Monday, 28 February 2011

One Tax Over The Line, Sweet Jesus

Oh, California! I love living here, with all of the palm trees, mountains, beaches, celebrities, big city living, weirdos galore--I mean, where else can you go and see a medical marijuana dispensary and a botox clinic side-by-side? Not many places, I assure you.

But, funny enough, the Federal government allows doctors to inject botulism into the faces of patients, but does not allow those same doctors to prescribe medical marijuana. However, here, in California, the Feds have given up chasing down growers and sellers in the medical community, and like a parent whose child has drawn on the walls for the 500 time this month, sigh, roll their eyes and let the "delinquents" be.

Now there's actually a chance that perhaps California can paint a picture that the Fed actually likes regarding the growth and sale of marijuana. If there's any smell more powerful to the Feds than the overwhelming waves of pot smoke, it's money. Yep, there's a proposal on the table to add state tax for the growers of medical mary jane here in CA, meaning that taxation of CA's largest crop would demonstrate its ability to bring in mega revenues and help the state drag its way out of debt. If that happens, I guarantee that other states AND the Feds will take notice of the benefits of legalizing marijuana for medical, and even eventually recreational use.

As far as recreation goes, there's a sin tax for alcohol and cigarettes. Think about how much money would be earned by a tax on pot! Plus, think of all of the spin-off revenue that would be taxable as well: pipes, commercial pot brownies, pot beverages, fuzzy neon posters, munchies...okay, I'm only half serious there, but still it would probably be a great boost for the economy. If we're so worried about creating jobs, we really should think about the possibilities here.

I fully understand the arguments against legalization in general--the kids getting bombarded by ads, the fears of a sudden burst of weed-crazed activity by otherwise rational adults, the bleak slide down the spiral to heavy drug abuse, but, honestly, I think those arguments are a bit silly. Here, we could have a HOME GROWN crop of good ol' fashioned American ganja, put our farmers to work, as well as many of our impoverished folks living on a sliver of a dime. People who go overboard on pot might go overboard--but what's the worst that could happen? They pass out? Eat too much? Lose motivation in the workplace and get fired? I reiterate the idea that has been part of the age-old bolster for pot advocacy, which is: far less death occurs as a result of too much marijuana smoke versus alcoholism. Not only is alcohol legal but people can drink as much as they want, whenever they want, and some people go overboard (I believe they're called "alcoholics" and some people don't. Children's brains regularly absorb materials advocating the coolness of alcohol and cigarettes, and, likely, if they're going to experiment with those things, they will, regardless of availability. Since when is it the government's responsibility to instill a moral compass in each and every human being? It's up to parents to tell them what's up.

While I'm in no way a NORML member, nor a pot-head, I do think that there is a lot of merit in getting this vote through. Those who truly advocate pot legalization in this country should be vying for this vote to pass here in California as well.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

My Rainy Day 2 Cents

Rain's pummeling the L.A. West side at the moment. I hear the low steady rumble of the downpour swell and recede on the flatness of roof tops and the rolling roar of a thousand car roof timpani, intermixed with a few light pings of droplets hitting odd objects left on the street, and the occasional sliding swish of tires carving out paths through puddles. Rain like this is quite exotic in these here parts. Great time for my heat to quit working. The air is wet AND cold. A whole lotta blech, I say.

It's one of those nights where going out doesn't seem like such a fantastic idea, kind of like how being snowed in was back in St. Louis. It's winter, we often forget here because most days are bright and t-shirty, where breaking a sweat in one's car in January is not unheard of. People actually get sick of sunshine if they've been accustomed to it every day. I haven't hit that point yet. Sunshine and moderate temps are a beautiful thing.

Still, this skyburst's rather relaxing, and the tiny rumble of thunder reminded me of lying quietly in bed as a kid in the Midwest, while the rain washed everything and made the next day fresh for everyone. I remember how bright those colors were against the slate blue cloudy backdrop--the leaves, flowers, trees and grass. We don't get that sort of "pop" here, that electric look to the foliage, even after rain. No neon green sprouts or shocking pink or purple blooms. Everything here after a rain just kind of looks soggy like, "Thank you for the water, but we really don't need it that much." Sure things grow better after the rain, but the vitality just isn't there. Too much smog, perhaps?

Even the rain here is "SO L.A." I suppose. But it's nice to have, every once in a while.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Lost People, Not Dogs

Well, "The Beags" and I just finished one of our lengthy weekend excursions. We scuttle about 5-6 miles in one morning, which is a good amount of mileage for both of us. I'm aiming to do that at least a couple of times a week, which will be good for both the pup and for me.

As we embarked (no "bark" related pun intended) on our little promenade, I noticed a few handwritten flyers tacked up on trees and telephone line posts (what are those things officially called anyway?) that read "Lost Dog: Miniature Doberman Pinscher" in big, swooping, wobbly text. My first thought was to judge: "Well, if people followed the rules and kept their dogs on leashes in urban areas," I thought. "then they wouldn't be crying now." Many of the people in my neighborhood must not be big Googlers or readers of City Ordinances or even the "Dos and Don'ts of Pet Ownership" manuals that litter pet shops, veterinary offices and the like--so many of them do things like let dogs off of the leash or allow animals to defecate anywhere without cleaning it up.

I tried to imagine the scenario during which this dog lost his home. No doubt, the owners took the poor little thing outside, sans leash, and it saw something: a squirrel, a cat, perhaps, or maybe another dog. Its fierce instincts overtook its devotion to its family and it shot off like a greased bullet, leaving a family of crying, obese children behind. A sad, but all-too-common scene in America today: ignorance and greed resulting in sadness and confusion. I felt really sorry for that little dog.

As I was lost in my daydream, a car slowed alongside us and a middle-aged man called out, "Excuse me, Miss?" Oh boy, I thought. What's it going to be now? Is he going to ask me for directions? Hit on me? I just wanted to be in my head and to walk this morning, uninterrupted.

"I don't know if I talked to you before," he started out. "But I lost my dog around here and I've been trying to find her. You may have noticed the flyers that I've posted."

"Yeah, I have," I motioned my head toward the next post, where one of his flyers was plastered.

"Well, she was hit by a car, and she just took off running. I've looked everywhere. She wasn't hurt because she ran off," he explained.

I couldn't help but rage inside of my head. Well, if you'd kept your dog on a leash like you're supposed to, she wouldn't have run out into the street, I thought. And I also knew that the dog could have experienced internal injuries after being hit by a car, but was in such shock at the time, that she took off yelping. Not good.

"I know that a lot of people in this neighborhood are allowed to have dogs," he continued. "So, I've been looking for people walking dogs that look like mine. I'll call her name when I see them on the street."

So, he thinks someone stole his dog, eh?

"I'll keep an eye out," I told him. But, honestly, if I see someone else walking your dog ON A LEASH, I'll probably smile at them and walk on by.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Weekend Bliss (with a few crazies mixed in)

Weekends have become TRULY relaxing AND motivating for me. Not only do I actually try to get things done (whereas before I was too depressed to even sweep the floors some days), I get in some great sightseeing and exercise on my morning long walks with Sheila B. (B for "Beagle").

Having a dog is like having a child in a lot of ways, I've discovered. Gone are your luxurious mornings, where you get to sleep til 9 or 10. Nope, the Beags has to pee BY 7 a.m. If not, she will politely pester you until you groan and tumble begrudgingly out of bed. This morning, she jumped off the bed and then back on, and crawled onto my side, using my hip as her fainting couch. It was darn cute, as annoying as it was.

We headed out the door by 7:20, me with my sweats on and a hat to hide my morning coif, and Sheila's tags jingling as she enthusiastically clicked down the sidewalk. We established this routine last week and it was going well, our long Saturday walk in the chilly January air. Neighbors were pulling junk out of their garages for impromptu sales out on the front lawn. Early sales hawks were already clawing through the merch, or at least peering down at it with interest.

Every time we encounter a person or dog on these walks, Sheila strains in her harness to get as close to them as possible. Sometimes, to avoid my pulling, she'll stand up on her hind legs and walk on those to get some slack. ANYTHING to make new friends. While I'm thrilled that my dog is friendly to both dogs and humans, she has no idea that there could possibly be someone on this earth who thinks that she's not the most amazing dog around. I'm kinda with her though on some fronts. Someone who doesn't like dogs? Quel horreur!

Anyway, she's getting better. She's learning not to pull so much, and not to race across the street (which she also liked to do, out of the blue--which is probably why she lost those teeth in the first place--vet thinks she was hit by a car :( ). Most of the time, once she's gotten the initial burst of smelling EVERYTHING within range (a Beagle trait), she clicks gently alongside of me and we both trot briskly along in unison.

We usually make our route through a popular shopping district, where we have to cross a major road. Some haggard looking Latina was standing by the side of the road, looking down at Sheila right before we crossed. As we crossed, she screamed at me, "Pick her UP! Pick her UP! People's is crazy! Oh my GOD, pick her up!" She ran along side me, yelling at me as we crossed the street, Sheila and I in perfect unison, the dog pinned neatly at my side the entire time.

"Next time I see you doing this, I'm gonna report you!" She yelled.

I ignored her this whole time, thinking, Is this woman insane? Or, was there some doggie walking safety etiquette that I was unaware of? I mean, it'd be one thing if I'd let the dog run out in front of me, but she was walking next to me, in unison, while we crossed. This lady's logic seemed unfounded. Would the dog be any safer if I'd picked her up? Probably not much. I mean, if a car was going to strike us, it would knock both of us for a loop. Whether I was holding my dog or not seemed trivial, unless it was a small roll forward, or tap that could possibly hurt Sheila, but not me. Anyway, I'd never heard of such a thing, or seen it. I'd seen people carrying tiny dogs, like chihuahuas or shitzus (because they were used to being carried anyway and couldn't keep up with their owners on foot) across busy intersections, but never a Beagle, however small.

I'de never heard of such a thing.

And that agitated me. I've never EVER been called a bad pet owner by ANYONE in my entire life! Anyone who knows me knows that I'm extremely conscientious of my pet's needs. I read articles, I give my dog supplements. Not everyone does that. I take my dog to work, for Pete's sake! I know that I shouldn't let one crazy, ignorant person get to me, but still.

I had to walk off all of that negative energy. Instead of stopping at Starbucks, which was about 1/2 mile from my house en route home, we trotted all the way to Coffee Bean (which I do like better, anyway) 2 miles away, and we had a sugar-free vanilla latte break before taking the 2 or so mile route back home. It was such a good walk that I decided that we'd do it at least once a week, if not 2x. Plus, it's really worth it to get my favorite coffee chain coffee, instead of settling for one I like less. I think we did about 8 miles, total. The Beags still had energy to spare when we got home!

I find that I have more energy too. And my mood is changing. I feel happier, friendlier, more social. Could it be that the depressive cloud is lifting? I want to move my body all the time, or do something productive with my brain. Dog ownership could possibly be the best thing that's happened to me since I got to Los Angeles.

Woof and Woof!

Now, at 30, I'm finally reponsible :)

Not to seem hyperbolic, but dog ownership has completely changed my life--for the better, actually. Not just dog ownership, but this dog in particular. Her name is Sheila, and she is, in one word, AMAZING.

I say she's amazing not just because of her great personality and cute quirks (I'll get into those later), but also because of the things that she's taught me in such a short time (two full weeks).

But, let's jump all over the place (because I may have adult ADD) and rewind to two weeks ago, to when I got her from Beagles & Buddies. First of all, I had been referred to B & B through another adoption agency, when I inquired about a Beagle/Pug mix (I guess you'd call it a "puggle", but it really looked more Beagley than Puggy) that they had. Someone had already filled out the paperwork on the adorable little thing, and so that left me out of luck for that adoption prospect. However, the lady from the adoption agency told me about her friend who volunteered at another place, Beagles & Buddies, where they were currently being overrun with pooches that needed homes, and were reaching out to their affiliates to help them out.

Several conversations with several adoption people later, I set up a Saturday to drive out to El Monte to participate in the shelter's open house. I arrived, a list of dogs from the website in hand, as a guide to try to sort out the ones that might be suitable for me out of the pack of adoptable pups. The woman at the main counter gave me a look that was neither here nor there and wryly quipped, "Let me guess, you're here to buy a new car, right?"

After discussing my options, she pointed me in the direction of the kennels, where I found my way alone through a couple of gates to a long line of cage runs. The noise of barking dogs was deafening, and heartbreaking to me, thinking, "How could a dog be nothing but insurmountably stressed to be here? I mean, yes, the rescue was saving them from an even worse fate, and hopefully most of them wouldn't be there long, but I couldn't help but feel my heart ripping apart a little bit. Walking down the line, I saw many friendly doggie faces, wagging, yipping, yelping, whining. I knelt down by the cages and dozens of noses poked through the wires to catch my scent.

I decided to play with one dog, Bitsy, who was a very dark colored beagle, with a very sweet expression. She was a little bit larger than what I was looking for, although still on the smaller side of medium. Taking her out into the yard, however, she seemed interested in everything and everyone besides me. It was like going on a date where everything seems perfect, but you just don't "click" with the person. One of the volunteers mentioned to me that they had a dog that she thought would be just perfect for me.

"Sheila," she'd said. "She's small and super quiet. Honestly, she's too good of a dog to have ended up where she did. The only thing about her is that she doesn't have any teeth on one side, so her tongue just hangs out."

A broken dog, I thought. I'd pictured my dog, the dog in my mind's eye to be beautiful, perfect, one that I and everyone in the world would think, "Wow, that is the cutest, most wonderful dog on this planet." I'd been raised with purebred dogs all my life (don't hate on my parents, they had their reasons--although now, as an adult and seeing all of the great animals out there for adoption, I am NOT in any way an advocate of dog breeding), dogs that were always beautiful. The thought of having an imperfect dog never crossed my mind. Still, I thought it'd be worth checking her out. Keep an open mind, I thought to myself. You never know.

Sheila was carried out to me in the yard, while a pack of hyper young Beagles romped about. She was small, puppy sized, and her tongue hung clownishly from the right side of her muzzle. Her unusually golden eyes observed me with a welcoming gaze as I stroked her silky beagle head and gossamer ears. Well, she WAS sweet.

"Are you sure she doesn't have any issues? Any problems with other dogs, anything?" I asked the volunteer.

"Nope, she's PERFECT!" the volunteer said, giving little Sheila a squeeze.

The volunteer plopped Sheila down on the bench next to me. Sheila looked at me expectantly. I patted my lap and she crawled right over. A good 15 minutes passed while we sat together, observing the goings on around us, as I massaged her little Beagle back. Was she the one? It seemed as though the rest of the world didn't matter when this dog was on my lap in that moment. But...this was not a decision to be taken lightly, I thought. Could I love an imperfect looking dog?

It seems shallow, it seems dumb. But I knew that there were going to be comments, questions, stares, all of the time. Could I deal with that?

Finally, after much deliberation and the gentle persuasion of the volunteers, I decided to take the little angel, tongue and all, who had decidedly curled up in a dog bed and gone to sleep, away from all of the hubbub, while I made my choice. Broken, or not broken, everyone deserves some TLC.

As soon as I opened my car door, Sheila hopped right in. I had some trouble dislodging her from my lap before we took off, but I finally settled her into the seat next to me, and we took off toward a new life.

Two weeks later, I have to agree. The tongue has become extraordinarily cute, a great conversation starter, and this dog is nothing but perfect in every sense of the word.

Follow Sheila's blog also (we're starting it this week)!