Today's thoughts

Category: Creature Features (Page 2 of 9)

Creature Features: Last Legs #1145

I’m feeling sad for our oldest Schnauzer, Tinker, that has been part of our lives for over 13 years and presumably 15.5 years old. When we adopted her from the Decatur, Illinois shelter, she had been rescued from the woods, surviving on acorns to keep her digestive system active. She was given an older sister, my wife’s chow Belle, and named for the Disney fairy Tinker Belle. Hence, Tinker and Belle became an inseparable pair.

We had to put Belle to sleep years ago, following an ACL injury that prevented any mobility. Her legs simply gave out. In her absence, Tinker was presented with a younger sister, Roxie, that died very young as the result of an inattentive driver. Our third adopted dog, Tally. has now been with Tinker for about 8 years. Combined, they are known as T&T and have lived together in both Texas and Oregon. They have also traveled through a lot of states as we’ve moved across the country, and love to ride in the car.

Tinker was wild when we first met her, untrained and always hungry. She also ruined her share of carpeting until she eventually learned to take her business outside. It was not because she wasn’t smart. We believe that she is part-poodle, and as a result quite intelligent. Over the years, she has become a wise influence over Tally. However, she has never lost her aggressive nature towards food. She’s always “starving,” and treats every meal as her last. As they say, “input equals output,” so this is why she’s earned the reputation as “The Poopingest Pup on the Planet.” 

Tinker is sadly on her “last legs,” just as Belle was years ago. When Belle was struggling, Tinker could run like the wind. Roles are now reversed as Tally watches Tinker stumble helplessly around. We believe she had a stroke that has left her hips twisted and back legs weak. She often can’t get to her feet on our slippery wooden floors. Last night, she cried for help getting-up on our bathroom tiles. Her plea was more like a whimper, as her vocal cords also seem to be impaired, affecting her ability to bark. Just a few weeks ago, she would bark incessantly, hoping to get our attention for scraps of food. I feel bad that I had to yell at her to be quiet because now she can no longer speak. Her long tail has lost hair, she has scabs on her elbows, a massive tumor in her ear, and some open sores that Tally can’t ignore. These mounting physical issues along with loss of sight and hearing are tell-tale that her time with us is growing very short. I wanted to get though the Thanksgiving holiday before making any decisions. It brings tears to my eyes as I realize that she can’t get to her dog bowl any longer, but there should be plenty of treats in doggy heaven. 


Creature Features: Pet Travel #1137

What’s wrong with this picture?

Condo for a week in Las Vegas $330

Airfare $22

Pet Sitting $800

For retirees who want to travel, pet sitting is the biggest expense. For our two dogs, it’s about $100 a day for someone to come into our home. A kennel stay isn’t much less, so we’ve always opted for the personal attention and security of having someone stay here. By next year, sadly, we’ll probably be down to just Tally, since Tinker is blind, deaf, and quickly losing her sense of balance. Tally will probably then enjoy the social interaction of boarding. At this stage, it would probably kill Tinker. 

Tinker leaves the apartment every day by carriage. When we get to the nearby park I carefully lift her out to do her business. Six times a day it’s a never-fail poop, as even old age has not tarnished her dubious reputation as “The Poopingest Pup on the Planet.” There is little delay when her feet hit the grass, while sister Tally always takes her sweet time. My wife claims that she has many secret canine messages to “decode” with her nose. We miss our precious pups when we travel, so it’s worth it to have someone carefully looking after them. We typically rotate between two sitters, based on availability. One is a little less money than the other, so we tend to favor her a little more. 

My wife’s daughter occasionally provides pet relief for us when we travel. This has been complicated by a recent marriage, a new house, and her new adoptive addition, Falco, a mixed terrier. Falco spent time with us during her recent honeymoon, but Tally had some adjustment issues with the new niece. She likes her time with “Mom” after I’ve left our bed every morning. Falco tried to hone-in on this treasured time. To be honest, I’m not sure if Tinker was aware she was even here. None of the dogs have much demand for me when their “Mom” is home.

All Tinker cares about is food, and needs the input to create the output. She has become persistently annoying in getting fed and has an incredibly accurate internal clock when it comes to dinner time. This is about the only movement that we see all day, as she begins to stalk us at about 4:30 p.m., in anticipation of the five o’clock feeding. She also begins to bark when I fail to feed her from the table, a habit that we have to change. Tinker, despite her lack of hearing, has an innate sense for an open refrigerator door. As far as both dogs are concerned, I’m just the guy that takes them outside and often interrupts their comfort in the process. At least, I’m no longer charged with kitty-litter duty, but I do miss Frankie that passed just before our apartment move a few months ago. 

It’s ideal when we can take Tinker and Tally along when we travel. They’ve done a few day trips and recently accompanied us to Canada. Tinker has the most travel miles, with seventeen states and British Columbia under her belt, or should I say collar. Tally has been on road trips from Texas to Indiana and Texas to Oregon. They are both great car-riders, even when the cats joined us on major moves. We had hoped to get Tinker to California for a visit with my wife’s other daughter, but we’re not sure if her health with allow another state. We always save money when the dogs are along because there are no sitting fees and we tend to stay in the cheaper hotels that are dog friendly. 

Creature Features: Tough Transition #1123

Our schnauzer Tally has had a tough couple of months. In our move from condo to apartment, she first lost her favorite sleeping spot, a small sofa that she chewed-up as a puppy. When the move was complete, she adopted another clawed-up chair that was once in my office. However, we replaced that with a new chair that she is not allowed to sit on. Naturally, she would not give up or just didn’t get it, so we finally compromised with a protective covering. Ultimately, she lost interest and found comfort in a dog bed next to where we sleep. 

We next introduced Tally to her first niece, a terrier mix named Falco. We housed Falco for the week while her mother, my wife’s oldest daughter, and new husband enjoyed a honeymoon in Hawaii. They became best of friends, romping through the hallways on our floor and teaming-up to bark at other dogs. Our other schnauzer, Tinker, Falco’s elderly aunt, took this all in stride and maybe didn’t even realize that we had company. At over 15 years and without good eyes and ears, she only reacts to food. I take her outside in her stroller several times every day to make more room for more food. Input equals output – this is why Tinker has earned the reputation as “The Poopingest Pup on the Planet.” She rarely fails to discharge on each of our five or six daily outings. It was a challenging week, handling the needs of all three dogs. I would start each day with just Falco on a leash and then make a separate trip to the nearby park with Tinker and Tally. The rest of the day my wife and I would divide & conquer, so the peppy dogs could take longer walks while Tinker would rest and probably dream of food. 

After all the other things we took away from Tally, it was time for Falco to go home. Today, things were back to normal for us, but Tally lost her best friend and playmate. Fortunately, she goes to the spa this morning for a bath and grooming. She’ll at least be around other dogs and can continue to romp before she returns to our quiet apartment. Hopefully, it will be an easier transition after so many tough ones. I can almost read Tally’s mind: “You took my couch, my chair, and now my dog.”  


Creature Features: Small Box #1105

Our two schnauzers, Tinker and Tally, are slowly adapting to our small apartment box. It’s the way they started their life in Portland when we moved here over five years ago. They ride the elevators up and down throughout the day and have to contend with the traffic noise and crowded streets. It’s very different from the quiet neighborhood where we lived between apartments. Grass is also at a premium even through there is a park just a block away. This is where we go first thing every morning to do our business. 

We’ve settled into a daily routine that starts with loading Tinker into her stroller. Once she’s buckled in, Tally goes on the leash and we head out the door. I now own more keys than I’ve ever had in my life. One for the apartment door, an electronic fob to get in the building, trash room keys, garage opener fob, plus hydraulic lift and mailbox keys. I replaced key locks for our storage cages with combination locks so that my pockets don’t bulge as much. Are those keys in your pocket or are you glad to see me? I carry just the door fob and apartment key with me when dressed to run. They do their thing in the park and then I escape for my daily three miles. 

By the time I return from my jog, dodging cars, bicycles, pedestrians, and scooters, my wife takes her turn with the pups. Each dog then has a different priority. Tally wants to stay in bed with my wife, while Tinker wants food. Tinker is the classic example of input equals output. This is why we call her “The Poopingest Pup on the Planet.” She’s well into her fifteenth year – about 110 dog years, and relies solely on her sense of smell. Even though she’s lost hearing and eyesight, her appetite has never waned. Also, the minute after I get her out of the stroller, she wastes no time making waste. I have little time to get a doggy bag ready, as she wobbles off to take care of number one. On the positive side, she has not had one single poop-sident in the apartment, but I feel like she’s ready to explode every morning after all the scraps we feed her. One morning, I made the mistake of taking her out without the stroller. Fortunately, I had a bag ready when she started to squat in the elevator. I was able to catch it before it hit the floor. The Air Buggy stroller that we bought for her can prevent such an embarrassment and allows her to keep up with Tally’s much faster pace. 

While I write, my wife takes the pups on a much longer walk, sometimes leaving Tinker behind. The 110-year old lady seems to be fine as long as I’m nearby, but appears to loom by the door hoping that they don’t forget to include her. On occasion now, I’ll go with them, taking turns to push the stroller. Since my wife’s retirement, we’ve done fewer “Schnauzerthons,” where I combine my run with their walk. She has the time to spend with them outside of weekends. I still do the early morning and late night shifts of taking them out, but we now alternate throughout the afternoon, making sure they get six outings every day. 

Tally’s only adjustment issue has been the other dogs. Somewhere along the line she’s lost her social skills, and has been very protective of us, barking at all the strangers that we encounter. She even barked at herself in the elevator the other day, spotting her own reflection in the stainless steel walls.  Loud bus and streetcar noises make her jump, while Tinker never hears them anymore. Hopefully, Tally will eventually settle down. She loves to go out on our tiny balcony and bark at anything down below. We feed her out there, as well, so greedy Tinker can’t steal her food. Once Tinker has quickly gobbled down her own dinner and begins to search for Tally’s, we simply shut the sliding glass door so Tally can take her time eating. When we were in the condo, their bowls were side-by-side so we always had to keep an eye on ravenous Tinker. Tally eats much slower and gets distracted easily. Next thing she knows, her bowl is emptied by Tinker. Eventually, we learned to separate the two of them at meal time. The balcony trick works great, especially when you live in a small box! 



Creature Features: Farewell Frankie #1060

Frankie, our apricot point, Burmese cat with blue eyes was born on February 8, 2001, just before my wife and I were married. She was our first joint purchase, spotted on our noon news show, and her oldest daughter thought that Frankie was an appropriate name because of the bright, blue eyes that reminded her of Frank Sinatra. She has moved with us from Indiana to Illinois to Texas to Oregon, crying “Mow” persistently every mile of our journey. We soon discovered that “Mow” really meant “Now,” an indication of her demanding personality. She could also hide like no other cat, even in a small motel room, where we once assumed that she had somehow escaped. We finally found her in the hollow behind a dresser drawer after literally tearing the room apart. A single “Mow” would have revealed her whereabouts, but also knew when to be silent. 

I just served Frankie her last meal. She will be laid to rest this afternoon after 18 and 1/2 years of life. I’m shedding a few tears as I write this because she’s been such a significant part of our marriage. Unfortunately, she’s been very disoriented these past few months and the thought is that perhaps she suffered a stroke that caused blindness. I’ve had to clean-up around the litter box, lift her to the food perch, and even sometimes help her down. She eats little but the chicken broth we serve her twice a day, and is down to about 6 pounds on her skeleton frame. There was a time when she would was part of the pet-pack that craved a late night snack of ham. (See Post #699). She stopped grooming herself some time ago, and as a result her hair is full of stubborn mats. Yet, every morning just before the sun comes up, I hear her cry for attention. “NOW.” (See Post #1035). This morning she was quiet. Maybe she knows that today is her last? 

It’s a major transition time for our whole family. The loss of my wife’s mother several months ago was the beginning. Tinker our 15 and 1/2 year old schnauzer pup is struggling with her health. We just sold our house and are about to move into a transitional apartment, as we prepare for retirement together. Soon, only 10-year old Tally will remain from the pet-pack. She’s still full of vim & vigor and will adapt easily to a new home. As pet care becomes less apart of our married life, extensive travel will be the next phase of our future. We will always carry fond memories of Frankie, as we have with her older sisters – Macy, Dimey, and Marilee that we once known as the kitty committee. My wife had many more cats in her life, but these were the critters that she shared with me. She also brought Chowperd Belle into our marriage that eventually led to the adoption of Tinker – hence Tinker-Belle. We also treasured our time with Roxie, Tinker’s other short-time pet companion. Her life ended tragically in a car accident. I wish I could have that sad moment back.  

Frankie will undoubtedly cry “MOW” on her final trip to the vet this afternoon. She’s led a long kitty life and traveled through at least fifteen states. Tinker and Tally will miss her, as we will. Tally will no longer find chewy treats in the litter box and Tinker will not be able to steal pieces of ham (now turkey) from her. Honestly, I won’t miss cleaning her litter box every morning or when she wakes me up with her annoying “MOWS,” though small prices to pay for her beauty and company. Above all, we want to make sure that she’s not in any pain, but her constant disorientation is disturbing and can no longer be ignored. Rest In Peace, dear Frankie. 

Creature Features: “NOWS!” #1035

It was supposed to be a day of pet errands, but the groomer is sick. Now, I just have to get Frankie, our aging cat, to the vet for some fur maintenance. It’s rare when we take “old blue eyes” out of the house, but she badly needs a haircut. As a Burmese, she has a beautiful white fleece that is unfortunately all tied in knots. She’s no longer capable of grooming herself, so it has to be uncomfortable. We’re just trying to make her final days as pleasant as possible, since she has little interest in food and continues to lose weight. However, at over 18 years old, she still possesses a feisty attitude and a meow that sounds like “NOW” if her food is not delivered on time. Warm chicken broth is her favorite and she wakes us up every morning with annoying, persistent “NOWS” until we fill her bowl and lift her up to eat in a spot where the dogs can’t devour it first. 

Frankie has little spring left in her step. She can no longer leap-up on the bed or to her feeding loft without assistance. After each meal, I find that little is actually eaten. Her internal time clock is still accurate in alerting us three times a day without fail. The last “NOWS” of each day are for “ham time,” a bedtime snack tradition for her and our two schnauzers. She has to have it “NOW,” but most of it sits untouched in her bowl come morning. “Ham Time” has become shreds of sliced turkey in the interest of heart healthy for the last few years. The nightly ritual dates back to a vet who suggested that the extra protein was key to a long life. (See Post #699) It certainly seems to have worked for Frankie and for our old lady schnauzer who’s approaching sixteen years. It has become all of our pets’ favorite time of the day. 

As I prepare to load Frankie into our kitty carrier, I can expect non-stop “NOWS” all the way to the vet. On the other hand, our pups will have to wait for the groomer to reschedule and will look-on with both concern and curiosity as their feline friend Frankie heads out the door. She’s becoming very fragile with little meat on the bones, and I frankly don’t expect Frankie to be with us much longer. Although she’s led a long, happy, ham-filled life, I’m sadly just not sure how many lives or “NOWS” she has left?


Creature Features: Bark Shark 2 (Poem) #1025

If you read the previous Post #1024, you read about Tinker and the inspiration for this poem. 

Bark Shark 

It lurks not in water,
No fin on its back.
Keep your fingers away,
When it’s ready to attack.

There are no shiny scales,
But dog fur instead.
It could be hiding,
Under your bed.

It has sharp teeth,
And gnaws on a bone.
Don’t get in its way,
Leave it alone.

When feeding time comes,
It may start to stir.
Prepare yourself,
Should this occur.

It may try to stalk you,
Start barking like mad.
Be aware of that look,
Of being hungry and sad.

It smells your cooking,
Pleads that you share.
Whimpers and begs,
Fears you won’t care.

Don’t be afraid,
No need for scare
Bark is worse than bite,
When bacon’s in the air.

Beware of the Bark Shark,
It’s craving your food.
Feed it or flee,
It’s got an attitude.

