Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Major League Baseball’s first female head groundskeeper recruits her big working dog
From April through October, Talli, a 95-pound Bullmastiff, can be found doing what her canine ancestors did more than 100 years ago: guarding her turf against intruders. Talli’s domain, however, is not the estate of a 19th-century gamekeeper, but rather a 21st-century major league park. Each day during baseball season, Talli accompanies her owner, head groundskeeper Heather Nabozny to Comerica Park, home of the 2006 American League Champion Detroit Tigers. And while she sometimes helps with chores around the park, Talli believes her most important job is to alert Nabozny to any suspicious characters lurking around the stadium.
While we think of dogs primarily as companions, most were bred with a specific purpose in mind. Many such jobs have gone by the wayside in contemporary society, but some dogs, like Talli, creatively adapt. Nabozny first started bringing Talli to Comerica Park when she was a puppy so the young dog wouldn’t have to spend long days at home alone. Then, as Talli grew into adulthood, her breed instincts began to emerge—Talli understood that her role in life was to serve as Nabozny’s guardian.
This particular characteristic became evident one morning as Nabozny and the grounds crew were in the empty stadium, working on the field. As she recalls, “I have a crew of six people who work on a daily basis, and Talli knows who belongs on the field and who doesn’t. And she keeps an eye out; she’ll lie in the middle of center field or near where we are working. And she saw people walking down the stands. We don’t generally watch the stands because we’re watching what we’re doing on the field. But she keeps an eye on everything. She saw a group of about four kids, probably college students, that wanted to leap over the fence and get on the field. So she went over, started barking at them and just sat there.” While Talli held the boys at bay, Nabozny walked over and politely asked them to leave. Not surprisingly, they did so without protest.
While Talli understands that her most important job is to watch over Nabozny and the crew, she also enjoys helping them work on the field. One of her favorite chores is to assist the grounds crew in pulling the tarp over the infield in inclement weather. “Oh, she loves to help with the tarp,” Nabozny says. “When she’s in a rambunctious mood, Talli will grab the big rope and pull on it with us. And she’s actually grabbed a handle, too, and after we roll the tarp out, she’ll help us unfold it. Of course, she also runs across it as we’re trying to drag it, and then I have to tell her to sit.” Talli also likes to gather up the flags the crew puts into the turf to mark areas that need fixing. Which means, says Nabozny, “we have to go back and do it again.”
Talli also shows off her considerable groundskeeping skills during the stadium’s annual “Bark in the Park” event. As dogs and their owners gather in the stands to watch the game, Talli joins the grounds crew to help groom the infield. Nabozny decided to include Talli back when “Bark in the Park” was first announced: “I thought it would be cool to have Talli drag the field. So we made her a tiny little drag screen, not very heavy or anything. And I attached it to her collar with the leash attached to it as well so we were both kind of pulling it at the same time. And I trotted her around the field during the seventh-inning stretch.” Not only did Talli receive a round of applause from delighted fans, but Fox Sports also featured Talli demonstrating the “infield drag” on its show that evening.
As the first woman to serve as head groundskeeper at a major-league baseball park, Nabozny finds Talli’s presence, whether on the field or in her lap, to be a source of comfort, as well as a welcome relief from job-related stress —“Just having her around eases me a bit.” Talli is also a great conversation starter, as she “helps break the ice” when vendors come to call. While being able to accompany her person to work makes Talli a lucky dog, as far as Nabozny is concerned, she’s the fortunate one. “It’s a lot better for me. Because I get to see her, I feel like I’m being good to her, as good as I can be. Talli brings me so much joy—I just love her like crazy.”
At the end of the day, Talli makes one last inspection of the field, jumps on the golf cart with Nabozny and takes the elevator up to the stadium parking garage. She snoozes on the way home —dreaming perhaps of hot dogs, bubble gum left by players in the outfield, and the woman seated next to her, stroking her head. Talli needs her rest, because tomorrow, like the Bullmastiffs of a century ago, she has work to do.
Author of Tell Me Where It Hurts discusses books, the writing process and the challenges of being a vet
One sunny afternoon, author and Bark contributing editor Lee Harrington met Nick Trout, UK-born and -trained staff surgeon at Boston’s Angell Animal Medical Center, at a crowded café in Cape Cod, Mass., to discuss dogs, writing and the incredible success of Dr. Trout’s debut book, Tell Me Where It Hurts: A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon.
Bark: In almost every review of Tell Me Where It Hurts, the reviewer compares you to James Herriot. Do you consider yourself a modern Herriot?
B: How did you come to write this book?
B: In your book, you talk about the guilt of euthanasia—both your own and that felt by clients once a decision is made to put a beloved dog “to sleep.”
B: Now that you’re a vet, how do you approach the situation?
These days, veterinarians can come back with all sorts of medical and surgical options, forcing the owner to ponder two difficult, interrelated questions: How far should we go, and how far can we afford to go? We are making owners face tougher and tougher decisions about beloved family members all the time.
B: Not only do you show a great affinity for animals, you have a good read on people—your colleagues and clients. I fully confess that I am one of those wacko clients who is a complete hypochondriac, not for myself, but for my dog.
B: So, note to Bark readers: Talk to your vet. Hold nothing back!
B: What do you hear about the book from your fellow vets?
Broadway’s premier animal advocate and trainer tells all
For Bill Berloni, every year is the year of the dog—and the rat and the lamb and the cat and the pig. Beginning in 1976 with the extraordinary musical, Annie, for which, as a young aspiring actor, he found and trained a shelter dog to play Sandy, Berloni has spent more than 30 years working with some of the best in the business. When it comes to show-stopping animal actors, he’s likely to have trained them. In his new book, Broadway Tails: Heartfelt Stories of Rescued Dogs Who Became Showbiz Superstars, he shares his passion for animals, especially those of the pup persuasion. He spoke to Bark recently after a rehearsal for the upcoming Legally Blonde road tour, for which he’s training four brand-new dogs to make their stage debuts.
Bark: You started your animal-training career by finding Sandy at a shelter. Are you still working with shelter dogs?
B: What catches your eye when you’re looking for a dog?
B: What happens to “show dogs” after the show’s over?
B: Tell us about an average day for one of your working dogs.
The routine’s a little different during rehearsals. This is the time during which we’re desensitizing them to the noise and activity of the theater, teaching them to go onstage for the first time. We’re usually there eight hours a day. In my experience, dogs in this situation have about a 20-minute learning window, so the rest of the time is desensitization. Somewhere in that eight-hour day, we go through the training.
B: Do animal actors carry union cards?
B: Film or live—which is more of a challenge?
B: Is it hard to train the actors?
B: Speaking of Sarah Jessica Parker—do you think she took what she learned as one of the early “Annies” working with Sandy to her later role as a dog in Sylvia?
B: We know you use positive reinforcement in your training. Is applause reinforcing for dogs?
B: Over the years, have you had any improv moments onstage?
Another bit of improv involved the Bulldog in Legally Blonde. When Legally Blonde opened in San Francisco a couple of years ago, there was one scene for her in the first act, and it got a tremendous audience response. So before we went to New York, the creators of the show decided to write another scene for her in the second act—she’d go onstage and play with a toy. It came time for our first preview in New York, our first audience, and she was in the wings waiting to get her toy. She was so excited, she was almost vibrating. When she was cued, she ran out onstage, got her toy, sat down and threw up. In Bull breeds, this is a sign of happiness, so I knew she was looking forward to doing the new scene. After that, she never threw up again.
B: Of all the productions you’ve taken part in, does one stand out as more challenging than the rest?
B: Do you prefer to work with female or male dogs?
B: When the dogs aren’t working, do they seem to miss the routine?
They go back to being regular dogs. I think that’s very important. When news crews come to my house, I think they’re expecting an agility course, or trainers making them do tricks. When the dogs aren’t working, they interact with one another and with us. We don’t train them on a daily basis until we have a job for them. We interact with them, make sure they follow the rules, but they go back to being dogs.
B: What’s new on the horizon?
What’s even better is that the publicity around each show gives us the opportunity to do outreach on behalf of shelter and rescue dogs. Selling shows can be a hard thing, but it’s easy to sell human-interest stories, and I do it because it promotes animal welfare. The shows sell my book, and 20 percent of the proceeds from the book go to the Sandy Fund at the Humane Society of New York. Even the programs mention the source of the animal performers and encourage people to adopt. There are great animals at local shelters who need homes—adopt from a shelter or rescue group and you may find your own star.
In celebration of Earth Day, I spoke to two innovators, people who think green 365 days a year. Dave Colella of Earthdog and Spencer Williams of West Paw Design share their thoughts on a green world, dogs and the future.
On the power of choice:
On the future:
On dogs and the green movement:
West Paw Design
On our symbiotic relationship:
On the definition of “green”:
On going green step by step:
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PBS's Nature ponders furry soul mates, best friends and surrogate children
If you turn to Nature for images of hyenas glimpsed through night goggles and God's eye views of great wildebeest migrations, you might be surprised on Sunday night, when the featured animals will be dog and cat lovers. "Why We Love Cats and Dogs" provides a serious and moving glimpse of the remarkable bonds we forge with our companion animals. Curl up with your furry buddy and discover the lengths to which other folks will go for their best friends. (Premieres Sunday, 2/15/09, at 8/7 p.m. central on most PBS stations.)
Culture: Stories & Lit
Katrina puppy shows couple the way back.
My husband and I live in an exclusive gated community.
We’ve recently taken up residence here, but it’s not where I envisioned we’d be at this point of our lives, him just months into his 50th year and me hot on his heels. For our gated community is a 20-by-14 rectangle with a metal gate on one doorway, an uncooperative wooden gate on another, and an old Playskool plastic fence on the third. Inside is our eat-in kitchen, and our new puppy.
We have friends enjoying gated communities luxuriously designed to encourage couples’ recreational time together—on Kiawah Island, off the coast of Miami, in the Bahamas. They have golf courses, salty oceans and fresh breezes. Outside the sliding glass door of our gated community here in Massachusetts, we have the puppy’s potty spot, way too much rain and snow, and science-defying breezes that render our entire yard downwind from that aforementioned potty spot.
Are you nuts? friends wanted to know. You’ll be looking at colleges next year with your son; why are you tying yourselves down now with a dog?
I wondered that myself. My husband and I were in striking distance of the life I’d seen in those television ads—attractive smiling couples with silver hair, feeding each other strawberries on a picnic blanket, hitting the open road in new cars, kissing and embracing over sparkling jewelry. All that freedom, that space to do whatever we want; why toss it away in a furry brown-eyed moment?
Because we didn’t need more space. We needed less. Independent spirits, my husband and I had maintained perhaps too much space throughout our married life. We’d lost each other in it. While we were working and parenting, and generally “getting ahead,” that space had devoured our easy sense of camaraderie, our safe harbor in each other’s presence, our once very present desire to simply be together.
Our at-home conversations had been streamlined to alluring one-liners thrown out in passing: “You need to break down the boxes for recycling,” “Why haven’t you talked to the accountant?” and “When are you going to do that dark wash?” Not exactly Tracy-Hepburn material. Yet I didn’t question our undying love for each other. We’d just gotten into a rut, taking care of the business of life and not taking time for the fun of it.
Enter one yellow Lab “mixed with something small.” But not because I’d figured out I needed her yet. She arrived because I was still taking care of business, upholding my end of an old, off-handed agreement. My husband, for the first time in our 19 years of married life, would not be traveling regularly for work. In fact, he’d be working from home, and at some point over the years, he had gotten me to agree that if he was ever home to help take care of a dog—yeah, right—we could get one.
I was cornered, period.
Our puppy began, before we’d even met her, by bringing my husband and I together in social accord; we could offer this small help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. She and her brother and mother had been picked up off the streets in Louisiana a few months after the destruction. Spending a couple of weeks in a shelter there, she and her brother then traveled on a transport truck making stops all along the way north, to finally be delivered at the very last stop—a foster mother with a Golden Retriever rescue group in Augusta, Maine. Here is where we met her, became instantly besotted, signed the papers and brought her home.
With the very first wag of her wand of a tail, Abby began to shrink the spaces between my husband and me. Into our production-oriented lives had exploded this antithesis of business, on four wobbly legs.
My husband and I suddenly discovered that we wanted to talk all the time—about her. There had never been a cuter puppy; her rambunctious silliness was, of course, irresistible. We began joining each other in the kitchen at odd moments throughout the day to sprawl out on the floor between the gates with our new four-legged family member. And every time we joined her, Abby would wiggle her little cuddly body back and forth so hard, eyes brown and liquid—and then, in ecstasy, collapse against our legs, shove her moist nose into our hands, give us licks, and as soon as we sat down, tumble into our laps. Anything just to be close. Crazy, wonderful animal love.
Animosities had to crumble in the face of such pure and joyful adoration as Abby offered. My husband and I found it impossible to maintain our pattern, not always happy, of space and distance. We began doing more and more together, the three of us, just for fun—taking walks in the nearby field, sitting back with lawn chairs and a tasty bone to watch our son’s baseball games, clambering over the rocks at a friend’s ocean-front home to enjoy a swim. Prancing and pouncing and dog-paddling, this canine Tinkerbelle began to magically guide us … back together? I think it’s forward, together.
In shelter vernacular, our little female is called, not a rescued pup, but a rescue pup. How appropriate. For my husband and I didn’t just rescue her; she clearly rescued us, and she continues to make sure we stay rescued, every single day. Our gated community won’t show up in any glossy brochures—the now-wrinkled curtains wrapped high over the rods so she can’t chew them; the plants removed to expose bare corners; the wooden floor displaying fresh scratches, dirt, dog hair and a smelly chew bone—but it’s the only one we want to come home to.
Susan Orlean’s quest for the truth about Rin Tin Tin
What Susan Orlean knew about Rin Tin Tin in 2005 wouldn’t fill a sticky note. What she learned when she embarked on a story about Hollywood animal stars and their trainers for The New Yorker magazine is now filling a book. Rin Tin Tin: His True Story sprang naturally from that assignment, says the New York–based writer, discussing how she happened onto her forthcoming “biography” of the canine actor. “It was kind of accidental—one of the better ways to get onto any project.”
As with her best-seller, The Orchid Thief, Orlean has a knack for bumping into good ideas. She is known for overturning the quiet little story that might have simmered away unnoticed—the obsessive subculture of orchid-collectors, how Americans spend their Saturday nights, the life of a female matador. She has also co-authored a cookbook for dogs. So what captured her interest in such a tried-and-true subject as a pop culture star with a fan club?
Orlean attributes it to the discovery, one surprise at a time, that her assumptions about Rin Tin Tin—whom she knew only from a ’50s kids’ show—were wrong. “I thought Rin Tin Tin was just a TV figure, and had no idea he was a real dog with a real life and a real history. Every bit of reporting I did continued to surprise me on that score.”
The heroic German Shepherd, who starred in 26 movies before his death in 1932, has become more enigmatic with the years. “There are many refuted histories of Rin Tin Tin, many versions of who and what he was,” she says. What didn’t vary, from the original dog to each of his successors, was “a fixation on the character as something almost magical.” Orlean recognized in his human entourage the same “monomania” she’d encountered in the plant enthusiasts she met while working on The Orchid Thief. She became intrigued by Rin Tin Tin’s magnetism, which inspired not only his handlers, but generations of admiring fans. Was it the animal himself, or something he represented, which was also embodied in his string of successors—perhaps the enduring loyalty of an intelligent canine?
So began her three-year quest to untangle his legacy.
Her subject’s almost one-hundred-year history kept Orlean busy traveling—but the travel was “through time more than through places,” she says. Hours spent sifting through archival material made this “a very different project for me,” says the author, who is known for her intensive, in-the-moment reporting. “I did a fair amount of historical research on Orchid Thief, but never in this concentration. The main source has been all the history, the records, all the notes—more than a person.”
Lucky for Orlean, Lee Duncan, the American serviceman who brought the original Rin Tin Tin home after World War I, kept lots of notes, including carbon copies of many of his letters. “I feel in my own way I’ve gotten to know him,” Orlean says. “All the flotsam and jetsam of his life.”
Duncan found Rin Tin Tin as a pup in 1918, in a bombed-out kennel in France. He named him after a puppet called Rin Tin Tin that French children gave to American soldiers for good luck. When the war ended, the pup returned home with him to Los Angeles, where Duncan later taught him tricks that included scaling a wall nearly 12 feet high. As the story goes, his owner believed he was destined for fame.
When Duncan’s protégé successfully filled in for an unwilling wolf in the 1922 movie The Man from Hell’s River, Hollywood producers took notice. The dark-hued Shepherd would be cast as a wolf or wolf-hybrid many times after that. With his starring role in the 1923 silent film Where the North Begins, “Rinty” earned a new nickname, “the mortgage lifter,” as he rescued Warner Brothers from bankruptcy.
From 1930 to 1955, his character was heard in three different radio series, beginning with The Wonder Dog, in which he performed his own sound effects. With his death, his son, Rin Tin Tin, Jr., took over, also appearing in several short films in the 1930s. In 1947, Rin Tin Tin III starred in The Return of Rin Tin Tin, while Duncan’s Rin Tin Tin IV appeared in The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, an ABC television series that ran from 1954 to 1959.
His financial success inspired imitators from other studios. “There were dozens and dozens of German Shepherds making movies in the ’20s and ’30s,” Orlean says. This copycat trend reflected “the way people consumed culture from many fewer outlets back then.” Rin Tin Tin: His True Story will cover all of the dogs—every German Shepherd actor surrounding his legacy. “He was a “huge profit machine,” she notes.
The profits didn’t end with his death in 1932 at the age of 14. Nor did the colorful stories. Of the many colliding versions of his life’s events, Orlean finds the one about his death most striking. (One of the most-cited tales has the celebrity dog cradled in the arms of actress Jean Harlow.) “There are what seems like a million stories of how and where the original Rin Tin Tin died. They get quite dramatic and extreme, and the truth is probably much more ordinary.”
As one of the first canine actors, Rin Tin Tin was considered remarkable. By today’s standards, his skills might seem less so due to developments in training techniques that have led to more believable performances. However, in her book, Silent Stars, Jeanine Basinger devotes a chapter to Rin Tin Tin that suggests otherwise: “The astonishing thing about watching Rin Tin Tin is that you begin to agree that this dog could act,” she writes.
But animal acting was hardly what it is today, with agencies in place and even a “Dog Actors Guild” with a database, searchable by breed, where those with aspiring canine actors post resumes. Another development is the American Humane Association’s involvement in monitoring the welfare of animals during the production of films and television programs. The AHA assumed this role in 1940 with the creation of its Film and Television Unit; acceptable movies and television programs now receive the “No animals were harmed” credit at the end.
The original Rin Tin Tin, though “hardly a model of breeding,” Orlean observes, was saved from genetic oblivion after the death of Lee Duncan in 1960. Earlier, endorsement, breeder Jannettia Brodsgaard had purchased several direct descendants from Duncan in an effort to maintain the line. After her death in 1988, her granddaughter continued the lineage at “El Rancho Rin Tin Tin” in Latexo, Texas.
Rin Tin Tin’s descendants are also trained as service dogs to assist special needs children. Ironically, the breed is being dropped by one major guide dog training school in favor of Retrievers, and has also been targeted in some places for breed bans for being “overly aggressive.” The Shepherd has “more connotations than many other breeds,” notes Orlean. These are, of course, undeserved stereotypes. But Orlean considers it all part of what makes Rin Tin Tin fascinating. “Collies are straightforward. They don’t have as many complexities as the German Shepherd.” And, she adds, “Labs don’t have that kind of history.”
As a child, she was obsessed with German Shepherds—“there was hardly a kid alive who didn’t want one.” But today, she says, “My taste in dogs has changed.” While we are talking by cell phone, her breed of choice bounds out of the bushes and frightens her. “It could’ve been a bear!” But in fact, it’s just a dog—Cooper, her handsome red-and-white Welsh Springer Spaniel.
Has Orlean managed to find the “true” story of Rin Tin Tin?
“I think the true story is that there is no true story, ever,” she says. “There is a story that I think is closest to what really happened, but I think much of what I’ve learned from working on this book, and much of what it’s about, is the frail and faulty nature of memory, and that truth isn’t an absolute.”
What endures is the ideal—and the longing.
“Rin Tin Tin was the ultimate in terms of embodying steadfastness, wisdom and devotion. That’s a pure emotion that people wouldn’t be able to embody, so he represents something even better than human.”
Your dog can be a star
We’re looking for pups who embody all the qualities we love: happiness, spirit, charm, personality. All it takes to enter is a photo and short essay (150 words or less) that tells us why you think your dog should be on the cover of Bark. This isn’t a photo contest or a writing contest—we just want to see your dog and read about his or her special place in your life. The winner will have an exclusive in-home photo session with a professional photographer (not to mention bragging rights at the dog park!).
Send your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your dog’s name in the subject line and on the photo attachment, and your city, state and contact information in the body of the email.
If you’ve already submitted an entry to our contest in 2007 and 2008, no need to do so again—it’s still part of the talent pool.
2009 Cover Dogs
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Watch the video, read the story behind this joyful civil rights anthem
The economy? Foreign policy? Urgent matters, but they could wait. Speaking directly to his young daughters, Barack Obama discussed another topic early in his landmark election-night acceptance speech: “I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.”
The announcement is sure to have elated Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, who, as the nation knows, have long lobbied their parents for a dog. Obama, the first black man elected president of the United States, and his wife Michelle, recently revealed that the “First Puppy” will join the First Family once they’ve settled into the storied residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.
Uplifting news for dog aficionados across the political spectrum, revelations about the forthcoming canine addition to the Obama family hold special resonance for Bernard LaFayette, Jr. A distinguished scholar-in-residence at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, LaFayette is also the co-writer of a famed civil rights anthem, “Dog Dog.”
Available on the 1990 release Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the tune (also known as “My Dog Loves Your Dog”) features these lyrics:
My dog a love a your dog and your dog a love a my dog
As for the song’s pedigree, LaFayette, 68, explains, “I was raised in Florida during segregation. There was this white family and my family, and we both had dogs. It didn’t make any sense to me that we kids couldn’t play together when all the dogs would just rip and run and get along fine.”
Determined to help improve race relations, LaFayette later became active in the civil rights movement. He recalls that he was in the thick of organizing a student protest in Nashville when childhood memories inspired him to compose, with a friend, the music and lyrics for “Dog Dog.”
“I’d been a tenor in various church and street-corner choirs,” he says. “So, the song just seemed to evolve naturally out of the spirit of the times. Music was a major mobilizing force for civil rights activists. ‘Dog Dog’ was always well-received because it takes a child’s perspective and points out the silliness of discrimination in a humorous way.”
Indeed, Yale University sociology professor Ronald Eyerman brightens when he recalls his discovery of the song while conducting research for a book. Coauthor (with Andrew Jamison) of the 1998 volume Music and Social Movements: Mobilizing Traditions in the Twentieth Century, Eyerman appreciates “Dog Dog” for its engaging, secular charm. “It is very different from most other civil rights anthems in that it is non-religious and about everyday life,” he observes. “Also, what struck my mind was that it took rhythms from popular music. It’s kind of a doo-wop children’s jingle, a non-serious piece with a serious message.”
Like LaFayette, Eyerman notes the influence of music in civil rights struggles. “The impact was stunning and robust,” he says. “The use of song to build collectivity and maintain courage and solidarity in the face of enormous threat got people through things they might not have otherwise. Song was also a great pedagogical tool, as the ‘Dog Dog’ song attests.”
Founder of the legendary a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock, Bernice Johnson Reagon counts “Dog Dog” among the most popular songs in her extensive repertoire. A student civil rights leader in her hometown of Albany, Ga., Reagon says she learned the tune in the early 1960s from Cordell Reagon (whom she later married), an organizer who came to southwest Georgia to lead voter registration drives and train emerging activists.
Later a member of the acclaimed Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Freedom Singers, Reagon says that the group performed “Dog Dog” at nearly every concert. “It was a wonderful song because it taught lessons people could learn from their pets. Dogs seemed to be ahead of humans on the social level in the South.”
Retired from Sweet Honey since 2004, Reagon says she was cheered to find “Dog Dog” on the ensemble’s Grammy-nominated 2007 children’s album Experience … 101. “They sent me a copy of the CD and it includes a version of ‘Dog Dog,’ she says, with a smile. “It’s so clearly a song for the young and the young at heart.”
Oakland musicologist and choir director Melanie DeMore recognizes the entertainment value of “Dog Dog.” “I usually teach it in three-part harmony,” she says. “I encourage both adult and children’s choirs to add barking sounds and to be very animated during its performance. It’s hysterical when you see a whole bunch of folks on the stage delivering the powerful message of the song and still having fun by jumping up and down like puppies and barking.”
In another interpretation, Harry Belafonte, on his 1967 album Belafonte on Campus, adds a rousing calypso beat to the song, which also includes this verse:
My little doggy was a playing one day
Reflecting on the historic victory of President-elect Barack Obama, Bernard LaFayette says “Dog Dog” serves as a reminder of the stunning racial progress achieved in the past 50 years.
“Dogs are therapeutic,” he declares. “They can be unbiased eyes and ears for us in so many ways. When dogs get to know each other, regardless of their breed, they inevitably become friends. They show us how to break down barriers, overlook differences and focus on common bonds. I consider ‘Dog Dog’ a benchmark of how far we’ve come since segregation. It seems only fitting that the Obamas would welcome a puppy to the White House.”
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