We wanted to share a story that was first reported by the New York Daily News on Monday, December 17. The comfort dogs are able to bring is no surprise to dog lovers. The New Barker joins the nation in sending our thoughts and prayers to those who lost loved ones as a result of this tragedy.

Comfort dogs help ease pain of mourning Newtown Community. By Jennifer H. Cunningham and Adam Edelman for the New York Daily News. Photography is by Allison Joyce for the New York Daily News.

A pack of sympathetic groups bearing supportive canines spent much of Monday with bereaved Connecticut residents affected by last week’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, providing children and adults alike with the cuddly comfort that only a four-legged friend can give.

The therapy dogs were brought in by at least three groups late Sunday to help kids and adults alike cope with last week’s horrific shooting in Newtown that left 20 first graders and six school officials dead.

Among the groups was the Hudson Valley Golden Retrievers Club, whose members spent the afternoon at a makeshift memorial near the town center, where both kids and adults in need of compassion stopped to pet and cuddle the dogs.

Mourning or otherwise devastated children and parents said that petting the dogs gave them relief from their sadness.

“I just love dogs, so whenever I’m around them, they make me feel better,” said 12-year-old Ryan Williams. “When they come over and you pet them you kind of forget about what’s happening for a little bit.”

Jenna Stuart, a school bus driver from Newtown, said the dogs were an enormous help to her four-year-old daughter, Kylie, who attends preschool at the Children’s Adventure Center in front of Sandy Hook Elementary and lost friends in the tragedy.

“I like the dogs because they made me happy,” said Kylie, after petting one on the head. “The dogs love me.”

Some residents, who weren’t directly affected by the bloodshed, found peace in simply bringing their own dogs to help others.

Sandy Hook resident Ann Mari Cioffi, a member of the Hudson Valley Golden Retrievers Club, brought her dog, Libby, 5, to comfort victims, at a memorial in the center of town.

“They’re just gentle, caring, kind and sweet. Cioffi said of the dogs. “They just seem to sense it. They just sense when somebody’s sad.”

Massachusetts- based K-9’s For Kids Pediatric Therapy Dogs was also among the groups sharing their tail-wagging buddies.

Crystal Wright, 52, of Becket, Mass., a dog handler with the group for Rhiku, a 5 year old Sheltie, said the canine had been easing frowns all day.

“Everyone likes to pet a dog,” she said. “It changes the mood. It kind of takes them away from what they’re going through for a moment. I think it’s helping. I think they needed it.”

Some canines even traveled across the country to help out.

Trainers from the Chicago-based Lutheran Church Charities, which has deployed its comfort dogs to other communities hit by tragedy in the past, brought in 10 to 15 Golden Retrievers and their handlers to Connecticut to help with the consolation efforts, Tim Hetzner, the president of the organization, said.

For information on becoming a therapy dog team with your dog, contact the following organizations: Therapy Dogs International: http://www.TDI-Dog.org; Delta Society: http://www.DeltaSociety.org; Therapy Dogs Inc.: http://www.TherapyDogs.com

Florida’s New Tourism Slogan: The Good Dog State.

This month, the Governor’s Office of  Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development might want to consider re-branding the Sunshine State to the Good Dog State. From Jacksonville to West Palm Beach, Tampa Bay to Orlando and everywhere in between, Florida is chockfull of dog friendly events.

What’s more, if you’ve been thinking about bringing another dog into the family, October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. Many of the events this weekend and next will have rescue groups and their adoptables on hand.

This is Petey, available for adoption through All Dog Rescue of Florida.

Over the last couple of weeks we have met some pretty amazing people who donate whatever time they have to volunteer for various rescue groups. Of course, we’ve met some pretty incredible dogs too. Like Petey, who was abandoned as a puppy along with his mom, both found wandering the streets. All Dog Rescue of Florida is fostering Petey, and has already put $800 into him for his medical treatment. And still, his adoption fee is only $300. So, in your travels over the weekend, should you happen to attend one of the following events and come upon a rescue group, please drop a dollar or two in the donation jar. Petey (and many more like him) will thank you with puppy love and sweet kisses.

While you’re out and about on Saturday, October 20, you will definitely work up an appetite. And that’s a good thing, because our best event pick of the day is happening at the Clearwater Quaker Steak & Lube.  Don’t miss the Red Hot Rescue Chili Cook Off from 1p until 6p, hosted by the Florida Great Pyrenees Club. There will be some delicious samplings from some pretty competitive cooks, along with live entertainment, rescue groups, raffle items, giveaways, auctions and demonstrations. Not only will you satisfy your appetite, but your heart and soul will be filled up as well. All proceeds will benefit the participating rescue groups.

