happy new year!

Rocko learned the joy of "big water" yesterday; we took him to Howard Park and introduced him to the Gulf of Mexico. It was the end of a busy day.

Turning the Saturn around so the tagless rear bumper faces the house was easy enough but kind of interesting to accomplish. I got the transmission into reverse, pushed the dead clutch to the floor, released the parking brake and started the engine. The car immediately headed down the driveway. Applying the brake too hard caused a stall. I managed to back out into the street and around toward the front yard, but the car stalled. It wouldn't stay running unless I kept the starter engaged. Fun. After a few lurches, the engine caught and I backed quickly around and up to the garage. Stomping on the brake stalled the engine and saved me from going through the garage door. That's one task that I was very happy to have finished.

We were both restless, so we headed to the tax collector and turned in the license plate (Floridians call it a "tag") from the Saturn. While she was in there, Lisa renewed her Handicapped Parking placard at no cost.

Then we went to the health food store and bought a can of Spiru-Tein meal replacement powder. Lisa knows the owner of the store - they go way back - but he hasn't been there the last two times we went, so they had some catching up to do. We got a 10% discount and a free shake-shaker.

As we stood outside the car having a smoke in the parking lot, it came to us that it was a great day to take Rocko to the beach. We finished up and went home to get him, stopping at the Hyundai dealer to get dust caps for the valve stems. Steve was happy to see us and fetched the caps, installing them himself.

Rocko is always overjoyed to take a ride in a car, any car, and yesterday was unexceptional in that regard. Lisa covered the entire back seat with a Spongebob blanket. I grabbed a towel because I knew that the dog would get wet.

The only route to Howard Park that Lisa knows goes through the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs. I really need to learn a more direct way to go; the tourists were swarming the sidewalks and it is a verrry slooow drive through the Docks, but we made it through and headed into the park and parked at the beginning of the causeway.

At first, Rocko wasn't entirely sure what to make of the open water. There were new smells to consider. Shortly, though, he figured out that it really was water - more than he evidently believed was possible! The excitement precipitated a quick trip to the bushes in anticipation of fun, fun, fun!

And fun is what he had. The water was a bit chilly, the day relatively warm, and Rocko wanted to run along the paved shore as far as he could. We got down to the first bridge and the happy dog found himself boxed in by concrete and fences. I brought him back down to the water and he tried to get around that way, finding himself in water up to his shoulders before turning back. This time he stayed in the water most of the way to where Lisa sat watching. He ran in the salt water for a good 200 feet before tiring and slowing down.

I left him with Lisa and headed to the car for the towel; she took off her shoes and walked the dog further offshore than he had been able to go before because he had to remain on-leash. After that Lisa was cold and Rocko was red-eyed from keeping his eyes open underwater (by the time we got home, the redness had passed), so she dried her feet and I toweled down the dog. He loves towels.

Later, at home, I turned on the hose and filled up Rocko's kiddie pool. We got all the salt and sand off and - O the joy! - toweled him off again.

All three of us slept like babies last night.

This afternoon I made sure that all of my errands were completed before 4 PM. I remember what happens on New Year's Eve! People get half-days and hit the bars for lunch. By late afternoon there are hammered drivers all over the place. There are several parties going on in our neighborhood and I've already seen one car drive off on the wrong side of the road. We are staying in tonight.

Happy New Year, everybody!

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