Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Dog Pound

It cost me $46 to bail Na'ilah out of the pound today.

We're having our chimney demolished and a new one built; the gated fence to the backyard was attached to the chimney but now one side swings crazily without an anchor.

It was too tempting for Na'ilah.

When someone walked a handsome German shepherd past the house, Na'ilah climbed through the gap and followed them to the end of the street.

My neighbor Eric didn't recognize her as our dog.

The owner of the shepherd didn't want Na'ilah to continue following him and perhaps get hit by a car, so he took charge.  She had no licence or dog tag on, so he took her to the local animal shelter.

She was so sweet about being taken that he told the desk clerk, "If no one claims her, I'll adopt her."

Why did she have no tags on?

I'd removed her Santa Monica ID when I took her to Colorado.  I just had my name and Colorado phone number on her, but she managed to lose that collar/harness and the ID with it.  It probably got snagged on a tree somewhere.

On our return her, I forgot to put her local ID back on.  That cost me $46--but at least she wasn't injured or permanently lost.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Starry Night

It's midnight as we reach the turn off for Dinosaur Tracks.

I'm sorry to arrive here so late--I'd been hoping to be here in late afternoon and to talk with the people who recognized Na'ilah as the stray they'd seen last August.

Nevertheless, I do want to stop.  Where better to see the stars than this deserted spot far from any lights?

I let the dogs out of the car on leashes and turn off my flashlight.  

The Milky Way jumps out at me, streaking across the sky south to north from Scorpio to Cassiopeia's Chair.  

Na'ilah pulls me forward toward the empty shelters where the Navajos sell jewelry and other handicrafts.  She sniffs eagerly.

I stumble in the dark on the bare rock rutted with dinosaur tracks and pull her back: "No, Na'ilah!  Stay!"

We pause, absorbing the silence and sheer beauty of the skies.  

When I open the back of the car again, Stormy runs to jump in.  She doesn't see why we had to stop in this dark and lonely place.

Na'ilah, however, won't jump in.  She keeps pulling at the leash and staring off into the distance.  

She has assumed her vigil pose: sniffing, looking, listening for prey or danger.

Usually she jumps into the car obediently as soon as I say, "Let's go!"  She knows a treat will follow.

But now she won't jump in.  She has spent a week or more here alone at night.  It's familiar to her--a place of freedom and excitement.  Maybe she's forgotten about the empty stomach that was also a part of this experience.

Repeatedly I tell her "Come, Na'ilah!  Let's go!"  

Finally she leaps in and we get back on Hwy. 160, soon to reach Hwy. 89 and drive south toward Flagstaff.

Na'ilah Sees Her Cousin

We're driving back to Los Angeles after three weeks in Colorado.

After leaving the gas station at Towaoc on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation, we drive almost four hours straight and stop in Tuba City for dinner--Stormy and Na'ilah's dinner, that is.  I'm snacking on banana nut bread and peanuts.

At the gas station, there's a skinny stray dog whose color is exactly the reddish brown of Na'ilah.

When I open the can of dog food, add some kibble, and serve it up to Stormy and Na'ilah, the stray comes running up.

Na'ilah starts a ferocious barking I've never heard before from her.  She's usually a very quiet dog--the only time this summer I heard a woof out of her was when she saw a porcupine scramble up a tree.

As the stray retreats, I try to calm Na'ilah down.  Clearly she's experienced at defending food from other dogs, perhaps even specifically at gas stations.

After she's done eating, I fill up her dish with the remaining half can of dog food and some more kibble.  I carry it out of sight of my dogs and serve it up to this waif.

Afterward as I'm reloading things at the back of my car, the dog comes back and Na'ilah sniffs her with interest, wagging her tail.  

This dog looks so much like Na'ilah, and we're near the place where I picked her up last August.

They're both bay color with a white bib.  This dog is smaller and has the white feet of a boxer, but her head is more like a pit bull.

Are they cousins?  Second cousins?  Except for the square face of a pit bull, she looks like the other dog that was with Na'ilah last August.  Does Na'ilah recognize her?

This dog is not completely skin and bones the way Na'ilah was when I found her.  In fact, she seems to be making a pretty good living.  She leaves us and approaches another driver, who is giving her something like a chunk of bread or maybe half a hamburger.

(I confess, the thought crossed my mind: should I take this dog home?  But she's in town and may have an owner.)

As I start to drive off, a Navajo man approaches my car window and asks for money.  Yes, he's mumbling and has alcohol on his breath; it's been a few years since I was panhandled by a guy like this on the rez.  

I take the coward's way out and hand him a bill.  Like the dog, he seems to be doing pretty well at this gas station.

Na'ilah, Stormy, and I drive on toward Dinosaur Tracks.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

One Crazy Week

Sorry to have been out of touch for a full week!  Bloggers are supposed to post at least daily, but I've been too tired to get to the computer.

