Dressing Up Your Dogs…Cute or Animal Cruelty?

I love dressing up my dogs. From hairdos to shirts to sunglasses, I think it’s all adorable. A good set of pigtails or a “man bun” is so cute. If I can get them in  headbands, it makes my day. One of the benefits of having therapy dogs is that I can totally justify dressing them up when they visit the hospital on holidays.

Apparently the Doods are not on the same page and have some issues with it. Once again they have barked me into submission and will be today’s guest bloggers. Much as I adore them, they are very pushy.

Need I Say More?
Need I Say More?

CHARLEY                                                                              As the senior Dood I have been forced into way more than my share of ridiculous outfits. Take Halloween for instance. Should a dog with my level of intelligence and sophistication be forced to wear a headband with orange bouncy things on it. This year she put all sorts of unnatural color in my hair in case, heaven forbid, the psychedelic wig I was wearing fell off. To add insult to injury, she put matching colors in her hair. I have worn antlers for Christmas and some sort of red and blue sparkly things for the fourth of July. I’ll be honest, I felt in my element when Elbee and I were dressed up like doctors for a UCLA photo. You know I could probably make it through medical school. I also thought I looked quite dapper in a red sequin tie I wore to a Red Cross Benefit. Overall though, I must say I’m very glad I do yoga and meditate to help me cope.

Doctor Doods
Doctor Doods

ELBEE                                                                     Charley really has had more than his share of humilitation, but you would not believe how many times I’ve had my hair in pigtails when I would prefer a nice mohawk. I recently had minor surgery on my back and Ellen used that as an excuse to put me in one of her black tee shirts. She got the idea from a dog friend who told her that it would keep the house from looking like a crime scene. Really?? As if that wasn’t enough, she had to take a photo of me wearing the shirt and sunglasses. What is with all the glasses? I agree with Charley, that the scrubs and a stethoscope for our doctor photo were definitely a step up. I’ll also admit that I’m a little jealous of the red bowtie. I look excellent in red. But would you look at the picture below and tell me why we had to wear candy canes on our heads to visit Santa? And by the way, why were we visiting Santa?



GUS I’m not even two and I’ve already had hairdos, glasses, shirts and hats. I’m a kid. Cut me some slack with the dress up. Do you see this picture? What am I a referee? From what my big brothers have told me, Ellen is going to be taking us caroling at UCLA this weekend and it involves “outfits.” Elbee was eavesdropping and heard her excitedly telling a friend that she’d gotten us Christmas sweaters for the event. I don’t know which will be more embarrassing…the sweater or the fact that I can’t sing.

Ready for Our Closeup


Cool Hollywood Doods
Cool Hollywood Doods

Being in the Hollywood Christmas Parade and doing my fabulous wave was a huge moment for me, especially since I grew up in Syracuse, N.Y. where I’m not even sure if they had parades. What could be better?  I’ll tell you what…being in a Hollywood movie!

I received an e-mail about a casting call for dog/people look alikes. That was almost too easy. When I showed up with Charley, the casting director burst out laughing (I just noticed there’s a theme of people laughing when they meet us!) and called me a “bowser.” I wasn’t sure whether or not to be offended. I mean, had I gone too far wearing a royal blue shirt and putting Charley in a royal blue scarf? Was it all the product I’d put in our hair?

Scan 5
Ms. Venice Beach

Turns out that it was a very good thing. A few weeks later we were called and asked to come down to the Venice Boardwalk for filming. A return to the site of my bodybuilding glory and prior 15 minutes of fame! Coincidence? I don’t think so.




GUS I’m the new kid on the block and I’m confused. Who or what is that?



get-attachment.aspxCharley I know, Gus. I wish I could explain but there are just no words. And this is our self-appointed pack leader. I’m concerned.


The first day we arrived, I had to park in the main lot with all of the extras, walk quite a distance and then get on a bus to go to the location. Once we got there, Charley took over. Within a few hours, everyone from catering to extras to crew knew Charley and assumed that I was his leash holder. People were actually waving to him and calling out his name. He was thriving on the attention. I was surprised he wasn’t giving out paw prints.

I don’t know how he did it, but somehow we went from being extras to having a “major moment,” as a friend called it, in I Love You Man, a DreamWorks picture. Charley probably had his own major moment with the director while I was picking up his dog poop. And they call people with umbrella holders, “divas.”

In our cameo, we’re walking along the beach when our co-star Jason Segel points us out to our other costar, Paul Rudd, and says, “Look at those two. You know those people who look like their dogs? I call them bowsers.” Okay so we weren’t exactly costars, we were a punchline. My daughters were so proud.

What I probably shouldn’t over share is that my wonderful dog and I ended up on the gag reel. By the time we filmed our scene on the second day in Venice,  my diva dog was worn out from interacting with all his fans and wasn’t in the mood for his close up. The assistant director asked if it was okay to get Charley a little pumped up. I stupidly said, “sure.” He got him so pumped up that Charley stood up on his hind legs, wrapped his front paws around me and started humping me.


Charley:  Just because I’m a therapy dog doesn’t mean I don’t have a sense of humor. That was perhaps one of my finest moments.

Has Anyone Ever Told You?

My beautiful therapy dogs
Happy Halloween!!

If I had a dollar for every time someone has told me that I look like my dogs, I could cover their grooming bills, which are higher than mine. Speaking of grooming, you wouldn’t believe how often I’ve been accused of copying their hairstyle. For the record, I had it first.

Charley at the salon

Admit it. When you looked at the above photo you thought the same thing, except that Gus has slightly curlier hair, kind of what I looked like with bad perms in the eighties. Sorry Gus.

They’re cute so I don’t mind the comparison although they have a lot more facial hair than I do. Fortunately my daughters have been bribed to pluck out those few strays on my chin when I get too old to notice.

The first time it ever happened, my daughter Jennifer was working with a production company in a local park so I decided to drop by with Charley. As we were walking up, one of the women in the crew started laughing and said, “Oh my God, you know those people who look like their dogs!” Jennifer glanced up, and horrified, saw us approaching. Thinking quickly she said, “Look, here comes my mom…and her dog.” Despite the fact that she finds us totally embarrassing, she averted a social disaster.

Poofy white sweater
Poofy white sweater

A few years later, Charley and I were in the Hollywood Christmas Parade with the dog whisperer, Cesar Milan. When we went over to meet him, I could swear he almost started laughing but caught himself and commented, “That’s really something.” The fact that I was wearing a poofy, white sweater probably didn’t help. I really feel that one of the highlights of the evening, aside from walking behind Cesar’s car, was my fabulous “parade wave,” something I’d always wanted to do.

A few weeks later I happened to run into Cesar at a  restaurant. I saw him dining with his “people,” but figuring we were pals from the parade,  went over to say hello. As  I was about to reintroduce myself, he said, “You’re the one who looks like her dog,” but quickly added, “I mean that in the nicest way possible.”

Even better than the parade was the movie but I will save the excitement for my next post. I mean how often does your dog get you into a DreamWorks picture? How ‘s that for a cliff hanger?          

ELBEE I couldn’t take it any more. Just to let you know, Charley told me that her parade wave was killing him. Still, I’m sure it wasn’t as embarrassing as something I overheard. At the end of a bodybuilding routine Pack Leader blew kisses to the audience as she exited the stage. Please! I would also like to add that she should be a bit more enthusiastic about resembling us. At her age she’s lucky she doesn’t look like a Sharpei!





I’m a Dog Walker and a Street Walker

I’m a dog walker and a street walker. Before you get the wrong idea, remember I’m also a grandma. Just how much business do you think I’d get? Actually a few people have stopped their cars to ask if I was a professional and I just assumed they meant dog walker. To be honest, I was flattered because in my early days of taking the dogs out all I ever heard was, “who’s walking whom?”

It reminds me of when I first took Charley to dog class.

CHARLEY Excuse me I need to interject. Pack Leader is going to share the story of how she was so proud of teaching me a perfect down stay that she nearly took a bow in class. Let me tell you how it really went. The stay is so basic I figured it out on my own. While I was lying there completely bored, the trainer pointed out that Ellen had never had another dog do longer than a ten second stay.

If Charley is done, I’d like to get back to dog walking. There is an article in the Pet Partners (therapy dog training) manual that says go for a walk alone and then go for a walk with a dog to see who talks to you. When I was alone, all I met were a few homeless people asking for money.

With the Doods, it was a whole different story. Everyone stopped to chat. Thanks to them, I’m now on a first name basis with mail carriers, trash collectors and DWP workers. We’ve walked on so many streets that lots of people know us but no one is really sure where we come from.

We’ve made acquaintances on each of our routes, some who’ve been kind enough to invite us to stop by if we ever needed anything. It’s almost like a cocktail party, minus the drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

I will admit we’ve had some unusual encounters. For instance, there was the man in the red plaid shirt with the diamond earring who looked like a smaller version of Santa. He stopped in his tracks when the dogs and I approached and said, “that is a gorgeous picture, you and those f…ing dogs!” His words not mine. Hey, I don’t make this stuff up.

A woman with two small children asked if we did birthday parties. I’ll admit,  I am that obnoxious person that has her dogs show off their tricks when we run into someone with kids (whether they want to see them or not) so she really wasn’t out of line. Another mom offered me a tip when my dogs performed. My own children are mortified that I do this on public streets.

As for the homeless people (okay, I’m judging), we have a totally different relationship now. They often smile or say “hi” but never ask for money. There is one particular man whom we’ve often seen at a nearby shopping center. A few weeks ago the Doods and I were walking in an area several miles away when who should we see but the same man. He looked at us in surprise and asked, “What are you doing all the way over here?”





Venting and Bragging

IMAG0071Before I start bragging about the work that the Doods accomplish, I need to vent about something totally unrelated.  Skip this part if you’re not interested in hearing me complain.

I went to lift weights last night since I’m vying to be the strongest grandma on the block. It’s not quite Ms. Venice Beach (yes, I was Ms. Venice Beach) but it’s a goal. Personally, I think my daughters should be thrilled that I’m now obsessed with the dogs and not my biceps. For years I was the carpool/ bodybuilder mom with the fake tan and way too much spandex. In my defense, I apologized to the kids for that decade. But hey, it was the 80’s. Everyone wore spandex. I did compete again in the 90’s but we’ll discuss that some other time.

Back to last night. There was a middle aged man working out. During his exercises he screamed and grunted even more than anyone I’d ever heard at a hard core muscle gym. I didn’t make that much noise when I was in labor! He kept refilling his water bottle from the small cooler, flooding the floor. Then he walked by me and burped. The burp was followed by some sort of hanging stretch where his loose shorts slid down and revealed more of a butt crack than I ever hoped to see. It was the stuff of nightmares. There, I feel better. Now back to the Doods.

Recently the people at UCLA asked if we wanted to do a short piece about why we volunteer with PAC (the People Animal Connection). I jumped all over that. I could write about my dogs and someone might actually read it. I decided to copy David Letterman and go with a top ten list. Interestingly, my late brother Stan, whose dogs seemed to train themselves, had a Lab named Dave. He’d heard that Letterman had a dog named Stan so it seemed like a fair trade.

