A Christmas Miracle

December 27th, 2014

J.D.: Will doesn’t have cancer! What should I tell him?

Dr. Cox: Well, I’d open with that.

“Practice saying, ‘Good news!’ Practice saying, ‘It’s a miracle!’” -Greg Ogilvie, DVM, DACVIM, Oncology (veterinary cancer specialist)

Christmas Eve and all we had on the schedule for the day was checking a sweet little Shih Tzu pup’s tooth for a friend. And food. Lots of food. Being at work for the morning was not what we dreaded. We were truly with friends. And, as I mentioned, food. What we dreaded, what every vet team dreads when working a holiday I imagine, was ruining that holiday for a pet and their family with Bad News.

Finch - Christmas Eve at Work

Even so, the morning was quiet so far, and we were enjoying each other’s company (and food).

Our first call of the day was from the owner of an 11 year old Golden Retriever who suddenly started limping.

(If it were not Christmas and if I had not decided years ago to not say it online, I would say it here. In fact, we may have, In Real Life.)


Old Golden. Undoubtably sweet (soon to be confirmed). Undoubtably sweet family (soon to be confirmed). Christmas. Limping. Away from the elbow-towards the knee. The old osteosarcoma mantra we all learned and use regularly. Preferably not at Christmas time though.

Again, fudge.

Stephanie cleared the food and decorations and Christmas tablecloth off of the x-ray table. Brooke prepared for x-rays. Jen and I saw the patient. Amy, it turns out, was just waking up. Oh to be a groomer! Just kidding, Amy!

We stood and chatted around the x-ray table with Golden’s Mom. We had not told her how sad a lameness could be, but we knew she knew. We had not told Golden, but if he knew, in typical Golden fashion, he did not care. His very favorite people, including Mom and several people he had just met moments ago, were all there with him petting him!

We sent Mom up front away from the x-ray beams. We took two views. And then a third. We stared. We sighed. We teared up. And I slowly walked Golden up to Mom.

No cancer. No cancer! No radiographic lesions whatsoever! YOU my new best Golden friend, are going to need to be spoiled through the holiday! Not because it is the beginning of the end, but because, Old Man, we need your soft tissue injury, that you most likely sustained playing with the new puppy, to heal.

You can break our hearts another day. Right now it is Christmas and we need you to go home to do what your family had probably planned for you all along, take it easy and let your family spoil you rotten.

The very next night, Christmas night, I was setting up hospice care with one of my very best person friends for one of my very best cat friends.

Someday we will be saying good bye to Golden. Someday we will be saying goodbye to Cat Friend. But for that one moment, on Christmas Eve morning, we could say, against all odds, this sweet old dog is treatable, we are surrounded by love and friends (and food), and it is, indeed, a very merry Christmas.

See full size image

Lorie Huston will be dearly missed by everyone whose life she touched.

October 8th, 2014

A week ago today my friend Leslie let me know our mutual friend Lorie had passed away. The next day my friend Miranda helped me find service information, Pete let me skip out on work, and that night and the next day I was at services for Lorie, holding tightly to Russ’s hand, wide-eyed and reeling. I have not come out of that shocky fog till now.  Though this illness came on suddenly, Lorie had been successfully managing a chronic condition for several years. For all that time, as far as I know, Lorie had not let anyone but her family know she was ill. I am guessing the reason was she wanted to know how other people were doing, and it did not come up.

Lorie Huston, DVM was a beloved daughter, sister, veterinarian, cat Mom, Pet Saver and friend. Lorie practiced medicine at Hoffman Animal Hospital in Rhode Island. Lorie wrote many, many articles and content for her own websites and others’ sites. Much of her writing was centered around helping mutual pet lovers take excellent care of their pets.

Lorie passed away on September 30, 2014. Her visitation was Thursday evening, October 2, 2014. Her funeral was Friday morning, October 3, 2014.

I realized even in the midst of this past week that it was dumb luck – by that I mean the kindness of friends and the blessing of God of course – that I was able to be at Lorie’s services at all. We met online. We learned several months into our online friendship that Omaha was our mutual hometown. We realized a few years later that the “new” hospital I was working at was one where Lorie had practiced early in her career. Everyone at Gentle Doctor who was here then, including Doc the founder, remembers Lorie for her kindness and graciousness.

Lorie’s Golden Retriever nephew was at the visitation. I gravitated towards him for comfort more than anything. Well, comfort and his huge gorgeous brown Golden eyes. Lorie’s brother said that he brought him because he loved Lorie so much. I suspect he also knew what a comfort he would be to the family. Because he was there, another family member brought her new puppy too. It was the sweetest visitation I have attended. I was able to tell Lorie’s Mom how very loved and admired Lorie was by all of us who knew her as a veterinarian and writing friend. The chaplain and family had found many of the sweet memorial postings about Lorie online, and Lorie’s Mom said how very comforting it was to read everything you have written.

