Happy Monday!

Well, maybe not happy, but it’s Monday anyway.

Since it’s Monday, I have to tell you something you don’t know about me today. We had a deal, right? So, here goes.

I’m afraid of spiders. All of them. I know I shouldn’t be, unless it’s some kind of crazy jumping spider on crack or steroids (OMG!) but I can’t help it. They’re everywhere, and half the time (maybe more often than that) you don’t even realize it. They’re above your head, under the couch, on the porch with a web ACROSS THE BOTTOM OF YOUR CHAIR!

They’re also hairy and have weird little beady eyes. Some of them, when you try to go around them, spin their little exoskeleton covered bodies to follow you. Like they’re ready for war or something. And really, when you think about that, isn’t it terrifying? You’re the Jolly Green Giant and they’re the size of a pea (or strawberry – ACK!) and they’re still totally willing to take you on. No matter that you could step on them and crush them, suck them into a vacuum, poke them with a stick or dump molasses on them to drown them (okay, no one’s doing that, it was far-fetched. I know). The point is, it would be so EASY for you to squash them like the little bug they are – and they don’t care.

They think they have a shot at beating you, kicking your ass, or at least making your hand swell up like a softball  (I’ve seen pics, it’s true) and they’ll risk that they might get stomped. Doesn’t that make you just a teensy bit nervous?

It’s like that kid in middle school that was three foot nothing, but had those crazy-assed eyes. You didn’t *think* he could hurt you, but he might’ve been carrying ether and a roll of duct tape in that backpack and you left him alone. It’s the possibility that’s terrifying.

My friend (a big, scary-looking guy) tried to tell me earlier today how valuable they are, that they eat the BAD bugs, and that I would be a walking blood donor for mosquitoes if they weren’t here. And maybe I would be, but I’m not afraid of mosquitoes so I don’t really give a rat’s furry ass about that. I mean I appreciate what spider’s do, I just want them to do it out of sight. It’s not that much to ask.

Luckily, I have a fearless, crazy, hypersensitive-to-anything-that-moves cat, so he takes care of them for me most of the time. Thank goodness for Thief Cat!

Better Late Than Never

I was supposed to tell you something you don’t know about me on Monday. With the Boston Marathon bombing, I couldn’t do that, so I’m doing it today.

Last Monday we discussed my past life working with animals and today I thought we’d talk about one of my hobbies. I knit. And crochet. Sound weird? Are you suddenly picturing me as an elderly woman in a bathrobe? I hope not, but that seems to be the general response I get. People wonder (aloud) how my life could possibly be so boring that I’ve resorted to working with yarn *shudder*.

So, I’ll put it out there for everyone. My life is not THAT boring. I have 2 kids, 2 dogs, a crazy cat, and a (slightly less crazy than the cat) hubby. I have cleaning to do, books to write, episodes of NCIS to watch. We go places, we do things. Honest.

Sometimes I just want to make a blanket for my kids. Often, my children and hubby are begging me for another pair of hand-knitted socks. I’ve found that it’s a relaxing pastime, one that has the added benefits of keeping my hands and fingers limber so I can write more, and I get to have something usable when I’m done. I even have an account on Ravelry, which if you’ve never been there, you should go. There are so many amazing patterns available it will make you wish you could knit. Trust me, it happened to me (though I admit my sister had been harassing me for years). The community there is incredibly helpful and there are even a lot of things that can be bought there. It’s a fantastic place (even if you don’t like playing with yarn – yet).

It’s not as ridiculous as it will sound to some of you. And I could definitely buy some, or impose upon my sister (who knits incredibly beautiful things) to knit something for me. And I might even get it within the next two years (she’s that busy). But there’s nothing so rewarding to me as doing it myself (and I honestly don’t believe I’d be able to type for as long as I do in one sitting without it). The satisfaction I feel when I bind off a knitting or crochet project is almost as good as writing the words THE END when I’m finished a book. They’re more similar than you think.

Something you don’t know about me…

I’ve decided that Mondays will be an opportunity for you to learn something new about me. If you have any questions that you’d like me to focus on in the future, please leave it in the comments or email me  TLNicholas@live.com.

