This year marked a year of many changes, but one in particular with our family.  We got a dog.  Finley Beans was introduced to our family (and to this audience) in May after searching for something to which could help bring brightness and joy to our family during all the adjustments we have had to make.

I never had a dog before, due to my allergies.  I thought it was not possible, but somehow the geniuses who created the seedless watermelon have answered our family’s prayers with an allergy free dog. I have to say, so far it is going pretty well, and Finley has learned to be an Ursu in ways we could have only imagined. Not since Joan’s mom have I encountered a creature that has FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) more acutely than our dog.  If someone is still awake, he will be in the thick of things. He could be dog tired (pun intended) and will force his eyes open to be a part of whatever is going on.

(You can plainly see in this picture that he wanted to be a part of our Post-Thanksgiving card game regardless of his fatigue and the late hour.  Note his chin is suspending him, while his front paws dangle loosely below.)

Since I have not had a dog before, I have not shopped for doggy gifts either.  That is until one day as I was strolling through the local grocery store, I pushed my cart down the pet aisle.  On the shelf there was an assortment of colorful toys, balls, and bones, but one stuck out to me more than the others; a miniature rubber chicken which squeaked and squawked when pressed, chewed or bitten.  In a word it was annoying.  Perfect for our family.

Prior to the chicken, Finley was not partial to any of his toys.  He played with them from time to time but did not get fixated by them in any real way.  It was different with the chicken. He loved the chicken.  Bingo.  Score one for dad.  To this day, I chuckle every time I hear the squawking from the other room as Finley chews and incessantly squeaks this rubber bird.

One game that has become popular with anyone willing to do the work is, “Chicken in the hall.”  A game based on fetch and a rambunctious puppy.  The way it is played is the human gets the puppy excited and overstimulated by squeaking this rubber chicken to excess.  This builds excitement and anticipation for the pup.  Then, the human hurls the bird down the hall.  It proceeds to cluck and squawk as it careens off the walls and floor.  The puppy instinctively knows to chase the bird but still has not factored in the slipperiness of his paws, his velocity, and the shiny wood floor.  Finley often overshoots the prize and careens down the hall only to regain his footing and commence to galloping back in the direction of the chicken.  Every time, I think of the old cartoons where the feet are moving so fast and not getting any purchase until suddenly it bursts forward with a gusto.  Those cartoons were before Finley’s time, so the imagery is completely lost on him.

He will not fetch a ball or any other item than the chicken but he will eventually scoop it up, give it a noisy chew and bring it right back to repeat the procedure until such time as he gets tired of it. When we hit that point, no amount of squeezing or excitement will get him to chase down the hall anymore.  In fact, he gives you this look like, “Don’t patronize me.”  That’s when he meanders in the kitchen looking for a morsel or two or to check to see if Maggie needs help with her homework.

This will be Finley’s first Christmas.  I am not a wagering man; but if I were, I would be willing to bet that he will get the most presents.  The challenge is on to see if one of us can stumble on another toy that he likes as much as his rubber chicken.