Say What?

steve shirt

Steve was also very patient with his idiot Mama…

We used to have an Akita named Steve (The Kid said on the way home from getting him, that he looked like a Steve.  And he did.).

For the first few years we had him, he was all over the house.  Up and down the stairs, kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, wherever.  Often when we came in the house, we’d hear him racing down the stairs to greet us.

Until one day.Actually, I’m not quite sure what day, but eventually we noticed that he’d stopped going upstairs.  We tried coaxing him, calling him, even luring him up with a few of his favorite treats.

No dice.

Never again did he venture up more than a few steps.  Inside our house, his world shrunk to the ground floor.

If Crowley ever saw this, he’d wiggle right out of his skin.

Our current dog, Crowley enjoys some television, but is very choosy.  Dogs, horses, and elephants are his must-see TV, and he will come running in when he recognizes the jingles from commercials with his preferred animals, or if we spot one and call out, “Puppy!”.

He loves to watch sports with Petey.  But unlike my spouse, Crowley’s a discriminating viewer.  He loves football of any stripe.  He loves basketball, but only college hoops, not the NBA (don’t ask me how he can tell the two apart. These days, all the players look like middle schoolers to me).  Baseball and golf?  No love.When we were first married, we had a chow named Harry.  We bought him at a pet store because he had gotten too big for the cages the puppies were kept in, and we knew we wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night if we’d left him in that situation.

I’d like to see you turn your back on this mooshie face.

He was obviously a puppy mill pooch, and we think maybe his mother drank heavily when she was pregnant.  He was an odd, odd boy.  When we brought him home, he hid under the bed for the first three days.  He never warmed up to any humans except Petey, my best friend Bo, me, and later The Kid.But in what had to be the strangest doggy quirk ever, he was terrified of ice cream.  Why?  It’s not like he was lactose-intolerant, he and Petey could go through an entire brick of Velveeta in one sitting.  So why?

And Steve and Crowley’s eccentricities…why?Image result for unknowableDogs do bizarre, unfathomable stuff we will never understand.  We just won’t.  The knowing is a canine Rubicon that can never be crossed.

On the flip side, there are things that humans do that are utter head-scratchers to our poochy pals.  And, that’s my point this week.    What follows are the top 10 burning questions that curious pups have for us homo sapiens:

1.) Are you hungry?  Because I could eat.

2.) I once saw a cat in this yard.  Do you think it’s back today? (Asked every single day)3.) When you go to work today, will you be gone forever?  Because you were gone forever yesterday, and I don’t like that.

4.) Who is that puppy in the mirror?  Do you know him?

5.) I’m going to the kitchen to root around in the trash.  You want something?6.) Why do you get that loud monster out of the closet, put its tail into the wall and walk it around the room?  It scares me.

7.) Do you want to go OUTSIDE! OUTSIDE! OUTSIDE!?

8.) Hey, I just found this stinking pile of something.  You wanna roll in it when I’m done? 9.) Don’t even try to deny it.  You’ve been spending time with another dog.  Who is it?  Is it that puppy in the mirror?

And finally:

10.) You gonna finish that?Thanks for your time.

Into the Woods

What I truly regret is that I lived here almost 25 years before I explored it.

In the fall of 2013, the Matthews Family Band was shaken to our core.  Petey was desperately ill.  From mid-October to the end of March 2014, he was in the hospital much more than he was home.

Every day I got up and headed to the hospital, staying until evening.  At the beginning of Petey’s illness, The Kid was all the way across the country in San Francisco, doing an internship.  So, I left an empty house each morning and returned to an empty house each night.

But not totally empty.riker layingOur dog, Riker, was my only, my constant companion.  Before I left the house, I took him out.  After patiently waiting for me all day, we’d go for a walk as soon as I came in at night.

After being cooped up, Riker was sorely in need of exercise, and a change of scenery.  After being cooped up, I also needed exercise, and to turn off my brain which teamed with lab tests, prognoses, and bills.Drinking was an option, but I save my calories for desserts and macaroni & cheese.  Riker might have turned to drink, but 200-pound dogs can be really ugly drunks.

One night, about a week after Petey’s initial hospitalization, our pup and I took a new route on our walk.Our street is a dead-end, and beyond is forest.  Instead of walking our usual route which was to the end of the road and back, when we got to our turnaround, for the first time ever, we kept going.

It was beautiful, calm and quiet in those woods.  There were houses all around, but because of the trees, they were silent and invisible.  There were various paths that led through trees and along a creek.


This is a tiny little waterfall; the correct proportions for a Barbie doll.  But it’s pretty and sounds nice-like a young David Cassidy.

As soon as we stepped into the woods, all my worries and fears vanished for the duration.  Petey was still sick, and the related stresses and complications still existed, but a forty-minute walk acted upon me like eight hours of restful sleep.  It rejuvenated both Riker and me.

We kept walking.

When Petey was home I continued to walk in “my woods”.  It was a respite.

Last fall, we lost Riker.  I continued to go into the forest, for both exercise, and to mourn my sweet pup.One day I was walking an unfamiliar path and saw a large German Shepherd coming toward me.

I had two choices: I could try to get away, but there was no way I’d outrun him.  Or, I could stay where I was and hope the dog wasn’t aggressive.  So, I stood still.

It was the right decision.  The dog was friendly and sweet.  We spent about four hours together tromping through the woods that day, with him by my side.  Never having been formally introduced, I called him ‘Mister’.  I later learned his name is ‘Polo’ (I like Mister better).


This is my favorite view in the woods.  I’m afraid my shoddy photography skills fail to do it justice.

I’m so grateful to Mister.  The forest had become a very sad place, which frequently saw me in tears.  I both smiled and laughed during my adventures with that sweet doggo; the first since losing Riker.

Now I take our puppy Crowley, into the woods.  I still love and look forward to every step.  And seeing it through the eyes of my dog has made it new all over again.  But, I don’t think I’ll ever celebrate my euphoria quite in the way he does.

No matter how happy the woods make me I just can’t see flinging myself down onto the forest floor and rolling around in deer poop.


This is how our furry little knucklehead used to sleep.

Thanks for your time.

Dog Years

I’m a sucker for a puppy (and all dogs are puppies—always, no matter their age or size).

I’ve had dogs almost my whole life, and every dog has taught me something; even if the lesson was that I needed to be a better pet owner.

When I was in kindergarten, my parents bought me a beagle puppy.  Since my maiden name is Ross, we thought it smart and witty to name her “Betsy”.  I learned two things from the very short time I spent with Betsy.It’s not just a good idea, it’s vital to do some research on dogs in general, and specifically, the breed in which you’re interested.  My family had no idea that in addition to being more energetic than a bus full of sugared-up cheerleaders, they’re hounds, which means they’re loud.  Really loud.  Like, bloodhound loud.

The other thing I learned; it’s kinda important to know if someone in the family is allergic to pet dander.  I was, and it, along with chocolate, threw me into an asthma attack.  I outgrew it by the time I was about seven or eight.

Sorry, not this Snoopy.

After Betsy, we had Snoopy.

One day, Snoopy got out and a neighbor found him and delivered him to our front door.  I learned that there is no angry quite like the angry that a woman can feel when they’ve just had their hair done, and on one end of a leash with a very strong dog on the other end.  To this day I still don’t understand why she didn’t let go when our dog took off through a backyard with a bad septic tank.Honest, she showed up, dripping in malodorous “mud”, hair completely ruined, and thermonuclear danger in her eye.

“Here’s your dog.”

She never spoke another word to anyone in our family.

The lesson?  Sometimes it’s better to just let go of the leash.

In Puerto Rico, we got Fluffy.Fluffy was the one that taught me that a dog can be your very best friend, full of constant, unconditional love.  The two of us used to sit on the curb in front of our house and share Charm’s lollipops.  We’d take turns, lick for lick.

Hey, I didn’t say I was bright, I just said I loved my dog.

After Petey and I married, we were in a mall in Virginia, and in a pet store, saw a chow puppy that had grown so big, he couldn’t sit upright in the largest crate the store had.  There was no way we would be able to look each other in the eye if we left that poor guy in that situation.

That’s how we got Harry.

This isn’t Harry but looks like him.  I was never able to get a pic of our boy because he was afraid of cameras, and the clicking sound they made, and me with my face hidden by a camera…

We’re pretty sure Harry’s mother drank heavily when she was pregnant—Harry wasn’t quite right.  He hid under our bed for the first three days we had him, and continued to fear most of the world.  But he loved us, we loved him, and he had a good life.

Harry’s lesson was that love and patience can change lives and work wonders.


Our Riker.  A 200-pound heart in a dog suit.

Last January, we were heartbroken from the loss of our last baby, Riker.  It was then that I learned one of the most important lessons yet.

I learned that just like falling in love, somehow, the right dog comes along at the right time; when we met a goofy, adorable black akita puppy.  The night we brought him home, I carried the thirty-five pounder.  We named him Crowley, from a favorite book; Good Omens.

Last week our now ninety-five-pound baby turned one.  He fills our home with joy, and dog hair and drool.

But mostly joy.

Crowley before and after

Left is the day after we got Crowley, right is yesterday.  The thing he’s chewing in the new photo is the empty, decapitated head of the bunny in the old pic.  The blue woven rug is the exact same, and it’s the same size.

Thanks for your time.


Twinkle In His Eye

The Kid is convinced that there’s nothing he can’t do.

yellow lantern

Uh oh.

The Kid is wrong.  But hey, Superman has kryptonite and Green lantern has the color yellow (For realsies—yellow.  So you could beat him to death with a number 2 Ticonderoga.).

Sometimes though, it seems like my dad can do anything.

The man knows his way around a sketch pad.  I don’t think he’s ever had art lessons, but he has a real drawing skill.  I’ve always envied the way he can, with a pencil, faithfully depict pretty much anything.  When we were little my brother and I would sit at the kitchen table for hours, directing Dad to draw a horse, or a couch, or any other item that popped into our heads.

And he always did, long past the point where I, as an adult, would’ve faked an aneurism to put down the darn pencil and have a stiff drink.

…or two.

But he possesses endless patience with children, because he loves kids.  He’s the guy who can soothe the sobbing baby, entertain the cranky toddler, and communicate with the sullen teenager.  If I had Warren Buffet money, I couldn’t have bought him a better gift than his grandchild The Kid.

No matter what tiresome, irritating phase my child was traversing, my dad was never on the list of lame adults who were dismissed with an eye roll and melodramatic sigh.  I actually asked, and unlike every other adult on the planet at some point, The Kid cannot ever remember being mad at Grampa—not even once.


You can almost hear the sigh, can’t you?

Maybe it’s because he does a killer Donald Duck impression.

Or maybe it’s because of what I’ve always told The Grandkid; that my father is a superhero.  And it’s not hyperbole.  This man spent over 30 years in the Coast Guard; but not on boats, in planes and helicopters.

He was the guy who jumped out of the sky into turbulent oceans to rescue hapless boaters.  Even mathematicians couldn’t calculate the number of lives he’s saved.  His main job in the Coast Guard was basically blacksmithing.  He welded together C130’s (airplanes) and H-3’s and H-60’s (helicopters).  He eventually ran the school which taught neophytes the fine art of metal and fire.Back in the Cretaceous period, Dad was running the Coast Guard metalsmith school (known as A.M. school) in Elizabeth City; he was known as “Boss Ross”.  I was working at a clothing store in town.

One evening three young men came into the store.  Right off, because of their haircuts and overall vibe, I pegged them as young Coasties who were probably at one of the schools on base.  I didn’t know if they were in A.M. school, but regardless, I knew that they, like everybody at the base were familiar with my 6’4” dad with the booming voice.

As I was helping them pick out some new duds, they started talking smack, and throwing shade at a woman in the mall.  I wasn’t having it.“If you guys aren’t nice, I’m telling my dad.”

They were unmoved, “Oh yeah? Who’s he and what’s he gonna do?”

“Have you ever heard of Boss Ross?”

The change in their demeanor was as hilarious as it was instantaneous.  “Oh, hey, wait!  We were just joking!  Really!  We’ll stop; you don’t need to bother your dad with this!”

Dad and Riker

Check out the expression of pure doggy bliss on Riker.

The funniest part of this story is my large imposing dad is a huge softy who chokes up at the slightest sentimental provocation.  I, and by extension, The Kid, got our love of pooches from him.  He’s like Dr. Doolittle.  He adores canines, and they love him right back.  I honestly think every dog I’ve ever owned loved him more than Petey or me, but probably not The Kid, who is also beloved by all dogs and most hermit crabs.His big heart doesn’t stop at quadrupeds.  When I turned 16 and got my driver’s license, he and Mom bought me a 1971 Dodge Dart Swinger for the princely sum of $500.  My car, which I named Lancelot, had an AM radio which picked up most stations within a ten block radius but not much else.  I yearned for a fancy AM/FM car stereo with a cassette deck.

Growing up, we never went without, but there wasn’t a lot of extra money laying around.  I didn’t have a job yet.  And my folks had just shelled out cash for my beloved Lancelot.  They were tapped out for extras.

My dad, who at this time was still doing difficult and dangerous work in the Coast Guard plus volunteering as a first responder on an ambulance, went out and got a part-time job at the Carvel ice cream store for the money to buy tunes for my car.  I got the stereo.Most people with a somewhat public position would be embarrassed to scoop frozen treats and peddle Fudgie the Whale.  I’m ashamed to admit this, but I would be.  But my father has never seen any shame or reason for embarrassment in honest labor.  He simply can’t fathom that kind of attitude.

Dad invented a part for motorcycles, and shin guards for barrel racing.  He’s survived more than one plane crash.  He beat cancer.  In over thirty years I’ve never stumped him when I’ve called with questions about home or car maintenance, or anything else for that matter.  Just to amuse us he does this hilarious, shambling jig that we call the scarecrow dance; which once seen, is never forgotten.  He’s a fun-loving goofball.  Look into his eyes and you’ll see more than a little mischief. As I said though, Dad’s not perfect.

The man couldn’t carry a tune with a forklift on the moon.  And, he snores like a grizzly bear with a head cold.  He’s also less than graceful.  Once when cutting down a tree, he missed and buried an ax into his tibia.

So that’s my dad, the superhero.

He just happens to be a superhero whose kryptonite is old photos and long distance commercials.FullSizeRenderHappy Father’s Day, and to all a good night.

Thanks for your time.

A cookie for Libby


This is Crowley.  Could he be any more adorable?

So Petey had me make dog treats for training our new puppy, Crowley.  He wanted something small, to carry in his pocket.

Petey and the pooch were out in the yard a couple weeks ago, when our neighbor’s dog, Luna, a beautiful blue rescue pit/mix went walkabout.

2-5-2017 B

Petey and the monster.  This photo was taken months ago.  Last Tuesday he turned 6 months old, and on Wednesday during a visit to the vet, he tipped the scales at 80 pounds.

She ran right over and hung out with Crowley until her mom, Meghan, caught up with her.  Petey gave her a handful of the little training treats.  He explained that I made them and told her a few of the ingredients; one of which is peanut butter.

A few days after Petey gave Luna the treats, Meghan brought Libby, her sweet little toddler (human) over to visit our puppy.

She told me that she was grateful that Petey had told her about the peanut butter, because Libby loved feeding Luna, and she’d planned on giving her the cookies to feed their pooch. But Libby is dangerously allergic to peanuts.  Eggs and dairy are issues as well.

Kids and dogs both put everything in their mouths.  I decided to make some treats that would be completely safe for little Libby to handle, and even eat.

But here’s the thing.

Finding recipes for peanut butter-free dog treats is extraordinarily difficult; try googling them.   Go ahead, I’ll wait…

See?In 0.77 seconds I found 1.12 million results for “name of George Clooney’s pet pig”.  It’s Max by the way; and he’s been at the great barnyard in the sky for 11 years!  But good luck finding recipes for non-allergenic dog treats.

So I took my already dairy-free standard recipe, and searched substitutes for the peanut butter and the eggs.  And to make the task a little trickier, I wanted to use what I had on hand, and not purchase expensive, elusive, special ingredients.

For an egg I discovered 1 tablespoon ground flax seed, mixed with 3 tablespoons water works.  And, I subbed in an avocado for the peanut butter.

They came out pretty well.  My canine guinea pig, Crowley did all five of his tricks for them, so I guess he liked them.  But then he also eats rabbit poop, so maybe he’s a less than discerning food critic.I took them over for Luna and her girl.  And when I left, Libby was standing in a pile of dog biscuit crumbs, alternating between feeding them to her buddy and to herself.

Thanks for your time.

Libby’s worry-free dog biscuits

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water

1/4 cup melted bacon grease

1/4 cup vegetable oil (may substitute any oil combination)

2 tablespoons flax seeds

1 avocado

1/3 cup canned pumpkin

Big pinch salt

2 ½ -3 ½ cups flour

1 cup self-rising cornmeal

1 cup rolled oats

libby's dog treats

Preheat oven to 400.  Place racks in center two positions. 

Line 2 very large baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Prepare flax seed egg substitute: Place flax seeds, cornmeal, and 3/4 cup water in small food processor or blender.  Blitz until it’s a paste and the seeds have broken down some.

Put 2 ½ cups flour, oats, and salt into bottom of a mixer bowl.

Add pumpkin and cornmeal/flax seed paste.  Toss avocado into uncleaned processor and blend until smooth.

Pour in last 2 tablespoons water and the oils.

Mix on medium-low until it starts to come together in a ball.  If dough’s too wet, add flour, a bit at a time until it does.

Pour dough onto floured surface.  Knead until it becomes a neat ball of dough.

Divide dough ball in half.  Roll out into an approx. 8X12 sheet 1/4-inch thick.  Place on parchment-covered sheet.  Using pizza cutter, cut into 1/2-inch strips, then turn pan 90 degrees and cut strips into squares, 1/2-inch big (or larger if that’s your preference).  Leave attached, they’ll break apart after baking.

Repeat with second piece of dough.

Place sheets on racks and bake for 10 minutes.  Then spin pans 180 degrees and switch racks.  Bake 15 more minutes.

After they’ve baked, turn off oven.  Let them sit in unopened oven until they cool and dry (2-3 hours).

When cool, break apart and store in zip-top bag for up to a month.  Unbaked dough can be frozen for up to three months.  Makes about 6 cups.cookies for libby

Hey girl! Try out for the pup squad!

Petey looks like he’s been washing his hands with that new product sold at only the most exclusive retailers, ‘Broken Glass’.  He’s got more nicks and cuts than a near-sighted barber student.

I, on the other hand, have hands that would make Scarlett O’Hara jealous.  But much of my clothing is so perforated with pulls and tiny holes I look like a demented marksman used me for BB gun target practice.

What, you ask, is capable of making us look like the swankiest meth makers on the block?

We got ourselves a puppy, y’all.


Riker and The Kid.

Last fall we lost our beloved pony-sized puppy, Riker.  There was never a question of if we’d get another dog, it was only when.  The Matthews family does best when there is a four-legged member.

Besides, dogs are generally easier and more reliable than people.  They’re honest.  They’ve no agenda save food and affection.  And dogs reward kindness with kindness.  Frankly, pooches are too good for us flawed humans; we’re just lucky they put up with us.

Our last dog was 200 hundred pounds.  We aren’t getting any younger, so we felt that we should downsize in the doggy department.  I started looking around at Akitas.  We’ve had one before and love the breed.   And they usually weigh in at only 100 pounds. Practically a lap dog.

I’m no fan of Craigslist.  The Kid found an apartment for an internship in upstate New York on the site.  The landlady was so batty she made Caligula look like the poster boy for mental health.  And then there was that “Craigslist Killer” guy.

But for some reason, one Sunday night, I found myself looking at dogs on the Greensboro Craigslist.  One seller had two male Akita puppies.  In the photos, they were watched over by their father, who coincidentally looked just like our earlier Akita, Steve, who we’d gotten the year The Kid started kindergarten.  That dog and that child were closer than siblings.


Steve, otherwise known as The Kid’s “little” brother.

We arranged for a visit to meet the pooches.  I asked The Kid to come along, to be a voice of reason in case Petey I fell in love and lost our cotton pickin’ minds.

We met the owner Chad, and his family, both the two and four-legged members.  The humans were nice, and the dogs were sweet and beautiful

We were goners.  I held our new puppy on my lap for the ride home.

Crowley’s the guy in the shades.  Maybe naming him after a demon wasn’t the smartest idea…

We named him Crowley, after a character in a book that’s a favorite of both The Kid and me; Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Our Crowley’s a funny little guy who’s convinced, like Will Rogers, that a stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet; or possibly just a chew toy.

A few times a day the puppy goes on a tear and employing many tiny needle-like teeth, perforates Petey from fingers to elbows.

His signature torture for me though, is sneakier.  I have become his prey.

Dude, hold up!  I need my inhaler!

While walking through the house, minding my own business, Crowley will fling himself at the back of my legs, seemingly to hamstring me.  I feel like the kind of slow, asthmatic gazelle that always gets picked last for kickball, but first for dinner.

So far though, my tendons are intact.  And we’ve known enough dogs to understand that the bite-y behavior is a passing phase (Oh please let it pass).


Let’s all play ‘Find the puppy’!

After we got home with Crowley, The Kid ‘fessed up.  Once the father dog was glimpsed in the ad photo, all bets were off.

My child, the voice of reason, had fallen head over heels in love and all objectivity had vanished like Krispy Kremes at a Weight Watcher’s meeting.  We’d been on our own the whole time.


Crowley, the crown prince of hell.  But ain’t he cute as a new pair of shoes?

Thanks for your time.

It’s a Doggy Dog World (and we’re just living in it)

2016-05-06-22-32-45The Kid has a rescue dog; a beautiful little husky (we think).  Her name is Bella, and she has eyes the color of a Luna moth’s wing.

She really is the sweetest thing, but dumb as a box of soup and a tad squirrely.  She also should switch to decaf as soon as possible.  I’ve never in my life seen a dog with more energy.  There is no off switch.

The Kid is in Chicago this week.  That means we have grand-dogger duty.  With Bella in the house, there’s never a dull moment.

You should witness my child around any dog.  There is squealing, baby talk and high-pitched cries of “Puppy!”

They’re the only thing The Kid gets squishy and sentimental over…

But the response is entirely to be expected.  Aside from time taken to mourn lost companions, we’ve had dogs almost our entire marriage.  When we brought The Kid home from the hospital, our seven-year-old chow, Harry met her outside in order to minimize any territorial instincts.

Harry was somewhat different.  The night we brought him home, our puppy hid under the bed for three days.  He was so skittish and easily startled many of our friends called him Scary Harry.  It was pretty apt—among many other things our boy was literally, no foolin’, afraid of ice cream.  Even the kind made specifically for dogs.  We think maybe his mom drank heavily while pregnant.

While this looks like Harry, it is not him.  The only photos we have of him are of his butt, as he ran away in terror.  He was afraid of cameras, too.

On my 21st birthday Petey gave me Harry.  Seven years later he had the meet & greet with our brand new baby in the driveway.

He watched over his little person, and taught that little person to love dogs, and treat them kindly.

When The Kid was in Kindergarten, we lost our Harry.  Six months went by and we decided it was time to share our lives with a four-legged again.

The doggy gods were smiling upon us the day we met Steve.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven though he looked like a text book Akita, we’re pretty sure that he was a 105 pound heart, wrapped in a doggy suit.  He was the gentlest dog we’d ever had.

If there were children playing outside, and one of them screamed, regardless the reason Steve had to go outside and do what looked like a head count to make sure all of his children were safe and sound.  Once he adopted a roly poly bug.  He kept it for three days until he loved it to death.

Steve and I had a game where I would do an imitation of a dog growl.  We would slap our hands/front paws on the floor in a mock attempt to catch each other.  All the while he would be doing his best imitation of my growl.


He was a goofball who indulged my every odd whim.  He’d do anything to make us smile…

The day before he died, he was so weak, but he still made his best effort to slap my hand and growl my growl.  I think he didn’t want to disappoint me.  His whole life long he never disappointed me.  It’s been ten years, but thinking about him still breaks my heart.

Dad and Riker.png

My dad and Riker.  To give you an idea of the size of our pooch; Dad is 6’4″.

Now we have Riker, who’s named for a character in Star Trek.  He’s a 200-pound Anatolian shepherd with sweet, caramel-colored eyes.  When you scratch him behind the ears, he honest-to-goodness purrs.  He is the most loving pooch we’ve ever owned

We all think, with dogs, that we’re in charge.  But if you serve someone breakfast in bed, and clean up their lawn bombs, it doesn’t matter what you think.  That dog is your boss.

And then to top it off, we go and let them use our heart as a chew toy.snuggy-buggy-riker



She broke him.


Thanks for your time.