Small in Stature and Stout of Heart with Impeccable Manners

by Anna Cooke

Remember riding the merry-go-round, and the feelings you had as a child as it whirled around? There were the colorful lights and the bejeweled horses. The scenery in and around the ride coupled with the music felt surreal and enveloping. As the merry-go-round gained speed, reality collided with the imaginary. Nothing else mattered except that moment of being temporarily transported into another world. The scenery beyond the perimeters of the merry-go-round simply disappeared into one dreamy landscape of color, reminiscent now of Van Gogh’s Starry Night in the traveling exhibition, The Immersive Experience.

A few weeks ago, before it officially opened to the public, we were invited to attend a private showing of Lonely Dog, The Immersive Experience. Standing in the middle of a 360-degree cavernous theater in Orlando to take in the surround sounds and artistic visuals had a very similar effect to the childhood memory of the merry-go-round all those years ago. Through the power of technology, static artwork morphs into larger-than-life displays of movement, creating a participatory-like experience that is jaw-dropping.

Based on the paintings by New Zealand artist Ivan Clarke, and a novel he co-wrote with Stu Duval, Lonely Dog is the story of a troubadour, who sings his own songs of protest against oppression. Lonely has been bullied, run out of town by some bad cats, rejected, and hunted. All he really cares about is his music, the guitar on his back, and the love of his life. By the way, Lonely is a dog whose opposing thumbs make his guitar-picking legendary. Our protagonist goes from hound to hero in a heartbeat playing his Houndskiffle Blues, as it’s referred to in the story.

Clarke’s paintings of anthropomorphic dogs and cats have been animated to create a cast of characters, each with unique traits and foibles. The permanent exhibition transports its viewers into a stunning visual adventure on the life of Lonely Dog, “a misunderstood orphan who overcomes bullies to become a legend whose music heals a divided society of posh cats and working-class dogs in the fictional place of Alveridgea.”

Bringing Clarke’s vision to life was inspired by one simple black and white sketch of Lonely Dog, years ago spotted by one of the show’s producers. “When I saw that image of Lonely, I had to learn more about  the artist,” said Cliff Dew. “When I found out there was a novel, of course I had to read it, and could not put it down until I finished it.”

Rob Pearlman, who co-produced Lonely Dog alongside Dew, said Ivan Clarke was first inspired to paint Lonely Dog’s dream world when he left home for vacation. “He imagined what his own dog was doing in his absence,” said Pearlman.

Around 200 pieces of Clarke’s original artwork have been animated and projected across 35 projectors to create the Lonely Dog Immersive Experience. All set to an original soundtrack, parts of the 30-minute show are narrated by singer/songwriter Geoff Pearlman, who is Rob’s brother. Geoff also sings and plays guitar on the Lonely Dog soundtrack.

Four years in the making, production began a year before the pandemic and continued throughout the lockdown. About 185 people from around the world collaborated in the creative process and production. Thanks to technology, artists worked remotely on computers to create the CGI and 2D Animation. Communication was accomplished through the use of Zoom and Facetime. All in all, there are more than a million pixels of illumination in over a million frames of video, bringing this beloved story to life.

Lonely Dog Immersive Experience is a grown-up’s turn at the merry-go-round, a timeless memory to be shared by the entire family.  Orlando has a new attraction, dog lovers, and this one is unforgettable.

Official Trailer

In addition to the immersive experience, the ticket price includes:

An art gallery showcasing 40 pieces of artwork by Ivan Clarke.

Virtual Reality Lounge – Guests will fly alongside Lonely Dog on a journey that soars through the skies and dives into the depths of the sea.

Selfie Salon – Participants can snap a photo alongside a couple of Lonely Dog’s characters to share on social media.

Art Studio – Aspiring artists may leave behind their own works of art for display.

Music Lounge – Scheduled live entertainment by local area artists.

Merchandise – Main lobby is also a veritable array of sights to purchase for the dog, art and music lover.


Monday through Saturday: 11am – 9pm

Sunday: 11am-7pm

4900 International Drive, Orlando (an outparcel located on the property of Premium Outlets).

Ticket Price: $34.57 per person

Only trained service dogs are permitted.

To purchase tickets, call 844.566.3593 or visit

NOTE: $1 of every ticket sold will be donated to Happy Trails Animal Rescue and their Community Resource Center, a Central Florida 501c3.

#Orlando #Entertainment #DogLovers #OrlandoAttractions #PremiumOutlets #LonelyDog #Music #Art #ImmersiveExperience

Cleo, The Dog Who Loved Pelicans

by Bonnie Georgiadis

We were excited about getting 61 winged pelicans. They were to be displayed in a sanctuary along the Weeki Wachee River as an additional point of interest for patrons enjoying the Wilderness River Cruise at Weeki Wachee Springs. The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary donated them to us because they were overcrowded with pelicans that could never be released back into the wild. A great deal of care was taken to select the right location for The Pelican Sanctuary. The existing steep slope was terraced, complete with gently sloping sand, ramps and tropical landscaping. An enormous shallow pool was constructed for swimming and a fence was added all the way around. A walk-in freezer and a tub for thawing fish was put in behind the scenes. It was quite a big deal to prepare for them.

Then came the grand opening. Ralph Heath, the ubiquitous founder of the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, brought most of his staff and several trucks full of animal flight crates, loaded with one-winged pelican amputees. The seabirds were injured as a result of fishing line accidents, when fishermen would cut their line if it became fouled in the branches of mangrove islands. The line would wrap around a bird’s wing (not only pelicans). Unable to fly, they would hang there until either someone found them or they starved to death. So these birds arriving at Weeki Wachee were the lucky ones. They all marched, or I should say waddled, single file down to their swimming pool. About half of them kept right on going past the pool and waddled up to the fence along the river, climbed up the chicken wire which was attached to the split rail fencing and jumped into the river. The current in the river is pretty strong. The pelicans paddled as fast as they could with their webbed feet but couldn’t make any headway against it.

We all dashed for our cars, rushed back to the attraction (about a mile away) to get the work boat and some long handled catch nets. Meanwhile the maintenance men added another rail to the fence to make it taller. What a day that was. Scoop up a pelican, rush back to the pen, put birds into the pen and hurry back to get another one.

The office was getting phone calls from residents eight miles down-river about pelicans floating by. At the end of the ordeal we took a beak count and there were still 61 of them. Whew.

A few months passed and the Bird Department was becoming accustomed to the routine of going down to the pen every afternoon, thawing 80 pounds of thread herring and hand-tossing them to the pelicans. We hand-fed them so we could study their physical condition. They were fed 80 pounds during the summer months, and double that amount in the winter. They were hungrier when it was cold. The type of fish we fed them would change with the seasons, based on whatever smallish fish was available in the marketplace.