I thought today I would tell you where I’ve spent the majority of my working life, and that is with animals. I started out at thirteen working for a Veterinarian, walking dogs, cleaning kennels, etc. I was thrilled to have that job. I wanted to be a Veterinarian when I grew up, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity. Throughout many moves and life changes I worked for Vets from thirteen to twenty-six, at various times. I spent time as a kennel assistant, Veterinary assistant, and before certification was the standard, a Veterinary Technician. I was a dog trainer and a kennel manager. Even an office manager for a local Humane Society, where I also had the job of Abuse Investigator.

I was a dog trainer, from the tender age of fourteen, and spent some time with the local police department at the time, learning how they trained their dogs, learning from the best. It was a truly wonderful time for me, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Working at the Humane Society was far more challenging for me, both emotionally and mentally. Having the dual jobs of Kennel/Office Manger and also Abuse Investigator was incredibly stressful. It certainly had it’s rewarding moments, but a lot of heartbreaking occurrences as well. It was not a No-Kill shelter and so I was,much too often, in the position of having to decide who lost the gift of life, and who got to keep it.

I often put myself in the position of fighting for an animal that others didn’t believe in, and fighting WITH that animal to make others believe. For instance, the Pit Bull and the Neapolitan Mastiff that came in after being abandoned in an apartment for weeks. So desperate they had eaten the furniture, the walls, anything they could. The Neo had cherry eye, which of course made her look terrifying along with her cropped ears and tail. She was not a beautiful dog, but I knew that at heart she was. They were terrified, and they were incredibly aggressive. They came into the shelter on a rabies pole, each of them trying to bite anything in reach, and had to be put into cages where they didn’t need to be touched to be let outside. An empty cage on either side of each, so they wouldn’t cage fight the others, and each other.

It was argued that were eating up our limited space, which, to be fair they were. It was argued that they were dangerous, and yeah, at the time they were. But they didn’t want to be, and I could see that. So I sat between their cages, in the empty one in the middle, for hours while we were closed. I would sit in front of their cages with my hands flat on the ground in front, where they could smell me, but not reach me. I spent days letting them get used to me, helping them learn that not every human was something to fear. And they did learn. When I decided to get the Pit (I won’t use their names, though I very much remember them) out of his cage and take him for a walk, one of my co-workers stood by the door ready to call 911. He thought for sure this was the stupidest thing I’d ever done, and that I would surely need an EMT when I was through.

And the Pit did growl, he did false lunge a couple of times. I didn’t move, I stayed calm, and waited until he became curious enough to check me out. It took about twenty minutes, but check me out he did, and he let me put the leash on him and then he went for a walk with me. It was a beautiful moment, and I discovered what I had always thought to be true. He was gentle and sweet. Loving. When I gave him a small liver treat for walking nicely, he licked it out of my hand. In the space of thirty minutes he was following commands like a pro, so eager to please. When I asked him to sit, he did, then leaned against me so I could pet his big head. He wanted to be a good boy, he just had forgotten, or never learned, how. Within a week he was accessible, not only to me, but to the volunteers as well. He could walk past another male dog and not even look at them. He was a whole new animal and he was amazing.

He was placed two weeks later, and the last I knew (two years after) was still an excellent boy. No behavioral issues, no aggression.

When the Mastiff saw that he trusted me, she took a chance too. And despite her limitations of health, she quickly found her forever home. They fixed her cherry-eye, and loved her for the beauty behind her appearance.

Through my years of working with them, training them, and rehabilitating them I learned that there is no one way to train a dog, or to save one. But if you pay attention, if you watch them and listen to what they’re telling you, you’ll know what to do. They will tell you what they need, what they’re afraid of, what they need you to show them.

I will never get to be a Veterinarian. My days of working with animals as a profession are over, at least for now, but I am very much attached to them. There will probably always be animals in my books and they will crop up on this blog. To me, a home empty of animals is never really a home.

Thanks so much for reading. Do you have an interesting experience with animals? A love of animals? I’d like to hear it!