OLIVER’S ‘TWIST’…

We owe celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver,  a SUPER-SIZED thank you. In the March 5, 2012 edition of Canadian Business (“Winners & Losers”), it was reported that he (and his band of revolutionary food gurus) sounded the alarm (either before, during or after) a McDonald’s USA invite to McDiners to tweet any and all nostalgic or memorable family moments spent under the reputable rooves (or should I say ruse?) of the Golden Arches.  Oops! Big mistake! A tale of tainted taste buds!

McDonald’s garnered more negative feedback than a night at Air Canada Centre watching  the Maple Leafs “Please-stop-booing-we’re-doing-the-best-we-can!” brand of hockey.  To paraphrase Abe Lincoln (who thankfully never wore a Leafs uniform), ‘you really can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time’…unless, of course, you work in the McAd department. McDonald’s foray into the untested world of Social Media proved to be one small McStep for Mickey D’s and one giant bleep from its supposed fan base. America’s corporate, baby behemoth took one square on the McChin.

Ammonium hydroxide anyone? That’s what Oliver claims McDonald’s had been using in its hamburger preparation to turn parts of the cow (usually reserved for making dog food) into an offering of mouth-watering McHamburgers. AMMONIUM HYDROXIDE! Mr. Clean knows about it: a CHEMICAL used in the formation of household cleaning products! The boys in the War Department know about it: an important CHEMICAL used in manufacturing explosives. AND THE BOYS IN THE McLABS KNOW ABOUT IT: 1.Take meat (reserved for dogs). 2. Mix with AMMONIUM HYDROXIDE (Warning: Use eye protection!).  3. Grind meat scraps mixture into a pink, meat-like paste. 4. Form into patties. 5. Add seasonings and flavourings until it smells like ground beef (which it really isn’t but that’s our company secret isn’t it?). 6. Flash freeze and off to market… Enough to make anyone McBarf!

Allow me add my two cents. Years ago, a well-known Greek restaurant owner/friend told me a tale about a group of high-up McDonald ‘suits’ who often frequented his establishment for staff meetings and/or power lunches (they preferred real food). On one occasion, he overheard an excited babble about a new product that was to be introduced into the McDonald’s ever-expanding product line. Move over, pseudo-beef burgers. Chicken McNuggets have arrived!

Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried one (or six) of these golden gems of lightly battered and seasoned, all-white chicken pieces, served hot and juicy with your choice of dip (don’t even bother trying to pronounce most of the ingredients). Tell Ronald McDonald to wave the McStar Spangled Banner and lead his loyal McFlock to try these magnificent, magical, mouth-watering morsels that even the poorest of poor can afford. It will be Love at First Bite!

Now for the bad/sad news…According to my insider restauranteur/friend, these so called all-white chicken, lightly-battered chunks were not meat at all. THEY WERE GROUND UP, PROCESSED CHICKEN BONES! Hey, if one has the brains, the chemicals, the machinery and the balls to do it, then anything is impossible. It even proves that some THING can come from no THING! A bit of a McBig Bang Theory wouldn’t you say?

Of course, that was then, this is now…McDonald’s has apparently stopped the use ammonium hydroxide (I would too if I had a gun to my head) and, in all likelihood, has altered its McNuggets recipe (Weight Watchers endorsed them as healthy in 2010…Google it, ye of little faith!). There’s no telling what collateral damage has been done to the faithful flock of McDonald supporters who, for decades, have put a Big Mac ahead of mom’s home-made meatloaf. Time will tell (just like Jamie Oliver did). We’ll leave any alarming or shocking health impact reporting to the statisticians at Heart & Stroke or the American Cancer Society. It just goes to prove, however, that if you kick a stubborn mule enough times in the ass, it may grudgingly budge.

So McHats off to McDonald’s for making things right (at least that’s what we’ve been told), but, more important, three cheers for Jamie Oliver and the growing army of Food Revolutionaries.  I pray no one puts a McGun to your head…

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TRICKY NIKI POOPIE BUTT #’s 6 & 7

***If you missed installment #5, click here.

To start from the beginning, click here.

SIXTH AGE: “…the slipper’d pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side, his youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide for his shrunk shank; and his manly voice turning toward childish treble, pipes and whistles in his sound…”

God, in His wisdom, when He set out His Plan,

Must have thought it important to give the age-edge to Man,

For every year that a dog lived, a man would get seven,

Was God saving the best seats for dogs up in Heaven?

Or, did He know, that having a pet would be pricey?

Between feeding and vet bills, things could really get dicey,

So He put it (in small print) a lasting provision,

Placing Mankind in charge of any ‘last-call‘ decision.

I prayed that I’d never be faced with the fact

That I’d draw the curtain after Nick’s final act,

The bond was so strong between me and my Pal,

How could I do it when things weren’t so swell?

Yet I knew…

In my heart the way Life deals the truth,

I’d be there for my bud when he grew long in the tooth…

And so it was…

At age twelve, Nick was slower and sore,

‘Still a youngster!” you say, well… no…84!

He’d developed arthritis and an X-ray showed lumps,

(Like me, years ago), he felt down in the dumps,

He couldn’t stop panting; he seemed lost in space

And restless, for hours, he did nothing but pace…

Of course…

We had sought out professional prognosis,

Thinking Niki the victim of some senile neurosis?

“He’s constantly thirsty; he’s peevish and antsy,

And he barks out whenever it tickles his fancy.

His eyesight is fading; his hearing is poor,

And he won’t make the effort to go outside anymore…

And that lump you removed, has begun to regrow,

Doc,” I asked meekly, “Is it Nick’s time to go?”

“Hmmmmm….”

said the vet, with deliberate pause,

“Niki has Cushing’s, that’s the probable cause

Of his panting…This lump, though, I cut out way back… when?”

I thought for a second…”It was when he was 10.”

“Yesss…It’s most likely cancer…so I’ll leave it you?

We can keep Nick alive for a year…maybe two.”

“Let’s do it!” I said, “he’s not ready…I know!”

“You sure?” “Yes! I’m sure. Let’s get on with the show…”

The decision was made; I didn’t mind the expense

For the dollars I’d spend to buy time, just made sense…

The surgery went well; Niki’s will was undaunted,

Redeeming good health was what everyone wanted;

Within weeks he’d recovered with a new sense of vigour,

We were back in the saddle: Roy Rogers and Trigger!

For the next several months, Nick had found his old groove,

Though a tiny bit slower, he’d gone all out to prove

That age is a number, he was young-at-heart still,

(Of course, forgetting to factor the power of his pill)

Which he hated, and like mosts kids, he would refuse,

Till it dawned on me one day: “I know what I’ll use!”

Yes, it worked, and the new taste sent Nick’s heart in a flutter,

I owe it all to the good folks, who make Kraft Peanut Butter

Organic of course, Niki still knew the difference

He had a nose for the good stuff – a sixth sense I call ‘snifference‘.

But all things have a shelf life; there was no use denying,

I could feel in my soul…my best friend – was still dying…

There were times…

I felt guilty…Had I been his supplier?

Was I putting a patch on a used, worn-out tire?

Which, at best, you’d agree is a temporary fix,

And besides, Nick had managed to reach 96…

It was comforting to know Nick had given his all,

And was ready, I decided, for his last curtain call.

For age, like the ocean, had worn down the shore,

Eroded the coastline ’til there wasn’t much more,

It’s the way God intended and there’s really no choice,

Time had whittled his body and softened his voice.

SEVENTH AGE: “…second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything…”

It’s sad to see someone you love become ill,

Whose life is dependent on some stupid pill,

And so, after Christmas, of two thousand and seven,

I helped my best friend find his pathway to Heaven…

There, in the vet’s room, I felt less than a man,

Niki lay on the table, ( I think he knew the plan),

The vet slipped him the needle and then left us together

To face, for the last time, this bad bout of weather…

“It’s all right Nick…you can go now… you’ve done everything right.

You’re a good boy…I love you…close your eyes now – say goodnight”…

And I bent down, said a short prayer and I gave him a kiss…

It was Nick’s turn to speak: it went something like this…

“I know it’s the hardest thing friends have to do,

Saying goodbye to me, saying goodbye to you,

But you saw me grow weary with each passing week,

And you did with your heart what my words could not speak”…

Outside, (it was evening), I saw snowflakes so white,

Like angels, that had come down, to see things were right,

And I swear, Niki’s spirit, was in their midst, all aglow,

Smiling back at me , knowing, it was his time to go…

“I’ve found Heaven my friend; I’ve been in It since birth,

When you found me; I found you; yes, it’s right here on Earth,

The angels just told me (when it came push to shove),

What we thought was Heaven, is Unconditional Love,

And that’s what you gave me, through good times or bad,

Believe me, you were the best thing this dog ever had…

We’ll always be together, from  finish to start

You’ll be part of my soul; I’ll be inside your heart…

I do have to go now, I’ll be back soon –  we’ll talk,

An Angel just asked me to go for a walk…

I hope I don’t shock her, if I do…you know what…”,

“Time to leave now, Tricky Niki”…(“Psst, she forgot Poopie Butt!”).

The snow  had stopped falling and in that brief moment fleeting,

Nick had gone for his last walk – his heart had stopped beating.

I couldn’t help thinking; through those tears came a smile

My dear Nick, now an angel, had gone out in pure style…

And it’s true, since that night we went our separate ways,

As the minutes turn to hours and the hours into days,

As summer brings the sunshine and those winter winds grow colder

My beloved dog still walks with me, his paw upon my shoulder.

The end… is to love.


TRICKY NIKI POOPIE BUTT #5

***If you missed installment #4, click here.

To start from the beginning, click here.

FIFTH  AGE: “,,. the justice, in fair round belly with good capon lined, with eyes severe and beard of formal cut, full of wise saws and instances…”

Would age and experience make this dog any better?

Reconsider his motives? Follow rules to the letter?

Would he stifle his ego (which proved shameless and frilly)?

Let’s just put it this way: Nick was Nick, so, not really

The kitchen is the place where dog’s love to loiter,

Most driven by instinct, they must reconnoiter

Every square inch of tiling, if it’s there, they will find it

The tiniest morsel, when it’s food, they don’t mind it!

Our Nick…

As I’ve mentioned, had a keen sense of smell,

Which could lead him to treasures, or, sometimes to hell

I remember the day that I cooked Texas chili,

(I prefer things so hot that it supercedes silly),

Well, accidents happen and I dropped a Scotch Bonnet,

But before I could bend down, Niki was on it

For your information, these peppers I use

Are considered the hottest in most experts’ views,

Poor Niki, unaware of the consequence dire,

Took a bite… and that pepper, at once, turned to fire!

