The Pink Trees

It’s no secret that I’m a little, okay a lot, obsessed with the dogs but I confess that I have a few other obsessions. For instance, why are there three or four helicopters flying over the mountains near our house at all hours of the night? The middle daughter was about to tell me that I was losing it when she looked out the bedroom window and there they were.

I also have a thing about wood rat nests. I took a class at a nature center and was fascinated. A rat family will build a nest out of sticks and leaves at the base of a tree. Each time a new rat moves in they add on. The nests can get huge. For some reason they remind me of condos. By the way, even though I like the living arrangement, I did not touch the stuffed rat when they passed it around in class. I have standards.

             Wood Rat Nest Yesterday  

I am really obsessed with the cherry trees that grow around a small lake in a nearby park. In February I start driving by almost every day to see if they’re in bloom yet.

THE DOODS Pack Leader is not kidding. Can we tell you how many times we’ve had to act excited to see the trees. Just look at this photo. At least we look cute and aren’t wearing hats and sunglasses. 

Pink Trees and the Doods

One year I convinced the whole family that we should meet by the lake on a Sunday to see the pink blooms at their peak. Apparently, I was not the only one who had that idea. It was chaotic. There were people everywhere. Parking was a nightmare. The oldest daughter, who couldn’t care less about the pink trees, thought it was one of the worst ideas I’d ever had.

A few weeks later she walked into our house, looked at me and said, “Mom you win.” Driving over, she had seen some pink trees, that she normally would never have noticed, and immediately thought of me. I think she’s afraid that the pink trees and I will haunt her forever.

Today she texted a photo that is the main reason I decided to write this post. That is my granddaughter smiling in front of some pink trees! Not to mention that she loves to find wood rat nests when we go hiking. I did win!

 

 

For My Brother Stan

 

When I sat down to write this post, I couldn’t understand why I was having so much trouble finding the words. Then it dawned on me. It was because it was about someone so dear to my heart.

THE DOODS Wonder which one of us she’s talking about.

My brother Stan’s birthday was March 3rd. He was like the Jewish dog whisperer long before Cesar Milan took the title, without the Jewish part. He was a television director in San Francisco but had a real knack for training his dogs. I never remember him taking a class or hiring anyone. It just seemed to happen naturally. He was also one of the funniest people I have ever known.

He always gave his dogs people names like Max, Stella and Dave, a dog named after David Letterman because Letterman had a dog named Stan. The fact that he gave them those names may explain why they felt obligated to live up to his trust. Somehow that hasn’t always worked for me.

ELBEE And would you care to explain my name. No wonder I have issues.

In the fall of 1995, we were living at the beach in Malibu while our house was being repaired after the Northridge earthquake. One morning my brother called to tell me that he had been diagnosed with advanced colon cancer and would be undergoing major surgery. After I picked myself up off the floor and got the phone back to my ear, we decided that he would stay with us while he recuperated. His only request was that he bring Larry.

Larry, a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix, was the most special of all Stan’s dogs. When they arrived at our house, Larry instantly bonded with Cody, our  Golden Retriever. The two of them became best friends. They would explode onto the sand, doing laps, swimming, sunning. Yet much of the time they sat quietly by Stan’s side or took walks up the beach with him.

After a few months, feeling somewhat better, my brother decided to move back to his house in Oakland and return to work. Despite a positive attitude, he knew that his time was limited and wanted to live his life as fully and normally as possible.

When it came time to say good-bye to Stan and Larry, I don’t know who was a bigger mess, me or Cody. Being a realist, Stan asked me if, when the time came, we would adopt Larry. Since he was being so direct, I couldn’t offer all of the platitudes that were trying to jump out of my mouth, so all I said was, “of course.”

I have a confession. I started to write about Stan and Larry coming back in the months before my brother’s death but it got too depressing. Let me just say that we lost Stan on July 22, 1996 at the age of 47. That was also the day that his beloved Larry became my beloved Larry.

 

 

Am I Blue?

Some posts just seem to write themselves and even come with photos! If you’ve seen Gus on Facebook lately, you may have noticed that his ears and tail are blue. Marsha, his wonderful and creative groomer, went to a dog expo last weekend and got inspired.

