Don’t Cry Over Spilled Orange Juice — Clean It Up!

Following a rather unfortunate mishap in the kitchen the other morning, it occurred to Little Red Bear and me that, to the best of our knowledge, no one had ever written a poem or advisory about spilled orange juice.  We are told from an early age not to cry over spilled milk, of course. And if we spill salt, a pinch tossed over the left shoulder for good luck will supposedly blind the devil waiting there.

But what do we do about spilled orange juice?  Cry?  Don’t cry?  Splash some over our shoulder?  And what can we learn from the experience?  So, we sharpened our pencils and set to work.

In the end, neither Little Red Bear nor I could think of anything to do about spilled orange juice other than to simply get busy and clean up the mess, being especially grateful that it  was merely orange juice and not our treasured, albeit icky-sticky, honey supply.

And, upon further review, we found the orange juice innocent in the  regrettable and messy spillage episode, and blamed it all on the yellow cup which proved itself to be notably deceptive and unreliable.  And haste, which, of course, we all know what that makes because someone did take the time to develop a proverb about the consequences of haste and waste.

When pouring fresh yellow orange juice into a non-see-through yellow cup,

Take a moment to switch the light on to save five minutes cleaning up.

Pouring in the dark soon leads to over-filling and spilling, you see,

Leaving behind a mighty mess which must be sopped and mopped up by me.

This I have learned from experience, such a true and noble teacher,

Who knew that congenial yellow cups could have this peculiar feature?

Thanks always for visiting with us. A single kind word or act of kindness can turn someone’s entire day or life around.  In a world where we can be anything — be Kind, and the reason someone smiles today! – Jim (and Red!)

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                    “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.”               – John Barrymore

            “To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.   So, do it.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
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                                      “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty.                                       It should be offered to them as a precious gift.” — Kate DiCamillo


Finding A Dog For Little Red Bear!

The day began well enough.  Much colder than a few days before and with a light coating of overnight snow on the ground, but otherwise fine for a weekend morning in early March.  The daffodils had been blooming all week, along with white-flowering Bartlett Pears and other trees budding and coming into bloom.  Yellow forsythias were just beginning to stretch and awaken, as well.  In the tree tops, Cardinals were still singing despite the snow and cold, seemingly to encourage Spring warmth to quickly return.

Peacefully savoring a hot cup of breakfast tea, the day took a turn when Little Red Bear came thru the door, accompanied by my writing muse, hovering alongside.  If you have never seen a writing muse, or at least mine – so chances are you haven’t – just picture a sweet and kindly fairy in your mind, but with a “my way or the highway, don’t cross me” attitude.

“Jim, I want to talk to you about something,” Little Red Bear blurted out.

“Hi,” I replied. “And good morning to you too, Red.”

“Yeah, yeah. Good morning.  I want to talk to you about something.”

“Go ahead, Red.  What’s on your mind?”

“Jim,” Little Red Bear began, “I want to add another character to the stories.

“What now?” I replied, aware that we had already over-filled our story character recruitment goal for “The Second Holler Over!” story collection underway now, and greatly exceeded the budget with the recently published “Pine Holler Christmas” story.

“A dog.  I want to have a dog in the stories.”

“We already have a dog coming into the stories – remember?  Ol’ Blue.  And we just added the Barker House Blues Band, as well.  They’re going to appear with Banjo the Bluegrass Bunny at the benefit concert later in the summer.”

“Well, I want one more.”



“Because is not a reason.”

“Because – I want to.”

“That’s still not a reason.”

“It’s good enough for me.”

“Not for me. Not a reason.”

At times like these I look back thankfully for a patience skill developed, sometimes agonizingly, over many years of raising four children.

“I want to add a dog to the stories.”

“We have already added Ol’ Blue.”

“Yeah. But his name says it all – Ol’ Blue – ‘old.  O – L – apostrophe – D. Old.  He just lays around on the front porch or by the fireplace reminiscing about the past.”

“Well, he had a very interesting past. That’s why we decided to add him.  Remember?”

Ol’ Blue, the Bluetick Coonhound (retired)

“Well then, I want to add another dog to the stories.”

“Why Red? Please tell me why you want to add another dog to the stories when we are already overflowing with new characters for the next collection.”

