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Culture: Stories & Lit
A Dog with A Purpose
Teddy is very large, and very white. People ask how much he weighs – around 100 pounds - and how much he eats - not that much. Teddy is a Great Pyrenees, a guardian dog breed used for centuries to protect livestock from wolves and other predators in northern Spain and Southern France. Before that, the breed came from Asia Minor, perhaps as long as ten thousand years ago. In the late 1600’s,...
Culture: Stories & Lit
The Gift of a Great Dog
Recognizing the “one” but taking on a new dog.
If Rex could have talked, we would have finished each other’s sentences. We got another dog right away. That wasn’t the plan. But back in March, less than two weeks after Rex died and when I still had faint bruises from digging my fingers into my forehead amid uncontrollable sobs, I signed us up to “foster” a Saint Bernard mix that had been rescued from a crack den. It was a classic rebound move...
Culture: Stories & Lit
Training Maxine, Rescue Dog
Learning that life can be good
She and I are alone. When I say the B-word, she rushes to my side and goes into a sit, the first thing she learned, and so far the only one: sit comes before treat the way head comes before tail. It’s not open for discussion. “Bagel! Maxine! Bagel!” She’s so wiggly, she can barely hold her bum to the floor. The eyes that were sad and dull in her adoption photo are now bright. Her long tail goes...
Culture: Stories & Lit
SoCal Coyote Encounter
A surprising encounter with her dog’s canid cousins.
When you grow up as a child of the dry, in Southern California where water has always been as valuable as melted silver in the canals and irrigation ditches called zanjas way back in the early 1800s, the river calls you. The Santa Ana River calls me every day. I can’t ride my bike or walk beside it every day, but I do as often as I can, and my dog Fantasia loves the wildness of the river as if...
Culture: Stories & Lit
A Pup with a Sting Allergy
When the action kicks in in real life, being a movie buff pays dividends
My Boxer puppy is allergic to bees. I found out as I barreled home from work on I-580 East toward the Richmond–San Rafael Bridge one recent afternoon. Cali—short for “California”— goes to work with me every day. One moment, she was a spry, energetic, sporty Boxer; the next, vomit everywhere, bile and diarrhea all over the passenger seat. I accelerated, crossed two lanes of traffic and pulled onto...
Culture: Stories & Lit
Tula
The challenges and rewards of a new pup.
Perhaps she knew this was to be a lifetime position: For her first few days at home, Tula was a portrait of angelic calm. She accepted a leash and trotted next to me down the block, sitting quietly on my foot when she encountered anything new. She bunny-hopped through tall grass. She cocked her head at crickets. She talked to her toys, not with a bark but with a woo-woo. “You will love her,”...
Culture: Stories & Lit
Walking with Misty
Daily routines provide welcome relief at both ends of the leash.
Back in 2004 when my daughter was 10, she and my husband were united in their desire for a dog. Me, I shared none of their canine lust. But why, they pleaded. “Because I don’t have time to take care of a dog.” But we’ll do it. “Really? You’re going to walk the dog? Feed the dog? Bathe the dog?” Yes, yes and yes. “I don’t believe you.” We will. We swear. We promise. They didn’t. From day one (okay...
Culture: Stories & Lit
My Dog Murphy
A most unusual adoption arrangement
One summer, hoping to be a role model for my kids, I volunteered at a local animal shelter as an assistant helper—in essence, a pooper-scooper. Starting at 6 am, I bagged poop and hosed down dog cages. I remained on poop patrol until my shift ended at 11 am. During the training orientation, I was instructed not to feed the dogs, as this task fell to the full-time senior staff. I abided by these...
Culture: Stories & Lit
Healing Fraught History of African Americans and Dogs
Becoming a dog owner helped me dispel internalized myths about black people and dogs.
Until I met Cleo, I was a recovering cat lady who didn’t believe I could be a proper dog owner. In the communities where I grew up in Philadelphia and the Bronx, dogs were not sweet, lovable companions or surrogate children, but rather, terrifying or utilitarian animals. They required more work and money and energy than cats, and I never believed I had any of those to spare. Until I moved to New...
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Hiking the Sierra
A dog with a job makes the perfect hiking partner
Trying to hitch a ride from Kennedy Meadows to the Pacific Crest Trail trailhead at Sonora Pass in the eastern Sierra, we didn’t see our handsome dog Ely as liability. Who wouldn’t want to pick up a nice couple—freshly showered, with laundered clothes—and their fuzzy, backpack-sporting dog? Every car that passed, that’s who. Cars sped by, but still, no one stopped. Finally, a pick-up truck slowed...

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