guest editorial
Culture: Tributes

What makes a season? What is the nature of time? How much of time’s passage is a mathematical abstraction, and how much of it, if any, is a living, breathing organism, a life process, stirred and generated in part by our passage through it— a symbiotic relationship, or perhaps even at times a parasitic one, but a relationship nonetheless, in which two forces act, and are acted upon by each other?

The way an injury to us on a certain date can mar the shape or path of subsequent years—that same date becoming as specific to the body of a year as might an injury to one’s kidneys, or ribs. It’s been 10 years since my mother died young, died too early—died in November —and yet each year thereafter, a heaviness enters my spirit around that time, and my dreams are filled with a sadness I seem unable to control.

And last year I found myself injured again—not in anywhere the same fashion, nor with even a fraction of the same grief. But strangely, near the same point in the year.

Less than a full day after the date on which my mother died, a stranger comes driving down our long driveway, lost, and runs over our old blind and deaf Homer-dog, killing her. Neither the grief I feel, nor the circumstances of it, have anything to do with the loss of my mother; it is merely another, infinitely smaller loss, at that same point in time.

Elizabeth was down in Missoula, visiting friends, and the girls were in school. I was out hunting in the rain, and when I came home at lunch, I didn’t even see Homer, who was laid out by a stump next to Point and Superman’s kennel. Instead, there was a note on the table in the house, expressing how sorry the driver was, how he didn’t see Homer, yadda yadda—and my mind froze, not knowing what the note was talking about, and yet also knowing somehow immediately.

I went out and looked for Homer, called her name, whistled in the high pitch that she could sometimes still hear. Certain she would come bounding around the corner—still spry, for 16 and a half—and shatter, as if with the force of the myth, the stranger’s ragged note.

There was only the sound of hissing rain. The other dogs whining a little in their kennels, watching me.

The note had said she was laid out by a stump alongside the driveway. I went to the stump, and she wasn’t there; and again, it seemed to me that by her-not-beingthere, the myth of the note could be broken; that time itself could be reversed, as if in a river’s eddy, if even only for an hour or two, or for however long it took to get her back upright, standing and alive.

I found her by the other stump, the one at the corner of the driveway, laid out neatly enough, but soaking, sodden in the cold damned rain.

The driver had been gone only a few hours. Homer was not yet as cold as the rain and snow around her. Not warm, but not yet cold or stiff. I kept thinking, desperately, of how she might yet be saved; how I could rush her down to the miracle vet in town who had, on so many occasions before, rescued her from one calamity or another.

I picked her up to carry her into the house. There was a certain way she would lean into you when you bent to pick her up that was meant to assist you in the act; without it, I scarcely knew how to lift her.

I laid her on her bed and wrapped her in an old jacket. Her lips were curled back, as though she had been in pain, and her hindquarters were torn from the gravel, and again I felt desperate, felt that I had let her down.

I had picked up her and her twin sister Ann from along the side of the road in Mississippi, back in late May of 1985—indeed, there’d been a third pup with them, already dead, struck by a car or truck—and though part of me was aware that I had saved her, had given her 16 and a half great years, there was another part of me that knew she deserved much better; that she deserved for me to be there with her, comforting her, and that she deserved a painless death. She was the most loyal and affectionate dog I’d ever had, and I was angry at the carelessness of the pilgrim who had not been more cautious, coming down a strange driveway out in the country; angry at the unthinking disrespect of trespass, but angriest of all that after all those years together, I had been unable to give Homer even that one small dignity of a natural death; that one small comfort at the end. That instead, after all those years of service, she had known in the end only pain and confusion.

She was not yet decrepit. She still enjoyed being a dog: being fed and cared for, and wandering her well-worn route, her territory. Being dressed up in bows and dresses by the girls—surely the only Coonhound in the world to wear frills. Even now, I’m sad and angry about the injustice of it, the unfairness, though I am also struck by the possibility that the odds were stacked against her from the beginning—that she began her life as an orphan, road-dumped, and that there was or is a force in the world that asked her to end it that way, too—though for whatever purpose or reasons, I cannot begin to fathom.

The strangeness of the world and all its murmuring cycles, both beautiful and dangerous: She had died not five feet from where her twin sister Ann had died, also beneath the wheels of an automobile several years earlier, so that it was as though their blood was together again. Ann was buried in a grove of aspen trees, beneath a stone into which we had etched the word “Bravery”—it had been Ann who was always getting into tussles with coyotes, defending hearth and home—and long ago, we had decided that when it was Homer’s time to go, we would lay her next to Ann, with the word “Loyalty” scratched on the stone.

The bridge they build across our hearts: For parts of three decades, that bridge had been crafted, a living and specific thing, like a path or a process. Now that she is gone, the bridge still remains, as ornate and beautiful as ever, though it is no longer living, has forfeited the supple mystery of life, and has instead assumed the durable calcification of myth and memory—the residue of where our love was, the residue of the love we had for her, the residue of sweetness, of loyalty, the residue of a great dog who lived once upon a time.

Culture: Tributes
Fortune’s Talker
in memory of Roscoe, a black Labrador

Some are born to talk and that’s a story,
And some know what to do with the gift
And that’s a different story—Roscoe
Born at the guide dog school,
But too sensitive for traffic,
Roscoe was a sweet talker.
All dogs “talk” but few have nuance:
Roscoe knew. Oh he knew
When you felt rich inside
So he had a word or two for that;
And even yesterday, lame and tired in wet grass
He had encouraging things to say
To our neighbor’s dog who is young and fast.
We should all have things to share
In praise of animal faith
And with some of Roscoe’s luck
May we be wise enough
To find our better calling:

Culture: Tributes
Lessons from Thud
A reminder to animal-loving friends

A piece of my heart died recently. The loving, quirky, clumsy, gardening buddy and professional nap-taker we called Thud was put down.

  Thud was a stray—found running down a San Fernando Valley street when he was just a few months old. We’re not sure what breed he was (probably a Pit Bull mix) but he had the most beautiful brindle coat and the sweetest, happy-go-lucky personality, very much a Scooby Doo type but we named him Thud for his size and inherent clumsiness.   He was fine one day as I asked him to lie down for a toenail trim. I noticed a lump where a lump should not be, in his belly area. In my work, I have seen lumps before and I knew this was not a good lump. I rushed him to my outstanding veterinarian Sandy Sanford for a test of cells from the mass.   The waiting for the results was difficult, as the mass seemed to grow by the day. When the results came in, Dr. Sandy referred me to an oncologist in Ventura. More testing and oral chemotherapy was started. A few weeks passed and Thud seemed to be tolerating the medication. His appetite was good, he ran and barked and wagged that big ol’ tail as if nothing was silently taking over his organs. In the three weeks since I discovered the mass, it had grown to the size of a cantaloupe. Then one night there was the bloody diarrhea, vomiting, not eating or drinking. His breathing was raspy. He was telling us it was time.   He went peacefully as I held his massive head in my arms. I told him what a good friend he was, how much I would miss him, and lastly I whispered in his ear, “Come find me again, I'll know it’s you.” His breathing slowed, then it stopped. The doctor said his heart was slowing, then it too stopped beating. That’s when a piece of my heart died too.   The pain hit me as if I had been kicked in the stomach.   I went home in a fog and started to slip into my robotic coping mode of cleaning. I washed his bedding, his crate, his kennel, his bowls. I put away all the treatment supplies and medications. I placed his collar next to the others that were so dear to us. The next day I got mad. Why me? Why my dog? Why in such a horrific way? Why didn’t I see it sooner? I, of all people, should have known! I hated myself. I walked around the house and yard not knowing what to do with myself. I couldn’t make a simple decision; I didn’t even eat. I was just so, so sad.   The next day was still sad, but different. I started to notice things around me that I usually ignored. The things that are just ordinary moments in a day, how the sunlight shines through the needles of a barrel cactus, the quail as they scurry across the yard, the ravens caw, the mail lady, the neighbor walking his dog. Just ordinary moments.   Kevin came home from work and I asked him if he wanted to take two of the dogs for a walk. He asked me how I was doing and how my day was. I turned to him with a smile and said, “It was good; it was just ordinary.”   I guess the reason I am writing this for my animal friends is to say, “Don’t miss out on those ordinary moments or take them for granted, because one day you won’t have an ordinary day. A day when a piece of your heart will die.”   We came home from our walk we sat down on the front porch Adirondack chairs. A smile came to my face when I saw the chew marks Thud made when teething as a puppy.  I remembered, eleven years ago, I had taken each chair apart, and sanded, primed, re-sanded and painted each piece. I had gone to so much work making them unique by painting each side a different color. Each piece had six sides to it and each side had a different color. It was CRAZY keeping all the pieces organized. I had four chairs, two ottomans and two tables. They looked BEAUTIFUL! A real work of art, I thought.    Within a week, Thud had his teeth marks and large pieces of most of the arms shredded. What could you do?  I didn’t catch him in the act, so I just said, “Well, one day I will get some redwood and cut out some new arms to replace the chewed ones. Flash-forward 11 years, I am so glad I never got around to that project. I absolutely LOVE those chewed up wooden chairs. What a lovely “ordinary moment” he gave me.   So, go home tonight and just soak in the ordinary moments: The tail slapping against the floor, just because you walked by. The nose flip to your hand because you stopped petting him. How they look at you from the sides of their eyes when they are enjoying a special toy or treat. How they greet you at the door. The way they twitch while dreaming. Take time out to just listen to them breathe. Listen to their hearts beat. Take a lot of mental photographs and a lot with a camera too. Just be so happy for an ordinary day. It is the ordinary days that will help you get through the horrible un-ordinary days.   I still miss him, I still cry a lot.  But I know I am a better person having had him in my life. The pain I have is miniscule compared to the 11 years of laughter, love, companionship, protection and devotion he gave me.   Enjoy your ordinary day and all the loving ordinary moments because they are all so very special.


Culture: Readers Write
Q&A with Shawn Kobb
Unpublished writer sees ink as a finalist in Bark’s 1st Fiction Contest

“Street Dog,” about a homeless man and a stray dog, is Shawn Kobb’s first published story (Bark, Sep/Oct 2010). Kobb, 33, was one of three finalists in our first fiction contest earlier this year. In his non-writing hours, Kobb is a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, currently living in The Bahamas with his wife and their adopted Doberman puppy, which they adopted during a two-year stint in Ukraine. Kobb recently shared with TheBark.com a little about the real man and dogs who inspired his story.

