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Sookie is who she is.
Sookie is who she is.

Can dogs suffer from mental illness?

This is a sensitive issue. My dog Sookie is not always "OK."

I often describe her as mentally ill. I admit this is more a term of endearment than a diagnosis from a professional. I do not say it in jest or with any disrespect to humans suffering with mental illness. I use the term to encapsulate Sookie’s behavioral challenges and people often giggle, but the popularity of "doggie Prozac," the emergence of pet behaviorists and even "psychologists," is evidence that pet mental health is a growing concern.

The question of weather a dog can actually be mentally ill is a controversial topic in veterinary medicine. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, "Mental illness is a condition that impacts a person’s thinking, feeling or mood and may affect his or her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis." Sub the word "dog" for "person" and this describes my Sookie’s inability to engage in what are considered "normal" daily activities like going on a peaceful walks or relating genially with other dogs.

Cohabitating with a mentally unstable 65-pound Boxer is not always easy, but it resulted from only the most loving intentions. We rescued Sookie from the SPCA in 2011. I was looking for a workout partner, a big dog to jog, hike and walk endlessly with. I wanted a buddy to provide some protection and "intimidation factor." I desired an animal to hang out with me in the house while I work, that I could take to the dog park and sit at pet friendly outdoor cafes with. I wanted to travel with the lucky canine we would adopt. I decided I would even let her sleep in our bed. I was ready for a new member of our family.

I spent hours on rescue organization web sites searching. Then, one night I saw a photo of Sookie pop up on the local SPCA website. I fell in love with her goofy face, her direct gaze into the camera, the markings that made her look like she was wearing terribly applied black eye liner and lipstick. I know. Looks are a totally ina…

Cover when you cough, mmmmkay?
Cover when you cough, mmmmkay?

My personal travel hell

I fear I am cultivating quite an expertise within the travel-writing niche of "rant."

I actually love to voyage beyond my normal, everyday life and I am endlessly grateful for my extremely bountiful opportunities to do so.

But these days, it is commonplace for travel to come saddled with all sorts of expected inconveniences and annoyances like delays, cancellations, lack of complimentary meals and snacks, oversold flights and overcrowding.

I'm my constant attempt at gratitude; I do try to let these little grievances slide. They are par for the course details that if you journey often, regrettably do happen. I smile through each set back, try to surrender and see the bigger picture. For example, I recently had the chance to reframe a small scheduling conflict as perhaps divine intervention resetting my course for my own protection.

Now, I acknowledge that my ability to complain about these minute nuisances stems from my own inherent craziness, unique personality flaws, social complexes and deeply held beliefs about propriety.

But there are some things that no human, no matter how much grace, patience or tolerance they possess can abide. There are some things that get the goat of even the Mother Theresa of airline passengers.

This recently happened to me – and I’m no Mother Theresa. I was assigned to seat 8b on a recent domestic flight that became what I like to refer to, as my personal travel hell.

Seat 8b is a middle seat, at the mercy of the aisle and window, which in and of itself, I don’t necessarily mind. In fact, I think middle seats are one of those sacrifices that some of us have to make. As a member of the 5’2 and under club, I feel it is almost my duty to take one for the team by volunteering myself as the proverbial meat in an airplane-seating sandwich.

Now, in defense of airlines inferior to Southwest that choose to use an assigned seating system, I recognize that I did indeed choose seat 8b myself from a seating chart - albeit blindly - d…

The Paul Dietrich Quintet plays The Jazz Estate on Friday.
The Paul Dietrich Quintet plays The Jazz Estate on Friday.

Dietrich jazzes up an old genre

Jazz and youth are not mutually exclusive. Twenty-six-year-old jazz trumpeter and Wisconsin native, Paul Dietrich, is proof of that.

The Paul Dietrich Quintet’s first album, "We Always Get There," implies wisdom, experience and emotion that couldn’t possibly be contained in a 20-something’s wheelhouse. But, then there’s that cover of Bjork’s "Unravel" that reminds the listener that perhaps this is not your great-granddaddy’s jazz.

The modern jazz group formed in 2012 to showcase Dietrich’s small group writing. The band offers an accessible style that’s a fusion of influences like progressive rock, modern and classic jazz, contemporary classical music and folk and world styles. The band includes three more Wisconsinites: Dustin Laurenzi on tenor saxophone, Tim Ipsen on bass, Wisco-educated Andrew Green on drums and Paul Bedal on piano.

Dietrich, who went to college in Appleton and got his Master’s Degree at DePaul University in Chicago, now resides in Madison, where he is also an educator. Dietrich is a devoted Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks fan, which is not merely a way for the professional musician to show his home state team loyalty, but also provides an unintentional way for him to connect jazz with his leisure time.  

"I remember an interview I saw once with Phil Jackson, who is a jazz fan. He compared the two in a way I thought was cool; in both jazz and in basketball; you have a group of people who all know a particular system and they all work together and improvise to create something out of that system that is more successful than any of the individuals," he says. "So there's a bit of a team aspect to it, I guess."

It’s that cohesive ordering of seeming chaos that it is so impressive about jazz. Perhaps that sense of chaos is because of a current mainstream unfamiliarity with the genre, at least within a certain demographic. There is of course, an intense precision to a successful jazz composition, no doubt from the immense education …

Maybe this will help. Or not.
Maybe this will help. Or not.

I almost forgot to write this blog

My memory sucks.

I am actually surprised I remembered to write this blog at all.

I will embarrassingly admit that I started this piece a while back, saved it and then never even recalled its creation or need for completion until I was opening another document and stumbled upon "Blog Memory." It was lying dormant, waiting editing in my Document file, abandoned not from malice or disinterest, but from pure ignorance of its existence.

The alarming nature of this incident indicated a need for some immediate brain healing and investigation into why I seem to be suffering from a lack of retention.

I’ve always been a "list writer." But, these days especially, if something is going to get done, it has to be catalogued on my "list." Even, then I have to actually remember to jot it down on there. Growing up (and to this day,) my mother utilized her "Famous Yellow List," a single sheet torn from a mini legal pad, that inventoried her endless "to dos" while also housing coupons and other important slips within it’s single fold, secured with a single silver paper clip. I took on this modeled behavior, which has evolved into an almost compulsive use of the Reminders App, born out of and maintained due to necessity.

But, I wonder if my dependence on "the list" has contributed to my brain getting lazy. Kind of like GPS has become my inner compass’s crutch. I’ve never really possessed a good innate sense of direction, but now I don’t have one at all. It’s become so easy to plug in an address and let Siri tell me where to go instead of knowing how to get there. Could this reliance on computerized mapping also have affected my memory? I haven’t had to actually remember how to get anywhere in ages! Perhaps my poor recall skills are a yet another symptom to fuel my dislike of technology.

I’m pretty sure my memory has been on the decline since my early twenties. Or at least I think it has been. I really can’t even remember when this all started. My ability to retain i…