Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

The handsome and sophisticated Mr. Lomax wishes you a happy and blessed 2006.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Our Fresno Christmas

Fresno was a bit chillier than L.A., so I made sure Lomax was warm and comfy in his little bed on Christmas Eve. It had been a full day -- Lomax accompanied me and my folks to a "barn breakfast" hosted by my dad's friend Rod, who grows the most sublime Navel oranges (I eat the ones I pick for a month or two after Christmas, and can't bring myself to buy any from a grocery store the rest of the year). There were about 20 people out in the barn, feasting on Mom's blueberry pancakes, fresh squeezed orange juice, and sausage and eggs cooked outside.

Lomax was, of course, ever the goodwill ambassador for Guide Dogs of America. Everyone complimented us on his fine behavior and his rugged good looks, and we had the opportunity to explain the program to many people. I'd have let him off leash to run around the groves with me if there hadn't been such a cute little female Golden Retriever escape artist living across the street. Lomax was far more interested in the other dogs and cats living at Rod's than in the Canadian geese who use his pond as a mid-migration hangout.

He got some nifty new toys for Christmas! The pictured "Holee Roller" is loads of fun, as is the Orca, but his favorite seems to be what I refer to as the "crinkle cat" -- a purple raccoon Tim gave him, which both squeaks and crinkles, and is the perfect size and weight for tossing around in my apartment. Until it gets completely disgusting and has to be taken away for a good rinse, that is.

He did well on the four-hour Fresno drive each way, in the wee rental car I drove in lieu of my ancient (and increasingly cranky) pickup truck. The car wasn't even too covered with yellow hairs, which is more than I can say for my parents' dark blue carpet.

Other highlights of our trip? The fabulous thunderstorm that happened around five A.M. on Monday morning -- he seemed less concerned about the storm than in making sure he peed everywhere he needed to in the front yard during our "get busy" trip. Then there was church on Christmas morning, where Lomax made many friends, among them an adorable young girl with severe physical and mental disabilities...her face absolutely lit up when I asked if she wanted to pet him. But my favorite memory is snuggling up next to a warm Labrador and falling asleep on the floor in front of the Christmas tree.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Me and My Shadow

So much blogging to catch up on....

Our Fresno Christmas went well for the most part, if you don't count the fact that Lomax wouldn't leave poor Shadow alone the whole time. I've seen the "magic marker," the "little soldier at attention," the "lipstick," and various other semi-comedic euphemisms for his intact male proclivities, but until this trip, Lomax had never been..."The Caboose."

Seriously unauthorized sniffing was a regular occurrence, and not just butt-sniffing, I'm sorry to say. Then there was the heretofore unseen humping! Ah, well. Poor Shadow, pictured here in the position I saw him in most, managed to deal by either running and hiding behind Dad or simply gluing his hiney to the floor.

The boys did run around a bit (guess who did the chasing) and seemed to have been at least pleasant acquaintances by the time we left, but Lomax got a LOT of work on his down/stay. And Shadow, who has never in his history with my parents been inclined to play with or chew on toys, heartily enjoyed Lomax's favorite Nylabone.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Over the River and Through the Woods...

...or north on I-99.

Lomax and I are headed to Fresno for Christmas, to visit my parents for a few days, so I don't know how much blogging we'll do while we're there. I'm sure we'll come back with lots of stories, though. Mom and Dad's dog -- a handsome, black standard Poodle named Shadow, who loves to run -- is hopefully going to enjoy the company of another canine in the house. If I ever catch the two of them sitting still, I'll be sure to post a photo...but like the Loch Ness Monster and Sasquatch and the like, I'm betting any photographic attempts at capturing the boys will be blurry and indistinct.

Meanwhile, Lomax continues to bring moments of hilarity. He is fascinated with polar bears, to the point where he will get up from his comfy place on the living room floor and walk to the TV, sniffing the screen whenever he sees the Coca-Cola or car insurance commercials that feature the fluffy white beasts. What gives? When the penguins come on, he turns around and walks away, but the polar bears keep his attention.

My theory is that they remind him of his friend Trooper. At any rate, the roomie and I are considering renting him some kind of polar bear movie or National Geographic special. I suggested we just show him the first season of Lost, but Amy objected, on the grounds that that particular polar bear is "too mean and scary."

Anyone have any suggestions?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

One Week 'Til Christmas!

"Dear Santa, I have been REEEEEEEEALLY good this year. Will you bring me a basketball, some toys, girlfriend?"

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Joys of Boys, or "Insert Euphemism Here"

No photos to illustrate this post, for reasons that will quickly become clear.

As an intact male dog, age 14 months, poor Lomax continues to race around this world with hormones coursing through his little body.

Why still "fully equipped," you ask? Well, Lomax -- along with most of the other pups from his excellent litter -- is still being considered for GDA's breeding program. Fortunately, according to the head of the GDA puppy department, they're working right now to schedule his breeder evaluation dates. I'll be sad to leave him at the school for the three weeks of testing, but relieved to finally have an answer with regard to his

Things get nuttier (?) as the weeks pass. The little yellow dog who once relieved perfectly on command is now the little yellow dog who leaves little yellow drops. He'll still go when asked, but he does a "non-committal piddle," preferring instead to keep a reserve in his tank for important messages he wants to leave for his friends around the neighborhood. A potty break can take forever; every blade of grass must first be sniffed, even in the spots he knows. I do my best to correct any ridiculous behavior (like marking, or gluing his nose to the ground in one spot), but I also don't want to tell him to go then yank on his leash, sending him mixed messages.

His man-status doesn't help when we're working on dog distraction issues, either. How is one person's upper body strength supposed to triumph over the instincts of a girl-crazy teenage canine? "Gosh, she's didn't need that arm, right?"