The funeral was beautiful. Lorie’s Mom and Dad and brother prepared a slide show and music. Rainbow Connection and Somewhere over the Rainbow and I Can Only Imagine were played.

As Lorie has streamlined and perfected her writing aimed at educating pet lovers, she has supported me all through my bumbling, random writing career. As Lorie has consistantly and compassionately provided excellent veterinary care to her many clients and patients, she has been there when I have had twists and turns and bumps in the road. I have wanted to be like Lorie since I met her.

Lorie was so young.

She was such a constant, positive long distance friend, that her loss is jarring and has not quite settled into the center of me. I suspect that is true of all of us who knew her through her writing and online presence. We need her in our lives. We do not know how to rearrange our reality to compensate for that need. We thought she would always be here.

See full size image

Lorie, I will sure miss you. We all will, Friend.

Finch - Lorie

Lorie’s Obituary in the Omaha World Herald

In Which Dr. V Wrote the Only Thing that Made Me Laugh This Week

by Pawcurious

About Lorie’s Cats Who are Being Rehomed

by Dusty Rainbolt

Losing a Friend and a Great Teacher


Memorial on PetMD

by Patrick Mahaney, DVM

Memorial to Lorie

on BlogPaws

Memorial on Cat Wisdom 101

by Layla Morgan Wilde


by Mouse Breath

Memorial on Fidose of Reality

by Carol Bryant

Lorie Huston

on Veterinary Practice News


on Cat Writers’ Association

If you have written a memorial in honor of Lorie or know of memorials that have been written, please let me know and I will add them here.

See full size image

Just a fraction of Lorie’s great writing…

Pet Health Care Gazette Website

by Lorie Huston, DVM

See full size image


This Month, August 2014

August 28th, 2014

This has been a very busy month. This has been a very busy 3 years. I have not written as much as I would have liked.

Here is what is in my head that I will hopefully write more about soon…

My Grandpa had ALS.

I LOVE the Ice Bucket Challenge.

My good friend Allison and I did the Ice Bucket Challenge together. It was cold. And fun.

Abby turned 12.

I am just emerging from a pretty dark season of depression that lasted most of the summer.

CVC – Central Veterinary Conference – in Kansas City just ended. It was very fun.

This is the best garden we’ve ever had.

I still miss Ernie Dog.

My brother Dave’s and sister-I-love Sara’s cat Abaye passed away also, and that was very sad. He was a great cat.

dvm360 had their website redone. I will be transitioning all of my blog posts from there to here soon.

I doubt that is all, but that is what I can remember! I thought I would check in and say “hello.”

Until we meet again, here is a video that includes a section Brendan Howard and Troy Van Horn put together on my thoughts on coloring books. The REST of the video is IMPORTANT information on including pets in the Ice Bucket Challenge and pets and toxicity with Dr. Justine Lee and chicken care. My part is more coloring oriented. If you are five, you will like it.

dvm360 video

After videotaping the interview, Troy said, “Wow, that was some hard-hitting journalism, Brendan.” Haha! I love it! I had a very good time at CVC with ALL of you.

See full size image

The Biggest Dog I’ve Ever Known

July 27th, 2014

It has been two weeks since Mom and Dad’s Poodle Ernie Nelson passed away.

Ernie 3

Ernie was Mom’s friend.

This was the beginning and end of Ernie’s Purpose in Life.

If he had been Mom’s friend and no more, he would have lived better than almost any creature on earth.

Ernie 5

Ernie was Dad’s friend too.

Ernie 7

Everyone who knew Ernie loved him.

Ernie was entertaining.

Ernie 6

Ernie 1

One year, Ernie and his friend, our lab mix Ebony dressed up as fancy Poodles for Halloween.

Ernie was  a preschool student. He had his own rug that was rolled out for him when it was time to do his work – usually chewing a chewy, while the children worked at their rugs and tables around him.

Ernie was a preschool teacher. For half of Mom’s career in Montessori education, Ernie taught alongside her, and even the now grown three, four and five year olds who shared a classroom with Ernie remember learning from him and with him. Children loved him. Their siblings loved him. Parents and teachers loved him.

Ernie believed in his family and never gave up on them. When my daughter Amanda (now 13) was an infant, Ernie started bringing her his ladybug toy in her bouncy seat. He continued bringing Amanda his ladybug toy until she was a toddler, old enough to be able to throw it for him.

Ernie was a singer. When Mom played the piano or we sang “Happy Birthday” Ernie would join in.

Ernie was the favorite Nelson kid. My brothers and I were okay with it. We loved him too.

Ernie was inspiring.

Ernie 4

Ernie was a picture book star.

Ernie was a Christmas ornament.

Ernie was my muse.

Ernie Dog is Happy on Riley and James – the story of when Ernie ran out of treats and a kind person at Hill’s Pet Nutrition came through for him

Ernie Dog on Omaha.net – the story of Ernie’s neurological crisis four years ago

Ernie 11

Ernie made everyone feel good.

Just a few days ago I received an email from Dr. McGill, veterinary pathologist. He asked to put an email I had sent him about his kindness in assisting with a case in which Ernie had a benign mass on the ARUP website. I said yes, of course. Dr. McGill said every time he reads that email, he is proud of the work they do.

Ernie made me a better veterinarian.

He needed his first dental cleaning under anesthesia at two years of age.

He developed an awful bacterial ear infection at ten years of age. It took the summer, but Ernie healed.

He had a difficult dental extraction just this year. Dr. Kanne helped me plan the extraction and even enlisted the help of a veterinary dental specialist.

Ernie 13

Ernie Recovering

Ernie needed me on his very last day, and I have never had a more difficult end of life visit ever. Later, in some years, I will be proud. Right now, I am only overwhelmingly sad.

Ernie was super cute.

Ernie 15

Ernie was sassy.

Ernie wore a black spiked collar.

Ernie loved ladybugs as much as Mom does.

Ernie 2

Ernie was at every party and gathering Mom and Dad had, including the joint party to celebrate Dad’s 70th birthday and Mom’s retirement a few weeks ago.

Ernie was a heartbreaker.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I would rather have a broken heart now than never have known you at all.

We all would buddy.

You were the biggest dog I’ve ever known.

Ernie Nelson, I am so lucky to have known you and to have called you my friend.

See full size image


Our Garden So Far 2014

May 29th, 2014

Over Memorial Day this year, I had FOUR DAYS off in a row! Sometimes I have three days off, NEVER four. We gardened all day every day.

We have had a Square Foot Garden since we started gardening about ten years ago. I LOVE it. We have seriously neglected our garden in the past few years, with being so busy and all. This year I pulled all the weeds. ALL the weeds. (Some came back.) Russ mulched all the things. ALL the things.

THANK YOU SO MUCH to the awesome Metzler family of Maple 85. First for letting us be the vet team for your incredible German Shepherd Nitro (the best and most beautiful Shepherd I know) and more recently for providing compost and mulch and a trailer to haul it and technical help right at our house when the aformentioned trailer wouldn’t tip, and poor Russ thought he would have to get it all out by himself with days and days of shoveling. (He did not.) Thank you guys. You are the best.

IMG_5402Oo that’s a lot of mulch, Russ.

We had quite a few pepper and tomato seedling casualties. Sorry co-workers. Apparently this year I suck at raising baby plants. I planted the ones we had, and we planted all the herbs and all the seeds of all the things we like.

SECRET FINCH FACT: We are not huge veggie lovers, but I think vegetable plants are pretty. My favorite is okra. My friend Lu gave me an okra plant one year. It was BEAUTIFUL, like a hibiscus. I do not think I would garden without okra again. Also, I do not think I will ever eat it. My other favorite is a radish plant gone to seed – GORGEOUS! Also, I do not like radishes.

This garden is CRAZY. It is going to be a really fun season.

Our cousin Bailey Dog is staying with us, so I took as many pictures I could of her! She does not stand still for pictures, but she is super cute. She is a miniature Goldendoodle.

Here are the pictures I have so far. I will have more and better pictures as stuff grows…


Bailey rolling


Bailey peeking


Bailey sniffingIMG_5521

Bailey sittingIMG_5520

Bailey waggingIMG_5517

Bailey greeting

Lemon thyme! Another example of a crop we grow but don’t eat – Isn’t it beautiful?? Anyone who likes the smell of lemonade (everyone) should have a pot of lemon thyme!IMG_5472

Noodle contemplating – Just kidding! He is just standing :)IMG_5471

I found this volunteer dill close to where I was going to plant dill so I just left it and labelled it. I am saving leaves for my friend vet tech Allison. One of the surgical specialists we work with and my vet school teacher Dr. Merkley was SUPER excited to learn dill attracts butterflies. It does.


