#FreeLudo

I’m here to tell you a story about a dog. Not just any dog. This is a story about the legendary golden retriever, Ludo.

Ludo was born on June 28th, one day before my own birthday, in the year 2015. His natural parents, also dogs, were a beautiful, furry couple. He had great genes. My wife and I discovered Ludo online while, appropriately enough, looking for a dog. In a sense, Ludo is a 3rd-generation Cummings retriever. After the smashing success the missus and I had with Maverick and Moxie, we knew we’d get another gold. We did. We got Ludo.

Ludo was named after a character in the movie Labyrinth, whose name was also Ludo. Ludo, the movie character, was a woolly behemoth with a gentle and playful disposition. The behemoth was named after a board game on the main character’s bedroom shelf. The word which named the game which named the character which named my dog is Latin, and means “to play.”

We knew kind of early that Ludo was different. As a baby, Moxie’s favorite habit was sleep. Ludo loved to chew. On everything. Including Moxie.

As he grew, Ludo displayed signs of rebellion. He would talk back, literally, when scolded. He still does that. When Mrs C tells him, in her gruff voice, to stop chewing on his brother’s face, Ludo barks back at her in the most hilarious way. It’s wrong, yes, but we laugh. The consternation on his face when he thinks he’s right is adorable.

When it came time to trust Ludo, we did. We freed him from his baby cage and let him wander around the house when we were gone. That quickly became a problem. Maverick and Moxie had learned fairly early that chewing things up around the house to show dissatisfaction for our absence was wrong. Ludo wasn’t getting that hint.

Despite my wife’s protestations, I released Ludo several times from his trappings to roam free. Several times I lost something I wish I could get back. Like, a couch. Mrs C was right; he wasn’t learning.

Still, I continued to trust him. To give him chances. Surely, sense would kick in. It didn’t. So, the last time he ripped apart a piece of furniture:

I locked him up for good:

That last picture went viral among my friends and family. So much so that memes were invented and hilarity ensued. The hashtag #FreeLudo was everywhere. This was just before Christmas of 2016.

About a month later I was having a beer with my dear friend @dylan_andersen when he handed me two items as gifts. One was a copy of the fabulous book The Ask. The other was a sealed envelope, very light in weight.

Inside the envelope was a stack of bumper stickers. On the bumper stickers were the words #FreeLudo and the URL for my blog right below. I literally cried laughing.

I’ve passed the bumper stickers around to friends and family, so if you’ve seen it around and wondered what it meant, welcome. This is the story about a hashtag about a dog. A dog in jail.


Ironically enough, about the time I received the bumper stickers from Mr Andersen I also bought Ludo a new wire crate to replace his 5th-generation plastic one. In his desperation to escape he had ripped the interior of the original crate to shreds. When I brought the new crate into the house I treated it like it was Ludo’s new gift; his very own home. He fell in love with it.

He never fights about it anymore. When we go to put our coats on, he joyfully runs and lays down in his den. Ludo has a great place to hang out when we leave and my furniture feels safe again. Win. Win.

But “Free Ludo” has become a part of our lexicon now and it’s not going away. Neither is he. He’s a 3rd-generation angel.

He still bites his brother’s face, but his brother doesn’t mind. He still talks back to Mrs C, but Mrs C doesn’t mind. Ludo is still the most energetic and anxious dog I’ve ever had.

But I don’t mind.

Ludo is free to be Ludo, all day long.

Rambling, Man

Football is over.

Well, not forever, but just for the 16-17 season. A few thoughts:

That was such an amazing Super Bowl. I don’t have to tell you that. When the 4th quarter rolled around I turned to a room of 30-40 people and said “anybody here think Tom Brady can’t score three times in the 4th quarter?!” Nobody doubted it. I did. I didn’t think it could really happen. Not in the Super Bowl. Not the way he looked. Impossible. If he isn’t the best QB to ever play the game I don’t know who is. I thought that before this Super Bowl, and I know it now. You do, too.

