Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

November 10, 2013

Puppies and politics provide exciting Election Day in Southwest Virginia

— — It is Election Day in the newsroom. Not a general election in which a presidential race is on the ballot, but a significant one nonetheless. Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli are battling it out to be the next governor of the great Commonwealth of Virginia.

The race has been heated and ugly, and punctuated with wars against women, coal and special interest groups.

Who to believe? It’s hard to know. The spin on both sides has been intense.

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On this day, I find myself in the newsroom in the early a.m. hours. It’s unusual for an Election Day, but during this event Assistant Managing Editor Charles Owens and Senior Editor Bill Archer have agreed to handle election night duties. I’m on day shift with reporters Greg Jordan and Anne Elgin.

Initially, the day was slow. No mayhem or destruction.

Boring.

In the late afternoon things change. We have visitors in the newsroom. Their coats are caramel with white trim. Their eyes chocolate brown.

And their tails are wagging happily. Vigorously. Excitedly.

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The two pups are rescues. They were found wondering in traffic on a busy road. In a two-minute period they were almost hit by three different cars.

On this day the Daily Telegraph serves briefly as a transfer station — a place where the puppies can safely rest while awaiting a new home.

My office becomes puppy central. A place to house the adorable, furry, four-legged babies while awaiting word on a foster family.

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The daily budget meeting is a time each afternoon when editors and reporters gather to discuss the day’s stories and plan a lineup for the next edition. The “budget” does not refer to money, but instead stories anticipated for tomorrow’s paper.

It’s a procedure we go through daily, but on Tuesday afternoon the meeting was much more playful.

It started out with Anne and I holding puppies on our laps, while I discussed the next day’s lineup. All was good ... for a few minutes. It turned out I was holding Hyper Puppy, while Anne had Good Puppy snuggled peacefully in her arms.

Hyper Puppy began crying and whining, distracting the group from the task at hand. After a few minutes, I let him down on the floor. He walked around the room and began a meet-and-greet with the staff. Charles, Greg, Copy Editor Jackie Puglisi and Sports Editor Brian Woodson all received sniffs and kisses from the tan, tail-wagging bundle of joy.

Everyone was smiling. And I realized something I knew all along — a puppy has the power to transform the mood in a room in minutes.

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I leave the newsroom in the late afternoon hours but keep up with the action through texts, email and social media.

Charles sends out tweets about the Virginia election, while Anne texts from her home about progress in the hunt for puppy foster parents.

It’s the convergence of two diverse worlds on a random election night in Appalachia.

Anne sends a text telling me the puppies have been bathed and are now sleeping contentedly in a box. An accompanying photo shows their state of bliss and evokes an “Awww” moment.

Meanwhile, Charles tweets about the close election, and the neck-and-neck race between Cuccinelli and McAuliffe.

Puppies or politicians. Who gets the most attention on this Tuesday evening?

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The election has been called for McAuliffe. Not the best of news for the coalfields of Southwest Virginia, as the candidate has been notably anti-coal in his campaign.

But we will make the best of it. We always do.

So many make light of the importance coal plays in everyday life. They play to the trend of the moment — the anti-coal rallies and Internet threads detailing perceived environmental hazards.

Few acknowledge the role coal plays in our energy independence and steel-making capabilities.

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Anne has found a home for the puppies. A veterinary student will foster them until a “forever home” can be found.

I smile.

My worries about the coal industry and the future business climate of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia are put on hold. For now, I will savor the good and toss aside election-night worries as I picture the pups in their safe environment and warm beds.

Life is a roller coaster. For now, I will escape from the ride and enjoy the brief bliss a puppy moment provides.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry. To see a picture of the puppies, check out Sam’s column on our website at www.bdtonline.com.

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