Friday, September 19, 2014

The Life and Times of Paul the Dog

One of the earliest photos of Paul, July 2002.

It is with tremendous heaviness of heart that I return to the blog to announce the passing of my beloved dog, Paul. Paul passed on Monday, January 27th of this year. At the time, my life was in a bit of a pressure cooker in many ways - personally, professionally, and otherwise, and it was all I could do to just hang on and deal with things one day at a time. I couldn't bear the thought of a big public announcement, either on the blog here, or on Facebook, where he has had a lot of fans over the years. I imagined an outpouring of well wishes and sympathy that seemed like it would crush or drown me, well-intentioned though I knew such an outpouring would be. At the same time I was counseled by a friend, that "sometimes grief needs privacy." So I gathered all the photos I knew I would want to use for this post when I was eventually ready, and then let it go and moved on in my own way.

Paul was the original Parson Architecture Spokesdog™, and with his passing I felt like I had lost part of my own voice.

So now it is nearly 8 months later, and I finally feel like I have sufficient distance, and I'm ready to pay proper tribute to Paul Baby, who was my loyal and stalwart companion since June 26, 2002, the day I brought him home from the Beagles and Buddies Rescue.
I had gone to Beagles and Buddies to look at dogs, thinking vaguely that I wanted a dog that was somewhat hound-ish. They had some cool looking dogs on their website and that was as much research as I had really done at that point. Nearly every single place I had lived in L.A. had been burglarized over the years, and now that I finally owned a house, I wanted a dog. It turned out that B+B was mostly full of overweight, geriatric beagles, which were nothing at all what I had in mind. They were all paired off in chain-link kennels lined up one after the other and I remember it being somewhat unpleasant.

Then there was this kind of interesting white youngish dog with the brown ears that looked completely out of place. He looked promising but I wasn't quite sure, and kept moving down the aisle. Then I looked back and saw the young couple behind me coming up the row stopped and they were pointing and looking at Paul (Gambler, actually. His rescue name was Gambler.)That did it. I wasn't about to have the one promising dog absconded with by someone else at that point. I don't know why I was suddenly so motivated. Kind of like in an auction, where the bidding action can make you want something more than you would have otherwise. I hurried through the rest of the maze of chain link and snapping snarling old things and told someone who worked there that I wanted to see Gambler out of his pen and check him out.

I really don't remember the rest of the details too much, except that once I committed to taking him, they had to bathe him. I remember it being the case that there was some kind of requirement for this, and that it seemed transparently obvious to me that they had done little more than hose him down and dry him off somewhat. He certainly didn't smell particularly clean after the "bath", as I recall the events of the day.

Then there was the question of what I would name him. I had debated this for some time. I have always preferred human-names for pets and had contemplated the name Paul. It always seemed utterly ridiculous to me that someone would have a dog named Paul. As a name for a dog, it was the most antithetical name to a pet-name I could come up with. Far too absurd to actually work as a dog's name. We made our way to my car, got ready to head home, and there he was on the seat next to me. And I looked down, and said, kind of half-timidly, "Paul?" And he looked up at me. And it stuck, and that was that.

The Early Years

Mom came to visit me soon after Paul came home with me that day. She actually arrived on July 4, 2002, which was the day of the El Al shooting at LAX. Mom's plane had landed ok, but I remember the airport was essentially closed by the time I arrived, and people were just walking around outside the terminals in the road and all around, just trying to find each other and get out of there. There was no panic at that point or anything, but it was a huge mess. We somehow found each other and got home. Back then I lived next door to where I am now, so the early photos are all of that house.  Also, a lot of these are scanned from actual film pictures! Imagine such a thing! These are from the roll that Mom shot while she was here.

Paul and me in the kitchen at my old house, July 2002.

Us on the front porch, July 2002.

In the back yard, July 2002. 
I got him the bunny at the St. Vincent's thrift store.

Mom and Paul in the back yard, July 2002.

Also, by my memory of things, it was Mom on that trip who first coined the nickname Paul Baby.

Front yard, circa 2003 

 On the bed, circa 2005
 In the back yard with the crocosmia, circa 2004-5

Paul being cute, circa 2004

Paul + Todd

There were a few housebreaking issues at first but they were resolved and things with Paul worked out better than I could have ever imagined. We bonded and I came to realize what is meant by the expression "dog is man's best friend." In late 2003, my neighbor Reyna offered to sell me her duplex next door. I was looking to invest in a rental property and she knew it, and she was moving to Texas with her small son to be closer to her family there. I jumped at the chance and we worked out the deal. Around the same time, a friend of some friends of mine found a mother dog and her pup on the street. I decided to rescue the puppy and bring him home with Paul and me to the new house (I moved into the smaller unit of the duplex and rented out the larger front unit as well as my original house where it all started). 

Anyway, the duo of Paul and Todd, or P+T, became a thing. And they were so good at the "Sit Stay" training which we practiced with treats, that they also got good at posing for pictures. Thus the occupation of Spokesdog™ was created. Around that time I was welding up a storm and making lots of stuff in my garage, and they were often photographed displaying the goods.

The classic portrait of P+T, Sept 2005 

Todd used to sit on Paul like he was a chair.
(Please excuse the unmade bed!)

Photo with my motorcycle, hanging out in the driveway
while I was working in the shop.

Look at that grin on Paul!

Hanging out  in the front yard. 
(Sometimes when I entertain I move some of the
living room furniture out into the front yard.)

Spokesdogs™ in action!  Don't they look completely
disinterested in the product, just like glamorous models?!?

The Great Tennessee Road Trip

Things went along pretty steadily for the next several years. In 2006 I sold the rental house I had started in, and around that time I also moved into the larger front unit of the duplex. I remodeled the back apartment, which it desperately needed, and my sister Allison moved in there for a while and was part of the scene.

At the end of 2009, I got the opportunity to design the Tennessee House. As the construction got underway in late June of 2010, it became clear that I needed to be there in person for an extended period of time. I packed the car, piled the dogboys inside, and we were off on a great adventure that would last 10 weeks.

Paul Baby the copilot.

Paul sees his first large animals in Texas.

Paul was always visibly distressed and/or guilty whenever Todd misbehaved. It was quite endearing. At one gas/rest break on the long drive from Los Angeles to East Tennessee, I came back to the car from using the gas station rest room to find Todd in the driver's seat, and Paul clearly not liking this new development. This was the scene:

Look at the difference in demeanor on these two!

I opened the driver's side door and pushed Todd over into the passenger seat, much to Paul's delight:

Order has been restored!

The other big highlight of the drive to TN was our stop at the Parthenon in Nashville. The best payoff ever from all that sit-stay Spokesdog™ training! This will always be one of my favorite photos of all time ever in the whole world.

The site of the Tennessee House was a 26-acre farm, with horses, donkeys, Stella the mule (who sadly passed away while we were there) a couple of other dogs, and lots of farm stuff going on. There were lots of farm adventures to be had:

Playing chase with Mercedes the farm dog.

P+T out by the barn in the early morning pre-dawn mist.

The dogboys got to chew on hoof trimmings
the day the farrier came.

Paul got to chew on corncobs too. Yum!

Poor Paul Baby also hurt his foot!
The nice country vet patched him up.

Along with the farm adventures, there were architectural adventures and Spokesdog™ duties to attend to.

Spokesdog™ on the scene!

P+T on the mezzenine.

Paul Baby being cute.

Inspecting my metalworking.

Eventually our time there came to an end, sometime around the end of October. The house was finished up by the end of the year, and I went back one last time at the end of January to photograph it and go through the punch list with the owners and contractor. It was weird being there without the dogboys. It really had been an amazing adventure, and if you want to read all about it, you can start here.

Hikes and Other Outings

Back at home in L.A., things settled back into a routine again, but mini-adventures are always nearby when you want to find them.

We used to go visit my cousin Ed, when he still lived in San Diego. The dog beach at Ocean Beach in San Diego was a favorite of ours, although I don't have any pictures from there. P+T liked Ed and always enjoyed going down there to visit. At Christmastime 2011 we went down and Paul donned a Santa hat for the occasion.

Paul doing his typical thing in the car.

We hiked often, either in the Arroyo Seco Park, or Griffith Park, or just around town.

Goofing around on one of the horse troughs at Griffith Park.

Under the concrete bridges at the Arroyo. 

Splashing around at the Arroyo.

Further splashing at the Arroyo.

Pretty sure this was from the day we went
hiking in Alta Dena with Troy.

Taken on the Summer Solstice in 2011, at Echo Park lake.
We didn't know we would lose Todd only a few months later.

Life with Daisy

In early October of 2011, Todd was diagnosed with cancer. That happened the same week that Steve Jobs died, and it was also my birthday week. That was also right around the time I started dating Eric, which is now the preferred event to be remembered from that particular Fall. Todd passed away about a month later, and you can read all about that, here.

I guess I was so accustomed to having two dogs that it seemed natural that I would rescue another dog. Right before the end of the year, I made a couple trips to the local City of L.A. pound (the one on Lacy Street) and looked at dogs. On New Year's Eve, Daisy came home with me, and you can read all about that, here.

In hindsight, I have to be honest and say that I wish I had let Paul Baby live out his final years in peace. Daisy was very rowdy, and Paul was turning into an old man by then, and he never really took much of a liking to her.

Even so, we did all have some good times together in his final years.

Daisy's first visit to the vet, for her first checkup.
Look at Paul's evil grin!

On a splashy hike in the Arroyo.

aka Mr. Booby

Paul had another side to him, which I can really only describe as the equivalent of what would have been his stage persona if he had a lounge act. (Which, considering his frequent appearances and large fan base on Facebook and, later, Instagram, is not all that far fetched.) In point of fact, his vocal stylings were somewhat legendary.

I'll leave you with a compilation video of some of Mr. Booby's finer moments from the early days in 2003 all the way through his last weeks, when his spirits were still high.

Requiescat in pace, dear Paul Baby. 

You will live in my heart forever, and I will miss you all my days.

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