Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

Mr Politeness

March 14, 2007


Birds of a feather flock together and so do people who own dogs.

By no sheer coincidence, the people that Kerry and I like most in this world are more times than not people that like us, like dogs.

Most of them have at least one.

Some have many more.

For those people that we like, that don’t own dogs, we suspect that they secretly like dogs.

We suspect that they want to own a dog, but for some silly reason they don’t give into their desire. Instead, they volunteer to eek out an existence always miserable, longing for the love of a four legged friend.

Two of our dog friendly friends are Bruce and Amy, whose dogs have been graced with undying love and only the finest of accommodations; living in the ritzy part of town, always wearing the latest in doggy fashion and of course having a fine German chariot to carry them hither and fro.

On our Memorial Wall in Muttley’s (the only bar in town where dogs get served first), Amy was kind enough to reproduce the poem “Ode to the Dog” taken from the now infamous Preppy Handbook. The poem acts as the centerpiece to an array of photos taken of all the dogs we’ve known and loved.

One of the first photos ever hung on the wall was that of Bruce and Amy’s Nate, an enormous black lab that lived to a ripe old age and whose mere mention still brings tears to his owners’ eyes, even though Bruce might not admit to ever crying.

Close on the wall to where Nate’s photo sits is his proxy, the equally formidable and ever so lovable Jack who is now perhaps the largest black lab that has ever been.

Visitors to his household be warned not to don a hat while you enter his house, or risk the unfriendly advance of “Jack the Giant”.

Know that his intimidating bark translates into “don’t you know that it is rude to wear a hat indoors?”

Know that after your warning, he will then only slowly warm up to you, and only when you have proven to him that you will never be so rude as to do it again.

How do I know this? It happened to me.

And this is not his only “pet peve”, pardon the pun.

When Jack was a puppy I discovered where his favorite sleeping place was quite by accident and it taught me another very important lesson.

After a few libations, nature was calling and I needed to use the facilities. Asking where the closest water closet was, I was directed to use the one off of the kitchen hallway. Stumbling in the dark I reached for the doorknob and pushed the bathroom door inward. With thoughts of relief on my mind, I was utterly shocked when a then 100 pound black lab puppy lunged at me from inside of the bathtub, again only to remind me of my manners and how rude I was not to knock.

Needless to say I jumped back pulling the door closed with me and through some bizzare act of nature, I no longer needed to go.

Returning to the party visibly shaken I inquired when had “Cujo” taken up residency in the bathtub and it was only then that I was informed that he liked to sleep there and that he did not like to be disturbed.

Now I know.

So now I take my hat off when I go into his house and now I knock when I need to use one of his bathrooms. And I can only hope that he does not find offence in any of my other rude behaviors but if he does, at well over 100 pounds and with a head the size of a bull moose, I will do as he wishes and we’ll all get along just fine.

Thank you Jack, for making me a better man.

Caution: Dog Free Zone Ahead

March 2, 2007

Bad Dog

In traditional Westfield style, a newly emerging controversy is brewing in the local paper, The Westfield Leader.

Is it about property taxes, parking decks, policemen sleeping in their cars while on duty?


It’s about whether or not dogs should be allowed in the downtown area.

On one side we have the overprotective moms who, in between trips to soccer practice, the nail salon and dinner at Echo Lake Country Club, feel as though the civil rights of their infants and toddlers are being jeopardized by overly friendly Golden Retrievers, Chocolate Labradors and so on.

On the other side, we have the aspiring suburban social climbers who feel as though their canine is as much a fashion statement as their Louis Vuitton bag, their convertible Mercedes and their well coiffed hair.

And so the showdown begins at the Westfield Corral.

I can see the headlines now.

“Woman pepper sprays Labrador for eyeing child’s pistachio gelato”

“Man accused of letting dog lick itself in front of impressionable Sun Dance student”

When will it end?

They say that too much money gives people too much time to contemplate things of too little consequence.

If this is true, Westfield people should donate all of their money to a good charity and get real jobs.

May I suggest The Seeing Eye?

Mr. Gandalfini and his friend Sambo

January 24, 2007

J Gandolfini   Sambo

Both of our dogs, Sam and Gandalf, have numerous nicknames.

Besides nicknames, we have also invented many special songs that we sing to them using both their real names and their nicknames.

Why do we do this? I have no idea.

However, I thought that it would be good to memorialize some of their monikers and explain how they came to be.

First, our older guy Gandalf is often known as “Mr. Mooney”, given that Kerry’s last name is Mooney and since he was hers before I came along. This nickname of his has been the source of some confusion however, when sitting with Kerry’s family and I ask a question of Kerry such as “Did Mr. Mooney get into the garbage again?” and all eyes turn to me as if I were speaking about Kerry’s dad.

Gandalf also goes by “Gand”, “Gandman”, “Mr. Magoo”, “Mr Gooney”, or sometimes “Mr. Gooney Goo Goo”, all of which are somewhat obvious derivatives. “Gooney Goo Goo” comes from an Eddie Murphy routine referring to how James Brown used to speak.

The nickname that Kerry does not like but that I recently had put onto the back side of his dog collar is “Killer” because of his funny way with certain dogs. He’s really anything but a mean dog with people, but Kerry thinks that people might read the name and get the wrong impression.

Oh well!

Another often used name is “Gambo” which rhymes with one of Sam’s nicknames which happens to be “Sambo”.  I’ll elaborate on Sam’s shortly.

Kerry often calls Gandalf “Mr. Wiggles”, since he does a rythmic gyration when we come in the door as both dogs stand behind the gate waiting to see us.  As she says, he looks as if he’s going to wiggle out of his skin.

Occasionally, when Gandalf has been perpetrating raids on the garbage can, we call him “Mr. Gandalfini”, a reference to our favorite mobster artiste, James Gandolfini. Nothing would make our Gandalf happier, than if he could somehow start his own doggie-garbage-hauling-service and expand upon his operations from only the occasional haulling job from inside of our house to his special spot outside into a world-wide operation.

There are many more nicknames for Gandalf, but I’ll move onto Sam.

As I mentioned, Sam’s most used nickname is “Sambo” which we all know must be used carefully. We never intended to name him a prejorative but somehow the name stuck. However, in reality, its the longer version of the nickname “Sambo Jambo” that lengthened his name in the first place. This catchy name is then coupled with two more words into one of our favorite verses, “Sambo Jambo Puddin’ Pie” and as I always like to add, “kissed the girls and made them cry”.

For a while I was calling Sam “Muffin” since he is the epitome of passivity and for a while we thought that we needed to keep him inside, out of fear that a squirrel may somehow take him hostage. Although knowing Sam, he would have colluded with the squirrel and then played out a hostage scenario, all in an attempt to extort us out of some cookies.


Some of the other names that Sam goes by include “Bo-Bo”, “Bo-Bo-Boy”, “Diddy-Diddy-Bo-Bo”, “Diddy-B0″,”Bo-Bo-Jangles” and “Bo-Bo-Licious” not to mention “Bo-Bo-Ski”, since his father is Polish and more recently “Bo-Bo-Ski-Daddy”, a tribute to my favorite stock picker Jim Cramer.

When speaking to both dogs, we often say “Mr. Magoo and the Bo-Bo Boy too” or collectively “The Boogie Boys”.

This brings me to some of Sam’s toys, all of which have their own nicknames. There is “Ducky Wucky” the duck, “Hoggy Woggy” the hedgehog , “Chippy Whippy” the chipmunk, “Squirrelly Whirly” the squirrel and “Piggy Wiggy” the pot bellied pig, which unfortunately disappeared after a visit from one of his friends. Surprisingly, Sam treats all of his toys with love and never chews them up. He does like making them squeak or grunt or do whatever the toy was designed to do, but never would he do them harm. Even Gandalf, who prior to Sam relished in the destruction of a stuffed toy, leaves Sam’s toys alone.


Gandalf really does love his brother.

One of the songs that I like to sing to the boys is a take off on the military drill song that I think I first heard in Bill Murray’s movie “Stripes” but can usually be heard in almost every military movie that involves men marching in formation.

It goes something like this, but in reality it is rarely the exact same song twice.

There once was a dog named Sa-a-a-am-bo,
He was so cute and wanted you to know,
That he wa-anted some love,
And hugs and kisses too,
And if he didn’t get them he would squeak at you (Sam does not bark)

There once was a dog named Ga-a-a-am-bo
He was so mean he wanted you to know,
That he wa-anted some food,
And he better get it now,
Or he will scratch the counters to find some chow (Our counters will never be the same)

Kerry sings her versions of the song with her own words and she usually sings them with much more loving lyrics than I do. I choose not to do this because I don’t want them to become conceited or anything; hence my favorite nickname for both of them is “Bad Dogs”!

Of course I’m only kidding about that and in fact I tell them that they’re “Bad Dogs” in a very loving tone and since their tails wag no matter what I say, to them, I may as well be saying something nice.

Needless to say, we have lots of names for our two crazy dogs and I’m sure as time goes on, we will think of many more.

Sam’s Ears

January 17, 2007


“Daddy, how can you let them do this to me?” was the look on Sam’s face yesterday as the Vet cleaned his ears one more time just to be sure. 

“Can’t we just cut his ears off?” I said to Kerry as she watched carefully since she would be the one repeating the procedure at home for the unforeseeable future. 

“Don’t listen to him Sam!” was her only comment but both of us knew that his ear problem will likely plague him for the rest of his life.

The good news was that Sam had lost two pounds since the last time he sat his chubby rump on the scale that doubles as an examination table. Now that Kerry and I have become ever more vigilant about keeping the pantry door closed and keeping anything edible from remaining on the counter while we are not around, the lack of extra calories must be paying off. Ironically Gandalf looks like he’s putting a few pounds back on now that his legs have healed and most of his fur has grown back. 

We didn’t bring Gandalf into the Vet’s this time which was a good thing because the waiting room was full of other dogs that he likely would not have liked. Instead, he got to stay in the truck which made me wonder “If a dog walks by and we’re not there, does he still bark?” but like the conundrum about trees falling in the forest I assume that I’ll never really know. Since there was no broken glass and he was not running around Murray Hill looking for us, he must have behaved himself, this time. 

After getting Sam down from the table and going to the reception desk for our new concoction of ear medicine, Sam assumed that he was entitled to another cookie since he had taken up position right in front of the cookie jar that calls his name every time we go in. Feeling sorry for the little guy, I reached in and grabbed two cookies. After giving him one, I asked him if we should save the other one for Gandalf. I could tell by looking at him that his reply was “what are you crazy!” and with that I gave him the second cookie. Gandalf would just have to suffer. 

Returning to the truck, Gandalf wiggled as if we had been gone for weeks and was happy to see his “little brother” but he stopped wiggling once he caught a whiff of Sam’s cookie breath and he realized that he was not going to get any. 

“No cookies for bad dogs” I said as I climbed into the driver’s seat and started the engine. With that Kerry turned and gave Gandalf a cookie that she had been keeping in her pocket saying “He’s not a bad dog” in her loving tone that the dogs seem to evoke more than me. 

For the next twenty minutes we drove home, Gandalf with his snoot out the window ever vigilant for the dog, or sometimes the squirrel, that needed to be reminded of his presence and Sam, always trying to climb into the front seat, inch by inch, as if to say, “Can’t I sit on your lap?”

With a constant rebuke of his advances, Sam eventually stops this tactic of trying to push his way forward and then he remains, as always, content to sit on the floor of the truck between our seats with the bottom of his chin leaning against my shoulder and looking at me with wanton eyes. He then invariably lets out a heavy sigh every few minutes as if to say “I love you guys, and thanks for saving me”.

How Sam Came To Us

January 13, 2007

Sam and Gandalf 

As I mentioned earlier, our older dog Gandalf has a certain prejudice towards other dogs. We don’t really know if it’s a prejudice towards a certain color dog, a certain size dog or what. All that we know is that there are some dogs that he likes and some that he does not.

When my girlfriend and I moved into the same house, she in the downstairs apartment and me upstairs, we decided that we wanted to get another dog, particularly because Gandalf had always had a housemate.

Kerry started looking for a dog like the one that I had found in California when I was 19, which I was kind enough to bring home to my parents. Thunder, probably the greatest dog that ever lived, was half Black Lab and half Great Dane and looked like a very sleek, narrow chested lab. He had only one small patch of white, squarely centered on his chest.

Kerry had found a female in upstate New York on a website and the dog looked cute. Her name was Sadie. We drove with Gandalf for an over an hour and got to our quickly dubbed “home for wayward animals” that included numerous farmyard has-beens and pets that were either viscous, physically challenged or otherwise hard to love.

Without Gandalf, we first met Sadie with a great deal of excitement and everything went seemingly well. I had to admit that the sleek frame and sqaured off face looked like Thunder. After spending 15 minutes assessing her, including her visible wound, we were interviewed by a woman who was so thoroughly a throwback to the sixties that we thought that we could hear Janice Joplin singing in the background and we pictured our interrogator in a serape and beads.

The wound, we were told, was from a barbed wire fence on the farm, and even though it looked odd and when inspected felt even odder, it was not going to stop us, as long as Gandalf would approve.

Once we were done with our questions, Sadie was placed in the adjoining room and we proceeded to get Gandalf.

Once Gandalf was back in the room, happy as can be, we let Sadie back in. Immediately, Gandalf became aggressive and lunged towards the young female, wrongfully responding to her bounding way. She cowered for a moment and was immediately taken from the room by the woman in a huff.

Returning without the dog, the woman hastily sat in her chair and refused to consider us as adoptive parents with a number of disparaging comments. Somewhat embarrassed, we did not feel compelled to try to have the two dogs meet again or to see any other dogs.

We drove home saddened and perplexed by our “Crazy Yellow”, who, all because of an incident at the Vet’s where he had been attacked by a Rottweiler mix, he was turned into a wanna be attack dog himself. We thought to ourselves that he must really just want to be an only child, and we figured that it was his loss more than ours so we should just accept it.

A few months went by and Kerry got a phone call from the Seeing Eye in Morristown where she had put our names on the list months earlier but never expected a response. Having given up on Gandalf ever getting a friend, but curious to see what the dog was like, we agreed to continue the process.

It was the first weekend in December of 2003 when there was a blizzard that shut most of Union County down that this all came to pass. Having recently acquired my 1991 Toyota 4 Runner, it was time for some fun, and the thought of not driving up to Morristown never even crossed our minds.

We drove up the day after the blizzard and left Gandalf sitting in the truck while we went into the facility for our interview. We were both questioned thoroughly on our ability to care for a dog and we were certain that our characters were being studied to see if we were suitable dog parents. Fortunately for us ,we passed our exam and were shown a tour of what our possibly new dog’s experience had been for the few months up until now. It really wasn’t that pleasant, even though it was extremely clean, professional and understandable given their higher calling. But if Kerry could have brought each and every one of them home to give them the love and affection that she felt they deserved, we would have taken the whole lot and poor blind people everywhere would have to go without.

Finally, we got to meet Sam, a 19 month old Golden Retriever, Yellow Lab mix.

To our total amazement, Sam came in and was absolutely the most loving, not to mention the cutest, dog that we had ever seen. He was very skinny, but he looked healthy, and he had an intelligent and an alert demeanor that engaged us immediately with wiggles and kisses. What amazed us, was how his coloring was identical to Gandalf’s, even though he looked more like a Golden than a Yellow. Sitting in our chairs, we both looked out of the window and could see Gandalf who had apparently not noticed that we were sitting within his view, but instead his eyes were fixed upon the door that we went in and he was waiting for us to come out.

It was my job to go out to the truck to get Gandalf and Kerry would bring out Sam to meet us on neutral territory. As Gandalf stood on an icy patch of ground, Kerry brought Sam towards us to within about 10 yards. Gandalf barked with his friendly tone and wiggled when he saw Kerry coming towards him, and even though he noticed Sam, he did not immediately respond negatively. Sam on the other hand, crouched down as soon as he sensed that he was going to meet Gandalf, and did so in a submissive way. This was exactly what needed to happen.

After only seconds of Gandalf’s inspection, with Sam laying wide open on his back, Gandalf made it clear that Sam was OK. A walk around the facility together was required, just to ensure that the two would get along, but it transpired without incident. As soon as we returned to the parking lot, we rushed inside to finish the paperwork.

According to the Seeing Eye, Sam was going to be very unique to us considering that he did not beg, he did not eat people food, he did not sleep on the furniture, he spoke a different language and he was a retriever that had a fear of water. As it turned out, none of this was true, except for his fear of water, which we chuckled most blind people would probably appreciate.

So for now our two boys are living happily ever after, Sam with his funny little ways and Gandalf with his own odd, quirky ways. They are the perfect housemates and in fact are more like brothers. They protect our house, they keep squirrels at bay, they occasionally raid the garbage in a swat team like fashion but, most importantly, they complete our family and we could not imagine life any other way.

The Dogs We Love

January 3, 2007


Sam is our former Seeing Eye trainee that failed out, allegedly because of allergies. 

Although he does have allergies that could possibly cause a blind person to get hit by oncoming traffic, should Sam decide to sit and scratch in the middle of an intersection, I think that the real reason that he failed out of training is because he is need of too much love.

I have never met a dog so devoted to two things, love and food and perhaps not in that particular order. Although he keeps his boyish figure thanks to all of the exercise that he gets with his older companion Gandalf, there is nothing in the world that Sam wants more than to eat. 

Sam will sit and stare at you and make you think that he wants love. However, just as you reach out your hand to pet him, he turns his head in a Lassie like way and lets you know that there is something that he wants. If he could say “Timmy, there is an emergency in the kitchen and you must give me some of the leftover meatloaf immediately in order to save the family” I am sure he would yell it as loud as he could.

Ironically, and perhaps for good reason, Sam almost never barks or even cries. 

When he has given up on his plight for food however, the one thing left that he wants is love. He wants nothing more than to snuggle or be close and if you deny him what he wants, he will rest his paw on some part of your anatomy just to let you know that he is there and ready for you when you change your mind. 

He’s a super dog and we love him a lot. He’s a great compliment to Gandalf who does not get along with just any dog. With Sam however, Gandalf is wonderful and I have seen Gandalf commit acts of charity with his little friend that tells me that he really does love him too. 


Gandalf is the old man of the house nowadays.

When I first met Gandalf he was a spry one year old and full of “piss and vinegar”.

Although he has mellowed a lot over the years, he’s still very active for a dog of eight and he is the picture of vitality. He had a little run in with his ACL when he was playing tag with his brother in a muddy back yard and then the other ACL when he was recovering from the first. Thank goodness all of that is behind us now and his constitution is back to normal.

We like to call Gandalf “Killer” because he is very funny with other dogs. My girlfriend claims that he was attacked at the vet, making him unpredictable. However, with some dogs he’s great and with others you would think he was part attack Doberman. Gandalf has his dog friends and with them he’s great.

His friend Brandy was over for a long weekend and they had a lot of fun. Sam, who is very shy around other dogs, stays out of the way when Gandalf and Brandy start to play. Since Brandy is older and knew Gandalf when he was young, Gandalf is submissive to her which is good.

Gandalf lost an old friend recently when Hobbs, a yellow lab owned by my girlfriend’s aunt, passed away. Hobbs was not the healthiest of dogs and he had a few weird characteristics like barking at walls and stuff but he was certainly one of Gandalf’s best friends. Like Brandy, Hobbs had known Gandalf since he was a puppy. It was sad that Hobbs died at a relatively young age but everything happens for a reason as they say.

Between the two of these characters we have a lot of laughs and a lot love. 

When the two of them broke into a huge box of chocolates, I realized how much I loved both of them. Although I was mad as hell that they had gotten into a box of chocolates that my sister had sent my son, thinking of the two of them dying was very upsetting to me. Fortunately, we took them to the vet in time where they would both be taken care of. As if punishment for their wrongdoing, they were both made to vomit up the contents of their stomachs using some sort of syrup. As my girlfriend and I both drove away from the vet’s, we could see the two dogs looking up at us from the grassy patch outside as if to say, “We’re sorry, don’t leave us!” and with that they both vomited again.

As it turned out, Gandalf had ingested far more of the chocolate than Sam had, so from that point forward I finally knew who our kitchen bandit must have been. This explained Sam’s apparent look of innocense and utter betrayal as we left him behind to suffer the same fate as his brother who was ultimately responsible for the incident.

Later that same day, after their stomachs were thoroughly cleansed and they were both given a charcoal injection down their throats, we brought them both home with a sigh of relief.  As they ran into the house wagging their tails and running right for the cookie jar, I was so happy to have them home safe that I beat them both for an extra hour.

(Only kidding)

By the way, the free box of chocolates ended up costing me over $300 in vet bills.