Our troubles began on a freezing January night. The natural predators of pelicans (raccoons, opossums, et al), saw their appetites also increase with the cooler weather, and our birds were easy prey. They couldn’t fly or get up high as a normal pelican would. They were nesting on the ground and couldn’t defend themselves. The captain of the first Wilderness River Cruise of the day, called me and reported that he saw a dead pelican in the pen. I found the bird partially eaten. Three days later another one was killed the same way. We had an electric hot wire installed around the fence but the raccoon or opossum, whichever it was, would dig under the exclosure.

At the time, we were practicing wild bird rehabilitation for birds of prey at the attraction. When we received any water birds, a local farmer was brought in to shuttle them down river to the Seabird Sanctuary. On one of my visits to his farm, I drove into the farmyard and was horrified to see dead birds and pieces of dead birds scattered about the yard. The farmer told me that they usually had two large dogs on guard, but a week earlier one of the dogs had disappeared. Last night, the remaining dog, still despondent over the loss of his friend, and shaking from the bitter cold outside, was allowed to come inside for comfort. The predator or predators struck. There were chickens and ducks, geese, a peacock and a turkey. All torn apart. It’s not Disney World out here. Some critters just kill for fun.

As I drove away I kept thinking, everything was all right until the dogs were gone. A dog! That’s what we needed at the pelican pen. I was lucky there was already an existing ten foot high chain link fence encircling the outer perimeter of the smaller fenced pelican area.

And I had the dog. Gretchen, a Doberman Pinscher, was a trained guard dog. Except the night watchman said she was afraid of noises and when he gave the command, “Go search” she wouldn’t leave his side. But that didn’t matter. It’s the scent of a dog that would keep the predators away.

It worked. All was quiet for many months until Gretchen dug in under The Sanctuary fence and chased the pelicans. She didn’t harm any of them. They injured themselves trying to get away from her. One drowned in the pool during the stampede. If Gretchen got in once, she’d do it again. It was too enticing. I had to find her another home and get a new dog.

Fortunately, one of the girls in the Bird Department, Dana Proger, was looking for a home for Cleo, a Pit Bull mix. I’d heard about the reputation of Pit Bulls, but this dog always looked like she was smiling, and I needed a dog bad. I decided to give her a trial run. Lucky dog, lucky me, lucky pelicans. Cleo had found her calling.

The boat captains would notify me when Cleo was barking. She only barked when she had a reason. She would bark at anything that wasn’t a pelican. She barked at vultures if they perched too close to the pen. She barked if a great blue heron sat on a fence post. One time she barked so frantically I was called to go find out what was wrong. She met me at the gate and insisted I follow her. She went down to the outskirts of the pen, then ran back to me, back and forth. I followed her to the area and there was a pelican wedged with one wing under the fence, the other stub of a wing jammed under an exposed root. I never would have found her there. Cleo was licking that stub of a wing…that’s all she could reach. When I got the bird loose, Cleo walked along with me, licking the pelican’s feet as I carried the bird back to the entrance of the pen.

Another time a gentleman walked up to me at The Birds Of Prey Show Stadium and said, “I just got off the boat ride. Is there supposed to be a dog in the pelican pen?” I said, “Inside the pelican pen?”

When I got there, all appeared to be normal. The birds were waddling around in the pen and swimming in their pool. There was no sign of panic as there had been when Gretchen got in. They were not upset at all. And there was Cleo, laying down with her front paws crossed just inside the pen’s gate, gazing at her adored pelicans. I repaired the place where she had squeezed inside and she never tried to get in again.

There were no predator problems as long as we had Cleo present, but we did have a snake problem. One was eating pelican eggs. I tried setting a trap that was small enough for a snake to enter but it couldn’t exit if it had swallowed an egg. Then put a couple of chicken eggs inside. Never caught the snake. Then I found out why. The snake was too big to enter the trap.

Again, one of the boat captains alerted me that Cleo was barking. She greeted me at the gate and was more excited than usual. I noticed she had some blood on her sides and on her face. She circled toward a big clump of grass and back to me so I followed her. As I neared the tall grass I saw the head of a large snake rise above the grass to look around, then disappear back down. I examined Cleo’s face and saw two fang marks. I immediately put her in my truck and drove her back to the attraction office.

When I called the veterinarian he said to observe her for awhile and see if there was any reaction to the venom. Luckily she showed no signs of anything wrong, so I left her there and went back to the pen to see about the snake. By this time the snake was dead. It was a very large cotton mouthed moccasin. It’s midsection was perforated by Cleo’s teeth. The dog had whipped her head back and forth so violently that the snake’s innards were protruding from its mouth. That’s why Cleo had blood on her flanks.It was the snake’s blood.

That afternoon I skinned the snake to keep proof of how big it was. And proof of what a wonderful dog Cleo was. Don’t ever say anything derogatory to me about Pit Bulls. Cleo loved people, and would do anything to protect her pelicans. She was one treasure of a dog.

Cleo with Bonnie Georgiadis, supervisor of the Bird Department at Weeki Wachee Springs. Photo by Olie Stonerook, February 1987.


by Anna Cooke

Recently, we visited Citrus County Animal Services and met with Operations Supervisor Colleen Yarbrough, Citrus County Foundation for Animal Protection President Wanda Moak, Citrus County Board of County Commissioner Ruthie Davis Schlabach, and Citrus County Public Information Officer Veronica Kampschroer. The main focus of our discussions was the need for a new shelter. Then, we took a tour.

Money does not get a new shelter built. People do. Supporters, volunteers, staff and animal advocates who live in and around Citrus County are moving forward with a capital campaign. They are advocating loudly for a new building to replace the old, outdated and dilapidated one that has housed Citrus County Animal Services for more than 40 years. Not everyone is on board with the new shelter movement, even though it’s been a hot topic among county leaders, county commissioners and campaigning politicians for the last 20 years.

Years ago, around the time Citrus County Animal Services’ shelter was built, public animal shelter buildings were designed with the idea that a high percentage of dogs and cats taken in would be killed. Under such circumstances, the thinking was that the health and comfort of the animals was not a concern since they would not be in the shelter for long. Back then, efficiency was more important in shelter design than concern for the animals.

In Citrus County, there are some who feel the existing shelter is just fine the way it is. However, the way it is includes animals exposed to the elements (heat, cold, rain), cramped quarters for the animals and staff, a rotting roof, no designated areas to quarantine animals to keep the sick ones away from healthy ones, and a poor drainage system. There is more. If you are a resident of Citrus County, and you’ve never been to your municipal shelter, you should pay a visit. It will be eye-opening.

For instance, before animals are brought in from an impending cruelty case, Citrus County Animal Services staff and volunteers must immediately start creating makeshift quarantine areas. They build temporary kennels and move animals, equipment, supplies, and staff to accommodate the additional intake.
Providing a good customer experience in the existing building is difficult. There is only one entrance for the public to use. Imagine someone enters the shelter to
consider adopting a pet, while passing someone else exiting in tears after having their pet humanely euthanized. Two completely different experiences that occur often at the same time.

