Today's thoughts

Category: Creature Features (Page 1 of 9)

Creature Features: Shaggy #1331

Everyone in our household is getting a little shaggy. At least, Tally our fuzzy schnauzer gets groomed today. She’s been growing her mustache for three months now in these pandemic times. The spa that we took he to for years, Urban Fauna, has sadly closed its doors for good. We’re taking her this afternoon to Coats and Tails, just down the block. Provided they do a good job, we’ll at least have convenience on our side. Hopefully, Supercuts will reopen soon and I can get rid of my shaggy appearance. 

One of our favorite neighborhood taverns is the Blue Moon. My wife is drawn by their mini-corn dogs called Scooby-Snacks. They’ve been a welcome to-go choice over the past month, after they were closed during the initial stages of the virus. I’ve written about Scooby-Doo recently (See Post #1310), but failed to mention his lazy cartoon companion, Shaggy. As described by Wikipedia, “Shaggy Rogers has a characteristic speech pattern, marked by his frequent use of the filler word “like” and, when startled, his exclamations of “Zoinks!”. His nickname derives from the shaggy style of his sandy-blond hair. He also sports a rough goatee. His signature attire consists of a green v-neck T-shirt and maroon bell-bottom pants, both of which fit loosely.”

Both Scooby and Shaggy are readily bribed with Scooby Snacks due to their mutual large appetites, insisting that ‘being in a constant state of terror makes us constantly hungry!'” I guess they have a lot in common with our family, hoping the Blue Moon Scooby-Snacks can ease our terror of Coronavirus. Casey Kasem, of American Top 40 fame, was the original voice of Shaggy, while Don Messick was Scooby, while also voicing The Jetson’s Dog, Astro. “Ruh-Roh!”

Tally, of course, is a fan of snacks, too! She’s not particular, having enjoyed fortune cookies last night from our Chinese take-out order. They always throw in extras for her! It reminds me of one of my favorite poems that I wrote years ago and have adapted for today’s Creature Feature post:

 

Tally

We have a dog named Tally,

Eats everything in sight.

She wants a treat each morning,

Gets ham most every night.

.

She’s at my feet when dining,

Just waiting for her share.

I simply can’t ignore,

Her impatient stare.

.

When we take her on a walk,

Her nose is on the ground.

Searching every crack,

For a morsel to be found.

.

Ice cream is a favorite,

She licks it off the stick.

And if you want some for yourself,

You better eat it quick.

.

When we order Chinese,

Her tail begins to wag.

And she starts to whimper,

When she sees the bag.

.

She wants her Fortune cookie,

In no mood to chase her ball.

She’s been known to eat them,

Plastic wrapper and all.

.

On the morning after,

When I went to scoop.

You’ll never guess what I found?

A fortune in her poop.

Copyright 2009 johnstonwrites.com

The original was written for Tally’s sister, Tinker, that we lost five months ago at age 15. She was “The Poopingest Pup on the Planet.” (See Post #33). Tinker, although a schnauzer, reminded me of Disney’s Shaggy Dog. Tally, on the other hand, will no longer be shaggy after this afternoon.

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: The Future is Now #1324

It’s always good to get my run out of the way for the day. Any more, it’s my sole daily accomplishment, now at a consecutive 4,158. There’s at least one point on the route when I don’t think I can make the 3.1 mile distance, but somehow I push through. This morning a golden retriever joined me for the home stretch, keeping proper social distance on the sidewalk, while pulling his reluctant human forward to outrace me. My dog Tally likes to dawdle. She’s more into sniffing than running. I just read an article that claims that the best exercise for your dog is using its nose. Fittingly, Tally takes her time to “decode” a number of doggie messages hidden near fire hydrants, trees, and in bushes. She’s too busy for the actual walk. 

I’ve almost finished my cheap “made in China” 1000-piece jig-saw puzzle. The cardboard is so flimsy that they’re difficult to pick-up, plus they tear easily. I’m going to tear out my hair before I finish the “hot air balloons over water” scene. To add to the frustration, all the pieces are cut in the same shape, so it could actually be completed in a hodge-podge of shapes and colors that make no sense. It is so frustrating that it may be the last one I ever do.

I also made some good progress on my murder novel, but I may have psychological problems like the main character by the time it finally gets done. It’s so creepy that I would never attach my real name to the book. Perhaps this is a sign of being stuck at home too long with little or nothing to do? I hate to keep mentioning that we would still be in Bali today if it weren’t for all the virus-related cancellations that keep us safely home. At least, it’s been raining there, with a high of 87 and a low of 76. It’s supposed to be their dry season. We would have arrived to enjoy a full week of sunshine, but the 7-day forecast now calls for rain and overcast skies, similar to Portland. We did save a lot of money by staying home, but they were dollars I would have gladly spent.   

Retirement should be filled with travel, seeing all those places that you’ve daydreamed about while trying to work. Stay-at-home restrictions were the last thing I ever expected. Even this is much preferred over being stuck in a hospital bed on a ventilator or worse. I’m grateful for our health, but feel as if we’re all in a rut. As others have joked about on Facebook in reference to the movie Back To The Future, , “whatever you do, Marty, don’t take us to the year 2020.” I would love to see a movie anywhere but in my living room right now. Unfortunately, the Future is Now!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Masked Mouse #1320

Disney World will apparently be opening soon with patrons required to wear a mask. Will Mickey be wearing one? Regardless, it will hard to see the smiles as the characters do their magic. I haven’t gotten into the habit of wearing one yet, but it will soon be ordered. Some would claim that I’m being disrespectful, but I do at least go out of the way to keep distance. I’m also not outside the apartment that much with the exception of my morning run. Regardless, I need all the oxygen I can get when pounding the pavement.

We live in crazy times, fighting an invisible health threat with useless weapons. With little to do but watch TV, read, and do puzzles, all of us are getting antsy. I successfully fulfilled my weekly cooking responsibility last night and will be rewarded with to-go food tonight. We’re watching A Handmaid’s Tale and Billions to pass the time. I continue to chip away at my murder novel while reading Clive Cussler’s The NUMA Files that includes some Egyptian history.  We’re still hopeful we can get there as planned in October. 

The economy continues to struggle, as I am trying to write just a couple of paragraphs. It’s increasingly tough to come up with topics when there’s little to do. The big activity for today may be a drive to the vet office to pick-up some medication for Tally. Once again, it’s a rainy day in Portland and even the dog is restless. She’ll enjoy a short ride in the car, anything for variety. Her fur continues to grow without the availability of grooming services. The characteristic schnauzer mustache now appropriately covers her mouth like Mickey’s mask. 

Creature Features: Tally Llama #1316

After 50 days of being home-bound, we ventured out on our longest journey since mid-March. It was just shy of a month ago that we did a shorter get-away out to the closed Vista House. State Parks like this were just re-opened to the public this past week. Our dog, Tally, likes to ride in the car and often perches herself like a surfer on the armrest between the two front seats of my wife’s convertible. In mine, she has an elevated dog bed in the back seat that allows her to see outside. I probably would have driven, because there is more space for everyone, but my battery was dead from little  to no use. 

Our goal was to pick-up a case of wine and enjoy a beautiful, sunny day. I was appeased with a quick stop at McDonald’s for a Diet Coke, a rare fountain treat these viral days. We also got a tankful of gas for the first time in recent memory. Premium was only $2.55/gallon, a bargain for Oregon, while the rest of the country often boasts of half that price. We were soon experiencing the refreshing openness of the countryside after the suffocation of isolation. 

I was a “Five-Peak” day, as the mountains loomed in the distance. There is little more thrilling to my wife than a clear day in Oregon and views of Hood, St. Helens, Rainier, Jefferson, and Adams. Tally sat unimpressed until we stopped at the side of the road by a Llama farm. I’m not sure if she’s ever has been as close to something so tall. I could almost reach out and touch it, while she was hesitant to even move. They stared at each other for a minute before she started to bark..but it was more of a cautious woof. My wife wanted to take a picture of Tally and the Llama. “Tally Llama,” she quipped. It was a memorable moment of laughter. 

