October 30, 2006

Happy Halloween!

[the tiger costume i made this year.
i live with a witch, but she's a cute one!
one of Kenn Minter's comics which seems seasonal.
an old postcard.
a picture appropriate coming from a vet student.
awesome picture by Jody Larsen of Tarasita, vampiress, of THRILLER fame.]

October 28, 2006


Spent the day at Blue Lake Alpacas, learning a little more about these little creatures. Amazingly, they are mostly farmed as an investment, not for their fibre (at least in this country) because they cost tens of thousands of dollars, but they are insurable, unlike stock market investments. The fibre is amazing quality; finer and less scratchy and more soft and warmer than sheep wool--but because there are only a 100,000 in the states, there is not enough demand to have a special alpaca mill to make the fibre the driving force for farming the alpacas. The aim is to create a million alpacas in the states to make the fibre worthwhile. In the meantime, it's an investment. Interesting, I thought! These creatures are similar to the llama (another camelid), but smaller, and less domesticated which means that they are easier to deal with (size wise), but they are more skitish. Today, we gave them injections--good practice for us, though I think we stressed the herd out by being so many in number (8 vet students). I learned lots, and had fun playing in the rain, the owners were SO nice (even gave us cookies and a little toy alpaca when we left!)--they really hoped to get us out there to increase the likelyhood of us learning more about alpacas because there are not really dedicated alpaca doctors, and most vets treat them like sheep or goats. But the difference is that alpacas are worth thousands of dollars as opposed to $10-60. Therefore, the owners are willing to pay for fixing them instead of sending them to slaughter! Cool.

Are Parasites Making You Fat?

So reads the cover of the trashy magazine "First". I picked it up at the local supermarket because I was procrastinating (by getting food) studying for my parasitology exam. The proposition that parasites make you fat is pretty preposterous, just so you know. Though I suppose you could say that they make me fat indirectly: parasites live, they infect animals and make them sick, vets have to know about them, i am in vet school so I have to study them, and as you can see from the chart (simplified version of what we had to learn for this exam), I have to sit for long periods of time to learn about them, and sitting is pretty inactive, therefore the food I eat is stored as fat til I get out of vet school and can use the fat in my normal life which includes things like exercise. Funny.

October 21, 2006

Ask Joey

A mental breakdown occurred on Friday and exhausted me.

I felt pulled in so many directions, bits of me everywhere: in the dance world, back home with Ben, here at school, etc. Of those three versions of me, I could see clearly where the first two would take me if I dropped everything and focused on that particular version of Alyssum, but the third Me--the one in vet school--was the one most grounded and most rational, and yet, the one whose potential future was the fuzziest. Why, then,/How, then, could I be spending 90% of my time on it and so little time on the other parts of me? For the first time, the answer to "Do you want to be a vet?" was "I don't know" instead of "yes." And for something that demands so much of my life, so much of my life force (!), "I don't know" is not good enough. Hence the breakdown.

My advisor suggested reading the Ask Joey columns from the Sacramento News and Review. I found this article that might be helpful for anyone finding themselves unable to balance their lives.

She says that what we DO with our time reflects our values more than what we say our values are. I think my breakdown had to do with the fact that, since I lost my goal (do i want to be a vet, and if so, what sort?), I found myself spending inordinate amounts of time doing something that didn't reflect my values. What are my values, again? I'm trying to spend this weekend reflecting on that question. I think I can reclaim my goal, but I need major inspiration. [The good thing for most students is that they want to work with dogs and cats, or horses, or even food/fiber animals--so when they get overwhelmed, they have the hospital on campus where they can go to see people doing what they want to do. It's immediate, and serves as a reminder of why they're there. For someone like myself who went to vet school for the nebulous reason of "conservation"....there's not really that sort of feedback and support. Was vet school the right place to get my education?]


I am less exhausted. Contemplating the offer to take a "leave of absence" to figure out my life. But have to jump back in and take the exam that I missed Friday on Monday, and study for the exam on next Friday...can't stop being a student just because I had a "mental health" day.


Mentally Unbalanced.

My friends seem fine! ......um......

October 16, 2006

Two Dreaming Tigers

A dreaming tiger tabby cat, Brim.

A dreaming Tiger Lily Locheart.

Urinary Physiology

The first lecture of urinary physiology is given by Dr. Engelking, the man who failed me first year, and whose exams I could NEVER do well on, and whose classes made first year (both times) a living hell for me. I walked up the stairs a couple minutes late to lecture, heard his voice, and stopped dead in my tracks. My heart started racing, I started getting choked up, and tears started welling. All this before I had any time to even register that it was Dr. Engelking. When I did realize why my body was reacting so violently, I turned around, walked back down the stairs and did not attend his lecture.

October 15, 2006

Clinical Signs of Parasites

[um...this was supposed to be posted 10/15/06....]

I'm studying for parasitology where we have to know the Genus species of several hundred parasites along with their life cycle, their host, general characteristics, how they infect the animals, clinical signs, how to diagnose the parasite, as well as how to treat and control the parasite. I'm hung up for the moment on clinical signs.
"Diarrhea and ematiation"
"diarrhea and dehydration"
"dark green diarrhea"
"bloody diarrhea"
"irritation, inflammation, and diarrhea"
"loss of conditioning, and green diarrhea"
"black tarry feces, emaciation, death"
"chronic diarrhea, weight loss"

Wait a second. We have to be able to think, "Aha, that is definitely DARK green diarrhea and not just plain diarrhea. I know exactly what I'll be looking for".

