The Red Man and I watched  a lot of TV shows together over the years, and he was fine with that activity – or the lack thereof.(When it didn’t suit him, he let everyone know his displeasure by lying on the floor with his face pointing toward a wall and his butt aimed in  your direction. The message was crystal clear.)

Pretty and her personal assistant the Energizer Bunny Shelley were getting her antique businesses going and were gone, gone, gone with the wind in the World of Work while I stayed home with the three musketeers during many days of the past year. Chelsea and Red were on strict medication schedules to manage their pain from the cancers while Spike was just hovering in their vicinity for moral support plus, we now know, Chelsea was the emotional glue that held his life together. Red was the Alpha dog, the ring leader of the Pack; and Chelsea, like most labs, was in charge of feeding prompts for everyone so her work was never done.

My fourth book The Short Side of Time was published in December so I slipped into a routine that became more of an unfunded sabbatical from working on my writing to spending more and more time simply being “present” with Chelsea and Red.

We had a makeshift hospice room for Chelsea in the living room with two sofas pressed together (one was lower) so she could have an easier time climbing up to her regular perch on the higher one which had always belonged to her. Chelsea wasn’t crazy about sharing her sofa or anything else, but in the last months she occasionally allowed Spike to get on it with her as long as he kept to himself at the other end and never crossed the invisible line in the middle. Chelsea tolerated Spike’s adoration but rarely returned it.

Red preferred his old bed on the floor in front of the TV. His hearing and eyesight weren’t the best in the last year so he claimed that bed and no one dared mess with The Red Man when he wanted something. He ruled…and not always with soft paws.

Channel 1180 – WGN in Chicago – was our “Go – To” afternoon napping with three syndicated hour-long episodes of In the Heat of the Night followed immediately by three  syndicated hour-long episodes of Blue Bloods. Pretty usually got home in time for the last couple of hours of Blue Bloods and has become hooked on the show about a family of New York City policemen to such an extent that we now must watch the LIVE episodes on Friday nights if we’re home or record them if we’re not. The show is well-written most of the time and has a terrific ensemble cast of actors all of the time.

In the Heat of the Night, on the other hand, had possibly one of the worst ensemble casts ever assembled for a show; and the Southern accents used by the actors are appalling to southerners in any state. The stories of the police department in the little fictional town of Sparta, Mississippi in the 1960s are tame in comparison to the big city contemporary drama of Blue Bloods; and the writing seems almost juvenile by today’s standards.

And yet, Red and Chelsea and I loved sleeping with the regular characters on In the Heat of the Night and their atrocious southern accents which were occasionally offset by actors who had believable ones. Nothing is more comforting than the cadences of real southerners’ voices, black or white. And while the writing for the eight seasons of the show never won an Emmy or was even nominated for one, I heard some quotable quotes every once in a while that jolted me out of my reverie. For example…

We live with sadness in our lives, but we do not have to sadly live.

You have a background you couldn’t find the beginning of – and a future you couldn’t see the end of.

And by far one of the classic lines uttered in one of the worst southern accents ever: Honey, I’m so mad I could catch on fire!

And Honey, here’s my tip for the weekend and for the long, long months remaining until the November election. It  doesn’t come from In the Heat of the Night but from a woman named Elise Vannini: Never argue with a fool. (People may not know the difference.)

Have a great weekend and if you happen to see Pretty this weekend, be sure to wish her a Happy Birthday! She’s not getting older, she’s just getting Prettier.