I love these animals with their wet noses, floppy ears, and wagging tails, but I hate it when dogs bark and bark and bark, especially late at night when I’m trying to sleep. It’s not the dog’s fault. Owners leave their four-legged pets in the yard unattended while they go out or go to bed, although how they can sleep with their canine companions barking non-stop is beyond me. If you were left by yourself with nothing to do but bark, wouldn’t you be bored?

This phenomenon inspired the following two poems from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. Click on the link below the poems to hear me sing a song about a dog I’m sure you’ll recognize. I hope you’re enjoying the so-called dog days of summer.


The Bark


What makes a dog bark? 

It’s something in the canine’s anatomy. 

Why do dogs bark? 

They’re excited, welcoming visitors,

warding off predators. 


Why do dogs bark late at night? 

They’re left in the yard unattended. 

Lonely, bored, cold, 

once they’re done relieving themselves,

they don’t know what else to do

but make an incessant noise that grates on one’s nerves for hours

until silenced by human intervention.


Is poetry like a barking dog?

In some ways, it is.

You read a poem, and you’re stimulated—

but a bad poem can grate on your nerves

like a barking dog in the middle of the night.

Life is “ruff,” isn’t it?


I Dream of Murder at Sunrise




I enter the yard,

having been kept awake by the incessant barking.

I feel sorry for the pooch, left unattended.


It approaches me, tail wagging in welcome.

As I stroke the white, shaggy head,

I look toward the house for signs of life.


The dog sniffs my pocket.

I remove and unwrap a small portion of hamburger

with a generous amount of rat poison kneaded into the meat.

This will put the poor thing out of its misery, and mine, I think,

as I toss it on the ground.


The hound devours it,

lies down, closes its eyes,

is gone forever.


How Much is That Doggie in the Window?


Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

A Father and Son’s Story

Since Father’s Day has come and gone, I would like to tell you about a unique memoir. Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son by Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez tells the story of their lives, their careers in the filmmaking industry, and their relationship. In the 1990’s I saw Martin and Emilio in a TV movie, In the Custody of Strangers, about a teen-ager who drives drunk, hits a police car, and spends six weeks in jail. Emilio played the wayward teen, and Martin played the father who’s tough love created a disaster..

Martin and Emilio take turns narrating Along the Way. Martin talks about growing up in Dayton, Ohio, with a Hispanic father who raised him and his siblings after his mother died when he was eleven. He was born Ramon Estivez but changed his name to Martin Sheen because in the 1960’s, he thought he would have a better chance of finding work if he had an American name. He describes how he met and married his wife Janet in New York and the trials and tribulations of being an actor and raising a family.

He discusses his experiences filming Apocalypse Now and other movies. He was raised a Catholic and explains how he returned to the church after a prolonged absence. He talks about his drinking bout which lasted for about thirty years and how he finally joined Alcoholics Anonymous and learned about the twelve-step program. He explains why he turned down nominations for Academy Awards.

Emilio talks about what it was like to grow up with an actor for a father. Since Martin’s movies were filmed all over the country and abroad, he did a lot of traveling. He wanted to keep his family together so they all moved to different locations where he was filming before finally settling in Malibu, California. As a result, Emilio never stayed in one school throughout an entire year until the tenth grade.

When Emilio talks about his acting experiences in high school, he reminds me of my younger brother Andy who was also active in school theatrical productions. Unlike Andy, Emilio wrote and directed some of the plays in which he acted. When he decided on acting as a career, he considered changing his name the way his father did, but Martin told him he shouldn’t because times had changed and Hispanics were becoming more popular. Emilio agreed not to change his name but wonders if his father discouraged him in order to atone for what he thought was a mistake in changing his own name.

Emilio also talks about his acting, directing, and screen writing career as an adult. He began his career days after high school graduation, starting filming on a television movie. He describes how in the 1980’s, he met Carey, a woman with whom he couldn’t commit to a long-term relationship but with whom he fathered two children. His parents encouraged him to marry Carey, but when it was clear he wouldn’t do the right thing by her, they developed a relationship with their grandchildren, and this compelled Emilio to become more involved in his children’s lives. He describes a road trip he took with the kids in the 1990’s from California to his home in Montana. In 2009, his son Taylor worked with Emilio and Martin on a movie called The Way, which was filmed in Spain and is about a father who takes a pilgrimage along a hiking trail where his son died. This inspired Martin and Emilio to write Along the Way.

Emilio talks about a brief relationship with actress Demi Moore in the 1980’s and his marriage to singer Paula Abdul in the 1990’s. He describes a retreat he attended in the 1990’s with his father and one of his brothers and how the experience affected his relationship with his father. During that time, he also attended a screening of the movie U571, for which my uncle Jon Johnson won an Oscar for best sound effects. I don’t think Emilio met my uncle, but I thought it was cool that he attended the screening. Emilio talks about how during the earlier part of this century, he planted a vineyard in the front yard of his Malibu home and ended up with a vegetable garden, a chicken coop, a bee hive, and Sonja, a woman who is still with him today.

According to Wikipedia, Martin Sheen was born on August 3rd, 1940 in Dayton, Ohio. He is best known for his performances in Badlands, (1973) Apocalypse Now, (1979) Wall Street, (1987) and The Departed. (2006) He is also known for his roles in the Mass Affect trilogy and the television series The West Wing. He won the Best Actor Award in the Sam Sebastian Film Festival for his role in Badlands. His performance in Apocalypse Now earned him a nomination for the BAFT Award for Best Actor. His star has been on the Hollywood Walk of Fame since 1989. In television, he won a Golden Globe Award and two Screen Actors Guild awards for his performance in The West Wing and an Emmy for his guest role in Murphy Brown. He directed one film, Cadence, in 1990. He also directed, produced, and narrated documentary television films during the 1980’s, for which he won two Daytime Emmy Awards. He was also active in liberal politics.

Emilio Estevez was born on May 12th, 1962 in Staten Island, New York. He starred in The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire. He is also known for Repo Man, The Mighty Ducks and its sequels, Maximum Overdrive, Bobbi, which he wrote and directed, and his roles in Young Guns and its sequel.

Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son was published in 2012 by Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. It’s available in recorded format from Audible which I recommend since they narrate their own book. I’m sure it’s also available in print, but that wouldn’t be the same as hearing Martin and Emilio tell their stories.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Dad Speed

My father loves to drive fast on the highway. He also feels the need to pass every driver he encounters, even if it means going over the speed limit. One day, he and I were driving from Sheridan, Wyoming, over the mountains to Thermopolis where I was about to receive an award for my years of volunteer service to nursing homes and other senior facilities. After several unsuccessful attempts to pass another car on a winding mountain road, I said, “Dad, there’s plenty of time. Take it slow.” I often heard him giving this advice to my younger brother when teaching him to drive, but coming to him from his daughter who never drove a vehicle in her life, he ignored it. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but it’s a wonder we made it in one piece.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, I thought it fitting to post the following prose poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. This was inspired by an incident that happened while Dad and I were driving home from Colorado. Warning: this poem contains some strong language.


I’m sitting in a car going over ninety miles an hour. “If I stay behind this car, I won’t speed,” Dad says. “It’s going under the speed limit.” But the car in front of us turns off at the next exit. The speedometer climbs.

“God damn it,” he says, as he slows down. “I just want to get home.”

“So do I, but I want to make it in one piece.”

“Fuck you! I’m tired.”

“And you don’t think I am?” I want to tell him. “You don’t think it’s exhausting, speeding down the highway with you, watching you fiddle with the tape deck and consult a road map when both hands should be on the wheel, your eyes glued to the road?” Hallelujah! We’re home at last!

What do you remember doing with your father? Please feel free to share your memories by leaving a comment below.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

A Sighted Person’s Mistake

Summer is the season for street reconstruction. Being visually impaired, I’m always concerned about stepping in wet concrete or ending up in the path of an oncoming bulldozer. When I read in the paper about a woman driving into wet cement, I was refreshed in the knowledge that people with good eyes also make such mistakes. This inspired the following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver.

On an Adventure with Her Grandkids

She drove into a mound
of freshly poured concrete surrounded by orange cones,
was sited by police for not following signage.
Her insurance company will be billed.
The blind aren’t the only ones who blunder.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver