Friday, November 25, 2011

Random Highlights

Tommy and Louise march in support of Occupy Los Angeles last month. Deirdre the Brit puts them up to it...

Louise graduates from J9sK9s obedience class. She gets a star for perfect attendance and comes in first in agility competition. I'm so proud...

Tommy makes a good co-pilot. My neighbor says, "He sits in the front seat just like a person."

Louise makes herself right at home...

Let's face it: She's a permanent member of this pack. Tommy is not sure what to make of this...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sweet Louise

A few weeks ago a kind, elderly couple fell in love with Louise after watching this video that the fabulous Veronica of The Dog Rescuers made (everytime I watch it I get choked up, so if you're mushy like me break out the Kleenex):

They were so excited to meet Louise and desperately tried to win her over. She sat for them and ate their duck jerky treats (how gourmet is that?!) but each time retreated to my side. She never let down her guard.

When they left I was relieved. It wasn't a good fit, and, no surprise, a part of me doesn't want to let her go. Still, I have to at least try to find her a great home.

Louise is also listed with Molly's Mutts & Meows. A wonderful photographer named Poly made a video of her, too:

We went to Race for the Rescues this past Sunday. Louise walked around the Rose Bowl with 4 other pitties. She did great. Lots of people fell in love with her beauty, but still no adoption bites. That's okay. I'm not in any hurry.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Art & Macarons

I had the good fortune to attend Art Platform – Los Angeles last Friday night.

As I sipped vodka in the VIP lounge (I have well-connected friends), I caught eyes with Albert Brooks, who stood a few feet away. I broke into a spontaneous smile, which he returned.

My girlfriends and I buzzed about him while we sampled hors d'oeuvres off passing trays. Then we went to look at art.

The art, from all over the world, spread out over a giant warehouse space. I lagged behind my friends as we explored row after row of art.

Up ahead, a server held out a tray of macarons to passersby. My friends each took one as the server waltzed in my direction.

There was one macaron left. As I reached for it I got a glimpse of Albert Brooks and his lovely wife strolling just behind the server. Albert Brooks’ eyes scanned the tray where my hand grabbed the macaron. I was busted.

I held up the green macaron and blurted out, “I took the last one! Do you guys want it?”

“Oh, no, no,” they mumbled, shaking their heads. They smiled as they continued to walk, looking at art, perhaps searching for more macarons.

I should have asked if they wanted to adopt Louise. You never know.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Louise at Ellouise

One recent Sunday I took Louise to a spoken word event at Ellouise. I wasn’t sure if I'd be welcome with a pit mix at my side, so I loitered at the entrance when a red-haired woman with a mission approached.

I braced myself to be shooed away, but instead she asked, “Who is this beautiful child?” She referred, of course, to Louise.

The animal lover vibe was clear, so I laid out Louise's story thick and quick. We were invited inside.

The place overflowed with teens. The red-head was Ms. Hunter, high school English teacher to most of the readers as well as to many who filled the seats. Students got extra credit for attending, and they showed up in droves.

Ms. Hunter paraded us in front of the crowd saying we all had to find Louise a home.

People packed the house. Extra rows of chairs were brought in. Kids sat on the floor. Louise and I were treated as honorary guests, with a VIP seat just by the entrance.

Poor Louise was overwhelmed, but she stayed curled at my feet the entire evening, which lasted over 2 hours. We stuck around to hear local Altadena poet Linda Dove read. It was worth it.

Louise didn't find her forever home that night, but I have a good feeling about these poetry readings. Animal lovers abound. Louise made a big splash. She'll attend the next one. Such a good girl. Tommy wouldn't last five minutes.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


When I mill about the living room and dining room, Louise respects the baby gate and stays in her kitchen den. A knock on the front door, however, sends her flying over that gate like a gazelle leaping through the savannah. Her athleticism is impressive, but it means I have to be on my toes when managing the Tommy and Louise dynamic.

Louise rests after a flying leap into the living room.
Last month when I stepped into the living room from the bedroom, Tommy and Louise stood at high alert. I gasped at the sight of them causing their heightened energy to erupt into a fight.

But that’s old news.

When Louise flew over the gate last week, I calmly walked toward the back door, calling Tommy to put him in the yard. But when I opened the door it was Louise at my heels.

Tommy? He’d run and hid under the dining room table.

I call that progress.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Louise’s Official Debut

I’ve been too busy and tired to blog, my brain in a fog each time I tried. But this update is long overdue and I have big news, so here it is.

Awful picture, adorable dog

The sweet, smart, lovable Louise is officially up for adoption.

It pains me to think of giving her up but Tommy the King is just not keen on sharing the throne, not even with a queen as beautiful and fabulous as Louise.

It won’t be easy to find the perfect forever home, but she has a team of good people interested in her fate. Karin Bugge wrote about her over a week ago in Altadena Patch: Finding a Home for an 'Unadoptable' Pit Bull

Sorry I didn't send out the news when the article first published - I'm behind on everything - but you can still leave a comment. In fact, it would be great if you did: it will give the piece more visibility.

Tomorrow I start pulling out all the stops on the Adopt Louise publicity campaign. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Nature vs Nurture

After Louise displayed her fierce athletic prowess, I discussed options for fixing the fence with Ernesto, my gardener-cum-handyman.

No option would be cheap, so I decided to wait, as I hoped to train Louise not to aggressively react to Italia.

"It doesn’t matter what you do. Nothing will keep your dog from getting through that fence."

Hmmm… what does that mean?

"You can’t change her nature. It’s in her blood."

I disagreed but Ernesto raised an interesting point: certain behaviors are driven by nature. Though I might be able to manage Tommy’s powerful prey drive, I don’t think I could ever stamp it out so that he doesn’t want to chase and pounce on a squirrel. But are Louise's issues in her nature?

Before Ernesto left, I reminded him to check in with me before going into the backyard on his next visit.

"Of course. Your other dog, he’s okay. But the new one, I have to be careful of her." (He hadn’t yet seen Louise, but formed his opinion based on the Tasmanian devil story.)

He parted with these words, "That dog is like me: dangerous."

A few days later, Ernesto looked surprised when I came into the yard with Louise.

"My neighbor has dogs just like her."

I learned his neighbor lived on El Sereno and Woodbury, which sounded familiar. Hadn’t I just read of a drug bust there?

“An FBI SWAT team detonated flash-bang grenades about 5:30 p.m. Thursday as they forced their way into a home at El Sereno Avenue and Woodbury Road, officials said.” (You can read more here.)

Yep, that was the house with the dogs that looked like Louise. Ernesto and his teenaged son had watched the drama unfold from their front lawn.

I’ve driven by many times, but I haven't seen the dogs. And I haven't detected a hint of recognition from Louise, no whining or cowering in fear, no heightened sense of arousal.

Whatever Louise’s past, she clearly has a defensive posture around any threat, perceived or real, from another dog. Can I train that response out of her?

Jenina came by on Saturday and gave me some tools for counter conditioning. I’ll write more in an upcoming post, but here’s a hint: our session was all about Tommy (well, almost - chewed post compliments of Louise).

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Once in a while Tommy surprises me with an impressive zen attitude, like when he lounges on the patio ignoring Italia, the neighbor’s German shepherd, barking through the hole in the fence—a hole, I might add, that she created.

Unfortunately, Italia is a trigger that sets off an aggressive response in Louise.

Hear that whining? That's Louise on a leash by my side.

A few weeks ago, when Italia stuck her snout through that hole and roared, Louise flew over the patio fence and shot straight up into her face in two seconds flat. They fought a quick, fierce battle through that hole, tearing into each other with terrifying sounds. I thought Louise was going to climb through that hole and wreak havoc in my neighbor's yard.

Somehow the fight ended and I got Louise into the house. She was back to her sweet self, but my view of her changed slightly. Holy moly, she's got a bit of the Tasmanian Devil in her. She's not really alpha, but she's extremely reactive to any provocation from another dog.

The dogs stayed at Starcrest in side-by-side kennels while I was out of town. I picked them up yesterday, and Louise cowered when she saw me, trembling outside my car just as she had at the shelter. She warmed up as soon as we got home, but her distrust of people is another issue.

Next Saturday, I have a training session at my house with Jenina Schutter from Smart Paws Dog Training. When I described the problems, she said it sounded like Tommy was an insecure leader, "the worst kind of leader, same as with people." What an astute point.

So, we have a house full of issues. I wonder if I should go back to therapy.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Is Louise My Foster Dog?

Last week Aleksandra, whose wonderful blog, Love and a Six-Foot Leash, chronicles adventures with dog fostering, emailed me and asked why I foster. I responded, “Am I fostering? I’m not sure!”

And my ambivalence continues.

Tommy and Louise have had two fights. She’s not as submissive as I thought. Tommy is a bully and she fights back.

It's been challenging. I keep the dogs in different rooms. My house is like a zoo: the cats in the three bedrooms, Tommy in the living room, and Louise in the kitchen. I walk them separately. When I return from a 45-minute walk with Tommy in the morning, I set out to walk Louise. In the middle of the day when it’s hot, I let them take turns in the yard. The routine is exhausting.

But there’s positive news, too. My friends have generously given their time to walk Louise while I walk Tommy beside them. And the dogs get along great on these walks. 

Louise is as sweet as can be with me. She's like a duck who has been imprinted by my presence. She adores me. I adore her, too.

Still, this way of life is not sustainable. I need to be able to walk the dogs together by myself. I need to get them to the point where they can be in the same room without fighting. I'd hoped they'd be best buddies, but maybe it'll never come to that.

I'm going to hire a trainer who can help me manage them, and I'll just have to wait and see whether she and Tommy can live in the same house without making me insane. If not, I'll find her a great home. She's a fantastic dog, eminently adoptable, so I'm confident a kind person will fall in love with her as I have.

Despite my uncertainty, Louise and I got featured on Love and a Leash's post about dog fostering. Check it out: Dog fostering – it’s infectious!

If you're a local, can you recommend a good trainer? 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Louise in her Bonnet

The memory card on my camera filled up just as I was saying "good girl!" But see how she snaps to attention? I think she lived with a stern human. At least she learned some manners.

The bonnet is actually old news; she managed to weasel her way out of it over the weekend. Her wound has healed enough so I didn't bother putting it back on.

Sunday morning I discovered she also chewed the edge of my brand new papasan chair. She's definitely feeling better. Now she's like Tommy when I first got him, with boundless energy I need to help her burn off.

While I showered, she started chewing the bottom of the kitchen cabinets. I had to go out to the westside for a few hours so I put her in a crate that I bought for Tommy and never used. She wasn't happy but I didn't want to return to my house in shreds.

The adventures continued, but I'm too exhausted to write about them. Soon.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tommy & Louise

Jen Byrne demands a pupdate, so here it is.

She's the sweetest girl ever. When I picked her up at the Pasadena Humane Society, her whole body shook with fear. Two hours later she did the pit bull wiggle when I walked into the kitchen.

I thought it would take a lot of work to bring her out of her shell, but she made it so easy. Her temperament and manners are exemplary. It makes me wonder whether she's been trained. It certainly seems so. What was her life like before she ended up on the streets? 

Unfortunately she has an infection from the spay surgery. I have to clean the wound twice a day. She doesn't like it, but she stoically lies still while I do it.

She also has a bad case of kennel cough.The vet said her lungs are filled with fluid so I have to be careful she doesn't catch pneumonia.

Poor Tommy. Louise has taken over his favorite room in the house, the kitchen. He tries to get a glimpse of the action underneath the barricade.

I've been keeping them separate so she can heal and so he doesn't catch her kennel cough. Is it inevitable?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps

When I first saw Petie, he was dodging LA Animal Services down on Marengo. I stood at the corner with Tommy, hoping he’d come to us, but instead he ran into a backyard, as terrified of Tommy and me as he was of animal control.

A few days later I saw Petie in Farnsworth Park. He was still fearful, so I put a bowl of kibble on the ground and stood at a safe distance giving him the space to eat. After he heartily finished the food, we did the same dance with a bowl of water.

Once I gained Petie's trust, he blossomed into an entirely different dog—playful, loving, happy. The moment he saw a tennis ball on the ground he pounced on it with a burst of joy, as if he’d discovered a long-lost friend.

Even in the shelter his spirit shined—and that did not go unnoticed. Petie was adopted over the weekend, even before we posted this video, shot by Karin Bugge. (Check out Karin's Patch article about Altadena’s animal shelter dilemma.)

Unfortunately the light-colored pittie’s story is different. She was timid from the start. I only got her into the car because of her attachment to Petie: she just followed his lead. Alone in her kennel at the shelter, she’s been emotionally shut down, unapproachable. No one has been able to lure her out of her shell.

The verdict is she isn’t adoptable. The verdict is they have to kill her. Last resort has arrived.

So, Friday she gets spayed, and Saturday I pick her up and bring her home.

