Category Archives: Family

Introducing Jasper


My little cake boss is now 17 years old but has had a devil of a time the past four months.

But since she moved in with me full time after school started in September last year, we had talked about getting another family member.

Well, it was time… Meet Jasper, a Corgi, now four months old.

Jasper, in his new home after being picked up at LAX.

It was not easy finding a Corgi pup – especially a “rescue”. There just weren’t any. Who would turn in an adorable Corgi pup anyways? So the search widened to a good kennel; indeed, there are quite a few scam sites preying on lonely people looking for four legged companionship as well. She had come across an “available” puppy but her instincts told her to ask her old man (me!) for advice. Indeed, it was a scammer.¹

Worse than scammers are the puppy mills.

But no pups were to be found within 500 miles of us – not a single one… but we finally came across a nice, family run kennel in Iowa. It was then I found out puppies can be shipped. I still don’t like the idea but there was no other choice.

…So the deal was struck.

The Cold, Bumpy Journey

His cold journey began at 8:30 am in Iowa on January 23, 2020. He was checked onto a Delta flight out of Des Moines which landed a couple of hours later at the Atlanta hub after a noon takeoff.

However, the flight tracker shows a number of altitude changes on the long leg to LAX – which to me means the flight crew was trying to escape chop. Imagine being a pup – it doesn’t even know what this large, cold machine is let along being artificially off the ground and being tossed around by chop.

The Arrival at Delta Cargo

My oldest daughter who lives miles away kindly offered to pick my Little Cake Boss and me up in Long Beach, CA. We got there just as Brooke’s new boy was deplaned and taken to Delta Cargo’s LAX facility.

Everyone was anxious.

It was like driving to the hospital for the birth of a first child. 🙂

The Delta team brought him up to the counter very quickly! But we could tell the poor thing was scared out of his wits from the flight.

He was quite damp and shied away from us humans.  Of course, after spending his first four months of life on an isolated farmland and kennel in Iowa, the constant rambling of noisy big rigs and trucks just ten yards behind us didn’t help much, I’m sure.

Brooke’s first hug with her new boy… The poor thing was terrified plus all the big rigs and noise on the street behind us were probably terrifying to him too.

My oldest daughter Robyn was a big help too, being the consummate dog lover since getting her first Golden Retriever at five years of age.  Her soothing “doggie voice” helped soothe the poor thing… plus the portable dog carrier wouldn’t have fit into my Ford Mustang’s trunk.

Adjusting and a Surprise

Brooke wrapped Jasper in my old airline blankets and held him all the way home.  He was still so scared – or so we thought.

After we first walked into our home, he tried to hide in dark spaces or corners.  “What’s wrong, Jasper?” she would ask in dog speak – but he wouldn’t answer.  He also wouldn’t eat much or drink.

Well, a couple of days later, Brooke looked at the papers from the kennel.  As it turns out, Jasper was given a rabies vaccination right before being put on the flight.  I recalled our other small dog; she hid under the bed for two days after getting one… So I figure his suppressed mood was from a one-two punch: the bumpy flight and the ill effects of the rabies shot.

Happily, its been five days since Brooke’s new boy joined our family… and he is doing super! His other ear is now beginning to stand up, He’s eating, drinking and follows his new mama wherever she goes.  He sleeps right next to her; I’m sure it is very comforting.  Jasper even sits on my lap!

But most of all, I miss my oldest daughter’s Corgi, “Yogi”…

May he be at peace.

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Footnote:

  1. Some scammer tipoffs include, but is not limited to, absence of a phone number, absence of a verified physical address, communication by email only, and much lower than normal pricing.  They will also demand an upfront, non-refundable “deposit”.

Florentine Bars from Scratch


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My bud, Chef Cathy Thomas of Orange County, CA (link here), had posted on her website a marvelous, yummy looking dessert called “Florentine Bars”.  They are a creation of one of her culinary associates, Chef Wonyee Tom, who serves them up by the dozens at her establishment in Huntington Beach, CA called “Tomgirl Baking Co.”

