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Tag: connection

Give us the goods on your veterinarian

veterinarian symbolWe want to know about the veterinarian of your dreams – whether you’ve found him or her, or not.

For an article in an upcoming issue of The Bark on how we choose a veterinarian, we’d like to know what – in your eyes — are the most important factors.

If you’ve found the perfect vet, just what is it that makes him or her perfect? If you’re still seeking that person, just what exactly is it you’re looking for?

As our dogs become more and more like family members, the choice of vet is a decision humans probably take more seriously than they did 50 years ago. Time was one’s choice of veterinarian was based in large part on proximity.

We’re guessing that has changed. Now we seek opinions from friends, question fellow denizens of the dog park, turn to online reviews, and perhaps even make some in-office visits, all in our quest for the perfect vet.

But what makes the perfect vet?

Is it where he or she went to school? Is it a friendly staff, reasonable rates? Is it how quickly you can make an appointment or how long you spend in the waiting room? Is it bedside manner, how much empathy, or compassion a vet exudes? Is it how clearly that vet can communicate? Whether they honor your pet insurance? Is it how the vet connects with you, how the vet connects with your dog, or both?

We want to know what is (or was) the single most important factor in your choice of veterinarian, and how you found the one (if you have) that you can’t imagine ever leaving.

Tell us about the veterinarian of your dreams by leaving a comment, preferably with your name attached, on The Bark’s blog, or here on ohmidog!

(John Woestendiek, who produces the ohmidog! website, is a frequent contributor to The Bark. His story on finding the ideal veterinarian will appear in an upcoming issue.)

“Sometimes love really is a bitch”

“My Dog Tulip” — J.R. Ackerley’s classic account of how a dog entered his life, stimulated his curiosity, broadened his horizons, and brightened his otherwise cranky golden years — is now out as an animated movie, and the book has been reissued in paperback.

“Unable to love each other, the English turn naturally to dogs,” the British writer wrote in what’s perhaps the most famous line of the 1956 book about the bond between dog and man.

“Sometimes love really is a bitch,” reads the tagline, updated for the times, of the new movie.

The movie came out late last summer, directed by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, who are also responsible for the hand-drawn animations that, on screen, are like a New Yorker cartoon come to life.

The film is narrated by Christopher Plummer, in the role of Ackerley, and also features the voice of Lynn Redgrave, who died in May and to whom the movie is dedicated. One review called it “the most sophisticated dog movie ever made.”

It tells the story of a lonely gay man who has all but given up on finding a longtime companion and “ideal friend” in the human world.

Enter Tulip, or, as was her name in real life, Queenie, a German shepherd Ackerley acquired from his neighbors when he was “quite over 50,” and with whom he would spend the next 15 years.

“She offered me what I had never found in my life with humans: constant, single-hearted, incorruptible, uncritical devotion, which it is in the nature of dogs to offer.”

Ackerley died in 1967, and though the book is now 55 years old, it retains a sense of freshness attributable to the fact that Queenie was his first dog. His keen observation of inter-species interaction is that of someone who just landed on the planet, as opposed to being an old hand with dogs.

“It seemed to me both touching and strange,” he says at one point, “that she should find the world so wonderful.”

We long-time dog lovers know exactly what he means. It’s what makes dogs so lovable — they see the world as wonderful, and, no matter how curmudgeonly we may be, they help us see it that way too.

Carefree Highway — the song, the road

The trailer in Arizona where Ace and I are spending December is just a mile from Carefree Highway. Maybe two miles. Possibly three. It doesn’t matter. 

“Carefree Highway” is also a Gordon Lightfoot song — one, it seems to me, that’s more about the dangers of being carefree than the joy of being carefree, about how, if we’re too carefree, some important things might slip away. It happens to be one of my four, maybe five, possibly ten or 15 — let’s not sweat the details too much — favorite songs.

I’m a fan of the song, the highway, and Carefree itself, though the town — as with being truly carefree — is a place you can dwell only if you have a lot of money.

Being truly carefree, I realize — though the word is commonly used to market retirement communities, vacation packages and cemetery plots — requires great gobs of money and tuning out all that’s going on in the world, as in “I spend winters in Carefree and the rest of the year in the state of Blissful Ignorance.”

I’m not sure carefree — the state of mind — is a destination I want to reach, but it’s something to strive for.

I’d imagine being truly carefree is pretty close to boring. Yet, in seeking carefree, by losing some of the unnecessary baggage that’s making us go bald and get ulcers, we can perhaps find ourselves in a place where we’re not so burdened as to be unable to enjoy all the wonder and beauty life has to offer.

Did that last paragraph sound like a self-help book, or what?

Anyway, Carefree Highway is where I go for groceries (Shopping list? Who needs a list?), and where I got my hair trimmed (“However you want to cut it is just fine”), and where, when I walked into the Home Depot and was asked by an official greeter if I needed help finding anything, I went blank. (“To tell you the truth, I don’t remember what I came in for. I’ll just walk around until it comes back to me.”)

Perhaps it’s the power of suggestion, or the fact that the desert soothes me, but when, or after, driving down Carefree Highway, I tend to feel that way — at peace, worry-free and prone to not letting anything bother me.

Even with all my inner peace (and no, I’m not on the Prozac Expressway), one thing did get to nagging me: Was the Gordon Lightfoot song written about the actual 30-mile-long road that stretches east from U.S. Route 60, south of Wickenburg, to the town of Carefree? Or was it just a name the Canadian artist dreamed up?

I decided we all needed to know the answer to this question: Which came first the road or the song, and was there any connection between the two? Not knowing the answer was prohibiting me from being carefree. So I turned to where we all turn nowadays for answers: No, not God. The Internet.

Lightfoot’s song was released in 1974 — 10 years before the town of Carefree officially incorporated — but the area was already being called Carefree, and had been since not long after local entrepreneurs K.T. Palmer and Tom Darlington formed a partnership and acquired the land for the town they foresaw in the 1950s.

Carefree Highway, also known as State Route 74, was already being called that, as well — pre-Lightfoot.

According to Wikipedia, the song “Carefree Highway” is about the highway in Arizona, and Lightfoot wrote it after passing the exit sign for it on Interstate 17. Some other accounts say he wrote the song in a rental car, while others suggest he just wrote down the name of the road, thinking it would make a good song title. Some say he put his note in a glove compartment and almost forgot about it, but Lightfoot told Crawdaddy magazine that he put it in his suitcase and found it eight months later.

The Internet can be pretty carefree when it comes to facts.

The closest thing we could find to first-hand information was a Carefree Times blog item written by Nancy Westmoreland, who says she asked Lightfoot the question after a performance.

“The story goes that he was on the band’s bus, traveling for an engagement at the Gammage Auditorium, when he saw the large marquee freeway sign along Interstate 17.  He actually had the bus driver pull over so he could get out and snap a close-up photo of the huge off-ramp sign.  When he arrived home, he had the picture blown up and placed on his living room wall.  He wrote the song while on the bus, and it became one of his biggest hits, exposing millions around the world to the Carefree Highway.”

That’s a lot of exposure for a town, according to the town’s website, of about 4,000 people.

Carefree, which adjoins Cave Creek, the town I’m staying in, is a highly upscale community. As if  to live up to its name, it does not assess a property tax. It seems to not get too uppity, either, when it comes to people slapping mansions onto the side of mountains. Its street names bespeak mellow as well. There’s Easy Street, Tranquil Trail, Nonchalant Avenue and Nevermind Trail. One can even find the intersection of Ho and Hum, which then branches into Ho-Hum Road.

There is no Don’t Get Your Knickers in a Knot Boulevard, no Don’t Worry Be Happy Drive, but give Carefree time. It has lots of growth ahead, and — once our worries about the economy are over – there’ll likely be lots of new streets to name. I’d suggest Lightfoot, for then — in addition to the name having a nice, tread softly, tree-hugging feel to it – things would have come in a full and harmonious circle.

