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Lindsay-Luxes

A Brood to Love

With a full complement of rescued dogs and cats, life in this household can get complicated. But grown-ups and children wouldn't have it any other way.

May 03, 1999|PAMELA WARICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A telephone is ringing, dogs are barking, a toddler on a red tricycle is making vroom-vroom race car noises, and an airplane is taking off overhead.

But the orange-and-brown-painted tiles on the Lux and Lindsay family's front door spell out "shalom"--Hebrew for peace.

With a mom and a dad, two kids, two cats and two dogs living here, this kingdom is anything but peaceable. On a recent Sunday afternoon, a day of naps and newspapers for their more sedate suburban North Hills neighbors, the impossibly exuberant family and its impossibly exuberant pets are maintaining a fairly typical level of noise and activity.

"Oh, yes," confirms Mara Elizabeth Donaldson Lux, 9, "it's hardly ever quiet around here." She turns her hands palms up and shrugs. "Just too much fun, I guess."

Ask Mara's parents--television writer Ron Lux and crime analyst Betsy Lindsay--to describe life without the noise, the kids, the animals, and they will look at you blankly and, after a short period of intense concentration, tell you it is something they can no longer imagine.

Before they had children, even before they had each other, Ron Lux and Betsy Lindsay had pets. In the course of about 15 years, the two have taken in something like a dozen homeless animals.

They have rescued fluffy puppies and starving dogs, tiny, frightened kittens and bossy tomcats. They have found the animals sleeping in gutters, shut up in cardboard boxes and languishing on death row at the pound.

They have fed them bottles at all hours, picked the fleas off their coats, paid their three-figure vet bills and driven miles out of their way to buy their pets' favorite foods.

And still, they are thankful.

"Sometimes they misbehave, sometimes they break our hearts," Lindsay says, "but always, always, these animals enrich our lives."

Lindsay and her husband have made a conscious decision not to buy animals. For Lux, it feels too much like "a superior race they're selling. And, whether it's Aryans or Pomeranians, I don't understand the whole concept of pure breeds."

For Lindsay, it's knowing how many pets are homeless that allows her to walk by even the cutest puppy in a store window.

"If you see an animal in a pet shop, you know that puppy or kitten or rabbit will get a home. If you see dogs or cats wandering the streets, looking for their next meal, you know that pet really needs a good home," she says. "And you know that if you don't give them that home, they may never have one."

*

To understand the place of honor pets occupy in the Lindsay-Lux universe, sneak a look inside the family birthday book. There, among the many anniversaries and holidays to be acknowledged with parties and gifts, are the birth dates of the pets, living and dead.

Those pets include Chessie (after Chesapeake Avenue in Washington, D.C., where they were living when they adopted her)--a good-hearted spaniel mix who, with her brother, had been beaten, starved and left to die in a rundown tenement until Lux and Lindsay adopted her. The dog moved with her new family to California in 1988 and was there along with an 18-year-old cat to greet baby Mara when she arrived in 1989.

By the mid-1990s, the cat had died and Chessie had developed a degenerative spinal disease. Desperate for anything to help her, Lux and Lindsay tried homeopathy, injections of shark cartilage and even an expensive arthritis medication that took them south of the border once a month to a discount Mexican pharmacy.

"It was very painful until we got some help for her," Lux says. "But, hey! This is L.A. Ultimately she got relief from an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist."

Such therapies kept Chessie comfortable until her death last year at the age of 14 1/2. By then, the family had adopted two more dogs--Clark, a silky, palomino-colored pup with wet brown eyes and a shiny black nose, and Lucky, a lithe, auburn retriever mix who joined the family a year ago, when son Ethan was 2.

Clark--like Chessie, named for the street where he lived--was the only male of a litter of nine born to a golden retriever that a good Samaritan found darting frantically in and out of traffic on an L.A. freeway. The woman who rescued the dog took her to a sort of animal safe house, where she immediately delivered the pups.

Because she weighs the same (40 pounds) and likes to play the same games, Lucky is considered Ethan's dog. But it's his big sister who chose Lucky and named her--"Lucky, because we were so lucky to find her," Mara says.

"I remember looking through the window at this wiggly little pup lying on her back with Mara rubbing her tummy," Lindsay says. "Mara looked up at me through the glass with this face--well, a face so angelic and so obviously in love--that no one could refuse to take that little dog home."

*

By 5:30 in the morning, with the rising sun no more than a red haze on the horizon, Major and Pretzel already are perched on the Kenmore dryer at the far end of the kitchen ready for their breakfast.

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