On campus, inside or outside, staff members and volunteers have no place to go to decompress. Kennel fatigue is real and these quiet areas are necessities, not
luxuries, to ensure the health and well-being of staff and volunteers. Building a new shelter is just as much about taking care of the humans who work and volunteer there as it is about caring for the animals. Educational and enrichment programs for children, like the reading programs found at so many shelters, are non-existent here. These are fundamental to teaching kids, among other things, the importance of responsible pet ownership. As it stands now, how can parents be encouraged to bring their child to an unsafe and unhealthy environment?

New shelters offer lots of natural light, entry areas that welcome the public, frequent air exchange, more space per animal, colony housing for cats away from dogs, and noise control. There are good reasons for
providing these basic amenities.

Right now, Citrus County Animal Services is a facility that is unsafe and unsanitary for humans and animals.

At least seventy percent of the community’s voters have expressed support for a new shelter. They have already raised more than one million dollars without the help of a big fundraising event to kick off a capital
campaign drive.

We have to wonder whether the other 30 percent, who are so against a new shelter, have ever visited Citrus County Animal Services? Do they even know what staff does to keep their community safe? And, are they aware of how encumbered staff are, doing their jobs in an outdated facility? Perhaps they don’t know that a municipal shelter’s first priority is to protect the public. Maybe they don’t realize the breadth of services the shelter is providing for the health, safety and well-being of the community.

Citrus County Animal Services, the only open-admission shelter serving Citrus County, takes in approximately 5,000 animals a year, regardless of capacity or reason for surrender. In spite of the limited space and resources, the shelter does not euthanize for space.

Since 2019, the shelter staff and volunteers have increased lifesaving measures to achieve a live release rate of more than 90% for cats and dogs. They have developed good working relationships with area rescue groups and other shelters as well as their local animal advocacy groups to make sure the adoptable dogs and cats receive the public exposure they need to increase adoptions.

Citrus County Foundation for Animal Protection (CCFAP) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that partners with the shelter to help increase adoptions and ensure the well-being of the shelter’s animals. They have raised funds to help cover certain medical care for shelter animals, including low cost spay/neuter procedures and microchip programs, and purchase medical equipment.

Shelter staff members are encouraged to take additional steps to help reunite a stray dog with their humans. This has been a godsend in an area that has a large older population, many of whom may not have access to computers and the internet to report and/or look for their lost pets.

Additionally, the shelter will hold onto a pet whose owner may be temporarily incapacitated. Those who are hospitalized, working through mental challenges and/or incarcerated can receive some assistance with their pets’ care. The mindset is to keep families together.

The shelter also manages eight pet food pantries around the county as part of the Community Food Bank of Citrus County for pet parents struggling to feed their pets.

“General capacity for our shelter is about 68 dogs and roughly 30 cats,” said Colleen Yarbrough, Director of Citrus County Animal Services. The shelter consistently sees numbers way beyond capacity. Overcrowding is not as a result of owner-surrenders, but more from animals confiscated during cruelty investigations, which appears to be on the rise. In a recent instance, the shelter took in 51 dogs just from one case.

After animals are confiscated as part of a cruelty case, they are often held at the shelter as evidence throughout the investigation. This puts an additional burden on an already overcrowded shelter. In another case, last year, officers
confiscated 43 dogs, three chickens and one pig – all in one investigation. The result was makeshift kennels and shelter animals living in the conference and break rooms. Climate-controlled storage units were added outside to house the overflow of animals. In the last 12 months alone, more than 200 animals have come through the shelter as a result of cruelty cases.

The public may not realize another service the shelter provides. Full forensic exams are conducted by shelter staff as part of ongoing cruelty investigations to help in building cases for successful outcomes.

While the expense to build a shelter without a veterinary medical suite may decrease the initial budget, it is important to look at the long term savings when those services remain in-house. Outsourcing veterinary medical needs has become a costly endeavor, and those costs continue to rise. Not to mention the level of care an on-site veterinary clinic would provide.

This staff is doing amazing work even with the lack of resources. Oftentimes, the place looks like a M.A.S.H. unit on the frontlines of a war zone. When a dog was brought to the shelter with three inches of bone exposed on her leg, staff did skin grafts and anything else that was needed to make sure her leg was saved.

Last year, veterinary students from Puerto Rico visited the shelter through a Maddie’s Fund program. The visiting students were able to experience how an outdated shelter with limited resources is able to function. Think about that. According to the Sato Project, there are an estimated 500,000 stray dogs roaming Puerto Rico’s streets and beaches with no access to food, fresh water or veterinary care. The drastically-strained municipal shelter system, which includes five shelters across all 78 of the island’s municipalities, has a combined euthanasia rate of more than 94%. Those veterinary students from Puerto Rico were sent to Citrus County Animal Services because of its poor condition in order to be better prepared to work within their own
limited environs.

Until we level the playing field between our municipal shelters and the public, we will continue to see a rise in unenforceable cruelty cases such as unattended chained dogs and dogs living in boxes outdoors. We cannot expect the public to provide better than the minimum care when it comes to space, shelter, food, and water for their pets when that minimum is all our municipal shelters have to legally provide the animals under their care.

The New Barker

Continuing to repair an outdated and dilapidated facility will only end up costing the citizens more – and that’s not only in money, but time, resources, and ultimately the lives of animals. It is not sustainable to keep running with such an old building. Animal management policies are essential to creating and sustaining humane communities. These policies should balance public health and safety with animal welfare needs.

Historically, municipal shelters have had it particularly tough when it comes to generating positive foot traffic. They’re competing with private shelters for adoptions and donations. Bringing a municipal shelter up to the 21st
century in terms of building, equipment and processes is paramount to remaining a viable community resource.

Marketing is key here. Educating the community with a clear message would be helpful. Inviting high-profile business leaders for a tour of the current shelter is an obvious first step. From a community standpoint, one cannot have a true appreciation of what their municipal shelter is doing until it is experienced firsthand.

“When people visit us for the first time, they leave surprised and amazed at the work we are doing with such limited resources,” said Yarbrough.

Shelter animals deserve safe, humane housing while they wait for placement. A new shelter building can be the capstone of a community’s continuing efforts to remain No Kill. Having amenities such as modern bathrooms and a kitchen are not luxuries, they are necessities. Give the hard-working staff and volunteers the tools to make their jobs easier and safer so they can focus their energy on the animals instead of shoring up a dilapidated building.

As the mission of animal shelters has changed, so too has their design needs. Today, new shelters are designed with the purpose of having animals leave the shelter alive, healthy and happy through the front door versus being
quietly euthanized and taken out the back door.

In A Year of So Many Whys and What Ifs, Someone Said, Why Not?

by Anna Cooke

The heart is going to do what the heart is going to do, and one woman’s broken heart led her on a round trip journey of almost 3,000 miles to adopt a senior dog. When Laura Rehbein’s beloved dog Myra suddenly and tragically died, she was inconsolable. “Myra was imperfectly perfect,” said Laura, tearing up easily from the still-fresh hole in her heart. “She was a senior dog who came into my life four years ago. The small but mighty dog stole my heart from the moment I saw a picture of her.”

Rehbein was actually in the research process of adopting another senior dog as a companion for Myra when she unexpectedly died. “Myra was the pack leader without a pack,” Rehbein told us. In shock, Rehbein temporarily abandoned the idea of adopting another dog. “But, my house felt so empty. I have had a dog since I was twelve years old, and suddenly, I realized, I didn’t know what to do without a dog by my side,” Rehbein told us during a recent meeting at her Tampa office.

She soon resumed her search for another adoptable senior dog and came across an Apple Head Chihuahua at Dolly’s Legacy Animal Rescue in Lincoln, Nebraska. He ended up at the shelter after his human, with whom he had lived for years as a constant companion, died. A volunteer for Dolly’s Legacy pulled the dog, along with three other dogs, all of whom were found inside the home with the deceased.

Rehbein, who lives and works in the Tampa Bay area and has fostered for local rescue groups including Rugaz Rescue, put in her adoption application.  “I just saw that face looking back at me through the posted photos, and knew. But, in reality, he was so far away,” said Rehbein. “If it was meant to be…”

Within four hours of sending in her application, Rehbein received an email saying she had been approved to adopt the dog named Half Pint. She responded to the rescue group’s email remarking how fast their approval process had been. Their response to Rehbein was, “What can we say? We spoke with your veterinarian, and what she had to say about you convinced us you would be perfect for Half Pint.”

Rachele Walter, a volunteer for Dolly’s Legacy and Half Pint’s foster mom said, “We do vet checks on all potential adopters. If we find a good match, we will adopt across state lines as long as the adopter is willing to travel here to pick up the dog. We don’t do transports.”

After a Zoom call to meet Half Pint and speak with Rachele, Rehbein began making plans for her journey to Nebraska. She would fly into Omaha, where Rachele would meet and greet her with the dog, then she and Half Pint would return to Tampa, all in less than 24 hours. “No hotels. Just up and back. I knew that I would be pooped, but it would be one day, without having to miss work,” said Rehbein. She used her saved miles for the airfare, and her only out of pocket was for the pet fee on the return flights home.

From start to finish, the entire process including planning and traveling, took five days. Not for a moment did Rehbein have second thoughts. “I knew that if I didn’t do it now, it was never going to happen, especially with the holidays,” Rehbein added.

Friends followed Rehbein’s clandestine sojourn on her Facebook page. She only hinted at what she might be doing until revealing her secret through a video of Rachelle delivering Half Pint to her at the airport. Once home, a friend helped give Half Pint his new name, Levi, which is Hebrew and means united or “joined in harmony.”

“It came to me that every time I lose a dog, they take a piece of my heart with them. And, every new dog who comes into my life gifts me a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.”

Author unknown

Rehbein (shown above with Levi) admits she has a soft spot for older dogs and Chihuahuas. Levi is 10, and she likes to say that he’s come to Florida to retire. “He will live his best life, riding in a convertible to go to the beach, coming to work with me or dining out,” said Rehbein. “I know some people will think, ‘how can she adopt a senior dog knowing he may may not be around for long?’ Well, we’re all going to die. We cannot control that outcome. Who knows how long Levi will be with me. Maybe eight years? Maybe two. However long, this well-mannered, chilled senior dog will now have the best years of his life. Levi came into my life at this moment for a reason,” said Rehbein.

About Dolly’s Legacy Animal Rescue: Dolly was rescued at age 11 by Kerri Kelly from a terribly neglectful environment along with 11 additional Pekingese. They were all ‘show breeders’ and had champion bloodlines and trophies. Sadly, the breeder stopped caring for them and placed them in crates in a furnace room where they lived 24 hours a day. When rescued, they had burns on their bellies from laying in their own waste, ulcerations on their eyes causing some of them to be blinded, and severe matting of their coats that was pulling on their skin. Kerri immediately bonded with Dolly and knew the sassy Peke was meant to be hers. Dolly lived for just 2-1/2 more years. Dolly’s Legacy Animal Rescue was founded by Kerri Kelly on what would have been Dolly’s 14th birthday, August 9th, 2013. Your donations will continue to help this all-volunteer rescue group’s efforts.

Some Things Bear Repeating

By Anna Cooke

In recent conversations with fellow dog lovers, we’ve discovered many are not aware that certain frogs, palm tree nuts, and blue-green algae are dangerous and potentially deadly to our dogs. While we’ve written about these subjects before, we thought there’s no time like the present to repeat ourselves.

Every year, during the summer, we’re faced with these dangers in the great outdoors, even in our own backyards. Sometimes the descriptions are so gross and creepy, it’s any wonder we ever step outside with our dogs. In reality, we’ve been living with these potential dangers for years. Our dogs may have gotten into and/or tangled with one of these, and faced death without our ever knowing what happened. As pet parents, we are becoming more aware of our surroundings, subsequently preventing our dogs from being poisoned or worse.

1) Bufo or Cane Toad –  This is a large, nonnative amphibian, poisonous to most animals that try to bite them. Let’s just call them giant ugly frogs, okay? Cane toads are reddish-brown to grayish-brown with a light-yellow or beige belly and can be uniform in color or have darker markings around the body. They have enlarged glands behind the eyes, which angle downward onto the shoulders. The glands secrete a potent milky-white toxin (bufotoxin) as defense against predators including domestic pets.

If your dog bites or swallows a cane toad, she can become sick and die in as little as 15 minutes without proper treatment. Symptoms may include frantic or disoriented behavior, brick red gums, seizures, and foaming at the mouth. If you see these symptoms, follow these steps:Wash toxins forward out of mouth using a hose for ten minutes being careful not to direct water down the throat.

Click here to listen to what a cane toad sounds like. You’ve most likely heard the sound in your backyard or during your evening walks with your dogs.

2) Sago Palms and Their Seeds – On September 14, it will have been a year since Shorty’s untimely death as a result of ingesting a sago seed (sometimes referred to as a nut or date). “It’s been my mission to bring awareness on the simple things like a sago palm seed that could kill our dogs,” said Marsha Droste, Shorty’s mom. Marsha and her husband Ed were walking their two Frenchies, Pete and Shorty, in their neighborhood, where sago palms are part of the landscape. They had no idea of the toxicity of the sago seed. Within two days of rushing Shorty to a critical care emergency veterinary hospital, Shorty was gone.

Shorty Droste prior to his untimely death from ingesting a toxic sabal palm seed.

Dr. Tina Wisner, a veterinary toxicologist with the ASPCA said that since 2017, calls to their national poison hotline about sago cases have shot up 79%. The seeds contain something similar to cyanide. It’s not just the seeds that are toxic either. The entire sago palm plant is also toxic. A single sago palm seed can kill a medium-sized dog. Gastrointestinal signs include hypersalivation (drooling), abdominal pain, reduced appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. Signs of liver damage also include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and reduced appetite, as well as increased drinking and urination, dehydration, lethargy, weakness, jaundice (yellow cast to the skin, mucous membranes and whites of the eyes) and ascites (fluid in the abdomen).

There is neither a specific test nor a specific antidote for sago palm toxicity. Lab work, with elevated liver values, low protein, low blood glucose, anemia and evidence of reduced clotting, may not show changes for 24–48 hours after sago palm ingestion. If sago palm ingestion is suspected, it is important to take your cat or dog to a veterinary clinic as soon as possible, rather than waiting for clinical signs to develop. Treatment for sago palm ingestion focuses on decontamination and supportive care and medications to reduce the effects of liver damage.

The prognosis for dogs or cats that eat sago plant parts depends on the amount of toxin ingested by body weight and how quickly treatment is instituted. Smaller dogs and cats are more severely affected compared with larger animals that ingest the same amount of plant parts. The sago palm toxins are concentrated in the nuts or seeds and just 1–2 seeds can be fatal to a medium-sized dog. Reports of survival rates from sago palm ingestion vary, with one study of dogs that ingested sago palm parts reporting a 50% mortality rate.

3) Blue-green algae – In August 2019, we posted a warning on The New Barker social media pages from two pet parents who lost their three dogs to blue-green algae poisoning in just a matter of hours. The post was shared 8,500 times. Through their grief, Melissa Martin and J Denise Mintz shared their story.

“If you search ‘blue-green algae,’ you see pictures of nasty water,” said Melissa. “That is false! The place our dogs played for their last time was crystal clear except for what appeared to be debris from foliage. Do not let your dogs near standing water. Our Westies didn’t even get in the water, but played in the mud at the edge.”

Shortly after returning home from their walk, and playing in the pond, Abby began seizing, followed by Izzy. All three dogs were rushed to the veterinarian. Abby and Izzy, the two Westies, were struggling to breathe and continued seizing. “We decided to let them go together peacefully. In the process, Harpo started to go downhill,” said Melissa.The family was advised that Harpo was suffering from liver failure and internal bleeding. “I talked to Harpo and asked him to let me know,” said Melissa. “He did. I held him and told him how awesome he was, and reminded him of all the lives he touched. Then we let him go.”

Abby, Harpo and Izzy before their untimely passing from ingesting toxic blue-green algae

Later this week, we’ll give you some information on Leptospirosis and salt water toxicity in dogs. This information is not meant to scare you into not doing anything with your dogs. We simply want our fellow dog lovers to be aware of your surroundings. Many of you already know about the potential for alligators in almost any body of water, and to stay clear from the lake and river banks. We are aware of the increase in coyote sightings within our neighborhoods.

The more we’re outdoors exploring our surroundings, the opportunities for our dogs to get into something they shouldn’t increase. Keep your eyes and ears open. Also, know the closest emergency or urgent veterinary care facility near you. Have their numbers handy. And, here’s a good link to keep in your cell phone: the Pet Poison Helpline. The ASPCA also has a free mobile app for animal poison control. Check out the overview on this link. NOTE: Neither of these links will ever replace the expertise of a veterinarian.

When Worlds Collide

by Tina K. VaLant

So, I was toughing it out at my first back-to-the-real-world of work, two weeks covering an international junior golf tournament at Trump National Doral.

Tina, toughing it out at Trump National Doral with her favorite reading material.

I have served as the official photographer for The Optimist Junior Golf tournament for over ten years. It was cancelled last year, so I was really HAPPY to be back, in the swing of things (pun intended).

Delighted to be at this beautiful resort, I always enjoy being outside covering golf, capturing the game, players, families and volunteers. But, I was really missing my (five rescued) dogs. Only one dog was at grandma’s (my mom). Everyone else was home with their dad (the hubs). As I was heading back up to my suite, to upload pics of the day’s golfers, the elevator opened, and out walked this large, happy reddish dog –– right into me. He had to have known I was missing my pack.

Dooku is an eight-month-old Rhodesian ridgeback, and the “third son” of the Van Winden family of Houston, Texas. I chatted with René, the dad for a few moments, commenting on his dog’s handsomeness and great personality. He was named for a character in Star Wars. The next day, I see my canine friend again, but this time with his lovely mom, Rebecca. It turns out their oldest son, Bo is in the tournament. Talk about serendipity. When worlds collide.

While Bo braved the Blue Monster course, with dad and brother Wade cheering him on, Rebecca and Dooku went on a little road trip. They traveled two hours north to West Palm Beach, to the Jupiter-Tequesta Dog Club’s Show. It was their first show, and they came back with ribbons: Best of Breed, Owner-Handled and Best of Winners.

You meet the nicest people through dogs. Of course, they went home with their own copy of The New Barker. ###

About the author: Before she became an international expert on all things butterfly, Tina was rescuing dogs, and anything else that needed help. She has been a contributor to The New Barker for 13 years, as a photographer and rover reporter, traveling the state to cover all things dog. Tina is shown here with Piper, one of the many dogs she has met along the way.

We Smell A Good Idea

by Anna Cooke

Keeping the mind of a shelter dog positively stimulated is of constant concern for shelter workers and volunteers. Although walks are an excellent way to provide socialization, other enrichment programs may include playgroups for dogs to play with other dogs, as well as with people.

Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center’s Christine O’Dell spent time researching a concept that’s been growing (pun intended) in popularity in shelters around the globe. She thought a sensory garden would be enjoyed not only by the dogs but people as well. In her presentation to gain support for creating the space, she explained how a sensory garden encourages dogs to use all of his senses by providing mental stimulation, while reducing stress and increasing confidence.

Scientists estimate a dog’s nose to be tens of thousands of times more sensitive to odor than our noses. Part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing those smells is proportionally 40 times greater than ours. Get a dog sniffing and you’ll get her mind working.

Christine’s idea was well-received. Then, the pandemic hit and the Shelter closed to the public. The Shelter’s closing correlated with Field officers and investigators moving to Code Enforcement. Christine was given the green light to proceed with the garden along with a plot of land on the backside of the shelter property: the asphalt parking lot where Field officers once parked their vehicles.

What has transformed over the course of the last year is a yet-to-be-named garden full of color and activity with butterflies fluttering in and out of flowers. Christine’s design includes spaces where dogs can sniff, walk through and dig around to their heart’s content. Some plants are grouped for their calming effects, like lavender and marigolds. Boulders, strategically-placed, will give dogs an area to climb onto or search through in crevices and openings underneath. A nose work program is definitely being planned for the near future. There is also a beautiful water feature complete with waterfall where dogs can jump into. It was designed and built by Shelter staff employee Cory Chmielewski.