This is in a corner of our front yard – spinach and strawberries and a super cute cat and bird sculpture that Russ got me at Nebraska Humane Society Black Tie and Tails 2012 that we went to as guests of my boss. So fun! And I LOVE this artist! She is Sondra Gerber and she is at Blue Pomegranate in Benson.

Close up! So cute!



We found this tiny hosta in our compost pile! I hope to some day fill our yard with it…IMG_5457

Lemon basil! We are also growing a lemon basil field! (In a 4X4 foot Square Foot Garden box of course)IMG_5456

Globe basil! I discovered this last year in Wisconsin. Now I always need it.IMG_5454

Rosemary! I finally have a rosemary plant I have not killed…IMG_5453

Pineapple! So fun! Cut the top off a pineapple and put it in dirt. I know! Crazy!


Pineapple sage! I just discovered this at Indian Creek Nursery this spring! It smells SO good!IMG_5449

This is the sad group of plants I have left after our garden was complete. (Pete these are all yours if you would like them and I can keep them alive!)IMG_5445

We have gotten a lot of questions about our compost pile. Russ built two open 4X4X4 foot sections and we put ONLY yard clippings in. When we need compost, we move all the dried plants to one side, and take the dirt from the empty side. It does not make much – you would be amazed how much plants break down – which is good I guess. And it smells REALLY GOOD (which surprised me!) It smells like dead grass.

A dramatic Joy silhouette


Pete gave us Bashara mint that was brought to the United States from Lebanon DECADES ago, and though he said it could not die, and though I know mint does not die, I was afraid I had accidently killed it by keeping it in an unprotected container through this past harsh winter. It lives! Yay! I LOVE mint. Right now, I have this, another spearmint and chocolate mint. They are hardy :) but they can be invasive, so we have all three in containers. I will protect them somehow this next winter. I get attached to plants! Weird!IMG_5431

This is our original garden space, and maybe my favorite part of the garden. It is strawberry plants  in the front and garlic in the back. Garlic is super easy to plant. Put it in dirt with the pointy side up. The plant is beautiful, and by Julyish, each clove will have grown a head of garlic that you can braid to have garlic available all winter.IMG_5429

We are going to try growing rhubarb…again. I think once it is established, it is a very hardy plant. My Mom grew it when we were kids, and I remember it was really pretty. Another one I am growing because it is pretty, but do  not want to eat! You can though…it may be next year before there is enough!

Turtle parade!

I don’t usually show “before” pictures because…they are embarrassing! But a couple years ago a storm took out our teepee, which was one of my favorite things in the garden. I am showing you this now – our partial restoration, so when it is rebuilt with a giant ladybug container in the middle and covered in scarlet runner beans and morning glories, you can see how far it has come!

I love the peonies that the original owners of our house planted. We built the Square Foot Garden around the three bushes, and it looks really neat together.

Max’s cat garden! It is on the deck so he doesn’t have to go in the yard and has catnip on the ends and cat grass in the middle.IMG_5413

Onions on the deck!IMG_5411

I broke it! It already has new roots though, so it may be ok…

My friend and coworker Jan gave me this beautiful terranium for Christmas a couple years ago.

This toy Border Collie lives in the terranium. The girls took him once to play with and I made them put him back.

This does not live in my garden, but wouldn’t that be awesome if she did? This is my sister-I-love’s hedgehog Pickles.

Thank you for looking at all these pictures!! Come see our garden if you would like! I have a feeling this is going to be a fun gardening year!



The Truth About Bear Dog

April 23rd, 2014

In September 2013 I saw an American Bulldog named Bear Dog for not eating, losing weight and vomiting.

We did blood work (great results) and x-rays (no abnormal findings).

Bear Dog’s owner was told several times that if he continued to have clinical signs, he needed to return.

He called every week or so to say Bear Dog was doing just okay. Or better. Or eating some. Or seeming picky about eating.

After mid-October, he did not call again.

Mid-January, he brought him back. Bear Dog was dead. He had lost 46 pounds since we had seen him.

Necropsy showed a collar that  went through his entire GI system.

I wish I had diagnosed the partial gastrointestinal obstruction that killed Bear Dog right out of the gate. Could things have turned out differently if we knew from day one that he had a surgical foreign body – when it still seemed we were a team? Looking back over everything, I still cannot definatively diagnose Bear Dog with the information I had from that single visit. A barium study – which was discussed and declined more than once – would have most likely given us a diagnosis. If we had stayed a team…if we had continued to work together, not giving up until we had answers…We never talked again after that last phone call in October.

Letting Bear Dog eat a collar was not wrong. Things happen. It was not even eaten on his owner’s watch.

