Doggy Doctor

Veterinary Cancer Group, Culver City. June 2016

We were here last year with our cat, Dudley. He developed a limp that wouldn’t go away. At first our regular vet, Dr. Dean thought it was tendonitis and treated him for it. It got better and then came back. At one point he could barely put any weight on his right front paw. After some expensive X-rays, Dr. D noticed an anomaly at the top of Dudley’s humerus, the upper arm bone. His preliminary diagnosis – bone cancer. It had turned the top of his bone where it meets the shoulder into a spongy looking mass with a chip of bone floating in the joint. He recommended us to the VCG for a more detailed opinion.

Sure enough, Dr. Pierro confirmed the diagnosis. The treatment? Amputation of the entire arm. Drastic, sure, but there wasn’t a choice. Expensive? You bet. We started a You Caring fundraiser for him, and sure were overwhelmed by the generosity and compassion of friends, family, and surprisingly total strangers who contributed to his surgery. (If you want to donate, just click the You Caring link. It’s still active.) It was traumatic for all of us, but Dudley pulled through, and amazingly, doesn’t seem the worse for it. He still leaps onto the roof of our house, jumps onto the 6-foot high wall, and roams the neighborhood just as before.


It was traumatic for all of us, but Dudley pulled through, and amazingly, doesn’t seem the worse for it. He still leaps onto the roof of our house, jumps onto the 6-foot high wall, and roams the neighborhood just as before. The one thing he can’t do is climb trees, or scoop his food out of his bowl with his paw as he used to do. But for a tri-pawd, he gets around pretty darn well.

The VCG is a wonderful place. All the folks who work there are caring and compassionate. The waiting room is spacious, clean, and modern. I don’t know what the person and her companion in the photo were waiting for but I’m sure they were well taken care of.


Doctor Dean

Culver City Animal Hospital, Culver City. November 2014

Through no desire of our own, we are home to three cats. A mother and two sons. One December afternoon, five years ago, the mother, a small black cat, showed up on our back deck meowing ferociously. We lasted three days before capitulating and letting her in. Somehow, she had chosen us as her new family. We named her Lola. The night before we were going to take her to be spayed, she disappeared and returned three days later pregnant. Two months later, she gave birth to a litter of 4 kittens in our bedroom closet.

We were able to find homes for two of them, but as they grew out of kittenhood, and couldn’t find anyone who wanted an adolescent cat, we discovered we had created a cat family, mother and two sons. The Katzes. From zero to three in just under five months.

Barbarians at the gate. 
Dudley, Fabio and Lola (L-R).

This is our vet, Dr. Dean’s waiting room. We were there getting regular shots for two of the three Katzes. T met him through her orchid society. She grows the most beautiful cymbidiums, cattleya, and dendrobium orchids in our back yard. For a time, she went to regular meetings where she met Dr. Dean. He is a caring and knowledgeable vet, and he takes care of our Katzes with compassion and skill. If you need a good vet in Culver City, let me know and I’ll pass on his info.


Howard Industries

Howard Industries, Culver City. June 2014

Howard is a huge HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) supplier. They also have innumerable replacement parts, tools, and supplies for that industry. I was there getting a new thermocouple for our 30 year-old gas wall heater. The thermocouple, also called a pilot generator, is a little gizmo that sits in the flame of the pilot light in your furnace or heater and tells the main valve it is okay to open. If the pilot goes out, the main valve won’t open so you don’t die of asphyxiation or your house doesn’t accidentally blow up. Ours goes bad every 6 or 7 years and the pilot won’t stay lit. I have to trek to Culver City and take my place on one of these stools while I wait for my number to be called.

Our heaters are so old that they no longer manufacture the size of generator I need, but Howard, having been in business for so long, has a box full of the correct ones buried in the dim reaches of their warehouse. The last time I was there, I bought three of them just in case. Cheaper than having to replace the entire heater.

Down to the Car Wash (Bomp-dee-bomp-dee-bomp)

20 years ago, one of my neighbors initiated a campaign to plant street trees in our neighborhood. He chose a variety that spits tiny droplets of sap, dead leaves, and twigs throughout the year, and a multitude of little yellow flowers during the spring. I can usually wait about a month or so before our cars are too disgusting to stand, so it’s down to the car wash. This collage includes 4 different establishments. The one with the two dogs waiting for their car was my go-to when I worked in Santa Monica. I could stop on my way in, get a quick once over and still get there by 9. Now, my regular hookup is Handy J’s at the intersection of Washington Blvd. and Washington Place.

When you bring your car in for cleaning, you fully expect to wait, and these four places have similar but different vibes in their areas. Handy J’s has an outdoor barbecue restaurant on the corner owned by the same folks that run HJ’s. They grill on a large charcoal barbecue and the smell of tri-tip and ribs wafts across the lot, borne on the perpetual on-shore air from the ocean to the west. Santa Monica has free wi-fi, little bistro tables, and if you are hungry, a McDonald’s right across the street. Millennium is one block away and in a pinch I might go there, but HJ’s does a better job and I get coupons. Now that we all have our mobile phones, it doesn’t much matter where we are, we are always in our own little worlds. In years past, you might strike up a conversation with your fellow waiter, but there isn’t much conversation anymore; we are all too busy peering at our 5-inch screens.

Quality Tire and Brake

Finding a good auto mechanic is a blessing. We discovered Isaac at Quality Tire in Culver City through our synagogue, The Marina Shul. He is Israeli, a fast talker and honest. He doesn’t actually do the work, but he has a couple of great mechanics who know their stuff. He has been servicing our autos for more than five years now, and always gives us a fair price and stands by his work. The irony is that he doesn’t sell many tires in spite of the name. Nearby Costco has a better selection and cheaper, and in fact, he usually recommends his customers go there. He’ll do the alignment once your car has its new shoes.

There is a curious bleakness about all automotive service waiting areas, and Isaac’s is no exception. It is unique in that is it an expression of his personality, with posters of Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Clint Eastwood, and the Beatles adorning the walls, and stacks of National Geographic, Rolling Stone, and Business magazines piled on the credenza. The TV is always tuned to an Israeli news station, an old movie or a soccer game. The couches are vastly uncomfortable, but if I come at lunch time, he will order a Pitfire pizza and a salad for me from across the street. Come on Friday afternoon, and there might be a little shot of tequila or arak on offer. He is within walking distance from my house, and I have made the trip on foot many times, although he will drive me home if I wish. All in all, a very satisfactory place to take our cars to be fixed.