Yesterday evening Ruby and I were trotting through lower Richistan, past a house that a young couple with kids is renovating, when the morons’ 80-pound German shepherd roared out of their front yard and attacked my little 25-pound corgi. I tried to grab her and pick her up off the ground, but every time I’d reach for her, the dog came after me. Ruby, meanwhile, being a shepherd dog herself, after a second of terrified shrieking, shifted into full defensive mode and launched herself at the attacker.

Fortunately, the pooch’s humans heard me screaming and came running to call off their dog. But not before the animal had harassed and terrified me and my dog.

One of their cute little kids hollered after me, as I was stalking off down the street having delivered to the parents a volley of…uhm, shall we say “vulgar criticism” at high volume, I’m sowwy!


God, but I am tired of stupid. What IS it about people that they think neither common sense nor the leash laws apply to them and they can do as they please as long as a cop isn’t standing there watching?

Our house. Can you believe this place went on the market recently at over a million dollars?

True: it’s scary living here. I was among the cohort who gentrified Phoenix’s historic (and now spectacularly overpriced)  Encanto district. The ’Hood is effectively the New Encanto. And we have similar problems with transients, crime, and endless assaults on our quality of living by moneyed interests that own the city government. Encanto had (and still does have) many more transients than we see up here. Its Zip code had the highest per-capita drug use rate in the city, and the crazy (sometimes horrifying) incidents occurred so often that our office manager used to ask me, come Monday mornings, what new tale I had to tell. And I usually had one.

What were those tales? Ohhh…the day a burglar murdered an elderly neighbor by chopping her to death with an axe he found in her garage. The night a man tried to bump a lock in the exterior door of a room next to where I was sitting in front of the television (and was within about a second of succeeding when I realized what the noise was, ran to the front door, and screamed FIRE!!!!!!! at the top of my lungs). The cat burglar/rapist on the roof. The guy who watched a neighbor until he knew when her husband was out of town (which was fairly frequently), cased the house until he found the only window that wasn’t wired for a burglar alarm, climbed through it, and spent the night beating and raping her. Little things like that…

Consequently, I’ve had German shepherds all of my adult life. And I’ve had them explicitly as protection dogs. Only now that I no longer have the physical strength to handle a large, high-drive dog have I switched to smaller breeds. Here’s what I’ve observed about the breed, after several decades of handling its representatives.

First lemme tell you somethin’: if you bought yourself a GerShep to protect your kids and their buxom mother, you need to know about German shepherds. And you need to have better sense than to leave your dog out in an unfenced front yard.

The German shepherd has been harmed in many ways by overbreeding to develop “guard” tendencies. The result is often an unstable disposition, which can make for a very dangerous dog. Consequently, if you choose to own a German shepherd, you need to keep it under control at all times, and you need to be aware of its power and its potential to do harm. Yes: my shepherds have chased off home invaders (one poor guy is still running…said to be approaching Siberia about now).

Yes: my shepherds made it possible for me to walk around Encanto Park as a nicely endowed young woman without harassment. But I’ve also had a shepherd that tried to attack my mother-in-law and then me and then a veterinarian – the vet explained that some breeds are prone to a kind of mental illness that causes this behavior, and that once such a dog launches into an attack, it cannot be called off. This, he added, is the direct result of ill-advised breeding practices. If, like me, you’re a German shepherd fan, you should be aware that these conditions exist.

A German shepherd is like a .38. You don’t leave your revolver sitting on the coffee table. Similarly, don’t leave your German shepherd sitting around an unfenced yard and don’t let it off the leash in public. It’s a good thing to protect yourself – but not if you put innocent people’s safety at risk.

Harmless as the new-blown snow…

In the aftermath of Cassie

Ruby, it appears, has noticed that Cassie has been gone for a long time. Does she suspect her pal — her packmate, her foster mother — is never coming back? Does she care?

Well, not speaking doggish, I don’t know whether she cares. I’d guess she probably notices.

But y’know, dogs are creatures of ego. By and large, the Self comes first,  unless an Other is aggressively in one’s face. And I am not very much in anyone’s face.

So far Ruby the Corgi seems unfazed. People claim that dogs grieve, but I have rarely found that to be the case, except possibly when M’hijito has gone out of town and left Charley here: when he’s not been playing with the corgis or scarfing down food, that dog will sit on the living-room floor near near the front door. When I had to put Walt the Greyhound down, I came home and sat on the floor — the very same floor — and wept for 15 minutes. Anna, a preternaturally empathetic and intelligent dog, came over and sat beside me. Little imagination would require a human to jump to the conclusion — probably a wrong conclusion — that she understood what was up and was mourning with me. But…shortly we got up and went about our business, dog and human.

Dogs seem to get over whatever mourning they do rather quickly.

Connie the Big-Rig Trucker was here for an hour or so. Ruby was thrilled to have her and climbed on the sofa to be sure she was never lonely. She wouldn’t think of climbing on the sofa when it’s just me! {sob!} 😀

When Connie left, Ruby went back to her nest under the toilet. But she decided to come out when I called her and suggested she might like to get back on the bed, which is a great deal warmer and softer than the tile bathroom floor.

The morning walk fell far short of a mile, because Ruby decided (well…and so did I) that we should go south instead of into the Richistans. This is a pleasant neighborhood but it requires traversing two cul-de-sacs and backtracking 2½ blocks to fabricate a full mile-long route. And about the time we got down to Feeder Street East/West I realized I’d forgotten to bring the poop bags. So we needed to move right along and get back to the Funny Farm quickly, before Her Dogship defiled one of the neighbor’s yards in full view of the occupant.

At the corner of Feeder East/West and Dowdy Money Lane stands Cassie’s favorite locale for defiling. This is a sprawling late mid-century modern ranch house that spreads out on a large corner lot. It has a bank of wide ceiling-to-floor picture windows along the front wall of the living room. In this house dwells a hound: a large white, tan, and black pointer. The hound keeps an eye on the world through said windows, and whenever it becomes aware of another dog, it springs into action, madly patrolling and craving to lunge through the barrier and pounce the canine intruder. Thus, said dog alerts its owner to the presence of incoming nuisances.

Cassie just loved that dog. Because…she loved to hunker down and take a dump right in front of it while it barked frantically! 😀 This meant she was often dumping in front of the owner, who of course quickly came to recognize the perps. This, to the human mind, was not very desirable, so I used to try to pass that house on the other side of the street, to avoid the persistent annoying performance.

LOL! At any rate, we did alert the pointer, but Ruby was more interested in trotting along than in making whatever statement Cassie used to make. Nevertheless, I cut the stroll fairly short because I didn’t want to leave any mounds on a neighbor’s yard. Figured to go out again this afternoon, only armed for bear (scat).

But…this afternoon it’s cold out there and raining and the wind is blowing. Not very inviting doggy-walk weather. So we’re re-ensconced atop the bed, with the heating pad again on the human’s back, spavined by days of lifting, carrying, and setting down a nearly inert 25-pound dog.

Check this out:

Zion Corgis is the breeder who produced Ruby. Is that not the cutest little gem you ever saw?

Problem is, she has a chronic, genetically mediated eye problem: dry eye. This will have to be expensively treated for the rest of her life. Looks like Lindsay is trying to get someone to take her on for ostensibly free. But it’s not exactly a give-away: she wants to be reimbursed for some of the medical bills she’s racked up on this pup, and…well…lemme tellya about extracting those prescription eyedrops every three or four months:

You can’t get that stuff from just any ordinary vet (which would be pricey enough). No. You have to go to a veterinary eye specialist, where you will be charged through the schnozzola for every refill.

This was the case when Anna the GerShep developed pannus in her old age. The eye vet announced that he had to re-examine the dog every time he dispensed permission to buy another expensive vial of eye meds. So chances are that $54 per prescription is just for the eyedrops…

😀 So what you’re really looking at there is the cutest walking vet bill you’ve ever seen.

M’hijito thinks I should speak up and try to get her. But if a retiree can’t afford an ordinary healthy dog (two thousand bucks? seriously? 😀 😀 😀 ), she sure can’t afford one that comes with a congenital eye problem requiring a specialist’s care.

Oh well. If one wants a walking vet bill, there’s always a fine German shepherd to be had:

Pool Refill Day(s)

Gerardo is running on mañana time this morning. He was supposed to surface at 7 a.m.; it’s after 8. Hope he hasn’t had trouble with his truck or trailer. More likely, the trouble is getting the cousins (his employees) out of the rack and on the road. 😀 WhatEVER, this was not the best of all possible days for him to announce he’s coming to clean up the front-and-back 40: two hoses have been running all night to refill the pool, and will be all day. So his men will have to stumble around hoses stretched from the west side and the south side into the pool, and signs reading “por favor, no aqague el agua“: very likely a cryptic message, since it was disgorged by Google’s translator.

I have to leave in an hour or so. Since I likely won’t be here to direct the show, I decided to pull up the mound of dead Mexican primrose in the backyard. Exactly why this particular bed of plants decided to die just now escapes me. They’re sort of semi-perennial. They do die back….but not usually at this time of year. The whole hill of the things had melted down into a pile of hay.

At any rate, now I won’t have to argue with him — or physically be here — to be sure he doesn’t eradicate the other flowering plants and the bulbs that recently came up in that spot.

As I was pulling up dead plants, a thought occurred to me: Y’know…it’s hard to believe i’ve been here long enough that the pool actually needed to be replastered!

It’s kinda amazing that I’m here at all, after Tony the Romanian Landlord — known in FaM precincts as “the Perp” — terrorized my lawyers and a judge to such an extreme that they urged me to sell this house — like…three weeks after I’d purchased it in cash from the sale of my old house — and flee, brushing my tracks with palm fronds.

Even if I could have afforded to do that — I decidedly could not have — I’m not that easily scared. Truly, it was a matter of make my day, White Dude! If he’d come around while I was here, he wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale. And when his poor deluded son-in-law did try to come in the side gate, surprising a large German shepherd…well… Let me put it this way: a workman came by and told me there was a guy sitting in the driveway two houses down rocking himself and weeping.

Yes. Well. Sorry about that.

Later — years later — I learned that the people who sold me this house moved because they were afraid of Tony. Other neighbors nearby remained but have said they were afraid of him, too.  They think he’s some kind of Eastern European mafioso.

LOL! That glorifies the man a bit much. If you were a mafioso, a) you would not be sweeping the airport floors as your day job and b) you would not work anywhere near as hard as Tony works at his rental empire. You have to hand that to him: he’s one helluva hard-working man.

Tony was an air traffic controller in the Old Country. His English wasn’t good enough to get him a similar job here, so he ended up working as a janitor. At the airport. That notwithstanding, he engineered, by dint of some elaborate story-telling to various mortgage lenders, the purchase of half-a-dozen houses in our neighborhood, plus at least a couple more in the more downscale area north of Gangbanger’s Way, all of which he turned into rentals. He bought these before the run-up in real estate prices and then, apparently advised by a savvy investor, sold them at the very height of the Bubble. So he made a nice chunk of dough at the expense of the neighbors, whose property values (as you can imagine) were not helped by having every third house turned into a rental shack.

At any rate, as a result of a quarrel over the maintenance of these properties, Tony vandalized my pool to the tune of about 12 grand. The insurance covered the entire cost of replastering and repairing the pool equipment…so…thankyouverymuch, I got a brand-new plaster job and Tony got a threat of deportation from two of the biggest bruiser cops you’ve ever seen in your life. I don’t know what they really said to him (they claimed they calmly pointed out to him that if they chose to arrest him he would be enjoying early retirement back in Romania), but whatever it was, they put the fear of God into him. And Anna put the fear of Dog into his demented son-in-law, who since has moved out.

The plain white plaster I chose — because that was what the insurance would cover and because I’d been told PebbleTec is hard on your feet and your pool cleaner — was warranteed for 10 years. That was 15 years ago.

So the stuff has lasted a good long time!

This new stuff, a kinder gentler version of PebbleTec called “PebbleSheen,” supposedly lasts upwards of 20 years. By then I’ll either be dead and gone or moved to the old-folkerie, so barring any new squabbles with the local bully, it should be good for the rest of the time I’m in this house. If my son inherits the place, it should last him several years, too.

Water has been running into the pool from both the side and the back faucets since yesterday and it’s not half full. I’ll need to turn one of the spigots off and the other one down while I’m running around the city today (once you start, you can’t stop the water, lest you mark the new plaster with a permanent water line). So it probably will be tomorrow morning before the pool is filled back up to the tile border.

Though I surely would prefer not to have to spend 10 grand on the plastering job plus God Only Knows how much on the water to refill the thing, nevertheless I’m feeling pretty pleased with it. The blue stony stuff is going to look really nice. Plus the guys revamped the plumbing system so that Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner can be plugged into a pipe on the north wall, rather than having to be stuck into the strainer inlet. This means the strainer basket will be in place at all times, allowing the flowing water to direct floating debris into it, meaning I don’t have to take the filter basket apart every couple of days to clean it out. And rather little blown debris sinks to the bottom when Harvey isn’t occupying the strainer-basket inlet. It’ll be a lot easier to take care of — mostly just a matter of keeping the chemicals balanced, which is ludicrously easy.

Cassie is feeling well enough to bark(!!), probably signalling the arrival, in the distance, of Gerardo’s truck. And so, away!

Ghost stories

Now, I’m not a believer, as you know, but…

Who’s to say there are no ghosts?

When I was pregnant with M’hijito, his father and I lived in beautiful high-ceilinged old house in an elegant midtown historic neighborhood. Being centrally located and full of pretty 1920s and 30s homes, the area was very hot with the young professional set…and it was a playground for the homeless mentally ill, had the highest per-capita rate of drug use in the city, and was served by an unsafe and unusable public school. With a baby on the way, we considered moving.

But we loved the house—loved it to the point of distraction—and really didn’t want to leave. So instead we decided to add on to create a little more room for the new family member and then hunker down and learn to live with the facts of life in the big city. We hired my best friend’s father-in-law, an underemployed architect, to design the addition.

Bob came out of retirement (it’s hard to be “retired” when you’ve never worked, to speak of) and created exactly what we wanted: two large rooms added to the back of the house, one a spacious nursery and bedroom for the pending baby, and one a custom-designed office for me, appointed with a vast built-in desk, matching cabinetry, ceiling-to-floor bookcases covering an entire wall. What we didn’t know—no one knew—was that during this project Bob was suffering from terminal cancer. He seemed perfectly well as he supervised our contractor and ran interference with the city inspectors. But within a few weeks after the addition was completed, Bob died.

By the time we moved into the rooms, my son was born and six months old. Because I was finishing my dissertation, M’hijito was farmed out to a wonderful, grandmotherly neighbor for several hours a day, so I could write uninterrupted. I had a big old German shepherd, Greta, the only dog I’ve ever known that truly rose to the level of greatness. Greta saved my son’s life once…but that’s another story.

So on this quiet autumn day, I was working in my office, writing, frantically writing, with Greta dozing in her usual spot near my chair.

Suddenly, Greta sat up, her ears at attention and her gaze fixed at a point in space near the door to the room. She seemed to be watching something. But nothing was there. Not that I could see, anyway.

Her eyes tracked across the room, as though she were watching someone or something enter and walk across the floor.

She rose to her feet. And I rose to my feet. She didn’t appear to be alarmed. She made no sound. She didn’t lift her hackles. Strangely, I didn’t feel alarmed, either, even though this was very odd behavior. She started to walk around, in the same way she always followed me around. She moved back and forth in the room and then walked out through the door and into the baby’s room, where she paused, walked around a bit, paused.

I knew it was Bob. He’d come back to look at the rooms. He hadn’t seen them after we moved in—he’d died soon after the project’s completion. He came back to see what the place looked like with people living in it.

So convinced was I of this conceit that I actually spoke his name aloud. Greta again moved across the room as though she were following at someone’s side. At that point I said something like “Thanks, Bob. You did a beautiful job. We love the new rooms.” A few seconds later, just as abruptly as she’d gone on the alert Greta lost interest, came back to me, and sat at my side. Whatever it was that had happened was over.

We walked back into the office. I sat down and went back to work. Greta went back to sleep.

Who knows? Maybe she was having some sort of waking doggy dream, a canine hallucination. But the sense that someone was there—and the sense that it was Bob—was inescapable.

Still: if humans can have dreams and visions of the dead, why can’t a dog? It’s easy to understand how people living in less skeptical times believed the dead could return to visit in dreams. Dreams like that can be extremely vivid.

The other night, I experienced such a dream. For me to dream at all is unusual: as you get older, you dream less and less, and in my dotage I hardly ever dream, and almost never in color. But here was this dream: not only in color but with imagery so tangible it felt three-dimensional—not at all like the usual movie reel.

In the dream, I had gone to Texas to attend a professional conference, which took place in the hotel where I was staying. I hate going to conferences. Few things bore me more intensely than sitting through endless presentations at conferences. So I was less than thrilled to be in this old-fashioned, historic-looking hotel, though it was a handsome old place, its walls painted a creamy color with deeply polished walnut trim complemented by thick, rich carpeting.

Morning having dawned on what I expected would be a tedious day, I got up, showered, dressed, and walked down the stairs that led from the upstairs rooms to go to breakfast. Already pre-bored, as it were, I dawdled on the steps, playing like a little kid with the wooden banister. When I reached the bottom, where the staircase curved out into the lobby, I looked up and there was my father.

My father, a Texan fond of saying the best thing about being from Texas is being as far from it as you can get, has been gone for so long that I can barely remember what he looked like. In a waking moment, I couldn’t conjure his face to save my life. But there he stood, clear as day, in full color and three  dimensions, absolutely recognizable.

He looked just as surprised to see me as I was to see him.

“What are you doing here?” I asked. I didn’t give voice to the words in my mind: What are you doing here? You’re dead!

He said he was in town to see his mother, who was ill and needed someone to visit her.

My grandmother died long before I was born.

Shortly, I awoke. The image of my father’s face and the sound of his voice were as clear and sharp as if I had just seen him alive.  And who knows? Maybe I did.

Have you ever had an experience where you thought, seriously, that you were visited by the dead?