HOW GRIFFIN BROKE TINKER’S HEART

Tinker and Griffon were almost exactly the same age. We got them a few months apart. Griffon was deemed not-breedable because he had a problem with a rear leg. It was fixed before he came to us and was neutered. His intended bride had been Tinker who was fine and healthy. I got her on a “one litter” contingency. But when the time for breeding arrived, I was afraid. I had a lot of breeder friends by then. I knew at least one woman who had lost not only the pups, but also the mother. She was devastated, She stopped breeding and showing. These weren’t just show dogs. They were her family pets and the mother had been her favorite.

Tinker

Breeding isn’t always easy. Depending on the dog’s structure — how the hips are built — short-legged dogs can be difficult and may require a Caesarean. You need to know what’s going on to know when the bitch is in trouble. They sometimes decide to give birth in the middle of the night and you don’t know until morning that you’ve become a grandmother. I decided I was not the right person to breed. Too much danger and I knew too little. I am sure I was right.

Both hounds were Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen (French rabbit hounds), typically called “Petites” or “PBGVs.”

I had never heard of these dogs. They were newly registered in the U.S. As a dedicated dog show watcher, I saw them first at Westminster and they were such deliciously goofy dogs, I wanted one. I didn’t want three, though that is what I ultimately got. We already had Divot, our little former champion who became ours when she retired from the ring. I wanted one more and thus acquired Pagan (Goose Creek’s Ch. Dancing in the Dark) because she already had two litters by Caesarean and her owner felt that was enough.

Pagan was the sweetest dog I ever knew — unless she had a bone. Give that girl a bone and she became a dragon guarding treasure in her lair — which was the crate we use as an end table. I keep it because you never know when you might need a crate, especially if you have an injured dog and you need to keep them from hurting themselves.

Dogs like their crates. To them, it’s the cave. They store things in it. Old bones, pieces of torn up napkins, toys, parts of things that used to be something else. They safeguard these treasures by hiding them under the blankets in the crate. Our dogs have all been crate decorators. We would wash all the blankets and whatever other items got tossed into the crate, In it, you’d find old towels, nightgowns, old bathmats, blankets from your last move — you name it. Periodically, when it got too smelly, Garry would remove everything (so THAT’S where the remote control went!), wash and fold them all neatly. Next, whoever was King or Queen of the crate, would go inside and tear the place up, drag out all the bedding, then drag it back in until it was properly arranged. Dog-style.

 

Sometimes this re-decorating process could take a whole day. As a blanket got dragged out, dragged in, rearranged, then redone until it formed the perfect heap. That’s were Pagan went with her bones and after a while, the crate began to look like a dinosaur’s graveyard. And eventually, because the competition for bones got too dangerous, we stopped giving them bones. Besides, Pagan always wound up with all of them anyway.

Pagan died at age 7 of nothing we could figure out. The vet thought it might have been Lyme disease, but it never came up in a test. Whatever it was, it destroyed her kidneys. She was in a lot of pain. By then, we already owned Tinker who was Pagan’s granddaughter so we did an autopsy see if something was wrong with Pagan that might be genetic. Nothing showed up and we never knew what killed her. After Pagan passed, we had Divot, our beautiful little Norwich Terrier and Tinker, which was when another breeder offered us Griffin. He and Tinker were meant to be a pair and since he was not going to be shown or bred, he was shipped to us.

He was such a gorgeous boy! Handsome and he had a sense of humor. PBGVs love to make you laugh. People sometimes call them “clown dogs” because they will go out of their way to make you laugh.

Griffin and Tinker fell in love. Tinker adored him and you never saw them apart. They ate together, slept together, played together. Quite literally, they were inseparable. But then, another girl showed up. A friend had a spare Norwich Terrier from an unusually large litter and since we already had Divot, she though we might need another one. From the moment she came into the house, Griffin started to drool over her. He dumped Tinker and went after Sally.

 

Tinker was devastated. She got depressed and wouldn’t come out of the corner. She started to destroy anything she could get her teeth around, especially Kaity’s toys and remote controls. We didn’t get along with Sally and found another home for her. She had, it turned out, bad hips and couldn’t manage the stairs and was, as dogs go, the stupidest dog I ever met. She couldn’t figure out how to use a step stool to get from floor to sofa, something that every dog we’ve owned has figured out with no teaching involved. And getting her to use the doggy door took four people and about a pound of liverwurst. Between the bad hips and the lack of brain power, she was rehomed and adored in the home to which she went.

Griffin tried to make up with Tinker, but Tinker would have none of it. She was the smartest dog we’ve ever had. Tinker the Thinker. She could open any gate AND close it silently. If there was a complex dog problem — like how to get that loaf of bread out of the breadbox and open it, Tinker would drag furniture over for climbing, get up on the counter, open the breadbox, get the bread, open the bag neatly, without an tearing or chewing. She could open new jars of peanut butter without leaving a fang mark on the lid and tear the guts our of any electronic device in seconds. She was as close to human as a dog gets and she never, ever forgave Griffin. She never played with him and wouldn’t share the sofa.

Poor boy. He was such a dog and Tinker was not the girl to put up with an unfaithful hound. She never played with any dog again until Bonnie came here as a tiny puppy and then, for the next year, Tinker came out of her shell and played. She even sometimes let Griffin sleep next to her.

A year later, Griffin had a massive stroke and died … and six weeks later, Tinker collapsed. She had, as it turned out, cancer just about everywhere. And that was the end of the hounds.

The hounds had beautiful singing voices and every morning, they would start the dawn howl and all the other dogs would join in. it was how they greeted the morning. When Griffin and Tinker were gone, no dog has howled since. If I ever open a pub, I’ll call it “The Hounds and Terriers.” And everyone will howl.

LOST LOVE?

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #4

I think I’m married to my lost love. So I guess he isn’t lost. Garry was never lost. He was just too busy. I had to wait until his career was less important than his emotional life. We married in 1990 — and thirty years later, I’m still glad. Is this story too short?  Is it even a story?

Amazing how time changed us in those seventeen years, isn’t it? 

FORGIVE AND FORGET?

I absolutely believe in forgiveness, but forgetting? I remember. I may not remain angry about the things I remember, but I don’t forget them, either. I keep a tally. If you’ve betrayed me, lied to me, broken your promises, not been there when I needed you or sometimes, just not been there at all … I remember. It’s not necessarily a grudge. I can forgive bad behavior, but I’m not stupid enough to let myself get betrayed repeatedly by the same person. Twice gives you an asterisk and a footnote: “Not someone I can depend on.” The footnote is permanent. Thrice? I tend to quietly slip away, if not from the person, then from whatever kind of incident was involved.

Any number of combinations can be extrapolated from this, including:

  1. I may refuse to forgive or forget — and hold a grudge. I’m not planning revenge, but you aren’t invited to my party.
  2. I forgive you. I remember everything and won’t trust you when I know you to be untrustworthy. Not holding a grudge, but I am wary.
  3. I forgive you. I pretend to forget because I love you so much I will let you do what you do because that’s just you and you can’t help it. Every now and again, I’ll get really mad about it but real love wins.
  4. I forgive you but I remember everything. No grudge — except I never want to see you again. I don’t hate you, but I do want you out of my life. Permanently.

There are lots of permutations based on combinations of forgiving, forgetting (not) and the holding grudges.

Forgiveness is not the same as “let’s be pals again.” Damage has been done. A sincere apology helps but I am unlikely to trust you after you have hurt me. Most people get a free pass for one hurting. People I adore get two and sometimes more free passes because love is more powerful than the hurt. But after that, be careful. Because when I decide to drop someone from my life, I never change my mind. It’s permanent. Even if I wish I could change it, I can’t. I never have. If I sever ties, they stay severed.

With my moon solidly in Scorpio, forgetting is impossible. Pisces sun? I forgive, but I remember. I don’t plan vengeance, don’t even wish ill on people them, but I won’t give them another shot at me either. I don’t even stay angry. It’s as if all the feeling I had goes cold.

As far as I’m concerned, all this means is I learn from the past.

EASY ANSWER TO A COMPLICATED QUESTION

I asked. He answered. He asked, I answered. We’ve been together ever since. Here’s how it happened. It began on the ferry ride back from Martha’s Vineyard. We’d spent a magical week. It was obvious that Something Was Happening.

72-question-answer-bouquet_-8

From there, we moved on to living together. Sort of. We each had our own place, but were almost always together in one or the other. With a lot of driving in between. As both of us were working full-time, we didn’t get a lot of time to relax together. Things were bound to change, but there was in no rush. I had no plans for moving on.

I’d gone to California on business for a couple of weeks. I came back  a few days early because I got the flu. Which was just as well, because an earthquake — the one that stopped the World Series on October 17, 1989 — occurred the following day. If I’d stayed, I’d have been crushed under a collapsed highway.

A few weeks later, Garry had a few questions for me. He suggested we go out to dinner. Nice place on the dock in Boston. Garry was uncharacteristically nervous. I could tell because he drove around Leverett Circle half a dozen times on the way to the wharf . He kept missing the turn. As he drove, he explained he’d had a conversation with a pal about real estate. Prices were down. Maybe we should buy something. Live together. Like maybe … forever? Was forever okay with me? Having listened awhile, I said: “Let me see if I’ve got this right. You want to buy a house? Move in and live together? Forever? As in married?”

“All of that,” he said, and drove around the loop one more time.

This time, I said “Yes.”

The following morning, I asked Garry if I could tell my friends. He said “Tell them what?”

“That we’re getting married,” I said.

“We are?”

“You said we should buy a house and live together forever.”

“Is that a proposal?”

“It is where I come from,” I assured him. I had to remind him about buying a ring, but eventually he realized all he had to do was give me a ring, set a date, tell me what he wanted in the way of a wedding (everything, really everything). After which he could show up in a tux and be married. We got married 6 months later having known each other only 26 years.

I asked, he said “yes.” He asked, I said “yes.” Not so complicated after all.

I LOVE YOU – RICH PASCHALL

No, You Don’t, by Rich Paschall


In his early adult life, George was a rather active young man.  He kept a moderate social schedule.  He met with friends, did a little volunteer work, and even joined a bowling team for a few years.  As the years wore on, George became less active, saw less of his friends, and was mostly invisible to the neighborhood.

As he passed fifty years of age, he kept to himself and seldom visited friends and family.  There was little family left actually, and the cousins seemed to have forgotten about old George.  This is not to say that George was totally inactive, for that was not the case at all.  He did a lot of maintenance on the old house.  He spent plenty of time doing gardening in the spring and summer.  He even tried to learn a new language online.

He signed up for a language site that had a social component.  On the site, you could help someone learn your language and someone else could help you learn theirs.  The site gave learners the opportunity to ask others for a chat in the language they were learning.  Since this was all anonymous, you could decline to chat.

George was not bold enough to ask anyone to chat with him live, but others contacted him when they saw an English speaker on-line and he would always accept.  Some visitors came and went quickly but a few became friends as George explained life in his city and heard about theirs.  It was all very exciting for the older, single gentleman to be talking with young people around the world.  George had a friend in France, Egypt, Russia, and Brazil.  He also had a friend in another South American country who liked George a lot.

In South America
In South America

Soon George and Jonathon were friends on Facebook and talking on Messenger and Skype.  They chatted about their countries, cities, jobs.  After a while, they were talking every day, even if only briefly.  Both loved the attention they were getting from the other.

When they were nearing the end of a year of friendship in December, George was surprised to learn he could not roll over his remaining four vacation days to the following year.  Jon, of course, felt that George should come to South America and spend some time with him.  Jon was not originally from the big city where he lived, so he had few friends and no family there.  He was excited at the thought that George would visit.

Aside from never having met Jon in person, George felt that the 30 year age difference would mean they would soon be bored with one another.  Besides, George never had a desire to go to South America or just about any place else any longer.  But Jon was persistent and George decided to be adventurous.

True to his word, Jon was waiting at the airport.  He greeted George like a long-lost friend.  He spent every minute with him for four days.  They traveled around the city like tourists.  They spent an evening in the street watching an important soccer match and celebrating with the locals.  They spent another evening at something that was like a Christmas market.  There they had local beer and too much guava liquor, frequently ordered by one of Jon’s friends.

An impulsive visit to South America
An impulsive visit to South America

The weather was perfect the entire time. Jon was nicer than George could ever imagine.  He was a good cook an excellent host.  The last-minute vacation was one of the best ever.

Upon his return home, Jon called or wrote every day.  George thought that when they met in person Jon would see that he was a lot older and the friendship would die down, but in truth, the opposite happened.  Jon’s enthusiasm for the impulsive visit did not wane.

Not knowing what to make of this friendship, George called on Arthur, an old friend, to discuss the matter.  They met at a local inn and George proceeded to explain the whole story.  He told how they met, how the friendship developed over the year, and that he impulsively went to visit.  George had never mentioned Jon to anyone before.  Now he was telling the entire history.

“By the way,” George said, “he does not want me to mention that we met on the internet because people might get the wrong idea.”

“What idea is that?” Arthur asked.

“I don’t know,” George exclaimed.

“So what’s the problem?” Arthur wanted to know after listening to over 45 minutes about some South American guy he had never met or seen.

“He calls every day or leaves a message to say he loves me and misses me!”

“So?”

“He wants to come here and be with me.  He says he will be my prince.”

“Oh,” Arthur responded as if the light bulb just went on.

George went on to detail his responses.  “I explained I was not rich and he would have to get a job.  Despite my efforts, his English still sucks and he would have to improve.  The weather here is very different from his homeland, and he knows no one else here”

“What does he say to all these points,” Arthur inquired.

“I love you!  What kind of response is that?  Besides, I am too old for him, but he just says we will be together as long as God wills.”  George took a deep breath and continued

“So, I told him he just says that because he wants to come to America.  Since I like him very much I offered that he could come and stay and I would introduce him around and take him to places where he can meet other young people.”

“And?” Arthur prompted.

“And he said he does not want to meet others, he just wants to be with me.  I don’t know what’s wrong with the young man.”

“There is one distinct possibility,” Arthur said with a knowing tone to his comment.

“What?”

“He really loves you,” Arthur said simply.

George looked at him as if he did not understand the words Arthur just said.  After a long pause, George finally spoke.

“What?”

Next week: Jon’s side of the story.

ENAMORED IS LOVE OF MANY THINGS – Marilyn Armstrong

If I were talking about a person — a real, live one and not a screen-idol or a character in a book — I would never use “enamored” to describe the relationship. To me, enamored means “fascinated” or maybe “entranced” by something. Not necessarily someone, either.

I can easily be enamored by things, like a particular food, a camera, a  lens, a fast car. Even by something I use in the kitchen and occasionally, by food preparation itself.

I can become enamored by a location. A river, a dam. The pond where the swans live or how the mist lays heavy on the beach as the sun rises. When I had a sports car (oh, too briefly!), I was totally smitten by its ability to accelerate from zero to whoopee in nanoseconds. It actually made my heart pound when it took off, almost in flight.

Of what am I currently enamored?

Orchids.

 

And I’m most particularly enamored by the light of the sun. We’ve had so little of it this year. We’ve had clouds and grey skies. Wind. Heavy rain. Bone chilly nights.

And waiting for life to come back. I hope I’m still young enough to enjoy it.

RELATIONSHIPS CAN GET EASIER WITH TIME – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I believe that one of the benefits of age and experience is that romantic relationships should be easier than when we were young.

When I was young and married for the first time, I was insecure and didn’t know how to stand up for myself. But I was way too rigid and sure of my opinions and views and way too intolerant of people with other perspectives. I was hypersensitive to any slights or criticisms yet unsure how to express those feelings constructively. Looking back I realize how difficult I was, in many ways.

When I met Tom, my second husband, at age 49, after 25 years of marriage and two kids, I was a different person. More confident and not willing to put up with shit from people, yet easy-going and accepting of differences. Tom and I bonded instantly over the similarities between both of our mentally ill exes.

We got along seamlessly and talked until 3 AM on our first date. We spent the next weekend together and from that point on, we were a couple. That was 20 years ago. We didn’t marry for three and a half years, mainly because my kids were still living at home. But we knew we were till death do us part from the very beginning.

Tom and I on our first trip together early in our relationship

Our relationship has been as easy and positive as our prior marriages were difficult and negative. We understood what was important in a relationship – two ‘normal’ people who respect and accept each other as we are; who enjoy and appreciate each other without reservation, and who support each other 100% no matter what. All the rest is window dressing (except making each other laugh and the passion part, which goes without saying). Maybe we should have known all this in our twenties, but we obviously didn’t. We thought we could ‘help’ or ‘change’ our spouses. That rarely works.

My relationship with Tom has been smooth since day one because when there’s an issue, we talk about it and it’s over. We don’t hold grudges or bring up past issues. We deal with the issue at hand and never attack the other person. Then we immediately go back to friendly behavior with no anger residue. All of this is basic ‘Relationship 101’ advice. But I think time and experience helped us understand the importance of these maxims.

Another trip before we got married

I have two friends, one in her mid-fifties and the other in her late sixties, who have been dating online. Each had a recent nine-month to one-year relationship that ended a few months ago. Both of these relationships were difficult and up and down with lots of negative mixed in with the positive.

I felt that these men were wrong for my friends because they weren’t a good fit. It wasn’t ‘easy’ for them to be together. These women saw the negatives but didn’t want to give up on the positives. One woman kept questioning if she should break up with this guy and the other actually did break up, at least two or three times. I just don’t believe that if a person is right for you, things should be that full of angst at our ages. No roller coasters for the fifty and over crowd if you’ve found ‘the one’.

Luckily both women have met new guys with whom things are going smoothly and quickly.

One had a first date on a Saturday night that lasted till Tuesday! Way to go! The other said she felt so comfortable with this new guy after just a few dates that it felt like they’d been together for a long time. That’s what I’m talking about! Both women have slipped easily into relationships with major positives and no major negatives. No obvious ‘red flags’. They both feel as if this is too good to be true but they’re going with the flow and enjoying every minute.

This is the first time with these friends that I feel they’ve found the right guy for them. At this stage of life, it should come relatively easy if it’s right! I wished for them what I had with Tom from day one and I think my wish for them has come true.

WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW – RICH PASCHALL

Peace and Love Songs, by Rich Paschall


With all the hate, violence, disease and anger in the world, it seems like a good time to reach for some peace and love.  There was a time when music spoke to the social conscience of society.  In the late 1960s and the 1970s in particular, the force of music moved our hearts and our society away from war and civil disruption and toward a calmer more loving society, at least on the surface anyway.  The rallies, the marches, and the songs all spoke, or should I say sang out, to the need we had then to stop the violence.

