Ghetto Elk (#144)

My husband talked me into a dog. A super social dog named Woofie. We loved him, but he kept running off to make new friends.

Which was how Andy talked me into a second dog. He picked another rescue, a female found wandering on the street of South Central Los Angeles when she was about four months old. We met her at an adoption fair on Sunday, signed papers, and waited another two days for a volunteer to deliver her after we cleared a background check.

My neighbor, an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department, was skeptical when I told him our new rescue’s history. “Why didn’t you get a purebred? One where you know where the dog has been and what kind of breed it is?”

“Like your German Shepherd?”


“Well, the rescue group did a temperament test on her, and they say she’s great with other dogs and cats. We even watched her playing with a buddy.”

“Yeah, but she’s a ghetto elk!”

“A what?”

“That’s what we call ‘em, the dogs in South Central and Compton. It’s a big problem. People there don’t spay or neuter, and all these dogs run loose, scavenge for trash, get in fights, and grow up wild and aggressive.”

“All the more reason to get one more off the streets, spayed, and give her a good home.”

Mr. LAPD snorted. “You can try. I had a friend who adopted a ghetto elk, but that dog jumped or climbed every fence every day and went off to roam the streets and pick fights with other dogs. You can take the dog out of the ghetto, but the dog’ll always be a ghetto elk.”

I bit my tongue before I could say, “Well, if your friend walked his ghetto elk as much as you walk your German Shepherd – which is NEVER – it’s no wonder the poor dog had to find his own entertainment and exercise.”

Biting your tongue is the key to staying on good terms with your neighbors. Especially your armed neighbors.

So all I said was, “I guess we’ll see.”

And then I pretended like I wasn’t worried that Mr. LAPD might be right.


When our new rescue girl arrived, she was still so skinny we could see her ribs. Her first day at our house she ate at least five bowls of food.

We tested her with Woofie. He pranced and wrestled with her immediately. When she ignored him to eat, he whined. He poked her with his nose until she bared her teeth and made an ugly face at him. He backed off for about 10 seconds. He poked again until I dragged him away.

We brought her inside to test her with the cats. Bat Cat came to investigate — and froze when she spotted this second canine intruder. She shot me a look that promised 2 AM hairball retribution before bolting down the hall. The newcomer ran after Bat Cat.

So much for the rescue group’s promise that she was “fine with cats!”

Bat Cat made a hard right at the end of the hallway, into the bedroom.

The new dog, unused to hardwood floors, failed to replicate Bat Cat’s turn. She crashed into the linen cupboard at the end of the hall. Her face scrunched up into a wince as she hit. When Commando Cat appeared, she looked away instantly.

Huh. Maybe the rescue was right.

Or maybe pain was a powerful deterrent.

I tested her on a walk. She was awful, alternately pulling and then stopping to sniff at everything. The dog had no concept of walking next to a human. And when she saw a trash can? She dragged me over to it, found a discarded chicken drumstick, and tried to gulp it down. I had to yank open her jaws, shove my hand into her mouth, and pull it out. (For those without pets, cooked chicken bones get rubbery – they compress when cats or dogs chew on them, but can spring back into shape and block an animal’s throat when swallowed.)

When I tried to walk both dogs together, hitched with a coupling device, I looked like a drunken jet-skier, going in circles, helpless to control all the horsepower.

I had to walk the dogs separately. Woofie, furious over his abandonment, promptly dug up Andy’s cucumbers and ate them.

Andy took it better than I did. “It’s okay. She’s never been in a home or on a walk. She’ll learn. But put Woofie in the house next time you walk her alone.”

I did. Woofie spitefully eviscerated two throw pillows.

Andy shrugged off the casualties. “No big deal. He’ll have to go in the crate when we leave.”

“Easy for you to say. You never liked my throw pillows.” Then I asked Andy, “What are we going to call her?”

“What? You don’t already have a name picked out?”

“I like to make you feel like you have input.”

“Well, I kind of like the name—”

“Her name should be Yang Guifui!” I interrupted. “Because she’s part Chinese Shar-pei and she’s got eyes that look like a courtesan’s!”

“But you always keep telling me how Yang Guifui was only considered the most beautiful courtesan in China because she was so fat and our girl is so skinny!”

“But we want her to get fat, right? As fat as her namesake! Well, maybe not that fat.”

Andy rolled his eyes at me. “Fine. But I’m calling her Fey.”

I rolled my eyes back. “I can’t believe you just Americanized her name. WHERE is your cultural sensitivity?!”

I’m sure Andy would have chucked a pillow at me then, if Woofie hadn’t eaten it.

Fey came with other issues. Her little Shar-pei ears were prone to infections. We spent hundreds of dollars at the vet before we found a homemade ear wash that worked if applied regularly.

Fey was allergic to both dust and orange trees. Since dust and orange trees are ubiquitous in SoCal, she had allergy shots. Expensive allergy shots from the expensive doggy dermatologist that was not local (cue expensive gas).

Fey with her blue-black tongue, splinted foot and cone of shame.
Fey with her blue-black tongue, splinted foot and cone of shame.

Early malnourishment had taken its toll on Fey’s bones. She broke a toe soon after we got her. Then she broke several splints for her broken toe. The exasperated vet told us to keep her crated and charged us a nuisance fee (or three).

Fey’s vet bills were now thousands of dollars.

But our biggest problem was housebreaking Fey. She never passed up an opportunity to pee or poop…even inside. We only had space for one giant dog crate, and when we left, we had a choice – we could put Woofie in the crate and save the pillows and furniture, or put Fey in the crate and save the rugs. (If we left them outside, Andy’s garden suffered serious plundering.)

After one particularly bad episode, Mr. LAPD spotted me carrying in the rented carpet cleaner and smiled knowingly. “I hear those ghetto elks are hard to housebreak.”

I reminded myself that Mr. LAPD was never unarmed — he once showed a special lightweight pistol he bought to go with his shorts — and only said, “Yep. But she’ll get it eventually.”

And she did. With plenty of edible motivation, Fey learned to use the same special doggie toilet area as Woofie in the dog run. She walked better on a leash than Woofie, especially once her idiot owner figured out that each dog should walk on a separate leash on either side of the human.  Fey’s toe healed, her allergies subsided, and one of our greatest joys was watching Fey and Woofie wrestle in the yard.

Snuggles! So much for no dogs on the furniture.

While Fey was happy to play with Woofie, she would break off tug-o-war immediately if she caught the scent of a mortal enemy such as the street sweeper. Then Fey raced from corner to corner, warning off skateboarders, garbage trucks, and other dogs with her ferocious, deep barking. She preferred to spend her days outside, guarding her yard and only coming inside only when it got dark. Then, of course, she would hop on the couch and snuggle with Andy.

Once Fey was trained, I usually left her outside and Woofie inside when we were gone. Fey was too busy guarding to dig holes unless Woofie egged her on.

One afternoon, I returned to a strange sight. Fey was on her dog bed, snoozing in the sun, but there were multiple metal casings around the patio between the detached garage and the backdoor. Each one was several inches long.

As I collected and puzzled over them, Mr. LAPD opened a window next door.

He called out over the fence, “Hey, there were some guys in your yard earlier. They looked like official Gas Company people, with fluorescent vests and stuff, but Fey was barking her head off at them. She wouldn’t let them near the house or the garage. And then I saw one of them start throwing stuff at her, and I thought, huh, maybe those guys aren’t official after all, but by the time I got outside, they’d driven off in their truck. Was anyone supposed to come to check the gas meter?”

Aghast, I yelled back, “Of course not, that’s just what thieves want you to think! They put on a vest, no one thinks twice about seeing them go into a backyard, and then they break a window or force open a door where no one can see them and rob you! You’re LAPD, shouldn’t you know this?!”

“Well, I mostly deal with shootings,” Mr. LAPD mumbled. He closed the window and disappeared.

I checked Fey. Her thick fur must have protected her, because there were neither bruises nor swelling. Then I called the local police. Sure enough, there was a gang that had hit our neighborhood recently using the same backyard entry. The police came out, interviewed me, and collected the casings. When I told one officer what Mr. LAPD had seen, she said, “Yeah, we already talked to him.”

“How could he not know immediately that it was an attempted burglary, for crying out loud?”

She sighed, but only said, “Ah, the LAPD.”

When Andy got home and heard the news, he made Fey a special meal of chicken livers. As they were cooking, Andy grumbled, “What’s the use of living by all the firepower next door if Mr. LAPD can’t even figure out when a crime is happening?”