The topping of dried cranberries and apricots plus sliced almonds in a cream and honey based homemade caramel mixture rests upon a wonderful buttery crust… and like all of Chef Cathy’s recipes, the recipe was detailed and easy to follow.

Even I could follow them!

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To make these, the ingredients are listed below but if you home chefs want to throw together this easy recipe, I’d encourage you to visit her webpage; there’s even a video!  (You know how men are visually minded.)

Video link: http://cathythomascooks.com/2016/02/01/tomgirl-baking-companys-florentine-bar-cookies-are-unsurpassed/

The ingredients are:

Sweet dough crust:
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (3 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1-1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
All-purpose flour for dusting parchment paper

Topping:
1-1/2 cups (5 ounces) sliced almonds (not toasted)
1/3 cup (1 ounce) diced dried apricots
1 cup (2 ounces) coarsely chopped dried cranberries
1/4 cup (1 ounce) all-purpose flour
3-1/2 ounces (7 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (5 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) honey
1/4 cup (2 ounces) heavy whipping cream
Nonstick spray

Here are some steps I managed to take cellphone pics of:

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Dried cranberries and apricots with sliced almonds.

 

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Softened unsalted butter and sugar ready for the mixer and before egg and flour.  When I add the flour, I set the mixer on the lowest speed briefly until most of the flour is under control.  Otherwise, you will have a plume of flour dust.

 

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Dough in general shape of pan and before rolling out. I crease my parchment paper to mark the pan dimensions; it helps me roll it out.

 

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Ready for the 350F oven.

 

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Making the caramel mixture. You should smell the aroma!  By the way, Chef Tom recommends using a stainless steel utensil to stir but I don’t have one that’ll work.  I’m assuming the wooden spoon may give off infused flavors from dishes past?

 

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Mix in the dried fruits and nuts off heat. It does set up very quickly so move fast!

 

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I slice mine up into triangles when there’s still a smidge of warmth left. (ps I also cut off maybe 1/4″ off the sides for presentation… It may be the best part!)

 

Voila!  Great with coffee…or anytime!

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And as testament to the deliciousness, I had made it for the teachers and staff appreciation luncheon last Friday – and they asked my daughter for the recipe!

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Of course, I texted her the proper link to Cathy Thomas’ website.  You should check it out, too, and get on her email distribution!

http://cathythomascooks.com/

Happy baking!

Dad Is 97 Years Old Today


Well, amazingly, dad turned 97 years old today.

Have I said amazing yet?

Born in Seattle in 1919 of (legal) immigrants who came across the Pacific from Hiroshima, he is the last of his family.  He was the fifth of seven kids.  All his siblings left in Japan at the outbreak of WWII died early in their lives while his siblings who were fortunate to have returned to the States before Pearl Harbor survived into their 90’s.

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Dad on right; his younger brother on the left. Circa 1924 in front of his father’s Seattle barbershop.

 

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Dad on right with his younger brother, Suetaro, in front of their Hiroshima home. Circa 1927.

 

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Dad for his high school graduation portrait as shown in his 1937 yearbook. He was a track star in the Hiroshima region. He returned to Seattle immediately after. His beloved high school was destroyed by the atomic bomb.

 

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My guess is around 1939, standing in front of his home on Fir Street in Seattle and sporting his “varsity” sweater he brought back from his Hiroshima high school.

 

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Dad’s WWII draft card mailed to him while imprisoned at Tule Lake, CA. FDR’s administration changed his classification from 1A to that of an enemy alien, “4C”, as were all other Japanese-American boys. This is the only item I have of him from 1941 through WWII’s end due to his imprisonment. No politics implied; just facts.

 

Dad in his US Army duds in Tokyo while serving in the 8th US Army’s Military Intelligence Service (MIS). Behind him and to the far right and only partially visible is the Dai Ichi building, headquarters of the Far East Command. MIS’s military activity was kept Top Secret until the early ’70s. Circa late 1947.

 

Dad at Hiroshima with two of his nieces. Namie in the center went with us to Leyte in July 2015 on a pilgrimage to honor his brother’s death in combat in 1944.

 

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Dad translated during the war crimes trials in Occupied Japan. He said the “lesser” war crimes were tried in the Quonset hut behind him. Tokyo, circa 1948.

 

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Dad’s Day of Infamy. LOL February 1951, Tokyo.

 

My dad (R) returned to Hiroshima for a vacation in 1997; Masako is in the center. This was taken at his family home. Notice the stepping stone; it is the same one Masako stood next to in a picture taken in 1948.
My dad (R) returned to Hiroshima for the first time in 40 years for a vacation in 1997; Masako is in the center. This was taken at his family home. Notice the stepping stone; it is the same one Masako stood next to in a picture taken in 1948.

 

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Up to 2014, folks that had connections to Japanese battle flags collected as souvenirs by their fathers tried to return them to the soldier’s descendants. They asked Dad to read the names and hometowns in hopes of finding them.

 

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Dad in 2014 with his first and only great-granddaughter, Emi.

Happy birthday, Dad!

Ironman Results!


Well, wouldn’t you know it?  My son Takeshi took THREE 1st Place awards, including an “Overall” trophy at L.A.’s “Ironman Naturally” competition today.  I’m really proud of him.  He really put his heart and soul into it.  I’m sure he had the jitters as this was his first competition.

Just a pictorial of his accomplishments today.  His “first” 1st Place in Physique Class A:

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His “second” 1st Place in Physique Class B:

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And his Overall 1st Place for Physique Class A/B:

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Some shots from on stage; the guy in the center took the trophy for this mixed class:

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And after the competition – a chance for a photo-op with the champ!

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And yes, for those who are wondering, my physique surpasses that of my son.  I’m just being modest and hiding my ripped body with my Green Bay Packers sweatshirt – which is too big now with all the weight I had lost.

And some of his friends and supporters were there, of course.

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My oldest daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter Emi were also there for the morning half of the competition.  You should have seen the winding line of thousands who were trying to get in when the doors opened!

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The kid done good, yes?!  Congratulations, Takeshi!

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(Oh… A qualification.  All of these photos had to be taken with my cellphone as they disallowed cameras. 😦 )

Glazed Salmon


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My Glazed Salmon for the kids.

Those dreaded words once again echoed in my kitchen.

“Papa, can you make something different for dinner?” asked my soon-to-be-dreaded-teenager, the Little Cake Boss Diva.

Ugh… Which reminds me I am overdue for another “She’s Killing Me” story…  Actually, I have tons but you will be spared.

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Usually, there is no dinner menu for the kids when they are with me… primarily due to my Little Cake Boss Diva.  Her forte is executing her plans – a minute after she changes it.

Even then, she is late.  Always.  You can set your clock to it.  Kinda.

As my old-time buddy had come over as we planned from days ahead, I fretted over what to make that was new.  Then I recalled Stater Bros. had a sale on fresh salmon fillets so that was my first step.  I went to my cooking bible, Cook’s Illustrated, and found this recipe for “Glazed Salmon”.  After scanning the ingredients, I decided this would be it as it had soy sauce.  My son Jack will eat (almost) anything if it had soy sauce and Brooke (usually) eats what I make.

So after talking about old times with my buddy, I dashed off to the supermarket; I only needed a couple of items – like the salmon!  Unfortunately, the fillets were a tad thin; also, they weren’t of the same thickness but they had to make do (Having them the same thickness ensures the fillets cook at the same rate.).

