From Zaharias to Ledecky

In my lifetime, the idea of women participating in ( often professional) sports as an individual or team took off. In my opinion, the first woman to demonstrate such a direction could be taken was Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias. She was born in 1911 and excelled in a variety of sports: track and field, basketball, and golf. At the 1932 Summer Olympics, she was entered in 3 events = the 80 meter hurdles (winning in a world record time), the javelin (won with an Olympic record throw), and the high jump (she won the Silver medal, not tying for a Gold because it was ruled her technique was incorrect).

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In the 1940s and 1950s, she was the finest woman golf player and personality. She won 48 tournaments, including 10 majors. She won 17 consecutive tournaments, a record for either sex. A writer for the New York Times said of her: “Except for Arnold Palmer, no golfer has ever been more beloved by the gallery.” In 1950, she was one of 13 women who created the LPGA. She was the fastest player to achieve 10, 20, and 30 wins. While playing, she served as the LPGA president from 1952 to 1955. In 1953, she was operated on for colon cancer. In her comeback of 1954, she won the Vare trophy for lowest scoring average. One month after surgery, while wearing a colostomy bag, she won her 10th major. Cancer returned and she died in 1956. In 1977, she was one of the 6 original inductees into the LPGA Hall of Fame.

Other “Pioneers” for women’s sports included: Althea Gibson. She was the first black athlete to play international tennis and the first person of color to win a Grand Slam title. She won a total of 11 major titles (5 singles, 5 doubles, 1 mixed doubles). Billie Jean King: Winner of 39 Grand Slam titles (12 singles, 16 women’s doubles, 11 mixed doubles). Beat Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes. Advocate for gender equality. Admitted to National Women’s and International Tennis Halls of Fame. Won Presidential Medal of Freedom. RudolphOlga Korbut: She was a crowd favorite at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics winning 4 Gold and 2 Silver medals. Lisa Leslie: Three time WNBA MVP and four time Olympic Gold medal winner. First player in WNBA to dunk in a game. Member of Basketball Hall of Fame. Wilma Rudolph: (pictured right) The first American woman to win 3 Gold medals at Olympics (1960). Helped make track and field popular in the U.S.

 

Some of the most talented “Descendents” of these women include the following: Laila Ali: The daughter of Muhammad Ali was a professional boxer from 1999 to 2007. Her record: 24 fights, 24 wins with 21 by KO/TKO. A clear example of the apple not falling far from the tree. Bonnie Blair: As a speed skater in 3 Winter Olympics (1988, 1992, 1994), she won 5 Gold and 1 Bronze medals. In 1992, she won the James E. Sullivan Award (top amateur in the USA) and the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. Mia Hamm: Playing for the US Women’s National Soccer Team, she was an inspiration for American soccer and millions of young women. She scored 158 goals, while her team won 2 Olympic Gold medals and 2 World cups.

The American First Lady of athletics, Ja

The American First Lady of athletics, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, jumps to her second gold medal at the Seoul Olympic women’s long jump final, 29 September 1988, setting a new Olympic record with 7.40. (FILM) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read RON KUNTZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Jackie Joyner-Kersee: (pictured above) I, along with Sports Illustrated, believe she is the greatest female athlete of the 20th Century. She was in 4 Olympics, competing in the Heptathlon and Long Jump and earning 2 Gold and 1Bronze Medals in the 7-event competition, plus a Gold and 2 Bronze in the Long Jump. In the 1988 Olympics, she got Gold in both events, but I thought another statistic was even more impressive. She was measured as having 4% body fat. Seeing her in a “small” track suit, I thought the fat could be only in 1 place: her ear lobes. Everything else was muscle. Katie Ledecky: She is the latest American Olympic star in swimming. At age 20, she holds the freestyle record in 6 distances. She was the most decorated female athlete at the 2016 Olympic games: 4 Gold and 1 Silver medal, plus 2 world records. She was the youngest person on Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

Lopez

Nancy Lopez: (pictured above) She played on the LPGA tour from 1977 to 2003, winning 48 events. In 1978, she was the LPGA Rookie of the Year, leading Money Winner, Player of the year, and won 9 tournaments (5 in a row). She took part of 3 years off to have children. In 1987, she was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Martina Navratilova: Contrary to most women in tennis when she began, she could play a serve and volley game –not just a baseline game. Others followed her lead. From 1982-96, she won 428 singles matches (97% of her matches). In 1983, her record was 86 – 1. She has won 59 tournaments.

Ochoa

Lorena Ochoa: (pictured above) She played on the LPGA tour from 2003 to 2010. She won 30 tournaments. She was the top-ranked female golfer in the world for 158 consecutive weeks, from April 23, 2007 until she retired on May 2, 2010. She was the first Mexican golfer of either sex to be ranked number one in the world. She will enter the World Golf Hall of Fame in September, 2017. Annika Sorenstam: She won 72 times on the LPGA tour including 10 Majors. She was Rookie of the Year, and Player of the Year 8 times. She shot a 59 and had 29 consecutive rounds under par. She won over $20 million and entered the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2003. In Women’s Golf, she is the G.O.A.T.: the Greatest of All Time.

Taurasi

Diana Taurasi: (pictured above) She played for Connecticut; they won 3 championships. Their record: 139 – 8. She was on 4 Gold Medal Olympic teams. She has been on 3 WNBA champions. Throughout her career, she scored. A few days ago, she broke the WNBA record for scoring and 3-point shots made. She was the Rookie of the Year, an MVP twice, and won 5 scoring titles. Dara Torres: My favorite Olympian. She was the first American swimmer to go to 5 Olympics. She earned at least one medal in each. She is one of 3 women with a total of 12 Olympic medals: 4 each of Gold, Silver, and Bronze. She won a medal at age 41; no one else has. Wow. Lindsey Vonn: She has won 2 Olympic medals for the USA. But that’s only the beginning of her success. In 15 seasons of World Cup skiing, she has 77 wins, some in all 5 disciplines. Four times she has won the World Cup overall championship. She is the most successful American skier in history. Serena Williams: She has won 39 Grand Slam titles (23 in singles, 14 in doubles, 2 in mixed doubles; her winning percentage is 86+% in all 3). Plus 4 Olympic Gold medals. When asked: Are you the greatest woman tennis player of all time? Her reply: “I’m one of the greatest athletes of all-time.” OK.

I have mentioned a baker’s dozen (13) of women athletes. All have had exceptional careers. Who would you add to the list?          

 

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Just for Laughs, 2

I posted my first “Just For Laughs” article on March 31. This is the second such article featuring samples of cartoons from The New Yorker magazine.

 

Mankoff 2 cat and dog

 

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ManCat

 

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Mankoff16

 

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Sgt. Pepper: Why So Popular?

SPthe 4

By 1966, The Beatles were tired of touring and the quality of their musicianship had deteriorated. During a performance in Japan, their audience was polite and restrained. The Fab Four could hear their own voices as they performed, a rareity. In their opinion, their skills had deteriorated and something had to be done about that –for their own satisfaction.

They returned to England and everyone took a three month break. George Harrison went to India to study the sitar with Ravi Shankar. Paul McCartney collaborated with record producer George Martin (pictured below) on the soundtrack for a film. John Lennon acted in a film (“How I Won the War”) and attended art showings –where he met Yoko Ono. Ringo Starr spent time with his wife (Maureen) and son (Zak). The decision was made to take an unlimited amount of time and spend an almost unlimited amount of money to see what they could accomplish.   The result was an album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

They and Mr. Martin worked on their project from November 24, 1966 to April 21, 1967. In May, their record was released in the UK. In June, it was released in the USA.   By December 31, 1967, the album had sold 2,360,423 copies in the United States alone.

The more you know about how Sgt. Pepper was made, the more you can appreciate the creativity of the Beatles, George Martin, and the studio staff. For example, four-track recording equipment was used.   Techniques utilized included: automatic double tracking, varispeeding, and a lot of other stuff I don’t understand. Plus the four Beatles played a wide variety of instruments (eg, McCartney, in addition to his guitar, played a grand piano and a Lowery organ).   To sum up: if Sgt. Pepper sounded unique, there were many reasons why.

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In time and money, what was the cost? Estimates indicated the Beatles spent 700 hours to create the album, “more than 30 times necessary to make their first album.” The financial cost of their first album was 400 pounds. Sgt. Pepper cost 25,000 pounds. The songs’ lyrics were printed, in full, on the back cover –the first time it had been done on a rock album. The final cost of the art on the album cover was almost 3,000 pounds. Typically, it cost about 50 pounds. Creativity, it seems, was neither quick nor inexpensive.

SP's cover 2

In February, 1967, 2 songs were recorded at Abbey Road Studios: “Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane.” They were released as a “double A-side” because of the pressure on George Martin for a “single” recording. Releasing these two songs instead of including them in the coming album, Martin later said was “the biggest mistake of my professional life.”

What were the results of their efforts? American radio stations interrupted their regular scheduling and played Sgt. Pepper non-stop from start to finish. It sold more copies than any previous Beatles album. In 1968, at the Grammy awards, it was chosen Album of the year. For several years after its release, and for the first time in the history of the music industry, sales of albums exceeded sales of single records.

Future honors included: As of 2011, Sgt. Pepper had sold more than 32 million copies worldwide. In 2003, the Library of Congress placed it in the National Recording Registry, honoring it as culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number One on its list of “5,000 Greatest Albums of All Time. “

Paul McCartney’s opinion of the album 50 years later: “It’s crazy to think that 50 years later we are looking back on this project with such fondness and a little bit of amazement at how four guys, a great producer, and his engineers could make such a lasting piece of art.”

On May 26, 2017, the Sgt. Pepper album was reissued for its 50th anniversary in a variety of formats. It featured a stereo remix produced by Giles Martin, the son of George Martin, who died in 2016.

GeoMarinGeorge Martin

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Dog Owner’s T-shirts

dog T-shirt

This is my fourth consecutive article about dogs. The first three described the dogs we’ve had in our lives –and how they made our lives more complete. Here are some dog themed T-shirts I’ve come across on a variety of websites. (Do cat lovers have similar T-shirts?)

It’s a dog’s life. I’m just the human at the end of the leash.

The day God made dogs, He sat down and smiled.

When I die, the dog gets everything.

Best in Snow.

I don’t have kids. My dog is allergic.

There are 2 types of people in this world: people who love dogs, and people who are wrong.

I don’t always talk about dogs. Sometimes I’m asleep.

All I care about is dogs and, like, 2 people.

I work hard so my dog can have a better life.

Be the person your dog thinks you are.

The more people I meet, the more I love dogs.

There’s no such thing as JUST a dog.

 

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If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went. (Will Rogers)

Everyone thinks they have the best dog. And none of them are wrong.

I’d like you more if you were a dog.

Sniff happens.

Let’s go bark at snowmen.

If my dog doesn’t like you, I probably won’t either.

Dogs welcome; people tolerated.

Leave me alone. I am only speaking to my dog today.

Dogs are God’s apology for relatives.

Heaven is where you get to see every dog you ever loved.

If I can’t bring my dog, I’m not going.

Gone to walk my human.

 

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Dog Stories: Angus,Jake, Luna = Part 3

Once again, time passed and we grieved. Once again, we knew we loved and needed a dog in our lives. We were better people in such an arrangement. We went through another rescue organization and the result was different this time.

Our third dog was a combination Pug and Jack Russell terrier. Small (24 pounds), cute, very energetic. He was with us for four weeks. The back story came out slowly …after he was adopted by us. He was 5 years old and had been used as a “breeder” dog. He had no contact with humans (adults or children), or other dogs (except for obvious reasons), was never taken for walks, had no toys or treats, had no idea what a ball was, and knew no commands. He had a physical condition that was not addressed properly and it was assumed we would arrange and pay for its completion. His time with us ended abruptly. During a walk, he tried to bite the face of the friendliest dog in the neighborhood who happened to be three times his size. The quick reflexes of the other dog avoided tragedy. Shortly afterward, while sitting on my lap being petted, he turned his head around and bit my arm.

Numerous calls with the Foster parent and her superiors in the organization resulted in the dog being taken back. We were told he needed 6-12 months more training before being placed. A friend told us the organization made him available for adoption 7 weeks later. We have no idea what happened to him.

We were devastated. We had become emotionally attached to him quickly. We felt betrayed by the organization which gave him to us. More than anything, we felt sorry for him. Five years of an unsatisfactory life followed by inadequate (re)socialization before placement in a new home and a failure experience. What would be his future?

Adding to our difficult situation, we began to hear of similar situations of poor interactions with rescue agencies. Dogs’ lives had been saved, only to have them placed too quickly into an environment for which success was not possible. What were we going to do? Going to a breeder was too expensive an option to consider. We contacted friends and organizations online half-heartedly hoping for a new outcome.

By accident or good fortune, we found an organization that sounded different. Dogs were found or removed from poor situations, just as in other rescues. Their medical issues were addressed completely. Their behavior was evaluated and problems were addressed before placement was considered. That was the description according to the internet.

We found a dog within that organization who we would consider adopting. My wife called the local Foster family who was taking care of her. The telephone call changed everything. The caretaker was sympathetic about our recent experience. We talked about the dog we had seen available online. We were told the dog was considered a “Heinz 57” dog –a combination of many breeds. In this case, part Lab (of course), part pointer, part pit bull. She weighed 47 pounds, was affectionate, liked walking but was not extremely energetic. There was one problem. She was being treated for heart worm. Two months would be necessary for the treatment to be complete. But during that time she would reside with this Foster parent and treatment would be paid for by the rescue. It was agreed we would continue looking for a dog, but we would call back when treatment was completed if our search was unsuccessful. The dog’s name was Luna (pictured below).

We continued our search. Four times we followed up an online lead only to find we were “a day late and a dollar short.” The dogs we found interesting had been placed. Eventually, we realized it had been almost two months since our call to the impressive Foster parent who happened to live a few miles from us. We contacted her again.

Luna had been placed. A couple was willing to assume the final cost of completing heart worm treatment and Luna had gone to live with them. Our reaction, after the telephone call, was sadness, anger, and a sense of defeat. We were tired of trying to find a dog that would fit into our lives only to find we just missed them.

A few days went by and we received a call from Luna’s Foster mother. There were problems with the placement. Twice Luna had gotten out of her new home and was “temporarily” lost. A follow-up on the circumstances of her “escapes” brought conflicting stories. The adopting couple and the Foster mother agreed it would be best if Luna was returned to her Foster mother. That was the “good” news. The “bad” news was that another person was interested in adopting a dog and had narrowed their choice to Luna and another dog. A decision would be made the following day. We said we were still interested and asked that we be called when a decision was made.

Twenty four hours later, we received a call. The interested person had decided to go with the other dog. We were asked: “If you’re still interested, when would you like to meet Luna?” Our answer: “How soon could we see her?” “How would the day after tomorrow be?” “Fine.” A time was arranged and directions to Luna’s Foster home were given.

On the door to Luna’s “temporary” home was a sign: “Ring the bell and a dog will answer.” We rang. When the door was opened by a tall, smiling woman, she was closely followed by two dogs eager to meet visitors. Every ring of the door bell could be “the one” that led a dog to their final home. No ring could be ignored. We entered and began to talk with the Foster mother about the 6 dogs living in her home: 3 were her own, 3 were being fostered.

As the discussion about Luna drew to a close, we became aware of two things. While we did our best to not speak, touch, or look at a specific dog (giving them time to form their own opinion about us), they circled and sniffed us without hesitation. The black one, with white feet and chest, weighing 47 pounds was Luna. And as we three humans moved into the adjoining kitchen to sit down and continue talking, all 6 dogs came in to participate in the discussion. Every dog was interested in visitors. Every dog was quiet, though active. No one barked or fought or tried to monopolize the visitors. They acted as if they knew there would be time for them all to become acquainted. They were correct. Someone had trained these dogs well. Lucky for us, we were talking to that person, as well as meeting every dog. Which were permanent residents and who were being fostered? We could not tell. A good sign we thought.

We were asked a final question: “When would you like to take Luna home?” Our answer: “We’re busy tomorrow making final preparations (eg, buying a crate, food, a few toys and treats). Would the next day fit into your schedule?” It would, and a time for pick up was set.

That was 6 weeks ago. Luna is a part of our family. Her heart worm treatment is over. In five months, she’ll be tested to be certain the problem is permanently eliminated. How are things going? Two observations are obvious just by looking at her –in addition to her being incredibly cute. Her dark coat looks like a black velvet canvas without the prerequisite picture of Elvis or wild horses. Her 47 pounds are pure muscle and produce more pulling power than some cars we have owned. Plus: she and we have worked out the times for meals and snacks, and, of course, walks. She likes car rides, but doesn’t need to have her head out the window. She is affectionate with us and everyone who visits our home. She must meet every human (adults and children) and dog and pulls toward them on sight. She smells and kisses everyone and lets everyone pet her. The whole neighborhood knows her. And likes her. Given her age (between 1 and 2 years), she can be very active in her play with other dogs, but not aggressive.

One piece of the puzzle was missing. She has no idea what to do with a ball. I must remember: she is a pointer, not a retriever.   Perhaps I can teach a new dog a new trick. If not, perhaps she will teach me a lesson: there’s more to a dog’s life than playing catch. More to our lives, as well.  We smile every time we see her. She always likes to be rubbed. She seldom barks even if the mailman brings a package to our front porch. We seldom raise our voices, except to laugh. Apparently, the saying heard so often is correct: We rescued her, and she rescued us right back.

 

UPDATE: The vet has cleared Luna of heart worm officially. She celebrated with a walk, followed by a tasty Greenie.

Luna

 

 

 

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Dog Stories: Angus, Jake, Luna = Part 2

Months passed. Friends asked us if we’d get another dog. We knew the answer, but “when” was the important question. No one would replace Angus. He would be part of us forever. But perhaps someone else could add to our lives, as he did. Eventually, we began our search for such a person. We learned that rescue organizations saved the lives of homeless dogs and gave them a second chance to find “a forever home.” We decided to go that route.

It was not easy. After realizing we were older and perhaps “the Puppy experience” would be more than we believed we could handle, we found an older dog, residing out-of-state, that could meet our needs (and his) and we hoped to meet him. Applications, interviews, and emails followed. Our search ended when Jake (pictured below) was brought to our home. Many miles and four previous homes had left him shyer than we expected. He, too, was a Lab. He’d been passed over more than once because of his age. We were told he was 8 – 10 years old. (Our vet told us later he was “at least 10.”) And he was black. A victim of “black dog syndrome.” Often referred to as BBD (ie, Big Black Dog), such animals are passed over because of a potential owner’s bias against or fear of such animals. Jake, the name he brought with him, was hesitant around strangers. With his history, that was not surprising. But we liked him –and he was only 75 pounds. We accepted immediately.

We had less training to do.   A plus for many rescued, older dogs. He knew where the bathroom was. Not surprisingly, it was our back yard. We knew Labs liked to eat… and go for walks… and play ball. My, excuse me, our pitch and catch routine began anew. But Jake had his own spin on that game. I would throw the ball and, true to is breed, he retrieved. But after racing to the ball, getting it securely in his mouth, he took a zig-zag route back to me. He went straight toward me, but then he began finding a more unique path by which to return the ball and start our game again. A series, original every time, of lefts, rights, circling back on his path, and forward movements commenced. He was not to be interrupted on his journey. He knew I was at the end of it and he took his “necessary” time and path to reach me. And I learned patience. He got exercise and I got a new, more reserved ball-playing friend. And I knew when our game was over with absolute certainty. It was when Jake made a sharp left turn, jumped onto our patio, and headed for our back door which he opened by putting his head down, pushing it open, and walking inside. Our game had a new wrinkle. And I knew what to do: accept it.

We, and Jake, had made a good choice. He, too, brought physical problems that could, and should, have been dealt with by one of his former owners. That expense was left to us. Fair enough. Jake was, as was Angus, worth every penny. Time with him was as wonderful as we hoped it would be –but much shorter.

After two and a half years, the end came quickly. One day, after time outside, he collapsed when walking through the doorway. We rushed him to the vet hospital assuming they would know what caused his sudden difficulty. They took him quickly to the examination room. A doctor came to speak with us in the waiting room and said they needed to run some tests to obtain an accurate diagnosis. We said “fine.”

A short time later, we were escorted into a private room –not a good sign. The diagnosis was worse than we could have imagined. He had an incurable, untreatable, advanced form of cancer. Tests had revealed multiple tumors. His collapse was because his body was weak and, while not in pain yet, it would soon be overwhelming. His death would be agonizing and occur in a few days or, at most, two weeks. We were given a choice: take him home and remain with him until the pain and bleeding were not manageable –or say our good-byes immediately. We asked our questions: “Are you sure? Incurable? No more time than that? And it would be …that bad?” The answers were what we feared. They left us alone to think about our “options.”

We had taken him to the hospital for emergency treatment. It turned into an immediate good-bye. We knew, from the beginning of our life with him, we wouldn’t have a long time together. But to end this quickly, and this way? No one is prepared for that. No one. Our only thought was: he won’t die in pain, no agonizing final days. He did not deserve that and nothing would be gained by it. Our pain at losing him? We would have to deal with that on our own. But he would not die alone or in mind-bending pain. He brought us joy. We owed him the most painless and compassionate death available.

The hospital staff was sensitive and took time with us. They brought in a blanket for us and Jake to share on the floor. They even brought in treats –chocolate chip cookies and cooked chicken. His final treats. No need to worry about calories or chocolate’s harmful side effects. “Take your time. Let us know when you’re ready.” We held him We told him how much we loved him, and would remember him always.

When we were “ready,” we asked for the doctor to come in. An IV was in place. There were two doses of drugs: the first put him to sleep; the second stopped his heart. We held Jake and cried. We arranged to pick up his ashes the following week. Then we went home. The house was horribly quiet, and one third empty.

 

Jake

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Dog Stories: Angus, Jake, Luna

I never had pets as a kid. Instead, I had allergies. Dogs and cats were off limits for me, just like chocolate and wool. But no one in my neighborhood had pets. So, being pet-less was not a concern. That’s hard to believe when I look at where I live now. Dogs are walked all day, every day. Cats are seen in windows of houses that are walked by.

Decades, schools, and jobs went by without a sighting of Duke or Miss Whiskers. But, eventually, I married and we found a home in a different area of Philadelphia. Neighbors moved in next door and they had dogs.

The progression went something like this. We chatted over the back fence. We exchanged jokes, opinions, and current events, shoveled snow together, and, at some point, began to chat with the four legged members of the family. Especially Taylor. Taylor Jane, if her behavior was, eh, imperfect. Taylor liked to eat food left outside a refrigerator. For example, an Easter ham –a Whole ham. Fish fillets caught early in the day off the New Jersey shore. A dozen of them. Bacon –eaten straight from the frying pan. She liked protein.

And she was cute. She was the yellow lab you see in Subaru commercials. So we began talking to her, and petting her, and playing with her. And we were hooked. Plus, we noticed some things changed about us. We looked forward to our time with Taylor. We calmed down quicker after a difficult day at work when we spent time with her. We relaxed. Taylor was better than any blood pressure medication. We were never angry in her presence. We spoke softer and smiled more. The hands with which we petted her got kissed. Technically, I guess they were licked. But we paid no attention. We were not interested in the finer linguistic points.

We began to talk about bringing a dog into our lives. It was not a long conversation. No lists of pros and cons were made. The decision was an easy one: we wanted a yellow lab for our yard, and car, and lives, too. Doesn’t everyone?

We bought Angus (pictured below) from a backyard breeder without thinking about any political correctness. He was the largest of the litter. He curled into our arms, money was exchanged, and we drove home with our new four-legged family member.

The first months were difficult. We almost lost him to medical concerns that should have been dealt with by the breeder. But a good vet got him, and us, through a rough start. And we bought toys and treats, and large quantities of food for our growing lab, and went on car rides where he had to put his head out the window for the breeze and new smells. And our neighbors loved him, too. Taylor and he played and became friends. Our relatives loved him and found another reason to visit us. My wife took him for walks. He and I played ball in our back yard. We had a two-story, brick home. The yard was rather large, for a home in a big city. I threw balls against the back of the house and Angus caught every ricochet, absolutely every one. I held myself to the standard 100 pitch limit. My arm gave out before his energy did. But he accepted that, as well as his treat after every ball-playing session. Major leaguers didn’t field so well or work for so little. Willie Mays, on the best day I saw him, was no better than Angus. And pitchers, no matter their won-loss record, did not have as much joy as I did. Every day. No once-every-five-days rotation for me and Angus. We played every day, for free.

He was accepted by everyone and I remember the exact moment when the last vote of acceptance came in. My wife’s Mother, a widow, lived near us and we spent considerable time visiting her. Plus, family functions took place there. We decided to take Angus with us to see how things went if he joined the extended family activities. He had seen my Mother-in-law at our house so it wasn’t surprising when, upon entering her home for the first time, he ran to her, stood up, placed his paws on her shoulders and “kissed” her face. Mom was less than five feet tall. Angus, standing, looked down into her eyes, and I think he smiled. We walked over, quickly, and helped Mom maintain her balance. Angus was not only taller, but outweighed his “older” friend. He was 118 pounds and Mom significantly less. We brought his bowl so he could eat next to, if not on, the table at family gatherings.

Time passed. Mom died. And then Angus suffered his own ailments. An operation bought him sometime. But after eleven and a half years, we had to say good-bye to him, too. And that was the way it felt. We were losing a family member. It hurt. Even worse than we thought it would. We had his ashes, but not him. To quote Joni Mitchell, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s, or he’s, gone.” Who would play ball with me and who would go for walks in the neighborhood with my wife. And who would make us calmer, better people. We had lost a true friend, and they are rare. “Rare as hen’s teeth,” my farmer Grandfather used to say. And he was right. The house was quiet. The yard saw no more ball playing. Treats, toys, surprises, an extra person to shop for on Holidays –all gone. His absence left a hole in us, our home, and our lives. We mourned for months We would always have wonderful memories friends told us. And they were right. But we didn’t have Angus.

 

Angus

End of Part One. Next time, Part Two.

 

 

 

 

 

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