An Underdog Becomes Leader of the Pack.

The dogs at Tito’s Handmade Vodka offices and distillery are a constant reminder of the company’s mission to “unite with our friends, fans and partners to better the lives of pets and their families far and wide.”

by Anna Cooke

One of the very first employees of Tito’s Handmade Vodka was a dog named Dogjo. She was right by Tito Beveridge’s side when he started his distillery in 1997. It was the first legal distillery in Texas and the only crafts spirits distillery in the country, at the time.

During those early years, Tito’s Handmade Vodka was a one-man operation – from crafting and packaging to selling, delivering and dealing with paperwork. Beveridge and Jo often ate and slept at the warehouse. The 50-pound bags of dog food that Beveridge stored for Jo eventually attracted a revolving door of homeless pups, fondly called “distillery dogs.”

Beveridge has always said that he makes the vodka he likes to drink. “Since I was the guy making it, bottling it and selling it, I realized I couldn’t make something for somebody else. It was just fortunate for me that my palate falls into the bell curve of what vodka drinkers like.”

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This is Taki, the current official distillery dog.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka grew and so did the number of dogs who hung around the distillery, as Beveridge continued to feed and take care of them. Today, the distillery is home to a handful of rescued dogs, including Taki, the current resident distillery dog who eats, plays and lives there. The dogs are a constant reminder of the company’s mission to “unite with our friends, fans and partners to better the lives of pets and their families far and wide.” Following the devastating destruction that resulted from Hurricane Harvey in 2017, it is no surprise that this dog-loving team came together to brainstorm the most effective and immediate ways to help those affected.

“When a natural disaster strikes, one of the largest groups affected is always stray and abandoned animals,” said Amy Lukken, Chief Joyologist of Tito’s Handmade Vodka. “We knew we would have to act quickly, even before the storm made landfall, in order to save as many animals’ lives as possible,” she added. The Tito’s team has an ongoing relationship with local animal shelter Austin Pets Alive! When they reached out for help, the Tito’s team provided as much support as possible, even as some of their own family members in Houston and surrounding areas would be displaced because of the hurricane.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka animal advocacy program, Vodka For Dog People, donated money to Austin Pets Alive! to help with the purchase of food, supplies and shelter for displaced animals after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. More than 5,000 animals who were in Harvey’s direct path have been saved. Vodka For Dog People also gave locally to Wags Hope and Healing and Bailing Out Benji. On the people front, the company partnered with the American Red Cross with a dollar-for-dollar match of up.

Although Austin Pets Alive! and other Texas shelters have done a fantastic job at providing aid to these animals, disaster aid is still needed beyond the Texas border. The Tito’s team continues to help fund transportation methods for pets out of the Caribbean and Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

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Tito’s employees and volunteers collecting donations after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Through the Vodka For Dog People (VFDP) initiative, more than 1,000 animal welfare nonprofits in over seven countries have been helped since its inception, six years ago. VFDP, which partners in more than 700 fundraising events each year, has been a permanent company-wide cause program for three years.

In Florida, VFDP has provided support to more than 50 different events and charities, including Vets For Pets Charitable Clinic in Tampa and Pet Pal Animal Shelter in St. Petersburg. “We expect those numbers will continue to grow as our Vodka For Dog People program gains more recognition and visibility, thanks to partners such as The New Barker,” said Beth Bellanti, Vodka For Dog People Program Manager at Tito’s Handmade Vodka. “The easiest way to get involved with Florida animal advocacy programs is by donating to local shelters and charities. We host VFDP events all over Florida,” Beth added. By the way, we saw a beautiful raffle basket of Tito’s Handmade Vodka with fun goodies at Manatee County Animal Services 4th Annual Adopt-A-Palooza  this past Saturday.

Vodka For Dog People is the perfect legacy to honor Jo, Tito’s first companion dog, almost 21 years ago. “Everyone has an incredible rescue story, including those of us who have adopted dogs from the distillery,” said Beveridge.

Reflecting on those earlier days, Tito thinks about failure in terms of energy. Harkening back to his geophysics days (he graduated from The University of Texas with degrees in geology and geophysics in 1984), Beveridge said, “Energy isn’t destroyed. It simply changes forms.” He uses this knowledge to his advantage whenever he is struggling with a project. “Your first instinct is to blame everyone else,” said Beveridge. “But, don’t blame it on anyone. Wrap your arms around [the failure] and take the blame, so all the energy becomes yours. You can’t destroy energy. You can, however, change the phase.”

We’ll toast to that.

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The marketing team for Columbia Restaurant Group invited Tito Beveridge to Ulele. The Tampa restaurant serves Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

The New Barker is a Florida-based lifestyle magazine all about dogs and the humans who love them. Featuring original stories with award-winning photography in each quarterly publication since 2006 – each cover of The New Barker features an original work of art by a different artist. Subscribe today. 

A Bacteria That Can Kill Your Dog.

by Elizabeth F. Baird, DVM, CVPP, CCRT, CVMA

It may be a rare bacteria, but it is ever-present in Florida.  Dr. Baird, of Country Oaks Animal Hospital in Palm Harbor, weighed in on Leptospirosis for The New Barker dog magazine, a year ago in the Spring 2016 issue. It is just as relevant today,  as cases of Leptospirosis is rising.

Leptospirosis, a disease common to many mammals, is caused by a type of bacterium called Leptospira. It seems to be on the rise in dogs the last few decades and has shifted from a rural disease to a suburban and even urban problem. Dr. Carsen Brandt of the Emergency and Critical Care Service at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has reported a tenfold increase in cases since 2013. There have been fairly recent outbreaks in Fresno, California and Denver, Colorado. Dr. Richard Goldstein of the Animal Medical Center in New York City says he sees cases of Lepto every week, including in dogs that have never left Manhattan. So much for the image of this as a rural disease.

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A typical scenario goes something like this: A raccoon urinates on the grass in a suburban yard or in a puddle at a park during the night. A dog then sniffs or licks at that curious odor while out for a walk the next day. Bingo! The dog has now been exposed to one of the eight strains of Leptospira bacteria that can cause Leptopsirosis in the dog. The bacteria quickly begin to replicate and move into various target tissues such as the kidneys, liver, spleen and central nervous system. The infected dog typically begins to show signs of illness within 7 days of exposure. The severity of the illness can vary considerably, from mild and vague symptoms to acute kidney failure and fairly sudden death.

So, what other wildlife carry these Leptospira bacteria in their urine? In addition to the ever-present raccoon, mice and rats are common carriers of Leptospira and this includes the ubiquitous wood rats and citrus rats that populate most of Florida. The opossum, skunk, deer, cow and pig can carry other infectious strains of Leptospira bacteria. There is some question as to whether squirrels are also carriers for Leptospira.

If a dog contracts Leptospirosis, what happens next?

Unfortunately, the clinical symptoms of the disease are not very distinctive, making diagnosis trickier. The affected pet will usually be lethargic and have a poor appetite, sometimes showing signs of a fever. The majority of affected animals will have some vomiting and about a third will have diarrhea and weight loss. None of this is terribly specific and it sounds like many other illnesses. Routine lab tests may show significant abnormalities in the urinalysis, as well as the kidney and liver values. None of these are terrifically specific either, but it does start to help narrow the diagnosis list. At this stage, the veterinarian is likely looking to test for Leptospirosis. The older Lepto test can take up to a week and won’t catch every patient. A newer type of test, an Elisa test, can be run right in the hospital in under 30 minutes. It’s still not perfect, but it will detect many patients right away. A patient with these symptoms is likely already on intravenous fluids and medication to help with the vomiting and discomfort. A diagnosis of Leptospirosis indicates a need for very specific antibiotics as not all antibiotics will do the trick. If IV fluid support and the appropriate antibiotics are started in a timely manner, the prognosis is good and most patients (80-plus percent) will recover. If it takes longer to diagnose due to the vague symptoms or a delay in seeking medical care, the dog may suffer kidney failure, but many can still be saved with dialysis.

