How the Penn Working Dog Center Turns Puppies Into Saviors

Logan (German shepherd), Felony (Dutch shepherd), and Quest (German shepherd). Photography by Joseph Balestra

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.
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Did Angelina Jolie Cut Off Her Breasts for Nothing? What New Science Has to Say

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.

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The War on Household Germs Goes Nuclear


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.

“Why not?”

“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.”

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Bonus Slideshow: The Working Dog Center

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.

The Relationship With Your Long-Term Shore Landlord Is … Special


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.

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The Phils Without Ryan Howard Would Be Like Gluten-Free Cat Food

The Joy of a Phillies Game, Even When They Stink: What's nice about baseball is it's a picnic. The Phillies may have given up three home runs to Ryan Braun in a 10-4 loss in their home opener, but I still had a good time at the game yesterday. I tailgated with friends in the parking lot beforehand. I met my uncle, a man who's taken me to scores of Phillies games in my life, and we sat in his season ticket seats. I listened to him wax nostalgic on Phillies teams in games past — "Since the Vet opened, I've only missed about three home openers," he bragged — and we drank beers and sighed as the Brewers scored another run. I ran into friends I hadn't seen in forever. I updated an old boss on my life. I actually walked back to downtown up 10th Street because it was nice out, and a friend suggested we walk. Why has no one asked me to do this before? I wondered aloud. (Dan McQuade)

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 »

What’s the Secret to Happiness? Genes and Expectations, Say Two New Studies



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.

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