If Only Every “Short Man Syndrome” Moment Ended This Way

Filed under: @ 9:25 am

Friday afternoon I was scheduled to see Megatron.
Megatron weighs 130 pounds and stands about 3 1/2 feet high at the shoulder. With his head straight up, Megatron reaches to my shoulder.
Megatron is a BIG dog.
Fortunately Megatron is also a placid, mostly laid back, mostly well mannered dog.

So I’m in the exam room with Megatron and I hear, with half an ear, the front door open and my next appointment walk in.

Spike *is* the biggest dog in the world.
At least according to him he is.

Door opens.
Door closes.

Mumbled voices with a continued background of “yaryaryaryaryaryaryaryar!”

I finish up with Megatron and head back to my hidey hole in the back, separated by two doors, to get Megatron invoiced.

Just enough barking from Spike to cover the amount of time it took for Megatron to walk from the exam room door into the lobby.
Just enough barking time for Spike, all seven pounds and six inches of him, to see the moving wall of dog flesh that was coming his way.

I was struck by the mental image of Megatron walking through the door into the lobby and seeing this hyperactive popcorn kernel on a leash bouncing around and, in the manner of a kitten playing with a bug, reaching out with a forefoot and squashing it flat.
My boss, who was sitting next to me and who is also familiar with Megatron and his placid ways, had much the same theme running through her mind, only her image played out as Megatron walking up to Spike and licking him in a nice friendly manner only realizing after he swallowed that Spike had gotten wrapped up in his tongue. Rather like a frog with a bug.

As I said, I could wish that every short man syndrome moment ended like that.
Andrew’s dude with the 9 mil on his hip? He steps out of the door of the pet store and gets smeared out of existence by an elephant stampede.
The jackass in the overpowered flash car that zips in and out of traffic? He meets a Sherman tank at high speed.
Kim Jong Il? Ah, for him something small and humble. Plague maybe. It would be fitting for an overwhelming narcissist to be taken out by something transmitted by a lowly flea.
The idiot frat boy in the 4WD pickup truck that passed us going west down Snoqualmie Pass at 50 odd MPH in a driving snowstorm? Well, I still think that the Great Hamster in the sky reached down and flicked that kid on the nose. SOMEone had enough of a sense of humor to leave the frat boy, backwards baseball cap, shorts, and all, completely intact and uninjured while his pickup was upside down in a ditch facing backwards UP the pass.

No matter how big and how powerful you are, there’s always something, even if its only your own hubris, that is going to take you out.


The Worser Devils of my Nature

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:29 am

Margaret and I were at our local pet store this weekend buying some feeder mice for the snakes. Being a nice May day, there were quite a few folks out in Ye Olde Burien Towne enjoying the weather, including a medium—er, sorry, Starbucks, that’s Grande—sized horde of children with parents in tow in the pet store itself. A small tactical nuclear family was crowding the aisle where the rodents reside, Mom kind of squashed in the far corner while the kids crowded the plexiglas front of the cage, oohing and ahhing at the snake snacks contained therein. Dad had propped himself up against a shelf at the head of the aisle, making jokes and generally messing with his kids’ minds in just that sort of way I tend to admire: “How’d you like to be the guy who has to shave those hairless rats every day?” he asked of one of his sons. I smiled to myself as I watched #1 Son turn and look up quizzically at his father. Soon enough the kid had lost interest and wandered off into another part of the store. Dad turned to watch him go, and as he did, I saw the 9 millimeter handgun holstered on his left hip.

I should preface anything that follows with the statement that I am, in general, pro gun rights. I think that, in a democratic society, stronger limits on legal gun possession tend to restrict the possession of firearms by those least likely to misuse them. (Which is not to say that I wouldn’t support tougher rules regarding the training that one must undergo in order to legally own a firearm.) I also suspect that there’s a really good chance the drafters of the Second Amendment intended that citizens have the means at their disposal to violently overthrow their own government if ever it became necessary in the name of protecting our freedom. Problem is, that’s not the way the passage actually reads, and I tend to believe in divining the intent of the Founders through their legally-binding documents, not tea leaves, goat entrails or other forms of constitutional augury. Also, given the size and lethal sophistication of Federal military forces these days, to insure true parity by a citizen militia would require the legalization of civilian-owned armaments to horrendously destructive as to make the existence of any form of local law enforcement—from beat cop to National Guard—an act of suicide on the part of its members. So it seems obvious that a certain amount of restriction must be exercised when choosing who may own what sorts of weapons.

