Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Archive for the month “October, 2017”

Like Taking Candy from a Baby

baby bone


Beau has been fairly tolerant of the puppy, Gus.  And Gus idolizes Beau, imitating him and trying to play with him.

Stair steps

Beau draws the line at sharing bones.  When I give them each their own chew toys, Beau’s morality does not prevent him from taking the puppy’s from him.

twins (2)

They are still pals, but someday the roles might be reversed.  Gus is going to be a big’un.


Hangin’ Out at the Tub

puppy and cat

Our poor cat, Camo, is learning to stay off the ground, out of reach of the puppy, Gus.  Pictured here, the cat is on the hot tub.  The puppy is exploring means to ascend there.

Cats are, they say, curious.  This one is fascinated by the puppy.  He likes to be around the puppy, but far enough away to not get harrassed.

In time, they will work it out.

Beeing a Bride

model and bee

If you can see clearly enough, you will observe a bee (or maybe wasp) on the bride’s “train” very near her right elbow.  Maybe he liked her perfume or was attracted to the flowers.

Now I will tell you the rest of the story.

First, please allow me the pleasure of introducing the main characters and the setting.  The bride is my bride, Sugar.  The occasion, however, was not our wedding.  So, you wonder why she was wearing a bride dress unless it was her wedding?  Miss Sugar, I have mentioned in other posts on this blog, was a model for many years, and, as such, was called upon to pretend to be a bride.  The photo above was taken for an advertising spread for some planned  bridal event in Boulder.  The photo shoot was outside.  So was the bee.

Moments after the photo, Sugar felt the bee on her arm.  When she went to swipe at it, she was stung.  She tore off her headgear (I forget what it is called) and screamed.

Oh, well.  The photographer got his shot for the ad.  The show must go on.


Proper Introductions

Gus and Kitty

The image above is of a puppy and cat meeting through the glass of a door between our kitchen and deck.  The cat is a barn cat named Camo, who has brought us rabbits as big as himself, which he preys upon.  We were concerned that he would see Gus, the puppy, as prey, so we have kept them apart.  As you can see, they are curious about each other.

Now I will tell you the rest of the story.

After the featured picture was taken, I took Gus outside and carefully placed him in the dog pen we have.  Of course, the cat can enter or leave the pen at will.  When Camo came into the pen, I picked up the puppy and removed him from the pen, then put him on the grass in the yard.  The cat left the pen to be with us.

The cat, great hunter that he has proven to be, continued to study the awkward puppy.  I stayed by the puppy, confident in my quickness so that I could grab the puppy if the cat threatened.

The bumbling puppy left the safety of standing between my legs and recklessly bounded toward the cat before I could swoop him up.  I feared that Gus was in harm’s way.  It would be my fault if the cat scratched his eyes out or hurt Gus in any way.

And, as Gus boldly ran right up to the cat, Camo did indeed defend himself by snarling and raising a claw-equipped paw.  I did not blame Camo.  Gus was the aggressor.  Still, I wanted no harm to either pet.

I wish I had a movie of what happened next.  The cat decided that Gus is not a rabbit, albeit rabbit-sized.  He recalled the proper world order, which is that dogs chase cats.  Camo ran away from the ferocious puppy.  Actually, the puppy seemed friendly and wanting to play, as he tries to do with everyone else in our family.  He attacks Sadie and Beau.  He attacks Sugar and me.  He attacks tennis balls and stuffed toys and bones.

Camo fled to a branch at an elevation just slightly beyond the reach of Gus, who barked at the cat in a scolding manner, challenging him to come down.  Camo did not come down.  Gus lost interest and followed me back to the house.  Now he is sleeping.  No doubt dreaming about battles won and to be won.

It looks like it would be lots of fun to be a puppy.  This one is a brave hero in his own mind, unaware that he looks more cute than tough.



Masculine Behavior

beau and gus

“In me you see a relic from a long-lamented age, when masculine behavior wrote a grand romantic page….”    With a Sword and a Rose and a Cape song from the musical Carnival

I pride myself on masculine behavior.  It troubles me when a male fails to display such behavior.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love our new puppy, Gus.  However, it disturbs me that Beau and I are so utterly masculine while Gus, (well, how can I say this delicately?), pees like a girl.  That, my friends, is where Beau and I draw the line.

As shown in the photo above, Beau has been mentoring the puppy about bones and life in general.  I have been hoping that Beau’s example of lifting his leg during urination would teach Gus how it is done in the male dog world.

Since that has not worked so far, I guess I will have to take a stab at it.  Perhaps I am viewed as more of a leader.  I will let you know.  Good thing we have no neighbors within view.

We Slept Together the Very First Night

sleepy gus

So my wife and I picked up our new puppy yesterday.  His name is Gus.  He is a Yellow Labrador Retriever.  He joins Sadie, who is almost 14 years old, and Beau, who is 6 years old.  They were not too enthused about the idea of bringing in an 8 week old baby to change their lives.  Three is a crowd perhaps.

We spent the day as an orientation period.  Gus seems smart and curious.  He is pretty brave.  He likes following the older dogs.  He wants to make friends.  They are usually tolerant, but Beau snapped at Gus when he got too close to his personal bone.  Sadie left the living room at bedtime and, instead of sleeping there as usual, showed up in our bedroom.  Turns out that was a smart idea.

It was a smart idea because Gus cried and cried from his crate, which I had placed in the living room, thinking he would be comforted by having the other dogs around him.  Not so much.

I remember my father sleeping on our screened porch when we got a new puppy years ago.  He did it so as to take the puppy out to potty during the night.  Also, I suppose, to keep it company.

So I copied my Dad in a modified fashion.  I found the puppy shut up as long as I laid down in front of the crate.  I stayed until he fell asleep.  Then I sneaked away to join Sugar.  An hour later, I was awakened by pitiful crying from the crate in the living room.   I took Gus outside to see about peeing or pooping.  Then I put him back in the crate.  Then he cried again.  Then I laid down in front again.

We repeated the process every hour or so.  We went out four times.

The successful part is that there have been absolutely zero accidents in the house.

Gus feels that I am learning quickly how to sleep in front of the wire door to the crate so he can watch over me.  It only took a few times for me to catch on.

I am sure gonna miss my wife.  I really prefer sleeping with her.


Gus at 8 weeks

That’s What I Had in Mind

When I said I do, I meant that I will ’til the end of all time
Be faithful and true, devoted to you
That’s what I had in mind when I said I do    — Clint Black

When I said “I do,” I fully expected our marriage to last for our lifetimes, but I did not foresee what all our shared lives would entail.  Newlyweds are told that marriages have ups and downs.  However, that is hypothetical until actual events become those ups and downs.

I have been surprised many times over the years.  The biggest surprise is that someone as wonderful as my wife would accept my marriage proposal.  If you knew her and knew me, you would be surprised too.  You would say, as another lawyer told me after meeting her, “Man, you sure married above your station in life!”  I agreed.

On the surface, you would notice that my wife, Miss Sugar, is physically beautiful.  That is not merely my biased opinion.  It is an objective finding in that she was actually a beauty queen in Texas, a state known for beautiful women, and had a long modeling career, including being a swimsuit model.  No brag, just fact.  I am a lucky man!

But as alluring as that was for me to pursue her, after I got to know her, I learned that she is a better person than me by almost every measurement.  (I say almost because I can bench press more weight than she can.)  She is kind, generous, smart, and musically talented both as a pianist and singer.  She is a great artist and teacher.  And mother.  And wife.  I am not being modest or humble when I say that I don’t deserve her.  I truly do not deserve her.  Love can be mystifying.

She is fiercely loyal to me.  She has proven over the years that she actually loves me.  It is a wonder.  Miss Texas agreed to go out with me, agreed to marry me, and did indeed marry me.  That is amazing.

What is not amazing is that I love her.  I’d be crazy not to.

I am still crazy about Sugar after all these years.

Today is our anniversary.  We just listened to a song by Clint Black that is special to us.  I encourage you to read the lyrics and maybe look it up on YouTube.  It is called When I Said I Do.Modeling

Life is Precious

I wrote the following in 2008.  It was published in The Denver Post.

Our old dog, Tanner, of mixed parentage, passed away this month, the same week we saw Marley and Me.  He was over thirteen years old.  He died peacefully during the night, alone.  He did not seem to be in pain when I last saw him earlier that evening.  He did not whine, but he was not eating.  I found him the next morning.  He looked like he was sleeping but I knew the truth because he did not raise his head to greet me. Tanner is buried in a nice spot on the ranch.

Our old dog, Buck, a Golden Retriever, also died at age thirteen, several years ago, under different circumstances.  He was in pain.  He could not get up.  He was whining.  We euthanized him at home with his family petting him and telling him, amid tears, what a good dog he was and how we loved him.  Our nice vet came to the ranch and performed the procedure in our presence.  He is buried on our ranch, as are many other well-loved pets, in our private cemetery.

Lucy, another family member, her of the Border Collie variety, was also “put to sleep” but when she was only two.  Again, the circumstances were different.  It was the humane thing to do after she was hit by a motorcycle.  She suffered a spinal injury and could not move her back legs.  The same vet, Dr. Jung, kindly explained that Lucy would not like to live like that, unable to walk and play, so the merciful thing would be to let her go, much as we loved her, and because we loved her.

Most of us agree that life is precious.  We do not seem as united in our views of death, particularly regarding decisions about dying.  Obviously, physical suffering is a distinguishing factor.  To some, death is an enemy to be fought; to others it is a friend to be embraced.

My mother-in-law is a hospice nurse.  She has been with many people as they took their last breaths, some struggling, some at peace.  She is a religious woman and shares her Christian faith.  She believes and has observed that a dying person’s faith makes a big difference in the way one dies.  Tanner and Buck probably had similar relationships with God, both being wise old souls.   I have my doubts about Lucy’s spiritual life yet I don’t doubt God often smiled at her antics.

Regarding faith in God and a confidence about eternal life in heaven, even those of us who hold those beliefs can bitterly differ about decisions to end life on earth.  Some positions seem inconsistent to me.  For example, people who oppose the death penalty for convicted murderers but support the abortion of innocent babies seem inconsistent. To me, it is more consistent to be both anti-abortion and anti-death penalty, as are many Roman Catholics   At least those two positions are consistently pro-life.

I must confess that I, personally, am not consistently pro-life.  Life is precious to me, yet, in many circumstances, such as assisting in Buck and Lucy being “put to sleep,” as well as “putting down” a number of horses for equally humane reasons, I viewed death as an escape from suffering and made these choices as an advocate for these voiceless animals..  I realize that people are not the same as pets regarding how those choices are made, but I view the criteria with a consistency.  That is, I don’t think it is kind to keep someone alive when the quality of life is full of unbearable physical pain, especially when the person has left instructions to not keep him or her alive by artificial means if there is no reasonable hope of recovery.   I don’t want to suffer in hopelessness myself and, per the Golden Rule, I respect the wishes of others who wish to be allowed to die.

My own father had signed a document called a Living Will, which left instructions to not keep him alive by artificial means if there is no reasonable chance of recovery of a quality of life.  He has also expressed in conversation after visiting his cousin who had become fairly helpless and bedridden and no longer himself mentally, “Please don’t let me be like that.”

However, when Dad suffered a severe stroke which paralyzed his right side and left him unable to speak and unable to even swallow, let alone eat, despite the Living Will, and despite his clear instructions to not let him be like his cousin, he was given a feeding tube and lived twenty more months before dying of pneumonia, known as “the friend of the elderly.”  Why did we who loved him allow him to live that way for so long?

Well, I will explain, with some guilt and some blaming of others.  Those Living Will instructions were subject to interpretation.  One doctor at the hospital told us, as my mother and other family members were discussing the suggestion of the feeding tube, “Honor your father, as it says in the Old Testament.”  He knew of the Living Will, he knew my mother was saying, “I know what Johnny said about not wanting to be artificially kept alive.”  That was his advice and it turned out to be good advice.  However, there was another doctor who looked at the Living Will and said, “This says ‘if there is no reasonable chance of recovery.’  I can’t say there is no reasonable chance.  He might get his swallow back.  But if we don’t put in the feeding tube, he will starve in a few days.”

So we let them put in the feeding tube.  My father, a very tough and determined man, tried to get back as many of his abilities as he could.  It did not take him long, with the help of therapists, to regain his ability to walk, at least with a walker.  He would wave away help and insist on walking on his own.  A former college athlete, he was proud of his come-back and we were proud of him.  If the therapists told him to lift his arm ten times, he would do it one hundred, just to hasten his recovery by trying his best.  He worked for hours moving balls from one container to the other and then back again.  One therapist said to me, “They don’t make guys like that anymore.”  He did his best, but he could not will himself to swallow because that is an involuntary neurological function.  He never got his swallow back.

And he could not speak other than in rote ways.  For example, the therapist helped him learn to say, “Hi, Honey,” as a surprise for my mother when she came to visit, as she did daily all day long.  But due to something called perseveration, he might say the same thing to the guy who cleaned the toilet, because he was stuck on saying that re-learned phrase.  People would suggest, “If he can’t talk, can’t he still write what he wants to say?”  He couldn’t due to brain damage called aphasia. He seemed to understand what was said to him, but it was a one-way information highway; he could not make himself understood.  It was sad to see this proud, smart, accomplished, athletic man reduced to the post-stroke circumstances.  I can only imagine what he was thinking.  Did he regret that he was kept alive by the feeding tube?

If he did regret and resent the decision to put in that tube, he did not act like that.  He did not seem depressed.  He could still smile.  He could still enjoy being around people.  He could even read and watch TV.  It would be too boring to fake that he was following the stories but he couldn’t be tested on the content.

So, did we do the right thing or did we dishonor him?  I don’t know.  When Dad said he wouldn’t want to be like his cousin was, and he didn’t want his life extended by artificial means, he was healthy and strong.  Being healthy and strong, of course he did not like the thought of being otherwise.  Neither do I.  Right at this moment, I don’t have a pain in my body.  I am enjoying life.  Of course, I don’t want a life in pain or without my faculties.  That is what we think and say when we are healthy.  When Dad lost his health, he still tried to live.  The fact that he did not give up makes me think that maybe he changed his mind about not extending his life by artificial means.  He still loved and knew he was loved.  He had a quality of life because he was conscious and, therefore, conscious of love.

What about Terry Schiavo?  As I recall, she was not conscious.  Did she want to live?  Who can say?  I see a distinction between her being in a coma for many years and my father walking and reading and loving, even without eating and speaking.

My mother-in-law, the hospice nurse, wears on a necklace a silver medal with an emblem and the initials, “D.N.R.” which means “Do not resuscitate.”  I wonder if her wishes will be honored.  I wonder if her wishes will change.  I wonder who will decide.

Shakespeare wrote, “To be or not to be, that is the question.”  There are other questions too, such as what it means to be alive, when does life begin, and when should it end.  Theology and medical ethics study and debate such things, but all of us experience them.

Life is precious  – and each life is unique, and so is each death.   Dying in my sleep, like Tanner, at a ripe old age, sounds good to me, but I probably won’t get to choose how I die.   Choosing how we live, while we can, is precious indeed.


Sadie’s Tale Re-wagged

Shootin' the Breeze

garden dogs

I write a lot about Beau because he is such a trouble-maker.  Sadie is a very sweet little Lab whom we adopted in 2004 as a result of a sad situation.  When I originally posted this, we still had Max.  We had a changing of the guard as described in Old Yeller, New Yeller.  Sadie missed Max so much that we had to find her another friend.  Her new friend is Beau.  Now she really misses Max!

Several years ago, a woman in our county fell on hard times. The story I heard is that she used to have a lot of money and spent much of it on horses and dogs. She bred Yellow Labrador Retrievers. As the story goes, she went through a divorce. After the divorce, she continued to pay for the care of her horses and dogs until she ran out of money.

 After she ran…

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Columbus Day Snub

Columbus “sailed the ocean blue in 1492”.  That was brave of him.  He landed in America.   I admire him.  I am grateful that he got the ball rolling for Europeans coming to settle in America.  That is worthy of a parade and that song I quoted above.

It is not the fault of Columbus, but there is injustice concerning who gets a parade in this country.  You can see where I am going with this.  Let’s talk about my ancestor, Leif Eriksson, a Viking, who sailed the ocean blue to America hundreds of years before Columbus, around 1000 A.D.

In order to bring this injustice to the attention of the world, I hereby refuse to attend any Columbus Day parade until there is an equal parade and a song about Leif Eriksson.

I asked my wife to join me in this symbolic gesture, but she is an Italian-American and is satisfied that Columbus is honored.  She has no empathy for the down-trodden Scandinavian-Americans lacking a parade.

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