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Mother's Day means more Renaissance Festival. We went last year and had a good time. The weather was nice, so we went again this year. It's a tradition now. I suspect Christmas started much the same way.

Not much has changed. Just the important things.

Coca-Cola really is in trouble
See what this sign looked like last year here.

You could still see the imprint of the word "Coke" underneath the new vinyl letters. Was the festival no longer serving Coca-Cola products? What did they drink now? Pepsi? That's not the Renaissance. That's hell!

I shouldn't have worried. They still sell Coke. It is the Georgia Renaissance Festival, after all. What else are they going to sell? Dasani?

Maybe we'll find out next year. We have a tradition to keep now.

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Mom dragged me out of bed Sunday to attend the 86th Cotton Pickin' Fair in Gay, Georgia. I was not enthusiastic about this.

Gay's twice-a-year Meriwether County "fair" is very similar to what Coweta County's Powers Crossroads Festival used to be, with arts and crafts vendors vying for attention and dollars. The Cotton Pickin' Fair supplements this with some antique dealers and a touch of history and civic pride. Bully for Gay! However, I wouldn't put it on my list of reasons to wake up early.

I've lived to be 41 years old without ever attending this semi-famous event. I wasn't interested in breaking that streak, but mothers never care about personal-best records. So one hour later, I was standing in front of a stage watching the Sole Momentum Cloggers and Rachel's Line Dancers amid the smells of cotton candy and barbecue.

Guess who's family founded the town?

We strolled through the fair for a few hours in perfect (unseasonably cool) weather. Mom bought a pair of carpenter bee traps, a $3 sausage biscuit, and a collar tag for Audrey's harness. I had a $5 helping of boiled peanuts from the Greenville Lions Club and a good time. Thanks, Mom!

In the end, the Cotton Pickin' Fair turned out to be way more fun than Mom's Saturday surprise: the "opportunity" to help pick-up and deliver two overstuffed sofas that she purchased at an estate sale. (The next person who tells me that I have it easy living in my mother's basement gets a punch in the teeth. Assuming I can raise my arms again by then.)

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to catch up on some sleep.

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About a zillion posts ago, I posted a pic of my grandmother's newspaper wedding announcement. At the time, Cam asked for a pic of my grandfather to accompany it. Never let it be said that Walter doesn't follow through! (Eventually.)

Down in front!

Okay, I confess. That's not just my grandfather, and this certainly isn't his wedding photo. This is three generations of his family circa 1979. From left to right, that's my grandmother, my mother, Trey, my grandfather, and my aunt Kelley standing in the backyard of my grandparent's house. I still haven't identified the dapper little member of the Lollipop Guild in the front row.

(This reminds me of a true story: not too many years after this, I attended a Georgia State University initiative for "gifted" children on Saturday mornings. A local magazine ran an article on the class. I was mentioned, described as a snaggletoothed youngster who wore a fake watch. I cannot deny that I had snaggleteeth, but my Mickey Mouse watch worked just fine, thank you!)

I'm guessing that my father was the cameraman. He was big into photography back in the day. I have no idea why the family was framed so far to the right. That's bad composition technique. Visual scanning tendency in Western culture leads the eye naturally to the bottom right of an image, so you should balance the composition by keeping focus away from that edge. Sorry, Dad, but not everyone is cut out for art school.

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Mom went out of town for the week and left me in care of her two-and-a-half-months-old puppy, Audrey, who has been conditioned to Mom's 9 to 5 schedule. I also work 9 to 5. However, my 9-5 is on the other side of the clock. As you can guess, I haven't been getting a lot of sleep.

As much as I love dogs, I'm not big on puppies. Audrey is no exception. She's cute and all, but I'm not sure it's worth the trade off in trouble. For example, the first thing she did on the first day Mom was out of town was start digging into a fire ant pile. I grabbed her and tried to brush off the ants. So far as I can tell, puppy went unscathed. I got bit. A lot.

While I was treating my wounds, puppy turned her demonic path of destruction on my geriatric poodle. July's no fan of puppy, but that never detours Audrey. She nips and nips and nips until July finds a safe hiding place. That day, there were no places safe from puppy. Through the use of either her needle sharp teeth or razor sharp claws, Audrey cut open the sebaceous cyst under July's right eye. I left the bathroom to find blood everywhere. The house looked like a war zone.

Since then, Audrey has spent a lot of time in her kennel.

Even when she's sleeping, she's stalking

Mom came back yesterday, which is good. If she'd waited much longer, there wouldn't have been much of a home to come back to. The little devil is her problem now.

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Maybe because the United States government has devolved to a Marx Brothers comedy, it seems I've been watching more movies in 2017. Frankly, I think we can all use the distraction.

15. (1074.) Cannery Row (1982)
I'm no fan of Nick Nolte, but I still enjoyed his take on the stereotypical genius-hiding-from-the-terror-he-created. Even better was Debra Winger in the stereotypical part of the prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold. And keep your eyes peeled for the well-intentioned-but-dangerous-giant-retard! This feels too lighthearted to be an adaptation of a Steinbeck novel, but I still enjoyed it.

16. (1075.) A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)
Seth MacFarlane has built a cottage industry on a very particular style of non sequitur nostalgia comedy. He tones it down a bit in this live-action western that strives to be a 21st-century Blazing Saddles. What can I say? I laughed.

17. (1076.) Brute Force (1947)
Burt Lancaster leads a prison break in this incredibly violent (but well named) film. It's a slow build, but totally worth it.

18. (1077.) Snowden (2016)
Mom said, "Let's see Snowden." I said, "I don't like Oliver Stone films." She said, "Tough." So we watched Snowden. It does go a bit too far out of its own way to deify the guy, but otherwise does a pretty good job of explaining what he did and why he felt it was necessary to do it. Why are men like Snowden treated like traitors while men like Trump are elected president?

19. (1078.) Storks (2016)
Mom said, "Let's see Storks." I said, "Sure." Now I know where babies come from. Thanks for nothing, 6th grade sex education class!

More to come.

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Everyone say hello to Mom's new dog.

Meet Audrey

Audrey is an 8 week old Havanese parti-colored puppy. She already likes to chew and nap. If she grows to enjoy a glass of wine, she and Mom will be best friends forever.

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In real life, the treats go straight in her mouth

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My mother has had Chewie put down.

This is actually only the second time I've ever mentioned Chewie on this blog. I never really liked the little jerk. Yes, he had a rough early few years. His life was much improved when my Mom rescued him. However, he never became what I would call an affectionate or an obedient dog. But Mom still liked him. She's put up with me for all these years, so I guess she must have developed some fondness for stubborn assholes. Go figure.

In recent months, Chewie developed Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, the dog equivalent of Alzheimer's. He walked in circles, got stuck under furniture, and stood by his full dog dish barking for food. Even for Chewie, he was becoming higher maintenance than usual, to the point that Mom could no longer meet his needs.

So that's the second dog we've lost in 2016. (The third if we count Dad's puppy, Tyr, who died in March.) We're running out.

Three little puppies living in a zoo

Cancer found one and then there were two

Two little puppies sitting in the sun

One lost his marbles and then there was one

One little puppy left all alone

Watch yourself, July. It's dangerous out there.

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I had a poodle cartoon scheduled to run today, but sometimes life interferes with your plans. Victoria died at 5:25 AM. Her overtaxed heart gave out.

Victoria, R.I.P.

On Monday, April 25, Victoria collapsed at the end of her daily walk, so I took her in to see her vet the next day. He heard a "crackle" in her lungs, and given that I had noticed an occasional cough over the weekend, he prescribed a regimen of amoxicillin antibiotics. The next day, when her blood work came back from the lab showing a deficiency of thyroid hormone, we started her on levothyroxine treatment. But things only got worse.

The following Saturday, Victoria woke me up with a heavy, rapid breathing. Not exactly panting, but close. I took her back to the vet to see what could be the matter. He thought the likely culprit was the amoxicillin. It's rough on the stomach and common allergic responses include heavy breathing. Over the next few days, she didn't improve, so I stopped that treatment. When she still didn't get better, I stopped the levothyroxine, too. (It can have similar side effects.) Neither of these actions helped her.

She always had a big heart

By now, Victoria had no appetite and very little energy. So the vet called for radiographs of her heart and lungs on Tuesday, May 10 to see if he could find something we were missing. He did.

Her heart was abnormally enlarged and her lungs were filled with fluid. This was bad. Very bad. There were two possibilities: either the heart was causing damage to the lungs, or the lungs were causing damage to the heart. He scheduled an echocardiagram for the next day to figure out which possibility was the one hurting her. It turned out to be possibility three: a tumor.

Heart Based Tumor would be a great band name

Victoria had surgery to remove a mammary tumor last June. They just cut it out. That wasn't an option here. Honestly, neither was much of anything else. The tumor was aggressive and had already done a lot of damage. The fluid in her lungs wasn't actually in her lungs: it was serum that had leaked from her blood vessels into her thoracic cavity because of the bad pressure the tumor had created. Her whole circulatory and respiratory system was breaking down fast. Chemotherapy was the only treatment option for the tumor, and given the type of tumor and damage already done to her body, even that wasn't really an option. So I did the only thing I could do: I took my dog home to die.

I was told to expect that she wouldn't survive two weeks, so I tried to make her last days special. I gave her a haircut because she typically appreciated that sort of personal attention. (She lay still, but I know she loved to be touched.) I took her for a ride in the Jeep to pick up her favorite food, pepperoni pizza crust. (She refused to eat it, but I could tell that she enjoyed the smell.) And at night, I let her have the best spot in the bed: mine.

She didn't get to live out those two weeks. Sixteen days after her initial collapse and not even 16 hours after her ultimate diagnosis, she passed away beside me on the floor. She'd gotten up at 4:40 AM struggling to breathe. I lay down with her until long after her heart finally gave out. She took my heart with her when she left. I loved that dog.

Goodnight, my queen

Thank you, Kelley, for finding her. Thank you, Mom, for giving her to me. Thank you, Jeff, for trying to save her life. Thank you, July, for being so patient with your Sister until the end. Thank you, Victoria, for brightening my life for the past 7 years.

The poodle comic scheduled to run in today's space will be seen tomorrow.

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I spent my Mother's Day people watching with Mom at the Georgia Renaissance Festival today. Although it was her suggestion to go, I think Mom was initially lukewarm on the idea. She warmed up after we got to the park and she started people watching. There sure are a lot of people who enjoy dressing in the fashions of 16th-century Europe. Lots of fellows wore codpieces, and there were more moms than I would have guessed who enjoy the opportunity to push a stroller while wearing hide corsets and leather bras.

My kind of fair

Mom spent most of the day browsing through vendors' tents filled with bronze water fountains, incense, parasols, swords, and jewelry. However, more than anything else, I think what Mom was most excited about was the pointed plastic ears that so many children and cosplayers were wearing. The quality of the pointed Elf ears available at the festival were a cut above the cheap Mr. Spock ears I've seen on Star Trek fans in years past. If I didn't know better, I would have thought that some of them were real Vulcans.

Mom and I watched a joust, a singing duo, and a fire-juggling balancing act, but the real highlight of the day was the birds of prey demonstration by Steve Hoddy of EarthQuest. According to their website, Hoddy's organization will be making an appearance at the Coweta County Fair in September. Mom has already put that on her event calendar.

Despite Mom's interest in the raptor show, I think she spent more time watching the super-fit gentleman charged with pushing the dragon swing. There seemed to be a steady line of women interested in taking a ride (for their children's sake, of course). Mom and I giggled like school children when two particularly large women paid for a ride. Poor guy, although I guess he didn't build all those muscles by pushing kids around.

By the way, I was tickled pink to see that the festival still offers "The King's Wiener," a foot-long hot dog I first saw at the festival 7 years ago. I still didn't eat one, mind you. I just like to look.

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