A first try at IVF

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We sat in the waiting room of the IVF center waiting to meet Dr. Chet. Smooth jazz played overhead, a spread of celebrity magazines were fanned out on a coffee table in front of us. A large stone statue of a pregnant woman stood stoic in the corner. It was 9:00am on a Monday last summer.

Neither of us were entirely convinced we needed to be there. We were young and healthy. Surely the last 3 years had just been a rough patch of bad luck. Had it really come to this?

The nurse called my name and lead us back to Dr. Chet’s office. We walked in and were greeted by an older man with patchy gray hair sitting behind an old wooden desk. Degrees from Yale and other prestigious institutions flanked him on the wall above. In the corner of the room his computer screensaver played a photo collage of all the babies he had helped bring into the world on loop. We told him our history – that we met young, had been together for a long time and wanted to have kids. We said we had been trying for close to 3 years with ovulation predictor kits, Clomid and IUI procedures, but nothing had worked. I had no history of any endometriosis, ovarian cysts, or ovulation dysfunction that we knew of. Trey’s sperm (cue Magic Mike music) had been tested and were normal. I just wasn’t getting pregnant and we had no clue why.

They took my blood to measure my hormone levels and did an ultrasound to look at my ovaries. Not the cute belly ultrasounds. These are the ones where they stick a wand up your vagina. He sent me to a radiologist to get an HSG (hysterosalpingogram) done, which is an X-ray test where they inject a dye into your uterus and fallopian tubes via a thin catheter to see if there are any structural abnormalities. All in all, everything came back normal with the exception of my hormones being a little off. He talked to us about our options. Given the 3 years we had tried with ovulation predictor kits on our own, and the months on Clomid + IUIs we had already done, he put our chances at conceiving on our own as being pretty low. It was something we needed to hear. He was right and we knew it even if we didn’t want to believe it right then. Neither of us wanted to keep going down the road we were going on.

He told us we could spend months doing lesser-invasive treatments like injectable stimulation medications that may or may not work. Or, we could do IVF where the probability of me getting pregnant was more likely. IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) is when an egg is fertilized by sperm outside of the body. Medications are used to stimulate the ovaries into producing lots of eggs, which are then surgically retrieved, fertilized using sperm, and then transferred into the uterus (or frozen and transferred later).

He told us the costs for both options. We sat with the numbers for a while and told him we’d get back to him about where we wanted to go from there. We went home and tried for two more months on our own and got nowhere.

It was the beginning of September 2016 when we scheduled the appointment to tell Dr. Chet we wanted to go through IVF. Given that months on Clomid (a stimulation medication) + IUIs didn’t work in the past, we decided we didn’t want to waste our time trying the injectable stimulation medications and wanted to proceed directly to IVF. Dr. Chet gave me a prescription for an oral birth control medication to take that would balance my hormones and put them in a good place to start the IVF medications. The nurse worked with us to find a pharmacy that gave us an amazing deal on the medications through manufacturers coupons, insurance, and some publicly-available fertility medication discounts programs. A big cost in IVF are the medications, so we were really fortunate to be able to find affordable solutions.

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A couple weeks later the medications arrived on our doorstep in a over-nighted refrigerated Fed-Ex box. I took the medications and spread them out on the kitchen counter. Small gauged needles, larger gauged needles, syringes, vials of thick fluids. Trey and I couldn’t believe the amount of medication that was involved.

IVF is done in 3 stages: Stimulation, Egg retrieval, and Embryo Transfer.

For this first stage, the stimulation phase, I would be using medications that would stimulate my ovaries into producing lots of follicles, which would house eggs to be retrieved. The medications were self-administered injections in the abdomen every morning and night. The medications used were identical vials containing hCG #1 (to be taken daily) and hCG #2 (to be used only on the last day of stimulation), Gonal-F, Cetrotide, and an oral medication, Medrol. My blood was tested every other day for the 12-14 day stimulation period and I had daily ultrasounds to measure the follicles in my ovaries. When the follicles reached a size that would likely yield mature eggs, I was instructed to inject the “trigger shot”, hCG #2, which would tell my body to stop stimulating the follicles in my ovaries for preparation for ovulation (release of eggs), and egg retrieval in my case.

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Everything went smoothly. The injections weren’t that bad. The needles were relatively small and thinly gauged and if I pinched my belly fat and injected on those parts I could barely even feel them. Sometimes the needle wouldn’t go in easy and it would leave a bruise, or bleed….but for the most part they were okay if I got a clean stick. Trey and I got into a good routine. He would set out the syringes, vials, alcohol wipes, etc in the morning and I would then come and measure out the medications before self-administering the injections. Then we would leave to go to the IVF center for blood work and ultrasound. It ended up being around 50-60 injections and sticks for the stimulation phase including the blood draws. The medications made me feel oddly good physically at first. I think I was feeling good because of the hormones, but mostly it was excitement that this might actually be happening for us soon (!).

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We got to day 12 of the stimulation phase and were in a bit of a rush getting out of the door. Our routine was off that day and I had to get the syringes and vials prepared myself, then measure out the meds to be injected. We got to the appointment and after the ultrasound Dr. Chet told me the follicles were large enough in my ovaries to likely yield a lot of eggs. So he told me in the next day he would call to tell me the time (everything in this process is done on a timed schedule) to inject the trigger shot, hCG #2.

