Meet The Peanut, Part III

In his winter coat.  (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
In his winter coat.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Okay, so where was I?  Oh yeah, the heart-warming tale of how the Peanut came to be my son.

So, on December 3rd, 2006, five days after he joined our family, I took Peanut on the first of what would become a virtually uncountable number of hikes; though, thanks to my unforgivable hubris, it very nearly proved his last hike with me.

“Deek, what the hell did you do? In what sheer buffoonery did you engage with this precious little beast?”

Okay, FAIR.  I deserve that.

So my friend Sean and I headed up to the back (north) side of the Bay Area’s awesome Mt. Tamalpais (yes, the same one David Crosby wrote a song about on his 1971 solo debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name), with the Pean in tow.  Poor bastard had never been on such a series of hairpin turns, a point he drove home with a backseat full of liquified dog-treat puke.

We parked at the Cataract Falls Trailhead, along Bolinas-Fairfax Road, just west of the Alpine Reservoir Dam, and hit the trail.

McLaren Park boasts a pond that only a dog could love.  (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
McLaren Park boasts a pond that only a dog could love.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The Cataract Falls Trail, if you catch it at the right time of year (which early December, incidentally, is most definitely not, due to the typically low water levels at that time of year- low water levels for which, in this case, I would be immeasurably thankful later on ), is easily one of the Bay Area’s most aesthetically rewarding river trails. Over the course of a little under two miles, Cataract Creek plunges more than a thousand vertical feet through a dense redwood canyon, rich with Jurassic ferns and other stunning greenery, around, across, and over various granite benches, in a chain of highly-photogenic waterfalls.  It was uphill along the course of these tumbling waters that we set off to climb.

About a half mile into the hike, the trail crosses a narrow wooden footbridge, a crossing utterly non-intimidating for any human being over three feet tall, but far less so for a six-month old hound who still hasn’t even mastered the basic art of ascending and descending stairs.  Pean was having NONE of it.  So I picked him up, carried him across the bridge, and we were on our way once again.

We climbed alongside the tumbling waters, as filtered rays of sunlight pierced the canopy above, illuminating  various choice stands of shrubbery and collecting pools of swirling runoff, and soon reached the top of the falls.  All the while Peanut frolicked in this newly-revealed world of his, relishing the cornucopia of interesting and unfamiliar smells all about.

Since, so far, everything had been going so swimmingly, Sean and I decided to press onwards towards the summit of Mt. Tam, turning left onto the High Marsh Trail, which traces a relatively level track across the backside of the mountain, contouring along its northwestern flank.

This is where the fateful hubris took me.

This is what happens when you brandish a treat.  (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
This is what happens when you brandish a treat.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

In a catastrophically gross over-interpretation of the level of bonding that had transpired between myself and Peanut over the five days of our co-habitation, I deemed it a legit call to let him off leash for awhile.  As soon as the shackles were withdrawn, my furry son exploded into the adjacent meadow in a fit of unbridled excitement heretofore unseen (by me, anyway) in his short life, loosed as he was upon an open wilderness for now only the first time.

For awhile everything was cool, Peanut responding with dutiful immediacy to all summons, treat offer or no.  Okay fine, I offered him a treat every time he came to me.  Still, though, it all felt right at that point.

Sometime later we turned onto a new trail, climbed a few hundred feet, and came upon a picnic area called Barth’s Retreat, at which, on our approach, we could hear an all-American family enjoying a nice Sunday lunch in the great outdoors.  This picnic area boasted a reliable water source; so we were heading straight for it to refill our water bottles, and to let the Pean drink from the through-running creek.

All The World's An Outhouse.  (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
All The World’s An Outhouse.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Just as we were walking up to the spigot, the baby of the family let out this blood-curdling scream- not a scream of terror or anguish, mind you, just a young kid being a loud little fucker, as I always was myself (still am).

Regardless of the actual benignity of the child’s scream, however, it was apparently a sound that Peanut had never heard before; and to him it sounded just plain wrong. Thus erupted he into a full-out sprint back in the direction from which we’d come, racing up to the top of a nearby rise in the trail, and on his way out of the immediate vicinity.

Naturally, I gave chase at once, struggling mightily to balance my sudden extreme panic with a sufficiently reassuring “Hey buddy, everything’s fine, it’s not scary, want a treat?” voice of comfort.

It almost seemed like it might just work, as Peanut stopped periodically, turning around and appearing to momentarily consider trusting me, before at last disappearing over the hill and out of my site.

An urgent 45 minutes of comprehensive area-searching came up fruitless; and so I powered up my phone to call my girlfriend Katherine, Peanut’s newly-adopted mother, and my soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, as it seemed.

To be continued…

Meet The Peanut, Part II

Despite this classy photo, GQ inexplicably ended up going with the Ryan Gosling cover that month.  (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Despite this classy photo, GQ inexplicably ended up going with the Ryan Gosling cover that month.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Okay, you’re wondering:  So where exactly did this “Peanut” character come from, anyway?

Fair question.

