The Country That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

Sometimes you have to wonder how this country once managed to put a man on the Moon.  Often it seems like we just can’t seem to do anything right anymore, and our formerly hyper-competent and capable nation is now just a shadow of its former self.

The latest evidence is the developing story about the intruder who leapt a fence and sprinted into the White House.  We already knew that the Secret Service somehow failed to unleash a dog that would have knocked down the intruder and left the front door to the White House inexplicably unlocked.  Now the Washington Post is reporting that the intruder, who was carrying a knife, made it much farther into the White House than was originally disclosed.  He apparently overpowered an unaware Secret Service agent inside the front door — the agent wasn’t warned because alarm boxes nearby had been “muted” because they were too noisy — and then ran around the lower floor of the Executive Mansion.  Fortunately, the First Family wasn’t there, and the intruder was subdued.

This kind of appalling incompetence would be comical if the potential consequences weren’t so serious.  Of course, alarms are supposed to be noisy — their sole purpose is to unmistakably alert people to a problem.  Whoever approved their “muting” and stripped away an important part of the President’s protection should be fired.  Even worse, in this one incident we see a cascade of failures by the Secret Service — which has one of the most important jobs in the federal government and at one time was held in high esteem.  Now these revelations, following on the heels of scandals involving boozy high-jinks with prostitutes, make the Secret Service seem inept, badly managed, and poorly trained.

In one of the seasons of The Wire, a Baltimore longshoresman who was wrapped up in a smuggling scheme wistfully said, to a friend, something along the lines of:  “This country used to make things once.”  I’d amend that to say, “this country used to be able to do things once.”  Now we can’t even maintain security alarms, use guard dogs, and keep a disturbed man from entering one of the highest security places in the country.  It’s sad.

Advertisements

Wrestling With A Life-Or-Death Decision

We’ve been dealing a big health scare with Penny.  It’s frightening because we don’t know the exact status of her condition or what is causing it, and it’s uncomfortable because it has caused us to start talking about very difficult end-of-life decisionmaking.

Penny is having gastrointestinal problems.  We’ve had to buy her special food, and at times she can’t keep it down.  If you know Labs, you know that is a warning sign; normally Penny would gladly eat her own weight in just about anything.  Last week, things took a turn for the worse.  Penny was losing it from both ends without regard for what she was doing, leaving our carpets terribly stained and the house smelling like a latrine.  She also was disoriented, apparently uncomfortable sitting, and moving and wandering aimlessly.

-1Thursday Kish took her to MedVet, a local emergency room for pets.  They concluded that she had a severely inflamed stomach and intestinal lining and was dehydrated.  They kept her for two days, gave her intravenous fluids, prescribed steroids for the inflammation, and did a scan and biopsy to try to determine the cause of the problem.  The fluids helped her disorientation, and the diarrhea stopped.

We brought Penny back home on Saturday, with her belly and bands on her forepaws shaved, and have held our breath hoping that she is okay.  So far, she hasn’t had any accidents — thank God! — her appetite seems to have returned, and this morning she had a solid bowel movement, which was a cause for minor celebration in the Webner household.  That’s the way it is if you are a pet owner.

We still don’t know why Penny had this problem in the first place, though, and we’re waiting on the biopsy results to see if it was caused by disease, environmental factors, or something else.  In the meantime, Kish and I have talked about the possible scenarios.  If Penny has a disease that leaves her unable to control her bowels, what alternatives do we have?  She’s a house dog, not an outdoor dog, and her prior bout with this problem was intolerable.  How comfortable is she?  If she does have a disease, what are her prospects?

The discussion includes difficult, almost mathematical calculations.  Penny turns eight next month, and Labs typically live to 11 or 12.  If she has a problem that could be addressed by surgery, what would it mean for her likely life span, and what would her post-surgery quality of life be like?  If it could be treated by medication, would it have side effects?  And lurking behind all of the scenarios are uncomfortable considerations of cost.  Penny is a member of the family, but if the news is bad how much should we be willing to pay — on top of what we will have to pay already — to give her another few months or a year?

This kind of decision-making is profoundly difficult and depressing.  I don’t want to be the Grim Reaper, making life-or-death judgments about a pet.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed, hoping that the tests indicate that this was a one-time thing, and dreading what we might have to decide if we get bad news instead.