And here's one for the memoirs: lately, Lomax has been very much "on display" as a fully locked and loaded love machine. He likes to roll onto his back when people are petting him, which I let him do when he's out of jacket. But, man alive! All he needs is some bad dialogue and some "wakka-chikka-wakka-chikka" background music....

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Lion, The Witch and the Labrador

Lomax gives the new Narnia movie two dewclaws up.

"Couldn't get enough of the wolves," he says,"and the battle sequences were riveting! Full of animals! I hope the man sitting in front of us didn't mind my snout on his shoulder."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I Love a Parade

Lomax and I marched in a Christmas Parade last Sunday, along with some other folks in our puppy raiser group. The crowd loved us, of course! Lomax was more than eager to strut his stuff for the public in his fancied-up training jacket and the special light-up collar I bought him as an early Christmas gift. The marching bands didn't phase him; neither did the horses. He was tempted to go play, however, with the adorable little girls from a local Brownie troop, who were dressed as gingerbread houses.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a whole bunch of photos...just the few quick ones I could snap while we were milling about in the parking lot, waiting for everyone to arrive and "suit up."

Christmastime in Los Angeles...

Looking our holiday best...

Sweet Darla looks like a wee angel...

But Lomax is always best dressed!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Just Making Sure You Get Your Laundry Money's Worth

"These don't have enough hair on them. Let me help."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

One Ring To Rule Them All

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Dog on his dark throne
In the Land of Labrador where the Shadows lie.

Some say the Ring brings madness....

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Great Dog Swap

I swapped Lomax for his brother Liam for a few days after Thanksgiving; it's good to move the dogs around a bit to get them used to adapting to new environments and schedules. Besides, I wanted to get a more objective assessment of how Lomax is doing, and I trust Liam's puppy raisers. They hold their dogs to a high standard and do consistently good work, so this was also an opportunity for me to compare the two boys and see what I can reasonably expect from Lomax in terms of obedience.

From all reports, my little yellow dog did very well and was quite adaptable! He walks a little fast sometimes, and could stand to be more attentive to his handler, but these are issues I knew about. We've been working on them daily and really concentrating on them in our weekly obedience class. Hopefully it's just a matter of maturity. I have heard many puppy raisers say that sometimes the light will just go on one day: "Ohhhh! I get it now. You don't WANT me to chase birds!"

It was fun to see how similar the two of them are, personality-wise. They can both be wiggly wonders, happy little dogs with big smiles and long tongues and wagging behinds. The night we switched back, we let them run around and play in my apartment. They were two furry peas in a pod, tugging and running and wrestling and slobbering on each other with what I perceived to be great brotherly affection.

I love sweet Liam, but I desperately missed young master Lomax, and have been showering him with hugs and kisses ever since his return.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Monday, November 21, 2005

Hairy Potter and the Goblet of Fur

Today Lomax turned 14 months old, so I took him to see a matinee at my favorite movie theater. It was a nice respite from the ridiculous heat we're experiencing right now in Southern California (Accursed Santa Ana winds! I want to wear my turtlenecks!), which has brought on a response from Lomax's Emergency Hair Shedding System. He's like one of those cactus plants that shoot their needles at you if you get too close.

We got there early and took a seat, called my roommate to brag about what a good theater patron Lomax is, and fielded a few questions from the nice family sitting next to us. My favorite, from the little girl:

"Your dog is very cute! I've never seen a dog at the movies before. What if it's scary? Will he be scared?"

I told her that Lomax is very brave.

This theater has plenty of space between rows, so he was nice and comfy. The stadium seating allowed him to peek between the chairs in front of us whenever he wanted to lift his head and see something. He slept through much of Harry Potter, but he was quite interested in one particular preview shown before the film. I saw what was coming and looked carefully for his response...still in a "down/stay" position, but ears up, brow wrinkly, eyes bright, and tail wagging subtly.

Sure enough, it was a preview for the almost-certain-to-be-beyond-lame Tim Allen remake of The Shaggy Dog, complete with requisite "Who Let the Dogs Out?" soundtrack. I told him we could rent that one, but I'm not paying ten bucks to see it.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Runs in the Family

He's lived here for weeks now, nearly two months. All of a sudden, he starts doing this, which is another habit he has in common with brother Liam.

It's like when twins are separated at birth and raised in different adoptive families, separated by miles and borders and cultures...and they both grow up to be tap-dancing ornithologists who speak Portugese and collect antique fishing tackle.

He doesn't drag other blankets or towels around, just the one from his crate. At least it picks the hair up off the carpet as he goes. If only I could teach him to use the Swiffer on the bathroom floor.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Lomax's (Not So) Secret Love

A few posts back, I mentioned that Lomax's first puppy raiser warned me to watch out for a water bottle fetish that ultimately, at least in my experience, he seems to have overcome. But our trip to my church's "Fall Festival of Fun" carnival enlightened me as to a few of his other interests.

For example -- and Joanna had also warned me about this one -- he does enjoy balloons. One of the kids had left a very small balloon on the ground behind a table, and Lomax spied it just before I did; fortunately, a quick "Leave it!" did the trick.

Secondly, there's the basketball obsession. Our obedience class meets at a park next to a basketball court where there's always a spirited pickup game; we were placed at the end of the line one night, which I thought would be good because there would only be dogs on one side of us. Lomax was perfectly focused and alert...until the game started and a pack of wildly flailing, smack-talking, "BOOyah"-ing young men sped past us, laughing and swatting at each other on their way to the hoop nearest us.

BOIIINNNNNGGGGG! Lomax snapped. Lunge, wag, spring, pull. NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Jenny responded. Pop, command, correct, control. I did get his focus back, but every time the guys were on our end of the court, he wanted to go play.

I thought it was the running and excitement that had captured his attention, but at the Fall Festival, I noticed a similar theme. We heeled past the bounce house full of giggling and shrieking kids, no problem. Tables full of food, didn't even look. Speakers blasting music, no big deal. Free-throw shoot, BOIIINNNNNGGGGG!

Hmm. Let's try this again. Bean bag toss, been there. Ring toss, done that. Bowling with some 2-liter soda bottles and a basketb--BOIIINNNNNGGGGG!

I suspect Lomax's real ambition is to become a point guard for the Lakers.

Don't get me wrong, I'd be fine with that if I thought he would use the exorbitant salary to pay his share of the rent, maybe pitch in for the gas money I'm spending to drive him around town all the time. But I suspect he'd get swept up in the sports celeb scene and fritter away his millions on balloons, babes and bling. He's very smart, but I'm concerned about his financial savvy and his discernment when it comes to gold-digging Golden Retrievers.

So we've had a long talk, and despite his initial protestations that "Air Bud" was very successful and popular with the chicks, I think we've agreed that guide work is a much more noble and important career. I assured him that girls find him plenty attractive without the uniform and the tattoos. But in a spirit of compromise, I'm letting him keep this.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Backyard Buddies

Lomax and I went over to Trooper's this afternoon so his puppy raiser Madeline could attend a function dog-free. While the boys are members of the same puppy group as well as classmates in Tuesday night obedience, we hadn't yet been over for a playdate; I was unsure what to expect, because even though Lomax is an appropriately submissive dog, it's Trooper's turf and he can be a little pushy. But I had nothing to worry about. Taking advantage of the fact that Madeline has an actual house with an actual yard, the handsome boys of boundless energy spent a hefty chunk of time in boisterous run/tug/tussle/fetch/snort mode, with nary a sign of aggression.

I was very pleased with Lomax's attentiveness! I asked him to "drop" his end of the toy several times in mid-tug, and he was very good about that (unlike "Lockjaw" Trooper, who surrenders what's in his mouth to NO man). He was also quite willing to come to me when I called, even in the heat of, playtime. His fine efforts were met, as always, with heaps of praise and kisses and ear- and bellyrubs.

Lomax has also been more affectionate with me recently. It's not that he was standoffish or shy before -- or that I didn't try to encourage affection -- it's more that he was acting like a proper English gentleman: polite and dignified, not overly emotionally demonstrative and kissy, and respectful of a lady's boundaries. (This is how Amy and I came to refer to him as "Lord Lomax.") I think, though, that he and I are continuing to bond as time goes on. He's more likely to cuddle up next to me on the floor unbidden now, more likely to be an enthusiastic ear-licker if I'm within range. And I think I may retract my assessment that brother Liam is the "happiest dog I've ever met," because my sweet Lomax is an absolute joy machine with smiles and wags and wiggles for all.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Does This Photo Make My Butt Look Big?

His work ethic knows no limits. His creed? "On concrete or carpet, towels or turf, I will sleep the deep slumber of the waiting springboard of potential energy -- the working dog -- ready at a moment's notice for the instruction, the treat, the potty break, or the beloved release command! Onward! Zzzzzzzz."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Collateral Damage

My black tights, which I am wearing today because it's raining and I'm in a skirt, do not enjoy the velcro strap from Lomax's puppy jacket, which made ferocious contact as I was hurriedly removing said puppy jacket so said little dog could pee quickly so we could get out of the rain. No good, I say. No good.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

And Some Days, We Are Just Spoiled

Ciao, Bella!

Last night Lomax and I attended a barbecue -- hot dogs, of course -- in celebration of Bella, a sweet little female Lab who's being turned in for formal training today. After a nice out-of-jacket, off-leash few minutes of greeting and sniffing and running with lovely Bella, Lomax was once again relegated to working status.

I could tell it was hard work for Mr. Happy (one of his many nicknames). I had him back on leash and in jacket, sitting or lying at my feet, the rest of the time we were there. He does love everyone! Perhaps it's simply the force of his wagging tail that propels his happy hiney out of a nice sit position, but calm greetings are still a challenge for us. I know he'll get better at it -- Bella's people were saying that two months ago, she was the same way, and that something just clicked one day in terms of maturity. She sat beautifully still...perhaps contemplating her impending time at college?

It was a fun evening, and good practice for both of us. All I could think, though, was that this "night before turn-in" will be upon me before I know it. I am already dreading the moment I will switch off my bedroom light with Lomax next to my bed for the last time. It will be a horrible and beautiful thing, letting him go.

I spent the rest of the evening watching TV with Amy and cuddling on the floor with an exhausted dog. Good work, little man.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Lomax Report Card, One Month Down

I've shared with you some of Lomax's little quirks, and a few of our outings and adventures, but now that I've had him for a full month (well, okay, just over a month, and I've been meaning to post this but the past week has been busy), I thought you might be interested in an overall report on his behavior.

We're constantly practicing obedience: on my breaks at work, while we're waiting somewhere, on walks in my neighborhood, all the time. And when it's just the two of us, he's stellar. Excellent heel position on a loose lead, very attentive, not ground-sniffy, terrific recall when we're playing or when I put distractions in his way. Even in our obedience class, full of other dogs big & small, young & old, male & female, intact & "fixed," he does incredibly well when the two of us are called out to solo, as it were. It's obvious he enjoys working.

But the second there are other dogs in motion anywhere near him, all that goes out the window. It takes several stiff leash-pop corrections to get him to pay attention, then he's good until one gets too close. When the whole obedience class is walking at once, he'll all of a sudden stop a perfect "heel" in mid-stride and jump into a play stance as though he's about to pounce on the dog walking in front of us. We were out walking tonight, and he was magnificently on the ball until he heard someone walking a tiny yappy-dog about a block behind us. Mid-stride, he wheeled around and wanted to go in the other direction. I had to correct him twice, keep him moving, talk to him the whole way and make him turn a corner and do some obedience in order to get him re-focused. It's like someone flips a switch in his brain.

I took him up to the monthly puppy class at GDA last weekend, and felt like he was a completely different dog than the one who'd been with me at home that morning. Of course, the school is full of the sights, sounds and smells of literally hundreds of other dogs, so the distraction factor is higher than usual. We did a little recall test with him, just a trainer with some toys, and me and Lomax -- he did okay, but wasn't his usual attentive self. I wondered if I was doing something wrong, but the trainer reassured me that Lomax is actually doing well for only having been with me for this short amount of time (after having spent ten months bonding with another puppy raiser).

The last couple of weeks have been tougher than the first few, and I'm wondering if something clicked and he's realizing that he's not just a guest here but actually a resident -- and testing me (whether I passed or failed in his estimation, I am now wise to his plan). I'm also wondering if, since he was used to living with another dog or two, he is more distracted by dogs now because he misses having regular playtime. Mostly, I am wondering how much of this is me not being tough enough on him, and how much is simply his age and intact status.

From the beginning, there were things I was expecting him to do well and things I was expecting him to be challenged by, because I had asked his last puppy raiser about a thousand questions. But for whatever arbitrary adolescent dog reason, he has surprised me in a few areas.

For example, I heard he had a "water bottle fetish" of sorts, so I purposely set him up and tempted him left and right: I left several bottles on low bookshelves, I stood near him with a water bottle in my hand and my arm down by my side, at his face level, et cetera. I practically dared him to go for it. I even swirled the water around and pretended I wasn't paying attention. But he has not once, to this day, even cast a sideways glance at my dear friend Arrowhead 24oz Sports Top Bottle.

Things that have quickly improved:

• Perpendicular sit: for the first few weeks, he'd "swing out" to the left (perpendicular and looking at me) when I told him to sit, and I constantly had to put him in the correct position next to me. Now he's great.

• Heeling on the stairs: upstairs is nearly perfect, downstairs is generally very good unless he REALLY has to pee, early in the morning. (And can you blame him?)

• The sneaky soldier-crawl: we're working on keeping him where I put him in a stay by giving him a blanket as a boundary. When he streeeeetches or rolls ("I'm staying, technically. I didn't move my butt off the ground. What's six inches to the left between friends?!? Look how cute I am!") and moves over the edge of the blanket, he gets a correction. Getting better all the time!

Obviously, this is all a learning experience for me too; I know I'm not doing everything perfectly, and everyone has bad days. But I think Lomax and I are well on our way and building more trust all the time (even our teeth brushing is improving!), and the support and encouragement of the other puppy raisers in my group has been invaluable.

I know that real love means looking out for the best interest of the other party, which means you sometimes have to be firm (as they say at the school, "persistent, consistent and insistent"). I love him as much when I'm correcting him or putting medicine on his face as I do when I'm cradling him and rubbing his tummy. Judging from the way he wags his tail when I bring him out of a dead sleep just by whispering his name and telling him he's a good boy, I think he loves me too.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Just Flew in From Obedience Class...

...and boy, are my arms tired.

No joke. When I'm done with this dog -- or he with me -- I will surely have the scariest biceps this side of the governor's office.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

My Favorite Sound

Lomax isn't very noisy. I don't think I've heard him whine once, save for the occasional low-volume, split-second "hmEE!" sound he makes when he's elated to see me and itching to play.

But even his breathing makes me happy. When he comes out of the kennel in the morning, the first thing he does is stretch. Then he picks up the nearest chew toy and circles me for as long as I'll stand in one place. With his ears back and butt wiggling so hard and fast you'd think it would impair his forward motion, he circles and circles, breathing out this amazing sort of half-snort:

"Ffffff. Ffff-ffff. Fffff-ffff. FFF!"

He should have been born into the "F" litter. Maybe he has a secret dog name that he's trying to communicate to me. Maybe it's Frank, or Fabio. Or maybe it's just "Fff." I suspect, in fact, that they all have secret dog names.

Dog One: "Greetings, General Fff!"
Dog Two: "Captain RrrRrr. How are the troops looking today?"
Dog One: "Excellent, sir. Though I am a bit concerned about Corporal HmEEEEE-HweeeEEEE-HmEEEEEEeee -- he seems upset about something."

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Dog Conspiracy Theory #47

GDA doesn't really have a breeding program. They just call the "breeder" dogs up to the facility every once in a while, give the Labs a good brushing, and build new puppies out of the hair.

Friday, October 21, 2005

What are ya, BLIND?

Perhaps the most amusing thing about puppy raising is that sometimes, people (who obviously don't actually read Lomax's "Puppy In Training" jacket) think I'm visually impaired.

Especially when I'm wearing my black sunglasses and walking him down the street.

The bold ones ask me, "So, if you don't mind my asking, are you totally blind?" But it's the hesitant ones I most enjoy, the ones who just shoot a sideways glance toward my face as we're passing. Is she or isn't she...?

A friend suggested I use this to my advantage in situations where Lomax and I are denied access to a store or restaurant by a cranky merchant. "Just stare blankly, feel for the door and say in your sweetest voice, 'I'm so sorry to have troubled you! God bless!'"

Heh heh heh.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Lomax and the Great Glass Elevator

The hound and I attended a conference for work today, which was held at a nice Embassy Suites hotel near the airport. It went well. The rain had mostly stopped, so I didn't walk in to a room full of strangers with a smelly wet dog, which was a relief.

He did, of course, stink things up on his own once I positioned him beneath the table...which was a laughable occurrence (at least for me) because my roommate was remarking just last night that Lomax has been quite mild on the gas-o-meter for the last several days. So much for that. Problem was mostly solved, however, when I put him in a "down stay" in the corner of the room. His occasional stretches, yawns and Lab-trademarked sighs were met with the usual lower-lip-out, head-tilted, silent "awwwwwwwww" faces from my more dog-centric co-workers. Good times.

Anyway, as we left the session for a little walk around the center court of the hotel's lower level -- which was decorated with nifty ponds complete with koi, turtles and ducks (!) -- I noticed there was a glass elevator.

So I took him right in (he's quite accustomed to solid elevators) and pushed the button corresponding to the fifth and highest floor. And as the doors shut and the elevator moved up, I had a very brief moment of panic, which went a little something like this:


It was then I looked down to observe Lomax reacting as he seems to react to just about anything: with head held high, tail wagging and a goofy, tongue-out smile.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Fire in a Crowded Theater

On Saturday night, Lomax and I attended a "drive-in" movie event on the soundstage at the studio where I used to work. It was a fun evening; we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the company with a screening of the original Creature From the Black Lagoon (in 3D, as you may have surmised by the photo) and a delicious carne asada taco feast.

While we were mingling pre-screening, I attempted to take Lomax out to the parking lot for a visit with "Kenny Asada," captain of the grill. Barbecuing requires fire. And where there's fire, there's smoke.

And smoke, apparently, is a sign to the furry one that he needs to save my life by pulling as hard and as quickly as he can to get us outta there. It was like the Flintstones trying to start the car.

He didn't bark or whine or put his tail between his legs and freak out, but he was clearly aware that there was some kind of dangerous thing happening over near the grill. I managed to calm him down and get him back inside (trying all the while to act as though this were nothing for him to worry about, a completely normal situation...because, after all, it was). There was a little smoke on stage, too, and he was not happy about that, but when we were safely out of range of the fire, he snapped right back into his usual happy self.

My roommate thought it was a wonderful and heroic thing that Lomax was trying to save my life from the terrible fire. She said, "That's a good thing!"

"Sure," I replied. "Until the blind person wants to go to a barbecue."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

"Hail Lomaximus!"

Our first puppy meeting together. The dog costume contest.

I was concerned that the costume wouldn't hold, the helmet or sword would go askew and obscure his vision and movement, that Lomax would wiggle his way out of it in the mad excitement of meeting dozens of new pups and people, that a spontaneous game of puppy flag football would break out and his fine red sash and faux-leather skirted accents would pay the price before the judging began. The contingency plan, of course, was that I would assert it was all part of the act, that Lomaximus had just emerged victorious from a brutal gladiatorial contest.

But there was no need. My beloved charge, my handsome little man, was well-behaved and fairly controllable...and I must say, looked mighty proud and confident in his getup. The much-hated helmet that had inspired death-ray looks of canine scorn in practice runs at home remained secure upon his lofty brow (he was too happy about the presence of others and being the center of attention to care much for the minor inconvenience). No one mauled him, nor did he maul others, though he did earnestly long for some extended sniffs in the general direction of the intact females in their pretty dresses and tiaras.

I had the opportunity to FINALLY, after just over two and a half years as a "future puppy raiser" attending meetings with either no dog or someone else's, officially introduce myself and my furry foster child. Our happy moment was met with applause and cheering from those who have known me as their go-to puppysitter and a joyous participant in others' graduations. Of no less importance was my announcement that Lomax was NOT dressed as a Trojan, as he had been announced (I am a UCLA grad with blue & gold blood in my veins), but as "Lomaximus, mighty Roman warrior."

We came home with a (presumably) delicious rawhide chew tied in festive ribbons, the prize for Best Dressed...which we absolutely were, without question.

Finally, a hearty "Hats Off To You!" goes out to my good friend and former boss Ian at New Deal Studios, without whose tools, expertise, creativity and appreciation for the absurd I could not possibly have modified a child-sized Roman soldier costume to fit a wiggly Labrador Retriever. Thanks again, Ian! I owe you another latte.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Puppy Kindergarten

My group offers a 10-week class called "Puppy Kindergarten" for members with new 8- or 9-week-old pups. More often a learning experience for the people than the dogs, the kindergarten class encourages and teaches us how to begin working immediately to gain the trust and obedience of a creature that would, in the hands of the average person, probably be no more than an adorable and barely forgivable tasmanian devil (of the Warner Bros. sort).

But the kindergarten teachers are wise and patient, and the simple tricks they know are profoundly effective.

I took year-old Lomax to kindergarten not because he needs to brush up on his basic skills, but because I could always use a refresher...AND because Lomax loooooves other dogs, which is a fine thing for a family dog, but not such a fine thing for a service dog. Not everyone with four legs (or two, for that matter, as Lomax is nondiscriminatory in these matters) is a potential playmate.

His brother Liam comes to these classes, too, because this is apparently a genetic enthusiasm. Liam must stay down under Matt's chair and observe the class, and behave without whining and fidgeting and sucking up to "his people" for attention.

But I took Lomax through the class itself. It must have looked comical, three other tiny puppies in the on-their-back "cradle" position with their handlers, and me with the remedial student, having to actually reeeeeach forward to grab and inspect his back feet.

He did a fair amount of wiggling and sniffing because he's not just friendly but also intact ("GIRLS LIVE HERE. I SMELL GIRLS. GIRLS. GIRLS. GIRLS."), but by the end of the class, he seemed to be fairly attentive and calm. The real test will come at his first official South Bay puppy raisers meeting this coming Monday, which will be wall-to-wall with people and dogs who are new and exciting. And they'll all be in costume.

Photos to come, I promise.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Under My Desk in an All-Too-Air-Conditioned Office

There's nothing quite so soft and sweet
As this, dear puppy, Heaven knows!
As though you sense my icy feet,
You rest your head on my cold toes.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Our First GDA Event

Lomax and I helped man (woman? dog?) the South Bay Puppy Raisers booth at the annual Walk For the Animals in Long Beach last Sunday, which means we've now officially attended our first GDA event together. It was fun hanging out with some of the South Bay regulars, and brother Liam was there, which made it even better (pics to come). The two of them carved a canine crop circle in the grass and sniffed mutual dog butt like there was no tomorrow ("Hey! I know you! I know you! I know you!").

Then there was a little blessing of the animals, which required our standing in the midst of a huge mass of people and pets -- Lomax wasn't sure what to make of the free-range tortoise -- and straining to hear various remarks and benedictions and whatnot over the barking/growling/whining/"NO!"-ing crowd. "Blah blah blah ecumenical blah noncommittal notion of a higher being blah blah blah don't we all love the little creatures blah blah all dogs go to heaven blah St. Francis blah blah."

Then we stood in line in front of our blessing-giver of choice (we found ourselves a charming Catholic priest with a very short line), who addressed Lomax by name, proffered a quick "Father-Son-Holy Spirit," sprinkled the little man with holy water and "God Bless"ed us on our merry way.

Perhaps the loveliest part of the day, though (because as a regular churchgoer, Lomax is quite accustomed to being blessed), was the post-event hangout in the nearby back yard of Ann, another puppy raiser. Seven Labs off leash, all very happy to see each other.

He slept very well that night.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Who's Laughing Now?

I laughed when my dad bought some Israeli military-issue gas masks for the family in case of some, what, gas-related emergency? You know, it was the '80s, and dad had a few "survivalist" friends who seemed bent on being able to live in an underground bomb shelter stocked with an arsenal and a convenience store.

But Lomax spends several hours a day under my desk while I'm at work, and I'm not ashamed to admit that one or two of those gas masks would come in handy right about now.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Saturday, October 01, 2005

That Not-So-Fresh Feeling

There is now a can of air freshener sitting by the telephone. And our living room smells vaguely of apple-scented dog farts.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Little. Yellow. Different.

I wish I'd been able to hug and kiss him when he looked like this! He's like the anti-Harvey!

Joanna, Lomax's previous puppy raiser, kept a page for him on Dogster. Check it out if you'd like to see more of his puppy pictures and diary.

Welcome to the Family!

We're very excited that Lomax has three littermates in the South Bay puppy raisers group. This photo, taken at the annual September picnic (before I even knew my little yellow dog was coming to live with me), shows brother Liam and sisters Kandy and Luca.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Official Personhood Status

I was putting Lomax's puppy jacket on him outside the building this morning when a co-worker breezed past. He was talking on his cell phone, but nodded in acknowledgment and shot out a quick morning greeting:

"Hi guys."

Would it have been the plural if I'd been accompanied by a cat? A parrot? A monkey? A hamster? Or is it just Lomax's job that makes him seem more like another person?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Working Class Dog

Lomax's first day work with me went very well; there was nary a peep (nor a woof) out of him all day, and he met all the dog lovers in the office, greeting calmly for the most part.

Snoozing under the desk is an enviable job description.

He did get a bit antsy in the afternoon, probably because even though he went to highschool with Joanna, I'm guessing he got to get up and stretch his legs every hour or so and was home earlier than 6:30 P.M. I can't help but think I'm spoiling my co-workers and setting them up for trauma when, after Lomax, I start bringing a whiny, immature, needy 8-week-old puppy to the office.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Blue and Gold and Furry All Over

Lomax is now a Bruin. Tim and I took him to UCLA today, to walk him around campus and experience a little college life (and no, we did not take him to a frat party). Unlike Janna, who is afraid of bronze lions, Lomax had no qualms at all about being asked to pose for a photo with the big statue in the middle of Bruin Walk.

We surveyed campus from the top of Drake Stadium, traversed Royce quad and ducked inside Powell Library, stuck our noses into the Kerckhoff Coffee House for a quick java sniff, and descended Janss Steps (though I couldn't expect him to skip the sixth step...hope that doesn't mean he'll end up an extra year in guide dog training). Lomax was well behaved in the student store while Tim browsed the philosophy section, and if it hadn't been $25, I would have bought him a blue-and-gold UCLA Bruins dog collar.

He even sat calmly while we listened to the UCLA Bruin Marching Band drumline warm up outside Pauley Pavilion. I, on the other hand, could hardly prevent myself from marking time during the cadence....

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Lomax Has Landed

And so the great adventure begins...with fleas.

My poor little man! Itching, scratching, scabby, crawling with the nasty little vampires. This was surprising, considering Joanna said he'd already had his flea meds for the month. Maybe they were just really determined mutant fleas with iron-clad immune systems. Who knows.

So I promptly called my puppy group leaders -- the amazing Brian and Nancy -- to ask what our best course of action would be. They suggested a good bath and a rinse with Avon's miracle elixir, Skin So Soft. But who has an Avon Lady these days? Apparently, Nancy does. And providentially, she had an extra bottle she was willing to part with.

So we chucked the dog bed and soft toys that came from his old house and jumped in the truck to head to Long Beach. Brian and Nancy were waiting for us with the Skin So Soft, and they were kind enough to give Lomax a bath outside and apply some Frontline. We stopped at a pet supply store on the way home to pick up some of Doc Ackerman's deliciously orange cream scented shampoo; now he's the best-smelling dog in the west.

The rest of our evening consisted of a photo shoot courtesy of Amy's mom, who wishes to refer to my dog as her grandchild, and a relaxing session of working off the flea scabs and applying Neosporin. Welcome to your new life, Lomax.

Dog Day

In just a few hours' time I'll be up at GDA to pick up my dog, Lomax, from his previous puppy raiser, Joanna. I'll watch Joanna work with him for the hour-long puppy class so I can get an idea of what I can expect him to know, then we'll make the big switch and I'll get to bring him home with me.

This is my last free moment. I wonder if this is how first-time pregnant women feel....

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Instant Jacuzzi

When Harvey's happy, he blows bubbles in his water dish.

Note the tray beneath the dish, which I foolishly thought would contain any spillage. I did not consider Harvey's frequent "Are you watching?" over-the-shoulder head tosses.

Not pictured: my bathroom floor, which is now a quarter-inch deep hazmat zone of black dog hair floating on slobbery water.

Thank God I left the toilet lid down.

Monday, September 19, 2005

"Little" Harvey

While I'm waiting for Lomax, I'm puppysitting Harvey, who is also one year old...but weighs about 90 pounds (that's about a 35-pound difference). He's got short legs and a broad chest, and a huuuuge head. It's a good thing he's so laid back.

What a sweet, silly, lovable oaf he is! Amy likens him to a horse, due to his tendency to prance and snort and toss his head when he's in a playful mood. The downstairs neighbors must hate me.

The stories his puppy raiser told me are priceless. When their family takes Harvey for a walk, the cat goes too (don't ask me how they managed THAT). But the cat knows that when Harvey's wearing his GDA "Puppy in Training" jacket, he's at work and can't the cat will swat at Harvey's hiney and attack his tail, and all Harvey can do is give him a dirty look.

Until they get home, that is, when Harvey can pick up the cat by the scruff of its neck and carry it around like a puppy.

If I weren't getting my own dog this weekend, I'd just not answer the door when the MacKenzies come to pick this one up. I mean, look at his sweet floppy face! Tim and I decided that if Harvey were a blues musician, his name would be "MooshyFace Jackson."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Habemus PUPam!

I've been waiting a long time for my very own dog...and today, finally, I heard from the Puppy Department at GDA.

I thought I would be receiving an 8-week-old puppy at some point before Christmas, but as it turns out, there are other joyous, important things in store for me in my favorite area of community service. This new task will be a sacrifice for me in some ways, but a great joy in other ways. For one thing, the dog I'm getting is already old enough to be well behaved in most public places and will therefore make the already busy holiday season less stressful than would a curious sharp-toothed destruction machine with a tiny bladder.

Also, this gives me an opportunity to serve another person who is probably heartbroken about having to give up her dog sooner than she expected.

Today I am ecstatic to announce that sometime in the next couple of weeks, I will be taking over puppy raising duties from another terrific volunteer who unfortunately cannot complete the commitment. My new charge -- and soon-to-be extension of my left arm, as it were -- is a year-old male Yellow Labrador Retriever named Lomax.

Friday, August 19, 2005

What I Have Learned About Toddlers

It's a gorgeous afternoon, so Trooper and I decided to spend some time in the backyard. He seemed to prefer lounging in a shady corner of the lawn, lazily chewing on a toy, to any sort of enticement to roughhouse play on my part, so I thought it would be safe for me to go inside for a "just a minute" to use the restroom.

Sure, I knew that he's not allowed in the backyard unsupervised, because Madeline told me he recently exercised his gastronomic impulses on an unsuspecting shrub. But the dog was planted in his comfy spot and focused on the chewing; nothing short of my picking him up and carrying him into the house like a sack of potatoes would have distracted him.

Less than two minutes later, I stepped off the back stair to discover the discarded chew toy, sans chewer.

"Trooper?" Nothing.

"Trooper?" A faint jingle. Did it come from the side of the house? I glanced. Nothing. I returned to the yard, wondering if my ears had deceived me.

"Trooper! Where are you?"

Another jingle-jingle-jingle from the side of the house made me take a closer look. I was met by a tail-wagging, yet slightly guilt ridden, dustbunny with something in his mouth that looked like the end of...

...a light bulb. Dear GOD! Don't let it be broken!

So far this week, my attempts at getting him to surrender a toy in our games of fetch have been met with apathy at best and bucking bronco insanity at worst. Fortunately, though, for a puppy who's not particularly responsive to "drop it," "give it," "leave it," or any other incarnation of a give-me-what-you've-got command, he was surprisingly compliant. I felt like I was defusing a bomb; the slightest provocation could send him into an ill-fated chomp. With the gentlest, least threatening, least playful voice I could muster, I secured him by the collar and made him sit so I could pry open his dirt-caked mouth and rescue the (blessedly intact) light bulb.

I do not know what other mischief he has wrought in the crawlspace underneath the house, but I replaced the screen that covers the entrance and took a wet paper towel to his dusty snout. And that is enough excitement for one day.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Canine Indiscretions

Trooper has been better behaved this morning, content for the most part to lie quietly beneath my desk, hidden by the cubicle wall that separates this office into two little rooms.

He does occasionally wander out, though, to sprawl beside my chair. As long as he's quiet, I don't pay too much attention...until I hear a comment from a passerby.

"Well, THAT'S a pretty picture."

Modest Trooper, snoozing comfortably on his back in a pose reminiscent of an untressed Thanksgiving turkey, is apparently visible from the waist down to everyone in the hallway.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Chained to My Desk

This week I'm watching Trooper again; I haven't spent much time with him since he was a wee ten-week-old potbellied pup. He's now six months and wee no longer! He's very strong. He's very "mouthy." And he likes to bark.

The Troop spent a few days up at the GDA kennel before I started caring for him. Madeline, his vacationing puppy raiser for whom I'm dog- and housesitting, will no doubt be thrilled to learn that he left a generous yet unnoticed gift for her in the back bedroom. It was nearly four days before I found it myself...better to discover by smell than by step, I always say.

Today finds me on my first day at work with the little tyke. A brand-new executive assistant has moved in to share an office with li'l ol' part-timer me, so there's all manner of change afoot here. This new employee presumably did not know upon her hiring that she would be A.) sharing an office, and B.) in residence with El Barko. Welcome to your new job!

Trooper wants to follow me everywhere, which is fine at home but not so good when I have to go to, say, the fax machine or the printer or the kitchen or the ladies' room. The first time I tried to get up this morning, he went to the end of his tie-down and sat there, staring at the door. I gave him a firm but wary "stay" command. Really, he could do nothing BUT "stay" at that point, since there was no more lead.

But he could also make his displeasure known throughout the land.

Sorry, new officemate, for the barking while you were on the phone with a person who I hope was not our company president.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

But Can She Type?

Kandy is one smart cookie, just like her brother Liam.

I was sitting on the couch, tossing toys down the hallway for Kandy to retrieve (yes, I somehow manage to exercise the dog without exercising myself...), when I casually stumbled upon a little game/canine I.Q. test. I took two toys -- "the octopus" she'd brought from home and "the man" I'd purchased to keep at my place -- to my bedroom down the hallway and left them next to each other in the middle of the floor. I scattered a few more toys near them. Then I returned to the living room and gave instructions.

"Kandy, go get the octopus!" Thundering Labrador footfalls down the hallway. A few seconds later, Kandy came trotting back up the hallway with the octopus in her mouth. But that could have been coincidence, right? And it's her favorite toy anyway. Let's see if she does it again.

"Kandy, go get the man! Where's the man?"

She took the octopus back to my room. There was a far-off squeaking I recognized instantly.

The man.

My roommate looked at me. Are you KIDDING?

We couldn't resist doing it repeatedly. Octopus! Man! Man! Octopus! Man man man! This is better than TV!

I don't know how Kandy felt about it, but it kept us amused for a good twenty minutes. I threw in a "Kandy, go get half a gallon of Rocky Road at the market up the street," but no dice. I think it's just because she didn't have a pocket for the change.

Friday, June 17, 2005

And the Dog Snoozed On

Anybody else feel that earthquake? I'm four floors up in a small office building in West L.A., and we had more than our fair share of rock & roll for a temblor that was centered in San Bernardino County.

So as I was sitting here at my sturdy wooden desk, wondering how long the shaking would continue and deciding whether or not to get underneath, I realized I had a dog with me -- Kandy, the 8-month-old Labrador I'm puppysitting this week. Would she whine? Bark? Chew through my leg to get out from under the desk and bolt down the hallway?

Then came the gentle snoring. I don't think she's concerned.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Liam the Magnificent and Other Smart Boys

Watched this dog for a quick overnight stay when he was a mere 12 weeks old, and was astounded at his grasp of the verbal command "No." Seriously, he would gently sniff some unauthorized item, I would simply tell him "NO," and he would never go near it again.

He is seven months old now. Liam, who perhaps should have been named Linus, enjoys dragging his blue baby blanket around the apartment, while wiggling and grunting and wagging his tail. He's the happiest dog I've ever seen. Even at six in the morning, when he awakens me with gentle whining and the BANG-BANG-BANG of his tail against the wire kennel, it's adorable.

And what excellent social skills! Liam wasn't even embarrassed at church this morning when the pastor's four-year-old son pointed to his furry private parts and enthusiastically announced to everyone that Liam is a boy.

Connor (giggling wildly): "HE HAS A PE--"
Jenny: "Pee! That's right, time to take Liam out to pee! Connor's a smart boy."

Saturday, February 19, 2005

If I Only Had The Nerve

Little Janna has an indomitable spirit that cowers for neither man nor beast. She's fearless! She's feisty! She's...'fraid of the ugly bronze lions in front of my neighbor's house.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


I'm puppysitting again; this time it's a five-month old black Lab named Janna. The family who's raising her is very busy right now, so I've been asked to take her for a week or so, just to give her some new experiences and some intensive basic training. She's very cute. She's very smart. She's VERY stubborn...and hasn't yet been taught that she isn't the boss.

Two words: Labrador Rodeo.

There are moments when I literally have to grab her legs and pull them out from under her in order to get her on her back for grooming (it's not as damaging as it may sound, there's an actual technique to it). Then there's the Greco-Roman wrestling. I get her on the floor, quickly muscle her on to her side, grasp one of her forelegs for leverage, pin her across the neck/shoulder with my forearm and clamp my other hand firmly on her hip...and hold her there until her breathing slows and she's relaxed enough not to bolt as soon as I let go and give her the "okay" release command. Meanwhile, she lolls her tongue around and grunts and wiggles and snorts and gives me the crazy-eye. It takes a good thirty minutes, and provides a surprisingly good workout for both of us.

Ultimately, after last night's match, I won. But she got me back later...just as I was drifting off to sleep, satisfied that Janna was dreaming happily in her kennel next to my bed, she let out a toxic cloud that could have gagged a stone statue.

Is this what it's like to have children?