Weekly Photo Challenge – Vibrant

The Weekly Photo Challenge asks us to share something vibrant this week.

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Blogging from A to Z (2016) – Yes or No

So the time has come to make the long term strategic plan about an opportunity to seriously increase the exposure to my blogs. By seriously i mean the potential to have up to a couple thousand bloggers visit my writing platforms. How can this be you ask? Is it one of those advertisements pushing a $19.99 plan to show you haw to increase traffic? No, but it will definitely return that.

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The opportunity I want to describe is called the 2016 Blogging from A to Z in April event. This is the fourth year of the event, started by a blogger named Arlee Byrd. Quite basically you blog for 26 of the thirty days in April (excluding Sundays) using A for day 1, B for Day 2, E for Day 5 and so on. As of today there is already 415 bloggers signed up to take part and it is still more than sixty days until the start.

So where does the visiting fit within this? As you sign up to take part you are asked to commit to visiting five blogs per day. IF, and I know it is Pie in the SKY if, all 415 bloggers followed the directions and visited your blog one day would that top put your highest single day for views? Okay, being realistic, what if 33% or 1/3 of the 415 did it. That is still 138 views coming from a source outside the normal pantheon of Word Press reader and search engines, not to mention your followers.

So there are some really good reasons to try this. As with all things there is some consideration of whether you can commit to doing the required post each day with the letter specified. In my experience the best way to approach this is by having a theme. Some people choose their favorite movie characters, or recipes, or books or whatever interest them. Last year I was doing four blogs and one of my themes was my favorite movie or TV quotes. I also had one with my favorite flowers we plant at our home each summer.

My experience last year was disappointing, but not for any reason that the A to Z crew should have shame. They are quite supportive and the Host, Arlee Byrd and legion of co-hosts reach out regularly to encourage you. My disappointment mixed with some loss of a family member and pet to derail my grand plan. But I have decided to re-purpose the blogs I had published the first third of the month for 2016 and finish this year instead.

So yes, I will be throwing my hat into this ring. I want to see it all the way through this time around and try to visit 300 new blogs this year, which would be 10 each day of April. Not only will I click on the link to the blog, but I intend to read their post and make more than a canned comment.

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I Invite you to come back to read about the preparations and also to find out which blogs I will use during the A to Z.

 

Posted in A to Z blogging challenge, Blogging, Blogging Challenge, Daily Prompt, Twitter, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Happy Dance!

Source: Happy Dance!

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Starting a New Hobby (Part 1)

AUTHOR’s NOTE: This is the first post of a brand new blog I started to share my new endeavor, which is model railroading. Since the blog is new there is no followers, so I thought I would throw my line in here on the mother blog and see if anyone had interest. You can find the new blog here: Alpine & Clinchport Railroad.

I have always loved model train layouts. I can remember the one that triggered my want to make my own. It belonged to a sixty something year old man that lived in a house next door to my grandparents in Weber City, Virginia. If I had a photo of his layout I would insert it here, but at that time 35 years ago I was not a camera owner.

The layout filled a large portion of this man’s basement. I cannot accurately estimate the layout size, but after purchasing the first 4 x 8 sheet of plywood to begin mine I would cautiously frame his as 36 foot by 60 foot. Yes, it was massive. It had numerous trains and tracks with switches galore.

So back to the title of this post: Starting a New Hobby. I have wanted to build a similar layout to what I saw those many years ago, but some things have been a bigger priority. Things like getting married, buying a house, raising two kids, and quite honestly every day life. But as I start the second year of my fifth decade I am ready to transition into this new pursuit.

Over the years there have been other hobbies to fill the void, such as baseball cards when I was 16-24 years old. This was in the 1980s and collecting baseball cards was still a big thing back then.  Now some thirty years later I really have no more desire to keep them, so I have decided to make use of them to fund my new hobby.

One thing I learned pretty quickly is that this new hobby is EXPENSIVE with a capital $$$$$$!!! I thought I could get my toes wet buying an HO train set, you know the packaged ones with everything in them. But the folks at the hobby shop told me I would be better off to start with a hobby grade engine. Of course, being in a hobby shob it was 20-30% above the online price at $89.95 for the lowest price. I declined their very generous offer with plans to find my engine from my friends at Amazon.

Let me assure you the selection on Amazon is limited only by your imagination and choice of engine type. I could have selected either a steam engine model or a diesel and I decided my first would be a diesel type. Then it was just a matter of deciding based on the look of the engine. You can see my choice in the picture that follows. 051

This is a Bachmann Industries EMD GP40 MKT 245 locomotive. Bachmann is one of the larger manufacturer of train locomotives and accessories as I discovered as I plunged into the new world of model trains. I am learning that a lot of people order specific locomotives along the idea of the layout they want to replicate, but since I did not have a plan at the time I bought mine I figured this would do just fine.

As you know a locomotive is no good without a track to ride on, so I turned back to Amazon for it as well. What I settled on was a 16 piece set from Bachmann Trains that formed an oval. You can get this in several styles, but I chose the black rail bed with steel alloy rails.

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So I now had two out of the three absolute minimum pieces. What else do you need to run an electric train set? An electric control device. Obviously the deeper you wade into any hobby the more elaborate you can get with any facet of controls. I chose a basic one from Athearn, which is yet another supplier.

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Yay, progress shows with the three main items, but there was still something missing. What is a train without some cars? For this angle I chose to visit our friends at eBay. There is a much different experience in this direction, meaning a lot more used items. But with the costs beginning to mount I was satisfied to work on an auction to try to get a few cars for a great deal. (Continued in part 2)

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In an auction on eBay I found an offering for what you see above, an older Tyco set of ten train cars. With new train cars anywhere from $15 and up I felt like the $41.19 I paid for this was a pretty fair price.

With everything in hand I set up my layout on a 4 x 8 sheet of heavy plywood. You can see it below.

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NaNoWriMo 2015 – Progress Report

Hello my blog followers, it is I back from the NaNoWriMo Wars!

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So you know I took the plunge and committed to the insanity that envelopes the writing world each November, the quest to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I had plenty of trepidation before the starting gun, but am happy to report things are going very, very well. Plus the support of the community doing this with me is incredible!

As I write this I sit at 13,393 words after six days. That is an average of 2,232 words per day. In comparison, 50,000 in 30 days averages to 1,667 per day. Where are all these words coming from? well, I can thank all the movies and shows I have watched over the decades for feeding my ideas to fuel my plot and its development. prog1

Above you can see the dashboard for the NaNoWriMo.org site that tracks your progress with many measures. One of the lines I favor is the one that says At This Rate You Will Finish On. In truth I will not finish my novel on November 23, 2015. I may cross the 50,000 line on or around that day, but this baby will be larger than 50,000 when I put The End on it.

November 23 is a good date because I am leaving the country for a week four days later. I think I will probably load up whatever I have by that time onto my Kindle and take it with me to read and look for plot gaps and other “uh-ohs”. That seems like a great opportunity to push back and see what I have. You certainly have no time for it during this thirty day sprint.

So, who wants to know about the plot? Anyone? Anyone? Okay, I heard you over there in the United Kingdom, here you go. This book is about a Iraq/Afghanistan Vet  (still thinking about the time frame) who, due to PTSD has become a serial killer. But his target is very specific, the girl that sent him a Dear john letter while deployed. Now Avery Winston was determined to get her back.

The problem was that in his diminished mental state there was just a couple of main characteristics of his former love, Caroline Mitchell he focused on. unfortunately half a dozen young women with long, curly red hair and emerald eyes have drawn Avery’s attention and fell victim to his bloody spree.

Now Gracie McKinley has crossed Avery’s radar and is likely to be victim number seven. Gracie is a photographer and has unwittingly snapped a photo of Avery’s licence plate. But Gracie has a couple of heroes in the form of F.B.I. agent Layton Spencer and his partner Callie Tremayne. They are narrowing the hunt for Avery and will be Gracie’s best hope for survival.

The novel is set in and around the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Virgina, near where I live and I hope to give the readers and interest of all the area has to offer . . .minus the serial killer of course.

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I am not sure if anyone from here is interested in knowing how this grand adventure is going, so if you are give me a comment! I will be back on the 12th for the next update!

Posted in Caligril89, NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo2015, Novel, Suspense | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Treat – Weekly Photo Prompt -10/29/15

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Treat.”

This week the Weekly Photo Prompt asks us the share about a treat we love. I am taking the word in one of its many forms as in something I enjoy. Tonight my daughter will complete her last home game as a senior cheerleader and member of the high school marching band. Combined with my son’s years in high school we will close the chapter on eight years of supporting my alma mater high school. The treat for me is watching my kids as they participate in the marching band (my son and daughter’s contribution) and cheerleading (my daughter’s contribution.

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My daughter is third from left on the front row.

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My daughter is first trumpet back from drum major stand.

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NaNoWriMo – Why Do It?

I agree I might be on the edge of doing something totally insane. Okay, maybe not insane, but some kind of crazy. What is it? I am going to commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in a month’s time.

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National Novel Writing Month or #NaNoWriMo as you will se it on all the cool kid’s sites like Twitter Facebook, Instagram et all, is a concentrated effort to get some new book material out of writer’s heads and onto paper, in word processors or wherever people choose to write these days. Amazon, Good Reads and every other online site with any connection to books has to like the concept. I mean, what good is a storefront with nothing to sell?

WHY ARE YOU DOING IT?

I am doing it because over the years I have been writing novel length works I have never been published. Stay with me here, I am going to answer this question, it is just a long answer. There are many phases to writing a book. The preplanning is one, the writing a whole BIG other and then publishing perhaps the biggest of all. So really I am doing it first in hopes that this novel will be the one to kick in the door and get a publisher interested in what I write.

Secondly, again going back to the years I have been writing, I have learned to mentally develop a plot to see if it has the legs to be a full blown story. Sometimes you can have a really good story and well developed plot, but a good sized short story is all you can wring out of it. Have no illusion, writing a 75,000 word novel is no walk in the park. The #NaNoWriMo only asks 50,000, which will be tough enough in thirty days.

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The plot I chose to develop has been rolling around in my head for nearly three years. Usually within that amount of time if the plot does not continue to develop you know it has to be trashed. This one has only continued to grow and become more interesting. I feel like I would be passing up on the best choice of my working ideas if I let it go.

WILL YOU HAVE THE TIME?

Whoo! That is a good question. November is a busy month for everyone. I mean it is basically the start of the holiday season. Once you get to the last week, with Thanksgiving, you get into the Christmas slide and time seems to enter an accelerator of some type. AS a matter of fact, I will be departing the U.S.A. for an international mission trip on the 27thof November and with Thanksgiving the day before I am mentally giving myself 25 days to pull this off. I may have some time while away to finish things, but I want to plan as if I don’t.

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO JOIN THIS YEAR?

I need a jump start in my writing and there is nothing like a new project to do that. The excitement of building out characters, setting, Plot and basically the whole ball of wax is invigorating. Pair that with a partner (my wife) that is willing to read and critique and you have a pretty good incentive.

I am also excited about the promised partnering of the folks at the #NaNoWriMo web site. They have developed there involvement so much that they have different regions of the country and groups for each along with coaches and liaisons to assist if you need. I would love to meet other writers/authors, especially those from my local area.

WILL YOU KEEP YOUR READERS UPDATED ON YOUR PROGRESS?

Well, there will be a couple fo ways to do this actually. NaNoWriMo.org has several links that will report your progress back to your website or blog. I have inserted these in the right margin of two of my blogs: (1) In the flagship blog, Joe’s Musings. (2) I included it on the Fiction Playground blog. This is where the majority of my blog traffic comes in. I have other blogs, but they just do not get the same amount of attention from me or visitors.

So, taking the time to make this little post has equaled around 750 words or 38% of what I will have to create each day to make the 50,000 word goal. I hope you will cheer me on, encourage and wait breathlessly (while breathing of course) to see if I can cross the line with the thousands of others taking this challenge.

Posted in Fiction, National Novel Writing Month, Novel, Suspense, Suspense Novel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Coming to a Bookshelf Near You – Daily Post – 10-28-15

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Coming To a Bookshelf Near You.”

Today’s Daily Post asks us to write a book summary for the back dust cover of a book we would like to read. I decided to float the germ of an idea I am developing.

It is the year 2090 and the earth is dying. The supposition about Global Warming and Greenhouse Gases have come to fruition and are accelerating the demise of the planet. Countries have been replaced by political regions. The political regions are run by oligarchies.

Siobhan Grinaldi is a young teen in one of the few oligarchies with a concern for the well-being of their citizens. Her father is one of the ruling council and feels relatively confident his family is safe. But he does not know of the coming political change. Or the population reduction plan of the opposing party, one that will threaten Siobhan’s life and that of thousands of other children.

Daily Prompt

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If You Leave – Daily Post – 10/27/15

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “If You Leave.”

Life is a series of beginnings and endings. We leave one job to start another; we quit cities, countries, or continents for a fresh start; we leave lovers and begin new relationships. What was the last thing you contemplated leaving? What were the pros and cons? Have you made up your mind? What will you choose?

After more than a year of no real significant progress I have decided to shelve my current novel in progress. I would have you know I am an aspiring author and still looking for the first novel to launch my career. It is an intimidating process to be sure.

For the last eighteen months I have edited and rewritten the novel and still believe there is hope for it, but I have tired of the process and want another story to tell. I will credit WordPress with he germ of the novel I intend to start in five days. See this post: Daily Prompt – Coming to a Bookshelf Near You

For this prompt you are to come up with the blurb for the back cover of a new novel. My idea involved a girl snapping a photo of the license plate of a serial killer’s truck and him chasing her across the country. I replied to this on November 20th of 2012, so nearly three years ago.

So here I am nearly 1,000 days make this storyter ready to finally make this story come to life. Over that time the characters have developed in my mental picture some and the setting has changed based on a brief anniversary trip I recently completed with my wife.

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I decided to get a jump start on the novel by dove-tailing it into rse of thritythe #NaNoWriMo. If you do not know, and I am  sure most of you do, NaNoWriMo is something that ties potential authors to their writing programs and desk during the month of November each year.

Authors are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of thirty days. Oh good, you did the math for me! Yes, that’s right, I will have to average 1,667 words each day to meet the thirty day, 50,000 word goal. Can I do it? I invite you to pop some popcorn and check out the fun as I and thousands of others give it our best shot.

See my posts about #NaNoWriMo here:

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Dogs of My Life – Jack

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This series is in honor of the latest addition to my canine history, Sydney, a Shetland Sheepdog or Sheltie pup that will be joining our family on October 17th, 2015. As I approached this date I thought it would be neat for me and hopefully you to see and read about all the dogs in my life that proceeded Sydney.

Of all the previous DoML posts up to now, the unifying matter is that all the previous dogs were ones I had while still unmarried or living at home. There was a long stretch between 1992, the year I married and the year we got the first dog for my son and daughter. My wife had never had a dog growing up, so there was a process of convincing her a dog was important.

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Our first choice for a dog was a Labrador/border collie mix. Jack was a small black mainly  Lab looking dog with a very white patch on his chest. I can still remember riding in the back seat holding Jack as we brought him home. While my kids were happy to have a new puppy I felt like a big hole had been plugged in my life.

Jack was my constant companion, following me everywhere I went. At that time we still had a greenhouse business operating and it was the time of year I would plant a couple thousand fall mums to get them ready to sell in September and October. When you arrange them it is in long rows with specific spacing to allow them to grow and spread to a full size. Jack ran through and bumped them, causing the spacing to be off. I cannot tell you how many I had to rest, but I didn’t care, having a dog was worth the trouble.

Unfortunately, Jack was the dog that had the shortest stay with us. At the time we weren’t thinking as much about containment as we needed to be and Jack met an unfortunate end when he did not understand the relationship between a heavy car tire and a little dog. Jack was the first of three dogs that had either part or a full Labrador influence, unless you count the eight Labrador puppies we had in 2007. If you want to read about that adventure you can click here: A Chocolate Lab Summer -Part One and A Chocolate Lab Summer – Part Two.

To read previous posts in this series you can follow the posts here: Snoopy, Puff, Master and Sparky.

