The Bar Chronicles: #12, The Listener

Bar Night 2

This warm July evening was a good night for ‘howling at the moon’, so we headed for Caverly’s Irish Pub. An old dog greeted us at the screen door with an obligatory sniff from foot to knee (all he could reach) before stepping aside. I was tempted to say, ‘Fido sent us’, but doubted his sense of humor, never mind the language barrier.

The patrons are friendly at Caverly’s, as is the occasional dog who roams from table to table, lingering long enough for a scratch behind the ear. It’s said that a pet is therapeutic. So is a frothy beer and friendly conversation. We came here to do both, and without further ado, ordered our favorite brews from the chalkboard menu, scratched the dog and began another evening of beer and banter.

Only three of us tonight and once again the talk was lively, intriguing and instructional.. We learn a little bit more about each other in these ‘bar nights’. Tonight was no exception. However, we never get too far in conversation without raising our drinks and with a gentle clink of the glass, wish each other ‘cheers’.

“Are you serious, you really don’t know how to fold a fitted sheet?”

And with that unexpected ‘ice-breaker’ our exchange was underway with a detailed description of how to fold that fitted sheet. Needless to say, without a fitted sheet to fold, it was futile (long ‘u’ and ‘i’, for effect)… it was futile to expect me to fully grasp the process.

Admittedly, I’m a poor listener to instructions or directions. I did enough listening during my sales career, it’s a critical component of selling. But retirement loosened those shackles and now I primarily listen to myself.

However, critical listening is important in many areas, including military readiness. One of us, tonight, was a listener; a military listener at a far outpost during the early years of the Cold War, listening to the ‘other side’ for a ping here and a ping there to help us understand our adversary’s intentions or movements. The narrative was fascinating and we listened…stopping long enough to order another round.

The thought occurred to me. With today’s social media phenomenon when the chatter is overwhelming, do we listen more or are we too busy planning what to say next?

At ‘bar night’, we listen and that makes an enjoyable evening.


Smaller Bananas: A Dog Story


“1, 2, 3 for me, 1 for Jake”

This isn’t a story about bananas, it’s about a dog, our dog, Jake, ‘the king of all dogs’.

I mention bananas because Jake and I ‘bonded’ over bananas every morning. For every 3 slices of banana I dropped on my cereal, Jake got 1. He stood by, waiting and salivating, while I sliced and counted each piece into our respective bowls: “1, 2, 3 for me, 1 for Jake”. Then, he waited for my signal to enjoy it.

Jake has been gone a couple of weeks and we’re still discarding his ‘stuff’: beds, toys, treats, things that bring a tear to our eyes. Some of it we donated to our local animal shelter.

I still find clumps of shedded hair when I clean house. It moves between my fingers and I feel his presence; the softness of his coat and the smells of his oils. The attachment to a pet is incredibly strong and letting it go is difficult, but we’re making progress.

Our decision to euthanize Jake at the appropriate time, if there is such a time, was  challenging and heart breaking. Outwardly, a dog may not show his aches and pains, but the look in Jake’s eyes told us he was hurting. His mind was willing but his body wasn’t, the end of his life was imminent.

‘The Last Battle’* is a poem that tells the story of a dog’s final wish. The dog reminds us that we’ve shared a wonderful life, a life filled with love, and our final act of love would be to help the dog pass, peacefully.

We loved Jake and made that decision to end his suffering, humanely. Pet owners face this decision with heavy hearts. Jake came to us as a nervous young rescue from a local shelter.  He left us in a calm and peaceful state, cradled in the arms of my wife, his constant companion.

We take solace in knowing that our rescue eleven years ago afforded Jake a chance to live a happy, normal dog’s life. In return, he gave us his love, warmth, kindness and loyalty. We mourn his loss now and will remember him always as ‘the king of all dogs’.

I’m still having a morning banana, but buying smaller ones that I can finish, myself…


To Jake the Dog, and dog lovers everywhere


*The Last Battle
(1st stanza)
Author Unknown

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this — the last battle — can’t be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.

The Bar Chronicles, #7: ‘Presidential Campaigns’

Bar Night 2

“Want to join us for a beer tonight?”
“But the Presidential debate is tonight”.

“It’s beer!”
“What time shall I meet you?”

And so our newest ‘bar night’ guest joined the boys for an evening of ‘brotherhood and beer’. No arm twisting, just old fashioned subtle ‘salesmanship’, beer vs politics.

Caverly’s, in Rochester’s South Wedge, calls itself an Irish pub. It definitely tilts that way with an oversized Irish flag in the bar, dart boards on the wall and a variety of Irish beers. The owner/bartender and patrons were a friendly group and the beer was fairly priced.

At first, we were like the proverbial strangers in a western movie who get stared down by the locals when they ride into town. Four seniors, not riding, but strolling through the open door, surveying the decor and nodding approval, caused a momentary pause to a couple’s Scrabble game. We passed the final test, a sniff over by a couple of old dogs who were there with their regulars, then claimed the only 4 person table in this small neighborhood establishment. Our evening was about to commence.

As always, the clinking of our pints and well wishes to each other signaled the start of another evening of recollection and remembrances. With the usual small talk out of the way, we got down to a not-too-serious political discussion, ‘past presidential campaigns and elections’. We adroitly omitted the current campaign in an effort to maintain high standards, however, as we discussed, past elections weren’t innocent affairs, either.

Adams and Jefferson were most uncivil in 1800 and when Adams lost he declined to attend the inauguration of our third President, who needed help from the House of Representatives to break a tie with Arron Burr.

