I gave myself a gift for the holidays and took a month off writing.  My best friend said I couldn’t write about all the stresses of COVID again for a while and I needed a break, but the text came in from my editor at 1:02am last night that he didn’t have a 1/5 column.  He has been in the hospital and is doing better, but has still managed to get out all of his papers, so I felt a little guity for not writing earlier.

He may have sent it in the middle of the night, but I didn’t get it until this morning.  Truth is, I didn’t pop out of bed when I got it either.  I had worked at the ER yesterday and was exhausted.  At one point there were 18 pets waiting and Dr Franks volunteered to come in and help get things under control.  Still as I laid in bed, I thought about all of the things that had happened since my last article.

We survived all of the holidays and even enjoyed them.  The staff party happened as soon as the college students were back for their break. We had it locally catered by one of our clients, so we didn’t have to do as much work as usual.  Still some amazing fruitcake cookies, fudge and cake balls showed up. ‘Santa’ always buys ‘appropriate’ gifts for the staff.  Meaning Rusty, who almost died from a hemorrhoid surgery, got vitamins and generic hemorrhoid cream.  Santa has a lot of elves and a budget after all.  Typically, I take a friend and go out shopping, but with the COVID risks, the elves shopped with some online purchases. COVID also affected Santa’s shopping and everyone on staff got jackets, safety lights and gloves.  Unfortunately our logo scrubs and jackets were messed up and we are still working on fixing it. Suffice it to say we will have five nice jackets with our logo in blue for a very reasonable price soon.

Christmas cards are normally a big thing at Guardian Animal. We spend a lot of time designing and preparing the cards.  I love remembering the clients and patients that we have helped throughout the year.  Traditionally, the staff works together for hours over days on the cards to get them all out on time.  This year, because of COVID staffing issues and the ineffiency of curbside service, we allowed our friends at VetScene to send them out. I selected four photos and they designed the card.  Our Christmas letter was reduced to “Thank you for your patience and patronage through this difficult 2020! Y’all help us make lives better!” Just like at our house, the pets outnumbered the staff on the signature line.

The Wixsom Christmas happened the weekend before Christmas, because I was working at the ER on Christmas day.  We decided to have a couture board for finger food during gifts and have the main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve.  This lowered the stress of the hecticness of the single day for everything.  Besides as M’Kinzy pointed out long ago, it gives us more time to play with our Christmas stuff before we have to go back to school and work.

The ER is having trouble finding doctors (and staff) to work. I feel an obligation to make sure that our patients have emergency care so I have taken a few more shifts.  Enough shifts that I was the fourth highest producer at the ER for the month of December. Hopefully, the vaccine will get some doctors back working shifts. I know everyone is trying their best, but having patients waiting at the ER is stressful for everyone on staff.  Clients that are stressed about their pets are not always on their best behavior. Everyone is starting to be tired.  I am glad to only be there two or three times a month.

This busyness has transferred to Guardian Animal also.  We closed out the year on a record high, be we will not know until everything is reconciled if we passed a new milestone.  We did give out more in bonuses and I hope we can continue that for the upcoming year. It may look a little different, but we will work it as we can. We will be working on Roles and Goals this week for the new year.

I have also had to pivot and do new things.  Our writing group tried to meet on zoom, but it just wasn’t the same.  There were no private conversations and no restaurant to serve us food. Likewise the Wednesday meeting of “Intelligent Friends” fell by the wayside.  I had already been into falconry and pokemon, but upped my game in both.

Pokemon Go recently decided that the game would not top out at level 40 as it had for the past several years.  To reward the folks that had level 40 before, there was a legacy quest with special rewards.  This notice came out the last of November when I had just finally gotten level 39.  To reach level 40 meant I had to do five million points in the next 30 days. This was the same amount of points for the prior four or five levels total.   I decided to reach for it, mathematically decided on my daily goal, worked daily and met the goal a couple of days early.  It did require that I spend money on this “free” game, but as my pokemon veterinarian friends (I’m not the only one) pointed out, people spend money on “free” cats also.

I also have worked more with my falconry birds. Jim’s (red tail hawk) rehab has worked to the point that we decided she could hunt on her own.  I was going to test her in some falconry hunts, but over the years that it has taken for her wing to heal, she has a strong association with food and me.  A few weeks ago, she decided that the tidbit I offered wasn’t as much as she wanted and she tagged my face and ear with her talons. While this is a behavior that could be retrained, it is best that she be allowed to practice her kills on our quail and roadkill and “wild up” for release.  That allows me more time to work with Zulu, a captive bred Harris Hawk, and Focus, the irrepressible American Kestrel. The goal was to have them ready to hunt by New Years, but Focus cropped-up (fed ‘til full) on a songbird and Zulu has decided she wants nothing to do with me. Falconry is known as the sport of kings, not because it is expensive, but rather it takes a lot of time.  It must be practiced daily and requires a lot of patience. Patience is something that requires me to put in a lot of effort to achieve. Working on patience through falconry helps with the stress of everything else.

Laying in bed this morning (snuggled in a new Sherpa fleece blanket), I thought about all of the things that I had done since the last article.  It has been a busy time, I have enjoyed the break from deadlines, but I knew I was ready to start writing again. Let the New Year begin!