Not knowing that it was a collar in his intestinal system that was slowly killing his dog was not wrong. With everything that COULD make a dog sick, knowing that detail was connected to this detail is never as straightforward as it seems in hindsight.

Watching a pet waste away from a fat, stable dog to a vomiting, lethargic, inappetent dog with absolutely no fat or muscle stores left over three and a half months with no followup veterinary care is wrong, criminal even.

So even though we liked the owner, and even though we were heartbroken he had lost his pet, we had to, legally and in good conscious, let the authorities know what had happened.

So we did. He was arrested. He was tried. And he was let go.

Here is his side as told to WOWT news.

Here is my husband’s email in response to WOWT news:

Dear Mr. Nicely and Channel Six team,

I watched the story this morning on the animal abuse case.  I am very disappointed. The story contains factual discrepancies and misrepresents the nature of the case and the decision of the court. I watched the trial in its entirety, and as you can guess from my last name, have personal knowledge of the situation.  

Your story stated that Bear Dog went to the vet several times, when in reality,  as court testimony demonstrated, he went just once. Furthermore, the owner’s absence when the dog ingested the collar was neither relevant to the decision, nor a significant part of the case, other than that he testified that he knew the dog chewed his collar in September.  The decision was not based on that, but on the judge’s opinion that the case did not fit an exact statute under which he was tried.  His opinion that none of the witnesses  thought there was abuse is his opinion. 

I assure you that the witnesses for the prosecution (two veterinarians and the staff of NHS animal control officers) were of a different opinion. Good reporting on the case would have shown that. The body of the case was that over the course of four months, the fat, happy dog you showed in the video lost almost 50% of his body weight as he slowly starved to death and became septic from pieces of collar in his digestive tract. The owner was accused of not bringing his dog in for follow up tests or treatment that could have saved Bear.  The pictures of Bear at the time of death* would tell a completely different story than the one your news piece did. Interviewing anyone from the prosecution would have told a different story.   

The case is over, He has been acquitted, and I am not looking for any further coverage of this case, but I think you should address this issue with your court reporter and perhaps make sure that what you air is more accurate and balanced.

R. Finch

We are waiting for a response. We are waiting for the email to be accepted as a comment on the news story.

I have this blog, so really, we do not have to wait. I prefer to save this blog – and all of my online communications – for lighter, happier pet stuff.

But this one cut deep. I went to court – well because I was ordered to testify, but I went to court with the hope of learning why. Why did he not bring Bear Dog back? To us for further care or even – in the late stages of his illness – for euthanasia? To another hospital? To the humane society? How could such a seemingly pleasant and kind person allow his dog to waste completely away? I have no conclusion because I am stuck here.

I promise - *NO after pictures. You will never get them out of your head. And I promise back to lighthearted next post.

You sure were a sweet dog. I am sorry that I did not save you, and I am sorry that the case ended how it did. I am glad you are no longer suffering.

On Work

March 5th, 2014

(Dr. Krapfl):

“I notice you’ve been missing a lot of work lately.”


“I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it, Bob.”

Office Space

Last week I went in last minute on my day off to work for a day.

I have never had to do that in all my many years at Gentle Doctor (I can say all my many years since I have been there 2 years!) It was the first time I had ever been asked to do that, and it was a very fun day of almost all wellness exams and calls to families of healthy patients. Not to mention a day with my favorite people.

It was also Abby’s day off and we had planned to read together. Or just hang out. We had not actually made formal plans. But we were going to be in the same place at the same time, and it was going to be awesome.

So we did that the next day, and it was awesome.

Dr. Bashara asked what I wanted in trade for coming in on my day off and I said a pancake. He made me TWO pancakes. They were great. He also added an extra day off onto my schedule and is sending me with Angie to a SOCIAL MEDIA CONFERENCE WITH BRENDA TASSAVA!!! I am so happy.

This week I was accidently scheduled a day OFF that was supposed to be a day ON.

AND the hospital was accidentally scheduled short one doctor for this coming Saturday.

Dr. Krapfl and Dr. Bashara asked if I wanted to work today – a day I really am supposed to be there. I said no. They totally let me skip out.

They asked if I wanted to work Saturday. I said no. They let me skip out on that too.


I LOVE my job. I LOVE my coworkers.

I NEED downtime.

I have been looking forward to this 3 day work week ever since I saw it on the schedule. Did it occur to me that I should not have a three day work week and I should look into that? NO. I have a very narrow range of expertise and it does not include common sense.

Did I make huge unbreakable plans that would preclude being flexible and working more this week?  NO.

Do you know what I wanted to do more than anything? Do you know what I miss more than anything about being a (mostly) stay at home Mom?