Kurt Warner was selected to join the luminaries in the Hall of Fame this year. His story is among the best ever told. Rags to riches to unwanted to the Super Bowl with Arizona to the Hall of Fame. I tell my version of his story here, and I defend his induction. I love being a part of CaliSportsNews. I love to write.

In case you missed it, I also wrote about the Rams and Chargers offseasons. I think my next article will take a look at the stadium being built, but I have some other ideas, too. Look for something new around Thursday. I love to write.

I see a lot of mock drafts out there already; it’s too soon, I think. I want to do one but I think it’s just too soon. The draft is April 27th. I’ll do an official one for CaliSports a couple of weeks before that. Really, that’s 6-8 weeks away. Not too far.

Unrelated to football:

Ludo has become an angel. After we brought home the new cage, he just crates right up without question. The other day I took a 10-minute nap at lunchtime (I do that), and when the alarm went off on my phone he jumped up from where he was curled up next to me, ran to his cage, and laid down. No words spoken. He knew my lunch hour was up and I was headed back to work. It’s amazing how a source of such frustration can one day, suddenly, become something so amazing. The light went on. My puppy became a dog.


I don’t like it when people refer to Donald Trump as an orange-something. I never liked the reference to the color of his skin. It’s his character that matters; his deplorable, rotten character. America blew it, but it seems to be coming around to that fact now. The value of a president has nothing to do with the color of his skin.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs here.

I didn’t mean to make a hair joke.


The illegal immigration roundups aren’t getting enough attention. In a week where we saw everyone rise to the defense of Elizabeth Warren when the establishment tried to silence her, a week where the preposterous immigration ban was stifled, and a week where more and more Americans are challenging the veracity of Trump’s belligerent claims, the rounding up of immigrants has almost gone unnoticed. Maybe that’s the Machiavellian plan, to distract us by doing so many things at once that we can’t gain the moral footing on any one of them. Maybe it’s a chaos war.

Oh well. We knew we were in for a long one. There are signs of temperance coming from inside the walls of the White House, however slight. He’s softening on diplomatic rhetoric. It’s a start. If our checks and balances push him into becoming an ordinary right-wing president, instead of a tyrannical authoritarian demagogue, then we will have won. The pendulum swings both ways, in time. That’s okay. The concern comes when the pendulum swings too far one way, gets stuck in an adjoining wall, and lets the waters of democracy seep out.

I probably could have done a better job with that metaphor. 😉

At any rate, cheers to the post-football world. I have a head cold today so I won’t be lifting spirits, but cheers nonetheless. Sorry about the rambling nature of this entry, but I’m in a rambling mood.

I’ve been at this blog thing for a year now and I still can’t get enough.

I love to write.

Go forth and be bold, friends.

Of Dogs and Men

The end of the year has special meaning around the Cummings house. As we end the Christmas holiday we celebrate the birth of our olden golden, Moxie, on the 27th, my own half-birthday on the 29th, and now the half-birthday of the growin’ golden, Ludo, on the 28th.

Don’t pretend you don’t celebrate half-birthdays, too, you party animal. It’s an event.

At times like these I like to reflect on how far we’ve come, these beautiful boys and I. Forty-eight-and-a-half is quite a journey, in what was – to me – a momentous year.

Let’s start with the house elder: Moxie. As of last year, he surpassed me in age for the first time and became the man of the house. How so? Well, as you know, dogs age at a factor of 7 compared to humans so on his 7th birthday he became 49 at a time that I was still 47. Now he’s 56, relatively speaking, while I’m still back here at 48 (and a half!). It takes a lot of pressure off of me now that he’s in charge.

We brought Moxie home when he was about 7 weeks old. We drove out to Oak Run to see the breeder – a wonderful family on a snow-covered road with goldens running around of all ages and sizes. A veritable winter wonderland for those of us with a golden fetish. Heavenly, to say the least.

Moxie was my second choice in a litter of twelve, I’m ashamed to say. Suzie had already picked out Moxie (and his name!) from pictures before we had arrived. He was the darkest red in the bunch, an easy choice for her. There was a lighter, fatter golden in the bunch with the biggest paws I’d ever seen on a puppy and the face of bewildered wonder. He took a liking to me and sat in my lap. The dog that would soon be Moxie didn’t much appreciate that and he knocked that angel off my lap and claimed me for his own. The rest was fate. I used to threaten Moxie all the time that I would take him right back to the breeder and get “Big Paws” if he continued to act up. I think the last time I did that was November.

Moxie slept the whole way home, the only dog to do that so far. We took him into both our work places to meet our families, and he was so docile. Even the vet couldn’t wake him during his initial examination. We thought we had a defective dog. I’d give anything if Ludo were as defective as Moxie now.

But if Moxie had grown to be the official “best dog we’ve ever owned” then Ludo has proven it. I haven’t had a dog as anxious and disobedient as Ludo since our first dog, the long-remembered mutt named Mickey. Ludo talks back when scolded (literally!), pulls on the leash when excited, tears the covers off the couches when we leave the house, bullies Moxie incessantly, and never ever ever sits still between bed times. Ever. I love that needy little tyrant so much.

Yesterday I compared Ludo to Donald Trump in a conversation. Just like Ludo, Trump will come along and make his predecessor look like the best ever in comparison. It takes the bad ones to truly appreciate how good the good ones were. 😉

So I guess that leaves me. Moxie turned 8, Ludo 1 ½, and me 582 months old. I won’t take the time to recount the roughly seventeen-thousand four hundred and sixty days I’ve been alive but I will say this: in many ways I’ve just completed the best year of my life. I’ve got some complaints, certainly, but most of those are about things I cannot control. I’ve been taught by every guru that matters to only concern myself with the things I can control. Where it concerns my sphere of influence, my world is brighter than it has ever been.

The rest of the stuff, about me, you’ll read here every week. That’s what Tom being Tom is all about.

I hope your year has been as wonderful as mine. I hope it’s been even better. If it hasn’t I can only give you one bit of sage advice: change what you can, accept what you cannot, and live free as the person that you are. No matter how many days are behind you there are many days still ahead. Make each one matter in the ways that matter most to you.

And forgive your youngest son his daily sins.

I’ve had to learn to do that, too. 🙂

Journal Entry 12/15

The Santa Crawl was extraordinary, as always. I found myself in bed, after work on Monday, replaying those 36 hours in my head and I was amazed at how quick it all was. Life flies by in an instant; the good times come and go so quickly. I try to never miss a chance to add to my collection of amazing memories. They are the true capital of life, and the only currency I really care about. Spend your money on experiences, they say, not things. I couldn’t agree more.


In addition to spending my weekend with those dearest of friends – those craziest of compatriots – I was able to add to my stable of associates. I consider the people in my life to be invaluable treasures, and I would not be me without all of them. I’m the luckiest guy alive and I’ll challenge anybody for that title. Thank you all for joining me on another wild excursion, and thank you to those just joining the fun. Life begins every day, and we’re all just getting started.


As most of you know, I’m a dog lover. The wife and I have raised 5 amazing canines (DOGS to the layperson, as Harry Dunne would say) and we’ve had very different experiences with them all. Moxie – the middle golden – has been the most angelic of them all except for his food vice. He’ll eat anything left on the floor, including every other dog’s food. But he’s never seen the inside of a crate, nor ever had to. Ludo, the latest gem in our line of pups, is probably the most energetic we’ve ever had. He’s a bundle of anxiety and fun. The name “Ludo” comes from a character in the movie Labyrinth, one of my wife’s all-time favorites. The creature – a gigantic, gentle beast who plays with rocks and refers to himself in the third person – is named after a board game on the main character’s wall in the beginning of the movie. The game – which plays much like Parcheesi or Sorry – derives it’s name from the Latin word “ludo” which means, appropriately, “I play.”

Young Ludo was doomed from the start with the name “I play.” It is not his fault, but ours, that it is all he wants to do.

This week, the playful one took his teeth and talons to the couch and love seat. The damage was minimal but enough to convince us that he is not quite ready for complete freedom when we are away, and has thus been returned to his kennel during work hours. The campaign to “Free Ludo” on Facebook, by my artistic and brilliant compadres, has been hilarious.

Alas, it is all in vain. The only thing that will free Ludo at this point is maturity, and maturity takes time. Rest assured, my evenings are spent couch-bound with he-who-plays nestled in my lap. At 65 pounds, it is a prodigious sacrifice I make, but one I make with love. Ludo loves.


After a tame beginning, Donald Trump has returned to form in the post-election era. His insane tweets, self-promotion, and thin-skinned backlashes are akin to the campaigner and, alas, show us all that there is no difference between the two. He will be the worst president we have ever seen, and survival will be the key. It is best on Monday that the electors strike faithlessly in unison, even if it leaves us with a less-than-desired second option in Hillary Clinton. His apologists will not like this take but, no, I won’t be “giving him a chance.” Chances have to be earned and, thus far, he is exactly what I predicted he would be: breathlessly ignorant of facts, woefully unprepared, dangerously narcissistic, and beholden to the special interests of the financial elite. In short, Donald Trump is who Donald Trump has always been and the office of the president will not change him. We have a horror show ahead of us of historic proportion. I will be placing my faith in the Republicans in power not-named-Donald-Trump to rein him in. Don’t let me down, House and Senate, you are our only hope now.


Thanks for checking out this contemplative entry. Only 16 days of 2016 left, and it has been a year of wonder. Let’s finish it the way we lived it, collecting memories to last a lifetime. Happy Holidays, all. 🙂

A Dogs’ Tale

In dog years I’ve been married for 13 decades. If you throw in courtship the wife and I have been together for nearly two centuries.

I’m sure it feels like that to her sometimes. 🙂

But as long as we’ve been together I don’t remember a time when we didn’t have a dog. This is a tale about them.

Mick
Mickey

Mickey was our first pup, and we picked him up at a party some time in the early 90’s. It was a New Year’s party, as I recall. I don’t remember the hosts and, in fact, I don’t think I really knew them. I only remember they had some puppies they were giving away. I also remember some clowns at the party thinking it was funny to let some curious little dog get too close to their cigarettes and I remember asking the owners if I could have that one. When they said yes the future Mrs C and I let those clowns have it for messing with “our dog.” Mickey was with us for the next 13 years.

Mickey was the only true “mutt” we ever had. In 1997, when we got married, we picked up a companion for Mick, a black lab/german shepherd mix we named “King.” Suzie wanted to name him “Hades” because he was black as the night, but I thought that sounded a little too evil. We compromised on “King Hades,” and just always called him King.

We had talked about a companion for Mickey for months and had decided on a black dog because I had loved a black lab a friend of mine owned as a kid. I was working one day when a neighbor across the street from where I was came out and asked me if I knew anybody looking for pups. I asked what kind. Black kinds, he said. I sighed heavily knowing the universe just works that way sometimes. He brought out King. I brought King home.

King2
King

King passed away five years ago yesterday. That boy made it 14 years in our lives.

Mav3
Maverick

The story of Maverick, our first golden retriever, is documented in another post back in March. Maverick came along in 2002 and stayed with us for 11 years. Maverick is the reason I always shop for golden retrievers now when it’s time to get another.

If Maverick is the reason I shop for goldens, then my next dog Moxie is my validation. Moxie came along in 2009 when Maverick was already 7 and King was already 12. Moxie fell asleep on the ride home from the breeder and basically slept through his infancy. I’m not kidding. When we took him down to the vet for his first examination the doctor slid Moxie back and forth across the table trying to get him to wake up. He wouldn’t. We asked the doc, laughing, “is that normal?!” and the doctor cackled back “NO!”

Moxie
Moxie

I think Moxie had the benefit of those two very senior brothers during his childhood because he just seemed to learn very quickly how to listen, understand commands, and stay out of trouble. He is also the most food-motivated dog I have ever known. I can remember a time when Maverick was shrinking like crazy in weight and Moxie was ballooning to nearly 100 pounds. We found out why … the little sucker was stealing all of Maverick’s food and Maverick was letting him. Maverick was always more motivated by “play” than “food.”

Speaking of which …

About a year ago, 2 years after Maverick left us, Ludo joined the clan. Ludo, it turns out, means “I play” in Latin and he took that name literally. Food? Sure, if I must. Love? Yeah, I guess, if it doesn’t take too long.

Ball? YES!

Ludo
Ludo

Ludo and his ball are inseparable. Or I should say “balls” because he has about 15 of them to choose from. Let me tell you, though, when he chooses one of them no other will do. Go ahead, pick up a different one and throw it, he’ll watch it in the air and if it isn’t the one he brought you, forget it. I believe that Ludo is the smartest dog I’ve ever had, but he is the most willful one, too. He literally talks back to us when we’re scolding him, with furrowed eyebrows and guttural bark.

Moxie loves him. We do, too. But I believe Ludo is the universe’s way of paying me back for Moxie. 😉

It’s amazing how different they all are.

Thinking about King yesterday on the five-year anniversary of his passing prompted this post; it got me thinking about the pups we’ve had together, the missus and I. He was our second dog and the last dog we owned that wasn’t a golden retriever. We’ll probably go gold again next time, but that story is still another 5 years away.

So there it is, the Cummings line of amazing companions. Each had their virtues and each had their vice. Each had our hearts. If I could have them all here together I wouldn’t hesitate; King would love Ludo as much as Mickey would hate him. Mickey would probably slip through a crack in the fence today and go find something smelly to rub in by the pond. Maverick and Ludo would be chasing balls while King chased a frisbee. Moxie would sneak into the house and eat all their food.

Mrs C and I would be in heaven.

I can’t imagine a life without these dogs. I’d love to hear stories on here about some of your animals, if you have the time to share. I know I’ll be sharing more in the years to come.

In the meantime, have a great day – and go hug something furry.

Maverick

We had family in town from the south and Suzie and I were walking the tall coastal redwoods with them. It must have been 1999. The wife and I had two dogs at that point in our life, a beagle mix named Mickey and a Black Lab/Shepherd named King. Mickey was getting up in years. A man came down the trail with the most beautiful Irish Setter I had ever seen, or at least that’s what I thought it was. Jogging, the man stopped very quickly and asked if any of us minded if he let his dog off the leash to run in the water. There was a river running along the trail, down an embankment, I would say about 30 or 40 yards.

We didn’t mind.

The big pup – I don’t remember his name, Suzie probably would – ran down that embankment and played for a few minutes in the stream. The man stayed up there with us and we chatted briefly, about what I don’t remember. Suddenly, he gave a simple command down the embankment, repeated the beautiful dog’s name, and that pup ran back up without a moment’s hesistation. He got back on the leash without fuss, and off they went again.

I was in love.

I told my wife immediately that the dog we had just seen was the next dog I wanted. Suzie explained to me that it was a Golden Retriever but I didn’t believe her because I’d never seen a Golden Retriever so red.

Almost three years later, a few months after Mickey passed, Suzie said she’d found our next dog. She asked if I remembered that encounter in the woods and I said I vaguely did. She remembered word for word our account and said she had found somebody selling dark Golden Retriever pups. I said there was no way I was spending the kind of money she was talking about on a dog. She said come look.

I looked.

I fell in love.

The puppy we brought home that day we named Maverick. He became the first of three consecutive Golden Retrievers in our lives. Each one has costed just a bit more than the one before, but I never flinched at the price again. They are the most amazing dogs.

Maverick stayed with us for 11 years, far too short a time in my opinion. He would have been 14 years old today. Moxie, whom we picked up in 2009, adored him. Moxie got to experience both King and Maverick for a couple of years before having nearly two years on his own. Ludo, whom we picked up last summer, is so much like Maverick it scares the hell out of me. Maverick would have adored Ludo.

I hope both of the Goldens we have now last 15 more years, but I know they won’t. You never know how long you’ll have each of these treasures, our fur-babies as some of my friends call them. I only know one thing for sure; my next dog will be a Golden Retriever as well. Maverick set a precedent in my heart that could not be matched.

Rest in peace, sweet boy. It was my honor to have known you.

Maverick, our first Golden Retriever
Maverick