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.

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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.

Pardon Me, Madam…Is That Your Dogue?

Whilst the rest of us hound dogs gear up for the DVD release of Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3, and the advance screening of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, Haute Dogs in New York will enjoy a night at the opera. The world premiere of Dog Days opens at the Alexander Kasser Theater on September 29th.

The ad for Dog Days, the opera as it appeared in The New York Times, Sunday edition.

Based on the short story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, the production by Peak Performances is being billed in the New York Times as Opera Unleashed. Featuring world class vocal talent, Dog Days is a dark comedy brought to life through David T. Little’s inventive compositions of classical and contemporary music elements.

The setting of the story is an apocalyptic near-future that focuses on a suburban family as they cope with the domestic complications of the United States involvement in the next world war. As hunger begins to take over, in the midst of the war-induced chaos, the family makes the acquaintance of an unusual furry friend: a man dressed as a dog, whining and begging for food.

Here is an excerpt from chapter one of the book, Dog Days: The man in the dog suit whines outside the door. “Again?” sighs my mother. “Where’s my gun?” says my dad. “We’ll take care of it this time,” my older brothers say. They all go outside. We hear the shouts and the scuffle, and whimpers as he crawls away up the street.

My brothers come back in. “That takes care of that,” they say, rubbing their hands together. “Damn nutcase,” my dad growls. But the next day he is back. His dog suit is shabby. The zipper’s gone; the front is held together with safety pins. He looks like a mutt. His tongue is flat and pink like a slice of bologna. He pants at me. “Mom,” I call, “he’s back.” My mother sighs, then comes to the door and looks at him. He cocks his head at her. “Oh, look at him, he looks hungry,” my mother says. “He looks sad.” I say, “He smells.” My mother says, “No collar. He must be a stray.”

“Mother,” I say, “He’s a man in a dog suit.” He sits up and begs. My mother doesn’t look at me. She reaches out and strokes the man’s head. He blinks at her longingly. “Go get a plate,” she tells me. “See what you can dig out of the garbage.”

It should make for some pretty interesting opera, and leaves one wondering who will make the full length feature film? (Ellie Lee produced a short film in 2000).  Maybe the actor Jason Gann will play the man in the dog suit (a la his role in FX’s Wilfred). Anyway, we’d love to hear from anyone who will be going to the opera, Dog Days which runs through October 7.

Simply Irresistible.

This will get your week off to an inspirational start. If it wasn’t for Vickie Dryer, a veterinary technician in St. Cloud, a Chihuahua mix puppy born without functioning front legs would have been euthanized. The vet tech at Osceola County Animal Control stopped the request to put down the then-2-week-old puppy and decided to help rehab him.

While this little guy will never walk, stand or run like other pups, he doesn’t let his let his lack of front limbs stop him from enjoying life.

“His personality is wonderfully sweet, very outgoing. He’s brave, just playful. He’s a normal puppy,” Dryer told the station.

Staff at the Osceola County Animal Control was so inspired by the Chihuahua that they named him after Olympian Oscar Pistorius, the South African double-amputee track star who competed in the London Olympics.

Best of all, Oscar now has a forever home. A staff member who can take care of all of Oscar’s special needs fell in love with the pup and adopted him. Who could resist this little angel? Watch the video from  Fox 35 out of Orlando.

Source: Vetstreet and Fox 35/Orlando.

Is That Any Way to Support Our Troops?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

In Support of the Local Independent Retailer.

The Downtown Sarasota Farmer’s Market was packed with shoppers and their dogs this past Saturday morning. Locally grown colorful produce, plants and plenty of food options. As usual, the big red double decker bus that is Java Dawg Coffee was packed with folks wanting a good cup of Joe Dawg. Foot traffic on Main Street was up, as people and their dogs shopped the boutiques, and dined at the cafes, including our favorite,  Cafe Americano.

On-Of-A-Kind Beach Chair.

This Labor Day has us thinking about, and appreciating those hardworking independent business owners across Florida. The one constant that we are witnessing now more than ever is how these businesses are supporting their communities by bringing in items that are created and produced by local artisans.

At Wet Noses Dog Boutique on Main Street, we discovered one-of-a-kind, beautifully-painted adirondack chairs. For an unbelievably reasonable price (which includes the chair), your dog’s portrait is painted with the theme of your choice.

At Bella by the Sea on Anna Maria Island’s Pine Avenue, fresh cut flowers in containers (for the picking) greet shoppers outside. Guys and dogs can take a load off, grab a refreshing cold beverage, and enjoy the scenery on the breezy front porch, while the ladies take in the delights of what’s inside. (Gentlemen, this is not a bad way to spend an afternoon). Take a stroll down to Emerson’s, and check out the world-renowned artist’s brand of quirky humor on tee-shirts, martini glasses and notecards. Emerson could have chosen any place in the world to settle down and set up shop. He chose Anna Maria Island with good reason. Quaint and vibrant Pine Avenue has been named the Greenest Little Main Street in America by the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute.

Available at Gone to the Dogs, St. Pete Beach.

On St. Pete Beach’s historic Corey Avenue, Gone to the Dogs has an artistic array of locally created and produced items, including colorful bags by Clara. New designs are always coming in. The proprietors of Groovy Cats & Dogs in Tampa have worked hard to stock their store with items that are not only locally produced but sustainable too, like dog-themed artwork and decorative accessories for the home.

In Dog We Trust is a cool new line of locally-designed bandanas and tee-shirts. Right now, they are exclusively available at Fluffy Puppies in Clearwater, a big supporter of local artists. The Doggie Door on Park Avenue in Winter Park is another big supporter of local artists, and carries the PawPalettes line of notecards, a Florida company. Pawsitively Posh Pooch has become a destination for dog lovers looking for couture doggie clothes. One line (created by a Florida-based artist) has become internationally-known for its unique designs and use of vintage material and accessories. Think: Coco Chanel. “Dress shabbily and they’ll remember the dress. Dress impeccably and they’ll remember the dog.”  (With apologies to Ms. Chanel and Bella by the Sea).

Another constant that each of these retailers has in common is their support of local shelters and rescue groups. Like the beautiful Cat Room at Pet Food Warehouse, built out specifically to showcase adoptables from Pet Pal Animal Shelter. Or the fundraising events held regularly at Dog-Mania & Cats in Dade City and The Green K9 in Mount Dora. Time and again, these independent business owners have graciously donated their product, services and money to benefit local animal advocacy programs.

Stats to Ponder: Did you know that for every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community? That same dollar amount spent in a national big box chain store returns only $43 to the community. Spend that same amount ($100) online, and nothing is returned to the community.

The New Barker dog magazine would like to tip our hats to the dedicated Local Independent Business Owner. From the retailer to the restaurateur; the groomer to the trainer; the hotelier to the owners of dog day care centers; the veterinarians, artists and photographers: thank you for your own dedication and support of the local economy.

Shopping local benefits each of our communities in more ways than one.