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Danny asked me: “What does a 15-year-old boy want on his birthday cake?”
I answered with a question: “A 16-year-old girl?”

Standing outside a Dairy Queen about to order his nephew’s cake, this was not the answer he was looking for. He texted me again. “What should I have them put on his cake?”

I find it funny that because I’m a writer, I get calls like this often. What to put on cakes, what to say in a classified ad, what to mention in a letter. If it’s words, I’m the go-to girl. And that’s usually OK. I do what I must to help who I can. But birthday cake messages are not my forte. It’s hard to be witty, flowery and meaningful in the space between candles.

He wanted something for the boy that wasn’t dinosaurs and choo-choo trains, but wasn’t Playmates and Jack Daniels either. Something sarcastic and charming to match a 15-year-old’s personality.

I tried a different approach. “How about, ‘Happy Birthday Don’t Have Sex’?”

I could feel his exasperation through his fingertips.

“You’re not helping,” he texted.

“I know,” I type back. “I suck at cake messages.”

Of course, this finally gives him an idea. So Austin will have an ice cream cake that says “You still suck” on it. I suggested he add a Tootsie Roll pop in the middle.

And speaking of Tootsie Rolls, while looking up “cake messages teenage boy” on Google without success, I found an interesting birthday cake recipe. It sounds really yummy, although I’m not sure how many people would dare try it to find out.

If you make it, save me a bite!
KITTY LITTER CAKE

INGREDIENTS:
1 box spice or German chocolate cake mix
1 box of white cake mix
1 package white sandwich cookies
1 large package vanilla instant pudding mixkitty cake
A few drops green food coloring
12 small Tootsie Rolls

SERVING “DISHES AND UTENSILS”
1 NEW cat-litter box
1 NEW cat-litter box liner
1 NEW pooper scooper

INSTRUCTIONS:
Prepare and bake cake mixes, according to directions, in any size pan.
Prepare pudding and chill.
Crumble cookies in small batches in blender or food processor.
Add a few drops of green food coloring to 1 cup of cookie crumbs. Mix with a fork or shake in a jar. Set aside.
When cakes are at room temperature, crumble them into a large bowl. Toss with half of the remaining cookie crumbs and enough pudding to make the mixture moist but not soggy.
Place liner in litter box and pour in mixture.
Unwrap 3 Tootsie Rolls and heat in a microwave until soft and pliable. Shape the blunt ends into slightly curved points. Repeat with three more rolls.
Bury the rolls decoratively in the cake mixture.
Sprinkle remaining white cookie crumbs over the mixture, then scatter green crumbs lightly over top.
Heat 5 more Tootsie Rolls until almost melted. Scrape them on top of the cake and sprinkle with crumbs from the litter box.
Heat the remaining Tootsie Roll until pliable and hang it over the edge of the box.
Place box on a sheet of newspaper and serve with scooper. Enjoy!

You’ve seen those emails, right? The ones that ask you to answer a bunch of question and send it to umpteen people plus the person who sent it to you? Well, this is one of them. And you’re one of my umpteen. Enjoy!
– Hugs, Donna

1. I jumped out of an airplane and want to do it again. (I hung onto the side of the single-engine Cessna for two minutes while the tandem guy got readjusted. It’s hard to let go of the plane after two minutes of thinking about it.)

2. I have three ex-husbands and four tattoos. One was hubby #3’s name in a heart that has now been covered. Never, ever get names!

rick springfield0603. I had gastric bypass surgery several years ago, but when it got to the point I actually had to work to lose weight I stopped. I’ve gained 80 of it back, but I’m dieting again.

4. I didn’t think I could have children, so I was almost six months along when I learned I was pregnant with Jessica.

5. I try to get discounts for pedicures at nail salons. An unfortunate accident involving my lack of balance and a riding lawnmower when I was 6 left me with seven digits. I don’t get it – they all say they charge by the foot, not the toe.🙂

6. I have ridden an elephant into the center ring at the circus and then blew the whistle and shouted “On with the show!” (I left in a hurry though because of #18.)

7. When I was the receptionist at K99-FM in 1992 I told Tim McGraw that no one would remember him within two years. He deserved it though – he was teasing me about my crush on Garth Brooks. Guess he showed me, huh?

8. I touched every shoe in the Payless that used to be at Market and 90…
several times… but only because I had to straighten the racks every night
before closing. People are so messy.

9. My favorite snack is creamy peanut butter on sliced American cheese.

10. I’ve seen Lake Placid about 15 times. It makes me guffaw and snort Coke
Zero out my nose when Betty White cusses, every time.

11. I’ve been a reporter at newspapers in Hattiesburg, Lucedale, Pascagoula, Gulfport and Beaumont, Texas. But I never finished college.

12. I went to USM with Brett Favre but we didn’t run with the same crowd. Go figure.

13. I spent the last two years of my life taking care of my father. I don’t regret any of it.

14. Rick Springfield pressed his gorgeous sweaty hard body against me as he made his way through the crowd at Hard Rock Biloxi back in October. All I could do was touch his shoulder and whimper like a little girl.

15. Two-hundred and forty-four. That’s the number of Rick Springfield
posters that adorned my walls when I was 14.

16. My cell bill says I talked for 4,984 minutes in the last billing cycle. That’s 84 hours of the month gone. No wonder my left ear is always buzzing. I keep waiting for them to admit cell phones cause brain tumors. I’m doomed.

17. I won’t eat lettuce. I won’t eat anything that has lettuce juice on it.
Lettuce is yucky.

18. I suffer from coulrophobia. Ironically, it’s not a laughing matter. I
get serious heebie-jeebies from it.

19. I love karaoke because I can’t remember the words. I can’t even sing Happy Birthday without looking at the lyrics.

20. God blessed me with some of the best friends in the world.

21. I can still do a full split. But at 42, I don’t come back up so easy.

22. I hate hairspray. I get a little crazy if I can’t get my fingers through
my hair.

23. I tend to be a little OCD about some things. The doctor said if I can’t do something perfectly, I tend not to do it at all. So I’m not really lazy… I’m just nuts.

24. I want to write romantic novels – hot, steamy paperbacks with some hunk on the cover.

25. I could live without chocolate and ice cream, but not sushi.

Tank’s new owner

UPDATE: I found out today that Paul Mallory doesn’t exist and that the story of “Reggie” is most likely a work of fiction. But, as snopes.com founder Barbara Mikkelson says “that the story may not be literal truth doesn’t prevent  it from being figurative truth. Those who serve overseas do so at the cost of great personal sacrifice. A tale such as this – literal truth or not – serves to remind us all of how much they give and how much we owe them.” http://www.snopes.com/glurge/reggie.asp

                                   —————————————————–

My friend Natalie sent me this today. Nat’s not a dog person, so for her to send a dog story meant it must be pretty powerful. For me, the wife of a guardsman who came home from Iraq, it was a two-tissue story.

Read it for yourself and decide. Do you have a pet story to share?  – Donnablack lab tennis ball

They told me the big black Lab’s name was Reggie as I looked at him lying in his pen. The shelter was clean, no-kill, and the people really friendly. I’d only been in the area for six months, but everywhere  I went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open.  Everyone waves when you pass them on the street.

But something was still missing as I attempted to settle in to my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn’t hurt.  Give me someone to talk to. And I had just seen Reggie’s advertisement on the local news.  The shelter said they had received numerous calls right after, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn’t look like “Lab people,” whatever that meant.  They must’ve thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me  in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis  balls, his dishes, and a sealed letter from his previous owner.  See, Reggie and I didn’t really hit it off when we got home.  We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home).  Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too.  Maybe we were too much alike.

For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis balls – he wouldn’t go anywhere without two stuffed in his mouth) got tossed in with all of my other unpacked boxes.  I guess I didn’t really think he’d need all his old stuff, that I’d get him new things once he settled in.  but it became pretty clear pretty soon  that he wasn’t going to.

I tried the normal commands the shelter told me he knew, ones like “sit” and “stay” and “come” and “heel,” and he’d follow them – when he felt like it.  He never really seemed to listen when I called his name – sure, he’d look in my direction after the fourth of fifth time I said it, but then he’d just go back to doing whatever.  When I’d ask again, you could almost see him sigh and then grudgingly obey.

This just wasn’t going to work.  He chewed a couple shoes and some unpacked boxes.  I was a little  too stern with him and he resented it, I could tell.  The friction got so bad that I couldn’t wait for the two weeks to be up, and when it was, I was in full-on search mode for my cellphone amid all of my unpacked stuff.  I remembered leaving it on the stack of boxes for the guest room, but I also mumbled, rather cynically, that the “damn dog probably hid it on me.”

Finally I found it, but before I could punch up the shelter’s number, I also found his pad and other toys from the shelter..  I tossed the pad in Reggie’s direction and he snuffed it and wagged, some of the most enthusiasm I’d seen since bringing him home.  But then I called, “Hey, Reggie, you like that?  Come here and I’ll give you a treat.”  Instead, he sort of glanced in my direction – maybe “glared” is more accurate – and then gave a discontented sigh and flopped down.  With his back to me.

Well, that’s not going to do it either, I thought.  And I punched the shelter phone number.

