There are a lot of preconceived notions about people who live in L.A. -- that we are all in the entertainment business, that we all have plastic surgery, that we all eat pink tofu and rollerblade to work. I do none of the above; shoot, I don’t even eat at The Ivy or shop at Kitson. But let me tell you about the most L.A. member of our little family: The Big Brown Dog.
Back when I lived in Venice, Rufus was found by my neighbor Anita, wandering the streets of Koreatown. She said he looked like he could be mean in a street-pit-bull-don’t-eff-with-me kind of way, but had such a sweet face, she took a chance, slapped a cheapie leash around his neck and took him home. He had apparently never been inside a car before as he seemed a bit perplexed as to what to do once inside. So he decided it would be a good idea to lick the entire interior of her car on the drive from Koreatown to Venice.
He was a mess -- no collar, skinny, strange growths on his hips and elbows, and forehead skin so saggy that it weighed down upon his eyes so that his eyelashes constantly curved inward and scratched his eyeballs, leading to eye infections. He seemed to be smiling all the time, but couldn’t keep his poor little eyes open since they were so irritated. He always had tears running down his brown furry cheeks and snot running out of his nose from the kennel cough he had picked up.
A different neighbor took him in and fostered him, and I would frequently bring Babe over to play with him since I recently had to put my other pug down and didn’t want her to get depressed. Derek and I fell in love with him. It wasn’t hard to do and didn’t take long. We took him in and every day since, have wondered how we ever managed to live without him before.
There were pills and special ointments and eye drops and salves in his daily care. We didn’t mind -- he would sit so still and stoic and let you put whatever crap you wanted on his beat-up body or in his eyes. He never once lifted his leg in the house. He didn’t chew anything he wasn’t supposed to, except for once, the very corner of the coffee table. He gave it a little nibble like “hmm, wonder what this tastes like?” and I gave him a little look, said “No, that’s not okay” and that was the last time he ever did that.
The eye infections became worse and he would cry and paw at his face. Derek and I looked at each other and decided we had to say goodbye to a bunch of money so we could get his eyes fixed. The surgery involved cutting the skin around his eyes and sewing it up to tighten it. He had to be put under for it -- always a scary proposition for animal or human -- but his quality of life was suffering and we had to do something.
Afterward, it was like Christmas every day -- I can see! I can see! I can see! He had stitches big enough to make him look like he was reprising a role from A Clockwork Orange, and had to wear one of those big giant awful conehead things to keep him from tearing the stitches out. He was so big, and our apartment so small, he would bash that conehead thing into everything. But he could see, and oh, the joy that ensued! It was around this time that The Super Happy Ass On Fire Can You Feel My Jungle Heat? Dance was born. It was the only way he could fully express his glee. It was the best money we ever spent.
Then he started throwing his back out. The vet couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. We would give him painkillers and muscle relaxants, he would take to his bed for a day or two and then be fine. Then when we moved to Encino, the back problems stopped completely. We figured the stress of living in The ‘Hood and defending the house from constant attack by gangbangers, crackheads and burglars (oh yes, caught a burglar in our backyard, people!) was what was causing his back problems since they never resurfaced after the move to suburban bliss Encino. Until recently. His back started hurting him again, only this time not going away after rest. He would bend down to pick up a morsel off the floor and cry out in pain. He would get up from his bed a certain way and cry out in pain. Our new Encino vet took x-rays and couldn’t find anything wrong with him, gave him more muscle relaxants, which he hates taking. He is subdued. I go for my run and can’t take him with me, which causes him to look at me with such defeated disappointment, it's just too heartbreaking for words. He has become depressed, afraid to move.
I became desperate, calling alternative healers all over town the Friday before New Year’s, trying to find somebody, anybody who can help my poor dog. Not only is it difficult to find alternative animal healers, but nobody was working, everyone was out of town for the holiday. But one man called me back. He only makes house calls since the health department will not let him bring animals into his human practice (which he has done for 12 years). He agreed to come over the very next day and adjust Rufus, which he did in only a half-hour. Rufus enjoyed most of it and was his usual “Oh poke me and prod me if you must, just keep loving me” kind of way. The doctor zeroed in on the problem area and surmised that he may have a slipped disc. He prescribed light rest and light massage after the adjustment, and another adjustment in a few days. Rufus slept a lot that day, and then the next day -- WHAMMO! -- new dog!!! He raced up and down the hallway first thing in the morning, did a couple of new versions of The Super Happy Ass On Fire Can You Feel My Jungle Heat? Dance. Gave me a big huge waggy smile. Thank you, God, our puppy is back.
So that is the short story about our L.A. Dog. He gets chilly and whines to come in when it is cold out, i.e., when the temperature drops below 70.
He has had an eye tuck.
And now he has his own chiropractor.