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                          

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!