The Garden of Diminishing Returns

The Garden of Diminishing Returns

There were cantaloupes, squash, tomatoes galore,

Green beans, watermelons, green peppers and more,

Growing fast, trying to crawl out of sight,

I swear I could hear the garden growing at night,

But in the mornings when I checked the plants,

The vegetables were half eaten and covered with ants,


No matter what I tried or wherever I turned,

The results were the same—-diminishing returns!

I sat out in my chair with my dog on the lawn,

Hoping to see some critters, I’d wait until dawn,

Ground squirrels were scurrying, rabbits came dancing,

Cicadas were chirping, deer were prancing,

Everywhere I looked there was some kind of motion,

The garden was alive with activity and commotion,

Chomping new flowers and munching new shoots,

The animals were all dressed in their evening suits,

There was a call to order and they all sat down,

The biggest rabbit was worried, I could tell by his frown,

“We’ve got to control the rabbits at school,

There’s been multiplication against the rule,

Not everyone stays seated until a lesson is through,

This is outrageous! What shall we do?

Deer have been entering and then going out,

I’m not sure what’s that all about,

And the squirrels have been going nuts,

So there you have it, no ifs, ands, or buts,

We’ll have to move on and find new grounds,

This garden will be tagged as “out of bounds”,

But if we destroy too much we’ll soon learn,

One small garden yields diminishing returns,”

They thumped out a vote and gave him a hand,

It was clear they agreed with his conservative stand,

The majority was liberal enough to see,

If they harvested carefully enough there’d be,

If each did his share, working part of each day,

There would also be time to sleep and play,

He explained if they wanted, they could help him with stuff,

So they planted, watered, and did more than enough.

He told them that they still had lots to learn,

Because no one wins with diminishing returns.

That old rabbit spoke with authority before he disappeared underground,

I’m glad I stayed alert and wrote it all down.

That garden was a life source to all, including me,

It brought a new way of thinking for us to get along,

And I really like those critters, don’t get me wrong.

But if someone thinks I’m feeding that complete herd,

That’s way out of line, kind of crazy, absurd!

Okay, just a nibble.  I grew tons of stuff.

If all of you are careful there’s more than enough!


The sprinklers went off and woke me from a dream,

I can’t quite remember what made me want to scream.

But now I have a peaceful feeling way deep inside,

And when I look at my garden I have a sense of pride.

Every row is trimmed, organized, and neat,

But I could almost swear I see some little feet.

My garden is growing right up to the sky,

And on my doorstep this morning was a strawberry pie.

I always thought gardening would be hard to learn,

I knew there was a problem with diminishing returns.





Poor Charlee

English: Solid black, 1-year-old German Shephe...
English: Solid black, 1-year-old German Shepherd Dog. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Poor Charlee


Where is the dog that played all day?


She’s lying stiff and silent in my doorway.


Just a few weeks ago she had life and fire,


A special kind of spirit that was hard to acquire.


Who poisoned this dog I want to know?


She was a puppy and starting to grow.


Friendly and inquisitive, everyone was a friend.


Did someone really want her life to end?


What percentage of lives lost is considered okay?


How many pets have to suffer and pass away?


I thought I would love her until her dying breath.


What could I have done to prevent her death?






Since 2007 the AVMA has issued alerts regarding Fanconi syndrome-like disease in dogs.  The problem appeared to be connected to the consumption of chicken jerky treats made in China.  Only occasional reports have been received since that time.  The FDA was alerted but the levels of toxins and contaminants was not considered high enough to take action.


Over the last 8 years I’ve given chicken jerky treats to 6 dogs as rewards.  The dogs responded well and I thought the quality of the chicken treats was exceptional.  However, over the past six months I was beginning to see differences in packages. Some of the treats were dry and others seemed to be slightly moist.  But I continued to purchase the treats simply because the dogs liked them.