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It was then when I realized my mistake. In our rush that morning, I had injected the wrong hCG medication. I had already given myself the trigger shot (hCG #2) unknowingly and my body was now preparing to ovulate. I had grabbed the wrong identical looking hCG vial from the refrigerator. Dr. Chet and the nurse told us that that meant I wouldn’t be able to go through the egg retrieval surgery this go around, but instead we would need to try to save this cycle by going home and having lots of intercourse over the next 24-48 hours. Intercourse. Because that’s what it was. Shirts on, scheduled, intercourse.

At the time I felt like a massive failure. On top of my body already failing me, I had just unknowingly sabotaged our IVF efforts. I was really hard on myself. We had gone all the way through the stimulation phase, I had injected up to 4 medications into my abdomen a day, and at the very last moment accidentally triggered my body to ovulate too soon. I was mad. I don’t make mistakes like this. I’m the girl who worked in genetics labs all throughout college and grad school and knew the precautions necessary to minimize errors. But I did make the mistake. The difference this time being it was with my own body and I was the experiment. There would be no egg retrieval, not this time. I did what any self-loathing person would do – went to Taco Bell drive-thru and screamed into a plate of Nachos Bel Grande in my car in the parking lot with the windows up. Trey was there, he screamed too (not at me, at the nachos).

In the end, like a lot of errors, it turned out to not be that big of a deal. One of our nurses put it in perspective for us – we ended up doing what a lot of couples do, which is try the stimulation meds first to see if that alone would work. If it did, we would save thousands of dollars on medications and procedures and not have to go through the IVF process. So we did what the doctor told us to do and went home to, in the words of Marvin Gaye, get it on.

At each stage of treatment for infertility, you think you’re getting closer to actually getting pregnant, so naturally you get kinda excited. I remember the first few times I used an ovulation predictor kit I thought “alright, it’s really going to happen”. Then with Clomid, I thought “this is going to work!”. Then with the months combining Clomid + IUIs I kept thinking “this time it’ll happen”. And now with the injectable stimulation drugs and knowing my body had the perfect mix of medications to put my hormones levels in the perfect place, I found myself again thinking – “oh man, soon!”.

But then the pregnancy test came back negative two weeks later. It was a big blow. In some ways it was good affirmation that IVF was the route we needed to be going down, but it was also a set back because I was again – not pregnant. After 30+ months of negative pregnancy tests over the course of close to 3 years, that excitement I felt finally went away. I didn’t want it to, but it was like I didn’t have a choice in the matter anymore. I couldn’t bring myself to get my spirits up again because I didn’t want another monumental crash afterwards. In it’s place came a dark, callousness. I felt a big part of me change in the months that followed.

Dr. Chet told us my body needed time to rest and let things go back to normal before we could try again with the stimulation drugs. If you use stimulation drugs too frequently, it can lead to cysts and excess fluid in your abdomen. Coming down off the drugs was hard, worse than Clomid. I had headaches and mood swings. I had put work on hold at this point and found it hard to find the motivation to get out of bed. I wasn’t feeling much like myself. I told Dr. Chet how I was feeling and he referred me to a therapist who had been through IVF herself. I started meeting with her once a week. I was emotionally exhausted in a way I had never been before. I stopped going out and doing things with friends. I’ve always been introverted, but this took it to a new level. I wasn’t leaving the house or talking to anyone. I’ve never been the type to look to others for help. I’ve talked about my childhood here before some, and… self-reliance was something I learned from a young age. I didn’t know how to seek support from others because I had never really been in a situation where I felt like I couldn’t handle it on my own. I always dealt with things myself or with Trey. I didn’t know how to write about it here. I definitely didn’t want it to look like I was writing about it for the wrong reasons. So, I took some time to devote to therapy and swimming and getting myself in a better place to start over with treatment.

When it came time to decide whether or not we were going to try again with IVF this year (2016), I had mixed emotions. We had come so far in the past few years, and it felt like we were getting closer, but I didn’t want to go through another let down if it didn’t work out. It was early November, 2016. The therapy had helped some, I was feeling better physically, and was starting to feel like I was getting back to being myself. I had told myself I had one last treatment in me for this year and then I was going to take a break and travel if it didn’t work out. I imagined laying on a beach somewhere, or renting a loft in Mexico City to write for a few weeks.

Trey asked what I wanted to do. He told me it was my body and there was no pressure. Trey is the best partner on the planet for me. Throughout all of this, and everything to come, he would never miss an appointment, blood draw, or ultrasound. He also is really funny and knows how to make any situation lighter, like making origami cranes for me while I’m getting my blood drawn.

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I thought about it for a little while, then looked over at him and said confidently, “Yes. Let’s try this again”.

Fostering puppies Weeks 1-9

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Oh puppies. Nature’s anti-depressant. Is there anything better? They are sweet and soft and grow into these rambunctious, intelligent little gremlins with so much energy. It’s hard not to smile when you’re around them.

I was surprised at how interested people were in how we were raising puppies this small. One of my friends described it to me like this – newborn puppies are a “black box” a lot of dog lovers often never get to see. Unless your dog gets pregnant, you work in animal care, or you foster a pregnant dog like we did, most puppies tend to be seen at later life stages. The average age for a puppy to be adopted (or bought from a breeder, boo) is around 8-10 weeks. There’s a lot that happens in the early stages, so I’m happy to share our experience.

As you know, we thought since we were staying home for the holidays this past year it would be fun to have some extra happiness around by taking in a foster dog from The Milo Foundation (the same rescue we got Jack from). I picked up a very pregnant cattle dog named Whiskey the day before Thanksgiving and she and her puppies would end up bringing the total number of animals in our house to 10: 3 dogs, 6 puppies, and 1 cat. Why not.

