Today's thoughts

Category: Roxie

Our second schnauzer puppy

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: 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: 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. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: My Life by the alphabet: #586

If I had to describe my life alphabetically, this would be my answer:

A Adam my only son; A- blood type; Albion College Sigma Chi; 5-year Austin resident; Alpha Media President’s Club

B Banister at birth; Burt my dad; Baseball cards; Burger Chef & B.J. Thompson; Blue Blazers; Beardsley Bombers

C Certification with RAB & IAB; mother Cathy; NewsCenter 17; ACBJ Chairman’s Club; Colts; Coverdale Lake

Dee loving wife of now 17 years; Daytona 500 w/grand kids; Detroit Marathon; Diet Coke; George Dickel; Disney

E Eliza, my daughter-in-law; Elkhart High School graduation; Eagle Lake; Ernie Banks; Ford Edsel

F France trips, Future European travel, Final Fours, and World Series Finals

G Gavyn my first and only Grandson; Greek Parthenon visitor

H Homes in Indy, Sarasota, Edwardsburg, Union, Zionsville, Decatur, Austin, and Portland; Hall of Ivy

I  Italy, my favorite country to visit; Indiana born Hoosier; Indy 500 team member; Indy Ad Club President

J Johnston name for life at adoption; Judy, my sister’s name; 

K Kitties named Marilee, Macey, Dimey, & Frankie; KXL, KINK, KXTG, KUFO, KUPL, KBFF, WE 96.3; Kidney Stones

L Lin Television retirement pension, Love of sports; Sherm Lollar; Lake Decatur; Lookwell Dairy; Limoges Boxes

M Megan & Miranda step-daughters, Granddaughter Maddux; Marriott Rewards; Middlebury Independent; Mustang

N Nora Grace my youngest Granddaughter born this year; North Side Junior High; No Alaska or Maine

O Over 40 years in the media business including agency, radio, digital, newspaper, magazine, & TV

P Politics, religion, & Bobby Knight not to be discussed; Portland current home; Poet; John Purdue Club

Q Quit working last year to retire at 65; Qualified blog writer 

R Running Streak of 10 years; FOX 12 Hood to Coast Relayteam; Reggie Miller Pacers fan; Rice Krispies; Roxie

S Schnauzers: Gizmo, Tinker, Tally, and Roxie; States lived: Michigan, Indiana, Florida, Illinois, Texas, and Oregon. Sherm Lollar fan.

T Toastmaster’s DTM, TV GM; Travel enthusiast; Toyota Solara; Taylor Univ. Jr. BB camp; Timbers; Top Dog Award

U University of Indiana (IU) diploma; Ukulele player wanna-be

V Viking Cruises to Normandy, Athens, and soon Egypt; Volcano Pizza

W World cruise on bucket list; White Sox, Bears & Cubs; WYEZ, WTRC, WIBC radio; WISH, WLFI, WAND TV

X-Wife Marcia of 27 years

Y is for Yesterday the last book that my favorite author Sue Grafton wrote as part of her alphabet series

Z Zanna my 96-year old Mother-in-Law 

Creature Features: Tinker’s Tail (Part 2) #371

If you read the last post #370, you know that “Tinker’s Girl” has come to visit. My wife’s youngest daughter is here for the week, with her older sister joining us for dinner tonight. Tinker will be thrilled to see both of them together, although we all know her favorite – and it’s not me or my wife. During lunch today, we shared some more stories about Tinker, our schnauzer, especially after I told them I was putting together a book called “Tinker’s Tail,” the tale of the pooping-est pup on the planet! I may not actually call it that – but I do have a volume of humorous poems about our lovable pup named Tinker along with her mischievous sister Tally, and would like to get together with an illustrator to publish a tribute. I included the “Montezuma” story at the end of my trip down memory lane regarding our pets that I wrote about this morning. Consider the following paragraphs to be Part Two, the sequel to “Bone Wars.”

“Tinker’s Girl” reminded me of the time she took Tinker for a walk in Austin, Texas, where we moved after living in Decatur, Illinois. Following the nightmarish loss of an adorable little schnauzer that we adopted down there named Roxy to a horrible accident, Texas Tally came into our lives. Poor Roxie was with us for only a brief time before she was run over by a car. It was my fault for not paying closer attention, but ironically I had to pick-up Tinker’s poop and could not get out of the way of a fast moving vehicle that nearly took all of us out at a blind intersection in our apartment complex. There were no sidewalks, and the car took a short-cut around the corner without stopping. I will never forgive myself, but would have probably never had met Tally if it weren’t for that tragedy. As you might have guessed, Tinker is always pooping – the pooping-est dog ever, as we call her. She is still a bottomless pit and never misses a meal, while keeping a hairy eyeball and a lightening fast tongue on plates and bowls around her. What goes in – must come out! Justifiably, she was apparently abandoned as a pup and survived by eating acorns in the woods, according to the doctor who examined her stomach prior to our adoption.

According to my stepdaughter’s story, she was walking Tinker on South Congress Avenue near a Mexican restaurant. Tables were set up on the sidewalk and the place was packed with standing room only. Without any kind of warning, Tinker lost control of her sphincter and ruined several appetites by depositing a puddle of poop, the consistency of nacho cheese, on the sidewalk. It could only be mopped up, so the baggy she was carrying was useless, and they could only move on with their walk, regrettably leaving the residue behind. “Tinker’s Girl” was helpless and embarrassed, but Tinker herself was already searching for another abandoned nacho chip. I had a similar thing happen here in Portland a few years ago, but at least it was raining and quickly washed away as opposed to being baked into the hot Texas pavement.  This was clearly not an appropriate lunch tale, but we all chuckled anyway. You just have to be careful about what comes out under Tinker’s tail!

Another story of “toilet humor” that she told us took place back in Decatur, Illinois, when Tinker was still a pup and furry sister Belle was still alive. The three of them went together to a neighbor’s house to let their Golden Retriever pup outside. Before she could even get its leash attached to go outside, the Golden peed in the middle of the kitchen floor and the other two dogs followed suit. Tinker added to the puddle first, while the unsteady, aging Belle tried to add her “two scents” worth. Instead, she sadly stumbled, slipped, and fell into the growing mess. While trying to get Belle back up on her feet, the other two were using the kitchen floor like a Slip and Slide.  I too had gone to take care of this same young Golden two days earlier, and found he had escaped from a cage of smelly, runny poop and tracked it carelessly throughout the house. It was obviously not worth babysitting this pup, since both of us ended up with extensive clean-up jobs just by trying to be neighborly. I fortunately did not take Tinker and Belle along on my visit. In all fairness, Tinker, at a later time, got revenge on this neighbor’s son, who was returning the favor of our help on behalf of his parents, and faced a severe case of Tinkerreah at our house. Dog sitting can be crappy duty – that’s for sure!

Poop stories can be gross, but they can also be funny if they don’t happen to you. This applies primarily to babies and dogs. As a precaution, I always carry extra bags when taking Tinker on even short walks. We’re guilty of feeding her “people food,” so I guess we’re just asking for trouble. She’s also been accused of sometimes having excessive gas. Through the years, however, she’s learned to do her duty outside, and has been great about managing her liquid intake when we’re not home. Tally is equally good about controlling her bladder around the house. Since we live in a condo, I have to walk them both on a leash, rather than giving them easy access to a fenced-in back yard, so I take them outside about five times a day. Tinker is living proof that bad dogs can become good dogs, once they are properly trained. She will not even wander off, even when a squirrel crosses her path. Tally, on the other hand, still has some growing up to do.

Retirement is not without Hassles: What’s with that Name? Part 1 #136

A name is how we are known, addressed, or referred to in life.  I seem to have some unparalleled experience when it comes to names.  In fact, I was born with a different name than what I grew up with, have had my name changed, altered and misspelled, have been labeled with a nickname, and have given my name to others.  I’ve also named several businesses, animals, and children, and been called a few names in the process.  As a result, I tend to be very sensitive when it comes to the precious brand that each of us possesses through our name.

I was born Jerry Lee Bannister by a mother I never knew.  The adoption agency called me “Mickey,” maybe because of my big ears.  Correspondence to my prospective parents stated “your Mickey is quite a boy,”  but my parents fortunately put a stop to that.  My legal name for life then became Michael Lee Johnston, however my friends called me, “Smiley.”

