Birthday – Or, happy whelping day…

The Beatles “White Album” was a pretty eclectic blend of songs.  At the time, back in 1968, I was not certain I really liked it all that much.  I had a few favorites, especially songs like While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and Birthday but there were a few others that just didn’t feel like the Beatles.  Now, 50 years later, it holds up as one of my favorite Beatles albums.

Of course, spending a good portion of my radio career working in rock radio, songs like Birthday became standards anytime we were celebrating some person’s special day.  And there I was, belting it out for Morrie the dog today…

They say it’s your birthday
We’re gonna have a good time
I’m glad it’s your birthday
Happy birthday to you

Yes, he’s 1-year old today.

I got thinking, should we perhaps be wishing our fur babies a happy whelping day?  It was just a thought.  Although it doesn’t fit easily into the above lyrics.

For Morrie, of course, today is a day like any other day.  No fuss, no muss, just give me some scritches, and take me for a walk, and I am a happy boy.

He also doesn’t really get the fact that his new flying disk was a “present” for the day.  He largely expects some type of treat every time I go shopping without him.  Although, he has carried it around today more than other toys.  Probably because it is new.

He’s starting to act a bit older.  Although, at 1 year old, he is still more puppy than adult dog.  We are still having a good time.

Of course, it will be another few weeks before we celebrate the 1-year mark of him coming into our home.  That date happens in early July.  It has been an awesome year!

I’m glad it’s your whelping day
Happy whelping day to you

Yeah, that really doesn’t work…

Morrie the dog is 1 today. A happy #dog. #puppykisses #birthday #furbaby

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Missing You: The Leadership Edition…

I got back home on Friday night, after almost a week away.  I was at a leadership conference in Denver, CO.  My wife decided to take a week of vacation and joined me.  That meant, however, that Morrie was going to have to stay somewhere.  My daughter volunteered to take him for the week. She has a miniature Dachshund named Diesel, who also happens to be Morrie’s bestest best friend in the whole world!  Well, maybe 2nd best? (after me?).

I was surprised just how much I missed Morrie while I was away.  We got him 9 months ago, or so, and he and I have been together for the majority of that time. Pretty much 24/7.   I have to admit that I actually sent my daughter a video for Morrie about mid-way through the trip.  Really?  Yeah, I did that. She did tell me that his ears perked up when she played it for him.  I also found that the day before we came home, I went for a walk around downtown Denver, and stopped every person who was walking a dog just to give a few pets to their four-legged companion.  I needed that little canine contact.  It helped. Sort of.  In reality, it just made me miss my fur baby that much more.

Hence, the Missing You reference.  I am referring to the 1984 hit for John Waite.  John Waite, former of the Baby’s and later Bad English.  I loved the 1977 hit, Isn’t it Time by the Babys.  Played that song a lot at a radio station in Prince George that I was working at that year.  In 1984 I was working at a radio station in Calgary, and the song Missing You did very well on the charts.

However, I got to thinking, and tying a lot of this together into what I think is an interesting leadership observation.

  • I am at the leadership conference, so I am already in a hyper-aware state of thinking about leadership concepts.
  • I start humming a song called Missing You, because I am missing my dog.
  • I realize that that song came out in 1984, and it started me thinking about the radio station I was working at, at that time.
  • That got me thinking about the parallels between that experience and other observations I have had.
  • Which got me thinking about leadership from a different perspective
  • Which had me conclude that our dogs have got leadership down to a natural art form.

Let me try to explain…

In 1984, while the John Waite song was a hit, the radio station I was at was experiencing a great deal of mis-management.  In fact, it took about three years starting in 1984, to drive the station from number one in the market, and by that I mean a SOLID number one, to signing off the air.  By 1986 a good portion of the staff had left (many of us moved to a different radio station and started that station’s climb from the bottom of the ratings to number one in the market).  Within a few months of the mass exodus, the station went off the air.

It has been more than 30 years since that happened, and I can speculate some of the whys were based on a few things. In no particular order:

1) we were already the best, but management refused to allow us to get better.  In fact, they became so reactionary to the changes in the market, that they started to restrict the things that made us unique. Example, a rock station signed on, so we can’t play rock anymore. A oldies station signed on, so we can’t play oldies anymore.

2) not believing in your staff.  Every one had strengths, but instead of letting those strengths shine, we were instead relegated to reading cue cards written by the operations manager.

3) punishment for no reason. I remember getting a three day suspension without pay for being dressed inappropriately. The crazy thing was, I was wearing a suit that day!  It is a long story!  It was, in my opinion, simply a tactic to force me to resign. Others experienced things that were targeted to make them feel similar to how I felt.  Bullies, gaslighters, narcissists, and so on, still show up in many workplaces.

4) Hiring of friends. It was really strange to watch people get hired and others promoted that had no background or experience for the jobs they were assigned.  It left the majority of us just scratching our heads.  It also seemed that the rules changed on a daily basis.  The job description would say one thing, but someone without any of those qualifications would get the job, and the explanation was always, “well, I changed my mind…what I really need is…”  This was most obvious in the hiring of the multitude of program directors and music directors we went through during those months.

I could go on.  But you get the idea. I would love to say it was the era.  Unfortunately, I have seen similar patterns played out in other organizations recently.

So, there I am, thinking of the past, thinking about leadership, and thinking about Morrie T. Dog.  And in this hyper-leadership mindset, I jot down a few ideas that came to me.  Leadership, gone to the dogs!

  • I wonder just how different our days in the office would be if we were as excited about seeing people as our dogs are to see us?  When I got home Friday night, after just under a week being away, Morrie just about turned inside out from excitement. He would lick my face, then run around the couch, and then bark at the cats (which he did not do at all while I was gone), then lick some more, etc. etc.  Now, I am not suggesting that we lick people who come to our office, but how great would it be to just be excited about seeing people?  How special would they feel to know that we were genuinely excited to see them?
  • To that end, I have observed my dog putting in an effort to getting to know me. If I have been at the computer too long, he will come and nudge the back of my arm.  It is time for a break. (most recently, 2 minutes ago). If I am not feeling well, he will come and lay down next to me.  If I have a lot of energy, he will get his tug rope for a game.  He knows when it is time for a walk and when I am just going to put the garbage in the bin. One he follows me, the other he doesn’t. I think it is important that we get to know the real person we are working with. Especially those who report to us.
  • Know when to lead and when to follow.  I have often felt that good followership is as important as good leadership. There is a time and place for both. No matter what our title and our position in the organization.  When I take Morrie for a walk we practice loose leash.  Which means we are, for the most part, walking side by side.  Sometimes he will be a bit behind me, especially if it is a route we have not taken before. Other times, such as when it is time to go home, or to the compost bin, he will take the leash and lead.  We have a good enough relationship, and certainly enough trust in one another that we can both follow and lead. On the same walk.
  • Take joy in and make the most of what we have.  I have paid good money for expensive toys for my dog.  One of his favorites is a multi-coloured rope with a huge knot in the middle.  He loves to play tug with that rope!  It was expensive, but is one of the few toys we have for him that he didn’t destroy in a matter of minutes. That being said, I have seen him have just as much fun with a stick he found lying on the side of the road.  I have observed many organizations that have spent far too much money to have the latest “thing,” when in reality they didn’t really need it.  I could go on at length about the money I have seen spent on hiring outside consultants to get advice that was inferior to the employees’.
  • Work with your strengths. Some of Morrie’s most “joy-filled moments” are simply when he gets to “go sniff”.  He is hard-wired to be good at sniffing. He finds a lot of satisfaction in our nose-work games.  He is also a very strong dog. He has grown into one giant muscle, I swear! I have found he loves to “pull” me up hills.  He is also very gentle around small children and little dogs. He will play tug with me at full strength but I have seen him put almost no effort into the game when he plays with my grandson.

Feel free to suggest a word or trait from these descriptions.  I am certain I will come up with a few more over the next few days.

So, there you go.  Missing my dog = Missing You = 1984 = a radio station in crisis = similarities to other organization = observations about leadership as seen in the dog I was missing.

I love how my brain works!

 

Slip Slidin’ Away…

In a way, it is unfair to use this title for this post.  I am really just using the title, without really paying attention to the depth of lyrics and the meaning behind the 1977 hit by Paul Simon.

On one hand, I just want to talk about the hazardous walking conditions this time of year on my morning walks with Morrie.

On the other hand, I want to cherish the moments, and not be so overwhelmed that I push away or disappear.

I love the music of Simon and Garfunkel.  Their music of the late 60’s and early 70’s was part of the soundtrack of my early life. To be candid, I only ever owned 1 S&G album. It was their greatest hits.  From my original version on LP, to later replacing it on CD, there are still a lot of favorite songs on that album.  When the duo went their separate ways, and began solo careers, I was not sure it would work.  How little I knew.  I grew to absolutely love the solo music of Paul Simon. Catchy songs. Many with deeper meanings than what might appear on the surface.

The song Slip Slidin’ Away was one of those. A song, that to me, describes many people I have known in life.  They start to taste a bit of success, and are so terrified of what that looks like, they find a way to blow up their careers.  Or, they are in a great relationship, but are so terrified of what that means, that they find a way to blow it up.  The same is true about people who find themselves parents, and are so terrified of what that means, etc. etc. etc.

On a very simplistic level, pushing away because we don’t want to be hurt, and in the process getting hurt.

We think we are doing fine, but in reality, we are holding on for dear life.

We’re working our jobs, collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away*
Yes, there is some meaning there.
I have a friend who just recently lost her dog to complications from old age.  I was saddened by the news.  I have to admit that for a few moments I got very sad about the fact that Morrie is not a forever dog.  He has a life span, just like everything else.  And, for the briefest of moments, I wondered if I would start to push him away because I did not want to face the inevitable?  And really, isn’t that what the song is saying? On one level I think it is.
The thought, by the way, disappeared quickly.  Morrie and I will continue to bond, and continue to have great times.  It is a commitment. Not unlike the commitment that will celebrate a 40th marriage anniversary in just over a year.  Let’s not be afraid of success.
Now, on to why I ripped off the title.  No photos of this, as I was just desperately trying to stay upright, let alone holding a phone to take a photo. We are in that time of the year where during the day the temperature gets up above freezing, and the snow melts, and covers the sidewalks and paths with water.  At night, it goes down below the freezing mark again, and all that water turns to ice.  Sheer ice. Sometimes with a little layer of water underneath.  When you step on it, it cracks a bit and water seeps up, and makes it even more slippery.
Morrie has become pretty good on ice.  He is fairly sure-footed.  But this morning, even he was struggling.  Three times this morning he did his best Bambi impersonation.  You know the one, splayed out on the ice!   He would regain his footing, leap ahead a bit, which of course would pull on the leash, and there I am now holding on for dear life.
Morrie has also developed another habit (which I am trying to suppress). When we get about a block from home, he will take the leash in his mouth, and pull me the rest of the way.  He knows when we are close, and he is quite adamant that he be the one to guide us to our final destination.  On those slippery sidewalks, however, it was absolutely terrifying.
That’s when I borrowed the lyric, which led to this post:
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away
Be safe out there!

*Slip Slidin’ Away lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

One Bad Apple…

Yes, one of those songs that gets in your head, and you find yourself humming it all day long!  I never really wanted to admit that I listened to, or liked, the Osmonds.  But one cannot deny the song did go to #1 in in 1971!  In those days I preferred the edgier music.  It was the same year as Brown Sugar, by the Stones, Maggie May, by Rod Stewart, and of course, Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin.  I was listening to The Who, Uriah Heap, Deep Purple, The Doors, Hendrix, and others of that ilk.  And yet, after all these years, that infectious chorus of:

“One bad apple don’t spoil
The whole bunch, girl
Give it one more time
Before you give up on love”

Ah, Donny…

Anyway, I started humming that song a few days ago, and here I am with it still in my head. No amount of AC/DC has been able to surgically remove it from the synapses.  As a result, I will post why that song ended up in my head. Again. After all these years…

This, it turns out, is an addendum to my last post.  The game that Morrie was playing that I called, “Guess what animal I am” was in fact a search for a special prize.

A few weeks ago I registered Morrie in Nose Work classes.  I felt we needed another activity on those really cold days where we just can’t get outside. Nose Works is a game of hide and seek, where I put Morrie in another room for a few minutes, while I hide small treats around a space.  Those treats will be under things, in boxes, on top of things.  I try to make certain the treats are not in the same place two times in a row.  He learns quickly, and will often head to the same spot as the treat was last time. He is brought back in the room and told to, “Find it!”  And, he is off!  Nose to the floor, sniff, sniff, sniff, gobble!  He took to the game immediately, and it has gone on to be one of his favorite activities.

His excitement about the game can almost be overwhelming.  At his last class he actually knocked over the fence between him in the search area and the spectators.  Then proceeded to run over to my wife, who was in the audience and jumped up on her, and then stuck his nose in the purse of the lady sitting next to my wife.  All before I could get to him. He got a time out for that.  But it is hard to quell the enthusiasm, so after a brief bit of time out of the ring, he was able to return and try again.

What has happened on our walks since he started these classes is also quite interesting.  It seems like every time we are out, he is onto a scent of some kind. Nose to the ground, head weaving back and forth, snort, sniffle, huff, as he excitedly follows whatever it is that he has found.  Sometimes I know it is another dog that has recently passed by (observed by the tracks in the fresh snow). Other times, I have no idea what he is after.

In the Nose Works class my job is to start to identify when he has actually found something.  To be able to read his body language. I am not there yet. Case in point: we were out for a walk, when he jumped up on that snow bank, and sniffed and snuffled, and stuck his head completely in the snow.  He was there long enough for me to take a photo.  I posted that last time.

The next two days in a row as we passed by that same spot, Morrie would jump up on that snow bank, head in the snow, searching for something.  On day two, he dug a bit and was quite insistent with his tugging on the leash that he had found something.

On day three, he dug a bit more, really pushed his head further into the snow and popped up with … something … yucky!

It was the remnants of a half-eaten apple. 

It took him three days to find it.  More accurately, it took me three days to give him the time he needed to find it! But find it he did.

I took it away from him and tossed it in the snow. Yuck.  “No,” I said, “You are not going to eat a bad apple!”  And BAM! There I was, humming the Osmonds.

Dang it.

The look he gave me when I took the apple, however, was one of complete shock and surprise!  That was his treat!  He had worked hard to find it.  And, I will also mention, this dog LOVES apples.  I really wasn’t prepared, however, to watch him eat one bad apple.  I gave him a different treat I had in my pocket, we finished our walk, and as a special treat I cut up a fresh apple and gave him some of that when we got home.

Now I need to learn when he is actually onto something.  It’s a good game. For both of us.

Free Fallin’, or Gravity, take your pick…

Wow, almost 5 months just up and vanished since my last post.  It was a busy winter. Although the snow is still higher than my knees in many spots.  And, it’s been cold!  You would think I would have had nothing but time to write!  Other activities have kept me very busy.  My wood shop, music lessons, cycling (indoors for now), and cooking!  Yes, I am actually taking cooking classes.  This retirement/semi-retirement, whatever it is called is actually busier than when I was working full time.  And along with all of those other activities, Morrie and I still spend a lot of time together.  Lots of play time. Lots of walks.  On the really cold days, it will be a short walk outside, and then a long game of “catch me” as we run around the living room/dining room/kitchen growling and barking at each other (yes, both of us). Too much fun.

When we do get outside, Morrie loves the snow.  Photo proof below.  The photo is from a couple of months ago.  The snow was deep, but it was a pleasant day.

This one is from last week. It was much colder, so he was wearing his little jacket that my wife made for him.  This is the 2nd jacket she has made for him. He has almost outgrown this one as well.

We called this, “Guess what animal I am?”.  I guessed ostrich.  I am not certain what he is sniffing for, but he loves to go in head first to find whatever it is…

When he decides to “Go Sniff” there is almost no stopping him.  He is a heavy, muscular, dog, who can really pull!  Thankfully, he is also a very gentle gentleman. 

Besides sniffing, he also loves to sleep! Which brings me to the title of this entry.  First off, I love Tom Petty, and was very saddened by his sudden departure last year. Free Fallin’ seems like an appropriate title.  But then, so does Gravity.  I’m talking about the Coldplay song.  I know there are others with the same title.  But I love the line, “Oh, the way that gravity pulls on you and me”…

You see, Morrie T. Dog (T = the), loves to sleep on my bed.  I know there are a lot of opinions about whether dogs should sleep on beds, but it started when he was very young, and new, and suffering from anxiety about being in a new place, and that comfort that he needed to know he was okay, meant a few snuggles on the bed.  And, well, it just stayed that way.  Of course, he is now tall enough to be able to put his paws on my shoulders when I am standing. And, he  weighs over 80 pounds. And, when he is on the bed I feel like, “This sleep is brought to you by the letter H” with the dog as the cross bar. Yes, he takes up a lot of room.

As a side note, I have discovered it is a good idea to grab a quick nap when he is napping.  No matter what time I go to bed at night, Morrie is up between 4am and 5am.  Time for his morning ‘pee break,’ and then he wants his breakfast.  He will rest for another 30-60 minutes after that, but by 6:30 or so, it is play time and time for our first walk of the day.  We have watched the sun rise many times over these past few weeks.

However, I digress…the title. Yes, the title…

Morrie sleeps on his back! A lot.  I have read that 1) it is the sign of a very secure dog, 2) that it is a way for them to keep ‘cool’, and, 3) it is a way to make others in the house disgusted…(my wife, for example).  Whatever the reason, Morrie’s preferred sleeping style is on his back.  He will stretch, and roll over slightly, and BAM! he falls off the bed!  You would think he would learn. Kids do. Dogs don’t.  I have caught him a few times by grabbing his leg as he is about to careen off the side of the bed.  Frequently, however, I am not close by, and simply hear the THUD as gravity takes control.

He comes too.  In a bit of a daze.  Shakes it off. Jumps back on the bed. Is asleep again in mere seconds.  And as the eyes close, the refrain of, “I’m free’, free fallin'” … asleep… echoes through the room…

Sweet dreams handsome fella…

Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds (Ya!)

Does anyone remember the band Ratt?  It was 1984 when I first heard them with their album called Out of the Cellar.  Cool cover art, and a pretty good heavy-metal sound. I was working in a Top 40 format at the time, so the band didn’t get much airplay outside of the music department, and the occasional spin on a show that I ran called The 7 to Midnight Special.  Occasionally I would break from the Top 40 format to play some of the edgier stuff that came across my desk.  I was (still am) a big fan of harder rock, so I ended up listening to the album a fair bit in my music office.  Over the next few years the pattern repeated. By their fourth album, I still was not playing them on air a lot, but was still quite fond of the music.  Ah, the years of glam rock!  The fourth album, Reach the Sky, had the track Don’t Bite The Hand that Feeds.  It was never released as a single, but found a pretty high rotation on my turntable in the music department.

So there I was, out for my morning walk with Morrie, when I suddenly found myself saying that line!  I hadn’t thought of that song for quite some time, but it seemed appropriate in the moment…

We had received the first snow fall of the year.  I looked out the window, and saw the ground covered, and wondered how our now 5 1/2 month old puppy (now huge) was going to respond to the snow. He had not seen this weather phenomenon yet, and I expected it would be quite the experience for him.

I opened the door and he started to go out, when he just stopped.  He looked at the snow, then looked back at me, then back at the snow. I reassured him that it was okay. He put a paw outside, touched the fluffy frozen ground, sniffed and licked, and then decided it was okay.  He was quite tentative at first.  Within a few minutes, however, he was having a great time running and sliding, and eating big gulps of snow.

Once he had become acclimatized to the snow on the ground, I thought it would be good to venture past the front yard and go for our normal walk. That’s when things really changed!

Also very new to him was the fact I was wearing a weird hat, a large coat, and yellow leather gloves!  He barked at the large coat and kept jumping up to try to bite it.  He has since become accustomed to the coat. What surprised me, however, was when he lunged at my gloves, getting a really good hold, and trying to pull it off my hand.  Thankfully, they are thick gloves! He bit hard, and with a mighty head shake, almost had the glove off.  It surprised me, and I gave him a one finger tap on his nose to surprise him back! He dropped my hand, and I quoted those words from that song from so many years ago, hey Morrie, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds ya!”

I took the glove off and let him sniff it. It’s leather. He wanted to eat it.  No amount of correcting the behaviour has worked.  Every time I wear those gloves I can expect stealth dog to suddenly chomp my hand.  I have stopped wearing those gloves.  He doesn’t repeat that behaviour with any of my other gloves.

Given a chance, and the right frame of mind, sometimes change can be a lot of fun!  The snow only lasted a couple of days before it melted, but in those couple of days Morrie was anxious to get outside more frequently than normal just so he could play in the snow. His environment was very different and he accepted it and wanted to play!

Other change, however, is hard.  His walking companion (me) suddenly smelling like leather was too much to handle. Especially since we walk loose leash, and my hand is normally pretty close to his head.  We would be walking, and without warning, he’s grab my hand. Hard. Really hard.  I guess it is the same with us and those habit items. For me, it’s Dr. Pepper! I can give it up for a few months, but put one close by, frosty cold, and that’s it. Chomp!  It’s hard to get mad at the dog, when I demonstrate the same behaviour!  For him and the gloves, at least for now, it is easier to just wear something else and keep the temptation away.

Speaking of the same behaviour, after our run outside in the snow (which I didn’t get photos of…too concerned about cold hands), I did manage to get photos of the after walk snooze! I had crashed on the couch, and Morrie found a sunbeam to sleep in.  He made that floor almost look comfortable! Almost. I stayed on the couch.

p.s. he is a shorter hair dog. My dear wife has sewn him a little jacket. I will get photos once the snow returns. Which it will!

Cut the Crap…

A toss up on the inspiration for this title.  The final album by the Clash, 1985. We are the Clash, and This is England both came from that album.  OR, the 1997 album by Jackyl.  Which features a really catchy song by the same name. This was a band that, in my opinion, flew largely under the radar. I always thought they wanted to be AC/DC.  And how interesting it was when they got to perform with Brian Johnson in the late ’90’s.  But, I digress…

This entry is largely about me ranting. People! Cut the crap!

We got our puppy just over two months ago.  Not much of a puppy anymore.  He’s getting really big!  His sense of smell has become very acute.  I am constantly amazed at just what he sniffs out, and, ultimately, what ends up in his mouth!

Which leads me to my rant…

Cut the crap!

Why are there so many dog owners who refuse to pick up after their dogs????!!!!  Honestly, this is absolutely ridiculous and disgusting!  I can’t just let my puppy “sniff,” which he loves to do.  No, I have to be on constant high alert to make certain there is no crap hidden in the grass for him to find, and “taste” (or more accurately, gulp down)!

Before we got Morrie, I think I was aware of the occasional pile of crap I would see on the boulevard, or in the park, or the field.  Now that I have a dog, and we go for numerous walks a day, I am amazed at just how much I see. Everywhere. ALL THE TIME!!!  Little ones, big ones, dried ones, fresh ones.

Honestly, if you own a dog, clean up after it!  If you don’t want to take the time to bend over and pick up after your dog, if the thought of having to wrap a poo sack around your hand, and gather the offering is too much for you, then give up your dog! Surrender it! Do not be a pet owner.  Get a fish.  With an automatic tank cleaner.

Pay attention to your dog, and what it is doing!

Case in point: last week we took Morrie to one of the large off-leash parks in the city.  I watched two people, walking together, two very large dogs running around behind them. Each of the people had a large Starbucks cup.  I can only guess she was drinking a caramel frap with extra whip and double drizzle, and he was most likely drinking a triple grande half-caf single pump vanilla, triple pump hazelnut, half-soy, half-whatever is available latte.  They were carrying on a very animated conversation between sips of their delish bevvies. No idea that one of the dogs had paused in the field behind them for a massive crap. VERY BIG DOG = MASSIVE CRAP.  Basic math. And. Nothing. They didn’t even pause. I wanted to say something.  Why didn’t I say something? I was, actually too dumbfounded.  There are signs everywhere reminding people to pick up after their dogs.  People have even gone so far as to pin up boxes of poo sacks for others to use.  Good grief.  Then I started looking around. And that is when I noticed there is CRAP everywhere. This latte drinking, wandering oblivious couple, was not an isolated incident. This is happening ALL THE TIME!  I have not been back to the off-leash park since.  I may go back.  But on a heightened awareness day.

As a kid, living on the farm, we did not clean up dog crap.  Of course, we also had miles upon miles of fields, so it was not actually all that common to even find it.  Living in the city, however, it is a necessity.  I want to be able to take my dog out, lay in the grass, and watch the sun rise (like we did the other day).  I want to be able to enjoy our time outside.  I want to know that whatever he sniffs out, is not going to turn out to be the waste product of the pet that went before.  Not to mention, I don’t know what kind of viruses are in that crap!  This is not healthy for anyone!

People! Pick up after your pets, and cut the crap!

Then lay in the grass with your buddy, chill, and watch the day arrive…

You Inspire Me…

Yes, the 1998 version by Nick Lowe.  Although, I have to admit, Engelbert Humperdink did a pretty good version a few years later.

What is it that gets people inspired?  I was out on my nightly walk with Morrie, and we stopped off, as we do every night, at a Pokemon Go gym that is close to my house.  Sitting there, taking over the gym, a car pulls up, a person gets out, and calls my name!  In the modern vernacular, WTF!  It was Adam, one of my former students.  I have not seen him for quite some time. How fortuitous to run into him.  Of course, he was there for the same reason I was, to take control of the gym. Same team. Nice.

As we chatted, with Morrie chilling on the grass beside me, Adam commented that it is crazy how differently people react to similar situations.  I have recently moved into a semi-retirement/freelance/entrepreneurial/laid back-napping-a-lot-time period of my life.  This is a major shift in lifestyle especially after having been in the work force full time since 1975.  I know others my age, in the same circumstance, are really struggling.  For me, however, and especially since getting my puppy, this has been a time of inspired creativity. I am canning again (jams, jellies, pickles), I am cooking again (a beautiful seafood risotto on an upcoming menu), and I am writing again (this blog, children’s stories, stage plays, screen plays, a cookbook, a leadership book). There are not enough hours in the day to get everything done that I want to get done.

Inspired creativity!

Case in point.  A couple of hours later, I noticed my wife had fallen asleep, sitting up, iPad on her lap.  This is a real invitation for Morrie to give her a big sloppy kiss.  I said to her, “You better watch out before you end up with spittle on your spectacles!”  I laughed.  The sound of the line was interesting.  I looked at Morrie, again chilling at my feet, and I tried it again, “I have spittle on my spectacles, and your slobber on my face.”  Of course he just looks up with that very defined look on his face that screams, “Weird human…trying to sleep here!”

So, I scratched the top of his head, and in my best baby voice, said it again, “I have spittle on my spectacles, and your slobber on my face.” It sounded very interesting, almost like it could be a poem. Morrie, by this time, had completely lost interest and flopped over and went to sleep.  My wife by this time was agreeing that it was the best line she had ever heard.  At that point, I knew she too had completely lost interest and was 90% asleep.  I, on the other hand, was on a roll.  I wanted to do something with those lines…

I counted the beats in the two lines.  9 / 7, and went to Dr. Google to see if there is a poetry form that uses that count.  Wow, so there is.  It is called Cueca Chilena, with the syllabic count of 9/7/9/7/8/9/9/9, and a very interesting rhyming scheme of abcBBded.  Line 5 has to be the same as line 4, with the addition of the word “yes”.  You can see the article I was reading here:

I thought, why not? I have the first two lines, let’s see if I can complete it.  20 minutes later I have a draft of something…

Spittle on My Spectacles, A Morrie Poem, by Steve

I have spittle on my spectacles,
And your slobber on my face.
Your wet cold nose gives me some love;
Your paws, well they set the pace.
Yes, your paws, well they set the pace,
For running, jumping, and playing fetch.
Together, the long days in the park,
End with licks, belly rubs, and a stretch.

Personally, I find it an odd poetry form.  The challenge was forming something that fit with the rules, that made sense. I think it would be interesting to hear it set to music.

However, there’s the creative muse.  Until a few hours ago, I had never heard of this poetic form.  And now, I can say I learned something, tried something new, and put that creative muse to work. And again, as I look down at the dog chilling at my feet, I can only say, you inspire me!

Might As Well Jump…

I got out of the 60’s and into the 80’s with some Van Halen!  And this lyric absolutely describes our (not so little anymore) puppy…

I get up, and nothing gets me down…might as well jump!

The first time Morrie really jumped was last week.  Up until that point, he would claw his way onto whatever he wanted (couch, bed, chairs, etc.).  If the item was too tall, he would scramble with his hind legs and whimper a bit for some help.  We would boost him up and he would settle down.  The sidewalk to the back of the SUV was always too tall, and that is where he would need the most help.  Well, that is, until recently.

He and I were running around the house like a couple of kids hopped up on copious amounts of sugar!  I chase him! He chases me!  Around through the kitchen, dining room, living room. Stop! Reverse. Living room, dining room, kitchen. Stop.  Down the stairs. Laundry room. Up the stairs, and then another flight of stairs, spin around in the bedroom, down the stairs.  His turn to chase me. Around and around, up the stairs, into the bedroom, and I get on the bed.  “Ha ha,” I say, as he runs into the bedroom, “You can’t get me here!” Leap! Stop!  And there he is.

He looked at me, then looked behind him, then looked at me again. I swear I saw that dog smile!  It was a face that said, “DID YOU JUST SEE WHAT I DID???”  #Best-Day-Ever!  Do dogs use hashtags?  I think this one would if I lent him my phone…

Well, this just opened up an entirely new world.  Now, if you gotta get somewhere, you might as well jump!

Field. Look at me, I’m a gazelle. Spring! Sproing!

Food dish. Look at me, I’m a cheetah. Slink. Pounce.

Time to go outside. Look at me, I’m a deer. Launch. Land.

That was the first few days.  Now, jumping and spinning while in the air is the latest incarnation. Especially on our walks.  Look at me, I’m a  figure skater. Toe Loop. Triple Salchow. Crash. Oh, yeah, the leash! Dang.

I now spend more time on our walks untangling Morrie than I do walking Morrie. (However, it has been great for the abs)!  I tried to get a photo or video of him jumping. Camera rolling — not going to happen.  I did, however, get a shot of the aftermath of a spinning jump.  Leash wrapped around the dog!

This was another week of ah-ha’s! How fun to watch him figure this out. Especially with his long and very uncoordinated legs.

He did try to jump from halfway up the stairs to the main floor. He crashed and ended up sliding across the floor.  Didn’t stop him from trying it again.

On one of our chase games outside, he tried to jump through the branches of the saskatoon tree.  He didn’t make it. More shocked than hurt,  he whimpered and came and snuggled for a few minutes. A little while later he tried again, just not at full speed.  “You’ve got to roll with the punches to get to what’s real”.

And really, isn’t that what life should be about?  Try it.  Land hard sometimes. Crash through the bushes sometimes.  And sometimes make it! To your surprise and the surprise of others.

On our most recent trip I opened the back door of the SUV, turned around to help him, and swoosh, he’s in. On his own.  Good puppy! Here’s a treat.

Might as well jump. Jump!
Go ahead, jump.

 

Jump lyrics retrieved August 17, 2017 from https://genius.com/Van-halen-jump-lyrics

 

 

HAhahahahaha…Wipeout!

I am not certain why I am starting the second blog post in a row with mention of another hit song from the 1960’s.  The Surfaris’ hit from 1963 is certainly, for me anyway, one of greatest instrumentals of that decade.

This, however, is not about great songs, but is instead about a moment where I reflect on a recent and spectacular wipeout of my own.  I do wish I would have had an ocean to break the fall, instead of the hard ground.

Morrie and I play hard. We wrestle, we play tug, we go for walks, and I am thrilled that at my age, I can still run fast enough to keep pace with a now 15-week old puppy.  

Our vet has said “no” to off-leash parks until he is older than 16-weeks and has had his third round of shots.  We have another couple of weeks before we can venture into that realm.  Our backyard is big enough that we can play.  However, it is not big enough for him to be able to go all out.  Thankfully, there is a large field not too far from where we live that people will sometimes go with their dogs.  It is big enough for a really good run, and not used very often which means we are often the only ones there.

And the games begin! I’ll chase him.  He’ll chase me.  He will roll over and get belly rubs, and then another round of chase me.  I bring out a tug toy, and I throw it, he retrieves it, we play tug, and then it is a round of catch me.  We do some nose work (he is getting very good at “find it”), and then we play chase for another few minutes.  This is a typical 45 minute to one hour of play.

Whenever I run, he either follows behind me, or just a few feet to my right. I guess because this was how he did it every time we went out, I was getting a bit confident (cocky?) about how fast and how hard we could actually go.  The pitch of this particular day was rising.  I had him sit.  I tossed him a treat.  While he was distracted I turned around and took off at full speed.  Now, this is no Usain Bolt pace, but for me it was a very fast run.  I hear him.  Lop. Lop. Lop.  Pant. Pant. Pant. A few feet behind.  Lop, lop, lop, pant, pant, pant. Out of the corner of my eye I see him on the right.  Loploplop. He pulls slightly ahead of me. Pantpantpant.  His eyes singularly focused. His ears pinned back like a cycling aero-helmet.  His tail, a slight curve forming a streamlined spoiler that keeps his rear legs planted like a formula one race car.  Zoom-Zoom-Zoom (Mazda would be proud) — and, in a split second, out of no where, he darts to his left.

And stops.

In front of me.

While I continue to run full speed.

It is amazing how many things go through your mind in the time it takes lightning to strike.  Don’t hit the dog.  Jump! Oh, crap.  Don’t fall. Jump over him. Oh, crap. I’m flying. Wow, look at me – I look like Superman.  And I didn’t hit the dog!  That ground is coming up awfully fast. Oh, crap. Tuck and roll!  Nope, too late for that.  Brace, brace, brace. Not the wrists – you broke those once before. Land ho!  SMASH.  And why, oh why, did my conscious mind suddenly break into hahahaha, wipeout!?!

I hit hard.  I mean really hard. Wind knocked out of me. The mental check list began: Anything feel broken? Nope. Sprained. Yup, left wrist is a bit sore.  Wow, that is going to be a big bruise on my right leg.  Knee is killing me.  But I didn’t trip on the dog. I missed him!  But he’s whining.  Why is he whining?  About 15 seconds had passed. I had not moved yet. Breath is slowly coming back into my lungs. A wet nose nuzzles my ear.  He’s whining in my ear.  Nudge. Nudge. Whine. Nudge.  What is the modern vernacular in a moment like this?  OMG, Morrie is worried about me!  #lump_in_throat!

I manage to roll over onto my back. He snuggles right into me.  Genuinely worried. “Not on the chest, buddy, I’m a bit sore.”  Face lick. Ear lick. Whimper.

I ply myself into a sitting position.  A short examination shows a banged up elbow, a grass stain at knee level on my jeans.

Dang, those are my car keys in my pocket — that will leave a mark.  Morrie: not a scratch. I missed him.  I am Superman — except for the landing.

And why is my phone ten feet in front of me on the grass?  That was in my back pocket. Wow, I did hit hard!

What did I learn?  Well, for one, I’m not 18 anymore.  And two, dogs are unpredictable.  Especially puppies.  Both great things to know.

Since that day, we still play rough, but I am a lot more conscientious of the whimsical nature of this puppy.  I can run full speed, but only while he is sitting and waiting before I stop and turn and he runs to me.  He can go fetch at full blast, and when he returns we can play tug.

In the dog world, dogs need to try out a lot of play styles with other dogs until they find the one they can agree on.  Bitey face? Licky face?  Paws or no paws?

I have discovered, it is the same with the human / dog relationship.  We need to agree on how fast, how much time, how vigorous, and the rules of the game. Hmm, I guess it’s not that different from human / human relationships.

Morrie and I are slowly figuring it out, and play time continues to be amazing for both of us (cue the bass riff…).