Aren’t You That Lady?

As a mother, especially as the mother of girls, I’ve always believed that you should have your own identity and not live vicariously through your children. Becoming a competitive bodybuilder may have been a little over the top but it certainly helped.

20160525_091431_1472427293345_resized ELBEE Oh no, I can just feel it. Another photo is about to  emerge from the archives. Wait for it. Wait for it…


ELBEE I told you!

20160404_140354_resizedCHARLEY OMGPlease tell me she isn’t drying her hair and flexing!



Living vicariously through the Doods is a completely different story. After a recent identity crisis when I was hiking alone and several people said they almost didn’t recognize me without the dogs, I realized that it was okay. Just about every time I go out without one of them I either hear, “Where are they?” or “Aren’t you the lady with the dogs?” Looking back, I don’t remember strangers asking, “Aren’t you the lady with the kids?”

Unlike the daughters who can go either way (just kidding girls, no need to sue), therapy dogs can only make you look good. Instead of guilt by association, it’s reflected glory. All I do is hold their leashes while they do all the work.

Without the dogs, the only times I ever hear the words, “bless you” are if I sneeze. Working with the Doods, I’ve heard them more times than I can remember.

When I tap on a patient’s door to see if they’d like a visit, they often look confused or not that excited to see me. When they realize I have a dog with me it’s a complete 180. Usually there’s a big smile and “yes, I’d love a visit.”

I don’t take it personally. After all, a rabbi at Providence Hospital told me they were his competition. Shameless showoff that I am, I had Elbee say his prayers for him.20160828_202244_1472487044105_resized

And a spiritual leader looked very upset when she had to tell me that a patient wanted to see the dogs instead of her.

Doctor Doods help out
Doctor Doods

THE DOODS Can we help it if we have a gift?

We do have a bone to pick. (That expression always cracks us up). If one more person says that our hair looks just like Pack Leader’s, we may be the ones who have an identity crisis.














A Funny Thing Happened at the Drive-Thru

Hike with Dennis

A few days ago I was at a trailhead waiting for a friend to go hiking. While I was standing there, I started chatting with a young woman who was also waiting for a friend. Turns out both of them were stuck in “back to school” traffic.

This lovely stranger and I got into a wonderful philosophical conversation about hiking. We shared stories, compared different hikes, and both agreed how spiritual and restorative it was to be out in nature. In short, we bonded. Soon after, my friend arrived so I said goodbye and started up the canyon. By the way this is only marginally a dog story.

Yesterday, after spending the morning with Elbee at an adult health center, I was driving home, made a wrong turn and passed a fairly new McDonald’s that I had never been to and had actually never even seen before. It was at least 15 miles from my house and nowhere near the area where I hike.

20160819_095317_1471632427797_resizedELBEE Excuse me, wasn’t this post supposed to be about me and my great accomplishments not about me just sitting in the car. If I could get my license I would really branch out.  And is there a point to this story?



I was tired from our morning at work, so with Elbee in  the car, I headed to the drive thru for my guilty pleasure…McDonald’s mocha frappe. For what it’s worth, I get a small and leave off the whip cream but it’s like the energy drink of fast food. My son-in-law refers to it as my “crack.” I don’t even want to know what’s in it. By the way, there is a point to this story. I know if you’re like the daughters, you’re probably rolling your eyes by now.

Dealing with all of my guilt, I placed my order and drove up to the second window to pay. You’ll never guess who was behind the window. The young woman from the trail! We broke into huge smiles and greeted each other like long lost friends. It was a moment.

Talk about a small world. Call it synchronicity or serendipity, what are the chances?

ELBEE 20160722_142050_1469301227649_resizedCall it boring. Aren’t I the real story here, even in these stupid glasses?








Nobody Likes a Bully


Charley and Gus have turned into quite a tag team. Just as amazing as their work at the UCLA candlelight vigil and at Camp JPAC was their visit with a group of 27 sixth graders from Emerson Elementary School in Compton, California. The kids were part of the Bullying Intervention Program, backed by UCLA Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, L.A. county board of supervisors 2nd district and the Compton Unified School district.

Elbee the Fabulous

ELBEE I hate to break the mood, but I am sick and tired of being left out. I’m going to have a heart to heart with Pack Leader and make sure she shares my fabulous accomplishments. And is it so bad that I like to work alone? I’m a star.

The students were on a special field trip to UCLA. With their bus caught in the usual L.A. morning traffic, they were all a little stressed when they finally got to campus. That changed when the Doods pranced into the room. The mood turned to enthusiasm and positive excitement. When I looked around, all I saw were smiling faces. They were sweet, gentle and very polite as they petted and hugged the dogs. I heard later that the visit with Charley and Gus had set the tone for the entire day.


The kids listened intently as I talked to them about the People Animal Connection and the work of therapy dogs. They asked questions and told me about their pets. As I moved around the room, one little boy whispered that his sister had autism and that they were going to get a dog to help her.









They all looked surprised when I told them that Charley had been bullied. I explained that as big as he was, when we walked by a Starbucks in the neighborhood, small dogs would often lunge at him from under the tables and bark at him. They nodded in understanding when I said that he was afraid to go by. They seemed proud of Charley when I added that he had learned to handle it by ignoring them and walking away. 


Can Dogs Do Laundry?

Walking with the Doods seems to unleash creativity. I’ve heard that it’s the rhythm of your steps that allows ideas to flow more freely. On the other hand, it could be that the dogs are a captive audience. They listen without judging.


CHARLEY I hate to admit this. We do judge but we talk among ourselves. We know that Pack Leader is a little sensitive.


The problem is that if I don’t stop to make notes on my phone, all of my brilliant ideas are long gone before I get to the car. The other day I was thinking, wouldn’t it be great if the Doods could take dictation. I could talk while I walked and they could get it all down.


ELBEE Hold the phone! I have a few things to say. First, I really hope that remark about “unleashes” wasn’t a play on words. That’s just embarrassing. Second, my phone comment was LOL. About the dictation thing, I’m speechless. 

Then I thought, with all of their talents, I could really put the Doods to work. For instance, Charley and Elbee can “counter surf.” They stand on their hind legs, put their paws on the counter and walk around the kitchen. Fortunately, Gus is too short. Yes, I know it’s very bad behavior (one day they grabbed a whole chicken) but it’s kind of funny and could be helpful.

I mean look at these pictures of Elbee standing up to get something out of the sink. I wouldn’t expect him to cook but who’s to say he couldn’t wash dishes?




ELBEE Really? Wash dishes?? I watch the Cooking Channel so often I could probably win Chopped.




Gus has this habit of stealing  my clothes out of the closet and hiding them behind the ottoman that we refer to as his “throne.” Maybe I could teach him to help with the laundry.

GUS It was bad enough when I was a puppy and PL took my picture in a shopping cart at Target, but in a laundry basket? 









CHARLEY & ELBEE We feel for the little guy. We’re afraid he’s going to have a lot of emotional issues when he gets older. 

And since they all love to pee on the grass and dig, why not have them garden?

THE DOODS Now she’s finally making some sense!


A Magic Morning

It seems that whenever I talk about the serious work that the Doods accomplish, I always mention feeling “privileged” to be a part of it. Yesterday morning was no exception when I took Charley and Gus to Camp JPAC. It’s the only summer all inclusion camp in Los Angeles for children with special needs as well as their “typically” developing peers.

Watching the kids interact with the dogs, it was almost impossible to tell those with disabilities from the others. They all cried out in delight when the Doods did their tricks and clapped their approval. At one point, I put treats in front of Charley and Gus and told them to “leave it.” Then I told the kids that when I raised my hand, they could let them have the treats by saying, “okay take it.” As soon as I gave the signal, they all shouted out together, giggling and smiling.




Smiles were a huge part of the morning. As groups of kids gathered around to hug and pet the Doods, I saw happy faces and heard lots of beautiful laughter. They shared about their dogs and had seemingly endless questions about mine. Several wanted to know if Charley and Gus could come back every day. It was an amazing scene of a little chaos, loads of enthusiasm and tons of love.




Perhaps one of the most moving moments took place in front of the camp. As we were getting ready to leave, a mom showed up to pick up her little boy, who I believe was severely autistic. She asked if we would wait for him because he had never seen a dog. When they first brought him outside, he wanted nothing to do with the dogs but with some gentle coaxing from his mom he put his hand on Gus and then on Charley. For whatever reason, it was my big gentle giant that he wanted to pet again. The people gathered around thought it was because of the texture of Charley’s coat. Part of me thought it was because of Charley’s healing magic.