Honestly this is not cause for celebration. I’m not thrilled with this plan. I’m tired. I want to focus on my new house.

I want to have friends over for brunch, set up my home office, start a regular writing practice. I want to buy a couch.

But I can’t stand the thought of having led her to her death.

And perhaps, ultimately, she’ll lighten my burden.

Perhaps Tommy will frolic in the yard with her instead of sitting at the door, pathetically waiting to get back in the house only moments after I've let him out.

Perhaps, ultimately, she will again follow Petie's lead, and shine.

What's in a name?
As Veronica points out, a pit bull shouldn’t have the reserved nature of a lion. This girl needs a new name.

Juliette is sweet but her fate is too tragic.

My sister, Lynne, detecting a purple hue in the photo, called her Iris. I like Iris. I also like Trixie. Trixie sounds like a sweet goofball, just what I'm hoping her true nature turns out to be.

What do you think? What shall we call this gorgeous shy girl?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Last Resort

I talked to a friend Saturday who asked what I’d been doing with my day. I hesitated and then said, “I spent the morning catching two stray dogs.”

There was dead silence on the other end of the phone. “One dog is enough, isn’t it? Tommy is enough, isn’t he?”

“Yes, yes. I brought them to the Pasadena Humane Society.” 

At some point I’ll tell the full story of how I stumbled upon and caught these dogs...

But there’s no time for that now. Now I need to get down to business.

The dogs have 5 days to be claimed by an owner. If no one claims them after 5 days they are available for adoption.

How long will the dogs remain up for adoption before being killed? That depends on 3 things: temperament, health, and how much space is available at the shelter.

I filled out a form with some checkboxes. One of them said this:

“I understand that this animal may be euthanized and that I will not be notified.”

I didn’t check it. Instead I met with an adoption counselor and I signed up for “last resort” status.

If all else fails, they will call me before killing each of the dogs. I will then have the option of adopting him...

This is Petie. He just wants to be one of the gang. Show him a little kindness and he will shower you with love and adoration.

And her...

This is Elsa. She has the beauty and reserved nature of a lion.

Elsa is in love with Petie. (Can you blame her? Look at that face!) I'm in love with both of them. 

Here's Petie's info: A291038

Here's Elsa's info: A291039

Please spread the word.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Altadena Animals

Mama and Baby Raccoons

Sunday, May 22, 2011

There Goes the Neighborhood

One Friday evening a few weeks ago, I was getting ready to meet friends for Korean Barbecue. Tommy frolicked in the backyard. As I brushed my teeth, I realized how relaxed I was and how blissfully unusual that felt: Tommy was in the backyard!

Tommy enjoys the backyard with his girlfriend, Babe

In my old place, I’d have to take Tommy for a marathon walk before going out for an evening, and I was always rushed.

But tonight was different. It was a warm evening. I wore a dress. As I pondered what shoes to wear I heard Tommy barking. Normally Tommy is not a big barker, so I knew he was up to no good.

I went outside. I couldn’t see him but I could hear him rustling through the leaves. Predictably, he ignored my calls. I followed the rustling to the sunken part of the yard, wild and lush with overgrown trees and ivy. I called him again. I still couldn't see him, but I heard the rustling as it traveled away from me, into my neighbor’s yard - and beyond.


I said it several times as I ran into the house.

I threw on jeans under my dress, put on sneakers and jetted out the front door. I knocked on my neighbor’s door but they didn’t answer. So I went to the neighbor next to them, two houses down from me, running past the young mom getting into her car. I frantically explained my plight, and she kindly extended an open invitation to use her yard anytime I needed. I silently hoped I'd never have to again.

Because of the natural wash that runs through the yards along my side of the street, they're overrun with brush and ivy just like mine. People have given up trying to tame the wildness. It's paradise for little creatures and for the dogs that chase them, but not so great for a woman in a dress.

At least I could see Tommy now. He was in the yard behind the young mom's. I ran through hers and up a slope covered in ivy into the yard of a neighbor I'd never seen. I cursed and wondered if my neighbors could see or hear me as I ran after the loose pit bull.

Tommy must've been tired or perhaps he'd given up. He sort of stumbled into me. I put his snoot loop on and dragged him home.

As I put on mascara in the bathroom, I could hear Tommy panting in the kitchen. The chase had exhausted him. I could walk him for hours, even play a few rounds of fetch in the backyard, and never tire him out like that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Home Sweet Home

A few days before I moved into my house, I stopped by to check out the paint job. Tommy was so excited by the new neighborhood, he didn’t even notice the lizard in the window (outside, thankfully).
Things changed on April 1, my first day in the house.

Juanita and her two helpers were in the kitchen cleaning. I heard a scream. Juanita called out my name. Exhausted (the move was hell), I stumbled toward them. I stood outside the doorway, afraid of what I'd see. Juanita stared at me expectantly.

In any crisis, a leader must emerge. I saw that lizard clinging to the wall between the microwave and the stove and squealed like a little girl.

The next few minutes were filled with mayhem. We tried to coax the lizard into a bucket but it wouldn't budge. I'd opened the side door for the lizard's escape path, but Tommy charged in scaring the señoritas. When I turned away, the lizard somehow flew across the kitchen and ended up under the refrigerator.

I moved the fridge. The lizard scurried across the floor into the garage. Tommy pounced on him.

I screamed at Tommy as I hit him on the behind with a broom (not a proud moment, but believe me, it didn't phase him).

In two seconds he had the lizard in his mouth. He shook it with abandon until half of it flew across the room into a pile of junk. The other half got sucked into his mouth as if it were a spaghetti noodle.

The predator and his prey. Nature is cruel.

Later, the lizard fiasco behind us, Juanita called me into the bathroom. Water seeped out from the bottom of the toilet. Two inches of dirty water filled the tub.

Damn. I knew I had sewer issues but I didn't think I'd have to call a plumber my first day in the house. One had just cleaned the pipes two weeks ago. I arranged for him to come the next morning.

"You can use the toilet, but don't flush." 

I hadn't yet returned the keys, so that night I went to my old place, leaving Tommy tied to the front tree. The electricity had already been turned off but I knew my way to the bathroom.

The next morning I woke up early and drove to Starbucks to do my business. Then I went home to meet Mike the Plumber.

Mike had the sewer pipes cleared in no time. What a relief. Can you imagine living without working toilets?

Plumbers are unsung heroes. Tommy agrees as he marvels at the functioning flush.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sideways Tommy

It’s been stormy all day. Poor Tommy. He hates the rain, but his wild energy needs to be burned off or he'd drive the cats and me crazy. So, we stepped out into the pouring rain in the last hours of daylight. After about 30 minutes, the rain started coming down in sheets, and the wind kicked up. It was kind of scary. So I ducked for cover at the Altadena Country Club.

Possessed Tommy (I need to work on my camera skills.)

The flags cracked in the wind, a sound that made me think of Pasadena Adjacent. She always posts cool video clips with interesting sights and sounds. So I turned on my Droid’s camcorder app.

Unfortunately it’s been years since I’ve videotaped so I’ve forgotten the essentials, like not turning the camera sideways.

This is god-awful, but it stars Tommy. And even a sideways Tommy is worth viewing.

I have an idea what he’s eating–or trying to eat–when he licks the cement patio. What’s your guess?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day, Our Anniversary

I could not have told the following story until your deep and abiding affection for Tommy had been established. Otherwise your first impression would have been much less favorable.

Pendant by Eekazookie

After the failed attempt to leave Tommy at the shelter, I boarded him at Gateway Animal Hospital. Boarding at Gateway was cheap, and for good reason. Tommy lived in a cage. When I’d come by after work to walk him, he’d burst out of the building and bounce down Los Feliz Boulevard, while I self-consciously tried to assume some semblance of control.

I met a woman in the waiting room who knew the pit bull breed. She became enamored with Tommy when he smothered her with sloppy kisses (“You’re really lucky,” she said). Love bites went along with those kisses, and she advised me to be firm with him. “Pit bulls need a strong hand.” Then she told me to visit Julie at Wagville.

Wagville offers cage-free day care and boarding with a pet boutique storefront. While waiting for Julie, I realized since finding Tommy I’d opened a door to a foreign world previously unknown to me. Not unlike Dorothy landing in Oz, I’d stepped into the World of Dogs, inhabited by obsessed people who spent billions of dollars a year on, and whose entire lives revolved around, their dogs. In less than a week I’d become one of them.

Julie said I could board Tommy at Wagville at a reduced rate while I looked for a place to live but only after he was neutered.

I hated the thought of him recuperating in that cage, so I put out a plea to the Echo Park Animal Alliance. Jen Byrne replied within minutes, which is remarkable. Since joining the list three years ago, I’ve seen countless dogs needing help and countless pleas for fosters. Many times those pleas go unanswered. With Jen’s quick response, I felt as if Tommy had guardian angels watching out for him.

Tommy got neutered and, with a cone around his head, went to camp out at Jen’s in Atwater Village while I looked for a new place to live. Three weeks later I moved into the duplex in Pasadena and settled in with the cats.

There’s a lot to be said about those three weeks but I’ll save that story for another time, because this story is about Valentine’s Day, the day, three years ago, that I picked up Tommy at Jen’s to start our new life together.

On the way home I stopped at Petco in Glendale. Tommy sniffed the shelves with the enthusiasm of a 2-year-old boy let loose in a candy shop. An employee laughed at Tommy’s energy and asked how old he was. Before I could answer, Tommy popped up into his face. The employee stood before me with his hand to his lip and a look of horror on his face, which I returned.

“Oh my God, did he just bite you?”

He looked at his hand, revealing the blood on his lower lip.

“He just bit me.” Disbelief with disgust mingled in his voice.

“Oh my God, I’m sorry.”

I feebly said it over and over as he, pissed–and rightly so–turned toward the employees-only area to attend to his wound.

Overwhelmed, I left the store and drove the stray pit bull home. The honeymoon was over before it had even begun. And things got worse before they got better.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

No Guarantees

I should’ve brought Tommy to the nearest animal shelter after I picked him up at Beverly and Rampart, but all I knew about shelters at that time was that countless dogs, particularly pit bulls, were put to death, and I didn’t want to see that happen to him. But I wasn’t in a position to keep him so I had to do something.

The Lacey Street shelter was closed the day he woke up in my bed, so after walking him around the Franklin Hills, I brought him to my vet to board him. I returned the next day to take him to the shelter.

A cacophony of barking dogs, out of sight behind cement walls, greeted me as I stepped out of the car. Tommy was on high alert.

Inside I loitered around the reception area while a couple signed papers and talked to a shelter worker at the front desk. A few other people sat waiting. I walked down the hallway and checked out the bulletin board crowded with cards and flyers of lost dogs. I hung a FOUND DOG flyer with Tommy's picture.

Cages filled with cats were stacked along one wall. I didn’t see any dogs though they made their presence known. The barking was relentless. Tommy’s agitation grew so I stepped outside with him.

A woman led a medium-sized dog past us, exacerbating Tommy's excitement. He barked and whined and bucked up just as a shelter employee, a man in a navy blue jumpsuit, walked by. With a nod of his chin he said, “He’s aggressive, huh?”

I knelt down to calm Tommy. “No, he’s just excited.”

I told him I wanted to place first adoption rights on Tommy but I wasn't sure how it worked.

"So I leave him for 5 days and if no one has claimed him, I can take him home?"

The guy shook his head. "No guarantees," he said.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"No guarantees."

"But if I have first adoption rights and come back after 5 days..."

"You know how many pit bulls get put down here every day? No guarantee he’ll still be here when you come back."

I was horrified.

He shook his head. "If you want to save this dog, don't leave him here..."

And with that he sauntered through the glass doors into the shelter leaving Tommy's fate in my hands.

I walked to the car and drove back to the vet.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Meet Ponchito

Remember the Hahamongna Chihuahua?

I found him running alongside Hahamongna Watershed Park last August. Rita took him in, called him Ponchito the Fierce Warrior, and he’s been at Starcrest ever since. Apparently all the “girls” love him. That scruffy little guy is treated like a king, carried from his condo to the yard and back again. One morning I saw him from a distance and yelled out to the young woman coddling him, “Is that Ponchito?” She put him down and he wagged his tail at the sound of my voice. What do you know, he remembered me. 

Tommy and I explored Hahamongna last week with Petrea of Pasadena Daily Photo fame. Today's post is about L.A. County Department of Public Works' misguided sediment removal plan and what we can do to try and prevent Hahamongna's destruction. I'm honored Tommy gets to be Hahamongna poster child and photo of the day. Check him out.

I wish every dog could be as lucky as Ponchito. And as a lover of animals of all kinds, I hope the wild ones of Hahamongna can be saved.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

That First Night

It was a little over three years ago that I coaxed the stray dog into my car with a couple of burgers and drove away with him in the back seat. Customers watched as if I were crazy.

Aimless, I found my way to Catts & Doggs, where the salesclerk gave me a donated leash and harness and came out to help put it on "Butch," which is what I first called him, inspired by his playful, macho energy.

The clerk approached gingerly. Who knew how a stray pit bull would react? But Butch just smothered the guy in sloppy kisses.

The harness was snug but it would do. I picked up a friend in Silver Lake, and we returned to Beverly and Rampart to try to find Butch's human. We walked around a 'hood I would have avoided had it not been for the pit bull by my side. Only one person recognized him. Apparently he'd been wandering the streets for days when some guy took him in. The apartment manager wouldn’t have it, so he turned the dog loose on the street again. That’s the only clue to his past I ever learned.

By now it was late afternoon. I had plans for a belated birthday dinner with a few friends. I didn't want to cancel my own celebration, but I was still stuck with the pit bull. My coworker and friend Kim, an animal lover, agreed to watch him, so I drove to her place in Pasadena. As I waited outside with Butch, I saw in a flash he looked like Tommy Lee Jones. I mentioned it to Kim, who reacted the way everyone has since: she laughed, took a second look, and then exclaimed, "He really does look like Tommy Lee Jones!" The name stuck, re-enforced by the place where I picked him up a couple of hours ago:  Original Tommy's Hamburgers.

Cuidad (now Border Grill) was lovely, but I worried about what to do with Tommy. I secretly hoped Kim would keep him for the night, but, though Tommy and Buddy played relentlessly, Kim was concerned for the cats. I called a sister on the East Coast, and we discussed my options. I could keep him in my car overnight, but what if he tore the interior to shreds? I could sleep with him in the car, but how much sleep would I get? I could get a room at the Vagabond Inn, a dog-friendly hotel, but $100/night was a splurge. I decided on my last best option: sneak him into my apartment.

When I opened the car door, Tommy jumped right in as if he belonged with me. No hesitation like he'd displayed earlier in the day, no hamburgers required to coax him in.

I pulled into the apartment parking garage at midnight. Fortunately no one was around, and I managed to get to my 3rd-floor studio without being seen.

Tommy explored the apartment with gusto, sniffing every square inch. He went up to Ramona, who arched her back and hissed so he backed off. I thought it safest to separate him so I locked him in the bathroom on a makeshift bed, but he whined until I gave up and let him out. He then jumped on the bed, curled up in a tight ball in the middle of it, and fell asleep. I crawled into bed with him. Across the room, Ramona kept a watchful eye from her perch on the couch. Frieda, still young and naïve, joined us on the bed. Curious, she placed her front paws on me and peeked over my body to get a good look at the pit bull on the other side. Poor girl. She had no idea he would soon be the bane of her existence.

Tommy didn’t leave me much room. In my cramped spot, I reflected on the day: WTF?! I was in bed with a stray dog who’d been living on the streets. What had I done?!

I had a fitful night’s sleep exacerbated by Tommy’s masculine snores.

My eyes popped open when my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. Tommy lazily got out of bed, stretched into the perfect downward-facing dog, and licked me good morning.

We snuck down to the garage and I drove a few blocks and parked. In the early morning light, I walked Tommy along the windy streets of the Franklin Hills neighborhood and planned my next step.

A few weeks later I relayed the Tommy story to a coworker. She asked what I did with him that first night and when I told her we both laughed at how funny it sounded.

Yep, we slept together that first night, but it was to be no one-night stand.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Risky Business

Tommy has boundless energy. He needs to run, and because I don't have a fenced yard, I'm always on the lookout for places to let him off leash, like...

A vacant house for rent on Lake Avenue...

Elliott Middle School courtyard...

Mosaic Church basketball court...

And a vacant house for sale on Holliston in Altadena...

I snuck into that yard when on a walk with Veronica. She said, "You're brave." I replied, "No, I'm desperate."

Sunday I walked over three and a half hours throughout the day to burn off Tommy's excessive energy.

I'm happy to say I closed on my house today. In a couple of months I won't have to risk trespassing around town so Tommy can run. I can just open the back door. It's going to be a good year.

I have a tweaked conscience as I consider the bad news this morning. My statement that it's going to be a good year seems self-absorbed while Tucson mourns the loss of loved ones, children have been swept away in Australian floods, and a beautiful oak grove in Arcadia has been demolished. It's an odd juxtaposition: my personal good fortune against a backdrop of tragedy, of which I listed only a handful. I feel lucky and sad.