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Good Dogs and Bad Dogs

Often bad dogs make the better stories; this week, good dogs have their day

Who can resist a dog story?
    My favorites star villainous dogs, like Muggs, the hero of James Thurber’s story The Dog that Bit People.*
    Nipper, Bay Weekly’s collections manager, would like to bite people and sometimes sneaks in a nibble. He’s a Jack Russell terrorist — as proofreader Dick Wilson calls him — and most anybody who has had a dog of that breed has a collection of bad dog stories.
    For better and worse, humans and dogs are as intertwined as married couples. That means some are bounded by hate as well as many by love.
    Interspecies love is the theme of this week’s issue, which enriches my collection of good dog stories.
    That we’re presenting an issue rather than a story is rather coincidental.
    These dog stories began with Nancy Patterson. I saw a picture of her and Canine Companion for Independence Mahler last October, when she was honored with Anne Arundel County’s 2010 disAbility Awareness Day Award. Look at that photo in the story H-E-L-P is a Four-Legged Word and you’ll see why it fascinated me. I banked the press release in my ideas file.
    Outside Nordstrom a couple of months later, I recognized the pair. As Nancy notes in this week’s story, Mahler closes the distance between people, drawing them in. Mahler also liked my smell, perfumed as I am by one of his kind. At that meeting, we set a story date in time to spread the word of the April 10 Sails and Tails fundraiser (rsvp by April 1) for Canine Companion for Independence, the dog-providing organization that matched the couple.
    In that story, written by Aries Matheos, whose family includes a golden retriever, you’ll read about how puppies are raised to grow into dogs that support able partnerships like Nancy and Mahler’s.
    Meanwhile, staff writer Diana Beechener got a story request she couldn’t resist. Midshipman second class Ari Schiff must have done his Bay Weekly homework to know that Beechener loves a good military story as much as she loves a good dog story. She bit, and so evolved Working Like a Dog. That story describes Schiff’s dogged commitment, above and beyond his Naval Academy work, to VetDogs, which provides wounded veterans returning from the war with service dogs.
    Like Canine Companion for Independence, VetDogs provides long- and expensively trained dogs at no cost to the people who become their partners.
    Again like Canine Companion for Independence, VetDogs has an upcoming fundraiser, Schiff’s April 3 5K Race/Walk.
    As these stories were taking shape, news broke from Pasadena of 51 dogs rescued from the home of a hoarder. It was a happy ending for those dogs, all claimed and awaiting their new homes. “We got more interest than dogs,” said Anne Arundel Animal Control Officer Glenn Shanahan.
    Our Creature Feature focuses on another dog rescue, this time a mother dog and her 12 pups in Baltimore. Of these only a few wait for homes.
    That’s not usually the case for the nation’s five to seven million homeless dogs, half of which never find homes and are euthanized.
    Perhaps reading these stories about the good that dogs do for us humans — and seeing their so-cute photos — will urge you to bring a dog into your family to love and train.
    That’s happened to Nipper’s family. One of the foundling puppies from the Creature Feature joins them this week. We sure hope he’ll add to your story of good dog reading.

* Hear James Thurber’s dog stories read by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann at http://wn.com/James_Thurber.