Barbara Venezia...
Stirring the pot of controversy
 one column at a time...

Stasha Speaks- 

In 2016 Stasha became the first canine columnist for Stu News Newport online. The concept 

was the the brainchild of publisher Tom Johnson and has become a popular monthly item. 

Of course Stasha's mom Barbara has to type the column since Stasha doesn't have thumbs, 
but this dog about town has plenty to say and a unique perspective on life as a dog... 

Enjoy !

Stasha Has a Nose for News

Sept. 2016

As a pampered pooch I live in one of the most dog friendly places on the planet, Newport Beach.

In this town, it’s not uncommon to see dogs riding in Porsches and Mercedes, and now writing a column

Going from “Stasha the Wonder Dog” to “Stasha the Writer Dog” – as Newport council candidate Mike Glenn nicknamed me – is pretty amazing.

Launching this canine column was the brainchild of Publisher Tom Johnson.

I hang with Tom most Sundays while he does his radio show on KOCI 101.5, “Sunday Brunch with Tom & Lynn,” as I’m the fur baby of Daily Pilot columnist Barbara Venezia who contributes political commentary to the show.

I’m not one of those annoying yappy fidgety dogs; I just like to chill and listen to the conversations.

Being a well-known dog about town, Tom thought it would be a good idea for to break new ground with their first canine columnist, and I’m up for the challenge.

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Stasha contemplates new story ideas

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing perspective from a dog’s point of view, giving our readers tips on products, health, food, training, and yes, my adventures.

I’ll admit I have a bit of an identity crisis. I’m a dog living a very human existence, not to mention my Mom was a Labrador and Dad, a Chihuahua.

I know the visual on that is a bit disturbing on so many levels, but isn’t it always when you think about your parents being intimate?

Anyway, I hit the doggie rescue lottery in 2012 at the Pet Expo at the OC Fairgrounds when I caught the eye of Barbara’s husband Stan Tkaczyk.

He was a new Orange County Fair Board member; he’d been walking around the Expo checking things out.

She’d been shopping at the OC MarketPlace swap meet and the Fairgrounds that day – as was evident by all the useless crap in her shopping cart.

I was about five months old when they discovered me at the Expo in a pen with the rest of my litter.

As soon as Stan held me, we bonded, and I knew he’d be a great doggie daddy, but Barbara was kind of sketchy.

She apparently never had a pet, and didn’t seem interested in having one that day either.

I figured I was screwed here, but as luck would have it, she reached in her purse, handed a $100 donation to the Victorville organization that had rescued me, and plopped me in her shopping cart.

Walking to the car, Stan decided I needed a name, looked into my eyes and called me Stasha. Stasha is Stacy in Polish – which Stan is – so, I’m named after his mom as my easy disposition reminded him of her.

As soon as we got home, Barbara picked me up trying to make a connection with me, but she was scary, I peed on her and Stan captured the whole thing on video!

The next thing I knew Vlad the Russian Dog Wizard was in the picture. Sensing this guy meant business, I wasn’t going to mess with him. In the next few weeks, I became a model student, and it became apparent that he was training my new parents – more than me!

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My friends and I sometimes need a “bit” of training

I love Vlad and he’s been a constant in my life.

I’m happy to report it didn’t take long for Barbara to go from reluctant dog owner to my “smother”. She smothers me with love, and we’re never apart.

The fact that she’d never had a dog before worked for me because she had no clue pets spent their days at home, eating, sleeping and waiting for their owners to return. That’s not how she saw things. From day one, she strapped my little furry tush into the seat belt and took me everywhere she went.

She was committed to making sure I was socialized and better behaved than most people’s children, and by all accounts I am.

These days I party with my peeps in Newport and Vegas, and even have my own subscription to DogTV, which quite frankly is on in our house more than HBO.

What can I say; it’s a dog life…and I look forward to sharing it with you.

Contact Stasha with your questions or comments at

Stasha Has a Nose for News

October 2016

WOW, I never imagined I would get such a great response from my first column. Thanks to everyone who emailed photos of their dogs, asked advice and wrote with suggestions for future column topics.

