Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Dogs' Space Program

Inspired by a Wumo Comic 

Tinker and a BIG ball

“Omigoodness, Banjo, this is hysterical,” exclaimed Mum.  “I’ve got to show your Dad.”
“Huh, what?” I murmured.  I’d been in the midst of my Sunday snooze on my dog bed beside Mum’s chair until her chuckling woke me up. “What is it?” I asked.
“This comic strip reminds me of Tinker when she was in her prime.”
 Hmm, since Tinker went to Doggie Heaven years ago, I was intrigued. “What’s it about, Mum?”
“It’s about dogs and balls, silly boy, stand up and come see.”
I lifted my head but couldn’t quite catch a glimpse of the newspaper in Mum’s lap.  Of course, with Puddin’ purring in her lap, it was especially difficult to see the paper.
“Sheesh,” said Mum, “You’ll have to stand up to see this, and you wonder why I call you a lazy lugger.”
There was that word again—lazy--mostly used when I was being compared to Tinker.  Because Tinker chased balls in all sizes and drug sticks around the yard and played with toys, my pet parents seemed to think she was special, much more special than I.
I showed Mum.  I got to my feet and stuck my nose in the paper, dislodging Puddin’ who leaped down with a sharp meow. My take? Only pet parents with ball obsessed dogs would find the comic funny.  Something about dogs having a space station with one purpose—to catch the moon, or as they called it, the big tennis ball in the sky.
“Mum, do you really think Tinker saw the moon as a humongous tennis ball?” I asked. “I mean, I always thought Tinker was pretty smart, despite her obsession.”
“It’s a joke, Banjo. Though Tinker did like beach balls, which were pretty darned big.”
“I like finding her racquet balls all over the house, under the couches and beds,” Puddin’ piped up. “They’re fun to roll around the house. I don’t really get why you don’t like balls, Banjo. What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing’s wrong with me,” I huffed.  “Now, Mum, can you please go back to quietly drinking your coffee and reading the paper, while I carry on with my nap?” That got a laugh out of Mum.
“Why, yes, son, please resume snoozing.”
Tennis Ball
I thought of Tinker and smiled as I recalled her antics with balls.  As long as I wasn’t expected to play with her or her gazillion balls, I was happy watching her and dozing nearby. Suddenly, something tickled my nose. I opened my eyes, and there she was—Tinker—nudging me.  How could that be? “I thought you were in Doggie Heaven, frolicking in the creek and chasing balls,” I yawned.
“Shhh,” she said. “That’s what Mum and Dad think, but I snuck off to join the Dog Space Program. They needed my expertise on the best way to bring down that giant shiny ball in the sky.”
I rolled over and blinked, not believing my eyes … or ears. I stuck out my paw and touched her. She was solid.
“We’re recruiting dogs of all shapes, sizes, and dispositions to help with our research, Banjo. We ball obsessed kinds thought maybe having a different perspective—a more laid back one—might be beneficial. I told my fellow dog scientists that you were a perfect candidate, oblivious to balls and known as a relaxation expert. Are you game to help us?” asked my big sister.
“Umm, I guess, as long as I don’t have to leave Mum and Dad,” I said. “But wait, what do I have to do?”
It was nice to see Tinker, but I wasn’t sure what was going on and wasn’t planning to leap before I looked. Rut-ro, I thought, too late. When I took a long look around, I saw that I was no longer on my soft bed next to Mum.  Instead, I was in a brightly lit room, complete with white walls and bright white tile. A lab looking room, as in scientific, not as in Labrador Retriever.
The tiles were cold, just the way I like ‘em, but what was with the bright lights.  And, wait a minute, now Tinker was wearing a white lab coat.  I’d never seen her in any kind of coat before. Her name was embroidered on the coat, and she was wearing glasses.  Whoa, there were lots of dogs in white coats, all busily studying charts and looking through telescopes.
‘Tinker,” I exclaimed, “Where the heck are we?”
