Archive for the ‘Audrey’ Category

Dog life

If you want a good life, turn into a dog and move to LA.  Of course dogs get spoiled in other places as well, and not all pooches are pampered in this city.  Still, canine life looks very sweet under the California sun.  You can gauge it by Audrey’s contented state—and she enjoys only a fraction of what’s available to her species here.

We’ve had a cold spell last week, so I as bundled into my woolens, I made sure Audrey was warm as well.  Vizslas have short hair and no undercoat, so they chill easily.  When the house temperature drops to the 50s, Audrey’s nose, ears, and paws turn into icicles and she shivers.   So she needs her own sweater.  I bought her one after she had a big surgery a few years ago and half of her body was shaved, so she actually needed this outfit.  I will admit, though, that I spent $75 on a designer get-up that turns her into a stylish Dalmatian:  it is reversible and has either turquoise circles on brown ground that matches her color, or the other way around, plus a cute collar and cuffs.  She looks très chic.  The garment came from a specialty store in the neighborhood that stocks an assortment of canine clothes, toys, and other necessities.  Including cookies.  Though for that there are here whole bakeries – just for dogs – where your pooch can choose anything from biscuits to muffins to birthday cakes.  And yes, I once caved in and bought from such an establishment cupcakes for Audrey and her cousins to celebrate her birthday.  I am not sure who was more delighted, the dogs, or the humans looking at the dogs gobbling down the treats and laboriously licking sticky frosting off their lips.

As Audrey and I stroll along on our walks, in sweaters or not, depending on the temperature, we regularly see dog-grooming vans in front of people’s houses.  Yes, they deliver a wash to your door, shampooing and blow-drying your animal without making a mess of your home, getting you scratched up by the reluctant pet, or spoiling your relations with him or her.  My canine princess has to rough it and step into the bathtub for her monthly ablutions, giving me a martyr’s look that asks why I must torture the one I claim to love.   Afterwards the bathroom floor is a disaster area of puddles and wet towels, the comforter on the bed is damp and disarrayed from Audrey drying herself on it, the tub needs a wash.  I hope that at least she takes comfort in me, rather than a stranger, maltreating her in the privacy of her own home, rather than in a van outside the house.  But her canine confederates might disagree and find the experience luxurious.  Their owners certainly do.

Another kind of vans we see are the ones that pick up pooches for playgroups and hikes.  Theses are not your regular walks with a gaggle of dogs straining at the end of the leashes as they drag along a distracted young person.  LA dogs go romping freely along the ridges of hills, gazing at the mountains around them and the ocean shimmering in the sun further off, breathing in the scents of shrubs and fresh air.  They go for hours and come back happily exhausted, at peace with their owners, household furniture, and shoes.  Their people, relieved of the obligation to walk their pets can go off and pay some more money to have their personal trainers exercise them in the freshly air conditioned gym.

Dogs whose people go out of town for a few days, or weeks, decamp for their own vacations.  Some take up residence at in-door doggie day cares, where they run around in huge rooms in packs arranged by clients’ size, or relax in their own rooms, draped on their own little couches in front of their own TVs.  Others spend their holidays at doggie camps in the hills where during the day they can frolic outdoors, dipping into a pool, playing chase on the lawn, and catching a glimpse of a whiff of surrounding nature.  They are delivered back to their people freshly bathed and groomed, their spa experience complete.

Yet another convenience available as home delivery is dog training.  I see these cars frequently, too, their purpose decaled on the sides of the vehicles.  Audrey, I will boast, was home schooled by her mother (me) and proved a diligent student.  She walks off leash, comes when called (mostly, unless there is manure to be had), and sits at curbs, waiting for me to lead her across the street.  She knows, and complies with the firm rule that she is not allowed to step off on her own under any circumstances, not even for a squirrel.  We often encounter other dog owners, wrestling with their more unruly pets, who marvel at Audrey and say to me, “can you train my dog, too?”  Having someone else do the job of teaching your animal how to live with you harmoniously and safely is a common wish, it seems.  Hence the traveling teachers.

Yet even for a dog not privileged enough to be visited by hairdressers, personal exercisers, or tutors, life in LA offers many pleasures.  Nature is on dogs’ side here:  the weather is almost always nice enough for a walk, since it almost never rains and certainly never snows, so pooches can enjoy strolls around the neighborhood, in the hills, and on the beaches – though strangely not most beaches.  The city itself is so dog friendly that countless stores put out water bowls for canine passers and welcome them inside with cookies.   Audrey can, and in fact would very much like to take me on a daily visit of all such places, and it would be a nice, long walk.  But only a few beaches allow dogs on them.  Which forces you, life being tough, to take a scenic drive to Malibu and dip your combined toes into the waves on a quiet beach where Hollywood celebrities have their houses, which they visit only seldom, leaving the beach blissfully empty most of the year.

If you don’t have time or inclination for a beach outing, you can take your dog to a play-date at a friend’s house.  Audrey is not a social butterfly.  She does not enjoy mingling with the masses at the dog parks.  But she has a number of boyfriends who call her up for dates.  Because California is a spacious state, and it has all these lawns I mentioned earlier, and nice weather, she spends many a happy afternoon racing around the back or front yards with her suitors, chewing on grass between sprints (she doubles as a cow), and running up to me, her whole backside wiggling, her years cupped out, her lips stretched in a smile, telling me how happy she is with her life.


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From my dog’s mouth

I am always immensely touched by my dog’s attempt at cross species communication.  I will admit from the outset that I am crazy about my dog – like most pet slaves – so I pay great attention to her and to what she is trying to tell me.  And she (Audrey, my vizsla) is very good at expressing her wishes:  not just when she is hungry and, her face turned toward the kitchen, her paw stamping the floor like a Lipizzaner stallion, she tries to lead me to her bowl;  but also when, after a long morning nap she wakes up around 2 pm, comes to my study, and nudges me with a toy in her mouth, saying very clearly:  “You’ve been glued to your machine for too long, come pay attention to me!”  Of course I honor her request.  It is good for her and good for me.  We both get to stretch our legs, run around the coffee table, cuddle, and bask in mutual affection.

She has also invented a game of being chased – or chasing me – around a tree, and is very explicit when she requires that of me, getting into a down dog position and barking at me to begin.  Los Angeles is particularly good for this activity, because the thick palm trunks offer her a big circumference to race around and a place to play hide and seek as she waits for me to peek around the tree and run after her, or for her to do that to me in reverse.  We both love it – it makes us smile and walk onward in high spirits.

I find it amazing that Audrey is always making this effort to bridge the gap between us — the gap between two different animals and two ways of expressing desires and feelings — and succeeding every time to the delight of us both!  And I have to say that she is better at conveying to me her requests than the other way around.  Despite my repeated entreaties, commands, and frustrated shouts that she must stop eating manure (with which Los Angelinos smear their lawns at this time of the year in their persistent conviction that green lawns must grow year-round), I am clearly not relating my message adequately.  She chomps on as if I were not addressing her at all.  Is there a lesson for me – for us humans here?

Can we, people, learn to communicate better?  Certainly women and men are often not very successful at expressing their desires to each other effectively enough to yield satisfying results;  nor are world leaders good at it;  nor religious opponents.  What are dogs doing better?  Is the trick in being more attentive, more friendly, more funny?  We’d certainly all benefit from such improved skills.

I know, I am being naïve and idealistic.  But if dogs can do it…

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