My Bohemian Golden

It was a warm day in July when the phone rang. I picked it up and a stern voice asked me, “Do you have a Golden Retriever?”

My heart sank. All my fears came rushing forward. Barely able to speak, I muttered “Yes. What’s happened to him?”

“We caught him here at the Bohemian Grove.”

“Are you sure it’s my dog?”

“Is your dog named Willy?”

“Yes. That’s him. I’ll be right there.” I grabbed my keys and jumped into my truck and tore down the hill. As I sped along the Bohemian Highway I wondered how Willy could have gotten clear across town, two miles away, to the other side of Dutcher Creek, and into a maximum security facility. The Bohemian Grove is a private exclusive retreat where the most powerful men in the world gather every summer. Including Presidents Nixon, Reagan, George Bush the Father, Secretary of States such as George Schultz, billionaires and heads of foreign countries.

As I drove up to the barricaded entrance, I was relieved they hadn’t shot Willy and asked questions later. An armed security guard approached the truck and asked for identification.

“Oh, so you own the Golden in the dumpster,” he chuckled.

“Yea,” I replied, slightly embarrassed. “He’s my dog. How long has he been here?”

He handed me back my license. “Not long. About thirty minutes. The shepherd with him took off. But he just hung around the kitchen area while everyone petted him.”

Of course it was Pearl, I thought to myself. That girlfriend of his is nothing but trouble. “That sounds like him,” I said to the security guard.

“He’s a sweet dog. Normally we just shoo any dogs away and they bolt. But it didn’t look like he was going to leave any time soon. I will need to escort you up to the kitchen area.”

“Of course.”

I’d always wanted to see what the inside of this place looked like. Though it was in our small town of Monte Rio it might as well have been a million miles away.  Never did I imagine that it would be my dog who got me inside to this bastion of power.

I followed the guard further down the narrow winding road. Some of the redwood trees were over 300 feet tall and over 1,000 years old. When we came to the first building the guard stopped and got out of his vehicle. I saw a group of people standing around laughing and having a good time. They were all dressed in white uniforms. This clearly was the kitchen. Then they all turned and looked at me and I heard shouts. “Can we keep Willy here?” “Can Willy come back tomorrow?” “Willy likes steak and potatoes.” And in the middle of the crowd was Willy. Calmly laying there. Without a care in the world. When he saw me his ears twitched back like he was surprised.

“Let’s go,” I said, and he came running to the truck.

I heard the crowd call out good-bye to my wandering Houdini.

“Aren’t you going to say good-bye to your new friends?” I said to him.

He turned his head towards the kitchen help and smiled.

“Come back again Willy.” Someone shouted before he jumped up into the cab of my truck.

“Thank you,” I called to them all as I turned the key in the ignition. Then to the guard, I said, “I’ll try to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

“No prob. Now we know who he belongs to.”



Could I have a Doggie Bag Please?

We’ve been lucky enough to attend several of this year’s Palm Springs International Film Festival’s events. They were buffet style where you went up and served yourself, except for the meat selection. For that there was a server slicing the meat at a station.
When at home I don’t eat meat very often and my diet selection impacts what Morgan eats. Because of this, whenever we go out to a restaurant I always ask for a doggie bag and bring a treat home for him.
At the Film Festival luncheon, I approached the meat slicer and honestly told him that I wanted a few extra pieces for my dog. Without hesitation, he obliged. When I got back to my table and wrapped up the meat in several napkins and stuffed it in my sport coat, the woman sitting next to me looked at me oddly like she couldn’t believe that I would do such a thing. In fact, when I realized that lunch was about over I went back up for seconds (for Morgan) and the gentleman slicing the meat asked me if I would like it cut into smaller pieces. I told him thank you, that would be nice. And that I would tell my dog about him. He chuckled. When I got back to our table and wrapped up the meat again, the same woman next to me said, “I’m going up there to get some for my dog.” I told her to hurry before they took it away. When she returned, she wrapped up her stash and gently placed it in her purse. Then she took out her phone and showed me a picture of her Jack Russell and said, “He’s going to be so surprised.”
Do you bring food home from restaurants for your babies? Tell Morgan about a funny doggie bag story that you have.

Truth or Dare


I sing to my dogs!!

And my singing voice is like a scratched record in 33 speed on one of those small old record players for kids.

But I do it and I have fun.

My first Golden, as some of you know, was Nicholas. Back in the 80s there was a song called, Oh Mickey, sung by Toni Basil in 1982.  Well, I changed the words to say:

Oh Nicky, you’re so fine
You’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Nicky,
Hey Nicky

Oh Nicky, what a pity you don’t understand
You take me by the heart when you take me by the hand
Oh Nicky, you’re so pretty, can’t you understand
It’s dogs like you Nicky
Oh, what you do Nicky, do Nicky
Don’t break my heart, Nicky


Then for Willy I made up my own words. Willy had these golden eyes that I fell in love with. He also had a big feather duster of a tail that I loved so much. Willy was just pure love. I was truly in awe of how much love he gave to the world. And I was so grateful that he gave some to me each day. So when we were driving in the truck and he was sitting in the passenger seat I would sing to him –

“Bright eyes and bushy tail. Bright eyes and bushy tail. The proudest man a dog could ever own. The proudest man a dog could ever own.”

Sometimes it seemed that Willy looked over at me from his side of the truck and just shook his head in disbelief.


Now Morgan gets to have two songs. One from me and one from his other Daddy.

“Oh Mr. Morgan, sing me a song (bung, bung, bung, bung)
Make it the sweetest that I’ve ever heard (bung, bung, bung, bung)
Give him two lips like roses and clover (bung, bung, bung, bung)
Then tell him that his lonesome nights are over.

Oh Mr. Morgan, sing me a song (bung, bung, bung, bung)

Morgan must be as tone deaf as I am because I swear when I sing to him he looks at me and a big smile appears on his face.

James has his own song for Morgan. He likes to call Morgan, “Boo Boo”

I love Boo Boo in the spring time
I love Boo Boo in the fall
I love Boo Boo in the winter, when it drizzles
I love Boo Boo in the summer, when it sizzles

I love Boo Boo every moment of the year.

Now, I know that we can’t be the only ones who serenade our furry family members,

Truth! – Tell us what special song you sing to your pet.

The Times of Your Life

Forgive me that this title is a cliché, but the other day after I had the hole in my ear drum grafted closed by my most excellent ENT- Ear, Nose and Throat doc – an amazing woman with the best hands in the west. The surgery is something that I’d been waiting to do for 25 years and it was finally the right time. Things seem good as of now and I’m glad I did it. But it did require anesthesia – and so the next day I was still feeling groggy and under the weather. Not wanting to do much else, I went online and started looking at all the photos I’d taken of Morgan over the last couple of years and I swear if it didn’t make me feel better. Pictures of him and Cody on our epic mountain hikes. Photos of Morgan swimming in the blue water of Lake Tahoe last fall. All the shots of him and us over the last few years on Cape Cod with my family. Even the funny personal ones of him on the couch or the bed. They put a smile on my face and even though I wasn’t feeling great I saw how blessed I am. I have had an amazing life visiting beautiful places and eating delicious food and having loved ones around.

Sometimes I think that I take too many photos of Morgan until I have a day like this and I realize there still aren’t enough. These photos are like a diary.  A daily journal of our lives and of those that are in it. If it hadn’t been for FB I wouldn’t have these photos. How I wish Facebook was around 30 years ago when I had my first two dogs.

Below are the pictures from this past summer that made me smile the most.

A Politics-Free Vacation

We’re heading out to Grandma’s house on Cape Cod tomorrow. My Dad says, “When you grow up in a large Italian-Irish-Greek working class family there’s a tendency to hold firmly to your views and speak loudly about them.”

That’s what happened last summer when we were visiting Grandma and Grandpa’s house at the beach. I remember several tense moments that I don’t think anyone enjoyed.  So this year we have a new rule. No politics. No Fox News. No CNN. No MSNBC. Not even the BBC. Everyone has promised not to mention the blue states turning red or the red states turning blue.  I’m sure glad my service vest is bright orange.

But even though we’ve decided to make it a politics-free vacation doesn’t mean there won’t be heated discussions. Just ordering pizza can turn into a loud national debate where everyone has very strong opinions. Me and my Dad still think it’s Regina’s in the North End of Boston. But not everyone agrees it’s worth the hour long wait.

And once we’re down the Cape the best place to get fried clams becomes the next Battle of the Titans.  And of course where to get Lobsters Rolls can leave people not speaking to each other for days.

Fortunately, with a large Italian-Irish-Greek family once the food goes into their mouths all grudges are forgotten and political lines dissolve until the next meal. I can’t wait!

Getting Roundup Out of the Parks

Dan and Morgan were recently featured in Bay Woof, 6/1/2016.

Recently we moved into our new apartment in Mission Bay. Our lease stated our amenities included a pet-friendly and eco-friendly environment. A map in the leasing office showed a park that would run along side our building and our new living room window would overlook it. A section of the future Mission Bay park plan was already completed, running along Mission Creek all the way to the Third Street drawbridge. Every day I got up early and took my 8-year-old golden retriever, Morgan, and walked along the creek, crossed over the bridge to the other side, and circled back to our building.

It all seemed ideal until one morning Morgan and I came upon a park maintenance crew spraying something along the water’s edge and on a grassy knoll. I confronted the crew and asked what they were spraying and all they declared was “last resort, last resort.” After some other words were exchanged, the park manager showed up, and we spoke at length. Later she emailed me the guidelines that she was following that allowed her to use Roundup Aquamaster as a last resort to eliminate certain “problematic” weeds.

I was shocked. I couldn’t imagine that San Francisco was still using Roundup in this day and age. I went right to Monsanto’s own website and looked up Aquamaster. Its main ingredient is glyphosate (53.8 percemt). Monsanto refuses to reveal what makes up the remaining 46.2 percent chemicals of this poison.

Monsanto Roundup

According to Monsanto’s website, the warning label on Aquamaster says that if dogs ingest vegetation sprayed with this poison, it can cause gastrointestinal irritation (vomiting, diarrhea, and colic). The label states that a “large amount” of poisoned vegetation must be ingested to cause this reaction.

I am a longtime health-care activist, and so several questions immediately jumped into my mind. First, what does “a large amount” mean? A large amount to a big dog is much different than a large amount to a small dog or an older dog. As a dog owner and dog lover, I find this information disturbing. What happens after several exposures to this chemical? And what happens if the dog’s nose or tongue comes into contact with this chemical?

After further investigation, I was surprised to discover that one of the world’s leading experts of the effects of glyphosate was Caroline Cox, who works in Oakland at the Center for Environmental Health. In an article dated March 23, 2015, she wrote “On Friday, a World Health Organization (WHO) panel of scientists from 11 countries announced their decision to list glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, as a probable human carcinogen. In particular, the panel noted the links between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as a study showing the chemical caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, another showing increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage in people studied after nearby glyphosate spraying, and several recent animal studies showing evidence of carcinogenity.” Following up on the action by WHO, the state of California is currently in the process of listing glyphosate as a known human carcinogen under Proposition 65.

After reading all these disturbing side-effects of glyphosate, I was sickened and outraged that this poison was being sprayed where children and our pets played. I decided I had to do something.

So in December, I attended a public forum held by the Integrated Pest Management for the San Francisco Department of the Environment. It was a public meeting to discuss possible new guidelines for pesticide use in San Francisco parks. I was pleased to find the room crowded with other people equally outraged. I learned that San Francisco has been spraying in all of our parks. I was moved when a woman shared how she believed that her dog had died of oral cancer as a result of Roundup. She described how her dog always had his nose in the Roundup-sprayed grass and, being a ball retriever, he was constantly picking up some of that herbicide on his ball and gettin it into his mouth—the mouth that developed cancer. When I spoke at the meeting, I shared that I regularly walked in the park with my golden retriever and worried about the impact of Roundup on not just my own health and his, but also of the young children who regularly played in the park.

With further investigation I discovered from the San Francisco Forest Alliance webpage that this is not a San Francisco-only problem. The same firm that sprays in San Francisco also sprays in the East Bay parks run by the East Bay Regional Park District.

As a result of the public hearing, the pesticide use guidelines were revised. Previously, Roundup was prohibited on the grounds of schools and playgrounds. Now it is prohibited wherever children frequently play. The harm to pets is not mentioned in the guidelines. But it is easy to deduce for yourself: If it’s a danger to children, it’s a danger to pets and wildlife.

Mission Creek Park is a place where children are often playing. I contacted the management of Mission Bay Parks and asked whether they intend to be compliant to the new guidelines. The interim site manager replied, “To answer your question directly, we are not using Roundup or any similar product.” This news certainly made me happy. However, the problem with the revised guidelines is that for every restriction there remains a loophole, or an exception. Already there are reports of abuse of the new pesticide rules in San Francisco parks. For now, I will enjoy my morning walks in Mission Creek Park with Morgan. But I also plan to remain vigilant to assure that the guidelines continue to be adhered to.

I encourage dog owners and dog lovers to become active in their local park management. Only by speaking up can we protect our four-legged family members. As Tip O’Neil, the former Congressman from Massachusetts and speaker of the house was famous for stating, “All politics is local.”

The Healing Nature of Our Pets

Whenever I’m worried or anxious I have several different ways that I handle it and two of them have always involved my Goldens. Of course walking with my dog has always been a great way for me to think things through.

But the most healing way for me to feel better is to touch my dog. Whether it’s on his head or chest or shoulders. Recently I went to the doctor and had an endoscopy. When I got home I was still a little groggy so I put Morgan up on the bed and climbed in with him. We spent the afternoon resting and eating snacks. I kept him close to me and petted his big head and I found my health worries subsiding. I felt relieved that whatever was upsetting my system would finally be discovered. (The results showed a common upper body bacterial infection and antibiotics would have it gone in 10 days. I’m better now.)

When I first got Morgan he was so wild and crazy it was all I could do to keep him from hurting anyone including himself. I remember standing in front of our first trainer when he told me that Morgan’s aggressive behavior might be a “lifestyle”; one he might never grow out of.  I didn’t know how to respond. I looked down at Morgan and put my hand on his little head and my fears lifted. I knew that he was my dog no matter what and I would do whatever it took for him to have a great life.

Now we’ve been together for over 8 years. I don’t know how I could have faced life’s challenges without him. Morgan has mellowed out. Actually, both of us have mellowed out. I believe there is nothing more therapeutic than rubbing Morgan’s head. I feel sorry for those who don’t have a pet.

So the next time you’re anxious or worried take a few moments with your dog or cat and feel those troubles melt away.

Happy Mother’s Day From Morgan

Everyone knows that there is no love greater than the love a mother has for her child. All of us can relate to this credo because we all have such incredible love for our canines and felines. However, let’s be honest, the relationship between parents and their children can have their ups and downs. But the relationship between my parents and my Goldens has been steady and loving from the moment they met Nicholas, my first Golden, continuing through my life with Willy and now with our rescued Morgan. Even after telling her all about Morgan’s shenanigans and difficult behavioral issues, the first thing my mother said to me when she met Morgan was, “What do you mean? He’s a love.”

MorganDadNana Whenever I bring my dogs back east to visit my family, which has been nearly once a year, I have to make sure that they don’t gain too much weight. My mother routinely cooks up treats for them and spoils them like she does her grandkids. It’s amazing how quickly my devoted companions forget about me when I am staying at the homestead.  They follow my Mother around like baby ducks hoping for a morsel of her freshly sliced prosciutto or a piece of her scrumptious Braciole, an Italian delicacy made with flank steak.    It’s as though I don’t even exist.  If she’s at the stove making her chicken cutlets it’s impossible to get them to leave the house for their walk.  I can’t tell you how long I have spent explaining to my Mother that they should only be eating their Fromm’s low calorie Salmon a la Veg for canines. She nods her head and agrees…Of course, I’m sure as soon as I leave the house who knows how many of her famous meatballs they have devoured.  But I know that if there was ever food filled with love it’s my Mother’s cooking. MorganNana

This Mother’s Day Morgan wishes all of our animal friends bellies full of love and to all Mothers a Happy Golden Sunshine Mother’s Day.