Stu News Publisher Tom Johnson said maybe we can start adding photos of my furry fans to the site – so keep those pictures coming. And speaking of pictures, now that I’m officially a “media mutt,” I had my first photo shoot, courtesy of my buddy photographer Damian Lloyd

  I’ve known this guy since I was a pup, and he’s got a bunch of rescue dogs as well, so he’s cool. Damion specializes in product, fashion and apparel photography, but made an exception to shoot a few fun pics for me, as long as I agreed not to shed on his set. Being a super model was easy. Maybe that’s the next glass ceiling I break through for fur babies everywhere – now that I have the canine columnist thing down pat. I was just glad Damion didn’t dress me up in some weird outfit for my photo shoot.

There’s plenty of time for crazy get-ups now that Halloween’s right around the corner. I don’t know about you, but Halloween is a big deal in my house. And though my dad and I aren’t thrilled with the whole costume thing, that doesn’t seem to faze my mom. This is her favorite holiday.

       She’s the first one in the door when a new Halloween costume store opens – and these things pop up like fleas everywhere it seems – and I’m right there with her! Needless to say, I’m a good sport even when things get a bit hairy.

       But let’s woof about some tips when shopping for doggie Halloween costumes. Don’t buy them online; make a trip to Petco or Pet Smart – my two favorite stores, so you can try the costumes on. 

They need to fit!!! Make sure costumes aren’t cumbersome.

 They shouldn’t pinch under our arms or across our belly. There’s no need to make Halloween any more difficult than it already is for us.

 Ditch costumes with hats – they never fit right and make us look stupid. And if you’re treat or treating, make sure the costume is brightly colored and easily seen at night for safety.

For Halloween safety tips, seek out Pet MD online

According to the site, dogs should stay away from “all forms of chocolate – especially baking or dark chocolate – it can be dangerous, even lethal. Chocolate poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate and seizures. Halloween candies containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol can also be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of Xylitol can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar and subsequent loss of coordination and seizures”.

      To our dear pet parents: Don’t leave us in the yard so pranksters and fools can tease, taunt, or worse – steal us! And when the door opens to trick or treaters, make sure we’re secure so we don’t freak out and run out of the house.

       Please keep Halloween pumpkins and corn out of our reach. Even though they aren’t poisonous, they can upset our tummies and even cause intestinal blockage.

       Pups – If you happen to get your furry little butt in trouble eating some crazy crap, and can’t reach your vet, the OC Emergency Vet at 3720 Campus Drive # D, Newport Beach, is a good place to go. They’re open 24 hours on the weekends, and more than a few of my pals have found themselves in the emergency room there with good results!

Stasha is ready for her Halloween party

When it comes to Halloween, I prefer a costume party over trick or treating any day, but one party unfortunately I’m not invited to is the one my mom is co-chairing at the OC Fair and Event Center to benefit the new Heroes Hall Veterans Museum there.

       I’ve been to a couple of committee meetings as they’re planning this thing, and it sounds like all sorts of scary fun. The Haunted Halloween Costume Gala is Oct 22nd, from 6 - 11 p.m. and they’ll have dinner, dancing, a silent auction and costume contest. Tickets are $125.00. If you want to party with my mom and her pals for a good cause, click on this link for more information

      Well, that’s all I have to bark about this month. Have a happy and safe Halloween! Keep those emails coming…You know where to reach me –

Stasha advices pup friends that no hats are a good fashion statement

Stasha Has a Nose for News – Meet her Furry Fans, and a visit to the NB Animal Shelter

November 2016

Let me start by giving a shout out to all my furry fans out there and highlighting a few fur balls who sent interesting pictures last month.

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These three Pomeranians sent this group shot

They’re adorable, but they have “high maintenance” written all over those perky little faces. Their mom must have to brush them all day long to look this fluffy.

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Nemo, another furry friend

Thanks for the photo, Nemo! Dude, you need to talk to your mom and tell her to calm down with the rubber band action on your head – it’s just weird.

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Poppy and Lilly are the bomb

These two want to meet me in person. Not sure I’m quite comfortable with what they might have in mind though.

Keep those emails and photos coming; you might be featured next month!

My visit to the Newport Beach Animal Shelter

Each column I like to bark about issues important to the canine community and being a rescue myself, I know what it’s like not to have a forever home. Being adopted by great loving smothering parents, as I was, is my wish for all cats and dogs in shelters.

