Our Holiday Heroes


Miracle Workers

Yesterday, Donna, my fellow Yom Kippur felon (her words not mine, although I wish I’d said them) and I decided to take Gus and Tommy to UCLA to spread a little Christmas cheer.

GUS I was there on Yom Kippur but I’m innocent. Do I need  a lawyer?

CHARLEY If you’re clueless about the Yom Kippur remarks, see Pack Leader’s October post, “Oy Vey.”


And it couldn’t hurt that Hanukkah and Christmas fell at the same time this year. I was thinking that it might give us some bonus points to make up for our non-observant Yom Kippur or anything else we may have done. Not to mention, what a great excuse for dressing up the dogs. They both look fabulous in red.

I also got a sign from the universe as I was heading to UCLA. The middle daughter, remember the one who likes the dogs, sent me a photo of a hair clip that she’d found while going through some old boxes. It had been given to her by my dearest friend Eileen on a Christmas long ago. As I shared in the Oy Vey post, Eileen passed away several years ago and way too young. With the sudden appearance of the clip, I could feel her smiling down on us.

A Gift from Eileen

This is a tough time of year for anyone to be in the hospital.  For parents with a sick child it’s even more difficult. How great if we could bring them a few moments of happiness.

As we crossed the threshold into the hospital, the Christmas miracles began. Suddenly stress and sadness were replaced by smiles and laughter. When we finally made it up to Pediatrics and then the PICU, I’m not sure if the staff, the patients or their families were most excited to see Gus and Tommy. Countless times we heard the words, “This makes my day.”

From the toddler in her red Christmas dress to the little girl who had brain surgery, they momentarily put aside their pain and unhappiness to pet and hug the dogs. I wish I had the words to express how moving it was to see Gus or Tommy on the bed cuddled in a child’s arms. The only things more touching were the looks on their parents’ faces.

Although Gus and Tommy barely weigh 50 pounds between them, together they brought tons of holiday love to UCLA Medical Center. I hope Eileen is proud.

MERRY CHRISTMAS                          

The Bowser

As Elbee and I were “making rounds” at Providence Hospital, a young man named Holden came running down the hall to ask if we would visit his younger brother. When we got to the room we met Fred and also their mom Amanda. Turns out that all three were total animal lovers!

With Elbee on the bed cuddled next to Fred, the hospital room seemed to disappear as we told stories and showed photos of our dogs. Both of the boys were planning to become veterinarians. Holden had even studied videos on You Tube so that he could deliver their dog’s puppies. Now that was impressive.

As I occasionally do when talking about the Doods, I mentioned that Charley was in the movie I Love You Man.

ELBEE Occasionally?? She has gotten more mileage out of that cameo than some actresses have gotten out of their Oscars.

Okay, so maybe I do drop it into conversation every chance I get, but their reaction was beyond anything that had ever happened before. The three of them stopped talking, stared at me, and then shouted “OMG you’re the bowser!” The level of excitement in the room skyrocketed.

ELBEE For those of you who have not seen her “blink and you might miss it” cameo in the movie, I’ll explain. Jason Segal’s character points at Pack Leader walking with Charley and calls her a “bowser,” his name for people who look like their dogs. 

The bowser and her look alikes

As I stood there in disbelief, thrilled that my 15 minutes weren’t up, Amanda started quoting lines from the film. A few years ago she had been very ill and feeling really down. A relative offered to bring her a movie that would cheer her up. That movie was I Love You Man.

As she watched it over and over, it became a big part of her healing process. She even showed it to the boys when they were old enough to see it. Our whole interaction was so much fun. For a brief period, the stress of being in a hospital was gone. I may have made their day but they definitely made mine. I was truly touched to have been a small part of something that was so significant to them.











Who Ya Gonna Call? Stress Busters!

When my cousin and I were in college at Syracuse University, we felt that final exams were the most stressful things that could possibly happen to anyone. When people would tell us to get a grip because those were the best years of our lives, we thought they were insane.

Apparently, Some things never change. Finals week at UCLA is as stressful as ever. But they have a secret weapon to combat the anxiety.

ELBEE Xanax?

CHARLEY Hot yoga?




No it’s not drugs or yoga. It’s therapy dogs! As part of the People Animal Connection, teams of dogs visit Powell Library to help everyone relax. Gus went in with his wingman Tommy, a Bichon, and Pierre a French Bulldog.






It was like magic when they walked through the door. The mood in the library immediately shifted from serious and somber to festive. Smiling students and faculty surrounded the dogs, hugging and petting them, taking selfies. There was a lot of laughter. No one was studying. Wait, is that a good thing?







Gus and Tommy also worked together on Yom Kippur, the day that Donna (Tommy’s person) and I decided that doing a good deed on the holiday outweighed traditional observance. We were a little short on atonement and fasting but very big on comforting people.

As I have shared, we survived the day without mishap. No lightening strikes. No plague. Not even a broken nail. I took that as a positive sign.

THE DOODS Really?!? 

GUS What about me and Tommy? Does anyone realize that we’re both Jewish?

Earlier this year, Gus and Tommy attended a workshop together to get tips on being even better therapy dogs than they already are. Not their finest moment. It wasn’t that they were barking or carrying on. They just couldn’t seem to focus.  They insisted on sitting on the table and were either chatting or falling asleep.

GUS and TOMMY You try sitting there for four hours!

Dogs Do It

I was the soul of discretion in my last post about the Thanksgiving chaos at our house. I left out a whole issue. I’m talking about humping, yes humping.

20160525_091431_1472427293345_resizedELBEE Again with the issues. And why is humping an “issue?”



Nicole, the middle daughter and the one who actually likes them, opened that door. She shared a photo that lit up Facebook.

THE DOODS We have mixed feelings about this. We admit that we’re partly proud but also just a little embarrassed. Is there no privacy? We’re also confused. Why is Riley so disinterested?

20141230_185755_resizedRILEY Hey, I’m old. I have better things to do…like sleep.

My son-in-law Jay commented that he recalled my “well trained Doodles” humping Nicole and was curious about why I hadn’t included that in my Thanksgiving post. He also wanted to know if they encouraged that sort of behavior in the hospital. Come to think of it, I don’t know UCLA policy on dog humping. I also wonder if this once again puts me out of the running for mother of the year.

20161125_200905_resizedThis is the same son-in-law photo bombing his wife Danielle in this picture, although it could easily be her sister Jennifer. They look a lot alike and feel pretty much the same way about the Doods. Well, Danielle is a little more tolerant although she did say, and I quote, “They were trying to attack me.”

THE DOODS Are you kidding?” Attack” is not in  our vocabulary. To be fair, we may have been trying to hump her.

If I’m going to be completely honest, I did have a major humping episode with Charley during the filming of I Love You Man. Charley was having a diva moment  and was shutting down, tired from all of his “fan” interaction.

The assistant director asked permission to get him fired up. Do you see this photo? That’s what happened. No, we were not dancing.


CHARLEY Excuse me, but where is the appreciation for getting her on the gag reel?