Volume 16, Issue 34 - August 21 - August 27, 2008

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Going to the Dogs for Inspiration

There is nothing better to begin a story than a dog.

Dark and stormy nights get you no further than The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for the worst opening sentence. (This year, it was Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped “Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J.”)

Dogs, on the other hand, get you stories that tug on your vital parts. Hearts are particularly vulnerable organs. Especially, in our experience, if your dog is a yellow Lab, the breed that’s helped us out for all but five of our 15 years at Bay Weekly.

Until 2001, the Lab was Max. The story of his death, at nearly 14, appeared in our pages seven years ago (No. 33: Aug. 16, 2001) bringing us more responses than any other, Bill Burton included. That all were tear-stained was no surprise. All his long life, Max opened people’s hearts. He’d be walking by our side, all 100 pounds of him swaying like a Slinky, his big brown eyes shining, a smile on his face — when we’d be stopped by an admirer who’d praise his good looks, then plunge into a story of a long-lost Lab. That story would open all our hearts, and soon humans would be sharing tears while Max listened in profound sympathy.

Since 2006, Moe has picked up where Max left off, and our collection of heart-felt stories continues to grow. If we’d get around to writing them down, our friends would be handing out our dog book instead of giving us copies of something almost as good somebody else wrote.

We know it’s not only Labs that evoke stories. Other breeds excel at different genres. Hounds do well with humor, especially after the fact. Beagles, basset hounds, dachshunds: Those species provoke stories that hit you in the gut, making you laugh so long and hard you think your sides will split. The butt of the joke you’re laughing at is always a human, so at least in part you’re laughing to keep from crying.

Lately, under the guidance of staff writer Diana Beechener’s fox terrier Soze and news intern Nipper, the Knoll family’s young Jack Russell, we’ve been experiencing first-hand the stuff of terrier stories. They freeze your blood in terror. There, you think, but for the grace of God go I.

As Bay Weekly gets ready to bark each week, canine capers keep us on our toes, lest we fall to our backsides as 15-pound Nipper, in pursuit of 100-pound Moe, knocks us off our feet. We’re saturated in dog stories.

So as the Dog Star Sirius rises and sets with the sun, bringing us the dog days of summer, we’ve gone to the dogs for your stories this week.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.