Why Old Dogs Learn New Tricks



Soundtrack by Paul McCrane from the movie Fame.

In my humblest attempts to write something that sounds Twain-ish, I came up with the following.

“If you wanna know a man, meet his dog first.”  You can unpack that quote several ways, but I’ll leave it up to you to deconstruct as you see fit.


For Chasey——-my Pal….

I don’t walk my dog, he walks with me. We go to fun places together, not stores, restaurants and malls, I think that’s stupid and weird.  That’s as absurd as taking a cat to church.  Cats don’t believe in god, they think they are god.

We prefer walks around our neighborhood or hikes in the woods.  Being a Lab, he loves his swims down by the lake.  He tips the scale at over a hundred pounds.  That’s twenty pounds of sweetness, thirty pounds of slobber and fur and fifty pound of love.  He shakes his wet coat all over me, drools water across my freshly shined hardwood floors and steps on my bare feet with his heavy sharp paws—–Ouch!!!—–If he wasn’t so damn cute he’d get a lot more scoldings.

There’s a quiet calm about him.  He’s at peace with himself and the world, minus the mailman, garbageman and the neighbor’s cat.  The cat sits smugly behind her window as Chase is pulled back to his yard by his collar. I’ve never been at peace with myself, the world, or anybody or anything. I’m more the restless type who’s easily tangled up in my own expectations.  I anxiously cling to desired outcomes that are out of my control. He stares up at me with his eyes that seem to say “Don’t worry bro, it’s all good man, everything is as it should be”.  Chase is Zen; he’s simple, honest, loyal, kind and empathetic——-he expects nothing. He lives in the moment, joyfully running in circles, never mired in selfish conclustions. He doesn’t even care when he misplaces his favorite tennis ball.  He naps when he’s tired, eats when he’s hungry and walks around with a big contented Zen smile on his doggie face.  In his serene mind he wags his tail in time to “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley.

He doesn’t much care for fighting, but if provoked he can be vicious——-he has a highly developed “bullshit detector”. Lying and cheating must give off a subtle scent, because his keen sense of smell can detect those qualities from miles away. His intense listening skills alert him when someones words don’t match their voice inflection. He’ll piss on the lawns of those who are deserving of his mark….

People fall out of love.  They change, they lose touch, they move on,  They’ll selfishly take more than they give, until one day they wake up and  find themselves friendless and loveless. Little by little they wear out others with their chafing annoyances. I think you know what I mean, like the petty cruelty of repeatedly leaving the cap off the proverbial tube of toothpaste. It becomes a process of slowly wringing out their partners patience like a stiff old dish rag until they’ve squeezed out every last drop of civility. All that remains is bitterness and lawyer fee’s.

Dogs don’t know how to keep score. They only have two emotions, love and forgiveness. Unlike humans, dogs make great listeners.  Most folks don’t listen, they just yammer on with all the eloquence and articulation of a squawking Stellar Jay…….Chase cocks his head sideways, props up his floppy ears and offers up a sigh of acknowledgment.

There’s a fine line between love and hate. Most people don’t know when they’ve crossed that line until it’s to late.  They refuse to learn or change, they prefer casting blame rather than trying to become a better person. It’s hard to teach old humans new tricks.  They always want to know, “What’s in it for me?”

Old dogs don’t learn new tricks just for a treat, they learn new tricks to please you. Some folks will say “I love you” every chance they get, but they never take the time to show it through their actions.

My dog is ten years old. They say a dog ages seven dog years for every human year. My dog at ten knows more about life and love than I ever will—–and I’m middle aged—– I’m being conservative in regards to defining my age.

Chase and I are growing old together.  He’s slowed down a bit, but he still has the heart of a pup.  He barks a jet airplanes, gets excited when I put on my shoes for a walk and would follow me to hell and back agin.  I  wish my dog would never grow old, because when he’s gone I’ll be lonely here without him……..


Soundtrack, “Don’t Mess Around With Karma” by Brett Dennen.

Do you ever ask yourself, “Am I okay?” “Is everything okay?” “Is this the way things suppose to be?” I do, but I’m neurotic, I’m insecure and I live in a state of free floating anxiety. I get this feeling that I’m waiting on something or someone. For what? I don’t know. Could it be love, understanding, a second chance—lord knows I could use one of those. I wake up on a sunday and I feel lost. I hate Sundays’ anyway, they signal the end of another ephemeral week. Endings depress me, they remind me of funerals, break ups and another “day in the life” diminishing in my rearview mirror—- I’m lugubrious that way, and I’m sorry for my word choice, but there is no better word than that to describe my mood—-lugubrious….

I check my email, no messages. I check Facebook, no funny comments directed to me.  I check my iPhone, no messages, no tweets, snapshots, no text, no voice message.  I check my website, no hits, zip, nothing——nada. WTF is going on?——Oh no, I’m now one of those annoying people who communicate in acronyms. What’s next, a personalized license plate that cryptically declares “I ♥ mi Kat”.

People have way to much unproductive time on their hands. People don’t know how to make shit anymore. My mom use to have a Singer sewing machine and she made us clothes. Yeah clothes, pants, dresses, shirts—— the works. I can’t even sew a button on a dress shirt. It took her a long time to make a shirt, but every stitch, every button and every cut was done with her hands, tailored with love. Now, if that sounds corny, then go fuck yourself. This was back in the day, before you could go to your nearest Walmart and  buy a shirt for $8.00. A shirt stitched together with the angst of an eight year old Kid in some suffocating sweat shop in a piss poor third world country. Mom grew her own garden and knew how to can fruits and vegetables. She had cast iron pots and pans and cooked bread, stews and soups from scratch. My dad had a tool kit and a tiny workshop. He could fix his car, fix the hot water heater, build a fence and do masonry. He could’ve build a fucking house if really wanted to. I have a hard time hanging a picture on the wall straight. My folks were living off the grid before it became some kind of trendy California “life style”.

They didn’t fill their days with mindless channel surfing, buying crap off QVC, web surfing; ears plugged into an iPod, eyes glued to an iPad or a computer screen. They did practical and valuable things with their time. When my mom was a young girl, she taught herself to play the piano. It’s amazing the stuff you can learn if you dedicate the time to it. They call them smart phones, but I say piss on that, the smarter the phone, the dumber the person.

I don’t get it. I walk the streets of my neighborhood these days and I don’t see a single kid outside playing. It’s a freaking beautiful day outside and I ask myself “Where’s all the kids?” They must be in their air-conditioned bedrooms playing video games, skyping or hacking into some top-secret government site. When I was a kid, our parents had to force us to come in for dinner. They’d have to holler for us to come in when it started to get dark. We didn’t need or want adults organizing our ballgames or telling us the fucking rules. We made up our own rules. We made up our own games and boundaries. We didn’t require uniforms or fancy gear or anything outside ourselves, we created our world from the inside out, we possessed magic——imagination.

These days I’m not so innocent and the world is no longer so simple. Beautiful girls parade by me covered in tattoos and piercings, gangs exploit the naïvety of the young seeking to belong, guns are carried to school like Twinky’s in lunch boxes, mass shootings are back page news, drugs are a refuge for the lost and on every street corner there’s a sad eyed homeless person with their tattered cardboard pleas.  We’re bombarded with twenty-four-hour, seven days a week news, feeding us a steady diet of war, chaos and mayhem. Violence and death have become a form of amusement and entertainment.  It’s no wonder that our Kids grow up so fast and so angry. I appreciate what Mark Twain said about the weather “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it”. What Twain said about the weather, is how I feel about watching the news—-the world is going to hell and no one is doing anything about it—-but those Nelson ratings just keep on going up!

There’s a certain time in late morning when the light falls through my southern window and I can see all these tiny particles of dust floating in the air. I sit still on my old couch and watch them in amazement. Could these be miniature worlds and solar systems spinning about in my little house. Is my world just another speck of dust floating in some giants living-room. Maybe all my silly woes and worries don’t add up to nothing more than what exists on a fleck of dust. What’s reality?—What’s illusion?  Who can say?

I showed up for the love, and I’m not waiting on it anymore….Ya got to give it, to get it—–Karma baby…..

Pocketful of Soul


Sitting on the hard Christian pew in the front row of Saint Joseph’s Church, I idly listen as the pipe organ fills the stained glass chamber with the sound of Ave Maria.  The beauty of the melody is occasionally punctuated by the echoes of a cough or a child’s desperate whine.  The organ stops and the room is consumed by a ponderous silence; the silence of a funeral is louder than that of any other decibel—it is the deafening sound of stillness.

It’s hard to say how many times any of us may have lived or died, but today, eternity surges through this space like static electricity during a thunderstorm, death teaches us about the impermanence of all things—-a million days or a million years, mortality will never empty my pocketful of soul.

The priest droned on in a thick accent, perhaps Indian or some foreign place from the far east—-his fouled up mispronunciations make the ancient stories from the bible even more esoteric.  The messages within these texts I’ve heard hundreds of times.  At different stages of my life I’ve interpreted them differently, isn’t that the way of any true art.  For me, faith is an art, something that grows and changes as it finds new ways to connect with me in a place beyond my limited five senses. I‘m not a biblical purest or fundamentalist, I am a spiritual personalist—I believe God speaks to us all in his own personal language of love.   I hear him in the wilderness, others may feel his presence on a commuter bus, God finds a way to adapt to our idiosyncrasies.

Ironically, things become so twisted when we force God to conform to our personal needs and demands—-oh the horrors perpetrated in his many names.  I prefer the belief that we are created in the image of God, rather than God created in our self serving image.  Such a subtle yet profound change of outcomes when choosing  between these two conflicting points of view.  My puny prayers are composed out of a humble desire for there to be less of me and more of God in this broken world.

I’ve never had much of a grasp on God, religion or spirituality, but in the peacefulness of this moment I’m absorbed by a sweet serenity.  In the presence of the sacred statues, symbols and the mumblings of holy prayers I’m filled with a sense of communion to all things.  I suppose this sublime feeling may also be evoked from Gregorian Chants, Hindu Mantras or Zen Koans, we are all reduced to the simplicity of oneness in the presence of God.

“If Jesus were alive today, the last thing he’d be is a Christian.”

by Mark Twain


The sentiment communicated in the above quote may be applied to all prophets and spiritual leaders who have been merchandized, propaganda-sized, materialized, cauterized, convicted and tried, dehumanized, demoralized, rectified, deep-fried, electrified, televised, commercialized and apostatized—–