Whiskey had the puppies at night a few days after she had settled in. She was pacing around and panting and displaying all the usual signs of an uncomfortable animal in labor. She climbed into the box we had put in the sunroom for her and had the puppies one by one into the night. She knew what to do. All animals do, including us. I think we tend to forget that thanks to movies and tv sensationalizing every labor to seem like an out of control emergency situation. I played doggie doula for a while as she gave birth to 1 puppy every 12-15 minutes or so, then I went to sleep around 2 am. There were 4 puppies.

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In the morning I went in to check on her and the puppies and found that she had had 2 more puppies since I had last checked on her. What a sweet surprise! They still had parts of their umbilical cords attached. Puppies come out of their mother in their amniotic sac, which the mama dog chews through to get to the puppy, then she chews off their umbilical cord and later delivers and eats the placenta. I’m glad humans don’t have to do that.

There were 6 puppies in total – 3 girls and 3 boys. I grabbed an old lab notebook and flipped the page over from a Chelonia mydas (green sea turtle) necropsy analysis I performed in the Bahamas, to a blank sheet where I wrote down some basic distinguishing characteristics about each puppy and whether they were male or female. I haven’t been in a lab in over 2 years now, so I made the sunroom into one just for kicks – complete with an observation book, scale, and medications for Whiskey. Whiskey still had (what we think was) bordetella at this point which made her particularly wheezy and phlegmy with hacky coughs so I monitored her breathing for a little while. She received the medication late, and being that it is contagious, I looked for signs (coughing/sneezing) that the puppies may have gotten it too. Luckily they didn’t and Whiskey recovered quickly after a couple days on a broad spectrum antibiotic.

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Weeks 1-2
The first few weeks with puppies is really easy if you’re a human. The mama dog does everything. Whiskey was happy to rest and nurse and take care of her puppies. It’s really important to make sure your mama dog has lots of food and water since nursing requires extra calories and can lead to dehydration more easily. I fed her 3x a day, one more feeding than usual, with more in quantity and treats in between meals.

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The puppies are pretty much immobile for the first 2 weeks. Their eyes are closed and ears sealed. They just sleep, eat, and poop/pee (with the help of their mom who licks them to stimulate elimination, then eats it….again, another thing I’m happy humans don’t have to do with their young). Puppies this young are more susceptible to cold so I made sure to put warm blankets in the box and a space heater in the sunroom so it stayed at a cozy 75-78 degrees or so.


Weeks 3-5
By the 3rd week, their eyes were open and they were crawling around the box and it was all kinds of cute. I weighed them every morning to make sure everyone was gaining weight properly. Around the end of week 4 Whiskey decided she was done being available to the puppies to nurse on whenever they wanted (can’t blame her). She wanted to be outside exploring with Jack and Keeper, so I opened the doggie door that links the sunroom to the back yard so she could come and go whenever she wanted. She would come in and check on them and knew when she needed to nurse instinctively. Animals are awesome. By this time the puppies were standing/wobbling and starting to interact with one another. I added a few small toys to their box for them to gnaw on and paw at.



They had picked up nicknames now, apart from WM1, WM2 (white male 1, white male 2, etc.) that I had been referring to them as in my notes. Now they were:

Tux - the curious black and white male who looked like he was wearing a tuxedo.
Cherry – the cute tri-color female runt (named after Trey’s fav flavor of the candy runts).
Grandpa Polar Bear – the sweet white male who looked like a polar bear and was chill like a grandpa.
Wags – the adorable black female with white paws, named after how much she wagged her tail when picked up.
Patch – the charming white male with a black patch on his eye.
Dottie – the sweet white female with dots on her fur.

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By the end of week 5, I started making them a gruel – which is dry puppy food softened with warm water or chicken broth, mashed up. With them getting bigger (with teeth) and Whiskey wanting to spend more time away from nursing (re: teeth), I followed Whiskey’s lead and started transitioning them to the gruel. Whiskey would still sleep with them at night and nurse for another couple weeks after this, which was especially good for the little runt Cherry who needed all the extra feedings she could get.


Weeks 6-8
The puppies really grew over weeks 6, 7 and 8. Their personalities all became very distinct and they were running and jumping on each other and playing with toys. These weeks are fun to watch because they are really socializing with each other and start assessing their rank in the litter by growling and wrestling with one another. I started cutting back the water I was adding to soften their food so they could transition slowly to eating dry, solid food. I added a weighted water bowl in the corner of the pen for them to drink from. Tux figured out how to get out of the box first. He’s was a smart one, that guy. We were sitting in the living room and all of a sudden he comes waltzing in like, hey man! The others followed shortly after.

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We replaced the box with a wire pen we had from when Keeper was a puppy and put fresh newspaper down before every meal since now it was our job to clean that up. We used a muffin pan to feed them 3x a day since it had 6 little compartments and we had 6 little puppies. By this time (beginning of week 7), Whiskey was completely done nursing even at night. She slept nights with Jack and Keep instead of being in the sunroom. The puppies quickly learned the routine and started letting us know around feeding time that they were hungry by “barking” (it’s really like puppies squawking at you). Their feeding schedule at 8 weeks was 7am, noon, and 6pm. Water was free range.



Week 9 and Adoptions
Week 9 was for shots, deworming, and spaying/neutering (Whiskey too). We gave everyone a bath, then loaded them up in the back of the Land cruiser and dropped them off at the vet. Afterwards they rested/recovered at Milo to get ready for the adoption event that weekend.

