by Anna Cooke

His name was Sam, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a savior of women’s spirits. Perhaps his backstory, whatever it was, only prepared him for what was right in front of him. Sam was adopted from the Humane Society of Pinellas County by a woman looking for a gentle, loving and loyal companion. Soon after, the woman and her dog moved into an assisted living facility. There were two levels of care for residents. Sam and his human, Sally, lived in one of the individual independent-living apartments on the peaceful property situated near the Bay.

In the apartment next door to them lived a woman from Puerto Rico who loved animals, especially cats and dogs. Her name was Milagros, and Sam and Sally became good friends with their good luck charm. Together they took long walks around the waterfront, especially enjoying the sunrises. They laughed at things only older women understand with years of life experiences tucked under their straw hats. Sometimes when Sally had to go to the hospital for several days, Milagros would take care of Sam.

One evening, while sitting on their adjoining front porches, Sally told Milagros that she would no longer be able to care for him. The details of why were left unspoken. Sally gave Sam to Milagros and asked them to take care of each other.

A few days later, Sam and Milagros watched from their front porch as their friend was taken away by ambulance. Attendants later cleaned out her apartment.

Sam and Milagros became inseparable. Walking around the grounds, they were a lovely sight for the other residents, greeting everyone with a human’s smile and a dog’s tail wag. They frequently visited the facility’s main lobby, meeting for coffee with the other dog lovers.

Sam was a lap dog, always right next to Milagros. They slept together and ate together. They watched television together, and she sang to him. Occasionally, he was her dance partner when an old favorite played on the radio. They thrived on their togetherness.

Sam whined incessantly when Milagros shut the door to her bathroom for even a few moments. Sometimes the whining escalated to screams while she was taking a shower, and he couldn’t see her from behind the shower curtain.

Once, a neighbor left an anonymous note on the windshield of the daughter’s car during a visit with her mother. The note accused Milagros of hurting Sam, and passed judgment on how she was caring for the dog, pointing out how long his nails were. “If you don’t do something, we will report you and your mother to animal services for animal abuse,” was the last line in the note.

Concerned for Sam’s health and her mother’s well-being, the daughter took them all for a visit with the family veterinarian. Maybe Sam was in pain from an undetected infection or perhaps a broken bone from a fall. Her mother would never intentionally harm Sam.

“Sam is fine,” assured the veterinarian. “We’ll just trim his nails. They’re really not that bad at all. I’m sorry you are having to deal with something like this, right now.”

As Alzheimer’s began to chip away the pieces of Mother’s brain, and subsequently her memory, the decision to find a memory care facility became priority. During one of her ever-increasing number of hospital stays, her doctor advised us that the facility should be secure, set up especially for residents living with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other diseases of the brain. Mother had a tendency to wander, and she had become very good at figuring out locks on doors and windows.

Finally facing the truth of Mother’s health, one of the decisions that had to be made was what to do with Sam. He was staying with us – a family of two adults and four dogs, and he missed my Mother terribly. His mournful cries often rose to blood curdling screams if he was not in the same room with one of us. I understood, then, how a neighbor could think Mother was hurting Sam. The only time he was consolable was when one of us was sitting next to him. He could go without food, water and exercise, but not the feel of a human’s touch.

We moved Mom 10 times over an eight-year period as her illness progressed. When she was highly medicated, she often became combative with staff who did not understand the disease, or Mom. These outbursts would prompt another phone call, asking us to find another facility for her.

Every facility we moved her to did not allow pets, except the last one, where a lovable fat cat named Buddy resided. He was adopted from the Humane Society as well. Buddy would make his rounds every day, visiting with each of the residents who sometimes dispensed treats and always had a gentle hand. Buddy ended each of his days in bed with Mom, curled up inside the crook of her legs, softly purring.

After some experimentation, we figured out that taking Mom off most of her meds calmed her, bringing her back to her more recognizable self. I also believe Buddy was of great comfort to her, especially after her memory had almost completely faded away. There was always something familiar to Buddy’s soft fur and the rumbling of his purr.

Almost to the end, Mom would ask about a dog who managed to remain in her memory. Was he her dog? Where was he, and was he okay? She could not recall his name, but it didn’t matter. She would smile and laugh when I described Sam to her, sometimes stroking her lap as if he was sitting on it. Sometimes, it would be Buddy on her lap she was stroking, but I imagined she may have been remembering Sam.

Sam’s third human spirit he would take care of was a woman who was bed-ridden. He gladly took his place next to her so she could feel his soft, silky fur under her hand. Her family was grateful for Sam’s gentle demeanor and his ability to calm her.

Sam had enough unconditional love to share with three special ladies, arriving at just the right moment in each of their lives. Such is the purpose of dog.

*Quote used in headline by Jean de La Bruyere, a French philosopher (1645-1696).

I am forever grateful to Curlew Care of Clearwater for the kindness and love they showed to Mom and all their residents. I’m also grateful for shelters like the Humane Society of Pinellas who work with longterm care facilities. –Anna Cooke

Non-Anesthetic Dental Treatments: More Harm Than Good?

by Timothy Hodge, DVM

Dental disease in dogs is one of, if not the most, common disorders affecting our canine friends. By the age of three, 80% of all dogs have sufficient dental disease that warrants professional dental cleaning.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t occur with enough regularity to maintain good oral health. Many dogs suffer in silence as a result dental disease. Dental disorders, including plaque, tartar, gingivitis, periodontal disease, infections, cavities, and tooth trauma, all affect the oral cavity. Dental disease also has significant implications for the rest of the body. The heart, kidney, respiratory system and brain are all impacted by diseases of the teeth and oral cavity. Professional dental treatments not only provide for a healthy oral cavity, but also the health of the body as a whole. So, the benefits of proper dental care far outweigh the risks.

All major veterinary organizations that provide treatment guidelines and recommendations have established that professional anesthetic dental cleanings are considered standards of care. To not use anesthesia with dental treatments is considered to be below the minimum appropriate level of care. Anesthesia is the only way a comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment can be performed.

Many dog owners are aware of the importance of proper oral health and the need for dental treatments, but acceptance and compliance is low. Why is this?
In my experience, the fear of anesthesia is the number one reason why dogs, especially older ones, do not have proper dental treatments performed. While it does affect all dogs and all breeds, dental disease is prevalent primarily in older toy breeds. Costs and fees are generally less of a concern as most pet parents know how important this treatment is and plan accordingly. The key to preventing tooth loss is assessment and treatment. This is greatly limited with non-anesthetic dental treatments.

Non-anesthetic dental cleanings give pet owners a false sense of security into believing that they are doing what is best for their pet. However, in many cases, disease is left undetected and untreated. The pet suffers in silence until they can no longer tolerate the pain. By this point, the disease has progressed to where extraction of teeth is the only alternative. Other organs may now also be affected.

If disease is found early enough, treatments other than extractions are among available options. Tooth loss can be avoided with early, proper assessment and treatment, only achieveable if the pet is under anesthesia.

For non-anesthetic dental procedures, pets have to be restrained. This increases the risks that the pet may be injured by the restraint. Dental instruments can also cause mouth, head trauma or injury. It is most important to realize that the majority of dental disease lies below the gum line. This cannot be addressed effectively with non-anesthetic cleanings.

Cleaning only the surface of the tooth crown is a cosmetic procedure that offers no health benefits for the pet. Non-anesthetic dental cleanings are not in the best interest of your pet’s health and well-being.

Age Is Not A Disease
Many pet parents become more concerned with anesthesia in their older dogs. This is especially true of small breed dogs. The time under anesthesia can be longer for older pets due to the level of disease and the necessity for more dental work. Treatment, early and often, is the key. Repeated anesthesia over the life of the pet does not impact longevity as was once the case with older anesthetic medications. Dental disease is not curable with a one-time
treatment. The disease is recurrent and progressive. Regular anesthetic dental treatments and cleanings can manage and stall dental disease.

Ensuring a safe and effective anesthetic dental cleaning and reducing the fear of pet parents, requires screening pets and providing individualized care. This allows us to ensure the safety of the pet and limit the time under anesthesia. We start with pre-anesthesia testing. At a minimum, a physical exam and lab testing to assess organ function are required. Pets with possible or known heart/lung disease may also need an EKG, chest radiographs and echocardiogram.

The anesthetic protocol is tailored to meet the needs of the individual pet. This will mean choosing the pre-anesthesia medications, drugs to induce anesthesia and maintenance gas that meet the needs of the pet. Each pet is an individual and needs to be treated as such.

Light Plane Of Anesthesia
The depth or level of anesthesia is kept to a minimum. The pet should be in a shallow plane of anesthesia as opposed to a deep plane of anesthesia. Local nerve blocs, just like with humans, can allow for better pain control, but still allow the pet to be as minimally sedated as possible. Light planes of anesthesia improve heart and lung function and blood pressure. Effective pain management, nerve blocks, injectable and oral pain medication allow for a lighter plane of anesthesia, reducing the risk of complications and speeding the recovery period. These are major factors in minimizing anesthesia concerns.

The concerns with anesthesia are greatly reduced with today’s modern ability to monitor the pet. Monitoring by an experienced and attentive technician or veterinary nurse is paramount. Monitoring machines are also very helpful. All pets will have pulse oximetry (oxygen levels in the blood), EKG, respiratory monitor, temperature monitor and blood pressure assessed during their entire time of anesthesia.

An IV catheter is always in place for fluid administration, helping maintain proper blood pressure, but also to flush drugs, medications and toxins via the kidneys, which also supports proper kidney function. As previously mentioned, anesthesia, by nature, can lower blood pressure. It can also lower body temperature. To address this, the pet must be warmed while under anesthesia. This requires external warmers such as blankets and warmed IV fluids. When the body temperature is kept as close to normal as possible, the rest of the body functions better, and recovery is quicker. An endotracheal tube with cuff is used on every patient to maintain an open airway and prevent water and debris from entering the trachea and lungs.

Recovery from anesthesia is one of the most important times of the entire procedure and is critical to a successful outcome. The pet is to be monitored until able to sit upright and breathe without the need for the endotracheal tube and swallow appropriately. Body temperature is monitored and the pet is warmed to maintain normalcy. While the pet is being monitored, any additional support is provided, if needed, such as additional pain medication, warming support, and nausea control.

The Big Take Home Message
First, talk to your veterinarian and veterinary team about their protocol for pre-anesthesia evaluation, lab testing, and treatment. Ask them how your pet will be monitored, what steps will be taken to adequately monitor your pet, and control pain and discomfort. Ask how your pet will be supported to limit
anesthetic complications and allow for safe, effective and proper dental care.

Timothy Hodge, DVM is the owner/practioner of Harbourside Animal Hospital and Cross Creek Animal Medical Center. Having completed his training at the Chi Institute, he provides acupuncture and herbal therapies in addition to traditional medical care.

Save Yourself Some Heartache

by Carol A. Marusak, VMD

You’ve promised the kids your family could get a Golden Retriever puppy. You’ve been looking for weeks and have finally found one at a pet store close to home. The kids and you go to pick up your new pup and excitedly bring him home. The next day, the new furbaby seems lethargic and has diarrhea. When he doesn’t improve, you take him to the veterinarian for a check up.

It turns out your new puppy has several types of intestinal parasites, and one called Giardia, is transmissible to humans. Wait! What? How can that happen? Well, according to Florida state law, it shouldn’t.

Florida has a law (FL Statutes 828.29 at leg.state.fl.us/statutes) known as the Pet Lemon Law to protect your rights. Whether you buy your puppy or kitten from a pet dealer or private breeder, the dog or cat must be at least eight weeks old, and you must receive an Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection. It must be signed by a veterinarian within 30 days of sale and will certify the pet has been vaccinated, dewormed and has had certain tests like a stool parasite exam and a feline leukemia/FIV test in cats.

If you purchase from a pet dealer (anyone selling more than two litters or 20 dogs or cats per year) they must provide you with a written notice advising you of your rights under the law. If you do not receive a Health Certificate, or the seller will not honor the statute, options include filing a complaint with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. You may also contact your local law enforcement agency and request they file a complaint on your behalf for violation of Fl. Chapter 828.29. Your filed complaint will be forwarded to the State Attorney’s office.

If your vet finds that your pet was unfit for sale, you have the right to receive a refund for the purchase price, and reimbursement for reasonable medical costs. Alternatively, you may return the pet and receive an exchange animal plus reimbursement for reasonable medical costs. You may also decide to keep the pet and receive medical cost reimbursement.

Within two weeks of purchase, if your veterinarian examines your new pup and finds a disease or internal parasites, or within a year finds a hereditary or congenital disorder, you may be compensated. Reputable purebred dog breeders test for health issues in the parents before producing a litter.

The Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) is a centralized canine health database. It maintains information on the health issues prevalent in specific breeds like hip dysplasia, cardia disease, and thyroid disease among many others. Anyone can look up health-tested dogs in their database. You will need the registered AKC name of the puppy’s parents.

Many pet stores obtain their puppies for sale from puppy mills. Do your homework and investigate before making such an important and long term decision. Reputable breeders do not sell their puppies to pet retail stores.

Puppy mills are commercial dog breeding operations that place profit over the health and well-being of the breeder dogs and litters of puppies. The two primary sales outlets for puppies bred in puppy mills: 1) pet retail stores that sell puppies; 2) the internet. In 2018, an investigation by the Florida Department of Health identified pet store puppies as the source of an outbreak of Campylobactor infections which was passed by puppies to 118 people across 18 states.

Veterinarians are advocates for the animals. We take an oath to protect animal health and welfare, and to prevent or relieve animal suffering. The Certificate of Veterinary Inspection gives us a tangible way to ensure pups are physically healthy before starting their life with a new owner.

It’s so easy to fall in love with a new puppy. By the time the puppy has had it first vet visit, the new owners have already bonded with the puppy.
As a veterinarian, it’s absolutely heartbreaking to diagnose genetic or
congenital problems during a new puppy exam, which requires the owner to have to make difficult and painful decisions. Please do your research before buying a puppy from a responsible breeder, and know your rights. Make sure you receive that Certificate of Veterinary Inspection health certificate.

Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services may be reached at 1.800.435.7352 or visit their website: 800HelpFLA.com

Carol A. Marusak, VMD owns and operates All County Animal Hospital in Brooksville. She became certified in veterinary acupuncture in 2001 and has training in herbal medicine. In 2015, Dr. Marusak completed her training in Veterinary Chiropractic and offers this service to her patients.
All County Animal Hospital
645 Ponce De Leon Blvd. Brooksville
352.796.6788 AllCountyAH.com

Photograph of a litter of healthy Corgi puppies by Kim Longstreet, DogStreet Pet Photography.

This Is Life

by Anna Cooke

It’s an imposing structure looking down on patrons and staff of The Dog Bar. Everyone’s curiosity had been piqued by the large blank concrete wall over the last month or so. The City of St. Petersburg is known for a lot of things, not the least of which the murals on buildings across town. So, up until a couple of weeks ago, questions remained unanswered. Would a mural be painted on the Grand Central Brewhouse wall, after all? And if so, what would it be and who would paint it?

Then Kevin Milkey, the owner of Grand Central Brewhouse, walked over to talk with his neighbor Fred Metzler, the owner of The Dog Bar. “We’re going to have an artist paint a mural on the wall, and, we’re thinking it should be a dog. What do you think?”

Fred didn’t have to verbalize his answer. The smile on his face said it all.

Grand Central Brewhouse broke ground late last year. It was an ambitious concept which will, no doubt, have to adapt to the current times when it opens. The craft beer taproom and second-story, outdoor roof terrace was designed to hold 250 people inside and out. The microbrewery and open-air beer garden will be able to hold another 375 guests.

The Dog Bar opened in 2016. They have a loyal following of customers who bring their dogs to socialize at the membership-only 5,000 square foot dog park and bar. Making adjustments to keep the successful business running safe and smooth has always been an important part of Fred’s Plan A.

Still, the effects of the pandemic, which resulted in the temporary closing of the business earlier this year, has taken an emotional toll on the gregarious owner. “My main concern has always been our employees. We’re family and my job, right now, is to make sure they’re all taken care of, to the best of my ability,” Fred said.

Hindsight is 2020 and boy, the irony of that statement does not go unnoticed by Fred. When he applied for his business license years ago to open The Dog Bar, the city insisted he obtain a restaurant license as well. “I didn’t want it. Having a restaurant was not ever part of my original concept,” said Fred. “But, I reluctantly went ahead and got the restaurant license too.”

Recently, the state of Florida updated their ever-changing regulations that oversee the opening and closing of businesses during the pandemic. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations said that those bars with food licenses would be allowed to re-open over the 4th of July weekend. Slowly but surely, The Dog Bar has  been able to reopen, thanks to that restaurant license, and customers are returning.

It’s been a welcome diversion for everyone at The Dog Bar to watch local fine artist Carrie Jadus paint the mural of a dog on the wall of Grand Central Brewhouse. Carrie was part of the original SHINE Mural Project, a project that “transformed the city streets into a curated, open-air museum showcasing large scale murals painted by world-renowned artists in downtown (St. Petersburg) and surrounding art districts”  (St. Pete Art Alliance). She was also commissioned to paint a cover of The New Barker dog magazine in 2016 as part of a fundraising campaign for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. The cover opportunity raised $12,000 for HSTB in 2015. Carrie donated her work, a portrait of Karma the Greyhound, to the family who placed the winning bid.

Karma, by Carrie Jadus

Having previously worked with Kevin Milkey on another project, Carrie jumped at the chance to work with him again on the Grand Central Brewhouse wall. Her design, concept and proposal won Kevin over, and Carrie was awarded the project.

As with all of her paintings, Carrie put a lot of thought into the meaning behind her concept for the Grand Central Brewhouse mural. She knew she wanted to incorporate a local dog, and asked her friend and fellow artist Marianne Wysocki if her dog Bodhi could be the subject. “Bodhi is somewhat of a local celebrity,” said Carrie, smiling.

The title of her mural is “Awakening Bodhisattva.” It’s a double entendre, explained Carrie. In the artist’s rendering, Bodhi is waking up. The definition of Bodhisattva is, “A Being who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so out of compassion in order to save suffering beings.”

“Bodhi is a very Zen being,” said Carrie, who used a photograph of Bodhi to paint the original small version which she uses as a guide to paint the mural. She estimates it will take a total of two weeks to complete the mural.

Homer, Carrie’s own dog, has been coming along with her while she works on the project, which she began on Wednesday, August 12. Homer watches in the shade, a bowl of water by his side, as Carrie commandeers the motorized scaffolding 30 feet up to begin painting. He whimpers as he watches her go up and away from him.

“It’s always kind of scary going up the first day. I’m wobbling around in it a bit. But, I get used to it. In the evenings, though, my legs are still a bit wobbly, much like the feeling of rocking and swaying after being on a boat.”

Carrie will remain up in the scaffold, painting for three hours at a time, coming down only occasionally to check on her work’s  perspective. It’s very abstract painting on such a large canvas that happens to be the wall on the side of a building.

“I have to focus on one spot of the painting at a time and trust the small scale painting I’m working from to transpose the image on the wall,” she said. Still, there is doubt sometimes, especially working so close to the painting. In her studio, Carrie explained, she is able to step back to look at a painting. Working from a scaffold so high up, it’s not productive to keep going up and down to check her work. When she does come down to see the progress, she’s always surprised by what she sees.

Life has always been unpredictable. The pandemic has made us all more acutely aware of this. “All we have is right now; this moment,” reiterated Fred Metzler.

To be able to do something that continues to positively surprise us every single day is the one gift we should give ourselves. “Painting is my favorite thing to do in the world,” Carrie told me. “I can’t even think of a better life.”


Below are photos of Carrie working on the mural at Grand Central Brewhouse. Also check out St. Petersburg, Florida’s 90+ SHINE Murals from your phone or computer by clicking this link to St. Pete Arts Alliance Shine Mural Festival

Awakening Bodhisattva, in progress. By fine artist Carrie Jadus.


In High Tide Or Low Tide, I’ll Be By Your Side

By Anna Cooke for The New Barker dog magazine

Robert E. Vierck was a Vietnam Veteran, having served in the United States Navy from 1964 to 1968. During the last few years of his life, he lived on a sailboat behind the C. W. (Bill) Young VA Medical Center in St. Petersburg. Life on the water brought him some joy. The proximity of his floating home to the VA Medical Center provided easy access for his medical needs. His only family was Arrow, a dog, who lived on the boat with him.

Ron Bittaker, co-owner of Paws Inn Paradise, a dog daycare and boarding facility in Pinellas Park, Florida is known for his big heart, especially when it comes to dogs and veterans. It’s not unusual for the folks who work at the VA Medical Center to call on Ron when they have a special situation that involves a dog. Sometimes it’s to provide temporary boarding for the dog while the veteran undergoes surgery or some other medical treatment that requires a brief stay in the hospital. Other times, it may be long term, for when a veteran is in the care of hospice.