For, as it turns out, Carefree Highway, the road, was the inspiration for “Carefree Highway,” the song. 

I know this not because I could read his mind, but because, after navigating the misinformation superhighway, I finally stumbled upon this — a video of Lightfoot performing two years ago in Hanford, California. “Here’s one that got written while I was driving from Flagstaff to Phoenix and I saw a sign that said Carefree,” he says in introducing the song.

At 71, Lightfoot’s voice is not quite as rich and mellifluous as it once was, but — given both he and the song are classics — that doesn’t matter. In other words:

I don’t care.

The Wolf in the Parlor

wolfintheparlorSomething old and something new sent two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Jon Franklin on a quest to document the transition of wild wolf to family pet.

The old thing was a photo — a man and puppy, exhumed from a 12,000-year-old grave. The new thing was a wife — he married a dog lover. Though he’d never been a dog person, Franklin gave in, and soon he and his wife were sharing their home with a clever poodle named Charlie.

Between watching his own dog evolve from puppy to family member, and his interviews and research, Franklin spent 10 years studying the origins and significance of the dog, and its peculiar attachment to humans.

The result is “The Wolf in the Parlor: The Eternal Connection Between Humans and Dogs.”

Franklin — a former science writer for Baltimore’s Evening Sun, now a journalism professor at the University of Maryland –  builds on evolutionary science, archaeology, behavioral science and his firsthand experience, arriving at the conclusion that man and dog are more than just inseparable; they are part and parcel of the same creature.

(Learn more about the latest dog books at ohmidog’s book page, Good Dog Reads.)

Church in Los Angeles opens doors to dogs

When the Rev. Tom Eggebeen took over as interim pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church three years ago, attendance was dwindling.

So Eggebeen decided to make dogs welcome at God’s house — by way of a 30-minute service complete with individual doggie beds, canine prayers and an offering of dog treats.

According to an Associated Press report, he hopes it will reinvigorate the church’s connection with the community, provide solace to elderly members and attract new worshippers who are as crazy about dogs as they are about  God.

Eggebeen said many Christians love their pets as much as human family members and grieve just as deeply when they suffer — but churches have been slow to recognize that love as the work of God.

“When we love a dog and a dog loves us, that’s a part of God and God is a part of that. So we honor that,” he explained.

Allowing dogs at services is a practice gaining a foothold nationwide — one that serves to boost attendance and address the spirituality of pets and the deeply felt bonds that owners form with their animals.

Laura Hobgood-Oster, a religion professor at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, says she’s found a growing number of congregations holding regular pet blessings, and more holding pet-friendly services as well.

“It’s the changing family structure, where pets are really central and religious communities are starting to recognize that people need various kinds of rituals that include their pets,” she said. “More and more people in mainline Christianity are considering them to have some kind of soul.”

Inseparable: Nikkie and Natt

Natt Nevins was a fixture among the doggie crowd of Greenwich Village, where she was rarely seen without Nikkie, her 15-year-old dachsund, at her side.

When Nikkie was diagnosed with cancer last month, Nevins told some of her many dog park friends that she couldn’t imagine life without her dog.

Last week Nevins, 74, died — just a few days after suffering a massive stroke.

Nikkie died the next day.

Dozens of friends – including an army of dachshunds, Shih Tzu’s, Chihuahuas and other small dogs -  gathered at Nevins’ West Village apartment Thursday night to memorialize the well-loved duo, the New York Daily News reported.

Nevins rescued the long-haired dachshund when he was 1, after he’d been surrendered by a family with kids that burned him and tied cans to his legs.

Nevins was a regular at the Washington Square Park dog run, where she could often be found dispensing advice.  She regularly cared for neighborhood dogs while their guardians were at work.

Nevins was much more than a dog nanny, though. A former singer and entertainer, she spent 3-1/2 years in the U.S. Air Force performing for troops during the Korean War. She worked, until retirement, as a gerontologist, was a founding member of Senior Action in a Gay Environment (SAGE), and the first woman on the board of directors of The Hetrick-Martin Institute, which provides safe havens for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered youth.