Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Return

Two nights ago, I awoke to the sound of a cat meowing. It was 2:30 in the morning and it was one of those awakenings where you here something while you're half asleep and then your brain processes it enough to startle you the rest of the way awake. I was startled. I hear the meowing but could not tell where it was coming from. Outside? Under the house? In the wall? In my closet? From the neighbor's house? I was calling for Magnolia and trying to listen but also trying to move quickly in case she moved. I went outside--barefoot, which is awful because there is a lot of broken glass and trash outside--and looked under the house with a flashlight. Looked in my closet. Thought about banging on the neighbor's door to ask if they knew what it was, or where it was coming from. After about an hour the meowing stopped and I gave up because I knew I needed to get back to sleep.

I thought about it all day, and was worried I had missed my chance.

I got home and almost immediately heard it again. I asked my roommate if she could come in and help me figure out where it was coming from. She suggested the attic, which hadn't even occurred to me because I didn't really realize we had an attic.

We have 12-foot ceilings, though. So we got the step stool, which got me on top of my short bookshelf, which got me onto my roommate's shoulders, which allowed me to heave myself on top of my closet--closets were added to the rooms here, so they don't go all the way up--and from my closet I could get to the panel that leads to the attic. I opened it up and there she was! Right there! Little Magnolia found her way into the attic!

The story doesn't end here, though. It would never be that easy.

She wouldn't come to me. I crawled all the way into the attic and she ran under the duct work. While looking for her, I hit my head on a rafter. I tried tempting her with food and she looked at me and then ate a bug. She disappeared for awhile and then came back into sight, sitting under some square metal box involved in the a/c system, vanishing if I came too close. So I laid down on some boards and held my hand out and waited to see if she'd come to me. She did, and I started to pet her and then tried to grab her. But I didn't get a good hold and she got away. I decided to give up for awhile because a failed capture usually makes whatever you're trying to catch extra wary. And it was really hot in the attic. I came down, grey from all the dust and dirt up there, but left food on top of my closet under the opening to try to get her to come down.

She came to the opening and started to meow but would not make the jump. I pushed a crate on top of the closet to give her something to jump onto first. Didn't work. My roommate had left so I couldn't get back up myself. When I finally did get back up there, she ran away again. So I decided to sit on top of my closet with a book and wait for the kitten to come to me.

My roommate came into my room at one point to ask how it was going and I said I hadn't see her and then my roommate told me she was right behind me. She was. Her little head was poking out of the attic right above my right shoulder. I held my hand out to her and she purred and ran away. Eventually she started coming to the edge more and more and I just left my hand out for her to approach on her own time. Which she did. I petted her for awhile before I tried to grab her again, to make sure I would have a good shot at it. I grabbed her by the scruff, stuffed her in the crate and passed her down.

Now she's back to normal and she seems mostly happy. I think her desire for freedom will always be there, though.

I love these kittens so much.

Oh, and, just for laughs, here is a picture my roommate took of me perched on the crate on top of my closet, with my book, waiting for the kitten to show up.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kitten Pictures

Since you might be wondering what they look like, I have pictures ready finally.

These are of Magnolia. The first one isn't so cute but you can see how big her eyes are.

 She's such a cuddler. I really hope she comes home.

And that's Cypress. She's a pretty kitty, but there's something weird about her face. Don't know what it is. She's no Magnolia and she's a little stupid and she doesn't like to cuddle except for about five minutes after a few hours of being obnoxious. She'll grow on me. But in the mean time, she mostly makes me sad.

In other news, I'm allergic to my allergy medicine. The irony is amazing.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Magnolia ran away.

I came home from work and couldn't find her in her usual spots so I went looking extra hard and then found an open dryer vent in the kitchen that we didn't know was there because there were boxes in front of it. But it's a chute straight under the house and she easily could have climbed in and slipped out.

I am absolutely devastated. I've been crying since I figured it out.

I got the second kitten last night and wonder if that's what drove her out. I feel awful. I feel so bad because I shouldn't have gotten a kitten if I didn't have the time to spend with it. If I'd been home today she wouldn't have gotten out. And the first thing I said at work this morning was "I can't wait to get home and see my kittens."

And now I have Cypress and I feel like I should just find her a new home because it's not meant to be.

I already miss her so much. Right now she'd be cuddling up with me and purring like crazy.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tipping the Scale

I wish, I just wish I could explain how happy I am right now. Does this get old to hear? I'm sorry if it does, but it's just so overwhelming and true right now.

I had a great day. A really awesome, great day.

I was driving home from the zoo, thinking about it, everything, just thinking. And it occurred to me how lucky I am to have such strong passions. How lucky I am to have been able to follow my heart and my dreams, how happy I am because of it, and how lucky I am, really, to have dreams to follow. I know people find things to do and are happy doing them but if you were to ask me what I wanted to do most in my life, what I'm doing right now would be the answer. I get to do the thing I most want to do in life. I just know it and I feel it and it's right and it's wonderful. I feel like I have a good sense of who I am and that's great. Really great.

I got to wander around the country a little. I got to pick the city I wanted to live in. I get to do what I love every day. I knew I wanted to do these things and I got to do them.

I was driving home from work and all of this was going through my head. I have a passion. And I've been told numerous times that that in itself is unique and special because so many people lack passion and direction. I have the courage, spirit, tenacity, stupidity, whatever it needs to be called and whatever moment, to follow that passion and to continue to follow it.

I'm just happy. Content. I feel like I'm exactly where I am supposed to be right now. Not where I'm supposed to be forever. Where I'm supposed to be right now.

Now about my really great, super awesome day.

We finished our morning cleaning early. Awesome. One of the keepers bought me lunch. Awesome. The keepers were talking about elephants and the AZA and all sorts of things and I love learning about all of it, and the different opinions. Awesome.

Cherry on top:

I created an enrichment project that the leopards enjoyed.

Silly, you say? Not so awesome, really. Except it totally and completely is.

At the beginning of the day one of the keepers told me and another intern that we needed to make enrichment for Suchka, the female leopard, by the end of the day. We brainstormed a little and thought about doing elephant poop burritos. But I love enrichment so my brain kept storming and when we got to the project I decided I wanted to make hanging balls of elephant poop to dangle off a stick so they could bat them around. Here's the catch: we can't use normal things because it has to be edible and non-toxic. We sit down with banana leaves and palm fronds and I get to work. The banana leaves tear too easily so my original idea doesn't work so well, so I take shreds of palm frond and start weaving them together to form a little basket. Meanwhile, a couple people are standing around watching and thinking I'm nuts and it's not going to work and why hang them anyway, it won't work. I weave some more until I figure out how to make it work and get a woven ball with a clump of poop inside it. I make a second pouch, too, and the other intern likes my idea and makes one sort of ball thing in addition to her two burritos. We use some more palm fronds to give them strings to hang with and get dried stalks to hang them from.

Moment of truth comes after we put them in the holding areas for the leopards and let them in. Mine went into the Suchka's holding and she never plays with things, hardly responds to enrichment, and if she does it's never in front of people. But she did! It took her awhile because the first time she swatted at it and it swung she got scared but she started really playing with it and it was so cool to watch! So cool! To see my idea work like I wanted it to was just so awesome! I gave her something she's never seen before, something she could do something with. It's a really neat feeling.

That was my super awesome day. And you know what it completely overshadows?

The fact that yesterday was cockroach day. They swarmed out of the walls when the keeper applied insecticide and while they were swarming, and volunteer and I were picking roach eggs off the walls. That's what I did yesterday.

But today I got to see an Amur leopard play with a ball. Do you know how cool that is? I will absolutely deal with a cockroach swarm every couple of days if I get to see an endangered leopard play every once in awhile. It more than balances out.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I took Magnolia into the vet I work at today and she came out with a clean bill of health! She has worms, but I knew that already and she's started on dewormer today. But she doesn't have FIV (feline AIDS) or feline leukemia and those are the big scary ones. She got her first set of shots and she did pretty well at the vet. I talked to the vet a little bit, too. I've met her before but haven't talked to her much and she was so nice! She told me she really respects my adventurous spirit--the road trip--and she told me she's really glad I'm working there because I'm a really good fit. Which I think has to do with the fact that I'm doing my zoo thing and working there and adopting strays. It's the kind of thing someone working at a kennel should do! Love animals in all ways!

Yesterday I emailed my supervisor from NW Trek to tell him I was in New Orleans because he used to work in the department I'm interning in. Also to thank him for acting as a reference for me. He replied saying that I definitely have the "right stuff to become a zoo professional" which really was great to hear.

I'm happy. Today was a good day. It was an exhausting day, but a really good one. I'm going to heat up some food, or something, feed the kitten and then go to sleep. Zoo day tomorrow!

Monday, August 22, 2011


My feral kitty is doing better and better every day. She uses her litter box without a problem, she now accepts petting and sometimes even comes to me for it. She will purr and twice she has almost started to play. She's still scared of open spaces so when she leaves her crate she runs and hides. She goes under my bed for the most part, though this morning she did crawl into the back of the oven. She's allowed out of her crate while I'm home, now, so she can adjust to big open spaces. Hopefully this happens quickly. I'm taking her to the vet tomorrow on my lunch break. If I'd worked there six months, I'd get a discount on services but 2 weeks leaves me nowhere. Oh well. I can't wait to get her de-wormed or to have her tested for feline leukemia or FIV, since her being positive would make it so I couldn't keep her. And worms can kill her if not treated. How fun.

I haven't eaten dinner the last two nights. For a few reasons. Too tired, too distracted, and not having anything to cook in the house. And not having the energy to figure out what to make for dinner and then going to the grocery store for food. I've learned I cannot go to the grocery store without a very specific plan because I will come home with a lot of things that seem to make sense together but will in reality never come together to form a meal.

That's my greatest weakness in cooking. I can't look at things and think "Oh, I can make this!" and I can't think of how to make something taste right if I forgot something. Which is weird because I can do those things with baking. I'm not the best at it there either, but I am much better with pies, cookies, or cupcakes when it comes to think about what to combine. Or add, subtract, or substitute.

So my solution has been to just skip the hassle. It's looking like tonight will be night number three.

I also looked at my bank account today and it made me a little uneasy and the only way to cut back on spending is food. The kitten is a surprise expense, but I knew what I was doing when I took her and her sister. They're worth cutting back a little more.

Last night I was thinking "I don't want to go to the kennel job tomorrow. After the zoo is just doesn't even come close to making me happy." And it was a big fat lie. I got to work today and I was happy to be there and I enjoyed myself. I was washing food dishes this morning and thought how impossible it is to doubt where  my passion lies. Five days a week, I work close to animals without getting paid. On my two days off from that I go to work close to animals. And now I come home from work to my animals. I spent half an hour under my bed last night petting the kitten in her safe spot, to show her I could be part of her safe spot and that she was allowed to have it. I spent another twenty minutes under there this morning before pulling her out to put her back in her crate.

I wake up to the kitten. Feed her. Clean her litter box. Go to work. Feed animals (zoo type or dog type, depending). Clean up after them. Feed them. Come home and feed the kitten again. Go to sleep. Animals animals animals.

I wonder why, sometimes. Why animals. What is it. Why is that where I feel I belong, why is that what I feel I can do best.

But it feels so good. To know where I belong and to know what I do best. And to work with people thinking about the same things. There are opinions, there are definitely different opinions and schools of thought about what to do and how to do it and why to do it that way. But it's this whole other language that I don't get to use most of the time. But at the zoo I get to use it and I get to hear it back. Here are some palm fronds, we need enrichment for the leopard. And then I get to go and wonder, if I were a leopard, what would I find stimulating but not scary?, and build a forest. And no one comes in  going "What are you doing?" They come in and help me wedge a palm frond into the wire mesh so it'll create a canopy for the leopard.

I love it.

Ever feel like something is just in your bones? Part of you? Part of who you are and what you're meant to be?

That's what this is.

But how on earth did it get there?

Friday, August 19, 2011

It All Happened So Fast

I am a pet parent.

There have been some strays at the zoo, and these strays had kittens this summer. The people in my section have been letting them be, for the most part, but more people are finding out about them and are not too happy about cats in the zoo. A few weeks ago there was a  trapping party and they managed to get nine of the kittens. There were still one or two left, plus the mommy kitties. We caught one of the kittens last night.

So here's the situation. One intern took three of the kittens but can only keep two, at the most, so I said I would take the third one. Then we caught this other little kitten and they were saying the word "euthanasia" too often for me to be comfortable so I said "I'll take him."

He's now in a crate in my room. I'm calling him "he" but I don't know yet what he is, which is why he doesn't have a name.

The other kitten I'm going to be taking in has been called "grey kitty" but that has a lot to do with the fact that the girl taking care of her has been trying to not let it become hers. I had a dream about grey kitty last night, though, in which I was trying to find a name for her. I named her Cypress. I think it's a pretty cat name and it'll remind me of the South so I like it. Woo dream ideas! I'll get her in a few days when this much more scared kitten has had some time to adjust. Hopefully he does adjust. The other cats that need to be caught--the adults, mostly--we're trying to find a farm home for, so they can be barn cats. They've probably been living on their own too long to fully adjust to being around people but they would make great barn cats. And if this little guy we caught yesterday doesn't adjust to home life, I'll look for a barn cat life for him, too.

I'm telling myself I'm fostering these kittens. Until they can find more permanent homes. I know I'm not in the most stable part of my life right now, but I know that I can give them a reasonable amount of comfort for a few months if that's what it takes to find them homes. I'm telling myself this so that I won't feel completely terrible if I have to give them up.

In other zoo news, I hand-fed a babirusa--it's a pig--melon today and we became friends. The tigers got cow masks, which is exactly what it sounds like. It's the face skin of a cow. Boy did they love those. I can tell the tigers apart now, based on their facial stripes. And their tail stripes. I'm learning how to quickly cut a chicken in half for the leopards. Oh, and I hand-fed the elephants peanuts. They suction them out of your hand with their trunks, then roll their trunks and set them down in the curve of the trunk, then suction them back up and drop them in their mouths. Elephants are so cool. Also, they changed the rules and apparently I will not be allowed to go free contact with the elephants. So depressing. Oh well.

Kitten started to meow and approach the front of the crate but as soon as I moved got really quiet and retreated. This is going to be a process. But I always especially love the ones that need help.

Sometimes my career choice makes my heart sink when I think about how tough it's going to be to get a paying job, but at the same time, there is so much about it that really does make it worth it. Soul-satisfying type things.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Zoo!

I love zoos. I love them I love them I love them.

At the end of the day the keeper I was with asked me how I felt, thoughts, feelings, etc. I said:

I'm just really excited. And I feel like this is where I'm supposed to be and it just feels great to be in a zoo again.

That's exactly what it is. Exactly. It just feels right.

And that's weird. Because there are a lot of things about zoo keeping that one would think are reasons to be completely not excited about the whole thing. First, the amount of poop you deal with. The amount of stink that comes off animals just by them existing. Foxes, for example, are extremely stinky creatures. There is a lot of cleaning. Scrubbing-type cleaning. Lots of hoses. Which I guess doesn't seem like a big thing, but if you wind up enough hoses in a single day, it gets pretty irritating. There are bugs. There are always flies, there are sometimes maggots, the craziest looking spiders tend to love zoos, and of course, there are cockroaches. Lots and lots of cockroaches.

Here's a story for you, about the cockroaches. We fed the tigers. We let them out. We walked down the hall to let the bears out. We came back. The tiger had not finished his breakfast and there were eight cockroaches on the meat that was left on the floor. Eight. They live in every crevice. The thing about cockroaches, I'm not really more comfortable around them when they're dead. When they're alive they move so fast you don't always see them, but when they're dead you get a chance to really look at them and it's just awful.

Back to the job. It's such a weird, physical, gross job. And you have to have a degree. You have to have experience. A lot of experience. I met a girl working there today who did five internships and went back to school to get her masters--in zoo stuff--before she got a job. And then the pay is miserable to average. But people fight for these jobs. People do five unpaid internships and go back to school to get these jobs.

But you know what I did today?

I gave two elephants a Werther's candy. I held them in my hand and they took them from me with their trunks and sucked on a little bitty candy for a while. And that's awesome. That's worth it. To make eye contact with an elephant, to see it be happy, worth it, worth just about anything.

There is a white tiger, his name is Adee, who gets to be spoiled and eat as much as he wants and come inside whenever he doesn't want to be on exhibit.

There are also sun bears, lions, Amur leopards, a type of pig I can't spell the name of, porcupines and storks. And some feral cats that live with the porcupines, apparently.

Here's the caveat to my zoo stories: I can't publish things which aren't common knowledge. This blog is public so I can't put details and some stories here. Or behind-the-scenes pictures, if there ever are any. So! This means that if you would like detailed zoo stories I will have to email them to you. If you would like to be included on that email list, lemme know. I started this blog for a lot of reasons, but one was to not clog up inboxes with stories. I'd like to not go back to that but I can't publish some stories here and while it's likely no one would ever stumble upon this, if they did I could get into some trouble and that would not be the best way to get a job.

I was going to write about free contact versus protected contact and a lot of things that came up today, but I'll save it for another time. I'm getting tired already and I have some reading to do. Maybe some knitting.

I'm in a really happy place right now, in case you couldn't tell.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


On Sunday night I got a phone call from the emergency vet clinic I applied at awhile ago, asking to set up an interview. I didn't call back until just now because I was thinking really hard about whether or not I wanted a third job. It's a clinic that's only open at night so I would have hours from 6-midnight. I could fit it in, technically. And extra money would be great. Really really super duper great. But then I got home from work today and I'm so tired I'll probably be asleep within the hour. And it's 7:38 right now. I actually considered going to bed before dinner because I didn't really have the energy for making anything. I ended up making a quesadilla. Anyway, so I called back and said I had already taken another job. Part of me really wants to interview for the it anyway. Get it. See if I could fit it in. Not worrying about money would be so great. so so great. But I don't think I could make it on five and a half hours of sleep some nights. I wish they had called me sooner! I think it would be a better job for my schedule, but oh well.

Oh, I have hives all over my face. It's delightful. They don't itch that bad and they aren't all that red, but it's a little annoying. I think it must be from dog slobber. Some dogs give me hives. It's only happened once or twice before, but it has happened. Hopefully they settle down in a day or so.

I had more things I was going to say but I'm so tired I can't really think. I haven't been sleeping well. I usually sleep through the night without interruption but the last few weeks I've been waking up a few times. I don't think my sleep has been very restful. Hopefully tonight.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Last Weekend

So on this, my last Saturday off work for the next three months, guess what I was? Just guess. You'll never get it.

I was bored.

I woke up at 8, hung out in bed for awhile, made breakfast, read a little, knitted a little, read some more, went to the library to get some books, went to Wal-Mart to get bed risers, read more, knitted more. Not a big day.

It makes me less anxious to think about the next three months when I realize that my last weekend isn't spent doing exciting things I'm going to be unable to do while working. I'll have less reading time per day, but I won't have zero reading time. Same with knitting. I know I'll be annoyed on laundry days when I have to go to the laundromat after work instead of being able to come directly home, but that's about it. I have an hour lunch break at the clinic which is enough to run quick daytime errands if I need to. And if I get really exhausted there is no reason I can't go to bed the second I get home from work if I want to.

I made rice krispie treats tonight. I've never made them before and it was a mild disaster. I dropped a glob of marshmallow on the floor and of course stepped in it right away, then stepped in it with the other foot shortly after, which means that everywhere I went after that had a sticky spot until I took my socks off. Now the kitchen floor has sticky spots all over because marshmallow dries pretty clear. I'll clean them as I find them, I guess.

I killed two suspect bugs tonight that may or may not have been juvenile cockroaches. Unless I'm 100% sure it is not a cockroach, it gets squished. It's the sad truth of my fear right now.

I went to the eye doctor yesterday because my right eye has been acting up every third or fourth morning and it's not going away and it's very, very annoying. Doctor couldn't decide what it was. He gave me sample bottles of antibiotics--free! I love free--to use this week, just in case, but he thinks it's more likely that it's an allergy that's bothering me because both my eyes look like they're responding to an allergen. It's all inconclusive, though. Both my eyes, on the inside parts you can't see when you're looking at me, look like there's an allergy problem, but only my right eye is having problems. Doesn't make sense. The stuff coming out of my eye--gross, sorry--is opaque, which is usually infection but could be a chronic allergy that's causing white blood cells to show up. However, the allergy medication he prescribed for me is expensive. He told me this, but I haven't checked yet. He said without insurance it can be $125, and it doesn't have a generic form, so it might still be pretty high even with my insurance. That's why I'll be giving the antibiotics a go first and if they don't work I'll go see about this allergy stuff. But if it's too expensive (above $25) I think I'll just deal with my eye every couple of mornings.

Tomorrow I'm finally going to see Harry Potter. So I do have plans for my last day off. And I know if I don't see it now I won't get to see it in theatres, so it needs to happen. Pretty excited!

Now I'm quite tired. I almost didn't eat dinner after making the krispie treats because I was too tired. By the way, they aren't ordinary krispie treats, they're smores krispie treats! Pretty good, but, ha, too sweet for me. I might pass them out at work.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Where To Start

I tried to go to bed on time last night. I really did. Ask Aunt Julie. I was winding down at 9:30. My wind down includes turning off my overhead light and turning on my lamp to read by. Less light helps sleepiness ease on in. I finished my episode on Netflix, closed my computer, focused on my book and was cozy.

Then I saw something out of the corner of my eye. By the lamp. I look over. Well, hello there, VERY LARGE COCKROACH.

No joke, my heart stopped for a second. I froze. What am I supposed to do when there is a cockroach on my wall right next to my bed?!

I'm supposed to get a shoe. But it's dark because I turned off the main light. I make a move to get out of bed, slowly so the cockroach won't know I'm moving and getting ready to (try) to kill it. The cockroach knows, though. He takes matters into his own hands. He flies--more on this later--just a little bit, off the wall, and then LANDS ON MY BLANKETS.

I leap out of my bed, to a standing position on the edge of my bed--if I'm so much bigger and taller than it, it will die of fright, right? Really I think I was trying to get my face as far from where it was as possible--and scream words I don't quite recall, which startles the cockroach, motivating him to scurry away. Scurry he does, right between my bed and the wall.

So there I am. Standing on my bed. Staring at the place on the wall where he was, and the small little gap between my wall and my bed where he disappeared. I turned on my lights because cockroaches don't like light. I called in the cat because she likes to hunt bugs. She couldn't find it, though, and just curled up on the end of my bed and went to sleep. I was really at a loss. To sleep, I would need to turn the lights off. But if I turned the lights off, he would feel safe and perhaps come back out of the gap and into my bed.

I'm thinking it through, discussing my options with a few people and then I see it fly into the kitchen. He had gone under my bed and across the room and then decided to leave. At this point, I'm not sure if cockroaches can fly. I ask a friend to look it up for me, because I know if I look it up, the internet will inevitably give me a picture of a cockroach and I couldn't bear to look at one right then. She confirms that the American cockroach, while it seldom chooses to fly because it's so quick on foot, can, indeed, fly.

I ask you: why on earth does a cockroach need to fly? Here is this little insect that already has the power to terrify and disgust just about the whole human race, and not only can it go so fast on foot that it can often times escape murder, but its little exoskeleton protects it from the brutest of forces, and, just for kicks, it is also allowed to fly. So that literally no place, not a single place in the world, is free from cockroaches. They can get anywhere.

I want to get a mosquito net. Except its purpose will actually be keeping the cockroaches out of my bed.

Now we come to today.

I'm tired. I know my body will get used to the kind of work I'll be doing and it won't hurt so much over time, but yeesh. My knees hurt so much. It's not really my knees, it's above my knees on either side of the knee cap. Weird. And my feet hurt. And my shoulders hurt. But, all in all, I like my job. Two hours of each shift is sitting outside with the dogs and that is mighty fun. It can a little crazy because dogs will play too rough, or an excited dog will step on a grumpy dog by accident and the grumpy dog will flip out. Things like that. Today there was a little pitbull that was playing really rough with this other smaller dog; she didn't mind all that much, but there were times when the pitbull would hold on a little too long. I would step in sometimes, but so would Quincy, a German Shepherd who is being boarded there right now.

A lot of the other people at the kennel think Quincy is a jerk. I, however, am extremely partial to German Shepherds and I love Quincy. He's a goof ball, he breaks up fights, and he lets you pet his ears as much as you want. He will dunk his whole face in water when he's hot, and then rub his face in dirt. Then when he wants to wipe his face off he'll come right up to you and rub his fact off on your pants. It's the weirdest thing but he treats people like towels.

I really like German Shepherds and I think I'm starting to figure out why. There are two others being boarded right now, Ida and Ursa, and I like them a whole lot, too. And I think it's because German Shepherds don't like just anyone. They aren't unfriendly, they just aren't interested in everyone. You have to try with German Shepherds. You have to make an effort and then wait to see if they'll like you or not. Like with Ida. She's almost pure white--except for one ear that's speckled with some very light orange, so cute!--and kind of shy. I'm usually drawn to shy dogs for some reason so I tried to pet her a few times and then she started coming up to me on her own. Today in the play yard she stayed by me most of the time, unless exuberant dogs came over, which she doesn't like so she'd move away. Now her sister likes me, too. Both of them will come when I call them. Ursa is more relaxed, so she'll lay down by my feet and relax even if there are other dogs around. I like them a lot.

And I like knowing a dog likes me because it feels safe around me or comfortable around me, not because it feels safe around every human. Which is sort of how I feel about people, too. I'm skeptical of people that like other people instantly. Like labs.

It's about time for dinner, I think. Then I'm going to start a knitting project. Then read. Then go to sleep.

Hopefully no more cockroaches.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

First Day

I hope everyone is prepared for what animal jobs mean as far as this blog goes. It'll pretty much be animal stories from here on out. And just about every day you'll get to hear about how tired I am. I just occurred to me today that starting August 15 I will have three months of continuous work, without a day off. 8am to 5pm, seven days a week. I'm curious to see when my brain shuts down.

My first day of work went well. I always hate being the new kid, because I don't know anything and have to constantly ask "What do I need to be doing right now?" "Where is that? Where do I put this?" But by the end of the day it was already getting a little better.

Two times a day the dogs get taken outside for puppy play group, which lasts two hours each time. People have to be with the dogs to watch and make sure no fights break out, and they switch halfway through play time because it's really hot outside. I first went out with the little dogs, which was okay, but they aren't my favorites. The old dogs go out with the small dogs, too, since they can't rough house with the big dogs the same way.

The big dogs are so fun! One dog came today, his name is Gus, and he is a Great Dane. He is a huuuuge dog. His should comes a little above my hip and his head almost comes to my shoulder. He's so sweet! He'll try to lean into you when you pet him but he weighs more than I do, so I had to brace myself for it and once I just decided to lean against the fence. There's also a German Shepherd being boarded right now and everyone tells me he's a brat, and I can see it, but he's also pretty sweet.

They have this other dog, her name is Eve, and she is strange and has a sad story. I don't know exactly how/where she started, but she had a family--sort of--but they also had an aggressive dog that decided it really didn't like her. The family brought little eight week old Eve into the vet and she had a leg broken in two places and the other leg was chewed up really bad. The vet took the dog from them, because it obviously couldn't go back, and kept her. The leg had been broken in the growth plate so one of the bones in her leg kept growing and the other couldn't. Her leg started to bow out--it still does, and there's a big lump--and they did a bone graft and kept her in a cast for two months until the leg could support her properly. She got adopted out and that family kept her for quote awhile and then they had a baby that was severely allergic--brain swelling kind of allergic--to dogs, so they had to get rid of her and the vet took her back. Now, I guess, she's starting acting up, probably because she lost her family and now has to be in a kennel for the greater part of every day.

She can be a little snappy, and she's a big, big dog so it's a little intimidating, but watching her I think most of her attitude is directed toward other dogs that are causing conflict. If two dogs start fighting or playing too rough she goes over and bites one on the back of the neck, or steps between them and chases one off. When she was with the little dogs, the whole pack of them start yapping away at a dog on the other side of the fence and she started mouthing them until they cleared away and quieted down. She plays really well with Gus, the Great Dane.

Dogs are so fun to watch. And some of them come up to me more than others. One is a white German Shepherd mix named Idaho, but I think they just call her Ida. She's very sweet and very pretty and she kept coming over to where I was and getting my attention so I would pet her.

There is one super sad dog. Oh my. She's a whippet, I think. Greyhounds are the small ones, whippets are the big ones, I think. Anyway, she's really really old and arthritic and can barely walk; when someone takes her for a walk they have to use a sling to hold up her hind legs since she can't do it well on her own. Her skin is so thin that she bleeds really easily, and if she gets any pee or poo on her--which happens since she's old enough that she can't really wait anymore--it burns her skin. It has me wondering why the owner is keeping her alive. I know that might sound callous of me, but what kind of quality of life is there for a dog that can't stand up on her own, and then bleeds if she has an accident because pee burns her skin? But I'm sure the owner knows that and is in a really tough place right now.

Anywaaayyyy! Happier things!

I got in tomorrow and Friday for training, I have Saturday and Sunday off, go back Monday and from then on it'll be work, work and some more work. Mondays will be my short days--I'll get off at 4! Which means Mondays will also probably be laundry days.

Almost dinner time! I've been holding out since I got home because I'm pretty sure once I eat I'll just want to go to sleep. Going to try not to do that until at least 7.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I wasn't going to post today because I want to get some reading in since my free time is about to plummet since I now  have a job. But I'm so happy that I thought I should post and share my wonderful feelings!

Right, I got a job today! A paying job! Here's how it went:

I got up early and got dressed in my fancy interview clothes (I own exactly one set of fancy interview clothes, in case you were wondering). I paced around the house a little bit trying to kill those last twelve minutes before I needed to leave the house because I knew I wanted to get there early but I didn't want to get there too early. Finally the moment came and I got there ten minutes early, as planned, and read some of the pet literature in the lobby. Interview time!

It went well. I told them about my experience with animals in shelters and zoos, saying the animals might be different but the work is quite similar, with a lot of cleaning and all of that. They asked if I was comfortable with learning proper animal restraint, comfortable with all breeds of dogs, comfortable with euthanasia, all of that. Nod, nod, nod. It went really well. Then she asked me about my availability. I had already slipped in the internship so they knew, but when I said what my hours were the interviewer actually winced. She said the hours they have don't match when I'm available. I told her I understood and that I still wanted to come in for the interview, knowing matching my availability would be difficult. I told her, though, that if they ended up with any gaps after their interviews and hiring that fit my schedule they could feel free to contact me about them. She said she didn't want to take me out of the mix and asked what I would be doing at the end of my internship, I said I didn't know, I would be looking for employment wherever I could get it.

I left the clinic with conflicting emotions. Upset I didn't get the job, but happy that the interview went well and that it sounded like I would have gotten the job if I had the availability.

My roommate also had a job interview today--one she is really, really excited about--and she called me in the afternoon saying we should go get lunch to celebrate. First time I've even out since I've been here! We were out running errands and she got a phone call about a second round interview so we were excited. Then, in the same car ride, I got a phone call from the vet!

She said she had called my references--two of my supervisors from the library, and the animal curator at NW Trek--and that they had said such great things about me and it was great to talk to them. I could tell by her voice that she meant it, that they had said great things. And because of that she wanted to offer me the position, starting tomorrow! With hours Monday and Tuesday 8am-6pm, and scheduled every 5th Saturday, because they cycle through Saturday hours.

How great is that?! I think it was probably my references that changed her mind, or pushed her to do it. I can't be sure, but with what she said when I left versus the phone call, I can only think it was the references that made the difference. And it feels so good to know that the people I've worked for have enough to say about me to convince someone else to give me a job. Wonderful!

I have to be there at 7:50 tomorrow morning. I get scrubs!

I'm really excited. Thrilled. A paying job--what a relief! It'll take some of the edge off, for sure.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Today seemed like a real day. I didn't wake up as early as I had planned, but I did wake up earlier than I have been, so that's half a success.

I have a job interview on Tuesday at a vet clinic that is really really close, and I just dropped off an application yesterday, so that is absolutely great. I hope they can work with my zoo schedule because that will really be the deciding factor, I'm sure.

I started designing my own knitting pattern that I'm going to use for a Christmas gift for someone, and that's really fun. I already started knitting it and it's cool to see the beginnings of it come together. I'm getting really good at knitting, by the way.

My roommate and I made dinner together and it turned out well. She had vegetables she needed to use and wanted to make into a pasta sauce. I had ground beef I wanted to use to and wanted to make into meatballs. It was the perfect storm, really. We started dinner and about the same time and everything came together at just the right time and we have a full, delicious meal and it was fun to do.

