Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Dog Bob

The following is a column I wrote several years ago about one of the best Dogs I ever had the privilege to live with. Bob was the homeliest dog and friendliest I ever knew. He looked to be a mongrel mix of Scotti terrier and basset hound. He had a wonderful booming low bark which folks on the outside of the door assumed was a huge animal when he only stood ten inches off the ground.
Bob loved to go for walks and he did so with gusto. He had a heart attack pulling me up our road on a hot July day. I miss him dearly..

Terry Stephan
Changing Lanes: Wet Dog
My dog Bob had a socially unacceptable smell last week.
He is a very friendly dog and will come any time I call him, unless the bathtub is filling. He knows for whom the tub fills.
Bob, near as I can tell, is a combination of half Basset hound and a quarter each of Scottish terrier and Dachshund. He is odd looking. There is as much dog ahead of his short front “bench legs” as there is to the end of his tail.
A friend of mine refers to Bob’s breed as one of “Drachtaar”; I think that’s slang for “mongrel” in Lithuanian.
While he is far from elite looking, Bob has elite attributes. Thousands of generations of his forebears (or maybe, foredogs?) have genetically honed his senses to a fine edge. In the wild, these senses protected his ancestors from being eaten, and helped them to ferret out and kill smaller animals for food.
But, when he smells and hears the bathwater, Fear runs through him as Bob imagines himself clean and smelling good. He runs in terror to protect himself from that fate.
This is the same ten-inch tall dog that on a walk through the woods will plop down in an eight-inch deep mud hole the consistency of bad pudding. If not watched carefully he will then find and roll in a pile of anything that is too gross to mention in mixed company.
You can tell, Bob and I don’t see eye to eye on this cleanliness thing.
Usually a good friend and eternal optimist, Bob will follow me all day long if I am carrying a plate or bowl. The assumption is if I have dropped “human food” in the past I’m bound to do it again at some point in the future.
All optimism and friendship departs, as he becomes wet and soapy. The water disgusts him to an immeasurable degree. He becomes the saddest dog in the world.
After rinsing, I leave him in the tub, shower doors closed, hoping he will shake off excess water. He never does this but waits to jump out of the shower and shake vigorously all over me. Bob regains his dog grin at this point.
Trying to dry a soggy rug left out in a Guatemalan rain forest for a few months would be easier than drying Bob’s coat. An industrial sized clothes dryer could do it but probably is out of the question.
Speaking of machinery, I could make the whole dog-bath process a lot easier. If I removed the top rack of a dishwasher and put a three-inch breathing hole in the door, when the water starts to spray, Bob’s nose would automatically find the hole. I know he would stick his nose out of the hole hard enough to seal the edges so the water didn’t leak on the floor.
This could really be a labor saver. I’ll have to take some measurements. Here Bob, now where is that dog? Here Bob………

No actual automatic dishwashers were harmed or disfigured in any way in the above story. (Bob’s OK too).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

spiral fracture

I've been reminded that I don't post often enough on these pages, and it is true. Things draw me away.
For the past few days Betty and I have been very preoccupied with trips to the hospital.
Betty's mother fell in her kitchen Monday night and broke her femur. She is 90 years old.
About 7 years ago she broke her left femur, spiral fracture, then she had her right knee replaced and has been getting around quite well and then this. It is another spiral fracture, worse and larger than the first. We spent inauguration day in Brooks memorial hospital waiting for her to come out of surgery.
Bits of the historic speeches were interspersed with updates on my mother-in-laws surgery. The doctor drove a huge titanium spike up the center of her right femur, through a hole in the artificial knee part that is connected to the bottom of that bone.
Marion is doing well today and will be moved to Lake shore Community Hospital tomorrow for rehab.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Johny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet

The following story was published within the past year and was inspired by my granddaughter. She is now five and whenever she comes to visit, which may be just a couple of times a year, we sit together in my recliner (snug as bugs in a rug) we watch "Make Mine Music". Twice a year isn't too much for this classic Disney..

Terry Stephan

Changing Lanes: Fedora
Left to my own devices I would never chose to watch an animated show of any kind. I have never thought of them as an art form. The last one I enjoyed was “Lady and the Tramp”, which I saw when I was six.
Whenever my four-year-old granddaughter Paige comes to visit, she climbs into the easy chair with me and asks if we can watch her favorite movie together.
What she wants to watch is an animated film Disney originally released in 1946. Walt Disney Studios were as labor starved as other industries in World War II. They had very little “product”, but were able to put together a collection of short, unrelated, “scraps” to make a feature presentation entitled “Make Mine Music”.
My granddaughter loves the film. Theaters played “Make Mine Music” at a time when America and the rest of the world was done with war and were starved for entertainment.
Paige and I enjoy all of the animated segments which include among other things, a great musical version of the poem “Casey at the Bat” and a translated, Russian adaptation of “Peter and the Wolf”.
Our favorite part though, follows a classic story line. A couple meets, fall in love, become separated, but are reunited in the end.
The name of the story is “Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet”. It sounds terribly silly; the romance is between two hats who meet while on sale in a hat shop. (The silliness is part of the reason I don’t watch animated movies until coerced by a four-year-old).
Johnny loses Alice when she is purchased for $23.
There is a happy conclusion to the story, but lots of pathos, a near drowning, and even a bar fight. Johnny Fedora comes very close to having part of his brim amputated on the way to the couples’ joyful reunion.
As my granddaughter and I enjoy the 1940’s soundtrack, sung by the Andrews Sisters, I wonder if my parents saw the movie when it first came out.
With the massive movement of people all over the world, lives lost, and families torn apart it must have been a ripe time for people to sympathize with the lovers in this cartoon.
In 1946, my parents were essentially newlyweds. They had been married a few years but spent just a few wedded days together before my dad was shipped off to Europe.
For a short time after the war, the US Army stationed my father ‘stateside’. My parents stayed in a cottage near the beach in Florida until he was discharged.
Later, growing up in rural Western NY, we kids knew that the small, clear glass jar of reddish beach sand, sitting on a shelf, was part of our parents’ early history. They had been reunited after the war, in far off mysterious Florida.
They went to the movies often in their early-married years and I like to imagine they saw the story of Alice Blue Bonnet and Johnny Fedora.
If my parents did see it, I wonder about the effect, however small, the story had on them. Did it remind them of their own separation? Did it instill romantic feelings for one another?
It is somewhat amusing that my four-year-old granddaughter showed me the artistic value of a 60-year-old Disney release.
I wonder if, when I am just a memory, she will sit with her grandchildren and watch a silly, hundred-and-something-year-old animated story about a couple of hats.
Maybe animated movies are more enduring an art form than I thought.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fat be Gone

OK, so I broke down and made a resolution again to loose weight this year. I've been involved with most diets over the years, either by joining the groups or reading the books and following the instructions. I've even gone to numerous Over eaters Anonymous meetings, and studied it's little known alternative Rational Recovery. I've picked up bits and pieces of the puzzle at all these places but have never maintained the weight I wanted.
I watch television which is geared to weight loss and better health, hoping to gain a tidbit here and there to help me loose. This includes "The Bigest Loser" and the stray Ophra show concerning the subject, when I know one is going to be on.
I am not severely overweight but enough now, so that in my 5th decade it is my most serious health problem.
I admire vegitarians these days. I used to think that every meal I took should include a portion of at least one animal that was running around on four legs the previose day. These days I can see that you could recieve all your neccessary nutrients, including protien from vegitation of one sort or the other.
This time around I am following the Weight Watcher's program (I have all the tools from previous bouts there), I am just not going to meetings at the present time. It doesn't rule them out in the future.
I have made an agreement to see my doctor every 60 days in 2009 and we have a goal for me to reach every two months. This time around I am shooting for 1o lbs my by March 2nd..
TO be continued.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Late Resolutions

Terry Stephan

Changing Lanes:NewWhat?

I conducted a survey concerning New Year’s Eve resolutions in preparation for this column. Several things were common among people asked; the number one New Year’s resolution was losing weight, few people were successful at executing their resolutions, no matter what they were, and most said they kept trying every year anyway.
Emmy Lou was part of my survey, and I had extra questions for her. I asked what she thought I should put on my own ‘resolution’ list. Right off the top of her head, she told me I should always pick up after myself and, I should listen to her better.
I didn’t see these as important issues for my self improvement and told her she was purposely misconstruing the intention of resolutions. She made a face, unspoken words sprinkled with expletives that said something like ‘you’re a big fat head’.
I said I should make a resolution not to involve her in any of my future resolutions. Then she refused to answer any more of my survey questions.
* * * * * * *

The very first day of a new year has always appealed to me as an ideal time to start something big and important. It’s like a fresh clean sheet of paper, you can write anything you want, a new story for a new you.
I think a cause for failure is that people approach resolutions the same way I have in the past. In the waning days of 2007, I mulled over some changes I wanted to make. Then with a few hours left in the year, I resolved to do something, which I wasn’t able to do for decades.
Closing out 2007, I grazed on celebratory cheese, crackers, pepperoni, and other snacks, a pile big enough to feed a small African village for a week. This after a full week of Holiday eating, (which you may as well call a month ‘cause it really kicked off Thanksgiving).
On top of that, I toasted the coming New Year with three or four or, (Who’s counting?) of Samuel Adams’ liquid refreshment.
I decided to loose twenty pounds.
On the morning of January 1, 2008, I wrote goals down on the computer in my calendar in Outlook. Of course, I rarely look at that calendar. I ended the year about the same weight I started; I have to be satisfied I didn’t gain.
I used to smoke cigarettes. After the first couple of years, I made resolutions to quit every year for almost 20 years. None of them stuck. I eventually gave up smoking but not until I failed the New Year’s resolve one year and set the ides of March as my quitting date. I haven’t smoked since.
I think an “ides of March resolution revolution” is the way to go. When you sit down with that fresh clean sheet of paper on the eve of the New Year, or if you are reading this in January 2009, make sure you have a good eraser on your pencil. Take a while to think about what you are going to do, then commit, around March 15th.
* * * * * * *
Few of my survey participants indicated they were happy with their record of keeping resolutions. One optimist though, thought there were probably many more successful resolutionists (OK, I made that word up), than the failures I was tracking.
I obviously do better with resolutions later in the year. How successful are you? I would like to hear about your past or present (and future), successes or failures. To contribute to my survey, drop me a snail mail C/O this paper or email: or leave a comment on my blog at: