Category Archives: Sadness & Anger

When the World Dims

  

Today I awoke to the tragic and for me, incomprehensible, news of the death of my former boss and mentor, George Bengal. It has forced me to confront something I never foresaw or expected, and even when the warnings came, it still never seemed real.

George embodied vitality and energy.  He took care of himself religiously, going to the gym and watching what he ate. I used to tease him about the slime-green, hideous-looking drinks he would bring to work, but that was him (that attentiveness to his health is why this was so shocking). He radiated dedication and enthusiasm. I used to hear his voice down the hall from his office, shouting to his officers or laughing about a joke. He was passionate and inspiring. To me, he was larger than life.

I ask myself now, as I’ve asked myself mentally since I first heard of his diagnosis: how do you say goodbye to someone like that? How do you say goodbye to someone who has figured so prominently in your life for so long, been the reason you are where you are and are doing what you are doing, been the source of so much emotion, both good and bad? He and I clashed mightily over numerous issues. There was animosity and frustration, fear and skepticism, and, of course, respect and admiration. In the end, I believe we formed a bond of an indescribable kind – developed from working alongside each other and from learning, not from preconceived notions or second-hand knowledge or gossip. I know that the bad is fleeting and temporary; the good is permanent.

He took a stand for things he felt were right and didn’t back down. That obstinance was a source of animosity for some, and inspiration for others. I put myself in the latter category. He showed me different ways of looking at things and caused me to reconsider preconceived notions. His determination was a source of strength. He faced on a daily basis what most people would turn a blind eye to or refuse to acknowledge. You can read more about George here: http://www.fox29.com/news/145568011-story. There are so many things to say, but I just can’t find the words right now.

Perhaps the best thing is not to ask how to say goodbye. Just say “until later”. Someday I may get to hear your ringtone, “Moves like Jagger” again. And I can say all the things I didn’t get to say. But maybe then none of it will matter anymore. Until later… I will keep up the fight for you. Until later… I will laugh about the fun memories. Until later… I will always think of you as a mentor and friend. An inspiration. A hero.

Until later, George. You will be missed, and my world will be a little dimmer.

To donate to the George Bengal Fund to keep up the fight for animals: http://pspca.org/support-us/the-george-bengal-fund/

The Reasons

Sometimes it’s so hard to do this job. Some days are so bad I can’t sleep. The horrible things I see every day – the cruelty, the neglect, the lack of empathy, the ignorance, the disregard for life – make me wonder if I can keep my sanity. I wrote about all of this before, in this post. But then I do what I did tonight. I walk through the shelter and look. Really look.

At the faces. At the names. I make eye contact. I reach through the cages and scratch them. I talk to them. I watch their reactions. And I smile again.

Yes, it’s sad seeing them like this, behind bars and glass. But I know their stories. I know where they came from. In some cases I’ve been to where they’ve come from and seen just how bad it was. Some of them I watched hobble in on the end of an officer’s leash, barely alive, skin and bones, starving, beaten, left out like trash. But then I see them after treatment, after plenty of medicine and food and hugs, and they are happy. And it feels a little bit better.

They are the reasons I keep doing this. The tears I cry when no one is looking are for them. I try to remember them all. Like Sparkle, who I wrote about here. Sometimes I feel that I am the only one who will remember them when they are gone, and it is my mission to do it. They all matter. They shouldn’t be forgotten.

When I wonder if I made the right choices in life, as I discussed in my last post, I can pull out their pictures in my mind. This is not an easy life, or one that will make me rich, or powerful, or bring me admiration. But it’s one I can be proud of. I may not be able to change the world, but I can do what I can. Most of the time it doesn’t feel like enough. But I know that I helped change the world for some of them. And for right now, that’s okay.

These are the photos I snapped tonight. I will remember. Will you?

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Weighing My Options and Making Decisions

Over the past month I have faced a gut-wrenching career choice. It is the reason I’ve been so out of touch with this site, and for that I apologize. But I’ve finally reached a decision and feel ready to write about it.

Because of a contact I made at a forensics conference this year, I was offered a position at the company for which he works. For privacy purposes I won’t disclose the name, but suffice it to say it is one of the world’s most impressive forensic labs, and that is no exaggeration. It was an amazing opportunity, and one that I thought I would never have. And the salary matched the prestige of the position I was offered – the whole package was mind-blowing. I was honored and more than a little flattered. I almost accepted.

Perhaps a more career savvy person would have jumped at the chance. Perhaps I should have. But I chose to remain where I am, with a significantly lower salary, much less stature and prominence, and a very shaky future. Why? Because of the things I consider important.

For some, money and stature are the ultimate career goals. But for me they have never been as important as doing something I am passionate about and personally invested in. I made a commitment to this field because I care deeply about it and see a great future for it, and I’d like to continue to be a part of it. Maybe that will change somewhere down the line and I will move on to something else, but for the time being I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything close to what I set out to do, and the thought of abandoning those goals at this point in my life made me unbelievably sad.

There are many challenges I face on a daily basis in my current position, some of which seem insurmountable at times. But I don’t want to be a quitter – not when so much is personally at stake. I want to give it my best shot. I want to be able to look back and say I tried, even if things don’t work out. I have to swallow my fear and charge ahead.

This decision has been the toughest one I’ve faced in my professional life. It caused me countless sleepless nights and horrible stress, and I know I was a terribly unpleasant person to be around during the whole process. And I still struggle with the choice I made and probably will for awhile. Did I do the right thing? Was this a smart move? Or was it another rotten mistake? Maybe I’ll never know. All I do know is that I have to move on and take my parents’ advice and not look back. Focus on the good things: I get to stay close to family, be in a city I love (love to hate, at times!), and work with animals. I can have the satisfaction of keeping a job I fought tooth and nail to get, despite all of its problems (and there are many). I can be a trendsetter and a pioneer. I can start things that have never been done before. I will not have to be just another nameless cog in a wheel.

The frustrations will be many and there will be lots of times I just want to give up – this I know. But I won’t. I have ideas and enthusiasm for this. Whatever this becomes will be a direct result of what I make happen. I am determined. And I have a lot to learn. I am scared, but I will survive (I think).

I thought I’d close this post with a video that sums it all up. Those who know me know I am a Phillies fan for life, and hold a special place in my heart for legendary sportscaster Harry Kalas who left us far too soon. He was an amazing person, and hearing his voice reminds me of summer nights as a kid with my dad, watching the Phils battle it out. Kalas is well known for singing a song called “High Hopes” by Frank Sinatra, and whenever I struggle with sadness or frustration, it is my go-to mantra. It is a very fitting song for this occasion.

Onward and upward.

Click the link below to sing along 🙂

http://youtu.be/PzpJisfYNKA

Next time your found, with your chin on the ground
There a lot to be learned, so look around

Just what makes that little old ant
Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can’t
Move a rubber tree plant

But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes
Hes got high apple pie, in the sky hopes

So any time your gettin’ low
‘Stead of lettin’ go
Just remember that ant
Oops there goes another rubber tree plant

 

Not Older, Just Better…

No matter how you tell yourself

It’s what we all go through

Those eyes are pretty hard to take

When they’re staring back at you…

 – Bonnie Raitt, Nick of Time

Click the play button below to sing along! :

I’m digressing from the normal themes here for today.

It’s been a crazy, unpredictable thirty-something years. Like a roller-coaster careening out of control. My past two birthdays have been extremely hard, with a lot of pensive, morose thoughts, regrets about things in the past and fear of a dwindling future. I don’t know if that’s part of a so-called mid-life crisis or just the cranky, Maxine-like old lady version of me that sits on my shoulder and shouts rude things in my ear (for more curmudgeonly thoughts, see my post: Bodies of Work, Plastic Flowers, and the Bitch on Your Shoulder).

Personal revelation alert: my biggest fear is running out of time. Time to accomplish career goals, time to try new foods, time to learn, time to pursue passions and hobbies, time for the bucket list, time to get my pilot’s license, time to read ALL of Hemingway’s books, time to spoil my dog, time to see the world and get back to Africa, time to appreciate family and friends, time to be the voice for those that cannot speak…

With each birthday I feel my biggest fear materializing. Time is my nemesis, always hiding in a bush just outside my door, laughing quietly, waiting to pounce when I least expect it, no matter how organized and focused I may think I am (as in this post from last year: When Life Kicks You in the Ass).

When did the choices get so hard?

With so much more at stake

Life gets mighty precious

When there’s less of it to waste

– Bonnie Raitt, Nick of Time

But this year’s birthday came and went without incident. You know what? I had fun. I actually didn’t mind it, beyond the normal fretting about age and mild panic about my wasted twenties and rushing to make up for them. Maybe it’s the beginning of an acceptance of who I am and where I’ve been. Or a teensy bit of maturity. Or… a new optimism?? (Gasps, clutches chest in horror)

Whew. Happy thought passed. Thank god that’s over. Back to normal.

In any case, I kept the wolves of time that crouch in my head at bay this year. But I know they’re still there. They’ll always keep me uncomfortably aware. But that may be a good thing, in a way (there’s that disgusting optimism-thing again).

For now, I will enjoy the rest of the roller-coaster, hands in the air, screaming all the way  🙂

Happy birthday to me.

thoughtsfrommaxine.blogspot.com

 

The Sparkle of a New Year

 

She came into the clinic last Tuesday – a sad, emaciated, tiny black pit bull puppy, no older than six months. Her owner said that she had gotten her hind leg caught in a fence recently, and thought it might heal on its own. Clearly it had not. It was gangrenous and rotten, skin sloughing off and smelling like death. The humane officers were told about the dog, and decided to cite the owner for lack of vet care. Just another form of abuse. He had no choice but to surrender the dog to us.

Her name was Sparkle. I have no idea if that was the name she came in with or the name the girls gave her when she was signed over – the first time I saw her she was being prepped for surgery… the entire leg needed to be removed. When I opened her cage door, her skinny little tail beat out a steady beat on the metal walls and she shyly hobbled over to me, head down, eyes hopeful, despite the obvious pain she must have been in. I squeezed that little dog for all it was worth, rubbed her head, fluffed her blankets; I knew no one else wanted to go near her because of how bad that rotten limb smelled. But I didn’t care. And it was probably the only kindness she had ever known.

She looked so tiny and frail on the operating table. I thought about what an awful life she had most likely had, and the senselessness of it all. I wondered about the cruelty and dismissive actions of people who consider it a right and not a privilege to own a pet. I also thought about what a great life she could have when the pain was over and she learned to hop around on three legs. A dog so young and so resilient should have no trouble adapting, and would no doubt make some good, kind person very happy. And she almost made it.

The surgery was practically over. Only a few stitches remained. But her little heart just couldn’t take it. I swallowed the huge lump in my throat and coughed back tears as I forced breaths of pure oxygen into her lungs and the surgeon frantically tried CPR, pleading with her not to give up. But the heart monitor wailed its steady, horrible, monotone announcement. I looked at the surgeon and she at me, both not willing to accept it. Sparkle held on strong throughout the entire procedure. We still don’t know what happened.

When I turned off the lights in the surgery ward that night I glanced at Sparkle’s empty cage. And grabbed the little stuffed monkey toy that she had in there with her. I wanted to somehow keep her with me. So the monkey sits on my dashboard now as a reminder.

My only consolation? That Sparkle’s horrible owner will be prosecuted. I can only hope that the hugs and pets and love she briefly got from me gave her some happiness.

For 2012, I wish for no more sad endings. No more pain, torture, neglect, or suffering at the hands of humans. No more ignorance, no more cruelty, no more insensitivity. This New Year, I want to imagine a world where animals are respected, admired, protected, and cared for. In my mind all this is possible. Will you help me make 2012 a better year? For them? For all the Sparkles out there?

“The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to the other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.” – Mark Twain

Happy New Year to all of my readers. May all of your wishes for the new year come true.

Shine on from the Heavens, Sparkle.

Suck it up girl, or you won’t make it in this field…

Bite your lip until it hurts. Swallow that huge lump in your throat. Cough and clear your throat to explain away your wet eyes. Stuff the feelings somewhere, anywhere, until the pounding in your head goes away and the anger and frustration and sadness fade. You cannot bring emotion into this job. It will only get worse. And it doesn’t belong in a crime scene. It interferes with perspective and judgment and decision-making and besides, you are stronger than this. You are tough, so suck it up, or you won’t survive in this field.

At least, that is what I tell myself. That is what I have to do when I see what I see; the cruelty, the lack of caring, the disregard, the violence and neglect. The fact that others don’t see things like I do. That animal life just doesn’t matter to some. That they are dispensable. Disposable. Nuisances. When I see the blank stares of the people being threatened with citations for their actions. When I sense their antipathy. Their impatience at being bothered with something so trivial.

That’s when I get angry. When I fight to stay in control. When I look for reasons where maybe there are none. I’m always able to stay focused in the heat of the moment; on a call, or in an investigation. It’s the downtime afterward when I feel the knot in my stomach; that hole in my chest that started forming with the dog in the bathtub. When I watch my own dog sleep (and snore) or run on the beach and wonder why they all can’t have what they deserve. Why some people just can’t be bothered to follow the rules and regulations that were put into place for the animal’s (and their own) safety and protection.

The other officers struggle too. But they are better at coping. They’ve had years of exposure to steel their nerves. And they all have their own ways of escaping. But it never really goes away.

People are different. They grow up with divergent values. They have unique experiences. Some just weren’t raised to care. I understand all that. But it doesn’t stop my impatience, my anger, or my disgust. The only thing I can do is help where I can, and learn all I can, from my professors, my advisors, the officers training me, and the professionals already in this field. And then apply it. Seek justice for those who cannot speak. Bring attention to crimes where the only victims or witnesses can’t communicate. And hopefully, with each life saved, the knot in my stomach and the hole in my chest will become a little easier to accept.

~Until there are none, save just one~