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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

Greyts
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
Wisc.

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
Animal-kind.org

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
Letters to the Editor: Issue 55

Tasty!
Thank you for the new recipes! I just made the “Puppy Stew” recipe (“Cheaper Eats” May ’09) and gave some to each of my three senior rescue dogs. The verdict was unanimous—another winner! I have been preparing “Project: Meatloaf” (Mar. ’08) in assorted forms and permutations, using various grains, proteins and veggies. The recipes are nutritious and easy, and based upon the eating behavior of my dogs, delicious as well. Thanks so much for helping us keep our dogs healthy.
—Dianne Houghtaling
Lansdale, Penn.
Ed. Note: These and other recipes can be found on thebark.com/wellness.

Holly & Kit
I was touched in many ways by your story about Holly and Kit (May ’09). I co-founded and run the Colorado Animal Rescue Express, or C.A.R.E., a nonprofit, 501(c)3 animal transport group, and your comment about seeing Holly’s face and knowing that you would do whatever it took to adopt her was so touching (and familiar). An important part of my volunteer job is to network the dogs, and some kitties, from high-kill shelters in the Midwest to rescue groups here in Colorado. When I see those faces—hundreds every day—I just know that I must help them find their new lives. C.A.R.E. was started in June 2007. In less than two years, we have transported almost 4,000 animals (read more at caretransport.org). Thank you for saving Holly and Kit, and for being willing to persevere in your efforts to get them home and give them the life they deserve.
—Linda Fox
Littleton, Colo.

I was just thrilled to read about the rescue and transport of Holly and Kit. I have been a transporter for over seven years and also have received hundreds of email pleas for help from “James Painter.” For years I have wondered who he is and how he has the time and energy to send out these lifesaving emails every day. Thank you so much for letting me know that it is his daughter, Dawn, who is doing this. I go through the emails every night and forward to breed-specific rescues that might be able to help. She has helped save many, many animals.
—Debbie Eades
Cincinnati, Ohio

As I was reading your diary on the rescue of Holly and Kit, I thought about our family dog, Tio, who was saved from death row before coming to live with my family in Germany. Tio was rescued from Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands, by a German/Spanish rescue group and then flown to Germany (where I am from originally). I fully agree that working in an animal shelter (or with a rescue group) is not an easy job and it is definitely a place where you can find everyday heroes!
—Trini Gantner
New York, N.Y.

AKC Accountability
Margi Moore’s letter to the editor (May ’09) raises the question: “Why doesn’t anyone hold the AKC accountable for breeding mandates that create suffering in dogs?” Those of us in Oklahoma are wondering about this as we see opposition by the AKC to legislation that has been proposed to oversee puppy mills. Why doesn’t anyone hold the AKC accountable for opposing the humane treatment of pets? When you go to the legislation link on their website, you will see that they are against any state legislation that regulates puppy mills; they even provide a sample letter that members can send to Oklahoma legislators to voice opposition to the bill. It appears that for the AKC, it’s all about “Show me the money!” They want those registration fees. I understand now why my veterinarian looked at me with a scowl when I asked him if he had watched the Westminster Dog Show.
—Gayl Leichner
Oklahoma City, Ok.

Words & Actions
I was moved by Donna Kane’s letter in your May issue regarding the heartbreak of having to euthanize a beloved pet. “Euthanasia” is defined as the act of causing death painlessly so as to end suffering, and “suffering’ is further defined as distress and misery. Because I am at a loss as to another euphemism, I suggest we simply use euthanasia and accept and recognize it for the kind act it is, and respect that it is a decision made responsibly. Several times in my life, I have had to make the heart-wrenching decision to euthanize my own pets; I also volunteer at the Rice County Humane Society in Faribault, Minn., an open-door shelter where our staff veterinarian is routinely faced with this decision. Never is it made lightly and easily, but a humane death is preferable to the alternative of hunger, pain, cold and other scenarios that so many homeless animals face.

I also feel we need a new way to describe “no-kill” shelters and organizations. As an open-door facility, we never turn away an animal in need, but sometimes they just cannot survive the damage done by neglect, abuse and abandonment. We don’t “kill” the animals who come to us for help; rather, we make humane and informed decisions regarding the prospects for their quality of life, after having assessed both their physical status and their behavior. I challenge “no-kill” organizations to find another way to describe their philosophy of animal rescue so as not to denigrate open-door groups who do euthanize after careful evaluation. I also encourage all groups to work together as animal advocates to educate the public on animal welfare and pet overpopulation. As all of us who work to save animals know, spay and neuter is the best answer to the problems of pet overpopulation and neglect. I respectfully salute all animal rescuers everywhere.
—Kathy Jasnoch
Northfield, Minn.

Senior Moments
As the proud human companion of a senior dog, I really enjoyed your March issue! Our Springer Spaniel, Stella, will be 16 in June and is still going strong. We adopted her 15 years ago from the Humane Society in Rochester, Mich., and she has been with us through the growing-up years of two kids, 10 and 12 years old; a move; the loss of one dog, her companion for 11 years; and a new puppy, Hodges, foisted on her when she was 12. She is consistently upbeat, and when not sleeping, bounds around like a dog half her age. As I read Patricia McConnell’s article, “The Senior Citizen Pass,” I knew that by treating her as we would want to be treated in our senior years—with love and respect and including her in our family’s activities regardless of her age—we had probably helped her reach this milestone. Puppies are cute and make us laugh, but a senior dog has earned a special place in our hearts, one that’s full of love and memories. Thanks for giving them their own issue!
—Michele Guyor-Borthwick
Northville, Mich.

Culture: Readers Write
An Adopt-Me Smiler
Bijou

This is Bijou, a young Catahoula Leopard/Shar Pei mix who’s on the lookout for a forever home. She’s a busy girl who plays well with others and by herself, and she loves training—and has already had quite a lot of it, thanks to the SOS-PenPals program and Teresa, her handler/trainer. Get the low-down on this charming dog, see more photos and fill out the adoption form here.

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

 

Culture: Readers Write
Guinness the Smiling Dog
Letter to the editor

Dear Bark:

Thank you for publishing Guinness’s photo in the Smiling Dogs section of your July/August issue. Guinness is now 13, and this month he had to have back surgery because he was losing the use of his hind legs. We took him to Seattle Veterinary Specialists to get a second opinion because my vet didn’t think there was anything to be done.

My husband and I were expecting the worst, but after they evaluated him, they felt he was a strong, healthy dog and could easily manage surgery; they also suggested that Guinness have an MRI to establish what was causing his weak hind legs. While we were waiting for them to assess Guinness, your July issue was in their waiting room. I grabbed it and showed the vet tech and receptionist Guinness’s photo. They were really excited that they had a patient/star published in Bark. It made for a light moment in a very dark day.

As it turned out, Guinness did have a ruptured disk; he had the surgery and stayed at the clinic for five days. Because of his photo in your magazine, one of the vet techs called him “Hollywood.” He is home now and on the mend. It has been a bumpy month, but he is starting to walk very well and is getting short walks and water/swim therapy. He has a shaved spine that my husband says looks like a clear-cut in the forest.

I can’t say enough good things about Seattle Veterinary Specialists. I have come to learn that people from all over the Puget Sound area go there for pets in grave situations. They have all the equipment, knowledge and compassion.

Sincerely,
Ann McLean & Guinness
 

Culture: Readers Write
Letters to Cayman
Culture: Readers Write
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Culture: Readers Write
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Culture: Readers Write
Letters to Cayman

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