Dear, Pepper

Dear Pepper,

I read this essay online.  You don’t know what an essay is, because you’re a dog, also you’re dead now, but that’s not why you don’t know.  You don’t know because dogs don’t really do essays.  Dogs are really more about that being loved and doted on life.  The lucky ones that is. Anyway, I read this essay that Cazzie David wrote about her dad Larry David, a very famous comedian where she talked about why she still lived at home at 23.  You can read the whole thing here, well you can’t because you don’t know how to read, and because you’re dead now (this bears repeating, because I’m teetering on the edge of un-reality by trying to convince myself that maybe, just maybe, you’re taking a nice long nap), but anyone else reading this letter can and should, in my opinion.  Because it’s heartbreaking and funny as hell and perfectly encapsulates the way us worriers fear deaths arrival. Anyway, it so reminded me of us.  To quote miss David “My dad sits on the couch almost every night watching a movie from the ‘40s.  I find old movies boring because of my age and advanced ADD, but I’ll gladly, for aforementioned reasons, sit next to him and watch him stare at the screen. He’ll say ‘It’s Saturday night.  Why don’t you go hang out with your friends? Go do something.’ I’ll tell him I can do that whenever, but how many more times am I going to be able to sit next to my dad as he watches a movie? He’ll reply ‘What are you talking about?  We do this every night.’ And I’ll think to myself ‘Yeah. Every night…until you die.’”

Do you even know how many Saturday nights I chose you instead of hanging out with my friends, miss Pep?  Of course you do, you were there snuggled up to me watching the Bachelor or Felicity or Planet Earth or or or.  And I’d feed you anything that wouldn’t kill you because you were such a good girl and I was such a bad girl. Oh boy.  Hold on just a second here, I gotta just wipe this wet stuff from my eyes and, oh, now it’s on the keyboard, dammit you’re not supposed to get electronics wet.  I know you probably don’t know that either, but it’s true, ok? I don’t know, maybe you need to know these things wherever you are. After all, who’s looking out for you now?  


You had an interesting start in life and even though you were homeless for the first 6 years of it, I know you were a happy dog eating pizza scraps and other street goodies. Sorry you had to make the switch to dog food when you came home with me. I know it was confusing to be your homeless humans companion for all those years, but she found out she was very sick and made the loving choice to pass you on to Yolanda, who never intended to keep you. It was the lowest point in my life, having just gone through the most painful relationship. You were gonna be my revenge pup, ha! But you were so special Pep-a-step, I know it took awhile for me to come along. I’ll always be grateful for your grace as you got passed off from temporary home to temporary home; you settled in with me almost overnight, and this is our love story:

Pepperoni and cheese: I totally understand now why people believe in some magical place they like to call heaven.  Because when we lose someone we love we have no choice but to believe they’ve gone somewhere better. It’s simply too much that you really might just be a sack of bones sitting in a beautiful mahogany box on my desk.  I don’t mean to be grim, but science promises that’s what’s happening here and the only thing keeping me from going back on antidepressants is the idea that you are being stroked and belly rubbed and ogled and cooed at whilst being fed steak that happens to have never harmed any animals (that hope is for me, not you).  Your arthritic hobble was v v bad in the end there and the only thought I can tolerate is that you’re prancing through a field of raw meat and snowflakes somewhere.

Paprika, can we just take a minute and reminisce about everything we experienced together and how we stretched time?  

  • Three cross country road trips.

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  • We hiked The Grand Canyon.

  • We slept together in like a million different motels.

  • We swam in oceans.

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  • We swam in lakes.

  • We swam in pools and chilled on blow up flotation thingys.  You popped one with your toenail and scared yourself silly.

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  • We even took a shower together once because, well I don’t remember why, do you?  There was a reason I’m sure of it.

  • We went to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree…remember that time it was so hot you couldn’t walk on the asphalt without burning your toes so Yassine had to squirt his water bottle on your feet every step you took?

  • We went to San Diego.

  • We dressed up as famous duos for Halloween, which was always a bit awkward when I had to leave you (and therefore half my costume) home.

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  • We went to the dog park but you major hated that shit, so we always left shortly after arriving, but not before you cutely policed the other doggos.

