Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Walking On Thin Edges

There was a post I shared on Facebook the other day, how we're all in the same storm, but not in the same boat. About that.

Recently I had an interesting discussion with a stranger on FB. She seemed unable to imagine how people could be in financial trouble due to COVID-19 job loss. At one point she even said maybe this situation "would teach people not to spend-spend-spend.”

I tried to explain that millions of people live paycheck to paycheck without much cash reserve. Some folks are even starting to skip the mortgage or rent. Fine, she said, they can skip a couple months now and pay it all back later. No, I said, that just means they’ll be permanently two or three months behind. She then got a little testy, demanding to know what people were doing with their government stimulus checks. After all, a family of four has $3,400 coming.

Yes, I said, they do. IF they have direct deposit set up, if the IRS got the child payments right, if they didn't used H&R Block or TurboTax, and if they haven't owed taxes for the last couple years. Otherwise, they are still waiting on a mailed paper check. But if they did get their money, great, problem solved. Now what do they do NEXT month?

At that point my little friend went silent. Which brings me to my point. The guys protesting with flags, guns and disdain for social distancing may be jackasses. But they are symptoms of a growing problem that no amount of encouraging TV commercials and inspirational Facebook memes can banish.

Of course this virus is real. The CDC estimated the 2018-2019 flu season accounted for @ 61,000 American deaths. COVID-19 is catching up, with @ 49,000 deaths in the US alone.

But the fact is, people are scared. Not only of the virus, but also of going broke and losing their ability to survive. We’re out of work, more of us keep going out of work, and the goalposts for when we might go back to work keep moving. End of April, middle of May, maybe June? Some voices say we could be locked down until November or maybe next year. Lives aren’t worth rushing to reopen the economy.

As I tried to illustrate in a previous post, “the economy” is not a bunch of rich CEOs. It’s us. It's regular people who have bills and debts and no income, and are powerless to do a damn thing about it. State unemployment systems are overloaded, underfunded, understaffed and often weeks behind.

Many people are more financially secure, but what about them, too? Businesses still have leases, loans and overhead. A $349 billion small business loan package, cautioned from the beginning as unwieldy and problematical, ran out of money in two weeks. How many businesses - and jobs - will disappear?

How many Americans can we put out of work and tell them they can’t come back … indefinitely? Is government assistance really going to catch and support us all? For how long?

During the Great Depression we had job programs to give people some paychecks and pride. Workers now are told to stay home and do nothing. You and I may be fine with that, but it's a special hell to a lot of folks, who feel like they’re forbidden to do anything to stave off impending shipwreck. All they can do is watch the water rise.

Not everyone sitting out this virus is okay. For many, their jobs are gone, their money is dwindling, and with it goes their means to survive and support their families. They see the distant storm, but they worry about the looming icebergs of financial ruin even more.

We’re all in the same storm. But please remember, many sit in sinking boats.

Peace, love and unicorns and don't forget to wash your hands.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Thinking Too Many Thoughts ....

When I need to get something off my mind, I write. Buckle up, gentle readers.

The risks of restarting the economy in the middle of an epidemic are real. We can't just tell our at-risk people, We're going back to normal, you guys are on your own. But I don't see "the economy" as some monolithic conglomerate of rich guys in penthouses far above the fray. The economy is us.
It's everybody trying to pay the rent, the mortgage, their electric bill and propane. It's car payments and health insurance, doctor bills and vet bills, automobile repairs and the refrigerator just quit working. It's buying groceries and pet food, paying the horseshoer and buying hay and that emergency dental appointment. It's every person out there trying to apply for unemployment and it's those who, for varieties of reasons, don't qualify.

The people who provide those missing jobs are also the economy. They pay leases or mortgages, utilities and insurance, permits and licensing, loans and payments, purchase equipment and supplies, and some of them are trying to cover payroll for absent employees.

Not everyone is able to embrace staying at home as a time to get cozy and creative. When people run out of money, people go hungry and homeless.

There is an argument that says the at-risk people could just self isolate, while everybody else goes on about their lives. After all, 80% of the population won't even show symptoms, or if they do, it will be mild to moderate. Right? Some even say what we really need is some good old-fashioned herd immunity.

