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News: Editors
So Long Jon Stewart
It's been good to know yuh

As at least half of the world knows by now, tonight is Jon Stewart’s final night at the helm of the Daily Show. I must admit that I get choked up just contemplating what we’ll do without him.  Accolades, reflections and perhaps some Fox-directed gibes, have been pouring down on him, so it’s hard to add much more. Except that I really want to thank him again, and the writers, producers, staff and all the office dogs, for letting me share one whole day with them in 2012. That will always be one of the highlights of my Bark career. Being invited to “do the Daily Show dogs” was quite the honor for us. And being given free rein to use the show’s set with our photographer KC Bailey, including excited dogs being able to sit in his chair and climb up on to the desk (leaving a few scratches here and there), and then allowing me to trail along for the day, poking into offices, chatting with all the people behind this amazingly creative show, well, you probably can guess it—how much more fun could there be?

Jon Stewart is a man with a big heart and a wise head who gave us endless hours of insightful entertainment and now what might he do? In a recent interview with his wife, Tracey Stewart, whose delightful book, Do Unto Animals comes out in Oct., she let us know that the family is about to grow a little furrier and feathery when they add an animal sanctuary to their New Jersey homestead. She also revealed one of Jon’s secret passions—but you gotta tune into our fall issue to find out what that might be! Let’s also hope that he’ll follow in the footsteps of Sen. Franken—another dog-loving comedian/politico—and make a play for public office. Who knows, there might be a future opening in his state’s governor’s office.

But for now I just want to add our “thanks for the memories” to Jon Stewart for all that he has given us and wish him and his family the best in their next chapter. And yes, the tears are now flowing.

 

 

Culture: Readers Write
My Doxie Girls
Unexpected death brings new beginnings for one family.
Left: My beloved Tessie Center: Rosie with the co-pilot, Jackie, who carried Jolie on her lap the whole trip. Right: Jolie

She was a long hair mini dachshund and we did not know exactly how old she was. I do know that when I first rescued Tessie eight years ago, she could not see or hear well, but she sure could smell another dog a mile away. She was so energetic, happy, loved her walks, food and lots of people attention.  I thought she was quite young.

On December 22 while I was getting ready for work, Tessie and I did our usual routine of breakfast and outside for her. After she ate her breakfast and jumped around a bit, she just lied down on the floor and could not get up. I could see something was very wrong and rushed her to the emergency pet hospital at 6:30am but she died in my lap on the way.  

I was devastated and in absolute shock.  It was a good thing I was on vacation for two weeks because I did not stop crying for four straight days. I was obligated to cook dinner for my children and their friends and in looking back it was good short term distraction. While I shopped for dinner, I cried all through the store. I would run across people that cried with me as they remembered their lost pets.

I guess perception is everything; I thought I had about 10 more years with Tessie.  We now realize that she was most likely 6 or 7 years older than we thought. That would have made her 13 or 14 years old.

As I was lying in bed grieving, I started looking on PetFinder.com for dachshund rescues. I decided to rescue another dachshund because I understand their quirky and stubborn personalities. In honor of Tessie, I decided to rescue a senior dog.

Even though my friends and family kept telling me to wait, I just could not. It was just too painful and I knew that I wanted to have a dog in my life at all times. I was still able to go through the grieving process even though I was looking for another rescue. I did everything to get out of my heart, went to the animal shelter and dropped off items they needed for the shelter dogs, and took long walks.

I contacted Phyllis Van Boxtel, rescue director, of Recycle Love Dog Rescue to enquire about a little red dachshund mix that was apparently dropped off at a shelter by someone who could no longer take care of her. I was not sure about it, but it made me feel better just to find out more about her. Her name was Flower.

I live in Northern California and was in no shape to fly or drive to San Diego (400 miles) to pick her up. When I told this to Phyllis she said it was not a problem and they would fly her to me. I asked how much this would cost and she said it was free as she is affiliated with a company called Pilots n Paws who flies dogs for free to good homes. I could not believe it! So I just went with it, filled out the application and sent my adoption fee in. Sight-unseen I agreed to take her.

Three days later, I drove to the Palo Alto municipal airport and waited in a little building near the tarmac for the plane. Once landed, I was able to go out and greet them when they opened the airplane doors. It was amazing!

I renamed her Jolie Fleur (pretty flower in French).  I’ve now had my little Jolie for 3 weeks. She is doing very well and taken me on as her person.

I believe my little Tessie led me to Jolie as I do believe she was trying to tell me something before she died. She was clingy and not her usual self for a few weeks before she died. Her signs were so subtle and I didn’t notice because she did not appear to be ill before she died.

I know that eventually I will go through a grieving period with Jolie because she is older. I don’t know how long we have together, but I am going to make it the best time I can for her.

It is worth rescuing senior dogs. They are so lovely and really know when they are safe and loved.

I would like to thank the following people for making this miracle happen: Phyllis Van Boxtel of Recycled Love Dog Rescue. Angel Pilots of Pilots n Paws. Luke Freeman for taking all the photos and being my best support of the Day! Thanks Luke, you are a trooper.

I am so happy to know that there are so many human angels still helping and loving the innocent animals that do not have a voice of their own and cannot defend themselves. 

Culture: Tributes
Farewell Sebastian
A tribute to my dog.

Sebastian Dog.

He loved adventures and Christmas presents.

I loved the weight of his tiny body resting on my lap, and the sound of him walking on the hardwood floor in the morning.

He had a mind of his own, but knew when to listen.

Foster dogs now fill the space he once did, on an endless rotation as long as they need, using the things that once belonged to him.

He runs and plays in spirit along side them in our home, and he is never far from my thoughts and heart.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A Sweet Good-bye

Just about every Monday morning finds me at the local off-leash dog beach with a group of dogs and a friend or two. It is such a welcome break from my demanding and stressful job as an animal control officer. The dogs I see at the beach are beautiful, happy and loved. Old and young, large and small, they are having a blast getting exercise, playtime and social interaction. It’s a delightful change from some of the heartbreak I see at work.

On a recent beach day I came across a scene which touched me deeply. A couple stood looking out at the ocean. Between them was a canvas stretcher with a handle that could be pulled across the sand. There was a thick dog bed on the stretcher and a very old dog lay flat on the bed. I paused for a moment, gazing at the gray muzzle and alert but cloudy eyes of the old dog. One of my dogs came up and before I could call her, the two dogs sniffed noses. The old dog was unable to even lift his head, but I could see that he was aware of what was happening around him and seemed to enjoy the interaction. I called my dog and apologized to the couple for the intrusion.

The dog and his people were calm and accepting and I continued on my way with a lump in my throat. I’m guessing that this was good-bye and that the people wanted the dog to have a last visit to a place he loved. To smell the salt air and feel the sweet ocean breeze.  It was so obvious that this dog was adored, cherished, beloved. I teared up at the thought of what was coming and yet, in my world, I found it to be a beautiful scene. I’ve seen the old dogs, abandoned and alone in the shelter. I’ve held those unwanted dogs and tenderly stroked their gray muzzles. I’ve told them they were loved and kissed them as they drew their last breath.

This is what every dog deserves, I thought, as I took a final backward glance at the little family. All three were gazing out to sea.

I would love to hear how readers have made good-bye special for an adored companion.

News: Editors
Do Dogs Grieve?

When Andrew Sullivan’s Beagle, Dusty, passed away a couple of weeks ago he wrote a very moving piece about her at that time. Now he is writing about how his other Beagle, Eddy, has responded to this loss. Again, in a very touching, observant manner.

“Her demeanor shifted to sadness and quiet. She didn’t just leave her food around to eat at leisure; she stopped eating in the morning altogether. It was almost as tough as getting her to eat in the evening as well. On walks, she trailed behind, moving slowly, tugging at the end of a long leash, as if not really wanting to go anywhere. It happened after about a week – perhaps because that was when it became unmistakable that Dusty wasn’t just away for a bit – but was, in fact, never coming back.”

I certainly believe that dogs can grieve, as well as possessing the full range of emotional expression as we have—it just might be more difficult for us to translate theirs. As another post on Sullivan's The  Dish site noted:

"The 17th century English philosopher Anne Conway argued that the differences between humans and other creatures were “finite” differences—differences of degree and intensity. There is no infinite difference between creatures that makes another’s form of life wholly and eternally incomprehensible. Whoever can’t see that something sort of like “justice” functions in the animal world, Conway argued, “must be called completely blind.”

A few years ago when Bark’s “founding” dog, Nellie (a Beagle/Border Collie mix) died, Lenny, our 14-year-old Terrier, went into a tailspin. I feared that he too would soon leave us, dying of a broken heart. Like Sullivan’s dog, he stopped eating and simply wouldn’t respond to my attempts at consoling. It didn’t take me long to realize that Lenny missed having a pack mate and there was little that a human substitute could do. So we quickly decided to get him, and us, another dog. That is when our rescue Pointer, Lola came into our lives, and turned out to be the magic pill for Len—not only did he perk up almost immediately, but he seemed to drop years in a blink. It wasn’t that he liked Lola all that much, but she added a necessary foil for him to maneuver around. He had a new motivation to live and since Lola was more concerned with “environmental matters,” as is the wont of sporting dogs, he got to trail after her in those pursuits. He went on to live another 4 years, and passed away in my arms at 18.

I’m sure that you too have experienced this, not just a dog grieving for the loss of another dog (or other family member), but how a new dog can provide just the right antidote to the “other” dog.  Let me know your thoughts.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
NCIS Episode Inspired by Hawkeye
Loyal Navy Seal’s Dog Remembered

Last week’s episode of NCIS was inspired by Hawkeye, the dog who led the family into the funeral of his guardian, Navy SEAL Jon Tumlinson, and remained by his coffin throughout the ceremony. The photograph of Hawkeye lying on the floor by the coffin, taken by Tumlinson’s cousin Lisa Pembleton, has been admired by millions of people.

In the episode, a dog named Dexter, who is trained to detect landmines, and his Marine handler save a young boy from being killed. The boy is chasing after his soccer ball, which sets off a landmine. The dog and the Marine guide the boy back to safety, avoiding an additional landmine. Immediately after the boy is safely hugging his mom, the Marine is shot and killed by a sniper. Dexter lies down next to the fallen Marine and stays there, just as Hawkeye remained by Tumlinson’s coffin.

The episode reminds us all of the sacrifices made by members of the military and their families. It is dedicated to working military dogs and their handlers.

News: Editors
Lady Day and her Mister

July 17, marks the anniversary of the 1959 death of Billie Holiday. Her life was a hard one: a childhood of bitter poverty and early sexual abuse; an acute sensitivity to the all-pervasive racism of her time; a series of difficult relationships with controlling, exploitative men; an eventual downward spiral of depression, addiction and broken health. Among the things that gave her joy and an amazing vitality despite her troubles, music was, of course, the most important—her profound connection to jazz brought her the respect and adoration of audiences and fellow musicians alike. Another was her faithful and requited love of the series of dogs who were her companions throughout her life. We don’t know how or when she found her first dog friend, but anecdotes crop up throughout her biography. Lena Horne recalled that when the two jazz divas were together, they usually talked mainly about Billie’s dogs; “her animals were her only trusted friends.” There was the beloved Standard Poodle who, on his death, was wrapped in Billie’s best mink coat for the cremation, and the Chihuahua puppy she fed with a baby bottle in her New York apartment. Perhaps her most elegant companion was the handsome Boxer, Mister, who accompanied her to glamorous Harlem nightspots—places where he surely would not have been allowed if his mistress were anyone less remarkable than Lady Day.

NPR did an interesting story today about trying to find her final Resting Place—notice the little porcelain dog on her headstone.

News: Editors
E.B. White's 113th Birthday

It was the 113th birthday of E.B. White yesterday (July 11). His diverse work—spanning the likes of childhood favorites, Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, to the writers’ essential, The Elements of Style—have long enthralled and elucidated readers. His love of dogs, and the quotes his observations spawned, have become memorable and can be found in strange places like in defining rather obtuse terms like what a syllepsis is: “When I address Fred I never have to raise either my voice or my hopes.” (A syllepsis is a kind of ellipsis in which one word, usually a verb is understood differently in relation to two or more other words, which it modifies or governs.)

Or this one to expound on the specialness of dogs:

“A really companionable and indispensable dog is an accident of nature. You can’t get it by breeding for it, and you can’t buy it with money. It just happens along.”

Or through his delightful essays and letters, including the one written to the ASPCA in 1951 to defend his dog Minnie’s lack of a NYC dog license.

“Dear Sirs:

I have your letter, undated, saying that I am harboring an unlicensed dog in violation of the law. If by “harboring” you mean getting up two or three times every night to pull Minnie’s blanket up over her, I am harboring a dog all right. The blanket keeps slipping off. I suppose you are wondering by now why I don’t get her a sweater instead. That’s a joke on you. She has a knitted sweater, but she doesn’t like to wear it for sleeping; her legs are so short they work out of a sweater and her toenails get caught in the mesh, and this disturbs her rest. If Minnie doesn’t get her rest, she feels it right away. I do myself, and of course with this night duty of mine, the way the blanket slips and all, I haven’t had any real rest in years. Minnie is twelve.”

And White further notes:

“You asked about Minnie’s name, sex, breed, and phone number. She doesn’t answer the phone. She is a dachshund and can’t reach it, but she wouldn’t answer it even if she could, as she has no interest in outside calls. I did have a dachshund once, a male, who was interested in the telephone, and who got a great many calls, but Fred was an exceptional dog (his name was Fred) and I can’t think of anything offhand that he wasn't interested in. The telephone was only one of a thousand things. He loved life — that is, he loved life if by “life” you mean “trouble,” and of course the phone is almost synonymous with trouble. Minnie loves life, too, but her idea of life is a warm bed, preferably with an electric pad, and a friend in bed with her, and plenty of shut-eye, night and days…”

E.B. White died in 1985 at 86, but he left a literary legacy for many future generations to cherish.

 

 

Culture: Tributes
A Star for O’Henry

I picked out a star the evening O’Henry crossed on December 7, 2011. Each night I step out on the porch to say goodnight to him. I still can’t do it without tears. Of course, sometimes the stars are not visible but I know “he is always there” just as I never had to turn around when he was alive, I just knew he was right behind me. I miss you sweet boy.

Culture: Tributes
Boris Gustav
February 7, 2003–April 7, 2012

Grief. One small word, one short syllable. Unfortunately, there’s nothing small or short about it. When it hits you, it’s the 18-wheeler you didn’t see coming in your blind spot that slams you so hard, you’re careened off your path before you even have a chance to comprehend what happened. 

Grief. In a blink of an eye, it puts you in a tailspin that has you clawing at the ground hoping to find balance while you grasp for air as its essence settles over you like the net of a black widow spider. It’s colorless, odorless and otherwise benign—until it lands on you and attacks every sensory faculty you have. 

Friday, April 6, I boarded a plane for a trip of a lifetime to Florence and Venice, Italy. Saturday, April 14, after having the most extraordinary eight days of my life and being happier than I can remember being in many, many years, I arrived back home to find that by the time I had landed in Florence on Saturday, April 7, my beloved dog Boris had passed away. Grief had come to pay a visit. 

One look at my mother’s face when I walked in the door braced me for the 18-wheeler, but even still, there was no stopping the jarring impact of grief as she grabbed for my hands and the words “we lost Boris” fell from her lips. How? Why? When? What? A twister of questions, a funnel of answers, but nothing coming through because of the howling wind swirling around me so that I couldn’t see, hear or breath.

His stomach bloated and flipped. It happened in seconds in the middle of the night. All attempts were made to save him but it just wasn’t possible. It was nobody’s fault. It just happened.  

But could I have saved him? If I would have been in New Jersey and not in Italy, could I have saved him? Three vets, including the one who performed the emergency surgery on him, have told me no.  Bloat is the second leading cause of death in dogs. I’d never heard of it until it took mine. What kind of dog owner am I not to have known about this? I worried about Boris getting hit by a car, worried about him getting cancer, or getting lost or stolen. He had just turned nine and started showing signs of hip arthritis. I worried about his future and how we’d manage his hips. Stomach bloat? Never heard of it. Grief that I can’t even explain.

Everyone says their dog is the best, brightest, smartest, cutest, and they are probably right. Boris was all of those too but he was also different. From the start, he made it clear to me that he was not going to be owned. If I was going to accept him into my life, it was going to have to be as a partner. We struggled with that for a while but once I clued in; he became a kind of partner to me that will never be replaced.

Boris was meant to be in my life. Of that I have no doubt. He was born outside of Chicago in what I believe to be a puppy mill and too quickly sold to an irresponsible family in Kentucky who thought that keeping a puppy in the garage in a crate was a good idea. Thankfully, Boris, then called Buddy, fought back at some point, making him in their eyes, an unsuitable dog. 

He was handed over to Samoyed rescue at seven-months-old and flown to his third home in Maryland. The day his picture was put on Petfinder, I was in Washington, DC and on the way home to New Jersey, I stopped by his foster home to check him out. There were five or six dogs in the house. I walked in, sat on the floor and Boris climbed on my lap. The negotiations started. Only then did I find out that he was born on February 7, 2003, the day after my father’s funeral. The deal was sealed.

Six months after I got Boris, I was diagnosed with cancer. Boris and I were still struggling with the whole ownership/partnership issue at that time. After one particularly bad chemo session, I fell into bed, crying and miserable. Boris jumped up on the bed and started to lick away the tears on my face. He then curled his big lanky body up against mine until I fell asleep. That was when the question of ownership dissolved because the partnership he’d been asking for couldn’t have been clearer to me.

The stories of Boris and all that he did—and didn’t do—and all the lives he touched in his nine years could fill a book and some day they may. Boris and Natasha is indeed a love story to be told. But first, there is the grief to detangle myself from.

Today, his ashes, leash and collar will come into my hands. I would do anything to have him back the way he was when I left him two weeks ago but that just can’t be.

We know life is not fair, we know it’s tough and we know it throws punches when we’re not looking.  And we know that it can bring a grief so strong that there’s no way the arrow on our compass can stop from spinning, making us completely lost on the path we were taking. But we also know, and need to remember, that life can be kind and giving and bring unimaginable joy, and if we can just hold on a little longer, a new path will clear and we’ll find our way back.

There was always one way I could get Boris’s attention and that was to say “goodbye Boris.” No matter what he was doing or what he was chasing, he’d stop in his tracks and come running so that we wouldn’t be separated. So although the hardest thing for me to do will be to give him a final goodbye as I head out on my new path without him, I know in my heart and soul, he’ll always be right by my side.

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