  • We hiked all over LA

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  • We eventually found our favorite hiking spot in Highland Park.  Ya know! I just remembered I have pictures from that day. It was the first day I remarked at your modeling skills and what a beautiful dog you were.  I had just bought my fancy Canon 6D and requested you continue to jump into the lake so I could practice taking action shots. I was fairly unsuccessful, but you certainly slept well that night.  

  • We stayed with SO MANY FRIENDS: Hanne, Chloe, Travis, Danny, Kali, Eryn, Kate, Mom and Dad, Ari and Alex, Anthony, Devin, Audrey and the list goes on.

  • We snoozed in the sunlit living room of Kate and Dana’s upstate New York cabin.

  • We drove to Vegas together (ugh).

  • You came on The Vegan Road Trip with us.

  • We shared a popsicle (this was the moment you forgave me for going to South America without you for two months).

  • We slept under the stars together.

  • On the couch together.

  • In several different beds together.

  • You followed me all over this damn country and you were so happy to do it.

  • You ate at dozens of restaurants with me.

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  • We smuggled you into grandma and grandpas apartment.

  • We went to Dewey beach.

  • We took a ferry to Fire Island.

  • We hung out in East Hampton.

  • We got to know a lot of families and for two whole years you got to come to work with me everyday.

  • You became an overnight sensation when @thedogist shared your pictures and your story on instagram. Over 150,000 likes and 1000+ comments praising you, and you remained humble the whole time.

  • We survived bed bugs together.

  • And having a rescue rabbit Salty Buns in our 400 sq/ft apartment (I don’t think he was your favorite, but I’ll always be grateful that you were so gracious about having him around.  Thank you for not eating him).

  • We protected each other.  (Remember when you got in front of me when that big dog started approaching on our hike and he attacked you and you had to get tubes in your belly and lots of stitches and pain meds?  And then remember that other time when a dog started charging you and this time I tried to protect you and wound up breaking my thumb in the process?)  I think it’s obvious we would have done anything for each other.  Right after you died my beautiful and loving friends tried to console me by saying “...but you gave her such a good life…” and I’m like, I fucking know, but does she know she gave me the best life?  Does she?  Do you Pepanopoulos?  

And now what I really can’t believe is this:  

  • When coming home, I’m never going to hear the tap-tap-tap shuffle of your feet getting up from right in front of the door where you would sleep and wait for me.  Side note: When you first came into my life I asked my neighbors at Larissa if you ever barked because I had never heard you make a peep, and I thought this was weird.  They said yes, once a day, when the mailman came. I thought that was so hilariously unreasonable of you, until one day when I was home sick, sleeping in bed, and there you were sleeping peacefully under the mail chute along the door, when BOOM a bunch of mail came crashing on your sleeping head.  And then I heard it. It was such a precious sound. One. Single. Determined. WOOF!

  • I’m never going to feel your head nudge.  That infamous Pep-a-step head nudge that was so charming and demanding.  

  • I’m never going to smell that breath again.  That rotten, something-died-in-your-old-lady-mouth smell, and, as it turns out, I’m just as sad to let go of the less favorable along with the good stuff.  In fact, I’d do anything to have you under foot, where you loved to be more than anywhere on the planet. I’d literally rather be in the ER because I tripped over your belly and face planted the side of a hot stove.  

  • I’m never going to see you eat snow again.  Do you know this was one of the things that brought me the most joy, was watching you c-h-e-w snow?  I know how much you loved it, you little LA dog, can you imagine if you went your whole life and never met snow?  I’m so glad that I could gift you such a magical thing. Thank you, Eryn, for letting us find a dog friendly cabin in Big Bear to celebrate your 30th birthday.  It was Pepper’s first time in the snow. And I’ll never forget it.

  • I ain’t gonna feel the weight of your head in my lap, which is where you liked to rest, or your paw on my leg.  You were the most awkward “sitter,” what was up with that by the way?

