Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sheepdog Pics

Three sheepdogs on Ludlow Ave. (Mike, Sophie, Duffy)

Dear George,
Sophie -- Mike and Duffy’s younger sister -- came for a weekend visit last Saturday.  That’s always fun.  Two Old English Sheepdogs in the house are enjoyable, but three sheepdogs are an absolute circus.  I don’t know if it’s gender or socialization or simply genetics, but Sophie is perkier than her old brothers, and everybody livens up when she appears on the scene, even the humans.  Sophie likes to play more than the boys do, and, whenever I read the newspaper, she brings me a tennis ball to play tug of war.  Then she pushes on Mikey’s nose with her paw.  Mike growls like a grumpy old dog, but I think he secretly enjoys it. 

All the dogs are older.  Mike and Duffy turn twelve this month, and Sophie’s just six months behind.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that I came home and saw two little black and white balls of fur in our kitchen doorway.  At first I thought they were baby raccoons, but, when I came closer, I realized they were puppies.  After the death of our Bedlington Terrier, Katja and I had firmly decided not to get another dog – at least that’s what I’d thought.  However, Katja had seen an ad in the paper and, with no other plans for her afternoon, had gone to see what sheepdog puppies are like.  She claims she had no expectation of buying.  However, two of the puppies were so cute that she brought them both home.  At first I was shocked, but it took only minutes before I was completely attached to the new puppies.
Passersby are always surprised to learn that the sheepdogs are twelve.  They’re good-looking and could easily by mistaken for young dogs.  They are, however, showing signs of age.  Mike was born with bad hips and now suffers from severe arthritis, which contributes to his reluctance to go for walks.  Recently we’ve decided that he’s stone deaf as well, since I can’t rouse him when he’s sleeping by shouting at the top of my voice.  The dogs always leapt into bed when they were younger, but now I boost them up.  Most veterinary web-sites estimate the typical life expectancy for Old English Sheepdogs as ten to twelve years.  We worry a lot about our twelve-year-olds and take the time we have together as a blessing.  We just enjoy each day as it comes.  There aren’t many options.  Here are a few more photos of the sweeties.     

Katja walks three dogs in front of our house (Mike, Duffy, Sophie)

Mike on the back porch with flowers

Dogs milling and sniffing on the patio

The bed gets crowded with two dogs, not to mention three

Sophie and Duffy on the porch steps

Sophie with our new bear, Alfonse

A portrait of Duffy

Mike sunning himself

Alert watchdogs on the front porch (Sophie, Mike, Duffy)

Dave with three dogs (Sophie, Mike, Duffy) 

Sophie on the sofa

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Magic on Ludlow

Dear George,
Every year at this time Ludlow Avenue. the street in front of our house, is transformed into a wonderland of hundreds of white and pink flowering trees – magnolias, dogwoods, crabapples, plum and pear trees, and probably others. It’s the highlight of our spring and marks our most pleasing season of the year.  The glorious display lasts a week or maybe two at most, then vanishes virtually overnight. By the time a year has gone by, the white trees have faded from our memory, and then their reappearance is just as new and thrilling as it’s been in previous years – a vivid reminder that we can count on the regular  appearance of beauty in the world.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Perks and Perils of Senior Air Travel

Dear George,
I flew down to New Orleans over spring break to visit J, K, and our grandkids.  It wasn’t the best time to fly.  I’d just seen Harrison Ford’s new movie “Non-Stop” about passengers on a transatlantic flight getting murdered every 20 minutes.  And, of course,  the news was completely dominated by the disappearance of Malaysian Flight 370 over the Indian Ocean.  It all makes you a little edgy.  Katja was staying home to take care of our two Old English sheepdogs, and she dropped me off at the airport.

As I entered the security area, I noticed a sign that said that passengers over 75 don’t have to take off their shoes or jackets.  I was pleasantly surprised.  You get all kinds of good stuff when you turn 65.  But up to now I’d never seen a single benefit that comes from being over 75.   While I was happy about it, I wondered if they thought I was too feeble to take my shoes off.  Or am I now in the only age group where they can’t imagine one being a potential terrorist threat?  In any case, I decided to take advantage of my new privileges.  As I approached the first security checkpoint, a uniformed guy politely but firmly instructed me to take off my shoes.  “I’m over 75,” I said.  He squinted his eyes and muttered, “You don’t look over 75.”  I started to get out my wallet to show him proof, but he waved me on.  Then he called out loudly to his colleagues down the row, “This guy’s over 75!  Coming through.  This guy here.  Over 75!”  All the other passengers in the area turned to see what the commotion was about. 

I picked up two plastic bins, put my L.L. Bean knapsack in one, my wallet and pocket contents in another.  A tall woman just ahead of me took my knapsack out of my first bin, saying, “That’s my bin.”  It wasn’t hers, but I didn’t feel like quarrelling so I got another bin.  I got through the body scan X-ray machine successfully after some instructions.  Then another security guard came up and said, “You have your jacket on, so I’m going to have to give you a full patdown.”  I didn’t see the point since I’d already passed my body scan X-ray test, but I raised my arms obediently.  He patted my shoulders, underarms, rib cages, upper and lower back.  Then he said, “Your jacket is zipped up, so I’m going to have to pat down your stomach.”  By that time I concluded that the TSA agents got irritated when people were allowed to keep their jackets on and responded by deliberately hassling them.

My nonstop flight to New Orleans went by quickly.  I’d arranged to meet my son J at curbside under the Delta baggage claim sign.  The Delta sign was mounted on a large concrete pillar, and I was surprised to see a carry-on bag leaning against the pillar though nobody was in the vicinity.  J was running late.  Fifteen minutes went by, and still nobody had come anywhere near the abandoned carry-on bag.  I started thinking about the warning announcements they make about unattended suitcases in airports.  The bag was looking more and more ominous.  There didn’t seem to be enough traffic in the immediate area to attract a mass bomber.  On the other hand, if the pillar came down, it could bring down the whole upper level roadway.  I thought about moving to a new location, but I didn’t want to leave the spot where J planned to pick me up.  Instead I moved to the opposite side of the pillar, hoping that it was strong enough to bear the brunt of an explosion.   It never did explode, and, for all I know, the bag might be still there.

My visit to New Orleans was thoroughly enjoyable: all the major tourist sights, lots of good music and good food, and many family excursions.  Six days later J dropped me off at the airport.   New Orleans had the same sign in the security area:  “People over 75 don’t need to remove their shoes and jacket.”  Now I knew what that meant.  It means: “If you are over 75 and physically infirm, you can leave your shoes and jacket on.  If you are over 75 and not physically infirm, take your shoes and jacket off now.”  I promptly took off my shoes and jacket.  That worked excellently – no questions, no patdowns,  only the same routine harassment that forty- or fifty-year-olds are subjected to.   

My plane was set to take off on schedule.  I was tired and soon nodded off in my seat.  Some time later I was jolted awake when I felt the plane make a sudden sharp righthand turn.  I immediately thought of the Malaysian airliner changing course over the Indian Ocean.  Startled, I opened my eyes and looked around for hijackers.   Seeing none, I glanced out the window.  Surprise -- we were still on the ground!  The pilot had just made a righthand turn onto the runway to prepare for his takeoff.   Aside from a hair in my Diet Coke, the rest of my trip was uneventful,.   Katja and the sheepdogs met me outside baggage claim at the airport.  There were no suspicious carry-on bags at curbside in Cincinnati.  Katja, the dogs, and I had an exciting reunion.  Lots of barking.   I was glad to be home again.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Being Five-Point-Five

Dear George,
I’m recently back from a six-day trip to New Orleans, visiting J and K and my grandkids, V and L.  It’s difficult being a long-distance grandparent.  When we’re all together, it’s engrossing and enjoyable, but then it’s another four or five months before we see the kids again.  V and L are now five and a half.  Each time we get together they’re more noticeably grown up – physically, mentally, verbally, socially.  Currently I’d say they are about twenty percent adult.  (Hmm…maybe fifteen percent.)  Things the children and I now share in common include liking dogs and rabbits, ice cream, Mickey Mouse and Batman, Raisin Bran cereal and tacos, hiking in the park, hitting tennis balls, knock knock jokes, and playing checkers and Crazy Eights.  In general, the children are more excitable than the adults, more easily distressed, more curious, more energetic, and more bewildered at times.  They laugh more, cry more, and sleep more deeply.  They’re much more proficient at Spanish (since they go to kindergarten at a 100% Spanish immersion school).  And they’re continually busy learning all sorts of new things. All in all, being five and a half is a remarkable time of life.  Here are some photos of L and V’s activities that I took during my trip.  This is a mere glimpse of what being five and a half is like.

This is V at the age of five
She’s knows how to do many things
You can see that V loves being alive
It’s almost as if her heart sings

L is exactly the same age as V
He can be both serious and funny
All agree that L’s a sweet pea
It’s because his nature’s so sunny

The children love outings to City Park
They hike on the trail to Rock Mountain
Trips to the park are such a lark
Though they don’t let you wade in the fountain

L and V zoomed up in their plane
They traveled for one-point-two miles
They didn’t go all the way to Spain
But they got off with most happy smiles

V’s new bunny is Olivia Rosehop
Her dad built a very strong hutch
Rosehop, I think, is a Mini-Lop
Her fur is so soft to the touch

We went for a hike on Coutourie Trail
V found there a coconut shell
She asked a man if he’d give her his snail
Amazing, that snail didn’t smell

I’d say this rocket could fly to the moon
V and L are all ready to go
The blast-off is scheduled for half past noon
Hey Mom, can you give us some dough?

L and V like to climb up the trees
They’re not even frightened so high
You have to admire such climbers as these
Some day they’ll climb up to the sky

Iko is full of vigor and vim
He races round the yard at top speed
I took many walks round the block with him
On every bush he has peed

Checkers is not so easy to play
But the children are getting quite good
In fact L beat me the other day
Who ever imagined he would?

Our bumper cars gave us huge thrills
We crashed into one another
We collided so hard it gave me the chills
But it didn’t scare V or her brother

Each week L and V go to Sunday School
Their teacher’s name is Miss Sue
L and V always follow the rule
Miss Sue tells them just what to do

L and V got into a bucket of slime
It whirled so fast they got dizzy
The children reported they had a great time
It’s because their noodles were frizzy

L shows great promise at tennis
His forehand gets better each week
L might be a tennis menace
He's not yet close to his peak   

On Thursday V tried on a very fine wig
She hoped she would look like a doozy
I’m afraid that her wig was a little too big
Not a doozy though V did look woozy

The kids took a ride on the merry-go-round
They each had a very fine steed
The horses rose very high off the ground
V and L were great riders indeed

On Wednesday L lost his first tooth
A dollar got rid of his pains
Losing a tooth is a highlight of youth
It shows you that losses can be gains 

V and L zoomed down the slide
They went at a high rate of speed
It looked to me like a most scary ride
But these kids are brave sliders indeed

V fell asleep right on her dad’s hat
His head was a good place to rest
She slept as soundly as an Angora cat
Riding home on dad’s head is the best

G-mail Comments
-Terry O-S (4-2):  Soon you need to send this book to your grandchildren.  (A. A. Milne, “Now We Are Six”)
-JML (4-2):  That's wonderful dad. Can't wait to read it to them later today. Muchas gracias!!