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Writing about beloved pet makes for emotional wealth

November 02, 2008|By KATE COLEMAN

The headline on Gene Weingarten's Sunday, Oct. 12, column was "How to Get Rich Writing."

The subhead asked: "If Gene knew, you think he'd be doing this stupid column?"

I think Gene does know, and he is not alone. The syndicated Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning feature writer failed to mention a trend among journalists - most likely a lucrative one. That gravy train, if you'll pardon the expression, is writing about dogs.

I've noticed several dog books in the last few years. I've read and bought some of them for my dog-loving friends.

Jon Katz has published seven and has another on the way. Anna Quindlen's "Good Dog. Stay." tells the story of her aged black Lab, Beau.

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A sampling of Weingarten's own book, "Old Dogs Are the Best Dogs," was included in the Oct. 5 Post magazine, and John Grogan's "Marley & Me" has become a veritable dog-book bonanza. The film should be out just in time for the holidays.

The Herald-Mail's very own Tim Rowland writes about the dogs and other animals in his life in "All Pets Are Off," his new collection of "hairy columns."

So what am I waiting for?

I love dogs. I long for dogs. But for now, while I have a much-loved but extremely neurotic cat, I have to settle for the way-too-cute, e-mailed photos I receive every day from The Daily Puppy, occasional visits from Belle, the Labrador next door, and Plex, friends' perfectly mannered Sheltie who knows that a dog who will sit at your feet and lean against you is the best kind.

I've known and loved many dogs - at least a dozen at the Keedysville farm where I lived for nearly 20 years. There were golden retrievers, beagles, a German and Australian shepherd, an Australian cattle dog and several wonderful mutts.

The Honey Dog - that was her formal name - has been on my mind a lot lately. She was Happy Day Farm's first dog.

A stray who got there before I did, Honey was a small, strong and oh-so-smart, mixed-breed terrier. She once got her front paw caught in a fox trap and managed to pull it out of the ground and drag it home from the hills bordering our pastures.

Fearless or foolhardy, she'd sometimes swing past a horse's potentially deadly hooves by chomping onto a swishing tail. She thought nothing of diving into ground-hog holes after the big-toothed varmints, and one time blithely trotted in to kill an 8-foot-long black snake around which our three other dogs - each easily several times her size and weight - had been barking and blustering for five minutes.

The Honey Dog was not above entertaining friends and family. Her best and always requested trick was to spring straight up - three feet in the air - whenever and as many times as asked: "Up, Honey!"

Her only bad habit was to nip the ankles of men - only men - who came to visit. Just a greeting nip, mind you.

I worried a little when my kids were born, but she was as accepting and loving as an old auntie.

Honey slowed down, of course. She was 13 or 14 when she had trouble walking without whimpering. She stopped eating.

It was time. I held her in my arms with my chin on her head while the kind vet gave her the final shot.

There.

So.

Has writing about a dog made me rich?

Nope. Not in financial terms.

But remembering a beloved canine friend certainly has value. Weingarten and the others definitely are onto something.

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