Notable second acts: Lydia Best
From corporate executive to dog walker is an unusual career trajectory, but Lydia Best doesn’t regret a moment of it. As director of recruiting for several IT consulting firms, Best logged thousands of miles of travel a year, which kept her from adding a dog to her life, as she and her husband— who was also a well-traveled citizen of corporate America— were so rarely home. Tired of being dogless, she changed jobs and adopted Daisy, an English Bulldog. When travel threatened in her new job, she decided it was time to quit altogether and consider what she wanted to do with her life. In 2000, she traded her Ann Taylor wardrobe for more casual wear—“You should have seen my husband’s face when I told him his six-figure-executive wife was going to pick up dog poop for a living”—and now, almost eight years later, her company, Everything and the Dog, coordinates the work of 78 independent contractors providing services to more than 1,600 active northern Virginia clients. Pet sitting and dog walking are on the menu, as are errandrunning (grocery store runs, dry cleaning drop-offs, etc.) and concierge assistance (reservations, vacation planning). Everything and the Dog is a family affair—Best’s mother is her office manager and her mother-in-law is one of the dog walkers. Completing the trifecta, her husband quit his corporate job and is now the company’s private chef, adding party planning and hosting as well as in-home chef services to the list. Best says she feels very fortunate that she gets to make a living doing something she loves, plus be with Daisy all day.
Dog's Life: Travel
Antlers, Vail, Colo. Known for its stunning scenery and miles of dog-friendly trails, the Rocky Mountains around Vail, Colo., come alive in fall with glorious views of golden aspen trees. Book a stay at the Antlers at Vail hotel, a dogwelcoming and noted “Green Business,” which is offering reduced-rate stays in condominium suites complete with kitchens, fireplaces and spacious amenities.
Recommended dog treks include ones to Wheeler and Pitkins Lakes. Area festivals include an Oktoberfest and Vail’s Restaurant Month (Sept. 20 – Oct. 17).
The Inn at Restful Paws, Sturbridge, Mass. This charming, doginviting inn, only 60 miles away from Boston, is situated on over 31 acres with amenities that include groomed walking trails and dog play areas located throughout the property. Dog guests might also enjoy doing laps at Rosie B’s bone-shaped indoor swimming spa.
Recommended treks include nearby Brimfield State Forest and Wells State Park for hiking and woodland adventures. Festivals include a Harvest Festival at Charlton Orchards Farm & Winery, founded in 1733.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Although once nearly eradicated in developed countries, bedbugs are on the rise. These tiny bloodsuckers don’t transmit diseases, but can leave itchy welts on you and your warm-blooded pets. It’s important to routinely check any place you or your pets sleep for the telltale dark stains of bedbug activity.
Dogs aren’t taking this bedbug business lying down, either. Some companies are training dogs to be the ultimate pest detectors. With their sensitive noses, dogs can sniff out a single bedbug, and even tell live bugs from harmless dead ones, helping pest control specialists work more quickly and use less pesticide.
If you suspect a bedbug infestation, contact your pest control specialist. Pets are especially at risk from the long-lasting pesticides used to kill bedbugs, but certain chemicals, such as pyrethrin, may be safe when used correctly, and a handful of companies do offer non-toxic solutions to the bedbug problem.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Kit’s Corner - Our resident canine tastemaker shares her latest delights.
A. The Canine Foot Bath makes cleaning Kit’s dainty paws a breeze: insert, swish, remove, dry and voila! $9.95
B. Water-wicking microfiber and gentle rubber massage bristles: what more could one dog ask for? Plus, a percentage of the Scrubby Towel’s purchase price goes to the ASPCA. $18.99
C. Baths are low on Kit’s priority list, so for a quick clean up, Opie & Dixie’s rosehips dry shampoo and conditioning mist does the trick. Certified organic plus 100% vegan. From $8.95
D. Early autumn picnics are warmer (and drier) with a Mambe waterproof pet blanket to roll around on great protection for beds and furniture too. From $49
Quill Driver Books; $25
The past decade has seen a steady increase in the number of pet nutrition books on the market, all geared toward helping people learn more about commercial diets, natural feeding and how to provide optimal nutrition for our companion animals. One of these offerings, Not Fit for a Dog!, written by three distinguished veterinarians, takes this literature to a new level. A thoughtful look at the larger problem of food sourcing and safety, it offers plainspoken advice on how to address the challenge of feeding our dogs (and cats) well.
Not Fit for a Dog! covers a lot of territory, including a review of commercial pet food ingredients, with a focus on what to watch out for; a detailed exposé of the 2007 pet food recalls; problems with prescription diets and why they may not be optimal solutions; and an important overview of chemicals in the environment — toxins that infiltrate not only pet foods, but our foods as well. The authors also take an in-depth look at genetically modified foods and their potential problems. Throughout, two overarching points are made and reinforced: that our own and our companion animals’ myriad health problems are largely preventable through diet, and that problems with food safety are universal. These are points that cannot be made too loudly or too often.
And herein lies the strength of the book: It links multiple topics in ways that shed new light on the subject of companion-animal health. For those new to holism, this book provides an overview of several key issues as well as strategies for challenging the existing paradigm by patronizing local farmers’ markets, growing one’s own food, buying organic products, minimizing toxin exposure in the home and seeking holistic veterinary care. Recipes are included, with supplement and substitution suggestions to help provide nutrient balance as well as fresh, palatable ingredients. Though I would like to have seen more resources for consumer education in canine nutrition — a list of books, sites and tools for furthering owner knowledge and fluency in canine diet would have been helpful — it represents an impressive effort.
In his introduction, veterinarian Richard Allport writes, “If I was able, I would lock every veterinary student and practicing veterinarian in a room with a copy of this book and not let them out until they had read it from cover to cover.” As a canine nutritionist who deals every day with health problems related to poor diet, I would take this a step further and say that I’d like to lock all dog owners in a room until they’ve read this book. Knowledge is indeed power, and this book is a powerful and important resource.
She’s been called a master of the English mystery, her books have been adapted by the BBC and, with the publication earlier this year of This Body of Death, she has 17 wildly popular “Inspector Lynley” novels to her credit. However, Elizabeth George is no British blueblood — rather, she’s an Ohio-born, California-raised former schoolteacher with a gift for crafting deliciously long and complex stories populated by strong, welldefined characters, some of whom are of the canine persuasion. Take, for example, Peach, a Longhaired Dachshund who lives with two of the series’ central characters, Simon and Deborah St. James: “Watch out for Peach … she’s wanting food. Fact, she’s always and only wanting food.” When it comes to the behavior of Dachshunds, George has her research subjects nearby — sometimes even underfoot. So, while everyone else was asking questions about her newest book, we thought we’d find out more about the dogs in Elizabeth George’s life.
Bark: In many British mysteries, the murder victim’s body is discovered by a dog. Why do you suppose that convention is so often used?
B: In your observation, is British “dog culture” similar to or different from our own?
B: Tell us about the dog(s) who inspired the fictional Peach, and about Lucy, your current dog.
B: It’s clear that Peach is an important part of the St. James household, and that both Simon and Deborah dote on her. What’s your take on dogs’ roles in our domestic lives?
B: In addition to Peach, you often incorporate dogs into the Lynley books. You not only give them wonderful names — Leo, Beans, Toast, Taboo, Frank, Tess — you also take time to develop them as characters (who fit their names perfectly!). How do you choose the names and, for that matter, the breed types? And what do you feel they add to the stories?
B: In This Body of Death, we learn a lot about one of the characters (Gordon Jossie) through the ways he interacts with his dog. What lay behind your decision to use this device?
B: Can you imagine Lynley with a dog? Or is he perhaps more of a cat person?
B: We’ve read that you didn’t have pets as a child. When and how did you acquire your first, and was it a dog?
B: Have you ever written anything for your dogs?
B: Has your dog ever accompanied you to a reading or book signing?
B: In Write Away, you mentioned that a photo of your dog is one of the items you keep on your desk as inspiration and to cheer you up. What do you think of, or feel, when you look at that photo?
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