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.

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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?

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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…

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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.

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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.  https://newengland.com/today/living/new-england-environment/where-in-the-united-states-does-the-sun-shine-first/

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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