Today's thoughts

Category: CREATURE FEATURES (Page 1 of 36)

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! (Plus dogs and cats)

Creature Features: Year of the Rabbit #2242

It’s soon to be the year of the Rabbit, but already looking like it’s not the year of the Dog, or us, her humans. The Chinese calendar rotates between eleven animals, so Tally will have to wait until 2030 for her time to celebrate. Can she make it until she’s 20 years old and I’m nearing eighty?

My wife has a Lunar New Year’s Party planned at our house for the official holiday on January 22nd. One of the neighbors we invited referred to it a “Looney Tunes Party.” “What’s Up Doc?” The beauty of retirement is that you can have Sunday night parties without having to face a Monday morning work date. Most of our neighbors don’t care what day it is anymore. We’re free to party and be looney whenever we please!

Tally’s New Year is off to a rough start between two New Year’s parties, little girls, party horns, beeps, and fire alarms. She has noise sensitive ears and is still trying to get used to being around my grandkids, especially when the youngest has gotten ahold of a party-favor horn and can’t stop blowing it. All three of my son’s children were over for dinner the other night when smoke from the outdoor kitchen set off the alarms. Tally searched the house for a quiet spot while her legs quivered from fright. 

She has always been wary of small children after an incident years ago when a little girl scared her. She usually growls at my youngest granddaughter whenever she comes over but is excited to see the older ones. For once, she didn’t react when all three and their dad came in the front door the other night, but the horn and fire alarm put her over the edge. She finally found peace in the comfort of her bed, away from the crowd. It’s the same place she hides when we have our parties, unless she can coerce a bite of food from one of the guests. 

I think our Tally likes the new golf cart, but the neighbor who delivered it honked the horn and she once again cowered from the noise, while showing some initial reluctance to take a seat. Fortunately, he had disconnected the backup alarm, so we didn’t have to deal with more beeping. Once we got her into a harness and the wind began to blow through her fur, she comfortably settled in. This morning, she took her first trip to the dog park to show off this new toy to her puppy pals. She’s now the queen of the parade when we drive around the neighborhood. 

We removed the past owner’s monogram from the front panel of the cart yesterday to officially make it ours. Friends have a caricature of their schnauzer, Sophie, to identify their cart. I’m afraid Tally will want the same royal treatment. The main color of our “old fart cart” is champagne that nicely coordinates with my wife’s Lexus convertible. The two vehicles sat side-by in the garage for a few minutes until my wife drove her car to tap class, noticing that the brake light was aglow. She found herself at the dealership facing a $2,800 repair. The cost is more than we got from selling the Solara to make room for the cart. It looks like our New Year luck isn’t much better than Tally’s!


Retirement is not without Hassles: A Dog’s Life #2239

Back in the working days or even back to school, the first Monday of a New Year was a chance to catch up on what everyone did over the Holidays. In many cases, co-workers or classmates were off that entire week, but I always felt that it was a good time to be in the office because there was often little going on. It was also usually a short week with days off or half-days, so it was a good time to get organized for the months to come. Besides, holiday travel was always a guaranteed hassle with flight delays due to overbooking and foul weather. Plus, pet sitting could get expensive.

People would return to the office or school with stories of family gatherings, special gifts, or elaborate New Year’s plans. A new outfit, watch, or other piece of jewelry was waiting for compliments. Pictures of new babies and pets were compared. There were always lots of leftover treats to share if you weren’t starting the traditional diet. Those that were wanted to get temptation out of the house. I was never much of a dieter because I maintained a regular exercise routine, but I did tend to cut back on alcohol consumption or pretend to maintain a dry January. 

Back in the days of going to the gym or fitness center, I quickly learned that the first couple weeks of a New Year were by far the busiest, as well-intended resolutions began to kick-in. The locker rooms were crowded, there was a line to use the weight equipment, and classrooms were crammed. You could tell from the number of cars in the parking lot that there were a lot of new members. By the third week of January, all was back to normal. I think that all this activity eventually discouraged me from going, when I could enjoy the quiet solitude of running outdoors. There are no membership fees, people in your way, hours of operation, or malfunctioning machines. All it takes to run is a good pair of shoes.

In the last six years of retirement, I’ve found that Mondays are just like every other day, even as good as weekends used to be. There is no alarm to set, but still a routine to follow. In our case, Mondays are a good day to see a movie, avoid eating meat, and get rid of all last week’s trash. Just like always, it’s the beginning of a fresh new start. 

Our schnauzer, Tally, is not a fan of “Meatless Monday,” missing those delicious smells coming from the kitchen and a chance that she’ll get a bite. She’s always in favor of me leaving the house so she has exclusive access to the office chair that we constantly fight over. She refuses to share. The only problem with a dog’s life is you’re never sure if your human will be gone for an hour or a month. As I’ve said many times, I wouldn’t mind reincarnation as a pup, as long as my wife is my keeper. 


Retirement is not without Hassles: Interruptions #2083

This morning’s routine was interrupted with a trip to Schnauzerville for a trim. Tally will be spending most of her summer with these folks and their house full of schnauzers. She seems to like to go there but would rather just play rather than get a bath and cut. I had to add some air to my tires and the way back home since it’s been simply sitting in the garage. My wife has driven us in her car for dinner dates like last night at Pop’s and to the movies. She’s currently at an aqua-fit class, part of her active daily routine. I’m pretty much done for the day once I finish my 5k run and do a few laps in the pool. Once again, my GPS failed to record my running distance this morning with an unexpected “pausing workout.” The Nike app shows my total mileage to be a few miles off every month due to these technical glitches.

The interruptions continue as I try to work on this post, There used to be an hour of quiet before the dog park closed for repairs. This was the time when I could work in peace as no one else was home. Over these past few weeks I haven’t gotten this alone time and my concentration has been often disrupted. See, I got totally sidetracked and spent the afternoon reading “The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit,” showering, and watching “The Umbrella Academy.” I’ll cut this crap short and  continue my blogging tomorrow, on what hopefully will be a quiet Sunday morning without many interruptions!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Tally Ho #2081

I would have to categorize yesterday as a good day since the Cubs and White Sox both had come from behind victories and the stock market rallied to show a small gain. This morning I barely survived another 5k run in the heat, stumbling home at a 15-minute a mile pace. Just a few days ago, it was an embarrassing 18-minute final mile, one of the slowest in my history without actually stopping. Tally actually ran the last few hundred yards with me, anxious to get back to her air conditioning. It’s indeed rare when she wants to run but cool air and treats can be a powerful incentive. Tally Ho!

When I get back to the garage from my morning run, I usually do a little yard work and fill the fountain with water that quickly evaporates in these conditions. I collapse on my bench and take in the sauna-like conditions, sweating off another pound of fat while I do my morning puzzles. My current Wordle streak is now at 54 with a few close calls this week, including a 6-letter word with three f’s. The running streak is at 4,939 days without a miss. It’s always refreshing to jump in the pool, the final leg of my daily exercise regimen that’s the perfect excuse to sit and watch TV the rest of the day. 

The dog park opens again tomorrow and Tally will be reunited with her buddies after several weeks of breaking her routine. With everyone seemingly gone in the neighborhood we rarely see a dog on her morning walks. I’m sure she’ll be excited to have dog life return to normal. However, three weeks from now we start our journey north and she will be at “Schnauzerville” with her second family for the first of three lengthy stints away from us yet this year. Tally Ho!

Creature Features: P-Mail #1985

Some people refer to p-mail as “materials such as letters and packages delivered by a postal system; conventional mail.” In this case, the “p” is for physical. We humans, of course, check our e-mail regularly for business and friendly correspondence. As a result, we’re constantly on our phones or computers to keep up with our clients, acquaintances, and collogues. However, how do animals communicate? They leave secret messages in the bushes and grass. Our schnauzer, Tally, gravitates to the same spots every morning to catch up with her network of neighborhood buddies. She sniffs and scratches away to check her p-mail.

These dog-to-dog communications might also be called pee mail, but just like humans they know exactly where to check for incoming notes to each other. There is a look of satisfaction on Tally’s face after she finally gets to the right spot and reads what is going on in her world. The decoding process is found in her nostrils, inaccessible to human interference. What goes on with dogs, stay with dogs, since they can only talk to each other. Then, they pretend they can’t understand what we are saying and ignore our commands. “Beware of the dog” takes on new meaning. 

Yesterday, we took Tally to the dog beach. It was very windy so we prepared a covered area specifically for her with a towel, shade, and water. She was immediately restless and would wander off into the weeds where predictors like alligators might lurk. We would chase after her and lure her back to the shaded area with treats. The tall sea grass was obviously the site of the best smells were, despite the dangers, and where all the important messages were hidden. Every time we’d turn our backs to her or check our e-mail she was gone again, headed to the grassy post office where she could check her p-mail.

Retirement is not without Hassles: Eagles and Gators #1942

Another successful neighborhood gathering took place last night.  We now get the day off from social gatherings in anticipation of tomorrow night’s Alter Eagles concert. It looks like there will also be a pre-party. The last time we saw the real Eagles was on my 63rd birthday in 2014 while we were living in Portland. Glenn Frye died two years later at the age of 67 and was replaced with his son Deacon, while Vince Gill also joined the band at that time. They are playing later this month in Tampa. Ticket prices range from $255 in the upper levels to $8,470 for front row VIP seats. We’ll probably see the Eagles again when Hell Freezes Over. The Alter Eagles are probably our best option – “just close your eyes and you’ll think they’re the real thing.”

Our next concert is still most likely Santana/Earth Wind Fire on my 71st birthday. I’m not seeing any other options in between, with the exception of these cover bands and concerts in the park. The Paradise Pickers played last night at our neighborhood event. They were one picker short but well worth the money, although it made conversation difficult. Even with my new Bose sound system, a.k.a. hearing aids, I had trouble working the room. My voice was definitely strained by the end of the evening, trying to scream talk. I did meet a few more people on our street.

There is a nest of Eagles just down the road from us. The massive roost of sticks is high in a tree, but you can see the bald heads of the eaglets peeking out as the two proud parents keep watch. We stopped the other day so our guests could clearly see them, rather than our typical drive-by. They are on the grounds of the local Italian-American Club, so it was after dinner one night that we discovered their existence. Depending on weather, most egg hatching takes place in January and February according to sources, so the timing of the babies makes sense. I wonder if they will all eventually move on and the nest will slowly disappear? They have become part of our local tour, just beyond Alligator Alley where an occasional gator is seen sunning. They tend to be more visible this time of year and less dangerous as predators, using the sun to warm their cold blood, enabling them to digest food. Eagles and Gators are our entertainment this time of year. 





Retirement is not without Hassles: Welcome Distraction #1923

It is a cloudy “Matinee Monday,” a good afternoon for indoor entertainment. Tomorrow, we head to Vanderbilt Beach, about an hour-and-a-half south of us for a reunion with Indianapolis friends. We got together last year about this time of year, as they take a two-week break from the cold before heading back to WORK. I can barely remember the meaning of that four-letter word. Obviously, they are a bit younger than we are. We’ll spend the night, with Tally staying with a new sitter, a neighbor from the dog park. The folks from “Schnauzerville” where she likes to go are on a cruise, but it’s good to have multiple options for pet care as much as we’d like to travel. On Wednesday morning we’ll drive into nearby Bonita Springs and meet some hometown friends for lunch. She was the wife of a good high school friend who died  several years ago and has been in a new relationship for awhile. I’ve yet to meet him, but soon will, since they too are getting away from the chilly Indiana weather. 

Florida is a great place to renew acquaintances with the Midwest snowbirds. I guess at one time I could have been considered such an animal, but I’m now a full time resident. I was pretty far removed from my Hoosier friends, living both in Austin and Portland for the last dozen years. Only rarely did we have visitors, but I had the good fortune of knowing several Oregon Hoosiers, dating back to high school. I miss hanging out with them, especially “Leadership Meetings” at Buffalo Wild Wings. They’re coming down here for Spring Training, plus I’ll visit them in Portland come September. 

We got some of the fliers out yesterday for the Neighborhood Meet-up in a few weeks and will see a lot of them tonight at the events center for a movie one of them produced. It could be two movies in one day for my wife and I! As a result, I will miss some of the IU basketball game tonight, but have a feeling that this may be a good thing – we have little to gain and a lot to lose. The team has not won a BIG road game in nearly a year, plus Nebraska is last in the conference. If we lose this one – all hope is gone. It will be better to simply monitor the score and keep my comments to myself. Getting together with these new neighbor friends will be a welcome distraction. 

Creature Features: Where’s The Change? #1919

As has been customary in recent posts, I’ve included a historical tidbit as part of my daily thoughts. Back in the year 1919, “the USA needed security. Instead, cities experienced “Red Scare” bombings, race riots, workers striking, vets competing for jobs, May Day demonstrations, armed resistance movements and the deportations of 149 people, including political activist Emma Goldman, to Russia. Historians rate 1919 ‘America’s worst year.'” This all according to Wikipedia that is always an easy resource. A Penny for their thoughts!

With my lifelong fascination of finding abandoned coins on the ground I have posted about “Pennies from Heaven” in my ramblings. (See Post #183). In my daily runs, I’ve only found a couple of quarters and a nickel on these new neighborhood streets. Running in downtown Portland was an entirely different experience. Much more traffic and parked cars as opposed to construction equipment here. I haven’t found a single penny since we moved here 10-months ago. 

I ran across this poem on Facebook the other day from an anonymous source:

“Found a penny today,
Just laying on the ground.
But it’s not just a penny,
This little coin I’ve found.

Found pennies come from heaven
That’s what my grandpa told me.
He said, “Dog-Angels toss them down.”
Oh, how I loved that story.

He said, “When a Dog-Angel misses you,
He tosses a penny down.
Sometimes just to cheer you up,
To make a smile out of your frown.”

So don’t pass by that penny,
When you’re feeling blue.
It may be a penny from heaven,
That your dog has tossed to you.”


I’ve written about this phenomenon, but always attributed it to a wink from my parents or other angels watching over me (See Post #1594), especially when there was a quarter involved. I just never gave the dogs due credit – shame on me – until I read this poetic tribute. I promise to give a future nod to my former pups like Tinker, Roxie, Belle, Gizmo, Smiley and Brittney. I suppose I should also include the cats, but three coins over ten months makes credit hard to divide. Where’s the Change, Florida?

Creature Features: Time to Rally Tally #1850

It’s another “Tourist Thursday” with a trip to the Sarasota Orchid Show. We try to do something each week to learn more about our new Florida surroundings. It also helps us plan what our guests might enjoy when they visit us. This week, in fact, several once-a-year events are going on including art shows in Venice and on nearby St. Armand’s Island. We’ve also made plans for the upcoming Venice Wine Feast and will also make some stops in Tampa when we go to pick up our next guest at the airport next week. It’s all an attempt to keep my energetic wife happy and busy. 

She’s at the dog park with our schnauzer Tally right now before it rains. Tally is not as active as many of the younger pups but she likes to sit up on a bench and at least watch them romp. As I run by every morning, she barely makes an attempt to acknowledge me. Sometimes I’ll clap my hands and she’ll run away, hoping that the “big dog” gate is open so she can chase me. At least, that’s what my wife claims so I don’t feel bad about the lack of attention. She’s clearly Tally’s favorite, while I’m just an occasional outing and treat source. I take her out first thing every morning, just before dinner, and before we all retire for the night. Otherwise, she could care less about my presence. 

We never know where Tally is going to sleep every night. She has two beds and two favorite chairs or will plop down on our silk couch pillows when they happen to be out for the benefit of guests. She will not get in the bed as long as I am around, but anymore it’s too much of a jump for her aging legs to make the leap anyways. Tally will be 13 in two months, the same age as my oldest granddaughter, but many times still acts like a puppy. We know that she probably only has a few more years with us, so the desire for a companion dog is growing in my wife’s mind. As much as we plan to travel, I feel that we don’t need additional dog sitting charges, let alone the responsibility.

After going to the dog park twice yesterday, including an evening visit for “Yappy Hour,” Tally seemed more than content in her living room bed. It’s the fancy Ginger Bed  she uses when there’s a need to guard the patio sliding doors from intruders. She can also be near us when we’re watching TV in the evening. Many times we’re not sure if she’s tired or just bored, however the double play day surely made it more difficult to get up for her final outing with me. I clapped my hands several times to get her attention with little reaction. Even “Ham Time” didn’t work. Finally, I asked for “Tally to Rally.” She slowly climbed out of her nest, shook her dog tags, and stretched before I had her full attention. It’s my  newest call to action…”Time to Rally Tally!”

Creature Features: Golf Cart Treats #1824

Tally’s day started with an expected treat from a guy in a golf cart. I was about 15 minutes behind schedule, so apparently he drives by almost every day after his gym workout. He stopped and asked if Tally was friendly then offered a treat. I thought it was a fun surprise from her new friend Paul. It goes to prove that just a few minutes change in the routine can make a complete difference in the day. After Tally had her second treat after being a good girl outside, she cuddled up next to her new stuffed elephant and started the long wait until “Mom” takes her to the dog park. In the meantime, I do my daily run as dozens of now familiar dogs pass by on their way to the park. 

It’s the same familiar faces at the dog park every morning and a few of them wave as I run past. My wife and I are on different routes but she will join them all soon, so her car will be missing when I arrive home in a sweat. As I walked in the door, I could tell that Tally was excited that “Mom” was finally up  because she had drug the elephant down the hallway to the garage door. I could almost see her shaking the poor creature in her teeth in anticipation of getting in the car. It must seem like hours to her between that first morning outing and the drive to the park, but the elephant keeps her company. 

Tally spent five days away from this routine last week but went to Schnauzerville or Schnauzerland for care while we were out of town. She apparently has a boyfriend named Jax that also comes for grooming and she enjoyed being around the six, new-born schnauzer puppies. At Camp Schnauzerville there are at times 18 of the same breed playing in the back yard and dog beds laid out all over the house. It’s total chaos at first glance, but Bob & Carol have done this for years, breeding, grooming and boarding schnauzers just like Tally in their home. We were lucky to find them. I doubt she misses us much in this special puppy environment and is often tired and/or depressed when we get back. Then, she’s stuck alone with the elephant and other stuffed toys until the next trip to the dog park when she’s reunited with her friends. There’s always now the dog treat golf cart to look forward to seeing in the mornings, like the ice cream truck when we were kids. 

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