Mr. Franklin Goes to the Library

Hello folks. We’re home again. Back in Buzzards Bay. Having just completed a whirlwind tour of many of the libraries and bookstores on Cape Cod, where we screened James’ film, Wild About Harry, and then I sold copies of my book, A Golden Retriever & His Two Dads, as well. It was an exciting adventure. Our tour started in the small town of Mashpee. Before we moved on to Sandwich and Provincetown. Then we hopped on a ferry over to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

We met hundreds of people everywhere we went. We made new friends and visited with old ones. Of course, Mr. Franklin was the star attraction everywhere we went. I admit there were moments when we had to let folks know about the passing of Angel Morgan and that was difficult. But Franklin’s big heart won over people’s sadness.  Franklin is now the face of the book and they seemed pleased with that.

Doing a book tour is a lot of work and I’m lucky to have had my hard working and handsome partner, James, to organize it.  We’re all pretty tired tonight, even Franklin, so this blog is going to be short. I want to share some pictures we took along the way. I know you’ll enjoy them.

On a closing note, Franklin and his Dads wish everyone a Happy Fourth! Please keep your fur-companions safe.



Mr. Franklin Goes to Cape Cod

A Field Trip to Boston

It was a day of firsts for our recently rescued Golden, Mr. Franklin. We began our adventure in Quincy, where he experienced his first Mother’s Day brunch. We brought a bouquet of red tulips for both, Courtney, our sister-in-law, and my mother. Then we took a sweet photograph of our handsome boy and our equally as pretty, sister-in-law, substituting for my mother, just for the day.

Franklin is a big boy with a big appetite. Though his dads are vegetarians, my brother’s family is not. Franklin got his first taste of bacon. And boy did he gobble it down. Both he and I were disappointed that he only got one piece. Especially since there was a big plateful of pig leftover. But let’s move on with our journey.

It was a blustery Sunday, too blustery for the beach walk, so our first stop was indoors at our favorite museum in Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). It would be Franklin’s inaugural visit to a museum as my service companion. To get to the exhibits we had to take the glass-enclosed elevator to the fourth floor. Another first for our boy. He watched curiously as we rose between the floors. When the doors opened, he proudly marched out.

I wasn’t sure how Franklin would do surrounded by crowds of people and art displays. There were a few times where he got excitable, but I held his leash tightly and he heeled perfectly. I could tell from the expressions many wanted to pet him. A nicely dressed, matronly woman couldn’t resist taking a photo of him. He posed like a star. She off handedly said, “I know I’m not supposed to pet him, but…..”

I replied, “I know it’s difficult to resist him. But if I let you…,”  I looked around the room. “Then all these folks will want a turn.”  Several onlookers smiled and nodded their heads. Even the security guy grinned and said, “I’ll be the first in line.”

She understood my conundrum and we moved along. I always feel bad when I say no to someone. Under other circumstance, I would have let her pet Franklin.

The exhibition that day featured works of bright colors. We chose a sculpture by Raul de Nieves, a Mexican-born, New Yorker, for Franklin’s first art pose. It’s a life-size horse, rearing up on its (his) hind legs, covered in sparkling beads and sequins.

As we were leaving, Franklin said, “I never knew museums were so much fun.” (I told you he could talk.)

Now we headed across Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park and walked to the famous North End of Boston, the Italian neighborhood. Along the way, we couldn’t resist stopping for pictures of Franklin at several flower beds of tulips. Another first for our big boy. Tulips were the theme for the day. There were bright red ones and sun-shiny yellows and ones with an orange and yellow mix. My favorite was the reds. They looked like a 3-dimensional painting. They almost looked fake. And Franklin’s light blond fur and my red skull cap contrasted vividly against the rows and rows of red. Passersby stopped to watch us and took pictures of Franklin.

We finally made it to Hanover Street, in the heart of the North End. My grandfather used to take us here for the St. Anthony’s Feast Street Festival. It was where he shucked for me my first quahog when I was a young boy. We’d often go there to buy homemade raviolis, and for pizza at Regina Pizzeria.

