insights: what's worth getting arrested for?

It started out innocently enough with a ride on a beautiful day but ended with fisticuffs, run over feet and the police.

Let me start from the beginning.

Warning: This is going to be hard to read but be brave.

Yesterday was a rare spectacular, hot (80’s), sunny day here in Seattle. I threw the top down and spent the afternoon running errands--bank, post office, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Top Foods.

All went well until Lowe’s. 1:35pm. I parked the car and watched a guy leaving his truck with his Rottweiler inside. The passenger window was left open 2 inches. It was blazing hot in the parking lot and I am ashamed to say that I saw the guy walk away leaving his dog in the hot car and I did nothing. I regret that.

My next stop was Wal-Mart in Lynnwood. I love driving top down (since you can so rarely do it here in Seattle due to the rain) but my head was so hot from the sun and heat that I closed the top. As I turned off the air conditioning, powered down my car and turned off the GPS I thought “Good God, it is HOT in this car.” I looked up and in the next aisle I saw a dog frantically pacing in the backseat of a grey Mitsubishi Lancer. I got out of the car and walked over to the Mitsubishi to see the dog. He was a boxer/pitbull and he had pools of drool dripping from his jaws as he paced and clawed at the doors. There was a woman in a white car parked on the driver’s side of the Mitsubishi. She was in tears on the phone. I mouthed to her “Are you calling the police?” She nodded yes.

In front of the Mitsubishi another woman was sitting in her car front bumpers meeting. She was staring at the dog. I went over to her. She said she had been watching the dog for over 20 minutes as he got more and more frantic in the hot car. She didn’t know what to do other than wait for the owner. At this point more people were gathered around the car watching the dog. People were asking each other if they should break a window to rescue the dog. They asked if they could get arrested for that. I walked back over to the car and saw that his eyes were now starting to roll back and his back legs were collapsing. His tongue was hanging out of the side of his mouth. I shouted to the woman in the white car “Stay here and call the police back now!” She nodded and shouted back “Three of us have called the police.”

I ran into Wal-Mart and asked for the manager. He immediately did the following announcement “Would the owner of a grey Mitsubishi Lancer please return to your car. Your dog is suffering. A car can reach 130 degrees in the hot sun.” He repeated this announcement twice. I ran over to McDonald’s and got a cup of ice water, running back to the car with it.

At the Mitsubishi, there now stood a crowd. The owner, a young woman, had arrived back to her car. She was in a shouting match with the woman in the white car next to her. Several people were telling her that the police were on their way. I arrived at the car and the listless dog came over to the window. I lifted the water cup to the top of the window to give the dog a cool drink. He lifted his nose to the two inch gap. The owner saw me and screamed “DO NOT GIVE MY DOG WATER! I CAN TAKE CARE OF MY OWN DOG!!!!!” She was acting irrational, violent and aggressive. I leaned down and spoke calmly to her through the closed passenger window “What if I give you this cup? Will you give this to your dog. Please?”

She responded “NO!! I AM GETTING OUT OF HERE.” She started to back out but there were three cars behind her. I stepped back as she grazed the toes of my sneakers with her tires. There was such confusion that I didn’t know if the cars were intentionally blocking her from leaving or they were just coming or leaving parking spaces. It's as if she didn't see the cars. She tore out of the parking space with several pedestrians jumping out of her way. We watched her leave. As we stood in the parking lot after the driver took off, we wondered what fresh hell that dog would endure when it got home. There was nothing more to do. I walked back into Walmart. People were congregating, waiting to hear what happened.

“Did the police get him?” they asked.

“No, she left before the police could get here.”

“She should be jailed for that! Have her dog taken away. Poor dog,” they said. Yes, poor dog.

I stood shaking in Wal-Mart, thinking all I really wanted to do was buy cleaning supplies but I couldn’t do it. L. called to ask where I was and I told him what  happened. I went back to the car and tried to sit there for a minute but it was too hot. Within two minutes I had a headache. I can’t imagine what that dog had gone through, what the Lowe’s dog had gone through. I called the sheriff's office. I wanted to know what happened after the calls. I spoke with the sheriff who responded to the scene. He said unfortunately because she had left the scene, there was nothing that could be done because no one was around, no owner, no dog, no witnesses. Because they didn’t see it happen, they couldn’t arrest her.

I asked him if I would have been arrested if I had broken a window to rescue the dog. His official statement was “You should wait for the police to arrive to rescue the animal.” You can be arrested for vandalism. The officers can’t just do nothing if someone damages another person's property. HOWEVER, the officer said if someone were to break a window to rescue a child or animal in danger, he would recommend to the prosecutor that the person not be arrested or charged with a crime. It is, however, up to the prosector.

Nothing will happen to this woman. Because the dog owner left and there were no witnesses outside when they arrived there was no report to be made.

I drove to my next stop in the coolness of my air conditioned car and it hit me. I did the dog no favors by having the owner paged inside Wal-Mart. If the police had arrived before the owner, they could have arrested her for animal cruelty and taken custody of the dog. Instead, this woman pays no penalty for her cruel behavior and right now that dog is probably sitting in a hot car again.

These are the dogs from the Top Foods parking lot. I originally took a photo of the Walmart dog but it was so awful that I deleted it last night. It's something that no one should have to see. "

I was still thinking about this when I was parking my car in the Top Foods parking lot. Next to me? A Nissan pick-up truck. With two big dogs in the front cab with the windows rolled up but for two inches on the driver’s side door. I shook my head. What the hell? What are people thinking? I walked into Top Foods and told them about this. They paged the owner adding their own spin on “Please don’t be a dumbass and go rescue your hot dogs.”

Lest you think I am a militant “Do not leave your dog in the car EVER” kind of person, I am not. I am just a girl who feels awful when I am standing on hot pavement in the sun and I see a dog clawing at the doors and closed windows of a broiling hot tomb.

By now you know I believe things/ incidents are thrown into your path for a reason. Four dogs in three hot cars on the same day isn’t something I could ignore. I couldn’t sleep last night. I tossed and turned and at 2am I emailed veterinarian Dr. Carolyn Selavka of Baystate Mobile Veterinary Services and asked her about dogs left in hot cars. Here is what she said “When I worked emergency, I found most of these (cases) came in when the temp was 70-80 (not that hot), as people don't realize how fast things get hot in the car,  Usually over 80, people start to get a clue as they are hot too.” She recommended an article from

This morning I made some more phone calls. I wanted to see if the policies were the same in different areas. I called the Seattle and Boston Police Departments to get their advice. (As an aside, I got a funny reaction from the Boston detective when I asked whether someone could be arrested for either breaking a car window to save a dog or if you are the dog owner who left a dog in a hot car. “Where did this incident happen?” I told him Washington. “Why are you calling me? I’m in Boston. I’m here. You're there? Right?” I sensed his exasperation and explained that I was writing an article. His response: “Who the hell leaves a dog in the car, hunh? Tell me that.” I wish I could, officer.

Both the Seattle and Boston police departments do not recommend breaking the windows of a car to rescue an animal. You CAN get arrested for this. However, if you feel there is imminent fatal danger to a child or an animal and you can prove this (with a witness) then you should do what you feel is compassionate. You may, however, run the risk of a violent altercation with the owner, like the woman at Walmart who refused to give her dog water and plowed through the crowd of cars and people as she tore out of the parking lot.

I asked the officers if you can detain someone until the police arrive. You can, but you run the risk of danger to yourself or to the dog, as well as the person then accusing YOU of kidnapping for detaining them.

I also spoke with the Massachusetts SPCA this morning and they said in cases like this they will send out a letter to the owner, followed by a call and either people are mortified “Oh my God, I didn’t realize and I will NEVER do it again” or they get angry “It’s my dog. Stay the hell out of my business.” They follow up with the latter.

So, after speaking with three police departments and the SPCA, if you see a dog suffering in a hot car (which can reach 160 degrees in minutes even with the windows cracked open!), here is your action plan:

-Call the police
-Stay with the dog
-Get the dog some cool water (even a two inch window gap is enough to give them the water)
-Have the owner paged if you are in an area that is accessible
-Wait for the police, even if the owner arrives and drives off, you can give a statement to the police which will enable them to follow up possibly along with their local SPCA.

