Leaving the newspaper business after nearly five decades of dealing with the daily grind has been a challenge.
It has been a joy. I have gotten to spend time at grandkid soccer games, surf along the Florida coast and attend the U.S. Open in New York City. And at least twice I have managed to sleep past 7 a.m.
Since my retirement, the most frequent question I get from people concerns my dog Hunter and his habit of “Pooping in the Shoe.”
For those unfamiliar, Hunter has complete control over his bodily functions while in the house. Yet, when he gets mad at me for some dog infraction, he would make his way to my closet and take a “poop” in my favorite pair of work shoes.
That act of defiance was always an incentive for me to issue ‘Poop in the Shoe’ awards of my own to offending knuckleheads in our community who were doing dumb things. (I won’t mention county commissioners by name.)
With that said, I need to share a story about Hunter.
My darling wife raises Havana Silk dogs and has great fun participating in dog shows and communicating with dog breeders around the country.
Just as I retired, Janet, was set to attend a dog show in Richmond, Va. where Havana Silk owners from all over were anxious to compete.
A problem presented itself with no obvious solution. Janet had two Havana Silk dogs - Hunter and Rocky – who were going to compete at the show. When looking at the schedule of the competition, it became apparent that the two dogs were going to be in the ring at the same time.
Janet could not handle the two dogs at once.
“I need your help,” she said to me. “You have to show Hunter or he can’t compete.”
Now understand, all these dog loving people have spent their lives working and handling dogs.
They go to special classes to learn how to ‘show’ a dog.
They have commands that dogs actually listen to.
There are people who are professional dog handlers.
None of them have a problem of their dog pooping in their shoes.
Growing up as a kid we were never permitted to have a dog. My mother had been attacked by a dog as a child and she was petrified by all things canine. As a result, I don’t know much about dogs.
The only training that had taken place between Hunter and I had to do with him pooping in my shoe.
The training looked like this: Hunter would poop in my shoe and I would clean it up.
He was pretty pleased with my progress.
I was not going to let my wife down and agreed that I would handle Hunter during this important competition of Havana Silks.
The dog competition itself involved three separate shows. Janet was incredibly nervous that I was going to totally screw things up and Hunter would lose because of my incompetence.
“Just don’t embarrass us,” she finally said right before the first show began.
“What could go wrong,” I replied. “We got this.”
So we all got lined up to begin the competition. All of the dog owners and handlers were nervous. They whispered final instructions to their canine companions and prepared for the big show.
I leaned over to Hunter and said: “The Mets lost again last night.”
“Woof,” he replied.
“That’s five loses in a row. They’re never going to make the playoffs,” I said
“Woof,” he said again and used his paws to cover his eyes.
So for the rest of the morning competition we walked around the ring and followed direction. We talked baseball and what we were going to have for lunch.
At the end of competition the judge had all of the dogs and owner/trainers come out and stand in a circle. Everyone was nervous.
The judge pointed to each of the three top competitors to step forward and Hunter and I were included.
And then he selected the top dog. Hunter Mulligan was selected as Best of Breed and then won the top honor as Best in Show.
All of the other competitors were shocked. The novice and the shoe pooper won top prize.
In the afternoon, there was a second dog show with a different judge. All of the contestants did the same thing. Hunter and I talked about the possibility of the Tampa Bay Rays going to the World Series again.
Second show, same result. Hunter won the Best of Breed honor.
The next day there was another dog show. The contestants all went through the same nervous rituals. Hunter and I continued to discuss baseball and the tasty treats I kept giving him. We both agreed the Yankees would never make the playoffs.
Another judge reviewed all of the performances. Hunter was again named Best of Breed.
The Havana Silk association president came over and told us that no dog had ever won Best of Breed in all three consecutive competitions. Never.
I told Hunter I was proud of him.
He told me the Mets were cursed and wouldn’t make the playoffs next year either.
I have learned quickly that retirement is not for sissies.
Gerry Mulligan is publisher emeritus for the Citrus County Chronicle.