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The Dog Days may have officially ended, but the “Dog Daze” loom – can you believe National Dog Week – seven days of pure canine celebration – will observe its 90th Observation the week of September 24th?

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Poster Stamps from Dog Weeks Past

Yes Virginia, there really is a Dog Week and if it had its own Santa, it would be Captain Wm. Lewis Judy, best known as Will Judy, the individual often cited as The Man who Brought America to the Dogs.

As his biographer, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that you could “read all about it” in a book I wrote titled Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Publisher (McFarland & Co. – 2014). If your school, or community library, doesn’t offer it, I hope that you’ll request that they acquire a copy, or two. With over 1,000 footnotes (I’m still recovering) it offers an overview of Judy’s publishing career told through his magazines, books and his never-ending promotion of his beloved National Dog Week launched in 1928.

To help keep the Week of the Dog a relevant part of American History, I launched a blog in 2010 (due to book writing my posts have been infrequent but I do hope to change that) and a Facebook Page to connect with dog-loving readers. Judy was also an art lover and promoted artists (as well as authors) whose work embraced that special dog-human bond. To that end, I created some art of my own that captures the enduring spirit of National Dog Week and all that it encompasses and Judy’s undying patriotism.

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Someone once referred to me as the “Wizard of Dog Week” and that made me laugh. I sometimes get messages addressed to “Dear Sir” – from those who think Will is still with us sitting behind an Internet Wall dispensing “wise” observations about the role of dogs in our lives. Even as early as the 1930s, Judy was aware that dog-centric topics could be wrought with contention and controversy, but he handled his detractors with dignity and humor. Like Judy, I’m both encouraged by news items and incidents that inspire the world in the Ways of Dog; alternately dismayed when I see how far we still have to go on the path of enlightenment. The latter was never lost on Captain Judy. But he never gave up the good fight – trained in the ministry in his youth, he retained a unique spirituality that permeated his writings and approach to the dog-human bond.

Dog Week is YOUR week. Throughout the month of September, leading up to its 90th appearance on the American calendar, I’ll use its Community Facebook Page to offer excerpts from Dog’s Best Friend (and some of my other books) as we honor Dog Week’s rich and poignant history – a week that still calls for collective thoughtfulness and action on behalf of our beloved canines.

Please join us by “Liking” the official National Dog Week Community Page, https://tinyurl.com/y8o4mxzv share your love of all things dog, and become an active part of the observance’s unique history. I hope my Writing Story and works inspire.  Thank you.

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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/

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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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!

On Saturday, my husband, Rich, had the honor of transporting Old English sheepdog, DJ, and his owner, Beverly Barbaz, of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, to Manhattan for DJ’s debut at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Rich drove DJ, and his “Mom,” to their hotel just a few blocks away from Madison Square Garden.  According to him, dogs had invaded the sidewalks, and hotel lobbies of New York City.  All kinds of dogs greeted him upon his arrival, including a “party-mix” Portuguese water dog that sashayed right past him.  Hooper’s snout was out of joint because her dad didn’t get its “pawtagraph.”

On the official website for the Westminster event, there is a beautiful watercolor that has been made into a poster for this year’s event.  In it, a woman in a car (circa  the 1940s), transports her dog past a back drop of several others, including to my pleasure, a big black and white Portuguese water dog, complete with its big goofy expression.

This week marks the 134th annual occurence of this prestigious dog show.  This year, 170 different breeds will be judged.  Officially, there are seven Breed Groups judged at the Westminster show, however, there is also a group of “dogs in waiting” that occupy an eighth group knows as “Miscellaneous.”  Even if DJ is deemed best in his breed, he is up against unusually stiff competition in the Herding Group.  This year, two new breeds were welcomed into this group, the Norwegian Buhund, and the Pyrenean Shepherd.   Also making its debut, is the Irish Red and White Setter, in the Non-Sporting Group.

DJ’s handler is Gail Bodisch, of Deja Blu Old English Sheepdogs in Poughquag, New York.  Hopefully, after Gail is finished with her hard work at this event, I can talk to her about the crucial bond that exists between a dog and its handler.  Rich related to me how excited, and happy, DJ was to see Gail in New York City. 

On the subject of dog handling, an item in a Spartanburg, South Carolina newspaper, written by Lee G. Healy, tells how a local boy from that area, 12-year old Zakery Slater, will become the youngest handler in the junior category to ever appear at the Westminster Show.  Zak will be showing his Bernese mountain dog, Kaz, tomorrow.  Zak qualified for this honor by achieving 10 first-place wins in one year’s time.   Will Judy, the founder of National Dog Week, would have been proud of this young man.  Captain Judy, and much later, Captain Arthur Haggerty knew that by working together, a young person, and their dog, can learn the importance of team work, discipline, and even, as in this case, lead youths to consider career options that involve animals, and their care.

Another way to honor dogs is to celebrate them in art.  Our “seasonal neighbors,” down in Big Pine Key, Florida, Rick and Diane, recently sent the above photo of a portrait of their dogs, Koda, and Logan.  Logan was recently adopted by Diane and Rick, after the passing of their beloved shepherd, Dugan.  Koda, also an adoptee, is now five years old.  Their friend, artist, Steven Hall, presented them with this beautiful portrait just the other day. 

And we look forward to meeting Logan, soon, as we will be traveling down that way on Thursday.  Posting will continue as we journey south, through St. Augustine, Orlando, Port Charlotte, Weston, and finally to the Keys.  Last year I was informed that more best selling books were written in the Florida Keys than anywhere else.  I sure hope that’s  true, because I hope to be completing most of my National Dog Week book while I am down there….Stay tuned while I get those “ruff” drafts in shape!

I’ll let you know how sweet “little” DJ made out in New York.

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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