Max and the Raccoon-Dog

Apropos of nothing, let’s talk about raccoon-dogs.

To start, here is a photo of Max sitting on our hearth next to a picture of himself and two statues of the famous Japanese raccoon-dogs known as tanuki.

Max Hearth

How totally dog-whipped are we that we have a picture of The Malt on our hearth alongside the actual Malt?

In Japanese folklore, tanuki nominally belong to a class of spirits known as yōkai which are essentially monster spirits but, unlike most of his contemporaries who have malevolent personalities, the tanuki is a fat and happy soul who is a bit rascally, loves his alcohol and brings good luck to establishments who position his statue at their front doors.


Rac Stat

Let’s just say that if your Aunt Alice had ’em, she’d be your Uncle Victor.

Whilst tanuki statues come in a variety of styles they typically share certain characteristics, the most obvious being an amazingly over-sized pair of testicles.  The other attributes of a quality tanuki representation include:

  • A jug of sake, representing the tanuki’s affection for a good drinking party.
  • Big eyes, to see truth and make good decisions
  • A pawful of unpaid promissory notes which dissonantly conveys his rascally yet trustworthy nature.
  • A bulbous belly (“curvy” in the parlance of the girls at 24 Hour Fitness) which the tanuki pats to make a drum-like sound. That FUPA screams wealth and indulgence!
  • A big tail which serves as the raccoon-dog’s anchor and foundation on the long road to success.
  • A wide, goofy smile which simply represents a wide, goofy smile thereby confirming Dr. Freud’s assertion regarding cigars.

While your common or garden variety of tanuki has more nuts than Mr. Planter, those huge boys have nothing to do with fertility or such.

Nope. Instead, they symbolize wealth and good money management. The story is that the skin of a tanuki is so tough, one could fill the raccoon-dog’s scrotal sac with gold leaf and hammer it so thin it would cover an entire floor.

Jeezum crow, that’s a real leg-crosser of a statement, isn’t it? Hurts just to think about. But I digress.


Say “konnichi-wa” to a real tanuki, a Japanese raccoon-dog. They are about 60 cm long which is about 2 feet.

By now you might be thinking that the tanuki is just a mythical creature. Au contraire, Japanese raccoon-dogs are real animals.

They are often confused with a badger or raccoon but are neither — the tanuki is a most unusual species of dog with distinctive stripes of black fur under its eyes and some very unusual behaviors. For example, it is the only canine that hibernates. Not only that, they hibernate communally.


Whilst appealing to a degree, the raccoon-dogs will probably not oust the Maltese as a family pet. (photo: Shutterstock)

For a creature so well-endowed, the raccoon-dog does not act assertively. It never saunters like a bow-legged cowboy into cheap dive bars. It never man-spreads on commuter trains. Rather than a gruff bark or intimidating growl, it’s vocalization is a thin high-pitched howl more associated with canine castrati.

Raccoon-dogs are generally monogamous and have a good temperament. The male of the species is said to be a compassionate partner and father. Scientists have observed TD’s (Tanuki Dads) bringing food to their pregnant mates, and after their partner gives birth, they take an active, role in the parenting of pups. Shoots, they probably hold their spouse’s purse when shopping at the mall.

In old Japan, tanuki were hunted for their meat and fur. In fact, even up to now the fur of the raccoon-dog is actively traded.

In 2008, the Humane Society of the United States filed claims against a couple dozen U.S. retailers after finding that 70 percent of faux fur garments they analyzed actually contained raccoon dog fur which, in the biz, is known as murmansky.

The raccoon-dog is not endangered but the population of wild tanuki has been decreasing of late.

Of course, all of this begs the question: could a tanuki be a satisfactory household pet, perhaps a suitable substitute for, say, a very picky and pushy Maltese dog? There are advantages and disadvantages to consider.

On the plus side, raccoon-dogs don’t bark, don’t crave for attention, will eat almost anything, sleep most of the day, don’t have to be kept inside and choose a fixed place for potty breaks. They are a bit stand-offish but not aggressive and can be leash-trained. And, just in case tanuki trivia matters to you, their tails can only move up and down, never wagging side to side.

On the other paw, tanuki are not attentive, they’re thoroughly useless as guard-dogs, they don’t learn tricks, they shed explosively every spring, are prone to mange and never become cuddly pets. At best, you can only achieve a medium level of domestication with the raccoon-dog. And, since I know you are wondering…yes, in real life they indeed have very large gonads.

So, after careful consideration, I think we’ll keep our eunuch Maltese after all.


Max would look even better if he had a jug of sake or maybe just a keg of Pilsner Urquell.


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Goon Butts


Seems a little harsh to call the cute kid a goon.

The AJF and I were at our favorite Japanese grocery store. As she spent a large portion of our children’s’ inheritance on products that all seemed to consist of soy sauce, miso, mirin and sugar, I wandered the aisles and discovered this fine product.

Fair to say I am outraged about naming baby diapers Goons. Or maybe naming babies Goons. Anyway, this is clearly disparaging to actual goons like me and must stop.  I think I’ll form a class with other goons and sue for a gazillion and a half dollars.

Goon good

Turns out they sell these on Amazon so I guess a lot of people know about Goons.

They got a 5-star rating although on closer inspection there was only one review. Praise was faint with noted Papua New Guinea customer Kirill Krattli stating Goons were indeed “good.” He probably meant as a polishing cloth.


Meanwhile, there was sale going on for Kuro Butt.

Hard to get good Kuro Butt.


Three bucks off of sliced butt. Hard to resist.

Lots on inferior Butt available. You got your flat Butt, round Butt, Honey Butt (start of my usual excuse and/or apology) and the ever popular Pain-in-the-Butt but Kuro Butt is a rare find; it’s usually behind everything else or on the bottom or cracked. snork, snork

(Explanation: it’s a typo and should read “buta” which means pork or pig. “Kuro” in Japanese means black. Hence the product name is kurobuta which is to pork as Kobe beef is to cow meat; in other words, among the best you can get.)

The more you know…


A kurobuta in pre-bacon condition.

PS: Max is fine. He skipped the shopping trip, preferring to grab a power nap. Here’s a “dog tax” for making a drive by post. It’s Max patiently waiting on his pad at his favorite doggy-friendly restaurant.


“Sheesh, ignored on my own blog.”




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Deceiving Dogs!

Dogs are sly and not just a little manipulative. We all knew this. Now science proves it.

A new study, published in the journal Animal Cognition, has found pet dogs will deliberately deceive humans in order to get something they want.

Here’s the link to the news article:

Canine deception.

As an example of a deceptive dog, I present this photo of Max blending in with the treat selection at Pet Smart in the fervent hope we won’t notice him tearing open the packages of goodies and scarfing the contents.

Deceptive Dog

“This is not the Malt you are looking for.”




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Max Visits the Gold Country, Part 2


Is this a scary story? ‘Cause if this is a scary story I’ll hide under the covers.

So there we were, cruising Highway 49, singing old Monkees’ tunes since there are no new Monkees’ tunes, and remarking about how incredibly soggy Northern California had become after a very rainy season.

We debated the merits between a straight shot to Sacramento versus exploring along the Gold Route. We chose the latter.


I admit the whole “old Monkees tunes” thing was just a set up so I could use this terrible pun. Sorry for the ear worm.

Our destination was a town I’ve passed through many times but never slowed down to look around – Chinese Camp.

Chinese Camp is south of the far better known Gold Rush town of Sonora. It’s what you might call a “quasi-ghost town.”

While there are a few people still living in the area, the town itself is defunct, a place full of lonesome wind sounds, old cemeteries, dilapidated wood frame houses, scraggly overgrowth and dust. Lots of dust.

It dates back to the mid-1800s when thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the US as cheap labor to work on railroads and in mines. These men – most were males – did not intend to immigrate; rather, they were sojourners, who expected to stay a few years, make some money and then return to the ancestral land.

In early 1849, California had only fifty-four Chinese. By 1876,  the Chinese in the United States numbered 151,000 of whom 116,000 were in the state of California.

Chinese Camp itself was once home to more than 5,000 Chinese miners. At its peak, the town extracted nearly $3 million in gold. Now for our daily dose of irony: according to the 2010 Census, there is not a single Chinese person or person of Asian extraction living in town, the last Chinese having beat feet almost 90 years ago.


Precariously leaning to the side.

Chinese Camp is best remembered, if remembered at all, as the site of a big Tong War in 1856.

In Chinese, the word tong means “hall” and frequently refers to fraternal organizations or secret societies often tied to criminal activity.

In part, the popularity of these societies may have been due to the extreme prejudice and hostility faced by the Chinese workers in young America.

There were many different Tongs and they acted sometimes like labor unions, sometimes like benevolent societies and sometimes like plain old street gangs competing for “turf.”


The General Store.

To be sure, the inter-Tong competition and violence, along with the toxic racism on the West Coast led to many Chinese moving to the East Coast and the subsequent establishment of “Chinatowns” in the big cities such as New York and Boston.

But I digress.

