Allan Xia continues his cool travelogue of the recent China delegation we were on. Enjoy!

I’ve been meaning to write about my recent trip to China, but one of the other guys on the delegation has taken the words out of my mouth. Check out Allan Xia’s first blog entry on his China trip…

…and I’ll write up my thoughts a bit later…

Here’s a riddle for you:

What happens when you take a driven and somewhat-obsessive woman and indoctrinate her over five years in one of the toughest academic programmes in the world that she can never slow down or she’ll wash out, and then…

…you give her a few days off?

The answer, my friends, is this:



I didn’t frame these as well as I should have, because I don’t think they convey the grandeur of effort here. She’s basically ripped half the hillside away, with her bare hands and some office scissors.

We gotta keep this girl occupied…

After busting her butt for nearly 16 years (counting all the pre-qualification work to get into vet school in the first place), Cece has finally earned the right to practice veterinary medicine in New Zealand.

The Veterinary Council of New Zealand has sent a simple document, suitable for framing, that says as much.


And they may have to send a third one. This is because Murphy (he of the Law) keeps messing with the documents.

The first time, it got left out in the rain and got water damaged…


…and so Cece asked the VCNZ to kindly send another one.

Which they kindly did.
And they kindly put “Do Not Bend” on the envelope.
And our postal carrier kindly chose to be an iconoclastic rebel and prove the VCNZ ain’t the boss of him.



Luckily, we might be able to salvage the current one with a towel and a medium-hot iron, so hopefully we won’t have to give the VCNZ any reason to believe we’re selling these documents to the highest bidder.

Not this time, Mr. Murphy!

It has been quite some time that I’ve posted. In fact, all of 4th and 5th year have been complete silence on this site.  To make a long story short, shit got h a r d.  That, and the fact that the school put into place a restriction of sharing photos of animals taken at the hospital made things a lot less fun to post.

For 10 1/2 years, my only concern was to get into vet school.  Then it became all about making it through vet school, one grueling semester at a time.  The latest goal was to take my final exams and graduate.  Now that all the scores are in and all the paperwork properly filed, it is finally official.

Problem is, I never anticipated coming to the end of the line.  The end of the line meant no more safety net.  No more safety of the teaching hospital where my every decision and action were double and triple checked.  From now on, everything I do, I carry the sole responsibility.  And that is the most terrifying realization.

With the end of finals came one week of flu-like symptoms brought on by the release of serious stress.  But there was no time to lose as the university had just unleashed 95 brand-new unemployed grads with a big bag of student loans.  I paper bombed all of Wellington and the surrounding area with my CV, nervously awaiting a call, email, anything.

Three interviews later, I got the call.  No sleep was had for the days leading up to my first day.  I’ve now been with them for less than a week and things are looking optimistic.

And now we’re all caught up.

I’m going to try and continue blogging about how the next few months go as it will surely be entertaining for you to see me flailing my way towards competency – not so much for me.  Keep in mind I need to maintain confidentiality and respect for both the clinic and the clients so…..we’ll see how this goes.

For you doubters out there.  We now have photographic proof.  Water damaged proof (thanks Wellington postal service for leaving this sitting in the rain for me), but still proof.  (The remote control protects sensitive info and the terrible shadow is because I’m running late for work and you’ll take what I give you, dammit!)



DSC0440216 years ago we adopted a kitten from the SPCA in North Hollywood. She was old for a rescue kitten, having lived in the wild for several weeks before being found and taken in. Because of this, she was ‘semi-feral’ when we brought her home.

We decided to call her Mab, after the queen of the fairies talked about by Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet. Throughout her life  we’d call her Mab, Mabby, Queen Mab, Mabita, Mabikins, Scaredy Cat, and the Princess with the Peach Toe.

As soon as we opened her carrier at our house, she ran under the bed. We thought she had had a rough few days, and figured we’d let her come out and introduce herself to us when she realized we weren’t going to eat her.

12 years later, she still thought we were going to eat her. She spent most of her time under the couch or under the bed (at least when we were home), and would scramble away when we got too close.  She loved to snuggle with our big dumb tabby, Mojo, but thought we were ogres.


(Sometime in that first 12 years we had a shaman for a neighbor. He thought she had lost some part of her soul when she was feral, and that’s why she was scared all the time.)

Four years ago we moved to New Zealand. Cece was part of a 6-month competitive class at vet school, so we didn’t want to bring the cats over if we didn’t make it through. So Mab, Mojo, and Gordito went to live with Cece’s sister and bro-in-law Dana & Steve for that six months.

Once Cece was accepted into the full vet school, it took us three months to arrange to fly them over and put them through quarantine.


I’m not sure what happened throughout that time, but after a few weeks of normal under-bed behavior, Mab seemed to find her courage in New Zealand. At first she’d only come snuggle with us when we were flat on our backs in bed, and would scramble away as soon as we sat up.  But soon she’d hop up on the couch with us, and would allow us to pet her when she was in her cat tree by the window.

Maybe the shaman was right. Maybe she had lost part of her soul, and it somehow returned to her in New Zealand.

In any case, if Mab has a soul — broken or otherwise — it has now left her body.  Three months ago we learned that she was in renal failure. We put her on special food to slow her decline, but we knew the end was near.  Over the last few weeks she has been quickly losing weight and getting painful urinary tract infections because her kidneys weren’t concentrating her urine enough to kill any germs in her plumbing. In the last few days she had started staggering and yowling. Cece got a dose of painkillers, hoping it was a temporary pain, but she kept getting worse. When she was doped up she’d sit on our laps and purr, but we couldn’t keep her stoned forever.


Yesterday was a public holiday, and the vet clinics were all closed. So we made an appointment for 8:30 this morning to let her go. None of us got much sleep last night.


This morning we gave her the last dose of painkillers and sat with her for an hour, waiting for the appointment time to come. She sat quietly, breathing slowly and occasionally purring. She didn’t know why we were crying.

When we got to the clinic, they quickly put us in a private room so we could have a few minutes with her.  The vet (another graduate of Massey, where Cece is going) was kind and gentle with us. She put a catheter into Mab’s vein, asked if we wanted to continue, and slowly injected her with a cocktail that would gently make her unconscious and then stop her heart.

It only took a few seconds. She didn’t try to fight it. And now she’s gone.

I was sick all yesterday and have a hell of a lot of work to do today, but I’m having trouble concentrating. My thoughts keep turning to our scaredy cat, our princess with the peach toe. Our Mab.

She wouldn’t have the kind of existential questions that plague humans at times like these. In that I kind of envy her.

I don’t know if there’s a Heaven for cats. I kind of doubt it.  But I do know that I miss her and some part of me hopes that some part of her continues to exist.

Goodbye Mab. My lap will be colder without you.


I didn’t meet Mama Dog (indoor version).  It was more of a realization that the rumpled fur rug under the dining table was indeed a dog.

You don't tell her where she may or may not sleep, she tell you

You don’t tell her where she may or may not sleep, she tells you

The story behind Mama Dog is still a mystery to me.  All I know is that she’s an old lady with achey joints and zero tolerance for nonsense (with her idea of nonsense being my mere existence).  She lived in the house with us but you’d be hard pressed to find her any place else except sound asleep under the dining room table.  And she’s no tiny dog so her mass really spread out, blocking all of us from comfortably setting our feet down on the floor.  Mama Dog don’t care.  You want to put your feet down?  Too bad for you.  Go sit somewhere else.

Like I said, all you have to do is look under the dining table.

Like I said, all you have to do is look under the dining table for a massive inert pile of black fur.

And the gas!  Sweet Jesus in a manger did she ever have fits of gas.  And was so very evil and deliberate in the way she’d handle it.  We’d all be sitting around the table; each person individually immersed in their iPhones, iPod and whatnot.  But slowly a malevolent odor would begin to seep through the dining room.  It was so insidious, one by one, we’d each notice the scent and try to be nonchalant about seeking the source of the stench.  Ever so quietly everyone checked their feet and scrubs to make sure it wasn’t them emitting the noxious cloud.  Yet careful to not let anyone know you were aware of the scent.  Because no matter how old you are or what part of the world you’re in, he who hath smelt it, be thine own who dealt it.  And so it is written.

While her joints and polite social graces may be failing her, her ears are still crystal clear.  Without saying a word or making any noise at all, you could start walking towards the beach and she would come running.  No matter how much she didn’t care for you, she’d put that all aside for a little beach time.


On my last day working at the clinic, I walked across the street to have one last lagoon decompress.  To my delight, Mama Dog came sauntering up, sat down and leaned on me.  We sat there in the sand for a bit just soaking in the sun and watching the waves.  Here was this tough old lady that doesn’t share affection willingly and she sought me out for a bit of a cuddle.  Of course I had forgotten my camera.

Without so much as a “later, gator”, Mama abruptly got up and headed home.  Back at the house she returned to her usual way of ignoring me.  Still, deep down inside, I think she may have, sorta kinda liked me just the tiniest bit.

By textbook definition, they were the perfect litter of pups – plump, shiny, and when not looking for a feed or actually feeding, they were milk drunk; dead to the world.


These little guys were already at the clinic by the time I got there.  When I met them, they were a fairly easy bunch to wrangle.  They were still in the larval stage of being a pup so they couldn’t get into too much trouble.  There was the occasional incident of a pup getting tangled in the bedding and somehow getting stuck upside-down.  He would let out  a scream that would send the entire clinic running to find the source of the emergency.  We’d find him, put him upright – emergency over.


I discovered the pups on my first day there but in a roundabout sort of way.  I opened the door to my room just in time to see a grown dog crawling through my bedroom window.  We both startled each other.  I came out to the living room asking what the story was with the dog in my room.  Turns out, her name was Mama Dog (the outside version, we have two).  When you have eight pups demanding your attention, you do what you can to have some alone time.  Her crawling though my window was just that.  And I ruined it.


Now you see what she was fleeing from

Mama Dog 2.0 is gorgeous.  She has the coloring of a Rotweiller but the body of a dauchound.  A really, really tall dachound.  She’s a weinie dog on stilts.  And her crowning glory is her absurdly long tail that is constantly standing at attention, waving in the breeze.

She had become an expert at being near her puppies at all times, but remaining just far enough away from them to keep from going crazy.  The pups stayed in their open-air shelter, cuddled up in a fluffy blanket lying together in a giant puppy puddle.  We’d tend to the pups to make sure they were clean and doing well while she watched on with eagle-eyes, ready to step in should she sense the pups needed her.  Her most ingenious way of remaining near her pups while getting some sleep was to dig a hole underneath the pup shelter.  Seeing her paws barely visible underneath the shelter was her “Do Not Disturb” sign.


Secret hidey hole



I'm no sure what exactly is going on in this photo but I think she conned the chicken into babysitting.

I’m no sure what exactly is going on in this photo but I think she conned the chicken into babysitting.

Around my second week at the clinic, the pups developed their motor skills quite literally overnight.

They went from this…



To this…

This puppy will get a running start on his kiss

And from that day on, they were on the move non-stop.


Amanda was quick on her feet and discovered a make-shift playpen to place the pups in during the day.  It gave them enough space to romp and explore in the grass but within the safe confines of where we could keep an eye on them.


Not one minute of the day went by where they were not doted on. They were irresistible – plump, curious, and with the softest velvety ears.  Word spread quickly though the island and we had a steady stream of people making a visit to the clinic just to have a few minutes of puppy time.  Even though they were weeks away from being ready for adoption, the public was chomping at the bit to adopt them.



Sure the puppies were adorable and silly and as soft as ducklings, but Mama Dog was, in my opinion, the bees knees.  You can keep your pure breeds and floofy pugadoodles.   I like my dogs distinctive, comically odd and just the right amount of weird.

So if you happen to stop by the clinic and find yourself staring at a dog wondering what is that?  Just know, that’s Mama Dog 2.0.


I have a foul mouth and a penchant for typos.  One post can singlehandedly have my mom praying to the Guadalupe, make my dad’s eyes bleed and suck all the life from my writer hubby.  It’s a gift.  But I still can’t get over my reaction to the proper reference to a female dog.

Now into my 4th year of vet school, the term bitch being casually tossed around in lectures, on powerpoint slides and textbooks still jars me.  It’s not a word I’m accustomed to venerable professionals using.  Which is why my head about damn near exploded while at EHF.

Sitting at the table eating breakfast and someone yells across the room, “Hey guys, stop scheduling bitch spays for Wednesday.”  It throws you, ya know?  Get three veterinarians in one spot and they will have you reaching for your nerve pills.  “Bitch spays are the scariest surgeries you’ll ever do”.  “Oh, I know.  Bitch spays take so much more time”.  And the ever so unexpected, “These big bitch vessels are so tricky.”  All said over morning cereal.

But perhaps the most wonderful one, “Is she a big bitch?”  Because if any woman happened to accidentally walk by our open windows when that innocent question was asked, I’m sure she must have wondered what she did to make that kind of an impression.

We’ve got a situation down at EHF.  Their two washing machines have died and that spells T R O U B L E.  It’s the kind of emergency right up there with all your toilets backing up when you have family staying with you.  Or when the car dies in the middle of the freeway right after you’ve emptied your bank account to pay your credit card that you maxed out to pay for that after-hours plumbing emergency.

“Oh boo hoo, a couple of washing machines broke down”, you say.  I say, “oh guuuuurl, let me tell you how big a deal these two machines are.”

This clinic does not squander donations.  Everything that comes in goes towards the basics needed to keep the hospital running such as medications, surgical supplies, and oxygen.  OXYGEN.  You can’t anesthetize animals that need lifesaving operations without oxygen.  And bottled oxygen does not come cheap.

This is the best example of how frugal the clinic is.

Infinite supply of cat litter!

Cat litter for everyone!

That repurposed bucket that used to be filled with laundry detergent is now filled with all the sand we need for the hospital litterboxes.  Free, biodegradable and works like a charm.

While I was there, both washing machines ran from sun-up to sun-down.  The first and most basic rule of making sick animals healthy is to not let them lie in their own filth.  When the hospital is hopping, you are constantly changing bedding.  If you’re the one tackling  the hospital laundry for the day, your name might as well be Sysiphus.  I don’t know how, but 2 towels go in the hamper, 14 come out.  It’s useless to try and figure out how this happens, it just does.

Another cost saving method utilized by the hospital is reusing surgical drapes.  You know those blue paper drapes the doctor covers you in when you get poked and prodded?  Yeah, no.  The clinic can’t afford to use disposable drapes so cloth ones are washed, sterilized and reused.  So no washing machine, no surgical drapes.  And if they did pay for disposable surgical drapes, then there goes the money for oxygen.  Do you see the conundrum here?

But wait, there’s more.  Not only can the hospital not clean their limited supply of bedding and surgical drapes, volunteers can’t wash their own clothes.  When the poop isn’t on the bedding, its on your clothes.  And if you don’t wash your clothes, that’s just nine kinds of nasty.

If you can, please take a minute to donate $5 to the Esther Honey Foundation at:

If you do, the clinic critters may do the following as a token of appreciation:

Ali will share his bananas with you.  Maybe.

Ali will share his bananas with you. Maybe.

Orlando will show smile for you

Orlando will smile for you

Add another $5 and he'll smile for you again

Add another $5 and he’ll smile for you again


Ace will sneak under your bed at midnight and shit in your suitcase leaving you to discover it a day later.

Google will get extra googly for you

Google will get extra googly for you

Hey may let you use his butt as a pillow

She may let you use her butt as a pillow

This beach dog will share your expensive novelty coconut smoothie with you when you're back is turned

This beach dog will share your expensive novelty coconut smoothie with you when your back is turned

This puppy will get a running start on his kiss

This puppy will get a running start for his kiss

Shredder will show you his freaky stare

Shredder will show you his freaky stare

This quintessential Rarotonga dog will continue looking like a genetic hot mess

This quintessential Rarotonga dog will continue looking like a genetic hot mess

And best of all:

This pup will tell his buddy how cool you are

This pup will tell his buddy how cool you are

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