Tails From The Trenches


Alvin Toffler

It was a slow moving Saturday afternoon when the ringing phone took me by surprise almost as if I had forgotten that I had one.  Fall hadn’t quite arrived just yet. A man’s deep voice very spoke to me on the other end.

“My name is Toffler. I am looking for a reliable and caring person to walk my dog that I adopted from the Lange Foundation and I am told that you are that person.”

His formality made me sit up. I muted the television.

The Lange Foundation was one of the most established and largest animal rescues in Los Angeles. They were not far from my house and my friends Annie and Jeanne-Marie went way back with Gillian Lange the founder.

What kind of dog is it? I said trying to sound enthusiastic and cheerful and not at all like I had been numbing myself watching mindless television.

“She’s a little mix.  Very sweet. She was emaciated when we got her and now the vet tells us she’s overweight and needs long walks. We’re looking for someone responsible and reliable. I am told that you are that person.”

“Well, I’d like to come over and meet her first.”

“Of course. When are you available?”

“Um..I mean do you want to meet today?”

“Certainly if you’re available.”

“How about one o’clock?”

“One o’clock it is.”


I jotted down his address it wasn’t far from where I lived. I left at twelve forty-five knowing that on a Sunday without any events it wouldn’t take long to get there. The house was just as he described I had no trouble finding it. I buzzed in at the gate trying to pretend I didn’t know the security camera hidden in the tree branches was there.

Once the gates closed behind me. A tall lanky man with glasses and thoughtful eyes strolled out of the house wearing an elegant sweater and loafers. Alongside him was a tubby, German Shepherd mix with a face like a fox. She was on a long leather leash. She moved quietly.

I outstretched my hand but I couldn’t take my eyes off of the dog. There was something so sweet and fractured about her.

“This is Happy.”

“Hi, Happy. Nice to meet you.”  She was hand-shy and groaned when I tried to touch her.

“She’s still adjusting. Believe it or not she’s come a long way. She was found in South Central guarding a box of her dead puppies.”

I kept my distance and admired the pair of them.

“I was thinking we could walk her around UCLA. It’s a beautiful campus. I take my dog there and he loves it.”

“What do you think, Happy?”

Happy shifted her weight nervously in response.

Her dog Dad escorted me to his 1980s BMW Sedan. Happy tentatively jumped into the back seat and knead the back seat nervously as if she were making wine in a vat. As we pulled through the gates, she began drooling profusely.

“There, there Happy. Everything’s going to be okay.” He reached a long arm back to comfort his dog.

Fortunately for Happy the drive was short. We parked off Hilgard just off the sculpture garden. We didn’t buy a parking permit. I hoped he wouldn’t get cited. Happy made no hasted hopping out of the car onto the sidewalk. We strolled along in silence. Happy was nervous but comforted by the presence of her owner.

“This is the sculpture garden.”

“I’m glad to see this side of the campus. I spent a lot of time here.”

“Did you teach here? I made a logical deduction based on his age and mannerisms.

“No. My daughter was hospitalized here. She died here.”

“This piece of information was almost enough to stop me in my tracks. I didn’t know what to say.”

I looked over at him not knowing what to say.

He gave me a wistful look, “Alas.”

As we exited the garden and moved past Mernitz Hall I felt the need to change the conversation. I pointed to an open classroom where I had taken a fiction writing class the summer after I was canned from my prestigious job working for a hedge fund film financier.

“I took a class in there once.”

“What do you know?  What kind of class?”

“A writing class.”

“You don’t say. I’m a writer too.”

Future Shock

Suddenly it hit me. Toffler. Writer. Here I was strolling across the UCLA Campus with Alvin Toffler the author of Future Shock.  He was considered one of the great living minds and was recently the answer to a question on Jeopardy.

“My wife and I are Futurists. What kind of material do you write?”

I felt like an idiot. “That was a fiction class. Right now I’m researching   a piece for the Los Angeles Times Magazine on location extras.

I breezed through a summary of  my piece on location extras I had just sold to the Los Angeles Times Magazine. my story, my sources not wanting to say too much. When we got as far as the steps Bruin Bear I suggested we turn around.

“My daughter had a dog. When my daughter was still home with us, the dog laid at her feet in bed the whole time she was bedridden. She refused to leave her. When my daughter died, the dog became very depressed. We took her to the vet for tests and they couldn’t find anything wrong with her. Liver values, kidney values. Everything checked out. She died not long after.

“I’m so sorry.”

He looked at me with a sad smile, “Alas.”

Alas, I thought.

“ I had my daughter’s casket exhumed and we buried the dog with her. At least now they’re together.”

I felt some relief in knowing that but I still didn’t know what to say.

“That’s nice.”

Happy kneaded the backseat more urgently as we pulled back into the driveway.  I hopped out of the car almost as nervously as Happy. I still couldn’t believe I had called myself a writer to Alvin Toffler one of the great living thinkers.

“Wait. Let’s let the gates close.”


As the gates slowly drew to a close he pulled the door open for his dog.

“So what do you think? Can you help my girl here get into shape?”

“I would love to.”

“What do I owe you for today?”

“On the house, ”

“Good deal.”

He pointed to a faint outline of a rectangle about twenty feet in front of the gates. You’ll need to drive over that to get the gates to open. Be sure to go over the middle. If you just hit the corners the gates won’t open.



I showed up promptly at nine am on the appointed day. I buzzed in and the gates pulled open. Mr. Toffler came out with a short,  barrel chested woman behind him. She smiled politely at me.

“This is Alicia, our housekeeper. She’s going to go with you.”

“Come with me?”

“Yes, just the first few times.”

This was a first for me. I was walking the dog and the housekeeper. It was awkward but if it was a requirement there was no way around it. At least not today.

I helped my two companions into the car. I decided we would go to UCLA only today was a school day so it parking would be difficult.

It was a warm day. Rivulets of drool streamed from Happy’s mouth as we made our way along the sloping curved street that bordered the UCLA campus on the east side. We got lucky with parking off of Westwood Boulevard and walked Happy as far as the Bruin Bear. She was winded and out of breath so I suggested we sit in the cool grass.  I asked Alicia how long she had worked for the Tofflers and she told me it had been seven years. She was from Monterey, Mexico. She was surprised I spoke Spanish. She was curious about my parents and how it was I spoke Spanish.

We had a comfort level as we spoke to each other in Spanish.

“He told me about his daughter. That’s so sad.”

“Yes, it was very sad.”

“Is it true they buried the dog with their daughter?”


“That’s so sad. Their daughter and then their daughter’s dog.”

“Yes it was very sad. She was very sick. It was already one year since she                died.”

The irony of my choosing UCLA as the location for our first dog walk was not lost on me.

“On the one year anniversary, Mr. Toffler was gone for a long time and then he came home with Happy. We thought he was at the cemetery the whole time. Mrs. Toffler doesn’t like to go. He takes flowers every week.

“Oh.” I appreciated getting the full picture.


“But Mrs. Toffler got very angry. She didn’t want the dog. She told him to take the dog back but he didn’t want to. It was a big fight. Mrs. Toffler said she didn’t want anything in the house that could die.”


I looked at Happy. So sweet and so nervous. taken by surprise she was so controversial. I reached out and tried to touch her but she shied away.


We got Happy on a regular Tuesday, Thursday morning schedule. She was to be picked up promptly at nine in the morning, walked for an hour and returned home. Unfortunately for Lucas Mr. Toffler didn’t want Happy going out with other dogs so Lucas had to stay home. I would also have to find a way to adjust the pick up time for the Yorkin dogs who lived close by.

Holmby Park was a short distance from the Toffler’s home was the location I decided on. I had driven by countless times and it seemed like a nice park with a paved black asphalt walking path around the perimeter. It had shade and even a little creek around the mini golf course.  There were numerous other people walking their dogs, groups of women exercise walking and every now and then the UCLA men’s cross country team leapt past in their sky blue running shorts and singlets. Parking was easy and the park had a walking loop on the outside of it. There was also an easily accessible public bathroom which I had discovered

Mr. Toffler and Happy had just returned from their breakfast when I returned. He and Alicia watched as Happy tentatively hopped up into the back of my Honda sedan and onto the backseat. Happy rode stiff legged, knees hyperextended rocking back and forth like a wooden horse in danger of toppling over at every decrease in speed or acceleration.

Right as we pulled up to the park, Happy quietly wretched up a pile of egg yolk colored bile mixed with the remnants of her breakfast. Pieces of kibble wholly recognizable. The smell of it wafted up to the front of the car. I grabbed a plastic bag and scooped it up using the bag like a mit. Happy looked miserable as I scooped up the vomit.  I went to help Happy out of the car. I touched her neck and she yelped. It startled both of us. I reconsidered my approach and tugged on the leash instead. The leather collar slipped easily over her fur. I made making a point of speaking to her in a cheerful and encouraging tone. I was already breaking into a sweat and I hadn’t even done any walking.

“Come on Happy it’s okay let’s go walk”

Happy was not convinced. Finally I reached in, wrapped my arms around her barrel shaped gut and lifted her out of the car. She flailed a bit but I was able to get her onto the ground before she went into a full panic.

The golf course. Latina nannies in their uniform of blue jeans and an oversized T-shirts. I wondered why they wore that. It looked so uncomfortable. Walking Happy was like walking find analogy. She was erratic and reactive. She drooled at the sight of people. She sped up then slowed down the slightest sound frightened her. Before we arrived I wondered how bear the monotony of going around the park for forty-five minutes now It seemed almost impossible that we might get around the park even once. Suddenly every person, every dog or even a crunching leaf was an obstacle.

We shuffled along.  It was a miserable hour for both of us. Disorienting and depressing. At least Happy had taken care of her potty business. Finally I loaded Happy back into the Honda. I was a few steps ahead of myself, already envisioning myself picking up Toby, Prince and Simba. When I was just around the corner from theToffler gates Alicia called. I quickly picked up the phone. to ask where we were.

“Um, hi this is Alicia, Mr. Toffler just wants to make sure everything is okay.”

We still had two minutes to spare so I wasn’t sure why Alicia was calling.

When I arrived at the house Mr. Toffler emerged from the house and with one hand upheld instructed me to wait for the gates to fully close before letting Happy out of the car. The gates seem to move in slow motion then finally swept closed.

Thursday rolled around and fortunately it was grooming day for Toby, Prince and Simba so I didn’t have to worry about racing around. Today I had a different plan for Happy. Instead of Holmby Park I would take her to the bluffs in the Palisades that overlooked the beach. This time I would stealthily pick up Lucas and take him with us then drop him off at home before taking Happy home. I would grab a cappuccino. At this hour, the bluffs would be empty and I could just sit on a bench and Happy could enjoy the tranquil scene.

Lucas was as happy as could be at the plan when I arrived home and quickly slipped the leash on him. I hoped that Happy wouldn’t be too freaked out by another dog in the car but honestly I couldn’t imagine her any more freaked out and I thought it might actually do her some good. Lucas took his co-pilot seat next to me. He sniffed Happy, Happy grew a little uneasy at first but then was fine and Lucas settled into his co-pilot seat.

The line at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in the Palisades was a little longer than I had anticipated it would be. Lucas’ excitement was palpable as we arrived at the bluffs. I parked at the dead end and let him jump out. He bounced around the grassy patch and jogged around. Happy was unsure. I carefully lifted her out of the car. She immediately squatted and took care of business.  I called to Lucas and the three of us walked along the eroded footpath along the bluffs. From this distance the waves were silent but there was something relaxing about being up here and even Happy was doing better. We made it to the end of the short rode and turned around. Happy marched along while Lucas pranced all the way back to the car.

I noticed the time on the dashboard digital display as we pulled out of the Cul-De-Sac. It was already ten o’clock. I knew I could have Happy home in fifteen minutes. I still had to drop Lucas off so it would be more like twenty-five minutes. I braced myself for the phone call. I would say a few minutes instead of fifteen and surely they would understand that Happy had enjoyed herself so much there was no harm, no foul.

Fortunately, this time there was no phone call. I was so relieved and quite proud of myself for figuring out a fun plan for Happy as I buzzed into the gate. Alicia let me in. As the gates whirred and opened I pulled in just as Mr. Toffler strode out of the house. He had an intense look on his face as I hopped out to unload Happy. It seemed like an eternity before the gates pulled closed so I could let her out. There was no kind smile waiting for me or a laugh at the report about how Happy had spent her morning.

“You are to pick her up at nine in the morning and have her back by ten. Do you understand?”

I shrank at his scolding tone. I felt so small. I fought back tears. This is not how I wanted to make my living anyway and now I was being reprimanded for getting a dog home twenty-five minutes late.

I handed Mr. Toffler the leash, careful not to touch his hand or look him in the eye.

“Sorry about that. She was having fun.”

I quickly slipped back into my car and without know why I drove to Holmby Park and parked alongside it. I dialed Annie.

Before I could get any words out I was on the verge of tears.

“I can’t walk Happy anymore.”


Annie was thoughtfully silent after I briefed her on the stress of my two walks with Happy.

“Do you want to know what I really think?”


“You’re not going to like it.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Go ahead.”

“I think you’re supposed to be there. I think you’re supposed to be in their life. This is one of those cases. Look what they’ve been through. They need you. I don’t know anybody else who would have the patience for that dog.”

Annie was right. This is not what I wanted to hear and I didn’t understand. I wanted to hear I was supposed to quit and that Mr. Toffler was too rigid and demanding and that I was under no obligation to go back.”


The following Tuesday I arrived at the Toffler’s gates at 9am sharp. Alicia buzzed me in. I braced myself for an awkward encounter with Mr. Toffler. I was prepared to be chipper and say Good morning as if I weren’t having any resentful feelings.  Today Happy did not jog out alongside her Mr. Toffler. Instead I was greeted at the door by a platinum haired septuagenarian holding a lit cigarette. She held the cigararette in the glamorous manner of actresses in 1950s films. She was dressed very casually, her bare feet on the while tile. I could feel her self-sufficient, tough broad energy from  ten feet away. She had the self-sufficinet, tough broad air about her like a Barbara Stanwyck. I assumed this was Mrs. Toffler.

“Hi. Looks like Happy’s ready to go.”

“I’ll be sure to have her back in an hour.”

“That’s okay. It doesn’t matter. Just as long as she has fun.”

“But Mr. Toffler said –“

“Don’t worry about him.”


I didn’t trust my newfound freedom completely but I thought I would take advantage of it while it lasted. I stopped at home to pick up Lucas and while I was at it, I went ahead and picked up Toby, Prince and Simba. Suddenly, I had a real pack. And they were all squeezed into the back seat of my Honda Accord Sedan. Toby lay on the seat like a bear skin rug and his fluffy white siblings nestle themselves between his big behind and one of the back doors. Lucas was my co-pilot.

I took them all up to Old Road Mulholland for a hike. This time of day there were usually just Stay-At-Home-Moms finishing up their morning constitutionals and the occasional cyclist. Managing unloading was the most difficult part and Lucas, the equivalent of the school bus driver’s child was the biggest challenge with all of his barking.

I breathed a big sigh of relief once everyone was unloaded and pointing in the right direction.  Usually the dogs in the car brought curious looks followed by Oh my God and ooohs and aahs. I got the occasional dirty look from one of the SAH Moms but I did my best to ignore them while highlighting the fact that I was picking up all of the dog poop my clients were producing.

Happy seemed to be enjoying herself, her tail moved from one side to the other with every step she took in an asymmetrical pattern. Not quite a wag but at least she was marching along with her head up and she wasn’t drooling. Prince and Simba as usual floated along together like two puffy white clouds while Toby sniffed every leaf on the ground. It was a steep climb the entire first half-mile. This was definitely not an occupation for the out of the shape. I trudged along keeping everyone together and keeping my eye on Lucas as he approached the blind turn up ahead. You never knew who was going to come around that corner that might set off the alarm bell and he would start his incessant barking. Or God forbid it was a Boxer or a breed he was afraid of and then we’d be in big trouble. Happy trudged along the steep climb was a challenge for her so we just took our time.

Finally we made our way to the top of the blind turn that turned west and put us at the top of the trail where we had a spectacular view from the Channel Islands to downtown. Today was so clear I could see the Griffith Park Observatory. We had the trail all to ourselves. Toby and Lucas took advantage of the downhill and ran off together, Lucas barking at Toby as he playfully dive bombed him and finally pinned Toby to the ground and wrestled with him.  My cheeks hurt because I couldn’t stop smiling. I looked at the beautiful day and felt grateful for it.  I thought about all the days I had spent tortured in a production office Xeroxing a production booklet or a location photos redoing them in a cramped stuffy miserable production office. Standing here it seemed that was no way to live. It was better to be out here in nature out in the open absorbing the tranquility. I could do this temporarily while I waited for my next job to book. Once it did, everything would be back to normal and I would be stable again.

Happy arrived home close to noon.  I took Toby, Prince and Simba home first then took Happy home. It was the usual madness at the Yorkins. Vilma was organizing herself for preparing lunch later while Yvonne made beds. Mrs. Yorkin’s groggy voice came over the phone intercom.

“Vilma, will you chop me my fruit salad and have Yvonne bring it up?”

“Yes, Mrs.”

“I don’t want any of the same fruit I had yesterday and I only want half as much.”

“Yes, Mrs.”

“Have Yvonne draw me a bath.”

“Okay, Mrs.”

Alicia opened the door to the house and peered over my shoulder at Lucas in the car. I remember to let the gates pull themselves closed before letting Happy hop out. For some reason it seemed to take ages.

“Happy was gone a long time.”

“Mrs. Toffler said it would be okay.”

“I’m trying to socialize her so I brought my own dog.”

“Ok. Como se llama tu perrito?


“Ah, look he’s cute. Mr. Toffler is in Russia so as long as she said it’s okay then it’s okay.”

Okay, see you Thursday.



On Thursday Lucas and I arrived together to collect Happy Toffler. Lucas’ tail fluttered as the gates drew closed. He was excited by every new house we went to.  Mrs. Toffler came to the door in her T-shirt and sweatpants. She had her reading glasses sitting on top of her head near and a cigarette in between two fingers with carefully filed fingernails. She was an intriguing mix of 1950s movie actress and gunslinger. There was something very glamorous about her like a 1950s movie actress. Her blue eyes twinkled.

“You know, you’re going to have to walk this dog for the rest of your life.”

This proclamation made me smile.

“Look at her.”

Happy’s tail swung in it’s asymmetrical rhythm as she marched spiritedly to the car. Lucas grew excited.

“I hope it’s ok, I brought my dog. They get along great and I think it’s really good for her.”

“Sure!” What kind of dog is he? A Jack Russell?”

“Yes, a long-legged one.”

She approached the car and ran touched Lucas through the window which was rolled down.

“His underbite is hysterical. We’ve always had big dogs. “Vischlas, Pitbulls. Happy’s the smallest dog we’ve ever had. My daughter’s dog Sheena was a Pit bull. When we lived on the east coast the Vischlas got ticks. It’s not as bad here in California.”

She took a drag off of her cigarette.

“We’ll be back in a few hours,”

“Take your time. This is good for her, I can tell. In fact, can you take her everyday during the week?”

“Absolutely. Would it be okay to take her with other dogs?”

“Sure. That would be wonderful.”


Monday rolled around and I showed up at the Tofflers with my crew. Toby, Prince, Simba and Lucas. Mr. Toffler answered the buzzer and I instantly felt a heaviness. I hadn’t anticipated this. When I pulled into the driveway he stepped outside the door in his professorial garb. He quickly pulled the door shut behind him and waited for the gates to close completely. He stared at the car in confusion at all the dog faces who looked back at him expectantly. He approached the car.

“Who are these guys?”

I hadn’t anticipated this. I assumed an internal discussion would have taken place.

“This is Toby, Prince, Simba and Lucas. He’s my own dog. Mrs. Toffler said it would be okay to take Happy out with other dogs.”

Before he could respond. The metal door to the house opened as if opened by a ghost.  Happy scooted out in confusion. She wasn’t sure if she should get in the car or stand loyally next to her owner. She feed off his perplexed energy. There was nobody there. Just Mrs. Toffler’s voice.

“Let her go, Al.”

“But there’s all these other dogs in the car.”

Mrs. Toffler’s voice grew louder and sharper.“Don’t worry about it. Just let her go.” Mr. Toffler could not ignore his wife’s directive.

“I don’t want her going out with a bunch of dogs. Now wait a minute. How do you control them all?” Mr. Toffler looked at me.

“They’re pack animals. They stay together.”

“Al, get in here and let the dog go. She likes the other dogs.”

“Al, it’ll be fine.”

Mr. Toffler reluctantly relented.  “Please, be careful.”

Today was a big day for Happy. First I let her leash drag and then I finally unclipped her. She walked at my side the entire time. Wagging her tail at the breeze and the different scents. As we crested the top of the uphill curve she made it to the top without vomiting then followed the rest of the dogs as they flew down the downward slope happy to be free.

Happy with Cowpatch

The Blame Game: Dog Training as Couples Therapy?

I thought I had seen it all until last month when I consulted with a sleep deprived couple and their 17-month old Flat Coated Retriever. They needed help in the bedroom. Yes, you read that correctly. In the bedroom and in their bed, no less.

As a friend of mine from Louisiana used to say, “You can’t make this stuff up, Brenda.”

It turned out that every night at bedtime there was a threesome of sorts going on. Badger, who was now 75lbs, had developed a nightly habit of climbing onto his Dog Dad’s side of the bed and refusing to budge, even an inch. It was so bad, that the couple had a new routine where Badger’s Dog Mom would get into bed first to stake out her husband’s spot. Then she would quickly turn out the light and her husband would make a mad dash for the bed.

Yeah. That didn’t work.

And that was only part of the problem. Regardless of who made it to the bed first, the rest of the night was the same. Badger relentlessly licked his Dog Dad’s face, hair, neck and hands. Eventually, Badger would edge his way up onto the pillows behind his Dad’s head and that certainly didn’t help anyone drift off into a peaceful slumber.

My solution was simple. Strengthen foundational behaviors like sit and down. Teach his owners games like “tug with rules” and “fetch with rules” to help Badger learn to find his “off-switch.” We also taught Badger hand targeting to teach him to focus. Then re-arrange Badger’s home environment – lifted all toys and chew sticks so they would become tools and rewards for positive behavior.

Finally, we taught Badger to “go to his bed” at bedtime where he was rewarded with his favorite chew that usually made him doze off. When I left the 90-minute training session, Badger was asleep on his back, all four legs up in the air.

Fast-forward to the positive report the next day. After two attempts to take it up on the bed and having it removed by his owners when he did, he decided his bed was more desirable.
Problem solved. Or so I thought.

A few weeks later, I saw Badger’s Mom and she was back to being sleep deprived.

“He’s onto us.”

“He’s figured it out.”

I know this isn’t how dogs think. What I knew was that the line of communication I had established between Badger and his owners had been clouded. In addition to stressing consistency and structure, a key component was restricting Badger’s access to his toys and chews. These would now be training tools and rewards for favorable bedtime behavior.

It turned out I was correct. Badger’s owners were no longer following the plan I had designed for him and had lifted the restriction on the chews.

I could also see that Badger’s Mom was doubtful about my approach. She had even returned to negative reinforcement and was squirting him with water when he jumped on the bed. Apparently, this didn’t do much to deter Bager because he was back to his old ways and nobody was getting any sleep.

Even though I knew I had identified the emotional rewards underlying Badger’s behavior and my solutions were sound, I couldn’t shake off the doubt Badger’s Dog Mom had expressed. Like so many other clients before her, she wanted the magical elixir, the silver bullet that would run her dog’s bad behavior off into extinction.

I hated to tell her, these “solutions” were just another bedroom fantasy.

In a way of checking my work, I presented Badger’s case as a formal study to my online training community. It is a wide network of professionals with very impressive credentials and vast experience. As their emails trickled in on the thread over a few days, I was relieved to see that my approach was correct.

There were no “new” interventions suggested for Badger’s behavior but one email from a trainer based in North Carolina gave me the chills. Somehow, she had intuited the “blame game” that was going on between Badger’s owners. I had intentionally omitted all “drama” when I wrote the case study.

The truth was that on the day of our consultation, the first thing Badger’s Mom did was point to her husband and say, “it’s all his fault.” In response, her husband raised his hand to silence his wife and just shook his head. During the intake, Badger’s Mom sat there bristling while Badger’s Dad impatiently shook his crossed leg.

As I read the trainer’s email all these weeks later, I realized what I had overlooked:

The emotional reward underlying the behavior of Badger’s owners. His bad behavior allowed them to stay engaged in their “blame game.”

I had no desire to play amateur marriage counselor but this insight gave me a different perspective and shifted my approach. I called Badger’s Mom and told her with conviction that she and her husband needed to work as a team. They needed to be consistent with Badger and work together to create a structure that would allow him to repeatedly perform the favorable behavior at bedtime.

And if they couldn’t work as a team, the bad behavior would continue.

This new united approach seems to have worked. Last word from Badger’s boudoir was that everyone was sleeping through the night without disturbance.

The Blended Dog Family: A Guide to Introducing Newborn Baby to Dog

In the world of dog lovers, there are many couples whose  “firstborn” is their beloved dog. When a two-legged child finally arrives, the family is blended into one that includes the much loved canine as one of the children.  This milestone transition can be an emotional one and is different for every dog owner.

In my ten-plus years caring for people’s pets, I have seen many a doting Dog Mom experience feelings of guilt and uncertainty about changes imminent to their family structure. It’s safe to say bringing home a newborn is a big shock to everyone in the home, including the family dog.  For families planning on making significant changes to the dog’s routine, steps should be taken well before the birth to make these changes a positive experience for the dog.


  1. Create a safe, comfortable space for the dog.
  2. Help your dog build a strong “down-stay.”
  3. If the dog has never been around children, bring in a force-free trainer to work with you and the dog.
  4. Before the baby arrives, take your time to train the dog to walk alongside the baby stroller.

Stella and her Dog Dad practice to walk with baby.










The connection between dogs and their pregnant Dog Moms is a fascinating one. Stella is a 2-year old Cattledog mix I have cared for since she was very young. She is high energy and rugged yet unexpectedly sweet and cuddly.  She is also extraordinarily bonded to her owners and her Dog Mom in particular.  For the last nine months there has been no doubt that Stella can smell the changing hormones and fluids that have accompanied the pregnancy of her Dog Mom. Honestly, I have never seen anything quite like it. Stella has already taken to snuggling her baby brother even though he is still In Utero.

Stella snuggles her baby brother while he is still In Utero.

Stella snuggles her baby brother while he is still In Utero.









When the baby arrives in the next few days, the job of introducing Stella to the scent of her baby brother will fall on me while her family is still in the hospital. Common thinking is that a family member or friend  should bring home a swaddling cloth and offer it up to the family dog for familiarity.

According to expert dog trainer Sarah Pennington, owner of Yaletown Dog Training, bringing home the swaddling cloth isn’t enough. Further steps should be taken to help the dog develop a positive association with the scent of the baby.


  1. Store swaddling cloth in a plastic bag for transport.
  2. At home, remove baby blanket from bag and offer it to the dog for smelling.
  3. Hand feed the dog high value treats like pieces of chicken, steak or hot dog slices.
  4. Repeat Steps 1 & 2.
  5. Store the swaddling cloth in the plastic bag.
  6. A few hours later, retrieve the baby blanket and offer it to the dog again for smelling. Ply the dog with a smorgasbord of high value treats.
  7. Repeat this exercise in the days leading up to baby’s arrival home.

Because Stella has been around children and does not have a history of resource guarding or location guarding, where she actually meets the baby for the first time is not critical. With any dog, care should be taken not to put baby’s face in the dog’s face and the two should never be left together unsupervised.

Any day now, Stella will become big four-legged sister to her baby brother. I have no doubt that her family will be a wonderful example of how there is always enough love to around for baby and dog.




Three Weddings, Two Pit Bulls, One Vizsla, a Squirrel & A Memorial

It is of course the most charming of ideas to have your beloved pup, dressed in canine finery, participate in your wedding. I have a client planning a December wedding that will include her adorable Goldendoodle puppy in a tuxedo. We are all hoping he will be out of his chewing phase well before the rehearsal dinner.

Erica tries on dresses for her December wedding.

Erica tries on dresses for her December wedding.


Back in 2008 when I got married, even I considered packing up my dogs along with my trousseau.  Ultimately it was only a fleeting thought, because when I really thought through the logistics, I realized my dogs would spend most of the wedding weekend bored in a strange hotel room.  So instead, they enjoyed an at-home doggie Staycation.

Years ago, a dog walking colleague of mine was invited to the wedding of her client so she enlisted me to be the “plus one” of her client’s dogs and drive them to the wedding. Enchanted by the notion of these two dogs walking up the aisle with the rest of the wedding party, I forgot to ask about the temperament of the dogs. A day and a half later, I considered the nightmarish possibilities… dogs who were fearful of strangers…or another chaotic possibility…a pair of 6-month old Labrador puppies dragging me across the dance floor to ambush the buffet table.

The reality turned out to be worse than my imagination. One of the dogs was a male bully breed who I had last seen years ago when a game of tug-of-war at the dog park had gone awry. Kilo was dog friendly but a resource guarder to be sure and that morning he had dramatically locked onto his Great Dane playmate’s mouth, injuring him.  With this in mind, I decided I was not the best wedding date for Kilo and his four-legged sister. As much as I hated to do it, I backed out of our date.

When it comes to escorting dogs to weddings, I am not always worried about having to call animal control or 911. My anxiety is actually much more practical. Last summer, a bride-to-be client instilled fear in my heart when she texted me a picture of herself from her final fitting. There she was, beaming in her gorgeous gown. Yet all I could picture was the horror of her energetic, young dog jumping on her minutes before she walked down the aisle. Best case scenario: the dress would be embellished with dirty paw prints. Worst case scenario: the dress would be left in tatters.

As excited as I had been to decorate Stella’s harness with flowers matching those of her Dog Mom’s bridal bouquet, I was relieved when they unexpectedly decided to leave Stella back home with me. The day of the wedding, as Stella’s Dog Dad & Dog Mom recited their vows on a ranch 150 miles away, Stella ran to the beach and back with her favorite running partner, my husband.

Stella's Mom & Dad being introduced for the first time as man & wife.

Stella’s Mom & Dad being introduced for the first time as man & wife.

Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t considered what could be worse than a dog in my care causing a spectacle at a wedding. The answer in short: a dog causing a spectacle at a memorial service by knocking down her dog walker. Fortunately, this did not happen to me. It did however happen to my friend Annie who was asked to bring a Vizsla to the memorial service of her Dog Dad on the North Lawn of the UCLA campus.


The tranquil North Lawn on UCLA’s campus.

Annie might have stood a better chance had she been dressed in her usual Lulu Lemon Capri pants and Merrell hiking shoes but dressed as she was for the elegant and somber occasion, she collapsed to the ground like a falling tree when Sophie the Vizsla went after a squirrel. For most of the service, Annie and Sophie had their eye on the same squirrel who was hopping around high on a branch of one of the beautiful foundation trees.

According to Annie, at one point the squirrel actually lay down on its side, propped up its head with his arm bent at the elbow and waggled its tail at Sophie.  It was like a Disney character come to life. Next thing she knew, Annie was on the ground, gripping the leash for dear life as Sophie went wild.


The Bruin Squirrel

The Bruin Squirrel

With the guests in attendance at the memorial Twittering and Instagramming during the service, Annie should consider herself lucky that she did not become an overnight viral sensation.  The only other takeaway from the unfortunate afternoon, is that regardless of whether it’s a six figure wedding or a quiet ceremony, dogs will always be dogs.








To Trapeze or Not to Trapeze?

One of the unexpected benefits of being part of the dog loving community is meeting people you would not otherwise have the opportunity to get to know. This is especially true when it comes to animal rescue. I have formed long lasting friendships and a virtual sisterhood with other volunteers as well as some of the veterinarians, groomers and veterinary technicians who have helped me rescue these little souls.

Just about three years ago my dogs and I were fortunate to meet our favorite vet tech, Leia McVicker.  Besides being a charmer of the four legged and having a huge heart, Leia it turns out, has all sorts of artistic talents hidden beneath her scrubs. One Saturday afternoon when she stopped by to inject our permanent foster dog Trixy with her monthly dose of Percorten, Leia mentioned she had just come from a class at the Trapeze School of New York on the Santa Monica Pier.

Trapeze School NY

I had to stop myself from being overly inquisitive about Leia’s class and I didn’t want to seem stalkerish by sharing my childhood fantasy of being a trapeze artist.  I was flooded with memories of  my numerous Easter vacations  to Las Vegas with my parents. I didn’t much care for Sin City but I definitely looked forward to the trapeze acts at the Circus Circus Hotel.  This was definitely the highlight of the trips for me. I loved it all — the daring and graceful performers, their glittery costumes and head dresses. I still vividly remember the dramatic sound of the cymbal as the trapeze artists completed their final and most treacherous feats.

In February, I took my Mom and my nieces to see Leia perform on the Silks at the Santa Monica pier. We were absolutely blown away by her performance to the Beatles, “Let it Be.” Her choreography was as exciting as the screams of the passengers on the roller coaster just behind us.

I was so inspired that on the way out I discretely slipped a class brochure into my purse. Back at home as I looked over the classes. I thought, “What is a chubby 45-year old woman like me going to do in a trapeze class?” I can’t even do one pull up. Alas.

When I found out Leia was teaching classes at TSNY, I couldn’t resist trying it at least once. After all she had already seen me at most vulnerable. Usually after a long drive to and from a shelter out in the high desert carrying a frightened, filthy dog pooping blood with parasites.

So Sunday was the big day.  That morning I found myself nervously parking in a structure on Colorado and Broadway.

“What am I doing?”

As I walked from the parking structure to the pier I tried to muster my courage. I reminded myself that at the age of 37, I trained and ran the Los Angeles Marathon. Then in the years following I also ran 26.2 miles across Paris, New York City, and Los Angeles one final time. I could handle hanging from a pair of silk drapes.


It turns out that for me at least, the silks are a far bigger challenge than running a marathon. It is not just a feat of upper body strength. It requires strength, flexibility, cardio vascular fitness and concentration.  Oh and a sense of humor comes in handy too.

Honestly, it took everything I had to hang from the silks for a mere 5-seconds. Meanwhile, the other woman in my class was a natural. Sadly I was not able to climb up the Silks but I kept trying and I did not give up. Not once.

This I believe was the true accomplishment of the day. Especially as we age, women are underestimated,  undervalued and if we are not careful, we start to buy into all the misogynist ideology.

For me,  the mere fact of trying something new despite my feelings about my body, my weight or my age was an important statement of self-worth.

Today my armpits of all things are killing me and my right wrist is a bit sore. Despite all of this, I am going back for round two in a couple of weeks and I am determined to climb those Silks.

Leia, with the greatest of ease.

Leia, with the greatest of ease.




Best New Find: Bark Bath in Newport Beach

With the exterminator coming to take care of an ant infestation in our kitchen last weekend, we decided to take another Staycation to the perennial favorite, the Hyatt at the Huntington Dog Beach.  It was nothing short of magical when we arrived to the dog beach on Friday night just before sunset. As always, it was well worth the battle on the 405 South.

This time around we were armed with 3 of Lucas’s speciLucas and his Buggie Fishal squeaky Buggie fish. Last trip, we were in a hurry and made the poor choice of not stopping to at the pet store. Lucas was not a happy camper and I regretted my haste.

We all watched movies in the king size bed then, the next morning after chow and check-out we hit the dog beach again. We had plans to attend a dog friendly BBQ in Newport Beach on Saturday afternoon and didn’t want to show up with the dogs looking like derelicts not to mention leaving sand all over the home of our hosts. So we set out to find a doggie wash.

Using my trusty iPhone, I found Bark Bath. It was the cutest dog wash I have ever been too. It also had plenty of parking right in front which was nice since I had 4 dogs and had to leave some in the Prius (with the air on of course).

Bark Bath was immaculate and Dawn the owner welcomed me as if she were welcoming me into her home. They had a couple different shampoos and conditioner. There were nice, white fluffy towels at each station. A doggie dryer, eye wipes and a pleasant post dry spritzer were all included in the price of $18. If you pay cash the price drops to $15.

One of the best things about Bark Bath is that they support animal rescue. They are offering discounts to any rescue groups who have pulled dogs from the shelter or to anyone who has adopted from the shelter. It’s been more than once when I’ve been on a dog rescue mission with a dog so stinky that I’ve almost been tempted to pull over and bathe them in a gas station bathroom. One time when I was out in the high desert, I came close to renting a room at the Motel 6 just so I could bathe a dog I had just pulled. Fortunately, that time a $20 bribe at a local groomer got me an express bath.


Are we living in a Fascist Veterinary State or a Seinfeld episode?

It’s hard to say and may quite possibly be both.

The story starts last Wednesday evening when my cockapoo Trixy caught one of her hind paws in our front door and tore her nail right out.  She did it just as we walked in. It was a real gusher. Blood everywhere. So off we went to our trusted veterinary emergency room ASEC in West LA,  just a couple of miles away.

Sitting in traffic on the way there I had a funny feeling and I actually thought about going to VCA West LA where Trixy could have used her 20% rescue discount. I also thought about tending to it myself with cornstarch and a paper towel. Pet care and animal rescue have taught me quite a bit so I did think about tending to it myself. At least this way I could wait until morning until when could see our regular vet. Then I thought, no — her comfort is just not worth the savings so we continued on our way to ASEC.

I have been taking my pets to ASEC for about twelve years, for  as long as their doors have been open. Even at 2am, I have received the best care for my pets. But on this evening, the energy was off and I felt it as soon as we walked in. Some of the receptionists were snickering and the one who helped us was a bit on the sarcastic side. Even the tech who came to get Trixy was not his normal self. He is usually very funny and sweet to the dogs.

Because Trixy has Addison’s Disease, she is at risk of an Addisonian Crisis if she gets stressed. So we asked if instead of waiting a room we could wait in the lobby. Well, this didn’t sit well with anyone and I suspect it was the cause of the downward spiral of our visit. Dr. Chou, insisted we come into the room. I explained about the Addison’s but she wanted everything done by the book. While Trixy rattled away on my husband’s lap, Dr. Chou asked if Trixy had any major medical conditions.

“Just the Addison’s I mentioned, doctor.”

“And what triggers it?”

“Ah, stress, doctor.”

$255 later they had cleaned and clipped Trixy’s paw and we were discharged.  I was surprised there were no antibiotics or pain meds. The tech told me the doctor would answer my questions.

Thirty minutes later, Dr. Chou finally appeared and handed discharge instructions off to the receptionist who then handed them to me.  There was no review  or even so much as a thank you or goodnight. When I got to the car I saw that what they handed me was a xerox copy of “How to Stop Your Dog’s Nail From Bleeding.”

This for $255?

I had to speak up for myself. The receptionists of course defended the doctor and their policies. Back at home, Dr. Chou called. I naively thought she was calling to help. Maybe we’d get some antibiotics after all. Not the case. Instead, Dr. Chou raised her voice to me. She outlined the hospital policy — vets do not review discharge instructions. That’s the job of the front desk.

Early the next morning, I called the hospital to ask for pain meds and antibiotics. Based on my dog’s tortured night I knew we needed them. Nobody called me back. Now I was annoyed and yes, I thought it was fair to write about my experience on Yelp.

Well, today was day five and still no return phone call.   I called twice today to ask for antibiotics. They suggested I call my regular vet. After being insistent, they finally transferred me to the front office manager — Lavonne. This is where I suddenly felt like Elaine from Seinfeld because:

Lavonne informed me that due to  my negative review on YELP, the owners of the practice, Dr. Gil and Dr. Anderson along with the chief of staff, Dr. Cruikshank, had made a unilateral decision to ban me and my pets from the hospital.

I was in complete shock. Could it be a joke? No such luck. She made no bones about it. The negative review on YELP had portrayed the hospital as a whole in a negative light.  I was told to expect a letter and the medical charts of all my pets.

I hung up and had a little cry over the news. More than a little humiliating I would say and god forbid something happens to our pets, then what?

My husband  as usual  was the voice of reason. If this is ASEC’s standard of practice, how can we put our pets into their hands with any trust?  Not only did we receive terrible service and sub-standard care, they compromised Trixy’s health by not addressing the antibiotics and she is clearly on her way to infection (so tomorrow we will take her to our regular vet).

Now, that I’ve cried I have to laugh. We are big Seinfeld fans and know almost every episode line for line. My little drama today is right up there with the Soup Nazi not to mention the episode where Kramer is banned from buying fruit at the bodega. Speaking of the bodega, there is the episode where Jerry bounces a check (Clown Themed no less!) and the bodega owner refuses to take it down unless Kramer will fight his rooster named “Little Jerry Seinfeld.” There is also the episode where Kramer borrows a dog so he can go to the vet for meds for his cough.

Well obviously, I won’t be doing that next time I get a cough.  At least not at ASEC.


Smelly Adventures in Pet Sitting

  I can’t tell you how often people say to me, “Oh, it’d be so fun to work with animals.” Or quite frequently when I quote someone my fee for pet sitting or boarding dogs, they are shocked and say something rude like, “But I have a beautiful home, it would be like a vacation for you.” Another good one I hear is, “My housekeeper only charges me $25 per night.” 

     Forget the obvious part, that I am not a housekeeper and that I actually know quite a bit about canine health and behavior – the part of the equation people miss is the profound RESPONSIBILITY of looking after someone’s dog. 

     I can see why people picture me as Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music.”  Me and all my happy little doggie clients smiling and prancing on a beautiful hillside.  I do love dogs and this scenario is actually a big part of my day almost everyday.  Today however, was not one of those days. Er, it was, but only a small part.  Here’s how it went:

     Early morning and I am sitting on my couch working on my laptop. My phone vibrates with consecutive texts from a client whose dog is ill and it all started after I dropped her off yesterday. Gulp.

     As if this weren’t enough to scare me straight into a staff job in a cubicle somewhere…suddenly I smell the sharp and unmistakable smell of dog poop. I look around and the coast is clear. I peek over the back of the couch and there are no land mines in sight.  More texts from the sick dog. She won’t even drink water. Not even beef broth. Dear God.

     The acrid smell persists. I can’t figure it out. The dogs have all gone for their morning walks and taken care of business. Then I notice that Redford, the Norwich Terrier who is staying with us and sitting at the end of the couch, looks very uncomfortable.

Cue horror movie music….

     I realize in that moment, that Redford, whose hair has grown longer than usual, has poop mashed into the hair on his bum.  I gasp and reach for him but he jumps off the couch leaving a downhill poop smear in his wake. He lands on the carpet terrorized by the mess on his behind. He quickly sits on his haunches and starts scooting – trying to somehow extinguish what his happening back there.

     The foot long poop smear on the carpet sends me into full scale panic but I can’t catch Redford because my foot is caught in the power cord for my laptop. My husband, who is blind, comes into the room wondering what the hell is going on. I yell at him to freeze so he won’t step in the poopy mess. I tell Redford to sit, then I realize I don’t want Redford to sit – I need him to stand but stand still so I can catch him. I ask my husband for help but he just stands there.   It was all very confusing, nothing short of mayhem.

     Eventually we neutralized Redford and did some clean up. Fortunately the rest of the afternoon was mostly uneventful. Got Redford a grooming appointment,  had a nice time at the El Segundo small dog park where everybody played, chased and made new friends. The hills were indeed alive with the sound of music…at least until I got to Beverly Hills that is.

     In gridlock traffic, one of my client dogs vomited in the back of the car. He didn’t just heave once, he heaved multiple times. So now, besides the pungent smell of the steaming vomit, I had to worry about the other dogs getting into it or worse –eating it.  I looked around but there was nowhere to pull over. I took several deep breaths and prayed for a parking space.

     Lo and behold a nice big metered space appeared just up ahead on my right. It happened to be directly in front of the entrance to The Peninsula Hotel.  All sorts of fancy cars and fancy well-coiffed people parading around and there I was, sweaty and exhausted using a grocery bag as a glove so I could scoop the vomit into a plastic bag. Alas, what a sight I must have been with my Clorox bleach wipes in hand!

     Days like this are rough.  Then I remind myself that the day could be far worse.  Especially in a heat wave like we are having, I consider myself fortunate to have avoided more serious perils.

     Today, like many other days where I have gotten a parking ticket or lost a client leash, I remind myself of what is most important; that the dogs who are all so beloved are safe at home with their families.


Investing in Preventative Care for Senior Dogs & Their Overly Emotional Dog Moms

I’ll never forget the tone in a client’s voice one day when, with much horror, she recounted having seen a sticker on her dog’s medical file that read “GERIATRIC.” Obviously she knew her standard poodle Rocky was 10 but to see the word “GERIATRIC” next to his name took her breath away.

I experienced the same terror in October when my Jack Russell Lucas turned 13. I mean, I can still remember bringing him home at 9-weeks as if it had been yesterday. His first tentative steps in the apartment followed by the slight bend in his knees as he peed on the carpet are crystal clear.

For 13 years, Lucas has been my heart so it was a big birthday for both us. Truthfully, it gave me a bit of vertigo. Fortunately my state of high anxiety was cut short when my friend Bonnie wrote on Facebook “He’s a teenager now.” That made me smile.

The reality is, Lucas is a very active senior. He does a small hike almost daily, still loves his squeaky toys and true to his Jack Russell nature, still gets into a brawl every now and then. Still, I’ve noticed of late he has occasional back leg tremors and sometimes it’s the front one. This is usually after waking up from a long nap.

The weather in Los Angeles has suddenly turned very cold. We’re not accustomed to 50 degrees and neither are our dogs. Lucas has really slowed down on his hikes and his walks. He still seems happy  but his dawdling wreaks havoc on the mind of his overly emotional Dog Mom.

After writing about our friend Lucy, the paralyzed Doxie in my last blog, I got the idea to take Lucas to Two Hands Four Paws for what they call, “Fun Swim.” I thought this could be a way to preserve his muscle mass during the winter and lift his spirits — not to mention mine.

Lucas has always loved water. The week that I brought him home, he hopped into the tub with me while I was taking a hot bath. It wasn’t just the warm water the drew him in. On his first birthday he jumped into a freezing pond in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. From a very young age, he has been swimming at dog beaches all over Southern California. Lakes in Mammoth, California and swimming pools across Los Angeles.

One Fourth of July he swam for 14-hours straight — with self imposed potty breaks every now and then.In the last couple of years, he has assisted me in training rescue dogs. When dogs are  placed at homes with pools, many rescues require a fence or gate around the pool. For those who don’t want to fence off their pool, the dogs are required to be able to find their way to the stairs in the pool.  Lucas excelled at training the rescues and has had lots of fun doing it.

The “Fun Swim” at Two Hands Four Paws required an initial Swim Evaluation the cost of which is $100. One friend rolled her eyes when I told her we had scheduled an appointment.

“But you know he knows how to swim…”

Very true but if that’s what it took, I was more than willing to pay it.

We woke up to a very rainy Sunday here so I was worried about Lucas catching cold. I called THFP and they told me the pool was heated to 80 degrees. Like bathwater I thought. After packing up his swim bag, including a travel size hair dryer and buying him some special squeaky toys for the pool, we headed out to the facility.

Never having been to THFP, I didn’t know what to expect. It was really something. Sort of like a YMCA for dogs. There in the back was the giant pool equipped with a long ramp. Bryan was our swim evaluator. He was so sweet and very gentle with Lucas as he hosed him off and put a little life jacket on him. The  cumbersome life vest was a little awkward for Lucas but Bryan assured me if he proved to be a good swimmer he would remove it.

Needless to say, all bets were off as soon as Bryan tossed Lucas’s squeaky fish into the pool. Lucas jumped right in and retrieved his toy. Bryan rewarded him by removing the light leash and the life preserver. It took me by surprise how emotional it was for me to see Lucas acting like a youngster again. I actually got teary eyed and had to tell myself to calm down before I made a fool out of myself in front of Bryan.

All I could think as I watched Lucas paddle, jump and splash around was how happy I was that I had taken the time to do this for him. It was well worth the investment which turned out to be just $70 since Lucas didn’t require much instruction. The biggest challenge was teaching him to use the ramp instead of pulling himself out on the side of the pool.

Overall our experience at Two Hands Four Paws was very positive and emotionally rewarding. My one suggestion is to ask if the vet exam can be done upon arrival. I was not advised there would be a quick vet exam at the end. So Lucas went from his ultra happy swimming self to his tail between the legs, “I’m at the vet” self in a matter of seconds. I would have preferred to have him leave on a high note.

Incidentally, I have heard Dr. Bailey is the best vet to see there. We did not see her but I am told by friends who are regulars at THFP that she is kind, patient and very compassionate.

Here are pictures from Lucas’s swim evaluation:


Lucas eyes the dubious life preserver.

Lucas eyes the dubious life preserver.






First toss.

First toss.

Gliding along. Lucas got compliments on his excellent form.

Gliding along. Lucas got compliments on his excellent form.

Squeaky Fish.

Gone Fishin’.


A different kind of slam dunk.


A Thanksgiving Dog’s Tale

Last month with Halloween approaching I thought about writing a blog about pets and cute pet costumes. It was a trending topic and I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to post fun pictures of my Jack Russell Terrier Lucas in his custom made Dracula costume.

Somehow though, I just wasn’t inspired. Probably because so many dogs and dog owners, myself included, dread Halloween and all the commotion it brings with it.

The nail in the coffin of my Halloween blog came when I was reminded that it was the anniversary of a brutal attack on my friend Hillary’s dog, Lucy.  I will tell you in advance, Lucy and Hillary’s story has a happy ending. What began as a Halloween horror, concludes as heartwarming story perfect for this time of year when our hearts are filled with reflection and gratitude.

Hillary and Lucy’s story is a tale of unconditional love, commitment and determination – human as well as canine.

Lucy is a 5-year old Doxy mix adopted from the Sonoma Humane Society. Three years ago on Halloween she was dressed up like a bumble bee and hanging out with her Dog Mom Hillary at a de-facto dog park in the Pacific Heights section of San Francisco. They had with them, the latest addition to their extended family, a six-month-old Havanese puppy named Monty.

Hillary was enjoying watching Monty and Lucy play together off leash. In the distance, Hillary heard someone intermittently calling out,

 “Be nice Charlotte! Be nice!”

The voice of Charlotte’s owner grew closer and moments later, Charlotte, a white Pit Bull appeared without her owner. She charged at Monty.  Lucy stepped between Charlotte and puppy Monty to protect him.  This was obviously enough provocation for Charlotte who picked up Lucy by the neck and thrashed her about.

Lucy was helpless in the jaws of the large dog. Her primal screams were unlike anything Hillary had ever heard. Without giving any thought to her own safety, she jumped up to free her little one from the jaws of her attacker.

Hillary rushed Lucy to the vet. She had suffered life-threatening punctures on her throat. A disc in her back was also ruptured. The recommended treatment was an orthopedic surgery that came with a double-digit price tag. Spinal cord injuries require treatment within forty-eight hours.  Because Hillary was unable to afford the surgery, the vet recommended euthanasia as a humane alternative.

That evening Hillary and Lucy returned home in shock. The surgery was not financially feasible but Lucy was still so alert and mentally stable that Hillary could not bring herself to euthanize her. Hour by hour Hillary watched as Lucy lost more muscle and sensory function in her body until finally she was paralyzed. There was nothing the vet could do for Lucy except medicate her for pain.

Hillary’s family encouraged her to put Lucy down. Understandably they felt she was not being realistic about Lucy’s situation.  Despite not having any basis for her reasoning, not to mention being devoid of all hope, Hillary refused to consider that option.

For the next two days, Hillary and Lucy hunkered down in her studio apartment. She did nothing but cradle her medicated dog in her arms. Lucy’s loss of sensory function made this a messy proposition but as far as Hillary was concerned, the clean up was all part of being a Dog Mom.

An unexpected source of hope came when a friend of Hillary’s offered to sponsor a consultation with Dr. David Fong at San Francisco Veterinary Specialists.  Dr. Fong, is a holistic doctor known for exploring different modalities other than invasive surgeries. At their consultation, he was cautiously optimistic about Lucy. This glimmer of hope was exactly what Hillary needed.

Lucy began treatment that included acupuncture, steroids and chiropractic. A few weeks after starting acupuncture Lucy popped her head up.  On Thanksgiving Day, Hillary and Lucy spent the day cooking at Lucy’s Grandpa’s house. Lucy spent most of the day sitting in her dog bed in the kitchen while Hillary was cooking. Out of nowhere, she miraculously got out of her bed and scooted around the kitchen.

Despite Lucy’s progress there were still many voices in Hillary’s life who felt Lucy should be euthanized. They felt Lucy’s recovery had become an unhealthy obsession for Hillary.  Inspired by her dog’s resilience, Hillary was undeterred and maintained her resolve. At this point, Lucy had enough mobility that Hillary was able to walk her using a sling that provided support for Lucy’s hindquarters. It was back breaking work but Hillary was happy to put in the time.

In the New Year, Hillary found herself moving to Los Angeles. It was not a planned or necessarily welcomed change of address. The cultural differences between San Francisco and the City of Angels were not something Hillary was looking forward to. Nobody was more surprised than she was when Los Angeles , with its mild weather and open land brought so many benefits to Lucy.

Living in Laurel Canyon with a backyard, Lucy’s prey drive returned. She began scooting around to chase lizards that darted around the yard. One day she delivered her most inspired moment yet, when she jumped up on her hind legs and took a few steps.

In Los Angeles, Hillary discovered another incredible veterinary resource at Two Hands Four Paws. TWFP is an award-winning canine rehabilitation facility. The timing was perfect because Lucy was ready for the next phase of her rehabilitation.

After a consultation at TWFP, Lucy got a customized treatment program that includes core strengthening exercises using a stability ball, the underwater treadmill and massage. The underwater treadmill helps strengthen Lucy’s legs without putting too much pressure on her joints.

Over the summer, Lucy finally got herself a cart from K9 Carts. From the first day in her cart, Lucy has never looked back. She’s been zipping around the streets of her adopted city ever since.  She even took her cart to the Huntington Dog Beach in Orange County.

Having watched Lucy and Hillary over the last two years has been inspiring to me. Hillary saved Lucy and brought her back to life. Lucy in the meantime, has taught Hillary about resilience.  These lessons came at a time when Hillary needed them most.

I sometimes roll my eyes when people say everything happens for a reason. But one day on one of our trips to the Huntington Dog Beach, as I struggled to keep up with Lucy and Hillary, I thought maybe this is true after all.

There they were just ahead of me jogging along into the sunset — the most incredible ambassadors for what I believe is a new era in dog rehabilitation. We are fortunate to be living in at time where people don’t automatically euthanize dogs who are paralyzed, lose a limb or who are born without one (or two for that matter).

I admire that Hillary never confused her own threshold for pain with Lucy’s and she also followed her own instincts even when people close to her told her she had lost her mind.

And despite everything Hillary has been through, her sense of humor is still in tact. When she had finally saved enough money for Lucy’s cart, she told me Lucy was going to get a personalized license plate that said, “Later Bitches.”

Hillary & Lucy at the Huntington Dog Beach.

Hillary & Lucy at the Huntington Dog Beach.

Lucy in her K9 Cart.

Lucy in her K9 Cart.

Lucy on the underwater treadmill.

Lucy on the underwater treadmill.

Happy Thanksgiving.



Shiba Inu With A Scarf

     One of the best things about what I do is that I get to meet new dogs all the time. Yesterday, we introduced Abbe, a rescued Shiba Inu mix into our group. She charmed us all by coming out on her first day, wearing a lovely scarf. No surprise really since Abbe’s Mom hails from Paris, France.

     I’ve never walked a dog wearing a scarf before. Fleece coats, yes. Decorative hair ornaments, yes. You’ve all seen my dog’s custom made Dracula costume. Even my own dog Ruby was wearing a dress on the day I picked her up from the Hesperia Shelter.

     My girlfriend at the park wondered if Abbe’s scarf could be Hermes?  I didn’t dare unwrap it knowing I would not be able to re-do what I had undone. God knows I would have to track down and consult my neighbor who is from Lyon ,France before taking Abbe home.

     Abbe was a little shy and reserved at first. It was very fitting that the dog who helped bring her out of her shell was a French Bulldog named Beau. Later on our hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, Abbe tackled the hills like her ancestors must have explored the dense mountain ranges of Japan.

     I’ve been to Paris twice. I’ve always said I want to go live there just so I can learn to dress in that chic, simple and elegant style of the Parisian women. Maybe I will finally learn something from Abbe.


Abbe trying to drive the Prius.

Bien venue Abbe.


Raw Goat’s Milk Goes to the Dogs

I grew up in a family that drank goat’s milk and also unfortunately, ate goat. I am milk toxic so I have always stayed away from milk but I can still remember both of my parents drinking fresh goat’s milk right of out the goat. In a cup of course. Don’t want to make it seem that bad. This is probably not something I would normally share, I mean honestly, not many people growing up in Los Angeles remember their family getting excited about fresh, unpasteurized goat’s milk.

These memories have been on my mind for the last week or so. Someone mentioned the raw goat’s milk has benefits for dogs with skin allergies. I read up on the unpasteurized, goat’s milk. Apparently, it has a natural antihistamine in addition to a natural probiotic. It is also good for joint health and is loaded with Vitamin A, an anti-cancer preventative. After reading this I recommended it to a client for a little terrier she adopted. He has terrible skin allergies and she is anxious to get him off the steroids since they only helped for a few days and in fact, may have made him worse. It seems the allergy has grown stronger in response to the chronic Prednisone he is on.

My 13-year old Jack Russell has developed occasional leg tremors and they seemed particularly bad this morning on our morning trip to the park. I stopped at Healthy Spot in Marina Del Rey this afternoon to pick up some  treats and saw the goat’s milk in the refrigerator at the counter. The sales person swore the goat’s milk had eliminated the sebaceous cysts her dog was developing. I have a 3-year old terrier mix who is plagued by sebaceous cysts and has been from a very young age. I’ve had them drained but they just fill back up.

It’s all anecdotal data I realize. And yes I know the sales people are trained on the products and how to sell them. But for $11 I figured, why not try it? I’ve been forewarned about the flatulence that comes with the benefits. Hopefully it’s not too bad.GoatsMilk

I’m going to start tomorrow morning. Each dog will get 4 oz. The recommended daily amount is  2 oz per 10lbs of body weight.

Stay tuned…



Great Dane in a Prius

This weekend our dear friend Rupert came to stay with us for the weekend. We haven’t had him over since we bought a Prius Wagon so I wasn’t exactly sure how the weekend would go. You see Rupert is a 135lb Great Dane.

I took comfort knowing that when Rupert was in rescue and being fostered, his foster Mom carted him around in a Volkswagen Bug.

For almost the last 8 years I have driven Toyota Highlanders. I needed a big car for my client dogs and later our rescue dogs.   On airport runs, I found I could fit the dogs and several crates. I also liked the Highlander for our personal road trips. We went to St. George, Utah a couple of times and there have been trips north of Santa Barbara and down south to La Jolla.

Both of my Highlanders were blue and I racked up the miles on them very quickly. They were very good cars. All I did was change the oil and rotate the tires until about 126,00 miles when they grew tired.  So that was about  250,000 miles on the two cars in just under 8 years. And also about $16,000 in gasoline.  That always nagged at me. Especially when prices rose as summer approached or there was crisis in the Middle East.

In April of 2011, I produced a campaign for Toyota and their advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. It was a live 20-hour webcast called Prius Records. I was delighted when I saw that one of the vehicles we were introducing was the Prius Wagon or the Prius V.

On the day of the technical rehearsal when the vehicles arrived I wasted no time slipping behind the wheel of the Prius V. I volunteered to drive it the short distance onto the stage. It was so adorable and futuristic. Roomier than I thought it would be. I knew then that I would one day become the owner of a Prius Wagon.

Last summer just a couple of days before the July 4th holiday weekend, our 2009 Highlander was having more than a few hiccups. My husband and I made a bold decision to go out and buy a Prius Wagon instead of throwing in another thousand dollars at our ailing Highlander. It was the best decision we ever made. We had to make some adjustments with our doggie loads but it’s been pretty painless. We’ve had up to 11 dogs and 2 people in the wagon. A combination of large and small dogs.

Unbelievably, we are spending half of what we used to spend on gasoline. We use more on Wednesdays and Sundays when we go up and down Doheny carrying 3 large Bulldogs. Generally, we get about 382 miles to the tank. One time we got 426 miles.We’ve gotten close to 400 a couple of times now.

We did also have what we called a “Prius Scare” — that was when we pushed the limit too far and ended up with no gasoline bars. We screamed all the way down Westridge Road until we got to the nearest gas station on Sunset Boulevard. Whew! Scariest roller coaster ride I had ever been on.

This weekend we put the seats down and got Rupert into the V just fine. We did a couple of hikes and yesterday we went to the Barrington Dog Park. People laughed when Rupert jumped out of the car. When we were leaving, my friend Scott came over to tell me everyone was watching “the lady get the Great Dane into the Prius.”

When people saw all the dogs hopping out of the Highlander they used to say,   “Your car is like a clown car.”

It still is a clown car but looks like Rupert and the Prius V have given me a new circus act to add to my repertoire.

When it still smelled like new (sigh).

When it still smelled like new (sigh).

The Big and the Small of the Prius V.

The Big and the Small of the Prius V.

Rupert Gets Comfy in the Prius.

Rupert Gets Comfy in the Prius.

Maggie got adopted!

The ladies meet for the first time!

The ladies meet for the first time!

Maggie in her new kitchen.

Maggie in her new kitchen.

We say goodbye to our little foster girl.

We say goodbye to our little foster girl.

Maggie is the 7lb Yorkie Terrier mix I rescued from Rachael Bohman at the Hesperia Shelter just over three weeks ago. With the help of Perfect Pet Rescue, Maggie found a wonderful new home on Saturday. Her Mom Harriet lives in the area and stopped by the event and she had an instant connection with Maggie.

It’s funny the way the adoptions go sometimes. Maggie has been there for weeks and truthfully gotten very little attention. She is so beautiful and sweet, I thought she would have had dozens of applications. This has not been the case.  My theory is that people who like Yorkies, want to rescue a pure bred Yorkie not a mix.

In any case, on Saturday, there were three people interested in her and fortunately Harriet was one of them.  I liked Harriet as soon as I met her. She seemed gentle and patient. She had also recently lost a dog to old age. Maggie was a little nervous with all the different people who were holding her but she was the most relaxed with Harriet.

When I read Harriet’s application I knew she would be a fabulous Dog Mom for Maggie. She is a lifetime dog owner who has always given the best to her pets.  In that moment I was grateful I had cancelled an adoption we had earlier approved. This was the adopter who propsed transporting Maggie to Portland via a long haul trucker.

After Harriet had filled out the application we took a leisurely stroll to her house. She said something so profound to me. Harriet told me she was at an age where she was no longer responsible for anyone but herself and she found she didn’t like it.

It was a very emotional moment for me as we walked along. In all of these years of rescuing and fostering I have always known I was in service to the dogs. I didn’t realize until that moment that I am also helping people who are looking for a dog to love.

It was a magical moment.

Maggie went to her new home on Saturday. It’s always bittersweet but I already received good news from Harriet. They had a fun girls night in and have several errands to run together today.

Thank you to everyone at Perfect Pet Rescue, West Coast Cocker Rescue and Rachael Bohman who helped bring Maggie and Harriet together.


The SheWhisperer

We seem to have skipped Fall altogether here in Los Angeles and gone straight to winter. We even had our first rain on Wednesday. It was real rain too. Not just a drizzly morning. Or the sprinkles that makes Angelenos panic, “Isn’t this weather awful?!”

It was real rain. Cold rain. I actually had to stop at home to grab my North Face Jacket and switch out my trailrunners for my rubber boots I bought last year at Payless.

My original plan this morning was to hike since I had some very high energy dogs on the slate. With the cold air and rains I feel very confident about returning to the trails after a summer of staying away because of the rattlesnakes.

But today was one of those days…

We had a water shed of last minute add-ons and a few of them were little ones, under 10 pounds who aren’t that confident on the hikes. I had already done a mini hike  in Nichols Canyon, so later on I opted for the security of the small dog park at Barrington Park.  My husband Adrian took Nacho, a Golden Retriever and Stella, a Cattle Dog Mix for a run around the golf course on San Vicente. This would be phase one of their play group.

It was late morning so as expected the small park was empty. We had it all to ourselves. Paradise when you are a dog walker.  I was a little bored since I am accustomed to more activity. I busied myself picking up every piece of poop I could find – fresh and fossilized.

High noon rolled around and with it came the SheWhisperer – in her red Subaru. I have never seen her before. I was impressed with her timing. She was lucky enough to get the first space right smack in front of the gates. Quite an achievement.  I was preoccupied chatting with my friend Chris, who was on his way out so I wasn’t paying much attention to all the SheWhisperer was up to until she addressed me very directly.

“I have an unneutered, unsocialized dog. Will any of your dogs do anything to him?”

I looked over at Kennedy, the 5lb terrier mix with the bald spot on his bum. His brother Berkeley, the Min Pin Jack Mix. Both of them in their new harnesses. Then there was Charlotte, the 4 lb Yorkie in her rainbow sweater. She was digging away in the clover with my sweet dog, Ruby. And then of course there was my hand shy, 7lb foster dog Maggie.

I was pretty certain this crew was not going to start throwing punches. Even Lucas my trouble making wire coat Jack Russell was preoccupied. I thought her unneutered, unsocialized Doodle had pretty good odds of not ending up on the ropes.

But, anyone who knows dogs, knows what happens when you mix an unneutered male in with the neutered.  At best there is lots of sniffing and mounting of the unneutered male. At worst, there is some growling and often times fights can break out.

Still, I just couldn’t see little Charlotte wanting to get her sweater dirty.

I measured my words carefully and did not offer the iron clad guarantee she was looking for. Mostly because I didn’t know what her dog was like. The SheWhisperer’s body language was so confrontational it made me nervous about her Doodle.  Still, I tried to sound neighborly. Amiable even.

“I think it’ll be ok…”

I guess I should have said it with more conviction because my submissive stance brought out the SheWhisperer’s aggressive tendencies.

“Will they or won’t they?” She growled. “Don’t you know your dogs?”

Again, the seed of doubt in my head was about her and her dog. She was so pent up, I couldn’t imagine what the dog would be like.

I decided to offer  some friendly suggestions which should have been obvious to her seeing she was a trainer and all.

“Why don’t you bring the dog in on a long drag lead, keep an eye on him –” Before I could finish, the SheWhisperer was foaming at the mouth.

“How much longer are you going to be in there?”

Suddenly, I heard the music cue from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”

I knew I would be there until my husband finished running Nacho and Stella. I tried doing some quick math. I’m terrible at Algebra so I guessed.

“About 45 minutes.”

“Another 45 minutes?’

I nodded, trying not to show fear. “Yup.”

This was clearly not going to work for the SheWhisperer. She ordered me out of the park so that she could bring in her unneutered, unsocialized dog.

I actually felt bad for the Doodle. Poor kid. What’s a Doodle gotta do to get some play time around here?

I opted for the Stand My Ground Law. There was no way I was being ordered out of the dog park by the SheWhisperer. I didn’t care how big the advertising banner on her low emission car was.

I gotta give it to her. The SheWhisperer definitely took me by surprise when she pulled out her iPhone and said she was calling 911 on me. Even worse, she started videoing me and took several pictures. I happen to be having a particularly bad hair day so I was more than a bit dismayed. My roots are growing in plus I was having a bad case of the greasies since it rained yesterday and I didn’t wash my hair thinking I was going running this morning.  The run didn’t happen.

Anyway, Yes, the SheWhisperer really called 911 on me. For having too many dogs, for having a French Bulldog (who technically wasn’t in my care) without a collar or tags.  Mostly I suspect, she was calling 911 on me for not rolling over for her and for disobeying her.

Bad. Bad me.

Truthfully I was rattled. The SheWhisperer was coming unhinged right before my very eyes. When the 911 operator answered, the SheWhisperer said, “This is not an emergency, but it is. Some small dogs have been abandoned at the Barrington dog park.”

I looked around at all my dogs playing. Digging holes. Lounging. Wha? Nobody here’s been abandoned.

I felt terrible for her dogs, most of them Doodles (coincidence?) still sitting in her car.  I especially felt badly for the poor brown and white Doodle she had on leash. He looked like he had seen it all before.

I zipped up the half zip on the royal blue Patagonia long underwear shirt I was wearing. Then I nonchalantly  strolled over to the fence where I could see into the large dog park. I yelled to my friend Annie and got her attention. Then I gave her the universal sign for “Hurry your Ass Up and get over here.”

She made haste through the wood chips and fortunately for all of us, brought with her our friend Jessica. Jessica is one of the first people I met at the park almost 13 years ago. She had two Italian Greyhounds then and has two new ones now. I always thought she was a bad ass and then when I learned she was  a retired LAPD officer it all made sense.

Jessica = Alpha Dog +Mama Dog + Big Dawg.

From behind the tree, which I used as cover from the death stare of the SheWhisperer, I briefed Annie and Jessica on the crisis.  Ever at the ready, the SheWhisperer started videoing Jess and Annie. Jessica wasn’t even the least bit miffed by this. In fact, she got in front of the SheWhisperer’s camera and hijacked the webcast.

Jessica identified herself as retired LAPD and outlined what was going on. She sounded like a Lieutenant at a press briefing. She also reprimanded the SheWhisperer for abusing the  911 emergency line.

Having a fearless female police officer, (retired or not) at the park, put kind of a damper on the SheWhisperer’s hostage situation. But once again, credit goes to the SheWhisperer for refusing to show how intimidated she was. She stood strong but I could have sworn I saw her tail curl itself up between her legs.

And by the way, suddenly, the Doodle was neutered. How’d that happen? First he wasn’t, but now that Jessica was in the picture, he was. In any case, Charlie the cockapoo puppy struck  up a mean game of chase with the SheWhisperer’s Doodle.  At least that was something for the Doodle. Meanwhile, we waited for the SWAT team to arrive and throw the book at me, then take Beau the French Bulldog out in cuffs for not wearing a collar.

Incidentally, I noticed the SheWhisperer didn’t scoop any poop but given the circumstances it was probably the wrong time to issue a friendly reminder.

With no sirens blaring, no lights flashing, no helicopters and no dog park rapture, the SheWhisperer decided it was time to pack up her little Subaru. Not to be out done, she threw out an insult as she loaded up her dog.

“You dog walkers have ruined this place.”

Annie wasn’t having it. She is from Michigan so she is very  practical, “Then don’t come here.”

The SheWhisperer’s dogs seemed grateful for the few minutes of playtime they managed to squeeze in. The red Subaru,  looked like it was off on its next terror strike but then a thunderbolt seemed to hit the SheWhisperer in the head.  The driver door swung open and she hopped out of her car with a renewed faith. This time she  photographed the license plate of several cars in the parking lot.

What ever was she planning on doing with those photographs I wondered.  I also wanted to know how much those poor clients were paying for the training they weren’t getting.

This was the final straw for Jessica. She finally couldn’t take it anymore. She actually lost some of her bad ass composure she was so bewildered by the Stalkerish behavior of the SheWhisperer.

It seemed like hours had gone by since the arrival of SheWhisperer but in reality it was only 20 minutes. I was exhausted from the tumult and worried about how my greasy hair was going to appear on YouTube. It was enough that I decided to pack it up and go find my husband.

Turns out, he was only a hundred yards away. So he stayed at the park with Nacho and Stella while I drove some dogs home and tried to shake off my encounter with the SheWhisperer.

A couple of hours later, as we ate our Schwarmas in the black asphalt parking lot of the Zankou Chicken on Sunset and Fairfax, sharing bites with all of the dogs, I shared in detail the drama of the SheWhisperer with him.

His observations are always very astute.

“Sounds like Annie Wilkes from Misery.”

He was right.  But I seemed to recall Annie Wilkes had members of her rural community fooled. It was only Paul Sheldon who saw her for the monster she really was.

“No, she’d been trial for poisoning someone. Something like that.”

I’m pretty sure my husband was correct. He doesn’t usually get his Stephen King or country music references wrong.

Hesperia Animal Shelter

I don’t know that I’ve ever met a shelter tech quite like Rachael Bohman at Hesperia Animal Control. I met her a few years ago when I adopted my own dog, Ruby, a gorgeous and sweet Terrier mix from her. Rachael was so accommodating and made the adoption happen. The shelter is about a hundred miles from where I live so I couldn’t pick Ruby up until Saturday which happened to be when the shelter was closed. Rachael was there waiting for me so I could pick up my little one.

Since then, we have partnered on the rescue of maybe thirty or so rescues. We have done it one dog at a time. On one occasion, we were able to take a pair of Cocker brothers both at the same time. Rachael is always cheerful and hopeful. Some days when I’ve gone out there she will report that she has 18 dogs going to rescue that day and another dozen the next day.

Anyone who has ever been to an animal control shelter understands how grim and depressing those facilities can be.Understandably, the shelter staff are quite often bitter and impatient. What else can you expect when they spend their days watching people abandon their dogs for digging, barking or because the dog is just too much of a responsibility. It’s amazing to me that Rachael remains so positive and never loses her commitment to saving lives. I know that I could not do her job for one day. Even one hour.

Hesperia is out in the Mojave desert off Highway 15 on the way to Las Vegas.  I’ve made the trip several times and this month, I went two weekends in a row. Rachel lobbied hard for the rescue of that seven year old female Cocker Spaniel. By coincidence, thanks to West Coast Cocker Rescue, she is going to her permanent home today.  Rachael had another special project, an 8 pound female Yorkie mix named Maggie. She had contacted rescue after rescue after rescue with no luck.

Finally, she enlisted my help. Once I saw the picture of Maggie and her hopeful little face, I was determined. I networked her picture on Facebook, sent cold emails to rescuer organizations who don’t know me and I even emailed rescuers who don’t like me.

It was a miracle when Perfect Pet Rescue here in Los Angeles responded positively. After seeing Maggie’s picture and confirming she was not aggressive, Nancy Sarnoff the founder, agreed to take Maggie. I was so happy to call Rachael and give her the good news.

It was another exhausting Saturday but worth it once we had little Maggie with us. I can’t explain the feeling of knowing you are helping save an innocent little life.  Maggie is doing great. She is happy little soul. She already went to her first adoption show on Montana Avenue and will be going back this weekend.  IMG_0567IMG_0607Maggie



Doggie Birthday

Lucas will be 13, yes 13 on October 16th.  Hard to believe, it really has gone by in the blink of an eye. I can still remember the day I brought him home when he was only 9 weeks old. I wasn’t quite ready for a new dog and I had trouble bonding with him. I was so afraid to love him because the death of my other dog Henry had been so unexpected and such a shock.

Lucas changed my life. He was a very curious and social little guy who needed to be out in the world. His first birthday came right after the collapse of the World Trade Center Buildings on 911. I think we all believed the world was coming to an end. It wasn’t just the bombings, there was also all this Anthrax being mailed and Donald Rumsfeld talking about Terror Alerts. It was such a scary time.

My friend Jaymeson was from Colorado and suggested we take a spontaneous road trip to her mother’s home near Glenwood Springs.  It sounded like the perfect remedy so we packed up her Forerunner and loaded up her black Labrador Miles and her newborn baby Cameron. Off we went on our 14 hour drive. I have to say it was amazing. The fun of driving through Las Vegas then the change of terrain in Utah.

Jayme had all the potty stops planned since she had done the drive so many times. The baby actually slept most of the way.

The drive was very therapeutic and there was such a peaceful calm when we arrived to the small town in Colorado.  Lucas and I stayed with friends of Jaymeson’s Mom in a beautiful lodge style guest house. There was a pond on the property and on the morning of his first birthday, Lucas made a run for it. He has always loved water and despite the fact that the pond was ice cold, it didn’t matter. There he was paddling around and shivering.  I let him have a few moments in there before I pulled him out.

Since then, we have celebrated his birthdays by having doggie friends over for steak or hamburger pattys. A couple of years ago we went to our friend Scott’s for a doggie brunch in Scott’s backyard. Lucas always wears his King costume and he always gets to go shopping at Petco.

A few weeks ago, my client Mitzi told me she had celebrated her dog’s adoption date by baking him a meat cake with mashed potato frosting and a carrot for a candle. They included her daughter’s dog, Mochi’s adoption as well. I love the idea of a cake that is one hundred percent edible with no dyes or sugars.

So that is the plan for this year. Here is a picture of Mitzi, Milt, Charlie and Mochi. Looks like fun was had by all!2013_MitziBday


Our recent trip

On Saturday, I took my whole crew plus a few guest dogs to the high desert on a dog rescue mission to Hesperia Animal Control. We went out there to save one dog. I haven’t been out there to pull a dog since April. It’s about 100 miles each way and we are gone all day. Honestly, I was a little grouchy about the drive and giving up a whole day.


Once I made it out to the shelter, and the shelter tech brought the precious little soul out to me, I was so grateful for the opportunity to save her. Despite her fancy haircut which a volunteer groomer was kind enough to give her, little Ruby was completely terrified. The most frightened of any dog I’ve ever rescued.


Elyse the tech was nice enough to bring her out to the car for me so she could meet everyone. She was comfortable with the other dogs so we loaded her up and off we went!


This was the maiden rescue voyage of our Prius Wagon which we bought in July. We love the car so much. We had 2 Labradors and GoldenDoodle, 2 terrier mixes, 1 cockapoo, 1 Cocker rescue and 2 humans riding comfortably in the wagon.

At point, I looked at the Trip Odometer and we had gone about 100 miles on one bar of gasoline. Hard to beat that. That would have taken half a tank in my Highlander.

Ruby the dog we rescued flew to Canada early this morning to the rescue. She arrived safely and is meeting potential adopters tomorrow.

In the meantime, Rachael Bohman, the shelter tech at Hesperia is looking for help with a little Yorkie Terrier Mix. I am trying to help her get a SoCal rescue interested in her.



Fall is finally here!

IMG_0492 IMG_0480The dogs are celebrating. I can see it in their excited little faces. Lucas, my soon to be 13-year old Jack Russell Terrier also has alot more energy which makes me so happy.

The overcast morning and crisp breeze means we can hike again. They’ve definitely enjoyed the beach this summer. We’ve also been sneaking into Ballona Creek for quick dips and Lucas in particular loves swimming at my Mom’s house in the valley. But they really do love their daily hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains.

I know, I know. Rattlesnakes are out all year long but truthfully running into one is much more likely April to September. Not long ago, I saw the most gigantic one up Westridge about a 1/4 mile from the sign. It was just massive. Black with deep red. The tail was looped over the ridge. Could have been a dragon down in the canyon for all I knew.

It made me sick to see. I find snakes so disgusting. Meanwhile, my father-in-law killed one over the summer and stuffed it. Bizarre I know. It’s a pool side decoration for him. I made him move it yesterday before I took the dogs into the pool. Creeped me out.

I don’t like snakes or anything snakeskin. At least I’m consistent.