Heal Our Hearts

Our wolf brings much love into the house. Apparently, she also has a dad bod.

Our semi-psychotic Russian wolf is developing a reputation for churlishness. I’m talking new lows in loutish public behavior, even by the standards of my ancestors, who started the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and have been behind pretty much every global uprising ever since.

On Wednesday, White Fang tried to eat a pug while hiking around the Rose Bowl. I’ll say this for the pug, he held his own in the face of gnashing teeth and funky-hot wolf breath.

Still, I can talk till I’m blue in the face about the sweet temperament of White Fang, her magnanimous nature, how much love she brings into our house. Then, out in public, you have these near-homicidal episodes, and you start to wonder: Is she the right wolf for me?

I haven’t given up on her yet. I’m not the giving-up kind. If I were, I’d have returned my son Smartacus to the hospital when he was 5 and wouldn’t shut up.

“This kid you gave us? Defective,” I planned to tell the nurses, but Posh stopped me at the last moment.

So Smartacus is a keeper, and White Fang is too. I mean, sometimes I think I should release her back to the wild where she belongs, smudge her with burning sage, the way the Native Americans would, then turn her loose at some mini-mall in the Valley.

Then I think: How many kabobs would she snatch from unsuspecting diners? How many toddlers would she eat? I sigh and give her yet another reprieve.

I like a solid sunrise. I like the way the sun butters the skyscrapers, turns downtown LA into a whiskyed Oz.

“Come on,” I tell her and tug the leash. “Let’s go home. I’ll let you gnaw on my knee.”

“OK,” she says.

Never met a goofier dog.

We are suckers for our pets just as we are suckers for our kids. They make us stupid and softhearted and incapable of rational decision. In times like this, they also heal our hearts.

And friends, certainly that applies to friends. They help heal our hearts as well.

Made some new ones the other day at a Happy Hour Hiking Club event. It was the best kind of party, outdoors and socially distanced. You had the energy of new acquaintances, mixed with the Gallic detachment of the old ones.

The funniest woman in the world was there (Lissa), as well as the most beautiful, Coach Lorraine, my former assistant in the salad days of little girl softball.

“I ask my husband what he wants to do today, then I do the opposite,” Lissa tells a picnic table of Chardonnay Moms after the hike.

But back to Coach Lorraine for a second. Man, the other coaches hated me for hiring her, year after year. Not only was Coach Lorraine a first-rate baseball mind, she knew just what to do when the girls on the team cried. The dad coaches, we just threw our hands in the air and looked to God. Coach Lorraine would pat the kid on the shoulder, and say, “You know, Caitlin, we all have days like this. Why don’t you go sit next to Taylor a while.”

Then Taylor would make a joke, and everything would be good. Genius.

Trust me, nothing like that ever went on in my sons’ dugouts.

In a boys dugout, when someone cries, it becomes a kind of comedy. Certainly, a source of bemusement. When a boy cries, it’s as though someone won a Purple Heart for making him cry,  though secretly the others are thinking: “Jeeez, that so could’ve been me.”

Baseball is a hard game played by tenacious young men who’d rather win than breathe.

Another revelation during the recent Happy Hour Hike: My dog has a dad bod.

My old pal Suzie noted that White Fang looked a little too husky, even though she is a husky and a certain huskiness is to be expected.

Yet, only in LA would White Fang be considered fat. In LA, if your ribs don’t protrude like a bag of bricks, your friends start whispering behind your back: “Pregnant again, huh?”

White Fang isn’t pregnant. Heck, she’s never even been kissed. She’s pure as the driven snow, unfortunately, and now she’s told she has a dad bod.

Poor kid. First Russia. Now this.

We took the hike ’round the Rose Bowl because we needed a little of this — the banter and the fellowship. Kate’s smile. Lissa’s jokes. Bittner’s wisecracks.

It worked, though it made me realize just how much I miss banter and fellowship. And Kate’s smile … Lissa’s jokes … even Bittner’s wisecracks.

On so many levels – socially, spiritually, economically…we just seem to be limping along. Many folks are scared and disenchanted.

I took a pump-fake at Christmas the other day, listened to one of those radio stations that started playing holiday tunes clear back in August. Too soon. Just ridiculous, right?

I was coming back from LAX, it was early, I’d dropped off my buddy Jeff.

“You’re too nice,” Smartacus said, when I told him I was dropping Jeff at 6 am.

In LA, “too nice” is considered a character flaw. Fortunately, I have thick skin (actually it’s made of pleather).

For the record, Jeff said I was too nice too, and insisted he’d take an Uber to LAX.

“I’ll be your Uber,” I told him. “I’ll speak with a mysterious accent and torture you with theories about the dark web.”

Who could resist?

So there I was coming back from LAX after dropping off Jeff. I like a solid sunrise. I like the way the sun butters the skyscrapers, turns downtown LA into a whiskyed Oz.

No one was in the car, so secretly – please don’t tell anybody this — I listened to some Nat King Cole.

Just a taste, a nibble, a chorus or two. Like I said, a pump fake at the holidays.

Gotta say, Nat sounded really damn good.

Can Christmas come too soon?

Need a laugh? Come hang with me Nov. 28, at Flintridge Bookstore, where I’ll be signing copies of “Lavender in Your Lemonade,” my new book all about lemonade, gin, Covid and other fun stuff. I’ll be there from 2:30-4:15 pm. The bookstore is at 858 Foothill Blvd., in La Canada, a little French village on the outskirts of Pasadena.

18 thoughts on “Heal Our Hearts

  1. Thanks for reminding me….I am going to the garage right now to get the box of Christmas movies and albums! Nat will be first on the Playlist. Thanks for another beautiful column!

  2. Hey, Chris

    I had a red husky like White Fang only he was a male named Dakota. He was of sweet temperament and when we went to the dog park he got along with all the other dogs. Then one day I took him to the dog park and he attacked a small dog out of the blue–I had to pull him off and the little dog’s owner was petrified. Since that time he would not shy away from getting in a fight. He was still sweet with humans, but you would never know about how he would get along with his friends in the dog world. Can’t explain the change in attitude! I guess as he got older he got less tolerant. We still loved him but had to be careful when he socialized with other dogs.

    P.S. We are enjoying your columns immensely. Your take on life is hilarious!

  3. You’re not a true dog owner until your dog humiliates you in public.
    My sweet dog jerked the leash out of my hand and chased a park maintenance worker. It took me months to get up the nerve to go back.

  4. Sounds like White Fang has not been properly socialized. Try a no-pull harness. The attaching ring is in the front so if she lunges or pulls, she’ll be turned around facing you. They work well and she’ll quickly learn to mind her manners.

    1. Hi Lyn. good tip but White Fang already has one of those. She’s really strong, so it’s usually me who flips around. She was good with other dogs till about a year ago. We’re working on it!

  5. Loved the hike around the bowl, I too met a new friend while walking. I wasn’t able to stay to talk to you and the Chardonnay moms. During our walk I thought I saw Smartacus across the street with White Fang, wasn’t sure, until he yelled, hey dad do you have a bag? Cute kid, beautiful dog, talented dad and thoughtful daughters you hit a home run.

  6. I’ve been watching some Lifetime and Hallmark movies lately. They’re all about Christmas and relieve anxiety.

  7. ‘…the way the sun butters the skyscrapers’…O my, how you can turn a phrase! You are a consummate wordsmith!!! Love everything you touched on; Nat, ( first song for Holidays, “The Christmas Song”) Wolf dogs, (had a Husky/Malamute,pussycat at home,Uber protective out walking) ,So Cal anorexia! You always hit the right notes!

  8. Christmas cannot come soon enough, because then it will be almost 2021 and we can be done with 2020! I already bought my 2021 calendar and my champagne for New Year’s….to toast to a better year!

  9. You make me weep
    More than a Hallmark or Christmas movie!! What a gift!! Thanks, thanks! Your Pages buddy, Nancy

  10. Christmas cannot come too soon. I say get the light hung up and fire up some Bing Crosby. Thanks for getting us through 2020. Are we almost there? It feels like we’re Javier Baez rounding 3rd but also Alice walking down the hallway. Where are you 2021? I bought 2 of your books and gave one to my 89 year-old mom who is riding out this year alone (as she reminds us often 😕) I grocery shop for her weekly and try and keep her spirits up. She decided to pass on Thanksgiving and would rather “face Skype” (as she calls it) to be safe with IL Covid outta control. Ugh. Keep steering us toward next year, Chris!

  11. Been a doozy of a year for the beautiful Russian. So many losses, gains, changes, nuances in her life. Not to mention climate change and the cancelling of the Enchanted Forest Of Light at Descanso! She seems to be quite intuitive. She might be feeling the need to protect and try to make things right again. Sweet girl…..

  12. My lights are up, the blow up Santa and reindeer are in my front yard and Frosty is hanging out on my front porch. We have a race, each year to see who gets their lights up first….I won! Oh, and the Christmas music has been programmed on my Sirius in the car for a month now. Gotta have some Christmas and after this year, I need it now!

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