Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to end a life

I’ve been a veterinarian for 16 years and I’m quite an effective killing machine. I have a 100% success rate which is far better than Dr. Kevorkian and probably better than most assassins. My method of choice is lethal injection. It’s quick and apparently painless although none of my victims are capable of telling me otherwise.

I remember the first time I saw an animal being put to sleep. It was a big old black lab that had some sort of terminal disease. He laid on the floor, not moving except for the occasional heavy breath. The technician asked me if I was going to be okay and I said “yes” even though I wasn’t sure how I was going to react. The doctor gave the injection and within seconds the whole body became very still. The eyes glazed over and I didn’t need a stethoscope to know that the heart had completely stopped. I didn’t cry. I wasn’t even sad. I was frozen. Numb. Life had passed into death and instead of the walls crumbling and sirens blaring, there wasn’t even as much as a whimper. Wasn’t the ending of a life supposed to be more than that?

Since that time, I have euthanized more animals than I care to remember. Mostly dogs and cats but also a long line of pocket pets and birds. The number one reason I do it is because the animal is suffering; cancer, organ failure, severe joint disease, severe trauma and in some cases “old age” which is a term to describe declining quality of life at home. With many of the pets, it is clear that euthanasia is the best thing to do. I try to comfort the owners telling them that their pet isn’t going to get better. I tell them that if he or she were my pet, I would be doing the same thing. I tell them that, thankfully, we can end the pain in a calm, dignified and humane manner. It’s very important to not let the owners feel any quilt. Not let them feel like they are playing God. I tell them that I am very sorry. I’ve been through it myself with my pets and I understand what they are going through. Saying goodbye to a pet is a heartbreaking painful process and if you have ever experienced it, you know exactly what I am talking about.

After the decision has been made to say goodbye, I tell the owners about the process. If they want to be present, I insist on putting in a catheter (which is a direct access to the vein) because it helps everything go smoothly. The last thing the owners want to see is their dying pet getting poked multiple times because the vet can’t find a vein. I also sedate the pet and let the owners visit for as long as they want. Then I anesthetize the pet and inject the fatal solution. I admit it. I hate doing this. It’s usually very emotional and I’ve had some people literally collapse in hysterics or run through the hallways crying “Oh my God, oh my God!” The grief can be profoundly deep and even though we have offered to drive some people home, no one has taken us up on the offer.

I don’t get used to it. I doubt if I ever will but I don’t always feel sad either because I am not acquainted with the pet or the owners have waited too long and the pet is clearly suffering. There have been many times that I have gotten upset; I’ve known the owners and their pet for a long time and I share in their sorrow. I’ve never wept in front of an owner but I have gotten glassy eyed (that’s as much as my male hormones allow) and I only hug clients if they hug me first or if they look like they really need it. After I check to make sure that the heart has stopped, I ask the owners if they would like more time with the deceased. Sometimes they take over an hour. Sometimes they can’t wait to get out of there. Everyone is different.

And inevitably, my next appointment is a new client with a happy new puppy. It takes considerable emotional gymnastics to go so quickly from an old death to a new life. It’s like being a mortician one moment and being asked to teach a Kindergarten class the next. It’s no wonder I come home some days and want to stare at walls. And drink. No, I don’t drink but some days I think I should.

I deal with this stuff almost every day so why am I writing about this now? My dear Dusty, my seventeen and a half year old Pekingese who has been with me for only half his life, is coming close to his end. He’s had multiple problems for a while now; his kidneys are failing, he’s blind, he circles and his little frail body is wasting away. There are a few reasons why I’m holding on. He loves to cuddle. He’s still eating. And well, to be completely honest, I just don’t want to say goodbye. I love it when I hold him. And he looks up at me with his one eye. And he snorts and he coos and does all those little things that pets do that endear you to them. If I were his veterinarian, I would be telling me that it’s alright. He had a great long life. You don’t want him to suffer, do you?

It’s never easy, even for a veterinarian who counsels people about death almost every working day. I think a lot of people take comfort in the fact that I am the one telling them it’s okay to say goodbye. It makes them feel as if the decision is out of their hands. But for me, for my pet, there isn’t anyone else who can make that decision for me. I am the decision maker and the executioner. I have had to do it three other times with three dogs; Chin, my Chow Chow, given to me as a present for getting into vet school and Prince and Snowball who were Dusty’s “brothers”. I prefer to be by myself when I do this. Mourning for me needs to be private. An inward, closed affair. Then it’s time to heal and let the memories linger.

I know it’s time. He’s been so tough. Far tougher than I am. I have to let him go. For his sake. I know he’s not going to curl up in a ball and drift away, making it easy. I tell people that it rarely happens this way. I think the pets want to hold on too. There will always be a part of him that stays behind. Is that comforting? I say that to ease the mind of my clients but somehow my magic doesn’t work on me. The magician can’t be fooled by his own tricks.

I miss him already and nothing can soothe this pain.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Website of the Week

I cover all sorts of topics on this blog.  Cambodia, screenwriting, iPhones and now lesbians. 

If you have nothing better to do (and you're getting tired of the Real Housewives of New Jersey), then I suggest checking out this website:

For those of you who don't read Entertainment Weekly and are older than 16, then you might not know who Justin Bieber is.  He is a teen pop idol who incites mobs of teenage girls to riot at his mall appearances. 

I recently found out that he is CANADIAN (like myself) which makes me damn proud that he has surpassed Avril Lavigne and Brian Adams in popularity.  Celine, you better watch your back! 

I have included a link to buy one of his posters if you are need to fill up that pesky blank wallspace.     

The website dedicated to lesbians who look like Justin Bieber is incredibly popular.  For this reason, I am seriously thinking of making a companion site: Gay men who look like Miley Cyrus.  I'll let you know when it becomes live. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Greetings from Lake Cachuma

Sometimes I just have to get away but I don't always have a plan.  That's how I ended up in Lake Cachuma

Where is Lake Cachuma, you might ask?

Um, well, if you take the 101 north from Los Angeles and pass through Camarillo and then Thousand Oaks and on up through Oxnard and Ventura, you'll eventually end up in Santa Barbara where wealthy old people live.  If you head north from there (I think it's the 153), you'll end up in a man made lake called Lake Cachuma

If you pay $8 and show a valid rabies license for any pets, you can enter into the park area.  There is plenty of picnic places where you can enjoy the view but don't even think about swimming in this water.  Apparently, people DRINK from this lake and therefore it is expressly forbidden to touch your body into its pristine waters.  Of course, you can boat and fish and all the wild animals and birds can shit and piss into it but God only knows what will happen if you dip your human toe into the water's edge.  I shudder at the thought of this criminal act. 

The park wasn't very crowded so $8 provided plenty of R&R.   

I could only take so much of the sacred waters so I decided to move on to the next tourist attraction which was ...


I decided to use capitals and an exclamation point because Solvang needs all the help it can get in the excitement department. 

Solvang is a Danish town that was founded by some Danish settlers way back in 1911.  It could be described as "charming" with all the quaint shops but something about it doesn't really feel authentic.  Perhaps I'm just not used to seeing a European town in the middle of California. 

And there are windmills.  And coffee and pastry shops.  And boutiques.  Everything that you might expect in an expensive tourist town that resembles a Disney back lot. 

Solvang also has onions.  I know, I know, I was surprised too. 

There are plenty of places for old people to sit and rest their weary feet.  The flowers were real, by the way. 

There is ALWAYS time for a cheesy photo. 


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Ponheary Ly Foundation

After I finally decided that I was going back to Cambodia this past April, I did a lot of research about where to stay.

Because I was on a very limited budget, I wanted to stay somewhere cheap.  In Cambodia, even in touristy Siem Reap, somewhere cheap isn't difficult to find.  Even luxury boutique hotels can be found for less than $80 a night and there are plenty of high quality inns for about $50.  My next criterion was to find a place that had some character.  Some place that gave me the Cambodian experience.  I didn't even mind "roughin" it as long as there were hot showers.  I don't care where I am in the world, I have to have a damn hot shower in the morning or else I will be miserable and grumpy.  And I hate being miserable and grumpy. 

So ...

After much indecision, I decided upon The Seven Candles guest house.  It was definitely inexpensive --I think the rate was $20 a night and yes, there were hot showers.  This rate even included Internet access AND flushable toilets (although any solid waste had to be put in a bag beside the toilet).  The best part was that when you stay at this guesthouse, you are sharing the house with three generations of the Ly family.  They open their house to international visitors and you truly feel as if you being welcomed into a Cambodian household.  One night, we had dinner with the family and it was one of the best dinners that we had.

No, it didn't have a pool.  There wasn't a restaurant attached.  The room was a little on the small side but all the benefits far outweighed any drawbacks.  And for $20 a night, it was a STEAL.  If you are travelling to Siem Reap and want to be welcomed with open arms, then I highly recommend this place.

Their website is

Ponheary Ly is in charge of running the guest house but she is also a tour guide and we spent a full day with her checking out stilted villages and crumbling temples.  She is incredibly knowledgeable and just fun to be with.

And despite suffering through the ravages of the Khmer Rouge regime, her spirit is kind and strong just like many of her fellow Cambodians. 

