The Barbecue, the Bird Nest and the Bench

My last few posts have been more personal and emotional. This one not so  much. It’s also only marginally dog related.

ELBEE I hate when I hear that.

Sometimes the daughters hand me material that is just too good not to use. I admit that I started it by sending them a photo but they were quick to chime in via text message.

We had an old broken down barbecue that should have been put out of its misery years ago. The husband doesn’t like to part with anything and said he was still using it. When I opened it, trying to convince him to say goodbye, I found a bird nest inside.

The daughter who might hike if there were Starbucks on the trails, thought it was disgusting. She didn’t like the one I found a month ago and brought home to show my granddaughter either. I think she used the word, “vermin.” And let me assure you that no birds were harmed in the taking of the nests. They were long gone.

I had no idea how the nest had gotten inside the barbecue. One daughter suggested that Elbee might have had something to do it. Another thought that maybe he ate the birds.

ELBEE As if! Although I admit these photos look incriminating, I was just curious and I don’t eat bird. I’ve even considered becoming vegan.

 

 

 

GUS For the record, I had nothing to do with it. I’m too short.

Then the oldest suggested that since we were cleaning out, it might be time to get rid of the ashes from Charley, Larry and Cody, three of our wonderful dogs who we keep in urns by the fireplace. Being practical and having a sick sense of humor, she actually said, “Why not wait for a Santa Ana wind and scatter them off the balcony.” Wonder where she gets that sense of humor.

I told her that if I was ever going to do it, the mountains would be the most fitting place, which led to the conversation about my bench. For years, I’ve been telling all three daughters that I want my own bench up in the mountains. I just have to find the right place. It doesn’t even have to be memorial. They can work on it while I’m still here.

After I sent these bench photos they asked, “Why can’t you just use one of those?” When I explained they were already taken, two of them wanted to know if I really expected them to schlep up into the mountains to visit my bench.

ELBEE What is this? “The Price is Right” for benches?

 

Today I saw a faux leather sofa up on a hill. It screamed pizza and nachos rather than nature and spirituality but it gave me an idea. Why not have the daughters put an exercise bench up in the mountains.

ELBEE I knew it! It’s the new year and this is a thinly veiled excuse to share one of those photos. You know the ones I mean. I’ve tried to get her to stop but Pack Leader will never get over her glory days.

THE CONFUSED DOODS What is that??

Pre-cooked Turkey and Other Things I’m Grateful For

This year we celebrated casual Thanksgiving with just the immediate family and the dogs. I am appreciative of so much but I want to overshare some of the things that made this particular holiday special for me. Feel free to judge.

  • Shout out to Gelson’s for their pre-cooked turkey. It was delicious and also saved me from having to deal with a raw turkey and all of those terrifying things you have to pull out before cooking.
  • My stuffing and praline sweet potatoes and my granddaughter Samantha’s cheese bread were so good that no one thought about the pre-cooked turkey. Did you ever realize how little credit you get for cooking a turkey?

ELBEE Pack Leader really has issues with that turkey. Wonder if it’s a childhood thing.

 

 

  • Four year old Bella, the one who calls me “Grandma with the dogs,” was much braver with Elbee, going so far as to pet and even brush him. Gus is small and cute so has never been a problem. Riley our Golden is fourteen and too old to be scary but she used to view Elbee like Cujo. The jury is still out for her younger brother.
Elbee with cousins Samantha and Bella
Bella and Gus, her favorite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Let’s hear it for paper plates. I know it is totally tacky but no one had to do dishes.
  • My thirteen year old grandson Ryan informed me I should be glad that at his age he still likes to talk to me. We even fist bumped.
  • Ryan and Samantha’s adorable Havanese JoJo blended in with our pack. I spent the first hour with Elbee leashed to me but then all was good.

ELBEE That was humiliating!

  • I love this photo of my son-in-law Dan and the dogs watching football. I am also happy that I got to share it here. Jennifer, the lawyer daughter, threatened to sue, but Dan, also a lawyer, gave me permission to use it.

