Volume XVII, Issue 34 # August 20 - August 26, 2009

from the Editor

For Sirius Rising

A shaggy dog story to welcome you to Dog (etc.) Days

The dog has fleas. Make that dogs. This time of year, all dogs have fleas, I say (though sales rep Amy Kliegman begs to differ. “My dog Tyler never has fleas,” she says).

Grand-dog Nipper, the 15-pound Jack Russell who’s vacationing at my house this week, nearly got carried away by them last night. After husband Bill and I staged a full assault on the fleas, we rubbed the dog with Gold Balm to calm his frenzied scratching. (Testimonial: It worked.) Uncle Moe, who’d already had his treatment, looked on anxiously.

August days are hot and sticky, and even the nights demand air conditioning. Prickly heat has everybody grumpy and itchy, calling for more Gold Balm.

I blame all such irritations on the brilliant Dog Star Sirius of Canis Major, which rises before the sun this time of year, compounding Sol’s heat and cursing us with the hottest temperatures of the year, the Dog Days of Summer.

Besides Gold Balm, we’ve found that the surest cure for August’s irritants is a course of good dog stories.

Back when I taught at University of Maryland University College, I made all my students read James Thurber’s “The Dog that Bit People.”

“You’ll learn structure from it,” I told them. But entertainment was the real reason we read about Muggs (and Mark Twain’s wonderfully rambling “My Grandfather’s Ram,” as well). How else could I keep these students alert and interested over a three-hour night class after their busy days?

Around Bay Weekly offices — where three dogs are on staff many days — animal anecdotes are our routine antidotes for the stress of over-concentration. We entertain ourselves by telling our own dog stories, a practice that not only provides us solace but also feeds a steady stream into my collection.

In the tradition of Muggs, I favor bad-dog stories, anthologized by breed, with beagle, dachshund and terriers leading the list. I come by many of the beagle stories first-hand. My husband’s former St. Louis Post-Dispatch colleague Jon Sawyer contributed mightily to my collection on the other two breeds, as his father raised dachshunds and he himself adopted a three-time loser Jack Russell terrior (which ought to be the true spelling), who interrupted Jon’s telling of old bad-dog stories by creating a new one: He bit another colleague’s baby. Good stories are about the best thing you get out of having a bad dog.

In recent years, calendar editor Diana Beechener has added to my terrior collection.

“I am a huge Kevin Spacey fan,” she recounted about the naming of her dog. “So I decided that my next dog would be named after a Spacey character. Since I’ve only owned fox terriers, I decided that naming my new puppy after the arch criminal in The Usual Suspects (Keyser Soze) would be the most fitting choice: Terriers are crafty and use any method they see fit to get their way, so a criminal isn’t a stretch.”

About holy terrior Nipper, I’m on my way to collecting a book.

Long-time contributor M.L. Faunce has enriched my dachshund collection, and now young Rob Goszkowski is taking on some of the burden.

Feeling better despite the prickly heat, aren’t you? The antidote of the anecdote works every time.

You’ll feel a whole lot better after you read Bay Weekly this week, for it’s our annual special collection of animal stories conceived to bring you relief in the Dog Days of summer.

Despite Sirius, we’re not canine-centric. As you’ll read, we tell cat and bird stories, too.

       Sandra Olivetti Martin

     editor and publisher