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The Yankee Express

Luke’s NEW YEAR Goals

By Amy Palumbo-LeClaire

• The Morning Walk

December 2023 ended with peculiar high temps. A muddy ground complicated life with dog.  I may have stood alone in my wish for a snowstorm, but I had good reason. Snow is pretty. Snow is quiet. Snow is clean. 
“Luke! That hole is crazy big!” Luke’s digging habit continued. He dug deep and wide, as though excavating the area beside our front steps for the benefit of a miniature pool. I tore open the door in horror. A cool gust of wind blended with the sound of my husband’s cry. “I’ve worked hard on that lawn! Luke is getting a zap next time!” 
Indeed, Luke’s Daddy has slaved over that lawn. However, no such zap will occur. “Let’s not be dramatic,” I countered while my pup faced me, his face mottled like that of a child who’s found the brownie bowl. “Dogs are natural diggers. Imagine zapping a child for building a sandcastle.” I held my ground with the recurrent analogy. “Luke is just bored.” The wheels of Luke’s paws continued to spin in agreement. Once again, I couldn’t help but feel impressed by the depth (no pun intended) of his work. “Besides, we don’t need to keep up with the Joneses.” I brandished the maintenance broom and pushed the pile of fresh dirt back into the hole. Meanwhile, my pup zoomed around the yard and tore through grass the Jones’ would have approved of, if it weren’t for fresh skid marks “Let’s go for a walk, Luke.” I grabbed his leash and the resolution settled in my mind. Give Luke early morning walks in 2024. 

• Better Nutrition for Luke

Weight problems are both common and problematic in Goldens. Extra weight is hard to bear on dogs’ joints and can lead to muscular problems, diabetes, digestion, breathing and mobility issues. Luke is a young, active dog with normal weight. Stocky and strong at seventy-three pounds, he’s built like a linebacker who, nevertheless, isn’t above begging for gingerbread cookies. Consistency is crucial when it comes to dog training. Show your dog that your food is not part of his, and he’ll learn quickly. However, turning down the quiet face of a begging Golden is easier said than done. We know gingerbread cookies are not good for them. Who are we kidding? Yet their pleading faces somehow manage to sell us. 
“I was thinking that because I’m such a good boy, you’d be willing to share.” Mesmerized, he stares up at the cookie, a bear cub lifting a paw ever so gently, a dog willing to behave forever—if only his Dog Mom would share. I break the cookie in half. The creases of his head and expression deepen. He reminds me of a pumpkin with a personality.  “My Momma is such a good person.” 
My goal for 2024 (along with being a good person) is to integrate more foods that a dog truly needs. I’ve since researched the practice of Dr. Marty Goldstein, a Cornell University graduate and veterinarian with over 35 years of experience in helping dogs thrive (he changed the life of one of Oprah Winfrey’s dogs, who had been suffering, along with countless others who were nearly dying). His prescribed diet designed for dogs of all ages to thrive. Organ meats, omega 3, prebiotics, flax, carrots, ginger, and blueberries are to name a few additions to Luke’s upcoming Nutrition Plan! I also plan to remain educated on dog foods and treats which are harmful, despite trendy catch phrases such as “All Natural” or “Organic”. Certain fillers, preservatives and grains are detrimental to a dog’s digestive system. Canine cancers have multiplied at an alarmingly fast rate, with some studies showing that one out of two Goldens will be struck by the disease. My eyes rest on Luke’s kind, pumpkin face. He smiles up at me with love and innocence. I imagine shaking a message from a bottle that reads this: Luke Valentino is going to live an incredibly long life. 

• More Playdates Please

A fellow Dog Person recently said it best. Our dogs used to run free, find other dogs in the woods, and play. They naturally socialized. Now, constrained to short leashes, we find them territorial and pugnacious, almost as though to say, “I’m stronger than you and stay away from my owner.”  Unleashed, both of those same (aggressive) dogs would likely rumble and become best pals. Admittedly I’m guilty of the short leash rule, especially given that we live in a neighborhood, but I also appreciate Luke’s needs to play with other dogs. At almost two, he’s matured. He’s learned that not every dog likes to wrestle. Some like Chase. Some (as Lincoln had) just want to play fetch. He’s learned to submit to signals of other dogs. That said, Luke is a social creature! Forbidding him to play with other dogs is like asking a rugby player to sit down for a thoughtful game of chess.  Though I’m reluctant to visit Dog Parks now (after the fight that ensued when he was only six months old) my 2024 goal is to set up more playdates for Luke Valentino. 

• Luke Needs His Own Shows

I’ve noticed that Luke is intelligent enough to understand certain television scenes, especially those involving animals. His process for watching the activities of other dogs is a show in and of itself. He’ll smile as though to say, “I love to eat dog food, too.” Or tilt his head curiously. “Are you going to swim in that lake?” He’ll even approach the television screen to get a closer view. “That person is climbing on top of a roof!!”  Just as he revels in lighthearted television moments, Luke shows dissatisfaction for darker scenes. Lord Voldemort, a Harry Potter character, for example, sends chills through Luke’s spine. “You do not look like a nice person. I don’t trust you.” He’ll lower his head in suspicion to the actor. Ralph Fiennes.  I do my best to placate him. “Don’t worry. That’s just a man in a costume, Luke.” He looks up at me, then back at the screen. “I don’t trust him.”  
Whether it’s through morning walks, playdates, better nutrition, or television shows; Luke Valentino needs the stimulation of new sights, suppers, and stories. 2024 is going to be my pup’s year!  Stay tuned for the next story, featuring Luke’s two-year-old birthday on January 31st!  

Follow Luke on IG @livingwithlukevalentino 
Write to Amy – [email protected]