Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ratdog 2.0

My little Chihuahua mix Ratdog was evidently not feeling well one evening in August. Initially, we just thought the deaf little yapper had indigestion. But, when he couldn’t walk the next morning, things become serious rather quickly.

“Call the vet right now!” my wife exclaimed. But, our normal vet had a full schedule, so we jumped online. The first name we found when Googling was the San Francisco Pet Hospital on Fulton Street. “Can we bring our dog down immediately?” we inquired and they said “Yes!”Luckily an appointment fell through, and we were able to race the ailing mutt to the clinic post haste.

That was our lucky day, because we ran into Dr. Jessica Hunter, an amazing veterinarian who gave us the facts quickly and kept us informed throughout the process. She was calm while we freaked out by the fact that we could lose our little friend, and that was key because she placated us and focused on the situation at hand without getting emotional.

Money is always a concern when it comes to your pet’s health and it’s always part of the job, according to Dr. Hunter, and in this case it was a major issue with us. Do we drop significant money on this very old dog, or is it time to make a tough decision and go Doggy Kevorkian on the animal?

“Financial considerations are always a major deal, especially during a recession,” Dr. Hunter said. “I give people options so they can decide for themselves. In a perfect world, I want to do as much as I can for the animal, but if people can’t afford that, we can sit down and figure out an alternative if it exists. Hopefully, I can help them with their decisions, so that we all agree on how to treat their pet.”

Dr. Hunter gave us options, which is the best way to go with people like us who aren’t wealthy. “Some clients say do whatever you can to help the animal and others tell us what their budget is. We want people to be comfortable and 100% onboard for what we’re doing. I will present them with what I believe is the best scenario and then we can trim it down if it’s necessary.”

What was Ratdog’s prognosis? “He was profoundly dehydrated and he couldn’t stand,” Dr. Hunter explained.”He had a major oral infection and what I would describe as a raging urinary infection as a result of his decaying teeth. When we got his blood work back, we saw that he had a very high white cell count. The little guy was fighting the major infections. And his kidney numbers were elevated. It appeared as though his kidneys were failing, but we felt as though he might still have an outside chance to make a comeback.”

How close was our beloved mutt close to passing onto doggy heaven? “I would say 24-36 hours,” Dr. Hunter said. “He was basically dying. It looked bad, but he’s a tough little guy and he got in here with little time to spare. Infections such as these can progress quickly, so if you see your dog acting strange or slowing down, get the animal to a vet fast.”

We thought he was a goner, but by hydrating him and getting antibiotics in his system fast, Ratdog rallied and miraculously came back 100%, thanks to the great work by Dr. Hunter and all of the people at SF Pet Hospital.

Dr. Hunter is a 2008 graduate of the UC Davis Veterinary School and she’s been working for a little more than one year for the SF Pet Hospital. She lives in the Mission with Nena, her German Shepherd Husky mix. The SF Pet Hospital has been around since 1900, making it one of the oldest pet hospitals of its kind in the state. Dr. Lee Morris DVM has been running the hospital since 1980 and Dr. Robert Leyba DVM joined the team in 2004.

As Ratdog’s owners, we were obviously a little shocked and upset at the prospect of losing our old friend, but Dr. Hunter said the right things to sooth our nerves and get us on the same page. “People at vet school used to say, ‘we want to work with animals—not people,’” Dr. Hunter said. “But, that’s not the reality of the profession. You have to work with animals and their owners, so you need to learn how to do both.”

How to deal with dog and cat owners is a touchy subject, especially when people are concerned and scared to lose their pets, Dr. Hunter explained. “You can’t talk over their heads by laying a bunch of medical jargon on them they won’t understand and overwhelm them. And on the other hand, you don’t want to talk down to people either. So, it’s a fine line, made worse by stress and uncertainty.”

Amazing vets like Dr. Hunter save animals’ lives every day and never ask for praise, because it’s just part of the job. Ratdog is better than ever and he might just live to be 120. Since his comeback, he’s more annoying, yippy and under foot than ever—we’re calling him Ratdog 2.0—and we couldn’t be more indebted to this doctor who stepped up to keep this little ugly mutt on the planet and gave him a chance to pass on to Canine Heaven the right way—of old age, hopefully many years from now.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Maury Wills Stole the League in the 1960's

Maury Wills was a switch-hitting batter, slick fielding shortstop, base stealing phenomenon who played prominently with the Los Angeles Dodgers(1959–66, 1969–72) and also with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1967–68) and Montreal Expos (1969). He was an essential component of the Dodgers' championship teams in the mid-1960s, and deserves much credit for reviving the stolen base as part of baseball strategy. In a 14-season career, Wills batted .281 with 20 home runs, 458 runs batted in, 2,134 hits, 1,067 runs, 177 doubles, 71 triples, and 586 stolen bases in 1942 games. He is a seven-time all-star and in 1962. As of 2009, Wills is a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization serving as a representative of the Dodgers Legend Bureau.

One player changed his life: “My high school was full of great runners; really fast guys who were much faster than me. They stuck me in the middle of their four-man relays, but I wasn’t fast enough to anchor. I played every sport, but baseball was always my favorite. Then one day everything changed when a professional baseball player showed up on our playground and he was from the Washington Senators. We didn’t know anything about the Washington Senators. No word ever got in or out of the projects back in those days. But this man had a nice uniform on, color coordinated with the piping down the sides of his pants; his shoes were clean and were shined up real nice; he had belt loops and he was well-groomed with clear eyes and he was white. How he made it to our neighborhood I’ll never know. And we were like—wow, before this we used to idolize the guys in our neighborhood who played on the weekends, they called them semi-pros. They all had mismatched uniforms on. Argyle socks under their stirrups. And they all had a half pint of whiskey in their back pockets and they looked like they hadn’t slept all week. They were our heroes and we wanted to grow up to be just like them. We figured if we grew up and played on their team, we would be successful. They were hard-working men, many who didn’t have jobs and surely weren’t looking around for a job, guys who just played Negro-league style baseball on the weekends. That’s where I learned to play Negro league style, which involved a lot of running. It’s what they call ‘small ball’ today, but I call it baseball. And then all of a sudden, here comes this white professional baseball player and his name is Jerry Priddy, you can Google him and he died years later and I doubt he even knew how much he impacted my life as a kid. Years later as a Los Angeles Dodger, they used to ask us to go out into the community to talk to kids and some of my fellow players didn’t want to go. But, I always went and I’ll always go if people ask, because I am indebted to Jerry Priddy for what he did for me when he singled me out on that playground many years ago. Players would show up at these community events and then just stay for the agreed-upon minimum 20 minutes, but I was always thinking, Jerry Priddy didn’t leave after 20 minutes, he hung out with us for at least two hours. So, I would always stick around and usually I was the last player there.”

Inspired by Jackie Robinson: “In 1947, I started hearing a lot of talk in the projects about a man named Jackie Robinson playing for a team called the Dodgers. Oh, who is Jackie Robinson? Where’s Brooklyn? I started asking. They told me it’s in New York and I asked where’s that? So, I walked away and said to myself, I’m going to play for the Dodgers one day. That’s when I thought that I could be a major league player.”

His MVP year: “I won the MVP in 1962 and Willie Mays keeps reminding me that he should have won the MVP that year. This is 2010, and he’s still telling me about it. I told him Willie get over it, man. I always got the Dodgers that one run we needed and especially that season.”

The Brooklyn Dodger vets: “Those early years of the Los Angeles Dodgers featured guys like Duke Snider, Carl Furillo and Gil Hodges, but by that time they were even more distant and intolerant of the wave of younger players coming in. They were a whole different breed of cat coming from Brooklyn. Different players from different eras have varied approaches to the game, but these guys were not what you’d call warm and fuzzy. I’m not saying they weren’t good people, but they sure couldn’t be categorized as nice people, you know? They were grumpy and standoffish in many ways. They wouldn’t help you or hang out with you. On that team you were on your own—you either made it on your own or failed on your own on that team. I have a good friend from that period—his name is Don Newcombe—and he’s still grumpy to this day. Gilliam was aloof, but a little nicer than the other ones.”

Alston & Koufax: “Walt Alston was a gentleman and very dependable, but he was a no-nonsense guy, but he didn’t say many words and I can’t remember really seeing him smile or laugh much. He was all-business, just like many of his veteran players. A good friendship developed over the years between me and Sandy Koufax. When he had arm trouble, he would stay after the games to ice down his arm, and I’d be there too icing down my legs. So, we spent a lot of time together all alone in the clubhouse, just he and I Sometimes we’d have to find a security guard to let us out of the stadium, because it was all locked up. So, that’s how we became friends and developed a lot of trust. To this day, I have Sandy’s cell phone number and I don’t think many people have it, because he’s a very private individual.”

One game that changed his life: “For a long time, I was batting eighth for the Dodgers. Batting ahead of the pitcher is not a great spot to be in to use your speed and my base running and base stealing abilities. And my bat wasn’t anything to write home about, I had to be a disciplined fielder and things like that to impress them and stay in the lineup. Pee Wee Reese used to take me out at least five days a week to work with me on my fielding—hard, hard, hard. So, then in early July that season (1960) we went to Spokane Washington for the Dodgers on an off day to play their AAA team there. I had played for that team the year before and I maintained my family there, so a big crowd came to the game. I was in the clubhouse getting ready when Alston came back and said, ‘This is a big crowd and I think they came to see you. Why don’t you lead off?’ I was in shock. And he said ‘yeah’. And then as he was leaving the clubhouse, Alston turned back around—now mark this moment because it changed my life—and he said, ‘And don’t wait for the steal sign, if you wanna go, then just go!’ I went out there and got something like four hits, stole about three bases, I was running from first to third on ground balls through the infield and my teammates were telling me, ‘Slow down because you’ll hurt yourself. It’s just an exhibition game’ and I told them, not for me. I had a great day and we went on to Cincinnati from there. We were in the locker room getting ready when Alston walked over to my locker and said, ‘Why don’t you just stay in that leadoff spot? And don’t wait for steal signs either.’ Man, I had a great season after that. I was in the top ten in hitting and stole 50 bases, beating the Dodger team’s record, formerly held by Jackie Robinson.”

Why the Dodgers traded him to Pittsburgh: “Because I jumped the tour in Japan without the team’s permission. We went to Japan after we lost the 1966 World Series. I got hosed on that too. It was supposed to be a voluntary trip, and my leg was all banged up—I busted the cartilage in my right knee earlier that season, getting caught up in a run down in New York playing against the Mets. Koufax and Drysdale said they couldn’t go on the trip because they said they had previous business commitments. But back then, players didn’t have any business commitments, they just didn’t want to go and the team wouldn’t force them. And I showed them how messed up my leg was and they still made me go. But they said I wouldn’t have to play, just sign autographs. I said okay and when I got there they started playing me. Pretty soon, the leg started hurting more and more. I asked for permission to go home and they said no. So, I got my own ticket and went home. The late Walter O’Malley didn’t like it and he got rid me of me—they traded me to the Pirates. I cried for a week when I heard about it.”

Monday, September 06, 2010

Me & Tony Malinosky

He's the oldest living MLB baseball player on the planet and it was a pleasure meeting and interviewing the 100-year old Tony Malinosky. He played only one season for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and one of his college buddies was Richard Nixon. He's lived an amazing life and next month he'll turn 101!