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Ingredients:

For rub:

1 – teaspoon light brown sugar

½ – teaspoon kosher salt

¼ – teaspoon cornstarch

* * * * * *

4 – center-cut skin-on salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each

Ground black pepper

1 – teaspoon vegetable oil

For Glaze:

3 – tablespoons light brown sugar

2 – tablespoons soy sauce

2 – tablespoons mirin (see note)

1 – tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 – tablespoon whole grain mustard

1 – tablespoon water

1 – teaspoon cornstarch

⅛ – teaspoon red pepper flakes

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Preheat oven to 300F.

After I rinsed off the salmon and cut off the real thin parts, I placed them skin side down on paper towels and patted them dry.  I sprinkled them flesh side up with ground black pepper then applied the rub. (Sorry, these are all cellphone pics.)

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Peppered and with rub applied. The rub has dissolved, by the way, so you can’t see it.

The glaze was next.  After mixing the ingredients together in a small sauce pot, I quickly brought it to a boil.  It quickly thickens; remove from heat and cover.  Set aside.

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Heat a non-stick skillet and oil until very hot.  Place salmon flesh side down first and brown for one minute.  Flip and brown the skin side also for one minute, then transfer carefully to a baking sheet, skin side down.  (I have the wonderful Breville Smart Convection Oven, perfect for the small meals – and desserts – I make.)

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Ready to serve!

Spoon the still warm glaze mixture liberally over the salmon, then bake in oven for 7-10 minutes.  Cook’s Illustrated says bake until an instant read thermometer reads 125F for you scientific cooks.  I did turn on the convection fan for the last three minutes.  The salmon came out wonderfully glazed and moist.

Plate and serve!

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Note: Ever notice the white stuff that oozes out from your salmon at times?  It’s from using too high a heat.  It also indicates moisture has been squeezed out of the fish.

I also transferred the browned salmon to a baking sheet as my non-sticks are not oven safe.  If you have one that is oven safe, you can just throw the skillet right into the oven.

Diet is a Four Letter Word


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One of my approved meals. Frankly, it was easy to prepare.

I have been dieting for the past three weeks.

Dieting for the first time in my life.

I’ve always thought dieting was no big thing.

But now, I’ve come to the realization that diet is a four letter word.

In fact, I found the first three letters in diet is die. 🙂

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Taken at the Yamato Museum in Kure, Japan, Nov. 2013 with my cousin Toshiro. I was near my peak weight then.  Notice my Packers shirt, not my belly, please.

In 2012, my oldest son Takeshi (who is now pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy) and I ventured to Japan, mostly to vacation but also to take the ashes of our Aunt Shiz back home to Hiroshima.  During our stay with our cousins, Masako always patted my stomach in fondness – implying I was Santa Claus.  Yes, for only being 5’6″ tall, I was the jolliest in all of skinny Japan.  I tipped the scales at 187 pounds.  Japanese people were taking bets if I could squeeze through the  train doors.

My son, however, could probably lift the whole bullet train – with one arm.  You should have seen the girls stare at him…  Well, they were really staring at my belly.

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A recent pic of my oldest boy, Takeshi. Not one ounce of fat on him. I used to look like that, by the way.

…But to be fair to myself, this is me below when I was about 20…

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Can you guess which one is me? I’m on the right in the tall “geta”, or wooden sandals. I wore them to and from the tavern – drunk as a skunk and never tripped. Taken at the Toyota School dormitory in Tokyo. By the way, I was the arm wrestling champ at the school. Even kicked the teachers’ asses…but my son Takeshi laughs and still doesn’t believe me. Hmmph.

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Two years ago, my great doctor – with whom I’ve been under his wonderful care since 1990 – asked me, “Do you exercise, Koji?”

“Um, no. Whyyyy..?”

“When you first came to me, you weighed 130 pounds…  You weighed 183 today.  You need to lose 50 pounds…”

I don’t think I heard him…  Men suffer from bad hearing, you know.

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Long story short, about four weeks ago, my buddy invited me over to his beautiful home in Newport Beach for what I thought would be a cigar gig…  Instead, there were nothing but lovely ladies there… There to learn about a dieting system.  They described it as a way of life.