It was a crowded Sunday on this Mother’s Day and lots of people said hello to Franklin, but due to the congestive traffic and throngs of tourist we weren’t able to get any pictures of him. We bought four plain cannolis and a whole ricotta pie at Modern Bakery, opened for ninety years and just a two-minute walk from the Paul Revere House. If you’ve never heard of a ricotta pie, it’s a creamy ricotta filling with a hint of lemon and almond that is baked inside of a sweet Italian pie pastry. This dessert is traditionally served at Easter time, but now it’s eaten all year long.

It had been a long fun-filled day of firsts for Franklin, but we could tell our big boy was getting tired. He seemed disinterested in sniffing the grassy field, a clear sign that he was ready for a dog-nap. We decided to forego an Italian dinner at one of the cafés and drive home. Heading back to the garage, along the Rose Kennedy Greenway, something utterly amazing happened, we found a beautiful bouquet of flowers lying on the ground, still wrapped in cellophane, and tied with a ribbon. It’s as though someone had left them there for us.


A Mended Heart

A Mended Heart

My heart is still fractured from the recent loss of Morgan, my faithful Golden service dog. We had been inseparable the last 13 ½ years. He passed away quietly in his sleep next to me in bed.

My brain is filled with thoughts of Morgan every day and our unimaginably epic life together. Now, I can only tell him he’s the “prettiest boy in the world” in my heart. I can only see his smile in my mind. I can’t run my hands through is curly fur while I say those words. The fact that those days are over brings me immeasurable sorrow.

Right now I feel like Morgan was the greatest of my three dogs. But truthfully, he wasn’t. But this by no means lessens his importance. It’s just that time causes you (me) to forget the details of my first two Golden Angels.

I remember how devastated I was when my first Golden, Nicholas, crossed over. I truly believe that his love and devotion saved my life. He was the one sure thing when my partner got sick and died of AIDS. He was the reason to get up in the morning. He was my crutch. Having him in bed with me and my arm around his shoulder got me through lonely and painful nights. I was lucky (blessed) to have him in my life.

It was a good thing I had Willy, my second Golden, when Nicholas passed. I wouldn’t have made it through the loss of Nicholas without him. Not on top of so many other losses. Not on top of my own declining health.  If I hadn’t of had Willy, I truly would have been alone.

But Willy wasn’t like Nicholas. He never tolerated being on the bed, never mind sleeping in the bed. He was a wanderer. This was a being who had too much love to share with other people to be confined by the fence I put up around the property.

Willy had a girlfriend on the road above my house. Some afternoons my neighbor would telephone me and say, “He’s up here. Come up when you want him.”  Once, security at the Bohemian Grove, an exclusive men’s encampment in the redwoods, where world leaders gather every summer, such as both Bushs, Schultz, Kissenger, and Ford, phoned and asked me if I had a Golden Retriever named Willy. When I said yes, he told me I had better come and get him. He was in their dumpster. I got an armed escort into the main grounds where I found Willy eating their leftovers. The staff stood around laughing.  They told me he could come back anytime he wanted to. AND HE DID!!! Now the caller said, “He’s back.” That was the problem. Everybody loved his visits.

Around this time, AIDS treatment improved. There were prophylactics for some of the opportunistic diseases. There were three HIV drugs to choose from that stopped the virus. The disease became manageable, but not over.

With dying on hold and living a possibility, it was time to reevaluate my life. I know in my mind and heart that the only reason I was able to sell my house in the redwoods and move to Palm Springs was because of Willy’s guidance. Our afternoon talks gave me confidence that we could do it.  If you’ve read A Golden Retriever & His Two Dads, you know that Willy introduced me to James, my life partner.