  TheBark.com: What inspired your story? Shawn Kobb: The story was inspired in part by a homeless man that lived in the neighborhood in Washington, DC that I stayed at last summer while training for my current assignment. I used to see this man almost daily, always sitting in the same spot on the same street as tourists and locals walked by him. He never asked for money, just watched people walk by. At the same time, we have just finished living for two years in Ukraine and stray dogs were a constant problem there. I decided to join up two groups that seemed like they could use each other.   This is my first published piece of fiction and I’ve never entered any other contests. I’ve always been interested in writing and have written several pieces, but I’ve never published any of them before.   Do you have a favorite dog character in a novel, story, movie or painting? I would say one of my favorite dogs in literature is Laika from the graphic novel of the same name. It is the true story of a homeless dog taken from the streets of the former Soviet Union who later became the first dog in space. To be honest, I’ve only ever skimmed the piece, because although it is beautifully illustrated and written, it is too sad for me to make it through. My wife and I adopted a female Doberman puppy while living in Ukraine and she is named Laika in honor of this dog.   Who is your favorite writer? Like many people, I have many favorite writers. Right now, I would go with Dan Simmons. He’s a terrific writer that refuses to stick to one genre. He has great books that are science fiction, historical fiction, horror, suspense, and even non-fiction. His historical fiction The Terror is one of my favorites.


Culture: Readers Write
A Dog by Any Other Name
The science and art of naming your dog or Sometimes, what you say is what you get.

“His name is ‘Baby,’” Helen told me as she stroked her dog’s massive black head. “Baby” weighed in at about 65 pounds, was seven years old and had bitten 13 times. The last bite had been to Helen, when she tried to stop an attack on her disabled son. Needless to say, we had a lot to talk about, and one of the topics was her dog’s name. Helen explained to me that Baby had always been “her baby,” and that she did everything she could to make him happy. I countered, as graciously as possible, that Baby wasn’t actually much of a baby anymore. Rather, he was the equivalent of a 50-year-old man living in her house rent-free, not helping with the housework, and getting full-body massages on demand. Half jokingly, half not, I suggested that Helen change the dog’s name to something more fitting of his age and appropriate role within the family.

And that’s when I lost her. As soon as I mentioned changing Baby’s name, Helen’s face snapped shut like a book. Of course, we continued to talk through the appointment, but as I drove away, I guessed I’d never hear from her again, and I didn’t, even after calling her twice and leaving messages. In hindsight, I should’ve waited to talk about her dog’s name. Names are important, so important that Vicki Hearne wrote an entire book —Adam’s Task—about the weight of words in our relationship with dogs. What we call our dogs has meaning, and can have important consequences, both for ourselves and for our dogs.

One of the reasons that names are so important is the effect they have on us when we say them. Calling a male dog “Baby” makes it difficult to think of him as an adult dog, and makes it easy to excuse his behavior—it gives him “puppy privileges” that should’ve expired long ago. Labeling a Rottweiler “Brute” (as did one of my clients) does little to convince the neighborhood that your 85-pound Rottie plays well with Yorkies. Names evoke emotions in us, and those emotions influence our behavior. Since our behavior influences the behavior of our dogs and others around us, a name—all by itself—can have a surprising amount of power.

Emotions evoked by a name can have a profound effect even if you’re not conscious of it. Much of our behavior is driven by the unconscious—just look at the research of psychologist John Bargh, who found that people walk more slowly if you ask them to play word games with phrases that include indicators of age (like the words “wrinkled” and “bingo”). Believe it or not, if you’re named Georgia, you are more likely to move to the state of Georgia than you are to the state of Virginia, and vice versa. (To quote columnist Dave Barry, I am not making this up.) According to David Myers in the book Social Psychology, people’s careers are also affected by their names. Geologists and geophysicists are named George more often than is statistically predictable, and if you’re named Dennis or Denise, you are more likely to go into dentistry than if you’re named Tom or Beverly. Amazing stuff, yes?

Reflect, then, on the impact of naming your dog “Baby” or “Brute.” You say your dog’s name often, and the above-quoted research suggests that the repetition will have an effect. The good news is that the effect can be good as easily as it can be bad. I love spring tulips almost as much as chocolate (okay, not quite), and naming my huge white fluff-ball of a Great Pyrenees “Tulip” was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. Just saying her name, “Twooooo-lip,” makes me smile. In a joyful swirl of classical conditioning, my love for her and for tulips have become intertwined in the best of ways. Surely Tulip is aware, either consciously or unconsciously, that her name, and thus she herself, make me happy—what a wonderful start to a relationship. Along those same lines, a friend of mine is considering naming her new dog “Sparkle.” After losing four beloved pets in the last year, she is more than ready to add a daily dose of light and joy into her life.
Moving to the other end of the leash, your dog’s name has another and more direct effect on his or her behavior. The structure of a sound—whether it consists of soft vowels or hard consonants for example—has an influence on how your dog responds. Most of us say our dogs’ names because we want their attention; that is, after all, the way we use names in human communication. No matter who it is spoken to, dog or person, “Margaret” means: “Margaret, please pay attention to me at this moment. I would like to communicate with you.”

Thus, it’s useful to know that different types of sounds vary in their ability to get your dog’s attention. If you analyze the acoustics of spoken language, you’ll find that saying hard consonants, such as “k,” “p” and “d,” create what are called “broad-band” sounds, with lots of energy across a range of frequencies. If you were looking at a picture of the word “Kip,” you’d see a vertical spike (the broad band) for the “k” and another for the “p.” Those types of sounds are good at capturing your dog’s attention because they stimulate more acoustic receptor neurons in the brain than do the flatter sounds made by vowels and soft consonants. (That’s one of the reasons that clickers work so well—lots of broad-band sound.)

Thus, if you want your dog’s attention, you’re more likely to get it if she’s named Kip rather than Gwen. Of course, you can train a dog to pay attention to any sound at all if you condition her well enough, so if you want to name your dog Gwen, go right ahead. However, it’s useful, especially in performance events, to be aware of the effect of sound on your dog’s behavior. For example, short names with lots of hard consonants are great for people working dogs in fast-action events, such as agility and herding. The value of a short name is obvious: speed (you don’t want to be singing “Gwennnn-de-lynnnnn” when you’ve got a tenth of a second to get a response out of your dog) and focus (the consonants at either end of a name like Kip help you keep your dog’s attention). Indeed, so many working Border Collies are named “Hope” and “Jed” and “Drift” that conversations about the lineage of some dogs sound like “Who’s on first?” jokes. “Is your new little bitch related to Knox’s Hope?” “No, she’s out of McGregor’s Hope, sired by Jed.” “Is that Glynn-Jones’s Jed?” “No, I mean the Jed owned by….” And on and on. I’ve joked that for every 100 handlers in the sport, there are only 20 names for dogs.

That said, I must add that there’s something satisfying about a two-syllable name; “Pixie,” “Tulip” and “Sparkle” all flow off the tongue in a way that just feels good. I’ve also wondered if, in some cases, two-syllable names can actually help get a dog’s attention, in that the first syllable acts almost as a primer for the second. Perhaps the handiest names are the ones with a lot of flexibility. My forever dog’s name was Luke, but his recall signal was his name said twice: “Luke Luke!” When we were working sheep and the pressure was on, I’d belt out “LUKE!” to bring his attention back to me. In quieter times, if he did something silly, I’d say, in a rising, drawn-out drawl, “Luuuuuu-cas, what are you doing?”

Luke’s name brings up one more thing to think about when you’re naming your dog (and yes, of course you can change a dog’s name if you don’t like the one she came with!). I named Luke’s daughter “Lassie,” not because of the acoustics of the name, but because she came to me as a dog rejected by two people who had missed her potential to be as devoted and responsive as the television star of the same name. But listen to the consequence of that choice—say the names out loud: Luke. Lassie. I gave two dogs in the same household names that start with the same sound, and as hard I tried to keep things clear, it made life a little bit more confusing for the two of them. You can see it for yourself in a video I made, Feeling Outnumbered, in which I tell all my dogs to “Wait” at the door of the car, and then release Lassie by calling her name. If you watch carefully, you can see Luke start to move forward when he hears the “L—,” and then self-correct when the rest of his daughter’s name comes out. Luke and Lassie were so amenable and responsive that my mistake barely mattered, but keep this in mind when you’re naming a new dog. I sure will. Living with humans is confusing enough for dogs, why make it any harder?

In summary, there are several facets of a dog’s name that bear consideration. It’s good to be informed about all of them, but I have to admit: When push comes to shove, I’d vote every time for the name that fit my dog’s personality and that made me happy to say over a name with the “proper” acoustics. It’s good to be aware of all the ways a name can affect your dog’s behavior, but nonetheless, a dog by any other name … will still roll in cow pies.

Culture: Readers Write
Q&A with Don Katnik
Finalist in The Bark’s 1st Annual Short Story/Fiction Contest talks furry muses

A fictional haven called Dog Island is the setting for Don Katnik’s story, “The Stepping-Off Place” (Bark, Summer 2010), which was one of three finalists in our first-ever fiction contest. A wildlife biologist, Katnik shares his 200-year-old home in Maine with his wife Misty and dogs Copper “The Rocket” and Jedzia Dax. Katnik, 44, took a break from writing, home-improvement projects and dancing (ballroom with Misty, free-style with the Jedzia and Copper) to answer a few questions about Dog Island and fictional canines.

  TheBark.com: How did you get the idea for Dog Island? Don Katnik: So often now places advertised as “dog friendly” are really just “dog tolerant.” It is becoming harder to find places where they are truly welcome. Dog Island was inspired by a real island (pictured in the photo) near us that is one of the few places our dogs can be off-leash. Sadly, there are plans to put a marina there, which will ruin it for the dogs. I wish I could buy it and make it a real Dog Island, but I can’t so I wrote a story about the idea instead.   Have dogs shown up in any of your other stories? Yes, usually as characters with roles rather than just props for the humans. In a novel I’m working on, Edge (based on a real-life search and rescue dog) plays a pivotal part in solving a quadruple homicide. One of the first stories I ever wrote was about an elderly man who crashes into a steep, forested ravine. He lingers for three days, then succumbs to his injuries and isn’t found until his canine companion—who refused to leave while his old friend was still alive—goes back up to the road alone. It’s called “Temporary Road” and is based on something that really happened in northeastern Washington.   Have you had your fiction published before? Yes, but I fear short fiction is a dying art.   What sort of dogs are Jedzia and Copper? Spoiled! Jedzia is a Shepherd-Boxer-something mix. She came from an animal shelter in Washington State. Copper is a Golden Retriever, but a little guy. We got him from a rescue organization in Massachussetts.   Do you have a favorite dog character in a novel, story, movie or painting? I love the dog in Andrew Wyeth’s “Master Bedroom” painting (and was even inspired to have a local artist do a knock-off sketch substituting Jedzia on the bed). It’s a pretty fair representation of how she spends much of her time!   Who is your favorite writer? Have to go with Stephen King. I love how he captures life’s little truisms, like in The Body: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, did you?” Simple words, but profound in making you recognize one of the biggest differences between being a grown up versus a kid.   Have you ever entered a fiction contest before? A few, but they were literary contests more interested in prose than plot. I didn’t do well.


Culture: Readers Write
Letters to the Editor: Issue 57

Kennel Club Documentary Strikes a Chord
“The Cost of Perfection” (Oct. ’09) was an excellent article and oh so timely. But let’s be clear that the fault is not only that of the breeders. When judges reward the dogs with exaggerations, then everyone jumps on the bandwagon. This leads to the ridiculous extremes that prevail in the show rings and then the whelping boxes. It takes a great judge with the courage of his or her convictions to select the proper specimens.
On the matter of health issues, the Swedish Kennel Club has it right! Why the AKC does not follow suit is a mystery to those of us who care about the future of purebred dogs. Education of the pet-buying public would seem to be the answer to this problem; unfortunately, people put more research into the brand of refrigerator they plan to buy than they do into selecting a living, breathing companion for their family.
—Sami Simons
Pataskala, Ohio

Thank you for your article highlighting the problems with breeding dogs. I have abumper sticker that says “Save Lives: Spay and Neuter.” When asked about it and I explain that every time a litter of puppies is born, it means fewer homes for dogs in shelters who are waiting to be adopted. With millions of dogs being euthanized because of lack of homes, it doesn’t make sense to intentionally breed more.
—Anna West
Richmond, Va.

Was it Beverley Cuddy or The Bark who was afraid to mention the AKC in this article? Pedigree Dogs Exposed could have easily been filmed here in the U.S.; the Westminster show is as much a “parade of mutants” as Crufts.
Of course, everyone claims to be a “responsible breeder,” but the truth is, our breeding practices are no different than those in England. Breeders here have already dug in their heels to prevent changes like those now taken by England’s KC. The AKC needs to step up and start protecting the dogs.
—Sarah Logan
Springfield, Ore.

We wanted to let our readers know about this groundbreaking documentary as well as point out some “best practices.” A future article will take a look at similar problems in our own backyard. —The Editors

Many Ways to Help
Thank you for your story on Bali’s dogs (“Bali’s BAWA,” Oct. ’09). I was in Bali a year ago and haven’t been able to get those dogs out of my mind. They are everywhere. I saw pregnant dogs, injured dogs, mangey dogs. I saw dogs dodging insane traffic. I found this heartbreaking until I walked in to the BAWA offices in Ubud, where I briefly chatted with an office worker, picked up some brochures and learned more about BAWA.
According to the brochure, $20 spays one female dog and $10 neuters one male dog, $7 treats mange and other skin parasites. $45 pays for fuel/maintenance to keep the Animal Ambulance on the road for a month.
As Americans, we may ask, “We have enough needy animals in the U.S.; why should I help dogs on the other side of the world?” Here’s why: In the U.S., dogs have been our companions from the beginning but, as the article notes, in Bali, the religious culture doesn’t see them that way. In addition to helping dogs, BAWA is trying to change the culture through education. If you believe that we are all connected, then you’ll understand why this organization needs our help. bawabali.com
—Susan Polakoff Shaw
Cleveland, Ohio

After reading the article about volunteer vacations (Aug. ’09), my 15-year-old daughter and I raised about 1,000 pounds of food and medical supplies for BAWA and am going to Bali in November to volunteer with the organization. I am a Podiatrist and asked our medical equipment suppliers for donations of expired goods, they have boxes of supplies with only a small dent that they cannot sell commercially. I will be there with my daughter for two weeks. Thanks for the inspiration!
—Scarlett Kroencke
Davis, Calif.

Editor’s note: The Kroenckes are now busy fundraising now to be able to ship what they have collected. If you are interested in helping, email Claudia@thebark.com and I will make sure they get your message.

A Life Saved!
I volunteer at our local shelter in Spokane, Wash., which also serves as county animal control. One of the dogs there, a Pit/Lab mix named Wally, was a high-energy and fun-loving boy, but the attributes that made him a wonderful dog also made it difficult to find him a home. Space at the shelter is limited and Wally was at the end of his options, but “Waterwork” (Aug. ’09) saved him. After reading it, I contacted Barbara Davenport and shortly thereafter, Wally was transferred into her program. Following State protocol he will first be trained as a drug detection dog, and if that doesn’t work out, he’ll go into whale scat conservation work. If he doesn’t make it through this program, they will find him a good home. Without this article, Wally would never have had a chance.
I’m also one of the Adoption Coordinators for F.I.D.O. (Foundation for Invested Dog Ownership) so I always enjoy reading your articles and sometimes make copies that I think would be beneficial to new adopting families
—Karen Allen

Subscribers Support
Rather than renew our subscription, we thought we’d just pick up Bark one at a time, or borrow it. After all, we wondered, what more we could possibly learn about dogs at this point? Then we read the amazing articles in the current issue and realized: a lot!
—Teri Wimberley
Ashland, Ore.

I just received my Sept/Oct issue of Bark Magazine. As with every issue, I dove into it with one of my Chihuahuas neatly curled up on my lap (he is one of our four rescued pups)! Before continuing on with my reading I felt compelled to email you with a thank you! Thank you for such a great magazine and hard work, but thank you for acknowledging the tough economic times by lowering your subscription rate, which compared to much larger publications I can imagine that will affect your bottom line.
Of the many publications I receive monthly, you are the first to lower your price, but more importantly, to thank your readers and subscribers for their loyalty. In response, I will be acting exactly as your team would hope—renewing my subscription as well as sending a gift subscription to a friend!
—K.A Hurley

Feed Them Well
Thank you for the article “Pet Food Confidential” (Aug. ’09). Given the absence of publicly funded research on (and testing of) commercial dog foods, why don’t we try some field work of our own? Say, a diet of nutrient-dense, highly processed, nutritionally balanced and relatively dehydrated foodstuff—perhaps premium, high-end meal-replacement bars, preferably organic. Add supplements like high-quality Omega-3s, probiotics, digestive enzymes and anti-oxidants. After a couple of months of this, we may be able to make a more informed decision about whether a quality kibble diet “should be okay” for our canine companions.
—Mason Small
Toronto, Canada

Digital Bark
Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the new Oct. ’09 digital magazine! I went through it right away and watched all the videos—really loved the Halloween Parade. While my first choice remains the print version of the magazine, having the online version at my fingertips no matter where I am makes referencing articles or ads very easy. The e-zine also gave me the opportunity to see my smiling dogs (Bud and Daisy) in the double-page spread. What fun!
—Dianne Houghtaling
Lansdale, Pa.

Words of Encouragement
I live in Ohio, near the Kentucky border. My “rescue life” started nine years ago, while I was living in the Boston area. I had two German Shorthaired Pointers and was inspired to do more for the breed. I started fostering and volunteering for a small group affiliated with the Mayflower GSP Club. When I left Massachusetts in 2005, I returned “home” to the West Virginia/Ohio/Kentucky tri-state area, where I continue to be involved in GSP rescue work.

After hearing that a local couple had adopted a “shy” female named Nutmeg through the GSP Care of Ohio group and were having issues with her, I went to their home to see if I could help. When I met her, I knew she couldn’t remain there one more day; she was virtually feral, fearful of every movement, every noise, everything. I already had one foster, which meant five dogs in my home; I wasn’t prepared (nor was my husband) for six. But, to make a long story short, we adopted her ourselves and in December, it will be two years since she came into our lives. I can tell you that although the first year was very trying, the hard work paid off. She has blossomed into a happy, sassy, and affectionate girl. I’m sure your Holly will come around. Celebrate her little victories. One of these days, you’ll look at her, note her confidence, and your heart will be full to overflowing, realizing just how far she has come.
—Michelle Salyers
National Volunteer Coordinator, GSP Rescue

The story in the June ’09 issue about Holly and Kit (“A Rescue Trip”) reminds us of our Aussie, Brenna, who’s been with us 10 years now and is also a Kentucky lass. We had lost a dog to cancer and our Bearded Collie mix Tramp needed a companion, so when we heard she needed a home, we agreed to take her. Like Holly and Kit, Brenna came to us on Delta Airlines from Cincinnati to Los Angeles; she too was scared. When Tramp lost his battle with hepatocutaneous syndrome in January 2007, Brenna was an “only child” until August of that year, when we rescued Shadow. We will always have two dogs and they will always be rescues. We are convinced they make the best companions.
—Dave and Lynda Snyder
Grand Terrace, Calif.

Dunlap Delights
I smiled my way through the first reading of “The Dogs Go Too” by Murray Dunlap (Oct. ’09) and by the third reading, I realized I have had similar conversations—I only wish that I “might be a writer” so that I could say it as poetically as Dunlap does. It’s difficult to explain to a non-dog person just what it means to share your life with a dog. My coupled friends ask if I’m lonely, but how could I possibly be? I have Tess, the most uncomplicated, rewarding relationship of my life!
—Amy McCormack
Bangor, Maine

Culture: Readers Write
Q & A with Bim Angst
Winner of The Bark’s 1st Annual Short Story/Fiction Contest

A brindle-furred Pit Bull is one point of a complex, mid-life love triangle in Bim Angst’s contest-winning story “Village Dogs” (The Bark, April/May 2010). In the piece, a man and a woman stutter-step toward one another, in large part, through their feelings about the dog. The result is an authentic and poignant look at how people—often aided by their canine co-pilots—come together. On the eve of her debut in The Bark, Angst, who lives in Saint Clair, Penn., and teaches at Penn State Schuykill, answered a few questions about writing, dogs and writing about dogs.

  TheBark.com: Where did “Village Dogs” begin—with the relationship or with the dog? Bim Angst: Actually it started with a place and a gesture—a walk along a river with my dog and a friend who pointed something out. An image stuck in my head and felt rich with possibilities. I tend to think visually first. Then I have to work and re-work words to match and then build on what I see in my head. There are many revisions until something feels right, but usually the initial image is clear and constant—as it was for “Village Dogs.”   It sounds like the character of Anya Graceen is based on your dog Graciella, has she shown up in other stories?What about your other dogs? Why write about dogs? Grahtzi is a particularly pleasant and expressive dog, and because she’s mostly Pit Bull and yet very sweet-tempered, she attracts attention. It helps that she’s pretty comical too. Grahtzi really does get “petting drunk” and falls over when her butt is scratched. Everybody smiles when she does that! How could I not use that?   My other dogs—the two yellow boys currently with me and beloved earlier dogs, too—show up often in my stories. I hope they become characters in their own right, but since most of my fiction is realistic, they remain, I hope, real dogs doing real dog things.   I write about dogs because they are so much with me. My senior boy, Beau, has quite literally spent more time with me than any other creature on earth—and that includes my children. The dogs are with me almost every moment I’m not out working or riding my bike. How could I not write about dogs? Dogs are naturally engaging, and they’re such lovely counterpoints to the weaknesses and foibles of human characters.   Do you have a favorite dog character in a novel, story, or movie? Rich Bass’ Colter springs to mind pretty quickly. And one of my easy pleasures is looking at the Smiling Dogs pages in The Bark.   Who is your favorite writer? My son, Charlie Manis, is the best writer I read frequently. I feel honored when he lets me read his work in progress. He’s a tremendously talented writer, very sensitive to language, gesture, context, nuance. He’s also the hardest working writer I’ve ever met. I’m working very hard in a friendly family competition to beat him to book publication!   Have you ever entered a fiction contest before? I’m 54 years old now and have been writing seriously since the age of 15, when I got my first job writing newspaper features (although I wrote radio ad copy before that). Yes, I’ve sent stories to many contests—and poems and essays. Rejection is part of writing; one can’t take it personally or let repeated rejection lead to despair. Send it out, forget it, and keep writing. It’s very rare in a writing career, in a writing life, to have a story as warmly received as “Village Dogs” has been at The Bark.


Culture: Readers Write
Letters to the Editor: Issue 58

Thank you for highlighting Greyhound retired racers (“Bella’s Firsts” Jan. ’10). One of the reasons I purchase your magazine is because of the variety of breeds represented, including my favorite. I have given forever homes to Picasso and Laika, adopted through Colorado Greyhound Adoption, coloradogreyhoundadoption.org and am thrilled that you would highlight adopting retired racing Greyhounds and have such a positive impact.
—Tara Lindburg
Board of Directors
Colorado Greyhound Adoption

DogJoy’s a Hit
I want to thank you for not only founding the best dog mag out there, with the perfect blend of informative and uplifting articles, but also for helping with my holiday shopping this year. My mom is an avid rescuer whose latest baby is a laboratory Beagle named Mack. Her customized copy of DogJoy arrived just before Christmas, complete with Mack’s adorable profile on the cover. Mack deserves the life of luxury he now leads, and Mom deserves the brag book she proudly shows to everyone who walks through the door. Thanks for thrilling the most special lady in my life!
—Michele Wallach
Valley Stream, N.Y.

Reminder of the Mission
As another veteran rescue volunteer, I write to respectfully disagree with Kathy Jasnoch (Letters, Aug. ’09). I admire the intellectual clarity and rigor of the no-kill paradigm, whose title serves as a constant reminder of the mission. There can be only one proper goal of the sheltering system: to return every companion animal to the community, into better circumstances than those from which they came. The goal may never be completely attained, but it means that every effort of every employee and every volunteer can be devoted to that end. It follows that every shelter death must be considered a failure—to be mourned as a lost opportunity, individually analyzed for lessons and prevented in the future. 
There’s hope, but we’ll achieve our best results only if we demand an end to senseless bickering over egos and semantics, and forge a synthesis of all the creative approaches into 21st-century best practices. 
I’m betting that Ms. Jasnoch will join me in making that call. 
—Tom Cushing 
Danville, Calif.

Chessie or Boykin?
After reading “A Dog’s Castle” (Jan. ’10), I wondered if the dog called a Chessie was truly a Boykin Spaniel. I am a proud owner of one of these wonderful dogs.
—Karen Ferreira

Dogs with Taste
We wanted to tell you that our rescue, Stanley, loves your magazine and can’t wait to get it each time. He reads it cover to cover. 
—Tim and Susan Holub
Newton Falls, Ohio

My foster pup, Lilli, just couldn’t contain how much she loved the August ’09 issue. I didn’t catch her “reading” it, like I often catch her “reading” my shoes, her leashes, my daughter’s toys or anything left within “reading” distance, but I did catch this photo of the thoroughly read magazine!
—Amy Olivieri

Double Standard?
In the small, two- or three-block area where I walk my two-year-old Shar-Pei, Sophie, approximately a half-dozen people have small or toy dogs. Almost without exception, these individuals allow—and sometimes even seem to encourage—their small dogs to behave aggressively towards my dog.

When I first got Sophie, she was very friendly to other dogs she met on her walks, regardless of their size. Now, whenever she sees a small dog, she becomes agitated and starts to growl. It breaks my heart.
I have a theory that people with small dogs find their pets’ aggressive behavior cute, endearing and funny. They believe that because their dogs are small and could never be a threat, it’s okay to allow them to growl, bark, snap and charge at my dog.
But it’s not okay.

It seems a double standard exists in the dog world between those with small-breed dogs and those with larger breeds. The latter must make sure their dogs are never aggressive to other dogs, but the former may give their dogs free rein.
—Lisa McMillan 
Nepean, Ontario 
Readers: Do you agree or disagree? Sound off on the Bark blog!

A Clarification
A recent article, “Rescue, Doubled” (Oct. ’09), covered the wonderful work that the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) does in training dogs for rescue work. I am writing with a clarification, however. In the article, I was given credit for getting Cody into SDF. This credit should go to the current and former volunteers of Golden Retriever Rescue of WI, who worked as a team to make sure that Cody was accepted. Many volunteers played a vital role in Cody’s placement. Credit must also be given to the people at the shelter who took the first step: making the call that gave Cody a second chance. Thank you for showing what wonderful work these search and rescue dogs do.
—Dawn Christenson

More Ways to Help
Animal lovers in the U.S. can make a difference beyond their borders, as “Volunteer Vacations” (Aug. ’09) made very clear. However, even travelers who don’t have the time to volunteer during their vacation may still be able to provide an important service to organizations overseas.

We at AKI are always looking for people to transport supplies and equipment to our network organizations; rather than pay expensive postage, we rely on people traveling to these countries. Even better, if you are traveling to a less-developed country that has an animal welfare organization, you may wish to gather supplies yourself and transport them. Many of our organizations have so few volunteers and very few or no paid staff. These animal welfare advocates are usually overworked and have few colleagues to share the day-to-day stress. Even a short visit to lift morale is often useful. You’ll be so impressed with all the work these organizations do with so little funding that you may become a lifetime supporter.
—Karen Menczer
Founder, Animal Kind International

Special Needs
Karen London’s column on special needs dogs (“Dogs Like Any Other” Oct. ’09) was great. It took me several months to admit my Noel was blind. Then I felt guilty for not admitting it sooner and not helping her sooner. After overcoming denial, I coped with the frustration of not knowing how to help her.
In her column, London says, “Just decide this dog is going to have a full and happy life!” Ultimately, that is what turned the page for Noel and me. I live to walk and hike with my dogs, and decided that no matter how hard it was or how much patience it required, Noel would learn the joys of walking with me. Many months passed. Slowly, Noel decided walks were not just tolerable but fun, maybe even great. Now Noel walks, hikes, plays ball, does full-on romping with my other dogs and is in every sense having a “full, happy life”!
—Pamela Floyd
Lancaster, Pa.

Culture: Readers Write
Rudy, Lacey, Sammi, and Sugar
Living with blind and/or deaf dogs.


Rudy Rudy came to me blind, partially deaf, heartworm-positive and with bird shot on his right side. Today he’s completely healthy, though he still can’t see or hear much. He is a lover boy and brings joy to all who meet him. —Jenny Edwards   Lacey Lacey was born blind but most of the time, you’d never know she can’t see. She lives life to the fullest and is eager to try new things and explore new places. Tom, Lacey’s dad, often takes her out in the yard, where they find a shady spot to lay in the grass. She takes advantage by sniffing and snorting and probing with her nose all over his face. A few weeks ago Tom got new glasses; Lacey was exploring his face, then suddenly stopped when she encountered the glasses. She sniffed, licked then very gently put her paw on them—almost as if she was saying “Hey...what’s this?” A blind dog helps you see the world differently, and Lacey’s definitely changed our way of seeing. —Pat & Tom Zachman   Sammi Sammi was our 13th rescue and our first foster “failure.” She came into Safe Harbor Lab Rescueas a stray with advanced glaucoma and a raging ear infection and was heartworm positive. After we fostered her through eye surgery—and slept on the floor with her so she wouldn’t try to go up and down the stairs—we couldn’t give her up. Sammi doesn’t know she’s blind! —Sherri & Troy Paulsen   Sugar Sugar, a mini American Eskimo rescue, may not be able to see, but that doesn’t stop her from romping with her housemate Beau; in fact, she’s the first dog Beau didn’t growl at—he must’ve known she was special. Sugar’s a real “daddy’s girl,” though at first, my husband was a little anxious about adopting a blind dog. —Carmen Rodriguez