Category Archives: More on My Muse

On vet bills, temper tantrums, & escape artists

This month my husband and I are preparing for the annual trip to the vet. It is the one day of the year I look forward to with very little enthusiasm. Neither of the dogs take pleasure in the visit and their stress is, I am quite sure, compounded by ours. Not only do we shudder at the thought of the humiliating behavior we’ve come to expect from our furry loved ones, but there is always the dreaded anticipation of the vet bill.

Lucy, a fifteen pound Jack Russell Terrier, who under normal circumstances is a very lovable and affectionate companion, never ceases to embarrass me as she regresses into mad tirades at the mere sight of another animal with whom she has not been properly introduced. (Please note the word ‘regresses’ is used intentionally as Lucy was not always so lovable, but that is a story for another day.) Her vile greeting is directed toward most cats, dogs, deer, horses, and the occasional cow. For some odd reason, puppies and kittens are spared her usual hostile reception. They are typically greeted with a wagging tail that could provide power to a small village if I could just figure out a way to harness it.  Anyway, I always find myself apologizing profusely to everyone in the lobby. My daughter who works with the SPCA has assured me that Lucy would never pass the social test for adoption due to her temper tantrums and mood swings. That along with the fact that she is a kleptomaniac and will swipe any item that finds itself at eye level including food, toys, socks, and if given the opportunity, the occasional puppy or kitten. She doesn’t hurt them. She just likes to gnaw on them and get them good and slobbery before she lets them escape. I think she likes the chase before she pounces again.

On vet day, Hobbes, normally a confident and protective Border Collie, behaves like Scooby Doo in a haunted house with not one Scooby Snack in site. Remember how Scooby would climb up into Shaggy’s arms and cling to him with a look of terror on his face? That’s my dog. Keep in mind, this is a dog who dives into the deepest of waters to retrieve a stick and whose bark and demeanor have the power to ward off any stranger who happens to stray onto our property whether they be man, dog, or bear.  Yet, in the vet lobby, he shakes, cowers, and spends much of his time trying to crawl into my lap. I don’t even have to be sitting down. A leash is generally useless on vet day as he simply lies down on the ground and refuses to move.   So unless I plan on dragging him from the car to the front door,  I get to carry the fifty pound dog into the office. Of course carrying Hobbes is much better than allowing him to bolt. Once he has his mind set to run there is no stopping him. Last year, the vet tech, who by the way was properly forewarned, failed to hold onto his leash tightly enough and Hobbes escaped the exam room and ended up back in the lobby in the lap of a not so pleased cat owner. The cat was not very happy either. He then relieved himself on the leg of a chair.

Why we schedule same day appointments for these two ill-behaved animals is beyond me. Perhaps we just want to get the whole stressful ordeal over with or perhaps we just want to avoid the shock of two vet bills. Last night I told my husband that this year I would be staying outside with one dog while he took the other into the exam room. When he asked why, I told him that he was better in dealing with salespeople and that I simply had a hard time saying no to unnecessary tests and medications. His remark, complete with dropped jaw, about how this isn’t like bargain shopping the clearance rack at TJMaxx made me feel sufficiently ashamed of myself for wanting to save a buck. These dogs are, after all, members of our family.  But you have to understand, last year’s bill was an astounding $630 for two healthy animals.  Add that to the cost of an illness or injury times two and we can easily triple that figure in one year.

For example, last month we had Lucy in twice for a rash on the side of her mouth.  After two appointments, two rounds of antibiotics, one steroid treatment, a topical ointment and an Elizabethan cone that she wore for over a month, I totaled up the bill to the tune of $327.24. The cone was borrowed. The vet suggested that in order to prevent future rashes I should bring both dogs in for an annual dental exam and cleaning. Total cost? $400 per dog! That’s $9.53 per tooth. My dental appointments don’t cost that much. I bought two toothbrushes for $1.12 and saved myself $798.88. Now if I can only get them to open wide and smile pretty for Mama. As for the rash, I am quite certain that it was my mother-in-law Hilde’s tried and true home remedy of chamomile tea and antibacterial soap that ultimately healed Lucy’s mouth.

So as we prepare for the annual vet visit, my husband checks for signs of wear on the Border Collie’s leash and I go shopping for a muzzle for Lucy. Before we leave for the vet I will transfer a grand from the savings to the checking. That should cover it…I hope. The other day my husband suggested we look into health insurance for the dogs. My suggestion: quit our day jobs and open a vet clinic.

A Dog’s Playground

A few months ago I was browsing the shelves at my favorite store…TJMaxx…when I happened upon a super find. On one of the end caps there were several boxes containing AKC agility course obstacles. They were very inexpensive at less than $10 each so I picked up a bar jump, a tire jump and a tunnel.

My muse Lucy is an extremely intelligent Jack Russel Terrier so I knew she could pick it up. What I didn’t know was how fast she could learn or that she would teach herself. The bar jump was a breeze as she already knows the over command. She was skeptical of the tire jump but eventually learned to trust it. I set the tunnel up last knowing this would be the most difficult. As I sat down to read the training instructions, Lucy sat by my side somewhat impatient as she eyed the tunnel and the treats in my hand. Before I could finish reading her the instructions (because that’s what I do), she bolted through the tunnel, down the shoot, emerged from the other side, and returned for her treat.

That was the moment I decided I had to have a full size agility course on the property, one that could be used by both Lucy and the border collie, Hobbes. This past weekend the husband and I built four obstacles along our road to the river. We thought about purchasing lumber and supplies but ultimately decided to keep things as natural looking as possible. Here are the results so far:

The first obstacle in the course is the beginnings of a panel jump. It will most likely double in height as both dogs become accustomed to it. We used a split log and two long deck screws to hold it in place between the trees.

The second obstacle is a single bar jump that is designed to fall if the dog’s legs hit the bar. Again, just a lightweight branch perched between the trees.

The tire jump is the third obstacle in the course. We used some leftover water drainage pipe and I attempted to camouflage it with green paint over the black plastic. This photo shows a hideous green tint not true to color. We used carabiners and camouflage rope to attach it between two trees.

Here is a photo of the first three jumps in succession.

The fourth obstacle is a simple beam. Lucy hasn’t done one before so rather than a full dog walk with ramps I thought this would be a good one to start with. Again, trying to keep the course as natural as possible we made the beam out of a fallen tree and a salvaged piece of timber from the river.

The first run through with the dogs was very rewarding. Lucy instinctively knew just what to do. Hobbes was a bit skeptical but caught on to the whole treats for tricks concept. Next up: log hurdle.

Will the real Susan Warren Utley please stand up?

This year is all about taking ownership of my writing.

Previously, I wrote under the pen names No One Of Consequence (a little Princess Bride humor) or Susieiz (don’t ask, it started out as something relevant but now I can’t remember exactly what I was going for). Recently, I retired No One of Consequence and started using my real name.

Today Susieiz is also going the way of the DoDo. You can now find me on Twitter at SusanUtley. (Susan Warren Utley was way too long!) Oh Hi Lucy can still be found on Twitter at OhHiLucy.

Follow me! I follow back!

Me & My Muse

Welcome to Lucyville

I wanted to experiment with creating felt miniatures decided on a village of quaint cottages, tiny chapels, little bell towers, Main Street boutiques and even a traveling circus. The hamlet of Lucyville will be featured on my Etsy shop Oh Hi Lucy.

The first listing is The House of Asha. This single story cottage in green and grey is adorned with arched doorway and climbing rose bush. The miniature felt house is just 2″ high, 1 -1/2″ wide and 1″ deep.

It is created with a combination of eco-felt made from recycled plastic bottles, wool blend felt, gently stuffed with bamboo filling, and hand stitched with embroidery floss. Pink glass seed beads adorn the rose bush and a gold glass seed bead makes the perfect door knob.


Hmmm What can I get into here?

Hmmm What can I get into here?, originally uploaded by susieiz.


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