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Giving my Dog the Good Death

I knew Rosie wouldn’t make it to the end of the summer this year. Probably starting in June, I could see that her arthritis and canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) aka doggy dementia were slowing her down. She didn’t want to walk as much, and she didn’t want to go to the office with me. She slept so much that many times I watched her to see if she was still breathing. Each time I went to the grocery store to get her more chicken, I wondered if this was going to be the last time I’d cooked chicken for her.

I told her that if she was done, it was ok to let go. There were many nights I’d look at her laying on her bed and pray, “God, please take her in her sleep.”

Making the Decision

Dogs communicate in their own ways, but the message isn’t always crystal clear. When she started stumbling when she walked, I seriously started questioning her quality of life. About a week before she died, I invited Rosie’s godfather over to see her, knowing it was probably the last chance he’d see her alive. A dog owner himself, I knew he’d give me an honest opinion about how she was doing.

In her youth, Rosie used to bolt around the house and bark like crazy when he’d visit. This visit, she wagged her tail weakly with recognition, but it was obvious her energy wasn’t there. When I asked him what he though, he said, “She’s struggling.”

Looking for confirmation that I was making the right decision, I search online for quality of life assessments. One of my challenges was she was still eating all her meals and finishing mine too. I also called our vet to have the quality of life discussion. As painful as it was, I knew it was time. On Wednesday night, I exchanged texts with a mobile vet and made the appointment for Friday morning at 10 a.m. to send her over the Rainbow Bridge.

Good-Byes with Dog and Human Friends

Rosie and I were lucky to have an amazing group of dog and human friends. I messaged some of them to let them know that Rosie would be passing on Friday and invited them to visit one last time. On Thursday night, Rosie’s Aunt Des and Uncle Mike came over with their dog Phoenix as did Aunt Sarah and Uncle Thomas with their dog Brodie. We let the dogs roam on the grass, Rosie mostly doing her own thing, sniffing around.

When Rosie was done being outside, we went back in the house. The humans sat in the living room while Rosie opted to lay by herself in the hallway. I gave Des a lot of Rosie’s treats for Phoenix since we wouldn’t need them anymore. (They were too big for Brodie’s little mouth.) I don’t remember what anybody said, but it was so glad that everyone got to love on Rosie one more time.

Dying at Home

Friday morning was surreal. I didn’t know what to do while I waited for our appointment time with the mobile vet. I sat on the floor next to her in the hallway, petting her while watching YouTube on my phone. I sang her “You Are My Sunshine” which was the first song I sang to her during our meet-and-greet before her adoption – well, I managed to say the words on the song with tears in my eyes. I told her I loved her.

There was a knock at the door at 10 a.m. Tears were streaming down my face as I turned the doorknob to see Dr. Katherine Campabadal. I invited her in and coaxed Rosie into her bed. She talked me through everything she was doing. She had me give Rosie treats as she injected her with the medicine that would make her fall asleep. Dr. Campabadal said it would take 10-15 minutes for the medication to take effect and warned me that it would make Rosie’s tongue stick out.

She stepped out while the medicine kicked in. I scratched Rosie’s head as I sat on the floor next to her and watched as she fell asleep, her pink tongue poking out of her month. I checked my watch. It had only been 4 minutes.  When Dr. Campabadal came back in and asked how long it took for Rosie to fall asleep, she said the fact that Rosie went out so fast was a sign that her internal organs weren’t very strong. That validated that I was doing the right thing. She also said something like it was sad that our dogs went before us, I responded that it meant we could love more of them.

The final shot had to be administered directly into a vein. As Dr. Campabadal injected Rosie, I had the panicked thought, “What have I done?” even though I knew I was doing the right thing. I reached up to her chest, but it had stopped moving. My Rosie was gone.

Time with Rosie

Usually the mobile vet takes the pet after they’ve passed at home, but I opted to keep Rosie’s body home for a few hours. I’m a fan of mortician Caitlin Doughty, who encourages people to spend time with their loved one’s dead body. One thing I learned from her was when someone passes away, it’s not an emergency. You can take the time you need. I found her video about how she gave her cat “the good death” particularly helpful as Rosie was getting older.

Dr. Campabadal slid a puppy pad under Rosie’s butt and showed herself out. I continued to scratch Rosie’s head as I cried. I hoped she knew I gave her the best life I could. I laid down next to her on the floor, petting her soft fur, watching her pink tongue turn a lavender gray. I sat and laid with her for about 90 minutes, and during that time, there was a shift where my brain understood that she was really gone. I think something about having this extra time with her made my grieving process easier.

Last Car Ride

Since I didn’t let the mobile vet take Rosie, I was responsible for getting her to the pet crematory. I’d picked out who our provider was going to be and given them a call the day before, so they knew we were coming.

In life, I made sure I was always strong enough to lift Rosie, but I knew I needed help getting her to the car. I called my neighbor Sarah (Rosie’s Aunt Sarah) to help. I learned the meaning of “dead weight” that day. It’s a completely different experience to lift your dog when she can’t hold herself up. Sarah helped me load Rosie against my shoulder and handled the opening and locking of doors between my bedroom and the car.

As I carried Rosie to the car with her paws flopping against my back with each step, I thought, “I hope none of my neighbors see me carrying my dead dog.” Thankfully, no one popped their head out at that moment. Sarah opened my back seat and help me gently lay Rosie across it. She was on her back with all her paws in the air.

Final Disposition

As I pulled into the pet crematory, I noticed there was a children’s playground directly across the street. Oh, the juxtaposition. The crematory operator was expecting me and rolled a cart to the car so we could easily transport Rosie inside.

I opted for what I call the “buddy cremation” where they put two animals in the machine at the same time. The fire is the same size every time they run the machine and doing two together is more energy efficient. Plus, as the operator said, it’s like they have a buddy in there. Each body is kept separate, so each family gets their own pet back.

The operator showed me what size Rosie’s urn would be. It seemed so small, but if humans are 60% water, then dogs probably are too.

I asked the operator when they’d cremate Rosie, and she said, “Probably today.” I thought, “So soon?!” but then my rational mind kicked in. This is what they do. There’s no reason to keep her in a refrigerator.

I got the call two days later that Rosie was ready to be picked up. The back of her urn has a sticker that says, “Rose Louise ‘Rosie’ belonging to the Carter family, Cremated on 08/07/2020.” For now, she sits on my dresser, but the plan is to sprinkle her at the beach when the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

RIP Rose Louise Carter

October 21, 2007 – August 7, 2020

My sweet Rosie went over the Rainbow Bridge on August 7, 2020. This sweet basset hound came into my life in the spring of 2012 courtesy of the Arizona Basset Hound Rescue. When I first laid eyes on her and trotted up my front walkway, I knew she was my dog.

Rosie was such a smart dog. In Carter Law Firm’s infancy, I worked out of the house and had a mailbox at the UPS Store. When Rosie and I would pick up my mail, she’d walk around the counter and sit for a dog treat. Then she’d help herself to another one from the box. There was one time when Mom was visiting, and she made a cheesecake which she left on the dining room table. A little while later, we noticed a bite taken out of the cake and Rosie was quietly laying on her bed smacking her lips. Even at nearly five-feet long and 60 pounds, Rosie could be stealthy when she wanted.

Basset hounds are notorious for being stubborn, and Rosie was no exception. She regularly went “flat basset” while we were crossing the street. When she was on a scent, nothing could pull her off it. On more than one occasion, she got soaked at the park because she followed a scent right into the sprinklers. Speaking of the park, it was so much fun to watch her run with a group of dogs – well, the other dogs would be running as a group, and she’d be chasing after them, fast as her little lets could carry her.

Everyone loved Rosie. She had the best set of human friends and dog friends, and we had puppy playdates nearly every day. I loved when her godfather would come over because of how much she would bark with joy.

Rosie went nearly everywhere with me. I even registered her as an emotional support animal. Whenever we’d go out for a meal, I’d always order something for her along with a meal for myself. When the partners at my current firm announced that they wanted me to join, I responded, “Great. I come with a dog.” We had to have a third interview where I brought her in so they could see she was going to be a non-issue, particularly with a baby gate across my door. Technically, she was only supposed to come in once a week, but no one batted an eye when I brought her in more often.

There were a handful of times I had to go out of town without her, and I had to leave her at the kennel, aka “Camp.” While she was there, I ordered extra bedding and playtime for her. I’d call and check on her each day, even though the report was always, “She’s fine. Everyone adores her. She sleeps a lot.” The best part of taking her to Camp was when I got to pick her up again. She barked like crazy coming through the lobby door, said a quick hello to me, before pulling me towards the exit.

In 2015, Rosie lost her eye to glaucoma, and the vet said it would only be a matter of time before she lost her other eye. Our schedule became regulated by her medication as she was put on a regimen of eye drops to try to sustain her sight as long as possible. Knowing that there was limited time, I wanted Rosie to see as much as she could for as long as she could. We took a long weekend trip to Long Beach, CA so she could experience the beach and the ocean at Rosie’s Dog Beach, an off-leash dog beach named after an English Bulldog. Not a fan of the water, she loved plodding along on the sand, and several times she plopped herself down on someone else’s blanket and looked up at them as if you say, “You shall pet me now.”

As the years progressed, Rosie began to slow down. She wasn’t interested in walking as far as arthritis began affecting her hips and knees. Sometimes she just wanted to walk two feet out the front door and lay down on the cool cement. She began sleeping more. Then, in 2018, Rosie lost her second eye to glaucoma. Her world went dark and I became her seeing eye human. Even though she couldn’t see, she would still wag her tail in happiness when she smelled a familiar person or pup.

As she continued to age, Rosie developed canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) aka doggy dementia. Sometimes she would pace or pant as if she were lost in her own home, and she developed sundowners where she’d flip night and day. She had CBD to manage her anxiety during the day, and our vet prescribed trazadone to help her sleep through the night, which was a godsend. Rosie spent most of her days laying next to me as I worked at my desk and laying next to the front door when I went out.

During the last few weeks of Rosie’s life, I knew her time was short. I arranged for Rosie to be Miss January in the Arizona Basset Hound Rescue’s 2021 calendar, even though I knew she wouldn’t live long enough to see the new year. The photographer was so sweet, following Rosie around, getting shots when she could because older blind dogs do not pose for pictures. Then she invited me to jump in for a few shots. I’m so glad she got a few final shots of me smiling with my baby girl.

Rosie died at home on Friday, August 7, 2020 with the help of a mobile vet. It was one the hardest decisions I ever had to make. I stayed at her side until she took her last breath, hoping she knew, for every moment she was my dog, that she was loved.  

Surviving Social Distancing with Depression

It’s not a secret that I live with depression. As an introvert, social distancing is great – to a degree. However, being alone most of the time means I’m left alone with the thoughts in my head all day. (I’ve been warned that my mind is a dangerous neighborhood, and I shouldn’t venture there alone.)

In order to deal with the social distancing aspect of COVID-19, I’ve created some rules to help me manage my depression:

1. Shower every day.

2. Brush your teeth twice a day.

3. Moisturize. Moisturize. Moisturize. Every day. No matter what. This rule has served me well for 40-something years. I’m not going to fuck up my skin now.

4. Put on fresh clothes each day. PJ pants or athletic shorts are fine.

PJ Pants!

5. Put on jeans to walk the dog. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with going out in PJ pants. My PJ pants are men’s medium and drag about 4 inches on the floor. I am not going to destroy them by dragging them around on the sidewalk.

6. Eat a mostly balanced diet, well more balanced than not.

7. Open the blinds every day. There is a sun out there.

8. Do whatever workout Coach David assigns. (I’m training to do my first Ironman in August, and anticipate it will go on as scheduled.) It doesn’t matter if I don’t like it. As Rocky Kees used to say, “I didn’t ask you to like it. I told you to do it.”

9. Try to talk with a real person each day – by phone or from at least 6 feet away.

10. No more than 2 Zoom-based events per day. I have enough challenges with the voices that reside in my head. Pumping in too many extra ones will make me bat shit crazy.

11. When in doubt, wash your dishes. Doing a simple task can make me feel like I’ve accomplished something worthwhile.

12. It’s ok to do the bare minimum. Every morning, I create a to-do list on my white board. If I only have energy to do the bare minimum, and I need to spend the afternoon taking a nap, that’s ok.

These are the rules that are helping me survive mostly sheltering in place. Hopefully they’re helpful to you too.

Legal services are considered essential, but I’m limiting my contact with the outside world, trying to do my part to flatten the curve.

Save Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary

Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary in Gilbert, Arizona is home to 100+ animals (horses, donkeys, cows, alpaca, goats, pigs, sheep, rabbits, ducks, chickens, turkeys, dogs, and cats), many of which have or have had special needs.

There’s Adorabull, the calf who, last summer, was found abandoned in a ditch, umbilical cord still attached. When he came to the farm, he was so weak and sick he couldn’t even be bottle fed. He had to be tube fed. I laid with him for hours one Saturday morning, dotting on him like his mother would.

Now, he’s a strong happy cow, who’s able to frolic with the other cows in the pasture. I call him “Addy.”

Sweet Baby Adorabull

One of the more recent additions to the farm is a lamb named Grace. Born with a crooked neck, she came to the farm sanctuary all the way from Texas. With cold laser therapy and massage, her head becoming more in alignment with her body. She doesn’t let her disability prevent her from running zoomies around the farm. She’s so cute!

Grace always looks like she’s smiling!

This farm is also a healing place for the community – people with various physical and emotional disabilities. Aimee regularly posts on the farm’s Facebook page about the how the farm helps its various visitors. She also offers tours and cow hugging sessions.

Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary is a healing place for me. My depression and anxiety are always better after spending a few hours at the farm. It’s always calming to visit the farm – whether I’m shoveling manure or singing to animal cuddled in my arms. I happily show up with my boots and gloves asking, “What do you need me to do?”

I love this place. I love it so much that one of my requirements for my future dream house is that the property has to be closer to the farm than where I live now so I can visit more often.

I want to help save this farm. Aimee’s landlord recently informed her that he sold the land to a developer. Aimee and the 100+ animals need a new home.

Thanks to generous contributions and fundraising efforts, Aimee has raised close to $100,000. She’s researching possible properties every day. The more money she can put down for a down payment, the more options available for the farm’s new home.

Photo courtesy of Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary

Here’s how you can help Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary:

Direct Donation

You can make a donation directly to the farm through their website or PayPal. You can also send money using Venmo (@Aimeesfarm).

The farm sanctuary is 501(c)(3) charity so all donations are tax-deductible.  

Smile.Amazon.com

You’re already shopping on Amazon. When you shop through Smile, you can designate a charity to benefit from purchases that are Smile eligible. You can designate Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary as your charity here.

If your workplace purchase supplies on Amazon, please ask them to use Smile and support Aimee’s Farm as well.

The Farm’s Amazon Wishlist

The farm always needs supplies. Please check out their Amazon Wish List if you want to purchase one of the many things the animals need.

The farm regular puts out requests for towels and blankets. If you’re cleaning out your linen closet, please see if the farm sanctuary could use them.

Special for Law Firms: CLEs for Charity

I want to do whatever I can to help save the farm. I’m offering an hour of continuing legal education  in exchange for any law firm donating $500 to the farm. Yes, some of the CLEs I’m prepared to do fulfill our ethics requirement. If I’m in your city, I can do a CLE in person; otherwise, I’ll present it over Skype or Zoom.  

Please follow Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary on Facebook for more opportunities to help and updates about what’s happening at the farm.

How I Manage Stress

Yesterday, my coach asked me how I manage my stress. I instantly responded:

Poorly.

That’s actually not true all the time. When I feel solid and secure, I can be so confident it’s uncanny.

I know that feeling.

I’ve felt that feeling.

Just not lately.

