Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Getting My 'Dog-Fix'

 Poochi was my companion for about 15 years. 

I cried when I had to put him down, and for the longest time, every time that I saw a small dog that resembled Poochi, I would tear up. I really missed him. The cats were nice, but they were not dogs.

Several years ago, I think Jim realized I needed a periodic "dog-fix," so he volunteered me to take care of Mollie, our neighbor’s Yorkie, whenever they went out of town—just a couple times a year. Taking care of Mollie gave me a "fix" that would last me several months. (Getting a dog-fix is kind of like getting a grandkid-fix: You get to love them for a while, then leave them to their parents—the best of two worlds.)

Mollie was the cutest little thing—very small—and smart. And she loved to play. For example, when Jim and I were using our computers in the office (in other words, not paying any attention to her), she would come in and yap until we would say, “Go get your toy!” Away she would go to fetch a squeaky toy, with which she would play tug-of-war and fetch until she got tired.

She was a good dog, but she did have the habit of barking to get attention. At times I could quiet her down by holding her on my lap. Other times, by playing fetch with a toy. But it seemed that in the early evening, she just didn’t want to calm down. It took us a while to figure it out: By 7 p.m., Molly was ready to go to bed, and she wanted us to go to bed, too!

Tommy and Joanne, Mollie's parents, were early-to-bed/early-to-rise people. Joanne actually left for work about 5:30 a.m. to avoid traffic, going into the city and returning home. Since she got up so early, they went to bed early—very early. And so did Mollie.

Jim and I, on the other hand, don’t go to bed until 11 p.m. or later. Once Mollie figured that out, she gave up and receded to the bedroom and her bed without us.

One time when Tommy asked us to watch Molly we had already planned a camping trip in our RV. Tommy didn’t care if we took her camping, so we did. I think she loved the experience, since she was able to explore new sights and smells. She was even content when we left her in the camper while we went fishing.

Toward the last time we cared for Molly, we saw that she had become virtually blind with cataracts. She still found her way around OK, but age was definitely catching up to her. If she wandered off, she would get lost—not because she didn’t know her way home, but because she couldn’t see to find it.

Finally, about two years ago, old age finally paid its final calling card, and Molly left this world. I was sad to see her go. She had satisfied my dog craving for many years. Now what would I do?

Until later,

Your Reluctant ROVER,


Saturday, March 20, 2021

Cats are Not Dogs

Cats are not dogs. 

I knew that, of course, but I guess part of me expected my cats to act like a dog. Shortly after I moved to West Palm Beach in April 1998, I decided it was time to fill my house with a bit of life. Despite my son’s urgings, I was not ready to get a dog. But a cat…I thought a cat would give me companionship without the 24/7 commitment a dog requires. I made a trip down to the local pet shelter to see if any kittens were available for adoption. It was there where I found Charlie, a blonde, neutered male kitten. He seemed to like me, and I, him.
Charlie let me pet him; he sometimes would lie on my lap. He even let me give him pedicures, although that did not stop him from clawing my furniture.( In short order, a couch I had purchased in Chicago was in tatters. I didn’t like the couch anyway.) 

Charlie also had the habit of jumping onto the screens on my screened-in porch. As he would hang there by his claws (probably in a vain attempt to catch birds or lizards), he reminded me of the tomcat Herman my parents had adopted when I was in college: Every night, in search of love or out of natural curiosity, he would wander the neighborhood. When he returned, he wanted back in the house (especially if it were cold outdoors). To get my parents’ attention, Herman would jump up onto the window screens of their bedroom. The funny thing, he always knew which bedroom they were sleeping in. (They had swapped bedrooms with the kids several times over the years.) One time I was babysitting my younger siblings when my parents took a weekend vacation. Trust me when I say that when Herman wanted back into the house, his midnight gymnastics were quite startling. 

 Dog are social animals. I assumed that cats were also. So, I believed that Charlie needed a friend to keep him company. A co-worker told me that a cat in her apartment complex recently had given birth (again) to a litter of kittens. Would I want one? She had one in particular in mind—a black, long-haired cat with green eyes. Why not, I thought. Good company for Charlie. So I picked her up and brought her home. 

It didn’t take long to name her; at perhaps four months old, she was an independent warrior princess. I called her Xena. Xena did not like to be groomed. She also did not like to have her nails clipped. I decided that when I took her in to be spayed, she would get declawed. (Had I adopted her when she was younger, I could have trained her to sit for clippings.) 

 Xena’s independence was also evident. Or perhaps it was just her feline nature. She and Charlie only tolerated each other. They were anything but close friends. 

Despite their differences, Charlie and Xena were my companions, until Jim became part of my life. Then they were his companions, especially Xena. Charlie later adopted Jim’s mother (who had moved in with us) as his person, and would wait for her to come home from the senior center each day. They would then go into her bedroom and both would take a nap together. 

 When we moved to Jacksonville, Jim installed cat doors from the house o the porch and from the porch to the outside, so that Charlie and Xena could enjoy the outdoors. Later, when we began RVing, they became seasoned travelers. So they could continue to enjoy nature, we tried putting them on a leash; however, they were not fond of being tethered. 

 Xena never seemed to be a problem while traveling. Twice, though, Charlie was. The first time was when we left Tucson and drove a couple of hours to Bisbee, Ariz., where we planned to spend a couple of nights. When we pulled into the campsite and put out the slide, Xena was ready to have dinner. But where was Charlie? We looked high and low for him. How many places are there to hide in a 38-foot motorhome? We could not find him. Had he jumped out of the RV while we had been packing up in Tucson? Anything was possible. We called the campground we had left, and the host graciously looked around the area for him. No cat. Jim was despondent, but there was nothing we could do. If he had jumped out and run off, he had become dinner for some coyote. Saddened but hungry, we drove into town for a late dinner. 

 An hour later, we returned, and what did we find? Charlie sitting in my easy chair! We finally figured out that he had jumped in an opening, formed when the RV slide was pulled in, and hid behind the kitchen cabinets. From then on, whenever he disappeared, we knew where he was hiding. 

The second time Charlie did his disappearing act was when we had planned a five-day trip within the state. We hunted high and low for him and could not find him. Finally, we had to leave. We packed Xena into the RV and left a big bowl of food and a two bowls of water for Charlie, under the assumption he would come home. Five days later, we returned. I went out onto the porch, and there he was, sitting in an easy chair, basking in the sun. He looked up as if to say, “About time you came home!” 

 The cats were with us for 18 and 20 years. Charlie was the first to go. Xena became a more loving cat once Charlie was gone. I finally learned that cats were not dogs. 

 Until later, 

 Your Reluctant ROVER,


Thursday, March 18, 2021

RoVer is now ROVER...


Notice the subtle difference to this blog: The Reluctant RoVer is now Reluctant Rover—Dog Tales.

Why the change? Because life changes, and instead of roving (as in RVing), I now find myself with a rover--a dog. And that story actually starts more than 40 years ago, in 1979. 

My kids and I were then living in a rental townhouse on the west side of Indianapolis. The kids (Jennifer, then 10, and Rob, then 8) wanted to have a dog, but they had to settle for pet hamsters. I don’t think dogs were allowed in the apartment complex, but even if they were, I wasn’t ready for the responsibility of a canine friend. We had no yard; our apartment was no place to have a pet. I told the kids, though, that once we bought a house we could think about a dog.

Despite sky-high mortgage rates averaging more than 12% and a seller’s market, during the summer of 1979 I decided it was time to settle down in our own home. I found a post-war (World War II, that is) ranch house in an established subdivision on the north side of Indianapolis, in an excellent school district, not far from where my brother had settled. A few days before moving, one of the hamsters needed some medication, and the three of us went to a nearby pet store.

Near the cash registers was an enclosed pen, holding very small, blondish-colored puppy. Rob and I bent down to say hello, and the puppy did what puppies do: It made us fall in love with it.

Rob and Jennifer with Poochi. In this photo Poochi is about 4 or 5 years old.

“What kind of dog is this?” I asked the clerk.

“Poodle and Chihuahua,” he answered, as the puppy licked my hand. Rob was already asking, “Can we have him?”

“How much is he?” I asked. When the clerk said, “$15,” I told Rob to get his sister, who was waiting in the car.

One look and one lick of her hand later and I was writing a check for the hamster medication as well as the puppy. We picked him up the next day.

Only recently weaned and about eight weeks old, Poochi (what else would you name and poodle-Chihuahua hybrid) was tiny, so tiny he could hide under the living room couch. Full grown, he was only about 15 pounds. He had a poodle face, and when his hair was cut short, some it was also poodle-like. But he also had some fine fur like a Chihuahua. He was ugly-cute, kind of a Benji-dog. We quickly learned to love him dearly.

I can’t say that Poochi was the smartest dog in the world. Initially, while I was at work and the kids were in school, I left him outside with food and water near his dog house (left behind by the previous owners of my house). He never learned to go into the dog house. In fact, one day, he stayed out in the rain rather than go into the shelter. Ah, well. He never learned to sit on command, nor fetch or play ball. But we loved him anyway.

Poochi, of course, moved with us as we relocated due to my work. He was born in Indiana, but he moved to Louisiana, then to Texas, back to Indiana, and finally up to Michigan. He always easily adjusted to his new home, wherever that was. He even traveled with us.

When we were living in Texas, Rob and I decided to drive to Tucson, Ariz., for Thanksgiving with my parents. Periodically we stopped for gas and to use the rest facilities. West Texas does not have much grass; poor Poochi searched and searched for a patch on which he could do his business. The best he could find was a few weeds growing in a clump. It wasn’t much, but it had to do. When we got to my parents’ house in Arizona, the situation wasn’t any better. Their “lawn” was gravel. He decided that their green carpet would have to suffice. Fortunately, my parents were understanding.

The kids grew up, as kids do. By the time I moved to Michigan, Rob was in college. Poochi and I were on our own. He loved sleeping in my warm waterbed with me.

Time marched on, though, and finally, old age caught up to my little guy. He could no longer jump up on the bed, and when he fell asleep, he would cry out in pain during the night.

Saying good-bye to him was hard; I still tear up when I think about it. But it was the right thing to do.

About a year after losing Poochi, I accepted a job in Chicago. After renting for about a year, I bought a co-op apartment. No pets allowed. Finally, in 1998, I moved to Florida. My son started nagging me, “Mom, it’s time for you to get a dog.”

“No, no dog,” I said. “I don’t want to be tied down. Maybe a cat.” I actually adopted two cats, who were fiercely independent. I didn’t have to walk them, and if I went out of town, I just left them a big bowl of food and a couple bowls of water. All was fine.



Until they, too, got too old.

We have been petless for a few years now. A few months ago, I began to feel like it was time…

More later.

Your Reluctant Rover,


Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Merry Mariner says 'good-bye'

 All good things come to an end. And thus, we decided to end our boat-club membership.

Don't get me wrong: We really enjoyed fishing and going out on the water. (Jim enjoyed boating more than I, however.) But, although the Jax Boat Club had six boats for fishing, only three had trolling motors, and usually only one of those three would be in working order. And unfortunately, we generally didn't learn which ones were inoperable until we took a boat out. The type of fishing we enjoyed doing really required a trolling motor, so it was frustrating not having the equipment we needed and were paying for with our monthly dues.

So, we decided the frustration was not worth the money we were paying.

We still have our Port-a-Boat, but I believe we will put that up for sale soon. The folding boat is an excellent idea, but with Jim's rotator-cuff problems, putting it together is a bit challenging. After we sell it, we may decide to get a skiff that we can park in our backyard. We'll see.

In the meantime, it is back to dock/pier fishing as well as surf fishing (which Jim enjoys the most). So, the Merry Mariner who learned to drive and even dock a boat is no more, at least for right now. 

Until next time,


Back home again...

Rob and I hit the road about 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 15. The movers were incredible: They had everything loaded into the huge moving tru...