Chinese Camp’s Tong war took place on September 26, 1856 in a meadow outside of town. It was caused when one company of Chinese miners rolled a boulder onto the claim of another company and refused to move it.

The animosity between the groups kept escalating. The Columbia Gazette reported that one Tong had even hired professional instigators to taunt and antagonize the other:

“Before the battle the fifteen white mercenaries painted themselves yellow, put on Chinese costumes, and hung a yard of horsehair tail down their backs in a mocking depiction of a Chinese queue.”

The fight involved about 1,200 men with 4 killed and many wounded. The death toll was limited because Chinese were not permitted guns; consequently, the battle was fought with pitchforks, rakes, mining tools and farm implements. It was the biggest thing to happen in Chinese Camp then or now.


A photo of Chinese miners in America from ChineseBlogSpot.

For much of the mid-1800s, Chinese Camp was a major transportation hub with train service, regular stage coach runs and all the trappings of a very rowdy, rough-and-tumble western town. But when the gold boom went bust, the town slowly devolved to what it is today. The final coffin nail was the emergence of the automobile which obviated the need for train service.

Max, the AJF and I wandered around the town, figuratively (and in Max’s case, literally) sticking our noses into the old buildings, the train station, schoolhouse and post office. We walked up down the streets which had that hollow type of quiet that you get in abandoned towns. The gloomy weather didn’t make the experience any more cheery.

We saw only a few souls and they looked none too friendly, supporting the allegation that Chinese Camp had become a bit of a center for meth labs in the Sierra foothills. It could also be that they were people who didn’t like Maltese dogs.

But it was the town’s official cemetery that creeped us out. To establish context, remember that most of the graves dated to pre-Civil War years. None of the names were Chinese – they had their own cemetery.


Part of the Chinese Camp church graveyard. (Photo by Dolores Steele)

Here’s the odd thing: on a few of the old graves there were fresh flowers!

Huh? Does that mean a family member has stayed true for 150 years? Was it someone from the area?

But then on another grave – according to the inscription it was the burial place of a small child who died in the 1800s – there was a relatively new teddy bear on the grave along with a fresh bouquet!

As we paused and wondered about the back story, the Malt started a low grumbling sound in his throat. Why was he distressed?

Apparently we were not the only ones who got chilly-willys (and I don’t mean the penguin) down our backs in Chinese Camp. Later on we checked with Dr. Google who noted that even the Discovery Channel had done a story about the place and reputedly “measured” (yeah, right) a very high level of psychic energy in this cemetery as well as a nearby church.

For us, psychic measurement stuff counts right up there with the Tooth Fairy but we did admit to being uncomfortable during our visit. However, the faces of the folks we saw in town didn’t invite casual conversation so we’ll probably never know what’s going on in the cemetery.

Meanwhile, the skies were again filling with ominous clouds. We figured it was time to boogie down the Strasse.

Besides, Jet was still waiting for Max.


I tried to convince the Malt that the carving on the lower left was a giant Golden Retriever. He wasn’t buying it.

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In Memoriam: RIP Prince Charming

Prince photo 4It’s so sad when a dog friend dies. In their passing we are reminded starkly just how important these creatures are in our lives. We think of their boundless good will, their devotion, and their unequivocal acceptance of their owners, however flawed we may be. We’re mindful, too, that their time with us is too short, no matter how long they may live.

All our dogs are good dogs and we have only good things to say about them and fond memories to recall. That’s quite unlike my recollections of old time Irish wakes where, just as Father O’Malley was extolling the many virtues of the deceased, there would come an inebriated voice from the back muttering, “Begorra! The sonna-na-b died owing me $20.” And don’t even get me started on the time my Uncle Pat got so much of the creature in him that while extending his arm to drop some dirt on the casket, fell into my Great Aunt Mary Margaret’s grave.

But I digress.

Pretty much all of us here are dog lovers. So we know all about the Rainbow Bridge, the Will Rogers’ quotes, and the other sayings, stories and sometimes platitudes that are intended as comfort to our human friends when a beloved pet passes. While we appreciate those kind thoughts and warm wishes, we all know that only time mitigates the pain of loss.

In the comments section of the preceding post on this silly dog blog, I got word from a good friend that her much loved shih-tzu Prince Charming passed away at age 15.

Prince always had a special place in our hearts because he held the position of “Dogfather” in the loose affiliation of small dogs and human companions at our previous condo home in Honolulu.Prince photo 1

When he first met Prince, Max was intimidated.

Granted, it doesn’t take much to intimidate Max but in this case he simply would run away as the Dogfather approached.

Prince was a sweetie-pie who sought only to have a sniff and be friends but it took years before Max finally accepted that the plus size shih-tzu was a kind gentleman and not an existential threat.

