Monday, July 30, 2012

Celebrity wrangling


That was my life. One night at an event at Wolfgang Puck's original Spago Restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, I brought the Bangles and Join Mitchell together with Robbie Robertson for media interviews while watching David Lee Roth climb the Tower Records building across the street. Fans were lined up stopping traffic along Sunset Strip watching the former lead singer of Van Halen as he ascended the building for a media stunt. Both Spago and Tower Records are no longer on Sunset. 
At a movie premier the following week, I wrangled Jack Nicholson while stopping Sally Field for an interview as she walked down the red carpet. I attended exclusive movie premieres, hung out with the rich and famous, and saw every night’s performance of the American Ballet Theater at the Shrine Auditorium that year. Something awoke inside of me, I found my courage.
My professional life was coming together finally. I worked in a profession that I enjoyed at a firm where I felt appreciated. My career was showing real promise. On the home front, my pound dog Blondie was gaining more confidence too. We were both ascending in our own personal journey toward self acceptance. Of course, having a best friend like Berry Berenson was a huge help. She accepted both me and my dog, just as we were. 
While Berry nurtured me, I took care of my Blondie. This felt good. This felt right. I decided that I was no longer going to cultivate relationships with men where I did all the nurturing. The problem with me and men was that I gave, gave and gave, never expecting anything in return (but secretly hoping for a mutual exchange). Finally, I would feel resentful toward my boyfriendsimultaneously having a hard time admitting the relationship was over. I would try the same behavior again and again, expecting different results. That's the definition of insanity and when it came to the opposite sex, I felt totally insane!

Friday, July 27, 2012

6 degrees of Kevin Bacon


My client Gretchen Wyler went on to be the founder and the inspiration behind the annual Genesis Awards, a glittering Hollywood-style event which honors the news and entertainment media for raising public awareness of animal protection issues. She devoted 40-years to protecting animals and her cause gained ground during that time thanks to her achievements and advocacy in the media, in law-making and in raising public consciousness.
For me there were many more press conferences, events and public relations campaigns ahead. Most of these were successful, unlike my first attempt at the Lacy Street Shelter. One of the talents I discovered I had was the art of celebrity wrangling. No one taught me how to do this. Like most things in my life, I learned by making the magic happen. If I wasn’t working the red carpet, I was assigned to crews from shows such as Entertainment Tonight combing the crowd to spot celebrities for interviews.
During the premiere party for Kiss of the Spider Woman, the 1985 indie hit starring Sonya Braga, Entertainment Tonight asked me to find Kevin Bacon and bring him back to their make-shift set inside the party. I made my way through the crowd and spotting him standing with a group of friends at the bar. I walked right up to the group, shouting his name while grabbing his hand. 
While I was pulling him through the noisy crowd, he asked, “Who are you?”
“I’m Susan Hartzler,” I answered feeling like I was just as much a somebody as he was. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Marvin Gaye


There I was, all happy and proud. My first press conference and all the local TV stations were there to cover the story. I was elated that I found my calling in life, evident by the impressive media turn-out. Plus, my new career in public relations just might allow me to save the lives of precious dogs and cats in the pound. 
Bob Barker walked up to the podium to begin the press conference announcing a month-long program for no-cost spaying and neutering of Los Angeles city dogs and cats.  He barely welcomed the media when the sound of pagers interrupted the proceedings. My first media event crumbled right in front of my eyes as the local news crews ran off and headed back to their vans. Was the President shot? Did a plane crash in Westwood? Whatever was calling the news crews away, I panicked; my first press conference was now looking like a total debacle.
Bob Barker joked, "Was it something I said?" He didn't know how tragic the situation was yet.
“Find out what’s happening,” my boss Blaine said to me as he pointed at a camera-operator running past us. My client Gretchen Wyler gasped in disbelief. 
“Excuse me, excuse me,” I cried out, chasing the camera-operator from Channel 7 Eyewitness News in my high-heeled pumps. I was out of breath when I caught up with him putting his equipment back in the van.
“Marvin Gaye’s just been shot,” the camera-operator shouted back to me. He got behind the wheel of the van and peeled out as fast as he could. Later that night, I learned that the legendary singer was shot to death by his own father. 
A few of the stations did run I was hired to promote using b-roll that they shot of the pound dogs I selected as "spokesdogs." But it was nothing near the coverage we would have received if all had gone smoothly. That turned out to be a valuable lesson in the world of Public Relations because rarely did things happen as planned. 
I learned that the Motown hit-maker's 45th birthday was the next day and that his father, who killed him, was an Apostolic preacher. The Rolling Stone Magazine called Marvin Gaye "one of the most gifted composers and singers in his era." This 1983 Grammy winner's song "Sexual Healing" is still hugely popular today as is "Heard It Through The Grapevine," "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and "What's Going On," to name a few of my favorites.  



