Chairman Bao is a Shih Tzu. We travel a lot. I drive. He watches. We've logged at least 10,000 miles and he's never once said, Sweetheart, don't you think you should stop and ask someone?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Being a dog means never having to answer the telephone.

A telephone used to be a convenience. When it rang, it usually meant someone wanted to tell you something, or at least, talk to you. And it was almost always someone you knew. At the very least, you expected another human being at the other end. But those were the good old days, and they're gone forever.

First came the telemarketers. I don't know them, and I don't want to know them. They are an intrusion of my privacy and my space. Being on the Do Not Call list gets rid of most of them, but the so-called charities are ubiquitous and blithely importunate. Why should charities be exempt? They're just as much of a nuisance as anyone else.

"Hi Gail!" says a voice. "This is Ken." And I'm thinking, He called me Gail. He must know me. Do I know him? Do I know anyone named Ken? By then he's launched into his spiel. So I say, "I gave at work. And I'm busy. Goodbye."

But if I'm working, I've totally lost my train of thought. And if I'm cooking, either I've burned it or it's boiled over and made a great mess on the stove. Even if I'm only watching television, I've missed the crucial conversation and will never be able to figure out why Arthur murdered Janette.

Yes, and robo-calls are worse. You answer the telephone, and a cheerful, automated voice starts telling you why you shouldn't vote for the Republican. Or the Democrat. Or why you need to buy insurance from some outfit you never heard of. These diabolical things even leave messages. Delete, delete, delete.

But a few minutes ago, I experienced the ultimate. The telephone rang, and I answered it. Of course I answered it. I was thinking it might be news about my friend Morag. Or it might even be my agent.

"Thank you for calling," said an automated voice. "All of our operators are busy at the moment. Please continue to hold and ... "

Good grief!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Oh, it was hard to tear ourselves away from the beach!

We came home on Sunday to avoid the traffic jams at the border -- it can take as long as three hours to cross on a holiday weekend. Older cars overheat and have to be dragged off to the side of the road, and there are dozens of people selling everything from tortillas to statues of the Virgin Mary, car to car. Sitting there in line waving away the little kids who want to wash the windshield, I sometimes fantasize about climbing out of the car with a bucket full of one dollar bills and just tossing them into the air. That would be fun.

Anyhow, we're home. Now to the serious stuff.

Amazingly, over 5600 pet food products have been pulled off the shelves. That is a lot of pet food, and it's still not over. It's just not making the news.

The latest theory is that the problem wasn't just the melamine, but the melamine reacting with some of the many other additives in pet food, including cyuranic acid. We tend to focus on the beloved pets who died, but there are thousands of other pets -- just as beloved -- who have survived but with lives tragically shortened by impaired liver and kidney function. In many cases, their owners probably don't even know there's a problem. How would you know, until your pet actually got sick?

Another thing you may not know (unless you live in Illinois) is that at least one person is trying to do something about this awful mess. US Senator Dick Durban says that the response of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the crisis was "wholly inadequate" and he's organized a grass-roots email campaign in an attempt move FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach (was this another Bush appointment?) to some sort of meaningful action. Inspections of pet food manufacturers would be a nice start. Over the past three and a half years, less than one third of these establishments have been inspected! No small wonder our pets are dying!

You can help. All it takes is a couple of clicks of the mouse. Go to and click on, Take Action.

Isn't the internet wonderful?

Friday, May 25, 2007

It's not steak. It's carrots. Bao's mad about carrots, I told Marlene. So she shoved the bowl of buttered carrots across the table and told him, Go for it! As you can see, he did.

Three editors rejected my novel. Everyone says I shouldn't worry because lots of novels are rejected dozens of times before someone sees the light, and I know they're right, but it doesn't help. One of the editors said the story was "too quiet." Too quiet? How -- I wonder -- does one go about writing a noisy novel?

And I just received news that although my friend Morag's surgery was successful, she's developed an infection. As you know, that is not good. It's no use calling the hospital, because I'm not a relative and they won't tell me anything.

