drawn….Congratulations goes to Hannah of Eriesistibull! Thanks to everyone who commented. Your creative answers always make me laugh!!