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My name is Marta, and I have a little issue.

Background:

I have a young son, and that son wanted — needed — a dog. He is an only child, and I also wanted him to want a dog. He was born in Santa Cruz, CA, which is several hours up the coast from L.A., on the way to SF. I grew up in L.A. (West Hollywood, specifically), but I’ve spent almost my entire adult life in the Cruz.

… The gist is that I became a dog-sitter. A full-time dog-sitter. I have a master’s degree, I am a primary healthcare provider, and I was a newspaper editor for many years, but never you mind. For all intents and purposes, I became a full-time dog-sitter.

Which brings me to my point: If you are a renter in Santa Cruz, don’t even think about ever getting a dog until you finally decide to take a chance on that fixer-upper with the $2 million you’ve had lying around in your moldy rental. Of course, there will always be exceptions. I know a few of them but, in general, you really want to abandon all hope of getting a furry companion until you leave town or take a chance with that $2M.

And so the three of us did leave town: my husband (Mike), my son (Sasha) and I. But we didn’t come straight to L.A. We took a slight detour. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just fast-forward to mid-2017, which was when we got here.

There are many more details from which you will be spared, but the gist is that I became a dog-sitter. A full-time dog-sitter. I have a master’s degree, I am a primary healthcare provider, and I was a newspaper editor for many years, but never you mind. For all intents and purposes, I became a full-time dog-sitter. I’ve always walked down the path that makes for the better story, so why the hell not? Besides, how else am I supposed to figure out what kind of dog to get for my boy?

I was surprisingly successful at dog-sitting — surprisingly, because I’d never owned a dog and didn’t necessarily consider myself a “dog person” (though I’m pretty fond of the little guys), but I suppose by now you’ve figured out that I have wide a variety of pursuits, so I guess it makes sense? (I like opera, classical, punk and hip-hop if you want to send me some tunes.)

So after about five busy months, I set on the task of finding a dog for Sash. I really thought about different doggie temperaments and which ones my son has enjoyed the most. One thing that stood, though, was not a specific breed but more where that particular dog came from.

A lot of the really well-behaved dogs I watched came from a nearby rescue called Bark n’ Bitches. We had a smallish “starter dog” in mind, so I went on their website to check out the rescue dogs they had for adoption.

That’s when I saw my prince. His bio really made him seem like the perfect canine, he had amazing eyes (one blue and one brown), and even the trainer said he would take him home if he had room for one more.

Azzy’s Adopt Me photo, courtesy of Bark n’ Bitches (2017).

I am an impulsive creature. I didn’t really understand what an 80-pound dog would look like (not a “dog person,” and I only watched small- and medium-sized dogs). However, they had him listed as a husky mix — which was great, because all three of us like huskies (the one exception to my weight limit was a fabulous Alaskan husky who I watched on a regular basis, but he wasn’t even 80 pounds). And he really doesn’t look that big in this picture, right?

So after I got Sasha’s seal of approval, we headed over there. The really cool thing about Bn’B was that all the dogs run unimpeded around the shop (they sell food, bowls, toys, leashes, etc.). They have a very secure entrance, but beyond that, the dogs get to roam free. I noticed that they had many small dogs, and then out lumbers this ponderous beast: It was like gnats on a hippo. “Is that him?” I gulped. The guy just nodded and continued talking to us about our application.

At that point, there was really nothing left to do. I was already in love with him and so was my son. (Remember what I said about ending up with a good story? I was up for it!) The main thing was that I saw how he interacted with all the small dogs, and he was great.

We named him Azriel. The rescue had named him Marcel, which we didn’t really care for, but I wanted to name him something that at least rhymes with Marcel, and we all liked Azriel. It turns out he never responded to “Marcel,” anyway, so we got to call him “Azzy.” The paperwork we took home from the rescue said that he was actually a border collie, so I immediately updated my dog-sitting profile with his picture, weight and breed so that the small-dog owners who were contacting me would be aware of what they were getting into.

I had absolutely nothing to worry about. Azzy loves all dogs, kids and cats — the smaller, the better. Every time we took him somewhere, he would prance along proudly at our side and had admirers wherever he went. He even had a little baby in diapers bopping him on the head, and he loved it!

Azzy never messes with our cat, Sabo.
Our front door after Azzy tried to ‘find’ us.

