Starfire Ettore "Barnum" RIP

Christmas Day our dog Barnum lost his fight against the wicked killer, Anaplasmosis Phagocytophilia, a tick borne disease. He fought to stay with us and we fought for him to stay with us. Neither of us won their fights. In the end, the disease ravaged his whole body and mind. His death was swift and ruthless.

Barnum was a Leonberger. Anaplasmosis took him in his puppyhood as this giant breed is not fully grown until five years old.

Starfire Ettore “Barnum” Rest in Peace and Run Free and Wild.

Barnum loved to run and never walked anywhere he could run.

When we first brought him home from our breeder, I remember being extra careful to lift him off the end of the ramp. It was a small step down. Maybe six inches. Yes, I was the diligent Leonberger owner, making sure he never took a stair when he was a puppy. As we approached the end of the ramp, Barnum decided enough was enough of getting picked up and lifted off the ramp. He took a running leap and flew through the air, paws out stretched as if he were flying. I never laughed so hard in my life. This single move defined the rest of Barnum’s short life. Why be picked up when you can fly through the air off the end of the ramp.

Starfire Ettore “Barnum”
31 July 2009 - 25 December 2012

My Dog's Illness Triggers Feelings From My Childhood

I wrote this two days before my dog's death.
Back in September 2012, one of our dogs fell ill after receiving of his vaccines. His first symptom was a high fever. More symptoms gradually emerged including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, poly-arthritis, neurological symptoms, lameness, and high fever. We received numerous diagnoses which were all incorrect and at the same time our dog was prescribed medication after medication without lasting improvement. At the same time, we watched our beloved family member waste away from the horrible disease riddling his whole body.

I decided to take matters into my own hands and researched online for a vet close to us yet in another city. A specialist was recommended and their business was over an hour one way from our home. I found a vet with a specialty in internal medicine and brought our sick dog to him that day. The vet took one look at our dog and thought of only two diseases which could cause his symptoms: Addison’s Disease and Ehrlichiosis. He tested for both diseases. After spending almost $2000 we had a diagnosis: Anaplasmosis Phagocytophilum, another tick borne disease or TBD with a much deadlier potential.

We left the vet’s office with a very sick dog who had lost over 30 pounds. Two days later we brought him back again, believing he was about to die. His gums, tongue, and ears were gray. The vet told us he thought our dog would possibly die before morning. He survived the night and limped forward for almost two more weeks.

Our dog’s condition worsened again and we decided to euthanize him. I could no longer watch our once beautiful, lively, and funny dog dwindle away. By this time, he had lost almost 40 pounds. I called the mobile vet in our town and told him about our dog. He asked several questions about the medicine our dog had been prescribed and told me he would get back to me later on that day. When he called back the first thing he said was the antibiotic dose was incorrect. Instead of 600 mg/day it should be 1000/mg a day.
After our dog died, I learned the correct dose should have been 600 mg twice daily. A lot more could have been done had we known how TBDs are treated. I told him we needed more antibiotic and he agreed to take our dog on as a patient. The vet visited later on that day and told us unless our dog was comatose he would not euthanize him. That was both a relief and scary to hear. By the time he came over to see our dog we had given our dog the increased dose.

After a day on the new dose of antibiotic and some medicine to help coat his stomach, our dog had improved in some ways and weakened in other as the disease took over more of his body and mind. Our has experienced bouts of confusion, not knowing where he is in the house; running into walls at times; his hind legs lacking function and he has collapsed to the floor before he can get out the door to go to the bathroom and numerous other problems.

Now after almost four days on the new dose, our dog’s pale gums, tongue, and ears are starting to look pink again. His diarrhea has started to change over to brown from blood streaked.

Sadly on Christmas Day 2012 our dog succumbed to this horrible disease. He fought hard and we fought right along side him. His life dwindled before us and we decided to euthanize him. I miss him so much. It was the worst disease to see a dog go through. No wonder it is called “doggy AIDS.”

