Recurring Nightmares

NIghtmares, unicycles, pets and a universal truth.

I just woke up from a brief nap. We had fairly broken sleep last night because Katie probably has a urinary tract infection, so she was visiting the yard every couple of hours.

I woke up because I was having a nightmare. I was lost on my unicycle in my parents’ old neighborhood, which isn’t that far from here. I lived there for over ten years, and it’s not that large, so I’m not really sure how I was lost.

That’s when I realized I have been having the same recurring nightmares lately. I’m lost in a neighborhood that resembles one where I had my old paper route, or I’m lost in a neighborhood that resembles where my parents used to live. Sometimes, it has combinations of both with parts of Plano added for extra terror.

There are a few other constants in the dreams – I’m lost, I’m on foot or on a unicycle, there are rarely other people around. When I wake up, I’m still trying to find my way home.

The only true constant is I am always approached and befriended by dogs, usually three white ones, a large one that looks like a poodle, a medium-sized one that looks like a Lhasa Apso, and a small mutt.

I’m sure the white is symbolic. The sizes are just from reading Goldilocks too many times as a child. I have no idea where the unicycle popped up. I’m pretty sure my foot surgeon would frown on a unicycle since I broke my foot walking.

As to the causes. maybe it’s depression from 2020. Maybe it’s stress from being unemployed again. Maybe it’s from sleeping too much with a dog smashed against me.

However, I prefer to think it’s a reminder for everyone – dogs are often your only true friends, and dogs will love you even if you’ve lost your way.

So, a gentle reminder, especially at the holidays: pets are not good gifts. Pets are a gift that come with instant responsibilities, and long-term commitments. Don’t give a gift that brings happiness on Christmas and is in the shelter by Easter.

Most importantly, if you have a pet, love your pet. They love you, no matter what.

And stay off your unicycle. You don’t want to get lost.

Murphy James Gilhooly, 2006-2019

Murphy James Gilhooly was my puppy for almost thirteen years. As much as Ripley was supposed to be my dog, Murphy was my dog. It is very difficult to say “goodbye.” However, today we had to do so.


We met Murphy after an East Lake Pet Orphanage Advisory Board meeting in early 2006. He was at least a year old at that point, but we’ll never really know, since he was adopted. The rest of the board said there was a gorgeous Cocker we just had to meet.

This should have set off warning bells.

The rest of the board assumed we would love a Cocker since we already had one, and they knew we had adopted an additional dog already. Most of them were pet fanatics, so what’s the difference between two and three dogs?

So, we went down to the adoption area to meet Java. As the staff opened his crate, a brown blur rushed out, straight into a glass window, and bounced off.

Then, he did it again.

This should have set off warning bells.

What really happened is that I thought, “This dog is so stupid, he deserves to live with us.”

I didn’t like “Java” as a name, since Java was a computer programming language I fought with every day at work, but I liked having a name that reflected his coloring. (The staff picked “Java” to mean “coffee”.) My first thought was “Guinness”, but he wouldn’t pass as an Irish Setter, so I had to find another Irish Stout. Murphy’s Stout, founded by James Murphy. So, reverse the name, and Murphy James was ready to come home.

Virginia still blames me for the adoption since I had him named before we left for home. However, this is not true because I had to get home first to look up Murphy’s Stout.

Murphy and Katie doing laps
Doing laps with Katie

Murphy actually accumulated names over the years. I’m not sure how it started, but by the end, he was Murphy James Elliott Macintosh McIlhenny Molanaphy Gilhooly, Esq. Elliott is my sister-in-law’s cat (with a slightly different spelling.) Macintosh is what I am typing this on. McIlHenny is the maker of Tabasco, which Virginia requires for her eggs. Molanaphy was a classmate of mine in grade school. I think. However, Murphy was pretty sure his first name was “Dammit.”

Before the adoption could go through, we took Bubba over to meet his potential new brother and they got along fine, so we signed the paperwork and Java became Murphy. I’m still not sure Murphy ever knew Bubba was a different dog. I have a feeling he always thought Bubba was his reflection, just a different color and doing different things. Murphy was not a Rhodes scholar.

The Graduate

However, as much as Murphy’s intellegence has been questioned over the years, he is the only one of all of our dogs to graduate from puppy training. I’m still not sure how he did it, but he actually graduated. (They didn’t let him keep the hat.) He has a diploma (somewhere) to prove it.

Murphy drove my sister-in-law Mary crazy one visit while she was Mom and pet-sitting because he always wanted to be touching her. Most dogs want to be in proximity, but Murphy perferred direct contact. (He would sit pressed up to me on the couch.)

We had phone calls in France about “the brown one won’t stop touching me!”

That said, Murphy was the only one of our dogs Mary said she would take if something happened to us. So. maybe “annoying” eventually became “a certain charm.”

We’re not sure where Murphy actually came from – we know he began his rescue life abandoned and tied to a tree with his sister at the SPCA. He had chronic eye issues, so he was thought to be unadoptable. Luckily, East Lake Pet Orphanage took him and nursed him into shape, and then he met us – a couple who already had a dog with chronic eye issues. We knew how to do eye drops. Well, Virginia did.

Murphy had eye issues. He had allergies. He had bad skin. He blew out one of his ACLs before I blew out mine, then he blew out another one. He was basically the poster child for why breeders are often considered evil and why pure-breds are not always better. He had every issue Cockers were known to have. He had more specialists than I do, but he enjoyed car rides, and he loved his vets, no matter what they did to him.

His biggest problem was his food allergies, since it meant we couldn’t put his pills in bread or hot dogs or Pill Pockets, like normal dogs. His hunting instinct was pretty much useless on anything other than medications hidden in his food, and finding cookies in his eye doctor’s lab coat pockets. By the end, Virginia was making grilled chicken, grinding it up, and putting his pills in chicken. Maybe he wasn’t that dumb.

Peanut Butter

He also could not easily be distracted. One of the vets said that when we had to give him a allergy shot, we should just distract him with a spoonful of peanut butter. A normal dog would start licking the peanut butter off the spoon, and never notice the shot. Murphy would ignore the peanut butter until he had been given the shot, and then lick it off.

The one time I had to take him to visit one of his specialists alone, we were lead to an exam room and he immediately pooped on the floor. A lot. So, I asked, “Uh, did you guys need a stool sample today?” The vet tech said, “No”, so I said, “Then we need some paper towels. And a mop. And a gas mask.”

Murphy wrote our family Christmas newsletter before Rocky took over. It was vastly more popular than the ones I wrote. Murphy got a thank-you note from my Aunt. Hand-written. In the mail. The next year, Murphy wrote about how my sister-in-law was “cheap with the treats” and started a firestorm with my in-laws. Virginia had to remind them Murphy didn’t actually write the newsletter.

Murphy was a good dog, but they’re all good dogs. I’ve had some hesitations about adding dogs to our household with almost all of our dogs. My only hesitation with Murphy was I wasn’t going to call him “Java.”

Cocker Guards
Murphy and Bubba, guarding the yard

He was the happiest dog I have ever known.

Godspeed, Murph. We’ll see you on the other side. I hope Heaven doesn’t have a glass door.


Funeral Rites (for a Rat)

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here today,
to remember our brother rat.

He died as he lived his life,
On the patio, and in the yard.

Place rat gently in the pooper scooper.

Please forgive his brother Chihuahua,
Who really just wanted a new fuzzy toy.

As we process to his resting place,
We commit him to his Creator.

Oh, Lord, bless this rat.
Unto You, we commit his soul.

Dump gently over the fence.


Notes: Yes, the Chihuahua did it again. I admit “brother” rat is an assumption because I really didn’t want to be examining a dead rat’s genitalia on a darkened patio. You have to say “resting place” and not “final resting place” because while the Chihuahua is inside the fence, there are other critters on the outside. Rest In Peace.

Death Shake

It occurred to me this evening that “Death Shake” would be a good adult ice cream drink or perhaps a dance for heavy metal fans. However, it’s also how a Chihuahua helps dispatch its victims after catching them.

Why would I think such a strange thing? It’s been a long evening.

I have managed to miss almost all of the killings my various pets have committed over the years. I’ve paid for a number of the victims to be removed from various pets’ various internal organs but that’s about it.

Until tonight.

Our Chihuahua, Rocky, takes forever to potty. He will walk the yard, walk the fence line, freeze when there is any noise within a 15-mile radius, and then have to remember why he was in the yard in the first place.

I’ve often wondered what would happen if people were like dogs, and had to wander in and out of every bathroom in the house before finding the “right one” which happens to be the same one every time.

Tonight, Rocky was wandering around on patrol and then by some miracle, he actually peed. So, we were probably half-way done.

Then, the yard patrol commenced again.

Then, he pooped. Victory is ours!

However, I was standing by the bedroom door, and he knows that means he’s going in his crate. He does not like his crate until he is in it, so he avoids the door. He wandered off towards the gate.

