After we packed up and left Jason’s family behind in Oceanside, it was finally time for our triumphant return to Venice. This was the last place we called home before packing up the camper and leaving on the Big Adventure, back in the days before Maya, before border crossings, basically before everything I had known as my life for the last year and a half. What was it going to be like?
Well, before I got a chance to find out, My Family took a bunch of time to run errands. We had to get a new part for the camper’s table and a new bunch of treats to eat during the week, all before hopping on a giant highway and turning north. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen so many cars! There were four lanes moving in either direction, packed with people, and My Family was none too impressed. Even Maya was tapping nervously at the back seat. Jason got reacquainted with American highway driving, and a couple of hours later we rolled into Venice in one piece.
The smells! As soon as we crossed the city line I could tell we were home again. There was Abbot Kinney, and my favorite doggie shop. There was the stretch of lawn in front of the wee blue houses that I liked to pee on. And there were Katie and Mike! We got settled into the parking lot behind their house and tucked in for a big meal together. I’m not exactly sure if Wickets and Beverly were happy to see me, but they were both very nice to Maya, and Katie and Mike’s little girl Marley really loved us dogs. She’s a baby, which basically means a small human who walks around like a drunk full-sized human. The adult humans traded stories and ate pizza, while Maya and I tried to get used to city life.
First of all? It’s so loud here! Humans are terrible about sound; they don’t hear ANYTHING. And in Venice, there’s a lot to hear. At any given time there’s traffic, sirens, helicopters, music, screaming, honking, wheels rolling on pavement, drums, laughter, and basically any other people noises you can think of. It was pretty overwhelming, and I know it wasn’t just us dogs that were affected. That first night Jason couldn’t sleep because of the sound of helicopters above our camper. We’re used to spending the night almost anywhere, but this was something different. We weren’t in a campsite, we were on a driveway, in a busy neighborhood. It felt like one of our nights at a Pemex gas station, except even noisier! I figured it was going to take a little while to get used to this next part of the Big Adventure.
Despite the new (old?) noises, the next couple of days were super fun. We wandered our old neighborhood, and ran into all sorts of friends. It was cool seeing so many happy faces, and to introduce Maya to all of the nice humans I had liked so much when we lived here. The dogs around here, however, didn’t seem nearly as happy or friendly. The locals call Venice ‘Dogtown’, I guess because almost everyone has dogs? And those dogs are ALWAYS on leash, stuck in houses, or kept behind fences on well-tended yards. I know it’s not a bad life. After all, us American dogs get all the food we could want, a comfy bed to lay in, and plenty of toys to destroy. I guess it’s a fair deal, but it certainly seemed like the dogs south of the border were freer. They get to go everywhere, run around in the sand and the dirt, and are always meeting new humans and dogs. Around here, humans walking their dogs actually crossed the street to avoid me and Maya. I don’t get it. Do I smell bad? I know I bark sometimes, but can’t we all just work it out? Strange behavior. We did get to be off leash a bit in Katie’s front yard and at the dog park, but it’s not the same. I guess all of those rules I noticed in Oceanside are even more strict here, since there’s way more humans and cars running about.
I noticed a couple more differences during the days we spent parked behind our old street. First of all, humans run here. Like, just for fun. They’re not being chased or anything. And the cars are really quiet! There are all these things called ‘hybrids’ and you don’t hear them coming. Thankfully, it wasn’t all strange. We had plenty of delicious treats with our old neighbors, and lots of great walks around the streets we used to call home. I guess we changed, but Dogtown has basically stayed the same.
After a few more days with Mike and Katie we said our goodbyes. They’re the most awesomest hosts ever, but we were taking up all of their parking spots with our big truck, and in Venice that’s a pretty big deal. There’s nowhere good to camp in Los Angeles, no big sandy patches to park in or beaches you can stay on all night, so we were going to keep staying with friends. We packed down and headed just a few blocks away to our friend Karyn’s house. She’s super awesome. We had a lot of fun together when she came to visit us in Costa Rica, and we were going to spend a few days parked in her driveway. As seems to be the habit now, with our driving days fewer and farther in between, we had to run a bunch of errands before making our next destination. The grocery store, the storage center (to drop off some of the camping gear we didn’t need, now that we were city camping), and finally on to Karyn’s. It was so great to see her again! I thought my tail was going to wag right off when I saw her outside the house. I immediately made my way into Karyn’s lap, and I don’t think I moved until after we had spent hours in her cozy back patio. I finally left Karyn alone so she could get to sleep, and we headed into the camper for bed.
The next day brought a pretty serious change in our routine: Jason left for work! As you know if you’ve been following my blog, Jason has been able to work pretty much anywhere during the Big Adventure. He’s made an office of beaches, jungles, farms, coffee shops, bars, restaurants and tattoo parlors, all without much of a problem. Here in America, lots of humans work in actual offices, so now that we were back, he had to do the same. That means getting up early, wearing real clothes and shoes, and commuting to a whole different part of Los Angeles. Jason was none too happy about this new development, so we all tried to give him as much love as possible before he left. Well, Victoria and I did. Maya was too busy barking at all of the dogs on leashes that walked by Karyn’s house. She just doesn’t get why they’re not allowed to play with her.
The following few days passed quickly. We spent a lot of time going for walks in the neighborhood and hanging out with Karyn, and her daughter Devon. Oh, Karyn has a cat, and that caused a few issues with Maya. If you don’t know by now, Maya is scared of EVERYTHING. I’m pretty sure she pooped herself when she saw the cat nearby in the backyard. Jason worked, Victoria cleaned up the camper and started researching our next step, Maya and I wrestled, played with sticks and loved on Karyn. Your basic week. Maya had to go to the vet one day, something she isn’t used to and seriously doesn’t like, we both got baths another day (something else Maya isn’t enthralled with), and passed the time in the beautiful weather of our home town. I thought that I’d get used to all the sounds, the humans and the leashed dogs the more time we spent here, but so far it wasn’t happening.
One day we got to go to a party! Victoria and Jason have a friend name Dana, and it was her birthday. She’s pretty cool, and she let Maya and me come to her party. There was so much food and so many people I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head! I didn’t get to taste anything delicious, but I did get to see some of my favorite humans I hadn’t seen in a long time. Everyone wanted to hear My Family’s Big Adventure stories, and we got to spend hours lounging on the lawn. It’s sort of a strange thing to come back to a place where so many humans and dogs know you, after spending so much time in places where you don’t know anyone. On one hand, it’s really nice to be surrounded by humans and dogs you share a history with. On the other, it can be pretty overwhelming, at least at first. We had a blast at the party, but when it was time to go home I was more than happy to jump back into the camper.
We finally decided it was time to say goodbye to Karyn and move on. I was sort of hoping we were going to stay there forever. After all, we had a spot to run around off leash, access to fresh water, and plenty of grass to roll on. It was pretty much ideal to me. My Family, however, didn’t want to overstay their welcome. So Jason packed up the camper and we drove off. More errands, but then a very short drive to our friend Erik’s apartment. Erik is a super nice human, and he let my whole family stay in his apartment while he was out of town!
Although awesome, this was pretty strange at first. Other than that one night with Jason’s family when the big truck was in the shop, we hadn’t stayed out of the camper since we lived in San Miguel de Allende over the holidays. I don’t know if this is a human years versus dog years thing or what, but that felt like forever ago. Suddenly, there we were, with a bed, and carpeting to roll around on, and a whole big kitchen with room for our bowls and everything! I settled right in; after all, I’m a cosmopolitan pooch. Maya, on the other hand, didn’t really know what to do with herself. Jason keeps calling her a ‘country dog’, and I guess that’s true. She’s from Guatemala, hasn’t spent much time in her life in cities with lots of people, and has spent even less time in people’s houses. Jason called her a ‘bull in a China shop’, and he and Victoria spent a lot of time chasing her around making sure she didn’t break any of Erik’s cool stuff. I didn’t see anything Chinese in there, and there definitely wasn’t anything for sale, but whatever. Humans…
The next week passed quickly. Jason kept going to work, and Victoria kept researching. Apparently, instead of looking for campsites, we were looking for houses. We were going to stay in Los Angeles! They didn’t tell me much, so I’m not sure how long this was going to be for, or where it was going to be. All I knew was, My Family was looking for somewhere to call home. Jason and Victoria spent a lot of time on the computer, searching for places that looked nice and were okay for dogs. We even went off and looked at some places. Nothing seemed to fit, though, and My Family was starting to get nervous. They weren’t really sure where we were going to stay after Erik came home. We had a lot of friends in Venice, but not everyone has room to put up two humans, two dogs and a big camper. What would happen?
One day, Jason called Victoria from work with some good news. Our friends Tanya and Sean were going out of town for a whole month, and they had offered us their place while they were gone! How cool is that?! Jason and Victoria were super thankful and super excited. Our friends were all being so nice, and really supportive of our traveling lifestyle after so long away from home. I readied myself for another errand run and another quick drive to another part of Venice. We packed down, said goodbye to our good friends Hani and Alison (who lived in the same building as Erik), and hopped in the truck.
Then, something truly unexpected happened. We left Venice behind. I was so confused. Were were not going to stay in our old home town anymore? I discovered that Sean and Tanya live in a place called Studio City, also in Los Angeles but quite a ways from Venice. This was the end of our Dogtown Days, and I couldn’t figure out how I felt about that. On one hand, I was excited about a new adventure, and exploring another part of Los Angeles made it feel a lot more like our Big Adventure, when we were always checking out new towns. On the other hand, it seemed clear that we weren’t going to live in Venice anymore. Our old block was just that, an old home, no longer ours. New people lived in the wee blue house, and as awesome as our old life was, it was impossible to recreate it. We had to chart a new path. Well, Victoria and Jason did. All I get to chart is my pee spots but I’m sure hoping that during our time in Studio City I get a chance to overhear what’s next. Right now, it all feels a lot strange, and I’m kind of missing our old life on the road.
PS: To see some of the photos My Family took during our time in Venice, click here.