A Doggie Story (#339)

Our rescue dogs were very different in temperament. Woofie, the Labrador mix, saw every creature as a potential playmate. If he could have, that dog would have opened the door to any stranger with a ball…or a knife, or a gun.

Fey, our German shepherd and shar-pei mix, saw every stranger as a potential threat, unless they were a white male over six feet tall who smelled like In-n-Out burgers. (You can probably guess who rescued her from the streets of Los Angeles and what food they used to gain a starving dog’s trust.) Fey refused to let the gas meter man near the house, which was a pain in the ass, but she also refused to let burglars break into the house, which everyone except Woofie found heroic.

Woofie shook off criticism like water. “Bad dog!” meant nothing to him. So did “no!” and even, “Jesus fucking Christ, Woofie, how did you dig up an entire bougainvillea in two minutes?!”

A voice raised at Fey would result in her freezing or hiding. She was an unusual mix of fierce protector and sensitive shepherd.

Fey preferred to spend her day outside, lying on her bed on the patio unless a street sweeper, squirrel, or passing dog needed to be warned off. She and Woofie would wrestle and play tug-o-war, but Fey would break off immediately to run her guard route if she sensed a potential intruder. (Woofie would then plant himself in the middle of her route, earning warning snarls and snaps which bothered him not at all.)

One Saturday afternoon, as I prepared for date night, I heard a strange, high pitched swooshing noise and some loud clicking. I checked outside. Fey was on her bed in the sun, right under the bathroom window. I checked around the house, and mentioned the noise to Andy. He shrugged it off and continued roughhousing with Baby D.

I went to dry my hair. My hair dryer had been on less than a minute when the bathroom window cracked.

I dropped the hair dryer. Then I put two and two together and lost my shit: “SOME ONE HAS AN AIR RIFLE AND THEY’RE SHOOTING AT US!”

I flew out the backdoor. Fey dashed in the back door. She was shaking, but unhurt.

I was incensed. To hit that particular window, the shots had to have come from the yard of the new neighbors over the back fence.

The wall and the shrubbery in our backyard.

There was a shrubbery that extended about six feet above the six foot cinderblock wall, which meant I couldn’t see into the yard. The noise had stopped, possibly because the shooters heard my enraged shrieking:


I stormed out the back gate and over to the new neighbors’ yard, where I found a shame-faced father with a teen—a teen holding an air rifle. (In retrospect, I do not recommend confronting people holding weapons directly. At the time, I was such a mass of fury that I probably would not have cared if it were a real rifle. The zero to psycho Ashbough temper is likely to end in prison or death someday.)

I yanked open their gate and barged into their yard, yelling, “MOTHERFUCKERS! YOU BROKE MY WINDOW! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!”

The dad tried to placate me, explaining that his son was just shooting at the shrubbery, and had hit our house by mistake.

I was NOT placated. “You absolute shit heads! You utterly ignorant fuckwits! THE SHRUBBERY IS POROUS! The shots went right through! You nearly hit my dog WHAT IF MY KID HAD BEEN OUTSIDE YOU COULD HAVE TAKEN OUT AN EYE!”

By this time, Andy had showed up behind me, carrying Baby D. Andy never said a word. (Later, when I asked why, he pointed out that a) I had barely touched my arsenal of obscenities, and b) no one could have heard him over shrieking that would have put a Shakespearean fishwife to shame.)

The dad was thoroughly apologetic. He promised that it would never happen again, that he would get rid of the air rifle, that he would repair the window, that they had moved in from a more rural area and hadn’t been thinking.

“CLEARLY!” I yelled.

Part of me wanted to call the police, but father and son had too much melanin for that to be a reasonable consequence. Our local police are so bad that some of them have actually been ARRESTED for racist shit, instead of getting the usual commendations.

After my ranting ran its course (which Andy says lasted at least five more minutes), I agreed to the neighbor’s window repair offer. The man ultimately paid for a handyman to replace the window and make other repairs as a gesture of goodwill (i.e., so I would never scream my head off at him again).

Fixing Fey was more problematic than fixing the window. While we never heard or saw the air rifle again, Fey turned into a quivering, cowering wreck every time I turned on the hair dryer. To Fey, hair dryer = someone shooting at you + your human going on a screaming rampage.

I’d had easy success retraining Woofie when he was traumatized by football games on TV; I tried to do the same with Fey. I gave her treats and praised her while taking out and running the hair dryer. Fey wouldn’t eat. Not even bacon. She just trembled miserably.

So I packed the hair dryer away. Forever.

I never regretted it, either.

Our good girl didn’t deserve PTSD.

Sweetsgiving (#330)

I love sweets. But as a kid with a ton of siblings and not enough money, sweets only appeared in abundance for special events.

My parents’ weddings had cake. Birthdays began with doughnuts. Halloween had candy. Christmas had cookies.

Thanksgiving? A total letdown. My mom and stepfatherspent hours trying to get their homemade cranberry sauce to come out of a ridiculous antique rose mold. It molded properly exactly once and ALWAYS tasted bitter. And pumpkin pie? Could there BE a blander pie?

My dad made the only decent Thanksgiving dessert—apple pie. So of course our Labrador retriever Toffee got on the counter and ate it. Continue reading Sweetsgiving (#330)

Mother’s Day Musings (#321)

Content Warning: We’ve lost so many millions of mothers to COVID this year that even relentless jewelry-hawkers like Pandora are exercising a modicum of compassion in their Mother’s Day advertising. If you aren’t up for reading about the holiday, skip this post and consider yourself hugged.

My mom died when I was a teenager. I dreaded Mother’s Day every year after that.

I’d’ve liked to ignore the entire day. Or better still, the entire week.

Instead, there were celebrations for the other moms in my life. By the time I left home, I had to remember cards and gifts for my ex-stepmother, my current stepmother, my former stepfather’s current wife, etc. (My family is so complicated that my Big Brother finally made a PowerPoint presentation for those foolish enough to marry into it. My husband is still bitter Big Brother didn’t make it until after we got married.)

After I got married, though, Mother’s Day wasn’t so bad. Continue reading Mother’s Day Musings (#321)

Shoe In, Shoe Out (#317)

When you marry across cultures, there are bound to be a few differences.

Some differences are jarring at first—like my husband’s Chinese-American family openly discussing money. If you’re open-minded, however, you can learn to embrace coupons and brag about how much money you saved.

Other differences seem insurmountable, especially when much vaunted Western autonomy clashes with Asian filial piety. That’s when it’s important to distance yourself from the issue. I found that 3,000 miles proved effective. Mostly.

But every so often, a practice from another culture makes you say, “That’s brilliant! Why don’t we do that?!”

Like shoes. Continue reading Shoe In, Shoe Out (#317)

Consider the Dachshund (#315)

Comedian Sarah Cooper started a funny dog thread on Twitter with this tweet:


Thousands of replies told Sarah all about dachshunds. About how they were bred to be small enough to fit into badger holes, but aggressive enough to drag badgers out of them. About how neighborhood and household dachshunds terrorized all other dogs.

Twitter, which never agrees on anything, agreed that dachshunds are assholes.

Even dog breeding groups, which put the best possible spin on all purebreds, concede that dachshunds are “more likely to be aggressive towards both people and dogs,” although the they do not specify more likely than what.

More likely than ANYTHING would be my guess. Continue reading Consider the Dachshund (#315)

The Ultimate Thief (#298)

Both our dogs were rescues. Our second dog, Fey, was rescued from the streets of South Central Los Angeles and never forgot it. She was loyal, well-behaved, and obedient.

And then there was Woofie. Our first dog ran away repeatedly. He went to science class at the local school. He created bizarre insurance claims. He dug up the yard. He snuck up on the furniture, curling up in Andy’s preferred recliner.

But worst of all? He was an unrepentant thief. Continue reading The Ultimate Thief (#298)

Wide Awake (#295)

I was a night owl as a child and an insomniac as an adult. I stayed awake replaying the events of the day—especially everything I did wrong. Therapy and getting an insane amount of exercise cured me in my twenties. After a miserable pregnancy (with equally miserable sleep), I woke up for breastfeeding several times a night. Once Baby D dropped nighttime nursing, I woke up because I’d gotten used to waking up. The slightest noises woke me up because Something Might Be Wrong with Baby D.

Then I woke up because something WAS wrong with Baby D, either an illness or a scream of “Want dinner!” at midnight.

My husband Andy never woke up unless I punched him in the arm, which, as I slept less and he snored more, made me want to punch him even harder. Continue reading Wide Awake (#295)

One Smug Squirrel (#286)

There weren’t many squirrels around when Andy and I moved into our little house in Southern California. The native Western gray squirrel lives off oak trees and hangs out mostly in forests. SoCal isn’t big on forests.

The few squirrels we did begin to see weren’t natives. They looked exactly like the squirrels I grew up with in D.C. and Virginia. That’s because they were Eastern fox squirrels, brought to Santa Monica by veterans a century ago as pets. These squirrels are savvy little scavengers. They used telephone and electrical wires to colonize Los Angeles County.

They’ve bamboozled numerous elderly neighbors into feeding them peanuts daily. Continue reading One Smug Squirrel (#286)

New Cat (#278)

When my husband mellowed on the subject of a new cat, I contacted the group that had rescued our dog Fey from the streets of Los Angeles.

“We have a big dog who tries to play with everyone and everything,” I explained. “We mostly trained him out of chasing our old cats, but Woofie’s not totally reliable. Do you have a cat that’s okay with dogs?”

The volunteer said, “Oh, do we have a cat for you!” Continue reading New Cat (#278)

Felines & Persuasion (#273)

My child was always fascinated by cats.

My cats were only fascinated by my child when he was an immobile source of warmth. The minute he developed enough motor control to grab their fur, the cats were out.

Bat Cat and Commando Cat had been my pampered bachelorette cats. They grudgingly adapted to both husband and rescue dogs. But small fingers pulling fur? Hell no. They hid up in their scratching posts or heated cat bed.

Baby D had a boy-loving rescue dog who would have happily played chase or keep away with him for hours. But Baby D was contrary. He scorned the in-your-face, I-love-you-so-much creatures. He wanted the ones that were hard to get.

“This,” I told my husband, “does not bode well for his future dating life.” Continue reading Felines & Persuasion (#273)