Dogs of My Life – Angel

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This series is in honor of the latest addition to my canine history, Sydney, a Shetland Sheepdog or Sheltie pup that  joined 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.

After losing a dog the way we did with Callie, so near to delivering a litter of beautiful lab pups I swore and declare it would be a while before we had another. Little did I know another force was at work beyond my knowledge. When Callie had her pups we kept them confined out of the heat and elements in a carport. We were in the process of building in the carport when my wife came home from work on a Saturday to find a young black lab mix abandoned by the road.

My immediate reaction was a firm no. I am a dad, so if you are one you know how the story goes. Dad says no, mom wavers, kids win. My kids like dogs more no than they did at the time this dog came along, but they felt it was a sign from God. We are solid in our family about our faith and they knew how much I needed a dog, so they felt this was our Angel.

We estimated Angel was about six or seven months when she arrived at Alpine Acres, the spread where she lived for about six or seven years. I am not sure what caused her death, but it happened the same week my dad’s younger brother died and the two events struck me so hard I tail-spinned for the rest of the year.

Only the thought of adding a new dog later that year helped to suave the wounds. Thus you now are up to date on the history before my current fur baby Sydney.



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Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – 04/28/17

I really have grown to love the various photo challenges that pop up in my WordPress Reader. Perhaps it has something to do with the proliferation of photos as a result of the improvement of the camera functions associated with Smartphones and the fact it is usually always at my arm’s reach.

Cee Neuner has multiple challenges like this that I have dabbled in over time. This week I want to join in on the “Which Way” Challenge which is devoted to:

  • Roads:  gravel, asphalt, cobbled, dirt, freeway, expressway, highway, bridges
  • Indoor walkways:  hallways, aisles, people movers
  • Outdoor walks:  sidewalks, paths, trails
  • Stairs, elevators, escalators, or steps:  indoors, outdoors
  • Railway  tracks, monorails, ski lifts
  • Runways and starmacs
  • Ferry’s, canals and lochs
  • Parking lots, private driveways
  • Tunnels
  • Signs of any kind:  directional, informational, store signs, wind vanes
  • Maps that are posted as signs



While I didn’t really realize it, I captured quite a few “Which Ways” on a local Spring Break trip with my wife, daughter and her college roommate. This first photo was taken as we traveled along the Blue Ridge Parkway on March 6th looking for a place to hike. Rain was just subsiding for the day and temperatures rose so quickly they had to close part of the Parkway for a period.


A couple of hours later we enjoyed better weather as we began our hikes. There is so many hiking trails within a reasonable drive of where I live and I came up with an idea of how to integrate technology and these trails but I am keeping it to myself until I can get it developed.


This is one of the tunnels on the Blue Ridge Parkway we rolled through while traveling just outside of Asheville, NC.


On Sunday of our three day weekend we visited the absolutely gorgeous Biltmore Mansion and Gardens in Asheville and saw many walkways that give visitors access to the beauty and splendor the Vanderbilt family enjoyed.


Writers draw inspiration from everywhere and I could see a new story idea for my F.B.I. partners series in this arch. I’ll bet you can’t possibly imagine what I did.

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – April 28, 2017

Cee's WW

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Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge – Challenger’s Choice


I know this is no photography masterpiece, but to me, a former greenhouse owner, it takes my breath. It is from a nearby greenhouse where my daughter works on Saturdays when home from college. The first full row is full of blooming zonal geraniums with plenty of full bloom hanging baskets above. This whole house will be bare within three weeks as the peak time of Mother’s Day arrives. Plus we are forecast to have high 80s temperatures this week after 30 straight hours of rain ending overnight.

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Cee’s Oddball Photo Challenge – 04/23/17

Another Oddball Photo Challenge and I have nothing to post! Yeah, right. When you have been an oddball all your life or at least have an odd sense of interesting you can always pull something out of your hat, or photo collection, right?


I had to edit this post because I realized I included a photo of my dog sleeping on her back for the second time. Instead I inserted this photo of some logs my neighbor cut as part of his lawn service and stacked in an unusual way.


Christmas celebrations can get kind of out of hand in our family when there is paper and ribbon involved. My niece is never too shy to give it a go, so I snapped the photo for blackmail purposes when she brings home a fellow.


No, this is not the reaction when someone sees me enter the room! Come on people, have some respect, huh? This is the result of a game piece for a new game called Speak Out! It cause you to speak as if you would when the dentist inserts a similar device.

I think three oddballs is enough to plague you with this time. More to come.

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: April 23, 2017

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Dogs of My Life – Callie


AUTHOR’S NOTE: This series is in honor of the latest addition to my canine history, Sydney, a Shetland Sheepdog or Sheltie pup that joined our family on October 17th, 2015.  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.

It is interesting how the interval between significant events can escape you. Specifically I cannot enumerate the amount of time between losing Louie, the Lemon Beagle and bringing in Callie, the chocolate Labrador Retriever. I am confident enough to say the photo above with the date stamp is the evening we brought Callie home. We have a friend that breeds Labradors, so we knew we had a reliable source for the next addition to our family.

This new canine addition came during the height of our greenhouse adventure, so we wanted to choose a name with a flower flair. We settled on Callie after the Calla Lily. I like the name so much I have adopted it as the name of a signature character in my thriller novel series.


Callie was a funny dog. In the first picture above you can see a Frisbee that Burger King offered as a tie in to one of the Superman movies. She would chase that thing as many times a I would throw it and crash over, through and under any obstacle during the chase.

Within our time of having Callie we decided to breed her with another chocolate lab that belonged to a family friend. That was a fun time during the summer of 2007, when we had ten dogs on the property at one time. If you want to read about that check back on this blog for the re-posts of A Chocolate Lab Summer – Part One (Callie & Moe) and A Chocolate Lab Summer Part Two – The Puppies Are Coming! The Puppies Are Coming!


During this adventure we had nine puppies, eight chocolates and one cream color. About half went to friends or acquaintances, so I still check on them occasionally. Unfortunately we tried again to breed and just before the second litter Callie died un-expectantly. It was one of the saddest experiences of my pet life, knowing we lost not only our mother dog but potentially many others.

With this experience we realized that dog breeding was something left to others with stronger stomachs and more knowledge.

To read the other posts in this series you can click on the names here: Snoopy, Puff, Master , Sparky, Jack and Louie.

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Spell – Stream of Consciousness Saturday – 04/22/17

What kind of spell would you expect to come from the Wicked Witch of the West if you are Dorothy from Kansas? I mean you have to consider the fact Dorothy just flew in from the Midwest in her wood frame dwelling and parted Sister Witch’s hair right smack dab down the middle. I think I might be a might inclined to throw some fire myself!

The Wizard of Oz is considered one of our cinematic classics, yet there was no helpful young lad in all of Oz for Dorothy to cast her spell on as she sought to slay this particular witch. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying girls in checkered dresses can’t fight the fight, I am just stating that Hollywood in 2017 has a pretty regular formula about how things get done. More often than not it is an unlikely pairing that morphs into some kind of romance as they approach their goal.

I suppose the real spell lay in the Wizard’s ability to full all the little people of the Emerald City until a fur pup named Toto was bold enough to skirt the curtain. If not for that the quartet might never have had the brains, heart or courage to get the job done.




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Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: April 16, 2017

Oddball here we come. My first set of three photos show the result of a grafting class I went to three weeks ago. The extension agent had a tool that is supposed to make grafting more successful. The joint is like a puzzle piece. You insert the rooted stock one way and use the tool to get the “female end”. Then for the graft you turn the tool the opposite way and get the “male” end. The third pictures shows the two joined and awaiting the masking tape to hold it in place while it heals.


I try to take my dog out very frequently and this time of year especially there is always plenty of new growth everywhere. I have passed this solitary daffodil many times this week thinking I wanted to snap a photo, but I never had my phone. Then today when I finally do there is a butterfly resting on it.


I wondered if I would be able to get close enough to capture the butterfly and was surprised to get photos from both sides of the flower.


This photo was not as clear as I would like due to the low light conditions, but sometimes you just have to take what you get. My miniature Sheltie is as likely to lay on her back like this at any time and when I saw her I had to take the photo.


This last photo may take a bit of explaining. How many of you know it is a plug tray of begonias? There is probably 150 or so begonia plants stuffed in this tray. Each cell can be popped out and planted in a larger container. The reason it is in this box with clear plastic underneath is to concentrate the watering process. When the plugs get this size the water cannot get past the leaves to the roots. By using this process the roots can draw moisture from below.

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Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: April 16, 2017

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Earth – Weekly Photo Challenge – 4/19/17




I wish that I could share the photos of my own solar array, something on our docket for this year, but due to some upcoming celebrations of graduation and birthday we have delayed installation of our own project until nearer to summer. I took the photos of these panels when we were at a local water treatment complex picking up compost for our new raised beds.


I know this next one seems a weird choice, but it is the back of the LCD television I recycled through my work during our Earth Day celebration last spring. I hate the thoughts of electronics winding up in dumpsters and not being handled responsibly like they are during a concerted e-waste recycling campaign. I try to always gather up my electronic waste to recycle it on Earth Day or a specialized event.


On a more regular basis we recycle plastic and aluminum cans. It is not a huge impact, but it is something fairly simple for us to manage. In Virginia there is no economic incentive to recycle the plastic and the aluminum recycling prices have dropped quite a bit over the last few years.

I could easily post ad nauseum the kind of photos that say Earth to me, but I will end with these. I am coming to see what you added for yours!










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Moo! – Stream of Consciousness Saturday – 4/15/17


Today there is an unusual prompt for the Stream of Consciousness Saturday or #SOCS post. We are trying to incorporate the word Moo into our post. This is not a terrible stretch for me, because I live in a rural area in the mountains of Virginia. For my whole life I have enjoyed the sights and sounds of farm animals on three sides of my home. In fact, by this point in my life I am so used to the sounds I have to consciously ( like how I pulled that in?) think about picking the sound out of the background noise of my life.

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Apr. 15/17

I am part of the fraternity/sorority of folks concentrating on creating 26 posts based on the alphabet for the 2017 A to Z Challenge Linda mentioned in the prompt post. This year I am laying out the plot of a historical novel I plan to write during NaNoWriMo 2017 in November.

The Steel Horse Saviors is a story about three civil war veterans, two Yankees and 1 confederate who head west with their steam locomotive to seek their fortune. They encounter a beautiful redhead trying to save her family business who causes each of them to reassess their plan to escape their pasts. I won’t be so presumptuous as to insert a link here, but will tell you I have a recap of the second week on the blog where I am writing about the Steel horse Saviors, the Fiction Playground. If interested I can give you the link in a comment.



This is for the weekly Stream of Consciousness Post. Here are the rules copied from this week’s prompt for anyone interested in joining the fun/madness.

Here are the rules:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” “Begin with the word ‘The’,” or simply a single word to get your started.

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top. NOTE: Pingbacks only work from WordPress sites. If you’re self-hosted or are participating from another host, such as Blogger, please leave a link to your post in the comments below.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. As a suggestion, tag your post “SoCS” and/or “#SoCS” for more exposure and more views.

8. Have fun!


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Questions I Think My Dog Would Ask – Chapter 2


Welcome back for the second installment in this recurring series and if you are new we are glad to have you. For background to the newbies, this is a chance for my year and a half year old miniature Sheltie to speak her canine mind. If you were around Syudney for any amount of time you would realize her personality is so large that there has to be some questions she would like answered. I seek to be the best owner I can and attend to every need, so that is the reason we decided to bring her questions to this forum.

It was my plan to alternate this series with another pet-centered one called Dogs of My life, where I document the canines I have loved and collected adventures with, but since I have been ENTIRELY too busy with, well EVERYTHING!!!! I have not finished the blog posts for the remaining dogs. So you get the second question from the present fur baby, Miss Sydney.

So the next QITMDWA is this, in Sydney’s words:

Why do birds think they can rest on my wires? I know I am top dog on my farm. But there is just too many birds that think they can encroach on my territory. Every time dad takes me out for our walks, at least when the sun is out I have to run off all the birds.

The worst is the robin bird that likes to hang out on mom’s car mirror. She lands there prances around and does her business all down the side of mom’s car. I bark and bark, but either she is deaf or just doesn’t care. One of these days she is going to pay for making a mess. She also does it on dad’s truck but he seems to think it is just going to be what it will be.

Thanks Sydney. If we dug very far into your pedigree I am sure we would find some fraction of bird dog within your make up. You certainly keep the wires free from our fine feathered friends.



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Fitbit 2017 – Is 5 million steps a possibility?

Welcome back any who dared take part in the craziness known as 1 Million Steps to 2017. Over 92 days from October 1 to December 31 of 2016 I set my sights on “hanging a big number” to celebrate a year of a new health habit. Shortly after strapping on a Fitbit Charge HR that I received at a work party on January 31st I began to reap the benefits of a healthier approach to my life.

Some background here, I have two factors in my life that can potentially spell trouble. First of all I have a desk job. I sit for the majority of the day Monday through Friday. The favorite saying about this is that “sitting is the new smoking”. Come Saturday I am like a caged tiger and I usually rip free from the bounds of my home to wear myself out all weekend. As proof I offer this screenshot taken on Sunday of last weekend to document the insanity that I perpetrated on Saturday.


