Who knew that drinking vodka would be for the greater good of dogs? Not just any vodka, though.
by Anna Cooke
Earlier this year, THE NEW BARKER partnered with Tito’s Handmade Vodka to create a social media contest for adopted dogs. The contest post reached more than 15,000 people on THE NEW BARKER Facebook page. The top three dogs with the most votes received the honor of having a cocktail created in their name, using Tito’s Handmade Vodka, of course. In no particular order, the winners are (below, left to right) Taj from Boca Raton (photograph by Tina VaLant); Reggie from Tampa and Aggie from St. Petersburg.
We will share the refreshing drink recipes and more about these dogs in an upcoming blog. For now, a bit about the man behind the Vodka For Dog People.
Twenty years ago, in Austin, a geologist-turned-mortgage-man began a hobby with his trusted white German Shepherd mix, Jo, by his side. Tito Beveridge (his real name) began distilling vodka using hand-crafted stills he made himself. “Jo was the only contact I’d have with another life form in days,” said Tito, as he cooked batches of the product, then bottled and loaded it for distribution. During those early days, Beveridge often slept on a cot he’d set up inside the warehouse, his companion Jo curled up nearby. “She was with me the whole time. I still can’t talk about her without tearing up,” he says.
In 2001, Tito’s Handmade Vodka won the Double Gold Medal for vodka at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, beating out 71 other vodkas. Even The Dude (aka Jeff Bridges) in the movie The Big Lebowski recommends Tito’s as the best vodka with which to make a White Russian. Tito has done something even more extraordinary than creating his handmade vodka. He launched VodkaForDogPeople.com to help save homeless dogs after noticing the many stray dogs wandering onto his distillery’s property. The distillery is located just outside Austin city limits, where feral dog packs had been a growing problem. Tito’s employees began to adopt or foster them. Today, employees’ dogs can be seen lounging around the marketing office, while the distillery has many dogs who live on the property full-time.
The distillery became an unofficial dog adoption center. Strays would come onto the property, where they were cared for and made available for adoption. Tito’s staff took many of the stray dogs to Emancipet, an Austin-based organization devoted to making spay/neuter and preventative veterinary care affordable and accessible to all pet owners. Once the animals received treatment, Tito began talking to people in the community about adopting the dogs. He has since found homes for more than 60 dogs through the distillery.
Tito’s, the brand, has officially partnered with Emancipet to reach communities outside of Austin, like Hillsborough County’s Vets 4 Pets Charitable Clinic in Tampa. You could say that, using Tito’s Handmade Vodka in your mixed drinks is the right thing to do. Ethical inebriation, as blogger Claire Cudahy calls it. Today, Vodka For Dog People sells leashes, collars, dog bowls, and clothing. All of the profits from the sales go directly to Emancipet.
“Google ‘Successful Failures’ and you’ll find that everybody that you think is a great success in the world has gone through multiple failures.” –Tito Beveridge
Jo, the German Shepherd mix who helped Tito start it all, is buried on the distillery’s property. Few expected Tito to succeed when he first began making his vodka. His successes and subsequent partnerships with Emancipet and other animal-rights organizations have become a way for him to support a community that helped him when he was a struggling entrepreneur. He may just see a bit of himself in the dogs he’s helped along the way. “My loyalty to those who believed in me shows in the consistency of those partnerships 20 years later. I believe you should dance with the one who brought you.”
In 2006, during a tour of duty in the Afghanistan town of Now Zad, Royal Marine Sergeant Pen Farthing helped break up a dogfight. Located in Helmand Province, this was an area once described as the most dangerous place on Earth. Pen could not resist the soulful eyes of one of the street dogs he saved, whose ears had been cut off for fighting. He ended up befriending the dog and named him Nowzad.
After his tour of duty ended, Pen went through a difficult process to bring Nowzad home to the UK. He quickly realized that he wasn’t the only one hoping to do the same. Pen founded NOWZAD, and soon began the process of reuniting dogs with the soldiers who had befriended them in war zones around the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Kuwait and Libya. Through donations, happy homecoming destinations have included USA, UK, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Jordan and South Africa.
