Conservation Dogs helping to protect endangered wildlife ARTIST: HELEN VIOLET DOG ADVOCATE: CATHY BISSEL UNLIKELY SIBLINGS THE LOVED DOG TRAINER TAMAR GELLAR
SIR DARIUS: MAKING A DIFFERENCE
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The love of all living creatures is the most notable attribute of man. ~ Charles Darwin
e hope that you and your dogs have been well during these recent outbreaks of the pandemic. The world continues to face numerous challenges, including the diminishing number of many of our wildlife species. Thankfully, dogs have proven to be a bright spot on this front, using their powerful senses to help locate and protect some of the world’s most endangered plants and wildlife. Award-winning writer and filmmaker Isabelle Groc writes about some of these Conservation Canines that are helping with critical research. A woman came to the rescue of a baby black panther. Since then an incredible relationship has developed between her Rottweiler and this beautiful, and now fully-grown, big cat. Learn more about these two unexpected best friends in our article on Luna and Venza. Before becoming a world-class dog trainer and behavior expert, Tamar Gellar studied the behavior of wild wolves in her native Israel. Belinda Jones recently interviewed Tamar about those experiences in her article that starts on page 50. Two individuals were inspired to take action after watching a huge influx of homeless dogs fill the shelters following some of the past decade’s devastating hurricanes. Dina Ruiz interviewed Cathy Bissel about her never-ending drive to help shelter animals. A passion that led her to establish the BISSEL Pet Foundation. And a young New Jersey boy who was also motivated to do what he could to help get homeless dogs adopted. Read more about Darius and what this amazing young man continues to do to help dogs. The talented artist featured in this issue works in both 2D and 3D. Learn more about Helen Violet and have a look at some of her drawings and highly detailed “mini-mes.” Also read “Rescue Me” about a local vet who stepped up to give a new and better life to a homeless Pit Bull in need.
Woofs! Scott and Carie Broecker
CARIE BROECKER Publisher Editor SCOTT BROECKER Photographer SCOTT BROECKER Graphic Design OLIVIA CAJEFE TRINIDAD Ad Design OLIVIA CAJEFE TRINIDAD Contributors: PAM BONSPER ISABELLE GROC BELINDA JONES DINA RUIZ
Copy Editor/Writer CINDIE FARLEY Marketing Executive MICHELLE HAYES
Please direct letters to the editor to: carie@ coastalcaninemag.com 831-601-4253 Please direct advertising inquiries to: michelle@ coastalcaninemag.com 831-539-4469 Subscriptions are $40 per year within the United States. To subscribe, please send check payable to Coastal Canine, P.O. Box 51846 Pacific Grove, CA 93950 or subscribe online at www. coastalcaninemag.com/homedelivery.html. Join our online mailing list at www. coastalcaninemag.com. Coastal Canine Issue #53, Winter 2022. Published quarterly (four issues per year). Copyright © 2022 Coastal Canine. All rights reserved. Coastal Canine is dedicated to the memory of Sunshine Broecker. Disclaimer: Coastal Canine is intended for entertainment purposes only. Please seek professional assistance from your veterinarian or qualified dog trainer before implementing any information acquired within these pages. Any resources mentioned are provided as a convenience to our readers, not as an endorsement.
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Winter 2022 | coastalcaninemag.com | 7
cc | contents
Rudolf Nureyev, the Pit Bull Find out how a down-and-
Unlikely Siblings - Luna & Venza A Rottweiler and a
Cathy Bissell: Emptying America’s Shelters The name Bissel is synonymous with vacuum cleaners. But did you know that Cathy Bissel’s real passion is animals? Dina Ruiz talks with Cathy to find out about her plan to help empty animal shelters across the country.
Artist Interview – Helen Violet Canadian artist, Helen
Wildlife’s Best Friends: How Dogs Help Find and Protect Endangered Species Conservation Dogs
out homeless Pit Bull came to be named after a famous ballet dancer and find the home of his dreams.
black panther play together in the Siberian woods. What? This powerful duo plays rough and tumble, but all in a day’s fun. Read about how this friendship began.
Violet, captures her canine subjects in both 2d portraits and 3d hand-sculpted art pieces. Have a look at some of Helen’s work and learn more about her in our recent interview with her.
help track endangered species. From an endangered mouse to a butterfly to a whale, these amazing dogs are helping researchers strengthen our ecosystem.
Tamar Geller: Inspired by Wolves Before becoming
a world-class dog trainer and behavior expert Tamar Gellar studied the behavior of wild wolves in her native Israel. Belinda Jones recently interviewed Tamar about those experiences.
A Little Boy with a Big Heart Sir Darius is a young man from New Jersey. For the last 5 years five years, he has been visiting shelters and donating his homemade bow ties to help each dog stand out and increase their chances of finding a forever home.
On the Cover: Australian Cattle Dog Alli is looking for the elusive Oregon spotted frog in a wetland of British Columbia, working alongside her human partner, Heath Smith. Alli used to be a drug-detection dog before taking on a job in conservation. Alli has assisted in many wildlife conservation projects over the years and is now retired, with Heath, from Rogue Detection Teams. She will be celebrating her 18th birthday on April 7, 2022.
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C OA S TA L CA N I N E M AGA Z I N E A D D I R E C T O R Y AGILITY
California Canine........................ 52 From the Heart........................... 61
Paws and Prints........................... 4
BOARDING Dawg Gone It............................. 17
BOOKS Cats are People Too................... 42 Dogs are People Too.................. 42 Legend....................................... 40
CBD Golden Pet Life............................. 4
CLEANING PRODUCTS Uricide....................................... 13
DAY CARE Dawg Gone It............................. 17 Paws at Play............................... 61
Cypress Inn................................ 25
Suds ‘N Scissors..................... 18
Birchbark Foundation................. 30 FOWAS....................................... 60 Max’s Helping Paw..................... 60 Peace of Mind Dog Rescue............................41, 62
HEALTH & WELLNESS A Herman Dog Therapist............ 40 Aguajito Veterinary Hospital......... 3 Animal Cancer Center................. 31 Animal Hospital of Salinas......... 61 Animal Hospital of Soquel............ 3 Cottage Veterinary Care............. 19 Dentistry For Animals................ 40 Monterey Peninsula Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Clinic...................... 30 Natural Veterinary Therapy......... 52 Ophthalmology for Animals....... 41 Pacific Grove Animal Hospital...... 6 Steinbeck Country Small Animal......................... 18 Toro Park Animal Hospital.......... 59
REAL ESTATE Keller Williams, Rachelle Razzeca................... 41 Keller Williams, Eddie Williams....................... 57
Pet Pals........................................ 2 The Raw Connection.................... 5
TRAINING California Canine........................ 52 Del Monte Kennel Club............... 62 Divine K9.................................... 62 From The Heart Animal Behavior Counseling and Training........ 61 Monterey Bay Dog Training Club......................... 62 Pam Jackson.............................. 61
WHALE WATCHING Monterey Bay Whale Watch....... 18
RESTAURANTS Abalonetti................................... 61
STORES Carmel Dog Shop....................... 64 Earthwise Pet............................. 60
contact us at michelle@ coastalcaninemag.com or call (831) 539-4469
PAWS & PRINTS Tim van den Berg combined his lifelong love of dogs with his longtime passion for photography when he started Paws&Prints in 2021. He had moved to Carmel the year before to be near and help his aging parents, after living in the Bay Area for 45 years. He’d raised his three kids there and had a range of careers from software design and test engineering to record production and life coaching. Tim has traveled around the world with his camera and always has it with him. Photography is just one of the ways he loves to inspire others, along with his other creative interests in writing, speaking, and music. When Tim is photographing dogs, his aim is to capture them at their “most dogness.” His approach is to pose himself rather than
the dog. And then he waits, relying on his ability to anticipate that right moment. He wants to present each dog in all its “dog glory” to its family.
Paws & Prints Tim van den Berg www.pawsandprintsllc.com
Tim’s love of dogs extends to his ongoing advocacy for rescues. He’s fostered and adopted many dogs over the years, and his experience with Bully rescues provided a profound experience for him in dealing with the concept of stigma. He also has a deep understanding and appreciation of the role dogs play as emotional support animals. Moving forward with Paws&Prints, Tim plans to offer his services to rescues, hoping his compelling images would help dogs find their forever homes. If he had one wish, he says it would be that he himself could rescue “every single dog in the USA.” Paws & Prints also offers dogwalking and care services. For more information on all services or to reach Tim: www.pawsandprintsllc.com. Winter 2022 | coastalcaninemag.com | 9
cc | community board
PROFESSIONAL DOG PORTRAITS Send us a painting, drawing, or photo of your dog that’s good enough to frame or in a frame already. Email photo (at least 800 x 800 pixels) to firstname.lastname@example.org or text the photo with the words “community board” to 831-601-4253. Submission deadline is April 10, 2022. 12 | coastalcaninemag.com | Winter 2022
rescue me | rudy
Rudolf Nureyev T H E P I T B ULL By Carie Broecker I first saw Rudy’s story on Facebook on November 5, 2021. Lynn and Kate, two women who are dynamos in the art of advocating for the animals of homeless people, had posted his story.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF DR. ARTEAGA
Rudy is a senior Pit Bull. Lynn and Kate were doing their rounds at the homeless encampment in Salinas, handing out pet food and seeing if anyone’s pet needed to be altered or vaccinated or referred to low-cost veterinary care for any urgent medical needs. They noticed this grey-faced gentle giant roaming from person to person, tent to tent, looking for a handout. No one had the bandwidth to give him much notice. Except Lynn and Kate. Now these are two ladies who have seen a lot in their 30+ years each 14 | coastalcaninemag.com | Winter 2022
rescue me | rudy
We are asking from the bottom of our hearts that someone out there help us keep that promise. This old, gentle, sweet senior needs a home, a foster, someone to make it right. I know it’s one old dog in a sea of homeless dogs. I see him as a starfish. One starfish at a time. His life must count. offer a safe haven so he was driven to the shelter for a stray hold. We promised him he would not be left and forgotten and that we would be his voice.
advocating for animals and working in rescue and disaster relief—but seeing Rudy looking defeated and desperate touched their hearts and souls beyond measure. The post I read was from Kate. “We found this dog alone, tired, a broken leash dragging around his gaunt neck. Looking hopeful, he slowly moved from car to car, among the homeless, asking for help, only to be shooed away. Not pretty, not a puppy, everyone he met was repulsed by him. From across the street, we saw he was in trouble. Each step seemed harder than the last, he was defeated, alone, and on the street in China Town maneuvering between trash, needles, filth. This is in Salinas, California. “Lynn brought him food and water and he looked at us with dull, sad eyes and gave me a kiss and started to eat and eat. The decision was made to immediately get him off the street. None of us could
“We are asking from the bottom of our hearts that someone out there help us keep that promise. This old, gentle, sweet senior needs a home, a foster, someone to make it right. I know it’s one old dog in a sea of homeless dogs. I see him as a starfish. One starfish at a time. His life must count.” Being in rescue for 25 years, I know how many Pit Bulls need help. They’re a tough breed to find a foster home for and a tough breed to find an adopter for. I wished him well in my heart and hoped that some kind soul would read Kate’s post and give this sweetie the home he deserved. He did his stray time, and I wasn’t surprised when a few weeks later I got a text from the shelter asking if the rescue I work for, Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, could take this pup in. From the moment I saw Kate’s post, I knew that if we were asked, we would jump at the chance to help him. Gina, from the shelter, brought him to our office to meet a variety of dogs in different shapes and sizes and temperaments to ensure that he had a gentle Winter 2022 | coastalcaninemag.com | 15
rescue me | rudy
personality and wouldn’t show any aggression. He was polite with all of them, except he did raise his lip at one dog. Uh-oh, what was that? We all gave him the benefit of the doubt and decided that his lip raise was actually a smile? Have you ever seen a Pittie smile? They do! Next step was a meet and greet with his foster family. Fingers crossed he’d do well with his foster brother and sister (also Pit Bulls,) and that any “smiling” would be tolerated by all. His foster mom happened to be Dr. Theresa Arteaga, the owner of Animal Cancer Center. She is a Pit Bull advocate and has rescued many, many Pitties. They have a predisposition to several types of cancer, so she also treats and saves the lives of many Pitties in her busy practice. Dr. Arteaga saw the same Facebook post that I had seen. What can I say? It’s a small town and animal people run in the same circles. Dr. Arteaga did the same thing I did. Saw the post. Wanted to help. But in a sea of dogs in need, 16 | coastalcaninemag.com | Winter 2022
decided to wait until asked. I had emailed Dr. Arteaga when we were looking for a foster home, and she said yes immediately. “I was already thinking about it,” she said. The meet and greet went great, and that is when Rudy got his name. Dr. Arteaga, an ex-ballerina herself, is a ballet lover. She named Rudy after Rudolf Nureyev, famous soviet-born Russian ballet dancer and director of The Paris Opera Ballet. And of course, Rudy for short. Within 48 hours, Dr. Arteaga let us know she would be adopting Rudy. He was home. Oh, and by the way, he has some mast cell tumors. He definitely landed in the right hands! He goes to work with Dr. Arteaga every day, and along with Paige, another senior POMDR adoptee, is the official greeter behind the front desk. His biggest talent that Dr. Arteaga has discovered? He can open refrigerators! So you have to be on your toes with this boy around. And yes, he does smile, and he even seems to laugh. At least he
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makes everyone around him laugh because he is a big loveable goofball. Thank you to Kate, Lynn, Mary, Teri, Gina and everyone involved in helping to keep the promise to this pup that he would have the best life ever.
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Winter 2022 | coastalcaninemag.com | 17
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Winter 2022 | coastalcaninemag.com | 19
By Carie Broecker
he video shows a beautiful black panther in the snow in the woods of Siberia. She crouches, her eyes narrow, her hind end shifts from side to side. Anyone who has ever had a house cat or watched a National Geographic special about big cats recognizes the body language. This cat is about to pounce on her prey.
Along comes a big, happy-go-lucky Rottweiler. He is running and playing and enjoying the snow. The cat leaps, landing on his back. Oh no! The poor Rottie! They tumble in the snow together, rolling over several times, and then the panther goes in for a bite. This turns out to just be a gentle play bite and a few tender nibbles on the Rottie’s ears. Soon they are preening together and engaging in obvious play. How can this be? How did these two become such good friends, so playful and trusting of one another? Flashback to early 2020. While the rest of the world was coping with the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic, a panther gave birth to a litter of cubs in a Siberian zoo. At some point in the first week of caring for her kits, the mama flung one of the babies out of the den. Presumably, this was the runt of the litter and mama was just doing what nature does. She was conserving her milk for those most fit to survive.
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P H O TO S C O U RTE S Y O F LU N A TH E PAN TER A
dog of the day | luna & venza
Luna’s relationship with Venza became very important to her. Young felines need to learn to play safely, to learn bite inhibition with their playmates, to be enriched, to be social. Venza provided all those outlets for Luna. And as Luna grew into the graceful wild cat that she is, she needed and wanted more and more exercise. It was a few days before the zoo staff realized the cub had been abandoned. She was cold, malnourished, ill, and near death. They contacted a woman known as Victoria for help. (Victoria prefers to stay anonymous for the safety of herself and Luna.) Victoria had experience raising wild cats. She agreed to care for the sick cub and nurse her back to health. She named the little panther “Luna.” When the cub was only eight days old, Victoria started bottle feeding her and providing proper medical care and nutritional supplements to help save her life. It was several months before Luna was strong enough and stable enough to stop worrying about if she would survive. When Luna was 10 weeks old, Victoria carefully introduced her to her female Rottweiler, Venza. Right away Venza was very interested in Luna. She was not aggressive with her. She was very maternal with her. She wanted to preen her and care for her. They visited with each other for short periods daily until Victoria was comfortable with them interacting for more extended periods. They soon became the best of friends. Luna grew from a
22 | coastalcaninemag.com | Winter 2022
tiny kitten that fit in the palm of Victoria’s hand to the healthy two-year-old panther she is today, climbing trees and leaping 10 or more feet with little effort. Luna’s relationship with Venza became very important to her. Young felines need to learn to play safely, to learn bite inhibition with their playmates, to be enriched, to be social. Venza provided all those outlets for Luna. And as Luna grew into the graceful wild cat that she is, she needed and wanted more and more exercise.
