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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Unpublished writer sees ink as a finalist in Bark’s 1st Fiction Contest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.

 

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Margaret Cho
Exclusive Offer
Margaret Cho

Margaret Cho, a dear friend of Bark’s, has just released her first comedy music album, Cho Dependent. She has offered our readers an exclusive free download for one of the album’s songs, “Hey Big Dog.” Margaret tells us that the inspiration for this song came from her wish “that humans and dogs could actually speak to each other and then sing together… the song is about people problems versus dog problems, and the idea that maybe we could solve these problems together.” For this song, go to margaretcho.com/chodependent and enter “Ralph” in the “your code” box. Enjoy!

Here’s a little more about Margaret’s foray into music, a natural progression for one who has continuously tested the boundaries of humor, politics and identity. A self-confessed music geek and longtime admirer of the parodist Weird Al Yankovic, Cho collaborated with a who’s who of musical friends including Grant Lee Phillips, Ani DiFranco and Ben Lee to create her 14 track album.

Cho Dependent shines with high musical production, catchy melodies, and Margaret’s characteristic wit—“to me, it’s still about jokes,” she assures. The songs range from “I’m Sorry,” a countrified “murder ballad” to “Calling in Stoned” featuring Tommy Chong (half of the famed Cheech & Chong comedy duo). The origin of “Hey Big Dog” began with a writing partnership with Patty Griffin, the acclaimed singer-songwriter, country music stalwart and fellow dog lover. The subject of the song is Cho’s dog Ralph. “As I wrote the lyrics to this song, I sat with my big boy Ralph and imagined what he would say to me if he could speak, what he would sing to me if he could sing. I stared in his root beer eyes, as he cocked his butterscotch blonde eyebrows one then the other and tried to decipher his thoughts,” Cho recalls. The song evolved, moving from guitar accompaniment to banjo, a more mournful interpretation that coincided with Ralph’s illness and eventual death. When fellow dog lover, Fiona Apple, heard the song performed live, an instant connection was born and a new duet partner. Add Ben Lee’s pitch perfect production, and the result is what Cho refers to as “Nashville meets Animal Planet.”

The song remains a tribute to Ralph, as well as an anthem to animal lovers everywhere. Margaret Cho’s album Cho Dependent is available online and at music stores, and you can catch her live as she performs around the country through the end of the year.

Want more Margaret? You can watch a 2008 interview Bark did with Margaret here.

Dog's Life: Humane
Rescue Wonder Dog
Vinny!
Vinny

Soon after Andrea Horikawa adopted Vinny from a high-kill shelter in southern Calif., she had doubts. The Corgi mix challenged every dog he met. She considered returning him, but realizing what that would mean, she redoubled her commitment. As a result of three years of diligent, consistent and positive training, Vinny is a well-mannered pup with an arsenal of tricks, including a handstand that would make a yogi jealous.

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August 16th 2010
Smiling Dogs
Bailey

 Another great batch of Smilers. Enter yours here.

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August 9th 2010
Smiling Dogs
Alex, Amy, Annie, Bailey

Smiling Dogs! More happy faces. Enter yours.

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August 2nd 2010
Smiling Dogs

 Smiling Dogs! A new crop of pleased-as-punch pups. Enter yours.

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July 26th 2010
Smiling Dogs

 Smiling Dogs! Our weekly batch of happy faces. Enter yours!

Culture: Reviews
Rescue Ink
Viking, $25.95

Angel, Joe Panz, Batso, Big Ant, Eric, Johnny O, Des, G—big guys with big hearts, the men of Rescue Ink use their street skills to protect metro NYC’s furred, feathered and scaled.We learn about each man—what motivates them to volunteer for this type of work, how they approach it, why they’ve become so invested in saving the city’s most helpless residents. It’s clear that these large tattooed men, who share a passion for animals as well as hot rods and motorcycles, are a force to be reckoned with.

Culture: Reviews
Come Back, Como
Harper, $23.99

Dogs are, it is said, man’s best friend. Alas for the author, Como, a small and strong-willed white Terrier mix he and his family adopted from a local shelter, didn’t get the memo. Oh, sure, Como loved daughter Phoebe and wife Sally— but Winn? Como would have nothing to do with him. In the Winn household, the dog was exclusively woman’s best friend. This well-told tale of pursuit and rejection and ordeals endured is oddly inspiring and surprisingly smile-inducing. The author doesn’t flinch from revealing his own inept moments, nor does he pretend his heart wasn’t involved in the chase for Como’s affection. The book is a good reminder of the many ways dogs occupy our hearts and lives.

Culture: Reviews
Am I Boring My Dog?
Alpha, $14.95

If you’re a stranger to the land of dogs, or if you’ve been visiting and think perhaps you’d like to move there, you’ll find this book to be a helpful guide to the territory. Through detailed, well-researched answers to 100 essential questions about selecting, preparing for and living with a dog, Jarolim thoroughly covers the basics; even the experienced are likely to learn something.

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