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By the end of the weekend, 3 of the puppies and Whiskey had found homes. It was bittersweet saying goodbye to them. But that’s the deal. You bring them in, help them out, then send them on their way. Meeting the families who were adopting was really special. I don’t think I could hide the happiness I felt even if I tried. I remember meeting the couple who fostered Jack the day we showed up to adopt him from Milo 7 years ago. To do that for someone else just feels good. The other 3 puppies were adopted soon after. I only managed to get photos of some of the families, but here they are:

Little Cherry (now Pua) was adopted by a sweet family in San Francisco.
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The dad wrote to me – “My wife is from Hawaii and we always talked about getting a “Poi dog”, a mixed race dog that also represents our mix race family, Japanese/European. We named her Pua which means flower.”

Tux was adopted by a great family with lots of land just outside San Francisco.

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The guy holding him was so stoked and told us a lot about how much he loved (and missed) his last cattle mix dog. They sent us an email shortly after saying Tux was already adjusting well to his new pack. Tux was Trey’s favorite, so it was particularly great for him to see a rad guy who really wanted to train a smart pup ending up adopting Tux.

Grandpa Polar Bear (now Pete) went to my friend and former biologist colleague, Natalie.

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She drove down from just outside Portland to meet him and I’m glad it was a match. I met her parents (and their dog, Carl!) too. I’m so happy he went to someone I know. He was definitely my favorite of the litter (though I shouldn’t have one!) and it’s really awesome to see him show up in my Instagram feed from time to time.

Whiskey (now Annie) was adopted by a family with 3 kids and 5 acres of land in Washington state.
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Whiskey was so special to us. As you know, when I picked her up she was super pregnant, had this nasty respiratory infection, and wasn’t sure whether or not to trust us. She wasn’t house trained, knew no commands. By the end of the few months we had her she was sleeping in the bed with us and so affectionate. She raised 6 adorable pups and in the process (I hope) learned to trust a couple of humans. She morphed from a timid and frightened dog into a happy, sweet one. It was hard to uproot her again from the routine she had come to know with us, but we knew finding her a forever home was what was best. The family came down and spent some time with her and decided they wanted to adopt her. It’s the perfect home for her, one where she gets a lot of love and attention and we couldn’t be happier for her and her new family. Driving home with an empty truck I couldn’t help but hope she was doing okay. Just a few minutes after thinking that, the mom texted me this photo:

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If you’ve ever thought about fostering a dog or cat, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s important to make sure you have the time, space, and right living situation to make for a comfortable experience for everyone involved. If fostering seems like too much to take on, there are lots of other ways to help out shelter animals. You can volunteer to walk dogs, donate money or high quality food, or even offer your skills such as photography by coming in once or twice a month to take photos of new dogs/cats for the website pro-bono. A great way to start is by calling your local rescue organization and asking them what supplies or services they are in need of at the moment and how best you can help.

Assless paper robes

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There I sat in my OBGYN’s office. Assless paper robe on, legs in stirrups, vagina mural on the wall next to me. My eyes searched for patterns in the drop tile ceiling above me, trying to pretend someone’s face wasn’t in my vagina. I broke the silence, effortlessly segueing from our small talk about the rain we were having, to launching full-on into how I had basically been standing on my head for the last year trying to fornicate a love child with my boyfriend and thought it would have happened by now. I sat up on my elbows to see her reaction. We stared at each other. I hadn’t told anyone at that point that I was considering pregnancy. I was young by California standards. 28 in the Bay Area is hosting your first dinner party, staying above a 4 star Uber rating, and finally getting into the swing of a vitamin regime. She was cool about it. I could tell by her nose ring and avante-garde bangs that we’d probably be friends if she didn’t know my cervix so intimately. She gave me some good advice: use an ovulation predictor kit, do some yoga, and relax. I went home and relayed the pep talk to Trey: it’ll happen, don’t stress. I ordered some predictor kits off Amazon and started using them.

The conversation never really happened. It wasn’t like we allotted a time and place in our schedules to sit down and talk babies. It was late, we were two bloody marys deep on a plane back from Barcelona, writing back and forth on the notes app on my phone to not disturb the person next to us. A young French couple around our age sat across the aisle from us, cute dark-haired baby sprawled across both their laps sleeping. The woman was perfectly undone, with that kind of French girl je nuis se quoi that American girls write books about. The guy had long hair, a five o clock shadow and tattoos. I took out my phone and wrote:

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That was it, that was when we decided sometime in our near future we wanted to combine powers and create a gourd sized suspiciously alien looking miniature humanoid to raise together. And it was fun, really fun. It’s like all of a sudden you’ve got all this intent behind everything you do. Everything is electric. What gusto! Every night is a performance! Encore that shit, we’re prevailing our species here. We’d time our travels to sync up with ovulation so we were basically going on sex trips. Which sounds as psychedelically erotic as it was back then. It was the Summer of Love. Maybe we’d have some story to tell our kid about how they came to be along the Yucatan Peninsula somewhere, or on the beach in Costa Rica, or in that artist’s loft in Ravello, Italy overlooking the Tyrrhenian sea. Those were good times. The future was an exciting unknown and we were just along for the ride. Whatever happened, happened….like everything had in our lives leading up to that point.

8 months later I was back in my OBGYN’s office staring at the same drop tile ceiling again. This time it was for an IUI, a procedure where they insert sperm into your uterus via a thin catheter. I had been put on Clomid, a fertility medication that stimulates follicles in your ovaries to produce a “super” ovulation. Really it’s a bitch drug that makes you feel like crying into your bowl of oatmeal while simultaneously wanting to throw a chair at someone’s head.

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The following is a list of things that made me emotional while on Clomid:

1. Seeing a photo of a spider nebula from the hubble space telescope
2. Thinking there was a leftover bean and cheese burrito in the fridge when there wasn’t
3. Rain
4. Cutting my bangs too short
5. Missing the train and somehow forgetting another one comes in 15 minutes

She cranked the speculum, clamped my cervix open, and inserted the catheter into my uterus. Catheters are not your friends. They are those bitches who act like your friends but really have it out for you. A few minutes later, she took her gloves off. “There.” she said confidently, signaling to me that I could put my legs down. “Hopefully I just got you pregnant”. I went home feeling like a new woman. This was it, I thought.

It wasn’t. After a few months on Clomid and failed IUIs, my OBGYN referred me to an IVF doctor. I had now officially graduated from the minor leagues of infertility to the major leagues and needed a more experienced coach: a Russian infertility specialist doctor in his 70s who we’ll call Dr. Chet for the sake of anonymity and also because his name is really hard to pronounce.

And that’s when it all began…my experience with IVF treatment.

(I’m posting my writings after having gone through 8 months of treatments and 3 years of infertility. These are the posts I wrote while going through it. I will continue to post them until I work up to present day).

Fostering Whiskey

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If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen the animal roommates that have been living with us for the past two months. A young female cattle dog we call Whiskey, and her six puppies.


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Trey saw the posting on the Milo Foundation‘s Facebook page (the same rescue where we got Jack). We were eating dinner and he said “ok, the answer is NO but, did you see Milo’s post on Facebook today?“. I hadn’t. I opted out of having a personal Facebook a while ago. Trey leaned over and showed me the posting. It read: “Very pregnant sweet but a bit afraid (understandably) cattle dog at the Martinez shelter… Needs a foster home. Any takers?!?!” Then I made some unintelligible noise and Trey caved and a couple days later we went and got her.

We have fostered before, mostly dogs, puppies, and kittens whenever we have the space and time to do so. I’ve been rehabbing animals since I was a kid. Injured birds, baby squirrels that fell out of trees, turtle with a cracked shell, bullfrog missing a leg, pony getting picked on by one the bigger horses at a farm down the road, kitten orphaned in a hurricane, too many dogs on the side of the road to count. When I moved to the West coast, I tube-fed seal and sea lion pups at a marine mammal rescue center and released them into the waves on foggy beaches. Eventually I worked in marine animal health with dolphins and whales. We don’t foster to keep. It’s awesome to help animals out and then send them on their way. Growing up, my mom would look at me and ask “Are you ok?” whenever I’d bring a new animal home to nurse back to health. Like there was something wrong with me for actually wanting to help animals. Who’s the weird one now, MOM! I digress.


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I picked up Whiskey a few days before Thanksgiving. She waddled over to me like a Komodo dragon with her blocky little head, squatty legs, big belly and nervous “smile”. On the ride home, I rolled the car window down and she just sat there staring out into the great unknown like “whattt is thiss?!”. I don’t think she had spent much time (if any) in a car before. She looked a bit dazed and excited all at the same time. She’s smiling, but that’s probably just the “nervous pants”. Dogs don’t sweat through their skin like we do, so they regulate their body temperature (like if they were, say, pregnant and stressed) through panting.


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When we arrived home, I gave her the antibiotics she had been prescribed for a nasty respiratory infection (“kennel cough”), and let her rest in a dog bed in our bedroom. She was very sweet, but timid at first and didn’t seem to know whether to trust me fully or not. Later when she woke up, I fed her some chicken nuggets. If you want to be a pregnant rescue dog’s best friend, feed her chicken nuggets. I think these were genuine happy smiles.



Then she met Jack and Keeper who were playing down in the woods outside. They all did the inquisitive low tail wag, a sign of being unsure. Then came a snarl from Jack and a growl from Keeper. Dogs are funny like that, especially herding breeds. They all start evaluating who’s in charge and assess their ranking to see how the new member of the “pack” fits in. After Whiskey backed away to show them they had the higher ground, they all headed off to sniff and roam around the yard together. Later, I raised my hand to throw a ball Keeper had brought me and Whiskey cowered, tucked her tail and ran back inside to her bed in the bedroom. She had no idea what I was doing and it scared her. Rescue dogs come from situations that are not ideal a lot of the time, so it’s good to always look for signs of situations that might distress them. Every sign of fear or anger is a clue that gives you more insight into what they might have been through and why they are behaving the way they are.

Over the next few days we discovered more about her. She didn’t know any commands and wasn’t house trained, leading us to believe she had probably never lived with humans before, especially indoors. Maybe she was a working dog that herded cattle and roamed off? Maybe she was the runt (she’s a petite cattle dog, only 30 lbs) that no one wanted? Who knows, but out of all the behavioral issues that foster dogs can come with, these are two of the most basic and easy to train. The only thing was, she was super pregnant so her mind and body were concentrated on other things. We had to be sensitive to that and decided to devote more time to training her after she had the puppies.