Seven of the rescued street dogs have become fully fledged service dogs in the United States. The dogs are a much valued and loved lifeline to their veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD. That these dogs endured a war zone like their handlers only strengthens the connection and understanding.
“As the troop sergeant in Afghanistan, I was there to motivate the guys and get them fired up again to go out and do the job. But no one was doing that for me,” said Pen. “My time with this dog was a way of de-stressing, collecting my thoughts and popping my head back in the game.”
Hope For Animals In A War-Tone Region. The charitable organization has reunited more than 900 dogs and cats with the soldiers. NOWZAD also runs the only animal shelter and clinic of its kind in all of Afghanistan. Currently, it is home to around 150 dogs, 40 cats and six donkeys. The modern veterinary clinic is staffed by a team of Afghan nationals. In addition to animal welfare education, NOWZAD’s mission at the clinic is the prevention of the spread of rabies. They are also implementing a humane trap, neuter, vaccinate and return program in Kabul for cats.
Who Rescued Whom? Often, the brave men and women serving their countries in war zones around the world, find themselves adopting a stray dog or cat struggling to survive. The animals end up providing a respite from war; a moment of peace, home and love. Leaving them behind, after their tour of duty is over, is unthinkable for many of these soldiers. NOWZAD arranges for the dog or cat to safely get to the Nowzad clinic where shelter and care are provided. They spay/neuter all rescues and provide any other required medical attention as well as vaccinations. Then, they carry out all necessary checks and paperwork to ensure the animal will arrive to its final destination, back in the arms of its loving warrior.
NOWZAD’s Policy Statement On The Import Of Dogs. There has been an increase of press speculation in reference to the irresponsible importation of dogs in the UK and the US. “It has been reported that more than 30,000 dogs were brought into the UK from the EU alone, with the majority coming from Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania; many of which are via puppy traffickers or negligent organizations that do not adhere to the strict regulations that are required to import a dog or cat into the UK. Irresponsible dog importation poses a health and safety threat not only to the dog itself, but to other dogs and humans it may come into contact with. Many of the dogs imported are not a typical domesticated dog that easily integrates into a household environment; a fact not always communicated fully to a new owner,” states NOWZAD on its website. While there have been numerous calls to prevent this international rehoming as standard practice, NOWZAD adds. “Whilst a complete ban would be unfavorable to us as it would prevent us reuniting soldiers with the dogs or cats, we strongly advocate the need for tighter regulations to prevent rogue importers who are detrimental to the hard work of reputable and responsible animal charities like ourselves.”
Cathy Kangas, who sits on the Board of NOWZAD says of Pen, “He has shown that one person can have an amazing impact, bringing good to an environment written off by many. NOWZAD is demonstrating what can be achieved when people from all walks of life and cultures cast differences aside and work toward a common goal.”
The New Barker dog magazine was first introduced to Pen Farthing and NOWZAD in 2011 by Florida’s own Arthur Benjamin of American Dog Rescue. Pen has written the bestseller “One Dog at a Time, Saving the Strays of Helmand.” The NOWZAD charity has support from animal lovers all over the world, including Ricky Gervais, who donated the profits from one of his warm-up gigs, earlier this year. The warm-ups took place ahead of Gervais’ national tour of his stand-up show, appropriately called Humanity.
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.
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.
The following, by Anna Cooke, first appeared as a feature in the Spring 2011 issue of The New Barker dog magazine.
Many of us who live with dogs probably don’t really want to know what they’re thinking. To know may bring in the realities of life like dealing with what they think of us. Who needs that extra burden? We already have to cope with what our parents, siblings, significant others and business associates think of us. It’s one of the reasons we love dogs so much. We believe everything they have to say to us is said through their eyes. And of course, it’s nothing short of adoration and unconditional love, right? Our dogs are sentient beings with a conscience and feelings. They are intelligent and many people believe, they live with a purpose and set goals. The Reverend Nedda Wittels, M.A., M.S. believes that dogs make life choices. Maybe that’s why we don’t really choose dogs, rather they choose us.
