Winter, Dogs and Writing: A Disjointed Rambling From a Man Who Felt the Urge to Write but Couldn’t Settle on a Topic

We all know the virtues of a good dog. Except for cat people, that is. They know the…whatever….that a good cat has.

I’m not quite sure exactly where this post is going. I think families and dogs go hand in hand. As I write this now, the snow is falling outside. The faucets are dripping. I’m sitting in bed as winter wears on outside my windows. My wife’s Schnauzer-Chihuahua mix is gnawing on his leg a scant few inches from my leg and my Mastiff is laying just outside the open bedroom door on a Disney princess carpet my daughters stained with so much mermaid slime they don’t want it anymore.

Mermaid slime is not a euphemism. Mermaid slime is pink glittery slime we got them for Christmas. In case anyone was confused.

Dogs and winter go together as much as dogs and families do, I think. There’s something comforting about a sleeping dog when winter rages mere inches away.

I think this post may be more about winter than anything else. It is a strange idea to me that a foot or two of sheet rock and insulation are all that separate us from frostbite. I like that idea. The wind howls and I can hear it. I can see the trees bend and sway. But I am warm. I can see the snow falling. I can watch it pile up in drifts in the corners of the yard. I can’t catch it on my tongue of touch it and loose feeling in my fingertips. I am in the midst of the storm, untouched by it. This feeling intrigues me. It reminds me of how I felt in a tent or fort when I was a kid. I was outdoors, yet separated from the outdoors. I like to picture in my mind a nearly blinding snowstorm in the midst of which we see a faint glow. As we sweep in closer and the glow grows brighter, warmer, we see that it is a single bulb in a single window of a small house. As we peek in the window we see perhaps a family playing a board game. Of course, in my fantasy, a large dog lays beside the couch, passively spending time with the family. Or perhaps we see someone at a typewriter. Sitting at it, tapping away on a novel, is a stereo-typical novelist. If it is a man, perhaps there is a glass of brandy on a coaster and a cigar fuming in an ashtray. If it is a woman, the brandy is wine and the cigar is, well, whatever the feminine version of that is. Chocolate, maybe. And in my fantasy, a dog is present. Perhaps he is sitting on his haunches, panting despite the blaring cold outside the window, thumping his tail lazily on the floor. Maybe she lays curled around her person’s feet, warming them, inspiring the writer to pen (or tap out, in these modern times) a story of charity, love and warmth.

I went skiing once and fell so many times that at the end, my eyelids were weighted down by little balls of ice on my lashes. I had to stumble into the lodge and let my lashes thaw so I could see. A fire roared and a large dog lay in front of it. The sight of the dog (once I could see again) comforted me more than the fire did.

To sum all this up, I’ll say this. The cold loneliness of winter can be offset by a good dog. The snoring of my English Mastiff lulls me to sleep when it is cold out. I cannot feel it, but I know it is there and her normally irritating attempts to breathe comfort me. When family is absent or bitter cold lays upon the land, inches away, trying its hardest to get to you despite your electric blankets, space heaters, or cherished significant other laying next to you, a dog is necessary.

A dog is family when no family can be found. A dog is warmth when the world seeks to place you into cryogenic storage.

A dog is necessary.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…consider befriending a dog. ‘Tis a wondrous thing.

A don’t…give up cats if they are your preference. Unconditional love is great wherever you find it.



Re-purposed Costumes and Child Prodigies: A Proud Father Horrified

A couple of quick insights before we get into the meat of this post:

  1. Halloween costumes are cheaply made (the ones we buy are, anyway) and might as well be re-purposed.
  2. I am aware of the dangers of trampoline ownership and usage. We monitor the kids closely when they use it and have had no trampoline related injuries in the 2 years we’ve had it. Well, no injuries to the kids, anyway. I’ve pulled several muscles moving that ridiculous thing out of the way so I can mow under it. Oh, and also the blood blister from trying to stretch those extremely stiff springs during setup.
  3. Bicycles the size of the ones my 7 year old daughter and 5 year old son use are not equipped with kick stands. I take this to mean that the manufacturers do not expect that children that young will need the training wheels removed. What it likely means is that they’ve already spent money installing training wheels and don’t want to spend more on manufacturing and installing a kick stand.
  4. I choose to believe that my son, despite the bicycle manufacturers implied assumption, is a bike riding prodigy. I choose to believe he will be the bike riding equivalent of Beethoven and/or Mozart.

With all that said, let me explain the intent of this post. My son can ride a bike. He enjoys riding his bike to an extent that horrifies me because, the more confident he gets, the more risks he takes.

Before he learned how to turn, his risk was to get as close as possible to the trampoline before stopping. As his turning skills improved he decided he simply MUST try to ride around the lotus pond.

This caused me much consternation. I didn’t want to discourage him, however, I especially didn’t want him to fall into the stagnant, odiferous muck that inhabits the pond now that all the blossoms and leaves have fallen into the water. This stuff is very nearly alive and I rue the windy and overcast day that it finally burps up some strange, dripping, glob-like life form.

Side-note: I refuse to clean out the lotus pond in the fall because not only will the lotus grow up and hide it in the spring, but he muck makes a wonderful addition to mulch and I want it to get as mucky as possible before I scoop some out in the early spring to schlop onto the garden.

As soon as I saw him headed toward the pond, I took off running. He rides with his knees out to the side and I don’t know how to describe the sight, but he pumps his legs so fast that the sight of those knees bobbing out on the sides of his bike is very comical. So I laughed as I ran. Just as I caught up to him he executed a perfect turn mere inches from the edge of the pond.

When he stopped his bike by intentionally running into my theoretically evergreen tree I lectured him on the dangers of what he had just done, implied there would be consequences if he did it again and sent him off to ride a different route.

He was proud of his turn, though, and kept bringing it up. “Hey Daddy, did you see, I, I, did you see me I turned and didn’t splash?!”

Apparently this gave him confidence and, feeling that he had mastered the challenges of turning before riding into a pond, he decided it was time to tempt fate another way.

When he disappeared into the house, I figured he had to go to the bathroom. Instead he came back out in his Halloween costume and decided it would be fun to horrify the dogs and his sisters as he rode after them helter-skelter, cackling and crashing into obstacles he couldn’t see through the inadequate eye holes of the Halloween mask.

Here’s the moral of all this: There may be many ways to repurpose a Halloween mask. Bike helmet is not an acceptable option, even though it has the potential to be hilarious.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…allow you children a few eccentricities. They are good learning opportunities for you as well as them. While sometimes scary, they can also be hilarious.

A don’t…feel guilty if you monitor them closely when they have their “good ideas”. In most cases, they are envisioning positive outcomes that only exist in the realm of the miraculous.


A Day in the Yard or When Work Isn’t Work; Cherish it While You Can

I have three children. Of the three I have two accomplished bike riders and one aspiring. Strangely, my oldest at 9 and my youngest at 5 are the accomplished. My 7 year old is still aspiring. She’s a bit of a free spirit, though, and nothing holds her attention for very long. She’s getting very close to taking the training wheels off for good.

There’s no rush, I suppose. I know adults who never learned to ride a bike.

Anyway, the other day there was no school and the weather was perfect and after breakfast we went outside and I watched them ride bikes for about two hours. When their legs finally began to get tired and they drifted to other activities I got the wheel-barrow and rake and started loading up needles and leaves.

We moved into this house two summers ago and I thought I had an evergreen in the back yard. Apparently either I don’t or it’s very sick because last fall and again this fall, the needles have browned and fallen just like the leaves on our sometimes-greens. This tree drops so many needles that it covers the ground beneath it so thickly that it feels like walking on a shag carpet. Maybe the tree is an evergreen, and it’s simply a nostalgic sort of tree, pining away for the ’70’s.  A ha ha ha.


As I was raking and loading and trudging and dumping the loads of leaves and needles on my garden spot the kids began to follow me. They took my rake and began raking their own piles. They took my wheel-barrow and began carting loads themselves. They asked for rides and I gave them, at first in the empty barrow back to the trees and later (after my son was hit by a bolt of inspiration) in the leaf laden barrow en route to the garden spot.

Needless to say, by about 11:00 we were a bit hungry. I had worked up a sweat and I couldn’t think of anything better than sitting down in the cool kitchen for lunch. My oldest daughter insisted on a picnic. The electric company recently cut down a tree in our yard that threatened their lines. I asked them to leave the wood and they left slabs perfect for stools and a nice short, wide one that makes a fine table. As I performed one last task and maneuvered these into place, the kids ran inside to find their old Easter baskets.

We loaded the baskets with sandwiches, chips, “juice” pouches and dog biscuits.

I sat on a rough chunk of tree surrounded by kids and dogs and had the best grilled cheese sandwich and cup of coffee it has ever been my privilege to consume.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…let your kids help you work. I hear it won’t be long before they realize it isn’t fun. It is, actually, but only when you’re very young or getting old.

A don’t…blame your trees for pining for the ’70’s. The air was much cleaner back then. No wonder my evergreen wants to hold its breath for the winter.


The Burger, An Ode To

A chunk of dead cow, ground up real fine;

Packed into a tube, it goes for a drive;

It’s tested, inspected, approved and passed on;

I really don’t care, until it’s all gone.

There’s something truly comforting about having ground beef in the deep freeze or fridge. Sometimes it’s all planned out. Tonight, however, my wife and I had the most amazing burger night on a whim.

It sits in the freezer;

You reach through the frost;

And it appears like a lover;

Who has long since been lost;

It slowly takes shape, from out of the fog;

That glorious, frozen, deceased bovine log.

Fortunately, our ground beef tubes were already thawed. We decided shortly after I got home from work that tonight would be Burger Night. We ran to the store for some non-burger-related items. We always seem to have everything needed for a burger on hand.

You first hear a sizzle, from cast iron heated well;

And then your nose senses that glorious smell;

The burning and searing of well seasoned beef;

Makes my nostrils to tingle;

My stomach to rumble in delight and relief.

I seasoned the meat before we left and set it in the fridge so that the flavors could mingle one with another. I can’t remember what we used. I know there was butter, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. There was something else too. I can’t remember what all there was, but I am certain of what there wasn’t. Cooking Sherry. My wife indicated that this was positively forbidden.

When the very first bite succumbs to your teeth;

The whole of your body is stricken with grief;

For just as the first bite is gloriously rich;

The last bite, though delicious,

Is a bleep of a…well it rhymes with rich.

I don’t know what it is about a burger that is so much more addictive to me than other forms of meat. Or than non-ground forms of beef. I love fried chicken. Steak is great. But a burger is something I Crave. With a capital C. As indicated by the previous sentence.

I’ll never know how man has survived;

With times pre-modern lacking the drive;

To grind up their beef;

Perhaps they were content to simply eat goat:

It’d be more than enough:

Knowing what I know;

To inspire me, uncharacteristically;

To perform certain acts:

What with my knowledge of meat grinding facts;

That by today’s standards would be quite atrocious;

But, by gar, the ground beef:

Is the King of the groceries.
My wife and I ate and groaned and rolled our eyes. We wiped our chins and lips and, had you simply stepped in, you’d have thought we’ were engaged in some strange cult ritual. In a way we were. We were having burgers! There are many great moments in life but, culinarily anyway, there is no greater moment than indulging in a burger. We pressed them quite thin and mine had sliced onions fried into it. It was glorious. And though I am full I’d happily, gluttonously, irresponsibly eat another.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t

Adieu…indulge in life’s pleasures the way we do in burgers. At least on occasion. Spice up your life the way we spice up ground beef. It is amazing that something as simple as a fried chunk of cow can bring such happiness. Find your burger and don’t be afraid to enjoy it now and then.

Adon’t…worry about the dogs. I always make them their own burger. Stella, the huge and ungainly English Mastiff who is sweet as…lacking a metaphor I’ll stick with “A very sweet thing”…is rarely satiated. But my wife’s Chihuahua/Schnauzer mix, Dexter, always gets his fill on Burger Night.

Stay At Home Dogs and Their Mysterious Owners; A Query of the Canine Mind

If you are reading this as a non-dog-owner or as the owner of a dog that isn’t horrified of literally everything, you may not understand the idea that I’m about to present. Allow me to set the stage a little bit for those of you that fall into the aforementioned categories.

I have a very large and stubborn dog. She won’t go anywhere she doesn’t want to go. She is a big weenie. If there’s a broom propped against the wall she won’t walk past it. She’s literally horrified of everything, as I mentioned earlier. When she gets scared her stomach becomes nervous and she can flatulate her way to a house or car free of humans. She’s been on only one car ride with my wife and I. I had to lift her into the car and if it hadn’t been for a random set of earplugs in the glove box that I was able to cram into my nostrils I’m sure I’d have driven off the highway and killed us all.  For these reasons and despite the facts that I love my dog very much and would love to take her to town with us, she’s never been in our car since the day we picked her up. She is a stayin’ home kind of dog.

And there you have a set stage. A whole paragraph just to say “My dog don’t go nowhere.” I’ll now proceed with my thought as I cringe at the triple negative I just committed.

This morning I woke up at 5:30 A.M. and went to the well known 24 hour grocery and goods chain that every town seems to have. I had to get my daughter an apple for school. When I got home my dog greeted me at the door, tail wagging so wildly that her back half reminded me of a derailed train where the rear cars are off  the tracks but still desperately trying to follow the locomotive. She sniffed excitedly at the small bag in my hand and looked up at me with, what seemed to me, an expression of wonder. I had an epiphany. I had a thought I’ve never had before.

Perhaps with the kids still in bed and nothing too stressful looming on my immediate horizon my brain was free to entertain more idle thoughts than it can after a day full of cares, but I realized that, to my dog who never leaves her own house or yard, I’m a mysterious adventurer who travels to realms she’s never dreamed of and returns with things that, sometimes, she’s never seen or smelled before.

That’s an interesting idea to have, but it is also depressing. All this time I thought she was excited to see me because she loves and missed me. Maybe this isn’t the case at all. Maybe she’s just excited to smell the exotic smells that hitchhike home on my clothes and exude from the bags of wonders I sometimes carry with me.

If you are a person who takes their dog with them everywhere and your dog still greets you enthusiastically when you get home from work, I think you can rest easy knowing it is truly you your dog is happy to see. For me, however, I must be content with the thought that my dog is in complete awe of me. Sadly, I’ll never be sure if me dog even loves me. But, to at least one mind in the universe I’m a superhero who travels to strange places and returns smelling of the unknown, sometimes with armloads of alien artifacts.

You’d think she’d be more apt to obey such an individual, but we can’t have everything, can we?

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…think before you take your dog anywhere. Ask yourself “Do I want to spend time with my friend or be a mysterious adventurer to him/her” It’s a tough choice if you have a dog that even allows you to make such a choice.

A don’t…let your status as dog hero go to your head. It’s possible that dogs greet us out of instinct and have no care at all for who we are and where we’ve been.


An Evening of Creeping Creepiness or A Day in the Life of Me

I thought my dog was a sweet loving creature. I still think so, but now I’m trying to convince myself that the attached photo is evidence of my poor photography skills and low quality phone rather than evidence that my dog is somehow becoming Cerberus.

My wife was cutting my hair in the living room, or “front room” as she calls it which is accurate but still improper in my opinion, and Stella was standing right beside my chair, staring at me and worriedly sniffing at every clump of hair that fell into my lap. I tried to get a picture of her being so concerned about me but she’s a quirky creature. If she knows she’s going to be photographed she moves out of frame. Maybe she doesn’t even realize what’s being done, maybe she just doesn’t like things pointed at her. Either way, her avoidance of photos could be further evidence of her impending hellhound transformation. She got tired of dodging my camera and ran to the hallway to watch from a distance. I was able to snap the attached pic and when it was visible on my phone I became worried. The room was not foggy, but the picture would suggest it was. And that massive glowing eyed creature peering at me through the non-existent haze gave me the creeps. She hasn’t sprouted any new heads or anything, and she seems to be her usual self but two things are certain. I’ll be keeping a close eye on her and the picture is going in some sort of appropriate frame to be hung as a Halloween decoration.

Sadly, this wasn’t the full extent of creepiness I experienced last night. My wife and I were in bed watching t.v. when suddenly and for no reason apparent to me, she began to scream. I screamed back “What’s wrong!?” to which she replied with another scream. I again inquired as to the nature of her fear and her response was to scream again, slide to the edge of the bed and tear off her shirt. I became mildly perturbed at this point. Her disrobing had no apparent amorous intent and she would say no coherent thing. So I sat dumbfounded and wondering if there was a snake on me or perhaps Stella had actually gone ahead and grown two more heads. Finally she was able to enunciate the source of her strange actions. Arachnophobia. It was a rather small arachnid. It was on my shirt, so I still don’t know why she removed hers. Creepier and creepier. Maybe she’s going to become a Cerberus too. Maybe it’s just a matter of time…

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…keep an eye on my site. If I haven’t posted anything in a while call a priest.

A don’t…tell my wife I told you about this.

Guard Mastiffs; A Paradox

We recently bought a small sign that hangs on our front door. It says “Guard Mastiff On Duty” and has a depiction of an English Mastiff’s face on it. It makes me laugh every time I see it. While the sign (and Stella’s bark) might be effective if anyone who isn’t familiar with Mastiffs tries to rob us, any future felon familiar with the breed wouldn’t be intimidated in the least.

My giant dog is a giant wimp. I’ve posted before about her lack coordination. Let me now explain how fearful the poor thing is.

We got her as an adult dog from a friend of mine whose fence is more fashionable than it is functional when it comes to containing dogs the size of farm animals, so I can’t speak for what may have happened in her puppy years that may have traumatized her. Our first indication that we had adopted a ‘fraidy dog came a few weeks after we brought her home. She had already sufficiently overcome the expected fear of a new place and new family. She was waiting comfortably on her bed in our laundry room when we came home from the store one day. I had seen a large cat in the backyard when we pulled in the drive and I was anxious to see if she would be willing to chase the thing away. Please note, it wasn’t cruelty that drove my curiosity. My wife is allergic to cats and while I’m not one to unnecessarily inconvenience animals I feel that the needs of a human being take precedence over those of an animal. That being said, I let Stella out the back door and stood close by, watching, just in case she took the job of clearing our yard too personally. I needn’t have worried. In addition to being afraid of cats, our Stella is less than observant. It was nearly a full minute before she even noticed the creature. When she did she let out a deep and intimidating woof. The cat didn’t even react. It just kept sniffing around the kids’ gardens. Stella stuck her tail straight out and stalked to within about ten feet of the cat and barked again. The cat turned around and a massive Mastiff turned around and ran so fast and so footloosely that she barely stopped before crashing head first into the garage. She barked again, weakly, and trotted back into the house, nearly knocking me over.

Her running past me through the doorway seems surprising now since if I want her to stay in the laundry room, usually because we are eating dinner and she is eye level with our plates and not shy at all about sharing our food whether we are feeling generous or not, all I have to do is prop a broom against the wall just inside the laundry room door. She is horrified to walk past it. She’ll stare at it and whine from the back of the room and the second I move it she bursts in like she owns the place.

Our first Christmas season with her was interesting. We had our tree up and once, after dropping the girls off at school I returned home with the precocious five year old boy. Stella greeted us at the door, and, wagging her tail ferociously, knocked several ornaments off the tree. My son had run toward the street and as I hollered at him to stop, the ornaments began to hit the floor. Stella startled and charged forward, knocking me on my back as I desperately grabbed at her collar. For several short eternities I lay on my back, clinging with all I had to the worn bit of cloth that was all that restrained a monster from running amuck as I screamed at the youngster I could no longer see to get back to the house before he was killed. Somehow it all turned out ok. I wonder what if the neighbors noticed the disasters nearly averted that day?

Despite her uselessness as a guard dog she is quite adorable sometimes. I’ll try to walk by her as she lays on her side on the floor and she’ll paw at my ankle, nearly tripping me because she wants to be petted. Other times she lays her head on my lap and I’ll scratch her shoulders. Once it relaxed her so much she leaned against the ottoman. It slid, she fell, quite entertaining. She opens the door with her face when we come home. As soon as we crack it wide enough a huge, wet nose pokes through and she’ll jaw the thing open and block our entry in her excitement to say hello.

Her endearing qualities scored her a supporting role in the children’s book I wrote. If you’re interested, or know a young reader who might be, you can find “How Sir Donkey Legs Became a Knight” in paperback or ebook format on Google,, and on their online bookstore. You can also connect with me on Facebook. I use the username William Ennis. Everyone is welcome. Know that a portion of all money I receive from sales of my book (soon to be books) will go to programs dedicated to the enrichment and strengthening of families.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…love dogs, or any pets, for their endearing qualities even if they fail in other areas.

A don’t…judge me for plugging my book. I won’t be offended if you call it a silly thing. Also a don’t…think I’ve forgotten that Schnauzer. He’s scheduled to appear in the third book of the Sir Donkey Legs series.