In late November, Charlee, an 8 month old German Shepherd, began showing strange symptoms.  After eating she would throw up.  Then came excessive drooling, lethargy, and a refusal to eat.  In my own ignorance I gave her more chicken strips to keep her from starving.  She would eat those but little else.   Finally she was taken to the veterinarian.  On December 6, 2012, only problems concerning her digestive system were noted and her general condition was considered good.  Charlee continued to suffer and on December 8, 2012,  she was dead.


On January 8, 2013, I was in a store looking for dog food and dog treats. I noticed an employee busily taking packages of chicken strips off the shelves.  A recall was in progress.  Poor Charlee.  The recall came too late to save her life.






Your Pets Know

English: There Cap'n Goldsack goes, creeping, ...
English: There Cap’n Goldsack goes, creeping, creeping, creeping, Looking for his reasure down below!: illustration of a pirate ghost. This was originally published in Sharp, William (July 1902). “Cap’n Goldsack”. Harper’s Magazine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Your Pets Know


When you’re alone or scared at night and feeling very tense,


Who knows what dogs hear, and who knows what they sense,


A dog might snarl and show her teeth while staring at a wall,


Someone might have entered the room, yet you see nothing at all,


When the silence gets too loud, during the time that you fear most,


You’ll wish you had a dog around, to warn you of the ghosts,


A faint smell of decaying flesh or a chill running up your spine,


Is enough to put your teeth on edge, but when the dog starts to whine,


A powerful force is in the room, sharing your time and space,


Your dog will remain beside you, as the ghost meets you face to face.


A cat, on the other hand, might hiss and arch his back,


A cat knows whether friend or foe, and if the ghost will attack,


Should the cat stretch and purr, as if stroked by a ghostly hand,


There’s a gentle soul in the room, who hopes you understand,


If either the dog or the cat runs, terror evident in their eyes,


Then it might not be a simple ghost, but the devil in disguise,


Pull the covers over your head, should you be scared at night,


And if you want a chance to flee, keep your pets in sight.




Miles of Travel and Roadside Stands

A typical flea market shop, in Germany Françai...
A typical flea market shop, in Germany Français : clients aux marché aux puces Русский: Блошиный рынок во Франкфурте-на-Майне, Германия (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Miles of Travel and Roadside Stands


Bouncing along in my old sedan,


Stopping for refreshments at roadside stands,


Miles of travel watching for flea market sales,


Electronic games and puppy dog tales,


Little brother’s laugh echoing for miles around,


Counting farms and houses before the next town,


Tired and grumpy after an hour or two,


A fight or argument and a quarter is due,


A roll of quarters for each child,


Dwindling down as behavior turns wild,


Happy is the child who manages to maintain,


Happy are the parents who don’t hear them complain,


Watching billboards, children play the alphabet game,


From license plates they learn the states by name,


A day of travel with few fights and no fuss,


Is there a family as happy as us?


We have good times aplenty as we travel afar,


Though crowded together in my old red car.




From the Beginning


Dancing around
Dancing around (Photo credit: a hundred visions and revisions)


My Life from the Beginning


I awoke from darkness and fell into light,


Cold was the day, not as warm as night,


Understanding the world was my very first task,


Answers surrounded me, all I needed was to ask,


Wet puppy kisses, purrs from a cat,


I found favorite things precious like that,


Storms in summer bringing driving rain,


Scratches and bruises, living with pain,


Dancing and laughing till dawn’s early light,


Learning to love was well worth the fight,


The world continuing to be comfortable and fun,


Until I struggled with challenges not easily won,


Relationships were fragile, few were deep,


Ripped from my grasp, not mine to keep,


Without knocking or asking, time opened a door,


Health and wealth were not mine any more,


Minutes passed swiftly and turned into years,


My memories were washed away by tears,


Nights were growing longer; cold was gaining ground,


I gave away all the treasures that I’d found,


I left behind the darkness and entered the light,


Laughing and dancing, Oh, what a sight!








Loud Noises and the Storm

GSD with baby
Image via Wikipedia

The two German shepherds were usually on self-imposed duty protecting the children.  They lay by the door watching cars and people go by on the street.  Sometimes their ears would turn and focus on certain sounds.  If the sounds were benign or considered normal the ears would relax.  If the noises hinted of trouble the ears would swivel and face the location.  Then their low throaty growls would gradually get louder until the problem was resolved or I told them it was okay and they could relax.  I thought they were rough and tough and ready for any situation that arose.

There were exceptions to their tolerance to noise.  Although they had been trained to ignore gunshots while in protection mode they were never quite ready for fireworks and firecrackers.  The sudden splashes of light and sound, as well as their confusion when pops and bangs came from varying locations, startled them into jumping and running for cover.  They never learned to adjust to any fireworks whether the explosions were large or small.  When the first firecracker exploded on special occasions both dogs became nervous shaking puppies.

Thunderstorms were another source of noise that could not be avoided.  When one of those dazzling displays of lightning occurred with accompanying thunder, Rex and Cleo would crowd closer to me, content to have my hand pat them occasionally. When the thunder became too loud and took them out of their comfort zone, they would dash for the bed and squeeze underneath.

One night in the midst of a very loud and powerful storm the power went out.  It was already after ten so my wife and I hurriedly put the children to bed and retired for the night.  We lay in bed talking about the events of the day, the children, and things we needed to do tomorrow.

Lightning struck a tree outside splitting it in half, and the resulting boom shook the house.  At the same time our bed rose several inches.  My wife screamed and the children came running and piled on top.

She tried to slide off the bed to get everyone resettled.  As she turned to get up, a head met hers, made one big slurp and dived underneath the bed again.   She screamed even louder this time.

Thinking we were under attack by the elements I grabbed the children and headed for the basement.  Rex and Cleo chose this moment to escape the close quarters.  They jumped on the bed and knocked my wife to the floor.  She screamed again and then fainted.

I called Rex and Cleo and they slunk down the steps and hid.  I went to find my wife, concerned that she was badly injured.  She wasn’t in bed nor did I find her in the bedroom.  I didn’t know she was on the other side of the bed, on the floor, next to the wall.

I went from room to room, tripping over all the things left behind when the lights went out.  Ignoring the pain I continued to search.  The lights came back on.  The children returned and I ordered them back to bed.  The dogs returned and I ordered them back to their beds although they returned several times to see if I really meant for them to get out.

Everything was returning to normal but I had to find my wife.  Had she ventured out into the storm?  Was she injured or worse?  My mind was exploding with possibilities.   Despite my commands Rex and Cleo bounded past me and squeezed between the bed and the wall.  Unfortunately it was at that precise time that my wife awoke.   She screamed again.  The children came running, the dogs started giving her doggie kisses, and I thought she was injured for sure.

After the dogs and children were resituated I pulled my wife to her feet.  She looked at me crossly.  “Don’t you dare say anything,” she snapped.

I turned around and walked out onto the front porch. I studied the clear sky and took a deep breath of fresh air.  I tried not to smile but I couldn’t help it.

In a few moments my wife joined me.  “Aren’t you coming back to bed?”

“I’ll be there in a few moments.  The air is so clean and crisp after a storm and I want to enjoy it.”

She put her arm around me.  “”I want to hear your version of tonight’s events before I go to sleep.  I’ll bet it’s funny.”

“Honey, It wasn’t funny until I knew you were okay.  Then I grinned, that’s all.  It was a rough scary night.  One I’ll remember.”

She hugged me and went inside.  I knew things were going to be all right.




Chasing Rabbits

English: Rabbit shape Français : Silhouette d'...
Image via Wikipedia

Chasing Rabbits

Sometimes I would take Roxy and Pixie, my two labs, down to the river for long walks and let them explore.  Not only was it a change of scenery but it was a time for me to reflect about life in general.  During one of those outings I observed how life works for me and why I never seemed to get ahead.  After watching the dogs in their endeavors I decided that I’ve always chased rabbits.

