Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Thank You to the Humane Society of the US!

They have a really wonderful website: hsus.org.

If you click on "Pets", you get all these great articles like "Puppy Nipping and Rough Play" and "Basic Training Techniques". Thanks to those articles, Fred and I are well on the way to our HEA.

I wasn't sure how to handle his habit of jumping up on me (and anyone else who pets him). I knew it wasn't threatening behavior, just too much exuberance, so I didn't want to over correct. Thanks to that puppy nipping article, I now know to settle him down by crossing my arms and not giving him attention until he settles down. (Which, BTW, works for a whole host of other puppy behaviors, too.)

And the training article has gone a long way in building my confidence that we're on the right path. In fact, tonight we strengthened "sit" and learned how to hold that for a short count. We also learned "lie down" and "up". (Of course, we're still working on how to do that when he knows there isn't a treat hiding in my hand.)

I've been fretting about all the treats I've been giving Fred with his training lessons. Through reading the Humane Society articles, I've learned there is absolutely nothing wrong with using Fred's meal times for training - making him work for every kibble (until he gets tired, anyway). That was a huge relief - I had this vision of my 50lb-Thinks-He's-A-Lapdog turning into a 70lb-Thinks-He's-A-Lapdog.

And those tips about plenty of exercise being the best way to keep him out of trouble? Priceless. My shoes and clothes have been completely safe.

(Of course, there is that bit about Fred hijacking my laptop last night. I've now got dried doggy slobber all over the keyboard. Who taught him typing, anyway? He's faster than I am.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Introducing Fred CherryBomb!

My name is Fred CherryBomb, and I came home with my new person last week. Phew! Has it really been just a few days?

I'm part Basset Hound, part Labrador, and all hunting dog. On one of my very first walks through the new 'hood, I spotted a grouping of deer hanging out at the back of the cemetery. I told my new Mom I'd be happy to bring one home for her, but she wouldn't let me go after them.

I also love to sniff the ground, trying to track small game. Mom wouldn't let me bring one of those home for her either. Geez, parents!

Unlike my Basset forebears, I really love to go for walks. And I love spending time outdoors, even if Mom won't let me off my leash. All that activity! The other dogs and cats and kids!

Right now, my Mom is cursing my last toenail trimmer. I guess I scratched her when I jumped up. I'm really trying not to do that anymore, but it is sooo hard not to do it when I get excited.

And now that I've recovered my energy after that little "snip" last week, I've started to get a little more rough with my play. All my doggy friends let me nip at them to show my affection, but Mom won't let me do that either! She says the Humane Society has articles to help us with these things...

All in all, life is pretty good. If I obey "sit", I get treats. I love treats! I'm starting to learn lie down, but I get all excited about my treat and forget to stay. Mom says that's okay, our obedience class will help us with that, too.

Yawn! I'm getting sleepy. My new Mom is sacked out on the couch sleeping. I think I'll join her. (Don't worry, I won't climb on the couch. I already know my house rules!)

Won't Mom be suprised when she finds out I know how to use the Internet!!! Another Fred, TOTW!!!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What's in a Name?

I couldn't tell the shelter my name. So they stuck me with the awful name Krumpin'.

Do I look like a hip-hop rapper to you?

So, what should my new name be?

1) Krumpin' - And maybe P Diddy will pay my vet bills!

2) Pumpkin - 'Cuz it's October, and my coloring matches those exotic gourds you find this time of year.

3) Fred CherryBomb - With my red nose, don't I look like I just got caught sticking my nose in a bowl of cherries?

4) Charlie All Night - Well, my new mommy certainly hopes all night describes my sleep habits and not any basset singing!

Bravenet and Blooger weren't getting alone this evening, so you'll have to vote in the comments.

By the way, my ears aren't usually tucked back like this. I was a little nervous when I first arrived, and of course, that's when they took my mugshot. Hey, at least I look better than Nick Nolte or Mel Gibson!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Krumpin' . . . eh, not so much

I went to the Humane Society shelter again today. I met more than a few dogs, and fell in love with a 10 month old Basset Hound/Labrador mix saddled with the rather unfortunate sobriquet of "Krumpin".

He's got the attitude of a Basset Hound and the looks of a Labrador. Which means he must sniff everything. He loves "treats". And he's very affectionate. (My face got a lovely tongue bath :-) His coat is a beautiful cream color with darker tan spots.

Unfortunately, I couldn't take him straight home. The Humane Society will only release dogs after they've been spayed/neutered. His snip-snip is tomorrow, so they let me place a 24-hour hold that will start immediately after his surgery.

I'll know on Thursday.

One thing is for sure. That name WILL be changed.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Therapy and Dogs as Prozac

I went to the psychiatrist today. He had REAL operating windows - he must have a lot of faith in his abilities. Even the college counseling office had fixed windows.

Turns out I'm too screwed up to be diagnosed in one session. This could be a while...

And at $20 co-pay per session, one session per week, insurance covering only 38 more visits over the next 24 months...

The buddy I was going to adopt from the shelter tomorrow was adopted earlier today. If anyone knows of a homeless, loving, active, couch-potato dog weighing 40 pounds or less....

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Modern Healthcare and Other Frustrations

Tomorrow afternoon I get to visit the shrink. My first psychiatrist. A little scary. But in exchange, I'll get to learn just how screwed up I really am. Certainty - a beautiful thing.

It's been a difficult weekend. Not sure why. Maybe the change of the weather, maybe all the trouble I've been through trying to get Monday's appointment.

On the plus side, the dog search has been a positive thing for me. I can't wait to bring my companion home. Only bad thing - I live in a "community" that forbids pets over 40 pounds. And I've lost my heart to a 70# labrador at the Humane Society.

After much back and forth, I think I've finally convinced the owner to let me have my larger dog. But she won't give me a waiver until she returns to town on Tuesday, which means I've been checking the Humane Society site four times a day to make sure my buddy hasn't been adopted yet.

If he does get adopted before I can bring him home myself, I'm going to have to start the search anew. And if I have to stick below the 40 pound limit, I'll have to find a puppy, since most dogs in that weight class have inbred behaviors (barking, dominance) that can be made worse with poor upbringing (poor socialization, lack of training).

Also, the shelters around here don't get many dogs in that size range. The few they do seem to take in go VERY quickly. (A poodle/lhasa mix went in 6 hours. And that was with a $250 adoption fee.)

I hope to soon supply the answer to the equasion PUPPY ?=? PROZAC.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Today I Went to the Shelter

I've been thinking off and on over the last couple of years about getting a dog now that I'm living in my own home. So, when the boss sent me home early, I decided to take the opportunity to drive up to the Oregon Humane Society. Spay, neuter, and leash your pets folks! Very sad to see all the dogs there.

You could tell some of the dogs just weren't very happy about the shelter kennel. They just lay in the back of their enclosures. Many of them didn't even come forward when you stopped at their cages.

Other dogs were more aggressive: hearing other dogs get to go out seemed to spawn a great deal of lunging, jumping, and barking. (It was a little like the scenes in Law & Order where the pretty assistant to the Assistant DA gets sent to the jailhouse to interview some creep and has to walk past all the inmates.)

There were a couple of small dogs who have just been "snipped". The older one just huddled, shaking, in the back of his cage. His eyes were all red and watery and he just looked so miserable (it didn't help that he was part beagle). The younger puppy was roaming all over his enclosure, no big deal at all.

I nearly lost my heart to this guy:

Great dog. He was brought in as a stray just before the weekend. They don't know his name, and he isn't used to the new name they christened him with. You could just see his confusion when you addressed him.