“It’s really cool, Banjo,” she said. “Our lab is on a star right outside Doggie Heaven.  We have a great view of the moon from here, the better to study it and figure out how we can catch it and play with it.”
Uh-huh, I thought, this was getting “curiouser and curiouser,” as my Dad likes to say. I realized that Tinker and I were in a pen separated from the other white-coated dogs, and then I noticed there was a large Great Pyrenees lying in the far corner.
“Who are you,” I called
“I’m Sirius,” ruffed the big white dog.  “This group seems to think that since my name is used to refer to the Dog Star, I have some special knowledge. All I want is to get back to guarding my herd of sheep, but these nerdy dogs don’t want me to leave. They keep asking me to chase balls and give them feedback on how I like it.  Like it?  I have important guard dog work to do; why would I like chasing balls?”
Well, I had to agree with Sirius on that score. I don’t have a herd of sheep to guard, but I have Mum, Dad, and Puddin’.  They depend on me to keep them safe. I have several spots around our house where I can stretch out with one eye open and bark when anyone threatening approaches.
Tinker was listening to our discussion so I said, “Hey, Sis, I’m with Sirius. Thanks for the invitation, but I want to go home.”
“Now, now,” said Tinker. “That’s really not an option.  We need your input before we can send you on your way and that could take some time.”
“Time,” I yelped, “Forget it.  I want to go home now.  Get me out of here.”
That’s when Sirius whispered in my ear. “Banjo, there’s no reasoning with these ball dogs. The only way we can get out of here is for us to join forces, charge the fence, leap it, and run as fast as we can out the door to the earth elevator.”
None of this was making any sense to me. Run? Leap? Earth elevator?  On my best days, I don’t run or leap. And what’s an earth elevator? But since I’m part Great Pyrenees, I felt a kinship with Sirius, and I trusted him.  At this point, I trusted him way more than my sister Tinker. “Lead the way,” I ruffed. “I’m with you.”
With that, Sirius gave a deep growl and hurtled toward the fence. As he gracefully leaped over it, I did my best to get up a head of steam and follow him.  Lo’ and behold, I soared over the fence and sprinted after him to the earth elevator. I hadn’t moved that swiftly ever. Safely inside, we hit the Down button, and whoosh, we tumbled back to earth.  Or at least that’s what it felt like.
Wham! I found myself on my cushy bed with Puddin’ looking at me and pawing my nose.
“Banjo, Banjo,” she meowed. “Wake up. You’re growling and moving your legs. Are you having a bad dream?”
“Huh, bad dream? Where’s Tinker?  Where’s Sirius?” 
“Well, Tinker’s been gone a while, Banjo.  I was just a kitten when she left us, and who’s Sirius?” 
“Sirius, the beautiful white dog right over …” Where was he?
“Shhh, Banjo, you were definitely dreaming.  There’s no white dog, no Tinker, just you, me and Mum.”
“But Puddin’, Tinker took me to some kind of Dog Space Lab with white walls and bright lights, and she wanted me to chase balls, and … and that’s what happened to me. I swear. She had me and Sirius and wouldn’t let us go. I had to run to escape.  Sirius and I galloped, we sprinted, and even jumped a fence! ”
Now, that cracked Puddin’ up.  The thought of me running was too much for her. She laughed so hard, she hiccupped. “Banjo, you never run, you silly boy.  You’re known for meandering and snoozing, not running.”
Truth be told, the idea of me running is pretty unbelievable even to me. “Puddin,” I ruffed, “I had to get home. A boy’s gotta do what a boys gotta do so I ran, I tell you! I don’t plan to make a habit of it, but that’s what I did.”  
I could tell from the smirk on her little cat face that she didn’t believe me, but that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Lord Banjo lives in Georgia with his Mum, Kathy Manos Penn. Find more stories in his book, “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” available on Amazon. To contact him, please email (If you received this blog via email, please do not hit reply--messages to that mailbox unfortunately go into a Black Hole.)