John Q Adams won the highest office in 1824, besting ‘Old Hickory’ Andrew Jackson, courtesy of the House, again. See a trend to close elections?  Nastiness and divisiveness was not invented in 2016. After Abe Lincoln won in 1860, the entire country fell into civil chaos, war.

Then there were mottos and headlines: ‘I Like Ike’ and ‘Dewey Wins’. Of course, it took until 1960 before a Catholic was elected, thanks to John Kennedy. He beat Nixon who won a ‘do-again’ eight years later.

Remember Lyndon Johnson lifting his beagle by the ears? He lost the SPCA vote on that one and famously declared, in 1968, “if nominated, I will not run, and if elected, I will not serve”. So Democrats nominated Hubert Horatio Humphrey* at their convention and the streets of Mayor Daley’s Chicago erupted in violent protests with the Vietnam War as a backdrop.

Political campaigns are major events, grueling work for the candidates and expensive. But, if they come through Rochester, it would be fun to sit down and have a beer with the candidates. They could join us at Caverly’s and for one night we could be ‘all the President’s men’. That would certainly be a ‘Bar Chronicle’ to remember.  I just hope they don’t read the writing on the bathroom wall…


*In President Carter’s  nomination acceptance speech of 1980, he referred to Humphrey as Hubert Horatio ‘Hornblower’, a fictional naval character in novels.

Barney, A Eulogy (2005)

Barney_BlogOn April 7 (2005), our dog Barney was put to rest.  My wife and I said our last goodbyes to Barney, and while we’re saddened by our loss, we’re comforted by wonderful memories of good family times we had with him and iknowing that he enriched our lives by being our special pet.

We devoted more time to Barney the last few months doing activities we all enjoyed: long treks on favorite trails through the woods; walks around the Erie Canal; playing in the back yard.  We did as much as his stamina allowed, and he loved it.  He enjoyed being with us and we cherished his companionship and affection.

Barney was a friend to all.  He anticipated the mail carrier’s daily stop and biscuit treat.  Like a magnet, he drew the Helping Hands boy to the back of our van when groceries were being loaded.  He eagerly welcomed visitors to our house with an extended paw and a good sniffing.  The neighborhood kids enjoyed his willingness to be petted, the warmth and tenderness of his thick fur and strong body and the love behind an occasional kiss.  People learned not to be afraid of Barney and that his enthusiastic approaches were his way of saying,”C’mon, let’s touch!”

Barney would watch us through the window when we left and welcome us at the door upon our return.  He would wait in the car to meet our son and daughter at the airport on their trips home, and bound up the stairs into their bedrooms to see what was new in their bags.  He taught them to put away their clothes or risk having their undies dragged through the house.

Barney was a constant companion to my wife, keeping her in sight as she worked her garden, or following her from room to room.  At night, he lay at her bedside.  He loved being with her in the kitchen where the good treats and special smells were.  She would talk and Barney would listen.  The carrots, creamed spinach, broccoli and sliced bananas were but a few of his gourmet rewards.  My wife was Barney’s exerciser through the walks they took and the backyard games they played.

This summer, we’ll dedicate a concrete square to Barney’s memory.  It’ll be added to others in our backyard walkway as a remembrance.  It may take its place near our first dog’s marker.  And in a few words, the stone will attest to what a wonderful dog Barney was.  Or, it may say how he will always be remembered.  For me, he was the ‘King of All Dogs.’  I often reminded him of that.  And he was the King to the final moment of his precious life.

Barney scrambled in and out of our arms as a furry, energetic 6 week old puppy when we adopted him 11 years ago.  And he’ll be in our hearts for a lifetime.  We love you, Barney.  You were a great family dog.


Written 5/1/2005 and published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, “My Life, My Words”

I dedicate this story to all pet lovers and especially those who have experienced the sadness of losing one of their own special ‘friends’.

Jake the Dog, His Story

August 14 was a momentous day for me.  I received a reprieve on life, moved to a new home and was embraced with open arms and scratching behind my ears by my new adoptive owners.

Jake's Story

My name is Jake.  I’m a young adult dog with Great Dane and black Labrador bloodlines, which makes me both tall and handsome.  I’m big on kissing and loved to be hugged.  I’m well-trained.  I’m the real deal, the complete package.  All that my new owner has to do is feed, exercise and love me.  And they do, with gusto.  I’m a lucky dog, and I love my new digs.

It wasn’t always this pleasant.  I had a nice home until I was given up by my owners and moved to a new place in the city, where I was kept in a cage surrounded by a mishmash of barking, howling and whining dogs.  Soon, I found myself falling into the same behavior.  And talk about turnover.  It was difficult to make friends because the few dogs I could see didn’t stay long enough to get acquainted.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the barking, howling and whining was a call for help.  When my owners never returned, I knew that my days were probably numbered, too.  I needed to clear my head and come up with a plan.  I resolved to look smart and act friendly when visitors came by to pass judgment and make their selection as to which of us would go home with them and which would stay to keep barking, howling and whining.  I got lucky.

Now, I couldn’t be happier with my new owners.  They’re experienced dog lovers and even had teenagers at one time, so I know they’re capable.  We’re very happy with each other.  Yet, I’m sad when I think about what may have been the fate of the animals I left behind.

They say that a dog is a man’s best friend.  All of us surely can be if given the chance in a caring home.  I have that chance now and am making the best of it.  It would be nice to know that other like-minded pet owners-to-be will adopt a dog from a pound, too.  You’ll find the world’s greatest dog there.  My owners did.  And you’ll feel so good about saving the life of an animal, a new companion who will always be there to love you.


Oct 16, 2005

Dedicated to all pet owners who love and care for their animals