Dog Days in Topanga

The Canyon ChronicleBy The Canyon Chronicle      August 6, 2021

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Dog Days in Topanga
It’s a classic story: Young boy home with parents doing school on Zoom every day, isolated during a pandemic, longs for a best friend to play with at home.
Leon, a first grader at Topanga Elementary, had just lost his beloved bunny. A suitable amount of time passed and his parents made The Big Decision and started the search for a little dog for him. They found a family who had some Maltipoo puppies. The whole litter looked like Maltipoos… except their dog, who suspiciously, did not look like the others. But they gleefully brought him home and Leon rejoiced at this gangly, adorable, chocolate-and-marshmallow-colored puppy, aptly naming him S’mores. All of us in the neighborhood watched S’mores grow. Daily. It seemed he was getting tall, fast. He could jump and prance like a gazelle. He was very excited about life! Meanwhile, the happiness with Leon seemed to be expanding with every inch S’mores grew. They became like siblings, running, playing tag, cuddling up to watch their favorite shows. S’mores sleeping in his room, the two of them arguing over toys. They even started to look alike. S’mores has grown into his true breed(s) this year, and his family is rejoicing in his non- Maltipoo-ness. He turned out to be Golden Retriever-Poodle, Chocolate Lab-Aussie Shepherd. Recently, the family went on a trip without S’mores. Leon planned an elaborate first birthday party for him, for when they returned, complete with a birthday bone, banner and party hats. While they had a great time, Leon says he doesn’t want to go on vacation again if S’mores can’t come with them. I’m guessing some road trips are in their future! However kids look back on this insane period of time, I know that the mutual love and adventures with S’mores will be a stand-out memory for Leon. —Kelly Radinsky
Neo’s lineage is long and mixed, which leads to multiple talents that kept this family living, loving and being unconditionally loved during the pandemic lockdown.
This was no Maltipoo. But we had driven all the way out to San Bernardino, to the animal rescue to get our eight-week-old puppy and we weren’t going to leave without our little bundle of… whatever he was!

The first moment I saw Neo, he had climbed out along a four-inch-wide ledge that attached to the trailer home way off the ground and watched him back up all the way to safety. Who was this black masked, brave little mutt with the insane balance? And what were we in for?

Our beloved pooch Molly, had passed away at 18, leaving our whole family and our other sweet dog Mikey, with a gaping hole in our hearts. Our kids had been with Molly, basically their entire lives. Two months later, this little guy was found with the whole litter of puppies in the street, in a dusty hot neighborhood in the desert.

We brought Neo home and he brought with him a hilarity, love and never-ending energy that would ultimately, like his namesake in The Matrix, be The One to save us.

Right before the world shut down, he was a celebrity magnate about town. A couple of Kardashian sisters and their kids were cooing over him at the Farmer’s Market; “What is he?! He’s so soft!” At Topanga Living Cafe, a certain famous British actress had to hold and cuddle him. Bros on the beach, watching Neo proudly carry a stick six times his size, offered up big bucks for him (not on your life!)

We had no idea that we would soon be in a pandemic, be on lockdown, all stuck together under one roof, putting the kids’ college and independent living plans on a giant, indefinite hold. Like other families all over the globe, we desperately needed levity in the face of uncertainty and global collapse!

We seriously locked down. But this little Poodle/Terrier/Chihuahua/Dachshund/Aussie— again, not the advertised Maltipoo!—with an epic overbite, maniacal eyebrows and extra-long tongue was here to lighten up our lives! He immediately was taught to beg, roll over, and all the cool tricks. But fetching is his lifeblood. He wants to fetch from sunup to sundown and will do it in a variety of ways, with each family member.

Our son, Jackie, has unspoken commands that look like he’s conducting an orchestra. Neo raptly pays attention to the minutia and athletically, joyfully, performs these tricks before he fetches. Their psychic connection is a marvel.

With our daughter, Sadie, being at home playing with, kissing and cuddling this little wide-eyed wonder-dog, while doing her first year of college on Zoom, fed her soul and made her constantly laugh. My husband, Adam, just had to buy hollow plastic bowling pins and set them up at the end of the kitchen so when Neo slides across the length of the kitchen during fetch, he would slide into them and get a strike! (Too bad I didn’t press record on my phone, for that one.)

For me, he’s my forever baby, that will never leave home. Even our poodle, Mikey, got revitalized. He’s getting old, but not only do they romp and wrestle daily, Neo has become his seeing and hearing guide, as well as a best friend.

Our family trips to the beach with Neo with his staggering hours of chasing the ball at warp speed and digging holes to bury his long muzzle into, gave our bodies and souls a respite during a long pandemic. It was our only activity outside the house and getting into the fresh air and laughing was all due to him. He was and is the unifying force. We can all agree that we have the absolute best, funniest dog on the planet, and we are each the most loved and cherished person, Neo.

—Kelly Radinsky
Let’s Get Together and Be Alright
Eddie Tumm is a fixture in the Skyline/Old Canyon neighborhoods as he makes his rounds wrangling four or five dogs. Now, the landlord wants to sell and Eddie and his family must move. A friend, Matt Leising, who calls him a “beloved dog walker and all around great guy,” has created a Gofundme account with a goal of $10,000 to help Eddie move on and re-establish himself and the family.

“Anyone who knows him knows his infectious enthusiasm, his big heart and his care for animals and dogs,” Leising says in his quest for donations. “It won’t be the same in Old Canyon without Eddie, but maybe we can band together to make this new phase of Eddie’s life easier. Can you donate what you’re able to help a great guy who will be sorely missed? Thank you!”

To donate:
Happy Chaya in her new home.
Chaya, Best Friend Forever
Chapis charmed me. The scruffy dog with the sway back and spunky mohawk won my heart the first time I met her. I knelt down on the deck of Pat’s Topanga Grill (now Cafe on 27) and looked into the intelligent eyes of a ‘rescue,’ who had been chained to a tree, and now needed a BFF.

A new name would give us a fresh start. One that sounded familiar to her and evoked better associations than waxy lip balm for me. I thought of a favorite restaurant—Chaya Venice on Navy Street. Chaya...Chapis...Chaya. I liked it. So did she.

I learned that inside Chaya’s fearful exterior was a playful spirit. The dark rings under her eyes faded, as she scratched her back on grassy ball fields and ran full out at the beach. She loved a snuggle, especially when she woke in the morning and after her afternoon nap. I found out that she loved cross-country road trips as much as sprints to the top of our street.

Ten years later, still curious and playful, she sprints, hears, and sees less. She needs my guidance more, teaching me about deep tenderness. When she pees in my bed or sits and stares at the wall...these times have become...just life...not a nuisance or annoyance. I face many fragile and happy moments with this dog -shaped being. How lucky I feel to be her human. How lucky to be her best friend.

—Kim Zanti
A Vigil for Buddy P. Waggoner
It’s been years since I brought up memories of one of our best family dogs, good old Buddy P. Waggoner. When my younger brother and I first met him, he was just a golden, rolypoly pup sitting in a shopping basket one evening in front of a grocery store. We were buying food for the family and came upon this cart with a sign saying “Free Puppies” and one hot and thirsty pup was the last one left. The woman told us he was a Shepherd/Lab and we took him. Wouldn’t our mother be surprised when we arrived home with groceries, puppy food, puppy toys and a squealing new pup! Before we could get him inside, he met our tuxedo cat, Timothy Ponsonby Jones. When he saw the cat, our new pup howled in terror.

“Whatever you have out there, get rid of it,” Mother shouted from inside the house. “I don’t even want to know what it is!”

We weren’t concerned; we always had many cats, dogs, horses, and goats, so we were confident our pup would become part of the family. Our mother soon came around and named him Buddy. She pretty much raised him herself and cuddled him when she watched TV.

Buddy and Timothy Ponsonby Jones also became friends and started the nightly floor show wrestling with each other in the middle of the living room. For years they were inseparable and played even though Buddy outweighed the cat by 90 pounds. It was then that our pup’s full name came to us—Budford P. Waggoner. Waggoner was obvious: we always thought his butt would fly off every time he wagged his tail! And the P? Well, Buddy reserved part of his pee time for my older brother’s leather cowboy boots every time he greeted him!

Buddy eventually became ambassador for the other dogs we adopted—Fluffy, our shepherd/terrier, and Lady Di, a gorgeous Great Dane. One day, an escaped Golden Retriever showed up in our back yard but before we could find the Golden’s real home, he had taught Buddy how to jump the driveway gate.

After that, Buddy never stopped running off and having adventures but would come back at night. Folks told us to tie him to a truck tire to pull around, but he would still jump the gate and leave his empty collar dangling on one end of the line, with the tire on the other side. He would come back a few hours later and jump back into the yard.

Later, when our family moved to a house on five unfenced acres in Canyon Country, Buddy took to wandering the hills to sniff out coyotes with Fluffy and Lady. Each night I would walk up the quiet dirt road with our pack of three, picking up other neighborhood dogs who joined us along the way. Walking back, the neighborhood dogs returned to their own homes and I was left with my three dogs as we walked up the long driveway to the house.

Life was good until the rainy winter of 1992 when we thought the entire world would wash away. After a particularly stormy night I woke up at dawn to find that Buddy was not at home. Hearing barking and whining, I looked outside to see that there were about a dozen dogs sitting on the driveway, including the black Lab.

I wondered why they were at our house and set about to find Buddy. We called shelters and every neighbor we knew. Four days passed. Then came a call from the Palmdale animal shelter who said they had picked up a dead Lab-type dog on Sierra Highway who had been hit by a car. They had a blue collar that read “Buddy” with our phone number.

It was then we knew. All the dogs in the neighborhood had gathered to hold a vigil letting us know that our little golden Buddy pup was never coming home.

—Annemarie Donkin
The Canyon Chronicle

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