Copyright 2019


Creature Features: Bark Shark #1024

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the “Schnauzerthon,” a weekend activity with the dogs that we invented. Last year we attended The Soulful Giving Concert to listen to a couple of cover bands and ended up buying a pricey doggy stroller at auction prices to support the cause. Ever since then it’s been the private carriage for our aging schnauzer, Tinker, and enables her to join us for long walks and what we call “Schnauzerthons.” I will run while pushing Tinker in her fancy Air Buggy while my wife walks her sister Tally on the leash. At various points throughout the route, we will switch roles, giving Tally a chance to run, or my wife will take both dogs and give me some solo running time. It takes about an hour to complete, as Tinker finishes the last several hundred yards unassisted.

Tinker is nearing the 15 1/2 year mark, putting her age at about 108 dog years. She got a festive new orange and pink vest (Vesty LeRue we call it) to mark the occasion. My wife bought it on her recent business trip to L.A. “Vesty” comes off every night after her last outing, even though she’s not nearly as itchy as she used to be when the metal tags would rattle in the middle of the night. We can thank the steroids for giving her some peace, although she still does some serious paw licking on occasion. The Prednisone doses we give her each morning and night, embedded in cheese slices, also have controlled her arthritis. On the negative side, it makes her aggressively hungry, so we call her “The Poopingest Pup on the Planet,” once input leads to output. She also has developed some ugly growths on her skin that Tally likes to playfully lick that leads to irritation. Fortunately, they are non-malignant -just gross. Tinker continues to move slowly, cautious of steps because of her cataracts, and no longer insistent that we lift her up on the couch or bed. It probably hurts too much when she tries to get down by herself. 

Tinker’s only motivation seems to be food. She lays around all day until she sees me headed for the kitchen. Her outings are limited to a short loop after barely making it to the bottom of the driveway for a poop and another few steps to the grass for a pee. Tally continues to persist in stretching each outing to the maximum, while Tinker heads back to the garage to wait for us. Sometimes she gets impatient, just as I do with Tally’s lack of focus, and starts to bark. Barking has become more frequent when Tinker fails to get what she wants, but it no longer includes annoying us for “elevator rides” to the couch or bed. She also has an occasional “poopsident” that has yet to become a serious problem. Sometimes I wonder if it’s Tally, but I think most of the blame goes to “The Poopingest Pup.”

Tinker continues to get a lot of attention when she’s in the stroller, as was the case this morning. She did bark and stand-up, saving us from a messy clean-up, so we’re always glad to let her out to do her business. The stroller is equipped with Wet-Wipes, just in case. As I write this final paragraph, my wife is fixing breakfast, and Tinker is barking at me and heavily panting in anticipation of a few shard bites. There’s a “Bark Shark” lurking below my desk, waiting to strike. She can smell the bacon in the air, and I certainly won’t be able to resist her pleas. Tally does not beg like she does, but I blame some of it on the steroids. I just want to make Tinker happy in what is probably her final year of life. I wonder how many more “Schnauzerthons” she has left in her?

I guess some sharks do bark like a dog and I’m surprised that no one has written a children’s book. I’m on it – but first stay tuned for a poem. It will be along the same silly lines as PigWhalea. (See Post #453). “Bark Shark” – coming soon to this blog. 






Retirement is not without Hassles: SunDay FunDay #1019

It’s just another sunny day in the glorious world of retirement. For those still working for a living, it’s also Sunday. My wife is getting ready for a business trip to Los Angeles while I gladly stay home to watch the dogs. They see Sunday as FunDay, anticipating their weekend Schnauzerthons. My wife leads feisty Tally on a leash while I run with old lady Tinker pushing her stroller. As we make our way through the neighborhood park, we’ll occasionally exchange dogs in a carefully synchronized spin around the pond. There’s even a designated poop stop, having learned our lesson about giving Tinker a timely break. She is, after all, “The Poopingest Pup on The Planet,” and the fast buggy ride seems to relax her a bit too much. Just like a toddler, we now always carry Wet Wipes just in case. Once I complete my just over three-mile daily running goal, I let her out for the short walk home. Today was RunDay number 3.864, as “The Streak” continues. 

Tinker was really gimpy today as she waddled along by herself. Her regular outings are very short any more and often she doesn’t even make it down the driveway before she poops. A few steps later she’ll relieve her bladder in the neighbor’s grass and immediately head home. It’s almost like clockwork. She’ll then wait in the shade of the garage until Tally finishes her business, and will bark if it takes too long. Last night, we had dinner guests and she was very impatient. The neighborhood was so peaceful and quiet except for her demanding bark. It was the most outspoken I’ve ever seen her, so she must have thought that with guests at the table, she’d get more food if she was loud enough. As we well know, input equals output, so extra baggies were needed today.

One of my favorite SunDay morning rituals is listening to Sunday Morning Brunch on KINK radio. Although it’s a subtle reminder that I used to work there, it was a mellow way to start today. It helped me get through a sluggish hangover from too much wine and too many barks last night. I won’t be outdone by the neighbors when I set out my glass bottles for recycling tomorrow. It will look like a job well done, after another of my wife’s successful dinner parties. It may be one of our last at this home once we put it on the market in a few weeks. Who knows where we will be living next? I’m sure the neighbors won’t miss “Old Lady Bark” or the brown spots in their yard. 

I’ll be on my own for a couple of days, so baseball, beer and fried chicken with a friend is planned. Tinker will have no one to bark at but Tally, as she quietly dreams of the next Schnauzerthon. I just hope that the Cubs can get their sh*t together after blowing a couple of key games this past week. I’m sure my Cardinal friends are thrilled. They are only “my Cubs” when they’re winning and the Brewers are taking advantage of weak relief work with back-to-back-comebacks. It won’t be FunDay unless they can win in Milwaukee today. Also, the fried chicken won’t taste good unless they can beat the Cardinals. If not, you’ll get tired of hearing my bark!

Creature Features: Schnauzerthon Part Two #974

We’re on the move today, satisfying my wife’s need to keep busy on her precious days off. She arranged an early dinner with friends last night and made plans to visit the Vancouver, WA farmer’s market this morning. We have to pick up a case of wine that we bought on our way back from Walla Walla a few weeks ago. We’ll check out a few of the sights from the other side of the Columbia River while we’re there and maybe grab some breakfast. In the meantime, we’ll give our bored dogs some exercise and fresh air via a “Schnauzerthon” through the neighborhood park. It’s Day 3822 of “The Streak,” and the dog outing breaks up the loneliness and monotony that often accompanies my day-to-day roadwork. I’ll push our aging pup Tinker at a fast pace in the stroller during part of the 4 mile challenge this morning, and try to get Tally to “run like the wind,” that usually turns out to be “dragging” her reluctantly along on the leash. I’ll then leave my wife with both dogs and the stroller while I jog the winding path through the woods on my own. Two schnauzers, my walking wife, a stroller, and solo sprints make up the various legs of our weekend “Schnauzerthon.” I continue to struggle with a sore lower back. 

This family activity has been going on for nearly a year now, since my wife bought the stroller at an auction  fundraiser. (See Post #617). This year, we’re skipping this Soulful Giving event that comes around again in another few weeks in favor of a Zupan’s Market “Oregon Bounty” dinner with friends. We’re also not going to Polo Noir that happens the weekend after with this same couple. We had all attended the first two of these “Sport of Kings” events because of the music acts that included Bruce Hornsby. It was like going to the Kentucky Derby to watch all the fashionable outfits. It has no appeal this year.

I just got a few more gift cards for Father’s Day from my wife. We’ll have steak salad for dinner tonight in honor of the occasion and maybe a bottle of the wine we’re about to pick up at the Vancouver Market. My wife slept in a little bit this morning while I wrote this post, but the dogs are getting anxious for their “Schnauzerthon.” Hopefully, Tinker won’t poop in the stroller like she did a few weeks ago during the American Heart Association 5k.  She’s usually pretty good about letting us know – with a bark – when she needs to get out and do her business. However, you never know with an aging pup of 15 years that’s earned the reputation as “The Poopingest Pup on the Planet.” (author note: the poopsident happened despite this premonition – however, an easy clean-up this time.)


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