Winter 2022 | coastalcaninemag.com | 23
dog of the day | luna & venza
Venza and Luna learned to run, play, pounce, and wrestle with each other safely. Luna is now fully grown, healthy, and thriving. She is still slightly smaller than Venza. She is also very bonded to Victoria, her “human mom.” While Luna was teething and growing, Victoria spent a lot of time letting her “chew” on her hands and fingers, giving her cues to know when she was being too rough. Luna is so happy living with Victoria and Venza, that Victoria could not stand the thought of her going back to live at the zoo. She arranged with the zoo to purchase Luna so she can continue to care for her and keep her safe. 24 | coastalcaninemag.com | Winter 2022
Although Luna was raised indoors with lots of playtime outdoors, Victoria built a large outdoor enclosure for her to give her more space. At two years old, Luna is doing very well, but she would not survive on her own so she cannot be released back into the wild. Victoria vows to do what is best for Luna’s health and happiness as she grows older. If that one day means living in a sanctuary, she is open to that. But for now, Luna the “pantera” and Venza the Rottweiler are inseparable. Victoria can’t imagine splitting them up. Whether they are riding in the back of the SUV together, curled up for a nap, dressed in costumes
dog of the daycategory | luna &|venza topic
Luna is so happy living with Victoria and Venza, that Victoria could not stand the thought of her going back to live at the zoo. She arranged with the zoo to purchase Luna so she can continue to care for her and keep her safe. and posing for Halloween or Christmas photos, drinking out of the same water bowl, or romping through the woods, these two are besties through thick and thin. To view many gorgeous photos and videos of Luna and Venza go to Luna_the_Pantera on Instagram. That page will also take you to her YouTube channel and TikTok page.
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Winter 2022 | coastalcaninemag.com | 25
cc | cathy bissel
CATHY BISSELL: Emptying America’s Shelters By Dina Ruiz
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF CATHY BISSEL
26 | coastalcaninemag.com | Winter 2022
Lives are on the line. You can’t turn it off. If animals are gonna be euthanized, you’ve got to respond! I’m working with a lot of rural shelters. They have nothing. Right now, we’re in the process of helping a shelter in Louisiana, and the Sheriff called me today to say, ‘You can’t imagine what this is doing for our community.’ Buying a Bissell vacuum helps spay and neuter programs across the country. The purchase of a carpet shampooer aids in establishing an animal shelter. Simply put, we clean up after our pets and it helps Cathy Bissell save lives. You’ve used or seen Bissell products for decades—shampooers, vacuums, steam cleaners, floor-care helpers. But you might not know that the director of corporate affairs (and wife of CEO Mark Bissell) has a grand plan to empty America’s animal shelters. In her corporate position, Cathy Bissell is part of
pet-specific product design. She fosters new ideas
for equipment to help all of us who have two things: pets and floors. Bissell holds a patent for a product called “Shed Away” that helps with at-home pet grooming, and she uses her family’s creations just like many of us—her favorite is the Bissell
CrossWave®, a lightweight wet/dry vacuum. She’s fearless, determined, and tenacious with animal
causes, establishing the BISSELL Pet Foundation in
2011—a time when many corporations were pivoting into advocacy. “Social consciousness is great, but
this grew authentically,” Bissell says. “We started off small, and it just kept growing. We now have 5,500 shelter partners (in all 50 states and Canada). We give out millions of dollars a year for transport, to help shelters, and for spay and neuter. I honestly
never imagined it would be this, and I never imagined the happiness—and the sadness. If you care and you are in knee-deep, you’re gonna see the sadness. It’s a challenge.” The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina kick-started the formation of the foundation. Bissell had never been to an actual shelter, didn’t have the stomach for it, knew she’d leave in tears. But some friends asked her to get involved in helping animals who had been left homeless and misplaced after the massive storm. So, Bissell threw her first party to raise money for a Louisiana shelter. Subsequent parties picked up steam, and the money rolled in. Bissell says she wanted to divvy up the funds to other organizations. “I said to my husband, ‘How can I make this work? How about you give me a cut of your online sales for pet projects?’” He couldn’t say no. The BISSELL Winter 2022 | coastalcaninemag.com | 27
spayed, neutered. We’re actually saving new pet owners hundreds of dollars.” Back at her home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, six big dogs have the run of the house; most are seniors, one is blind, another has a bum leg that was almost amputated. Although Bissell doesn’t care what breed— or mix of many breeds—her dogs are, she wants to make something very clear to people who care about purebreds: They are in virtually every shelter. She showcases this point tirelessly for people, from friends to younger dog lovers she encounters who want a specific type of dog. “I do try to show in my social media posts that there are purebreds in shelters. I make posts that say, ‘Every time you purchase a dog, another one doesn’t make it.’ We need to be pulling Pet Foundation became official, and Cathy took on another title. And full-time job. That initial visit stoked a fire in Cathy Bissell that changed her life, and she now spends several days a month in shelters around the country. The lean blond with striking blue eyes is a “boots on the ground” commander, always searching for nonprofits and shelters that are deserving of help. She lives it, breathes it, and loses sleep over it. “I’m on 24/7. No lie. My husband is like, ‘Can you turn it off?’” she says with a laugh. “Lives are on the line. You can’t turn it off. If animals are gonna be euthanized, you’ve got to respond! I’m working with a lot of rural shelters. They have nothing. Right now, we’re in the process of helping a shelter in Louisiana, and the sheriff called me today to say, ‘You can’t imagine what this is doing for our community.’” The excitement and emotion of the call still bubbled in Bissell’s voice. Bissell is especially proud of her “Empty the Shelters” annual campaign, which started in 2016. The foundation selects then pays shelters so they can lower adoption fees to $25 dollars per animal. An astonishing 15,297 shelter pets went to new homes over two weeks in December of 2021. Forty-five states were represented. It cost the foundation more than one million dollars, and was worth every cent to Bissell, who says it’s a win-win for shelters and families. “They get a dog or a cat fully vetted, healthy,
28 | coastalcaninemag.com | Winter 2022
these dogs from shelters. People don’t realize there are so many beautiful dogs in shelters.” She references a photo of a glowing young lady cozying up to the French Bulldog she adopted during the recent Empty the Shelters event. Despite the successes, the steady flow of funds, and the bottomless passion, there’s always the stark reality
category | topic
of more to be done. Needs are met, then more needs arise. Bissell is realistic about the challenges. “One of the hardest parts is, I thought I’d be giving money away, but I realize I was a Band-Aid. My goal now is to get to the root of the problem, which is spay and neuter. I had a rough year last year. A lot of big dogs weren’t moving. Shelters were calling us that don’t euthanize animals saying that they were going backwards. It’s a community problem. Not a shelter
problem. I had a tough year, with all the animals I knew were getting euthanized. Shelter directors were calling saying ‘Can you help? Can you help?’” The Foundation did all it could, but it never felt like enough. So, Bissell decided to refocus her efforts with a mantra of sorts. She reached out to a friend of hers, a scientist who has maintained his focus during a 22-year project. “I asked how he kept going. He referenced a lapel pin he wears that says, ‘Believe.’ I decided to focus on that one word—believe. We’re gonna start 2022 with a 100 percent positive attitude, and I believe we can!” Cathy Bissell on Instagram: @Cathy_Bissell @Bissellpets
Dina Ruiz is a longtime Peninsula resident who has worked in the media for more than 20 years. She has been an anchor at KSBW-TV and featured on the TV shows “Candid Camera” and “Mrs. Eastwood and Company.” She is currently getting a master’s degree in creative writing at San Jose State University. Her Instagram handle is @dinaruiz.
Winter 2022 | coastalcaninemag.com | 29
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AL L PH O T O S C O U RT ES Y O F H EL EN VI O L ET
THE FINE ART OF
HELEN VIOLET by Scott Broecker
Imagine if you could shrink down your dog and hold him in the palm of your hand. As you gaze into your pup’s soulful eyes, he gazes back up at you adoringly. If your dog is still with you, this finely hand-sculpted replica would be their perfect lifelike “mini-me.” For dogs that have passed on, a touching, heartfelt keepsake to always remember them by. Helen Violet is a talented Canadian artist, based in Toronto, who creates these 3D miniature masterpieces. She also draws stunning gray scale portraits of dogs. One of these mini-mes, Winston the Chihuahua, is sculpted holding his favorite green toy, as he would in life. Each of these sculptures starts out as a twisted wire and foil armature. Slabs of rolled clay are applied, blended, and shaped before being slowly detailed from the tip of the dog’s nose to the wagging tip of their tail. On another, Helen flips her model of Rocky, a dark brown Bull Mastiff, upside down to paint the detail of his white speckled chest as well as the pads on his feet. Because of Helen’s commitment to accuracy and detail, each piece takes around 150 hours to complete. Each of these dogs is lovingly re-created by Helen, and each one has their own story. Helen appreciates the trust that her clients place in her to capture the essence of their fur babies. Hearing their stories of how these dogs have impacted their lives makes creating each piece a special and emotional practice for her. We interviewed Helen recently to learn more about her and her artwork:
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cc artist | helen violet
How long have you been creating dog sculptures? My first sculpture was created in 2015 as a gift. Prior to this, I focused solely on drawing but was always fascinated by sculpture. I thought it was beyond my capabilities until I purchased some clay and gave it a go. I’ve been alternating between drawing and sculpting since then.
Did you study dog anatomy? It wasn’t until I started creating and selling dog sculpture that I familiarized myself with dog anatomy. When I create a sculpture, I work from my client’s photos, but if necessary, I will also refer to images of the breed’s anatomy.
What is your art background? I knew at a very young age that I was passionate about art. I remember in Grade 1, my class was sitting in a
circle taking turns saying two things we might want to be when we grow up. My first answer was artist. Second, veterinarian! My passion for art, drawing in particular, continued to grow with me. I went to university for Fine Art, but I was not confident that I could make a living in art. I thought perhaps I would be an art teacher, but that wasn’t my true aspiration. The day I decided to make a dog sculpture and share it online changed the course of my life!
Do you alternate between drawing and sculpture, and have you done both with the same dog model? Yes, I alternate between the two. I love both, but I do find sculpting to be more taxing. So, it is nice to take breaks and refresh by alternating. These days, I tend to be drawing more, but I find that the skills I’m developing with the pencil can be transferred to clay.
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cc artist | helen violet
This year I was commissioned to both draw and sculpt a pair of Havanese. It was a good experience. The owner wanted a specific expressive look in their eyes in both pieces. Drawing their portraits first was a great way to study their features and expressions before recreating them in clay.
Do your sculptures require a working drawing? Or are you mostly working off of photos? I am mostly working from photos, but I always make sketches first to decide on position, proportions, and sizing.
The owner wanted a specific expressive look in their eyes in both pieces. Drawing their portraits first was a great way to study their features and expressions before recreating them in clay.
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If you are working off a photo, is it difficult to get your proportions correct? Yes, it is definitely challenging to imagine a 3D object from images, especially if photos from all angles of the pet aren’t available. This is why sketching the sculpture is important, as well as taking time with the underlying armature.
Do you always inquire about the dog’s story before beginning a portrait or clay model? Yes. Knowing about the pet I am modeling/drawing makes the process so much more enjoyable for me. It helps me connect to my work on a deeper level. It warms my heart to learn how special and unique each pet is to their owner. I’ve had the pleasure to read some lovely stories.
Did you grow up with dogs and other animals? I did! I begged my parents for a dog for years before my first dog Keisha entered my life on my 11th birthday. I can’t imagine not having a dog in my life. They offer so much love and joy and are a reminder to live life in the moment and to the fullest.