When I got in the business world, I began to emphasize that my last name was “Johnston with a T,” since it was often mistaken as simply Johnson.  Fortunately, very few misspelled the name “Mike,” whereas “Michael” could get some vowels reversed on occasion.   For many years, I let these misspellings go unchallenged, but soon realized the importance of protecting my brand.  This became particularly significant in the age of e-mail, since misspelling meant non-delivery.  I am very specific with the “T,” and my wife has become equally emphatic.

Wives are typically quite familiar with name changes, since this hassle many times accompanies the marriage licensing process.  Some women maintain their maiden names, while others use hyphenated versions.  My wife, for example, changed her legal name to Johnston, but maintains her maiden name for business purposes.  It gets a bit confusing at times, but she established brand recognition for her maiden name in business long before she met me, although she also used a hyphenated version in her previous marriage.  Name changes through marriages are a sign of the times.

I suppose I could have been Mickey Bannister-Johnston, Jerry Lee Johnston, Michael Bannister, or Mike Johnston, instead the nickname “Smiley” eventually prevailed over all other options.  I did have a wide smile and a big mouth growing up, so it was probably an appropriate label to give me.  It started at a week-long camp that I attended in Junior High School.  I didn’t like the name, “Smiley,” and couldn’t wait for camp to end so I could get my identity back.  However, it caught on and spread through the school like wild fire.  I fought it all through high school.  It wasn’t that it was a bad name; it just wasn’t my name.

I definitely had an identity crisis throughout High School, and hated to use the phone where you always needed to identify yourself.  If I said it was “Mike” or “Michael,” they didn’t know who was calling, and I refused to call myself “Smiley.”  This was particularly problematic when it came time for a prom date.  We would all gather at a classmate’s house and try to muster confidence to make that critical call, with the guidance and support of close friends.  I hid in the corners, or pretended to make calls, and would finally have to make the “ask” face-to-face at school.  I honestly think this aversion to the phone eventually affected my ability to make cold-calls in business, and my reluctance to participate in group call-outs.  I learned to hate the phone!  With today’s technology, we finally have Caller ID, so I no longer have to fumble through an explanation on who is calling.

“Smiley” no longer exists, and “Jerry Bannister” is my second Facebook identity.  I used my birth name in an attempt to make connections with the Bannister family name.  This came about as part of my efforts to learn the identity and whereabouts of my birth mother.  I had to rely on the help of a few close friends to get me started with this page, but now I have hundreds of Bannister, Banister, Bannistor,  and even Bannester friends on Facebook.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a connection with my birthmother, Edna Faye Bannister, presumably of Rome, Georgia. (See post #104:  Dual Identity).  I do, however, wish Jerry Bannister a happy birthday every year on Facebook.  I hardly ever forget since it’s the same day as mine!

Giving another a name is a privilege and happens only rarely in life.  It usually starts with a pet.  For example, I was able to name my dog “Smiley,” hoping that it would become his brand rather than mine.  I also helped in the naming of Tinker and Tally, our two schnauzers.  (See post #133:  Puppy Love).  I have yet to name a cat, and the names I came up with for a white mouse, a chameleon, some fish, and a few turtles have escaped me.  I’m sure they were clever!  I also helped name my son, Adam.  He was named after the actor Pernell Roberts, who played Adam Cartwright in the T.V. series, Bonanza.  I also gave my son Adam his middle-name of Michael.  This happened, as I recall, on the way to the hospital.  We had pretty much decided on the name Lee, since it also was the middle name of both my father and I.  Apparently, ego got in the way, so he’s Adam Michael Johnston, my favorite namesake.

I still find it touching to go to the veterinarian, with the dogs and our cat, and see the name Johnston come up for each of them – Tinker, Tally, and Frankie Johnston.  Since my family tree starts with my adoption into the Johnston family, my pets, my son, my wife, and my granddaughter are the only living Johnston ornaments on the tree.  Roxie, a schnauzer that we lost to a speeding motorist, was also a member of our exclusive Johnston household, and is buried in our hearts.  All the other Johnston cousins out there have their own tree that includes my adopted parents and grandparents that gave me the privilege of the name.

Long ago, I had the opportunity to name a business, “Hall of Ivy.”  It was a plant shop that grew to five locations with the slogan, “bringing the outdoors in.”  I had a radio jingle prepared, a logo, and hired an advertising agency.  I didn’t have much to do with the actual business, but I did some occasional “Plant Parties.”  This involved taking a truckload of house plants to a private home, and hopefully returning with only few remaining.  It was similar to  a Tupperware party in those days, where the host invited guests and received bonus plants for helping to sell them to their friends and family.

I made a common marketing mistake on the name, “Hall of Ivy.”  It was originally just a hallway of plants in a mini-mall, but “grew” well beyond that.  The business eventually also evolved into selling fresh flowers and arrangements, so the name no longer represented what was sold or it’s size.  I didn’t have that foresight when selecting the original name.  Several big companies have also made similar marketing mistakes.  One of my favorite examples is the insurance giant, “Massachusetts Mutual.”  Their original sales territory was strictly the state boundary of Massachusetts, but when legislation eventually allowed them to expand nationwide, their name would no longer represent their customer base.  “Nationwide Insurance” has a similar challenge in the international marketplace.  In what I consider to be an ingenious marketing move, “Massachusetts Mutual” simply shortened their name to “Mass Mutual,” representing the masses rather than just the state.  It was an easy fix to a short-sighted decision on the original name.

Very few of us grow up to be known by just one name.  Beyoncé, Sting. Adele, Prince, Elvis, Cher, God, Santa, and Madonna are the primary examples, not necessarily in that order.  “Smiley” might have grown to that level if I had not fought it!  Most of us have at least a first and last name, that were initially the decision of a parent.  Some of those parents were also a bit short-sighted when they named their children.  For example, the Baals should not have named their son, Harry.  Also, a name like Candy Kane, was maybe cute for young girl, but what about as an adult woman?  I struggled with finding a name for our son that kids couldn’t “make fun of.”  For example, naming a child who has big ears, “Mickey” – who would do that?  I thought I was safe with the name Adam, but the kids ended up saying Ad-dumb.  Sometimes you just can’t win!

Ask any numerologist “What’s in a name?” and they will give you some additional food for thought.  The baby books will tell you which are the most popular, but many of us are driven to find something unique.  There’s a reason why Adolph is no longer popular.  There’s also a list of the 100 most unfortunate names in human history, if you need help?  Just remember, even a “creative” twist in the spelling of a popular name, just to be different, can lead to years of frustration in communication – miss-spelled e-mails, driver’s license errors, graduation diplomas, business awards, etc.  Poor Meaghan, for example, is plagued with constantly correcting everyone’s spelling.  What’s with that name, anyway!

If you are given the honor of coming up with a name, please put some thought into it.  What’s in a Name? Everything.











Creature Features: Puppy Love #133

I’m married to a true dog lover, so if I’m going to live with her I have to be one, too!  She feels a kindred spirit.  I’ve always been around dogs, but never wanted to put the work into owning one.  I can’t remember the circumstances of having dogs in my former marriage, but there was Smiley, the golden retriever who would stand in the shallow water of the lake for hours and stare at her reflection, and Gizmo, the schnauzer with bat ears who did nothing but bark and pee.  I probably wasn’t very helpful in their care, but they were both part of the family.

My parents did not have a dog until after I left for college.  I’m not positive how that happened, but I’m sure my younger sister was the influence.  It was a Brittany spaniel  with the creative name of Britt.  My mom was scared of dogs, in-part due to the one who bit me when I was three years old.  I still have the clipping that reads:  Boy, 3, Bitten By Dog, Gets Anti-Rabies Shot.  It was not front-page page news, but rather almost the size of a classified ad, and the poor dog was kept under “observation.”  Rabies shots are supposed to be very painful, so if I associate that with dogs, it’s no wonder I was a slow adapter to puppy love.

When I met my current wife, she had a part-Chow, part-Shepherd, named Belle that was probably scared of me.  She would not let me walk her outside the neighborhood, stopping abruptly at the edge of the housing addition, or wrapping herself around a mailbox to emphasize that we had gone far enough. I slowly got to know Belle, a critical first test in the new relationship with my wife now of 16 years.   When we eventually got married, we then adopted Tinker, making a “Disneyesque” combination.   Tinker and Belle were an inseparable pair for several years, and I slowly learned how to love.

As I think about all the dogs in my life, there are fond stories that come to mind.  Perhaps this sentimental journey is the result of recently reading, “Call of the Wild,” and watching the movie, “Megan Leavey.”  These were stories of dogs that worked hard and saved lives.  I can’t say that was the case with any of my pets.  They just simply make me smile.

