Haircuts and Kitchens

Megan and I hopped in her little red car and headed over to Lichen’s place on the magical South Coast.

It was a postcard day, without a cloud in the sky, the ocean impossibly blue with waves crashing against the wild, rocky coastline with its dark, windswept trees. After a short and pretty drive, we arrived at Camp Lichen, where Marley was joined by a pretty, stripy cat named Mouser:

mouser

who is visiting indefinitely while his owner is off doing other things, much like the Lovely Rita and me so many years ago.

When Lichen isn’t creating beautiful landscapes at other people’s houses (and his own) or training wayward pets or cutting people’s hair (the ostensible reason for the visit was a haircut for Megan), he is making leaves out of cement:

leaves

Sometimes they’re painted and sometime they’re not, but either way, they make amazing art, whether in the garden or inside the house. He is so talented.

Megan perched on a wooden stool on the deck overlooking the garden and the ocean:

view

while Lichen cut her hair. Megan inherited Mom’s glossy, thick, wavy hair, and Lichen actually has to thin it out. Mom never lost her hair, even with years of chemo and radiation. She just got regular density hair, and it never really went grey, either.

After the haircut, we finally got a look at the kitchen:

kitchen

You may remember that when Lichen moved in last winter, there was no kitchen and his landlords kindly allowed him to design one from Ikea and had it installed. I was worried that it would look too dark, but it looks great, though my photo is a little glare-y due to the sun being so sunny that day. You know how it is.

Before we left, Lichen loaded us up with pumpkins. If the Great Pumpkin really is looking for the most sincere pumpkin patch, I know where he’ll be on Halloween:

pumpkins

We set off homewards with hugs and waves. We are so lucky to have such great friends.

A YEAR AGO: Another visit to the South Coast. Must be the time of the season.

Inside & Out

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Frosty Fern

Happy new year, y’all! It started out a frosty one here, -2C outside and +4 inside, which is not that much of a plus. Ever notice that everything is worse in metric? Temperatures are colder and distances are further (though bra sizes are stupendous).

My brother was working a 72 hour shift, so I went over to his place to make sure the pipes had not burst in the sub-freezing temperatures. Though it’s only about a quarter of a mile away, it’s also about 5 Fahrenheit degrees colder over there in the winter, so the entire garden was heavily frosted, sparkling in the sun.

No pipes were harmed during the cold night, but I left his tap dripping, just in case. And fed Scout, the mini cat whose tiny body contains the loudest meows known to catdom. Since we were inside, I could pet her silky fur – not even Jonathan can pet her outside. Her youth spent as a stray cat is too deeply imprinted, and she must be very clever to have escaped the many predators for as long as she did – she was at least a year old when she turned up on my brother’s doorstep one day.

Back at home, I continued my tidying up activities. I had the week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and I decided to use the gift of time to try and create a little order from chaos, especially in the studio/storage room. There’s still a long way to go, but I’ve made significant inroads. And there were a couple of unexpected rewards (in addition to unusual virtue). I found the lovely Rita’s ID tag:

ritatag

I have put it carefully away in my jewelry box, remembering the happy times I spent with that beautiful, wonderful girl, the star of the neighborhood.

I also came across an “At Home” card my maternal grandparents sent out after their wedding in 1924:

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The only wedding picture I have of them shows them in a field with a grumpy preacher and one attendant each, so I get the impression that this was not a conventional wedding, and might even have been an elopement, given that my grandmother left home in order to go to high school*. I always think my grandfather looks like he won the lottery:

nanahohowedding

The card still smelled faintly of my grandmother’s lily of the valley perfume, even though she’s been gone for almost 40 years. I am lucky to have so many wonderful memories.

My delightful co-worker Erin gifted me with a lovely red clock for Christmas. It was out of the box for less than two minutes before it found itself on the wall, looking perfect:

clock

I also organized the books by color:

books

Pretty, no? A good start to the new year so far, I’d say!

A YEAR AGO: Back home from the last trip of the year to San Francisco.

*She moved in with her scandalous Aunt Luella, who got married in a pink dress and wore the dress to parties afterwards, bobbed her hair, and went to teacher’s college. She taught at the same high school where my grandfather was the principal – and my mother was a student.

Gone

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Rita on the banks of the Ohio Canal

Yesterday, I was deeply saddened to learn that the Lovely Rita is gone.

She was at least fifteen years old, a ripe old age for canines, but it still made my heart ache.

All day, as I ran errands with my sister (the vet for Schatzi’s thyroid pills; the Feed & Pet; Rite Aid; the bank; visiting Meg’s partner in pit bulls, Monica, at her store; the Safeway; Harvest Market), my mind was running on parallel tracks: one for my tasks, and the other for Rita. I was flooded with memories.

Faithful readers will remember that Rita lived with me for about three years, when her Actual Owner’s life was kind of tumultuous. She was an amazing companion, and traveled with me often. I know everyone thinks their dog is beautiful, but the Lovely Rita really was. People actually came out of their houses and leaned out of their cars to tell me how beautiful she was. Everyone in the neighborhood knew her and loved her, even people I didn’t know. She was the Queen of the Dog Park.

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What is that thing?

When I moved to Oakland, I made the difficult and painful decision to return her to her owner. It just about broke my heart, but I know I did the right thing for her. She would have been miserable there, and almost certainly would not have lived as long (or happily) as she did.

Last night, my sister and I toasted the Lovely Rita, and I tried hard not to cry. I remarked that it makes me wonder why we get pets at all, since we know they’re going to die before us, and it’s going to be horrible. Yet we keep doing it to ourselves. Megan said that it was because they make our lives better and happier.

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Rita relaxing

In honor of Rita (and in keeping with my new year’s resolution to categorize), I’ll go through my old posts and put all the Rita-related ones into the “Dogs” category. Though perhaps she should have a category of her own, since she was always in a class by herself.

Heart of the Matter

With all this kitten talk, I realize I have never filled you in on what became of the Lovely Rita.

In preparation for the long trip from There to Here, I took her to the vet. Dr. Jill said she wouldn’t recommend putting a dog of Rita’s vintage and dignity through the horrors of being packed up and treated like baggage, but she wouldn’t refuse me the certificate saying Rita was healthy enough to travel, either. Because Rita is in excellent shape, even for a dog far junior to her.

This put some doubts in my mind, but I went to tell Actual Owner that Rita and I were off on a new adventure together. He was visibly shaken, and asked if I would consider leaving her with him. Even a heart as stony as mine melted when he said, “I was there at the beginning of her life, and I’d like to be there at the end, too.” Because we both knew that he’d never see her again if she left with me.

The truth is, she is his dog. She spent the first ten years of her life with him, and only three with me. He’s home, I’m the summer camp.

I won the battle, but I lost the war.

So I did the right and painful thing. Actual Owner came over one evening, and I loaded him up with all her accessories, things I had acquired for her over the years, ranging from her travel water bottle (she was the best travel companion: always happy to go anywhere, never bored) to her beloved bed to her hip treats (prevention!). I also gave him all her vet records. He thanked me for taking such good care of her, and put on her leash.

I hugged her good-bye, burying my face in her thick fur once last time. She walked off with her guy, tail wagging, looking up at him with love I’ve never seen on her face for anyone else.

It was the right thing to do, but it was one of the hardest I’ve ever done.

Now that I’ve been in Oakland for six months, I am completely sure I did the right thing. She would not have been happy here with the constantly barking dogs next door, the complete lack of parks, having to walk on a leash on cement sidewalks with shopping cart people instead of being Queen of the Dog Park, running free with the sun on her fur.

And her extended vacation at Camp Suzy was not in vain. Her Actual Owner definitely appreciates her more now. He takes her everywhere, from the store to the Tai Chi classes he teaches, and she is happy and healthy. I will always miss her, but I’m happy she’s happy. And I’ll always have the memory of my Dog Days with the Lovely Rita.

How Much Is That Doggie on the Sidewalk?

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The Priceless Puppy

Summer’s lingering longer than usual this year, though not outstaying its welcome. Is that even possible?

To welcome the sun and spicy fall air into my otherwise dark and windowless kitchen, I have the front door open and the baby gate up. This keeps Rita and the kittens from escaping into the Wide World, but they can still watch the pigeons and people passing by. It’s kind of like television with Smellovision.

Today’s surprise guest was none other than Quince, the kittens’ mother. She came swaying over to the baby gate, her bell ringing jauntily, and sniffed the kittens, who sniffed back. Then she left. I don’t think they recognized each other, but it was fun for me to watch. A close encounter of the kitty kind?

Rita and I had a couple of odd encounters last night.

We were on our way to the big park (the little park is the other way) and passed a guy sitting outside the slaughterhouse. He didn’t look like the regular slaughterhouse workers, with their rubber boots and gloves, who often sit outside when they’re on a break so they can pet Rita and/or share their lunches with her. He looked like just a regular guy smoking a cigarette.

“Nice dog,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Give you a hundred bucks for it.”

We got as far away from him as fast as possible.

When we came back, he was gone, but Rita started jumping up on a guy I had never seen before, acting all thrilled to see him. “How are you? Where have you been?” her tail asked. I asked her to cease and desist (though without much hope), but the guy said he was Former Owner’s brother and knew Miss Rita. He added that she had never looked better or healthier, which I’m sorry to say made me all smug, since I’m secretly convinced that I take better care of her than FO and that she’s happier with me, too. If anything, FO’s brother should think the opposite, so it was a nice vote of confidence.

Yay.

Company

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Quince

This past week, I had the pleasure of Quince’s company while her owner was in Spain, the poor thing. Quince is the beautiful mother of my beautiful kittens. My neighbor took her in as a pregnant stray who was a kitten herself – barely 9 months old. She was essentially a pregnant homeless teenager, so she was lucky to find Patrisha. It seems to me that cats and dogs choose us, not the other way around.

Every morning, Rita and I would go to Patrisha’s little Victorian rowhouse (an endangered species on our street, as the soulless, expensive condo boxes encroach). I’d leave Rita in the little front yard and go inside, where Quince was always waiting for me. Patrisha left a window open, so Quince could go in and out at will, but I think she spent a lot of time inside, waiting for her girl to come home. Surely a formerly homeless cat appreciates a warm and happy home even more than cats who have never had to kill their own dinner.

So I’d feed Quince, walk Rita, and in the evening I’d go back, feed Quince her dinner, and curl up on the soft velvet couch with my book (Away, by Amy Bloom). Pretty soon, I’d hear Quince’s little paws and bell as she trotted into the room. She’d hop up and make herself comfortable on my lap, purring away merrily. Eventually, she’d leave for her evening stroll, and I’d leave, too.

I realized how lucky I am to know my kittens’ mother and to be able to spend time with her. I can see where June and Audrey get their supermodel long legs from, their funny, swaying walk. I can see how Audrey has the same sharpness to her delicate face, how June has similar coloring.

Patrisha brought me a present from Spain to thank me for taking care of Quince, but I should have thanked her instead.

Surprise, Surprise

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The kitten formerly known as Dennis

Well, it’s just been one thing after another since I got back from Detroit.

One thing:

The $350 vet bill.

Rita lives to sniff things, and it looked like she might have sniffed the wrong thing. She and my kind neighbor Charlie were enjoying each other’s company while I was enjoying Kathleen’s company in Detroit. The enjoyment came to a rapid and horrifying halt when Charlie noticed Rita investigating some mouse bait which he had overlooked in his kitchen.

Of course, this occurred on a Saturday evening, so he had to take Her Loveliness to the emergency vet, which is much more expensive (but not more luxurious) than the regular vet. While Charlie imagined how he was going to tell me about this, Rita had her stomach pumped twice, and even though it didn’t look like she had ingested any poison pellets, they gave her Vitamin K just in case*. I’m not sure who had the worse time. But Rita is healthy and happy, unlike our collective bank accounts.

Another:

A couple of days later, at a different (and slightly less expensive) office down the street, I learned that Dennis is, in fact, a girl. Apparently everyone who saw Dennis from Day One onwards had the same hallucination, including the vet, because no-one noticed the whole “Dude Is a Lady” thing on the first visit. This time, the vet got a second opinion from her partner, and said they’ll check again on the next appointment (kittens go to the vet approximately as often as Lindsay Lohan goes to rehab), so stay tuned.

Years of living in San Francisco and walking to work through the Tenderloin in the early morning hours has given me a remarkable ability to tell when a girl is really a guy, but not, apparently, the other way around.

*I learned far too much about how mouse poison really works. I’d stay in ignorance if I were you. ~shudder~

The Eventful Evening

I was making dinner last night (green curry chicken, grapefruit salad with toasted coconut and fresh mint, and jasmine rice from my well-worn copy of Quick and Easy Thai*) when Mister showed up. He was not alone, having the fire alarm inspector as his small but efficient entourage.

As I opened the door to let them in, Rita shot out of the kitchen as if fired from a slingshot. I looked around for the kittens, who for once were minding their own business and staying out of trouble (almost as good as quick and easy), grabbed them, summarily dumped them in the bathroom and shut the door. Then I chased Rita down the street. She was already past the slaughterhouse. At the time, I was far from amused (and far from Rita), but in retrospect, it’s reassuring to know that she can still outrun me.

I finally caught up to (and caught) the errant dog, and dragged her home. Passing my neighbor Mike’s place, I noticed that he was lounging in his hammock, getting enjoyably hammered while listening to Sam Cooke. The fact that Mike is hovering around three score years and on his way to the “and ten” part only made it more endearing. He toasted us with domestic beer as we passed.

When I got home, I learned that I’m not the only dumb bell in the place. My fire alarm bell was as dysfunctional as the House of Windsor, but, unlike them, had been replaced.

When I took Rita out for the final walk of the day (her Michael Scofield imitation didn’t count in my book), one of the guys who lives in the building came out and handed me a mirrored disco ball. Thus, even more oddly accessorized than usual while strolling Miss Rita, we went to the park.

*If there are two things I love, it’s quick AND easy. They belong together! If you can’t have sparkly and fabulous, quick and easy is the next best thing.

Show & Tell

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Gratuitous kitten photo which has nothing to do with this post.

I wonder if Rita is getting senile, or is possibly protesting the recent arrival of the kittens to her Queendom and is letting me know that she objects.

Lately, she’s taken to peering in the bathroom door and staring at me when I’m in there peeing. When I leave, she leaves. Show’s over. But weird. Who ever heard of a Peeping Rita?

The past couple of days, she has barked in her sleep, waking both of us up. I don’t know who’s more surprised. But I know who has a harder time getting back to sleep, and it ain’t Miz Rita, whose peepers close almost immediately afterwards.

Rita may not be the only senile old lady around here. Twice in the past few days I have left her outside and not noticed until:

  1. Rita whined and scratched at the door, which is dog for “Let me in” (sometimes it means “Let me out”, though – you have to take each situation individually;
  2. The building dentists knocked loudly at the door. By the time I got to the door, Rita was standing there looking up at me. I thought the old dog had learned a new trick. But no.

I’m almost as good a parent as Britney.

For those who are wondering who the building dentists are, they arrive at a very early hour and then start drilling out the old bricks and filling in new ones, much like dentists do with teeth if you let them. At least dentists don’t make house calls. The BD’s have replaced quite a few century old bricks, including the wall under the stairs which lead to the main building. It was not reassuring to hear them call out from the inside that they hoped the ceiling wouldn’t cave in.

So far, so good.

Update: When I was making dinner last night (pecan-crusted sole with citrus salsa, lemon-herb risotto, and asparagus), there was a frantic pounding on the door. Rita was getting under my feet in the traditional manner when I cook, so I knew it wasn’t her or the building dentists.

It was Charlie, who dashed into the house when I opened the door and ran to the bathroom. I didn’t like to follow him, not being a Peeping Rita kind of girl, but he came racing out with a pail of water, gasping, “Fire!” and sped outside.

Turned out one of the building dentist tarps was on fire right outside my door. Charlie soaked it down, leaving a smoldering pile of plastic and cloth (burning plastic smells really gross) and a freaked out girl. Have no idea how the fire started, but am very glad it’s ended. And if you can’t be rescued by the incendiary Denis Leary, your nice neighbor is the next best thing.

Rita and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Everything was fine in Rita’s Queendom. She had trained the people pretty well. They didn’t take her out quite as often as she’d like, but with age comes wisdom, so Rita knew that this is what happens when you’ve been living with someone for a while. Other than that, though, she loved her comfortable bed, her routine, and all that attention.

Those days are over.

For some reason, two – two! – obnoxious little furballs have entered the previously peaceful Queendom. They are crazy bananaheads, in Rita’s opinion, and completely unnecessary. For some reason, the people actually seem to like them and coo over them as if they were cute or something. Also, they stink the place up with their food and the results of the food. They don’t go outside, like normal beings.

Honestly!

As if the invasion wasn’t bad enough, that blasted neighbor dog with his obvious Napoleon complex saw fit to attack Rita while she was out for a stroll. She stopped to greet him in the usual polite butt-sniffing way, and he bit her nose! Really hard! There was blood involved. The Girl was horrified and applied gooey stuff to the wound. Rita tried to lick it off, but some of it stayed on, and at least it helped to temporarily mask the kittenstink. Now Rita and the Girl will have matching rakish scars. The Girl is already telling people that Rita had a nose job.

Rita is not amused.

The Perils of Shopping

The new kittens, of course, have provided an excellent excuse for shopping. They require many accessories and necessities, so in preparation for their imminent arrival, I decided to go and pick up a few things.

My aversion to public transit being a matter of public knowledge, I took a cab to the store. I gave the driver the intersection I wanted. He unaccountably drove me to the bus station, which is approximately two blocks from my actual destination. When he stopped, I pointed out that he had not in fact arrived at the requested location. He asked, “You no wan’ bus station?” I said no, I didn’t, though I kept the following thoughts to myself:

  1. You might want to consider actually taking passengers to the place they asked for; and
  2. Do I look like someone who wants to go to the bus station? It’s a horrifying thought. Also, I had no luggage other than a gorgeous handbag I bought in New York in a moment of weakness. I’m insulted all over again on behalf of the bag.

The horror of the bus station insult faded as I entered the store, list in hand, so I felt efficient instead of indulgent. As usual, I noticed several must-haves (and some wanna-haves) while in the course of getting the necessities of kitty life, so by the time I left the store I was burdened down like someone who takes the bus.

On exiting the store, I discovered that there was a mysterious and annoying parade in progress, making traffic worse than usual. I decided to drag my purchases a couple of blocks away – not to the bus station – to the next major street, in the hopes of catching a cab that wouldn’t immediately be trapped in the parade standstill.

You’d think this was a good strategy, but on arriving at Major Street and dropping my packages to rub some feeling back into my hands, the following happened:

  1. There were no cabs.
  2. A kilt wearing busker set up about three feet from me and started piercing my ears with his bagpipes. I know Queen Victoria was awakened in this manner every day, but I’m not regal enough to stand it. After about five minutes, I was ready to ask him how much he’d take to cease and desist and why on earth he felt the need to inflict the kilt thing on an unsuspecting public.

Instead, I loaded up my packages and fled at a positively queenly pace to the next Major Street, where I collapsed into the first cab I saw. I’m not above being girlishly helpless when it suits me, so I managed to persuade the driver to help carry the packages to my front door. Now, if I could teach Rita to open the door, I’d be all set.

Beauty of the Beast

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Rita takes a break from all that admiration. One’s public can be so exhausting.

I came home from sharing lovely Rita’s loveliness with her adoring public* to find that both my sisters had called in my absence. Again! It’s pretty cool to know that two people in two different countries are thinking of you at the same time. This may be quite common for celebrities like Rita, but unusual for Me.

I suspect they called because I haven’t blogged in so long and they were wondering what, if anything, was up. You might be wondering, too. But since it’s the Silly Season, a month historically devoid of any real news, you won’t be surprised to learn that there has really been nothing to report.

Things went down and things came up so I didn’t go to late, so maybe they’re just a sensitive bunch of guys.

Since I couldn’t be there in person, I decided to send Kathleen the tickets I would not be using (sob!), along with a quite cute birthday card and a token gift. Since I was, of course, late in getting to the post office, I figured I’d better overnight it. The post office worker fondled the package and asked me what was in it. I told her it was a magnet, and that, my friends, is a big mistake.

Even though the magnet consisted of a sunny daisy blossom captured in plastic with a magnet the size of a baby’s thumbnail on the back, it is apparently a dangerous object. You’d think I was trying to send my friend a handgun or illegal drugs instead of a refrigerator decoration. That might, in fact, be easier. When they mentioned that it would be $43 to overnight the offending package – yes, forty-three fun-filled dollars – the decision was made.

The next tier of service, though more magnet-tolerant and half the price, would take four days, meaning that the tickets would arrive by 5:00 on the day of the game, or approximately 2 hours before the first pitch. I had to hope for the best.

The “going postal” expression began to make more sense to me, though I wondered idly why they call it that when it’s mail, though I guess going mail-al or mail-o doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The notice for the package was there by the appointed hour, but the actual package failed to appear. There may be a bench warrant out for it by now. Fortunately, Kathleen’s friends had standing room only seats, so they could still use my errant and invisible tickets. Oh, and as of yesterday, the hazardous package had yet to be redelivered.

And I thought I was late.

*Literally, in the case of a distinguished older Golden Retriever, who came running when he spotted her and sniffed her with the thoroughness and alacrity usually reserved for vintage garbage or extremely dead small animals. Rita tolerated it, as she does the attentions of puppies, small children, and others who are unable to resist her considerable allure. If she were human, she’d smile and sign autographs. The Golden’s owner exclaimed, “He just loves your dog!” Apparently he had been thrilled by Rita before.

Tempted

The Great Dog Rescue Adventure led to the Great Cat Conundrum.

I was cautiously backing the giant dog-rescuing car through the slightly creepy (and very narrow) passageway, on my way to return said car to the rental agency, when my neighbor Patricia approached with a little cat in her arms. “Whose cat is that?” I asked. “No-one’s,” she replied. It turns out that the kitty was a stray whom Patricia had finally managed to lure into the house after several weeks. Not only was the cat abandoned (Patricia cut off a very tight flea collar which had clearly been put on the cat when she was much younger), but she was pregnant, too.

Patricia, who is in marketing and knows what she’s doing, placed the adorable feline in my arms. The cat cuddled up to me and licked my nose. Then she looked straight into my eyes with her clear, gold-green eyes.

I melted.

I gave the cat back to Patricia and gave the car back. I kept thinking about that darn cat.

The next day, Patricia asked me to come over for coffee in her back yard. It was wonderful to sit in the sun and sip coffee among her flowers. The little cat jumped up on my lap and made herself at home. She’s about 90% tummy at this point, the rest of her being petite and willowy. Did I mention she’s beautiful?

My concern about adopting this little girl is Rita. Rita’s an old lady and likes her routine. She’s the Queen of Everything and used to lots of attention from her many adoring admirers. She is also an inveterate cat chaser. So I don’t want to take the cat in from the streets, only to have her terrorized in her new home by something that looks to her to be approximately the size of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I also don’t want to put Rita’s shapely nose out of joint.

To cat or not to cat? That is the question.

Today to Date

First things first: happy 65th birthday to the great Brian Wilson!

Now for the less festive part of our program:

I got up really, really early, had a cold bath and hot coffee*, and went to have a mammogram. Ask any girl, and she’ll tell you that these are not for the faint of heart or full of boobage. Sorry, guys, but every time I have one, I think that if men had to endure this annual squeezefest of an extremely vulnerable body part, they’d have come up with something better a long time ago. Same goes for both the PMS and the P itself: there would be something better than Advil and heating pads, which appears to be the sum total of medical knowledge in that area.

While waiting in the hospital’s crowded lobby for an elevator, a man in an orange jumpsuit shuffled in, accompanied by two intimidatingly-sized policemen, complete with bulletproof vests and guns. The prisoner’s hands and feet were manacled, joined by a waist chain; hence the shuffling. I thought, “Now, there’s someone whose day is definitely worse than mine.” I was surprised that the cops allowed the general public to be in the elevator with their little entourage, but maybe I’ve seen too many movies. I did note, however, that they pressed the button for the 15th floor, which was the only floor without a description (X-Ray; Patient, etc.) listed.

The smushorama took longer than I had anticipated, what with the disrobing and squashing and waiting and re-robing. I had to rush home to pick up the lovely Rita for her medical appointment, which I’m sure she enjoyed as much as I enjoyed mine.

The day before, my friend Charlie noticed what he thought was a cut on Rita’s lip. Horrified that I hadn’t noticed it, I called the vet, berating myself for being a bad mother while on hold. I made an appointment for the next day. When the vet examined her, she said that it wasn’t a cut at all, but Rita’s natural coloring. Felt like the idiot I am, but was relieved Rita is fine. The doctor did whole check-up and said Rita was in excellent shape. Feeling relieved, I was relieved of the usual cash and we were free to go.

It wasn’t even noon yet.

*In my adorable new daisy mug. Definitely the best part of the morning.

Three Dog Night

If you count Rita. And I always do, even though she was just an innocent bystander in this latest adventure.

A friend of a friend had rescued two dogs from a bad situation (I didn’t ask for the details; it’s against my happy bunny policy of remaining as ignorant of ickiness as possible) and needed help transporting them to their new home. All I’d have to do is rent a car, drive three hours out of the city, meet FoF and buddy in a McDonald’s parking lot, load dogs into car and drive back to the city to deliver them to their new and improved home.

In retrospect, it doesn’t seem like the brightest idea to meet two stranger-ish guys with two big dogs* at night in a parking lot, especially a McDonald’s one, but two weeks after losing Jed, it seemed like good karma and a good deed. Rita decided to stay home and hang out with Charlie instead – a wise choice. But then, she is smart and beautiful.

FoF provided me with a painstaking list of suggestions and advice along with directions to the Designated McDonald’s, such as “Make sure your cell phone is fully charged” and “Do NOT SPEED, especially on the way back. You don’t want two big dogs freaking out the police”. You’d think I was transporting plutonium across international borders.

Come to think of it, though, rental car places often seem to regard dog hair with the horror usually reserved for hazardous waste. I once rented one which ended up with a liberal coating of Rita fur on the back seat. On returning the car, the agent gazed at the be-furred seats with bemusement and said their vacuum cleaner couldn’t handle the job, but if I’d pay him $100, he’d give it a try. I took it to a carwash instead, where they cleaned it inside and out for about $20. So I paid to do the rental car agency’s job. After that, I made sure to cover up all exposed rental car seating. And now you know, too.

In the end, Operation Dog Transport went without a hitch, despite the discovery that the dogs were in fact quite huge and quite stinky. But they were also quite sweet-natured, and it was a good dog deed indeed.

*Dogs originally advertised as 85 pounds, but turned out to be more like 120+. Don’t we all lie about our weight? Just a little?

Mothers & Mothers

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Yes, Virginia, there really is a hell. And it’s right upstairs!

The thing about my upstairs neighbors is that they are just so generous. Even if it’s 9:00 on a Sunday morning – and a Sunday dedicated to God and Moms (does it get any more sacred than that?) – they are delighted to share their egregious taste in music with anyone within earshot (and your ears will be shot, believe me). Given their propensity for equal volume and bass overdrive, those of you in Indonesia and Outer Mongolia are probably having your ears assaulted right now. If there’s a huge avalanche on Mt Everest or somewhere on either Pole, you’ll know who to blame.

Rita & I eventually tired of being univited guests at Hell’s Disco, and decided to get out for a breath of quiet air. While ambling away from Racketville, we discovered the above item in the Upstairs Disco’s recycling.

Suddenly, it was all so clear.

Changing the subject from those mothers, today I hosted a couple of motherless friends for brunch. Makes the day easier for those of us who are Mom-less, and instead of braving the restaurants with their happy, Mom-celebrating parties, I made Eggs Florentine. I used a mixture of baby arugula and baby spinach, and successfully made my own hollandaise sauce. The addition of the arugula really helped to cut the richness of the hollandaise and brought it all into balance. I am pleased to report that it was enjoyed by all, though conversation was difficult since we were temporarily located inside a giant speaker, but I took the pleased expressions and empty plates as a compliment.

To those of you who have mothers or are mothers, hope you had a fabulous Mother’s Day! And wishing everyone peace and quiet. Send some my way if you got it.

Now We Are Six

My blog turns six today! Hope Mike doesn’t think I have to start doing chores now!

Rita has been celebrating the upcoming blogiversary, or possibly the fashionably late arrival of Spring, with extreme naughtiness. If she had a dog house, she’d be in it.

On Thursday, I arrived home to discover the contents of the garbage can scattered all over the house. Rita the miscreant was lying calmly in the middle of the mess. I think she knew it was pointless to try and blame it on the mice. She didn’t wag her tail or jump for joy when I came in the door, probably because my entry and my yelling were pretty much simultaneous.

I’m sure it was the aftereffects of this domestic misdemeanor which led Rita to wake me up at 6:30 am. That means “in the morning”. I knew I’d regret it, soon and for the rest of my life, if I didn’t get up and take her out. Without coffee. After I had coffee, I decided to take Rita with me when I went to the library. It’s a nice walk, and the library is conveniently located next to a park, so Rita could chase squirrels and pigeons to her heart’s content.

I figured that would hold her until the evening walk, but I was wrong.

A couple of hours later, I was on the phone with an investment banker in New York. Rita started whining and scratching at the door, dog code for “let me out of here or you’ll be sorry”. I couldn’t immediately give in to her demands, or tell her to stop making them, because the banker would wonder why there was a dog in the office. While we do have an office, in beautiful downtown Oakland, I usually just work out of my kitchen, but I didn’t think the banker needed to know that. My professionalism is all an illusion (but he didn’t need to know that, either). He didn’t seem to hear Rita’s pleas for an early release, so when I got off the phone, I took her out again. And again, later that night, when Rita tried to chase a cat, and was forcibly restrained. Cat-chasing in my opinion is not good.

On the way back from the Final Four, a passing child wanted to pet Rita, but Rita wasn’t interested. I have noticed as she has gotten older that she’s less than thrilled with the attentions of puppies and children. The little girl got really upset as Rita tried to slink away, so I stopped her and let her be petted. Sometimes you just have to make sacrifices for your public.

Rita Light and Dark

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I’m only getting up for admiration.

My dog* is so pretty, she doesn’t even need to leave the house to get compliments.

The Thai food delivery guy asked me where she was when he brought dinner the other day. I went and got her (she was napping too much to bark when he knocked at the door), and she went up to him wagging her tail. He petted her and said he couldn’t remember her name.

“Rita,” I said.

“Ah, yes, Rita! Like Rita Hayworth, only more beautiful!”

However, like many beauties, Rita, I learned, has a somewhat shady past.

I took her around the back of our sprawling building. There’s a parking lot, a wood-working studio, and a place where movie and TV sets are built. Behind all this is a vacant lot, which looks like a field, but which is actually the former site of a battery factory. Apparently it’s too toxic to build on(!), but not too toxic to walk your dog on.

While Rita was sniffing and strolling, another dog owner arrived, along with PD, an artist who also lives in the building. In fact, he is Former Owner’s next-door neighbor. When the dog owner saw Rita, he pulled his dog closer to him and told me that Rita had been known to fight with his dog on more than one occasion. PD chimed in with the fact that she nipped his hand once. Imagine my surprise to learn that my old girl was so OG. I have to blame it on the bad old days of the Former Owner. She’d never do that now. I hope. I certainly don’t want to have to send her to rehab and reach out to the canine and artistic communities, begging for fashionable forgiveness.

*After more than a year of Rita’s companionship, I think it’s safe to say she’s my dog. I even managed to avoid The Talk with Previous Owner (previously known as Actual Owner). Bonus! How many girls get what they want without having to talk about their relationship?

Last week, I ran into Previous Owner. He lives in the same building, but I rarely see him. So we were catching up, and he never asked me about Rita. I brought up the topic, telling him she was doing well, and so far so good with all the pet food recalls. He said he’d call us that night or drop by, and guess what? Nothing. Girls, I know you won’t be surprised by this, and neither am I. But it’s all good, since I get Rita, discussion-free! I win!

Good Day, Good Deeds, Good Dog

The two old ladies are alive and well, you’ll be glad to hear. And thanks to all of you for checking up on us, especially those who recognized the Oates quote and feared the ominous worst. I haven’t pulled an Oates (and would never be noble enough to do so), but there has been nothing at all amusing happening in my life, so I elected to keep the dullness to myself. Maybe I am, in fact, somewhat noble.

This must be an all-time personal high (or low) for posting, since this is only the third entry this month. I should get some kind of award for it. The Slothy: for outstanding indolence. Problem is, people would get annoyed with me winning it every year, even though I’d be too lazy to write, let alone read, an acceptance speech.

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Rita must have wanted to keep up with my accoutrements of old age*, because the vet has put her on prescription dog food (it’s called G/D, which I prefer to think of as Good Dog, rather than what it really stands for) and treats to help keep her joints healthy and happy. She loves them and is prancing around like a little circus pony, charming one and all as per usual.

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I?m sure Emily Post or Miss Manners would say that regifting is always wrong (and they’d probably have an aside explaining why the non-word “regifting” was so egregious, besides the idea of the actual regifting), but it was a total success in this case. I received a hat for Christmas which was cute, but not me. Apart from anything else, it had wooly braids, and if I’m going to wear braids, they’re going to be mine. I finally realized it would look great on my neighbor, and since I never know when I?ll see her, I put it in her mailbox. I ran into her a couple of days later, and she was not only wearing it, she was bubbling over about all the compliments she had received on it. Total success! And a gift that kept on (re)giving.

Glowing with regifting glory, I went to the store for some necessities (pomegranate juice for anti-oxidant martinis; shrimps and artichokes; coffee). On the lottery counter, some hopeful yet forgetful soul had left her wallet. It was black patent leather, with a big Pilgrim-y buckle on it (if she wins, I hope she buys a new one). I couldn’t resist peeping inside. There was money – not enough for a pretty new wallet, alas – and ID. I handed it over to the cashier, who was either surprised at my honesty or the ugliness of the wallet. She took it gingerly and stowed it under the cash.

On the way home, I amused myself by thinking of how happy the owner would be to get it back. Like ABC’s Wide World of Sports, only backwards: “The agony of defeat! The thrill of victory!”

*When I complained to a friend about how having bifocals makes me feel old, she said, “Having bifocals just means all your energy goes to your intelligence and your eyes don’t get as much.” I feel so much better. And smarter.

The Year of the Dog

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2006 was the Year of the Dog* in Chinese astrology. It was also the Year of the Dog for Suzy.

Round about February, I started taking care of Rita (or possibly the other way around) more or less full-time. As time went on, I became more and more enamored of her, and my blog became more and more about her as my life did. I am now totally in love with her and will never give her back to “Actual” Owner, even though we don’t have an official (or unofficial) agreement. She is such a joy.

As for last year’s resolutions, I kept all but one of them. I’m not yet divorced, but the paperwork is in progress. Rather like the Rita situation, there’s nothing official, but we have an agreeable understanding. I’m sure it will be wrapped up this coming year. I’m pleased to report that John and the fabulous cats are all doing well.

This year, I want to focus on physical health (complete ologist removal); mental health (not going back on the pills); and work (getting things formalized, working more & better).

Hope this coming year is a great one for everyone!

*Rita turns 12 next month, so according to Chinese astrology, she was born in the Year of the Pig. She does possess quite a lot of the Boar qualities: “Whatever they do, they do with all their strength…They have tremendous fortitude and great honesty…anyone having a Boar Year friend is fortunate for they are extremely loyal. They don’t talk much…They are kind to their loved ones.”