The other item is something called Factor Five Lyden, I think that is right, which is a blood clotting disorder. I found that I carry one gene of two for this three years ago when, for the second year in a rwo,  I was diagnosed with a blood clot. Well actually two Pulmonary Embolisms in my lungs. Three plus years of Xarelto later I am perking along.

But really it is the Fitbit that has made my life more healthy. That and the miniature Sheltie that receives the “punishment” from my increased walking regimen. We walk at all hours, sometimes at 5:30 in the morning and as late as midnight in the evening. She is named Sydney and is much more interested in the middle of the day than those odd hours, but never wants to be left behind.


I can also credit my internal desire to compete as a contributing factor to my increased level of activity. Last spring a high school friend of mine introduced me to the Fitbit Challenge. Basically 2-10 Fitbit wearers can compete for a per-determined time to see who accumulates the most steps. Fitbit put some thought into this and some software coding to allow you to encourage or “razz” each other while the program gives you little encouraging updates along the way.

So basically all of this until now is set up to say that I would like to try to accumulate 5 million steps in 2017. In all of 2016, which was really only 11 calendar months of having the Ftibit I was able to count 3,995,362 steps. That equates to 1,857 miles. Not to mention burning almost 1.3 million calories. I managed to leave a few pounds by the wayside too.

By now the math that separated the truth of 2016 from the possible truth of 2017 is the elephant in the room. Yes there was 31 days in 2016 I was without the Fitbit, but will that mean the extra 1 million steps can be realized? Only if I up my game or steps. I have not done the math on steps per day, truthfully because I am not sure I want to, but I know it will mean I have to make a solid effort to get into the low teens every day.

In the first 90 days of 2017 I accumulated 1,109,431 steps. That divides down to an average of 12,327 steps. So quick math says 275 days to add 3,891,569 steps. The average I need to stay on throughout the year is 14,151. Whoo! That is an ambitious plan! But, I got hurt a little by a bout with strep throat and back issues at the end of February and first of March that ended a 48 day streak above 10,000 per day which is Fitbit’s benchmark.

Doing so does a few things: 1) It gets me up and moving which is directly attributable to a better life 2) It means lots of projects will get the attention they need to be completed, 3) the Fitbit challenge will always have a competitor from Alpine Acres, the name of my home spread, 4) I have a year long goal to chase and 5) I may have to buy some new clothes since all this walking is making my old ones look a bit roomy.

I have my wife joining me with her new Fitbit HR, so all my exercise will not be devoted to walking the fur baby. Maybe we can enjoy the good weather as we walk our way to better health. I invite you to come back for quarterly updates.






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Surprise – Weekly Photo Challenge – 04/12/2017

This week, share a surprise with us, as you see it through your lens. We’re excited to see what you share with us!

I began a new hobby early last year, which is model railroading. Every opportunity I get when a show is within reasonable driving distance I take it in. Last November I found one about two hours north of my home. I always take plenty of photos of these layouts to help with the design of my own in my basement.



Enter a caption

In this photo I realized there was a background looking like 2-D or 3-D that really wasn’t




When I snapped this photo I missed the cartoonish helicopter in the upper left of the photo.

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1000th Post – Writing is contagious!

1000Today I celebrate an important milestone for me as a blogger on WordPress. For the 1,000th time I will craft a post about a subject, edit for accuracy, add some pictures and send it off into the World Wide Web to find its place among the seemingly endless pool of content. It was nearing the end of 2012 when I found WordPress and began my current blogging journey. My first post was about Frankenstorm, the horrible late season hurricane that came right about Halloween of that year. In time the storm was renamed SuperStorm Sandy.

I feel my blogging skill has increased immensely over the 998 posts since that first one. I had a picture then and a couple hundred words of text, but I am not sure anyone commented. I learned quickly that just because you craft a post, clean it up nice, put a bow tie on it and send it out it does not guarantee anyone will want to read it. The most important thing is to build relationships.

Across the 999 posts before this one I have enjoyed visits from family, friends, neighbors, fellow bloggers and some visitors from all over the world. I cannot begin to tell you all the countries WordPress logs that see their posts. Just a little less than 50,000 times someone has made the choice to check out what was written on one of my blogs.

For those who don’t know I have five subject-theme blogs I alternate between. I have the mother blog, Joe’s Musings which has more than half of all the blog posts. Before I added the 4 subject specific blogs everything could be found here. But I felt like I had something to say in the specific areas that were important pieces of personality that made me . . . well, me!

Fiction writing is my passion! I have written six novel length works over my writing career and on WordPress I have discovered a great network of fiction aficionados who offer a network of experienced, published authors to draw experience from. Right now I am participating in the 2017 A to Z Challenge, posting teasers about a new novel I will begin during the 2017 NaNoWriMo in November. All this is at the Fiction Playground.