  • Speaking of photos, the UCLA People Animal Connection is doing a calendar. Guess who’s November? And yes, I am still a stage mother.

 

 

 

 

 

GUS I know I’m a good sport but I didn’t realize those were turkey legs on my head. I may need to go back into therapy.

ELBEE OMG I just saw this other picture. Gus looks like Yoda.

  • On a more serious note, I am grateful for a visit to a sixteen year old patient at Providence Tarzana on the day after Thanksgiving. As soon as the Doods walked into her room she jumped up from her bed and dropped onto the floor next to them. The mom, almost in tears, said, “I can’t believe she got up. We haven’t been able to get her to move.” Then the mom confessed that she was standing on the far side of the room because she was terrified of dogs. When I asked if she wanted us to leave, she replied, “Absolutely not. My daughter is up and smiling.”
  • Above all, having lost my parents and brother long ago, I am so deeply grateful for all of the chaos, love and caring that is my family.

 

 

Me, the Mountains and the Stick

The mountains are my sanctuary, my think tank and my personal fitness center. I’m so comfortable up there that even my sense of direction is better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELBEE That’s not saying a lot. Sometimes we pee on trees to make sure we can find our way back.

Okay, I may be pushing it but I figured I’d better justify this post because I’ll probably get some static from my daughter/mothers. They think I have a little streak of crazy but I prefer to call it a streak of adventure.

Awhile ago, I found a stick that gives me a certain sense of security. I started carrying it whenever I’m hiking alone. I use it for balance and for checking under rocks but figure I can use it as a weapon if I ever have to. I would share a picture of the stick but I don’t want anyone questioning my sanity or laughing at me. And no, I don’t think it has magic powers.

ELBEE Let me put it in perspective. If I fetched, which I don’t, the stick would almost be too ridiculous for me to bring back.

I was walking on dirt Mulholland when I decided to take the stick and head up a ridge trail that only the “regulars” use. For the record,  I’ve done it countless times. I was enjoying the climb, watching at least twenty ravens soaring over the canyon, putting on a spectacular air show.

Then there it was, right in front of me, a big rattlesnake. As you may know I’m not a huge fan of snakes but I do respect them and try not to bother them. This one, however, started getting on my nerves. It wouldn’t budge so that I could go by. Finally, I gave it a gentle nudge with the stick and it took off.

Snake on the Ridge
Relative of the Snake on the Ridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started climbing again, using the stick to make sure that none of the snake’s relatives were hiding in the rocks or bushes. Unfortunately, as I got near the top, I missed one little turn and instead of arriving back on the main trail, ended up looking down a mini cliff.

ELBEE She was probably “rattled ” after meeting the snake.

GUS Good one Elbee!

Since I had absolutely no desire to back track, I decided it was “doable” and slowly slid my way down. FYI: I’m writing this post from my house and not from a hospital bed.

Seriously, I am truly appreciative of my ability to climb these beautiful trails, especially with the wild fires that have been ravaging California. I also have such gratitude for my health and for my sense of adventure, which I admit has grown stronger as I’ve gotten older. I think that challenging yourself is a way to feel vibrant and alive, no matter your age.

It’s like the grandpa in the commercial who tells his wife he’s going fishing and then goes surfing with his grandson. I totally get it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return to the Scene of the “Crime”

During a recent heat wave I decided to head to the beach with the dogs. Since I have no patience for sitting on the sand, I thought that Santa Monica would be perfect. The pier is a tourist attraction with lots of activity. Even better, there’s a pedestrian path that goes down to Venice.

ELBEE That sounded good to me. I like the beach although I’m not much of a surfer. I was, however, a little suspicious when I heard that Venice was on the agenda.

As soon as we walked up the steps to the pier, Gus and Elbee, with all of their hair blowing in the breeze, were surrounded by people. I lost count of how many wanted to take pictures. All that was missing were the “puparazzi.”

ELBEE I knew she couldn’t resist that lame joke. By the way, I’m pretty sure I saw Kendall Jenner and another model type on the pier. They had their own professional camera man with them. Why didn’t I?

