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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: DogPatch
Letter to My Ex-Dog
Let me start by saying that I love you. No matter what else becomes true in the chaos surrounding my leaving, my feelings for you will remain. There is no force on or above this earth that could shake you from my heart. The world of people is complicated. It’s not just about who smells nice or is easy to get along with. Even people with wonderful personalities and exceptional smells aren’t always...
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...
Culture: Stories & Lit
How I Found My Dog Carson
A stray meets her match.
As a computer geek, all of my jobs start the same way: with a crazed phone call from someone having an emotional meltdown. Once I reassure the individual that I can fix their technical emergencies, I’m paid to arrive on time and save the day. It’s a life. But even though my jobs all begin the same way, one job—in particular—ended in a most unusual fashion. On this rainy evening, I found myself...

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