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Party Animal

First published in Martha Stewart Living, May 2012

Introducing a King Kong–size poodle to a 10-year-old’s birthday party was a teachable moment for one savvy dog owner.

My husband, David, and I take our 80-pound standard poodle, Izzy, with us almost everywhere. Thanks, in part, to his exposure to the outside world, Izzy is a well-behaved dog. Which is why when my sister called to invite us—David, me, and Izzy— to my niece’s 10th birthday party, I was only slightly worried.

Because we don’t have kids at home, I wanted to make sure there wouldn’t be any surprises at the party that Izzy couldn’t handle. Izzy gets along with everyone, but I couldn’t help picturing thirty 10-year-olds running all over my sister’s house, hopped-up on candy and cake. How would he react?

Izzy loves to introduce himself by offering his paw, which is not a little paw. Remember, he is a big dog. How big? Think King Kong. Izzy has forced many men to their knees by sitting up regally, lifting his paw to say hello, and then accidentally hitting his new acquaintance squarely in the crotch. So you can imagine my anxiety at the thought of Izzy, even in his friendly way, greeting the kids at the party.

And there were other concerns. A child might playfully poke the dog, and the dog, perceiving the gesture as a threat, might snap at the child. It happens when owners and parents aren’t looking. So that was my challenge: How could I acquaint the kids with Izzy and Izzy with the kids without an incident?

I decided to turn to dog trainer Gina Grossman of Los Angeles’s Bone-A-Fide Genius. Having brought up two children, she understands the importance of training dogs to socialize with kids (and vice versa).

Grossman suggested I keep Izzy on his leash at the party, in a sitting or down position, to give him a sense of security. To help the children feel comfortable and in control around Izzy, I asked them to let Izzy sniff their hands as a way of letting him get to know them. According to Grossman, my role was to avoid situations in which Izzy would be uncomfortable and to show the children how to act around a big dog.

Izzy was fantastic with the kids. At one point there was a group surrounding him while he was lying on his back like a pasha. Eventually the party wound down to just a few people cleaning up and a group of my brother-in-law’s friends playing touch football. I decided it was safe to let Izzy run off the leash. After all, he had been so good. All of a sudden, I looked over and one of the football players was holding his crotch and staring at Izzy. I sprinted over to them. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! He just gives you his paw to be friendly,” I said. The guy looked at me like I was nuts. “Is this your dog? He’s been keeping me company. I pulled my groin in the game,” he said. “Of course,” I said, walking away with my proverbial tail between my legs.

photograph by tamara schlesinger


How To Survive Your Boyfriend’s Divorce

“Millions of women will thank Robyn Todd for writing this intelligent and empowering book. If you’re in love with a man who’s getting a divorce, How to Survive Your Boyfriend’s Divorce will be the answer to your prayers!”
—Barbara De Angelis, Ph.D., Author of Are You the One for Me?

“A witty, informative, and important view of divorce — from the other end of the looking-glass.”
—David Steinberg, Comedian, Director Read more…


Rx for Izzy

First published in L.A. Times Magazine, Oct. 7, 2008

Is having a doggie dermatologist over the top? Not if you need one.

Among the mystical questions to ponder—Is there life after death? Are there black holes in space?—the toughest of them just might be, How the hell do you find a good veterinarian in this town? Read more…


Cooking for Izzy

First published in L.A. Times Magazine, Sept. 1, 2007

Kabbalah for Dogs? Not Yet. Canine Chefs? Already Here.

I am obsessed with my dog Izzy, a two-year-old, 80-pound standard poodle. And even though Cesar Millan would disagree, Izzy is a person. Just walking down the street with him is an experience. I mean, he’s taller than me (I’m five-two) and gorgeous. Read more…


Finishing School

First published in L.A. Times Magazine, Nov. 30, 2008

Every Pooch Needs a Little Emily Post

When I go to a restaurant and see kids running out of control, bothering everybody, their parents sitting by oblivious, I think, What’s the matter with these people? And yet, when an untrained younger Izzy, at 30 pounds, would jump up and paw people, I thought he was the cutest thing on earth. That’s when my husband, David, the most easygoing guy in town, stepped in and said, “Enough—everyone here needs to be trained.” Read more…


Bath Time for Izzy

First published in L.A. Times Magazine, May 10, 2009

What’s it take to get a top dog ready for his close-up? Scrub in!

Izzy is a standard poodle, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. He doesn’t have one of those fancy ’dos— just your average puppy cut (though that’s the only thing average about Izzy). And he may not be a star, but in my opinion that’s only because the right opportunities haven’t presented themselves. Not that I would necessarily want fame for him—I mean, how happy were Lassie and Rin Tin Tin? But since Izzy is my star, and I enjoy having him near, he needs to stay as clean as possible. Read more…