Well, it’s like this.  The Peanut was born on May 5, 2006, in or around Hayward, CA, and was soon given the name of Ripley. Now this Ripley was the largest of a litter of 15 puppies- which is hilarious if you see how not huge he is.  Seven or eight of his siblings were callously and irresponsibly given away by his mother’s owner, an East Bay dick-head who apparently felt no concern whatsoever for the future well-being of the fruits of his beloved pet’s womb.  The remainder of the litter were then scooped up by a good-hearted neighbor, and eventually found a foster home at Klub K-9, a no-dogs-turned-away and no-dogs-put-to-sleep establishment in Sunnyvale, CA, working in partnership with Furry Friends Pet Rescue.  Under the care of a guy named Mike, who loves dogs more than anybody else ever could EVER, Ripley and what was left of his birth-clan shacked up for a few months in a space with approximately 35 other dogs, awaiting adoption.

(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Fast-forward to November.  My girlfriend and I have just moved in together; and now we’re ready to get that dog we’ve both been wanting for years, but have delayed getting for all of your standard youngish-adult quasi-selfish reasons.  My girlfriend Katherine (you’ll meet her later), would spend her afternoons shirking her workplace duties by perusing the offerings on, and emailing me links to the beasts that caught her eye.  Over a period of a few weeks, a handful of lovely hounds found their way into the running; and it was in the midst of this purgatorial state of dog-consideration that one of the defining moments of my adult life caught me at unawares.  It was November 23, 2006.

In the middle of some mid-afternoon data analysis bullshit in which I was engaged at my place of business, I received an email from Katherine, boasting a photograph of the young Ripley (I’d kill to have a copy of that picture now).  The second I laid eyes on that photo, it was all over for each and every one of the other dogs on our short-list.

So then, perceiving at once, with the utmost clarity, that this matter was far too urgent to have its resolution entrusted to the slow creepings of the molasses-like hand of regular old email, I promptly picked up the phone and called Katherine at work, dialing and re-dialing repeatedly until she could not ignore me any longer.  Once I had her on the line, I declared that, from this moment forth, no other dog was on the table.  Every last resource available to us, every ounce of zeal, every plan for the future of our household, was to be bent solely and fully to the task of making this furry little fool ours; and only in the event that we should at some point find that, for whatever reason, this fellow could not become our dog would any of the previous contenders be brought back into play as potentials.

Caught mid-sneeze.  (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Caught mid-sneeze.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Two days later we went down to Sunnyvale and met Ripley (and his one remaining un-adopted sister); and three days after that, on November 28, 2006, we returned to Sunnyvale to retrieve our new furr-son, for immediate injection into the innermost chambers of our hearts.  When we got him home to our flat in San Francisco, he encountered his first ever set of stairs.  Suffice it to say, the flummox was ON.

For the first few weeks, we had to carry him up and down the stairs; but soon enough he got it down, and began to convey himself up and down without our assistance.  For awhile after that, whenever we’d be walking him around the neighborhood, Peanut would try to run up every set of stairs he passed, apparently thinking: “Oh hey, stairs– I live at the top of those!”  And if you’ve ever taken a stroll around just about any neighborhood in San Francisco, you know that there are approximately 15-20 stairways on each side of every block.  So this exhaustively-repeated antic was good for some repeated and seriously heartwarming entertainment, to be sure.

Within a couple weeks of adopting him, I started noticing Katherine addressing Ripley as “Peanut”.  When I asked her why she was calling him that, all I got was “Because he’s just such a little PEANUT!!”, as if all was made clear by that explanation.   Regardless of the presence or absence of any logic behind the decision to call him Peanut, you can’t argue with a heart full of love; and so I too was won over, and Ripley became Peanut (unofficially- his tags still identify him as Ripley).

Peanut demonstrates his acquired skill for negotiating stairs.  (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Peanut demonstrates his acquired skill for negotiating stairs.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

To be continued…

Meet The Peanut, Part I

The fee for passage is chicken jerky and/or Slim Jims.  (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The fee for passage is chicken jerky and/or Slim Jims.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Okay, at this point I think we’ve known each other long enough that I’m ready for you to meet some of my family members (in descending order of furriness):

This is my son, Peanut; but you can call him Pean if you like.  He’ll also answer to Ripley.  And buddy.  And a bunch of other names far too stupid and ridiculous to disclose here, if anywhere, EVER.

The Pean is 7 1/2 years old; and he is of German/Chinese descent (German Shepherd/Chow Chow).  He is a dog’s dog, by all accounts.  He had been living with one dude and 35 other dogs for several months when my girlfriend (now wife) and I adopted him; so he’s pretty well socialized with other dogs.  It must be said here, though, that he sometimes, by just being himself, rubs other male dogs the wrong way, in much the same way that you would surely piss off some people if you had balls but associated almost exclusively with other guys who’d had theirs removed by concerned loved ones while napping one afternoon.  It’s a jealousy thing.

How much is that doggie in the window?  (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
How much is that doggie in the window?
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

In his interactions with humans, Peanut is a little less predictable.  He’s never bitten anybody, though he is one relentless barker, even when familiar folks show up at my house.  And though some people take this personally, I always explain to them that he only knows the one word, “Woof”.  This term does virtually all of the heavy lifting, when Peanut is dialoguing with others, be they human, canine, or whatever.  It’s how he says “Hello”, “I love you”, “Who the hell is that that dare enter this building?”, “I wish that goddamn phone would stop ringing for Chrissakes”, and “Where have you been?- Ohmygod I thought you would never return”, to name a few of his signature lines.

Peanut earns his keep by hauling his own food.  (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Peanut earns his keep by hauling his own food.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

More on Peanut in a bit.