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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

The New Dog

By Linda Pastan

Linda Olenick Pastan (B. 1932)

Into the gravity of my life,
the serious ceremonies
of polish and paper and pen, has come

this manic animal
whose innocent disruptions
make nonsense of my old simplicities —

as if I needed him
to prove again that after
all the careful planning,
anything can happen.

———

Daybreak

By John Donne

John Donne (1572-1631)

STAY, O sweet and do not rise!
The light that shines comes from thine eyes;
The day breaks not: it is my heart
Because that you and I must part.
Stay! or else my joys will die
And perish in their infancy.

———

Dust If You Must

By Rose Milligan

Attributed to Mrs. Rose Milligan, Lancaster, England

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

———

Down By the Salley Gardens

By William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Down by the salley* gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

* Obsolete term for willow.

———

News Item

By Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Sharks belong to a subclass of fish (along with sawfish, skates, and rays) whose skeletons are made of cartilage, not bone. Cartilage, the stuff your earlobes and nose are made of, is lighter and more flexible than bone. Exception: a shark’s teeth, like yours, are made of calcified dentin.

● The longest highway in America is U.S. Route 6, which runs 3,199 miles from Provincetown, Massachusetts, to Bishop, California.

● Brigham Young had 27 wives.

● In the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s dog Toto was played by a female Cairn Terrier named Terry. (The dog’s weekly salary was $125. Most of the Munchkins were paid from $50 to $100 per week.) After the huge success of the film, Terry’s name officially was changed to Toto. She appeared in 13 films.

● The favorite alcoholic beverage of Queen Victoria, who reigned over the United Kingdom from 1837 until her death in 1901, was a mixture of single malt Scotch whisky and claret.

● In making the 1969 film The Wild Bunch, director Sam Peckinpah’s production team expended some 90,000 rounds of blank cartridges. This is said to be more ammunition than was used in the entire Mexican Revolution.

● On February 9, 1964, evangelist Billy Graham broke his long-time rule against watching TV on Sunday by watching the first appearance by the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.

● Symbolically, drawing a circle around the earth at the equator creates the northern and southern hemispheres. Likewise, drawing a circle around the prime meridian creates the eastern and western hemispheres. Africa is the only continent with land in all four hemispheres.

● The London Underground, the city’s rapid transit system, has a station below Buckingham Palace that could evacuate the royal family in an emergency.

● The aboriginal people of Australia developed two types of throwing sticks for hunting: boomerangs, which are aerodynamically designed to return to the thrower, and kylies, which are non-returning. Typically, boomerangs were used to frighten game birds into taking flight into nets, and kylies were used to hit and bring down targets.

● In badminton, the shuttlecock can reach speeds of nearly 200 MPH.

● In 1958, In anticipation of Hawaii and Alaska becoming states, a high school teacher in Lancaster, Ohio, asked his students to design a new 50-star flag. The design submitted by 17-year-old Robert Heft (1941-2009) earned a B-. The teacher said it lacked originality.

Nevertheless, Heft sent the design to his congressman, and in 1960, it was chosen out of 1,500 submissions as the official new U.S. flag. The teacher retroactively raised Heft’s B- to an A.

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Thoughts du Jour

Random observations / recollections / stories…

———

Dopey, Sneezy et al

As you may know, the 1937 Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was Hollywood’s first full-length animated film. Based on an 1812 German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, the movie was a great success and won awards aplenty.

The movie focused more on the dwarves than did the original story, because Walt Disney wanted to take advantage of their potential for humor and emotional appeal. Although the dwarves in the original story were not individually identified, an obscure Broadway play in 1912 gave them names. Disney ignored that and chose new ones.

The Disney names were Grumpy, Bashful, Sleepy, Happy, Sneezy, Dopey, and Doc. Except for Doc, their leader, the dwarves were named for a distinguishing characteristic.

The seven names were selected by a process of elimination from a list of about 50 candidates. Among the rejected names: Baldy, Gabby, Sniffy, Lazy, Tubby, Shorty, Wheezy, Burpy, Jaunty, and Awful.

Mr. Disney wisely decided not to name one of the Seven Dwarves Awful.

———

Neighborhood Jerk

Through most of the 1980s, my family lived in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville. Our house was on a cul-de-sac, and our back yard was adjacent to four other back yards. This created a large, pleasant green space behind the houses consisting of lawns, shrubs, and trees.

Another nice touch was that the five back yards were mostly private; no house had a direct view of any other. You saw kids playing and people doing yard work, but no more.

I liked all the neighbors just fine, except for one. He was a jerk. Too many times, we would hear him in his back yard, sometimes drunk, yelling profanities at someone in the household. Most people avoided him, but he made no effort to fit in anyway.

One Saturday afternoon, while peering out our bedroom window, Deanna said, “Would you look at what that fool is doing.”

I looked. It was the jerk in question, in the process of setting fire to a large pile of dry brush in his back yard. To our dismay, the pile of brush was not in the open, but under a canopy of trees. We hurried out onto the back deck in alarm.

The brush caught fire quickly, and almost immediately, the flames climbed into a pine tree. We could hear the sizzling and crackling. Deanna ran to the phone and called the fire department. Mrs. Jerk probably did the same.

Minutes later, the firemen arrived. They waved aside the jerk, who was impotently using a garden hose on the inferno, and put it out.

He lost two pine trees and a small hardwood. His house easily could have gone up.

What a jerk.

The deck from which we watched the conflagration.

———

National Jerk

In 1796, the renowned American portraitist Gilbert Stuart was commissioned by the family of George Washington to create a painting of the former president, who then was 65. The painting turned out to be exceptional, but Stuart’s behavior in the matter revealed a clear lack of character.

Throwing the Washingtons a curveball, Stuart left the painting unfinished, which allowed him to retain legal possession. For years thereafter, he made and sold copies of the painting for $100 a pop.

Still, even unfinished, the painting was widely recognized as a masterpiece and probably Stuart’s best work.

After Stuart died in 1828, the painting was moved to the Boston Athenaeum, a distinguished private library. Today, known as the Athenaeum Portrait, it is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

If the painting seems vaguely familiar, that’s probably because it was the model for Washington’s likeness on the one dollar bill.

Gilbert Stuart, world-class jerk.

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This Just In

COLUMBUS, OHIO — The website Change.org is hosting a petition calling for the City of Columbus to be renamed Flavortown in honor of celebrity chef Guy Fieri.

The petition was launched after the city announced plans to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus outside city hall, as well as to change the city seal, flag, and other symbols to remove references to the explorer who subjugated and killed countless indigenous people.

The petition says renaming the city Flavortown would honor both Fieri, who was born there, and “Central Ohio’s proud heritage as a culinary crossroads.” It also says the name Flavortown “would be superior to its current nomenclature.”

GRANDVIEW, WEST VIRGINIA — A West Virginia woman whose husband told police she fell to her death from an overlook at New River Gorge was found hiding at home in a closet. She and her husband were arrested on charges of conspiracy and giving false information to the police.

Earlier this year, the woman pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges regarding a “pill mill” operation and faced up to 10 years in prison. Police said the couple faked her death to avoid sentencing.

After several days, of searching the area below the Grandview Overlook, police obtained a search warrant and subsequently found the woman.

In June, she was sentenced on the fraud charges to 3-1/2 years in federal prison. In August, she and her husband were indicted for conspiracy to obstruct justice and are awaiting trial.

LOUISA, VIRGINIA — Police have arrested one of two men accused of stealing beer from a convenience store while wearing hollowed-out watermelons on their heads to hide their identities.

The 20-year-old man faces charges of misdemeanor larceny of alcohol and misdemeanor possession of alcohol by an underage person. Police say they expect to arrest the second suspect soon.

