The World is Watching Florida, Again.

No, it’s not because VP candidate Rep. Paul Ryan will address Medicare reforms in Florida this weekend. Nor is it because Tampa Bay is hosting the upcoming Republican National Convention.

The eyes of dog lovers everywhere will be focused on Miami-Dade County as residents there go to the polls today to decide whether or not to lift a 23-year ban on Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes.

No Dog is ExpendaBull.

In Miami-Dade County, owning American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers or any dog “substantially conforming” to any of the checklist of characteristics has been illegal since 1989. A dog in the county shelter that is identified as meeting these characteristics – even if there is no DNA proof of “Pit Bull” genes – is only eligible for adoption outside Miami-Dade county boundaries. If the dog is not adopted, it is euthanized, regardless of whether it has any bite history at all.

This means that any Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix that winds up in the county shelter, even the most gentle family pet, faces almost certain death. Breed and animal welfare advocates see the law as discrimination and are asking voters to overturn it.

“You better believe this has a chilling affect on anyone who has a dog as part of their family, no matter the breed,” Dahlia Canes, Director and Founder for the Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation recently told The New Barker. To prove her point, click here for a list of breeds banned in other communities across the United States. Be sure to scroll down to see the list.

Many dog lovers and baseball fans who live in Florida, especially Miami-Dade are already familiar with Miami Marlins pitcher Mark Buehrle and his wife Jamie whose dog, Slater quickly became the face of the movement earlier this year. After Buehrle signed with the Marlins, the family had to find a home outside of Miami-Dade in order to keep Slater.

The campaign to get out the vote to repeal the antiquated law has been a massive grassroots effort. In addition to the support from the Buehrle family, hundreds of rescue groups worldwide have been supportive. The South Florida Veterinary Medical Association supports repealing the ban, as does the Miami Herald.

We look forward to hearing some good news later today from Dahlia. Send your thoughts and support via this blog to the volunteers of the Coalition who are also working the polls today.

Fix At Four Advertising Campaign Targeting Dog and Cat Owners.

Best Friends Animal Society is co-hosting Pet Super Adoptions across the country. The New Barker dog magazine will be attending one this weekend at the pop-up adoption center for First Coast No More Homeless Pets, 10503 San Jose Boulevard in Jacksonville, Florida. The goal is to find forever homes for 200 dogs, puppies, kittens and cats.

One of the first tenets of the No Kill movement is the need to try and control over pet population through spaying and neutering. The fact of the matter is, though, 80 percent of pet owners actually do spay and/or neuter their pets. So, why do we continue to have an over abundance of kittens and puppies in shelters? Best Friends says there is still a lot of confusion as to when animals should be spayed or neutered. Female cats and dogs can actually start having litters as young as four months old.

Thanks to the help of TM Advertising and MRM in Salt Lake City, Best Friends has a series of cool, creative television spots, appropriately titled, Fix at Four. The campaign was created on a bare-bones budget, and the PSAs will be available for use online, posters, screensavers and TV.

The funny spots feature dogs and cats as they face the daunting task of parenting much too soon – but with a quirky twist. For example, one of the Fix at Four spots, Afternoon Stroll has a plot that makes it appear as if a harried father is trying to keep a bunch of “interested” local boys from being too interested in his young daughter.

TM’s chief creative officer, Bill Oakely said, “Given the fact there was very little money in the budget, there was a tremendous number of resources, artists, editors, musicians and actors helping with this. Lots of expensive talent gave up their time and effort for these spots.”

Among the stars of the PSAs are Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet, Oscar-winning actress Linda Hunt and musician Paula Cole.

While all of the spots are lighthearted, like “Afraid of That,” the statistics are all too real and still anything but. Half of all pets born in the United States are accidents, leading to so many being killed in shelters each year. Thanks to counties like Manatee, Broward, and Duval, their communities are embracing the No Kill movement. Other communities, like Hillsborough, Citrus and Palm Beach counties are assessing how to proceed. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Florida became the first No Kill state in America?

What’s Your Name? Is It Bronco or Bronx?

My dog’s name is Tebow. No, it’s Bronco. No, wait a minute, it’s Bronx.
New York Jets quarterback and former Florida Gator QB, Tim Tebow is hard at work with his new teammates. But the real news, making headlines right now, is the fact that he changed the name of his dog from Bronco to Bronx. Some dog and football fans are concerned the Rhodesian Ridgeback could become confused, even sighting concerns on Twitter that Tebow is a bad dog owner. Some are weighing in, saying it’s cruel to change a dog’s name.

But, re-naming a dog is not an unusual occurrence. How many families have changed the name of their newly adopted dog after bringing him or her home from a shelter? Heck, dogs adapt to new names, just like football players adapt to new teams. For dogs, it’s love+food = adaptation. For football players it’s adulation+money = adaptation.

At least Tebow isn’t adding tattoos to his dog’s body a la LaDainian Tomlinson.

Confused dog? Let us know what you think. And while you ponder the question, we’ll leave you with this little ditty by Don and Juan. By the way, you haven’t lived until you’ve been serenaded by the love of your life with this beautiful classic, a cappella, no less. You had me at “shooby doo wap wa da.”

I Wish There Were More Weekends Than Weekdays.

By now, many of you have noticed: We didn’t have much of a Winter here in Florida. And, as a Floridian who truly loves tropical weather, I am certainly not complaining. But an unseasonably warm Winter in Florida does present other problems, mainly a proliferation of bugs. So, as we prepare to put out the Spring issue of The New Barker, we are gearing up to tackle fleas, ticks and other critters that will just plain bug us and our companion pets if we are not prepared. In our Dog HomeFront section, we’ll have tips and ‘todes on dog friendly landscaping.

The Spring issue of The New Barker will feature some amazing dogs at play and at work. And, thanks to our contributing rover reporters from all over the state, we’re featuring dog friendly events and stories from the Panhandle to the Palm Coast, Miami and the Florida Keys, Dunedin to DeLand.  Our dog social calendar was pretty full this first quarter of 2012. And the next few months are shaping up to be ultra busy with dog events across the state. While we print a three month calendar in each issue, our online calendar is updated at least once a  week. Be sure to sign up for Weekend PupDates, The New Barker email blast that goes out about two times a month, letting you know about the hottest dog friendly events, and venues in Florida.

The Spring issue will also feature opportunities to win dog friendly getaways, some pretty impressive gift items, and gift certificates at some of Florida’s favorite places to dine. As a lifestyle magazine, we will be featuring unique perspectives on the AKC Eukanuba National Championships, the Florida Classic Clusters in Brooksville, and of course our annual trek to New York City for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Oh, and find out how your dog could become our bikini-clad, pull out centerfold in the Summer issue.

One of our favorite feature pieces in the Spring issue involves Manatee County Animal Services, and their promise to be a No Kill community by the end of 2012. Thanks to their county commissioners, the public and folks like Chris Weiskopf, they are well on their way. Some other towns in Florida are working on following suit with Manatee County, while others are taking a wait-and-see attitude. Meanwhile, dogs continue to die in shelters across the state, despite the number of rescue groups willing to step up and help out. And while you might expect many of the deaths to be Pit Bull-related, count Yorkies, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, Dalmatians and Boxers among the statistics. In this issue we welcome a contributing original feature from Nathan Winograd.

Thanks to the  Humane Society of Manatee County and Realize Bradenton, we are bringing the creative team behind An Act of Dog to Florida. Meet Mark Barone and his partner Marina Dervan, and come see some of the poignant work Mark is painting. He has committed the next two years of his life to painting the portraits of 5500 dogs euthanized in shelters across the country. Why 5500? That is the average number of dogs euthanized – every single day in this country. The couple will be in Bradenton during The New Barker co-hosted The Artful Purpose Art Show, March 24. The show coincides with the Annual Paws in Motion walk on the riverfront for the Humane Society of Manatee County. And, both events take place in the same vicinity and general timeframe (8a-2p) as Downtown Bradenton’s Saturday Morning Farmer’s Market.

One last piece of business before I sign off and jump back on production. Since July of 2011, I have had the extreme pleasure of being part of a radio program produced by CMA award-winning radio personality, Skip Mahaffey. While I still get flummoxed and tongue-tied (thank goodness for Skip’s uncanny ability to recognize my deer-in-the-headlights look) we are having a lot of fun. Our live interviews have included Elvin Bishop, Nathan Winograd, Guy Gilchrist, Dr. Marty Becker, Victoria Stilwell and Aaron Tippin to name but just a few. Recently, we had a young man who was inspired by his Jack Russell to help raise money and awareness for Canine Cancer. When Spiro Cromwell’s dog, Jack was diagnosed with cancer, he was sad, but wanted to do something for all of the other dogs living with cancer. He became involved with the National Canine Cancer Foundation, and has raised a little more than $2,000 over the last two years.

Spiro, his mother Emerald and their new puppy Murphy visited with us in the studio for a live interview. At one point, we lost contact with the production booth and with Skip who was on Skype. Our producer came into the booth trying to figure out why our computers were not receiving a connection. Turns out, Murphy, the puppy that he is, chewed through the wires. Live radio – you just never know what’s going to happen next.

