Author Archives: DonniT

Not on My Menu

How COVID-19 is impacting restaurant risks | Insurance Business

I miss restaurants. I miss bars. I miss being spoiled by terrific servers and amazing chefs. I miss watching other people’s food arrive and having FOMO. I miss bantering with the servers, and wondering if they roll their eyes when they walk away or if they appreciate my wit and charm.

But.

I will wait to go to a restaurant until our Governor says it’s safe for me, the other patrons, and the people who work in them.

I dread opening my browser in the morning to see which wonderful eateries have shuttered their doors forever. My heart breaks when I see a restauranteur lament their life work’s demise. I fear for those servers who are no longer able to pay their bills.

But.

I will buy gift cards. I will order takeout directly from the restraunts, and avoid delievry services that take precious moey fron those who need it most. I will overtip.

I will not patronize restaurants who open in defiance of the Governor’s orders. As reported by Stephanie March of MSP Mag this week, 130 small businesses are discussing doing just that this week. I can only imagine the desperate fear those business owners are feeling. However, I don’t think it is right that they open prematurely.

I do think the government needs to do more to help them, on the local, state and federal levels. Make banks waive mortgage payments for three months (just tack the 3 months onto the end of the loans), so landlords can waive rent. Get some subsidies in there for servers, suppliers, etc. I think it’s pretty clear that if they reopen illegally, they will forfeit any relief. They may also make it worse overall for those in their community who will respectfully suffer through the restrictions.

March’s article quotes the organizer of the coalition as saying if people don’t feel safe, they don’t need to go to the restaurants. True, and fair. Servers do not have that luxury. If a restaurant reopens, they will put themselves at risk to do their jobs. These people do not typically have financial cushions (or if they did, they are long gone). Minimum wage workers do not have the luxury of staying home.

So it is with great sorrow and conflict that I say will not patronize any business opening illegally. I won’t get takeout from there, either. And I may find it really tough to ethically support them next summer when we may be back to a semblance of normal.

I hope we Minnesotans followed the rules enough during this last shutdown to allow Governor Walz to authorize a limited reopening next week. If so, yes: we will go out again. If not, we will be sad, but do our part.

Please, my favorite restaurants, and all those places that haven’t become my favorites yet, don’t risk everyone’s health by opening prematurely in desperation.

Falling for Date Nights

Like everyone else, we’ve been pivoting on the date night thing. Changes in weather, and rising COVID rates, meant options were becoming harder to find. So, rather than a monthly recap, I’m moving to bi-monthly, because, well, there just isn’t as much story to tell.

Our first October date night was his choice. We headed over to the movely Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to wander and enjoy the scenery.

If you’re a Minnesotan, and have never been, go. If you are like us and go maybe once a year, change that and go seasonally (that’s on my to do list next year). If you live in another area, find one near you. Ours is run by the University of Minnesota, and, as they say on the website,

“Founded in 1958, we are a member-driven non-profit with more than 1,200 acres of professionally-maintained gardens, rare plant collections and accessible trails…the Arboretum is engaged in cold-hardy plant research and has developed 27 commercial apples, including Honeycrisp, Haralson and First Kiss®. In 2019, USA Today readers named the Arboretum the best botanical garden in North America.”

Learn more about it here.

Every time we go we are inspired on ways to further enhance our yard (and usually HWSNBN comes home with pocket fulls of seeds. Sometimes he even writes down what they are for.

The Arb often has seasonal displays and exhibits. You may remember our date night there last winter to see the lights. This time the featured exhibit was a scarecrow competition.

After dinner, we headed to dinner in a new-for-us location 30 Bales in Hopkins. Would totally go again. It looks like a typical diner (a little fancified), but the food is anything but ordinary.

Next it was a nightcap, aka a nice glass of wine, at the Vine Room, also in Hopkins.

The next week we got busy –socially speaking. We double dated on Friday evening with friends Christi and Jim (the Sun 50 folks) at a new Excelsior Restaurant, the Bull and Finch.

Saturday it was my turn to plan. It was a gorgeous sunny fall day, so we headed east to St Paul. We pretty much only go to St Paul when I plan dates, because HWSNBN is sure we will fall off the edge of the earth of we drive that far (it’s like a 30 minute drive, max). First up was a late lunch/early dinner at the The Gnome Craft Pub. Formerly the Happy Gnome, this place was revamped by celebrity chef Justin Sutherland and partners, complete with a to die for patio (swinging chairs under the trees and fairy lights? yes, please!).

Food is drippy and delicious, and this will be my go to for pre-gaming for Xcel Energy Center events post-COVID. We started with Shaved Raclette (molten hot cheese, potatoes and shaved ham — was there any question I would be into this?). He had the Carved Barbacoa sandwich, and I had the Carved Wet Pork (great band name, BTW). Defintely a three napkin sandwich.

Traditionally we only see the changing leaves on Cathedral Hill during the last miles of the Twin Cities Marathon, and neither of us looks up — he’s eyeing the finish line and I’m searching for him.

The mansions are gorgeous, however, and I’ve always wanted to explore them. All the hosted tours were closed, but I found a cool self-guided one online, courtesy of Big Boy Travel. For a few hours we wandered, learning all about the neighborhoods and who had built and lived in the various homes.

(the tour starts at the St Paul cathedral and finished at the James J Hill House. Both were closed to the public (thanks, COVID) so we will have to go back. We had a ball. At one point, a woman who lived in the area watched us as we read off the info about some homes on her block. She interrupted ato ask what we were doing, and was fascinated by the website. She learned something new, and was excited to try the tour for herself, even though she’d lived amidst all that gorgeous history for years!

The next weekend was his turn. With dog Stevie Nicks in tow, HWSBN took us to a very cool pumpkin patch in Watertown called the LuceLine Orchard. It was funny watching Stevie’s reactions to all the people, dogs and other animals. At one point she was just following her nose, then lifted her head and was within bleating distance of a goat and a chicken. Girlfriend jumped and did a double take. A little later she met a very large, very furry, cow.

Stevie wanted nothing to do with her, and backed away quickly. She is such a suburban dog. She looked at us like, “Is this what you guys do when you leave me???”

Decided to drop her back at home to recover (what must those doggie dreams have been like, I wonder?), and went to dinner to one of our faves, Coalition in Excelsior.

We kicked off November with a double date with friends Matt and Patti. Just a nice, easy night at a delicious place I’ve mentioned before: P.S.Steak. My only complaint is that they didn’t have their French Onion soup on the menu. They need to bring that back! But let’s face it — the steaks are to die for, and ya gotta love a Baked Alaska! So retro, so delish!

We took kind of a break from date nights after that, and instead took a trip which I will talk about in another blog. Then Singer Girl came home, and Thanksgiving happened, so we have been focused in those directions. We did manage a nice date night in, with takeout from the aforementioned Bull and Finch, and me beating the pants off him playing Racko.

The date nights have definitely mellowed, but they are just as necessary. Man, are we gonna date night HARD when this pandemic is over! We are so lucky to live here, and I intend to take full advantage of everything we can!

Weeble May Wobble But She Don’t Fall Down!

It’s Give to the Max Day! Since today is so important day (more on that later), I thought I’d share an update on my fave foster of the year — and maybe one of my favorites of all time!

Back in the spring, Teri, the Secondhand Hounds neonatal program coordinator, posted a picture of a tiny thing that needed help.

Something grabbed me on the inside and I instantly reacted. This baby was tiny, and sad, and damaged. We didn’t know how bad off she was, or even if she could be saved. But SHH was willing to try, and I wanted her in my life.

She was teeny, and scared. When Teri and I showed up for her intake, she would scream and flail frantically. She almost threw herself off the table, and it was nearly impossible to console her. She had been found at just two weeks old, abandoned in a box on the side of a Kentucky road. Our rescue partners down there had been working with her to gte her stronger before her trip up north, and now she was ours.

As I was driving away with Weeble that night, Teri cautioned me that we might have to make a decision. I understood that we didn’t want her to suffer, but I was determined to try.

We agreed to take it a day at a time.

Weebs had no control over her body. I immediately figured she was blind. Then, I started to realize she was deaf (a diagnosisI confirmed by banging pans together over her head. She slept through the clamor). We worried she had a neurological disorder, as she couldn’t walk in a straight line. It was painful to watch — friends who met her passed silent looks over my head, sure that this baby wasn’t going to make it.

My first goal was to get her to eat, which was tough with all her lurching and swerving. She was starving, but frustrated. I would take the goopy mush and smear it on my fingers then put them in her mouth. After I had crammed as much food in her as she could handle, she would pass out, satisfied.

She wasn’t safe in her pen: she kept crashing into things and falling. So I literally gave her a padded cell.

The smaller her area, the calmer she was. So I filled it with soft toys.

We made it through the first day. Then the next. Days turned to weeks, and she started to calm down.

A trip to the vet confirmed she was messed up, but we just couldn’t tell what it was. We had a theory (Cerebellar hypoplasia), but when I reached out to others with animals with that diagnosis, they disagreed. She was doing too well.

So we just did what we could to get her stronger, healthier, and, after a while, happier.

She started to puppy! She learned to eat (although never neatly. I called her eating style the “Stevie Wonder.”). She still couldn’t easily walk a straight line, but her paths became neater diagonals, versus wide arcing circles. I realized that a lot of her issues were likely emotional trauma. Since I rarely know my fosters’ back stories, I invent them, based on the dogs’ behavior. My guess is that Weeble’s first two weeks were fine — nursing away with her litter. But when her eye opened, and she started to move, the asshats who had her litter realized she was damaged, and threw her out like trash.

Who wouldn’t be traumatized?

Once she was steadier, we made a decision that was right for her but so very painful for me: she needed “siblings.” Our founder, Rachel, had a litter of puppies about the same age and we moved Weeble and another neonatal puppy, Cheddar, into her pack. Dogs need other dogs to teach them the ground rules, and I knew she would benefit, But I was as worried as a mama dropping her differently-abled kiddo off at school for the first time.

Would the other puppies accept her, or pick on her? Would she miss my guiding hand, or join in the fun? I let her loose, held my breath, and watched.

The other puppies bounded up with puppy joy, totally unaware that my deaf, visually compromised baby couldn’t anticipate their crashing arrival. She hollered and whimpered. Baffled, they backed off. They all tried again. She wandered around, confused. No one became immediate friends, but no one tried to eat her, either. Rachel gently pushed me out the door, and promised to keep me apprised.

The house was empty and quiet and easy at home. I missed Weebs. I worried. But, like any mom, I knew that she needed to spread her wings. And she did.

Soon she was in charge, albeit goofily. Weeble, once she got past the ugly beginnings, was so joyful, so grateful to be alive, that she just thought life was amazing.

As we assumed, after a few weeks Rachel’s puppies were adopted and Weeble and Cheddar were left alone (we typically wait a bit longer to put neonates up for adoption, as they have more issues to resolve before being go-home ready). So I got Weeble back — and her “sister” Cheddar, too.

She was bigger, stronger, more confident. Her time with “siblings” had worked miracles! She and little Cheddar, also a neonatal pup who came to us with her unique “cleft nose,” were continuing to teach each other how to dog. They were doing so well, in fact, that it was time to start looking for adopters for both!

Weeble’s bio was a tough one. I knew I had to work very hard to find her the right family, as we just didn’t know what the future would hold for this wobbly baby. She needed a home with another dog, and one where the people were committed to keeping her safe, and socialized, and willing to put in the work now and forever.

When Krista applied, she said she’d been following Weeble’s journey on social media, and had fallen hard. She brought her boyfriend Jason, who wasn’t sure they needed a third dog. He was a bit more cautious and reserved during the meet and greet, but it was pretty clear by the end that he was smitten, too.

A few days later, after a virtual home visit, we decided to set up a meeting with their two boxers, and, if everyone jelled, she was theirs. My worry with any dogs was whether they would accept her, or exclude her as “damaged.” The dogs were confused by her, but more because of her exuberant energy, not her wacky ways. A family was born!

I always want to keep in touch with adopters, as I get so emotionally attached to the dogs while they are here. But Weeble was even more special than most, and I was desperate for updates. Krista and Jason have been wonderful about keeping me posted!

Weeble is now a burly, happy, bull in a china shop pupper named Wobbles (I love that). She loves going to daycare, playing with her siblings, and cuddling with mom and dad (although Jason reports that sometimes she doesn’t quite know the appropriate times to be awake, and has been known to want to play at 1am!).

I mentioned at the top of this post that today was a special day. It is Give to the Max Day, a day so important to all Minnesota nonprofits, but especially vital this year. We cannot do in-person fundraisers, so today is a make or break it kind of day. Without donations, we can’t help dog’s like Weeble. We can’t save all the bottle-fed babies, the seniors struggling at their end of life, the thousands that pass through our doors every year. We need your help.

If Weeble’s story touches you in any way, please donate today. All dnations will be matched! Go to https://www.givemn.org/donate/Secondhand-Hounds and pledge anything — it ALL helps.

As a thank you, I’ll keep sharing these babies and their stories! I don’t know who next year’s Weeble will be, but I am excited to meet her!

Raise Your Glass!

Singer Girl just released her next song!

It’s a bluesy, jazzy song — I wanna have a cocktail and listen to this in front of the fire. But I haven’t had breakfast yet, so that wouldn’t be proper.

Her music is on all platforms, so please download on whichever you prefer, and liste away. Love it like I do? SHARE! FOLLOW!

2020 is full of bad things. Can’t we have a good thing????

Help my girl get her voice heard!

Here’s her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/frankietorress

Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@frankienstein3?lang=en

That is all. Carry on…

…gin and tonic in your hand.

(P.S.: if you missed her last one, here it is!

Save Your Winter By Saving A Life

A wonderful friend recently asked me to write a blog for her company’s website. Christie has an amazing clothing line, Sun 50, that is not only fashionable and fun, it can save lives, as it is all created to save your skin from sun damage.

As the website states, “We created this company to bring hope and wellness into people’s lives.” Clearly, it has a spiritual connection with animal rescue.

