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About a Dog

The puppy was abandoned on our property, or had wandered there. We first heard his pathetic cries under our bedroom window at three AM one morning and so did our two cats. I believe that the cats anticipated an interesting cat toy, but that wasn’t to be the case. What they got was a hyperactive 'playmate', whose shocking behavior they found totally unprecedented.

We grew attached to Wolfman while contemplating finding him a home. Not being able to face taking him to the pound, we kept him. Initially a loving creature, he evolved into lawsuit material. I began to notice those Yellow Pages attorney's ads reading "We specialize in DOG BITES! Have YOU been Bitten? Do you KNOW someone who has been BITTEN?"

Wolfman bit people, or at least tried to. Adults, children, and the hands that fed him were at risk. He also took exception to some of the faces he saw on televisions or computer screens. His instincts regarding such were however spot-on. He went hyper when he saw Hannibal Lector or Geraldo Rivera. At the veterinarian's office, he’d been known to go ballistic over a cat poster; at home he regularly tried to attack my animal-themed wall calendar.

Wolfman was dominant and un-socialized I thought, and I had a feeling that a dog obedience class wouldn’t make much difference. He seemed to be confused about size and the dog breed hierarchy. He didn’t understand that terriers should probably not attack larger dogs.

He attacked a German Shepherd. Wolfman lunged at the creature and went for the throat. It happened so quickly that the German Shepherd seemed confused. First he’d seen a white blur, now there was a small creature dangling from his neck. He simply shook his head as if trying to dislodge a large insect. We disengaged the doggies. Neither dog was hurt.

Perhaps Wolfman had an 'abuse excuse' for his behavior. We initially believed that he may have been harassed by children as a puppy. But after reading up on his terrier/whatever mix, we realized that his aggression was somewhat normal, especially towards children.

Wolfman loved his toys, especially his 'fuzzies'. Fuzzies that squeaked were his favorite. He had a round fuzzy, a fuzzy pup, a fuzzy ball, a fuzzy man, and a regular fuzzy. He knew all of them by name. He also liked rubber toys with bells in them, especially balls. Yes . . . he had balls.

Wolfman was with us for several years, then was diagnosed with an essentially untreatable and painful disease of the spine and had to be euthanized. We were heartbroken, but grateful for his presence, and for the fact that he’d made us appreciate dogs all over again.

Thanks to Wolfman, we were motivated to adopt a dog from the local shelter, a bichon frisse mix with an angelic disposition. Sugarbear was neither a yapper nor an ankle biter, loved everyone, and was a great lap dog. Not a great watchdog, he’d bark at shadows on the wall. We accepted this trade-off. He was playful, funny, and intelligent. We fell totally in love with him.

In retrospect, I however wonder if the implications of a dog's name might affect it's identity/behavior? Perhaps we should not have named him 'Wolfman', perhaps unwittingly creating a rough and tough image for him to live up to . . . Nah!

Habitats: The House That Landlord Built

We moved in.

The rented log cabin home was near the mother-lode mining town of Ione, California. At the time we didn’t realize that the landlord was somewhat insane, had built the home and outbuilding mostly by himself and didn’t believe in that whole ‘building compliance’ thing. The place sucked electricity like a monster. I later imagined Dear Disgruntled Landlord perhaps one day storming county offices with an arsenal of weapons, in a protest of those silly building permit regulations.

Located on a gravel road off a secondary highway, the acreage was gorgeous and isolated. Deer and turkey roamed our yard. A pair of hawks circled the stream near our deck and nested nearby. A pair of geese inhabited the pond by the driveway. One day while on a walk I noticed a white bobcat casually crossing the road behind me. It didn't seem to be interested in me, only seemingly intent upon crossing the narrow road and getting back into cover.

We discovered we’d inherited a group of semi-feral cats. The unfinished, unsealed basement allowed creatures easy access to stairs that led to a bedroom – thus contributing to both the tame inside and wild outside cacophony of strange and mysterious noises at night (SAMNANs).

A notorious, allegedly haunted prison was located nearby. I drove by it almost daily, impressed by the Romanesque Revival architecture. Locals referred to it simply as ‘the prison’. Hmm … it didn’t look like any active prison I’d ever seen. Wait, it was an empty prison. Sort of. My mind was imprinted with a vague concept of prison: scary places that scary people often broke out of. In reality I apparently needed to be worried about spirits and infamous ghosts-on-the-run instead. This added fuel to the fire of my occasional solitary nights listening to SAMNANs in The House That Landlord Built.


It was a sparkling November night. The woodstove was burning. Candles were lit. The cabernet sauvignon rocked. Against starlight and moonlight felines climbed the framed glass panes around the A-frame’s cathedral ceiling. There were shadows on the deck...wildlife making hand puppets no doubt! Well, it took more to scare this camper – such as Jehovah’s Witnesses wielding pamphlets.


I awoke in bed at 3 AM to the sounds of cats running, fighting and mating in the stairwell. Growls and howls morphed into a scratchy humanistic voice which got louder and closer, emanating from the other side of the bedroom door. “The papers are signed…do the work…the papers are signed…do the work!” I couldn’t get my mind around it. I must have passed out.


“Did you hear that brouhaha last night?” I asked Significant Other.
“Some weird-ass voice on the stairwell, talking about legal papers and work of some kind.”
“Oh! Was Landlord bothering us again? He shows up and he wants me to fix his house! This place is fucked up. He’s insane. So is his fundamentalist girlfriend.”
“Yeah. It’s funny, it didn’t look fucked up when we first saw it. But we’re not exactly engineers. One word: Disclosure Statement!”
“That's for homeowners, not renters.”
"Oh, right."


We moved out.