We have a lot of cameras in this house. I’m not sure how many, but a lot. I have five … six if you include the one I never use. Garry’s got two and I don’t know how many Bob has got, but all told, it’s quite a few.

Yet somehow, Bonnie has eluded our lenses and believe me, we have tried. Garry and I have been trying for 7 years. I have many blurry pictures of Bonnie’s butt as she runs out the doggie door.

Bonnie by Bob Mielke. Our little black rag bag. Are those eyes or something stuck in her coat?

Bonnie by Bob Mielke. Our little black rag-bag. Are those eyes or something stuck in her coat?

I have pictures of Bonnie asleep — which is the only time she is still — and I think at least one of her begging for something to eat. Otherwise, all the pictures of Bonnie have been with Garry firmly holding her. Sometimes it looks like he is strangling her.

Bonnie -- By Bob Mielke. Look world, she has eyes!

Bonnie — By Bob Mielke. Look world, she has eyes!

Bob’s been here just a month, but has managed to get two really good pictures of Bonnie. One shows her before her haircut. The other, afterwards. And you can see her eyes!

The first shot shows her in her natural state — looking like a pile of dirty black rags. Sometimes with eyes, often without any indication that there’s a dog in that mess.

We are hoping for future shots that show her more gloriously Scottie-ish. We will all keep trying. And she will keep running away before we can press the shutter.


I live in a small town. Just under 13,000 people call Uxbridge home. The village, or as we say around here, “downtown,” has a classic brick town hall, circa 1879, an elegant old library, and several other historic buildings.

Our neighboring town, Millville, makes Uxbridge look like Metropolis.

Their town hall is a unit in an old condo building. The center of town is a sub shop. There’s no sign to indicate you are in Millville, so it’s easy to miss. When you get there, it will be closed anyway. The following notice is posted on Millville’s website:

Due to budget constraints, effective immediately the Town Clerk’s office will only be open on Mondays from 9am-1pm and Wednesday evenings from 6pm-8pm for public assistance. If you cannot be at the Municipal Center during these scheduled hours, please call the Town Clerk’s Office to schedule an appointment.m

There are approximately 3100 people living in Millville, spread out thinly.

Perhaps 7  or 8 years ago, the town of Millville decided they needed a Deputy Animal Control Officer. I don’t remember how I heard about the job. It may have been a tip from our local animal control officer who knew I liked animals and needed part-time work.


This was about as part-time as a job could be. The pay was $1200 per year, payable semi-annually. Before taxes.

Millville already had a Senior Animal Control Officer who was theoretically in charge, but passionately fond of golf. I suspect he also had a full-time job elsewhere. So, in exchange for $600 every 6 months, I would have the official title of Deputy Animal Control Officer. I would be on call 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

I’m basically an optimist. I figured Millville is tiny. How many calls could there be? I took the job. I was sworn in, just like in the movies, hand on the Bible. I promised to protect and serve.


A mere couple of hours later, I got my first call. A homeowner had found an almost dead skunk by their trash bin and wanted it taken away. It was my first call — a Sunday morning — so my “senior officer” thought he should come along, show me the ropes as it were.

Photo: Greenshield Pest Control

Photo: Greenshield Pest Control

Luckily, the skunk did the right thing and went from nearly dead to absolutely dead while I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. I was informed by my erstwhile boss that the skunk had probably been rabid and I should not touch it. If the skunk had not died on his own, I would have been obliged to shoot it.

Me: “Shoot it?”

Boss: “Yes, shoot it. With the rifle.”

Me: “Rifle? What rifle?”

Boss: “Oh, didn’t I mention that? We have a couple of rifles in the office. When an animal is behaving suspiciously, you have to shoot it.”

Me: “Behaving suspiciously?”

Boss: “You know, approaching people rather than running away. Acting weird. Most of the animals you’ll get calls about are rabid. There’s a lotta rabies around here so you don’t want to get close. Just shoot’em.”

Rabies. Shoot the animals. $100 a month. I was getting that creepy feeling I get when I think maybe I’ve signed up for something, the implications of which I had failed to fully grasp.

After we bagged the skunk to send to the county animal medical examiner, I promised to go to city hall as soon as they reopened to discuss guns and the other equipment I would need. Like shovels, leather gloves, heavy-duty plastic trash bags (the non-human version of body bags), tags for the medical examiner. Forms to fill out. Oh, and where to put the corpses. Turns out, you can’t just stack them up in city hall.

My boss was not upset that I’d never handled a real weapon. I’d never shot anything currently or previously alive. I was puzzled about what I was supposed to do if I got a call, actually needed a rifle, but it was locked up at city hall which was pretty much always closed.


Would the offending animal make an appointment for a more convenient time? Or wait for me to call someone, get them to unlock the gun cabinet, then hang around while I drove over to get it, then drove back to shoot him? Are the rabid animals of Millville that cooperative? Was I supposed to keep the big hunting rifle in my house in case I needed it? The rabies thing had me spooked, too.

