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

Stasha Speaks - she's  on the case for Stu News Newport Beach!

Read her monthly columns archived here on her blog!

Stasha Has a Nose for News – Pet Expo changed my life


Stasha Super Model

Quite frankly I wouldn’t have the life I have today if it weren’t for America’s Family Pet Expo. That’s where back in 2012 my mom, Barbara Venezia, and my dad, Stan Tkaczyk who was a new OC Fair Board member at the time, adopted me from a shelter that had a booth at the Expo. I was just five months old at the time. Finding my new pet parents changed everything for me.

Stan and Stasha

This is our picture when my dad picked me out of the litter at the Pet Expo minutes before mom paid the lady to adopt me. Well, April 28 - 30, the  annual America’s Family Pet Expo is back at the OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa for its 28th year. It’s the world’s largest pet and pet product expo. More than 45,000 people attended last year and 500 pets found forever homes. Over the life of the event, an estimated 10,000 animals have been adopted. That’s a lot of pet lives saved I’m happy to say.

In addition to shelters and rescue organizations at the event, there are booths with all sorts of pet products, services and canine clubs where you can learn about different breeds of 

dogs. There are shows, demonstrations, contests and lots of fun things for the whole family to enjoy.

Splash dogs

Click on photo for a larger image

One of the most popular attractions is Splash Dogs. These doggie daredevils jump off a dock into the water and fans go crazy! There aren’t enough treats in the universe to convince me to launch my furry butt off a high platform into a pool, but these dogs do and seem to enjoy it.

Other Splash Dogs

Click on photo for a larger image

Then there’s the Lucy Pets Gnarly Crankin’ K-9 Wave Maker. Sponsored by Lucy Pet, this is the world’s one and only mobile wave machine which returns to the expo this year to showcase surfing dogs and cats too! The wave maker made international headlines at the 2017 Rose Parade.

Wave Runner

Click on photo for a larger image

America’s Family Pet Expo is the first stop on the 2017 National Tour that kicks off in Costa Mesa. Another crowd pleaser is the “Cook’s Racing Hogs & Dogs. It’s a race of four pigs – who run from one end of a 90-foot U-shaped track to the other – then four dogs do the same. Waiting at the end of the track is a treat – vanilla ice cream 

and a golden Oreo cookie – so now you know why these piggies and doggies are excited to run this race. Sometimes even I’m embarrassed at what lengths we’ll go to for sweets.

In all fairness, the event isn’t just about dogs, there are other animal life forms represented as well like reptiles, birds, cats and more. So, last year I tried to get a press pass for the Expo and to my surprise, I was turned down because I wasn’t a human.  

Apparently only humans are permitted to attend – pets have to stay home.  

I know that’s kind of a bummer for my furry fans out there, but organizers say with so many animals on the grounds, adding people’s pets to the mix isn’t a good idea – and I get that.  

Here’s info on the Pet Expo for humans planning to attend: General Admission $15; seniors 60 and over, $13; Children 6-12, $10; and 5 and under are free. Active and retired military personnel free admission with an ID. Show hours: Friday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Parking $8. To purchase tickets, visit

Bark at ya’ next month! and check out my columns at

Stasha Has a Nose for News – she knows how to show off her “pearly whites” and the importance of doggie dental care

Stasha Super Model

 March 2017

I love to show my pearly whites, but did you know that doggie dental care is vital to a dog’s overall health and long life? 

Yes my furry friends, taking care of your teeth could extend your lifespan two to five years according to the American Veterinary Dental Society. 

It’s scary when you think about the fact that 80 percent of dogs develop periodontal disease by age three!

We might not get cavities like our human counterparts, but dogs do develop problems like tartar, plaque buildup and gingivitis – not to mention bad breath and yellow teeth. 

Doggie dental problems can lead to life-threatening infections and issues like heart, liver and kidney disease.

Pet parents need to pay attention to their fur babies’ mouths as well as behaviors which could indicate they’re developing a dental problem. 

