And They Call It Puppy Love.

An interview with Kari Goetz, who is preparing to play a talking dog – the lead character in the A.R. Gurney play, Sylvia. By Anna Cooke for The New Barker dog magazine.

Actress, Kari Goetz. Photograph by Crawford Long.
Actress, Kari Goetz. Photograph by Crawford Long.

Kari Goetz and her husband Crawford Long may just have one of the best love stories ever. It’s kind of a Harry Meets Sally/You’ve Got Mail scenario. After their first meeting at a YMCA Youth Camp in North Carolina as teenagers, the two would spend the next 20 years staying in touch via letters, then email, instant messages, texts and the occasional phone call.

“We grew up with each other,” said Kari, “just not together.”

She pursued an acting career in Los Angeles for five years, going to nerve-wracking auditions. He went on to law school at the University of South Carolina.

Every year, Crawford always sent Kari a New Year’s Eve greeting at midnight. New Year’s Eve 2012, precisely at midnight, Crawford sent Kari his regular greeting, with one new question: Will this be the year we see each other?

Plans were made to finally see each other, face-to-face, after 20 years.

“I’ve never been so nervous in my life,” said Crawford.

“Worse case of stage fright in my life,” added Kari.

Their reunion began with a hug, then a kiss, immediately followed by a year of constant travel between her home in Seminole Heights (Florida) and his in Atlanta. By now, Kari was director of marketing at Tampa International Airport, and getting ready for the 2012 Stageworks production of Sylvia, the A.R. Gurney play. Kari would be playing the lead part of Sylvia, a talking dog. It was the very first time that Crawford had seen Kari perform on stage.

Once Crawford saw Kari’s Sylvia, he was smitten – enamored, in fact. So much so that his friends started calling him Bowser, one of the imaginary dogs that Sylvia “lusts” after in the dog park.

In real life, the two would marry and eventually have a baby, Porter, their son. Fast forward to today, three years later, and Kari will be back on stage, once again playing Sylvia, as Tampa’s Stageworks presents an encore production, August 6 through 30.

Kari has been acting since she was eight years old. She hasn’t been on stage since the last production of Sylvia ran in 2012. “It’s the longest run of me not being on stage ever,” she said. As the cast prepared for the grueling tech rehearsal, or what actors refer to as the 10 out of 12, Kari took a few moments out of her busy schedule to talk with us about theatre, family, work and dogs.

TNB: How does it feel to be back on stage after a three year break?

Kari: I did a lot of wagging on stage as Sylvia three years ago. I am able to wag my butt without any movement going on above my butt. At the time, Crawford noticed that whenever I was happy, offstage, I would start wagging. This is highly inappropriate in many circumstances, of course. We’ve been back in rehearsals, and the other day at work someone brought me some good news while I was standing by my desk. Suddenly, I realized I was wagging my butt. ‘Oh no,’ I thought, ‘it’s back. Sylvia has taken over my body again.”

TNB: How do you find time to juggle an intense career as Director of Marketing for Tampa International Airport, wife, mom and actress?

Kari: I have always had a day job while working as an actress, auditioning for parts, so I’m used to juggling. It takes a lot of balancing. TIA has been super supportive. Also, when I agreed to do Sylvia again this time around, I insisted on an understudy being completely present. Roxxi Jaxx is a University of Tampa student and an amazing actress, so good in the part. And, yes, that’s her real name.

As a first-time parent, I’m always in rehearsal. I’ve always thought that being a wife was the best role ever. Of course, being a mom’s not so bad either. (In the Stageworks program for Sylvia, Kari includes in her bio that, “I married a Bowzer and we now have a puppy.”)

TNB: You have dogs. Do you incorporate any of their personalities or mannerisms into your Sylvia character?

Kari: When I did Sylvia last, I had geriatric dogs. Sadly, they are no longer with us. Now I have two younger dogs and have brought some of their traits into Sylvia’s character, as well as two dogs my family had while I was growing up. Luke was my childhood dog, an Irish Wolfhound. He had very interesting ways of getting your attention. I put a lot of Luke into Sylvia. Jethro, another family dog, was very loyal. I bring that aspect of him into Sylvia’s character.

The two dogs we have now, Abigail and Eleanor, are terrier mixes and they’re both nuts. When Sylvia acts up on stage, it is definitely Abigail and Eleanor. Abigail has a habit of bringing things to you that you don’t need, like snooping around inside my purse and bringing me my wallet. You cannot walk Eleanor without her wrapping her leash around your entire body. In the play, Greg uses a retractable leash with Sylvia. As a dog owner, I hate retractable leashes, so we really dork it up on stage, how awful those things are, and I completely wrap Greg up in the leash.

I found Eleanor under a truck outside the Straz Theatre a few years ago. She looks like a Chinese Crested with some Rat Terrier and Chihuahua. We adopted Abigail from the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. We had just lost our oldest dog whom I’d had for 15 years. I went through a short mourning period, but quickly realized, someone else needs a home, so we immediately set out to adopt another dog. She looks like a Corgi with some Pit Bull in her. She is a low rider with wirehair and gold eyes. Her behavior is all terrier, but the way she is with my kid, I absolutely know she has Pit in her. She is my nanny dog, such a good girl with Porter.

GAME OF BONES - Kari, her son Porter, Eleanor and Abigail dressed as characters from their favorite show, Game Of Thrones. Photograph by Crawford Long.
GAME OF BONES – Kari, her son Porter, Eleanor and Abigail dressed as characters from their favorite show, Game Of Thrones. Photograph by Crawford Long.

TNB:What are you bringing to the character in this production that is new from the last time you played Sylvia?

Kari: It’s the exact same cast from three years ago. We’re all very comfortable with each other and the play this time around, so we’ve discovered some subtle ways to bring new things into the play. I’ve always been a really physical comedian. I messed my body up in Sylvia last go around, so this time, I’m more aware of what my body should and shouldn’t do from an injury standpoint. I advocated for a harness this time, versus a regular collar. It was a happy day when my new harness arrived in wardrobe. Realizing the damage that can be done with a collar from my own personal experience as Sylvia, both of my dogs now wear harnesses.

I had Porter, my son, after the last production of Sylvia. He was a C section, so now I can completely and physically relate to Sylvia in the scene just after she has been spayed. When she says, “Oh my aching gut,” I get it.

As a responsible, committed artist, you do not do anything on stage to upstage your fellow actors. That is especially important to realize as the actress playing Sylvia. The audience watches and reacts to every move Sylvia makes. The last time I had to tone her down so as not to pull the focus away from the other actors, especially when that moment on stage is about their characters. I try to blend into the set during those scenes.

TNB: What is your favorite line you deliver in the play?

Kari: It’s a two part line. Three years ago, while doing the play, it was the only line that I had to be very careful delivering because it would give me the giggles. Greg is telling Sylvia that she is going to live with another family, and she is not happy. When he tells her that one of the three children is a baby, Sylvia responds:

‘I hate babies. Their mouths taste good, but they’re always stepping on your tail.’

I also have a lot of fun with the audience participation. There is a scene where Sylvia walks into the audience and sits on someone’s lap. It’s never planned. Honestly, I don’t know on whose lap I’m going to end up when I walk out there. During the last production of Sylvia, word got out and audience members started bringing treats to lure me to their laps. Cookies mostly. One guy brought me a glass of wine which I brought back on stage and worked into the play.

TNB: Did you hear that Matthew Broderick will play Greg in the upcoming Broadway premiere of Sylvia? Annaleigh Ashford will play Sylvia. The show officially opens on October 27.

Kari: Yes, and I am definitely going to see it. It’s kind of a weird family reunion of sorts since Sarah Jessica Parker played the original Sylvia in the very first production of the play. It never made it to Broadway. It makes me wonder if Sarah Jessica will growl at Matthew Broderick, her husband, with his Broadway opportunity and a chance to win another Tony, which she has never won. It makes me wonder, why, after all of these years, is there such an interest in the play, Sylvia?

For years, Sylvia was my worst kept secret. The script by A.R. Gurney is fantastic. My friends and family knew how much I always wanted to play the part and lobbied for it for years, to anyone who listened. Everyone just shook their heads no. ‘C’mon, it’s a play about a talking dog. No, we’re going to do something with a more profound subject, like war.’

I remember walking around in Publix when I received word that Stageworks was going to do the play. I was over the moon when I learned I would play the part of Sylvia. My dream had finally come true three years ago. And I’m so lucky to be able to play her again with such a great cast and crew.

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Sylvia, by A.R. Gurney – Synopsis:

The play originally made its Off-Broadway debut in 1995 with Sarah Jessica Parker as Sylvia, and Blythe Danner and Charles Kimbrough as wife and husband, Kate and Greg. The middle-aged, upper-middle class couple are empty nesters in New York City. Kate is in a happy place with her life, but Greg is having a bit of a mid-life crisis. When Greg finds Sylvia, a stray in the park, he likes her and decides to bring her home. Kate reacts very negatively towards Sylvia and wants her gone. They agree to keep the dog for just a few days until they can decide whether or not she can stay longer. Over the next few days, Greg spends more and more time with Sylvia and less time at his job. They go on long walks together; discuss life and things like astronomy. The tension increases between the couple, with Greg becoming completely obsessed with Sylvia. Kate fears their marriage is falling apart. She and Sylvia are now at odds with one another, each committed to seeing the other defeated.

Greg and Kate visit a therapist, Leslie, who is ambiguously male and female depending on her patients’ state of mind. Eventually, Kate is asked to teach abroad, in London and tells Greg that there is a six-month quarantine for dogs coming into the country. Reluctantly he succumbs and gives the news to Sylvia that he must give her away, to a family who live on a farm. They have a heated and tender moment. Then, Kate and Sylvia say goodbye. Something happens, however, and Kate has a change of heart.

Reviews of the Off-Broadway show included this from Vincent Canby of The New York Times: “Dramatic literature is stuffed with memorable love scenes. But none is as immediately delicious and dizzy as the one that begins the redeeming love affair in A.R. Gurney’s new comedy, Sylvia. A delightful fantasy, but also a psychologically persuasive look at one man’s mid-life crisis.”

Adult content, language.

Sylvia, by A.R. Gurney

August 6 through 30, 2015

Stageworks Theatre, 1120 East Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa

813.374.2416

Sylvia with an Air Animal bag, ready to go.
Sylvia with an Air Animal bag,ready to go.

Special thanks to Air Animal, major sponsor for Stageworks, making this production of Sylvia possible. Beneficiaries of the production include Humane Society of Tampa Bay, SPCA Florida and Frankie’s Friends. 

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Hair Of The Dog?

One thing we know for sure, dog lovers are a hearty lot, ready to share in their camaraderie and love of dogs. Whether it’s hosting dog-themed parties for friends or fundraising for an animal advocacy cause, it’s a given – the festivities almost always involve food and drink. Many adult beverages are named after a dog breed or are dog-inspired. We thought it would be fun to feature some of them alongside their recipes in our spring issue.

Our staging area was the award-winning ulele, located in historic Tampa Heights. It’s the newest restaurant from the Gonzmart family’s Columbia Restaurant Group and features native-inspired foods and spirits. The backdrop, vibe and colors made for some gorgeous photography.

While working with ulele Mixologist Chuck Cooper and ulele Head Brewmaster Timothy A. Shackton, we discovered their profound love of dogs. Both men were eager to share stories of how, when and why they adopted their dogs. It became obvious that this was too good to be true, and that we would be returning for a second, more dog-centric photo shoot.

But first – the drink recipes for your summer imbibing.

Colorado Bulldog 11/2 ounces Tito’s Vodka 11/2 ounces Kahlua 1 ounce cream or condensed milk Dark cola soda Combine vodka, Kahlua and cream in tin. Shake. Strain over fresh ice into a collins or pilsner glass. Top with fresh cola. Garnish with three chocolate chips and serve with a tall straw. Serves one. Shown with a shot of ulele espresso.

Colorado Bulldog. Photograph by Laura Allen Studios for The New Barker.
Colorado Bulldog. Photograph by Laura Allen Studios for The New Barker.

Pomeranian 11/2 ounces white rum (Don Q) 1/2 ounce pomegranate liqueur (Pama) 1/2 ounce triple sec 1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice 1/4 ounce fresh squeezed grapefruit juice Combine rum, liqueur, triple sec and juices in tin. Shake. Strain over fresh ice into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with lemon wheel and cocktail straw. Serves one.

Salty Chihuahua Wet the rim of an old fashioned glass with lime juice, then dip in crushed pink peppercorn and salt. 11/2 tequila (Patron Anejo) 1/2 ounce grapefruit liqueur (Pamplemousse) 5 to 6 ounces fresh squeezed grapefruit juice Combine tequila, liqueur and juice in tin. Shake. Strain over fresh ice into the peppercorn and salt rimmed old fashioned glass. Garnish with grapefruit wheel. Serves one.

Mixologist Chuck Cooper pours a Pomeranian (left) and a Salty Chihuahua.
Mixologist Chuck Cooper pours a Pomeranian (left) and a Salty Chihuahua.

Hair of the Dog 2 ounces vodka (Cane Fireant) 1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice 1 ounce sangrita 1 ounce fresh egg white 1 slice of jalapeño or Thai chili pepper Combine all ingredients in tin. Shake. Strain over fresh ice into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with lemon and chili. Serve with a tall straw. Serves one.

"Learning about spirits enhances my need to know. It Intrigues me and made me realize I'm a history buff. After work, I go home and read books about booze, then create new drinks." Mixologist, Chuck Cooper, pouring a Hair Of The Dog.
“Learning about spirits enhances my need to know. It intrigues me and made me realize I’m a history buff. After work, I go home and read books about booze, then create new drinks.” Mixologist, Chuck Cooper, pouring a Hair Of The Dog.

Bloodhound 1 ounce Gin (Nolet’s) 1/3 ounce dry vermouth 1/3 ounce sweet vermouth 1/4 strawberry puree Combine all ingredients in tin with crushed ice. Shake. Strain into coupe glass. Garnish with a slice of strawberry. Serves one.

The beautiful Bloodhound.
The beautiful Bloodhound.

Dog’s Nose 11/2 ounce Absolut Vanilla Vodka 14 ounces Buckhorn Black Nutmeg or cinnamon Add vodka to a 16 ounce chilled pilsner glass. Pour beer over vodka to fill glass. Dust with the freshly grated nutmeg or cinnamon. Serves one.

Inside the Ulele Spring Brewery (left to right): Rusty Red, Pirate's Barrel Lager, Buckhorn Black Lager for Dog's Nose.
Inside the Ulele Spring Brewery (left to right): Rusty Red, Pirate’s Barrel Lager, Buckhorn Black Lager for Dog’s Nose.

The colloquialism, hair of the dog originally referred to a method of treatment after being bitten by a rabid dog. In the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898), Ebenezer Cobham Brewer wrote, “In Scotland, it was a popular belief that a few hairs of the dog that bit you applied to the wound would prevent evil consequences. Applied to drinks, it means, if overnight you have indulged too freely, take a glass of the same wine within 24 hours to soothe the nerves.”

The Money Shot, in one take, at the front entry of ulele. Wow. From left to right: Guinevere, Hope, Abby, Bella, Levi, Miss Roux, Peter. Photograph by award-winning photographer, Laura Allen.
The Money Shot, in one take, at the front entry of ulele. Wow. From left to right: Guinevere, Hope, Abby, Bella, Levi, Miss Roux, Peter. Photograph by award-winning photographer, Laura Allen.

A Case for the Power of Love.

INTRO: One of the recipients of the 14th annual AKC Humane Fund Award for Canine Excellence (ACE) was featured in the spring issue of The New Barker dog magazine. His just-announced award is well-deserved. Only four months after his front leg was amputated and three weeks after completing chemotherapy, Bart earned his Senior Hunter title and continued to the Master Hunter level. Bart and Darcy, his human, were invited to visit with soldiers from the Wounded Warrior program. Bart, who ran fast and hard during a guided hunt, was an inspiration to the soldiers without limbs, and overcoming their own battle scars. Our story, A Case for the Power of Love, was written by Pam Stuart, a member of the Tampa Bay Vizsla Club. It may look like a long read, but if you’re in need of a smile and some inspiration, it’s well worth your time.

Bart with Darcy, getting ready for a run to guide Wounded Warriors.
Bart with Darcy, getting ready for a run to guide Wounded Warriors.

STORY: Life. It’s been said that life is what happens to you while you’re making plans. If you’re familiar with the sport of agility, life is like running an agility course: you have a start line at the beginning and a finish line at the end, with lots of obstacles in between. Sometimes there are challenges—wrong courses and dropped bars—but you and your dog run the course together and there is always praise and joy because you tried. You may not have a perfect run, you may not have earned a “Q”, but you and your best friend ran together, did as well as you could, and lived and loved in that moment.

Life. In times of strife, those challenges—those wrong courses and dropped bars—become the defining moments in which we find our strengths and our capabilities. Those moments test our mettle, our courage, our fortitude and our resolve. It is a great test for us when our beloved dog, our best friend and our heart on four legs, is diagnosed with a serious illness. Shock. Sadness. Denial. Reality. How did this happen and why? If we had the answers, oh, if we had the answers. It’s always been Darcy and Bart. For years. I can’t remember how or when we met, but it has always been Darcy and Bart. Darcy is a friend of immeasurable love, kindness, and strength. Strength that was tested when she and her Vizsla Bart, started on their journey.

It began with a limp early in 2008, during hunt and field season. It was just a sports-related injury. Bart was only three years old; a strong, young dog from a well-planned breeding who had already finished his show championship. He ran marathons with Darcy, his longest at 16 miles. He was on his way to great success in the field as nothing was slowing him down. Not even this limp. Dogs have their way of communicating with us. We know. We know our dogs and we just know. Is it a look? Is it intuition? Whatever It is—it is.

One June morning, Bart came out of his crate, looked up at Darcy and they went to the vet. The doctor found a lump on the top of the left shoulder and x-rays were ordered. They revealed that 80% of the scapula had been eaten away by cancer. Thankfully, Bart was young and in peak physical condition, which may have prevented further injury. After a biopsy confirmed osteosarcoma, Darcy, without hesitation, looked at the vet and asked how quickly Bart’s leg could be removed. Bart underwent a full scapulectomy. The surgery was a success as the doctor was able to get clean margins.

How could this happen to such a sweet, young dog? And why? Everything about Bart was not about cancer. Everything about osteosarcoma was bleak: the statistics, the poor prognoses, the dismal outcomes. Again, why? When word went out through the Vizsla grapevine of Darcy and Bart’s plight, I remember the sinking feeling of knowing osteosarcoma, and all that this diagnosis meant. I asked Darcy how she found the strength. She said: “Love. When he was first diagnosed, I kept asking myself why we were going through this and twice I saw the word LOVE, in bright, luminescent letters, inside my mind’s eye. When I saw it the second time, I gave in and took a leap of faith that this was going to be a journey of LOVE. Love of Bart, love from friends, love from strangers, love of this journey—and that has been my strength. It has been the best worst thing that has ever happened to me. Thankfully, there is an endless supply of love, so I feel we are prepared to keep on keepin’ on for as long as we need to.”

Friends came together in the name of love, as true friends do. Bart’s breeder became the Research and Development Department, attending vet appointments, taking notes, supporting her friend through this maze of science, medicine and spirituality. A TeamBarty Yahoo group sprang up so everyone could be kept up to date on the latest developments through photos and shared stories. Darcy put it best: “Friends became family, and strangers became friends.” TeamBarty gained traction and folks began to send items for the fund-raising yard sales, financial support, emotional support, prayers, toys and treats. Cards and letters from across the country started appearing in the mail box, often from strangers offering their sympathy, love and support.

When Bart came home from surgery, Darcy’s first priority was to try to get back to a sense of normalcy and Bart was all for that. They would take their morning walks, at first only to the end of the driveway. Then to the neighbor’s yard, then further down the street. Walks became runs. A milestone was reached when a run included an easy jump over a low retaining wall. Barty was back. A Vizsla is a hunting dog and hunting was deep in Bart’s genes. In October 2008, as a tri-paw, four months after an amputation and three weeks after completing his chemotherapy, Bart earned the fourth and final leg towards his Senior Hunter title for pointing breeds. For those not familiar with pointing breed hunt and field titles, to qualify for the SH title, the dog must run and hunt birds for 30 minutes, find, point and retrieve to the AKC’s exacting standards. Many dogs don’t get that far on four legs. Bart did it in grand style on three.

Bart continues to amaze and inspire those around him.
Bart continues to amaze and inspire those around him.

Darcy and Bart went even further and began competing for the Master Hunter title. There were times during their hunt tests when judges would have a sympathetic look for that poor girl and her three legged dog. Sympathy changed to awe as many grown men and women, often with tears in their eyes, were so moved by the courage and determination of the beautiful spirit in that beautiful dog. And Bart did earn that Master Hunter title, ten months after his amputation. Bart is the first Vizsla in history to have completed the Master Hunter title, start to finish—on three legs. Darcy and Bart have soldiered on, continuing their journey together in living life and performing in the field. They have also participated in the Vizsla Club of America All-Star review which honors Vizslas that have earned both their conformation championship along with one of the highest hunt or field titles.

Darcy with Bart, who gets some attention from one of the Wounded Warriors members.
Darcy with Bart, who gets some attention from one of the Wounded Warriors members.

The ribbons, the titles, the accolades—that’s all a bonus. Darcy and Bart have already won the real prize. They have lived, loved and grown through this journey that continues still. In the summer of 2010, Darcy and Bart were invited to visit with the military personnel in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, who are part of the Wounded Warrior Project. Later that fall, the Wounded Warriors came to Atlanta over Thanksgiving weekend and watched Bart compete in a field trial. Most recently, in January 2013, Bart, who will soon turn eight, ran fast and hard during a guided hunt with the Wounded Warriors, inspiring soldiers returning home who are overcoming their own battle scars.

Bart, on point. Love, in bright luminescent letters.
Bart, on point. Love, in bright luminescent letters.

Bart leads by example—thriving; never giving up and living life to the fullest thanks to love—in bright, luminescent letters.

We look forward to meeting Bart and the other ACE recipients this December in Orlando during a ceremony at the AKC Eukanuba Nationals.

All You Need Is The Love Of A Dog For Valentine’s Day.

While doing some window shopping over the last couple of weeks, we discovered some fun finds for Valentine’s Day gift ideas at local Tampa Bay Area dog boutiques. The proprietors are constantly searching the country for unique dog-themed items. So, if you’re in the mood to shop with and for your dog, stop in at any one of the local area shops, and say hello. It pays to shop with The New Barker Valentine’s Gift Guide. Simply mention The New Barker dog magazine when you make a purchase, email us your receipt (info@thenewbarker.com) and you will automatically receive one of the following, while supplies last:

1) A gift certificate from a Bay Area dog-friendly restaurant.

2) A gift certificate from Florida Jean Company or from Bella By the Sea Boutique.

3) A DVD of the Disney/Tim Burton film, Frankenweenie (a 4-disc combo pack).

4) A DVD of the family-friendly movie I Heart Shakey.

5) A perpetual dog-themed calendar, with beautiful black and white photos, and touching dog-themed quotes. Perfect for annual recurring dates like birthdays and anniversaries.

6) Tickets to upcoming dog-friendly events, such as Florida’s Largest Home & Garden Show or the Little Everglades International Combined Driving Event & Jack Terrier Races.

7) Then, you will automatically be registered (just by sending us your emailed receipt) for A Getaway Package from one of our dog-friendly Florida resort partners, like the TradeWinds Island Grand, Steinhatchee Landing Resort, Changing Tides, Hotel Indigo, Siesta Key Bungalows, The Chart House Suites, Heron Cay Lakeview Bed & Breakfast.

So, how much do we love our dogs? Let us count the ways.

1) Accentuate Your Love – We found these pillows (shown below) at Fluffy Puppies in Clearwater. Vamp up a couch or chair, and show the world you love to adopt dogs.

Fluffy Puppies, 727.446.7999
These pillows are the perfect Valentine’s gift for anyone who volunteers in animal rescue.

 

2) One of our most spectacular finds were these Bada Bling Bada Bloom collars at Fluffy Puppies (shown below). Exquisitely adorned with Swarovski crystal beads, you might think they would be ridiculously expensive. But, think again. They’re beautiful and reasonably priced. Perfect for a night on the town.

Gorgeous collars, adorned with Swarovski beads. Available at Fluffy Puppies.
Gorgeous collars, adorned with Swarovski beads. Available at Fluffy Puppies.

3) Be My Valentine. Now, if it’s your dog you’re shopping for, this sweet little I Heart You tee, worn by our model, Chloe, says it all. Available at One Lucky Dog in multiple sizes, while supplies last. Be sure to check out their line of  tee shirts for humans, including the “I Kissed A Dog and I Liked It.”

Nothing says "Be Mine" than the I Heart You tee shirt from One Lucky Dog, St. Pete.
Nothing says “Be Mine” than the I Heart You tee shirt from One Lucky Dog, St. Pete.
Soft, nicely cut tee shirts from One Lucky Dog, St. Petersburg.
Soft, nicely cut tee shirts from One Lucky Dog, St. Petersburg.

4 & 5)  Call Me, Maybe? Oh yea these numbers are one-of-a-kind finds, and available exclusively at Pawsitively Posh Pooch. Hand-sewn with delicate appliqués and jewels, the couture lines carried at Pawsitively Posh Pooch are from fashion-first cities like Milan, Paris, and Spain. Plan on spending some time here, as you uncover treasure after treasure, like the gorgeous harness, worn by store dog, Zoe. Available in various sizes.

This couture doggie design, exclusively at Pawsitively Posh Pooch, St. Petersburg.
This couture doggie design, exclusively at Pawsitively Posh Pooch, St. Petersburg.
Zoe, our Pawsitively Posh Pooch model, wearing a one-of-a-kind halter.
Zoe, our Pawsitively Posh Pooch model, wearing a one-of-a-kind halter.

6) Dental Health Month. In conjunction with National Pet Dental Health Month, February is also Responsible Pet Owners Month. Now is a good time to stock up on some in-home preventive measures like the Fresh Breath Liquid Floss spray and Triflossball, available at Pet Food Warehouse. The dynamic duo treatment doubles as a great way to clean your dog’s teeth during playtime. Throughout February, Pet Food Warehouse is offering 20% off on all dental products. Stop in to see their huge display, and have your questions answered by a knowledgeable staff. Be sure to check out their I Heart Dogs T-shirts. Another sweet Valentine’s gift for dog lovers.

Floss and Fun with your dog for healthier teeth. Available at Pet Food Warehouse, St. Pete.
Floss and Fun with your dog for healthier teeth. Available at Pet Food Warehouse, St. Pete.
Novelty tee-shirts, like this one, available at Pet Food Warehouse, St. Petersburg.
Novelty tee-shirts, like this one, available at Pet Food Warehouse, St. Petersburg.

7) Environmentally dog-friendly. Who can resist the charming handmade and hand-painted Adirondack chairs, complete with a motif that includes your dog’s likeness? Wet Noses, the shabby-chic cottage boutique in Sarasota’s Downtown, carries some wonderful finds, created by local artists.

Handmade and hand-painted Adirondack chairs, available at Wet Noses Boutique, Sarasota.
Handmade and hand-painted Adirondack chairs, available at Wet Noses Boutique, Sarasota.

For the love of dog, come along and have some fun with Florida’s top dog lifestyle magazine. Be sure to stay connected to all things Florida Dog via The New Barker blog, Facebook page and Weekend PupDates. We’ll be offering fun specials and more giveaways throughout the year.

Her Name is Lucca, the Military Working Dog.

'Canines With Courage'
Retired U.S. Marine Rober Harr, 86 (center) with U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham (right) and U.S. Marine Cpl. Juan Rodriguez (left) with Lucca on the Natural Balance 2013 Rose Parade Float, Canines with Courage. (Gary Friedman, Los Angeles Times).

A decade ago, Military Working Dogs like Lucca would have most likely been euthanized after her service. The dogs were considered government equipment and too dangerous to return to domestic life. Thousands of dogs working for the military have been sent overseas since 1942. Over the years, many have been left behind as excess equipment. During the Vietnam War, about 4,000 American war dogs were employed in various capacities. About 300 dogs were killed in action or were victims of either tropical diseases or infections. The rest of the dogs were reportedly put down by military veterinarians or given to the South Vietnamese Army.

In 2000, President Clinton signed a law allowing retired soldiers and civilians to adopt the Military Working Dogs after their deployments.

John Burnam, who served in Vietnam and wrote a first-person account of working with a front-line scout dog named Clipper, will also be riding on the float today. Clipper never made it back to the United States. Burnam is president of the foundation that established the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument, which is scheduled to be completed in October, 2013. Burnam’s story about Clipper inspired Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC), who introduced legislation for a national monument. In 2008, President Bush signed the bill into law, and President Obama authorized Burnam’s foundation to build and maintain the San Antonio, Texas monument.

The bronze statue features a Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever and a Belgian Malinois leading a dog handler on patrol. The $1.2 million dollar price tag was funded solely by grants and donations led by sponsors Natural Balance, Petco and Maddie’s Fund.

Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, 23, credits Lucca with saving his life. The dog sniffed out a booby trap, setting off the bomb that took her leg. Cpl. Rodriguez later escorted Lucca to her first handler, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham, 33. Lucca is living the life of spoiled retirement, and enjoying every minute of it.

The New Barker dog magazine is honored to be a longtime supporter and sponsor of Military Working Dog Team Support Association (MWDTSA). Over the years, through the support of our retail advertisers and their own generous customers, supplies have been collected for the dogs and their handlers currently deployed overseas. We have collected the donations and transported them to the SPCA Florida in Lakeland. There, they are either shipped to Atlanta, or Dixie Whitman, the executive director of MWDTSA drives to Lakeland from Atlanta to pick up the supplies. Dixie then packages and ships the supplies directly to the deployed handlers and their dogs.

You can learn more about this fine organization by reading Lucca’s story. Supplies continue to be collected at Fluffy Puppies, Clearwater; Gone to the Dogs, St. Pete Beach; Groovy Cats & Dogs, Tampa; One Lucky Dog, St. Petersburg; Paw Paws Pet Boutique, Madeira Beach; Pawsitively Posh Pooch, St. Petersburg; Pet Food Warehouse, St. Petersburg; Pet Supplies Plus, Clearwater & Pinellas Park; and Wet Noses Boutique, Sarasota.

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.