Outside of a Dog

She was never the dog we expected.

I thought we’d get an older dog. One that would sit at my feet at the desk as I typed. Jean thought we’d get a lap-sized dog, who’d curl up while we sat on the couch.

The woman at the shelter took us to see the puppies instead. The result of unplanned doggie-sex between a purebred Dalmatian and some wayward mutt. The owners had dropped the mother off at the highest kill-rate shelter in Los Angeles, and the rescuers saved her and the litter.

Her brothers and sisters were insane. They tried to eat my watch and Jean’s wedding ring. She was the runt, and the only one to get her mother’s spots. She came up to Jean and very gently placed her paws on Jean’s leg. When Jean bent down, she put her forelegs around Jean’s neck in an imitation of a hug. When Jean passed her to me, she buried her head under the neck of my shirt and would not come out.

We pretended to think it over and discuss it, but it was done. She’d chosen us. We named her Sadie.

That was maybe the last time in her life she was shy. After that, she inflicted her relentless love on anyone who came into her immediate vicinity.

She didn’t sniff crotches. She sniffed armpits. We had to explain this to everyone who met her for the first time, as Sadie roughly pushed their arms up and shoved her head into their sleeves. We knew who our friends were by who would put up with this.

She loved children, to the point that she thought she owned them. When our friend Mayrav had her oldest son Zev, Sadie would follow her around while she carried the baby, making yowling noises. “Sadie, I will not have you criticizing my parenting!” Mayrav finally told her.

When Jean was pregnant, Sadie knew before we did. When I brought Caroline home from the hospital, Sadie immediately rolled on her back and put her legs in the air. She knew the new boss had come home.

Caroline laughed for the first time when she saw Sadie chasing her tail. Daphne, our younger daughter, decided it was her job to feed Sadie from the table not long after she turned one. They shared a special bond forever after.

This isn’t to say she had magic powers. She was a dog.

She once came to me, wagging her tail with pride after she killed and ate a black widow spider. Her face immediately swelled up like a tennis ball and we made the first of what was to be several emergency vet visits. Or the time Jean left for work, dressed in all white — white coat, white sweater, white dress — and came back inside, a moment later, covered in muddy paw prints.

“What happened?”

“We have a very bad dog!”

Or the time I came home from Comic-Con, and woke up the next morning to discover her digesting a bunch of Bronze Age Marvels, the shredded newsprint all around her.

But Sadie could be surprisingly smart. Once, she got to an unguarded pizza on the counter. Most dogs would have gorged themselves without restraint. Sadie, however, carefully selected a few slices, and then — and this was genius — left one slice behind, so we wouldn’t know if we’d eaten the rest of the pizza or not.

She would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for the pizza sauce on her muzzle. I can still remember her trying to look innocent with tomato all over her face.

I always said, “God, Sadie, you are such a weird dog.” And Jean would say back, “Yes. I’m sure it has nothing to do with her upbringing.”

She was never a lapdog. She grew to be 56 pounds. Because we got her as a puppy, I honestly thought we’d have more time. I was wrong. She died last night after what was either a tumor or a stroke in her spinal cord.

There’s a quote that goes something like, “To have a dog is to make an appointment with heartbreak.” I don’t remember who said it, and I’m too exhausted right now to scour Google for the exact wording and the source. But to me it means that in a dog, you get unconditional love and acceptance — but only for a limited time.

She was never the dog we expected. But I’m glad she chose us. I wouldn’t trade a moment.

Goodbye, Sadie. You were the best of all good girls. I love you and will miss you.

Sadie 062

The Burning Men: A Cade Story

The Burning Men


For everyone who’s been asking when they get to see Nathaniel Cade again… he’s back. Just in time for President’s Day, here’s THE BURNING MEN, a short Cade novella available on Amazon through Kindle. That’s a vampire secret agent, spontaneous human combustion, and occult terrorism, all for less than a vanilla latte at Starbucks.

Here’s the synopsis:

A man stands up in a crowded movie theater. A moment later, everything is burning. When the smoke clears and the bodies are removed, there is no trace of any bomb, or device, or even a matchstick. There’s just the corpse of one man, a statue in ash, with an obscene grin still upon his charred skull.

Nothing human could have done this.

Fortunately, Nathaniel Cade isn’t human, either. Turned into a blood-drinking abomination 145 years ago, he is bound by a special blood oath to serve and protect the United States from supernatural threats. Together with his White House handler, Zach Barrows, Cade races to find out who was behind the murders of a dozen innocent people. They have no suspects, no leads, and no explanations.

All they have is Cade’s vampiric talents and a ticking countdown to the next explosion. Because Cade is certain of one thing: this is only where the fire starts…

This is my first ebook-only Cade story. If you like it, please spread the word. Depending on how this one goes, I might do more.

And, as always, stay bloodthirsty and thank you for your support. Hope you enjoy it.


Messing with Sasquatch

Bigfoot still at large

Yesterday I had a piece in the Sunday New York Post about how I fell away from my belief in Bigfoot. The Post’s web version doesn’t include all the hyperlinks I gathered that lead to more discussion of Sasquatch, however, so I thought I’d reproduce my original draft here on the site:

Bigfoot exists, and we’ve got his DNA. At least, that was the claim of a group of researchers led by a vet from Texas, Dr. Melba Ketchum, at a press conference on Oct. 1. She says analysis of DNA samples proves that Bigfoot is the product of interbreeding between humans and some other, unknown primate species. (Yes, that means someone would literally be able to say, “I had Bigfoot’s baby.”)

When I was 13, I would have been overjoyed at this news. I would have taken it as the long-needed proof that a hairy ape-man actually does leave giant footprints all over the United States.

I grew up in Idaho, supposedly prime Bigfoot country, and I was a hard-core Sasquatch believer. It didn’t matter to me that actual, lifelong outdoorsmen like my grandfather thought it was utter crap, or that all I ever saw on my Boy Scout camp-outs were rain clouds and partially raw hot dogs. Bigfoot was proof that there was more to my home state than limited horizons and abundant potatoes. I would argue —  passionately, with many people who did not care — that there was too much evidence for these mystery creatures to ignore.

That made me a lifetime ticket-holder to the cryptozoo, the shadowy realm where Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and Mothman lurk. My library is still filled with Charles Fort and John A. Keel and Loren Coleman.

My public evangelism for Bigfoot cooled when I started dating, but even a few years ago, I would have said I held out hope for Sasquatch to be revealed.

Today, there are more people than ever who agree. The Olympia Brewing Company has a standing offer of $1 million dollar for anyone who can capture Bigfoot. (You are not allowed to shoot, stab, or even net the creature. You can, however, lure him into your car with cookies.) Olympia is also helping to fund The Falcon Project, which will use a flying drone to search for Bigfoot from the skies. This is in addition to the thousands of plaster casts of footprints. And the dozens — possibly hundreds — of murky photos and video and film clips. There’s alleged Bigfoot hair and poop. There are multiple TV shows that trek into the backwoods with ‘Squatch hunters who yodel out Bigfoot calls in the night.

Sadly, I’m not on the team anymore. Despite all these people looking for him, none of the evidence has improved much since I was in junior high.

Abominable Science! Origins of The Yeti, Nessie, And Other Famous Cryptids, a  recently released book by Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero, sums up all the reasons to be skeptical of Bigfoot better than I ever could. It goes back to the foundations of the Bigfoot legend, and dismantles it brick-by-brick.

Loxton and Prothero reveal that many footprints and plaster casts of Bigfoot are admitted or proven fakes — and that there’s no way to tell which ones are “real” and which are not, even by the self-proclaimed experts. Bigfoot poop and hair? From other, known animals.

Most important, no one has ever produced a corpse of a dead Bigfoot. Or even a single fossil, not even of a toe bone, which, the authors point out, should be present if the creatures have lived in North America as long as humans. In 2008, two guys claimed to have a dead Bigfoot in a freezer. It turned out to be a rubber suit filled with roadkill.

As for Ketchum and her group, other scientists say they are misreading contaminated DNA samples that are actually from a possum. Ketchum maintains that she’s seen the Sasquatches in the wild several times. And yet, she has not produced a video of them that doesn’t look like a shag rug attached to a Halloween Chewbacca mask.

It’s telling that the best evidence for Bigfoot is still a grainy, 10-second snippet of home-movie footage shot on October 20, 1967 — 46 years ago — by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, which supposedly shows a female Sasquatch walking near Bluff Creek in California.

For some reason, this film has never been equaled, despite the fact that nearly everyone now carries a camera around all the time, everywhere they go, in their pocket. Even the professional TV crews on shows like “Finding Bigfoot” always manage to point their lenses in the wrong direction.

Unfortunately for believers, when the Patterson film is stabilized to remove the handheld jitters, it does look a lot like a man in a suit.

But let’s imagine, for a moment, that Bigfoot is real. That we do find him, and bring him out into the light for everyone to see.

Would that really be better? History is filled with wonders we’ve ignored after the initial thrill of discovery. In the real world, Bigfoot would become one more pain-in-the-ass endangered species for loggers and environmentalists to argue over, or just another animal kept in some vaguely depressing exhibit in a zoo.

Bigfoot is probably better off in the realm of folklore. As long as he’s there, his followers can keep believing in rubber suits and possum DNA, and ignoring anything that might cast a shadow of doubt.

That’s not a search for truth. That’s a religion.

So until someone produces a body, I’m a Bigfoot atheist.

That’s the rational, grown-up answer, anyway. If I went back and told my 13-year-old self, it would break his heart.

He really wanted to live in a world where we can have adventures with ape-men and living dinosaurs, a world that was wild enough and big enough to contain giants.

I know better now. But a big part of me still wishes that world was real, too.

professional ape outfits

And here’s the page proof in PDF for those not lucky enough to live where you can get a hard copy of the Post: SASQUASHED