Saturday, November 30, 2013

In a Flash

In a flash everything can change from routine to emergency.

At 6:30 this morning a fisherman and his 14-year-old son were standing on a breakwater near San Pedro.  

A wave knocked them into the water, and a bystander jumped into the ocean to try to save their lives.  He succeeded in pushing the boy toward safety, but he lost his own life.,0,5691259.story#axzz2mBpx6iSa

A quiet morning.  A larger than usual wave.  Two in the water and a split-second decision.

A life ended.

At least my little Thanksgiving crisis involved a cat, not a human.  Someone's beloved cat.

At least I have so far not hit any pedestrian with my car or killed anyone while driving.  

There but for the grace of God...


Why is the cat alive?

How could she be held in Nailah's jaws and not be injured?

Did Nailah grab her by the scruff of the neck, the way a mother dog carries her pups?  But Callie had a cone on her neck.

Nailah has had two or three litters of pups.  Maybe she grabbed the cat gently.

But she was shaking the cat.

Have they taken the cat to a vet?  I'm sure they would let me know if Callie was injured.

Maybe cats really do have nine lives.

Today I manage Nailah and Stormy's walk with an iron grip.  I understand why the dog training classes say to loop the leash around the thumb and then secure it with all four fingers.  

For Stormy this grip was not really needed, but for Nailah it's very important, and I wrap the leash once more around my whole hand.

I do not let her pull me off the sidewalk.  I do not walk down the block where the attack occurred.

Scum of the Earth

I set out with Nailah and Stormy at 5 pm taking the opposite direction from our usual walks.

I'm walking a killer dog.  The leashes are tightly bound up in my right hand.

A woman with two cute Welsh terriers approaches from the direction we are going.  

She greets us with friendly words, a balm to my anxious state.  She doesn't know Nailah's a killer and I'm a careless dog owner.

We reach Ocean Park Blvd. with cars whizzing past.  I walk toward the place where I can push a button to make a flashing signal light up, presumably stopping cars.  

If a car doesn't stop, well that's okay.  Expiation.

What was I thinking two days ago?  Of course a Rhodesian ridgeback will attack a cat.  

They're bred to be lion hunters.

Part 2

After walking the dogs and showering, I notice a missed call.  It's 9 am.

Message: the little black cat is injured.  She wasn't doing well yesterday.  

Today she's going into surgery.

"She has a hole in a muscle by her side where the dog bit her.  The good news is that it doesn't appear to have punctured her bowel, which could really be fatal."

Sheesh.  Callie's life is in danger.  

Nailah and I are not off the hook.  

Of course she was hurt: Nailah's teeth were clamped on her.

I will pay for surgery.  (How will I tell John? When?)  It will be at 1 pm.

OMG, why was I so stupid?  Why did I bring a wild Arizona dog to Los Angeles?

I drive to the Animal Specialty and Emergency Center, thinking to sit with the cat's owner during the surgery and pay afterward.

I walk in and realize the owner is not there.  I sit down in the dog waiting room.  I can't ask about Callie because of confidentiality.  She's not my cat.

What if the staff recognize me?  I've been here several times with Nailah getting chemo.  

Yes, it's Nailah, the dog whose life you saved, who attacked Callie.  I'm the owner who let this happen.

I drive home and go to the home of Callie's owner, a block away from my house.  

I extend apologies and promise to pay the costs.

After the surgery, the report, by phone texting: Callie had four internal hernias.

"Amazing that she survived initially," I text back.

"Love," texts my neighbor.


I can't exactly visualize an internal hernia on a cat.

I'm praying for Callie to live.  Can the Creator of the Universe take interest in a little cat?  Does God know or care?  

Note: not one sparrow falls to the ground without God's notice (Matt. 10:29).

Could you provide another miracle, please, God?  

Yes, thank you that this little cat survived the initial attack.  Now could you heal her completely?

Friday, November 29, 2013



Of course Nailah attacked a cat.  Why did I think she would just look and sniff?

She's from Arizona.  She survived a week or more on her own, probably eating small animals.

Before she was abandoned she may have been a hunting dog.

Rhodesian ridgebacks were bred to be lion hunters in southern Africa.

What was I thinking?  Why did I routinely let her pull me off the sidewalk to stand in front of a cat and look?

What the hell was I thinking?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving morning and I need to bake an apple pie and some dinner rolls before leaving at 12:30 pm for the family gathering.

I walk the dogs before starting to bake.  Mistake.

On the walk Nailah attacks a cat.  

We pass the house where two cats live, Callie and Aja Baba.  Sometimes one of them is sitting on a three-foot wall, and I let Nailah walk closer and sniff.

Today when I do that, Nailah suddenly lunges.

She clamps her teeth on the little black cat and starts shaking her.

"No, no, Nailah!" I scream, yanking on her leash.  

Nailah releases the cat, and I see she has a cone around her neck.

Callie can't escape as usual through the wrought iron fence because of the cone.  

Nailah grabs her again but immediately releases her as I scream "No, no!" and try to pull eighty pounds of dog toward me.   

Then Callie dashes off through the bushes into a back yard, and I regain control of my monster.

I knock on the door but the owner is not home.  No cars in the driveway.  Thanksgiving.

I drag Nailah and Stormy home, yelling at them and at myself.

I return and leave a note for Callie's owner with my cell phone number--not the land line.  I don't want anyone but me to answer this call.

I knock on the door of a next-door neighbor and tell her what has happened.  She calls Callie's owner.

I return to the house.  Thanksgiving has been ruined.  Nailah has probably killed a neighbor's cat.  

I fumble around the kitchen as the clock ticks toward T-time, but there's no point to making pies or dinner rolls.


At 9:30 am John gets up and walks out from the bedroom.  I've been debating how and when to tell him.

Not now, I decide immediately.

He looks around dourly.  "What are you doing?"


"How are you?"

He never asks how I am, especially not first thing in the morning.  I try to find something to say that is not a lie.

"I got a good night's sleep."

"Where's Stormy?" he asks, and I realize that I forgot to let Stormy into the house to jump up on the bed next to him after our walk.  

He lets Stormy in and retreats to the bedroom.


Two minutes later I get a call on my cell.  It's a local number so I know who it is.

"This is Anne.  How's the cat?"

Callie seems to be okay.

"Are you sure?" I ask.  

No bleeding and she's not tender to the touch.

How can that be?  The image of Callie in Nailah's jaws being shaken is imprinted on my retinas.

"I'll pay for x-rays, for whatever she needs," I say.

"We have something to be grateful for," says Callie's owner.  

I walk gingerly through the rest of the day.  Turkey, dinner rolls, pie, family rituals.

I thank God that the little black cat is alive.  It's a miracle.  The great God of the Universe--Melech ha'Olam--has looked with favor on us.

Still, I am puzzled.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

New Dog on the Block

I learn by email that my next-door neighbors have a new dog, but I can't believe it.

We haven't heard a peep, much less a bark, out of that house.  

The next day I knock on their door to investigate.  I meet Luke, a long lean German shepherd with kind eyes.  He's almost totally black--quite a distinguished character.  The silent type.

This makes a total of six dogs in three houses: Paolo and Shasta are next door on the other side.

All these dogs are rescues except for Stormy, whom we bought for $500 as a Welsh corgi puppy.  She turns out to be our least expensive dog at this point because she's young and has had the fewest medical expenses. 

As I leave, Luke's owner Steve remarks, "Yeah, we're thinking about getting insurance."

Uh--yes, you think?  Living next door to a reality show about the need for dog health insurance policies?  

We should buy them too, but probably Nailah will get refused for her prior medical condition.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Na'ilah's Ancestors

When did humans first make friend with dogs?

Human-like beings with brains not quite as advanced as ours were using tools 2.6 million years ago--homo habilis.

Humans who walked on two feet were around 1.8 million years ago--homo erectus.

People with brains exactly like ours showed up 200,000 years ago in Africa--homo sapiens.

By 35,000 years ago, they had reached Europe and were painting on walls of caves there.  By 25,000 years ago they had traveled to the Americas.

The Neolithic Revolution occurred around 9000 BCE--humans started growing crops and domesticating animals.  

The date for human domestication of dogs used to be pegged around 11,000 BCE, a couple thousand years before we started keeping other animals.

However, evolutionary biologist Robert Wayne of UCLA has examined DNA evidence to come up with a figure of 30,100 BCE to 16,800 BCE. 

Today's LA Times reports on his research published this week in the journal Science:,0,2657010.story#axzz2klRVD5MH

Wayne's theory is that wolves followed nomadic bands of humans, making use of the scraps leftover from a successful hunt.  Then the friendly wolves were enlisted to help in the hunt.

This information tells me that Na'ilah's instinct to hang around humans, even after she was abandoned at the side of the road, is perhaps 32,000 years old.

It also gives me a good excuse for noticing this stray dog and deciding to load her into my minivan. 

After all, humans have been welcoming questionable dogs into their lives for at least 18,800 years--maybe longer.  

Perhaps developing an instinct to care about canine beings is part of what got us where we are today.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Not the Only One

Yes, I am crazy to put thousands of dollars into medical treatment for a dog.

But I am not the only one.  Just read this article in today's Los Angeles Times by Stuart Pfeifer:

"High-end pet care: Full service, advanced treatment at an L.A. animal hospital is attracting an elite clientele.",0,2581142.story#axzz2kkcg59Qo

Okay, I guess I'm part of that elite clientele, movie stars and celebrities and all, who are willing to shell out big bucks for their dogs.

The article features a cute Welsh corgi, easily the twin of our Stormy, getting a bone marrow transplant to halt the advance of lymphoma.  His owner, Richard Finn, drove from Texas with his dog and paid around $30,000 for treatment at the newly-opened VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital.  

Richard and I are deep into morally questionable waters because our money could have been donated to the hungry or sick human beings in this world.  Could have been, but probably would not have been.

Survivors of the typhoon in the Philippines need help to eat, drink clean water, and find shelter, but I am not stepping up to the plate.  

The cause of these large expenditures is "the humanization of pets," according to a psychology professor quoted in the article.  "We increasingly think of pets as friends and family members," says Dr. Hal Hertzog of Western Carolina University.  
"Man's best friend" can come at a high price.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Na'ilah's First Radiation Treatment

We are driving to Orange County for Na'ilah's first of three megadoses of radiation.  
Afterward, Na'ilah on the drive home

The back seat of the car is folded down, affording her plenty of space.  She mostly wants to stand and look out the window, but she does lie down for 20 minutes here and there.

We arrive at the Veterinary Cancer Group, which turns out to be on Edinger Avenue across the street from the Marine Corps Air Station, built in 1942 with two huge hangar to house blimps.  Wide open space is all around us.  

I take Na'ilah in, and she is taken away for the radiation treatment.  

As I wait for an hour and a half, I study all the vitamins and fancy dog foods and photos and advertisements in the lobby.  

There are even offers for in-home euthanasia, elegant pet cemeteries, and hand-blown glass urns for your pet's ashes.  They probably get a lot of business from here.

I brought a book, but the other owners in the waiting room are eager to strike up a conversation.  I find myself with a well-dressed married couple in their '70s from San Clemente and a woman in her fifties from Oceanside.  They both have golden retrievers named Haley, one doing 22 treatments and one doing 15, five days per week.  

I've got it easy with just three trips to Orange County.

Na'ilah returns with a plastic cone around her head to keep her from licking the radiated area.

"The skin covering a tumor treated with radiation therapy can become dry and flaky or moist and red, somewhat like a severe sunburn," advises the post-treatment handout.

"We don't want her to irritate it any more," explains the medical assistant.

At the front desk, I ask if I need to pay anything today.  I'm thinking maybe $500, a third of the total amount.

"A deposit of $1621," says the clerk.

Wow--the whole amount.  And that's just a deposit. 

In comparison, the drive home is uneventful. 

For more photos, see:

Report from Minnesota

My brother Bill can't understand why I would put all this money into medical care of a dog.  

"It could only happen in California," say his in-laws in northern Minnesota, who are farmers.

"That's not true," says Bill.

He lives in Washington state and has a friend whose nine-year-old dog got cancer.  She paid $15,000 over a period of two years for chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery to fix the dog's broken leg (a pathologic fracture caused by the tumor).  

A femur intramedullary rod was put in the leg, reports Bill, who is a surgeon.  For people, that is.

The friend's dog finally had to be put down, but she felt having the dog for those two years was worth it.

Bill reports another case of caninophilia, this time in a suburb of San Francisco, and among another set of his in-laws--Minnesotans turned into Californians.  

This dog-in-law has a tumor, and its owners are paying for "antibiotics and some chemotherapy (limited)."

"The Minnesotans are aghast!" says Bill. 

In their world, animals are animals, and people are people.  They hunt and trap coyotes, beaver, otter, etc.

Most of the rest of us only see these animals on the National Geographic Channel, where they are so cute we wouldn't dream of harming them.

"We probably need an insurance rider to Obamacare for family pets," comments Bill.

If the whole health care thing is not repealed for humans. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Small Change

"Oh my, that is impressive," says the specialist at Veterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, California.  
Propaganda: others too have paid for pet cancer radiation.

After greeting me and my dog, he lifts her tail and takes his first look at her rear end.

"I've only seen one case of TVT before, and I probably have the highest caseload in the US," he continues.  "But then I'm in LA, so I don't see that many rural dogs."

I decide I should charge these doctors $100 each to look at my dog and her transmissible venereal tumor.

By the time Nailah and I leave, we have tentatively signed up for a course of three megadoses of radiation expected to cost between $1600 and $2000.

As we walk out the door, the office assistant calls us back to pay for the consultation.

"Isn't that included in the total?" I venture.

"No," she says.  "Today is just $160."

Hey, small change, I guess.  

"Well, she's a lucky girl," the assistant comments.  "Found the right mom."

I do not regard myself as the mother of this dog.  I don't even qualify as a dog lover, though others in my family definitely do.

I text the financial estimate to John, who soon calls me from work.

Un milagro: after some discussion, he approves the treatment.  

"Thank you!" I gush.  "That can be my Christmas present."

"You've already spent ten times more on Christmas than I would spend in a hundred Christmases," he counters.


Photo journal of the doctor visit:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fund Raising

I go into shock when I see the dollar signs on radiation treatment for my dog.

For the first time, I walk out of Animal Specialty & Emergency Center on Sepulveda Blvd. at Santa Monica Blvd. in tears.  

Bad enough to have spent so much money already on this dog I picked up in the desert two months ago.

And now more?  $2000?
Nailah trying to get the squirrel she chased up a palm tree.

Even I am not crazy enough to pay that.  

Nor is my husband.  

I take the dogs for a walk into Santa Monica College, near my house.  There's a nice enclosed grassy lawn with a beautiful fountain.  I need some thinking time.

Never mind that dogs are not allowed on the campus.  What's a small ticket compared to the numbers I'm facing?

Nailah enjoys herself trying to climb a palm tree to get a squirrel.  Stormy prances around the fountain as if it's an agility training course.

When I get home, Marie calls me.  Her brand new iPhone 5s arrived.

After a while, I tell her that the vet is recommending radiation for Nailah, and the cost is pretty scary.

"Dad's going to kill me if I spend any more on this dog," I confide.  "I have to raise the money somehow."

She gets it.  "So what ideas do you have, Mom?"

"I've decided to write a book on Nailah and make millions of dollars.  Everybody loves dog books."

"Mom, I think you'll raise it faster with a bake sale," she answers.

We make a list:
1.  Bake sale.
2. Tutoring kids at Santa Monica High School.
3.  Getting a job at Santa Monica College.  (I've tried that before, I tell her.)
4.  Setting up a fund for Nailah and asking for donations as a Christmas present.
5.  Dog sitting and dog walking.
6.  Writing a book that will sell a million copies.

I favor the last option.  

We agree that this is a crisis.  Marie is very sympathetic, but she knows when something is too big for a little long-distance compassion. 

"You better call your therapist."

Photos of Nailah and Stormy on our walk: