Live Life Write

Merlin sitting in the Van

I have not told this story before. I worry how it will be received. I don’t know the right language to express it other than my own thoughts and feelings. This post is not for people of color because they already know it. This is for white people living in suburbs and small towns who think this is a big city problem.

Before moving to New York City, I drove every where. I got pulled over 3 times in 15 years; two speeding tickets and an illegal left hand turn.

The first year I was back in Michigan, I got pulled over 5 times. Each time it was for impeding traffic and I did not get a ticket.

I drove a dark grey, 1998 Chevy Venture van that was in good shape.

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Puppy scams are on the rise. Searching for puppies online these days brings up more scam sites than real ones. And it’s not only sales; adoption and re-homing scams are also on the rise.

It’s understandable. People are home, isolated and seeking companionship. People who have never shopped online are now doing so and may not know how to spot a scam. Unfortunately, the scammers are ready.

The surest way not to get scammed is to purchase a pet in person. Payment should not change hands unless your hand is on the pet you are buying.

Let’s face it, people are going to buy dogs on the internet, sight unseen, no matter how many times or how loud I say no. These guidelines will help you know when to walk away from a sale, adoption or re-home.

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Speed Racer

December 18, 2019

Speed Racer banner 1970sSpeed Racer banner 1970s

We moved to the new house in 1970, so I must have fell head-over-heels for Speed in 1973-74 when I was seven and in the third grade. That year our local TV station WJBK Channel 50 UHF Detroit began running the cartoon at 3 pm about the time school got out for the summer. Continue reading

All breeds have their PR challenges, but imagine walking down the street and people suddenly run out and hug your dog. Or if they play rough people say, “She’s like a real dog.” People think all Poodles are girls.

Poodles are real dogs.

-All Poodle owners ever

Charming, he’s the white Poodle, is the first dog I raised from a puppy. I wanted another black one, but Charming had a great temperament and I’ll pick temperament over color any day of the week.

Charming all fluffed and puffed at about 5 months

He is Cute

I planned to attend the Dog Bowl in Frankenmuth, Michigan, on Memorial Day weekend when Charming would be 5 months old. It was important he walked well on a leash.

The first time I took him around the block the people on the corner had their son’s dog staying with them and it scared the crap out of him. The dog is marked like a Boarder Collie. After this, Charming barked at any dog marked like a Border Collie–and not a normal bark; a rolling alarm bark only a Poodle can do.

I socialized him with other dogs and he was always good. He went to the Dog Bowl and was great. He went with his dog buddies, Gunner and Grinder. Gunner is the same age as Charming. The only incident was when we walked up a hill and there was a Boarder Collie at the top. Charming went off—Ra Ra Ra RAAAAA! Ra Ra Ra RAAAAAAA! About six times. Everyone stopped and looked at me. The Boarder Collie didn’t know what to do.

The Dog Park

The real problem began at the dog park when Charming was about a year old. I want to be clear. Charming is not dog aggressive and has never started a fight or attacked another dog. However, his behavior, if allowed to continue, could lead to a fight.

All my dogs learn to walk off-leash because I hike though the woods with them. There isn’t a need to take them to a dog park for exercise. I joined in order to go with the friend who owns Charming’s buddies, Gunner and Grinder. And to meet other local dog owners.

There was a Weimaraner puppy at the dog park about 8 months old. The two dogs played together fine several times. They were about the same size, but the Weimaraner outweighed Charming by about 20 lbs. One day, the Weimaraner attacked Charming and to my surprise Charming stood his ground and the Weimaraner backed-off. Unfortunately, the Weimaraner’s owners saw it as ‘playing.’ I knew it wasn’t and stayed clear of the Weimaraner.

When Standard Poodles play they do this thing where they spin in a circle and hit each other with their noses. It’s not so pronounced when they play with other Poodles because the other Poodles are hip to the move. But when they play with other breeds it is very pronounced. They go faster and faster and it scares the crap out of dogs not used to it.

Poodles are very light boned dogs. A Standard Poodle may appear bigger than a Labrador Retriever, but the Poodle will weigh 50 lbs and the Retriever 70 or 80 lbs. The spinning action is a great defense because with their fluffy coats they look like a very strange animal. Poodles use their brains to get the better of other dogs at play or in a fight.

After the encounter with the Weimaraner, Charming went on the defensive with all smooth hair dogs at the dog park. He’d show them who’s boss first. Charming is a very confident dog who will submit to a more confident dog. Unfortunately, there were none in the Woodhaven Michigan Municipal Dog Park.

He’d play with the Pit Bulls and do his spin and poke and they would not know what to do. They’d run, he’d chase; it was big fun for Charming. Soon he’d have them hiding under benches. He’d peak under the bench like, “Well, are we playing or not?” This is when I’d intervene.

It wasn’t long before he learned he could intimidate dogs twice his size. Ever see a Great Pyrenees try to hide under a bench? The more they ran from him, the bolder he got. It became self-rewarding. I was unable to stop him. When he started intimidating dogs entering the park, I decided to no longer take him there.

I read posts on the Dog Park’s Facebook page about The White Poodle. The Pit Bull owners were the maddest. Not because of any real safety issue, but because their Pit Bulls were afraid of a Poodle.

“I will not have my Pit intimidated by a F____g French Poodle!!” one person wrote. I laughed. My little Charming was infamous.

It’s not MY Dog

At first I thought it was just that dog park and those people, it can’t be my sweet puppy Charming. My sweet little puppy could not be a bully. He is just playing. It’s not his fault the other dogs are afraid. Charming loved the dog park. The photo at the top of the page was taken at The Woodhaven Municipal Dog Park.

I tried him at another, smaller dog park with dogs he knows and he started to bully his buddy, Gunner. It was because Gunner was neutered, I told myself.

Charming would pick-out what he believed was the leader of the ‘other’ pack (GG, Henry, Gunner and Grinder were Charming’s pack) and pick on the leader mercilessly. He’d follow them around and spin and poke and spin poke until they were cowering under their owner’s feet. Sometimes he would nip them because he wanted them to run.

I had to admit it…

My Poodle is a bully.

The only time Charming does not do this is if my sister’s dog, CBGB, is present because Charming acknowledges CB as the ultimate pack leader. CB once made a horse go away and Charming has worshiped him every since. I often wonder if Charming would bully other dogs at the dog park if CB was there. I’ll never know. CB is dog aggressive and cannot go to dog parks.

CB–Charming’s idol

I no longer bother with dog parks. GG never liked them and Henry, my black Standard, could care less as long as he goes where I go. They can be a good thing if you don’t have a yard and you’re not comfortable with allowing your dog to run loose in unfenced, open spaces.

Charming runs with a pack of hounds owned by me, my sister and our friend Sue. We meet at Field of Dreams (FOD) Flying Field on Sanford Road Park, Milan, Michigan. I don’t usually have an issue with Charming, but CB is present.

The Pack; Charming, Henry, CB, GG, Binky. (Not pictured: Maggie and Max.

Just today we introduced a new member to the pack, Max, Maggie’s Puppy. Charming had to be on a leash because Max was afraid of both Poodles. He had never seen fluffy dogs before. Charming was going to take full advantage of his fear. CB was ready to intervene, but we thought it best to put Charming on leash and let them get used to each other in stages as Max was ready. By the end of the walk, Max played with Henry.

To this day Charming is not aggressive and often visits in hospitals. It is important to know your dog. This bulling behavior could start a fight in a dog park and as a dog owner it is your responsibility to recognize it and act accordingly.

As I write this Charming is 5 years old and has never started a fight, but he has also never backed down from one. He still does not like Border Collies.

Meet Max the newest member of the pack.

Have you ever had to admit “It IS your dog?”

Let me know in the comments below.

The word change has many meanings–make different, stop and start new, what’s left in your pocket.  Evolve is a better word for the flow of life because change is often viewed as abrupt. This blog is evolving.

I am a writer. Have been since I was a kid. Writing is an active escape. You can solve any problem on the page. Writing about writing, well, it’s helpful to new writers but does nothing for the writer and it’s a lot of work.

I am a writer with life experience and that is what this blog will evolve to reflect. I did some rebranding and changed my masthead photo and the tag line to Live Life Write. It used to be Practice Writing.

About the blogger

Born in Riverview, Michigan, I spent the first 30 years of my life observing life in the this Detroit suburb. Wayne State Univerisity on the pay-as-you-go plan was the next evolution. While working full-time for a company that customized cars, I attended Wayne State in the evenings. I will never forget the night on top of the Science Building in January in Downtown Detroit. This was after working an 8 hour day. It was 26 degrees with wind. We were observing Jupiter and were suppose the calculate it’s distance from Earth. My interest in astronomy was lost that night.

I took an evening acting class to help learn about character. One of the requirements was to see a play. I fell in love with the Theatre. My original plan was to study literary writing and journalism, but finding some of the professors in the English Department a little frightening and seeing a wonderful production of “Cyrano,” at the Hillberry Theatre; changed all that.

A million stories flood my mind. So many moments that changed me.

Wayne State lead to getting into graduate school. I honestly thought I’d end up at the University of Iowa or some place like it. But I got into The Actors Studio Drama School at the New School Univerisity in New York. My first reaction was that I couldn’t go. If not for the encouragement of my professors at Wayne State, I would not have gone.

Life evolved. One day I was living in the small suburb of Detroit and the next I was living in New York City, Upper West Side, Manhattan; 115th and Broadway. The greatest experience of my life. It took me one week to become a New Yorker and even though I don’t live in the City today, I will always be a New Yorker. I think I always was. A million stories.

I got my Master degree in Playwriting, became a member of the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, taught playwriting, read scripts for several theatre companies and many, many other things. I lived there for 15 years.

Evolution. My mother died and a few years later my Dad had to have a mid-thigh leg amputation. I felt it was my duty to go home. Everything was falling on my sister who lived the closest. I was doing okay in New York, but the crush of student debt prevented me taking some of the chances I needed to, to be a professional writer. I wasn’t doing well enough financially to do my fair share by sending money home. I used to joke, “If it’s a great honor and involves no money, I’ll win it.”

Returning to the house were I grew-up was the hardest evolution. The best I can say after 8 years is I’ve accepted it.

I inherited my Dad’s Standard Poodle since he could no longer walk him and fell in love with this breed. They are not a dog for everyone, but Merlin made living with my father bearable. He was a dog and a hobby. I learned to groom him myself and got pretty good at it. The one thing I missed in New York was a dog of my own.

I had to learn to cook because my Dad was supposed to be on a diabetic diet. I thought I’d write about that experience on a blog called, “The Rube Cook.” It became clear after the 7th recipe I was no longer a rube. Not to mention the hours it took to photograph the food and get the instructions correct. The blog is on blogspot. Not the best platform for recipes.

Eventually, I came to WordPress and started a writing a blog.

Writing About Writing

There is so much more to write about than writing; and there are so many writers who do it better than me. Writer’s have to live life and that is what I hope to show with this blog. Yes, I will impart my writing wisdom–try to stop me. But I will also include stories about how I got here. Entertaining stories, I hope. It will include informative articles about a variety of topics that are researched and, where possible, experts are consulted. You will meet my Dad, my sister, my brother, my friends my dogs and my cats. I will share recipes because a writer’s gotta eat and may get into topics like leash laws, dog training, Poodle grooming and being a good neighbor. And every now and than I may drop an episode of a fiction story.

What is your evolution? Let me know in the comments below.


It’s scary—you let your dogs out, you go to let them in and they are not there. What do you do?

Or you’re out walking and suddenly a firework goes off; your dog takes-off in fear. What do you do?


Prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to minimize losing your dog is by teaching them you are their safe-haven and source of all fun. 

The very first thing you must, must, MUST do is train a solid recall. The best way to do this is NEVER, ever, no matter what, punish your dog in any way for coming to you. No matter what they did or how mad you are, always reward them. From day one, puppy or adult, if your dog comes to you, reward them. Pet them, give them food, whatever you can do in that moment. 

 Dogs live in the present. They have no idea you are mad at them because they ran way from you 5 minutes ago no matter how many times you explain it to them or how loud you yell. They only know they came to you and got smacked on the nose or their collar pulled  or it seemed to agitate you.

Work on recall from day one using fabulous rewards. Use a word other than their name, humans tend to say a dog’s name to often for it to be an effective command. Start by teaching them to sit. Then teach them to stay moving farther away each time. Practice this in 10 minute sessions a few times a day.

You can train weeks old puppies; keep in mind they have short attention spans and need lots of repetition. Teaching at 9 weeks; the puppy learns how to learn, “Oh, that word means I do this and I get a treat.” There are many training systems out there, find one you like and stick with it.

If you adopted an older dog, a great way to bond and develop trust is to take a basic obedience class. I cannot stress enough the importance of this in preventing the loss of a dog. They may still take off at times, but training increases the chance of the them returning on their own by 80% or more.

Walk your dog

This is as important as training your dog and the most important factor in you being the source of all fun. Dogs who escape often do so because they are bored and have excess energy. Walking and playing with your dog drains that excess energy and removes the need to find other outlets for it like escaping the yard.

Teaching your dog to walk properly on a leash makes walking fun for both of you. The more often you walk your dog, the easier it is. If you only walk occasionally, it is much harder. I walk my dogs 2 times a day every day, but I know not every one can do this. Short walks every day are great, three times a week is better than once. Running the dog along a bicycle is a great energy drainer for very energetic dogs. A tired dog is a good dog. 

Walking is not just for exercise. Leash walks are mental exercise for your dog; smelling and catching up on neighborhood critter news, is great mental stimulation and can tire a dog faster than a run. Also, it satisfies the dogs urge to smell whats outside of the yard; the dog learns the neighborhood and the neighborhood gets to know your dog. 

Very often a dog is found weeks later and the finder learns the dog lives down the street. It’s also a great way to socialize your dog. Introduce him to any neighbors interested. Knowing the people around you helps if you should lose your dog, find a dog or have a dog issue with a neighbor.

Off the Leash

Find places to walk your dog off-leash. Walking off-leash teaches a dog to be with you without a leash and makes it less likely they will take-off at any opportunity.  I drop my leashes all the time, but my dogs don’t run off for two reasons; I don’t panic and they are used to walking with me off-leash.

Yes, you are taking a chance when you walk off-leash, but if you have done your basic training, you should be fine. With puppies there is a period of time where they won’t go far from you. This is the ideal time to teach off-leash ettiequte and recall. Carry treats and very calmly call them to you every so often or call them back if they go to far. It is important you are calm when doing this type training so pick a place your feel comfortable. I like to train mine in a Marsh because it’s surrounded on all sides by water; not every one is comfortable in a Marsh. Find what works for you. Reward, reward, reward.

There are some dogs that can never be walked off-leash, you need to be able to read your dog. The bottom line here is if you are not comfortable, if it’s going to make you anxious, don’t do it.

If your dog runs to far

There may come a time when your dog tests you and runs farther away than they should. It’s hard, but do not chase them. This only encourages them to keep running. They may have done it for fun or because they saw a critter. Your state of worry will communicate there is danger and they need to find it by running farther still. You should calmly turn around and walk the other direction calling the dog in a normal, cheerful voice. It would be a good idea to have treats on hand to reward them when they come to you. Yes, there could be cars and all that, but I have never had this not work. You will not catch them by chasing them.

When your dog goes Walkabout

First, do not panic. When you first discover the dog is missing, stay still and listen for other dogs in the neighborhood barking. Follow the barking. This is the best way to find a dog. If you are not sure how long the dog has been gone, still try this, but listen further away. Walk the neighborhood and listen. The time my Golden Retriever wandered out of my yard, this is how a found him. I got on my bike and followed the barking dogs. There was Barney a few streets away running the fence with a barking dog.

Next, if you walk your dog and have a route you often take, walk that route. You are likely to find the dog somewhere along it. Make sure there is some one at home incase the dog returns on his own. I’ve only had two dogs run away in a lifetime of having dogs and I found both by these two methods. What follows is from my experience helping others find their dogs and returning lost dogs to their owners.

Do not say your dog was stolen. Although this does happen, it is less likely than the dog wandering off. Do not write this on social media or on any posters you make. It is the surest way to never find your dog. If the dog wasn’t stolen and someone found it, they may hesitate to contact you for fear of being accused of stealing. Often people who take dogs do so for the reward money, if you accuse them of stealing in the posts they just dump the dog far away. Remember the goal is to get the dog back.

If you have searched the walking routes and followed the barking dogs and your dog has not returned home; call the local police and make a report that the dog is missing.  Call any near-by cities and and make the report and leave your contact information. You do not need to speak to animal control or the shelter. If the police receive a call of a lost dog, they will call you. This is how I have returned 99% of the lost dogs I have found.

Don’t forget to call your vet and report the dog missing and your groomer, if you use one. Notify anyone who would know the dog.

Post your dog’s picture on social media for your local area. Start close to home and then move further out. I like and neighborhood Facebook Groups for this. Most areas have a Facebook group for lost dogs.

As more time goes by, visit local shelters, don’t rely on photos because dogs can look very different after a few hours out on their own. 

Make flyers and canvas the neighborhood and talk to neighbors, give them flyers, don’t just post them. It is better to do this on foot or bike than in a car.  Always make sure there is some one at home incase the dog returns on it’s own.

Hopefully your dog will be found.

A few more tips

Microchipping is the best way to ensure your dog is returned if something weird happens like they get trapped inside a delivery truck and end-up half a state away. Keep your contact information attached to the chip up-to-date.

An ID tag on the collar is good, but when a dog runs away it is often at a time when it is not wearing it’s collar or the collar is lost on the walkabout.

Secure you fence and gate. Leaning something against the gate isn’t good enough. If you can move it, so can your dog.

Never walk your dog on a retractable leash. Despite the handle and the claims of the manufacturers, these leashes are hard to hold. Often dogs are lost by the owner dropping the leash and the leash chasing the dog. These stories usually do not have happy endings.

No matter how distraught you are, be nice to any one trying to help you find your dog no matter how annoying they are.

Keep calling local police and going to local shelters. It’s hard, but ask if any dead dogs where found when you call. It is better to know than not know.

Social media is a great tool for reuniting lost dogs with owners, but don’t rely on it only. Keep refreshing your social media posts.


Please leave your tips below. If you lost a dog and found it, I’d love the hear the story. Please post it in the comments. Have a favorite training method? I’d like to hear that to!

“Will you bring your homemade spaghetti meatballs?”

The Academy Award of home cooks everywhere. I get this all the time because this recipe is that good. People assume I make it from scratch and I don’t correct them. The meatballs are from scratch; the sauce is not, but it’s close. Here’s the recipe along with a few tips.

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