Things stayed interesting on the ocean path. An adorable toddler in big sunglasses came over to pet the dogs. Two seemingly drunk men asked if I knew where there was a liquor store. Someone yelled out “Look at those diva dogs.”

ELBEE He was obviously very astute. 

 

 

 

That last remark was our welcome to Venice Beach which is a crazy, fascinating place that has become even messier since the last time I was there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still, I couldn’t resist posing the Doods for these touristy photos.

As if!!
Just embarrassing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELBEE As for the one on the right, I don’t know which is worse, that she took the picture or that she’s sharing it here. And take a look at this one below. They’re opening a Muscle Beach History Museum! I think Pack Leader is hoping to secure a place. What is she? Arnold?

To be honest, I’m not sure if Venice Beach is the site of my former glory or of my former crime against “carpool momdom.” I had done a few bodybuilding shows before I competed there but they were sort of under the radar. The first was in Fresno. The other one or two were in places that no one in my daily life except my family would know about. Competing in Venice was like “Woo hoo, here I am.”

GUS “Woo hoo?” I don’t even say that.

To make it even better, Nicole, the middle daughter, was turning eleven and wanted to have her birthday party at the show. She probably wasn’t old enough to be embarrassed. To this day I wonder what the other parents thought about it. At least no one called child protective services.

Nicole had one special request. She asked if everyone could sing Happy Birthday to her if I won. I mentioned it to the emcee who loved the idea and brought Nicole up on stage as soon as I became Ms. Venice Beach.

ELBEE That was subtle.

 

Seeing the microphone in my face is probably disconcerting to anyone who knows about my singing. The good news is that with a thousand people in the crowd, no one could hear me.

 

 

THE DOODS Amen to that. Remember, we’ve heard her in the car.

 

 

Another Birthday, Another Butt Burner

Some people celebrate their birthdays with dinner at a favorite restaurant. Others like to get a cake from a special bakery. I celebrate by hiking up the butt burner, which maybe I should rethink considering that my birthday is in July and it’s really hot outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELBEE Maybe she should consider going to a senior cooling center instead.

The birthday was on a nice morning as far as summer mornings go. There were a few clouds and a soft breeze. As I began my way up the trail, I was enjoying the scenery and the tranquility. It was challenging, but I was happy that I could still do it.

ELBEE Hello, she just did it last week so it’s not really much of a stretch. On the other hand, I’m impressed that she can still do it at her age. I’ve done the butt burner and it’s not easy. I absolutely refuse to do it in the summer heat, though. It ruins my hair.

As for this unfortunate photo, it’s her first birthday since Charley passed so I let her dress me up. I’d prefer to be anonymous but I’m so well known by now, that’s almost impossible.

Then the air warmed up, the sun got stronger, the breeze disappeared and I started thinking that going shopping might be a better alternative. To add insult to injury, the show offs who had set out early were smiling and waving as they passed me on their way down. Not to mention the young ones who ran by me on their way up. Hey, I never said anything about not complaining.

Undeterred and sweating, I kept going. About forty minutes later,  I made it to dirt Mulholland, an unpaved road that crosses through the Santa Monica Mountains. Since it was the birthday hike, I climbed a little higher where there is a beautiful ocean view. From there I decided to really go for it and come down a short steep hill that only the “regulars” use. It involves a bit of slipping and sliding but is really fun.

ELBEE No wonder the daughters think she’s a shade short of cuckoo.

As I made it to the bottom, feeling pretty good about myself, I saw a guy holding his phone and leaning against his bike on the side of Mulholland. He looked at me and said, ” I was just watching you and waiting to call 911. Figured you were going to wipe out at any moment.” I debated whether he was being thoughtful or making an age crack.

GUS Even I know that was an age crack. 

ELBEE Apparently, dressing us up has become another birthday obsession for Pack Leader. I mean, look at Gus (are you kidding me) and poor Riley!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandma with the Dogs Part Two

This post is a miracle just because it ever got written. The two youngest grandchildren were here to visit this weekend. Add two Doods to the mix. Throw in that almost four year old Bella is not a fan of big dogs and you have a recipe for chaos.

As I’ve shared in the past, she loves the dogs in photos. In person, not so much. I thought that with Charley gone it might be different but apparently Elbee now looks huge. Her fear of Charley has been replaced with a fear of Elbee.

She may have a point about his size. When I was walking the dogs this morning, someone driving by saw Elbee and called out, “Wow, big dog!”

ELBEE In case she forgets to mention it, someone else yelled out “hey, super cute.”

As you can imagine, Elbee does not take well to being avoided, or ignored and started following her everywhere. He was a dog on a mission.

ELBEE Hellooo. I’m a therapy dog. It’s my job not to be ignored.

Gus was a different story. By virtue of his size, it took her much less time to warm up to him. He practically won her over without even trying. He’s smaller, even with the poofy hair, so it kind of gave him favored dog status. I also think that being a Teddy Bear Doodle, he has the stuffed animal thing going for him. I should mention that Riley, our fourteen year old Golden, lay around like an area rug to stay out of the line of screaming.

I think Elbee might have remained “canine non grata” if my older granddaughter hadn’t come over. She’s an animal lover who immediately gave him a huge hug. Not sure how she did it, but she convinced Bella that it was okay to be in the same room with him. She even got her to pet him.

Before the truce, Bella wanted me to carry her all over the house in case Elbee decided to pop out and surprise her, or even worse, try to lick her. It’s not that she’s heavy but carrying her up and down stairs was a pretty good workout. Instead of “grandma with the dogs,” her nickname for me, I should be called “grandma with the biceps!”

ELBEE Oh no, a closet selfie. I should have seen that one coming. 

GUS What’s a bicep?

 

 

 

 

 

Synchronicity

This week I was planning to write about Elbee returning to work at UCLA, his first time since Charley’s been gone.

ELBEE Finally it’s about me. Uh oh, she said “was.”  Does that mean I’m going to be bumped once again? For the record, it was a triumphant return. I was fabulous.

 

As I was saying, I was going to write about Elbee but after a serendipitous encounter at Providence Tarzana Hospital, I wanted to share the moment. It was all about the simple, sometimes subtle, power of a therapy dog.

Providence is where Nicole, the middle daughter and the one who loves the Doods, works as an ICU nurse. Last Friday, when I took Gus into the hospital, she happened to be there so we stopped on her floor to visit.

By the way, Charley and Elbee loved seeing Nicole in the hospital. They knew where the ICU was and would sit outside and refuse to budge until she came out. As soon as they saw her they would completely lose it and start barking, something they never do when they’re working. It was difficult to explain the situation to people who had no idea why these over excited dogs were allowed in the hospital.

ELBEE Excuse my enthusiasm!

While we were chatting in the corridor, a young girl who was visibly upset walked out of the unit. My daughter explained that she had been caring for the girl’s beloved grandfather who had passed away only a short time before. Tears on her face, the girl walked over to talk to my daughter. I noticed that she seemed to relax when she saw Gus, so I asked if she’d like to pet him.

She immediately dropped to the floor, petting and then hugging Gus. Within seconds, she stopped crying and got a smile on her face as the little guy worked his magic. Simply by sharing his sweetness and unconditional love, Gus had momentarily lightened her sadness.

She was surprised to learn that I was Nicole’s mother but it seemed to make her even more comfortable. She opened up and told us that although she was only 14, she’d known for a long time that she wanted to be a nurse. She even shared that she’d like to volunteer in some capacity. My daughter offered to help in any way that she possibly could.

As I got ready to leave, I realized that I had never asked the girl her name. To my surprise, it was Nicole.

My thoughtful look

ELBEE Although I’m still a bit upset about being pushed to the next post, I get it. That was a nice story. Almost brought a tear to my eye.

 

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.

That picture above is not a photo of Ryan. His mother is the one we refer to as “Jennifer who hates Facebook.” That 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.

 

 

 

 

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.