But he did know basic commands - sit, stay, etc. And he loved chasing the ball around. (I think he liked that even more than the treat!) He was a little difficult on the "walk", but he is probably trainable (he wanted to lead).

As much as I loved him, I'm just not sure. And if I'm not sure, he's not ready to come home with me.

I'm hoping that the woman with another area shelter returns my message about the older malamute/black lab mix she's fostering. I want to meet him and see if he's as perfect as he seems in his "personals ad".

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Just What is "Normal" Anyway?

That's my question for the day. It seems I may have spent most of my life (or at least the last fifteen or so years of it) dealing with depression. So how do I know what normal is for me? When I don't remember what being happy felt like, how am I supposed to tell when simply being "happy" has crossed into mania?

They say that is one of the biggest problems with the manic phase of bipolar disorder - how you (and others) can perceive the manic you.

One day, you come out of your "funk" and the house is neater and cleaner, you're sleeping less, you're taking more care with your appearance - in turn, feeding your self-confidence. You're able to do more - the cooking, the shopping, writing and creating - all the things you wouldn't or couldn't do while depressed.

When you've been a functional depressive for so long, all you or anyone can think is "Wow!". Your colleagues notice that your work performance has improved: you're smiling more and showing more confidence, you're more productive, you're finally starting to arrive at work on time. At home, your friends and family notice these things, too. You notice.

And when everything suddenly seems to be going so right, after being so wrong for so long, you (and everyone around you) can have trouble noticing that it's become a problem.

Sure, you're getting more things done at home, but that's because you're still cleaning dishes at 1:00 a.m. And yes, you're taking on more projects at work, but that is because your mind can't concentrate on any one thing for too long. And yeah, maybe you finally start to tackle that one big "honey-do" chore you've been putting off forever, but that's because mania gives you feelings of omnipotence and euphoria - you can conquer anything, even the new deck.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Somehow, We All Survive Our Childhood

That's my thought for the day. Somehow, we all survived. Whether our parents withheld sugars and sodas or withheld food altogether, somehow, we all survived.

Good news today: I finally have an appointment. With a nurse practicioner instead of a psychiatrist, but she can see me next week. It's a start.

I'm frightened for all the other people out there. I'm in insurance, so at least I know the ropes. What about everyone else out there? Even being in insurance, it took three "escalations", a total of 4 hours on the phone, 30 phone calls, and the intervention of my employer, our insurance broker (us), and the insurer's sales rep to get that one appointment.

It's no wonder that there are so many mental health related emergencies out there, if this is what it takes to get treated. Could you imagine if I'd attempted this while in the throes of a major depression, when you don't want to do anything? Or if I'd tried while sailing through a manic phase, when you're pulled in 10 different directions and your mind can't focus on any one of them?

I'm lucky to have a very supportive employer who believes in both mental and physical health. It's hard to imagine there are many employers out there who would actively encourage their employees spend work time trying to resolve this situation, but my employer did just that, throwing their weight as both insurance brokers and the insuring employer behind my calls and complaints.

Depression excepted, today was a GOOD day.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Be Vwery, Vwery Qwiet...

The men-in-white-coats are getting closer....

Thanks to the diagnostic tools of the DSM-IV, my therapist has concluded that I am showing signs of a bipolar disorder. On Tuesday night, she referred me to a psychiatrist for confirming diagnosis, medication, and further treatment.

On Wednesday morning, like every good patient taking charge of their own health care, I called my PPO with the list of psychiatrists my therapist gave me - not one of those 4 were on the approved provider list.

I got in to the office and searched the PPO's website for local psychiatrists. There are none in the town where I live. None in the next town, or the next town after that.

There were two doctors listed near my office. I called the first office, and was informed that I would:

a) have to be rescreened by one of their clinic psychologists (burning up one more of my rapidly dwindling stash of pre-authorized mental health visits),
b) still wouldn't be able to see the psychiatrist for another 3 months(!).

I went back to the computer. This time, I widened my search out 20 miles. Oh, I got doctors: I called 15 of them. Nine weren't accepting new patients. I had to leave voice mail for the remaining six.

Twenty-four hours went by. Not one call back. So, on my therapist's advice, I called my PPO again, and this time told them it was their problem - fix it. I guess I sounded just crazy enough, because they agreed to forward my case on to the "Special Handling Team" (I assume that is code for "we handle the really crazy ones"). So, would I be transferred over to a specialist on that team? Nope, the rep just took down some notes and e-mailed them to the SHTs, who would take 24 hours just to acknowledge receipt of my case.

After some screeching, phone slamming, and curses, I bundled myself off to lunch. Just as I pulled into the grocery store parking lot, my phone rang. One of those 6 doctors I left voice mail for passed my message along to another associate in his office. She called me back to say she could take me on, and if I felt that strongly, she could make time for me tomorrow. I said, "Hallelujah!"

I skipped back to the office and somewhat naively picked up the phone to call my PPO. Oh, silly me. When I finally got through to a phone rep, she informed me that due to a "high volume" of calls, she would have to take a message and someone would get back to me in 24 hours. I said, "But, I've got an appointment tomorrow! I need to know if the doctor is on the approved provider list, and I need to get a new authorization, and I need to cancel the SHT!"

She said sorry.

I said, give me a supervisor. She said (gladly), "Just a moment."

After about 10 minutes on hold, she came back to tell me she was sending her notes to her supervisor, and that Emily the supervisor would call me back within 1 hour.

I hung up and cried.

But, lo and behold, Emily did call me back. In twenty minutes, no less. But ruined it all when she started the call with, "There is really nothing I can do."

I explained how I had been playing by the rules, I'd already done my part, I just wanted the PPO to do theirs. Something must have gotten through, because she looked up the doctor for me. Only to tell me, "She's not in the network. She is in the process of being approved, but until she actually is, her services will not be covered."

I sputtered, I screeched, I pleaded, but to no avail. But somewhere in there, I must have hit a key word, because what she did do was transfer me to one of their please-don't-do-anything-rash-while-on-the-phone-with-us-'cuz-that-would-be-bad-publicity telephone therapists. And I must have used the right words with him, because he promised to have the SHT mark my file "urgent" (code for "she could go off at any moment", I assume). But it would still take 24 hours for them to acknowledge my file.

So, somewhere out there (hopefully), some poor SHT-schmo is clutching his approved physicians directory; madly searching for the one doctor in the network who is taking new patients; praying I can hold it together until he can get me an appointment.

So, here I sit, wondering what bipolar disorder actually is. Is it any worse than plain old depression? Does it explain anything about me?

Despite the title of this blog, I don't hear voices (just my own, telling me stories in my head, writer-style, not crazy-style), and I don't have delusions. I just have a really difficult battle with depression, and every once in a while, I develop the Low Self Esteem Woman's version of a God Complex: I post on blogs, when I'm usually too shy to speak in public, I ask for bonuses when I usually get tongue-tied just listening to the boss talk about a raise, and I think I can conquer the world (or at least finish that amazing novel that has been circling 'round in my head for the last three years).

I get tons of energy, and I write pages and pages of stuff (really sharp, witty, insightful stuff I'd never been able to write before). And I clean and I organize and try new things and I start newer, bigger, better, craft projects.

And then, somewhere in there among all that good stuff, it starts to turn sour. This new craft project, this new idea, this new chore, the fast, decisive way of thinking - it all starts coming too fast. I find myself suddenly surrounded by ten, twenty different projects that have only just been started and none finished. My fast thoughts become too fast...I can't keep up. And it all goes to heck. And that is enough to spiral me back to depression.

So, here's to hoping the book I picked up at the store helps me start to figure this out. Enough to give me some feeling of control until I can get in to see that psychiatrist they've promised me.

Consumer-directed health care, my a**.