When I was finally able to get to city hall, I demanded a rabies vaccination. No way was I going to handle rabid animals without a vaccination. They pointed out rabies vaccinations are expensive and I was only the deputy. They suggested I pay for it myself.

Me: “How much will it cost?”

Clerk: “Around $450.”

Me: “That’s four and a half months pay.”

Clerk: “Well, we don’t normally pay for it.”

Me: “I’m not doing this unless I’m vaccinated.”

It turned out that the animal medical examiner could provide me with the appropriate vaccination, so Garry — who had begun to look alarmed — drove me to the doctor. While the doctor prepared the inoculation, we got a rundown of exactly how common rabies is in our neck of the woods.

“Why,” he said, “Just last week they found a deer with rabies. Chipmunks, skunk, fox, coyotes, squirrels, deer … even possums get rabies.” The only exceptions are rabbits who are naturally immune. Go figure.

The following day, I got another call. A really big snapping turtle had wandered into the road and was blocking traffic. It didn’t sound too threatening, so armed with my shoulder-high heavy leather gauntlets (no rifle), I drove to the site and met the snapping turtle from Hell.


Keep in mind that there is water everywhere in the valley. Not only the Blackstone, but all its tributaries, feeder creeks, lakes, brooks, ponds, pools, and swamps. Snapping turtles are called common for good reason. They live just about everywhere you find water. Undoubtedly, the big snapper had wandered into the road, lost his bearings. Someone needed to grab the turtle and carry him back on the river side of the road. That someone was me.

This turtle was not in the water, not docile. His beak was sharp. His neck was extremely flexible. Not my kind of nature pal.

So there I was, by the side of the road, trying to figure out how I could grab him. He was approximately 30 pounds of pissed turtle. He seemed pretty agile to me. He could move. Okay, maybe he’d lose a footrace to a rabbit, but he could trundle along at a nice pace. And he had that snaky neck and was determined to bite me.


Meanwhile, an entire construction crew — big brawny guys who were supposed to be repairing the bridge — were watching. They didn’t seem eager to help. In fact, they were the ones who called in the first place.

I eventually herded him across the road. I looked at those jaws, looked at my leather gloves, did a quick mental calculation as to strength of gloves versus power of turtle’s jaws, decided the gloves weren’t all that sturdy.

My personal weapon: a Red Ryder BB rifle

My personal weapon: a Red Ryder BB rifle

Have you ever tried herding a turtle? Of course not. You can’t herd a turtle, but I did. I don’t know exactly how I got him across the road. I know there was a big shovel involved, but otherwise, it’s a blur. The next thing I remember doing after getting the turtle over to the river side of the road, was calling the clerk and resigning.

The turtle was enough for me. I figured if I didn’t get out quick, they’d have me hunting rabid coyotes with a large gun and I’d shoot my foot off.

They tried to bill me for the rabies shot. We settled for not paying me. I think I got the better part of the deal.




Given the furor over gay marriage, it should have come as no surprise that there would be hysterical outrage over the legalized joining of humans with their favorite device, animal, mineral, or plant.

As soon as the technology became available, millions of teenagers raced to fuse with their cell phones, nerds with their computers, aviators with fighter planes, animal rights activists with their favorite vanishing species (leading some to wonder if this will not signal the death knell for many species) and tree huggers with large forests. Fundamentalist Christian groups — never imagining the far-reaching implications of this law — scrambled to get out of church and on the street.


“Clearly,” stated the Reverend Righteous P. Indignation, spokesman for the Church of the Ridiculous Assumption, “This is not what God had in mind. Although the Bible does not specifically mention marriage — or fusion — with non-human things, this can’t be right in His eyes.” Indignation’s statement was greeted by catcalls, neighing, bleats, beeps and a goodly amount of shrill ringing.

Many, mirroring the human yearning for the freedom of flight have chosen to form a union with some kind of bird. Eagles were most popular, with geese, swans, and other water fowl close behind. Racing enthusiasts have become mostly horse, often with the rear end as the dominant segment while their bookies have chosen chainsaws and jack hammers.

While corporations hustled to reinvent themselves in light of a weirdly altered target audience, communications providers from television to Hollywood tried to reconfigure everything from seating in stadiums to snacks at movie kiosks.

The potential impact on major sports has not yet been calculated. Some prefer to be a ball and others a bat, so to speak.

Only Walmart, ever sanguine, merely widened aisles in super-stores.

“We never care what customers look like,” said a spokesman. “If they look or behave like sheep or cattle, as long as they pay at the register, everyone is welcome at Wally World.”


If you own pets, buying a vacuum cleaner is a big deal. Regular non-pet owning people go to a store and buy a vacuum. Any reasonably good machine will do the job and last for years.


For those of us who have more than one furry friend, buying a vacuum cleaner is a major life event.

In this house, pet hair is not a sidebar: it is, as David Frye says, a condiment. During high shedding season, the house looks like someone slashed open a cushion and spread the stuffing around. Vacuuming and sweeping is a daily task. Failing to vacuum for a couple of days might make the house a candidate for condemnation.