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NANOWRIMO 2015

National Novel Writing Month is coming in nine days. So what, you say? Why should I care? Well it is highly possible some novel you read in the next six to eighteen months could see its beginning in the thirty day festival of novel writing that is #NaNoWriMo. Basically, for anyone still in the dark, novel writers commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. While 50,000 words might seem short for a novel, on average there are 250-300 words per page. using this estimate a 50K word novel would constitute around 200 pages.

I can count five manuscripts in my inventory of unpublished works. I will confess I have never tried to do the #NaNoWriMo because the concept is more than intimidating. You will write 1,667 words on average each day to total 50K in thirty calendar days. Keep in mind there is a holiday on November 26th and you eschew that 24 hour period. This year I also will surrender four days of my writing schedule to an international mission trip. While I could still find the time, who knows if I will want to try?

So there are innumerable reasons to shake my head and retreat from this challenge once more, but there is another compelling reason not to: A story dying to be written. It is a concept I have been mentally building out over a few months. But now it is getting ready to hit the fast track and get a full court press to 50K words.

So, what can I do to facilitate this? Well, for the first time in my novel writing adventures I plan to do a flow chart. No, I am not a flow chart expert and it will not be pretty, but I feel like I need to chart out the action and story line so i can write more effectively. I have decided to use the tact of writing individual chapters that focus on one of the characters, and believe I can chart accordingly.

Three Christmases past my wife invested in the Dragon voice dictation program. It is great as far as making the entry a lot faster, once it learns your speech eccentricities. It is not 100% flawless, but it helps quite a bit. What I am hoping for is to connect with other #NaNoWriMo authors to build some community so we can cheer each other on. I would also like to get some others who will gently inquire as to my progress and keep me focused on the goal. Who knows, I might be able to get this thing ready for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award that is coming in Jan-Feb time frame.

Okay, here is the part where I find out how many people who click on my posts read to the end. You are probably asking what will be the subject of this novel. It will be a suspense thriller with an FBI agent chasing a serial killer on the Blue Ridge Parkway of North Carolina and Virginia.

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Dogs of My Life – Sparky

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This series is in honor of the latest addition to my canine history, Sydney, a Shetland Sheepdog or Sheltie pup that will be joining our family on October 17th, 2015. As I approached this date I thought it would be neat for me and hopefully you to see and read about all the dogs in my life that proceeded Sydney. 

The next dog I want to tell you about is the first one that came to my home while I was not still living there. I guess I was, in fact, still considered a resident, but it was while i was away wrapping up my bachelor’s degree. My brother Kevin was the main beneficiary of this canine-human relationship. He bonded with the dog from the time it was a puppy and did all kinds of things with him.

Sparky as a pup

Sparky as a pup 

Since I was not at home when my parents and brother got the dog, I was never really sure exactly what breed he fit into. I saw some German Shepard tendencies, but Sparky was not the size and did not possess the temperament of the police dog breed. He was very social until he began to age and had moments where he was actually pretty comical.

Sparky with my brother, Kevin

Sparky with my brother, Kevin 

As I said, the bond between my brother and the dog was pretty special. There is a little convenience market within sight of my home place and they have a custard machine. It was very often that Kevin bought Sparky a cup of vanilla custard and Sparky would consume it in short order.

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I could really tell the passing of my brother left Sparky wondering what was happening. All the sudden his best buddy just did not come around any more. How do you explain this sort of thing to a dog when you just really do not understand it yourself? I think seeing Sparky reminded my mom of my brother because she seemed to be less interested in fooling with him after this happened.

Sparky and my son in 1996

Sparky and my son in 1996

Sparky was the first dog in my son’s life. It was a few years before we had our first dog at our home and my son was just too young to fill the shoes of my brother as Sparky’s playmate. I am sure Sparky was not the only dog to ever lose their master prematurely, but it seemed kind of unfair to him.

This is number four in the Dogs of My Life series. If you need or want to catch up you can read the previous posts here:

Snoopy

Puff

Master

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Happy Place – 10-9-15

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Happy Place.”

My wife and I took a couple of days this week and visited the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469 mile motor route through the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. Along with the seasonal coloring of the deciduous trees there was also lots of other dazzling sites. One was the water fall that follows, it is called Crabtree Falls and the water flow was augmented by the torrential rains that buffeted North and South Carolina the first weekend of October, 2015.

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Another addition to the happy places was the place we stayed overnight, the Switzerland Inn in Little Switzerland, North Carolina. When I told my daughter we were spending the night in Switzerland she said “I guess you won’t be home soon, huh?” She had no idea and neither did we there even was somewhere named Little Switzerland in North Carolina.

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Favo Foto Friday – Blue Ridge Parkway – 10-9-15

Fav Foto Friday is a new invitational photo blog I have discovered. Basically you select your favorite photo from the week and share with the others who add photos or come for the fun.106

My wife and I took a trip on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, which stretches for 469 miles through North Carolina and Virginia. There is so much beauty this time of year as the leaves are nearing the peak of color as Autumn’s chill brings about their annual color show.

While I have some photos of the leaves I liked this photo and the one that follows more for their views. The first photo is of one of the many water falls along the Parkway. This particular one is named Crabtree Falls and is an arduous, as we discovered, one plus mile hike from the parking area. The flow of water was augmented by the heavy, heavy rains sustained by North and South Carolina in the first week of October 2015.

The other photo is taken from the back side of the place we spent the night in Little Switzerland, North Carolina.

120 When I sent my daughter a text about where we were I said we were in Switzerland and she said, “well I guess you won’t be home soon.” She had no idea there even was a Switzerland in our neighboring state.

I hope you enjoy the photos I have from the Blue Ridge Parkway and I invite you to investigate more about it online.

Posted in Nature, photo, Photo Challenge, Photography, Waterfalls, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dogs of My Life – Master

Okay, let me pause a minute for you to laugh heartily at the name of the third Dog of My Life or DOML, as you will see I have shortened it to. I understand your point, I mean in the bible within the book of Genesis it is made abundantly clear that he created man to have dominion over all the animals of the earth. Well, anyone who has ever had a pet long term will tell you that over time that line can blur.

I think Master was trying to tell my brother and I he wanted fish in his diet.

I think Master was trying to tell my brother and I he wanted fish in his diet.

I can remember going to pick up Master as a puppy. We got him from a cousin to my dad and there was a half dozen dogs to choose from. I think Master was the one that seemed the most friendly and we were not disappointed with our choice. I wish I had pictures from when he was a pup, but unlike his predecessor, I at least have more than one photo.

One thing about Master stands out so vividly, even nearly thirty years later. He absolutely feared thunderstorms. At the time I had him I was not staying home during the summer alone yet and instead I went to my neighbor’s home, who was a day care mother as she termed it. There was anywhere from six to sixteen kids there and it was a great place to spend summer days. But frequently during the summer that number would swell by one drenched and fearful dog that had easily hurdled her dog lot fence to find me.

This is the best photo I have to show you how gorgeous of a dog he was.

This is the best photo I have to show you how gorgeous of a dog he was.

If you read the first DOML post, you know that my first dog, snoopy, met a tragic end, failing to grasp the rudimentary truths of cars and running willy-nilly amongst them. For Master the end was not sudden like this, but rather a mysterious one. Suddenly one day he was nowhere to be found. Over time my parents conversation about Master’s fate settled on the idea he was probably taken by someone. I have no idea if this was close to the real reason or if they were exercising their parental discretion to avoid relating a less desirable description of Master’s situation.

I thank you for stopping in to read the third DOML post. I want to tell you at this point that there is a reason for this series other than just a simple reminiscence. Very soon I intend to add a new dog to the Dogs of My Life, a Shetland Sheepdog pup. I plan to cover all the DOML in chronological order, so it may be a couple of weeks before I work up to that one, but trust me it will be forthcoming.

We had an acre and a half for Master to roam.

We had an acre and a half for Master to roam.

I think Master was trying to tell my brother and I he wanted fish in his diet.

I think Master was trying to tell my brother and I he wanted fish in his diet.

Other Dogs of My Life Posts:

Snoopy

Puff 

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