10 Dos & Don'ts When Talking To Infertile Couples

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Infertility is something that, for whatever reason, isn't talked about much. Is it any wonder then that not many know how to respond? I'll be honest, before I experienced infertility, I didn't know what to say either.
When I was young, my sister had experienced years and years of painful surgeries, procedures, medications, financial burdens of treatments, and so much more from infertility. Even now, I can't even begin to understand her pain. Back then, I was barely an adult and had no idea how to show my support and sympathy for her.
Now that I am in the thick of infertility, I have a better understanding of what it means to experience it and have learned what has helped and what hasn't.
*disclaimer: I do not claim to write from the experiences of every infertile woman. I can only write what I have personally learned and experienced from my situation. This list may not apply to everyone. I can say, that from talking with many other infertile women, they also feel the same way to some degree*

1. DON'T use the phrase "At least…"
…you already have a child.
… you were able to get pregnant in the first place.
… you haven't had to struggle with this for 8 years like, so-and-so.

No. Just stop. Whenever you use an "at least…" phrase, you are essentially saying that my struggle now doesn't matter because of other factors in my life (either past or future). This is completely untrue and a very uncaring phrase to say.

First off, I don't need you to count my blessings for me, I am very capable of doing that myself, thankyouverymuch. 

Second, just because I may have other positive blessings in my life, does not mean that this current struggle is somewhat "less" of a struggle. Heartache is heartache. Yes, there are always positives in my life, but I don't need you to be a ray of sunshine in this dark point. I need you to be by my side, supporting me through it.

2. DON'T say "Just relax, and it will happen…"
It's rude and condescending to assume that because it was easy for YOU to conceive (or your sister, or your aunt) that it's also so easy for me.

This is essentially like going up to a cancer patient and saying, "Oh just relax and ignore it! All that stress is what's REALLY causing this. Believe me, it will just go away".

It's essentially saying that my infertility is all in my head when, in fact, infertility is an actual disorder.

3. DON'T give me anecdotal advice.
Yes, that's awesome that your sister (or cousin, or aunt, or best friend) had infertility, went on vacation, ate salmon every single day, and then got pregnant that month. Good for them but I don't want to really hear about their happy ending right now.

And please don't tell me the story about how your sister (or cousin, or aunt, or best friend) had sex in some unimaginable position and they conceived. 

Don't even start telling me about when your sister (or cousin, or aunt, or best friend) just started doing positive affirmations and she magically got pregnant.

Seriously, I don't want to hear it. It doesn't give me hope, it just makes me angry and even more frustrated. This is, again, essentially saying that my infertility is a product of my imagination.

4. DON'T tell me, "You can just adopt!"

While this may be a solution to eventually add to our family, it does not undo all of the trauma that comes from infertility. Did you know that studies have shown that the depression and anxiety from infertile couples is comparable to those that have cancer, heart disease, and are HIV-positive?
Think about that for a while and let it sink in.
Plus, there is no "just" in adoption and it isn't something that is easy to do. It's not as if I can run down to my nearest Miss Hannigan's Girls Orphanage and pick out a child to bring home, like I would a dog at the humane society.
While I have never personally experienced the adoption process, I have asked many friends about their experiences. They have all told me of the stress, anxiety, and heartbreak that came from their adoption process. It's not for everyone and it's not a "cure-all" for those with infertility.

5. DON'T bring religion into this.

Please, don't tell me to keep praying or to trust in the Lord and everything will work out. I do not need to hear that this is a trial from God to make me into a better person

I may not be religious like you and even if I go to the same church,, I may not even have the same ideas about deity. It's not a source of comfort to some.
If there is a chance that I do share the exact same beliefs, then I would say to tread lightly. It may be a source of comfort or it may not so I would recommend to err on the side of caution with this one.

6. DON'T ask about my treatment.

I know that family and friends want to show support, but talking about treatment is a very personal thing. It's usually not polite to ask about someone's pap smear or mammogram. We usually don't ask people when they're going to get a colonoscopy or ask about their yeast infection treatment.

Infertility treatment is invasive as it is. What was once something personal that could be created by a couple in the bedroom, is now subject to tests and tubes in a lab.

It's a sensitive topic to most and while I don't want to discourage people from asking, you also need to be prepared that if you do ask, you may be met with, "I don't want to talk about that right now."

