Reading the Signs (from Pizzas to Papas to Puppy Dog Tales)

confusing road signsA few days ago my daughter was driving her daughter (my pretty, precocious, learning-to-read 6-year-old granddaughter, that is) to ballet class, but the little girl suddenly shouted “STOP!” to her mom, pointing a finger up as if to the heavens.

My daughter put on the brakes, frantically asking, “What’s the matter?”

“We have to go to PaPa’s house,” S insisted in her 1st grade know-it-all tone.Papa Ginos, pizza Continue reading

He’s Just a Dog

dog, golden retriever, autumnDo your teeth grit as hard as mine when people use that expression? What do they mean?

He’s just a dog, so his ‘feelings’ don’t matter, because he has none…?

He’s just a dog, so it’s fine to let him sit outside in the rain (or snow or hot sun) all day…?

He’s just a dog, so leave him at home for hours and don’t worry about him…?

I’ll lighten up for the rest of the post, but I needed to get your first visceral reaction. How do we treat our animals? Do they have “feelings” or concerns? Do they get hot and cold, bouts of hurt and spurts of joy? Continue reading

Early Morning Spirits

walking, San Francisco, San Francisco BayI’m walking the same paths that I did when Henry sniffed along with me. Days after he died, when I began walking alone, I realized how much of a fixture we had become those early morning walks. Half a dozen other early ramblers inquired, “where’s Henry?” or “where’s that bright-eyed, busy-tailed dog of yours?”


Now it’s almost five months later, and I still walk our same route. This morning, one of Henry’s biggest fans stops me on the path, the San Francisco Bay by our side, a tiny otter face peeking out in the foggy mist. Continue reading

In the Dog House

doug house, Cypress InnMy man and I celebrate our anniversary this month by escaping to Carmel-by-the-Sea, “a seaside town…in the pine forest.” Romantic sounding, yes? But to add even more romance, we decide to bring Henry, the dog.

Not entirely our idea at first. A good friend recommends that we stay at “Doris Day’s place” right in the center of town. Doris, as many of you may know (well, I suppose only those 50 and over are familiar with the sweet actress…) is a huge animal lover and protector, so only makes sense that she owns a lovely old inn in an upscale village that encourages visitors to bring their furry friends.

We realize that this is someplace different immediately upon arrival, when the doorman pets Henry,  welcomes us  (yes, in that order), and asks if we need a refrigerator for Henry’s special diet needs.

“Umm, no,” we respond, unsure of what diet he’s talking about. Do some dogs arrive while on the Atkins Diet, or more appropriately perhaps, the South Beach Diet? Later, we realize our ignorance.

Henry is escorted genteelly to our room on leash by a porter, and then given his own water bowl and soft fluffy dog bed. My man and I glance from Henry’s bed to ours, and fleetingly wonder which one is most comfortable.

Doris Day, Cypress Inn

Soon after, we stroll down to the leather-chaired bar, full of Doris Day movie posters and memorabilia. One of her 1950s movies streams continuously on the walled flat-screened T.V., and I’m tempted to watch it as I sip my microbrewed beer, but honestly, the scene right next to me is much more enticing.

As we munch on honey-roasted peanuts and sip our drinks (Henry lying comfortable by our table, of course), locals and guests amble in with their companions, greeting each other’s pets by name (“Bruno, have you gained a little weight ole chap?” and “Daisy darling, were you groomed yesterday? You smell divine.”)

(Readers – side note: I am not exaggerating!)

I spy a mother-daughter couple coast in with their two Weimaraners, as sleek and lovely as their owners.  I squeeze my eyes shut, hoping they don’t take the empty table next to ours. I’m not an unfriendly sort, but by the look of their Weimaraner, Cypress Inn, dog hotelexpensive face lifts and haute couture clothes, I don’t think we’ll have much in common.

Au contraire. The pair from L.A. can’t be more friendly as they discuss their rescued dogs (2 years and 5 years old), their special diet (raw only – ohhh, thus the need for refrigeration), and their routine of baking a fresh pumpkin, weekly, to help their dogs’ joints.

Over the top? Yes, in my opinion, but honestly, these people just love their animals and want them healthy and happy.

The neatest part is that in the smallish bar, with two goldens, two weimaraners , a standard poodle, and the largest brown lab I’ve ever seen, as well as their humans, everyone gets along famously. No growls, no barks, just a sniff here and there, and then a few contented sighs as the dogs sit by their best friend’s side.

All in all, the weekend is marvelous fun, and Henry is extremely grateful that we’ve brought him along (plus he loves the special treats waiting for him each time we pass the reception desk).

When we leave, my guy notes that, really, this is an Inn for Dogs, in which their humans are allowed to stay also.

Henry stares at us as if asking, “and what’s wrong with that?”

dog house, Golden retreiver, Cypress Inn

An Unexpected Friend

friendship, friends, man's best friend, smileI make a new friend on a recent trip to the right coast.

His name is Oliver, and he’s my brother’s dog.

This golden lab mix, 5 years old, is about as loving a being as you’ll ever find anywhere on this earth.

As I arrive at my brother’s Maryland home, Oliver waits for me at the front door like I’m a long-delayed special guest. The tip of his tail wags first, as if he wonders if I’m as nice as he’s been told. When I greet him happily, bending down so we can meet eye to eye, his wag travels down the rest of his tail, and then onto his body, which can hardly contain his excitement.

Yes, we bond immediately.

Oliver brings me his special stuffed muskrat. friendship, dogs, dog toy

He tours me around the acreage of his family estate, proudly showing off the peach and apple tees, the vegetable garden, and the strawberry patch.

When I rub him down, he talks to me with a prolonged squeal, similar to the sound of a young boy swallowing helium.

An endearing trait.

When I sink into the hot tub with my brother and sister-in-law on a cool but gorgeous Sunday morning, Oliver splays himself on the pool curb besides me, licking my cheek every so often, just checking up on me.

dogs, hydrantIn other words, we become fast friends.

I take Oliver for a 45-minute walk, and he shows me every colorful hydrant in town, and introduces me to the neighborhood cat, who enjoys playing “chase me up a tree.”

But then it’s time to say goodbye.

With suitcase at my side, I stand by the front door. Oliver approaches quietly, sitting in front of me, ramrod straight, gazing into my eyes and then suddenly, lifts his left lip so high it almost reaches his nose.

I stare back, open-mouthed.

“That’s his smile,” my brother explains.friendship, man's best friend, woman's best friend


I curl my lip in response and hug my new-found friend with fierce appreciation.

We find friends sometimes in the most unexpected places…

Covered in the most unexpected body types….

Offering unexpected joy and love.

As I return to the left coast, I find myself seated in the plane, curling my lip often as I think of my new unexpected friend.

friendship, dog friendship, smile

The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions – the little, soon forgotten charities of a kiss or a smile, a kind look or heartfelt compliment.
(Samuel Taylor Coleridge)