riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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Writers and Dogs

Ruby snow cone nose

My dog, Ruby

I think every writer should have a dog (if possible).

Dogs are the ultimate companions for people who like to be alone. They’re quiet enough to let you work, but active enough to unglue you from the chair every now and then. They’re more demanding than cats, but less demanding than children or other adults. You can concentrate with a dog in the room. You can read with a dog outside (I do this every day). They open your eyes to things, and take you outside of your head. They keep you grounded.

Dogs also give us the opportunity to love and nurture another being. Initially, I was worried that owning a dog might be too distracting, but I actually enjoy the responsibility. Sometimes it’s frustrating, like the other day when I had to stop a really great writing flow to take her to a vet appointment. But ultimately, it’s always rewarding (I was glad I took her to the vet).

Their loyalty is good for the soul, perhaps even the ego, which we all know is fragile with writers. Dogs never get mad at you, or criticize you, or even question you. All they want is to please you, to be near you, to love and be loved by you. People have told me that when I leave a room, Ruby will stare at the door until I return. That loyalty is another reason why she’s allowed to be off-leash so much. She might run off to chase something, yes. But she would never just run away.

Ruby and farm2

Ruby brings so much into my life, it’s hard to put it into words. She has helped (and continues to help) me heal from loss. She makes me laugh. She reminds me to play and be curious, to stretch and get plenty of rest. She provides me with companionship and affection. She protects me better than any alarm system. She also provides structure to my day, which is broken up into three-hour stretches of work followed by a 30-minute break outside (longer when it’s warm out). She sleeps while I’m working, but when I’ve worked for longer than usual, or past a certain hour, she will come over and put a paw on my leg, like “okay, it’s time to stop now.” Sometimes I feel like I belong to her, not the other way around.

The other day I told a friend that “if I were to die before my dog, she would be my main concern.” I try not to think about it very often, or of the more likely scenario that she will go before me. But every now and then I remember that Ruby and I only have a relatively short time together (hopefully, the long end of short). My next thought is always the same, “That’s why I’m giving her the very best life I possibly can.” Whenever that day comes, I will mourn her terribly, but I will also know that she lived a great life, full of fun and love, and we gave each other all that one could possibly give to another.

Here are some photos of other writers and their dogs (many of which I got from here):

Amy Hempel

Donna Tartt and Pongo (photo by Jill Krementz)

Dorothy Parker and Misty (photo by Roy Schatt)

E.L. Doctorow and Becky

Edith Wharton and her pups

John Steinbeck and Charley

Kurt Vonnegut and Pumpkin

Maurice Sendak and Herman (photo by Tim Knox)

Maurice Sendak and Herman (photo by Tim Knox)

Stephen King

Virginia Woolf and Pinka (photo by Gisele Freund)

William Faulkner and pups (photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson)

For those of you who own cats, you’re also in good company.

Tennessee Williams and Sabbath

William S. Burroughs and Ginger

William S. Burroughs and Ginger

More pictures of writers and dogs: https://www.tumblr.com/search/writers%20and%20dogs

A fun post about pets who were loved by famous authors: http://www.brainpickings.org/2013/04/29/literary-pets/

A site that shows writers at work – some with their pets: http://writersatwork.pfauth.com/

Happy creating!


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You Know You’re a Dog Person When

Ruby just turned two years old. This one’s for her. 🙂

YOU KNOW YOU’RE A DOG PERSON WHEN:

Your home resembles a graveyard.graveyard

Your dog has a bed in every room of the house, plus the car.

Ruby sleeping beautyRuby upside downJT - Ruby asleep

Your dog sleeps on your bed — rather, she shares her biggest bed with you.

Ruby hiding in bed

You talk to your dog all day and are convinced she understands what you’re saying.

You rate your day by how many times your dog poops in the morning. 1x =  an average day. 2x = a great day. 3x = you might get a promotion at work or win the lottery.

You analyze your dog’s poop like a tea reader.

You know your vet’s number by heart.

You ask your dog questions like “how was your day?” and “are you mad at me?”

You can read your dog’s looks:

“No, I will not get out of bed. It’s Sunday.”Ruby in the morning

“Do we really have to watch Downton Abbey at full volume?”

Ruby giving me stink eye

“I just woke up and realized it’s been two days since you gave me a bone.”

Ruby giving me a look

You will drive up to an hour to take your dog to a new off-leash hike trail — or the beach.

Ruby carrying big stick

Taking it all in

You will give your dog the last drops of water on a hike.

hot ruby

You try not to judge other people by how your dog reacts to them.

You try not to judge other people by how well – or badly – behaved their dog is.

You try not to give strangers advice on how to train their dogs — but it’s hard since you’ve worked so hard to train yours.

canine good citizen

Your dog has more boyfriends than you do.

Ruby boyfriend

You set up more play dates for your dog than you do for yourself.

You question moving to a different neighborhood or state because what about your dog’s friends?

Ruby and friendsruby and friends2

You will buy another dog’s toy on the spot so that your dog can play with it.

Ruby and Cuivre

You have an iTunes playlist for when your dog is alone that includes Mozart, Bach and Philip Glass. You think this music has made your dog smarter.

You put sunscreen on your dog’s face.

SB - Douglass beach - sandy dog

You let your dog roll in whatever she wants, even if it means giving her a bath afterwards.

Ruby rolling in itruby rolling in grassDirty Ruby

You feel sorry for people who don’t have dogs.

You’re wary of people who don’t like dogs.

You judge cities by how dog-friendly they are.

Hollywood Ruby

It takes you 30-45 minutes to explain how, when and why you adopted your dog.

Ruby

You celebrate your dog’s birthday.

Your favorite moment of the day is waking up to your dog.

Ruby sleeping and smiling

Your second favorite moment of the day is coming home to your dog.

Ruby and me

 Are you a dog person? 


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The Joy of Hiking With a Dog

Lately, the activity that brings me the most joy is hiking with my dog Ruby. During the week we spend so much time cooped up in the car/office/daycare/apartment, that on the weekends we both crave the freedom of being outside. The goal is to eventually hike every other day, but for the moment, we are weekend warriors. We do a regular Sunday morning hike with a friend, and, on Saturdays, we venture out just the two of us.

Our Sunday hike happens to be in the middle of a city park, but other trails are farther away. We only hike off-leash trails like Runyon Canyon and Westridge  Canyonback Wilderness Park.

Runyon Canyon, LA

Runyon Canyon, LA

I have many friends who won’t let their dog off the leash except in an enclosed area like a yard or dog park, the fear being that the dog will run off – either after another animal (like a squirrel), into a nearby road, or just run off out of curiosity and end up lost. People also worry about their dogs reacting to other dogs and people. All valid concerns. 

If you want to hike with your dog off-leash, your dog MUST:

– be friendly with other dogs and people

– be obedient (i.e. come, sit, stay and leave it on command)

– be in good physical shape

If any of these things is a concern, then hiking off-leash might not be for you, at least not right away. You can socialize your dog to be friendly with other dogs and people, and train it to be obedient. You can also put your dog on a diet and condition it to take longer walks, unless it’s too old or sick.

If these things are NOT an issue, then I highly recommend  taking your dog out on the trail when and wherever possible. Not only is it great exercise for both of you, but it’s also a wonderful way to bond with your canine companion.

Ruby happy to be hikingSomeone once told me that hiking off-leash enforces the “pack leader” mentality, which I can’t prove but tend to believe. When Ruby is on the leash, she instinctively wants to go ahead. But when she is off-leash, she walks right beside me or right behind me, like my shadow.

She also runs off at intervals, but she A) regularly stops to wait for me, B) stops the minute I call her name, and C) always comes back when I tell her to. More often than not, she comes back on her own after she’s finished exploring.

Ruby far away on hillRuby in field2ruby running down hill

Other things to keep in mind when hiking with a dog, on or off the leash:

– Bring plenty of water for both you and the dog. I once encountered a man carrying his dog down the trail because it was dehydrated (and it was a hot summer day). I offered him some of our water, and they made it the rest of the way down okay. It goes without saying, don’t hike in the hottest hours.

– Bring an extra leash. I once lost Ruby’s leash on a trail and had to face the prospect of carrying her several blocks from the trail’s entrance to my car. Luckily, another hiker offered to double leash her dog with Ruby, so for a few blocks the dogs walked side by side.

– If it’s a long hike, I recommend bringing snacks but only giving them once you stop for a rest. I once gave Ruby treats while we were actually hiking, and she threw them all up when we reached the summit. Other dogs also kept coming over to us because they smelled the treats in my hand. What works better is keeping treats in your bag until you get to the summit (or the mid-way point). I don’t bring treats on every hike, but definitely the long/difficult ones.

– After a hike, check your dog’s body for ticks, cuts or burrs. A few weeks ago, Ruby got a large, bloody scratch on her arm and a tick on her left paw from running through brush. I removed the tick in the car, and treated her scratch when we got home.

– Bring a first aid kit. I actually need to get one of my own. Right now, our Sunday hiking friend always brings one.

– Bring poop bags. I pick up after Ruby even when we’re out in the wilderness, and yes, have trekked for over an hour with her stinky poop in my backpack. I had never been so happy to see a trashcan.

– Have a charged phone and your vet’s number in it, just in case something happens.

– Be aware of the local wild life (snakes, bears, mountain lions, coyotes, hawks, etc.). Personally, I wouldn’t hike off-leash with a small dog in Los Angeles. I’ve heard of hawks snatching Chihuahuas right in front of their owners (!). We’ve also encountered horses on the trail, and I immediately put Ruby on the leash. When the rider said his horses don’t mind dogs, I let her off. Both the horses and Ruby were totally calm.

When in doubt, approach hiking with your dog like you would hiking with a child. You want to balance the fun with common sense. Your dog will thank you for the fresh air, the exercise and especially the freedom to just be a dog and sniff, run and play to its heart’s content. She will also sleep for the rest of the day.  🙂

Ruby rolling in itRuby carrying big stickRuby playing with stick

Here are some other sites with advice on hiking with dogs:

http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/outdoor-activities/hiking/hike-with-your-dog.htm

http://www.outdoors.org/publications/outdoors/2013/features/a-hikers-best-friend.cfm

http://phoenix.about.com/od/anim/a/hikingdogs.htm

And this site will tell you where there is an off-leash trail near you (anywhere in the world).

Until the next hike!!

Ruby in field3


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Six Legs in the Bed

It should be no surprise to anyone that I sleep with my dog. I’ve blogged about giving up on crate training. I’ve posted a picture of her on the bed. Truth is, she’s been sleeping on my bed – and I’ve been receiving flack for it – practically since day one. My 84-year old father has been the most vocal about his displeasure, presumably on behalf of the entire family.

Him: “It’s just not right. Dogs should not sleep on beds, period.”

Me: “Why? Where is that written?”

Him: “It’s not written anywhere. It’s just common sense. Dogs are dirty and you don’t want that mess in your bed.”

Me: “But she doesn’t sleep in the bed. She sleeps on the bed.”

Him: “It’s not right, I’m telling you.”

Several months ago his tune changed slightly.

Him: “Well, it’s your bed. I guess you can do what you want with it.”

Me: “Thank you.”

Him: “But I still don’t think it’s right, and I don’t know what you’re going to do when you visit other people.”

Me: “Your concerns have been noted, and I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

Of course, my father has a point. No one wants this dog on their bed.

Dirty Ruby

By now, however, she knows the routine. When we return home after playing down and dirty at the dog park or beach, she follows me to the bathroom and hops into the bathtub to receive a very thorough wash from head to toe without squirming or crying. I think baths make her feel better because afterwards she literally hops around the apartment like a gazelle on speed.

Like any little lady, she also always “bathes” herself – twice – at night and in the morning. There’s a reason why the three most common compliments she receives are: “beautiful… well-behaved… clean.”

Ruby sitting pretty

Shedding is another matter. She does leave little white hairs everywhere, but most of the time she sleeps on top of a blue blanket that I wash every week.

Rare are moments like the other night when I returned from brushing my teeth to find this:

Ruby hiding in bed

(For the record, she was still on top of the top sheet.)

Then there is the negotiation of space. I still sleep on the same side of the bed I did when Kaz was here. Ruby usually falls asleep at the bottom half of the bed, and uses my foot as a pillow. We shift in the middle of the night – me to my right side, she to a curled up ball behind my legs. We shift again in the morning – me to my left side, she completely stretched out (vertically) from one end of the bed to the other.

Sometimes she sleeps like this:

Ruby upside down

She continues sleeping while I shower, get dressed, prepare breakfast and put on my makeup. But when I enter the room with my usual “Good morning sunshine, time for breakfast,” I always find her lying on her stomach, bright-eyed, wagging her tail. I imagine she slowly wakes up to the sounds of me puttering about the apartment.

On the weekends, we both sleep in… until she gives me this look, which means it’s time to get up:

Ruby wanting to go out

I know it’s unorthodox. I know it will complicate matters if/when I start dating again (she will adapt). I also know I’m not alone. The lady who ran her Vermont daycare slept with her husband and four other large dogs (five when Ruby lived there) in the bed. And the lady featured in this 2011 New York Times article sleeps with a pot-bellied pig, two kittens and three terriers.

From that NYT article:

Figures vary, but according to a recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 to 62 percent of the 165 million dogs and cats in this country sleep in bed with humans, with other surveys skewing higher.

Another study warns that… allowing pets to sleep in the bed can be dangerous and can spread zoonoses (pronounced zoh-AN-ee-sees), pathogens that go from animals to people… They cite instances of fleas from cats transmitting bubonic plague. Catch scratch fever is a danger, too, they say, as are various forms of meningitis, Pasturella pneumonia and other infections.

(Bubonic plague? Geez.)

All I know is having Ruby on the bed makes me feel super safe. More than anything, I find it comforting and bonding. I think she does too, as she sleeps beside me wherever I am in the apartment. As long as we’re both parasite-free, wound-free, allergy-free and disease-free, I can’t see the harm in waking up to this every day. Can you?

Ruby sleeping and smiling


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The Path to Good Citizenship

Remember when I blogged about my worries of becoming a dog lady? Screw that. I am totally a dog lady. In fact, I have high hopes for my Ruby. I would love for her to be a Therapy Dog.

[photo source: disabled-world.com]

[photo source: disabled-world.com]

A therapy dog is a dog that’s been trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, etc.  They come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A good therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted and handled, sometimes clumsily. In hospice environments, therapy dogs can play a role in palliative care by reducing death anxiety. [Wikipedia]

Kaz was visited by a therapy dog after his seizures. I wasn’t there to witness it, but his mother told me the encounter cheered him up immensely. I often think of him now when training Ruby. I feel like she has the right temperment for this unique job. She is calm, affectionate and very loving. People are naturally drawn to her. She’s even won over people who were initially afraid of her. She’s nowhere near ready to visit a hospital, or interact with tons of strangers. She needs a lot more training, and has to pass several hurdles. The first is the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test. 

[photo source: Wikipedia]

[photo source: Wikipedia]

To pass the CGC Test, a dog must perform the following:

•Test 1: Accept a friendly stranger

•Test 2: Sit politely for petting by a stranger

•Test 3: Sit politely while being touched and groomed by a stranger

•Test 4: Walk on a loose leash

•Test 5: Walk politely through a crowd (no lunging or barking)

•Test 6: Sit and down on command and stay in place (including when owner is over 10 feet away)

•Test 7: Come when called

•Test 8: React politely to another dog (no pulling, barking or lunging)

•Test 9: React calmly to distraction (Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane.)

•Test 10: Maintain good manners while owner is out of sight for 3 minutes 

Dodger and his owner Melissa after passing CGC test [photo source: pitsisters.org]

Dodger and his owner Melissa after passing CGC test [photo source: pitsisters.org]

Several weeks ago Ruby and I started taking weekend classes at a dog training facility that’s running a summer special. She passed Obedience 1 in one class, and Obedience 2 in two classes. This past weekend was her first Obedience 3, a class geared specifically toward preparing dogs for the CGC test. We’re with about ten other dogs, including a large grey poodle named Louie. He looks very similar to the dog pictured below.

[photo source: valleyviewdogs.com]

[photo source: valleyviewdogs.com]

Louie is so well-behaved, I’m not sure why he’s still in training. His owners, a somewhat pale and tired-looking husband and wife team, seem to be in control of his every thought and movement. If they weren’t so Jedi-focused on Louie, they might have noticed me and Ruby staring at them, dumbfounded.

At the end of class, we approached Louie’s parents and while our dogs played, I asked his parents how long he’s been training.

“Since he was a puppy,” they said. “Now he’s 13 months.” 

“You’ve done a fantastic job,” I gushed. “He seems perfect to me.”

“Thank you,” the woman smiled, “but he didn’t pass the test.” 

Apparently, Louie did everything perfectly until the very last test, when his owners had to leave him for 3 minutes. “He couldn’t handle it,” the woman sighed, then gave another little smile. “But we’re going to try again.”

By this point Ruby was running in circles around Louie trying to goad him into playing. Louie and his parents left, and I stayed behind to talk to the teacher. Does she think Ruby has what it takes?

“Absolutely.” She said even though Ruby might not be perfectly behaved like Louie yet, she is picking things up very quickly and she has a certain energy that will serve her well. She can be very still, calm and focused when she wants to be.

Who knows how far we will go, but we’re both having fun right now. I swear that training her is helping me in some way. I know it’s helping her. One day, if we work hard enough, we might get the opportunity to help others.

Ruby zen2


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Take a Journey to Joshua Tree

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know that I love getting away from the city to Joshua Tree National Park and the surrounding areas. I’ve written about it here, here and here. This past weekend, a national holiday here in the States, I went to The 29 Palms Inn, a motel where Kaz and I once stayed for his birthday. Quite a different experience travelling with a canine companion. For one, the motel didn’t feel quite as romantic as I remembered. I also noticed things I hadn’t noticed before, like the dozens of rabbits, lizards, birds, and hundreds, if not thousands, of ant hills, all of which Ruby gleefully pointed out to me.

We arrived just after sunset, a little later than expected but a beautiful time to view the hundreds of wind turbines near Palm Springs, part of California’s effort to use natural energy.

JT windmills

The next day we woke up a little after dawn to catch the sunrise.

JT sunrise

Ruby stared at the vista for a while. We were clearly very far from the city.

Ruby zenRuby zen2

I was a bit nervous bringing her to the desert in July, when temperatures can soar as high as 105 Farenheit. Before leaving I read some articles about how to manage with a dog in extreme heat. They all said to keep the dog out of the sun, hydrate the dog often, walk the dog only in the morning and evening, pay attention to signs of heat stroke and, if the dog is pale, apply sunscreen (dogs can get skin cancer too). I ended up taking her on a couple of early morning hikes and with lots of cold water and ice rubdowns, she managed pretty well.

We saw some amazing scenery.

JT vista5JT vista4JT vista3JT Ruby on hikeJT vista2.pgJT vista

JT tree

My city friends often ask me why I love going to the desert so much. I suppose it’s one of my favorite places to think and write. While I’m not a religious person, I have often felt a certain something while in the park, similar to how I felt at Mount Sinai in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula years back. Joshua Tree might not be as historically and religiously significant as Mount Sinai, but it contains a silent power nonetheless, and inspires a feeling I can best describe as oneness.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the name Joshua tree was given by a group of Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. Apparently, the tree’s unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. All I know is it’s a special place… and not without a sense of humor.

Joshua Tree is a favorite destination for rock climbers because of the incredible rock formations, formed 100 million years ago from the cooling of magma beneath the surface. Groundwater is responsible for the weathering that created the spheres from rectangular blocks. The most famous formations include Skull Rock, which looks quite a bit like a human skull.

(source: andreea.francu.com)

(source: andreea.francu.com)

There’s also Jumbo Rocks, Split Rock, and the Hall of Horrors rock formation where someone actually fell to their death last year.

Kaz and I used to play this game of naming the rock formations we would come across. I think if we had seen this one, we would have called it Listening Rock.

JT listening rock

This one might have been Hamburger Bun Rock.

JT doughnut rock

Overall, it was a great weekend. Hot but restful. I missed Kaz, missed having a person with me, but was grateful to not be entirely alone. Ruby made a good companion and charmed everyone she encountered. She seemed content to slow down, sleep in the shade and be near me in this hot, dusty, windy, wild-looking place. Times like these I feel very grateful to live in California.

JT Ruby and me

Do you have a place of natural beauty near you?

Related Articles:

http://www.energy.ca.gov/wind/overview.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yucca_brevifolia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joshua_Tree_National_Park


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Random Tying of Virtual Loose Ends

Here’s a random personal quirk for you – I can’t leave my house or sit down to write if there are dirty dishes in the sink. I think it’s some kind of aversion to unfinished business (and roaches). That has little to do with this post, except I was thinking I should follow up on a few recent posts before moving on to others.

He Who Hesitates is Poor – If you were reading the blog in April, you probably already guessed that I didn’t get the staff writing gig. If I had, there would have been a post already. I was a little disappointed but not surprised that I didn’t get it. I am very grateful for the interview, which was a great learning experience. Now I know what to expect in the future. Also, I can reveal that the show was JUSTIFIED (FX Networks). Any fans out there?  Some trivia about JUSTIFIED – the creator of the show, Graham Yost, got his big break when he sold the script for the future blockbuster movie SPEED. He’s also Canadian, a lovely man, and gracious interviewer.

Breaking Free of the Day Job – I decided not to quit my day job and instead spend the rest of this year finishing the book and writing the television pilot. The actors in the play I was going to direct couldn’t agree on the script, and the writer is going out of town for the summer, so that project is on hold for the time being (probably until fall). One less project on the plate right now is a good thing.

The Love of Cinema – In the comments, PaulaB at thetemenosjournal.com suggested a movie called THE VANISHING, about a man who searches for his missing wife for three years until he finally catches up with her abductor. I watched it a few weeks ago. Easily one of the scariest, most disturbing films I’ve ever seen, with no violence. It was brilliantly made. If you’re brave enough to check it out, I suggest watching the original Dutch version instead of the American version with Kiefer Sutherland and Jeff Bridges. Chances are you will only watch this film once. Hence, if you don’t mind subtitles, watch the original.

Rose Chimera at rosechimera.wordpress.com suggested BEN-HUR, which I also watched – twice – the second time with the commentary (with T. Gene Hatcher and Charlton Heston). Loved the film, and enjoyed the commentary too. Some trivia about BEN-HUR:

– Judah Ben-Hur was not a real person. He was a fictional character used as a witness to a historical event, similar to Scarlett O’Hara and Dr. Yuri Zhivago. In Ben-Hur’s case, he witnesses the Jesus story.

– The film was shot mostly at the famous Italian studio Cinecitta, the Italian countryside, and a couple of scenes in Israel. Between the preparation and shooting, Heston was in Italy with his wife and son for almost a year.

– The slave ship galley rowing scene was the most difficult for Heston. The oars were attached to rubber hinges which were made purposefully tight so the rowing would look realistic. It took several days to film the whole sequence so he was really tired by the end of it. (On a personal note, this sequence is one of the best in the film, second to the chariot race, and not just because Heston is half-naked and oiled up.)

– The actor who played Messala (Stephen Boyd) was actually Irish.

– The color red was purposefully used to signify Rome and “bad guys.”

– The infamous, absolutely F’ing brilliant, can’t-say-enough-about-it chariot race sequence was directed by Second Unit director, Andrew Marton. Contrary to rumor, no one was killed during the shoot, Heston is not wearing a wristwatch, and there is no Ferrari in the background of any shot. Both Heston and Boyd had to learn how to drive a 4-horse chariot for real. The production used 16 white horses and 16 black horses to represent their respective four horses and would switch them out when the horses got tired. The other chariot drivers were mostly horse handlers and character actors from American Westerns.  

– Heston repeatedly calls the director William Wyler “a nice guy” but “tough to work for.” He claims Wyler only gave him one compliment throughout the entire shoot. He also says Wyler is one of the best directors he’s ever worked with.

Thank you Paula and Rose for these great movie suggestions!

Last but not least, regarding Puppy Issues – Ruby still barks, but I’ve also become more vigilant about making her get quiet faster. I think she’s learning. In any case, we’re working on it. Here’s a recent picture of the wunder-pup with her favorite possession, a muddy ball.

Ruby, 11 months

Ruby, 11 months


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Puppy Issues

Ruby at the cafe

Ruby at the cafe

My baby girl is 10 months old now. I can hardly believe it! Seems like just yesterday she was this little pip-squeak. Soon it will be her 1 year birthday (July 7) and I’m already thinking of what to do for her. Before then, however, I need to deal with some of her new behaviors.

Issue #1 – She barks at people.

I know dogs bark and don’t expect my dog to be mute. But I’ve noticed that she’s barking more often lately in inappropriate situations. The other night I took her to a friend’s party and she barked at other guests entering the host’s house. She also barked at a guest walking out of the bathroom because he startled her. Last night she barked at a neighbor who wanted to take the elevator with us, then at a homeless man walking behind us on our evening walk (he wasn’t doing anything suspicious).

I always tell her “No” or “It’s okay, sshh,” then I tell the person, “She’s actually really friendly,” and they look at me like I’m nuts. Folks are already scared of her because she’s a pitbull. When she’s barking at them with the hair raised all along her back it’s hard to see the friendly side. To her credit, I’ve never seen her growl or bare her teeth at a person. Her barking doesn’t sound like “I’m going to kill you!” It sounds like “Stay away!”

What’s strange is that in other contexts, for instance when I take her to the cafe in the morning, she sits there like a little lady. She does the same thing at street lights or whenever I tell her to Sit. She also never barks at other dogs even if they’re barking at her. People are always saying how well-behaved and sweet she is.

I go out of my way to be friendly to people on our walks. In fact, I’m probably much more outgoing with her than without her because I know she picks up on my tone. Yet in certain situations, even when I’m being friendly, she starts barking at the person.

Is part of the issue that we live alone? She doesn’t get to interact with other people like she does with me. She’s also extremely attached to me and still follows me from room to room. My gut tells me it’s a combination of protectiveness, testing her assertiveness, shyness and/or a general wariness of strangers, especially men. But how does a puppy learn who is a creep and who isn’t? I suppose I have to bring her around people more, which means being less of a hermit (sigh).

Issue #2 – She has bursts of uncontrollable energy while on the leash.

For the most part, she walks/heels very well. She will walk right beside me without pulling for 75% of the average walk. She gets compliments on this too because people can’t believe a dog that young can walk that well.

However, if she sees a squirrel, bird, stick, small dog or any other interesting creature, all bets are off. She will either lurch forward with all her strength or jump in the air and twist her body around with excitement. If I don’t anticipate it, she could yank my arm out. When she does this around small dogs, albeit because she wants to play with them, it totally freaks them out – and who can blame them?! I haven’t been too strict about it because I figure she’s a puppy, that’s what puppies do. But as a friend recently pointed out, if I don’t curb it now soon she’ll be full-grown and going berzerk. Then what?

We’ve slacked off from puppy class the last few weeks, but this Saturday we’re going back to discuss these issues with her teacher.

Has your dog ever had these issues? If so, how did you deal with it?


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The 4-Legged One

I’m turning the attention for a moment to my puppy Ruby, who is 9 months old now. Growing like a weed. Still sweet, playful and goofy but maturing as well, both physically and emotionally.

JT - on the road

So far, this dog has been to New York City, Vermont, Santa Barbara and Joshua Tree. She’s flown in an airplaine, ridden in a taxi, SUV and flatbed truck. She’s played in snow, sand and now the dusty desert. She’s met probably up to 75 dogs (36 in Vermont alone) and has had no issues. When another dog barks or growls at her, she looks at it like, “What’s your problem? CHILL.”

JT - lips flapping

Our trip to Joshua Tree two weeks ago was enlightening for both of us (last post about that weekend, promise). She was off-leash almost the entire time, able to come and go as she pleased, sniff and explore to her heart’s content. And boy, did she take advantage.

JT - Ruby and cactus

She was very curious about hay and firewood. But her favorite activity was chasing pheasants. I think she would have chased them into the next state if I hadn’t called for her. To my relief, she would stop and turn around, then slowly make her way back (unless she saw another bird). It was sort of a test for both of us, because I’m not used to her being out of sight.

When she ran to a neighbor’s yard and started chasing their chickens, that was another story. Chickens can’t fly away and for this family they are food. Left to her own devices Ruby would definitely have caught up to “lunch on legs.” She had to go on the leash and then go inside, from which she had to suffer the chickens taunting her.

JT - Ruby and chicken

Despite the chicken incident, her training does seem to be working. She will Come, Sit, Down, Stay and Leave it consistently, even at the dog park. She knows Go To Your Crate, Go To Bed, Go Inside (the car), and Go to the Back(seat). I swear she is learning Finish Your Food.

She is, however, getting more protective. She doesn’t bark at other dogs, but she does sometimes bark at men walking towards us, or when she’s startled, when she sees a skunk, when she hears a noise (in real life or on TV), when it’s totally quiet, and sometimes when I’m startled.

The other morning, while taking a shower, I saw a roach crawling along the bathroom wall. “Oh hell no,” I exclaimed. The puppy started barking. Here I am, trying to kill the roach before it crawls away, and calm Ruby down at the same time, while standing in the shower. Comical.

I’m still trying to figure out this new side of her, the side that barks and growls at shadows in the night. Usually, placing my hand on her side will calm her down to a quiet “hrummph”, then a very low “grrr” before she falls asleep again. I don’t mind her being protective, but I don’t want her to be paranoid or over-protective.

JT - Ruby watching sunrise

JT - Ruby asleep

All I can do is keep training her. She’s coming into her own, finding her voice. My friend T recently said, “You realize, she thinks she owns everything.” I responded, “That’s okay. She can think whatever she wants, as long as she listens to me, wherever we are, no matter what’s going on, no exceptions.”

We’re not quite there yet, but getting there.

JT - Ruby in truck


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11 days in 90 seconds

It’s been a crazy week and a half, so crazy I had to stop blogging for a minute. Rather than write a long drawn out “this is what I’ve been up to” post, I thought I would just present the speed-reel version:

Thursday 3/21 – CLUTCH concert at House of Blues with Big B and his new lady friend. Clutch was Kaz’s favorite band. Two of their songs were played at his memorial. They play one of them at the show. I am crying, laughing and dancing at the same time.

Clutch

Friday 3/22 – Very hungover at work. Grateful that I scheduled the Sarah Gerkensmeyer interview ahead of time. Not grateful that I got the time wrong so it published at 8:00am in whatever part of the world WordPress is based, not 8:00am West Coast time.

Saturday 3/23 – Audition for Harley Davidson Breast Cancer Awareness campaign, which is seeking “female motorcyclists (size 6-8) who survived or know someone who survived breast cancer.” I am NOT a size 6-8 but fit the rest of criteria so WTF. At the audition, there are men and women, it doesn’t matter if you ride or not, and no one asks about breast cancer.

Ruby in car

Sunday 3/24 – Drop Ruby off at a behavior evaluation appointment at West side doggie daycare run by canine guru to the stars. Lobby looks like a hotel. Employees are overly formal and weird. Ruby passes test but I am not impressed.

Monday 3/25 – Work half day due to Passover. Yay Moses! Instead of Seder, I go home to write. My literary manager has stepped up pressure on the television pilot I was supposed to hand in 2 months ago. For the rest of the week I’m back to waking up at 4:00am, writing before, during and after work.

Tuesday 3/26 – Work half day due to Passover. Actually go to Seder this time, at a restaurant called Street with my good friend T (who has fender bender on the way). We sit at the bar. First time leaving Ruby alone and uncrated in the apartment for several hours. I figure it’s Passover, let her taste freedom too. Come home hours later to discover… apartment and puppy are fine! Elated and proud.

LA - passover at street

Wednesday 3/27 – Very hungover, tired, stressed. Consider breaking evening plans but haven’t seen this friend in 6 months. Show up to outdoor party with Ruby, who ends up vomiting 3 times in the middle of everything after eating wildflowers. Apologies all around. We leave early and both collapse at home.

Thursday 3/28 – Leave work early due to Good Friday holiday weekend. Yay Jesus! Go to El Coyote (infamous Mexican restaurant where Sharon Tate ate her last meal) to write. Manage to be productive on 3 margharitas. Write all night until dawn.

Friday 3/29 – HAND IN (very rough first draft) PILOT. Woo-hoo!
Sleep a few hours. Take Ruby to dog park, then to brunch with old college friend. Ruby chews threw her leash during meal but thankfully doesn’t run off. Go to pet store afterwards to buy new leash, then drop her off at babysitter. Spend the next 12 hours driving back and forth to San Diego with 4 other people in the car. We see a play called The Mountaintop about what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last night could have been like. Very good play. Worth 6 hours in cramped car with strangers. Pick up Ruby at 1:30am.

Saturday 3/30 – Take Ruby to a dog friendly beach in Santa Barbara, followed by stroll through the dog friendly Douglass Family Preserve (70 acre park with vistas of the Pacific). A beautiful and much needed relaxing day.

SB - Douglass beach trees

SB - Douglass beach - sandy dog

Taking it all in

SB - Douglass beach - sleeping dog

Sunday 3/31 – Clean entire apartment and do 4 loads of laundry while Ruby sleeps all day. Leave Ruby alone and uncrated again while I go to a Game of Thrones viewing party. Drink too much tequila. Come home to piles of poop (on the floor, not the rug). Clean it up before collapsing in bed.

Monday 4/1 – Hungover. But happy to be blogging again.