I’ll start my stories with Gizmo, who was out doing her business in our back yard twenty years ago.  When I went to let her in, it was a raccoon who sauntered in instead.  It was very dark outside and both animals were about the same size, so I mistook it for the dog.  Gizmo was then trapped on the other side of the screen door barking at  the bandit, who had proceeded to boldly eat out of his food bowl.  I might not have even noticed the clever thief if it had gone straight up the stairs.  If so, it probably could have done a lot of damage, but Gizmo’s barking alerted me to the culprit.  I chased it around with a broom, three-stooges-style, while Gizmo continued to bark until the masked coon eventually got the message and fortunately ran back outside into the night.

One of my favorite Gizmo tales, was the night I stopped for To-Go at my favorite Bar-B-Q joint.  I was so hungry that I ate the baked potato like an apple on my way home.  I wanted to dig-in right away when I got to the house, but Gizmo, of course, needed to go outside  and was barking like a maniac.  I could smell the Bar-B-Q sauce as I waited patiently for her to finish, and was careful not to let another raccoon through the door.  I could just taste it, but thought better of getting the runny sauce from the pulled-pork sandwich on my new suit.  I reluctantly went into my closet to change into something more casual.  By the time I got back, there was nothing left but the empty Styrofoam container on the floor.   Giz was a chunky little dog, with not much vertical jumping ability, but somehow had gotten up on the counter and devoured my treasured sandwich, along with some cold slaw and baked beans.  I was stunned and angry, but Gizmo licked her smiling lips and held back a belch.  He was then forever known as the BBQ Gremlin.

Smiley preceded Gizmo, and was a lake dog, who absolutely loved the water.  Gizmo, like the Gremlins character he was named after, avoided water, but faithfully guarded our home from intruders.  We would lock him in the front office, with a window overlooking the street, where he could bark at all passers-by.  His radar-like ears could hear from afar any “enemy” approaching.  Unfortunately, he was immune to potty training, though we tried everything, and chose to pee on the carpeting, which is why we would confine him to that space.  It was a small room, so we could afford to replace the carpeting on a regular basis.  He also liked to poop in shoes, so we had to warn our house guests.  Smiley, on the other hand, was outdoors most of the time by choice, so we didn’t have to buy Spot Shot by the case.  Smiley got his name from me, a childhood nickname that was hard to shake.  We thought by giving the name to the dog would make my friends think twice about calling me “Smiley.”  When they did, they would get a big, hairy dog in their lap and a slobbery kiss.  I was still called “Smiley,” despite the efforts to change the habit.  It wasn’t a bad name; it just wasn’t my name.

Tinker loves BBQ, too.  Her favorite restaurant in Austin was “Rudy’s.”  Just the mention of the name “Ruuuudys” sends her into a tizzy, even years after dining there.  It was not the best brisket in town, but it was dog and family friendly with an expansive backyard patio filled with picnic tables.   She would join us at the table like she belonged there, eating her meal off of waxed paper like the rest of us.  Portland is also dog-friendly but the rainy conditions are not always suitable for sitting outside with the pups.  Tinker got to go out to eat a lot more frequently in Austin.  Tinker’s new adopted sister, Roxie, died at a young age, so Tally then became the second member of our schnauzer family. Tally does not have Tinker’s voracious appetite, but enjoys any opportunity to be outside, and tends to favor fish and vegetables.  She’s always full of joy, and walks with the confidence of a race horse.

Tinker is part-schnauzer, part-poodle and very smart, but she’s getting old.  She’s very savvy on the streets, having to fend for herself in the woods.  She wisely ate acorns to keep her digestive track active.  I especially enjoy watching her move from shadow-to-shadow as we walk, keeping her paws cool on the exposed pavement. Tally, even at 7 years old, still has a lot of puppy-like energy and now confines her chewing to stuffed animals as opposed to furniture and shoes.  She’s left a lot of scars in the wood of our bed and coffee table that we’ve yet to have refinished.  They will always serve as memories of her first year with us, dealing with separation anxiety.  Adopted animals always come with issues, but there are so many homeless pets that it feels good to give them a solid home.  There are other stories of Tinker in posts #13, #33, #67, #76, and #130.  Tally is also the subject of these posts, plus #77: Chew on This – a favorite of mine.

Both dogs love to ride in our convertible, hoping that we’ll take them for ice cream.  We have to be careful about using the words “go” or “ride” because they will get too excited for words, and their tails and ears will drop like a starter’s flag if they find they are not accompanying us.  We also have to secretly pack our suitcases for travel so they don’t get disappointed.  They are spoiled, greedy little children if they don’t get their own way, and love to have their tummies rubbed, unless there’s a cookie or food scrap that would take immediate priority.   They also like the fact that I’m retired and can spend the afternoons with them.

As we plan to travel more in the future, Tinker and Tally will probably be our last dogs, but the gravitational tug to have a dog will always be in my wife’s nature.  It will be tough to not have them in our lives.  Probably the best time of day for both of our dogs is “Ham Time.”  They wait poised at the refrigerator after their final outing of the night, anxious for their bedtime snack of sliced ham.  For health reasons we’ve recently switched to sliced turkey breast, but as quickly as they chow it down, they’ll never know the difference.  When Tinker hears “ham time,” I’m sure she thinks of “Rudy’s.”










Retirement is not without Hassles: Worn and Torn #130

I had some hassles with Google this morning that prevented me from adding any content.  I’ve since switched over to a different provider to allow me access to my site.  In the meantime, I spent some time this afternoon at the Vet with our dog Tinker.  She has a couple of lumps that seem to be interfering with her motion and comfort levels.  A couple hundred dollars later, we’re resting comfortably at home.  Pet. Vet. Debt.  (see post #67:  Schnauzer on Steroids).

I also had lunch with a friend. bought some office supplies, and tried to get some business cards ordered.  It’s only early June and I’ve already overspent my monthly retirement budget.  I’ll have to find some ways to conserve.  Our pets are expensive to keep healthy, but well worth the investment.  They are my steady companions at home, and I sometimes measure my own mortality based on the state of their health.

My wife had several cats and a dog, named Belle, when we first got together.  They would all keep a close eye on me during the courtship process.  Belle would have been 25 years old this year, and Macy the cat, who also eventually approved of me, would have turned 23.  They’re chewing on the Pearly Gates now, watching the progress of our new pet family consisting of Frankie 16, Tinker 12, and Tally 7.  Frankie was our first joint investment just before we got married.  Tinker was adopted as Belle’s companion, and Tally was adopted after we lost Roxie in an accident.  I’ve watched them all grow older with time passing quickly.

All of us feel a little worn and torn.  Tinker has especially been going through a rough time with allergies, ear infections, rashes, back problems, and lumps.  It’s a good thing I’m retired and have all this extra time to spend with the Vet.  Tally always enjoys tagging along to support her ailing sister.  Simple dog math puts Tinker in her 80’s, but “old age ain’t no place for sissies” as my mother used to say, quoting Bette Davis.  It’s hard to watch Tinker grow old, knowing that I’m growing old myself, and that someday I might need the help of a doctor.  I doubt that I will seek the help of a veterinarian, unless my ears start to itch.


Worn and Torn

I’m worn and torn,
From wear and tear.
I’ve lived too long,
It now seems unfair.


In-shape and fit,
Started out as a hunk.
Now my spirit is dead,
And my muscles all shrunk.


For too many years,
I just didn’t care.
After just a few steps,
Now, I’m sucking air.


Drinkin’ and Smokin’
More than I should.
Tastin’ and Eatin’
All that I could.


All those temptations,
I should have fought.
This Hangover has hung over,
Longer than I thought.


I’d sit on my ass,
Smokin’ a doob.
Watching others exercise,
On the boob tube.


I’ve been hard on myself,
And that’s made me soft.
At overindulgence,
I often scoffed.


Can’t give blood,
Cause I’m on medication.
I’ve set the standards,
Of our overweight nation.


I have a warm heart,
And a few good parts,
But my cholesterol,
Is off the charts.


Mark Antony’s quote,
“Lend me your ear.”
What’s that you say?
I can’t hear.


My smile is crooked,
And a few teeth missing.
And these wrinkled lips,
No longer worth kissing.


Do the eyes have it?
Not any more.
And who’d want a nose?
That does nothing but snore.


My voice is no louder,
Than most mimes.
And I’ve bitten my tongue,
Too many times.


When I die,
I want to share.
I’d donate my organs,
But who would care?


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