Roxy was the faster of the two dogs and also the more skilled hunter.  She would make wide sweeps through the brush and flush rabbits that were hiding there.  Pixie would go ahead and wait for the rabbits to come her way.

A rabbit would jump out of the brush and race for shelter somewhere else, always with Roxy in hot pursuit.  Pixie would always be ready but somehow the rabbits would outmaneuver or jump at the right time and escape.  I didn’t pay much attention at first but I noticed the results were the same each and every time.

I set up an observation point so I could watch the entire chase.  The chase went smoothly and their efforts proved fruitless.  Somehow, though, I had a hunch that deception was taking place right before my eyes and I was missing a key ingredient of the action. I needed more information to come up with a reasonable explanation.

Several missions later I brought my camcorder and got ready for action.  Roxy flushed a rabbit. It ran and increased its lead for a moment. Roxy gained and drew closer.  Pixie waited and then dashed in just when the rabbit arrived.  The rabbit found a sudden burst of energy and got away.  At least it seemed that way as I watched in real time.

Later as I reviewed the movie I had taken of the chase, I noticed a few strange details.  The rabbit getting away was not the rabbit at the beginning of the chase.  After studying the movie in slow motion I came to the conclusion there were four rabbits, and they were in a relay.  The first rabbit would get a big lead, slow down and hide.  The second rabbit would leap up and repeat the process.  Each rabbit in turn would take over at the appropriate time, leaving the last rabbit to make a clean getaway.

I could almost hear each rabbit snickering behind the bushes.  “Heh, heh, heh.  I can hardly wait for my turn.  They’ll eat my dust as I show those dogs my speed.”

All my life I’ve been in pursuit of one rabbit after another.  Just when I thought life was under control, something else would leap to the front and distract me, leaving me to always be the chaser but never getting ahead.  By watching the dogs I learned to keep my eyes on my target. When it stops I need to take a moment to rest and regain strength.  And then be ready to run again.  Oh, yes, and to have fun.  I don’t have to catch anything today. Tomorrow will be a new day and there will be more rabbits.

Belle and Suzi

English: A common brand of hotdog widely avail...
Image via Wikipedia

Belle and the Hotdog

On Friday, the school cafeteria was nosier than usual. A special program had been presented during a morning assembly and everyone was so excited.  The elementary classes had listened and watched as a salesman explained how easy it was to win prizes and raise funds for the school just by selling cookie dough.  And if they sold cookie dough on the very first day they could win money and candy prizes.

This was a win, win, win situation.   Voices competed to be heard as plans were being made.  Students mapped out strategies with their friends.  This weekend was the target.

Joe was especially excited. Although Joe was normally talkative and restless, today he was serious and quiet.  He was just one in a sea of faces as he contemplated how to win without stirring up problems.  He knew a lot of places he could go to sell cookie dough.  That wasn’t the problem.  He wanted to win and prove he was a better salesman than Scott.  Scott was his archenemy and a bully.  Scott also wanted to win and he didn’t want any competition.  He had already warned Joe not to try so hard.

Belle, in her therapy role, was bored with all the talk and no one was paying any attention to her.  Her senses were working overtime. The cafeteria food, hotdogs and beans, didn’t smell as good as she hoped.  She decided to wait for something better.

She lay near Joe’s feet, listening intently to the children’s excited chatter.  Something did not sound right.  Somewhere in the middle of all the conversation a voice ceased.

Acting on a hunch Belle raced to the place where an excited voice had changed and had become suddenly quiet.

A girl, her hands at her throat, was turning purple.  Without wondering whether she had read about this or had seen this happen, Belle hurled herself against the girl’s back. Whack!  A piece of hotdog popped from the girl’s mouth.

Scott yelled, “This dog just attacked Suzi without warning!  I knew this dog was dangerous.”

Joe sputtered, “Belle saved her life.  If she hadn’t hit Suzi’s back, then shemight have choked to death.”

Scott ranted, “Belle attacked her.  I was the one who saved Suzi from choking.”  He pointed at a second grader.  “What did you see?” he demanded.

“Just what you said.  The dog jumped on her.”

Scott looked at the principal.  “That dog attacked Suzi but I saved her life. I should get some recognition and that dog needs to be out.”

Belle didn’t want praise for herself.  She just wanted Suzi to be okay and everything back to normal.  She knew Scott was lying but how could she prove him wrong? But did it really matter?

Suzi had recovered by then.  “Belle saved my life!  Scott was laughing at me because I was choking.  He didn’t help.  It was the dog that saved me.”

Other voices chimed in.  Nobody had been willing to go against Scott until Suzi spoke up.  There seemed to be safety in numbers and now they all clamored to be heard.  Scott turned to Joe.  “I’ll get you for this,” he vowed.  “You and that dumb dog!”

He stomped off, angry at Belle, angry at Joe, and angry at the world.

Joe was more serious than ever about winning the cookie dough contest.  He didn’t want to worry about Scott and his threats. Scott might try to beat Joe up but Joe wasn’t afraid. He would stand up to Scott next time.  Bullies only got worse if they got their way.


Belle Goes to School

English: A Lhasa Apso.
Image via Wikipedia

One Sunday as I finished giving Belle her weekly scrub,

Her expression said, “I’m tired of being in the tub,”

She looked shaggy while wet and needing a trim,

And I don’t think she liked her little swim,


As soon as her feet hit the bathroom floor,

Lickety-split she was out the bathroom door,

Vigorously she shook, then gave a final shrug,

She began racing from room to room, then rug to rug,


I pretended to chase her and I really did try,

But her energy seemed endless and she needed to dry,

Like a clock with a spring she finally wound down,

She lay there thinking and didn’t make a sound,


I thought she said, “I’ve been watching the kids go to school,

I’m ready to go, too, it looks pretty cool,”

I drove to school with Belle in the back,

She knew she would have to remain in my backpack,


Even for a teacher dogs weren’t allowed at school,

But Belle looked so happy I was willing to break the rule,

The morning went smoothly, you might say it was a breeze,

Belle took her constitutional after her lunch of mac and cheese,


My lessons were great but they might have been boring,

As the afternoon progressed I heard someone snoring,

If everyone stayed quiet that was okay with me,

But a rascal named Joe had an insatiable curiosity,


He was restless, talkative, and definitely wiggly,

He teased the girls and made them giggly,

He wanted to impress the girls how tough he could be,

It was evident he was ready to challenge me,


Belle could sense that trouble was ready to brew,

So she jumped out of the backpack, she knew what to do,

Joe’s admirers saw Belle and left him behind,

Without an audience he nearly lost his mind,


Joe was ready to fight everybody he could see,

And of course, his target happened to be me,

Belle was aware that Joe didn’t care at all,

That’s when she brought him a soccer ball,


My class went outside for the ultimate game,

Joe and his friends against me and what’s-her-name,

It was hard fought and Joe did his best,

The score was tied close to the end of the contest,


Belle looked at Joe, then gave me a grin,

And sealed their friendship, she let him win,

The principal arrived, “What’s this?” he croaked like a frog,

Joe faced him defiantly, “She’s our therapy dog,”


From then on when I brought Belle to school,

Joe claimed he taught her to read and she wasn’t a fool,

She knew not to argue when she had it so good,

Because Belle, the therapy dog, always understood.




Belle Has to Lead!

Female Lhasa Apso, seven years old in a pet clip.
Image via Wikipedia

She Has to Lead!

The big dogs could have eaten Belle in one mighty gulp,

But she was always fearless and she let them rough her up,

Often she romped happily with her canine friends,

When life is good like that the fun never ends,


To the other dogs her personality was a soothing balm,

This Tibetan bearded lion dog always seemed calm,

Playing with others became part of her daily game,

But Belle would stop her play when she heard me call her name,


Her best friend, though, was Fluffy the cat,

She would chase him and he would take her to the mat,

They wrestled day and night until they went to sleep,

Then they would snuggle together, in a little heap,


On evening before dinner I was watching a show,

An intruder entered, someone I didn’t know,

He carried a gun and I had no time to react,

Belle disappeared for a moment, then I lost track,


The stranger said with derision, “If that Lhasa apso is so wise,

How did I get the jump on you guys?”

He lit a cigarette and leaned against a wall,

“You’re all tied up and there’s no one to help at all,”


He smiled smugly and said, “If you make one sound,

Then you and that worthless dog are going down,”

At first Belle distracted him as she dashed from room to room,

The burglar opened the back door and out the door she zoomed,


“Hey, keep a sharp watch for the men in blue,

If I find you slacking, then I’ll be all over you,”

His two lookouts grunted, “We’re on it, we’ve got the outside,”

The burglar felt he had control so he went back inside,


At top speed Belle raced around corners and bends,

Then silent shapes in the moonlight sped to help her friends,

She led three Dobermans in a blitz the lookouts did not detect,

The lookouts were knocked to the ground, the canines they did respect,


Without a bark between them the big dogs knew what to do,

While the little dog continued onward, leading a motley crew,

Chihuahuas, terriers, bassets, two rottweilers, all were on the run,

Not one dog was willing to miss out on the evening’s fun,


The burglar heard a slew of sounds, from a squeak to a roar,

While he laughed at the sight, a dog slipped through the door,

From the top of a couch Belle found her viewing place,

The burglar took aim and shouted, “Get out of my face!”


When the waiting cat jumped on the burglar’s head,

The burglar shrieked as the cat took care of him instead,

Belle laughed to see such sport as the burglar thrashed around,

And then the rottweilers pounced to make sure he was down,


Later a patrol car pulled up and two policemen got out,

They were met by a small dog that was racing about,

She led them to the place where two men lay on the ground,

One of the policemen said, “Look at what we’ve found,”


“Roll over, and keep your hands behind your back,

These dogs look hungry, I don’t know if we can hold them back,”

One officer stayed while the other followed Belle to the house,

Small dogs were everywhere, but inside it was quiet as a mouse,


The burglar lay on the floor watched by the two rottweilers and the cat,

His face was scratched up and his pants torn where he sat,

“Please officer, I can’t move around and I can’t see,

If I turn just one bit these animals attack me,”


“Take me in and put me in a safe cell,

I have my rights and I know them well,

I’ll sue that man for all he’s done,

He’s the only one here so he has to be the one,”


I laughed, “I’m still tied up, you tied the knots well,

Think about that while you’re in your cell,”

He stared at me oddly but that drew a hiss,

I said, “You’d better be careful glaring like this,”


More officers arrived and put the bad guys in cars,

The burglar was crying because he thought he might have scars,

A detective approached me with a pen in his hand,

“I have questions to ask, there are things I don’t understand,”


“Who got all these dogs involved, and what about the cat?

And how did you do it all tied up like that?”

The three perpetrators are as confused as anyone,

And one more question, who called 9-1-1?”


When the officers left and I was almost alone,

I patted each dog and the cat and hung up the phone,

“Belle, you did well rounding up your friends,

But you had too much fun, so wipe off your grin,”


I gave all the animals treats and sent them all home,

“Come back and visit if you need somewhere to roam,”

Wearily I climbed into bed and turned out the light,

I thought about the events of this interesting night,


Following directions is considered a sign of dogs being smart,

But Belle knowing what to do in an emergency was pure art,

The other dogs might be smarter so I’m teaching her to read,

But already she knows they have to follow and she has to lead.






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