Cameron Woo is The Bark's co-founder and publisher.
10-year-old Cairn Terriers Make Their Acting Debut
December 1 2015
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.
People Living with HIV and the Dogs that Saved Them
November 30 2015
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.
Actions found to be more foolish than felonious
November 22 2015
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?
Auction of Classic Painting Benefits Dogs
November 19 2015
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).
A gathering of ideas
November 12 2015
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
November 6 2015
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.
Dog's Life: Travel
Travel: Dog Friendly Bozeman, Montana.
October 19 2015
Bozeman, MT is the place for the serious outdoorsperson. The town proper is rumored to have over 67 miles of trails and 42 dog bag stations in its parks. The pride of Bozeman’s canine community is a 37-acre off leash dog area at Snowfill Recreation Area. If that weren’t enough, ground was recently broken at Gallatin Regional Park for a new 13-acre dog park with amenities like ponds, diving docks, a dog sports area. The OLA advocacy group, Run Dog Run, is also responsible for developing a series of smaller dog parks throughout the whole area. Gotta hand it to them, they know how to get the job done. Bozeman is also a gateway to every day-trip imaginable with majestic mountains, rivers and lakes in the neighborhood. Much of the world-class trout fishing and clear waterways benefit from Montana’s egalitarian stream access laws, allowing for full public use. Canoeing, kayaking, white water rafting—for water-loving dogs, big sky country is paradise. All that outdoor activity tends to work up a thirst, so a number of breweries (Montana Ale Works, Bozeman Brewing Co.) help satisfy the town’s favorite indoor sport— drinkin’. Most either welcome dogs or hold special pupfriendly promotions. Montanans like their food fresh and wild, so look for some jerky treats made with local game, it will help fuel you and your pup on your adventures. Plus Bozeman is home to West Paw Design, maker of eco-friendly dog beds and toys, and one of the greenest companies anywhere. The new West Paw Dog Park recently opened to the public (WPD helped secure the space and funded improvements) with the support of Run Dog Run. For an insider’s viewpoint on Bozeman’s dog-friendly attitude—go online for tips from the canine-loving staff at West Paw Design: thebark.com/bozeman
October 14 2015
Maira Kalman’s new book, Beloved Dog (Penguin Press), illuminates her friendship with her first dog, Pete. Kalman, who movingly writes, “It is very true that the most tender, complicated, most generous part of our being blossoms without any effort when it comes to the love of a dog,” grew up being terrified of them.
Featuring her fanciful paintings and handwritten text, Beloved Dog details a life of love, loss and companionship. It also includes numerous examples of her work, including New Yorker covers and several of her Pete-inspired children’s books. As long-time fans of her delightful, quirky and just a bit offkilter work, we were particularly happy to snag some phone time with her recently. Following are highlights from our conversation.
Bark: Early in the book, you say that you are “besotted by dogs”—what a great term.
Maira Kalman: I used to be afraid of dogs, and that switch-over to realizing how important they are in my life and how completely besotted I am was a wonderful revelation and a great moment.
B: That discovery is pretty magical.
MK: It is, and it really does change the world. It opens things up in ways that were incomprehensible before. I don’t want to liken it to having children, but next to having children, it is that kind of relationship.
B: Tell us about Pete.
MK: I had always thought that if I got a dog, it would be a dog that jumped up— shpringeny—on all four legs, a scruffy kind of animated cartoon. And there he was. From the beginning, he was not only a beloved, beloved companion and an easer of sadness, but also a damn fine model.
B: Having a dog to guide you through the streets of New York must be a great entree into the world.
MK: Yeah, because when you have a purpose, which is “I am walking my dog,” you are already calmer and you have a companion. Of course, when you walk a dog, you have to add at least another half-hour to get to any destination because you meet people, the dog stops, you stop. You’re engaging in ways that you just didn’t do before. People who are walking their dogs usually are delighted to chat. It’s a friendlier world when you have a dog with you.
B: Can you talk about dogs as a subject matter for your paintings and books?
MK: Sometimes the dog is a human character and (of course) a stand-in for me, or a composite of me and other people. The dog is a conduit to emotions and humor, all those universal experiences. The other way that I work is to depict dogs as secondary characters, or digressions—my work is always about digression anyway. So, they populate the landscape the way people do, and contribute to the emotional quality of my paintings. They surprise me— they’re funny. The paintings are really observational journals of my life and the dogs who live in my world.
A new Peanuts movie reunites Snoopy and Charlie Brown in 3D
October 13 2015
Being great fans of Charles Schultz’s work we were excited to learn that they made a full-length, 3D movie about Charlie Brown and all his pals, including, of course, Snoopy. As the trailer notes this is a movie about “an underdog and his dog.” We talked with Steve Martino, the movie’s director about this exciting project.
Who’s the brainchild behind The Peanuts movie?
Craig Schultz, the son of Charles Schultz, and his son, Brian, plus Brian’s writing partner, Cornelius Uliano. All three of them are the writers and producers on the film. I think was Craig's desire to keep his father's legacy alive. I think between Craig and Brian they began to craft an idea that they felt would be worthy of a feature film and not a short or a television special. We find today that, kids don't read the comic strips in a newspaper as I did when I was growing up. They meet these characters that they connect with through feature films often.
This new movie is 3D, how was that transition made from a flat medium?
I thought that with the tools that we have in computer animation that it could enhance the emotion of the story. I also thought there was a wonderful opportunity to bring a character like Snoopy alive with all of his fun, crazy animation action, we could also create a rendering for him that had softness in his fur, it just brings a different emotional connection.
What became critically important is that the characters always looked and felt and moved ...as I had always remembered them. So, we were very particular about the way we posed the characters, the way we move them, so that it always feel like Peanuts should feel.
With regard of the everyman quality of Charlie Brown, I think the same can be said of the dog, Snoopy. Everyone sees their dog in Snoopy.
It's so true. I think Charles Schultz always said that Charlie Brown may have been a little bit more who he was and Snoopy was who he always wanted to be. Snoopy’s a big character, he plays big. He's funny. What I love in our film though, is that we really spotlight and showcase that, a boy and his dog, in that kind of relationship.
The Peanuts Movie, opening November 6, 2015, it will be released by Twentieth Century Fox.
The Bark interview with photographer Amanda Jones
September 4 2015
In the great tradition of itinerant photographers, Amanda Jones travels from town to town taking portraits. For more than two decades, she’s used her camera to write the stories of dogs nationwide, capturing them at specific moments in their lives. For her new book, Dog Years (Chronicle Books), Jones extended the narratives of 30 of her subjects—including Bark’s late, great “founding dog,” Nell—by pairing photos of their youthful and mature selves. She shares her insights with Bark art director Cameron Woo.
The term “dog years” suggests time compressed, measuring experiences on another level. What does it mean to you?
I assume that, like me, those who have dogs come to realize that their human lifespan can accommodate those of several canines. My first dog, Lily, who is featured in the book, had a great long life with me: from 12 weeks to 14 years. She moved with me across the U.S several times, she saw the birth of my daughter, she ushered out older rescues and welcomed in new puppies. Now, she’s gone, and as adults, those “new puppies” are welcoming in new rescues. I’m aging as well, and each one of those lives—whether arriving or departing—has an impact on me and on my family.
After all this time, what have you learned about dogs and their people?
Like humans, each dog is unique. They may share many physical similarities, but even siblings from the same litter display distinctive personalities. As for the people … I’ve worked with a wide range of personalities but they all share one thing: they love their animals.
When you were reunited with the dogs for these shoots, sometimes as much as 15 years later, did any of them seem to remember you?
Whether they remembered me specifically, I can’t say with certainty. I do think they remembered the process of the photo shoot and being on the set. In each case, the second shoot seemed to work that much easier. Or, maybe older dogs allow themselves to be more easily manipulated for a treat!
When I look at your portraits, I find myself drawn to the dogs’ eyes—they’re so powerful. What do you try to capture when you photograph your subjects?
I don’t go into a shoot expecting anything specific; I tend to let dogs dictate the nature of the session. If they love balls, then we play with balls and work from that activity. If they like to lie around and be mellow, I get creative and do some interesting portrait work.
What’s it like to connect with people and their dogs over time and across the country?
I have the best clients in the world; they’re the reason I get up in the morning and do what I do. In many cases, they have become best friends. I travel a lot and, as you can imagine, each trip presents logistical hurdles. These days, I have clients who are willing to share things that make my time on the road much more pleasant: places to stay, cars to drive, home-cooked meals to eat. And, of course, dogs are the glue that holds us together. What could be better than that?
As you assembled these matchups, did anything in particular jump out at you?
As you mentioned, it’s all about the eyes. Peering into those eyes several years later, I still see that certain spark. The muzzle goes gray and the body gets lumpy and jowly, but the soul is still the same. It amazes me.
What about the dogs in your life today?
There’s Benny, a shorthaired, silver-dapple Dachshund, and Ladybug, a Dachshund/Chihuahua mix. Ladybug is a recent rescue; her photo was posted on Instagram through an NYC rescue group and the second I saw it, I knew she was the dog for our family. Social media is an amazing way to spread awareness of animals in need of homes! And, of course, I still miss Lily, who inspired Dog Years.
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