My Response to Matt Walsh

Let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat. I’ve heard others talk about things they’ve seen Matt Walsh say and/or do that left them with very poor opinions of him, but since I wasn’t there at the time, I won’t make any judgments about that. After the emotional turmoil of the past few days, I’m just not in the mood to pick sides in any fight, particularly when I have reason to like and/or respect people on both sides. This is purely my response to the fiasco that has erupted over the past couple of days after Matt published a blog post about Robin Williams, depression, and suicide. I don’t think Matt’s evil, cruel, or heartless.  I am appalled but not shocked at the vitriol that many have aimed not only at him, but even at his wife and family. I’m a fan of sarcasm and snark and employ it frequently, but wishing someone would die or that they would lose someone they love to suicide is pure cruelty. The world is full of mean, angry people, and the anonymity of the web just makes them less likely to rein in their viciousness. In short, a lot of people out there on the internet suck.


I have spent the days since RW’s death having many online discussions about depression in general and suicide in particular. I’ve struggled to help others understand how someone in the throes of a severe depression can reach the horrible conclusion that suicide is the only solution. I’ve had some argue with me and others thank me for helping them see the topic more clearly. The fact remains, though, that it is impossible to truly explain how and why someone begins to consider suicide. As recently as earlier this afternoon, I would have also said that it’s equally impossible to explain why some suffering from severe depression act on their suicidal thoughts while others do not. However, thanks to Stephanie Zubcic PhD, who provided a link to this article, I now have a better understanding of that hard question. If you know someone who is depressed or still think suicide is purely a choice made by weak, selfish, or cowardly people, you should read it. Perhaps it will open your eyes a bit.

So, back to Matt Walsh. I readily admit that I have read several articles that he’s written, and by several, I don’t mean most or even half, though there have been quite a few. I’ve shared a few of them as well. I usually agree with most of what he says, though perhaps not always with the way in which he says it. His thoughts on depression are the first time I’ve ever read anything he wrote that left me feeling…uncomfortable or offended, though. I originally intended to simply leave a comment on his blog, but quickly realized that my “comment” was more of a post, so I’m going to write it here and send him a link. He can follow it or not. I’m quite certain that he’ll be getting thousands of new comments, emails, tweets, and Facebook responses, so I don’t know that he’ll find me in the midst of that torrent. If he doesn’t, that’s fine. I merely feel the need to address the problems I have with some of what he said.


Before I post my thoughts, though, I will proved a couple of links to the specific posts he made that I am addressing.

1st post: Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice

2nd post: Depression isn’t a choice but suicide is: my detailed response to the critics

My response follows:


Dear Matt,

I read you regularly and agree with most of what you say, but I struggled with the original post because it simply felt less compassionate than preachy. I give you the benefit of the doubt, however, because I know that tone is difficult to impart via typed words and when emotions are running high, it’s all too easy to ascribe the wrong intent to the words of others.

You touched on some points in the follow up that made me personally feel a bit better about things you didn’t say in the first post. Here are a couple of my biggest problems – for lack of a better word at the moment – with the posts, though.

Quoted from the first post:

“Depression is a mental affliction, yes, but also spiritual.”

“I can understand atheists who insist that depression must only be a disease of the brain, as they believe that our entire being is contained by, and comprised of, our physical bodies. But I don’t understand how theists, who acknowledge the existence of the soul, think they can draw some clear line of distinction between the body and the soul, and declare unequivocally that depression is rooted in one but not the other. This is a radically materialist view now shared by millions of spiritualist people.”


I’ll just pause here for a moment to let you know that I find the declaration you make in that final sentence deeply offensive. I have been living with severe clinical depression my entire adult life. I’m not a “spiritualist,” I’m a born again Christian. Nor am I in any way an “adherent of philosophical materialism.” (The definition of materialist.) I have been a Christian longer than you’ve been alive, Matt. I realize that’s no guarantee of spiritual maturity – if it were, Paul wouldn’t have felt the need to complain about supposedly mature Christians needing milk instead of meat. I’m not going to spend untold amounts of time trying to verify my spiritual maturity, though. The post is long enough as it is. Suffice it to say that your dismissal of anyone who does not share your views on the nature of the connection between the body and the soul (as well as the Spirit, which the Bible makes clear is not the same thing) comes across as arrogant.


If the argument is to be made that no mental illness can exist without being a spiritual illness as well, then it follows that you must admit that the reverse is also true. Times of spiritual doubt or questioning, rebellion, or backsliding should cause a corresponding physical affliction. I know people who think this way. They’re usually the ones who blame every single “bad” thing that happens in anyone’s life on some sin they’re refusing to repent of.

It boils down to this, if depression is a physical illness that affects how the brain and body function, resulting in manifestations of symptoms defined as “mental illness,” then it must also be conceded that it can be a purely physical illness. You state that theists should not declare unequivocally that depression is rooted in the brain/body. I say you should not declare unequivocally that it cannot be. This article lends further credence to the physicality of depression, including suicide risk: Genetic Biomarker Identified That May Predict Suicide Risk


I also read the article about you on The Blaze and this specific bit jumped out at me because it’s precisely what I noticed from your first post as well.

“Walsh called it ironic that some Christians will turn to prayer to address physical ailments like cancer, but won’t do the same when it comes to depression. While he said relying solely on prayer wouldn’t be something he’d endorse, the decision by some believers not to turn to God to address mental anguish confounds him.”

I absolutely believe there is profound help to be found in seeking spiritual help in addition to physical remedies. There is no doubt at all that I would have suffered far more than I have had I not had God to turn to. Yet, the reality remains that I do have depression. I have been severely depressed even while crying out to God. I have been so lost in the darkness that I could barely breathe, even while serving God daily. I understand that you quantified your words about Christians not seeking God during times of mental anguish with the inclusion of the word “some,” but again, this comes across as a sort of indictment. I’m not saying that’s how you meant it, only that I can understand how it might be perceived that way.

I know you never said that depressed and/or suicidal people would be “cured” or “healed” if they just embraced joy and hope or if they prayed a more, but you have ruled out the possibility that a person can be physically ill with depression without being equally spiritually unwell. If that were true, then the only successful way to combat depression would be with the necessary inclusion of some form of spiritual therapy, defined however you like. My treatment for the severe depression I’ve been living with for as long as you’ve been alive has included medications, psychotherapy, and cognitive therapy. Those are physical things that impact my physical body and the thought processes of my brain. They are not spiritual. My spiritual life is an intrinsic part of me, though it is not a part of my depression beyond the point where I seek God’s help to resist the pull of the depression and His guidance when determining what medicine, doctor, treatment, therapist, etc. is the best, right choice to help me continue fighting.

You are absolutely correct that love is the most powerful force in the universe, particularly the love of God for His creations. You are also completely correct when you state that there is always hope, and that we are “meant for joy.” You are undeniably right to state that we must make a conscious decision to reach for joy, to see hope, to deny the darkness that seems so powerful a force in the world. All of that is completely true. Here is where you went wrong:

Many intelligent folks have pointed out that suicide is a choice, but one made by a mind submerged in an unspeakable darkness. Suicide is a choice, but one chosen under great duress.  [snip]

But ALL destructive choices are made under these circumstances. ALL. Every single one. The more destructive the choice, the more troubled the mind.

Destructive choices are not all made under duress or by “a mind submerged in an unspeakable darkness.” People make destructive choices every single day that are not born out of mental illness but out of selfishness or lack of knowledge or rebellion or any other number of things that may or may not have some connection to some measure of emotional distress, but that are not remotely comparable to the horror of severe mental illness. A person who chooses to smoke because they enjoy it even though they know it comes with a number of risks isn’t the same as someone who cuts or commits other acts of self harm in an effort to find some measure of control amidst an overwhelming maelstrom of mental and emotional anguish. To suggest otherwise is profoundly disingenuous.

Likewise, suggesting that suicide is a choice (in the most technical terms) that many suicidal persons don’t actually see as a choice does not automatically equal equating it to dying from leukemia or in a car wreck or any other manner of death that is wholly beyond the control of any person.

Even if they take medicine, they have to choose to take it. If they talk to someone, they must choose to speak. If they seek help at a facility, they must choose to go. In some cases people are committed against their will, but eventually they also must choose.

For someone who made a point of discussing how complex depression is, I find it absurd that you would try to then turn around and boil it all down to something this simplistic. Suggesting that choosing to reject suicide is the same as choosing to take meds or go to therapy or enter a psychiatric facility is like stating that choosing whether or not to try an experimental treatment after being diagnosed with terminal stage IV cancer is the same as choosing whether to eat a salad because its healthy or a slice of pizza because that’s what you’re craving. They are simply not comparable. At all.

I choose to take my meds and go to therapy because I never, ever, want to return to the absolute horror of the blackness of a major depressive episode. When I was in the depths of my first major episode, I wanted nothing more than to not be there. No depressed person wants to be depressed. You know this. You’ve admitted it yourself. We do not want to be depressed. We do not want to feel unworthy of love or hope or happiness. We want the pain to STOP.

What would you say to someone who tells you they are suicidal and they feel they have no choice but to kill themselves? What do you say when confronted with that specific statement? Have you been confronted with it? I have.

I have.

And do you know what I said?

Yes, you feel like you have no choice — but you do.

You feel like you have to leave – but you don’t.

You feel like there is no help — but there is.

You feel worthless — but you aren’t.

You feel like nobody can love you — but they do.

I do.

Your answers to the question of what we should tell a person who admits that they are contemplating suicide are not wrong. The question you did not ask, though, was “What next?” Shouting at someone standing on a ledge, telling them not to jump, is obviously what anyone with any shred of humanity would do. Telling a person considering suicide that they are loved, that there is hope, that they have a different choice is all fine and well, but it amounts to absolutely nothing at all if it isn’t immediately followed by action, because as much as they want to escape the nightmare of depression, they most likely won’t believe what you’re saying. They may nod and smile and say, “Okay,” then turn right around and follow through on ending their life because no matter what you say to them, they may very well still think they have no other choice. They may have already made up their mind that suicide is the only answer. And this is why your posts are so potentially dangerous.

Your focus was and still is on the choice. Even when you talk about how to confront someone considering that choice, what you fail to do is state unequivocally that while trying to talk them out of it is good and right, what anyone in that position should be doing is calling a suicide prevention hotline. The moment anyone starts talking about ending their life or wanting to escape or being ready to give up or too tired to fight any longer, you should be telling them that you love them while driving them to the nearest emergency room or dialing 911 or a hotline.

You never even talk about that, Matt, and that is what makes both of your posts so terrible. It isn’t that everything you say is wrong, it’s that you’re preaching about the spirituality of suicide instead of saying in loud, clear, unmistakable terms that priority number one is never, ever, under any circumstances, take talk of suicide from anyone with anything less than deadly seriousness.

I’ll assume you thought such basic truth was implied and didn’t need to be mentioned beyond your, “If you are thinking about suicide, don’t keep it inside. Tell someone. Never give up the fight. There is always hope.” You were wrong, though, and your omission of the importance of addressing suicide as more than a philosophical or spiritual topic is a huge part of what bothers me most about both of these posts.

I like a lot of what you say, and agree with some parts of both posts. I find the reaction of the idiots on the web that wished you or your family harm, grief, or suffering every bit as abhorrent as the twisted sickos who scream for people on ledges to jump. But as smart as you can be on a variety of topics, you can also be completely wrong. You’re wrong here, not necessarily in intent, but certainly in method.

