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Hey, if it’s good for network television, it’s good enough for me, re-runs, that is.  On the occasion of my sister’s birthday, I am reprinting a post from January that pays tribute to a girl and her horse, and tells a family story that always makes my sister laugh.  Happy Birthday, Manette, and thanks again for being a great little sis!

Once again we present….

I grew up in Hackensack, NJ, and have had the good fortune to claim many great places as temporary home, or hang out.  For the past 15 years, I’ve lived in a beautiful wooded waterfront community in Ocean County, with my husband, Rich, and 8-year-old Hooper, the dog.

Before living this peaceful life, I was caught up in the hustle and bustle of New York City, working as a recruiter for what was called then, Home Box Office, Inc.  I had an office, with a view of Bryant Park and even an assistant, all before turning 30! What did I do? I resigned, traveled to an art school in Italy and came home to become a full-time artist.  (sounds way more exciting than it was). Some days I think of what could have been, but then I look out my studio window, at my dog, and hubby and wonder no more! Living by the water,  isn’t too shabby!

My work now focuses on vintage postcards incorporated into paintings.  Working in the arts is rewarding, collaborating with clients to create that perfect gift, busy at arts events almost every weekend in the summer and fall.  As you might guess, some of my favorite postcards are those featuring dogs.  Of course, I intend to use some of them in my book project.

I just have to say a thank you to my “kid” sister, Manette Loudon. She has been invaluable to me, helping with this Blog, for instance.  I am a noted techno-klutz, and she has been my Blog coach. I ‘ve grown used to her text alerts about my typos, or incomplete thoughts.

My sister likes dogs, but if there was a National Horse Week, she would be saddling up and blazing the trail. When we were 14, and 13, respectively, my parents whisked us away from Hackensack, to Boulder, Colorado, for a year.  Six of us and a gassy toy poodle made the trek in a station wagon.  Along the way, just 2 hours from our destination, our car was flattened by a double wide.  Our car was totalled, but we all miraculously survived.  Did I mention, my parents hadn’t secured housing for us in Boulder? So carless, and temporarily homeless, we entered Boulder in a police cruiser!  Oh, but here is the “funniest” part, in the middle of all of this, my sister asked my parents if she could have a horse when we got to Boulder.

Long story short, within 48 hours, we had rented a beautiful ranch house on North Broadway, just a few miles from Colorado University where my dad would work.  The house came equipped with a few acres and, conveniently, a horse stable.  Of course, after the first day of school, my sister arrived home, horse in hand.  A beautiful half Arabian, half quarter horse named Muna del Adrienne.  The horse had been abused and in need of safekeeping.  My sister was happy to oblige. She spent a memorable 10 months with that horse, they were inseparable.  It was a sad day for all when we returned east and had to say good-bye to Muna.

I tell this story because it highlights the power of creative visualization and faith, (okay, maybe some luck), and a lesson for everyone that it doesn’t hurt to think big. Manette, by the way, is a talented documentary producer, her documentaries on serious subjects like the overmedicating of our children and our autism epidemic (The Drugging of our Children, Autism: Made in the USA)  have won awards at the Hoboken and Key West Film festivals, among others.

So on this June 30th, dream on sis, and keep up the great work!

 

Hey, if it’s good for network television, it’s good enough for me, re-runs, that is.  On the occasion of my sister’s birthday, I am reprinting a post from January that pays tribute to a girl and her horse, and tells a family story that always makes my sister laugh.  Happy Birthday, Manette, and thanks again for being a great little sis!

Once again we present….

I grew up in Hackensack, NJ, and have had the good fortune to claim many great places as temporary home, or hang out.  For the past 15 years, I’ve lived in a beautiful wooded waterfront community in Ocean County, with my husband, Rich, and 8-year-old Hooper, the dog.

Before living this peaceful life, I was caught up in the hustle and bustle of New York City, working as a recruiter for what was called then, Home Box Office, Inc.  I had an office, with a view of Bryant Park and even an assistant, all before turning 30! What did I do? I resigned, traveled to an art school in Italy and came home to become a full-time artist.  (sounds way more exciting than it was). Some days I think of what could have been, but then I look out my studio window, at my dog, and hubby and wonder no more! Living by the water,  isn’t too shabby!

My work now focuses on vintage postcards incorporated into paintings.  Working in the arts is rewarding, collaborating with clients to create that perfect gift, busy at arts events almost every weekend in the summer and fall.  As you might guess, some of my favorite postcards are those featuring dogs.  Of course, I intend to use some of them in my book project.

