JAKE and ALICE

I was a little worried about the last piece I posted—the one about retirement. This column has always been about you, and the answers to problems or questions you might have. Phoebe and quarantine, RJ Squirrel and our preoccupation with chasing him, the mysterious problem of fireworks. The sorts of things I and my guys deal with and worry about on a daily basis. But when the Doc started in with the retirement thing and wouldn’t let it go I felt obligated to humor him, hear him out, offer what advice I could, and share the experience with my readers.

I don’t know about the rest of you but my head still hurts from trying to make sense of the economic and social ramifications of human retirement. How they get themselves into these situations is truly incomprehensible. Going to school, getting a job, doing a job for a zillion years, hating the job and still doing the job, then thinking about retiring from the job that’s making them even crazier than they are by nature and turning that into another major problem. It’s ridiculous. And I thought it was probably bad for my readership. Until I got this letter:

“Dear Kaya,

“My name is Jake and ever since I can remember I lived in the country with the folks, their kids, and Alice, the Lab-Shepherd mix who’s been my best friend since we were puppies. Our place was in central Oregon. It was great. In the summer we would chase pick-up trucks, the neighbor’s horses, rabbits and, yes, squirrels. In the winter we’d play in the snow and hunt for one of our favorite treats—frozen horse patties. I know, it sounds a little gross but unless you’ve tried ‘em don’t knock ‘em. The best dog chews ever.

“Anyway, some months ago, toward the end of summer, the last of the kids moved out. ‘Graduated college and into the real world’ is how dad described it. He and mom seemed pretty happy about the situation. Alice and I missed having him around, but pretty soon we had bigger things to worry about.

“Dad’s had the same job for as long as I’ve been around. I’m not sure what he does, exactly, but he seemed to like it and never said anything about wanting to quit. So you can imagine our surprise when he walked in one day after work and said he was going to retire. Now, if we hadn’t been faithful readers of your column Alice and I would have had no idea what he was up to. We would have shrugged it off as irrelevant. But we knew this potentially meant trouble.

“The trouble came almost immediately. Within days of his announcement we were packing up the ranch and on the move. After about a week in the car, which both Alice and I actually enjoyed, we ended up in a place called Florida. Some small town, by the ocean, (which was OK because we’d never seen the ocean), where there was a house waiting for us with all our stuff already inside. It occurred to us that the folks had been planning this for a while and for whatever reason had decided to keep it to themselves.

“When we left Oregon it was just beginning to snow and we were looking forward to our usual winter entertainments. When we got to Florida it was about a hundred degrees and the air felt like the air in the bathroom back home after mom took a long shower. No snow. We did see a couple of horses but because it was so hot whatever horse patties we found were not the chewing kind.

“Alice and I are trying to make the best of the situation but we’re hoping you could give us some advice. Where can we find frozen horse patties in Florida? Does it ever snow here? What about the ocean? It’s right across the road. Is it OK for dogs to go into it? Dad’s been encouraging us with walks on the beach but after recent events, the retirement and moving stuff, he doesn’t have a lot of credibility.

“Sincerely,

Jake”

Well, Jake, Alice and you prove that retirement is not a victimless activity. I truly feel for you both, and I’m sure there are plenty of others who can relate to your problem.

I’m a city gal. Yes, I’m mostly Husky and Chow but to tell the truth I’ve never seen the snow or been hitched to a sled. So, I don’t know much about horse patties, frozen or otherwise. And it does sound a little gross, chewing on horse poop. But I thought I’d do some research, given the desperate nature of your circumstances.

I got mom to give me a ride to PetCo. It’s one of my favorite places to shop and I’m sure they have one in Florida. I asked the guy there about frozen horse patties and he looked at me like I was rabid or something. Apparently PetCo doesn’t have the sophisticated sense of taste and texture you two have developed over the years. When the guy regained his composure I asked him to show me what sorts of dog chews he did have. What I found made your request seem tame.

In piles in various bins I found different types of animal horns, hoofs, pigs’ ears, (!), rawhide, rawhide stuffed with red stuff that smelled like old meat, green things with the consistency of plastic mixed with wax, and, best for last, dried bulls’ pizzles. Seriously! So apparently PetCo thinks it’s perfectly OK for us to chew on dried bulls’ you-know-whats but frozen horse patties are some sort of perversion. Like I said, I’ve never tried the horse things, but I’m willing to take your word for their delicacy.

Bottom line, though, concerning your favorite treats, you’re out of luck. Unless your folks decide to take a vacation north in the wintertime, which seems unlikely, given their choice of retirement venue. Still, Florida is better than a lot of places. It doesn’t snow, but it rains a lot, which means if you have a yard you can roll around in the mud and track it through the house once in a while.

The beach is actually fun. I live by one and chasing seagulls is probably almost as good as chasing horses. Wading in the surf is OK—I’m not really a water dog so I don’t feel compelled to go swimming. Besides, there are things in the water I’d prefer to avoid, like stingrays and sharks. From my research I’ve learned that Florida has a lot of sharks and that they seem to be the cranky kind who will bite you if they get the chance. So probably a good idea to stay close to shore and leave the swimming to the fish.

Florida also has a lot of swamps filled with a variety of non-humans. Unfortunately, these include alligators and crocodiles, a few types of poisonous snakes, and cougars. I have the snakes and cougars where I live and they pretty much leave you alone unless you disturb them, which you won’t do if you stay out of the swamps. I’ve heard the alligators and crocodiles like to hang out on golf courses, but since you don’t play, you should be fine with them, too.

Anyway, thanks for writing and if there’s anything else I can do for you just let me know. Meanwhile, ask your folks for a couple pieces of rawhide and a few ice cubes for the water bowl.

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