But handguns, shotguns, rifles, even so-called “assault rifles” that are made illegal simply because they look more badass than their big-game-hunting counterparts (an act tantamount to classifying a Hummer H2 as a “tank” because it’s encrusted with sorta-kinda-militaryish-looking plastic carbuncles)….I think that the right to keep such weapons should, by and large, be preserved. The “and bear” part takes a little more convincing. I don’t necessarily want to restrict the right of a citizen, lawfully licensed to own a handgun, from being able to carry it on his or her belt in public. That being said, I also don’t want to restrict the constitutionally-protected right of a citizen to, say, write fiction extolling the virtues of rape, incest and child molestation. In either case, I’d simply prefer that the individual in question choose not to.

Whenever some unexpected tragedy of mass murder occurs here in these United States, we are bound to hear from both sides of the aisle in the endless debate over gun ownership in America. The anti-gun folks will staunchly pretend that anyone who wants a gun can’t in all likelihood go out and find one with little or no trouble, legal or otherwise, no matter what kinds of laws are passed; and the pro-gun side will act as though a college/church/Safeway full of individuals armed to the teeth would somehow, against all understanding of human nature, be statistically safer than one without. The actual answer is a lot more nuanced, and a whole holy crapload harder to legislate. A level-headed, well-trained, emotionally-healthy citizen with a firearm might very well be a godsend in such a situation. And if there were any way to instantly and accurately distinguish the level-headed, well-trained, emotionally-healthy people brandishing guns from the paranoid, whacked-out testosterone-poisoned wingnuts, then this would not be the hot-button issue that it currently is.

Personally, I don’t feel like I should have to exercise such intense and potentially life-changing deliberation concerning the mental, emotional and moral stability of my fellow Man every time I enter a public place. Particularly if the only real way to be sure I was protecting my own safety in the face of such ambiguity would be to either a) never leave my home or b) start packin’ heat myself every time I run out for a quart of milk or a can of mice.

To be honest, there’s something a little unnerving about a person who wants to walk down the street with a singular killing device like a Glock strapped to his side. In fact, one has the distinct impression that “unnerving”—or, to put it another way, “intimidation”—is exactly what this guy was hoping to achieve in doing so. It’s a form of pre-one-upmanship, a way of taking all advantage away from the other guy, whoever and under whatever circumstances that may be. “I am prepared to blow a generously-sized hole in you if you make me feel sufficiently threatened, and I have the tool to accomplish this objective not four inches from my dominant hand, so you’d best watch everything you do and say in my presence.” It feels….well, like a form of cheating, I guess. This guy has decided to end the conflict before it starts, by so totally overbalancing the situation in his favor. It’s like deciding to wear a suit covered with millions of spines dipped in shellfish toxin out in public; nobody will have any problem so long as they keep their distance. It’s not your fault if they happen to accidentally brush against you.

I think I chose my reaction to this spectacle quite well; I elected to ignore him. But at the same time—and please don’t imagine for one moment that I am anything but ashamed of this—I have to admit that the more alligatory bits of my brain entertained another possible course of action. Namely, to slip in behind him and shove the knife clipped inside my pocket into the base of his neck, thereby proving the singular futility of attempting to hold back life-altering tragedy through the ostentatious display of lethal force.

But even setting aside the legal, moral and basic human decency questions, all told it was probably better that I didn’t. No doubt his wife would have pulled a Walther from her purse and blown me away.


Mail Bag

Filed under: @ 7:53 am

About a month ago I got a piece of mail at work from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.
No licensed professional likes getting unexpected missives from the state. DSHS doesn’t have much clout over veterinarians, so I was more puzzled than concerned, but still a faint sense of unease persisted.
That faint sense of unease blossomed into a full blown heart attack in an envelope when I pulled out and read:

Dear Margaret L. Hammond

The Health and Recovery Services Administration has received and reviewed your Medicaid Provider application.
We have decided not to enter into a Core Provider Agreement with you at this time. Washington Administrative Code 388-502-0030 (6) reads: “Nothing in this chapter obligates the department to enroll all eligible providers who request enrollment.”

If you have any questions, you can call me at……. etc.

Immediate panic.
Insurance fraud, Medicaid fraud, identity theft. My blood pressure shot up so fast I was dizzy.

The only thing that provided any faint hope that I wasn’t permanently screwed was that my boss had gotten the same letter at the same time.
I was on the phone with the DSHS so fast my telephone smoked.
With really quite remarkable brevity for a governmental organization, to say nothing of a government phone tree, I was actually on the phone with a living human being to whom I could explain my dilemma before my 1:00 appointment showed up.
The DSHS guy to whom I spoke was bright and responsive. And very much seemed to understand my concern that SOMEone had tried to sign me up as a Washington State Medicaid Core Provider. An odd thing for a veterinarian to want, no?
The DSHS guy listened to my concern, agreed that it was more than a little weird and possibly a little ominous, then went to go ask someone whom I should talk to next.
DSHS guy came back to the phone and explained that he had spoken with his supervisor. These letters had gone out to the holders of all DEA numbers in Washington State that the DSHS had decided that they *didn’t* want as Medicaid Core Providers. The DEA numbers had been tagged in a database as early a 1995 as being “undesirable” as Medicaid Core Providers. The letters were getting sent out now because the computer system was being changed over and all of us with “undesirable” DEA numbers got flagged and brought up to the surface of the database again.
So no one tried to sign me up as a Medicaid Core Provider, my DEA number was still secure, all was copacetic.

We laughed at the nonsensical single mindedness of computer systems and I rang off to reassure my boss that her name, reputation, and DEA number were also secure.

Now keep in mind that each and every practicing veterinarian in Washington state that holds a federal DEA number got that letter. As well as a number of researchers, and other scientists with DEA numbers. Thousands of people across the state all calling the DSHS in Olympia in a panicked snit to find out who had been trying to use their name to sign up to receive Medicaid payments.
I felt sorry for the poor phone monkeys at the DSHS.

My sympathy for their computer system, however, failed rapidly when I got a second copy of the exact same letter ten minutes later. The first had come standard post. Outsized, the postage on the original was $0.65.
The second copy came special delivery, Certified Mail, signature required. For $5.30.
So because of what was essentially a computer glitch, the state spent $6.00 times who knows how many thousands of holders of “undesirable” DEA numbers across the state.

To steal a line from Bill Cosby, I told you that story to tell you this one.

A week or so ago I got a letter at home.
A big plastic window across the front shows my name, address, and the following:

SPECIAL NOTICE: You have been selected to represent Republican Voters in Washington’s 9th Congressional District. This is not a U.S. Government Document.

I have?
Opened the contents reveal themselves to be exactly what you’d suspect. It’s a questionnaire and fundraising campaign sponsored by the RNC. All sorts of conservative bloviating about President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and the “liberal agenda”.
I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll send it back and make them pay the postage on their postage paid envelope (to say nothing of making someone read my nauseating liberal opinions on their desperately important questions), or if I’ll shred it and feed it into the worm bin thus getting at least *some* good out of the RNC.

But I have to wonder where, WHERE did they get my name? Does the RNC just carpet bomb with junk mail or did they get my name and address off of some mailing list that got purchased by someone who purchased it from someone who purchased it from someone?
And if so, WHO?!
The Funny Times? The dozens of organic gardening catalogues I receive? The mailing lists of my hippy feminist sports/activewear catalogues? I have absolutely no idea where they could have gotten my contact information.

Unless someone was listening to me rant about waste, fraud, and abuse when I realized that Washington State’s DSHS had spent $6.00 times several thousand to tell those of us with “undesirable” DEA numbers that we weren’t going to be Medicare Core Providers when we hadn’t been interested in doing so in the first place.


Ah fer’ the love of little green apples!

Filed under: @ 8:58 am



So when I went to see the hand specialist in October he said that this sort of thing usually will flare up on and off for a year or more before it calms down completely. He also said that the cortisone injection he gave me at that point would only last about six weeks and granted, I got about six months out of it, but come ON!

I went to see my regular MD on Friday because I could see her and get some sort of relief then instead of waiting to see the hand specialist two weeks from now.
My MD poked, prodded, and twisted and told me that, indeed, I was having a flare up. She wasn’t going to repeat the cortisone injection because really you can only get about three injections in that site before the tendon fails completely and you end up needing surgery.
So on Friday my MD sentenced me to the following: Rest, ibuprofen, ice, ice, rest, rest, ibuprofen, ice, and rest.
Told me I should take a few days off of work and that I should only go back when my arm wasn’t sore.
Listed a bunch of things that I shouldn’t do.
No typing.
No sewing.
Absolutely no knitting.
I can go walking but I’ve either got to let my arm hang or wear a sling (FAIL!).
I can read so long as I balance the book on a pillow on my lap.

I interrupted her at that point and said “So I guess that means I shouldn’t run the rototiller this weekend?”
To her credit, my MD has a sense of humor.

And yes, I’m breaking the “no typing” rule, but my shoulder, my elbow, and my wrist are currently supported in entirely neutral positions and none hurt. And being that the support is a pillow and Pogo, the support is a little lumpy and probably more mobile than is entirely recommended, but I’m comfortable and nothing twinges so we’re all good.
It was freakin’ murder to ignore a gorgeous, perfectly open Saturday and not plant, weed, or rototill.
And it is difficult, although not impossible if you’re conspiring with a pair of overachieving Martha Stewarts, to throw a baby shower with only one arm. The shower, at least, was a marked success.
So I’m going to spend today reading material that needs to be read for this week’s class, playing Scrabble and probably napping.
It’s hard to take time off if you’re feeling well and can’t do what you want or need to get done.
I never have been very good at Zen.


Why I’m Not on Facebook

Filed under: @ 8:27 am

Everyone’s on Facebook, right?

My brother’s on Facebook, my friends are on Facebook, my father is on Facebook. Heck, even my in-laws are on Facebook.

I’m not on Facebook. I miss out on photos of my great nephew because I’m not on Facebook. I miss out on photos of Anastasia dissecting her first frog at school, I miss out on photos of my friend’s new house, I miss out on keeping in touch with friends from high school, I miss out on a lot of stuff.

Why am I not on Facebook?

Welp, this is the first reason.

Question: I am currently doing what?
Answer: Blogging.

Question: Are you blogging on a commercial site?
Answer: No.

I’ve GOT a blog. Okay, technically, I SHARE a blog, but why would I need two?
If something goes hinky with Uncle-Andrew.net I’ve got tech support right here. Instead of trying to make some nameless computer wonk on the other end of the phone understand what the problem is on my end I can have Andrew come, look, and fix.
And believe me, with my unique, um, *talents* as regards making computers go hinky on a regular basis, having in-house tech support is ABSOLUTELY a requirement.
If I need to learn something new to complete a blog post, I’ve got my library, my professor, and my mentor right here. Witness my capability to post photos. I’d NEVER have been able to figure out how to do that on my own (I tried and it was notably unsuccessful) and unless someone was physically in the room to show me how it worked several times over a period of several weeks I wouldn’t have been able to remember how to do it. And that knowledge has been applied in several situations. I can not only post photos to the blog, I can post photos to my online veterinary site, and I can move photos around from various albums to other devices. Extremely helpful when I want to put new photos on the memory card for my digital photo frame.

Here’s the second reason.
I’m not on Facebook because I already have a variety of forums in which I can socialize with those people with whom I wish to socialize.
You’re reading this right? Are we not, in some modern definition of “socialization”, socializing?
I’ve got my subscription veterinary site. VIN is a great community, not only for professional issues, but for personal issues as well whether or not they correlate to our shared profession. I’ve got VIN buddies all over the country and people with whom I communicate in places as far flung as Australia and Israel (and Turkey, and Afghanistan, one in Greece, several in western African nations…) Sounds like a social networking site to me.

And the third, and possibly the most relevant reason I’m not on Facebook was published as a cartoon in May’s Funny Times. It’s a ‘talking heads’ cartoon with a well dressed (suit and tie) man and a more casually dressed woman. I’d post the cartoon, but I can’t seem to figure out why WordPress won’t insert the photo I took of the cartoon and my tech support is currently in Shelton.
The man says to the woman: “I know we’re strangers, but I’d really like you to give me your personal information. A lot of it. And send all your communications through me from now on. I think I could make a fortune from it.”
The woman, angry, replies: “What are you – some *#$%#$/! PSYCHO?!”
“No, I’m a social networking site.”
“Oh, hip. Sign me up.”

But basically the point is this.
I have an unlisted TELEPHONE number. My home number is on the DO NOT CALL list. I have Caller ID (not really by choice, but only because by bundling services I could get my landline service cheaper, but still), one of the reasons I chose my current mobile phone provider is because they DON’T participate in the mobile phone ‘phone book’. Only one of our neighbors knows what I do for a living and she takes her dogs to the veterinary hospital that is two blocks away from us.
The reason I’m so protective of my privacy and personal information?
They get abused.
And not abused by some nebulous corporate entity looking to collect information on my purchasing habits so they can sell me shit, but abused by idiots who think that contacting me at home is a good way to get my “real” professional opinions and abilities when I’m free of the constraint of The Man.
As you will, perhaps, have previously read, people consider veterinarians — most medical professionals really — as public property regardless of whether or not they’re in the office. And veterinarians especially since we “do this because we love animals”. Because we have an interest in both animals AND medicine it means that we love animals so much that no matter where we are and what we’re doing (and whether or not you intend to pay us for our time or services) we’re willing to drop everything to advise, to opine, and to succor. I’ve got colleagues who have been interrupted in church, at children’s birthday parties, heck I even know someone who was pestered for veterinary advice while she was being PREPPED FOR A COLONOSCOPY.
Okay, yes, Facebook profiles can be made private, personal information _can_ be protected, but I don’t want to get sucked into something like this where I’m asked over, and over, and over again about why I’m not willing to be someone’s Facebook friend. Okay, my example is fictional and it may dilute the force of my argument to quote South Park. However Trey Parker and Matt Stone have a point, and since I interact with people professionally every day with whom I do not wish to interact, even on a very superficial level (i.e. “I didn’t accept your ‘friend’ request because my Facebook page is only for my family and friends outside of work”) privately, I think the point is a valid one. I don’t WANT to have to explain to the crazy lady who has called me four times in the space of two days to see if my answer to her request for me to euthanize her dog at home will change, why I also won’t be her Facebook friend. Or why she can’t be mine. And crazy lady isn’t the only one who would call me at the office to ask me questions about things that were bugging her online.
At times being a veterinarian is rather like having a large stable of stalkers.

So accept the fact that I’m not, nor will I ever be, on Facebook or any other public social networking site. And when you’ve got photos or invitations, or news, please do me the favor of e-mailing me directly so I can share them. I’m kind of tired of missing out.


The Fox and the Hound

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:44 pm

We’re not huge local network news watchers, and as unlikely as we are to sit down to a half-hour of taste-ish News McNuggets served up by any of the Big Three, we are about a grillionth as likely to belly up to a steaming plate of Q13 Fox News, the pig-nostril fajita of local current events coverage. But Margaret had a double-handful of snakes while I was cleaning their tank, and she didn’t have ready access to the remote.

So she and I were treated to a peach of a human interest story on Fox about a Seattle Air Force veteran who has run afoul of law enforcement at his local Veterans Affairs hospital, where he goes for treatment for his PTSD. From the lead-in:

SEATTLE – He served his country in the Air Force, fought in both Gulf Wars and now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. His life changed for the better when he got medical help and a service dog, named Rescue. But, now this Iraq vet says he’s in the doghouse with the Seattle Veterans Affairs Hospital over the 6-year-old chocolate lab.

Randy Tobler is aided with his PTSD by his service dog, who accompanies him to his regular therapy sessions at the VA. This is not the problem that got Tobler “in the doghouse”; service animals are welcome at the hospital. The problem is that, for some reason, Tobler insists on having his dog accompany him without benefit of a leash.

Let’s be clear: nobody, including the VA, including me, wants to force this guy to attend his therapy sessions without his faithful hound. The dog is a service animal: it fulfills a clear therapeutic function for him. But we should all bear in mind that we are talking about, for lack of a better term, a dog. And in the city of Seattle, dogs are required to be on a leash.

There are really, really good reasons for this law, that go far beyond allowing the jack-booted thugs at the VA to push innocent patients around for their own sick amusement. Like every other dog on the face of the planet, service dogs come in all shapes, sizes, temperaments and levels of training. Just slapping a nylon vest on a mutt does not make it an antiseptic, perfectly controlled servomechanism that can be left to its own devices. Dogs run the gamut of qualities: from gregarious, impulsive and curious, all the way through unsanitary, aggressive and dangerous. This is why they aren’t allowed off-leash in Seattle grocery stores, let alone hospitals.

Dogs are dependent upon their owners not only for their social cues, but for the mediation of their physical behavior. That’s pretty much the distillation of the difference between adult human beings and other animals. They are not held responsible for their actions; we are. And society—at least Seattle society—has decreed that citizens are not required to leave their personal safety and comfort to chance in the presence of other people’s pets in public areas.

One of the things that drove both Margaret and I so completely nuts about this piece was the fact that, at no point was the question asked of Tobler that both of us deemed to central to the controversy, namely: what is it about the prospect of putting your dog on a leash when you go to therapy that is so fucking detrimental to your mental and emotional well-being? I’m super cereal here: neither of us can come up with anything remotely like a reasonable explanation for this. Despite his no-doubt debilitating condition (for which I feel the government should spare virtually no expense in treatment), Tobler is not physically disabled. He does not have pronounced loss of motor function. Rescue the chocolate lab is not fetching him drinks of water or answering the door for him. However severe the injuries he suffered in service to his country, Tobler does not require an untethered service animal to help him to manipulate or maneuver through his environment. And this being the case, there seems to be no rational reason why his dog needs to be free to roam the campus of his local VA hospital, any more than he should be free to roam the aisles of his local Safeway.

And without this crucial justification, Mr. Tobler’s defiance of what appears to be a perfectly reasonable prohibition begins to look less like a personal stand against the forces of darkness and more like a temper tantrum. I can’t come up with any viable physiological/medical/ethical justification for his action in this particular case. On the other hand, I only have to go as far as my local public park to see lots of examples of what thoughtless, selfish, uncaring dog owners are willing to force their fellow citizens to put up with, to the detriment of everything from their shoes to their limbs and, on occasion, their very lives.

Also from the article:

“I have yet to see a policy of the VA that says service dogs need to be on a leash, until I see that I’m not violating any rules or regulations, breaking any laws,” said Tobler.

And later,

Randy says his last few visits have actually been a lot quieter. But, he says until someone shows him something in writing, “Rescue” will stay at his side without his leash.

“Don’t bother me, I’m not bothering you. I’m here for treatment, I’m here to help myself, helping myself helps society,” said Tobler.

Of course I’m probably not getting the entire story (Entire Story divided by Local Media minus Fox Affiliate equals *ptooey*), but given that what little grist the viewer was given to mill was geared radically towards the side of sympathy for Mr. Tobler, it’s hard to imagine that anything that would give more weight to his side of the issue was left on the cutting room floor. As a result, I’m not in too grave a fear for my immortal soul when I opine that the above quotes don’t show this guy in the best light. If you took “disabled veteran” out of the narrative, what you would have left would basically be a guy who wants to defy city law and common courtesy in the name of his “rights”. You can imagine a similar argument from the guy with the backyard pen full of dogs that bark all night, or the yard full of rusty cars that leak oil into the neighbors’ ground water, or the passel of teenagers who tear down residential streets at homicidal speeds. Fuck you, I know my rights, you can’t prove anything, show me the law what sez I can’t.

The article concludes with mention that the VA hospital is officially codifying their requirement that service animals be on a leash at all times. I can only hope that Mr. Tobler will comply with this perfectly reasonable request so that he may continue to receive treatment there. That’s a right I wouldn’t ever dream of denying him.

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