Ron graciously and unceremoniously provides this as a service to the men and women who have served in the military. More often than not, many of the veterans who need this  type of assistance are not in a financial position to pay for boarding. Keeping families together and dogs out of shelters are two priorities for Ron and his staff. Many people who work or volunteer in dog rescue already know this about Ron.

When Mr. Vierck was unexpectedly admitted to the VA hospital, he left Arrow behind on his boat. After being called by the VA, Ron took his dinghy out to the sailboat to assess the situation. Arrow was the boat’s protector and did not take kindly to a stranger floating around the perimeter.

Every day for three weeks, Ron returned to the sailboat to feed Arrow. “I just put the food up on the boat, never actually boarding the boat.” 

The day after a line of storms moved off the Gulf across the Tampa Bay area, Ron anxiously visited the sailboat, only to find it capsized. Arrow was still on the boat, unharmed. Ron put in a call to Boat US, then determined that Arrow would need to be sedated in order to safely remove her from the boat.  She was still guarding her home. 

Arrow willingly took the hotdogs. Then Ron and his nephew Andy waited for the drugs to take effect. “Once Arrow was out, we lifted her off the boat and immediately took her to Medicine River Animal Hospital, where she was seen by Dr. Shauna Green,” said Ron. 

In the meantime, Boat US was on its way to the scene of the capsized boat with not one, but two boats to assist. It took a total of six hours to bail out the water and finally right the boat. Sadly, the weathered old boat had seen better days. Boat US refused to take any money for their work when they found out about the its owner.

Ron received word that Mr. Vierck was in hospice. Arrow was being well cared for by the Paws Inn Paradise staff, an obvious relief to Mr. Vierck.

The hospital does not allow dogs to visit patients, unless they are certified therapy or service dogs. An exception was made for Arrow after Ron made a few phone calls. Mr. Vierck was happy to see his dog and Arrow made it clear to everyone that the feeling was mutual. She smiled and wagged her tail the whole time.

The following day, Ron received word that Mr. Vierck had passed away. He listed Ron as his family. “He actually had a son with whom he was estranged, and we sent a certified letter to the son’s last known address in Washington state. We never received a response,” said Ron. “I made a promise to Bob that we would take care of Arrow and find her a good home.”

Eventually, Arrow was adopted by a Clearwater family. Soon after, as a companion for Arrow, they adopted Jesse, another sort-of celebrity in her own right. At only eight weeks old, Jesse was discovered injured and abandoned in an Orlando Home Depot shopping cart. Racing 4 Rescues fostered and nursed her back to health.

Recently, Ron recalled his memory of that experience with Mr. Vierck. “We went from being complete strangers to becoming good friends, brought together by a need to help his dog.”

The Faith Of Dogs

by Anna Cooke

When his beloved dog Chalky became old and frail, Andrew Heyes and the dog’s veterinarian both knew it was time. Chalky and Andrew had lived together in England for nearly 20 years. “We, the doctor and I, both cried about it. As far as I was concerned, Chalky was to be my last-ever dog. Ever!” said Andrew. “I just didn’t ever want to feel that wretched emptiness again.”

A couple of months later, Andrew received a phone call from the same veterinarian. A stray dog was brought in by police after being hit by a car. “He’s in very bad shape—starved and weak. Normally I’d pass him on to the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), but he’ll take up too many resources and more than likely be put to sleep,” Dr. Duncan told Andrew.

“Okay, I’ll come over and take a look, but as I’ve said, I’m not thinking about having a dog right now,” replied Andrew, who had gotten quite comfortable with a dog-free regimen. “I needn’t be worrying about getting home to walk the dog.” Still, he collected his car keys, along with Chalky’s old collar and leash. Though his mind was not quite  committed, in his heart, the dog had already found a home.

At the veterinarian’s office, the dog, part Doberman with the markings of a Lurcher, was encouraged to walk to Andrew, doing so in fear. “When he came to me and lifted his head, I found myself looking into the most trusting, beautiful eyes I had ever seen,” said Andrew, who announced the dog’s name would be Toby. “I had no idea where the name Toby came from. It just popped into my head.”

Soon after adopting Toby, Father Andrew found himself up against a deadline as editor of his Church’s parish magazine. He had not yet written his column “From the Vicar’s Keyboard.” Drawing a complete blank about what to write, he looked down at his new canine partner and said, “Toby, I’m really stuck here. I’ve no idea what to write about. Have you any ideas?”

Father Andrew soon discovered that Toby “voice” had a different slant on the world. Toby could say things (and get away with them) that Father Andrew couldn’t. Toby and Father Andrew were together in three parishes across two continents, including the United States. Toby continued writing his column From the Dog’s Paw for the various parish publications Andrew oversaw, including The Anchor for Tampa’s St. Clement’s Episcopal Church. Toby would be the first of Father Andrew’s three dogs to receive writing credits in the parish magazines.

After Toby died in September 2008, Father Andrew adopted another Doberman. Barney was six years old and had no clue as to the legacy he was expected to follow. He was a completely untrained dog, whose favorite bad habit was counter surfing.

Where Toby was a gentleman, well-versed in the Bible, theology and world events, what could Father Andrew possibly expect of a younger, non-church-schooled dog? Well, it turns out Barney was quite prolific during the three years he and Andrew were together.

Barney’s Bytes appeared in The Anchor until his death on August 5, 2012. “He just dropped dead after our morning walk,” Andrew recalled, still affected by the memory. Barney suffered from Dilated Cardiomyopathy, a heart disease known to be common in Dobermans. “Barney was a wonderful companion, and with his friendly disposition and playfulness, the best possible ambassador for the Doberman breed,” said Father Andrew.

Heartbroken again, Father Andrew vowed, “Never, ever will I have another dog. Ever!” Father Andrew’s heart was much stronger than his mind allowed him to believe. “Deep down, I knew it would eventually happen, but I thought it would be later than sooner.”

The red Doberman was only around a year old when he was found wandering in Miami, and picked up by the police. He was placed with Doberman Rescue of Lake Placid, where he lived for several months. The rescue group named him Toby. 

“When I met him, it was clear he had been traumatized. He was afraid of everything and had scars from cigarette burns on his body. His tail had been badly docked, causing him discomfort as well,” Andrew said. They drove home together that same day.

In a December 2012 column for The Anchor, Father Andrew wrote, “He will not be a Toby or a Barney. He will be Winston, a dog whose character will be as unique as each of ours. What his voice will be I do not yet know. We can be sure that, having just come from Doby-puppyhood and now being in the Doby-adolescent phase, Winston might have an attitude many parents of teenagers might recognize. At least he won’t ask to borrow the car.” Winston’s column was named Words of Winston.

What Father Andrew loves about the Doberman is their independence. “They just don’t seem to care. And, they’re really goofy as well as loyal,” he said. “Dogs are a conduit, especially in instances where people are troubled by something and want to talk, but are uncomfortable doing so,” added Father Andrew. “I noticed, early on, people would talk to the dog. If I responded, they would shut down. So, I kept quiet, and let them continue talking to the dog.”

Father Andrew added, “Having a dog in one’s life teaches many things, but perhaps the greatest lessons are to do with how to live one’s life, and also how to die. Even now, when I remember my faithful companions, I still feel the ache of loss. Reason tells me that this is natural, because they have shorter lives. Reason also tells me that the easy way to avoid such heartache is by simply not having the cause of it in my life. Oh, I have tried, but my ‘success’ has always been short-term. My love of the four-legged fur ball who makes demands on me, ultimately trumps the loss I know I shall one day feel.”

Father Andrew Heyes was born near Manchester, England in a town called Hyde. Growing up, he was lead singer and guitarist in a local rock band. Eventually he attended college to earn an honors degree in Theology and Religious Studies, then undertook post-graduate studies in theology which led to his ordination in the Church of England. He arrived at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in Tampa in November 2006, became an American citizen in 2013 and continues to play guitar. Winston continues to assist with the Church’s magazine. He and Father Andrew take multiple breaks throughout the day just to enjoy nature across St. Clement’s campus. Father Andrew can often be heard saying, “There are no such things as coincidences. Only God-incidences.”

One Good Thing Leads To Another

by Anna Cooke – This feature first appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of The New Barker Dog Magazine.

One year, out of the blue, 15-year-old John Patrick asked his parents for an English Bulldog as a Christmas present. With his sister Sarah looking on, their parents, Jo-Ann and John Lefner said no, citing the family’s current dog, a rambunctious Yellow Lab named Jake, as exhibit number one in support of their argument. The young man quietly left the room. His parents looked at one another, wondering about their son’s curious request. This, from a most giving child who himself had never really asked for anything. How could they deny him?

