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COLUMN: Dogs’ tale shows worst, best in us

Tucsonan Lizzie Mead is filled with gratitude this Thanksgiving – even though her dog’s eye popped out.

Even though her other dog had massive internal bleeding and needed his spleen removed.

Even though Mead herself has not fully recovered from the hit-and- run that could have killed all three of them late last month.

“It was totally the best and worst of people all at once, ” said Mead, 35. “The worst of it was that someone could hit me and then run away.”

The best was the way people rushed to assist Mead and her greyhounds, Opal and Rider, through the wreckage.

Mead was heading to a morning dog-park romp when her truck’s camper shell was slammed by a speeding SUV-type vehicle at North Alvernon Way and East Speedway Boulevard.

The crash left Mead bloodied and bruised and her two greyhounds gone with the wind. They ran off in terror when the impact buckled the camper shell open.

“I freaked out,” Mead said. “I became hysterical. I’m a 35-year-old woman with no kids. The dogs are my babies.”

Bystanders promised to look for her dogs as Mead was taken away in an ambulance.

Rider, 5, was found limping around an auto center on the corner while Opal, 4, had scampered more than a mile away.

Folks got them both to Pima Pet Clinic, where they were opened up, stitched back together and Opal’s eye was put back in its socket.

“They lost count,” Mead said when asked how many stitches Rider received. “It was in the range of 800 to 900.”

Mead got X-rays and ankle stitches and still has pain every time she bends one of her elbows.

“Sometimes it hurts just to open a door,” she said. “Lifting something like a jug of milk is not going to happen.”

She makes the jewelry for her Fourth Avenue store Silver Sea, so using her arm is pretty important.

The man who hit her abandoned his vehicle and took off on foot. In a searing coincidence, the vehicle’s owner called to report his truck stolen 20 minutes after the crash.

Rather than focusing on the negative, like the jerk who hit her or the $14,000 vet bill, Mead is playing up the positive.

Like the folks who found her dogs, her vet and Arizona Greyhound Rescue, which helped make sure both dogs ended up at Pima Pet Clinic, and the clinic folks who saved her dogs’ lives.

“The big thing I’m grateful for is that ,after they went through all this, they can go back to being normal, typical greyhounds,” she said. “They will have no residual health issues. But they are a little afraid of cars now.”

Mead said her store’s employee and customers, too, are awesome. The usual part-time employee covered the two weeks Mead couldn’t work. Some customers came in to do Christmas shopping early once they heard about the crash.

Mead’s friends got in on the action by setting up a Greyhound Injury Fund blog that outlines Mead’s story and allows folks to donate online to help with the massive vet bill.

“I am very lucky,” Mead said.

How does she stay so upbeat?

Mead was quick with an answer: “I’m pretty much cheerful all the time. It’s actually something that annoys a lot of people.”

Mead’s story illustrates so many truths.

Happy people are healthier people. Positive folks have been known to recover faster from disaster and stave off ailments and diseases.

Tucsonans have big hearts. This is repeatedly seen when tragedy strikes our two-legged, four-legged and even three-legged friends.

What goes around comes around. Mead has always reached out her own helping hand. She’s volunteered at Arizona Greyhound Rescue, at area schools performing historical re-enactments and has been instrumental in working with kids in her neighborhood.

“I have a lot of street-kid friends,” she says. “I want them to know there is more to life than just being street kids.”

There is. There’s gratitude. There’s love. And there’s always a couple of greyhounds.

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Greyhound Injury Fund blog: http://greyhoundinjuryfund.wordpress.com/

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who is grateful for dogs, rats, family and friends (not necessarily in that order).

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This column originally appeared in the Nov. 28, 2008, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

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COLUMN: Ryn: In a froth over rabies

Pima County is leading the pack in an extremely exciting category.

Rabies.

So far this year, we’re the No. 1 place in the entire state to be infested with this dread disease.

Who says nothing fun ever happens in and around Tucson?

From Jan. 1 through March 21, a total of 59 animals have tested positive for rabies across Arizona, 21 of those in Pima County. Comparatively, Cochise and Coconino counties have amassed a paltry 13 cases each.

Last year’s statewide rabies cases broke all records with 176, beating out the previous record of 169 set in 2005.

Pima’s rabid animal count for 2009 has thus far included 15 skunks and six foxes.

I was relieved my dogs – Phoebe and Sawyer – were not on the list, though one of my co-workers, Brad Poole, and his friend April McMahon nearly were.

They were out on a hiking date at Tanque Verde Falls when a skunk came barreling across a rock bed like, well, a skunk with rabies.

While in the past rabid skunks would turn cute and cuddly, perhaps to lure folks close enough to take a chunk out of a human arm, the skunks now come “charging, growling, snapping,” said county Health Department spokeswoman Patti Woodcock.

Rabid skunks are vying with Cujo for becoming the poster child for chilling rabid encounters.

At least Poole and McMahon did the right thing when confronted with the raving, raging skunk.

Poole got out his video camera, and they both moved closer. They then made their way to the rock crevice where the frenzied skunk had run to hide.

The two stopped short of poking their arms in the crevice, though Poole later told me he had considered poking a stick in the hole.

“The worst thing you can do is get too close to the animal,” said Steve Dell, a dog behaviorist and owner of Bark Busters dog training company.

His advice for folks, especially those out walking their dogs, is to divert the potentially rabid beast and get the heck out of there.

“Don’t bend down. Don’t try to feed it. Don’t try to pet the animal,” Dell warned. Even if the animal you’ve encountered has a collar, he said, it may be a stray that is infected.

“Carry some dog kibble or something in your pocket – obviously keep it away from your own granola mix – and gently toss the kibble a safe distance away from you.”

He noted that rabid animals, especially those that used to be house pets, will be foraging for food.

They should take to the kibble, giving you time to escape.

But make sure your own dogs don’t go for the kibble and end up fighting the rabid thing for it.

“Many dogs have an innate sense that something’s not right and will want to get away from the rabid animal,” he said. “Some are very friendly and will come up to anything.”

Sawyer, I’m sure, would attack a rabid beast. Phoebe would probably pee on it.

In either case, I’m stocking up on kibble.

Dell has yet to run across a rabid animal in Pima County, though a couple out hiking last year were attacked by a rabid bobcat.

Katrina Mangin and husband Rich Thomspon, both University of Arizona scientists, encountered the beastly beast while hiking in the Santa Rita Mountains last April.

That innate sense kicked in for Thompson, who immediately somehow knew the bobcat was rabid – even before it attacked his wife. The bobcat lunged at her, then climbed up her legs and wrapped itself around her, clawing and biting.

The couple got away only after Thompson pinned the raging cat to the ground with a stick and pummeled it to death with a hammer from his backpack.

Ouch. So much for the kibble.

As scary as encounters can be, Dell said it should not deter folks from enjoying the great outdoors.

“People should have no fear of hiking in this area,” he said, “assuming they use some common sense. They shouldn’t be frightened to the point of staying inside.”

Nor should they go without their kibble. And it can’t hurt to put a hammer in your backpack.

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who saw a rabid bat up close when a homeless man brought one inside the New York City pet store where she used to work. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX-FM (96.1).

Rabid skunk video?

Watch Citizen Staff Writer Brad Poole’s encounter with a potentially rabid skunk.

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This column originally appeared in the March 27, 2009, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

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COLUMN: Ryn: Let’s straighten out tongue twisters

‘I don’t speak English” is quickly becoming the most popular phrase in America.

It’s already catchier than “Got milk?” and may even be surpassing the once funny and famous “Where’s the beef?”

Never mind the whereabouts of milk and beef. We should ask instead when English will be declared our official language.

Sweden may have a higher percentage of English speakers than does southern Arizona. And we’re not the only area affected.

Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, has an enclave known as Little Odessa where they only speak “the Russian.”

Chinatowns have popped up like button mushrooms, from the long established in San Francisco to the blossoming communities in Queens. Conversing in English means a smile and a nod.

This is not a rant against foreign languages or cultures. Both are essential in making America the rich tapestry it has become while serving to preserve tradition and heritage.

I would be tickled to add more of my own heritage, provided I knew a few more words of Polish than the slang terms shoo shoo and dupa.

The whirl of various tastes, tones and aromas – especially curry – makes the United States an awesome place.

But just as Americans should respect the aspects of other cultures, other cultures, in turn, should respect what’s been established in America.

Like the English language. I wouldn’t move to Moscow, Mexico City or Paris and expect to get around without learning their mother tongue.

France’s language police – made up of L’Académie française and La Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologie – long have been protecting its linguistic borders. They especially frown upon words borrowed from English, such as “talk show,” “blog” and “le weekend.”

England’s on a new tear, with some local city councils trying to kick out Latin words and phrases, according to a recent Associated Press story.

That country’s Plain English Campaign has been purging confusing legalese for 30 years, making legal and public documents easier for common folk to read. But now some city councils are taking it ad extremum.

I’m not asking for the same extremes here in America. Eradicating Latin would ruin too many crossword puzzles.

Nor do we need to purge our lingo of other foreign words or phrases. It’s just too much fun to say, “zeitgeist,” “beaux arts” and “chimichanga.”

And all hell would break loose if we tried to change place names derived from foreign roots. That would kill Detroit, Baton Rouge and every third street in Tucson.

La Cañada Drive.

Camino Seco.

Ajo Way.

Let the place names and foreign phrases be preserved, but let’s also preserve jolly old English.

Sweden can blame its glut of English, in part, on its inability to proclaim Swedish an official language.

Having one official language would save thousands – if not millions – of dollars and countless forests each year.

Many utility bills come with duplicates of those crappy little inserts that no one reads anyway.

Here in Tucson, one copy is in English, the other in Spanish. Brooklyn companies regularly sent them in English, Russian and Chinese.

Even some multilingual junk mail arrives. We have to wonder how many trees were chopped down to make two or more linguistic sets of those big, fat election pamphlets.

Banks could save overhead, perhaps raise our interest rates, if they didn’t have to install ATMs that asked for your money in several different tongues.

Cucumbers, cereal and, yes, even chimichangas could be marked down when supermarkets saved bundles with self-checkout stations giving directions in one language instead of two or three.

American teachers would really have it easy. They could teach in English, hand out homework in English and have students answer in English. Wow. What a way to learn.

We could go about daily life, here in these United States, knowing we’d truly understand and be understood.

That’s really what America should be all about.

Ryn Gargulinski is an author, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who has a master’s in English literature, a minor in French and learned from a cab driver how to swear in Egyptian.

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This column originally appeared in the Nov. 14, 2008, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

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COLUMN: Ryn: Things come easily when you’re Brilliant

One University of Arizona professor, geneticist and Ph.D. always knew he wanted to be some type of scientist.

Many of his family members also hold advanced degrees and are professionals in the medical field.

None of this is a surprise, of course, since the guy’s last name is Brilliant.

“I always joke and say you’re the first one to bring it up,” says Murray Brilliant, 55, when folks inquire about his name matching his profession.

But it’s neither a joke nor a coincidence, according to another professor, Lewis Lipsitt, who has studied how people end up the way they do because of their names.

Growing up Gargulinski, no wonder I’m confused.

And perhaps John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson should have been alerted to such research before it became too late.

In any event, Lipsitt’s name does not seem to match his status as psychologist and professor emeritus at Brown University. But he has long been fascinated with the aptronym, a name that’s somehow suited to the person carrying it.

Payne is the last name of one Tucson neurologist: Dr. Jeremy Payne.

Local dentists fall into the game with names such as Gary Silver, Charles Pick, Robert Crum and Susan Sharp.

A man named Arthur Ruff used to be director of the Pima Animal Care Center.

Lorraine Buck sent out plenty of press releases about saving wild horses before she retired as spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management.

Roderick Lane, 43, is the chief engineer of the Interstate 10 widening project.

Lane’s reaction to his name matching his profession as a road engineer was more perplexity than anything else.

“How did you get my number?” asked the senior resident engineer of the Arizona Department of Transportation. He admitted people brought up his name matching his roadwork from time to time, but it’s nowhere near a daily occurrence.

Nor is the Lane family stocked with cab drivers, traffic controllers and pizza delivery people.

“What a weird conversation out of the blue while I’m driving down the road,” he said of my phone call.

Lane, unlike Gargulinski, is mild enough to pose few problems in childhood.

Other names can actually be an asset throughout life, Brilliant said.

“You could try to tease someone who is Brilliant,” he said, “but it’s not very effective. What can you say?”

Gargamel. Gargoyle. Gargul-gargul-inski.

Brilliant says his name is not only memorable, but also brought hours of enjoyment in junior high.

He was in a class with students Kathy Wise and Rodney Smart. The teacher used to call students by their last names and once screwed up and called Murray “Mr. Smart.”

“I’m not Smart,” he told her, “I’m Brilliant.”

The class cracked up for days.