I wanted to – and I miss dearly – say goodbye to Amanda and Abby as they left for school in the morning.

I got to do that today.

And when they get home, I will be there and get to ask how their day was.

I have been craving that – and been looking forward to it – since I saw my three day work week (that I should have recognized as odd but did not) on the schedule.

I offered to come in today and Saturday. Dr. Bashara could see in my eyes that I really wanted to be home, and he kept the schedule as is. THANK YOU DOCTOR.

I am spending some of the day today with coworkers doing work things – Russ and I are taking Max the Cat for his first acupuncture session with Dr. Stephanie Jones. He has arthritis – Stephanie and I thought acupuncture would probably help. I am excited for this appointment!

Already I have said good bye to my daughters as they left for school. I have checked my indoor garden I planted 3 days ago. I have folded a bit of laundry. I feel reset. I feel rested. I am ready to get back to work. First, I will take Max to his appointment like a regular client and fold some more laundry and say hi to the girls when they return from school and eat dinner with our extended family. THEN I will get back to work.

I am blessed indeed.

See full size image


Busting Bad Guys – 5 Stars!

February 3rd, 2014

Busting Bad Guys

My True Crime Stories of Bookies, Drug Dealers and Ladies of the Night


Mark Langan

Five Stars!


My Dad introduced me to Mark Langan several years ago at his Rotary Club meeting at the Nebraska Humane Society because Dad knew Mark was a personal hero of mine.  I’ve since been fortunate to meet Mark’s very kind wife and their wonderful dog Laci, and I make sure to say “hi” to Mark whenever I see him at Nebraska Humane Society events.

In my mind, this tough but kind former cop had personally climbed the front porch stairs of every dog fighting scum bag in Omaha and surrounding areas, pulling the bad guys out of the houses and tossing them to waiting cops, then taking his team of equally tough humane society officers into the dark basements of those houses, tucking a Pit Bull under each arm and emerging into the sunlight, rescuing all of the fighting dogs and bait dogs there were until the crime of dog fighting – along with all of the “partner” crimes that go with it – drug dealing, illegal gambling and the like – were just an embarrassing, horrible memory in our community, and all of the rescued dogs were safe in living rooms across Omaha.


I do not know if that is exactly what happened – probably not since I made it up, but – I do know dog fighting is much less common around here – not because bad guys became good, but because Mark Langan led the Nebraska Humane Society – Omaha Police teamwork that ended the horrible practice of dog fighting – not only here in Omaha but also helping shut down a dog fighting ring that spanned much of the country.

So I made up HOW it happened, but I promise you, Mark is that cool.  The book Busting Bad Guys covers the time span BEFORE Mark was Vice President for Field Operations for the Nebraska Humane Society, the twenty-six years he was a cop and detective serving Omaha.

The stories are rough – heartbreaking – shocking and will have you cheering for the good guys every time.

I was impressed but not surprised by the respect Mark showed every person with whom he interacted – even the worst our city had to offer.

I loved the book.  I loved the inside look at the Omaha Police Department.  I loved learning more about the man I already respect so much.

Dr. Bashara bought a copy of the book for each of the three hospital locations.  Thank you Dr. Bashara!  I snagged one, Nicole snagged another, and there is a waiting list within my family for a book I have to return tomorrow…(Don’t tell Dad and Russ).  Looks like I will be buying a few books as well.

If I have not relayed the story of Mark’s time since joining Nebraska Humane Society in completely accurate detail, perhaps there should be a second book?

I would read that.

Thank you Mark for this great book.  Thank you most of all for your incredible career(s) of service to our great city.

Busting Bad Guys Website

See full size image

In Which I Lose My Cool at Work for the First Time in Quite Some Time but for a Pretty Good Reason

January 29th, 2014

Jen came to the treatment room on a day not long ago and asked if I could explain the importance of vaccine boosters to a client.

Client education on preventative care?  That is my FAVORITE thing – honestly.

Jen said the client was yelling at Jan and had yelled at her.  Oo that was the opposite of my favorite thing.  That makes me stand in front of my coworkers with my arms folded but ready to punch.  And I am not a puncher.

I went up front and said, “Hey I heard you had some questions.”

The client said she was tired of bringing her puppy in for boosters, and she did not want to bring her for her last leptospirosis booster.

It IS a huge investment – of time, energy and money – to bring a pet for all of their preventative care, especially a puppy or kitten.  So I understood her frustration.  But she wasn’t just annoyed, or even planning to just skip the last set – she wanted us to change our policy, and tell her that what we were saying was important was not actually important.  She was very irate that we would not bend on this – this that is SO important to us.