ELBEE I feel a little guilty which doesn’t happen very often. I was eavesdropping, which does happen very often, and heard Marsha telling Pack Leader how she’d love to try some doggie hair dyes on Gus. I should have warned the little guy but I was just so relieved that I wasn’t going to be her first victim.

I thought it sounded like a great idea. We agreed that she should go with a more conservative approach and use the temporary color even though the permanent colors were fabulous.

When I came to pick him up, Gus looked adorable. He was so cute with the touches of blue but I admit he seemed a bit embarrassed.

ELBEE Of course he was embarrassed. What self-respecting dog wouldn’t be? And don’t forget we’ve worn hats and sunglasses.

The next morning when I arrived at UCLA with Gus, he was like a pint sized celebrity. I lost count of how many people wanted to take his picture. The kids in the neuropsych units where he visits were so excited when they saw him. Some of the teens with their own multi-colored hair could really relate.

GUS  I’m not usually a complainer but I felt ridiculous. I’m supposed to be blonde, not blue. I tried sitting outside the emergency room hoping someone would help me, but nothing. All I kept thinking was, “Just don’t let me run into any dogs I know.”

Then it happened. There was Tommy the Bichon, my buddy, my wingman. We were even on the Channel 7 news together. He was so shocked, at first he couldn’t even look at me. Still, after we sat in the lobby together, chatting with each other and having a bunch of people pet us, I started to feel better.

By the time we headed down to valet parking, I was actually feeling pretty good. I thought that maybe the blue made me look handsome and adventurous. But as we were waiting for the car,  a woman came running up and shouted, “OMG! It’s a fluff monster.” 

I thought it couldn’t get any worse but the next day a granddaughter was over and said that I looked like a blueberry! Are you kidding? I look like a fruit? Charley and Elbee warned me that I might need therapy but I’m not even three yet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hearts and Doodles

In last Monday’s post I mentioned that this week I would be writing about the Doods’ purpose. Then Valentines Day came along and I had a change of “heart.”

THE DOODS Is it just us or do Pack Leader’s jokes keep getting lamer. If we knew how, we’d do the eye roll.

A few months ago, UCLA did photo shoots with the dogs in the People Animal Connection for valentine cards. On the holiday, the dogs (and their people) distributed them to patients and staff.

THE DOODS Don’t get us wrong. We appreciate the thought behind it and the fact that they wanted to feature us and our canine colleagues, but do you see these? We’re therapy dogs, not clowns. 

And as if those weren’t bad enough, take a look at this one. Someone is turning into a stage mother. At least we have  proof that she put us into these ridiculous get ups. I wonder if we should contact the lawyer daughter to see if we can sue her for something like embarrassment.

 

Speaking of daughters, Nicole, the middle one and our favorite, got Pack Leader back on track. She told P.L. that she should be writing about our wonderful hearts.

 

 

Okay, enough already. I give up. Let me tell you briefly about the beautiful heart of each Dood.

Charley, the senior Dood, has an intuitive heart. He has always had the gift of being able to sense who needs him the most. He will then gently push himself against them. No one who has experienced the Charley “lean” ever forgets it. It’s like a magical hug.

Elbee is a bit of a show off with the heart of a joker. His antics seem designed to draw attention. His gift is to make everyone laugh and forget their difficult surroundings. If he doesn’t get the crowd reaction he’s going for, he’ll flop into someone’s lap.

Gus, at barely three years old, has a heart of pure sweetness. At work, he cuddles with people and seems to know just when to give someone a soft lick on the cheek. When we adopted him, we were told he was a Teddy Bear Doodle. With his cute dog smile, he truly is like a little, lovable stuffed animal.

My parents, who passed away when I was quite young, had a special way to sign every card and note to each other. At the very end, they would write A.K.A.A.S. My mother even had a charm on her bracelet with those letters.

They stood for “a kiss and a smile.” As I thought about those words on Valentines Day, it suddenly dawned on me that in a certain way they so poignantly summed up the Doods and all of their loving interactions.

 

 

 

A Grandma’s Purpose

In my usual spirit of honesty, I admit that I went to see A Dog’s Purpose. Yes, I knew that there was a lot of negative publicity about the film. A video had surfaced that showed some questionable training techniques with a German Shepherd. And yes, the Jewish guilt was killing me.

