It’s probably a good thing that my husband Alan and I didn’t have Heidi when we got married in 1995, otherwise we would have had to let her choose where to go on our honeymoon (the park, the park, the park!) As it is, the dog pretty much called the shots on what we did for our 16th wedding anniversary last Saturday, Aug. 27.
Besides taking Heidi out to one of her favorite restaurants, on Ventura near Vineland, on the previous Friday night as a sort of anniversary eve celebration, on Saturday morning she also got to go to another of her favorites on the same block, the very dog-friendly Vivian’s Millennium Café.
As usual on a good-weather weekend, we were not the only Vivian’s patrons to arrive with a pooch or two. The side entrance to Vivian’s becomes sort of a club as we dog-people park ourselves with our pets in the outdoor chairs to wait for one of the dog tables (indoors and the covered patio are off limits to canines). We were the third dog family in line. The second was Tom Hubbard of North Hollywood and his faithful companion, Penny the Wonder Dog.
Penny, a medium-sized black-and-white rescue who is a border collie-Australian shepherd mix, shares the herding-dog DNA with Heidi. Unlike Heidi, the new best friend of anyone who looks likely to share a bite of turkey bacon, sweet Penny is a little shy.
But shyness is a surprising quality in a dog that can boast fans across the globe.
Penny and Hubbard are regulars at , a North Hollywood music club that has been . Tom, a longtime volunteer and performer, brings Penny to the club, and Penny likes to follow her Dad into the performing area (you can catch a glimpse of Hubbard and Penny in the attached video in a very special performance of "Happy Trails").
And, because Kulak’s offers live webcasts of its performances around the world, Tom tells us that his timid little pooch was recognized by fans miles away at Huntington Dog Beach: “That’s Penny the Wonder Dog!”
Rather than leaving us waiting for the next dog-table, Tom invited us to share his. He told us stories of long, cazy nights amongst the Kulakians—or as he prefers to call the regulars, the Shed-Heads. And he also told us one way we could not only devote our anniversary morning, but, in fact, the whole day to Heidi: This Saturday night was “Animal Night” at Kulak’s, and Heidi—along with every other dog in the area—was invited!
Heidi has a checkered past when it comes to appreciating live music. Oh her regular Thursday night visit to the Los Angeles Adventurers Club with Alan, operatic tenor Israel Lozano, in town to perform with L.A. Opera, was in the audience for that evening’s lecture, and offered a brief impromptu performance for the members. As soon as he began his aria—something Italian—Heidi added a low growl, and gave a loud bark when he hit his high note. We can only guess is that our German shepherd prefers Wagner.
But we thought we’d risk it with Kulak’s. We had heard that dogs were welcome at the club on Mondays for open mike night, and had been planning to bring Heidi for more than a year—but this anniversary night event seemed like fate. So that evening, after a nice afternoon of shopping in Venice without Heidi (don’t tell her), we hit Kulak’s for the 8 p.m. show.
Tom and Penny weren't there that night, but clearly we were among a crowd of regulars, both dog and human. “They know this place from a block away!” said one parent of her pets. Since the evening was a fundraiser for the Pepper Foundation, a pet adoption organization, its president, Julie Chadwick, acted as emcee. “As usual, there is an assortment of dogs, and as usual, most of them belong to me!” she said at the opening of the program. Much of the rest of her time was spent yelling at Feather, the yappiest of the bunch. “Feather, be quiet. Feather, shut up!”
Heidi did make friends with another newbie, Chopper, a 9-month old mutt with some collie and husky roots. Chopper attended the concert with Lupe Hernandez and Mariano Lleranas, who said they saw the event listed in a local newspaper. “It’s hard to find places where you can take your dog,” Hernandez said.
Heidi couldn’t agree more. In fact, she took advantage of her first music club experience to steal Chopper’s blue tennis ball -- and, when she saw a squirmy young black Labrador put his paws on my lap to make friends, she promptly stuck her jealous nose into the action and pushed him off. The rest of her music appreciation course included guarding the door from imagined intruders and waiting for treats between sets. I could be wrong, but she seems to prefer guitars to saxophones.
Unlike Penny the Wonder Dog, Heidi stayed off camera, so probably did not win any new fans in Budapest or Huntington Beach via webcam that night. But given her earlier reaction to opera, it’s probably just as well that she didn’t decide to join the musicians to sing along.