Friday, July 30, 2010

Dreaming of ocean views

It’s been a while since we’ve taken anything approaching a “real vacation”, defined as actually leaving the County for more than an afternoon. As pet owners of both the Doodlebug and three cats, it’s darn near impossible to get time away without having someone move into our little abode to keep pace with the demands of our four-footed housemates. I know there are pet-sitting services available, but I have yet to find one in Bakersfield who is actually willing to do the move-in (because being critter lovers, they have their own herd at home to contend with, I’m sure), and we’re pretty confident that a twice-daily visit isn’t nearly enough for the Doodlebug. This leaves us, more often than not, housebound.

Most of the time I don’t really mind so much. As homes go, ours is pretty near perfect for our needs, with enough space to be as together (or apart) as we choose, a pool to take the sweat and stress of the day off my mind and a refrigerator to store whatever we choose to partake in for the weekend. Add in a collection of music and movies to suit any mood my spirit happens to find itself in and there’s really not much more I can ask for. Still…every once in a while I get the urge to be someplace other than the inside of my house, in my neighborhood, in my town.

So here I sit, much like Winnie the Pooh, fingers tapping the side of my head as I imagine the words “think, think, think” appearing in a thought bubble above me. We can take the Doodle with us. We’ve never done it before, but he tends to be a good dog, especially when on unfamiliar turf, and there are more places every year that seem to cotton to the idea that there are actual people like us and the best way to take our money is to be open to letting us bring our dog along for the trip.

But where to go? Obviously, I’m thinking ocean-side (otherwise the title of the post doesn’t make much sense), but should I go Pismo, SLO, Oceano or Santa Barbara? Do we aim to rent a cabin or condo, or should try out a pet-friendly hotel that’s ocean-side? I want something as beach-close and dog-friendly as possible, including easy access to places with pet-friendly dining options, so the Doodle can sit on a patio with us and beg for handouts in a different venue from our dining room.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Paw Print City: Pet Peeves

Maybe it’s the heat. Or it could be that half of my four-footed family members were not feeling up to par last night, which always leaves me a bit out of sorts. Whatever it is, I feel inclined to scribe my occasional rant against what I believe to be sub-par pet parenting during the dog days of summer.

First on the list: Dogs in cars.
I can’t believe I even have to write this one down anymore. In fact, I can’t believe anyone who writes about companion animals still has to take fingers to keyboard about the absolute idiocy of leaving your unattended dog in a car during the summer months, but every day I come across stories of dogs dying, or very nearly dying, after being left inside a vehicle while their owner shopped/ate/relaxed in air-conditioned comfort. Stop bringing the dog if you are going somewhere the dog is not allowed. Really, it’s that simple.

Next up: Walking in the heat.
Seriously, I don’t give a fig if the sun worshippers of the world choose to go jogging during the hottest part of the day. But how about giving the pavement (or sidewalk) a little touch test before bringing along the dog, O.K.? Because let me assure you of two things --- One, in Bakersfield, the pavement gets hot. Really hot. And two, dogs don’t have all-terrain tires on the ends of their legs. They have feet. And despite what you think about the toughness of their paw pads, they can burn their feet just like you can. My rule on walking in the heat is pretty easy; if it’s too hot for me to go barefoot, it’s too hot for the dog to comfortably walk.

Third: Dogs in truck beds
I’m usually a pretty mellow driver on the road-rage scale, but there are few things that can instantly light my fuse faster than to see a dog in the back of pickup truck on a summer afternoon, especially of there’s room inside the cab (and there usually is). The bed of a truck isn’t much cooler than the pavement on a Bakersfield afternoon, which means it’s too hot for a dog to be standing/sitting on. Plus, in an open bed (meaning no camper shell or kennel), the sun is beating down on the dog during the entire ride. Think that’s “fun” for the dog? Give it a shot yourself on any day when it’s 95 degrees-plus outside --- no sunglasses, no hat, no shoes and at least a 30-minute trip --- and get back to me on how much you enjoyed the outing.   

This isn’t about me being some wild-eyed “pets are just people in little fur suits” kind of person. Most people who know me know good and well that’s not how I view companion animals, since to do so takes away from the joy and wonder of their “otherness”. It’s because I don’t see them as little furry people that I feel compelled to ask people to get a little perspective on what they are asking of their pets when the summer temperatures soar. You’re the human in your relationship, not them. Show a little humanity.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Time for Tails of Bakersfield

Yes, it’s that time of the year again, when The Bakersfield Californian asks the community to rally together on behalf of the homeless pets in our area and get some serious fundraising done. So dust off that digital camera, grab your iPhone or start scanning the Polaroids and get your pet(s) entered into the annual Tails of Bakersfield photo contest. 

Why should you participate in this year’s Tails contest? Easy --- the homeless pets of Bakersfield need us. The economy has put an awful lot of people into some pretty difficult circumstances these days, and when long-term financial hardship happens as a result of layoffs or families breaking up, all too often it’s the family pet who pays the ultimate price. Our local shelters function on perpetual overload during the best of times; these past couple of years have only exacerbated an already dire situation, as families who have run out of options find themselves turning in companion animals.

Your participation in Tails of Bakersfield will help provide much-needed funds for the organizations who take on the task of spaying, neutering and rehoming those pets still searching for a permanent place to lay their head. Even better, you get to choose which organization gets your donation; Alpha Canine, Bakersfield SPCA, The Cat People or Friends of the Kern County Animal Shelters Foundation. Though I am on the board of Friends, I can say with great confidence that any one of these organizations are an excellent place to show your support, as we all have the common goal of reducing the number of homeless pets in Bakersfield.

Plus, your donation will allow your beautiful fur-kids to be seen in the pages of The Bakersfield Californian. Who doesn’t want to show off their pets? I’m even planning to pop a couple of mine on the site. Like in years’ past, the donation is just $10 per photo. If you want you pet entered in the Pet Idol competition, it’s an additional $5 donation through August 1. This year’s Pet Idol contest winners will be featured in Bakersfield Life magazine in full-on glossy color, perfect for showing off to your friends and family.

Even if you’re not interested in seeing your pet in print, the Tails of Bakersfield site features a handy button for straight-up donations. I know our community prides itself on coming together in support of a common cause. Let’s do something spectacular and make this the most successful Tails of Bakersfield fundraiser yet.

You may enter the Tails of Bakersfield contest through any of the following means:
  • Go to and submit your entry online.
  • Go to the Californian office at 1707 Eye St. Bring your photo and fill out an entry form. Photos will not be returned, so bring a copy if it’s a keeper.
  • Email your photo to Include your contact information, pet’s name, age and breed. Include one sentence describing something interesting about your pet. Photo will be entered when your donation is received.
  • Mail your photo and above information with a $10 check ($15 if entering Pet Idol as well) to Shanan Mallard, P.O. Bin 440, Bakersfield, CA 93302. Photos will not be returned. Make check payable to one of the following organizations:
Alpha Canine
Bakersfield SPCA
The Cat People
Friends Foundation (Friends of the Kern County Animal Shelters Foundation) or FKCASF

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I have never been one to like the heat. It sags my hair, my makeup (what little I wear), my plants and my spirit. I yearn not to do anything more interesting than curl up in the dark with a DVD monotoning something soothing as I hunker down to await the arrival of Halloween, when it may once again be cooler.

I’ve been plagued with minor, irritating health issues this spring, culminating in an undiagnosed food allergy that leaves me with hives, usually occurring on my fingers, hands and arms following an unwise food choice. Hivey fingers and palms are decidedly uncool when one spends a lot of time at the keyboard, as I do for both work and pleasure. It hurts to type, to mouse-click or to hold items, including my lovely books, for any real length of time. After weeks of this I’m still struggling to make peace with the thought that I may be dealing with this for some while to come, so it’s time to stop whining and figure out alternate ways to hold books or open doors. Heat, especially the “holy crap, is it really this hot out” kind only seems to exacerbate the situation.

The cats have a wholly different outlook on the situation. Bo, being the singularly most opportunistic cat on the planet, has discovered that the ground beneath the rose bush is the wettest, coolest place in the back yard and has made it his personal property for the foreseeable future. Musette likes to crawl deeper under the bush to an area where she’s not accessible to man or beast, at least until the afternoon sun penetrates her leafy cover, driving her out to the porch where she lounges next to a rock. What attracts her to this particular rock is completely beyond me, but she rests her head against it as though it is sharing the secrets of the universe with her, bit by bit. Weebs is the only one who appears to have a lick of sense about the heat: like her hu-mom, she flops beneath the air conditioning until the afternoon sun becomes evening sun, only choosing to go outdoors when squinting is no longer required.

Darby’s obsession with having pool water splashed in face removes what little common sense his floppy-dog head holds on the best of days. He bursts forth from the screen door as though it’s his only chance to get outside of the house --- every time. He lives to hear the word “swimming”, a word that has replaced darn near every other command he only sometimes follows. The mere whisper of the promise stops him dead in his tracks, bringing him back to our side. He prances in circles, trying his level best to herd/push/maneuver us to the water’s edge to receive his liquidy reward.

Darby is the furry heart of childhood summers, when one’s focus is strictly on now. No worry about the eventual sunburn and subsequent peel, no thought of dinner being late or of appointments missed. It’s all about this minute, this trip to the cement pond, this exhausting session of run --- snap at droplets --- run to the next position --- repeat for as long as someone is willing to do the splashing. Try not to fall in and if it happens anyway, get out fast, shake out and get back to “run”.

Summer’s here and it won’t last forever, even if it feels like it could. Take it from Darby.




If you trip, get back up, shake yourself off and keep moving.

Make joyous noise in celebration of the confluence of bright sun and clear water.

Once exhausted, rest, for tomorrow the sun will be back.

Summer’s here.

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