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Cameron Woo

Cameron Woo is The Bark's co-founder and publisher.

News: Editors
Weiner-Dog Spoiler Alert!

Todd Solondz’s new film is titled Weiner-Dog and is classified as a comedy. The director has a unique brand of filmmaking—he’s known for creating off-beat, dark character studies that stretch the boundaries of satire and humor. Many critics champion his work (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Storytelling) while others find them cruel and over-the-top downbeat. It’s not for nothing that he’s been called the “King of Feel-Bad Cinema.” Still, his films are serious and thought-provoking, grappling with life’s most difficult issues—alienation, human frailty, mortality. I was interested to see what he would do with a film centered around a dog.

If you intend to see this film, warning … read no further. The dog does not come to a happy end. And it is not off-camera. The gruesome hit-and-run scene seems to be inspired by Sam Peckinpah, the ’70s filmmaker noted for his ballet-like depictions of death scenes (The Wild Bunch). This cringe-worthy moment is one of many that animal lovers will suffer through. There are several other scenes of antiquated dog “training” and “care” that made viewers wince. Real as they may be, it’s hard to watch. That’s not to say that all film featuring animals must be obligated to end happily. We know that is not how life is. In an interview, Solondz talked with Gawker about the film’s subject matter:

“It’s very complicated in some sense that if you have a pet, a dog, it can be a vessel that one fills with one’s illusions or yearnings or hopes and so forth. That oftentimes has very little to do with the actual dog itself. It’s hard to see a dog in its own dogness. We’re so anthropocentric, it’s hard not to anthropomorphize. I think that when people see an animal harmed, it’s something that’s emblematic of the purity of innocence. Nothing can rival a little dachshund in its cuteness, and in fact, as you are probably aware, people have a harder time with that than harm befalling humans.”

Still, with all of the publicity surrounding the film (reviews in the New Yorker, on NPR) and misleading blurbs portraying the film as a comedy—we feel our readers should be forewarned. This is not a film for the faint of heart and certainly not suitable viewing for children. But don’t take our word for it, check out this review and others, and decide for yourself.

News: Editors
David Duchovny’s “Lick My Face” Challenge to Aid Zero-Kill Effort

Today, actor David Duchovny (The X-Files, Aquarius) launches the “Lick My Face” campaign to support the nonprofit organization, Target Zero. In a new online video, Duchovny’s rescue canine, Brick, devours the actor in licks—whereby for every lick, Duchovny offers to donate at least one dollar to the zero-kill cause (to boost the lick count, peanut butter is applied). Duchovny challenges all of his social media followers, as well as fellow celebrities, ex-wife Tea Leoni and X-Files co-star, Gillian Anderson, to do the same. It’s a playful take on the hugely successive viral Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon that benefitted ALS a few summers ago.

 

 

All silliness aside, Duchovny is committed to zero-kill and helping shelters meet the challenge. He is an active board member of the Target Zero non-profit and a longtime shelter advocate. “Target Zero is showing a clear path to end the euthanasia of adoptable shelter animals through its proven-to-work mentorship model. We’re currently in ten Fellow Cities, but I’d like us to be in 20, 30, 40 more as quickly as possible to keep saving more and more lives. My hope is this campaign will get the word out far and wide that we're here to help,” enthuses Duchovny.

Co-Founded by social entrepreneur and goodwill activist Tracey Durning, Target Zero provides comprehensive strategies to decrease shelter intake and increase live release rates to achieve the 90+% shelter save rate. Launched in 2013, Target Zero has already gotten two cities to zero; Waco, Texas and Huntsville, Alabama, with Brevard County, Florida set to get there by October 2016. The organization currently works in ten Fellow Cities. “No kill” is defined as 90% or more of cats and dogs getting out of a city’s shelters safely. 10% or less is accounted for by animals that will die from illness regardless of medical treatment and/or large dogs with nonrehabilitative aggression issues.

Visit lickmyface.org to get involved. The challenge is simple and easy, plus fun for the licked and lickee!

Lick My Face Guidelines

  • Participants may join the lick-off just by having a smart phone or video camera and enthusiastic four-legged partner.
  • A pet friendly substance such as all natural peanut butter may be applied to one’s face to up the donation count (and fun!).
  • Participants post their videos to their favorite social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc
    • • With hashtags: #targetzero #lickmyface,
    • • Challenge others to join the cause
  • Participants will donate at least one dollar for every lick received at http://www.lickmyface.org/
  • News: Editors
    Mutts Comics "Shelter Stories" Series Feb 6
    Mesilla's Story

    Fans of MUTTS comics eagerly look forward to cartoonist Patrick McDonnell's annual "Shelter Stories." For his latest installment, the week's worth of strips were inspired by his visits to New York City’s only public, open-admissions animal shelter—Animal Care Centers of NYC. McDonnell is a longtime supporter of humane causes and looks forward each year to creating tales that move people to support their local shelters. Today’s comic Mesilla's shelter experience.

