riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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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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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.


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Puppy update

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Believe it or not, these medications are all for the puppy. And she’s not even sick. She has a skin condition, an eye ailment, an issue with her right hind foot which she developed on one of our hikes and, as of yesterday, a small gash across the bridge of her nose because another older (probably unhappy) dog snapped at her in doggie daycare. With this cut on her face, her swollen eye and the small bits of hair missing from her coat, she now actually looks like a stereotypical fighting pitbull-in-training. Which couldn’t be farther from the truth, but I can’t explain that to everyone who sees her. This morning a woman saw her coming and crossed the street to avoid her. Little does she know my Ruby is a wanna-be lap dog, who happens to play rough and have delicate skin.

I must admit, I am not pleased about another dog biting her at daycare. I know things happen between animals but this is the second injury she’s sustained there since coming back from Vermont. I wrote about the first one a few weeks ago, the day she came home with a pronounced limp in her front paw. The limp healed and so will this cut, but still it’s annoying. Is this how mothers feel when their kids get hurt at school? Like, why isn’t someone watching these kids better? Sometimes I wonder if I’m being overly protective. I keep reminding myself “she’s a dog, not a child.” But I can’t seem to make the distinction. She might as well be my child, one with four legs and fur. She’ll never read or write or go to college, but I’m still investing in her education. She might not talk, but she definitely talks back. She’s willful and stubborn and oh so smart. And I swear she has a sense of humor. I feel like raising her is actually teaching me things that will make me a better mom to the potential human child I might one day have to beg, borrow or steal.

Anyway, the good news is she won’t be going back to this daycare again, at least for a little while. I had been wanting to find a cheaper solution for her during the day even before the face bite. And today, I think I did, via an old friend of my late husband.

Big B has a house with a fenced-in yard in Santa Monica, and an older female pit named Lacie. Lacie has white hairs around her muzzle and a waddling gate due to her big belly. When she wags her tail, her whole body sways to and fro. I’ve left Ruby with Lacie and Big B a few times, recently while at dentist appointments. Today Big B said I could bring her by any time. “Really?” I said. “Really,” he smiled. And that was that. We discussed specifics and agreed to take it one day at a time. But come Monday, we’re going to Big B’s for daycare. It will add another 30 minutes to my commute, but whatever. At least she’ll be outside running around with one dog, not inside all day with 20. And it will save me some money. So, fingers crossed.

Now, I just need to remember to give her all these medications, soak her back foot in the solution they gave me and put the ointment in her eye twice a day. And write.


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Class Picture

The owner of the doggie daycare in Johnson, Vermont just sent me this picture of Ruby and her friends. It’s like a doggie “class picture”! Hilarious.

Ruby is front and center. Izzy is near the back, in front of the Great Dane.

photo by Christine Bradley, Mountain Dog Daycare, Johnson, VT

photo by Christine Bradley, Mountain Dog Daycare, Johnson, VT


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Little Patch of Green

I miss many aspects of my residency time in Vermont: the beautiful vistas, the quiet, the crisp fresh air, the simplicity of the one-stop-light-two-bar town. I miss being surrounded by other artists, talking about and seeing art every day, the unlimited writing time, privacy and coziness of my office, the lack of responsibilities other than my work-study dishwashing job. I also miss seeing my puppy run around freely at her Vermont doggie daycare.

Home on the ranch

Home on the ranch

She lived on a ranch where the men in the family (grandfather, father, son) work in construction and logging. Their land included 50 acres of woods and a pond, which was frozen when we were there, but in the summer the dogs can swim in it. You can see the small dock below.

VT doggie daycare dogs

When I would come to visit her, every day for 1.5 hours, we did one of two things: play ball or go walking in the woods. On both activities we were always accompanied by the owner’s dog, Izzy.

Izzy, pack leader

Izzy

Izzy was the pack leader of the daycare dogs. She literally policed the other dogs and sort of took Ruby under her wings. She was also faster than all the other dogs and could find a ball buried in 3 feet of snow. I miss Izzy most of all, especially seeing her and Ruby together.

Ruby and Izzy waiting for ball

Ruby and Izzy waiting for ball

Now perhaps you can understand why I felt some pangs of guilt for taking her back to the urban jungle of Los Angeles where our “yard” is a small cement patio.

The good news is we recently learned of an abandoned field in our neighborhood. A neighbor told me about it when our dogs were saying hello to each other.

The other day Ruby and I went to investigate.

It’s a large grassy field, completely enclosed. Apparently, a house used to sit there but was torn down for some unknown reason and nothing’s been built there since. Best of all, it’s literally around the corner from where we live. The only reason I hadn’t seen it before is because it’s not on our normal route. I was surprised that it’s as empty as it is. No broken glass, trash or homeless people. Ruby can run around freely, chasing balls and smelling all there is to be smelled.

I don’t know how long this will last. Technically, we are trespassing. But we make sure to be quiet in the mornings, and we’re not the only ones who go there. The other day we met another woman and her dog. The woman told me that the adjacent neighbors are aware of these trespassing city dogs and their owners, and as long as we’re not being loud, trashing the place or doing drugs, no one seems to care.

Vermont it ain’t, but it’s our little patch of green for now.

Ruby in field2

Ruby profile in field


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Safe and Sound

Well, the puppy and I made it to the East Coast. Flight was smooth and uneventful. The most exciting thing was that we had a female pilot, which still seems rare. I asked one of the stewards to pass her a message, “Please tell the pilot there’s a 6 month old puppy down below and this is her first flight ever.” He said he would tell her.

I was a nervous wreck during take off and landing but the puppy managed just fine. When I left her she was falling asleep. When I picked her up, she was happy to see me but not traumatized or overly anxious. I was very impressed with how United took care of her and told them so.

Now we’re in Brooklyn, visiting with family and taking care of some business before heading to Vermont. Though I’ve been here countless times, this time I’m experiencing a bit of culture shock just because the dog is with me. It’s just so weird to be so far away from home, in New York of all places, where it snowed tonight. Nothing major, just some flurries, but still, when we took a walk it was pretty surreal. Mere hours ago we were walking in Hollywood under the palm trees!

I’m amazed at how easily she’s adapted to the new surroundings, a house full of people, including two teenagers and a large German Shepherd. Does she realize we’re 3,000 miles away from home? Maybe it doesn’t matter.  Home is wherever we are.

I’ve decided to keep blogging while I’m on the writer’s residency, daily if I can manage it. Hopefully, this won’t distract from my other writing (there’s so little time). But blogging has become a bit of a lifeline. I enjoy sharing the journey,  and feel like blogging actually keeps me on my toes as a writer. I also want to get faster at it, and less attached to the outcome.

I’m going to just post and let it be. People will either read and respond, or they won’t. I can’t think about it too much. The only way to make this residency work is to be as efficient with my time as possible. This means I won’t be responding to comments or checking in on other blogs as much as usual. I promise to follow up with people when I get back to LA in early February.

The residency officially begins January 6. In the meantime, there is much to do.

I wish for everyone a good night, and hope you are safe and sound in your part of the world as well.


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In less than 48 hours…

She will be airborne. Ruby sleeping by computer

This is the note I’m taping to the side of her travel crate:

Hi, my name is RUBY.

I am a 5 and 1/2 month old AmStaff mix. I am very friendly and sweet. I love all people and animals. I love to play and chew on shoes (but I promise not to chew on yours).

I have never been on a plane before or been away from my mommy for this long. Please be kind to me and help make this a good experience. Mommy plans on taking me on more flights (on United!).

It is okay to take me out of this crate to walk me. Just please don’t lose me on the tarmac.

Thank you.

Love, Ruby


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Buggin’ Out

So, apparently my Vermont writer residency is not a done deal after all. I thought work had approved it but now I’m told it’s become a corporate tug-of-war between the head of my department and the head of HR. I’m blogging right now because I’m so nervous I can’t stand it. K used to call this, “buggin’ out.”

How I miss him. In moments of uncertainty, his presence always calmed me. He would distract me by making jokes, tease me about being too neurotic and “thinking too much.” All true, which is why I would always laugh.

I used to find it absolutely amazing – almost inconceivable – that he was always so chill and upbeat, so level-headed, able to see the positive in almost any situation, able to make me laugh about almost any situation. I used to feel reassured just by sitting beside him on the couch, watching TV, him bouncing my right hand in his left, ocasionally lifting it to his lips to kiss. There could have been zombies roaming the streets outside. I was safe.

Now I have the puppy, who distracts me in a different way. With her, I feel like the adult and laugh at her childish ways. With K, I used to feel like the child and he was the mature one. I looked up to him. I yearned for his approval (possibly too much) and would get terribly disappointed when I didn’t get it.

I still yearn for his approval. I want to feel like I’m doing what he would have advised me to do, like I’m making him proud. But I’m not sure.  He was so pragmatic. I am stubborn and willful. He was good with money. I seem incapable of saving, not spending. He was naturally diplomatic. I am naturally spacey. He was like an anchor. I am like a kite!

One thing is for sure. He would tell me to relax and not freak out. What will be, will be, and there’s nothing I can do about it right now. I’ll know soon enough what the verdict is. He would tell me to focus on the puppy tonight. She’s recovering from getting spayed and has been couped up inside most of the day while she mends. She’ll be very happy to see me when I get home. We’ll go for a nice stroll in the neighborhood and both get some fresh air. Maybe the skies will clear and we’ll be able to see the moon.

“Everything will be okay. Stop buggin’ out!” He said to me umpteen times, always with a smile.

So, that’s it. No more buggin’ out.


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Lessons From Ruby

Lesson 1 – Focus your energy on something that you love to do. Work hard at it.

 

 

 

 

 Lesson 2 – Immerse yourself in what you love to do. All in. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 3 – Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the little things, like a beautiful sunset.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 Lesson 4 – Relax during your time off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Spirit Guide

My puppy Ruby is only 4 months old and still discovering the world. Today, on our morning walk she discovered birds – specifically, pigeons. She’s actually seen them before but today was the first time she really noticed one. As she leapt in the air, wagging her tail, yelping with excitement, I laughed – and a stranger waiting at the bus stop nearby also laughed.

The pigeon of Ruby’s affection seemed hardly fazed. It didn’t fly away. It simply hopped a step or two out of Ruby’s reach, which of course made her even more frenetic.

I thought of Kaz. It doesn’t take much for me to think of him, especially around Ruby. I keep wishing we could be enjoying moments like this together, not to mention raising her together. I know for sure he would be better at disciplining at her. And she would have been daddy’s little girl.

But the pigeon made me think of him in another way too.

A few weeks after he passed, his best friend was going through some family issues and missing him. One night, he decided to walk to a local playground to be alone and think. While he was sitting on a swing, a crow flew down beside him and started “ca-cawing” to him loudly and repeatedly. “I felt like it was Kaz trying to tell me something,” he later told me.

On the one year anniversary of Kaz’s passing, I went back to Joshua Tree National Park, one of our favorite getaway spots. It was the first time I had been there without him and rather emotional. After a good cry, I sat on a rock and just looked out at the desert, remembering past trips there together.

Then I noticed a yellow and black bird about 20 feet in front of me and only a few feet above the ground, flying in circles. Once it had my attention, it began to gradually rise higher and higher, in a continuous circular motion, until it seemed to literally disappear into the sun.

At the time, I felt certain that I had just received a sign from Kaz. The bird was yellow and black, the colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers, his favorite football team second to the Redskins (he was from Washington D.C.). It seemed to both appear from nowhere and disappear into thin air. And after seeing it, I felt reassured, like I was not alone.

I should add that I’m not a particularly religious person, and neither was Kaz. He once sent me this quote in an email: “Sometimes I think we’re alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the idea is quite staggering.” – Arthur C. Clarke

But we did feel spiritual and would often discuss various spiritual interpretations.

That said, I’m quite sure he would find these bird encounters funny.

I don’t know if what his best friend and I encountered was “real” or imagined, but there are many civilizations throughout the world who believe animals are part of our spiritual teachers and guides. Perhaps it’s up to the individual who experiences them.

Have you ever experienced an “animal spirit”? Do you think they’re possible?