Hiking with your best friend

Dan and Morgan were recently featured in The Desert Sun, 2/22/2016.

This past Sunday morning I took Morgan and his best friend Cody, both Golden Retrievers, on a hike. We started behind Von’s in Palm Springs and headed up the goat trails towards Murray Peak.The rugged outcroppings and steep grades make it a true adventure. This year with the January storms the peaks are capped with snow and are breathtaking. By all the tail wagging I could tell that even the canines could feel the wonder of it all.

However I was surprised to see several hikers that were not carrying water for themselves or their dogs. Hiking in the desert isn’t like hiking in other places where there are streams and rivers and lakes.

Therefore, even on a cool day, you’ve got to bring plenty of water for yourself and Fido. I always bring more than I need. You never know what’s going to happen, how your body is going to respond to the wind, the dryness, a change in temperature and even an accidental spill of the water bottle. You don’t want to be up there without water. I bring a quart of water for myself and one for each of the Goldens. Keep a close eye on your canine companion. He could just as easily get dehydrated. Their thirst usually happens before mine. But I always let them decide whether they’re ready for water or not.

You also need to keep yourself nourished. Make sure it’s not salty. Fruit is good. I like sliced apples. Trail mix is a good alternative. Sometimes I even make an old staple – a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And of course, I never forget a treat for the dog. This is a lot of activity for humans and canines as well. I sometimes bring a half of cup of food each for Cody and Morgan and fill their bowls with plenty of water so that they drink too.

It’s important to pack tweezers just in case one of them steps on something. Desert plants have mean thorns and stickers that literally jump out and stick to you as you pass by. And with all the Golden fur it’s easy to happen. You don’t want to pull anything off of them with your bare hands. Some people bring gloves but I’ve found that tweezers are enough.

As a further precaution I bring bandage and gauze. The rocky terrain is slippery and accidents can happen to you or the dog. You don’t want to be up there with anyone’s leg or paw bleeding. Every year there are dramatic rescues of hikers in trouble.

Not to dampen the spirit of adventure, it’s important to know about snakes. Here in the desert we have some venomous ones. There have been incidents where dogs and humans have been bitten by them. Me and the dogs encountered one warming himself in the winter sun on the Lykken Trail. Fortunately they took a snake aversion class and stayed away. There’s a snake aversion class on February 28th at Demuth Park. Contact the VCA animal hospital in Palm Springs or Rancho Mirage for more information.

Happy trails to you and your dog.

A Fearless Thanksgiving

Many of you are familiar with some of the challenges that come when rescuing an animal. When we first picked up Morgan, our Golden, from Golden Retriever Rescue of Los Angeles, he was skin and bones and full of fear. When we brought him home he was afraid of the steps that led up to our apartment. He recoiled away frightened. We finally had to carry him up the staircase to our place. After weeks of patient training, helping him slowly put one paw after another on step after step he finally reached the landing and overcame his fear. Of course, a lot treats helped along the way.

Morgan also seemed to fear us. No matter how much we would sweet talk him he preferred to sleep hidden in the closet at night. Now at bedtime, he jumps up at the foot of the bed and insists on sleeping at our feet taking up all of the room.

In the beginning he was also afraid that we would take his food away.  He even bit me once when I tried to add something to his food while he was eating. Now he lets us move his bowl and wags his tail knowing he can expect something even better than he ever imagined.

Fear can keep us from doing things we really want to do or even keep us from being with those we care about. With Morgan it took patience, training, and love for him to overcome his many fears.

Right now our Nation is gripped by a fear which could prevent us from doing what we love or from being with those we love.  Let’s all make an effort over the Holiday to reach out to those who may be full of fear and treat them with love and compassion. And maybe even offer them a Holiday treat.

And let us all give thanks for the brave Military Men and Women and Dogs who are risking their lives to protect this great Nation and all of the good things that it stands for.   Morgan and I wish you and your families, two and four-footed ones, a Happy Thanksgiving.