Thank goodness…

I had just filled his dish with fresh water,

Nick resembled a pig, condemned to the slaughter,

His little pink tongue, like a rattlesnakes’ warning

Kept lapping and lapping for most of the morning…

One would think…

that his near-death experience might quell

The precarious enticement to eat things that fell,

But no! When his fiery mouth stopped from throbbing,

Nick returned to the kitchen and resumed his hobnobbing

With me, whom he knew, other things I’d be chopping,

And if I stayed the true course, then more foods I’d be dropping…

“Nick, mind your manners and show some decorum!

Who d’ya think you are, Caesar? Well, this isn’t your forum!

Get out of my kitchen! Stop acting so crude!

This here is yours truly; over there is your food!”

Much like a pauper, Nick would head for his bowl,

With an aura suggesting his food had no soul,

And it worked, I gave in, how could anyone quibble?

I threw in a bit of spiced meat with his kibble…

In seconds, he’d downed it, this tasty new dish,

(It started me thinking: ‘he must have a death wish‘),

The meat worked its magic; I could feel Niki’s pain,

As his stomach erupted, I let him out in the rain,

“That’ll teach you!” I called out, “that greed is a vice!

Before diving in, one should always think twice.”

But dogs will be dogs; he’d remain unconcerned

And would pick up, where he left off, if and when, he returned…

Well…

It was not long thereafter that Nick became manic

After Laura introduced him to foods pure Organic,

Laura, certified in holistic nutrition,

Was convinced that Organics would improve our condition,

Including the dog who jumped right on the wagon;

(‘No more scrounging for food from that that fire-eating dragon!’)

He’d grown wise to any and all who might sell it..

And had learned, before gobbling, to take time and smell it!

But his tastes, thanks to Laura, became pure and sublime

He figured, ‘Why go for regular when they’re offerin’ up prime?

Pure meat and kibble such as Chicken with Rice

And vegies fresh picked from the fields – oh so nice!’

Within weeks, Nick seemed different, Laura claimed he looked svelte,

And I could tell by his mien how much better he felt,

By hook or by crook, Nick was all for expedience

A spokesman against artificial ingredients..

But like most things, eating healthy, became an obsession,

And raised expectations even through the Recession,

Like Big Ben which tolls daily breakfasts and dinners

If his food was not served up on time, we were sinners!

And he’d treat us as such, with a mean snarl or growl

Knowing sooner than later we would throw in the towel…

Poseidon would say Nick had turned back the tide,

He’d regained the momentum, and I just couldn’t hide

The truth, Nick maneuvered from minus to plus,

He usurped the name master; he began training us!

Oh, the things we learn too late in life are deplorable,

From those who we once found so cute and adorable,

Nick’s icy deportment was not without flaw

Like Louis the Sixteenth, he acted very bourgeois…

There’s a warning to those who grow fussy or haughty,

Who sit on the edge of being “Good boy!” or “Naughty!”

Like Scotch Bonnet peppers, in life there are worse things,

And it’s people – not doggies –  who control all the purse strings…

So it didn’t take long knocking Nick off his throne,

We put him in ‘prison’ and wouldn’t toss him a bone…

It took time and patience but it worked in the end,

Nick accepted his station, in our home he’d ascend

To a far better mindset, where all can agree,

When enough is enough, let it be, let it be…

For dogs, just like kings who insist on refinement,

Might one day be victims, of a poor man’s confinement.

***Please note: installments 6 and 7 (the final ones) coming Feb. 8

TRICKY NIKI POOPIE BUTT #4

***If you missed installment #3, click here.

To start from the beginning, click here.

FOURTH AGE…”a soldier, full of strange oaths and bearded like the bard, jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel, seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth”…

Nick was an English Beefeater at heart,

Serve and Protect – he was there to impart

To the postman, a stranger, my mother – Beware!

“I’ll bite first – then ask questions for any who dare

Knock at the front door, or enter my yard

Will be bitten on site!” signed, Security Guard.

Whenever he saw or heard something outside,

His temperament changed from Jekyll to Hyde,

A misguided misanthropist – a seeker of thrills,

Our very own Hound of those dear Baskervilles…

The rabbits who roved in our yard were alert,

The squirrels and cats with this squirt wouldn’t flirt,

For they knew, that within lurked a phantom – a beast

Whose prime motivation was to make them deceased!

So…

If alien beings appeared in our yard,

Niki revved up his voice box and barked very hard,

And before I could stifle his inbred depravity

He’d fly out the door, defying all but the gravity…

A heat-seeking missile, he’d be hot on their tail,

A dog on a mission who just couldn’t fail,

The unfortunate twist, though, something Niki did hate,

Every foe he pursued had rehearsed its escape.

Although…

One, I recall, missed a turn and retreated

Right under our deck, at which time it secreted

An odor so noxious, it put Nick in a funk,

He learned in that moment not to chase down a skunk…

Well…let me tell you, Niki sure got his fill,

He showed up at the back door looking forlorn and ill,

When I finally caught wind of his horrid aroma,

I swear that it nearly put me in a coma!

“Good gracious!” I gasped as I started to choke,

“You bonehead!” were the only two words that I spoke,

Poor, down-trodden Niki, now a victim of wrath,

Had an uneasy feeling that my anger spelled bath…

I believe…

I explained Nick’s aversion to grooming,

But this time was different as that skunk smell was looming,

For what seemed a lifetime, I hosed him and rinsed,

I soaped him; I scrubbed him; he whined and he winced…

Please…

Don’t tell my daughters; I want this fact unknown,

In my panic I sprayed Nick with their Eau de Cologne,

But I had no more options, what else could I choose?

You might have done the same thing had you been in my shoes!

Living is learning some wise guy once said,

And I think this experience went right to Nick’s head,

From that day, he had learned, what is wrong – what is right,

And to never! Not ever! Hunt things black and white.

Of course…

We spent time in the backyard where boys will run free,

Niki’d start in with taunting: “No chance catching me!”

And he’d take off like lightning with me in pursuit,

Thor chased by Igor – things just didn’t compute,

I panted and ranted; he’d zigzag and swoop,

There were time I’d lose focus and step in his poop!

I would freeze; Nick would know that our game had just ended,

He could sense from my actions, I was somehow offended…

So he held firm his ground from a fairly good distance,

Hoping I’d take the path – one of lesser resistance,

“You win! I concede! What’s a guy s’posed to do?

When his best bud plays dirty…I’ve got poo on my shoe!”

Then, off to hose I would tip-toe and wince

All the while, he would watch me, my Cockapoo prince…

Who, by the way…

Was ever alert and never stopped hopin’

That someone forgetful would leave our gate open,

An obvious invite – a chance to explore

A world mostly viewed from behind a closed door…

No second thoughts needed, his instincts alive,

Niki made his escape – start the countdown, from five…

With reckless abandon, no regard for the rules,

This intrepid explorer sought out riches and jewels,

Fearless, no care of the least consequence

Like a coureur de bois (after all, he was French!)…

He knew he’d be found out, so he didn’t waste time,

Straight to a hydrant where he stopped on a dime

And sniffed in the scent of each Tom, Dick & Harry

Then peed on it too – to make other dogs wary…

But freedom is fleeting – the posse approaching,

And Sheriff would claim he would still need more coaching,

So off to the neighbour’s where they caught him a-stoopin’

Yup, they got him red-handed; our cowboy was poopin’…

Sure…

I’d take him for walks, even that  was a chore,

Overlooking the fact I had two feet – not four!

He would pull me along – Hey, what could I do?

It was often the case of ” who’s walking who?”

I knew what the rush was; I was ready for war,

Territory was one thing but Nick wanted more!

I get it…

Dogs peeing and pooing is a natural defense

Of keeping their ‘neighbours’ on their side of the fence,

Nick’s need for relief bordered on the perverse,

Was his aim to lay claim to the whole universe?

What’s worse…

Nick had the instincts of a cat, more a leopard,

And he’d mastered a bark that would scare off a shepherd,

It was his way of knowing that he’d never bungle

His chance to portend he was King of the Jungle!

Granted, his size, was no match for the ruthless

Who sensed Niki’s carriage was bogus and toothless,

My sheep in wolves’ clothing often got a good lickin’

From dogs, who knew deep down, that Nick was a chicken.

One day, for example, he confronted a Chow Chow,

A much larger hound with a much meaner bow-wow,

“Hey pal!” Niki growled, “Just get out my the way!”

“Go ahead,” said the Chow Chow “Let’s see you make my day!”

Brave Nick, like Houdini, he struggled and strained

And finally got free from his leash which restrained,

He went charging at full speed – a dangerous pace,

In a second the Chow had put Nick in his place…

Niki the Ruler of north, east, west and south

Ended up captive in the bigger dog’s mouth,

To avoid imminent death in this ugly ‘kerplunkle’,

Nick did submit, yes he quit, he cried “Uncle!”

On another occasion, one that drove Niki crazy,

Was the time he put moves on a Shih-Tzu named Daisy,

Ladies are lovers when wooed by a fellow

Who carries himself with a temperament mellow,

But Nick, as we know, lacked that je ne sais quoi,

His timing was off; (his number one flaw)…

So he never reached first base and came home with a limp

A true oxymoron, a bona fide jumbo shrimp.

And that my dear friends is a glimpse of Nick’s life,

Who lost many battles and did not gain a wife;

His bubble was burst more than I care to say,

But we must give him credit: he had earned his bouquet…

***Please note: installment 5 coming Feb. 7

TRICKY NIKI POOPIE BUTT #3

***If you missed installment #2, click here.

To start from the beginning, click here.

THIRD AGE…”the lover, sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad made to his mistress’ eyebrow”…

Niki was l’homme de la dame in his youth,

His approach to the ladies though often lacked couth,

“Je t’aime,” he’d begin, “ma belle petite amie…”

A debonair start but then he would pee…

Even worse, after wooing with his Frenchman’s refrain,

It seemed part of his pick-up, again and again,

“Excusez-moi s’il vous plait”, and then he would stoop

Right in front of his mistress, he’d take time to poop.

Oui…

The French have a word that eluded cher Nick,

It outlines the right way to pick up a chick,

But Niki was boorish and brusque on the set,

His rules of engagement often lacked etiquette.

“That’s not how you do it!” I tutored and tutored,

And one day I reckoned that Niki be neutered,

But this never stopped him, he kept right on pushin’,

And found his new girl friend, a brown, sofa cushion…

Really…

All through his life, Niki filled us with laughter,

Finding the spotlight  was what he was after,

A pooch Panasonic, ‘ahead of his time’,

A theatrical showman, a canny canine…

Beware…

Bath time for Nick in a word it meant ‘hide!’

For some unknown reason, it injured his pride,

I think, though, he knew why, he had it down pat,

When soaked to the bone Niki looked like a rat…

A big rat at that and compounding his fears

Accidentally, if soap touched his eyes or his ears

Or his nose for that matter, the ultimate curse,

For he’d snort like a workhorse which made everything worse….

And dogs without tails are atypical cases,

Which meant I might find hardened chunks in some places,

Yes, guck that had stuck and was hard to get out,

Poop! Stinky poop! That’s what I’m on about!

“Nick! You’re disgraceful! A cur to you species!

I find it repulsive touching any thing’s feces!

From now on, I promise, if not later than sooner,

I’ll be shipping you off to a qualified groomer!”

And that’s what I did, having felt so emcumbered,

I let Niki know that his bath days were numbered,

So little we knew what the future might hold

In the hands of some stranger, stranger things would unfold…

Like the time that I took him for his once-a-month prim,

Which included a toe clip, shampoo and a trim,

I never did know how the job would turn out,

There were some anxious moments that filled me with doubt…

That is to say…

When grooming one’s pet, one must carefully choose

How much hair the dog should ultimately lose,

In Nick’s case we opted for less poof and curl

Cause we didn’t want Niki to look like a girl…

I remember this one time when the groomer was new

I could sense that she had her own plans what to do,

It was like she primed Nick for a Hollywood set,

In the end our dear starlet, we renamed Nicolette…

The top of ‘her’ head was teased high – way too poofy,

And the length of the ears? Way too long – way to ‘Goofy’.

But the ultimate downer, which all dogs must dread,

The groomer had pinned a red bow on Nick’s head…

We all teased him a bit when we got him back home,

“Ma petite Nicolette, vood you like zees nice bone?”

I could tell that poor Niki wouldn’t take any more

When he lifted his leg and peed on zee floor!

Now…

Laura and Lin always thought Nick was cool,

But they never imagined he might jump in a ‘pool’,

It had snnowed; it was cold; on a clear winter’s night,

They were out in the hot tub, the water, just right…

Nick, full of envy, having just eaten his grub

Figured he was a member of the girls’ hot-tub club,

He greeted my daughters like a petty purloiner

And signaled to Lin that he wanted to join her…

Niki circled the sauna, Lin could sense his intent,

Laura eyed him with caution; she too knew what this meant,

“Buddy,” be careful, “don’t you act of a whim,

This hot tub’s for people so you’re not allowed in”…

Did this ditty deter him? Did the warning he heed?

Would he come to his senses? Would he finally concede?

He weighed out his options and the advice of my daughter,

And backed off, remembering, he didn’t like water…

Besides…

He was freezing, his coat had turned icy,

Staying out for much longer could be dangerous and dicey,

But he needed redemption, saving face his main goal,

Off he went, head held high, and wrote his name in the snow…

No one could deny…

Nick was the type who thought outside the box,

He could sense opportunity; he was sly like a fox,

And his Donald Trump tactics, which, in others inspired,

Kept him focused on winning, never once was he fired…

Hosting at parties became Nick’s specialty,

He welcomed his guests like a good Maitre d’,

And found someone, make that anyone, willing and able,

To slip him a handout from under the table…

His attention to people was greater than great,

He was hoping, of course, food might fall from their plate,

There was seldom a need for a mop or a broom

‘Cause Nick was our very own Hoover vacuum…

Infants with cookies was Niki’s prized prey,

Once locked on his target, they could not get away,

He’d follow his victims wherever they’d waddle,

Then pilfer the goody and drink from their bottle…

How clear I remember my grandson’s distortion

Of making us think that he ate every portion

Of meals, when in fact, he had help from below,

From Nick who’d eat anything Jaden would throw…

Like broccoli and spinach or anything green,

All of the vegies that kids find obscene,

When no one was looking, overboard things he’d toss,

They were in it together, each for profit or loss…

And I swear…

There were times when the two struck a deal,

That Jaden, the innocent, gave Nick his whole meal,

Where opportunity lay, both my buddies were near it,

Champions of entrepreneurial spirit!

That’s not to say…

If caught in their game the reprisals were quick,

No dessert for dear Jaden; in the cage for my Nick,

Yet despite all the warnings, through the yelps or the tears

This unsavoury habit carried on through the years…

Once, after a birthday and everyone’s wishes,

We tidied the front room and cleaned up the dishes

And had gone to the front door, our goodbyes there to make

But Nick stayed behind; he was eating the cake!

Plus…

It happened again at a Thanksgiving meal,

Niki jumped on the table and managed to to steal

A sizeable chunk of the turkey we’d left,

Though it made me quite angry, it was one clever theft…

I should have known better while having dessert,

That Niki was AWOL should have been my alert,

When I heard the commotion, I jumped from my seat

And found Nick in the kitchen with a mouthful of meat…

I caught him red-handed but he seemed unconcerned,

It was turkey with gravy that this doggie yearned,

“What are you doing? Get down from that table!”

I screamed, but it seemed that Nick was unable…

A classic encounter ensued in that room,

Beast versus Man (who was holding a broom),

We fought for that turkey and there ain’t no denyin’

It was very much like taking food from a lion…

“Gimme that!” I commanded. “Grrrr!” Niki growled,

“Let go of that turkey, you jerkie!” I howled,

He gulped as he growled then he started to choke

And we both realized this was hardly a joke…

Anger and fear are a strange combination,

Dislodging the turkey, our only salvation,

I pried open his clenched mouth and reached deep down his throat

And pulled out a leg bone the size of a boat!

“Let’s go little pilgrim! You’re under arrest!

So sorry to break up your Thanksgiving quest;

You’re confined to your cage for again stealing food;

Your actions have put me in one foul mood!”

What would you have done?…

The ‘age of innocence’ gave Niki immunity,

Repeating offences were acts of impunity

Which wrought repercussions in attempts to defeat him,

Not getting it right meant I just wouldn’t treat him…

But alas, I’d forgive him, no grudges I’d garner

For Nick played so well the role of the martyr,

With those sad, mournful eyes which could pierce any heart,

He never missed dinner; it was served a la carte…

Yes…

I wonder, at times, who we would have seen

Had Niki been born as a real human being,

With his love of all music, he’d be Sting or Joe Cocker

And his passion for eating? The new Betty Crocker!

***Please note: installment 4 coming Feb. 5

TRICKY NIKI POOPIE BUTT… #2

Welcome back…this is the second installment of seven

In case you missed the previous entry, click here.

To start from the beginning, click here.

SECOND AGE:  …”the whining school-boy, with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school”…

Nick seemed to think he could have things his way,

Like we were his toys with which he could play,

And despite all my efforts to have him conform,

His adherence to rules remained somewhat lukewarm.

So one day I decided, “That’s it!  No more foolin’!”

The time has arrived to get Niki some schoolin’,

It is I who’s the kingpin; it is I who will rule:

Let’s see how he fares at Obedience School!”

And that’s how I changed things; we showed up for class

With one goal in mind: that Niki would pass…

For training you see, is a challenging session,

But I was determined to make an impression…

The instructor called out, “May I have your attention;

It’s important that every pet follows convention!

Praise and reward are the paths we will follow,

To your pet, you’re the master, you must act like Apollo!”

Apollo? Did he mean we should shoot for the stars?

Was training like landing a spaceship on Mars?

Whatever he meant, it seemed rather extreme,

Perhaps this would be an impossible dream…

My first mission then ,was get Nicky to stay

In a sitting position, as I walked away;

Though the concept seemed easy, Niki simply refused,

In a matter of moments, I was dazed and confused…

“Praise and reward,” the instructor repeated,

One step at a time and you won’t feel defeated!

I’m an expert, I know, there’s just two ways to reach ’em,

With a pat on the head and a treat – that’ll teach ’em!”

Well, Nick must have heard this and seemed willing to try,

He would do the unthinkable; he would reach for the sky…

Or…

The moon for that matter, he had plotted his course,

Where he’d be the pilot and I’d be his ‘source’,

Thus each step for dog meant one treat from the ‘man’,

Even a dough-head could sniff out Nick’s plan…

He was playing it dumb, taking me for the fool,

While leading me on, thinking he was Joe Cool…

Ergo…

I then changed my approach: intermittent rewarding,

Which caused Niki  to think: ‘Is he giving or hoarding?’

By the end of that first day, my boy was a hit,

For he’d learned how to stay, how to come, how to sit;

When I thought it was time, out would pop the reward,

Niki learned there was no time to pretend he was bored…

And with each passing day he got faster and faster

At learning the tricks of the trade, he would master,

But the best thing by far – one that sure turned the tide,

Was the moment he learned he must take ‘it’ outside!

To this day…

We’re amazed at this special dog’s prowess,

His fast-learning antics sure awed us and wowed us,

For Nick could adopt every trick in the manual,

Due to the fact he was Poodle and Spaniel…

Like most dogs on earth who have so-so credentials,

Niki would pick up quite quick the essentials

Of catching and fetching and coming when ordered,

And when I felt the time right, he was duly rewarded.

The most challenging deeds, though, took more time to master,

In spite of the pay-outs, there was always disaster,

But Niki persisted, he was patient and prudent,

He had a passion for learning and became an A student…

With experience in hand and confidence gaining

Nick added humour to his everyday training,

I suppose it was his way to make things worthwhile,

But I know why he did it – to make everyone smile…

Doubtless…

One of his funniest routines had to be

When he played dead, (I’d shoot him), and he’d peek up at me,

He lay lifeless for seconds, then his one eye would open,

As to say “Am I finished?”, a reward he was hopin’…

Another performance that brought us great cheer,

He could sing Happy Birthday and Happy New Year,

The candles or sparklers would give him his cue,

And he’d join in and sing “Happy Birthday To You!”

Of course, that sounds silly, for dogs cannot sing,

In Nick’s case it was more of a loud, barking thing,

But he managed the cadence and stayed right on key,

How I loved it when Nick sang Happy Birthday to me…

Although…

Our most memorable times, which made everyone laugh,

Were his visits to classrooms to show off his math,

Yes, Niki, like Euclid, a true brainer at heart,

Knew all the right angles of playing the part…

“Boys and girls,” I’d announce, “Give Niki a problem,

He can do operations and I promise he’ll solve ’em”,

So someone might shout out, “What’s 10 minus 2?”

To which, (from his training), he knew what to do…

“Nick, look at me!” I would gain his attention,

(Together we’d mapped out our act of deception),

He’d stare at my fingers, get himself in the ‘groove’,

And bark every time that my index I’d move.

“The question, my boy, is 10 minus 2!

May we please have your answer my wise Cockapoo!”

Well, the classroom fell silent, everyone thought it great

When Nick solved the problem by barking out eight…

The kids were befuddled; they thought he was guessing

And would call out for more before giving their blessing…

“12 divided by 3?” someone called from the back,

Nick yelped out, “It’s 4!” and survived the attack,

Even the teachers were downright impressed;

Just like their students, they thought Nick had guessed,

But they took the advantage, “Do you see class, the fact is

We can all learn our numbers, but first, we must practise!”

“He can spell too,” I added, but the doubters were few,

Once again, this was showbiz, Niki knew what to do..

Now the secret to this wasn’t hard as you think,

I had trained Nick to bark once every time that I’d blink…

“Spell Mississippi!” some know-it all quipped,

Nick barked out eleven, not one letter skipped,

“Good boy!” I exclaimed and I gave Nick his treat,

“There’s no one in school who this dog cannot beat”..

“That was barking, not talking!” little Johnny piped in,

“Well, that’s true,” I said, trying to stifle a grin,

“Just remember,” I explained to those kids in a fog,

I’m his translator! Only I can speak dog!”

The kids always bought it and they took each occasion

To praise Niki, their hero, with a standing ovation…

And assured us that homework would be done without fail,

‘Tricky Nick’ earned his title from this part of our tale…

***See you again on Feb. 4

TRICKY NIKI POOPIE BUTT #1

To start from the beginning, click here.

Please note: The poetic story of Tricky Niki Poopie Butt is based on Shakespeare’s famous “All The World’s A Stage” monologue which is delivered by Jacques (a rather melancholy fellow) in ‘As You Like It’ Act 1V Scene V11. Shakespeare may have used his poetic license in paraphrasing the Latin “Totus mundus agit historionem” (All the world plays the actor). No matter, the following (as outlined in my Introduction) is meant to detail the story of a beloved pet dog Niki, with whom (not which) our family was blessed to have shared almost fifteen memorable years. Niki was quite the character as you soon will learn.

I hope you and your family find enjoyment…

THE PROLOGUE…

Shakespeare once wrote that a life’s lived in stages,

And he narrowed it down to well-defined ages,

Seven in all, where he tries to convey

We are all merely actors, and life, is a play…

Much like an adventure, we can bus it or hike it

Or as Shakespeare might say in his day: As You Like It;

Yes, it’s all up for grabs as we move through each station,

Bending, not breaking,  the laws of Creation?

Times forges onward; it can’t be reversed,

We live out our lives on a stage unrehearsed

And enter, or exit, through each act unscripted,

Every scene like a mystery – every moment encrypted;

In the end, what’s important, as that last curtain closes,

We get our name on the marquee and a dozen red roses,

For every life, like a star, in some far-off constellation

Is a beacon, has a purpose, makes a stellar proclamation.

And so…

The word play that follows tells the life of a friend,

Who stayed by my side from beginning to end

And played out each scene, like a Shakespearean trouper,

Never missing his cue, he was quite simply super;

He came to me when I was down in the dumps,

My road had been winding and so full of bumps,

What saved me? You’ll learn as you read through these pages

Was meeting a friend , who’d be my rock for all ages…

So…

“Quiet on the set, let’s have lights…camera…ACTION!

Let’s cut to the chase with no further distraction!

Ladies and gents, keep your eyes open shut,

Here’s the star of our show: Tricky Niki Poopie Butt!

FIRST AGE: …”the infant, mewling and puking in the nurses’s arms…”

Some say that a dog is man’s best friend, it’s true,

And I think you’ll agree when I tell this to you,

It’s a tale ’bout my bud who was king of all mutts,

The very best dog, no ifs, ands or buts…

He came as a present that my wife went to choose

From a litter of puppies, pure-gold Cockapoos,

It was Christmas, my spouse Judy, who was known to be picky

Got the best of the bunch. What’d we call him? Well, Niki!

The first time I met him as I walked through the door,

I couldn’t see clearly what was there on the floor,

My wife and two daughters then whispered, “Surprise!”

It was then that I heard a pup’s whimpering cries…

“Oh my gosh” I exclaimed, “It’s a dog! Am I right?”

“He’s yours!” said my wife, and she turned on the light

And there, on a blanket, in the basket he sat in,

Was my bundle of joy, “Go ahead,” Jude said, “pat him.”

Now…

The first thing that most puppies do when they greet

Is sniff you, then lick you, then fall at your feet,

Well, Nick was no different and that moment was yummy,

So I rubbed both his ears and I tickled his tummy…

“He’s gorgeous,” I said, “What do you think little dude…

“You hungry? You must be in need of some food!”

He was barely two months, I knew dogs of his ilk

Would settle in quickly if I gave him some milk…

So off to the sofa still wrapped in his blanket

I cuddled my pup and the milk? Yes, he drank it,

So content with his feeding, his breathing got deep,

And I lifted the blanket to find him asleep…

He slept, on my lap, for an hour or so,

After which it occurred that he might have to ‘go’,

So I carried him outside, he was groggy and sleepy;

But he stood there, befuddled: no poo-poo, no pee-pee…

With patience I urged him, :C’mon bud, it’s freezin’!

We’re here in the backyard for only one reason,”

But Nick, in a daze, he just stood there a-shakin’,

So I took him inside for a treat. That might wake him!

“Wait here, little buddy, I’ve got something for you;

I’ll give you this treat if…You know? What to do…”

And that’s just what he did, as he stood by that door,

He not only peed but he pooed on the floor…

Well..

I knew from that moment as I cleaned up the mess

That dogs, just like children, are a prime source of stress,

Ogden Nash (a famed poet) rightly claimed it’s a chore,

For “Dogs are perpetually on the wrong side of the door.”

This quote brings to light something trainers all need,

Every dog is a product of its own special breed,

Thus, knowing the bloodlines, a dog’s DNA code

Is vital in devising a desired training mode…

So it wouldn’t be right – how unwitting of me,

If I failed to encapsulate Nick’s family tree;

Renowned among nations, both England and France,

Two ill-sorted partners in this marital dance,

Yet, the forging together of these blue-blooded tribes,

Conceived a new breed with unparalleled vibes,

They created an offspring unique on this planet,

A cheery young chap with a mindset of granite…

Nick’s mom was a Poodle with a sassy French flair,

While his dad was a Spaniel, with a Sherlock Holmes’ stare;

La creme de la creme meets with skidddish predilection,

An undeterred gumshoe who sought only affection…

Imagine a lamb with a short, golden fleece,

And a whimsical mindset, chock full of caprice,

One minute slumbering in a field grassy-green,

Then running amuck, supercharged on caffeine….

I could never be sure which Nick might show up,

The hyped-up young hound or the angelic pup,

No matter, the point is, he was one-of-a-kind,

Like a raw, uncut diamond, which is so hard to find…

Please note…

While Spaniels have long tails and some Poodles too,

It wasn’t the case with this breed, Cockapoo;

As puppies, the breeders must choose without fail

To crop off – no, chop off – this poor creature’s tail,

It’s tradition I guess, a true haute couture touch,

But I doubt that the dogs like the fashion that much;

It’s a bit disconcerting for these French/English mutts,

To go walking in public with bare-bottomed butts,

And it’s funny, I guess, when these dogs show their pleasure

How the tiny stumps wiggle in musical measure,

And their brown eyes light up as their wee bodies shiver

Like snakes, which are crossing the Amazon River…

Like I said, it’s a matter of innate hypertension,

Some think it’s the French way of getting attention,

And it’s odd too how their sniffers stay glued to the ground,

Like Sherlock scrutinzing every scent, every sound…

Of course, Nick made a big deal of things I found trite,

Like the ring of a doorbell, be it morning or night,

He got himself wound up, in a sheer state of panic,

Like he was announcing the fate of Titanic…

Barking to this breed’s a natural condition,

Any alien sound’s sure to spark their ignition,

En garde is their motto, they will stand brave and fight,

But most think their bark is much worse than their bite…

Surprisingly…

Nick’s size belied what his stomach could hold,

He could out eat a lion if the truth must be told,

Because food -glorious food – to him was a hit,

A friend of mine called him ‘The Bottomless Pit’…

He was worse than a seagull in search of a morsel,

Or a shark in the hunt showing only his dorsal,

With eyes like that telescope in space known as Hubble,

His craving of food would get Nick in BIG trouble…

Even before my two girls started walking,

Niki, the ‘pit’, had for months planned his stalking

And knew where the ‘goods’ were – they’d be his for the taking,

Not knowing the house rules or laws he’d be breaking…

But the daring crave danger and with fears put on hold,

Niki the ‘minor’ went out panning for gold

And found it! His claim staked – there was no need to think,

It was there, in a big can, right under the sink…

Potatoes and pork chops and succotash stew,

Salads and cake crumbs and apple cores too,

Head first Niki dove, in a ravenous fit,

The first of but many a theft he’d commit…

It was I who was summoned to the scene of the crime,

Watching old t.v. reruns, I’d been biding my time

Thinking Judy was cooking, or at least making tea,

So the noise in the kitchen, in no way bothered me…

Well, those sounds became louder so the t.v. I muted

And discovered that Niki our kitchen had looted,

A thief in our midst sent my mind in a rage,

“Get out of the garbage and into your cage!”

So…

For the next several hours, Niki watched in a pout,

As his master (that’s me) would leave no room for doubt,

The time had arrived – out came child-proof locks,

Not for the girls, but my golden-haired ‘fox’!

Yet…

Nick still ‘dug’ the kitchen; it was his Home Sweet Home,

He thought himself sous-chef, Monsieur Gastronome;

A gourmand so gallant that he gladly do dishes,

But licking the plates countered everyone’s wishes,

And in light of Nick’s passion for all types of food,

There was one tiny problem we considered quite rude,

Our dog had a habit and we just couldn’t foil it,

He figured the family room floor was his toilet.

With that said…

Draw the curtain, Act One’s reached its end,

And it’s time to take Niki outdoors where he’ll spend

Time learning lessons, by which good dogs abide.

Number One: It’s important! Do your ‘business’ outside!