So rather than sit at home and fret , I got in the car and headed for Mexico, arriving just in time for dinner at Marlene's place. It's beautiful here. The sea, the sky, the sun. So i write quiet novels. So what?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bao at Trinity Church NYC

Couldn't resist adding one, last happy snap from New York.
Built in 1846, the Trinity Church's 280-foot tower made it the tallest building in New York, a distinction it retained until 1860. Designed by Richard Upjohn, it is considered a fine example of American Gothic Revival architecture. Richard Morris Hunt crafted the sculpted brass doors, said to have been inspired by Ghiberti's Doors of Paradise at the Baptistry in Florence.
Bao and I are in the graveyard, an oasis of sunshine, quiet and birdsong at the top of Wall Street. And we're surrounded by famous (dead) people: Alexander Hamilton, Robert Fulton, and William Bradford, among others. They seem to be resting in peace, enjoying the tranquility and the flowers, just as we are. Who's William Bradford? He founded New York's first newspaper. But you knew that, didn't you?
Did you also know that New York City was technically the first capital of the United States? George Washington took his oath of office on the steps of Federal Hall, just down the street from here. (It was originally the US Custom House) And that Wall Street was named for the wall that kept the Indians out of Manhattan?
I'll end our New York diary with a comment made by one of the guys on our walking tour. He said, "If I'm ever single again, I'm going to buy a little dog and wheel it around in a stroller. The women love it."

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's not making the news anymore, but the pet food recalls are continuing.

The latest brands (all dry foods) of dog and cat food to be removed from shelves are products from Doctors Foster & Smith, Shop Rite, Shep, Bulk Lamb and Brown Rice Formula Dog Food, Lick Your Chops Kitten and Cat Food and Evolve Kitten.

And if you've got a friend who's got a ferret, 8 in 1 Ferret Ultra-Brand Advanced Nutrition Diet is also affected.

Go to for details, and -- if you're still feeding your pet commercial pet food -- sign up for their free, email alert service.

We obviously can't rely on the conventional media to keep us informed concerning this issue. As far as the media is concerned, they've "done" pet food recalls. It's old news. And it will remain old news, unless some film star's dog dies of kidney failure.

This latest recall was initiated by Chenango Valley Pet Foods. Bags of rice protein concentrate supplied to them by Wilbur-Ellis were found to contain melamine. (One of them was actually stencilled, Melamine) Wilbur-Ellis has been importing the concentrate from Binzhou Futian Biology Technology since July 2006 and have already distributed 155 metric tons of the stuff to pet food manufacturers -- who, as it should by now be obvious, are not the companies who advertise and sell the stuff to us.

Have you noticed all the unfamiliar names that have been turning up in the course of this nightmare? Had you ever heard of Chenango Valley Pet Foods? Or Wilbur-Ellis? Or Binzhou Futian Biology Technology? We were brought up to "trust" brand names. Well, it looks as if those days are gone forever.

Much as I hate waste, I've gone ahead and chucked out everything that contains any of these manufactured proteins. Wheat, soy, rice, the lot. And I've gone back to grilling Bao's meat for him every night. It doesn't really take much longer than opening a can of dog food, and surprisingly, it's less expensive. It's also safer.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

There's no place like home. Here's Bao, back home at last, in bed.

What did Bao think of New York? Lots of smells. Lots and lots of smells. Try as he might (and believe me, he tried) he couldn't mark every stanchion and hydrant and lightpost. Other than that, there were too many people around, most of whom didn't look where they were going. But that didn't matter. There were a million new smells, and the smells are what it's about, if you're a dog.

From Bao's point of view, New York reeked deliciously of dog urine (the most important odor of all) and discarded bits of fast food and candy wrappers and wonderful bags of garbage stacked at every corner -- he reckons it's one of the best places he's ever smelled.

The culinary high point of the trip (again from Bao's point of view) was not Tavern on the Green or even Players, but the awful frankfurter we got at Katz's Delicatessen on the lower East Side. We were on a walking tour, but -- like Le Steak Bistro the night before -- the manager of Katz's wouldn't allow a service animal through the door. Ordinarily I wouldn't spend a nickel in a place like that but it was 2 PM and I hadn't eaten since breakfast and my stomach was rumbling. So I gave our tour guide a few dollars and asked him to please buy me a hot dog while we waited outside on the sidewalk.

When it arrived in its brown paper bag, it was the sorriest looking, most forlorn hot dog I've ever seen. It had clearly been immersed in boiling water for a long, long time (perhaps decades) and its color reminded me of the things you see in bottles of formaldehyde in high school biology laboratories.

But I was so hungry! Maybe, I thought hopefully, it tastes better than it looks. But it didn't. It tasted like a piece of solidified, rancid dishwater, topped with sauerkraut. And the bun was so soggy you could squeeze it like a sponge. Katz's Delicatessen is a big tourist attraction because it's been there since 1888. Maybe it's time they called it a day.

By now I'd totally lost my appetite.

You don't want this, I told Bao.

But he did want it. Oh! how he wanted it! And the damn thing cost $4, and it seemed a shame to waste all that money. Okay, I said. But don't blame me if you get sick.

Needless to say, he didn't get sick. On the contrary, Katz's Delicatessen was the culinary highlight of the entire trip. From Bao's point of view, that is.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Wi(ne) Not?

"Malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to Man".
And although nothing that comes to mind can possibly justify American Airlines' ways to man (or woman, or dog) wine helps.
So here we are at midnight in Dallas Airport (where else?) at The Bodega with a couple of fellow Tucsonians (and sufferers) Bao woke up at the sound of a cellophane packet of potato chips being opened, and posed with Richard (who kindly bought me a glass of New Zealand merlot), Michelle and our Wineologist.
Whatever gets you through the night, right?
And it was a long, long night. We'd paid for a First Class ticket, but of course, there were no seats available. It didn't really matter because the people in First Class didn't get anything to eat, either. I'd say a pretty awful time was had by all.
We finally got home at 2 AM Tucson time, which was 5 AM New York time, which means that I basically stayed up all night. I haven't done that since the Senior Prom, and I am totally wiped out, and poor little Bao isn't far behind.
I'll tell you what. Tucson never looked so good!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Adventures with American Airlines

We're on the airplane, me and my tired little Teddy Bear. Homeward bound. Except we're not going anywhere anytime soon.
A thunderstorm in New York caught us with our flaps down, so to speak. I've already missed my connecting flight from Dallas to Tucson. In fact, we almost didn't even make this flight.
First, the bus driver who took our group from the hotel to the airport got lost. I kid you not. And then the ground staff at American Airlines wasn't going to let Bao on the airplane because she'd never heard of a service animal. Now it's raining buckets, and I have no idea of when I'll be home or even where I'll be spending the night.
Bao is asleep. He's happy. He's a Shih Tzu. He takes things in his stride.
And hey! We're together. So what if we spend the night in Dallas? We'll be fine.

Ellis Island

Not many dogs get to visit Ellis Island. You're privileged, I told Bao.
One of those guys behind us might have been my grandfather. My brother told me he was actually in the computers here.
It looks like what it was - a vast people-processing center, 5000 at a time. Huge, cavernous, echoing, impersonal. One last barrier to be surmounted between the old world and the new.
The first question they asked was, How much money do you have? If you didn't have enough to buy a train ticket to wherever you were going, they sent you back. If you had trachoma, they sent you back. Turns out there's a whole branch of my family in Canada. Don't know if they were refused entry or simply decided to head north, but apparently they made it big in furniture stores.
As you can imagine, all of this left Bao cold. Lots of walking (they don't allow strollers, which are considered a security risk) and no doggy smells.
We're heading home today, and I'm not sorry. New York is like an aging fruitcake - a nut or a nice, juicy raisin here and there, but mostly crumbs.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Breakfast at Players

I'd never even heard of Players. It was founded by the actor Edwin Booth in 1888, to allow actors and members of the upper classes to mingle socially, so that the latter would realize the former weren't a lot of bums.
This succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectations.
Bao thought breakfast was the best part. But he's not really into history, unless it's the history of steak.
Edwin Booth had a rough life. He was illegitimate. His father was a schizophrenic and an alcoholic. His brother assassainated President Lincoln. His first wife gave him a baby daughter and then died two years later of an "abdominal complaint." His second wife delivered a son that died at birth and went mad.
Yet he created (and funded) Players, which boasts America's finest theatre library and archive.
Then we went to MOMA to see the architectural facelift. Disaster. They should have left it alone. They have ruined Monet's waterlilies.
Then we were refused service at a place called Bistro Le Steak on the East Side. The Manager had never heard of a Service Animal. And Federal law didn't matter. This is New York, said Nicki. The only law that matters here is the law of the city of New York. That was his name. Nicki. He didn't have a surname. None of these people ever do, have you noticed?
So if you're ever in New York, give Bistro Le Steak a miss. There's a nice Irish Pub just down the street.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Nelson Rockefeller's Place

We're at Kykuit (pronounced ky-kit) and there are still Rockefellers wandering about, although the house and it's gardens belong to the National Trust. Happy Rockefeller has a house on the grounds.
The house is more modest than you'd expect. Twenty bedrooms (but 8 of them are for staff) seventeen bathrooms, and an underground art gallery with eighteen Picasso tapestries.
Bao liked the grass.
You can see the Hudson River behind us. It is a really awful picture of me, but a great shot of Bao. And it's his blog.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bao at the Top of the Rock.

On a clear day, you can see forever. Even when it's wet, you can see New Jersey. Greetings from the Big Apple!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Can you believe this?

We're heading off for a week in New York tomorrow. The thing is, New York isn't like Tucson. People dress, in New York. Your shoes are meant to match your bag and all that. (Which is one of the many reasons why I don't live in New York) And I'm meeting my rich brother (whom I only see every decade or so) for dinner, and I don't want him to be ashamed of me. So having given the old wardrobe a lot of thought, I actually made one of those this-goes-with-that lists and started ironing things and packing them yesterday.

Of course, Bao knows what's going on. He's already figured out that the little blue bag means we're going to Mexico. Ho hum. But the red bag on wheels, that's something else. Airplanes, hotels, lots of interesting new smells. Last week's trip to Florida -- for instance -- was a red-bagger. But you know what? Last week, I was so preoccupied with Morag and the whole Florida thing that I forgot to pack any of Bao's toys.

So this time, decided to take things into his own hands. Or paws. Or jaws.

When I got up this morning, I found that Bao had completed his own packing. As you can see, he's basically transferred the contents of his toy basket to my suitcase. And a stinky bone, for good measure. And just in case you're wondering, No. I am not taking 17 stuffed animals to New York. Pink Pig and that's it. End of discussion. I mean, Who's the leader of this pack? What would Cesar Milan say?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Bao had a seizure yesterday.

Several years ago, when we still lived in South Florida, he was poisoned. It was in a shop on Lincoln Road in Miami. I went in to look at a dress, and although I noticed the awful smell coming from the newly-finished, shiny wood floors I didn't put two and two together until it was too late and Bao had collapsed, writhing and spasming, his back arched. It was horrible. I didn't know what had happened, and I didn't know what to do.

"That's exactly what happened to our cat, yesterday" remarked the Sale Assistant. "And then it died."

Picking Bao up in my arms, I fled out into the fresh air and I sat down on a bench, holding him close. Bao was trembling, but he was still conscious, looking up at me with those big eyes as if to ask, What's happening? There were people all around, but nobody stopped to help or even ask what was wrong. I mean, it was South Florida. A row of human beings could fall over dead on Lincoln Road, and none of the Sunday morning fashionistas would so much as bat a mascara-laden eye. So we sat there, and in less than a minute Bao had stopped trembling and was wriggling and trying to get down. When I put him on the pavement he gave himself a shake and that was that.

Whew! Narrow escape.

But when it happened again three months later, I took him to the vet. Seizures are sometimes symptoms, I was told. Happily, blood tests ruled out possible disease. So yes, the stuff from the floor was probably the culprit. It might still be in his system although perhaps over time, it would work its way out. We'd just have to wait and see.

Sure enough, the seizures became less and less frequent and less and less severe. Yesterday's episode was the first in months. It was mild, it didn't last long, and as you can see, Bao is fine.

But we sometimes forget that dogs -- especially little dogs -- are much closer to the ground than we are, and much more vulnerable to inhaling potentially poisonous chemical fumes from floor coatings, carpet cleaners and even certain detergents. So be careful.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Are you legally considered to be a person? Of course. Am I? Indubitably. What about Bao? Hmmm.

I've been pondering this all day, ever since I read about Hiasl, a Viennese chimpanzee who chomps pastries (but doesn't like coffee) dabbles in oil painting and watches TV. For the past 25 years, Hiasl has lived in an animal sanctuary. But the sanctuary has gone bankrupt, and it costs about $3000 per year to keep Hiasl in pastries and paints. There are lots of people who want to donate money to keep Hiasl in the manner to which he has become accustomed, but according to Austrian law, only people can receive personal donations. So a Viennese charity called the Association Against Animal Factories has begun a campaign to legally declare Hiasl a legal "person".

Now, hold on. This is not as bizarre as it looks. If a corporation can be a legal person, why not a chimpanzee? Or for that matter, a Shih Tzu? My dictionary defines a person as "a human being" but it's a very old dictionary. Besides, there's clearly a difference between a person and a legal person, or corporations wouldn't exist.

Hiasl's lawyer Eberhart Theuer says, "Our main argument is that Hiasl is a person and has basic legal rights. We mean the right to life, the right not to be tortured, the right to freedom under certain conditions. We're not talking about the right to vote, here."

But why not? Why shouldn't Hiasl vote? Why shouldn't Bao vote? He's smarter than half the human beings I know. (And I'm being nice) But seriously. If chimpanzees and dogs could vote, who do you think would have won the last election? Lassie, probably. And would that really be so bad? Think about it.

They're saying that the case could set a legal precedent, at least for chimpanzees. Who knows? Meanwhile, the thought of law schools scrambling to introduce courses in Animal Rights Litigation brings a smile to my face.

By the way, Hiasl is pronounced, HEE-zul.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Driving chairman bao

I'm trying yet another mobile device. That's what the test was. It worked in the Verizon store. But will it work at home? And how do I post photos?
Bao is sleeping off the sushi he had for lunch. He loves sushi. He also likes dill pickles. Go figure.
Typing with my thumbs is obviously going to be a slowly acquired skill. So - as my mother would say if she was still alive - enough, already.
Let's see if I can make this puppy work!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

No, I didn't buy Bao a seat in First Class. It was unoccupied -- although not for long.

While I realize airport security measures are for our own safety, I think I'd feel a lot more confident if there was some uniformity. Every airport I've been through seems to have different machines, and different processes. The metal-detecting device at Tucson Airport is so sensitive that my bra fastener set it off and necessitated a full body search. (On the other hand, Bao's plastic water bottle went unnoticed and unemptied) Yet I passed through the metal detectors in Fort Lauderdale wearing two rings, a watch and a necklace and there was nary a beep, although they insisted upon undressing Bao and checking his balls. (That happened last time, too. What do you suppose they think I've hidden in his balls?)

The worst was Dallas Airport. It's not a nice airport to begin with, and we were stuck there for nearly six hours on our way to Florida, on account of the tornados. I decided to take Bao outside so that he could lift his leg, and when we came back, we had to go through security again. So I took off my shoes and my rings and put everything in the plastic container and walked through the electronic arch. Not a sound. Easy peasy.

Now I need you to pick up the dog and stand in the booth, the Security Person said.

It looked like a telephone booth, except that it was made of thick, clear plastic. You had to put your feet exactly on the footprints.

I need you to stay in the booth until the green light flashes, the Security Person said.

She threw a switch and all hell broke loose. We were buffetted on all side by blasts of air, so strong that they knocked my glasses off. And the noise! It was like being in a hurricane. Bao was terrifed, struggling and wriggling in my arms, trying to escape from the awful noise. And it went on and on and on. Even when it finally stopped, we had to stand there for another 10 seconds or so until the damned green light finally came on.

Why? Because my clothes were loose, and they wanted to make sure I didn't have a bomb taped to my stomach.

These days, air travel is about as much fun as a trip to the dentist.

You're wondering about yesterday's post. Test? What was I testing?

Tune in tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007