A customer at the convenience store said she thought the disguises were “innovative, but ridiculous.” She said the work of preparing the watermelons and the mess of wearing them was “kind of crazy,” when ordinary bandanas would have sufficed.

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The Questions…

1. What is the technical difference between poultry and fowl?

2. The medical condition sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, better known as brain freeze or an ice-cream headache, is caused by eating or drinking something cold too quickly. Physically, what happens to cause it?

3. In the 1960 film Psycho, what did director Alfred Hitchcock use to simulate blood in the famous shower scene?

4. What is the most profitable commodity sold in supermarkets?

5. What is a diastema?

The Answers…

1. The word poultry describes domesticated fowl.

2. Behind your nose are nerves that are highly sensitive to pain, probably designed to protect your brain. Scientists think brain freeze is a case of those nerves objecting to the cold.

3. Hershey’s chocolate syrup.

4. Dog food.

5. A gap between the upper front teeth.

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Random observations / recollections / stories…

———

Spidy

Banks Crossing is a commercial area that grew up around one of the I-85 exits in the nearby town of Commerce. Walmart and Home Depot are there, as are half the town’s restaurants.

The last time I was there, it was lunch time, and up ahead was a Chick-fil-a. Drive-throughs being especially popular right now, a long double line of cars was queued up. I almost went elsewhere, but a chicken sandwich sounded good, so I got in line.

The wait wasn’t bad. Half a dozen employees were scurrying around outside, taking orders and money. Even the manager was there, directing traffic.

When my turn came, I ordered a chicken sandwich, and the girl asked, “What’s the name for the order?”

Smitty,” I said and proceeded to the window.

Later, I noticed the receipt stapled to the bag.

Spidy

My son Britt says “Spidy” can be my new call sign.

———

Spooked

Before I retired and began a life of comfort and indolence, I worked in the Advertising Department of Lithonia Lighting, a large manufacturer. I was just an ordinary copy chief, trying to get by.

The department consisted of a few admin types, the copywriters, and a stable of graphic designers who reported to the Art Director, Larry Flowers.

One of the designers, Dan Rabun, had the personal quirk of being unusually jumpy. He was easily spooked if someone came up behind him and caught him by surprise. Which happened regularly.

Probably, Dan simply zoned out when he worked and was oblivious to his surroundings. But the designers sat at a drawing board, or in front of computer screen, with their backs toward you. Not a good situation for poor Dan.

The person who spooked Dan most often was his boss Larry. Larry roamed the office constantly, checking on projects, assigning work, telling fart jokes. Regularly, he walked up behind Dan and, without intending to, scared the heck out of him.

Dan wasn’t always caught by surprise, but he jumped in alarm often enough. Cries of AUGGH!” and “AAAHH!!” were common.

Eventually, Larry came up with a solution. It was simple and effective.

When Larry went to see Dan, but before he got too close, he would announce in a calm and measured tone, “Approaching… Approaching…”

Dan

———

Trouble With YCbCr

Late last year, my Blu-ray player began screwing up. At unexpected moments, the screen would go black, and simultaneously, the sound would mute itself. A second later, picture and sound would resume as normal.

It didn’t happen on every disk, but it happened a lot. Losing the picture was annoying enough, but following the dialogue when random words are missing, that can be a challenge.

When the problem first surfaced, I checked all the cables and connections and otherwise tried to noodle out the cause. No luck.

Once, when the issue made watching a movie impossible, I went online and ordered another DVD of the movie. It was fairly old, so I got the replacement disc for just a few bucks. The problem was still there.

So, finally, I coughed up $50 for a new Blu-ray player. And, wonder of wonders, the problem went away.

For a few months.

One recent Saturday evening, I popped a DVD into the player it turned out to be a mediocre gangster movie and the problem was back. At unpredictable intervals, the sound winked out and the screen went black for a second or so. Crap.

I watched the movie for a few more minutes, but finally, I hit the pause button. Fuming with righteous indignation, I went to my computer and typed, “On a Blu-ray disc player, what causes the picture to go black and the sound to stop and then resume?”

According to the Google, that subject is a hot topic online. It’s a common problem and a source of widespread exasperation.

But I found a fix that seemed worth trying:

The issue might be your video output mode. In the bluray player settings, try switching from YCbCr 4.4.4 to YCbCr 4.2.2. That resolved my problem!”

YCbCr, I learned, is the method the player uses to interpret color. Blu-ray works best with YCbCr 4.2.0, but 4.2.2 is acceptable. Blu-ray does not like 4.4.4 and shows its displeasure.

So, I searched around in the settings of the Blu-ray player (settings I didn’t even know were there) and, sure enough, my player was set for 4.4.4. I changed it to 4.2.2.

And that, indeed, solved the problem. The disc played flawlessly, without winking out or muting itself a single time.

I watched the rest of the mediocre gangster movie with peace and contentment in my heart.

YCbCr

 

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

In 52 BC, a Roman army invaded present-day France and defeated the Parisii, a Celtic tribe living along the River Seine. There, the Romans established the city of Lutetia (Latin for “place near a swamp”). Lutetia remained under Roman rule until 476 AD, when the Franks invaded and kicked out the Romans. Lutetia was renamed Paris for the previous occupants.

During the first moon landing in 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin were on the surface for 21 hours. During that time, they snacked on peaches, sugar cookies, bacon, coffee, and grapefruit-pineapple juice.

Xanthophobia is the fear of the color yellow or the word yellow. It’s a genuine phobia that can develop after a traumatic experience involving something yellow. (Being hit by a school bus maybe?) Symptoms can include fear, anxiety, panic, etc.

Worldwide, some 340 dog breeds are recognized (although the haughty AKC only recognizes 167). About 20 breeds have evolved webbed toes, primarily as an aid when swimming. Among them: the Newfoundland, Portuguese Water Dog, Weimaraner, and Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

Dachsunds are not swimmers, but they also have webbed feet. Originally, they were bred for hunting small game, and the webbing allows them to shovel dirt more efficiently when pursuing, say, a badger in its den.

Webbed toes

The English language is known for giving curious and unexpected names to groups of animals: a pride of lions, a gaggle of geese, a murder of crows, a prickle of porcupines. FYI, a group of rats (eewwww) is called a mischief.

An animal described as crepuscular is one that is most active around twilight. Bats, for example.

Technically, the holiday Cinco de Mayo, commemorates a battle on May 5, 1862, in which 2,000 Mexican irregulars defeated an invading army of 5,000 French troops. It is a minor holiday in Mexico, but the U.S. has made it a day to party, the excuse being to celebrate Mexican heritage.

The spider with the venom most toxic to humans is the male Sydney Funnel-Web Spider (Atrax robustus), found around Sydney in eastern Australia. The venom of the female is nasty, but less toxic. The spiders are aggressive and will attempt to bite you multiple times.

Atrax robustus

When a song or an advertising jingle is stuck in your head, you are said to have an “earworm.”

A luthier is a craftsman who builds stringed instruments, whether plucked or played with a bow. The word luthier comes from luth, which is French for lute.

Wind speeds around the globe are increasing, most likely due to climate change. The increase is so significant that experts say the output of the world’s wind turbines is expected to climb by as much as one-third.

The wombat is the only animal whose scat is cube-shaped instead of round. The anus of the Australian marsupial is round, but the animal has developed the ability to control its muscles and poop in the form of square pellets.

This ability seems to have evolved because wombats use piles of scat to mark territory, and, whereas round scat rolls away, cubes stay put.

Wombat pellets

 

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Random observations / recollections / stories…

———

Close Inspection

Recently, my son Dustin borrowed my utility trailer to haul some things to the county dump. A few hours later, he returned it to its customary spot outside my garage.