And so it was that a little brindle English Bulldog puppy entered the lives of the Lefner family, instantly finding a place in each of their hearts (except maybe Jake’s). They named him Dauber after coach Dauber Dybinski, a character in Coach, a popular television series at the time.

Dauber was not long for this world, passing away just a few months later at the age of one. The whole family was so devastated they could not even process the thought of bringing another dog into their fold. Even Jake, the Yellow Lab, seemed out of sorts. But, we don’t find dogs. It seems, when the time is right, they find us.

One afternoon, Jo-Ann was watching domestic diva Martha Stewart on television. Martha has a signature closing at the end of every show. “It’s a good thing.” Those words never rang more true for Jo-Ann than right at that moment.

“This family,” she thought to herself, “needs a good thing, right now.”

Just then, Jo-Ann’s telephone rang. It was Dauber’s breeder. “I have a litter of Bulldog puppies, and there is one that I think would be perfect for you and your family,” she told Jo-Ann.

And so it was that a second little English Bulldog entered the Lefner’s lives and, once again, stole their hearts. Jake took one look at his new housemate and glared up at Jo-Ann with a wrinkled brow as if to say, “What have you done to me now?” They named the English Bulldog puppy Martha Stewart, and she would lovingly torment Jake the rest of his days.

Over the years, the Lefners and their dogs would travel from their home in New York to spend their winters in Charleston, North Carolina. Jo-Ann and Martha Stewart would take walks, visiting the many beautiful parks. While most of the parks allowed leashed dogs, Jo-Ann found that they weren’t really very dog-friendly. There were no water stations or designated places to dispose of dog waste. Soon Jo-Ann and Martha Stewart became crusaders for improving Charleston’s dog parks, successfully campaigning for these and other amenities.

Fast forward a few years. Martha Stewart (the domestic diva) was being released from prison after having served a five-month term for conspiracy to obstruct justice. Ever the marketing maven, she had a quirky idea for her first television show following her incarceration. Why not have a program featuring everyone they could find named Martha Stewart?

The staff Googled “Martha Stewart” and found 167 women, and one English Bulldog, all named Martha Stewart. The internet’s search engine found Martha Stewart, the 10-year-old English Bulldog, via stories about the Charleston dog park campaign.

“Having a dog named Martha Stewart, well, you can imagine the crank calls we had endured from friends and family over the years,” Jo-Ann explained. “Questions like ‘what is Martha Stewart cooking up for dinner tonight?’”

Jo-Ann recalled the evening she received the phone call from someone claiming to be a producer with the Martha Stewart Show. She and John were having friends over for dinner.

“We were in the kitchen, and I picked up the phone to hear someone tell me they were from the Martha Stewart Show. They asked me if I had an English Bulldog by the name of Martha Stewart.”

Jo-Ann immediately thought it was one of her friends joking around, and responded accordingly with a sarcastic answer. Suddenly, she realized that the person on the other end of the phone was serious.

“No, really. I am a producer for the show, and we want your dog to be on Martha Stewart’s first show of her new season,” the woman told Jo-Ann.

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. They wanted our Martha Stewart to be on the Martha Stewart Show?”

They were flown, all-expenses paid to New York to be on the show in 2006.

“My dog, Martha Stewart went to hair and make-up and Martha Stewart, the star of the show, baked dog cookies for her,” smiled Jo-Ann.

The fame never went to Martha Stewart’s head (the dog, that is).

In December 2010, Jo-Ann Lefner opened a boutique on Anna Maria Island and named it after the family’s fourth English Bulldog, Bella. Regulars loved seeing Bella at the store. Over the years, The New Barker co-hosted a couple of fundraising events at the store in support of animal advocacy, including Florida English Bulldog Rescue.

After 10 successful years, Jo-Ann has decided to close Bella by the Sea Home Boutique. She made her decision just after the first of the year and long before the pandemic crisis. After years of sitting on various Boards, supporting community activities and going to market for her store, Jo-Ann is looking forward to visits with her children and grandchildren.

“It’s time to sit back, enjoy life, and think about my next new adventure,” said Jo-Ann.

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.


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.


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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



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


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


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



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


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


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


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.