For much of the team, including myself, wounds are still fresh over recently losing patients to preventable diseases.  After I tried for a bit to explain why each part of preventative care was important, she said “Well, I’m just tired of bringing her in!”

I said, “Wow.”  I left the room with my arms up.  On my way out I said, “Well I am tired of losing patients to lepto!”

I turned the corner into the doctors’ office and slowed down just long enough to find something soft to kick, quietly but firmly kicking the rolling chair…which rolled into a metal kennel, creating a huge crash.  Clearly, I was in no state to be around people, so I stormed outside and paced and muttered.  I stopped and looked up.  Jen and Allison were walking our Shepherd patient in the yard right next to me.  All three of them were staring at me sort of wide-eyed.  ”Are you ok?” Jen asked.

I was not.

We have recently lost two patients to leptospirosis.  Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease of dogs and some other mammals – INCLUDING PEOPLE – that is treatable but sometimes fatal.  It is not a common disease in all parts of the country.  It is common in Omaha.  In Omaha, leptospirosis is a core vaccine for dogs.  Because we can vaccinate against lepto, this has become a preventable disease.

In infected dogs, lepto attacks and sometimes shuts down the kidneys and livers of dogs.  It is a horrible disease to have and a horrible way to die.  It is tragic to lose a pet to something that did not need to happen.  As every veterinary team member knows, when you fight hard to save a life, you become so bonded to that patient that if they do pass, a bit of you gets ripped out as well.

It turns out I may have been a wee bit oversensitive at the time I was talking to the puppy’s owner about lepto vaccines.  Jan (and, I suspect, the client) saw the entire ordeal as high spirited banter and was not offended in the least.  That is why they keep Jan up front and me (mostly) in the back.  Jan finished checking out the client and set up her appointment for her final puppy booster.

In this lepto story, everyone won, even the crazy doc.

Dear Client,

I am sorry I was a jerk.  You started it.  I mean…I am sorry.  Your puppy is cute.

Pet Blogger Challenge 2014

January 9th, 2014

For the fourth year, pet bloggers are being challenged to think deeply about and speak honestly about their blog.  I love this challenge!  It is fun to share, and fun to learn about other blogs and get to know other writers!

Riley and James – Pet Blogger Challenge 2011

Riley and James – Pet Blogger Challenge 2012

Riley and James – Pet Blogger Challenge 2013

Thank you so much to Edie Jarolim of Will My Dog Hate Me and Amy Burkert of Go Pet Friendly for hosting this fun project!

Pet Blogger Challenge Jan. 10

Riley and James – Pet Blogger Challenge 2014

How long have you been blogging?

I have been blogging for a little over seven years.

Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging because my brother Dave told me I might like it.  You were right – thank you Dave!  At the time, I had to ask him what a blog was – I suspected it was one of those trendy, made up words.  I also did not know whether or not I liked writing, and it turns out I LOVE writing.  I can’t imagine NOT writing now.

Give us a quick description of what your blog is about.

Riley and James is named after my brother Dave’s and my Sister-I-Love Sara’s two giant dogs, Riley the Great Dane who is still doing great at age 9 and James the Mastiff who passed away at age 8.  The blog is not about those two awesome dogs – though it features Dave’s rendition of their cartoon likenesses (How cute are they??)

The main focus of Riley and James is the promotion of preventative care in pets from a veterinarian’s perspective, though if you stick around awhile, TANGENTS seem to be as big a theme as preventative care!  I like to write about my family, our own pets, gardening, Christmas, our annual purple tree, our community, my work, and whatever else is going on in our lives!  It often, but not always, is brought back around to pets!

Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2013, that made you the most proud.

This one is subtle and awesome, and the work of others, not me…which I absolutely love.  Last year I posted as one of my goals that one day soon every cat in Omaha would have a home.

Two years ago, I spent a day with Dr. Horn, one of the veterinarians at Nebraska Humane Society, spaying and neutering cats and dogs.  On a normal work day, I might have a surgery or two, or I might not.  We had dozens of patients that day!  The pace was exhilarating – I loved it.  But the thought of losing puppies and kittens-to-be through spaying every dog or cat – which is the right thing to do – I firmly believe it – just smashed me.

I told Dr. Horn at the end of that day that I supported Nebraska Humane Society 100%, but I knew my role was not to be on the front lines with her.  I said that I would end up curled on in a corner on the floor, and they would have to step over me, and it would just be a pain.  I would be no help.  I was being honest, but I felt like I was letting down our community, Dr. Horn, and the pets that needed me.

I saw Dr. Horn at Central Veterinary Conference this past fall.  She asked me if I remembered that day.  I said that I did.  She said that they had considered how difficult that had been for me, and had improved their technique of juvenile spay and neuter so much that they were able to spay and neuter 1.8 lb. pets whereas before their lowest weight cut off had been 2.0 lbs.  She said that that may not sound like a huge difference, but it meant they could adopt out altered foster kittens and puppies a full week earlier than they could before.  Which meant that they could place more puppies and kittens into foster homes that were now open.  Which meant that they could now house and bring to term many pregnant dogs and cats, whereas before they would need to spay them right as they came in because they just did not have the resources to care for so many newborn puppies and kittens.

Now they do.

They are now rescuing PRE-TERM puppies and kittens by taking in pregnant dogs and cats and waiting to spay them until after they give birth and then adopting out the mamas and all the babies.

I am so proud of our community.  I am so impressed by Dr. Horn and her team.

It is easy to say we should save all the puppies and kittens.  It is almost (but not quite) impossible to be the team that makes that happen.

All I did was cry about it.  And write about it.  The Nebraska Humane Society team took it from there.

In all seriousness, they saw my heart break – they saw a perspective of an outsider who loves baby animals as much as they do – and they brainstormed and worked and made it happen – they save the lives of entire litters all the while saving the lives of the REST of the homeless pets in our community.  I have always been a huge fan of rescuers overall and the Nebraska Humane Society in particular, but this story got to me more than most, and warmed my heart on a very personal level.

I will keep writing.  I will keep hoping for impossible things.  I will try to remember that filling the role that I do is important, while still admiring the awesomeness of and actions of the Rest of the Pet Lovers.

“Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.” 1 Corinthians 12:15

Whatever 2

When you look at the post you wrote for last year’s Pet Blogger Challenge, or just think back over the past year, what about blogging has changed the most for you?

I have had less time to write this past year than before, but I am hoping that I will find more creative ways to fit in writing in 2014.

What lessons have you learned this year — from other blogs, or through your own experience — that could help us all with our own sites?

Write about what you love.  Post lots of pictures!  Don’t be afraid to go off topic sometimes – everyone will love getting to know the whole you.

Alternatively, if you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re still having with your blog, what would it be?

How do you all find time to write such consistently great stuff?  That – tips on finding time in a busy life – would be so helpful at this stage!

What have you found to be the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?

I have not found a better way!

How much time to do you spend publicizing your blog — and do you think you should spend more or less time next year?

I post links on my personal Facebook page and Twitter page and send a link to my Dad.  Yes, I should probably spend more time on this!

How do you gauge whether or not what you’re writing is appealing to your audience? And how do you know when it’s time to let go of a feature or theme that you’ve been writing about for a while?

Sometimes people will tell me in person what they thought of what I wrote, or send me an email.  I also can gauge how a post resonated by comments – though that is not a huge aspect of the blog.  I LOVE when other bloggers I admire or dvm360 pick up a post – That is such a huge compliment.

When you’re visiting other blogs, what inspires you to comment on a post rather than just reading and moving on?

If I really feel strongly about a topic or have a thing to add that has not been said, I will sometimes comment.  I know bloggers’ love language is often comments : ) so I try to comment more  than I normally would – I am more a reader and mover-oner – even of blog posts I love (yours!)

Do you do product reviews and/or giveaways?  If so, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all?

I very infrequently do product reviews, and those only if I have been asked directly.  I tell people who ask that if I do not absolutely love a product, I will not review it at all.  I review quite a few books here, just for fun, and have the same policy.  My Mom told me that if I can’t say anything nice not to say anything at all, so I try not to!  Great reviews are more fun to read, and people want to hear about products and books you loved, not ones you thought were just ok…or worse!

When writer’s block strikes and you’re feeling dog-tired, how do you recharge?

I am SUCH an introvert, that I need time alone or with my family to recharge.  Usually I will read or look through the internet or watch a movie.  If I am REALLY tired, I just need to sleep until I am caught up – not always possible to do all at once – but I always do my best work when I am fully rested!

Have you ever taken a break from your blog? How did that go?

I will often go several days or a few weeks without posting.  I try to go no more than a month.  If I have not written for a while, I can feel myself getting stressed and out of sorts.  I am not an every day writer – I SO admire those of you who are!  But I do need to write regularly to feel like I am at my best.

Have you ever thought about quitting your blog altogether? What makes you stay?

No!  I love it.

What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?

My 2014 goals I hope to accomplish through writing on Riley and James are the continued celebration of preventative care resulting in the eradication of illness and injury and death worldwide, a home for every Omaha cat, then a home for every cat and dog in the world and, as always, an end to puppy mills!

See full size image