Monday, November 23, 2015


One thing that has kept me busy for the last few months is helping the local nonprofit that works with our county animal shelter get its new website up and running.

They put out a call for a volunteer. It seemed like a way for me to consistently help a cause and a group that I care about.

I have a hard time when I’m in the county shelter. No shelter is a good place for an animal. And the one in my county is too small for the work that needs to be done. Seeing the cats in cages in a small room is hard.

We adopted our Abbey from that shelter.

This is Abbey in her cage at the shelter before we adopted her.

Friends of Campbell County Animal Shelter is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works in partnership with Campbell County Animal Control. Members do things that the staff of Animal Control just wouldn’t have the time to do. They help facilitate fostering and adoptions and network to find as many adoptable animals as possible homes.

They walk the dogs, cuddle the cats, do assessments of their personalities, socialize them, get them vet care, etc. It’s harder for me to do that. So I volunteered to set up the new website and maintain it.

The move of the website to a new content management system was not easy, but Rescue Groups, the new web host, had great support. We were nervous as we waited the five days or so for the domain to transfer. But the transition was relatively smooth.

I’ve learned things I never would have otherwise learned. And I’ve seen how so many volunteers, who have jobs and families and their own pets and their own lives outside their volunteer work, come together to help the animals of Campbell County.

If you’d like to see the new website, it’s HERE.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Where I work, what I do

I started a new job on May 1, and I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to tell you how that’s going. So I thought I’d use today’s post to catch you up.

I am a public information specialist for a local government, Campbell County. I am the assistant to our public information officer. I work in Rustburg, the county seat, in the Haberer Building.

The building I work in.

I am enjoying my job and am happy for the transition from the newspaper job to what I’m doing now.

I do a lot of different things, but here are a few:

·         Update the county website
·         Update the employee portal (intranet)
·         Make graphics for the website and portal
·         Write public service announcements and media advisories and send them to local media
·         Interact with local media and find information for them
·         Help in responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests
·         I do a lot of editing
·         Take photos at county functions
·         Help with making presentations, crafting messages
·         Update the Public Safety Facebook and Twitter accounts
·         Lead the Web Content Authors group (those in other departments who update their pages on the website)

We are in the midst of transferring to another web platform for the county website. It will be so much better than what we have now. Right now, some people in other departments update their pages on the website. Once the changeover occurs, I will be doing the bulk of web updates.

I do a lot of writing, communicating, and creating with this job, and there is a lot of variety to each day. So I am enjoying it.

A view of some of the Campbell County buildings in the government complex.

I’m in the county administration office with my supervisor, the county administrator and his assistant, the clerk of the Board of Supervisors, the staff attorney, and the director and the assistant director of Public Works and their assistant. It’s a good group of hard-working and dedicated public servants.

I don’t miss the newspaper at all. I’m working full time where I am now, but the hours are regular and I rarely have to work nights or weekends. I work 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., so I’m home by 5:30 most evenings, which is hugely important to me. I don’t feel like I have to constantly be tuned into what’s going on around me in case there’s a story I need to cover. That is so good for my anxiety.

I feel very fortunate to have such a wonderful supervisor and to be doing work that I enjoy.

Friends, what has been your favorite job? Or do you think it’s still in your future?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Plucky Abbey

Abbey, the tiny girl we adopted from the county shelter in April, has been a wonderful addition to our family.

You may remember when I was still blogging in May that Abbey seemed to have some health issues. The vet would not spay her because she was anemic and her white cell count was also low.

I don’t know how many times they took her blood from May through July. They tested it there in their office and sent it to an outside lab for testing. She kept showing up anemic. The vet believed that she probably had cancer or perhaps a genetic problem.

All the while, Abbey was racing around the house, jumping, playing. Bright eyed.

I was convinced, as was Larry, as was the vet, that something was probably seriously wrong with her. But all the tests the vet ran came back negative for problems. So the vet referred us to the small animal hospital at the veterinary school at Virginia Tech for a bone marrow aspirate. We would get a definite answer from that, she said.

We took her there on July 21. The vet/professor and students that examined her were puzzled.

“That’s a healthy cat,” the vet/professor said.

Before doing the bone marrow test, they said they wanted to test her blood first. I was sure they would find the anemia. I had no reason to believe they wouldn’t.

They took her back for the procedures, and Larry and I wandered into Blacksburg to tool around and eat. It was going to be a long day.

As we were finishing up our lunch, my cell phone rang. The vet school said Abbey was ready to be picked up. That she was fine.

When we got back to the hospital, they told us that Abbey’s red cell count was well within normal limits. She was not anemic. Her white cell count was low, but the vet/professor said he was not worried about that in a cat so young.

Larry and I were practically speechless. We expected to hear many things that day, but not that our Abbey was healthy.

We asked how she could have shown up anemic over and over. They said that they took her blood directly from her into the lab. They hypothesized that the sedation she was sometimes under at the local vet’s may have skewed the results. Or not enough blood was taken and the results were skewed by the substance that preventing clotting in the tube. So even the outside lab showed skewed results.

It took us a while to process that Abbey was OK. We were overjoyed. Abbey had her spay in August and has gained weight. She’s still an active little girl.

And yes, we have questioned the wisdom of staying with the same local vet. The anemia issue plus some other things with her and Chase Bird have led us to the decision that we’re probably going to be finding another vet.

Right now, Abbey is going through a hard time because of Chase Bird. She’s eating and running around, but she’s also lying around more and is quieter, less playful. She also looks for Chase Bird. That breaks my heart.

But Abbey is a plucky little soul. We look forward to many years of her companionship.

See you Monday!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Losing our boy

Chase Bird, Christmas 2014

I can’t tell you about the last six months without first telling you about Chase Bird. We lost our boy on Tuesday, October 27.

You know that my cats are my family. Larry feels the same way. So the last two weeks have not been easy.

Chase Bird’s death was unexpected. He was referred to a different vet to do dental surgery for stomatitis. During the exam before the surgery, the vet found a mass in his abdomen. We gave permission for her to do exploratory surgery.

He had numerous tumors, including one a little smaller than a golf ball. They could not be removed. Even without doing a biopsy, the three vets there thought it was lymphosarcoma, or lymphoma. The prognosis was very poor, and he was certain to be in pain.

Their recommendation: let Chase Bird go while he was on the table, so he would feel no pain and no fear. We let him go.

My friend Carolyn made this for me.

I want you to know about Chase Bird. He came into our lives in 2007 when he started hanging around our house. Apparently, he had been hanging around the neighborhood for a while.

He was so thin, we started feeding him. One morning, he jumped into my car as I got in to go to work. I remember his little face looking up at me, eyes so bright and eager. He chose us.

On October 20, 2007, we brought him into our house. We named him Chase Bird. He became family.

He was a gentle cat who would snuggle on our laps. He had the longest legs and jumped with such grace. When he purred, he also “puffed” his cheeks and made a clicking sound. That was his “I’m content” sound.

He could catch a toy mousie in the air. His paws could bend and pick things up—you’d swear he had thumbs. He would carry certain toys—only certain ones—in his mouth and looked so cute.

My friend Christi made this.

I am writing this on Tuesday night. We picked up his ashes tonight and brought him home. This ritual is heart wrenching and comforting, a strange mixture of emotions. It’s another reminder he’s gone. But his remains are home.

I have to believe that I will see my boy again. I still talk to him. I believe his spirit lives on.

And I think I heard him tonight.

The crematory service puts the name of the pet and the name of the pet parents on the bottom of the wooden box that holds the ashes and on a certificate stating that the ashes are his.

Chase Bird’s humans were listed not as “Larry and Tina Barbour.” They were listed as “Larry and Tiny Barbour.” Larry and I laughed and cried, probably a bit hysterically, when we saw that. And I’m sure I heard Chase Bird laughing too.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Back to blogging, back to my friends

Hello, friends! It has been many months since I’ve been in this space. A short time away turned into a longer period than I thought it would be. Many times I thought about starting back, but I have finally reached the point when the time seems “right.”

I have missed you and your comments. I have missed reading your blogs. I am looking forward to catching up as much as I can.

I have so much to tell you. I hardly know where to begin. The last six months have been busy, with happy parts, heartbreaking parts, and just-glad-to-be-here parts. I have stories about my animals, my new job, my new volunteer work, my health, and my life to share with you.

If I tried to tell it all in one post, it would be so long, I doubt you would be able to get through all of it awake.

So today I will leave you with this: I am still here. I am still living with OCD and depression. I am still forging ahead despite that. And I’m in a pretty good place.

I’ll be back on Wednesday.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A lesson I have to keep learning

Abbey on her stool under the window.

We got some upsetting news about Abbey this past week.
She was set to have her spay done on Tuesday. I dropped her off at the vet’s office on the way to work.
The vet called me that afternoon and told me that they were unable to take her blood for the pre-anesthesia blood work until they had sedated her. They had her prepped for surgery when they got her blood results back. They weren’t going spay her that day.
Both her white cell count and her red cell count were lower than normal.

Some background: The day after we adopted her, we took Abbey to the vet for a check-up. She tested negative for feline leukemia and FIV. We were given a kit to get a stool sample to check for worms.
We didn’t get the sample to the vet’s until the week before her surgery, and she tested positive for worms. So we picked up medicine and give it to her for the prescribed three days, to be repeated in three weeks and six weeks.
We had not seen any signs of worms, and we keep Abbey inside all the time. But we don’t know where she was before she went to the shelter, and she stayed in the shelter for four months.
I feel so bad for not getting the sample into the vet’s sooner.

When the vet called me about her blood work, she said she didn’t think it was time to worry (easier said than done!). Abbey appeared to be healthy. The vaccinations she received the day after adoption could have caused the numbers to go down, but usually that resolved after a couple of weeks. She said parasites and infection could also cause the low numbers.
So her advice was to give her another dewormer, a different medicine that covered more types of parasites. She also gave us a vitamin supplement with iron to give her. We’ll retest her blood in a month. If the numbers are still low, we’ll retest her for feline leukemia and FIV in case she got a false negative the first time.

Abbey seems to feel good. She plays hard. She gained point 4 pounds in the three weeks from her adoption to spay day. She has not shown any signs of illness. The vet said it was fine to have her out with Chase Bird as long as neither showed signs of illness.

I did what I usually do when I get worried about a health problem with my cats or Larry—I started Googling. I know it’s a way to cope, a way to feel like I have some control over the situation.
But really, other than giving Abbey her meds and watching her, I have no control over the situation. It’s a wait and see situation until we retest her blood.
I wonder sometimes why I have to keep learning this lesson that we never can know for sure that all is well, that life throws curves all the time. But I’m not having to learn the lesson any more than anyone else. We all have lives that throw us curves. I just happen to have a disorder—OCD—that make it particularly difficult to deal with uncertainty.
So we’ll deal with what it is, if it’s anything more than an infection of parasites. And we are enjoying Abbey so much. She is a sweetie and so funny. She likes to follow Chase Bird around. Sometimes he is OK with that, sometimes he runs away, and she chases after him.

I love Chase Bird and Abbey and taking care of them. I’m enjoying that every day.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Catching up


Hello, dear readers. I’m feeling a bit out of breath and overwhelmed right now with all the changes going on, but I wanted to catch you up on those changes.

The big change is my new job. Friday was my first day. It was nice to start getting settled in. I didn’t have a lot to do because my supervisor is out of town until mid-week due to a family illness. But I enjoyed connecting with my new co-workers, many of whom I already know.

I think I’m going to enjoy the work and my work environment. I just don’t know enough to feel useful at this point, and I tend to get bored if I’m not busy. So I am trying to keep boredom at bay and use my down time to learn more about working for the county and the issues that I could be talking about with the media and with the public.

Tuesday night is the annual public hearing before the Board of Supervisors on the next fiscal year’s budget, and we’re expecting a large crowd. There will be no tax increase this year, but the schools are also not receiving all the funding they asked for. So the schools will have to make some cuts that not everyone is happy with.
More people seem to be involved now in speaking out about the direction they want the county to go in.
I’ll be at the meeting Tuesday, though instead of covering it for the newspaper, I’ll be helping to get people signed up to speak, and I’ll be listening to people’s concerns.

My supervisor returns to the office on Wednesday, and that’s when I’ll begin to learn the meat and potatoes of my job. I’m looking forward to that, because I like to stay busy, and boredom can easily lead to depression for me.

The other big change is our new family member, Abbey. She is so funny and sweet. We have given her and Chase Bird some face-to-face time. Chase seems to prefer to ignore her, though he has hissed at her a couple of times. But overall, though they are obviously wary, I think they will get along.

Abbey makes the cutest mewing sounds. Whether she’s greeting you or playing or asking for food or attention, it’s kind of a trill with rolled “Rs” mixed with “mew.” I need to record the sound for you.

I love taking care of my kitties. I get so much satisfaction out of making sure they’re fed and getting playtime and cuddle time. And a content, purring kitty is the antidote to just about any stress!

Take care until next time!