CHANGE OF MOOD ALERT: Here are the top ten reasons I volunteer with the Doods (not necessarily in order):

  1. For the teenage patient who jumped out of her hospital bed when my dog walked into her room, and yelled, “this is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me”
  2. For the sad young man in the wheelchair who smiled when he saw my dog, prompting his mom to say she’d “seen a miracle”
  3. For another wheelchair bound young man who couldn’t speak but who made a kiss when Elbee licked his hand
  4. For the patient who recovered from a coma and said that the only thing he remembered was the presence of the dogs in his bed
  5. For the boy with severe OCD who couldn’t stop washing his hands but who summoned up the courage to pet Charley
  6. For the woman in tears who asked if she could have a moment with the dog before she went back into her mother’s room
  7. For the woman walking down the street whose husband had passed away 3 years ago, but who wanted to thank me for the dog visits when he was at UCLA
  8. For the anxious family members in the waiting room who light up when they see the dogs
  9. For the woman who had been catatonic for several days but who smiled and petted Charley when he nuzzled her
  10. For all of the people on campus who smile, wave and call out “hi” to Charley and Elbee





Meet the Doods

The Three Doods
The Three Doods

I was going to introduce the Doods but they let me know with a lot of eye rolling, barking, pawing, and a bit of humping, that they could do a much better job. So despite my reservations, here are my three creative canines. First up is Charley, the handsome guy on the left. Wait, before he starts, I have a confession. When my daughters were little, I used to tell them that when no one was around, the dogs would talk to me. They said they didn’t believe me, actually I think they used the word “crazy,” but I know they tried to catch me. If and when they read this post, it will only confirm their suspicions.


CHARLEY As the senior doodle, the largest, and the calmest, I am often referred to as a gentle giant. I am the “bark” of reason in this pack, and the one who makes Ellen, or Pack Leader, as she calls herself, look good. As a puppy, I heard stories of her failed attempts to train other dogs, so I kind of figured it out on my own. People assumed that she had something to do with it and gave her all sorts of credit. What I’ve had to deal with! Fortunately I have the patience of a saint.

A therapy dog for over eight years, I have a gift for making people feel better. I hate to brag, (you know who does enough of that) but if you bring me into a group of people, I can sense the one who needs me the most and will go and lean on them. Working at UCLA Medical Center and at Providence Hospital, I’ve performed lots of little miracles. For instance, I was visiting a neuropsych unit (how’s that for a dog with vocabulary) when I walked over to nuzzle a woman who had been catatonic for several days. Much to the surprise of the therapists, but no surprise to me, she suddenly began to smile and pet me. It was a good day.

ELBEE I am Charley’s handsome half brother from a different mother. I was a bit shy as a puppy but have come into my own as a therapy dog. I just take a slightly different approach. Some  refer to me as the class clown but I like to think of myself as the life of the party. Charley may be the obedience king but I can do more tricks. Does Charley know how to shake his head yes or no when asked a question? Does he know how to pull a handkerchief out of Pack Leader’s pocket when she sneezes? Can he say his prayers? I don’t think so.

Not to be a negative Nellie, I do have a bone to pick. My name. Elbee? Are you kidding? When I was a baby, no one in the family could agree. Their choices ranged from Fido to Beelzebub. When we got to the vet for the first time, the receptionist asked for my name to put on the chart. When told I didn’t have one she said, “well, we can’t put blank, so we’ll put little brother.” P.L. jumped all over that and said, “perfect L.B.” Then she decided to spell it out, which in my opinion is ridiculous.

That reminds me. One day I overheard her talking about the sweetest Cocker Spaniel she’d had as a child. The dog’s name was Killer! What’s wrong with these people?                                                                   

GUS Finally, it’s my turn. I’m an adorable teddy bear doodle who was adopted into the pack last summer. I’m not quite a year and a half and I still chew up rolls of toilet paper but I’ve already done some visits to an adult health center with my big brothers. As for the toilet paper, I’m so over it but it seems to be expected of a puppy.

Like Elbee, I have an issue with my name. I was  originally called Cedric which I thought was pretty sophisticated and made me sound British. P.L. decided that it was not a good therapy dog name and changed it to Gus which was much more user friendly. Personally, I think it sounds like the captain of the bowling team. For all you keglers out there (and Charley thinks he has the vocabulary) I have nothing against bowling but with these dainty paws it’s just not my sport.