When Willy died of congestive heart failure at 11, I was distraught. He died too soon. For the first time in twenty-five years the house was empty, dog-less. Grief never really goes away, you just learn how to live with it. I thought I had. I discovered quickly, I hadn’t learned how to cope without a dog. My thoughts were scrambled, my heart was ripped apart. I relived the AIDS epidemic. I relived Nicholas’ death. I couldn’t leave Willy’s gravesite.

It took five months before Morgan jumped into the truck and it seemed like five years. Despite Morgan’s behavior problems my heart healed. I learned to love again. As did Morgan. He changed my life. He was aggressive to other dogs. To keep him safe we took off for our adventures at 5 am. This may seem extreme. But it actually worked well. In Palm Springs, you have to go out before sunrise, anyway. To see the sun rise against the mountains was exquisite. To have the trail all to ourselves was not only a relief, but magical. Morgan became such a ham. He loved posing. He loved the attention. He wore hats and antlers and glasses. We referred to him as “The Talent.” We especially loved when he was finished and just walked off the set. We called these photo ops, “And he’s done!”

Morgan represented our life in Palm Springs. Our travels out of the heat. Summers on Cape Cod. He represents our time sheltering from COVID in the desert. We had the town to ourselves. Wagon-walks along the golf course. Against all odds, he made it across the country with us to our new home in Buzzards Bay. We buried him here in our back yard. We didn’t leave him behind. We worried so much we might have to.

When Morgan died in bed next to me, it took me a couple of days before the tears flowed. I was so exhausted and relieved that we didn’t have to lift him and carry him any longer.  For the last two years of his life he couldn’t walk. I know he felt the same way. Those final days he stared at me with glassy eyes. I knew he was ready. He was tired as well.  But once I rested up a bit and got a full night’s sleep, the realization he was never coming back crept in, and grief hit me.  All the things we would never do again.

I’ve now done this three times and each loss was different. Each Golden brought their uniqueness to the relationship. I’m not the same person I was with Nicholas, or Willy or Morgan.  I think, because of my history, mending my heart takes more time than most people.

Now we have a rescued, 95 pound, giant Golden, named Franklin. He’s big in a lot of ways. Big head. Big personality. And most importantly, a big heart. That’s what has won us over. Morgan’s passing is still recent and raw, but Franklin is helping my heart to mend and to open again.  I leave you with this poem I discovered:

It came to me

   that every time

I lose a dog

they take a piece

Of my heart with them,

And every new dog

who comes into my life

gifts me with a piece

of their heart.

If I live long enough

all the components

of my heart

will be dog, and

I will become

as generous and

                             loving as they are. – Anonymous

These Golden Years

Many of our friends may have heard about our successful book signing at Edgartown Books on Martha’s Vineyard. What you may not know is that I was a complete nervous wreck. It was my first book signing and I could barely write my name. In contrast, Morgan lay on the ground next to me, totally relaxed, with a big goofy smile. People walking down the street couldn’t resist him. I was afraid that no one would show up to buy the book, despite the fact that it was featured in two newspapers and the local radio station.  But as it turned out the best advertising was a smiling Golden Retriever, named Morgan. The line that formed to pet him, turned into the line to buy the book.

Whenever my nerves got the better of me, I would lean down and rub his head and the jitters in my fingers dissipated. For those who have read the excerpt from the book, you know that Morgan has not always been a source of tranquility. He was a swirling dervish of energy when we first rescued him. He was aggressive with other dogs and around his food. One of the things that calmed him to help him sleep was to rub his head gently. In those days I never imagined that he would ever be a source of calm for me. Or that he would become my assistance hearing dog.

But after a two-year, rigorous training course with a police-canine officer/instructor he’d come get me if someone was at the door. On our walks he alerted me to cars and people approaching from behind me. One night he stopped in the middle of the street for no apparent reason.  Then suddenly I saw two coyotes jump over a wall up ahead of us. Even though he is unable to walk now, in his senior years, he continues to assist me.