Brilliance aside, other names seem to mark someone to a life of gloom and doom. Literally.

At least five Tucsonans have the last name Gloom and one is named Doom.

None could be reached for comment. Perhaps they were wisely hiding beneath their beds.

It’s a running joke around the newsroom, too, that many folks with the middle name “Wayne” are destined to a life of crime.

Again, John Wayne Gacy should have been alerted to this stuff.

Pets, too, often end up acting in accordance with the names they are given.

Cats named Nasty, Scratch and Claws will not do well near children.

Dogs named PeePee and Chewie aren’t much fun in the house. Likewise, don’t name your dog “Take a Dump on the Couch.”

My dog Sawyer capitalizes on the “saw” part of his name by shredding the bark off the backyard palm trees.

But he’s still a bit bewildered on what to do with the Gargulinski.

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who wouldn’t trade her last name for the world, mainly because no one would probably take it. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM.

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This column originally appeared in the March 13, 2009, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

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COLUMN: Ryn: Where anyone can score

Bowling is sexy. But don’t take it from me, the gal who thinks it’s hot to pair a leopard skin jacket with combat boots.

Take it from my boyfriend, who I am convinced would not be my boyfriend in the first place if we had not gone bowling on our first date.

You can also take it from Caryn Bustos, general manager of Tucson’s Golden Pin Lanes at 1010 W. Miracle Mile.

After Bustos laughed at the question, she had to agree that bowling is, in fact, sexy.

“It can be, sure,” she said. “It’s a very social sport.”

While bowling may not feature football’s tight pants or hockey’s alluring goalie masks, it offers so much more.

“Bowling is fun,” said Dave Petruska, a Tucson Citizen staffer who has been hooked on the sport for more than 50 years. “You make a lot of noise. You can do it whether you are 8 or 80. And size doesn’t matter.”

It’s also a great first date. Folks are engaged in a unifying activity, immediately putting them at ease.

There is no need to force conversation or come up with dumb pickup lines about astrological signs.

You don’t even have to be good at it. Although I’m Polish, I only averaged something like 70 on our first date. And he still asked me out on a second one.

Bowling is also a welcome break from the bar scene, Bustos said, especially when places like Golden Pin Lanes offer late-night cosmic bowling.

“That’s where it gets a little more sexy,” Bustos said. “Some of the girls come in with hardly anything on.”

After all, the only dress requirement is the shoes (which I also find incredibly attractive in some sick, twisted way).

Not just the nearly naked late-night set are taking to the lanes.

Senior citizens, elementary and high school students and full-fledged families are lacing up their bowling shoes.

Ever since the economy went in the gutter, Bustos has noticed an increase in bowlers.

For a mere $30, a family of six can bowl for two hours at Golden Pins, with the price of shoe rental, a pitcher of soda pop and a large pizza included.

Compare that with a bunch of $7 entrees, $10 movie tickets and $5 boxes of those little chocolate candies with white sprinkles.

Kids who are too small to lift the ball can get help with a big wire ramp. The kid using one next to us got fewer gutter balls than I did.

Bowling was also rated the No. 1 participatory sport for 2007, with more than 67 million folks heading to the lanes at least once that year.

“Bowling, as a recreational activity, has always been hot,” Petruska said.

While he said bowling leagues have never regained the popularity they once boasted from the 1950s through the 1970s, bowling has become more widespread in other venues.

Twenty states across the nation offer high school or college bowling as a varsity sport; 25 others – including Arizona – offer it as a club sport.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association sanctions women’s bowling as a varsity sport, Petruska said, and more than two dozen schools are in on the action.

And that’s not all.

Bowling has fully blasted into the national scene, with the 2009 United States Bowling Congress National Tournament in Las Vegas expecting a hefty 17,200 teams, for a total of 85,000 individual bowlers.

They will be hurling large, marbleized balls at a bunch of defenseless pins for 154 days straight.

You don’t get much sexier than that.

Bowlers may get bathroom breaks in between, but the tournament’s heavy action runs from Feb. 21 through July 24 – longer than a lot of relationships last.

That just proves bowling can keep people together, even long after a smashing first date.

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who used to wear bowling shoes as a fashion statement. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM.

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Award winner: This column earned Best in Bowling Journalism honors from U.S. Bowler, the official membership publication of the United States Bowling Congress.

This column originally appeared in the Jan. 9, 2009, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

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