Thursday, June 16, 2016

In Loving Memory of Walter Welker

I debated writing this post because doing so makes what happened very final. But at the same time, writing is therapeutic for many people, myself included.  Plus, it would be kind of weird if my social media accounts went from being filled with photos and stories of Walt and then he was suddenly nowhere to be seen, without any explanation.

On June 7th, 2016 around 7:45 p.m.--just last Tuesday--my little Walter passed away.

I still can't believe I'm writing those words.  He was, and always will be, my very first Dachshund.  Many of you know, or have at least heard of my childhood dog--Gus, who is still going strong at almost 16 years.  I love Gus dearly, but for me, there was a big difference between the dog I grew up with and the dog I adopted on my own and came home to each day in my very first apartment, after my first job out of college.  Lots of firsts.  And frankly, Gus is my Mom's dog.  Despite the fact that I begged for Gus when I was 8 years old, promised to walk him and feed him, and loved every minute I spent with him, it was my Mom who was up with him first thing in the morning while I was putting on my cheerleading uniform and applying too much eyeliner.  It was my Mom who got up with him in the middle of the night for him to go outside and pee sniff around.  It was my Mom who took care of him those four years I was away at college.  And it is still my Mom who he closely follows--anywhere she goes, you can look for Gus right on her heels.  It's all very obvious now.

It was different with Walter.  It's not a secret that I have had a genuine love (and even obsession) for the Dachshund breed for as long as I can remember.  The first year I went to Dachtober Fest (think: adoptable Dachshunds, dressed-up Dachshunds competing in contests like bobbing for weenies, craft beer, and of course, hot dogs--Google it if you don't believe me), I was still living in my Mom's basement.  It definitely wasn't the time for me to get a dog.  Not yet.  I still went to plenty of the Dachshund meet-and-greets to satiate myself in the meantime, though.  

The next year I went to Dachtober Fest, in September of 2015, it was a different story.  When my Mom and I got to the event, we were both excited, but neither of us ever expected it to be the day we would meet Walter.  My mom saw him first.  She said, "Look at the cute little red male over there." I rushed over to him and snatched him out of the pen he was in with all the other adoptable weenies pouncing and tripping over each other. He was incredibly calm and so cute, and I wanted him.  There was one other Dachshund there who had my attention for a second, probably because he was missing an eye and Fetty would have been a nice name for him.  That Doxie was cute, too.  But it was Walt who looked right into my eyes and warmed my heart.

I kept myself busy in the week that I waited for Walter by preparing.  I made a list of things I wanted to ask the vet about, and decided which vet I'd like to take him to for his first check-up.  I purchased him a bowtie, leash, name tag, a little powder blue kennel, a kennel pad, a little dog bed, some doggy shampoo, a bag of food, treats, toys, poo bags, a brush, and of course cute containers to store and organize everything in.  I was so excited.  It sounds ridiculous, but it felt like a longtime dream was actually coming to fruition.

When the day had finally come for me to pick him up, my mom and I rushed over to the PetSmart location where his foster mom had planned to meet us.  His tiny, quiet, sweet foster mom--Dee--came walking around the corner of the building with him, gave him her final hugs and kisses, and handed him over.  We chatted for a few minutes, and soon after I signed the adoption papers, and left with a warm little Walty in my arms.

Later that day, we took him over to my church, St. Thomas More, for the Blessing of the Animals, I introduced Walter to all of the neighbors in my parents' neighborhood, and soon it was just the two of us on the way home to my apartment.  When we arrived, I opened the door to see Shelby and Lauren passed out on the couch, with half-eaten bowls of Chipotle on the floor.  Walter dashed over to the Chipotle before I could do anything and inhaled what was left of their meals.  That was just his first mischievous act.  I then decided to sit down on the couch, and grab the Whole Foods wrap I had purchased (well, the one Pam purchased) earlier.  I got it all prepared on a plate with a napkin, sat down on the couch, and in a blink, Walter had jumped on to the chair, shot behind my back, swiped the wrap that was resting on the arm of my chair, and swallowed it whole.  We all just sat there stunned.  It was sort of hilarious, somewhat impressive, and a little sad because I wondered how hungry he must have been?

As with anyone who has lost an owner or parents, been to several different homes, was traumatized, and is adjusting, Walter did have behavioral issues.  About two months in, he began nipping people, piddling in the house, and expressed a new, sassy demeanor (my boyfriend, Charlie, would call him a "vicious attacker", but you know how boys can be dramatic).  And if you know the Dachshund breed, as well as some of the tendencies of adopted dogs, this behavior was a little concerning but not really surprising.  The two of us enrolled in dog classes at the Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center, and worked with an awesome trainer named Eric Gillaspy.  He was patient, kind, experienced, honest, passionate about his work, and had faith in Walter, just like I did.  Walter was far from an easy companion to care for, but I was committed to him and loved him dearly.

The second trainer Walter and I worked with was Rita, who was recommended by my good friend Rachel.  Rachel is also a true dog-lover, and has a dog who had very similar behavior to Walt, so I figured this would be the ultimate solution.  Rita is a character, to say the least, and she would come over to my apartment on Sunday mornings to work with Walter and I, while Shelby and Lauren sat back on the couch with mimosas and cackled at the scene in front of them.  If you want to know more about Rita, Google "bad dogs welcome".  Or just ask Charlie.                

After several training sessions, a few months going by, and little improvement, I remembered something that Eric Gillaspy had told me.  He said that working with trainers can be wonderful, but that it's a good idea to also have a vet look at the dog to ensure there isn't a health issue that could be causing certain behaviors.  To be honest, it was frustrating, eye-opening, sad, discouraging, and exhausting watching my new little dog act out on a daily basis despite any efforts, and I wondered if it maybe was because he didn't feel well.  I know I'm certainly not the most pleasant when I'm hungry or feeling sick.  So, we made an appointment to get him checked out, and because they had requested a urine sample, I spent a better part of one morning chasing Walter around the courtyard in my robe trying to stick a little tupperware bowl under him.  I did eventually collect some pee, and felt rather accomplished.  

Many people know medical expenses are just that--expensive.  So during the first appointment after I had described Walt's behaviors and symptoms to the vet, I wasn't necessarily ready to do any serious tests.  Simply based on Walt's urine analysis and the description I provided, she let me know that he could have a UTI, and he took a round of antibiotics.  He also had a round of hors de'oeuvres every afternoon when he took his antibiotic, because it required a lot of stuffing pills into cheese and salami just right, so that he couldn't fish the pill out and only swipe the food.  They're always sneakier than you think.    

Looking back, I should have known something was definitely wrong.  Aside from his irritable demeanor, he was peeing pretty uncontrollably all the time and drinking water excessively.  Sometimes it's hard to see things as they are in reality when you're an insider of a situation; I spent every day with Walter, so his behaviors just became the norm to me.  In addition to that, I was heavily distracted by my grandpa passing away quite suddenly, and in between the days that he passed and the funeral, I reluctantly went on my planned trip to Vegas with my girlfriends, too.  While I was in Vegas, my mom watched Walt.  The things she told me of his behavior while I was away made me feel terrible, but she didn't tell me to make me feel guilty; she told me so that I was aware how unusual his behavior was.  She was blunt about the fact that she knew something was wrong, and that he needed to go to the vet soon.  It was off to the vet we went.

I was missing my grandpa, working at a new job, and had just started studying for my Series 6 when I got the voicemail.  I sat in a little conference room at work by myself as I listened to Dr. Burstein describe that the blood and urine tests pointed to Walt's stage three kidney disease.  It was just shitty.  Dr. Burstein described that he could live three more months, he could be around for a year, and that sometimes dogs surprise him.  Of course, I thought Walter would be the non-statistical miracle dog.  To prolong his life and keep him as comfortable as possible, he started a prescription canned-food diet, took Pepcid, and there was a great compounding pharmacy in Monument, CO that was able to produce a dose of Telmisartan that was just right for his 10-pound body. I felt like things were going pretty good.  His behavior had improved significantly, most of his symptoms had disappeared, and it was almost as if he didn't have kidney disease.

Before long, though, things did go south.  The symptoms and things I saw when he was nearing the end of his life made me physically sick.  Some of the things are unnecessary and too awful to describe, but he was no longer eating, drinking, or going to the bathroom.  He couldn't keep anything down, and he didn't want to sleep in my bed with me anymore.  So just about every hour throughout the night, I would wake up to crouch down and reach under my bed, and make sure his little body was still rising up and down and was warm.  His breaths were shallow, but they were there, and I desperately held on to that, despite the lack of quality of life.

And then June 7th came.  It's weird how it all unfolded, looking back again--your instinct is a powerful thing.  I was on the phone with Charlie at 7:30 that morning, just like we were most mornings.  We were talking, but I was preoccupied, and had to hang up during our conversation to call the vet. I know now that I didn't call sooner not because I was neglecting Walt, but because I didn't want to hear how truly sick he was.  It's terrifying to know that someone is going to tell you the truth, and make it real, because in my heart I already knew Walt was going and going fast, but there would never be a point in time that I would be ready.

I was sick that day.  Just like Walt.  Be it stress or sympathy symptoms, I was sick, and had to leave work.  I hated leaving work and asking for accommodations while being new to a job.  But I'll never be more glad I went home.  When I got home, I was sobbing and shaking.  I picked Walt up, and he laid his little head and floppy ears down on my shoulder.  I held him tight.  In that moment, I knew that he didn't want to fight any longer.  I knew he had an appointment at the vet that evening, but it was primarily Walt himself, who told me it would be his last.

We decided to make the most of the day.  The pictures below capture Walt's last day on earth, and depict how I want to remember him.  We took a nice, easy car ride with the windows rolled down to McDonald's where I let him order food.  He enjoyed some nuggets while laying in the cool grass, we sat on the swings together, and cuddled all afternoon.  Our last hours were good, they were.

That evening was terrible.  My mom came to pick me up, and Lauren and Shelby kissed Walter as tears streamed down all of our faces.  We all, including or maybe especially Walter, just knew.  I carried him into the vet like many times before in his favorite, chewed-up blankie.  But when we sat in a different area of the building than ever before, in a nice big room with comfortable furniture, boxes of tissues, dim lighting, and books about Doggy Heaven, it was all too real.  The consultation was calm and straightforward.  There was the option to put him in the hospital by himself for intensive care for a few days, or let go. There wasn't a decision to be made, because Walter chose.

It didn't make it any easier to see his little body go limp.  You just want to sink into the ground.  There was also a small sense of relief--I knew the suffering was over for him.  I kissed him over and over, and gently closed his tiny eyelids with his even tinier red eyelashes. I walked out of the vet that night with my Mom, feeling emptier than ever before.

Losing a dog is so much more than that.  It's gut-wrenching.  He was my best friend, a teacher, a responsibility, and a fiercely loyal companion.  Some people will say, "it's just a dog", but I don't want those kinds of people in my life anyway.   Like most things, time does help.  But Walter will never be replaceable.  There could be another, but he or she won't be Walter.  I know he is up there snacking on table scraps, sunning, and sitting right next to my Grandpa.  That makes me smile.

I picked up his ashes today, and that was hard.  It's another symbol that he is no longer on earth with us.  But the sun will set tonight, and come up again tomorrow, and life will go on.  For now, Walter is in my purse, and we are going to P.F. Chang's for a glass of wine, a celebratory drink to him and his life.