I just have to say a thank you to my “kid” sister, Manette Loudon. She has been invaluable to me, helping with this Blog, for instance.  I am a noted techno-klutz, and she has been my Blog coach. I ‘ve grown used to her text alerts about my typos, or incomplete thoughts.

My sister likes dogs, but if there was a National Horse Week, she would be saddling up and blazing the trail. When we were 14, and 13, respectively, my parents whisked us away from Hackensack, to Boulder, Colorado, for a year.  Six of us and a gassy toy poodle made the trek in a station wagon.  Along the way, just 2 hours from our destination, our car was flattened by a double wide.  Our car was totalled, but we all miraculously survived.  Did I mention, my parents hadn’t secured housing for us in Boulder? So carless, and temporarily homeless, we entered Boulder in a police cruiser!  Oh, but here is the “funniest” part, in the middle of all of this, my sister asked my parents if she could have a horse when we got to Boulder.

Long story short, within 48 hours, we had rented a beautiful ranch house on North Broadway, just a few miles from Colorado University where my dad would work.  The house came equipped with a few acres and, conveniently, a horse stable.  Of course, after the first day of school, my sister arrived home, horse in hand.  A beautiful half Arabian, half quarter horse named Muna del Adrienne.  The horse had been abused and in need of safekeeping.  My sister was happy to oblige. She spent a memorable 10 months with that horse, they were inseparable.  It was a sad day for all when we returned east and had to say good-bye to Muna.

I tell this story because it highlights the power of creative visualization and faith, (okay, maybe some luck), and a lesson for everyone that it doesn’t hurt to think big. Manette, by the way, is a talented documentary producer, her documentaries on serious subjects like the overmedicating of our children and our autism epidemic (The Drugging of our Children, Autism: Made in the USA)  have won awards at the Hoboken and Key West Film festivals, among others.

So on this June 30th, dream on sis, and keep up the great work!

As summer’s distractions set in, and other writing projects call for my time, I am reprinting a post from the archives.  So many people ask me about my writing, and many say this wish they had the motivation to write.  It isn’t easy, it’s time-consuming, and the rejection, silent, and wordy, is unlike anything many can imagine, but we write, and love it anyway.  I thought that this might inspire those who have thought about making writing a part of their lives.  This weekend, as you enjoy your favorite author, thank him, or her silently for hanging in there during the daunting publishing process.  Here once again….I tell about a bright spot in my evolution.

Last October, on a grant made possible by the Highlights Foundation, a not for profit organization, I attended one of their Founder’s Workshops, “The Art of Biography: Real People, Great Stories.”  The Highlights Foundation was established in 1985 with a “mission to raise the level of the offering of writing and illustration for children.”  The organization offers workshops for writers who are just starting out, as well as those who have been published, but wish to hone their skills.

Most people are familiar with the Highlights for Children magazine of their youth, or now have young children who enjoy its quality content at home, or in doctor’s offices across the nation.  If you are a writer for children, a Highlights for Children credit is something to be very proud of.

My four day Founder’s Workshop began on a Thursday with a tour of the Highlights offices and facilities in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.  Meeting the editors of the magazine, and those of their book imprints, was a great experience, putting a smiling face on the people who read all those submissions that are sent their way in droves.

After our tour, we drove up to the little town of Boyds Mill where we essentially cut ourselves off from the world, and got down to the business of writing, and had some fun, too.  But not until I settled into my beautifully appointed modern cabin nestled in a rustic, picture postcard setting.  On my bed, I found a tote bag filled with reading material and my itinerary that included times for three full meals each day, and yes, a wine and cheese gathering before dinner each night.  The meals I might add, like the accommodations, were first rate! Move over Martha Stewart.

All settled in, I made my way down the hill to a welcoming and warm farmhouse where all the workshop sessions would take place.  There, I met my fellow writers, seven woman from all over the country, some who came from as far away as California, and the workshop facilitator, Carolyn Yoder, Senior Editor of the Calkins Creek imprint.  Carolyn, an engaging, entertaining, and exacting writer, and editor led the workshop with non-stop energy, a constant treasure trove of information.  That first evening, we enjoyed a presentation by Gail Jarrow, author of the Middle Grade book, Robert H. Jackson: New Deal Lawyer, Supreme Court Justice, Nuremberg Prosecutor.  Gail gave us an intriguing behind the scenes account of her experience researching and writing her book which was edited by Carolyn.

The next day, it was our turn to get writing.  I have to admit, I approached my one-on-one critique session with Carolyn with a mixture of excitement, and dread.  When our time was up, she had torn apart and discarded most of my submission, leaving a kernel of the original story.  Did I dispair? No!  For in that one kernel, the possibility of a better, stronger book emerged.  I was elated, ready to start anew.  I ran up the hill to the computer cabin for more research, and some quick rewriting.  By the end of the workshop, I had a hook and the start of something exciting.

Those four days filled with, writing, revising, talking, listening, and sharing ideas and experiences with my writing comrades passed too quickly.  By Sunday, it was time to come off the mountain, and out of the clouds.  But I appreciated that rare opportunity when all I really had to do was get up, get down the hill and immerse myself in the literary world!  I left with a sense of purpose, and a signed copy Of Gail Jarrow’s book, and one of Carolyn Yoder’s excellent John Adams:The Writer-A Treasury of Letters, Diaries, and Public Documents.

I  hope to return some day, many of the attendees I met were happy and satisfied workshop “regulars.”  Many a great project has evolved from these sessions.

As I work on my National Dog Week project, I keep a folder I maintain for a special idea that was hatched in that farmhouse on a hillside in Pennsylvania on a bewitching Halloween weekend.  May the spirit of a Highlights Founder’s Day workshop inspire you some day.

This Sunday, as families gather to honor Dads on Father’s Day, it’s more than likely that a dog or two will be joining in the celebration, and the family of  Certified Pet Dog Trainer, David Muriello, is no exception.

David, who graduated from Cornell University with honors, is the Director of Training and Behavior at Biscuits and Bath in New York City (http://www.biscuitsandbath.com), and has successfully worked with thousands of dogs.  The Biscuits and Bath Training facilities, located throughout Manhattan, are “dedicated to bringing a luxurious country-like feel to the dogs of the city, along with the best care possible,” since 1990. David is noted for offering “smart solutions, fun style and the ability to connect with both dogs and people.”

I was struck by the way David wrote about his 22 month old son, Isaac, and when I wanted to write a dog-related post for Father’s Day, I immediately thought of him.  David, his wife Lauren, and Isaac, who live in Passaic County, NJ, welcomed a shelter dog named Hazel into their lives when Isaac was only 20 months old.  Although Isaac is too young for things like playing Fetch with Hazel he is well aware that she is part of the family.  According to David, “the most special part of their relationship is his wonder at her.”  David enjoys watching his son fill the dog’s food bowl, and offer her a toy (and sometimes taking one away), observing, “He (Isaac) sees what it means to care for another, to be gentle and respectful of animals, to learn about their movement and ways.”  On the flip side, David says that Hazel is the happiest when they are all together as a family.

As a trainer and behavior expert, David took great care to secure a strong family match when selecting Hazel.  He wanted a dog that was at least 6 months old to enable him to evaluate the dog’s personality.  Upon meeting Hazel, he was 90% confident she was the one, and a meeting between Hazel and Isaac at the shelter sealed the deal!

So what does David say to a father whose kids are begging for a dog of their own?  “Start with a plan, and a vision of what it really means to own a dog,” he advises. “Don’t go naively into the role of being a dog parent, as it is very similar to being a kid parent.”  David also warns against choosing a dog based on appearance alone, explaining that the dog’s personality should be the key factor. David offers a “Choose a Great Dog Checklist” that can be obtained by going to his Blog, The Real Deal on Dogs that’s  filled with great care and training tips for dog lovers.

David really exemplifies the vision Will Judy had for dog-loving families, even way back in 1949.  Judy, at a time when dogs were primarily viewed as utilitarian, was ahead of his times when he wrote about how the qualities of a dog could help build character in children and extolled that “Every Boy and Girl Should Grow up with a Dog as a Teacher.”  This was written in capital letters of good measure!  Judy believed that children, in caring for a dog, or any pet, was in fact learning the basics of parenting skills.

I would like to take this opportunity wish my own, dad, Jack Begin, who filled our family home with creatures both domesticated, and wild, a very Happy Father’s Day.  By welcoming, and tolerating, a myriad of pets in our household, he obviously has been a great influence on my life.  Coach Begin, as he is perpetually known, was a father figure to hundreds of Bergen County Athletes throughout the years. And a Happy Father’s Day to my husband, Rich, and my brother John with his four, and to David Lender  for his fatherly influences on lives! 

To wish David Muriello a Happy Father’s Day, and learn more about his services, visit  his Blog http://therealdealondogs.com, catch up with him on Facebook, or follow his tweets (or is that woofs?) at http://twitter.com/therealdealdave.

Most people know David Bryan, 48 year-old keyboardist for the band Bon Jovi for well, his keyboard talent, and maybe that big mop of wavy blond hair.  But David’s talents go beyond popular music as his recent Tony award for Best Musical shows.  Last Sunday night, David, who co-wrote the lyrics for the award-winning Broadway Musical, Memphis, shared in a great victory in receiving the highest honor bestowed on a Broadway production.  He even won out over Green Day’s very popular American Idiot. If you haven’t seen Memphis, it really is special, and worth the trip to the city.  I saw it in January and blogged about David and his accomplishments in the post Lyrics Made In Jersey (see Archives for January 21).

Staying on a Jersey theme, and of course going to the dogs, please help Nikki Mousaki of the Pet Postcard Project as she tries to get enough votes to help her land her very own Oprah show.  Nikki, who has Jersey connections, now splits her time between Manhattan and Miami.  She is a prolific writer, and tv personality who has done so much to help shelter animals, especially with her Pet Postcard Project (see my article about her in a recent Newark Pets Examiner).  To learn more about Nikki’s Oprah ambitions, and to vote for her go to  http://myown.oprah.com/audition/index.html?request=video_details&response_id=7717&promo_id=1.  Nikki also maintains a Facebook page and a website for the Pet Postcard Project.

Also, this week I will posting a Father’s Day piece featuring David Muriello, CPDT,  of Biscuits and Bath Training in Manhattan. David, (a resident of  New Jersey) has appeared on ABC’s Rachael Ray Show and is a new father.  He will talk about that special bond that exists between dog, dad, and kid and may have some advice to the dads out there dealing with that eternal question, “Dad, can we please get a dog?”  Oh now, don’t be so quick to say no…..And stay tuned for many other great stories of people who make a difference in the way we look at man’s best friend.

David and Nikki exemplify the spirit of Will Judy’s National Dog Week Movement, and by movement, we mean ongoing.  Don’t let a great American tradition fall by the wayside.  This year, honor this seven-day observance of the dog the last full week of September. And hats off to some very talented people with Jersey credits!

The classroom was beyond hot, it was Friday afternoon, and the Fifth Grade Class I was subbing in wanted no part of  anything educational.  With about 30 minutes to kill, I considered reading aloud to them, but as a sub, you need to know when to give up the ghost so I reminded everyone not to break anything or hurt one another and read the book to myself.  As giggles, whispers, and particles of paper filled the air, I happened upon the story of Wilson Rawls, the author of the classic dog story, Where the Red Fern Grows. Published in 1961 by Doubleday, the book ranks up there with Lassie Come Home and Jack London’s Call of the Wild.  In fact it was the latter that inspired this unlikeliest of authors.

Rawls grew up poor, but his mother knew the importance of literacy and instilled in her son the love of reading.  At age 15, Rawls, and his family, experienced the hard times brought about by the Great Depression, and Rawls learned to make a living with his hands, and working  odd jobs.  But through all his difficulties, he never forgot his ultimate goal, to write a dog story as good as Call of the Wild.  Although his grammar and spelling skills were poor, it didn’t stop him from expressing himself on paper.  But Rawls felt very insecure about his writing ability, and was so ashamed of what he had produced that just before marrying his wife, Sophie in 1958, he burned everything he had written.  Upon hearing him retell his stories, the educated Sophie, made him rewrite one that would become, with her editing skills, the classic Where the Red Fern Grows.  This moving  story traces the relationship between a young dog-loving boy and his two Blue tick hounds.

This author’s life story really hits close to home.  First, as you all know, I really believe (despite the kind of day I was having) that young kids, especially boys, can be inspired to write if they are interested in the topic, and 9 times out of 10, the subject of dogs will evoke enthusiasm, and emotion that can spill on to paper.  As we see in the Rawls story, a young man so moved by one great dog story, changed his life, and the lives of others, by writing one great dog story himself.

The other thing that struck me is that being a writer is a calling.  You feel compelled to write no matter what the circumstance, and find it fairly easy to consistently manipulate words, sentences, and paragraphs, etc.. If you have something to say, or contribute to the world, the best thing you can do for yourself is to quietly write away, tell your story as you see it, and someday you will get your break.  Rawls himself believed in the power of perseverance against all odds and went on to speak to thousands of young students, many aspiring writers, advising them to stay in school to learn to spell and punctuate correctly, and to never give up on their dreams. This is the kind of inspiration that can take place in the classroom during National Dog Week this September, not just from a literacy standpoint, but as a way to teach responsibility, and positive social skills by helping animals. That is what Captain Will Judy intended when he established the observance back in 1928.

So, even though my students that day weren’t open to receiving this message, another class, under different circumstances will.  And as the day drew to an end, and I closed my book and repeated once again, “This too shall pass,” I wished them all a great weekend and thought about a short story I had written about a dog that might, with a little more work,  just be the next Where the Red Fern Grows.

Today, for those who fear snakes, was Yell “Fudge” at the Cobras in North America Day!  Apparently, in some areas of the continent with a cobra problem, residents are urged on this day to come out at high noon and holler “Fudge” as a way to scare slithering snakes into hiding.  I don’t know about you, but when I heard this, all I could think of was chocolate covered snakes.  This practice may account for the absence of cobras on the boardwalks of some New Jersey shore towns like Cape May, or Pt. Pleasant during the summer season, or it might just be the high property taxes.  Here in the Garden State, I don’t think “Fudge” would be the word of choice.  For the record, it is also something called “Bubba Day” (you can do your own research on that one) and Leave Work Early Day, something I didn’t test out because I’m sure the Principal of the school I was working at would fail to see the humor.

On a more serious note, the month of June also brings us Adopt a Shelter Cat Month.  We may be a nation obsessed with our dogs, but in actuality, there are more cats owned as pets in America.  And as much as I love dogs, I have cared for more cats in my pet-owning life time.  I have had some crazy kitties, and all came to me, and my family, as strays, except one named Morrie, who came to us when my brother, Matt, answered a classified advertisement in the newspaper.  Matt, and Morrie, have both moved on to a better place, but another one of Matt’s cat’s, named Peta, a stray he brought home from a work site, is enjoying “retirement” on my parent’s sofa up in Hackensack. 

In April, I wrote an article for the Examiner.com about the Feral Cat Population in Pt. Pleasant.  Due to the hard work of some animal loving individuals, many feral cats have been trapped, neutered, and released, and some have even found permanent homes.  Again, part of the solution to our nation’s pet overpopulation problem goes back to responsible pet ownership like making sure our cats and dogs are spayed and neutered.  If you can’t adopt a cat or kitten, please make a donation to the rescue groups who help them.

On a lighter note, June is also National Rivers Month (keep ’em clean so kids and dogs can swim in them), Children’s Awareness Month, and one that won’t be popular with the vegetarians of the world, but popular with dogs, National Steakhouse Month (I do not make these up, people), and Meet a Mate Week.  Our dogs can actually promote human interaction, and the companionship that can result (I know people who have met at dog parks). 

In mid-June, there is something called Superman Week, and although I think it is meant for the likes of the Clark Kent School of Superman Hero, I like to think that it is intended for all the supermen and women who work everyday to harness the power of our pets, and to make the world a better place for them.  Not just those who are alive and well today, but people like Captain Will Judy, who back in 1928 launched National Dog Week to honor all the ways dogs helped man in times of war and peace.  I really have enjoyed sharing his story as I write my book.  He is definitely a man who deserves his day in American history, and I will make sure that this happens.

And on one more related note, I need to point out that June also presents Watermelon Seed Spitting Week followed closely by National Prevention of Eye Injuries Week.  Somehow, I think the two may be related.

So, if you forgot to yell “Fudge” today at noon, go out and buy a pound for yourself and your friends.  Hope this made you smile as you recover from the three day holiday and work toward the next weekend!

My Newark Examiner Posts can be accessed on Facebook or at www.examiner.com/x-45230-Newark-Pet-Examiner, or just google Newark Pets Examiner.

Hooper

"Is it dog week yet?"

"Is it dog week yet?"

Michelle Mongelli and Wheezey

Pike, at Geiger Key

Hooper in the Keys

Hooper in the Keys

“Two Culprits” by Steven Hall

Logan & Koda

DJ

DJ Goes to Westminster

Zac and Cooper

"Look daddy, I can fly!"

“Hooper” – Best in Snow

Pita in Matt’s Garden

Hooper with cousin Roxy, Summer 2009

Me and my “Hoop”