But I hung up when I saw the sealed envelope.  I had completely forgotten about that, too.  “Okay, Reggie,”  I said out loud, “let’s see if your previous owner has any advice.”
_______________________________________

To Whoever Gets My Dog:
Well, I can’t say that I’m happy you’re reading this, a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie’s new owner.. I’m not even happy writing it.  If you’re reading this, it means I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab after dropping him off at the shelter.  He knew something was different.  I have packed up his pad and toys before and set them by the back door before a trip,  but this time…it’s like he knew something was wrong.  And something is wrong… which is why I have to go to try to make it right.

So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he with you.

First, he loves tennis balls.  the more the merrier.  Sometimes I think he’s part squirrel, the way he hordes them.  He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there.  Hasn’t done it yet.  Doesn’t matter where you throw them, he’ll bound after it, so be careful – really don’t do it by any roads.  I made that mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.

Next, commands.  Maybe the shelter staff already told you, but I’ll go over them again:  Reggie knows the obvious ones – “sit,” “stay,” “come,” “heel.”  He knows hand signals:  “back” to turn around and go back when you put your hand straight up; and “over” if you put your hand out right or left.  “Shake” for shaking water off, and “paw” for a high-five.  He does “down” when he feels like lying down – I bet you could work on that with him some more.  He knows “ball” and “food” and “bone” and “treat” like nobody’s business.

I trained Reggie with small food treats.  Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of hot dog.

Feeding schedule:  twice a day, once about seven in the morning, and again at six in the evening.  Regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.

He’s up on his shots. Call the clinic on 9th Street and update his info with yours; they’ll make sure to send you reminders for when he’s due.  Be forewarned:  Reggie hates the vet.  Good luck getting him in the car – I don’t know how he knkows when it’s time to go to the vet, but he knows.

Finally, give him some time.  I’ve never been married, so it’s only been Reggie and me for his whole life.  He’s gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can.  He sits well in the backseat, and he doesn’t bark or complain.  He just loves to be around people, and me most especially.

Which means that this transition is going to be hard, with him going to live with someone new.

And that’s why I need to share one more bit of info with you…..  His name’s not Reggie.

I don’t know what made me do it, but when I dropped him off at the shelter, I told them his name was Reggie.  He’s a smart dog, he’ll get used to it and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt.  but I just couldn’t bear to give them his real name.  For me to do that, it seemed so final, that handing him over to the shelter was as good as me admitting that I’d never see him again.  And if I end up coming back, getting him, and tearing up this letter, it means everything’s fine.  But if someone else is reading it, well… well it means that his new owner should know his real name.  It’ll help you bond with him.  Who knows, maybe you’ll even notice a change in his demeanor if he’s been giving you problems.

His real name is Tank.   Because that is what I drive.

Again, if you’re reading this and you’re from the area, maybe my name has been on the news.  I told the shelter that they couldn’t make “Reggie” available for adoption until they received word from my company commander. See, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could’ve left Tank with… and it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq, that they make one phone call the the shelter… in the “event”… to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption.  Luckily, my colonel is a dog guy, too, and he knew where my platoon  was headed. He said he’d do it personally.  And if you’re reading this, then he made good on his word.

Well, this letter is getting to downright depressing, even though, frankly, I’m just writing it for my dog.  I couldn’t imagine if I was writing it for a wife and kids and family.  but still,  Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family.

And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he loved me.

That unconditional love from a dog is what I took with me to Iraq as an inspiration to do something selfless, to protect innocent people from those who would do terrible things… and to keep those terrible people from coming over here.  If I had to give up Tank in order to do it, I am glad to have done so.  He was my example of service and of love.  I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades.

All right, that’s enough.  I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter.  I don’t think I’ll say another good-bye to Tank, though.  I cried too much the first time.  Maybe I’ll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.

Good luck with Tank.  Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight – every night – from me.

Thank you, Paul  Mallory
_____________________________________

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope.  Sure I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me.  Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies.  Flags had been at half-mast all summer.

I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog.

“Hey, Tank,” I said quietly.

The dog’s head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.

“C’mere boy.”

He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor. He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn’t heard in months.

“Tank,” I whispered.

His tail swished.

I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him.  I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.

“It’s me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me.”  Tank reached up and licked my cheek.  “So whatdaya say we play some ball?  His ears perked again.  “Yeah?  Ball?  You like that?  Ball?”  Tank tore from my hands and  disappeared in the next room.

And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.

Starting a blog

Insert words here. Should be simple. Think a thought and write it down. Pat back. Repeat.

But allowing access to my unedited thoughts could be a bit dangerous, or at the very least comical.

So here goes Cyber World. Hope you enjoy what I have to say.

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