Statistical Anomalies

Sunday morning was certainly a low point. Between sleep deprivation, grief, uncertainty, and endless waiting, there was little room for hope--mostly due to one unanswered question.

Last Friday when we had originally brought Jager in, aside from her low/anemia red blood cell count, our vet had noted odd and immature looking white blood cells in her first round of blood tests. This would be an indication of leukemia, which could be the underlying cause for her anemia. If it was leukemia, Jager would likely not have more than a couple of weeks, even if she was able to beat her current situation. The vet recommended we send blood samples away to a specialist at CSU to be identified, which we agreed to.

Of course, as these things go, it was a Friday, and despite same-day mailing the blood, the samples were not examined until late today. We spent the weekend afraid to hope that she might start to get better, only to face the fact that on Monday, news of her guaranteed demise would come. We watched as her red blood cell count slowly dropped, helpless. When on Sunday morning she reached 14%, the vets let us take her home. There was wasn't much else they could do, since she was stable for the time being. What Jager needed most was rest and time, and we wanted her to be near us.

After shuttling her back-and-forth for several blood tests over Sunday and early into Monday morning, it became apperant that she'd stabilized, fluctuating between 14% and 18% (again, normal is more like 50%-60% RBC.)

One of the vets sat with us this morning, and apologized for not being able to give us a clearer idea of what we could expect. Jager was already a statistical anomaly because she survived the first attack of IMHA back in November (it has an 80% mortality rate in dogs.)

Today the blood results to check for signs of leukemia were due to come back. We already knew there was "something odd" about her white blood cells, and really, that could only mean leukemia. We waited as the hours ticked by, dreading. Meanwhile, Jager was well--eating, drinking, wuffing at dogs outside--but mostly just sleeping. It was hard not to know what to expect: if there was a little hope left, or if we were now just counting down the minutes until the final bad news came.

The phone rang a few minutes ago, and both of us about jumped out of our skins. I answered, and it was our vet saying they had the results. I listened with the blood pounding in my ears as our vet listed off the long name of some type of blood cell the specialist had identified on the slide, and then she laughed, and said, "It's a rare artifact of the cell that can happen when the blood is drawn. It can make the white blood cells look irregular--I've never seen it before. It's very rare! But she's alright. She does not have leukemia!"

The bad news became the best news we could have expected. There's room for hope now, because surviving a relapse of IMHA is possible, unlike leukemia. She's done it before, after all, and she's already twice proven her ability to be a statistical anomaly.

She's still very sick, but I can't tell you how happy is made us to hear she's got a chance to pull through.

(no subject)

There's room for infinite happiness and infinite sorrow in the world. The price of love is the threat of loss. If you're smart, you give in, and you love as much as you can, as deeply as you can. You build relationships and friendships, and you relish in every damned minute of it. When the end comes (it always comes), it's having those positives that keep the inevitable negatives in balance. Love, and loss. Give, and take.

Our dog, Jager, is dying. I love her, and we're loosing her. She's part of our family, one of the building blocks of our life together. She's always been a part of us, and she always will be.

In November, she nearly died from this disease-- hemolytic anemia. She's only six and a half, and it literally happened overnight. She was touch-and-go for 48 hours, and the vet's gave her a 20% chance to live. She made a miraculous recovery, even after a blood transfusion, and her red blood cell count had dropped below 13% (normal is 50-60%).

We bought time, I guess, but it was good time. She's been happy and playful, we've been camping and traveled cross-country, she was able to catch more mice, climb more trees, dig more holes. Good, fundamental dog-things.

Yesterday she was here, at home. We'd come back home after seeing the emergency vet, since while she was anemic, her blood count was still high. We were waiting for her fever to break. That would be a sign the medication could be working, that maybe we caught it in time--that maybe catching it earlier this time would actually mean something. We all lay in bed--myself, Ket, Jager, and Jager's sister, Porter--just waiting, hoping. I didn't want to admit this was the last time we'd all be together, under this roof. I didn't want the spell to break, the moment of whole-ness to end. But eventually it was over. Her fever wasn't dropping, and we took her to the ICU. It hurts so much to think she will never come home again. She'll never be here as I type, curled up under my feet.

We've been in to see her every few hours. We haven't really slept since Friday. Her red blood cell count has been steadily dropping since Friday morning. She's down to 14%. They will do another blood test in an hour, and if it's lower, they will attempt to give her a transfusion to buy her time for the steroids to take effect.

She still has a wag for us when we come in. She'll lick your face, and try to offer her paw when you ask.

I hate this horrible, interminable waiting, with its waves of sorrow followed by stretches of numb emptiness. I want her to get better, and I want her to come home. I want to feel whole again, and safe, and not like we're walking along the edge of a vast and bottomless hole.

I know time heals everything, and eventually we'll all be okay again...but that's empty comfort when she's still here, when thin hope cuts you like a razor, and all you can do is wait.

I needed to write something, to get some of this on the outside, instead of in my guts. Hope, you are a painful, cruel thing sometimes, but I'm glad I still have a little of you.

We're going back to see her, now.
dancing coyote wines logo

Fool for April

It's been a relaxing spring. Life has found a steady pace. Art is flowing, and it's always nice to feel like things are getting done.

Ket was away for FWA while I stayed home to watch dogs and sketch out more of the next Nordguard book. Apparently, it was an amazing convention, so I'll pretend that Home-Con 2012 was equally as epic (it was actually a little dull.)

The morning I picked her up from the airport, we drove south down to my mother's house in the Middle-of-Nowhere, surrounded by wild horses and little else. She had to head back east to take care of family matters, so we watched the house for a week. Fresh air and a change of scenery is always a good way to break up the days, and keep the work from feeling monotonous. We got some things done, and the dogs had a nice vacation roaming around the endless yard with my mom's not-so-puppy-sized German shepherd puppy.

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Back home again, and sadly, I'm a few days deep into Home-Con 2012, Part 2. Ket's in Seattle for Emerald City ComicCon, and then staying a couple extra days to visit with her family. I wish I could be there, however, those two dreaded words came up like a snake out of the grass--jury duty. I'm convinced by the people I know who have--and have not--been called in for jury duty that they tend to pick self employed people. In Colorado, it's near (if not) impossible to get any kind of compensation for your time if you're self employed. Anyhow, I shall solider through my civic duty.

In other news--the first Nordguard comic has been doing really well. I can't really express how happy we are. It comes in little waves for me, every now and then, and I feel pretty snazzy and accomplished. For a full-time freelancer, time is your major limitation. It was a gamble to spend so much time on one project, not knowing the outcome. We actually saved up for a year and a half just to afford taking the time to work on the comic. We both felt it was the right decision from the get-go, considering we enjoy the work and have stories to tell--plus, great things only come from a little risk, dedication, and personal investment. The satisfaction of knowing you're not only capable of finishing these kind of big projects, but good enough to put food on the table and money in the bank, is...well, awesome. It's really been an exciting first nine months of its release, and an encouraging first step down a much longer road.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the year, for a million little reasons. However, I want today to last forever since it's beautiful outside, my muse is in overdrive, and I really don't want to get up at 7am to go to jury duty. ;]
  • Current Music
    Foster the People - Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)
On The Prowl

'Round and About

We’re already a few thousand miles into 2012, and so far, it’s been a smooth road!

It’s been awhile since I last updated. A lot has happened, such as a friend’s wedding, friends visiting, a few conventions, visits to ICUs, and worse-case veterinary medical scenarios becoming best-case scenarios—many ups, and few downs, ultimately. Which is kind of what 2011 was like on the whole. There were many amazing experiences, and equally as many near-catastrophes that served to keep us on our toes, I guess. Overall, I have no regrets, I’m happy and whole, which is really all I want, year-to-year.

I feel inspired and excited about the next few months, as everything on my plate work-wise suits my pallet just fine. All signs point to 2012 as a year of change, and I’m pretty sure I can roll with the punches. Bring on the end of the world!

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  • Current Music
    Niyaz - Arezou
white and black

Occupy Denver

The police line around the Occupy Denver protestors earlier this evening.
This afternoon, rubber bullets and pepper spray were employed, 7 arrests made. The city called in damn near all of the Denver police force to sweep protestors from the park. Living only four or five minutes from it all, we walked down. Among other things,  it was disturbing to see all the network news camera operators in gas masks. Strange times.
There's a few #OccupyDenver Livestreams up, here's one, and another, and a link to http://occupydenver.org.
Also, here's a link to a bunch of photos from this afternoon, from the Denver Post.

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New York: the Forest, the University, & the City

"I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli

We spent the last week or so in New York, visiting old friends, meeting new folks, geeking out about animals and comics, drinking mead, getting our eyelids checked for bugs by a starling, and having a very good time.

In short: the trees are wreathed in red, the university is for the birds, and the city never sleeps, (but sometimes wears a cape.)

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  • Current Music
    The Be Good Tanyas - The Littlest Birds

3,000 Miles Later, and Now Home

Sometime in September, we packed the car and started to drive. We went north at first, and managed to stay off of Interstate highways for over a thousand miles of new roads.