Llamas have been in the news lately. According to Belgium scientists, “A female llama called Winter has been injected with a protein present on the surface of the novel coronavirus, first detected in China last year, and has reacted by developing antibodies. These in turn appear capable of playing a role in shielding the carrier and neutralizing the threat of the virus.” It seemed appropriate that we were face-to-face with what could be a hero in freeing us from isolation and the threat of respiratory disease.

We’re all familiar with the Dalai Lama, “spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, and in the tradition of Bodhisattva. He has spent his life committed to benefiting humanity.  In 1989, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent efforts for the liberation of Tibet and his concern for global environmental problems.” Maybe next year’s prize could be awarded to Winter the Llama?

In the business world, there are those that have obviously capitalized with variations on the Dalai Lama name. For example, The Dolly Llama “specializes in unique, hand crafted dessert waffles paired with artisan ice cream and personalized toppings.” Now, there’s the Tally Llama, the product of my wife’s vivid imagination. It’s a schnauzer with black fur and a long neck that likes ice cream.

Creature Features: Scooby-Doo #1310

Like the “Good Ol’ Days,” I did pick-up a penny off the sidewalk the other night. My wife and I were patiently waiting for our “Scooby Snacks” and sliders from the recently re-opened McMenamin’s Blue Moon. More and more neighborhood restaurants are unlocking their doors after apparently securing government loans, enabling limited carry-out menus. Admittedly, I’m frustrated with missing out on my little quirk of collecting “Pennies from Heaven,” concerned that they now may be infested with germs. It turned out to be too late to get them later when I had proper hand protection. All these recent changes in dining and cleanliness routines are sadly the by-product of the Coronavirus crisis. Touching anything or anyone can be hazardous to our health. 

Our frisky schnauzer, Tally, unconcerned about  social distancing, accompanied us on the 6-block walk to get our to-go order. “Scooby Snacks” are logically a favorite of hers, as well, named after the animated Great Dane Scooby-Doo. They’re actually mini corn-dogs. On the way, I had just used a doggy bag to pick-up her poop, so after spotting a penny on the ground near-by, the risk of grabbing it in a similar manner suddenly didn’t seem like a big deal. I’ll keep a spare bag in my pocket on future runs. After all, why pass-up a penny when a poop is worth much less!

I once won a giant five-foot stuffed Scooby-Doo at the Indiana State Fair and proudly presented in to my then wife-to-be. I felt like her knight in shining armor toting that silly dog around all evening, since everyone was jealous of our prize. It was eventually passed on to a friend’s daughter of perhaps a more appropriate age. Every time we share “Scooby Snacks,” it makes me think of that summer night when we were first dating twenty years ago. Nowadays, my armor is badly tarnished, and I’m all too often in her dog house. As what I fondly refer to as the “Scoobster” would say, “Ruh-Roh.”

Creature Features: Fur Detour #1305

There was a dramatic change to my routine today. I got out of bed, did some stretching & push-ups, squeezed into my compression gear, and started to let the dog outside. All of this right on time, as it is every day of the week. We live in an apartment building, so I have to take our schnauzer Tally down three flights of stairs to get to the exit doors. From there, it’s a one-block sleep-walk to the park and business as usual. The only problem is that the door is not glass, so I can’t see what’s on the other side, as Tally bolts anxiously ahead every morning. She is on a leash to protect her from what was once a busy street. Lately, with everyone shuttered inside, it’s eerily quiet. 

I never know what’s on the other side of that one-way locked door. There could be a homeless person sleeping just outside, but this is rarely the case since I’m not the first out that steel door every morning. There’s also an airlock between the stairway door and the exit, leaving about a six-foot long carpeted hallway. Sometimes a smoker will huddle on the cement pad in front of the covered doorway and the odor of pot or tobacco will linger. It’s also a dry spot to duck out of the rain plus a depository for cigarette butts and food wrappers. One one occasion, Tally’s doggy buddy, Falco, couldn’t wait to get out and relieved herself in that contained space. I immediately cleaned the carpeting with Spot Shot, but could smell the trapped fumes of cleaning fluid for weeks afterwards. Needless to say, there are many distracting smells that Tally looks forward to sniffing every morning. 

Other neighborhood dogs lurk outside on the sidewalk if my timing is bad. The barking and growls echo throughout the hallways and disturb an otherwise quiet setting. These encounters are always eye-opening and ear shattering, especially after eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. I learned after moving in that this back-exit was the best option, after encountering other dogs in the elevators and common stairwells that lead to the lobby. The dogs in our building are predictably enthusiastic once they leave the cramped confines of their respective apartments. They’re either very glad to see each other or mad about sharing their newfound freedom. In particular, there’s a Saint Bernard upstairs, Moose, that would like to eat Tally for breakfast. Needless to say, we stay out of each other’s way  whenever possible. 

Moose’s owner must have been slightly off-schedule this morning, since normally they are on the other side of the park as I exit the building. They always spot each other with doggy-radar but they’re too far apart for anything but dagger-like stares. Maybe it’s a love-hate relationship? This morning as Tally wanted to go out, Moose was chompin’ to get in; they were quickly nose-to-nose and ready to tear into each other. I ended up shutting the door and changed my normal route to the park in favor of the other direction. Nothing gets the blood flowing faster than seeing the furry, giant jowls of Moose and his hungry eyes looking back at your helpless dog through the crack in the door – at least it’s steel. After narrowly avoiding confrontation, we wisely took a “Fur Detour!”

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Bear My Soul #1291

Let’s get right into the meat of things this morning. I think I finally got my Medicare Part B payments in line with current income, as opposed to tax records years ago when my wife and I were both drawing a paycheck. It was a major hassle involving multiple visits to the local office, letters, forms, and phone conversations or too much wasted time on hold. At least, now I will be paying an affordable monthly health insurance premium, rather than what my wife is currently being charged for her COBRA. Cobras bite! Until she finally gets to the Medicare age, it will be a poisonous expense. Mine will thankfully turn out to be about a third of that! If I had not fought it, I would have been struck month after month by the government’s venomous healthcare fangs for the next two years until my tax forms began to accurately reflect our retirement income. 

I’m also dealing with the hassle of getting loan pre-approval for our move to Florida next year. We would like to start building this summer, and realistically got the hard part out of the way by selling our home five months ago. In the meantime, we’ve been in an apartment, hoping that travel restrictions will alleviate in the next month or so, allowing us to go to the Tampa area and get started. We have an excellent credit rating, but I admittedly have one blemish on my history over 68 years, and that was a short-sale on a property in lllinois six years ago. The nightmare was having to sell a home that sat on the market for six years and ultimately getting less that half of what we paid for it plus improvements. It’s come up as an issue on the last two condo purchases we’ve made and could continue to haunt me. It will probably not be a factor, but just having to regurgitate the ugly details in the interest of honesty is embarrassing. It also feels good to get this off my chest and “bear my soul.”

We’ve had exceptionally good luck on the last two property investments we’ve made. The aforementioned “Bad Deal” was the culmination of a streak of misfortune that included owning multiple homes that wouldn’t sell for one reason or another. For a long time, I thought we were cursed, trying to move with the media circus that took us from one market to another. Thank goodness we’re now retired and more importantly not stuck with any home ownership issues. Our apartment lease ends next year and could end sooner provided we’re willing to pay a penalty. It’s a relief to have no pressure with respect to selling and for once not being trapped by market condition complications.  Getting pre-approval on a loan, should also eliminate any last-minute financing drama. 

For the first time in over a month, we did a short road trip yesterday afternoon – the next best thing to travel. I felt a little guilty not staying home as instructed, but not getting out of the car put others in little danger. Our schnauzer Tally got a bite of something stinky on her morning walk, and was not a pleasant travel companion. She loves to ride in the car, but needs to understand social distancing, especially with bad breath. We would have been in San Francisco this weekend, celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary. Instead, like everyone else, we’re limited on places to go. The area around the Vista House, with scenic views over the Columbia River, was fenced-off, but the drive on a sunny day was still worth it. I also got to stop at McDonald’s for a fountain Diet Coke, one of my favorite travel treats. Perhaps, in a few weeks some of the area parks will reopen and we can take another drive. In the meantime, it’s back to the homebody grind. 

We would have been on the boat to Alcatraz this morning, if circumstances were different. Instead, we’re once again locked in our apartment with too many chocolate treats. Tally gives us a reasonable excuse to go outside and briefly watch the mask parade, as she does her business. I, of course, did my 3.1 mile run this morning, thinking about the application process on my loan and the related letter I needed to write. Loan applications get very personal as you try to explain the circumstances of your private finances. Between that and the Social Security office, I’ve really had to bear my soul this week. Growl!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Change of Pace #1290

It looks like a good day to go for a drive. The sun is shining and gas prices are cheap. It’s at least a safe way to get out of the house and a change of pace. The last time I was in my car was over two weeks ago for a brief shopping excursion. My wife has driven hers once a week, primarily to take our dog, Tally, to visit her daughter’s dog, Falco. They don’t have to practice social distancing, and we keep apologizing to others that they just don’t understand, as they try to get too close. Our handshake & hug world has gone to the dogs. 

I did complete the 1,000-piece jig-saw puzzle my wife bought, my biggest accomplishment yet this month. I’m a little heavier and my hair a bit longer, but otherwise I’m doing fine as a pudgy, unkempt homebody. Funny, I always thought that was un-kept – see, I’m even still learning new tricks, despite being an old dog. I thoughtfully hear from my son and some friends on occasion, but still missing travel, dining out, and “Leadership Meetings.” We’re saving lots of pennies while losing big dollars in the Stock Market (down again this morning). I’m glad that we’re both retired and healthy during these “Dog Days” of isolation. 

HGTV is on in the background, as my wife continues to plan and dream of our Florida forever home. A TV is always on in this apartment, our primary source of entertainment these days. She uses the tub just behind my writing desk every morning with the television volume jacked-up while I try to concentrate. When we were living in our house six months ago, this was not an issue. It’s been an adjustment for both of us, between her retirement and the smaller space we now share. Once she’s done getting ready, I can change the channel while she retreats to the living room to watch Billions. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a new episode of Curse of Oak Island this week and Skinwalker Ranch and Below Deck were both pretty weak in maintaining my undivided attention. After dinner, we’re now watching Killing Eve together. She has trouble sleeping without the bedroom TV on, but at some point in the middle of the night, the timer shuts-off programming for a couple of quiet hours. All-in-all, we’re talking only 5 hours a day without at least one set blaring. Sadly, we’re TV junkies, a habit that began because of our careers in the business. 

There’s not much in the way of light-hearted events to write about during these dark days. I try to divide my posts into categories but there’s been little activity in reporting on sports or travel. Since the passing of Tinker, “the Poopingest Pup on the Planet,” Tally continues to mourn the loss of her older sister. She does like my cooking, especially last night’s pork chops, but Tinker’s appetite was legendary. Input equaled output. Tally’s life is relatively uneventful, and she has a tendency to avoid coming into my office. She’s clearly my wife’s fur baby that relishes their daily walks and “ham time.” I get the less-desirable early and late shifts when it comes to her outings. Furthermore, she is reluctantly forced to sleep next to me every night on “good bed,” precariously situated on the floor where I step-in and out of bed on far too many bladder emergencies. 

Without travel and grooming, we’ll save well over a thousand dollars these next few months in pet-sitting and spa-care expenses. Although she’s a bit shaggy, Tally has had my wife’s full attention, without the sad glares we get when packing bags. Like most dogs, she’s excited to have her humans stuck at home every day. She’ll also enjoy today’s “ride in the car.” In fact, it will be a nice change of pace for all of us, the closest thing to travel that we’ll experience for some time to come.   

 

 

Creature Features: Pet Orientation #1193

Our schnauzer pup Tally is slowly getting oriented to being an “only child.” She had always had Tinker to keep her company, as well as other siblings before we adopted her just before her first birthday. Her 10th is a week away and we need a plan to celebrate. Since Tinker passed away a month and a half ago, Tally has spent 15 days with pet sitters, 2 days at the dog spa, and a week with her niece Falco as a playmate. We’re trying to keep her from being lonely, but you can tell that she misses Tinker, as do my wife and I. Falco is my wife’s oldest daughter’s new pup that is also a rescue. She’s fattened up a bit since we first met three months ago, after the trauma of a hurricane and giving birth. 

Falco and Tally love to run and frolic about the carpeted hallways outside of our apartment. It’s about the only real freedom they get, as our actual living space is restrictive of playful activity. They also get to run up and down the stairs before and after we take them outside. I like to use the back stairway that exits directly to the sidewalk, rather than the main way out into the lobby. With this preferable egress, before they can actually get outside, there are two doors that when closed form a small “airlock” that contains them while I put-on their flashing collars and raincoats. There’s also less chance of running into other dogs and the related commotion that often happens in the marble lobby. The third way out is the elevator to take them up and down, but it too empties into the lobby. We don’t use this option as much anymore without the need for Tinker’s stroller. It’s also more fun to watch the dogs navigate the stairs and better exercise for all of us. 

Falco is gradually getting oriented to visiting us regularly and playing with Tally. Soon, Tally will be spending reciprocal time at Falco’s house, and hopefully she’ll be more mature around the two cats that once lived with us. Tally loved to taunt Jimmy and Zelda, and never learned to befriend them like Tinker. We’re hoping that all of them will get along better, so we can take advantage of sharing pet-sitting responsibilities and costs. The first experiment will be in a few weeks when we go to Las Vegas. In the meantime, the trials and tribulation of pet orientation will continue. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Sad Day #1147

It was a normal morning, with the major exception that Tinker is no longer with us. We had an appointment to put her to sleep this morning, but apparently she was in pain last night and could no longer stand. I had gone to watch the I.U. basketball victory with a friend when I got the call to meet my wife and step-daughter at Dove-Lewis Animal Hospital. By 9 p.m. she had become an angel and Tally, our younger schnauzer, an only “child.” My wife did not sleep well last night, while I was still inclined to step-over the spot where Tinker often spent the night. It was in a direct line from my bed to the bathroom, a route that I navigate all too often every night. 

When I got up this morning, Tally and I took the familiar route to the park but without Tinker’s “Air Buggy” stroller. We encountered another dog on the stairway down from our apartment, since there’s no longer a need to use the elevator. There was a lot of barking as the two went nose-to-nose. I actually thought we could avoid the other dogs in the complex by taking the stairs because most of the surprise meetings occur when the elevator doors open. There’s a neighbor’s huge St. Bernard that is of particular concern since Tally is always intent in protecting me with her fiercest voice. I’m sure she’ll miss Tinker, but will take every advantage of no longer having to share. 

My wife will do the ten o’clock dog outing on a solo basis from now on. She got in the habit of taking feisty Tally on longer walks since her retirement a few months ago. I would take Tinker out with them but then bring her back shortly after “business” was complete. This way she never felt left out after “Schnauzerthons” were no longer possible. She could no longer keep her balance in the stroller, so our combination walk-run routine changed once we moved downtown. Today is a sad day, but there’s relief knowing that Tinker is at rest. Despite the loss of hearing & sight, and some open sores, her appetite was never affected. She died with a full stomach.

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