And yes, if I were to do it over, I would have busted the window yesterday to get that dog out. We all just stood there watching this dog's life ebb before our eyes. It haunts me. Sometimes doing the right thing is worth getting arrested for.

entertainme: the whale who said thank you

Loving your day at the beach? Check out what this family found on their day on the water.

Read the article here.

entertainme: review "friends with benefits"

I have a friend who judges a film by whether or not she would enjoy having a beer with the lead characters. She told me this as we were walking into a screening of “Friends With Benefits” the new Justin Timberlake / Mila Kunis film. Interesting concept.

In a clever opening scene both Mila’s (Jamie) and Justin’s (Dylan) characters experience the whole “It’s-not-you-it’s me-well-it-is-kind-of-you” break up with their respective partners which sets up the meeting of these two quote emotionally damaged/unavailable but otherwise perfect, sexy, obviously meant for each other characters.

After a meet-cute in an airport as Jamie a corporate headhunter, picks up Dylan, an art director interviewing for GQ Magazine, it is only moments before these two start their easy banter (think conversational ping-pong i.e. “The Gilmore Girls”) and a friendship that lends itself easily to the whole benefits part. There are some funny scenes as Dylan and Jamie discover the whole sex without an emotional commitment

Director Will Gluck (“Easy A”) who co-wrote this film clearly knows how to make a movie that takes advantage of popular culture which this film is peppered with-- from flash mobs to John Mayer references, this film is like a time capsule dedicated to the summer of 2011.

Timberlake has developed strongly as a actor, gaining a huge fan base with his unexpectedly intense performance in “The Social Network” with Kunis most well known for her role last year in “Black Swan.” Both Justin and Mila are immensely likable actors on their own but put them together and they have this quality that reminds me of the old Cary Grant + Katherine Hepburn / Doris Day / Grace Kelly films where the chemistry of that bada- bing banter plus sexual undercurrent make for a film that is both entertaining and smart, not a feat always easily done in Hollywood.

Unlike some other rom-coms where one of the characters is either a whiny, difficult but adorable girl who needs the right guy to make her a better person or a guy who is a cold womanizing cad until he meets the one who changes him, it’s easy to like Jamie and Dylan. As they navigate the friends to friends with benefits to friends without benefits you want them to succeed as a couple, in some shape or form.

Patricia Clarkson shines as Jamie’s mom, a free spirit throw back to the 70’s. Scenes with the always wonderful Richard Jenkins as Dylan’s early Alzheimer’s father provide a depth to Dylan’s character in some of the film’s more tender moments.

Another highlight is the effervescent Woody Harrelson, as Dylan’s coworker and gay GQ sports editor who offers this piece of advice “You want to be happy? Find someone you love and don’t let them go.” Truer words have never been spoken.

So, does this film meet my friend’s requirement? Do you want to share a beer with Mila/Jamie and Justin/Dylan. How about you make that a keg.

charming things: music to your ears

Typically on weekend mornings when I was in Los Angeles covering movie junkets you would find me with the French doors open to the balcony (always on the 10th floor viewing the Hollywood sign) and the sun streaming into my room at the Four Seasons Los Angeles. I would be listening to The Wave as I steamed my clothes for my interviews that morning and prepared my questions for the actors I would be talking with on camera.

When I stopped traveling, on weekend mornings I missed listening to LA's The Wave. For 9 years this was what I listened to every Saturday and Sunday morning when I was working in Los Angeles. I liked the soft jazz as I sat at the desk, drinking iced espresso and writing out my questions for the actors. I associated The Wave with happy, sunny mornings in L.A. doing a job I loved and seeing people I loved hanging out with every weekend-- fellow reporters from around the country and my favorite publicists from the movie studios and agencies.

It's interesting how music invades your memories. Think of  summertime when you were in high school, driving around with your friends or laying by the pool listening to the radio. What city did you live in after college? Where is that favorite vacation spot? There is something about listening to radio, not just the songs but radio-- the ad spots, the traffic that makes you feel like you are right there, still there. I missed listening to The Wave and their live show on Sunday mornings from Spaghettini.