“Well, because . . . . I want a dog . . . . and . . . . Cinnamon Charlie would like having a dog around to play with. Yeah, Cinnamon Charlie — he wants a dog, too.”

“He plays around with Goat.”

“We need a dog. A watch dog. Nobody has a ‘watch goat’.  To keep an eye out for the weasels poking around all the time.”

“The little fox sheriff, Albuquerque Red, takes care of that.  He oversees weasel patrols.”

“Jim, now listen up here, ‘cause apparently from what I can see, you just ain’t hearin’ me well this morning.  I – want – a – dog.”

Little Red Bear crossed his arms, firmly planted his right foot on the floor and then started pattering his large left foot on the floorboards of the cabin.  He did seem determined and it was obvious he had his mind made up. But stories can only have so many characters and surely there must be a limit.  Somewhere.

“Red, now you listen up. You know very well what the ‘writing rules’ people say. Too many characters can be confusing and make it hard for readers to keep track, and slows down the story pace. They tell writers to consolidate many characters into one.  Clean – fast – snappy – to the point, start to finish.  Everybody wants to hurry and get to the finish nowadays. That’s what they say. Too many characters and cooks spoil the broth.”

“Well, Mr. Fancy Writing Rules – we ain’t makin’ no broth. Are we? Or soup. Or stew. Need I remind you that we are telling old-fashioned, family-friendly stories, not modern, fast-paced thrillers? One of your own favorite writers is William Faulkner, who could take one sentence and spin it into a paragraph. Folks back then called it ‘artful and colorful writing.’ Now the rules people want everything bare bones, ‘zip-zip.’  And don’t you always and adamantly maintain that you don’t follow any rules, and openly defy the ‘writing rules police’ anyway?”

“But . . . .”

“There ain’t no ‘buts’ about it. Now Jim, listen here. You, your very own self, described our slower paced stories as being told at a pace of ‘country comfortable’. Those were your own words. I didn’t think that up – you did. And it’s you who always contend that readers today already have enough helter-skelter, hurry-up stories and stress in their lives and need somewhere to go to slow down and relax.  To take time to smell the wildflowers and listen to the songbirds, and to reconnect with Mother Nature.  Read and let the story unfold at a leisurely pace. That’s what our stories are about. And I don’t see how adding one more character – a dog – is going to harm anything. And what reader worth their salt doesn’t love a dog?”

It’s hard to argue back when getting beat with your own logic.

“But the character list has already grown so long, Red. It’s getting harder and harder trying to fit everyone into the stories and give them a job. Now you want to add yet another.”

“Well, you’re the writer, Jim.  You’ll figure it out.  And besides, you always assert that the stories are supposed to be Entertaining, Informative and Educational. How can we inform or educate folks about new animals, critters, flowers, trees, nature, and such, if we never meet them or talk about them in the stories?  You can’t consolidate a chipmunk, a raccoon, a porcupine and a turkey vulture into one character no matter what the ‘writing police’ say. There ain’t no such creature.  That’s fantasy then, not education.  Have an answer for that one? Are you going to just sit there and let the ‘writing police’ tell you what you can and can’t do?  Huh?!?”

(We couldn’t find a good Writing Rules sign for you anywhere, so Little Red Bear brought back this one, saying it was the same principle.)

Scratching the top of my head, I closed my eyes and thought for a minute, a curious habit picked up from working with Little Red Bear thru the years. He wasn’t playing fair, because he challenged my strongly independent nature and disdain for ‘rules’. I then looked over at my writing muse, still hovering in place beside Little Red Bear and impatiently tapping her wand in her hand, with a “you better do this” look on her face.

“I’m not going to win this argument, am I?”

“Nope,” Little Red Bear replied with a grin while patting me on the back of my shoulders, “you’re not.  Now, why don’t you just busy yourself with writing that new dog into the stories and I’ll go start getting a spot ready for him to stay.”

Little Red Bear turned to leave, stopped and came back towards me.

“And make sure it’s a big dog.  Not some little froufrou, yappy type.  I’m a bear and need a big, burly dog to keep up with me. And if Cinnamon Charlie goes wrestling with some little teeny dog he might break it.  Someone sizable and strong to guard against the weasels, like me.”

“How about an ox instead?”

“I don’t want no dadgum ox!  I want a dog.  A big one!”

“Yeah – big dog – got it. Anything else?”

“With a loud bark to scare away weasels and trespassers.”

“Okay.  One big, noisy dog.”

“And brown.  I like brown.  Kinda reddish-brown, like me.  And white.  And maybe a touch of black here and there.  And a long, bushy tail.”

“Anything else that you want on it?  Racing stripes?  Polka dots? Dancing shoes?  Power windows?”

“Well now you’re bein’ silly.  Just get busy and add the dog, please.”

Little Red Bear turned once again to leave, only to wheel back around, shaking his right paw at me in a scolding manner.

“One more thing.  No tricks like you did to me with that mini pig Swinestein that I couldn’t understand or talk to in the first set of stories! I had to spend all last winter learning how to speak ‘Pig’.  I want to be able to talk with this dog.”

With that, Little Red Bear went back outside and I was left to be overseen by my writing muse to make sure I got busy, with a now very cold cup of tea.

“Hey, Charlie!”, I heard Little Red Bear call out.  “We got the dog!”

Note to self – “add a doga BIG one.”

What kind of dog do you think we should find for Little Red Bear in the next story collection?  And what should we name it?  Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments, and we’ll have some fun.  —  Jim  (and Red!)

Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

Children + Nature + Outdoors = Happy, Healthy Balanced Kids

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.


Happy Friday the 13th! Fact or Fallacy?

Today is the dreaded “Friday the 13th!” Ooooh, scary!

Or perhaps it is not, depending on your individual outlook and experience with the date. But for many, and not to make light, the phobia is very real.

So many folks have such an innate fear of the number “13” that it has been given a scientific name — “triskaidekaphobia”.

Many people supposedly also have a traditional fear of Fridays regardless of the date, TGIF notwithstanding. Coupling them together, a Friday falling on the 13th of the month can be doubly stressing. And it happens once, twice, or up to three times every year.

The term applied to anyone so afflicted, fearing “Friday the 13th”, is “friggatriskaidekaphobia”, from ‘Frigga’, the name of the Norse goddess for whom Friday is named, and ‘triskaidekaphobia’, the aforementioned fear of the number thirteen.

It is also known as “paraskevidekatriaphobia”, from the Greek ‘Paraskevi’ for Friday, ‘dekatreis’ for thirteen and ‘phobia’ for fear. Try saying that three times fast at a Friday afternoon happy hour without having to reglue your dentures.

Being distracted trying to remember and pronounce either one may well cause someone to lose focus and walk under a ladder, step into a hole, or choke on a chicken wing without any other supernatural influence involved whatsoever.

There are a number of explanations of how it all got started, but an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the U.S. are so affected and paralyzed by their fear of Friday the 13th that they reschedule air flights and travel, alter business and household routines, and go to great lengths to protect themselves from bad luck and occurrences. Reportedly, some never get out of bed on the day. Anyone having a phobia about Friday the 13th is certainly not alone.

In some countries, accidents, in general, actually do increase on Friday the 13th. To promote awareness and safety, Finland celebrates National Accident Day each year, always on a Friday the 13th. In some areas of the world, the number of traffic accidents reported  increases on a Friday the 13th, while in other countries accidents decrease with people being extra cautious on the day. Either way, it does seem to have an effect.

“I’m not nearly as afraid of Friday the 13th, as I am of the people who are afraid of Friday the 13th.” — Unknown

Black cats have suffered from superstitions and unfounded beliefs surrounding the day, unfortunately causing many prospective owners to pass them by at adoption and rescue shelters over the years.  So if you or someone you know is thinking about adopting a cat or kitten, please do not pass by the black cats. They are wonderful loving companions deserving of good forever homes, too!

Personally, since I was born on a Friday and the first letter of my last name “M” is the 13th letter of the alphabet, I have always considered it a “lucky” day. No one can call me irrational.

Although, I do recall living in Winter Park, Florida on Friday the 13th of August, 2004, when Hurricane Charley visited and left us without power for many days and removed part of the back wall. And a related tornado snapped a palm tree in half about fifty feet off my back patio that night. Would that count as a Friday the 13th thing? On the other hand, we all came thru it without a scratch, so should we then consider ourselves ‘lucky’? Or was it all simply mere coincidence?

