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Teddy strikes a reflective pose

Teddy strikes a reflective pose

Before I present some special guest posts, I just wanted to relay that our dog, Teddy, the foster who came to stay, is settling in just fine. This sweet little dog has brought us so much joy. Teddy is a three year old shih poo who was surrendered by his owner. Some people upon hearing this ask, “How could someone do that?” I prefer to think that someone made a difficult decision and cared more about their pet’s long term care and made the right choice.

Today I was watching a segment on a local cable news station called, “The Pet Stop.” Its host, Dr. Brian Voynick, was interviewing a guest who had brought in an adorable dog in need of a home. He took this opportunity to suggest that someone might want to foster this little dog until his fur-ever home was found. It was nice to hear this option presented to his viewers. Hats off to Dr. Voynick.

Later, I received an e-mail from Jan Todd, a very dedicated foster dog-mom from the state of South Carolina. She asked if I might share this note from her friend Rhonda Sims from the Freedom Train Rescue Transport.
It reminds everyone that many times life presents us with difficult circumstances and we have to make tough decisions. I said I would be happy to share Rhonda’s story.

Here is what Rhonda wrote.

Sometimes a person has no choice but to surrender their pet.

Meet Shiloh. Her dad is a young guy who lives near me. I’ve seen this 20-something young man on many occasions with his dog Shiloh, and I know he loves her dearly. I’ve also had him [Shiloh’s owner] come to me after catching a feral kitten and taming it so that it wouldn’t die, and ask that I place it.

Well, he came to me the other day in a panic. Several months ago he had decided to serve his country and they had called him to come the following week. He said he was sorry, that he didn’t mean to wait until the last minute to try and place Shiloh. I knew why…it was because he loves her and didn’t want to say goodbye.

And what was I supposed to say to this great young guy who wanted to do the right thing by his dog and his country?? On many occasions I would have had to say the unthinkable, due to there never being enough FOSTER HOMES. But, thank the good Lord, last week one of my wonderful Freedom Train volunteers said that she was ready to foster again after having to say goodbye to her beloved dog.

I was going to send Martin [another homeless dog] to her, but as it turned out I was able to transport him this weekend and he didn’t need a foster. So I called Stacy [another volunteer] and she agreed not only to foster Shiloh until I could place her, but to meet this guy at my vet’s office that morning to pick her up.

God is so good. He always provides when we trust in Him. I promised Shiloh’s dad that she would be in great hands, and thanked him for serving his country. My country. Taking Shiloh, who is a real sweetheart, was nothing compared to that.

On a final post note, my friend Judith Ayn Sobel, of Poway California, wrote to say that a portion of a previous National Dog Week blog post had been shared in Paw Prints magazine published by the folks at the incredible Baja Animal Sanctuary.

That made my day. Thank you Judith! Here is the excerpt:

“When you foster a dog or a pup (or cat), you become the CEO, administrator and head bottle washer of your own personal shelter. No cages, no stress, no loneliness. You are offering the most home-like sheltering situation possible for a displaced, scared animal.

Through your time with your foster pet, you can see them blossom. You help with their training, assess their temperament and give them emotional and physical care they cannot receive in a crowded shelter facility and their placements in their adoptive homes work because they are the result of good matches. By taking a dog or pup out of one of those facilities, you are freeing up a spot so that another pet can have a second chance at life.”

Remember that transporting, fostering and adoption are rewarding ways to help homeless Companion Animals, but we need to also find a way to reduce their population through the implementation and support of Spay and Neuter Initiatives and to encourage people not to purchase dogs from retail outlets. Many of those poor dogs find themselves homeless due to poor emotional or physical health. As our good friend animal advocate Willie Wonka of Project Pets – Spay, Neuter, Love, often says, “We can’t rescue our way out of this mess.”

Congratulations to all of those who foster, transport and work to improve the welfare of our homeless Companion Animals. Everyone can offer something. No action or effort is too small.


Congratulations to the Brick (NJ) Township Council. Last week they unanimously voted to ban any new retail businesses that sell puppies or dogs. Stay put for a new post on that decision, an interview with Sunny Benedict of the fabulous Baja Animal Sanctuary and a word from Pet Photographer, Joe Frazz, who will be assisting with the exciting Paws to Pose Project to celebrate National Dog Week this September…!/pages/National-Dog-Week/218596591491974

Today the East Coast is experiencing a welcome cool-down after enduring four heatwaves since the beginning of the summer season. Personal circumstances have kept me from writing and blogging, so I thought I would present this extra guest-post that did not appear on my recent Virtual Blog Tour for SOMETHING’S LOST AND MUST BE FOUND, still a bestseller in the Kindle Store in “Dogs.” (See ABOUT for Amazon Link).

The east coast has been experiencing the Dog Days and right on time I am told, as they generally begin in early July. Although the Greeks used the term, “Dog Days,” the Romans referred to them as diēs caniculārēs, (days of the dog) occurring during the hottest weather of the season andassociated with the star called Sirius also known as the “Dog Star,” the brightest star in the night sky.

While every dog is said to have its day, this wasn’t true for all dogs of ancient Rome. While we might think the Romans honored their dogs during this time, such was not the case. To appease the rage of Sirius, it has been noted that the Romans sacrificed a brown dog at the beginning of the Dog Days as they mistakenly believed the star caused the hot spell of weather.

And it only gets worse as the Dog Days were also considered a period of evil. According to Brady’s Clavis Calendarium, 1813, these days marked a time when “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.”

As a writer living along the coast of New Jersey, the Dog Days mean many things to me. While I may be languid at times, I am not hysterical and my sea does not boil (unless the cast of Jersey Shore is going for a swim), and my wine is fine. For me, this is a time when I enjoy scribbling notes on a hammock or typing away in my air-cooled studio during those extra-long carefree days.

As is often the case, at those times I am writing about what I call the Dog Daze, for we Americans are crazy for our canines and all the books and stories that are published about them. What strikes me, however, is no matter how many movies or tv shows are produced or books and magazine articles written about them, many of them still live what is often called a Dog’s Life (which was not a good thing).

In what is comparable to my observation of the human condition, I often note some dogs that have better clothes and accessories or see a doctor or visit a salon more often than most people. But, conversely, I also see dogs that are sad, lonely, neglected and abused, much like their struggling human counterparts. Because a dog’s quality of life is so connected to the life situation of its human guardian, the two cannot be separated.

In writing the short story collection, SOMETHING’S LOST AND MUST BE FOUND, I tried to express this. Of all the stories, the one I enjoyed writing the most is the longest, The House of the Happy Dog. This selection was inspired by two rather ordinary “events” in my life. First, someone told me that on average, a dog lives in four different homes in its lifetime. This was something I wanted to write about, but it wasn’t until I saw a photo of an inn located in Mexico called, “La Casa del Feliz Perro,” that it all came together. I loved the words, “House of the Happy Dog,” and the image they evoked.

In my story, Poor Simon the dog, is shuttled from house to house through no fault of his own, his fate (for better or worse) tied to that of his most current owner. Many humans can relate to an animal that is adored then ignored, lovingly regarded then discarded, or in homes where good intentions and love just aren’t enough to keep everyone together. The reader follows the life path of this big sweet dog, just doing what dogs do best, being there for their humans through good times and bad.

It’s no wonder we love our dogs, we can see so much of our own lives through the reflection of their eyes…and their souls.

As I work on my book that brought me to the dogs (The biography of the man who founded National Dog Week due out next year) I grow weary of seeing the faces of dogs and cats who face a sad fate that no one want to think about. But I keep writing, sharing the stories of those who have FOUND purpose and meaning through trying to help them; a personal commitment that won’t be LOST despite the continued ignorance of those who do not see.