So this week I visited my pal Newport Beach Police Animal Control Supervisor Valerie Schomburg in charge of the Newport Beach Animal Shelter at 20302 Riverside Drive in West Santa Ana Heights, Newport Beach.

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Valerie Schomburg (holding Stasha) and shelter volunteers are committed to finding animals loving forever homes

Valerie truly loves animals, and tells me there are volunteer opportunities available at the shelter. All volunteers are vetted through the police department with full background checks to weed out the weirdos – those are my words not Valerie’s – she’s way too polite to such a thing!

The day I visited the shelter, Valerie and my mom were talking about this new group forming in town calling themselves the Friends of the Newport Beach Animal Shelter. Mom will be a founding board member of this nonprofit along with her pals Jean Watt and Tim Stoaks. 

The purpose of the group will be to partner with the city to support services at the shelter like advanced medical care, upgrades to cages and things like that. 

If you’re interested in getting involved here, drop me a note and I’ll pass it on. 

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My mom with puppies who have already been adopted out

Take a look at my mom at the shelter, who picked up two eight-week old puppies to play with. There’s a new litter of four of these little critters that are already spoken for once they’re old enough to be adopted. I have to admit I wasn’t happy with them hogging mom’s attention or her lap.

Valerie and the rest of the volunteers at the Newport Beach Animal Shelter do a great job with the animals and finding them homes. If you’re looking for a fur baby of your own, visit the shelter’s Facebook page and save a life by giving an animal a forever home of love and attention.

Until next month…bark at me at

Stasha Has a Nose for News – Here’s her holiday gift list!

It’s that time of year when my Mom gets a bit crazy with the holiday spirit as evident by my new hat. Granted, not my best look, but frankly this hat doesn’t even look good on Santa! 

The point is we do things for those we love during the holidays. And if wearing this goofy hat makes my Mom happy, I’m in. It’s also the gift giving season for furry friends and that really excites me since I love getting stuff. According to a survey of pet parents by Petco, 84 percent will buy presents for their fur babies and 50 percent will buy for a friend or relative’s pet. The survey also found that treats and toys are among the most popular pet gifts this holiday season.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love toys and treats, but I’ve compiled a gift list that’s a bit more practical, especially if you’re a dog about town like I am doing holiday shopping and enjoying festivities like the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade.

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Here are a few things no fashionable dog should be without. Number one on my list is a pet stroller. Having a “portable crate” on wheels makes it easier on us and our owners to shop, dine and travel. I’m partial to the Pet Gear Happy Tails stroller. It’s durable, lightweight, folds easily and is roomy. Depending on your dog’s weight they range in price from $39-$299 and come in fun colors. The best selection can be found on Amazon here.

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With the chill of winter in the air, many dogs like me don’t have a lot of fur to keep warm, so a doggie jacket is another great gift idea. One of my favorites this season is 32 Degrees Reversal down Puffer Coat for Dogs. They’re lightweight, are easy to put on with two Velcro closures, come in great colors and most of all they’re really warm. They come in matching human coats too – but that’s a bit weird. Macy’s carries them but they sell out fast; the best bet is the 32 Degrees site and they run about $40.

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Another must for being out and about around town is a Water Rover, $15.99-$21.99. This bowl/water bottle combo is great and was created by a local OC family.  We never leave home without one.

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Tired of fussing with harnesses that tangle, pinch and don’t give support? Try Buddy Belts. They come in sizes, not generic S-M-L- so they have a better fit. Measure your dog according to the size chart on the official Buddy Belt site (where you can customize with a little bling too) and away you go. Buddy belts run from about $40 to $200 and are available at

And a great stocking stuffer for any pet is a seat belt. Most dogs break their legs in cars as they become projectiles should the car stop abruptly. Doggie seat belts click into the regular car seat belt apparatus and are available at Petco for under $10 here. This is a thoughtful gift and one my mom gives all the time – but it does come with a talking to about keeping your dog safe.

So, get out there this holiday season and enjoy the festivities with the right harness, seat belt, stroller, jacket and water bottle. You’ll be styling and safe!

Ho Ho Ho…Have a Merry One!

Send me your thoughts, photos and suggestions to