It seems that every one in the animal world can tell a story of how they loved and lived with animals since they were very young. Jo Maldonado is not much different. As a young girl she would try to save the fish her father caught. In her teens she took dog-training classes and won ribbons with her devoted companion Rex; in her 20’s she rode horses and in her 30’s and 40’s she volunteered with German Shepherd Rescue in Pennsylvania doing canine assessment and fostering. And, for almost 30 years she lead a successful career as a publicist, owning her agency. But it wasn’t until she and her husband moved to Florida and her children had moved on with their lives, that a continuous odd series of events forced her to change her life’s path. Volunteering at local shelters and seeing the infinite line of discarded animals, and almost losing one of her dogs, led Jo to follow her animal passion and give back to the community.
“Three years ago I realized that I was not following my soul’s purpose, not fulfilling what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I was hospitalized twice, broke my hip, had two surgeries, was in two car accidents and almost lost two members of my family.” But it wasn’t until a series of events involving animals that Jo finally listened to what some other worldly force was trying to tell her. There was the black bear that began appearing in her driveway on a regular basis. Then hundreds of crows began following her around. A woodpecker began “talking to her.” And one day the door to her china cabinet flew open spewing forth china from past relationships.
Jo began reading every book on animal communication and angel healing that she could find. After she completed several classes on the same subject matter, it became clear to Jo that her purpose in life was to work with her first love: animals. Her Centers for Animal Therapies is based on the theory that both sides of the brain are necessary to truly communicate with the animal world. “The left side of the brain is the fact based, scientific side, while the right brain is intuitive, innate and natural,” said Jo.
Animal communicators speak with pet companions who live with humans, oftentimes facilitating a change in varied situations. Why is the cat spraying? Why is the dog cowering or food aggressive? Each situation may have something in common with another situation going on within the pet’s home. For instance, when there is a fear problem there is generally a kidney problem that results in uncontrolled urinating in the house. By communicating with the dog, Jo can show their humans the relationship their dogs would like to have with them. How we live with our dogs can result in a positive or negative affect on them and ourselves.
No telepathic communicator is one hundred percent accurate all the time. The reasons for error may include a weak telepathic connection; the human client has emotional and/or mental blocks about the situation; or the dog may be choosing not to communicate fully. Reverend Wittels adds that each telepathic communicator can bring their own emotional and mental baggage to the situation: belief systems, expectations, past experiences or emotions. A good animal communicator will know how to leave their baggage behind in order to be a clear channel.
As with any professional, it’s good to have a rapport with them before delving into this area of you and your pet’s lives. We had been working and speaking with Jo for the past year on various projects. One thing lead to another, and it seemed almost a natural progression to agree to let Jo communicate with our brood: Zoe, a 13 year-old Cockapoo, her 11 year-old niece Chloe, our adopted MinPin Rita, and our most recent adopted addition, Dougie (pronounced Doogie), a two year-old Scottish Terrier.
There were four dogs and so it took Jo a little longer to assess the situation and discern their different personalities. “I took a deep breath before looking at each photograph you sent of the dogs,” said Jo, who told us she took classes to learn how to communicate through the eyes of an animal. “But dogs don’t like for you to look directly into their eyes. That is why I like to use photos,” she told us. “I pick up the physical characteristics and I pick up the soul. I try to get through the layers in order to connect and communicate.”
She began first by saying that each of these four dogs represents a characteristic in each human member of our household, in this instance a husband and wife. “It’s up to you to figure out those characteristics of you,” said Jo. From the pictures, Jo described the aura of energy emanating from each dog, which assisted in giving the following information. “Your life to them seems scattered. You’re in multiple places at one time. You seem to be going from point A to point B in an instant. You are way too busy and they’re picking up on that. I received a strong sense from the dogs that you are very tired,” Jo said.
For many dogs, a situation such as the one Jo described could be confusing to them, causing problems such as becoming the take-charge being within the household. The Alpha dog if you will. But in this instance the dogs all seem to have adjusted. “Each one of them knows their role within your family,” she told me. “And,” she added, “Your dogs are all very funny. They are just all real characters.”
Dougie, the two-year old Scotty, knows exactly what he is supposed to do. He looks around at his humans and the other dogs and wonders why they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing? He knows he is a purebred. In fact, somewhere in his lineage, there is a champion or two. So he demonstrates quite a lot of pride as if to say, “Of course I can do that. It’s exactly what I am supposed to do.” Jo said that if she were to humanize Dougie, he would be a career fisherman. “I could see him bellying up to the bar at the end of each successful fishing excursion,” she said. Dougie is a highly intuitive dog and would be excellent in agility. “Oh, he would be a natural,” said Jo.
Chloe, the 11 year-old Cockapoo.“Dougie was pointing at Chloe when I was communicating with him. He told me that while he feels very grounded, Chloe is constantly running around in circles, figuratively. Yet, she thinks she’s the one that has it all under control. But she doesn’t.” Jo explained that she sensed a bit of a Napoleonic complex in Chloe. She is constantly reminding everyone that she is in control; she is in charge, but she isn’t, of course. “If she could talk to you, she would be a tattle-tail and rat everyone else out. Chloe does feel confused most of the time, but thinks that’s okay because her humans are confused and running around in circles too.” Chloe communicated with Jo in such a rapid-fire way that she was almost stuttering. “I have too much to do and too little time in which to do everything,” is what Chloe communicated to Jo. “Interestingly, Chloe and Dougie have similar personalities. If you were to put Chloe in another pack, the other dogs would find her annoying. But she is well-accepted in your pack.”
Zoe, the 13 year-old Cockapoo. “She tends to believe she is the matriarch of the family. I could sense her little quirks. She does like her food and is set in her ways. She has a sense of entitlement, that whatever she gets, the others should not be allowed to have because they are not as deserving as she is. She can get snappy, only to let others know that she does not approve of what they are doing. But she would never display any kind of aggressive behavior towards anyone, human or animal, within her pack.” Jo spoke to me directly about the next point. “Anna, Zoe feels that the two of you are one. She is content to follow you and be wherever you are.” And then Jo added, “Oh, I’m hearing from her again that she really does love her food though. She likes that crunchiness and soft combination you give her.”
Rita, a five year-old MinPin, found wandering the streets. “I like Rita very much. She has this I-am-cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor. She likes to check things out, like a private detective before getting all excited, unlike the rest of the dogs in your pack. She smirks at the other dogs as if they’re ridiculously out of control. If I were to humanize Rita, she would have red hair, red-painted fingernails and a cigarette dangling from her mouth. She’s like one of those cool people you may see at a party. You don’t know them, but you walk up to them anyway and compliment them on the shirt they’re wearing. Instead of saying thank you, Rita would answer, ‘Huh. You don’t really give a damn about my shirt now, do you?’”
So it appears we have an odd little pack, with a funny mixture of personalities, each one of them strong in their own way. They all have their quirks but everyone gets along, albeit grumbling along the way. Most important, they all seem to be functioning as a pack and each feels they have jobs, which is a good thing. “They are all who they are as long as they’re all with the two of you. And as long as you make sure what your expectations are of them, they’re all pretty happy,” Jo said.
The dogs were all in agreement with one special request. “What they would like you to do is schedule more family time with them, altogether. They would prefer daily, but they’ll settle for weekly jaunts to a big fenced in field or park to run around.” I told Jo that we have a big backyard and take them out many times throughout the day. “No,” she answered, “They want family time. They want everyone in the car at the same time, to go somewhere together. And Chloe said not to forget the treats. That was a very strong communication to me. They want you to think about nothing but the present during these field trips with them.”
“Somewhere in time, an animal’s soul has made a pact with the human’s soul to help them. I look at what I am doing as my privilege to be able to work with two beings, human and animal, to decipher what that help might be,” Jo Maldonado.
