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  • Writer's pictureE. Sclafani Bayless

Hazel: The Happiest Dog in The World!

Her name is Hazel Sclafani Bayless.

She stands 1'' tall by x 2'' long, except when she stretches out on the carpet, where I swear she reaches at least 5 feet long. It's totally, weirdly amazing... like she's a canine with one giraffe gene!

She weighs 7 1/2 lbs and has snow white curly hair- that is, when it’s growing out. When it’s cut short, it’s pin-straight. These days she’s sporting her “long lamb look" since she has not seen her groomer Mary for weeks due to the pandemic. She’s our little girl and we love (and spoil) her to death. For those inquiring minds, here's a brief background on Ms. Hazel and how she came to be an important part of our world. Her family history is “Maltese.” She was born in Burbank, California, which makes her a card holding “Valley Girl." I know if she were to speak human talk her sentences would be peppered with “totally,” “OMG” and “gag me with a spoon”. She's very verbal. She talks back at us, almost mimicking our scolding tones. She yodels when she's begging to be taken for a walk. She has a happier, tail-wagging bark when she first meets a human friend of ours and isn't sure whether to trust them or not. She has a shrieky, yappy bark to warn us of an approaching car in our gated community. And when she wants her breakfast or dinner she has a jump-out-of-your-skin bass bark so loud and deep that you wonder how it comes out her little body. 

Hazel and her dad ❤️

She loves girly things and likes to sport feathers, ribbons, and bows in her hair. She loves walking in the sun, adores sleeping on satin sheets, velvet blankets, and is a firm believer of getting 10-12 hours of good old fashioned beauty sleep. Skip does not love any of this about Hazel because from the start, he wanted a boy dog and tried to raise her as a rough-and-tumble tomboy. Naturally, this is a source of daily "debates" between Skip and me.

But this we share: Ever since Hazel came into our lives 3 1/2 years ago (she turns 4 years old on October 17) she has captured our hearts and has become our "daughter" and only child.

I grew up in a house that was never without a dog. My parents were the kind of people who believed no house should be without 1, 2, or 3 pets on any given day. We had dogs, cats, iguanas, turtles, and hamsters. Skip also grew up in a home that was creature-friendly. His parents had a Collie named Major when he, the oldest, was born. In high school, his younger brother even owned a monkey, Punky the Monkey. So needless to say we are animal people. While living in NYC, neither one of us had a pet since apartment living is hard for animals no matter how many rooms you have. Unless you are prepared to walk them at least 3 or 4 times a day (or hire a dog walker,) it is tough.

Family photo from when Hazel was a puppy ❤️

She is the tiniest ball of fur with a personality that was gentle, quiet, shy, and laid back. I had a few names picked out for her besides the one she ended up with but in the end, Hazel was the name that seemed to fit this little girl. 

Being the pop culture junkie that I am and forever relating real life to old television shows, one of my favorite 1960’s sit-coms was called “Hazel." It starred the award-winning Shirley Booth. (If you're not familiar, Google it. It will be worth your time!) A funny thing happened after Hazel had been with us no more than a few days: Skip began to hang out with her. Before I knew it, the guy who wanted only big dogs and declared he would not even pay attention to a little one had become so attached to this sweet thing, it was as if he had given birth to her. She loved him back just as much. Match made in heaven. So we fast forward three years and Hazel is officially Daddy’s Little Girl. She shadows him around the house and if he leaves the room for a second she is on her feet searching for him. If you ask Skip, he will tell you she is Mommy’s Little Girl, that her sole mission in life is to protect her "mom." She is a shockingly ferocious and fearless watchdog ready to knock down the front door if somebody dares ring the bell. She definitely loves me with every ounce of her being (in part because I'm the one who feeds her) BUT there is a special bond she has with Skip that is theirs alone. When the pandemic hit back in March, our lives changed drastically, as did everyone else's on this planet. Before COVID-19, our usual workweek would look like this: Skip would leave for the studio very early in the morning and most days not return until the afternoon. I work from my home office but a good amount of my week is spent attending meetings outside of my house, making my schedule a bit more jumbled and not as regimented.  Hazel continues to be the one constant in our house. She is the official gatekeeper and her “job” is to make sure we are ok. She is no longer shy and laid back but in total control. She loves for Skip to play chase with her around the house or wrestle with her on the bed, but in the evenings, she can be incredibly sweet and demure when watching tv with me, snuggled up next to me on my favorite Teddy Bear recliner. She's ever yet the guard dog, her head popping up on high alert the moment she hears some noise three floors below us that I did not hear. She has supersonic hearing, and many sides to her huge personality (as Skip would say, "Just like her 'mom.'")

Hazel, the lovable watchdog

Since I’m the one at home most often Monday through Friday, even with my erratic schedule, Hazel has become extremely attached to me the same way I (the youngest of 3 siblings) was attached to my mom when I was growing up. I was “tied to her apron strings," as my mom’s friends would say about me when I was very young. In dog terminology, it is called “Velcro dog.” I guess she inherited that from me. Don’t mess with the mommy. During this quarantine situation I have heard from friends all over the country and world how their pets are sick of seeing them in the house. They get moody, don’t want to play, growl out of the blue... in other words, they have had enough of seeing their owners 24/7, everywhere they turn! If you could translate their barks it would read something like this: "I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE! ALL THEY WANT TO DO IS PET ME, PLAY WITH ME, TALK TO ME, AND FEED ME THEIR CRUMMY SNACKS! I CAN'T GET ANY REST, I HAVE NO ALONE TIME, THERE'S ALWAYS SOMEONE HOCKING ME. LORD ABOVE, CAN'T THEY GO BACK TO WORK!?" That's all the pets, EXCEPT Hazel. Hazel is the happiest little girl in the world. She has finally gotten the wish she has been dreaming of since we brought her home…mom and dad always stay in the house and never leave.

You have to understand, whenever Skip or I leave the house, we run out the door not looking back. As we reach the hall to the elevator or stairwell we can hear her howling in pain and agony, as if we have deserted her forever, never to return. Mind you, we are not leaving her in a tiny studio apartment. She has room to roam, TV's to watch, multiple doggy beds to kick back in, plush blankets below the bed to stretch out on, and what seems like an entire pet store of toys.

How heart-warming is this? Hazel knows exactly when it's 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and time to be fed, and she always brings a different toy into the kitchen to eat with her... usually Blue Bear, her first-ever toy, or maybe Lobster or Alpaca. It isn't until one of us walks back into the house that she is ecstatically happy again, as if we've been gone for months. Then her world is right, her life is complete, and all is good.

Cut to COVID-19 and quarantine… We are both now at home 7 days a week and Hazel is in her glory. She has convinced herself this is the new normal. Eek! The only exception now is the rare occasion that I visit Ralph’s (my favorite grocery store) or if we are in the mood for The Big Chill frozen yogurt (the best yogurt shop this side of NYC’s Tasti-d-lite). Only then does Hazel panic. BUT NOW, just as I am about to walk out the door, she quickly realizes she has a backup…. Skip! (Another adorable quirk: She can be going nuts, either anxious or angry, just a TERROR, but if you just pick her up and hold her, she goes docile and completely calm. She just loves to be held and will let you do so endlessly, never getting squirmy or bored. Skip says he has never known a dog to love being held the way Hazel does.) Although she will moan and groan when she sees me putting on my coat or grabbing my keys, Skip will distract her and maybe pick her up, and I am able to slip out. If I forget something and I need to come back within 10 seconds, Hazel acts as if I have been gone for 2 days and the welcome back is gigantic.

Yes, we are guilty of feeding into the New Hazel World. We include Hazel in everything we do. Whatever room Skip or I go into alone or together, we check to see where Hazel is.  With Skip's show taping live daily from our loft, Hazel feels as if she is part of the show and she is up at 4 am. She looks forward to heading upstairs where our treadmill and bike are and she waits until we finish working out and then knows it is time to watch Skip get ready for his show and its 6:30 a.m. start. She then watches the show from my office and is the first one to run up the steps as soon as he is finished to see what we all have planned for the rest of the day. She goes on more walks than ever before. She has also made new friends with humans and other pooches in the complex and has become the gal about the complex... she struts her stuff like she owns the place; Everyone knows Hazel. With the entire world hoping normalcy resumes as fast as possible in the safest way, I just know Hazel is secretly plotting to cut the wires of all our outside communications (phone, television, computers) all in the name of keeping things the way they are.  It is now Hazel’s World. We just live in it!

- E

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