One Dog, Many Blessings.


by Tina K. VaLant for The New Barker.

Dogs are devoted. Their jobs range from serving as police or military K9s, providing therapy and comfort, or acting as the eyes, ears and/or barometer of their human’s physical condition. We all know of special stories where a rescued dog laid their life on the line—-never looking back—-to alert their family of an intruder or fire, or even move a nest of tiny kittens to safety. Often, these hero dogs are the greatly misunderstood pit bulls and pit mixes. Regardless of their DNA or physical appearance, dogs give unconditional love, loyalty, and companionship. Every so often a dog makes its mark, indelibly touching humans in ways we never forget. Ollie is such a dog.  

October 10, 2017, Hollywood, FL   —- A passer-by heard whimpering coming from a suitcase on Lee Street.  Police were dispatched to an abandoned house where they found a dog inside, mutilated and clinging to life.  The young male pit mix was taken to VCA Hollywood Animal Hospital. Grateful Paws rescue agreed to be his sponsor. He was named Oliver.
Volunteers took to social media to help with the mounting medical bills. In 36 hours, his story went viral, circling the globe, and igniting strong reactions. With over 4000 shares, donations and requests to adopt him came from as far away as Denmark and Germany.  The account surpassed $40,000. It was always stated that additional funds raised after Ollie’s medical expenses were settled would assist other abandoned, abused, and/or neglected dogs coming into the rescue’s care.  “We never imagined this kind of amazing, loving response”, stated Grateful Paws’ founder, Jan Milbyer. Dog lovers around the world rallied for Ollie, sending their prayers, best wishes, and gifts to him at VCA. His prognosis was guarded, yet hopeful.
The Crime Stoppers’ and PETA rewards, combined with private donations swelled to almost $70,000, for information leading to the arrest. Due to the dogged, restless efforts of the Hollywood Police Department, on Tuesday, November 21, 2017 the prime suspect was arrested.  He remains in custody, without bond, facing seventeen counts of animal cruelty, and the scorn of every person who rallied for Ollie.
Even though he endured a horrific experience, when Ollie arrived to VCA Hollywood, he was nothing but wiggles, wags and kisses, despite his incredible physical pain. He wasn’t out for revenge. He was in the moment, feeling the kindness and energy surrounding him. He accepted their care, and responded well. Surely, he had to have been aware of the tens of thousands of prayers, well wishes and kind people rooting for his recovery. And then, two days later, his heart gave out. The VCA staff, vets and a cardiologist worked on him, for over an hour. But he was gone. Jan tearfully added, “The only redeeming thing is that Ollie did not die alone. His life could have ended in that suitcase, but Ollie stayed to serve as an ambassador to his misunderstood breed and brought thousands of dog-lovers together”. A loving memorial service was held for Ollie December 10, 2017. Over 200 attended and honored this brave, sweet dog.
Remembering Ollie
Ollie’s memorial at the Lee Street house, in Hollywood, FL where the blue suitcase was found. Paying respect is Blueberry, a rescued pit mix, who is also a service dog.
Moving forward, what can WE do, to honor Ollie?  Let’s make him proud. We can lobby to change laws, increase punishment and fines for those who abandon, abuse and neglect animals. We can assist more animals. We can be grateful that the person responsible is in custody—-unable to hurt another innocent animal. Ollie was not his only victim. There were cats, rats and other animals. May each victim know we are truly sorry for what they endured. Mostly likely, this person’s brutal behavior would have escalated. His potential victims are safe, now.
Ollie’s memorial on December 10, 2017, at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood. More than 200 people attended.
Ollie’s story affected all of us, in many ways. It’s not always easy, but we can control our thoughts, words and actions. I do not refer to the perpetrator, by name. He does not deserve that respect. Let us not risk jeopardizing a fair trial. While operating from anger or rage, we may feel justified—for a moment, but it doesn’t last or contribute toward the highest benefit. Write a letter to the state attorney, hold the firm intention that justice be served and punishment will be the maximum sentence.
We can emulate dogs, by being more mindful. Release judgment, bad feelings, the past, and things we have no control over, like Ollie. Be truly present. Cuddle our own pets a little longer. Leave our phones at home and prolong our own dogs’ walks. We can extend our hands, hearts and hugs to increase the level of love around us, for ourselves and our animal friends. Ollie, you left your paw print in our hearts.


About the writer: Over the past twelve years, Tina VaLant has volunteered, photographed, handled surrenders, transported, completed home visits and fostered for Grateful Paws rescue. She has also been the South Florida rover reporter and photographer for The New Barker dog magazine.

Tina saw a painting of Bailey, her niece’s rescued pit bull.  “None of us knew Ollie before his tragedy. Seeing Bailey’s image really got to me,” said Tina, who contacted the artist. Susan McKenna List agreed to paint a much larger portrait, For the Love of Ollie.  It was unveiled at The Art of Giving Back at Art Basel in Miami Beach, along with Ollie’s story.

The Last Dog Race?

by Christine Dorchak for The New Barker dog magazine.

GINA (2)History awaits the Greyhounds this fall. On Election Day, Florida voters will have the opportunity to turn back the hands of time and end dog racing in its most established state. As many as 8,000 lucky greyhounds stand to receive the second chance they deserve, closing out nearly 100 years of exploitation and cruelty.

The first recognized commercial greyhound racetrack in the world was opened in 1919 in California. By 1930, sixty-seven dog tracks had opened all across the United States – none legal. No state would authorize this new business, even during the height of the Great Depression.

But Florida was different. It became the first jurisdiction to allow dog tracks to operate legally – as long as it received a piece of the action. In 1931, Sunshine State lawmakers passed a racing bill over Governor Doyle E. Carlton’s veto. By 1935, there were ten licensed tracks in operation in the state, some controlled by known criminals such as Meyer Lansky.

Dog racing sought to promote itself as elite and glamourous, but the truth about this so-called “sport” has now been revealed in state documents, financial reports and testimony from track workers themselves. Kept in warehouse style kennels, in rows of stacked metal cages for 20-23 hours a day, the dogs are fed a diet based on raw, diseased meat. When let out of their cages to race several times a month, they face the risk of serious injury. Broken legs, crushed skulls, snapped necks, paralysis and heat strokes are common. Some dogs have even been electrocuted while racing. According to information gathered by the state’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, a greyhound dies every three days at Florida’s eleven racetracks.

Cheating is another hallmark of this industry. Over the past decade, there have been more than 400 greyhound drug positives, including 70 cocaine positives. Greyhounds have also been found with pain killers like novocaine and oxymorphone in their systems. Females are routinely given anabolic steroids to build muscle and prevent loss of race days during their heat cycles, a practice which prompts both animal welfare and race fixing concerns.

Thankfully, dog racing is now illegal in 40 states, and since 1990, the amount of money wagered on dog racing in the Sunshine State has plummeted by 74%. Tax revenue has declined by 98% and the tracks themselves now lose a combined $34 million. If it were not for a state mandate requiring racetracks to offer a minimum number of races as the platform for other, more popular forms of gambling, this antiquated activity would have ended long ago. Until it does, the state will continue to waste as much as $3.3 million per year regulating this dying industry.

Statewide polling shows that Florida voters will vote yes to end dog racing if they are fully informed about its humane and economic problems. You can help the greyhounds by learning more about Amendment 13 and by spreading the word that it’s time to set the greyhounds free.

About the author Christine Dorchak is one of the drafters of Florida’s Amendment 13. As president and general counsel of GREY2K USA Worldwide,  she works to pass laws to protect greyhounds and promote the adoption of ex-racers across the globe. Since its formation in 2001, GREY2K has helped to close down dozens of American dog tracks and prevented the expansion of commercial dog racing to countries such as South Africa and the Philippines. For more information, go to Visit GREY2K USA on Facebook or Twitter.

About Amendment 13 If approved, Amendment 13 will phase out commercial dog racing in Florida, prohibiting the activity by December 2020. The measure has no effect on other forms of gambling. Greyhound adoption groups across the country are standing by to bring the greyhounds into loving homes. Learn more about the campaign at

About The New Barker Heading into its 13th year of publishing, The New Barker dog magazine is reaching upwards of 30,000 dog lovers in print each quarter. A full size lifestyle print magazine, The New Barker features original stories, award-winning photography and always a charming cover of an original work of art by a different artist. The New Barker is all about dogs and the people who love them. Find out where to stay, play, dine, shop and just have fun with your dogs by subscribing to The New Barker, today.