I also miss Magic 106.7 in Boston. In college we listened to Dave Allan Boucher's Bedtime Magic every weeknight. (Boucher is an institution, hosting the evening hours on Magic 106.7 since 1982.) I thought of other places important to me. I worked often in Oahu, Hawaii, covering movie junkets and set visits for "Lost" and vacations L. and I took in the islands.  I miss these places that have taken hold in my heart.

Which is why L. surprised me on Friday by loading in the app on my iPhone and on our iPad at home. (I'm also listening right now on my laptop.) With this app you can listen to 50,000 radio stations from around the world. L. tuned into The Wave on our home sound system. Hearing the L.A. traffic live made me feel like I was back there driving top down on my way to dinner at Il Cielo. I applauded L. for making me so happy. Later that evening he surprised me by tuning into Magic 106.7. I closed my eyes and listened to David Allan Boucher doing a break, his soothing voice talking about the humid, hot night in Boston. I was back there in my dorm room, writing a philosophy paper and laughing with my roommate, Bonnie. This morning, out on the deck I listened to traditional island music on KKNE from Honolulu. (You can also listen to talk radio, sports and your favorite artists.)

This is genius. To be able to listen to radio from places that are close to your heart or places that you've never been to. 50,00 stations from around the world all yours, wherever you are.  It's just brilliant and lovely and happy. Where do you want to be?

Visit and look up your hometown, your college town, a town you've always wanted to visit. Not able to go on vacation this year? Throw on some Coppertone and listen to music from Martha's Vineyard.

The memories of a sound can bring you right there, in the moment, in a place that lives in your heart. Tune in, close your eyes and be happy.

entertainme: the hypnotic effect of bulldogs

The first time I saw this I couldn't figure out if these bulldogs were thinking:

1.) Whee! You. Human. Push me. Again.

2.) Family, I humored you when you were single and bored. Now that the crying, pink thing is in the house, it seems to enjoy this thing. So get me out. It's humiliating. And while we're on the subject, no more angel wings at Halloween, OK.  I am not an angel.

It's kind of hypnotic, isn't it?

Happy Friday!

entertainme: Tiffany & Co. new romantic music

Joshua Radin's music is delicious, dreamy. Now his version of "You're the First, the Last, my Everything" is available at Tiffany & Co. for a limited time.  Download it now and have a little romance tonight. Maybe a little blue box will follow?

You're welcome.

insights: the lucky duck

In a little town called Ketchikan, Alaska there is a woman who lives among yellow ducks, men in waders, and the ladies of negotiated affection. In this town there are 8,000 people, perhaps at times just a little more. There are eagles and totem poles and a street called Married Men’s Way. There are homes built high above the creek with secret trap doors and boats that bear their scars from battles with the sea.

It is here that a woman named Rene lives. In the city called Ketchikan that gets more rain than any other city in the United States.

If you find yourself on this island of Ketchikan, you will meet Rene if you take the Ketchikan Duck Tour, the only duck tour in Alaska.

Two days ago I didn't know that I was about to meet Rene. On a ship in the Pacific Ocean L. and I are enjoying some much needed R&R. Sunday night we were in our stateroom under the warm covers as we watched the 10 foot waves and the rain and the grey go by, hardly deciphering where the sea ended and the sky began. I read him passages from excursions available in the wild that is Alaska. We signed up for the Glacier Adventure & Whale Quest in Juneau and the White Pass train built into the cliffs high above Skagway but what to do in Ketchikan? The weather was awful and was going to continue being awful. A hike? It was going to be pouring sideways rain. No. We wanted something kind of funny, light. It was what we needed. We decided on the Duck Tour, where we would board an amphibious vehicle which would give us a land and sea tour of the town.

We boarded the vehicle and were given a heavy blanket to curl up under (it was after all raining so badly we were soaked walking from the ship to the dock.) It’s on this Duck Tour that we met Rene. You would think that if you live in a town where it rains or snows virtually all the time, you might expect the residents to be cranky. Not Rene. L and I have taken duck tours around the country. They’re kitschy yes, but you actually get a good overall view of the area. And all the narrators of these tours have always been corny just about to point of irritating. They blow (and hawk) their yellow plastic duck bills and make quack quack noises when they make a joke about the town ("You know you're from Alaska when you say Down South and you mean Seattle! QUACK!") Rene, our narrator was enjoying herself i.e. As our vehicle was driving down the ramp from land to water Rene started playing the theme song from “Gilligan’s Island” followed by “Ah, you know this song! QUACK! Do you know what you are getting yourselves into? QUACK!"  We were a tough group. Vacationers on a wet, cold, grey, fogged in day. Our umbrellas had turned themselves inside out on the short walk in the wind and rain to the duck stop. People were wet to the bone, noses were runny. We were shoulder to shoulder in wet parkas. Yet, Rene, well, she didn’t seem to notice this. We were the cranky ones.

I turned to L. at one point and said “She sure is happy, isn’t she?” Even me, The Happygirl, thought she was a little too happy. She would make  a joke, blow her duck bill, laugh at own joke and get nothing from her captive audience. A little tittering maybe but we had left sunny (finally) Seattle for a cruise to Alaska and it was pouring. We weren’t easily amused.

We learned that there were 26 bordellos in Ketchikan’s heyday and that Dolly was the most well known lady of affection, who bought her home for $200 in the early settler days. She charged $3 for 3 minutes of affection, 50 cents for a watered down whiskey and 50 cents if you arrived in muddy boots. Guess how long it took to pay off her house? "She paid her house off in two weeks. QUACK!"

We saw two eagles nose to nose on a log. (“Did you know that their FEATHERS weigh more than the bird itself?! QUACK!” While on the water we pulled up to a cannery on the dock where a fisherman waved at us to wait-- hold on a moment. He ran back to us holding a giant King salmon over his head like he had just won the WWE belt. We waved and gave him a thumb’s up. Good job, man.

Rene told her stories with PASSION, her energy was crazy sunshiny intense even though her audience was annoyed with the constant rain on this trip. She had the enthusiasm of a child who just discovered a puppy on her front doorstep. I even thought she really needed to cut down on the espresso. Then someone asked her if she was from Ketchikan. “No,” she said excitedly. “I am from Kansas!!!”

“Here is how I got here. I was in the army for 13 years as a computer programmer. Then I got cervical cancer. I found out I couldn’t have children. My husband and I decided to enjoy every minute of this life so we got a sailboat and sailed around the world for 5 years until we ran out of money. We wondered where we should go and I told my husband wherever we go I want to enjoy our life and enjoy what I do. I found an ad on Craig’s List for a Duck Tour narrator in Ketchikan, Alaska and here I am!!! I get to do this job every day!!!! And I have been cancer free for 5 years!!!!”

This was the first time the audience broke out in applause.

Here is what I learned from this amazing girl:

Rene took the worst that life could give her yet she decided to grab life by the duckbills, if you will. Would it have been easier to stay in Kansas surrounded by her support system? Sure. Comfort and what you know is always the safer bet. We are animals and when animals are hurt they retreat to the safety of their nest.  Rene saw the darkest of days and decided still to choose to leave the nest, to choose adventure. She gave up the relative safety net of an armed forces career where she would be taken care of and life would go on in her small town.

Lately I've come to believe that you have themes in your life, times when synchronicity comes into play, like meeting random people in different places and they're all from New Mexico or like on this trip, meeting girls who chose adventure.

On the day after meeting Rene, we met the only all girl crew of an Alaskan whale watch boat, driven there by a girl no more than 5’2’ and 90 pounds who drives buses in Juneau, Alaska because her college roommate had called her and said “Why don’t you come out to Alaska and she said 'Sure, why not?!'” She told us about her adventures in Alaska and the rumor is true. Yes, the men are plentiful in this last wilderness though as our driver told us “People are kinda kooky here. When I got here  I was told there are so many guys, more than women and that the odds are good but the goods are odd. Yup, it’s true.”

The naturalist (nature girl) on board our whale watch vessel also took the leap of faith and moved to Alaska from the continental United States. Her boyfriend is a fisherman here (one of the HARDEST jobs in the world) and he hopes to save enough to buy his own boat one day. Her job was to point out humpback whales. She said 10% of her tours may see AN Orca. And then there they were, all around our boat--40 Orca whales breeching and spy hopping (where they poke their heads above water and give you the whale eye) and hunting. We were all apoplectic. Whales closer than you could see at SeaWorld. Whales. Right. There.

I started to think. Imagine leaving your job as a paralegal or a nurse or a construction worker and living your life as an adventure. You could be face to face with a whale in Alaska or teaching English in Mumbai or making goat cheese in the hills of Sweden. What’s stopping you from inviting adventure into your life? Right now you’re thinking “There’s no way. I have a job, a home, a family here.” But really, why not? Think about what our ancestors did. They left EVERYTHING and EVERYONE they know back home for a better life, for religious freedom, for adventure. Just think about that. We have lovely neighbors and just a few weeks ago one of our neighbors accepted a job in England and his entire family is moving in two weeks. They have two kids in grammar school but they decided to take this leap of faith. Imagine. How amazing for these two kids that their parents are taking them on this adventure.

I've been thinking about these brave girls and I realized I was supposed to meet them this week. There is a lesson here.  I never would have been brave enough to leave the safety of Microsoft, even though it was an extraordinary job. I had thought of leaving for something different and mentioned it to a couple of trusted family members and friends and they all thought I would be crazy to leave a company like Microsoft and I never would have. People just don't leave a company like Microsoft. It's an incredible company full of smart, energetic people. It was a company that allowed me to do what I loved and they were very good to me. I was very lucky and I never would have had the courage to leave on my own. It was safe. Well, that is until the day my job was eliminated! Funny how when you put something out in the universe it works to make it happen, though it may not be in exactly the way you wanted. I didn't have the courage to go try something new, to live a new adventure but the universe saw otherwise. I envy these brave girls I met this week who CHOSE adventure.

Maybe the BIG adventure isn’t in your near future but what about small adventures? REALLY small. Take a different way home from work every day this week. Make your synapses fire. Think about it. Have you ever driven to work, got there and thought “I don’t even remember the drive here.”  I did that last week and I thought “OK, I need to shuffle things up a little bit here.” Register for a class this September in something you know nothing about. (Metalsmithing?) Book a surfing vacation even though you have no idea how to surf. Even a little adventure is a start.

Here I am this morning on our little deck on a ship in the middle of the ocean. This Alaska trip was supposed to be to relax and recuperate but I think my purpose here wasn’t R&R. It was to meet the girls like Rene, the bus driver and the all female whale watch crew. I was supposed to learn about adventure and taking leaps of faith. Maybe this trip was to teach me that The Happygirl Experiment is my new adventure. Whats yours? Think carefully. The universe is listening.

insights: sister mary and james taylor part II

Good morning! Yes, I was MIA for a week and as I go through my email this morning the one common thread I've found is this "Where are you Happygirl and what happened with Sister Mary and James Taylor?"

L. and I were in Alaska last week on a cruise through the inner passage and we both agreed to be offline (unless urgent) for the week to chill. So, hello, I'm back home and I've missed you!

More importantly-- Sister Mary and James Taylor. Did 84 year-old Sister Mary make it to the James Taylor concert at Tanglewood in the Berkshires on the July 4th weekend?

I'm happy to report that yes, Sister Mary and her friends attended the concert, each one enjoying James Taylor in her own way.  Last night I waded through our stack of mail and I was delighted to find a card from Sister Mary. She thoughtfully included her program from that evening with James. Let me read you part of her card:

"Taylor, dear,
And what a gift you gave to nine happy souls.
It was truly wonderful! Heaven sent music + voices-- in the heaven of my beloved Berkshires. You see I grew up in Pittsfield. . .I attended Tanglewood many many times in my youth (the 1940's) and a few times in the late 80's and now to think it was paradise revisited. . .I hope my joy carries over to your he
arts. . . Lovingly, Sister Mary"

I like to think that on the star filled evening on the lawn, during "Sweet Baby James" Sister Mary was singing along with James with all her heart to:

"Now the first of December was covered with snow
And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Though the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go"

It's a good mental image, isn't it?!  :-)


p.s. Another reason to love James Taylor? I was on his website this morning and saw that he offers phenomenal guitar lesson videos. Guitar lessons from James Taylor. Genius!