Just last week, from my bedroom, I heard him barking loudly and incessantly. Suddenly I smelled smoke in the air and rushed out into the kitchen, where he was lying, to find bellows of smoke pouring out of the microwave. I threw open the door to find a charred sweet potato. Thanks to our houseguest! Gratefully, I patted Morgan on his head and rewarded him with his favorite treat – a banana.

It’s impossible for me to believe that we just celebrated Morgan’s 14th Gotcha Day and that we’re back swimming together again. This has given us renewed quality time with Morgan which I pray will continue for as long as possible. Our boy may be 14 but in our hearts he’s still that year old, crazy boy, who jumped into my truck when we rescued him all those many years ago.


How I Learned About Love

Many of our long-time friends and followers know that I was born in a tough, Irish, working-class neighborhood in South Boston. My mother had to contend with four sons, of which I was the oldest. You don’t need a crystal ball to figure out where love fit into the list of priorities in our family. It was there somewhere in the midst of the chaos. I have no doubts.

It wasn’t until my first Golden, Nicholas, came into my life in 1982 that I finally understood what unconditional love was all about. Of course, everyone loves a sweet puppy. I certainly was crazy in love with him. It’s easier to love when the times are good. But when things became unbearable during the worst of the AIDS epidemic: when the love of my life had died; when sickness and death surrounded me; when my own life teetered precariously on the edge, it was Nicholas’ unconditional love that pulled me through it. With Nicholas, each and every day, there was love in my life.

I lost so many friends and colleagues during the AIDS epidemic that my heart closed shut. I didn’t want to make any new friends for fear I would lose them. Then this sweet, blond, fluff ball, I named Willy, arrived in my life. Slowly, this loving, gentle entity forced me out of the shell I had built to protect me. On our walks he insisted that I share my love for him with everyone we met. I resisted it at first. But as they say – Love Wins.

Now, my life has been blessed once again with another amazing Golden, Morgan. He is my first rescued dog.  It was during the great recession, in 2008, when animals were abandoned, sometimes left behind in homes. I knew that I had to do my part to repay the love that I had been so generously given.

Morgan was difficult at first. He was broken, in the same way that I had been. It was time for me to learn about giving unconditional love. With loving kindness, an open heart, and a lot of training, Morgan became a funny, photogenic boy that we’ve all come to love and care about and I can’t imagine my life without him.

So on this holiday dedicated to “Love” I am so grateful to my Goldens who have taught me to be open to love and to give it.

Toys For Homeless Pets

Our family has a different kind of tradition for New Years.  I always sit Morgan down the day after Christmas, when all the packages have been opened, and I tell him about all the dogs down at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter who don’t have a warm home like he has, nor family and friends to love them and take care of them, like he has.

I remind him that he has a lot of toys that he never plays with and that now he has even more than before. Morgan always gets a serious look on his face and then without even the slightest pause, he gathers up several of his old toys and puts them in a basket. I ask him if he is sure he wants to do this and he nudges my arm with his nose.

So we get into the truck and drive down to the shelter. He never wants to go in with me, he prefers to stay outside. I can’t blame him, it always breaks my heart going in there and seeing all those dogs in the kennels, staring out, hoping for a miracle. The volunteers are grateful and let me know that they’ll be put to good use. When I come back out, Morgan has his old smiley face on. I think he knows he’s helping his cousins. The occasion always calls for a good walk somewhere as a reward for Morgan’s generosity and caring.

This year, with COVID, the shelter is closed to the public and a large blue bin is stationed outside the front door for donations. Inside the container, alongside Morgan’s bag of toys were also gifts of pet beds, blankets and clean towels.

Our New Year wish is that until all homeless pets find their forever homes, everyone make a stop at their local shelter and give an unlucky dog or cat some new toys.

Happy New Year everyone from Morgan and his Dads.

Thankful & Grateful on the Golf Course

Hello friends. It’s Morgan. My Dad is letting me write this year’s Thanksgiving blog. First and foremost, I’m grateful for my Dads and how they take care of me. Especially since my legs have gotten weaker. I love my wagon-walks so very much. I’m also grateful that we’re remaining in Palm Springs for the winter. It’s so much more convenient for our walks than when we were living in LA. At our apartment in the city my Dads had to carry me up and down three flights of stairs which wasn’t easy as I’ve gotten a little wider as I’ve grown.

I’m also thankful the election is over and my Dads have stopped obsessing and bickering about it. My Dads always get wound up about elections but this year it was insufferable. I’m grateful that we’re now in a time of healing.

I’m thankful that there might be a vaccine soon. I feel sad about all the people who have been sick and have lost their lives. But it also means hopefully I will get to take walks again with my Golden pals, Rocky and Samson. I miss them both.

As I write this I’m sitting out on the front patio in the shade. The temperature is a mild 79 degrees. I’m grateful that the heat has released its grip. Soon we’ll be able to take some of our walks in the afternoon.

As I’m now in my senior years, or my Golden years as I like to tell people, I’m thankful for the very handsome undercover FBI agent who moved in two units down from us. I feel so much safer with Vincent around. Not that it’s an unsafe neighborhood, mind you, but you never know when something might happen. I’m sleeping much more restful with the law close by.

I am grateful that my Dads adopted “Ferris the Turkey” this year. See his picture below. He is quite the “Hot Shot.” But I am not grateful that we are having Tofurky for Thanksgiving – again. If anyone has any leftovers, donations are accepted.

My Thanksgiving Prayer is that all animals have food on this day of thanks and giving. And may they find their fur-ever homes like I did.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Life on the Golf Course – Part 5

Summer in the desert can begin in May. Temperatures hover in the upper 80s to low 90s. It’s the time of year when the term “but it’s a dry heat” really means something. It’s always been one of my favorite months of the year. This last May was no exception.

The golf course remained closed because of Covid restrictions and people were out walking most of the day. More often than not with a dog. By this time, Morgan riding in his red wagon had become somewhat of a celebrity. Other walkers waved to him from a distance. It was sweet to see how enamored people had become with Morgan.

I want you to meet a few of his admirers like Henry the Horse. Known from the Beatles song, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” The verse is “And of course Henry the Horse dances the waltz.” Well, Henry the Horse didn’t waltz during our encounters, but he did turn toward us and nod his head. On several occasions when we would run into Mr. Henry and his guardian, it was always a raucous encounter. As you know, Morgan has become quite the barker. Henry would snort and raise his head and trot off.

Daily, we passed by Miss Shelby, a 12-year-old Golden Retriever, sitting on her porch. Miss Shelby lived along the golf course as well and was always very polite and gracious. She wiggled her fanny gleefully when Morgan would roll by. Unlike you know who. He greeted her with trumpet-like barks as loud as an elephant. The noise was so loud, birds flew out of the trees and rabbits ran for cover. I think our boy was quite taken by Miss Shelby. And vice versa. Morgan’s always had a soft spot for the ladies. It’s sweet to see that he still has a touch of Romeo.

Every morning, it seemed like clockwork, we would see “The Bandana Lady. Named because she wears a bandana mask while she’s out getting her exercise. We’d never really spoken to her until one morning when she lifted her bandana and said, “I look forward to seeing you every morning. You make my day. I just love your baby.” Now she greets us each day, “Hello. How’s your baby today?”  Morgan doesn’t find her as interesting as Mr. Henry or Miss Shelby but gives her a couple of barks to be polite.

During this time of isolation and disconnect it is heart warming to see how Morgan in his wagon can bring a little smile to people’s faces. It’s time to come together and spread a little love to everyone we meet. Even if it’s just a smile on your face.




Life on the Golf Course – Part 4

We remember this past April fondly for several reasons. But before I tell you why, I want to share with you some local folklore. You’ve been hearing the name Tahquitz (tah quits) Creek Golf Course a lot in my blogs and posts. It’s the name of the golf course where we live and walk. What does Tahquitz mean, you ask?