Death is hardest on the living, my sweet girl.  You’re probably glad to hear that I know that, because all you ever wanted was for me to be happy and to feel loved.  You made me so happy and you made me feel so loved.  I wish I could hold you and have you forever.  I wish that all dogs lived to be 200 and humans lived to be 200 plus 1 day because I’d never want you to have to be without me and I’ve done enough work on myself to tolerate 24 hours of utter loneliness.  All I ever wanted was to protect you from harm and discomfort and pain and the lack of companionship. And I did. But you didn’t speak English, which was like, super frustrating sometimes. You did, however,  teach me other ways to communicate and you had the most soulful eyes. I could always find the answer deep in your dirty windowed, cloudy-blue, kind rainstorm eyes. But if only you could nod or say yes, mama, I know how much I changed your life.  Well, I think that would be comforting. It’s not that I think you didn’t feel my love, it’s just your absence has left me insatiable. Because I crave your presence deep within my bones and there’s no undo button, no waking up from a lonely dream.  I can smell you as I type this. I can feel the fuzzy part of your upper lip just under your nose. I know, I know, it was annoying that I always wanted to rub that part of your face, but you’re such a peach for letting me do it. And your velvety soft ears, I wanted to keep them.  The vet told me it would be next level creepy to keep your ears. After sobbing and turning your body over to her, I agreed. Begrudgingly.

Don’t take this the wrong way, but I want my fellow animal lovers and pet owners to know that it was easy to make the decision to let you go.  Because we did that thing where we looked deeply and with great focus into each other’s eyes and you “told” me it was time. You signaled you were tired and that you needed to just rest.  You thought I didn’t need you anymore because I had Jason and you loved him too, so much. So you were okay leaving me with him. I know it doesn’t matter, we all pass on, but I didn’t stop needing you and I never will.  The last year I’ve leaned into your memory many times over. The ones we love never really leave, their presence in our lives simply shifts. Life, of course, is a capital A asshole from time to time, reminding me you were never mine to have.  Just to love. So I had to put my big girl pants on and I had to muster the courage. I will always be grateful that I was with you. That I got to hold you and comfort you and tell you “You’re such a good girl” as you suffered through your last night.   I wish we could have eaten a pint of vegan ice cream together for our last hurrah, but you weren’t up for it. Another sign. I’m sorry I got frustrated with you that night. I was just really scared, because I knew in my guts I needed to start saying my goodbyes.  

I want you to know everything I do in this life moving forward will be in your honor.  You taught to me to be brave, to stay close to the ones you love, to lean on the people who lift you up when you feel low.  You taught me exactly how to angle your head so that you can best soak in the sun. I wonder if people are sick of hearing about our love story, but that sounds like a their problem, not an our problem, right Pep?  You came around and showed me that soul mates exist.  For me in the form of a soft, blue-ish, no tailed babe named Pepper.  I hope you’ve been resting in peace. Maybe what I really mean is that I hope you dance the night away you luscious queen, and enjoy all the chocolate.  Nothin’ can hurt you now. Thank you for your love, I will think of you everyday for the rest of my life. Your death shattered my heart in a million pieces leaving an unmistakable hole.  I’ve been told over time it will heal and close up, but I believe every time our hearts break it always leaves a mark, and that’s just how the light gets in.

I love you baby girl, to the moon and back and as Dana reminded me “we will all hang out on the other side, yo.”  Until then…

I love you.

I love you.

Thank you.

Yours (always yours),


P.S. You were loved by everyone who ever had the good luck of meeting you.


Joshua Tree, CA.

I love living in New York, and I've grown up a lot in the past three years of living as an adult here.  But?  And?  California is a pretty ideal place to visit or even live, to be honest, and I know having lived there myself for quite some time.  It's predictable (even in all of its environmental unpleasantries), it's sunny and warm (nearly 100% of the time), it's beautiful, it's got beaches, mountains, and city vibes.  Quality of life and ease of day-to-day living is high, especially if you're a veggie like me.  I spent ten years living in my delightful Los Angeles bubble of like...actual food o p t i o n s.  Admittedly, the so-many-choices-what-to-do thing was a bit much for my tried and true dry salad, hold the everything option I had become so accustomed to.  The veg movement really has come a long way, hasn't it?  Having been the only vegetarian in my house (and now vegan) since the age of 7, I had to learn fast how to:

Not starve

Remain polite at dinner parties.  A good example would be "Oh this dry lettuce is tremendous where did you get it?  Is it organic?  It tastes like fucking gold."  Okay, not exactly.  Instead I might have coughed up something like  "Ya know I'm not really feeling that great, and I don't have much of an appetite, so this salad is perfect.  Thank you."  I never wanted to hurt my hosts feelings and I definitely never wanted to make it seem like being a vegetarian was difficult.  Because future me knew it couldn't be easier.  