Symptoms like bad breath, change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face or mouth, depression, drooling, missing/broken/discolored or misaligned teeth, swollen bleeding gums are all indicators there’s a dental issue which should be addressed.  


My veterinarian suggests dogs have their teeth cleaned at least once a year. Because we’re a jittery bunch, it’s common practice to sedate us during the teeth cleaning process.  

My mom wasn’t crazy about the idea of anesthesia when our vet first approached her with the whole dental health issue, since I was just a puppy of 5 months old. So, he urged mom to see if she could make brushing my teeth a nightly lifelong routine. 

Brushing 1

Five years later, my teeth and gums are in great shape according to my doctor who we just saw for my annual checkup. 

He’s really proud that mom and I worked together on this, but at first it wasn’t easy. 

I thought the toothbrush was some weird chew toy, and I couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t letting go of it. 

Was this a new tug of war game she was playing with me? 

Apparently not. 

After a few nights of struggling mom changed her tactic. 

Lights were low, DogTV was playing on the television, and my favorite furry blanket was on the bed as I jumped up to get comfy.

For the first couple of nights she just let me lick the poultry-flavored toothpaste off the brush and pet my head.

Brushing 2

Once I got with this groove, she started gently putting her hand around my snout, introducing the toothbrush into my mouth, and just brushing a few front teeth. Eventually I became more comfortable with her brushing my far back teeth and ultimately my whole mouth.

These days I look forward to my nightly brushing. It has become mom and my “thing” before we cuddle up and fall asleep.

If you’re ready to start taking care of your teeth, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Always use a double-headed toothbrush with the brushes at a 45 degree angle to clean below the gum line, and dog toothpaste. 

Virbac has a toothbrush and paste combo we buy regularly on Amazon for $10. I’m partial to the poultry-flavored toothpaste over the vanilla one.

Virbac oral hygiene kit

NEVER use human toothpaste for your dog as most contain fluoride, which is extremely poisonous to us.

And there are other things you can do to contribute to good dental health. 

Dry kibble keeps teeth stronger than soft food, and there are synthetic bones and chew toys designed to strengthen gums and teeth. Remember, after a certain age hard bones can break a dog’s teeth. There are also treats which claim to be teeth cleaning as well. 

But as dog guru Cesar Millan says on his website, “Giving your dog a good bone to chew on can help get rid of buildup and keep teeth strong, but imagine a human who only chews gum and uses mouth rinse. That’s not an effective means of ensuring good dental hygiene and overall health. The same is true for your dog.”

So, start brushing your teeth and send me some photos and updates on how it’s going.

Bark at ya’ next month!

Share your thoughts and photos at stashaspeaks11@yahoo.comCheck out my past columns at

Stasha Has a Nose for News – and finds herself in the “doghouse”


February  2017

I’m a smart dog and probably better behaved in public than most people’s kids.  But recently my best creative thinking got me in a bit of trouble. Now I’ve been trained to only jump up on furniture where one of my furry throw blankets is placed. As you can imagine I have blankies all over the house.

I don’t know what came over me the other day, but I started nibbling the edge of one of them.

Stasha on blanket

As luck would have it, my Mom discovered the tiny nibble holes, and in my opinion, totally overreacted. The next thing I knew my furry little butt was placed in my crate while she went out to dinner with friends. I was crate trained as a pup in one of those hard plastic things with a metal door – they’re pretty much puppy proof.

Over the years, we’ve graduated to a portable canvas crate with a mesh zippered closure. Quite frankly, I’ve never had an issue with this considering usually the crate door is left open. My nibble incident changed all that.

ICanvas crate

I was home alone and now in the crate, zipped shut. From my crated vantage point, I didn’t really have a good view of DogTV – which is the only station created specifically for dogs on DirecTV and my favorite. I figured if I could just get to Mom’s new couch, I’d have a better view.

So, I nibbled my way through the mesh, broke through the zipper, squeezed out of the crate, jumped up on my furry blankie and spread out on the couch to enjoy DogTV.