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The price is right....to adopt a dog!


Here I was at the animal shelter in downtown Los Angeles getting more and more enraged as I watched people drop off their dogs. I could feel the anger pulsing through my veins and it was all I could do not to jump out of my skin with rage against these humans who were throwing away their pets. I was just about to completely lose it when my boss Blaine arrived with my client, Gretchen Wyler. Quickly I gained my composure and changed into the pr professional I needed to prove I could be to my boss, my client, myself and to the world. 
It was 12:30, just ½ hour before the press conference was scheduled to begin. I was asked to walk through the facility and select a few dogs for the event. I steadied myself to enter the shelter, knowing I wouldn't be taking any of the dogs I saw home with me.
Kennels lined the pathway as I walked through. Up to six dogs were crowed in each cage, spaces no bigger than your average closet. The stench sent me reeling and the noise echoed off the cement floors as pure bred pedigrees; poodles, shepherds of all kinds, pit bulls, terriers and all sorts of mutts joined together in sending out distress cries begging to get out. There was even a Great Dane in a cage with four funny looking mutts half his size, all staring at me, jumping on top of each other in a frantic dance. 
Blanca, the dog I saw earlier, was already listed for adoption, available immediately. She looked like a deer in headlights. Next to her, a back Scotty dog, its fur dull and matted, its tail limp, was razor thin. I picked the Scotty, Blanca and two crazy looking Chihuahua mutts who reminded me of my childhood dog, Siesta. These were our spokesdogs for the press conference and I hoped the publicity would get them all adopted to good homes. I brought them outside and placed them in a large x-pen at the front of the podium. The four of them would be the official spokesdogs. 
By 12:45 pm, Channel 7, 2, 4, 5 and 11, in fact, all the local stations, arrived for the big announcement.
“Good job, Susan,” Blaine whispered in my ear. I could hardly breathe I was so excited.
“Hello darrllinghs,” Gretchen greeted the dogs first, not the humans, and they looked up at her happy to see someone smiling back at them. She shook hands with the media, greeting them as if they had come to her home for an afternoon tea.
Then Bob Barker arrived. He was taller than I had imagined from seeing him on television. Wearing a classic navy suit with a matching tie and crisp white shirt, the game show host, well known for reminding people to spay and neuter their pets, was about to speak. The buzz in the air was unbelievable.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lacy Street


As I waited for my first ever media event to begin, I witnessed dog after dog being surrendered to the Lacy Street Shelter in downtown Los Angeles. One that really caught my eye was a mature all American mutt named Blanca who reminded me of the character in the children's book Harry the Dirty Dog. Originally published in 1956 then renewed in 1984, Harry is a white dog with black spots who loves everything except baths. One day before bath time, Harry runs away. Unfortunately for Blanca, whether she liked baths or not, her owner was giving her away.
She was about the size of a German shepherd with fluffy white fur, matted flat against her skinny frame. Her snow white color was broken up by contrasting black spots and her left back paw looked like it was covered by a single black sock. Like Harry, Blanca had small, pointy ears. Like a cartoon character, she pranced in the desired heel position with her owner, a middle aged Hispanic man who looked a little frightening with his tattoos, shaved head, ripped jeans and beaten up tennis shoes. In broken English, he told the attendant that his kids brought home a new puppy and he couldn't take care of two dogs. He was dropping Blanca off at the pound in exchange for a younger model.
He handed Blanca’s leash to the attendant, a strong looking middle aged man who appeared hardened from years of working at the shelter. The attendant's face was void of expression as he took Blanca’s leash; this was nothing new to him. Blanca struggled to get away from the attendant, practically pulling him off his feet as she headed backwards in the direction of her owner. He was walking out of the building without giving Blanca a second thought. The look of confusion and fear that crossed the dog’s face brought tears to my eyes. My heart ached for her.
As he walked away, I asked the attendant what happened to all the dogs surrendered to the facility.
With his back to me, not missing a step, he answered: “We keep them for as long as we can. If they don’t get adopted, they are put down,” his voice monotone from repeating this information over and over again. I knew my Blondie ended up at the pound that way. Blondie’s former owners surrendered her, after having her for five years, because they suddenly learned they were allergic to her fur. I only had her for five weeks and already we were completely bonded. The caviler way humans get rid of their pets did not make any sense to me what-so-ever.
I saw other owners drop off their pets that morning too. None of the people seemed as upset as I was. I didn’t see any tears in their eyes. There were no bitter sweet good byes to witness. No sense of remorse for sentencing these pets to possible death. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

My first press conference


Gretchen Wyler was a beautiful woman inside and out. She took great care of herself keeping her figure thin and her skin flawless. Gretchen used her charm to draw people into her cause; charm combined with a unique accent that was completely original. She didn't speak like she was from anywhere in particular, she had more of a pronounced diction, perhaps from her theatrical background. Wherever her uncommon sound came from, it was just one of the many qualities she utilized in the fight against animal cruelty. That look, that voice and that passion made her contributions to the cause invaluable in so many ways, not the least of which was gaining support from her celebrity friends. In fact, she had a host of celebrity advocates who she called on. They would attend events promoting the charity and freely allow Gretchen and her team to publicize their involvement. One such event was a press conference we were about to hold at the animal shelter in downtown Los Angeles.
Celebrity Bob Barker from TV’s The Price is Right brought the media out in droves to the Lacy Street Shelter for the press conference set to start at 1:00 pm on April 1, 1984. It was my first ever media event and I was a bit nervous with butterflies flying around inside my stomach. I hoped the event would be a huge success not only for me, but also for the animals. We were promoting a month long program for free spaying and neutering of dogs and cats living in Los Angeles.
I was the first to arrive, waiting patiently just inside the building at the shelter’s front desk. I tried to ignore the constant cries from the dogs inside, the same deafening barks and growls I had heard when I rescued Blondie at the pound earlier that year. I started to feel anxious, my hands sweating, my heart racing. I knew if I allowed myself to listen to those howls, I would either be reduced to a blubbering idiot or would adopt every single animal. Neither were good choices, especially since I was trying my best to look and act as professional as possible. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Anti-vivisection


I worked with The Fund For Animals campaigning on behalf of a bill introduced by state Senator David Roberti, a Democrat from Hollywood, to prohibit the use of dogs, cats, and other animals from pounds in research. The bill also made it a misdemeanor to cause pain and suffering to dogs and cats used in research. Opponents objected to those provisions as too vague and encompassing.
Roberti's bill did not prohibit researchers from using specially bred dogs and cats. But it was a first step to ending vivisection altogether. Besides stating what advances had come from the use of animals in research (of which there were few and couldn't we use other techniques anyway?), budget was one of their main arguments. Researchers claimed breeding animals for their use (at that time, about 10,000 dogs and cats per year in California), would add anywhere from $3 million to $23 million in costs. 
One strategy researchers used in their battle was to hold "open houses," inviting the media to tour certain facilities and see how "humane" the animals were treated. One such tour was scheduled to take place at UCLA and The Fund for Animals sent me as a spy.
I was nervous about going, afraid of what I would see. Gretchen Wyler had shown me videos that were secretly made in such facilities where animals were placed in what looked to me like torture devices in order to be used for experimentation. She also showed me footage from 1984 where the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) raided the University of Pennsylvania. ALF members picked the lock to Thomas Gennarelli's head injury research lab, releasing the animals and smashing every piece of equipment in that location. The footage revealed the most horrific glimpse ever seen inside a vivisection lab; inadequately anesthetized primates plastered into restraining devices receiving blow after blow to their heads. What if I walked in on a scene like that?
I joined a small group of people on the front lawn of the University's Research Lab, ready for battle. We were greeted by a  conservative looking, middle-aged researcher wearing a starched white lab coat and a plastered smile. As we walked the halls of the laboratory, we saw cages that were sparkling clean but no animals. They had obviously cleaned up and taken any and all the animals out of the facility. I was both relieved and enraged. 


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Go Gretchen Wyler!


I was absolutely, positively impressed with Gretchen Wyler and honored to work with such a powerhouse for animal rights. Her passion and beauty put her in a league of her own. This was the 1980s, a time when her passion to protect all species we shared the planet with was suspect by other humans. But nothing daunted her.
She worked to pass laws in Congress and labored tirelessly on getting ballot initiatives passed in California to protect and advance the rights of animals. Gretchen was described by many in government as the best type of advocate for any cause because she was articulate, energetic and well-informed. Everyone knew where Gretchen stood on an issue because she made her opinions loud and clear. She was also known for rolling up her sleeves and navigating the political process to achieve her goals, not just talking about it but doing something about it. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Baby harp seals


I had been an animal activist since childhood. It all started when I was only eight years old and saw an ad in the Los Angeles Times that showed hunters clubbing baby harp seals in Canada. The photo was so graphic that I felt like I could hear the screams from the poor animals calling out to me.
Dad was outside doing some yard work at the time. Shaking with anger over the plight of these poor animals, I grabbed the paper with the horrific scenes and took it out to him.
“We have to do something for these poor baby seals,” I told him in no uncertain terms.
“Susie, if we helped every animal that needed it, we would go broke,” was his reply.
“But Dad, look at this,” I said. “These are just babies and they’re clubbed and skinned alive right in front of their mother’s eyes. How can you stand there and let this happen?” He shrugged his shoulders and went back to work racking leaves.
I stormed off, tears running down my face, slamming the door to the house behind me. I felt helpless, like there was nothing I could do to stop these cruel hunters from killing baby seals for their fur coats. The only alternative I could think of was to send the organization a letter and ask if I could help in any other way besides sending money. I sat down in my room, door slammed shut, pen and paper in hand, and wrote a heart-felt letter to the Animal Protection Institute of America (API). Just as I had finished the letter, my father entered my room, check in hand.
“Here, let’s send this to help save the baby seals.” He had written a check for $20.00. From that day on, I started sending money to the API. I sent my baby-sitting money, cash I received for my birthday or Christmas, all to help in the fight against the seal slaughter. I also brought petitions from the organization to school and asked my friends to help me save the seals as well as the whales and other endangered species. Mom laughed when API sent me invitations to attend fund-raising cocktail parties. But I was very serious about doing everything I could to help.
Not long after I became a member of API, I noticed my Dad working in the front yard again. I was curious to find out what he was doing with a hose in the center of the yard. As I approached, I stepped over some small holes in the grass. 
"What's the hose for?" I asked.
"Oh, there's a nasty gopher who's made his home in our lawn," he said. "I'm going to drown him out."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. My own father was going to kill a cute little creature right in front of me. That was not going to happen, if I had anything to say about it. In a fit of desperation, I actually sat on the gopher hole refusing to allow this defenseless creature's death come to pass at the hand of my own flesh and blood.
“I am a member of the Animal Protection Institute of America and you are not going to kill this gopher,” I said, hands crossed, sitting Indian style directly over the hole. 
“Aw, come on Suzi,” he said. “You know how much damage a gopher can do to our lawn?”
“I don’t care,” I replied. “He is a living, breathing, being and you will not kill him.” Dad knew he wasn’t going to win this battle so he took the hose and just walked away, leaving me to sit on the gopher hole for as long as I wanted. Dad never again tried to kill any creatures found in our yard or house, or at least, he never did it so that I could see or find out.
So in my own way, I had something in common with Gretchen Wyler, my new client.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Burning memories of Zsa Zsa Gabor


Founded in 1967 by prominent author and animal advocate Cleveland Amory, The Fund for Animals is the force behind some of the most significant events in the history of the animal protection movement. In 2005, The Fund for Animals and The Humane Society of the United States joined together to form an unprecedented partnership for animals. Back in the 80s, before this partnership was made, legendary actress turned activist Gretchen Wyler joined the group and became the celebrity "face" for this important charity. Gretchen was unlike anyone I had ever met before, sleek in build, bursting with vitality and passionate when it came to saving animals. She was the kind of woman who could (and did) convince anyone to join her cause.
“One of the most glorious moments I remember is the time I got Zsa Zsa Gabor to destroy her furs,” Gretchen, the crusading beauty told me. “She joined me in a protest where we ignited a bon-fire with the coats made of beautiful minks, sables and raccoon furs.”
When I was young, I worshiped Zsa Zsa Gabor and her sister Eva, never missing an episode of the TV show Green Acres. I thought the Gabor sisters were so beautiful, glamorous and alluring that I wanted to name my first girl baby after Eva. I never did have a baby girl, or boy for that matter, unless you count my four legged children (which I do). However, I always had a soft spot for the Gabor sisters and when I learned about Zsa Zsa burning her furs, this solidified my opinion of the enchanting actress.
Gretchen went on in graphic detail about her cause, telling me about the horrors of how these animals lose their lives for human vanity. I knew enough about animal cruelty to know that I never would own a fur coat myself but when she showed me the undercover video of how these poor animals were treated and killed, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lucky me!


The puppy Allie was hilarious and got into everything. One day, she stuck her head inside a trash can and came out with the wrapper of a coke 12- pack around her snout. She ran around the office, freaking out, blinded, bumping into walls and shaking her head feverishly. I finally caught her and tore the wrapper off. She calmed down immediately; nothing seemed to faze her for long.
Although Princess was only five at the time, she was poised and graceful, well trained and very sweet. She would stretch out beneath her master’s desk everyday, sighing as she slowly situated herself into a comfortable position to sleep most of the day. 
I was so taken by the two of them that years later, I actually adopted a Smooth Coated Collie of my own. Back then, having the two beauties in the office made me feel right at home. The bonus was being responsible for the promotion of an animal charity. What luck!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Smooth Collies


My new employer Harvey was also the master of two Smooth Collies who came downstairs with him every morning. The mature one was named Princess with the baby called Allie. There was no doubt in my mind when I first saw Princess at the top of the stairs that she had royal blood pulsing through those doggie veins of hers. She made her descent elegantly as if she were entering a black tie affair at Scotland’s Balmoral Castle in the days of Queen Victoria. The Queen was solely responsible for the collie’s transformation from working farm dog to the family pet we know and love today. It all started when Queen Victoria became interested in the breed and purchased some for the castle in 1860. A herding dog, collies were originally brought to Scotland by the Romans to herd their sheep. 
I had never seen a dog that looked like a short haired version of Lassie before. Princess was sable and white with a long snout, pointy ears and a muscular frame. There were no sharp edges on Princess and every move she made appeared to be intentional. Princess seemed to prance as she walked with those elegant long legs and her elongated, slender tail that curved with a white tip.
Allie's personality seemed more suited to her herding DNA than Royalty. Every morning, Allie ran as fast as she could down the stairs ahead of Princess, practically knocking down Harvey. so she could be the first to greet everyone, tail wagging furiously, squishing her body up against me and rubbing herself across my legs. I could picture her gathering sheep and bringing them to the shepherds in the 5th century. Her body was thin because she was still a puppy and hadn’t filled out yet but her black tri coat was shiny as glass and softly accented by her solid white chest. She had sable eyebrows, creating an almost human-like expressive face. Harvey was training her to be a service dog for the blind.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Hollywood Reporter


The ad in the Hollywood Reporter was for the position of Junior Account Executive at a “small but mighty” firm. Stein & Weismann Public Relations was a reputable pr firm that specialized in the entertainment industry. They may have been small, just Stein, Weismann and an assistant, but were already a big success, having landed such prestigious accounts as the American Ballet Theater, and movies such as Kiss of the Spider Woman and Trip to Bountiful.
I was hired to help in the company’s newest "general" division that focused on anything that paid. With a variety of unusual clients already on board, my main account would be The Fund for Animals. Promoting a pet charity was a perfect fit. The starting salary was $22,000 a year, which was more than I was making before.
The office of Stein & Weismann was on the ground floor of Harvey’s home in Laurel Canyon, a woodsy area adjacent to the Hollywood Hills. Harvey Stein was an impeccable dresser in his late 30s sporting trendy Oliver Peoples wire rimmed glasses. Physically fit but shorter than my 5’7”, he had a thick, full head of prematurely grey hair. He was extremely animated, swinging his hands wildly around as he talked. Blaine Weismann, his perfect counterpoint, was average height and build with a confident demeanor. Sporting a more relaxed style, Blaine wore his dark hair pulled back in a ponytail with designer jeans, tee and sports coat, always a sports coat. I nick-named him "the ears of Hollywood" because he knew what was going on in town, hanging out with the major players. He had a much more subdued yet light hearted approach to business with an infectious laugh.I liked them both and was happy to work for there.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Los Angeles Times


Chef Dave seemed nonplussed when it came to my dating escapades. I realized that my current plan to get noticed by this man was a big failure. Plus, he was stepping up his role at the restaurant, personally attending the weekly pr meetings, pushing me to get him even more media placements. I couldn’t even look at Dave even though I was seated next to him across from both our bosses. I felt nauseous, my concentration was gone. I bowed my head as Dave regaled us with his own exciting pr coups.
“My fiancĂ©e Kelly has a friend who knows the restaurant reviewer at the LA Times,” he informed everyone. His words had that air of self confidence that originally sounded so attractive to me. As I watched him speak, he actually puffed himself up physically like a dog would to show superiority and dominance over another animal. The Restaurant's owner and my client John gave me a look of irritation because I hadn’t been able to secure a review in the city’s most important newspaper.
“Why don’t you have Kelly call Susan and see if she can get us that review,” John said to Chef Dave staring straight at me. My recent romantic past was now affecting my future professional life as well as ruining my current personal existence. I put my forehead in my hand and rubbed my temples. I needed to stop playing this game and move on. I decided I had to do something drastic to get away from The Chef once and for all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The chef vs the bartender


The bar at Restaurant 321 was packed every night with a lively crowd of 20 and 30 something’s mainly from the entertainment community. Not the stars and starlets that John the owner originally wanted. The frequent bar and dinner guest at Restaurant 321 were the agents, their assistants and the behind the scenes crew members...the folks that spent money.
“How did you learn to make all those drinks?” I sweetly asked the bartender I was after. “I would never be able to keep all those orders straight,” I stroked his ego and batted my eyes. He droned on and on about his successful career while I pretended to listen. At last call, I was still acting like his eager audience, tipsy after downing too many glasses of wine. When he finally finished closing the bar, we started kissing passionately right there behind the bar. Within seconds (and ear shot of the Chef) I asked Bartender Jeff back to my place.
The next morning, I was mortified. What was I thinking? I didn’t even like Jeff romantically. The worst part was that Dave didn’t even seem to care. In fact, Chef Dave was getting more popular by the day as the pr campaign I was orchestrating paid off with stories in major magazines and newspapers. It was so awkward for me, both of us pretending we had never seen each other naked.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The bartender


Taking care of Blondie kept my mind from obsessing on the man who broke my heart. He was still The Chef for one of my main clients so I had to see him during meetings at the restaurant. I tried to stay very professional and focused. With The Chef's wedding date drawing near, neither one of us acknowledged our former relationship and I was having trouble keeping up my happy facade. After a particularly long meeting where he complained about not getting enough media exposure I realized I wanted revenge. I needed revenge. I felt desperate to make him regret choosing another woman over me. So I did what many women do in this situation; I lost weight and started serial dating. I had so many first dates I can’t even remember who these men were or how I met them. I do, however, remember where I suggested they take me on our first and only date. Restaurant 321. The Chef was completely unfazed at my actions. In fact, he sent special dishes from the kitchen for me and my dates to enjoy. 
His casual attitude got the better of me and in total desperation, I began flirting with Restaurant 321’s head bartender one night right in front of the man I really wanted. The Chef didn't even notice. Jeff was my age, good looking and charismatic. His 80s style spiked hair stood up straight with so much moose that it never moved. He, on the other hand, was constantly in motion mixing drinks, pouring wine, while kicking back a shot or two on the side. A big time joker, Jeff could recall every riddle anyone told him and tried to make his customers laugh with his canned wittiness. Frankly, I found his jokes annoying and his mannerism a bit over the top. He was no Chef Dave.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The simple life


Blondie and I settled into a comfortable routine. A walk in the morning, one during my lunch break, and a final stroll every evening. She was getting me outside and active. I was losing weight, getting fit and meeting my neighbors. She acted more and more comfortable and less needy every day. I couldn't believe my eyes when I witnessed her actually jumping onto the couch without being invited. Blondie blossomed with confidence, greeting strangers, both human and canine. She even strutted across the dreaded linoleum floor.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Turkey monster


Most of the time, Blondie kept me from freaking out about being single. She needed me and that felt good. She obviously had not been allowed on any furniture in her previous home. I had to teach her that it was okay to sit with me on the couch and sleep with me in my bed. She was so beautiful that just watching her move from the couch to the floor took my mind off my problems. She would gracefully put her front paws on the ground first and then step down softly.
Teaching her was fun. I used food to mark any new behavior I wanted, which I later learned was a form of dog training based upon the reward based method. Blondie's favorite reward was turkey, all kinds of turkey; white meat, dark meat, roasted, honey based, grilled, fried, oven baked, bbq-ed, free range or frozen, sliced, cubed or even turkey salad. If I really wanted to drive her wild, all I needed to do was put a turkey in the oven. As the smell permeated my apartment, Blondie sat in front of the oven just watching and waiting, her nose turned up sniffing the air in ecstasy.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Me and my Blondie