Develop a palate for vegetarian foods I didn't like, because God forbid I'm also a picky eater on top of it.  You don't like olives?  Can you even afford that?

Just say I was allergic to meat so as to avoid any conflict or discomfort, especially if I was feeling defensive or feisty. 

Learn to escape the maddening claim in retort to my stated vegetarianism "It's just chicken,"


"You can pick out the bacon bits."

But in Silverlake, the Los Angeles neighborhood I lived in at the time, had the restaurant Flore, where I could get a tempeh reuben.  Or Mowhawk Bendwhere I could enjoy vegan pizza or a fried green tomato po'boy (AT THE SAME TIME that my friends enjoyed some non-vegan options).  Or Sage Organic Bistro, where I can get truly stuffed on a jackfruit "pulled pork" bbq sandwich or hearts of palm ceviche.  P.S. this list simply scratches the surface of the ever expanding vegan restaurant options out west.  It's like a vegan fucking mecca.   

Joshua Tree?

Not exactly the vegan mecca that LA is, although the concept is not at all lost on this rustic, desert town, which boasts its fair share of my favorite kind, the hippie kind.  Originally Jason and I were flying out for a 5 year wedding anniversary celebration, but some of the plans got funky and that part of the trip was cancelled.  We decided to go anyway.

And I am so glad, because it was fu#$&*! awesome.  I'd been to Joshua Tree many times before but this time we had nothing to do.  No one to see.  Nowhere to be.  We made up our adventure as we went, and it was s-w-e-l-l.  

Day 1:  We flew into Palm Springs International Airport because it was somehow cheaper and HOLY SHIT, if I never have to fly into LAX again it'll be too soon.  Even if it's a little extra I highly recommend it.  What you save in dollars flying to LA you lose in sanity and time.  You choose what matters more, I totally get it.  The drive to Hicksville Trailer Palace, where we stayed the first two nights, was about an hour through Yucca Valley and we were cutting it close to the final cut off time for checking in.  Jessica greeted us with a brief tour, some basic rules (there really aren't many), tossed us our keys to the Fifi trailer (more on that in a minute) and a little pillbox stuffed with marijuana cuz CALIFORNIA FOR THE WIN! 

A quick word on the Fifi:  um, it's amazing?  The end.  And you need to go.  A longer word: Hicksville was created by a filmmaker from Los Angeles who wanted to create a unique space where artists could escape to get inspiration and work in a quiet, private place.  Then he decided to open it up to the public in 2010.  Everything is on the super-down-low; you don't get the address until your about thirty minutes away when they request that you call a particular number which was emailed to you the day before.  It's super neat-o and weird and nothing captures the essence and magic of the place better than this article right here.  Also, the whole place runs entirely on solar panels.  #veganfortheplanet

Day 2:  After climbing around our tiny, yet hilariously stimulating trailer with a couple of coronas the night before we woke up what seemed like eighteen hours later and shuffled to the Keurig machines which took credit cards, cost $2 a coffee, and was dispensed into the random, non-matching mug of your choice obtained from the communal outdoor kitchen cabinets.  We shuffled sleepily back to the Fifi, shielding our eyes from the blinding desert sun, a definite relief from the whipping 20 mph winds that welcomed us to California the previous evening. Inside, we comfortably squished our toes in the purple shag carpet whilst sipping our coffee in style, cuz wigs?

It was hard to get movin' because of the acid trippin' location we woke up in, but two things got us in our rental car:


2) Our friend KK had just been in JT three weeks prior and she left us a surprise to find with a clue and some GPS coordinates:

34.1347981, -116.3179871
I once was part of an ocean far away. I cleaned the sea for all to see. I hang now so gracefully from this Yucca, in front of a vegan restaurant you’ll be sure to see. look for the farmers market sign, I am near.

Oh my GAWD perf!  We can kill two birds with one stone (but oh my GAWD I would never) and find our present after going to this vegan restaurant!  Yesssssss.  We arrived at the restaurant and alas!  I'd been here before, and now I'm getting excited because if memory* served me it was delicious (*memory served me).  The place is called Natural Sisters Cafe and I ordered The World of Flavors salad, small, and it was ENORMOUS.  Great bang for your buck.  We met a sweet little lady named Stella and her mama Sarah.  We chatted for awhile and baby's been vegan her whole tiny life.  Not only that, they were from upstate New York and had been on the road traveling all across the US living my dream life.  You can check out their journey on instagram here.  


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Next we moved onto to find our amazing new treasure and much to our dismay it had been blown away.  We searched long and hard and when we couldn't find it, KK told us what we were looking for: a piece of coral she found floating in the waters of Hawaii while surfing.  The local tattoo parlor said they had the craziest winds over the past week and he'd be surprised if a tiny treasure would have stayed in its right place.  We decided, with nothing to do, that we would take a drive and get lost.  Turns out we got lost all the way up the mountain in Big Bear (a three hour drive) - we went from the desert up to the snowcapped mountains and back down again to JT.  Roundtrip 5 hours, and Big Bear was way less vegan friendly.  Fortunately, I still had my monster salad leftovers to munch on.  It was time to move on, and by movin' on I do of course mean movin' on back to that sweet ass trailer park.  I mean, it's exhausting sleeping 100 hours and sitting for 5 more in the car.  

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First we stopped at Walmart to food shop, because we were gonna grill and hang with some buddies we made at the trailer.  We got kumquats, salad stuff, tofu, veggie sausages, chips and salsa and liquor drinks for our chilly fire-side hot tubbin' later that night.  Hey Walmart!  Good job on the vegan selection...but maybe more veg options and fewer guns?  K, please and thanks.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot TO SHOW YOU THE TRAILER PALACE!



We made salad, played mini golf, did some archery with Trump as a target (yugely great fun) and started drinking 








The rest of the night was a blur.  But I suspect it was a very good time.  I do have some proof that we played music from the juke box, there was a christmas-ly lit dome thing to add even more color to the black desert night sky, and that the mood was just as special at night as it was by day.  We even met a lion dog the next day and spent some more time in our cute AF little home.  Are you sick of these pictures yet?  Cool, here's some more:

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You're probably wondering if we ever actually entered Joshua Tree Park and the answer is HELL YES, but first we switched locations and reluctantly moved into our private little cabin about twenty minutes away courtesy of Thunderbird Lodge and stayed in the shell house.  Basically the exact opposite vibe of Hicksville, but equally special.  Quiet, lazy, beautiful starry skies, king size bed, bear foot claw tub, backgammon, wood burning stove/fireplace, scrabble and lots of open kitchen space.  Outside there was a grill and other found objects strewn about (this sort of artistic habit of homeowners in JT is one of my favorites: junkyard lawn ornamenting).  Believe it or not, we headed back to Walmart for more fix-ins because Jason and I were quite enjoying cozying up together and staying warm inside while listening to the thrashing winds blow through all the seashell chimes hanging outside. 

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After we settled and grocery shopped for dinner and breakfast the following morning, we decided to head to Pappy and Harriet's in Pioneertown, a kitschy western inspired bar and restaurant with a pool table and proper music venue in the back.  This place draws in some of LA's best indie musicians.  Not many vegan options, but our waitress was real friendly and helped me make some modifications so I could enjoy a hearty (and healthy) burrito type bowl with brown rice and beans and avocado, etc...  After that we walked through "town" and stopped in the local shops, saw some caged hens and hoped they were happy and free, and then we made our way back "home."  

When we got back we made dinner, played games, took a soak in the tub, and made sandwiches and packed lunches for our hike through Joshua Tree the next day.  It was a very restful night so when we woke up early the next morning, we made our breakfast of vegan yogurt, fresh berries and vegan granola!


Needless to say, we left Joshua Tree quite begrudgingly.  It was a time warp, an actual vacation.  Four days that felt like ten.  We were refreshed, muscles relaxed and regenerated, souls revived.  We couldn't stop the adventure SO WE DIDN'T.  On our drive back to Palm Springs International Airport, we took the scenic route back through JT national park and made our first detour to Cholla Cactus Garden before making our way to the Painted Desert near PS, went on an extraordinary hike up, up, up and caught a glimpse of the Salton Sea.   

It was a magical way to end the trip before boarding our red eye back to life, back to reality.  See you next time, you slice of magic.  Joshua, my Tree, you are a special place, and a part of me will always long for you.  ***** (Those are five stars, now GO!)

Shout out to this lil lizard who totally posed for me before jetting out of sight.  #lizardwhisperer

Shout out to this lil lizard who totally posed for me before jetting out of sight.  #lizardwhisperer