As Rocky passed the pile of dead branches and leaves that I have been mentioning to someone who shall remain nameless (but will enter this story in a few paragraphs) to have cleared for about ten years (really, just ask the yard guy to do it), I heard a squeak. I only hear that noise from him when he’s frightened or desperately trying to get outside to chase something. That was my first warning. It was also my last.

Then, I watched Rocky dive into the dead branches pile. It wasn’t a dive, it was like watching a spear flying through the air. He speared something.

He came out of the pile. There was something in his mouth. It was too large to be a baby bird. What else could he have caught?

Oh, Lord.

Rocky ran out, did a quarter-lap around the yard, and stopped, shaking furiously. Whatever he had was getting the life shaken out of it. Literally.

I had always heard Chihuahuas catch rats and then shake them to death, but I figured that was just a legend, like Santa Claus or IBM permanent employment.

It was a mouse. My wife says it was a rat, but I don’t want to have a rat problem around the house, so it was a mouse.

Rocky ran off again, still carrying the victim in his mouth, then finally came up on the patio, and dropped it. This is the first time he has ever dropped anything I’ve told him to drop, so he was probably just tired.

The mouse lay on the patio. “He’s dead, Jim.” There was a small puncture wound on his side. It doesn’t take much to kill a mouse, especially when you get shaken (not stirred) right after a small puncture wound is applied.

So, I picked Rocky up, mainly so he wouldn’t attack a corpse, and noticed there was mouse hair sticking out of his mouth. Now, I have a pretty strong stomach, but that kinda grossed me out.

I pulled the hair out of his mouth. Now, I had blood on my hands. Literally.

At this point, I called for backup. Unfortunately, the only backup was my wife, who tends to freak out about freshly dead things just a wee bit more than I do.

So, I’m holding a Chihuahua whose still cooling down from the kill, a woman who hates rats is trying to figure out if she can save the dead one on our patio (the pet rescue force is strong with this one) and I just want someone to take the damn dog from me so I can wash the blood off my hands – especially since I’m not really sure if it is dog blood or rat blood.

Well, this was a fun evening. What shall we do next?

So, I’m worried about rabid rats – mainly because this Chihuahua is crazy enough while he’s not rabid. My wife is worried about the death of a poor, innocent animal (“Honey? It’s a rat.”)

I’m secretly proud of Rocky because this rat is smaller than he is, but he whacked it good.  I’m pretty sure I can’t admit that out loud. I pet him, slyly.

We put the rat-mouse in a box. Well, I put him in a box. I was told that was cruel to leave him to die, but he was already gone, and I didn’t have a rat euthanasia kit handy. I suppose I should have checked to see if “he” is the proper pronoun, but I didn’t have the time. If I had, my wife would have just asked if he had been neutered.

I would bury the rat, but that would just give Rocky a chance to dig him up and kill him again. Zombie Rat Apocalypse, anyone?

So, corpse removed – sort of, it’s in the garage – crime scene secured, now we tend to the perp.

I carried Rocky into the house, so my wife could wash his wound with soap and hydrogen peroxide. She had to stop and get the dog shampoo. In the middle of this ministration, I finally said, “CAN I WASH THIS BLOOD OFF MY HANDS?”

So, witness cleaned up, perp cleaned up, victim removed, crime scene secured.

Time for dinner.

Medium-rare steak. Hmm. Not the best choice after just washing blood off a witness and a perp.

Maybe I’ll have a salad later.

So, Rocky will go to the vet in the morning, to check the small cut on his lip and make sure he didn’t catch anything while murdering an innocent. He will be walked on a leash for a while, to avoid killing off the rest of the mouse family that is probably now in mourning. (“Has anyone seen Steve?”) I’m not sure what will happen to the victim. I personally could probably use some therapy for this, but I got 1000 words out of it, so I should be fine. Eventually.

Rocky is disappointed there isn’t a cool chalk outline on the patio that he could show the other dogs.

The Essence of Ripley

Two more memories of Ripley, both involving sleep.

Two more memories of Ripley, both involving sleep.

When our first dog, Bubba, came home, he seemed to have some behavior issues. These culminated in his marking my side of the bed (ick!) His trainer said he was trying to assert dominance, and the procedure to stop it was easy: you tied him on a short lead to the bedpost, so he could sleep near us, but not on the bed with us. After a couple of days, Virginia caved and removed the lead – but Bubba slept on the bed, and no more dominance issues. He learned his lesson.

With Ripley, we decided prevention was better than cure. We tied him to the bed with a short lead, and went to sleep. In the morning, he was sleeping on the bed. On a very short lead. The rest of the lead was still attached to the bedpost. It was in his way, so he had just chewed through it, so he could sleep where he wanted. He learned a slightly different lesson than Bubba had. Advantage, Ripley.

Virginia and Ripley had an ongoing battle on sleeping by the side of the bed. They each wanted to sleep on the outside, nearest the side of the bed. (Ripley’s sister Katie sleeps next to me on the side of the bed now, but if she wants to sleep next to the side of the bed, I don’t care. It keeps me further away from the monsters.)

Virginia asserted her dominance and put Ripley between us, so she could have the outside lane. Once she was asleep, Ripley jumped out of bed, went over to her side, and started scratching on the bed. Virginia moved over. Ripley jumped up and slept where he wanted. Advantage, Ripley.

Ripley J Gilhooly (1998-2016)

Hey! My dog is over there!

Ripley J Gilhooly crossed the bridge on August 16, 2016. My wife Virginia and I adopted him in 2001 from Richardson Humane Society, so he had been in our family for fifteen years. He had been with us almost from the beginning. Bubba, our first dog, was a wedding gift, and Ripley was Bubba’s dog. (Ripley was in charge, but he let Bubba think he was.)

Bubba once had a playmate because my Mother-in-law visited for the winter and she had a Shih-Tzu named Flower. When Flower went home to Jersey, Bubba was lonely. So, Virginia decided Bubba needed a dog.

IMG_2117Sometime in the Spring of 2001, Virginia dragged me to a Richardson Humane Society garage sale fund raising event. It was a Saturday morning before dawn, I hadn’t had much coffee, and I was desperately trying to avoid any manual labor. I think she may have literally dragged me.

We passed a couple of puppies in a baby crib. (I’m a Grandpa now, so I know it was probably a Pack’n’Play.) I looked in, looked at Virginia, and said, “Hey! My dog is over there!”

That’s how I met Ripley.

Virginia had said Bubba needed a pet, but I think she had a short list of breeds in mind, including Shih-Tzus, and “stumpy mutt” was not on that list. So, Ripley was not her first choice. He may not have been in the Top Twenty.

So, let’s review our first impressions.

  • Me: “Hey! My dog is over there!”
  • Virginia: “That is the ugliest dog I have ever seen.”

Her sister and niece also thought he was ugly. Apparently, Ripley was tearing up a blanket in the crib, but I had not noticed. All the women did. Apparently, this was a warning sign. I ignored any warning signs.

He was my dog, that was all I knew.

I still don’t know how I knew he was my dog. I have met a lot of dogs since. We have three others in the house now (Murphy, Katie and Rocky). We’ve lost four in the time we’ve been married (Bubba, Sparky, Max and Flower.) So, I am quite familiar with dogs. When Murphy ran into a glass wall – twice – in five minutes, I said, “He’s dumb enough to live with us.” We inherited Flower. When I saw the look Virginia gave Rocky after she rescued him, I said, “He’s not going anywhere.”

Ripley was just my dog from the moment I saw him.

Ripley, of course, thought he was Virginia’s dog. I’m not sure if this was a neurotic need to win over the one who voted against him, or if he liked a challenge, or if he just figured out rather quickly where the food came from.

Somehow, the ugly dog became her dog, and then he wasn’t ugly any more. (He was my dog very briefly, when somebody had to bathe him after he managed to dig up the garden an hour before both families arrived for Christmas dinner, but there was little doubt the rest of the time.)

We always assumed he was not loved very much in his original home, especially after we found out he and his sister had been dumped at the shelter, but the family came back the next day, and picked up his sister. They abandoned him twice in two days.

He had spent time at a number of foster homes with Richardson Humane Society – when we took him to a reunion one year, everyone seemed to know him. I never understood why nobody else had adopted him, because everybody loved him. I think he really was supposed to be my dog. Well, Virginia’s dog. Our dog.

Food was Ripley’s passion. When Ripley moved in to our house, he discovered we were free-feeding Bubba. Bubba was very good at self-regulating, he would eat until he was satisfied, and then he would go play or sleep or annoy one of us until we played with him. Ripley parked himself in front of the food bowl and ate. The bowl was magically refilled by his new favorite parent. He ate some more. It was filled again.

Eventually, I found him, lying next to the food bowl, just flicking his tongue in and out to eat without having to stand up.

The vet weighed him at his first checkup. He was no longer underweight. In fact, she uttered whatever the veterinary term is for “Holy crap!”

We stopped free feeding.

Ripley would eat, and then go help Bubba finish his food. 

We started feeding them in their crates, which we still do today.

It took a long time to figure out what breed Ripley really was, because the shelters tend to just put down whatever pops in their heads, and rescues will label a dog whatever they think is an adoptable breed, and it’s not like anybody has medical records for them.

Ripley was a “terrier mix” for a long time until somebody finally said he looked like a PBGV (which is Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, a French breed that nobody had ever head of.   PBGV sounds very sexy (the full name sounds sexier, but only with a French accent.) Translated, it’s a Small (Petit) Low To The Ground (Basset) Wire-Hared (Griffon) from Vendeen. Everything sounds better in French.

Ripley was small. He was low to the ground. He had wired hair. We’re pretty sure he was a native Texan, though – he would always bark at cows or horses on the TV.

After we met Ripley at the RHS event, we found his foster Mom, arranged a playdate with Bubba, and after they seemed to get along, we decided we would take over fostering him. We did the paperwork to be a foster, but nobody believed it. We were foster failures. He never left.

Until today.

We’ll never know how old Ripley was, since he was rescued. People figured he was born in October 1998 or so, so he was probably at least 17 years old. We know he left us on August 16, 2016.

After he passed 10 and had survived three back surgeries, I had actually thought he was immortal. That’s not exactly true – after he had torn the skirting off the couch, chewed the bottom of a $3000 dining table and dug up the garden an hour before family and in-laws arrived for Christmas dinner – all within his first year with us – and survived all of that, I thought he was invincible.

If I ever got caught doing something that really annoyed my wife, I was planning to just say, “Ripley said it was OK.”

Ripley was not very good at training. Someone who is married to me thought he was stupid, but later realized that he’s just stubborn.

Bubba flew through training, so we took Ripley along one week. Ripley appeared to struggle. The instructor had a firm policy to never say “No!” to a dog – you would redirect from bad behavior to good.

As far as I recall, this is his first and final training lesson:

  • Trainer: “Sit, Ripley!”
  • Ripley rolled over.
  • Trainer: “Let’s try again. Sit, Ripley!”
  • Ripley rolled over.
  • Trainer: “Once more. Sit, Ripley!”
  • Ripley rolled over.
  • Trainer: “NO! NO! NO! NO!”

I have never been more proud of one of my dogs. I managed to not laugh until we were in the car, but I still giggle today when I think about it.

Here are the commands Ripley eventually mastered:

  • Do you want to go outside?
  • Let’s eat dinner
  • Let’s go take a nap
  • Let’s go get a cookie
  • Go in your crate (this required cookie bribes)

(He would sit occasionally. If I saw him about to sit, I would say, “Sit” just to take credit. He never really learned to roll over, so he just knew how to push a trainer’s buttons.)

Ripley would jump over our baby gates (used to keep dogs out of specific rooms, like the room with the skirt-less couch and chewed table) because we never told him he was not supposed to jump the gates. We have a video of him jumping the gate, wearing a SuperDog cape. We were stupid dog parents early on. Eventually, this lead to his back trouble.

Ripley had one of the most expensive backs ever.

Ripley ruptured his back at the start of Memorial Day weekend 2005, just before we were supposed to leave on a trip up North for my niece’s wedding. Nobody actually cared if I was there, but my Mom-in-law was coming in my car, as she wouldn’t fly. So, I had to go.

That was the weekend that we learned Ripley understood math, since his emergency surgery cost almost exactly the same amount as what we had saved for the trip. To those who thought we should just “put him down and get another dog”, I will say this: We did what we thought was required as good pet owners, we got ten more years to spend with Ripley, and I got out of a wedding. I think we made the right choice.

Ripley had another rupture and one more round of surgery a year later, but after that, his neurosurgeon must have paid off her yacht, because she suggested that we go to OSU and have disk ablation surgery. This procedure prevents further ruptures. (Wait. There’s a cheaper procedure that prevents doing that other procedure you’ve done twice?)

So, we spent a romantic weekend in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Of course, on the way to the pre-op exam, Ripley stopped short in the parking lot, and Virginia tore her Achilles, trying not to step on him. So, now I had two creatures limping. (I did ask if we could put my wife down, but the vet said “No.”)

Ripley was a very good learning experience for the student doctors. One held him gently while they were inserting an IV because “he was so friendly.” She learned quickly that if you poke a dog with a sharp object on one end, the other end is likely to bite whomever is holding him gently.

The vet leading the team said, “Well, she won’t do that again.” Ripley was a teacher.

Ripley was quarantined as a bite rísk while he was recovering from surgery. I don’t think anyone really believed he was a bite risk, but rules are rules. I had never had a dog in quarantine before. It made him sound tough. Ripley ended up in quarantine and on crate rest at the same time, so he slept twice as much.

He got much mileage out of his bad back, since he was the only dog in the house that could trip someone, and instead of getting yelled at, he would get petted to see if he was OK. I’m pretty sure he knew this and milked it.

Here’s another lesson we learned: Short dogs can’t get your attention easily, especially if they don’t bark much. The fastest way is to poke you in the legs, or nip at your ankles. So, Ripley did both. Actually, he only nipped my wife, but she’s slower than I am (probably from the ankle injury.) He would poke me.

One day, I was standing in the kitchen, and I felt a poke. I moved over a bit. Another poke. What was wrong with this idiot dog? I moved over. Poke. Move. Poke. Move. Then, my wife said, “You realize that now you are standing by the cookie jar. You’ve been herded.”

I gave Ripley a cookie.

He only did that a couple of times before I learned.

After that, I would just go stand by the cookie jar to begin with, mainly because Ripley taught Katie to poke me, too.

Ripley did learn one useful trick after his surgeries, so he was trainable, after all – we put ramps by the couches and bed, and he (mostly) stopped jumping on and off the furniture, and used the ramps instead. I do think it helped that they took less energy to use. Nonetheless, the one other command he (mostly) learned was “Ripley! Use your ramp!”, which was generally yelled from across the room as someone saw him heading over the side of the couch.

The ramps will stay, even though he’s gone, because all the dogs have learned to use them.

Ripley was a world-class napper. I was always afraid all of the energy he was storing up would come out at once, and we’d have a supernova. Unfortunately, it never happened. He just left us quietly.

You never miss a dog right away, especially if there are other dogs in the house. However, over time, you realize that all dogs are equally adorable and annoying – but in their own unique ways.

There will never be another Ripley.

He was my dog.

I miss him.



Christmas Newsletter 2013

Editor’s Note: The physical Christmas cards are a wee bit late this year. We plead vacation. Every year, my wife demands a Christmas newsletter, because all our friends have one, and every year, I realize I just don’t have the energy or creativity to do one. So, I’ve decided to let the pets take turns. This year, Rocky the Chihuahua drew the short straw. However, he seems to think it’s a privilege, so it may become his job permanently.

Feliz Navidad!

Hola, everybody!
RockyMy name is Rockford J Gilhooly, and you can call me “Rocky.” I am the newest member of the Gilhooly clan, Galemeadow chapter, and my very wise Cocker Spaniel brother Murphy told me that the new guy receives the honor of writing the family Christmas newsletter. He was giggling after he told me that, but I’m not sure why. Dad told me I wasn’t supposed to make the newsletter all about me, so I guess I will talk about some of the other people around here, too. It’s just I’m the most important.

I have never actually been in a family where the pets write the newsletter, but I heard that Murphy’s newsletter was much better received than Dad’s.

So, this is the 2013 (semi-) annual Christmas newsletter, but the story actually begins on April 30, 2012. That morning, Mom was at the vet with one of the other guys when a lady carried me in. I had been hit by a car, and both my back legs were broken. The lady was very nice, but she technically was not a Good Samaritan, since she didn’t pay for my operation. Sparky’s Pals (and some of their very generous donors) did, and Dad took the corporate checkbook away from Mom after that. I had a femoral head ostecotemy on both legs. Dad said that my surgeon, Dr. Mountain, removed the heads of each femur and that scar tissue (hopefully) would grow up and replace the joint. (I don’t know what’s he’s talking about, either, and they’re my legs.) Dr. Mountain thought one leg would heal well enough to let me walk. He wasn’t sure about the other one.

Well, I can run and jump and climb on Mom’s head when she’s sitting in her chair or lying in bed, and I even climbed over a baby gate to say “Hola” to Uncle Stephen one day, so I guess the operation worked! Mom and Dad tried very hard to find a family that would adopt me, but eventually, I wore Mom down, so I’m staying here, with the rest of the PsychoPuppies. Dad said even if I left, I would still be here because I shed. Ha ha. So, now, I get to write the newsletter! (Dad said they named me “Rocky” since I fought a Cadillac and almost won. I don’t know what that means.)

Enough about me. For now. Let’s get on to the other news, even though there isn’t much happy to report this year.

Dad said this was probably the first Christmas newsletter that has an obituary section, but some years are like that. He said if I knew basic Latin, 2013 would be Annus horribilis. I think he was just trying to remind you, my dear readers, that he and Uncle Stephen went to prep school.

