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.




Thank You Doods

As the Doods and I begin the new year together, I want to take a moment to reflect on and celebrate some of the great work that they’ve done. I had been planning to write this at Thanksgiving but they were so out of control on the holiday that I couldn’t do it.

THE DOODS OMG We acted like dogs.

Charley and Gus became quite a team this past year. Charley, older and wiser now, can still rise to special occasions with Gus as his backup. Gus contributes the energy of a two year old along with an innate sweetness.

Together they brought comfort to the students and faculty at the candlelight vigil for the murdered UCLA professor. They spent a magical morning at an all inclusive camp for special needs children.







They taught an anti-bullying group from Compton about unconditional love.






The week before Christmas, Charley and Gus did a holiday “meet and greet” at UCLA Medical Center. With the dogs sitting in a toy car by the tree, a car which Charley later took for a spin, the mood in the lobby changed from somber to festive. Watching them weave their magic with patients, families and staff was a true gift of the season.







ELBEE Excuse me. What am I chopped liver?

I was just about to get to Elbee. He’s a bit of a diva and works better on his own. He thrives on the individual attention.


ELBEE I would object but she’s correct. I am rather fabulous.

One day as Elbee and I were waiting for the hospital elevator, I saw a woman pushing a wheelchair for her teenage daughter who had Downs Syndrome. After she assured me that her daughter liked dogs, I brought Elbee over to see her. As we approached, the girl got a huge smile on her face. After Elbee did a few tricks the smile grew from ear to ear. The only thing more beautiful was the look on her mother’s face.

On another occasion, a woman asked me to bring Elbee over to see her son who appeared to be severely disabled. Like the teenage girl, he was also in a wheel chair. I had no idea how much the young man understood, but as Elbee walked over and licked his hand, I said, “Oh he likes you. He’s kissing you.” It was then that the boy made a kiss toward the dog. If not for that interaction I would never have known that he completely understood what was happening. As Elbee waved good bye, the young man sent him another kiss.

As chief leash holder for the Doods, I have been privileged to see so many miracles, large and small. I never cease to be amazed at their intuition and their capacity for kindness and unconditional love, just like they showed the kids from Compton, the campers with special needs, the crowd in mourning and countless others.