Homing In On Rehoming

We were pups, my brothers and I. At the time, I might have been five, my older brother seven and my younger brother three. (The picture below shows us celebrating my younger brother’s second birthday.) Certainly, none of us knew what conversations my parents had had with their friends, but results from those conversations had a definite impact on us.

Birthday Party 1952
Birthday Party 1952

Here’s what happened. Mom and Dad were friends with a couple, Bob L. and Dotty. (I think that was her name.) They had two small boys, Robby and Ricky, born two years apart. The family lived in a small apartment near our church.

I think my dad had been friends with Bob when they were both single men; Dad spent his life lending a hand to one or another of his buddies. In this case, Bob and his wife had a troubled marriage and things had gone from bad to worse even before Ricky arrived. Dad wanted to help this couple keep their marriage together (if possible) so they began spending more time with our family in our home. Eventually, the wife walked away, leaving for good, and Bob needed someone to take care of his boys while he worked. He called my dad and asked if, as a temporary measure, he could drop the boys at our house on his way to work Monday morning. Continue reading “Homing In On Rehoming”

Walking Dead At Downton

On the surface, the two shows (The Walking Dead and Downton Abbey) could not be more different. What they do have in common is – at least here in the central time zone – both shows air at 8 p.m. on Sundays. That requires some juggling, yes, so maybe things are getting slightly muddled in my brain … did Lori have a baby or was that Edith? (Both.) Was Matthew Crawley killed by zombies or a car wreck? (The latter.)downton_abbey_simpsonized_by_adn_z-d6qw7zh

I know, I know! I’ve probably stepped on everyone’s toes by suggesting any of the above. But the huge casts involved in both productions make for some interesting contrasts, don’t you think?Walking-Dead_Simpsonized-by-ADN_hi-660x293Unfortunately, though the shows have been running about the same amount of time, the Simpsonized images (shown above) don’t offer a good comparison for the number of characters. Both shows have numerous recurring (or minor) characters, while Downton appears to have relied on special guest characters whereas Dead has not. Continue reading “Walking Dead At Downton”

Doggie Tale

Where do phobias originate? While my ambivalence for dogs probably doesn’t rise to the level of phobia, I’ve often chided myself for what I think of as a defect in my character. I am unlike the hordes of people who view YouTube pet videos and fawn over the cute things they see. These videos rarely amuse me. A FaceBook posting recently noted:  this video is guaranteed to warm your heart. (Nope, didn’t happen.)

cutedogEarlier in the week, my Beloved called me to join him as he watched an AFV segment where dogs and birds were “talking.” I was reminded of David Letterman’s Stupid Pet Tricks episodes that have predictably left me cold. Sure enough, these talking dogs and birds failed to impress me. Continue reading “Doggie Tale”

Bonehead Study Bites

“There’s a new secret to get your child to behave at the dinner table − cut up their food and they’ll relax.” So says the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. To help them publicize their recent study, they’ve provided art work (below) to drive home the point.


Highlights from this scholarly contribution of academic cogitation include the following prominent bullet points:

• Using teeth to bite food may be connected to aggressive behavior, as with animals.
• Children ages 6–10 were served chicken either on-the-bone (bite) or pre-cut (chew).
• When eating on-the-bone chicken, kids appeared more aggressive and less compliant.
• Behaviors included violation of counselors’ instructions by leaving the eating area.

For parents who’ve been wondering anxiously why Johnny or Jenny is (1) disobedient, (2) rambunctious, (3) fidgety, or (4) all of the above, the brilliant Ph.D. researchers (3 of them) along with an M.S. researcher at Cornell have supplied the ultimate excuse answer to explain Johnny or Jenny’s misbehaviors.

Whew! And you thought your child’s conduct would require counseling!

My first thought (when hearing and reading about this “study”) was to presume a college senior (looking for an easy A) settled on this dubious topic as a senior project. But no.

It appears to be the misbegotten brainchild of an already full-fledged Ph.D. and author, Brian Wansink. As founder of the Food and Brand Lab, Professor Wansink appears to have identified his mission in life  assessing and transforming other people’s eating habits. You may want to learn more about Wansink, but don’t depend on his website; most of the pertinent links (save for the Hi-Res Photos and Vita links) take you to “Page Not Found” locations. Too busy authoring scholarly studies, I guess.

Full disclosure, first. I’m no Ph.D. I don’t have a team of researchers, university funding and cartoonists on my staff. Actually, I don’t even have a staff … unless you include the massive black dog lying in the next room.

But this I know:  plain and simple, this study is boneheaded! Furthermore, it is a huge disservice to parents and their children! Note the weasel-wording of the first bullet point:  Using teeth to bite food may be connected to aggressive behavior, as with animals. When an infant plants his or her teeth into a parent’s flesh, that too may be an aggressive action … but it could also mean that infant is suffering teething pain. How utterly ludicrous to evoke the image “as with animals” and attach it to a normal, natural act of biting!

Eating on-the-bone-chicken makes children appear “more aggressive and less compliant”? Really? Appear = seem … hardly a definitive statement, a subjective observation at best. (Did the researchers decide in advance what they wanted to find?) Observe twelve children (yes, twelve children) eating lunch at a summer camp and extrapolate subjective perceptions from what the researcher notes. (No chance for bias or misinterpretation there, right?)

The suggested solution for better behavior at the dinner table? “Cut up their food and they’ll relax.” But the teeth … children still have to chew. Alas, unless the teeth are all yanked out, children may be tempted from time to time to bare their teeth and bite − as with animals. We can’t have that!

God forbid there should be a chicken leg or ear of corn or a crunchy apple in the house! Purge it all! Nothing but shredded chicken, creamed corn and applesauce allowed! Render the entire eating experience bland and unappealing to the senses. Let’s all be anorexic!

I shudder to think how much money (tax dollars?) Cornell University (and other institutions of higher learning) are devoting to such lofty and informative endeavors. How in the world did people manage in the long-ago days before micromanagement and behavior modification burrowed into every aspect of our everyday lives? How did previous generations of children ever manage to grow up, unassisted by the ultra-supervision of Big Brother watching their every move?

But children do grow up. Alas, many of them never take time (even momentarily) to consider the possibility that the “facial feedback” brought on by baring the teeth to bite (according to Wansink) signals common animalistic aggression. (Surely we are doomed!)

Maybe we should just feed them through a straw until they’re twenty-six years of age?

Dog Blog

People who know me quickly come to understand I’m not a dog lover. It is a fact of my life about which I’ve recently had some serious pangs of guilt. I believe all animals are God’s creatures. Because God created them, they deserve respect from humans. Almost every family that has a dog (or dogs) has ceded familial love to them. In principle, I get that.

However, when I married my husband, he was (like me) tender to animals in general but disinterested in the idea of family pets … at least for us. Neither of us cared for animals that bark, jump up and take liberties to lick you uninvited.

All that changed (for my husband, anyway) more than ten years ago when our son and daughter-in-law brought a puppy named Tank through the door. If you’d like to read this story in greater detail, I posted about it here.

More on my pangs of guilt in a minute, but I thought I’d temporarily shift into a semi-friendly mode and share this lighthearted poem about “my dog” which is a wholly fictional account. Written many years ago, I could only imagine what dog ownership might be like. This was the result.

dogs, mutts, dog tags, poetry, poem, light verse
Poem: Spot

In reality, Tank isn’t a mutt but a pure-bred Labrador Retriever. (The above picture of Tank with my husband is only added for visual interest.) Showing how long ago this poem was written, today’s license tags today surely exceeded the seven bucks threshold long ago.

Tank is an indoor dog. Because he’s a black labrador, he sheds stiff, thick black hair everywhere. We don’t allow him in areas of the house that are carpeted, but his shed hair still gets carried throughout the house! When he’s been outdoors, he’ll return with a layer of dirt and grime covering his coat. Consequently, wherever he lies down, the area will have a noticeable layer of dirt after he moves elsewhere. (This is like having the Charlie Brown character Pigpen living in my home!)

Tank’s dog bed is ensconced in my laundry room, so whenever I enter that room, I have to step over him, step over his large dog bed (which he only occasionally uses) and breathe what is (to me) dog air. [Don’t even let me start on the stench emanating from within my husband’s pickup truck where the dog often spends time. It’s awful!] I would be less than candid if I neglected to admit one time when Tank wandered off and was gone about a week, I felt sorry for my husband … while inwardly I rejoiced at the prospect of retrieving my laundry room for exclusive use as a laundry room!

Maybe I’m a baby, but can you sense the rationale behind my negative attitude? Those of you who are dog lovers, I understand if you don’t feel the same (or if you conclude I’m a creature from another planet). But can you see my side of things, if only a bit?

Back to my pangs of guilt, yes, I feel bad about my hostility to this four-legged creature. When I must sweep up the dirt and debris he leaves behind, my resulting resentment disgusts me. My heart accuses me of being an unfeeling beast! And there’s not a shred of denial because the pangs of guilt I feel are condemnation enough. But love? Nope, I don’t have it in me. Nada.

So today, as a means of penance, I tip my poetic pen to Tank the dog. If I ever wanted to have a dog, he’d be the one.

Heaven’s Hound And Master

FrancisThompsonEnglish poet Francis Thompson (1859-1907) isn’t particularly well known today, though the name of at least one of his poems may be familiar to some. He was the tortured soul who wrote The Hound of Heaven, a 182-line work that is both loved by some and considered by others to be too intimidating to read. I think the intimidation factor is due to its length; many people with short attention spans don’t care to wade through a poem of 182 lines.

I won’t reproduce the poem in this post and I hope my brief comments don’t discourage you from reading it here. It is a beautiful and lyrical poem, and a piece that is both heartbreaking (in its candor) and tender (in its depiction of the devoted Hound coming ever nearer). The poem is of course a metaphor, the Hound being a loving God who pursues the Hare. The Hound’s intention, however, is not to devour the Hare but to express divine grace, to bring the Hare to the fold.

As you read the poem, you feel the Hare fleeing, ever fleeing; hiding, wishing (hoping) not to be discovered. There is urgency in this flight! That Thompson succeeds in sustaining that urgency over the length of the poem is the mark of a great poet. Perhaps more telling, Thompson seems to raise a veil where we can peak into his heart and understand some of the genuine desperation in which his poem was rooted.

But make no mistake. Whether you agree with the underlying concept of Thompson’s poem (i.e. God pursuing his creation), the poem doesn’t demand unanimity of belief. One does not have to concur with Thompson’s worldview in order to simply appreciate his poem. The work remains a masterpiece in and of itself. Thompson was (as Chesterton called him) a “great poet.”

You may enjoy this dramatic reading of the poem performed by actor Richard Burton.

Because I’ve long known and loved Thompson’s work, I decided to borrow his metaphor and take a slightly different approach (with fewer lines) via a sonnet. As one who has experienced the divine grace of the Hound of Heaven, I find he is both the pursuer (as Thompson described it) and the master whose lead I follow.

Gentle-Master, Hound of Heaven, unbridled soul, sonnet, poetry, poem
Sonnet: Gentle Master


Flea Treatment

Back in the 1960s, author Charles M. Schulz (of Peanuts cartoon fame) wrote a book called Happiness Is A Warm Puppy. Humph! Mr. Schulz didn’t know me.

People who know me well are aware I’m not a dog lover. I often explain that when I married my beloved, he wasn’t a dog lover either. I always thought we were a match made in heaven and I never expected that aspect of our compatibility to change.DSC_0354

Through the years of our marriage, we’ve had several dogs so our children could enjoy the companionship. But these were never long-term relationships; the first dog (Snoopy, a beagle) ran into the street, the second (Moonshine, a border collie) walked into our yard one day and stayed … until the day she walked away, a third (Daisy, a mongrel) got mean and unpredictable (and chased the mailman), a fourth (J.R., a sheltie) barked all night, and another (Baron, a chocolate lab) needed space to run so we gave him to a family that lived on acreage.

Then our older son adopted Booker (another chocolate lab) from his best friend’s litter. Under older son’s tutelage, Booker had exceptional training, growing from pup to obedient adult dog. (I tolerated his presence in our home.) When older son married, Booker moved out, too. And since our daughter-in-law had a yellow lab (Dixie), it wasn’t long before Booker and Dixie delivered their own offspring.

That’s when things changed. Son and daughter-in-law wanted to “keep” one puppy from the litter, but already having Booker and Dixie, they figured a third dog in the family might be unworkable and costly … two adult males and one female lab have ravenous appetites! Alternatively, they prevailed upon us, and a black lab named Tank (pictured above with my beloved) joined our family. (That was almost ten years ago!)

No doubt about it, Tank is an excellent pet and a great companion to my husband. The man I married has become a dog-lover (Tank exclusively) and I acknowledge I’m now one-half of a “mixed” marriage. Most days, Tank goes to work with my man … which is more than fine with me!

Anyone who owns a dog can probably sympathize with a problem we encountered with a couple of our dogs − fleas. These pests are beyond annoying, and we’ve endured horribly unpleasant infestations. Fleas always seem especially attracted to me (while others in the family appear to be immune), so I can tell you, I completely understand a modicum of how the dog suffers when flea-afflicted!

But what’s a writer to do? Why of course, turn my misery into a poem! That I did a number of years back. Though the poem didn’t bring relief, it was an enjoyable distraction. (In retrospect, eliminating the fleas was harder than writing the poem!)

Sang-Froid-Odium, dogs, fleas, flea bites, light verse, poetry, poem
Poem: Sang-Froid Odium

Wouldn’t it be fun if wordplay (such as this poem) could effect change?! Can you imagine it? Maybe you can suggest other words and playful “solutions.” Your comments are always welcome!

There Was Blood

I’m not a dog-lover. I tolerate the black, four-legged creature (BL) who lives under our roof because he is a devoted friend and companion for my husband.

BL is the offspring of my son’s chocolate Lab (CL) and my daughter-in-law’s yellow Lab (YL). So, we have a mutual understanding:  when they (or we) go out of town, we (or they) watch over the critters. (It gets more complicated when there’s a family outing where we’re all leaving town.)

Out-of-town happened this week. They left town to help a relative suffering from cancer. The dogs came to our house, and with the temperature blazing and little shade in our yard, there was no choice but to shelter the animals inside. (I may dislike animals, but I’m not totally heartless.)

When keeping the dogs inside, they usually remain in or close to the laundry room (tiled floor, air-conditioned and out of the way). The laundry room is down a long hallway that leads to the kitchen and the rest of the house. Continue reading “There Was Blood”