» Archive for May, 2010

Correct collar sizing

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 by kara

A friend of a friend found a collarless, buff cocker girl alongside the road this afternoon. It was fortunate that he’d come upon her when he did, because she was scavenging among some garbage, and was gagging on a piece of plastic wrap that was stuck halfway down her throat.  Mygod. Just in time.

She’s a very pretty and happy girl, and looks to be freshly groomed, so she’s cared-for and hopefully someone loves and misses her a lot. Hopefully they’re trying feverishly to find her. My friend says they’re going to their vet to have Buff Girl scanned for a microchip, but noted that the dog was not wearing a collar.

Sadly, it’s not difficult for a dog to slip its collar, especially when startled or frightened. It’s even easier for the dog to escape when the collar doesn’t fit the dog properly, which is true in many, many cases.

For example, in order for a collar to fit securely, it should be snug enough to ride midway up on the neck. If the collar is so loose that it falls down and rests on the dog’s shoulders, it’s too loose. You should only be able to fit two fingers snugly between the collar and the dog’s neck, otherwise the dog will be able to duck his head and scoot backwards and squirt out of the collar.

It should NOT be tight enough to make your dog cough or choke or cause trouble breathing.

The collar itself should be appropriate for your dog’s size and strength: Puppies can wear narrower, lighter-weight collars, but as they grow, their collars should be upgraded as they become larger and stronger. If you have a smaller toy breed dog, you can get away with a fine, rhinestone studded collar that’s almost a piece of jewelry, as long as you know that your dog won’t be able to break it by pulling on it. Here’s a helpful link from Lupine explaining how to properly fit your dog’s collar. (As an added bonus, Lupine’s collars are just beautiful and my kids enjoy having many different patterns to choose from! :::grinning::: )

But if you’ve got a lab mix you need to find something more substantial until you can get to obedience class and learn to walk on a loose lead (both of you!). Hint, hint. You really should train your dog to walk on a loose lead, because it’s healthier for the dog and more enjoyable for you!

Also make sure that the collar and tags you choose for your dog are sturdy and safe, without lots of accessories that can catch on your pet’s fur or scratch their skin or snag their toenails during a good long scratching session. And of course use caution if you crate your dog, removing his collar to prevent accidental strangulation anytime he’s confined in a crate.

With regard to identification tags: There’s some discussion on whether to engrave your dog’s name on his tag. If someone finds your dog and learns his name by reading the tag, they can begin bonding with your dog by using his name, and that may delay your fuzzy’s return.

Your dog’s name being on the tag isn’t important, anyway–YOU know who your dog is, and he doesn’t care if his tag is monogrammed. What IS important on a dog tag is a clue to contacting YOU if your dog is found by a stranger. All our dogs’ tags say “Please call Mom & Dad” followed by our home telephone number and my cell phone number.

To summarize, your dog’s collar should be sturdy enough to contain your pet during a moment of distraction, and it should be wide enough to avoid cutting into your dog’s neck and lessen compression of the trachea. It should also be snug enough to stave off “slippage”, but not too tight or restrictive.

If you have a dog who’s prone to panic and jerking backward on the leash, you might want to try using a martingale collar. This website nicely describes how a martingale works, but these collars like all others still need to be sized appropriately and checked regularly for necessary adjustments.

So even if this buff girlie’s petparent got her a lovely collar with an unique identification tag, it became useless when she scraped it off or slipped out of it or broke it. Hopefully she has a microchip and can be returned to her home.

Check your dog’s collars this moment–are they loose because you’ve recently started your summer fitness routine again, and your running buddy is losing weight right along with you? Or are you just back from a trip to the groomer’s, where a haircut really CAN make a client ‘lose five pounds’? Or do you just have a faulty collar that loosens up on its own? Adjust them immediately!

I’m at fault here, too. Just a few weeks ago, Riley and Belle had upper respiratory irritation most likely due to allergies, and while I was giving them Benedryl and doxycyclin (just in case it was an upper respiratory infection) I let them “go naked”, and hung their collars on the banister.

After chatting with my friend, I put their collars back on, and readjusted Belle’s collar so that it fit her properly. I don’t want to think about them shooting out the front door with no ID.

In the worst case scenario, you’ll want to make sure that your dog has ALL the possible means to help get him back home to you–keep collars and ID tags on your dogs at all times, make sure the collars are properly-sized and in good repair, and microchip your dogs in case the collar fails (or is removed).

Just in case, keep current photos of your dog, both face shots and whole-body/profile pictures on hand, as well as current vet records. And although no one likes to think about losing one’s best friend, it’s a good idea to study up on what to do before you find yourself searching feverishly for a lost pet, God willing that you never find yourself in such a predicament.

Toaster oven useful for small households

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 by kara

I love my toaster oven. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s an essential piece of kitchen gear.

It’s not often that I endorse a specific piece of kitchen equipment. Many tasks have been accomplished over the years using nothing more than a good knife, a sufficiently-large cutting board and basic cookery equipment. I’ve never owned a food processor, nor have I wanted one.

Yes, using a food processor can save you a lot of prep time. You could process all the potatoes for a batch of potato soup in a matter of SECONDS. But then the time it takes to break down and clean the food processor offsets that time saved. It’s so much quicker to keep a sink full of hot, soapy water and wash the knife and cutting board as you go.

We DID have a juicer, once. Once. But it was such a complicated travesty of parts and disks and doohickeys that to use and dissemble it to clean it was a multiple-hour task. We weren’t dedicated enough to the idea of juicing to continue to use it.

We do have a breadmaker that I’ve begun to use again, just for the joy of freshly-baked bread. If you’ve read any of my past blog postings, you may recall my battle to make bread from scratch–I really do feel this is something I should be able to do by myself, without the help of a machine…but I’m lazy. I’ll work on the bread skills later.

I don’t want to mislead you–we do have kitchen equipment with very specialized uses. Of course we have a coffee maker, which just makes coffee, and we have several slow-cookers, which only cook food very slowly. We also have a blender, which is used very seldom, and a Fry-Daddy, which is used more often than I care to admit.

But our toaster oven is the most-used piece of kitchen equipment we have. It warms left-over pizza much more appealingly than the microwave, and if we’re having pasta it heats up to crisp frozen garlic bread in seconds rather than preheating the entire full-sized oven, using much less electricity in the process.

Hot appetizers and baked sandwiches can happen in the toaster oven with much less fuss than the full-sized oven, and I can prepare a hot Westminster dip before dinner even though the oven temperature is different than what’s needed for the entrée.

And anytime we feel like a fresh biscuit, we can take some frozen biscuit dough from the freezer and bake one (or eight) up in a snap. I’ve heard that one can do that same thing with cookie dough, but I’ve always just baked the whole batch of cookies rather than putting some aside to freeze.

All in all, a toaster oven with temperature control is a fast, efficient way to bake small batches of baked goods and not use lots of electricity heating the big oven and then cooling the house. I would strongly recommend a quality toaster oven for every small household.

What a small, odd world this is

Thursday, May 13th, 2010 by kara

I got a haircut Monday, and it’s very short, even by my standards.  So when I was getting dressed for work, I decided to dig out some of the cool earrings I’ve collected over the years, and indulge in pretty danglies which could be shown off by my military-style hair cut.

I wear a nostril screw in the sidewall of my right nostril; my left ear is pierced four times in the lobe and partially up the rim, and my right ear is pierced once. My OCD demands that all the jewelry I wear in these holes in my head match, so if I deviate from white metal earrings, I must change my nostril screw as well. I confess, I’m lazy, and tend to wear the same set of earrings and leave the nostril screw in indefinitely. So even though I have many different and beautiful earrings, I tend to settle on one set and take them out at night and put them back in in the morning.

Yeah, it’s lame that this is less effort and therefore desirable to me. I get it.

Anyway, digging through my jewelry chest yesterday I found some of the beautiful earrings I’d collected made by designer Laurel Burch. Since I’m lazy and have been on a white metal kick since about 2001, I hadn’t worn them for quite a while, but I still love them dearly. Since they’re 14-karat electroplated, I had to change my nose stud to the gold one, and dig out the little gold hoops for the top holes in my left ear. Quite the change from the everyday little silver balls, eh?

Later in the afternoon, a lady comes through my cashier’s lane at Target and recognizes my earrings.

“Are those Laurel Burch earrings?” She was pleased to have recognized them, and I was pleased to have made this unlikely connection with a total stranger. I said yes, and how I loved all her designs, and was wearing them to ‘celebrate’ my fresh haircut.

She said that she was a friend of Laurel Burch’s and had visited her at her home in Novato, California, just a few months before she died. She mentioned what an amazing person Ms. Burch was, as well as being a prolific and eloquent artist.

I was struck, first by the unlikely connection of a stranger recognizing the design of one of my favorite artists, and then by the news that the artist had died.

I hadn’t followed Laurel Burch very closely, but I did really enjoy her whimsy and love of colour at the time when I was still buying jewelry. Since I’ve not been shopping for art or jewelry in a great while, I hadn’t thought about it or her for a long time.

It was such a bittersweet moment, to establish a connection with a complete stranger who appreciates the same precious thing that you do, and then to learn that the creator of that precious thing has died. Turns out that Laurel Burch died back in 2007. Although I never knew her, I’m just mourning her passing today.

Faint at heart?

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010 by kara

I’ve always been a fainter, but only realized that just recently. ‘Fainting’ kind of has a wussy ring to it, an unsavory ‘bodice-tied-too-tightly’ whiff that just doesn’t go with my own carefully cultivated self-image.

Just in case you’re curious, my own self-image has notes of Kate Jackson, Chuck Norris, Dixie Carter and Margaret Thatcher, all very self-sufficient, sensible, dependable people. Oh, and Buttercup of The Power Puff Girls. Probably more than a little bit of her. So tight bodices and fainting doesn’t really go along with that composite image.

But if you’re gonna faint, you’re gonna faint, and only through lots of training and self-discipline can you avert that–IF you can avert it. Fainting, or syncope, or a vasovagal episode, is an involuntary bodily reaction most-commonly caused by a drop in blood pressure and heart rate, and the resulting drop in blood flow to the brain. You get pale, you get weak, and everything fades out for a little while. People can experience syncope that’s triggered by extreme emotional distress, or from an injury or blood loss, from dehydration, from an abrupt change in posture (like standing up too quickly), and it often needs no further examination, unless it’s caused by one of several medical conditions requiring treatment.

If you faint and you’re out for a long time, like days, that’s called a coma and that DOES require further medical treatment. That’s my helpful PSA for today: “If you’re unconscious for more than a few minutes, seek medical help right away.”

There are methods by which you can practise keeping your blood pressure and your heart rate jacked up in order to avoid vasovagal syncope events, but I’ve never been prepared enough to put any of these methods into use in my moments of need. “But wait–” you ask, stunned, “How often does one lose consciousness in order to pre-plan ahead for moments of need?”

The other day I was thinking about how many times I’ve passed out, and was shocked and dismayed to tally them all up. To be fair, I’ve had some pretty good reasons to faint. Well, SOME of them are good reasons, anyway. But now that I’ve written them down, it’s kind of alarming how many times I’ve lost consciousness. And they go back pretty far into my childhood.

My very first ‘eyeballs-to-heaven’ moment was when I hit my head on a cupboard door. I might have been five or six years old (I think). The cupboards in my mother’s kitchen went right to the ceiling, and for us younger (shorter) kids, it was difficult to reach anything above the first shelf without some assistance.

We were TOLD to use a stepstool. Very often we didn’t waste time getting the stepstool from across the 15-foot-wide kitchen, we just boosted ourselves up onto the counter top so we could kneel or stand to reach what we were after. Little trout-mouthed heathens, we were.

Come to find out, our parents had a valid reason for forbidding us to jump up on the counters. They didn’t want us to fall or hit our heads when we were jumping up, just like I did.

I remember it distinctly: I was after the ice cream bowls. My Uncle Wally was visiting, and we were having ice cream. I was wearing footie pajamas, which made the jumping-on-the-counter move somewhat hazardous in a full-standing position, because the plastic foots were terribly slippery on the glossy countertop (white with a gold foil accent) so I was being pretty careful, even though I was excited about the ice cream.

I placed my palms flat on the counter top and jumped to get my knees up there, too–but THUNK–I got stopped in mid-boost and gravity pulled me back to the floor.


The cupboard door above me had swung halfway open, and I had launched myself full-force into the bottom of it, whacking my skull right along my middle hair part. Not good, and not conducive to ice-cream-happiness, either.

I got thoroughly scolded for hurting myself (actually, I was probably scolded for disobeying Mom and Dad’s rule, but since I was still pretty buzzy from the head impact, I didn’t mind too much) and was set on Uncle Wally’s lap in the living room while Mom & Dad examined the cupboard door for damage (I’m joking). Sat there for a bit, watching the colours get brighter and darker for a few minutes.

Do you remember the trick that we used to play on each other in grade school, the one in which you’d simulate ‘cracking an egg’ on someone’s head and running your fingers across their hair to make it seem as though egg white was dripping down their head? That’s what it felt like when my scalp finally started bleeding from the laceration, about five minutes after I’d bashed it on the cupboard door.

At that point I didn’t know it was blood running over my hair, but I didn’t think Uncle Wally KNEW the ‘cracking an egg’ trick, and it certainly felt odd–and then suddenly I was flying through the air, but that was just Uncle Wally grabbing me under the arms and rushing toward the bathroom…and I don’t remember anything after that.

I must have been about 10 or 11 years old when I got my ears pierced, and I fainted then, too. I was very excited about getting my ears pierced like the big girls! The very nice woman who pierced them did it with a gun at Swan’s Jewelers in Rogers City, and she was very careful about marking my lobes so that my earrings would be even, although my ears certainly aren’t. She did the first piercing and even though it didn’t hurt at all, I went out like a cheap light bulb in the rain. Woke up laying on my back, looking up and arguing that I MUST have my other ear pierced because I’d be lopsided otherwise. I promised that I wouldn’t pass out with the second ear lobe, and I didn’t.

Another location in which I lost consciousness was St. Ignatius Catholic Church, on the morning of my graduating class’ commencement mass (go, RCHS Class of ’86!). It was a beautiful June morning, sunny and bright, and the church was warm. We were all very excited about commencement that evening and let’s just say that I had been paying more attention to celebrating that weekend than I had to sleeping or eating. At one point we were kneeling and the next I was out in the side parking lot between the school and the church. Thank goodness I’d keeled over while I was as close to the ground as possible.

The next time I lost consciousness was during a pre-surgery blood draw. I think I was 20 or 21, and the lab tech drawing my blood was a cutie named Tim. We were chatting and laughing and he was setting up all the tubes and vials necessary for the tests. I think at that point Tim’s impression of me was still favorable.

Then he began to draw blood, and I noted how dark and rich-looking the blood coming from my vein was. I had enough time to tell Tim that I felt odd, and I woke up laying on the floor with someone’s fingers laced behind my head, and several people peering down at me.

Tim said mournfully “That was my last clean lab coat for this week, and it’s only Tuesday.” Right then I knew he would never ask me out. So from that point on, I made certain to alert all phlebotomists of this little quirk of mine, whether or not they were potential dating material.

The weirdest aspect of my vasovagal syncope is that it’s only my OWN blood that makes me go all vasovagal and stuff. YOU can be pumping blood from an arterial laceration, and I’ll just run and get the materials for a pressure bandage and dial 911 if I can do it while keeping my phone clean, but if I am wounded, I must NOT look or you’ll be talking to yourself for a few seconds.

This occasion during which I lost consciousness was from a slip-and-fall resulting in a blow to the head, so it really doesn’t count as a plain old faint, but I’ll include it anyway because I’m tiresome like that. In 1998 we had just gotten our lab-mix Belle, and since she was an eight-week-old puppy we were in the process of house training her.

I’d just woken up and put on some driving moccasins to take her out to potty in the yard, and slipped on the deck outside. It felt like what happened every time Lucy snatched the ball away right when Charlie Brown tried to kick it–my feet went out from under me and I landed flat on my back, hitting the back of my head on the top step. (Rick says he wishes he could have seen it. Har har.)

I was out for exactly 15 minutes that time–it was 0832 hrs when I walked out the door, and it was 0847 hrs when I stumbled back in. Scared the daylights out of poor little Belly, too. The next-door-neighbor girl who was walking to the school bus, saw me laying on the front steps, but she didn’t stop because she thought I was taking a nap. Outside. On the sidewalk. At the beginning of March. With a screaming puppy in my senseless arms. IN MICHIGAN. *sigh*

At the house in Highland, I also passed out in the bathroom early one morning for some unknown reason. Maybe I really did just wake up too early to function, as I jokingly explained the incident away. I dropped like a BIG sack of potatoes and landed on my face. I had some of those really fancy eyeglass frames at that time, the ones that look more like jewelry than glasses frames, and bent those up pretty good during this incident.

By the way, that’s how you know someone really did pass out–they land on their face. If you just wipe out, or if you’re pretending to faint, you try NOT to land on your face or head.

Alarmingly enough, my wonderful hubby slept through the incredible din that I made when I fell, similar to someone dropping 180-pounds-worth of dead weight TEN FEET AWAY from the bed, but then again, he also sleeps through a ringing telephone. He’s a very sound sleeper.

I fainted once at our house in Saline, too. A week before November, we were getting out of bed and doing the morning routine. I was letting Belle and Kacey out to potty, and poor blind little Kacey looked like she was headed off the deep end of the steps, so I reached out to guide her back to the middle of the steps so she wouldn’t fall.

Clad in my standard PJs of t-shirt and panties, holding the storm door open with my right hand, I was bending over guiding Kacey with my left when a gust of wind caught the storm door like a sail on a sailboat. Unlike a sailboat, I didn’t glide gracefully. Off balance, I flew like a flying squirrel out the door and bounced down the cement stairs on my hands, knees, and stomach. Ice, cement and small rocks can do an enormous amount of damage to bare hands, knees and shins.

Rick was in the bathroom at that point, and since he was awake he heard me call out and came to my rescue. He said “It wasn’t a scream, it was more like a Tarzan yell, so I came running out to see what happened, and I find Kara laying on her belly on the patio.”

Crap. Crap, crap, crap, crappity CRAP that hurt. Rick helped me back inside and I lay down in the big fluffy recliner chair, panting and making some guttural noise that I didn’t know I could make until that moment. I told him I didn’t feel right and he told me to just stay there while he brought unguent and bandages. While he was rummaging in the bathroom, I passed out in the recliner. Vasovagal episode number umpty-umpth, in full recline. At least I couldn’t fall again.

Then that summer I tried to donate blood. I say “tried” because I don’t think I had a successful donation in any of three attempts. The first time I tried to donate, I was in a hurry to get out of the house before a showing (we were trying to sell the house, so I’d spent about an hour and a half rushing around cleaning like a maniac), then I threw the two dogs in the car and poured myself a travel mug full of orange juice and grabbed a slice of banana bread. I choked down my breakfast in the car on the way to the Red Cross office. Then, when I got there, the woman who was getting me set up couldn’t catch my vein in my left arm, not even after three tries.

She fetched another lady, who got it in my right arm in one, and I proceeded to squeeze real hard on the towel in my fist, and filled up that bag in 18 minutes. I guess it’s supposed to take much longer. Anyway, I started to feel odd again, and found out the good people at the Red Cross use paper toweling soaked in ice water to revive fainters. They were very concerned, even after I explained that I’d disregarded every single suggestion for a successful donation and that I wasn’t surprised at all that I’d gone to another dimension. Full bag of blood that they couldn’t use due to my case of the vapors.

A month to the day later, I tried it again. I ate breakfast AND lunch, stayed calm, and…it happened again. By now I’m disappointed with myself, and the ladies at the Red Cross are VERY concerned. “I don’t understand what’s going on, I donated blood while I was in high school and I didn’t pass out then, not even when I was grossed out by the feeling of the hot blood going through the tubing taped to my arm! I don’t know what the problem is!” I vented my frustration at one of the kind volunteers.

“Maybe you’re just feeling a lot of pressure right now,” she answered me soothingly. Then she made a note on my chart to put cotton between the tube and my arm during future donation attempts. “Don’t be too hard on yourself–lots of people don’t even make it through our door.”

So I tried again, one month later. I didn’t squeeze the towel too fast or too hard, I ate well, got enough sleep the night before, played happy, soothing music on the way there…and felt odd AGAIN. Woke again to the brightloudness and lots of ladies draping wet and freezing paper towels over my wrists, forehead and neck. Shoot.

Had a paper bag to breathe in this time, too. Started taking yoga breaths to calm down, and one of the ladies who had a blood pressure cuff on me said “What are you DOING? Just take deep breaths, slowly.” I said “That’s what I’m doing–it’s a yoga technique for relaxation.”

She replied “Well, it’s making your blood pressure and heart rate drop significantly. So DON’T DO THAT.”

The nice people at the Red Cross asked me not to try to donate blood again. Ever. I was sad. But I felt bad, too, at how worried they all were when I’d do my fainting goat impression, so I said “okay” and slunk back home.

There have been more incidents, maybe even a few which I don’t recall (and some of those most certainly for foolish reasons). There have been reasonable spells and not-quite-s0-reasonable spells, and after tallying up the ones I can recall, I’m afraid that I’m not the hardass I made myself out to be. I’m not even as cute as a fainting goat, just a delicate flower of womanhood, like Judy Tenuta, and don’t you be mean to me or I’ll pass out and you’ll be in trouble because you didn’t catch me before I split my lip open on the table.