Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Tale (End) of Two Monkeys
Once, my sister had told me, "maybe you just don't understand death." It was her way to trying to oversimplify why I didn't make it to a relative's funeral. I never really got into it with her, but she was wrong, as she usually is. That had nothing to do with it.
In reality, I am more comfortable with it than most people, but it is not even that. I know all about death, from a biological perspective. I know how much time it takes for each stage of cell death to occur, what is happening inside the body, how long until rigor mortis sets in. I have held hundreds for their certain death, and some died in my arms before we could expect it, or plan for it. I know how quickly I need to tag 'em and bag 'em before the smell starts to penetrate the air. I have sat with a stethescope while a literal wall of dead dogs were piling up before me, verifying death before each body was taken to the cooler. I have walked an old horse over snowy fields with her side cut open, trying to make it to the kill area before she keeled over. I have killed many, many times myself, dogs and cats and a few other species.
I know animals are not exactly like people. I know there is something different. The biology is the same, but our emotional attachment is different. We see humans as intrinsically more valuable than animals, even with our own pets. I know a lot of my vet tech friends consider their pets to be like their children...however, I also know that most of them are like me, in that for their human children, there would be no bounds to saving a life or finding a cure for a terminal disease, but our pets come with a financial limit, and in the end, we would all consider euthanasia as a viable alternative to prolonging their suffering, or reducing the impact on our finances.
These days, I am not going over the bereavement process and asking clients to decide on body care, or pick the urn that best represents the way they want to remember their pet. My patients don't have names, they have numbers. Part of the reason we don't name them is to reduce the emotional attachment to them. I always have to tell myself I love them collectively, not individually. I tell myself that not to make myself feel better about their inevitable deaths, but to feel better about the fact that most of the time, their deaths don't affect me emotionally. It is a reminder that I still care, that I am not so blase about death that it no longer bothers me.
Most days, I shake off their deaths like a pair of dirty scrubs at the end of a workday. Death is a part of the job. For a moment, I did the same thing when I was told the news about a couple of animals I had been working closely with. I received the news with the same shrug of my shoulders and little frown of sadness. I saw with my own eyes that their injuries were catastrophic, and accepted rationally that euthanasia was the only alternative.
Later, I began to engage emotionally with their death, and in this, I realized that some part of death is still a mystery to me. Human death we can convince ourselves to accept through our faith. What I mean is the question of where the soul goes. It is unfathomable to believe that the spirit of a person is simply just gone when the body stills, so we attach cultural or spiritual beliefs to its final destination. We tell ourselves that spirit is now in Heaven, or watching over us, or waiting to be reborn in another body, another lifetime.
Many people who work with animals believe that animals have no souls. I don't believe this myself, but we don't do much thinking on what happens to their souls after death. In my mind, there is a beautiful grassy meadow somewhere on the other side, with dogs chasing elusive squirrels in bodies free of pain. This maybe only a personal myth I created to help me deal with constant death around me, some sort of prevention against what they term "compassion fatigue", a real syndrome among my industry.
What do we define as the soul of a person? Their personality, the "inner core', their psychological attributes? If that is so, how can we look at animals and think they have no souls? To me, animals always have personality. There are different ways of approaching animals with different personalities. Based on their responses towards, say, a human approaching them, you could classify them on their personalities and treat them in accordance. A dog who is predominately fearful is handled in a different physical manner than one who is aggressive.
And I knew the personalities of the ones involved. Twelve animals that I had known for two years were placed in the same room, with the same set of controls. Two were put together, and two were put down. I knew the personalities of everyone in that room.
And yet I didn't ask for an ID number. It's like I didn't want to know, wanted to stumble upon it for next documentation and try to put the pieces on it. I was familiar with each one, how they responded to things. I had classified their personalities. I didn't need to know their number to know how things might have gone down.
And now I wondered where it went, where did it go when that needle hit home. Did the patient just die, and that's all she wrote? Is there a heaven for monkeys up there?
Do monkeys have soul? Do they ascend in any meaningful way? Is there a great reward for them up there, for spending their life in a cage, waiting for their turn to die for mankind?
I hope so. And I do love them. Sometimes I think God is working through me, or allowing me to work for them, as directed by him. Is it all part of some grand design?
The problem is, what happened was something everyone thought I would try, at some point down the road. Maybe, but I was years away from it, I felt. It was a wild risk. Yet, it was performed by...not me. I would not have attempted that, but now that someone has, I feel the eyes upon me.
Lord. Lead, guide, and direct me.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Barney Smith's Toilet Seat Museum, San Antonio TX
He had traveled to each location Jesus had visited, and collected this pottery from each location as he went. That whitish one second to the left is from Garden of Getheseme

The Geocache Toilet Seats # 2 and #3.

