Pet ownership lesson No. 1: Don’t let them run loose

Our family today has grown by one.

He stands about 10 inches tall, has four short legs, two large ears and goes by the name of Toby.

That’s what his former owners told us. He’s now ours.

But this tale is about the idiots who gave him away and the method they tried to employ to find him a good home.

It does like this.

Our 12-year-old great niece is visiting us for a few days. She likes to take walks through the neighborhood. She did so the other day and then returned with a little dog that followed her home. “What do I do with this dog?” she asked. “Put him in the back yard,” I said.

We looked to see if SPCA would be open Saturday. No luck; it would be closed for the Labor Day holiday. “We’re going to take the little guy to SPCA first thing Tuesday,” I told her.

Our niece then took us to the alley where she found the pooch. We talked to some neighbors. They didn’t know a thing about the dog. We brought him home. He spent Friday night in our back yard.

We awoke Saturday and our niece decided to take the pooch for a walk. We had purchased an inexpensive leash and a collar. They went for the walk and a few minutes later our niece returned home — without the dog.

“Don’t ask!” she said angrily. She stormed into her bedroom, then came out a few minutes later to tell us this: “I found the dog’s owners and they still want to get rid of the dog. They told me they just turned him loose at night hoping someone would pick him up. That is just awful! How can people do that to an animal? How can they treat their pets like that?”

She was angry. Then my wife and I got angry.

I declared at that moment that if were a dictator I’d declare those people guilty of animal cruelty and I would send them to jail, throw away the key and feed them dog food. I became so angry that I wanted to hunt those people down and tell them what rotten SOBs they are exposing that dog to harm.

Other dogs could injure him, or worse. He could be hit by a motor vehicle. He could be picked up by someone wishing to do terrible things to him. You name, I thought it.

Well, we awoke this morning. We had a full day at the rodeo. We returned home and our great-niece went for another one of her walks.

A few minutes later, we saw her walking toward the house — with the little pooch at the end of the leash.

She had found the owners yet again and told them that her aunt and uncle wanted the dog. They gave her the dog, told her his name is Toby.

The only remaining issue — and this is a big one — is whether our 12-year-old cats will accept this addition. This has been their house for a dozen years. Cat owners know what I am saying here.

We are cautiously optimistic that they’ll be all right. Toby doesn’t pose a physical threat to them. We’ll get him to the vet soon and he’ll be looked over. The curious thing about this dog is that he appears to be well-cared for. He’s been neutered and he is a loving, affectionate little fella. I guess he’s probably around 2 or 3 years old.

As for Toby’s former owners, it’ll take time for me to cool down. I remain quite angry over what we understand was their strategy for ridding themselves of an unwanted pet.

They have set the standard for what not to do. And for my money, they have disgraced themselves.

Oh, but hey, Toby’s now home.




Sexism alive and well … in U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has revealed what many folks knew already: the Senate is full of sexists.

The New York Democrat has written a book in which he chronicle how her male colleagues have said patently offensive things they’d never say to another male.

This is a kind of “Ball Four” moment, or at least I hope it is. “Ball Four” was a book written by former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton that revealed to the world that Yankee great and baseball Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle was a drunk, carouser and womanizer. Who knew? I didn’t.

Perhaps Gillibrand’s book is likely to peel the hide off the Senate’s pretense of being this distinguished deliberative body full of noble statesman who take themselves oh, so very seriously.

Gillibrand’s memoir, “Off the Sidelines,” talks a bit about how senators would say things to her about her weight, her appearance, the weight she gained and lost during pregnancy. One senator told her how he likes his women “chubby.”

Is this the kind of thing a woman would say to a male colleague? I’m trying to imagine Gillibrand or any other female senator talking to an overweight male senator and telling him how she likes her men with meat on their bones.

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, who’s been covering the Capitol for a lot of years, thinks there’s hope that change might be coming to Capitol Hill. She writes that “the older fanny pinchers are giving way to a new generation of male senators with more experience of women (including their often high-powered wives) in the workplace.”

The question has come out: Why not identify the senators? No need to do it. They know who they are, as do their colleagues, male and female. It’ll come out in due course and then public opinion will take over.

Good job, Sen. Gillibrand.




Texas abortion fight takes key turn

A federal judge has ruled that a critical part of the Texas anti-abortion violates the U.S. Constitution.

Good for him.

The judge is Lee Yeakel, who presides over the U.S. District Court’s Western District of Texas. His ruling declares that a provision in the law that requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospitals puts an unfair restriction on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion if she chooses.

Thus, the fight will continue. The state is certain to appeal this ruling. The leading candidate for governor, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, is a strong supporter of the law; his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Wendy Davis, rocketed to national political fame when she led a filibuster in 2013 to “kill” temporarily the bill that would become state law.

Yeakel ruled that the intent of the law was to close only existing licensed abortion clinics. The law, he said, goes too far in establishing the stricter standards on par with ambulatory surgical centers.

So, why the curious turn here?

Yeakel was appointed to the federal bench by Republican President George W. Bush, another strong anti-abortion politician.

I’m as certain as I’m sitting here that we’re going to hear comments from critics of the ruling declare their disgust with “unelected” federal judges overreaching and “writing laws from the bench.”

Again, this is the beauty — not the bane — of the federal judicial system. Judges aren’t beholden to their political benefactors, the politicians who select them for these lifetime jobs.

Abbott says he’ll appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans, where he thinks he’ll get it overturned.

Would those judges be overreaching and writing laws from the bench?



Debate is off, now it’s on

Someone pick me up off the floor. I’m getting dizzy trying to keep up with the on-again, off-again, on-again Texas gubernatorial debate status.

Republican candidate Greg Abbott backed out of a planned debate with Democratic candidate Wendy Davis. That announcement came Friday.

Now comes word that the candidates will debate Sept. 19, in McAllen.

Hey, what gives?

I’m glad they’ll debate. Frankly, I’d like to see more of them prior to the election this November.

The Texas Tribune posted an interesting item profiling the debates the candidates for Texas governor have had dating back to 1982.

Abbott and Davis need to face off.

Abbott had backed out of a Dallas debate because his new debate planner, Bob Black, didn’t like the roundtable format agreed to earlier by Abbott and Davis campaign advisers. I considered that to be kind of chicken bleep of Black to pull the plug on something his guy had agreed to already.

The Davis camp accused Abbott of being scared. No surprise there.

Now the two are going to meet under the auspices of another TV network.

They’ll travel to South Texas.

How about coming way up yonder? To Amarillo? How about talking to us about your plans to implement further statewide water management plans. Water’s a big deal around here. How about talking about how you intend advance efforts to develop more affordable wind-powered electricity. You two know this already, but we’ve got lots of wind blowing.

I’m glad to hear that Abbott and Davis will face off at least once. More would be better.


War is no option

President Obama makes it clear: There will be no U.S. military intervention in Ukraine.

That’s a relief.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir “Tough Guy” Putin makes it equally clear: Don’t mess with Russia.

Now, are the Russians tougher than we are? Which military establishment is stronger than the other one? This loyal American knows the answer to both questions.

None of that is the issue. World peace and the consequences of trying to force the Russians out of Ukraine militarily are too horrible to ponder.

The only option now must be the economic one.

The European Union is pondering even more stringent sanctions on Russia. So is the United States of America, working in concert with the EU.

Meanwhile, the critics back here at home — far away from the struggle — keep yammering about the “military option.” None exists.

Russian troops reportedly have “invaded” Ukraine, violating that country’s territorial sovereignty. Obama has condemned the Russians, including Putin. He’s vowing that Russia will pay a price for its violating its neighbor’s territory. The sanctions already imposed are taking a big bite out of a Russian economy that’s on the ropes as it is.

Are we going to bomb the Russians? No. We should put the economic squeeze on them.

Keep tightening the vise, Mr. President.


Time for ‘new president’?

“If the president doesn’t have a strategy, maybe it’s time for a new president.”

You know who said that? U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in remarks at a Dallas ballroom after speaking at an Americans for Progress meeting.

Pretty darn profound, don’t you think?

He’s talking about President Obama’s declaration that he doesn’t yet have a strategy to deal forcefully with ISIL, the hideous terrorist organization seeking to overrun governments in Syria and Iraq.

Paul has joined a number of other critics who’ve hit the president hard for not having such a strategy.

It’s the “maybe it’s time for a new president” comment that makes me chuckle.

Let’s see: We’re nearly halfway through Barack Obama’s second term as president. We’ll be getting a new president in January 2017, which is just around the corner.

The 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids Obama from seeking a third term. So he’s out of the campaign game.

Yeah, it’ll be time for a new president … in due course.


Hooray for socialized medicine!

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

Update: My Medicare card arrived in the mail today.

It arrived much more quickly than I was led to believe it would get here. It doesn’t matter.

I’m quite thrilled about it, to tell you the truth. My Medicare benefits take effect Dec. 1, which is 16 days before my 65th birthday.

The most curious feeling I have at the moment is this strange desire to get sick enough to present it to a health care provider. It’s not that I’m wishing bad things to happen. It’s just that now that I’ve got this Medicare benefit card, I’m strangely anxious to use it.

Is there something wrong with me?


The United States Postal Service delivered an important piece of mail to me today.

It came from the Social Security Administration and it informed me that — get ready — my Medicare hospitalization insurance takes effect in December.

I think I’ll remember this day right along with the day I got my draft notice.

I’ve just taken another step toward retirement. Man, it feels good.

The application was far easier than I thought it would be. I logged in at, assigned myself a goofy password, filled out a questionnaire, swore that everything I said on it was factual and true, and then submitted it.

I’m now in The System.

As I mentioned here before, I will forgo all the various parts A, B, C, D … whatever. The Veterans Administration health care system — in which I also am enrolled — is likely able to take care of other health needs if and when they arise.

We’ve heard a lot lately about “socialized medicine.” Critics of the Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare — just can’t stomach the idea of The Government providing health insurance for people who don’t have it. They’ve sought to demonize the notion of socialized medicine.

It’s a hilarious effort to walk themselves back from a program that’s been in effect since 1965.

For nearly 50 years, elderly Americans have had access to socialized medicine. It’s working quite well.  This December, when I turn 65, I’ll receive another piece of mail from the Postal Service. It will be my Medicare card, which I’ll get to show health providers when I need medical care.

Now, that socialized medicine system — Medicare — has another customer.

That would be me. I’m happy to be on board.