Cameron Woo

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

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.

News: Editors
When Dogs Heal—A Photographic Project
People Living with HIV and the Dogs that Saved Them

When Dogs Heal is a photographic project that tells the stories of people who believe that the best medicine may not always be found at a pharmacy or in the doctor’s office; sometimes it comes in the form of a dog.

Photographed by Bark contributor and award-winning photographer Jesse Freidin, When Dogs Heal (WDH) is a project of the non-profit charity Fred Says, whose mission it is to ensure that all young people living with HIV receive the services they need to lead healthy, productive lives. Fred Says was started in 2012 by Dr. Robert Garofalo and his dog, Fred, who he adopted shortly after surviving cancer and later being diagnosed with HIV. Doctor Rob, as his patients call him, is Division Head of Adolescent Medicine and the Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality and HIV Prevention at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Garofalo credits Fred, a rambunctious Yorkie, for getting him through some of his darkest moments and helping him rediscover peace and joy in his life—things he thought he may have lost forever. Today, Fred Says assists the HIV+ community through education, treatment and prevention. The organization’s 50,000 Facebook followers often share stories about their own dogs.

In 2014, Garofalo together with photographer Freidin and writer Zach Stafford traveled to five U.S. cities—Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlanta—seeking people to be photographed with their dogs, and to share their stories about the healing power of their canine companions after being diagnosed with HIV. Whether it was to combat loneliness or stigma, to discover the importance of unconditional love, to manage one’s medical care, to overcome addiction, or to simply have a best friend in a time of need—each person’s story is a unique and empowering account of the incredible bond between a person and their pet. “There are stories of hope and healing, addiction and learning what unconditional love was supposed to be about, because so many people that get HIV feel that they are not lovable anymore,” Garofalo says. 

"WDH allows us to be a little creative,” Garofalo explains. He has noticed that things have gotten a little stale, when it comes to finding fresh ways in which to address HIV and AIDS nowadays. “Medications have become so much more effective,” he says, “but I don’t think there is an energy, at least in this country, in the sense of talking about HIV the way we used to. I don’t think you read news stories about HIV anymore in the mainstream media. Hopefully that’s because people aren’t dying anymore, and that’s a great thing. When Dogs Heal–People Living with HIV and the Dogs that Saved Them focuses on living. That’s a big change. It’s really about the dogs rescuing people.”

The participants’ stories will accompany their portraits in a series of exhibitions opening across the country. Three art exhibits are to open simultaneously on World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), as part of the When Dogs Heal Project—at the LGBT Center in New York City; in Chicago; and in San Francisco, at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Plans are to take the exhibit on the road in the coming year, to universities, schools and communities, especially in cities that are the hotspots of new HIV infections. The project is another important chapter in the fight against AIDS and recognition of the important ways dogs can benefit those who open their hearts.

To learn more visit wdhproject.org.

News: Editors
No Charges for NFL Player Who Taunts Police K9
Actions found to be more foolish than felonious

Head slaps, pounding on pads, emotional rants—all part of the pre-game rituals practiced by professional football players to psyche themselves and their teammates up for an afternoon of contact sport. A few Sundays ago, Oakland Raider linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong may have crossed the line with his pre-game histrionics. Shortly before kickoff of the Pittsburgh Steelers-Oakland Raiders game (November 8), Armstrong lifted his shirt, began pounding his chest and barking at an Allegheny County Sheriff Office bomb-sniffing dog, according to Chief Deputy Kevin Kraus. Allegedly, the player also told the deputy holding the K-9 service dog to “send the dog.” “The dog was going crazy,” Krauss said, “the deputy was trying to control the dog the best she could.”

Such behavior is no laughing matter … taunting a police K-9 carries a third-degree felony charge in Pennsylvania with a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The targeted deputy reported the incident to a supervisor, who initiated a criminal investigation. Witnesses were questioned, video surveillance reviewed. Two weeks later, the Allegheny County District Attorney has decided not to press charges against the overzealous football player, releasing this statement:

“The district attorney and the sheriff agree this was not a malicious act, but did create an unnecessary security risk. The office will communicate with the authorities in California as to how we can address this matter.”

In short, case closed. Not surprisingly, most sports call-in shows who weighed in on the subject thought the potential criminal charges were “absurd” and “silly”—but given the important job that K-9 service dogs perform, shouldn’t there be some consequences to interfering with their duty? What do you think … was this a case of football foolishness or a felony offense?

News: Editors
A Boy and His Dog by Thomas Hart Benton
Auction of Classic Painting Benefits Dogs

The painting depicts a boy and his dog in a style that has become known as American Regionalism. It is signed “Benton” for Thomas Hart Benton, the movement’s greatest practitioner, best known for his murals embracing the populist idealism of pre-war America. On this painting’s reverse side is inscribed “For T.P.’s birthday/11 years old/From Dad.” The subjects are the artist’s son T.P. and Jake, the family dog.

Last evening (November 18) the painting was one of more than 500 works from the A. Alfred Taubman collection auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York. T.P. and Jake was painted in 1938 and was estimated to fetch between $1.5M and $2.5M. After a flurry of bidding, it sold for $3,130,000. It was accompanied by the following notes in the auction catalog that included touching words by the artist describing the deep bond shared by his young son and his dog. Appropriately, the sale of this painting benefited the Sam Simon Charitable Giving Foundation, dedicated to saving the lives of dogs.

The present work depicts the artist’s son T.P. Benton and his beloved dog, Jake. T.P. was eight years old when his mother, Rita, found Jake on a farm west of Kansas City, Missouri. The Bentons adopted him as their family pet and he became particularly devoted to T.P. When Jake died in 1946 Thomas Hart Benton wrote an obituary for the dog, which appeared in the Vineyard Gazette and The Kansas City Times. In one passage Benton recalls an event which illustrates Jake’s special affection for T.P.:

“After three years had passed Rita took T.P. to Italy to visit her mother. This was a sad time for Jake. Up to now he’s given me little attention. Rita fed him and T.P. played with him. Of what use I might be he had little need to consider. I was just there, good enough to shake hands with occasionally but not important. Now, however, he clung to me and I took him with me on a long roundabout tour of the South which ended, after seven weeks, at the docks in New York were we met the boat returning his real master and mistress.”

“There was a high rail fence between the passageway for debarking passengers and the people who had come to meet them. I stood by this fence trying to catch a glimpse of Rita and T.P. in the crowd of voyagers. But Jake beat me to it. The chain leash in my hand twisted suddenly and before I knew it Jake’s full grown seventy pounds of muscle and tawny hair was soaring over the fence.”

“No one who saw the meeting of the boy and dog could ever forget it. The travelers and those who met them stood aside to watch the play of Jake’s ecstasy. They forgot their own emotions in this more intense one of a devoted animal. His yaps of joy sailed up over the arching girders to the high roofs of the dock and came back to pierce your heart. This was the high point of life and those who saw recognized it.” (The Kansas City Times, p. vi).

News: Editors
Better with Pets Summit
A gathering of ideas

There is an astounding amount of research on dogs—academic studies, medical research, social and psychological testing, not to mention reams of data gathered from our everyday lives. Thoughtfully assimilated, all of this information can help us and our dogs live better lives together.

I was reminded of how fortunate dog enthusiasts are to share in this wealth of information upon my return last week from Purina’s Better with Pets Summit (November 3). The annual event, this year presented in Brooklyn, NY, was a gathering of pet experts sharing their latest findings with the media. The theme for the day was “exploring the best ideas for bringing people and pets closer together.” It was an apt description.

The day started out with an inspired presentation by Dr. Arleigh Reynolds, a veterinarian and research scientist who studies the impact of nutrition on performance on sled dogs. A champion musher himself, Reynolds’ talk focused not on a program he’s involved with in the Alaskan village of Huslia. This small coastal community was the home of George Attla, a famed champion musher and native Athabascan who ruled the sport for thirty years before retiring. In honor of his son Frank, who died at age 21 in 2010, Attla started the Frank Attla Youth and Sled Dog Care Mushing Program. The program serves many purposes—providing skills, lessons in cultural traditions, and a sense of belonging to the youth population while uniting all townspeople around a common activity, mushing. The program, as described warmly by Reynolds and in a short documentary film demonstrates the power that dogs can initiate in our lives.

Next up was a panel discussion titled “Are Millennials Changing Our Relationships with Cats?”—offering the interesting observation that a new generation of cat people have now formed a community on the internet—so as dog people connect at dog parks, cat lovers now interact online sharing their passion for felines. We met Christina Ha, the co-founder of Meow Parlour, New York’s first cat café. Can a canine café be in our future?

The most anticipated panel “Stress, Our Pets, and Us” featured animal behaviorist Ragen McGowan, PhD; architect Heather Lewis (Animal Arts) and Dr. Tony Buffington, professor of veterinary science. McGowan discussed the value of having dogs work for their food citing her studies with grizzlies, chickens and mice on the practice of contrafreeloading (working for food when food is freely available). Lewis’s architectural practice specializes in designing veterinary hospitals and animal care facilities around the country, meeting the unique needs of both workers and animals. It’s evident that good design can have an important impact on animal friendly environments—from soothing color palettes to calming lighting levels or the simple use of horizontal bars (less stress inducing) instead of traditional vertical bars. The key takeaway: Mental exercise for animals might be as important to their well-being as physical exercise.

“Raising Pets and Kids” featured Jayne Vitale of Mutt-i-grees Child Development Director; Ilana Resiner, veterinarian behaviorist; and Charley Bednarsh, Director of Children’s Services (Brooklyn). The Bark features an in-depth article in its Winter 2015 issue on Mutt-i-grees, a program developed by the North Shore Animal League that offers academic and emotional support to students from kindergarten through high school, teaching them how to be ambassadors for the humane treatment of animals. Bednarsh and her therapy dog Paz, team up to assist young witnesses of domestic violence navigate the judicial system (a similar program first reported in The Bark). We were reminded of the important contribution to the health and well-being of the children in these extraordinary programs, and also to common households. Note to self: Don’t humanize your dog—study, understand, embrace their dogness.

The afternoon offered a room full of experiential exhibits—interactive displays that provided lessons in healthy environments, cognition, reading your pet, nutrition and your pet’s purpose. Manned by teams of experts, the well designed displays presented an immersive course in Dog and Cat 101. I’d love to see the exhibits showcased to the general public, those most in need of education and guidance in the proper care of pet companions. The day was rich with ideas and notes that we’ll shape into future articles for The Bark.

Purina’s commitment to offering a forum of ideas is commendable. In a similar vein, the company hosted another notable event on November 7—a free live video cast of the Family Dog Project from Hungary—with over a dozen presentations by leading scientists and animal behaviorist exploring everything from canine cognition to sensory perception in dogs. Like the Pet Summit, it was a fascinating collection of concepts and dialogue, enriching to everybody who participated.

For more check out #BetterWithPets

News: Editors
The Importance of National Shelter Week

This week (November 3–9) marks National Animal Shelter and Rescue Appreciation Week. Only a week you ask? A closer look at the calendar reveals that the entire month of October was designated as Adopt a Shelter Dog Month—thus, where other important subjects (hunger and homelessness, mental health) can claim only one official week of recognition, shelter and rescue dogs now receive a full five weeks of being in the public spotlight. I mention this observation not in jest but because the topic of animal rescue may have reached a measure of critical mass. Adopting a shelter dog (or cat) has evolved from a marginal act of convenience for a few to a popular trend practiced by many carried out with a sense of pride and social activism. Today, celebrities send out press releases when they adopt from shelters and cultural observers (the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik, former NYT’s editor Jill Abramson) get skewered when they purchase dogs from pet stores or breeders. In some circles, the meaning of adoption has been appropriated to refer to all animals chosen as pets, as described on one food manufacturer’s packaging that states that “all dogs are adopted”—not true. Purchased dogs are not adopted.

If shelter dogs have not yet reached critical mass just yet, they are receiving some serious mass exposure. There are network television specials, reality shows, countless books, heartwarming commercials and constant news features (hugging dogs find permanent home!). But before we mistake good PR as a problem solved, anybody involved with shelters and adoptions will tell you that it's simply not enough. It is true that over the last decade the euthanization of unwanted pets has dropped from 25 million animals a year to about 3 million annually. Great progress indeed but there are still millions of animals who will be euthanized in US animal shelters, who will never find a forever home. Despite the upsurge in awareness, far too many shelters still struggle to meet their mission due to a lack of funds, support or education. A surprising number of future pet owners will deem adopting a shelter animal as too difficult, too risky or for somebody else. The business of dog breeding will continue to thrive.

That is why it is important to designate a week or an entire month to shelter animals and adoption. It offers an easy forum to remind people that there's much work still to do, deserving animals to save. It’s a gentle nudge to say your local shelter needs your support in so many ways. And that there remain many minds to convince of the benefits and rewards of animal adoption. Even if you are not a celebrity. 

Learn how you can support your local animal shelter with these ten easy tips.