Friday, February 28, 2014

Walking the Walk

In the realm of pet ownership, there are dog walkers.

And there are dog-pottyers.

Dog walkers are out there every day -- often multiple times per day -- exercising their dogs and allowing them to attend to bathroom issues.

Dog pottyers either have fenced-in yards or other means of sending the dog out to attend to nature's call and then return inside. Exercise is handled via other means.

I don't judge. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.

But me? I'm a dog walker.

The habit may actually be genetic: My Dad was a devoted dog walker. He and his Basset Hound, Murphy, used a time-tested route through the neighborhood, and Murph was so accustomed to it, he would not vary it. Not one step. Which my grandmother found out when she tried to shorten it one day, and Murph protested by plopping on the sidewalk and refusing to budge.

Dad had to go rescue her after she failed to return about an hour after her departure (this was in the pre-cellphone dark ages).

So when we got Wesley, our Black Lab, he and I walked. Mornings. Evenings. For more than 10 years.

And when Parker came along in Wesley's wake, I maintained the same routine.

It's just the way I handle dog ownership. I've said more than once that if we had a fenced yard and I let Parker out, hopeful that he would do what he needed to do, he'd merely stand there and stare at the glass.

"Dad... Dad? Hey, Dad! What am I doing out here while you're in there?!?"

For the most part, I don't mind these walks at all. In the mornings, it's a terrific chance for me to just.... think. Quietly walk. Sift through some of the issues of the day prior. Brainstorm. Pray. Spend some time in peace. I do an awful lot of "writing" during these walks. Thinking up blog topics for example. Or rolling around ideas for work projects. They're a great time to fashion headlines, I've found.

This winter, however, walking Parker is a challenge.

For one, we've lost almost all our sidewalks to snowpack. That means he and I are in the streets, a dangerous place to be when the sun's not even up (No worries, though: He wears a lighted collar and I carry a high-powered flashlight). Or when we do manage to find a cleared sidewalk, I'll encounter the "snowblown path to nowhere," which is a homeowner who will clear his/her own walk, but not one square inch of snow off a neighbor's walk. So the path leads to a solid wall of nowhereville. Leaving me to tromp through the drifts and get back in the street.

Bad form, Mr. Snowblow. Can't you at least clear to a nearby driveway, where pedestrians and dog walkers can exit to the street without climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro?

My nadir was about three weeks ago, when the morning was dark and dreary and a cold rain was soaking the roadways. Within seconds, my jeans were wet, and a bitter wind was causing the denim to freeze to my thighs. Insult was added to injury when a car roared by us, spraying me with salty, mucky, slush that hit my cheeks, slid down my neck and ended up somewhere between my sweatshirt and my skin.

Parker, for what it's worth, didn't seem to mind any of this at all. In fact, the cold and snow don't bother him in the least. He loves romping through the drifts: "C'mon, Dad. C'mon. c'mon. c'mon, c'mon!!!"

Ah, the eternal cheeriness of the Labrador Retriever.

It's hard to fault him for it.

But I somehow start thinking it would be easier to take at 10:30 a.m. on a 75-degree day in May.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cold Hearted

Eileen gave me a chocolate Reece's Peanut Butter Heart for Valentine's Day.

And a card.

I immediately put the heart in the freezer.

You see, I do like chocolate. I'm not over-the-top crazy about it, but I do enjoy the taste.

But for me, it's enhanced when cold. Especially anything from Reece's, where the cocoa and peanut butter marry into something truly decadent when they're brittle-hard.

My family teases me about this. A lot. They wonder if this is a holdover from my childhood; that perhaps I got in trouble at some point for making some kind of chocolatey mess with a dessert. Messy Marvin-style.

I'm not sure... I don't remember any trauma resulting from punishment for a face smeared with the remnants of a Three Musketeers.

But I suppose it is possible.

I do remember being dragged to my older brother's football games and, in an effort to placate my whining, being given a Styrofoam cup of cocoa. But I don't think I knew it was cocoa; I think I thought it was merely chocolate milk.

And I can still recall the bitter feel of a burnt tongue, which was not at all mitigated by the sweet contents of the hot chocolate.

I do, therefore, have an iffy relationship with melty, gooey chocolate.

Two years running, I tried to make Eileen a lava cake for her birthday. She's a dyed-in-the-cocoa-bean chocoholic who I knew would appreciate a serving of soft, fudgy cake, centered with a gush of warm, molten chocolate in the center.

Trouble is, I am 0 for 2 in trying to pull this off. Mine was edible, but more like a hockey puck filled with a soft Hershey kiss.

Maybe it's a general feeling of meh when it comes to chocolate things in general. I'm not a big brownie guy, even though my family will dicker over a pan of uncut brownies, choosing either a "middle" or a "corner" as the best cut. And hot fudge leaves me kind of cold. As far as candy goes, I like other flavors mixed in with my chocolate, rather than just chocolate alone. So Reece's is a favorite. As are Peppermint Patties. And chocolate-covered strawberries.

But all in all, I'd rather have a good slice of cheesecake, thank you.

Still, when it comes to desserts, there is one thing that I enjoy being soft and mushy.

Ice cream.