What kind of an event is Friday the 13th for you? Do you have (hopefully not) unfortunate accident stories to share? Malevolent, ill-tempered or unlucky ladders encountered, perhaps?  Examples of serendipitous good fortune or happiness?  Maybe it all is a matter of personal experience and outlook, after all.

Whatever your views on the day, Little Red Bear and I wish you a wonderful, safe, and happy Friday the 13th!

But — a precautionary note — Please exercise a little extra caution and care if headed out and about. It is Friday the 13th, after all. — Jim (and Red!)

      “I had only one superstition. I made sure to touch all the bases when I hit a home run.”      — Babe Ruth”

“Superstition is the poetry of life.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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                                          “Superstition is foolish, childish, primitive, and irrational.                                             But how much does it cost you to knock on wood?” — Judith Viorst 

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Wednesday Whimsy — “Attacked by an Envelope!”

Wednesdays seem tailor-made for great themes and hashtags.  Wednesday Wildlife and Wednesday Wisdom to name just two.  Nothing so profound today, but please indulge me a bit of Wednesday Whimsy this morning.  Simply an observance of life.

What is it about a Paper Cut???

I was attacked by an ill-tempered manila envelope a few days ago, and it inflicted a very unpleasant paper cut on the middle finger of my right hand, smack dab right on the knuckle.  I clearly lost the battle.  After several days of close dealings with the postal system as the envelope had endured, I would perhaps be given to a bit of crankiness myself.  But still.  I hadn’t done anything to that envelope beyond freeing it from the mailbox, making such an attack totally unwarranted from my perspective. To make it worse, as the envelope undoubtedly had in mind at the time, I am right-handed.  So every time I bend that finger still, the cut painfully reopens bringing searing memories of the encounter flashing back to mind.

If someone came up to me on the street and said — “Give me your wallet or I will tear you limb from limb!” — while thought of the prospect might be daunting,  it is not relatable and I would probably dismiss the threat as hyperbole, braggadocio and embellishment.   Unless he is the Incredible Hulk on a tear, it’s most likely merely a figure of speech and not going to happen.

But if the same person approached and said — “Give me your wallet or I will give you a rather nasty paper cut!” — that is terrifyingly familiar, would send shivers down my spine and a threat I would take seriously, especially if he had a manila envelope in hand at the time.

So on the third day following the attack, I still have my finger coated with an antibiotic cream and heavily bandaged to keep out dirt, hoping that it will all promote a quick healing and return to normal everyday health and function soon, which it sadly has yet to do.  If someone sees the bandages and asks me what sort of trauma happened to my hand, I will simply reply — “Paper Cut”.  I’m sure they will understand.

Little Red Bear and I are working hard to finish a Christmas story for the holidays, made more challenging now by the bothersome paper cut making typing while heavily bandaged more laborious and difficult, but Red assures that our high purpose and intent will see me thru.  So we will persevere and overcome this new challenge!

And just so this Wednesday Whimsy wasn’t a total waste of time, I did manage to find an inspiring quote from Mahatma Gandhi for you.  We all encounter difficulties and hardships in our lives at some point. That’s just life. Strength comes from the determination not to give in to them, and from an inner resolve to  persevere and overcome whatever obstacles which may be placed in our life path.  Like a Paper Cut.

Thanks as always for visiting! I’m going to go rest my finger now.   —  Jim (and Red!)

— This Wednesday Whimsy Brought To You By — 

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Reason for Visit — “Popcorn Injury”

Little Red Bear and I were simply making some popcorn for a snack while taking a break from writing.  As I was dumping the popped corn into a large wooden bowl, one of the last remaining unpopped kernels, apparently very upset and angry having been awoken from its slumber, decided to seek revenge on its tormentors and “POPPED!” 

Hit me right in the eyeglasses!  If I had not been wearing glasses, it would have hit me smack in the left eye.  With no reaction time at all, I had no idea that an annoyed and highly agitated kernel of corn could fly so fast. Fortunately, bouncing off of my glasses as it did, no harm done.

But can you even imagine going to the doctor with something like that?  First of all, there would be all the Urgent Care Forms to fill out–

“Reason for Visit – Popcorn Injury.”

The doctor would come into the room trying to conceal a smirk, saying something along the lines of — “Attacked by a kernel of popcorn, were you?  I don’t know if I’ve ever treated one of these before.  We didn’t cover Popcorn Injuries in my Emergency Room training.  I don’t suppose this falls under the heading of ‘Blunt Force Trauma’, does it?  Because I’m real good with that.  We may have to refer you to a specialist.  I wonder if Dr. Redenbacher is available for a consult today?”

And then it would go on, of course.  “Hit you right in the eye, did it?  Boy, don’t you know you’re supposed to keep a lid closed on those poppers and not be looking down into them while you’re cooking?  Have you ever used one of these complex cooking devices without supervision before?  Maybe next time you should consider saving a little longer to purchase the Deluxe Model Popper.  You know, the one with the lid?  Another inch up and over and that thing woulda nailed you right between the eyes and laid you out cold on the floor.  You’re lucky to still be with us here today, son.  Do you think your relatives would have sent flowers to your funeral or popcorn balls?”

Yep.  I can just imagine the whole medical staff having had a go at my “Popcorn Injury”.  Thank goodness for eyeglasses and an embarrassment averted!  Never knew popcorn could be so temperamental and will be approaching it with a new level of respect and danger in the future.  Kind of like a rattlesnake.  Just to be safe.  Maybe I’ll just let Little Red Bear do it.  But, being a bear, he doesn’t wear eyeglasses, so I suppose not.  Will just have to be more careful myself.  That is an Urgent Care visit I do not want to make.

Have a wonderful day, and surprise someone with an unexpected act of kindness along the way!  Thanks as always for visiting!  — Jim (and Red!)

Popcorn- Angry Image 1


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Kindness in Camouflage

Wearing camouflage is no longer reserved strictly for the swamps and backwoods, as “Camo” has become a growing fashion trend in everyday life.  The “Duck Dynasty” effect, perhaps. I have been thinking of picking up some camo myself recently, to wear while writing– the better to sneak up on the “Little Red Bear” backwoods story characters in my mind, I thought.


One of my pairs of boots has camo on the upper part, actually.  Even though it is always covered by my jeans.  And there is a camo strip on the “inside” of my new eyeglass frames, whatever that’s about. But both in a “Mossy Oak” pattern so I coordinate well, even if obscured from vision.  Which is what the whole camouflage thing is all about anyway, I suppose.

Camouflage 6 My boots


For myself, I have not progressed all the way to the Camo Guitar yet, but readily acknowledge that some may wish now and then that my playing be unnoticeable.  If I find it under the tree next Christmas, I will take the hint to play more softly.  I just hope Santa brings it in “Mossy Oak” to coordinate with my glasses and boots while playing unseen.

Camouflage 7- Mossy Oak Guitar

So as the camo fashion trend grows, I urge you to be supportive.  The next time you see someone wearing camo on the street, in the grocery store or at the shopping mall– bump into them– as though they were not there.  Let them know it’s working.  They will appreciate that you didn’t notice.  In the unlikely event one may take exception to the nudge, simply offer up the obvious.  “So sorry.  I didn’t see you.  Must have been the camo.  Nice job!”  I’m sure you will have won them over and made their day!

Spreading kindness.  Camo Bumping.  It’s the “nice” thing to do.

Camouflage 1

Speaking of Dogs & Cats & Boomers

As a general rule, I endeavor to keep it on the light side here, and do not get actively involved in political discourse. Goodness knows there are already enough serious and worrisome issues and events in the world these days. On the other hand, I have a growing awareness of what I perceive to be a serious problem in this country. As such, I thought it important to bring it to the attention of the soon-to-be growing number of presidential hopefuls and candidates for the next presidential election. I say both “hopefuls” and “candidates”, because I am never quite sure if they are really one in the same and want to be certain to bring the issue to everyone’s attention, not leaving anyone out.

Here is the crux of the matter, to get right to it. I am a baby boomer, and there are a growing number of us reaching the years when we are empty nesters, and/or without spouses or companions for various and obvious reasons. In other words- alone. Aloneness is generally regarded to be unhealthy, thereby impacting the issues of medical care, mental health and associated social costs and issues.

To combat the isolation and solitude, many seek the solace and companionship of pets, primarily dogs and cats in vast numbers. Dogs and cats are excellent companions most of the time, providing sympathetic comfort, great for snuggling and warmth during cold winters (although not so much hot summers when they seem to have the curious urge to snuggle even more), they serve somewhat as alarms and guard dogs against intruders, many perform invaluable service assistance to the challenged and disabled, requiring walks and outings they aid in helping us to exercise and get fresh air, their own food and upkeep costs help to support the economy, etc. All good things.

That being said, here is the concern. All of the above listed benefits of having a dog or cat companion are “physical” or “emotional”. They do very little to stimulate the “mental” side for aging boomers, a very important thing in maintaining a fulfilling, vigorous and healthy lifestyle by challenging and maintaining an active brain as well as body. I have become increasingly aware that dogs and cats in general seem to be very unread and sorely lacking in knowledge of current events beyond issues of food availability and scheduling. They are frustratingly difficult to hold an intelligent conversation with. Great listeners, without question, but clearly deficient in conversation skills and a base of knowledge to draw from to foster insightful discourse and discussion. They don’t distinguish Dali or Degas from a dog dish, or Kipling or Kierkegaard from kibble.

"So, what you're saying is that it wasn't really a Chew Toy? Seemed like it."

“So, what you’re saying is that it wasn’t really a Chew Toy? Seemed like it.”

Indeed, most dogs mistakenly perceive books to be chew toys or pillows rather than tools of enlightenment. And it is we who have allowed this sad state to continue. It is a rather poor reflection on our species, that given our long and close relationship to dogs and cats over thousands of years we have allowed this matter to go unattended for so long, turning our backs on the educational and intellectual development of our dearest companions.  Some certainly seem to be sending us clear messages that they are at the very least interested in books and higher education.  We just have not gotten the message.  Until now.

Accordingly, it seems reasonable that the next group of folks aspiring to be President of our great land and all its people should address the issue of illiterate, uneducated and incommunicative pets, for the sake of not only the ever increasing number of lonely boomers but also for the long term benefits for all the citizenry. With the copious “pork” projects that Congress always seems able to generously fund without risk of government shutdown, I am sure it should be no problem achieving bipartisan support and finding adequate sums to fund Dog and Cat Literacy Research with concurrent studies in Household Pet Speech Therapy, given the proper leadership of the future President.

“O Day of days when we can read!  The reader and the book, either without the other is naught.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

In fairness to others, I readily admit that Chimpanzees and other primates would seem to have a leg up on dogs and cats as far as literacy and communication possibilities go, given the advances made earlier in sign language communication with Koko the Gorilla, among others. Along with Parrots and some other avian members perhaps, already given to outbursts of spontaneous, albeit limited speech, most frequently revolving around a desire for crackers. But the prime focus of this is to foster mentally stimulating pet discourse for the sake of aging baby boomers, and so few of us have Chimps, Gorillas or Parrots as pets in the home.  And quite honestly, the troubling images from the “Planet of the Apes” movies still haunt many, making it more difficult for an educational movement to gain traction for the primates, given the opposable thumbs and all.

Dolphins would also offer great promise, displaying consistently high intellect, but even fewer of us are able to keep large sea mammals as household pets. We own more dogs and cats to be sure. Regrettably, the others will have to wait their turn. In a democracy, numbers rule. However, I am confident that whatever scientific strides made in the field of Dog and Cat Literacy and Speech will also benefit the chimps, gorillas, parrots and dolphins down the road as well. And the whales, not to be left out, of course.  So there’s that.

Dog- Reading, Google 11

Doctor Dolittle spoke the language of the animals. It is now incumbent upon us to teach them ours. The time has come to educate the furry members of society. Dog and Cat Literacy.  Free Speech for Pets.  The time has come. For the benefit of baby boomers and their pets in the interest of an intelligent conversation, for goodness sake.

Thanks as always for visiting! —  Jim (and Red!)

"According to this book, I can't read. Why is that, human?"

“According to this book, I can’t read. Why is that?”

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About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.  For Young and Young-at-Heart!