Always Been High Strung

My standard response when someone asks me how I handle stress is, “Not gracefully.” Usually, I find a way to muddle through, but it’s not pretty. I’ve been living with anxiety since I was a wee one – like before age 10.

For as long as I can remember, my modus operandi has been to have a plan for escape – physically, emotionally, and/or chemically.  A lot of my -isms (alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, and self-injury) were ways to self-medicate. When I got into recovery and took away those vices, I still had to deal with my emotions and life’s challenges.

Here are some of the things I do lately to manage my stress.

Sweat

Starting in gymnastics and now as a triathlete, I workout 5-6 days per week. Working out gives my brain an endorphin boost it needs, and it gives me a break from the rest of my life. There’s not much I can do while I’m in the pool except swim.

It also gives me a safe way to vent emotions. The day after I got my California Bar Exam results (I failed), my coach had assigned a 17-mile run. I ran one of my fastest paces to date and I got flash of inspiration about how I was going to tell my friends. Pounding pavement for those hours gave me the much-needed break I needed.

Sweat keeps me sane.

Lists

My life is managed with lists:

  • Weekly to-do lists – x2
  • Daily to-do list – on my whiteboard
  • Medication checklists – one for the hooman, one for the hound
  • Workout checklist
  • Program checklist

If I didn’t have my lists, I’d never keep track of who took which medication or whether I did everything I needed to do on any given day. My stress is related to anxiety and depression, both of which make me forgetful.

My lists also give me a semblance of control over what I’m doing, which is reassuring since lately I’ve been feeling out of control. There are days I wish I could emotionlessly work through my lists without dealing with my feelings. Thankfully, I have loving people around me who remind me that I’m not a robot.

I love this photo of Jeff and me from an Ignite Phoenix #17 Speaker Bootcamp. Photo by Brandon Larkin. (Creative Commons License)

Selective Peopling

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an avoidant and an introvert. I’m not a fan of people in general, particularly in crowds or places with a lot of noise. However, I selectively like individuals. These are the people I want to spend time with, and from whom I’ll ask for help. It’s so reassuring to be around and/or text with people I love. They get me.

Every year, I have my jar on my nightstand and I add happy memories to it throughout the year, and then on New Year’s Eve, I read through them. One thing I noticed when I reviewed the memories from 2019, was that a lot of them had to do with hugging people.

Hugs keep me sane too.

Short-Circuit

On rare occasions, my stress gets so bad that I emotionally crash and burn. I panic to the point where I have trouble focusing and I can barely eat. (That’s how I managed to drop 10 pounds in law school.) When my appetite drops out, that’s my tell that I need to take swift deliberate steps to counteract my stress.

Sleep

Sometimes the best thing I can do when stress hits hard is sleep. When I’m asleep, it means my muscles are relaxing and I’m taking deep breathes – two things I need when I’m stressed. (A friend recently suggested I add massage to my self-care routine, probably for the same reason.)

Stress is exhausting.

An hour-long nap can make a world of difference.

Rosie’s Rules

I didn’t realize how many rules I have for the care and feeding of my 12 year-old, blind, arthritic basset hound in the early stages of doggy dementia (canine cognitive dysfunction – CCD), until I had to document them. I have to be gone overnight, and my neighbor volunteered to look after her for 30 hours.

Blind Dog Rules

Don’t leave clutter on the floor.

If you need her to get up, making the kissy sound or the clicky sound with your mouth or saying, “Up up” in a high voice is your best bet.

If Rosie’s going to walk into a wall or other stationary object and you can’t reach her in time to stop her, warn her by saying, “Bump.”

If the skin tag on her nose bleeds after she bumps into a wall, it’s not a big deal.

You can use your legs to help guide where you want her to go – acting as a bumper for her.

All pills and treats are offered from the left side of her face.

Be careful she doesn’t walk off the curb or into cars during walkies. She prefers to walk on your right side.

If you need better control over her during walks, pull directly upwards from her harness and walk her like a marionette puppet.

Sleepy Rosie and her Reflection

Arthritic Dog Rules

Arthritic bassets can’t scratch their ears, necks, or noses. You have to do it for them. Bonus if she makes happy mumble-grumble sounds.

Morning meds (3 pills) are given on a spoon with peanut butter. If the peanut butter drips, try to get to land on her paw so she can lick it up.

Her CBD tincture is squirted into the left side of her mouth. Stand just behind her shoulder blades, one foot on each side when giving her this.

Sometimes Rosie gets “stuck” temporarily in the downward dog position when trying to lay down. Resist the urge to push her butt down. She’ll do it on her own as her muscles are ready.

If Rosie picks up one of her back paws and holds it in the air, she has a cramp in that butt muscle. Give it a good scratch to relax it.

Dementia Dog Rules

If Rosie walks in the wrong direction at mealtime, slide two fingers under her collar to guide her to her bowl.

If Rosie starts pacing as if she’s lost in the house, give reassuring pets and tell her she’s a “good girl.”

If she has an accident in the house, it happens. Towels are in the kitchen. Rug cleaner is above the washing machine. Hopefully it happens on the concrete.

Before bedtime, dip the end of a treat in peanut butter, top with half of a puppy sleeping pill, and give it to her. Otherwise she could be up-and-down all night.

So many rules for a dog who sleeps 18 hours a day!

I’m also going to sleep in the same shirt for three nights and leave it behind in Rosie’s bed, so she has something that smells like her hooman.

Benched

“One of my favorite meditation spots” by Jay Thompson from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

My hip pain flared up at the end of last week, and Coach David benched me for three days. I don’t even have a good story. It just started hurting. Only things I can do are stretch, heat, and strength work that doesn’t engage the hip. (My apologies in advance to anyone I converse with while I’m on the sidelines. I get moody and opinionated when I don’t workout.)

Yes, this is the same hip injury I’ve been dealing with off and on for over a year. It’s the one body part I didn’t blow out as a gymnast (except for a few pulled groins), so they’re making up for lost time.

Coach David has been increasing my workouts painfully slowly – like increasing my running distance by ¼ of a mile each week. (The standard is a runner can increase their mileage by 10% each week.) I’ve pushed myself hard the last few weeks, but I didn’t think I was going too hard.

As always, Coach David uses a practical and logical approach to dealing with injuries. It’s better to take a couple of days off now – over six months before race day – than to push through and be triaging a worse injury closer to race day. This morning David lovingly said, “Your body needs a vacation.”

Thankfully, I was already ahead of schedule in regards to my training, so taking a few days off isn’t a setback in terms of that. It’s just a challenge for me to be forced to sit on my tush.

I’m starting to wonder if the line between pushing hard and pushing too hard is razor thin. It’s frustrating to constantly have to deal with the possibility that my hip could flare. I felt like we were doing everything right. I was slowly gaining speed, strength, and confidence.

I was pushing myself, but not that hard.

Challenging myself, but not killing myself.

Over the last week, I spent a lot of time sitting as I was sending 500+ emails promoting my first online course on the legal side of photography.  I wonder if that has something to do with this most recent bout of soreness.

Rosie’s trying to teach me how to relax.

Regardless of the cause, I’m spending three days sitting on my heating pad, trying to get the muscles to relax and the joint to calm down. (I have two heating pads – one at home and one in the office.)

I’m on board with the plan that it’s better to deal with a minor setback now than to deal with worse pain later.

The goal is Ironman Mont Tremblant, not killing myself getting to the starting line.

New Swimming Accessory: Choker Necklace

Yup. I’m wearing a choker.

I don’t like things touching the front of my neck.

I don’t own turtlenecks.

I don’t wear kerchiefs or fashion scarves around my neck.

When I go to the salon, I ask them to make the drape one snap looser.

Sometimes I can’t even wear crewneck t-shirts because – you guessed it – the edge of the shirt barely touches my neck.

When I picked out my wetsuit, I got one with the lowest neckline I could find. It still touches my neck. Actually, my wetsuit is snug around my neck. It’s snug around every part of my body. That’s how wetsuits work.

When I’m wearing my wetsuit and I go from being vertical and walking into the water to horizontally swimming in it, the discomfort becomes more intense as going face down puts extra pressure across the front of my neck. (If past lives are real, I’m pretty sure I either drowned or was strangled in one of them.) Add in being hit by other swimmers and unable to find my swimming cadence, and it’s enough to make me panic.

Heading into Ironman Mont Tremblant, I’m trying to work on this. I don’t want to start this race with a panic attack.

I can’t control how choppy the water is.

I can’t control other swimmers bumping into me.

What I can do is force myself to get used to swimming with something snug around my neck. (I know some athletes cut their wetsuits to lower the neckline, but I don’t want to do that.)

My chokers, courtesy of the junior section at Target.

I bought myself a set of five stretchy choker necklaces, popular among tweens and young teens. I look like a person having a mid-life crisis when I wear them.

Before I leave the house for the pool, I pull one of these things on, and I don’t take it off until I’m back. I figure the more I wear it, the sooner I’ll get over the heebie jeebies of having something touching my neck.

For my first day wearing a choker to the pool, I opted to wear the red one so if the feeling of it touching my neck was too much and I ripped it off mid-lap, I could easily find it in the water and not litter in the pool.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. I don’t notice it when I’m swimming. Once I’m fully used to wearing one necklace, I may try wearing two, then three, at a time, so I can get used to the material covering more of my neck.

Hopefully, this exercise will teach me that I can have something snug against my neck without feeling like I’m choking myself.

All Genders Deserve Equal Access in Sports

Arizona has joined the number of states that has proposed legislation that would ban male-to-female transgender athletes from competing in female sports unless they have a doctor’s note that proves that they’re female. This law would impact athletes at every from level from K-12 schools to community colleges and state universities.

Photo by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Why We’re Having This Debate

The surge of proposed laws followed news stories last year where a female track and field athlete claimed that male-to-female transgender athletes were unfairly allowed to compete in the girls’ division. The trans athletes finished a race higher than she did, which she claimed cost her the opportunity to compete at the regional race, which could impact her ability to get a college scholarship.

What I didn’t like about the reporting of this story is that most reports didn’t state whether the trans athletes were on hormone blockers and/or on hormone replacement therapy which would have made it a more level field than a cisgender male competing in a female sport. By the way, they’re both on hormones replacement therapy.

School Athletics May be the Only Option

My first thought when I heard about this proposed law in Arizona, was that trans athletes should bypass political issues in school and compete on club teams. A teacher friend pointed out that club teams are often very expensive, so the only option to participate in sports is to play on a school team.

Is It Talent or Testosterone?

Transgender girls are girls. They should be allowed to participate in girls’ activities, whether we are talking about Girl Scouts, entering a nunnery, or playing sports. Forcing a transgender girl to participate in boys’ activities or be left out is discriminatory and potentially devastating to her mental health.

In the situation of athletics, I wonder how much of is this outcry based on fairness and how much is based on transphobia. Are girls afraid of being beaten by someone they view as less than a girl?

It’s worth asking how much of these trans athletes’ success is based on talent or testosterone. History suggests that cisgender men have physical advantages over women in many sports. In looking at Olympic Records where men and women both compete in same types of events (e.g., track and field, weightlifting, etc.) the record held by the man is higher, faster, better than the women’s record. That’s why we created Title IX – to give women equal access to participate. But once a trans athlete has the same hormone level as their cisgender counterparts, I wonder if the cisgender athletes are claiming it’s unfair, but they’re using the competitions’ trans status to complain that they didn’t win.

It’s Time to Re-Examine Division in Sports

It’s time we re-examine how we divide participants in sports. With growing acceptance that there are more than two genders, which is backed by law in at least 17 states and Washington D.C., the traditional division of boys/men and girls/women is no longer sufficient. I’m a non-binary athlete (with a birth certificate to prove it), and when I sign up for a race, I rename the divisions “testosterone” and “estrogen” and select accordingly.  

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has guidelines regarding male-to-female athletes and the testosterone level they must have to compete in the women’s division. Lower level sports should adopt similar rules and require every athlete to have their testosterone level checked, and only those with a level above the threshold should be allowed to participate in the testosterone division.

(A friend suggested that the athlete’s sensitivity to testosterone should also be tested for it is possible for a cisgender woman to have a high testosterone level and body that is completely insensitive to it, so she won’t reap any athletic benefits from having this higher level.)

Photo by tableatny from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Where Change Should Start

In thinking about this issue, if we want schools to change how athletes are divided instead of using gender in the U.S., the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) should be the leader. If NCAA schools change from men’s and women’s sport to divisions based on hormones, public and private high schools will follow suit since many of the best high school athletes aspire to receive scholarships to compete in college.  

I sent an email to the Chair of the Board of Directors for NCAA Division I, encouraging them to modify the classification of athletes instead of using gender identity. I don’t expect a response beyond a cursory, “Thank you for your message,” but hopefully it will plant a seed that change is needed.

Sister Laws for Access to Trans Medical Care

If states are going to pass laws that will limit male-to-female trans athletes from participating in sports, they need to a pass sister laws that allow for adequate and affordable access to medical care for transgender people, including the ability to access care without parental consent, and laws that allow non-binary and transgender people to change their birth certificates and driver’s licenses to reflect their gender.  

Reflections on Working for Myself

For the last eight years, I’ve been an eat-what-you-kill entrepreneur, no steady paycheck, total freedom to do whatever I want.

I can’t imagine working a traditional 9-to-5 again.

I still sit on tables.

Freedom

“Freedom” is the goal in my life – freedom to do, to see, to create, to live. Being an entrepreneur allows me to pick when and where I work, to handpick my clients, and to decide what else I want to do besides practice law (speak, write, travel, teach, etc.).

One of the reasons why I started Carter Law Firm back in 2012 was not only because the Phoenix job market for lawyers was poor and I was basically unemployable as a blogger/flash mobber, but also because I didn’t want to be an associate at a firm that would want me to work 80 hours/week and wouldn’t want me to be a public speaker. I changed careers to be happy. I didn’t want to settle for a potentially soul-sucking existence.

Joining Venjuris

Becoming an Of Counsel practitioner at Venjuris was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career. I was looking for more stability and support, and they were looking for lateral hire with their own book of business. Being Of Counsel (legalese for independent contractor) means I’m still in an eat-what-you-kill work environment.

It’s been a mutually beneficial arrangement – I’ve been able to take on litigation clients, and they’ve expanded the firm’s practice areas to include internet law. Plus, they’re privy to my knowledge about social media and content marketing, and I do in-house continuing legal education (CLEs) for them.

Fear

The day I decided to become an entrepreneur, I was so scared, I sweat through my sundress. I still get scared all the time – every time I launch a new project, step up on a stage to speak, or when I have a lull in client work. (Client work seems to be feast or feminine. It’s usually when I haven’t had work or prospects in three days and I’m starting to worry that I’m going to have to survive on ramen, that I get a handful of emails from prospective or returning clients.)

Fear has become part of my process. Whenever I’m scared, I remind myself that I’m doing the best I can and that everyone around me wants the best for me. That helps me calm down and trust that everything will work out.

Doing Work That Matters

I’ve always been a bit of an existentialist. I have to know that what I do makes a difference. I can’t just create widgets and send them out into the void. I had a summer job, that was a bad fit personality-wise, doing mostly legal research, and it seemed like nothing I did mattered. It wasn’t until my last week that I learned than my research had resulted in changes in company policy.

One of the upsides of working for myself is I get to leave the office when I’m done with my work for the day – even if it’s only mid-afternoon, sometimes earlier. I don’t have to pretend to look busy. When I have downtime, I get to work on other projects, or take time for myself. When you work for yourself, you don’t get in trouble for leaving the office early or running errands in the middle of the day.

Over the last eight years, I’ve learned that no one cares when or where I get my work done, as long as it gets done well and on time. I’m so lucky that I’ve crafted a life that allows me to attempt to live a Renaissance life. There’s no difference between me the person and me the professional. I consider all the work I do to be valuable. Ultimately, my job is to be the best version of me I can be, and I get paid for some of it.