News: Guest Posts
Why not wag your dog’s tale?
Do you find yourself making up stories about your dogs that you think would make a good children's book? I have a million. Like the one about the girl who creates a very, very, very long leash so she can sit on the couch watching Millionaire Matchmaker, while her dog wanders the neighborhood creating havoc. Or the adventures of two black mutts called the The Licorice Twins, who track down missing food.
I didn’t say they were good and I never imagined these little riffs could really lead some place but for Shellie Braeuner that’s exactly what happened. The Nashville nanny recently won the first-ever Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories New Author Contest for her tale, The Great Dog Wash/El gran lavaperros. A special, English-Spanish edition of the book, illustrated by Robert Neubecker, is available free inside 1.5 million boxes of Cheerios. A standalone version, published by Simon & Schuster, goes on sale in July.
I caught up with Shellie Braeuner on her cell phone in a parking lot outside a Nashville grocery store last week, just hours after tornadoes touched down nearby. She was shopping for the special Cheerios boxes with the book inside to give away at the fifth birthday of Elizabeth, the youngest child for whom she is a nanny. The book is dedicated to Elizabeth and the dog they share, Fluffy.
How’d she do it? “It was the last day of the contest, and I really didn’t have anything finished that I wanted to submit that felt right,” says Braeuner, who has long written for personal pleasure and enjoys telling stories to kids. She was washing Fluffy, when she noticed Elizabeth singing, “dog wash, dog wash, dog wash.” “I thought, ‘you know, if she’s having this much fun just singing dog wash, there’s got to be a story in here somewhere.’ It all kind of came together that day, and it was the day it needed to come together if I was going to enter.”
I was happy to discover Fluffy might inspire future Braeuner-penned stories, including one based on the day Shellie and the kids brought him home from Happy Tails Humane, a no-kill animal shelter in the Nashville area. “We all came down with stomach flu the night after we adopted him,” Braeuner says. “And I’m thinking, ‘five-and-a-half-month-old puppy, new house, everyone feeling awful—gonna be crazy.’ And this dog just lay with us, just happy to be with us.”
The other big news for the fledgling author is Cheerios’ donation of 10,000 copies of her book to R.E.A.D., the reading assistance program that provides therapy dogs as reading companions for children. The largest single book donation in the organization’s history marks its 10th anniversary.
“To me that’s the best thing,” Braeuner says. “If I won the lottery or something and I kept all that money to myself, I wouldn’t be happy. But knowing that this is helping dogs and this is helping kids and that someone could go in with their WIC card and come out with a brand new book before it even hits the bookstores—that makes me feel so good.”
The key gap between me and a $5,000 grand prize? A good idea for starters. But that shouldn't stop others. Watch your dog for greatness and pick up your pens, the third New Author Contest runs through July 15, 2009.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Adorable puppy, less-than-ideal name
President Obama has had many opportunities to comment on his own name. I laughed when he joked that “Barack” means “that one” and when he kidded around that he got the name “Obama” from his Dad, but that “Hussein” came from somebody who obviously thought that he would never run for President. Clearly, he knows that a name is important.
At least he knows that for people. By now, we’ve all read about his new Portuguese Water Dog, Bo, who apparently was named partly as a reference to the fact that his father-in-law had the nickname “Diddley.” Naming new family members with respect to other relatives is charming, and I generally encourage it. However, a side effect of this particular naming is that the poor dog’s name rhymes with “No.”
Dogs are often startled into stopping or at least pausing in undesirable behavior by sudden exclamations of “No!” or “Hey!” which is why I always encourage clients to avoid names that sound too much like either one. It can be quite confusing for a dog to think he hears his name said in an abrupt way, which is the way that “No!” is most often said to puppies. Ideally, puppies should associate their name with feeling good, not with feeling startled.
Barack Obama is thriving in spite of various nomenclature challenges. Let’s hope the same good fortune follows the adorable Bo. Here are some tips on naming a dog.
News: Guest Posts
Snuggling like cats and dogs.
Frieda, a two-year-old female Chihuahua, and Morgana, a nine-month-old female tabby mix, were surrendered together to the Marin Humane Society last week. The unlikely pals were victims of the economic bust; Frieda and Morgana’s owner lost her home as a result of the financial crisis.
And we were all geared up to do our part pitching for this cross-species dynamic duo today, only to discover that they were adopted almost as soon as they became available on Saturday. Yahoo! Still, we couldn’t resist sharing this adorable photo.