On the third day of having her, we were all watching a movie in the living room and I noticed her starting to pace around. She was panting and trying to make a bed in the corner of the living room, so I knew it was almost time for the puppies to be here. I got some cardboard boxes we had leftover from moving in and Trey taped them together to make a large, shallow box for her. We put it in the sunroom, along with a few towels and a little space heater in the corner. Then we showed Whiskey the room. Around an hour later, she left the living room and Komodo dragon-waddled into the sunroom, crawled right in the box, and had the puppies!

I know you guys can’t wait to hear about the puppies, so I’ll do some more posts devoted entirely to them soon. Raising puppies is really fun. They are cute and are a constant source of entertainment.

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But for now, I just wanted to write about Whiskey. She has been the best foster dog ever. It’s so rewarding to watch her progress every day. Since coming to us, she’s gotten over her respiratory infection, raised her six puppies, learned to “sit” and “stay” before her meal, and to “give paw” for a treat. She’s completely house-trained now and knows to tell us when she needs to go outside. She runs in the woods with Jack and Keeper (with no snarling or growling), and every night climbs in the bed to sleep next to us (but not before giving big, slobbery kisses first). Yesterday I took her in to the vet to be spayed so she won’t have to worry about having any more puppies and can focus on being a young dog herself now (she’s only a year and 1/2!). Milo is already taking applications for her and working to find the right person/family that can give her a lot of love.

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More soon!

Tell me if it gets weird

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Maybe that was a lot, that last post. One of my best friends told me over a string of text messages from the other side of the country that it was. Sorry Jess.

But I’m not sorry. Not really. It’s how I felt; feel. It’s how I feel. I was going to write an abbreviated, candied version of what the last year going through IVF has been like, but it felt wrong to trivialize it. I thought maybe I’d wait until it was all over and I was pregnant (hopefully) and could write about the whole thing from a bigger-picture perspective that was more optimistic. But that didn’t feel right either. There’s something about detailing the process that is cathartic. And maybe, selfishly, I needed that.

So instead of writing the equivalent of a passing conversation you’d have with someone you hadn’t seen in a while in line at the grocery store, I thought I would instead sit down and write about it as though you and I (whoever reads this) were talking over a macchiato and almond-chocolate croissant in a cafe somewhere in the city instead. Tell me if it gets weird.

I guess I should start with some backstory. I’ve always wanted to be a mother. Ever since this little kid Jake hijacked my heart and there was nothing I could really do about it. At the time I was in college working afternoons at a preschool and he had just transitioned from the three year old class to the four year old classroom where I worked. He was sweet and infectiously happy and had these kaleidoscope blue-gray eyes. He would scout the playground for beetles during recess and when he found one, he’d cup it in his hands delicately and bring it to me like he’d found buried treasure.

It was his first day in our class and the school day was coming to an end. It was time for everyone to get ready to go home. He took his jacket and little back pack out of his cubby and put them on. One by one the kids’ moms and dads arrived to pick them up until it was just Jake left. I sat with him, legs criss-crossed on the alphabet rug, and told him we could play a game while we waited. He rummaged through the toy box and came back with two dinosaurs – a big brontosaurus and a little raptor. He handed me the big one and kept the small one for himself.

“Let’s play dinosaurs”, he said.
“I’m not sure I know how to play dinosaurs”, I admitted.
“It’s easy, I’ll show you.” he reassured me, taking the dinosaurs into his hands.
“Ok, you be the mama and I’ll be the baby”, he said to me.

He moved from the rug to my lap. In front of me, he made the dinosaurs talk and dance in the air. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Kids like to play games like that. After twenty minutes or so, his dad came in – out of breath, rushing, apologizing for being late. I could tell by the way he said it that it wasn’t the first time this had happened. I told him it was no worries, that Jake was great and I didn’t mind. After they left, I was picking up the dinosaurs to put them back in the toy box when the person cleaning the floors came in.

“He’s a good kid”, she said smiling. I turned and looked at her. “His dad’s always late, he works 45 minutes away. No mom either, she died.”

I thought back to the dinosaurs. I learned later that Jake’s mom had been diagnosed with late stage cervical cancer while pregnant with Jake and refused chemo to save him. She died when he was just 18 months old. Over the next two years, I scheduled my classes around spending afternoons in the preschool classroom. I started driving him home so his dad didn’t have to rush. That led to being his nanny while also juggling school and two other night jobs. We would swing on swings in the park, I’d take him to karate class and give him the “thumbs up” on the sidelines, and on his birthday we’d go to the museum downtown that had the giant T-rex skeleton. When I finished my last semester of college and left for San Francisco, I remember leaving Jake’s house for the last time in my old Honda civic. His little hands waving at me from the end of the drive way saying “goodbye”. His dad and his new girlfriend (now wife) standing behind him. I drove away that night thinking “one day I will have a Jake of my own”. One day I’ll be the mama dinosaur.

That’s why all this is hard. It’s hard because it’s something I’ve, we’ve, wanted for a long time now and at the moment seems so far away. One day there will be a little human, but for now he or she is just an idea, a thought, a distant daydream we have to keep reminding ourselves isn’t a reality. Not yet.

The year I hated.

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2016 was hard. We lost David Bowie, Donald Trump was elected president of the free world, and the only princess I ever related to died last week.

2016 got personal. After three years of “giving er’ all she’s got” (unapologetic Star Trek euphemism), we decided to undergo IVF. Little did we know the months that would follow were to be met with one massive failure after another. My abdomen, arms and hips are bruised from 100+ self-administered injections, my insides flooded with hormones that scrambled my brain. I’ve felt lonely, directionless, depressed, angry and then I stopped feeling anything at all. Of all the emotions to feel, numbness is the most disorienting. The absence of feeling. Feeling feelings is kind of all I’ve ever really been good at.

I did make some new friends. A russian fertility doctor in his 70s, a nurse I’m on texting-basis with, a middle aged french therapist, and a pregnant dog I fostered from a shelter that was going through a shitty female situation all her own.

In a slightly masochistic way I thought at first ‘huh, maybe this is the inspiration I’ve been looking for. I’ll write about it. I’ll make this into something’. I mean, some of the best stories are born out of tragedy.

“girl, 30, seeks to procreate with love partner, fails miserably”.

You know, a quirky off-beat love story about two people desperately seeking spawn.

But that was before the emotional asteroid hit and left a crater of psychological ineptitude in my brain, a hemispheric wasteland where creative thought used to live. That was before the familiar voice in my head, the one that’s always present, narrating the world around me in a young Julie Andrews-like voice went silent. And it’s hard to write without her.

I considered giving up. Fuck it, fuck all of it. I don’t need the uterine distress of birthing a turkey-sized homosapien and apparently the universe feels the same. But you can’t run from everything in life. It’s a sick loop, you just end up back where you started eventually.

2016 was the year I hated. I am different from it. And maybe it’ll all turn out to be a good thing eventually, but right now it feels like I’ve spent the past year circling the drain. So here’s to a new year, to the start of another trip around the sun, and to leaving 2016 behind. It will be good.

She said, convincing herself.

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Photo by Phil Chester.

A DIY Bed Frame + Room Tour

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This post was sponsored by BLACK+DECKER. All views and opinions are my own.

A friend of mine was over the other day and asked if I was burning sandalwood, the earthy wood smell that’s all the rage. I wasn’t, it was actually just another wood working project we had going on in the house. She was in fact smelling birch wood, ha. Earthy. Sensual. Birch. Eau de Parfum by Home dépôt.

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We looked at a bunch of bed frames before deciding to design our own. We even considered a Japanese-style tatami mat since both of us have been inspired by nature-y Japanese style lately. We knew we wanted the bed to be low to the floor, simple, and made from light colored wood. I like minimal, peaceful spaces to relax in and wanted a frame that fit that vibe. Using our new cordless BLACK+DECKER lightweight drill, we made a bed frame using birch wood and wood screws. I never knew how much I needed a cordless drill until I got a cordless drill. Game changer. No more extension chords, and unlike the other big bulky drill we have, this one is lightweight and compact. It comes with a built in LED light so you can work in tight or dark spaces too, as well as an app you can download to manage the SMARTECH battery remotely through bluetooth. The battery base also doubles as a portable charger to charge your phone too….just incase your phone needs some juice while you’re working.

Anyway, so.

The bed frames we looked at and thought were cool were at least $200+. More often than not Trey and I say “we can make that” when it comes to things like this. It’s cool to design and make something ourselves. I think the wood + legs ended up costing us around $75 and we made it in about an hour and a half. To make the frame sturdy and strong, we added support slats across the center to reduce the likelihood of it bowing in. For the outside of the frame we wanted to make it look modern and clean, so we used gold wood screws at the corners. Lastly we added some mid-centuryish wooden legs to lift it off the ground about 8 inches. I think it turned out awesome. We’ve been sleeping on it for a few weeks now and really like it. It’s sturdy, just the right height for our space, and has the look we were going for. The walls in this room, if you remember from a while back, used to be a sage-y green color. We painted them white to make it more airy. We also added a vintage trunk for pants/skirts (shirts hang), and a floor mirror. We’re done in this room with the exception of some art for the wall and possibly changing a light fixture. I’m glad we decided to make the bed frame ourselves! On to the dining room…and the kitchen with the salmon colored floors (hmmm).

Here’s what we used to make the bed frame:
7 2x4s
3 8ft 1x6s
15 8ft 1x4s
1 pack BRYNILEN Ikea legs
Wood screws

Here’s how:
Cut the following pieces of wood:
2 2x4s to 78 inches
4 2x4s to 76 inches
15 1x3s to 78 inches
2 1x6s to 79 inches
1 1×6 to 81 inches

Using your 2x4s, drill them together like so:

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Place the slats down, spaced with 2.5in gaps in between. Fasten those in place with wood screws. Make sure to use screws over nails, these slats provide a lot of the side-to-side support for your frame. Center the 81in 1×6 on the foot of the bed frame and screw into place. Next, secure the remaining 1x6s on the sides, flush with the board. Fastened to the foot of the bed. Last, sand the edges to improve the seams.

Morning commute with Stanley-PMI

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A couple times a week Trey and I commute into the city together in the mornings. Trey’s office is in downtown San Francisco, so we’ll brew up some coffee and put it in our Stanley-PMI mugs, turn on NPR’s Fresh Air or a podcast like the Nerdist or Radiolab and drive over the bridge. Sometimes we stop off at our favorite hole in the wall bakery for a blueberry bran muffin (me) and sugar donut (him) to go with our coffee even though it’s out of the way to go to our old neighborhood to get them. We’ve scoped out a few places near us, but none have measured up yet. I’m still looking for the muffin/donut shop unicorn in our part of town. Trey’s been carrying the new black matte insulated mug lately. It’s sleek and durable and seals off so he can skate with it. I still carry the classic green mug most days. Both keep coffee warm for hours, which is good for a commute into the city. I’ve come to really love the days we ride in together. It breaks up the monotony of the bus and Bart, and gives us a way to have “breakfast” together a couple mornings out of the week. Yesterday Jack came too since he had a vet visit to go to later in the day. We stopped off and voted. And, yep, all I’ll say about that is: JACK for president 2020 (you know, someone that’s not sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic or believes climate change is a hoax).