When our Australian Shepherd is blowing his coat, no amount of vacuuming is enough. Everything is covered in fur. I always swore I would never own a dog with so much fur, but promises are made to be broken.


If you happen to own a heavy coated dog or cat (or several), you are always looking for a better vacuum cleaner. It’s a mission. Thus a purchase is an event requiring consultation, discussion and complex negotiations.

What are the parameters? Mostly, that baby has to suck. I want a machine that will pull the wall-to-all off the floor, suck the cushions off the sofa and eat the draperies.

Bonnie morning

It has to be easy to clean because pet hair really clogs the works.

Last, but far from least, there’s the price tag. If I don’t keep clearing it, no vacuum will survive. Small, light machines are a waste of money. Cheap gets expensive when you have to replace it twice in three years.

After burning out two vacuum cleaners in a year, we got a Hoover Commercial Portapower Vacuum Cleaner.

Small and agile, it has done surprisingly well. The review that sold me said: “This little commercial vacuum cleaner is one of the best buys out there. I can clean up Great Pyrenees hair with ease and empty out the bag and start over again without clogging up the vacuum like other machines I have killed with dog hair.”

So far, so good. Against all odds, it is still working. Now, does anyone have a recommendation for an upright? Something that will really suck, please.


26 August 2015: GEESE

It’s Frisbee Wednesday again. Time just scoots right past me and this summer has been a blur, a whoosh of color. Bright blue skies and puffy white clouds. Spider bites and boats. Green shade trees on the town common and the cool green waters of the river.

This is the 20th prompt I’ve done. I am having trouble accounting for at least 20 weeks of my life.

And today … it’s …

Goosey goosey gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady’s chamber.
There I met an old man
Who wouldn’t say his prayers,
So I took him by his left leg
And threw him down the stairs.

Nursery Rhyme by Mother Goose

These were wild geese. They were willing to share space with us … as long as we didn’t get too close.

The geese were not afraid of us, nor were they tame. Not “office park” geese either. The geese who take up residence in parking lots will boldly go where no goose has gone before, are afraid of nothing. At least nothing human.

We did our best to be stealthy. No door slamming, driving into the parking lot slowly, quietly. No talking. Getting the cameras out in the car, then walking softly, getting as close as we could without making the birds nervous.

Having long zoom lenses on our cameras helped too.

And then. there was the day I encountered this goose. He pretty much posed for me, giving me his good side. Sidling right up to me, apparently wanting a handout.


Turned out, he was a domestic, pet goose from a nearby farm who just dropped by and wanted to be paid for his personal appearance.


As usual, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to pick one of my pictures or any of your own photographs and write about it. Directly, tangentially, sadly or with humor.

This message will self destruct in …

FIVE … FOUR … THREE … TWO … ONE … (long pause) …


Oops, still here. Never mind.


We’ve been on a roll these past few days, the “angst mojo” temporarily set aside.


Now, we’re home, after spending a couple of wonderful days in Connecticut with old friends, sharing memories that date back to college and the 60’s when we and our world were young.

Ellin and Tom are special folks. Ellin gets top billing because she’s so quiet and often taken for granted.


She is the hostess — no matter what else she is coping with in her family life. She’s the woman you thought only existed in the movies or those old TV shows where everything is seemingly perfect.


Ellin is multi-talented. Superb cook, budding author, wife and mom. She’s humble about all her achievements. Amazing when she is surrounded by two guys with 80 plus years combined in radio and TV news. Guys who are often nonstop with their stories about the BIZ. Ellin and Marilyn have a special bond in that respect.

Gracious, I think, is the best word to describe Ellin. Like us, she and Tom always have furry kids around who brighten their lives. It’s nice to visit and come back with fur on our clothing. Makes it seem just like home.

Tom is the kid  who never grew up. We’ve known him since JFK was in the oval office. He is recently retired after 40 years as a highly respected director and audio expert with CBS News.

He’s still active, producing and directing cracker jack (does anyone say that anymore?) radio drama. Tom and Ellin actually are an impressive acting, writing and jack-of-all-trades team in radio drama that deserves a wider audience. Their work is far superior to the stuff being offered by network suits.


A day on Tom and Ellin’s boat is just what the doctor ordered for Marilyn and me. It’s a perfect day. Sunny, warm and with just a slight breeze. Surprise! Ellin has a lunch spread ready before we can settle in.

It allows me to fantasize as I survey other boats. Maybe we’ll see Bogey on Santana, Travis McGee and The Busted Flush, Slate Shannon with Bold Venture or maybe Grant and Hepburn on  True Love. Who knows what can happen as you dream?

My reverie is interrupted as Tom shares some more stories that have all of us roaring with laughter. In between we compare family drama that have us nodding at each other.


Then it’s back to more silliness and laughter. These are the best of times.

All photography by Garry Armstrong or Marilyn Armstrong with the Pentax Q7.