Dog Blog: Presents can come in 30-pound packages

My guess is that the Ralphs grocery store offers more than just groceries.

While shopping at Ralphs and worrying about what dog to write about (I didn't have any volunteers as of yet) I spied a man named Don Johnson (not the actor) who seemed very concerned about the font door of the store. We got to talking and he told me the story of his dog, Lazarus, who was leashed outside.

Lazarus is a 2-year-old mix of some kind. He is as wide as he is tall with short stubby legs and giant paws. He was curled up in a box that was sitting by the entrance with no note, nor blanket or towel to cover him. Don walked by with an "oh, poor thing" thought and continued on into the store. As he walked by the box on his way out, he stopped for a while, but nobody came to claim this shivering pooch. When he asked around no one knew anything.

As it turned out, after his morning walk, Don had gone to Ralphs to pick up a bottle of water and came home with a bundle of dog. This bundle was wrapped in Don's windbreaker and difficult to carry. On the way home Don nick-named him Bag-O-Bricks because he was so heavy, compact and clumsy to carry. He also decided to call him Lazarus because he had risen again.

Don decided that finding the owners was the first thing to do. An ad in the PennySaver and posters around the area yielded no response. After a few weeks, he became attached to the big guy so he decided to keep and care for him.

When Lazarus got to his new home he sniffed the entire house and found that special spot — his spot. He immediately made himself at home.

Don, not being a dog-type person did not quite know what to do. He consulted with one of our local pet stores requesting the basic dog "how to(s)." Don was given the run down and headed home with the intention of putting this advice to practice. Upon his return, Don was greeted at the door with a whimpering, peeing, tail wagging pitiful looking pooch. Lazarus, at that moment, became his dog.

Lazarus' trip to the vet revealed a guess at his age and some minor health problems due to neglect, but overall he was in good shape. Not knowing who the original owners were, Lazarus received a round of dog shots, leash, harness (extra wide) and a license. The vet observed that Lazarus acted as though he had been physically abused in some way. He cowered when a human female hand was extended toward him. But if a male human's hand was extended to him, he wagged his tail and licked the hand all over.

Well, no girlfriends over for Don (a bachelor), at least not for a while. Don called his lady friend and explained his dilemma. She said "no problem — get to know your new friend." She is a dog person.

Don works at home as an investment consultant and is on the computer most of the early morning hours then runs on the beach and back to the computer for the rest of the day. In the morning the clickity clack of the computer keys is the signal for Lazarus that "it's food time." Lazarus will jump up and run to his bowl.

Determining what went into that bowl was the first feeding challenge. Don had gone through several varieties of dog food with no luck. Lazarus would turn his nose up and go lay down. At one point Don dropped some food from his plate on to the floor, and Lazarus ran over and gobbled it up.

Aha, he was fed people food in his prior life. Don stuck with the dog food regiment, thinking, "He would eat when he got hungry enough."

It was a heart-breaking exercise, but it did work. With the exception of popcorn and beer on football nights, Lazarus doesn't eat people food.

One morning, Don took Lazarus along on his morning run, only to find he is a fish in dog's clothing, or fur as were.

Lazarus hit the ocean and surfed for 30 minutes. Don was sure he would sink because Lazarus weighed 30 pounds, 30 pounds of bricks at that. Maybe those giant paws helped keep him afloat. Don had a heck of a time getting him out of the water. He finally came out when he got tired.

Now all Don has to do is put his running shoes on and grab a bottle of water — key indicators of a beach walk — and Lazarus is jumping up and down at the door. Don then says, "Lets go to the beach," and Lazarus howls an operatic-worthy aria of — "Let's go, let's go, my love," until Don puts his leash on his leash. Most of the running Don gets now is up and down the beach keeping track of Lazarus' wave jumping.

When I asked Don, "How do you like being a dog owner?" he said, "It's more expensive than I expected but he has become my confidant, sleeping partner, buddy and entertainment center."

Don has gone through all of the new dog owner phases: watching their every move for fear someone would steal them; panicking that when crossing the street, he will run in front of a car; the frustrations of "no, I do not want to play with you now and no, that is not a toy — but it is now garbage."

Don lives alone and works at home so Lazarus gets a lot of attention and is the first one to get the word on how the NASDC is doing — good or bad. He had pooped on the Wall Street Journal when he first came to Don's house and had some experience with the stocks and bond markets.

During these morning conversations, Lazarus will sit at Don's feet to watch Don watching the computer and listen very intently cocking his head left to right and nodding his head up and down acknowledging Don's fisted arm in the air yelling, "Yes!" Of course the longer runs come when Don clenches his fists and yells," Rats!"

Some of Lazarus's more entertaining moments include the morning Don was awakened by a loud thump on the floor only to find Lazarus had burrowed his way into Don's jacket sleeve and got stuck (the entrance was wider than the exit) Don now hangs the jacket up instead of tossing it on the floor bachelor style.

Then there was the time Lazarus had to get that last bit of dog food that had rolled under the cabinet and got his head stuck digging for it. After a full minute of yelping and crying (Don was getting the mail), he was rescued to the tune of Don's laughter. Lazarus did not leave his side for the rest of the day and avoided that cabinet for months. Lazarus was convinced that the cabinet had attacked him and would occasionally bark at it.

Lazarus looks like he might bite your leg off but he, in fact, is very lovable, docile, quite and lazy, and can pull off the "poor, poor me" pitiful look quite effectively.

Don has only had Lazarus for a year, but I believe there are many more to come.

Advice here is — think outside the box, especially if it is sitting out side of Ralphs.

PEGI LOPEZ lives in Laguna Beach. Anyone with a funny or interesting story about their pet may send it to her at

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