Tag Archives: Toby the Puppy

These men and women are doing heroic work

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. — The nation’s eyes, ears and hearts are dialed in to the tragedy that’s unfolding a bit northwest of here, in Santa Rosa.

Fire has destroyed thousands of homes and killed dozens of people. The death toll is expected to increase. Firefighters have poured in from all over the continent to assist in that terrible fire.

My wife, Toby the Puppy and I came to Grass Valley on vacation. En route to this marvelous place we learned of another fire. We half-expected to drive to a site full of smoke; we thought we might have to purchase surgical masks to keep from inhaling all that smoke and dust.

We arrived to find the sky relatively clear, unlike what we saw in Chowchilla about 180 miles south of here. Then we pulled into our Nevada County Fairgrounds RV park and found quite a sight: dozens of firefighters roaming around; rows of firefighting equipment; tents full of supplies (food, clothing, blankets, etc.); one-person tents pitched everywhere.

They’re fighting these fires fiercely. They seem to have caught a break with the weather. The winds were calm upon our arrival, although we heard from several folks that the previous day brought choking smoke to the area.

We visited with a young man who appears to be a senior firefighting officer. He guesses about 1,000 firefighters are on hand. He said they are coming in “from all over. The Midwest is the farthest away.” Jail inmates are fighting the fires. They’ve got CCC crews on the task, too.

He estimated that the fire has burned about 14,000 acres.

It isn’t yet contained, he said.

What’s more, the efforts of these men and women are not going unnoticed by the community. They have made signs on the chain-link fence bordering the fairgrounds. They have earned the community’s gratitude and wishes for God’s blessings to all of them.

On our way back to our RV site, we encountered four young firefighters: three men and a woman. “Where you from?” I asked. “Northern Idaho,” came the response from one of the men.

“We just want to thank you for all you do,” my wife said. “That means everything to us,” he responded. “We sure don’t do this for the pay,” he joked.

These young heroes are here apparently for the long haul, or as long as it takes.

God bless all the firefighters scattered throughout this fire-ravaged state.

Puppy Tales, Part 39

CHOWCHILLA, Calif. — I want to declare Toby the Puppy to be the all-time champeen of travel.

He’s the ultimate road warrior. It matters not where we go, or how we long we sit in our motor vehicle, Toby the Puppy is good to go. He stays ready. I believe he was born ready to go.

I’ve heard of dogs that travel with extreme difficulty. They stress out. They suffer motion sickness in the car. Their phobias restrict their “parents” from travel.

Toby the Puppy is not like that. Not even close. In fact, if he were king of the world — and not just of our world, which he is — he would declare every day to be Travel with Mommy and Daddy Day.

We have ventured to California, where Toby’s never before been. He knows no strange surroundings. He doesn’t always react with total serenity to strange humans; no, he doesn’t bite, although he might growl just a bit, perhaps even bark. We tell him “no!” and he’s just fine.

As for his traveling endurance, he immediately settled into a pattern while riding in our vehicles after he joined our family. Our pickup has a large console between the two front seats. We put his cushy bed on the console, he jumps into it, circles twice and plops down.

It’s lights out almost immediately!

I figure he knows enough to save his energy for when we get out of the truck and start exploring.

Other dog parents know of what I am writing. They likely have similar experiences with their own puppies. My wife and I are still fairly knew at this dog parenthood thing; we’ve been longtime cat parents. Indeed, cats have presented us with their own unique and equally loving charm.

Three years into being dog parents, Toby the Puppy is still making us laugh every single day. Even while we’re all on the road.

Happy Trails, Part 46

GALLUP, N.M. — This retirement journey we’re on has taught me a wonderful lesson, which is that this big ol’ world of ours is actually quite small.

My wife and I don’t usually plug in to cable outlets when they’re available at RV parks where we stay. The RV park where we stay in Gallup has cable, so we tried it out. We usually rely on antenna reception, which is normally quite good.

We hooked up the cable. We got snowy pictures on all the channels. Lousy reception, man. I went back to the office to ask for some guidance from the RV park manager. He gave me a tip. I went back to the RV. Still no good. I unplugged the cable.

Then someone knocked on our RV door, sending Toby the Puppy into a barking frenzy.

“Hi. You were asking about cable TV?” the gentleman asked.

“My name is John,” he said. Hmm. I thought, “That’s a coincidence.” Then he added, “and I’m from Oregon.” Why he said that is beyond me. “Well, so am I,” I responded. My wife told John I grew up there. “Oh, really? Where?” he asked. “Portland,” I told him.  “I live in Corvallis,” he said.

He walked me through a couple of things about the cable hookup that I didn’t know. We tried to hook it up one more time. Still no good.

But I guess the real point of this brief blog post is to remind you all yet again that RV campers are among the nicest people on Planet Earth. They are willing to help. Such as John from Corvallis. He overheard me talking to the RV park office staff about my cable reception, so he decided to take matters into his own hands. I appreciate his thoughtfulness.

Plus, he’s a home boy from Oregon. That’s pretty cool, too.

Puppy Tales, Part 38

My wife and I laughed out loud this morning when we heard the news.

Today is National Spoil Your Dog Day.

I’m pretty sure Toby the Puppy heard the news, too. Not only that, he likely understood what he heard and very well might test his mother and me to follow through on the promise this day is supposed to bring.

News flash to Toby the Puppy: He gets “spoiled” plenty already. In fact, my wife and I do not know precisely what we could do during this special “day” that we don’t do already to make the puppy’s life more comfortable.

If he wants to go for a walk, he lets us know and we respond appropriately; that is, we take him for a walk. If he wants a treat, he lets us know that, too; yes, we jump at his every command. He likes to sleep in his kennel at night, but if he jumps into bed with us at some ungodly hour of the night, well … snuggle up, Toby.

Yes, we have our limits with Toby. Then again, we had limits with our two human sons when they lived with us.

The bottom line for the puppy is that he’s got it made in the shade.

My mother used to wonder why the term “a dog’s life” was intended to convey a negative message. I’m wondering the same thing.

Oh, one more thing: We wouldn’t change a thing as it regards our puppy. He deserves all the spoiling he gets.

Puppy Tales, Part 37

A friend of mine told me today she enjoys my blog postings about Toby the Puppy and suggested that I’ve been a bit remiss in writing about our pooch.

So, for my friend, this one’s for you.

Toby’s vocabulary has expanded tremendously in the nearly three years he has been a member of our family. I’ve told you already how he knows many words and responds appropriately when he hears them; we have been forced to spell many words in his presence, but he’s now learning how to spell.

Soon, my wife and I will need to start learning to speak in code. I might need to take classes on cryptology. Maybe we’ll become 21st-century code talkers, like the Navajo men who befuddled the Japanese during World War II by speaking to each other over the radio; the enemy couldn’t decipher the Navajo language.

But here’s the latest learned behavior I want to share with you: Toby now responds to the words “It’s ready!” when we’re cooking dinner.

Whether it’s my wife or me in the kitchen, we usually tell each other “It’s ready!” when dinner is about to be served. What does Toby do when he hears those words? He scampers from wherever he is at the moment to a spot in the corner of our dining room; in that corner is a fluffy little doggy bed where he lies down while my wife and I are eating our meal.

He knows that’s where he belongs when we’re eating. We don’t like him begging at the table. So we’ve instructed him to directly to “bed!” when we sit down.

Our puppy now has advanced that knowledge to the next level. He exhibits it when we tell each other that dinner is ready.

This pooch’s knowledge is amazing in the extreme. We’re still fairly new dog parents. Our many years together have included for almost all of that time — nearly 46 years — a collection of kitties. You know as well as I know that kitties generally cannot be controlled. They control you, if you get my drift.

Our puppy has brought an entirely new element to our lives as pet parents. He’s pretty damn smart, so help me!

Happy Trails, Part 33

This ongoing series of blog posts is supposed to chronicle the joys of retirement that my wife and I are enjoying.

We are enjoying many of them. We just returned home today after traveling 3,175 miles from Amarillo, to East Texas, to Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota. We spent some glorious family time with our sons, our daughter-in-law and her sons, our precious granddaughter, our daughter-in-law’s parents, my cousin and her husband.

My wife and I saw a lot of beautiful country along our sojourn and spent plenty of great “quality time” with our family members.

We had a serious blast, folks.

But …

Our trip had a couple of serious hiccups, which I’ll explain.

On our return home from St. Paul, Minn., we pulled into a truck stop/travel center in Springdale, Ark., where we discovered one of our RV’s wheels was seriously out of alignment. We looked closely and discovered it had burned through some bearings. The wheel was shot.

We summoned a service guy, who told us the axle was damaged. We needed a new one. He brought it the next afternoon — after my wife and I, along with Toby the Puppy, spent a sleepless night in the truck stop parking lot. The noise of semi-trailers coming and going all night — along with the oppressive heat — kept us up all night. We ran our fifth wheel off the battery, which didn’t run our air conditioner.

The service guy replaced the axle the next day and we proceeded onward.

Then came the trip home from Allen, Texas, where we spent a couple of days and nights with granddaughter Emma and her parents.

We journeyed home with our shiny new rear axle holding up just fine. We pulled up to our Amarillo house, got out, then tried to open the slide on our fifth wheel so we could empty our pantry.

The slide doesn’t work. No response to the switch. It’s deader than dead, man.

We’ll get that problem fixed quickly.

So, the upshot of this story? Not every excursion is trouble-free. We have to learn to cope with stumbles and hiccups along the way. I believe we did all right in that regard.

We don’t need more opportunities to present themselves.

Puppy Tales, Part 35

As we have made the decision to make much more use of our fifth wheel RV during our retirement years, we have learned something else about the puppy you see pictured here.

This is Toby, our 3-year-old Chihuahua mix mutt.

I hereby declare him to be a maximum road warrior. He has enormous stamina. He seems able to “hold it” forever. There’s little need to stop along the highway for him to, um, do his “business.”

We’re getting ready for another adventure. We’ll hook up with our granddaughter, Emma, and her parents in East Texas. Then we’ll head straight north to the Twin Cities, Minn., to see my cousin and her husband.

Toby is of zero concern to my wife and me. None. He poses no issues whatsoever.

We have heard about pet parents’ troubles with their dog. I’ve heard about dogs getting motion sickness riding in motor vehicles for any extended length of time. My wife and I are blessed that Toby suffers from none of that. Indeed, I came down with a bit of motion sickness while traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia this past month.

The highway is as winding as it gets. I got the sweats. Toby had a blast!

I really do not tire of boasting about how good this little guy is and how much of a home run we hit when he joined our family in September 2014.

He has his favorite spot in the cab of our truck when we hit the road. He’ll curl up and sleep most of the time we’re on the move. When we touch the brakes, he’s wide awake and ready to explore wherever we stop.

If only I had Toby the Puppy’s road stamina.

Puppy Tales, Part 34

Take a look at the dog in this picture.

This is Toby, our 3-year-old Chihuahua-mix who we address simply as Puppy. We only refer to him to others by his name. To us he is just Puppy.

He believes he is the baddest pooch on the block. On second thought, he believes he is the baddest pooch of all time. He is fearless. He has no qualms about approaching other dogs — regardless of size or the sound of their bark.

I mention this because Toby the Puppy just came from a walk through the ‘hood with my wife and me. We routinely walk by fenced-in yards that are home to other dogs. They routinely bark, snarl and growl at Toby as we saunter on past. What does Toby the Puppy do?

He wants at ’em. He pulls at his leash as if to tell Mommy and me, “Let me take care of bidness.”

Well, we don’t encourage him. We tell him to “heel.” He complies, generally.

Toby entered our family nearly three years ago. It was love at first sight — both for him and for us.

We learned a couple of things right away about our puppy, who was 5 months old when we took over our household. One was that he had a bark that was much larger than his physical size; he now weighs about 9 pounds, but sounds like a bigger, badder dog than that when he chooses to have his voice heard — which isn’t very often.

The second thing we learned was that he is without fear.

To our knowledge, he has had just one semi-serious altercation with another dog. It was with our next-door neighbor’s pooch, who weighed about 50 pounds. Lily came onto our driveway; she and Toby sniffed each other for a moment then she started fighting with him. Toby gave as good as he got for the second or two they were tussling.

After that Toby and Lily were just fine.

When we visit our son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter in Allen, Toby uses his (lack of) size to his advantage while play-wrestling with Madden, the kids’ hulking black Lab. Toby is fond of avoiding Madden by scooting underneath the big dog, frustrating his pal to no end.

We have joked with those who tell us when they meet Toby, “Oh, he looks just like a German shepherd!” We have answered that he’s a “miniature version” of the renowned breed. A couple of folks have actually believed it.

Toby doesn’t realize he’s a small dog. He’s not supposed to want to tangle with big ol’ pooches who challenge him. As long as he’s on our leash he won’t venture where he shouldn’t go.

He’ll have to be satisfied merely with making his mother and me laugh daily.

Puppy Tales, Part 33

RUIDOSO DOWNS, N.M. — It has happened.

Toby the Puppy has learned how to spell. The moment presented itself just the other day when my wife and I spelled the “w” word in front of him.

Let’s take Puppy for a W-A-L-K, one of us said. Hearing the spelled-out word, he began jumping around, spinning in circles. He knew the word.

There are hints of other spelling challenges emerging for my wife and me. T-R-E-A-T may become old hat for Toby. Same for C-A-R or T-R-U-C-K. He seems to grasp what those words spell. He loves riding in a motor vehicle nearly as much as he enjoys going for walks with us.

Here’s what I’m thinking we might be forced to do: We might have to change certain words. “Walk” might become “stroll.” “Car” or “truck” might become “vehicle.” “Treat” might have to become “snack.”

However, as I’ve noted before on this blog, this pooch is one smart canine.

I have one more example of his intelligence. We were returning from a lengthy hike when we spotted the truck in the distance. We were tired from trekking nearly 4 miles along a mountain trail;  the puppy was, too.

However, when we mentioned spotting the truck in the distance, so help me Toby picked up the pace for the home stretch.

I have zero doubt he’ll be learning multi-syllable words in no time.

Happy Trails, Part Four

Now that full-time retirement has arrived, I plan to engage in the one activity I pursue with unbridled vigor.

I love to write. I take great pleasure in sharing thoughts — the wisdom and quality of which I’ll let others decide — with others. I do so through this forum.

After I left full-time print journalism in August 2012, I continued to write on this blog and then started writing for a couple of other media outlets: KFDA-TV NewsChannel 10 and Panhandle PBS.

My wife joked with me constantly about how cool it was to get paid for “having fun.” It truly was a labor of joy; I refer to it as such because calling it a “labor of love” would imply I did it for free. That, obviously, wasn’t the case. But that work did allow to continue pursuing something I have loved doing since I decided in late 1970 — as I prepared to re-enroll in college after my two-year U.S. Army stint — to pursue a career in journalism.

That love hasn’t abated one bit in the 47 years that have come and gone.

My focus now — besides travel and preparing to relocate somewhere much nearer to our precious granddaughter, Emma — will be this blog.

It’s going to focus primarily on politics and public policy. I’ll make no apologies for the criticism I intend to launch toward the current president of the United States. I do hope to be able to praise him when the opportunity presents itself; indeed, I did so recently when he signed that big NASA appropriations bill that lays out a lot of money for Mars exploration.

The blog also will continue to include what I like to call “life experience” commentary. You know about Toby the Puppy and the joy he has brought to my wife and me. There’ll be more of those musings as time marches on.

And, of course, I intend to share the expected enjoyment of retired life and the travel across North America that it will bring to us.

With that …

We’re off like a dirty shirt to see what lies ahead.