“People will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to help their pets while totally ignoring the obvious to help themselves. We humans must recognize that we need to change to improve our own health and well-being. Through the voice of their pets, a person can help themselves,” Jo Maldonado.
“I’ve never found an animal who communicated to me that they hated their human. I know instantly when I go into that animal that there is a need for them to express themselves as to why they are here,” Jo Maldonado.
Jo Maldonado can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386.279.0257
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.”
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.”
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.
Kamerion Wimbley Tackles Life Head-On…On His Own Terms.
The average starting pay for a professional football player in the NFL is $1.9 million per year. 70% of NFL players are between the ages of 22 and 27. Players in that age bracket earn less than the NFL average overall. Most NFL players don’t make it to the age range when they can start making serious money. According to Business Insider, that age bracket, 28 to 35, earns an average of $4 million a year and up.
After nine years with the NFL, 31-year-old Kamerion Wimbley was ready to walk away from it all to spend more quality time with his family. He’d had a successful college career at Florida State University as one of the nation’s top defensive ends. He was drafted 13th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns and led the team in sacks during his outstanding 2006-2007 rookie debut. In 2010, Kamerion was traded to the Oakland Raiders where he proceeded to take the Bay Area by storm, both on the field and off with his community involvement.
When he made the decision to retire earlier this year, he was an outside linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, where he’d played since 2012. He posted on Twitter, “Although my wife and two young daughters have always been incredibly supportive of my career, I am looking forward to spending more meaningful time with them and never missing another big moment in their lives.”
In a team-issued statement, Titans General Manager Ruston Webster said, “We want to congratulate Kamerion on his NFL career. He is a true pro and a fantastic person. Not everyone gets to walk away from the game on their own terms, but he is doing that today, and with my utmost respect. I know he has a number of business ventures already and we wish him and his family the best in what lies ahead.”
Wimbley left a two-year contract worth more than $4 million in salary on the table. It turns out that Kamerion Wimbley’s business acumen off the field is just as precise and hard-hitting as his athleticism was on the field. Of the 10 successful business ventures he owns and/or is involved with, his favorite is Gold Label Kennels in Crawfordville, Florida. There, The American Bully breed he has always loved, is safely and responsibly bred. Gold Label Kennels also focuses on training, showing, rescuing and adopting The American Bully.
Wimbley’s love for The American Bully began as a youngster during years of watching the #WestminsterKennelClubDogShow on television. He was attracted to the look of the breed, no doubt: majestic, muscular and tough. “Love at first sight,” he recalls; then adds, “But, the real charm of the breed is their inner beauty. That’s what really made me fall in love with them. They may look tough on the outside, but inside, they are sweet and gentle dogs.”
He was already educating friends, family, colleagues and whoever would listen on the importance of responsible dog ownership when the news of Michael Vick and his Bad Newz Kennels dog fighting ring hit the media in 2007. Wimbley’s Cleveland Browns teammates, many of whom already had preconceived notions about the Bully breed even prior to the Vick incident, looked to him for answers. He took the opportunity to step up his efforts to inform the public and help dispel the stereotypical discrimination against bull breeds. As the media chose to focus on the negativity of the moment, Wimbley remained stealthily-focused on the positive. The survival of The American Bully breed depended upon it.
Any dog can be conditioned by its handler to become vicious – whether it’s through training and neglect – or abuse, such as chaining and isolating the dog outdoors, with little to no human contact. Any breed of dog is a product of his or her own unique situation. Their birth, upbringing, and training will play a crucial role in determining the dog’s behavior.
“Some people jump to conclusions without having all of the relevant facts about The Bully breed. The media plays a huge part in sensationalizing incidents with irresponsible dog owners and attempt to paint the entire breed with broad strokes instead of looking at individual dog owners,” said Wimbley.
He is committed to continue educating the public about responsible dog ownership, with his primary focus naturally being on The American Bully breed. A “pet project” of his is the Bull Breed Coalition Registry (BBCR), where he is one of the founding members and a hands-on director. The registry will offer more innovative options for a broader population of people, including through the use of social media.
“Social media is just now becoming big in the dog world. I am seeing a lot of information posted on Facebook, Instagram and even Pinterest. Through these new platforms, you can reach a whole bunch of people that have never even gone to a dog show, or owned a particular dog breed, but if they see a post on social media, it might pique their interest or they might become more inclined to attend a dog show. The messaging circulates a lot faster and you’re able to get a lot more viewers. It is one of our goals to use and maximize those channels that maybe the other registries aren’t using. We’re trying to be more innovative, getting more information out there about the breed that we serve,” said Wimbley.
Initially, the focus of the BBCR was historical documentation of the Shortybull, a new line of Bulldogs being bred to be smaller in size. Unlike a lot of other Bully breeds bred down in size, the Shortybull does not contain Boston Terrier or Pug in its bloodlines. The Shortybull is bred for its working ability and physical traits, and not solely on looks. The BBCR recently expanded its focus to provide accurate documentation and show experiences for five additional Bull Breeds: The American Bully, American Pit Bull Terrier, English Bulldog, French Bulldog, American Bulldog and the Olde English Bulldogge. Bully Breed enthusiasts have begun to focus more on conformation shows, considered crucial to the development and wider acceptance of the breed.
The BBCR focuses on breed standards as set forth by the founders of these breeds. It records pedigrees, issues policies for conformation dog shows and works to train judges who will uphold the honor of properly evaluating Bullys as show dogs.
On Dogs And Yogi. Dogs depend on us for, at minimum, food and shelter. They deserve much more. “Before taking a dog into your life or adding another one, think seriously about the commitment that dog ownership entails and consider if you will be able to fulfill your obligations as a dog owner,” said Wimbley.
Does your activity level align with that of the breed you are thinking about? Study the breeds to know which ones are the best for you and your lifestyle. Some dogs require a lot of exercise to be happy and healthy. If you’re not helping them burn that energy, they’re going to find ways to fulfill those needs and that may not be the most desirable option.
“When I played football, the tempo was not always the same. Some plays last four seconds, and others extend to 15,” said Wimbley. His workouts with Yogi were anything but routine. “One minute Yogi was trotting alongside me at a steady pace; the next minute he took off and I’m running after him, bolting up a trail or doing laps around a clearing.”
Wimbley considers Yogi an athlete, and as such, he is built for working. “He and I feed off each other’s energy. He’d motivate me during our workouts. If he was going hard, I wanted to go hard as well. Day in and day out, committing to and sticking with a regular workout is half the battle. Dogs are into routines.”
Wimbley learned the benefits of each type of food as an athlete at Florida State University. “Why am I eating this and what does it do for my body? It’s fascinating to find out how the quality of the energy you put into your body translates into your performance, whether you’re on the field or in an office.”
He has applied that nutritional knowledge to Yogi’s diet, carefully reading dog food labels to make sure the food has quality ingredients. He has always served Yogi portions that correspond to the dog’s weight and muscle mass. “I try to buy us both natural, organic food. No artificial flavors or fillers. No by-products for the meat source. I shop around the edges of the store and avoid the stuff in the middle – the food that has been tampered with.”
At 10 years of age, Yogi is an elder statesman now, but still just as physically fit as his human. “He continues to be an inspiration for me, both physically and mentally. He has an unwillingness to yield when it comes to competition, and he has fun the whole time he’s competing.”
Kamerion, a Florida resident, hopes to be attending the annual fundraising event for the Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation in Hollywood, Florida on Sunday, November 8. “Regardless of where you live, BSL is a concern for all dog owners. We should take every measure to prevent it. Or in the case of Miami-Dade, where any Pit Bull-like dog has been banned for 26 years, have BSL overturned, once and for all. We should also hold owners accountable for their dog’s actions,” Kamerion told Anna Cooke, editor of The New Barker dog magazine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”