Until and unless a nonhuman animal becomes a legal person, she will remain invisible to civil law.” This quote from the legal profile in
magazine’s fall issue in many ways sums up the ineffable dogness that, um, permeates the paper, so to speak. It sets you to imagining another reality for the world, which is a good and special thing for a magazine to do–and yet it is also absurd, which is also good. That’s what makes Bark fun, and oddly challenging.
Material and information about the dog world was not interesting to me until I got a dog about a year ago–and still, I have to say that I am not too invested in cute anecdotes about “poop” or about how getting a dog can turn you into a non-office, alternative type. Judging by the general attitude of Bark‘s contributors, they were never office types to begin with. Bark‘s writers are unmarried, childless and sometimes even young. They lounge, they nosh, they watch TV, they teach online courses, they read a little, they go back to the fridge for another forage, they…write. Also, Bark is published out of Berkeley, if you know what I mean. It is an alternative dog-niche quarterly published out of Berkeley.
The implication of all this is that one must simply agree to plunge through lines like the following: “I need to read the animal with my fingers, my hands connected to my heart.” Or: “Some Cuban doctors use acupuncture, but never had a systematized course in Chinese medicine been taught to the veterinarians there.” Or: “I was falling in love. Not with a man, but with a new open place within my core.”
Unfairly, the last two of these are both from an insanely silly piece by Donna Kelleher, DVM, about going to Havana to teach animal acupuncture, well worth a close read for its unintentional moments of grave hilarity: “I felt the energy between my fingers and Smudge’s needles vibrate slightly. This sensation, called De Qi, often predicts a great outcome in Chinese medicine…. It was as if I had been released from the grip of grief…and allowed to dance again–a sacred healer’s dance with Qi‘s life energy.” (What, one wonders, had become of little Smudge in all this?)
What is great about Bark is its openness, which means that occasionally it will veer off into the silly. In fact, it is a full-size, extremely elegant, high-concept publication with a beautiful, clear design and impressive art and photographs. It also has a tail-thumping enthusiasm for its subject that is a lot more infectious than the creepy proselytizing of the typical dog-nut who frequents the country’s dog runs. Bark is like a noble Italian greyhound in a handcrafted polar-fleece greatcoat, frolicking wetly with an overenthusiastic spaniel in a mud pit they’ve just dug under a bench. Yet like the dog run, Bark is a place where all sorts of people gather to talk dog (its motto is “Dog is my Co-Pilot”–put that on your back bumper, religious right…). “I hear America barking,” you want to say as you page through.