Later, they became buddies and would take walks together and afterwards sit in the condo lobby, relaxing and waiting for the usual gang of other little fluffs to join the dog party.

I wrote about Prince a few years ago. You can find a couple of stories here and here. I’m saddened to now have to write about his passing.

Good boy, Dogfather. Run in happiness and comfort through green fields as you play and await the day your family is again together.

And to Jackie, Laura and the pup’s many other friends…

Luʻuluʻu ihola hoʻi i ka hala ʻana o kou hoaloha, a na ke aloha e hoʻōla mai i ka ʻeha a hoʻolana aʻe i ka manaʻo.

(The heart mourns the loss of your beloved friend, may love and compassion heal the hurt and uplift the heart.)

Tom, Machi and Max

Prince photo 2

It was Barzini all along.

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Max Visits the Gold Country


Smelly Pot, the only place to go when you’re hankering for stinky tofu.

Max was sitting in his car seat outside the local Smelly Pot, waiting for his taste of stinky tofu, when he got word that we were headed to Northern California on a trip that would include a visit to his stepbrother, Jet.

The Malt was not amused. He doesn’t cotton to dogs in general and loathes big dogs.

By definition, anything larger than a plus size shih-tzu is Max’s sworn enemy.

(He also doesn’t like dark colored dogs. You might say they are his, uh, bête noire. Snork, snork.)

Jet is a Golden Retriever. He’s a member of our son’s family in Sacramento and successor to Tucker, a beloved 13 year old pooch, also a GR, who passed away last year.

Jet is at that awkward stage where he is chronologically still a puppy but has achieved most of his full growth. He’s clumsy, friendly, affectionate, strong and easily distracted.

Sometimes you’d swear his brain was the size of a walnut and other times that characterization would be an exaggeration.


Puppy Jet, before he became the Sith Dog, Terrorizor of Maltese.

Max and Jet met six months ago when Jet was a fluff bundle who could be intimidated, or at least ignored, by a senior Maltese. Since then Jet has developed into a fine 65 pound specimen.

He eats big and poos bigger, but has still to learn that “Off!” means more than a brand name mosquito repellent. The dreaded, needle-sharp puppy teeth are gone but his paws are still outsized for his frame.

Jet doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He’s just a goofy slobberhound who lives his life at 130 miles per hour, bowling over everything in his path including certain small, white and occasionally ill-tempered fur nuggets.

I think you can sense where this is going.

Our trip north was planned to take two days. Not because of the recent deluges that hit California. Not because of distance or driving times.

Nope, the trip was scheduled in a leisurely fashion largely because the fur king and the Alpha Japanese Female have equivalent-sized bladders and require frequent stops to leg-lift and squat, respectively.


No longer the little pushover.

Contrast that with yours truly who treats every long distance drive as a personal challenge to his manly ability to avoid comfort stops even if that strategy requires empty bottles and risks indecent exposure to long haul truckers.

But I digress.

We planned to rip up the freeway to the middle of the central valley and then head east into the foothills along the Sierra Nevada range, staying high enough to enjoy the forests but low enough to avoid any snow.

Oakhurst sign.jpg

It appears that there may be more civic clubs than pizza parlors. Barely.

The first night out of Rancho Cucaracha took us to Oakhurst, known as the southern gateway to famed Yosemite National Park.

It’s a town of about 3,000 water logged souls living at 2,200 feet elevation along the Fresno River and surviving mostly on the tourist dollar.

There are lots of the following in Oakhurst: pizza places, gift shops, pizza places, statues of bears, white people, rain, pickup trucks and Labrador retrievers. And pizza places.

You won’t find many of these in Oakhurst: fresh vegetables, Asians (exactly 3 according to the 2010 Census), Prius cars, suntans, kale, quinoa or frou-frou dogs.

We rolled into town, the AJF immediately increasing the Asian population by 33%, and stayed at a Best Western which was perched on a hillside surrounded by lovely foliage and landscaping and featured the noisiest plumbing east of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant.


The most dangerous of these is the one in the sweater – 1/4 the total of that day’s Asian population in Oakhurst.

After strolling the downtown area we debated how best to spend the rest of the hour and decided a drive through the area sounded good.

We meandered along country lanes and took photos of bear statues and large logs and wondered how Spook Lane got its unusual name.

Returning to the lodge we stopped for… you guessed it, pizza.

Speaking of bear statues, Oakhurst boasts of an apparently world famous talking bear statue located in front of a real estate office.

The life size, fiberglass ursine has been around since 1963 and will spout about wilderness ecology and such when a visitor presses a button.

Okay, it’s not the Mona Lisa. It’s not even up there with the World’s Largest Twine Ball as a roadside attraction but it is a certified California Historical Landmark.

Other irresistible tourist sites include a 25 foot, chainsaw-carved Statue of Liberty and the statue of Gabby the Wooden Gold Miner in nearby Coarsegold. Sadly, the iconic 1,000 year old “tunnel tree“fell over a couple of weeks earlier.

Talking bear.jpg

This Talking Bear is world famous. We know this because there is a sign that says so.

After the day’s excitement, the night passed peacefully save for the guest above us who was afflicted with concrete feet and an incessant need to walk back and forth to the bathroom where he or she would flush the toilet repeatedly, each flush sounding like a 747 reversing engines after a particularly hard landing.

The following morning we woke to rain and left over pizza.

After a complimentary breakfast, which garnered no compliments, we left for a drive along scenic Highway 49, the “Gold Country Route,” which starts in Oakhurst and heads north through many historic mining communities of the 1849 California gold rush.


Yeah, the name adds to the value of the real estate. Ghoul Drive and Slasher Street are good, too.

Highway 49 twists and climbs past panoramic vistas dominated by rocky meadows, black oaks, and piñon pines with Douglas firs and redwoods on the higher slopes.

Over-achieving wildflowers added color in the fields even though the calendar said February.

Dozens of lakes, rivers, and streams provided dramatic counterpoints to an already attractive geology.

Our travels took us along misty routes through places whose names resonate with California history: Sutter Creek, El Dorado, Jackson, and Angel’s Camp – site of Mark Twain’s famous story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”.

Yeah, well, we didn’t stop at any of these places.

We motored through because a) it was raining cats and canines, b) we’ve been to all these towns many times and c) the aforementioned male proclivity towards non-stop driving.

Besides, Max had a date with destiny. Jet was waiting. But that’s a tale for another time.


I promise, the next installment of this story is coming soon.

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Max Visits a Dog Friendly Town

Folks have been living in the Cayucos area since about 11,000 BC which is approximately the last time the AJF admitted I was right during any argument.


A great stop-off point along the coast between Southern and Northern California.

The early inhabitants were Chumash Indians. They were there for the fish, abalone and other critters in the lush kelp beds just offshore.

The Spanish explorers visited Cayucos in the mid-1700s and it became part of a Spanish land grant in the following century.

But it was a New England sailing captain who put the town on modern maps when he sailed around the Horn and landed there in 1867.

Captain James Cass quickly noted that Cayucos (the name comes from the Chumash language meaning kayak or canoe) was well-suited for growing fruit, dairying, berries, farming, alfalfa and beans and the topology of the area made it a good shipping port for cheese, hides, beef and fresh water.

But that’s not why the Malt was interested in visiting Cayucos. Nope, there was a more important reason. You see, among its many other delightful attributes Cayucos also boasts of being the most dog friendly town on the California coast.


Downtown Cayucos. Guess what? I found a saloon!

It starts with a beach that is not only dog accessible but which is leash-free its entire length.

Then there are the many dog friendly motels, most of which have retained a throwback ambiance that resonates of the Old West or at least the 1960s.

Restaurants that allow dogs?

No…In Cayucos, the restaurants welcome dogs and compete for their trade with canine menus.

The businesses up and down the short main drag set out water bowls on the sidewalks and allow pups to come in and browse.

Maybe that’s why that great travel tome Budget Travel dubbed Cayucos, “the coolest small town in America.”


The Sea Shanty has pretty good fish and chowder and welcomes dogs on the outside decks and patios.

As you might expect, there are lots of dogs in Cayucos.

His Furriness visited Cayucos last month while we were driving the coast route north, ultimately to visit family in Sacramento. We planned the overnighter at Cayucos to break up the long drive and personally sample the dog friendly atmosphere.


The little seaside town of Cayucos and the location of the Cayucos Motel not to be confused with the Georges V. The pier, originally built in the late 1800s,  is the hub of town activities.

Our lodgings were at the Cayucos Motel, a seven room facility straight out of a Gidget movie. Quick poll: who was the better Gidget? Sandra Dee or Sally Fields?

Vote now.


The correct answer is, of course, Sandra Dee. I heard Sally felt so inadequate as Gidget that she ran away and joined a flying Nunnery.

The color scheme at the Cayucos Motel is turquoise and lots of it.

The owner adores dogs and her tiny office is festooned with dog posters, dog knick-knacks, and signs detailing the many reasons why dogs are better motel guests than humans.

(#3 They don’t smoke in bed.”)

When making reservations, which are mandatory as the place is always full, the desk asks your dog’s name and then uses that info to make a personalized water bowl chock full of toys and treats.


Max’s welcoming gift. He ignored the giraffe, we gave away the ball but he was very grateful for the treats and water dish. Note turquoise dresser.

No check-in at the Cayucos Motel is complete without a lot of fussing over the four-legger, which Max absolutely loved.

Max’s digs were about 25 steps away from a wide sandy beach that stretched a mile or two in either direction.

The beach had a fair amount of flotsam and/or jetsam washed ashore including body parts of various sea creatures which were irresistible to the Malt.

The kelp floats, dead crabs and mystery sea corpses were enticing too and demanded an energetic roll-over and wallow. We knew we were in trouble when we first spotted an odoriferous, unidentifiable carcass in the distance.

  • Command: “Max, stay away from that!”
  • Warning: “Max, you better not get near that!”
  • Entreaty: “Come on, Max, don’t you dare roll in that!”
  • Discovery: “Oh jeezumcrow that stinks. What the hell is that thing?”
  • Acceptance: “Now what do we do with him?”
  • Bargaining: “He’s your dog, AJF. No, he’s not.”
  • Resolution: “Fine, I’ll take care of him.”

Suffice to say the Malt was disgusting. Fortunately, the motel had an outside pet shower and bath. I could swear he had a huge Maltese smile on his repellent little face the whole time we were scrubbing and scrubbing.


Cayucos Beach where smelly dead sea creatures attract dogs and convince them to act disgusting.

After that long beach walk and the horror of the Malt’s beach roll, we sat on the motel’s lawn, sipped a couple of canned adult beverages and watched the sunset whilst the newly clean Fuzzbutt explored the landscaping and greeted other motel guests.

Then, it was off to dinner for all three of us.

California law restricts pets to outside eating areas but most of the restaurants in town have large patios, some with ocean views.

When we arrived, Max was given a bowl of water and a pad to sit on under the table. With an infrared propane heater nearby, the outside seating was very comfy. Fish dinner for three!

Later we strolled around the little town, stopped by the cookie store, and then retired expecting to hear barking since all seven motel rooms had at least one dog but we were surprised that the night was silent. Perhaps all the Furballs were exhausted from their beach romps.

The next morning we were up early and departed Cayucos wishing we could have had more time there and promising a return.

Max agreed wholeheartedly. Especially the part about rolling around in the sand and fish guts.


Let’s do it again.

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The Dog from Rancho Cucaracha

Dog on Hearth

Aloha…uh, I mean…Hello and Buenos Dias

Okay, it’s not really called Rancho Cucaracha.

That’s just a name the AJF (Alpha Japanese Female) made up. Max’s new home is really a town called Rancho Cucamonga which, come to think of it, is equally silly sounding.

“Rancho,” as it is called colloquially, is in Southern California, about 60 miles east of the Los Angeles Airport. No ocean views until the next big earthquake. It sits at the base of Mount San Antonio which everybody calls Mount Baldy. At 10,064 feet, Baldy is the highest peak of the San Gabriel Mountains, and the highest point in Los Angeles County, California.

Of late, some folks have taken to calling me Mount Baldy but without the Mount part, but I digress.

If you are of a certain age (and I know which ones of you are) you’ll remember Jack Benny who, from January 1945, had a running gag on his radio program in which Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, pretended to be a station agent who announced repeatedly, “Train now leaving on track five for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga,” drawing out the name of Cuc…amonga longer and longer each time. That schtick is largely the reason there is a Jack Benny Street in Rancho Cucamonga and a bronze statute of the old time comedian is at the local playhouse.

The 1948 cartoon classic Daffy Duck Slept Here also had the wise- cracking, slobberin’  poultry saying the famous Jack Benny lines.  Part of the joke, for the Los Angeles audience, was that no such train route existed, although all three cities do exist.

If you were a 60s freak (and I know which ones of you are) you’ll be pleased to hear that Frank Zappa  did some of his best stuff here in Rancho Cucamonga. But there is no Zappa Street as far as I know.

And who, besides all of you, could forget Jan and Dean’s immortal 1964 paean to senior ladies and their muscle cars, “The Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review and Timing Association.” Well, here ya go…and don’t miss the final tender lyrics: “Go granny, go granny, go granny go!”


Anyway, that’s enough Cucamonga lore for now. Rancho Cucamonga is indeed a funny sounding name for a town but Max calls it “home.” Let me catch you up a bit on the Malt…

Dog on Kitchen Mat

He likes his new home. Except the hardwood floors provide little traction for his mighty paws.

Our move from Hawaii in late November last year went rather smoothly, a result of superb planning and execution on my part sheer dumb luck. We were able to spend the holidays with family which was a delight for all. Initially, we rented a condo so we would have time to explore our new environs and decide where to settle. We expected it would take a while.

However,  we quickly found a little house that met our requirements, made an offer and were new home owners by December 29th.

Max had no problems with the transition from his beloved islands. He flew from Honolulu on Aloha Air Cargo and was delivered to us at midnight on our arrival date, his little cage having been carried across the airline warehouse on the 6-foot prongs of a huge forklift.  Later, he received so many surreptitious treats from everyone on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and New Years that we considered renting that forklift to move His Furriness around.

Dog on Bed

The struggle is real but he tries to cope.

Max settled into his new abode immediately. It’s a modest place but it’s almost 3x the size of our Hawaii condo and…drum roll…it has a fenced backyard and lawn which, to our knowledge, is virgin territory with respect to canine poop. It’s the kind of place a Malt can roll on his back and return covered with green stains and smelling only of grass.

Very close by our home is Central Park which is a lovely spot where we brazenly flaunt the local dog ordinances and let Max run free for as long as he likes which is usually about three minutes.

At Central Park

Max’s other backyard, Central Park with Mount Tom, er, Baldy in the background.

Of course, yours truly got himself a big old BBQ right off the bat and we built a patio and cover so we can enjoy the maximum time outside which is a carry over from our Hawaii days. We have a hot tub, too, that enables us to fully immerse (snorf, snorf) ourselves in the sybaritic California lifestyle, sans Speedo, and thereby assault our new neighbors’ eyeballs.

The Furface found a new veterinarian who was successful in prescribing a new medicine that has made a huge improvement in mitigating the itchies/scratchies which have afflicted the pup since birth. Happy, happy, dog, dog.

Fat Dog

Okay, a lot of this is fur…but some is dog fat. He’s slimmed some since this photo.

Max’s big challenge at the moment is to lose weight. Throughout the moves and new experiences he has been eating a little too well. He has always been a master at extracting treats from everyone and has added a “poor transplanted me” look to enhance his productivity when begging.

The AJF has taken to using a tape measure to check the distance between Fuzzbutt’s belly and the floor and she records the dimension weekly.

Max’s adventures so far have taken him up the California coast to a town that proclaims itself the most dog-friendly place in the State, to visit family in Sacramento, up to Lake Tahoe and along the eastern slope of the Sierra plus many shorter day trips. As in the islands, Max is always on the move, discovering new places to sniff and pee. I hope to report on these and other adventures in future posts.

In closing this post, I need to apologize to all of you for not staying better in touch over these past months. No excuses, and I hope to catch up on what’s happening with each of you. In the meantime, if you are of a mind to follow a gentle little white dog’s exploration of a new home, you know that you are most welcome on the journey.




Posted in The Dog From Rancho Cucaracha | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

Aloha ‘Oe

When I was a kid, my Dad would drag out the famous lines from Lewis Carroll’s poem The Walrus and the Carpenter anytime some matter of importance needed discussion.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings—”

Well, the time has come to speak of some things here on the silly dog blog, too. Not shoes or cabbages.

I am not one to sneak up on a topic or sugar coat news, so I’ll just blurt out that this is likely the final post in the series about Max’s adventures in Hawaii.

Our adventurer.

Our intrepid adventurer says aloha.

However, before I elaborate, let’s talk about Spike Jones.

Spike was born in 1911. He specialized in writing and performing novelty songs, often parodies of famous musical scores and popular tunes. He would take a tender ballad, a moving classical piece or a treasured song and add gunshots, cowbells, slide whistles and all manner of outlandish sound effects. He would also change lyrics with abandon.

Spike and his orchestra – The Musical Depreciation Revue – became quite famous touring post-World War 2 North America. Later, Spike formed a second orchestra which he named “My Other Orchestra.” Actually, over his short career – the booze and ciggies got him at 53 – Spike had lots of bands including “The City Slickers” and “The Band That Plays for Fun.”

But I digress even further than I intended.

I bring up Spike because he recorded a classic parody of the Hawaiian War Chant. After a tender opening verse of “Aloha ‘Oe”, Spike intones the timeless phrase:

“As the sun pulls away from the shore, and our boat sinks slowly in the west…”

OK, before we go much further you need to hear Spike’s version of the Hawaiian War Chant, a parody guaranteed to offend every resident of the 50th State. Give a listen…

By the way, if Spike is unfamiliar to you, do yourself a favor and Google his stuff. It’s old-timey, corny but ultimately very funny material and, trust me, you will waste many happy hours exploring all that he left behind.

