Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tommy Returns Home to Find Ramona in His Bed

When Tommy is home Ramona the cat sneaks around the house keeping a low profile so as not to excite the wild creature with the high prey drive. But when Tommy's not around, she rubs against his Kong Wubba and his purple teddy bear. Lately, she even sneaks into his bed.

Tommy does not know what to make of this. Speculation is growing she's secretly in love with him.

Friday, June 25, 2010

“It’s Not That Bad Though.” Really

My high school boyfriend is in town to perform his one-man show “Back to Babylon” as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. It consists of hilarious and touching portrayals of several characters from the 70s based on people from my hometown of Babylon, Long Island.

We spoke on the phone a week ago Tuesday during the Lakers’ final game with the Celtics. When he asked if I were watching the game, I said “no,” that I didn’t have a TV, which made him laugh.

I got rid of it last year when, after I’d made a vow to start writing again, I found myself wasting hours watching reality TV instead. “Top Chef” had redeemable qualities but when I couldn’t peel my eyes away from “Real Housewives of New York” I knew something had to change.

Was I working on a screenplay?

“No.” I hesitated before adding, “I’m writing a blog about my dog.”

He laughed again and said he wished he had time for a dog.

Gregg has a lovely wife and two kids. I have a wild pit bull and two cats.

“Back to Babylon” is a surreal trip down memory lane for me, let me tell you. I saw it twice this week with friends. Afterwards, they had many questions about that time in my life.

I rarely think about my 17-year-old self but this week I've been making inevitable comparisons between the life I imagined I would have when it was still stretched out before me and the life I’m living now.

But, I've never had much of a plan. I’ve never been one to map out my future. I have a tendency to go with the flow and react to what’s put in front of me. This can work against me as I sometimes find myself wondering where the time has gone; why I don’t have the things in life I thought I wanted; why I haven’t achieved the goals I’d vaguely set for myself.

It can also lead to interesting detours, as when, after finally dragging myself to Brooklyn Bagel Bakery one Sunday morning in January 2008 because I’d heard they had the best bagels in L.A., I passed a pit bull running in the opposite direction down Beverly Blvd and I did a u-turn to meet up with him in the parking lot of Tommy’s hamburger place.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Sometimes I get blue. When the main character in “Back to Babylon” veers toward complaining about his life, he snaps out of it with his signature line, which he states in between gulps from his bottle of Budweiser: “It’s not that bad though.”

And it really isn’t.

There are two more opportunities to see “Back to Babylon.” Go check it out and marvel at Gregg's inspiring performance. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Vicious -- Continued

I shouldn’t have used “vicious” in an earlier post’s title without finishing the vicious part of the tale. A reader may have thought I was characterizing Tommy’s behavior at Farnsworth Park as vicious but that’s not what I meant.

I’m not sure what to say about that wild behavior but it’s not vicious.

Janine’s assistant once said, “Tommy does everything with exuberance!” She was one of Tommy’s biggest fans. I’m pretty sure Janine would not have chosen that word to describe him though. But that’s another story…

Last weekend’s theme was exploring neighborhoods to check out houses for sale. Saturday night was beautiful Northeast Altadena. Sadly, it’s pretty much out of my price range.

So Sunday afternoon I walked Tommy down El Sereno in Pasadena. I guess you could say it’s the ‘hood.

We passed a couple of young guys who seemed very interested in Tommy. They mumbled to each other as they eyed him, and I caught the comment, “Man, he must be vicious wearing that thing.”

And so I had to turn and give them the Snoot Loop spiel.

“It’s not a muzzle. It’s a Snoot Loop. It’s like a halter that horses wear…”

“Oh, yeah?”

They were intrigued, so I continued the explanation. Then I said with a smile, “He can still bite with it on.”

They both busted out laughing when I said that. And that made my day.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Interlude

This is an excerpt of an IM exchange I had with a coworker today:

sc: wanna see a funny picture?

e v: YES

e v: always

e v: ha

e v: partying out too late

sc: tommy is a party animal

e v: learned it from his mum!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Vicious

When I first took Tommy in, I quickly learned he had major issues. I had no idea of the challenges ahead of me and how Tommy would totally take over my life. I’ll write about many stories over time, but for now I just want to mention a trainer, Janine Pierce of J9's K9s, who, when I told her I was thinking of finding Tommy a new home, suggested I keep a daily mood calendar, using simple smiley faces or frowns to mark the good days and the bad. The idea was that I would eventually, hopefully, see that the good outweighed the bad.

I never did keep a mood calendar nor did I find Tommy a new home, obviously (although I did make a lukewarm attempt to do so—more on that later).

This weekend was a mixed bag. Here are the highlights, both good and bad:

As I drove up Santa Rosa Avenue in Altadena Saturday night, Tommy hung out the back seat window, his front paws on the armrest so that his chest bulged out into the breeze. An elderly couple on the side of the road, the man with a cane, stopped walking to watch us drive by. The woman, with a big smile on her face, waved as we passed.

I felt like a one-car parade with the pit bull mayor.

I parked on Poppyfields Drive, and we walked. It was a beautiful night. Twilight stretched longer than usual, the San Gabriel Mountains black against the ever darkening blue night sky.

Somewhere people were singing 60s tunes. I followed the music up to the Farnsworth Park Ampitheatre. A woman at the entrance smiled as we approached and gestured for me to enter. I kind of lingered, not convinced that bringing Tommy in would be a good idea. She came toward us, cooed over Tommy and started to bend down toward him. Bursting with excitement, he tried to lick her feet, to charge into her arms. I held his collar to restrain him.

But not tight enough. Tommy popped out at her face like a snake. She reflexively turned her head so nothing happened, thank god, but it freaked her out. Understandably.

Pit bull in the face? Bad.

Usually I try to explain that Tommy is in training (always), that he needs to be seated and calm before you pet him, but with the music playing and her desire to pet him even after seeing how wound up he was I thought it would be okay.

Sigh... so much for highlights. I didn't even finish all the points, high and low, of the weekend and now I'm too tired to continue. Stay tuned for more...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is Tommy a “real” pit bull? Depends on who you ask

What’s a “real” pit bull, anyway? I've read that it isn't a real breed, that “pit bull” is a term to describe a group of breeds.

For a while, I wondered whether I should stop referring to Tommy as a pit bull. When I was immersed in my trial-by-fire education about these dogs after taking Tommy into my home, it seemed the politically correct name was “American Staffordshire Terrier.”

But I’m sorry: when someone asks me what kind of dog Tommy is, I’m not going to say “American Staffordshire Terrier mix.” That’s eleven syllables!

Compare that to “pit bull mix.”

Three simple syllables.

Rolls right off the tongue.

I suppose it can conjure up images of dog fights and gangs and deadly attacks. But I’d rather work on changing the perception of what a pit bull is and can be than distance myself from the maligned stereotype that induces so much fear.

Back in the 70s when I grew up, Tommy would just be a mutt. On the other hand, I don't recall seeing any dogs running around Long Island suburban streets that looked like Tommy.

So, what’s a “real” pit bull? Here are some sites with their version of the answer:
Pit Bull Rescue Central
Official Pit Bull Site of Diane Jessup
Bull Dog Breeds
American Kennel Club - American Staffordshire Terrier

Monday, June 14, 2010

Screenwriter and Mom? Nope. Pit Bull Blogger

After voting last Tuesday, I walked Tommy around Caltech and pondered what to eat (food often occupies my thoughts on these lengthy walks).

“Mmmm... That pint of vanilla Haagen-Dazs in the freezer would go great with warm apple pie.”

I turned down California Blvd toward Pie ‘n Burger.

I don’t like leaving Tommy outside tied to a post, but I’ll do it when I'm desperate and I’m comfortable with the neighborhood; a window gives me a line of sight to keep an eye on him; and it will only take a few minutes. Fortunately Pie ‘n Burger fit the bill.

While I discussed pie options with the waitress, Tommy waited patiently outside. (Well, actually, at first he was quite impatient: he barked and rose up in protest—an unnerving sight for the other patrons—but then he settled down.) I bought pieces of apple and boysenberry, retrieved Tommy, and then headed up Lake to make a loop back to my car.

I peeked inside Magnolia and felt a pang of longing when I saw a good crowd inside. A couple of women in strappy dresses sipped cocktails at the bar, and, I imagined, flirted with interesting men. The vibe looked relaxed, just my kind of place. I've lived in Pasadena over two years but I've never been there. Wouldn't it be nice to be sitting at that bar all squeaky clean, wearing a summer dress and heels? Drinking a ginger-cucumber-watermelon martini and hanging out with my own species, preferably of the opposite sex?

In my worn sneakers and baggy hiking pants, I carried my bag of pie up Lake, the pit bull at my side.

I used to aspire to be a screenwriter, to get married and have a baby. Instead I ended up single without kids, writing a blog about my rescued pit bull. How’d that happen?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tommy the Zen Master

For a couple of weeks in May, I was overwhelmed with grief over the Gulf oil tragedy, breaking out in tears every time I saw one of those heart-wrenching pictures of an oil-soaked bird. I spent my days poring over information on the web trying to understand the politics that led to the catastrophe and that played out in its wake. The whole thing was, and still is, unfathomably depressing. I couldn’t think of much else, so when I was invited to a party over Memorial Day weekend, I welcomed the chance to get out of the house and out of my head.

The party was great fun but on the drive home we started talking about the devastation in the Gulf, and by the time we pulled up in front of my house I was in a dark place again. But my spirits lifted slightly at the thought of Tommy greeting me in the kitchen. He didn’t disappoint.

His pit-bull tail whacked the kitchen table leg with a steady beat; he smothered my bare legs with sloppy kisses; and then, after performing the perfect downward-facing dog, he crawled back into bed.

He cracks me up.

Tommy, the lucky dog, doesn’t know anything about the tragedy in the Gulf. He just knows how good it is to be alive, to be sleeping on his dog bed in the kitchen, to see and smell his human walking through the door, to be rewarded with a a chicken jerky. Oh, what joy!

It’s a gift to see the world through his eyes, if only for a moment.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It’s Not a Muzzle; it’s a Snoot Loop

Minoru Drive gives off a sense of hyperrealism with its affluent homes, manicured lawns, and the San Gabriels as a backdrop. It feels like a film set on any day but today it was for real.

I got to the street just as the goofy cop in his Pasadena car led a procession of film trucks. As he drove by, I could hear him say "So you found your way over here?"

People buzzed around like bees, some carrying plates of food from craft services. I walked Tommy in the middle of the street, lined on each side by production trucks.

“Does he bite?”

At first I wasn’t sure why he was asking. That’s a common question when someone wants to pet Tommy, but this guy was walking in the other direction. Then I realized why he asked.

“It’s not a muzzle; it’s a Snoot Loop,” I called after him.

I can't tell you how many times I've said those two sentences together. I went on to explain it helps to control his pulling and it’s similar to halters used on horses.

The next day I was buying lunch at Connal’s on Washington Blvd., Tommy by my side, and I got asked the same exact question.

“It’s not a muzzle; it’s a Snoot Loop,” I said again. And this time I remembered what my friend Kim suggested I say.

“He can still bite with this on.”

I laughed as I said it so it wasn’t taken as a threat. One day I’ll write about all the other things Tommy can do while wearing the Snoot Loop.

So, I never did see Will Ferrell. Or Steve Carell. But I did see the back of Bubble Boy's Dad's head. How's that for a celebrity sighting?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, and Bubble Boy’s Dad

The no-parking signs had lined the streets for days alluding to the production’s arrival. I tied Tommy to the tree in the front yard so the kitties and I could have some peace and he could lounge in the sun and welcome the crew. Every 20 minutes or so I went outside—to rub his tummy; to throw around a tennis ball; or to play tug of war with his favorite toy, the Jolly Ball Romp-N-Roll.

A security guy, who shuffled around some traffic cones, said it was a Will Ferrell movie, which only added to my excitement. But the trucks never came. After work Tommy and I set out around the neighborhood to find them, just for kicks. Film productions add a little dazzle to these otherwise hum-drum suburban streets.

We found some action on North Hill Avenue, just above New York Drive. I caught sight of a guy sitting on what looked like a Hollywood tour bus with the open seats on top, except this was the size of a van and there was only one seat. Cameras, crew, and equipment buzzed around him. A Pasadena cop—bald, about 6'4" with a menacing look—approached. I thought he was going to tell me to get lost but he was having fun.

"No, that wasn't Will Ferrell. That was some guy I’ve seen a million times but I can't remember his name," he said. "Bubble Boy’s Dad. That’s who that was."

I said I’d never seen Bubble Boy, so I’d have to look on imdb.com.

"Bubble Boy’s Dad. That's who that was."

He got a big kick out of saying it, and I have to say it made me laugh, too.

The security guy had led me astray. The goofy cop set me straight: The film starred Steve Carell, not Will Ferrell, and was the same production that had been filming for weeks on Minoru Drive. Tommy and I headed in that direction.