Faith is a huge component of my life. In the three and a half decades since making the most important decision in my life I have sought to share the truth of how one can assure eternal life in all of my interactions with others. That includes my blogging existence and I now collect these posts on a blog called Living the J.O.Y. Principle. For anyone unfamiliar it is based on the Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last concept.

Flowers and gardening make up another huge fraction of my interest. This summer I will plant a garden for the twenty-fifth year. This does not account for the years I toiled with my father learning the skills I continue to hone today. Flowers have always caught my eye with their beauty so my smartphone camera gets a regular workout. I even called my flower/gardening/nature-centered blog Chasing the Blooms.

At the beginning of last year I added another hobby that I will gradually work into as I age. More than half my life ago I was exposed to something that never left my mind, but became one of those “one day” pursuits. Well, that day came on my birthday last year as I began a model railroad in my basement. Where I live is on a private road named Alpine Drive and I call our plot of land, all 3.25 acres Alpine Acres. My mom grew up in a small town in Virginia called Clinchport and I saw and fell in love with trains there. So I named my railroad and my blog the Alpine & Clinchport Railroad.

On this momentous occasion I find myself reflecting on the journey through ups and downs of interest and discovery. Many lessons have to be embraced and capitalized to make progress, which I feel I have. As I look forward I wonder what will become of my blogs as I continue to hone my craft. If you have been along for the ride I bid you a heartfelt thank you. It is the support of readers that makes a blogger want to continue to create.

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Cee’s Oddball Photo Challenge – 4/9/17

I don’t believe I have been cognizant enough to schedule in an entry for Cee’s Oddball Photo Challenge. I’m sure it has nothing to do with my vanity about being considered oddball. I have embraced the moniker for several years now. Heaven knows there are some photos that appear in my cell phone picture gallery that I look at with wonder because they seem so random. I think they will fit right here.


This picture came from a visit to Asheville, NC where the Biltmore Estate welcomes visitors from around the world and the United States.


This will likely seem very odd to many of you. I must admit when I watched the video I thought it was quite curious. But when you know the why it is pretty genius. This is a new way to grow potatoes, where you do container gardening with them. You fille this insert with soil, plant your seed potatoes and gradually fill the pot as the greenery grows upwards. Then after 90 days you pull out the insert and harvest. If you are interested, I will document the process on Chasing the Blooms.


I saw this in a store in Asheville, something I might want to try at our home.

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Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge

I look forward to seeing other answers to the COB theme.

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Questions I Think My Dog Would Ask – Chapter 1


It has been a distinct pleasure to enjoy the company of a canine in my life for greater than half my years and trust me those years have begun to pile up! Over those years I have had a few different breeds and a variety in size, temperament and lifespan of my “man’s best friends”. None of my dogs were mean, which I guess could be an endorsement of the treatment they receive. How anyone could purposefully be mean to a dog is beyond me. I really cannot stand the ASPCA or dog shelter commercials where they show a cowering canine. I understand the abuse problem is real, but it just bothers me to see it so real.

With my current dog, Sydney, a miniature Shetland Sheepdog, I find myself more reflective about what she might think about her world. While deep in this reflective train of thought I decided there might be a funny recurring theme I could share with you on this blog. So that is how Questions I Think My Dog Would Ask was born.

Sydney is an inside dog for a few reasons. 1) She is the smallest dog we have ever had 2) We selected her breed due to the likelihood she will live longer than the Labradors we have favored recently 3) She makes a great companion for when I work at home and 4) She is leash trained to avoid the car problems we had with Jack and Louie.

Since Sydney is inside, save the time we take our walks, I get to see a lot of her personality. Let me tell you she has tons of it. Looking at her when she decides to give me some of that personality I can just imagine some of the things on her mind and that is what will constitute this blog series.





So the first QITMDWA is this, in Sydney’s words:

Why does dad always have to stop and put paw covers on? You know when I get up in the morning I am ready do go take care of business and here dad is plopping himself down on the couch to put his paw covers on. But you know he always puts them on his back feet, but sometimes he doesn’t on his front. Is it just his idea of fun or is there a reason? I just wonder why he doesn’t want to feel the snow, mud, dirt and grass between his toes. I guess he is too old for that fun. Oh well, I will just have to enjoy it for him. Thanks for reading my first question. I hope you will come back for more.

Thanks Sydney. I knew that question was eating at you because you always give me the impatient look or slight growl when I take too long.

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