Mom’s Aunt Lucy Veccia died in December, 2012, just before Mom and Dad left on their annual vacation. They were with her the night before she passed away. On the day Aunt Lucy passed away, Mom found out that she had been appointed the executor of her estate, and she’s hoping to have all the paperwork done before the end of the year. Aunt Lucy would have liked me, because she was a dog person. Dad said her dog was named Rags. Mom and Dad created a memorial website for her at for her family and friends to visit.

My grandpa, John Vincent Gilhooly, died in February 2013. Mom and Dad had dinner with him the night before he passed away, so the last thing Mom did was feed him (the Italian way) and the last thing Dad did was get him a drink (the Irish way.) If I had been there, I would have climbed on his head (the Chihuahua way.) I never got to meet Grandpa, which is sad, because he would have loved me, even though he wasn’t a dog person. Everyone is a Chihuahua person! You can visit his memorial website at for more about him, including the obituaries and eulogies. Mom said that most of the people in the Church laughed during Dad’s eulogy, but they were supposed to laugh, so it was OK. I’m not sure Dad understands funerals very well. (Grandma is just glad Dad didn’t refer to all the priests and deacons as “Men In Black.”)

While Mom was starting to work on Aunt Lucy’s estate, her cousin Donna (one of the beneficiaries) passed away, so Mom got to help deal with that estate, too. So, there were three deaths in the family in about six weeks, and that was just the start of the year. Do not make Mom your executor, unless you want a very cranky one.

To summarize 2013: Mom spent all year doing estate paperwork, Dad spent all year at the office with three new managers in three months, and I spent all year working on the newsletter. I think I did the best job, don’t you?

Sparky’s Pals was pretty quiet this year, except for their stellar failed adoption of me, which started last year. Mom and Dad are hoping to get the school programs going again next year, estate paperwork willing. In the meantime, Dad did manage to get KNON to play public service announcements for Sparky’s Pals, so if they’re not in schools, at least they’re on the radio.

KNON was nice enough to play the PSAs because Dad is President of the radio station! It’s actually a non-profit, community station, and if you’re not in Dallas, you can listen online at Dad said to remind you that you can donate online, as well. They say if you don’t like the station, just wait and they will change it for you, which is true, since most programs are only two or three hours long and then the format changes.

Dad was also Principal for a Day this year! He got to shadow the principal at Dan D Rogers Elementary school, visit all the classes, do the daily announcements, and sing “Happy Birthday” to one of the students. (Dad thinks this may have been hazing.) He also did Sparky’s Pals presentations to two of the grades so he managed to tie most of his volunteer work together. (He went back to the school for their career day and talked about IBM and KNON, so he covered everything he does at the school.) He did not take me, which was unfortunate, since I am a very good enforcer.

Mom and Dad took their annual Christmas cruise a week early this year, so they were home for Christmas. They had also taken an earlier cruise this year, in April, across the Atlantic, on the inaugural cruise of the Norwegian Breakaway. They sailed from Southampton to New York. Dad said it was on his bucket list. Mom’s friends reminded her it was about the same time of year and route as the Titanic. Luckily, they made it home. Mom said they had a cabin with a butler. She’s mad Dad won’t get her a house with a butler. I’m mad that they didn’t bring me anything. I was hoping for some British treats, even if I had to eat them on the wrong side of the couch.

Christmas this year is at Grandma Gilhooly’s house – I’ve already been there, and it’s a nice place, but there are too many closed doors – and there will be a lot of people there! J. R. and Ginger and Caleb and Carson (and a new granddaughter on the way – news if you’re not on Facebook) will be coming down for Christmas, so they will be in Dallas for almost two weeks. (Did I mention J. R. is now teaching in Ohio? No? Are you not on Facebook? J. R. is now an Instructor in Theology at Cedarville University, so the Grand Prairie gang moved from Grand Prairie to Cedarville, Ohio for the start of the school year earlier this year. Mom and Grandma are waiting for Ginger to freeze so they will move home, but considering the Icepocalypse Dallas just had, Ohio may actually be warmer.)

It will be nice to see such a large group, because it’s more likely there will be leftovers for me! I am going to start whining extra early, so Mom will take me along. I am very good at parties, and Dad said if Caleb and Carson are there, most of the doors will end up open, anyway.

Mom and Dad both said 2014 is bound to be a better year than this one, and Mom is going to kiss a stingray for good luck while she’s on vacation. This annoys me greatly, since she doesn’t like doggie kisses (they’re the best!) but she’ll kiss a big, flat fish? I don’t understand her sometimes. There is probably rum involved. (Update: Mom’s stingray trip got canceled, but she still won’t kiss me. Species predjudice, I guess.)

That must be all that’s important this year, because Murphy said the newsletter had to be three pages or less or people stopped reading it.

I’m Rocky, and I approved this newsletter.


So, I’ve heard a lot of stories about my childhood from my Mom lately. I’ve been thinking about growing up and a lot of the activities of a young man. I even redid the Stagecoach 7 website yesterday evening.

But, I never thought I would flash back to the early 60’s this afternoon.

I did. I took a nap.

It’s been said that you become a grownup the day you start wondering why you didn’t want to take naps when you were younger. Sometimes, it’s just circumstance.

Last night, Murphy the Cocker Spaniel threw up. Four times. So, off to the vet. Luckily, Hillside Veterinary Clinic is open 24×7, and it’s just down the street, so we didn’t have to contend with the emergency clinic. There were a surprising number of people there for 10:30 PM on a Monday evening, but Murphy was whisked off to the back for tests, we talked to the vet, got him some meds, and were back home by just after midnight.


Well, at least I’m working at home today, so I don’t have to contend with traffic.

Did I mention I had a six-hour web conference call that started at 7:30 AM this morning?

So, I was going to double up on the coffee, and hope for the best. Maybe this would be an interesting meeting. You know, the exception to prove the rule.

Finally got to sleep about a quarter to one, because it takes extra time to fall asleep when you’re counting the minutes you have to actually sleep. So, I should have had a good six hours of sleep. Who needs more than that? No problems.

Four AM, the phone rings. I manage to answer it, and hear “This is ADT Security. We have an alarm.” Well, my house was quiet, so it was the Spousal Unit’s problem. We had an alarm going off in one of her late Aunt’s houses in Florida.

This is one of the stupid parts about naming an executor more than one State away – how are you going to get there if there’s a crisis?

Who could possibly be trying to get into a dead woman’s house? Oh, of course. The inheritor aka the new owner. Oops.

The Spousal Unit had given her cousin the code to the alarm. It just wasn’t the code to that alarm. Oops.

So, after finally getting him on the phone (via Facebook message) and talking politely to the police officer who had arrived, everything was back to normal.

At 5:20 AM.

So, not a lot of sleep.

It actually was a good conference call – a very good discussion. I managed to stay awake the whole time, and I only had three cups of coffee.

After the call ended, I crashed for an hour. Well, an hour and a half. The stuffed animals of my childhood were replaced by live dogs trying to push me out of the way, but it was still a nap. A glorious nap.

So, I’ll work late tonight to cover the missed time. At least, I’ll stay online until everyone on my team leaves.

We should all take naps.

Dog Senses

So, dogs have a better sense of smell than humans. They have better eyesight than believed before, as they may be able to discern some colors, which is probably why our Cocker Spaniel barks at the HDTV almost constantly and the Chihuahua watches it while sitting on one of the humans. However, while dogs also may have a better sense of hearing, they do not have any real comprehension, although the previously mentioned Cocker Spaniel hates most current pop music (“Good dog, Murphy!”).

Most dogs do have a limited vocabulary (“Sit”, “Stay”, “Dammit!”), but that’s about it. This explains why two of my dogs could get into  a major snarling match while “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” was playing this afternoon. Irony, anyone?


I’ve never been able to understand people who think any deceased person can immediately be replaced with a dog. Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent twelve years in and around animal rescue, but the worst possible gift for anyone is a living being that requires constant care and feeding. It is the gift that keeps on costing. (I have five dogs. I love my dogs. The costs never end.)

A pet as a gift makes no sense any time, much less as a distraction from grieving. A pet is a living being with a unique set of needs and a unique personality. It is not a fashion accessory. A pet owner makes a commitment to a pet to care for him for his lifetime. This should not be a commitment by proxy. It should not be an arranged marriage,

Pet owners require the ability to find their pets. Hopefully, this will happen at their local rescue. The human-pet bond is a magical thing, but it cannot be forced or assumed. If you’ve decided to adopt, go to your local Adopt-a-Pet and meet the pets. If your dog is there, you will recognize him. If he’s not, try again the next week. Your dog is waiting for you. However, your friend’s surprise pet is not.

You can divorce a hastily-chosen spouse. You can’t divorce a pet. Divorcing a pet means leaving him at the shelter – which depending on his age, size and breed could be a death sentence.

The next time one of your friends is widowed or divorced or dumped, just drop off another person of the proper sex and age and say “Here’s your new partner. You have to clean him and feed him, but I’m sure you’ll get along fine. Forever.” If you think that seems insane, why would you do it with a dog?