Wait another second. "Green Diarrhea"!?!?!!?!! Doesn't ALL cow shit look green and runny?!

October 14, 2006

Louisville visit

not only did i go to the AHVMA conference....I also got to spend a few hours being a real human being, visiting with family (seeing my neice for the first time), with Ben, with friends (Lauren, Ruth, and Phillip). very happy.

October 11, 2006

AHVMA Conference

The reason I needed to be extra productive last week is because I went to Kentucky this past weekend for the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association conference in Louisville. Three days of lectures given by some of the country's most knowledgable holistic practitioners. I spent the most time between 3 different doctors who really ran the gamut of extremes from simple, practical to extremely spiritual, complex holistic medicine. The first doc, my favorite, Dr. Karreman is a bovine (dairy) practitioner from PA where many of his clients are Amish and/or organic farmers. Because organic labeling is so strict, and allopathic treatments like antibiotics (etcetera) can not be used, veterinarians who care for organically-raised animals have to use 'old school' treatments like garlic cloves and lime (powder, not citrus). Dr. Karreman is so down to earth and practical that anyone who is likely to dismiss holistic medicine immediately recognizes the appropriate applications of his methods of treatment and accepts them.
The second lecturer spoke about Chinese Herbal Medicine which is more eclectic, and uses words like "qi", "liver stagnation", "wood disturbances", and "shen". With words like that, which are very abstract and don't refer to anything literal, it is very easy to be put off immediately and be doubtful. But after 5 hours of lecture of case studies, I realized that these words serve as metaphors for things/situations that actually exist. The terminology has been in place for thousands of years, so rather than changing the vocab, people just spend their time learning the medicine. The take home message was that rather than treating the symptoms, we treat the individual animal--that is, you and I might have the same diagnosis of "seizures" or "topical dermatitis" but the underlying cause of these is variable from one animal to the next. That makes a lot of sense to me, and seeing the cases really gave me new openness to this form of treatment.
The last lecturer was a woman who dabbles in just about everything--acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, homeopathics, shamanic journeying, Celtic tree lore, tongue/pulse reading, and so on. She was speaking specifically about "shen disturbances" where "shen" refers to your spirit, both mind spirit and soul spirit. She spoke about the cases that no matter what is tried--allopathic medicine, holistic medicine....nothing works, and usually this can be attributed to a "shen disturbance" or "soul loss". She gave the opposite example of the herds of cattle in Africa that are parasitized to heck and starving, and very unhealthy in many ways--but they never die! And her reasoning is because they are appreciated by the people who care for them so much--therefore their shen/soul is complete, and that gives them much health/strength. Okay, I can see that--certainly stress is a great factor in immune response. She gave 2 hours worth of varied combinations of treatments. Each treatment was different, and each was geared to treat a different type of soul-loss or stress (ie; ADD type stress; poor learning, fearful, restless at night stress; treatments for calming; treatments for clearing phlegm (mental and physical phlegm) to increase intellect; stress caused by torn responsibilities; stress from exhaustion/overwork; treatments for tension around neck and shoulders, defensiveness; warming treatments that invigorate depressed, broken down patients; treatments for animals that constantly have accidents; etc). Then the final hour was devoted to teaching Shamanic journeying, for the purpose of finding your "power animal," a part of yourself that acts as a sort of guide or guardian angel or whatever you want to call it. Soul loss, she said, can sometimes occur because your power animal has been lost, and if you invite it back, you will be on your way to being whole again. These ideas are at once esoteric and fundamental. With my stepmother being a Shaman, I am somewhat familiar with the rhetoric of shamanism, and it seems so basic, in so many ways, that there is nothing offensive or weird about it. It feels strange at times, to be comfortable with it because of my present cultural heritage--but when you break it down, cultures around the world regardless of creed or religion have similar beliefs and practices, and in that way, Shamanism is universal. Anyway, the shamanic journeying for ourselves was meant as an introduction into journeying, so that we can journey for our patients and find their 'power animals' for them if need be. With lights off, and a simple drum beat going, we were allowed 10-15 minutes to try journeying and see what came of it. She was impressed, but not surprised, that at least half of us were successful--she attributed our success to our innate intuition with animals as veterinarians.

So that was the conference, in a nutshell. Of course I came home with beaucoups amounts of free samples from the exhibitors.

October 5, 2006

list of accomplishments this week

I wanna say that I have the best support system in the whole wide wor-orld!

I am always so touched by the words of encouragment and funny stories and well-wishing that my friends send to me. In recompense, I am happy to say that it has kept me going this week! I have been very nose-to-the-grindstone. This list is just for myself, really, to remind myself that sometimes I'm productive and that I can do it when I have a no-nonsense attitude. Here's what I did:

study for Neuromuscular/Skeletal exam
take that exam
finish reading/taking notes for all my Molecular Biology/Micropathology for the exam next week
prepare a powerpoint presentation on mosquitos as vectors for my parasitology class
organize all the holistic club memberships and dues/checking account
talk to financial aid office a couple times
research ACTH and cortisol levels for problem based learning
epidemiology and biostatistics homework (two of them, ugg...)

Hmm, it doesn't seem like much written like that.... It's so much more satisfying looking at my list of a ton of things, almost all marked off with various highlighters. The color=my productivity. Yeah!