Initiation to Horror

I have been drawn to horror films (and later on horror stories and novels) since my earliest memories. When I was a small child, I have trace recollections of spying a horror film advertisement on the television or sneaking a peak at a scary film playing on my parent’s television and experiencing the strange rush of adrenaline and repulsion that terror brought to bear on my tiny frame. The earliest memories of terrifying visions on film for me are the helicopter seen from Jaws 2 and the hospital nightmare sequences from An American Werewolf in London.

While I was allowed to watch Jaws 2 and likely Jaws at a very early age (Kindergarten) and for the first years of elementary school enjoyed watching Universal classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman. I had attempted to read classic horror literature like Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at some point during first or second grade. In third grade, I eagerly purchased a copy of the novel Jaws and hoped to read it aloud to my classmates during story time. Oddly enough my teacher at the time agreed to this idea, and I was allowed to read a chapter or two to the class on a few occasions. I knew enough of the ways of the world that I censored myself while reading. When encountering curse words during these readings, I would substitue an alternative that was “safe” for my audience. I don’t recall the exact circumstances, but another student in my class whose first name was also John also had a copy of the book and wanted to rotate the readings with me. He wasn’t as cautious as me. During his first reading session, he read aloud the word damn and the teacher allowed the reading session to continue noting that it was all in the context of reading a story, but coincidentally enough we never had time to allow another reading, and I was annoyed that my classmate had not shared my good sense.

Although I was well along my way into exploring horror, I was not allowed to watch an R-rated film until Aliens first aired on HBO in 1986 or 1987 when I was 10 or 11. Years before then, many of my friends had seen early eighties slashers such as Friday the 13thA Nightmare on Elm Street, and Psycho II, but I had never been allowed to watch these films although their eerie VHS cassette cases at the local video store had always called to me with their soft siren sound when I visited with my parents. The video cover for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre although seemed to the creepiest to me. But it was Aliens that first broke the R-rating barrier for me. I have no idea what particular appeal convinced my parents, but somehow I managed to get there permission one night to watch Aliens all by myself in my bedroom.

I still remember both loving my first experiences of the film, how my pulse raced, the mounting tension as the film relentlessly moved towards to its harrowing climax, how I pulled my limbs in close so as not to leave an inch of exposed flesh to dangle off my bed for fear of the slightest possibility that one of the terrifying xenomorphs may have been lurking under my bed. This last fear was similar to the one that I experienced every time I watched Jaws or Jaws 2 when they aired on TV as happened every so often in those days. I never missed an opportunity to catch one of these films, but I always feared during and afterwards when going to sleep that a giant great white shark may have been lurking beneath the bed waiting to pounce and pull me under the imaginary waves surrounding my lonely bed. It is strange as an adult thinking about these fears when I consider that surely I had to know that these fears simply weren’t possible. I suppose it must  be like an amplified version of the irrational fears that even now can grip me as an adult: when sitting up all by myself late at night with all the lights turned out in complete eerie silence, I have on more than one occasion found myself run up the stairs with an irrational jolt of fear that something might be lurking around the corner even though my reason tells me otherwise and some piece of me giggles inwardly at the silliness of the reaction while also savoring the taste of my own fear.

I love the visceral nature of fear. It is like a fine wine meant to be savored slowly and in careful phases. When you fear, you are alive. I love horror. I love the increasingly rare film that can truly terrify me and the almost non-existent book that can do the same.

There are only 289 more days until Halloween…

Fun With Dog Vomit – Part III

I was given the choice of having Perrin undergo surgery to remove the remaining Kong toy pieces from his stomach and intestines or waiting to see if things became more clear about whether or not pieces remained and/or were passing successfully through the gi tract. The trade off was that waiting would cost more money as I would have to leave Perrin there hooked up to an iv and have more X-rays performed – while these hospitalization costs would get rolled into the cost of surgery. In other words, if it turned out that the wait and see approach failed, the overall costs would probably be higher than if I just decided to go ahead with surgery.

I decided though that I wanted to take that chance because it would be overall less risky for Perrin himself if we could avoid surgery.

I left him in the hands of my excellent vet and headed in to the office where I found myself feeling rather frazzled and unfocused as I waited impatiently for four hours to pass by and to hear word about what the next step would need to be. I grew more and more anxious that Perrin would have to undergo surgery and dreaded the two or three day period afterwards where the healing incisions into the intestines might open with failing stitches. I also did not look forward to the prospect of Perrin having to where the cone of shame for ten days.

Finally, after what seemed like all day, I received a call from the vet and she informed me that our fears seemed to have not come to pass. The gas pattern in the stomach that had suggested a foreign body was no longer there and the pattern in the intestines had changed locations and been reduced in size, suggesting that if there was a foreign body behind the gas pattern that it was moving through Perrin’s bowels successfully and that surgery would not be required.

We were able to pick up Perrin that evening and take him home for monitoring. He was on orders to receive bland food instead of his usual dog food, and we had to give him a tablet dissolved in water to line his gi tract and protect it  and aid in the passage of the possible foreign body. Thankfully, he did not throw up again that evening, and we were able to sleep through the entire night without any disturbance.

The next morning we brought Perrin back to the vet for another X-ray to make sure that things still seemed to be progressing. Thankfully, they were. Perrin’s behavior that morning was much better. He cheerfully greeted the vet when I brought him into the room and he seemed full of his normal energy.

It was a close call!

We have since this incident removed all Kong toys from the house and will think twice about picking up another “indestructible” toy. In fairness, the particular Kong toy may not have been for “powerful chewers” like Perrin. There was a classic Kong toy in our house that was made for “powerful chewers” and probably is fine, but it was old and we didn’t want to risk the possibility that it may have begun to wear down.

We really would like to avoid another trip to the vet for foreign body ingestion!

Fun With Dog Vomit – Part II

We took Perrin home Monday evening from the emergency vet with instructions to watch him for signs of abdominal pain or vomiting over night and then possibly follow up with our normal vet in the morning. He was sluggish and snoozy on the ride back home as the drug that they injected him with to induce vomiting apparently packs quite a wallop.

Our plan was for me to get up with Perrin at 7am and keep an eye on him for any signs of trouble while working from home until a disturbance or until I needed to go into the office for an 11am meeting. Melinda had to our for an errand that morning, so it was up to me to make sure Perrin was fine.

Things didn’t go as planned.

I woke up around 6am in absolutely darkness to the sound of Perrin gagging and the sinking feeling that I was about to have to clean up dog vomit. Before I could position him to anywhere more strategic (such a wooden portion of the floor), Perrin proceeded to vomit up more purple Kong toy pieces. Not pausing to access the damage, I tried to escort him downstairs quickly only to have him vomit again at the foot of the stairs. This time it was only a small bit, but I noticed in the light of the hall way that there was a little bit of bloody phlegm in the mess. I took concerned note of this and then shuffled him quickly downstairs where he once again threw up even more pieces of purple Kong toy. Every time, I kept thing how this surely had to be everything.

But no… the Kong toy was the gift that kept on giving.

After the third time, Perrin’s stomach seemed to settle. After cleaning up the mess, I cracked open my laptop, made myself breakfast and coffee and settled in for what was to be a long and tiring morning. I contacted the emergency vet by phone to make sure that the trace amounts of blood were nothing to be concerned over. She felt that it wasn’t serious in the amounts that I described. I decided I would continue to monitor the situation and call my vet when they opened to see if she felt that Perrin needed to be examined further.

Over the course of waiting for the vet to open, he vomited five more times each time bringing up yet more rubber pieces and the last time was somewhat unnerving as it was mostly bloody phlegm. With this turn of events, I called my vet and as I expected, she wanted us to bring Perrin in for X-rays.

With barely time for a quick shower and change of clothes, I rushed off to take Perrin to the vet where they proceeded to take X-rays. While I was worried about him, I thought at this point that he was probably over the worst of it and that I would soon be headed back home with maybe some medicine to settle his gi tract. While Perrin was being X-rayed, I was using my cell phone as a hotspot so that I could check my work email on my laptop and make sure that my meeting got delayed so that I didn’t have to worry about missing it while at the vet’s office.

I was absentmindedly typing away when the vet returned and her demeanor caught me off guard. It seemed that things weren’t going to be so simple after all. The X-rays showed some troubling things, and I would need to make a decision.

To be continued…