Morgan and Dad on the North Lykken Trail in Palm Springs

Morgan and the Kennedys

As a young boy growing up in Irish-Catholic South Boston, President Kennedy was a hero of mine. He represented a new generation and tried to bring the country together in turbulent times such as now. Besides the Peace Corp, one of his most successful achievements was creating the Cape Cod National Seashore. As you know Morgan and I love Cape Cod and we want to share our tribute to President Kennedy who loved “The Cape” as much as we do.

Here you can read the story of how the Cape Cod National Seashore was established.

And the Oscar goes to….Morgan!

When I joined Facebook (FB) a few years back it was to build an audience for my book, Rescued by Goldens (RBG). Since FB is photo driven Morgan became the face of RBG. He became the star from the get go. He was a natural, always ready with a huge smile. And though we might have to do a few retakes to get the picture right, Morgan had patience (more patience than Dad). It always makes me laugh when Morgan finally walks or runs away and we know that he’s finished.

Then I was told in order for me to get my book out to the public I needed to create a website and start writing a blog. Writing is something I’ve been doing for many years. It comes easier to me because it is very solitary and quiet. When the blog goes out nobody sees me. I am hidden behind the words and the images of Morgan.

In today’s publishing world a writer such as myself has to do the writing and the marketing. So every now and then I meet with social media consultants about the book. Just to make sure I’m doing things right. The last time we met they strongly recommended that I start posting videos on YouTube. It’s something that publishers want to see. They want to know how I would perform in public, for instance, at book signing and PR events.

Initially, I was terrified at the idea of being in front of a camera. I can’t even stand looking at myself in the mirror. My disease has taken its toll on my body… Maybe I’m being vain, but it’s really hard for me to see myself in pictures. But seeing myself in a video was more than I could bear. Not only would I worry about how I looked, BUT how I sounded!  I don’t even like to talk on the phone.

The premier video was a solo performance of Morgan cooling off in front of a fan.

Finally I mustered the courage and appeared with Morgan in front of the “Dancing Fountain” at The Grove in LA. I choked and could barely speak. All l I could do was grab Morgan and kiss him, telling him that I love him.

I’d heard about the challenges of working with a major star. Like Morgan! I’d also read about how a really good actor brings up the performance of all of the actors around them when shooting a scene. I now know first hand how true this is.

Morgan makes it all OK. Having Morgan near me calms my nerves. Being able to touch his head while I talk allows me to relax and smile.  I honestly remember what to say easier when he’s standing next to me or when I have him between my legs. He’s my comfort dog of a different kind.

I’m happy to announce that Rescued by Goldens has a YouTube channel. Thank you Morgan for being my best friend and co-star. I couldn’t do it without you next to me!

To Hell and Back

Life can change on a dime. Last Saturday evening we went out for dinner with some friends to a seafood restaurant. It’s a place we always take Morgan and bring his food along.  As we ate our dinner I wondered why Morgan wasn’t sitting next to me looking up hoping a French fry or chunk of Cod would fall into his mouth. When we got home he was lethargic and seemed depressed. By bed time he was drooling and it was clear to me that he wasn’t well.

I called the emergency vet, thirty miles away, but the doctor was unavailable to answer my questions and the volunteer said it would be at least a four hour wait for non-emergencies. At this point it was 11 pm and Morgan didn’t seem like an emergency so I decided I could wait until morning when things always seemed better. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much. Throughout the night I listened for his snoring and several times got up to check on him.

The situation remained the same on Sunday. He just laid around the house. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. He didn’t eat, which is highly unusual for him. He wouldn’t even take a Zuke’s organic oat and berry treat. He did drink his water though and I decided I would give it one more day for him to snap out of it. I thought maybe he had a dog flu.

On Monday morning I took him to my vet as soon as they opened at 8 am. X-rays showed a large mass inside his mouth near his throat. When I touched underneath his jaw I felt a large rock. Life is fragile. More so for our canine friends and once you’ve had a 4-legged family member cross the bridge that experience stays with you. At least It does for me.  I found it suddenly difficult to breathe and remembered the deer in the headlights look he gave me when I rubbed under his throat Saturday night. But I didn’t think anything of it at the time.

Since X-rays only show a mass but not what it is, we treated him with antibiotics, hoping it was an infection.  Throughout the next two days I watched for any sign to determine which direction the situation was heading.  He seemed to eat again and I thought things were getting better. But then he stopped drinking and I was sure things were getting worse. The antibiotics weren’t making the rock get any smaller. But not much time had passed even if it seemed an eternity to me. The next vet appointment was for Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday, James left for work in San Francisco and wasn’t returning until Friday. Morgan and I were on our own.  I knew it would be a long and lonely few days but I had to be strong for Morgan. No matter what, he needed me to be there for him. My emotional distraught had to wait.

Tuesday evening Morgan stopped eating and drinking. Around 11 pm things got weird.  We were just about to go to bed for the night when I noticed Morgan’s tongue sticking out sideways.  Morgan’s tongue sticking out of his mouth from the side isn’t by itself unusual for him. When we first got Morgan his tongue routinely stuck out the side of his mouth. But that was because he was anxiety ridden. It took us some time to settle him down into our home and you all know what a joyful smile our boy Morgan has.

But this was different. This was Exorcist-sideways. I didn’t know what to do. I had never seen anything like this before. His tongue was firm and dry and sideways. Morgan continued to eat his food but now it kept falling out of his mouth. At this point I wasn’t so much troubled about this. Two days before the incident started the vet had told me he needed to lose a few pounds for his legs. I knew we could deal with this food issue later. I worried more about keeping him hydrated. I put a bowl of his water next to him. It seemed he wanted to drink but he just put his head down in the bowl and stopped. Like he didn’t know what to do.  I actually thought he might have had a stroke.

I’ve had a lot of experience with end of life moments and knew that water helped keep people (and pets) comfortable. I used a syringe to squirt water into Morgan’s throat. He didn’t like it at first, neither did I, but he let me do it. His tongue moistened and looked better. But it was still sideways. I lifted him off the bed and he went right for his bowl but he couldn’t get his tongue to lift out the water.

Suddenly, he turned and headed for the front door. Maybe he had to go, I thought. But instead he made a bee line for the giant fountain that we have in the yard. I lifted him up and he plopped his paws down into the basin and stuck his head into the flowing fountain and drank and drank. I exhaled! I knew that we would make it through the night. I knew then that I could keep him hydrated till the morning.

The relief was only momentary. He may have drank that night but the next morning the rock in his throat remained unchanged. His tongue still stuck out sideways. I was really only keeping him comfortable.  It was clear that the antibiotics were not working and that it had to be cancer.

I began to make arrangements. I couldn’t go through this alone. I told Cody’s Dad, Leo, and he agreed to drive me to the vet If I needed it. We’d both been through this before. I phoned James and we agreed Morgan couldn’t suffer. James decided to come home a day early.  I texted Rocky’s dads. They had been there for me before. They knew Angel Nicholas and Angel Willy. They reminded me that the most important thing for Morgan was love. I texted my brother who would inform my mother when it happened. Just like he did twice previously. And I contacted my friend Felix who also knew all my Goldens.

I don’t know whether it was fatigue that brought up these emotions. Or a hard-cold look at the facts. But I felt shell shocked. How could this have happened so suddenly. I had just bought our ticket to the East Coast to hang out on Cape Cod. We’d gone on four hikes in the last ten days. Now I was planning his death. My composure began to break. I even put some of Morgan’s toys in a box to give away. I didn’t want to do this afterwards. I knew that I couldn’t prolong Morgan’s time with me for my sake. I would have to find a way to get through it.

That afternoon I went to the vet to make plans to keep Morgan comfortable until James could get home. I was hoping Dr. Carter would come to the house to help us when we said good-bye. Above all else I had to be there for Morgan. I couldn’t get weepy-eyed and out of control.  Dr. Carter took one look at my face and asked, “What happened?”  I pointed to Morgan’s tongue. He turned to his nurse and ordered him to bring Morgan to the back immediately. “I need to sedate him. Is that ok?”

“Of course,” I replied. “Whatever you have to do.” Dr. Carter did the surgery on Morgan’s second leg years ago. He takes good care of our boy. Shortly afterwards I was called to join them in the operating room. He wanted me to see Morgan’s mouth. It looked like Morgan had two tongues.

“This isn’t a tumor,” our vet said.

He asked if he could use a syringe and draw out whatever was inside the lump. Again, I agreed. Blood and pus filled the tube.

“This isn’t cancer. This is an infection. I think he’s going to get through this.”

I exhaled deeper. I felt tears running uncontrollably down my cheek. Later, when Dr. Carter came out to talk to me in the waiting room he said he thought Morgan had swallowed a scorpion.

“A scorpion!” I exclaimed, shaking my head. To myself I thought, we worry about sharks in the water on Cape Cod. We watch for snakes and coyotes on the trails.  And he goes and eats a scorpion!

I texted my friends to let them know the crisis had passed. By ten that night he was eating and drinking on his own. Sleep felt good. After a few days Morgan’s smile returned. He had a spring to his walk again. It’ll be a few more days, and another checkup, before we‘re out on the trails again. I hear Cody is really missing his friend. Our pets live for such a short time. Don’t miss a moment to love them.

 

 

 

To Hell And Back

Life can change on a dime. Last Saturday evening we went out for dinner with some friends to a seafood restaurant. It’s a place we always take Morgan and bring his food along.  As we ate our dinner I wondered why Morgan wasn’t sitting next to me looking up hoping a French fry or chunk of Cod would fall into his mouth. When we got home he was lethargic and seemed depressed. By bed time he was drooling and it was clear to me that he wasn’t well.

I called the emergency vet, thirty miles away, but the doctor was unavailable to answer my questions and the volunteer said it would be at least a four hour wait for non-emergencies. At this point it was 11 pm and Morgan didn’t seem like an emergency so I decided I could wait until morning when things always seemed better. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much. Throughout the night I listened for his snoring and several times got up to check on him.

The situation remained the same on Sunday. He just laid around the house. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. He didn’t eat, which is highly unusual for him. He wouldn’t even take a Zuke’s organic oat and berry treat. He did drink his water though and I decided I would give it one more day for him to snap out of it. I thought maybe he had a dog flu.

On Monday morning I took him to my vet as soon as they opened at 8 am. X-rays showed a large mass inside his mouth near his throat. When I touched underneath his jaw I felt a large rock. Life is fragile. More so for our canine friends and once you’ve had a 4-legged family member cross the bridge that experience stays with you. At least it does for me.  I found it suddenly difficult to breathe and remembered the deer in the headlights look Morgan gave me when I rubbed under his throat Saturday night. But I didn’t think anything of it at the time.

Since X-rays only show a mass but not what it is, we treated him with antibiotics, hoping it was an infection.  Throughout the next two days I watched for any sign to determine which direction the situation was heading.  He seemed to eat again and I thought things were getting better. But then he stopped drinking and I was sure things were getting worse. The antibiotics weren’t making the rock get any smaller. But not much time had passed even if it seemed an eternity to me. The next vet appointment was for Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday, James left for work in San Francisco and wasn’t returning until Friday. Morgan and I were on our own.  I knew it would be a long and lonely few days but I had to be strong for Morgan. No matter what, he needed me to be there for him. My emotional distraught had to wait.

Tuesday evening Morgan stopped eating and drinking. Around 11 pm things got weird.  We were just about to go to bed for the night when I noticed Morgan’s tongue sticking out sideways.  Morgan’s tongue sticking out of his mouth from the side isn’t by itself unusual for him. When we first got Morgan his tongue routinely stuck out the side of his mouth. But that was because he was anxiety ridden. It took us some time to settle him down into our home and you all know what a joyful smile our boy Morgan has.

But this was different. This was Exorcist-sideways. I didn’t know what to do. I had never seen anything like this before. His tongue was firm and dry and sideways. Morgan continued to eat his food but now it kept falling out of his mouth. At this point I wasn’t so much troubled about this. Two days before the incident started the vet had told me he needed to lose a few pounds for his legs. I knew we could deal with this food issue later. I worried more about keeping him hydrated. I put a bowl of his water next to him. It seemed he wanted to drink but he just put his head down in the bowl and stopped. Like he didn’t know what to do.  I actually thought he might have had a stroke.

I’ve had a lot of experience with end of life moments and knew that water helped keep people (and pets) comfortable. I used a syringe to squirt water into Morgan’s throat. He didn’t like it at first, neither did I, but he let me do it. His tongue moistened and looked better. But it was still sideways. I lifted him off the bed and he went right for his bowl but he couldn’t get his tongue to lift out the water.

Suddenly, he turned and headed for the front door. Maybe he had to go, I thought. But instead he made a bee line for the giant fountain that we have in the yard. I lifted him up and he plopped his paws down into the basin and stuck his head into the flowing fountain and drank and drank. I exhaled! I knew that we would make it through the night. I knew then that I could keep him hydrated till the morning.

The relief was only momentary. He may have drank that night but the next morning the rock in his throat remained unchanged. His tongue still stuck out sideways. I was really only keeping him comfortable.  It was clear that the antibiotics were not working and that it had to be cancer.

I began to make arrangements. I couldn’t go through this alone. I told Cody’s Dad, Leo, and he agreed to drive me to the vet If I needed it. We’d both been through this before. I phoned James and we agreed Morgan couldn’t suffer. James decided to come home a day early.  I texted Rocky’s dads. They had been there for me before. They knew Angel Nicholas and Angel Willy. They reminded me that the most important thing for Morgan was love. I texted my brother who would inform my mother when it happened. Just like he did twice previously. And I contacted my friend Felix who also knew all my Goldens.

I don’t know whether it was fatigue that brought up these emotions. Or a hard-cold look at the facts. But I felt shell shocked. How could this have happened so suddenly? I had just bought our airline ticket to the East Coast to hang out on Cape Cod. We’d gone on four hikes in the last ten days. Now I was planning his death. My composure began to break. I even put some of Morgan’s toys in a box to give away. I didn’t want to do this afterwards. I knew that I couldn’t prolong Morgan’s time with me for my sake. I would have to find a way to get through it.

That afternoon I went to the vet to make plans to keep Morgan comfortable until James could get home. I was hoping Dr. Carter would come to the house to help us when we said good-bye. Above all else I had to be there for Morgan. I couldn’t get weepy-eyed and out of control.  Dr. Carter took one look at my face and asked, “What happened?”  I pointed to Morgan’s tongue. He turned to his nurse and ordered him to bring Morgan to the back immediately. “I need to sedate him. Is that ok?”

“Of course,” I replied. “Whatever you have to do.” Dr. Carter did the surgery on Morgan’s second leg years ago. He takes good care of our boy. Shortly afterwards I was called to join them in the operating room. He wanted me to see Morgan’s mouth. It looked like Morgan had two tongues.

“This isn’t a tumor,” our vet said.

He asked if he could use a syringe and draw out whatever was inside the lump. Again, I agreed. Blood and pus filled the tube.

“This isn’t cancer. This is an infection. I think he’s going to get through this.”

I exhaled deeper. I felt tears running uncontrollably down my cheek. Later, when Dr. Carter came out to talk to me in the waiting room he said he thought Morgan had swallowed a scorpion.

“A scorpion!” I exclaimed, shaking my head. To myself I thought, we worry about sharks in the water on Cape Cod. We watch for snakes and coyotes on the trails.  And he goes and eats a scorpion!

I texted my friends to let them know the crisis had passed. By ten that night he was eating and drinking on his own. Sleep felt good. After a few days Morgan’s smile returned. He had a spring to his walk again. It’ll be a few more days, and another checkup, before we’re out on the trails again. I hear Cody is really missing his friend. Our pets live for such a short time. Don’t miss a moment to love them.

 

 

 

My Bohemian Golden

It was a warm day in July when the phone rang. I picked it up and a stern voice asked me, “Do you have a Golden Retriever?”

My heart sank. All my fears came rushing forward. Barely able to speak, I muttered “Yes. What’s happened to him?”

“We caught him here at the Bohemian Grove.”

“Are you sure it’s my dog?”

“Is your dog named Willy?”

“Yes. That’s him. I’ll be right there.” I grabbed my keys and jumped into my truck and tore down the hill. As I sped along the Bohemian Highway I wondered how Willy could have gotten clear across town, two miles away, to the other side of Dutcher Creek, and into a maximum security facility. The Bohemian Grove is a private exclusive retreat where the most powerful men in the world gather every summer. Including Presidents Nixon, Reagan, George Bush the Father, Secretary of States such as George Schultz, billionaires and heads of foreign countries.

As I drove up to the barricaded entrance, I was relieved they hadn’t shot Willy and asked questions later. An armed security guard approached the truck and asked for identification.

“Oh, so you own the Golden in the dumpster,” he chuckled.

“Yea,” I replied, slightly embarrassed. “He’s my dog. How long has he been here?”

He handed me back my license. “Not long. About thirty minutes. The shepherd with him took off. But he just hung around the kitchen area while everyone petted him.”

Of course it was Pearl, I thought to myself. That girlfriend of his is nothing but trouble. “That sounds like him,” I said to the security guard.

“He’s a sweet dog. Normally we just shoo any dogs away and they bolt. But it didn’t look like he was going to leave any time soon. I will need to escort you up to the kitchen area.”

“Of course.”

I’d always wanted to see what the inside of this place looked like. Though it was in our small town of Monte Rio it might as well have been a million miles away.  Never did I imagine that it would be my dog who got me inside to this bastion of power.

I followed the guard further down the narrow winding road. Some of the redwood trees were over 300 feet tall and over 1,000 years old. When we came to the first building the guard stopped and got out of his vehicle. I saw a group of people standing around laughing and having a good time. They were all dressed in white uniforms. This clearly was the kitchen. Then they all turned and looked at me and I heard shouts. “Can we keep Willy here?” “Can Willy come back tomorrow?” “Willy likes steak and potatoes.” And in the middle of the crowd was Willy. Calmly laying there. Without a care in the world. When he saw me his ears twitched back like he was surprised.

“Let’s go,” I said, and he came running to the truck.

I heard the crowd call out good-bye to my wandering Houdini.

“Aren’t you going to say good-bye to your new friends?” I said to him.

He turned his head towards the kitchen help and smiled.

“Come back again Willy.” Someone shouted before he jumped up into the cab of my truck.

“Thank you,” I called to them all as I turned the key in the ignition. Then to the guard, I said, “I’ll try to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

“No prob. Now we know who he belongs to.”

 

;

Could I have a Doggie Bag Please?

We’ve been lucky enough to attend several of this year’s Palm Springs International Film Festival’s events. They were buffet style where you went up and served yourself, except for the meat selection. For that there was a server slicing the meat at a station.
When at home I don’t eat meat very often and my diet selection impacts what Morgan eats. Because of this, whenever we go out to a restaurant I always ask for a doggie bag and bring a treat home for him.
At the Film Festival luncheon, I approached the meat slicer and honestly told him that I wanted a few extra pieces for my dog. Without hesitation, he obliged. When I got back to my table and wrapped up the meat in several napkins and stuffed it in my sport coat, the woman sitting next to me looked at me oddly like she couldn’t believe that I would do such a thing. In fact, when I realized that lunch was about over I went back up for seconds (for Morgan) and the gentleman slicing the meat asked me if I would like it cut into smaller pieces. I told him thank you, that would be nice. And that I would tell my dog about him. He chuckled. When I got back to our table and wrapped up the meat again, the same woman next to me said, “I’m going up there to get some for my dog.” I told her to hurry before they took it away. When she returned, she wrapped up her stash and gently placed it in her purse. Then she took out her phone and showed me a picture of her Jack Russell and said, “He’s going to be so surprised.”
Do you bring food home from restaurants for your babies? Tell Morgan about a funny doggie bag story that you have.

Truth or Dare

Truth

I sing to my dogs!!

And my singing voice is like a scratched record in 33 speed on one of those small old record players for kids.

But I do it and I have fun.

My first Golden, as some of you know, was Nicholas. Back in the 80s there was a song called, Oh Mickey, sung by Toni Basil in 1982.  Well, I changed the words to say:

Oh Nicky, you’re so fine
You’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Nicky,
Hey Nicky

Oh Nicky, what a pity you don’t understand
You take me by the heart when you take me by the hand
Oh Nicky, you’re so pretty, can’t you understand
It’s dogs like you Nicky
Oh, what you do Nicky, do Nicky
Don’t break my heart, Nicky

 

Then for Willy I made up my own words. Willy had these golden eyes that I fell in love with. He also had a big feather duster of a tail that I loved so much. Willy was just pure love. I was truly in awe of how much love he gave to the world. And I was so grateful that he gave some to me each day. So when we were driving in the truck and he was sitting in the passenger seat I would sing to him –

“Bright eyes and bushy tail. Bright eyes and bushy tail. The proudest man a dog could ever own. The proudest man a dog could ever own.”

Sometimes it seemed that Willy looked over at me from his side of the truck and just shook his head in disbelief.

 

Now Morgan gets to have two songs. One from me and one from his other Daddy.

“Oh Mr. Morgan, sing me a song (bung, bung, bung, bung)
Make it the sweetest that I’ve ever heard (bung, bung, bung, bung)
Give him two lips like roses and clover (bung, bung, bung, bung)
Then tell him that his lonesome nights are over.

Oh Mr. Morgan, sing me a song (bung, bung, bung, bung)

Morgan must be as tone deaf as I am because I swear when I sing to him he looks at me and a big smile appears on his face.

James has his own song for Morgan. He likes to call Morgan, “Boo Boo”

I love Boo Boo in the spring time
I love Boo Boo in the fall
I love Boo Boo in the winter, when it drizzles
I love Boo Boo in the summer, when it sizzles

I love Boo Boo every moment of the year.

Now, I know that we can’t be the only ones who serenade our furry family members,

Truth! – Tell us what special song you sing to your pet.

The Times of Your Life

Forgive me that this title is a cliché, but the other day after I had the hole in my ear drum grafted closed by my most excellent ENT- Ear, Nose and Throat doc – an amazing woman with the best hands in the west. The surgery is something that I’d been waiting to do for 25 years and it was finally the right time. Things seem good as of now and I’m glad I did it. But it did require anesthesia – and so the next day I was still feeling groggy and under the weather. Not wanting to do much else, I went online and started looking at all the photos I’d taken of Morgan over the last couple of years and I swear if it didn’t make me feel better. Pictures of him and Cody on our epic mountain hikes. Photos of Morgan swimming in the blue water of Lake Tahoe last fall. All the shots of him and us over the last few years on Cape Cod with my family. Even the funny personal ones of him on the couch or the bed. They put a smile on my face and even though I wasn’t feeling great I saw how blessed I am. I have had an amazing life visiting beautiful places and eating delicious food and having loved ones around.

Sometimes I think that I take too many photos of Morgan until I have a day like this and I realize there still aren’t enough. These photos are like a diary.  A daily journal of our lives and of those that are in it. If it hadn’t been for FB I wouldn’t have these photos. How I wish Facebook was around 30 years ago when I had my first two dogs.

Below are the pictures from this past summer that made me smile the most.

A Politics-Free Vacation

We’re heading out to Grandma’s house on Cape Cod tomorrow. My Dad says, “When you grow up in a large Italian-Irish-Greek working class family there’s a tendency to hold firmly to your views and speak loudly about them.”

That’s what happened last summer when we were visiting Grandma and Grandpa’s house at the beach. I remember several tense moments that I don’t think anyone enjoyed.  So this year we have a new rule. No politics. No Fox News. No CNN. No MSNBC. Not even the BBC. Everyone has promised not to mention the blue states turning red or the red states turning blue.  I’m sure glad my service vest is bright orange.

But even though we’ve decided to make it a politics-free vacation doesn’t mean there won’t be heated discussions. Just ordering pizza can turn into a loud national debate where everyone has very strong opinions. Me and my Dad still think it’s Regina’s in the North End of Boston. But not everyone agrees it’s worth the hour long wait.

And once we’re down the Cape the best place to get fried clams becomes the next Battle of the Titans.  And of course where to get Lobsters Rolls can leave people not speaking to each other for days.

Fortunately, with a large Italian-Irish-Greek family once the food goes into their mouths all grudges are forgotten and political lines dissolve until the next meal. I can’t wait!