Tropical Storm Isaac and Florida’s Soggy Dogs.

Now is the time when one of those indoor portable pet potty mechanisms might come in handy. It’s been raining on and off for the past 24 hours, and getting the dogs outside for a potty break is nearly impossible. Who can blame a dog for not wanting to be exposed to the elements while taking care of business? Positioning an umbrella over the dog is an option. Although, the prospect of following the dog around with an umbrella while she determines the perfect spot is laughable.

All kidding aside, it looks as if Florida escaped a direct hit from Isaac. We’re in for more rain and wind with possible flooding, so precautions are still necessary. Count your blessings, and consider putting together a hurricane plan now. NOAA predicts up to 17 named storms during the 2012 hurricane season, which does not end until November 30.  As Susie Kupfer, co-owner of St. Petersburg’s Pet Food Warehouse advises, “This storm season, be prepared, not scared.”

The website for The New Barker dog magazine has a list of Florida pet-related retailers that can recommend and help fulfill your hurricane preparation list for pet families.  On the same website, there is a list of pet-friendly hurricane evacuation centers in Florida. Now is a good time to review this list, as some evacuation centers have pre-requisites.

Readers of The New Barker may recall the story a couple of years ago, featuring the Florida Keys SPCA. The shelter is just one storm away from being completely destroyed. This past weekend, while preparing for Tropical Storm Isaac’s arrival, volunteers and staff evacuated 154 animals to foster homes. Tammy Fox emailed us on Sunday, “This community is absolutely amazing. The animals are all safe and sound. The shelter is boarded up and our ACO has the emergency phone. Right now it is very windy and raining. Sounds pretty loud outside. I am so thankful to the community.”

Eerily, Tropical Storm Isaac is following the track of Hurricane Katrina. At this point, Isaac is much weaker than Katrina, but thousands of folks in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have been told to evacuate their Gulf Coast homes. The storm is expected to make landfall late Tuesday or Wednesday, which will coincide with the seventh anniversary of the arrival of Hurricane Katrina. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those in harm’s way. And to Isaac we say, go away.

Somehow, getting a little wet while taking the dogs outside, doesn’t seem like such a big deal, right now.

The Dog Days of Summer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The World is Watching Florida, Again.

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

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

No Dog is ExpendaBull.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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