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Alice Walker

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How often does it happen that you buy a product for your dog and are completely thrilled with the product’s performance? Despite the number and variety of toys, training aids, beds, and other dog-care items in the pet product marketplace, it’s rare to find something that works well in every way. We’re always on the lookout for products that work well, look good, wash easily, and resist wear. If they are available at a reasonable price, great – although we have been known to spend a small fortune on products that meet all the above criteria and have become indispensable to us.

An example? In late 1999 we ordered a dog bed from PC Panache for a review that we published in January 2000. It was the office dog’s bed for more than three years, and has served as a “guest” bed for two more. Despite frequent washing of the cover, and minor nibbling by a variety of guests, it succumbed only this year to the persistent digging and then joyful tearing of a frequent guest, an Australian Shepherd who, apparently, didn’t get walked enough in his week-long visit with us. Although the original purchase price was over $100, the bed paid for itself many times over. (If you want one, call 610-689-3829 or see www.pcpanache.com.)

If you and your dog enjoy a product like this, we’d love to hear about it. We’d like this year’s installment of “Gear of the Year,” published in our December issue, to feature some of your top picks – after we’ve had time to order and test them ourselves! You can mail or fax your suggestions to the editorial office, or e-mail them to WDJTopProducts@aol.com. Please include some clues about how we can find the product: its manufacturer’s name and location, for example, and/or the name and location of the place you found it.

Speaking of quality …
I know I’ve mentioned BARK before, but I can’t say enough good things about the quarterly literary magazine for people who love dogs. [Full disclosure: I’ve contributed a few small articles to the magazine over the years, and because of this, I am listed among its contributing editors.] Claudia Kawczynska and Cameron Woo started the magazine in 1997 to help organize dog owners near Berkeley, California, to create off-leash dog parks in the area, but BARK quickly became a whole lot more.

Today, a national magazine printed in full color, BARK is frequently and accurately described as “the New Yorker for dog owners.” It features dog-related memoirs and fiction from authors such as Caroline Knapp, Alice Walker, and Pam Houston – and some of the best are collected in an award-winning book, Dog Is My Co-Pilot. (About the book: You’ll find yourself laughing out loud a dozen times, and teary-eyed another half-dozen. It’s a great collection.) BARK also features top-shelf reporting on anything canine – health, behavior, training. The work of artists who produce extraordinary work with dogs as their inspiration frequently appears as well.

BARK contains advertising, but Woo and Kawczynska are incredibly picky about which ads they will accept; you won’t see an ad for shock collars, for example, or health-related products that make exaggerated or unproven claims. For more information, see www.thebark.com or call (877) 227-5639.

-Nancy Kerns

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