Putting Pups Through Their PacesTo you, downtown’s buses, light rail trains, fire engines and busy streets may mean nothing but a lot of noise. But for some local volunteers, all that hustle-bustle makes for a great classroom. It is a very good learning environment, says Jill Chan, president of the Gold Rush Champions chapter of Canine Companions for Independence, a national nonprofit that breeds and trains dogs to assist people with disabilities. On Saturday mornings, a dozen or more CCI volunteers and dogs meet for training in front of City Hall at Ninth and I streets. Downtown is a perfect training ground, Chan notes: A lot of the dogs get placed with people who live in the city and ride light rail and are in the downtown environment.

Since it was founded in 1975, CCI has placed about 2,700 dogs that can open doors, switch on lights, open and close drapes, even fetch cell phones and keys. Training begins at 8 weeks; by the time a dog is 18 months old, it’s been taught about 20 commands. If it masters those, it’s on to CCI headquarters in Santa Rosa for six to eight more months of intense work. Making the cut there means being paired with a disabled person almost anywhere in the United States. In the meantime, back in Sacramento, the next class of candidates will have already started turning heads as they stroll downtown’s streets. As Chan says: We do make quite a parade.

The (Really) Good Life

While $600 may seem a bit high even for a bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild, the 2003 vintage is attracting its share of buyers here. Ian Smith of 58 Degrees & Holding Co. in midtown reports that after selling his first shipment of the Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine, he ordered more straightaway. It’s a pretty varied demographic, he says of those who bought the pricey 2003, which critics have lauded as the modern version of the legendary 1959 Lafite. Some bought it to give as gifts, and some people are collectors. It’s a pretty rare wine, Smith says, adding that one couple came in on Valentine’s Day and drank their bottle at the bar. Because the 2003 could age for up to 50 years (peaking at 20 to 30), the wine may have been on the young side. But to each his own, Smith says. I don’t think they wanted to wait that long . . . and I don’t blame them.