SUMMERTIME BLUES (Goin’ To The Chapel)

When Tanner & I penned our last entry, Summer was in full bloom and we were bracing for an invasion of Spirito relatives that were about to descend on Calif for our niece’s, Margaret’s, wedding.  As it is most years, the weather was sunny and cool so I phoned my brother and sisters and told them to pack accordingly; this wasn’t New Jersey with it’s scorching temperatures and brutal humidity.  Hah.  Mere days before their arrival a heatwave hit, bringing unseasonably high temps and tropical moisture.  My sibs were miffed and poor Tanner, who hates the heat the way most people hate taxes, was drained.  He lazed around panting and huffing like he was circling the drain.  

Bad enough that the ‘monsoonal’ flow (whatever the heck that is) wrought havoc on our routine, forcing us to cut short morning walks and to skip our dog park play dates.  With the heat came an onslaught of ravenous fleas that feasted on Tanner’s delectable pink belly and rump.  Every morning Eugenie and I would decimate the little buggers only to have them return in greater numbers the next day.  Frontline, borate powder, flea shampoo – nothing stemmed the insatiable horde.  

As often happens with Pit Bulls, the bites led to a nasty case  of folliculitis, and a three-week round of Keflex.  At first, getting Tanner to take the pills was a snap.  We’d wrap them in a piece of cheese, and down they’d go.  Somewhere around day 3, he sussed out our ruse, and so we moved on to turkey, deli ham and Prosciutto di Parma.  For the briefest moment, I thought about trying to force-feed the pills to him.  Then I thought about his timid nature (and his shark jaws) and decided to spring for rare roast beef.  The bloody meat did the trick, and the bumps disappeared.  To prevent another attack, we blasted the house with diatomaceous earth.  The cleanup was messy, but the fleas have cleared out.
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One month later and the heat has finally begun to ease.  Football dominates the sports pages, crowds are enjoying one last beach hurrah, and we’re celebrating Labor Day working like dogs, that is, doing nothing in particular.  Despite the heat and my sister’s emergency root canal, the wedding was a huge success, as Margaret and Ryan pledged their love surrounded by their dearest and dearest.  Eugenie and I gladly played host to family I hadn’t seen in years, and Tanner got to meet and charm a host of two-legged ‘uncles’, ‘aunts’, and ‘cousins’, all of whom fell madly in love with him.  Natch.  We’ll do it all again 4 months from now, when we fly to NJ for a second niece’s (Margaret’s sister, Kristina) nuptials.  If the cool weather holds, we’ll resumed our long morning jaunts and our doggie play dates with Kona, Luna, Dexter and Charlie.   Fingers crossed.
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I wanted to share a photo from my oldest sister, Honey, a Lieutenant with the Hudson County (NJ) Prosecutor’s Office.  A lifelong dog lover, she’s had a slew of big, feisty pups.  The current roster includes ‘Aldo’ a 100-pound hurricane refugee, and Harley, a Rottweiler rescue (her 4th Rottie).

JUNE GLOOM (AWOL From The Dog Park)

Dudley and Blanche

Ever since his 4-year anniversary, Tanner and his humans have been busy with a host of projects, including finding a home for GIMME SHELTER. The journey continues and we hope to have an agent in place by Eugenie’s birthday (June 21). In addition to tweaking the book, crafting a proposal and starting a rewrite on my play, “All That He Could Be” (the true story of the only solider to successfully challenge the ban on gays in the U.S. Military – a black drag queen!),  I’ve been I’ve been teaching at Probation and Eugenie has been carving like a mad woman. She’s submitting to several galleries and competitions and applying for grants as well.  On top of that, we took a quick trip to Palm Springs to visit Eugenie’s mom, for Mother’s Day. It was 100+ and Melissa’s AC was out!  Thankfully, our friends Toni, Ron and Alana let us stay at their place in Palm Desert. Tanner dislikes the heat and long drives but he bore up surprisingly well.  On a sad note, Melissa’s beloved Pug, Dudley passed away recently, a few months shy of his 15th b-day. Dud was a funny, mischievous little imp who trained his owner to do his bidding. For most of his life, he spent the summers with us when things got too warm in the Desert, so we’ll miss him terribly, too.

‘Make-Up’ cuddles

In addition to work and travel, we’ve been fixing up the house in anticipation of our niece Margaret’s wedding two months from now, when all of the Spirito famiglia will descend on SoCal, many for their first visit since we moved here in 1991. We can’t have them thinking we live in a slum, albeit one with palm trees and an ocean view (if you stand on your toes in the upstairs loft). Like his grumpy ‘father (and our late cat, Blanche) Tanner HATES changes to his environment or routine. Sprucing up the master bath fits that label, and he’s been on edge the entire time.  It doesn’t help that we’ve been AWOL at the dog park lately so Poor Tanner has had to make do with local play dates, extra treats and cuddles in bed.

As it too often does, the ‘June Gloom’ has settled in bringing overcast skies and chilly (by California standards) temperatures. Tanner likes it cool but not foggy, and he detests the rain. I like it warm and sunny, so I’m bummed. 
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“Our first year here it rained all spring and the lousy weather lasted well into fall.  Like a kid who’d been promised a trip to Disneyland but forced to settle for a T-shirt, I felt gypped. And ill. Before we quit New York, Eugenie’s mom graciously supervised the fix-up on our Malibu rental. Under her decorator’s eye, the place was painted top to bottom, the floors and furniture refinished, and new carpeting installed. The work took all of February.  During that time it rained so fiercely that she kept the doors and windows shut tight, allowing the petrochemical fumes to reach critical mass. When we boarded the plane that would take us to the Left Coast, we had no idea that we’d be moving into a toxic time bomb. Shortly after we arrived my head began to pound. I was green, listless, and in constant agony.  I tried aspirin, massage, and meditation. Nothing could blunt the pain. Either I was dying, or I was allergic to California. I agreed to give it one more week; then I was flying back to New York where I’d stay until I recovered. In desperation, Eugenie took me to see a homeopath who diagnosed me with chemical poisoning. I scoffed, but I took the little sugar pills and the headaches went away.” (from “Gimme Shelter: A Damaged Pit Bull, an Angry Man and How They Saved Each Other”).
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Right now Tanner is crashed out on his bed, taking advantage of a lull in the hammering and sawing to catch up on his sleep. He’d better since we’re off to Fashion Island in Costa Mesa tomorrow to visit with Eugenie’s godfather, Gene, and his wife, Jennifer. There will be tons of Yorkies, Shih Tzus  and other pocket pooches at the mall so Tanner will makes lots of new ‘friends’ and probably scare a few uptight O.C. residents.