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?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bao and I had jury duty on Tuesday.

We signed in and sat around for an hour in a vast room (Bao thought it was an airport) and then they sent us out to lunch and when we came back they divided us up into groups and sent our group to the fifth floor. There were about 60 of us. They called out 22 names -- these were the guys who might get to be jurors. The rest of us were extras.

We all went into the court and sat down. (Bao thought it was a theatre) We weren't allowed to read or do Sudoku puzzles. We had to sit quietly and listen. It was a criminal matter, a child had been sexually molested. One by one, the judge asked prospective jurors if they had a problem with this. They did. One by one, they approached the bench. One by one, they were excused for cause. This took hours.

More names were called. More people were excused for cause. Our ranks were thinning rapidly. and I was becoming uneasy -- I did not want to be a juror in this trial.

Finally, it looked as if we had a jury. Then the judge told everyone that the trial would last two weeks. Whoops. Half a dozen jurors suddenly realized that they did have a problem with the topic, after all. The process began again.

When it was finally over the judge thanked everybody who hadn't been selected for their contribution to the American system of justice -- which was better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick, as Australians would say. And that was it.

It was dark by the time we got back to the car.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bao is besotted. Bao is in love. He can hardly wait to get out for his walk in the morning, and he heads straight for the beach. Yes, the beach. Can you believe this? When he spots his beloved -- a one year old Shih Tzu -- he dashes heedlessly through sand, water, tidal pools and anything else that stands between them.

This would all be really cute except for one, small detail. (Well, maybe it's not such a small detail) Bao's beloved is a boy. Bao's beloved's name is Benji.

Nothing like this has ever happened before. Bao likes girls. He's always liked girls. He's even made puppies. I have never seen him react to a male dog this way. Bao doesn't want to run, or play with Benji. All he wants to do is sniff Benji's nether regions. Sniff, sniff, sniff. Even Benji got sick of it after ten minutes.

Actually, it was embarrassing. Benji belongs to a young family. The kids asked, Daddy, what's that dog doing to Benji?

He's smelling him, darling.

But why?

They weren't on the beach this morning. They've probably gone home. Bao sniffed and peed everywhere, just in case.

What's this about? Does anyone know?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bao is finally coming to terms with the Mexican beach.

He sniffs clumps of seaweed. He trots across the sand, tail high. He even occasionally ventures onto wet sand. So long as the ocean stays in what I'm sure he thinks of as its (invisible) water dish, he's happy. Walks are good.

However, he will not let me swim in the sea. If I try, he sits down and howls. People think this is cute. I think it's a pain in the ass.

It's particularly annoying because at the moment, the sea is warmer than the pool. The cold snap last week caught everybody -- including the pool guys -- unprepared. The water temperature dropped ten degrees in a single night, and although they've turned on the pool heater, it takes a few days to warm up such a big pool.

So instead of swimming, I've been sitting on my ocean-front balcony, accumulating karma by rescuing the small, flying insects that kamakaze into my glass of wine. Some of them clamber gratefully on the proffered toothpick, shake themselves off and fly away. Others struggle, more scared of rescue than they are of drowning. Or maybe they're too drunk to care. But I persevere. All life is precious.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I'm always amazed to discover people can't legally do some of the things they think they can do.

For example, when you made your will perhaps you left a sum of money in trust for the care of your dog. Most people think they can do that.

But they can't. Not if they live in Connecticutt, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Vermont, West Virginia or Wisconsin. Those states don't allow human animals to leave money to non-human animals. I didn't know that. Did you?

Even where it's legally possible, leaving money to your dog is tricky. Look what happened to Trouble, Leona Helmseley's little Maltese. Trouble's $12 million trust was recently reduced to a measly $2 million. But there you go. People get snarky when there's money involved -- I know a self-proclaimed Buddhist who went to very un-Buddhist-like lengths to extract money from her grandmother's estate.

The trick is apparently not to leave your dog so much that the rest of your beneficiaries get jealous. And of course, to be living in the right state. There's more useful information on this topic at

Of course, dogs don't care about money. They just want to be loved. If you don't believe me, ask Bao. Or Trouble.

Friday, October 10, 2008

On the front of the envelope there was a photograph of a dog. The caption read, Millie was tortured to death by her owner. I never open those envelopes. I throw them away. I'm sorry, but I can't bear to read stuff like that. It haunts me. It literally gives me nightmares.

It's not that I don't care. I do care. But I keep sending money to various animal welfare organizations -- and presumably, so do many other people -- yet money doesn't seem to be solving the problem. It's sort of like the $800 billion bail-out. There are some things that you can't fix simply by throwing money at them.

People who abuse aimals are criminals, and we deal with criminals by punishing them. The prospect of punishment is a deterrent. If there weren't laws against murder, there would be a lot more of it. (There are several people I'd cheerfully send to Hell, if I thought I could get away with it. And I'm nice.)
Unfortunately, the laws that protect animals are so weak and toothless -- where they exist at all -- that nobody takes them seriously. In law, animals have monetary value, but that's all. They're things, not beings. They don't have rights and lawyers are not allowed to represent them. If animals had the right to legal representation and lawyers could accept their cases on a contingency basis, animal abuse would soon become very, very expensive. The prospect of financial ruin and/or prison can to wonders to modify antisocial behavior.
What we need is a National Bill of Rights for Animals. And we need it urgently. When economic times are bad, animal abuse increases.
I mean, if the Swiss can do it, why can't we?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Did you guys know that during September there were two, separate pet food recalls? And that they both involved Mars dry foods -- yes, dry foods -- that might be tainted with salmonella? And that one of the affected brands was Pedigree?

Go to the and check the bar codes and product numbers. I did, and was quite amazed to learn that I'd just bought a bag of kibble that could have killed Bao. When I took it back to the supermarket, the lady who gave me the refund was genuinely upset. Not because she had to give me my money back, but because this was the first she'd heard of a recall, and she feeds Pedigree Small Breed Mini Crunchy Bites to her own little dog.

This is the problem with a free press. They can print what they please. They can also not print what they please, presumably because they think nobody's interested. Apparently, people would rather read about toxic politics than toxic pet food. Luckily I live in Tucson, where there isn't much news. So there was a paragraph about the first warning, tucked in with what they call other news. But not the second. That came in an ASPCA newsletter.

Go to your cupboard, right now. Make sure you haven't got any of this stuff. And if you do, take it back to the supermarket or throw it out.