They Call Him Fluffy

Every dog has a signature move.

They have some weird quirk, or funny game, or strange physical ability.  Every single one.  If your dog doesn’t, it just means you haven’t noticed it.

Riker, our two-hundred-pound Anatolian shepherd was, literally, a big crybaby. 

He cried when he wanted love.  He would lay in the living room, look as pitiful as caninely possible and weep and wail.  He also cried at night when he went to bed, until I went over and tucked him in with his blanket and gave him a goodnight kiss.

Yeah, he wasn’t spoiled at all.

But the big payoff was when you went over and showed him some love, he would actually purr.  Like a sofa-sized kitty.  Purr.

When we go on walks, Crowley, our current pup, has one of the nuttiest moves I’ve ever seen.

He’ll take a few steps, lower his left shoulder, and drop like he’s been shot.  Then he lays there, on his side, and laughs while looking to see if I’m watching him.  If it’s not 1000 degrees or I’m not in a rush, I run over and make a huge fuss over him, “Oh poor Crowley fell over!  Whatever shall we do?”  He thinks the whole production is hilarious.

Our boy, at 4 months.

Turns out, it’s the actual technique for stuntmen to fall dramatically and also something the army teaches for hand-to-hand combat.  I’m not quite sure how Mr. Crowley Pants learned it, but I’m seriously thinking about trying to get him a gig as a self-defense instructor.

 All the love and knowledge that I have to show my dogs came from the original dog; Fluffy.

We got him when we lived in Puerto Rico.  He was the surprise love child of a chow and a Borinquen terrior, which was the colloquial term for a mutt of indeterminate lineage.  He and I would sit on the curb, watch the world go by, and share a Charms pop (I took a lick, he got a lick…).

My big brother Homer who was also stationed in Puerto Rico adopted Fluffy’s brother.  Unlike his black, extremely hirsute littermate, Eric was short-haired and as red as Opie Taylor’s tresses.

Just like that.

As for Fluffy’s move, he jumped.

He didn’t leap into swimming pools like those frenetic pooches you see on ESPN when there are no human sports to televise.  He didn’t jump over felled trees and across brooks and streams like National Velvet.

From a sitting position, he would leap straight up.  If you held a piece of cheese as high as you could, he would vault toward the ceiling, grab the nosh, and land again into a sitting position.  And all in the blink of an eye.

My dad is 6’4” and his reach is somewhat north of eight feet.  No sweat for Fluffy.  That dog would make Zion Williamson weep with jealousy.

He had one other odd “talent”.

In San Diego, we lived in a house with a chimney.  In that chimney was a beehive.  Periodically a bee would fly out of said chimney.  The first time we saw it after we moved in, Mom freaked.  She was just about to call an exterminator when Fluffy walked over and caught it and ate it.

We were afraid he’d get stung and swell up and get sick.  Never happened.  The dog just loved the taste of bees.  And for the entire time we lived in that house, Fluffy never missed one.

That dog and his insect predilection would have come in very handy a few weeks ago.  Instead of stinging me more than twenty times, Fluffy could’ve just gobbled them up.

Thanks for your time.

Contact me at

The Whistle Stop Café Has Been Burgled

I stole a tomato—sort of.

We’ve known neighbors Tim and Misha forever.  Their son Mick, daughter Noelle, and The Kid all went to preschool together. 

I love Misha because she has a big heart and tells it like it is.  And, Tim really reminds me of my dad.  He can’t stand to sit still.  He’s always doing something in the yard, fixing something, walking their dog, Cosmo.


Both he and Misha are dog people and are on our pooch Crowley’s list of humans he adores.  His whole body wiggles and his ears drop down, parallel to the earth as he rushes up to smoosh his head on their hips with his huge noggin (It’s his version of a hug). 

The other day Tim was outside when we went by, and after Crowley finished losing his mind, Tim offered me a couple green tomatoes.  They were growing in a large pot next to his front porch, and he had tons.

I thanked Tim, and he told me I could have all I wanted.  I decided I’d fry them.

The thing is, I’ve never actually made fried green tomatoes before.

In the parlance of tech savvy youth, this is called a fail.

I started to think a spare would be a good idea in case my novice effort resulted in having the first batch go wonky, like with pancakes.  The next morning, I grabbed another tomato in case of trouble, and left them a note.

This is just sad.

The biggest problem with fried green tomatoes is that often, most of the coating falls off—I hate that.  That’s why I got them breaded and let them hang out in the fridge hours before cooking.  I hoped the crust would set up and not flake off while cooking—it worked.

First, I dusted them with heavily seasoned flour.  I used buttermilk for the middle/wet step because it’s creamy and it gives food a delicious tang.  For the outer layer, I chose crushed Ritz crackers.  They’re buttery and sweet, which plays well against the sour astringency of green tomatoes.

Stolen Fried Green Tomatoes

3 firm green tomatoes, sliced into ¼ inch slices (10-12 slices)

2 cups flour heavily seasoned with salt and pepper

2 cups fat-free buttermilk

1 & ½ sleeves of Ritz crackers, crushed

For frying: vegetable oil

Salt for sprinkling on finished tomatoes

Four hours before cooking, bread tomatoes; first coat in flour, then buttermilk, then cracker crumbs, making sure they’re completely and thickly covered.  Cover loosely with plastic warp and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

To fry: Heat oven to 175 and place a cookie sheet with a cooling rack inside.  This is where the finished tomatoes will wait. 

Put about ¼ to ½ inch of vegetable oil into cast iron skillet and heat on medium.  When a pinch of cracker crumb sizzles, carefully place in about four or five tomato slices—if you crowd them, they’ll never get nice and crispy.  You don’t have to rush, you have a landing area in the oven.

Fry first side until golden-amber, then using spatula and fork, carefully turn over and fry the other side.  As each one finishes, place on cooling rack in oven and lightly sprinkle with salt. 

They were so good, we ate them all because I’d made no duds.  And next time The Kid comes for dinner we’re making pimento cheese and fried green tomato sandwiches, just like Granny’s sells at the State Fair (WooHoo! State Fair! Next month! Can’t wait!).

After dinner I called Tim and Misha to thank them and offer to make some for them.

Misha’s from New York.  She passed.

Bless her poor Yankee heart, she doesn’t know what she’s missing.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Puppy On The Couch

Mr. Crowley Pants.

When The Kid turned 15, Petey and I were constantly high-fiving each other.  We had a teenager who was kind, polite, helpful, and an all-round joy to be around.  We were the best parents in the history of parents.

And then.

And then, The Kid went upstairs for bed one night and didn’t come down the next morning. 

Instead, what came down those stairs was some kind of monstrous, hideous mockery of our sweet child.  We, the parents, were deemed too lame to exist.  There was so much eye-rolling it’s a wonder blindness didn’t ensue. 

We asked ourselves how we could’ve been so wrong about our parenting skills.  No two worse parents ever lived.


Before Crowley, our Yugo-sized Akita, we had another Akita, Steve, and a 200-pound Anatolian shepherd named Riker.

Riker was the most loving dog I’ve ever known, and Steve was as gentle as the breath of a fawn.  Although a full-blooded Akita, he never showed a hint of the aggressiveness that many people think define the breed.

So, of course, Petey and I thought, “We got this.  We could make rabid badgers docile enough to sleep with newborn babies.”

Then, we got Crowley, a black Akita puppy as solid as a tank. 

He and I walk miles a day around our neighborhood, greeting everyone we meet.

Everything went well until Crowley was about eighteen months old. 

He started becoming aggressive.  With us, and a short list of humans that he adores, he was and remains, sweet and wildly affectionate.  But he’d growl when anyone else got too close.

Then came the day my father; the man who gave me my love for canines, the man who’s almost more dog than man, met him.  When he knelt down to him, Riker knocked him over on purpose.  My dad wasn’t hurt, and Riker didn’t bite him, but my heart was broken.

My Dad and Riker. Can you see the grin on that happy dog’s kisser?

I felt like a parent who’d raised a serial killer.  I called our vet, crying so hard I could barely tell her what happened.  She suggested a behaviorist.  We made an appointment.

The thing was, he didn’t do a thing for the dog.

I was the patient. 

I kept saying, “But Steve…” 

Finally, he said, “debbie, this is not Steve.  You need to accept that and help Crowley to have the best life he can.  He’s not dangerously vicious, but he is what he is.”

So, we learned coping strategies to keep him focused and bought a soft, flexible, plastic muzzle for when he’s outside.  It’s really for me (no smarty-pants Gentle Reader, I don’t wear the muzzle).  It’s so that I know no matter what happens, my dog will never bite anyone, human or dog. 

I’ve kept up the long walks, and he’s become calmer and steadier.  We’ve begun carefully reintroducing familiar people, and each encounter has gone well.  We’re cautiously optimistic.

The lesson I learned with Crowley is something we should keep in mind with everyone, every day.  Preconceptions, and assuming someone knows the lines of the script we’ve written in our heads is the road to disappointment, discord, and the deepest of doo-doo. 

Like that dog shrink said, “This may not be exactly what you expected, but it’s what you have.  Deal with the reality you’ve got.”

And that horrible teenager/hobgoblin that resembled The Kid?

About ten months after it showed up, one morning our sweet child came downstairs for breakfast, and the teenaged beast was never seen again.  Heck, every once in a while, The Kid even apologizes for the trauma that pod person rained down upon us.

So yeah, I think we crushed that parenting thing…

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

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.