Monday, September 29, 2014

A Tragic day...

With complete shock and a heavy heart I would like to pay a tribute to an incredible woman, Dr Sophia Yin, who passed away suddenly this afternoon. Those who have been around her could tell you about the seemingly boundless energy and passion that seems to just emanate from all around her. I had the honor of knowing Sophia first as a professor where I was enrolled in her animal behavior class. At the time, I had a dog aggressive Boxer, whom I had tried (what turned out to be) every wrong technique in the behavior book. My interest piqued when I learned that Sophia too had gotten part of her start in behavior because of an aggressive but lovable Boxer dog and it was easy to draw a parallel to my own situation. I inquired with her about learning more and was taken under her wing to complete an internship in animal behavior with her in the fall of 2006. Every Thursday we would meet and ride the 6am Amtrak commuter train from Davis to San Francisco. This was a several hour long process that included a train to bus transfer to cross the bridge as well as an additional mile or so extra on foot once we were dropped in the city in order to reach the specialty hospital that was our destination giving us plenty of time to gossip along the way. The reverse of this of course was the way back home which we would reach by 9 or sometimes 10 o’clock at night. While at the Vet Specialty Hospital I would assist Dr. Yin by demonstrating techniques to owners during behavior consults while she explained what I was doing to the client. After each consult once the client had departed we usually had the opportunity to sit and discuss the case, how it differed for others, how it was the same. The semester flew by quickly (as they often do) but was marked by many great encounters and learning experiences both human as well as furry.
Shortly after my internship I graduated but decided to stick around Davis and become a Registered Technician as a stepping stone toward my ultimate goal of becoming a Veterinary Doctor. We kept in touch and I was still having problems with my Boxer so Sophia helped me out with some private training sessions. Being a poor college student I really didn’t have much money (this has not changed) and instead Sophia found ways for me to work for her. I ironed and mended clothes and even sewed a dog jacket for her JRT Jonesy and in exchange she worked with my pup including simply taking her for a week to live at her own home with her other dogs.
When Dr. Yin decided to write a book on Low Stress Handling I was delighted to receive a call from her asking if I would be willing to volunteer some time to help out with some of the many photos she wanted to take demonstrating the right and wrong ways to approach animal handling. Many people don’t know that the animals used in the photos were mostly borrowed from the local animal shelter. No they were not trained. Yes, the techniques worked. I will admit to quite a workout with a sweet (but very hyper and rambunctious) blue pitty who took every bit of my strength and left me drenched in sweat by the end of the day. Sophia also managed to play a pretty good joke on me by asking me to hold Jonesy (her naughty little JRT) the way I would begin holding any dog in the hospital. Knowing that this technique would not work on him she videotaped the trial and added it to the video demonstration for the book as well. Good one Doctor.
As the years passed we kept in touch and she supported my aspiration to become a vet, even writing one of my letters of recommendation. When I finally got into school she sent me a copy of her Small Animal Nerdbook in celebration.
Our last conversation was lighthearted and upbeat in the style as many we had had before. She told me that business was really shaping up and asked me who the man in my facebook pictures were and when told exclaimed "Ooh. Give me an update on THAT! (your boyfriend). He's cute!"
It is difficult to look back on these memories and come to grips with the idea that they are the last. Once again I find myself caught off guard by the fragile nature of our existence. A brilliant pioneer has been taken. Truly one of my personal hero’s and role models. May she find peace, rest, and love eternal.
Using Dr Yins techniques on my old Boxer Maggie at Armstrong woods in CA

Friday, August 1, 2014

Semester 4 coming to a close

It's hopefully apparent by this point that I am horrible at keeping a blog and you can only expect to get an update of any kind every few months or more. In my defense I have had quite a busy semester with 10 exams already taken and 7 more coming up as final exams in the next 12 days. Luckily my dedication to never leaving my house has so far done me well and I have been very happy with my grades on those first exams. Fingers crossed that I don't completely run out of fumes in the next few days/week and a half.
OK so saying that I NEVER leave my house isn't entirely true. I would go completely stir crazy. Here are a few pictures of the very limited number of times I managed to get away from my digital notes this semester:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Playing catch up

Sometimes the entire concept of time just leaps past me. I was gently reminded today that I have a blog in which I had not written in some time. Upon further investigation it seemed that I had managed to allow an entire semester to go by without a single post. This post will consist of what is sure to be a feeble attempt at literacy as well as to catch up with what has happened in the last 5 months!
In January I began My 3rd semester of veterinary school taking classes such as Bacteriology, Virology, Pharmacology, and Pathology. This is justly nicknamed the "year of the dreaded -ologies". I enjoyed most of the classes right up until about the beginning of March when all of a sudden there was a landslide of information from every class with enough memorization for several years of study but only 6 weeks to lean it all. I am very grateful that my early grades game me a bit of a buffer since I needed every inch of it during finals week.
One day while driving down my street toward (I forget where honestly so we will just go with school) school, I came across a small puppy wandering along the side of the road. I stopped the car and looked around to see if there was anyone nearby whom she belonged to. After seeing no one I tried calling the pup as she was heading currently toward a very busy street and locals here are more likely to swerve to hit dogs rather than avoid them (One of the very sad truths about this island that makes me excited to be back home). To my surprise the pup trotted toward me and let me pick her up. Since my car is actually just a soft top samurai jeep, and I didn't want to risk her jumping out while I drove, I walked with her in my arms back to my house. Along with being lethargic and underweight she was also riddled with parasites. We pulled probably 75 or more ticks off of her the first night (first pic).

At first I swore up and down that I was not going to keep her, but slowly after no one else I knew was looking for a dog, she (and Shawn) wore me down. Her name is Leeloo (after the redhead from the Fifth Element). Yesterday she got spayed and in November Shawn will come here to St Kitts and spend a month with me before taking her back to California with him. She will be Shawn's dog as per our agreement, but since Shawn is mine I guess that makes her mine as well.
I had a fantastic few weeks off at the end of april, during the first week I was able to travel home to see many of my friends who I've been missing terribly. I also got to hang for a bit with my so-cal fam and hit up Disneyland with Shawn which is always a good time, got a tour of New Deal studios and got to hang out with the amazing Fon Davis (Creative director, stop motion expert as seen in likes of Star Wars, The nightmare before christmas and Coraline movies, he is a practical effect goad along with being just a fun and irresistibly sweet guy). Also got to meet the fabulous Peter Rubin (finally as we've been FB friends now for a while), had a great dinner and chatted until all hours. you may remember seeing some of the 3D on screen renderings that came out of his brain if you saw the newest superman movie. All those great shots of "Krypton" and the throne room there as well as the capsule that takes the baby to earth. Yep. Those were all his doing. We also got a chance to get all dressed up and attend a super fun masquerade ball in Brea, Ca.

Fon Davis and Friend

Pictures hanging in New Deal studios showing how they created
the "growing" effect for Alice in the live action Alice in Wonderland film

Shawn, myself, and Fon at LORE masquerade ball

The second week I mainly spent hanging around and helping Shawn in his shop as he worked on his ED-209 Robocop enforcement droid replica for the Bay Area Maker Faire. I learned how to lay up fiberglass and helped with some of the drill work for detail pieces. I can now proudly say that somewhere in the world there is an Enforcement Droid with my name on it.

laying up fiberglass
Showing off the toes
At the Maker Faire all done
With Shawn and his last project
Iron man
Compared to the toy

My name's on here

This semester is proving to be much more interesting than the last but 3 times busier right at the start. Got involved once again in helping in the Mr. RUSVM competition. Proud to say that this was our semester and green (my semester color) had the winning contestant (my good friend Walt).
Dressed as Alice for a "malpractice" skit

Hanging out before the skit

Being taken off stage (pushed by Jordan) by one of our Zombies (Rhett) 
We are about to start our 4th week of class and have already had the first set of "mini blocks". A mini block is a combination exam of two classes in one test. This is to prepare us for later semesters when all of our classes will test at the same time (blocks). Classes for this semester include Pathology 2, Pharmacology 2, Mechanisms of Disease, Clinical Pathology, and Public Health and Epidemiology. If all goes well, by august, I will officially be a "3rd year" vet student. :) All in all I am happy and doing well. I count myself very lucky to have so many support systems of close friends, as an amazing boyfriend who loves and supports me daily. Hopefully more soon (but no promises!)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Leaping forward

After being teased and bullied about not updating my blog in a while I have decided to give in to the pressure and update my hundreds of thousands of readers on the goings of the last few months. Ok in reality I think there are maybe 5 people who read this but I love you all the same and will attempt to give you the same pleasurable reading experience that I would impart to my hundred thousand imaginary followers.
I believe I left you last at around the middle of my second semester of veterinary school. The curriculum included Anatomy 2, Physiology 2, Parasitology, and Immunology. I have many choice phrases and adjectives to relay the thrill of that semester to you, however, since several of my imaginary followers also have imaginary children I will adhere to a more modest vocabulary and simply leave you with the following senario: Imagine you are being chased by a large grizzly bear through a dense forest, dodging trees, hedges, and with gazelle like grace you even manage to leap over the occasional porcupine. In the midst of one of these elegant displays you turn to quickly check on the whereabouts of your friend ursa major and abruptly and painfully cease all forward momentum. You then require being peeled off the front edge of a large boulder. That is how the second half of second semester felt. "Knowing what you know now, would you do it again?" Absolutely. If I knew then what I know now then that semester would be cake!
Onward and upward.
A few days after final exams I was able to board a plane for the first time in 8 months and return to 'merica for the Christmas holiday. It was cold. This is one of the harshest winters the east coast has had with record low temperatures and sub zero chills, ice, wind, and snow. Luckily I was going to California. It was hard to complain about sixty to seventy degree days that were sunny with a slight breeze but don't worry, I managed to still be cold and complain about it (but only a little). I was so thrilled to be going home that several weeks before the trip I created a calendar where I could schedule in times to see friends, plan events, etc... I over booked. Three weeks of daily itinerary. Even with that I didn't manage to see everyone that I had wanted to or do everything I intended.
The week before Christmas Shawn and I were able to attend the ballet in San Francisco to see a performance of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. Shawn had never seen the story before and was genuinely excited for it which made the evening that much more special for us. My good friend and her husband also acquired tickets for the same evening so we could make a night of it ,but sadly due to a medical issue they were unable to attend and gave us their tickets on the day of the event to at least try to make sure they didn't go to waste. A good friend of Shawns' and his wife were able to find a quick babysitter for the evening and join us. All in all it was a delightful evening made even sweeter by the new dress and red jacket Shawn purchased for me earlier in the day just for the occasion.

On Christmas eve Shawn and I went to my cousin Laurie's house for dinner and I was able to see my little fur ball kitten Pandora. I have missed my cat terribly since I've been away as she was my special snuggle buddy and used to always greet my returns. When we arrived my cousin answered the door and the first thing she said was "you are going to kill me". A million immediate possibilities began swirling in my brain and stomach and were only put to rest when she finished her previous thought stating: "she's so fat!". It turned out that she wasn't kidding. My trim 9 pound cuddle bug had turned into a 15 pound tick. I was gifted to a story about how she had been counter surfing for a few months and dining on sticks of butter along with both husband and wife filling the food bowl. Pandora always loved food more than anything and as scolding as I was to Laurie to get her back to a normal weight I couldn't help but be un-surprised at her voluptuousness. After a lovely evening and delicious meal Shawn and I headed back to his families house to take part in what I had hoped would be a new holiday tradition. There are many families who allow a single gift to be opened on christmas eve and I had seen a fun variation of that online and thought it would be fun to give it a try: We put together a "Christmas eve box" for each person at the house that night which consisted of a new pair of pajamas, a new movie, some hot cocoa, some popcorn, and other various snacks and treats. The idea is that everyone gets into their new jammies, chooses a movie, makes some popcorn and hot chocolate and relaxes together for the evening. I love this idea but our execution was a little off: firstly it was a ton of work to put each box together and I think it should be more of a secret santa thing in the future where each person puts together a single box for one other person. Second we didn't get back until after 8pm and everyone was already worn out and tired. Well, better luck next year.
Christmas day was spent with Shawn's family and was delightful. With the Unicorn stocking that Shawn made for me (including going to the city to "fur match" the puppet head),
and the Christmas tree we obtained from Coppola winery (that's a whole other tale),
it was a a very lovely day albeit a busy one.
Just after the holiday we headed to Southern California to visit with my family there and, of course, go to Disneyland.

We rung in 2014 in Downtown Disney and the first few hours of the new year riding Star Tours!
It was a great break but now I am back at school and a week into the third semester which includes "the dreaded -ologies": Pharmacology, Pathology, Bacteriology and mycology, and Virology. Wish me luck! I hope next visit I will get to see the people I missed this last time around. Hugs and happy new year!

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Here's the official picture of the students who were honored with the service award a few weeks ago:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

They only said it would be worth it...

It occurred to me today that I have been away from this blog for a while. A long while. Please don't be offended. Shawn tells me after I  apologize for having no time that "It's like you are in a doctorate program or something".  Second semester lives up to it's fierce 19 unit reputation for keeping your head spinning and running on a hamster wheel just to keep up with the sheer volume of material. At the beginning of the semester I took a look at my "published schedule" and thought "Hey, this isn't too bad... Start at 8am and out at 3pm or 4pm everyday... I can totally handle that". Then there came the "extra lectures". You know, all the ones that would have created more than the 5 units worth of work you are given credit for in each class and so they get left off the official schedule. Most days I found myself between lectures and labs in an instructional learning building from 8am until 5 or 6pm almost every day.  Still you think ok, at least I'll be home for dinner. This does turn out to be true, but, you have to consume that dinner while studying the 10 hours of material you had that day as well as trying to read a little ahead on the material for the next day... Oh right, and who could forget about exams?? We have them. Lots of them. I have had an exam every week since about week 3 (this is currently week 8) and will continue to have one a week until finals (week 16).  This includes of course Thanksgiving which is not a holiday in St. Kitts. So think of me on thanksgiving while I am sitting in a lecture room with Dr. Reisch learning more than just "how to pull dystocia puppies from pomeranians".
The good news is that I am halfway through the semester and it really doesn't feel like it's been 8 weeks, it is truly flying by and in just 8 more weeks I will be on a plane back home for a whirlwind visit. I am planning to be everywhere from Santa Rosa to Chico and LA in a short 3 week trip and then it's back to the island.

Shawn has been amazingly supportive reminding me on a consistent basis that he's really only ok with listening to me cry over skype in order to obtain a wallaby after I graduate. I still can't tell if he's kidding but I suspect he really does want one. At least I managed to talk him out of the miniature hippo.

Two weeks ago I recieved an award from RUSVM in conjunction with SCAVMA in "Service Excellence" in honor of national customer service week. my first instinct was to furrow my brow and think "What customers do I service?!" I'm sure you are as perplexed as I was so allow me to attempt an explanation: St. Kitts has only been in the tourism game for about 5 years and I believe as a result the kittitians have no clue what customer service means. After a particularly difficult week I got an email from the student service department that stated: "Hi Good Day, As a part of the Customer Service Week October 7th – 11th we the staffs of Student Services have decided to give back to those students who have displayed good customer service within their semester and also to the RUSVM Community. Therefore you have been chosen as that student within your semesters that have shown exemplary Customer Service Excellence. Tomorrow Friday at 12pm there will be a ceremony inside  the union where we will congratulate you in front of your peers. Please not that you must dress appropriately because pictures would be taken to be in the newsletter on Monday. If you have any questions or comments feel free to contact myself or Ryan in this regard. Congratulations. Keep up the good work." 
I emailed back that I was confused (this email was not actually addressed to anyone) and thought perhaps a mistake had been made, after all, I'm not servicing any customers here. I hoped perhaps a better explanation could be made to me regarding this award I had never heard of before. The response I got simply said: "Yes, you are the recipient". Ok, guess I'm getting an award.
I went to the ceremony in the student union the next day and turned out to be one of 7 students (one student chosen from each semester at the school) who were being recognized for contributions to their class and school (this was the first time that the student services department had ever given out these types of awards). So really... Community service :). Winners were selected by their class representatives as students that are making a positive impact on student life at Ross or the St. Kitts community.