The next morning, when my dog Jake and I got home from our daily walk, Jake got of the car, paused, sniffed the air, made a detour over to the trailer, and began checking it out.

He systematically sniffed the side rails, the tires, and the tongue. I let him take his time. After several minutes of close inspection, he was satisfied and trotted to the back door.

We went inside, Jake got his customary treat, and I texted Dustin to tell him about Jake’s intense interest in the trailer.

It went on an adventure and had a story to tell,” Dustin replied.

Well said.

Jake horizontal

Keeping the Story Alive

In the early 1950s, we Smiths lived in Falls Church, Virginia. One summer, when I was about 10 and my brother Lee was four-ish, our Uncle John from Brooklyn came for a visit.

We were all in the living room chatting, and John asked Lee a question, something innocuous. Lee answered, then laughed heartily and added, “You silly froop!”

Baffled, the rest of the family laughed politely, and the conversation moved on.

Years later, I brought up the incident with Lee and asked him to define froop.

Lee had no recollection of the event. The word froop didn’t ring a bell.

So I asked Mom about it. She remembered the exchange, but had no idea what Lee meant by a froop.

Nowadays, the word froop has several meanings. It can be, for example, a combined form of fruit loop, a froop being, like, an airhead. It’s also a brand of apple-flavored yogurt.

But even if the word dates back to the 1950s, Lee probably was too young to have known the term. Most likely, the word just popped into his head.

Because Lee doesn’t remember the incident, I am the only person on earth who does. This post is my effort to keep the story alive.

P.S. I call Jake a silly froop all the time.

Froop

We Regret the Error

I love this story.

In October 2007, the Los Angeles Times published the obituary of Nolan A. Herndon, 88, a South Carolinian who had been an Army Air Forces navigator during World War II. Herndon participated in the bombing of Japan by “Dolittle’s Raiders” four months after the Pearl Harbor attack.

After the war, Herndon raised cattle and later went into the wholesale grocery business. The lengthy obituary gave details about his war experiences and was mostly accurate.

Mostly.

The day after the obituary was published, this correction appeared in the Times:

The obituary of Nolan A. Herndon in Monday’s California section gave his nickname as “Sue.” In fact, he was known only as Nolan A. Herndon.

In addition, his sons were listed as Nolan A. “Sue” Herndon, Jr. and James M. “Debbie” Herndon. Neither son goes by those nicknames; Sue and Debbie are the names of their wives.

I wonder if a copywriter got fired.

Herndon N

Nolan Herndon, not Sue Herndon.

 

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My dad was a career officer in the Air Force, and from 1957 to 1960, our family lived in Stuttgart, Germany. I attended a high school there for American military dependents.

Because of the place and time, life for us male students at Stuttgart High School was heavily beer-centric — the German beer being, as you might expect, of superb quality.

Further, unlike teens back in the U.S., we had unusual freedom when we ventured off-base. The Germans despised and mostly avoided us, so as long as we were smart and stayed out of trouble, we had easy access to the taverns and the beer.

I have fond memories of those days of my friends, the adventures, the occasional misadventures — but it happened a long time ago, and, sadly, much has faded from my aging brain.

Some things, however, are indelibly etched in my memory banks. I was reminded of that the other day when, alone in my car, I began spontaneously singing the chorus of the Hofbräuhaus Song, which every kid knew back in my high school days.

The Hofbräuhaus Song is a German oom-pah tune that celebrates the famous Hofbräuhaus beer hall in Munich. It was written in 1935 by Wilhelm Gabriel (nicknamed Wiga), a Berliner whose other hits were patriotic marching songs for the Third Reich. Most people prefer to ignore that part.

Specifically, I belted out this refrain from the song:

In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus.
Eins, zwei, g’suffa!
Da läuft so manches Fäßchen aus.
Eins, zwei, g’suffa!

Translation:

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
There, many kegs are emptied.
One, two, drink up!

I pronounced every word correctly, precisely, and with the appropriate gusto. Wiga Gabriel could not have done better.

Here is the German version of the song.

And here is the English translation:

The Hofbräuhaus Song

There, where the green Isar River flows,
Where you greet people with “Good day,”
Lies my beautiful city of Munich,
The likes of which you have never seen.

Water is cheap, pure, and good,
But it thins the blood.
Far better is some golden wine.
But best of all is this:

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
There, many kegs are emptied.
One, two, drink up!

There’s always some fellow there
One, two, drink up
Who wants to show how much he can drink.
He starts early in the morning,
And only late in the evening does he come out,
Because it’s so great at the Hofbräuhaus!

You don’t drink out of a glass there.
There’s only the “big beer mug!”
And when the first mug is empty,
The waitress Reserl will bring you more.

Sometimes, his wife at home is worried
Because the man is gone so long.
But the good neighbors,
They know better!

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
There, many kegs are emptied.
One, two, drink up!

There’s always some fellow there
One, two, drink up
Who wants to show how much he can drink.
He starts early in the morning,
And only late in the evening does he come out,
Because it’s so great at the Hofbräuhaus!

Although many other cities have sights to see,
One thing is nowhere else but here:
Munich beer!
He who wrote this little song
Has for many long nights studied Munich’s beer
And sampled it comprehensively.

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
Where the kegs are always flowing.
One, two, drink up!

There is always some brave fellow
One, two, drink up
Who wants to show how much he can drink.
He starts early in the morning,
And only late in the evening does he come out,
Because it’s so great at the Hofbräuhaus!

———

For details about the Hofbräuhaus, a truly marvelous institution, here is Rick Steves with an overview.

In summary, I may forget what I had for lunch yesterday, but the main chorus of the Hofbräuhaus Song is still fresh in my mind, 60 years later.

Eins, zwei, g’suffa!

Hofbräuhaus crowd

Many kegs are still being emptied today at the Hofbräuhaus.

 

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My dog Jake leads a full and comfortable life. He eats well, exercises regularly, and naps often. Via a dog door, he has free access to a fenced back yard facing a woods full of critters. Plus, he and I go on daily walks around town, many of which lead to encounters with people, pets, and wildlife.

In addition, I talk to him a lot, probably more than most people would consider normal. (It’s a habit I acquired honestly. After I lost Paco, I lived alone for two years and had no one to talk to. When I adopted Jake, I guess it all came pouring out.)

Jake is a smart pooch anyway, and, for all the above reasons, he has quite an extensive vocabulary. You can tell when he knows a word. He comes to attention and his eyes widen when he hears it.

Here are some of the words and phrases he understands

Jake, Dude, Bubba (He knows all refer to him.)
Treat
Stay
Stay here
No
Okay
Come here
Sit
Wait
Off
Gimme a kiss
Go outside
Go for a ride
Go bye-bye
Check the mail
You ready?
I’ll be back (Translation: the human is leaving me at home.)
Eat
You hungry?
Breakfast, supper (Translation: it’s food time.)
All gone
Water
Peanuts
Popcorn
Banana
Dog
Cat
Squirrel
Deer
Donkeys (A herd lives a few blocks from our house.)
Bird
Duck (The City Park has a duck pond.)
Car
Ride
Walk
Leash
Poop
Deanna (my ex)
Celeste (her dog)

There are certain other words and phrases he hears regularly, but probably doesn’t know what they mean. However, I’m sure he understands from my tone that all are meant affectionately

Good boy
Pretty boy
Ol’ buddy
Knucklehead
Hairball
Dillweed
Doofus
Goober
Look at that beautiful tail
How’d you get to be so handsome?

In one way or another, I tell him he’s a good dog 50 times a day.

Jake doesn’t know the word horse yet, but if we go walking at the Heritage Farm a few more times, he probably will.

Heritage-1

Heritage-2

 

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