We also decided to go out tonight, to the bars in a neighborhood I've only ever walked through during the day. I'm glad we went. I saw a brass band on the street corner. Those are pretty common here, but I never get tired of them. The bar we went into had a brass band, too. Her boyfriend met up with us and the two of them told me a lot of about New Orleans. She's only been here a couple months but has visited a lot over the last few years but he's been here eight years now and knows a little more. They told me that on time the city of New Orleans didn't pay its computer server bill on time. They forgot to. Because it happened over Mardi Gras and no one does anything during Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras, apparently, isn't just the one day. It's not even one week. It's week leading up to it. But as soon as midnight hits and it's Ash Wednesday policemen on horses push everyone out of the French Quarter and close the bars.

Bars in New Orleans never close, by the way. They don't have to. The liquor laws here are ridiculous. You can have an open container with you pretty much anywhere as long as it's in an "unbreakable container." There are drive through liquor stores. There is a daiquiri bar in the mall. It's insane.

Anyway, it was a full day. I did things and it was nice to spend the day in activity, even if it wasn't strenuous. I also ordered work shorts. And emailed a yarn store about some yarn. Good use of a Saturday! Tomorrow morning I'll be going to a brunch with my roommate, too. She's going as a job networking opportunity. I'm going for waffles.

By the way, since I mentioned knitting in this post. If, loyal readers and loved ones--really just loved ones who I'm counting on as loyal readers--if there is anything in particular you think you would really like to have that is a knitted gift, let me know! I'm started Christmas presents now so that I have a decent amount of time to work. I can't make any promises that you'll get something this year, because I'm still a kind of slow knitter, but I like making things for people and it would be best if they were things you also wanted.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gypsy Soul

I have a new band that keeps catching my attention. "New" means new to me, I have no idea how long they've been around and I'll probably never investigate it. Zac Brown Band. I mentioned a song earlier called "Knee Deep" that I heard towards the beginning of my trip--I think in the first four hour driving stint as I left Ithaca, actually--that lifted my spirits. Then I heard a song called "Chicken Fried" which is just terribly catchy and upbeat. Another called "Whatever It Is," also upset and catchy. The song now, though, which I just found out was by them when I looked it up on Youtube, is called "Colder Weather." It's less happy, I suppose, but it's not the whole song that's caught me, just a bit of it. The video is depressing and I like to not watch it because it skews my listening. However, the lines that are important are: "You're a ramblin man/ You ain't ever gonna change/ You got a gypsy soul to blame/ And you were born for leaving."

I really like it here. I think I've expressed that. I even like the weather, which surprises me. I might feel differently about it when I'm working in it during my internship. Anywho. I really like it. When I left New Orleans last year I did so extremely reluctantly and longed to come back. Now I'm back and thrilled about it, can't believe it when I look at a map and see just where I am in the world.

But I'm already thinking about where I'd like to go next.

I already miss snow and crisp weather.

I think it would be nice to live in a little town where everything is walking distance. Like Oxford.

I think it would be nice to live in the country. On land. Far away from everything.

I also haven't lost my desire to live in the swamps. I think "Swamp People" was terrible for my imagination. But too late, the desire has seeded.

There's just so much of the world to see, why in stay in one place so long?

But it seems strange to feel so restless. Don't know what it is.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Yesterday I ran some errands. I went to the farmer's market, which was a little small, but I got the tomatoes and peaches I was after so it was a success. I also got watermelon limeade! It was strange but delicious. The next thing on my list was to go to the library and get a card. I haven't had a library card since elementary school, if you can believe that. But the library always served me well so I was kind of excited to start using this library system.

It was depressing.

It is impossible--impossible--to go from Cornell's library system to a public library system and be at all satisfied. It was a shock, to say the least. My main goal was to get books with knitting patterns because knitting books are kind of expensive and I can't be buying them right now. The entire New Orleans Public Library system gave me 48 books when I typed in keyword "knit." The Cornell library system gives me 11,635. At school I could find any book I need or wanted and Cornell probably had it and if they didn't, they could get it for me. Any book. I very rarely had less than 35 books checked out--it was a compulsion--and now I can only take out a maximum of 30, for 28 days.

One of the reasons I picked Cornell was because of its library system. I looked up which libraries had the most volumes. Cornell is very high on the list of biggest collections.

And now I'm without it. Now I have this measly little public library with hardly anything to offer me.

I looked up guest borrowing at Tulane but it's $250 a year for a card. I'm going to look up Loyola next but I'm sure it'll be the same.

Also, the New Orleans library website is nutrias.org. Nutrias is not an acronym. A nutria is an invasive rodent species that lives in the area. They were introduced and farmed for their fur, but then their fur lost value and so the breeders released them and they took over. People eat them, because people in the swamp will eat anything, and tales have been told that the armed forces stationed in the area go into the swamps at night and use them for target practice. I think it's unique/strange/unexplainable that they used that as their library web address.

Another thing that has me missing Ithaca like no other, in addition to this extreme library deprivation, is Wegman's. I know this may seem a little ridiculous, but I can't help it. I've been to every grocery store in the area now. Winn-Dixie, Rouse's, Breaux Mart, all of them. None of them are great. Wegman's is great. Wegman's looks like a gourmet grocery store, it has everything you can think of plus some other things, they make pizzas, pasta dishes, subs, salads in their "ready-made" section. Their butchers are nice and helpful. I never unable to find something. Wegman's also always had the best prices. I love Wegman's. And I want a great grocery store. That's not Whole Foods because I can't afford Whole Foods.

Weird Whole Foods story, sort of: I use Tom's of Maine Silly Strawberry toothpaste because it's one of the very, very few toothpastes that has no hint of mint in it (no berry-mint, or vanilla-mint, or cinnamint, or citrus mint for me). I have a mint allergy and mint gives me headaches and makes me nauseous. Realizing this and changing my toothpaste has actually completely changed my mornings. I used to get up and brush my teeth and feel miserable, but I just thought it was how I felt when I woke up. Not so! Anyway, it's kind of on the expensive side of toothpastes at $4 a tube at Target. At Whole Foods it's twice that! Isn't that obscene? Good thing I'm a great comparison shopper. I'm onto you, Whole Foods.

Oh oh! I know I mentioned this before, so here's a follow up story. I started my mayonnaise taste test yesterday! I wanted to make potato salad so I needed more mayo anyway and I decided to get a small jar of Duke's and of Blue Plate so I could try both while I still had some Best Foods. My Blue Plate ended up being open when I got it home so I didn't risk trying that one and I'll exchange it today, but Best Foods is tangier than Duke's. I can't decide which I like better. Time will tell. But I used it in my potato salad because I had more of it.

Speaking of potato salad. I love potato salad. It's one of my favorite foods. And as everyone knows, every potato salad is a little bit different. So now I'm on a mission to duplicate two different potato salads that I love very much: my mom's and my dad's. My creation matches neither. And here's another funny thing. I love potatoes. Love love love potatoes. And for some unknown reason that makes no sense in the cooking world I cannot cook potatoes. My mashed potatoes never come out quite right, I can't fry potatoes that way my mom used to even though I watched her do it a thousand times, I can't roast potatoes well, and now my potato salad is off. It's like some weird curse that I'll never be able to duplicate my most favorite comfort foods.

Actually, my two most favorite comfort foods I won't be able to duplicate because I don't know what went into them. My mom used to make this stew thing, that was sort of like a chili but thinner and not spicy and with fewer beans. I have no idea what was in it. She also used to make a gravy with hamburger in it and would go over a huge pile of mashed potatoes with a large serving of corn next it and I would be so happy. But I don't like gravy. I have no idea what kind of gravy that was that I liked. One day I'm going to go through experiment after experiment until I get it.

I still can't poach an egg. Which is my favorite way to have eggs. I can fry eggs and flip them in the pan without using a spatula. But I cannot poach an egg.

Some things aren't meant to make sense.

There's a used bookstore on the way to Winn-Dixie, where I have to go to exchange my mayonnaise, and I think I might stop in and see if they have any real cheap knitting books. Fingers crossed!

Last thing! My official internship start day is August 17th. So soon!

Monday, August 1, 2011

In Another World

Don't fret; I'm alive! I know I haven't posted in a few days.

The things I did this weekend were pretty unremarkable.

The things I did not do this weekend, however, were pretty remarkable:

I went to a knitting store and spent not a single dime. I even walked by the Faulkner bookstore and did not go in. I did not go to the Cajun festival in Lake Charles because rough calculations told me the day would cost me at least $65. And, most remarkably, I did not get a kitten. The Louisiana SPCA--mere minutes from my house--was giving away cats all weekend; waiving the adoption fee to anyone who wanted a new cat. I did not go. I did not get a kitten.

I'm pretty disappointed about not going to the Cajun festival because I really wanted to go, but I know there will be more festivals and more opportunities and hopefully I will have a paying job the next time an opportunity springs up. Pretty much the same logic with the kitten.

The knitting store I went to was in the French Quarter and it was the first time I've gone since I've been here this time. It's not far from me, but it's not walking distance, really, and driving is more than I want to deal with since it's all one ways and clueless/drunk/too-brave-for-their-own-good pedestrians. Additionally, parking is expensive. I'm about eight blocks from the streetcar, though, and that's an easy way in to the Quarter. I'm still sorta iffy about my neighborhood, though, so I didn't want to walk, so I drove my car up and parked a block away and then got on the streetcar. I then used my very determined, purposeful walk to get to the knitting store. Which worked, because no one tried to ask me for money, or tried to sell me something, or offered to read my fortune.

I walked in and was pretty disappointed immediately, but stayed long enough to look around anyway. For some reason I had high expectations of the knitting places in New Orleans because it seems like it would be a crafty, creative place. But this store was itty bitty and had no selection. The other store I've been doing had a great selection but the woman working there completely ignored me when I walked in, which hasn't been my typical yarn store experience.

Anyway, afterwards I decided to wander around the Quarter a little bit even though I knew I didn't want to go into any shops and get tempted, or stay long enough to get hungry.

Afterwards I went to Macy's to buy sheets I saw online, but they didn't have them in store like the website said they did. I came home and then read the reviews on those same sheets, which were all awful, so now I think I'll just keep my sheets that don't fit until I find a job.

Since those outings on Friday I have mostly been reading. I finished the fourth Harry Potter yesterday and finished the fifth today. I've been pretty absorbed in that, really. I took a break last night to make banana cupcakes with peanut butter frosting (delicious!) but that's about it. Today I didn't even really take a break to eat. I had a sandwich for breakfast since it requires almost no prep time and just had a cupcake and some rice for dinner.

I also need to go grocery shopping pretty bad because I have one sandwich worth of food left and some eggs. It's on my list of things to do tomorrow. Along with calling an eye doctor, which I'm not particularly excited about. I also think I'll go to the knitting store again--the one with the non-talking sales lady--and see if I like it better this time. Big day.