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Pet Tales
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"My heroes have always been cowboys," is a line from a Willie Nelson song that Linda Wilson Fuoco is fond of quoting. For cowboys - like her childhood idol Roy Rogers - spend most of their time in the company of horses and dogs.

Coming of age at Bethel Park High School and Ohio University, her heroes were reporters who covered Vietnam War protests, the civil rights movement and the 1968 Democratic national convention.

Armed with a journalism degree (class of 1972), much of her early career was spent dodging assignments for weddings, engagements and other "women's page" features.

At the Dormont News, The Homestead Daily Messenger, The Macon (Georgia) Telegraph and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (since in 1978), she has covered courts, police and government. Those "beats" deliver regular doses of death, destruction and corruption. Not to mention countless hours of unspeakably tedious meetings.

As a change of pace, Fuoco developed a little sideline, slipping into the paper the occasional heartwarming - or heartbreaking - animal story. And guess what? Reader response to animal stories unfailingly outstrips the response to meticulously researched stories about government and politics.

Animals - and the people who love them - became an every-other-week column in the suburban editions starting in 1996.

Pet Tales has featured dogs and cats, iguanas and snakes, birds and bats, horses and hamsters.

Fuoco still spends most of her working hours writing stories that have nothing to do with animals. But she is amazed that on some work days she is paid to cuddle kittens, cavort with canines, and, on one memorable working day, ride horses.

Fuoco, 48, lives in Mt. Lebanon with her husband, Michael, a Post-Gazette reporter, and their son, Dante, 8.

The family pets are box turtles named Speedy and Snappy and a 4-year-old Labrador retriever named Mickey, who is not nearly as accomplished as most of the animals featured in Pet Tales.

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