In no time, Blondie began to stand up straight, head held high with her tail in its rightful place instead of between her legs. Even her face changed from the traumatized blank stare she had when I first rescued her from the pound to the beautiful, serene dog that she was deep down inside. It felt so good to take care of another soul. She was so smart that it took her no time to learn how to take care of me too. At night, Blondie would stretch out her front leg and place her delicate paws gently on my back as she curled up in bed next to me. We slept back to back most nights. With her snuggled up next to me, my nightmares vanished and I felt safe and secure. She was not going to go back to the pound nor to another family. She was mine.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What's a Spitz?


When my dog Blondie and I were finally called into the small examination room, she continued to shake until Dr. Winters, or Doc as I fondly called him, touched her. That calmed her down immediately. My new vet didn’t look like a doctor at all, wearing jeans and a polo shirt. But his knowledge and way with my dog said he was a true professional. Doc gave her the necessary vaccination shots for dogs just rescued from the pound while distracting her with strokes and praise.
“I’ve seen the nicest dogs come from the pound,” he informed me, taking a close look inside Blondie’s mouth, touching her gums and examining her teeth. “She looks healthy. I’d say she’s about five years old.” 
"What breed do you think she is," I asked.
"I believe she's a Spitz, although they're usually pure white in color," Doc explained. "She probably has some Golden Retriever mixed in."
 “I’ve never heard of a Spitz,” I said.
They’re part of the working breed,” Doc told me, “originally from Switzerland.”
What a coincidence, I thought—my heritage was also Swiss. An ancestor on my father’s side, Jacob Hertzler, migrated from Swiss Germany and became the first Amish bishop to colonize the Americas in 1749.
Quickly I learned that Blondie was already housebroken and extremely well trained. Too well trained for my taste. In the beginning, she showed signs of abuse by cowering with her tail between her legs when I came near, cringing at sudden hand movements, and basically living in fear of something traumatic happening at any moment. For some reason, bathrooms and tile or linoleum floors were especially terrifying to her. I couldn’t get her to step one foot in a bathroom or kitchen, even with a leash on, she would pull back as if these were torture chambers. Her tail would immediately go in-between her legs, her ears flat on her head and her legs would hit the breaks.
Quickly I learned that the best way to train her was by loving her. That and giving her lots and lots of turkey. I saw how well Blondie responded when I gave her lots of praise, hugs, and kisses, keeping my voice low so I wouldn’t startle her. Obviously, she had not been taken on many car rides because she continued to throw up in my new Ford Mustang every time I took her out. I had to give her special human medicine prescribed by Doc about an hour before I took her in the car until she got used to the motion and didn’t vomit. In no time, she was happily traveling everywhere with me.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Beverly Hills Veternarian


With my friend Berry Berenson’s blessing, I took Blondie to the vet for a full check up (which was free since I adopted her from the pound!). According to my new vet, Blondie was a Spitz mix, a breed of dog I had never heard of before. Dr. Winters came highly recommended and his office, The Beverly Hills Small Animal Hospital was within walking distance from my apartment.
Sitting in the waiting room with my very own dog in my lap, I conversed with all the other caring pet owners. There was a young gay couple with a puppy that they were training as a guide dog. Another woman with over permed hair had an elderly cat in a carrier that was letting the entire waiting room know how unhappy it was to be there. I peaked inside the carrier and saw that the cat’s fur was the same color as the woman’s over processed hair.
There was a family with a young golden retriever puppy in for its first shots. The two brothers were busy playing with their toy airplanes and cars, driving them over the dog’s head and body. She just lay there wagging her tail, watching their every move with adoration. The boy’s father tried to keep his sons contained, but they were too active to sit still. They used the unoccupied chairs that lined the walls as racetracks, making zooming sound effects and big crash sounds when their toys would land on their dog.
Blondie sat in my lap, shaking so much that her teeth chattered. I worried that if I didn’t get this dog in soon to see the vet soon, she might give herself a heart attack.