Legend has it that Tahquitz was once a guardian spirit over all shamans, of the native Cahuilla Tribe who have inhabited this valley for over 2500 years. However, he turned evil and began using his powers to harm the Cahuilla people. Their chief banished him to the canyon now called Tahquitz Canyon where he roams as an evil spirit hunting for people’s souls.

Fortunately, we have not encountered Tahquitz on our wagon-walks, thus far. I credit Morgan for keeping us safe. They say that dogs are very intuitive, sensing danger that humans cannot. Things like storms and earthquakes and even tsunamis.

On some of our wagon-walks Morgan will suddenly start barking for no apparent reason. I don’t see anything or anyone near us. But a few seconds later we’ll turn the corner on the golf cart path and discover a dog and a human companion not far from us. On some walks we’ll see little desert cottontails running for cover. These desert rabbits like living on the golf course because they eat grass. In his younger days, he and Angel Cody loved to chase after them. It was funny to watch as they were never quick enough to catch one.

But there are times when Morgan barks when nothing is there. No dogs. No rabbits. Nothing but him barking. Could he sense the spirit of Tahquitz lurking close by? It’s these moments when I feel lucky to have Morgan protecting us.

We remember this past April fondly because it was the last time that it rained. For several days storm clouds covered the San Jacinto Mountains, entirely. The runoff surged down Tahquitz Canyon flooding the wash running through the golf course. With so much water the mallard ducks moved in with their ducklings. Morgan loved watching them from creekside.

April was important to me because seeing him so happy and full of energy, I began to trust that Morgan was going to be with us for a much longer time than I previous thought. This was a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. I was really able to enjoy our time together. I could fully delight in the adventures we were still having.

We’re all fortunate to have our canine guardians to protect and guide us through these challenging times.


Life on the Golf Course – Part Three

One of America’s iconic children’s toys is the red Radio Flyer wagon. Designed and handmade in 1917 by an Italian immigrant named Antonio Pasin. The first version was made of wood and he named it the Liberty Coaster in honor of the statue that welcomed him to America.

Starting the summer before last, just before we went “Back East” to vacation with my family, we had noticed that Morgan was having difficulty walking. Normal outings were taking twice as long, and we needed more rest stops. This made our visit more challenging as our young and active nieces wanted Morgan to be part of all our activities. It was here that I first wondered if I could teach Morgan to ride in the girls’ Radio Flyer wagon which they generously offered to us.

When vacationing on Cape Cod, we stay at the Provincetown Inn, which is a fair distance from Joe’s, our favorite coffee shop near the center of town. Every morning we would wake up early and walk with Morgan to Joe’s in order to secure one of the coveted outside tables. The only way we would make it on time this year with Morgan’s new difficulty walking was by having him ride in our nieces’ wagon.

James wasn’t convinced that Morgan would take to it. But I knew better. All we had to do was cushion it with his favorite blanket and he’d love it. It’s true the first time we put Morgan in the wagon he looked around with a puzzled expression of concern. But by the second ride our little Prince was wondering why we had waited so long to haul him around in it. Of course, all the attention he got from admirers riding down Commercial Street added to his enjoyment.

We didn’t know it at the time but teaching Morgan to ride in a wagon has made it possible for us to extend our time with him. When he collapsed in February and could barely move, we thought it was the end. However, it became evident that Morgan wasn’t ready to cross over the bridge quite yet. I knew it was time to purchase for Morgan his very own Radio Flyer wagon. And riding around in it seems to have given him a new lease on life.

When everything shut down in March, including the local golf course, we were able to take him on long invigorating wagon-walks on the golf cart paths with nobody around us.  It was like having your very own private park. The wagon-walks have been beneficial for all of our spirits in these challenging times.

Morgan now wakes us up every morning at six am with a loud bark, ready for his wagon adventure. We are grateful to Antonio Pasin for creating what is now a vital part of our life. Can you believe that the red Radio Flyer wagon is now over a hundred years old?  May we all enjoy such a long productive life and bring joy to children and child-like people across the world.