In what may be the greatest sentence in all of Wikipedia is this explanation of the impact that Spike had on modern music:

There is a clear line of influence from the Hoosier Hot Shots, Freddie Fisher and his Schnickelfritzers and the Marx Brothers to Spike Jones — and to Stan Freberg, Gerard Hoffnung, Peter Schickele’s P.D.Q. Bach, The Goons, Mr. Bungle, Frank Zappa, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, The Beatles and “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Is that great, or what? The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Who knew?

Let’s get back to the point of this post.

The reason that I say this may be the finale of Max’s Hawaii explorations is that we are moving away from our beloved Hawaii a little later this month. By the time Thanksgiving raises its cholesterol-laden, turkey and stuffing head, we will be residing in…gasp!…California.

“Good heavens, man, are you daft?” they say. Well, maybe, but we prefer to look on our relocation as starting a new phase of our lives. The motivation for the move is simple, unimaginative and very common: as we evolve from elegant seniors into  Old Pharts with a Malt, we find that our family tree has become a pyramid.

Our family tree. It's all about the base.

Our family tree. It’s all about the base.

We sit at the top with no parents or elder relatives. Our siblings have passed and except for the odd cousin (and that adjective was judiciously chosen) there are no peer relationships.

All we have are the kids and grand kids and, as long as we stay in Hawaii, we will never see them with any frequency. Their interests, aspirations and careers have taken them away from the islands and, for them, Hawaii is now a holiday destination, not a place to make home.

Basically we are moving to be closer to, and more involved with, our kids and their kids’ lives. As many of you will appreciate, this face time stuff gets more important as mortality becomes a more immediate issue. So, the move is all for good, even if it comes with very mixed emotions.

I don’t know what to do with this silly dog blog. There over 150 stories here and most of them are about a gentle little white dog who explores his island home. It doesn’t feel quite right to take a turn and have him now explore California, but simply terminating the blog doesn’t seem right either. What to do…what to do?

If you, Dear Readers, have any thoughts on this subject let me know. The next few weeks will be busy ones but I’ll do my best to reply to comments.

Packing and prepping to move is at best a wee black bear of a task and at worst a ferocious Grizzly bear of a task. So we’ll just grin and bear it. Snorf, snorf.

We were fortunate with the sale of our condo: we listed it and had first showings on a Friday. A ton of people showed up. (No, really, they each weighed a ton. It looked like a plus-size sale at WalMart.) We were in escrow at 9:00 a.m. Monday morning.

The sheer number of details involved in a cross-Pacific move is intimidating. It can be stressful. I have found, for example, that all my possessions are really of inconsequential value and we should look to reduce the clutter. Meanwhile, the AJF’s stuff is sacred ground without which we will surely perish in the wilds of California.

My “junk” – her term – can be tossed into cardboard containers with vegetable pictures emblazoned on the side while her “possessions” – her word again – must be gently packed with organic, gluten-free floss plucked by virgin Nepalese monks from free-range hummingbirds’ armpits. Perhaps I overstate the case.

Despite the seemingly overwhelming list of “to-do’s” we know that soon we will be saying goodbye. We’ll be boarding United Airlines while the Poocharoni, after a visit to Miss Nanako at the Beauty Salon for Doggies, will be loaded on Aloha Air Cargo to meet us six hours later on the really big island of North America.

We are also making our final visits to our favorite spots and restaurants, spending time with dear friends of long standing and looking at our home land with a different set of eyes that want to take in, capture and preserve sights that we won’t see again, at least for awhile. I think the AJF’s eyes may have been a bit misty of late.

Paul Theroux said, “Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace.” Thus it shall always be for us. But it is time to once again swirl up our little Nutri-Bullet of a mixed nationality family and say “さよなら” (sayonara). See ya later. Farewell and godspeed. And in the immortal words of Spike Jones, “Wicki wacki woo.”

Or simply, aloha ‘oe.

Thanks for being with us on this silly dog blog and joining the Mighty Furball on his adventures in the 50th State. I count all you fellow dog-lovers as good friends and promise to be a faithful reader of your blogs in days to come.

Me ke aloha pumehana,
Tom, Machiko (the AJF) & Maxwell the Dog

Posted in Max's Stories | Tagged , , , , , , | 43 Comments

No Substitute for the Malt

Fascinating stuff but until it nibbles my ear, turns over for belly rubs and rockets up on the cute meter, I think I’ll stick to my little Furbeast. And…hey!…stop kicking it!

Posted in Max's Stories | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments