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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Tales of Tippy: See the Movie

Evie Litwok is a 54-year-old former Wall Streeter who used to live in Boca Raton (before moving back north, to New Jersey, which I personally find bizarre, but no matter).

She used to have five little Malteses, and realized that some point that she was "was missing something when it came to dog entertainment," despite favorite flicks like Air Bud.

"I knew for a fact that my dogs spoke," she told me. "They could look at me and say, ‘Why are you going out with this person again? You had a miserable time the last time..."'

So she made a movie about her dog, Tippy, and now it's in an actual theater this weekend as part of the Delray Beach Film Festival.

It's called The Tippy Story, and it's showing at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday March 11, Delray Beach 18, 1660 S. Federal Highway. Rnning time: 1:40 minutes. Tickets are $8. And although Tippy went to doggy heaven last year at 13, Pinky the Maltese will be there with Litwok.

The Tippy story isn't just a film; it's a book and a clever website:

You can buy an audio CD at stores listed on the site. Litwok says she'll used any profits to do animal rescues.
Tippy would be so proud.

Do Pets Have Souls?

That's the topic of discussion Friday evening March 10 at Temple Beth Torah, 9101 NW 57th St., Tamarac, during an outdoor "pet Shabbat.''

Bring your critters to the synagogue at 5:15 p.m. for a blessing by Rabbi Michael Gold. Participants will learn a special blessing that they can recite over their pet. Those who register in advance will get the blessing in writing, created specifically for their pet.

Pet sitting will be available to allow owners to share an outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat Service after the pet blessing. Discussion topics will also include “What does the Torah teach us about animals?” and “Why is the humane treatment of animals so important to Judaism?” After the service, there will be a special oneg (refreshments) for the pets. Call 954-721-7660, ext. 10, for more information.

(Thanks to Herald religion writer Alexandra Alter for the heads-up on this).

Tales of a Traveling Canine

Great story from Smithsonian:

Destination Europe: Bone Voyage
On assignment with Europe's most peripatetic canine

By Jennifer Drapkin
Photographs by Toni Anzenberger

One day eight years ago, a young landscape photographer from Vienna was visiting a farm near Verona, Italy, when he learned about a spotted puppy with black ears that no one wanted. The photographer, Toni Anzenberger, adopted the dog and named him Pecorino, thinking it meant "little sheep" in Italian. Only later did Anzenberger learn that he'd named his new best friend after a cheese. "At least Pecorino sounds cute in German, like a clown's name," Anzenberger says. "It's not like calling your dog Gorgonzola."

Then, when Anzenberger brought the dog with him on an assignment in Tuscany, Pecorino kept running into the picture. At first Anzenberger was frustrated. But he soon realized that Pecorino added character to the pictures. So he began photographing the dog everywhere, on the streets of London and the shores of Greece, next to windmills in the Netherlands and statues in Rome.

Read the whole story here (thanks to my colleague Margaria Fichtner, major dog freak, for pointing it out):

Broward Dog Walk a Big, Barking Success

From Cherie Wachter, spokesperson for the Humane Society of Broward County:

The March 4 Walk for the Animals ''netted over $430,000 and had more than 4,000 participants.'' Check out the photos at their website:

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Another Downside of Rampant Development

This headline from an Associated Press story about a horrible incident in New York: Dog's death sparks debate over trapping; Pets at risk where suburbs meet nature

Living in South Florida, we're all aware of how people and nature come into conflict when development pushes far into the Everglades. That's happening other places, with disastrous results for pets.

Read the story at:

Poop Power!

Headline from USA Today (brought to my attention by my brother-in-law, Stan): San Francisco examines power of dog droppings

The story is about how the city plans to turn doggie doo into fuel via a methane digester. It sounds kind of gross but it gives me some ideas about my back yard and cutting my FLP bills.

To read the story, go to

Monday, March 06, 2006

Love Those Labs!

The humans are Caitlin (my Goddaughter) and her brother, Jack, in San Diego. The dogs are Laila and her kids: Woody, Maddy and Temo.

Family, Friends and Their Pets: That includes you!

I'm starting a "family and friends and their pets'' feature, and since all of you are friends of Crazy for Critters, e-mail photos to me at, and I'll put them up.

This is my friend Elaine Corn, award-winning Sacramento food writer and public radio food journalist. This picture was taken in the '80s, when Miss Ruby Magnolia (alas, of blessed memory) was still young and sprightly.


And of course spend 90% of the movie elbowing my boyfriend and going: AAAWWWW!!! (and the other 10% in tears). The huskies in this sled-dog epic showed so much heart, strength, bravery, and enthusiasm for their work - and have such wonderful faces - how could I help myself?

Certainly there's anthropomorphizing here, attributing a sense of empathy and self-sacrifice to dogs that's probably not supported by the reality of the canine psyche (whether they even have one has been a matter of debate). Still, we do tend to identify our feelings with those of our animals, so the examples of nobility and compassion displayed by these magnificent critters can only elevate us.

I was also awed by the animals' acting ability (and the trainers' expertise clearly behind it). If I can get all four of mine to sit at the same time, it's a triumph.

For stories about the dog ''actors,'' check out the following:

Warning, if you're planning to see it with small children: Seated in front of us were a couple, their 7-year-old daugther, and two of her little friends. They left about one-third of the way through the film. At least one of the kids was too upset by it (see the reference below to Bambi).

Here's the Herald's review of the film, published Feb. 17. It's written by book editor/film critic Connie Ogle, another dog fanatic who has two critters at the moment. She makes an excellent point about pet fads that movies create, and how too often animals become victims of those fads.

Eight Below is a dangerous film. Not because of its harrowing subject matter - eight sled dogs inadvertently abandoned at an Antarctic research station must survive a brutal winter - but because the creatures are so beautiful and personable that people, who frequently act like nitwits, will want to bring home a husky. A brief public service announcement: You live in FLORIDA. Don't be one of those idiots who bought a Dalmatian puppy because of a cartoon and then took it to the pound because it was, you know, a dog. If you simply can't live without a husky, consult your local animal shelter and save a life.

Saving lives is, of course, what Eight Below is all about, and if its two-legged characters were half so interesting as the four-legged ones, the movie would be spectacular. As it is, Eight Below is still solid family entertainment, with thrilling action sequences and gorgeous scenery. But the film lags whenever the action shifts away from the dogs and focuses on the humans, most of whom don't seem to develop consciences until the final act.

Gerry (Paul Walker) is the guy with the heart. He's a guide at a remote research station who finds himself on a hazardous trip with an ambitious scientist (Bruce Greenwood). When a life-threatening accident occurs, and a nasty storm threatens, he's forced to evacuate with the promise that his pilot/romantic interest Katie (Moon Bloodgood) will fly back immediately to bring his brave dogs to safety. But she's ordered not to return, and the team is left chained up outside to face the storm with no food, water or shelter.

Walker's handsome blandness works well here; he gamely lets the dogs upstage him, and they are mesmerizing, whether stalking seagulls, fighting off a greedy leopard seal or simply snuggling into the snow to sleep.

It's when Eight Below leaves their plight that the story falters, and the plot mires down in a pedestrian battle of wills. Gerry can't surmount bureaucratic hurdles to get back to his dogs, and the scientist isn't inclined to help, despite the fact that the team saved his butt. As for Katie, well, she never seems that upset about the whole thing anyway. Anybody who leaves dogs to starve or freeze to death is not someone about whom animal lovers can possibly feel warmly, so you have to wonder about Gerry's continuing interest.

It's worth noting that Eight Below is brought to you by the folks who killed off Bambi's mother, so be prepared for some tears. The film milks every opportunity to yank the heartstrings, but despite the calculation in its soul, Eight Below still manages to be a moving story about - what else? - the power of love.