No H8
No H8

It’s a much different society today.  When we return to a normal way of life,  perhaps a few months from now, I am not sure the rallies for peace and songs about love will move us in the right direction.  It doesn’t hurt to try, however, so I bring you some moments of peace.  You will be able to find all of these and a few others on a playlist on my YouTube channel.

So, it’s time to ask “What’s Going On?” as we look “From A Distance” for “Joy To The World.” “People Got To Be Free” and “We Have Got To Have Peace.”  Sing out in joy with the “Rainbow Race” and “Let There Be Peace On Earth.”

10. Get Together – The Youngbloods, 1967.
Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry

09. Why Can’t We Live Together? – original Timmy Thomas, 1972 – Sade, 1984.
Tell me why, tell me why, tell me why.
Why can’t we live together?
Tell me why, tell me why.
Why can’t we live together?

08. Why Can’t We Be Friends? – War, 1975.
I seen ya around for a long, long time
I really remember you when you drank my wine
Why can’t we be friends
Why can’t we be friends

PHOTO: The Beatles, left to right, Paul McCartney, George Harrison (1943-2001), Ringo Starr and John Lennon (1940 – 1980) arrive at London Airport February 6, 1964 (Photo by Getty Images)

07. Imagine – John Lennon, 1971.
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

06. Give Me Love – George Harrison, 1973.
Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth

05. Peace Train – Cat Stevens, 1971. This was Stevens’ first Top 10 hit in the US.
Oh, I’ve been smiling lately
Dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be
Some day it’s going to come

04. Give Peace A Chance – John Lennon, 1969. This Lennon/Paul McCartney composition was Lennon’s first solo single.
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

03. All You Need Is Love – The Beatles, 1967.  Another Lennon/McCartney song was a single in ’67 and Britain’s contribution to the first worldwide television broadcast by a satellite link.
All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

02. Love Train – The O’Jays, 1972.  It was their only number 1 record.  Here they ride with the Soul Train too.
People all over the world (everybody)
Join hands (join)
Start a love train, love train

01. What The World Needs Now Is Love – Jackie DeShannon, 1965. The popular tune was written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone

For 6 through 10 above, click on the title to go to the video. Since you have had to “Hunker in the Bunker,” you may wish to hear all of them together, along with a few bonus plays. Click on the playlist to go to 15 Peace and Love songs.

THEN SHE SUMMED UP FAITH IN ONE SENTENCE – Marilyn Arnstrong

I had a very dear friend who was going through a terrible time of her life, yet her Christian faith never wavered. She once told me you could sum up Christianity in a sentence.

“What is that?” I asked.

Marilyn Baker

“Christ died,” she answered, “so we would be nice to each other, even before morning coffee.” Then she smiled and took a sip from her cup.

Be kind to everyone. Even when you don’t feel like it. Maybe especially then.

She has since passed on and I still miss her every day. She was the gateway to my understanding that religious people could be honorable and courageous, not merely plotting hypocrites. She was pure gold.

 

THE SONG IS YOU – Garry Armstrong

One of the great pleasures in my life these days is our car radio. Marilyn, in one of the most thoughtful of her gifts in this past year of discontent, signed us – me really – for Sirius Satellite radio, highlighted by the signature “Siriusly Sinatra” station.  It’s all Sinatra, 24-7.

Not just Sinatra. It’s all of the songs and artists from Tin Pan Alley’s swing halcyon days. Sinatra,  Dino, Sammy, Crosby, Ella, Nat Cole, Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, The Dorsey Brothers, Glenn Miller, Irving Berlin, Jimmy Van Heusen, Sammy Kahn, Cole Porter, Rosie Clooney and other legendary musicians who performed under the umbrella of “Standards.” It’s not just cob-webby LP music. The station also features contemporary artists covering the classics that span more than a century. You’ll marvel at the likes of Springsteen, Dylan, Lady Gaga and Pink riffing Mel Torme, Sassy Sarah Vaughn, Peggy Lee, Etta James, Doris Day, Ol’ Blue Eyes and other voices. Tunesmiths from our youth.

This leads me into the theme of singing in the throne room as I assume most of us do — far from the madding crowd of critics. I don’t possess the same musical talent as my two younger brothers. Hell, it’s a miracle if I carry a tune. Lately, I’ve been serenading myself as I shave (very steady hand!).

Usually, it’s older standard music on the Sinatra station. Or maybe something Marilyn remembers her Mom singing from her childhood.  Marilyn says her Mom usually only remembered one stanza from a tune and would repeat it over and over again. I chuckle along with Marilyn because I do the same thing. Maybe two or three lines repeated myriad times until I forget those lyrics or  I’m done shaving. Then, I move into the shower. The water covering more old songs with misremembered lyrics.

It’s all good for me. Surely, I am the winner of The Lipton Tea Talent Scouts Show with Arthur Godfrey smiling and congratulating me. I’m gonna be the next Nat “King” Cole.  As sure as the turning of the earth!  I just need to pick the right song to cover.

A song that’s me!

Decades ago (The early 70’s), I used to walk around singing the very somber love ballad, “All For The Love Of A Girl.” It was the flip side of Johnny Horton’s “The Ballad of New Orleans.”  I sang “All For the Love …” with deep, sorrowful emotion. On or off the melody? I don’t remember. A lady friend asked, “Garry, why do you always sing such sad songs”?

I replied, “Because I’m sentimental.”

My friend shot back quickly, “No, You’re NOT!” And, you’re also not romantic.”   I suppressed anger and the blemish to my sensitivity.

Years later, the same performance, different song and a similar conversation with Marilyn who echoed the “No, you’re not sentimental. You may like sentimental songs and movies. But it doesn’t make you sentimental or a romantic.” This would lead down a conversational road I didn’t like. The difference between musical tastes and my own personality and behavior,  especially with people who cared about me.  The singer, not the song. But, as usual, I digress.

I chose our Wedding Song.  It was Nat Cole’s “For Sentimental Reasons.”  Marilyn and I slow danced, as bride and groom, to the dreamy ballad. It was supposed to be the standard for my behavior as Marilyn’s husband and dependable mate through good times and bad. The song proved steadier than the groom in the ensuing years.

It’s difficult living up to the romantic lyrics of a popular song when you’re dealing with bread and butter issues like bills, home repairs, and health care and working in the news business which is about as unromantic as work can be. The song isn’t always you. A very hard pill to swallow when you carry yourself off as a romantic or sentimental fella. Recognizing the difference is part of the long road to maturity, awkward when your 78th birthday is just a few, short months away.

Maybe this is part of what Frank Sinatra was trying to explain when we met half a century ago — another story in a different post. I never asked, but Sinatra told me he often felt at odds with some of his sad songs, the love affairs which supposedly went sour in smoky three o’clock in the morning gin joints.  I was the twenty-something filled with the angst of old movies and songs about love found and lost.  I still didn’t have a clue about being a three-dimensional guy ready to take on responsibility with the sensitivity essential to any meaningful relationship.

It would take a long, long time and still hasn’t been fully achieved. I always label myself – “a work in progress.”  The old love songs don’t always cover that ‘sharing and caring’ stuff.  Play “Misty” for me!

Another time travel stop for me and music. Autumn of 1959. I was brash, newly minted enlistee at Parris Island, the legendary basic training camp for young gyrenes. I was one of a very few “boots” of color and a damn Yankee in the deep south where Jim Crow still prevailed. Most of the other clean-shaven Marine wannabees were from below the Mason-Dixon line, deep in the heart of Dixie. Their music was Rebel Rock ‘n Roll, tempered with obscenities and insensitivity to anyone who was not a card-carrying beer and grits lover.

The southern music dominated our downtime. I was off in my own private world, serenading myself with the likes of “Mona Lisa”, “Stardust”, “Too Young” and “When I Fall In Love.”  My musical choices bought me a lot of grief with the good old boys. A lot of reprimands from the drill Instructors who already didn’t care for my “attitude” and added my music to their list of things for verbal reprimand.  I just laughed at them when they screamed at me. No hits of the week for me.

I got lost in a time warp when hard rock, heavy metal, rap, and hip-hop took over popular music. I guess I began to sound like my parents and grandparents wondering what happened to the good music of my early years. What happened to lyrics and melodies you could understand?

My fallback in music is the same as it is in movies. My one and only public karaoke performance was our local Tex-Mex restaurant maybe fifteen years ago. It was not my best performance, even by local standards. The restaurant closed a few years ago but I am sure some people still remember the magical night when I got up on stage, decked in western garb, reaching for the stars as I grabbed the mic and the music began. My heartfelt rendition of “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” fulfilled a lifelong dream.  I sang for applause, free drinks, and some scattered “More, more, more.”

A musical homage to all my movie cowboy heroes.

That song is me, Pilgrim.

TINKER BELLE – Marilyn Armstrong

Can you set a price on love? Can you set a number to it? Can you calculate it by the cost of health care, toys, dog food? Grooming?

