Saturday, October 29, 2011


It’s been three weeks since Phoebe died. And, since we walked everywhere, miles and miles, people knew her far and wide. Every day someone I haven’t seen for awhile, or someone I didn’t even know we knew, will ask, “How’s Phoebe?”

Sometimes I respond pragmatically: “I had to put her down this month.” Or, if it’s someone who met us from the get-go, my throat tightens, I clutch my fist to my chest and fold into a scrunchy face. Best of all, though, thus far, is when I lie, “She’s fine, thank you,” and keep walking.

I remember when Phoebe and I first met. It was at Boxer Rescue.

Boxer Rescue works sort of like a matchmaking service; you give your requirements and wait in a sitting area as they bring out likely candidates, one by one. The first guy was a black and white boxer, nice chap, docile. They brought out another, and another. No, no, not quite right…

Then a van pulled up to the shelter and out popped Phoebe. She had just been returned after an unsuccessful adoption, and they were trying to hurry her through the waiting room.

“Is she upset?” whispered the shelter manager to the handler.

“She’s really mad.”

“Wait!” I said.

Because Phoebe was the most beautiful dog I’d ever seen.

“Wait,” I said. “I’d like to walk her around the block.”

The manager and handler whispered some more, then leashed Phoebe up, and I walked her. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a breed rescue before, but they are situated in industrial areas, surrounded, alternately, by places that sell broken car parts and then other breed rescue facilities. Phoebe lunged at every fence we passed.

Oh no, I thought, no. The dog I’d loved most in life had had a horrible temperament when it came to other dogs, and I just couldn’t see going through another decade of fights and bites.

And yet…

We got back to the waiting room and I said I didn’t think she would work for me. But a family had entered, with several kids. And the father took Phoebe’s leash and said to his wife, “This, Gracie, is one beautiful dog.”

Phoebe sat perfectly still like a statue -- staring off at some point in the distance, as though none of us existed.

“Alan, I don’t know … she’s so big … and, I don’t know…”

I realized something, suddenly. “Phoebe,” I said to her. “Phoebe.” Just that. And she looked in my eyes.

The father said, “Gracie, I like her.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, and took the leash from his hand. “She’s mine.”

Some people have said to me, “Oh, losing your dog is like losing your child.” I disagree. My dog is not like anything or anyone else. We have a dog to human relationship; we look after each other in unique and lovely ways. We reach across the spectrum of species and somehow find agreement, trust, and affection. My dog is my dog.

Or more precisely, of course, my dog was my dog – though I’m not entirely able to face that yet.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Walking Bobby

"That's a handsome dog you've got there. What's his name?"

"His name is Bobby. Are you from around here?"

"No, we're interlopers. We thought you might invite us over for dinner. Have you lived here long?"

"All my life. Let me tell you something...what was I going to say... it will come to me ... Oh yes, speaking of dinner, my father was married to Julia Child's mother. Did you know Julie Child grew up in Pasadena?"

"So I've heard. You must have had some really good dinners."

"Oh, yes. But let me tell you something."

"What's that?"

"My wife was a better cook."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I can scare the life out of my friends -- all I have to do is lift my camera and take their picture. Really. Somehow, and certainly without trying, I seem to find the worst light, angle, pose. What can I say -- it's a gift. I've horrified five people this past month alone.

Here are some photos from last week's meet-up with Virginia, Katie, Kathy, Tash, Petrea, Ron, and Judy. But just so these lovely people will speak to me again in this lifetime, I won't say who is who.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Art appreciation

At the Getty

And Maier

Friday, October 21, 2011

Overheard at the Huntington

"It's always like this, always! I try to explain how I feel and you never listen. I might as well be talking to this tree or that wall. You never listen to a word I say."

"Shhh. For god's sakes, lower your voice or someone might hear you."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mud Wrestling -- be there

Occasionally I revert to the bad-temper and cynicism of my youth. This has been known to happen when I visit my siblings, for example, or after losing a tennis match.

Or when I attend civic meetings, particularly when the meeting is held on a weekend in the early morning at a high school cafeteria and I’m sitting in one of those cement-like student chairs, about to endure an endless lecture and power point presentation. Oh my god, it’s Saturday and I’m back in detention all over again.

This past weekend LA County held a public forum regarding plans for the massive removal of acres of sediment in Hahamonga,

The rest on Patch

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Metaphors mixed, with salt

Of all the ways to exit this world – drinking, fast cars, lion taming, rock climbing – mine will probably be death by liverwurst.

I’m not sure about the exact components of liverwurst, though grease plays the starring role. I’m guessing the ingredients are something like fat, fat, fat, fat, fat , fat, pig organs, fat. Bucking the tide of current nutritional wisdom, I take mine with a dollop of mayonnaise.

It’s my comfort food. What we ate as kids, after a long day skiing. It warmed us up, along with a thermos of tea and a hit of brandy if we complained our toes were cold. My toes were always cold.

At every new school, my sister and I were the pumpernickel kids. The ones who unwrapped sandwiches of thick black bread slathered in suspicious meat bi-products and fragrant cheese, while everyone else tucked into peanut butter and fluffernutter. And just to make sure we could strike the gong on the cholesterol scale, my mom topped it all off with a hard-boiled egg.

Probably I was so popular because I never asked to trade lunch.

Last week, I loaded the fridge with all the foods of my childhood. Let me tell you, that shit tastes foul. I didn’t remember it was quite that bad -- a frontal assault when I opened the refrigerator door. Now even the cream in my coffee carries a whiff of Braunschweiger.

I’ve sworn off equating life to a deck of cards. Though I’m not sure why, because life is like a deck of cards. If you hang around for awhile, you’ll learn to play all sorts of hands. You have to. Sometimes your cards will be sweet, so sweet, and sometimes they’ll just smell like liver. It’s my personal opinion that any hand falling between these two extremes will benefit by a certain amount of bluffing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The big yes

Janet Aird and Petrea Burchard took the long walk with me this weekend when I put Phoebe down.

Received this message from Janet today:

Seeing how much you loved Phoebe really made me realize how much I loved having a dog. I hope this doesn’t make you feel sad, but on Sunday I got an overwhelming impulse to jump back into the pool. We met at the humane society in Pomona on Tuesday and this is what she looked like last night after a big day of getting spayed and coming home.

No name yet! Very tempted to call her Stumpy, for obvious reasons once you see her.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thank you, thank you

For the comments on my blog and on Patch. For the emails. For the cookies and offers of food (those are like groupons, right? They don’t expire for a year?). For Albert’s dog treats. For the wine, and the wine, and the wine (some people know me too well). For the cards and the flowers. And the poems. For the visits and walks. For taking me to the vet and seeing me home. For sending me forgotten pictures. For taking me to Azusa and Glendora until we were totally lost so we laughed and we laughed. For Phoebe’s painting. For allowing the face wash. For sending my girl off in style and with affection.

Thank you, thank you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Clear eyes

As I’ve been crying on your virtual shoulder all week, thought I’d share a couple of things nice. Yours is not the only dry-cleaning I’ve ruined. An amazing number of people in the neighborhoods around here knew Phoebe.

Since Saturday, when I walked Albert, people in passing would ask about Phoebe. And before you knew it they were hugging me and I was drooling on their jacket.

But this evening I ran into someone I’ve known for 10 years. He has a min pin, a friend of Phoebe’s. This min pin is the same age as Phoebe; was brown when was P was brown. They grayed together.

This guy asked after Phoebe, and I told him what happened. And I didn’t dissolve into a wet and sticky mess.

When we hugged, he asked me, “How should I prepare myself? My dog is old, any advice?”

And I thought about it for the rest of the walk. Here's my advice: Don’t prepare. Don’t steel yourself ahead of time as it won’t make a lick of difference. Just give your dog or cat or whatever friend, one more kindness than is usual, every day. This will bring you comfort.

I wrote my Patch piece about Phoebe. As if I could write about anything else. And I like what I wrote; it’s not the slobbering piece you’ve come to expect from me. Really. It’s measured and true. Respectful, loving; what she deserves. At least, I think it is. I wouldn't entirely trust my own judgment quite yet.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Our viking funeral

My dog tags are really dog tags. I wear them whenever I need good luck or courage. Phoebe's tag is now with two of Bru's. And always a St Christopher's medal for safe passage.

And then, a bit of music that Phoebe and I always enjoyed together.

Cast away, dear girl, if that's the way things have to be.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Miss you, forever

There was never such a dog. Never.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Well, why not

FOPS (Friends of Phoebe's) stop by for a face wash.

Phoebe gets her licks in on the charming Roberta, of Latino Heritage.

The lovely Janet Aird came by to get her glasses cleaned.

Courtney, who blogs at Musebootsi

Petrea, of course, Pasadena Daily Photo.

My face is always clean, thank you very much.

Phoebe made a wish, and here's her friend Debbie, AKA Debbies Book. If I had been faster on the draw, we'd have pictures of Bellis and Robert, too. Oh, P is on all fours, these are just her glamour shots.

If you can find your way to my place in the next week, please send an email. I'd like to take a photo of the two of you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


She's been old for a long time in every way but her heart. She got a probable diagnosis of bone cancer today; when I call for the final test results tomorrow it's just a formality. They wanted to show me the x-rays, but I wouldn't let them.

Knowing something was wrong, and something was bound to go wrong anyway, given her 15+ long years on earth, doesn't, oddly, make this one bit easier. It's ok if it's hard on me, I just won't let it be hard on her.

The bad thing about Google is that it leaves, in this case, nothing to hope. This part of her little body will fail, then this, then this.

She's at home, and the pills brought her back to happy today. I won't let her go out sad, so must time this exactly right. She must go out with love and joy still alive in her soul. And that's going to fucking kill me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Night Noise

Do you know this one? I love the oboe. It plays twilight.

I'm sure Albrecht Mayer is very popular with the ladies, but this just looks nerdy to me.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Amanda Knox

Yes, I know, the Amanda Knox trial has been way off your radar. Amanda who? you say.

That’s what happens when all my friends bury their nose in Schopenhauer and Plato. Well, opposites attract.

But if you ever do catch up on this story, here is why I know she’s innocent. Amanda has been tried and convicted of murdering her roommate on the premise that she has insatiable sexual appetites. So, ok; then give us one former boyfriend who has a story to tell. One. Because, you know, you can't be a sex kitten without the sex. And if there had been previous boyfriends, at least one would have come forth to feast on the incredible fortune awaiting him via magazines, television, interviews, books.

You know what scares me? Aside from this case, I mean. What if a young girl, trapped in this same situation, had a sexual history. She'd stand no chance, would she? Unless, of course, she knew Berlusconi.