I’m quite certain that many people out there agree with you completely. I’m sure that some who are or have been depressed found comfort or encouragement in some of what you said. But it’s just as possible that someone out there saw “Never give up the fight. There is always hope,” and heard, in their head, in their own voice, “You are such a worthless piece of crap. You’re a coward. You aren’t fighting. You aren’t even trying! You’re hopeless!” Because that’s what depression deep enough to make a person consider suicide does. It straight up lies, and no amount of talk will change that. It takes intensive therapy to learn how to recognize the lies and reject them. It might also take medications to help quell the worst of them just so you can find the energy and willpower to even try the therapy.  So, trying to reduce suicide down to a simple yes or no choice is, frankly, asinine.

I hope you see and read this. I don’t expect you to respond. I’m not seeking recognition or “hits” for my blog. I have no desire to become the next internet sensation. I mostly felt the need to respond with this much depth because I like you and because every single day that I wake up, I am grateful to not be in the hellish depths of a major depressive episode, and I want to do anything I can to help others understand the reality of depression. The moment I heard about Robin Williams’ death and saw that it was a suspected suicide, I was immediately taken straight back to the darkest moments of my life, when I found myself facing that same terrible, desperate choice, and my heart broke all over again. It always does when I hear that someone has become so desperate that they saw suicide as the only option.

I sincerely hope and pray that you continue to win the fight against whatever personal sorrow or anguish that you are living with. I bear you no ill will and hold no animosity at all toward you. I will continue to read what you write when I come across it and will share it when I feel led to. God bless you, Matt, and your family.


National Suicide Prevention Hotline

1-800-271-TALK (8255)

If you or anyone you know has talked about or contemplated suicide,

call the hotline or 911 RIGHT NOW!

Posted in About me, Depression, Health | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Depression, Suicide, and Survival

Robin WilliamsI just cannot believe it. I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes as word of Robin Williams’ death spreads across social media and all the news channels. I’m old enough to have seen some episodes of Mork and Mindy and of course grew up watching the seemingly endless number of movies he’s been part of. He was a great entertainer who brought both hilarity and pure entertainment to our lives. But he was also a human being who suffered the same foibles and struggles that all the rest of us have to endure.

Right now, there are people out there who are hearing that it’s possible that he took his own life. Possibly for the first time, people who have grown up laughing at his antics, are learning that he battled addictions to alcohol and drugs as well as episodes of severe depression. I know that some one, probably a lot of someones, are going to see “depression” and “possible suicide” and immediately scoff. “What could he have to be depressed about?” they’ll ask. “Suicide is just selfishness!” people will declare. Well, if you’re one of those people, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. Horribly, heartrendingly wrong.

I was in my teens when the first signs that I had an emotional problem began showing. I didn’t recognized them then. I wouldn’t recognize them until years later when I was able to look back through the lens of experience and knowledge, but they were there. I was in my late teens when I had my first major depressive episode. It would last more than a year and a half. A year and a half of emotional darkness the likes of which no one who’s never suffered from clinical depression can possibly understand. There are huge gaps in my memory from that one and a half to two years. I mean I have absolutely no idea what happened. People who were there talk about things that took place and I might as well be a complete stranger because I simply cannot remember most of that time. What I do remember, though, is the agony.

There’s a well-known blogger out there called The Bloggess. Her real name is Jenny Lawson and her sense of humor is frequently vulgar but utterly hilarious. She also has battled depression as well as other issues. It was on her site that I first read the words, “Depression Lies.” This was not that long ago, a few years ago only, long after I’d accepted that the emotional issues I have dealt with my entire adult life are major clinical depression, after I’d had that diagnosis confirmed by doctors and a therapist, after I’d begun taking anti-depression meds, and been through a significant amount of therapy, which all came after I’d learned – out of pure necessity – to live with the depression and not allow it to rule my life. All of that experience, wisdom, and knowledge, and the pure, simple truth of “Depression Lies” hit me like a lawn dart to the forehead.

See, depression isn’t just a chemical imbalance that causes someone to feel sad or down in the dumps. It screws with every single aspect of your body. Not just making you feel bad emotionally, but physically, too. It’s the lies it encourages you to tell yourself, though, that are one of the worst aspects. Lies that when spoken aloud to someone not in the throes of a major depressive episode sound, well, crazy. Looking back on some of the things my depression has caused me to believe, I can see how insane they were. Part of the lies it tells revolve around day to day life. It makes you believe small, unremarkable events or mistakes are colossal errors that can and will ruin your life. It makes you feel like nothing you’ve ever done is of value. Worse, it makes you feel like there is simply no hope at all of things getting better. Ever. And that’s when some of us begin considering suicide.

I’ve been there…more than once. I’ve been so deep in the darkness, so overwhelmed by the lies and the mental anguish that suicide began to feel like a reasonable option. Thank God, I never followed through on that impulse. I certainly considered it. I have taken time to think about how I’d do it, where I’d do it, and what I’d want to say to the people I love before I did it. Do you know what I learned from being in that terrible place? I learned that suicide is not selfishness, it’s desperation. It is the most tragic symptom of an illness that plagues more than 350 million people in the world.

The worst thing about depression is how misunderstood it is. People hear someone is depressed and think, “well, just stop it,” or “stop feeling sorry for yourself.” I have heard both of these things from people I care about and respect. They’re wrong, though, and that kind of dismissal is what leads so many people to keep their depression to themselves. It’s hiding those emotions, feeling like you aren’t free to express them openly without fear of being looked down on or treated like you’re being selfish, that makes the whole situation worse. I’ve been there. I’ve had people I adore, people I needed, look me in the face and tell me it’s basically “all in my head.” That is a profoundly painful thing to endure when you’re already in emotional agony. Again, thank God, those people have since learned that whether they understand clinical depression or not, it is real, it is serious, and it is absolutely not my choice to simply stop being depressed.

I’m writing this because when I saw the first alert pop up on my phone telling me the breaking news that Robin Williams was dead at 63 in what was suspected to be a suicide, my heart immediately broke. Not just because he’s a great talent gone to soon. Not because I’m some kind of celebrity junkie who values the “famous” more than the “average” life. My heart broke because I was immediately taken right back to that dark, terrible place in my past where I was so desperate for some – any – relief from the pain that suffused every  moment of my life that I too considered ending it forever. I have that flashback every single time I hear of anyone ending their own life. It shatters my heart because I wish so much that they’d had someone there to remind them that DEPRESSION LIES!

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am in no way blaming Robin Williams’ family or friends or the family and friends of anyone who’s chosen that ultimate final solution. Certainly, there are times when those suffering from depression are truly alone in their pain, but just as often they are surrounded by people who love and support them completely, yet they still end their lives. We all have different tolerances, different breaking points. Those who survive aren’t stronger than those who don’t, they’re merely the ones who were in the right place at the right moment to resist the pull of the desperation. Sometimes, even when we are surrounded by those who love us, we are convinced we are utterly alone because we just don’t know how to express what we’re feeling. Sometimes we just need someone to hold our hand and simply be there, to listen if we need to talk or to just remind us we aren’t alone if we are unable to speak.

I had a bracelet made. It’s a leather band with a stainless steel plate into which the words “Depression Lies” have been stamped.

Depression LiesI wear it with the words facing me whenever I’m feeling like I could use the reminder.

Depression isn’t an obvious affliction. Most mental problems aren’t. It’s easy to become frustrated with people suffering from emotional disorders, particularly if you’ve never experienced one yourself. There are warning signs, though. They are many and varied and change from childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood, to the elderly. Worse, every person with depression will not have every or even most of the recognized, most common symptoms.

Just a few spots to do some further research: SAVE(Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), WebMD.com, Caring.com

Since we’re talking about suicide here, I’ll include WebMD’s warning signs for suicide:

  • A sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
  • Always talking or thinking about death
  • Clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse
  • Having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving through red lights
  • Losing interest in things one used to care about
  • Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
  • Saying things like “It would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out”
  • Talking about suicide (killing one’s self)
  • Visiting or calling people one cares about

If there’s someone in your life that is depressed and has been so for a long time, consider doing research about what depression is – and what it isn’t – then talk to that person. Make sure they know you are there for them unconditionally. Don’t condemn them or judge them or lecture them, just be there. Once you make it clear that you aren’t judging them, listen. Really listen. And never forget that some of us become very adept at hiding our pain. Like Robin, we mask it with humor, not wanting to burden others, not wanting to seem like a killjoy, not wanting to have to see the annoyance in the eyes of others if we admit that we’re struggling…again.

Believe me, I would give anything to never be depressed again. I wish I could say I’d been cured by therapy or meds or just time. The truth is, though, that I’ve been living with depression for almost thirty years now, and while it is absolutely far better controlled now than it was when I had that first major episode, it is still an everyday part of my life. From one day to the next, I might be perfectly content or find it a struggle to quite the ugly little lies my depression is whispering into my mind. I now immediately recognize the signs of a flare up, even the small ones like restlessness or an uptick in obsessive tendencies. I know there are good days and bad days and that I don’t need to worry until there are several bad days in a row. My greatest goal is to never, ever allow myself to sink back into one of those seemingly bottomless pits of despair where every moment is filled with desperation and hopelessness and pain, so I live in constant awareness of my moods and know to seek help if I feel the need.

Depression isn’t a joke or a choice, it’s a disease just like diabetes or cancer or arthritis. Suicide isn’t selfishness, it is unbearable desperation. That’s why my eyes fill with tears and my heart aches every single time I see another story of another life lost to this evil monster. I wish I could have reminded them that they aren’t worthless. They are priceless. The pain isn’t endless. The world will not be a better place without them in it. Their spouses, parents, siblings, children, and friends will not be happier without them there to “bring them down.”

If you are the least bit concerned about someone you care about, take action. Never, ever view any comment about suicide as a joke.

If you are depressed, please remember that you are valuable. You are precious. Please seek help from someone: a doctor, a friend, a family member, a hotline (National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255). Please remember that DEPRESSION LIES. There is no shame in needing help.

 

Posted in About me, Depression, Health | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Maggie May

Sigh. I love writing, but I’m terrible about making updates to this blog. I had someone ask me about Katie recently, which reminded me that I hadn’t transferred the final entry about her from my other blog to this one. Seems like it should be easier to do that automatically, but it never seems to work well for me. Anyway…

We lost sweet Maggie May just a few months after we brought her home. She made significant improvement before leaving us, though, so here are some pics of her life in our family.

I took this after she'd finally gotten a bath.

I took this after she’d finally gotten a bath.

I gave Maggie her first bath a couple of days after bringing her home. She was horrifically filthy. I was worried that she’d be afraid of the water, but she actually seemed to enjoy it. Once she was clean, I dried her as well as I could, then wrapped her in a towel and a blanket before bringing her into the living room and placing her beside me on the couch. She immediately curled up right against me and dozed off. She absolutely loved being close to me.

Briscoe checking out the new addition.

Briscoe checking out the new addition.

This is the day I brought her home. Briscoe was obviously curious, but didn’t mess with her beyond just a quick sniff.

Maggie turned out to be a burrower.

Maggie turned out to be a burrower.

I was in the kitchen making supper one evening a few days after Maggie came home and heard a noise and looked up to find her rooting her way under the poofy bed she’d been lying on. It was the first time she’d done much movement on her own, proof that she was feeling better and gaining some strength.

Maggie passed out snoring in her dog bed sandwich.

Maggie passed out snoring in her dog bed sandwich.

This was taken a day or two after she had her first surgery. She was spayed, had her huge mammary tumors removed, and had her rotten teeth extracted. We were very happy that the vet managed to get that much done in a single surgery. As you can see, she’d gotten quite comfortable by this time, feeling far more secure in her surroundings than she had when I first met her.

ComfyThis was taken before she’d had her surgery. You can see one of her enormous mammary tumors if you look closely. Her nails hadn’t been clipped, yet, either. It wound up taking three of us to get that chore done. I’m sure she’d never had it done before, plus her feet were still quite raw and sore.

What dog?

Marble the cat was not the least bit intimidated by Maggie.

Maggie couldn’t see more than light and shadows, as well as movement. That didn’t keep her from trying to “catch” the cats when she was finally strong enough to get up and get around a bit on her own, though. She mostly tried to smack at them with her foot, which none of the cats actually enjoyed, but Marble wasn’t at all afraid of her. Briscoe just hated feeling left out. This look on his face is him wondering why I’m not making Maggie and Marble move so he can have the whole end of the couch to himself.

I'll just lie right here.

I’ll just lie right here.

This is Maggie’s passive aggressive way of trying to get Briscoe to give up his spot on the couch. He was on the end and I’d put her between us on a blanket of her own, but that wasn’t good enough. So she got up and moved over to crowd up next to him, knowing he wasn’t into cuddling with her.

Success!

Success!

And, her plan worked. Briscoe gave up and surrendered his spot to her. This was pretty much how it always ended.

IMG_0688Briscoe was a good, tolerant brother.

IMG_0689Maggie’s “happy place.”

IMG_0827She was a incredibly small girl and loved to be held.

IMG_0737She gained a bit of weight, but never stopped looking frail. Her front shoulders always splayed outwards from her body. Her back hips were unnaturally formed as well, making it impossible for her to run. She toddled around happily, though. She would wander around in the living room and kitchen, then come over to the couch and wait for one of us to lift her up onto it. Many of her problems improved dramatically and she got through her initial heartworm treatment okay, then had to go into the clinic for the second one. Tragically, her system just couldn’t withstand the stress.

She was such a sweet girl. Just precious in every way. Even now, months after her death, I’m still furious at whoever treated her so contemptibly. I also still struggle with the tragic reality of her life. I take comfort, though, knowing that the last few months of her life were filled with comfort and love.

Rest in peace, sweet girl.

 

 

Posted in Animals | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is Animal Cruelty…

Brace yourselves, I’m about to launch a colossal rant.

Anyone who’s on Facebook knows how easy it is to miss a post by any friend or liked page, particularly with Facebook’s “we know better than you” attitude that leads them to show us the posts they think are most important without any real say-so from us. I was constantly switching to the “Most Recent” feed until I was fortunate enough to find a script that allows me to tweak several of the settings on Facebook, including forcing them to stay on Most Recent instead of Top Stories. Anyway, I’m mentioning this because of all the posts made by the Switzerland County Animal Shelter since I “liked” their page, the first and only one I’ve actually seen was one that was made last Tuesday, February 5. It was post of very cute Golden Retriever puppy who was one of the dogs currently available for adoption. I clicked on the image, which took me to the SCAS page where I caught sight of another image of another dog. This is that image:

Here are the words that accompanied it: This is Marilyn. She is an English bulldog approximately 4-5 years old. Marilyn was found curled up freezing and starving in the North Dr area.

This blog is named Winsomebulldog. My header is a picture of my two Bulldogs, Katie and Briscoe. Katie was my husband’s dog, a dream come true for him. A friend’s family had one that he spent time with as a young man, and from then on, he always dreamed of owning one. Clearly, we are Bulldog fans.

First off, let me just confess that both Katie and Briscoe came from pet stores. We weren’t as aware then as we are now of the horrors of puppy mills. For us, the consequences of purchasing our two darling Bullies at a pet store instead of from a reputable breeder were a significant array of various health issues that could undoubtedly have been avoided if their breeders had been more interested in producing healthy puppies than in the obscene amount of money they could make while forcing dogs to produce litter after litter after litter of unhealthy puppies. Having said all that, I wouldn’t trade either of my precious babies for any amount of money. Losing Katie was and still is one of the most painful things I have endured.

So, what does any of this have to do with Marilyn? Well, Marilyn was almost certainly used in a puppy mill. Let me tell you why I believe that.

She is skin and bones. She has a list of health issues that is almost impossible to believe. One of those issues is swollen, raw feet with pads that have spit open. This happens when a dog is forced to stand in their own urine and feces. You can’t see it clearly in the above picture, but instead of being white, as she should be, she’s more a dingy yellowish brown. She smells terrible. Just so you get a full picture of her condition, let me show you a few more images.

Have you thrown up, yet? I’ve come close a few times since I first saw her.

The obvious issues:

  • She’s been starved. 
  • Her nails hadn’t been trimmed in, well, probably ever.
  • There are mammary tumors all along her stomach because she was never spayed.
  • Her eyes are milky and constantly gooey because of entropion. (Entropion is a situation where the eyelids basically roll inward, causing the lashes to constantly rub the surface of the eye. Very uncomfortable.)
  • Due to the untreated entropion, both eyes are severely scarred, making her almost blind. The damage from the constant irritation was so bad that her left eye developed an ulcer that eventually ruptured. Translation, she has a hole in her eye.
  • Her feet are raw.

Now for the not so obvious, but not unexpected, issues:

  • She is heartworm positive. 
  • All her rear teeth are so decayed that they’re essentially mush and will have to be removed before they cause her jawbones to rot as well. 

More possible issues that haven’t been confirmed, yet, but that I wouldn’t be surprised by:

  • Heavy internal parasites.
  • Hip and/or knee damage from being caged constantly.

She can barely walk. This could be due to her painful feet, arthritis, or the fact that she’s barely more than skin and bones. Probably a combination of all of them.

When she was found, she was curled up on the cold ground beneath a rabbit hutch, waiting to die. The lady who picked her up said she just looked like she’d given up. She was so cold that she spent the rest of that day shivering, just trying to get warm.

When I saw that picture of her, taken as soon as she was brought into the shelter, I knew I had to do something. I sent the shelter several messages, asking for more information. As soon as my husband got home, I showed him the picture. He was as horrified as I was.

The next morning, I began communicating with the shelter about her. They’d guessed her age to be 4-5 years. By the end of that day, I was positive that I wanted to bring her home with me.

The next day, Feb. 7, she was due to see a vet. I had errands to run in the morning, but went over to the shelter as soon as I got home to meet her. I’d seen the picture, so I knew she was terribly skinny. The shelter had informed me that the picture didn’t show how truly bad it was. What really got me when I first saw her, though, was the way she was curled up in a tiny ball on her blanket. She was in the isolation room along with several other smaller dogs. As dogs do, they all began barking like mad as soon as the door was opened. Marilyn’s head lifted, then dropped once more in dejection. She began to tremble. All I could think was how much I wanted to take her to a quiet place, wrap her in warm blankets, and cradle her in my lap.

She had her vet appointment later in the afternoon and the shelter assured me that they would call once they knew something. I got that phone call at 5. That’s when they told me about the heartworms, her eyes, the mammary tumors, her teeth, and that she was closer to 8 years old. The vet suggested putting her down, but they didn’t because I’d already told them that we would still take her if she turned out to be heartworm positive. I’d prepared for that. I hadn’t braced myself for all the rest of it.

When I got off the phone with the shelter, I sent my hubby a text message explaining all the additional issues she was facing. Her teeth will have to be removed. This is surgery. The entropion can be fixed through another surgery. The mammary glands can be removed when she is spayed. ANOTHER surgery. And don’t forget those heartworms. Want to know how they kill those suckers? Arsenic. That’s right. They poison the nasty little things. Follow that up with having countless dead worms flushed through damaged arteries and you’re talking about a huge physical impact on the body. Look at those pictures again. Think she can survive that? The vet had concerns that she’d be able to survive any of the treatments she needs.

I hung up the phone and started crying. I just couldn’t help it. I kept seeing her curled up on that blanket. I kept thinking about the hell she’s been forced to endure. It is obvious that she’s been bred repeatedly. Whatever bastards – yes, I know it’s an ugly word – had her, used her, abused her, and then threw her away when she got too sick to be of further use. This is what I kept thinking about. Would it be kinder to just put her down? Would it be cruel to try to “fix” all her problems?

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep that night. But when I got up Friday morning I’d made a decision. I had to give her a chance. She’s known nothing but misery. She deserves so much more. I eventually came to the decision that even if she doesn’t survive one of the cures for her many ailments, I could at least give her the best life possible for however long she lives. I can keep her full and warm and give her all the love she has never known but so obviously needs. And she just might survive it all. Katie was 11 before the cancer took her from us. This precious little girl could have several more years of life left to live. Happy, healthy years. I simply could not deny her that chance.

So, I went to the shelter and picked her up. I brought her home and gave her a chance to sniff a bit in the yard and potty. Then I brought her in the house and put her down on the large orthopedic dog bed that we keep in our living room for Malcolm to lay on. The boys gave her a few cursory sniffs. She wasn’t sure what to think of them, but I laid down beside her and gently stroked her head and ears until she started dozing off. I tucked her blanket in around her so she could nap.

Since then, she’s had some food and water, and been outside several times. She got a little bit sick, probably from drinking too much. She was a thirsty girl. She’s napping on Malcolm’s bed, occasionally waking up to look around, as if she’s making sure she’s still in a warm, safe place.

She has a very long road ahead of her. She needs a bath terribly, but I don’t want to put her through the stress. I want to give her a few days to settle in, to feel at home and completely safe before I start doing things that I know will make her uneasy.

I have no idea what her personality is truly like. She’s so weak that she doesn’t do much more than eat, drink, and sleep. She is just so painfully thin. Watching her try to walk is agonizing. I want to do something, to make her better, to make her happy. Every time I look at her, I am sickened again by how much she has suffered.

Somewhere out there is a person or persons who used a beautiful, gentle, sweet, loving dog to make money with absolutely no regard for her welfare. They could make money off her because people buy dogs off the Internet and out of classified ads in the newspaper, sight unseen. They don’t visit the breeder or insist upon meeting the parents of the puppy they’re buying.

There is very serious problem in this country. We continue to view dogs, cats, horses, livestock, any domestic animals, as property, no different than a car or a sofa. We blame dogs for being dogs, condemning entire breeds or even breed types for the actions of a few while simultaneously deifying those who contribute to the problem. Michael Vick not only participated in dog fighting, he tortured his dogs to death, yet he didn’t actually go to jail for that. He was allowed to plea to “Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate Commerce in Aid of Unlawful Activities and to Sponsor a Dog in an Animal Fighting Venture.” Racketeering. In the state of Virginia, he submitted a guilty plea to a single Virginia felony charge for dog fighting, receiving a 3 year prison sentence suspended on condition of good behavior, and a $2,500 fine. He spent less than 2 years in prison, got out and picked his NFL career right back up where he left off. He was named the 2010 NFL Comeback Player of the Year and was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl.

This from a man who admitted to providing most of the financing for the operation and to participating directly in several dog fights in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina. He admitted to sharing in the proceeds from these dog fights. He further admitted that he knew his colleagues killed several dogs who did not perform well. He admitted to being involved in the destruction of 6–8 dogs, by hanging or drowning.

How many thousands of people have cheered for Michael Vick during his “comeback?” How many people out there look at him and think he served his time and should be granted a fresh start despite the fact that he was never convicted of animal cruelty? He never spent one day in jail for it. Even if he had been convicted of animal abuse, he would have gotten little to no jail time for it and a monetary fine of a few thousand dollars.

Abusing an animal is a misdemeanor. No matter how terrible the abuse, how horrific the suffering of an animal, current criminal laws make it nearly impossible to convict anyone of animal cruelty short of having film of them committing it, and convictions carry penalties that tend to amount to a slap on the wrist.

Marilyn is not an inanimate object. She is a living, breathing, feeling creature. She has emotions. She feels pain and fear, suffers grief and loneliness. She has her own personality. She’s an individual just like I am or you are. She is beautiful and sweet, wholly undeserving of the hell she’s been put through.

So I’m left to ask, how many of you out there have a dog tied up out in your yard? How many have a wire kennel that you visit once a day just to drop off some food and water while the dog you’ve caged inside spends every single moment all alone? How many of you don’t bother to get your pet spayed or neutered, or give the heartworm and flea prevention? They’re just dogs, right? All dogs have fleas. So what?

Just because I can’t bear to end this on a completely depressing note, I’m going to add one final picture.

Marilyn and her blankets, curled up on her comfy bed. No more shivering. No more fear. Whatever the future holds for her, at least she finally won’t have to face it all alone.

I’ve used the name given to her by the shelter workers during this post, but that isn’t the name we’re going to call her by. I wanted something less formal sounding, so we’ve called her Maggie. Maggie May. Of course she doesn’t recognize her name, yet. But she’s already beginning to respond to the sound of my voice. Perhaps more telling, there have been at least two times that I’ve seen her wake up and turn her head toward me, her scarred eyes struggling to focus. I speak a few words to her, telling her what a good, sweet girl she is, and she lowers her head back down and returns to her sleep. Don’t anyone dare try to tell me that dogs don’t crave the companionship of their people.

Posted in Animals, Rant | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Loss

Katie’s gone…

A glimpse of how she got her name, Katie-Bar-the-Door.
This is the expression I loved most on her face. Joy.

The image that inspired the winsomebulldog name. 

 And finally…

Yesterday, at the emergency clinic.

If you know me, then you know that our girl, Katie, has been sick for a while. Yesterday, she was so weak that she could barely stand. I took her to the ER and they ran some tests, but couldn’t find anything wrong. (It should be noted that we all thought her problems were connected to either her chemo or the heart issues that were brought on by the chemo.) So, I brought her back home yesterday evening but she got worse during the night. I took her back up to the clinic this morning and they took some x-rays and spotted what they thought was pneumonia in her lungs. So they kept her to give her fluids and antibiotics.

I got a call this afternoon a little before 5 letting me know that she had stopped breathing. They did their best, but as I was on my up there a little while later, they called to let me know she had died. I’ll spare you the gory details and just say that additional blood work revealed that her kidneys were failing badly. It is likely that the cancer spread despite the chemo and caused significant damage, bringing on the kidney failure and other symptoms that were mistakenly attributed to her heart. No one is at fault. She was just a sick baby.

Right now, I’m fairly numb. I cried all the way up there. Spent almost an hour with her and cried some more. Then cried a good portion of the way home. So now I’m just in a holding pattern until the next wave of grief hits.

Losing her sucks, plain and simple. But it’s made worse in so many ways because Mark is not home. He has made what should be his final trip to retrieve machinery from New Jersey and is due home this evening. His plane should already be in the air. So he had to deal with all this while being unable to be here for either me or her. Please pray for him, as Katie was particularly special to him for a variety of reasons.

I’ll say without shame that we both loved Katie as though she were our child. I know some people take offense at that, but I’m sorry. Katie was a part of our lives every single day for eleven years. She will forever hold a home in both our hearts and nothing and no one will ever replace her in any way.

I wish I could somehow convey how incredible she was. So much unconditional love packed into one short, pudgy dog doesn’t seem possible. And there’s simply no way for me to express how much pure joy she brought to my life. I still can’t quite make myself imagine living without her.

I needed to get this out there, to share it for her, to honor her. I’m so tired and I have one of those “after crying” headaches. I’m thinking that I might need to lay down for a little while. Maybe, in a few more days, I’ll be able to be more philosophical about it all. Right now, I just want my baby girl back.

Posted in About me, Animals | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Golden Honey Pan Rolls – Lazy Version

After yesterday’s Buttered Rosemary Rolls, I decided to try the shortcut version of the Golden Honey Pan Rolls that I already know are fantastic. The link will take you to the full recipe that has instructions on how to make them from scratch, using a bread machine. I’m going with the short version here, using store-bought dough, which means the rolls themselves won’t have any honey in them. I’ll just use the glaze from the original recipe and see how they turn out. I’m fairly certain that they’ll be very nearly as good as the from scratch version.

Here’s the recipe for the glaze:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 egg white 

This is the recipe for a full 13″ X 9″ pan of rolls, but I’m not going to bother trying to halve it. Half an egg white? I don’t think so. And just in case you’ve never, ever done anything like this before, I’ll include a few pictures of the process. Brace yourself.

Step 1: Go to the store and pick up a bag of Rhodes frozen dinner rolls.  Bring them home and toss them in the freezer. When you’re ready to fix your rolls, take the bag out of the freezer and cut it open.