When mom came home and saw the damage to the crate – and me in the lap of luxury on her new furniture – she said the only thing I was missing was a martini and a cigarette. Not totally sure what those things are…but she was really mad.

With my cutest doggie look I tried to convey I just wanted a better view of DogTV, but that didn’t work.

After talking with my trainer, Vlad The Russian Dog Wizard (, we both came to the conclusion I’m suffering from separation anxiety – which is prevalent in dogs who spend way too much time with their owners – which I do.

I’ll admit I get a bit crazy when Mom leaves the room, and follow her everywhere. At the very least that could be considered doggie stalking – separation anxiety is a bit of a stretch in my book. But apparently, this condition is a serious issue and more common than you would think especially with animals who’ve been adopted from shelters, had a change in residency, routine and other outside mitigating factors.

Vlad says in simple terms, “separation anxiety means that your dog thinks he is going to die when you leave your house.”

He also feels this disorder is easy to prevent, but it’s the most difficult behavior to correct. It’s also the second leading cause, after aggression, of dogs being euthanized. 

Depending on the level of anxiety, some dogs need to be medicated to alleviate symptoms like chewing and other destructive behaviors.

Vlad isn’t a big believer in drugging dogs. He feels with proper training and discipline the behavior can be altered. 

Hard crate

So, the hard crate is back. Let’s just say my freedom has been greatly curtailed.  And I’ve even been threatened with cancellation of my subscription to DogTV if I don’t shape up.

Yes, one little bit of nibbling landed me in the dog house big time! But I can assure you I won’t be there long – I’m a quick study – and will be back relaxing on the couch with DogTV in no time.

Bark at ya’ next month!

Send me your thoughts and photos at stashaspeaks11@yahoo.comCheck out my past columns at

Stasha Has a Nose for News – Weigh Loss Tips for the New Year

January 2017

New Year’s resolutions, like lose weight and exercise more, are great for humans – but now dogs too?

This fitness craze has gone too far!

My fur was standing on end when my favorite doggie travel magazine, FIDO Friendly, sent me an email looking for dogs that need to slim down for a contest they are running.

Calling it the “From Fat to FIDO Fabulous” contest, they’re looking for paunchy pooches to send a photo and email as to why they’d be a good candidate for a weight loss program. Entrees need to be submitted by Jan 15.

If selected, this chubby bubby would receive products to help shed the pounds, and be featured in the summer edition of the magazine.

I looked in the mirror and think my girlish figure is just fine, so I won’t be applying here, but to all my furry fans needing to lose the holiday weight, have at it and get the free stuff!

And as the line between humans and canines blurs on this weight loss subject, pet stores are getting into the fray with all sorts of products to help canines slim down. 

The Wonderwoof Bow Tie Activity monitor ($79.99) is kind of the pet version of the Fitbit. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I need is my parents looking at an app to see my furry little butt lounged around the house all day while they were away.

And what’s next…doggie treadmills?

Unfortunately, Amazon has a whole page of treadmills specifically made for dogs and cats too! But get ready to shell out the big bucks. Top sellers like Dog Pacer sell for upwards of $600.

Whatever happened to a good old dog walk around the park?

And if you start training now, how about entering the 34th Annual Spirit Run Race for the Schools coming up in Newport on March 12th in Fashion Island?

Diane Daruty, president and race coordinator, contacted me recently to let me know the race this year has a new element to it – a Dog Mile. It will be a chip-timed race for both competitive runners and joggers to enjoy with their furry friends, as well as an expo filled with interesting products and services. Spirit Run donates its net proceeds to support education and athletics in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, including elementary, middle and high schools. And you can sign up at

There are lots of choices for dogs to get in shape for 2017. And all this talk about diet and exercise is making me tired.

But before I curl up and take a nap, I wanted to close this column with a shout out of THANKS to the Newport Beach Marriott. They took note of my column asking for towel donations for the Newport Beach Animal Shelter, and delivered. The animals and staff really appreciated their kindness.

Bark at ya’ next month!

Send me your thoughts, photos and suggests at