From the palace in Baghdad

This one has a piece of the Berlin Wall, and stones from WWII concentration camps

Amazing man, full of passion. I spent an hour there listening to him go on about each piece.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

One of the Best Stories from this Weekend
Sunday, July 12, 2009
hardings found A Foodie's Paradise (Traditional Cache)

Okay, funny story about this cache. I am in town for a dog show, and was staying closer to the Alamo, but wanted to come this way to see Barney Smith's Toilet Seat Museum. Apparently, I left my GPSr on or something, and it drained the battery and I had brought no extras. I didn't anticipate needing them! Well, now I had to find batteries, which meant a store, one that was open early on a Sunday. Luckily, I took the right path (led my instinct about these things I guess) and ended up here. Only, I had no idea this was the place the cache was in. Well, I had gotten some great salami and cheese here along with the batteries, and on the way out of the store, the cashier and I were talking, and she was saying this was the only grocery store close to downtown at all. Amazing.Once I got the batteries, I couldn't get reception for so long that I had driven north and west of here by about a mile and a half, and did the caches I had planned over there, and made my way here for the cache...ending up where I started at. How wild. At first I almost gave up on the cache, but it was just blending really well. Left a TB. Thanks!

Monday, July 06, 2009



I spent my Fourth of July with my best friend and our kids. We checked out the festivities planned in The Woodlands and spent all day swimming, going to parks, and watching fireworks with the kids. The night before, we had gone out to a bar together. Of all the great fun we had during the sixteen hours or so we spent together, the best part, the part I will always remember, was at the end of the Saturday night. Both of the little ones had nodded off, and the bigger kids were outside with my husband and the neighbors, and she and I were just having some girl time. We were standing outside my back porch and she asked me a question about how something I had planned on Thursday worked out for me. We got a good laugh out of the fact that in all that time we had spent together, we had never got past talking about the events of Friday and Saturday. Then, I told her this story, which had us laughing so hard, at my expense, that we were doubled over with our legs crossed trying not to laugh so hard we peed ourselves.
I can't duplicate the story the way I told it. There is something about the written word that is different from true storytelling in person. I'll try to recreate it, though.
Thursday, I had been asked to do a presentation at another company for an audience of people that were much more highly educated than myself on my particular field of expertise. The presentation had actually been moved up a week, so I was kind of thrown off mentally by that, and also by the presence of my boss and her friend, who is the "boss" of the program I was presenting to. In the past four months, I had been asked to give a similar presentation to people within our company, but we are low-tech here and so all the new-fangled presentation devices were kind of throwing me off. On the podium were the microphones and the computer screen with my presentation on it, which was projected on to a big screen with a teleprompter up front on the floor.
There were three presenters that day, and the first one was the "big boss", who runs the entire department and has lots of letters behind her name. She gave a presentation on anatomy and physiology that had me feeling intimidated. Then my boss spoke, also with many letters behind her name, but not as many, and then there was me, with at least half as much education as anyone else and a "fluffy" topic. All these things combined had me a little nervous when I got up to talk. I'm blaming what happened next on all that.
When I got up to the podium and started my presentation, for some reason I walked AWAY from the podium and went up to the floor level, reading my presentation from the teleprompter a' la karoake style. What the hell was I doing? I realized my mistake after the first slide, and headed back to the podium and the mics. However, I was so flustered that the rest of it came out of my mouth like a robot talking. I was trying so hard to not make more mistakes that I was wooden and stiff up there. Also, I was dismayed that all this video footage I had gotten to make my presentation "come alive" would not play correctly.
At the end of the presentation, I sat down in my seat, beating myself up over not being able to "shine" with a stellar speaking performance, when the "boss lady" leaned over at me. I was taken aback with what she said.
"Hey, listen, " she says, "I run this other program at another college, too, and I would like to have you come do this same presentation for those students. Are you interested in doing that?"
Bahahahaha! J and I died over that one. Not what I was expecting her to say at ALL after that!

Sunday, July 05, 2009


at The Wines of Colorado
This is where we had lunch on the day of our tenth wedding anniversary. We sat by this creek with a bottle of wine and sampled some good food. We highly recommend the pulled pork. We each tasted five wines before deciding on a Reisling from Plum Creek Cellars. Good times.

Fondue for Two in Manitou at The Mona Lisa

This is where we had dinner that night. We chose the Old World Cheese, the wild game entree, and the Milk Chocolate for dessert. It is very good, very pricey, and an experience worth having at least once. This was my second time here. I went here when Ted and I were first dating with an old boyfriend and we got in a big fight over it. I remembered it as being a little better than it was this time, but I think that is because the wild game was a little too adventurous for me. I find elk meat to be much tougher than beef. We got so full here on food and wine that we were worthless for anything else after this, and curtailed all planned additional activities...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The objective was clear: first thing, a cemetary cache. He was ready to go there the night before, but I didn't want to get caught in a unfamiliar graveyard in the middle of the night. Instead, I offered first thing in the morning, after some gourmet hotel coffee.
We drove back out to Manitou Springs. "This is a little bit more like I remember it," he said, as we drove down the main street on a quiet Sunday morning.
The day before, the street had been jammed with people - the normal tourists, residents, and a race through Garden of the Gods that started near the park we had gone to. Lots of freaking cars. This morning, the streets were slightly dewy and we saw only a couple of cars along the way to the backroads cemetary behind the school.
It took us a few times of circling to find the right road. Welcome to geocaching. Sometimes a little planning and Google Earth helps that aspect, particularly in a strange town. And Manitou is definitely a strange town....
So, we arrive and start looking around, although not in the same places. He wanders off to check out the graves and I wander off to find a piece of tupperware wrapped in camo tape near some trees.
After this, we decide we are going to take a hike. We get in the car and start driving around the backroads, looking for the right little fork that would give us best access to The Intemann Trail.
We kept circling, and coming back into the neighborhood that rose along the hill. After a few false turns, we came to a road came High Road.
Well, we just had to take it.
Hairpin turns. No guard rail along the side. I could see sheer down the hill from my window, and it had me a little freaked out. We kept thinking the road was going to end in someone's driveway, but we also never saw a "No Outlet" sign, so we just kept going, past little cottages painted with murals across them, or with a unique statue, or construction. Round and round, and higher and higher, we went.
Until it was time to come down. Funny, I can't remember if the road ended, or if we just gave up the ghost. At any rate, we headed back down, still following the GPS arrow, and getting closer.
Until we end up back where we started. In the graveyard. Only we keep going, back to the back parking lot. Right in front of us in the Intemann Trail, and we are 0.15 to the cache.
Only that's mountain miles. That's switchbacks and uphill climbs, that's a gain in elevation to us Texans, and a heck of a hike on a warm day.
It seemed to go on forever, but at the same time, I never wanted it to end. There was no place I would rather be than where I was right then.
And we saw things out there.
Big things, little things, things made from some kind of amazing geological sequence. Things crafted in nature, and blossoming out for all to enjoy. The trail itself was beautiful, with little shoals of fools gold lighting up in the sun.
The one thing we didn't find was the cache. We followed the GPSr and went along the trail for about an hour. We stopped at the suggested waypoint for leaving the trail, and headed up a dry creek bed littered with sparking shoal. It got a little bit thicker, and steeper, around the time we got to "GZ", or the spot we were supposed to be looking in.
He went high. Figures. I went low. I looked on the east, and he looked on the west. Both of us came up empty handed.
Then he wanted to go down and try another apporach. I didn't want to do that, because the directions clearly stated to exit the trail at that location and head the 400 feet over this way, so it had to be here. The clue was "in some bush". That was kind of hard to interpret, exactly, but at least it gave us a place to start.
We walked back together to the trail, but then we disagreed on what direction to take from here. I was worried we didn't have enough fluids with us to attempt what he was considering, and thought we should go back.
End result was he went off by himself while I watched from the trail. We lost visual contact quickly, when he went off around a switchback, but we had verbal contact...for a while at least.
Meanwhile, back at the trail, I was getting antsy thinking about that unfound cache back there. So I went back to look....twice. No dice.
I had about half of a large Vitamin water in my hands, and occasionally I took a swallow, but mostly I was saving it for him. He was going to need it. He had gotten way high up there, and occasionally I would see the red flash of his shirt, or hear him skid on rocks.
he had to return, defeated. He couldn't get within 100 feet of it from that angle.
I handed him the water, and refrained from telling him I told you so.
"Let's go back."
The walk back was so much more enjoyable. Being able to take your eyes off the GPSr is a blessed thing.
And after all that hiking, so was getting back to the car.
"You know," he said, as we drove away. "I think that was my favorite did-not-find ever."
Mine too.