Ponheary Ly is (coincidentally) head of the Ponheary Ly foundation.  This foundation provides school supplies and uniforms to 2000 children.  Even though the education is free in Cambodia, children are not allowed to attend school if they don't have the proper uniforms so this foundation is incredibly important for underprivileged children. 

For all her efforts, she has recently been awarded the title of a CNN HERO.  Congratulations Ponheary!  I feel very honored to know you. 

If you would like to learn more about this foundation, please check out her website at

Thank you!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How to build a fish farm in Cambodia

Besides a nurse's station at the orphanage, the other project that I helped usher along while I was in Cambodia was the FISH FARM.

This farm was designed to be a sustainable source of food for the orphanage.  I was told that catfish were going to be used because they were easy to raise and good to eat (but damn ugly to look at). 

If you have read any of my previous posts, you might recall how hot and humid I said it was.  Nevertheless, the workers started construction on the farm and they were bundled up so much, it was difficult to tell if they were men or women.  The excess clothing must have kept the sun off their skin but damn, I'm sure they were sweating like hogs

A couple of months later, Savong sent me the pictures of the completed farm.  Here it is ... but without any fish. 

It looks like a great big pool which would be awesome for the kids to play in during the hot summer months. 

But yes, I know.  Food is the priority.  But I'm wondering if you could still swim with the fish.  I really wonder if they would mind. 

And for anyone who thinks the above statements are idiotic, you just have no idea how hot it gets in this country!

It shouldn't be too long before the fish arrive.  We're hoping to bring in nearly 600 which should last ... well, I have no idea.  I can tell you that these are hungry kids so maybe not as long as you might think. 

As always, donations towards these projects are always appreciated.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nancy Grace kicks another idiot's ass

This is why I love Nancy Grace. 

She rolls her eyes, treats her guests as if they are morons (which they usually are) and isn't afraid to say exactly what is on her mind. 

And her nasal southern accent really sends everything over the top. 

This video would be hilarious if it weren't for such a tragic subject.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My writing partner

Today is a writing day.

I'm pounding out my masterpiece but I think my writing partner has fallen asleep.

He hasn't made any worthwhile comments for at least the last hour.


-- Posted from my iPhone

Location:Magnolia Blvd,San Fernando Valley,United States

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A new iPhone on the way!

If you haven't heard, Apple is about to give birth to its newest baby. 

The iPhone 4!

I didn't used to be a tech geek but I am very excited about this sleek little instrument o' fun and when I heard that you can PRE-ORDER, I nearly crapped in my pants. 

Yes, I know I shouldn't get all sticky about a PHONE but you obviously have not heard what the new iPhone can do. 

Here is just a small list: 
  • does laundry and cooks simple but healthy meals AT THE SAME TIME
  • holds your hair back when you vomit in the toilet
  • erases cellulite, shrinks pores and firms thighs
  • orders pizza for your neighbors and then runs away
  • does the watusi
  • puts up paintings from relatives when they come to visit
  • blames any gaseous emissions on the dog (and if there is no dog, then grandpa)
  • designs a public profile for
  • takes one for the team
  • fights for minority rights and eats dophin-safe tuna
  • helps little old ladies cross the street
  • pays for the beer on wing night
  • turns off the iron when you go on vacation
  • tickles Elmo
  • finds out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop
  • reduces the California debt by smoking medical marijuana
  • knows the difference between shit and shinola
  • supports girl guides and their cookie racket
  • lives to see another day
  • reuses and recycles
  • won't give up till the fat lady sings
  • promotes world peace and the B'Nai B'rith organization
  • tips 20%
  • flashes single women in Central Park
  • takes at least $100 out of your bank account every month
Yeah, I know.  The last one is a little worrisome but look at the other CRAP that this phone can do.  It's freakin' AMAZING. 

I can't wait to get one.  How much does it cost?  Oh heck, does it even MATTER? 


Dear iPhone

I wish I could quit you. 


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cambodian nurse station

While I was in Cambodia, one of my projects was to build a nurse station for the Savong orphanage. 

While the intent was to use it primarily for the orphanage, the hope was to also use it for the children in the neighboring villages. 

With the money that I had collected prior to my arrival in Cambodia along with money that was generously donated by the Yokohama International Women's Club, we were able to start construction on the building. 

With a little bit of money, a lot of good can be made! 

Although I was in Cambodia for only ten days, I was able to be there for the groundbreaking. 

It didn't take long to put up the walls. 

I just received these photos from Savong.  The nurse station has been completed and a dedication has been placed on the wall. 

I'm very proud to have my name on this project!  

Savong is looking for sponsors to help with the purchase of medical supplies.  If you would like to help, please contact me.  As always, even the smallest donations are appreciated.     

Here is a wall hanging that I photographed in a bar. 

Words I try to live by ...