NOTE: You’ll notice in the upper right-hand corner of the bag that it has an arrow with the words “EASY OPEN Tear Here.” This is a blatant lie. I tugged and pulled and twisted and not only was it not easy to open, it in fact did not open at all. No tearing, though the plastic did stretch quite well. I  eventually had to resort to using a pair of scissors. (This may well be the hardest part of this recipe.)

Step 2: Pick a pan. Any pan, assuming it’s not so large that 36 rolls couldn’t hope to fill it up when fully risen. Unless you’re cooking for an army or possibly a potluck dinner, an 8″ or 9″ cake pan should be plenty big enough. If you want to get really rustic, break out a cast iron skillet. I’ll admit the skillet makes a lovely presentation, but since I’m more interested in eating them than looking at them, and since I have not yet crossed into the world of professional food blogger, I just grab whatever is handy. For this post, I went all out and broke out a “fancy” piece of Corning Ware, so the pictures would look pretty. Yep, I’m trying that hard to impress you guys. 

Spray the pan with cooking spray and place the rolls inside.

(See – pretty pan.) You have a couple of options at this point. One, you can lay a kitchen towel over the pan or you can spray a sheet of plastic wrap with more oil and lay it over the pan. (Do I need to point out that the towel should be clean?) Pick whichever way suits you, then just set the pan aside and WALK AWAY.

That’s right. You are DONE for literally HOURS! Just go do something else. 

This shot was taken after 6 hours. (My kitchen was fairly cool, especially in the morning when I started. Your rolls may thaw and rise faster or slower, depending on ambient temperature, altitude, humidity, etc. Basically, just leave them alone until they’re big enough that you’re happy with them.) Mine in the above pic are risen enough to be baked, though I’m letting them go longer just because I’m hoping to wait long enough for my hubby to come home so that he can have them fresh out of the oven. They will keep getting bigger. The bigger they get, the more careful you’ll have to be when brushing on the glaze because they’ll be so fluffy that too much pressure will make them collapse. (If that happens, they won’t look very pretty, but they will still taste just fine.)


Step 3: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix up your glaze.

It will be slimy and VERY thick. But once baked, it is oh, so good. Brush, or if your pan is big enough and your rolls haven’t risen to the point of billowing over the sides, drizzle this concoction over the rolls.

By this point (after about 9 hours) mine had risen so much that I couldn’t get as much of the glaze on them as I would have liked. My rolls completely filled up the pan, so none of the glaze could ooze down to the bottom, which meant that most of the sweet goodness was confined to just the top of the rolls. If I’d glazed them when they were smaller (say, in that earlier picture after about 6 hours of rising) the glaze would have more fully permeated the bread and they’d have been sweeter than they turned out to be. Still good, mind you. Hubby polished them off with no hesitation, and like I said yesterday, he’s not really a bread eater.


Step 4: As soon as the oven is ready, place the pan into it and bake for 15-20 minutes or until they’re golden.  Mine were ready after just 15. If you know your oven cooks really fast, you might want to back the temperature down to 325 degrees, just to make sure you don’t over-brown them.

Take ‘em out and let ‘em cool just long enough so that you can handle them without needing a trip to the emergency room. Begin scarfing them down.


This is insanely easy. And the sweetness, especially when done like this, isn’t so overwhelming that it gives you a toothache. In the original recipe, the dough itself is sweetened with honey, so it’s by default sweeter even without the glaze. Still, this is a really nice way to get almost the exact same flavor without all the extra work. And it’s really especially nice since rising bread isn’t something that requires constant attention, freeing you up to do whatever else you need or want to do. Hope everyone enjoys them!

Loading image
Click anywhere to cancel
Image unavailable

Posted in Food & Cooking | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Buttered Rosemary Rolls

Buttered Rosemary Rolls

Okay, made these yesterday. Didn’t use the iron skillet because… well because I just didn’t want to dig it out and I already had a square cake pan handy. The pan held nine comfortably and I just let them rise pretty much all day, which kinda became an issue eventually because they got so huge and fluffy that a couple of them finally collapsed. That was when I decided to go ahead and bake those puppies. (I’d been waiting for Mark to get home, but wouldn’t you know, it was one of those 15 hour days, so I finally had to give in and get them into the oven.) Anyway, been wanting to make them since I first saw the recipe and finally picked up some rosemary. Let me just say that they are absolutely AWESOME! And by awesome, I mean irresistible and so blasted good that you’ll be tempted to forgo whatever you actually intended to eat as a main course. Mark ate four of them, and he is NOT a big bread guy. He kept telling me last night that it was all really good. He’s not stingy with compliments in general, but by the time he’d said it three or four times, I figured he liked his supper. Just FYI, I made a big pot of beef stew that I’ve been wanting but that I have no recipe for. I just started tossing stuff into the pot and added whatever struck my fancy at the moment. Then let it simmer all day long and it turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself. Anyway, I scarfed down 2 of the rolls right after they came out of the oven, then ate 3 more with supper. Or maybe Mark wound up eating five and I ate 2 more. I don’t really know. All I know for sure is that the pan was empty before we went to bed, half the beef stew was gone, and I was feeling a bit like a balloon that was ready to pop. I was a bit leery of using too much rosemary because it’s one of those spices that has a fine line between just right and overwhelming. But I think the next time I make them, I’ll ad a bit more than I did this time. I didn’t have the fancy sea salt that the recipe calls for, but did have some regular old sea salt and that’s what I used. Seriously, they were just insanely delicious. I’m making another pan of rolls today, though I’m going with an old favorite – Honey Pan Rolls, with the shortcut of using the frozen dough. I’m going to take some pictures of these, and maybe post them assuming they all turn out okay.
Posted in Food & Cooking | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment