The view from Dogueville

I love dogs.  I have always managed to be accompanied by a furball or two at different stages of my life.  As far as I am concerned life just doesn’t feel complete without a dog in tow.

They have all had different personalities with innumerable peculiarities and I have loved them all equally.  I have mourned their losses terribly and gone out and fallen in love again with another precious bundle of unconditional love – which is probably the point really.  Unconditional love is priceless.  You can put up with almost any doggy personality when unconditional love is on offer all day every day.  I am probably prepared to put up with more doggy quirks than I would tolerate in any human being – related or otherwise –  or so my loving and long-suffering husband has told me on more than one occasion.  In his defence I do have more photos on my iPhone of my dogs than I do of him.

My latest furry personalities are two Bichons named Ruby and Angus.  From the same litter, they have been together all of their eight years but are as different as chalk and cheese.

Angus likes to think he is a little bigger than he actually is and has often suffered the consequences of his short-dog shortcomings when confronted by larger and sometimes lucky for him, slightly more tolerant counterparts.  At best he has gotten off lightly as he is sniffed and swatted out of the way.  At worst he cost me well over $500 in vet bills for stitches and antibiotics when he got out of the yard and decided that a large bull-terrier cross tyrannosaurus rex was fair game.  Lucky for him his short legs got him as far as our front gate and under my legs before he became a snappy happy meal.

Still, that hasn’t stopped him from constantly testing the limits of our four-foot front gate as he blazes a trail from left to right and back again when supposed interlopers get too close to his patch.  I wonder where he gets it from as his sister, Ruby, is placid and gets tired just watching him.  The only time I have seen her blaze any kind of trail is at the mention of food and the sound of a packet of crisps opening in another part of the house.

Ruby wrote the book on not sweating the small stuff.  I find myself watching her at times just to make sure her chest is still moving.  She knows she is on a good thing in Dogueville and she isn’t going anywhere at any great speed anytime in the foreseeable future.  Nothing phases her.  She can sleep through gale-force winds, a sonic boom and a near-miss lightning strike recently that sent Angus and myself scurrying under the nearest bed together.  Braveheart, as he was so named thereafter, wouldn’t come out for hours while Ruby sat by the fridge in hopes of getting his share of the dinner that night.

For all their antics and foibles, I love them dearly and will continue to love them even when they are no longer with me.  My dogs are not only my companions, they are my friends.  They offer me love and make me laugh.  They make me cry when they are gone.  I wouldn’t change one moment of it.

 

Abnormalities

It’s common knowledge around these parts that my family is full of eccentric-type nutters, myself included.  Not that it’s a bad thing but it has its moments.  In a world where mental illness and mental stress are now the norm – some members of my family can give those categories a run for their money, be somewhat challenging or at the very least, downright entertaining.  I’ve managed to keep a lid on most of mine over the years but I suspect that if I had ever done drugs or alcohol I would be spending a bit of time in the local mental health unit by now.

My father is no exception.  I wouldn’t call him crazy but he is definitely out there.  I suspect he has undiagnosed adult ADHD from my stints working with psychiatrists and my discussions with them about him over the years.  He has managed to navigate through his life in blissful ignorance in times of stress with a somewhat childlike attitude to problems and an attention span of a mudskipper.  Mum undoubtedly has shouldered most of the day-to-day burdens, bills and disasters and would probably only now just be getting out of prison for murder if they hadn’t separated twenty years ago.

I get along pretty well with Dad although it can be hard work keeping up with a conversation with him as he flits from one subject to another, talks loudly at lightspeed, looks blankly at me when I ask him a question, says “eh?” and then answers it.

Shopping is fun with Dad albeit a little scary because I never know what he is going to do next.  I have lost him in department stores because he has wandered off or stopped to have a detailed conversation about almost anything he can think of with somebody he doesn’t know.  Going to the cinema is a real challenge as I can’t hear the dialogue over my father’s constant queries about what is going on.

I often take him with me when I go to buy something because he gets bored and has nothing better to do but I try to refrain from taking him into electronic stores because he is likely to come out with something that he didn’t want and knew nothing about but just had to have because it was shiny and had a lot of buttons he could press.  I took him with me once when I went furniture shopping and he managed to smash a three hundred dollar lamp because he was so excited looking around at all the fancy items he wanted to buy he didn’t see the two-feet-tall designer lamp sitting on a side table near his gesticulating right arm.  The manager insisted, however, that we didn’t have to pay for it after I purchased a very expensive guilt-driven dining suite and my father purchased a plush leather recliner that he said he was going to buy anyway.

They certainly broke the mold when they made my father – and for all his oddities and foibles growing up with him was never dull.  He often took me on his adventures and I always returned home not always unscathed but still alive.  He added to my childhood ideals and experiences.  To me being different, odd or eccentric is just another facet of being human.  Thanks to my father and my family I don’t really believe that there is an ideal to live up to.  Human beings are made to be faulty – it’s just the way it is.  We break, cope or strengthen in different ways depending on our map of the world.

I’m not even sure that there is such a thing as being ‘normal’ or whether it is just a media-generated phenomena that the disillusioned and brainwashed feel the need to aspire to. Thank God for weird dads.

The laptop shop from Hell

I was recently in the market for a laptop as my last one’s hard drive got fried in a power surge when one of the bright sparks down the road decided to do some renovations and hit a power line.  Needless to say I armed all my power points with surge protectors shortly thereafter.

Buying a laptop is tedious yet serious business.  There are so many to choose from.  I know a little about computers in regards to size, speed and capacity so I wanted a laptop with enough RAM and hard drive to last for a while with at least an i3 Intel processor.  I decided to give a local large stationery company – who shall remain nameless – a go as they had a few desktops and laptops in stock.

After much haggling and looking at specs I decided on one particular laptop.  The salesman returned from the storeroom and told me that this particular model wasn’t available but they had another one and he could do it for a similar price.  I was satisfied with this and took the product home.

On getting it home and unwrapping the product I discovered that the product was broken.  Not just broken – the screen was smashed on one side, one of the lugs that holds the screen in place at the back was missing and some of the keys appeared to be glued back into place on the keyboard.  I was flabbergasted.  The product had obviously been put in the box broken as there was nothing wrong with the box.  I rang the company and unbelievably they tried to blame me for damaging the product.  After a heated discussion with the manager they told me to bring the product in and they would ‘have a look at it’ – and concluded that the serial number on the product did not match the serial number on the box and that somebody had swapped the product out.  Really?  The manager then had the cheek to ask me if I had a similar product at home.  By this time I was seeing white spots before my eyes and was about to burst a blood vessel.  I told the manager if I had have bought the product for nefarious purposes in the first place I would have made damn sure I got the product I asked for and not accepted a different product that was offered to me because the original product wasn’t available.  He eventually conceded that he may have some less-than-honest employees in the storeroom and offered me another laptop.

At this point I probably should have learnt my lesson, got a refund and walked away but I got a second laptop and took it home.  All was going well – until I tried to start it up.  It would get to a certain point in the setup process and then spit the dummy and go to a blank screen.  I tried this a number of times and got the same dummy-spitting effect.  I concluded that there was a software problem and once again rang the store.  This time I got the manager-bitch-from-Hell employee of the year who told me that I could bring it back but I wouldn’t be getting a refund and they would be sending the laptop off to get it fixed.  Get it fixed?  WTF?  It was broken before I even opened the box.  My shitometer hit unprecedented heights and I let her have it.  I told her I wanted to speak to a nicer, more customer-friendly manager or they would be speaking to my solicitor.  I was not a thief nor was I dishonest.  All I wanted was a laptop that worked efficiently and they obviously couldn’t supply me with one.  Twice.

In the end they gave me a full refund.  I took my mother with me for backup that day because she is the veteran of winning arguments around these parts and was angling for a fight.  It was all a bit of an anticlimax as the bitch from Hell was nowhere to be seen and I spotted the salesman I dealt with disappearing hastily out the back as I walked in the front door.  I spoke to a nice saleswoman who apologised and gave me my money back.  I went to another store and purchased another laptop and have never had a problem with it.

Lesson learned.  Open the darn box before leaving the store.

Arachnophobia

I don’t like spiders.  They scare me shitless.  I can’t even look at one in a magazine or on my computer.  I have to quickly turn the page or scroll past at light speed.  I’m not sure why as I know they can’t move off of the media and jump out and bite my ass.  Tell that to my ass though.

I’ve had my share of spider horror stories although I haven’t been bitten.  No doubt I have come close as I’ve wandered around in the garden or bushland at times but what I don’t know won’t hurt me.  It’s the in-your-face stuff that makes my hair stand on end and my brain melt into my spinal cord.

My first experience was the result of a good deed gone wrong and probably why I never offered to vacuum my adolescent room ever again.  My mother housed the crusty old cleaner in a box, in a cupboard and out of the light – an obvious favourite haunt of the eight-legged horror which I felt rather than saw as I put my bare foot on an enormous huntsman that continued to wriggle its way to freedom from under my foot and between my toes.  I doubt very much my feet hit the floor for the rest of the evening and I spent the night at my friend’s house.  I tend to wear foot covering everywhere these days except in the shower.

I managed to avoid any chance encounters until a night on the town with my future husband turned into a nightmare as I walked through a group of trees near our destination and straight into the biggest spider web I never saw.  I’m sure I looked a picture of grace and dignity as I danced around like a lunatic trying to get the sticky stuff off me but when my date walked up to me and flicked a huge spider off my head and onto the ground I lost it completely.  He still talks about my screaming sprint past the jazz club windows while the patrons cheered me on.

Not long after that my son and I were downstairs sweeping the entrance when we spotted another large huntsman near the roof.  Commonsense and past experience prevailed and I left it alone but not my son – he decided to poke it with his broom which knocked it onto the floor and straight up his shorts.  I am ashamed to say that I laughed so hard I cried – until the wretched thing ran down his prancing legs and straight up mine.

My last and most recent experience with a spider once again involved my son.  We were putting out the garbage and spotted the largest red back spider we’d ever seen in a web at eye-level on the carport.  We both got close enough to look at the red stripe running down its back when it moved towards us and the sensor light went out at the same time.  We both nearly knocked each other out in the dark as we bravely scrambled to get away from it.  Needless to say we both lived to tell the tale and the spider was dispatched with haste.

I see a few huntsman spiders here and there now and again but I leave them alone.  I figure if I don’t bother them then they won’t bother me but if I find one in the shower with me then all bets are off.

The holiday from Hell

Over the years my husband has pestered me to get a passport so that I could travel with him and enjoy the many delights of different spaces, places, cultures and food.  I have never really been interested in travel but I got myself organised and got myself a passport.  A few weeks later.. or so a previous story goes… my husband booked a holiday to Thailand online and I bought myself a new suitcase.

The holiday turned out to be great apart from a bout of food poisoning which put me off the local cuisine and took me to as many Subways that I could find in Patong as at least I was only getting salad on a bun.  Having food poisoning with my illness is no laughing matter and I was out of Solu-Cortef injections so I wasn’t taking any chances.  Subways once again came through and I remained healthy for the rest of the holiday.

A year later my husband was being sent to Singapore for a company training course and asked me to come along.  We could pay for the flight with frequent flyers and the accommodation was company-paid and therefore mostly ‘free’ (I like that word a little too much).  As I had taken up photography the year before and didn’t take any cameras to Thailand I thought this would be a good opportunity to get some experience with wildlife and cityscape shots so I was keen.  After all, I was okay the last time I went overseas and as long as I stuck to bland food (Subways or hotel restaurant) I would be okay.

One day after we landed and my husband had gone to do his course, one of the wives (a friend of mine) who had come along asked if I would be up for some Singapore public transport to check out some of the tourist attractions.  I didn’t need to be asked twice – I packed up my camera gear and joined the fray of Singapore civilians going about their everyday activities on the rail system and bus routes.

We ended up at a fantastic bird park and I got some really awesome shots of a multitude of birds doing a multitude of bird things.  I was having a great time although a little tired from the overpowering Singapore humidity and the smoke haze that hung in the air from the palm oil fires across the country at the time.

On the way home I started to feel slightly nauseated and went to bed early with a headache and an extra dose of cortisol to make up for the strenuous day.  The next day I was feeling drained but I managed to get out and about and do a little shopping and sightseeing with my husband that night where I got some great photographs of the Singapore skyline Singapore night 3bfrom the top of a viewing platform.  It was after that the rot set in.

I barely made it back to the hotel room before I was throwing up.  This went on all night until I had nothing left and kept going.  I decided to get a doctor in to give me a needle to stop the vomiting and when my husband returned he gave me my Solu-Cortef injections to make up for the lost cortisol in my system.  Unlike Thailand, however, I did not improve and ended up in the Singapore Hospital for five days with some unknown virus, a multitude of IV medications and even more oral medications.  I lost count of the blood tests and my sodium was dangerously low.  The hospital refused to let me out until my sodium normalised and my endocrinologist in Australia was contacted for instructions on the correct dosing for panhypopituitarism.

As for me, most of my time in the hospital was a blur of sickness and fear.  Fear of being in a strange hospital in a strange country dangerously ill with an uncommon underlying illness that few of the doctors there knew anything about and a fear of not making it home.

I made it home mainly thanks to my hero husband running the gauntlet of hospital doctors, hospital administration, insurance company paperwork and rebooking flights home when I was well enough.

Six months later I am still suffering the after effects.  I came home mentally manic from all the different drugs that I was given and had to see a psychiatrist for medication to slow my brain down.  I am still feeling the after effects with some insomnia and bad dreams when I do sleep.

I am getting better, however, but have decided that my next holiday will be a long time coming – and won’t involve flying to a foreign country.  I think Cairns would be nice.

The Black Dog

I watched a program on television recently that dealt with the issue of suicide and mental illness and how prevalent it is amongst our younger generation.

Don’t get me wrong.  Suicide and mental illness are not limited to the younger generation but it is especially heartbreaking to lose a young and troubled soul without feeling sorrow for a life not well-lived and the unimaginable anguish of the parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and school friends left behind.

Suicide has touched us all to some degree, whether it be somebody we know, somebody close, a friend of a friend or even our own morbid thoughts at times when things have been at their darkest in our lives.  I have not escaped unscathed with my various health difficulties without wondering at times whether it is worth the effort of struggling with the pain and functional difficulties that I have been left with.  I keep on top of it.  I keep busy.  I work and study and develop interests to keep the black dog at bay but others may not have the support that I have had or indeed the will to keep on dog paddling when they would rather sink to the bottom of the abyss.

The reality of the abyss was brought home to me again last year when my son’s best friend decided that he simply did not want to keep on paddling for another minute more.  He left behind a beautiful family, many friends and a community of people who he had helped in his short life wondering what had happened.  He didn’t drink, smoke or take drugs.  He went to church and believed in God.  He was kind, generous and loved.  He was planning a trip overseas and had booked the tickets.  He did not appear to fit the profile of a depressed and mentally ill young person and he simply slipped through the cracks.  He had sought help a few months before his death and unfortunately was not followed up.

The abyss will always be there.  It does not discriminate.  It can affect anybody.  There is no clear answer but it is clear that we need to become more aware of our fellow man and be a little more compassionate.  ‘There but for the grace of God go I’.

Travel bug bites

It’s been a while.  Between illness, travelling and new hiPad pics 195obbies I haven’t given much thought to writing this blog.  Although I should.  I have been asked more than once to keep this blog going and so I shall endeavour to do my bit for the literary world.

I have had a few highlights in the last few months, one of which was that overseas holiday that I was so busy procrastinating about in one of my last blogs.  It turned out alright in the end and laid my travel paranoia to rest until the next time.

We started the trip on a high with a hired limo to get us to the airport.  I was a bit reluctant to leave the plush leather surrounds and the free sodas to get into the confines of Qantas cattle class but as I got to watch the latest movies on the flight over with a set of headphones that drowned out the screaming baby a few rows in front of me I was reasonably content.

The concerns I had about my pharmaceuticals and my portable fridge were unfounded and with my specialist’s letter in hand and we breezed our way through the Phuket airport terminal into a wall of humidity that would have put the Queensland tropical weather to shame on its worst day.

After ‘OMG, the heat’ and ‘why did I bring a jacket?’ we settled into our air conditioned taxi and hung on for a nail-biting  30-minute breakneck ride through Phuket to our resort in Rawai.  I was really not sure what roundabouts, red lights or pedestrian crossings were for anymore as they were completely ignored by everybody as drivers went for gold to get to their destinations in the shortest amount of time with complete disregard of impact statistics and safety regulations.  I saw five people on one scooter, four on another and one old scooter with three adults, two chickens and one dog on board.  There were also people in Tuk-Tuks, in the back of utes, in cars and pushbikes topped off by a multitude of massive tourist buses dodging the lot of them.

After three days my husband was zipping around in the traffic like a pro with me on the back silently screaming and mentally telling him to hit the brake.  We zoomed through red lights with the rest of them, dodging anything and everything that came our way.  I wasn’t quite sure whether it was my husband’s skill that got us through it or the skill of everybody else getting out of our way.

We moved from Rawai to Patong and discovered ten different ways to say no to the spruikers and stall holders at the various markets wanting us to buy everything from T-shirts to tattoos.  I also discovered paraflying and spent a nail-biting few minutes sailing high above Patong beach taking in the view and not worrying too much about travel and accident insurance.

For my first time overseas I think I did okay.  Apart from one bout of food poisoning I came out virtually unscathed with a new appreciation of just how lucky I have it here in my own country with services that I take for granted.  True, I could have more in life but I could always have a lot less like some of the people I saw in Thailand…and for that I am grateful.