Sprocket Drama

Many people have asked about Sprocket, and while he is feeling better and no longer running a fever, we still do not know what is, or was, wrong with him. All of the tests the specialist originally ran have come back negative, so all former conjectures as to the problem are off. He’s had no fever for days, but is still moving about a little tenderly so we are continuing him on pain medication for now.

I am inserting photos of current and former pets into this post, so you’ll have to excuse the picture quality, because most of these were taken before I knew (or cared to know) anything about photography. But first, Sprocket:


At our last trip to the dog neurologist, she pressed on his joints and said he no longer appeared to be in pain anywhere but around his tailbone, so I don’t know what to do with that. Last time she was sure he had this virus that causes all-over inflammation in the joints but the test was negative. She ran more bloodwork (third time  since this started) then told us Sprocket needs to see another specialist at the center, because now they’re thinking it’s a bone marrow infection. Oooookay. We called our regular vet out of frustration over all this, and he encouraged us to go ahead and meet with the next specialist, see what he has to say, then stop looking for answers if whatever that one recommends doesn’t work. Once we reach that point, he says we should just keep an eye on him, monitor his pain level, help him be comfortable, and hope whatever it is passes. The positive thing is that other than some random pain that seems to be moving around, he is behaving as he always has; he is bright-eyed and friendly, and eating a ridiculous amount of food. So, no one is concerned he’s going to die anytime soon- except Doug and I of course. But so far no one is seeing anything to cause alarm in that regard, and he’s certainly had every test known to man by now, including x-rays and ultrasounds. So we’re trying to reassure ourselves and stay calm.

Ramone – after he died we adopted Simon

In fact, the two of us got to talking last night, and we realized that throughout our pet-owning years this very thing has happened more often than going to a vet, taking tests, and getting definitive answers. This is the third mystery illness Sprocket has had alone. We had one cat, Yoshimi, who only lived five years and was constantly sick – every test in the world was administered and no cause ever found. We are coming to accept that we are unusual pet owners in two ways: 1) we take our pets in at the first sign something is amiss, while most people wait longer. While this is probably what saved Sprocket’s life when he had distemper as a pup, for the most part it only costs us money and creates confusion, because it’s simply too early in the game to know what’s going on; and 2) we push things farther than most people, and continue to look for an answer long after others would have stopped. In short, we simply are expecting much more from these veterinarians than they are able to provide; probably because we think of our pets as our children and expect them to be treated as such when they are sick. But the service providers just don’t have the capability – not even the so-called specialists. Moving on.

Pets 001
Penny with Bickley; he got cancer and had to be put down. Sprocket came next.

I must tell you about out latest billing experience though, because it’s another winner. Doug had noticed that in the past the receptionist waited to ring us up until after we had out dog back in our possession, which led to distraction and getting overcharged. So, when the person checking us out this time said we needed to wait until we got our dog to pay, we insisted that they “ring us up” first. What that consists of here is the front desk person looking at the computer, typing in a name, and reading off a total to the customer. What was recited to us was $1482 and some change, then a hand was outstretched to take our debit card. Instead of paying, Doug asked for a printed statement, and when we got it, we saw we’d been charged for the ultrasound they performed on Sprocket twice, so we asked that one of them be removed. At this point the receptionist was very confused, as if she’d never had to do this before, so she called back to the administrative offices for assistance. As soon as she said our last name, there was all sorts of commotion on the other end of that phone – remember, we’ve raised a ruckus over charges here before, to the point of calling the owner of the company (who laughed at us and dared us to call the BBB).

Yoshimi, our sickly kitty.

Long story short? At the end of that frantic phone conversation we received a new bill – for FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS. That’s right – a few simple questions for clarification of our charges resulting in them lopping almost a thousand dollars off our bill. Now, I’m sorry people, but whether or not vets can make a decent living, this is not the way to get around it. To routinely overcharge by that amount is pure scumbaggery, even if it’s not illegal (according to the owner). After we left, we were so pissed we did not keep the original printout with the $1500 total so we could show the comparison to our vet, or to anyone who doesn’t want to believe that this place is as bad as we say it is. But we forgot to get it back from them before we left.

My beloved first pet, Wiley – little rat terrier found in a ditch when he was a pup. He held on to age 17 and I was heartbroken when we finally had to put him down.

We are going to go back to this clinic one more time, to see whatever specialist can determine if there’s a problem with his bone marrow. But then we are good and done – at least with this place. And I seriously doubt they will try to overcharge us this time. If nothing else, it’s clear they know our name and don’t want to even deal with us anymore, so most likely they’ll suck it up and charge one of their customers fairly!

And last but not least, let’s not forget:

simon red


Turns out I didn’t have as many house photos as I thought I did. But I went ahead and edited a few of the sweet cat I bonded with while staying in the guest house last weekend – I never did ask what her name was, and nobody told me, so I have named her Gertie. She never would sit still long enough for me to get a decent shot, but I managed to pull together a few that weren’t a total blur.


Any time I came near her she’d crawl out from under the little table where she hangs and demand my attention. OK, she didn’t have to demand, she got it just by being cute.

Yes, my sister-in-law did stamp turkey tracks into the concrete of her guest house. Did I mention she’s a stickler for details?

Gertie also liked to rub her head against the metal stair railing; she’d bang it so hard you could hear it ring out like a gong. I don’t think she’s into self-abuse, just being an enthusiastic cat.

I don’t know why, but I like this picture.

Here is a picture of the water silo as seen from my bedroom window. I don’t know why I like this picture either, it’s just water storage – but I do.


And here is a shot of the new house, although this isn’t all of it. It’s longer, but I was too lazy to continue walking backwards to get it all into the shot. Yes, I really did just say that.


And this is a photo of a painting made by my husband’s grandmother. My sister-in-law had this spot over the dining table set up for this painting in particular; it has its own special light beaming down on it.


Their grandmother and grandfather moved to some land in Big Bend at some point in their lives, building a house of stone there with their own two hands and basically hiding out from the world in the middle of the desert. My SIL loved going out there and spending time with them. In a way she’s created her own place out in the country to mimic theirs, albeit more refined and less deserted than her grandparents’ place. Apparently that old stone house is still standing but has been abandoned for some time; no one has lived in it since they passed away. My SIL went out to see it a few years ago and said it still has the table set for company (I just realized I’ve never asked if this is a painting of the actual stone house; my guess is that it is but I have never gotten that confirmed).


As I might have mentioned, I’m returning to work tomorrow, so I expect my writing will get more sloppy as I have less time to pull these posts together. Hopefully you will forgive my lack of grace or grammar as I move forward.* In closing, here’s a shot of some more barn kitties, ones with which I did not bond. They were sweet enough, just not as convenient as Gertie, who was always hanging out right outside my bedroom door.


*For some reason, I like to upload posts both here and at Flickr right after midnight each day, but clearly that is going to have to change also. My plan is to continue writing the posts a day in advance, and to upload them first thing in the morning when I get up. That’s what I do on Flickr when school is in session.This probably matters to no one, but I’m mentioning it anyway. 

Dog Years – Poem

Dog Years

When I lie down and press my face
against the bristle of his body, and hear
his dog-heart in my ear, I think
how definite death is, his animal life
so much shorter than my own, so real
I can already feel the loss, dank
and heavy as his breath,
but loving him anyway, loving him more,
perhaps, because of it, the way I love
all things I know won’t last. Once
I was told that they have no sense
of time, that, to my dog, after I leave
it’s as if I never existed, but when I come back
he has no memory of my absence. And this is why
he occupies his time with bathroom trash
and sofa cushions, reducing all I’ve left behind
into a ragged nest of moments. And this is why
I think of death when I lie down at night
by his side: because his life without me
is simple, because the death
I am afraid of is my own, because each time
I come home I am born again.

Winner of the Austin International Poetry Festival, 2011