On top of all this, the whole disease process and watching my dog dying triggered me. Throughout my dog’s illness I suffered with my own illness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. I felt hopelessness. It was the same feeling I felt during my father’s rampages. There was nothing I could do to help those children he kidnapped and nothing I could do to stop my beloved family member from dying.

The first times I suffered from PTSD was during the time I attended nursing school in 1977. Along with my best friend we visited the East Coast and her relatives. From the moment I stepped off the plane I was triggered. I was 25 years old. After returning to nursing school in the Fall of 1977, a teacher suggested I see a counselor.

I witnessed in nursing school what I had witnessed with my father, hurting and/or dying people. I became unable to function around those sickly patients and suffered from the same hopelessness as I experienced with my dog.

The disturbing images and intrusive thoughts which arose in 1977 and when my beloved dog was ill continue to haunt me months later. Over three months have passed since my dog died. The images come from the abuse I suffered and watched as others succumbed by the hands of my father.

Anxiety fueled the feelings years ago just as it does now. And below that feeling is terror. The same terror I felt while hiding under the basement stairs after my father killed a boy. I felt a complete hopelessness. I could not stop what my father had done. I would crawl into that space behind the stairs, trembling and hyperventilating. I curled into the tightest fetal position I could manage, trying to keep present and sane and pushing away the horrible images which were still there before my eyes.

When I have playacted I purposely hyperventilated to both relive and relieve myself of the horrors I saw when I was with my father. Hyperventilation caused anxiety and then I relieved my anxiety.

Forcing the Hand, Revisited

While reading a book, Eyes of A Pedophile: Detecting Child Predators, by Betty J Kuffel MD, I got triggered by the description of the pedophile’s eyes. The man had a condition called Heterchromia Iridum where the irises of the eye can be two different colors. I drew the one picture, Forcing the Hand, which depicted my father with two different colored irises. In addition my father made me call him a wolf. Most wolves have a blue eye and an amber eye. I remember my father’s eyes were creepy and spooky. One was a deep blue, and the other was an amber brown.

At 10 years old, I noticed my father’s eyes had changed color to both amber, the color of a tiger’s eye.

I researched the condition and discovered there are several different types of Heterchromia Iridum and it is hereditary. I remembered for years my mother told me I had hazel eyes. However, she suddenly changed her viewpoint when I got to be an adult. She told me, “Your eyes are definitely a deep blue with colors around the pupil.”

Heterchromia Iridum encompasses several types. Mine is termed central where the eyes are blue and there is coloration around the pupil. When I studied pictures of this type I easily found my eye color.

My eye doctor told me my eyes are blue as well not hazel.

Another mystery….

Childhood Depression

From an early age, I suffered from the symptoms of depression.

Symptoms of Childhood Depression:
  • depressed mood that can be expressed as feelings of sadness and emptiness, tearfulness or irritability
  • decreased interest or pleasure in activities
  • difficulty concentrating and paying attention
  • anger
  • fatigue or lack of energy
  • feeling hopeless
  • low self-esteem
  • sleep problems
  • appetite problems, increase or decrease
  • significant weight gain or loss
  • social withdrawal, may be expressed as boredom
  • restlessness or slowing down
  • thoughts of death

Childhood Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • moments when a child seems to replay the event in his/her mind (for me this was and still is playacting)
  • intrusion of recurrent memories of the event or repetitive play about the event (for me this was and still is playacting)
  • nightmares

  • disorganized and agitated behavior
  • irritability or anger
  • nervousness about everyone and everything around him or her, i.e.; when people get too close
  • jumpy when hearing loud noises

  • avoidance of thoughts, feelings, or places that remind the child of what happened
  • numbing or lack of emotions

Other Behaviors:
  • regression to earlier behavior, such as; clinging, bedwetting, or thumb sucking (I was clinging and thumb sucking again after stopping these behaviors.)
  • difficulty sleeping or concentrating (I could not keep my place in a novel or non-fiction book.)
  • detachment from others or social withdrawal
  • excessive use of alcohol or other substances to self-medicate

Who Is Likely to Have PTSD:
  • directly witnessed the event(s)
  • suffered direct personal consequences, such as; the death of a parent or injury to self (My father broke my arm. At age three I witnessed my father kill someone for the first time.)
  • had other mental health or learning problems prior to the event (I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks.)
  • lack of a strong social network

Childhood Anxiety Disorder

I had all of these symptoms. It is no wonder to me considering what I was forced to witness.

Physical Feelings:
  • headache
  • stomachache
  • muscle tension
  • panic attack symptoms, such as; shortness of breath, pounding or rapid heart beat, tingling and numbing sensations, hot or cold flushes and terror in certain situations.

  • fear of being away from home or from primary caretaker
  • fear of something terrible happening to oneself or primary caretaker
  • excessive and uncontrollable worry about many things, such as: the future, being on time for appointments, health, school performance, crime, change in routines, and family members.
  • fear of being negatively evaluated, rejected, humiliated or embarrassed in front of others
  • fear of giving oral reports, participating in gym class, starting or joining in conversations, eating in public places or talking to unfamiliar people
  • nightmares

  • avoidance of situations or things causing worry, such as; social gatherings, school or animals
  • reluctance or resistance to sleeping alone
  • crying, tantrums, clinging in situations where worried
  • repetitive behaviors such as hand washing

Mind Blower

No doubt about it, I witnessed a Mind Blower of an experience. At the time of this rendition, I lacked the memory of my father’s atrocious criminal acts.

I rendered Mind Blower in watercolor pencils. I eyed myself in a reflective surface which distorted my image and I drew whatever came forth. I drew this with both hands simultaneously.

It looked as if I saw two different situations which occurred at the same time. One eye watched something which appeared straight ahead and the other watched something which appeared to the left.

The eyes screamed terror at what they witnessed.

Mind Blower confirmed that I left my body and mind and a Hidden Observer watched the horrors.

The vertical gray-black line was the glinting knife in my father’s hand. He used knives to perpetrated his crimes and to threaten me.

Mind Altering Experience

My father’s repulsive and frightful criminal acts were a Mind Altering Experience. My eyes depicted the terror I felt as I witnessed crimes a 10 year old child should have never seen.

While viewing myself in a distorted reflective surface, I rendered this drawing in watercolor pencils using both hands at the same time. I drew and painted this before I knew I had a different father than my stepdad, and before I knew what happened to me at age ten. Nine years later in 2010, I started to remember what my father did. The first memory of his crimes surfaced in 1989. However due to a horrible therapist those memories were buried again.

A close study of this drawing/painting revealed pencil lines above the eyes where the forehead and top of the head would be. I remembered when I decided to leave the forehead and top of the head blank. Thus I named this artwork, Mind Altering Experience.

Four and half months after I first wrote this, I figured out what I drew back in 2001. I looked into a mirror and drew my father’s face. His eyes had turned amber around the time I visited him in 1963.

Binary Chaos

I rendered Binary Chaos in colored pencil for the year 2000 scare. The round items are CD discs. CD discs hold memories as in files and photographs. I realized this in 2012 as I wrote this. The drawing contains 28 discs. I thought this refers to number of years I was when my father’s worst abuse took place. Two and eight are 10.

The artwork focussed on a face and an eye

The number 12 played a prominent role in this artwork. 12 is part of the binary code. 12 is one of the numbers on the clock which only has an hour hand. 12 is the number which sits at the top of the cauldron-like vessel.

My father committed crimes against 12 children when I was 10.

After studying this artwork further, I added six and eight together which equals 14. Age 14 was the last time I saw my father.

Therefore Binary Chaos contains more about my father than I originally believed.

Tumultuous Uprising


Tumultuous Uprising was rendered at the same time as my other drawings and to me signified what was about to emerge from the depths of my memories. I drew this freehand using both hands at the same time with watercolor pencils.

In the context of this artwork, the word tumultuous means violent, explosive, intense, turbulent, stormy, deafening, clamorous, and a roller-coaster ride.


A Summer in Hell, XII: Associations

Sex is synonymous with kidnap…

and rape…

and torture…

and mutilation…

and death…

and dismembered bodies…

…and more.