I enjoyed writing about a subject that I am passionate about — just like Christie’s passionate for lookin’ fab and being safe at the beach!

After she published the blog, I decided to reprint it here, adding a bit more detail.

Perhaps you’ve realized you will be home more than usual this winter and you may be thinking, “now is THE perfect time to add a fur friend to my family.”  After all, dogs have been known to cure loneliness, increase your opportunity to be outside, exercise and socialize, from a six-foot distance of course! (although, TBH, dogs don’t go in much for the social distance thing. I mean, how do you get in a good butt sniff from 6 feet away?)

So how do you start?

First of all, figure out the best dog addition for your lifestyle and be honest with yourself.

BREED: Are you looking for a running partner or a couch potato? A brewpub mate, boater, or road trip dog? Visit dog parks and ask the owner questions or just observe. Visit websites like Secondhand Hounds or Petfinder to see what’s available in your area. Research breeds of interest so you know what to expect in terms of training, health concerns, behavior, longevity, shedding, etc. 

AGE: Are you ready to invest 10-20 years into this relationship? Or are you thinking 3-5 years is plenty of time? This will help you decide puppy vs older dog, and help narrow down breeds (small dogs statistically live longer than large breeds).

FINANCES: The adoption fee is just the beginning, folks. When you adopt from us, that fee includes spaying/neutering, microchipping, vaccinations, vet care, and any training/socializing we can do.  Be sure to review the fees for agencies in your area.

When you get them home, add in food, medical care (routine and the inevitable emergency or illness), training, vacation expenses (whether they go with you or stay behind), etc. It adds up quickly. If you are worried about money, do not adopt breeds prone to expensive health issues, like bulldogs or Great Danes.

How new is your carpet? Do you like to leave shoes around? Does your toddler drop lots of food? How will you react when your puppy pees n your couch or the kitty uses it for a scratching post? These things happen. And it can get expensive — fast.

YOUR TIME: Puppies require a ton of work on their schedule, not yours. Not a fan of midnight walks in the snow? Don’t get a puppy. On average, it will take a dog up to a year to house train. All dogs require time in training, no matter their breed or age. It can take time for an animal to acclimate to life in your home, and if you can’t take it slowly, maybe you shouldn’t take the plunge.

OTHER PETS: do you have any other fur friends at home? How do they feel about adding to the family? We insist that all our dogs meet any other dogs they might live with. They don’t have to have an instant connection, although that can happen. But if they dislike each other immediately, that’s not a great sign. And don’t get a puppy to bring life to your old dog. That’s not fair: most older dogs would like to chill out, not defend themselves against puppy teeth and enthusiasm. Got a kitty? Is it used to dogs? If not, make sure you get a dog that is cat savvy (we can emp test our dogs), or is a puppy who you can train diligently to be respectful. Make sure that your current animals have a way to escape the new ones if they need a break. Bottom line: if you are applying to adopt one of my fosters, I will tell you to put your current animal’s needs and desires first.

WHERE YOU LIVE: are you a neat freak? A sneezer? Dogs and cats bring saliva, dander, hairballs, muddy pawprints, poop. I know folks with allergies focus on certain breeds, and they can be better. Some breeds shed less, but all animals shed in some way. Don’t write a dog off until you meet it — and don’t assume a certain breed will mean no sneezes.

Is your yard fenced? If not, are you ready to take your dog out on a leash every time it needs to go out? Electric fences are controversial — they work for some dogs, but not all. Where will the pet sleep? Is everyone on teh same page for rules? How about training — everyone should attend training classes so you are on the same page. If mom says no to jumping up on guests, but dad greets the dog every evening with an “up, up” commnad, dogs can be confused. Dogs pretty much understand “always” and “never.” “Sometimes” is anarchy.

I have found that most adoption returns happen because the adopters weren’t honest with themselves about who they are and what they were willing to take on. It is awful when returns happen: the adopters feel guilty, the dogs feel guilty, and the foster who made the connection often feels guilt as well. So please: make sure you are picking the dog whose age/size.breed works best for you and your family.

Oh — and can I make a suggestion on what NOT to do?

Don’t give a pet as a gift.

I know it looks cute on commercials, but it is a living being. When we have folks that want to do this, we first have the “gift giver” get approved, then we recommend a surprise meet and greet. Make it a “date” if it’s for your significant other — maybe you bring them to meet a dog just to see what it’s like. Or you arrange something with the adopter — like a “chance” encounter at a park. Make sure the animal clicks for them (and the dog likes them back!). If you choose a chocolate lab, and it turns out your significant other always wanted a pit bull, you can’t exchange it like a sweater that’s the wrong color.

Ready to make the move? Patience, Grasshopper. Right now, EVERYONE wants a pet. The pandemic good news for rescues all over the country is that dogs and cats are finding homes at unprecedented rates.

The bad news for adopters? Adoption is suddenly insanely competitive. For every puppy on our website, we receive dozens, or even hundreds, of applications.  But please do not give up hope!

Here are some adoption tip highlights and recommendations for you:

  1. Read the bio and listen to what it says. If the bio says “no kids,” and you have triplets, don’t apply. If it says “must be in a home with other dogs,” and you don’t have one, move on.
  2. Apply quickly. Do not wait for your significant other’s opinion. Apply, THEN tell them what you have done. You are not obligated to adopt the animal, but it’s the only way to talk with the foster and learn more about the animal (our animals all live in foster homes).
  3. BE FLEXIBLE. If you insist on only wanting a 5-pound, blue eyed female fluffy white thing under 10 weeks old, you just made your quest exponentially harder. The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to get the right pet.
  4. Insist on something “designer” or “trendy” (like a Frenchie)? Become a foster. SHH Fosters chose the animal(s) they foster, decide who adopts them and get “first dibs” on their foster if they “fall in love.”

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Why adopt rather than buy from a breeder? You are saving lives! According to ASPCA, about 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized each year. While that number is sickeningly staggering ( that’s more than 4,100 per day, or 171 per HOUR), that number is down from 2.6million each year in 2011, thanks in large part to rescues and shelters promoting spay, neuter and adopt don’t shop.

Additionally, with a foster based rescue, the foster knows the animals from heath to behavioral quirks and is motivated to facilitate the best match for you and each fur friend.  It is also VERY difficult to tell if a breeder is an ethical and responsible animal lover, or just a puppy mill solely interested in profits.

It’s also waaaay less expensive. At Secondhand Hounds, our animal adoption fees range from $100 for an older cat to $1000 for a purebred, highly desirable breed puppy. For that fee, you get way more than “just” the animal itself:

“Secondhand Hounds charges an adoption fee to adopt through our rescue. … Adoption fees include the cost of spay/neuter surgery, microchip, de-worming, flea/tick preventative, heartworm test (for dogs and puppies over nine months), feLeuk/FIV test for cats and kittens, and age-appropriate rabies/distemper vaccinations. By paying this adoption fee, you are not only adopting your new best friend, but you are also allowing us to save more lives.”

Let me be clear: SHH is NOT anti-breeder. We are anti-bad breeder.

A responsible breeder has a waitlist and never has puppies waiting for adoption. A responsible breeder screens their animals for illnesses and does not breed litters with genetic issues. A responsible breeder will allow you to meet the parents, visit their facility and ask questions. If the breeder does not meet the above criteria, walk away.

Bringing a fur friend into your home is a major decision with lifelong reward.  While the adoption process may take a bit longer these days, I encourage you to throw your application in.  Your decision to do so will save a life — and might even be yours. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have — and please share pics of your rescue dog or cat!

A Lab(rad)or of Love

Last summer I agreed to take on four neonatal fosters for Secondhand Hounds. Lovingly dubbed the Sub Pups, these tiny yellow labrador puppies were released from a breeder because they had cleft palates and would’ve died without help.

The sandwich chain Jersey Mike’s generously donated to our organization, and as a thanks we gave them naming rights. Thus they were dubbed after popular menu options: Jersey Mike (aka Mike), Big Kahuna (Kahuna), Stickball Special (Styx), and Philly Cheesesteak (Phyllis).

You can see some of last summer’s blog posts here. We definitely had a lot of ups and downs with these babies, as we do with most of our neonates. Clefties tend to aspirate their food and liquid, leading to aspiration pneumonia. These guys were no exception. At 5 weeks old, they started declining. My life became a blur of vet visits and medication dosings. The boys struggled, but they overcame eventually. Little Phyllis, sadly, did not. She is the only foster I have lost, and it was so hard. My heart hurt for her, but in the end know we did everything possible to give her a chance. She was loved, and she knew it.

As I said, the boys recovered, and after a few months were able to go home to their forevers. Today, the babies are big boys!

Mike was the first to go, and he was dubbed Winston (look for him on Instagram as Sir Winston Labrador). His parents are veterinarians, and daddy has extensive experience with clefties. Mama and Daddy are overwhelmingly in love with their boy! They worried at first that they would struggle to connect, as they had just lost another lab. But clearly Winston’s winning ways quickly eliminated that concern.

“He has become the Michael Phelps of the dog world and LOVES to swim and chase a ball in the water, so we aren’t sure if his favorite thing really is the ball or the swimming part LOL,” says his mama. Winston is a big snuggler, which doesn’t surprise me (orphan babies get pretty spoiled by human contact, due to how much intense handling and cuddling they receive from early on). When they are babies, cleft pups drink from a “hamster” waterer, as it takes a while to learn how to drink from a bowl without choking. Winston got a little spoiled, evidently, as he still prefers his waterer to a bowl, and will only drink out of the water bowl if it has a little milk in it!

Big Kahuna is now Barney.

This sweetheart has been a godsend for his humans: “Barney is a wonderful member of our family! We can’t imagine being without him, and we are so grateful for him especially when we had to go on lockdown, he got us through that very difficult time.”

Like Winston, Barney slits his time between snuggles and playing. He happily greets his humans, and wants to meet all the neighbors (I mean, isn’t everyone a friend you just haven’t met yet?) 

Barney loves going on walks around the lake and through the woods (so many sniffing opportunities!), and he is learning how to play fetch. Of course, he usually just keeps the ball and the game for him is for his people to wrestle the ball away from him! His fave time of day might be mealtime: in typical lab fashion, he inhales his food in seconds. His current task on his to do list is convincing Tinker the cat, to play, but she’s not having it (50 lb dog versus an 8 lb cat!).

When the pups were dealing with pneumonia, Styx suffered the longest. His recovery dragged, so he stayed with me for more than a month longer tan his brothers. To be honest, I didn’t mind. He was such a sweetie! His adopter was also patient, beasue she knew she had a great dog coming hoe soon!

Styx hit the family jackpot: he is one of four dogs at his house!

His three siblings are Skittles, Daisy and Sasha.  He loves playing with them during the day and cuddling at night.

Styx (the only f the puppies to keep his name) also loves being around the two-leggeds, and has settled in quickly to his job as an office mascot! It seems all these babies came from some great snuggle stock, as all their humans report the cuddle is strong with these woofers!

As you can imagine, Secondhand Hounds spent a lot of money on these babies. All had at least one cleft surgery, plus emergency care during their bout with pneumonia and countless doctors’ visits. Thanks to generous donors, it’s what we do. We want these amazing animals to have the best life possible (historically breeders euthanize puppies and kittens born with defects like cleft palates; we are giving them another option).

Next month is Give to the Max Day. The fundraising event is always important, but this year it is critical for us and other charities. 2020 has been a YEAR, if ya hadn’t heard! We are unable to do our major in-person fundraising events, so if you are moved to see more success stories like these, please consider donating on November 19th. For more information, please click here.

Recently we got in a new cleft baby, a French bulldog who is working hard to survive.

Secondhand Hounds will do all it can to make sure she has a happy where are they now story this time next year!

Grandpa’s Song

My dad’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis wasn’t a surprise, as we had seen the signs for a long time. My mom had been slowly readjusting their lives to fit his needs, and, of course, as the disease progressed, so did the pace of the adjusting.

My daughter has watched all these changes, in both my parents, and has used her music to work through it. Today, she put out her first single: Grandpa’s Song.

It’s about my mom, telling my dad about how she will always be there for him. It’s about remembering their past, with a tentative eye on the future. It’s about how this wretched disease has stolen so very much from them.

Singer Girl, whose true name is Frankie Torres, has been honing her craft for more than 12 years. From singing in clubs, on stages, in bars and in huge arenas, she has waited patiently for the day she can share her OWN music with the world. Today she started seeing that dream become a reality.

Grandpa’s Song is the first of three original songs she will release this year. They are all three incredibly personal, and reference her experiences in some way. This song hits the closest to home for me, of course, because it is about my dad and mom. But the other two touch me in a completely different way. When I hear them, I can’t see the little girl who idolized Kelly Clarkson and wanted to be her one day. Now I see the woman who she has become, one who is a star in her own right.

Two weeks ago we thought we were losing my dad. Alzheimer’s patients often lose the ability to swallow, aspirate, and get pneumonia. That’s what ultimately kills many of them, and dad was struggling. He aspirated. He got sick.

My brother and his wife flew out from Washington — just in case. We all had special moments with him. I played him the song.

Dad hasn’t spoken much in years. But when he heard the song — HIS song — he hummed along. The rest of us wept.

Please take a listen on whichever streaming platform you prefer I’ll list a few links below. If you like what you hear, say so! Like/share/download/follow her on them, and on her Facebook page and on Instagram at frankie_torres3.

Thanks for listening. Hug your parents, your grandparents, and your kids. They all deserve a song.

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/7h6eW2mDInB03whHhgnM0i

iTunes: Grandpa’s Song – Single

youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2Yj3maF6pc&fbclid=IwAR3VeHwzPRppFpD320tQMrXp13Nb0cBIoBKNoGAqF1oUB2WZXZLlvVD-G6k

Back to School, Back to Date Nights!

When Singer Girl went back to school in August, we realized it was time to kick date nights back into gear. It’s harder now, in some ways, to find wild, new, interesting things to do. I mean, the world is kinda shut down, so options are fewer. That just means we have to dig a little deeper. But hey: every little outing feels like a gala ball when you are starved for social interaction!

In September we tried several new places, while still finding time to visit a few treasured faves. The first weekend of the month we were in Madeline, and I covered that last post. The next week we had two date nights, one picked by me, the other by him.

First up: my turn! On Thursday night we did a double appointment with my acupuncturist, Kate at Peak Life Clinic. Ironically, HWSNBN is the one who got me started with the needle life, but he’d never been himself. So our date nights worked well to get him there (remember the rules: one person plans, and the other has no say!). Afterwards we visited Cast and Cru restaurant, where we haven’t been in far too long. It’s weird seeing the Old Log Theater quiet. We also realized that this winter Cast and Cru probably won’t open up the little cabin bar we enjoyed squeezing into last year. But a well-poured cocktail from the C & C bartenders does help dull that pain!

For our anniversary, HWSNBN took the lead. He has always liked basing gifts and celebrations on the “traditional” gift guides for anniversaries. The gift for 26 years is evidently photography, so we wandered around some lovely galleries in Minneapolis looking for a lovely piece of art to put on our sadly barren walls. Some of the places we enjoyed included the Groveland Gallery and Galeria do Beija Flor.

One of the best parts about exploring the world on foot is getting lost and finding treasures. One such place was the amazing Brickmania.

We caught sight of the amazing Lego reconstructions of the USS Missouri. Cannot wait to bring Sailor Boy here some day. He will geek out, just like we did.

One of our favorite crazy places to shop is Architectural Antiques. I mean, from door knobs to church pews, bowling alleys to antique crystal chandeliers, they’ve got it. We have bought many special things here over the years — like our copper front door, and the stained glass double doors on HWSNBN’s office. We didn’t buy anything today, but oh, man, did I want to!

We also enjoyed a jaunt around the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

Afterwards it was dinner at PS Steak, then we stayed the night at the cooler-than-us Hewing Hotel.

The next weekend I had a puppy party for work so we borrowed a couple of puppies to be our arm candy at Excelsior Brewing Company, our fave neighborhood beer joint.

The next day we double dated with our friends Matt and Kristy, and hit a few breweries and wineries out west.

The next weekend, the last in September, our weekend was a little busy so we couldn’t do much just the two of us. But we managed to squeeze in a PHENOMENAL meal at Vann Restaurant, a place we’d never yet tried.

That food was simply elegant and delightful!

As I write this we’ve already done a few fun October date nights, but TBH it’s gonna get harder with the double whammy of COVID-19 and a Minnesota winter. But we’ll prevail!

Oh: and stay tuned for a super exciting post in a day or so!!!

Same Island, Different Feel

Once again, when the calendar turned to Labor Day weekend, we packed the car and headed to Madeline Island, WI.

Our plan was to leave no later than 10am, which would put us at the ferry in Bayfield around 2:30, but HWSNBN got sucked into phone calls and couldn’t pack up the car. Usually I drive so he can do work calls and sleep, but this time it just didn’t happen. And normally, showing up late isn’t a big deal, as ferries typically run back to back about every 20-30 minutes. However: we received an email from our rental landlords (the wonderful Madeline Island Vacations) the night before, letting us know that winds were high and the last ferry would be around 8pm.

When I read the email, I wasn’t worried. That would be an exceptionally late time for us to arrive.

But as his calls lingered on and on and on, and the hours passed, I started getting concerned. We made good time on the drive up, but, as we approached Bayfield (where we catch the ferry), I suggested that he check the website and see if there had been any updates. Sure enough, the winds were really bad, and the last ferry was now going to be 5pm.

It was 4:30, and we were 40 minutes away.

HWSNBN started to panic, urging me to drive faster and faster. I sped up, but decided that even though I was the only car on a pretty straight, relatively flat country road, I wasn’t willing to break the sound barrier just because he was late leaving. I calmly asked him to start looking into places for us to stay the night. He refused. He called the ferry, hoping to ask them to wait. They didn’t answer. As we reached town, of course I had to slow down, which of course meant his heart raced faster. I pulled up to the ferry line where the boat was still docked, but there was a truck towing a trailer in line before us.

We sat, and waited, and wondered if they’d let us on.

The ferry people were walking around the truck and trailer, and the guy finally shook his head and motioned us forward. We got the last spot on the ferry, simply because trailer dude didn’t fit. We sailed across (with our ass hanging off the back of the boat, according to HWSNBN), not nearly as relaxed as we usually are on the ferry to Madeline. But there is nothing like it once you are there!

It was an unusual start to an unusual weekend. The island has five restaurants, and two were closed early for the season due to COVID-19. The others were take out only. The place was unusually busy, crowded with lots of new faces. I guess everyone needed a getaway, and you saw folks all over the island wandering around with maps. Which is really funny, because the island may be 14 miles long and 3 miles wide, but the business district can be walked end to end in 10 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s a lot to see and do. But, sadly, not as much as usual. Yeah, Tom’s Burned Down Café was open, but only allowed a few folks in at a time. You could get a garlic burger and Superman ice cream at Grandpa Tony’s, but you wouldn’t be sitting at a table with an oversized playing card signifying your order number.

As we ran into the map clutchers, we gently suggested they come back when the pandemic was settled, as the island usually has a much more vibrant energy .

As for us, we did just fine. We stayed at a new cabin this time, called Haven House, and it may just be our favorite ever. One of our friends asked if we get tired of staying at new places all the time, but not at all. It’s great finding new island treasures, and this one was fantastic.

HWSNBN and I usually go up on Thursday, while our friends follow the next day. So the first night we ordered take out from The Pub, opened a bottle of wine and played cribbage in front of the fire. It was a perfect kickoff to the weekend.

The next day I read a book outside while he hit a bucket of balls, and Stevie Nicks kept an eye on the local wildlife.

When our friends arrived on the island, we all grabbed takeout again, this time from Cafe Seiche, and ate it at their cabin. After dinner we played drinking games and let all our dogs run amok on the golf course (it’s a pretty casual place, is Madeline).

Saturday was golf for the fellas, and the beach for the dogs and the ladies.

Sadly, this was not a warm weekend. The windy theme that rushed us onto the island Thursday never let up. Our paddleboards didn’t get any use — they just enjoyed a nice roundtrip strapped to the top of the car. We hosted dinner that night, and finished the night by the bonfire.

This swing was great, in theory. We sat on it and it immediately fell to the ground. Maybe too many Spotted Cow beers and Dot’s Pretzels the day before?

Sunday was pretty much a repetition of Saturday — golf and beach, but with a little stroll downtown in the afternoon, including a visit to the charming Bell Street Gallery, which is always good for live music and an adult beverage, and, of course, lovely local art work. Then we meanedered back to enjoy a cocktail at The Pub’s fantastic new patio area (it’s not a Madeline Island trip without a Bootleg or two!).

The group all headed back to our place to play Kubb, a fun game at which I do NOT excel. then dinner at their place, with more laughs and dog merriment.

It’s a predicable weekend, and maybe that’s why we love it so much. We know we will eat, drink, laugh and run around after dogs. After the craziest 6 months the world has ever experienced, that’s all you really need.

Emptying That Nest Again!

After the longest summer vacation ever, the kidlings of the world are back to school, and that includes Singer Girl.

One last stick throw for her dog!

We packed a dozen suitcases and flew her back to Michigan a few weeks ago. If you recall, she attended a different university her freshman year, and quickly decided that was not her place. she attended a different university. Last year, she transferred to this school and started over. Now, as a Junior, she was ready for a year of really getting into her education, and enjoying all the normal experiences of college.

Frickin’ COVID.

She was supposed to move into an apartment with her two best Wolverine friends, but one decided that the distance learning was not worth paying for housing, and chose to virtually commute. So the remaining two were put in an apartment with two strangers. It was kind of like starting over for the third time for my baby.

No in person classes, unless you count 3 times a semester for one class. No sorority formals or fraternity parties. No a Capella competitions. No football games.

She considered staying home, and taking everything online. But the apartment contract was signed, and we were gonna pay for it no matter what. And I told her that attending zoom-college in an apartment with other kids, in a college town, was way more of a college experience than logging in from her parents’ basement.

It’s not a normal college experience, buti t is HER college expereince.

Her 4 bed, 4 bath partemnt is super cute. It’s in a hge highrise complex, with a freaking amazing pool area in the middle (all teh aprtaments overlook the space, whch has grills and big screen tvs and lots of place to gather, hopefully safely).

She is getting along fine with her new roommates. She is cooking healthy meals (I’ve seen the instacart receipts and I feel ashamed when I compare her grocery lists to mine).

While we were still in Ann Arbor, we did some shopping for her place and helped her set up. We hit the farmer’s market, took her out for meals, and even got a date night in.

We sadly have no plans to visit. Originally we were going to attend the Michigan-Wisconsin game later this month, and I was way stoked about that. SIGH. Maybe next year…

As for HWSNBN and me, we are doing okay. The house is quieter, and clearner. I am way more prodctve with no puppies or kids around, and HWSNBN even goes into the office on most days.

I miss my girlie, of course, EVERY SINGLE DAY. If the pandemic had any silver lining, it was the amazing evolution of the relationship we have with our now-adult daughter. We sent more quality time together in the past 6 months than we have in the past 6 years (I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it is huge). It made it a little bit more painful to say goodbye this time, but it’s only 3 months.

I got this.

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