Ann Patchett, Elizabeth Gilbert, J.K. Rowling, Sue Monk Kidd
It’s no coincidence that many authors have dogs. After all, dogs are quiet, companionable and have a deep appreciation for routine, all of which fit into the writing life like a sleepy pup in a comfy bed. Here are some snippets gleaned from our reading list.
According to what she told Oprah, the dog made Sue Monk Kidd quit (in a good way): “I have an old dog named Lily and she’s a Black Lab. We got her as a puppy when I finished writing The Secret Life of Bees. My main character was named Lily and so that’s what we named her. She is 13 now, but she will come in and get me if I stay too long in my study. She’ll come put her head in my lap and tell me it’s time to stop.” Which, for this author, is a very good thing.
From J.K. Rowling's The Cuckoo’s Calling: “One of the earliest and most vivid memories of Robin’s childhood was of the day that the family dog had been put down. She herself had been too young to understand what her father was saying; she took the continuing existence of Bruno, her oldest brother’s beloved Labrador, for granted. Confused by her parents’ solemnity, she had turned to Stephen for a clue as to how to react, and all security had crumbled, for she had seen, for the first time in her short life, happiness and comfort drain out of his small and merry face, and his lips whiten as his mouth fell open. She had heard oblivion howling in the silence that preceded his awful scream of anguish, and then she had cried, inconsolably, not for Bruno, but for the terrifying grief of her brother.”
Roger, a Tahitian dog, is an unforgettable, fully drawn character in Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, The Signature of All Things. In a post on her Facebook page, Gilbert explained his significance and how his personality and name were inspired by a Balinese street dog: “The best thing about Roger is that his name wasn’t even Roger; it was actually ‘Raja,’ but my sweet Brazilian husband had misunderstood it. Thus, in our house, the poor little dog went from having a name of kingly Hindu majesty to being simply … Roger.
“A reader asked me, ‘Why did you have a dog in this novel?’ Two reasons: (1) To honor the memory of the real Roger, who was so absurd and who brought us so much joy, and (2) because I would never want to read a novel that didn’t have a dog in it.”
When asked by a Daily Beast interviewer what breed her new dog Sparky was, Ann Patchett replied: "I have no idea! But Annie Lamott said he was a Czechoslovakian circus dog. He looks like a dog from an Eastern European circus: a small, scruffy dog who you could imagine balancing on a red ball."
In a recent Vanity Fair interview, Stephen King was asked what person or thing he would like to come back as. His response: “A dog. A good one that gets lots of love and a hearth to lie on in the winter.”
Bracketology: The Final Four of Everything charts out the top dog of all time!
Here at Bark, we adhere to the theory that humans coevolved with dogs. If wolves hadn’t chosen to leave their packs and join our humble campfires, who knows what rung of the evolutionary ladder we would still be on. Not only did dogs teach us the hunt (Sirius), they guided us through icy storms (Buck, Balto), waited our return from adventures (Argos, Krypto), saved us from hairraising travails (Checkers, Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Snowy, Toto, and Asta), acted as our confidants (Charley, Fala, Gromit), served as our muses (Boatswain, Flush, Man Ray, Marley, and Tulip) and in the end, became what they are best known as—our truest and oldest friends (Earl, Old Yeller, Skip, and Snoopy). See an enlarged image of this bracket.HIGHLIGHTS
Lassie vs. Rin Tin Tin
Balto vs. Laika
Checkers vs. Fala
Goofy vs. Droopy
Argos vs. Rin Tin Tin
Charley vs. Tulip
Boatswain vs. Cujo
Fala vs. Snoopy
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Ways to honor your pup's memory.
Without question, losing a much-loved dog is a heartbreaker, but honoring that special pup’s memory is one way to take the edge off the grief. There are many beautiful and creative ways to do it.
For a living memorial, consider a tree. Trees for a Change works with the U.S. Forest Service to identify appropriate areas for planting, then tracks the tree once it’s in the ground and posts photos on its website. If you’re in a position to splash out, you may want dedicate a redwood (or a whole grove) in the name of your dearly departed; see Save the Redwoods for more details.
Or, remember your pup by flickering candlelight. The Furry Angel candle, all-natural vegetable wax in a silkscreened glass tumbler that can be used as a vase once the candle’s burned down (D), is a simple and touching option.
Memorial stones and plaques are a lovely addition to a garden or outside area—we favor the natural stones used by Plaques and More. Or for a personalized memorial, visit Monster Hollow Studios, where Callie Badorrek creates handmade clay plaques and custom urns (A); or By & By Memorials who create boxes of wood, textiles and metal (F).
Incorporating some of your dog’s fur into a pottery piece results in an especially personal memorial. Anna Whitworth at From Earth to Art makes beautiful, one-of-a-kind urns, as does Lori Cooper at Serenity Bells; Cooper can also integrate cremains (ashes) into other ceramics, including vases, urns and pendants.
At My Perfect Pet Memorials, the talented father-and-son team of Roger and Trevor Crosta craft gorgeous hand-blown glass orbs reminiscent of fishing floats (E). As part of the glassblowing process, your dog’s ashes are permanently fused into the richly colored sphere.
Carry your dog not only in your heart but also, around your neck or on your wrist. Lisa Havelin Pet Reliquaries are handmade, custom-designed gold or sterling silver lockets (B) in which a small memento of your dog—ashes, fur, a whisker— is permanently sealed. At Zelda’s Song, Sharon Herrman creates photo-jewelry, leather and charm bracelets featuring a photo of your pup. The leather bracelet (C) has a clever holder that allows you to swap photos between bracelets.
Bark contributors share a few special holiday moments!
Everyone knows that a cheeseball enhances a Christmas party more when it is brought to room temperature beforehand. Everyone, that is, except our St. Bernard, Amy, who enjoyed it just fine right out of the refrigerator. We never figured out how she snagged the cheddar bowling ball from the middle of the kitchen table, or where she took her cheesy prey to devour it. But the incident ended the Age of Cheeseballs for us—we switched to imported cheese for holidays.
My best dog-Christmas ever was the one I spent at my mother-in-law’s house. Their family has a long-standing tradition of ordering hand-knit stockings for new additions, and that year, Judy had a special stocking made up for my dog, Rex. The thing is, my dog wasn’t even that nice to Judy. But that didn’t stop her from stuffing his stocking with chewy toys and tug-a-ropes. If that isn’t Christmas spirit, nothing is!
Every holiday, my four dogs want to again hear about how, years ago, my dog Bob successfully maneuvered an 11-pound frozen-solid turkey down off the kitchen counter (surviving the dog equivalent of a free-falling piano), buried the carcass in the yard and then dragged it back into the house when our replacement dinner was served. It is, for dogs, the ultimate Seasonal Tale of Hope and Renewal.
Sasha was a Shar-Pei with whom I shared my formative years. She dearly loved three things in life: her Nylabone, her tennis balls and assisting with the Christmas tree. She would watch as we hung the ornaments, and as soon as we moved on to a new section, she would gently take one in her mouth and beat a hasty retreat with her prize. Eventually, we gave up decorating the lower third of our Christmas tree.
For a holiday work-party, our colleague’s wife, Mimi, set a tray of sliced brick cheese, festively felled like rows of dominos, atop the coffee table, while Howard scrawled on the flipchart. Their Springer Spaniel, Ginger, expressed the only interest in the seasonal refreshments: She licked the entire arrangement and then, oddly satisfied, left us to our deliberations. Ever the hostess, Mimi returned just moments later, and throughout the meeting, to pass the tray among her husband’s associates. Oddly: no takers.
Stockings hung, candles lit, a quiet and snowy Christmas Eve. Then a noise from outside. I couldn’t believe the faces at the door: my Gordon Setter Leo’s brother, Riley, and his Bernese Mountain Dog pal, Spin. They’d somehow slipped out their back door and trekked two miles to ours, a journey they’d only made once, back in the fall, via a winding woodland path. What else could I say? “Leo, your relatives are here!”
I went to pick up my mother to bring her back to our home for the holidays. My dog Dooley—a lanky, mixed-breed, snow-white-and-liver-spotted bird dog of sorts—came along. Let me make it clear that he’s infallibly housetrained. We arrived at my mom’s, and Dooley went over to her Christmas tree, sniffed around and lifted his leg on a package. It ended up being a fruitcake. Good dog, Dooley, good dog.
When it comes to gifts, many of us struggle to find something for loved ones who have everything. When the loved one is a dog, selecting presents is way easier—as far as dogs are concerned, there’s no such thing as enough of everything, especially things to eat and play with.
On the edible A List: antlers (so holiday-appropriate!), yak milk chews, dried fish skins or high-quality, nutritious treats (choose smaller-sized goodies to offset potential overindulgence). And don’t forget that treats are among the easiest things to make at home. There are lots of great dogcentric cookbooks, and the Bark website also has an eclectic collection of recipes (at thebark.com/recipes). If you have a dehydrator, put it to use by making jerky treats—we also happen to have an excellent recipe for chicken jerky sweet potato chews on our site; find it at thebark.com/jerky.
When it comes to toys, those that the two of you can play with together are reliable faves—especially tug toys, especially if you let the dog win occasionally. These are also easy to DIY, and give you an excellent way to finally use those old tube socks cluttering your sock drawer: tie a few knots in them and you have a toy with a scent only a dog can appreciate. Find more possibilities at thebark.com/diy. Or, for a two-fer, choose a Kong-like toy that can be stuffed with treats or more complex puzzle “enrichment” toys that entice your dog to find hidden rewards.
If you’re purchasing a toy, avoid those made from hard plastic (or packaged that way), and remove all tags, fabric hanger loops and plastic bits, especially from soft toys, before handing them to the canine giftee. It’s also a good idea to inspect the toy carefully and consider removing anything that a dog might be able to pull off and swallow (“eyes” or other nonessential elements, for example). If you’re sharing the holiday with friends or relatives, save everyone’s sanity by going the no-squeaker route.
Of less interest to dogs but very appealing to their people are accouterments such as new beds, warm sweaters and jackets, sturdy leashes, decorative collar tags, or other little luxuries. For a handy multitasker, check out dehydrators, which can be used to make delectables, like fruit chews, for everyone. Dogs won’t enjoy unwrapping this stuff quite as much, but their people will appreciate them.
Speaking of unwrapping … some dogs like to open their own gifts, so choose wrappings that are safe for them. Any kind of paper—even newspaper—lightly taped, works best. Ditch the ribbon or string, which can cause big problems if swallowed. If your dog’s an “unwrapper,” it’s probably best not to leave gifts on the floor around the tree unless a spot-on “leave it” cue is in place.
And, of course, there’s a No List: No surprise live animals (like a new dog friend); holidays are the worst time to introduce a new dog into a family. No China-made toys or treats (especially treats). No chocolate or other dicey-for-dogs ingredients; check the ASPCA’s poison control pages for details: aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control.
Now, what are you waiting for? Make a list, check it twice and reward both naughty and nice with a present that’s sure to be well received.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we’re taking a moment to make a list of what we are thankful for this year. Working on The Bark for the past 16 years, we’ve been afforded a unique view into the world of dogs, and the people who care for them. A lot has changed, but some of the best things about dogs never seems to.
1. The spirit of volunteerism. The dog community is a compassionate, supportive network of people who foster, donate, fundraise, advocate and share their love with animals who need it. Through a million small and large acts of kindness and with a sense of responsibility—they make a difference.
2. Dog-friendliness is being embraced. A generation ago, dogs’ access to public and shared spaces was very limited. “No dogs allowed” signs were the norm. Thankfully, these are fewer today, and a conscious effort to welcome dogs in parks, businesses and at social events is growing in popularity.
3. Government oversight of pet food. After hundreds of deaths from tainted pet food and treats, and countless recalls of foreign-source and domestically-produced product—we can look forward to new regulations that will impose safety and health requirements to the $21 billion pet food industry. Our pets deserve nothing less.
4. Science is offering new insights. The number of important studies and research that impact our understanding of dogs is at an all-time high. From the dog genome project to studies of the canine mind and senses, these creative investigations into what makes dogs tick is contributing to real, practical improvements in how dogs live in our society.
5. The inspiration of fine writing and art. Some of today’s best writers and thinkers are exploring the rich subject of dogs—from poet Mary Oliver to psychologist Alexandra Horowitz and novelist Ann Patchett—the wealth of words expressing life with dogs is our good fortune. Visual artists like Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Elliot Erwitt contribute their own language.
6. More choice than ever. Gone are the days when Ken-L-Ration and Milkbones ruled supreme. Today, dogs have their choice of organic, wheat-free, freeze-dried, reconstituted, bison, duck, raw, home-cooked and every combination imaginable. The expansion of selection has touched every corner of pet products … there are more dog beds, more toys, more everything to address every need and fancy.
7. Health options are evolving. A similar broadening of veterinary care is occurring, new techniques and medical innovations provide us with more options … holistic treatments, non-invasive procedures and, often, a level of care that can rival our own. The growth of pet health insurance is an idea whose time may have arrived.
8. The impact of canine behavior on everything—from training to unwanted pets. Understanding how dogs think and feel is key to living with them in harmony. It’s such a simple premise, but the plethora of misguided theories can do more harm than good. Fortunately, the truth has a way of rising to the top, and our understanding of canine cognition and behavior will help us solve some of the biggest challenges we face in the pet community.
9. Dogs’ roles in society are growing. Dogs love it when they have a job to do. For many, that means a real task to perform, and as a society, we’re expanding the job pool—assistance and therapy dogs, tracking and law enforcement, conservation and wildlife control, plus traditional duties of herding, hunting and companionship. The value of doing good work is immeasurable.
10. The essence of dogs. Whether it’s their never-ending enthusiasm to embrace a walk or their attentive demeanor as they accompany us through our day—dogs are great company. The bond is unique, and at its best, brings out something special in both of us, encouraging a fresh view of the world.
A food truck is the stuff of dog dreams — savory delectables delivered to a curb near you and with no restrictions on your choice of dining companions. For years now, gourmet chuck wagons from New York to Seattle and Portland to Atlanta have been building cult followings around kimchi quesadillas, portobello cheesesteaks, pork schnitzel sandwiches and more— often with lucky pups sampling some in foodies’ wake.
Now, dogs in Los Angeles have their own food truck: PhyDough sells preservative-free dog treats made with organic, human-grade ingredients. Also on the menu is soy- and yogurt-based ice cream for canines, thanks to a partnership with the Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwich Truck. It’s more than a place to pick up snacks; it’s become a tasty hub around which dog lovers and their sated pals socialize.
PhyDough was founded by Patrick Guilfoyle, owner of Double Dog Dare Ya, a boutique kennel in Burbank, Calif. Guilfoyle’s five dogs, who serve as official taste-testers, are particularly enthusiastic about his latest business venture.
Culture: Science & History
New study reveals that our dogs are affected by how long we're gone.
With dogs in the house, returning home—from a day at work or a trip to the mailbox—is cause for celebration, a wagging tail, the gift of a ball at your feet or even a little dance. You’re home! You’re home! But have you ever wondered why some parties are bigger than others?
Recently, two Swedish researchers discovered that how long we’re gone makes a difference. In their study (published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science in January 2011), Therese Rehn and Linda J. Keeling videotaped individuals’ family dogs on three different occasions while they were at home alone for periods of a half-hour, two hours and four hours.
In each case, the dogs spent nearly all their time alone lying down. (Other studies have shown that in households with more than one dog, there’s less lying about when the humans are gone; there’s an approximately 12 percent difference in activity levels.) The key difference in behavior in this study came during the reunion: After the two- and four-hour separations, the dogs welcomed their humans with greater exuberance than after a half-hour absence— exhibiting more frequent lip-licking, body-shaking and tail-wagging.
According to Rehn and Keeling, the more intense greeting behavior may indicate a desire to reinstate the relationship and/or may be the animals shaking off stress. In any case, the important takeaway is that dogs are affected by the duration of their solo time. The study doesn’t reveal whether they are actually missing their humans, but it does suggest that dogs feel the time— and that has welfare implications we can’t ignore.
In 1888, a stray Terrier mix named Owney was informally adopted by the U.S. Railway Mail Service. Owney’s travels began in Albany, New York; riding on mail sacks, he journeyed all over the U.S. As he traveled, employees of the Railway Mail Service would attach tokens and dog licenses to his custom-made harness and jacket. After his death in 1897, his body was preserved, along with his special harness and numerous dog tags, and is still proudly displayed at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.
Because of his history of “collecting” tags, Owney is also the unofficial mascot of the International Society of Animal License Collecting, a small but fiercely devoted club dedicated to preserving the history of dog tags and generating interest in this unique hobby.
Though they were originally made to be disposable, vintage dog license tags are lovely little artifacts that exhibit a touching amount of care in their design and craftsmanship. It is easy to see why they were so often kept by families for sentimental or ornamental reasons, and why they still appeal to collectors. Finding a century-old tag is an extraordinary experience, especially if it is still attached to an old leather or metal collar. Keeping them as they were found honors these sentimental keepsakes, and also preserves the historical evidence that allows more accurate dating of the items.
Dog licenses and the practice of taxing tags have a long and international history. Dog licenses were documented in Utrecht, Holland, as early as 1446, and there is evidence that dogs were taxed in Germany by 1598. One of the oldest known surviving dog licenses dates from 1775 and is from Rostock, Germany. The oldest known American dog license tag is an 1853 Corporation of Fredericksburg (Virginia) medallion.
With the rise of middle-class pet ownership in the nineteenth century, the bureaucracy involved with dog licensing expanded and the appearance and design of the tags and licenses themselves became more involved. The earliest form was paper dog licenses. They came in a variety of colors, with details of the dog being licensed on the front; sometimes a printed image of a dog appeared as well. Paper licenses (from Massachusetts) were issued as early as the late 1840s. An 1899 Southborough, Mass., paper license fee was a whopping two dollars for one dog—a very high price for that era, and evidence of the value people placed on their pets.
The next step, toward the end of the 19th century, was metal license tags, those familiar collar accessories that so often announce a dog’s presence with a cheery clink. At least 16 countries are known to have issued metal tags before 1900, but these are extremely rare; the most commonly found tags date from the 1940s on. Brass, copper, tin and aluminum were popular for tags, and many old metal tags have acquired handsome, well-worn patinas. Humorous, quaint, elegant or naïve, these metal miniatures are incredibly varied.
It’s intriguing to imagine the process by which these strictly functional items, indicating payment of a tax, came to be designed. Some are simple round or oval disks, but popular shapes also include acorns and bells, as well as thematic forms like doghouses, dog bones and dog-head silhouettes. More unusual forms can also be found: six-pointed stars, three-leaf clovers, locks, keystones and butterflies. Some U.S. states used the shape of their capitol building and, in 1896, the city of Chicago issued an unusual and ornate beehive-shaped license.
Foreign tags often incorporated a coat of arms, an embossed dog or particular breed on their tags, sometimes in amazingly fine detail. Austria used highly ornate images of dogs on their brass and copper pre-1900 tags. It’s interesting to see how history, in the larger sense, has had an impact on the small history of dog tags. For example, during WWII, compressed fiber and plastic tags were created in order to spare the metal that was needed by the military. In 1976, many states issued Liberty Bell-shaped tags to honor America’s bicentennial; they were either red, white and blue or a single-color anodized aluminum.
Enthusiasts find these jingling tidbits of nostalgia at estate (and “tag”!) sales, on eBay, in dusty corners or simply while walking their dogs. They are often assisted by metal-detecting hobbyists (another passion with its own active clubs and newsletters) who pass on “dug” tags that they have come across when trolling for coins or jewelry.
History buffs, dog lovers, token collectors and regional specialists all take an interest in this hobby. Dog licenses are small, durable and lightweight; they are easy to collect and store; and there’s an almost never-ending variety from which to choose. This fascinating and immeasurably satisfying hobby appeals to canine enthusiasts everywhere.
Finding a balance of work and play
Zuke’s began over a decade ago, when Patrick Meiering was hiking in the Colorado Mountains with his energetic dog, Zuke. Noticing that Zuke had become exhausted, Patrick broke off a piece of his energy bar and tossed it to him—Zuke perked right up. The idea that pets need healthy, all-natural treats was born at that moment. Today, Zuke’s offers a host of treats that are formulated with only natural ingredients providing the specific nutrients needed by dog and cats. The company embraces a healthy lifestyle of work and play, including a dog-friendly workplace—making them the perfect partner to sponsor The Bark’s Best Places to Work contest in 2013.
Tell us about Zuke’s office environment and an average day on the job …
Is there an official dog policy in place?
What is ownership/management’s view of allowing dogs in the workplace?
Can you give some specific examples of how the dogs add to the work environment in a positive way ....
What are some of the tips and pointers you can offer a company who is looking to start a dog-friendly work policy?
Though we are a pet products company and are thus unfairly biased, we believe that the positives outweigh the negatives for workplaces considering dogs. Aside from having a ready and willing taste test team on hand at all times, our management and employees universally believe that there are huge benefits to having canine coworkers.
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