Bailey and Us…I Remember When

I remember when we saw him for the first time…his ears too big for his puppy-sized head…his bark short and comical to hear…his hound voice yet to be discovered…his brown eyes and his birthday, both same as my wife’s sealed the deal…

I remember picking him up at the mall…that’s right, we bought him at a pet store, and after 14 years turns out he was a helluva deal…him and the kids went through obedience training, but it didn’t take…God love ’em, those kids were too crazy…

I remember the night we bought him home from the vet’s office…drugged up on pain medication…castration they called it on the bill…responsible ownership they told us…in the back of my mind I still think cruel and heartless…

I remember when curiosity got the better of him…an introduction to electricity and the hazards of chewing electric cords…so that’s what fried beagle smells like…it only ever happened once…I remember how he chewed the rug in our family room…the vote was close…should we replace just the rug?…or him too?…

We all had our nicknames for Bailey…Bailsey, Beagle, Baileydammit…the last one mine, reserved for those times he decided to take a run around the neighborhood…never said we were very creative…

I remember stuffed mallards, rubber balls, and any number of other toys he would fetch and wrestle over…the way he would shake those stuffed mallards as he ran with them…drop a ball at your feet and howl a beagle howl to go again…how he ran up the back stairs in the house, down the hallway to the front stairs, then down and around to the back again…throw it again he dared…

Bailey’s 14 this month…he can’t run the stairs and he only walks when he used to run…he’s come to some kind of agreement with the rabbits in the yard…they don’t even Scamper  for the trees at the sight of him coming out of the house anymore…he walks with a limp…sometime front, sometimes back(?), depends how he slept…he still has most of his teeth, just not all…and apparently there must be male-pattern baldness in his family, how can a 13-inch beagle lose so much hair?…

…he sleeps more now…but as always, there’s never a meal or a treat he’ll pass on…the vet says his heart is good, so we’re looking forward to another year of remembering Bailey when…

 

My Family…Caring And Supportive…Or Batcrap Crazy?

I’ve done more than my share of self loathing lately. But then, I’m what you would truly call a miserab, and disliking myself and my actions are all a part of the experience. But there are other reasons, external forces that help create and when needed, re-enforce my true miserable-ness.

So what is it that drives me batcrap crazy? It would be easy to tell you it’s the political shitstorm we’re all subjected to everyday, but that’s not it, at least not yet. Lack of friends, snooty neighbors…probably, but they’re for another day…

No, the number one thing on my list is family. Don’t judge me just yet, if you’re reading this I’ll bet you’ve said the same thing before, only to yourself and not in print where anyone in your family will read it. I can honestly say I have no worries there…no one in my family has ever read, or asked to read a single word I’ve published. But I’m not bitter. Let me introduce them…

My wife may be the smartest woman I know or have ever known, and it ain’t because she hitched her wagon to this horse’s ass. Her one major flaw…she doesn’t listen, or maybe it’s respect…a word I tell her. Sure she’ll ask for my opinion, but most of her time is spent performing this painful monologue where she speaks and I only move my mouth when she puts her hand in the back of my head like I’m some sick sort of wood dummy. On the rare occasion that I do spout a semi-coherent thought, she chipmunks it away in her brain, only to see the light of day again if someone she actually has respect for confirms it as a good idea. But then it’s, “(Fill in any name here) said this and it seems like good advice.” You’ll notice there is no mention of me as the original author of that good advice. But that’s okay.

Now, my wife, is also a mom, just ask my son. They have this relationship, and I swear they do it to annoy me, where one minute she’s the loving Italian mother talking to the son who would do anything for her, and the next minute I’m looking to hide all the cutlery in the house. It can turn that quickly. There is a saying that goes, “Pick which hill you want to die on”, and there isn’t a hill in our house, in our lives, that isn’t out of their war zone. They’ll debate his grades, his job, religion, politics, food, beer…anything, it’s all up for grabs, and I find it’s best to duck when the verbal bullets start flying. Things get heated and that’s when my wife drags me into the fray. I’m the human shield, I’m that thing that signals to my son that he can’t win this one, run and live to fight another day…and then like that, the relationship is back to loving mom and adoring son (kinda)… I’m left in a state of not ready to let it go yet…next thing I know, their off to a movie, to the mall, to grab a sandwich…and everything is right in their world…it’s me who’s left holding the bag labeled “Hostility”.