Tune in to The SkipShow this Monday, March 19 between 1p and 2p EST as we interview Mark Barone and Marina Dervan with An Act of Dog. We’ll also have a volunteer from Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid-Florida and most likely a few guest surprises as well. We always feature songs that are dog-themed in content like Man of the Hour by Nora Jones,  and Like My Dog by Billy Currington. Enjoy.

Spiro, upon discovering that his dog, Murphy chewed through the wires in the studio during the airing of The SkipShow with The New Barker.
Spiro, Emerald and Murphy recently visited with The New Barker during the airing of The SkipShow radio program.

Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick.

This Saturday, February 25  marks the fourth year The New Barker will be covering the Jack Russell Terrier Races at the beautiful Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City. What follows is an excerpt, which first appeared in the Spring, 2008 issue of The New Barker about these fine, funny, fearless little dogs:

On a cool, sunny, rather perfect day for a stroll, dogs and horses of a very special stripe were queuing up for much more than a walk in the park. Just north of Dade City, a spectacularly colorful dual racing event brought The New Barker dog magazine out of its urban confines, to cover the Little Everglades Steeplechase Jack Russell Terrier Races. The dogs compete on a 150-foot straight course that has several hurdles over the length of the track. We had no idea what we were in for, but from the looks of the crowd and the electric atmosphere, we knew it was going to be special. About an hour before post time, Jack Russell’s were everywhere, getting prepped for the upcoming heats—the excitement was palpable—and I needed to get close to the action.

The gentleman wore a baseball cap and dark sunglasses, and watched as I approached the Terrier racecourse. “You with the media?” he asked, very matter-of-factly. Still not quite accustomed to that question, and a little intimidated by his imposing stature, I answered, “I’m with The New Barker.” He chuckled and told me the best way to photograph a Jack Russell race was to aim the camera through the cut out where the dogs, chasing the lure, would be barreling through at the end of the race. He pointed at the ground-level opening he was referring to, which was about a foot in diameter. I would have a bird’s-eye view of the dogs running straight at me. However, it meant I would need to lie on the hay-covered dirt, precious camera propped up by my elbows, aim and shoot. As the dogs neared the entryway into the catch pen, I would have to use my own judgment as to when I would roll to one side to keep from being trampled by the crazed little guys. “They get pretty wild and don’t stop, so you’re going to have to move fast to get out of their way,” he said. Another thing I needed to be concerned with, he told me. The lure was attached to a string and pulled lightning-fast by a pulley behind us. The string and the lure would be coming through the same little hole that the dogs would be running through. “Get too close to that, and it’ll cut right through your clothing and into your skin,” he cautioned me. Then he looked at me and asked, “Interested?” Was I ever!

Jack Russell Terrier Races, Little Everglades Ranch, Dade City, FL. Photograph by Anna Cooke, The New Barker.

He lifted the rope and helped me climb over the bales of hay that contained the makeshift six-by-six holding pen. “My name’s Darren Shiver, by the way.” “Nice to meet you Darren,” I answered. He introduced me to his wife Fran, whom I’d spoken to earlier in the week by phone. Also in the catch pen were eight students from Zephyrhills’ Heritage Academy School, who volunteered to catch the terriers as they came racing through the opening. Thankfully, each dog would be wearing a muzzle to keep from harming each other or their handlers. If the dogs bumped into one another, they would get into a scuffle.

Nevertheless, the dogs were pumped with excitement by the time they reached the end of the race in the catch pen. To the dogs, that furry lure was their prized fox and most of them were focused on nothing else but catching it. Fran had a walkie-talkie so that she could talk to the race volunteers at the starting line, letting them know when we were all ready on our end for the next race. She also tabulated the results of each race.

The first few races were open to amateurs. Those were called training heats. To the delight of their humans, the Jack Russell Terriers who had never done anything like this before were allowed to partake in the fun. Some dogs took to the race instinctively, while others didn’t have a clue. Uncomfortable with the muzzles and confused by the commotion of the cheering crowd, a few dogs had to be coaxed by their owners to finish the race. This was done on several occasions by the human jumping onto the track and coaxing their dog with, “Come on, let’s go, you can do it!” after the race had been completed by the other dogs.

As the official races were about to begin, we learned that each dog could race up to six times during the course of the day. The dogs were grouped by size, between the standards and the talls. For example the talls — all dogs over 30 centimeters at the shoulders, would race together.

The first sets of 100-meter races were on a straight, empty track. Chasing a fox lure, each dog would race in a heat and their placing was determined by which final they would draw. For instance, if a dog ran first in his heat he drew into the first’s final, if he ran second, he drew into the second’s final and so on. Up to eight dogs could compete in any one race. After the 100-meter flat heats and finals came the 100-meter hurdles, where the dogs chased the lure while jumping over a series of hurdles. There were twenty-six races throughout the day and just one or two close calls from my vantage point.

As the day wore on, I became a little more brave with each race, waiting until (what I thought) was the last minute. One dog ran into my index finger as I tried rolling out of his way. But I didn’t mind. To be down on the ground watching six to eight dogs as they bore down on me was almost mesmerizing and incredibly exhilarating. During the following two weeks, I would look at the bruise on my index finger (which hurt like the dickens) and smile at the memory of my experience. While I may not have gotten the best photographs, I had the best seat in the house, by far.

Redemption for Shelter Animals in Hillsborough County, Florida.

It was a veritable who’s who of Tampa Bay dignitaries and dog lovers at the Westshore Marriott on Saturday, February 4. More than 250 folks attended the Save 90 Conference, featuring Nathan Winograd. The New Barker, a proponent of the No Kill Movement, and one of the sponsors of the event, first featured a review of Nathan’s book, Redemption, in 2008. It was the book that started the No Kill Movement. Meeting the (in my humble opinion) rock star who is Nathan Winograd was indeed a pleasure, and an honor.

Anna Cooke's well-worn copy of the book, Redemption by Nathan Winograd, autographed by the author on February 4, 2012.

He was in town at the invitation of Linda Hamilton and Frank Hamilton, both with Animal Coalition of Tampa, a low cost spay/neuter clinic in Tampa. Pacing the floor before the conference, getting in the zone, it was clear Nathan was on a mission. You see, Hillsborough County Animal Services is searching for a new director, and the Hamiltons are hopeful that the timing of Winograd’s visit will effect the selection process to the degree that no-kill advocacy is a requisite qualification for the job.

Animal Coalition of Tampa set the playing field: The game plan is Save 90 and their star player would be Nathan Winograd. On Saturday, February 4, it was Nathan’s job to get a solid foothold in the game, landing Save 90 on at least first base. Tough, since it’s safe to say some in the crowd were skeptical. But Nathan has seen his share of naysayers throughout his career. Indeed those past naysayers would be part of his presentation, complete with audio sound bites. Tampa Bay was ready to hear Nathan Winograd.

Among the attendees were Rick Medina of Animal Based Charities; Deborah Millman, executive director of Honor Animal Rescue/Sarasota; Pamela Perry, Investigation Manager for Hillsborough County Animal Services; Pat Hose of Dalmatian Rescue Tampa Bay; Bill Gray with Second Chance Boxer Rescue; Eric Emminger with Pit Bull Happenings; Martha Boden, executive officer of SPCA Tampa Bay; Kris Logan-Walker, owner of Fluffy Puppies; photographer Danette Morse and husband Dan; Kathy Walvoord of St. Francis Society Animal Rescue; representatives from No Kill Manatee, Florida Voices for Animals and Animal Network; Laura Fletcher-Taylor of Fletcher Harley-Davidson and Loving Friends Transport; and Cynthia Smoot of Fox-13 News.

Linda Hamilton opened the conference with remarks that were both humorous and compelling. Then, via a taped video, Kris Weiskopf, chief of Manatee County Animal Services gave an eye-opening review of their mission and promise to be a No Kill Community by the end of 2012. Kris introduced Nathan, who held the audience’s attention for the next two-and-a-half hours. Did I say held our attention? The man not only held it, he lassoed it; reeling us in, making us laugh, cry, and then had us thinking long and hard about taking chances. Chances that will make a difference to the bottom line. The bottom line of saving money and most important, saving lives. What’s not to like about that?

After The New Barker reviewed Nathan’s book, Redemption in 2008, he contacted me and asked if I would like to send autographed copies of his book to shelter directors in Florida. I gave him the name of several shelter directors, and he made sure they knew the autographed books were sent on behalf of The New Barker. Not one shelter director acknowledged receipt of the book. Although, one director did let me know, indirectly via the shelter’s communications director that the book was not well thought of, and would not be read. Almost four years later, all but one of those directors was in the audience on Saturday, February 4 for the conference.

Why the change of heart, Cynthia Smoot of Fox-13 News asked me? My answer: The No Kill Movement is a movement whose time has come to Florida. Manatee County Animal Services made the pledge with full support from the County Commissioners. Other Florida counties are contacting Manatee County, wanting to learn how they too can become a No Kill Community. Linda Hamilton has made trips to Manatee County to meet with Kris Weiskopf and his staff. It’s a movement that can no longer be ignored, or ridiculed. The No Kill Movement has reached the masses, and the people are responding.

Not everyone applauded Nathan on Saturday, nor did every person stand during several standing ovations. But, his words, statistics, and photographs provided substantial proof that the No Kill Equation works. The majority of the audience was convinced that Hillsborough County should become a No Kill Community. His words did not fall on deaf ears. When Nathan was finished, Rick Reidy, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan’s legislative aide, stood up to address the audience on Hagan’s behalf. Reidy told the audience that Hagan would recommend to the Board of County Commissioners that Hillsborough County Animal Services take the necessary steps to become a no kill facility.

Animal Coalition of Tampa's Frank and Linda Hamilton; Save 90 guest speaker, Nathan Winograd;Fox-13's Cynthia Smoot.

Nathan listened to Reidy and watched the crowd as they jumped to another standing ovation. A smile was barely visible on this thoughtful man’s face. Yes, we’re in the game because of Animal Coalition of Tampa and Manatee County Animal Services. And, yes Nathan Winograd got us on base. But we’re not in the home stretch yet.

The community must get behind this, and let the county commissioners know how important the issue of No Kill is to them. Join the Alliance to Save 90 by going to www.save90.org. Attend the monthly meetings, held the first Tuesday of each month; the first one on February 7 at the Tampa Tribune Auditorium. Make sure elected officials embrace the decision by the community that the killing of companion animals housed in shelters and animal services, is not okay. Make sure elected officials hire a compassionate and competent individual at Hillsborough County Animal Services to lead the plan. The new hire must be able to embrace the No Kill Equation.

You Better Slow Down, Dog If You Want Our Love to Last.

The year has certainly flown by. I suspect publishing a quarterly magazine makes the year go by even faster, with deadlines looming, people eagerly awaiting their subscription, and advertisers to satisfy. It’s a pressure that’s exhilarating, and one that I wouldn’t give up for the world. A long time publisher and a mentor to me, Aaron Fodiman, recently celebrated Tampa Bay Magazine’s 25th anniversary. He told me, “I sat back and realized, that’s around 150 magazines we’ve published, which means that’s around 150 deadlines we thought we’d never live through.” Amen, Aaron. And congratulations to you, Margaret and staff on a job well done. Here’s to another 150 deadlines.

The dogs in our home also seem to be reminding us how quickly time moves along year after year. Is it possible that more than six years have gone by since The New Barker dog magazine was just an idea? The years have grayed Rita the MinPin’s muzzle. We notice flecks of gray on Dougie’s coat. Chloe remains our perpetual puppy, never seeming to age even though she is around 12. In fact, she seems to have become livelier lately as she and Dougie, our Scottie, spar and play together. A special thanks to Dunedin Dog Rescue for finding Dougie, an unplanned adoption for this household, but a wonderful addition, nonetheless.

The biggest reminder of time adding years to our lives is my Zoe, my shadow, my one special lifetime dog. I remember bringing her home almost 14 years ago. She was so small, so soft and oh, so sweet. She is still all that, and more to us. Her presence brought a spring in the step of our old Golden Retriever, Elmo all those years ago. He hung on another four years and we credit Zoe for that.

Now, Zoe is the old dog in our home. She moves slower, is hard of hearing and has trouble with her vision. Other than that, she is in good health. She loves to eat (she’s not fat, she’s fluffy, you know), and enjoys being around people and other dogs. She’s always been very sociable. Lately though, I’ve noticed, as she sleeps in her bed under my desk, how she doesn’t stir when things are going on around her. While the other dogs are vocal about going outside or wanting to eat, there is Zoe, still sound asleep with hardly any movement and no sound emanating from her. Sometimes, I walk up softly to lean over her, just to make sure she’s still breathing. A couple of times I’ve had to put my hand on her body or my ear close to her mouth just to make sure. My heart skips a beat at those moments.

Zoe always has to be by my side. If she wakes up and I’m not in the room, she’ll come looking for me, using her strong sense of smell, nose to the ground, to search me out. As soon as she spots me, I swear her eyes light up, she opens her mouth as if she’s smiling, and she comes running towards me. I love to hear the patter of her paws on the floor running after me to keep up.

We will always have more than one dog in our home. The transition of bringing a new dog in to learn from the other dogs is such a wonderful experience. You don’t realize it’s happening. One day, you notice how the dynamics have suddenly changed and everyone is living in harmony. Of course, it wasn’t all of a sudden. Dogs, who are said to love us unconditionally, come in and out of our lives in what seems to be a short life span, compared to our own lives. It’s been said the reason is, they’re trying to teach us to get it right. That is, to finally love unconditionally, to stop and smell the breeze, to enjoy the moment.