Well, let's look at that. First, an estimated 100 million people are diabetic or pre-diabetic. Another 100 million are estimated to have high blood pressure. Some 23 million have autoimmune diseases and @ 25 million have asthma. Studies say about 121 million, nearly half of adult Americans, have some form of heart disease. And chronic kidney disease and liver disease each account for a total of 117 million people. Even presuming half of these numbers can be condensed into people with more than one condition, this is a lot of folks.

The at-risk population is not limited to old retired farts. People with underlying conditions are part of the workforce. They hold jobs, they provide services, they own businesses and they raise families. They are your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends and your family members. They are you.

We have seen time and again, this virus loves groups of people. Whether it's a wedding, a choir practice, a meat packing plant or an aircraft carrier, it thrives in close quarters situations. This virus doesn't have to sicken all of us. It just has to sicken enough of us. Then businesses and institutions will shut down again.

I guess what I'm really saying is, whoever you are and whatever your perspective is on this thing, do what you have to do, as well as you can do it, but don't look for easy fixes. There aren't any. When South Dakota has 1100 diagnoses of Coronavirus and 518 of them work at the same plant, there's a problem. And when 10 million Americans are newly out of work, there's a problem.

Unfortunately, I don't have any witty suggestions for what to do about it. I don't envy anyone, at any level, tasked with trying to figure it out. We just have to remember that we really are in this together. Let's not beat each other up, when all anybody really wants is to get back to some kind of normal.

Peace, love and unicorns and remember to wash your hands.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


I see you, old dog,
with your splayed feet and slowing
step, gone the quick moves of youth.
I see you, old dog,
frost gathering on the fields and on your muzzle.
Hearing still good, listening less so, but
you dance for me, your eyes
still keen, still asking,
what next?
Then prone in the sun, deathlike, dreaming
of sheep and long horizons and other days when aging
bones had
no complaints.
I see you, old dog,
those seasons ago; novice trial, novice dog, novice handler.
I send you and you're gone, tremendous
stride pounding the green earth and
I am in awe,
I don't remember what to do, but
you do.
You do and you run out
on the muscle memory of your ancestors.
I see you, old dog,
in the pearly dawn, gliding through the dew with sheep,
two hundred plus, propelled on the end of
your nose, bringing them without
sound, but the shuffling of hooves in the meadow.
I see you walking
before me, head down, black haunches driving,
like gears to an ancient machine that
moves in a dance laid down centuries
before. All the generations
whisper and you hear them, taking sheep out into the sun.
I see you, old dog,
on a thousand fields from a thousand posts, where I
stood and you ran out
in joy and purpose, and time
could not touch us there, in that space between grass and sky.
I see you, old dog,
you and the sheep and the earth slowly turning beneath our
feet. Moving on so many roads.
Your golden eyes seek mine and we both smile.
As ever.
As always.
I see you, old dog.
I will always see you.
© 2019
G. M. Atwater

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Pt Pleasant Trial, October 2017

Saturday scores from Pt Pleasant. Very happy with Nick today. He was a very good boy. Looks like we'll be running with the big dogs in the double-lift tomorrow! Life is good. 

Final scores from the Sunday double lift here at Pt. Pleasant. Today was a very good day.
And who knows, if Nick's handler had not meddled with the second drive panel, we might have saved ourselves 10 points. ;) Truly this was a magical weekend. There is no feeling like the partnership we shared today.

Thank you, good boy Nick, you are the best partner I could ask for. 


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Good night, Josey Wales.

Today we said goodbye to a very old friend - our 17 year old kitty, Josey Wales. His respiration was elevated, he was having trouble eating, he was losing weight - he was wearing out. It was time. He had one last good night snoring on our bed, one last nice morning napping in his favorite patch of sunlight.

Josey muttered his complaints on the ride down to the vet, but apparently he was just indignant about the crate. As soon as I got him out and set a folded towel on the exam table for him, he laid down and made himself right at home. That's all he wanted, the comforts of an old man. He never even noticed the sedative shot and he went to sleep with his head in my hand.
Josey came to me sometime in late 2000. Some truck driver friends of ours stopped by the house to drop off this little orange kitten, (heaven knows where they found him,) saying, "Here, you said you wanted an orange kitty." They left and Josey stayed.

He didn't have a name, of course, but within a day I was mostly calling him, "You little s**t!" He climbed the curtains, tackled the plants, climbed the ficus, knocked books off the shelves - in short order, I named this little outlaw after one of our TV favorites, the outlaw Josey Wales. And he did his best to live up to his name.

But then my hubby came home from working several weeks away, and Josey just freaked. He gave my poor hubby a look of absolute horror and shot off down the hall and under the bed. And that's the way it was for years. Oh, Josey eventually learned to come out and eat and even slink around the room when hubby was present, but my little outlaw had revealed himself as a full fledged scaredy-cat. None of our friends ever saw him, either!

Josey was about 8 years old when he finally decided he would let my husband actually touch him. And then somewhere over the years, Josey decided drama was just too much work and he almost became a normal cat. But only almost. He still never went out hunting, never walked around outside, and indeed, he never got further than 20 feet from any open door. He was a HOUSE cat, dammit, and he reserved his energies for food and naps, followed by more food and naps.

And that was his life. I think it was a good one. He certainly never seemed to want anything more and he raised 17 years worth of puppies with a paw of velvet steel. He will be missed ... but he is no longer sick and fading. And I'd like to think he is over the Rainbow Bridge and reunited with his one true love, our calico girl, Smudge, who left us some 3 years ago.

Good night, little old man. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Peanut and Porkchop

My two new pups. Midge was born January 25th and is out of Claire Burson's Meg and by Paula Bowden's, formerly Derek Scrimgeour's, Jim. Jim is a son of James McCloskey's trial dog, Sweep and a grandson of Derek's good Killibrae Laddie.

Ben was born January 27th and is out of a local ranch bitch and by my boy, Nick. I wasn't aiming to get 2 puppies, but Nick had to be neutered due to prostatitis, so I took the little boy that grabbed my heart.

Life as I know it will never be the same ...  :)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Gael - Lab Results

Well. We got the lab results back for Gael. My poor vet is fighting a nasty cold and killer cough, so I didn't keep her for as many questions as I might have. But ... the diagnosis has somewhat changed. I can't quite say the labs made things more clear, but they did *dismiss* the idea that it was DIC, Which doesn't change the outcome or even how it started, but it does change how Gael got there. This is all way over my pay grade, so pardon if I'm not able to explain this clearly.

The labs mainly seemed to show what's NOT there. No DIC, no toxins, no sepsis. The liver biopsy divulged the most, and for my medically minded friends, it reads:
"There is mild to moderate tissue autolysis affecting the outer most portion of the specimen, with frequent bacterial rod overgrowth, which extends into the parenchyma. There are frequent clusters of bacterial rods, without any inflammatory reaction (postmortem overgrowth) within the parenchyma. The viable parenchyma features diffuse sinusoidal congestion."
"Interpretation: Mild to moderate widespread tissue autolysis with postmortem bacterial rod overgrowth and diffuse sinusoidal congestion."

The comments following suggested there could be an underlying cause such as an allergic hypersensitivity to food or inflammatory bowel disease ... but Gael never showed signs of any kind of upset until her fatal illness. My vet was a little puzzled, too.

This kind of brings us back to my vet's original Dx: Gael ate something - again, who knows what - that disagreed with her. But the vet says it now appears this morphed into a massive, aggressive bacterial infection. Gael's white blood count crashed and then her system had nothing left to fight with. What the vet originally thought could be DIC was her body shutting down, her organs bleeding out due to no white blood cells. So, I guess Gael died of toxic shock.

Which doesn't really change anything or alter the manner of her death. All it really does is underscore the inevitability of it. Gael ate something she shouldn't have and her body, for whatever reason, couldn't fight off the reaction. Oddly, the vet did mention Addison's disease, but she didn't seem sure entirely about that either because, again, Gael never showed clinical signs of any illness at all, until this.

So, I dunno. I guess it's time to let this go. I suppose I'm absolved of guilt by learning there was no hope, but I'll never feel absolved of responsibility. She was my good girl and now she's gone. Shit happens.

Meanwhile, I have 3 dogs who daily make me smile. Nick and Nell have trial fields to conquer and miles to run, and Ash is her own funny self. Life goes on. I owe a debt of gratitude to all of you out there who have offered your sympathy, condolences and kindnesses. I hope I can return a kindness to you, some day. In the meantime, hug your dogs for me!