Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

Are you Sirius?

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It's the Dog Days in LA. Most of the rest of the country sweats through their own Dog Days in August, but here the very worst of the heat thoughtfully saves itself up for September and early October.

Dogs suffer. Hens stop laying. And for something new & different, cats sleep all day.

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But the Dog Days aren't called the Dog Days because our pets are melting. They're called the Dog Days because that's when the dog star, Sirius, is most prominent in the night sky.

canis major map

Sirius, the brightest star in our sky other than the sun, is the nose of the constellation Canis Major. And if you have a dog, you KNOW how perfect that is. They live by their nose.

It's also, other than our own sun, the closest star to us. Which only seems fitting, since the human/canine relationship is one of the most ancient and enduring.

But Sirius is not out there alone. It has a little tag along, which sounds JUST like a little someone I know.

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Emmy Lou, or as we like to call her, Little Miss Me Too.

But I digress. There are TWO dog stars, Sirius A, the big bright nose of Canis Major, and its sidekick, Sirius B, a white dwarf.

sirius a & b

They are a binary star, and through the eons have circled each other in a 50 year orbit.

Of course, other binary systems are conveniently joined at the hip.

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So during your own Dog Days, as you slowly become one with the pavement...

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...take a moment to look up to the night sky and ask, "It's a hundred degrees out. Are you SIRIUS?"
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

Victor of the Vine!

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The great grape-off of 2013 is now complete, and since there was such a fantastic bunch of limericks, (and the possibility of accusations of nepotism), I enlisted the help of guest judge and former WINNING WINO, Lauri Maerov!

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Obviously this isn't Lauri, but I figured pretty Elsie among the vines was a good stand-in.

ANYWAY, Lauri offered this assessment - in limerick form of course - on the difficulties of judging such dazzling doggerel.

"Lauri Maerov's Dilemma"

Said a one-time winner of wine
asked to judge all these limericks sublime,
The task is not easy,
as brilliance flows freely,
Among Sally's friends of the vine.

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So, without further ado, here are the kudos, building up to an unprecedented win.

To Abby Farber, who could not have known my nephew Carter is a talented tubist, big 'ups' for rhyming "tubas" with "uvas" in your limerick. To her brother Bill, props for "fermenting/unrelenting", and of course commenting on the divinity of my wine. To John Hall, a special humor mention for even suggesting I might seek out a virgin in LA to stomp my grapes. And to Dan Watson, my purple toes ARE in fact here to stay!

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Now, the real buildup begins. Runner up - which brings big bragging rights - goes to Tara Gallagher, who did NOT go "there" with Nantucket! Here is her PG version of the classic:

There once was a man from Nantucket
Who said, "Try as I might I can't duck it -
I must have good wine
And Sal's red is most fine!"
So he headed out west with a bucket.

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Excellent, no? But there can only be ONE WINNER...oh wait. That's not true. Because in an unprecedented first, our guest judge has called the 2013 contest a TIE.

And who are our triumphant poetesses? Who receives the laurels AND the wine?

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Why, it's a tale of TWO CAROLYNS!

From Carolyn Ott Martin, designer extraordinaire, who worked her profession into her poem, and hit the double whammy with "catatonic" for Cat Nap Red:

If the challenge was label design
I'd outline a reclining feline!
As a poet I stink,
But I DO like to drink...
Catatonic elixir, be mine!

And from Carolyn Nemeth Porter, sister extraordinaire, a killer reference to everyone's current obsession, Breaking Bad AND big points for Nemeth/behemoth:

There once was a gal named Sal Nemeth,
whom you might think was cooking some wee meth.
But her chemistry lab
crafts a potion more fab,
'cause her harvest this year was behemoth!

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Thanks to all for participating! Already I'm pondering next year's contest.

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But in the meantime, get yer cat NAP on!
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

Win the Wine!

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Yes, yes, YES! The time of year has come to WIN THE WINE!

And for those who are curious, that's 100 lbs. of grapey goodness.

Or enough to make 10 gallons of vino, currently percolating in the office.

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And umpteen jars of jam. One of which will go to the winner if he or she is a teetotaler or underage.

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And WHAT, pray tell do you have to do this year to that precious bottle of 2012 vintage CAT NAP RED?


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That's DONE. And lemme tell ya, the feel of that first squish? My face says it all.

Anyway, I seriously debated on what to have you write this year.

To recap, Lauri Maerov won two years ago with her lovely haiku -

"The Grapes of Nemeth"

Trampling the vintage
We taste the glory of her
Terrible swift feet

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And last year it was Amy Goldman Koss, who won with her brilliant acrostic -


Gorgeous globes of grapeish growing
Round and firm and full of hope
Arbor heavy, shade and spiders
Pleasing atheist to pope.

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So, haiku & acrostic are old news. Quatrain? Maybe. Envelope Quintet? Perhaps. Cinquain? Intriguing.

But no. Though I resisted it, this year's choice of verse is inspired by the new resident goofball, whose charms I also resisted. Until, that is, I could no longer hold out.

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So. To WIN THE WINE, this year you'll be writing the goofiest of poems, a LIMERICK.

As always, keep it clean(ish), enter early and often, either via facebook or email, and I will be the sole judge and jury.

You have 2 weeks. The happy winning wino will be announced on Monday, August 12th.

Ready? Set?

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Start pecking!
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

It's Elementary!

Sally Nemeth Day!

What's Fun, Fierce and Fabulous - aside from Sally Nemeth Day?


I was just in Chicago visiting not one, but TWO fun, fierce, and fabulous elementary schools. BOTH in the SAME DAY. Can I just say WOW?

In Chicago, the elementary schools go K-8, which has a decidedly civilizing effect on the middle schoolers. And a note to Mayor Emanuel - get outta yer office & spend a whole day at a coupla schools, whydontcha? Might be an eye opening experience.

First on the docket - Audubon Elementary in Roscoe Village, where my college roomie Suzanne Plunkett, a theater pro and photographer extraordinaire, was helping two of the overworked & underpaid teachers direct a K-8 production of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Loretta tree

Here's her daughter Loretta, who is obviously not in Kansas anymore. In fact, if you tried to pick that apple, she's ready, willing & able to chunk it at ya.


Munchkins are just cuter when they're actually munchkins, I do believe.

munchkin butt

But like cats and politicians, they don't follow directions well.

scarecrow & dorothy

All the "marquee" roles were triple cast, so as to involve even MORE kids. It was a Cecil B. DeMille sized cast. No wonder Suz looked a little loopy afterwards.

suz & tim

And that was only the FIRST show of the day. There was an encore performance that night. But I had to leave Audubon to head north to Rogers Park and my visit with my old friend Mrs. Meagher's class at Hayt Elementary, room 208.

Now, here's a statement guaranteed to warm a writer's heart.

writing is proof

Some of Mrs. Meagher's highly motivated girls were compiling and binding the school literary magazine that she oversees, 1518 GRANVILLE, which is published each & every semester.

1513 granville

Where were the rest of those 6th grade deadbeats? Recess. But soon they returned and we had a wonderful time discussing art, truth, literature, and things I know NOTHING about like manga and k-pop and video games.

Then we had cake and I was gifted with a wonderful book of drawings that illustrate what the students imagine MY life as a writer to be.


Needless to say, they all knew I had a menagerie, but I liked Juan's take on my own Bremen Town Musicians.

black cloud

A number of kids thought my life as a writer is very stressful, but Sue gave me my own personal dark cloud of thoughts. And I won't deny I sometimes have one.

writing is difficult

Stephanie even went further to say that "Writing is difficult because of the stress you go through to pick out the story that pulls the reader to a world of unknown." What she didn't know is that half the time WE don't know where we're going until we get there.

Coffee helps.


Thank you Natalie! And after my coffee I often like to comb my hair with a fork, and I look EXACTLY the way Jamal envisioned me.

crazy hair!

But I couldn't have explained why I do what I do any better than Maaz, who said, "I think the life of a writer would be dramatic, sorrowful, painful, creative and worth it."

I will now always envision my life as a writer as one surrounded by my pets, my garden, and my chandelier, toiling away at my bird podium as in this fantastic Feiffer-esque rendering by Edin.


Fun, Fierce & Fabulous. It's Elementary!
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

Be My Guest

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I've been told I should write a guide book to LA, but I've always demurred. There are others who know the city better than I do, and besides, I don't want my favorite places and things overrun.

