Love Is Just The Start: How a Rescued Dog Became a Rescuer – My Article From Bay Woof Magazine

I had never rescued a dog before but friends of mine had and they seemed very happy with their new furry adoptees. So when the great Recession hit in the mid-2000s, and foreclosures were widespread with people abandoning their dogs, I decided it was time to pay back the Golden breed for all they had done for me. They saved my life. They rescued me during the dark days of the AIDS epidemic. Now it was time to rescue one of them.

This would not be my first dog. I’d already raised two Golden Retrievers, Nicholas and Willy, from puppies. So I figured what could go wrong?

I found the Golden I wanted to help, a one-year-old who’d been sick and abused. I named him Morgan after Captain Morgan of rum fame. He was anxious and aggressive. But I figured with enough love Morgan would behave. With sufficient positive feedback and basic training Morgan would learn to obey and become friendly. Afterall, I had trained my first two dogs with the San Francisco SPCA. I knew the commands. Boy was I wrong.

There was a time when I could tie the leash around the leg of a chair and know that my dog would wait for me quietly while I ran inside Spike’s to grab a latte. But those days were over. Unfortunately, I didn’t know this before Morgan and I were having lunch with a friend Chalet on Ocean Beach and I excused myself to use the bathroom. When I returned, the table was tipped upside down with the plates and silverware strewn in all directions.

I quickly realized I could never leave Morgan alone, even for a minute. He would go berserk, barking furiously. Nonstop. Having always to be prepared for the unexpected, I called him a Jekyll & Hyde Golden.

It was clear that I needed help, because he needed help. The kind of help that I could not provide, even with all my experience raising dogs. A friend recommended Officer Dan La Master, who trained police dogs. I was reluctant at first, but I had no other place to turn. And refused to use an electric collar as I felt that Morgan had been abused enough. I finally admitted, as much as Morgan needed training, so did I. Most importantly, Officer La Master taught me that I had to take command. I was in charge, not Morgan. Over and over again he instilled this in me. Finally, with this understanding, there was a definite shift in our relationship, and we made remarkable progress. By the end of class, Morgan was awarded his AKC Good Neighbor Certificate.

My life with Morgan may have begun with a rocky start, but he taught me so many things during our time together. First and foremost, he taught me patience. After all, if love alone had been the solution, Morgan would have easily been a well-behaved companion. But I learned firsthand that an abused dog takes extra time to learn the basic socialization skills and to heal. That patience was just one of his gifts to me.

He also gave me a refresher course on compassion. Each time I thought about the abuse he had endured my heart reached out to him. And he reminded me that neither one of us was perfect. There was the constant forgiveness for his mistakes and for mine, trusting that we were both doing the best we could.

It was the end of April, and gloriously, the weather was stormy when I awoke that morning. We reached Ocean Beach at noon to find a deserted paradise, empty except for seabirds and surfers. Morgan raced ahead of me on the beach, sniffing at something in the sand. “I hope he doesn’t get into anything,” I said, thinking a clump of seaweed. Or a dead bird.

Then I saw whatever he was occupied with stir. “Oh no. That’s a live animal.” I sprinted to Morgan as fast as I could and coerced him away. There in the sand was a small harbor seal. He appeared sick. The poor animal had closed his eyes.

“We can’t leave him like this!” I dialed the Marine Mammal Center and reported the situation. A volunteer informed me someone would be there within thirty minutes.

Soon the Marine Mammal rescue team arrived and safely secured the sick pup in a cage. Then the team leader, Anne, turned to me and said, “This was the third we’ve rescued in a week. The others are recovering, so he should, too. What do you want to name the seal? Since you found him, you get to name him.”

“Actually, my dog found him.” I thought for a moment, then declared, “Let’s name him Morgan. He rescued him.”

Anne petted Morgan on his head and told him, “Good job!”

I smiled proudly. My rescued boy was now a rescuer.


A Year in the Life of Franklin

My sweet Goldens Franklin and Morgan will always be indelibly linked to one another. James and I were deep in distress after we lost our boy Morgan, a year ago February. We really didn’t know how to move forward.

Morgan had been unable to walk for the last year and a half of his life. But as everyone knows we were committed to him until the very end. However, if the truth be told, even though we loved Morgan with all our hearts, we now longed to have a dog that could run and fetch and take hikes. I mean summer on Cape Cod is synonymous with Goldens and Labs.

We knew we had to rise above our emotions, at least temporarily, to contact rescue groups. But there were no Goldens to adopt anywhwere. The abandoned dogs coming from Asia were not allowed into the country due to COVID restrictions. That was just another disappointment.

When I shared my feelings with my friend Lisa in Florida, who worked for a foundation that trained Goldens to be service animals, she asked, “What does your gut say?” I told her it was too soon for me. I wasn’t yet ready to move on from Morgan, in the way that James was. After another week passed, on March 2nd, Lisa sent me a photo and said, “Dan, this is Franklin. A six-year-old who needs a forever home.”

We both fell in love with him instantly. We thought he looked so much like Morgan’s old buddy Cody, a cream-colored Golden. I felt like we knew Franklin already. James was immediately on board with adopting him. Me, not so quickly. Even though I felt bad that Franklin did not have a forever home, I didn’t want to forget Morgan. After a few more days, I looked at Franklin’s picture and my heart melted and my resistance along with it. I realized if we didn’t act on Franklin we might lose the opportunity for him.

It was with great expectations when on March 23rd, Lisa pulled her SUV into our driveway with Franklin in the back seat pressing against the window. I admit, we were a little nervous. Would he like us? Franklin jumped out of the SUV and raced inside the house through the side door. It was an instant match. How could we have gotten this beautifully handsome Golden boy named Franklin? It just didn’t seem possible. I remember some of my Facebook friends saying that Morgan had sent him to us. Well, if he did, he did it spectacularly.

It’s been a year now and it feels as though Franklin has always been with us. He loves to swim. He can even beat James in a race for the ball. We’ve taken him on field trips to Boston. He’s become quite cultured, having been to the Institute of Contemporary Art three times. The other day he asked for a black French beret. Then we took him to Provincetown for his first visit. People rushed to pet him as we walked down Commercial Street. With his celebrity status he was given the keys to the city.

One of my favorite things about Franklin is his ability to walk backwards. I’m not kidding. He’s like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk. I’d never seen a dog do this. The other night we attended our niece’s play. There were eight of us and we all sat in the same row. At intermission everyone got up for some air except my parents. Franklin walked down the narrow row to see them. As my family returned to their seats Franklin wasn’t able to turn around so he just walked backwards all the way to the aisle. I couldn’t believe it. That’s not an easy task to learn. And he does it with such ease. It makes me laugh.

There could be no better antidote for my feeling of loss for Morgan than Franklin’s big goofy smile and his antics. As you can tell I’m quite smitten with Franklin. But I will forever be grateful for the amazing life I had with Morgan and the memories of all our adventures.


A Year Without Him

It hardly seems like a year since Morgan left us. On February 12th at 3 am in the morning, while lying next to me in bed, he took his last breath. I have thought about him every day since.

Some evenings when I go to sleep, I recall that night. He was having difficulty breathing so we had given him a sedative that we got from our vet. It brought him some comfort. The way he looked at me with his glossy eyes, I knew he was saying good-bye. I felt he was thanking me for our amazing life we had together. I gently stroked his head, over and over again, telling him how much I loved him and thanked him for all our adventures.

Morgan had such a rough start. He came to us aggressive, anxious, and undernourished. Without a doubt, because he was abused, raising him was more challenging than my first two Goldens. But as Auntie Mame says, “Life is a banquet and most poor bastards are starving to death.” We may have gotten off to a rocky start, but our life was definitely a banquet.

I mean what other dog can say he swam in San Francisco Bay with a backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Pacific Ocean in Malibu, the Gulf of Mexico in Naples, Rehoboth Beach on the Atlantic while a school of porpoise leaped by, Maine, Cape Cod, and lastly, our own Buttermilk Bay?

What other dog can claim to have hiked on the Pacific Crest Trail in Palm Springs and Franklin Canyon Park in Beverly Hills, overlooking the ocean? Or visited Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge or camped in Acadia National Park? And because he was my service animal, he was allowed to take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to Mt. San Jacinto State Park, 8400 feet above the desert floor and hiked even higher.

Mt. San Jacinto State Park was our oasis in the hot months, enabling Morgan and I to escape the heat. The desert floor roasts at 110 degrees, but within twenty minutes we were on the tram to the top where the temperature was a comfortable 75 degrees. We’ve been there during each and every month, in rain, snow, sleet and hail. In the winter, if snow had fallen the previous night, we could be the first people in the park the next day. Morgan loved running and rolling in the snow. I dressed him in silly winter hats and took pictures.

