Monday, August 5, 2013


My last post was May 13th. I brought home a puppy on May 26th. That's all you need to know.

It's been two months on never letting a dog out of my sight. Two months of cleaning up accidents in the house. Two months of "puppy proofing" the backyard. Two months of unbelievable tension between me and my gal (she pushed, I caved). As I type this, Badger (a Rottweiler of 4.5 months) is sleeping on the front tile. Over the last week there's been an astonishing transformation from hellion to angel. Either he's finally come around to our ways of thinking and training, or he's got some intestinal disease that's eating away at his insides. I'll prefer to side with the former for the time being. Peace has returned, and lessons have been learned.

I'm done with puppies. When my parents' dog passed away in 1990 at the age of 14, I wanted to ask why they never got another one. I never did. My answer was supplied on Badger's first day. They simply didn't have the time or the energy that they did in 1976 when Cindy was brought home (that, and they didn't have any more kids in the house to nag them into such a purchase). I'm in good shape for my age, but my levels of energy and patience are nowhere near what they were when Maverick came into our lives in 2003. Badger was/is simply nothing more than a normal puppy. Jumpy, hyper, enthusiastic, whiny, not to be trusted, challenging. Puppies are babies without the tax credit. My longing to fill the hole left behind by Maverick led me to push for a puppy and my gal in no way pushed back.

You shouldn't get a dog to replace a dog. I learned after Badger came home that I didn't miss having A dog. I missed having THAT dog. Mav. That was my dog. As much as my gal tried and tried and tried, he was always mine. Through no fault of Badger, he's coming into a home where he has to succeed a dog of incredible sweetness (and medical bills) and win over an increasingly curmudgeon- like owner. Unthinkable even last week at these time, he's allowed me the time to share a few thoughts and take a few sips. Maybe we'll actually make it through this. What I've taken away most is this: knowing what you can't do can be more important than knowing what you can.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Joke Of A Soak

In the time that we've been without a dog, I've taken to going to the gym most afternoons. It gets me out of the house and I know once another fuzzball starts to roam, my exercise is going to be limited to running him outside when he attempts to mark all of our rug. Benefit: I'm in as good a shape as I've been in years. Drawback: Something different hurts every day. I mean, it's like a "What's THAT?" type of pain. On days that I don't go to the gym I take myself a nice soak. 20 minutes, epsom salts, maybe even a glass of Walgreens wine while I'm at it. I guess it helps a bit, but it was just so damn boring, laying there in a tepid pool of warm water and silence. Then I had a revelation.

I have a smart phone! I have the Tune In app! I can listen to any radio station in the world while I soak! This is gonna be great! Yep.

I picked a legendary rock station from my home state- The Iconic WAPL, "The Rockin' Apple", in Appleton Wisconsin. Why hadn't I thought of this before? The question was answered within minutes

Here's the order of what I heard during my Soak

1) The end of "Patience", Guns N' Roses
2) "Money Talks"- AC/DC
3) Jock Talk- WAPL has two guys on in the afternoon. Some stations do this to bring the jocularity and reverie of the morning zoo to the afternoon as well. Problem with this? People may want talk in the morning, but on the way home, they only want music. They've been talking to and talked at all day. They're talked out. No more talk. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. 2 unfunny minutes on a Florida woman who stole things from graves. Cue the zither
4) Spots. For years, there's been a problem with commercials playing on a radio station's online stream. Long story short, you won't hear spots online that you hear on radio. What DO you hear? Public service announcements. Minute after minute of public service announcements. I heard the same loop. 4 times. I'd estimate the spot block lasted 6-8 minutes
5) "Comfortably Numb"- Pink Floyd (interrupted halfway through by the alarm telling me my 20 minutes were up and it was time to get out of the tub)

What started with anticipatory excitement ended with another reminder of why radio continues to be in a death spiral. In 20 minutes I got one great song I hadn't heard in awhile followed by dumb jocks, a ton of spots, and a song I never need to hear again in my life. Had I just listened to an iPod, it would've been 4-6 songs that I love and no idiotic chatter. Radio now exists only to serve the clients. Listener serve thyself

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Foolproof Doesn't Apply Here

"Why does radio suck so much?"- James, bartender, Putter's Las Vegas

Mind you, this question was asked in a mostly deserted bar during the first round of one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year. I could've turned it around on James and ask why his sports bar had me and only me as a customer. You don't ever mess the the people who fix your food or mix your drinks, so I let it go. Besides, James was right.

Radio has this dilemma. They very thing that saves it (sales) is the very thing that's killing it. It's really that simple, and the reason why there's no quick fix. Like a flesh-eating bacteria, the sales arm of radio has taken over so much of the industry that we're more likely to eliminate morbid obesity in Samoa than we are to see terrestrial radio become relevant again .

The first thing I do after starting my car is turn on the radio. This afternoon, I tuned in in the middle of a spot break. 5 minutes later, on came a two-fer (it's Tuesday after all!) from Black Sabbath. Off went the radio, in went a cd. A 5-minute wait to hear something I could easily live without, and radio just lost a valued customer for the rest of the drive. People don't have to suffer through that anymore. An iPod guarantees you a) commercial-free listening combined with b) songs you love. Because, you know, you put them there.

Radio's effort to counter-program against the competition has been so monumentally wrongheaded you could almost charge the large radio groups with arson. No one could be this stupid on purpose. Radio's biggest moneymakers are its biggest personalities- Stern, Limbaugh, Hendrie, Seacrest (ugh). People want to hear what they have to say. What's radio's response to get more listeners? SILENCE THE PERSONALITIES! Less talk, more rock! The problem with that is that there isn't more rock. There's more inventory. The less the talk, the more sales can squeeze another ;15 or :30 spot. Ratings stagnate, jocks get let go and hands wring wondering what can be done. Their solution? More commercial time per hour.

My solution is a simple one, but since sales has taken over programming it's unlikely to happen. Let the personalities run with it. If people want music, they'll go to their iPod. If they want personality, they'll go to their radio. If it's entertaining, people will listen. They'll tell others what they heard, and maybe that person becomes a listener. How many people are going to tell their friends "Dude, I heard a two-fer from Sabbath today!" No one, of course. Don't be ridiculous.

People tune out the commercials, not the talk. Try telling this to the salesperson who would sell his daughter's soul for a sweet commission. I'm off to charge my iPod in case I get a block of Soundgarden during the always groundbreaking "All Request Lunch Hour" tomorrow

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Don't Do Something You Like, Do Something OTHERS Like

My work hours are 4:30a-12p. Some call that brutal. I think it's perfect. No rush hours to deal with, and my afternoons are free for whatever appointments come up. Or I can do something as simple as going out for a drink.

Last Friday was the 1st round (screw the play-in games) of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, so with the rare chance of seeing some live sports that actually mattered during lunch time, I found myself at a place stumbling distance from my house (just in case I was over-served). Surprisingly, I was the only customer. Being the only customer in a bar can be like being the only shopper in a high class boutique. The employee won't leave you alone. Back when I was tending bar, my boss always told me "when they come in alone, they want to be left alone. Serve 'em and shut up".  If only today's over the counter retail beverage consultants heeded such words.

The bartender was James, and since the tourney was on we started talking hoops, brackets and general March Madness- related topics. Then he hits me with the biggie, something I never have a good answer for:

"So what do you do?"

I really need some sort of "employment rolodex" in my head, where I can make up a phantom job on the fly. I just can't come up with one that, if he starts asking followup questions, I'll be able to talk my way through. It has to be something dull, but not interestingly so. Any suggestions would be helpful. I decided to answer honestly and told him that I worked for a group of radio stations. He didn't ask the normal next set of questions, (What station? Have you ever met Jack White? Can you get me free tickets?) instead choosing to swing for the fences,

"Why does radio suck so much?"

Even those who aren't in the business know that radio sucks. It sucks today, it'll suck tomorrow, and the long range forecast is Mostly Sucky. Radio used to be cool. I got in when it was still cool to say you worked in radio, not before it became the entertainment world's equivalent of gum on a shoe. What I've witnessed over the last 20 years has been Exhibit A for how to run not just a business, but an entire industry into the ground. Ah, it's been a blast

Why does it suck? Stay tuned. Trust me, it'll still suck by the next post.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What Follows Is Extremely Corny

Its been 3 weeks since Maverick died. I no longer cry like a little girl, but I'm prone to welling up at a moment's notice. Fine if alone, but not if I'm in the testosterone-laden cesspool known as Gold's Gym. I'm able to spend more time in the house by myself, and the pictures and videos I watch bring more smiles than sadness.

Almost lost in the grief of losing my dog was good news shared by mom the day after Mav's passing. Mom had battled cancer (courageously, of course) for 6 years. Breast, thyroid, and lymph node. On the day after Maverick died I was talking with mom and she shared the news that the doctors had pronounced her cancer-free. She knocked out all 3, something the doctors honestly didn't expect from someone mom's age. I was happy to hear it, of course, but my sadness about Maverick kept the happiness tempered. I'd been hoping for this day for 6 years, and when it came I think I said something stupid like "Sweet!". I was still in a fog.

Ok, here's the corny part:  I have this picture in my head. Maverick arrives in heaven. Sure he's a little confused (his 4th leg is back!), but they do the best to make him comfortable. He has his entry interview and is asked if he has any concerns.

"I don't have any concerns about myself, but my daddy's really sad right now. Can you do something to cheer him up?"

"I don't know, Maverick", replied the gatekeeper,  "We get a lot of requests up here."

"Yeah, I know, but aren't those usually prayers from below? I know Mom said she prayed every night for me. Still does. I'd think once we get here we wouldn't need to ask for anything"

The gatekeeper gave thought to Maverick's argument. "You make a good point. What did you have in mind?

"Well, daddy's mom- my gramma- has been really sick. Can you make her get better?"

"I'll see what I can do", said the gatekeeper. "We get thousands of requests a day"

With that, Mav boarded the Jeep to take him to the Boneyard, to play and fetch and eat and sleep. He didn't have the people he loved by his side, but he at least tried to make sure that our sadness could be eased if for a little while by some uplifting news. And then I got the call the next day. The cancer was gone, and to celebrate, my parents are coming to Vegas.

The subject line warned you of corniness ahead, and if you've come this far, I don't think you hated it. Without a bit of corniness, the realities of life (and death) are overwhelming. I'd like to think that even though he'll no longer lay at my feet, he'll be looking out for his daddy as much as his daddy looked out for him.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Home is the last place I want to be today. Home should be the place that offers security and happiness. Today, it's just empty, cold, and sad. My dog has died.

Maverick was just over 10 years old, which is the average life span for a rottweiler. That's the only thing that was average about him. He was goofy, friendly, obnoxious, moody, sloppy, flaky, smart, and loving. Most of all, loving. Even those at the vet's office (where Mav was a frequent guest) mentioned how much of a favorite he was. When he would be boarded, he didn't stay in a cage during the day. He stayed with the doctors in their office. No one else was granted such a status. I particularly remember our vet saying, "All dogs are great. This one's special". This is the story of Maverick's last day

Background: Mav was diagnosed with bone cancer on March 11th, 2012. The cancer had started to eat away bone in his right front leg. We had a choice of amputating the leg and easing his pain or taking him home and watch him struggle until the withered bone simply gave out. We chose amputation. The surgery was performed by Dr. Tyler Ley at South Valley Animal Hospital on March 15th, 2012 and was a success.

The surgery didn't mean that the cancer was gone. It was already in his bloodstream and the next stop would be his lungs. Because he was an older dog, he had the advantage of the cancer moving slower than it would've in a younger dog. Following the surgery, we were instructed to take him in for chest x-rays every two months. X-Rays in May showed that the cancer hadn't spread. X-rays in July showed that the cancer hadn't spread. Maverick learned how to move on just three legs, and life was as normal as we could've hoped.

The September x-rays brought bad news. The cancer had spread to a lung. A 2-centimeter tumor was found in his left lung. Dr. Ley really didn't want to give us a time frame for how long Maverick had, but after prodding from us he told us it could be anywhere from 1-6 months. Home we went. Maverick loved car rides even though it usually meant going to the vet. I guess he liked going. He liked anything that had other people involved. In turn, the vet staff loved him back. We heard a story of one tech who ate her lunch with Maverick every day when he was recuperating from his amputation. "This one's special."

When Maverick was first diagnosed, we had a goal for how long we wanted him to live. We wanted him to make it to our birthdays, and to have one last Christmas together. Like a good boy, he came through. In the period from September to mid-February, there were walks to the mailbox and back, chasing after the garbage trucks, and general goofiness. Only the leg was messing. The spirit was the same. Always the same.

The night of February 16th, my wife and I were watching TV, with Maverick at his customary place by the couch. Suddenly, Maverick sat up. The look on his face was odd. It wasn't what he'd usually look like if he had heard a strange noise. It was a look that something was wrong. I rushed to his side and had him lay back down. He haltingly did so (with kisses to me for the assist), and that was it for the night. Following that episode we noticed that it was getting increasingly hard for him to use his back legs. We surmised that it might be joint related. Only having one front leg made it tough to do normal stretches. There would be long periods of rest and we figured that the back wheels were getting rusty. He would even hesitate to come to bed for his normal afternoon nap with me. Oh, he'd make it, but only after maximum effort was given.

Sunday, February 24th. Shannon and I were getting ready to run some errands. Not knowing how long we'd be away, we decided that we better let Mav out to do his business. After a few minutes of rubbing his back legs it was time to get up and go out. Only his legs wouldn't work. He tried to get up and run, only to fall on his side. This wasn't sore joints. This was the beginning of what we'd been preparing for since March 11th, 2012.

Errands were scrapped. vet was called. Being Sunday, the office hadn't yet opened so we had an hour to wait. Maverick knows that shoes being out meant we were soon to leave. and he began to whine. And shake. Thinking back now, the whines sounded like "Please don't leave me. Please don't leave me!". We stayed by his side, and put the shoes away until it was time to go.

After my wife got her Jeep out of the garage, I went to get my shoes. Back came the whines and the shaking. He attempted to get up, but fell awkwardly on the kitchen floor. The floor is tile, and even a healthy dog will slip on tile trying to get up. There was no way he was going to get back up on all threes. I would have to scoop him up and take him to the Jeep. It was only with the help of Shannon that we were able to pick him up and take him out. It would be the last time Maverick would be in the house.

The vet informed us that Maverick's cancer had quintupled in size in one lung, and a new, smaller tumor had formed in the other. The mass was the biggest the vet had ever seen. The larger tumor had caused nerve damage that was affecting his ability to walk. His legs were almost numb. His quality of care was wonderful. His quality of life was awful. We made the decision to end his suffering. This was not going to get any better for him.

Upon entering the exam room, we found Maverick lying on a blanket, with a pink towel under his head (Pink! Oh, the indignity). He was thrilled to see us. From the neck up, everything was working. From the neck down, everything was shot. Our vet that day, Dr. Morgan Daigle, told us how the procedure was going to go. They were going to administer a massive shot of propofol, which would knock him out. Then a second shot of something else (you'll have to forgive me for not remembering. I'm surprised I remember as much as I do) that would stop his heart. We sat on the floor with him and fed him turkey, his favorite food. He gobbled it up and licked his chops. One last time, I whispered "kiss daddy". Then the shots were administered. Within a minute he was gone. The moment of Maverick's passing was the calmest moment in all of the time spent since his original diagnosis. I gave him one last kiss and we left the room. We'll pick up his ashes this weekend.

The hardest thing to do wasn't letting go. The hardest thing is coming home to an empty house. No happy face to greet me when I get home. No anything. Just silence. And memories, memories everywhere. This post is in no way cathartic to me. I don't feel better after writing this. If I did a decent job, neither do you

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Being a Realist Sucks, Sometimes

Gun owners are proving to be a disappointingly thin-skinned bunch.

I say that as a gun owner who doesn't believe for a minute that someone is going to come knocking one day and take my .38 away. As expected, the aftermath of the Newtown massacre has been as predictable as a Lifetime movie. Memorials strewn with candles and teddy bears. Cries for solutions and change. Legislators pledging action. Pro gun folks challenging anti-gun folks to come and take their weapons at their own risk. At the center of everything, there's this: Solutions are impossible. We're not one day closer to solving anything. We're just one day closer to another senseless act of violence. That's the only certainty.

Laws and regulations will continue to be enacted and ignored. Those who wrote the legislation will pose for photos and sound bites. Some will feel better. Most will just shrug their shoulders. Those are the realists who, like me, know that all the regulations in the world can't prevent tragedies. To me, the one person that could have most prevented Newtown from happening was Adam Lanza's mom. Her boy wasn't all there, yet he had access to a cache of weapons and knew how to use them. Say this for the mentally ill- they sure are adept with semi-automatic weaponry.

I guess I feel a little safer having a gun, though if a circumstance arises where I'd need it I can't say for sure if it'll help. I hope not to find out. As Newtown fades from front page to back, the end result will probably be more feel-good, meaningless regulation, selfish posturing and zero accomplishment. Simply being sad can never be enough these days