An unleashed tale of love

Book: Rescued canines featured in a collection put their paws into print to aid animal abuse awareness.

December 22, 2003|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Yesterday was Stella's first book signing. She took it lying down, her brown eyes gazing up lazily at the crowd gathered around her.

All Stella knew was that she was in a room filled with dogs, dog treats and dog lovers. The humans knew otherwise. To them she was the "cover girl" of a new book, Recycled Love: Every Puppy Has a Tale.

"You're a star, imagine that," Federal Hill resident Cathy Topping told Stella, a curly-haired mix of Portuguese water dog and other breeds. A paw was dipped in ink and pressed against a page in the copy that Topping and her husband, Steve, bought for $20.

People often put their pets on pedestals, but nowhere in Baltimore was that more evident yesterday than at Lucky Lucy's Canine Cafe, 1126 S. Charles St., where a "paw signing" was held to push sales of the book.

The collection of 25 tales about dogs saved from the street is meant to raise awareness of abuse and neglect, said Sallyann Jennings, who compiled the stories. Sales benefit Friends of the Baltimore Animal Shelter.

By late morning, a half-dozen dogs featured in the volume had arrived at Lucky Lucy's. Crepes and "mutt loaf" - ground beef, turkey, breadcrumbs, eggs and seasoning - were available for the dogs to sample. The only thing missing was customers.

"Are you here for the paw signing?" Jennings asked a man who walked in after his boxer.

"The what?" he replied. The man left a few minutes later, having bought dog treats but not a book. The Toppings were the first buyers.

That didn't matter. The dog owners chatted among themselves while the dogs, familiar to one another from romps in Federal Hill Park, mingled in a blur of waving tails.

There was Gracie, a pit-bull mix who wore a yellow fleece because of the cold weather. The photo in the book, taken by Gail Burton, shows Gracie leaping a couple of feet in the air. But owner Paul DeSantis, an attorney, said she is "actually one of the wimpier dogs around."

There was Stella, who showed up at illustrator Bill Coolahan's Battery Avenue home eight years ago with matted hair. "She has saved me, I didn't save her," he said. Turning to Stella, he said, "You're my anchor."

Also on hand were Nilla, Kenya, Brandy, Moe and River. Jennings rescued Kenya, a chow-golden retriever mix, after boys on bikes dragged the dog down a street by a chain. She got Brandy, a Chihuahua mix, from a homeless man who could not care for her.

Others live in memory. Several of the book's vignettes tell of deceased dogs that lived good lives in the end and enriched those of their rescuers.

One such dog was Lucy, namesake of Lucky Lucy's. She belonged to cafe owners Laura and Rob Sterling, whose day jobs are an architecture firm employee and neurology resident, respectively.

Lucy died in March of old age. But the Sterlings recently adopted Tippy.

Tippy spent three years chained in a West Virginia back yard, tossed deer carcasses for food. Now she has owners who specialize in spoiling dogs.

Laura Sterling popped into the kitchen to check on a banana cake that would be topped with icing made of peanut butter and cream cheese. Dogs, she said, love it.

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