Constant Companions

Lake Michigan is my constant ever changing companion these days.

Here is the view from my 20th floor window today. I have been looking at the lake this morning, listening to Van Morrison.

His growling soulful voice asks me:

“I wanna know did you get the feelin’? Did you get it down in your soul? I wanna know oh did you get that feelin’ And did the feelin’ grow? Oh did ye get healed?”

A friend of mine, who has since passed away, was a Pottawattamie Native American. She told me that Native Americans view water as “woman’s medicine.”

Well, it sure works for me.

I have another constant companion, my dog Buddy. Minutes can change to hours that drift into whole afternoons watching the lake with my little canine friend lying next to me, The combination of the lake, the dog, and the music wash over me and create a state of inner calm.

So is this “women’s medicine?” Or is this God’s hand?

I don’t have the definitive answer. But I have the feelin’.

And that is enough for me today.


Home is where your dog is

We recently relocated to Chicago from a Midwestern town in Michigan, a place we called home, a place where we raised our two boys. We lived there for 24 years.

It was “home” in every sense of the word, friends, music, fall football games at the local high school, Christmas memories of holiday secrets and very special presents, boys all slicked up for High School dances, pumpkins carved, babies born, parents passing away. Living there was a tapestry of kids growing up, casserole suppers dropped off by friends when times were tough, flowers on the front porch, chatting with neighbors while doing yard work, birthday and high school graduation parties.

Last year my husband, like many other victims of the Michigan economy, lost his job. Michigan has had a particularly rough go of it, with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. After a couple of months looking, we decided he had to cast his net further in the job-hunt and he found a job in Chicago.

We sold our home and most of our possessions and rented an apartment in downtown Chicago. We find ourselves in the curious position of starting over in our mid-fifties. Chicago is a great city to explore and we have discovered restaurants and music venues, museums and other haunts that a smaller town doesn’t provide. And yet, it somehow seems like we are on a long vacation, so much so that sometimes we slip and say “Let’s go back to the hotel,” in referring to our apartment. It all seems like a crazy dream and that any point we will go back home.

Curiously, one of the things that make this place feel most like home is our dog Buddy. He is a conversation starter on the street, he gets us out of our apartment on daily walks, and he is ready and waiting to greet us at the door.

Here is one thing we’ve discovered:
Home is where your dog is.

Buddy for President!

It is that time in the presidential election cycle when things begin to get, well, a bit dicey. Honestly if I get one more nasty email forwarded or Facebook post about either candidate, I think I am going to move to Canada.

Each candidate begins the race like a playground brawl, with insults hurled, exaggerations of the truth, and much posturing. Then it escalates. At this point in the game, it is at a fevered pitch, not unlike two little boys insulting each other’s mothers with a “Yo Mama! Oh yeah, really? Bring-it-on!” braggadocio.

That wouldn’t happen if my dog Buddy was running for president. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He doesn’t even get mad if you accidentally pour pancake batter on his head. Further, he has attributes that I think everyone would like to see in a presidential candidate.

1. You know where he stands.

No flip-flopping. No running to the polls here, he DOESN’T like plastic bags, he DOES like Milkbones and that ain’t gonna change.

2. He is loyal.

If he is your friend today, he is your friend tomorrow.

3. He is reassuring.

When he snuggles up next to you at the end of the day, it gives you that feeling that everything will be fine. Whatever happened to the kind of President who told us we had “nothing to fear, but fear itself,” or that the “torch had been passed to a new generation?” Messages from the president were once confidence infused. Now all we get it bickering.

Given this, I think Buddy would make an excellent president.

He has my vote.

Doggy Jedi Mind Tricks

When my younger son was three years old I heard him yelling, “Mommy, Mommy!” in that tone of voice that could mean that he amputated his toe with a Tonka truck or something. My mommy antennae bobbling, I rushed to the family room to see what the matter was.

“I need some chocolate in my mouf!” He proclaimed.

It was in this instant that I recognized in no uncertain terms that this child was mine. No switched-at birth-child here, no mix-up in the hospital nursery, I understood his yearning. So off to the pantry I went in search of a chocolate chip bar disguised as a healthy breakfast item for him.

So why would anything be different with my dog?

Buddy will be in a sound sleep on the couch, awaken abruptly with a lurch and then sit up next to me with a fixed stare, which we call “THE LOOK.”

It is as if he is attempting a Jedi Mind Trick, not unlike Obi Wan Kenobi, in the move, Star Wars: A New Hope.

You know, when Luke, Obi Wan and the droids are stopped by Imperial Storm Troopers, and Obi Wan waves them off, “These aren’t the droids you are looking for, move along,” and off the Storm Troopers go in a daze.

Buddy will give us THE LOOK, and as if we are the recipients of a Jedi Mind Trick, off we go to the pantry.

“Here is a little doggy treat for you Buddy!” we say, victims of his mind mastery.

It turns out our dog is a Jedi Master. Who knew?

May the force be with you Buddy!


Illusions of Grandeur


I think that Buddy is suffering from illusions of grandeur.

He thinks he is a BIG dog.

He isn’t. He is a sixteen pound little puff ball

Apparently he doesn’t think so. When I take him to the doggy park, he jumps up on benches and rocks so he is eyeball-to-eyeball with the biggest dog in the park. He has absolutely no use for dogs that are his size. He wants to run with the BIG BOYS. He wants to carry the BIG stick.

I understand.

I remember announcing at dinner one evening when I was around ten years old that I had something important to discuss with my supposed parents. I had read about Princess Anne of England in my Weekly Reader, and of course had come to understand that I had been switched at birth with her. The intention of the switch was to ensure that I wouldn’t be spoiled, and that when I reached the age of 18 I would return to England and take my rightful place among British royalty.

I was indignant when my parents burst into laughter. Worse, after that my mother began to call me “Queenie,” as in “Go pick up your toys, Queenie.”

I am not going to burst Buddy’s bubble. If he thinks he is big, then he IS big.

“You go get ‘em, Buddy, you are a BIG BOY!”
photo: Buddy with Stick by Andrew McIntyre

The Dark Side

Living with Buddy is sometimes like living in the horse head bed scene in the movie The Godfather. You know, when the movie producer wakes to find the head of his prized horse in his bloodied bed.

Yeah, like that.

One look around our apartment is like the set from a bad horror movie. Little chewed and maimed stuffed critters are strewn on the floor. They are in a number of stages of ruin, missing ears, tails; their noses and faces are demolished.

Lured by clever pet toy marketers, I try to purchase durable toys. “Tuff stuff! Guaranteed to last! Dura-tough!” the labels read. Hopeful, I purchase one of these supposed long lasting toys and in a matter of MINUTES Buddy will have chewed off one of the poor thing’s extremities.

One would think an adorable, sixteen pound flutternut of a pooch would not be capable of such sadistic behavior, but he apparently has a darker side.




Buddy suffers from short term memory loss. 

He literally forgets what he was doing WHILE HE IS DOING IT.

We will be playing with one of his toys, and I will throw it on the bed. Off he will run to get it and then somehow is distracted. 

I will say ‘Buddy! Where is your toy?”  He will look at me as if he is thinking, “Huh? What toy? Do you want me to find a toy?”  He will completely ignore the toy that is RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM and go look for one.  Then he will proudly come back with a different toy.  This concerns me.  If it only happened occasionally I wouldn’t be worried, but this happens ALL THE TIME.  He can’t seem to hang on to a kernel of thought for longer than say, twenty seconds.

OK, to be truthful, perhaps I am projecting my concerns about myself on to him.

Seems like I can’t remember anything recently. I will go into a room to get something and can’t remember why I am there. Or, I will be on a mission to do something, say, get an envelope to pay a bill.

I will go to get one and notice that perhaps a table that needs to be dusted; off I will go to get the furniture polish and once at the pantry, followed by Buddy, I will give him a doggy treat, completely forgetting about the furniture polish.   One thing leads to another.  These distractions continue from room to room, a swirl of unfinish-ness which leaves me wondering at the end of the day, what DID I get accomplished?

So, of course, I am quite tolerant when Buddy forgets what he is doing.

I was going to tell you something else about that but I can’t remember what it was.

The Doggy Tower of Terror

I don’t like amusement park rides.

I somehow missed getting the “thrill seeking, roller coaster, zip-line riding” gene. When our family went to Disney World, my husband would take my boys on rides named “Splash Mountain!” or “Space Mountain!” Nope, those were NOT for me.

They did, however, convince me to go on “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.” “ Look mom,” they said, “the ride description says that a ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad provides mild but wild thrills to those aboard—from big kids and teens to adults not up for the really big thrills found on the other two Magic Kingdom “mountain” attractions: Space Mountain and Splash Mountain.” Feeling guilty that I was the family vacation party-pooper-spoiler, I agreed to go on it.

Big Mistake.

I emerged from the ride, hair disheveled, nauseated, with stiff hands from gripping the ride handles tightly in a white-knuckled grip of sheer terror.

Now, I want to reassure you that NO DOGS WERE INJURED IN WRITING THIS POST, but Buddy has had a similar experience recently; the DOGGY TOWER OF TERROR.

We moved recently to a 20th floor downtown Chicago apartment, which is reached by elevator. Well, I suppose one could climb up and down the twenty floors of stairs, but in my mind, that is clearly not an option. So, in order to walk the dog, we have to take the elevator. Going up the first time for Buddy was apparently not a problem for him, but going DOWN was a different story

When I asked him what sounded to him like,


He responded with his usual enthusiasm because it meant SOMETHING good was going to happen, and we headed off down the hall to the elevator.

We got in on the twentieth floor and I pushed ONE. When the elevator started its descent, Buddy threw himself flat down on the floor, pancake style, feet splayed out in every direction with a look on his face that could only be read as, “I am somehow on the DOGGY TOWER OF TERROR! Hang on, hang on, we are all going to probably die!”

When we returned from our walk, as we approached the elevator he leaned back, dug in his heels and refused to get back on. Now I understand this from my own experience not wanting to go on any sort of amusement park rides. So I carried him in my arms up and down the elevator for several days, and I am happy to report now he views the elevator as that little place where he meets people who say, “Awwww, he is soooooo cute, can I pet him?” A sort of doggy petting pre-walk holding area. So apparently he has recovered from his fear of amusement park rides.

Me? Not so much.
“Who me? Want to go to Navy Pier and ride the Roller Coaster?”

“Ummmm, no thanks.”

Photo: from Wikipedia:

Sunday Drive

”Crusin’ and playin’ the radio
with no particular place to go.” Chuck Berry

My family used to go on “Sunday Drives” when I was growing up.

We would pile in to my father’s 1960’s era Chrysler New Yorker with no destination in mind. The car was so big that you could be  in different zip codes riding in the same car. My sister and I were allowed to pick directions at each intersection; “Right!  Left!  Indifferent!” we would call from the back seat. We would end up in some unexpected Michigan small town and get ice cream cones from an ice cream shop named something like “The Freeze” or “The Whippy Dip.” On the ride home, my parents would smoke in the front seat, windows rolled down, looking eerily like Don and Betty Draper from the TV show Mad Men while my sister and I would sing along to the AM radio, “Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on.”

Reminiscing about these car rides, I said to my husband one day, “We should go for a Sunday Drive.” His response was less than enthusiastic. Of course the cost of gas has increased from 29 cents per gallon to over four dollars per gallon, which may have dampened his enthusiasm a bit. But even if the cost of gas wasn’t an issue, he just didn’t get the point.

Buddy does. He LOVES to ride in the car. Anywhere. If I ask him (as he hears it)


he discerns the sound bite “car ride” and springs into alert and ready-to-go mode, tail thumping on the floor.

Buddy will go for a ride in the car. Anytime.

Buddy will go on a Sunday Drive with me. He will go anywhere in the car. With paws on the door handle, nose sticking out the cracked window, ears blowing in the wind, he is in car ride nirvana. I’m not sure why he likes it so much. But off we go, simpatico, a couple of road warriors, “cruisin’ and playin’ the radio, with no particular place to go.”

Buddy has become a Foodie

I have a son who is an architect in New York.  He has morphed over the years from the nerdy kid who only would eat hamburgers, even in five star restaurants, to an over-the-top look-down-his-nose-at-you foodie. This may be the result of “piano dinners” that I prepared for him while he was growing up.

For the uninitiated, “piano dinners” are dinners that ACTUALLY CATCH ON FIRE.  At times I confess that I would put a casserole in the oven when he was younger, and then put earphones on and play my Roland piano. I would drift off; notes and melodies leading me off to far flung musical happy places. All well and good, until he would be shaking my elbow exclaiming “Mommy, mommy there is a fire in the oven!”

So now he is a foodie. Because I live in Chicago and he lives in New York we often g-mail chat  when we are supposed to be doing other things. Somehow our roles have reversed. I will ask, “What are you going to make for dinner?” and he will tell me about his plans to make lime infused planked salmon with hazelnut risotto which is somewhat annoying because well, I was going to make tacos.

I have learned to live with the humiliation, but there seems to be a new development with the dog. I think he has been reading my emails with my son.

Buddy has become a foodie.

He has been fed a very high quality (read expensive) kibble with all natural ingredients since he was a puppy. The kind you can only get at expensive pet shops, not places like Pet Smart.  That is until recently.    Now he is only interested in finer fare.  I have had to make additions to his meal, adding little pieces of filet mignon, the occasional bits of marinated grilled chicken, or perhaps a small dab of an interesting cheese. If I try to just give him his kibble, he gives me that signature foodie look, that look-down-your-nose-at-you foodie stare that seems to ask “Really?”

I think I am going to go play the piano.