Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Recreation”

You Were Always There For Me

Well, this story was not supposed to take this long to come out, but as the organization that was supposed to publish it, got delayed because of Covid19, I have decided not to wait any longer.

So, this is a project that I do every year.  It is a short story piece that I write and submit for publishing.  This year I had decided to write about experiences with my late fur friend, but from his point of view.  I hope you enjoy it.

I want to thank fellow long term cancer survivor and author Lara Vaughan Lazenby for her help with this story.


You Were Always There For Me

Hi there.  My name is Pollo, pronounced like the cologne, but spelled like Spanish chicken.  I do not know why I was given that name.  But hearing it has always made me happy, and I heard my name a lot.

Paul always seemed to know what I liked, and what was best for me.  In fact, I knew I could always count on Paul.  There was this one time he took me swimming, because I really liked the water.  I was a really good swimmer too!  I think I had fun because all I remember of that day is one moment I was splashing away, and the next, I was running from this other person wearing a white coat, towards Paul.  His eyes were leaking.  I did not understand this.

Fortunately, I would remember everything else as I got older.  Like this one time, Paul went out the front door, but did not come back in, for six lights and darks.  This was unusual, because Paul never went anywhere without me.  We were buddies.  When he finally came home, I was so happy.  And I let him know it too.  My tail wagged so hard and fast, it knocked everything over within reach.

But there was something odd about Paul.  He did not seem like himself.  He actually smelled kind of funny.  I have never experienced that smell before – not from the house, the car, outside – very unusual.

Paul was happy to see me too, though he could have been a bit more excited.  Something was different about him.  When he would feel better, we could get back to normal and play.  In the meantime, I just sat beside him, stared up at him, with my head on his knee.  He had always taken care of me.  It was my turn to take care of him.

Another situation would happen again, only this time, strange men came into our house, woke us up, and then took Paul away on a bed with wheels.  It would be days before I would see him again, and he came home with that same odor.  I did not like that smell.

I could not understand why this kept happening to him.  We liked to play and have fun.  I missed that.  From what I could comprehend, Paul was sick a long time ago, and these events that kept happening to him were because of that.  The important thing… he kept coming back home.

And it was a good thing.  Because I found myself needing attention too.  Being a golden retriever, I loved to eat… everything.  This one time, I found this thing in the ground.  It was so yummy, but soon after, my head started feeling funny.  Then my stomach.  Paul had to take me back to those people with the white coats again.  And just like Paul, I came home.  Every time.  You see, I kept on doing it.  They were so yummy.

We both got older, although I feel like I got older more quickly.  Of course, my backyard habit did not help every time I ate those things.  Paul and I hung around the house a lot more than we used to.  I guess we each had our own reason.  I was happy to just sit next to him, or on him, and have him scratch my ears.  I really loved that.

We kept taking turns going away.  Paul seemed to do it a lot more, but he always came home to me.  He needed me.  He could depend on me.  And I could depend on him.

There came a time when things got really quiet in our house.  It was also more dark inside the house and outside.  Paul turned on lights making it brighter for him, but the funny thing was, it did not get brighter for me.  I could not get up the stairs anymore, so Paul made sure I had a comfy place to sleep downstairs not just occasionally, but all the time!  He always took great care of me.

One morning, Paul came downstairs right on time to let me outside.  He caught me by surprise, but I knew it was him.  I could feel it.  I stood up, stretched.  He opened up the door.  But I did not move.  I could not.  Just then, I felt myself being lifted… but in such a way that I felt as if I was being tightly hugged.  I could not see him, hear him, or smell him.  But I knew it was Paul.  We always took care of each other.  He always knew what to do.  I liked when he hugged me so tight.  But all I wanted to do now, was run again.  Now I can.  Paul made sure of that, just like he promised.

Back When Pro Wrestling Was Fun To Watch

I am taking a deep breath today.  No Covid19 talk.  No protesting.  No cancer.  Nothing serious today.  Instead, I want to share some memories from a simpler time.  It was a simpler time, as I often remind my daughters, “stay a kid for as long as you can.”  It was a time period in my mid-teens.  I had just switched schools.  I made several friends right off the bat.

One of those friends invited me to come along to his bowling league.  I had prior experience where I had moved from.  I enjoyed it.  But had no opportunity in my new location.

My friend had told me that he was going to be a “coach” also for the younger bowlers, the real little squirts, back before there were bumpers in the alleys.  The plan would be to bowl the first shift, early in the morning.  Then we would walk a few blocks away to his grandparent’s house, have some lunch (a hoagie from the local grocery store), watch this thing called “pro wrestling” for a little bit, and then walk back to the alley to coach the little kids.

We did this for a few years.  It was the same routine.  And while my bowling skills improved over time, it was the time in between the bowling shifts that I remember most.

I enjoyed my friend’s grandparents.  They were very sweet.  During our lunch break, my friend’s grandfather would always tell us of his experiences in the military during the war.  This was not entertainment I want to emphasize.  I was learning.  I was drawn to his details and that is where I first learned to always say thank you to those who have served and sacrificed.  This “friendship” would carry on into adulthood, and we would all bowl together as adults in league play, even winning a championship.  I often felt of him as a grandfather, because that is how kind he was.

So anyway, after we were done eating and talking, we would go into their living room and turn on the television to channel 9, a New York based channel, for Saturday pro wrestling from what was filmed by Vince MacMahon, the son of the prior owner, of the original World Wrestling Federation.

The first thing I had to learn, was that pro wrestling was fake.  The second thing I had to learn was not to say that pro wrestling was fake.  Pro wrestling is definitely not fake, though it is performed.  But you really have to be in awe of some of the physical conditioning of some of the athletes and superstars, as well as the physical stunts they perform, 99% of which I would never survive (I am fairly confident I can bounce off of the ring ropes).

Unlike today’s WWE, that records their shows in major venues like stadiums and arenas, back in the day, pro wrestling used to be filmed in a “farmer’s market” section of the Allentown Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania, called Agricultural Hall.  Once or twice a month, the WWF would roll into town, and record three episodes worth of matches to be televised on Saturday mornings on syndicated cable television.  Attendance was probably the size of a basketball court, not the arena, smaller than the size of an elementary school gymnasium.

Another cool fact, the ring announce, was an elderly man by the name of Joe McHugh.  A scrawny cigar smoking man, holding the mic lowered from the rafters, wearing Mr. Magoo glasses.  He was THE announcer before Michael Buffer was ever born.  Turns out, his brother was the principal of my high school, located just blocks away from Agricultural Hall.  My connection to watching the WWF was firm.

My stepfather, did accounting work on the side for local hotels.  It just happened that some of the hotels were where many of the pro wrestlers would stay while in town.  This would lead to one of the few subjects that I could talk about with my stepfather.  I needed to know who was in town as if it would give me a clue as to potential changes of championships and such.

My interest would take a strange twist.  One night, while visiting my grandmother, I asked to watch pro wrestling on her television.  And that is the first time I learned that my grandmother was a fan.  I lived with her for nearly fifteen years, and never knew it.  She enjoyed the women wrestling and the “midget” (yes, I know not a nice term, but that was how they were referred to before we all got woke) wrestlers.  What she enjoyed was those wrestlers getting involved with the referees of the match.  Really it was quite silly to watch.

But those Saturday mornings, they were special, fun, a lot of memories.  I honestly do not recognize the majority of pro wrestlers today.  As we deal with the restrictions of Covid19 (yes I know I was not going to say that word), the WWE, which films here in Florida, films in front of an empty audience.  And it is just weird, almost as sad as watching a soap opera.  But either McMahon or the network got smart and made the decision to show older matches, and not just from 2018, but completely retro, back to when I used to watch.

Recognize this guy?  That’s right, it is The Rock, Duane Johnson, also known as Rocky Maivia.  His father was also a great pro wrestler, named Rocky Johnson.  All of a sudden I was seeing all kinds of matches back from when I thought the WWF was enjoyable, involving Shaun Michaels, The Undertaker, Brett Hart, even Hulk Hogan.

But the truth is, I go back way further than that.  After watching a documentary the other night of a career autobiography of a journalist, part of his life was focused on his personal interactions with the WWF.  And then my mind really went off the deep end in memories.  Reflecting back to those Saturday morning with my friend and his grandparents.

Yeah, this is when I thought pro wresting was good.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved watching the Undertaker and Brett Hart and all of that next generation.  But once the story lines began to involve McMahon and the owners, and making it more nepatunistic, I began to lose interest.  Today, I find it difficult to watch at all.

But for today, I am remembering those fun and simple times.  Good memories for me.  A time that I clearly took for granted and would give anything to have back.


Adopt! Don’t Shop!

It is perhaps the best slogan/advertisement.  Easy enough to remember.  Just three words, “adopt, don’t shop.”

I got triggered this morning, because of all ads to appear on my news feed, is the advertisement for a new pet store that is opening today.  In general, I am not opposed to pet stores, just those that sell dogs and cats.  And this is one that does sell those cute and cuddly kittens and puppies.  It is also a chain of stores.

I am not sharing a snapshot of the advertisement because I do not want to draw attention to their disgusting business.  But I noticed something when I responded to the ad, with an angry emoji, and an explanation of why pet stores that sell pets really should not be in business, a sentiment echoed by others on that same ad.  Later in the day, the comments and ability to “like” or dislike the ad were turned off and the negative comments were removed.  And then, more ads for the same store came across my feed, and before I could respond on those, as any advocate would do, the ability to comment was also turned off.  So far I count at least six attempts for them to try and get some positive exposure.  But as I mentioned, this is a chain store, and that means that people who had negative experiences will share those negative experiences in any perspective new locations.

Instead of just facing on the criticism, the most frequent complaint, selling puppy mill puppies, their first line of defense is “deny, deny, deny.”

Semantics is defined by Websters as the “language used to have a desired effect.”  In other words, pet stores deny that they buy from puppy mills.  And technically they would be correct.  Except they have a middle man called a broker.  This broker goes from puppy mill to puppy mill, then sells those cute and cuddly puppies to the pet stores.  Semantics.

How can I prove this?  Simple, I went through the experience.

This was Pollo, an eight week old Golden Retriever.  OMG he was so cute and cuddly.  I really had no business going into the pet store in the first place.  I was leaving on a week long trip in two weeks.  Really bad timing.  But he was sooooo cute.  I had to have him.

Pet stores know what they are doing.  They know we cannot resist puppies.  Why do you think people avoid walking into animal shelters, because they know there is a good chance they will walk out with a rescue, because we have hearts and empathy.  But to be able to get a puppy and start from the beginning?  They are just so cute!

And then, if you are unfortunate, you find out there is an ugly truth behind where he came from.

Pollo loved the water.  At around the age of six months, he experienced an episode that I ended up carrying his limp body into the vet hospital.  I never did find out what happened to him, but he did recover.  To help the vet, I figured it would be helpful if I got the health history of his parents and I approached the pet store for his vet records.  That is when I ran into an unbelievable roadblock and in the end, discovered that Pollo came from a puppy mill in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area.

This is not a photo of the exact Amish farm that Pollo came from, but it is very similar to the image of where he came from.  I know this, because of my efforts of involving the USDA, the Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture and Dog Warden, journalists and more.  As we got close to the truth, circumstances got bizarre in that evidence of any puppy activity had been relocated, we would later discover to another family member, a common tactic to avoid regulation and discovery of these awful conditions.  All because the pet store fought me on some simple and basic information.  The pet store, Pollo, and I all ended up on People’s Court over this very issue.  Needless to say, they lost.

Other than that one fateful day, I enjoyed nearly fifteen years with my best friend, known affectionately as “the Happy Golden,” a nickname because of his non-stop wagging tail and always giving the appearance of him smiling.  My fur family member went to the Rainbow Bridge nearly seven years ago, breaking my heart, but not my resolve.  I am unable to have another dog yet, emotionally.  But I will still advocate for awareness of the need to adopt the many pets that are abandoned, lost, or even rescued.

It has been a long time since I got involved in this effort, the last time happened when that same pet store opened a new location where I was living previously.  But as this new pet store is opening today, with lots of fun and excitement, and get this, $500 off the price of a new puppy.  THIS IS DISGUSTING!!!!

The puppy mill industry is a billion dollar industry for the Amish and other groups.  And the more puppies you buy, the longer they are all just too willing to meet the demand.  Remember the picture above.  I have seen situations way worse, and it is only because of pet stores selling their merchandise.  Stop buying puppies from pet stores, and the demand stops.  It is that simple.

There are all kinds of ways to adopt pets, even puppies if that is a requirement.  There are animal shelters, humane societies, and even breed specific organizations.  There are so many ways to adopt a wonderful fur friend who has been abandoned or lost, unable to be found by its owner.

But the demand needs to end for puppies from puppy mills, and that starts with stop buying dogs and cats from pet stores.

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