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They all have at least one dog, and three out of four, have at least two. It’s not really a surprise that the winner and three finalists in The Bark’s 1st Annual Short Story/Fiction Contest  would share their lives with dogs. I mean, why else would they read Bark, if not out of some direct connection to our central subject matter? But what I find interesting is that these writers don’t just scoop poop and kibble, they all go an extra mile for canines—beginning by rescuing dogs to volunteering at shelters, reporting about dogs, and, of course, weaving them into the cloth of their fiction.
Since we announced our contest winners last week, I’ve been able to read the winning stories and e-chat with the authors. (Bark readers will also have the opportunity to read all four stories in the magazine and brief interviews online over the course of this year.) Each story sheds light on the power and/or plight of our companions. In her winning tale, “Village Dogs,” Bim Angst  provides a poignant look at how two people read each other through their feelings for a dog—in this case, a brindle Pit Bull who bears a very strong resemblance to one of Angst’s own dogs, Graciella. (Look for this story in the April/May issue.) A biologist in Maine, finalist Don Katnik created a fictional dog haven in “The Stepping-Off Place.” He drew his inspiration from a real-life island that might soon be off-limits to free-roaming dogs. Unable to buy and preserve that favorite place, he created one with words.
Experienced writers and newbies submitted to our contest. For finalist Shawn Kobb, who is a U.S. Foreign Service Officer in the Bahamas, “Street Dog,” about a homeless man and a stray, is his first story to be published. Congratulations Shawn! At the other end of the spectrum is Katerina Lorenzatos Makris (a.k.a. Kathryn Makris), who after publishing 17 novels, decided to take a stab at short fiction—and wrote her story, “Small Change,” in the last two days of 2009, submitting it minutes before the midnight deadline. “Small Change” follows a flinty old woman when she visits an animal shelter to adopt. Many of us know life often changes at a shelter—don’t worry, no spoilers here.
Thanks again to everyone who submitted a story to our contest. I hope you enjoy reading our selections and feel inspired to throw your manuscript into the ring next time.
Photo credit: Angst by Mike Piontkowski, Kobb by Jennifer Kobb, Makris by Julian Spooner, and Katnik provided by Don Katnik.