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, December 31, 2008

When we left Tucson, it was cloudy and 42 F. When we arrived here in Puerto Penasco four hours later, it was sunny and 72 F. Bao hopped out of the car and looked at me with pure wonder as if to say, Wow! How did you do that?

I suspect that Bao thinks I'm a lot more powerful than I really am. After all, I'm the source of food and water and heat and air conditioning, not to mention walks, toys and rides in the car. This makes me a very important member of Bao's pack. But my "powers" notwithstanding, I think Bao still considers himself pack leader.

This used to worry me because I felt I was somehow letting him down. And during the past year I worked very hard to develop the "calm, assertive energy" that is the hallmark of a true, pack leader. Alas! My style has always been: When in danger or in doubt/Run in circles, scream and shout -- and do you know how old I am in dog years? Too old to change.

So here we are. The sun is shining, the pool is heated, the hot spa is bubbling and there's a school of dolphins cavorting just beyond the reef.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The part of Christmas I like best is when I give Bao his Christmas present. It's always the same sort of Christmas present, year after year -- a soft, fluffy toy with something that makes noise inside of it. Sometimes it sings, sometimes it talks, sometimes it squeaks. But there's always a noise.

As soon as I bring the shopping bag into the room, he knows. He's up on his hind legs, prancing around the room, little forepaws waving frantically. Gimme, gimme, gimme! So I do. Bao snatches it with a little sob of joy and carries it triumphantly up onto the bed where he spends the next twenty minutes or so making it sing, or talk, or squeak. Pure, unadulterated joy, and it's a joy to watch him.

And then when he's finally worn himself out, he curls up with what is now a rather soggy toy and falls blissfully asleep.

Dogs -- like small children -- have the happy capacity of living totally in the moment. I guess that's why they say Christmas is really for children. And -- I would add -- for dogs.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The lights are up and the tree is trimmed but we haven't decked the halls with boughs of holly because holly is poisonous and could theoretically kill a small dog. So can Christmas lilies. However, poinsetta -- you'll be pleased to know -- has been given a clean bill of health by the ASPCA. So as soon as it stops raining, we're going out to buy ourselves a pot of Christmas poinsetta.

The rain started at dawn. Its a cold, pebbly wanna-be-sleet sort of rain and it has left the pavements wet and shiny. Bao is not impressed. He doesn't do wet. Just be happy it isn't snowing, I told him.

It did snow here once, a couple of years ago. I'll never forget it. I woke up and everything was white. I thought I was hallucinating. Bao was absolutely horrified. He thought I'd done it, somehow. He dug in his little paws and refused to go out until I'd removed all the snow from the sidewalk in front of our house, and then dried the sidewalk with paper towels.

Hopefully this year, the snow will stay on the mountains.

From both of us to all of you, Happy Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's finally happening -- my novel Sea Changes will be published in June, 2009. Bao and I are going to do a 20-city Author Tour and everything. Bao is very excited.

Sea Changes is literary fiction, part magical realism, and part psychological thriller. It's a book that will appeal to people who enjoy reading good books and discussing them afterwards. But how do I reach out to these people? There are so many books published every year, and Oprah isn't exactly beating a path to my door.

I've been thinking about this for weeks. And then suddenly -- while I was walking Bao this morning -- I got this wonderful idea. I'm going to give away 100 free copies of Sea Changes to people in book discussion groups. They'll read it and they'll love it. Or maybe they won't. But at least it's a plan. And writing books isn't really about money. It's about writing books. And what's the point of writing a book if nobody reads it?

So if you're in a Book Group -- or better yet, if you host a Book Group -- and you'd like to read a novel that will knock your socks off, let me know and I'll put you on the list. Advance Reading Copies will be available in February.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The only thing Bao likes better than his dinner is my dinner.

When I take a steak or a couple of chops out of the freezer so they can defrost, he camps out on the kitchen floor to await further developments. And once he knows there's steak (or chops) in the offing he immediately loses all interest in his own grilled chicken breast. Even if I'm having chicken too, he'd rather eat mine than his.

I've tried feeding him early, before I start preparing my own dinner, but that doesn't work. Bao won't touch a bite of what's in his bowl until he's seen (and sampled) what's on my plate. Sometimes it's something he doesn't like at all -- fish, for instance. Doesn't matter. It's only after he's sniffed it and rejected it that he'll return to his chicken. And he is continually refining his pallette. Just recently, he developed a taste for salmon.

I've also tried defrosting things overnight, in the refrigerator. That doesn't work, either. Somehow, Bao knows. I don't know how he knows, but he does. Maybe he's psychic. Maybe he's reading my mind. I wonder if I could teach him how to pick a winning lottery number.