Rest in peace, Walty.  Thank you to Dr. Pepmeyer, Dr. Burstein, Eric Gillaspy, Rachel, and the entire team at Lone Tree Veterinary who made the worst day, somehow okay.  And thank you to my best friends and family, especially Lauren and Shelby, who hold me and love me like I loved Walt.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

How To: Get Your Winter Bod

"Hello, it's me" (fun fact: Adele also has a Dachshund),

I know it's been a while--I've been busy watching Bates Motel on Netflix, reading Amazon reviews on dog treats, etc.) I'm back though, and now that bikini season is behind us, it's time to get your winter bod on. This post is also pretty conducive to procuring the newly-popular Dad bod, if that's your cup of tea (your PSL*, if you will). I've been doing quite a bit of cooking lately (mainly picking up pies from Village Inn to appear as a real adult at holiday gatherings) to ensure that my family, friends, boyfriend, and I all secure an extra layer of fat to stay warm this winter. Paula Dean has nothing on me. Let's pause for a moment to chat about her Dancing with the Stars debut--solid effort but really pretty horrible...cringing at times. This would be an appropriate time to share that my cheer coach always put me in the back row during the dancing sections of our routines, so perhaps I should pipe down. That's unlikely, though. Especially since I have two recipes to share. These recipes do not involve kale, quinoa, or chia seeds, so no need to read further if that's what you're looking for. The only two things you'll need to do in order to prepare for these recipes is wash your hands--maybe get a mani so you can admire your nails while cooking--and change into your leggings/stretchy pants.

*Pumpkin spice latte

Buffalo Chicken Dip

  • About 3 chicken breasts (good time for this saying: it's a tit bit nipply, breast go turn up the hooters)
  • 1 8-oz. block of sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 8-oz. block of Pepper Jack cheese
  • 2 8-oz. packages of cream cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Frank's RedHot sauce
  • 1 8-oz. bottle of ranch dressing
  • 1 box of crackers (I use Ritz b/c I'm a basic b*tch)
I boiled my chicken in water to cook it, and then shredded it into small pieces. Side note: my dad would've fainted if he had seen my cutlery skills, but I still have all my fingers so I'm not worried about it. All the ingredients (except the crackers, obviously) were then mixed together and I let it melt and simmer on the stove top for a while**. Serve/eat with the crackers.

**An hour or so, if I remember correctly. Which I don't, because I was two and half glasses of Chardonnay deep.

Mistakes to avoid (that I learned whilst making this dip):
  1. If you're wondering why the water isn't boiling despite about 30 minutes passing, ensure that you have the pot on the actual burner you turned on. That'll definitely help.
  2. Try not to confuse the kitchen timer with the "cook time" button on the microwave. Seems like a simple concept, but I set the microwave for 20 minutes rather than the timer. My roommate, Shelby (shoutout to Shelby and her fine rear end, go Farmers insurance), happened to walk into the kitchen for a glass of water (Coors Light) and found the entire microwave engulfed in flames because all the little crumbs we rarely (never) clean out were apparently flammable. Washing your microwave plate occasionally would be a good preventive measure, too.  
  3. Cut the cheese (save the toot jokes, we're not 13-year old boys, not amused) into cubes. It turns out that cubes of cheese melt much quicker and nicer than a solid brick of cheese. 
White Chicken Chili

  • About 3 chicken breasts 
  • 3 15-oz. cans Great Northern beans, drained
  • 1 32-oz. box of chicken broth
  • 1 medium-sized jar of salsa
  • 1 8-oz. block of Pepper Jack cheese
  • 4 oz. of cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
I did the same thing with the chicken for this recipe as I did for the Buffalo Chicken Dip, so do that. Next, combine all ingredients in a pot on the stove, and once the cheese is melted (it'll just disappear like ninja calories), let the chili simmer for 2-3 hours.  

One final note on food safety: chicken is not like a petite filet or a burger. Chicken should not be even the slightest bit pink; you cannot have medium-rare chicken. You'll get sick, very sick. The kind of sick that would discourage your winter layers/bods. In fact, I believe it is Salmonella that you could come down with...and it must be a different strain of Salmonella than cookie dough Salmonella, because you know how you can lick beaters that have recently mixed raw cookie dough (made with eggs) and usually nothing bad happens? Well, with chicken, a Salmonella warning is not just like the casual note on the cookie dough package that everyone ignores. It's not like the tags on pillows that threaten you with jail time if you rip them off--I always rip them off and here I am, still on my couch in my apartment. It's not like when your dental hygienist strongly suggests you floss more often. Bottomline: fully cook chicken. Just burn it if you have to.

Either of the above recipes will have your tummy happy and buttons popping off your jeans in no time--so hop to it. They're seriously delicious. In fact, make this for a guy and you're basically guaranteed a proposal (with the exact ring you pinned on Pinterest). Well, maybe not a proposal, but at least a text back. Make this for your Mom, tell her to put her feet up (bonus point: serve it with a napkin--moms like that sh*t), and she'll have a shiny Audi parked out front for you Christmas morning. Probably not an Audi, but you might get some socks and undies in your stocking! Socks and undies as stocking stuffers are actually so underrated; more undergarments = less laundry necessary = less detergent needed = more money to spend on vodka sodas and Michael Kors wedges. You're welcome.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Every Blonde Needs a 'Burnett' Best Friend. And a Great Dad Doesn't Hurt.

Hey girls (I have a small inkling that most guys probably aren't too interested in a blog named "The Sassy Blonde" so only our gender is being addressed),

Well, it's about time.  It took me quite a while to decide what I wanted to write about in my first ever blog post (ohh emmm geee), which really is no surprise, considering that choosing a nail polish color can make me anxious (I have to arrive 15-20 minutes prior to my appointment to debate between OPI's Bubble Bath and Essie's Fiji).

I thought, should I do a typical, yet possibly helpful, introduction?  Should I write something 'sassy'?  Do I start off with a product review or hair tutorial?  I didn't know where to begin...obviously.  But then, I started thinking about why I wanted a blog in the first place: I love to talk, which often translates into a passion for writing.  In fact, I wanted to be an English major in college, but my Dad nixed that idea (mostly just because he could...or because he thought I would be an engineer, even though all breeds of math nauseate me), along with my beauty school idea, and eventually I became a psychology major after a rocky relationship with chemistry and a strong, steady relationship with Burnett's...sorry, Dad.

Anyway, blogging seems like a fabulous outlet to put my (never-ending) thoughts on (electronic) paper simply so that one day I might look back and know where I was and what was on my mind at this point in my life.  That future girl will probably laugh at this current girl, kind of like my day girl rolls her eyes A LOT at my Saturday night girl (thinking, girlfriend you are too old to leave your phone in an Uber), but I'm okay with that.  As for readers, maybe I won't have any or maybe I will have a few religious followers; either way, that isn't the point of this blog, at least not right now. But, if by chance you are reading this, I'm glad you're here. :-)

If you're still with me, future self included, let me give you a little update.  After school, I moved into my parents' basement (literally), started working, and have been on cruise control since; I loved that.  Changes of any sort rattle me, and I adore routine/knowing what to expect...boring, I know (ask my coworkers, I eat the same thing for lunch daily).  However, a big change is taking place in my life; I call it shouting (to nobody in particular), "I'M AN ADULT HOME OWNER", and my Dad calls it "renting a small apartment, getting a (that's singular) bill in my name, and spending less money on manicures (same amount on Burnett's 'doe')".

After signing a lease this past Saturday, I posted a cute little Instagram announcing my big day, and went out that night to celebrate.  Then, Sunday came along with reality, followed by Monday and some worries, and finally Tuesday brought full-on stressed, panic mode (interesting how nobody posts this part on Insta...cue Kim Kardashian cry face, except I don't think she posted that herself).  This is a big change, and there are some actual responsibilities coming my way, but also a lot of fun up ahead (note: do not dance on IKEA tables...ugh, cheap ish).  Somewhere in the midst of the chaos, I realized: I'm ready.  And the person I contribute most of my preparedness to, is none other than my Dad. I certainly want to credit my Mom, and as the Grinch would say, MYSHELF, too, but my Dad has without a doubt taught me many of the most important things I know.  (Maybe my mom will have a post dedicated to her later on, and then again maybe not, because life's not fair and I'm the type of person who doesn't want their future child playing on the soccer team where everyone gets a trophy.)  Without further ado, here's what I have to thank my dad for:

1. Budgeting.  I hate that word.  Well, I used to; now I just dislike it.  As much fun as it would be to haphazardly spend money and avoid my financial realities, life is smoother if I don't.  (Small anecdote: my friend P and I used to lay in bed in college after a night out and play a fun game she called, "Let's Check My Bank Account".  Needless to say, the outcome of the game always led to more drinking or turning on Enya to induce a deep sleep.)  But, since this is not college, I'm not at a sleepover, and I can't get rid of ALL my problems with booze, it's a good idea to "spend wisely", to quote my Dad.  (Anecdote #2: In high school, or maybe I was a senior in college...moot point, I once told him I needed a new, Lululemon workout top, to which he replied, "Okay, Mar, just try to spend wisely."  ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY SPEND WISELY IN LULULEMON.)  End of story.

2. Standards (as in, "on the inside", since my Dad has never said much/anything at all about what makes a guy cute...LOL).  If you know me well, or perhaps even if you've just seen me in the Walrus, you might know that I can be a small handful (read: a bonafide psychopath...kidding), whether I'm sober, tipsy, or even just hungry (read: hangry). That's not to say that 98% of the time I'm not a good person (okay, 86%), but I do have my moments.  And through personal experience and living in a sorority house with a ton of other girls, I have seen "having moments" make guys run for the hills.  But who has always stuck around when I'm having a moment?  My good old Dad.  He sort of has to, since I'm technically his own kin, but it sets a good example of what kind of guy you should end up with (or at least the kind I hope to find): the patient kind, the kind who takes you home and tucks you in next to a glass of water when you've had too much to drink rather than getting upset with you, the kind who calls you out and let's you know what's not okay with him, but likes you just the same, the kind who might not talk to you during the football game, but is willing to communicate with you in an adult manner at a different time.  (Anecdote again: Right before I turned 21, we had a Date Dash at a pretty fun bar called Absinthe, but all the underage kids had to stay downstairs while the cool, of-age kids got to party upstairs.  WTF.  I had done a little pre-gaming, which I suspect is the reason I found myself in a bathroom stall whimpering on the phone to my Dad about everything being his fault for "making me born too late in time".  Anyway, my Dad calmly explained that I needed to get over it.  Kind of like the time my high school boyfriend dumped me and he said, "Well, did you maybe see this coming a little bit?")  Point is: honesty is also good, with gentle delivery.  So, for now my BAE is actually a girl named Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, but the Emmett to my Elle is on his way, so long as I stick to what my Dad has taught me.  And kick rocks, Werners of the world.

(Now that I think of it, my mom has taught me some pretty different things about standards, so maybe she'll get her own post after all.  My mom, Pam, is the type of woman who nearly jumped out of the car but made a safer escape once the car was at a complete stop, and actually did walk home on Mother's Day, because my Dad irritated her.  She is bullshit-free zone...and I would never act like that ;-). )

I only made it through two of the things I intended to share, but with it now being 10:09 p.m., this post will have to be continued; it's past my bedtime.  On second thought, the other things he has taught me are boring...we're talking the difference between windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze.  But, if the (somewhat) sarcastic Burnett's references weren't too much for you, I will see y'all next time.  (Yes, now that I'm a blogger, I can say "y'all".  But I still don't want to talk about Pinterest, because I have yet to fully grasp how it works.  And the one time I tried something off of Pinterest--putting coconut oil in my hair to make it "strong and shiny", I looked like a greasy transient for a week and ruined my pillow cases.)