My son, God love him, is the most over-confident student currently on academic probation that I know. He’s also a bit of a beer Buff and there isn’t one he won’t try, which might shed some light on his academic probation status. But he has a dream, a vision of opening a brewery and cooking his own brand of beer, a part of society so underserved that as of last year there were only a mere 5,000 brewers in the United States. But I give him credit, it’s his dream and I won’t squash it, there’s already over 5,000 people in line for that job.

I also have a daughter. She was smart enough to move to Florida after graduating college, thereby avoiding all of this familial strife. It also allows us to take our show on the road a couple of times a year, possibly educating other families, especially younger ones, in new and sometimes brutal ways of dumping on each other. Now, my daughter, she’s truly crafty…she has made it known to each of us separately that she enjoys us coming to visit her…one at a time. It gives her more one-on-one time with each of us… and thereby avoids the hysteria that accompanies a full family visit. It’s her brand of divide and conquer strategy…and to be honest, it works like a charm.

I have a beagle. His name is Bailey and he’ll be 14 years old this year. That would make him 75 to you and me, and just like me, he’s got bad feet, he’s a little overweight for his size, and I think his hearing and sight are starting to go, and occasionally he’ll have a senior dog moment when he walks into a room with no clue as to why he wants to be there. He’s a great dog though, except he has his days and nights confused. I also think he has some separation anxiety as well, and nothing cuts into my sleep faster than a beagle howling for attention at 3:00. That’s A.M., after midnight, when we should all be asleep. So for the next half hour, we go outside, we might wrestle over a toy, maybe have a biscuit or two (him, not me), whatever it takes to settle him down.

There you have it, an attempted humorous look at my family, the folks who irritate me, promote self loathing within myself, and drive me absolutely batcrap crazy on occasion,  and with whom I couldn’t do whatever it is I do if they weren’t in my life…

 

Featured Image via from Dorkly via flimsyspoons

Germs, Your Dog, & The 5 Second Rule

Fun things you can do at home to test your level of tolerance to bacteria and their ever-present place in your home!

We all grew up under the same simple rule of food handling we know as the 5 second rule:

Drop a piece of food on the floor and it’s safe to eat if you pick it up within 5 seconds.

We’ve always applied that simple rule to food dropped on the kitchen floor, but can it be that cut and dry? To what degree you hold it to be true is up to you, regardless of what others may think of your questionable eating habits. Who of us hasn’t dropped a pretzel or a potato chip on the floor and simply picked it up, shaken off any loose hairs, and jammed it in our face without thinking twice about it? But what about other everyday food stuffs. Consider that piece of jelly toast now feeding and shielding the bacteria on your floor from harm. Do you just pick it up, clear it of any visible foreign objects, and then send it to your stomach to deal with any hitchhiking bacteria, or do you simply throw it away?

Before you continue with the experiment of your body to digest and protect your organs from being scorched by the bacteria colonizing your kitchen floor, there should be a set of control questions in place to aid imageyou in your potentially fatal decision to pick up and eat that slice of jelly toast, and it’s best to have those answers in place before you drop that piece of toast since 5 seconds doesn’t give you much time to conduct a potentially self-harming experiment. I’ve provided some sample questions based on my own kitchen floor. Feel free to use them or tailor them to fit your own potentially hazardous decisions:

  • How long was the toast on the floor? Use the scientific 1 Mississippi…2 Mississippi…method of counting since it’s more precise than just counting to 5.
  • Is the jelly toast for breakfast (the most important meal of the day), or just a snack meant to help fulfill some long denied eating disorder?
  • Is it the last piece of bread? The potential to make another slice could aid in protecting your body from infectious diseases.
  • Was this the last of the jelly? Choosing to eat this slice of toast from the floor could be akin to swallowing a Petrie dish full of germs.
  • What kind of spread is on the toast? Was it your everyday Welch’s grape jelly or the more coveted Smuckers strawberry preserves? The decision to throw away strawberry preserves should not be taken lightly. For those of you with a microscope it might be fun to drop a slice of each and then count the bacteria on a sample size piece of toast to see how many different strands of bacteria are present on each slice.
  • Do you have a dog and was he present when you dropped your toast? I just happen to own a dog, but you can use a cat or a ferret if those are the pets you own.
  • Did your dog come away with some of your potential meal and how offensive do you find it to share your meal with him? If your answer to this question is extremely offensive, then feel free to discontinue your control questions here.
  • Does your dog scoot in the eating area of the kitchen after enjoying his morning constitutional in the yard? Scooting is the action of your dog sitting up straight and dragging his hind quarters along the floor. If the answer is yes, feel free to discontinue your control questions here.
  • Does the amount of loose dog hair on the floor seem to make it hard to discern where the dog ends and the floor begins? If the answer is yes, feel free to discontinue your control questions here and grab a broom or your other sweeping tool of choice.
  • Is your health insurance policy paid and up to date? This last question can’t be stressed enough, and if the answer is no, you might want to discontinue the control questions, give any remaining jelly toast to the dog and go get a nice apple or other piece of fruit to eat.

Can the 5 second rule also be applied to items other than food? To surfaces other than the kitchen floor? To other rooms in the house? The scientific answer to these questions lies not with the Environmental Protecrion Agency, or the Centers for Disease Control, or the American Medical Association (although I’m sure they know), but in your own house and with your own thirst for the knowledge of what the hell you’re eating or putting next to your skin.

Fot more scientific fun you can do at home, try these fun experiments (NOT RECOMMENDED, SERIOUSLY YOU COULD GET REAL SICK):

  • Drop the last slice of pizza or ice cream sandwich on your dog’s bedding; count to 5 Mississippi and then see if you have the chops to eat it.
  • Accidentally knock your open stick of deodorant into the toilet, again count to 5 Mississippi, and then roll it on. The results of your experiment should include the amount of time it took to get back into the shower and the cost of a new stick of deodorant.
  • For a period of one week use one iPad only in the bathrooms in your house and a different one for the other rooms. Complete the experiment by using the ultra-violet light emitted by your Star Wars light saber to detect and count the bacteria on each.
  • For a period of one week, in your bathroom, count the amount of hair around your shower, the toilet, and your sink. Your results should include how many, the average length in each area, color (if necessary), and what it is you think doing this proves, because I can’t think of anything.

Now you’re dropping science!
Scorched

Take Down Those Lights and Put That Tree Away!

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

It happens every year and the older I get the worse it gets. It could be a neighbor, maybe a Target or a Kohl’s, or even a grocery store. The Christmas season envelope gets pushed further and advertised earlier than it ever has in the past. Raise your hand if you’ve already seen a TV commercial or department store display aimed at potential Christmas shoppers. Enough already, I haven’t even given out my first fortune cookie for Halloween yet. It is amazing how many of these you can save up after a year of eating take-out Chinese food. If you were a kid which would you choose, the cookie that could explain your future or some nasty old pennies wrapped in Saran Wrap and tied with orange ribbon? The cookie I’ll bet.

The point, which I’ve obviously lost track of, is I’m a kid from the 1960’s and for me, October through December was defined by the celebration of three events, Halloween and the preceding night, Mischief Night,  Thanksgiving and all of the creative ways to cook left-over turkey, and Christmas with all of its toys and the birth of our Savior. I would be a liar if I told you as a kid the birth of Jesus ranked ahead of getting a year’s worth of new toys. Anyway, with each of these three important events, there were TV specials that defined that holiday and triggered a series of events culminating in Christmas and the just as important, Winter Break in the Evesham Township School District. And the birth of our Savior.

Charlie Brown and the other apparently parent-less Peanuts kids had no competition when it came to shows celebrating the joy of Halloween or the feast that was Thanksgiving and the importance of having enough bread to make all of that toast. Or for wandering the neighborhood at all times of the night. A Charlie Brown Christmas had much more competition, but even at my advanced age remains my favorite, sorry Grinch, mostly because we both have Beagles. Maybe if Max were a beagle I would feel differently.

My point is, each of these holidays owned a portion of the calendar, not to be infringed upon by either of the other two. You didn’t make out your Christmas list or mail your Christmas cards at Halloween, you didn’t wear your Halloween costume at the Thanksgiving dinner table (unless you were an Indian or a pilgrim for Halloween, then you could probably pull it off), and your parents didn’t start decorating the house for Christmas until at least after the leftover Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing were disposed of during the long 4-day weekend. In my parents house, the end of the Thanksgiving holiday signaled my father to send a kid up in the attic to retrieve the outdoor Christmas lights and to go into the garage and retrieve the 4 x 8 sheet of plywood he used to begin the month long construction of the train platform my family enjoyed every year.

If you’re still wondering the reasons for this semi-incoherent rant; it would be the neighbor who this week I saw has already put out Christmas lights. No, they’re not Halloween lights, these are the red, blue, and green lights of Christmas, not the orange lights one would expect in October.

And the small package Halloween costumes I used to deliver have been replaced by giant artificial Christmas trees. Already. In October. Before Thanksgiving even.

And the oversized Amazon boxes containing the biggest toy a parent can buy. No, not big as in popular, big as in the bigger the toy, the more a parent must really love their child. Whatever happened to love comes in smaller boxes? And nothing says love like a nice 6-pack of tube socks or underwear.

And the endless arguments about stores opening or not on Thanksgiving Day. How about retailers (and FedEx and UPS) give employees Black Friday off as well. Consumers will still spend their hard earned money 24 hours later. You can call it Cafe Noir Saturday which is the color of brewed coffee, but still a shade of black. Think of the impact to the coffee industry from  consumers saying Cafe Noir Saturday instead of just Black Friday.

I’m not trying to dictate how people should enjoy their holidays because not enough people will even read this to make a difference. People should do as they please no matter how over the top it appears. And if you’re the only one in you’re neighborhood who already has their Christmas lights up, I would be willing to bet you’re neighbors are saying the same thing, just behind your back.

It’s not Halloween yet and I’m already pushing burnout from the overselling of Christmas. 

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Giant

My Best Friend And A Ball Game

Baseball, probably more than any other sport, is constantly promoting the next big give-away day at the ballpark. Teams also have “special events” such as a 4th of July Fireworks show to lure in more fans. As a Phillies fan, one of the biggest events the team has each year is celebrating the Phillie Phanatic’s birthday. Mascots from everywhere show up, some recognizable, some not. This year marked the Phanatic’s 38th birthday in human years, not really sure what that adds up to in Phanatic years, and of course his mom Phoebe was there to help celebrate the big day, along with the Zooper Stars (Ken Giraffey Jr., Shark Mcguire, and the umpire-eating Clammy Sosa).

Unfortunately the Phanatic and I don’t get along ever since he climbed into my car at a public appearance and knocked a box of popcorn out of my hand, (true story) making my then 2-year old daughter cry. Apparently it’s okay for him to unroll that tongue of his in your face, but don’t ever give him a playful slap to the back of his fuzzy green head. He doesn’t like that. Of course my daughter being just 2 got over it, but being somewhat of an adult, I just can’t let it go. 

This month’s Can of Corn Challenge is to write about your favorite give away day that you’ve attended. For the sake of transparency, I’ve never been to a baseball game where something was “given away”. I did almost get a foul ball once, however my friend was able to grab it from underneath of the woman’s seat next to him before I could get to it…

…the ball’s live until it’s in someone’s hands. Beneath someone’s seat doesn’t establish ownership.

That was our rule back then, but to be honest, I always thought he should have given the ball back to her so she could give it to her grandson. Especially since he was sitting right next to her. But, it was the Vet in the late 1970’s after all, a place where manners and common courtesy went to die many deaths.

My choice of games to attend would be one of the newer, more popular event days baseball teams have, an event that is on the schedule of over 20 Major League teams…Bark At The Park.

Dog days, or nights, have become so popular in 2016 that many teams are offering them multiple times during the season. In Arizona, the Diamondbacks have made dogs welcome every Sunday in 2016. The Texas Rangers even combined a bobble head give-away, (for you traditionalists), followed by a post game concert by Cody Johnson. I don’t know who that is since my music knowledge ends at 1990, but I’ll assume he’s a Country & Western singer?

In May this year, the Phillies held their Bark At the Park Day for 300 of our Best Friends and their families. Dogs were encouraged to wear their Phillies gear for the chance to win the Becst In Show contest, and participate in the on-field parade prior to the game. The opportunity to be on a Major League Baseball field was a dream I was encouraged to give up when I was 12. Who would think a 13 inch Beagle would give me the best chance to ever “live that dream” imagesome 40+ years later? Of course, just like my inability to hit a curve ball, his love of a good cheesesteak would make it a challenge to get him by the concession stands in Ashburn Alley and make it on the field for the parade. I know, I know…the Phils are too smart to allow dogs in Ashburn Alley, they prefer them to be on the field. (You can interpret that last statement however you want.)

Bark At the Park Night also helped to raise money and awareness for PAWS (the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society) and ARF (Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation). Representatives from PAWS had some adoptable pets on-hand and fans were encouraged to bring much-needed items like food and cleaning supplies.

Maybe someday Bailey and me will make it to a Bark in the Park game because I can’t think of a better way to spend a day with a loyal best friend. 

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The Origin of Mr.Unremarkable

Some days unremarkable is the best you get.

I was born they told me, in 1960, to the surprise of no one. There was no foretelling of the coming of a new force in the universe, up until that point the only superpower I displayed was the ability to Out-Swim all around me. Hardly the skill of someone of whom much was expected. It must have been a great accomplishment however, because I often heard my father mumble, “I can’t believe you were the one in a million.”

As the years went by, I developed the skill to Un-Inspire those around me, and to Annoy not just the females in my family, but those who were sent to teach me as well. As I grew into my teens, I thought I once developed the power of Invisibility since I was able to walk past most females without any sort of recognition I was there. I soon learned it wasn’t Invisibility, it was just another display of my skills to Un-Inspire and Annoy females.

The super power to Hide, and it’s sub-set of skills, Duck and Dodge, were developed in my early years. Household chores were beneath someone of my self-importance, how was I to develop all of my skills if I was running a vacuum or cleaning a closet? I soon mastered how to Duck and Dodge my father, especially on Saturday mornings when the grass needed to be cut. Unfortunately, my father had mastered the Power of Patience and he knew all he had to do was keep an eye on the kitchen and the refrigerator, I would show up soon enough.

My sisters were a key part in my development into someone Unremarkable. Not only had they worked on their development of the power to Annoy, but Irritate and Tease, were strong powers in their arsenal as well. And because they were older than I was, their powers were far better than any I possessed. Each and every day could have been a lesson in “Why didn’t I keep my mouth shut?”

After leaving behind my sub-par world of high school, I advanced into the world of blue collar labor. It was this world where I developed and drew on the superpower of Dumb As I Wanna Be. Now here, finally, was something I was good at. How could I have repressed this ability for so long? Combined with my ability to Hide, I was soon on nobody’s go-to list, and clearly Un-Inspiring everyone.

But then she came. She had the power of See Right Through Me. I had never encountered another female with a such strong ability. The short-lived and weak power of Dumb As I Wanna Be no longer served me. She learned the places I went to Hide, and soon Duck and Dodge also became just useless memories. She had the powers Smart and Inspired where I had only Annoying and Un-Inspired. She Inspired me to transform my super powers Annoying and Un-Inspired into Mostly Responsible and Somewhat Reliable. 

And after 28 years of marriage and facing The Trials and The Tribulations of raising two of our own one-in-a-million little swimmers, not to mention a Beagle possessing the superpowers of Always Loyal and Forever Hungry, we can’t wait for the day when they have their little swimmers, who we can teach the super power called Spoiled Rotten…

Some Super Hero stories have only a Mostly Responsible ending…

 Origin Story

Bailey…Our Pet Store Beagle

My family had the great fortune to find our family pet, Bailey, at a pet shop…in the mall. Now I know by the look on your faces, some of you may disapprove of our purchase. I will tell you in this case, your perception doesn’t match our reality. Let me say, this isn’t a post about where people get there pets from, and what is or isn’t right, it’s just about my family’s great fortune to find Bailey.

Looking back at it, I’m sure we paid more than we would have if we had purchased Bailey from a “responsible breeder”. Probably twice as much. A responsible breeder would never place a puppy in a store and pet shops are filled only with puppies born in puppy mills, unhealthy dogs kept in small cages or some would have you believe.

Does that mean these dogs don’t deserve a good home? Of course not. As for Bailey, he was the right dog, for the right family, at the right time. No matter where he came from or how much he cost. If you were to see him on the street, all you would see is a friendly beagle who would love you like family. An instant friend.

Now Bailey came with all the A.K.C. papers. Just like beagles from responsible breeders. He was current on any required shots and all of his paperwork listed not only where he came from, but his lineage as well. Was it all legitimate? While I will admit it mattered when we bought him… it doesn’t matter now. We were more than satisfied that he would be the perfect family pet. And he has been.

One of the great things about Bailey is the relationship he has with each member of the family. My son is more like a den mate, a sibling, equals in every way… brothers. Two straws stirring the same drink.

My wife? Bailey is her constant shadow, following her from room to room during the day, by her side as she works at home. Many a conference call has been interrupted by one of his sudden howls for attention. When she comes home from a trip, he is the first to greet her at the door. Usually before she can get her suitcase in the house. I’m usually asleep in front of the T.V. (don’t judge me, I work hard too).

Bailey absolutely adores my daughter. After college she moved to Florida, but she tries to come up a couple of times a year. From the minute she comes home he is by her side. They couldn’t be happier. And when she turns in for the night, we know just where to find him.

As for me, the so-called “master” of our domain? I’m the hand that feeds him. And he knows it. And since he constantly wants to eat, I see his big brown eyes staring up at me often. I also wrestle with him, usually over his smelly stuffed mallard (he has 4 but will only use 1). One of my lasting images will be of him standing next to me, staring up at me with that mallard in his mouth, daring me to take it from him.Once in a while if he lets me… I even get to win.

Beagles can be great service animals as well as wonderful hunting dogs. Bailey is neither. I have no doubt he could be good at either, we just never trained him. From day one he has always been a family dog, an “inside dog”. Deer and other animals who frequent the yard know they don’t need to worry about him. He will usually regard them with a classic hound greeting when he first sees them, but after that he could care less. One summer morning, while out for a bathroom break, he caught the scent of a rabbit in the yard and was in full chase when he suddenly stopped, remembering why he was outside in the first place. The rabbit got away and Bailey got relieved. Certainly not the great hunter.

I have watched Bailey grow with my kids. After we brought him home we enrolled him, and I guess the kids too, in obedience training (they all needed it) and it gave the kids the chance to learn responsible pet ownership and how to handle our newest member of the family. In turn, Bailey has taught us how to follow schedules…HIS. From how he jumps at the backdoor to go out, to how we know he’s hungry or thirsty by kicking his bowl across the kitchen floor, he has become the great communicator. His loyalty and companionship have gone far beyond what we could have imagined that Saturday in 2003 when we picked him, and him us…at the pet store.

We will be celebrating Bailey’s 13th birthday this year, that’s 74 to me and you. He moves a little slower, sleeps a little more, and his face is a little greyer, just like me. His birthday is July 14th, the same as my wife, so as we enjoy cake, Bailey will be right there with us, staring at us with his big brown eyes ( just like my wife’s) and enjoying his Frosty Paws. He’s certainly earned it.

Let me stop here and include a public service message about choosing the right pet for your family. The following 2 links are from the A.K.C. (American Kennel Club) and the ASPCA and discuss their opinion of responsible breeding, pet ownership, and selecting the pet best for your family. A third opinion comes from P.E.T.A. and says that choosing a pet from anywhere other than an animal shelter is irresponsible. While I understand that position, I don’t agree with it.

https://www.aspca.org/about-us/aspca-policy-and-position-statements/position-statement-criteria-responsible-breeding

http://www.akc.org/press-center/facts-stats/responsible-breeders/