Try to understand that it's not a reflection on our relationship and it's nothing personal against you.

7. DO show your support

So while it's mostly not appropriate to ask about fertility treatments, there are other ways you can show your support. Here is a short list:

- Share articles about infertility awareness. I wouldn't recommend tagging the person with infertility and saying "See! This is for you!", but a general interest that you want to bring awareness to infertility is great.

- Donate money (if they have a fund). Infertility is expensive. IUI's can range from $1,500-$4,000 per cycle. Even then, there's only about a 20% chance or less of conceiving. IVF can range from $10,000-$17,000 per cycle. And even with all of that, there is no guarantee that you will have a baby. If the couple has a fund set up, donate! Even $5 can help. If you can't donate, share their donation page on Facebook so they can have more reach.

- Write a simple "Thinking of you" message. It doesn't have to be an official card in the mail, but even just an email with kind and encouraging words can help.

- Offer to babysit (if they have kids) for the couple to go to appointments/treatments/consultations.

- Offer a shoulder to cry on. They may take your offer or they may not, but at least they will know that you are available when they need to vent/cry.

8 DO tell me your experience.
Earlier I mentioned that sharing "happy ending" stories is discouraging, I do appreciate when people tell me their personal experience with infertility.

It means a lot when people say something like, 

"I watched my sister struggle with infertility for years. It broke my heart to see her go through all of these invasive medical procedures only to come out of it not pregnant and even more broken-hearted than before. I'm sorry that you are going through this too."

Phrases like this? Good.

Now let me tell you an opposite example,

"My aunt tried for 7 years to have a child. It was really sad because she didn't have any children and she had gotten married in her 30's. Then, one day, she had a dream she was pregnant. She took a test and she was!!!"

Phrases like this? No good.

One is relating to the individual with infertility. The other is telling a magical ending story that is depressing to people with infertility. Got it? Good.

9.DO allow me to have bad days.
When someone close to us experiences something traumatic, we sympathize with them and comfort  them. I also think it's normal that afterward, friends and family forget. I'm not trying to make anyone feel guilty or place blame upon you. It's just a fact of life. You have your life to concentrate on. Soccer games, birthday parties, school, work, and overall life goes back to normal for you.
But it's not usually how it works for those that have experienced something traumatic. Infertility is a real, traumatic event that affects lives every single day..
Now, I'm not saying to bring it up constantly to show your support either. That's probably not going to help (and I say "probably" only because infertility experiences vary and I cannot speak for them all).
What I am saying, is to not take it personally if I don't want to participate in baby-related events. I may even have trouble being in the same room as a pregnant woman. I'm not mad at the fact that they're pregnant, it's just that it is a very physical reminder of what I don't have.

10. DO say...
Earlier I gave examples of what not to say and I wish I could make an opposite list of phrases that would be appropriate.
The problem is twofold.
First, there really is nothing you can say to make the situation better. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to say a profoundly touching remark.
And second, each case of infertility is different. Some women are dealing with poly cystic ovarian syndrome, some are dealing with endometriosis. There are some that have male-factor infertility, some both male & female. There are some, like me, that have no explanation.
Because there is such a wide spectrum of infertility, the needs are going to be different for each woman or couple.
The bread & butter of phrases to say would be, "I'm sorry. If you need me to do _______, I would love to help you. Just know that you have my support".
. . .

Overall, infertility is a sensitive subject and the best guide would be to be willing to listen and respect the needs & requests of the infertile couple. Even if it doesn't make sense to you. Even if you don't agree. Even if you can't understand.

My (Ongoing) Journey With Secondary Infertility

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It's time that I opened up about something that I've tried to keep hidden for almost 3 years. 

The best place to start would be at the beginning. 

In November of 2011, I was admitted into the ER with extreme pains in my lower abdomen. I was 7 weeks pregnant and I knew something was wrong. 

I don't think words can adequately explain just how painful it was. It was off the charts on the pain scale. Labor looked like a 4 in comparison. 

After throwing up several times from the pain, I remember beginning to lose myself. I just thought over and over, "Give me the epidural, give me the epidural". After an ultrasound, they found that the baby had implanted in my fallopian tube where it had grown and burst. I was bleeding internally and would have to have emergency surgery as soon as possible.

I remember waking up in my hospital room afterwards. Just numb.

I knew it that moment that I didn't only lose my baby, I had lost my fertility. I don't know how, but I just knew that this would affect me for the rest of my life. I asked the doctor on call what this meant for my future family. 

"Well, the body is amazing. Because you have both ovaries, your one tube may actually 'pick up' the egg from the opposite side."

Not me, I thought. Maybe it was the deep depression I was in or maybe it was just intuition, but I knew that wouldn't happen.

"Your best bet would be to get on medication that will cause you to super-ovulate so that you would have a better chance to ovulate from the side your tube is on."

No, that won't work, I just know.

That summer, I watched as members of my family had their babies. My due date silently came and silently passed. It was just another day for everyone else while I silently wept in my cubicle at work. Tears poured out while I basked alone in the emptiness that filled my body and soul.

When it came time that we were ready to try again, I began to research everything there was about conceiving with only one tube. The information was hopeful and I read story after story of couples that were able to continue their family and get pregnant. I wanted to prepare myself for what journey lay ahead of me.

When we had been trying for 5 months, I went to the doctor and requested to have an HSG done. It's a simple, and in my case, painless procedure where they inserted a small catheter unto my uterus and pushed dye through. This way, they can look at the shape of my uterus and if the tubes are clear or blocked.

At the end of the procedure, the doctor said, "Now, give me a call when you get pregnant. Many times this will 'clear the cobwebs', so to speak, and women are able to get pregnant within 3 months."

When I hit the official 1 year mark that we had been trying, I cried. I had suspected that this would be my experience but at the same time, I was trying desperately to ignore the fact that one of my worst fears was unfolding.

For those of you that have been fortunate enough to conceive with ease, I will try to illustrate what it is like to be on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Each month, you spend days and days preparing for when you will ovulate. When you do, you meticulously count the days until you can test. It consumes your thoughts. You overanalyze symptoms that you may or may not have. Hope swells in your heart that this might be the month that you see those bright double lines. You can't help but imagine ways to announce the pregnancy. You can't help but think of when your due date would be and who the baby would look like. It's inevitable that you wonder if it will be a boy or a girl.

And right when your hopes are at an all-time high, you get a "no".

For the next week, you get a physical and sometimes painful reminder of your failure. There will be no baby this month. No due date. No boy or girl. No announcements. 

In a sense, you have lost a part of your future. No one knows but you and your loss is not recognized as legitimate so you keep it to yourself and think, "it's no big deal…We can try again next month…"

Month after month after month passes and you can't get off the roller coaster. Each month your hopes rise only to die again. It's a vicious cycle that you have absolutely no control over.

Naturally, you start to self-loathe and hate your body. It's defective and broken.

And the bargaining begins. If I could just have one more, then I promise that they can take my uterus afterwards. If I could just get pregnant, I promise I will never complain. 

Then the anger comes. It's a deep, hateful anger that weighs your heart down. You can't help but feel jealousy towards pregnant women. You feel guilt when you skip baby showers. Some days you feel so alone you just want to scream so anyone will hear you.

But mostly, you are enraged with yourself. You wonder if people really knew how much anger you have and just how much you hate yourself. You hide it away because you don't want to be pitied and you don't want people to feel bad for you.

It's more than just trying to conceive. It's the deep depression. It's the awkward questions. It's the feeling that your heart may break at any moment. It's the hopelessness that comes with infertility.

When I hit the year mark, I decided it was time to lose weight to be more healthy. Only 5% of weight loss can dramatically help your chances. I ate better and I ended up losing 13.4% of my body weight. 

So we took a break for a few months while I concentrated on eating healthier.

When I hit the 15-month mark of trying, I made an appointment with my OB to help boost my chances. I was put on 50mg of Clomid.
Every night I religiously took the pills and would often wake up, drenched with sweat as a side-effect. When that month failed, it was bumped up to 150mg. Then that failed as well.

I felt like my body was mocking me and I forced myself to face the idea that there could be a chance that I may never have children again. I may never experience the feeling of getting a positive test or feeling the small movements of a baby again. 

Now, I realize to outsiders that this may sound dramatic and irrational but it is a fact that people with infertility have to think about. It is just as real of a possibility as the fact that maybe someday I will become pregnant. I'm already prepared at the thought of having a baby, otherwise I wouldn't be trying to conceive. But I have not processed the thought of never having children again.

So yes, it may sound dramatic but it's reality.

And that brings us to today. I have now been on my silent journey for almost 3 years and we are moving forward.

I remember making that call to the insurance company to ask about fertility treatments. I couldn't help it, I began to cry. It just isn't fair that I have to pay thousands of dollars for what other people can get for free.

I'm going to be honest, I cry a lot these days. I cry myself to sleep more often than not. I bottle it up so much, I can't help when the tears fall. It's my only catharsis

The reason why I write this is not to have a pity party. It's not so that you will feel bad for me.

It's so that you will understand.

There will be days that I am bitter and there will be moments where I have to excuse myself. I may or may not want to talk about it and don't judge too harshly when I don't share the same enthusiasm at a birth or pregnancy announcement.

But now that it's out there, we don't have to tip-toe around the subject, like it's a dirty family secret.

Yes, this is the absolute hardest thing I have gone through in my life. Yes, it sucks. Yes, I am still trying to process this journey so be patient as I navigate these unknown waters.

Please. Stop Posting Graphic Images on Your Facebook Feed.

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Every Tuesdays and Thursdays my son goes to preschool for 2 hours. During this glorious time I eat breakfast peacefully without having to get up and get yet another glass of orange juice for the umteenth time and I relax. I log onto facebook and other social media websites and I just surf.

Could I be doing better things like cleaning my kitchen? Sure. Should I do better things like take a shower? Probably. But this is *my* time to do what *I* want with no interruption. Plus, I can shower and clean the kitchen when my son gets home.

So as I was soaking up my newsfeed, I came across a picture. An extremely graphic picture of an aborted fetus. I think I can stop there without going into further details.

Immediately my stomach churned and my day plummeted. It wasn't because I have never seen these type of images before, it's because seeing those violent and graphic pictures elicits a deep emotional response from me.

But that's the point, isn't it? Extreme images evoke extreme feelings which...what? Makes extreme change? I'm assuming thats the reason why these photos get posted in the first place. I'm assuming that you aren't a sadist that just likes to see graphic photos. I'm assuming that you shared this particular photo because it's a cause that you believe in.

And you know what? That's okay that you believe strongly in a cause. I too have ideas that I believe in and change I want to see.

And it's not only abortion photos that now frequent my newsfeed. It's animal rights. It's domestic abuse. It's rape victims. It's abused children. It's starving families. 

Is this real life? Yes. Do I want to be exposed to it? Not always.

You see, what you don't realize as you share that picture of an aborted fetus, is that a woman in your friends list had a second-trimester miscarriage the month before. Now she sees these images and the emotions and pain she felt before comes back stronger than ever as she imagines what her precious baby looked like.

And that picture of a woman that was presumably raped and beaten?  Another woman in your friends list now gets to spend the rest of her day coping with the intense anxiety, anguish and even shame surrounding the memory of her own rape.

And that video of animal abuse? Another friend just lost their life-long pet to a horrible car accident and now spends the rest of her day remembering the graphic way her kids had to witness the death of their beloved dog in their front yard.

The reality is that bad things do happen and I'm not saying that we should ignore it. What I am saying is that we need to ask ourselves before we share trigger-worthy pictures, "what is the point?" and "is there a better way to post my views?"

The fact is, there probably is. More change can come from positive influences rather than negative.

Or think of it this way, would you post pictures of a man that was murdered? Or a soldier that was caught in a roadside bomb accident? I would hope that out of respect for those people and their families, the answer would be "no".

So please, stop posting graphic images on facebook. Because while those images might be reality, there's a reality that you CAN'T see. It's the woman that miscarried. It's the man that just lost his beloved pet. It's the woman that was raped. It's the family that lives with an abusive parent.

Please, think next time if you could portray your beliefs without the graphic images and if after all that, you can't, at least put a trigger warning in your post.

Flashback Friday: The Tale of My Batshiz Crazy Rabbit

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When I was in kindergarten, we were learning about all the letters of the alphabet. On each day, we focused on a specific letter and if we wanted, we could bring a show-and-tell item that corresponding to the letter.

Well, lucky for my class, "R" day was coming up and I just so happened to have received a rabbit for my birthday.

You see, my birthday is on April 21st and my sister's is on the 22nd which was SUPER convenient for my parents because basically whatever they were planning on getting my sister for her birthday, I got the same thing. Oh don't worry that there was an 8 year gap between us. A rabbit that was an age-appropriate gift for a 12-year old, probably isn't for a 5-year old pet owner as I was.

Of course, I named the rabbit "Thumper" like any respectable 5-year old would do. Let's just say my creativity hadn't exactly bloomed yet, mmmkay?

Thumper was an awesome grey bunny but he was pretty much fudgin' crazy! Whenever we would hold him, he would rip into our arm-flesh and leave gashes. Okay, my 5-year old mind may have exaggerated that a bit but you catch my drift.

The brilliant resolution to this issue was to wear my thick winter coat whenever I held Thumper so that whenever he would go all Mrs. Poole on us, we wouldn't feel a thing.

So on the day that Thumper was to make his debut to my kindergarten class, I was super nervous. I was an unnaturally shy kid. If the teacher even looked at me with any hint of a stink eye, I would bawl. However, growing up with overactive tear ducts did teach me to hide and subside my emotions which explains my heartless demeanor. 

As we were finishing up a story, my dad walked into the classroom with a box that obviously contained Thumper. The thing is that you'd think "Hmm, rabbits are small = small box".

No. Oh, no! I had to have gotten my class from at least one of my parents and it's evident as to whom. My dad came in with the biggest mother freakin' box he could find. Yes, my 2 lb. rabbit was contained in a box that stretched his whole arm-length. 

As the teacher explained why a mysterious man was walking into a kindergarten class, holding a box, all you could hear was the frantic scratch of Thumper trying to find traction.

Shhrk shhhrk shhhrk!

I kid you not, it was like Thumper was going to burst through the box, all Alien's style, with fangs bared.

I knew the routine. I went to grab my protective 1980's puff-coat.

As I walk over to the coat rack, my teacher said, "Oh, Jessica...It's not time to go!"

Now, I know that I must have been a slow child, but just how slow was I? Did my teacher honestly think that I reasoned, "Welp, my dad just showed up with a rabbit in a box....See ya!"? I mean, c'mon lady. I wasn't that slow.

I awkwardly explained to her that in order to keep my arms beautiful so that I could one day marry, I had to wear a coat while holding Thumper.

Of course, my fellow classmates were thrilled to each take turns petting my batshiz crazy rabbit. This. This is quality education, people. You're welcome 'Mmerica.

After a while, Thumper went on to live the rest of his life on a peaceful farm. Oh you think he got killed? No, no. He actually went to a farm. Right, mom & dad?


The time where I get to play Pintester for a while.

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I have a bone to pick with the pinner who originally pinned this:


I know that I'm pretty much abnormal and such but when I pin something, I remember it and actually try it. I know, crazy idea.

So when I saw this pin, I was all, "Oh heck yes! I don't want to take time to butter my toast. And while I'm at it, my arm kind of hurts from scrolling through Pinterest in the first place, forget ANY type of flipping action, here."

So I documented my quest .

First, my ingredients.

Gettin' all cozy in the toaster and heck  yes, I'm gonna use shredded cheese,  peeps.

Cooking...Do you see something wrong with the picture?

No? Maybe now that there is a little more noticeable smoke coming out? 

You know how toasters "pop"?  Hoooney...kiiiiiiidds....dinner!

Just pick off the dog fur and dust then scrape off the cancer-charcoal and baby, you've got yourself a meal! I don't know about you, but I always take it personally when pins fail. I'm all, "You don't break me, Pinterest! I'm not defined by your socially accepted pins that people blindly pin without testing them!"

Then I go cry in the shower with the water pouring over my head because you just know that out there, somewhere, the Original Pinner is maniacally laughing, thinking, "Oh you've got them now, you sly dog, you. Just you wait, the repins will pour in and you can relish in the idea that hundreds of pinners will look like fools, FOOLS, for pinning an idea that didn't work."

Curse you, Original Pinner and original pinners everywhere that pin crappy things!

This is a story of my bangs

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My bangs irk me. What do you do with them?! I do love them but then sometimes I want to just shave them off. Then again, I always want to shave my hair off, so no surprises there. This morning, when I stepped on the scale, I thought, "Drats! It's probably because I have my coat on." then after I take that off and weigh myself again I think, "Okay, what else can I lose? I don't need my hair, right?! I could shave that off and lose some more weight."

But enough about my deeply disturbed body image perception, we're talking about bangs, man.

So I thought I could grow them out to something like this:

For a while, I could totally part my hair down the middle and feel like I was back in the 70's. 

But most of the time, my hair looked like this:

Yes, they were way too long and I couldn't style them and I ended up looking like Kristin Stewart. Gaaaa, Kristin, stop being so bad at everything! You're bad at acting, relationships, and now add "bangs" to your resume.

I decided  that I needed to take the fate of my bangs into my own hands. I was going to do a tutorial on how to cut your bangs to look amazing but then I realized that all of the bathrooms looked really sad and I didn't want to take the time to set up a camera. No worries, though. I totally still did the tutorial but without the camera. I was all, "Now, you want to hold the scissors like this, people" and "Be sure to cut like so!" to no one. My husband even asked who I was talking to. No big deal, I'm just talking to myself in the mirror and walking myself through my own tutorial.

It's always a little nerve-wracking to cut your own hair but when you have walked into the valley of shadows as I have, you are fearless when it comes to hair. 

Overall, I'm happy with how it turned out and it's just in time for the cooler months.

Can you spot my fox necklace? You would if my boobs weren't pathetic swollen-mosquito-bite-like.
P.S. My facebook page is up and totally runnin' (in circles. Ha, just kidding...but seriously).
You should go check it out here just so that you will be up to date on all of my crazy Instagram posts and stuff. 

Why We Decided To Give Our Dog Up For Adoption

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I feel you, Johanna. I feel you! (+10 pts if you know where this is from which is totally an easy question so more like .10 pts)

This week, we had to make a very sad and hard choice. You see, we are currently homeless, insuranceless, and unemployed. Because Tyler's family doesn't want to watch us slowly deteriorate until we are eating our own feces, they graciously allowed us to live with them.

Let me tell you, living with in-laws is something else. Actually, I'm not going to say it's horrible because, really, I have the best in-laws and I'm not just saying that because my mother-in-law reads this blog. I think all of the people who got stuck with horrible in laws is because all of their niceness was absorbed by my my in-laws.

But there were some issues, nevertheless, and it was about our dog. 

We got Johanna 3 months ago and fell in love with her awesomeness but our neighbors that have sticks up their bum-bums were prejudiced towards her. We were all, "Guys, give her a chance! She only looks like she is going to rip you to bits". Then they were all, "No, she's huge and is probably illegal, on government assistance, and is the vicar of the anti-christ which, as you know, is Obama."

Yeah, it didn't make sense to me either but when they are threatening that she may or may not get "lead poisoning", this shiz just got real!

So we decided to put her up for adoption on Craigslist because, well, we liked her but we just didn't love her. Plus, I'll admit, we couldn't afford her anymore and I'm not going to apologize for that fact because, really, no one plans unemployment and when it comes down to my first-born son that is literally a piece of me or...a dog, I'm going with my kid. Call me a meat-eating, animal cruelty-lover, irresponsible person but I'm letting my true colors fly.

We instantly got a bajillion calls on her which made us feel better. There was a long line of people that would really love her and could provide her with a safer environment.

It was bittersweet handing her over to her new owners and on the drive home, Tyler and I had this conversation:

Tyler: Well...I think she is going to a good home.

Me: Yeah, those people are totally dog lovers, you can tell.

T: Awwww................they looked so white-trash.

J: Yeah, they did....but they are the kind of people that Johanna needs. They'll probably let her sleep in their bed.

T: Then they'll figure it out that she's in heat and we didn't tell them....

J: Yeah when they wake up with doggie-heat mess in their hair. I sure hope their other dog is neutered or they are going to have some ugly pit bull/Johanna puppies.

T: I bet they smoke. Aw, Johanna's lungs! She's going to get cancer.

J: ...And she'll probably get fat because they'll feed her table scraps.

T: And they probably yell a lot and wear tank tops that are 2 sizes too small.

J: Yeah....but, It's better this way, right?

T: Yes, they really wanted her.

Is it weird that I feel so shizzy about giving away a dog? It's not like I gave her to a dog-eating tribe or a research lab where they would test the effects of electricity on dogs. 

Am I the only one that feels guilty over dumb stuff?