Jake and the Shark

In an instant, the shark’s head came out of the water and snatched Jake’s entire body. Greg could hear Jake’s scream as the breath was being squished out of him. Suddenly, the shark and Jake were gone. Greg knew he had to go in after his dog.

by Anna Cooke. The article was published in The New Barker Dog Magazine, Spring 2009.

Greg LeNoir is a finishing contractor in Islamorada in the Florida Keys. His truck is his office and his dog, Jake, is his constant traveling companion. 

“I do trim work, and all of my tools are in my trailer. When I am working, Jake sits in the trailer and guards it. He has an intense look on his face and people mistake that look for him being a mean dog. So they stay away from the truck,” chuckled Greg. “He sits on that trailer like a tiger guarding his den.”

Greg adopted Jake, a 14 pound Rat Terrier, from a pet rescue in the Keys when the dog was about 15 months old. Jake is three now, and if he were a cat, one might figure he has eight of his nine lives left to live.

“At lunchtime, Jake is always ready to eat. We’ll go down to the marina and I’ll take out my bag lunch. Jake runs straight for the water and dives in for fish,” Greg explained.

September 30, 2008 was like any other day. Greg was taking a walk along the mangroves at the marina, near his home. As usual, Jake was in the water, jumping and diving after fish. Jake is a strong little guy, and sometimes he’ll find a piece of driftwood, bigger than he is, and drag it out of the water. When he swims around, Jake never splashes. He just glides silently through the water.

“As I walked parallel to Jake, I watched him swim,” said Greg. But when Jake headed towards the pier, Greg saw the shadow of a shark following close behind.

“I hoped it would not notice Jake, and just swim away,” said Greg. “Then I noticed the jaws of the shark begin to change.”

In an instant, the shark’s head came out of the water and snatched Jake’s entire body. Greg could hear Jake’s scream as the breath was being squished out of him. Suddenly, the shark and Jake were gone.

“I looked around to see if there was anyone who could help me or if there was something I could use.” Greg and his wife Tessalee have no children. Jake is like a child to them. When he saw the shark disappear with Jake, he thought. “This cannot be the end.” He knew he had to go in after Jake.

Greg visually calculated where the shark would be underwater on the other side of the pier, and dove in. With his fists together like a battering ram, Greg thought if he hit the shark hard enough, he wouldn’t be interested in Jake and maybe let go of the dog. The water was murky and full of Jake’s blood by now. Greg managed to ram his fists onto something solid. “I thought I hit a piling. Then I realized it was the shark and I saw Jake. We all fell down to the bottom. Silt and blood were everywhere.”

When Greg surfaced and looked around, he saw no sign of Jake or the shark. He wanted to go back down. Then, Jake popped up alone and screamed, no longer gracefully swimming but frantically splashing straight for the shore, fighting for his life. 

Once Greg saw Jake, he too began furiously swimming for shore, knowing the shark was still out there, somewhere. “I could sense the shark’s presence and I just knew, until the tips of my feet were completely out of the water, that shark was going to get me,” said Greg.  “I had nightmares for weeks afterwards.”

By now, tourists had gathered along the shoreline, their mouths gaping wide in horror at what they had just witnessed. Greg reached down to comfort Jake, who began snapping back at him in pain. “It was a pitiful scene,” said Greg. He bent over the dog, telling him how sorry he was, and gently wrapped Jake up in a towel to carry him home.

As the two of them arrived home, they were still covered in Jake’s blood. Tess recalled it looked like a scene straight out of a Stephen King novel. They rushed Jake to the Upper Keys Veterinary Hospital, who had been alerted by Tess that they were on the way, and what had happened. A team was waiting for them when they arrived.

“Not a second was wasted,” said Greg. “They were so efficient. It was amazing.”

Veterinarian Suzanne Sigel and emergency on-call assistant Callie Cottrell attended to Jake’s wounds, which included punctures to his skin and some muscle along the abdomen, chest and back. Greg recalled that the bite marks were in the shape of an upside down smile. Jake also suffered lacerations on his right side and front left leg, his skin hanging like ribbons.

“Amazingly, Jake wasn’t critical,” said Dr. Sigel. Her main concern was that the dog may have inhaled saltwater when being pulled under, but there was no evidence of infection or pneumonia.

“He’s good at holding his breath underwater while swimming,” noted Greg.

Later, after examining his wounds, it was clear where the estimated five-foot shark’s original grip was with most of the damage around Jake’s belly. It was also clear that Greg’s punch had caused the shark to loosen his grip and then clamp back down on Jake. There was also evidence that Jake had fought back and bit the shark underwater. 

Jake has fully recovered and is fearless once again, although he suffered some flashbacks, including during a visit to a local sporting goods store. “Jake happened by the fish tanks and stopped to stare. Then he began shaking and crying,” said Greg.

“Jake is such a worthy little soul,” said Greg. “I have an extra soft spot in my heart for him now for my misjudgment. I owe him for the rest of his life.”

Photos, left to right: Greg, Tess and Jake. Salty dog, Jake. Cover of the spring 2009 issue of The New Barker. Artwork by Alli Bell.

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Part 2 Of Our 2-Part Complete List of Favorite Dog Movies

What’s your favorite dog movie of all time? In two blogs, The New Barker has listed our favorite dog movies. This is the second of the two movie lists.

We’ve compiled a list of our favorite dog movies. This is the second of two blogs for a total of 33 movies: 14 in this blog and 19 in the first blog. The link to Part I of the list is at the bottom of this blog. The list, of course, does not include all dog movies ever made, just our favorites, for various reasons. We’d love to know your thoughts on any of the movies listed. Did you like them if you saw them? Have they been on your movie-watching radar, or had you forgotten about them until now? Is there a favorite movie of yours that we didn’t list? Please include in the comments section of the blog. During this time of staying home to stay healthy and safe, it’s our hope that, at least, our previews will keep you entertained.

LOYALTY

20. Hachi: A Dog’s Tale. Based on a true story of the love and devotion between a man and a dog, the 2009 film is a remake of the 1987 Japanese film Hachiko Monogatari. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale stars Richard Gere, Joan Allen, Sarah Roemer, and Jason Alexander. Hachiko was a Japanese Akita remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner, for whom he continued to wait at the train station over a nine-year period following his owner’s death. In Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, three dogs played the part of Hachi: Chico, Layla and Forrest, who passed December 19, 2017.

Hachi: A Dog’s Tales movie trailer

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21. Marley And Me. Our favorite dog movie list wouldn’t be complete without including Marley And Me. Directed by David Frankel, the 2008 film stars Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane, Kathleen Turner, and Alan Arkin. The movie is based on the best-selling book Marley And Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by journalist John Grogan, published in 2005. The story follows the 13 years John and his family spent with their yellow Labrador Retriever, Marley.

Side note: John Grogan was accepted as a fellow at the Poynter Institute of Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida. After the fellowship, he was hired as a bureau reporter at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. In 2002, he joined The Philadelphia Inquirer as a columnist. In 2003, after Marley died at age thirteen, Grogan wrote a column in The Philadelphia Inquirer honoring his dog. It was the response from readers that inspired Grogan to write the book, after realizing he had a bigger story to tell. “I owed it to Marley to tell the rest of his story,” wrote Grogan.

There were 22 different dogs that played the part of Marley in the film. Clyde was the acting dog who received most of the screen time. He’d been adopted prior to filming from a shelter by Susan Wooley and Dean Kawaga. He received a $1,500 fee for doing the film and the couple donated the money to a local Labrador Retriever rescue group.

Marley And Me movie trailer

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22. Call of the Wild. Released in early 2020, the movie is based on the 1903 Jack London classic adventure novel of the same name. “Buck is a St. Bernard/Scotch Collie who finds his true heart in helping grizzled, hard-drinking prospector John Thornton (played by Harrison Ford) search for gold in the Yukon,” wrote Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers. He rates the movie “a cozy PG.” Directed by Chris Sanders, the movie also stars Omar Sy, Cara Gee, and Bradley Whitford. Buck, by the way, is computer-generated.

The Call of the Wild movie trailer

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23. Megan Leavey. Based on the true story of a young Marine and her best friend, the 2017-released film, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (who directed Blackfish), stars Kate Mara, Edie Falco, Ramon Rodriguez, and Tom Felton.

Meagan Leavey is a Marine corporal who has a unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog, Rex. Together, they saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq, on more than 100 missions between 2003 and 2006. A war zone blast of an IED left Leavey with hearing loss, brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Rex’s injuries included a damaged shoulder and neurological ailments. When Leavey was honorably discharged after a year of intense rehabilitation in California, Leavey asked to take Rex, who had also been undergoing rehab. Her request was denied. The movie tells the story of how Leavey fought to be reunited with Rex. “He had been my comfort for so long, and to not have that anymore was hard for me,” said Leavey. Varco, a German Shepherd Dog, made his feature film debut as Rex in the movie.

Megan Leavey movie trailer

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24. Togo The Untold True Story. The 2019 movie is about a sled dog, Togo, who led the 1925 serum run to Nome, Alaska. Directed by Ericson Core, the film stars Willem Dafoe, Julianne Nicholson, and Christopher Heyerdahl.

The dog that completed the run, Balto, received the fame and glory, but Togo was reportedly the real hero, running 264 miles of the route under the guidance of his trainer and musher Leonhard Sepal (Dafoe).

Side Note: Togo is a Disney film, and it’s interesting to note that studio executives clearly have a soft spot for rugged frontier tales of tough Arctic men and their canine companions from Iron Will to Snow Dogs to Eight Below.

Togo The Untold True Story movie trailer

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DOCUMENTARIES

25. Heart of a Dog. Performance artist Laurie Anderson strikes an emotional chord in this 2015 documentary reflecting on her relationship with her dog, Lolabelle. Animation and Super 8 footage lend personal texture to the documentary’s dreamy, healing fragments with Anderson’s soothing narration providing poetic perspective. Childhood trauma, the nature of storytelling, the transience of life and the release of love. David Foster wrote, “Every love story is a ghost story.”

Heart of a Dog movie trailer

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26. Life In The Doghouse. Two men. One mission. 10,000 lives. The inspiring story is about Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta and the remarkable work they do at Danny & Ron’s Rescue in Wellington, Florida. They began their rescue in 2005, after rescuing 600 dogs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. They have since turned their own home into a sanctuary for abused or neglected dogs. They also deliver pet food and supplies to more than 48 elderly people living in poverty, and help pay for their dogs’ medical bills. They do it all through donations and fundraising efforts.

Life In The Doghouse movie trailer

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27. Old Dog. Director/producer Sally Rowe tells the story of New Zealand farmer Paul Sorenson and his unique connection with his colleagues – a team of sheep dogs. For 40 years Paul has worked to develop smarter and more intuitive training methods for fellow farmers. Reaching retirement, the veteran dog whisperer passes his knowledge to the next generation of shepherds, and reflects on the sacrifices he’s made to pursue his intense passion for dogs.

Old Dog, The Film movie trailer – scroll down for the link

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DARK COMEDY

28. Seven Psychopaths. Dog nappers, played by Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell, kidnap a gangster’s (played by Woody Harrelson) beloved Shih Tzu (played by Bonny the Shih Tzu, who has her own Facebook page).

Alongside his friends, struggling screenwriter (played by Colin Farrell) inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld. Directed by Martin McDonagh, the 2012 film also stars Michael Pitt, Harry Dean Stanton, Abbie Cornish, Gabourey Sidibe, Tom Waits.

Spoiler alert: The dog does not die (although a lot of humans do).

Seven Psychopaths movie trailer

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29. The Dog Problem. Solo is a writer who has writer’s block after a successful first book. He’s ashamed, depressed and broke. His therapist suggests a pet. Clueless, he buys a dog, which only adds to his problems. Suddenly, everyone wants his dog. He could sell the dog to a persistent rich girl, settle his debts, and return to life with a clean carpet. Or, he could figure out why he suddenly doesn’t want to part with the dog. The 2007 movie was written and directed by Scott Caan who also stars in the film. Also starring Giovanni Ribisi, Lynn Collins, Mena Suvari, and Don Cheadle.

The Dog Problem movie trailer

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30. Our Idiot Brother. Ned (Paul Rudd) is the sibling who is always just a little bit behind the curve when it comes to getting his life together. For sisters Liz (Emily Mortimer), Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) and Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), he’s an erstwhile organic farmer whose willingness to rely on the honesty of mankind is a less-than-optimum strategy for a tidy, trouble-free existence. Ned may be utterly lacking in common sense, but he is their brother and so, after his girlfriend dumps him and boots him off the farm, his sisters once again come to his rescue.

As Liz, Miranda and Natalie each take a turn at housing Ned, their brother’s unfailing commitment to honesty creates more than a few messes in their comfortable routines. But as each of their lives begins to unravel, Ned’s family comes to realize that maybe, in believing and trusting the people around him, Ned isn’t such an idiot after all. Released in 2011, and directed by Jesse Peretz, a subplot in the film involves Ned and his dog Willie Nelson, a Golden Retriever. Rashida Jones, Adam Scott and Kathryn Hahn also star in the film. It also has a nice soundtrack with a couple of songs performed by Willie Nelson (the singer/songwriter, not the dog).

Our Idiot Brother movie trailer

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FOR FUN

31. Annie. Released in 1982 and directed by John Huston, the film stars Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Ann Reinking, Tim Curry, Bernadette Peters and Aileen Quinn as Annie. The musical comedy-drama film is based on the Broadway musical of the same name. Marti, an Otterhound, played Sandy the dog.

Side note: The dog who played Sandy in the Broadway musical was about to be euthanized when a young aspiring actor, William Berloni interning as a technical apprentice, found her at the shelter in Connecticut. He named her Sandy.

“Annie is the greatest American musical because it has not stopped being produced,” said Berloni. “It’s because it’s a message of hope and optimism.”

Another side note: Sarah Jessica Parker, at 14 years old, starred in the 1979 Broadway musical production of Annie.

Annie movie trailer

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32. Hotel For Dogs. Based on the book by Sarasota resident Lois Duncan, the movie was released in 2009. The cast includes Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Lisa Kudrow, Don Cheadle, and Cosmo as Friday the dog.

When their new guardians forbid 16-year old Andi and her younger brother, Bruce to have a pet, Andi has to use her quick wit to help find a new home for their dog, Friday. The resourceful kids stumble upon an abandoned hotel and using Bruce’s talents as a mechanical genius, transform it into a magical dog-paradise for Friday–and eventually for all Friday’s friends. When barking dogs make the neighbors suspicious, Andi and Bruce use every invention they have to avoid anyone discovering “who let the dogs in.”

Side note: We interviewed Ms. Duncan prior to the movie’s premier in 2009. The New Barker also hosted a red carpet event at the movie’s Tampa premier. Ms Duncan also wrote I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997). She hated the movie version, loosely based on her novel. “I was ecstatic until I settled into a theater seat with my box of popcorn and discovered that Hollywood had turned my teenage suspense story into s slasher film,” said Lois. She passed away on June 15, 2016.

Hotel For Dogs movie trailer

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33. The Ugly Dachshund. The 1966 Disney film, directed by Norman Tokar, stars Dean Jones, Suzanne Pleshette and Charles Ruggles.

Fran Garrison is all in a tizzy because her prize Dachshund, Danke, is having pups. She has hopes of one of the pups becoming a champion. But at the veterinarian’s office, Fran’s husband Mark is talked into letting Danke wet nurse a Great Dane pup that’s been abandoned by his mother. Mark ends up wanting to keep the Great Dane, now named Brutus. But, Brutus has this problem: he thinks he’s a Dachshund and he’s too big to be a lapdog. When Fran ridicules Brutus one too many times, Jim has a plan to prove to everyone (and Fran) that a great Dane can be far more than just an ugly Dachshund.

The Ugly Dachshund movie trailer

THE END

Part 1 of our Favorite Dog Movies, click here for the blog post.

The Captain And His Queen Of The World

By Anna Cooke. This story first appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of The New Barker.

Gliding through marshes and wetlands and leaning into the airboat’s every turn felt like a bird skimming the water in mid-flight. We sat up high in one of the two seats and sped across the water. It was both exhilarating and a little scary.

Remember the scene from the movie Titanic, when Jack and Rose are at the bow of the boat? Jack shouted, “I’m king of the world,” and convinced Rose to let go of the rail as the ship clipped through the ocean. But this was not the movies and there were no icebergs on our horizon. Fortunately, the very capable Captain Kevin Roderiques was at the helm, and he knew this was a first-time experience for his passenger. Still, I did not believe I would be letting go of the airboat’s rails anytime soon.

Handing over a set of dual-purpose headphones (sound-dampening and
microphone-equipped for conversation), Roderiques could see his passenger’s trepidation. His sixth sense as a law enforcement professional was spot-on.

“You’re not going to do some kind of 360 rollover like the Blue Angels do to a newbie in mid-flight are you?” I asked. His answer, a simple ‘no’ without an ounce of sarcasm in his voice, was reassuring through the headphones. It was also reassuring to know that we would be able to converse without yelling.

Another calming bonus was that Shey, a black Labrador Retriever, was accompanying us. This beautiful, shiny dog was not along just for the ride, however. In addition to showing off her prowess at remaining upright on all fours as the airboat angled every which way, Shey would be demonstrating her skills as a certified search and rescue K9. She works with the Florida-3 Airboat Search and Rescue Team (FL3ASAR), and has been cross-trained for cadaver and live search and rescue.

The FL3ASAR team is a group made up of law enforcement, fire, rescue and EMS professionals, many of whom have had prior military experience. While the ride with Shey was in and of itself breathtaking, it was amazing to find out that this team is an all-volunteer group relying on donations to keep operating. Oftentimes, however, the dedicated group will use their own money to continue their mission of saving the lives of people and animals stranded as a result of a man-made or natural disaster.

FL3ASAR was created soon after the flooding in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. Working under the direction of FEMA, many members of FL3ASAR witnessed firsthand the airboat’s capabilities as they were being used to evacuate thousands of people stranded due to urban area flooding. The airboat, it turns out, is the most efficient means of mass rescue during floods, capable of delivering thousands of pounds of feed to stranded livestock. Unlike other rescue devices, an airboat has no moving parts below the waterline, allowing it to maneuver through fields of debris. Moving almost effortlessly in extreme conditions, airboats can navigate turbulent and shallow water, and even over dry land if necessary.

Since Katrina, FL3ASAR has responded to calls for service beyond the scope of flood evacuation, having evolved into a full service search and rescue operation. The FL3ASAR airboats are especially equipped with 3D side scan sonar, underwater video equipment, GPS and special communications equipment. All of the airboat operators are licensed United States Coast Guard captains. They have also completed a U.S. Department of Interior-approved airboat operations course.

People often fail to prepare for a natural or man-made disaster, resulting in animals being left behind during an evacuation. Since Hurricane Katrina, lessons have been learned and more shelters are allowing people to bring their pets. However, domestic livestock are also at risk during natural disasters, swept away by strong currents as they naturally seek higher ground. If they do reach what are known as island farms, they become stranded, succumbing to disease or starvation.

Through a private grant in 2010, FL3ASAR was able to take delivery of a 20-foot airboat, manufactured by Diamondback Airboats and customized for animal rescue efforts in flooded areas. It’s the only one of its kind in the United States. The new Animal Rescue Team airboat has a three-rudder system instead of the normal two, with only one row of seats instead of the normal two. The three-rudder system allows for better steerage and the removal of the front seat provides added deck space for a larger working area and more animal cage storage. The drop-down “Grass Rake” facilitates the transportation, delivery and retrieval of necessary supplies and/or equipment for animal rescue.

“I can carry up to 4,000 pounds of feed in this boat,” said Captain Roderiques. “We can even rescue a manatee if need be,” he added.

The Animal Rescue Team is available to state and federal agricultural and wildlife agencies; national, state and local humane societies; and veterinary organizations. Captain Roderiques, who is also the Team Commander, said that FL3ASAR can be deployed within 24 hours.

Working on land or water, Shey is capable of performing live finds — tracking a live person’s trail for miles. She is also trained in human remains detection (HRD). When on water-based missions, she is equipped with a floatation device, performing her duties directly from the bow of the airboat. She has also been trained to perform as a rescue swimmer, capable of towing people back to the boat or shore.

During our trip, Captain Roderiques continued to point out what Shey was doing at any given moment, while describing the intricacies of search and rescue. She leaned into the wind, discerning the different smells. She scanned the banks for clues, working hard, and ready to alert at any given moment.

As we pulled up to the banks to disembark, I realized I had not taken one note for my story. During the trip, Shey would occasionally turn her big, beautiful head to look back at me, giving me that mischievous Labrador smile. She was probably laughing at me. The only time I let go of the rails was to grab my camera with one hand to snap a few quick photos of her. Otherwise, it was pretty much a white-knuckle excursion for me, while Shey effortlessly did a job she clearly loved doing.

Editor’s Note: Shey passed away several years ago. Captain Kevin Roderiques, K-9 Sergeant for the Tampa Airport Police Department, is now retired.

Part 1 Of Our 2-Part Complete List Of Favorite Dog Movies

PART 1 You’ve been channel surfing, and nothing seems to pique your interest. We’ve compiled a list of 37 movies total, in two separate blogs, that have been previously reviewed and featured in The New Barker dog magazine, over the years. The list does not include every dog-themed movie ever made, just some of our favorites. So please feel free to add your own favorite movie in the comments section below.

We’ve included a brief description, the movie poster and a link to the trailer for each movie. We’ve also thrown in a couple of short films for you to watch as well.

We figure if you watch two films a day, you’ll be doggone occupied for around 20 days. #StayHomeStayHealthy

ROMANCE.

1. As Good As It Gets was released in 1997. Directed by James L. Brooks, the film stars Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear. Nicholson and Hunt each won an Academy Award for Best Actor and Best Actress for the film. Jill the Dog plays Verdell, the Brussels Griffon.

As Good As It Gets movie trailer

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2. Darling Companion was released in 2012. Directed by Lawrence Kasdan and his wife Meg, the film stars Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline. Beth (Keaton) forms a strong friendship with a dog she rescues along the highway. She becomes upset when her husband, Joseph (Kline), loses the dog. They end up engaging the service of a psychic gypsy to find Freedom, the dog, played by two dogs, Kasey and Kuma. The cast includes Dianne Wiest, Elisabeth Moss, Richard Jenkins, Mark Duplass, and Sam Shepard.

Darling Companion movie trailer

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3. Must Love Dogs was released in 2005 and is based on Claire Cook’s 2002 novel of the same name. Directed by Gary David Goldberg, the film stars Diane Lane, John Cusack, Elizabeth Perkins, and Christopher Plummer. At 40-something Sarah Nolan (Lane) dreads the thought of re-entering the dating scene. Her family has other ideas and creates an online personal ad that describes Sarah as, among other things, voluptuous. They include that any man of hers must love dogs. Two six-month-old Newfoundland puppies, Molly and Mabel, alternated for the role of Mother Theresa, the dog character in the film.

Must Love Dogs movie trailer

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4. Beginners. When it comes to relationships, we’re all beginners. Directed by Mike Mills, the film shows us how deeply funny and transformative life can be, even at its most serious moments. Released in 2011, Beginners stars Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent, and Goran Visnjic.

After the death of his mother, Oliver (McGregor) finds out his father (Plummer) has cancer. His father also announces that he’s gay, after being married to Oliver’s late mother for 38 years. Beginners is a story about how both father and son each find love. And Arthur, the Jack Russell Terrier, seems to be the only one holding everything in perspective by communicating in subtitles.

Beginners, the movie trailer

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5. The Truth About Cats and Dogs was released in 1996. Directed by Michael Lehmann, the cast includes Uma Thurman, Janeane Garofalo, Ben Chaplin, and Jamie Foxx. Abby Barnes, (Garofalo) is a veterinarian who has a successful radio talk show. Her best friend, Noelle Slusarsky (Thurman), is mistaken for Abby when Brian (a listener) comes to the studio to meet Abby. As the real Abby woos Brian over the phone and radio, Noelle, the pseudo-Abby, takes her place in person. Thank goodness for Hank, the big ole goofy dog in the film.


The Truth About Cats and Dogs movie trailer

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6. The Art of Racing in the Rain. Based on the best-selling novel by Garth Stein and directed by Simon Curtis, the film’s cast includes Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Baker, Martin Donovan, Gary Cole, and Kevin Costner as the voice of Enzo, the witty and philosophical dog.

Denny (Ventimiglia) is an aspiring Formula One race car driver. Enzo, his dog, has gained tremendous insight into the human condition through his bond with Denny. Enzo understands that the techniques needed on the racetrack can also be used to successfully navigate the journey of life.

Parker is the Golden Retriever who played Enzo in the film, which was released in 2019. The bond between Ventimiglia and Parker was so close during the filming, that Parker’s trainer worried about the dog’s stress level during a particularly emotional scene. Besides Parker, it took several canines to cover the span of Enzo’s life during filming: Butler, Solar, Orbit and 8 to 12 puppies.

“In Mongolia, when a dog dies, he is buried high in the hills so people cannot walk on his grave. The dog’s master whispers in the dog’s ear his wishes that the dog will return as a man in his next life. Then, his tail is cut off and put beneath his head, and a piece of meat is placed in his mouth to sustain his soul for its journey; before he is reincarnated, the dog’s soul is freed to travel the land, to run across the high desert plains for as long as it would like. I learned that from a program on the National Geographic Channel, so I believe it is true. Not all dogs return as men, they say; only those who are ready. I am ready.” –Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain.


The Art of Racing In The Rain movie trailer

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7. Boundaries. Released in 2018, the film is directed by writer Shana Feste with a cast that includes Vera Farming and Christopher Plummer (starting to see a pattern here?). Yes, we love Christopher Plummer, and he loves dogs. Also in the cast: Lewis McDougall, Christoper Lloyd, and Peter Fonda.

Laura (Farming) is a single mom raising her 14 year-old son Henry (McDougall). When she finally agrees to meet with her estranged father Jack (Plummer), she is forced to drive him across country after he’s kicked out of yet another nursing home. Along the way, Laura cannot resist the urge to rescue stray dogs.

Boundaries movie trailer

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LIFE IS SO MUCH BETTER WITH DOGS

8. A Dog’s Life starring Charlie Chaplin as the Little Tramp. Billed as his first million dollar movie, the silent film was released in April 1918.

In the movie, Charlie Chaplin plays a jobless man with few prospects for employment. He tries to steal food from a lunch cart and is nearly caught by a police officer. Later, Charlie saves a stray dog, Scraps, from other dogs and they become friends. In addition to Charlie Chaplin, the film’s cast includes Edna Purviance, Syd Chaplin, Henry Bergman, Charlie Reisner, and Albert Austin. Scraps is played by dog actor Mut, described as “a thoroughbred mongrel” in the film credits. The link for the full movie, about 35 minutes, is below. It’s a true classic.

A Dog’s Life, the full movie.

(if the link jumps a few seconds forward, roll back the film to the opening credits).

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9. A Dog’s Purpose. Based on the best-selling book by W. Bruce Cameron, the cast of the 2017 film includes Dennis Quaid, Josh Gad (who voices the devoted dogs Toby, Bailey, Ellie, Tino, Waffles, Buddy) and Peggy Lipton. Lasses Hallstrom directed the film.

The story is about a dog who hopes to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners.

Prior to the film’s debut, the movie’s PR team invited The New Barker team to be part of its Florida promotion. As we were gearing up, promoting the film and giving away opening night passes, controversy hit when a video showing alleged animal abuse on the set was released by TMZ. PETA further sensationalized the scandal to serve its own cause. The film’s Los Angeles premiere was cancelled. The film went on to make $140.5 million worldwide, off a $22 million production budget.

Side notes: Bradley Cooper was originally slated to provide the voice of the dogs in A Dog’s Purpose. Director Hallstrom also directed Mitt liv som hund (My Life as a Dog), a 1985 Swedish film about a young boy who is sent to live with relatives. High tissue alert and strong adult content for My Life as a Dog (trailer). Hallstrom also directed Chocolat and The Hundred-Foot Journey. I mention these two films in this blog because they are two of my favorites (and they’re about food). Check them out if you need a break from watching dog movies.

A Dog’s Purpose movie trailer

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10. A Dog’s Way Home. The 2019 film, directed by Charles Martin Smith, is the second in the 3-part A Dog’s Purpose series by W. Bruce Cameron. Cameron shares the screenplay writing credits with his wife, Cathryn Michon.

The story chronicles the adventures of Bella, (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard) a dog who embarks on a 400-mile journey home after she is separated from her human. The cast includes Ashley Judd, Jonah Hauer-King, Edward James Olmos, and Alexandra Shipp. Several dog stars are in the film, including Shelby (who plays Bella), Gusto, Murphy, Jaime, Harlan, and Sarge.

A Dog’s Way Home movie trailer

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11. A Dog’s Journey. Released in 2019, the film is the third in the 3-part A Dog’s Purpose series. It’s based on the 2012 novel of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron and stars Josh Gad (again as the dog’s voice), Dennis Quaid, Marg Helgenberger, Betty Gilpin, Kathryn Prescott, and Henry Lau. This film is directed by Gail Mancuso.

Bailey, an elderly St. Bernard/Australian Shepherd mix, is living his best life with his owner Ethan and wife Hannah. Their perfect world starts to unravel when their daughter-in-law decides to move away with their granddaughter. Soon, Ethan discovers a big lump in Bailey’s stomach. As Ethan holds Bailey in his arms, he whispers his final words, asking the dog to take care of their granddaughter, C.J. Then, the story of Bailey’s new life, taking on another purpose, unfolds.

A Dog’s Journey movie trailer

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COMING OF AGE AND A TOUCH OF SPORTS

12. My Dog Skip. One of my favorite stories, based on the autobiographical novel of the same name, authored by Willie Morris.

Against his father’s wishes, Willie’s mother gives him a Jack Russell Terrier for his ninth birthday. Growing up in the early 1940s with Skip by his side fundamentally changes several aspects of Willie’s life. Released in March 2000, directed by Jay Russell, the cast includes Frankie Muniz as Willie, Diane Lane, Luke Wilson, and Kevin Bacon. The film is narrated by Harry Connick Jr.

My Dog Skip won the Broadcast Film Critics Award for “Best Family Film” for the year 2000. It grossed $35,512,760 worldwide on a $4.5 million budget. Three dog actors played the part of Skip: Sweetie is Skip as a puppy. Enzo as Skip throughout most of the film, and Moose as a senior Skip.

My Dog Skip movie trailer

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13. The Sandlot. This 1993 classic takes place in the summer of 1963. Scotty, the new kid in town, is taken under the wing of a young baseball prodigy and his rowdy team. When the team’s catcher hits a home run into a backyard, Scotty attempts to retrieve the ball but is stopped by one of the other boys. The Beast, a junkyard dog, is on the other side. Neighborhood legend has the dog so big and savage, that many baseballs have been hit and lost into the yard over the years.

“Man, this is baseball. You gotta stop thinking.”

Directed by David Mickey Evans, the cast includes Art Lafleur (as The Babe), Tom Guiry, Mike Vita, Patrick Renna, Marty York, Denis Leary, Karen Allen, and James Earl Jones. The Beast – a.k.a. Hercules, is an English Mastiff. Two dog actors played The Beast in the film (with a bit of puppetry thrown in for good measure).

The Sandlot movie trailer

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14. Because of Winn Dixie. This is a good family film based on the children’s novel written by Kate DiCamillio in 2000. The film, directed by Wayne Wang, was released in 2005, with a cast that includes Jeff Daniels, Cicely Tyson, Eva Marie Saint, and introduces AnnaSophia Robb as Opal. Dave Matthews, with guitar in hand, appears as Otis.

