2010 March-April

It’s March 2010 now, ‘n’ Pops is drivin’ his new Mother Ship to California, ‘n’ he won’t be back for many, many weeks. Here are my latest adventures.  

   

March 8, from Louie, Day 1

Dear Dad,
 
First off, Mom is deranged, ‘n’ you can’t believe a single word she says.
 
Second, IT WASN’T MY FAULT!!!!!!
 
It’s YOUR fault, for leavin’ us again ‘n’ puttin’ me in charge of Mom’s health ‘n’ well-being. I’m just a DOG, for gosh sakes! WHAT WERE YOU THINKIN’??????
 
OK, OK, back to the beginnin’.  

Mom was a very irresponsible human last night. You wasn’t even out of town yet, ‘n’ she was out gallivantin’ ’til the wee wee hours with some studly guy named Oscar. She was sooooooooo late ‘n’ I was sooooooooo hungry (not to mention I had to pee), I dug myself a nice hole in the quilt ‘n’ curled up in it to die. Fortunately for all of us, I was still breathin’ when Mom condescended to come home, ‘n’ I must admit she resuscitated me nicely with a big bowl full of leftover gristly bits. So I forgive her ‘n’ curled up beside her on the big bed (hee hee hee — it’s MY bed now) ‘n’ we snoozed until mornin’ without one barkin’ fit.
 
For lettin’ her sleep in, Mom rewarded me with a trip to the dog park — ‘n’ it shoulda been an outstanding adventure. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the thermometer was nosin’ its way up to 50 (whatever the heck that is) ‘n’ the whole darned gang was waitin’ for me at the park. There was Fat Annie, ‘n’ Dingo of the Herniated Butt ‘n’ his sister Rascal, ‘n’ Jake ‘n’ Marley ‘n’ the Sssssh Lady’s brats.  

“Louie!!!!!” they cried as I pranced through the  gate.  

 “Boys!!!!” I shouted back, ‘n’ we all galloped around, markin’ our territory ‘n’ sniffin’ out good places to poop.
 
Well, Mom proceeded to walk the perimeter, ‘n’ frankly, Dad, she had WAAAYYY too much red juice last night as she contemplated the next seven weeks without you, so she was kinda fuzzy-headed, ‘n’ she wandered off without me, ‘n’ the next thing you know, some stocky little pug with attitude latched himself to Mom’s thigh ‘n’ started humpin’ her like there was no tomorrow.
 
Sheeeesh, Pops, I was SOOOOOOOOOOO embarrassed. There I was with all the guys, ‘n’ MY MOTHER was gettin’ humped by a pug! I will NEVER live it down.
 
So I turned my back on her, hopin’ she’d take care of that overambitious pug herself ‘n’ none of the other guys would notice, but nooooooooooo, every time she kicked him off, he come back for more. Pretty soon, the other guys was snickerin’ ‘n’  tellin’ off-color jokes about my mom. Even Dingo stopped poopin’ long enough to chortle.
 
So I had no choice. I bared my fangs, I tore across the field faster’n a speedin’ bullet, ‘n’ with a mighty growl, I butted that horny young fella offa Mom’s leg. He rolled into a snow bank but bounced right back, ‘cuz apparently he hadn’t finished his business. He wanted Mom’s OTHER leg!!!! But I dug in, snorted fire ‘n’ give him my best Louie glare.
 
He whimpered ‘n’ skedaddled back to his human.
 
“Louie! My HERO!!!!” Mom gushed as she wiped foreign bodily fluids off her jeans.
 
I just harrumphed. Even though I performed admirably, per your instructions, I was still mortified. Mom shoulda NEVER EVER let another dog rub his nether regions against her leg.
 
Sheesh.
 
That’s MY job.
 
Well, OK, it’s YOUR job, but it’s mine in your absence.
 
So I hung my head in shame as we left the dog park. ‘N’ I may never ever be able to face the old gang again.
 
Humiliatingly yours,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. Mom made amends with hot-off-the-skillet hamburger grease for my dinner tonight, but geez, she’s gotta stop consortin’ with strange mongrels! She’s gonna get a terrible reputation!  

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, I’m soooooooo proud of you. That’s what I meant when I told you that you had to look out for Mom, ‘cuz, you know, sometimes she gets a little fuzzy-headed. I’ll write more after I read your Day 2, OK?  

Pops  

  

March 9, from Louie, Day 2

You know, Pops, Louie isn’t so dumb.
 
I hear you and Mom talkin’ when you both think I’m asleep (‘n’ sometimes even when I’m lookin’ right at you) ‘n’ I know Mom in particular says I’m not the sharpest doughnut in the shower stall (?????), but I got her real good tonight. So good, she almost wrecked Miss Corolla.
 
We was on our way home from seein’  the boys. (‘N’ what a disappointin’ visit THAT was. Everyone was so darned hungry, they snarfed up all the sloppy lasagna layers for theirselves, ‘n’ there was barely a tongueful of grease left for me! That’s just not right.)
 
But anyway — it was pitch dark when we left, so there was no interestin’ scenery to see, ‘n’ it was gettin’ cold again, so there was no open windows for me to stick my head out of, ‘n’ that radio contraption was blaring so loud, it made my ears wince, so I had no choice but to curl up on the back seat ‘n’ take a little nap. I was so quiet, Mom even twisted around in her seat a coupla times to make sure I hadn’t strangled myself to death on my bling. Which I hadn’t.
 
So we was makin’ our uneventful way back to Canyon Trail when suddenly I felt Miss Corolla ease around the curve to the right, ‘n’ then she eased around the curve to the left, ‘n’ I leapt to my feet ‘n’ tried to make myself a hood ornament ‘n’ I barked barked barked — ‘cuz even though it was a dark ‘n’ dreary night, I knew IMMEDIATELY ……
 
We was passin’ the dog park!!!!!
 
“Louie!” Mom gasped, ‘n’ she let go of that funny steerin’ wheel to clutch her chest.
 
I just kept barkin’ ‘n’ my tail was thumpin’ the back o’ Mom’s head. I was so darned excited! We was at the dog park!!!!
 
Mom, the party pooper, wouldn’t turn in. She says dogs aren’t allowed in the park at night. I was sorely disappointed. But I also knew that if we was at the park, then we was almost home for dinner, so I stood at attention the rest of the way, snuffin’ ‘n’ snortin’ at each familiar landmark.
 
When Miss Corolla was finally nestled safely in the garage, Mom whipped around ‘n’ give me the biggest darned hug. “Louie, you are sooooooooooooo smart! You knew EXACTLY where we were!” ‘N’ she slobbered all over my neck.
 
I just sat there ‘n’ regally accepted her admiration.
 
‘Cuz, gosh darn it, Pops, I’m not so dumb as my ears make me look. I’d make a world-class navigator. I might even discover a new planet or two.
 
Intelligently yours,
 
Louie
 
Pops replies:  

Why Louie, I think we owe you an apology. Not only are you very smart, but you communicate in a language that is direct and simple. Why, when you go to the dog park, you and your buddies probably have lengthy conversations about your humans — and the humans (not your Mom or Pops, of course) stand around and just look dumb. Meanwhile, you and your buddies are sniffing and smelling and having all sorts of fun.
 
I’m proud of you, my boy.
 

Pops 'n' Mother headin' west through New Mexico.

Well, Pops began the day in New Mexico with the most beautiful sunrise and he’s ending the day in Arizona in a blizzard. Go figure, Louie. I traveled all this way south to avoid the snow and what do I find? Snow!! Talk about dumb. But, the sunrise was so spectacular, I jumped out of Mother and tried to capture it in a photo. Of course, the 50 mph wind in my face didn’t help. I hope you like the photo, Louie. The sunrise reminded me of our sunset hikes.  

 
Miss you bunches, Louie. Mom, too. I’ll be able to see tonight’s letter, Louie, in the morning — but I won’t see your letters again until Monday when I go to work.
 
Pops

   

March 10, from Louie, Day 3

Oh, Pops, it’s been one mud-slathered disappointment after another today.  

Firstly, Mom promised me a romp in the dog park this mornin’, ‘n’ even though she hauled her sorry lard-laced butt outta bed quite early ‘n’ doggedly (hee hee — get it?) drug me down to the park, there wasn’t another dog in all of Akron out there to splash in the mud with me. (‘N’ let me tell you, it was a dog-poop-dotted mud pit). I sloshed around by my lonesome as best as I could, but after one paltry march around the perimeter, Mom give it up ‘n’ we had to settle for a squishy walk down to the soccer fields ‘n’ back. No runnin’ for Louie.  

‘N’ then on the way home, we passed Baby, ‘n’ I barked my fool head off, tryin’ to get your attention. But would you stop? Noooooooooooooooo. You went off on your own adventures, leavin’ me alone with Mom, who doesn’t have the slightest idea of how to play tag.  

‘N’ then after stayin’ home with me for two days ‘n’ takin’ me on ALL her errands ‘n’ cookin’ up lots of real greasy stuff for my enhancements ‘n’ makin’ me think this was the way we was goin’ to live forever, that darned Mom went ‘n’ left me this afternoon for that Evil Work Place, ‘n’ I was all alone for hours ‘n’ HOURS without a single sunset walk or nothin’ to keep me occupied.  

‘N’ then when she FINALLY got home in the pitch darkness of night, the first thing she did was check the mail, ‘n’ some witchy woman named Wendy had sent us a letter sayin’ MY letters wasn’t nearly funny enough to catch her eye. So one down ‘n’ nine to go, ‘n’ poor Mom can’t retire ‘n’ live off my royalties. Bummer.  

‘N’ THEN, when she finally took me out for my Midnight Stroll, I IMMEDIATELY barfed all over the driveway. It was all Mom’s fualt for givin’ me some new dog food that was on sale. I say a penny saved is a penny barfed — thank you, Mr. Franklin.  

So now I’m sniffin’ half-heartedly at my supper ‘n’ I KNOW Mom isn’t gonna want to play after I get done writin’ to you, ‘cuz she come home powerful tired.  

This is just a disgustin’ day, ‘n’ the only consolation is at least it isn’t snowin’ on us like it’s snowin’ on you.  

Maybe tomorrow will be better.  

Unhappily yours,  

Louie  

P.S. Oh, gosh, Mom just said the forecast is for rain. Don’t that just suck?  

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, you don’t fool me for a minute. You want Mom to think that you wait patiently all night while she goes to that Evil Work Place. But I know better. As soon as Mom and Miss Corolla turn the corner, all the neighborhood dogs come over and the parrrrteeeeee begins.
 
Barfing in the driveway, huh? Son, I measured the amount of Jack Daniels in the bottle, so don’t be gettin into the Jack, OK?
 
Speaking of mud, the Motherhome is covered in it. Apparently New Mexico spreads some kinda dirt on the interstate instead of salt. The Motherhome is covered in it. Oh well, a good rain will take care of that.
 
Oh, I forgot to mention to Mom that I got lost yesterday. Yup, can you believe that, Louie? I needed to buy gas in Gallup, but I thought the price was too high and I thought maybe if I drive a little ways away from the interstate that maybe the price would go down. Yeah, that’s logical, no? In a manly kinda way. Well, pretty soon I was — well, I don’t know where I was except I was the only non-Navajo in sight. And Louie, the locals weren’t looking at me and the Motherhome in a friendly kinda way. Well, I quickly backtracked and skeddaddled.
 
OK Louie, I’m off to California this morning. Miss you and Mom lots.
 
Pops

  

March 11, from Louie, Day 4

Oh, Pops, as disappointin’ as yesterday was, today was almost perfect (I’ll get to the “almost” part later).
 
The weatherman was dead wrong. Instead of rain, by the time I drug Mom outside at 10:30, there was blue skies ‘n’ sunshine ‘n’ 60-degree breezes, ‘n’ I was just quiverin’ with excitement. I leapt into Miss Corolla, ‘n’ I kept jabberin’ in Mom’s ear, “let’s get goin’, let’s get goin’!”
 
I was somewhat disappointed that we didn’t head to the hills of the Cuyahoga, but Mom patiently ‘xplained to me that she was still buildin’ up her flabby legs from her long winter layoff, so I allowed her to take me to Hardesty Park instead of a big hike in the woods. ‘N’ Hardesty was just fine, ‘cuz I got to sniff at all sorts of yards ‘n’ bushes I hadn’t seen in MONTHS, ‘n’ I took Mom on a rip-snortin’ dash around the perimeter, snufflin’ ‘n’ peein’ ‘n’ poopin’ (me, not Mom. She don’t do that kinda stuff in public).
 
‘N’ after our hike, she  cranked down the windows ‘n’ let me lean outside as we puttered off on her errands. Oh, Pops, it was so grand — my snout in the breeze, ‘n’ my hairs whippin’ around my eyes ‘n’ all sorts of fantabulous springtime smells. I coulda done that all day, ‘cuz as everyone knows, a snout in the breeze is darned near as tantalizin’ as raw sex. (Well, that’s what everyone SAYS. I wouldn’t know about the sex part, since you ‘n’ Mom won’t ever let me finish my humpin’.)  

ANYWAY, it was so darned exhiliratin’, I didn’t even mind that Mom wouldn’t let me outta the car when we stopped at the condo to pick up the mail. I was in a delirious swoon by that point.
 
‘N’ THEN, when we got home ‘n’ Mom busied herself with the household chores,  it was so darned warm out that she propped open the back door, ‘n’ just like in olden times, I could wander in ‘n’ out of the house as I pleased, ‘n’ Mom wasn’t yellin’ at me to get my butt back inside before I froze off my nether regions. I dug through the daffodils, ‘n’ I gnawed on sticks, ‘n’ I sunned myself in the mud, ‘n’ it was just GLORIOUS!!!!!
 
Then, of course, Mom spoiled it all by goin’ off to that Evil Work Place, but I was so righteously exhausted by that point (you know, I had to dig all the way to China ‘n’ back) that I was quite happy to curl up on the couch ‘n’ snooze while she abandoned me. ‘Course, by the time she got home, I was well rested ‘n’ ready to tear up Canyon Trail lickety-split, even though it was startin’ to sprinkle. LAST night, we run into the Chivalrous Neighbor, ‘n’ he had DOG BISCUITS for me, so I thought maybe tonight, I’d get me another treat, but we was too early, ‘n’ there was no Chivalrous Neighbor ‘n’ no dog biscuits for Louie. But Mom made up for it by givin’ me a double helpin’ of canned enhancements. Geez, she knows how to take care of my tummy.
 
So now I’m gonna curl up on the big bed ‘n’ fart in Mom’s face. but she won’t mind, ‘cuz I’m Louie, ‘n’ she loves me no matter how smelly I am. She’s a pretty good human for an old lady.
 
Wish you was here, ‘cuz I’m quite……
 
Contented.
 
Louie.
 
P.S. Some surfer dude named Paul wrote that he isn’t interested in my adventures. Dumb Paul. So it’s two down ‘n’ eight to go.  

Pops replies:

Hi Louie: Oh, yes, I can just see you with your snout sticking out the window. What a wonderful and noble pose.
 
And I can really look forward to a time in a few weeks when we’ll keep the back door open and I’ll be grilling MEAT and we’ll all be admiring your excavations in the back yard. Mmm -mmm – I can almost taste the steak now — can you?
 
Pops

March 12, from Louie, Day 5

Dear Dad (note the formal tone),
 
Me ‘n’ Mom almost died today, which doesn’t mean too much to me, ‘cuz I don’t understand this dyin’ business, but it sure made Mom pale.
 
We was takin’ our Pre-Work Walk down Tamiami, turnin’ onto Eaglesnest, when suddenly there was a great roarin’ over the trees to our right. Even without the leaves, the trees was blockin’ our view, but the noise was so powerful, I jerked my head up to the skies ‘n’ barked, ‘n’ Mom’s head swiveled crazily on her neck as she tried to spot the source of all the commotion. It was fearsome loud, Dad, ‘n’ quite spine-tinglin’. But eventually it passed us by ‘n’ faded down toward the house.
Mom shook her head in consternation, but we bravely persevered on our walk.
 
But THEN!!!!!
 
We was headin’ down Letchworth back towards home, ‘n’ the roarin’ sound started growin’ again, ‘n’ through her sharp sunglasses, Mom spotted a big ol’ four-prop aeroplane bankin’ over the Little Cuyahoga valley. It turned ‘n’ started right up the street toward us, ‘n’ Pops! It was gettin’ lower ‘n’ lower, ‘n’ its nose was aimed right at Mom ‘n’ meeeeeeee!!!!
 
Well, I hunkered my shoulders in fightin’ mode, ‘n’ I nervously pawed the sidewalk, ‘n’ I growled somethin’ fierce. I expected Mom to pat me on the back like she always does ‘n’ say, “It’s OK, Louie, it’s just a gol-darned human contraption makin’ noise.”
 
But, noooooooo, Mom got quite white in the face as she looked up at the sky, ‘cuz that big ol’ plane was gettin’ so low, even I could count the propellers, ‘n’ Pops, it was still locked right on us!
“Louie!” Mom whispered. “That boy’s in trouble!!!!!” ‘N’ she looked around wildly for a place for us to hide.
 
But there was nothin’ for us to crawl under.  All we could do was stare up above us in trepidation, ‘n’ Mom ‘n’ me held our breaths, convinced that this was our very last minute on earth ‘cuz that big tin can was either gonna explode over our heads ‘n’ rain flamin’ hot portable toilet goo on us, or it was gonna plow right into us.
 
Mom stuffed her fingers into her ears, ‘n’ I hunkered down with my paws over my head ‘n’ we shivered as we waited for the end.
 
‘Cept at the last minute, the plane pulled its nose up ‘n’ rattled thunderously over our heads, ‘n’ veered off toward someplace called Cleveland (or, as Mom said, to the interstate, so it could land).
 
Well, we both nearly peed our pants, it was THAT CLOSE!!!!! ‘N’ it was only ‘cuz I lead such a noble life that we was spared. But let me tell you, Pops, that plane wasn’t more than three football fields above our heads, ‘n’ it was a BIIIIIIGGG mother!!!!
 
Mom immediately went off to that Evil Work Place, where she said she could look up news about any planes in distress, but alas, she couldn’t find nothin’. But me ‘n’ Mom are both convinced, there was somethin’ sinister about that flight plan!
 
Mom said philosophically that it was a grave reminder that us livin’ bein’s can be squished into nothingness with no warning.
I said, hmph!!!! Mom can be philosophical all she wants, ‘cuz she’s got a college degree ‘n’ I don’t. But let me tell you, as soon as I sign off on this letter, I’m usin’ my secret federal agent code to contact the Men in Black. ‘Cuz, Dad, that plane was just the advance forces of a Homeland Invasion, ‘n’ I got a sworn duty to let them know what evil is afoot on Canyon Trail.
 
There’ll be no sleep for Louie tonight. Not until the Men in Black slither into the neighborhood to preserve truth ‘n’ justice ‘n’ the American way!!!
 
Patriotically yours,
 
Louie.
 
P.S.  Mom says every day, the mail brings another rejection letter. Now some witch named Meredith says her client list is too selective for the likes of me.
 
Well, phooey on her!
 
Three down; seven to go! 

Pops replies:

Louie! Did you contact the Men in Black? How do you know the aeroplane wasn’t being driven by the Men in Black? Oh, my, we certainly need you on border patrol, Louie, and I am sooooooo glad that you are there to protect Mom (especially when that Chivalrous Neighbor comes nosin’ around!)!
Pops
 
 

March 13, from Louie, Day 6

 
Well, Pops, this has been the worst weather day since you left us oh so long ago!
 
When I finally nudged Mom awake this mornin’, it was down pourin’ somethin’ fierce. (I know, it wouldn’t be UP pourin’. Sheesh, Louie’s not THAT dumb. It was just a colorful figure of speech. Gimme a break.) Mom whined pitifully that it was too darned wet to go hikin’, but I poked ‘n’ gnawed at her relentlessly ‘n’ FINALLY she drug on her clothes, ‘cuz torrents of rain or not, LOUIE’S GOTTA POOP!!!!!!
 
So we dashed around the neighborhood, ‘n’ I did my best to add to the rivers of rain ragin’ down to the storm sewers ‘n’ I must say, I was quite successful. I just didn’t produce a Louie-size award-winning poop. Mom was quite dismayed, but geez, Pops, SHE wasn’t the one with her butt hangin’ out over the mud. I’d like to see HER do better!!!!!
So we spent the rest of the mornin’ diggin’ stuff outta closets as Mom played cleanin’ games, ‘n’ golly, Pops, that was so interestin’, it almost made me forget how dismal it was outside. There was old shoes that just reeked of you, ‘n’ there was old tablecloths just beggin’ Louie to chew, chew, chew, ‘n’ there was boxes with mysterious smells that I just had to investigate. Poor old Mom could barely keep up with my curiosity. (‘N’ I think in the end, I damaged only one moldy old shoebox ‘n’ some grade book back from Mom’s teachin’ days.)
 
We braved the storm for a Pre-Work Walk, but it was so miserable out, I couldn’t work up any kind of enthusiasm to poop, not even in the Barbaras’ yard!
 
So I curled up on our nice warm couch ‘n’ slept the whole day away, confident that when Mom finally got home, she’d be all fired up for games with me!!!!!
 
Well, she wasn’t exactly lively when she finally stumbled through the door, but I did take her for a breathlessly quick Midnight Stroll. Woo hee, I bet you never seen Mom trot so fast, ‘specially when I hauled her through the icy puddles lurkin’ in the dark. I was chortlin’ with glee as I drug her up the driveway, ‘cuz that girl was winded! It almost made up for the fact that I was soaked down to my tail bone.
 
(So that should ‘xplain to you why she wasn’t so talkative when she finally called you. She was exhausted, ‘n’ too befuddled to remember any juicy bits o’ work gossip to pass along.)
 
I suspect we’re gonna turn in pretty soon, since Mom says we’re losin’ an hour’s sleep tonight (that’s the result of some time-warpin’ equation that I’m too uneducated to unnerstand, but Mom assures me you know what that’s all about). ‘N’ I’m not gonna fight her, ‘cuz secretly, Pops, between you ‘n’ me, I made contact with the Men in Black to report yesterday’s Invasion of the Homeland, ‘n’ they’re gonna sneak in to debrief me once Mom goes to bed. I’m under strict orders to make her drink red juice tonight, so she’s snorin’ away when they show up ‘n’ there won’t be no security breach with her eavesdroppin’ ‘n’ such.
 
So I’m goin’ to bed now (wink wink) ‘n’ I’ll let you know tomorrow what’s goin’ on in the name of national security.
 
Duplicitously yours,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. Gosh darn it, Pops, we got TWO rejections in the mail today. Susan ‘n’ Matthew want nothin’ to do with my adventures!!!!! Five down ‘n’ five to go. I’m losin’ all hope.
 
P.P.S. OMIGOD, it’s SNOWIN’!!!!!!!
Geez oh meez, I hope that doesn’t delay the Men in Black!
 

Pops replies:

 
Oh Louie, you must remain patient — all the rain and (YIKES!) snow will soon go away. The sky will turn blue and the sun will be warm. I can just see you out on the back lawn (what’s left of it) sunning yourself. Ah, to be warm. Soon, my boy, soon.
 
Pops
 

March 14, from Louie, Day 7

Hi, Pops.
 
Louie here.
 
Louie of the dumb ears.
 
The very BIG dumb ears.

I know Mom squealed on me, ‘n’ even though she’s partial to exaggeration, I gotta admit.
 
I went nutso last night. In a very BIG way.
 
I gnawed on Mom’s tender (but flabby) arms ‘n’ thighs, ‘n’ today they’re a psychedelic landscape of purples ‘n’ blues. That Bryan guy would find ’em quite artistic. (Though I know he wouldn’t be at ALL happy about how Mom got so bruised up. I KNOW!!!!)
 
I am a worm. I am lower than a worm. Mom should lock me up in the shed with the rabid raccoons ‘n’ never EVER give me another belly rub.
 
But geez, Pops, it wasn’t my fault! Mom didn’t take me on any decent hikes yesterday ‘cuz of the rain, ‘n’ she locked me up all day by myself while she went off ‘n’ partied with them copy editors at that Evil Work Place, ‘n’ by the time she come home, my butt was all stuffed up, ‘n’ that just makes a boy grouchy. Any defense attorney would tell you, there was mitigatin’ circumstances.
 
So she shouldn’t hold it against me none that I went psycho. I’m an ANIMAL. What do you guys expect????
 
Sheesh.
 
Even the Men in Black give me a hard time last night when they snuck in through the fireplace for my debriefin’. They said I was gonna blow my cover as a sworn federal agent if I didn’t keep Mom happy, ‘n’ they was gonna revoke my badge ‘n’ hypnotize me so’s I couldn’t remember the secret agent handshake AND (golly, this was the worst part!) they was gonna rescind my 401(k) so I would grow old in poverty. Geez, them guys play rough!
 
So, honest to God, Pops, I’m gonna be good tonight. I’m gonna cuddle with Mom ‘n’ not once bare my fangs, ‘n’ I’m gonna keep her all warm ‘n’ cozy in your absence (it’s supposed to SNOW again tonight) ‘n’ I’m gonna lick her face until she’s delirious. ‘N’ my promises to behave like a law-abidin’ dog have nothin’ to do with the fact that there’s a big hunk o’ BEEF ROAST stewin’ in the Crock-Pot. No, sir! MEAT has NOTHIN’ to do with it!
 
(In case you was wonderin’, the Men in Black said that big prop plane was definitely an advance guard for a terrible invasion some time this summer, ‘n’ they patted me on the head for my vigilant reportin’. I can’t tell you the details of what’s goin’ on, ‘cuz you don’t have clearance for that kind of information like I do, but let me just say this: The salamanders is ready to cross the road, we all lost an hour of sleep last night, ‘n’ sewer rates is risin’. YOU figure it out!)
 
Enigmatically yours,
 
Louie.   
 
Pops replies: 

Oh, Louie, that’s the sound of Pops breathing a deep sigh. I really needed a letter from Louie in the worst way. But I feel lots better after reading this. You are the best, Louie (and so is Mom!)! 

And I hope you and Mom get along better tonight.
Pops
  

March 15, from Louie, Day 8

Hey, Pops (burp!)
 
Louie here (burp burp!)
 
Louie of the really fat tummy. (buuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrp!!!!)
 
Mom tormented me last night with a big beef roast stewing in the Crock-Pot. All night long I could smell them beef juices roastin’. I couldn’t get no sleep, ‘cuz them tantalizin’ wisps of meat ‘n’ fat was ticklin’ my nostrils. I tried buryin’ my snout under Mom’s smelly feet, but it didn’t do no good. Every which way I turned, I could still sniff BEEEEEEF!!! It didn’t bother Mom none — she just snored away. But finally, I was so agitated, I hopped outta bed ‘n’ curled up on the kitchen floor, where I breathed deeply at regular intervals ‘n’ guarded the Crock-Pot with my life.
 
When Mom got up, I was sure there was beef gravy in my breakfast future, but noooooooooo. Mom said it wasn’t done enough. (Meanin’ it wasn’t shoe leather yet.) So she served me some cheapo canned food with my Kibbles ‘n’ Bits ‘n’ no matter how longingly I stared at the pot, she wouldn’t budge ‘n’ give me early helpin’s. Geez, she can be vicious mean.
 
‘N’ THEN, she went off to that Evil Work Place again ‘n’ made me wait all DAY for my meat. Now I ask you, was that right? That roast was just sittin’ in the ice box growin’ cold when it coulda been in my tummy, where I’d’ve kept it nice ‘n’ warm. I was most annoyed, let me tell you.  I tried nappin’, just to take my mind off all that gravy goodness, but every five minutes or so, the smell would get the better of me, ‘n’ I’d jump off the couch ‘n’ circle the kitchen ‘n’ stick my snout in the cracks of the ice box door, hopin’ to force it open. I’m a big guy ‘n’ I was sure I could bust open that ice box ‘n’ free my meaty treasure, but — sadly — I failed.
 
When Mom finally come home, I was sittin’ in front of the fridge, whimperin’ for my fix.
 
But she likes to torment me, Dad, ‘n’ she made me take a Midnight Stroll first — all the way down to the Chivalrous Neighbor’s house ‘n’ back. I was strainin’ something fierce at my bling, tryin’ to drag her back to the house, but she just chuckled in a most evil kinda way ‘n’ made me follow the whole circuit — even though it was dreadful chilly out, ‘n’ most nights, SHE woulda been beggin’ ME to hurry up. Honest to God, Dad, I was gallopin’ by the time we turned up the driveway, ‘n’ I darned near yanked Mom’s arms outta her sockets. I just couldn’t wait no MORE!!!!!!
 
‘N’ oh Pops, when she finally put that heapin’ bowl of bits drenched in warm gravy ‘n’ meat down in front of me, oh gosh, I just buried my whole head in all that beefy goodness ‘n’ INHALED it in about three seconds flat! It was just DEE-LISH!!!!!
 
I’d like to write more, but I gotta go to bed now so I can wake up real soon for my breakfast ‘n’ more beef gravy. Mom is a most tryin’ human to live with, what with all her silly rules, but good gosh almighty, she sure can cook!
 
Blissfully yours (burp),
 
Louie.
 
P.S. I miss you more than words can say, but in your absence, a succulent roast is a mighty fine substitute. 

Pops replies:

Oh Louie, you know that Mom is just doing what she thinks is best for you. Besides, didn’t the long wait for the BEEEEEEFFFF make it taste oh so much better? Well, maybe that’s a concept that’s a little too complex for you, son, but some day you will understand. The wait is always worth it.
 
Pops
  

March 16, from Louie, Day 9

Hi, Pops!
How’s it hangin’? (That’s guy talk. Mom says it’s gross, but she don’t unnerstand.)
It’s been a topsy-turvy kinda day in Louieland. Mom SAID it was her day off, but as things  worked out, it wasn’t too adventuresome for me. Mom said it was all the Furnace Man’s fault.
Mom got up early (for her) ‘n’ IMMEDIATELY took me out for a brisk walk around the neighborhood. THAT by itself made me antsy. A neighborhood walk first thing in the mornin’ is a sure sign of bad things for Louie. But when we got home, Mom fed me lots of leftover beef ‘n’ I barely minded that while I was still lickin’ my chops, she was doin’ those I’m-gonna-be-leavin’-soon chores. But just as she was about to say goodbye to me, she got a call from the Furnace Man, sayin’ he was gonna be another hour or two, so she shrugged ‘n’ said, “Louie, let’s go to the dog park!”
Well, I NEVER turn down a chance to run with the boys, so we tooled down to the park, ‘n’ there was a coupla fellas there horsin’ around, but none of the usual gang. I got into a little tussle with one of the guys, but mostly I wasn’t too innerested, ‘cuz frankly, Pops, I was sufferin’ from some tummy rumbles (roast beef ‘n’ gravy is to die for, but it’s not nice to my in-TEST-tines, if you get my drift.)
So then Mom took me home ‘n’ we did some house-cleanin’ chores — I’m ever so good at puttin’ away the laundry, don’tcha know? — ‘n’ then Mom give me a Milkbone ‘n ‘ promised to be home real soon.
Well.
I sat on the couch ‘n’ waited.
‘N’ waited.
‘N’ WAITED.
‘N’ gosh darn it, Pops, it got DARK — even with the new daylight savin’ time — ‘n’ Mom STILL wasn’t home. I was ever so fretful. I thought this mysterious Furnace Man had done vile things to Mom ‘n’ then stuffed her body into the condo furnace. I was BESIDE myself with trepidation, ‘n’ I was all set to call in the Men in Black to investigate, when suddenly Miss Corolla chugged into the garage, ‘n’ there was Mom, exasperated but in full possession of all her shapely limbs. We immediately set out on a neighborhood walk, even though it was dreadful dark, ‘n’ Mom kept trippin’ over the bumps in the sidewalk. The good news was, it was so darned dark, Mom didn’t have to pick up my leavin’s, so we both got home in a fine mood.
Mom proceeded to make a gravy-larded supper for both of us, which we slopped up while watching Survivor (‘n’ we’re both sorry that we went ahead ‘n’ watched without you. Mom just wasn’t thinkin’ straight.) I was deliriously overjoyed that even though you’re gone, I could still curl up against Mom ‘n’ watch the TV (but I was sorely disappointed that there wasn’t no dogs on this episode. Why don’t they have dogs on Survivor? They’d be much more entertainin’ than those skinny little girls in bikinis — don’tcha think?)
Mom’s gonna go to bed soon ‘cuz she had a most tryin’ ‘n’ expensive day with the Furnace Man (who IS this fella that he has such powers over her ‘n’ her bank account? Maybe I oughta ask the Men in Black to look into it.) But Mom PROMISES me that tomorrow will be all about Louie — well, except for the part where she eats boxties with that Chuck fella — you know the one.
So, ’til tomorrow.
Louie.
P.S. Sleep tight. I know I will. I’m full o’ roast beef.

Pops replies, Part I:

Greetings O’Louie:
 
I wonder whether any of your ancestors ever had an encounter with an Irish setter. Think so, O’Louie? Well, you and Mom can celibrate this day, but for me, an old Polack, this is just another work day. Oh, I’ll have my excitement. I’m going to take the Mother Ship up to the grocery store at lunch and maybe buy a little steak to grill tonight. Yeah, I know, Louie, I should save the bone and bring it back to Ohio in April. Sorry, Louie.
 
You didn’t have such an exciting day yesterday, seeing as it was a day when Mom didn’t have to go to work. Oh, well, today will be better for you.
 
Pops

Pops replies, Part II:

Oh, Louie, I had such a good lunch break that I’ve decided to write to you a second time AND declare this an all-around holiday, free of all angst and worry. Do you agree?
 
I walked to the barracks under 75-degree temps and bright sunny skies. Then, then Louie, I drove that big white machine to the store and I bought MEAT!!!! I got the most wonderful looking T-bone steak that I have marinating in olive oil, hot sauce and barbecue sauce. The filet part will be dinner tonight and the rest will be dinner tomorrow. I’ll be grilling it tonight, along with two cajun sausages that each will provide a lunch. Grilling Louie, grilling. Just think, in less than 6 weeks, you and I and Mom will be sitting in the back yard, grilling steaks, watching you dig for China and, eventually, watching you gnaw on a drippy, greasy, gnarly steak bone. I promise it for you Louie – just hang in there.
 
I also got some hamburger meat for Friday’s dinner and two plump chicken breasts that I put in the freezer. Oh, Louie, this must be making you orgasmic (ask Mom to explain)!
 
Pops

March 17, from Louie, Day 10

Dear Pops (I’m whisperin’ here, ‘n’ you’ll soon see why, so keep it down, OK?)
I know it’s dreadful early to be writin’ but it looks like the enemy has temporarily pulled back to reconnoyter, so I gotta take advantage of this break in the action ‘n’ let you know what’s happenin’ on the home front.
POPS! We’re under ATTACK!!!!! Fire-breathin’ monsters ‘n’ aliens in day-glo orange ‘n’ green vests is swarmin’ all over the park next door, ‘n’ there’s so many of ’em, Mom ‘n’ me can’t begin to stop ’em.
It all started early this mornin’, while we was still peacefully asleep. (Well, MOM was peacefully sleepin’. I was WIDE awake, ‘cuz the sun was up ‘n’ I had to pee.) Suddenly, with no warnin’ WHATSOEVER, flame-snortin’ dragons driven by psychedelic orcs roared down Canyon Trail, right up over the curb ‘n’ through the grass, ‘n’ set up camp in the park. In OUR PARK, Pops, RIGHT NEXT DOOR!!!!
Before I could get Mom properly awake ‘n’ functionin’ with a cup of caffeine, them orcs pulled out an arsenal of handheld weapons ‘n’ — oh, Dad, I can hardly bring myself to tell you this — they attacked the TREES!!!! A whole row of stately oaks linin’ the back fence come under fire, ‘n’ since there was no Ents to lumber in ‘n’ save ’em, they all eventually fell, one by one onto the park floor.
They didn’t go easy, Pops. I’ll give ’em that. For big old guys rooted in the ground, they presented the lumberjack orcs with some sticky logistical problems, ‘n’ it took them invaders ALL DAY to bring three of the majestic old farts to their knees. I watched it all from the front door — even when Mom disappeared to meet up with that Chuck fella — ‘n’ it was quite painful to witness. I shoulda done somethin’ to stop it, Pops. I could hear them trees howlin’ in agony every time one of their limbs crashed to the ground. They died a slow, hard death. But it was just me (‘n’ sometimes Mom) against four towerin’ monsters with CRANES, ‘n’ we was just horribly outnumbered. At one point, when the first mighty trunk crashed to the ground, it was so darned loud, both me ‘n’ Mom jumped, ‘cuz the house shook ‘n’ the ground rattled ‘n’ you’d’ve thought somethin’ had landed on our very own roof.
Mom sadly told me that we couldn’t get involved, ‘cuz they wasn’t OUR trees, ‘n’ if the orcs got annoyed with us, they’d just feed us into their grinder ‘n’ turn us into sawdust. ‘N’ without federal reinforcements to back me up, I had to agree.
But it’s a terible image that will be forever seared into my dog-size brain, ‘n’ I might just have to turn into Joe Pike to deal with my quiverin’ outrage. THEY WAS INNOCENT TREES!!!!!
So now it’s nearly 6 p.m. ‘n’ like I said, the enemy has pulled back to regroup, but I KNOW they’re gonna be back tomorrow, ‘cuz they left two of their dragons in the park to stand guard durin’ the night. (Geez, Pops, maybe if me ‘n’ Mom snuck over under cover of darkness ‘n’ I peed on their engines, their insides would get all corroded ‘n’ they wouldn’t be able to attack no more trees tomorrow. Whaddya think, Pops? Should w do it? Mom’s had just enough red juice, she’s ready to go for it. All we need is your say-so.)
Breathlessly awaitin’ your official instructions as a sworn agent of the U.S. Forest Service.
Louie.
P.S. I got both your letters today (woo hoo!!!!!) ‘n’ your lengthy list of meat purchases has me sorely jealous that you’re there ‘n’ I’m not. Mom’s roast beef is outstandin’, but it doesn’t begin to compare with a steak on the grill. ‘N’ since me ‘n’ Mom is under attack, I fear we may never ever have a grilled steak again. (Sniff, sniff.)

Pops replies:

(Ok, I’m whisperin’!)
 
Oh, Louie, those orcs won’t deprive us of meat on the grill this summer. Nothing will.
 
Here’s what you need to do, son. By now Mom probably has had lots of red juice to drink. Maybe if both you and Mom go over to the park and pee on the monsters that are standin’ guard, well, maybe that might be enough to get them to leave. Oh, but you need to bring a camera, OK, Louie?
 
However, as a sworn office of the United States Forest Service, I hearby instruct you, Louie, to use all necessary force should they decide to come onto our property and touch any of our trees. OK?
 
Seriously, Louie, it’s always a sad day when the majestic oaks are brought down, especially when there doesn’t seem to be any good reason for it. But, maybe there will be fewer leaves for your Pops to rake this fall.
 
Sorry about teasin’ you with all the meaty descriptions. I’m soon off to my grillin’ ritual.
 
Pops
  

March 18, from Louie, Day 11

Oh, Pops, the agony! The inhumanity! The utter un-GREEN-ness of it!
The sap-lettin’ continues, ‘n’ it is quite horrific.
At dawn, four fire-breathin’ dragons swooped down Canyon Trail ‘n’ joined the two who’d stood guard all night, ‘n’ without a single stop for coffee or cigarettes, they commenced to killing trees left ‘n’ right. Mom drug herself outta bed early ‘n’ we stood at the back fence, shiverin’ at the destruction. There was nothin’ we could do to stop it! NOTHIN’!!!!!
 
Oh, the screams! Oh, the howls of pain! Oh, the screechin’! (‘N’ that was just Mom.)
 
She finally leashed me up ‘n’ took me for a hike in Sand Run ‘cuz we could neither of us stand to watch it no more. It’s tree-o-cide, Pops, on a hideous scale, ‘n’ no one should be forced to witness it, not even a tough federal agent like me. WHERE AM I GONNA PEE??????
 
After our hike, Mom tried to distract me by cleaning out the dog food cupboard, ‘n’ I must admit, I was mildly interested in them piles of cruddy old dog food she discovered, but even though I lapped ’em up faster’n she could sweep them away, my mind was still tormented by the blood-curdling sounds comin’ outta the park. Them dragons know no mercy, Pops. They all oughta be packed up ‘n’ sent to Braveheart, to have their innards ripped out without anesthetic!
 
About noon, the orcs retreated to munch on their vile lunches, ‘n’ Mom blinged me up ‘n’ we bravely stepped into the park to survey the damage. Omigod, Pops! Them dragons had proceeded south along the fence, ‘n’ they’d had their way with them trees willy-nilly. We counted a dozen fresh stumps down to the circle ‘n’ back, and these wasn’t no puny saplings. They was CENTURY trees, Dad. Old ‘n’ dignified fellas.  ‘N’ now they’re nothin’ but piles of sawdust. What was the Recreation Department THINKIN’?????
 
I frantically called the Men in Black, thinkin’ they could put a stop to it, ‘cuz they’re sworn to protect us from foul aliens, but Tommy Lee Jones sighed sadly over the Batphone ‘n’ told me there was nothin’ he could do. Them dragons ‘n’ orcs might look like aliens to me, but Tommy Lee says they’re just wrong-headed humans ‘n’ their machines, ‘n’ since they’re neither bears nor invaders from outerspace, the Men in Black gotta stand down.
 
Meanin’ me, Louie, has no license to stop ’em.
 
Oh, gosh, Pops, I’m soooooooooooooooo disillusioned. ‘N’ poor Mom is just weepin’ uncontrollably into her red juice. It’s like she’s lost a dozen o’ her best friends (‘n’ since she didn’t have a dozen to start with, this is most devastatin’.)
 
It’s 5:30 now ‘n’ the monsters has gone away, but they left one sentry behind. Mom is ever fearful that they’ll be back tomorrow, ‘n’ there’ll be no trees left standin’ in our park! We are inconsolable (‘n’ that’s quite a lot to say, given the great big shepherd’s pie bakin’ in the oven).
 
Almost worse than losin’ the trees is (oh, Pops, you’d never be able to put up with this) every little boy in the neighborhood is now crawlin’ through the destruction, playin’ war with their toy guns ‘n’ creatin’ a terrible noise. Mom says it’s a good thing you aren’t here, or you’d be out there committin’ homicidal atrocities (with justification).
 
I’m just exhausted, Pops. This has been a tryin’ day in the homeland. ‘N’ only Mom’s shepherd’s pie will get me through the night.
 
Ever on patrol,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. Some witch named Dawn has informed me ‘n’ Mom that she don’t think we’re interestin’ enough to “shortchange her other clients.” Well, excuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me! Mom ‘n’ me never realized that literary agents was absolutely untouched by the Great Recession ‘n’ could afford to be so snooty with earnest (‘n’ funny) writers.
 
Six down ‘n’ four to go. Mom is beginnin’ to lose hope.

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, what a terrible day for you. But, you know what? You have this remarkable ability to let go of your angst at … say … a whiff of shepherd’s pie. Nothing bothers you for very long and that’s one of many reasons why you are so great. So, guard the perimeter for any invasions — that is your job, after all, along with protectin’ Mom — and everything will be fine. Mom tells me there is plenty of shepherd’s pie for a couple of days.
 
Pops
 
P.S. Tell Mom that late last night a ski patroller showed up, with 4 more arriving tonight. It’s going to be one crowded place.
  

March 19, from Louie, Day 12

Hi, Pops.
Louie here.
Louie the humper. (I guess you know where THIS letter is headed.)
But it wasn’t my FAULT!!!!! It’s battle fatigue! ‘N’ now I fully unnerstand why otherwise upstandin’ citizens turn into war mongers, ‘n’ rape ‘n’ pillage innocent villages when they’re sent overseas. Their brains is in such a frenzy, they’re temporarily overcome by their nether regions ‘n’ they HUMP, HUMP, HUMP!!!!!!
 
Let me ‘xplain. The battle continued unabated this mornin’ — fire-belchin’ monsters grindin’ ‘n’ sawin’ ‘n’ choppin’ ‘n’ roarin’ through the milky light of dawn. I just couldn’t take it no more, Pops. WE couldn’t take it. So as soon as she could function enough to steer Miss Corolla, Mom hauled me down to the dog park to do a little friendly socializin’, away from the mayhem of war.
 
Well, socializin’ was what Mom WANTED, wasn’t it? ‘N’ isn’t humpin’ a social activity?
 
There was about six dogs waitin’ for us at the park, frolickin’ in the dew, ‘n’ after I made the mandatory march around the perimeter to unload myself, I charged in amongst ’em to say hello ‘n’ — well — Pops, there was this perky little brown bitch I’d never seen before, ‘n’ she smelled SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good, I just forgot myself ‘n’ WHAM — I started humpin’ her with great glee.
 
Mom hollered “LOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” ‘n’ she was so strident, it knocked me right back into my senses, ‘n’ I dismounted with an embarrassed grin ‘n’ sidled back to Mom.
 
But golly, Pops, that bitch had an awful powerful scent, ‘n’ as soon as Mom turned her back, I jumped the little girl again.
 
“LOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Mom wailed.
 
‘N’ I disengaged ‘n’ hung my head in shame.
 
But not enough to stop me from tryin’ three or four more times.
 
‘Cuz even though I KNOW it isn’t polite to hump before you’ve even been properly introduced, I’m sufferin’ something fierce, Pops. It’s been THREE days of monsters on the attack, ‘n’ I’ve been on Red Alert twenty-four hours a day, nonstop, protectin’ Mom ‘n’ the home front in case them guys in the day-glo vests decide to cross the property line, ‘n’ Dad, I’m all wore out. I don’t know which end is up. I don’t know whose end is whose. I don’t know nothin’ ‘cept I’m gonna crack if I don’t get no relief!!!!!!
 
So I kept humpin’ the little bitch until Mom finally threw in the leash ‘n’ drug me out of the park.
 
She lectured me all the way home, too. She says HONORABLE soldiers keep it in their pants. She says HONORABLE soldiers don’t embarrass their mothers. She says HONORABLE soldiers at least ask permission first before humpin’ the daylights outta some little brown bitch half their size. ‘N’ when I tried to ‘xplain to her that I was quite needful after the trauma of the past few days, she just looked me sternly in the eyes ‘n’ said, “If I can wait until your dad gets home, you can, too!”
 
That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever Dad, ‘cuz both of us know, I’m not gonna be humpin’ you come April, no matter how much I miss you. That would just be unnatural.
 
So I didn’t get my rocks off, as much as I needed to, ‘n’ now I’m back on duty again without any kinda relief. The only good news is — it looks like the monsters finished their nefarious business about noon. They lumbered away for lunch, ‘n’ there hasn’t been no signs of them since. There are only great big gaps in the horizon where there used to be trees. It’s ever so sad, Dad.
 
I think I’ll just go to bed now ‘n’ lick myself silly, since Mom won’t let me lick nobody else.
 
Your frustrated,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. No mail today, so we didn’t get no more rejections. ‘N’ since my letters this season seem to be full of humpin’ ‘n’ poop, maybe that’s for the best. Louie is X-rated.

Pops replies:

Ah, Louie, son, my boy — we’ve talked about this until we both got blue in the face — still, I understand the fatigue of war — so I’ll give you a pass on this one.
 
But, my dear boy, when I get home we’re gonna haveta talk again — humpin is for grownups — and NOT for Louie!
 
Sorry. The sad facts of life for you.
 
Pops

 

March 20, from Louie, Day 13

All’s quiet on the Eastern Front, Pops.
 
No fire-breathin’ dragons, no swarmin’ orcs, no screams of agony (although if you listen very closely, you can still hear a whimper or two).
 
Mom ‘n’ me was so stressed out from the siege of the last few days, we slept like spoons next to each other until the crack of 10, ‘n’ when we tiptoed outside for my mornin’ pee, there wasn’t a single sign of invaders in the park. I was joyous. Mom just shook her head ‘n’ said, “Don’t get your hopes up, Louie, them monsters is just takin’ some R&R for the weekend.” I don’t know what R&R is, but if it keeps them dragons outta my face, I’m all for it.
 
The weather was bee-YOU-ti-ful, so Mom took me to the Chuckery for a proper hike. (Geez, Pops, have we ever been there before? I don’t think so.) There was a big ragin’ river, ‘n’ a crusty old woods, ‘n’ lots of springtime smells for Louie to sniff, ‘n’ gosh, we had the nicest hike. I snuffled ‘n’ pooped through lotsa dead leaves, ‘n’ Mom ORDERED me to pee on somethin’ called the Signal Tree, for tradition’s sake, ‘n’ I happily obliged. The only bad moment was when we passed a hole in the ground near the parkin’ lot, ‘n’ suddenly I flashed back to a swarm of hornets stingin’ my eyes ‘n’ neck. I broke out into a cold sweat, ‘n’ my eyes rolled back in my head, but Mom give me a hug ‘n’ told me not to think about it. There weren’t no hornets out this mornin’.
 
When we got back to Miss Corolla, I got a whiff of somethin’ tantalizin’, ‘n’ the word “Maria” kept dancin’ through my head, ‘n’ I wanted to burst out in song, but Mom said to get a grip on myself. Maria was just a delusion of my youth, she said. But as we drove outta the Chuckery, I hung my head out the window ‘n’ I peered through the woods lookin’ for somethin’. I just couldn’t remember what. Does Maria ring a bell with you, Pops?
 
We spent the rest of the mornin’ cavortin’ through the backyard, with Mom rakin’ up dried ‘n’ nasty stuff outta the flowerbeds ‘n’ me helpin’ by racin’ through her neat piles of debris. Isn’t it wunnerful how me ‘n’ Mom work together so well? She wouldn’t get nearly enough exercise if I wasn’t there to make her chores harder.
 
‘Course, along about 2 o’clock, she left me again for that Evil Work Place, ‘n’ I was left all alone to my own devices. But I managed to make a statement for Mom. She’d dug all the towels outta the cupboard so she could clean it, ‘n’ she foolishly thought if she piled ’em up on the cabinets in the closet, I wouldn’t be able to get to ’em. Well, ha, ha, ha. They was hangin’ over the edge, ‘n’ by the time Mom got home, I’d pulled nearly ALL of ’em down onto the floor ‘n’ rolled around in ’em with my dusty, dirty paws. (Mom hasn’t gotten me to the dog wash yet, so I’m quite odoriferous AND muddy. I made mincemeat outta them towels, just as I’m sworn to do.)
 
Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, ‘n’ I don’t know what kinda adventures we’ll have, but since it’ll be Sunday, Mom says we sure don’t have to worry about tree killers. So who knows what I’ll be writin’ to you tomorrow night to keep your lonesome mind offa the things you’re missin’ at home.
 
Until then,
 
Moderately satisfied,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. Mom was SOOOOOOOOOOOOO grossed out. She went back into the storage room to dig up her garden gloves so she could work in the flowerbeds without destroyin’ her lovely nails, ‘n’ Pops! Them gloves was CRUSTED in mouse poop. 

Sheesh, even I was disgusted. Guess we put the mouse trap in the wrong place, huh? 

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, it sounds like you and Mom had a bee-YOU-ti-ful day – I’m envious. I miss you and I miss Mom and I miss our backyard and I miss … well, I don’t miss the mouse leavings. Hmm, I wonder whether Mom has checked the mousetrap in the furnace room. She should remove the cheese, even if there isn’t a mouse in there.
 
Maria? Well, son, sometimes it’s best to forget things — leave them in the past. Maria should remain just out of reach of your memory. You’ll be happier that way.
 
Pops

 

March 21, from Louie, Day 14

Dear Pops, 

I am so so sorry.
 
Mom ‘n’ me has tried THREE TIMES to compose an interestin’ letter to you, ‘n’ even though we diligently saved our drafts, the computer demons has eaten up every single word, ‘n’ we just can’t get nothin’ through. I know you’re waitin’ hopefully for news from the home front, but none of our messages will transmit!
 
Mom is quite despondent.
 
I am really miffed.
 
But I think we’ll have to wait until Day 15 to bring you up to date on all our adventures. After an hour of NASTY responses from the computer, Mom is callin’ it quits.
 
So sleep tight, ‘n’ we’ll do better tomorrow.
 
I promise.
 
Louie.  

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, just knowing that you were thinkin’ about me is all I need.
 
By the way, as I was walking down the driveway from my temporary home in California, I looked over to this little meadow off to the left, and what did I see?
 
Yup, Maria’s California cousin, also named Maria. Then, a little ways up the hill, there was Maria’s mom and three of her aunts gazing down at her, guarding her every move.
 
Oh, I know Mom says that Maria is just a figment of your youthful imagination, but I think it’s OK for you to dream about her.
 
Pops

 

March 22, from Louie, Early Day 15

Well, Pops, as you’ve no doubt discovered by now, the computer gremlins was ridin’ roughshod over me ‘n’ my paws last night, ‘n’ we could barely send you a homesick hello. ‘N’ I had such wunnerful adventures to tell you — stories about diamonds ‘n’ Porta-Potties ‘n’ Pogo sticks ‘n’ white dogs — but Mom just sighed ‘n’ said maybe it was all for the best. My story line (whatever that is) wasn’t hangin’ together so well, she said, ‘n’ it changed dramatically with each new draft (not ‘cuz I was LYIN’ but ‘cuz I kept rememberin’ different amusin’ details — honest). I’d try to rewrite it now in the rainy light of mornin’, but my powers of composition don’t seem to be as creative when Mom’s fired up with caffeine instead of red juice.
 
Just know this:
 
We left the diamond-studded rock right in the middle of the trail where the leprechauns planted it, ‘cuz Mom said that in the Great Recession, other hikers no doubt needed them diamonds more ‘n us.
 
I did NOT dig up the dirt under the Porta-Potty.
 
Mom did NOT ride the Pogo stick.
 
‘N’ I did NOT rip out the white dog’s throat — though I surely wanted to.
 
There. We’re up to date. ‘N’ tonight I’ll try to do better with the computer.
 
Longingly yours,
 
Louie. 

Pops replies:

Oh, you tease, Louie. You terrible tease.
 
But I love you anyway.
Pops

    

March 22, from Louie, Later on Day 15

Dear Pops, 

As Mom told you, I am quite perturbed. Just ‘cuz it’s rainin’ turtles ‘n’ frogs, she refuses to take me on a Midnight Stroll. That is a GROSS breach of contract ‘n’ I will be contactin’ my union rep IMMEDIATELY. 

I’m no dummy. It says right in my contract, Section XVI (Exercisin’ Louie), Paragraph C, Mom shall take Louie on a Midnight Stroll within FIVE MINUTES of her return from that Evil Work Place. It’s right there in black ‘n’ white, ‘n’ there’s no clause mentionin’ exceptions. (Well, OK, there IS a side letter on Mom’s 50-Degree Rule, which theoretically could come into play this evenin’, but Mom violated procedure by not citin’ the side letter. Oh, nooooooooooo, she said we wasn’t walkin’ ‘cuz it was thunderin’ ‘n’ lightnin’ out. She didn’t say nothin’ about no 50 degrees, so it’s very clear. Mom is in violation. ‘N’ I will tell my union rep as soon as I send you this letter. Mom ‘n’ me will be in mandatory arbitration by mornin’. There’s no way I’m lettin’ her slide on this one.) 

‘N’ while we’re talkin’ gross contract violations, YOU, Pops, are flirtin’ with a grievance by accusin’ me of teasin’. I was NOT teasin’ in my last letter. I was exercisin’ literary license, ‘n’ since Mom paid the dues to renew my license just last week, I am legally allowed to exaggerate ALL my adventures for the next 12 months. (You can look it up yourself in the Congressional Office of Lyin’ Licenses — No. 864BG29-068. Sheesh, I thought you KNEW all this legal stuff.) 

But, OK, just so we don’t fall into a litigious quagmire (my union rep’;s words, not mine), I will ‘xplain one of my adventures. 

We was walkin’ on the Overlook Trail yesterday before the clouds moved in, ‘n’ the sun was SO brilliant, Mom had to wear her sunglasses (‘n’ I sorely wished I had a pair, too. We’ll have to talk about that in our next contract negotiations,too), when suddenly we was BOTH blinded by a brilliant flash of light right in the middle of the path. Mom staggered ‘n’ said, “Louie, what was that?????” 

I looked at her in befuddlement ‘n’ said, “Geez, Mom, I don’t know, but it sure hurt my eyes!” 

 “Mine, too, Louie,” Mom said. 

‘N’ we proceeded to cautiously approach the source of our blazin’ bewilderment. 

Pops! It was a gi-GUND-ouos rock — as big as a BOWLING BALL (I had to ask Mom for that description, since I don’t know what a bowling ball is) ‘n’ it was almost buried in the trail. But the part that was showin’ was studded with all sorts of sparkly stones that burned with fire in the sunlight. There musta been hundreds of flames dancin’ outta that rock! 

“Louie,” Mom breathed, “them’s diamonds!” 

‘N’ even I was stunned ‘n’ amazed, ‘cuz everyone knows, diamonds is quite precious. 

“Oh, Mom,” I said, “let’s dig it up ‘n’ take it home so you ‘n’ Pops can retire!” ‘N’ I proceeded to claw around the rock with my mighty paws, determined to mine them diamonds for us ‘n’ our future Social Security. 

But Mom, the silly spendthrift, ordered me to stop. “Louie,” she said, “it’s too big! We’re half a mile from Miss Corolla, ‘n’ we’ll never be able to drag it back. ‘N’ besides, we’re not so poor. We should leave it for the next hikers, who might be starvin’ ‘n’ livin’ on lettuce with no gristly bits for enhancements.” 

Well, Pops, Mom shamed me into leavin’ that treasure behind, ‘cuz it’s true, we’re not so poor that we need to deprive the hungry masses amongst us. But I asked her if maybe we could chisel off one diamond just for us. 

“No, Louie,” Mom said. “This is a gift from the leprechauns, ‘n’ we can’t defile it!” 

I immediately looked left ‘n’ right for them creatures called leprechauns (Mom said they was green ‘n’ wore funny top hots) but we was alone in the woods. 

“Aw, Mom,” I said, “not even ONE measly diamond?” 

“No,” Mom said sternly, ‘n’ she tugged authoritatively on my bling. “We will leave the gift of the leprechauns for people who really need it.” 

‘N’ she drug me back to Miss Corolla. 

Well, OK, in retrospect, she was probably right. We aren’t destitute. We don’t need no diamonds found in the woods. But golly, I wish we coulda dug out just one so that when you come home in April, we’d have real PROOF of our adventures. As it is, you’ll just have to take my word for it. ‘N’ you, sadly, think I’m just a tease. 

I’ll see you at the arbitration table. 

Snarkily yours, 

Louie. 

Pops replies:

Oh Louie, before we go to union arbitration, let me ‘xplain. I wasn’t accusin’ you of lyin’ to me – noooooo, not ever. To the contrary. You see, you mentioned a couple of tantalizin’ adventures without givin’ me all the juicy details. That’s teasin’, and that’s all I meant.
 
And, it sure sounds like diamonds to me — and, it certainly sounds like the work of those little green leprechauns, seein’ as it was their holiday last week. I mighta been tempted to help you dig that big ol’ rock up and haul it back to the car, but I see Mom’s point.
 
Speakin’ of Mom, you gotta reel in some of that union violation talk. Mom, poor Mom, has waaaay too much of that stuff to deal with at the Evil Work Place (EWP). If anything, son, you need to help Mom relax when she returns from the EWP. For example, you could greet her at the door with a glass of that red juice already poured. Yeah, I know getting the cork out of the bottle is difficult for you, but, with those magnificent teeth and jaws, you should be able to manage it.
 
Remember, Mom is your favorite person in all the world. Don’t be demandin’ things, OK?
 
All right, end of lecture. After all, you remain, WBD.
Pops
  

March 23, from Louie, Day 16

I hear ya, Pops, I hear ya. You ‘n’ Mom is the most important humans to me in the whole wide world, ‘n’ I never EVER wanna do nothin’ that causes you guys pain ‘n’ aggravation, ‘cuz I LUV YA, MAN!!!!!
 
Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuttttttttt…..
 
You see, there are these rules. They’re right there in my contract, clear as mud, just as you ‘n’ my union rep negotiated ’em back in one o’ your dreams. ‘N’ gosh darn it, Pops, they gotta be followed.
 
Take, for example, Section III (Working Conditions), Paragraph G: “Mom will guarantee that there will be no ice or snow to interfere with Louie’s walks after the Venial Eeekwinox.” Well, check the calendar, Pops. That was March 20. This is March 23. ‘N’ my favorite bird bath is crusted over with ice. CLEAR violation.
 
‘N’ then there’s Section IX (Care ‘n’ Feeding of Louie), Paragraph PP (it’s a pretty long section): “Mom will not torment Louie by withholdin’ the pickin’ chicken.”
 
Well.  
 
Mom went off early this mornin’ to see some lady called the eye doctor, ‘n’ she sent Mom home with a hot pickin’ chicken. (Gosh, if I’d known eye doctors give out pickin’ chickens, I’d’ve been making appointments for you guys every day!) Pops, the smell was SOOOOOOOOOOOOO wunnerful, my tongue fell right outta my mouth ‘n’ I slobbered all over Mom’s good leather coat. But did she reward me with a greasy chicken leg? Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. “Louie,” she says, “I gotta terrible headache. I can’t see. I need to go to bed.”
 
‘N’ she stashed that meaty chicken in the ice box ‘n’ disappeared into the dark, dark bedroom for HOURS. I was just beside myself. There was pickin’ chicken in the house, but none of it was in my tummy!
 
Well, I paced, ‘n’ I paced, ‘n’ I paced, but I didn’t bark once ‘cuz Mom had the look of a human in pain. ‘N’ I let her get a real good nap. So did she reward me with chicken when she got up?
 
Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. She spent the next coupla hours cleanin’ house ‘n’ doin’ laundry ‘n’ collectin’ garbage ‘cuz it’s Tuesday ‘n’ she didn’t ONCE sneak me a little piece o’ poultry. Gosh darn it, Dad, that’s a definite violation of the contract, ‘cuz I was in great torment. If she hadn’t’ve broke down after NCIS ‘n’ give me my pickin’ chicken dinner early, things would’ve got real ugly around here.
 
So I’m just sayin’ — the contract is there for me to serve you ‘n’ Mom, ‘n’ it’s there for Louie to get what’s rightfully his — like a plump, greasy, hot chicken thigh ‘n’ leg (minus the bones, which Mom dutifully picks outta the meat).
 
I unnerstand Mom has enough trials at that EWP, but you guys gotta be fair with me. ‘N’ my union rep says you shouldn’t oughta play the love card on me, tryin’ to appeal to my natural sympathies. He says  that’s an unfair labor practice, ‘n’ if you keep it up, he’s gonna file a complaint with the Canine Labor Relations Board.
 
Oh, good golly, I feel so torn between you guys ‘n’ my rep. What shall I do?  What can any well-intentioned dog do but — BURP!!!!!!!
 
I think I’ll go back to my food dish now ‘n’ see if I can lick the chicken smells outta the plastic.
 
Yours in labor confusion,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. About that Porta-Potty. It come up on the same day we found the diamonds. Mom ‘n’ me had just got back to the parkin’ lot when I noticed another little path meanderin’ off to the left. Well, Pops, it just smelled so tantalizin’, I had to drag Mom off in that direction so we could sniff it out real good. ‘N’ it didn’t take long, ‘cuz as soon as we broke through the bushes, the trail stopped in a little clearin’ no bigger’n Mom’s shower thingie. The clearin’ was empty, but golly, Pops, the SMELL comin’ offa the dirt was soooooooooo overpowerin’, my nostrils had seizures, ‘n’ I just had to throw myself on the ground. I wanted to wiggle ‘n’ wiggle ‘n’ wiggle in it.
 
But Mom hauled back on my bling in horror. “Louie!” she howled. “You can’t roll around in that dirt! That’s where they used to keep the Porta-Potty!!!!”
 
I looked up at her in mid-lyin’-on-my-back wiggle ‘n’ give her my best look of befuddlement. “A Porta-Potty?”  I said. “What’s that?”
 
“Louie,” Mom said gravely, “that’s where humans go to poop.”   
 
Humans? Poop???????
 
Oh, yuck, Pops!
 
I stood right up, shook off all that poopy dirt ‘n’ tore back to Miss Corolla.
 

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, son, I understand. A dog gots rights. I hear ya.
 
Buuuuuutttttttt….
 
Louie, you gotta come through with your half of the bargain. Like, what about that little mouse that’s droppin stuff for Mom? Yeah, yeah, I know. That was in Miss Marigold’s contract. Only now it’s part of your contract — you know, the one we renegotiated last year.
 
It sounds like you were really good yesterday when Mom had a headache after going to see the eye doctor. That’s fine. Except, pullin’ Mom’s arm off when you go on your Midnight Stroll is a clear violation of your contract — ‘n’ there are penalties there.
 
And, like, let’s talk about the holes to China in the back yard. Now Louie, we added a clause in the contract that said you could dig new holes to China only – and I repeat, ONLY – if you use the new dirt to fill in the old holes. Is that happenin’? I don’t think so.
 
Bottom line? Mom goes off to the EWP so that we can keep you in the comfort you are accustomed to. You know, pickin’ chicken, hamburger grease, steak off the grill. So, you have to uphold your end too, no?
 
Besides, as the WBD, you have a gold standard to uphold. And for that, we’ll always love you, no matter what.
 
Pops

   

March 24, from Louie, Day 17

Uncle, Uncle, UNCLE!!!!!!
 
Sheesh!
 
How did you know about them holes to China???
 
‘N’ Mom’s poor arm sockets????
 
Oh, gosh, Pops, you’re right. Despite Mom’s CLEAR ‘n’ UNWARRANTED violations, I guess I’m guilty of a coupla transgressions, too.
 
So I think the ONLY thing we can possibly do is declare an impasse.
 
‘N’ to demonstrate my good faith, while Mom was off auctionin’ this afternoon, I went into my secret hidey-hole (where I keep ALL them things — like socks ‘n’ underwear — that Mom is missin’) ‘n’ I dug out my gold-embossed notarized copy of my contract ‘n’ I —
 
Pops, I ate it. Every last sentence. Right down to your signature. ‘N’ when Mom come home to take me on my evenin’ walk, I  barfed it up on the Barbaras’ yard.
 
That ougtha take care of THAT!!!!!
 
Other than mild tummy rumbles from all that ink, Mom ‘n’ me have had a most tolerable day. This mornin’ she took me to the dog park, ‘n’ there was about a DOZEN fellas for me to socialize with (which I really needed, ‘cuz I haven’t had any dog-type contact in DAYS). ‘N’ even though some hyperactive Chihuahua tried to bite my butt, I had a most satisfyin’ time racin’ through the mud with the regulars (you know, Fat Annie ‘n’ Rascal ‘n’ Dingo of the Herniated Butt ‘n’ Jake ‘n’ Marley — them guys). Then Mom took me to the condo to pick up the mail ‘n’ THIS time, she even let me go inside with her while she checked on the new furnace (which is still stubbornly runnin’ at 62. Mom says you’re gonna have to read the instructions when you get home ‘n’ take care of that ornery thermostat).
 
Mom left me for a while to go to an auction, but unfortunately, it was broken. (Well, that’s what she means when she says it was a bust, isn’t it?) So she come home much earlier than planned ‘n’ spent a lovely hour diggin’ through the flowerbeds in the back yard (meanin’ Louie got full license to tear apart her piles of leaves ‘n’ trample the daffodils). ‘N’ gosh, Pops, she unearthed some holes to China along the fence that even I’d forgot!
 
Then we both settled down to leftover pickin’ chicken for dinner ‘n’ a nice NCIS marathon. Golly, Pops, it doesn’t get much nicer than that. (Well, ‘cept if you was home curled up on the couch with us.)
 
Mom’s gonna crawl into bed with her library book soon ‘n’ just read the night away with me stretched out beside her. She says that’s ALMOST her idea of a perfect night off. But before we do that, I suppose I gotta ‘xplain about that darned Pogo Stick.
 
You see, we was prancin’ down Megglen on a Pre-Work Walk, when suddenly we come upon a boy human who was doin’ a most peculiar thing in his driveway. He was bouncin’ on a funny contraption that didn’t seem to take him anywhere but up ‘n’ down. Personally, I thought it was a monumental waste of human energy. It didn’t seem to accomplish nothin’. But Mom was mesmerized. “Gosh, Louie,” she said, with a nostalgic kinda smile on her face, “I haven’t seen one o’ them in years!”
 
That’s not quite true, Pops. She sees boy humans almost every single day.
 
But this boy noticed us ‘n’ said quite proudly, “I can bounce a hunnert times straight!”
 
“Really?” Mom said.
 
“Two hunnert!” he boasted.
 
I just rolled my eyes. Two hundred? In his dreams.
 
But Mom nodded gravely. “That’s quite impressive.”
 
The boy human puffed out his chest ‘n’ proceeded to demonstrate how proficient he was by increasin’ the pace. Boy humans, it turns out, is just as egotistical as every other type of male species.
 
But this one also had a generous streak.
 
“You wanna give it a try?” he asked Mom.
 
Well, of course not, I sniffed. Our Mom, on a Pogo Stick????
 
But gosh, Pops, for one moment, I thought Mom was gonna say yes! She got this funny little smile on her face, ‘n’ her eyes fogged over like she was rememberin’ somethin’ way in the past, ‘n’ her hand ALMOST reached out to take the Stick away from that boy. For one dreadful second, I thought my Mom was gonna go bouncin’ into the horizon without me.
 
But then she got ahold of herself ‘n’ she just shook her head ‘n’ said quite politely, “No, thank you, young fella. You set the Guinness world record without me.”
 
‘N’ we proceeded home at a pace befittin’ Mom’s quite advanced age.
 
She didn’t ride the Pogo Stick, Dad, but I think she really wanted to.
 
Thank goodness Louie was along. Otherwise, I shudder at the possibilities.
 
Protectively yours,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. Mom was lookin’ at the yard this mornin’ ‘n’ announced in dismay, “Louie, the grass is growin’.”
 
I think her dismay has somethin’ to do with lawn mowers ‘n’ the 31 days we still have to wait for your return.
 
Maybe it’ll snow tonight ‘n’ cover up all that growin’ grass!

Pops replies:

Louie! Louie!
Did you look at the calendar today? Did you notice the date?
 
Yup, the big number there says 25. Do you know what that means?
 
I realize that time remains a mystery for you, so let me help. Humans arrange time in months, weeks, days, hours and minutes. So, when I saw the 25 on the calendar this morning, a wonderful thought came to my mind. After today, the next time the calendar shows a 25, why, I’ll be home with you! So, even though we are on Day 17, we are into our final month countdown — as in, next month at this time, we’ll be curled up on the couch together.
 
I know, I know, this doesn’t mean too much to you. I just hope you haven’t forgotten me Louie.
 
Your story about the pogo stick made me smile. Why? Well, in another couple of weeks, Mom is gunna have a night when she’s really going to empty that bottle of red juice. Yeah, humans are funny about birthdays. But, even though Mom doesn’t like the thought of another birthday, sometimes she still sees herself as a kid on a pogo stick. It’s one of the (many) things about her that we love, right Louie?
 
Now, about the union contract. It really wasn’t necessary for you to eat it, Louie. In fact, I was hoping that one of these days you’d send me a copy of it. Maybe you could list the clauses that you remember, seeing as the only copy is now a pile of Louie barf on the Barbaras’ grass.
 
Pops
 
P.S. Tell Mom to do what she thinks best with the grass. However, I have no problem waiting until April 25 to mow it myself. In fact, I’m kinda looking forward to it.
 
  

March 25, from Louie, Day 18

Hi, Pops!
 
Louie, here.
 
It was a rather frosty mornin’ on the homefront, but after Mom warmed herself up with some foul-smellin’ coffee, she took me on a rather innerestin’ nature hike down at Big Bend.
 
First off, a gang of mighty thirsty bears got there ahead of us ‘n’ drank up almost ALL the water in the skatin’ pond. There wasn’t nothin’ left but a muddy puddle no bigger’n my cozy couch, ‘n’ it was packed with a horde of squawkin’ ducks. They was pushin’ ‘n’ shovin’ ‘n’ the feathers was just flyin’ as dozens of ’em tried to swim where only one self-respectin’ bird could hope to get in a lap or two. ‘N’ they was so indignant ‘n’ mad at each other, it was like watchin’ a whole House of Representatives try to overhaul health care on ESPN. Mom ‘n’ me kinda chuckled at their strident name-callin’, ‘cuz we knew it had nothin’ to do with Democrats or Republicans. It was just them bears lappin’ up all the water in the Free World.
 
So then we meandered down to the Towpath, ‘n’ as I was depositin’ my first most satisfyin’ poop of the mornin’, a whole gaggle of ROBINS swooped down onto the path ‘n’ pecked around for some juicy worms (of which there was many litterin’ the trail). Mom was overjoyed, ‘cuz she said that was a SURE sign o’ spring. I just shook my head ‘n’ thought, them robins is pretty dumb to leave their cozy condos in Florida before the crabapples is even bloomin’ in Ohio.
 
So then I drug Mom at a brisk pace down to the bend in the river, ‘n’ she did a most entertainin’ job of keepin’ up with me. But I made her so breathless, I give her a break on the trot back, ‘n’ that’s why we was takin’ it slow enough on the boardwalk alongside the golf course that we was able to spot a whole battalion of turtles swimmin’ in the canal. (I TOLD you it was rainin’ turtles ‘n’ frogs the other night, didn’t I? ‘N’ you thought I was ‘xaggeratin’.)  There musta been a dozen of ’em divin’ ‘n’ feedin’ off the insects. It made me kinda nostalgic for our Sunset Walks at the Beaver Marsh, where we used to see turtles all the time. But since you’re in California, I guess you ‘n’ me is never gonna go on a Sunset Walk again, so I’ll just have to settle for turtle watchin’ at Big Bend.
 
‘N’ then Mom took me on a bunch o’ errands, ‘n’ then we went home, where I proceeded to annoy her quite proper by chewin’ on the quilts ‘n’ chewin’ on the fresh clean laundry ‘n’ chewin’ on her slippers ‘n’ basically chewin’ on anything I could wrap my mouth around. I been in quite a chewin’ mood today.
 
Now it’s just past midnight, ‘n’ it’s a darned good thing, as Mom told you, that I barfed up my union contract, ‘cuz there’s piles ‘n’ piles of snow out on the patio, ‘n’ wasn’t I right to think the robins was dumb to come back so soon? It’s winter all over again, ‘n’ I think I’m gonna have to curl up in bed with Mom to keep warm, ‘cuz it’s never ever gonna be nice out again. Geez, I wish I was with you out in sunny California, ‘cuz everyone knows, it NEVER snows in California.
 
Chillingly yours,
 
Louie 
 
P.S. Oh, about that white dog. It was just after we run into the boy human with the Pogo Stick. We turned the corner onto Eaglesnest, ‘n’ Mom was still so busy reminiscin’ about when she was 6 (you know, back in the Dark Ages) that she wasn’t payin’ proper attention. It wasn’t until I bared my fangs ‘n’ growled with serious intent that she snapped outta it. ‘N’ there was the Evil White Dog, not 10 feet in front of us.
 
His weaklin’ female human was hangin’ onto his leash, but we all know she can’t control that monster. Mom gasped at the sight, ‘n’ just before I lunged for the Evil White Dog’s throat, she dug in her heels (quite an accomplishment on concrete), grabbed my leash with both hands ‘n’ shouted at the top o’ her lungs, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”
 
Well, I had no intention of listenin’ to her, ‘cuz we both know that Evil White Dog planned to rip out my intestines, ‘n’ then he’d feast on Mom for dessert. So I was goin’ for the kill. But Mom, gosh darn her, summoned up all the strength of her measly 128.5 pounds ‘n’ darned near choked me on my bling.
 
“My,” the female human said quite breathlessly as the Evil White Dog drug her closer ‘n’ closer to my throat, “aren’t these  boys strong!”
 
Mom just grunted ‘n’ burned skid marks into the concrete as she held onto me.
 
Well, Pops, I snorted ‘n’ I huffed ‘n’ I lunged like a crazy dog (‘n’ the Evil White Dog did, too), but somehow Mom kept us apart ‘n’ no blood was shed. Leastways, not that day. But I gotta tell ya, that dog is the Devil, ‘n’ if I ever get the chance, I’m gonna tear his ears right offa his head. So you guys better be on your guard. There isn’t enough room in this world for both me ‘n’ the Evil White Dog. One of us is goin’ down!!!!!!

Pops replies:

Hi Louie!
 
Pops, here.
 
You are with me always. This morning it was really frosty outside so I put on my leather jacket. Yup, a Louie bag in the pocket. Same with my little green jacket and my black Beacon Journal jacket. I have Louie poop bags everywhere, the better to remember you by. As I say, you are never too far from me, my son.
 
Now, about that “you ‘n’ me” comment about never going on a sunset hike again. Well, I have news for you. In just a few weeks we’ll be resuming our regular hikes to the Beaver Marsh — and you can make fun of your feathered friends to your heart’s content. I know, I know. Time is such a mystery to you. You’ll just have to trust me, Louie, our hikes will resume faster than you can say pickin’ chicken.
 
Keep Mom warm during this brief cold spell, OK? And hey, let’s keep the chewin’ to a minimum!
 
Pops

   

March 26, from Louie, Day 19

 
Well, Pops, Santa Claus must be comin’ to town, ‘cuz Mom wouldn’t let me go to the dog park this mornin’ until I put on my galoshes ‘n’ my jingle bells scarf. Sheesh. How mortifyin’!
 
But while she was distracted by the drive to the park, I wiggled around in the back seat of Miss Corolla ‘n’ yanked off all them embarrassin’ anti-snow accoutrements (see, I speak FRENCH!) ‘n’ when she yanked open the back door to let me out, I was nekkid as the day I was born. Mom just shook her head at me ‘n’ said, “You’ll be sorry, Louie.”
 
Hmph! I’d’ve been a lot sorrier if the gang had caught me in woolly snowflake yarn ‘n’ a cap with ear flaps! How sissified is THAT????? ‘Sides, there was only about two inches of snow on the ground, ‘n’ you ‘n’ me plowed through a lot worse ‘n that this winter, right, Pops? 

There was only a coupla dogs bravin’ the foul weather at the park, but good ol’ Jake was there (you know, the one who’s a mutt with a pit bull face) ‘n’ after I got my poopin’ done, we run like the wind through the ice ‘n’ the mud. We rassled around somethin’ fierce ‘n’ the slobber was just flyin’. Oh, gosh, Pops, I needed a good run real bad. When I don’t get my exercise, the poop just stops up my in-TEST-tines, ‘n’ I’m all outta sorts.
 
I coulda run for MILES, but the wind was extra sharp, ‘n’ Mom was shiverin’ real bad, even though she’d stuffed her jammies into her jeans to keep her legs warm. (Mom’s a real fashion plate, don’tcha think?) So even though she SAID she’d made three circuits of the perimeter ‘n’ it was time to go home, I KNEW she’d only done two, ‘cuz as dumb as my ears make me look, I can count, ‘n’ Mom was cheatin’.
 
But I let her slide, ‘cuz the water bowls was all frozen over ‘n’ I was powerful thirsty ‘n’ I KNEW there was a Tupperware bowl full of water waitin’ for me in Miss Corolla. So even though the Ssssssh Lady was tryin’ real hard to take all our pictures, I let Mom bling me up ‘n’ we come home.
 
The rest of the day was quite borin’. Even our Pre-Work Walk had nothin’ innerestin’ to report — ‘cept the sun come out ‘n’ melted away all the snow. I’m sad to say that only revealed that the crocuses has all croaked. They really don’t stand much chance in Ohio in March, do they?
 
Mom’s gonna make soup tomorrow with a whole pound o’ ground turkey (‘n’ them vile artichokes that you’re happily avoidin’) so I’m hopin’ I’ll have greasy enhancements to report to you tomorrow night. Until then, rest assured that I’ve buried my gay scarf in the back yard where Mom will never find it, ‘n’ TOMORROW when we go hikin’, no one will be able to snicker at my wardrobe.
 
Yours in the constant defense of manliness,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. Your telephone conversation with Mom tonight was so short, she ALMOST relented ‘n’ leashed me up for a quick Midnight Stroll. ‘Cuz, after all,  there was HOURS to go before bedtime. But then she looked out the kitchen window as she was reachin’ for her fuzzy hat, ‘n’ a shadow crossed the driveway. ‘N’ then another one. ‘N’ then ANOTHER ONE! POPS!!!!! There was THREE DEER cavortin’ in our yard, diggin’ for acorns ‘n’ tulips ‘n’ poopin’ quite freely on OUR GRASS!!  I was quite beside myself, throwin’ myself at the front window ‘n’ growlin’ fiercely to establish my territory. Let me tell you, Pops, if we’d’ve been OUTSIDE when them deer strolled by, I’d STILL be chasin’ them all the way up to CLEVELAND, ‘n’ Mom would be lyin’ on her face in the driveway.
 
As Mom says, it’s a good thing sometimes when she wimps out ‘cuz of the weather. She’d’ve never been able to hold onto me in the face o’ them deer.
 
‘N’ that’s the honest to goodness truth. No Louie embellishments WHATSOEVER! 

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, you look handsome and noble and regal no matter what kind of accoutrements Mom puts on you. Still, it probably was a good thing that you and Mom didn’t go outside and get surprised by the deer. You’d still be runnin’ and Mom would be missing you something fierce.
Pops

   

March 27, from Louie, Day 20

 
Dear Pops, 

Mom is ever so sorry that she couldn’t have a decent talk with you this mornin’, but she was at that point where she needed all o’ her arms ‘n’ fingers ‘n’ even some o’ her toes to keep the Louie enhancements from burnin’.
 
Mom bein’ a duplicitous female, I wouldn’t’ve blamed you none if you’d thought she was just doin’ a little payback ‘cuz you wouldn’t talk to her much last night, but I swear on all the gristly bits in my food bowl, Mom really was in a cookin’ tizzy. I was watchin’ her the whole time, ‘cuz I could smell her brownin’ up a big pan full o’ MEAT, ‘n’ I had to agree with her — she had to stop talkin’ to you ‘n’ concentrate on Louie’s ground turkey (which is every bit as fine as ground beef — burp!!!!).
 
Other than the delicious meat smells, today has been most dissatisfactory. ‘N’ it’s mostly Mom’s fault. FIRST OFF, she nixed the dog park ‘cuz it was Saturday ‘n’ she thought it’d be too crowded. So she took me to Schumacher Park instead. Well, I don’t mind that trail, even if it isn’t nearly as chock full of bears as other parks, but Mom, the ninny, wore the WRONG SHOES!!!!!! Instead of her mudders, she pulled on a pair of worn-down Reeboks ‘n’ realized as soon as I drug her outta Miss Corolla that the trail was a mud bath ‘n’ she had NO traction. WHAT WAS SHE THINKIN’??????
 
So instead of takin’ a brisk hike through the woods, I had to plod alongside o’ Mom like she was some feeble 80-year-old, ‘n’ it was up to ME to keep her from slidin’ onto her dimpled butt. It was most aggravatin’. ‘N’ despite my best efforts, she STILL slipped onto her behind twice. Gosh, but she was mud-covered by the time we toddled back to Miss Corolla.
 
Mom whisked me along then on a coupla errands, but she never once let me out of the car, ‘n’ ‘cuz it was so chilly, she wouldn’t crank down the windows, so I couldn’t even ride with my snout in the breeze. ‘N’ THAT was most aggravatin’, too. If we hadn’t’ve spent the rest of the mornin’ cookin’ MEAT, I’d say this day was a WASTE!!!!!
 
‘N’, OF COURSE, she abandoned me for that EWP. Gosh darn it, Pops, if she hadn’t’ve buckled down ‘n’ took me for a Midnight Stroll when she got home (despite the ever-present threat of runnin’ into a coupla deer) I might’ve had to run out to Kinkos to make up a new copy of my union contract so’s I could remind her of her legal obligations to Take Care of Louie!!!!
 
But we DID walk, ‘n’ I DID poop, ‘n’ now I’m full o’ greasy bits from her artichoke soup (fortunately, she picked out all the vegetables for me) ‘n’ I guess I’ll cuddle up with her in the big bed, ‘cuz I’m kinda anxious for a belly rub. But geez, Pops, she’s gotta do better tomorrow!
 
Yours in neglect,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. I’ve got an awful OMINOUS feelin’, Pops. One of our errands this mornin’ was in that evil shopping center with the DOG WASH, ‘n’ Mom even ducked into that nefarious storefront to spend a few minutes chattin’ with that monster with the hoses. She didn’t make me go in, ‘n’ she didn’t hang around there long, but she smelled so much like dog soap when she climbed back into the Miss Corolla, my snout wanted to twitch itself right offa my face.
 
I don’t like it, Pops. There’s no reason for her to be talkin’ up that dog-washin’ monster.
 
Is there?
 
I am very afraid.   

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, I understand how important it is to pay attention while a person is cooking. Reassure Mom that making sure that your pan o’MEAT isn’t burnin’ is very, very important.
 
Now, about the dog wash place. I think you need to wrap your (incredibly bright) mind around it. Think about how nice it feels to be bathed in warm water. Think about how nice it feels to have that bristly brush scratch your entire body. Think about how all the girl dogs will swoon over your sweet smell.
 
Think about it, my son. There are many good things associated with the dog wash. No? Hmm, I guess you disagree. Well, you’ll have to trust us on this one, my son.
 
Pops

    

March 28, from Louie, Early Day 21

Dear Pops, 

We didn’t hike this mornin’. 

We swum. 

It was rainin’ catfish ‘n’ salamanders when we crawled out from under our five or six gazillion quilts, so Mom decided we was gonna wait awhile before venturin’ outside, in hopes that the rain clouds would go away. Mom looked so cozy, nestled in her chair with her coffee ‘n’ blankie, ‘n’ the catfish was pilin’ up so high on the patio, I didn’t think we was EVER gonna get out. But then I let Mom’s nose know that I REALLY HAD TO POOP!!!! 

So she sighed in that put-upon way she has ‘n’ she dug out her neon-flowered bathin’ suit from the ’80s for herself ‘n’ some red satin trunks ‘n’ scuba gear for me ‘n’ we proceeded to do our laps up ‘n’ down Tamiami ‘n’ Letchworth. They was RIVERS, Pops, ‘n’ the current almost swept us down into the sewers with the rabid raccoons, but Mom persevered until we could find some high ground where I could poop. 

A tsunami come by ‘n’ chased us back to our driveway, ‘n’ then an ark floated down Canyon Trail ‘n’ I waved to all the creatures barfin’ two by two over the rail, ‘n’ then me ‘n’ Mom ducked (hee hee, get it?) back into the house ‘n’ Mom got out her fluffiest towel to rub me dry. Ohhhhhhhhhhh boy, was that kinky or what? 

So anyway, I’m writin’ now ‘cuz with all this rain, I got me a lotta time on my hands. Mom isn’t even sure we’re gonna get another swim in before she leaves for that EWP. ‘N’ if the weather forecasters is right, it’s gonna turn into SNOW  before she gets home tonight, ‘n’ in that case, there won’t be no Midnight Stroll for Louie, ‘cuz Mom’s already sent his skis to the cleaners. 

‘N’ that means I’ll have no further adventures to report. 

Sniff, sniff, 

Louie 

Pops replies:

Hi Louie!
 
Pops here!
 
Tell Mom to latch onto one of those catfish, cover it with red and black pepper mixed in with a little flour, deep fry it and then … hmmm, mmm, you will really be lickin’ your chops with that one.
 
Or, you can just wait a few weeks and I’ll be grillin’ up some salmon for us.
 
Pops.
 

Pops 'n' his mysterious MIB tunnel.

P.S. Here’s a photo from yesterday. Show it to Mom, OK? Tell her that way, way out in the middle of nowhere, there is a tunnel that cuts into the side of a ridge. No one seems to know what the tunnel is for. (Look closely behind me and you can see the locked gate in front of it.) Personally, I think it’s some kinda top secret place for the Men in Black. 

March 28, from Louie, Later on Day 21

Dear Pops,
 
I am most troubled.
 
Here I am, a second-year federal agent, sworn to patrol the perimeter ‘n’ keep the homeland safe from bears, ‘n’ suddenly I find out, with no warnin’ whatsoever, that there’s been a bear livin’ in our midst all along!
 
Did you know Mom’s a Polar Bear? How can that be?????? She don’t look NOTHIN’ like a bear. (OK, she’s got white hair like a polar bear, but her snout isn’t nearly long enough, her ears isn’t nearly pointy enough, her fur isn’t nearly thick enough ‘n’ her butt isn’t nearly big enough. I’ve seen pictures of bears in my secret Men in Black training, Pops.They’re all much larger than Mom. Stronger, too.)
 
So you can imagine my consternation when Mom pranced home last night, chantin’ even BEFORE she got into the red juice, “We are the Polar Bears, the mighty mighty Polar Bears, everywhere we go-ooooooooooooooo, people wanna kno-oooooooooooooow who we are, so we tell them…..”
 
“Whaddya mean, we’re polar bears, Mom?” I asked in confusion, ‘cuz I’m a dog, not a bear. Says so right in my contract.
 
“Not you, sweetie,” Mom said, patting my head. “I’M a Polar Bear. ‘N’ I’m a state champion.”
 
“A champion what?” I asked skeptically.
 
“A champion basketball player,” Mom said proudly.
 
Oh, guffaw! Mom don’t know which end of a basketball is up! So I just laughed myself silly ‘n’ went to bed, relieved to know that Mom was just joshin’ me, ‘n’ she isn’t no polar bear.
 
Or is she?
 
In the harsh light o’ day, I gotta remind myself that she spends a powerful long time away from Louie each evenin’. She SAYS she’s at that EWP, but how do we know that’s REALLY what she’s doin’? What if she’s really morphin’ into her natural-born bear self ‘n’ prowlin’ the valley, eatin’ raw gefilte fish spawnin’ in the Little Cuyahoga when we think she’s safely at her desk conjugatin’ verbs ‘n’ other such nonsense? What if she’s really scratchin’ her back against trees ‘n’ poopin’ in the fields when we think she’s spellcheckin’ on her computer? What if she’s really terrorizin’ hungover dogwalkers down on the Towpath when we think she’s proofreadin’ pages of tiny tiny type?
 
What do we REALLY know about Mom? Huh, Pops? Is she really a mild-mannered ex-hippie approachin’ her 59th birthday? Or is it all a carefully constructed story (including bit actors to play that Bryan Guy ‘n’ the boys down in Massillon) to cover up her true nefarious nature as — A BEAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRR!!!!!
 
Without your presence here, I must weigh these possibilities all by myself. I do love Mom, even if she is a fake, but I have to protect myself, too. If the Men in Black find out I’m livin’ with a Polar Bear, I’ll be dishonorably discharged ‘n’ I’ll lose all my veteran’s benefits.
 
On the other hand, if I turn Mom in, maybe there’ll be a reward!!!!!
 
Oh, gosh, decisions, decisions.
 
Whatever shall I do?
 
Your perplexed,
 
Louie
P.S. Maybe I oughta come out to California ‘n’ report to your tunnel, which I am absolutely positively CERTAIN is an MIB installation. But I’m sure my secret decoder ring would get us through the gate.

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, you must watch Mom very, very carefully for the next week or so. You see, Mom goes through this funny kinda phase every year at this time. Maybe some day when you are old enough to understand — you know, the time of your life when you gaze out the window and remember when you used to chase after squirrels — then maybe Mom’s mental state will make sense.
 
Mom USED TO BE a polar bear, that’s true. But, humans like to call themselves all kinds of funny names, especially when they are young pups. So, I don’t think you should worry about turnin’ Mom in to the MIB. She’s just looking longingly at those days when she used to jump on pogo sticks, and walk around singin’ “We are the polar bears.” Look with pity upon her. She knows not what she does.
 
Pops
 
P.S. Remind Mom that her library book is due Friday and that she has to pick up the James Lee Burke book by Saturday.
 

March 29, from Louie, Day 22

Well, Pops, I’m afraid I’ve done it again.
 
Despite my highly classified status as a federal agent sworn to defend the homeland from maraudin’ bears, tulip-crazed deer ‘n’ frenzied salamanders bent on doin’ it in the road, I’ve placed Mom ‘n’ me in danger of being deported to Lithuania (which may not be such a bad thing, considerin’ that’s where the exalted Z is from — but I hear them Lithuanians live on a steady diet of beets with no meaty enhancements — yuck).
 
ANYWAY, forget whatever Mom might tell you, it is ALL HER FAULT, ‘n’ if come April we’re in hidin’ in the Baltic when we’re supposed to be pickin’ you up at the airport. you can just blame her.
 
‘Cuz she won’t make it stop rainin’!!!!!
 
Oh, sure, she took me on three neighborhood walks today, but they was all in the drizzlin’ rain, ‘n’ you know Louie can’t get himself propoerly emptied out on a neighborhood walk. I need the wide open spaces of the valley ‘n’ the dog park to evacuate my insides. So when Mom come home tonight from that EWP, I was pretty loaded ‘n’ — well — I pooped on the dead soldier’s memorial.
 
I didn’t WANT to do it. I’d’ve been quite happy to poop on the Barbaras’ petunias, or even on the Chivalrous Neighbor’s tastefully manicured pine bushes. But my insides was screamin’ for relief as soon as Mom blinged me up, ‘n’ — well — we got to the little monument to the soldier ‘n’……
 
I exploded. Gristly bits o’ meat just poured outta me, ‘n’ the fumes was enough to gag even Mom.
 
“Louie!!!!!!!” she gasped. “What are you DOIN’???????” ‘N’ she gazed frantically around us in the dark, fully expectin’ legions of the Daughters of the American Revolution to come marchin’ outta the trees to slap us both in handcuffs.
 
“I gotta GO, Mom,” I said, ‘n’ the poop just sprayed outta my butt.
 
“Omigod, Louie,” Mom said, “this is soooooooooooooo sacrilegious!!!!!” ‘N’ she scrambled around in the dark with her hand stuffed into a poop bag, tryin’ to dig up my leavin’s.
 
“Can’t help it, Mom,” I panted. ‘N’ I decorated the stone marker with Louie’s idea of fine art.
 
“We gotta go home, RIGHT NOW!!!!!” Mom said, ‘n’ she looked in panic at the homes across the street, wonderin’ if secret  agents was already recordin’ our misbehavior ‘n’ phonin’ it in to the FBI.
 
So we hot-footed it down the street to our house, ‘n’ Mom drug me inside before any helicopter gunships could swoop down on Canyon Trail with their infrared lights ‘n’ catch us in the terrible act of poopin’ on the dead.
 
I feel bad, Pops. That soldier give his all for his country. But I’m a soldier, too, ‘n’ when I get the urge, I gotta take care of business.
 
Mom’s gotta learn to get over it. If I can put up with her questionable background as a Polar Bear, she can put up with my primal urges.
 
‘N’ when the DAR comes knockin’ on the door tomorrow, I fully expect Mom to stonewall ’em ‘n’ demand DNA evidence that it’s my poop.
 
Given the state of the U.S. economy, I’m sure they won’t have the funds to do it, ‘n’ I’ll be able to skate on this one.
‘N’ in the future, I’ll just confine my poopin’ to the Barbaras’. ‘Cuz I surely don’t want no life of beets.
Self-righteously yours,
Louie

 
Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, this was just what I needed this morning. Here, it was rainin’ bobcats and marmots — and I had to walk to work in it. Oh, and some humans must have an evil gene. Why else would they purposely try to splash poor Pops clinging desperately to his little umbrella? Oh, well, I’m warm and safe in the evil office now — and I’ll have to stay here right through lunch cuz ain’t no way I’m walkin’ back up to the barracks for lunch.
 
Anyway, your poopin’ adventures never cease to amuse me, my son. And, if in April you and Mom aren’t there to pick me up at the airport, I’ll turn around and jump on a plane bound for Lithuania, ‘cuz wherever Louie goes, Pops goes.
 
Pops

  

March 30, from Louie, Day 23

Dear Dad,
(Note the formal tone.)
 
I know you warned me that Mom was gonna get quite goofy ‘cuz of this birthday thing hangin’ over her head, but I didn’t believe you, ‘cuz despite all her aggravatin’ rules, Mom is really quite RESPONSIBLE when she’s survivin’ all alone while you’re out in California. She don’t do nothing impulsive, like Louie does when he meets up with other creatures on our misadventures.
 
So I wasn’t expectin’ this really STRANGE behavior this mornin’.
 
The drips ‘n’ drizzles had finally stopped, but Mom wouldn’t take me to the dog park (even though I pleaded with my best brown saucer eyes) ‘cuz she said it was still a sewage pit down there. Instead, she blinged me up ‘n’ took me on a tolerable nice hike along the Towpath behind that Bruegger’s place. Part of it is paved, don’tcha know, ‘n’ the rest drains quite nicely into the river, ‘n’ since Mom was wearin’ sensible shoes this time, neither of us was slippin’ ‘n’ slidin’ in the goo. So we was able to enjoy the geese ‘n’ the ducks ‘n’ the other strollers without worryin’ about tumblin’ into the river ‘n’ cascadin’ all the way to Canada.
 
‘N’ since we was already in the neighborhood, we chugged on up to the condo to pick up the mail (nothin’ but bills, which made Mom sigh heavily) ‘n’ then we turned around for home, with me hangin’ outta the window ‘n’ sniffin’ all the glorious springtime smells.
 
Well, we was stopped at the light at the BP station ‘n’, as usual, there was a decrepit young fella hangin’ out on the corner with a misspelled cardboard sign beggin’ for money ‘cuz he was all outta food. Mom stared steadfastly ahead so’s she wouldn’t have to meet his eyes ‘n’ squirm. ‘N’ after an ETERNITY, the light finally changed so’s we could move outta his line of vision, ‘n’ that’s when Mom made her goofy mistake. (Ah, Pops, you see where this is headin’, don’tcha?)
 
Mom glanced at the young fella ‘n’, geez, he was cryin’. Rivers of tears was pourin’ down his cheeks ‘n’ splashin’ all over his sign. No one would help him.
 
So instead of toolin’ home, Mom whipped around the corner ‘n’ pulled into the Bogo parkin’ lot.
 
“Mom,” I said, “whatcha doin’?” (I was thinkin’ quite hopefully that there was a pizza in our future.)
 
“That boy looks just like my Bryan Guy,” Mom said, ‘n’ she pulled her wallet outta the glove compartment where she’d hid it.
 
“Mom,” I said nervously, “that’s not your Bryan Guy.”
 
“I know it isn’t,” Mom snapped. “But he looks like my Bryan Guy, ‘n’ he’s hungry.”
 
“Mooooooooooooooooooom,” I said, shakin’ my head, “he’s just actin’. He’s a CON MAN!!!!!!”
 
“Just hush up, Louie,” Mom said quite sternly. ‘N’ she grabbed a $10 bill outta her wallet ‘n’ she dashed outta the car, leavin’ me all alone with them pizza smells ‘n’ no hope whatsoever of gettin’ a slice of pepperoni.
 
Well, I watched her outta the front windshield, ‘n’ she stomped across the railroad tracks ‘n’ over to that young fella, ‘n’ she stuffed that $10 bill into his hand, ‘n’ then she stomped back to Miss Corolla, ‘n’ she was snifflin’ somethin’ fierce herself as she climbed back inside.
 
“Mooooooooooooooooooooooooom,” I said reproachfully, ‘cuz that was my MEAT ENHANCEMENTS money she was wastin’, “he’s just gonna use it on drugs.”
 
“You don’t know that, Louie,” she sniffed. “‘N’ if it was my Bryan Guy beggin’ on the street corner, I just hope some other ditherin’ idiot would be kind enough to give him enough money for breakfast. So DON’T SAY ANOTHER WORD!!!!!”
 
Well, I know when to shut up with Mom. Sometimes she gets an idea in her head, ‘n’ there’s just no stoppin’ her. So I meekly hunkered down on my Browns blanket, ‘n’ I didn’t say nothin’ more about how she’d just wasted perfectly good pickin’ chicken money on a loser who would be snortin’ that $10 up through his nose before we got back to Canyon Trail.
 
All I can hope is that she’s satisfied her charitable urges, ‘n’ the next time we sail through that intersection, she won’t feel no obligation to hand over her hard-earned Louie money to some loser. ‘Cuz in the Great Recession, there’s losers beggin’ on that corner EVERY SINGLE DAY.
 
Mom is NOT a generous person. I don’t know what got into her. I just hope it’s that birthday thing you warned me about, ‘n’ we won’t be handin’ out my inheritance to any future hobos.
 
Disgustedly yours,
 
Louie.

Pops replies:

Dear Louie: Yes, I know, it’s Mom’s time of year when she gets all emotional about things. You and I, us guys, we just have to stick together and look the other way. This, too, shall pass. In another week or two — ‘cuz there’s also the B-Day aftermath to deal with — things will get back to normal.
 
But, you know, you are wrong about one thing. Mom really is a generous person — she gives away gobs and gobs of Louie-enhancement money at that EWP. And she generally has a soft heart for certain things, like when the hooligans come knocking at the front door asking for money for their high school scams.
 
And, my son, she is VERY generous with you — and with Pops. So, we should list Mom’s soft heart among the many reasons we love her so much.
 
Pops

  

March 31, from Louie, Early Day 24

He came. He saw. I conquered.
Louie, Defender of the Homeland!!!!!
 It was a bee-YOO-ti-ful mornin’, Pops, with the sun blazin’ ‘n’ the daffodils a-poppin’, ‘n’ I was sure there was a dog park in my future, so I was quite miffed when Mom wouldn’t do nothin’ but stroll around the park next door.
 
But as it turned out, it was quite for-TOO-i-tus that we stayed home. ‘Cuz, Pops, I was barely into my Kibbles ‘n’ Bits when……
 
We was under attack!!!!!!!
 
A nefarious black machine charged up the driveway ‘n’ a hairy, husky male invader jumped out ‘n’ commenced to reconnoiterin’ OUR perimeter. I bared my fangs, Pops. I roared! ‘N’ I lunged for the front door while Mom scrambled around for my bling. Bling be damned! This was blatant trespassin’ ‘n’ I was ready to rip out throats ‘n’ chew on intestines in defense of my Mom!!!!
 
Well, there I was, protectin’ her to the best of my ability, ‘n’ that silly ninny leashed me up ‘n’ proceeded to let that pillager of the homeland INTO THE HOUSE! I ask you, WHAT IS WRONG with that woman?????
 
Not only did she let him IN, she threw me OUT!!!! ‘N’ I was forced to prowl the back windows ‘n’ growl while the intruder used his evil instruments to pry into all our inside hidey-holes ‘n’ scribble secret messages in his notebook.
 
Well, Louie don’t stand for that kinda treatment. When he was done snoopin’ around the unmade bed ‘n’ the dirty dishes ‘n’ the empty red-juice glasses, he ordered Mom to get a hold o’ me so he could crawl amongst the bushes. Hmph! No WAY he was gettin’ to my holes to China! ‘N’ I darned near yanked Mom’s arms outta their sockets once again as I pawed the patio ‘n’ flung angry slobber outta my mouth ‘n’ snorted fire.
 
Let me tell you, Pops, that mercenary mighta had his way INSIDE the house, but I chased him outta the yard good ‘n’ proper!  He barely got his inspectin’ done before he gasped at Mom that he was done ‘n’ he dived into his big black machine with his inky-dinky tail between his legs, ‘n’ he backed down the drive willy-nilly, nearly clippin’ the big oak tree in his hasty retreat.
 
HA! Louie rules! The invasion has been repulsed, ‘n’ all is peaceful again on Canyon Trail.
 
I think I’ll go to bed now ‘n’ cuddle with Little Buddy.
 
I’m exhausted.
 
Louie 

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, I am so proud of you. Yes, it was for-TOO-i-tus that you were there to protect Mom and the homeland. Who knows what that husky male intruder might have done had you not been there — why, he could have ravaged Mom! Oh, wait, it’s possible that Mom mighta liked that.
 

Pops 'n' the Mother Ship caught in a spring snowstorm.

Well, anyway, I feel a lot better knowing that my Louie is there protecting all that I value. I’ll bet that you and Little Buddy needed a nice long nap after all that serious protectin’. 

 
Pops.
 
P.S. Poor Pops. This morning’s snowstorm forced me to cancel my planned trip to the main office in Sonora. And I had to hop-skip among the snow piles on my walk to work. Will winter never end?
  

March 31, from Louie, Later on Day 24

Sorry, Pops, but I gotta make this short.
 
Mom ‘n’ me is gonna curl up on the couch ‘n’ she’s gonna read me some bedtime stories from her Recipe Book. She’s gonna COOK tomorrow, ‘n’ there’s all sorts o’ stories she wants to share with me so I can have sweet dreams tonight.
 
There’s somethin’ called Seasoned Chunky Chicken, which I think has a story line that relates nicely to consumers of all ages. ‘N’ then there’s Meat ‘n’ Noodle Casserole, which you KNOW hasta have a happy endin’. ‘N’ then there’s Asian Chicken Toss with Linguine, which really resonates with me ‘cuz o’ my holes to China. ‘N’ there’s so many Mexican recipe possibilities, my head is just swoonin’. Them Mexicans know how to give a plot a nice salsa twist. (My personal favorite is Pork Medallions With Bing Cherry Sauce. It has such a saucy endin’! But Mom says sadly that it’s too early in the season for that particular bedtime story.)
 
ANYWAY, I gotta say good night so’s we can go read. Don’t take it personal. If I had anythin’ excitin’ to report, I’d say to heck with the bedtime stories ‘n’ I’d tell you all about my adventures instead. But there’s nothin’ to say, so I’m signin’ off now ‘n’ draggin’ Mom to the couch.
 
Oh, say, you know how I mentioned a coupla days ago that I thought Mom was plannin’ somethin’ nefarious for my future? You can stop worryin’ about it. Mom ASSURES me that tomorrow is just gonna be a laid-back restful no EWP day. So forget that I ever questioned her good-hearted intentions.
 
Oh, golly, I can’t wait for tomorrow!  I can smell the meat already!
 
Happily yours,
 
Louie.

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie. Your innocence has a sweetness to it that only comes from trust and faith. You will have to trust me on this, my boy, today’s ordeal was for your own good. And I know you have full faith in Mom’s best intentions. The memory of your trip to the Dog Wash will fade quickly as Mom fills the kitchen with wonderful meat smells tonight. MEAT!!!!
Pops

    

April 1, from Louie, Day 25

Dear Dad (and I use the term “dear” quite loosely),
 
You must fire up the Mother Ship IMMEDIATELY ‘n’ chug over to the Sacramento airport to pick up my union rep. He’s hoppin’ the red-eye to California to negotiate an emergency reopener clause in my recently barfed-up contract. ‘N’ he is one teed- off bulldog.
 
I’d confront you myself, ‘cept I’m so traumatized, I can’t stop shakin’. Oh, that evil Mom. That evil SNEAKY Mom. She pulled the wool right over my eyes last night with them tantalizin’ bedtime recipe stories. I slept all night dreamin’ of chicken ‘n’ cow ‘n’ PIG, ‘n’ I slobbered a great big wet spot on the quilt.
 
‘N’ WHAT DID SHE DO TO ME THIS MORNIN’??????
 
SHE ABANDONED ME TO THAT MONSTER WITH HOSES!!!!!!
 
Omigod, Pops, it was so hideous, I can’t bring myself to describe it to you. It gives me heart-renchin’ shivers to even THINK about it. They yanked out my toenails — AGAIN!!!! — ‘n’ they doused me with vile-smellin’ ointments ‘n’ shampoos, ‘n’ they squirted me with WATER ‘n’ tried to drown me in their icy cold tubs ‘n’ they assaulted me with fire-breathin’ hair dryers! ‘N’ THEN that — that — that DOG ABUSER tried to strangle me with a natty kerchief!!!!!
 
Oh, the indignity. The pain! The humiliation!!!!
 
‘N’ even though Mom returned right on time to save me from further degradations, I would NOT lick her face, ‘n’ as soon as we got home, I slunk into the bedroom ‘n’ called my union rep.
 
He tried not to rub it in my face. He KNEW you ‘n’ Mom would slip up somewhere, ‘n’ I’d come crawlin’ back to him. So he’s chargin’ me only triple fees to make this emergency trip to California, ‘n’ you MUST MEET HIM IMMEDIATELY!!!!!
 
Or I will never ever cuddle with you in your futon again.
 
‘N’ as for Mom — well, I don’t CARE if all the girls was swoonin’ over my glossy black coat at the Chuckery this afternoon ‘n’ I don’t CARE if Mom says I smell quite refreshin’. (Dog butts is refreshin’; girlie shampoo is NOT!!!!!) She BETRAYED ME — ‘n’ I will never ever trust her —-
 
Oh, gosh, what was that?
 
Oh, geez, Mom’s dug a pickin’ chicken outta the ice box, ‘n’ she’s elbow deep in greasy hunks o’ meat ‘n’ cartilage. OMIGOD POPS, the smell is overpowerin’ my nose!
 
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, GAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWDDD,
she’s offerin’ me a drippin’ hunk o’ chicken right offa the bone!
 
Sorry, Pops, gotta run. No time for union posturin’. There’s a chicken to be stripped, ‘n’ I gotta patrol the kitchen floor, ‘cuz you know how messy Mom is. It’s my sworn duty to clean up after her.
 
‘bye.
 
Louie.
 
P.S. Dog wash? WHAT dog wash? 

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, what a difficult and interesting life you lead — so full of adventure. So much MEAT!!!
 
As for being a girlie-dog, you might want to reconsider your attitude about smellin’ sweet. Yeah, yeah, among us guys, it doesn’t matter. But, you know, those shapely babes at the dog park actually might take a likin’ (or a lickin’) to a well-groomed Louie. Just think about it, son.
 
As for your union rep, I put him on the first plane back to Ohio with his tail between his legs. It appears he wasn’t aware of all the belly rubs and all the pickin’ chickens — benefits NOT contained in the contract. He wants to have a long chat with you, Louie. Uh-oh.
 
Pops

   

April 2, from Louie, Day 26

Hey, Pops!
 
It was a warm ‘n’ sticky mornin’ at the dog park, ‘n’ it was packed with all the regulars.
 
“Boys!” I said gleefully as Mom unblinged me ‘n’ I dashed through the gate.
 
“Louie!” the boys roared, ‘n’ they all ganged up on me to say hello.
 
Well, I thought we was in for a riotous run, ‘cuz everyone was in a lively barkin’ mood. 

But then I noticed that one by one, the boys peeled off ‘n’ trotted as far away from me as they could get, ‘n’ I couldn’t follow, ‘cuz I was bein’ mobbed by all the bitches. 
 
“Oooh, Louie,” they cooed, ‘n’ they swirled around me ‘n’ rubbed against my nether regions.
 
“Girls, calm down!” I said sternly, ‘n’ I tried to break away so’s I could join the fellas. ‘Cuz these girls wasn’t even givin’ me a chance to poop.
 
“Ohhhh, big fella,” a new black bitch with a saucy blue collar swooned, ‘n’ she started nuzzlin’ my tail.
 
“Hey, he’s ours!” Tazzie of the Ssssh Lady’s ownership snarled, ‘n’ she began to nip at the new bitch’s neck.
 
“I saw him first,” Zoe reminded Tazzie, ‘n’ she started to gnaw on Tazzie’s hindquarters.
 
“Get yer teeth offa me!!!!!” Tazzie snapped, ‘n’ they commenced to roll in a flyin’ dervish of fur all around my paws.
 
I looked at Mom with great big eyes. “Get me outta here!” I begged.
 
So Mom waded in with a sigh ‘n’ dragged me by the collar outta the melee ‘n’ chased me in the direction of the maraudin’ boys with a slap on my backside.
 
Pops, I was quite happy to rejoin the boys, but once again, they peeled off one by one, leavin’ me without any male companionship — well, no companionship ‘cept Chopper, who sniffed my shiny coat ‘n’ shook his head in disgust.
 
“Chopper,” I said, “what’s goin’ on? It’s me — Louie. Why won’t the guys play?”
 
“Well, Louie,” he said, as he sidled away so he was upwind o’ me, “you smell kinda funky.”
 
“Funky?” I said in dismay.
 
“Like an Old Spice commercial,” he said.
 
“I do not!” I protested.
 
“Do, too!” the boys chorused from a safe distance away.
 
Chopper sighed sadly. “You let your Mom give you a bath, didn’t you?”
 
“I didn’t have no choice!” I objected in panic. “She MADE me do it!”
 
“‘N’ now you smell like a girl,” Chopper said. ‘N’ all the boys  nodded their heads in agreement.
 
“You must leave immediately,” Jake said. “You’re no longer fit to run with us guys.”
 
“That’s totally untrue,” I said, pawin’ the ground. “I’m just as stinky as the rest of you guys.”
 
“You’re stinky, all right,” Marley sniffed. “Stinky like a girl.”
 
‘N’ he ‘n’ Jake ‘n’ Chopper ‘n’ Dingo of the Herniated Butt ‘n’ some guys I never even seen before ganged up on me ‘n’ started to nose me to the gate. They was gonna run me outta the park on a rail!
 
‘N’ Mom was so busy chattin’ with the Ssssh Lady, she didn’t even SEE what was happenin’.
 
I was a goner, Pops, all ‘cuz Mom sissified me with a bath, makin’ me irresistible to the bitches but an outcast to my buddies. My life was in ruins.
 
Until Fat ANNIE, of all dogs, huffed into the middle of the swarm of male hormones all around me ‘n’ told all the guys to back off. “You know better’n to act like animals!” she admonished. “It’s not Louie’s fault his female human dunked him in girlie perfume!”
 
“But he don’t smell right,” Marley moped.
 
“He smells just fine,” Fat Annie said stoutly. “Just a little more flowery’n usual.”
 
“He’s different,” Jake grumbled.
 
Fat Annie turned on him ‘n’ give him her most evil stare. “The only thing wrong with YOU, Mr. Jake, is Louie’s got all the girls swoonin’ over him ‘n’ you don’t! You don’t like it, go take a bath!”   
 
Well, all the boys stood back in wonderment. FAT ANNIE was chastisin’ THEM???? Fat Annie don’t get in ANYONE’s face.
 
This was such an astoundin’ turn of events, they all slunk away to their various humans ‘n’ not one of ’em give me any more lip the rest of the mornin’.
 
I tried to thank Fat Annie for comin’ to my defense, but she just give me an old girl dog look. “Go roll in some poop, Louie,” she said tiredly. “Pretty soon, you’ll smell like normal.” ‘N’ she plodded away to join her coffee-drinkin’ human.
 
Fat Annie is a very wise old dog, Pops. I’ve never fully appreciated her before. (I certainly don’t want to horse around with her at the park, ‘n’ I’d just die of shame if she ever tried to lick my nether regions, but she musta been one hot bitch in her prime.) So I followed her directive ‘n’ IMMEDIATELY rolled around in a pile of fresh poop.
 
Chopper said I smelled quite refreshin’ as I was leavin’ the park.
 
Sincerely,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. All of the above is true. Mom took it down in shorthand. 

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, it’s so wonderful that Mom understands dog-speak and was able to write down all your wonderful conversations with everyone at the dog park. Yup, I always knew that Fat Annie was wise beyond her years. And you should pay attention, Louie. There are worse things in the world than having all the girl dogs clamoring for you. Of course, there are better things too – like MEAT!!!
Pops

    

April 3, from Louie, Day 27

Hi, Pops! (Pant, pant!)
 
Louie here! (Gasp, gulp!)
 
I’m quite breathless ‘cuz Mom ‘n’ me was runnin’ lickety-split all mornin’. Mom had multitudinous errands ‘n’ chores to cross off her to-do list before she could go to that EWP, ‘n’ we was on the go go go from the crack o’ 10 until our Pre-Work Walk.
 
We took a REAL hike in O’Neil Woods (well, OK, it was the LOWER portion of O’Neil Woods alongside the creek, so Mom didn’t do any real climbin’, no matter what she might try to pretend to you) but I got to pee on countless trees ‘n’ poop on the forest floor ‘n’ sniff chipmunks ‘n’ squirrels ‘n’ deer ‘n’ even a real BEAR – I swear – ‘n’ Mom got to ooh ‘n’ ahh over endless species of wildflowers (which do nothin’ for me, but if they inspire Mom to take me on a hike, then they’re OK by me).
 
‘N’ then we sped over to the condo to check on the furnace ‘n’ the mail (Mom sighed quite heavily; here she thought she was FINISHED with that furnace, but there was a letter in the mailbox orderin’ her to schedule a furnace inspection with the county ‘n’ she’s sure that’s gonna mean another fee that’ll cut into Louie’s meat money).
 
‘N’ then we sped down to the red juice store to get our provisions for the holiday.
 
‘N’ then we sped home to do dish-washin’ ‘n’ closet-scrubbin’ ‘n’ laundry-cleanin’ ‘n’ rug-sweepin’ chores. (I was a tree-MEND-ous help to Mom; you just ask her. Mom would still be ditherin’ over what to throw outta the closet if I hadn’t’ve been there to chew on the stuff that shouldn’t be takin’ up space on the shelves in the first place. I got some mighty fine new toys to play with by tearin’ into her piles of mementos from days that mean nothin’ to nobody but her.)
 
‘N’ then she give me a quick but thorough belly rub before dashin’ into the shower ‘n’ tearin’ outta the house to pick up her new glasses before she had to be at that EWP. (You gotta remember to compliment her on her new specs when you get home. I don’t see no difference from the old ones, but she spent a lotta Louie meat money on the new pair, ‘n’ the new ‘scription is givin’ her one ferocious headache tonight! So you gotta tell her how pretty they make her look.)
 
Well, I was so wore out by the time she packed up for work, that I had to console myself somehow. ‘N’ even though I hate that nasty place with the water hoses that We Shall Not Name, I couldn’t get visions of the bitches swarmin’ my nether regions outta my head. Somethin’ about my new Louie smell has got the girls EXTREMELY interested. So while Mom wasn’t lookin’ (she was too busy stuffin’ her lunch bag with nutritious human treats), I stuck my snout in the waste basket ‘n’ I retrieved the natty kerchief Mom had tossed out ‘n’ I snuck it into my hidey-hole. ‘N’ after Mom left, I spent my long afternoon alone cuddlin’ ‘n’ nuzzlin’ it. It’s my new Best Buddy. It smells quite exhilaratin’. Ask the bitches at the dog park. It may be oh-so-gay to you, but the bitches think it’s ever so grand. So don’t you even think of takin’ it away from me.
 
I think it makes me look quite masculine.
 
Nattily yours,
 
Louie.
 
P.S.  The Easter Bunny is comin’ tonight, ‘n’ I think that means hass-en-FEFF-er. I will be on red alert to grab that bunny for a tasty stew.
 
P.P.S. Aw, Pops, can’t you come home soon? I really need a sleepover for the boys (‘n’ Mom REALLY needs a night that’s no more demandin’ than a crossword puzzle). 

Pops replies:

Louie! Easter bunnies are NOT for stew making!
 
Anyway, you can tell Mom that relief is on the way — for all her needs. Yeah, I see she needs a boys-night sleepover in the worst way. But, uh, uh, I think she needs something else perhaps just a bit more.
 
Pops
 
P.S. Gotta run. Big snowstorm coming in this afternoon — 8 inches down here and 1-2 feet up the mountain. Will winter never end???!!!
  

April 4, from Louie, Day 28

Well, Pops, I was on red alert all night long ‘n’ I swear I never once closed my eyes, ‘cuz no pastel-dappled bunny in a bowtie was gonna throw eggs at MY house, but despite my best snarlin’ efforts, I failed to catch the wretched rabbit, ‘n’ we was reduced to canned enhancements for breakfast.
 
But WAIT!!!! Mom took me on a long, breezy drive in Miss Corolla, ‘n’ at the end of the rainbow, we was at the Boys’ house, ‘n’ as it turned out, the bunny had peppered THEIR kitchen with chocolate eggs ‘n’ jelly beans ‘n’ a bowlful of meatballs just for me!!!! They was so tasty that as I licked my chops ‘n’ peered hopefully at Uncle Bob for more, I was forced to re-evaluate my distrust of night-stalkin’ carrot eaters, ‘cuz if they deliver meatballs for Louie, they can’t be all bad, right?
 
So with my tummy blissfully full o’ meatballs, I was quite content to stretch out on the kitchen floor while Mom ‘n’ the boys watched old TV game shows ‘n’ caught up on each other’s various medications. (Mom still sadly leads ’em all with nine daily drugs, but Uncle Bob is close behind, ‘n’ Uncle Tim just added a heapin’ helpin’ of anti-cholesterol pills. Old humans sure do eat funny enhancements. I’m awful glad that MY enhancements are of the pickin’ chicken variety!)
 
Even though her birthday is still way far away, the Boys decided to throw Mom a birthday party, so we hauled home lots of human-type loot to fill up all them closet shelves Mom just cleaned out. There’s puzzle books for her to curl up with in her recliner, ‘n’ more books to read (includin’ an out-STAND-in’ volume with lotsa MEAT recipes) ‘n’ a new cast-iron pot to cook MEAT CASSEROLES in ‘n’ two new blueberry bushes for me to pee on.  (Golly, ‘cept for them puzzle books, it sounds like it was MY birthday, don’t it?)
 
So now we’re back home ‘n’ Mom’s got a late start on her chores, but she says as soon as she’s done, we’re goin’ for a nice Easter stroll around the neighborhood, but first she’s gotta find me an appropriate bonnet.
 
Uh, Pops, should I be afraid?
 
Yours in Mom’s imagination,
 
Louie. 

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, you would have looked swell in an Easter bonnet — you already smell like a girly-dog. Oh, you know I’m just kiddin’.
 
Looks like you got a good haul for Mom’s birthday, which, as you know, is a long, long, long way away. However, you’d best be thinkin’ about a nice surprise for Mom when the big day comes. I can’t be there to put a big smile on her face, if you know what I mean, so I’m dependin’ on you, my boy, to do something really neat. After all, all good things come from Mom!!!!
 
Pops

  

April 5, from Louie, Day 29

Oh, Pops, what a night! What a rip-snortin’ EXCITIN’ night!!!!!
 
I pawed at the front door, steam pourin’ from my snout, eager to dash out into the darkness ‘n’ PEEEE!!!
 
‘N’ Mom, the sissy, huddled in the doorway, fearful of steppin’ outside.
 
“Let’s go, Mom!” I huffed. “I gotta go!”
 
“Oh, Louie,” Mom whined, “it’s inky dark out, ‘n’ I’m sore afraid!” ‘N’ she shivered from the top of her tacky denim hat to the bottom of her spankin’ new Reeboks.
 
“Mooooommmmmm,” I said in exasperation, “like Dad TOLE ya, ya got big brave Louie to protect you. Nothin’s gonna happen!!!!!”  ‘N’ I tugged impatiently on my bling.
 
“This is wrong, Louie,” Mom said timidly. “There’s monsters out there after midnight.”
 
“Midnight, shmidnight,” I said, ‘n’ I yanked her out the door.
 
I tore down the driveway, sniffin’ deliriously at all the glorious midnight spring smells, ‘n’ Mom had no choice but to flounder after me, ‘cuz her arms was all tangled up in my leash, ‘n’ where Louie goes, Mom goes, too.
 
So we pranced up Canyon Trail, with Louie stoppin’ here ‘n’ there to make his evenin’ libations, ‘n’ eventually Mom relaxed, ‘cuz even though all the houses was dark ‘n’ the neighbors was all curled up in their beds, too deep in sleep to come to our rescue if bears charged outta the woods, it was a very peaceful night. The only sound was the frogs croakin’ their matin’ calls ‘n’ the human machines chuggin’ up ‘n’ down the road in the valley, ‘n’ Mom gradually allowed that maybe we could get in our stroll without losin’ our heads.
 
So we got to the circle without any mishap ‘n’ THEN — well, as Mom said later, the only thing that saved her arm sockets was the fact that I was distracted by poopin’ in the remains of last year’s impatiens, ‘n’ she was able to firmly plant her Reeboks with their brand-new Grand Canyon-size treads before I lifted my head ‘n’ saw —
 
THREE glorious does, munchin’ on the tulips not two houses away! Two of the fine ladies had fat baby bellies hangin’ down to the ground, but the third was a sleek little lady with tender pointed ears ‘n’ liquid brown eyes ‘n’ Pops, I swear, she lifted her sweet little snout toward me ‘n’ a voice outta my dreams said, “Louie! Is that you!!!????”
 
‘N’ outta the depths of my studly chest, I roared “MAAA-REEEEE-AAAAA!!!!!”
 
‘N’ I LUNGED!!!!
 
Despite their fat bellies, the older lady does responded INSTANTLY by herding my Maria away from my lascivious barkin’ ‘n’ up Palisades. I tried to charge after ’em, ‘cuz suddenly my heart was burstin’ in song ‘n’ I wanted to make a Broadway musical!
 
“No, LOUIE!!!!!” Mom hollered, ‘n’ she hauled back on my bling with all of her might. “No, NO, NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”
 
“Yes, YES, YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!” I howled to the stars, ‘n’ I strained mightily against my bling.
 
Lights flashed on up ‘n’ down Letchworth as I barked ‘n’ Mom squealed, ‘n’ my Maria disappeared into the night. I wanted to run like the wind with my true love, ‘n’ MOM WOULDN’T LET ME!!!!!!
 
As puny (‘n’ ancient) as she is, Mom can get a powerful nasty hold on my leash, ‘n’ even though it hurt us both, she was eventually able to haul me back to the house while the love of my life disappeared in the woods (‘n’ the fine citizens of Canyon Trail peered outta their bedroom windows, angrily demandin’ who was disturbin’ their sleep).    
 
Well, Mom ‘n’ me was both quite breathless by the time we staggered into the house — me ‘cuz Mom was seriously chokin’ me on my bling, ‘n’ Mom ‘cuz I fought quite fearsomely against losin’ my little doe — ‘n’ I immediately demanded to be let out in the back yard, where I furiously prowled the fence ‘n’ barked nonstop till Miss Sandra’s lights come on.
 
My Maria lives!  She isn’t a figment of Mom’s imagination! ‘N’ she’s waitin’ in the valley for me to bust free ‘n’ join her so’s we can live happily ever after.
 
Oh, Pops, my heart’s all atwitter. My brain’s in a dither! ‘N’ I have you to thank. If you hadn’t’ve shamed Mom into takin’ me on a stroll tonight, I’d’ve never found my Maria again.
 
Thank you thank you thank you thank you.
 
Mom has me locked up in the house now, but I will be countin’ the seconds until mornin’ ‘n’ our hike, ‘n’ I will insist that Mom take me somewhere in the valley, ‘cuz I must find my Maria. We are meant for each other, Pops, we truly are.
 
Anxiously yours,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. Mom thought your singin’ was real sweet tonight. It was almost as good as my own rendition of Leonard Bernstein. Mom said so.

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, we’re just a couple of singin’ fools, huh? All for the love of a female.
Pops
  

April 6, from Louie, Day 30

Dear Pops,
Not all deer is created equal. And though I’d never EVER mistreat a deer based on the physical attributes she was born with or without, it’s also a fact that not all deer is as enchantin’ as my Maria.
 
For instance…..
 
Mom decided to celebrate her birthday by doin’ what she loves best — takin’ care o’ Louie. (OK, she’d really like to squeeze you in there, too, but seein’ as how that’s not possible, I’M what she loves best — as it should be.) So instead of fritterin’ away the afternoon (‘n’ Louie’s meat money) at an auction, she blinged me up for a nice romp at the Oxbow. She said I’d REALLY like the bloomin’ trillium (is that some kinda meat?????) ‘n’ if I got overheated, I could just hop into the river for a refreshin’ swim.  That sounded righteous to me, so I scrambled into Miss Corolla, ‘n’ slobbered all over the car seats while Mom chugged down to the park.
 
Now Pops, Mom was the one who picked this park. I had NO SAY IN IT WHATSOEVER!!!!! So it wasn’t my fault that the MOMENT I jumped outta Miss Corolla, my lovely Maria sauntered out of the bushes ‘n’ into the parkin’ lot.
 
Poor Mom’s achin’ muscles just squealed as I LEAPED for my true love. Who’d’ve ever thought that my Maria would be out in the open at 4 in the afternoon????? But THERE SHE WAS!!!! ‘N’ I drug Mom down the trail after her.
 
We tore around the first bend, ‘n’ my Maria teasin’ly kept her distance, flashin’ her snowy white tail just far enough away to keep me pantin’ ‘n’ chargin’. (Mom was pantin’ ‘n’ chargin’, too, but in an entirely different way.)  Maria smiled ‘n’ disappeared into the brush.
 
I groaned. This flirtin’ business was KILLIN’ me. But I sucked it up ‘n’ hurled me ‘n’ Mom down the trail to the next bend.
 
‘N’ there she was!!!! Poised like a picture in the middle of the path, lookin’ at me tauntin’ly over her shoulder.
 
I skidded to a halt ‘n’ a perfect point. (Well, a coupla parts of me was pointin’ but we won’t go into that in detail, on account of Mom is listenin’.) “Maria,” I breathed.
 
‘N’ gosh darn it, Pops, my true love smirked.
 
“Maria?” she said, ‘n’ her voice was wildly off-key.
 
I tilted my head in befuddlement. Whatever had happened to my beautiful soprano????
 
I quivered as Mom skidded up behind me ‘n’ fought to catch her breath.
 
“Aren’t you Maria?” I asked trepidatiously.
 
“Maria?” the doe repeated. “Well, honey, if you’re little black butt wants to call me Maria, you go right ahead. Just so’s you  dump the old lady” — ‘n’ she nodded at Mom — “‘n’ I can have your luscious hindquarters all to myself.”
 
Well, I was shocked, Pops, I tell you, SHOCKED!!!! My Maria would NEVER talk like that about Mom — ‘specially on her birhtday — so I narrowed my eyes ‘n’ I give that deer a serious second look ‘n’ — IT WASN’T MARIA!!!!!! Oh, she was shaped like a doe, ‘n’ she was colored like a doe, ‘n’ her tail twitched bewitchin’ly like a doe, but there was hard lines around her eyes ‘n’ snout, ‘n’ her fur was frayed ‘n’ ragged, ‘n’ her tail — gosh, Pops, it wasn’t bushy. It was SKANKY!!!!   
 
The doe was an imposter!!!!! ‘N’ I nearly give Mom a heart attack because of her.
 
I was so angry at the deception that I dug my front paws into the ground, I lowered my head ‘n’ I growled.
 
The fake Maria tried to laugh. “Oh, surely, Louie, you aren’t goin’ to attack me? Ha ha ha ha ha!”
 
“You better run, Lady,” Mom said wearily.
 
“Oh, puh-leeze,” the doe said. “Run from the likes of HIMMMMM?”
 
The effrontery of the minx!!!! I threw back my head ‘n’ barked the thunderous bark of the insulted male. The trees shuddered. The birds flew up in an angry cloud. ‘N’ the mighty Cuyahoga changed its course. LOUIE was PISSED OFF!!!
 
The doe staggered. She rolled her eyes till only the whites was showin’ ‘N’ I think her miserable life flashed through her pea-sized brain, ‘n’ she spun on her unmanicured back hoof ‘n’ galloped ungracefully through the forest ‘n’ outta my life.
 
I snorted good riddance.
 
All deer is not created equal, Pops. There’s only one Maria. ‘N’ even SHE better not call my Mom an old lady.
 
End of story. Mom ‘n’ me went home, ‘n’ while Mom rolled around in her birthday roses, I rolled around in my pickin’ chicken.
 
‘N’ the sun set in the west.
 
Love,
 
Louie. 

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, you are so observant, and so right. Why, out here in the Wild West (WW), the deer have little black tails and white butts. Imagine that. I think I’ve spotted a long-lost cousin of Maria, though. This cute little doe keeps wandering away from her sister and mother and is mighty, mighty curious about what’s on the other side of the highway. Oh, my, I fear for her.
 
Now Louie, we need to talk. When you said you needed to borrow my credit card to buy Mom a birthday gift, you never mentioned it was going to be flowers. Uh, Louie, son, that was very sweet of you, but you could have put my name on the card. Oh, yeah, sure, you managed to get pickin chicken out of the deal and I suppose that was your intention. But your Pops sure looked bad when he didn’t show up with flowers. Next time, the card must read: Love, Louie and Pops. Or, Love, Pops and Louie. OK? Otherwise, you are going to have to apply for your own credit card.
 
Pops
 
P.S. Mom sure has gotten good at translatin’ dog and deer language, hasn’t she?

April 7, from Louie, Day 31

 
Geez, Dad,

Trouble just seems to hang over me like last night’s sauerkraut. No matter how good I try to be — no matter how much I try to follow Mom’s many ‘n’ confusin’ rules — trouble just descends ‘n’ stinks everythin’ up.
 
Take this afternoon, for instance.
 
Once again, Mom saved me from a meatless old age by failin’ to find an auction. ‘N’ she said it was too nice a day to waste in a movie theater or a museum, so she dug out her gardenin’ gloves (the ones I haven’t chewed yet) ‘n’ she dragged a whole armload of vicious ‘n’ sharp-edged implements of destruction out of the garage ‘n’ announced that we was spendin’ the afternoon “workin’ ” in the back yard.
 
Well, Pops, I was delirious. A whole afternoon “workin’ ” in the dirt with Mom? Does it get any better’n THAT????
 
Hmmmph.
 
Mom knelt down in the island amongst the tulips ‘n’ sproutin’ hostas, ‘n’ she commenced to yankin’ out dead weeds ‘n’ tossin’ sticks ‘n’ stones ‘n’ moldy leaves every which way. Well, Pops, that looked like so much fun, I immediately leaped into the island ‘n’ I started diggin’ with a fury, too.
 
“Louie,” Mom snapped, “stop that!”
 
I lifted my snout from my vigorous excavations ‘n’ give her my best bemused Louie look. Mom was diggin’. I was diggin’. What could possibly be wrong with that?
 
“Not in the island, Louie. You don’t dig to China in the island!!!”
 
Well, why the heck not?
 
But Mom kept sayin’ no, no, no, so I slunk back into the house to pout with my Little Buddy. Mom didn’t want to play with me.
 
Well, Mom was still diggin’ ‘n’ havin’ such a glorious time crawling through the dirt ‘n’ the bugs, I couldn’t help myself. I had to go back out ‘n’ dig, too. ‘N’ when she yanked a great big ‘ol weed out from amongst the peonies, I leapt into the island ‘n’ pawed up a big mess o’ bloomin’ violets myself.
 
“Louie!” Mom wailed. “Not the violets!”
 
Well, why NOT the violets? Mom’s tearin’ up weeds. How come I can’t tear up weeds, too? It’s all tasteless vegetarian stuff, right? Let’s dig it outta there!!!!!
 
‘N’ that’s how it went all afternoon, Pops. Mom would dig. I would dig. Mom would toss a plant. I would toss a plant. ‘N’ just ‘cuz some o’ MY plants happened to have a tulip bud on ’em shouldn’t be held against me. I was just followin’ Mom’s destructive example.
 
Sheesh, how’s a dog supposed to know the difference between a good plant ‘n’ a bad plant? To my way o’ thinkin’, they’re ALL bad plants (unless Louie has the tummy rumbles ‘n’ needs a good mouthful o’ grass to make him barf).  
 
We musta landscaped for hours ‘n’ hours (Mom said it wouldn’t have taken half as long if she hadn’t’ve been forced to backtrack every five minutes to repair my damage) ‘n’ I think we’d still be out there squabblin’ over which flower stays ‘n’ which flower goes, ‘cept without us realizin’ it, fearsome black clouds was gatherin’ reinforcements just over the roof line, ‘n’ suddenly, just as Mom was about to admonish me for some grievous sin that I’m sure was her fault ‘n’ not mine, a great growl of thunder rolled over the treetops.
 
“Yikes!” Mom said. ‘N’ she hopped around like a crazed bunny, retrievin’ her tools ‘n’ flingin’ baskets o’ yard waste over the fence before the clouds could open up ‘n’ drown us. I dashed madly around, too, ‘cuz even though I wasn’t doin’ anything useful whatsoever, it sure is fun to run after Mom ‘n’ bump her in the butt ‘n’ knock all her armloads of dead leaves to the ground.
 
Well, Pops, we just made it in the back door with all our yard tools ‘n’ toys intact when the wind started howlin’ ‘n’ the rain started fallin’. Our afternoon of gardenin’ is definitely over.
 
But that’s OK. Mom just popped our evenin’s casserole in the oven, ‘n’ pretty soon, me ‘n’ Mom will be stuffin’ our faces with MEAT. ‘N’ we won’t even think o’ the calories. ‘Cuz, as Mom will tell you, yard work with Louie is downright exhaustin’, ‘n’ we both deserve a good fattenin’ meal.
 
Hungrily yours,
 
Louie.
 
Pops replies: 

Oh, Louie, I heard about your meat casserole. Yum-yum. I think you should be extra special nice to Mom today. The way I see it, Louie got pickin’ chicken twice in the past week or so. Now that’s what I call Louie heaven, no? 

I see that your weather today is a bit stormy, so you won’t have all the fun like you did yesterday. That’s OK, in just a short while I’ll be home and guess what? I’m going to get lots of dirt and I’m going fill up all your China digs. What do you think of that, my boy? You’ll see, we’ll have lots of fun. We can see who’s fastest – me at fillin’ the holes or you at removin’ the new dirt. Should be excitin’.
 
Pops
 
  

April 8, from Louie, Early Day 32

Oh, Pops,
 
I’m sooooo sorry. Mom told me the horrific story of what you found when you come home last night ‘n’ I feel just terrible. I know if it was my Maria lyin’ on the side o’ the road, even a manly stud like me would be cryin’ buckets. I told Mom I hadda hop the red-eye for California IMMEDIATELY so’s I could give you a big sloppy hug, but she sadly said no. She said by the time them airlines got their orders straight ‘n’ shipped me to the right airport by way of Hong Kong ‘n’ Budapest ‘n’ Walla-Walla, you’d already be on your way home, so I mighta as well wait here until you arrive ‘n’ lick your face then.
 
Which I will do.
 
But until then, I’m thinkin’ of you nonstop.
 
Love,
 
Louie

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, you are the world’s best. Yeah, I felt bad this morning when I looked out on the little meadow and none of the three does was there. But, animals in nature deal with these things better than us civilized creatures, so I’ll just hafta get over it.
 
Besides, knowing I have a big, sloppy face-lickin’ waiting for me when I get home puts a great big smile on my face.
 
Love,
Pops

   

April 8, from Louie, Later on Day 32

Hey, Pops,
 
Why is Mom so anti-social?
 
If it weren’t for the dog park ‘n’ Reggie ‘n’ Lucy next door, I’d never have none of my own kind to play with.
 
Take today.
 
It’s been rainin’ snakes ‘n’ grasshoppers all day, so OF COURSE there was no dog park this mornin’ ‘cuz OF COURSE Mom didn’t want me gettin’ my dainty manicured paws all muddy. (Hmmmph. She’s not the least bit worried about my paws, Dad; she’s worried about her RUGS!!!!). So Louie had to settle for a dismal wet neighborhood walk this mornin’ ‘n’ again this afternoon ‘n’ since no one in his right MIND wanted to be battlin’ the rainin’ snakes ‘n’ grasshoppers, there was no one else out on neighborhood patrol. So me ‘n’ Mom slunk home both times without a single hi, how are you, to any innerestin’ dog butts.
 
But WAIT!!!!! Instead of goin’ to that EWP, Mom surprised me by disappearin’ only a coupla hours this afternoon to do LNWH (Louie’s Not Welcome Here) errands. ‘N’ when she chugged back into the driveway about 4:30, the clouds had run outta reptiles ‘n’ insects ‘n’ it wasn’t rainin’ no more.
 
So Mom immediately blinged me up ‘n’ we dashed out for yet another neighborhood walk. (I begged for the woods but Mom said no-bad word-way, the woods was hip deep in mud ‘n’ it would suck us down to Middle Earth like quick sand. Now THAT sounds like a Louie-size adventure!!!!!)
 
ANYWAY, since it was almost suppertime, Canyon Trail was comin’ awake ‘n’ first we run into Mr. Barbara walkin’ his puny Tiger. Well, I thought I’d just prance up ‘n’ give Tiger a good sniffin’, but Mom yanked me to the other side o’ the street, mumblin’ as how Mr. Barbara doesn’t like his Tiger consortin’ with our kind. (I don’t know what that means, but I think it’s vaguely unconstitutional.)
 
No big whoop. We proceeded on our walk, ‘n’ suddenly a jogger come round the corner, ‘n’ joggin’ merrily with him was a slim ‘n’ trim Doberman! Well, Pops, I immediately perked up my ears ‘n’ woofed a cheery hello, ‘n’ the Doberman responded in kind, but gosh darn it, both Mom AND the jogger misinterpreted our woofs, ‘n’ before either one of us could get a good whiff of each other’s butts, they yanked us apart ‘n’ hurried us down opposite ends of the street. No joy for Louie.
 
So then we’re roundin’ the bend toward home ‘n’ good golly, what do I see comin’ down the street right at us but a big ol’ black Lab who coulda been my maternal great uncle. Well, my tail curled up in joyful anticipation ‘n’ his kinda wagged (which was all he could manage with his advanced age). I wanted to romp around with him ‘n’ hear old family stories ‘cuz I really don’t know enough about my Lab ancestors, but Mom ‘n’ the Lab’s human immediately crossed to opposite sides o’ the street, ‘n’ me ‘n’ the Lab got to snort nothin’ but a little hello.
 
Now I ask you, what is wrong with Mom? Why won’t she let me play in the street with other dogs? OK, it’s not ALL her fault. The other humans is avoidin’ me as much as Mom is avoidin’ them. But what is it with that? I’m a friendly kinda fella, ‘n’ I need my socialization. I’m not gonna bite off anyone’s ear without provocation (although the substitute mailman this mornin’ kinda thought otherwise) ‘n’ no mutt’s gonna bite off mine ‘cuz I won’t let ’em. What’s Mom so ascared of?
 
When I asked her, she just rolled her eyes ‘n’ said two puzzling words: “White dog.”  Now Pops, none of the dogs we seen this afternoon was white, ‘n’ we all had our tails waggin’, ‘n’ I’d never ever mistake them for that evil insidious sinister vile-spewin’ hell dog from up the street.
 
Mom oughta trust me more. ‘Cuz I need my friends, even if she don’t.
 
Maybe you could have a word with her durin’ one of your giggly conversations ‘n’ let her know that she don’t have to protect Louie so much. Louie can take very good care of himself (unless he’s confrontin’ a 12-point Uncle Buck — but that’s a WAAAAAAAAAAAAY different story).
 
Yours in frustration,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. Mom went ‘n’ got her new driver’s license, ‘n’ she’s quite annoyed at the BMV. She says they put an old lady’s picture where her face oughta be ‘n’ she’s thinkin’ of writin’ the governor a nasty letter. (Pops, maybe you oughta stop her before she embarrasses herself, ‘cuz I snuck a look at her new license ‘n’ it looks just like Mom.)

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, Mom’s not antisocial. She’s just lookin’ out for her puny arms. ‘Cuz, you know, when you pull on your bling, Mom does all she can just to hang on. Oh, my, she really needs a boys-night-out  and I think we do, too. Won’t be long.
 
Meanwhile, I want to thank you for the Easter card and comic. Lou, you are one amazin’ dog. I’ll never figure out how you were able to get that comic out of the newspaper without ripping it to shreds. But, you added a chuckle or two to my day yesterday.
 
As you do every day with your Letter From Louie. As always, it’s the high point of my day.
 
Pops
 
P.S. Only two of the three deer showed up for breakfast this morning. One kept looking around. I wonder whether they know.
 
P.P.S. I’ll tell Mom that no one – NO ONE – likes their driver’s license photo.

April 9, from Louie, Day 33

Well, Pops, I was all set to send you another installment in the Adventures of Louie ‘n’ the Black Cat, complete with amusin’ literary embellishments, but that’s gonna haveta wait for another day, ‘cuz I have to hurry up ‘n’ write THIS letter so’s I can send Mom to bed ‘n’ log onto the Secret Men in Black Web site ‘n’ apply for emergency authorization to extend my federal powers.
 
We have been invaded again, Pops, ‘n’ it isn’t no black cat causin’ all the trouble. This time, we’re under attack by …..
 
GIANT TURKEYS!!!!!!
 
Really. The Chivalrous Neighbor says so.
 
We was takin’ a quick Midnight Stroll — Mom was hurryin’ me along something fierce ‘cuz she got home late ‘n’ she wanted to depoop me ‘n’ then fill me up again with my evenin’ enhancements so’s she could call you before you drifted off with your library book. So she kinda groaned when we got down to the street ‘n’ there was the Chivalrous Neighbor joggin’ in our direction. Mom whispered outta the side of her mouth that this was gonna slow us WAAAAAY down, ‘cuz the Chivalrous Neighbor would want to stop ‘n’ chat about the nasty cold turn in the weather. ‘N’ she sternly instructed me to gobble up his treats REAL fast, so we wouldn’t have to shiver ‘n’ socialize too long.
 
Well, sure enough, the Chivalrous Neighbor stopped ‘n’ plied me with biscuits which, bein’ a polite kinda guy, I couldn’t turn down. ‘N’ sure enough, the Chivalrous Neighgor started talkin’ — at length — about the wretchedly cold forecast. ‘N’ Mom stood there stompin’ her feet against the cold ‘n’ smilin’ frostily in hopes that he’d wrap it up quick. Which he wouldn’t.
 
So Mom butted in ‘n’ said, “You got any deer roamin’ your end o’ the street tonight?” ‘Cuz if he did, she wanted no part of ’em.
 
‘N’ he stopped in mid-forecast ‘n’ said, “Why, no, no deer tonight.”
 
Mom almost relaxed. Her arm sockets was safe.
 
“But we got turkeys,” the Chivalrous Neighbor said brightly.
 
“Turkeys?” Mom ‘n’ me repeated — Mom in dismay ‘n’ me in curiosity. I never had me no live turkeys before, ‘n’ this sounded quite innerestin’.
 
“Some big ol’ toms ‘n’ their hens,” the Chivalrous Neighbor said. “They been peckin’ at my windows.”
 
“At your windows?” Mom repeated in disbelief.
 
“Oh, yeah,” the Chivalrous Neighbor said. “Them toms gotta be this big!” ‘N’ he held his hand way up above Louie’s head.
 
Well, Pops, I immediately went on red alert. Turkeys taller’n Louie are a SERIOUS NATIONAL THREAT!!!!
 
Mom was a tad more skeptical. “I’ve never seen no turkeys in this neighborhood,” she said. “Leastways, not of the bird variety.”
 
The Chivalrous Neighbor chuckled. He got Mom’s joke. “Trust me, there’s a whole gaggle of turkeys tearin’ up my yard.”
 
‘N’ that’s all I needed to hear, Pops! Invadin’ turkeys on a mission to destroy our peaceful homes ‘n’ yards. This is an emergency of MIB proportions! I gotta get in touch IMMEDIATELY, ‘cuz as you know, I’m only sworn to patrol for bear ‘n’ the occasional rogue deer. I got no right to use deadly force against a bunch o’ turkeys.
 
So I yanked Mom away from the Chivalrous Neighbor so’s we could finish our depoopin’ post haste ‘n’ I could get home to the computer ‘n’ use my secret password to talk to Tommy Lee Jones. (I hope I don’t get that Will Smith guy, ‘cuz he’s just goofy.)
 
So you gotta forgive me if I cut my letter short. NATIONAL SECURITY is at stake here! We can’t turn over our country to  the turkeys! Why, if they get the upper hand, it could be the end of Social Security ‘n’ Thanksgivin’ dinner!
 
So you ‘n’ Mom sleep tight. I got a long night ahead of me. I’m sure Tommy Lee will wanna debrief me at length!
 
Forever on patrol,
 
Your Louie.

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie — ever vigilant, ever wary of invaders. Pops takes great comfort in knowing you are there to protect Mom and the homeland.
 
Pops

April 10, from Louie, Day 34

Well, Louie’s in deep doo-doo.
 
I don’t know what happened, Pops. It musta been the effect of new invaders in the neighborhood ‘n’ the fact that Tommy Lee wasn’t answerin’ his e-mail, despite our dire emergency. I just got more ‘n’ more excited the longer I had to wait for the MIB to call ‘n’…..
 
Well….
 
Pops, I went over to the Dark Side.
 
Somethin’ evil ‘n’ fearsome welled up my insides, ‘n’ no matter what Mom tried to do to calm me down, I just kept runnin’ ‘n’ chewin’ ‘n’ gnawin’ ‘n’ nippin’ ‘n’ scratchin’ ‘n’ jumpin’. Every time Mom tried to curl up in bed with her book, I’d leap on top o’ her ‘n’ pin her down with my mighty paws ‘n’ munch on her jammies. She’d throw me outta the bedroom ‘n’ lock the door, ‘n’ I’d commence to tearin’ up the livin’ room, rippin’ the quilt offa the couch ‘n’ the checkered cloth offa the coffee table, ‘n’ tossin’ the TV remotes left ‘n’ right ‘n’ tearin’ Mom’s puzzle book to SHREDS! So then she’d let me back in the bedroom ‘n’ I’d pin her down again ‘n’ commence to turnin’ her jammies into mincemeat. So then she’d throw me OUTSIDE in the dark, ‘n’ I’d commence to racin’ round the fence ‘n’ barkin’ my lungs out at the creatures of the night. So then she’d let me back in, ‘n’ I’d commence to tryin’ to hump her ‘fore she could even toddle back to the bedroom. So then she’d toss Little Buddy into the kitchen ‘n’ while I was chasin’ HIM, she’d run to the bedroom ‘n’ lock herself inside. So then I’d commence to rippin’ up what was left in the livin’ room. So then she’d stomp out to the hall ‘n’ yell all the magic words — “No, no, no!!!!” ‘n’ “Stop, stop, stop!!!!” — but there was no magic in them words last night. They just rolled off my back as Sweet Louie disappeared ‘n’ Beelzebub the Black took control.
 
It went on for hours, Pops. My blood was ragin’. Mom says it was the worst she’s ever seen me, ‘n’ she broke down ‘n’ cried. ‘N’ it was only when she threatened to haul me over to the condo ‘n’ lock me up alone with the fire-breathin’ new furnace that I finally run out o’ steam.
 
But Mom still wouldn’t let me sleep with her last night. She made up my bed on the couch ‘n’ she wouldn’t cuddle good night or nothin’. She said she was too busy countin’ the new bruises poppin’ out on her arms ‘n’ legs.
 
I feel awful bad, Pops. I am lower than the wart on an earthworm’s butt. I shoulda never ever done any o’ that stuff to my Mom. I just don’t know what to do to make it up to her. She won’t give me a belly rub or nothin’ this mornin’, ‘n’ I need one real bad.
 
Oh, golly, Pops, tell me what to do!!!!
 
Miserably yours,
 
Louie

Pops replies:

Yup, I knew that there was a letter somethin’ like this one comin’. Well, Louie, you must do a better job of explainin’ to Mom what’s troublin’ you. But, when you bring Mom to tears, well, that’s just plain wrong. And you know better. It sounds like your terrible tantrum continued last night. I hope you got over it by today. ‘Cuz, you know what? If this continues, well, there is going to be H-E-L-L to pay when Dad gets home. You have felt the wrath of Dad before and I don’t think you want to feel it again.
 
You have to know that Mom is your favorite person in all the world. And that she loves you more than anything in the world. So, what’s your problem, son?!!!!
 
OK, I’m going to wait for Mom’s call tonight and she better not tell me you’ve been bad. Remember the shed out back.
 
REMEMBER PAULINA????
 
OK!
Pops

       

April 11, from Louie, Day 35

I hear ya, Pops, I hear ya! Sheesh, between you ‘n’ Tommy Lee, my ears is just ringin’. 

Oh, yeah, Tommy Lee finally got back to me, ‘n’ his response was just blisterin’. (I tracked him down “on location” in Louisiana. I don’t know if he’s  really there filmin’ or whether it’s just a cover for a major MIB operation in the bayous or whether he’s just lappin’ up the po’boys — who knows with them federal boys?)
 
But anyway, he give me a good tongue-lashin’ for aggravatin’ my Mom ‘n’ possibly blowin’ MY cover in the valley (which would cost me the supportin’ role he’s promised me in his next big movie). He was also quite irritated with me for botherin’ him over a bunch o’ turkeys. He says if they don’t have more’n two legs, then they aren’t aliens ‘n’ they aren’t a threat to the homeland. (Hmph! What if they’re just terrorists in disguise? Did he ever think o’ that? Huh? Huh?) ANYWAY, he says if I wanna roust a turkey or two for poops ‘n’ giggles, fine, I can, but don’t let it distract me from my sworn obligations to track down BEAR.
 
Soooooooo, with them instructions burned into my brain, I was sniffin’ for nothin’ but grizzlies this mornin’ when Mom took me out for my hike. She was feelin’ kinda guilty for not exorcisin’ me enough, so we went on a LONG LONG trek up the mountains of Sand Run. (I know they’re nothin’ like YOUR mountains, but they was pretty challengin’ for Mom’s cheesecake-layered thighs. Hmmph, SHE should complain. I’M the one draggin’ her up those mountains, ‘n’ between you ‘n’ me, it’s not easy luggin’ around an old lady who weighs twice as much as you.) We didn’t spot no bears, but we scared up ever so many chipmunks ‘n’ squirrels, ‘n’ I found a nice refreshin’ pile of deer poop.
 
‘N’ later, ‘cuz Mom feared thunderstorms tonight might cancel our Midnight Stroll, she took me on a DOUBLE neighborhood Pre-Work Walk. We got all the way up to the bridge on Palisades before it started sprinklin’. Oooh weeee, we had quite a BRISK dash down the hill back to our house, hopin’ to escape the thunder clouds (which we did, but only bearly — hee hee, get it?).
 
Well, Mom’s worst fears didn’t come to pass, ‘n’ it was quite dry ‘n’ exhiliratin’ at midnight when she come home, so I got a THIRD hike in without any encounters with the Chivalrous Neighbor ‘cuz it was so late. None of my workouts today was anythin’ as excitin’ as the walks YOU take me on, but Mom tried so hard to wear me out, I think I’ll give her a break tonight ‘n’ NOT tear up the house.
 
‘Course, that quilt on the couch looks awfully invitin’ — just darin’ me to sink my teeth into it ‘n’ rip out the stuffin’.
 
Oh, what to do, what to do!!!!! Do I really want to risk banishment to Paulina for the sake of a little quilt?
 
Do I really want to give up the exquisite pleasure of rippin’ the guts outta that blanket?
 
Hmmmmm.
 
I gotta get my Little Buddy ‘n’ curl up on the couch ‘n’ think about this puzzle, Pops. ‘N’ if we’re one quilt short when you get home, you’ll know what I decided.
 
Pensively yours,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. Mom says you got a headache. I am oh so sorry, ‘n’ I hope it’s nothin’ I done that’s brung it on. 

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, you are the world’s best. Thank you for worrying about my headache, which turned into one of those that I get when I’m sitting up in the chair all night and you give me your WTF look. You know. But, I’m a little better now – hey, I’m at work, even if I did have to drive Mother because of the torrents of snow falling from the sky.
 
Oh, and tell Mom to schedule the furnace inspection for anytime after I return. Heck, I just renewed her library book and, guess what, I’ll be home before it comes due.
 
Gotta get to work.
Pops

More from Pops:

Spring? (I’m at 3,500 feet here and 7,500 feet at Lake Alpine.)
 

Periods of heavy snow will continue in the Sierra’s tonight and Monday. Southwest wind gusts up to 60 mph over mountain passes will create near zero visibility in snow and blowing snow this evening and tonight. Snow levels will vary between 3000 and 4000 feet overnight. Up to 2 feet of snow is expected above 7000 feet by Monday afternoon. 

Louie replies: 

Geez, Pops, that just stinks.  

   

April 12, from Louie, Day 36

Pops!!!!!
 
I’m a HERO!!!!
 
Mom SAYS so!
 
Unlike you, who woke up to a dreadful blizzard amongst your dreadful headache, I woke up to a sunny mornin’ with barely a mud puddle in sight. So Mom got out the dog park collar, ‘n’ we chugged off in Miss Corolla for a romp with the fellas.
 
‘Cept none o’ the regulars was there. There was a ratty terrier, ‘n’ two medium-size bulldog types with spikes in their choke collars (them things oughta be illegal!) but no sign of Chopper or Marley or Jake or any o’ them guys. So I spent most o’ my time doggin’ Mom around the perimeter ‘n’ poopin’ here ‘n’ there.
 
But THEN, two big fellas arrived ‘n’ I perked up my ears in innerest, sniffin’ a good run in my future. ‘Cept, alas, these was two serious alpha males. One was a black Lab distressin’ly larger’n me, ‘n’ the other was a husky, ‘n’ they was both intent on snarlin’ ‘n’ rasslin’ in the poop ‘n’ nippin’ at each other’s hindquarters to prove who was top dog. Well, Louie, don’t need that kinda aggravation, ‘cuz he’s secure in the belief that he’s the WBD, ‘n’ he don’t haveta prove nothin’.
 
So I kinda wandered away from the new guys to sniff the fresh spring grass on my own, ‘n’ Mom resumed her circuit o’ the perimeter ‘n’ — well, Pops — we kinda got separated. ‘N’ that was very bad. 

‘Cuz suddenly the black Lab tore past me in full charge, ‘n’ there was nothin’ in his sights but Mom’s butter-dappled butt way far away in a corner, ‘n’ no one within MILES to save her.
 
Well, I threw back my head ‘n’ HOWLED, ‘n’ the sound registered just enough that Mom looked over her shoulder, ‘n’ she had a split second to try to collect her wits before that Nefarious Lab rammed into her back, hooked his paws over her shoulders ‘n’ shoved her into the fence. Mom squawked, but she was overpowered. The Lab was clawin’ ‘n’ humpin’ ‘n’ tryin’ to grind her into the chain links, ‘n’ his human just sat dumbly on one o’ the benches ‘n’ ignored the attack unfoldin’ before his very eyes.
 
I was half a field away, ‘n’ that Lab had me by 20 pounds at least, but it didn’t matter. My Mom was in DIRE STRAITS!!!! I flew across the grass like a jet plane, I spit burnin’ flames, I bared my fangs, I growled like rollin’ thunder ‘n’ before that Lab could figure out what hell ‘n’ damnation was befallin’ him, I head-butted him right offa Mom ‘n’ commenced to chompin’ on his butt. He turned on me, ‘n’ the fur ‘n’ slobber was just flyin’, but Mom at least got the chance to peel herself off the fence while we snarled ‘n’ snapped at each other. I had him, Pops. I was ready to go in for the kill. But once she caught her breath, Mom stepped in, slapped the Lab across the snout ‘n’ shouted “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” as the coop de grass, ‘n’ that nasty fella slunk away with his tail tucked between his legs.
 
“Mom!” I gasped. “You all right?”
 
Mom shakily surveyed her limbs. “He scratched me pretty good here,” she said, ‘n’ offered me her wrist. It was already puffy ‘n’ leaking red stuff, so I vigorously licked it. 
 
“Oh, Louie,” Mom said, ‘n’ she give me a sloppy hug. “You saved my life!!!!”
 
“Well, of course I did,” I said indignantly. “You’re my Mom!”
 
‘N’ Mom was so overcome, she was almost in tears ‘n’ she kissed me — right in public.
 
Ah, shucks, Pop, she didn’t haveta do that!
 
So once we sniffed ‘n’ inspected each other thoroughly ‘n’ determined that the only damage was the scratch on Mom’s wrist, we stomped in indignation to the Lab’s human, ‘n’ Mom said sternly, “Your dog is outta control!!!!”
 
“Aw,” the stupid human said, “he’s just playin’.”
 
“He’s attackin’,” Mom said, ‘n’ waved her wrist at the human.
 
“Lady, if you don’t know how to handle dogs, you shouldn’t oughta be here,” the human growled.
 
Well, Mom was goin’ into shock ‘n’ she was all set to say some really nasty words, but we had no backup — no Chopper nor Fat Annie nor Dingo of the Herniated Butt nor any of their humans who would be on our side — so I decided it was time for me ‘n’ Mom to leave ‘n’ I gently butted her to the gate before she could say anything inciteful. ‘N’ by then her adrenaline was wearin’ off, so she meekly allowed me to lead her back to Miss Corolla.
 
But once we was safely home ‘n’ she was scrubbin’ alien dog slobber outta her scratches ‘n’ startin’ to feel like a human bein’ again, she looked at me with the biggest smile I’ve seen in WEEKS ‘n’ she said, “Louie, I’m gonna get you a medal, ‘cuz you’re my HERO!”
 
Aw, shucks, Pops, it was all in a day’s work.
 
Modestly yours,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. I can’t wait to see my medal. I hope it’s gold ‘n’ I hope it’s on a bright blue ribbon that I can munch on. If it’s studded with diamonds ‘n’ rubies, that would be quite tasteful, too. 

   

April 12, A Special Report from Pops

to the Creswells

Dear Bob and Suzanne: 

Yesterday’s plan was simple. With the high temperature forecast for noon and then rapidly dropping temps throughout the day, I would head out for the Arnold Rim Trail in late morning and get back in time for lunch. One end of the newly opened hike/bike/horse trail is on Avery Sheep Ranch Road, about a 15-minute bike ride from the barracks. So, armed with a bottle of water, an apple and a Forest Service map, I left around 11, expecting to be back around 1. Only, it would turn out to be one of the most challenging, most physically demanding days of my life. It  would be difficult for me to adequately describe how totally fatigued I became — to the point of wondering whether I would actually survive. Truly. 

My first problem was that I didn’t find the right trail entrance. It should have been an omen. About a quarter mile from the trailhead on Avery Sheep Rand Road is a Forest Service Road, and I accidentally took it. Then I got off on a deer trail, of all things. At that point, I decided to ditch the bike and just hike it. I had been warned that only experienced hikers should do this trail alone, and that some parts of it were rough. At this point, I sitll thought I was on the right  trail, the Arnold Rim Trail, and I decided it was not in good enough condition for me to ride my bike. 

Eventually, I got on a hiking trail that led to a landmark, a water tower, which I found on the map. At that point, I knew I was on the wrong trail and, even though I could see the right trail was nearby, I was fearful of leaving my bike and not being able to find it on the return. So I went back, retrieved my bike, went all the way back to Sheep Ranch Road and then found the proper entrance to the trail. 

After walking up an initial hill, I find the Arnold Rim Trail to be absolutely delightful. I can ride most of it since it is downhill for quite some distance. I am able to cross a creek by walking on a log and leaning on my bike, which is in the water. The trail is so nice to ride that I keep pushing on, even though I am long past my hour turnaround. 

Eventually, I stop, eat my apple and drink most of my water. I am getting really sweaty and thirsty. After some great distance, I think it wise to turn around, figuring I am about 1 1/2 hours back to the barracks. But then I look at the map and see what appears to be a shortcut; the map shows a clearly defined trail — P12 — that lops off a giant loop and connects with the Arnold trail near the start. I am happy to skip a deeply rutted, muddy dirt road and the trip across the creek, so I take the shortcut. 

Except this shortcut trail is very, very difficult — especially with the bike — and, unfortunately, it, too, crosses the creek. This crossing does not have a log to walk on, though I can take a running start and leap across a couple of granite boulders. Except they are so slippery, I am reluctant to make the leap while carrying my bike. I try everything. I walk upstream, looking for a better place to cross. No luck. I even try to lay a couple of logs across the creek, except the force of the water just takes them downstream. I even think I can lay the bike in the water, tip it over to the other side and then retrieve it from the other side. No luck. The current is so strong that my bike starts going downstream. I probably can throw my bike across, except I don’t want to break it. I can wade across the creek upstream, but I don’t want to get my shoes and socks wet in the freezing water. After much, much deliberation, I finally find a stout stick with a nub of a branch at one end. I hook the branch nub in the bike frame and then lay the branch across the creek. Then, after I  leap across, I am able to pull the bike across using the stick. Ingenious, no? Difficult but effective. 

My problems are only just beginning, though. 

As I continue on the shortcut trail, I really struggle. Straight uphill, which would be difficult even without the bike. But, I somehow make it to a dirt road and I think I have achieved success. Except this road is NOT the Arnold Rim Trail. I continue down the road, believing I am going in the right direction — but it takes me nowhere. It’s funny how you can get turned around in the forest. I believe I am going in the right direction, even if I am on the wrong trail. But I am not. Oh, how I wish I would have taken my compass. I continue on, keeping the opposite wall of the canyon as my guide, except the canyon twists and turns, giving me a false sense of direction. I think I hear highway sounds in the distance, but I am hearing rushing water. 

Eventually, the road leads to a fork and I take P20, a trail that seems to go in the right direction and one that I believe will eventually intersect with the right trail. Wrong. It is very steep and difficult and rugged, and just about every adjective you can find  — damn near impossible, especially carrying a bike. But I am committed, even when P20 turns into just a rut on the side of the canyon. I believe I cannot turn around. I believe I am going in the right direction, so I just soldier on. 

What a huge mistake. I am aware at this point that fatgue is causing me to make bad decisions, but I know not how to overcome it. After a long, long while, I do turn around. I figure if I can get back to the unmarked dirt road, then I will go the opposite direction and that will take me back. 

So I trudge back up this impossible trail until I find the road. Again, I think I am good. Except this road also leads nowhere. I keep going back and forth and the only thing I am accomplishing is getting very, very tired — and very thirsty. I do not want to go back down P12, at any cost. I think that I will eventually find a trail that will lead me back to the right trail. Finally, at about 4 p.m. — I’m now five hours out –I decide to ditch the bike behind a tree and go back on P12. 

You see, I do not want to carry the bike down that steep hill, nor do I want to get it across the creek again. I am so tired, I figure my only way of getting to safety is to hike it without the  bike. It is a matter of survival. The weather has turned very cold and the sweat is freezing to my body, which really aches. I am out of drinking water. Darkness draws closer and closer. No food, no matches, no light or anything. My compass? Back in the barracks. I do have my cellphone, but I know there will be no connection  out there in the middle of nowhere. Besides, do I really want to try to call my boss in the Forest Service, who would call the rescue team to come look for me in the dark? No, I do not. Call it pride. Call it stubbornness. Call it whatever. I am going to get out of this mess or I am going to die. 

Sadly, I leave my bike behind a tree. 

Except, a quarter mile away, down this very steep hill, I suddenly realize that I will never see my bike again if I leave it there. I plan on going back tomorrow — Sunday — and getting it, but the forecast is for snow and I cannot see myself going back into that stretch of deep forest, looking for my hidden bike on a trail that I know is mismarked on the map. A second miserable day? No way. 

So I go back, get my bike, carry it down the steep hill, drag it across the creek and make it to the Arnold Trail. Except at this point, I have no idea which direction to go. Naturally, I go the wrong way, eventually ending up at the same spot where I ate my apple and drank my water, oh, so many hours before. At least I know then that I am going the wrong direction. So for about the 20th time, I turn around. And even though I find a dirt road that probably will bring me back, I stick to the trail. Now six hours out, I have yet to encounter another human being. 

At one point, I see a truck, deep in the woods, and a couple of guys doing illegal cutting. I think about asking them for a ride out, but I worry that they will just take my bike and leave me for dead. I crawl up the muddy, rutted road. I continue on the trail that was oh-so-pleasant to ride down hours ago, except now I am pushing the bike uphill. It’s now about 5:30, the light is almost gone because of the overcast skies, I’m freezing. I don’t have enough saliva to wet my lips and, at one point, I’m really not sure I can keep going. I am punishing my body further than it can sustain. (I even worry a couple of times during the ordeal that I am risking a heart attack out there, a sure death.) I look up the steep hill and my shoulders sag. I cannot take another step. I can’t. I just don’t have the strength. But what are my options? Sit down and give up? Sit down and rest, while the light disappears and the brutal cold descends? Turn around? To where? 

So I push myself about six paces and rest. I push six more paces and rest. I push six more paces and rest. I do that all the way up the side of the ridge. Even then, I am not certain where I am, or even if I am going in the right direction. 

Finally, finally, I see the water tower. You just  cannot imagine what a welcome sight it is. At this point, I take the road instead of the trail, and after a while, I look down, and there is Avery Sheep Ranch Road. It is so fortunate that the ride back to the barracks is downhill. I am depleted. I coast down the long hill — it’s now almost 6 p.m. — and the biting wind nearly freezes my hands and face. But I am going to make it. I am going to make it. 

Somehow, I find the key, get into the barracks, guzzle a tall glass of water and I am so damn tired, I cannot cook dinner. I can’t even warm up yesterday’s leftovers. I dig out a can of Chef Boyardee, heat it in the microwave and collapse. Later, I can hardly stand up. 

But I survive. 

P.S. from Louie: 

Pops, that is so darn scarifyin’, don’t you never EVER do that again!!!! 

    

April 13, from Louie, Day 37

I seen one, Pops! I SEEN one!!!!
 
A real WILD turkey!
 
‘N’ it was a most strange ‘n’ mystifyin’ creature!
 
Mother Nature musta had tummy rumbles, ‘cuz it rained most viscously all night long. But even though it was still dark ‘n’ dismal at the crack o’ 10:30, Mom blinged me up ‘n’ took me for a most dissatisfyin’ neighborhood walk. Well, we got clear to the end of Canyon Trail (‘n’ we was both gettin’ quite soggy) ‘n’ I was assumin’ the position to poop all over the Chivalrous Neighbor’s hostas, when outta the woods come a most peculiar bird! It was as tall as me (the Chivalrous Neighbor didn’t lie!!!) ‘n’ it was covered in black ‘n’ brown ‘n’ gray feathers, ‘n’ it had a scrawny little neck ‘n’ a most tantalizin’ red thing hangin’ from its chin, but most important of all, it was quite PLUMP!!!! ‘N’ Pops! For some reason, my snout twitched ‘n’ smelled GRAVY!!!!!
 
Mom ‘n’ me stared at him in amazement. ‘N’ he stared back at us with a beady black eye. I swear, Pops, he was the biggest bird I ever seen — even bigger ‘n the red-tailed hawk that swooped Miss Marigold off to her eternal reward. ‘N’ then, Pops, as I was busily tryin’ to end my poopin’ so’s I could dash after him, he …..
 
Gobbled. Honest to goodness, he gobbled!!!!!
 
Well, I IMMEDIATELY had visions of Thanksgivin’ dinner at Uncle Bob’s, ‘n’ I lunged most ferociously. Poor Mom, who is still sufferin’ the sore effects of her encounter with the black Lab at the dog park, groaned mightily ‘n’ I was able to make an incursion on the Chivalrous Neighbor’s property by several hard-fought feet before she got her Reeboks firmly planted in the mud, ‘n’ I growled at that bird from the depths of my hungry tummy. 
 
I don’t care what Tommy Lee or Ben Franklin says, no bird that size is natural!!!! He’s a holiday dinner waitin’ to happen — or else he’s a low-down invadin’ alien, ‘n’ he deserves to be taken into custody by the MIB! So I strained with all my might against my bling, ‘cuz it’s my sworn DUTY to protect the homeland against such creatures, ‘n’ I nearly drug Mom over the edge of the cliff. If she hadn’t of been wearin’ her spankin’ new Reeboks with their razor-edge treads, we’d’ve both gone tumblin’ down into the valley ‘n’ splattered ourselves all over the train tracks.
 
The alien turkey gobbled at my exertions, spun on his spindly legs ‘n’ disappeared into the forest. no doubt to meet up with reinforcements. I was quite disappointed that Mom wouldn’t let me go chasin’ after him! But she insisted that we go home, ‘n’ since there was breakfast enhancements waitin’ for me, I sadly gave in.
 
But Pops, now that I’ve seen ’em, I know them turkeys ain’t no benign creatures like Tommy Lee says, ‘n’ I will be seriously on alert for more sightin’s in the future. Bears aren’t our only enemy in the Cuyahoga Valley. There’s TURKEYS out there to guard against, ‘n’ if I have MY way, there will be a great big POULTRY dinner waitin’ for you in the freezer when you get home.
 
Yours in the vigilant protection of the homeland,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. Your last letter was most distressin’. It sounded like you was gonna die in the mountains of California, ‘n’ I’d never ever see you again. You can’t let that happen, Pops. Mom would be most devastated if you broke your neck on some mountain bikin’ trail, ‘n’ I would be most disappointed in you for makin’ Mom a quasi-widow. You gotta take better care of yourself.
 
Please. 

Pops replies:

Oh Louie, you seem to always have a one-track mind – MEAT! Whereas Mom also has a one-track mind – ‘SHROOMS! What am I going to do with you two?
 
As for making Mom a quasi-widow with my exploits in the deep forest, you must not worry. I always find my way back home.
 
Pops

 

April 14, from Louie, Day 38

Oh, Pops, so many rules! So many ways to break them!
 
Rule No. 154. Do not poop in the neighbor’s yard when the neighbor is lookin’. You’ve heard this one before. But perhaps you haven’t heard of Rule No. 154, Subsection A: If you’ve reached the point of no return, do not poop in the middle of the flowerbed the neighbor is in the process of mulchin’. Followed by Rule No. 154, Subsection A, Exception 1: If you’ve reached the point of no return in the mulched flowerbed, make sure the aforementioned neighbor is a feeble old man who can’t chase you OR Mom.   
 
I flunked all three parts.
 
Rule No. 386. When Mom leaves you in Miss Corolla to take care of her library errands, do NOT eat the condo water bill.
 
‘Nuff said.
 
Rule No. 519. When strollin’ amongst the neighbors, do NOT steal another dog’s chew toy. The owners tend to get quite snarly (‘n’ that’s just the HUMAN owners; we won’t even mention the DOGS).
 
Rule No. 735. Do NOT dash through the island durin’ tulip season. Well, gosh darn it, Pops, it isn’t MY fault someone planted that island right in front o’ my back door! Where else am I SUPPOSED to dash????? (Fortunately for my future enhancements, Mom has taken multitudinous photos of the flowers, ‘n’ even though she doesn’t expect you to print them, you can at least gaze at them fondly ‘n’ see what you missed.)
 
Rule No. 977. In the frenzy to lick Mom’s dinner bowl clean, do NOT knock over the glass of red juice. (Oh, boy, THAT’S gonna stain.)
 
Rule No. 1189. Do NOT chew on the succulent twigs of Mom’s new blueberry bushes before she gets a chance to plant ’em. (Well, fiddlesticks, Pops, it’s not like I’m gonna relish them twigs once they get FRUIT on ’em. I ain’t no fruititarian, you know.)
 
Rule No. 1350. Do NOT get in Mom’s face when she’s tryin’ to watch NCIS, even if it’s a repeat of a repeat of a repeat. In your absence, Mark Harmon is the only male excitement she’s got, ‘n’ she gets QUITE perturbed at my interference.
 
Rule No. 1526. Do NOT kill birdies. Unless they’re alien turkeys. (Now Pops, I wasn’t tryin’ to hurt that cardinal at ALL! I was just tryin’ to PLAY with it. Is it my fault his neck was so fragile???????)
 
Rule No. 1 trillion. Always curl up with Mom on the couch ‘n’ vigorously lick the wounds left by other evil dogs. The other rules’ll take care o’ themselves.
 
Hugs ‘n’ kisses ‘n’  come home soon!
 
Louie.

Pops replies:

Rule No. 1. Always protect Mom from all evil doers and all evil things, and love her with lots of hugs and kisses every day and every night.
And Louie, you always follow Rule No. 1.
Pops

 

April 15, from Louie, Day 39

Good gosh almighty, Pops, just what squishy mushroom is Mom usin’ for a brain???? She’s WAAAAAYYYYY older’n you ‘n’ me, she as nimble as a hippopotamus tryin’ to ride horseback ‘n’ she’s as weak as a bunny in his daddy’s skivvies, ‘n’ WHAT DOES SHE DO?????
 
She lets a GIANT HELL’S ANGEL in kneepads into our house, ‘n’ she won’t let me rip out his throat.
 
Is that crazy or WHAT?????
 
Oh, she SEEMED normal enough this mornin’ when she took me to the dog park. ‘N’ I didn’t detect no insane quirks when we trotted out for our afternoon stroll. ‘N’ her incomprehensible cleanin’ fits — well, that’s just Mom.
 
But geez-oh-meez. when that smoke-spewin’ van pulled into the driveway, WHAT DID SHE DO???? Instead o’ freein’ Louie to draw ‘n’ quarter the intruder like I been trained, she blinged me up good ‘n’ tight ‘n’ she invited that lumberin’ stranger into the most secret places of our house!!!!!!   
 
I growled most fearsomely, Pops, but the intruder just give me an evil grin, ‘cuz truth be told, he was about 10 times Louie’s size, ‘n’ he was pretty sure he could take me.  In his dreams.
 
“Nice puppy,” he said like a twisted Santa Claus, ‘n’ he confidently turned his back on me as he proceeded to rip out the air conditionin’s guts. 
 
Mom inadvertently give me some slack, ‘n’ there was the invader, bendin’ over with his massive backside hangin’ out over his jeans, ‘n’ Louie leaped!!!!!
 
“Louie!” Mom gasped, ‘n’ she yanked me back in the nick o’ time. Otherwise, there woulda been Louie teeth marks in that big ol’ butt.
 
“You be nice, Louie,” Mom lectured. “He’s here to make sure the air conditionin’ works.”
 
“Aw, he’s no trouble,” the big dude said disarmin’ly, ‘n’ Mom lapped it up. She obviously didn’t see the psychotic glare he shot in my direction.
 
Well, the next hour or so was most stressful, as Louie was booted outdoors whenever the giant was indoors, ‘n’ dragged indoors whenever the giant was outdoors, messin’ with that great big dirty machine behind the trellis. He booted up the air conditionin’ real good so’s even though outside it was 82 degrees, inside, icicles was drippin’ from me ‘n’ Mom’s nostrils.
 
Once he come in ‘n’ said to Mom, “You’re pretty low on free-on.”
 
“Do you have any with you?” Mom asked.
 
“Oh, sure,” the giant said. “But it costs $105 a pound.”
 
For FREE-on? Pops, there’s somethin’ wrong with that name.
 
Mom kinda gulped. “How many pounds do we need?”
 
“About two,” the giant said.
 
Mom looked at me. I looked at her, thinkin’ “Enhancements! Enhancements! Remember my enhancements!!!!”
 
But Mom selfishly sacrificed MY dinners for the sake of her own comfort come July, ‘n’ told the giant to “fill ‘er up.”
 
Which he did. Gleefully. ‘N’ then he hosed down all the air conditioner’s parts, put it back together, lugged the trellis back into place ‘n’ handed Mom a spankin’ big bill for $289.
 
For that kinda money, I shoulda been allowed to take out a good square yard o’ his hide. But Mom bravely held me back as she handed over the check.
 
The giant tipped his hat ‘n’ wished us a good day. He wasn’t able to rape ‘n’ pillage us, but he drove away with all my hopes ‘n’ desires for pickin’ chicken ‘n’ steak bones for the next gazillion years.
 
‘N’ what did we get in RETURN for all this money to fix the air conditionin’?
 
Mom immediately fired up the furnace to melt the ice caked to our chins.
 
Somethin’s wrong with that picture, Pops. I think Mom has finally lost her powers of logical thinkin’.
 
Frostily yours,
 
Louie

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, it’s all good for you. Think about it, son. Come July and August, when your lustrous black coat is suffocating you with heat, you will be soooooo happy that Mom keeps the house nice and comfy for you. 
Now, about those enhancements. Instead of buying lean, choice, prime Angus beef, we’ll now be forced to buy gnarly, grisly, fatty end cuts o’ meat. Hmmm, could that mean even MORE enhancements for Louie?
Of course, poor Mom. She was feeling so good when she found out her tax refund had fattened up her bank account. Now, not so much. (I know, Louie. You don’t have a clue about anything like money and such foolishness. That’s OK.)
Regardless, I’m glad you were there for that Hell’s Angel guy. Even though Mom blinged you up, I’m sure you were a ferocious presence and any intention by this guy to do Mom harm was quickly gone once he saw you. Good job, son.
Pops
   

April 16, from Louie, Day 40

Dad.
 
I am MOST annoyed with you. I HEARD you talkin’ to Mom, ‘n’ you called me that B word (‘n’ I don’t mean the B in WBD). You OBVIOUSLY have no IDEA what I’ve been goin’ through the last 40 Days ‘n’ 40 Nights whilst you’ve been frolickin’ through your Alpine Adventures ‘n’ I am sorely miffed.
 
You think it’s EASY takin’ care o’ Mom 24/7? Sheeeeeeeeeeeesh! YOU of ALL people oughta know  better!!!!!
 
First off, today has been the most boringsome day of your absence. Oh, sure, Mom took me on a hike this mornin’, but instead of explorin’ fresh new trails with excitin’ scents o’ wild creatures I never sniffed before, she drug me back to Sand Run, where I know every bush ‘n’ tree like the back o’ my paw. BOOOOOOOOOOOOORING!!!! Besides which, even though it was only 10 in the mornin’, it was already a stiflin’ 80 degrees, ‘n’ there was no leaves on the trees to filter the sunlight, ‘n’ there I was in my heavy winter coat, ‘n’ I SUFFERED, Pops, I truly did. You have no CONEPTION of what it’s like to haul Mom up ‘n’ down them hills when your fur is clottin’ wetly ‘n’ itchily to your nether regions. So I chugged along as fast as I could just to get it over with.
 
‘N’ THEN, we come home to breakfast. Well, humph. I must tell you that Mom has fallen down in the enhancement department the last few days, ‘n’ ONCE AGAIN, breakfast was straight out o’ a can ‘n’ a bag. No fresh chicken. No fresh beef. 
 
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORING!!!
 
‘N’ THEN, we went on the same old Pre-Work Walk, which coulda been MILDLY innerestin’ if only Mom had let me chomp on the little girl human who wanted to tug at my ears, but OHHHHH NOOOO, she dragged me away with effusive apologies to the human’s mother for not allowin’ the little imp to molest me. Hmph!
 
‘N’ THEN, Mom went off to that EWP, leavin’ me alone for HOURS ‘n’ HOURS, with nothin’ to do but chew on the same old ratty quilt ‘n’ stare at the same old chipmunks cavortin’ on the patio ‘n’ munch on the same old slipper or two.
 
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORING!!!!
 
I tell you, Pops, somedays this job of protectin’ the homeland ‘n’ guardin’ Mom against alien incursions is just numbin’.
 
So OF COURSE I was all riled up when Mom come home, ‘n’ OF COURSE I took her on a rip-snortin’ dash up Canyon Trail ‘n’ back ‘n’ OF COURSE I tried to rip her arms outta their sockets ‘n’ OF COURSE I’m bent on tearin’ up the whole house tonight ‘CUZ NO ONE’S PAYIN’ ENOUGH ATTENTION to Louie ‘n’ HIS NEEDS.
 
If you had to live under MY conditions, you’d be that B word, too.
 
So I’m most annoyed at you for not unnerstandin’, ‘n’ I think I’m gonna sign off now ‘n’ find somethin’ REALLY BAD to rip to shreds. ‘Cuz neither you nor Mom fully appreciates me.
 
So there.
 
Snittily yours,
 
Louie.
 
P.S. Watch out, precious knickknacks, ‘cuz here I come!!!!

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, you mustn’t be so sensitive. Sometimes your Mom and Pops get tired. And lately we’ve both been lonely. So when our WBD chews up something, well, sometimes we just need the opportunity to vent.
I agree with you son. If we had to live a dog’s life like yours, we’d be chewin’ on things, too. In a short while, all will be forgotten.
Love, 
Pops

April 17, from Louie, Day 41

It was an abomination against all Dogkind, Pops, ‘n’ I gotta tell you about it RIGHT NOW before the memories is squeezed outta my canine-size brain by other stuff ‘n’ Mom’s gotta bail me out by makin’ up amusin’ embellishments.
 
It got nasty cold last night, ‘n’ despite my misbehaviors, Mom let me snuggle up with her as visions of icicles shivered through our dreams. When the infernal alarm thing buzzed at the crack o’ 10:01, I leaped outta bed, absolutely positive that frost ‘n’ cold north winds was a figment of my imagination. But no! I dashed out the back door ‘n’ was immediately accosted by gusts ‘n’ icy sprinkles.
 
Well, you know Mom ‘n’ her cold weather rules, ‘n’ she was all set to stretch them a bit so’s we could stay warm ‘n’ cozy in the kitchen. ‘N’ I was sorely tempted to agree with her, but in addition to all my MIB responsibilities, I’m sworn to make sure Mom works off the buttery cream sauces coagulatin’ on her thighs, so I INSISTED that we go to the dog park.
 
Ooooh, boy, that was a SERIOUS miscalculation on Louie’s part!
 
Even though it was Saturday mornin’, there wasn’t another livin’ creature rompin’ in the dirt, ‘n’ the clouds was darkenin’ fiercesomely ‘n’ the sprinkles was threatenin’ to get serious. Mom ‘n’ me trudged around the perimeter, ‘n’ she gazed quite longin’ly at Miss Corolla, thinkin’ of the old girl’s toasty heater, but I bravely demanded that we make another round o’ the old poop piles.
 
‘N’ that’s when the abominations arrived.
 
An old female human (she musta been as old as Mom) crawled outta some dinged-up station wagon, ‘n’ hoppin’ out right behind her was two yappy terriers. Well, Pops, you KNOW what we think o’ yappy terriers, right? But I was kinda lonesome for dog company, so I trotted towards the gate to give ’em a friendly greetin’.
 
They burst through the gate like two fiends from hell ‘n’ charged me. Pops! I couldn’t believe my eyes nor my ears! Them fellas was both strung up like Christmas trees, with four or five cow bells hangin’ from each o’ their harnesses ‘n’ kerchiefs, ‘n’ when they charged, the clamor was like the Devil announcin’ the apocalypse! My eyes rolled back. My ears was flattened to my head, tryin’ to squish out the noise, ‘n’ I spun around in crazy circles, tryin’ to escape. But they kept jumpin’ ‘n’ leapin’ ‘n’ scramblin’ under my paws whilst the bells bashed my eardrums, ‘n’, oh gosh, Pops, I thought I was done for.
 
Mom saw my distress ‘n’ she started chuggin’ across the field to save me — ha! Like SHE had any powers against two bell-ringin’ gargoyles! — but fortunately, Marley come tearin’ through the gate just then, ‘n’ suddenly Louie wasn’t outnumbered no more. Marley bravely leaped in amongst the whirlin’ cowbells ‘n’ started nippin’ ‘n’ gnashin’, givin’ me time to catch my breath ‘n’ get my bearin’s, ‘n’ then I charged, too, ‘n’ despite the piercin’ noises it caused, me ‘n’ Marley fought them hellhounds off, ‘n’ then we took a righteously earned victory lap around the park, snortin’ slobber into the wind.
 
Which was REALLY freezin’ by then, ‘n’ the sprinkles was like pellets diggin’ into our faces, so when Mom finally reached the gate, me ‘n’ Marley slapped high-fives ‘n’ I let Mom take me home. (Hey, Pops, don’t think I left Marley alone to face them hellhounds defenseless. Dingo of the Herniated Butt ‘n’ Rascal was arrivin’ just as we was leavin’, ‘n’ I’m pretty sure their human was gonna give the Bell Lady what-for over the frightful accountrements she had tied up on her dogs.)
 
So there, I’ve made my report before I could forget any important details, ‘n’ I swear, it’s all 87.5 percent true.
 
Breathlessly yours,
 
Louie.

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, I can just picture you with your ears pinned back, hoppin’ around tryin’ to protect your backside from those yappy hellhounds. I wish I was there for the entertainment. Sometimes you put on quite a show, son.
Pops

April 18, from Louie, Day 42

Dear Pops, 

You can take the boy outta Akron, but you can’t take the Akron outta the boy.
 
Mom wanted to pick up the mail at the condo this mornin’, so she vigorously brushed me until my coat was sleek ‘n’ shiny, she crushed a breath mint in my breakfast so’s I wasn’t stinky, she lectured me on the finer points of good canine behavior ‘n’ then she carted me off to the NICE dog park in the Falls for a Sunday romp. 
 
I was quite excited by the opportunity to make new friends in an upscale neighborhood, ‘cuz truth be told, some of the denizens of the Akron park is really kinda uncouth. So I was prancin’ with delight as Mom swung open the gate ‘n’ unleashed me. Even the AIR smells more intriguin’ up in the Falls.
 
“Boys!” I said happily as I dashed through the gate.
 
Three dogs froze in mid-pee ‘n’ looked at me over their shoulders.
 
I expected them to swarm me immediately so’s we could sniff butts ‘n’ say, “Hi, how are you?” But these fellas just stared me down without a single sniff to my nether regions, ‘n’ as one, they turned away ‘n’ trotted off to another corner without invitin’ me along.
 
“It’s OK, Louie,” Mom said. “They’re just a little stand-offish with strangers.”
 
So, OK, I unnerstand dogs that’s wary of strangers, what with red alerts ‘n’ all the threats to homeland security. So I shook off their lack of a proper greetin’ ‘n’ trotted behind them with my tail waggin’ high so’s they’d know I meant no harm.
 
Well, Pops, we made TWO full circuits of that park, ‘n’ in the process, not ONE of them high-falutin’ Caucasian Falls dogs would condescend to cavort with Louie. I wasn’t threatenin’ or nothin’. I offered my black butt to ’em several times just so’s they’d know I was a regular kinda guy, but they’d have nothin’ to do with me. They treated me like a brutish intruder, ‘n’ I was quite sad that they was judgin’ me just on the basis o’ the color o’ my fur.
 
It was grossly unfair, I tell you, UNFAIR!!!!!
 
They wouldn’t even sniff at Mom’s fingers when she offered, ‘n’ Pops, in dog etiquette terms, that’s VERY impolite.
 
Well, it was quite frosty out, ‘n’ Mom was gettin’ chilled, but she doggedly persevered in hopes that I could make new friends. But those snooty dogs wouldn’t cooperate. So eventually me ‘n’ Mom meandered back to the gate so she could bling me up.
 
Dog physiology bein’ what it is, I didn’t fully empty myself durin’ my attempts to socialize, so before Mom could bling me up, I wandered behind a bench where a grumpy ol’ female dowager was sittin’ ‘n’ I lifted my leg ”n’ peed all over the bench.
 
The dowager, who was tastefully coiffed in blue hair ‘n’ decked out in perfectly matched hikin’ clothes, hopped offa the bench ‘n’ glared at Mom. “Your dog is very ill-mannered,” she said sternly.
 
“Yes,” Mom sighed, “he’s Louie.”
 
Then she give me a great big hug RIGHT IN PUBLIC, ‘n’ she smiled at the snooty dowager ‘n’ said, “He’s the World’s Best Dog!”
 
‘N’ we marched right outta there.
 
I love that Mom. She’s just the best.
 
‘N’ so are you.
 
Louie.

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, we don’t need no stinkin’ Caucasian Falls friends — we have each other — the three of us unnerstand and appreciate each other just fine.

Pops
   

April 19, from Louie, Day 43

 
Well, Pops, I was quite annoyed with Mom last night for cancelin’ our Midnight Stroll just ‘cuz there was some rabid raccoons cavortin’ in the street. I coulda took them fellas with two paws tied behind my back.
 
So I was still poutin’ over my deprivations when Mom got up this mornin’, ‘n’ I had no high expectations for this day, neither, as Mom seems to be in a very uncooperative mood as we count down to your return.
 
Imagine my surprise, then, when the day turned out to be most satisfyin’!
 
First, the sun was shinin’. Always a plus.
Then Mom took me to the REAL dog park, where dogs know how to be DOGS! (Well, most of ’em do, anyway. Mom ‘n’ me got quite a big chuckle out of the two-pound pipsqueak of a Chihuahua who was so darned skinny, he managed to squeeze between the fence posts ‘n’ challenge me to a duel in the enclosed stagin’ area. He thought he was gonna rip out my throat ‘n’ establish himself as the alpha male. Ha ha ha ha ha. Mom ‘n’ me was snickerin’ into our coats as his human frantically scooped him up before he could plant his itsy-bitsy fangs in my ankle bones. It was almost kinda charmin’.)
 
So then I had a fine time racin’ with the other fellas (the ones bigger’n two pounds) ‘n’ no one was the least bit put out when I peed on the benches.
 
‘N’ then I got to hang my head outta Miss Corolla’s windows as we tooled home. That’s ALWAYS exhiliratin’.
 
‘N’ then Mom give me a heapin’ helpin’ of beef ‘n’ bean stew for my breakfast, unbefouled by breath mints. Yum.
 
‘N’ then we horsed around the house, playin’ tug-o-war with the laundry ‘n’ tag with the vacuum cleaner ‘n’ hide’n’seek with Mom’s slippers. Outstandin’!
 
‘N’ then when we was inspectin’ the vegetation in the back yard (the vegetation that Louie hasn’t trampled yet), a great big ol’ EAGLE flew right over our heads. Pops, it was the biggest bird I’ve ever seen outside o’ them grouchy turkeys, ‘n’ since he’s our national bird ‘n’ I’m a sworn federal agent, I sprung to attention ‘n’ give him a smart salute while Mom hummed the national anthem. It was quite touchin’.
 
‘N’ THEN, ‘cuz Mom didn’t have no errands to run before that EWP, we took a DOUBLE Pre-Work Walk around the neighborhood, ‘n’ I got to pee on ever-so-many young hostas ‘n’ pansies.
 
‘N’ THEN I got to take a most refreshin’ nap while Mom slaved away at work, ‘n’ I was rewarded for my good behavior with a lovely Midnight Stroll, durin’ which the Chivalrous Neighbor plied me with not one but TWO dog biscuits.
 
‘N’ THEN Mom made me my dinner with even more juicy hunks o’ stew meat.
 
Gosh, Pops, does it get any better’n that?????
 
(Well, yeah, if you was home, it would be MUCH better’n that. But in your absence, it was pretty much a day just meant for Louie’s enjoyment. ‘N’ now I get to crawl into bed with Mom ‘n’ snuggle up against her butt for sweet dreams about tomorrow, when I been promised a most righteous hike in the woods ‘cuz it’s her day off. Golly, sometimes I don’t know what I did to land in the lap of such luxury.)
 
So, I’m sorry about the snow in your forecast, but MY forecast is for a good time Tuesday. I’m gonna go to sleep now so tomorrow gets here that much faster. Oh, gosh, I can’t wait until BREAKFAST!!!!!
 
Hugs ‘n’ kisses (in a manly way),
 
Louie.
 
P.S. Mom got a most befuddlin’ letter from the IRS today. It explained that they took so long to deposit her refund ‘cuz she missed a credit that she was owed, ‘n’ they refigured her return to give her $250 EXTRA!!!!! Mom don’t get it. The IRS said she was owed extra money ‘cuz o’ somethin’ called the Make Work Pay ‘n’ Government Retiree Credit. Mom says she re-read the tax form ‘n’ the instructions quite carefully, ‘n’ she just don’t see HOW she qualifies. So now she’s frettin’ that somewhere down the line, the government will realize its mistake ‘n’ confiscate her nice tax refund. 
 
You need to put her frazzled mind at ease.

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, what a perfect day for you. I wish I could have shared it with you. I’m looking outside and the ground is all white. I think winter will never end.
Pops
P.S. Mom should rejoice – the feds paid for her air-conditioning bill (almost).

 

   

April 20, from Louie, Day 44

Pops! We have a WITCH in the neighborhood!
And it isn’t MOM!!!!
It was most horrifyin’. I’m still shiverin’ in my undies. ‘N’ even Mom says it was most creepy.
Let me set the stage.
Me ‘n’ Mom had another most satisfyin’ day ‘cuz she wasn’t workin’ ‘n’ could devote all her awake time to me.  We hiked on the Towpath, we inhaled steamy piles of leftover stew meat, we gnawed great big sticks in the back yard, we chased black cats all around the perimeter, we cruised all over town on our many important errands, with Louie hangin’ outta the windows, ‘n’ since the quilt is beyond repair, I flung stuffin’ willy-nilly all over the livin’ room with barely a frown from Mom.
I got a little nervous when Mom took off in the late afternoon for an auction, thinkin’ I’d have to spend HOURS alone with no one to distract me, but the gods was shinin’ on Louie, even as they was dumpin’ on Mom. There was NOTHIN’ at the auction she wanted. So I barely had time to get into unsupervised trouble at home before Miss Corolla come chuggin’ back up the driveway. I was deliriously happy, ‘n’ could barely contain myself as Mom insisted on puttin’ the leftovers in the oven BEFORE we took an invigoratin’ evenin’ stroll.
Well, the wind was kickin’ up ‘n’ the sun was hidin’ behind the clouds ‘n’ it was gettin’ a bit chilly, so Mom decided to keep our walk on the short side. I didn’t mind, ‘cuz gosh, it was our fourth stroll o’ the day. So we just headed down Canyon Trail to the circle.
We was almost to the end ‘n’ I was sniffin’ curiously at a large bush at the end of someone’s driveway, wonderin’ if THIS was the right place to pee, when suddenly, the branches of the bush began to jiggle ‘n’ a scratchy female voice said quite unprintable words.
I froze my leg in mid-lift.
‘N’ out from the bushes crawled a crazy old woman with spiky red hair ‘n’ a long hooked nose ‘n’ blue veins ‘n’ liver spots specklin’ her hands.
‘N’ I stared in horror. ‘Cuz clutched in those spotted hands was a large implement of destruction that give me immediate flashbacks to that very sad ‘n’ painful day when Paulina chopped off my balls.
The witch stood up ‘n’ give me her evil eye.
I hopped backward, draggin’ Mom with me out into the street.
“You wasn’t thinkin’ o’ peein’ on my bushes, was you?” the witch demanded. ‘N’ she waved her blood-stained hedge clippers in my direction.
I hastily shook my head no.
“You better NOT pee on my bushes!” the witch said, ‘n’ she snapped the jaws of her sinister clippers in my direction.
I back-pedaled with blisterin’ speed to the house next door. Mom stumbled helplessly in my wake.
The witch cackled at my discomfiture, ‘n’ turned her nasty grin on Mom. “Your boy’s quite skittish, ain’t he?”
Mom looked at those razor-sharp blades ‘n’ gulped.
My eyes rolled back in my skull. I was positive I was about to lose yet another important appendage, ‘n’ I gulped, too.
“Sissy,” the witch chortled, ‘n’ flung her clippers blade first into the ground.
I howled. ‘N’ I drug Mom home lickety-split.
I will never ever again think o’ peein’ on another middle-aged lady’s bushes again. Female humans of a certain age is just deranged. They oughta be locked up. ‘N’ they should never EVER be allowed within reach o’ tools with sharp edges.
I barely escaped with my nether regions intact, Pops. ‘N’ I will never walk to that end of the street again.
Your sincerely shaken,
Louie

Pops replies:

Pops gets a new Bret Harte hat.

Oh, Louie, that’s one of life’s tough lessons: women aiming sharp instruments of destruction at your nether regions. I’m glad you survived such a horrifying scare. It’s almost as if it were Halloween for you. And here you were, just doin’ your thing at a convenient location.

Shwewwwww! I can feel your fright all the way out here in California.
Pops
P.S. Mom might get a kick out of Bret Harte’s new hat. It arrived yesterday and so I just had to send her a photo.

Louie replies:

Oh, Pops, me ‘n’ Mom is gigglin’ uncontrollably.
Louie

Pops replies:

Yes, Pops looks pretty silly, huh?
   
   

April 21, from Louie, Day 45

Oh, Pops, I am so ashamed.
 
The MIB has put me on probation, ‘n’ Tommy Lee hisself has put a letter o’ reprimand in my personnel file!
 
All ‘cuz we had an invasion of MONSTROUS proportions this mornin’, ‘n’ I slept right through it!
 
‘N’ it’s ALL MOM’s FAULT!!!!! If she hadn’t’ve got me used to the big bed again, ‘n’ if she hadn’t’ve got me used to sleepin’ in late, I’d’ve never missed the monster, ‘n’ my record with the MIB would be SPOTLESS!!!
You gotta let me ‘xplain before you take Mom’s side.
 
It was a bright ‘n’ sunny mornin’ ‘n’ I had no trouble convincin’ Mom that Louie needed a romp in the dog park. I didn’t give her ANY trouble at all as she put me in the dog park noose, ‘n’ I very obediently climbed into Miss Corolla per Mom’s instructions, ‘n’ I didn’t block the mirror or nothin’ as we was backin’ out o’ the garage. I was quiverin’ with delight at the prospect of tusslin’ ‘n’ snortin’ with the boys.
 
Mom put Miss Corolla in gear ‘n’ we was dashin’ down the driveway for the turn onto Canyon Trail when gosh almighty, Mom just SLAMMED on the brakes ‘n’ Louie darned near did a somersault through the windshield.
 
“MOM!” I gasped as I scrambled back onto my four paws. “What the heck are you doin’????”
 
But Mom didn’t answer. She was starin’ out the window in awe.
 
So I stared with her, ‘n’ geez-o-meez, Pops, a MONSTER had attacked our telephone pole durin’ the night!
 
Great splinters of wood as big as my legs was scattered on the ground, ‘n’ a deep deep gash at least four feet long had been dug into the pole ‘n’ — Pops, this is the spooky part — the damage was all 10 feet off the ground!!!!!!
 
“Ohhh, Louie,” Mom said, “this is quite peculiar.”
 
“Invaders, Mom,” I said. “MONSTER INVADERS!”
 
‘N’ we both shivered at the thought of what kinda creature coulda gouged that much wood outta our telephone pole that far up in the air!!!!!!
 
Well, we hadn’t lost no electricity, so Mom went ahead ‘n’ took me to the park, but I knew she was distracted the whole time we was there. She even missed one o’ my poop piles while she gnawed in her mind on the meanin’ of that malicious act of vandalism, ‘n’ whether the attack had destabilized the pole so that the next time I peed on it, it would come crashin’ down on my head.
 
So’s I’d barely worked up a good sweat when Mom leashed me up ‘n’ said we had to go home ‘n’ contact the Wizard of Edison to make all this trouble go away.
 
Well, I was quite uneasy myself, seein’ as how this mass destruction had gone on without me even noticin’, so I agreed with Mom that it was our sworn duty to report to the authorities. Only it sure wasn’t easy. I stuck by Mom’s side the whole time she battled the evil powers of automated phone systems, ‘n’ boy, we was both gettin’ quite agitated ‘cuz we couldn’t get a human bein’ on the phone at the Wizard of Edison’s house. Mom looked at me once in exasperation ‘n’ said, “Sheesh, it isn’t even OUR PROPERTY, Louie. Why is they makin’ it so difficult for us to report this vile attack?”
 
I just shook my head sadly. Big business. Go figure.
 
Well, the long ‘n’ the short of it is, Mom finally reached a female human voice somewhere in Nebraska (or maybe India) ‘n’ convinced her she needed to send in reinforcements IMMEDIATELY. (But she had quite a time persuadin’ the human to take her seriously when she — Mom — wasn’t the customer o’ record at this address. Bureaucracy. It just numbs the mind.)
 
We relaxed then some, figurin’ we’d done all we could do, ‘n’ I amused myself with all my normal mornin’ hijinks. But wouldn’t you know it — just when Mom was leadin’ me up the street for our Pre-Work Walk, THAT’S when the Wizard of Edison’s minions showed up, ‘n’ my lovely walk was cut short.
 
The minions give the pole a quite superficial inspection — “Naw, lady,” one said, “it isn’t gonna fall. It’s quite sturdy.” ‘N’ he looked at Mom like she was a paranoid fuss budget.
 
“What could do this?” Mom demanded. ‘N’ I growled a little just so they wouldn’t blow Mom off.
 
They looked at me sideways ‘n’ eased a coupla feet up the street away from me. Then one of them noticed all the garbage cans linin’ the street ‘n’ said, “Looks like a garbage truck swiped the pole. Gotta be a truck, the damage is so high.”
 
(Truck, my butt, Pops, it was an alien invasion!)
 
“But it’s really not damaged that much,” the other assured Mom. “We’ll pick up the pieces, but you don’t need to worry. This old pole would stand up to a hurricane!”
 
Mom sniffed in disbelief, but since that was the best we was gonna get outta them boys, she hauled me back up the driveway into the house, ‘n’ that’s why I’m so hyper tonight, ‘cuz I didn’t get me a good Pre-Work Walk.
 
‘N’ I’m hyper ‘cuz satellite spies reported my misfeasance to the MIB, ‘n’ as soon as Mom left for that EWB, Tommy Lee was ON MY BUTT.
 
It’s so unfair. It’s so wrong. There was nothin’ I could do to stop it.
 
‘N’ all I can hope is that things stay quiet while you’re home, ‘n’ nothin’ untoward will bring me to Tommy Lee’s attention, ‘n’ by the time you go back to California in June, all will be forgotten, ‘n’ I’ll be an agent in good standin’ again.
 
That is my fervent hope, Pops. But it sure would be nice if you’d call the MIB ‘n’ use your high status with the Forest Service to put in a good word for me. 
 
Please let me know if you’re gonna help me out.
 
Louie.

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, I talk to Tommy Lee hisself all the time about you and he looks upon you as one of his most loyal, most discreet and most dedicated agents. In fact, he says that as long as you are on patrol, he has no worries about the Canyon Trail Section. The CTS is in safe hands (or paws), he says. So, don’t worry. Your record with the MIB remains spotless because all the higher-ups realize it was AMF!!!!
Pops

 

April 22, from Louie, Day 46

Well, Pops, Mom says this’ll probly be my last letter to you for a while ‘cuz after Friday afternoon, you won’t have any way to plug into your computer — ‘cuz YOU’LL BE COMIN’ HOME!!!!!
 
I’m so darned excited that you’re almost on this side o’ the Mississippi, I can barely bring myself to settle down at the keyboard, but I got to, ‘cuz this mornin’, me ‘n’ Mom had one o’ our BEST adventures yet, ‘n’ if I don’t tell you all about it RIGHT NOW, I’ll forget the really good parts. (I got a serious problem with short-term memory loss, Pops.)
 
So, uh, where was I? Oh, yeah, somethin’ about our adventure……
 
Pops!!!! Me ‘n’ Mom played CSI!!!!!!
 
We went to the Chuckery for our mornin’ hike ‘cuz Mom was in the mood to look at the delicate spring wildflowers (some Downing fella told her they was bustin’ out all over). It was a little bit nippy, but not so much as we could see our breath, ‘n’ the sun was blazin’ between the lacy clouds. So I leaped outta Miss Corolla ‘n’ tore straight for the bushes behind the parking lot.
 
Mom, o’ course, had to tear right after me, ‘cuz we was hooked together by our leash. ‘N’ then Mom had to stand around ‘n’ stare at the scenery whilst I did my business, ‘cuz
again, we was hooked together by our leash. Where Louie goes, Mom goes.
 
‘N’ that’s when Mom saw it. (Mom says she saw it first, ‘n’ since I was preoccupied by poopin’, maybe she did. But I saw it a split-second later, ‘n’ we was both mesmerized.) A darned near brand-new red ‘n’ yellow runnin’ shoe was peekin’ out from beneath the dead leaves o’ winter.
 
Well, we saw right away there was no foot attached to it, so I thought maybe I’d just take it home to add to my collection of Very Important But Useless Stuff to Leave Lyin’ Around the Living Room. But Mom said no, ‘n’ we set off briskly on our hike.
 
We had a fine time, Pops, don’t get me wrong, but that nearly new shoe was at the back o’ both our minds as we trotted through the woods ‘n’ admired the occasional trillium. Why would ANYONE dump a perfectly good shoe like that into the woods? It just wasn’t cost-efficient. 
 
By the time we circled back to the parking lot, the possibilities was eatin’ at our brains like hungry gnats. We just FELT like we’d stumbled into the middle of a crime scene.
 
So we huddled beside Miss Corolla ‘n’ fretted.
 
“Whatcha wanna do, Mom?” I asked.
 
“I don’t wanna find no body,” Mom said.
 
“Does a body have meat?” I asked contrarily.
 
“Louie!” Mom said sternly.
 
I quickly shut up.
 
But there was no one else around to see us make fools o’ ourselves, so after makin’ sure she had the phone nestled in her pocket in case she had to call the FBI, Mom give me the lead to go after the shoe. 
 
Well, it wasn’t easy — for Mom — ‘cuz it was lyin’ on the far side of some prickly brambles, but we got through the vegetation ‘n’ bent over to give it a closer look. Yup, it was an empty shoe, all right.
 
“Now what, Mom?” I asked.
 
Mom just shrugged. “I guess we go home.”
 
How disappointin’!
 
But then me ‘n’ Mom noticed that the ground just beyond the shoe was all freshly dug up!  ‘N’ the fresh dirt was lyin’ in little round mounds, like somethin’ more solid was hidin’ beneath it.
 
“Mom!” I said breathlessly. “You think — ???”
 
“I don’t know, Louie,” Mom said, but we was thinkin’ the same thing: Shallow GRAVES.
 
‘N’ before Mom could lecture me on the wisdom of proceedin’ cautiously so we didn’t contaminate the evidence,  I pounced onto the closest mound ‘n’ started to dig furiously to China.

Oh, Pops, the dirt ‘n’ the leaves ‘n’ the sticks was flyin’ left ‘n’ right. Something EVIL had been in that woods ‘n’ left its dirty little secrets behind. Louie was gonna dig ’em up ‘n’ make the MIB proud! (Gil Grissom wouldn’t’ve been proud of my impetuosity, but he isn’t my handler. Tommy Lee is, ‘n’ Tommy Lee is a man o’ action!)
 
Well, Pops, I no sooner got a couple o’ inches into that soft dirt when a foul smell began oozin’ outta the Earth’s pores. I hesitated ‘n’ looked at Mom.
 
“Oh, boy,” Mom said, “that stinks.”
 
“Oh, boy,” I said. “That’s great!”  ‘N’ I dug even faster ‘n’ more furiouser.
 
“Louie,” Mom said. “This isn’t smellin’ so good. Maybe we oughta reconsider.”
 
“Reconsider what?” I asked through a mouthful of dead leaves. 
 
“Like what we’re gonna do if you come up with a decomposing leg?” Mom said.
 
“Cool!!!!” I said, ‘n’ kept on diggin’.
 
“Decomposin’ legs have maggots,” Mom reminded me.
 
“Even cooler!” I said, ‘n’ dug dug dug.
 
Well, the stench got stenchier ‘n’ Mom was gaggin’ into her shirt sleeves ‘n’ bracin’ herself for the inevitable sight of a rotten body when Louie hit solid paydirt.
 
“This is it, Mom!” I said triumphantly, ‘n’ I slashed viciously at the object I had uneaerthed.
 
‘N’ ripped through someone’s household garbage bag. There was no body buried in the park, Pops. Just old coffee grounds ‘n’ snotty kleenexes ‘n’ fast-food wrappers ‘n’ moldy orange peels. ‘N’ boy, did they stink!!!!
 
I was most disappointed. I was sure we’d found the burial grounds of some serial killer. Even Mom was somewhat let down. Instead of a killer, we’d found the remains of a serial dumper. There’s no congressional Medal of Honor in that!!!!
 
So we kicked the dirt back into the hole I’d dug, ‘n’ we climbed through the brambles back to Miss Corolla, ‘n’ we come home, marginally relieved that no one had died down in the Chuckery, but also disappointed that all our forensic exertions had been for naught.
 
‘N’ that’s the end of today’s story. Once again, it’s 87.5 percent accurate, ‘n’ the inaccuracies is all Mom’s fault for not havin’ a cell phone that takes pictures.
 
When you get home, Pops, I’ll take you right to the spot ‘n’ you’ll see, neither Mom nor me was crazy thinkin’ there might be a body buried in there.
 
CAN’T WAIT TO SEE YOU!!!!!!!!
 
‘N’ when we hook up at the airport, you better give me a BIG sloppy hug just as soon as you give Mom a big squeeze o’ the butt.
 
Manly hugs ‘n’ kisses,
 
Louie

Pops replies:

Oh, Louie, you have such great adventures. But, you gotta ask yourself, self, why would anyone bury their garbage in a shallow grave in the Chuckery? Hmmm. Makes ya think, no? Could there be evidence in there? Of what?
Well, I’ll let you mull that over for the next 36 hours or so. And that’s when I’ll be givin’ you lots of manly hugs and kisses. Mom, too.
Pops

This is the end of my many spring adventures with Mom while Pops was fulfillin’ his patriotic obligations with the Forest Service. Pops come home on April 25, ‘n’ we had many many fine weeks of grillin’ ‘n’ hikin’ before his next deployment. For all my great stories from the summer,  click on June 2010.  You’ll laugh yourself silly. I sure did.

Louie.

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Published on May 29, 2010 at 2:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

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