    Patrick McDonnell was filmed during his time at ACC and will be featured in the national PBS series, Shelter Me. The Shelter Me TV series was created by filmmaker Steven Latham and episode six with McDonnell, “Shelter Me: Hearts and Paws,” will air in May.

    Reissued online by special permission of King Features Syndicate.

    News: Editors
    Mutts Comics "Shelter Stories" Series Feb 5
    Sweetness' Story

    Fans of MUTTS comics eagerly look forward to cartoonist Patrick McDonnell's annual "Shelter Stories." For his latest installment, the week's worth of strips were inspired by his visits to New York City’s only public, open-admissions animal shelter—Animal Care Centers of NYC. McDonnell is a longtime supporter of humane causes and looks forward each year to creating tales that move people to support their local shelters. Today’s comic shows Sweetness' adoption experience.

    Patrick McDonnell was filmed during his time at ACC and will be featured in the national PBS series, Shelter Me. The Shelter Me TV series was created by filmmaker Steven Latham and episode six with McDonnell, “Shelter Me: Hearts and Paws,” will air in May.

    Reissued online by special permission of King Features Syndicate

    News: Editors
    Mutts Comics "Shelter Stories" Series Feb 4
    Ralphy's Tale

    Fans of MUTTS comics eagerly look forward to cartoonist Patrick McDonnell's annual "Shelter Stories." For his latest installment, the week's worth of strips were inspired by his visits to New York City’s only public, open-admissions animal shelter—Animal Care Centers of NYC. McDonnell is a longtime supporter of humane causes and looks forward each year to creating tales that move people to support their local shelters. Today’s comic shows lost dog Ralphy’s experience.

    Patrick McDonnell was filmed during his time at ACC and will be featured in the national PBS series, Shelter Me. The Shelter Me TV series was created by filmmaker Steven Latham and episode six with McDonnell, “Shelter Me: Hearts and Paws,” will air in May.

    Reissued online by special permission of King Features Syndicate.

    News: Editors
    Mutts Comics "Shelter Stories" Series Feb 3
    Bes' Story

    Fans of MUTTS comics eagerly look forward to cartoonist Patrick McDonnell's annual "Shelter Stories." For his latest installment, the week's worth of strips were inspired by his visits to New York City’s only public, open-admissions animal shelter—Animal Care Centers of NYC. McDonnell is a longtime supporter of humane causes and looks forward each year to creating tales that move people to support their local shelters. Today’s comic shows Bes the bunny's adoption experience.

    Patrick McDonnell was filmed during his time at ACC and will be featured in the national PBS series, Shelter Me. The Shelter Me TV series was created by filmmaker Steven Latham and episode six with McDonnell, “Shelter Me: Hearts and Paws,” will air in May.

    Reissued online by special permission of King Features Syndicate.

    News: Editors
    Mutts Comics "Shelter Stories" Series Feb 2
    Wysteria's Tale

    Fans of MUTTS comics eagerly look forward to cartoonist Patrick McDonnell's annual "Shelter Stories." For his latest installment, the week's worth of strips were inspired by his visits to New York City’s only public, open-admissions animal shelter—Animal Care Centers of NYC. McDonnell is a longtime supporter of humane causes and looks forward each year to creating tales that move people to support their local shelters. Today’s comic shows Wysteria’s shelter experience.

    Patrick McDonnell was filmed during his time at ACC and will be featured in the national PBS series, Shelter Me. The Shelter Me TV series was created by filmmaker Steven Latham and episode six with McDonnell, “Shelter Me: Hearts and Paws,” will air in May.

    Reissued online by special permission of King Features Syndicate.

    News: Editors
    Mutts Comics "Shelter Stories" Series Feb 1
    Cindy’s Story

    Fans of MUTTS comics eagerly look forward to cartoonist Patrick McDonnell's annual "Shelter Stories." For his latest installment, the week's worth of strips were inspired by his visits to New York City’s only public, open-admissions animal shelter—Animal Care Centers of NYC. McDonnell is a longtime supporter of humane causes and looks forward each year to creating tales that move people to support their local shelters. Today’s comic shows foster pup Cindy’s experience.

    Patrick McDonnell was filmed during his time at ACC and will be featured in the national PBS series, Shelter Me. The Shelter Me TV series was created by filmmaker Steven Latham and episode six with McDonnell, “Shelter Me: Hearts and Paws,” will air in May.

    Reissued online by special permission of King Features Syndicate

    Culture: DogPatch
    My Life with Dogs: JD SOUTHER
    JD Souther with Doc and Jake

    JD Souther is a card-carrying member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, inducted in 2013. Instrumental in shaping the sound that became known as country-rock in the 1970s, he has also contributed to the American songbook by penning such classics as “Best of My Love” and “Heartache Tonight” (both for the Eagles) and “Faithless Love” recorded by Linda Ronstadt.

    Never one to rest on his laurels, the singer-songwriter continues to compose memorable songs from his Nashville home. As a performer, he recently toured in support of a new album, Tenderness (Sony), and can be seen in the recurring role of producer Watty White on television’s Nashville.

    Despite his busy schedule, there’s nothing Souther would rather do than hang out with his dogs. The Bark caught up recently with John David and talked … you guessed it … dogs.

    What is it that you like about dogs?

    I like everything about dogs. I love their society, their immediacy, their ability to make anything an adventure. Dogs don’t miss an opportunity to have fun, to find out, to live. I also love the way they feel and smell. If I have to go to a party at the house of someone I don’t know, I look for the dog, or dogs. That’s where you’ll find me: hanging out with the dogs. No dogs, and I usually leave early.

    Tell us about your dogs.

    I have two loonies we affectionately call the Bruise Brothers, named thus for their incredible rough-and-tumble play, though they are, in fact, 50-pound lap dogs and would abandon their
    fields and pond for a human lap any time. They are brothers—Hound and Pit mix possibly—and all boy, noisy, joyous and curious about everything.

    When we brought them home from the two angels who had found them by the roadside in terrible shape and nursed them back to health, I had a beautiful Irish wife and a six-year-old girl. We built this farmhouse so that the girls would want to be here and not someplace else. It worked very well, but that meant that as the Bruise Bros grew, they were gently coerced to suffer every whim of an imaginative young female community, including but not limited to: shoes, hats, tee shirts, ties, capes, dresses, jewelry, sunglasses and sometimes various combinations of halters and leads that were only necessary for the little girls’ rich imaginations of them as horses.

    For all this girlish invasion of their masculine nature, the brothers were as delighted as could be for the attention, and ne’er a growl was ever heard.

    It was announced that the Eagles are being honored by the Kennedy Center next year — as a major contributor to their songbook … congratulations. Were there any dogs hanging out with you folks in those early days of Southern California music making?  

    The honor is well deserved, congratulations to the guys. They certainly have added considerable wealth to the repertoire. The fact is, we were all almost on the move all the time in those early days. The only dogs in our little gang of musicians I can recall with any clarity are two. One was a small white dog that Glenn (Frey) and Janie, his first wife, had named Teeny Turner. She sounded bigger and who could blame her.

    Also, Linda (Ronstandt) had two magnificent Huskies or something like them, when she lived in Brentwood. I was fond of one named Molly who voiced her objections to Linda leaving town by eating the couches, a form of protest with which I was to become later familiar on my dogs Murphy and Babe’s first day alone in the house, where they reduced a couch, daybed and several expensive cushions to a carpet of feathers and fluff. I opened the door to a first floor of shredded bedding and found two black dogs resting comfortably, one with feathers still clinging to his snout looking as innocent as possible. Smiling.

    Have you ever written dog-centered songs, or lyrics?

    I’ve written three songs about dogs, one for each of the Hollywood Hills dogs and one for the Tennessee Brown Hounds. Their place in my musical process is the same as it is in my life: a reminder to (a) not take myself too seriously and (b) pay attention!

    How about dog stories—have any good ones to share?

    Here’s one that may give you a sense of the humor and boldness that I find irresistible in canines.

    As we were building the Dog Ranch, I leased a beautiful Robert Byrd house on Hollywood Boulevard just west of Laurel Canyon so I could be on-site [in nearby Nichols Canyon] every day during construction. The back yard was small, so most days, the black dogs came to work with me. We were, after all, building our dream house.

    On the few days when they were left behind and outside, escaping from the yard behind the Byrd house became a game, and a fairly regular source of amusement for Babe. I kept adding fencing and difficulty, including, finally, a spiky pile of lawn chairs at the only conceivable escape route. Alas, she seemed to rise to every challenge, which included (eventually): pulling the lawn chairs down and scattering them, pulling the fence over, scrambling up a near-vertical dirt hillside, jumping on to the second story of the house, down to the first-story roof, then down to the top of the carport, and finally onto the top of whichever vehicle was closest before landing on the lawn. 

    I often came home to find Murphy, who was not quite tall enough to run the obstacle course, barking hysterically from behind the garden gate and Babe sitting serenely on the front porch, waiting for dinner. Smiling.

    We hear that you’re a good friend to Best Friends Animal Society; how did you get involved?

    I met Francis and Silva Battista in the late ’80s just as Babe was convincing me to slow down a bit and enjoy my lucky life. I loved what they were doing at Best Friends. Then I went up for a visit and met most of the founders and staff, wondrous folk who I am hoping will someday swap me a nifty little retirement perch in one of the most beautiful places on earth for considerable publishing interest and some
     “light housekeeping” (a phrase that another dear friend and animal-rescue champion uses to refer to mucking out the stalls on her ranch).

    We’ve taken dogs to the Sanctuary together, I loaned them an SUV/ambulance one year in their early days, played a show recently for the donors at Discovery Weekend, give what I can, talk about them every chance I get
    and will try to fit in a trip this year while the snow is on the ground in Angel Canyon.

    They have been salvation for thousands of animals, a fair number of them human, and are methodically helping to create no-kill cities wherever possible. When we would lose one, we used to say (to console ourselves), “Well, maybe you can’t save them all.” Wrong! Now our logo proudly challenges everyone: “Save Them All!” The entire community at Best Friends Animal Society is a model of selfless stewardship and joy. Why wouldn’t 
    it be? You know what animals do? They give. 

    Do you think there’s a reason so many musicians have special connections with dogs?

    Maybe musicians, painters, writers, all artists need more time away from conversation and the clanging immediacy of modern life. I think people need quite a bit of it for sanity. Dogs—in fact, most animals I have met—are content to simply live. Just be here. One of my most treasured animal friends is a horse I’ve known for 20 years, but don’t ride. We just … I don’t know. We just hang out.

    Children? Animals? They’re our very best things, I think.

    We are animals, after all, and when we discriminate against any one, we are diminished. 

    What do you do these days when you hang out with dogs?

    Nothing. Anything. Whatever they want to do usually turns out to be a good idea for all of us. Thanks for asking me to be in your wonderful magazine, which I own all the way back to your big format first issue!

    News: Editors
    Shelter Dogs Star As Toto in The Wiz
    10-year-old Cairn Terriers Make Their Acting Debut

    Two senior dogs will make their acting debut this Thursday night when NBC broadcasts their live production of The Wiz. 10-year-old Cairn Terriers Ralphie and Scooter will share the role of Toto, Dorothy’s canine sidekick in this retelling of the Wizard of Oz featuring an African American cast. The training of the two dogs was assigned to Bill Berloni, American theater’s most renown animal trainer. Berloni has been teaching dogs the art of performing on stage going on 40 years. He has trained the canine actors for stage and television productions of Legally Blonde, Annie, Peter Pan, Lady Day and The Royal Family. Since his very first casting in 1976, a shelter dog playing Sandy in the original production of Annie, Berloni always selects his actors from shelters and rescue organizations. For the role of Toto, the production team discovered two blond Cairns in a Sacramento shelter. “There is nothing I look for that’s different in a senior dog than a young dog. They have to be outgoing, people-friendly, want to interact. You don’t want a snappy puppy or a grumpy old man. You want outgoing, friendly and willing to work,” says Berloni.

    When asked which scene is the most challenging for Toto, Berloni responded with not the most physical scene but one of the most emotional—where Dorothy sings “Over the Rainbow”—think back to the 1939 classic film where Judy Garland sings and Toto lovingly looks at her. Without the luxury of editing, the scene requires incredible focus on the dog’s part. This is achieved by hours of training and bonding with the actors. During that scene in the performance, nobody is allowed to move backstage, no sound can distract from that critical connection between human and canine performer.

    The secret to Berloni’s success is preparation and building a bond between the human actors and his animal performers. It’s less about acting than expressing real love for their human cast members—“Dogs don't act; they either are in love or they’re not, which is why I think animal performances are so exciting and so genuine. It’s like watching a husband and wife in real life playing a husband-and-wife team onstage. They’re really in love.”

    The Wiz is televised live on NBC Thursday December 3, 8/7c. In addition to Ralphie and Scooter, the production stars Shanice Williams, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, David Alan Grier and Cirque du Soleil.

    Read The Bark’s interview with Bill Berloni to learn more about his incredible career in theater and animal training.

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