After moving to a town in Florida with her father, lonely Opal is soon adopted by a dog she names Winn Dixie. As film critic Roger Ebert wrote of the film, “It’s similar to the movie My Dog Skip. The difference between the two films is that My Dog Skip is made with a complexity that appeals to adults as much as children, while Because of Winn Dixie seems pretty firmly aimed at middle school children and younger.”

Lyco and Scott, Picardy Shepherds, were hired to portray Winn Dixie in the film.

Because of Winn Dixie movie trailer

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COMEDY

15. Best In Show. Whether you’ve never seen this movie, or haven’t seen it in some time, now is as good a time as any, since laughter is the best medicine. Billed as a mockumentary comedy, the film was co-written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy. Released in 2000, it features a cast of characters – humans and dogs – competing at a national dog show. The cast includes Levy and Guest alongside Parker Posey, Catherine O’Hara, Michael Hitchcock, Jane Lynch, Fred Willard, and so many more.

Christopher Guest, who portrayed Nigel Tufnel in This Is Spinal Tap(1984) and Count Tyrone Rugen in The Princess Bride(1987)—and his wife, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, had two dogs, leading the writer/director to make frequent trips to the local dog park. “There were people with purebred dogs, with mutts and so on, and as I mingled with them I started thinking that this might be an interesting idea to explore in a movie,” Guest said in the film’s official production notes. Guest called fellow writer/actor Eugene Levy with his idea and the two collaborated on what was a mostly improvisational film (the script was only 16 pages long) that would become a cult classic.

While doing research for the film, Levy attended many dog shows and said of them, “It’s a very unusual world. I was surprised at the intensity involved. This is a full-time thing for these people; they live and breathe dog shows and every weekend, they’re out there traveling hundreds of miles to spend several hours sitting with the dog before going in the ring for sixty seconds of fame. What is it that drives people to do this?”

By the way, no dog club would allow the crew to film on-site, so the filmmakers had to create their own imaginary dog show, The Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show.

Best In Show movie trailer

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ANIMATION

16. The Secret Life Of Pets. The quiet life of a Terrier named Max is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray dog. Released in 2016 and co-directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, the animated adventure comedy features a who’s who of actors voicing the characters. Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Albert Brooks, and Dana Carvey, to name a few.

Side note: Universal’s corporate synergy is high in this film. Billboards for NBC Universal properties The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live can be seen on buildings outside the apartment building. Another sign has the YouTube logo and says, “Most Viewed Video Of The Day.”

The Secret Life Of Pets movie trailer

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The Secret Life Of Pets II movie trailer

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17. Frankenweenie. The Tim Burton film is a stop-motion, black and white animated comedy inspired by The Bride of Frankenstein. Burton employed about 33 animators to produce five seconds of film per week.

The story involves young Victor Frankenstein and his dog Sparky, who runs into the street and is blindsided by a car. Victor is heartbroken, burying the dog under a tombstone. Victor is also a science-crazy kid with a weird laboratory set up in his attic. The frogs in his lab inspire him to dig up Sparky and smuggle him into the attic. You can probably guess the rest. Sparky has much the same manic personality as before, “although like your cellphone, he sometimes needs to be recharged,” wrote movie critic Roger Ebert. And, his tail or an ear will fly off when he becomes too eager.

Released in 2012, the cast of actors voicing the characters include Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Tahan (as Victor), and Winona Ryder.

Side Note: Burton originally made a short film for Disney, Frankenweenie, in 1984 starring Shelley Duvall, Daniel Stern, Sophia Coppola, and Barret Oliver. The link to that movie trailer is just below the 2012 Frankenweenie movie trailer.

Frankenweenie (2012) movie trailer

Frankenweenie (1984) movie trailer

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18. Cats and Dogs. Directed by Lawrence Guterman, the film was released in 2001. There’s a high-tech espionage war going on between cats and dogs, of which humans are blissfully unaware. The movie combines live action with animation and stars Jeff Goldblum and Elizabeth Perkins. A cast of actors voice the dogs and cats, including Toby Maguire, Alec Baldwin, Sean Hayes, Susan Sarandon, Joe Pantoliano, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jon Lovitz, and Charlton Heston.

Cats and Dogs movie trailer

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19. My Dog Tulip. There is just not a more beautiful description of this lovely film than the one by film critic Roger Ebert. “My Dog Tulip is the story of a man who finds love only once in his life, for 15 perfect years. It is the love of a dog. It may be the only love he is capable of experiencing. As other men write books about a woman in their life, J.R. Ackerley wrote a book about a German Shepherd he rescued from a cruel home. My Dog Tulip has been a private discovery by many readers for years, and now it becomes an animated film that combines elating visuals with a virtuoso voice performance by Christopher Plummer.” Lynn Redgrave and Isabella Rossellini also lend their voices to the film.

While animated, the film is not intended for children. It is told from and by an adult in a tone that understands loneliness, gratitude and the intense curiosity we feel for other lives, man and dog.

Released in 2011, the film was directed and animated by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger. It’s Fierlinger’s beautiful watercolors that come to life with animation.

Ebert adds, “My Dog Tulip has no stupid plot, no contrived suspense. Tulip grows old and dies, as must we all. J.R. Ackerley misses her and writes a book about his loss. Through this dog, he knew love. And through J.R., so did Tulip.”

Side Note: In 1946 (the year his mother died) Ackerley acquired an Alsatian Shepherd named Queenie, the dog who became his primary companion for the next 15 years of his life. Those were the most productive years of the writer’s life. In 1961, Queenie died. Ackerley, who had lost a brother and both parents, described it as “the saddest day of my life.”

My Dog Tulip movie trailer

Sometimes love really is a bitch.

I See Dog People

by Anna Cooke, editor, The New Barker Dog Magazine

Every dog has a story, as told by its human. Often heard is, “the more I meet people, the more I like dogs.” But, to me, the more dogs I meet with their people, the more people I end up really liking.

People tend to show a vulnerable side when they’re talking about their dogs. We met three people and their dogs during Gulfport’s Get Rescued event on Saturday, February 22, 2020, and listened to their stories.

Robin and Jezebel, Gulfport, FL

Robin was riding around in her custom golf cart with her Silky Terrier when I met her during Gulfport’s Get Rescued. She named the cart Jezebel’s Ride, after her dog.