We proudly welcome Laura Nativo as the official National Dog Week Spokesperson for 2011.  Laura is the star of the Reality TV Show, Greatest American Dog and soon to be Host of the second episode of GSN’s Dog Park Superstars to air on September 25th.  National Dog Week is observed September 19-25. Laura joins friend, Los Angeles-basaed Veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney (NDW Pet Health Care Consultant) to round out the “committe” for this year’s Observance! For more information, please see ABOUT.

“I had rather see the portrait of a dog that I know, than all the allegorical paintings they can show me in the world.”  Samuel Johnson, English (1709-1784)

As a writer and a painter, I was especially delighted when I discovered that at one time in its history, National Dog Week actually had beautiful promotional seals and labels depicting  images of dogs and people with a slogan for each year’s observance. In 1950, notable American artist, Albert Staehle, had the honor with his image for NDW titled, “Butch.”  It got me thinking that today’s National Dog Week  needed an artisitc creation of  its own.

Enter West Coast artist, Donald E. Brown.  Donald’s vibrant images of canines had caught my eye on Facebook and when he requested great pooch photos to work from, I obliged.  By the next morning there on my Facebook wall was a beautiful rendition of Styles, a pit bull  “belonging” to my sister Manette, her fiance David and her son, Zac.

When I approached Donald to be our NDW 2011 artist, this dog-loving painter really stepped up to the plate.  Not only is he going along with the idea for a Canines on Canvas Contest, he is allowing an image of a painting titled “Help,” to be our NDW poster.  Everyone can be part of this exciting process.  During the month of September, everyone who LIKES (or has Liked) and posted a great close-up photo of their dog will have the chance to win an original painting of their pup from the entered photo.!/pages/National-Dog-Week/218596591491974  You must LIKE and POST PHOTO to be eligible. There are also twenty five hand-signed posters that can be purchased  for $15.00.  Unsigned posters can be purchased after these are no longer available, with all proceeds going to benefit  the Baja Animal Sanctuary (the charity of Donald’s choice). The original painting is also for sale and Donald hopes a private or corporate donor will purchase it to also help BAS (please let me know if you are interested).

Photo of real dog Sergio who inspired the painting, "HELP."

Read on about Donald and the moving story of Sergio, the dog that inspired “HELP.”  With his soulful depiction of Sergio standing behind a frayed cyclone fence, Donald really sums up the plight of many animals.  With its sweetness and vibrancy this painting draws you in with its sense of hope.  You want to take Sergio’s paw and lead him, and all homeless animals, away from a failed shelter system to a brighter future.

Please tell us a little about your background. I am originally from Climax, Michigan, which is near Battle Creek and Kalamazoo.  I attended Western Michigan University where I studied art, but somehow ended up with a degree in accounting of all things.  But, that’s been good as it has created a good living for me, my wife and many dog children.

When did you first start painting dogs? About twelve years ago.  I developed my abstract portrait style by painting many of my relatives.  When I ran out of people subjects I thought I would try painting my dogs.  My first commission was from someone looking over my shoulder while I painted Rita, the best Rat Terrier we ever knew.

What inspired you to paint your first dog portrait? We do not have children and our dogs are like our kids, so it was natural to include them in family portraits.  For me, painting a dog is like painting a portrait in the 1800’s.  They are so noble and stately, and their whole persona is reflected in their eyes.  The rarely smile, and a smile can distract from the truth in a person’s eyes.  Dogs just give you the truth.

What mediums do you prefer and why? I have never painted with oils.  Too messy for me.  I like acrylic paint.  It dries fast, it’s thick and I like to paint thick and gooey, and it layers without graying.  I love the way the colors that are layered peek through other colors and create interest.  I work from photographs and paint with a different palette on each painting.  I choose the palette after an interview with the client for the personality of the dog.  I use a series of questions so the client gets to participate in the commission process.  One of the most interesting questions is “What job would your dog hold if he were a person?”  The answers are so funny, but also telling.  I then choose my color palette based on the answers.  Being an accountant I am very process oriented, and my painting is definitely a process.

Talk about your 2-Hour Canine paintings…How do you time yourself?  Commissions take a lot of time because you want to make sure you capture your subject completely.  A commissioned piece can take me 12 to 24 hours of paint time depending on the subject and size.  I also love abstract work although I rarely sell that.  My Canine Series was an attempt to accomplish two goals.  First, it frees me to paint quickly and with abandon (like abstract work), and it makes me put the paint on quickly and work with it wet.  Some interesting things happen with wet paint.  Second, I wanted to produce work that I could sell at $100 to make it more affordable for people who love dogs, but can’t afford a commissioned piece of their dog.  The fun thing is that people have really responded to it online.  I have received photographs from people as far away as Australia.  You never know when your dog might show up in my new series, and you can reasonably afford it.

I see you have exhibited in California in the past.  What is your connection to the state? My wife and I have lived in Washington, DC, Orange County, California and now Portland, Oregon.  Laguna Beach was our home for many years and I participated in the Sawdust Festival every summer for nine weeks which really exposed my work and built a good following.  Laguna has always been a very special place for us.  I hope to retire there one day.

Tell us about your affiliation with Baja Animal Sanctuary. I met a volunteer for the organization through the Sawdust Festival and they asked me to contribute a commissioned painting for them to raffle to raise money.  The more I looked into what they do and how difficult it must be to operate in Baja, Mexico, the more impressed I was with the organization.  They do wonderful things for dogs that just need a second chance.  The shelter situation in the U.S. has its issues, but is so much better than in Mexico.  Dogs there are just thrown away, and the sanctuary is one of the few no-kill shelters for animals.  Many of the dogs who arrive there are rehabilitated and placed in homes, but many will just live their lives there comfortably because they can’t be rehomed.  Sunny Benedict, who runs the shelter, is doing wonderful things.  The shelter always employs people who need second chances, so it does good dogs who need people and people who need dogs.

I fell in love with the painting “Help” on your wall…Tell us about the story behind the painting. I asked the Baja Animal Sanctuary if I could paint one of the actual dogs at the sanctuary to sell to a corporate donor.  Lydia Jensen organized a bunch of photos to me, and a picture of a dog behind a beat up cyclone fence really hit my heart.  I had to paint it.  I spent about thirty hours working on this piece, and I think it speaks to what the Baja Animal Sanctuary is all about.  The dog’s name is Sergio and he has an interesting story.  I heard from Sunny that one of the workers at the sanctuary whose name is Sergio, lived in a rehabilitation home and that home occasionally used extra food to feed local children.  Sergio the dog, would appear to come with children for the food, but when the children no longer came Sergio the dog still showed up for food.  Sergio the person then recognized that Sergio the dog was alone and not fed very well, so he took him to his work at Baja Animal Sanctuary.  Sergio the dog was placed in a home in the U.S.

How does it feel to be part of the 83 year-old National Dog Week legacy as our official Dog Week artist?  Wow, it is such an honor.  Honestly, I had not heard of National Dog Week until I found your site on facebook, but what a great concept.  It amazes me that it was so popular in the past and not honored appropriately today.  I am so glad you are helping bring it back.  We, as a population are doing better to take care of these animals but we still have a long way to go.  There is no dog that should be subjected to poor care or a shelter that feels it is appropriate to terminate their lives.  Dogs are honorable beings who deserve to be cared for with respect and will only give you love in return.  A National Dog Week can be so good at raising awareness of issues that dogs face, and I hope you and all your friends are successful at increase NDW’s popularity. I will help you in any way I can.

Thank you Donald.  Your ability to combine your artistic talents with your desire to help animals is inspiring. I hope many will take advantage of the special opportunity to own some of Donald’s work while helping dogs everywhere. Hopefully this image will “Help” viewers learn more about the man behind the National Dog Week Movement, Captain William Lewis Judy, and to honor his life and work by observing it each September. I believe he would have loved this painting, too.

You can enter the Canines on Canvas Contest by going to!/pages/National-Dog-Week/218596591491974 Winners to be announced on or near October 31, 2011. Grand Prize winner must allow image derived from their photograph to be used for future National Dog Week Promotions.  Read more at:


"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 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”