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Photo Credit: Lori Fusaro, provided courtesy of Laura Coffey.  Chaney, a retired military working dog, trekked thousands of miles and sniffed out explosives during multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010 and 2011, Chaney’s handler was U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Matt Hatala. Their story is chronicled in the book “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts,” written by Laura T. Coffey and with photographs by Lori Fusaro. (Photo credit: Lori Fusaro / “My Old Dog”)

Laura T. Coffey, a senior writer, editor and producer for TODAY.com, the website of NBC’s TODAY show, is also the author of the best-selling non-fiction book My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts (New World Library – Sept. 2015)  An award-winning journalist with nearly three decades of experience, Laura has written and edited hundreds of high-profile human-interest stories. She lives in Seattle with her husband, Michael, their son, Tyler, their two senior dogs, Frida and Manny, and their rescued cat, Obi-Wann Catnobi.

Earlier this year, Laura was awarded the Captain Will Judy Special Award from the Dog Writers Association of America for a chapter from My Old Dog titled ‘Never give up’: How an Ex-military Dog Rescued the Veteran Who Needed Him Most.

Please tell us about the article you wrote for your nomination. ‘Never give up’: How an Ex-military Dog Rescued the Veteran Who Needed Him Most first appeared as a chapter of my non-fiction book about senior dog rescue, My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts. Then I adapted it as a story for TODAY.com, the website of NBC’s TODAY show.

What/who inspired its creation? Please share with the story of how you came to write this. While working on My Old Dog, I knew I wanted to include some compelling stories of working dogs who needed help securing safe, comfortable retirements when they aged out of their vocations. Chaney, the retired military working dog featured in this story, absolutely fell into that category. Chaney trekked thousands of miles and sniffed out explosives during multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the years 2010 and 2011, Chaney’s handler was U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Matt Hatala. When Chaney became too old to work, he encountered a logistical morass and languished in a kennel for months because he was a “contract working dog” owned by a private contractor. Matt Hatala kept trying to adopt his former bomb-sniffing buddy and he encountered many roadblocks along the way, but his perseverance ultimately paid off and the pair were reunited. As soon as I heard about this story, I knew I had to write about it!

Why do you think this piece qualified for the Dog Writers Association of America’s Captain William Lewis Judy Award? First of all, can I tell you how honored I am that this story won the Captain William Lewis Judy Award? Because I am! This is an award for a story that educates people about the important role of military dogs and the emotional and physical care these dogs need during their training, active service and retirement. Chaney’s role in helping Matt and Matt’s fellow Marines while serving in Afghanistan was far-reaching and powerful. This importance of this role became especially evident after Matt returned home from Afghanistan and struggled with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Matt opens up about his struggles — including his attempt to take his own life — in My Old Dog. This is what made Matt’s eventual reunion with Chaney so crucial. Matt credits Chaney with saving his life, and Matt has become an advocate for the benefits of service dogs for veterans. When veterans are out and about with dogs, the dogs are people magnets — in a good way! The presence of dogs leads to inevitable conversations, which leads to veterans getting thanked profusely for their service, which leads to veterans feeling less alone and alienated from other people. It’s so, so important.

Please talk about your work with the TODAY show and how that role can help educate the world about the roles of our dogs in society. I’ve been a writer and editor for the TODAY show’s website since 2008, and over the course of this incredibly fun decade, it’s been rewarding to watch the site’s coverage of pets and animals grow in such a positive way. I’ve written and edited every imaginable kind of story for TODAY over the years, but almost all of my “greatest hits” have involved dogs! One stand-out story involved a dog rescued from abuse who went on to help a young boy with autism. I’ve also written about iconic dogs, floating dogs, military dogs, guide dogs, therapy dogs, cleaned-up dogs and hero dogs. One day I wrote a story about senior dogs being overlooked in animal shelters — and that story went so viral and affected people so profoundly that it led to the writing of My Old Dog! These days I’m working as an editor for TODAY Parents so it’s tricky for me to write as many pets stories as I’d like, but I still try to do so whenever I can. Other wonderful writers like Arin Greenwood are crafting so many great stories about pets and animals for TODAY.com on a regular basis, and that makes me very happy to see.

Please tell us about your role as the current Vice-President of the DWAA. I love being involved with the Dog Writers Association because it’s a support network for writers and editors who all love dogs and care deeply about telling animal stories well. At first blush these stories might seem a little bit “fluffy” to some people, but they’re actually quite important. They matter because they touch people’s hearts, and they make people think. When told well, the stories we write can inspire people to perform incredible acts of kindness and selflessness — and, when that happens, our readers’ lives become more happy and meaningful and fulfilling. This is not a small thing. This is a huge thing, and it’s one of the reasons I’m so proud to be a dog writer.

Note: We were saddened to hear of the news that Chaney passed last month. To learn more about this remarkable dog please go to: https://www.facebook.com/MyOldDog/posts/2024671337565668

 

I thank my local American Legion Post of Brick Township, NJ for their continued sponsorship of the Captain Will Judy Award, named for the man who founded National Dog Week and promoted the humane use of military dogs and Service Dogs in the 1930s, and Laura for embracing the dog-human bond through her words and actions and her work on behalf of the DWAA. The DWAA Writing Competition Nomination season opens July 9th, so please take a look at the DWAA site to learn about our writing categories for the annual DWAA Writing Competition that is open to members and non-members! We hope you’ll enter your best canine-centric work! https://dogwriters.org/writing-competition/

Happy Fourth of July everyone! To learn more about Will Judy and National Dog Week, please go to: https://www.facebook.com/NatDogWeek/

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     I’m excited to share that during the month of May, a collection of my Antique Postcard Art will be featured at Jafajems, in Montclair, New Jersey.  Since 1998, this venue owned by Carol Jafagee, has offered a unique collection of textiles, furnishings, and decorative items for the home including pillows, throws and carpets, pottery, artwork and candles, furniture, frames and glassware.
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Montclair Train Station, c. 1920

     Carol has been a client of mine for some time. In December, after contacting me to order artwork for her shore home, we discussed the possibility of having my artwork carried in her shop. Now, I am happy to announce that during the month of May, Jafajems will feature a dozen pieces of artwork created especially for this venue; a mix of original vintage postcard art (1905-1940s) presenting scenes of Montclair, Glen Ridge and New York City. 
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Buildings of NYC – 1940s

     Since 1989, I’ve created thousands of these postcard creations for many gift-giving occasions especially suited for those who have “everything”. These small works of art offer great nostalgic impact; preserving memories of hometowns, favorite cities, special vacations spots and more, as well as postal history. 
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     I truly look forward to this opportunity as Montclair, a suburb of New York City, is a community where over the past several years I’ve developed a loyal following. At one time, it was my privilege to be involved in helping to organize the former Montclair Craft Show, an event that once featured the work of the area’s finest artisans.
     Spring time is a perfect time for starting anew – and it’s been refreshing getting back into painting (and blogging). I will continue to post about my writing (lots going on there) as well. 
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Springtime in Paris – c. 1910

     I also thank so many of you who have reached out to me, and my family, after the loss of my sister, Manette in March. Being immersed in the creative process helps to stay positive during difficult times, but I truly miss her encouragement and sense of humor. 
     If you’ve got any questions regarding my art and/or writing, please feel free to contact me at lbkauthor@gmail.com. If you wish to be on my newly developing mailing-list please use my contact page to  provide your e-mail and USPS mailing address. 
     If you live in Essex County or nearby, I hope you’ll stop by Jafagems to explore Carol’s shop and add to your art collections this May, and beyond!
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Presenter/Keynote Speaker for the Manasquan River Artist Group last November

For information about  Jafajems please visit: http://jafajems.com/

As above, so below. As within, so without. The Emerald Tablet, circa 3000 BC

Some of you who stop by this blog and my Author Page know that recently, we said “good-bye” to my younger sister, Manette. She helped me to launch this blog back in 2010 and I’ve written a tribute to her each year on the occasion of her birthday. I thank so many who’ve reached out with kind condolences for my family. These days, we spend a lot of time reminiscing – I’ve poured over photos and so many cards and letters she wrote me in the early 1980s, long before texts and posts were possible.

One memory stands out, however,  a story I’ve never shared for fear some would think I was just a “Story” teller. But this true experience still resonates and has special meaning for me these days, especially.

Back around 2010, my husband and I began renting a home in the heart of Big Pine Key, about an hour east of Key West. We loved that house situated on a lagoon with the front yard facing a nature preserve filled with gentle inquisitive tiny Key Deer. We also love the memories formed there as we had so many visitors.

On one occasion, my sister and her husband David, came to spend some time in Big Pine. During her visit, my sister gave me a copy of the bestselling book The Secret. Written by Rhonda Byrne, it took the publishing world by a storm, selling zillions of copies. Published by Atria/Beyond Words in 2006, The Secret basically recounts the history of positive thinking, encouraging readers to visualize that anything is possible. The book has been embraced and scorned by many.

While I found no harm in reading the thoughts and quotes of many great minds joined in positivity, there was a great deal of doubting and much fun was poked in the direction of Manette, and myself, throughout the visit whenever the book was mentioned.

One of the practices suggested in the book is to visualize an object in your mind and this “thing” will manifest (ex. a coin on the ground, a white feather, a winning lotto ticket?). I recall thinking this was ridiculous, but I played along and visualized white pebbles. This was absurd, however, I realized because the entire front yard of the rental house was filled with millions of little white pebbles. Brilliant!

After my sister and her husband departed, I was out walking our late great Portuguese water dog, Hooper, when a pack of four young kids began circling us on bikes; they looked to be between ages 6-12. They spoke with a twang and told me they were from a town on the Georgia-Florida border. The oldest, a boy, proudly showed me his pocket knife. They were intrigued with Hooper and “our” house and asked for a tour. Not knowing these kids, and it not being “my” house, I had to decline. We talked for bit before they rode off to their own rental down on the end of the road.

The next day, the pack returned. It was Sunday and the family, who had rented a house just for a long weekend, would be leaving later that day. They played with Hooper and talked to me for a while then as kids will, got bored and pedaled home. The youngest, a quiet little girl stopped, however, and reached for something on the ground. She reminded me of my own sister, petite, brown-haired with blue-eyes – quiet. She circled back to me and when she returned, I inquired about her family for some reason. “Is that all of you?” I asked pointing in the direction of her siblings. She answered with a sad nod and told me that she had recently lost her only sister, the eldest sibling. I told her I had lost a brother just a few years earlier and knew how she felt. Then she held out her hand. “These are for you,” she said. She opened her small palm to reveal two small white pebbles. I was too stunned to speak. I just watched her ride off to join her brothers and sisters. I never saw them again.

I found those pebbles early this year, high up on a shelf next to a tiny angel-winged figurine of our late great “Hoop Girl”. Then, I found my copy of The Secret and reread what my sister had written to me several years ago, her words more meaningful than ever.

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I can’t explain why certain things happen. People may think that I imagined this (my husband saw those kids) or say it was just a coincidence, but I like to think that everyday we are privy to small “secrets” that let us know everything really does happen for a reason, and these “small” moments let us know that everything will be okay.

Thanks again. Stay safe in the storms. Spring is near.

 

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Congratulations to all my colleagues who received nominations and awards from the DWAA in their Annual Writing Competition, and a thank you to the Contest organizers and those who offered to read and judge entries in numerous categories.

This year, under the direction of DWAA President, Jen Reeder, and increased Social Media engagement, the competition attracted a record number of entries – up 24% from last year! We had entries from all over the world including Canada, Germany, Italy, Australia and Wales proving the love of dogs, and the writing of, has no boundaries.

I thank the judges for selecting my entry On the Scent of Life as the winner of the Short Fiction Category. The story was inspired by a chance meeting I’d had with a Cadaver dog handler, and his dog, in Florida several years ago. Something about that brief encounter stuck in my head and I’d always wanted to use it as a prompt for a story about the the dark side of those who do such hard work, and the impact it can have on these heroes. I wanted to share a story that ultimately shows that we can make choices to live in positivity, and in the present, and sometimes a little dog shall lead us, with a big thanks to Aimee Gertsch who also hosted my winning entry last year, Second Chances, with a similar theme. Read it here: http://4theloveofanimals.com/blog/2017/06/15/on-the-scent-of-life/

The Fiction award is special to me because many of the categories of the DWAA Writing Competition are created for works of Non-Fiction with a few designated for photography, graphics, painting, poetry and Short Fiction. I think that strong Fiction, inspired by true events, can create a story that sits long in the memory of a reader. I have no scientific evidence, it’s just something I think about as I write, even if the piece is ultimately a ghost story. 