News: Guest Posts
Malia and Sasha get their dog...at last.
Well, after all the waiting and the speculation, the Obamas have their dog. A six-month-old Portuguese Water Dog named Bo for Bo Diddley. (Actually, according to reports, he was previously named Charlie, which is also my husband’s name, so I am disappointed to miss the potentially funny headlines.)
A gift from Senator Ted Kennedy, who brings his own Porties to Capitol Hill, Bo’s provenance is not exactly the heartwarming rescue tale for which I had hoped. While the puppy did experience a setback when his original family returned him to the breeder, that's not exactly the example I had in mind. I was hoping the dog in the White House would be a daily reminder of the joys of adopting a homeless pup. The Obamas will make a donation to the District of Columbia Humane Society, but for now a golden opportunity has been missed.
Read more about B'Obama on TheBark.com:
The Dog Seen Around the World: Bo Obama inspires an international surge in PWD requests.
Bo Obama: Adorable puppy, less-than-ideal name.
Training Tips for the First Dog: Advice from professional trainers
News: Guest Posts
Plant a tree for your pup this Arbor Day.
So many of my best dog memories are set in the pine forests of the Northwest. Here Lulu and Renzo thread thick groves and leap over downed trees like agility champs. They eagerly truffle at the base of venerable snags and devour fallen branches with the gusto of canine wood-chippers. So, I totally get the Arbor Day Foundation’s Trees for Pets pitch. For every dollar given through Trees for Pets, one tree will be planted in our nation’s forests to help replace the old giants that are lost each year through fire or disease. (Out where I live, bark beetles are wreaking havoc.)
I like the Foundation’s spin: Trees given in memory of a pet will provide food and shelter to wild critters for decades to come. Of course, you can also simply plant a tree on your own this Arbor Day, the last Friday of April, but it will probably end up costing more than a dollar.
News: Guest Posts
A chance to remember, celebrate and learn.
We recently launched Tributes, an online section dedicated to stories about our beloved dogs past. I’m glad we’ve set aside a space for celebrating our best friends and commiserating over their loss because I believe it’s another rich facet of our lives with dogs.
A few years ago, I worked on a proposal for a book about pet loss. Nothing came of it, in part, because publishers felt it was a downer. But I thought differently. Talking to a variety of people about their dog’s illnesses and deaths, and the grief that follows, gave me a special appreciation for this relationship. I discovered that a dog’s death allows us to be independent and hands-on in a way we can’t be with human beings. When the people we love die, a tsunami of regulations, infrastructure and commerce comes between us and them. Not so with our dogs.
We brush out their fur, wrap them in blankets and bury them in holes we dig ourselves. We freeze them until the kids come home, so everyone is home for a burial. When they are in severe pain, we release them through euthanasia. Sometimes we cremate our dogs; sometimes we preserve them through taxidermy. We spin their fur into wool or keep a small bundle as a keepsake. We make video slideshows, host memorials at dog parks, make contributions to shelters and animal welfare organizations in their name. The quirky and deep relationships we have with dogs find some of their most epic expressions in this endgame.
And because dogs’ life spans are usually a fraction of our own, we are often called upon to take these steps—making choices that touch on the raw edge of our own mortality—over and over again. We enter into these relationships with an awareness of this responsibility, and it seems to me, this honor. It’s not like having a child, when we can tell ourselves we’ll outlive our son or daughter. And it’s not like falling in love, when we tell ourselves it might never end.
In the same way our dogs persuade us to walk into a cold, foggy night, when we’d rather stay warm by a fire, they pull us into the big mystery.
I hope you’ll visit our Tributes page and contribute your own story either as a comment or a memorial of your own. To include a photo with your tribute, send story and image to email@example.com.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Winners announced for the 2009 Canis Film Festival.
These days, there seems to be a film festival and award show for just about everything. So it’s about time we dog lovers got a piece of the pie.
Last weekend the winners of the 2009 Canis Film Festival were announced at ClickerExpo in Providence, R.I. Although there were no swag bags or paparazzi, the films starred talented and furry actors showcasing dog training at its best.
The Grand Prize went to Chaos, a Border Collie whose owner taught him to blow bubbles in his water bowl. Not only is this trick just plain cute, it’s refreshing to see training that has no set agenda. Often times I get caught up in training only “useful” behaviors, such as heeling or waiting at the door. But this video inspired me to remember the fun of dog training, particularly with shaping.
The runner-up was a film on using positive methods to get a dog to use a treadmill and the second Runner-up, my personal favorite, was a touching story on the life changing effects of clicker training from the point of view of an adopted shelter dog.
Conceived by Karen Pryor Clicker Training, the Canis Film Festival showcases the art of animal training. The entries, all less than seven minutes, are judged for clarity of instruction, innovation, entertainment value, positive methods, usefulness and production quality.
Feeling inspired to feature your dog in a winning film? Details will be posted shortly on the festival’s web site for 2010 submissions. Fire up your camcorders!
News: Guest Posts
Rule #1: You can’t fake dog love.
This story comes from a friend who wishes to remain anonymous on the off chance her former blind date reads this. (We are hoping enough time has passed that said Blind Date will no longer be Googling my friend). They didn’t hit it off, you see, because Blind Date committed the unpardonable act of pretending to be a dog person. He knew my friend loved dogs, and he knew my friend was gorgeous, and single, so he lied—all in the name of trying to get into her pants. We are not impressed.
The setting of the story: a holiday party, last December. My friend loves holiday parties, so she readily accepted an invitation from a man she barely knew. She had just moved to a certain rural town near a certain hip city, and had not, to date, made any new friends. She thought this party would be a grand and fun entry into her new life. Plus, the man claimed that he loved dogs.
The evening included bluegrass Christmas music, nutmeggy eggnog spiced with cognac, and cool hippy-types who wore their grey hair long. But let us fast-forward to the moment when Date invited Friend to sit next to him on a sofa near the fire. He patted a cushion, which prompted the host’s dog—a shaggy, little Wheaton-mix—to run over and leap onto the vacant spot. Friend said: “How cute!” Date? He pushed the dog to the floor. Roughly.
As you can imagine, Friend made a decision right then and there never to see Date again. He tried to snuggle with her on the couch, but Friend snuggled with the dog instead. Date repositioned his body on the sofa so that his legs and arms touched Friend’s, but she kept moving further and further away, to the point where she was almost sitting on some fiddle player’s lap.
It was a long night for Friend. She’s typically not a grudge-holder, except when someone roughs up a puppy.
On the drive home, Date—perhaps sensing Friend’s disappointment—tried to regale her with what he thought were amusing dog stories: the time he tried to put his own dog to sleep and it took three days for the poison to kick in; the time a farmer shot his daughter’s dog and how he and the farmer ended up becoming good friends. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, but my friend found none of this funny. (Date concluded the evening by telling Friend she had no sense of humor and that she needed to ‘loosen up,’ but that she was still a hot babe and he’d be interested in sleeping with her. I love the ‘but’ part. As if being hot somehow made up for all her perceived character flaws.)
Anyway, quite a few novels and movies have been written about such scenarios—about men who pretend to be dog people just to get into a woman’s pants. But in those fictional accounts, the men usually end up falling in love with the dogs and everyone lives happily ever after. In this case, a true fraud was exposed. But my friend was at least grateful her date had exposed his true self before the relationship progressed any further. Dog love is not something you can fake. So fellas, don’t even try.
News: Guest Posts
UPDATED. Shelter pups get another shout out from the talk-show superstar.
[Editor's Note: One of the two dogs Oprah adopted from her local shelter has died of canine parvovirus.]
After Oprah Winfrey’s beloved Cocker spaniels, Sophie and Solomon, passed away last year, she announced that she would adopt her next dog when the time was right. Last Friday, March 6, she kept that promise and introduced new family member Sadie on her show. Oprah and her partner, Stedman Graham, adopted the adorable 10-week-old Cocker spaniel puppy through PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) Chicago, the city’s largest no-kill shelter. Sadie was one of 11 puppies in the litter. Three of her siblings still needed homes and also appeared on Friday’s show. They quickly found new homes by that afternoon thanks to the extra attention. Hopefully, other shelter pups around the country also benefited from Oprah’s example.
News: Guest Posts
Are Sasha and Malia’s future best friends—yes, plural—waiting in Colorado?
Best Friends Animal Society has gone one better than talking the talk when it comes to the Obama family’s new dog. They’re pitching a pair of Golden Doodles (one for each of the girls?) rescued from a Missouri puppy mill raid through National Mill Dog Rescue. Currently living with a Colorado foster family, the four-month-old Stella and Susie have overcome infections, including pneumonia, and are healthy and ready to answer the call, even if it comes at 3 a.m.
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