Jul 4 2016

on liking the person you are

Human-Animal Intervention at work!

Human-Animal Intervention at work!

I’m minutes away from handing in the capstone project for my Animal Assisted Therapy certificate course, which has taken up the better part of the last 9 months of my life. It was a rigorous, challenging program (through Oakland University) and I derived much satisfaction from testing myself, academically. It’s been a long time.

Anyhow, I’m downright giddy about how good it feels to accomplish this! And I like that THIS is the sort of thing that makes me giddy, adding C.H.A.I.S. behind my name, when appropriate. That’s Certified Human-Animal Intervention Specialist, in case you were wondering. People get giddy about all sorts of things; some I get, some I definitely do not get. Hey, different strokes. But this is what gets this gal all a-giddy. I think it’s pretty cool.

1309788When I was around ten, I recall reading my mother’s “Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs, about the Capricorn child:

The Sun Signs-loving author, former Capricorn Child, age 10.

The Sun Signs-loving author, former Capricorn Child, age 10.

“Tiny Capricorns do resemble miniature octogenarians. They look old in their youth and young in their old age. That little wrinkled prune of a face in the bassinet will someday be smooth and un-lined when other faces are sagging. Maybe it has something to do with being born in January-the old year going out and the New Year coming in. The odd turnabout does match the familiar image of the old man with his care-lined face beside the fresh infant of the New Year with his Ivory soap look.”

This made me giddy at age ten, instilling in me a feeling of “I’ll never really be ‘old’.” Of course I know now that to be not entirely true, as I am indeed oldER.

But still, this little achievement today, completing this project, earning this credential, has given me a bit of self-confidence and optimism I took for granted when I was younger. I’m going to cling like a motherfucker to this feeling today, hopefully longer!

May 23 2016

The Meaning — and Hypocrisy — of Life

Picard pays his final respects at the newborn bird's grave.

Picard pays his final respects at the newborn bird’s grave.

On our morning walk today, Picard was especially curious about something on the sidewalk. The kind of curious that makes me command, “Leave it,” because usually it means he’s about to ingest whatever it is, before I’ve had a chance to identify it. Last time that happened, it was marijuana in some form (see Picard stoned here). Which I only learned after a $400 veterinarian ER bill.

This time “It” was a tiny dead bird. I’ll spare you a photo, that’s what words are for: It was @ 1″ long, covered only in down, tiny beak, closed eyes, stiff claws. Through the thin, transparent yellowish skin on Its underside, you could make out Its tiny bluish and reddish organs — the sight of that really hit me. Vital organs which are evidence of a complex network that, to me, represents the  miracle of life. I have no idea how the poor thing ended up dead on a sidewalk; there was no tree above — though the winds have been high of late, so it’s quite possible it blew out of a nest nearby. Poor thing never stood a chance. I buried it as best I could on the spot, covering it first with leaves because I didn’t like the idea of It being under just the harshness of rocks.

I think about people, and life, and the meaning of life and the meaning of being “Pro Life” — and the belief held that God created life, therefore every life, even the unborn human, is sacred. But if God created life, not just human, but ALL life, then isn’t ALL life sacred? And if God chose us, humans, to have the superior intelligence, did he do so so that we’d invent ways to destroy the life He created? Or would He want us to preserve it, to be the stewards of this magnificent world He created?

People can make the hunting for food argument, and there is something to be said for the Cycle of Life. Of course, most people reading this are not going to starve to death if they don’t kill that deer (from afar, with a high-powered rifle and scope, yet) for dinner. Our superior intelligence has, over the years, led to our building Sprouts and Costco’s and Whole Foods and lots of other places that have lots of other delicious things to eat that don’t require you to take a life. So clearly some people enjoy killing — something I’ll never understand, but one topic at a time. Let’s get back to hypocrisy.

To say an unborn human life is sacred, then turn around cut funding for healthcare and food for the poor (and God forbid, undocumented) children of color —  or pull the trigger on an innocent animal, taking it from its own offspring, so that you might mount its head on your wall, or throw its coat on your floor, or sell its tusk to fund your war — I just don’t think that’s what God had in mind. But what the hell do I know?

Politics, family, the friends we keep, our source for news; they all influence our morals, ethics, and how we treat one another. We all want the world, our community, to be free of its problems; the ones that affect us directly and indirectly. And think what you may about the behavior of others, at the end of the day, there are always going to be people in your community worse off than you. People who need help. And if you’re going to whip out a Bible when you fight for a fetus, claiming to be “Pro Life,” then you’d better be as passionate about protecting the Life of the hungry children who are already here, whether or not you approve of how they got here — in your town, in your country, and here on on God’s Green Earth.



May 10 2015

Mother’s Day: Always changing and every change fabulous.

Just moments after our first encounter.

Just moments after our first encounter.

Ah, to be a mother.

I don’t have children, never had that strong drive, that ticking timebomb in my uterus. That said, I always assumed I’d have a daughter, and a second child (one of them would be a girl, because… well, just because). Two because being an only child seemed so lonely. And because so much life-learning comes about simply by virtue of being a sibling: sharing, choosing your battles, compromise, conspiracy, etc.

But it didn’t happen. I had my chance, was married to a wonderful man in the prime of my child-bearing years. But we were traveling, and being struggling artists, so the time was never right. We didn’t try for one, but we weren’t hell bent against it either. It didn’t happen and eventually we divorced and so it all worked out for the best, right? Right?

Then I got Picard. How he came into my life is a whole ‘nother story you can read about Here.

And, I got it. Motherhood… I got it.

This love, this – for lack of a better term, maternal (parental works too, but I’m sticking with maternal, as it is Mother’s Day) love that runs deeper and stronger than any love I’ve ever known. I’ve had crushes and gaga love that feels this intense – but the excitement wears off, the hormones wane, you look back and go, “What was that?” But this Maternal Love, this is hardcore. This is the Real Deal.

Queue the naysayers, with “Loving your dog is not the same as if it were a child.” You’re right, it’s not the same. Because my dog is pure, as a child is in its early, pre-verbal years. But children, being human, grow up, and learn to manipulate and say cruel things and test us and break our hearts. They learn to hate and they learn to hurt. Hopefully they outgrow that sort of behavior in their teenage years, but I know far too many adult assholes to know that not to be the case.

There are no asshole dogs.  They manipulate and test us and break our hearts – but never for that purpose alone. It’s always, only to get something they want or need from us, that they know we alone can give them. And they’re not a dick about it if we say, “No.”4th

Their love is pure, so our love for them is pure. They remind us of our own innocence. They have the power to reinstate our innocence. Their love is perfect.

My heart swells with this love for Picard every second I look at him: when he’s there staring sleepily as I wake up, when he’s waiting not-so-patiently for me to feed him, when he plays with his bunny (which makes this inane musical noise when he plays with it) because he KNOWS when he successfully makes that sound happen, I will drop everything, whatever I am doing, to DO THE BUNNY DANCE!!!


So yes, I am a mother, and this Mothers Day is for me. Mother’s Day used to be very sad for me, as I lost my own at 19 – you can read about that Here and Here. I could not be more proud of, more in love with my “child” if he came out of my uterus. I cherish every second with him more so than if he had come out of my uterus, because unlike a human child, I will outlive him.

Aye, there’s the rub. There’s the one thing that makes my love for him all the more intense and all the more painful: it has a short shelf life. His puppy years are over. He’s five. How the hell did he get to be five already? But he’s small and curious and extremely healthy and active (his well being is the most important thing in my life), so he still seems like a young dog. And I swear, all the love I have for him, he feels the exact same way about me. He lets me know. He’s the one thing in this world, the one decision I made, that I got 100% right.

But for now, we celebrate Mother’s Day. Our 5th together. And I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all the others out there who didn’t get the conventional Mother-Child relationship they thought was a guarantee: To the pet guardians, the single dads, the foster parents, and all the teachers/leaders/mentors/neighbors/friends/siblings who step up and give the world “That Mother Thing.” Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!

Nov 21 2014

Touch Means So Much

Picard Therapy

Picard, in Animal Assisted Therapy action!

Everyone craves touch. We need touch. Touch means so much.

Yet so many of us are afraid to touch the elderly, even a little repulsed by the thought of doing so. The elderly aren’t cute & cuddly & warm & sweet-smelling. Quite the opposite, usually.

None of that bothers Picard. Picard says, “Bring it!”

Aug 26 2012

My Bodyguard.

Picard makes little effort to hide his true feelings about the men who approach me.

Aug 25 2012

A typical bus ride with Picard.

These two flirted for the entire bus ride.

Nov 22 2011

Welcome Home, Picard.

Just moments after our first encounter.

(This story can also be found in the print and online editions of Bay Woof magazine.)

I used to be a fairly regular blogger; just another person with a greater than average need to express myself – usually as a means to make sense of life, especially when it confounds me (and there was a lot of that these past few years). But then something happened: I got a dog. Coincidentally, I got a boyfriend at roughly the same time. So basically, I got a life again. And so for the past year, while I’ve been enjoying living this life, the only things I’ve posted on my blog are cute pup pictures.

So how did I so completely and quickly morph from the creator of “The Adventures of Vulva Fervor” into this googoogaga-ing mommy creature — the kind that thinks her dogs yawns are adorable and his stinky puppy breath is wonderful and the way he whistle-woofs in his sleep is just the cutest darned thing, not to mention the way his ass shoots up in the air when he shakes — that I used to mock?

Let’s start with the obvious: I’m 47, with no children. And at this point in life, it looks like I’m not going to have ’em. Despite great health and all the energy in the world, that’s just the cold hard truth of my reproductive cycle. Though I never truly had that strong baby urge, I always assumed I’d have at least one child. A daughter. And since my own mother died when I was young, leaving me with many unanswered questions about who she was other than my mother, I have a trunk full of memorabilia, journals, etc – a trunk full of young me – for my daughter, should I leave her too early. Now with no daughter, I don’t know what the hell to do with this trunk now. But I digress…

I didn’t plan on owning a dog; I went to a Rocket Dog Rescue (RDR) adoption event to foster a pit bull for two days (an idea that was inspired by  another writing project of mine, “The Saga Of Gray And Nameless”).  RDR didn’t have any pitties that day. But since I’d driven all the way out there, I might as well foster something until a pittie came along. As I live in a tiny city flat with thin walls, a quiet dog was necessary. Problem was, all the quiet dogs seemed nervous, if not downright terrified. Except one: a funny-looking 6-month old pug mix named Picard who seemed uniquely independent, calm and almost aloof. I had no other choice.

That night I hosted a Mad Men season 4 premiere cocktail party for 12 guests. Picard was calm with a houseful of strangers, and never made one move toward the table covered with hors d’oeuvres. He needed nothing more than a lap on which to lay his head. He almost seemed hesitant to trust this happy home, as if he didn’t want to get attached. But… I got attached. Despite no job and no money, I had to find a way to keep him. I needed to take care of him, and would do whatever I had to do to give this little guy a happy home and make him feel safe and loved. And somehow, it just happened. After jobhunting for two years, I finally got a job.

Now, every day I wake up to a face that is pure happiness. Happy to be awake and know that breakfast is coming soon… though sometimes not soon enough. One morning I was sleeping in uncharacteristically late, and Picard woke me up by licking my eyelids open. Point is, his pure happiness is pure inspiration, from the second I open my eyes.  You can’t wake up in a bad mood with Picard in the room. On that note, no matter how bad a day I’ve had, I can’t stay in a bad mood when I come home to him. He’s so happy I’m home. It truly grounds me, how lucky I am to have a home and to have him in it. Then there’s the sheer joy he has in simply walking outside. Same route, different route, doesn’t matter; he’s outside and walking in the world, a part of it. He doesn’t consider his place in the world, where he’s come from or where he’s going. He’s just so damn happy to be moving and seeing people and sniffing things and meeting other pups. A fine example of living in the moment.

Picard has also reminded me of aspects of myself that I’d forgotten. For example, as a kid I was a huge lover of the outdoors: a Girl Scout, a camper, a hiker, a skier, a skater, a climber. I have 2 olders brothers, and I was always tagging along on their adventures (as much as they’d let me). Now as a car-free urbanite, I keep my outdoor activities to  simply hiking the hills of San Francisco — that is until I got Picard. He has so much energy (which he contains magnificently when in my flat), far more than he can burn off in a day walking or running with me. So at least once a week, we head out to Ft. Funston or Lands End or hunt for new places where he can run himself silly. And I feel like my face is going to crack from smiling so hard when I watch him run! When he runs, it looks like his eyes are going to bulge out of his head from all the joy. Thank you, Picard, for resurrecting the nature lover in me.

Picard keeping Pauline from her work! (please pardon the “lipstick.”)

He’s also a great listener. He knows that it’s best not to say too much; that I really just need him to listen, be my sounding board. He listened when I told him about the recent split between my beau and myself. And Picard made me realize that any pain I felt in that split was a fraction of what I would feel if I had to part with Picard. I don’t know if that’s very telling about the relationship, or if it’s more telling that this is what I need in my heart right now: to be a “mother,” rather than a partner. What I do know is that what makes my relationship with Picard one that most romantic unions might want to emulate is that it is balanced. He gives to me as much as I give to him. Of course his giving is pure and mindless and effortless, which makes it all the sweeter. And he gives to others as well: Picketers put down their signs to pet him. Handsome manly men cross the street to meet him (lucky me!) In stores, mothers take their babies out of their strollers so they can kiss him. Business comes to a standstill when I bring him on errands with me. And no kidding, I can’t tell you how many people have thanked me for sharing him. I feel so, so blessed that I get to witness and experience the joy he brings to others every day, simply by being delightfully sweet and loving. I truly believe he is the key to world peace: If you locked all oppressors, bullies, and sadistic motherfuckers in a room with Picard, I know for a fact he could disarm them all.

People come and go, sometimes breaking our hearts. But the little ones, the dogs and cats and pre-verbal children… they bring out the good in us and others they encounter. I know that having a dog is not the same as having a child. But it’s what I’ve got to work with, and there are  ways in which having a pup is advantageous to having a child at this point in my life. I will always be able to pick up and hold Picard, something that children outgrow both in size and in their tolerance for being kissed to the point of embarrassment (also something that gets difficult to do as we get older). Picard will not cost me a fortune in college tuition, he will never talk back to me, and he will never introduce unpleasant friends into my home. Added bonus: he rarely, rarely tests me.

At our favorite spot: Ft. Funston.

I’m just the lucky lottery winner who happened to be in the right place at the right time when this pup needed a home. Home is one of the most sacred words — and things — in the world to me. Picard reminds me every day of how important it is to feel safe and secure in the knowledge that you have a home – whether that be a physical place or someone  that will always protect and provide love and safety and comfort. I’ve learned that it’s indescribably satisfying to give someone — even a dog — a home. Far better than receiving one. Welcome home Picard.

Jan 19 2011

Days and Nights of Picard!

On July 25, 2010, I went to a Rocket Dog Rescue adoption event to foster a pit bull (see “The Saga of Gray & Nameless” to see what led me down this road of pit bull love). They didn’t have one. So I took this funny looking pug mix, Picard, for 2 days, until they would have a pittie. How was I to know we would fall in love?

(udates: for some reason the photo uploader on this site has become a pain in the ass of late. For more recent posts on Days and Nights of Picard!, please see his Facebook Page. And if you like it, then, please “Like” it!)