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  • Current Music
    Madeline Peyroux - Getting Some Fun Out of Life
jaunty - me and my shadow

Living Out of a Suitcase

The summer has been frantic. We've spent more days on the road than we  have home. I suppose that's to be expected when you're trying to stuff  two years worth of delayed social endeavours into two months. To be brief, since driving out to Pittsburgh for AnthroCon, we've flown to San Diego for ComicCon, driven to New Mexico for a family emergency (all is well, now!) driven back for RMFC, immidiantly after, drove out west to Utah for another family engagement, and just returned home yesterday. And it's really just starting--in a few days, we'll be back to New Mexico, from there I travel to Canada for Feral, afterwards we return to Denver for a couple events, then fly to Texas to see estrangeed family, follow that up by driving to Washington state for Rainfurrest and some camping, getting home in time for GABF, and, well, maybe another trip in October out east if I don't wear the soles out of my traveling shoes.

Despite the frenetic nature of it all, I love to be in motion. If I  can't be working, I want to be moving. If I can't be moving, I want to be somewhere the rest of the world can't find me. So this last week, we found ourselves in high country without all the technological chains of modern life-- and it was quite fine. It was the third year for this particular August escapade. As always, it feels like coming home when the smell of juniper, sage and pine fill me up, and all I can hear is the wind in the aspen. I've written about it all before, and likely more eloquently than I could now. Now, just this exact second, I feel like I'm in a weird place. My words keep finding themselves all jumbled up, without context, running on, and, I fear, uninteresting with an excess of punctuation. What can you do?

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  • Current Music
    Led Zeppelin - When the Levee Breaks
blue moon

Thank You, Tom

The news of my old professor's death reached me this evening. He died in his sleep over summer break at the age of 59.

Tom Flanagan had the reputation of being one of the most ruthless, unforgiving teachers at our college, a mean guy who didn't mind failing you if you couldn't meet his standards. However, everyone agreed that he was the guy to whip you into shape.

The first class I ever had with Tom was Life Drawing Level 1. I remember feeling my stomach drop to my feet every time his eyes turned toward my work in class. "Don't smudge your shading, you don't know how to do it and it shows," was one of the first things I remember him saying to me. Like any good redemption story, I struggled hard to show him he was wrong. The A- I walked away with from his class was priceless.

After that, I took every other class he offered on the schedule.

He encouraged, bullied and pushed me towards my first few big artistic breakthroughs. He showed his students that if you took the time, broke a sweat and really tried to earn it, you could improve. Then, he stressed that there is always room for improvement.

Without dressing it up, he was the first person to ever give me an honest account of what it's like to live and work as an artist.

Thank you so much, Tom. I know I was quiet, never quite learned how to smudge things to your satisfaction, and after all these years, you probably wouldn't have remembered me if we'd met on the street--but you influenced me, and helped me set my course in life. You were a splendid teacher, and one of my favorites.

I'm terribly sad to be missing your memorial this weekend. I'll raise a glass to you from San Diego, and know that if not for you, I probably wouldn't be there. I remember you encouraging students to skip class just to go and experience ComicCon. You always stressed that experience made for a better life, and life made for a better animator.

If it wasn't for your demanding nature and honest encouragement, I don't know if I ever would have had the tenacity to fight for myself, or the stubbornness to struggle for the skills I seek. You taught me many of the foundations which I've now built a happy life upon.

I'll always be grateful, Tom. Thank you for being such a great teacher.
  • Current Music
    Joshua James - Today
Coyote Orbit

Up High

I feel like I've typed this more than anyone really has the right to, but, it's been a busy last few weeks. (Had to get that out of my system, or I'd never start to get anything written.)

Ket's parents were in town visiting, as was my mother, and everyone descended upon my father's house for one big family gathering (7th month old puppies included, good god.) A few bottles of Scotch, a dozen or so of wine, and some blood, bruises and stitches later--it was really an excellent visit. It's difficult to write about specifics (maybe it's some of those empty bottles making details so hazy,) but we had a lot of fun. We talked for hours, we grilled, we ate out, we picnic'd, we walked the mall and farmers market. There was biking, Rocky Mountain National Parking, and a movie about a homicidal tire. Now the house is quiet, the dogs are bored again, and we're starting to get back into the swing of "normal" "everyday" things. It's that funny bitter-sweet time after you have company, when it's nice to feel like you can relax again, but you miss those who've gone. Everything is a little too empty, and too quiet.

The camera came with me when we all trundled up to the alpine tundra of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Today is the day things start to return to their normal routine. I have errands to run, art to do, stacks of email to respond to, and some comic related things to carry on with. Soon as I'm done here. No more procrastinating. Off I go. This is me, writing that last bit of punctuation. Period.
  • Current Music
    Great Lake Swimmers - Your Rocky Spine