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Friday, July 28, 2006

The Blog's First Book Review

So, I just finished a terrific book that I want to recommend, when it comes out. We got a review copy at the newspaper; you'll have to wait until October.

It's called From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava, by Marine Lt. Col Jay Kopelman, with Melinda Roth (The Man Who Talks to Dogs).

It's the story of a battle-hardened Marine's determination to get the mongrel pup his unit rescued from a bombed-out building in Fallujah, safely to the United States. The pup who pees in his sleeping bag, barfs toothpaste in his face, eats maps, boots, cell phones, pillows, and "some grunt's only pair of socks."

To make that happen - in clear violation of the military's no-pets rule - he had to get help from comrades, Iraqis, National Public Radio reporters, civilian defense contractors, the Helen Woodward Animal Center in San Diego, and the Iams pet-food company.

Friends and strangers literally risked their lives taking little Lava - named for the Hawaii-based Lava Dogs unit, aka First Battalion, Third Marines - across dangerous checkpoints and international borders.

When Lava finally arrives in California, Kopelman meets him surrounded by the media. By this time, he's seen - and caused - who knows how many deaths. He's seen close friends seriously wounded and many Lava Dogs killed. He's seen Iraqi children blown up and cities reduced to rubble. He's been shot at day after day for months, gone weeks at a time without a shower, and been so exhausted that not even ordnance screaming overhead could awaken him.

Someone asks: "What would you tell people who might suggest your time would have been better spent saving people instead of a dog?"

Kopelman writes: "I stared off into the middle distance and tried to look like I was fashioning my profound answer in some profound way, but the only thing I could come up with for those who might question my time management in Iraq was that we're not supposed to save anybody, it's not our job, and if it was, we'd be shipping peace activists by the boatload over there to try to talk the insurgents into liking us.

"But you can't say that out loud and receive applause.

"Besides, Lava wasn't a little Iraqi kid the guys found alone when they stormed the compound [and] does anyone really think we would have just left a little kid there to die...? Why wasn't my time spent helping people isntead of a puppy? I don't know, and I don't care, but at least I saved something."

No matter how you feel about the war, this is a great read, offering insights into the conflict that you won't find in the news, and yet more evidence that the bond between people and animals transcends every man-made barrier.

Indeed, the reason why the military forbids pets in a war zone is because they humanize the combatants.

Kopelman writes: "General Order 1-A is taken pretty seriously by the military. No pets allowed. That's because they've invested a lot of time and money into trashing your moral clarity, and they don't want anything like compassion messing things up. Your job is to shoot the enemy, period, and if anything close to compassion rears its ugly head, you better shoot that down too, or you're in some deep, scary s---."

To which I have to say: "Lava, Kopelman saved your life, and it seems like you saved his, too. May you live well, and long."


Doesn't look much like Johnny Depp, but this handsome pirate is now available at Broward Humane. Click here for more information.

Doggie Dress-Up Time

Women in Network, a South Florida lesbian social/activist group, is hosting its 7th annual dog show, Aug. 6, 2:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Members: $7; non-members $10. Place: GLCC, 1717 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale.

There will be awards for best costume ( click here to go to the website and see some from last year, and get more entry info), "most butch," "most femme," and other categories that ought to produce amusing results. Or call 954-274-8537.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Clean Dog is a Happy Dog

So make your dogs happy this Sunday by going to the Pet Project’s Charity Dog Wash at Bark Park, Snyder Park, 3299 SW 4th Ave, Fort Lauderdale. Time: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Let 'em roll around in the park or swim in the lake and get nice and muddy, then, for a $10 donation to a good cause, they can get bathed or have their nails clipped.

The Pet Project is a nonprofit that helps disabled and sick animal lovers care for their critters. Its volunteers make sure pets are fed and taken to the vet. They survive on donations. It's a mission with a lot of heart that deserves to be supported.

Click here to visit the website.

And I'm Stuck in the Office.......

Doesn't this look heavenly? From Karen Bigham of Jacksonville.

Dog: Algebra, aka Algie.
Human: Richard, aka husband.
Venue: Lake Lure, NC, aka "one of the 10 most beautiful man-made lakes in the world [rated] by National Geographic magazine," according to Karen.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What's That, Girl? You're Looking for a New Best Friend?

That's how the press release announcing "Lassie's My Pet, My Pal" contest, begins.

NEW YORK, NY (July 25, 2006) - Lassie, The World's Most Famous Dog, kicks off her national "My Pet, My Pal" contest today. Lassie is looking for a new best friend to appear on packages of her new dog food, Lassie Natural Way - and, it just might be your dog!

Starting today, Lassie invites dog owners to upload photos of their beloved pooch to her official website at for consideration. One grand-prize winner will receive:

A year's supply of Lassie Natural Way dog food.
An all expense paid 3-day trip to Los Angeles to meet Lassie - in the fur!
A special cameo for their dog on Lassie's upcoming TV show or TV appearance.

The winning pet will also appear alongside Lassie on the front of thousands of Lassie Natural Way dog food packages. The grand-prize winner will be announced in November.

For "My Pet, My Pal" contest details, rules and regulations, please log onto

Lassie is one of the most enduring figures in entertainment history, with eleven movies and 691 TV episodes to her credit. She has come to symbolize trust, loyalty and friendship. Lassie's two-time Emmy Award-winning TV series is one of the longest running programs in television history and has been seen in more than 100 countries around the world. Lassie is currently on a 5-month cross-country tour to promote pet health. Her latest movie, "LASSIE" opens in theaters on September 1st. Long onto for more movie information.

Go Girl, find Timmy in the mineshaft!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Man's Best Friend Helps Save His Life

This is an amazing tale of a man whose dog saved his life (from a marauding bear) then the man had to save the dog's life. Click here for the story.

Leaving Pets in the Car in Summer: Bad Idea

C'mon, now - isn't this a no-brainer? Haven't we all read too many stories about animals (and children) left in cars during the summer and dying of heat stroke? GET THE MESSAGE, PEOPLE! Just don't do it!

Here's the latest pet to pay the price: a bird. Click here for the story.

Terri: This One's for You

Faithful blog reader Terri Contillo recently had a sad loss in her family. I hope that posting this photo of her sweet "girls," Mia Bella (left), and Chanel, puts a smile on her face.

And here's Chanel by herself.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Time for More Pet Pix

From Lidia Granara, this charming photo of Lulu and Lulo, "sister and brother. Lulo is 2, and Lulu is 1. They are lovely puppies, they love each other, and we love them so much. They are like my babies."

They share the house with Tommy, who is 14, seen here in his playhouse. He "likes to play with his toys a lot, and also sleep. He is the sweetest cat in the world, and we love him so much as a member of our family," Lidia writes.

Sounds like a warm, happy family.

Obit of a Legendary Trainer

Arthur Haggerty, dog-training pioneer, recently died in Florida. Click here to read the New York Times obit and see the picture.

Lawsuits Over Lost Katrina Pets

There are custody battles going on involving pets rescued from Katrina-hit areas, taken to shelters, then adopted out. Now some original owers are crying foul, and suing to get their animals back.

To read the story, from the Akron Beacon Journal, click here.

Ringo Necropsy is In

From Local 10 news:

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. -- The preliminary results of a necropsy on a dog whose owner says it was killed by an exorcism show that the dog was asphyxiated.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of the German shepherd puppy.

Lisa Berstien said that she took her dog, Ringo, to trainer Jill Deringer after Petco referred her to the trainer. Deringer is employed by Petco.
Berstien said that Deringer came to her home Sunday to perform a procedure on Ringo. Berstien said the dog need to be "exorcised" to "get bad endorphins that made him hyper out of his system."

Berstien said that Deringer muzzled the dog and sat on him. She said that Deringer had her hold her dog's paws still while the trainer barked in the dog's ears and poked the dog in the head and stomach for about an hour.

Berstien said the dog began foaming at the mouth and lapsed into unconsciousness. She rushed the dog to an animal hospital, where it later died.

The necropsy indicated that the dog had become dehydrated and lapsed into unconsciousness before he died.

The state attorney's office is also investigating the incident. Deringer could face criminal charges in the dog's death.

Click here to see Ringo's picture.

Ringo Controversy Rages

Note to anyone not reading the comments on this: Please do. Click on "comments," read, and weigh in if you're so inclined. This blog template, unfortunately, doesn't allow for comments to appear on the site; you have to click to get to them. There's some possibility that will change in the near future, but I'm not counting on it.

One of the best points was made by Zoe, who agreed with me that there are usually two (or more) sides to every story, but the only "side" that really counts is Ringo's: He died a horrible death. That's not in dispute, it's irrevocable, and everyone involved should be called to account for it.

Another excellent point made is that trainers aren't licensed, and they should be. I agree, given the potential damage that can be done to animals and their human families by an incompetent trainer.

And while I've always scoffed at the notion that bad things become less bad if something positive comes of them - dead is dead, after all - it WOULD be a positive thing if serious consideration is given to licensing because Ringo's death has brought awareness of the problem. I know several top-notch, respected trainers and I don't think they'd object to this (I could be wrong; I'll check with them today to find out).