Then there came a day when I didn’t have any dogs to watch, so the three of us (sans Azzy) decided to go to the Grove and see “The Last Jedi.” When we got home, there was a bunch of white debris on the floor. I mean, everywhere. I walked in, turned around, and looked at our front door. The casing around the door was stripped bare until all you saw was a bunch of brown bits. Meanwhile, Azzy was very happy to see us. Up until that point, we had spent every minute with him (Mike works from home), and when we left him home by himself (apparently, the cat doesn’t count), he decided that he needed to go find us. By any means necessary. It’s nothing short of a miracle that the inside of the house was intact, but he really worked hard on that front door.

Separation Anxiety. I didn’t even know that was a thing until Azriel came along. Maybe some of the dogs I watched had it, but I wouldn’t know, because I never left them — unless there was a specific occasion that required me to leave and I had the owner’s permission. Fortunately, between Mike and me, one of us was always home, so we were fortunate to be able to spend every minute with Azriel, if only for the sake of our dwelling!

First, we tried crating him. I was optimistic about that, because he stayed calm throughout the process (while we were home), and I was certain it wouldn’t be a problem anymore. But when we came home after leaving him for a short while to see what would happen, we saw, to our dismay, that he pried the bars open using his massive mandible and was trying to squeeze his enormous noggin through the hole he created. We repaired the opening with some wires and material from bungee cords, but he would just move to an unfortified spot. When he succeeded at making the hole large enough, he would once again try to squeeze his head through the hole and ended up cutting his beautiful face, chin and neck.

I then started thinking about drugs (for the dog, for the dog). There were a bunch of over-the-counter calming agents, but their effects were laughable on our huge cow. Seriously, none of them even made a dent. Then I read about a prescription psychiatric med called Clomicalm, which sounded promising, but the catch is that he has to take it every day, and it takes about 30 days for it to have an effect. Plus, it’s not cheap. Plus, Mike doesn’t want to put him on prescription meds. I continue to push for that option, so we’ll see what happens … .

I’m not about to surrender Azzy back to the rescue — I mean, he is an absolute delight in every (other) way, and what if someone else adopts him only to have him euthanized because they couldn’t handle their house being destroyed and simply weren’t able to be with him all day? For all I know, his separation anxiety is why he ended up at the rescue in the first place.

No, that just wasn’t an option, plus my boy had developed some sort of attachment to the mutt.

Oh, speaking of mutt, I almost forgot … Azzy really doesn’t look like a border collie except for his coloring, so obviously we had to order a DNA test in order to determine his breed — because everybody wanted to know, not just us! We went with Wisdom Panel; they really analyze every nook and cranny of that inner-cheek swab!

Here are Azzy’s main breeds:

  • Siberian Husky – 25%
  • German Shepherd – 25%
  • American Staffordshire Terrier (home of the huge invincible head) – 25%
  • Weimaraner – 12.5%
  • Miscellaneous – 12.5%
Our first family photo.

The Weimaraner bit threw me off, but then again, many Weims are known to have separation anxiety, so there’s that … . I always think of Beatrice from the movie “Best in Show” — she definitely had issues!

The remaining “miscellaneous” is just a big, fat bowl of doggie breeds with a side of kibble — really too numerous to even think about.

But I digress. What I was saying was that we can’t just give him up, but, at the same time, I’m averse to spending the rest of his life on my couch or at doggie parks.

Azzy and his BFF, Knox.

Much to my delight, L.A. is teeming with dog-friendly places — usually they are the ones with a patio, but we’ve even found some exceptions! I am unwilling to spend a lot of time away from my prince even if I could, and it’s really just a matter of researching spots and making a few phone calls to confirm the approval of his presence.

Now that you’ve sat through the introductory part and understand why I’ve undertaken this mission, we can get to the fun part and show you all the wondrous places this magnificent city has to offer you and your furry friend in tow.

I will probably never mention Azzy’s needy proclivities here in the future, but I’m sure I am not alone. We all adore our canines, and for many of us (if not all), they are familia. What better way to enjoy the sunset than with a nice glass of Riesling with your pooch at your feet, waiting for that prosciutto to fall out of your panini?

Let’s unleash the hounds!*

*Only in designated areas.

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Throw Us a Bone!