TALKING DOGS: Don't let on, but I think Jack has treats for us in his pocket. (Photo courtesy Matthew Hynes)
TALKING DOGS: Don’t let on, but I think Jack has treats for us in his pocket. (Photo courtesy Matthew Hynes)

As with many writers, I’ve had a number of odd jobs. (Keyword: odd.)

For example, in college I parked cars at a mafia-financed restaurant where I occasionally encountered underworld figures like the dapper mobster and part-time producer Johnny Rosselli.

You could say I knew Rosselli when. When he was alive, that is. (As opposed to being stuffed upside down in a garbage can which was riddled with bullets. Ouch.) This was shortly before Rosselli was to appear at the U.S Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Speaking of garbage, years after college I lived in the mountains above Palm Springs. I wrote a column for the local paper and drove a garbage truck for the U.S. Forest Service. I loved the two-ton International Harvester until it burned up on a dirt road in the wilderness. As I smelled smoke that afternoon, I thought I was heroically detecting a potential forest fire only to discover to my horror that I was the fire.

When I moved to Santa Monica in 1974, I got a part-time job as a security guard at the Shores where I lived. It was ideal because, during the evening hours, I was able to write. However it was less than ideal one winter night when I discovered a leak under the door of an apartment in the south building, where inside the tenant had been dead for four days.

Almost comical, his ex-wife lived in the north building. The police insisted I break the news to her. At their urging, I asked if there was “anything I can do to help?” She answered, “Do you have a TV guide, mine is out of date?” (I couldn’t make this stuff up, folks.)

All these decades later, it seems that I have become a dog walker for two of my neighbors. As pictured above, my “client list” is small but select. Oscar, the golden retriever, lives on the 14th floor and has been a buddy of mine for 12 years. Miss Piggy is a feisty English bulldog who lives only a few doors away on my floor. As is typical of the breed, Piggy breathes rather noisily. Put it this way, she’s the only dog (or person) I know who snores while awake.

Despite her short stature, Piggy’s remarkably fast when she wants to chase something, which is any time you’ve got a tennis ball. And I advise not to play tug of war with Piggy unless you have a lot of time to burn and don’t mind losing.

Incredibly easy going, Oscar is up for anything, especially if it involves food or being outside. Piggy stubbornly goes only where she wants to and not a step further. That said, if you whisper, “Piggy, where’s your ball?” she frantically retraces every step to discover the missing sphere. Curiously, when I pick up each dog from his or her apartment the other immediately raids the food from his or her walking partner’s dog dish.

Oscar, as it happens, was possibly the first “service dog” at the Shores. (I call him the “Rosa Parks” of dogs.) But in the last few years the canine population has gone from the number of fingers on one hand to seemingly a dog on every floor, probably closer to two. (Giving new meaning to the expression, “The Shores has gone to the dogs.”)

As I walk Oscar and Piggy it seems the city’s dog population has also mushroomed. Everyone, or so it appears, has a dog. As an aside, one former Santa Monica resident who loved dogs was Boston mobster Whitey Bulger who frequently petted them on his daily walks in Palisades Park. For multiple murders, Whitey was recently sentenced to two life sentences, plus five years for good measure.

Despite appearances, Animal Control says there hasn’t been any increase of our dog population. As of 2014, there are 6,024 licensed dogs in Santa Monica. (The deadline for licensing without penalty is March 31.) Knock wood, I’m relieved to say it’s been seven years since I’ve gotten an “off-leash” ticket while walking Oscar. Actually, the subject of these tickets was fodder for past columns of mine, “Rebel with four paws,” and “Oscar’s big day in court.”

Well, that’s about it for this diary entry. If the column doesn’t seem all that polished I hope you’ll forgive me. It’s not easy writing with two panting dogs staring at you as if to say, “Can’t you finish that on your own time?”




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