In the old days, when a newspaper columnist started writing about his dog, it meant — at least in the eyes of your more crusty and jaundiced types — he or she had run out of things to write about.
Of course, it (usually) wasn’t true then. And it’s even less true now.
Newspapers, as they did with the Internet, have belatedly realized that dog stories are important, that dog stories draw readers, and that dog stories are actually human stories, in disguise. They’ve finally begun to catch on to dog’s new place on the social ladder, and the wonders within them, and the serious issues surrounding them, and that they are far more than just cute.
None of which probably mattered to Steve Lopez when he decided last week to tell the story of his family’s new rescue … rescue-me-again … rescue-me-one-more time … dog.
Who is also pretty cute.
Lopez, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, decided with his wife that their daughter, at age 9, was ready for a dog. Their search took them to Tailwaggers, a pet store in Hollywood, where adoption fairs are hosted by Dogs Without Borders. Though dogless for many years, Lopez knew rescuing a mutt — as opposed to purchasing a purebred — was the preferred route these days.
Canine ownership has gotten a lot more complicated than it was when he was a kid, noted Lopez, who definitely has a crusty side.
“First of all, unless you want a rescue dog, you face the withering judgment of do-gooders who have devoted their lives to saving pups from the boneyard,” he wrote. “…I live in Silver Lake, not far from a sprawling dog park. And if an abandoned infant were spotted on the curb of that busy corner, across the street from a dog with a thorn in its paw, I guarantee you dozens of people with porkpie hats and tattooed peace signs would rush to the aid of the dog instead of the child.”
At the adoption fair, his family became enchanted with a 3-year-old Corgi mixed named Hannah, who was described as “a very timid, shy and fearful little girl ” in need of “a home where she can blossom!”
(As Lopez, author of “The Soloist” and other books, may have noticed, those involved in the world of rescuing and rehoming dogs tend to use a lot of exclamation points!)
They then began the adoption process, which, he noted, required many forms: “As I recall, applying for a mortgage wasn’t quite as involved. And many of the agencies insist on a home inspection, as well as a donation fee of up to $450.”
They took Hannah home for a trial period, as a foster. There, unlike at the fair, she refused to walk on a leash.
To get her to go to the bathroom, Lopez says he carried the dog, who they renamed Ginger, to the bottom of the driveway. Given she didn’t move when he put her down, and to build some trust, he said, Lopez unhooked the leash.
Ginger took off.
Lopez ran to his car and began the search.
“My daughter had waited five years for this pup, and I’d lost her in five minutes.”
His wife called the adoption agency to report the escape and got a scolding for letting the dog off her leash. “I must admit, they had told us rescue dogs can be runners, and that we shouldn’t let them off the leash,” Lopez wrote. “On the other hand, if you’re going to call yourself Dogs Without Borders … what message are you sending?”
They searched all day, put up fliers, and posted Ginger on Craigslist as a missing dog. The next day, they found her on a neighbor’s patio and took her home.
The next day, a Monday, Lopez returned from work to learn Ginger had jerked away while being walked and disappeared again, this time dragging her leash. Reasoning that maybe Ginger didn’t want to be there, he and his wife agreed that — once they found her again — they might want to return her.
“Maybe she’d been abused, but it seemed unlikely she’d ever be the warm and cuddly family pet we wanted our daughter to have.”
On Tuesday morning, Lopez was awaked by a scratching sound on the front door. When he opened it, Ginger walked in, her leash still attached. That sight, it seems, cut right through the columnist’s crusty parts.
“We’re keeping this dog,” he said.
I’d be willing to bet they do, and that someday — when there’s nothing else to write about, or even when there is — we’ll be reading about her again.
(Photo of Ginger by Steve Lopez / Los Angeles Times)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 7th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, author, best friend, column, columnist, corgi, dog, dogs, dogs without borders, family, ginger, hannah, home, leash, los angeles, los angeles times, media, mix, news, newspapers, pets, rescue, runaway, soloist, steve lopez, tailwaggers
A Raleigh city councilwoman posted a photo of her dog relieving himself on a marble column of the statehouse, and compared her canine’s act of seeming disrespect to the way the Republican-controlled General Assembly is treating North Carolina’s citizens.
“I figured, what better way to get my frustration across than with humor?” said City Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin, who used her Maltese-Yorkie mix and Facebook to register her displeasure.
“It shows a little outrage, and I think a little outrage is appropriate right now,” Baldwin said Friday. “I think it’s time for the gloves to come off.”
Baldwin on Friday posted a photo on Facebook of her dog, Jack Bauer — named for the terrorist-fighting agent from the TV show “24″ – relieving himself on a marble column outside the North Carolina General Assembly.
The Democratic councilwoman admits it may be undiplomatic, but she says the image seems to capture the sort of disrespect that, in her view, Republican lawmakers are showing — particularly in regards to a deal the city of Raleigh made with the state to lease the 325-acre grounds of the closed Dorothea Dix mental hospital for a regional park.
Republican lawmakers have moved to kill the deal, which had been signed and approved by former Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat.
Bills introduced last week would essentially tear up that contract. Republican lawmakers say the deal is not good for taxpayers, and that the $68 million the state could receive over the decades from the city is too low, according to the Associated Press
“It’s beyond me how lawmakers, who are supposed to uphold the law, can think they can undo a legally binding contract,” Baldwin said. “This is nothing more than bullying and intimidation by some members of the General Assembly.”
“I was hoping for the best, but I think I’m seeing the worst,” Baldwin said of the GOP legislative agenda. “When I think about some of the legislation that has moved forward lately, whether it’s telling local governments what design standards they should have, or getting rid of renewable energy tax credits, and then you through Dix on top of that, you just sit there and say, ‘What are we doing?’”
Posted by jwoestendiek March 19th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, capitol, city council, column, deal, dog, dogs, dorothea dix, facebook, general assembly, jack bauer, lease, maltese, marble, mary-ann baldwin, mental hospital, mix, north carolina, park, pee, peeing, pees, pets, photo, politics, post, raleigh, republicans, statehouse, urinating, yorkie, yorkshire terrier
Once called H.D. — for Homeless Dog — and now known as Bear-Bear, a chow mix has been living for years with the homeless who come, go and camp along the railroad tracks on the southern edge of downtown Greensboro.
Greensboro News-Record columnist Jeri Rowe says it has been at least four years since he first noticed Bear-Bear — a reclusive sort, a bit skittish when it comes to outsiders — and some say she has been around for as many as eight.
“I’ve tried to get close,” Rowe wrote in a column about the dog yesterday. “Can’t. She runs away and disappears like the wind. But minutes later, she’ll reappear out of nowhere — staring, making sure I don’t get anywhere close … Bear-Bear is like an afternoon shadow. She bobs and weaves in between the spindly oaks beside the homeless camp and disappears only to come back minutes later, atop her knoll of dirt to lie in the sun.”
Bear-Bear serves as guardian and mascot of the homeless encampment and, in exchange, gets enough handouts to survive — like dog biscuits, spaghetti, Hamburger Helper and whatever else her human counterparts might be able to scrounge up, Rowe noted:
“She fascinates me. She’s beautiful with a thick coat of fur that shines black, brown, cinnamon and cream in the winter sun…But what gets me is … that the very people who desperately need help are the very people who help her.”
Rowe writes that he ran into the dog most recently while attending a seminar on homelessness at the Interactive Resource Center, which provides services to the needy, sometimes more than 250 of them a day.
Rowe talked with one of Bear-Bear’s caretakers — a 48-year-old man who has gout in both legs, walks with a cane,and has a bad heart. The first time they met, Rowe wrote, the man, named Keith, wore a t-shirt that said “Don’t Analyze Me. It’s a Deep Dark Hole, and You Don’t Want To Go There.”
Keith lives in a tent near the hole Bear-Bear sleeps in, and shares his food with her:
“I’m out here, and I get help, so why not help her?” Keith told him. “Ain’t an abundant supply of wild animals to eat, and we know she has to eat. We feed her. Everybody loves her…
“She is pretty smart. She has survived like we have, and you know, it goes to show you, it don’t make no difference how hard it gets. You can still survive through thick and thin.”
(Photo: H. Scott Hoffman / Greensboro News-Record)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 5th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bear, bear-bear, camp, chow, column, columnist, dog, dogs, greensboro, guardian, hd, homeless, homeless dog, jeri row, mascot, news-record, north carolina, pets
(For other tips on how not to find a job, send me $29.99 and a self-addressed stamped envelope, and then another $29.99, followed by a third and final payment of $29.99.)
But back to The Dog Lady. (That’s not her in the photo; it’s a woman in Montana who knits with dog hair.)
A reader wrote the following to The Dog Lady:
“As a small-business owner, I recently was looking to hire a counter clerk with some technical know-how. I had quite a few applicants, including a woman I was keen to employ. In the second interview, however, she arrived wearing a striking wool vest, which she said she had knitted from the fur of her Bernese mountain dog.
This led to a long discussion of how she collected the sloughed dog fur, sent it away to be spun into yarn and knitted the sweater. It was too much information and kind of disgusted me. I ended up not hiring her and have felt guilty ever since. What’s your take on people who knit their pet? — Amy
The Dog Lady, aka Monica Collins, notes that people who make clothing from the sheddings of their dog may be perceived as eccentric — even though it’s really not that different from clothing made from the harvested fur of sheep.
Dog Lady, who refers to herself in the third person, says she personally ”cannot imagine wearing a garment knit from the hair of her dog.” But she gives the knitter points for inventiveness — even if the dog hair vest might not be included in most “what to wear for a job interview” tipsheets.
And she tells the letter writer: “As a business owner, you are free to hire whom you choose. And in this free country, there are no laws on the books pertaining to those who discriminate against people who wear dog hair couture to the workplace.”
Being an expert on unemployment, if not dogs, and having addressed this issue before, I would add this. Knitting clothing items from dog hair — though a lot of work — isn’t that new or unusual. Wearing them is not really all that freakish.
But given the country’s job situation, it might be best to wait on wearing fashions made from Fido, at least until you get the job, and it’s Bring Your Dog to Work Day.
(Photo: Larry Beckner / Great Falls Tribune)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 8th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advice, animals, applicants, attire, bernese mountain dog, bizarre, cleveland plain dealer, clothing, column, dog, dogs, eccentric, employers, employment, etiquette, fur, hair, how-to, impressions, job seeking, jobs, knit, knitters, knitting, monica collins, pets, proper, seeking, sheddings, sweaters, the dog lady, vests, yarn
Columnist Ronnie Polaneczky paid a touching tribute to her dog, Blackie, in yesterday’s Philadelphia Daily News.
Blackie, a female border collie-Labrador mix, died on Sunday evening after a sudden illness.
“I was so overcome with tears as she died, I was unable to properly tell her all the ways that her life had made mine better,” Polaneczky wrote. “So this is my thank-you letter to Blackie, the first dog I ever called my own.”
Nine years ago, Daily New columnist Stu Bykofsky offered her the dog, which he had taken in after finding it abandoned in South Philly. Here’s an excerpt from Polaneczky’s column:
“Thank you for tolerating the way we claimed that you had magic ‘healing powers.’ See, not long after you came into our lives, we discovered that our daughter’s bumps and scrapes didn’t hurt her so much once we had her press the injured area into your warm, shaggy coat. Soon, she was telling her young friends to use your powers when they were hurt, too.
“Over time, we realized that those powers were not a parent-created myth but a true ability. When my husband and I were distressed about something, you’d sense our upset and quietly lean against us in solemn comfort.
“Thank you for letting us dress you as a bee on Halloween.
“Thank you for never – ever – chewing our shoes into jerky.
“Thank you for having a gentle spirit that belied your fierce appearance. The first time my husband took you to the schoolyard to retrieve our daughter from kindergarten, a few of the parents pulled their children away in fear of your wolfish looks. Within moments, you were sprawled on your back, a portrait of maternal contentment as a dozen tiny hands rubbed up and down on your belly.
“Thank you for your tolerance of your four-legged housemates. You put up with one prickly cat until his death at 19. You endured the addition of two kittens, who tried to nurse at your row of tiny teats. And then you gamely allowed the latest member of the family, a tiny Yorkie with a brain the size of an M&M, to use your belly like a trampoline, grabbing at your ears and snout while you lolled placidly on the floor.
“Through all of it, you’d look at us with world-weary affection, as if to say, ‘These little ones, eh? Waddya gonna do?’
“We were there with you at the end, at Penn’s veterinary hospital, to sob goodbyes and stroke your soft, dark fur as you peacefully slipped away from us. The doctor had told us that the illness in your lungs was slowly suffocating you and had caused an en
Posted by jwoestendiek September 2nd, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, blackie, column, columnist, death, dog, dogs, letter, news, newspaper, pets, philadelphia, philadelphia daily news, ronnie polaneczky, thank you
“Two dogs died in the name of sport this week, and this time it wasn’t Michael Vick’s fault.”
So begins an Associated Press commentary by national sports columnist Tim Dahlberg that recounts the final hours of Dizzy and Grasshopper, two members of musher Lou Packer’s team. The two were among three dogs that died in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
“Listen to race supporters and they’ll tell you that, unlike Vick’s dogs, the 5-year-old huskies died doing what they loved. Read the official Iditarod Web site and you’ll find out that sled dogs are pampered and loved by their masters…”
On the other hand, Dahlberg wrote, “They don’t have a problem with chaining up big packs of dogs and running them to within an inch of their life for sport. They accept the fact that the Iditarod is a part of the state’s heritage, and its biggest sporting event. A lot of us in the Lower 48, though, just don’t get it.”
He goes on to ask the question on the minds of many animal right activists: “How many dog deaths are reasonable? How many more must die before the fun is finally sucked out of the sport?”
Posted by jwoestendiek March 19th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alaska, animals, arthritis, associated press, barbara hodges, column, columnist, commentary, damage, deaths, dogs, exxon mobil corp., health, humane, humane society, iditarod, lungs, race, sled dogs, sponsors, sports, stress, tradition, ulcers, wells fargo
Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Daniel Rubin was taking his dog Harley for a short morning walk. You know the kind. Hurry up and do your business … It’s cold … Gotta get to work. But — as will happen when new dog meets freshly fallen snow – the short walk turned into a long walk, an acquaintance turned into a friend, and, more important for Dan, taking the time to go down a new path or two turned into a column. Here’s what he posted on his Facebook page, which he later condensed into a column, which appears in today’s Inquirer.
Harley’s first step out the door is up — straight up — all 100-or-so loping, furry, orsine pounds of Bouvier twisting, leaping, soaring into the air. He looks back, wild-eyed and grinning.
To be a dog in the snow.
The idea was to walk him long enough so he could do his thing, then I could excavate the car and drive into town, where bad roads and deadline awaited.
But everytime this dog sees a blanket of snow, he’s seeing it for the first time. I’m not sure how bright he is. But he does know how to live.
We took the middle of the road, usually a whoosh of morning traffic, but there were no cars, no sound. There were no sidewalks yet either at 7 o’clock, just slight furrows in the virgin snow.
In the next block a lone figure shoveled the deep, airy powder. He was pink-faced and wore a beret, a field jacket, sweats and Wellies.
“Nice day for a walk,” he said, happily stopping for a moment.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 5th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: age, bouvier, column, columnist, daniel rubin, dog, dog in snow, dogwalking, exuberance, friends, harley, morning, neighbors, philadelphia inquirer, routine, snow, walk, walking, weather, winter, woods, youth
(Today, ohmidog! kicks off a new feature, a monthly column on dog training and behavior, written by Lauren Bond and Carolyn Stromer of B-More Charming School for Dogs. To keep up with their reports, click on the Behave! tab on the right side rail.)
I’m sure that by now just about every dog person has seen the movie “Marley and Me.” We laughed, we cried, then we cried some more.
Some experienced dog owners, and trainers like ourselves, have even offered our two cents about Marley’s upbringing, saying that his owners were irresponsible, that if we owned a dog like that we would most certainly have put him in his place. We wouldn’t have allowed our couch to be eaten, or our drapes to be torn down, or our gold necklace to go in one end of the dog and come out of the other.
But the truth is we have all been there.
We’ve all been first-time dog owners, overwhelmed, unsure where to turn. Some of us, even by our third or fourth dog, remain that way.
Why won’t he get off of the furniture? Why do my shoes, hairbrush, wallet, cell phone, (insert object of choice here) always wind up in his mouth? Why can’t I come home, just once, to the trash can being upright, untouched, with all of the trash still inside? How come my “NO’S!” and “STOP ITS!” only lead to a game of catch-me-if-you-can? Is it really too much to ask of man’s best friend that he just be calm, listen to what I tell him and lay quietly at my feet waiting for further instructions?
To be completely honest … yes, it is.
Think back to the day you brought your first puppy home. He didn’t come with an instruction manual. Maybe, at best, the shelter gave you a brochure, or some information on his vaccine record and what kind of food and toys he liked. But there was nothing on how to influence his behavior, no foolproof tips for getting him to stop jumping all over guests when they walk through the front door. Or teaching him to walk nicely on leash. Or keeping him from chewing up your new Blackberry.
You might have tried staying one step ahead by reading up on dog behavior before you brought him home. There’s a ton of conventional wisdom out there, books galore, dog magazines and an entire Animal Network. How could you go wrong?
Posted by jwoestendiek January 19th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advice, b-more charming, behave!, behavior, carolyn stromer, chewing, column, communicate, destruction, dog, dogs, housetraining, language, lauren bond, marley & me, monthly, no!, obedience, ohmidog!, puppies, scolding, train, trainers, training, wisdom
“Spot. Josette. Lulu. Nipper. Paddy. Orly. Brownie. Bijou. Byng. Avery. Tiger. Barkley. Wiggins. Sidney. Those are some of the real-life dogs who’ve departed on my watch.”
Craig MacInnes, in an opinion piece for the Ottawa Citizen, says he, for one, has seen enough dogs die during his life. Why go to the movies to see it again?
“Figuratively speaking, dogs rarely make it to the end-credits of our human lifetimes, preceding us to the hereafter in what is surely Nature’s cruelest, most screwed-up plan. Innocent, loyal and trusting, they are rewarded for their blind devotion with a lousy 10 to 15 years, while we get to dither and careen through seven or eight full decades, a journey collectively freighted by the nagging ache of all our losses.”
Posted by jwoestendiek December 25th, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, avoid, bereavement, book, boycott, column, death, dog, dog movies, dogs, heroes, loss, marley, marley & me, mourning, movie, opinion, pain, pet, yellow lab