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.

The Art of Dog.

Art and dogs seem to go well together. And since The New Barker is the art of dog, celebrating all things dog in the art world just makes even more sense when coupled with animal welfare.

Murals for Mutts is a grass roots, non-profit organization that wants to help shelters and rescue groups across Florida through art. If you’re a business with your own building, all you have to do is donate a wall. Murals for Mutts will do the rest, including coordinating with the local shelter or rescue group of your choice for the fundraising part. Murals for Mutts will also promote your business and coordinate all media and events associated with the project. The public will be invited to memorialize their pets by having portraits painted on the wall for a donation. Murals for Mutts artist, Anna Hamilton first tackled this dream when she painted a wall in Dunedin for Dunedin Dog Rescue. Currently, Murals for Mutts is working on a mural at Gas Plant Antique Arcade. Proceeds will benefit Pet Pal Animal Shelter and Save Our Strays.

View photo album of Gas Plant Antique Arcade wall here.

Interested businesses can call 727.902.1671 or email muralsformutts@gmail.com. Murals for Mutts will come to your city, anywhere in the state. http://www.MuralsForMutts.com.

Running with the Dogs.

Did you know that each cover of The New Barker dog magazine is an original piece of artwork by a different Florida artist? The summer issue, out this week, features artist Jason Sipple, out of Orlando. He has two distinct styles, and as always, it was a difficult process for us, deciding which piece would grace the cover of The New Barker. The only hint we’ll give you about the subject matter is that Jason lives with two adorable Pugs.

In our PlayDogs section, we feature a flyball match in Bradenton, hosted by the Barkaholics Team. The gorgeous photography featured is the work of Kim Longstreet. Then, we’re introduced to lure coursing in Altoona by Paulette Keller. And, thanks to our Jacksonville rover reporter and photographer, we bring you some beautiful photography of the 16th Florida State Canine Frisbee Disc Championships. Who knew dogs could have so much fun “working”?

We take a walk through a Masaryktown sunflower maze with a couple of Boxers in our FloriDogs section. We also bring you a fun story from Anna Maria Island about Martha Stewart (we hear she was a real Bulldog).

Tina Valant, our South Florida rover reporter and photographer extraordinaire interviewed Dr. Marty Becker, known as America’s Veterinarian. You may have seen him on Good Morning America. His Big Bus Tour made a stop in Boca Raton and Jacksonville to promote his book, Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual.

Dr. Marty Becker with traveling companion McKenzie. Photo by Kirk Chamberlain.

McKenzie with her favorite dog magazine. Photo by Tina Valant.

In Sarasota, we caught up with Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. He was traveling through Florida to promote his book, The Bond, Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them. Yes, we did talk about Michael Vick. And, while that certainly is not the essence of his book, it was a pretty insightful conversation.

Our dog dining section continues to expand and with this issue, we bring back our restaurant review with a twist. Special thanks to Bailey’s family and Danette Morse, whose beautiful photography and sense of humor captured the essence of Dunedin’s The Living Room. Our restaurant advertisers are not only dog friendly, they all serve up some of the best food this state has to offer. Catch the entire list in the summer issue. Or stay tuned to this blog as we list specials and giveaways later this week. Yum.

Florida has much to offer in terms of dog friendly destinations and venues. In this issue, we step just outside of Florida with a trip to Tybee Island, Georgia, thanks to Yvonne Guibert of Tampa’s Groovy Cats & Dogs. Then we hit the opposite end of the state with a glamorous visit to Miami. We also visit Mount Dora for some antiqueing, dining, and art. In Tavares, we were treated to Mutts & Martini’s at Al’s Landing.

Wayne Pacelle in Sarasota with Fox-TV's Cynthia Smoot. Photo by Anna Cooke
Floridians know that August and September can be the hottest months of the year. And if August 1 was any indication, the dog days of summer are upon us. Pick up the summer issue of The New Barker to stay Pup-to-Date on dog events including: Happy Tails, a benefit for the Humane Society of Pinellas at Ozona Blue Grill this Thursday, August 4. Saturday is a busy day with The Art of Rescue in Lakeland, a fundraiser for Florida Boxer Rescue; an ice-cream social for dogs at Sarasota’s Wet Noses Boutique; the 4th Annual Spay-ghetti and No Balls hosted by Animal Coalition of Tampa; Pups on the Patio hosted by the Green K9 in Tavares. Also, Bok Towers will be dog friendly for one day, this Saturday from 9a until noon. On Sunday, The New Barker and Pawsitively Posh Pooch will be at Cassis Brasserie on Beach Drive in St. Pete. Come see a show-stopping fashion runway with doggie couture by Chic-A-Bow-Wow. Your dog will be treated to special menu items created by the chef especially for the evening’s event. All event details can be found online

Subscribe to The New Barker dog magazine, Florida’s Top Dog Lifestyle Magazine. If you’d like to contact The New Barker, email anna@thenewbarker.com or call 727.214.7453.

Xena Helps Rescue A Gulf Island in Florida.

The following story, by Stephanie Somerset, appeared in the Spring, 2011 issue of The New Barker dog magazine.

The big ATV roared towards us, scattering birds and shells along the way. On it was an angry park ranger, who dismounted and began his tirade against our dog. We were shocked. Sweet Xena looked up at him with her big brown eyes and cocked her head as he stabbed a finger at her, while calling her a “predator” of the island birds. This was preposterous, of course. We became outraged when he began yelling out a long list of potential crimes that he wanted to ticket us for, most of them any number of innocent activities we’ve all enjoyed at Shell Island in Panama City Beach, Florida.

During the course of four weeks, 14 people received criminal citations for having their family dogs with them or drinking the wrong beverage while at the island. They had to hire attorneys. They had to check in with probation officers. They had to wait alongside drug dealers, thieves and batterers for their turn before a judge. Some were even forced to write a letter of apology to the park service.

The year was 2006, and it all started on a gloriously sun-drenched day as my husband and I walked across Shell Island with our dog, Xena. It was a treasured ritual we enjoyed every summer weekend. Xena was an abandoned puppy on the island of Grenada when we rescued her, healed her and made her our crew while on a sailing sabbatical in 1997. We became inseparable after navigating thousands of miles and exploring each island along the way. When we returned to “real life” in Panama City, our weekend trips to Shell Island with Xena kept our family close. Xena loved the island. She made us laugh when she frolicked and romped in the shallow waters of the bay, and warmed our hearts while sleeping close to us in the boat cockpit at night.

But Memorial Day 2006 changed our lives. Allowing government to ban us from Shell Island – which was purchased with our tax dollars for our recreational use – was unacceptable. Overzealous bureaucrats planned to snatch away one of life’s little joys from boaters visiting a small area – less than ten percent – of Shell Island. We had to act.

And so, Bay Families with Dogs was formed, and the rest is history. Thanks to a huge outpouring of support from the community, today we have dog-friendly access to our anchorage at Shell Island. The state of Florida removed the criminal-level charge from park violations. Police and rangers no longer harass the citizens. And we have a positive relationship with the park system so that we can work together to avoid the events of that summer.

Bay Families with Dogs has branched out to advocate for dog parks, dog beaches and pet-friendly places. The mission lives on. However, the little rescued dog from Grenada does not. Last summer, our faithful Xena, the inspiration for Bay Families with Dogs, passed away at the age of 13.

SIDEBAR: Non-profit Bay Families with Dogs uses tax-deductible donations for maintaining and/or adding dog friendly outdoor spaces, and for expenses including website maintenance, advertising, fliers, and maintenance of pet waste stations at Shell Island and at the Panama City Beach Dog Beach. Fundraising events include monthly Yappy Hours at dog-friendly Salty Sues, 17501 Back Beach Road, Panama City Beach. Call 850.234.8485.

All gifts will be used to maintain Xena’s legacy and the chance for an old dog to roll in the sand, splash in the water, and smile up gratefully at the family members she loves. http://www.bayfwd.org