Did I mention that you can catch Leptospirosis too? Yes, it is actually one of the most common infectious diseases in humans worldwide. Thankfully, it is not common in humans in the U.S., at least outside of Hawaii. The odds of catching it directly from your dog are pretty slim, but if your dog has been diagnosed with Leptospirosis, your vet will give you detailed instructions on methods to protect yourself and family. You are far more likely to catch it from swimming in rivers, streams or walking through swampy water. In 2005, 44 out of 192 adventure racers in Tampa (23% of the participants) caught Leptospirosis from running through swampy water. There was an earlier outbreak in Illinois in Triathlon runners. Dogs can contract it directly from contaminated water as well.

Given the large population of potential wildlife carriers and the difficulty in diagnosing the disease early, prevention is a more prudent approach in the areas where Leptospirosis is a risk. The older vaccines (1970’s and 80’s) carried a higher risk of vaccine reaction and only covered two strains. Because of this, they had fallen out of favor in that era and were used only in the higher risk rural areas. Leptospirosis was labeled a non-core vaccine to use only for “at risk” populations. But the definition of which dogs are at risk seems to have shifted significantly in the last decade or two. The rural outdoor large breed dog that was the poster child for Leptospirosis in 1985 is now a fluffy suburban or urban Shih Tzu or Cocker Spaniel. We currently have Leptospirosis vaccines that protect for four strains. They have a much lower risk of vaccine reaction than the older vaccines – and are more highly purified as vaccine manufacturing technology has evolved over the last 30 years. Some internists believe that even though our current vaccines only cover four of the Leptospira serovars, there may be cross-reactivity and some protection from the other infective strains as well. Leptospirosis is very uncommon in vaccinated dogs, regardless of the strain or serovar of Leptospira bacteria involved. It is a series of two doses given 3-4 weeks apart and then yearly boosters.

If your pet tends to be sensitive to vaccines and you’re worried they may react, have this administered separate from any other injectable vaccines. The more vaccines given in one day, the higher the risk of a vaccine reaction, regardless of which specific vaccinations are given.

Given the changes in Leptopsirosis over the last few decades, from the shifts in which strains are causing disease and the populations of dogs being affected, it is time to rethink our approach to managing this dangerous disease. The vaccines are more protective and less reactive than ever before and our suburban house dogs are at a higher risk than we believed possible even twenty years ago. If your dog is not already protected from Leptospirosis, it may be time for a conversation with your veterinarian about the risk factors in your specific area and whether vaccination is appropriate for your beloved dogs. I can assure you that mine are vaccinated against this potentially deadly disease. Raccoons, opossums and citrus rats are rampant in my suburban neighborhood and the risk of potential exposure is real. And all too scary to ignore.

For more on the subject, here is a recent video from CBS Miami.

THE NEW BARKER VETERINARY ADVISORY BOARD INCLUDES: Dr. Elizabeth Baird, Country Oaks Animal Hospital/Palm Harbor; Dr. Mark Brown, Central Animal Hospital/St. Petersburg; Dr. Eddie Garcia, Urgent Pet Care of South Tampa; Dr. Shawna Green, Medicine River Animal Hospital/Madeira Beach; Dr. Timothy Hodge, Harbourside Animal Hospital/Downtown Tampa and Cross Creek Animal Medical Center/Tampa; Dr. Steven Lewis, Davis Island Animal Clinic; Dr. Gregory Todd, Animal Hospital of Dunedin.

What’s So Super About Sunday?

This Sunday in America is Super Bowl Sunday. It’s the New England Patriots vs. the Atlanta Falcons. Earlier this year, Michael Vick made a triumphant return to the Georgia Dome, riding onto the field in a convertible to a raucous ovation. According to a story in USA Today, Vick received by far the loudest ovation from the sellout crowd of 70,835 during a ceremony honoring the final regular-season game at the team’s home of 25 years. This, despite an online campaign calling for the Falcons to revoke their invitation over a 2007 dogfighting case that sent Vick to prison for nearly two years. A decade after his final game with Atlanta, the animosity that Vick’s name once stirred among Atlanta fans appeared to have turned to forgiveness. Not one boo or jeer was heard from the crowd.

The End Of An Era? “There are a lot of people who forgave me,” said Vick before the game. “It gives me another opportunity to show a different side of myself. I’m just thankful I have a lot of supporters.”

And this from Arthur Blank, Falcons owner, “Mike obviously has a great history with us, a great history with the franchise, an important player in our history. Michael represented an important part of my ownership period. I think our fans, based on the response I saw and felt, I think our fans were excited to have him as well.”

Gone But Never Forgotten. Two dogs from Vick’s dogfighting ring Bad Newz Kennels passed away  this month. Best Friends reported that Denzel died on January 10, 2017, nine years after he came to live at the sanctuary.

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Denzel with Best Friend veterinarian Dr. Patricia Patterson.
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Dogtown caregiver Paul Lindley with Denzel.

 

From Denzel’s obituary, Best Friends wrote: “Denzel was a fighter, but not in the way that NFL player Michael Vick wanted him to be. This brave dog fought against the trauma of his past to find happiness and friendship at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. He also fought against serious health issues that threatened to take him down, time and again. He suffered from a strain of the blood parasite babesia, which is spread among dogs forced to fight by way of bites. It can be managed but not cured, and each bout takes an increasing toll.”

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Oscar and Rachel Johnson.

Another Victory Dog rescued from Bad Newz Kennels in 2007, passed away on January 15. Oscar lived with Rachel Johnson since 2012. This was posted on Oscar’s Facebook page: “Friends, on Sunday, I let Oscar go. I’ve watched his bad days start to overshadow the good. So Sunday, we had breakfast in bed, read and cuddled, went to the drive-thru for cheesy burgers…” Oscar’s Facebook page is here.

Michael Vick’s playing days are over. “I’m very content with my career and what I’ve been able to accomplish. I’m ready to move forward in life.” Vick has recently expressed an interest in coaching.

 

What Do Our Dogs Think Of Us?

The following, by Anna Cooke, first appeared as a feature in the Spring 2011 issue of The New Barker dog magazine.

Many of us who live with dogs probably don’t really want to know what they’re thinking. To know may bring in the realities of life like dealing with what they think of us. Who needs that extra burden? We already have to cope with what our parents, siblings, significant others and business associates think of us. It’s one of the reasons we love dogs so much. We believe everything they have to say to us is said through their eyes. And of course, it’s nothing short of adoration and unconditional love, right? Our dogs are sentient beings with a conscience and feelings. They are intelligent and many people believe, they live with a purpose and set goals. The Reverend Nedda Wittels, M.A., M.S. believes that dogs make life choices. Maybe that’s why we don’t really choose dogs, rather they choose us.

It seems that every one in the animal world can tell a story of how they loved and lived with animals since they were very young. Jo Maldonado is not much different. As a young girl she would try to save the fish her father caught. In her teens she took dog-training classes and won ribbons with her devoted companion Rex; in her 20’s she rode horses and in her 30’s and 40’s she volunteered with German Shepherd Rescue in Pennsylvania doing canine assessment and fostering.  And, for almost 30 years she lead a successful career as a publicist, owning her agency. But it wasn’t until she and her husband moved to Florida and her children had moved on with their lives, that a continuous odd series of events forced her to change her life’s path. Volunteering at local shelters and seeing the infinite line of discarded animals, and almost losing one of her dogs, led Jo to follow her animal passion and give back to the community.

“Three years ago I realized that I was not following my soul’s purpose, not fulfilling what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I was hospitalized twice, broke my hip, had two surgeries, was in two car accidents and almost lost two members of my family.” But it wasn’t until a series of events involving animals that Jo finally listened to what some other worldly force was trying to tell her. There was the black bear that began appearing in her driveway on a regular basis. Then hundreds of crows began following her around. A woodpecker began “talking to her.” And one day the door to her china cabinet flew open spewing forth china from past relationships.

Jo began reading every book on animal communication and angel healing that she could find. After she completed several classes on the same subject matter, it became clear to Jo that her purpose in life was to work with her first love: animals. Her Centers for Animal Therapies is based on the theory that both sides of the brain are necessary to truly communicate with the animal world. “The left side of the brain is the fact based, scientific side, while the right brain is intuitive, innate and natural,” said Jo.

Animal communicators speak with pet companions who live with humans, oftentimes facilitating a change in varied situations. Why is the cat spraying? Why is the dog cowering or food aggressive? Each situation may have something in common with another situation going on within the pet’s home. For instance, when there is a fear problem there is generally a kidney problem that results in uncontrolled urinating in the house. By communicating with the dog, Jo can show their humans the relationship their dogs would like to have with them. How we live with our dogs can result in a positive or negative affect on them and ourselves.

No telepathic communicator is one hundred percent accurate all the time. The reasons for error may include a weak telepathic connection; the human client has emotional and/or mental blocks about the situation; or the dog may be choosing not to communicate fully. Reverend Wittels adds that each telepathic communicator can bring their own emotional and mental baggage to the situation: belief systems, expectations, past experiences or emotions. A good animal communicator will know how to leave their baggage behind in order to be a clear channel.

As with any professional, it’s good to have a rapport with them before delving into this area of you and your pet’s lives. We had been working and speaking with Jo for the past year on various projects. One thing lead to another, and it seemed almost a natural progression to agree to let Jo communicate with our brood: Zoe, a 13 year-old Cockapoo, her 11 year-old niece Chloe, our adopted MinPin Rita, and our most recent adopted addition, Dougie (pronounced Doogie), a two year-old Scottish Terrier.

There were four dogs and so it took Jo a little longer to assess the situation and discern their different personalities. “I took a deep breath before looking at each photograph you sent of the dogs,” said Jo, who told us she took classes to learn how to communicate through the eyes of an animal. “But dogs don’t like for you to look directly into their eyes. That is why I like to use photos,” she told us. “I pick up the physical characteristics and I pick up the soul. I try to get through the layers in order to connect and communicate.”

She began first by saying that each of these four dogs represents a characteristic in each human member of our household, in this instance a husband and wife. “It’s up to you to figure out those characteristics of you,” said Jo. From the pictures, Jo described the aura of energy emanating from each dog, which assisted in giving the following information. “Your life to them seems scattered. You’re in multiple places at one time. You seem to be going from point A to point B in an instant. You are way too busy and they’re picking up on that. I received a strong sense from the dogs that you are very tired,” Jo said.

For many dogs, a situation such as the one Jo described could be confusing to them, causing problems such as becoming the take-charge being within the household. The Alpha dog if you will. But in this instance the dogs all seem to have adjusted. “Each one of them knows their role within your family,” she told me. “And,” she added, “Your dogs are all very funny. They are just all real characters.”

Dougie

Dougie, the two-year old Scotty, knows exactly what he is supposed to do. He looks around at his humans and the other dogs and wonders why they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing? He knows he is a purebred. In fact, somewhere in his lineage, there is a champion or two. So he demonstrates quite a lot of pride as if to say, “Of course I can do that. It’s exactly what I am supposed to do.” Jo said that if she were to humanize Dougie, he would be a career fisherman. “I could see him bellying up to the bar at the end of each successful fishing excursion,” she said. Dougie is a highly intuitive dog and would be excellent in agility. “Oh, he would be a natural,” said Jo.

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Chloe, the 11 year-old Cockapoo.“Dougie was pointing at Chloe when I was communicating with him. He told me that while he feels very grounded, Chloe is constantly running around in circles, figuratively. Yet, she thinks she’s the one that has it all under control. But she doesn’t.” Jo explained that she sensed a bit of a Napoleonic complex in Chloe. She is constantly reminding everyone that she is in control; she is in charge, but she isn’t, of course. “If she could talk to you, she would be a tattle-tail and rat everyone else out. Chloe does feel confused most of the time, but thinks that’s okay because her humans are confused and running around in circles too.” Chloe communicated with Jo in such a rapid-fire way that she was almost stuttering. “I have too much to do and too little time in which to do everything,” is what Chloe communicated to Jo. “Interestingly, Chloe and Dougie have similar personalities. If you were to put Chloe in another pack, the other dogs would find her annoying. But she is well-accepted in your pack.”

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Zoe, the 13 year-old Cockapoo. “She tends to believe she is the matriarch of the family. I could sense her little quirks. She does like her food and is set in her ways. She has a sense of entitlement, that whatever she gets, the others should not be allowed to have because they are not as deserving as she is. She can get snappy, only to let others know that she does not approve of what they are doing. But she would never display any kind of aggressive behavior towards anyone, human or animal, within her pack.” Jo spoke to me directly about the next point. “Anna, Zoe feels that the two of you are one. She is content to follow you and be wherever you are.” And then Jo added, “Oh, I’m hearing from her again that she really does love her food though. She likes that crunchiness and soft combination you give her.”

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Rita, a five year-old MinPin, found wandering the streets. “I like Rita very much. She has this I-am-cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor. She likes to check things out, like a private detective before getting all excited, unlike the rest of the dogs in your pack. She smirks at the other dogs as if they’re ridiculously out of control. If I were to humanize Rita, she would have red hair, red-painted fingernails and a cigarette dangling from her mouth. She’s like one of those cool people you may see at a party. You don’t know them, but you walk up to them anyway and compliment them on the shirt they’re wearing. Instead of saying thank you, Rita would answer, ‘Huh. You don’t really give a damn about my shirt now, do you?’”

So it appears we have an odd little pack, with a funny mixture of personalities, each one of them strong in their own way. They all have their quirks but everyone gets along, albeit grumbling along the way. Most important, they all seem to be functioning as a pack and each feels they have jobs, which is a good thing. “They are all who they are as long as they’re all with the two of you. And as long as you make sure what your expectations are of them, they’re all pretty happy,” Jo said.

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The Cooke Brat Pack, photographed at Steinhatchee Landing Resort, soon after Jo Maldonado’s reading.

The dogs were all in agreement with one special request. “What they would like you to do is schedule more family time with them, altogether. They would prefer daily, but they’ll settle for weekly jaunts to a big fenced in field or park to run around.” I told Jo that we have a big backyard and take them out many times throughout the day. “No,” she answered, “They want family time. They want everyone in the car at the same time, to go somewhere together. And Chloe said not to forget the treats. That was a very strong communication to me. They want you to think about nothing but the present during these field trips with them.”

QUOTES:

“Somewhere in time, an animal’s soul has made a pact with the human’s soul to help them. I look at what I am doing as my privilege to be able to work with two beings, human and animal, to decipher what that help might be,” Jo Maldonado.

“People will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to help their pets while totally ignoring the obvious to help themselves. We humans must recognize that we need to change to improve our own health and well-being. Through the voice of their pets, a person can help themselves,” Jo Maldonado.

“I’ve never found an animal who communicated to me that they hated their human. I know instantly when I go into that animal that there is a need for them to express themselves as to why they are here,” Jo Maldonado.

Jo Maldonado can be reached at jo@cat-edu.com or 386.279.0257

 

Santa Claus Uses A Shopping Guide.

Yes, it’s true. Even the greatest gift giver in the world does the research to make a list. For dogs and dog lovers on his list, he’s been known to refer to The New Barker dog magazine for ideas. So take heart, gentle human gift giver – for the dog and dog lover on your list, who seem to have everything they need (each other), here are some unique ideas from The New Barker, of course.

Dog lovers with a sense of humor. Clothing, like this t-shirt that plays into the Star Wars craze right now, with just the right touch of dog. Available at The Doggie Door in Winter Park (407.644.2969). Or maybe the dog lover on your list is into craft beer. How about this hoodie, available at Pet Food Warehouse in St. Pete (727.521.6191) and Earth Pets Organic in Gainesville (352.377.1100).

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Dog lovers with a sense of style. Nothing says ‘put together’ like the accessory of a scarf. The fashionista on your list will appreciate this cosmo-PAW-litan scarf with dog silhouettes. Available in assorted color combos of grey/blue, grey/peach or grey/light green. One Lucky Dog in St. Pete (727.527.5825).

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Dog lovers who are tea connoisseurs. Add a little whimsy to their tea and crumpets ritual with these whimsical hand-painted ceramics. Cats In Bloom Tea For One tea pot and mug designed by artist Sharon Bloom. Catzilla Covered Butter Dish designed by artist Candace Reiter. Both are available at Pawsitively Posh Pooch in St. Pete (727.892.9303).

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Dog lovers who insist on at least one cup of java before heading out for their power dog walk. How about a breed-specific coffee mug? Beautifully hand-painted, the details bring out each breed’s characteristic. Available at Fluffy Puppies, Clearwater (727.446.7999).

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For the homebody dog lover. How about dog art, underfoot with a machine washable accent rug? They’re so reasonably priced, you’ll want to buy one (or two) for yourself. Each rug is artist-inspired. The bright colors won’t fade through many washes and will stand up to heat, cold and sunlight. Available at Pet Food Warehouse, St. Pete (727.521.6191).

Dog lovers who sleep with dogs. Nothing shows off someone’s sense of humor, style and love of home than a well-made bed, accessorized with dog-themed pillowcases. 300 thread count for extra softness. Made in the USA. Available at One Lucky Dog, St. Petersburg (727.527.5825) and Sweet Sage Cafe & Boutique, North Redington Beach (727.391.0453).

Dog lovers who love to dress their dogs (big and small). EZ Reflective Royal Elegance Harness Vest. No choke design – pulls on chest, not the neck. Designed for easy on/easy off (not over the head). High quality quick release buckle with reinforced D-ring and reflective safety striping. Available at Fluffy Puppies, Clearwater (727.446.7999). For big dogs, visit Dade City’s Dog Mania & Cats to see their line of unique, hand-crafted clothing and accessories. Dressing up is not just for the little ones, anymore. Dog Mania & Cats (352.467.9622). Visit their beautiful new store on Meridian Avenue.

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For the dog lover who is also a romantic. You must see and touch this beautiful collection of vintage hinged trinket boxes to appreciate them. Made of sculpted resin, decorated with enamel and 24 karat accents; bejeweled with Swarovski crystal. Each one is worthy of holding precious keepsakes. Available at Pawsitively Posh Pooch, St. Petersburg (727.892.9303).

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For the practical dog lover. There’s no shame in being practical, and practical doesn’t have to be boring, right? Anyone who has ever owned a Dog Gone Smart Dirty Dog Rug has gone back to purchase more. We love using them just outside the shower area for a spa-like feel underfoot. Millions of microfiber strands create an extra large super-sponge for use just about anywhere in your home. Place them in crates; under food and water bowls to keep water and kibble in place. Plush, velvety soft and easy to wash. Non-slid backing helps it stay in place. Available at all the shops listed above as well as: Animal House, St. Pete (727.328.0503), Fuzzy & Furries, St. Pete (727.954.3952), Pet Supplies Plus, Pinellas Park (727.415.8016) & Clearwater (727.453.9131).

DogGonsSmartRunnerGo forth and shop, fellow dog lovers. You have now been properly advised, and Santa can’t hold a cookie to your super shopping powers.

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.