We See What We Choose To See.

by Anna Cooke, Editor in Chief, The New Barker dog magazine.

Would you be able to tell whether or not someone was homeless just by their appearance? According to the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative (THHI), data collected in 2016 counted 1817 homeless men, women and children. There are 67 counties in Florida.

Bob Blair, a member of the Tampa Elks organization, helps organize a monthly outreach program that assists the homeless. Once a month, volunteers visit homeless camps throughout the city to provide food, counseling, toiletries and other necessities. The roaming outreaches, as they’ve been dubbed, help to determine where each quarterly outreach program will be held, which is much larger in scope.

During the roaming outreach visits, volunteers have noticed an increase in the number of pets living with many of their homeless humans. While it is clear the pets, mostly cats and dogs, are loved, it is obvious they need care. About half the animals are spayed or neutered.

Thankfully, word travels fast among animal lovers, and Victoria Parker of Bayshore Dog Training pulled together some pretty incredible can-do partners, including Second Chance Friends Rescue and 4 Lucky Dogs Pet Rescue. All three organizations pooled their resources and were able to collect large donations of pet food, flea, tick and de-wormer medication, collars, leashes, toys, bowls and tarps. They attended their first quarterly community outreach event as the Homeless Dog Owner Outreach group, which was held yesterday, June 13 at The American Legion Post 111 in Seminole Heights on the corner of Florida Avenue and Sligh.

The group’s volunteers set up tables inside and outside The American Legion. They were just one of many businesses and volunteers donating their products and services to those less fortunate. The Homeless Dog Owner Outreach group connected with more than 50 dog owners, many of whom had not brought their pets with them.

“Oftentimes, when we visit the camps, these folks will refuse any help – whether it’s money or food. There are trust issues with many of these people,” said Bob Blair, the Tampa Elk volunteer. He estimated they would most likely see about 250 people during the day’s event. A hot meal was guaranteed to every person who attended. The food, donated by The Tampa Elks organization, was prepared and being served by Salvation Army volunteers.

“It was an emotional day for me; seeing the gratitude of the people passing by our table,” said Victoria.

“We didn’t know what to expect and ended up helping a lot of grateful people. We gathered good information,” said Bill Gray of Second Chance Rescue. “The biggest thing I learned is that nobody is actively helping these people. We found out that some of the pets are in need of immediate medical care.”

Not everyone reaching out was homeless, but they were definitely in need of assistance, and education. One woman, with two small children, said the family’s young female Chihuahua had lots of fleas. While the medication and supplies were being put together for her, Gray asked if her dog was spayed. “No, we want her to experience motherhood, so we’re going to let her have one litter of puppies before having her fixed.” In a most eloquent and respectful conversation with the woman, Gray was able to convince her that spaying would be beneficial to everyone – the dog and the woman’s family. “Give your contact information to one of our volunteers right here, and we’ll arrange to have your dog spayed. We’ll cover the costs.” The woman looked relieved.

As a result of their willingness to reach out, yesterday, the Homeless Dog Owner Outreach group has been asked to meet with both Metropolitan Ministries and Hillsborough County’s homeless veterans liaison. They are already preparing for the next quarterly outreach program in September.

It would be wonderful to see the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, Animal Coalition of Tampa and the Hillsborough Animal Health Foundation partner with the Homeless Dog Owner Outreach group and provide on-site animal wellness checks, vaccinations and spay/neuter procedures during the Tampa Elks quarterly outreach events.

In a previous issue of The New Barker (winter 2010), we featured a story on Gainesville’s St. Francis House Pet Care Clinic. At that time, the clinic was still operating in the back of the St. Francis House homeless shelter. While driving across town in Gainesville, Chris Machen noticed what others chose to ignore: the proliferation of homeless people with pets; mostly dogs, some cats. She observed how well-loved the pets were when their humans wandered into the St. Francis House soup kitchen and homeless shelter, where she volunteered. Wanting to become more involved in her community, Machen listened as her friend, Gainesville veterinarian Dr. Dale Kaplan-Stein, talked about wanting to open a clinic for animals of Gainesville’s homeless population.

“The homeless are not faceless,” Dr. Kaplan-Stein would tell her detractors. “They are people. Those who say that the poor should not own pets should rethink that statement, because that pet could be the only thing that gives them joy, love and hope. Pets make us all better people. Besides, if these animals are healthier, our community will be healthier.”

We met Sir Drake, a seven year-old Poodle, during the Community Outreach event for the Homeless in Tampa on Tuesday, June 13. His human, Charles, has lung cancer and is no longer able to drive. The New Barker has made arrangements with Tampa’s Rover Done Over Grooming to visit Charles at home and give Sir Drake a bath and groom.

 

Unconditional Love. It Works Both Ways.

How much money would you spend on your dog’s medical care? The following appears in the current/winter issue of THE NEW BARKER. It is the story of Zack, a Lakeland Terrier, and his devoted human, Stella. Today, sadly, we learned of Zack’s passing this week. Rest in peace, Zacky. This edition of Weekend PUPdates is dedicated to you.

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Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin loses melanin, the pigment that determines the color of skin, hair and eyes. If the cells that produce melanin die, depigmentation occurs, causing patches of white irregular shapes to appear on the skin. It usually starts as small areas of pigment loss that become larger with time, striking any part of the body and anyone, regardless of race. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious, but alters the life of the patient physically, limiting sun exposure to avoid severe burning and blistering. It can also have an extremely emotional effect on the patient, especially children.

When Stella Pavlides developed vitiligo, she was only 22 and had just given birth to her son, Greg. The cosmetologist with flawless skin suddenly looked like a patchwork quilt, as she describes it. “I’ve had people refuse to take money from me,” said Pavlides. “They think what I have is contagious.”

After learning there was no cure, and that between four and five million people in the United States are afflicted with the condition, Pavlides contacted the Vitiligo Foundation. She wanted to help fund research to find a cure for vitiligo and became a faithful donor. When the animal advocate discovered that animals, including dogs, were being used for research and testing, she was conflicted. “I wanted a cure for vitiligo, but I wanted more humane research.” She asked the president of the foundation to consider going the humane route after discussing her concerns with the now late Dr. Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Dermatology Service at Boston’s Mass General. She was turned away.

The Clearwater resident then traveled to Gainesville to meet with Wayne McCormack, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Florida College of Medicine. McCormack told Pavlides that if she provided the funding for the research, he would use donated blood and skin from people with vitiligo, not animals.

Since 1995, the American Vitiligo Research Foundation Pavlides founded, has given around $200,000 toward vitiligo research at UF. The money comes through fundraisers and donations.

To say this woman is unstoppable in whatever she takes on is a gross understatement. Even baseball legend Tony La Russa, who founded the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in 1991 with his wife Elaine, said of Pavlides, “She is a dedicated, hard-working person, devoted to her causes. She is also an avid animal lover. I admire her tenacity and drive as well as her determination to overcome obstacles.” Pavlides’ own rescue Airedale, Alex, was one of ARF’s first mascots.

In February of 1999, Pavlides adopted another dog, Sophie, a Lakeland Terrier. Several months later she received a phone call asking if she could foster another Lakeland Terrier who was just a puppy – one of Sophie’s puppies, in fact. Where Sophie was sweet, kind, high-spirited and loving, Zack was the exact opposite. He was aggressive, suffered separation anxiety and self-mutilated in addition to a host of health issues that would surface several years after Pavlides adopted him.

Pavlides allows herself to wonder, once in awhile, whether she would have adopted Zack had she known about his issues beforehand. One thing is certain: this determined, tenacious woman never gave up on Zack once she committed to bringing him into her home.

She did all the right things. Neutering Zack seemed to help with some of his aggressive behavior, but not to the extent she had hoped. She hired a professional dog trainer who told her he had trained many dogs and was certain he could train Zack. After Pavlides invested a lot of money for Zack’s training sessions, the trainer told her the dog was not trainable. Pavlides then took Zack to a licensed dog psychologist. She attended a presentation at the Humane Society of Manatee County by Cesar Millan. She purchased and read his book and applied his theories on Zack. Nothing seemed to help with her dog’s anxiety or aggressive behavioral issues.

Eventually, Pavlides accepted Zack for the dog he was. She realized his aggression and anxiety were all fear-based, and vowed to never put him in a position to fail ever again.

Zack’s physical issues began to manifest when he was five years old. He had surgery to remove cataracts in both of his eyes. He has suffered from chronic allergies, ear infections, and extensive seizures. His self mutilation involved spinning and biting his tail to the point of requiring surgery. He has seen almost every kind of veterinarian specialist within the Tampa Bay Area. At The University of Florida in Gainesville, he was seen by specialists in dermatology, ophthalmology, acupuncture, neurology and a licensed dietician.

Zack’s veterinary bills are currently more than $80,000. That does not include the money Pavlides has spent around her home to help keep her dog’s allergies in check: having the grass removed and replaced with cement; replacing her carpet with tile; providing Zack with a special daily diet of fresh cooked tilapia, salt-less peas and cream of rice.

The point at which we, as pet owners, determine enough is enough is a different decision for each of us. Factors will include the dog’s overall health and well-being, the bank account balance, and our own ability to cope with the situation.

There was a time, in the not so distant past, where euthanasia was the only solution for our pets’ suffering from chronic disease. Dogs have moved from the backyard doghouse into our homes, living as part of the family blend. We have come to learn how diet plays a role in the health of our dogs. Veterinary medicine has vastly improved over the last 10 years, offering pet owners a multitude of options.

We move forward and base our decisions on all the facts presented to us. Living with dogs takes a certain amount of patience, devotion and lots of faith.

It has been almost two years since Zack has had a seizure. Pavlides credits Dr. Gregory Todd at Animal Hospital of Dunedin, and his recommended combination treatment of acupuncture and Chinese herbs. “Zack’s indomitable spirit has been a great ally in overcoming his health challenges. But, none of it would be possible without Stella’s unwavering commitment as a pet parent, to a lifetime of love and care,” said Dr. Todd.

Pavlides knows that without each and every veterinarian and caregiver in Zack’s life, he would not be here today. Through her own trials and tribulations, as Pavlides puts it, Zack is now 16 years-old and has become a very kind, loving soul. To her, Zack has been worth every penny spent, every tear shed.

"Our last picture together," said Stella, shown here holding Zack.
“Our last picture together,” said Stella, shown here holding Zack.

Positive Poodle Power.

We first met Jolene, a beautiful white Standard Poodle, in Tampa at Woofstock, hosted by TampaPets.org. Her fur had been accented in pink to show her support for Breast Cancer Awareness. The following is an original feature from the winter 2015/16 (current) issue of The New Barker dog magazine, written by Anna Cooke.

At fifty years old, Barbara Mahoney decided to end her abusive marriage and sell her business. She knew the change would be good for her, but realized she was still not in a good place, emotionally. She recalled how happy she felt around her mother’s dogs while growing up, especially the Poodles. Now, she wanted a constant companion, someone who would give her unconditional love. A dog who would go swimming with her. Heck, maybe she’d even get into agility, she thought. Jolene came into Barbara’s life in 2011, and she decided to let the dog show her just what she wanted to do in the way of “work.”

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When she was just a year old, Jolene began her athletic career in dock diving. She received her canine therapy certification in water rehabilitation. She took the Southeastern Regional Division championship in her class, and all was good. Then, someone threw a Frisbee. Jolene ran after it, and caught it. She and Barbara were hooked. Barbara sought out competitions and talked to other people about Jolene’s talent. “I even found people to throw Jolene the disc when I broke my clavicle,” she said. “I didn’t want her to stop having fun while I was laid up.” The duo’s devotion to the sport and hard work quickly paid off. Jolene became the only World Qualifying Standard Poodle in the sport.

“Working with dogs in activities like disc and agility enriches and completes our relationship with them,” Barbara told us. “Jolene is an exceptional Poodle, but she is also an incredible disc dog.”

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Barbara and five other people formed Up Dog Challenge, an organization they hope will inform dog lovers how “awesome this sport is,” she told us. The group’s goal is to provide a non-intimidating forum where people will feel comfortable asking questions about the sport. Go to an Up Dog Challenge event and everyone involved is approachable and enthusiastic about the sport. “We want more people to know how fun this is,” added Barbara. “All ages and skill levels are welcome. All breed types, size, and shape. We’ll even teach you how to throw a disc so that your dog will catch it. We have trainers that are very good with newcomers to the sport. They explain how your dog thinks and will train you to throw the disc in a way that maximizes your dog’s success. We want to optimize that play for you both.”

Dogs are happiest when they have something to do, when people play with them. “Happy dogs equal happy people,” said Barbara. “Look what Jolene did for me. She changed my life.”

MORE: 2016 marks the 42nd consecutive year of competitive canine disc sports. The first annual UpDog International Finals will be held March 18 – 20 in Brooksville, Florida at Florida Classic Park (5360 Lockhart Road). Qualified teams must pre-register by Sunday, January 31. For more information, visit UpDogChallenge.com

This story originally appeared in the current issue of The New Barker dog magazine.

Santa Claus Uses A Shopping Guide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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The Dogs of Summer.

In the world of Minor League Baseball, 2008 may have been the year of the dog, according to Benjamin Hill of MiLB. On January 18 of that year, the Greensboro Grasshoppers announced that the collar of Miss Babe Ruth, the club’s popular Black Labrador, had sold for $290 in a charity auction. Miss Babe Ruth was billed as the youngest bat dog in the history of the Minor Leagues when she made her on-field debut in Greensboro in 2006.

Also on January 18, 2008, Maverick the Wonder Dog became part of the Brooklyn Cyclones front office. And just three days later, the Trenton Thunder announced that Chase, their popular Golden Retriever, had fathered a litter of puppies.

Chase was actually acquired at the end of the Thunder’s 2002 season. Over the years, he became a disc-chasing community icon. Fans lined up at every game to obtain his paw-tograph. Even Derek Jeter was among Chase’s long list of close and personal friends. Chase retired in 2013, and soon after passed away. His son, Home Run took over as the lone bat dog for the Trenton Thunder. He even brings water out to the umpires during games. Check out the Chase Video tribute. What a ham.

Major League Baseball is catching up. Earlier this year, the Milwaukee Brewers adopted Hank, a stray dog found near the MLB team’s Phoenix spring training facility. He was hungry and scared, and appeared to have been hit by a car.

Healed and healthy, Hank now travels with the team. So, now we’re wondering if he’ll be with the team as they meet up to play the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on July 28, 29 and 30. We would love Hank to meet Bailey, a Florida Ambassadog for shelter dogs everywhere.  Her favorite team is the Tampa Bay Rays, and she loves Joe Maddon (but, has yet to meet him). She even channels Maddon by wearing her own Ray Ban glasses while listening to #Bruce Springsteen. In fact, Glory Days might be Bailey’s favorite song.

Just a few years ago, Bailey was 12 hours from being euthanized when a volunteer from the Humane Society of Tampa Bay discovered her, sitting in the back of a crate. She was shivering, scared and had painful tight mats all over her fur. Bailey’s story is like thousands of other dogs waiting to be adopted. Luckily, today she lives a good life, traveling everywhere with her humans, including to Tropicana Field during the Bark in the Ball Park Dog Day. She has also been the Doggie Dining Diva for THE NEW BARKER, contributing as a “restaurant reviewer.” (#Laura Reily and #Jeff Houck, watch your backs…).

We know how supportive the Rays have been to local rescue organizations such as Pet Pal Animal Shelter. Could a meet up on the pitcher’s mound between Bailey and Hank occur during the Rays vs Brewers game to show a unified support for shelter dogs everywhere? Stay tuned. THE NEW BARKER plans to lobby for it, and we’ll need our fans’ voices and votes to make it work. Please visit the Event page at THE NEW BARKER on Facebook. Simply cast your vote for either Bailey or Hank by writing a comment as to why you think one or the other (or even both) should step up to the pitcher’s mound on July 30 to throw (or goober) the first pitch. Then share the page to your family and friends. It’s all in good fun to help bring more awareness to the Adopt Don’t Shop philosophy.

Chase, the official bat dog for the Trenton Thunder.
Chase, the official bat dog for the Trenton Thunder.
Miss Babe Ruth made her debut with the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2006.
Miss Babe Ruth made her debut with the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tampa Bay Rays fan, Bailey and her Joe Maddon Ray Bans.
Tampa Bay Rays fan, Bailey and her Joe Maddon Ray Bans.
Hank, mascot for MLB's Milwaukee Brewers, running the bases.
Hank, mascot for MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers, running the bases.

Ice Cream Is The Answer. (Who Cares What The Question Is).

A scoop of Toasted Coconut and a scoop of Valrhona Chocolate.
A scoop of Toasted Coconut and a scoop of Valrhona Chocolate.

Have you ever been to an ice cream tasting? Ulele presented a delicious experience for the palate as well as the eyes to a lucky few of us last week in Tampa. An official opening date for this fabulous new restaurant has not yet been announced. When it does open, look out, foodies. All details point to success for this newest Gonzmart family project.

Located in the heart of Tampa Heights with a wonderful view of the Hillsborough River, the restaurant (and brewery) will focus on all things local, including fresh fruits, veggies, seafood and “other proteins” from Florida. Richard Gonzmart and his head brewmaster Tim Shackton are even developing a specially-crafted beer to be named after Richard’s German Shepherd Dog, Rusty. And, in keeping with all things sustainable, they are contemplating the creation of dog treats from the spent brewing grains. Is there a Ulele dog treat tasting event in the very near future? Be sure to stay connected to THE NEW BARKER for details.

But, let’s get back to the important subject at hand – the ice cream tasting. American author Ernestine Ulmer is best known for her quote, “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” And that’s just exactly what we did last Wednesday at Ulele. Imagine the smooth, creamy, cold and refreshing scoops of six (yes, six) different flavors of ice cream, served up in a half coconut shell. Turns out Mr. Shackton’s other passion is making homemade ice cream. Lucky for all of the taste testers, he did not disappoint. Valrhona Chocolate. Naviera Espresso Swirl. Ugandan Vanilla Bean. Florida Mango. Florida Wildflower Honey. And my personal favorite – Toasted Coconut – transported me to another time.

Savoring each spoonful, with my eyes closed, I saw a little girl visiting grandparents in Puerto Rico with her mother. Details and presentation are just as important as the food itself to fulfill a unique experience. So, the delicious memory of a street vendor handing me a half coconut shell filled with creamy coconut ice cream on that sunny day so many years ago, was perfectly recreated last Wednesday evening at Ulele. It is no coincidence that Richard Gonzmart’s philosophy for his new venture is to honor past generations while creating memories for the next generation.

We were each given a form to rate the ice cream. And, oh my goodness, that was tough. But, hey that’s the price a hardworking ice cream taster must pay in order to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s creativity in the kitchen. Understandably, I did not require dinner that evening. Which now reminds me of an Erma Bombeck quote, “Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

Looking out onto the Hillsborough River from inside Ulele.
Looking out onto the Hillsborough River from inside Ulele.
Arrowheads that Richard Gonzmart has been collecting over the years, have been infused into the bar tops.
Arrowheads that Richard Gonzmart has been collecting over the years, have been infused into the bar tops.
Richard Gonzmart giving the taste testers a little background on the inspiration of Ulele.
Richard Gonzmart giving the taste testers a little background on the inspiration of Ulele.