It's still raining in California and there is a cold that pervades everything. Our houses aren't built for this weather. Our floors are stone or wood, and there are no carpets; there are walls of windows surrounding us. Even with the heat on in the house, I am cold. I curled up with the dogs to watch Cleopatra last night, the one with Elizabeth Taylor and Rex Harrison (who I was convinced was about to break into song with any of the animals he encountered). It's a witty script and Harrison has a rye Englishman's delivery in perfect counterpoint to Taylor's more Queenly, lofty reading. There was baked falafel and hummus and a simple tomato and cucumber salad because lamb stew didn't feel very Egyptian somehow. My husband, the Maharishi, is off riding BMWs at breakneck speeds round a track in Palmdale, the girl has driven herself to dinner with friends, and my boy is back in New York. I know I should take this in my stride, my boy leaving, and each time I chide myself for being so silly, but it doesn't really matter if your child is 7 or nearly 21, you still miss them dreadfully. He has started a game of Words with Friends with me, a consolation prize, I suppose, but I'll take what I can get.
On days like this when everyone is gone, I want to be in England. My preferred mode of transport is tardis, as I've mentioned before, because you would avoid the airport silliness, could transport the dogs very easily, and you could be back for supper if you wanted to be. It is a fantasy to take your animal friends to the places you love, especially childhood places, because it's hard to imagine that they wouldn't love it too. This was the inspiration for bringing Tannagan, my pony, into the kitchen when I was about 9 and the many nights spent dreaming of having our favorite Jack Russell on the island in Norway with us. My parents always had excellent reasons why this was impractical -- they're not used to traffic, they're not used to being on a lead, they don't have life jackets for the boat -- but my brother and I wished fervently that we could steal one away in a suitcase with us. And despite being surrounded by great and loyal friends, on days like this, when it's cold and the house is empty, I just want to be home in England with my Ma and the Boat Race or the Grand National for company. And some Yorkshire Pudding, perhaps.
Pepper, the old boy, has been bitten by the neighbor's dogs in a shameful display of bullying. I can't blame them. They sit in their garden all day long and bark and growl at our comings and goings, the visits to the dog park, the little walks down the road, and so when they finally did come out, they were furious. The M was with me, and we managed in a rare moment of teamwork to get the girls into the house, and pull the golden retriever off of Pepper, who was on the ground mewling like a cat. I tugged at the dogs tail, which someone told me once was the trick, and in such a flurry of adrenaline, God knows why one makes the choices one does. I remember calling out "Help Me" to no-one in particular, but the Maharishi was there, doing his bit for King and Country, and finally we had the old boy up off of the ground. The wounds seemed superficial, a bitten lip that was splattering specks of blood around the house, but other than that he seemed fine. I gave him extra treats and some rimadyl so that he would sleep well.
After depositing, somewhat reluctantly, my son at the airport, the old boy and I went to the Studio City Animal Emergency Hospital and they discovered three puncture wounds in his head, and one in his neck which require three staples. They sent me home with antibiotics and the Collar of Shame, which is really not fair to do to an old dog, so I shall only make him wear it when I'm not around to monitor his licking and scratching (or Bean's as she likes to nurse him).
He sleeps beside me now, on his bed by my bed and I listen to his Dalmatian dreams, with their energetic rabbit-chasing sequences and the more legato bits, where I imagine him walking through grassy fields where there are no ticks or rattlesnakes. I've softened my rules on dogs in bed, and let him up next to me when I drink tea in the morning. The M is home and he can sleep between us, so that he knows that we wish him well, that it is our intent to take care of him and not for these horrible things to happen to him in his new life. I often imagine how his mind must have been blown these past few weeks, with all this exercise, all the new dogs, the horses, the gallivanting through the hills. He's still not quite ready to go off-leash, but I tie all three leads together to form a long rope and that way he's able to run and seek and stick his nose into gopher holes, the Disneyland activity for dogs.
There is a path in Griffith Park off of Commonwealth (take Los Feliz Blvd. to Commonwealth and park near the top), which takes you up a steep hill lined with white wisteria trees, up to the Norwegian Wood where I've seen them shoot commercials that require truckloads of shipped-in snow, through the picnic area in the pine trees (where, on Friday, we found a lovely old Japanese couple sharing a sandwich and a flask tea) and down the other side, close to the houses, on a steep grassy path to the bottom, near the driving range on the Atwater Village side of the hill. From there, you can meander up the regular path, marked with horse droppings, until another left turn takes you up towards an enormous electrical pylon and a steep climb on an unmarked path, frequented, it appears, by deer and coyote, with an unparalleled view of downtown LA. There will not be a greener time in Los Angeles this year. It's all hairdryer weather from here on out, so I try my best to get out in it as much as possible. The clouds are big and fluffy and tinged with grey, doing their best imitation of English clouds, or so I'd like to think. They remind me of seascapes and To The Lighthouse, and make me think about things like pork and leek sausages on days like today. The birds are quite effulgent with song; it's dizzying, all this beauty.