This post was sponsored by Stanley brand . All views are my own. Stanley brand products make really rad presents…Ho ho ho..

Dog People / Bri + Lakota

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I’ve admired Bri’s Instagram for a while now. Not only does she have an awesome blue heeler (Lakota), she also has a horse named Pippin and lives up in the North West. Occasionally a little miniature horse named Mr. Bubbles also pops up in her feed, too!

Name/Occupation: Brianna Albright (Instagram: @loki_toki). I work nights at a restaurant and am a nurses aid during the day!

Dog’s name/Age/Breed: Lakota Sioux, she’s an australian shepherd X blue heeler and is a year and a half old.

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What made you decide to get a dog? There has never been a point in my life absent of dogs, growing up we always had at least two dogs shedding throughout the house and making our lives THAT much better, every single one of my fondest childhood memories includes a dog.
What made me decide to get Lakota, was when my older lab died shortly before I moved away from home, I knew I wanted an active stock/horse savvy dog that could keep up with me both on horses and on the mountains for my next dog.

Tell me about the first time you met Lakota. I loved Lakota before I even met her, a friend of mines uncle was selling her and her siblings on Facebook and I immediately messaged him, asking 1,000 questions about the puppies and their parents, and before I even got a reply to my first question, my last question was “When can I pick her up?!” After working the night shift at the store I worked at, I got up at 4 am because let’s be real, I was way too excited to sleep anyways, drove 4.5 hours to go pick her up, missed my ferry by 2 minutes, (there’s nothing as depressing as watching your ferry leave without you). I think I actually cried when I saw her for the first time. She was super round, fluffy, and tiny and I couldn’t handle all the cuteness. Apparently the guy selling the puppy had asked around about me and everyone told him I would be a great dog owner and he ended up not making me pay for Lakota, though I had cash in hand. So free dog, can’t get better than that, right? I snuggled her on the ferry and she rode on my lap the 4.5 hours home. I’ve been in love ever since.

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What’s the last thing she did that made you laugh? Lakota has me in stitches on the daily, her overly expressive face and eclectic personality are a winning combination. But yesterday we were sharing some pad thai in the car with one of my friends, I gave Lakota a good sized piece of chicken which she happily accepted, and then a few second later we heard the most impressive dog burp I’ve ever heard in my life erupt from her in the back seat, and when I turned to look at her she just had a ‘more please’ look on her face. I’m laughing again just thinking about it. Like, that’s my child.

What are your favorite characteristics about Lakota? My favorite characteristics about Lakota are her bravery and sense of adventure. Not every dog will sit in a saddle by herself on top of a horse, that sneezes, shakes, moves and occasionally spookes. Not every dog will walk up to a horse her person is on, put her front feet on their shoes and be pulled up to ride on that horse with the person. Lakota has ridden 100’s of miles with me both trotting along side with me and in the saddle.
When we go backpacking she carries her own pack with her own food and water and I usually tie her frisbee on to it as well because she likes to bring some entertainment for evenings at our campsite. I love that she’s the kind of dog that can handle a spur of the moment backpacking trip or horseback mountain trip or just lay in bed all day. She really is my other half.

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Does she have a nickname? If so, how did she get it? Lakota has a ton of nicknames, the most recent being ‘Princess Stinky Butt’….but don’t tell her that I told the world that. She also goes by Sioux, Babygirl, Koderz, and LaSioux. It’s an ever growing list though.

Where do you shop for your dog (online shops, stores, etc)? My favorite shop for Lakota is J and B Custom Leather Co. They made her dog collar with real turquoise, leather and personalized name plate and allowed me to customize it in any way I want possible. It’s held up to the abuse of being a farm dog, rowdy player, ocean swimmer, mountain climber and horse rider. If it was to lose any of its stones or anything, J and B Custom leather will repair/replace any damages for the lifetime of the collar. Can’t argue with that. Lakota’s hiking and backpacking gear all comes from RuffWear, I couldn’t be more happy with her pack and frisbee from them! Lakota is a picky eater, we get our treats from Zuke’s Pets because they have some specialized energy bites for long weekends on the trails.

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Are there any dog products you especially love/couldn’t live without? Dog products I couldn’t live without…uhh….Lakota’s J and B leather collar. I have always loved dog collars and the fact that it reflects who Lakota and I are so perfectly and holds up to our lifestyle makes my heart happy every time I see it. I may or may not be planning to get another…

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What does being a “Dog Person” mean to you? To me, being a dog person is a lifestyle. There are people who have dogs and then there are dog people. The people who’s favorite accessory and condiment is dog hair. Who don’t mind the muddy paw prints in the winter and the constant presence of dog hair in their home and vehicles. The people who go the extra mile when traveling to either bring their dogs or make sure their dogs are comfortable and safe staying home. Being a dog person is including that dog in your every day life, not just when it’s convenient or beneficial for you. My dogs wellbeing and happiness is the most important thing in the world to me.

What’s one piece of advice you would tell someone looking to get a dog? My piece of advice to someone getting a dog is to think of it more as getting a child than getting a pet. Your time is limited with your furbaby, take every moment and every chance to make memories and be with that dog that you can, just remember, you are their WORLD!

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Thanks Bri! For more, follow Bri + Lakota on Instagram.