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Kitty sues pet parents for neglect

Reprinted from the Highlands Newspaper

Princess Puddin'
Did you read about Lord Banjo’s marvelous vacation to Anytown, USA?  The Royal Pooch got to accompany the Royal Parents to a mountain town in March, and I was left behind.  Not that I “wanted” to travel; I just didn’t want to be abandoned.

Sure, my pet parents occasionally take off for a long weekend, but when they’re gone longer than that, a critter sitter usually appears.  Sometimes the sitter stays at our house with us and takes care of both Banjo and me; other times, when Banjo goes to stay with a friend or, like this time, goes with our parents, some sweet little girls show up to check on me.

This time, however, none of these things occurred.  I don’t think it matters that the sweet little girls have to hunt me down if they want to see me when they visit.  Do you?  Mum has alerted them to all my hiding spots, so they can find me.

Likewise, I shunned the last critter sitter who stayed with us for three weeks when Mum and Dad went to England.  We have two couches, and I chose to sit on the one she wasn’t occupying.  I never slept with her either.  Could that be because she took up way too much time with my canine brother?  Heck, she even took him jogging. Still, me being standoffish is no reason not to have someone take care of me.

This time around, my parents left me an extra cat pan, my automatic dry food dispenser, a humongous bowl of water and my automatic water dispenser.  I was in no danger of starving or getting dehydrated, but several things were amiss.

First, I got no wet food the whole time they were gone.  You know I’m accustomed to dabs of wet food all day long. Also, I got no milk in the morning.  Worst of all? There were no treats.  I hang out in Mum’s office most of the day, except for my several hours curled up on Mum and Dad’s king size bed.  I get treats from the desk drawer pretty much any time I look at Mum pleadingly or jump up on the desk or stroll into the office meowing.

Is it any wonder that I talked and talked as I came yawning out of Dad’s office when everyone came home? Yes, Dad has an office too, and I’m partial to his desk chair and the dog’s bed in that room.

Mum and Dad were amazed at how talkative and how affectionate I was.  Typically, I snub them when they first come home, but this time I was starved for my special food and treats, and yes, affection.  Mum was further amazed that I slept with her every night for a week. I’m not usually that consistent, especially as the weather warms up. I’m more of a snuggler when it’s cold. I even got in Mum’s lap each morning when she drank her coffee in her comfy chair.

I was sticking close to her so she wouldn’t want to leave me again, but I’m already hearing talk of an upcoming weekend trip and a week out West in the summer.  Will she and Dad never learn that there’s no place like home? It just may take a lawsuit to get their attention.  Does anyone know a good kitty lawyer?

Princess Puddin’ Penn resides in Georgia with her dad, her mom Kathy Manos Penn, and her canine brother Lord Banjo. Please send comments, compliments, and questions to She appears in “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” a book that can be found on Amazon.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Spring Trip to Anytown, USA

Reprinted from the Highlands Newspaper

Mum and Dad have a friend who has a cabin in a mountain town, and he invited us to use it for a week.  That’s right; he invited me too.  Now, it’s taboo for me to mention other mountain towns in the Highlands Newspaper, but I had so much fun that I just have to tell you about it. Let’s just say this cabin was in Anytown, USA.  By the way, if anyone wants to offer us a free stay in Highlands, I’ll be happy to write about that experience too.

First, our friend cautioned Mum not to let me roam outside at night because of the bears. After hearing that, Mum was vigilant about standing outside with me at all times of the day, and she was quick to cut short any attempts at wandering. No sooner would I pick up a good smell than I’d hear, “Banjo, come back here right this minute.”
Still, I enjoyed the cool, crisp mornings and the walks I went on with Mum and Dad.  New places and new smells put a spring in my step. Indoors I rotated between protecting Mum and Dad in the top floor master bedroom and warding off invaders by holding down my dog bed in the living room.

During the cool mornings and evenings, we hung out in front of the fireplace, but when it warmed up in the afternoons, the front porch rockers called to us. Mum and Dad and their friends would rock and read, and I’d lie around and attempt to wander off, but you know I couldn’t get far without hearing, “Banjo, where do you think you’re going?” We never did see any bears in Anytown, so I don’t know what all the fuss was about.

Besides not being able to wander freely as I do in our woods at home, what I really missed was Puddin’—well, mostly I missed Puddin’s food. I get to lick up any dabs of wet food the Princess leaves in her kitty dish, but she didn’t come on this trip, so no wet food for me.

I made up for that by sneaking into the garbage. I know, I know, that’s against the rules, but desperate times call for desperate measures. There was no lid on the tall kitchen garbage can, and I could easily dip my nose in.
When Mum and Dad came home to wet coffee grounds on the floor, they fussed and laughed and said, “Guess Banjo’s wishing we’d cook so there’d be something better in there.” They put a cookie sheet on top of the can to keep me out, which worked fine until they forgot to put it back.  I was on full alert for garbage opportunities and scored a few tasty tidbits that way.

When Dad started loading luggage into the car, I hopped right in without an invitation. I was more than ready for cat food and an extended exploration of our backyard.  I don’t typically stay outside too long, but I took my time inspecting my domain when we reached our house. Dad watched as I sniffed and meandered up and down and through the trees. My coat was yellow with pollen when I barked at the kitchen door to be let in.

After a few dabs of cat food, I settled down beneath Mum’s desk to dictate the tale of our trip to Anytown, USA. As a reminder, I’m available to tell the tale of a trip to Highlands, NC if only some kind person would offer me a cabin. And, of course, the Royal Parents must be invited too.

Lord Banjo lives in Georgia with his Mum, Kathy Manos Penn. Find similar stories in his book, “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” available on Amazon. To contact him, please email (If you received this blog via email, please do not hit reply--messages to that mailbox unfortunately go into a Black Hole.)