Next Stop: Graduation

One of the reasons for the total lack of updates recently has been due to the fact that this month of June has been a very stressed and focused and culminating time of my ongoing public safety training , requiring pretty much most of my attention and relegating any communications on the internest to my Facebook page.

But now June is done. And while this past month has been the toughest most demanding part of my looooong 13-month journey, it’s the final segment of this latest phase in what initially began as a kernel of an idea four years ago. The idea to quit being the inevitable pawn in the various journalism chess games I’ve played this past 20 years and instead do something veeeeery different and far more fulfilling in becoming a humane law enforcement officer, aka, an “animal cop,” more than four years ago.

I know people at my advanced age aren’t supposed to chart such dramatic changes in course, but then I’ve rarely acted my age.  So it is with a sense of pride and accomplishment that I report the successful completion of all gradeable aspects of my training, and thus can now proceed through the final two weeks of scheduled instruction with my fellow cadets of Rio Hondo Police Academy Class 2012-1 to graduation, which will take place July 13 at 10 a.m. at Rio Hondo College.

I still have a ways to go in the process that I hope will conclude with me joining the Animal Protection Services Department within the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA), but I wouldn’t be able to proceed with that final step without achieving this one.

If you’re interested in attending the ceremony at the college in Whittier I would love to have you there. I’ve posted the event’s details here on Facebook.

Yet Another Amazement From Buster

In the brief clip below, you’ll need to go full screen and click on the highest resolution version for the best look since Buster (our Russian tortoise) is at the farthest point from the camera — which I set up the to see if I could capture the ever-industrious escape artist inevitably finding a way out of her new playpen that was the former backyard pumpkin patch.

Instead (unbeknownst to me until I viewed the timelapse), the camera captured something of a miracle of another kind, namely Buster doing what in many ways impossible for a tortoise to do: successfully flip herself back upright after falling over on her back while trying to climb out.

Ranger Never Ceases To Amaze

Our shepherd/border collie mix Ranger never ceases to amaze. A soccer ball that ended up in our yard courtesy the kids next door led to me tossing it in Ranger’s direction Saturday, which revealed her rather amazing and consistent inate ability to “toss” it back to me.

I say “inate” because how she immediately and repeatedly responded to a large ball being tossed directly  at her head isn’t something we taught her. Nor is it something dogs typically know. In fact, I’d wager that if I tossed a ball at 100 random dogs’ heads for the first time, a few larger breeds might try to catch it in their mouths, but the rest would shy away from the projectile and none would do what Ranger did.

So we’re not only at a complete jaw-dropped loss as to how she picked up such a behavior, but also how it’s so second nature for her.

Perhaps she’s part seal?



The Hunger Games: Squirrel 1, Hawk 0

What you’re looking at above (click it for the bigger picture) is not something you see everyday, nor the kind of life/death animal action many urban humans get to find themselves so close to. It’s a still from some really bad video I captured, depicting the last moment of a rather epic backyard fig tree battle between one of our rather unfriendly neighborhood squirrels and one of our ever-amazing neighborhood Cooper’s hawks.

It unfolded before my eyes when I stepped out into the backyard to sweep the patio of its freshly dropped batch of fig leaves and looked up into its boughs to find nothing less than the hawk sitting about eight feet above my head and in no hurry to leave, primarily because there was said squirrel — otherwise oblivious of the imminent threat — only a few feet away in same tree munching on an unripened fig.

Before I could finish saying “Holy smokes! I’ve never been this close to a Cooper’s hawk!” the predator dove at the squirrel into the densest part of the tree, and its prey skittered out of the way of the lunge.

A bit of a stand-off then ensued with the hawk only a few feet from the squirrel in the relative safety of the thicket of limbs and leaves who promptly went back to munching another unripened fig as if nothing had happened. I took the opportunity to run inside and get my camera and by the time I got back, not much time elapsed before the raptor made another unsuccessful attempt, followed by a final flapping and flourishing and also-failed attempt to sink its talons into its would-be meal, wherein it then flew off out of view in search of more easily attainable eats. The squirrel promptly went back to eating and as if on cue as I focused the camera on it, dropped a little poop pellet that could perhaps represent its thoughts of the ordeal it appeared to have already forgotten about.

The video below has its moments, but is mostly of the tree because it’s a bitch trying to eyeball the action while simultaneously trying to point the camera in the right place. Plus the density of the foliage made it difficult it locate and/or center either critter in the frame:


7th Heaven

Originally posted at

One of the oldest spans across the Los Angeles River, the 7th Street Bridge dates back to 1910 when the at-grade version included two-sets of trolley tracks. It quickly became one of the most congested ways across the river and by the late 1920s it was decided that rather than demolish the entire structure, a second level would be built on top giving it a double-decker appearance and allowing traffic to move freely without being impeded by any freight trains traveling  through.

Ever since I first noticed that open but inaccessible lower level of the 7th Street Bridge about eight years ago, I’ve wondered what it’s like inside, and my curiosity only increased a couple years ago when LA River advocate Joe Linton found a way in and wrote about it on his blog LA Creek Freak. It again was piqued a few months ago when the news hit that there are plans in the very early stages to convert the space to an open-air market.

During a visit paid to the bridge last summer while on one of my riverbed rides, I couldn’t figure out how Linton got up there, and I had pretty much reconciled that the space was to remain off limits to me — until a couple weeks ago, when an acquaintance of Linton’s contacted me out of the blue and said she knew how he got in and would I be game to try. Of course I would, I said.

And so it is that I strapped my GoPro cam to my chest and this timelapse came to be. But it almost didn’t. When “Squeaky” and I first showed up, we found railroad ties leaned up below a grate-covered opening from which dangled a rope, but the grating looked locked. Back at our bikes and preparing to leave, a gentleman approached the opening and in a matter of a few seconds had clambered up the tie, pushed open the grate and made his way in. Squeaky quickly hustled over and struck up a conversation with him and asked if it was OK if we came up and looked around. He was hesitant, but said he wouldn’t mind. Squeaky went up first, but the bike shoes I was wearing wouldn’t allow me to get up the steeply angled tie so I had to improvise and add another “step” with another large tie that reduced the angle.

And in I went to enjoy one of the most unique urban explorations Los Angeles has yet to offer me.

Probably the coolest find inside: A construction worker stylistically carved his mark (DM No. 1 – 1927 – Chicago) into the concrete during construction of the second level.

If you want to skip ahead to the point where Squeaky climbs up, it’s at about 4:40. I reconfigure the ramp and make my ascent just after the 5:00 mark. But from wherever you check it out, this timelapse of us wandering around gives a pretty unique picture of what the space is like in there.

The flat version below of a 360-degree panorama I made from inside can be interactively rotated through here: