Logan (German shepherd), Felony (Dutch shepherd), and Quest (German shepherd). Photography by Joseph Balestra
There’s a golden retriever in the ladies’ room.
It’s my first visit to the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, and traffic was tied up on the Expressway, and I had a large latte on the way here, and pretty much the first thing I said to Ashley Berke, the PR woman who greeted me, was, “Ladies’ room?” She led me through a vast concrete-floored space lined with metal crates full of dogs who yapped and barked as we passed them. Even so, I’m not expecting another dog, in a crate, in the ladies’ room.
The dog stands there, looking at me. I look back. It seems … rude not to address her — him? So I say, “Hey there! How are you?”
The dog doesn’t answer. Doesn’t even wag. Just stands and looks at me.
“’Scuse me,” I say, and duck into a stall.
The dog is still standing there when I come out. There’s something unnerving about its silent vigilance. But there’s also a need in me to try to make a connection. You can’t ignore a dog, you know? So I offer my hand, up against the metal crate. The dog sniffs it, with the merest swish of its tail.
Read more »
When Angelina Jolie announced in the New York Times, in May of last year, that she’d undergone a radical mastectomy, she wrote, “Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.” Her bravery was widely applauded, and she became “the new, gorgeous poster woman” for the procedure, which she chose to have because, like her mother, who died at age 56 from cancer, she carries the BRCA1 gene that increases the risks of both ovarian and breast cancer. In the wake of her announcement came a rash of news stories about other women—some as young as 21—who’d opted for the surgery, along with tweets by breast cancer survivors calling Jolie “so brave” (Sheryl Crow) and “admirable,” among other accolades.
Now, belatedly, science is catching up to the publicity buzz.
Read more »
Last weekend I was at the Shore with my relations, as I am every August at this time of year. We’d just finished supper, and as some of us got up to clear the table, I began putting the leftovers away. I packed some rice into a bowl, covered it with plastic wrap, and went to put it in the fridge. “You’re not going to put that in there now, are you?” my cousin Joan asked in horror.
“If you put leftovers covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator before they cool down, they’ll give you cancer,” she said.
“What?” I said. “I never heard of such a thing.”
“It’s true,” my cousin Pam said, in a rare instance of backing up Joanie. “Some kind of chemical collects on the underside of the plastic wrap.”
“Did you ever hear of this?” I asked a nearby sibling.
My sister Nan shook her head.
“I think the fridge uses up more energy if you don’t let them cool down first,” my daughter Marcy said tentatively. “But I never heard of the cancer thing.”
Read more »
Enjoy these behind-the-scenes shots from the Working Dog Center, featured in “This Puppy Could Save Your Life” in the September 2014 Philadelphia magazine.
These Pups Could Save Your Life: Photography by Joseph Balestra
The first time, we never dreamed it would last this long.
Frankly, yours was just another duplex, one in a long line of joints we’d rented down the Shore. You were a nice enough couple. (I thought you were old then.) We were a big, sprawling family: Dad, our patriarch; four kids and their spouses; a growing crew of offspring; a stray aunt and cousin; and assorted other friends and relations. All we were really looking for was a fridge, a couple of bathrooms and a bunch of beds. We tried you out. Something about you worked. Maybe it was the layout; maybe it was the location. Maybe it was the fact that you had the exact same kitchen tile as our patriarch did. We settled in, made ourselves at home, got sand in your carpet and ramen noodles under your dining room table. It was two weeks of bliss.
The next year, we came back.
Read more »
My husband Doug and I were toggling between preseason football and yet another extra-innings Phillies game the other night when we lighted upon a cat food commercial. We don’t have a cat (though we did recently acquire a grand-kitten), so there was no reason to pause. Yet we did. Because the narrator of the commercial was proudly declaring that the cat food in question was gluten-free.
“Is this a commercial for gluten-free cat food?” Doug asked incredulously, just as I said, “Was that a gluten-free cat food commercial?” Because no matter how you feel about the current human gluten-free craze, it seems off the wall to extend it to our feline friends. The ones I’ve had in my lifetime haven’t been big bread eaters, generally. Nor were they particularly fond of pasta. But I never noticed any ill effects from the occasional noodle or cookie crumb. And I’ve had a lot of cats. Read more »
Searching for the secret to happiness? Two new studies shed some interesting light.
In one of the most peculiar genetic studies we’ve ever come across, a group of economists from England’s University of Warwick have stuck a pin in the world map of happiness and declared Denmark its epicenter. Literally. Their research helps explain why a tiny Scandinavian nation whose greatest claim to fame is a dubious link to breakfast pastry consistently ranks at the top of studies of bliss.
Read more »