May 21 -- We reached Needles safely.  Na'ilah turns out to be a good traveler for road trips (even when she's not emaciated and terrified, as she was last August 25).

May 22 -- As we passed through Flagstaff, I pulled over to take a photo of the smoke plume from the forest fire between here and Sedona.  It just took a few seconds to snap a couple of photos from the driver's seat window, but suddenly I heard a thrashing noise and realized Na'ilah had taken the opportunity to jump out another open window and chase off, probably after seeing a deer.  

After getting her back in the car, we drove on to Dinosaur Tracks, where I had picked up Na'ilah as a skin-and-bones stray.  Two Navajo women selling jewelry there recognized her and gave her a warm welcome.  We spent the night in Tsegi.

May 23 -- We drove back to Dinosaur Tracks to visit again, then on to Colorado, arriving at 10 pm.  Snow on the ground but dogs were well behaved.

May 24 --  At 7 am I took the dogs out on leashes to relieve themselves.  But Na'ilah took off after a snowshoe rabbit.  I managed to keep the leash in my hand and not lose her, but she pulled me a ways before I sat down in the snow in mud with my foot against a rock to stop her.  We all three sat there and watched the rabbit hop off across the snow.

At 9:30 am I allowed the dogs to be off-leash while I unloaded the car and got ready to drive into Telluride.  I recalled them successfully a couple of times with jerkey treats.  But then I saw Na'ilah way off cross the meadow near a neighbor's house.  I called her, and she turned her head, looking at me.  

"Obedience or marmot?" she must have been thinking.  She then ambled down the hill toward the river, out of my view.

Stormy and I spent the next hour looking for her as I called out her name.  Finally we spotted her and all got in the car to go to Telluride and get the program for the Mountainfilm Festival.

May 25 -- It snowed 4-5 inches, but the dogs were well-behaved.

May 26 --  We took a hike to the foot of Bridal Veil Falls.  Dogs were leashed all the way, or Na'ilah would never have been seen again.  She pulled me up the mountain, actually.  Snow banks by the side of the road and animals under rocks were the main attraction.

May 27 -- I learned that I need to drive back to Los Angeles for a blood test.  I have breast cancer stage 1.  (See my blog on it --  )  The dogs spent most of the day on the front deck with the ramp to the driveway blocked by a children's plastic gate and a deck chair, but Na'ilah escaped a couple of times.  I chased after her and put her in the house for a while each time.

May 28 -- My neighbor told me that there are a lot of porcupines around our area this year.  He's shot three so far, but they keep coming back.  I thank my lucky stars that Na'ilah didn't stick her nose into one yet.  I got out the stake and long wire to hook her on a 30-foot leash.

I walked the dogs by the lake before starting the drive to California.  Some Canadian geese followed us as we walked around the water's edge.  Na'ilah walked forty feet away and watched them sweetly--until they suddenly flapped their wings and lifted off from the water. At that point she tore the leash out of my hand, bounded toward the water, and plunged in.  

We left Trout Lake at 2 pm and visited Na'ilah's friends at Dinosaur Tracks again before driving on to Flagstaff.

May 29 -- The dogs patiently sit in the car while I catch up on my blog.  Then we will drive on toward Los Angeles with no more adventures--please!  However, we will turn around and drive back on May 30 and 31 after my blood test.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Return to Dinosaur Tracks

Today Na'ilah, Stormy, and I start the drive back to Arizona, where I found Na'ilah by the side of the road, and on to Colorado, where we will stay for four weeks.

My goal tonight is just to get to Needles, CA, during the cool evening and to leave in the early morning before it gets hot.

Will Na'ilah recognize the place where she was abandoned--Dinosaur Tracks, Arizona, near Tuba City?  (See first post on this blog, August 25, 2013.)

Will the dogs be good travelers?

Will Na'ilah get into trouble in Colorado with porcupines or skunks?

Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Canine Good Citizen!

Na'ilah passed her C.G.C. test today.  She's officially a canine good citizen.

Clearly the American Kennel Club did not run a background check on her.

Her criminal record apparently has no bearing on whether she's worthy of this award.
What she had to do was:
1) Accept a friendly stranger.
2) Sit politely for petting.
3) Allow a stranger to groom her and examine her feet and ears.
4) Walk politely on a leash next to her owner.
5) Walk through a crowd without trying to sniff or interact with strangers.
6) Obey the commands "Sit" and "Down" and "Stay" (while owner walks away a short distance).
7) Come when called.
8) Ignore another dog when being walked and when two owners shake hands.
9) Ignore a couple of distractions such as a jogger or wheelchair passing by.
10) Sit quietly with a stranger while the owner disappears for three minutes.

Na'ilah did all these things--no problem.  She passed with flying colors.  

For the various distractions, she was unflappable.

When you've survived on your own in the Arizona desert for a week or two, been adopted and moved to Los Angeles, and received chemo and radiation for cancer, I guess cooperating through this little test is not a big deal.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Therapod Tracks

Those dinosaur tracks near Moenave, Arizona, (close to Tuba City) were made by therapods.

Go to Cory Richards on Instagram to see similar tracks he photographed:

Here's his description of where he found them and when the therapods lived:

Theropod tracks, up to 17 inches long, cross the sandstone of Flag Point near Kanab, UT. They’re relics of an era that predates the Late Cretaceous, (likely Lower Jurassic), by 100 million yrs. Dinosaurs ruled the American West for a very very long time. This image was taken on assignment for @natgeo profiling the work being done piecing together the history of a landmass that existed roughly during the Late Cretaceous (100.5 to 66 million years ago. Exciting new paleontology is being done every season in the remote Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument, pulling species new to science from the badlands so frequently it seems that aforementioned landmass, Laramidia, was a veritable dinosaur factory. The article profiling the exhaustive work being done is in the May ’14@natgeo

The photo shows tracks with a sprinkling of snow atop a mesa against a setting sun.  Spectacular!

Check out the May 2014 National Geographic Magazine to see more.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pawsitive Attitude!

Today we are half-way through the class for Canine Good Citizen.

If all goes well, I may soon pass the test to earn my C.G.C. degree, just like Stormy.

Dorna Sakurai is the trainer for this class.  Check out her business, Pawsitive Feedback, at this website:

Here I am on my rug, ready to go.

Here are the other dogs in my class.

We have to learn to walk past each other without barking or pulling away to play.

This is easy for me--I'm a mother and over four years old.  I've been there, done that.  Probably I'm the only one here who has lived in Arizona.

Next to me is Sophia, just 9 months old--she's pretty distractable.

It helps to have something to chew when class gets boring.

Here we are doing circle 8's around cones.        

Even a pack of five dogs doesn't distract me.

If there's a squirrel in a tree, however, I can't be expected to pay attention to the teacher.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Doggie Day Care

Roz is running a doggie day care at our house on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so Merlin arrives.

He's a cockapoo whose face (when you can see it) looks like the wizard in The Sword and the Stone.

Five months old--a ball of fire.  But Na'ilah tolerates him pretty well.  Stormy, not so much--he tries to mount her.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cool Dude Luke

Meet Luke, the new dog next door.

Steve and Shelley adopted him a couple of months ago.

He's pretty mellow.

Steve spins stories about his possible past as a police dog and calls him "Captain Luke."

 We're happy to have him in our neighborhood.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Taking a Hike

Na'ilah and Stormy and I walk Inspiration Loop in Will Rogers State Historical Park every week or two.

From the top we can see the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Santa Catalina Island on the south.

There's also Westwood and behind that, downtown Los Angeles on the east.  

Sometimes we have to share the road with horses.  

There's also the occasional deer in the horse pastures.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Good Dog?

I'm so used to saying, "Good dog."

When I walk Na'ilah, feed her, let her in the house or send her back outside, that's what I tend to say.

Now, however, I can't speak those two words without adding a question mark or an ironic comment:

"So far, so good today, Na'ilah.  You haven't killed any cats."

"Na'ilah, are you a good doggie today?  You aren't going to attack any cats, are you?"

John points out that she may get in trouble when I take her to Colorado for the summer.  There are deer, skunks,  and porcupines, not to mention moles, chipmunks, weasels, and coyotes.

I guess I'll have to keep her on a leash even though there are whole mountainsides just outside the door.

I do not want to be pulling porcupine quills out of her muzzle with a pair of pliers as I did twice for our previous dog.


Meet the only dog in our family who has never caused any trouble. 

Her name is Gracie Giselle.  She, like Na'ilah, was a rescue.  

She is one pampered pup--a large wardrobe, numerous beds and indoor plush doghouses.

A stunning new hand-made party dress every Christmas.

She likes to be hand fed, kibble by kibble.

Sam's Career

My next-door neighbor says Sam also visited her backyard about three weeks ago.  

She heard barking, looked out, and saw an orange tabby there in front of her two large dogs.

After she called them in, the cat escaped.

Surely Sam.  

Apparently he has had an illustrious career of standing up to the dogs in the neighborhood.

Perhaps he died doing what he loved to do.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sam's Past

My neighbor, a nurse at a local hospital, arrives home from work at 3:30 pm while I'm outside.

"How's your day?" she asks casually.

"Not good," I answer.  

"Mine either!" she answers.  

We trade information.  When I tell her about Na'ilah's attack on Sam, she tells me about something that happened two weeks ago.

She got up in the wee hours of the night, as usual, to go to work.  

Lailah, their lovable pit bull, started barking and demanding to go out into the back yard--unlike her usual polite "Woof" to go out and do her business.

Diane let her out but noticed a big orange tabby running for cover under a wood platform.  She brought her dogs back in to let the cat escape and put them out again later when she left for work.

End of story.  

It had to be Sam, though Diane's home is two houses away from me, a total of four houses away from Sam's own back yard on the street behind our lots.

We exchanged histories about the possums, rats, cats, and birds the dogs have dragged in.  

Kujo is her current Rottweiler, but the previous one once brought her the leg of a cat.  Nothing more.  

Sam, you've been living on the edge all these years.  Game's up, unfortunately.

As for Diane's bad day, a patient died, a 65-year-old woman who had cardiac surgery this morning.  The woman had postponed it for a month, waiting for her daughter to be able to come down from Alaska.  

As T.S. Eliot wrote, "April is the cruellest month..."  
Requiem aeternam donat eis.

Strike Two

Guilty as charged.
Mug shot

Okay, Na'ilah, you have two strikes now.

What will we do if you attack a third cat?

Fortunately, your criminal record is not with the Animal Control office in Santa Monica and not with the SMPD.

At least we are neither legally nor financially liable for this one.

Morally, though, what did we do wrong?

I could have investigated more thoroughly after I found Na'ilah with her front half under the shed and her back end sticking out.  I could have kept her inside for an hour or two, giving whatever was under the shed a chance to leave the yard.

I could have run outside sooner, as soon as I heard the first bark.

John could have removed that shed full of rotting newspapers and rat turds, along with the rotting plywood platform it's sitting on.

I'd do it in a flash if I dared, but unilateral action like that would end our 42-year-old marriage instantly.

Fortunately, Na'ilah and I start an intermediate obedience class with Dorna Sakurai of Pawsitive Feedback in one week.

Proactive measures to take:
  1. Make sure that Na'ilah is never off-leash when in the front yard or on a walk
  2. Warn the neighbors across the street, who have a black cat, not to let their cat wander over in this direction.
  3. Put larger warning signs on our front gate.
  4. Put signs on our back fence, facing into the neighobors' yards?  
  5. Go knock on their doors and warn them?
  6. Make sure she is well-controlled around other dogs and around children--though she has never shown aggression against either.

R.I.P Sam

Na'ilah has blood on her paws today, and I have blood on my t-shirt.
Sam's last trip to the vet

Sam, the neighbors' orange tabby cat, rests in peace on their doorstep, decently covered.

Sam has been the neighborhood cat for years. Owned by a family on the next block over, he frequented all the back yards on the south side of the street.

We should have put up a sign on our back fence that read "Beware of Rhodesian Ridgeback."  Not that Sam would have been able to read it.

Stormy and our previous dogs--Mocha and Corky--enjoyed barking at Sam but respected him.  After he jumped back up to stand on the fence, they were content.

I haven't seen Sam in our yard since we got Na'ilah six months ago.  

Today is beautiful and sunny after rain yesterday.  I walk Stormy and Na'ilah before eating breakfast, and apparently Sam takes advantage of their absence to do a little marking or exploring.

Afterward I'm cleaning up the poop of the last 24 hours and notice Na'ilah's rear end and back paws sticking out from a hole in the foundation of a shed in the back yard.  I realize she's after some animal under there but assume it's a squirrel, possum, raccoon or rat.  I haul her away from the shed, lay a section of wire fencing over the hole, and go into the house.

I hear some barking and figure Na'ilah's having a conversation with some dog on the other side of the fence, though she's usually a quiet dog.

But suddenly I hear the snarling of a cat.  I run to the back yard and find Na'ilah with her jaws clamped on a big orange tabby.

"No! No!" I shout.  "Drop it!  Leave it alone!"

I grab her collar and she releases the cat, who falls on the ground and remains lying there.

I haul Na'ilah thirty yards across the grass and onto the back porch.  She won't let me drag her into the house.  She keeps turning her head to go back to the cat, but I wrap one arm around her middle and succeed in getting her inside. 

Snatching a towel from the cleaning closet, I run back to the cat, who is still lying there but moving.  It's the cat who has been hanging out in our yard for years.  All the neighbors know him.  

He lets me pet him, and I lift him onto the towel, then run to the front yard to put him in the car.

As I'm banging on the front door for John to bring my car keys and purse, Sam releases a long moan.  His last words.

Like an ambulance driver, I race five blocks to the Kenneth Jones Animal Rights Hospital and park on the red curb in front.

I lift Sam on his towel in my arms and run inside shouting "Emergency! My dog attacked this cat!"

Immediately they admit us to an examination room, and I'm thinking the cat can be saved, just like the previous one that Na'ilah attacked on Thanksgiving.

After examining him, however, Dr. Ramona Forelle soon pronounces the cat dead.  
Rest in peace, Sam.

We look at the tag on his collar, which has a phone number and the name Sam, which I recognize.

Sadly I carry the towel with Sam in it back to the car, thinking the owners probably would rather see him than just hear a report that he was DOA at the vet's office.  

I drive home to get my cell and sit in the car as the owner's phone rings.  A woman answers it.

"Is this the owner of a cat named Sam?" I ask soberly.  

"Yes," she says.  

"I'm sorry to tell you that my dog attacked your cat this morning in my back yard, and the vet pronounced him dead.  I'll bring him to your house if you tell me the address."

"Oh, I'm in the hospital," she answers.  "I just delivered.  But I'll tell my mom.  Her name is Pat.  What's your name?"

"My name is Anne.  I'm so sorry to tell you this."

"These things happen," she says.

We hang up, and I drive around the corner to her address.  As I ring the doorbell, a big orange tabby emerges out of some bushes, startling me.

I worry about the safety of Sam's remains with other animals around, so I walk around to the back door and lay him down there on his towel.  I leave a note.

As I'm leaving, someone drives up but it turns out to be the dog walker.  I explain to her, and as soon as I say "Rhodesian ridgeback," she understands.  

Then a youngish man drives up, and I explain to him but he's already been told.  I apologize but he's not angry at me.

"It happens," he says.  

Back home, Roz tells me that 
I have blood on my t-shirt.

A sad day.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Friends from Twitter

Rescuing Rhodesian ridgebacks is a normal thing to do, apparently.  

I'm not the only one.

People tweet about it and post photos.

Marci Liroff, for example, tweeted this stunning photo of her 10-year-old ridgeback:  Embedded image permalink

I'm now following her: @marciliroff

That could be Na'ilah in that picture.  Identical dogs.  Big and sweet.

I had no idea when I picked up Na'ilah on that rainy day in the Arizona desert that she was anything but a stray.  

I just saw her standing on a large flat chunk of red sandstone in the distance and thought:  "What a noble looking dog--all alone out here in the desert in the rain.  Whose dog is it?  Why is it out here?"

And from that moment on, things just happened.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Ridgeback Questions

"Should I be dropping bread crumbs?  Does she know how to get us back home?"

Ridgback vs. Corgi

We went to Will Rogers State Historical Park.

People about Stormy:  "What a cute dog!"

Na'ilah must be invisible.

Reaction to horses: both dogs indifferent or politely interested.

After the hike: Stormy rolls in the grass, Na'ilah surveys the scene.

On the ride home, Stormy sleeps.  Na'ilah looks out the window, alert: "I can smell that we're almost there!"

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Do Dogs Have Souls?

Na'ilah seems to be with me as I listen to Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., speak at Loyola Marymount University.
Did somebody say dogs don't have souls?

She's not really curled up at my feet, but it feels like it.  I think of her again and again as I listen to Johnson's talk, "Creation: Is God's Charity Broad Enough for Bears?"

"In addition to their origin in God's gracious act, plants and animals continue to be held in life and empowered to act in every moment by the Giver of life," Johnson asserted.  "Without this sustaining presence, they would sink back into nothingness."

"...[E]verything has being through the love of God," she said, quoting Julian of Norwich.

She then quotes the British philosopher Herbert McCabe describing God:
"the Creator makes all things and keeps them in existence from moment to moment--not like a sculptor, who makes a statue and leaves it alone, but like a singer who keeps her song in existence at all times."

Next she's quoting Thomas Aquinas when he asks "whether God is in all things" and he answers:
"God is in all things; not, indeed, as part of their essence, nor as an accident, but as an agent is present to that upon which it works...Therefore as long as a thing has being, God must be present to it, according to its mode of being."

God is present to Na'ilah, I'm thinking.  I am moved to tears as she continues:

"Thus God's real, ontological, creative presence is in each of God's creatures.  Instead of being distant from what is holy, the evolving world bears the mark of the sacred.  All creatures are embraced, yes, embraced by the Spirit of God."

Na'ilah alone out there in the desert was embraced by the Spirit of God.  No wonder I sensed that she needed to be cared for and given a home.

St. Augustine is the next voice she quotes: "...everywhere the created world will cry out to you: "God made me." ...the very forms of created things are as it were the voices with which they praise their Creator."

Yes, Na'ilah's large and noble form outlined against the sky as she stood on a large block of red sandstone cried out "God made me" and "Don't let me die."

This section of Johnson's speech concludes:

"All of this held true before humans appeared on earth and continues to be true even now, apart from human mediation.  Plants and animals are profoundly related to God in their own right.... the natural world is the dwelling place of God's Spirit, able to speak in its own voice about the glory of its Maker" (p. 22 of the booklet of the speech).

Yes, indeed, animals have souls and voices too.

Next Johnson introduces us to the pelican chick: one of every two chicks dies, but pelicans keep having two in order to sustain the survival of the species.  She describes "the ostracized chick's pinched face, small cries, desperate attempts to regain the nest."

But instead of hating a god who could allow this suffering, she affirms "the presence of God in the midst of the shocking enormity of pain and death."

"God, who is love, is there in compassionate solidarity with the creatures shot through with pain and finished by death."

A loving Creator was with Na'ilah when she was abandoned in the desert. That same compassionate presence is with other animals in deserts and cities the world over today who are abandoned or harmed.

Yes, dogs have souls.  

The question is: do we?


The lecture is now available on YouTube:

After the lecture, all guests were presented with a small book containing the text of the speech.  Creation: Is God's Charity Broad Enough for Bears? is available from Marymount Institute Press, Loyola Marymount University, One LMU Drive, Suite 3012, Los Angeles CA 90045.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Daisy, another roadside rescue

Here's a dog who was in worse shape than Na'ilah when found by the roadside.

Daisy was a young puppy with a broken back, unable to walk, when she was picked up.

After surgeries, paid for with help from a Facebook page, she is now racing in circles and doing fine.

Let's hear it for roadside rescues!

And applause for online dog stories complete with stirring soundtracks.

Thank you to my sister-in-law, Cindy Sue, for this link to Daisy's YouTube story.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Graduation Day

Na'ilah completed her first obedience class today--one class a week for six weeks.  
Na'ilah with her diploma and proud owner

Here we are with her diploma.

She can now sit, down, stay, wait, etc.  She already could heel pretty well.

She can even do "Leave it!" under certain conditions.  She can leave a treat on the floor when it is placed in front of her, but if there's a squirrel in a tree, no amount of "Leave it!" will work.  Yet.  

I'm supposed to be able to train her to leave even squirrels and cats.  This skill would be useful and could even save us thousands of dollars.

The course was taught by Dorna Sakurai, owner of Pawsitive Feedback Training.  I highly recommend it.

For months, it seemed impossible to train Na'ilah to sit because she had a painful venereal tumor.  Now that the tumor has been removed by chemo and radiation therapy, sitting is not painful, but she still has the habit of sitting to one side of her rump and sits down slowly. 

Stormy, on the other hand, is so close to the ground (being a corgi) that sitting is quick and easy.  

The bebes Na'ilah carries in her hip may be another reason for sitting down carefully, not quickly.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Na'ilah, you have betrayed me.  

I trusted you.  I made excuses for you.

I gave you too much space in my heart.

This morning I get up to find the following note from Roz:

Yeah so I turned my back ~20 seconds last nite with the gate down & Na'ilah peed on the new rug.  It is outside having been doused with Nature's Miracle (could probably use more).  I'll try to deal with it tomorrow when I get up.  Sorry,  --Roz 

Two days ago there was a Na'ilah-sized wet area on the living room rug, 9 ft. x 6 ft.  The first time ever, but Gracie and Stormy had pee'd on the rug, so it was a lost cause.  Several times before I had had it cleaned and treated for pet odor at $100 a crack. 

The last time I had bought a new area rug, which I kept in the garage for just such an occasion as this.  Out with the old, in with the new. 

From August through December, Na'ilah had never emptied her bladder in the house.  She seemed to know she was on probation.

Gracie Giselle, the chihuahua, lives indoors and regularly makes small mistakes all over the house, though she uses pee pads 90% of the time.

Stormy, the corgi, regularly pees anywhere she smells Gracie's urine.  It's probably a reflex action without much frontal cortex involvement. (Do dogs have a frontal cortex?)

Outdoors, Na'ilah and Stormy immediately copy each other on the exact spot the other has used, but Na'ilah never did this indoors until lately.

Since January, on three occasions we have found pee pads so soaked that Na'ilah had to have used them. They're only 22 inches x 22 inches, so her cup or two of urine always runs off onto the floor.

Nevertheless, all was forgiven: she had desperately searched for the right place to do this and had succeeded.

Using the brand new rug as her bathroom, however, changes everything.  It feels like a personal assault.

I don't want this dog.  Why did I add another dog to my life?  What was I thinking?

I can live with the cost of cancer treatment and the cost of surgery for the cat she bit, but her choice to unload urine on the brand-new living room rug suddenly moves me past some internal limit of tolerance.

I won't drive her to the animal shelter, but I find myself detached.  

Food, shelter, but no love.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Separation Anxiety

Na'ilah and I face our second dog obedience class today.

Things go much better than last week: we aren't the last to arrive, and there is no squirrel distracting Na'ilah.  She performs "Touch" and "Sit" pretty well even though I have skimped on the "daily" practice.

After class we go on two errands while driving home.

As we pay for the four calibrachoa flowers in 4" pots--also called Million Bells--the cashier at Armstrong's Nursery offers Na'ilah dog treats... fun.

But Trader Joe's is more challenging.  I have before never left Na'ilah alone in the car for even five minutes.

When I come out with two small bags of groceries, I see that she has vomited the entire contents of her stomach in a neat pile on a dog rug in the back of the car.

There it is, all completely undigested.  Kibble from breakfast, chunks of hot dog from training in the morning, and various treats used during the class: bits of sliced turkey, little squares of jerkey, broken up salmon cookies.

I realize that dogs don't chew; they just (yes) wolf it down. Then their stomach holds food for a long time before digestion happens.

Clearly Na'ilah had a panic attack over me disappearing and leaving her alone in the car.  Her whole system must have gone into adrenaline alert until her stomach started heaving and...

"She was abandoned in the desert," says Roz.  "Of course she has separation anxiety."

She can overcome this problem with training, however, Roz assures me.

After all, in the first few days with us she would panic alone in the back yard and jump over the fence, but she doesn't do that any more.  She panicked when left alone in a wire crate and broke out several times but no longer does.  She sleeps in her crate with the door wide open and doesn't walk out.

On the other hand, she still panics when left alone in the bedroom and chews a hole through the door to get out. 

Yes, this is definitely a dog with PTSD.

Monday, January 27, 2014


I'm back from driving to my credit union with the amazing, miraculous check from State Farm.

"I deposited the check this morning," I tell John as he's getting dressed.  It's 10 am.

"Good," he says, pulling on his socks.  

Then, after some reflection on the attack and the owner of the cat, he adds, "I guess I won't email her.  Let sleeping dogs lie."

"Thank you," I say.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014


How can I feel so loving toward this dog one evening and then so frustrated with her the next morning?

We set out at 7 am for our morning walk, Na'ilah, Stormy, and I. 

Of course, Na'ilah regards this event as a hunt.  She heels pretty well until she gets a whiff of a cat or squirrel, which today happens only a block from home.  

I let her pull me a few feet off the sidewalk as she sniffs at thick foliage in the yard of a house on Pacific Street.

Suddenly she's pointing and staring aggressively.

We hear the deep, mournful growl of a cat that must be hiding three feet from her nose in the bushes.

I reach for the salmon strips I'm carrying in my treat bag for this type of emergency and hold one near her saying, "Na'ilah! Heel!"

She could care less.  

It's like rock, paper, scissors.  Cat definitely wins over salmon strips.

I tug on the leash, but the Gentle Leader head harness is not designed for dragging a dog in the direction you want it to go.  I know I'm supposed to use voice commands and treats, and in fact I have no other choice.

For five or six minutes--it seems longer--Na'ilah holds us hostage, the cat growls, and I grip the collar around Na'ilah's neck trying to drag her away.

The vision of a cat attack resulting in death or expensive surgery--again--makes me desperate.

I tug and pull and treat in vain as Stormy stands by, occasionally performing a sit and getting a bit of the salmon cookie.

I'm sure State Farm would not be as generous with Round 2 of a cat attack.

I feel completely estranged from this beast.  Why did I pick up a strange dog in the desert?  I wouldn't pick up a hitchhiker.  (Well, usually not.)

Why such a big dog?  (Note to self: confine your charity to lap dogs.)

Finally she allows herself to be pulled away and continues hopefully down the block, plied with the last of the salmon strips.

The rest of the walk is uneventful, though delayed by a pause at each tree and house where she has previously encountered a cat or squirrel.

Na'ilah & the Ancient Cancer

Na'ilah's new life: rescued and cured of CTVT
Dr. Kenneth Jones, my vet, calls me today to tell me that Na'ilah's cancer--CTVT--is in the news.

It's on the BBC News, the National Geographic News, the Huffington Post, YouTube, etc.

Dr. Jones's office is where Na'ilah was diagnosed with Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumor last August when I took her in to be spayed.

It's been quite a journey since then--an expensive one--but Na'ilah is fully recovered today.

Her cancer is apparently the oldest living cancer cell.  It has nearly two million mutations, giving it an age of about 9,000 BCE.  

It's one of two cancer cells in the world known to jump from one living being to another.  

Read about it on one of many websites or listen on YouTube.

How awful to rescue a dog only to discover that she is sick.

But there are now two bright spots in Na'ilah's story, aside from being rescued:

* Her cancer has been cured.

* It turned out to be an interesting illness with an ancient genome now being studied as part of the effort to cure cancer.

The research done at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Great Britain was published in the journal Science and released on January 23 by ScienceDaily:

E.P. Murchison et alia. "Transmissible Dog Cancer Genome Reveals the Origin and History of an Ancient Cell Lineage."  Science, 2014; 343 (6169); 437 DOI: 10.1126/science. 1247167

Saturday, January 25, 2014


We both need love.  We've both been lonely.

I lie on the rug next to this big dog for my own comfort.  I wanted to go to my room and close the door and light a candle and cry, but I invited Na'ilah in with me and then found myself lying next to her on the floor, kneading the fur around her neck, crying, and dodging her mouth as she tries to lick me.

I don't like being licked by a dog.  I'm not a dog lover, but I realize tonight that I love this dog.

Talking to Marie on Thanksgiving, I had explained that I don't love Na'ilah; I like her and feel responsible for her.

Tonight I realize that by now I do love this strange creature that I coaxed into my car last August out of pity.   We've been through so much together.

Things started earlier this evening when I proudly showed John the check from State Farm.

He was amazed and happy, as I am, but then reading the accompanying letter that cited the name of "the claimant"--the cat's owner--he recognized her name.  They both worked for the Los Angeles Times a few years back.

"Would she recognize your name?" I asked.  

"Yes, of course," he said.  "I guess I should email her or something."

There are these occasional ex-LATer events and an email group list.

Somehow the prospect of adding John to my complex, traumatic relationship with the cat owner felt upsetting to me.

"You called us both stupid," I said.  

The news also highlights my loss of her as a potential friend.  We had talked a few times as I walked my dogs past her house and as she emerged with her dog.  

I had joked with her about Na'ilah's need for "Vitamin C"--an opportunity to sniff or chase a cat during her daily walks.  

This neighbor a block away had seemed so intelligent and kind, a potential friend, but then the disaster of Na'ilah attacking her cat changed all that.  The relationship is over, except for an exchange of text messages over the health of Kali and now polite cooperation over filing a claim with State Farm.

I've promised never to walk past her house with my dogs again.

But now she and John know each other, in a remote way?  I may be talking with her about something other than our pets?  Though the attack will always be a subtext...

Sheesh.  I have to think about that.

I drove to the corner market and found myself wanting to cry.  

When I got home, I retreated to my room to sort out my feelings.

Then it occurred to me that if Gracie Giselle, the chihuahua, can be Roz's service dog and provide comfort to her when needed, maybe hugging Na'ilah would help me.  

Thus I lie on the carpet curled up next to her seventy-five pounds and feeling comforted.

We are both mothers.  We have both been through a lot.  She was abandoned, left to forage or die, and I usually feel alone when I have strong feelings to deal with.  John is often fun and entertaining as a companion but not a "come cry on my shoulder" type of person--or at least I haven't asked for that type of support from him.  

Emotional support is what I get from other women--and now from a dog, a lion hunter.  

I do feel a kinship with this beast, as surprising to me as love for a woman late in life was to C.S. Lewis.

Perhaps I am a lion hunter too--running long distances, impulsive and lunging for the gut when my instinct prompts me, quiet until that one big yelp.


I can't believe it.  

I'm holding a check for $4200, reimbursement from State Farm Insurance for costs incurred when my dog bit a cat.  It arrived today.

The main thing is that Kali, the cat, survived--after surgery.

On Thanksgiving Day when Na'ilah bit the cat, I offered to pay for x-rays and any medical care needed.  I had no idea how much that could actually cost.

Repair of four hernias--four holes in Kali's intestinal lining caused by Na'ilah biting her twice (two big incisors grabbing her each time)--requires expert training.

Now that cost can be removed from my credit card, where it landed.

Today I am wiser about Rhodesian ridgebacks--I know they are trained to hunt down lions.  

I know that my dog staring intently at a cat or any other living creature, even while wagging its tail, is preliminary to an attack.  It's an aggressive stare.

Today Na'ilah is in a dog obedience class, where she and I are learning how to handle any situation where her instincts threaten to take over.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hooray for Home Insurance!

I got a call from a State Farm claims agent today, and she had great news.

My dog injuring a cat, even a block from my home, is probably covered by our home insurance.

"Your dog is part of your property," she explained.  "This event is considered to be property damage."

Yes, Na'ilah is my property.  She's not damaged, but it still counts as property damage.  Maybe it's like someone falling on my front steps and getting injured; I understand why that is covered, but this didn't happen on my property.

That is, I walk my property twice a day, and somehow a bubble of insurance coverage moves with us.  Hey, I'm not questioning this--I'm just grateful.

"I feel pretty confident that we'll be able to accept liability on your behalf," she said.

Her name is Sarah Hernandez, and she was calling from Bakersfield.  She asked me to send a copy of the cat's medical bill to Phoenix.

She took notes as I recounted the whole story, and she said she would also have to speak with the cat's owner.

At that point, I was hesitant.

"You aren't going to contact her insurance and decide which insurance will cover it?" I asked.  If it was going to be like that, the way a car accident is handled, I would not be willing to bother my neighbor.  She's already suffered enough with her cat being attacked and nearly killed.

"No, there's no need to contact her insurance," Sarah assured me.  "We just need to hear from her and ask her to sign a release from any further liability, such as a lawsuit."

By the end of the conversation, I felt as if Sarah was my best friend.  She told me that she has a dog and she understood how something like this could happen.  We agreed that letting Na'ilah sniff and stare at a cat was a big mistake, not to be repeated.

She even said that there's no $500 deductible--the whole amount will be covered.

"You have a great day--a great week!" Sarah said as she hung up.

I sat there stunned with the good news.  Yes--a great day.  A great week.