Egads…  Never did have that cigar.

Well, two days later, I signed up for a 30-day plan with a goal of losing ten pounds.  I was already down to 161 pounds – solely from cutting out breakfast burritos and enchiladas at lunch.  I also lost some pounds from being on Leyte for six days in July.

I started the 30-day plan on October 21st.  It was a strict plan.  Basically, only chicken, fish, turkey, green veggies, tofu, protein shakes and a potion that reminded me of Robitussin syrup of years ago.

Yes, it disallowed everything I loved: salami, mayo, beef, pork, Parmesan Reggiano, chili tamales, fettuccine Alfredo… 😢 I realized determination was key… like resisting the two Pringles leftover in your kid’s lunchbox.

My oldest daughter Robyn invited me over for Halloween, coinciding with her birthday.  There were cheeseburgers, homemade tamales… and a chocolate mousse birthday cake.  OMFG.  But I resisted.  I distanced myself from the deliciously smelling food by sitting against the walls.  I even resisted the bite-size Milky Way bar my little granddaughter Emi was waving in my face as I took her trick or treating.  Luckily, she dropped it somewhere along the way.

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I took my Little Cake Boss with her friend to In-n-Out on the fourth or fifth day of my diet.  They both had Double-Doubles and those famous, wonderfully smelling, fresh French fries… but I didn’t even lick the wrappers.  I wanted to but she told me I’d be embarrassing her in front of her friend if I did.

And the toughest times were when the kids were with me; I had to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for them.  I didn’t even TASTE TEST the food before I plated it up because of my diet.  It must have been OK since they ate my beef stroganoff, spaghetti al Limone, breakfast sandwiches before school, my famous pancakes from scratch smothered in real Grade A dark amber maple syrup with perfectly crisp BACON…  I even baked a classic pound cake from scratch for Brooke to take to school.

Oh, man.

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The results after three weeks?

It is November 11 as I write.  Here’s my weight record from my doctor’s records although I haven’t seen him since April; started at 161 pounds on October 21st:

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And here’s a pic of my fancy-schmancy scale today (notice my Green Bay Packers socks) – it’s 147-ish, about a 9% drop:

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I guess it’s an OK result.

BTW, can you see that belt in the picture with my schoolmates in Japan?

I still wear that belt and it is on the first notch once again!  Don’t worry.  I won’t gross you out by posting a picture of my belt with my belly as a backdrop.

Moral to story: Son, you have competition… but first, I’m hitting Tommy’s Burgers.

Just kidding.

If I can do it, so can you.

It’s a mindset and with a little encouragement, you can attain your goals.

R.I.P.


“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.”

– John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog

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May he rest in peace.

Yogi, my oldest daughter Robyn’s lovable three-legged corgi, left us last week.

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Yogi was such a happy dog.  Her loving nicknames for Yogi included “Yogs” or “Yo-Yo”.

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The day Yogi became part of the family… Who could resist him?

Yogs made me grin when he would run…if you can call it running.   Indeed, it was like watching a huge log of Jimmy Dean sausage on steroids with four Vienna sausages¹ as legs chugging through the grass.

c-10-579Man, he loved to play with a ball.  You’d toss a tennis ball or a toy and he would just instantly turn his back on you and bound away with his tailless butt the only thing you could see…  just like how the famous Willie Mays did after hearing the the crack of the bat.  After he chased it down, he’d bring it back near your feet.  He’d then stare at the now motionless ball… And if Yogi thought you were ignoring him,  he’d use his long, skinny nose to nudge it closer to you if you didn’t pick it up.  “Again!  Again!” he was saying.  The simple joy he must have had.

c-10-575The only time he wasn’t happy was when fireworks went off.  He would cower behind Robyn’s toilet, shaking in fear, with his two shivering rear legs protruding out from behind the toilet.  He was such a lovable wuse.

And he always wanted to be alongside somebody.  “Hey!  Me!  Me!  Look at me!” he was saying in dog-speak.

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Yogi did not like it when I would try to sneak off to work on my computer. He made sure you knew he was there.

Yogs loved everyone – at least everyone who loved dogs.  He was always so happy to see you.  And he also knew who loved him.  He took in my dad and Old Man Jack very quickly on Father’s day in 2011.

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Old Man Jack, my dad and Yogi on Thanksgiving 2010.

When Robyn would bring Yogi to my house, I’m sure he sensed in her car with his doggy nose, “Ooo!  Ooo!  We’re near grandpa’s house…  The house that I can jump onto comfy sofas all I want and leave my hair all over them…and mama can’t say no!  Woof!”

And one of Yogi’s most favorite spots to sit was on my lap as I sat on my sofa; it was a silent doggy signal… His stubby little Vienna Sausage legs would propel him right onto my lap as soon as I sat down.  No invite was necessary.  Then, he would would lovingly lay his head on my nice round belly.

c-10-573Once he made it to my lap, he didn’t have to say one bark; his face said, “Pet me, you dumb human, while I leave tons of my hair as souvenirs!”

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Yogi’s “pet me immediately” look… right on my belly.

Well, perhaps I was stretching it a bit.  Yogs didn’t really care whose lap it was…  It would become HIS spot.  No matter what you were sitting on.  No matter how little space there was…  It was all his space.

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Yogs just HAD to jump on my littlest daughter’s lap. It didn’t bother him one bit the chair was narrower than a plane seat in Economy Class.

But make no mistake about it.  He knew who his mama was.  When Robyn would bring him over to my home to look after him for part of the day and then grew tired of all the attention I was giving him (How rude!), he would patiently wait at the door for his mama to come home.

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Can his nose get any closer to the door?

c-10-585And of course, his “Feed me some of that human food!” face.

“Huh? I don’t care if it has preservatives!  …What???  Mama said no???  Well, if you don’t tell her, I won’t!”²

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It was right before Christmas last year; her usual happy boy Yogi was then not only limping, he would yelp after I patted him on the usual spot: his side near his shoulder.  After a few persistent visits with different vets, Robyn tragically found out why her beloved son was limping.

Yogi had cancer.  He was only eight.

She was devastated.  We all were but I felt most badly for Robyn and I knew exactly how she felt.  Yogi was a big part of her life and he provided much happiness.  But just as if Yogs was her boy, she opted for surgery… but in order to remove the tumor, her beloved Corgi had to lose his leg.

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Yogs sans a leg during his final visit to my home where he had unfettered access to sofas…

He returned home the day after Christmas last year.  Robyn was so happy Yo-Yo was back home.

We went to visit Robyn on August 23rd.  Even with all my failings, Yogs would always greet me with great happiness at the door with his stocky Jimmy Dean Sausage body nearly bowling me over.  But this time, he barely made it over to me as we walked in.  I said, “Yogiiii…  What’s wrong?”  I secretly feared for the worst.  I knew in my heart something was very wrong with Yogi.

She took Yogi to the vet on August 30th.  Inoperable cancer had now spread to his spine; he was in great pain.  She called me over that night to say goodbye as did many other family and friends.  There was great sadness.  But there was a happy moment.  She said I could give Yogi some of my human food deli sandwich.  I think we all gave Yogi some.  He must’ve been so happy.

Yogi left us the next day, August 31st, while being lovingly held by my daughter and son-in-law, just like Masako held my grandma in her arms as she passed away,  Yogi was blessed with having such an adoring mom and dad.

I know he is in doggy heaven.  More precisely, the “Dogs That Brought the Most Happiness to Mom and Dad” wing of doggy heaven.  While very, very sad, I know Robyn’s heart is at peace knowing her beloved Yogi is now free of pain.

I will dearly miss you, Yogs.

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Notes:

  1.  For those who don’t know what a Vienna Sausage is:vienna
  2. No, Robyn, I never gave him my food. 😉