Science backs up Christine’s vision. Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast found that dogs exposed to the scent of lavender and chamomile appear to spend more time resting. Dogs exposed to rosemary and peppermint perk up, playing and barking more.

Sniffing actually makes a dog happier and healthier. That’s why, when walking our own dogs, it’s important to allow them some sniff-time, you know, so they can check out that pee-mail on the tree, and other delightful aromas wafting about.

Stop and smell the roses. It’s therapeutic for you and your dog.

We don’t know of any dog who doesn’t love a good dig excursion every now and then.

The waterfall and all-natural pool feature – the dogs are just going to love it. The entire scent garden was designed for the enjoyment of dogs, staff and volunteers of Hillsborough County Animal Services Pet Resource Center. We think it’s a doggone good idea.

A Fur-Giving Gift Guide

Have you hit a roadblock on your holiday shopping gift list? Maybe you’re stuck on what to give a friend for Christmas. Well, if your friend has a dog, you’re in luck with suggestions from our Fur-giving Gift List. We’d also like to remind you that every one of the following businesses supports animal causes by donating food, money, time, and/or their services to various charities. Now, more than ever, they need our support and continued business.

Our friends at Cartoon Collections have a unique gift idea from their Customizable Cartoon collection, like this classic by Harry Bliss. Black gloss framed and matted 12×12 starting at $150. Click here to view the available prints and to order.

Customizable cartoon prints from Cartoon Collections.


Dog Lovers Tarpon Springs is celebrating with their 25 Days of Christmas sale. From treats to toys; accessories to supplements, they have everything for the discerning dog lover. Free curbside and delivery service available. Call for assistance and suggestions: 727.934.8756.

Stocking stuffer dog treats for your dogs? Find them at Dog Lovers Tarpon.

Dade City’s Dog-Mania & Cats store greeters Cole and Lilly will be happy to help you shop for your favorite fur-friend. The store also has gift items that can be personalized with engraving. Give them a call at 352.467.9622.

Be sure to say hello to Cole and Lilly, Dog-Mania & Cats store greeters.

Emerson’s Studio Store is tucked away in a cool cottage on Anna Maria Island’s Pine Avenue. Just walking through the doors of this place will put a smile on your face. Fun art pieces from aprons to cocktail napkins; t-shirts, hats and notecards; even hand-painted customized furniture. All for the fun at heart.

At Emerson’s Studio Store be prepared to laugh. Emerson will most likely start laughing with you.

A fun place for people-wear is South Tampa’s Imagine That Boutique. Owner Cheri Hudson and her staff will offer expert assistance, service and gift-wrapping. They have a fun selection of tees and tanks just for the dog lover on your list. Be sure to treat yourself to one as well.

The tees and tanks at Imagine That Boutique are oh-so-soft.

One Lucky Dog Boutique & Grooming continues to stock up on some of the most unique items for dogs and dog lovers. Their eye for quality and trendsetting design is exceptional. You have to check out their lines of collars, harnesses and leashes. We always say, a dog cannot have too many collars.

One Lucky Dog Boutique in St. Pete offers a wide array of beautiful collars.

You could give the gift of health for the dog of the dog-lover on your gift list. Take bone broth from Pawsitively Pure Dog Food. Perfectly packaged and shipped right to the recipient’s door, bone broth is one of the most healing foods we can feed our pets. We also love their Pure Paw Balm, by the way. This Florida-based company knows what they’re doing when it comes to the health and well-being of our dogs.

The paw balm is very soothing on human hands and feet as well (we know).

Pet Food Warehouse carries the fun shirt and accessory line, Teddy the Dog Apparel. Hoodies, classic long-sleeve and short-sleeve tees with funny quotes and illustrations. Pet Food Warehouse is also having a 20% off sale on Christmas toys, collars, harnesses and leashes. Shopping options include online, curbside or free delivery. Give them a call at 727.521.6191.

Make somebody’s day with a tee from Teddy, available at Pet Food Warehouse.

Shop Nature’s Food Patch in Clearwater and Dunedin for specials on pet food, treats, supplements, and supplies. Gift certificates are available too. A fun stocking stuffer idea: sign a friend up for a free Patch Perks membership card.

Sign somebody up for a free Patch Perks membership card. Cool stocking stuffer idea.

Another healthy gift-giving idea comes from Nature’s Pet Herbals. If you’re confused by all of the different CBD products for pets on the market, check them out, and even give them a call with your questions at 406.578.HEMP (4367). We’ve successfully used this product for our dogs’ anxiety during short or long car rides.

Nature’s Pet Herbals CBD line of products.

The Doggie Bag Boutique in Lakeland is an all-round fun store for every dog lover. No matter where you live, a trip here should be part of your shopping bucket list. They even have a section of brand new dog-themed children’s books. This store recently helped The New Barker secure a year’s worth of dog food for a gentleman in Polk County struggling, economically, to take care of his three small dogs. His dogs are his life. A special thank you to NutriSource Pet Foods.

What more can we say? We have the best advertising partners in the world.

Have you shopped at The Doggie Bag Boutique in Lakeland?

Dog Star, Be The Light

In this new year, let us all find ways to be the bright spot for someone else.

by Kerry Kriseman, for The New Barker

The tiny 10-week-old black Labrador puppy nuzzled my ear with knife-like baby teeth while her sweet puppy breath erased the scent of my Coco Chanel Mademoiselle perfume. Her mission the day we met Christie was to snuggle and be held, like any baby. Her life’s mission was to lead. It’s what she was born to do.

As I held her like a baby, with her pointy head resting over my left shoulder and her arms folded into my chest, I thought about her destiny. We didn’t name her. In their grief, our friends donated money to name her Christie to honor their 16-year-old niece who died from injuries sustained in a car accident. She had been an elite swimmer, and beloved daughter, sister, and friend. She was a leader among her peers, the kind of friend who responded to texts in the middle of the night when her friends were sad. She was compassionate and kind. 

Our Christie had big shoes to fill. For the next year, we loved her and trained her, hoping she would join the elite corps of Southeastern Guide Dogs that are matched with visually impaired individuals. She was to be ours for just a year before she returned to Southeastern Guide Dogs’ 23-acre campus in Palmetto, Fla., for her next phase of training. 

Christie was the seventh pup our family raised for Southeastern. She made us feel like we were the best raisers. As Mary Poppins said about herself: “She was practically perfect in every way.” Stay off the furniture? Check. Sit politely at the door before entering or exiting? Check. Stay when told? Check. Training Christie was effortless.

Every one of the roughly 60 commands she learned was for one purpose: to be someone’s eyes in a world that had gone dark. 