On a less scholastic note next week is Halloween, my favorite holiday, and I am planning to attend a masquerade monster ball that my semester class is putting together. When Shawn was visiting over last break I had him bring me a sewing machine and I have been spending a few minutes here and there putting together a costume. Hopefully I will be able to get it finished and will post some pictures when I do! TTFN

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

End of semester 1

Finals ended a week ago and I'm only just now beginning to unwind and slow down after the exhausting, non-stop, uphill race that was the first semester of veterinary school. To cross the finish line at all is considered a great achievement here as many fall short of that goal. I am proud to be able to announce that not only did I pass all of my 20.5 units of classes, but that I also made the Deans list. 

In the last four months I have moved halfway around the world to a new country where I began an intensive doctorate program, learned to drive a stick shift from the right side of a car, drive on the left side of the road, play on an intramural volleyball team every Friday, and face my fear of the ocean by getting scuba certified. At times it all feels very much like I am simply an observer in some first person film sequence of my life. None of it truly seems real.

I ache for some of the comforts of home (what I wouldn't give right now for a tri-tip sandwich)  and am thrilled that I will be able to go back to visit friends and family in December. Next semester appears to hold its own set of unique challenges including a schedule consisting of Anatomy 2, Physiology 2, Parasitology, and Immunology. These have the arguable reputation of being some of the most difficult classes that I will encounter in the 7 semesters that I will be here. 

If you're into Facebook then keep reading this paragraph. A friend of mine (Gregg) from over at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto was sweet enough to send me a care package which included a great tshirt and a limited edition Facebook fox plush toy. First, a little background on the fox: Several months ago I got the chance to visit FBHQ and have lunch (it was Shawn's tour and lunch but I managed to tag a long) which is how I met Gregg. HQ is home to some very lovely foxes who have taken up permanent residence on the grounds. They now have their own FB fox page so that employees who see them and manage to grab a photo can post their celebrity sighting. Due to the popularity of the live FB foxes there was a plush toy produced in very limited quantity and Gregg decided that one of them needed to visit the Caribbean.
On a sexier note, Shawn (BF) flew in at the end of finals and will be staying with me for 3 whole weeks. I couldn't be more excited to have him here with me during my break. Shawn is an avid scuba diver, with an advanced open water certification , and we are planning to go out for several dives around the island while he is here. Until then we have been having a great time enjoying not doing a whole lot of anything too strenuous. Our typical day for the last 3 or 4 days has been hanging out either in my apartment or at the beach with a fruity alcoholic beverage. Shawn is partial to pina coladas while I tend toward either that or "rum punch" an island specialty.

One of these pictures is of a pet monkey who has a taken a liking to alcoholic beverages. I'll let you decided which one that is.
Tomorrow I will be saying goodbye to life in student housing and moving into my new apartment. Although I am still within walking distance from campus living outside the relative safety of the school does have me a little nervous. This is just one more selfish reason why I am glad to have Shawn with me for a bit. There are a few places I'd love to take him while he is here including; Brimstone Hill fortress (built in the 1700's is one of the most well preserved 18th century  fortifications in the Americas and displays a rich although violent history of the island). I was able to tour it once when I first arrived and can vouch first hand for its interesting architecture and stunning views.