Dog Days

By Elizabeth Ferszt, November 2008, Updated February 2015

Earlier this summer, I took my younger son, Jon, out to Los Angeles to visit my older son, and to look at film school. Before we left, we decided to spend a day doing what we normally do: driving around trying to find skate spots, skate parks and/or places to film.

We visited a new skate park north of town. Like most of metro Chicago, it was connected to the lakeshore bike trail, and to an adjacent park, which, as it turned out, was a beach for dogs. A dog park.

Remember P.D. Eastman’s Go Dog Go? (1961). Remember the crazy dog scenes—dogs in cars, dogs in trees, swimming, snoozing, playing? “Do you like my party hat?” “Yes, I do, I do like your party hat!” This was the scene. It was lovely. There is nothing to compare to the sheer aerobic joy of happy dogs—splashing, sandy, chasing all types of rubber toys, their owners as proud as parents of toddlers.

Jon and I smiled, and dove into Lake Michigan, thick with more dogs than people. Our own dog was home with his grandparents, and so we were a bit out of place, but our obvious dog-admiration and dog-affinity allowed us to make new friends within minutes.


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Then, when we arrived in Los Angeles, we met more new dogs, or rather, saw evidence of a dog population. In other words, dog shit. It was everywhere: on the sidewalks; on the little front lawns of apartment buildings; on the street; up and down Runyon canyon, a leash-free zone where dogs can ramble the trails that lead to a semi-spectacular view of smoggy Hollywood and heat-shimmery Century City.

There were no “Pick up after your dog or it’s a $500 fine” signs and no social re-enforcement for doing the right thing about Fido’s public bowel movements. One night while sitting on the steps of my son’s building, I witnessed an older man walking ahead of three unleashed, medium-sized dogs. One stopped to use the neighbor’s grass as a toilet. The man did nothing, pretending not to notice the obvious infraction. However, according to the Los Angeles Animal Services website, under very direct subtitle, “Dog Poop”:

"Dog owners are required to clean up after their dogs when taking them out in public. Failure to do so could lead to stiff fines. Bring a bag when you take your dog for a walk! Section 53.49 of the LAMC."

Later in the week, Jon literally stepped in it, and I of course had a fit. He only had one pair of shoes, and refused to let me buy him a new pair.

While in L.A. we also visited the Getty Center, a temple to the proper application of philanthropy. The Getty is a massive series of hardscapes, gardens, architecture and open space overlooking the Los Angeles valley. There is also a small art collection. But no one goes to the Getty to see paintings. It’s an outside place, perfect for—you guessed it—dogs (and skate boarding). Dogs are not permitted, but visitors can pack a lunch and have a picnic anywhere on the property.

Inside the museum building, if you want to expedite your visit and/or have a teenager like Jon with you, I suggest that you limit yourself to pausing at only the paintings with dogs in them. This strategy will knock out approximately 70 percent of all pictures on display. My daughter and I used this technique—only art with dogs—while at the Louvre, the D’Orsay, the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery in London. This last collection was a challenge, as the Brits love, and paint, their dogs a lot. In fact, there was one room that appeared to be dog-portrait-themed, a kind of canine Romantic period: lustrous-haired hunting dogs with emotional eyes, so beautiful they could be women.

But enough of the colorful part. After missing our dog while we were in Chicago and Los Angeles, and having many conversations about pet ownership practices and other peoples’ dogs, we were finally reunited with our dog, ”old man Buddy,” a Chow/Retriever mix. We then moved into a new condo, and on the morning of our first day, a representative from the condo association paid us a visit. It seemed that we were in violation of condo policy due to the fact that we had a dog. Oh, the irony. Deal breaker. We moved out of the condo within 24 hours. Buddy, above such foolish rejection, sniffed the way out from his shotgun perch in the car.