But there were other silly hats that he wore: the big “Mad Hatter” green St. Patrick’s Day hat, the brown Pilgrim’s hat, the black top hat that he donned for the Opera in the Ball Park, the red, white, and blue Uncle Sam’s hat for the Fourth of July, and the red floppy Santa hats that he sported for his pictures with Santa. (See below for those pictures.)

Throughout his life he taught me so many things. First, and foremost, he taught me how to be more patient. Having an abused dog takes extra time to learn the basic socialization skills. I had a refresher course on compassion. My heart reached out to him each time I thought about the abuse he endured before coming into my life. There was the constant forgiving him for his mistakes and for mine. Trusting that we were both doing the best we could.

And of course, I’ll always remember that day at the private trainer’s shop, when I had to decide if I wanted to commit to the work that an aggressive Golden would demand. I looked down at Morgan sitting by my side. He gazed up at me with his sweet face. I reached down and petted his head and determined: yes, I would set aside my hearing problems and my other health concerns and pledged to give Morgan the life all young dogs deserve.

Morgan gave me a lifetime of adventures and memories that I will never forget. Most of all, I miss touching him and telling him he was the prettiest boy in the whole world.


Franklin’s First Christmas in Boston

As we were driving to Boston, Franklin stared out the side window curiously. I turned and explained to him,
“Franklin, that’s snow.”

James wondered out loud, “Do you think this might be the first time he’s seen snowflakes?”

“I doubt he ever saw snow in south Florida.”

When we arrived in Boston the flurries had ended. We walked up Charles Street into Beacon Hill, one of the oldest and most beautiful neighborhoods in the city. The brick sidewalks were lined with gas lanterns decorated with Christmas wreaths and bright red bows. It felt like we had just stepped into an old-fashioned colonial Christmas card. All that was missing were the Dickensian carolers on the corner singing “We wish you a Merry Christmas.”

Through the holiday shoppers we spotted our friend, Ali, who we met last summer at the beach in Provincetown. She introduced us to her friend Bob, who presented to Franklin, Rosie, his pretty six-year-old Golden Retriever. The two kids sniffed each other and a friendship was sealed.

As we strolled along on our way to Boston Common we passed families with strollers and dogs. Many of whom, surprisingly, were Golden Retrievers. There had to be six or seven of them. We even bumped into a Golden and his dad who we knew. This was definitely a Golden neighborhood.

There was barely room to walk on the sidewalk. Normally, I don’t like crowded places like this. But today it was exciting. It was good to be in a city with lots of young energy. Franklin, looking dapper in his new, red holiday scarf, and sweet Rosie, got lots of attention.

We entered the “Common”, which was established in the 1630s. It was originally used as pastureland by the Puritans. In the 1830s it became the first city public park in America. But we weren’t there for a history lesson, we were there to see the lights and decorations. We walked through the Common where on the outer boundary of elm trees were strung different colored lights. Two of the oldest elms were planted by John Hancock.

It was freezing cold that day so the brisk walk kept us a little warmer. James and I were definitely dressed up like folks from Lapland with scarfs, hats, gloves and sweatshirts, thermal shirts and long johns and winter coats. The Goldens thought the weather was quite comfortable in their fur coats. We stopped for pictures of Franklin and Rosie sitting together on a park bench, which caused a gathering of onlookers snapping their own pictures. (Make sure you check them out at the bottom of the blog.)

It had been a long time since I was in the Common to see the decorations and lights. As a young boy my parents used to bring us here in the early evening to see the festooned decorations and the live reindeer corralled in a fenced-in area. Afterwards, we’d get a hot chocolate and a blueberry muffin at the Pewter Pot Muffin House. It was always one of the highlights of Christmas.

For our own cheer, we stopped at the “Thinking Cup” on Newbury Street. It was a spirited and crowded shop. I had the best hot tea latte I had ever had. James was pleased with his caffe mocha latte. No whip. With two shots. Our friends sipped hot chocolate. While the pups slurped from their water bowls.

Franklin was sad to see Rosie depart as Bob had another commitment. To help lift Franklin’s spirits we continued across the wet slushy grassy mall, past the outdoor skating rink mobbed with families, to the giant, official, city of Boston Christmas tree. The perfect cone-shaped, forty-five-foot white spruce tree was protected from onlookers by a short white picket fence. Multi-colored lights, my favorite, were strung from top to bottom, around the entire tree, creating a celebratory atmosphere.

Since 1971, Nova Scotia has sent a tree to Boston to thank them for the help they provided after the Halifax Explosion in 1917. A disastrous explosion triggered when two ships collided and one had high explosives on board. Nearly 1800 people were killed resulting from the blast, fires and tsunami that the explosion caused.

Ali knelt down next to this historic tree with Franklin and reenacted her love-at-first sight, beach kiss from last summer when she first met Franklin. Then I joined her on his other side. We wrapped our arms around each other with our boy squished between us, careful not to muss his holiday apparel.

As the winter sun set on this cold December afternoon, it was time to head home. Our outing to Boston was cheery and bright. Spending time with Ali reminded us that there is no better gift than time with a friend. It was the perfect way to ignite the holiday spirit.

Happy Holidays to everyone from Franklin and me.


Happy Thanksgiving

Hello friends. My name is Franklin. In honor of my first New England Thanksgiving, and in keeping with a tradition, my dads have let me write this holiday message. I’m told that all my Golden predecessors have written columns and blogs in the past. Now it’s my turn.

Firstly, I’m grateful to be in a home with lots of love. I’m a big dog who insists on a huge amount of hugs and kisses, let me just say – I get all I could ask for. In fact, from the moment I arrived, I have been welcomed in the neighborhood where I get hugs and pets from just about everyone. When we walk down the street people shout from their front doors, “Hello Franklin! Are you headed to the beach?”

Second, I’m a boy who loves to eat. Fortunately, my new adopted parents are the best cooks. All freshly made meals. Always different. Eggs and potatoes. Soups, Veggies. Fruits. ( For those wondering. I love bananas as much as Morgan did.) Sometimes coleslaw. Oatmeal. My dads are mostly vegetarians, but sometimes, just for me, they buy some ground beef and cook it up.

But one thing concerns me. I’m hearing that they don’t eat turkeys. My dad read that over 46 million turkeys are killed for our Thanksgiving dinner every year. So my first holiday wish is that we all take a moment to thank them for being our feast on Thursday. That said, my cousin Loki, who is also a lucky rescue, had promised to bring me a plateful of leftover turkey when he visits this Saturday. I mean, the tofu turkey from Trader Joe’s doesn’t sound all that exciting to me. I don’t complain too loudly.
Now for my second wish. Here on Cape Cod and Plymouth, where the first Thanksgiving began, live the Wampanoag Indians. The Wampanoag are a Native American people and are indigenous to southeastern Massachusetts and historically parts of eastern Rhode Island.

My dads have taught me that it’s important to remember and honor the tribe who saved the Pilgrims from starving. So my second wish is that before the meal we acknowledge and honor the Wampanoag people who have lived here for 12,000 years.

I’m thankful that I live two short blocks from the bay and for all the times that my dads have taken me to the beach to hike, chase the ball and swim. Last week I had the pleasure of rolling in my first Cape Cod dead seagull, I was so excited I raced down the shoreline before my dad could catch me.

I’m most grateful that Cape Cod is definitely the ice cream capital of the planet. Every neighborhood has an ice cream shop. We visited nearly all of them this summer. Fortunately for me, I could pay for my own small cup of vanilla just by letting them pet me. Can you believe that? Needless to say, I was in heaven.

Lastly, my Thanksgiving wish is that all homeless animals are blessed with a meal and find their forever homes.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone from Cape Cod!

How I Became a Dog Lover – Part 2

Before making the decision to bring a puppy into our home, my partner, Rick and I had talked about the responsibilities that went into having a dog. Since I didn’t grow up with them, Rick wanted to be convinced that I understood what I was getting into. He thought it was a good idea, under one condition. I remember asking curiously what that might be and he emphatically said, “Obedience lessons. There’s nothing worse than a dog that didn’t know how to behave. You’re going to want to take him everywhere with you and classes are going to teach him, and you, how to behave.”

He went on that he had always trained his Irish Setters and that they had a better life and he got to enjoy them more. Then he paused and looked at me before he said, “And Dan, he’ll be your dog.  I won’t have time to take care of him.”

Rick was alluding to the fact that he was in law school and working days while I was in between jobs at the moment and could use the free time to train a puppy. I assured him that I had heard his concerns and would do whatever it took to have a well-behaved dog. Now here we were with this wiggling, bouncing, finger-gnawing, lug of love, all ours.

Then it was time to choose a name. I didn’t have any ideas. I’d never named anything. Rick suggested Nicholas, after Nicholas the Tsar. He had told me lots of stories about being in Russia before he met me. He even had a belt buckle with the hammer-and-sickle engraved on it. Rick had been a teacher when he lived in Chicago, and during summer recess he’d traveled to Russia three times, and the belt had been given to him by a boyfriend in the Russian army that he had met.

“Nicholas. Hmm.” I never would have thought of a name like that. I was going to pick Duke after my grandparent’s dog or Spike. I repeated the name a second time as I regarded our puppy. Did he seem like a Nicholas? Like a young prince? Yes, he most certainly did. “I like it. It’s noble. And it is Christmas.” But before the decision was made, we both took turns holding him in our arms and asking him if he liked his new name. He licked our faces and then bit our noses. We took this as an indication that of course he approved. I held our four-legged prince high in the air, above our heads. He couldn’t have weighed more than ten or twelve pounds. Our boy squirmed excitedly in my clasp: “I name thee Nicholas, after Tsar Nicholas and St. Nicholas.”  After which we smothered him with more hugs and smooches.

Then Rick gave me an early Christmas gift; my first book about Golden Retrievers, by Joan Gill, an Englishwoman who got her first Golden Retriever in 1936 and had been an ongoing advocate for the Golden breed. I glimpsed through it as we sat watching our pup discover all the nooks and crannies in the living room. We both called out his name again and again. I read further that the ideal for a Golden was, of course, to live in the house, and that a puppy needed a box just big enough for him to lie in comfortably, and some warm soft bedding.

I got a large cardboard box from the basement and cut a wide opening in one side and placed it right next to our bed. Then I folded my red, soft cotton blanket and placed it inside for him to sleep on. I called for him to come see his new bed. Already I loved saying his name. He slipped through the opening and immediately started gnawing on the edges of the box. I thought this might not work, but he soon grew tired and laid down. No sooner than that, his head rested on the blanket and he quickly slid into dream world.  From our bed I watched Nicholas sleeping. His chest rose and lowered slightly with each breath. Occasionally he’d move a paw and shift his body. Or he’d move his little head into another position. I wondered out loud whether he’d sleep through the night. When I got no reply I turned and saw that Rick had joined him in dream world already.

Keeping my end of the agreement, Nicholas and I started lessons as soon as he completed all of his puppy shots. The San Francisco SPCA sponsored classes out at the National Guard Armory located behind the zoo near Ocean Beach. It cost one dollar a week. A dollar! How could I not go?

Once inside the imposing stone Armory, it was a three-ring circus. Four different classes (puppies, beginners, intermediate and field) would be going on simultaneously in different sections of a single enormous hall. To be surrounded by dogs of all sizes, breeds and ages, dogs barking and running, dogs sniffing each other, was heaven. Though I’d never had a dog growing up I quickly discovered that I was a dog lover.

When did you realize you were a dog lover?

Little Nicholas at Ocean Beach, San Francisco

How I Became a Dog Lover – Part One

I never had a dog growing up in South Boston. We lived in the middle apartment of a triple decker house and though we lived right across the street from a huge city park our parents made sure me and my brothers were always busy with sports and had no time for a pet.  That’s why we were so excited the day that my grandmother and grandfather brought home a Golden/Lab puppy and named him Duke. He was a caramel-colored dog with huge paws and lots of energy.   We only lived a couple of blocks from my grandparents so we got to see “Dukie” often.

They lived in the middle apartment of their own triple decker and with a small back yard to play in. Our favorite thing to do was to drop a ball from the second story porch and watch Dukie retrieve it. The way he bounded down and around the wooden steps to the yard below, grabbed the ball with his wet mouth and then huffed and puffed back up the steps made us giggle with delight. Poor Dukie never got a moments rest.  With me and my three brothers along with my mother’s siblings, six of whom still lived there, it was no surprise that he liked to hide out on my grandparents’ bed for a break.  And even though my grandmother was fond of saying, “That damn dog is on the bed again.” Not much was ever done to keep him off of it.

With so much love and exercise, Duke lived a long and healthy life. It was a sad day for us all, when at fourteen, he got sick.


It wasn’t until I was 24 that I got to experience the joy that I felt with Dukie, again.  It was just before Christmas in 1983 when my partner, Rick and I drove in our giant Buick Le Sabre to pick up the runt of the litter of Golden Retrievers. He came home with us in a shoe box when he was eight weeks old.  Our new puppy bounced around in my lap. When I swaddled him like a newborn and touched his sweet tiny black nose, he bit my finger. This being my first dog, I was surprised how sharp his baby teeth were, they stung a bit. Within seconds, he was gnawing on the sleeve of my jacket. I’d never held such a young dog before and he squirmed his way out of my arms and slid on the front seat over to Rick’s side. Even he, the cautious driver, couldn’t resist reaching down with a hand and scooping the ball of strawberry gold fur up into his lap.

Once in our apartment, he waddled from room to room, following us wherever we went. We had covered the back porch with old newspapers and introduced him to his housebreaking room. I had never done this before and was nervous about my ability to accomplish this first goal. To our astonishment, he walked right across the sports section of the New York Times and piddled on a picture of New York Yankees manager Billy Martin. As a staunch Red Sox fan, I couldn’t have been prouder of my boy. Rick smirked, knowing my baseball loyalties, and said that our dog was going to make my job easy.

When we settled into the living room, the new addition to our family kept going to the staircase in the hallway and looking down at the door. It seemed he expected someone to come or else was eager to leave. “He’s not sure this is his home yet,” Rick said.

“Poor guy. We took him away from his mother.”

Rick assured me that by tomorrow he’d know that this was his home. Afraid that he might fall, I got up and carried him away from the stairs and into the living room.  As we sat on the couch, I ran my hands through his soft fur. I couldn’t restrain myself from kissing his forehead over and over again. I felt like I had to get as much love in as possible right there and then before someone took him away. I couldn’t believe he was ours. Then he wiggled away, as though he had had enough smothering from me, and bounced and tumbled over to Rick’s lap where the scene was repeated. Then Rick slipped his arm around my shoulder. I could tell by the show of affection and his wide boyish grin that he, too, was thrilled to have a dog.

To be continued…


Perfect Poop

Before you say, “Oyy,” I found the expression “perfect poop” featured on the American Kennel Club website. It was part of an article about how our dogs can’t tell us how they’re feeling. But that their excrement can tell us lots.

As guardians, most of us know this but are embarrassed to talk about it. Except maybe around close friends. The other day, my Golden buddy, Liz, announced, “Abby has diarrhea. She doesn’t like me watching her when she goes.” We all chuckled.  Shortly thereafter, I went to the local post office to mail a package where another friend, Marsha, a Golden Mom, works. She was on the phone when we arrived, after she hung up Marsha said, “That was my husband reporting on our dog’s poop. Our vet wants us to watch Phoebe so we can bring her a sample for testing.”

“We know that routine,” I said, smiling. “Has to be fresh.”

Since our furry companions aren’t able to tell us when something is wrong it’s up to us to look for the evidence. One is by monitoring their bowel movements. I do it on a regular basis. It helps me to decide what goes into Franklin’s next meal.  I’ve done it with all my Goldens.  Sometimes it involves searching the yard for a deposit. I don’t mind, it actually serves two purposes, the healthy things, of course, and by picking it up there’s one less for me to step in.  That’s a sure quick way to ruin my day.

I always keep a box of Uncle Ben’s brown rice in the cupboard. If something doesn’t look right I take a package out and mix it with some ground beef. This really helps with the runs. It was recommended by Dr. Long, my vet for Angel Nicholas way back in the 80s and I’ve been doing it ever since.

I thought I knew it all until I went online to the American Kennel Club website, I found that there are five things to look for – shape, size, content, color, and consistency.

There were two things I hadn’t thought of, though. First, the perfect poop ought to be sized proportionate to the amount of food your dog eats.

This never crossed my mind before. On occasion I might say, “That can’t be Franklin’s. It’s not big enough.” Or I might say, “That can’t be all he has.”  But I never made a health connection to it.

The AKC also wrote, “If you notice any changes in your dog’s elimination schedule and you haven’t changed his food recently, it may be worth contacting your veterinarian to rule out any potential problems.”

This is another point that I never made a health connection to.

What are some of the things you do to monitor your dog’s health?

And, if you want to read more about the “perfect poop” below is the link to the AKC website. You’ll find a more detailed statement on the importance of monitoring your dog’s movements complete with cute colorful graphs. It might be more than you needed or wanted to know. But check it out. It could make a difference to your dog’s well-being and your peace of mind.





Does Your Dog Like the Water?

The dog days of summer are fast coming to an ending. Soon, Labor Day will be a memory. Franklin and his dads have been making the most of the hot weather and getting into the water as often as possible. There’s been a prolong drought happening here on Cape Cod, so we’ve been cooling off by the shore nearly every day. We’ve paid a lot of attention to the tide charts for Provincetown Harbor and Buttermilk Bay, the two places where we’ve spent most of our time swimming this summer.

People on the beach always stop and watch us as we toss the ball using our “chucker” as far out as safely possible. Franklin barrels through the water like a torpedo swimming as fast as he can. He loves being in the water and we love watching him swim.

I’ve always enjoyed letting my dogs play in the water. In fact, when my first Golden, Nicholas, had all his puppy shots, we went straight to the beach. Luckily, in Coastal California, beach time can be all year long. I just loved seeing him wet, looking like a seal. When Willy came into my life we were living along the Russian River and we couldn’t wait for our daily swim and ball fetching games. We all remember how Morgan swam up and down the Pacific Ocean, Naples, Rehoboth Beach, Maine, and of course, Cape Cod. Now Franklin has joined them as our current water boy. It’s such good exercise. When he arrived at our back door he weighed ninety-five pounds. But now he’s lost all that extra weight and there isn’t an ounce of fat on him. When he’s wet and his long fur is damped down, he looks so lean, like a racehorse.

Dog lovers always come over to share stories about their dogs and the water. Of course, not all dogs like the water. Loki, my brother’s young dog, who we’ve been babysitting, only goes into the bay up to his belly. Then he runs back onto shore.

Tell us a story about your dog and water.


Mr. Franklin Goes Camping

When the temperatures recently climbed towards triple digits, Franklin did what patricians have often done – head to Maine. All the way north to Acadia National Park. Just like the Rockerfellers, Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, Morgans, DuPonts, Fords, had done.

Franklin had heard his dads talk about Angel Willy and Angel Morgan going there in the summer and he was eager to check it out. This vacation was a family affair as our nieces, along with their dog, Loki, were joining us on the six-hour trek.

We arrived at Smuggler’s Den Campgrounds before dusk and just before the rain began – sprinkles at first. Immediately, Franklin and his cousin, Loki, raced around the vast open spaces bordering the forest.  Our nieces helped their old uncles (us) set up the tent. It’s still shocking to me that I’m now sixty-five. But I digress as I often do. We were all exhausted and a bit cranky after the long drive. The prediction of light rain and some thunderstorms throughout the night, worried us. No one wanted to cook that first meal. For dinner my brother’s family had pizza, we had soup. Food is a good healer of emotions.

There wasn’t much room in the tent for two air mattresses and a large golden retriever, but Franklin found a spot at the entrance to the tent and settled down. Even though I wasn’t too thrilled at the lack of room for him, things seemed to work. That is until the first bolt of lightning lit up the sky; the first boom of thunder echoed down the valley; the first deluge of rain pelted the roof of the tent.

Surprisingly, Franklin didn’t seem too upset by the inclement weather. But after an hour of this, I’m the one who was uncomfortable with the set up. “Franklin, come on up!” I patted the bed. This is one command Franklin obeyed immediately. It was tight quarters on my blow-up mattress, but knowing Franklin was safe and dry was more important. With him next to me, I could stop worrying about him. Throughout the night the wind howled and the tent shook. It was difficult to sleep. Both James and I thought the tent might rip apart or become too wet. We were afraid we might have to escape to the car.

We awoke the next morning to blue skies and a sense of relief that we had all survived a night of storms, unscathed. My brother scrambled some eggs and cheese for our first communal meal. While we went about unpacking and setting up our camp. This was our third time on a camping trip together. The first was in New Hampshire with Young Morgan, Young Casey, with MJ on her way. (Not yet born.)  The second trip was five years ago in central Mass, with an older Morgan and now included Young Hannah. For that adventure we stayed in cabins. These family outings brought us closer together. It made us realize that we wanted to be with them year round. Not just for a few brief weeks on summer vacation.

We’re a family of bookworms, so after the breakfast dishes were cleaned and put away, we all grabbed a chair and a book and found a comfortable place to read for a while. In the afternoon, we took a casual walk on the trail leading around Echo Lake.

Franklin was thrilled about dinner on the grill that night where he got real beef burgers. James and I had plant-based, “Impossible Burgers.” While the dinner plates were cleared and cleaned, Steve got a campfire going. It was time for dessert. We had to be especially careful to keep our furry boy far away from the open flame and any cinders. We didn’t want any singed-fur on our hands. To avoid even a near miss, I grabbed the leash and kept him by my side.

Once it was dark, we all collected long thin branches and it was time for s’mores. Most of us had traditional ones with chocolate. But Courtney doesn’t eat chocolate, so she brings peanut butter, which she generously shared with Franklin. I don’t normally partake of this kind of treat. (James just shouted, “Oh sure!”) It’s only when we’re with our nieces that it happens. It’s quite delicious and decadent. Holding a marshmallow on a stick above the flame is fun watching it melt.  Everyone believes they know the right amount of time to heat the marshmallow. Mr. Franklin devoured his peanut butter s’more which I made for him.

There was another special surprise that night – fireflies. Shimmering magically around the tent. What a delight. I hadn’t seen fireflies since at my parents’ place on Cape Cod ten years earlier.

As I stated earlier, the tent we had wasn’t big enough for the three of us. We decided to give one of the air mattresses to Franklin right from the get-go. James and I would share the other one. They’re pretty wide. As we settled in, Franklin started to bark. At first, I feared it was an animal outside our tent. Oh my God, I thought, what food did we leave out?! But then I saw flashlights and realized other campers were walking by chatting away. So much for quiet hour.

Day three started unexpectedly when we opened the zipper of the tent and Franklin darted out to visit our neighbors next to us. Luckily, their dogs were still in their kennels in their SUV and James got to Franklin before there was too much commotion. We have no idea what got into Franklin, perhaps he heard something that we didn’t. But as they say, boys will be boys. Even the best-behaved kids and dogs get into mischief on occasion. We made sure it didn’t happen again.

Acadia Park, is the eastern-most point in the United States, which means it’s the earliest sunrise. There’s a tradition for park-goers to climb Cadillac Mountain, where during the winter months, it is the first place to see the sunrise. Don’t ask me to explain the “earliest place” for the summer months, click the link and you can read it.

My brother’s family decided to hike the 1526 feet to the top of the mountain. Driving up requires reservations which they didn’t have. Yes, it’s that busy there. It was a warm day and James and I decided to forgo this activity. We weren’t sure how Franklin would handle the climb in the heat. I’d been to the top with my parents and Angel Willy back in the 90s and it is dramatic. James and I drove to the top with Angel Morgan in 2018 but it was fogged in.

Instead, we chose to revisit Seawall Campground, in the southwest, less crowded section of the park. We had stayed there on our trip to Maine with Morgan. The picnic area is right down by the rock-covered sea-level beach. Here’s a description from their website:  Powerful ocean storms created a massive seawall. As waves break, they carry rocks from the base of the beach and carry them up to shore. As the tides come in and out, heavier stones get piled at the top and smaller, lighter stones remain down the slope.

Don’t miss the pictures of Franklin and his dads. This quieter part of the park is definitely worth a visit. And a second one, as in our case.

That night for dinner James prepared fish tacos over the flame for everyone. The girls were surprised that you could have tacos on a camping trip, but everyone gobbled their food down.  Hannah especially loved her meal.

We were all too tired to stay up for more s’mores, but we did take time to lay in the grass in the field and stargaze. It takes a few moments to adjust to the darkness. But if you lay still the stars come to life. Clearly, the Big Dipper is “the Big Dipper” and can’t be missed. To our left was the Milky Way, in all its softer glory. Here, in Acadia National Park, the Milky Way shines bright in the largest expanse of naturally dark sky east of the Mississippi River. Neither Franklin, nor Loki were as enthused with stargazing as their humans were and started wrestling in the grass. They were even less impressed when we saw the International Space Station pass by.

Both James and I are advocates for protecting the night sky. We were pleased when we read about the Acadia Night Sky Festival, a four-day celebration in late September each year that promotes the protection and enjoyment of the star-filled night skies of Acadia National Park.

The threat of severe evening-hour thunderstorms returned on Thursday. Our spirits sank. The last thing we wanted to go through again was another rough night of sleep, before a long drive. It would be hard to say good-bye. As difficult of a decision that it was, we decided we had to head home after breakfast.