Call me a hypocrite but you can also call me a grandma who needed a family friendly film. My 12 year old grandson Ryan was sleeping over and my husband and I (he’s guilty too) had promised to take him to a movie. He wanted to see it and we thought it would be great because we could sit through it without falling asleep or pretending that we were entertained.

This is not a photo of Ryan. His mother is the one we refer to as “Jennifer who hates Facebook.” This adorable little boy is Ryder, Danielle’s son. She and Nicole are the two daughters who actually like my blog. Well, there was that one incident when they were going to hire Jennifer to sue me for writing, “Top 12 Reasons that Dogs are Better than Children” (3/14/16) but we settled out of court. I got them gift certificates from Nordstrom.

Okay, I am a sucker for dog movies. It’s also true that I still haven’t recovered from Old Yeller. I saw it as a kid and ended up sobbing hysterically but someone assured me that a Dog’s Purpose had a happy ending. Hey, I’m the one who overdoses on Hallmark movies at Christmas. I like happy endings.

There is another part to my excuse. Call it a grandma’s purpose. A few years ago I told my two older grandchildren that my job was to spoil them. They’ve held me to it. One day they even asked if I wanted to take them to Target and spoil them. Do you really think I was going to say no to the movie? I refuse to discuss what we bought at the snack bar.

The movie is about a dog that keeps getting reincarnated as different breeds, fulfilling different roles. And I’m the one who’s crazy. The daughters all think I’ve lost it when I tell them that I “channel” the Doods in my writing.

I have to say, the movie really made me do a lot of thinking about the Doods and the work they accomplish.

THE DOODS Finally!

 

 

Each of the three seems to have his own unique style and sense of purpose. They are all so giving but in different ways. I’ll share more about that next week.

THE DOODS Seriously?

To end on a positive note, the Humane Society decided that proper procedure was followed in training the dogs for the movie. It was concluded that the video may have been edited. I’ll take it. It makes my guilty conscience feel a little less guilty.

Breaking news! After some negotiating, I got permission to include this photo of the other two wonderful grandchildren.

 

 

 

 

I’m a Dog Walker with a Stalker

Believe it or not, the Doods and I had a stalker. I was walking the three of them down Ventura Boulevard, a busy street in the San Fernando Valley, when someone pulled over in a large SUV. I wasn’t alarmed because people stop all the time to say a friendly hello, take a photo (not kidding), or just to inquire about the dogs. Well, there was one woman who wanted to buy them and asked me to name my price!

Elbee, Gus and Charley

THE DOODS We wish we could tell you that Pack Leader makes this stuff up, but she doesn’t. We find it a bit disturbing that it’s all true. We’re thinking of hiring a real dog walker.

Anyhow, this woman, who had a large, barking Briard sitting in the front seat, rolled down her window and asked if I was a dog walker. Assuming she was looking for a professional, I informed her that I was exercising my own pack. She said “okay,” waved and drove off, only to pull over again a half a block later.

This time she asked me a few random dog questions, including  why I didn’t  have a Briard, and drove off again. And you guessed it, she pulled over a few feet later but this time she parked and got out of the car.

THE DOODS At this point we were getting a little nervous, not to mention offended, especially with her huge dog still barking at us from the front seat. When we got a close look at her, though, we relaxed. She had a good ten years on Pack Leader (who, sorry, is no spring chicken). Not to mention that with her weightlifting, PL could definitely take her.

ELBEE Oh no, did we open the door for one of her bodybuilding pictures!

Sorry I couldn’t help myself. Old habits die hard.

THE DOODS Are we even sure that’s her?

As we chatted, the woman admitted that my reputation had preceded me. I wasn’t sure which reputation but thought it was a bit weird that she had known who I was all along. Then she handed me a business card which I assumed was hers. Wrong again. It was my husband’s! I later found out she had gone to his building and asked the security guard to get it for her.

THE DOODS Now you see why we were relieved that she was old and small?

Really disconcerted by the business card, I told her we had to get going and abruptly walked away. I was being a little rude but under the circumstances I’m sure the etiquette gurus would cut me some slack.

Fortunately I never saw her again but a few weeks later a strange thing happened at the local carwash. When I walked inside to pay, the cashier, who knew me and the Doods well, said “I have something really weird to tell you.” She then shared  that an older woman had stopped in a couple of times to ask her if she’d seen me and the dogs.

THE DOODS That’s it. We’re definitely hiring a professional walker and we’re keeping a lower profile on social media.

 

 

 

 

Rock On!

ELBEE Many of you know that as much as I enjoy hiking, I am hesitant to go alone with Pack Leader. (See 7/11/2016 Post: “I Am Never Hiking with that Lunatic Again”). One time I faked a paw injury to get out of it. Another time I ate grass and made myself throw up. And no, I do not have body issues. 

Recently, against my better judgement, I gave in and went with her and found out something disturbing. She has a new obsession with rock formations! Seriously?

No, not these rocks. That’s just her showing off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excuse me, let me explain. Over the past few months, I have noticed all sorts of man-made rock formations. Well, to keep the daughters on their toes, I told them I thought they may have been created by aliens.

CHARLEY Not to be rude, but these rock monuments have been around for a long time. I’ve even seen them. 

 

 

The youngest daughter and the middle daughter immediately remarked that it reminded them of the Blair Witch Project. I wouldn’t know because I can’t watch scary movies. I’d run out of the room screaming whenever the kids had them on. Oh, and hand held camera makes me throw up.

THE DOODS That is over sharing and embarrassing!

One of the first formations I noticed was a heart, later turned into a horseshoe.

Then I saw several that seemed like random piles of rocks but had obviously taken some effort. I remarked to my hiking buddy Mary, the one who is surprised and a little disappointed that we’ve never found a body, that maybe people were just adding their two rocks worth.

THE DOODS OMG! If that was a joke, it was lame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELBEE What Pack Leader is not sharing is that she and Mary built the one on the bottom right. That is just sad.

Now look at this one. Someone took the time to balance it on top of a sign

And imagine the thought involved in creating the two formations below. They both seemed to fit beautifully in the mountains, especially the peace sign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHARLEY That’s a peace sign? I thought it was a Mercedes emblem.

ELBEE I discussed this whole rock thing with Charley and Gus. We decided that people, unlike us hard working dogs, have way too much time on their hands.

Happy Tails on the Trails

 

ELBEE Despite the fact that this is a feel good post about me and Gus, that title has got to go!

 

 

Last Sunday, I took Elbee and Gus hiking. Maybe because it was a spectacular southern California day or maybe because it was a long weekend for Martin Luther King’s birthday, a lot of families were on the trails. The Doods, being all cute and fluffy with their hair blowing in the breeze, were like people magnets. Their tails started wagging the moment that anyone even glanced in their direction.

An older couple hiking with their son asked if it would be alright for him to pet the dogs. I told them “Absolutely.” The young man was bundled up in a warm jacket and was wearing a hat with a wide brim that hid his face. As he started petting Elbee and Gus, he looked up with the sweetest smile and I could see that he had Downs Syndrome. While he continued to interact with the dogs, I chatted with his appreciative parents who shared how much he loved animals.

Of course that was my cue to take out my phone and show him photos of all three of the Doods in costumes for various holidays. He giggled at their multi-colored Halloween wigs, their Christmas sweaters and their red, white and blue outfits for the Fourth of July. After a few minutes, I had Elbee and Gus wave good bye and he waved back with pure delight.

We continued walking, greeting all sorts of hikers, old and young. It was as if everyone realized how lucky we were to be up in the Santa Monica Mountains enjoying the day. A few minutes later we met a family with four young children, one a toddler in the dad’s arms.

The kids who were walking had a mixed reaction. It seemed as if they wanted to visit with the dogs but at the same time they backed away slightly. After I told the mother they were both therapy dogs, she assured the little boy and his two sisters that it was okay to come closer and pet them. Within a minute it was a love fest. The kids were all over Gus and Elbee, petting them, squealing in delight.

Suddenly I noticed an expression of both surprise and relief on the mom’s face. She shared that recently the children had a very negative experience with a dog and had become fearful. Just then, the younger girl, who was actually hugging Gus, said she wished he’d give her a kiss. As if on cue, Gus turned his head and gently licked her on the cheek.

