Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

The news that cursive handwriting is returning to elementary school curricula is being roundly applauded, perhaps equal to ovations that welcomed Dolly back to Broadway.

Some of us thought cursive instruction had been “written off” in recent years, replaced by fingers fleeting across tiny keyboards on iPhones, iPads and such.

No one is more exuberant than my 106-year-old Uncle Mort. “It ranks right up there with the Flintstones’ discovery that round wheels roll better. After all, not all kids want to be doctors.”

Mort, a charter member of “all things old school,” is wary about so much “new stuff,” particularly the multi-billion-dollar pet business. “When I grew up, cats were ‘mousers,’ and dogs lived outdoors, chasing down varmints and such. Privileged ‘lip lickers’ got to dine on table scraps.”

He remembers Depression days, when most folks had hunting dogs. One day, a neighbor sadly reported that he could no longer afford to feed his dogs, thus needing to sell them. “Don’t do that,” Mort said. “Feed’em turnip greens; that’s what I do.”

His friend was sure his dogs wouldn’t eat turnip greens. “Mine wouldn’t either for the first three weeks,” Mort admitted.

My old uncle can’t understand how some people spend freely on their pets, citing special diets, health concerns and even luxurious pet kennels.

I was surprised recently by friends who were fretting about passing up the opportunity to live in Israel for two months this summer for “only” three thousand dollars each. They’re frequent travelers, and were certain the accommodations would be plush.

“We would have gone,” the man said, “But the $30 daily fee to board our dogs made the long trip problematic.”

The list of options involving pet ownership seems unending. There are grief counselors, pet cemeteries, insurance plans, and I learned recently about hospice care for pets near the end of their lives.

How about “Lap of Love,” a nationwide network of pet hospice and palliative care practices?

A survey of millennials reveals that 78 percent of women and 58 percent of men consider their pets as “part of the family.” Who is to argue?

For three decades, we were “dogless.” The kids grown, Brenda and I were “footloose and fancy free,” as they say.  A dozen years ago, our then across-the-street grandson didn’t have a dog, so we “rescued” Sadie, a mostly Jack Russell breed who succumbed last summer.



The misadventures of Sailor, another rescue, went afoul with the family of another daughter, so we accepted his transfer to our home.

Lately, we’ve found ourselves fawning over him, but he hasn’t had any spa treatments. He has had the best dog food money can buy, and professional nail trimmings a few times annually. Until recently, we laughed about other dog owners taking their pets to vets for teeth cleaning.

We stopped at mid-laugh recently, however, when the nail-trimmer told us we should consider getting Sailor’s teeth cleaned, a $200 procedure which, done annually, could extend his life by 2-3 years.

An appointment was scheduled, and we took him in early so he’d be early in line for anesthesia. Upon taking him home ten hours later, we were stunned by the news that seven teeth had to be extracted, and that he’d need three medications administered over the next week.

His complications added another hundred bucks to the deal, and still ringing in my ears are the words, “At his age (around eight years), he really needs semi-annual teeth cleaning.

What to do? I’m already Googling, trying to figure out how to brush a dachshund’s teeth daily without anesthesia, and which toothpaste dogs prefer.

There is growing evidence that pets in America these days are treated royally.

We don’t own them; they own us. They’re worth every penny, I might add, and if Sailor learns to floss, we may change his name to “Flossy.”….

Dr. Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” round about. Comments or inquiries Ph.: 817-447-3872. Web: Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury.

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