Thursday, December 27, 2007

Stop the presses: Santa got a pair of pants

I suspect that anybody interested enough in The Mercury to be scanning this blog would agree with me: Sound-Off is one of the best parts of the paper, day in and day out.
As an editor, I once frowned on the concept of people calling in unattributed comments by phone to go into print. Even when other papers around reported its popularity, I resisted adding it to The Mercury. In fact, it took a corporate directive to make it a regular feature.
I admit I was wrong.
With some monitoring, Sound-Off is a great feature. It is not just a chance for people to take shots anonymously at their public officials or their neighbors. It is also a wonderful way to share ideas and debate the little things in life that do not rise to the level of public discourse or a letter to the editor.
Things like where to get rye bread reminiscent of the kind Prince's Bakery used to make.
How to find good snapper soup in a restaurant.
Can you use kerosene in an oil burner safely?
What to do with old wire clothes hangers.
Of course, people also sound-off their annoyances about their neighbors' loud dogs or messy yards, their opinions on local politics and police, their anger at coaches who don't put the callers' kids in the game, and their frustration over rising taxes and late trash pickup.
But, they also compliment the school bands, thank the Good Samaritans, and tell the world that someone kindly returned a found wallet with money intact.
Sound-Off offers much more than a chance to gripe. It's a snapshot of life in the communities and countryside around here.
And, where else can you find an ongoing debate about a half-dressed holiday decoration that ends on the day after Christmas with the following pronouncement:
"The bare butt Santa is now wearing pants..."
You gotta love it.


How about Page?

Yesterday, I called The Dog "Winnie." Today, she's "Page."
A co-worker has suggested "Alfa."
Mostly, we call her, "Let go of that!" referring to articles of clothing, pieces of scrap paper, the light cords to the tree and other items of forbidden interest.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The puppy formerly known as Charlie

Just in time for Christmas, we found a puppy to bring into our home.

She is one of a litter of three cocker spaniel/Australian shepherd females acquired last week by Diane's Discount Pets. We "met" her in the pet store Friday night and she was home with us before noon on Saturday.

Trouble is, our family of five can not reach a unanimous opinion on a name.

I liked my son's suggestion of Smidgeon, because the peanut butter and chocolate candy in the form of Christmas trees is a favorite in our house during the holidays. And, we have long considered it a Christmas miracle that our beloved dog Holly survived binging on them as a puppy one Christmas Day when she found an unattended plate on a table.

I thought we could call the new dog "Smidge" for short. But I'm the only one in the family who likes that choice.

On Sunday, one day after we brought her home, we decided on Charlie. A tough, playful Charlie for a female. But as the day wore on, it wasn't working. It didn't seem right to say.

We toyed with Sweetie and Sparkie, because they are names that some of us call everything little and cute. We have listed names from Queenie to Taffy to Daffy and Prancer and Vixen, but none of them are sticking.

So, we call her The Dog.

I named her Winnie on Christmas, but the reception has ranged from lukewarm to "no way."

The debate rages on. So, if you want to have an opinion on naming a really sweet puppy, sound off in the comments.

We'll be checking for suggestions when we're not walking The Dog.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Saving dogs

There are few stories that attract more readers, or touch more hearts, than a pet story.
The story of Josh, the abandoned puppy who needed a heart operation, his big eyes staring off the front page of The Mercury with a veterinary cone around his head, was talked about among our readers for weeks after it appeared in April, 2006.
And, it got results.
The folks at Diane's Discount Pets, who were seeking donations to pay for the surgery, had offers from dozens of Mercury readers who wanted to adopt the dog and pay his medical bills. One person dropped $1,000, no questions asked.
When I wrote last summer about the loss of our family dog, Holly, I received more email response than I have ever received on one topic, either as a reporter or editor.
So it was no surprise that I found myself in a traffic jam Saturday morning at the Berks Animal Shelter after The Reading Eagle ran a front-page story about 55 puppies acquired from a Lehigh Valley kennel.
The story was accompanied by 15 photos of puppy faces.
At least one of them was looking at me.
The day after the story was in the paper, my husband and I went to the shelter to be faced with a traffic jam, cars parked along the roadsides, and families lining up to see the puppies. We joined hundreds of other couples, filling out an application. The forms will go into a lottery to determine the 50 potential families to be invited back to adopt.
The response was a reminder of a truth we know in the newspaper business: Put a dog's face on the front page, and people will come -- in droves -- to rescue it.
This time, however, the power of the press is working against me. I really want to adopt the red daschund, or maybe one of the perky Westies, that we saw on Saturday. We have been without a dog in our house for several months, and the cleanliness and the quiet are becoming unsettling. What is a lack of dust when compared to the boisterous welcomes or the loyal following-around that a dog brings to a family home?
It's time to get a puppy.
Now, I just have to win the lottery.