In their UCLA bandanas

When I watch the Doods perform wonders in the hospital, I never take it for granted but it is what I have come to expect. Last Sunday put it in a different perspective. It was amazing to be experiencing the power of nature while the dogs so naturally and effortlessly worked their magic. I realized again that being a part of what Charley, Elbee and Gus do is one of the greatest gifts in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No One Does a Guilt Trip Like a Dog

There are Jewish guilt trips and Catholic guilt trips, but there is nothing quite like a dog guilt trip. Some people say that dogs don’t have a sense of time. They don’t know if you’re gone for ten minutes or ten hours. I’m seriously beginning to doubt that. When I return from an errand or two the Doods are mildy excited. When I have the nerve to leave them for a few hours, I hear about it.

THE DOODS In our defense, not that we need one, does anyone tell us where they’re going or when they’ll be back. We can’t exactly prepare meals and organize entertainment.

If I leave town for a few days, when I get home the dogs act as if I had abandoned them. They alternate between hysteria and pouting. Charley, who is usually the voice of reason in the pack, starts barking so much that I’m afraid to imagine what he’s saying.

CHARLEY Am I being mocked for showing genuine concern?

 

Recently as I was getting ready to visit two of the grandkids, oh yes a daughter and her husband too, in northern California, I realized something. As soon as my little blue suitcase came out, the Doods started pulling attitude. I was afraid they were  going to stowaway in my luggage.

When I got home a few days later, they carried on like never before. They’re masters of the guilt trip but this was over the top even for them. As crazy as it sounds (no comments from the daughters please) I’d even told them where I was going. They like the grandkids so I figured it wouldn’t be an issue.

THE DOODS Yes, we love the grandkids, even the one who screams every time she sees us, so that wasn’t an issue but we found out something shocking. Pack Leader had cheated on us. We were looking at the husband’s cell phone the night before when she was sending some photos. We were hoping we’d see the kids.

Do you see these? These are definitely not the grandchildren! The sheep and the cow are bad enough but it looks as if she developed some sort of personal relationship with a goat! A goat? Really?

    

 

For the record, the goat seemed to have a problem with his vision so I felt sorry for him. And yes, we bonded.

 

 

 

 

 

Gus and Tommy Make the News

Some of you, oh okay, anyone who’s ever met me knows that I can talk non-stop about the dogs. It’s probably why so many people encouraged me to write about them. They were hoping I’d shut up and stop talking about them.

A daughter, the one who is not a fan of the Doods, commented that I could turn any conversation around to the dogs. I told her it was a gift.

THE DOODS How can anyone not be a fan? Shocking! 

Last week, as part of the People Animal Connection at UCLA Medical Center, Gus and I, along with his wingman Tommy and Tommy’s person Donna, were invited to be on the local news. They wanted us to share the amazing work that the dogs in the program are doing. I couldn’t wait. I had stories to tell.

When we arrived at the studio, we were treated like VIP’s. From the guard at the gate who gave me my photo ID to the receptionist who came out from behind the desk to say hello to Gus, everyone made us feel special. Even the on-air personalities were welcoming.

In the green room, yes the green room, we met up with Tommy and Donna, plus Kunal, the coordinator of PAC. It was there we found out that Kunal would be our spokesperson for the live broadcast. Oh no! Had my reputation preceded me? Did they know I was a yenta who could go on and on?

To his credit, Kunal did a great job. He answered the questions concisely and informatively. Gus and Tommy were also pros. They sat patiently in our laps ready for their close ups. I, on the other hand, practically broke out in hives not being able to add my two cents!

I felt a little better the next day when I ran into a few friends who were so excited to have seen us on TV that they didn’t notice I wasn’t saying a word. One of them even took screenshots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I’m being honest, this was probably better than when I gave an interview in Spanish on Telemundo. I’m sure that people are still pausing their recordings and laughing. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, check out my post “You Did What?” (11/7/16). And it sort of extends my fifteen minutes of fame again.

ELBEE If she brings out one more of those cheesy bodybuilding photos, I’m going to boycott her blog.