But with summer coming and friends inundated with guests of all ages, I thought I'd pass along some of my favorite slam-dunk things to do, with the help of my nieces and nephews, who have all at one time or another, been my guest.

Downtown. A GOLDMINE. From things for the wee ones, like the venerable Bob Baker Marionette Theater -

bob baker marionettes

- to all the free music available during the summer, like at Grand Performances on California Plaza - - downtown has many attractive attractions.

But here are a few go-to faves that never fail to amuse all.

Olvera Street. Yeah, it's touristy, and had that gun been real, Carter would have shot me for forcing him to pose with the donkey -

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- but taking a photo with the donkey is OBLIGATORY. As are getting taquitos at Cielito Lindo, which Kendra and Audrey enjoyed.

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And just go shopping for that special something. Like a Lucha Libre mask!

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Don't miss the original Pueblo de Los Angeles casa, the Avila Adobe - - tucked away on the north side of the street. And then walk across Alameda, and visit Union Station, which has been in more movies than Mickey Mouse, and has a GORGEOUS wealth of old California tile.

union station

From Olvera St., it's just two blocks to Chinatown, so why wouldn't you go? Broadway is the main drag of Chinatown, but the heart of Old Chinatown and Confucious Plaza is at the far end of the street.

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Also downtown is the garment district, which is of course a favorite with the girls.

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Something for EVERYONE, at wholesale prices. Such a deal!

And there's Little Tokyo, which is a compact little area full of good eats and many things Hello Kitty. Though in fairness, there are some lovely things to buy too. My favorite place to shop is Rafu Busan, where Japanese brides register for their weddings. Fantastic tableware. And one of my fave places to eat?

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Suehiro on 1st St. An honest-to-gawd Japanese diner. Great bento boxes, noodles, you name it. And they even have kiddie plates, ice cream included. Wheee!

Oh no - we're NOT done with downtown yet. No tour of downtown is complete without a trip to Grand Central Market. My advice? Peruse the stalls, then buy your lunch "para llevar" -

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Carry it out to Hill St., and take a ride on this beauty -

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- Angels Flight. It's a funicular railroad that will take you up the steep slope of Bunker Hill -

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- where you can dine al fresco at California Plaza, and watch the fantastic fountains of the Water Court. Best fifty cents you can spend. Beats any dumb amusement park.

Are we done with downtown? Not QUITE yet. Just west of downtown, the renovation of Echo Park Lake is almost complete, so I recommend hitting the park, scouting taco trucks and street vendors along the way, and again, having a lovely lunch al fresco with the ducks and geese.

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I've heard that with the renovation, the paddle boats will be available again on weekends. Big fun.

OK. Can we leave downtown?

Sorta. Let's drive south along the 110, shall we? First, let's go to Watts. No trip to LA is complete without it.

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Oh yeah. The Watts Towers, a stunning, epic, soaring piece of folk art built by one man named Simon Rodia. It's a MUST. It's surprising how many Angelenos haven't been, including my friend Julie, who'd lived in LA for over 40 years before I took her.

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She was gobsmacked. Watts Towers is a "look, don't touch" place, so it's frustrating for wee ones. Hell, it's frustrating for EVERYONE, but the pottery and tile embedded everywhere is fragile, so put your hands in your pockets and take only photos.

Further down the 110 is the town of Long Beach, where you can visit the Queen Mary, the Russian submarine docked next to it (not for the claustrophobic) AND now you can also visit the USS IOWA, which is definitely a hit with boys of all ages and with all fans of military history.

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During WWII, the Captain's quarters became Roosevelt's cabin, and a special bathtub had to be installed to accomodate him. It is the only warship that has a bathtub. Fun fact! And I don't know if this is still true, but when the ship first opened for tours, if you showed an Iowa drivers license you got in free.

OK. Space junkie that I am, this one was huge for me.

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The Endeavor is now at the California Science Center. I didn't go see it make its stately parade through town, and I missed the flyover of LA. But the moment I walked into the hangar at the Science Center and looked up at it, I burst into tears.

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It made me sad to see this majestic machine grounded. But I'm glad we have it in LA.

OK. Are we ready for the beach? Can you keep a secret? I'm about to show you the BEST beach to go to in LA County. Shhhhh.

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El Matador State Beach in Malibu. You have to go down 2 long flights of stairs to get to it, which keeps traffic down. But once you're on the beach, there are rock formations and tide pools galore!

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Kelp makes a very good hula skirt. And my advice? Try to hit low tide for optimal tide pool and sea cave exploration. And pack a lunch. Once you're on the beach, you won't want to leave it.

A boat ride you say? To an island maybe? You can take a boat ride to any of the Channel Islands, all of which except Catalina are part of a National Park. There are outfitters who will drop you at any island with kayaks to explore the sea caves etc., and you can camp out and have them come get you in a few days.

OR you can just take the easy way out and take a day trip to Catalina. They have many specials, but of course thrill seekers that we are, we opted for the Zip & Ship Trip. Yup. Boat ride AND zipline COMBINED.

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Why yes - that's the aforementioned Queen Mary in harbor. My dad shipped back on the Queen Mary after WWII, so the boys were psyched to lay eyes on it.

And I'm told there's footage of me on someone's iphone, zooming down a zipline and screaming my head off.

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But I have yet to see it.

So there you have it - some of my favorite things to do with visitors. My gift to you.

And here's what I like to do when my visitors leave.

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Visit the inside of my eyelids.
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

Another Orbit

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As I prepare to mark another orbit around the sun, I'm of course running through the last orbit, thinking about the times I wobbled off my axis and the times when I was spinning like a top. And I have to say there was a bit more wobble than spin. But as I near the actual day (3/19, for those sending gifts) I can report that things seem to have reached a more-or-less even keel, and part of it has to do with this little gal, the best thing I did during my elliptical journey of 2012-2013.


As many of you know, I'd been doing a fair amount of dog and cat rescue out of the North Central Shelter in LA, and as reported in the previous blog entry, had been part of a very dramatic rescue of a bonded pair of dogs, getting them off death row and into a forever home in Telluride. And I really had to stop. It was too much for me emotionally, and I wasn't getting any work done so it was also too much for me financially.

But like a junkie, I had to do just ONE MORE RESCUE before I could really stop, and this was the one. Edith, as they named her in the shelter. She'd been there six weeks and was beyond terrified. Kenneled 24/7 with four other small dogs, she ran from them and from anyone who tried to touch her or interact with her. When Tiffany, the handler for the shelter, tried to get her out for me, she had to corner the poor mutt to slip the leash over her head, and then when she pulled "Edith" out, the dog went into full frenzy, thrashing, yelping, shitting herself. This was not a dog who was going to get adopted. But then came the kicker. Tiffany felt Edith's abdomen and said, "Uh-oh. I think she's pregnant."

Yes. Raped in prison. And since she was pregnant and anti-social, it was basically a death sentence.

I took her on my lap and held her, and like all shelter dogs, she stank to high heaven, but I just held her and held her and held her until she finally stopped shaking and did that wonderful exhale that dogs do when they're finally comfortable. Whew.

Took twenty minutes. So I figured I could work with her. I'd just bring her home, get her over the worst of it and find her a fabulous forever home with someone whose world would revolve around her.

Famous last words. Here's what she looked like her first day at our home. Note the thousand yard stare.

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And yes, dogs do experience PTSD. I named her Emmy Lou in honor of Ms. Harris, who has the same beautiful silver hair and who is herself a great dog rescuer. Emmy Lou spent her first couple days sleeping off the sedative from the spay/abort, and was pretty calm about most things, but horrifically hand-shy and suffered enormous separation anxiety. It was pretty clear her first family had disciplined her by hitting her. But none of it was insurmountable and I was still determined to get this mutt adopted.

I had a cute photo taken with Santa. Well, cute-ish. Still with the thousand yard stare.

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I listed her on a number of adoption sites, including the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Rescue. Oh yes, Virginia. There IS such a breed.

dandy dinmont

She was so stinking cute it really was only a matter of time. And in the meantime, I was working with her separation with crate training, and her other issues by obedience training. And oh yeah - the million and one intestinal parasites that had to be purged with multiple visits to the vet.

But I was still holding her at arms length. She wasn't mine to keep. She was going to be someone - ANYONE else's dog. Then a funny thing happened.

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Garcia fell in love. Still though, I figured he'd be just as happy being an only dog again, once we moved her along.

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Uh-uh. He wasn't having it. So on Christmas we decided that Garcia could have his own puppy. Emmy Lou.

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Even the cats were OK with it. They'd even started rubbing up against her. Everything and everyone loved this dog.

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But still there was a little place in my heart that held out. Until last week, when we took Emmy Lou and Garcia with us to stay in Morro Bay for a few days. It was here on the beach that I truly fell in love with this dog.

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If you ever need a reminder of what pure, undiluted joy looks like, just save this photo and gaze upon it. She and Garcia ran and splashed and chased birds non-stop for four days.

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I kept thinking back to the terrified little mutt who nearly met her end at the shelter, to the troubled little dog I tried to give away, and all I could see was the amazing beast she's become, how happy she is, how happy Garcia is, how happy she makes us. And we're not out of the woods. She still needs more training, she's still hand shy with strangers, still occasionally cowers when I move too fast. But what a distance she's come.

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And now I can say without reservation that I look forward to our however-many years we have together. Every damn orbit.
knee deep in Lake Michigan

A Miracle for Christmas

tiberius at shelter

This story begins as many shelter stories do. An owner was moving and couldn't take his dog, so he dumped it at the shelter like it was an old cast-off piece of furniture.

Except in this case it wasn't just one dog, it was two. And as difficult as it is to get one dog adopted from a shelter, getting two adopted together is a mountain to climb, especially when one of them weighs 93 pounds. But these two dogs - Tiberius and Jaeger - were so compelling that countless people came to their aid.

I tell this story in the hope that people will truly understand what it takes to get a dog rescued, and how close each rescued dog comes to being reduced to ashes. I also hope people will realize that a rescue isn't the work of a single person, or a pristine, miraculous event, but takes an enormous network of volunteers who give their time, their money, their hearts and souls to make sure abandonded animals get the loving forever homes they deserve.

Rescue work is complicated, it's emotionally draining, but when it works out and the stars align, it's the best feeling on earth. Because you're not only saving the life of a dog or a cat, but you're changing the lives of adopters too, giving them a new family member to love and cherish and learn from.

A couple days before Halloween, I went to the North Central Shelter near downtown Los Angeles to liberate a dog whose time was up. Paco, a big, sweet pit bull mix, was heading to a home in Indiana to live the rest of his life with a wonderful man named Jim.

paco shelter photo

But while I was there, the outreach director for the shelter had an huge, handsome Shepard mix dog leashed beside her who was agitated and panting. When I petted him, he calmed and was lovely, a true gentle giant. I asked her about him and she said he'd just been left behind at the shelter the day before and she wanted him to be the featured dog on a morning news show adoption segment, but she felt he was too anxious to handle it. When I asked her more, she told me his name was Tiberius and he'd come in with a chihuahua who was his best buddy. Of course I asked where Tiberius' best buddy was, and I was told that they were kenneled apart.

That just broke my heart. This dog had just lost his home, AND his brother? And they could have comforted each other in this strange and scary place? Too painful. Of COURSE he was agitated.

I said that if the shelter would kennel the dogs together they'd both be a lot less anxious and would probably get adopted sooner. I mean, who doesn't love that visual? A dog the size of a small pony and his sidekick who'd fit in a tote bag? But she didn't seem to want to get into it with me. So I took Tiberius' impound information sheet and told her as soon as I shipped Paco off, I'd start working on Tiberius' behalf. Unfortunately his impound info didn't have the name or the impound number of the dog he'd come in with. That would have been too easy

After Paco stayed with us, and I shipped him to Indianapolis and reveled in his happy landing and happy new home, I contacted another rescuer I know, Cynthia Dofton. I was heading out of town myself, so I asked her to contact the outreach director to ask again if there was anything she could do to get the dogs kenneled together. Cynthia called, and the woman said she couldn't do it. It wasn't her jurisdiction. It was up to the kennel director. And besides, she didn't even know who Tiberius' buddy was.

So Cynthia went through all the listings in the LA Shelters to see if she could find a male chihuahua who came into North Central on the same day as Tiberius - the needle in a haystack. Incredibly, she found two. When I got back to town, I went to the shelter with the two chihuahuas' impound numbers, and asked a kennel worker to look both dogs up in the system and see which one was Tiberius' best pal.

Jaeger. That was who. I asked the kennel director if they could be kenneled together. When I went to visit Tiberius in his run, he was despondent. The picture at the beginning of this post is him, refusing to leave his den, he was so depressed. I was told they would not kennel Jaeger with Tiberius because they feared food aggression, which was absurd, since the dogs were bonded. They'd lived their whole lives together, until now. But at least the shelter tagged them within the system as "best buddies." It was a step in the right direction.

But both dogs had terrible intake photos, and were only listed on the city shelter website, which doesn't do much to help get them a home. The next step was to get them photographed at one of the photo shoots run by Carolee Reiling, who started the North Central Animal Shelter page on facebook, and gives so much of her time and energy and income to helping shelter dogs and cats. Another rescuer I knew, Jody Paul, is one of the bio writers for the dogs and cats on the photo shoots, so I asked them both if they could try to get a photo of the dogs together. But that was a no go. Still, Debbie Zeitman took these two fantastic portraits of the boys, they were posted on the North Central facebook page and the photos and bios were directly linked into each other, identifying them as a bonded pair.



Tiberius even got his own video.

Already the boys had been in the shelter for three weeks, and now the REAL networking could begin. All the North Central networkers, rescuers and volunteers got busy, sharing, begging friends for pledge funds, a foster home, a rescue, a forever home. I visited the dogs whenever I could and every time a rescuer I knew went to the shelter, I asked them to check in on Tiberius and Jaeger. Yoko Furuno, took the incredibly sad photo of Tiberius in his cave, and everyone who checked in on him reported back to me that he was OK, but profoundly sad. He needed OUT. Jaeger, in the small dog kennels, at least had kennel mates, but they weren't his bro, his bestie, Tiberius.

After another three weeks of everyone doing their utmost, it came down to this - the shelter was overcrowded and Jaeger was put on red alert. He had 48 hours before being euthanized.

Cynthia and I decided that if it came down to the wire, and no one would take them together, she'd go get Jaeger and foster him in her home and I'd go get Tiberius and foster him in mine, and hopefully we could reunite them in the future. But Cynthia had an ace up her sleeve. She called a young actor named Lou Wegner, a well known animal rights activist who has inspired teens nationwide to help animals in need. Lou called in a favor at the shelter and Debbie Zeitman arrived once again was to catch these incredible images of Tiberius' and Jaeger's reunion.

tiberius and jaeger fence

t & j shelter reunion

tiberius and jaeger

The first photo is the first time they'd laid eyes on each other in six weeks, and the last photo is the one that went viral.

It lit up the rescue community, and was shared far and wide. But their savior ended up being close to home.

Mariah Greenburg Roncetti is the director of Hounds of Hope, a local rescue founded by Shelly Mack that's not afraid to take on the Herculean task of finding homes for bonded pairs of dogs. She was contacted by a friend, Andrea Diamant, who had seen the photo, and by late morning of what would have been Jaeger's last day on earth, Mariah swooped in, had the boys pulled from the shelter and had her local transporter, Rebecca Morley pick them up and take them to her vet, where thanks to the generous donations of many, many people, they could board for a while. The money pledged to them bought them time. Literally.

Here they are, their first photo out of the shelter and at the vet.

tiberius and jaeger vet

I'm not the only rescuer who cried like a baby that day. But even though they were safe, they weren't yet out of the woods. Because pledge money only goes so far, and a boarding kennel is not a home. Rescue means rescue, not forever home. There was still more work to do. I promised Mariah I wouldn't give up on these two and would continue to help her in any way I could.

Mariah went straight to work, reaching out to everyone she knew, and she knows a LOT of people. But the boys sat almost two weeks in boarding with no foster or forever home in sight. Mariah visited them almost daily, took them on walks, made sure they were as happy as they could be, and she kept networking. The money was running out, but not Mariah's hope and faith - she has deep reserves of both.

Finally, she found a wonderful home for the boys where they could live the ideal life together - a woman who had been in touch with Mariah in the past regarding other dogs she'd rescued. Elizabeth Covington wanted Tiberius and Jaeger, and had the perfect home and family for them. But there was one complication. She lives in Telluride, Colorado, and we had to get the boys there.

I priced out commercial cargo flights, but we'd have had to raise even more money to ship the boys, buy their travel crates and their travel health certificates. So I reached out to a pilot I know, Sarah Todd, who not only flies for the U.S. Air Force, but for a wonderful charity organization called Pilots & Paws. Through an online message board, Pilots & Paws links pilots who own small private aircraft and are willing to transport shelter dogs with rescues and adopters in other states. Sarah posted our flight needs - 106 pounds of dog needing a flight from LA to Telluride, and miraculously one was available, most of the way.

Josh Rapaport and his wife Katja Wichland were visiting friends in Phoenix and had recently signed up with Pilots & Paws. Animal activists themselves, Josh and Katja founded the Telluride Animal Alliance and run the Telluride Thrift Shop to help fund the group. They happily offered the backseat of their airplane to Tiberius and Jaeger, and now Mariah had to get the dogs to Phoenix by 9AM on a Friday, which was only a day away.

She called a young woman named Carlee Alyssa who immediately agreed to drive the dogs in her little Honda Civic across the desert through the night. The boys were on their way! Arriving at the airport in the morning, Tiberius and Jaeger were introduced to Katja and Josh and loaded onto the plane. Here now, are Katja's photos of their flight, ending with their landing in Telluride and their first meeting with Elizabeth.

Tiberius crosses the tarmac.

Tiberus on tarmac

The boys are ready to copilot.

tiberius copilot

A kiss mid-flight for Katja.

tiberius katja & jaeger

Tiberius and Jaeger find comfort in each other.

tiberius and jaeger hug

And finally, on the ground in Telluride with Josh, Katja and their first meeting with Mom.

tiberius meets mom

Throughout the flight, Mariah was sending photos to the entire rescue community as Katja was sending them to her, in real time, and at touchdown, the tears of joy flowed freely.

The boys have settled into their new lives and new home beautifully, and they now have boys of their own.

tiberius & jager in snow

And snow! For a couple of Southern California dogs, that's a big change, but a welcome one. Because how cold is snow compared to being abandoned? Is it colder than a hard concrete kennel at the shelter? Or colder than being separated from your best pal? Or colder than nights spent alone, listening to dogs around you whine and howl, aching for comfort?

Many might argue that the time and money and effort put into just these two dogs is a waste, and that those resources would be better spent helping the hungry or the indigent. But much more than these two dogs were saved. Every person named here who directly helped in this rescue, and all the others who shared Tiberius' and Jaeger's shelter listing, pledged money and advocated for them, they too were changed by this event. Not one of them will ever look at any task again and think, "No. It's too much. I can't do it." Because now they know they can. As a community.

Every save is a miracle, made possible by people coming together, working as one, toward a single goal. In this case, it was a home for the holidays for two discarded dogs who will be the love of their new family's lives.

From here on in, the story of Tiberius and Jaeger belongs to Elizabeth and her family. It's now theirs to live and to tell. And there's no better ending than that.

Tiberius and Jaeger, happily ever after.

tiberius & jager in woods
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

The Winey Winner!

Oh dearie me! I've been terribly remiss! I said I'd have a Winey Contest Winner declared by September 1st, and here it is already the 12th!

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I'll claim mitigating circumstances. That covers everything.

Now, as you may remember, this year's contest required penning an acrostic poem that spelled the word 'GRAPE' with the first letters of each line.

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And though there were many worthy entries, I am not the Commissioner of the Bumblebee Kiddie Soccer League, so not everyone gets a trophy for participating. However, if I may send out some kudos...

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To Paul Barrosse, I raise a glass. To both Christine Fletcher and Laura Johnston, Elsie, Angus, Garcia, Coco and Alice thank you for including them in your verse.

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To Abby Farber, the Poet Lariat of Queens, whiling away the hours online suits you. To Peter Watson, the writer of the pithiest poem, brevity usually gets a win. Usually.
To Benjamin Dreyer, he of the slashing red pencil, congrats for letting loose a few ripe, round and robust words.

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But there can be only one victor who gets the spoils. This poem reminded me of hymns sung during childhood Sundays in the Whiskeypalian Church. Seriously, I could set it to music. The "Enjoy!" at the end is a fitting amen, and bonus points for meter and rhyme, which was not at all required.

So WHO is the winey winner? The greatest poetess of the vine?

winey winner

Amy Koss, who brilliantly pecked out this acrostic gem -

Gorgeous globes of grapeish growing
Round and firm and full of hope
Arbor heavy, shade and spiders
Pleasing atheist to pope.

And so she shall. A bottle of CAT NAP RED for you to enjoy, Amy!

Thank you ALL. It was fun. Please play again next year, won't you?
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

The Annual Grape Harvest Blog Anniversary Contest!

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Hard to believe it, but this year SIX of Sal Gal Central, which began lo those many years ago with the grape harvest, so it's time again for the Annual Blog Contest!

And what does the lucky winner win?

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A bottle of our stellar concord grape wine, CAT NAP RED, vintage 2011, perfect for any occasion. Or, for you teetotalers, a jar of our equally stellar concord grape jam.

Not to show off or anything, but this was only HALF of what we harvested this year. The grand total haul?

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A hundred and sixty three pounds, with a brief break midway through the harvest to run over to the LA Animal Services North Central Shelter with my friends Larry and Julie to help them bring this little muffin home.

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Introducing sweet Cookie Markes, who is now living the good life in the Hollywood Hills.

But back to the contest. Last year, I had you all write a haiku - or, if you will, a "wineku" - to win the precious nectar.

This year, I'm asking you to write an acrostic poem, which is a free verse where the first letter of each line will vertically spell out the word GRAPE.

Oh crap - you gonna make me write you an example?

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Fine. Good thing I'm not competing. I'm a lousy poet.

Garrolous birds swoop and squawk
Ripening grapes their desire
As they snatch each purple globe with their beaks
Prizing them off the vine
Each one better than the last

There. GRAPE. See how that works?

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So have at it, don't strain your brains TOO much. Enter early, enter often. Enter via email or facebook or here in the comments on the blog page. I'll input all entries here so you can get a gauge of your competition.

Winner to be announced on September 1st! And yes, I am judge and jury.

OK. Hands on your keyboards and...

grape harvest

Start pecking!
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

Tres Dias en Tres Piedras

Pats, Bob, Penny & Scout

Week before last I was a guest at the fabulous New Mexico casa of Patricia, Bob, Penny & Scout. They're in a tiny town called Tres Piedras, and since I only had three days, we had many things to accomplish.

Cocktails, for one.


No begging for pistachios, kids!

But really, we crammed so much into so little time, it's hard to know where to begin.

I love New Mexico. It's one of the most gorgeous places I've ever been. How can you not love a place where, within a half hour drive, you can see terrain as varied as this:

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The Brazos Mountains

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The "front yard" in Tres Piedras.


On the road to Ghost Ranch.

Or flora like this:
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Indian Paintbrush

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Hedgehog cactus

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Cholla cactus

And get a load of some of the fauna:

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Mud swallow nests tucked up against roof vigas.

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Free range cattle, and I do mean free range. New Mexico is a free range state, hence all the highway signs warning of loose cattle. On walks, we carried pepper spray, not for muggers, but to ward off charging bulls. Nothing like coming face-to-face with 2,000 pounds of pissed off beef.


And a very colorful painted lizard.

For some reason in New Mexico, people like to stack things.

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Geranium pots,


stone cairns,

shards in hand

and ancient pottery shards. OK. That's my hand. Patty and I took a nice hike up the Posi trail above the hot springs at Ojo Caliente - and yes, we also took a righteous soak.

posi trail

The trail takes you up to a mound that covers an old pueblo ruin, hundreds of years old, and everywhere you look, you find pottery shards. I like to pick them up, look at the painting, search for fingerprints left by the pottters. And then I leave them behind.


Because they don't belong to me.

But by far, the most incredible thing we did was to go see Georgia O'Keefe's home in Abiquiu. It was absolutely transcendant. I'm still processing it.

skull in tree

Cameras are forbidden, so I'm gathering images and gathering my thoughts and I'll write a second post about our road trip to Abiquiu.

vintage truck

And our visit with the muse of Georgia O'Keefe.