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Tinker Belle was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, also called PBGVs or Petites. They are medium-sized, shaggy rabbit hounds from the Vendée region of France. During the past 25 years, they’ve also gotten very popular as pets, though they are definitely not a dog for just anyone. They are much smarter than they have any right to be, hilariously funny (and the more you laugh, the funnier they become), noisy, and extremely busy or as we used to put it, always looking for trouble.

Even in such rarafied company, Tinker Belle was special. From the day we brought her home, she wasn’t like any other puppy I’d ever met. She was incredibly smart. As a rule, hounds are smart, but she was special.

Housebreaking? We showed her the doggy door. She was housebroken. She could open any door, undo any latch that didn’t need a key, unhook any gate and close the gate after her. She could (did) open jars of peanut butter without leaving a fang mark to note her passing. All you’d find was a perfectly clean empty jar that had previously been unopened. It looked new. New and empty.

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She was sensitive and easily hurt. Probably born to be a therapy dog, she knew who was in pain, knew who was sick. She knew where you hurt. She was the only dog who would never step on a healing incision but would cuddle close to you, look at you with her dark, soft eyes and tell you everything would be fine.

She never hurt a living thing, not human or anything else … except for small varmints she hunted in the yard. She was, after all, a hound and a hunter at that, born to track, point and if necessary, kill prey.

She was the smartest of our five dogs, the smartest dog of any dog I’ve known. Not just a little bit smarter than normal. A huge amount smarter. When you looked into Tinker’s eyes, it wasn’t like looking into the eyes of a dog. She was a human in a dog suit.

She knew. We called her Tinker the Thinker because she planned and remembered. She held grudges. More about that. Yet she was Omega (the bottom) in the pack. We thought it was her choice. She wasn’t up to leadership responsibilities.

The other dogs knew her worth, so despite her low status in the tribe, when they needed a solution to a problem, they all came to her. When needed, other dogs would tap into her expertise in gate opening, package disassembly, cabinet burglary, trash can raiding and other canine criminal activities. Throughout her life, she housebroke each new puppy. A couple of hours with Tinker and the job was done. It was remarkable. Almost spooky. She then mothered them until they betrayed her by growing up and playing with other dogs.

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When Griffin, our big male Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen came to live with us a few months after Tinker’s arrival, they became The Couple. Inseparable. In love. They ate together, played together, slept together, sang together. About a year later, we briefly had a little Norwich Terrier pup and Griffin (what a dog!) abandoned Tinker to go slobbering after Sally.

Tinker’s heart was broken. She became depressed, would not play anymore with humans or other dogs. For the next 10 years, Tinker refused to so much as look at Griffin. Worse, she apparently blamed us, her humans, for having brought another girl into the house. In retribution for our crimes, Tinker began a Reign of Terror.

Tinker took to destroying everything she could get her fangs on when she was three. She’d done a modest amount of puppy chewing, but nothing extraordinary. She was more thief than a chewer. She would steal your stuff and hide it. Shoes, toys, towels, stuffed animals. After Griffin betrayed her with that stupid little bitch — Sally was indeed the polar opposite of Tinker being the dumbest dog I’ve ever known and ill-tempered to boot — Tinker was no longer a playful thief.

She was out to get us.

Nothing was safe. She had a particular passion for destroying expensive electronic devices. Cell phones, remote controls, portable DVD players, computers. If she could get a fang to them, she killed them. She would do more damage in under a minute than I thought possible. For Garry and I, it meant we couldn’t leave the room together unless we put everything away where Tinker couldn’t get it. Tinker would strike quickly and was deadly.

Kaitlin’s toys were safe if Kaity was currently paying a lot of attention to Tinker. If not, she was punished with the beheading of any doll Tinker could find. She didn’t bother with limbs but always went straight for the head. She gutted stuffed things with grim efficiency.

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During one memorable intermission, Garry and I went to the kitchen to grab something to drink and she dismembered our remote controls. We were gone, by the clock, about two minutes. The kitchen is adjacent to the living room, so she managed to do this with us not 10 feet away. It cost me a couple of hundred dollars to replace them.

She pulled off the backs, tore out the batteries (but never ate them), then ripped out the wiring and boards. She didn’t waste any time, either. If she had the leisure, she’d also tear out the keys and generally mangle the cases, but if time was limited, she went straight to the guts of the thing. She was good.

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For 10 years, we lived under siege. If you didn’t want your device Tinkerized, you couldn’t leave it exposed, not for a minute.

Yet we loved Tinker and for the last year of her life, after Divot passed and we brought Bonnie home, Tinker became a real dog again. Under the influence of Bonnie, the friendliest, happiest, most charming Scottie on earth, Tinker came out of her sullens and played with Bonnie. She ran around the yard and played tag, joined the chorus when the other dogs pointed their muzzles at the sky and sang.

Hounds have such beautiful voices and Tinker’s was the most beautiful of all. When she sang, nature sang with her. I suppose this is a matter of taste, but for those of us who love hounds, you know what I mean. Singing is a social function for canines. When a pack sings, it isn’t an alert. It’s a chorus. They are really truly singing together. Each dog has a part, joining in, then pausing and rejoining at the right moment. Tinker was a baritone, the deepest and loudest of the canine voices and Bonnie is a coloratura soprano, very musical, but light.

Tinker died of cancer at age 12. She had shown no symptoms except a slight slowing down and a very minimally reduced appetite. One day, she collapsed. She was riddled with cancer. How in the world she had so effectively hidden her illness is mind-boggling, but she did. A couple of weeks later, Griffin had a massive stroke and died. They were almost exactly the same age and I don’t believe for a minute that the timing of their passing was mere coincidence.

The house was so quiet with the two hounds gone. We didn’t have to hide everything anymore, though it took us months to realize it was safe, that I could leave my laptop out at night and no dog would bother it. After the two hounds passed, the pack did not sing for half a year. One day, mourning ended and they started to sing again, with our little dachshund leading the chorus.

They sing twice a day, early in the morning (get up Mom) and in the evening (pause that show, time for the chorus).

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What was Tinker’s true cost?

We paid $700 for her when she was a puppy. Who knows how much her medical care cost over the years? That’s such a basic part of the contract between dogs and their keepers. They love us, we care for them. Other damages? Thousands of dollars in electronic gear, furniture, shoes, books, DVDs, videotapes, dolls, stuffies and who knows what else.

But she paid us back\. When I was terribly ill, Tinker never left my side. When I was back from surgery, missing another piece of me, Tinker was there, never placing a paw where it would hurt me. How does it add up?

How much was the love worth?

SOME THINGS SHOULD GET EASIER WITH AGE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I believe that one of the benefits of age and experience is that romantic relationships should be easier than when we were young.

When I was young and married for the first time, I was insecure and didn’t know how to stand up for myself. But I was way too rigid and sure of my opinions and views and way too intolerant of people with other perspectives. I was hypersensitive to any slights or criticisms yet unsure how to express those feelings constructively. Looking back I realize how difficult I was, in many ways.

When I met Tom, my second husband, at age 49, after 25 years of marriage and two kids, I was a different person. More confident and not willing to put up with shit from people, yet easy-going and accepting of differences. Tom and I bonded instantly over the similarities between both of our mentally ill exes.

We got along seamlessly and talked until 3 AM on our first date. We spent the next weekend together and from that point on, we were a couple. That was 20 years ago. We didn’t marry for three and a half years, mainly because my kids were still living at home. But we knew we were till death do us part from the very beginning.

Tom and I on our first trip together early in our relationship

Our relationship has been as easy and positive as our prior marriages were difficult and negative. We understood what was important in a relationship – two ‘normal’ people who respect and accept each other as we are; who enjoy and appreciate each other without reservation, and who support each other 100% no matter what. All the rest is window dressing (except making each other laugh and the passion part, which goes without saying). Maybe we should have known all this in our twenties, but we obviously didn’t. We thought we could ‘help’ or ‘change’ our spouses. That rarely works.

My relationship with Tom has been smooth since day one because when there’s an issue, we talk about it and it’s over. We don’t hold grudges or bring up past issues. We deal with the issue at hand and never attack the other person. Then we immediately go back to friendly behavior with no anger residue. All of this is basic ‘Relationship 101’ advice. But I think time and experience helped us understand the importance of these maxims.

Another trip before we got married

I have two friends, one in her mid-fifties and the other in her late sixties, who have been dating online. Each had a recent nine-month to one-year relationship that ended a few months ago. Both of these relationships were difficult and up and down with lots of negative mixed in with the positive.

I felt that these men were wrong for my friends because they weren’t a good fit. It wasn’t ‘easy’ for them to be together. These women saw the negatives but didn’t want to give up on the positives. One woman kept questioning if she should break up with this guy and the other actually did break up, at least two or three times. I just don’t believe that if a person is right for you, things should be that full of angst at our ages. No roller coasters for the fifty and over crowd if you’ve found ‘the one’.

Luckily both women have met new guys with whom things are going smoothly and quickly. One had a first date on a Saturday night that lasted till Tuesday! Way to go! The other said she felt so comfortable with this new guy after just a few dates that it felt like they’d been together for a long time. That’s what I’m talking about! Both women have slipped easily into relationships with major positives and no major negatives. No obvious ‘red flags’. They both feel as if this is too good to be true but they’re going with the flow and enjoying every minute.

This is the first time with these friends that I feel they’ve found the right guy for them. At this stage of life, it should come relatively easy if it’s right! I wished for them what I had with Tom from day one and I think my wish for them has come true.