“Well, we don’t need Mr. LAPD or his twenty guns. We have Fey.” I petted Fey’s face while she thumped her tail. “And she stood her ground, and she held those burglars at bay, even when they threw stuff at her!”

That day, Fey the Fierce earned back all her vet bills and more.

The backyard burglary gang robbed several more houses in our area. They tasered one poor Labrador retriever and got past another dog by feeding him an entire barbecued chicken. As far as I know, they haven’t been caught.

But they haven’t been back to our house.

Mr. LAPD has since been promoted to Lieutenant LAPD.

His truck got broken into while sitting in his driveway one night. Lieutenant LAPD’s purebred German Shepherd never noticed as the thieves made off with firearms and valuables.

Too bad he didn’t have a ghetto elk like Fey.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

35 thoughts on “Ghetto Elk (#144)”

  1. OMG! I’m spitting coffee all over my monitor! Love that girl! My kinda dog! Street smart and pretty too. If she was a courtesan, she’s be top class and no one would leave her boudoir with money! Kudos to you too for your patience. Too often people don’t invest the time and money in ghetto elks. They are worth every penny (and the occasional throw pillow or cucumber). BTW the most neurotic dogs are the purebreds. Perhaps Lt. LAPD doesn’t know that. Can I assume that the dogs and cats at least have a truce? Love the picture of Andy. Looks like he has eye issues…. 🙂

    1. You made me laugh about the eyes. Andy actually had a black eye in that picture — I can’t remember why, but probably Woofie’s head — so I was glad I had to fuzz it out for privacy reasons. 🙂

      Fey and the cats ignored each other from that day on. Woofie stopped trying to play with the cats once Fey arrived. Mostly.

      Yeah, the housebreaking took a lot of patience — there was one night when there was so much pop on our rug that Andy couldn’t clean it up without kneeling in other poop (hidden by the rug’s dark pattern) and I thought he was going to lose it. My laughter PROBABLY didn’t help.

  2. Mr. LAPD sounds like a real competent person who would also love some nice huge wall in the south of the USA… 😀
    I think you should take in my mother-in-laws dogs as they are…well untrained, they pee and poop everywhere and have been living at that household for 7 years. MIL surely knows how to take her of her pets 🙁

    1. Oh, that is unpleasant, for sure. 🙁 Hopefully they don’t bite anyone and have very small teeth?

      Mr. LAPD isn’t nearly as bad as some cops, actually. We both agreed that George Zimmerman should have been found guilty of murder for shooting Trayvon Martin, which surprised me.

      1. They are vampire dogs…they are small with tiny sharp teeth and they love to bite others 🙁
        Very surprising sbout mr.lapd regarding Zimmerman. I remember that there was also once again the issue with the whole stand your ground law thingy. Sure we got it in Germany as well but nothing really ever happens as there are so few firearms around here. From recent time I can think only of one happening a couple of years ago when a man shot one of two robbers and he got surely into trouble as they were in fact running away after seeing him with a rifle.

        1. Yeah, well, with the advent of cell phone cameras, we see a lot of men fleeing the police getting gunned down in the back. They get pissed off when they have to chase people. Especially black people. 🙁

          But not many are successfully prosecuted.

  3. That is disturbing to know that there are hungry thieves around the area. But good to know that Fey stepped up to the plate. Being a ghetto elk and on the streets, she sure has streets smarts. Wouldn’t surprised me if she dodged the flying metal casings with gusto.

    Your LAPD neighbour…well, karma came round I suppose 🙂

    1. I think maybe Fey was so focused on guarding that she never felt a thing. Probably they were seeing if they could intimidate her, but she had a job to do. Working girl, you know. 🙂

  4. Well, she earned her vet bills and also her food! What a brave dog!

    If it was Nico… she would have eaten that roasted chicken, and then go check if the thieves would pet her.

  5. As per usual, another amazing post that absolutely made my day! 😀 Mr LAPD sounds like almost every single police officer here- they don’t care and if a crime happens right in front of them, they would probably not even notice. Fey sounds like such a sweetheart! I can imagine her being friends with my cat, Schatzi. He’s a tabby cat who believes he is a dog. There were a couple of break-ins in my apartment block when we got him, and at the time, I had a dog who would run to the door and growl. Schatzi somehow developed that habit. My dog got old, really old, and passed away last September, but Schatzi still acts like a dog. If he hears unfamiliar footsteps or voices, he runs to the door and growls. And if I try going near the door, he arches his back up, as if he is indicating that I best stay back. Animals have such amazing personalities, don’t they?

    1. Thanks, Eleni!And congrats on your guard cat, along with condolences on the loss of your dog. Sniff. I so wish the lifespans of our pets were longer.

      I gotta know — does Schatzi’s growl sound like a dog’s?

  6. Haha I had never heard the term “ghetto elk” before but she certainly sounds like a street smart dog! I had the same thought as 2summers – imagining Mr LAPD reading this, I certainly enjoyed a laugh at his expense 🙂

  7. Bravo for you. For my first (and current) dog, it was suggested that I look for a very secure, house trained, even temperament, huggy kind of dog. My contribution to the specs was that I wanted a large dog!

    I went to our Humane Society and was adopted by Ray – 75lbs of German Shepherd/Rottweiler with an attitude. He was afraid of anything that moved, extremely insecure, displayed fear aggression, showed no indicators of any prior training (in house or otherwise), and he did not like being touched! He was however a large dog! That was 3 years ago. He is now the most lovable “guy” you could ask for and extremely protective of us and his territory.

    He made such an impact that a book about him “Who said I was up for adoption?” was recently released with all profits going back to the Humane Society.

    1. Colin! Thanks for visiting! I have been to your blog and read about you and Ray — you were so patient and marvelous. 🙂 Well done. Also well done on the book $ donations.

      I hear from rescues all the time about how the big dogs are tough to find homes for, especially dark-colored ones. Ray is lucky you guys found him and never gave up.

      We think Fey’s half-German Shepherd, too. Her bark was very similar to the German Shepherd next door, and she’s never been a runner. Guess they all like their turf.

    1. Thank you! Yeah, I’d never heard the term before, either. And I lived in South Central LA for a while! It must be an LAPD thing.

      Rescue Dogs Rule. (Or at least they never take you for granted.)

  8. Crazy. I have never heard that term. How awful. I’m so glad Fey protected your home. My goodness and LAPD next door and all. Jeez. Kind of scary, isn’t it? How do the burglers keep getting away with it?

    1. The burglars have a whole plan — they ring the front doorbell, looking all official with a truck and vests. If someone answers, they say they are at the wrong address and move on. If no one is at home, they go through a gate to the backyard, where neighbors can’t see the break and enter. They smash, they grab, they are usually gone in minutes.

      It might have just been a crime of opportunity at our house. However, we’d just had some work done on the exterior. It’s always possible that one of the workers might have tipped off someone about my schedule and the fact that our dogs were sweet and not aggressive — which is true, when I’m there and telling Fey to be nice. But when she’s alone in her yard, she’s on duty and she’s not gonna let you pass. Instead, she’s gonna make a racket until even the most clueless neighbor notices.

      Woofie, of course, would have opened the door for them if he could have. And done nothing more menacing than whack them with his mightily wagging tail. He looks far more terrifying than she does, but he’s a goofball.

      1. Wow. Yeah, pretty slick and professional. Scary. How about a neighborhood watch system? I supposed you all have that kind of thing already, huh?

        So glad Fey was there! <3

        1. We do have a neighborhood watch, meetings with local police, etc. Which was why Mr. LAPD’s inability to recognize an attempted break-in was so shocking.

          On the other hand, some of my overzealous, possibly racist neighbors reported a black handyman legitimately working on a house to the police and they questioned him. Along with the new black custodian at the school, too.

  9. Holy crap that LAPD guy is such an ass! I’m glad Fey showed him!!

    Wow my heart got heavy reading about Fey’s transition into your home and all the vet bills… but it sounds like Fey was definitely worth it all in the end!

    Do her and Woofie get along better now?

    And my boyfriend’s Chinese name is.. Fei! Different spelling, same pronunciation, haha. Good choice in name there 😉

    1. Woofie and Fey got along right from the start. Though I did make sure their food bowls were far away from each other, since starving girl dog was possessive about her victuals! He never minded when she growled or warned him off when she was eating or running her guarding route. And having two dogs certainly helped when training the dogs to come and sit in front of me when called — they were competing for treats!

      Woofie taught her the joys of tearing apart squeaky toys.

      Yeah, my neighbor is…well, let’s just say that’s probably not the first post in which he’ll be featured.

      We did actually spell Fey “Fei” until the Caucasian vet anglicized it on her rabies certificate. 🙂

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