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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When I pushed publish over a year ago, I had no idea I was starting a process of self-reflection that would prevent me from blogging for more than a year. It was scary to write and publish the story. When it went in a completely different direction than I intended, I did not know how to follow it up. I still don’t. 

It has been a journey. My up-bringing of “every one is equal, end of story,” is at the root of my blindness to the black experience. I’m not alone. It’s the reason I have a hard time talking and writing about the question of race. I’m still afraid. But, I am determined to face the fear because we must have this conversation.

The comments on the story, “A White Woman, Racism, and a Poodle,” say more about the state of race relations in America than the story itself. In this blog post, I want to highlight those comments. I encourage you to read them all.

I want to thank my Dad, Paul Franks Jr., who passed away on July 7, 2020. It’s because of him I understand the old white guy perspective. Also, I want to thank my friend Kimberly Sparkle Stewart for her unique perspectives on this subject. Thank-you to Robert Wells, Oliver Pookrum, Council Cargo, Katrina Gainey and all theatre people of color who contributed to my journey of “seeing” white privilege and the extent of systemic racism. 

A Word About the Title

I went back and fourth about what to call this. The current title was my first thought, but I questioned if it was too harsh. I thought about calling it, “Follow-up to A White Woman, Racism and a Poodle,” but that was too boring. The day after Juneteeth was made a Federal holiday I had this conversation with a young, white man in his mid-20s. He said, “What is Juneteeth?” and I told him. His response, “I thought we wanted to forget about slavery! Why make a holiday to remember it?” He was very angry. I had no idea how to explain it.

A few thoughts.

Many, many, many, white people; many more then I was aware of, do not believe black lives are any different than white lives. Gobsmacked is how it felt reading some of the comments. White people, in many parts of the country, were raised to believe everyone is equal end of story, end of racism in America. But when a black person walks down the street these same people do the “sneak-peek” through curtains and call the cops.

Some comments are by people who were shocked, surprised or don’t believe the black experience is any different from the white experience of America. Some didn’t believe the story and a few were outraged on behalf of Poodles. Poodles! I love my Standard Poodles and all, but really? If you read this story and think it’s about Poodles, you missed the point. As I said, people of color do not need to read this story.

Some of these comments will make you mad, but ask yourself, “How can I explain it to this person? This is what they believe? How can I move that view gently so it will stick?”

Lorrie Lowe says:

June 3, 2020 at 9:57 pm

You had me until your comment about Dearborn. As someone who was born and raised there, and still has family (some are police) and friends that live there, YOU are part of the problem! Yes, Dearborn was a segregated community while I was growing up and the Mayor, Orville Hubbard, was a racist. But the man has not been mayor since 1978 (42 years!) and has been dead since 1982. For you to make the offensive comment “I was so angry I wanted to drive to Dearborn at night with Merlin in the passenger seat and create a big stink when I got pulled over. “Call the news!” I’d shout!,” perpetuates the reputation that Dearborn has tried hard to change over the last 40 years. When was the last time you were in Dearborn? Did you ever consider that maybe you are just a lousy driver?

[The statue of Mayor Hubbard was removed the day after this post was published. It is still on display in a less conspicuous spot. Like many communities, Dearborn is gripped by racism so common people do not see it.]

Anonymous says:

June 10, 2020 at 2:45 am

Read “Incognito – The Secret Lives of the Brain,” by David Eagleman. Our brains stitch together perceptions based on an astonishingly small quantity of real time visual input and a corresponding amount of prior “knowledge.” The cops’ brains may have actually “seen” a black person. The science backs this.

[I replied to this commenter that they did see Merlin as a black man and his reply was, I’m paraphrasing, “Oh, that’s a whole new meaning to the story. Oh, wow!” One more white person finally gets it.]

Emilio Trampuz says:

June 10, 2020 at 6:42 pm

Wow! It’s amazing that there are so many racist cops around in the 21st century, and that they are so eager to harass black people. Somehow, I wouldn’t be so surprised if this happened in the deep South. But in Michigan?!! What a shame!

Dolph says:

June 11, 2020 at 6:33 am

I really can not fathom why any police officer would pull any vehicle to a stop when he sees a white and a black person in that car. Especially in the night, because how can you see that from a distance in the dark?

I’m sorry to doubt your story, because this is obviously what you experienced, but to me it seems highly improbable that there was a racist profiling motive.

Rob Litchfield says:

June 11, 2020 at 1:03 pm

I am so outraged by your clearly racist Merlin story! I wonder how many other poodle owners are subjected to this kind of disgusting, unconstitutional assault on a daily basis?! Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Brady says:

June 11, 2020 at 2:34 pm

This is ridiculous. There are people that are real victims of racism/brutality, but you are trying to make this about you. Try telling this story to a black person, see if they sympathize.

Karen S ullivan says:

June 11, 2020 at 6:07 pm

The point of the story is that the cops thought a black man was in the car, so they pulled the vehicle over, and drew their guns because of it. They had no probable cause, other than being black. In this country, a black person safely driving a car, (or walking in a neighborhood, or in a park) can be treated this way, just because they are black. It’s not about the woman, it’s about the woman realizing in a first hand experience what happens to our black neighbors every damn day….

Monique says:

June 11, 2020 at 7:05 pm

Thank you for sharing your experience. I was raised not seeing color but souls. I wish everyone was raised like I was.

Todd says:

June 13, 2020 at 2:57 am

It sounds like there are a lot of scared people out there on both sides. The woman in the story speaks of being scared. Then, the police officers are acting scared as they interact with this woman.

Jami says:

June 14, 2020 at 12:42 pm

I believe in protect and serve. I see it. My son is a police officer, I see him doing good things every day. He was even videoed by a community member while he was playing basketball with some teens in his patrol area – the community member was commenting on how great it was to have police helping in the community. My son makes a point to get to know the people in his area and looks after them.

Please stop taking a wide brush of hatred across a group of people who are there to protect and serve us. There are bad cops and ones who became a cop just so they can show their muscle and be jerks, yes, but most police officers took that job to make a difference and help, like my son. It’s talk like this that only exacerbates the situation. We need police reform, but it needs to be done in a way that brings the community and police department together – working to make things better, not pitting them against each other.

Kit Dunsmore says:

June 13, 2020 at 5:30 pm

This is horrifying. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to live with this level of harassment all the time just because of the color of your skin. And the people harassing you have guns and authority behind them! A perfect example of racism in action. Thanks so much for sharing this story

Carrie adams says:

June 13, 2020 at 8:55 pm

Omg …to begin with ..’it scares a white woman” being pulled over by police! Have you lost ur mind lady. I’m a white woman I’ve never been SCARED when pulled over by the police. I WASNT doing anything to be scared ….iamwhite and blonde and have had 2 black standard poodles in my lifetime. No one stopped or made comments to me about my dogs……you are making a racist. Story out of BS …oh and BTW …Charley, was a light brown miniature poodle!

Stop being a pot stirrer it doesn’t work on everybody!

Anonymous says:

June 15, 2020 at 1:01 pm

While I sympathize with every person’s uniquely lived experiences, this one person’s lived experience is not statistically relevant. Anecdotal evidence may or may not be an outlier, an anomaly, or may in fact be representative of what’s going on, but ultimately stories such as this one rely upon looking at data and facts to make a significant point. This article is a story with a narrative that does not in any way cite facts or statistics beyond one person’s lived experience (assuming they didn’t make this all up). Just because someone lived through an experience, doesn’t make them an expert in public policy either. All this article does is shame people into feeling bad for others so that they overlook the statistical facts. Unfortunately, humans, in general, are more drawn to narratives than facts.

Leslie Ehrman De Palo says:

June 17, 2020 at 11:14 am

[Read this one sitting down. It’s going to make you angry. Remember this person believes they are defending black people.]

THANKS for the article…we know it is a very real thing for Americans of Color. It must be awful for all of the law abiding People of Color. The question in my mind is WHY do Police Officers pull over anyone driving who is of Color. UNFORTUNATELY, much of the actual answer is that Black crime is staggering and there is so much of it, that it is very difficult for a Police Officer to see anyone who is Black as not a criminal. This is terrible. As a country, we need to figure out a way to stop so much crime from People of Color. The honest statistics show it is way out of proportion to the general population. We have to get to the root of the problem and not sweep all police officers under the rug and say they are all racist and we do not need police officers. The people who need Police Officers the most are the poorest people in our communities, who are usually the victims of all of the Black crime in their own neighborhoods.

Racism, hatred and prejudice may have gotten the Black community to where it is, but just shouting racism is not the full answer or solution. We have been shouting racism since well before Martin Luther King powerfully articulated it in the 1960s. Although there is still racism today, it will require the Black community itself to show some pride, keep their families together, stop the drug use, the cycle of poverty and incarceration. Even if there are stronger sentences in some cases sadly due to racism, why does there have to be so many cases?

Apparently, the statistics show that 75% of all children born of a Black Father, have no Black Father — the children are Fatherless throughout their lives. This is a very tough situation for children — they need a family and all the help they can get. IF we gave each and every Black American $150k, that in and of itself would not solve the deep seated problem. To stop this dreadful cycle, should we remove every poor, Fatherless Black child out of their home and raise them in someone else’s more affluent household, no matter their color and heritage?

I remain hopeful that finding REAL solutions beyond looting, destroying property, hurting, killing and makeshift signs will one day soon solve this very difficult, challenging problem that we ALL must come to terms with for we are all in this community called humankind together. We must face it together…

[This post provoked a response from Thendi that brought tears to my eyes.]

Anonymous says:

June 14, 2020 at 10:05 am

I am leaving this as anonymous because I know I will be attacked if I left my personnel information. If you want real change start with you. If African American people do not want to be profiled, then clean up your image. Quit letting gang bangers & drug dealers run your neighborhoods. Teach your kids not to rob stores, attack the police, do drugs, etc. Fact is 46% of violent crimes are committed by 13% of the population. You want profiling to stop, you want cops & others to quit fearing you, then change the way you are perceived. Could you imangine if all these looters & “peaceful” protesters had went into these poor neighborhoods & cleaned up, painted, did house repairs, rooted out all the gang bangers & drug dealers? They would have saved more lives than defunding the police ever could. I know I will be condemned for these comments, but I have to speak the truth.

Thendi says:

June 15, 2020 at 3:02 am

Commenting as a black or rather, a dark brown woman, I can see how “Anonymous” came to have that point of view and I have to say that I appreciate the honesty. Thank you for sharing your opinion and speaking your mind. I applaud you. This is how we begin to transform and renew our minds so we can become a better society. I wish I didn’t but, I too, have something to say so please bear with me as I speak my truth.

I grew up in a multiracial community, in a household with educated parents. My dad was a physician and my mom was a nurse/midwife. As such, the standard was set at a really young age that my siblings and I were to follow in our parents’ footsteps and attend college. I did as my parents pleased and pursued a career of my own. Yes, my parents taught me not to rob stores, do drugs etc. They also taught me to respect police but more importantly, fear and avoid them at all costs because an encounter with them could lead to death. My parents did a great job raising their kids. If “Anonymous” knew them personally it would make this individual proud because they did everything “Anonymous” suggests black people teach their children. Sadly, with all the things my parents did right, society did wrong. The color of my skin, the thickness of my lips, the coarseness of my hair and the Afro shape of my body has followed me all my life. My features, my ethnicity have caused more issues in my life than necessary. From traffic stops with police showing off their guns, white teachers favoring white students, bosses reflecting their unconscious bias to doctors laughing at the shape of my body during a physical exam. I’ve had mentors tell me how to style my hair so I don’t appear too Afrocentric and how to speak so I don’t sound black with the goal of being more acceptable in the job industry. How do you suggest one processes all that Anonymous? How do you learn and love to appreciate who you are? How do you handle the unnecessary PTSD or survivor’s guilt that comes with living life as a black or brown person?

As a dark-skinned individual working in the corporate world for over a decade, you’re expected to work twice as hard with no recognition and speak up for a bonus when your white counterparts never have to because it’s something that they get unconditionally. You work 60+ hours a week and when you ask for help because it’s affecting your health, your request is not taken seriously despite tangible evidence. You are overlooked for promotions and any employee incentives. And then when you get frustrated and decide to look for another job, your resume isn’t usually selected but when it is, you dress professionally for the interview, show up extra early and the moment you sit down, you don’t get a fair chance at getting the job because the interviewer notices your color and decides to handle other important matters on the phone or approve payments so you don’t notice how uninterested they are in you now that they have met you.

Yes, this story is real and this story is mine. Racism is as alive today as it was years, decades and centuries ago. Anyone with any doubt that racism exists, please take a moment to think again.

The system, not just in America, but across the globe has done a consistent job of dragging black people and their communities down. Think colonization, slavery, cast systems and so on. Black people have had to fight for freedom, fight for justice, fight for education, fight to vote, fight for equality. Would you rather black people succumb to the issues that Native American communities are dealing with right now?

Systemic racism continues to beat darker people down. For those of us who are fortunate enough to make it in the working world, we try to support our less fortunate family members and friends through what is affectionately termed, “black tax”. Growing up, we always had cousins, aunts, uncle and strangers living with us or being supported by my parents so we were rarely ever our own little family unit. My siblings and I did not get the prestigious life we could have had. The opportunity cost would have been watching our loved ones suffer.

The past few weeks hearing talk about inequality has been difficult and somewhat exciting. It has brought some kind of light and at the end of a long dark tunnel. Don’t get me wrong, it’s bringing light to memories and behaviors as well as realization to certain experiences I’ve had masked by denial. Unfortunately, it’s also causing stress-related health issues personally. I have cried for my people and continue to cry for our society as a whole. Until black people can all be seen as equal, a part of our population will continue to suffer. Forget about 13% of the population committing 46% of the crimes. Let us ask ourselves why things are they way they are. No one grows up wanted to be a criminal. As Diana Ross sang years ago, “Reach out and touch, somebody’s hand. Make this world a better place if you can.” As the rest of the song goes, “Take a little time out your busy day to give encouragement to someone who’s lost the way (Just try).

Or would I be talking to a stone? If I asked you to share a problem that’s not your own.”

Have a receptive heart and mind, help us make a change for the better and for our future. For equality, for justice and anti-racism.

Thank you for taking time to read my post. And thanks to the author for being smart enough to recognize a behavior pattern, proactive enough to write this post and brave enough to tell her story as unbelievable as it may seem to most.

In Closing

Over the past year I have done a lot of research on this issue. One series of Podcasts that stood out, and I’m not sure why, is The Vanishing of Harry Pace on Radio Lab. It touches on so many parts of racism in America, The One Drop Rule, Minstrel Shows, Blacks Going to Europe, Desegregation… so many things in this one man’s life.

Race is alway about money. No where is that better discussed than in the book, “The Sum of Us,” by Heather McGhee

Also a good read on the subject, “How to be an Anti-Racist,” by Ibram X. Kendi

And Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

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.

Continue reading

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!

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