Robin’s computer was set up to alert her of small dogs awaiting their fate at kill shelters around Florida. She would make arrangements to have them pulled, transported and adopted. One morning, nine years ago, the window popped up on the computer screen with a picture of Jezebel. She was scheduled to be euthanized in two days for no apparent reason other than for space issues. Traveling a couple of hours from her home, Robin was determined she would adopt the dog. Sensing there could be trouble, she had cash in one pocket, and an extra bit of insurance in the other pocket.

When she showed the shelter employee the photo of the Silky, he simply replied the dog was not available for adoption. This was a high-kill shelter, he explained, and once a dog was scheduled to be euthanized, the file was closed. There was only one way out if a dog was owner-surrendered or found as a stray, and it was by way of the incinerator out back. Robin pulled out the wad of cash and placed it on the counter. The employee looked at the money, then back at Robin and said, “No, this dog is scheduled to be euthanized.”

Robin continued telling me her story from her golf cart, while Jezebel calmly took in the sites on Gulf Boulevard. “I was not leaving without the dog, and took my .38 out of my other pocket, gently placed it next to the cash on the counter and said to the man, ‘We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. It’s your call.’ I left with Jezebel shortly thereafter. She’s been my constant companion ever since.” ###

Tippy Finegan, Gulfport, FL

Gulfport, Florida artist Eagle Finegan said she had always had bigger dogs, as she handed me Tippy to hold. The tiny Yorkie looked up at me, licked my nose, then placed her head under my chin to snuggle. “She’s taken a liking to you. That’s the first time she’s stopped shaking all morning,” Eagle said.

While Tippy and I were bonding, Eagle continued to set up her art for the day’s event. “Tippy was a meth dog when she was confiscated,” Eagle said.

How does one not want to know more about a dog’s back story with a lead-in like that? It turns out, Tippy was part of a drug bust, somewhere in Mississippi. “The occupants were cooking meth all day and night. Tippy was the only dog the officers found alive in the house. Well, barely alive from inhaling meth. That, and she was full of worms,” said Eagle.

“I’ve always had two dogs – a younger dog and a senior dog,” Eagle went on. “When the older dog passed, I’d always adopt a younger dog.” This arrangement ensured Eagle always had at least one dog in her home at any given time. About eight years ago, when she was down to one dog, she let her veterinarian know that she was looking for a Belgian Malinois, should one become available. A few weeks later, Eagle’s veterinarian called and asked her to come to the clinic.

“He came around the corner and handed me this little dog. ‘What am I supposed to do with this?’ I asked him. Then, Tippy kissed me and that was it. I was in love.” ###

Apollo, Gulfport, FL

Cheryl Thacker is the volunteer secretary for the rescue group Florida Giant Dog Rescue. She was at Gulfport’s Get Rescued event with several big dogs, including Apollo, a beautiful 18-month-old Cane Corso. Apollo was recently surrendered to the rescue when his owner found out that his dog had a blockage, requiring expensive surgery the family could not afford. The surgery, depending on the complexity of the blockage, could cost anywhere from $900 to $3,000. Heartbroken, the owner reached out to Florida Giant Dog Rescue.

“We have the funds to take care of the surgery,” Cheryl told me. She also said that, somehow, they would eventually reunite Apollo with his family. That’s not something a rescue group normally does.

“Karma. How could we not? It’s just the right thing to do,” said Cheryl, while stroking Apollo. ###

Full Speed Ahead

A love of racing becomes the vehicle to help save dogs.

by Anna Cooke – first published in the spring 2009 issue of The New Barker dog magazine.

The following feature appeared in the spring 2009 issue of The New Barker dog magazine. Cover art by Alli Bell.

“Winning the Daytona 500 was a dream come true,” said Ryan Newman, who considers that win a tribute to his father, “for everything he had done for me to support and encourage my career.” As a kid, Ryan’s dad Greg would take him to Daytona each year for the 500. They made fake passes with construction paper and glitter, “so I could sneak into the garage and meet the drivers,” said Ryan.

After the 2008 Daytona 500 win, Ryan said, “I could hear my dad’s tear drops over the radio while he spotted for me as I came to the start-finish line to win.” We caught up with Ryan earlier this year during the week prior to the 2009 Daytona 500. He had just won his first career Modified race at New Smyrna Speedway. 

To NASCAR fans, Ryan Newman is known as Rocket Man for his qualifying prowess. To the pet companion world, he and his wife Krissie are known more for their fundraising prowess when it comes to saving the lives of adoptable animals. NASCAR is just the vehicle, so to speak, that drives their efforts. A 2001 graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Vehicle Structure Engineering, the South Bend, Indiana native took his talent and followed his dream straight to the racetracks of NASCAR’s premiere division, the Sprint Cup Series.

Now in his eighth full season of Sprint Cup, the decision appears to have paid off well. In just his third-ever Cup start in May 2001 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway near Charlotte, NC, Newman shot to the top of the speed chart during qualifying and earned the number one spot for the Coca-Cola 600. That feat sent a buzz throughout the Sprint Cup garage circuit: Newman would be a force to be reckoned with during each and every qualifying season. He has not disappointed his fans. In 260 Sprint Cup starts, Newman has earned 43 pole positions, and has led the series in pole wins four times. Time and again, starting in the number one spot has given Ryan a distinct advantage, scoring top ten finishes in half of those races. He has collected 13 Sprint Cup wins, including winning the 50th annual running of “The Great American Race,” the Daytona 500 in 2008. 

In 2004, Ryan and his wife Krissie were at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia when a woman approached them. “She handed Krissie a piece of paper that described how the family’s five dogs had been taken from them by animal control and placed into quarantine,” described Ryan.  The family knew nothing about spay/neuter and as a result, the dogs continued to mate and produce puppies. They didn’t have the money to care for the growing number of dogs, nor could they afford to have the dogs spayed or neutered.

“The woman knew that Krissie and I were animal lovers and just asked if we would help her by taking her dogs,” said Ryan. It was an eye-opening experience for Ryan and his wife, who had both been thinking about setting up a foundation, but had not really focused full-time on what the foundation should or could do. That’s when the realization hit them both. No one in NASCAR had a foundation that was doing something for animals. And educating people about the benefits of spay/neuter had the potential to save the lives of millions of companion pets each year.

A year later, in 2005, the Ryan Newman Foundation was founded as part of The NASCAR Foundation’s family of charities. The Newmans believe that making a difference should start in one’s own backyard. As residents of North Carolina, the Foundation opened SNIP (Spay Neuter Initiative Partnership) Regional Spay/Neuter Clinic in 2007 in Hickory, North Carolina.  Since it’s inception, the Foundation has donated $400,000 to the Humane Society of Catawba County (HSCC) capital campaign to build a low-cost, spay/neuter clinic.  The multipurpose facility at HSCC includes the SNIP Clinic, a no-kill animal shelter and an education center. The clinic currently serves ten counties in the heart of NASCAR country.

Ryan and Krissie are also spokespersons for the Humane Alliance’s National Spay Neuter Response Team (NSNRT) which operates much like a NASCAR pit crew. Groups of trained veterinarians and vet techs are sent out to help nonprofit organizations learn how to open spay/neuter clinics using the Humane Alliance model. Since 2005, the NSNRT initiative has trained and mentored 42 organizations across the country, including the Humane Society of Catawba County. Another success story is the Humane Alliance of Western North Carolina, which has operated a nonprofit high volume, high quality, affordable spay/neuter clinic for 12 years. Since it’s inception, the clinic has spay/neutered 180,000 companion animals. The euthanasia rate in the Asheville community has been reduced by 72%, proving to the locals that spay/neuter does work to save lives.

“Krissie is really an integral part of the foundation,” said Ryan. He described how Krissie and Ryan Newman Foundation Executive Director Rosalie De Fini traveled to Gulfport, Mississippi in 2005 with Ryan Newman Motorsports executive assistant, Michelle Croom. “It was September, 2005, a month after Hurricane Katrina hit and destroyed the Gulf Coast,” explained Ryan. The group volunteered and donated a busload of supplies for people and their pets and a tractor trailer load of pet food.  They spent a week traveling to New Orleans, Jefferson Parish and Slidell, Louisiana to distribute supplies and food. The Ryan Newman Foundation also donated $19,000 in grants to non-profit animal welfare organizations that were rescuing abandoned animals and helping families with pets.

Though he was named the Dale Earnhardt Toughest Driver of the Year in 2003 by The Sporting News, it’s clear Ryan Newman has a soft spot for animals. Ryan now drives the #39 U.S. Army Chevy for Stewart-Haas Racing. His teammate is two-time Sprint Cup champ, Tony Stewart.  His purpose for joining the team was to have fun racing and to win.

With all due respect to the Stewart-Haas Racing Team, Ryan and Krissie are already a formidable team to be reckoned with, having proven themselves winners in the human race.

SIDEBAR from the 2009 Interview with Ryan and Krissie Newman:

Ryan and Krissie currently have five dogs, all adopted.They have fostered as many as 18 dogs at any given time on their 65 acre property in the country. The dogs all have free access to the property.

Digger is a Shepherd/Doberman mix that Krissie brought to the relationship. “She is our tripod. Her leg had to be amputated after an infection developed from a snake bite,” said Ryan. Harley is a Lab/Pit/Boxer mix. Mopar is a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. “He was abandoned on our property.” Socks, “is a full-blooded Lab from his father’s side, but a full-blooded tramp from his mom’s side,” laughed Ryan. Fred is a Lab/Pit mix, another abandoned dog Ryan and Krissie found and adopted. 

When not on the road, a typical day for the Newmans revolves around their dogs. “The toughest thing about having all of them is sharing the love,” said Ryan. “We wake up, feed them and let them outside. Squirrels to dogs are like cotton candy to a kid. Digger knocks on the door to come back in. If no one responds, she will continue to knock every 30 seconds until she’s let inside,” said Ryan. And coming home after being on the road? “They love it when we come home. Digger won’t stop barking for us. They all jump up to greet us. Socks, who has the personality of a cat, is so animated. She jumps on us from behind. Fred…he’s just jealous and pushes everyone away to get our undivided attention. It’s great to come home to them.”

The Ryan Newman Foundation is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization established in January, 2005. The mission of the foundation is to educate and encourage people to spay/neuter their pets and to adopt dogs and cats from animal shelters; to educate children and adults about the importance of conservation so the beauty of the great outdoors can be appreciated by future generations; and to provide college scholarship funding through the Rich Vogler Scholarship program for students interested in auto racing careers.  Visit www.ryannewmanfoundation.org.

What Kind Of Dog Will You Find Through Rescue?

“You have no idea what a best friend is until you’ve worked together.” A girl and her rescue dog.

by Anna Cooke

Well yes, sometimes a rescue dog truly does need rescuing. Maggie had spent the first seven months of her life inside an Alabama animal shelter. When volunteers from Ewenity Farm Herding Dog Haven offered to take her, life was looking up for her. Understandably, Maggie would need someone with patience to help bring out the best dog she had inside of her.

Stephanie Cox knew she had her work cut out for her when she adopted Maggie. As with most challenges, we never know the level of difficulty we’re facing until we’re deep into it. 

Maggie was afraid of life; of everything around her. “She was afraid of cars, even parked cars,” said Stephanie. “And she definitely didn’t like car rides.” This was just one of many challenges the two faced, early in their relationship. Maggie did not want to let Stephanie out of her site, and a car ride was necessary for their weekly obedience classes. They managed, and after completing basic obedience, Stephanie decided to work with Maggie in agility.

“She is not a couch potato kind of dog. I felt she would do well with an activity like agility,” said Stephanie, whose other dog, Diamond, excels in the sport. She set up a course in her backyard, and Maggie loved it. However, classes at the dog training club proved to be another challenge. Maggie panicked in the agility ring, and then froze every time.

“I cried many times during agility class,” said Stephanie. “There were moments, driving home together, when I wondered if I was doing the right thing for Maggie. I was worried that she might feel I was punishing her.” 

Support from other members of the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club continued to gently encourage Stephanie and Maggie. “We just worked on her confidence. And my confidence as well,” Stephanie said. “I had to learn not to stress over anything Maggie was doing; to understand the process and the journey we were both on.”

When we met with Maggie and Stephanie last year, Maggie had already won her Novice title in four trials. “I knew she always had it in her,” said Stephanie.

In an agility trial, a dog demonstrates her agile nature and versatility by following cues from her handler through a timed obstacle course of jumps, tunnels, weave poles and other objects. “The bonding experience is incredible,” said Stephanie. “You have no idea what a best friend is until you’ve worked together.” 

Stephanie reiterates that there are no lost causes. Whenever her two young children are faced with a challenge, Stephanie reminds them, “Remember Maggie?”

Every dog requires a certain amount of time to find her way in life and fit into the dynamics of her new environment. 

“Maggie always had grit. I just had to help her find it.”