If you happen to be traveling through Lutz on Saturday, you might think you’re seeing spots. You would be right, since Dalmatian Rescue of Tampa Bay will be hosting their annual fundraiser, Dal-loween at Lake Park just off North Dale Mabry Highway. This is another one of those rescue groups whose volunteers have worked tirelessly over the years, and this is the one event that helps them sustain as a 501c3 all year long. Go, Spots. Go.

About 2000 people and hundreds of their dogs are expected to be at the Shell Factory’s Doggy Heaven this Saturday, October 20 for Goldenfest, hosted by Golden Retriever Rescue of Southwest Florida. If you know Golden Retrievers, you’ll love that one of the offerings throughout the day will be Pet Brushing and Furminating. The Shell Factory (located in Fort Myers) is also home to SunCoast DockDogs, so demonstrations and competitions will be held. Other organizations on hand with adoptables: SW Florida Wiener Dog Club, Healing Paws-Ability Agility, Gulf Coast Humane Society, Grey Muzzle, Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida, and the Pitbull Crew of Florida.If you happen to stick around through Sunday, check out the Doggie Church, a half hour non-denominational service held at 12:30 pm. By the way, our choice for dog friendly hotel accommodations would be Hotel Indigo, just minutes from the Shell Factory.

Maybe you’re a fan of the low-riding wiener dog. You’re in luck. The annual Dachstoberfest takes place on Sunday, October 21 between 10a and 2p at Centennial Square in West Palm Beach. There will be a Dachshund Parade, Doxie Dash Race, and a Costume Contest Competition conducted by The New Barker rover reporter and award-winning photographer, Tina Valant. Proceeds from this event benefit Dachshund Rescue of South Florida. Tina will also be handing out complimentary copies of The New Barker while supplies last. Travel tip: You’ll receive a delicious brunch during your stay at Hibiscus House B&B in West Palm Beach. Your dogs get to wander around the lushly landscaped, fenced-in yard, while you dine poolside.

We’re betting that the biggest gathering of dogs and people in Florida will take place this Sunday, October 21, at the 12th Annual Stride for Strays 3k Walk and Fundraiser for Animal Coalition of Tampa. Curtis Hixon Park on the Riverfront is one of the coolest venues in Florida. Stride for Strays has proven time and again, to be one of the most entertaining, fun-filled afternoons for the entire family. The Doggie Fun Zone will be set up for Agility demonstrations, and there will be plenty of food available (including vegan-friendly menus). Be sure to check out Groovy Cats & Dogs and Lucky Dog Daycare for specials and treats.

Also this Sunday, The Jacksonville Landing is hosting their 4th Annual Howl-O-Ween Bash and Yappy Hour between 2p and 5p. This has become known as the Largest Dog Costume Contest in Jacksonville. Complimentary copies of The New Barker will be available. Travel tip: Hotel Indigo does have a Jacksonville location as well.

Pitbull advocate and singer/songwriter John Shipe will be coming to Florida next weekend, courtesy of Pitbull Happenings. He will be at the 4th Annual Dogtoberfest at The Shops of Wiregrass, a daylong adoptathon on Saturday, October 27 with multiple rescue groups from all over Florida on hand. The event is hosted by Animal Based Charities.

For more howling good times, be sure to check out The New Barker calendar. Spooktacular picks, including the 6th Annual Barkoween, hosted by Fluffy Puppies, and A Pawsitively Posh Halloween Party, hosted by Pawsitively Posh Pooch are always good bets for a whole lotta fun. One Lucky Dog in St. Petersburg and Wet Noses Boutique in Sarasota are each hosting their own dog-friendly Halloween Parties, as are Pet Food Warehouse, Gone to the Dogs Boutique, What A Dog Play Center and The Doggie Door.

Whatever you do, wherever you go, be safe. Florida dogs are counting on you to look out for them (and to not leave them behind). For now, we’ll leave you with a funny (yet, sadly true) PSA from The Shelter Pet Project.

Is That Any Way to Support Our Troops?

A preliminary report by the Department of Veterans Affairs states that benefits for service dogs will be provided to the vision, hearing and mobility impaired. But benefits will not be provided for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disease (note…it is a disease, not a disorder). This ruling will become final in 30 days.

In the spring issue of The New Barker dog magazine, we featured a story by Heidi Joy Howard on K9s for Warriors out of Ponte Vedra Beach. Today, we asked Shari Duval, president of K9s for Warriors for her thoughts on the Department of Veterans Affairs report. “The new ruling is extremely disappointing and a setback for our Veterans suffering from PTSD.  Since 9/11 there are more than 500,000 disabled veterans. One in five suffers from PTSD. One in six will attempt or commit suicide. Service Dogs are medical equipment for PTSD, and should be regarded as such, the same as a wheelchair, or walker. Service canines are proven recovery aids for PTSD, often reducing the need for massive medications.  Until the VA recognizes the enormity and severity of PTSD we are moving backwards, certainly not towards recovery for our veterans.  The VA will pay for equine therapy, but not service dogs?  This ruling will not effect K9s For Warriors efforts as we are a non-profit organization and our resource is free to our warriors.  We are also in compliance with the ADI (Assistance Dogs International) .”

Also, this week in Jacksonville, veterans who were enrolled in the K9s for Warriors program were asked to leave a business in Jacksonville Beach while out on a training session. The owner of Surf and Skate Shop asked the veterans and their dogs to leave his business, claiming disruption of the business. Again, we asked Shari for her thoughts.

“The situation at the Surf and Skate Shop involving three of our warriors, and our Trainer was a very upsetting and disappointing day.  My warriors felt humiliated and demeaned when asked to leave.  A huge problem with those who suffer from PTSD is isolation.  Service canines offer the warrior the freedom to return to civilian life with dignity and independence.  Service canines give the warriors the security and confidence to step out of their comfort zone, isolation.  When the Shop owner told them to leave, the warriors felt humiliated , singled out; all the symptoms they struggle with.  Afterwards, we talked long and hard about what happened, and we went back as a group, together to accept the owner’s apology.  We are about second chances at K9s; our shelter dogs, our broken warriors, even those who have wronged us.  Giving the owner a chance to say “I’m sorry”, gave our Warriors respect.  They deserve that.”

Who in their right mind, has the guts or the heart to mess with these guys? Photograph by Heidi Joy Howard for The New Barker dog magazine.

Please visit K9s for Warriors and Canine Companions for Independence Wounded Veteran Initiative (a national organization with an Orlando center). We have witnessed firsthand the good these two exemplary organizations are doing for our veterans. Again, these organizations are privately funded. They rely on donations in order to provide their services and the dogs at no charge to the veterans. Now that’s the way to support our troops.

Keep this conversation alive by sharing this blog with others. Visit the social media sites of each of these two organizations. Many of the graduates stay in touch via these networks. Send them words of encouragement.

 

The Dog Days of Summer.

You Might Be My Shining Star: Sirius, the Dog Star, is the brightest star in the sky. And Twinkle, appropriately named, is Mary’s shining star. Photographed by Anna Cooke at Weaver Park.

The dog days are also identified with Dog Star days. Sirius, the Dog Star rises and sets with the sun during what are commonly the hottest days in summer. Often referred to as the dog days of summer, the period runs between early July and early September. Is there any relief in sight? Except for some afternoon thundershowers here in Florida, probably not. But Florida dog lovers make due with plenty of Dog Days of Summer fun.

Today (Saturday, August 18) the FiOS Dog Days of Summer will be a speed-themed family fun day at Dunedin’s Highlander Park. Between 11a and 3p there will be Agility demonstrations, dog costume contests, vendors and some surprises.

Tomorrow (Sunday, August 19) the Dog Days of Summer continue with an all-day celebration at Cassis American Brasserie in Downtown St. Petersburg. The highlight of the day’s events will be a doggie fashion show at 7pm. Cool Alert: The addition of the annual Pin Up with Pooches and Vintage Cars by Buffalo Gal Vintage, complete with professional stylists and some very jazzy cars. Benefits the Humane Society of Pinellas.

Planning ahead for some more dog fun – mark your doggie social calendar with these events: On August 22, check out Barkaritaville in Englewood at LaStanza Ristorante to benefit the Suncoast Humane Society. On Friday, August 24, we’re looking forward to the 6th Annual Dogs Days of Summer Beer & Wine Tasting event hosted by The Doggie Door in Winter Park to benefit Sebastian Haul Fund. The New Barker will also be at the annual Toast to the Animals at the Omni Hotel in Jacksonville to benefit the Jacksonville Humane Society. Then we’ll get to cool off during the Annual Dog Swim Day at St. Petersburg’s Fossil Park Pool. Anyone traveling the state of Florida and looking for dog-friendly accommodations – look no further than Hotel Indigo with six Florida locations. Of course, if you’re heading to St. Pete Beach, look no further than the TradeWinds Island Resorts.

Be sure to check in from time to time to The New Barker online event calendar for updates and rain dates. And if you are going out and about with your dogs, please remember to bring enough water to keep you and the pups hydrated. Also, be aware of walking conditions underpaw, like hot asphalt and concrete. And, getting back inside your car, it’s always a good idea to cool it down for a few minutes first. Those seats (and metal parts of the seat belts) are going to be really hot for your dog’s paws and other body parts.

One more thing: please check out The New Barker project. We have three days to go.

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.