I’m also thrilled to relay that the Captain William Lewis Judy Award, sponsored by my local American Legion Post, was presented to author and DWAA Vice President, Laura Coffey who’s book My Old Dog, (recently declared a bestseller) took top honors in the Book Category in last year’s event. Laura, a writer/editor for the TODAY Show, wrote a moving piece about the relationship between a Marine named Matt and his retired military dog, Chaney, a story that appears in My Old Dog.

I also thank blogger Kristin Avery for giving my personal account Fostering Ginger a good home on her The Daily Pip site; it was a nominee in a Rescue Writing Category in this year’s competition. I’ve included that link as well. Read it here:  http://www.thedailypip.com/search?q=Lisa+Begin-Kruysman

This year, I’ve also enjoyed being a contributor to Ruff Drafts, the official DWAA Newsletter. My feature, “Observance Breeds Awareness” presents a quarterly review of the days, weeks, and months of the year that have us thinking about all the ways man’s best friend enhances our lives, and inspires writers, bloggers and authors to find new and creative ways to share those stories with the world.

I thank those who stop by to read and those who give me appreciated feedback. May 2018,  the Year of the Dog, be a good one for all!

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Presentation to Manasquan River Artists Group (NJ)

Since 1990, I’ve participated in more than 500 art shows, my work has been displayed at numerous venues in the Tri-state area, and I’ve served as a board member and jurist, helping to organize several arts events. I’m grateful for all the judges, curators, colleagues and my clients who helped me to thrive as a productive working artist.

In my High School Art Studio, a perceptive art instructor encouraged me to use acrylics sensing it was a good medium for me (after watching me struggle with pastel and water colors). She also guided me to create my first painting on slate, a very forgiving surface. I’d go on to produce hundreds of these paintings. I still love working with the natural lines and quirks of each “rock” and find the slate surfaces (and now masonite) very receptive to acrylic paint, perfect for layering and changing one’s mind! Acrylic paints are also incredibly adaptable; just add water to thin for a watery effect, use additives to create body, highlight with oil pastels and spray on some gloss finish – magic!

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In 1990, I began working with vintage postcards making them the focal point of my work. Although I haven’t kept track, I’ve created and sold well over 1,000 pieces. My artwork hangs on the walls of offices and homes throughout the world. 

One of my former writing instructors once said to me that she believed writers were born, not made. Many feel that way about artists. Although art has always been a part of my life, I didn’t set out to have a career as a Fine Artist (or an author), but if it is true that we are born, or destined for a vocation, than the Creative World is one where I’ve learned I belong, even with all its inherent set backs.

The Art Show life presents many challenges; rain storms, high winds, blizzards, the ability (or inability) of an event promoter to promote, the health of the current tourism season (in the Northeast, H. Sandy ended many events), a weak economy and competitive venues offered by on-line options.

Then there are the long rides to get to show sites and the physical labor of putting up tents and displays and dealing with “neighbors” who encroach on your designated (and well paid-for) show space, or complain about how terrible an event is (I actually began writing as a way to shut out their negativity).

While I enjoyed my community of fellow-artists and customers, many who became friends, working so many weekends caused me to miss  numerous occasions like weddings and family reunions.

For the past seven years or so, I’ve spent time transitioning to the life of a writer, but lately, missing the painting process, I’ve spent more time on that side of the loft (see previous post). Now, my aim is to create on-line marketing initiatives to help promote my artwork, relying on my Social Media platform, while retaining a handful of in-person events. It’s also rewarding to reconnect with returning customers who are happy to reconnect and add some new pieces to their collections!

As I patiently await some publishing news (something that is ongoing and comes with the territory), I find peace, inspiration and “my rock” in the process of painting where I can just add water and go with the flow or start over when ever I feel the need.

To follow me along the Creative Path,  and of course check out art (and writing). Please LIKE my professional page and visit often as I’ll be posting paintings on a daily basis throughout December (and beyond). https://www.facebook.com/LisaBeginKruysmanAuthorAndArtist/

Thank you.

Tomorrow on November 11, we honor those who have served militarily in all branches of service; even those who are considered man’s best friend (and of course, a woman’s, too).

In September, the American Legion Post of Brick Township, NJ, observed its Third Annual Yappy Hour on the Creek, co-sponsored by Tito’s Vodka for Dog People. The folks at Tito’s have made it their business mission to honor our dogs, and our veterans, so this was a meaningful collaboration on all fronts.

When we talk of Military Dogs, two images emerge – one of the militarily trained Dogs of War that physically serve in war-zones, and those dogs trained as Therapy and Service Dogs (There is a difference) that assist veterans when they return home; helping them with emotional and physical challenges; enabling them to be active socially and live independently.

To honor all of these deserving dogs, proceeds from our Yappy Hour were received by Ron Aiello of the United States War Dog Association and Brandon MacMillan, co-founder of the Argus Service Dog Foundation. This organization trains service dogs and pairs them with war veterans in need. Brandon is also the host of “Lucky Dog” a show where shelter dogs are transformed through his training and love before being placed in their hopefully forever homes.

Our Yappy Hour typically coincides with National Dog Week. That’s fitting, because its founder, Captain Lewis Wm. Judy was a decorated Army veteran and served as Commander for his American Legion Post in Chicago. Long before our nation understood the value of military and service dogs, Judy was sharing his vision with a public that was increasingly “going to the dogs”. Through his magazine, Dog World, and numerous books, Judy encouraged Americans to educate themselves about the value and potential of canines.

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A page from Will Judy’s book – Don’t Call a Man a Dog, 1949

Often I see  veterans proudly displaying baseball caps that proclaim their militarily service. When my husband Rich, who served as a Navy Corpsman (the medics for the Marines) wears his, I know it makes him feel good when someone thanks him for his service, so now, when I see someone proudly wearing theirs, I go out of my way to thank them.  I also thank my Dad, Jack Begin, and honor the memories of his brothers, and other relatives, who served our nation.

I read recently, that so few even know someone who is serving, or has served, our nation militarily. Organizations like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War were established and exist to help spread awareness of sacrifices made by these dedicated men and women, and allow members to continue to serve their communities through fundraising efforts. Take a moment to learn about those organizations in your own neighborhoods, and to thank a few veterans as well.

Happy Birthday to the US Marine Corps!

 

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Most of my days begin with the battle of creative expression; do I head for the mouse first and draft a chapter or two, or grab a brush and finish a painting? Physically it isn’t a difficult choice, as my loft space is divided in halves; one side dedicated to drawing and painting, the other where the writing takes place.

Some days I let my muse guide me, others, I ask my dog to choose the side he prefers at the moment. It’s only fair as my writing often celebrates the canine-human bond. 

I’ve worked as a fine artist since 1989, so a few years ago, when people heard that I’d taken up writing, they’d assumed I’d be an illustrator as well. To them I continue to explain that I’m a painter, mostly landscape, and illustration is a very different animal. Also, up until recently, authors didn’t typically illustrate their own work (in fact, the two rarely even communicated to keep each one’s unique vision intact), although currently there’s an increased call for author/illustrators.

Recently, however, wondering how I could combine words and image in my own creative projects, I received a fortuitous call from the Program Director of a local arts guild. She’d heard about my paintings that incorporate vintage postcards, and my books, and asked if I’d give a presentation for their annual membership dinner in November. They’d even pay and feed me and allow me to sell books. Who could refuse?  I said, “yes,” then hung up, grasping the challenge of my audience; talented well-known artists. 

Because it’s a story that originates in New Jersey, I’ve decided to focus on Around the World in 1909: Harriet Fisher and Her Locomobile, (American History Press – 2014) a fun and informative book about the first woman to drive around the world. It’s filled with inspiration, history, travel and even pets!

For this event, I’ve created Postcard Paintings featuring three destinations in Harriet’s history-making journey; Paris, Lake Como, Italy and Japan. Time doesn’t allow for Fisher’s tour of Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, China, and back through the American West, but hopefully they’ll appear in subsequent presentations.

For the past several years, I’ve addressed historical societies, elementary schools, women’s clubs, a university association and although each event has focused on a different book, many people want to hear about the story behind the book, or seek encouragement to write one of their own.

Although my interest in writing and painting was evident early on, my official Path to Creativity began at age 30 when I left a great job in the entertainment industry, traveled to Italy for a painting course, returning home a Full-Time artist. Fifteen years later, after taking a writing course, I began composing short stories and drafted my first book. I believe that the discipline and professionalism gained in the corporate world in my 20s has helped me to structure my writing and art life. It hasn’t been an easy or straight-forward path, but I always tell those who ask for advice to think of a goal as a journey filled with small steps and to keep learning and form alliances with those who share your vision. 

My journey goes on. Currently, I’m “barking up” new projects, and my story of Teddy (our foster-to-forever dog) will be featured in an Anthology published by the Baker Publishing Group in Fall 2018. It’s always good to have several projects in the works because the path to publication has many twists and turns. And of course, it never hurts to surround yourself with great family members, friends and to have a loyal dog (or any loving pet) curled up at your creative feet, no matter what side of the studio your creative muse, or dog, dictates.

So, if you invited me to present at your next event, what would you ask, or like to learn? Please leave a comment, or reach me at lbkauthor@gmail.com. 

Happy musing! Here are the images for my presentation (all are 8 X 10 – acrylic paint on mat board. All postcards are originals from 1909-1914).

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Paris – postmarked 1914

 

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Lake Como, Italy – postmarked 1909

 

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Japanese garden – 1910

 

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Enter a caption – Flip side with postal markings.

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A New Look for the Week of the Dog!

     Welcome to the 89th Observance of a special time called National Dog Week. In searching for a quote to begin this post I opened my dog-eared copy of Will Judy’s Don’t Call a Man a Dog, 1949 (for it would be insulting to the dog) to let that quote find me! Please Note: Today, many dog-lovers don’t like the term “dog owner” however, many years ago, the Timeline of the Tail Wagger was still evolving and that term was commonly used. 
     The sentiment, no matter the wording, still stands stronger than ever.
“People own dogs for varied reasons. The reason is of small consequence; the important item is that the owners be worthy of their dogs. To your dog, you are a god. Do not do anything which destroys this delusion.”
     Captain Judy was trained as a minister, became a decorated WWI Veteran, lawyer and one of America’s most prolific writers. He published Dog World Magazine for several decades, influencing a new generation of dog-lovers and enthusiasts.
     Judy saw the value of artists and authors and was happy to include them in his magazine’s issues and campaigns to promote National Dog Week an observance he launched in 1928 just before the nation was plunged into the Great Depression. But how could a dog get a week when most humans couldn’t get one day? 
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Logos and Thems of Dog Weeks Past

     Captain Judy understood the power of the paw and prevailed and in that continuing spirit, next September, National Dog Week will celebrate 90 years of honoring the American Dog. I’d love to see it celebrated in the spectacular fashion it once was on the grounds of Rockefeller Center and elsewhere.  Suggestions on how to maket that happen are welcome.
     As one young man suggested the other day, it should be International. I’m happy to report that I often hear from people over the world sharing their stories and photos of their pups.
     This year, we’ve introduced a new logo. The image of a happy hound proudly posing against the backdrop of red, white, and blue is wishing on a star for so many reason. We hope you find it hopeful and inspiring at a time when something so “simple” as a dog’s love can help so many get through difficult times.
     Please join us in celebration by LIKING the official National Dog Week Page and posting photos of your dogs (and other pets if they’re feeling left out). If you’re an artist, author, blogger, rescue pr foster group or do work that is relevant, etc. please share your Links and experiences as well. https://www.facebook.com/NatDogWeek/
     I’ll leave you with one more quote from Captain Will Judy: 
“Dogs are an antidote to the machine-shop-precision and the speeding machinery of our present day tempo of living. Their naturalness, their lack of affectation, their use of the simple reactions of living – always naive, fresh and warm-blooded, are a balance wheel to our whirring life.“
     So come tomorrow, try to be the god your dog thinks you are (if only for a week)!
     Happy National Dog Week – Let’s keep its spirit alive year-round – 52/12! 
     Learn more about the origin and traditions of National Dog Week:
Or read Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Publisher (McFarland & Co. – 2014) https://www.facebook.com/Dogs-Best-Friend-Will-Judy-Founder-of-National-Dog-Week-1534832043432602/?ref=br_rs

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“Ted, White and Blue – Patriotic Paws”

Five years ago today, we said farewell to our beloved Portuguese Water Dog, Hooper. Named for the Matt Hooper character of  the blockbuster movie Jaws, she really did drive the boat, our house, our lives.

On a cold night in the winter of 2010, “Hoop Girl” was sitting by my feet at the moment I happened upon something called National Dog Week, a quirky yet poignant Canine American Holiday established in 1928. I fell in love with its colorful history, and began writing a biography about its Founder, Captain Will Judy, chronicling its unique, roller coaster-like legacy. In doing so, a new career was launched, and five books later, I’ve never stopped writing.

Alone with Hooper during the last moments of her life, I had an odd request. I whispered in her ear, “When the time is right, please send Dad and I a special new dog friend, and if possible please send one that likes other dogs and is calm, cool and collected.”

It seemed like a strange way to say goodbye to a loyal and loving companion, but in true dog-like fashion, within five months, my heart-felt request was granted when we fostered a little black and white Havanese-mix named Teddy.

Teddy came to us like a bright light in a bleak post Hurricane Sandy landscape. He wasn’t intended to stay, but stay he did, and has brought us much happiness. “Steady Teddy” couldn’t be any more different than “Hyper Hooper”. And unlike Hooper, Teddy adores other dogs. Now, with us for nearly four years, Teddy sits by my feet and inspires me to keep on writing, in fact, a story I wrote, based on his arrival in our lives, will be part of an Anthology released by the Revell Publishing group in October 2018. When the editor titles the book, I will let you know!

And another interesting thing happened with the Tedster by my side. I revamped my art studio and did something I’d wanted to do for a very long time, paint my first pet portrait. The painting of Teddy featured above, draped by the American flag, brings my creative life full circle, and reminds me why I continue to write about dogs and history, or anything else that inspires me. It also captures the spirit of National Dog Week that was established to encourage a collective and thoughtful period when we are mindful of all the ways dogs enrich our lives.

 

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Hooper, Ready for Her Close-Up

There are many exciting things going on in the Creative Front, and we’re working hard and visualizing some good days ahead; creating during challenging circumstances when the sun is temporarily hidden by fleeting clouds; welcoming the positive influences and encouragement from a dog that’s been sent to help makes it all worthwhile. That’s the ultimate gift.

The 89th Observance of National Dog Week will be celebrated the week of September 25th this year!

 

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Dogs Rule in the House of Tito’s

In 2014 while attending a beverage industry trade show in New Jersey, I had the good fortune to meet Bert Butler “Tito” Beveridge II, the founder of Tito’s Hand Made Vodka. Yes, Tito’s real last name is Beveridge and while the comparison of his name to the word beverage might get tiresome for him at times, his genuine concern for animal welfare does not.

Dapper, professional and genuine, Beveridge struck me as someone who just might like dogs. I’d wanted to ask him if he did, but it was a busy event with many people to meet. I didn’t get the chance. Later, while visiting the Tito’s official website, I detected a distinct dog-loving presence that confirmed my suspicions.

The following year, while participating as a panelist at the BlogPaws Conference in Arizona, I’d discovered that Tito’s Vodka for Dog People was one the sponsors for the event. BlogPaws is the world’s largest organization for those who support animal welfare through blogging and the use of Social Media. The collaboration made sense.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka was born in Austin, Texas. Commercial production began in 1997 when Beveridge formed Fifth Generation, Inc., establishing his Mockingbird Distillery. Tito’s Vodka “went to the dogs” when in those early days the budding entrepreneur wished to help the stray dogs  wandering near his distillery. 

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Tito and a Friend

Today, that commitment to help homeless dogs has manifested as a marketing platform with a mission; Tito’s Vodka for Dog People, a company established to help raise funds for animal welfare and non-profit organizations through the sale of Tito’s, product donation, event support and branded merchandise. Presently, Tito’s Vodka for Dog People collaborates with thousands of animal welfare non-profits groups world-wide, and partners with approximately 700 additional animal welfare groups on fundraising events each year.

According to Elizabeth Bellanti Pander, Program Manager, Vodka For Dog People this entity embraces the innate connection humans have with their dogs. As she explains, “Working with Tito Beveridge to bring his business dream to life for over 20 years, we’ve been committed to rescuing and protecting the dogs that have come into our lives through this process.” With the continual support of dedicated dog-loving friends and a growing fan base, their goal to improve the lives of pets and their humans far and wide has been successfully met.

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Enjoying his Tito Toy!

In their effort to support their work on behalf of dog welfare, Vodka for Dog People partnered with Emancipet, a nonprofit organization with a mission to offer low cost veterinary services and spay/neuter procedures in underserved communities. Through this partnership, Tito’s Vodka for Dog People and Emancipet have helped to reduce the number of pets euthanized in Austin, Texas and elsewhere. Amy Mills, CEO of Emancipet, her staff, and volunteers truly understand that pets bring immeasurable joy to the lives of their humans and that all pets deserve high-quality affordable veterinary care. Emancipet also assists nonprofits in the areas of rescue, transport, therapy and guide dogs.

On the Vodka for Dog People’s website one can choose from an array of products of dog-oriented merchandise including wearable items for humans, barware, dog swag and more. All profit from these sales go to aid Emancipet, a Texas-based nonprofit organization with a mission to offer high-quality spay/neuter procedures for area pet owners and affordable quality veterinary care.

In 1999, during their first year of operation, Emancipet provided 5,000 low-cost spay/neuter surgeries in the Austin area onboard a mobile clinic. In impoverished areas, Emancipet and the City of Austin partnered to offer “Free Days” for these procedures once a week. With the help of grants from PetSmart Charities and Impact Austin, Emancipet opened their first brick and mortar low-cost spay/neuter clinic, to serve pet owners inside and outside of Austin.

In 2009, celebrating ten years of successfully helping animals, they reached the milestone of offering 100,000 free and low-cost spay/neuter surgeries for pets in Central Texas. Within 2 years, Emancipet added a second mobile clinic expanding their service area to include the entire Central Texas region, spanning 7 counties.

The positive effect of their efforts is staggering. Since its inception, Emancipet has been responsible for the spay/neuter procedures for nearly 250,000 dogs and cats. By 2016 they’d offered veterinarian care for more than 100,000 pets in locations in Austin, Pflugerville, Killeen, and Houston, Texas and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Through a national social change training program, Emancipet continues to address the growing need for services; working to end animal homelessness through three primary initiatives—new clinics, training, and advocacy. This year, Emancipet opened a new clinic in the Lawncrest neighborhood of North Philadelphia. This clinic staffed by a team of veterinarians and veterinary technicians who’ve been handpicked now offer spay/neuter and preventive services to a population in need of these services

In this new Philadelphia clinic, a caring veterinary technician assists pet owners to determine the pet’s needs. Low-cost spay/neuter services are offered Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, with appointments required. walk-in preventive care provided by a staff veterinarian, such as vaccinations, microchipping, as well as flea and Heart Worm prevention are also offered at this location. Emancipet’s training team also offers training and support services to help local animal welfare organizations, spay/neuter clinics and public and private shelters.

This training aims to boost spay/neuter efficiency and impact, develop leaders and staff, improve customer service, strengthen organizational infrastructure and advocate for strategies and public policy that improve the lives of pets in underserved communities. Emancipet educates organizations to achieve these results through dynamic and fun training experiences that include seminars held in Austin, and elsewhere, providing private personalized training for animal advocates and groups.

Vodka for Dog Lovers continues to be innovative in their unique efforts to promote dog welfare. In January 2017 they opened a bar in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the venue for the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers games with a theme that embraces their partnership with Emancipet. A portion of proceeds from cocktails will help to fund their national expansion in the Philadelphia market and beyond.

Here’s to Tito Beveridge and his dedicated workers and partners who are enjoying amazing business success and paying it forward for the pets and people who need a helping hand, or paw, in Texas and beyond. May their business and philanthropic initiatives inspire many more to do the same.

To learn more about Tito’s Vodka for Dog People please visit: http://www.titosvodka.com/dogs/

To learn more about the services and locations for Emancipet: https://emancipet.org/

Photo credits: Elizabeth Bellanti Pander

Hooper

"Is it dog week yet?"

"Is it dog week yet?"

Michelle Mongelli and Wheezey

Pike, at Geiger Key

Hooper in the Keys

Hooper in the Keys

“Two Culprits” by Steven Hall

Logan & Koda

DJ

DJ Goes to Westminster

Zac and Cooper

"Look daddy, I can fly!"

“Hooper” – Best in Snow

Pita in Matt’s Garden

Hooper with cousin Roxy, Summer 2009

Me and my “Hoop”

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