Sometimes, we are lucky enough to hear from the people who receive our dogs. They are resilience personified in an unkind world that robbed them of their vision. They describe their lives before blindness, how they lost their sight, what led them to get a guide dog. These dogs change lives even before they leave campus with their new forever friend. 

After Christie came home with us, I read about Christie the swimmer and how she impacted others’ lives through her altruism. Our Christie would someday to be the light in someone’s dark world. We were sure of it. 

Everyone says that returning the pup to Southeastern for advanced training is like taking your firstborn to college. What it really feels like is ripping a Band-Aid off the hairiest part of your arm. We wince, cry, and mourn. That was tough, but the news that Christie had torn her ACL and would need surgery, was worse. Her destiny was forever changed. She had to find a new purpose, just like the people whose vision is stolen from them. 

When I learned that Christie would not become a guidebecause of her injury, we jumped at the chance to adopt her. We loved having her as a forever family member, but we knew she needed a mission. While Southeastern designated her an Ambassador, which meant she might be called upon to appear at events to promote the organization’s mission,I wanted to do more with this pup who was still eager to learn and serve. I completed an easy course through Alliance of Therapy Dogs so that Christie could become a certified therapy dog. An application, background screening and interview at a park was all it took for Christie to become certified. 

To heal from her injuries, Christie had to be resilient.  And because of Covid-19, we too have had to be resilient. It has challenged all of us to adapt, adjust, learn, and heal. Itderailed our plans to visit hospitals and nursing homes this year, but it elevated the vital work of our frontline workers. They care for the sickest patients, many of whom suffer alone in hospitals because of the deadly virus. They put themselves first in dangerous situations.They are resilient. Day after day.

Christie and Kerry Kriseman

As a community, we must do what we can to honor these workers. The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg hosts Frontline Workers First Friday each month, in gratitude for the selfless work first responders perform. Christie and I will be at the Museum this Friday, Dec. 4, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., to greet and thank frontline workers. 

Animals, especially dogs, teach us more about resilience than any self-help book or Google search. Like the people Christie was born to serve, her destiny was changed the moment she took a wrong step while playing with her kennel mates. My dream for her was quashed. But we can always find a job to do, a way to be of service that helps others. 

In this new year, let us all find ways to be the bright spot for someone else, to shine the light when days are dark, and remain resilient in a world that never stops surprising us.

About Kerry: She is a communications professional in the non-profit arts industry. The Florida native lives in St. Petersburg, FL with her husband, City of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, their two children, Jordan and Samuel, their two dogs, Christie and Jake, and their current puppy from Southeastern Guide Dogs, Hannah.

Stand Up and Cheer for the Underdog

How does a television show about animal rescue go from concept to completion? We interviewed two-time Academy Award-winning documentarian Bill Guttentag on the making of THAT ANIMAL RESCUE SHOW.

by Anna Cooke for The New Barker Dog Magazine

The entertainment industry has always been aware of the positive effect animals have on people. Some iconic movie examples include classics like Old YellerBambi and My Dog Skip, and remakes of The Call Of The Wild and Black Beauty.

The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship, positively influencing the health and well-being of both. In the docuseries, That Animal Rescue Show, the healing power of animals is the common thread in every species of animal showcased across all 10 episodes.

From Richard Linklater—the five-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind Boyhood and School of Rock—and two-time Academy Award–winning documentarian Bill Guttentag, this heart-tugging series tracks the animal rescue community in and around Linklater’s hometown of Austin, Texas. 

The subject matter and gentle tone of That Animal Rescue Show are a bit of a departure for Guttentag’s body of work, which includes Twin Towers, Nanking, and The Last Days of Kennedy and King. He told the Hollywood Reporter, “I think when you see people rescuing animals and animals rescuing people, it’s still meaningful. It’s part of our relationship with the natural world. And in this time, when people are encroaching on animals more than ever, I think we should be focusing on our relationship with them. Animals are extremely therapeutic. They’re important and they literally change people’s lives.”

Bill Guttentag and his dog Pingo. Photo credit: Marina Brodskaya.

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Bill Guttentag via a video conference meeting. The beauty of this technology is that it allows us to see one another; to capture emotions as we speak to people across the country. Bill always had a subtle, gentle smile on his face and a sparkle in his eyes as he spoke about the animals in his latest project.

Anna: How does a concept go from light-bulb-over-the-head to a 10-part series about animal rescue?

Bill: A mutual friend introduced me to Rick Linklater. Rick has a pet pig named Dood, whom he adopted from Central Texas Pig Rescue. I thought, this is a real interesting world here, this world of pig adoption. Among other things, I learned about the whole issue around micro pigs, which is a myth. People think pigs stay small. Over a number of weeks, as Rick and I continued to talk, it became clear what an interesting place Central Texas Pig Rescue is, which we cover in episodes two and three in our series. 

But, there is a bigger world out there beyond pig rescue.  The series is more about how animals are rescuing people and people are rescuing animals. That’s where the human-animal bound is most profound.

Take Austin Pets Alive. The woman who runs it, Ellen Jefferson, came up through the ranks working at traditional animal shelters, where animals came into the shelter for a couple of days and then were euthanized for space. Ellen looked at the situation and wondered, why should it be this way? She became instrumental in creating Austin Pets Alive, now one of the largest no kill shelters in the country. Through their efforts, Austin Pets Alive has managed to save between 80,000 and 90,000 dogs and cats since 2008. And, their message is spreading across the country.

Anna: There is an obvious inspirational component to the series, which will hopefully motivate more people to become involved with rescue.

Bill: I think that stories like these really do inspire people, and give us hope. Another episode, Paws In Prison, is about women inmates who take in dogs from shelters. Most of the dogs have likely been scheduled to be euthanized. The inmates train and care for the dogs to make them adoptable. Right before your eyes, you see how the dogs are saving these women while the women work to save the dogs. It’s a really wonderful reciprocal relationship.

Pictured: Inmates and Catherine Laria of The Paws in Prison Program at the Lockhart Texas Correctional Facility on the CBS All Access docuseries THAT ANIMAL RESCUE SHOW. Photo Cr: CBS 2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Anna: Referring to that old W.C. Fields quote, “Never work with children or animals in film” did you have any doubts about creating a show around animals?

Bill: The beauty of working with animals is that they don’t take direction. Animals are very spontaneous and are going to do what they’re going to do. We were always surprised in good ways. We tried to capture them in the way that kept it all very authentic. You know, in filmmaking, you don’t really want people looking direct into the camera lens. But with animals, the whole idea is to see them at their level. So, we put the camera very low to the ground where you’re seeing the animal eye-to-eye. It was a little challenging for the camera person, especially when we were working with a small to medium size dog. But, it really looked good. It helped that everyone who worked on the series really loves animals.

Incidentally, most of the people who worked on the show are women and the main characters in the show are women. It’s a legitimate issue that people say there aren’t enough women in television. Well, here is a show that features women both in front of and behind the camera.

Anna: As you started researching stories, I’m sure you quickly realized the proliferation of inspirational stories about animals. How did you manage to narrow the subjects down for the series?

Bill: Yes, there are so many more stories. Rick said something to us which I thought was just great. He wanted to come up with 10 little documentaries that could all make it into Sundance Film Festival on their own. So, we narrowed the list down to the most compelling stories; the ones that really touched us – like more heart than head in a lot of ways. We were looking for a diversity of animals as well. We have a couple of episodes on pigs, a few on dogs. Cats factor into the show. We have a coyote episode and a goat episode. We have a couple of episodes on horses. We were looking for variety, in the same way that we didn’t want to do the entire series on pig rescue, we didn’t want to do an entire series on dog rescue. Although, my dog would have happily watched each episode on dogs. 

Rick and I just thought it would be interesting that every episode the audience tuned into would feature a different animal. And, hopefully for the viewer, they’re all compelling stories.

Anna: What’s the take away you hope to have conveyed to the audience? 

Bill: I hope people will connect with the show. There are a lot of pet owners in this country. But, that’s not reason enough to convince people to watch the show. We still, as filmmakers, have to deliver an emotional story in order to connect with our audience. One of the gratifying things about doing this series, is what I’m hearing from from people who are crazy about their dogs and people who don’t currently have pets. They have all told me that, while watching the series, they were able to really connect with our storytelling. So, I think there is something very profound about our relationships with dogs and cats and all animals, really. 

Anna: To get the idea off the ground and find support, how was it presented?

Bill: The entertainment industry is a combination of art and commerce. And, the art of it all is, ‘hey, this would be a pretty good series.’ Then, the question is, who’s going to do it? It turned out CBS All Access wanted to do it, which is a great home for the series. That connection came through our friend Julia Eisenman, who had a deal with CBS All Access and her production company. 

Once you say you’re going to do it, it’s like a startup in a way. You have this idea and you have someone backing you, but, you still have to deliver the product, in this case, the shows.

Anna: The entire series takes place in Central Texas, primarily Austin, completed in large part before the pandemic hit.

Bill: That’s right. We also used a lot of folks from Austin. There is a lot of Austin music in the show. I think around a hundred songs performed by Austin musicians. Again, we wanted to keep it authentic. I think too often a lot of people focus on the coasts for stories, as if the coasts are only places where things are happening. Austin is an enormously popular destination city and it’s not from coincidence. There’s a really rich culture, including Austin’s big music scene. There’s fantastic food. And, there are a lot of people who love and rescue animals. It was nice to be in a city like Austin to be filming. It’s a first rate city, and a first rate city to film in.

Anna: The show has an educational component as well.

Bill: Yes, and it’s presented in a warm, genuine way for a great experience. You’ll learn about the world of no kill shelters. You’ll learn about programs that help physically disabled children learn how to walk with the help of horses. You’ll learn that wildlife rescue is a growing phenomenon. You know, there was a time when people would swerve while driving to hit an animal on the road. Now, they pull over to rescue an injured animal. There are places like Austin Wildlife Rescue that rescue all manner of wildlife – whether it’s a hawk or a turtle or a coyote.

Anna: We’re finding our empathy in rescuing all manner of animals. There are more people who want to help rescue animals, but they aren’t aware of the resources available to help guide them.

Bill: We developed a website that correlates with the show that has more information. Where to take sick or injured wildlife for instance, and how to become a volunteer. ( The site has links to all of the rescue organizations featured in the series. It also has a way for people to look up local organizations by typing in their zip codes. 

Anna: Was there one thing that really struck you as moving, while filming the series or in editing?

Bill: In our first show, we feature a puppy without paws. We filmed the dog being fitted for prosthetics at the veterinary hospital. It was tough for this dog to adjust. The dog’s human companions were the most caring people, doing everything they could for the dog. With the prosthetics on, she was being encouraged to walk by a group of little girls. When the dog starts running and the girls start cheering, it’s just a beautiful moment.  Completely real. Completely authentic. It’s touching to see kids and animals interact. And, let me tell you, once you see the dog running with the prosthetics, it’s pretty clear that this dog is going to be okay.

Anna: In other episodes in the series, physically challenged children are encouraged by an animal’s resolve to overcome its own challenges.

Bill: Yes, that’s absolutely right. In our first episode, we meet Jamie Wallace. She and her family have a farm called Safe In Austin. There is a scene of a little boy who uses a walker with wheels. He encounters a dog in a wheelchair. There is something that really connects the two of them. Here’s a dog relying on wheels to get around, and here’s a little boy that gets around with the help of wheels. It’s quite touching, and very real. 

Ace and Francis meet for the first time in an episode of THAT ANIMAL RESCUE SHOW on CBS All Access.

Bill: You know, there are a lot of television shows presenting fake reality. Our show is real reality. Nayeema Raza, who is an executive producer on the show, has said that this show is so different in terms of tone from a lot of what we’re reading and consuming now. 

“So much of the content we’re consuming right now is about differences. I think this is really a show about the universal elements of humanity. There’s something equalizing when you know a story is real, and for us, there’s something equalizing when you see a human and animal rescue each other.”

Nayeema Raza

Anna: Everybody has a dog story. How about yours?

Bill: I have a three-year-old Labradoodle named Pingo. His name is derived from the Portuguese word for macchiato, which I’ve been known to enjoy, every now and then.

You know, like a lot of people in the world of COVID, I’m spending a lot more time in my home office. My life is definitely richer for having a dog sleeping at my feet while I work. Or, going out on walks with him on a regular schedule. I’m hearing similar stories from friends and associates. One of Pingo’s most endearing traits (I don’t know if all Labradoodles do this) is the way he sort of flops his paw over my arm when he’s sitting down.

All of this time at home has been great for the dogs, but I wonder if they’re going to be disappointed when we all head back to work, away from home. On the other hand, I’ll have had the experience all these months of spending extra time with him. I’ve never heard anyone complain about having to spend more time with their dog. 

These are unusual times, and this goes back to the show. None of us has ever lived through something like this. As a result, there is stress everywhere – in the political world, in the medical world, and just stress in general. I’d like to think we’ve created a show that is a bit of a balm for people; an escape from the stress and all of the anger. I hope the audience will be able to take a step back and see that this is a show about people and animals, and the profound relationships we have with each other. ###

Note: Guttentag directed the Paws In Prison episode, which was accepted by Sundance Film Festival. That episode was bound for the festival in Telluride when it was canceled due to COVID-19. 

Watch the trailer for That Animal Rescue Show here. 

Hear what Dr. Phil McGraw has to say about That Animal Rescue Show here.

Access That Animal Rescue Show at