It’s so hot, we saw two trees fighting over a dog.

Four dogs, one accident – pretty decent odds. Still, I wonder why we were the ones uncomfortable with walking down the street and asking the neighbors for a reprieve from the constant barrage of explosions.

It’s the day after the 4th of July and members of our household (dogs and humans) came out of it pretty much unscathed. We won’t count the one pile of poop, dropped in-house (by one of the dogs) as a result of the rain and constant setting off of fireworks by the neighbors. Four dogs, one accident – pretty decent odds. Still, I wonder why we were the ones uncomfortable with walking down the street and asking the neighbors for a reprieve from the constant barrage of explosions. We decided it would be better to just hunker down with the pups and wait it out. Better that, than being classified as cranky neighbors, or worse, unpatriotic.

We ventured outdoors with the dogs around midnight to the distant sound of fireworks. There were spent casings on the back deck. A cloud of smoke hung in the air from the aftermath of the neighbor’s grand finale. A little unsettling. As someone wrote us on Facebook: all is quiet for now. Until New Year’s Eve.

Tonight at 7p on CNN’s Headline News Network, Jane Velez Mitchell will devote an hour on another explosive subject: that of animal rights. Among other things, she will be speaking with Bob Barker and Pierce Brosnan. Should be a heated hour of discussions and footage.

Tampa Bay Rays (and dog lover) James Shields pitched a sizzlin’ game last night against the Twins, giving him his 50th career victory. Now that’s hot. The Rays are playing at home tonight against Boston. It’ll be the start of a seven-game series at home.

Hot ticket item of the week for dog lovers: This coming Saturday, The New Barker is co-hosting Bark at the Ballpark with the Tampa Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Party with your dogs on the promenade and then catch some smokin’ minor league ball as the Tampa Yankees take on the Brevard Manatees. Dogs and humans must have a ticket to get in. And there are some free ones floating around town: Downtown Dogs in Tampa’s Hyde Park; Groovy Cats & Dogs in Carrollwood; Fluffy Puppies, Clearwater location; Paw Paws Boutique in Countryside Mall; One Lucky Dog and Pawsitively Posh Pooch, each on 4th Street NE, St. Pete; Gone to the Dogs on St. Pete Beach. See you at the ballpark.

And, be on the lookout for the summer edition of The New Barker, coming out soon. It’s going to be hotter than (ahem) a fire cracker lit on both ends. Bada BANG.

Now That’s the Way to Beautify a Town.

Since early May, we’ve been taking progress photos of Dunedin artist Anna Hamilton’s dog mural. Anna is painting the mural on the east face wall of Skip’s Bar & Grill, a well-known dog-friendly neighborhood bar. Her goal is two-fold: to beautify the exterior wall of a business and to help raise money for Dunedin Dog Rescue. Every dog on the wall belongs to someone.

Anna put a simple call out to some folks in town to see if there would be an interest in having their dogs forever immortalized as a piece of art on the wall. “That mural will be there as long as Skip owns the bar,” said Anna.

People have come out in droves. While Anna paints, people have stopped to ask her if their dogs can be added. Some people yell out of their car windows, telling her they’re coming right back with a photo of their dog to be added to the wall. Some people bring photos of several of their dogs. Some of the dogs featured are beloved family pets either recently deceased, or they have been gone a long time.

“The best dog I’ve ever had has been gone for five years, and I think of him every day,” said one passerby, adding, “What better way to honor him than to have his likeness on a wall to help Dunedin Dog Rescue?”

The price to have one’s dog included on the wall depends on the size and placement. The more prominent the dog, the higher the price. Anna can be found painting almost every day and will being do so through June 20. That is when phase one of the wall will be officially completed and a celebration will take place at Skip’s with Dunedin Dog Rescue and The New Barker.

Anna is not only talented but efficient and imaginative. It is amazing to see how quickly she is able to transform a large portion of the wall in just hours. And the design of the wall comes to her as she is painting.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of watching her work on another project in Downtown Dunedin at Cappuccino’s Cafe and Wine Bar. Over lunch one afternoon, I watched as she transformed a plain brown wall into an Italian vineyard within the span of about an hour and a half. The perspective of the completed mural is amazing. And she created it all from her imagination. She did not have a photograph as a guideline. “I can just see it in my head,” said Anna.

She is so pleased with the response for the mural at Skip’s and she wants to do more of the same around the Bay Area, perhaps even the whole state. Right now, The New Barker is helping coordinate a similar project at Gaspar’s Grotto in Ybor City to help raise funds for Tampa Pets, the organization that has been putting on the Adoption Expos at the Fairgrounds for the last three years.

Take a look at some of the photos of Anna’s progress. We are especially pleased with the park bench.

Bulging Disk. Really?

Okay, one more post about Tiger Woods (hey he’s doing it to himself). He’s withdrawn from The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, Florida, blaming an injury he fears might be a bulging disk in his upper back. Again: Really?

He has set himself up for so many one liner responses (mark our words, you’ll hear them on Letterman and Leno this week). But we’ll keep it clean and just go with this one: Tiger, it’s really the monkey on your back that’s tampering with your ability to play. Seek out the wisdom in your dogs’ eyes. Re-group with the pack. Your family needs you. Golf doesn’t.

Read about a golfer the media should be following for inspiration in the latest issue of The New Barker: Dog lover and professional golfer, Ken Green. Pick up a copy at any independent dog boutique, veterinarian and bookstore in Florida.

And truly, best of luck to Tiger and his family.

Attitude Adjustments.

Tiger Woods has a bad day in Ponte Vedra Beach on the TPC Sawgrass course and says, “It’s just a matter of getting my mind where it needs to be. And certainly I’ve made a lot of adjustments in my life, and I’ve gone through a lot…”

Really?

Read the story in the current issue of The New Barker about how another professional golfer is having to make adjustments in his life, after what he has been through. Ken Green has set his sights on being the first professional golfer to play with a prosthetic leg. Green, who is always surrounded by dogs at home told The New Barker, “There is no time to feel sorry for yourself with a dog around.”

Good words to live by.

Bark at the BallPark Fun for Dogs.

Sunny Florida skies with balmy Bay breezes made this past Sunday the perfect day to kick back with an ice-cold beer and catch a great game of baseball. Enhancing the afternoon’s experience was the presence of dogs, lounging in the stands with their owners. It was Bark at the Ballpark II at Bright House Network Field in Clearwater, where the Clearwater Threshers trounced the Daytona Cubs, 8-4. Co-sponsored in part by The New Barker, proceeds benefited the Humane Society of Pinellas County. Special Events Coordinator, Twila Cole and a very capable group of volunteers put on another cool event with contests, prizes and vendors. We ran into Executive Director Barbara Snow, who was making sure everyone was having a good time.

Part of what makes baseball fun and entertaining is the music, radio and/or television excerpts and a plethora (plethora?) of sound effects interspersed throughout the game. One of the sounds was a doorbell. Ding Dong. Guess what happened each time that was heard? About two hundred or so dogs started barking, right on cue.

And as good friend of The New Barker, Cory Cooper says, “You can never predict what your dog or your spouse will do in public,” comes Toby, a three year-old Yellow Lab. Toby snuck away from his owner, ran down the stadium steps and jumped over the dugout onto the field during a play. We caught the “play-by-play” on camera, then ran across the stadium afterwards to interview Toby’s owner, who said, “He loves to play catch and just went after a ball in play. When I realized he was gone and saw where he was heading, I thought for sure he’d stop at the fence.” Catch the photos on The New Barker Facebook page.

At the end of the game, everyone and their dogs were invited onto the field to run the bases. What a great sight. Kids, adults and dogs – smiling and laughing as they rounded the bases. The Humane Society of Pinellas will have more Bark at the Ballparks and The New Barker highly recommends this dog-friendly outing. For a complete list of Bark at the Ballpark events throughout Florida, visit the Social Calendar link on http://www.thenewbarker.com

Woof, woof, woof for the home team.

Clearwater Threshers vs. Daytona Cubs today @ Bright House Field, Clwtr. Bark @ the Ballpark. Gates open @ noon; game starts @1. Benefits Humane Society of Pinellas. Sunny day, baseball and a dog by your side. Then, run the bases with your dog @ the end of the game. Woofalicious fun.

AMERICA’S TOP DOG MODEL CONTEST-TOMORROW!

THE NEW BARKER Come on out to Hyde Park tomorrow morning. Register in front of Downtown Dogs to be part of the casting call for America’s next Top Dog Model. Producers are looking for dogs of all shapes and sizes. It’s free, fun and your dog doesn’t need a costume/get-up to be part of the casting call. Gifts, vendors, radio remote and more.

Recycling Homeless Dogs.

Conspicuous consumption. Instant gratification. Easily disposable.
Society’s habits have caused an over-abundance of homeless dogs in shelters, rescue groups and foster homes. Today is the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, and leading up to this day we’ve been provided with what seems like an over-abundance of media tips on how to be more green – by recycling, re-purposing or re-focusing our lifestyles.

Well, if you can stand one more, here’s another tip from The New Barker: if you’re thinking about bringing a puppy into your home, consider this: adopt a recycled dog.

What is a recycled dog? Dogs, who for one reason or another, had previous lives with a human being or family. Through no fault of their own, they now find themselves homeless, in a shelter – hopeful the one they love will return. For those of you reading this, you already know what will happen to these creatures if homes cannot be found for them. In fact, you may have already rescued a shelter dog by adopting one. Can you find room in your home for one more?

The Florida State Fairgrounds will be the site of the Tampa Pet Adoption Expo this Saturday, April 24 between 10a and 4p (www.tampapets.org/expo.php). You will be able to see hundreds of puppies and dogs of all breeds and sizes available for adoption. There will be the Heinz 57 breed and senior dogs available as well. These dogs have been vet checked; they will be current on their vaccinations; they will have already been personality tested.

The work that the shelters and rescue groups do up to the point of adoption means that the dogs can be better matched with their new families. You’ll be apprised of the dog’s personality traits, the needs and care required. You will probably know more about what to expect from your newly recycled dog than the pure-bred puppy you might be considering buying from the puppy store.

Tampa Pets is a partnership between the ASPCA, Humane Society of Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County Animal Services and more than 50 rescue groups. Formed three years ago, the partnership had a goal to reduce Hillsborough County’s euthanasia rate by 50% by the end of 2012. Their efforts have been so effective that they are on target to meet that goal by the end of 2010.

So this weekend in honor of Earth Day, you can help save Mother Earth, one homeless dog at a time. Adopt a recycled dog.