How did you progress so relatively quickly in honing your sculpturing skills? Having practiced drawing my whole life, I was able to transfer my observational skills to sculpture. It was a fun challenge for me to create something 3D—something I could hold. It then took years to refine my skills with a new material, and I am still honing those skills! With each piece, I am always experimenting, learning and working to improve my technique. Though, I think being able to capture personality in my work comes from my love and passion for both art and dogs!
What parallels do drawing and sculpture have in common? The parallels, for me, are in how I approach the creation of the artwork. Both drawing and 36 | coastalcaninemag.com | Winter 2022
sculpting require good observational skills and an understanding of shape. I always focus on larger shapes in the early stages of drawing and sculpting before I refine and add detail, switching to a focus on smaller shapes. I find that practicing drawing fur helps me to sculpt it better, and vice versa. Fur isn’t about lines, it’s about shape!
What do you like most about drawing in gray scale over using color in your portraits? Despite art teachers’ urges to use color, I have always preferred gray scale. I am a graphite enthusiast! I love the simplicity of the medium. I find it relaxing and therapeutic to create something using one simple tool, one simple colour. The thought of colour feels hectic to me. If I use colour, it’s minimal and desaturated. For example, I may add a hint of colour to a portrait of a Husky with beautiful blue eyes. The only other time I use colour is to paint my sculptures. I always dread painting, but it must be done!
Do you apply a fixative to your pencil drawings?
What kind of studio space do you use to work from? My studio space is very small and simple. It’s at home, and it’s a desk from Ikea with a cork board above, featuring photos of loved ones, to-do lists, and ideas.
Yes. I apply a fixative to protect the piece and to reduce graphite shine.
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full effort and attention. Sometimes, I might alternate between two pieces but any more than that would create stress for me.
Are your sculptures fired in a kiln before being painted? My sculptures are created with polymer clay. Polymer clay needs to be cured before I paint it. It is safe to cure in my oven at home.
How far ahead are you booked for commissions?
At what point did your sculptures and drawings start to gain more attention from a wider audience? It happened quickly and unexpectedly! I created my first dog sculpture as a gift to my husband (then boyfriend) in 2015. He loved it so much, he thought it would be a good idea to make and sell them. I wasn’t so sure. At the time, I had just finished my Bachelor of Education (following my Bachelor of Fine Art) and was looking for a job as a teacher —a job I didn’t truly want. I was still in the mindset of “I can’t make a living making art.” I thought I may as well post on Instagram and see if anyone was interested, and within a month or two, I was booked for a year and getting a lot of online features. I couldn’t believe it actually! I’ve been making a living doing what I truly love ever since. I’m so grateful.
Do you work on numerous pieces at once, so to speak? I prefer to focus on one project at a time, giving it my
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I open commissions a few times a year, accepting a limited number of orders each time. I’ll book myself for a few months at a time before opening for more orders. Doing it this way helps me to avoid getting overwhelmed, and it also offers me some freedom if I need a break from commissions to focus on a personal drawing or sculpture.
Is it difficult for you to box and ship a piece after spending so many hours working on it?
Absolutely! It’s hard to say goodbye! Especially to my sculptures. I feel like they are my babies, and I always wish them safe travels to their forever home. Haha. But I am so happy they will be loved and cherished.
Was it extra special to work on dogs like Instagram star Tuna and American Humane Society Hero Dog winner Harley? It was so special and such an honour. Harley’s sculpture was commissioned as a gift and was given to his mom at his celebration of life event after he passed. Being able to watch Harley’s mom open his sculpture and seeing her reaction was an indescribable feeling. It brought tears and really made me feel purpose in what I do.
How would you like your artwork to progress in the future, and would you ever consider doing a larger sculpture? I would like to continue to hone my skills by experimenting and trying new mediums and techniques. Most importantly though, I want to continue to focus on enjoying the process of creation. This is how soul is translated to a piece. It’s how personality and emotion are captured. I’ve also wanted to take more time for myself to create personal pieces and share more of myself in my work. I’ve imagined creating a life-size sculpture! Though, polymer clay wouldn’t be suitable for that. Maybe someday I will experiment with a new material so I can go big! helenvioletart.com facebook.com/helenvioletart
Winter 2022 | coastalcaninemag.com | 39
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“Insightful, funny, beautifully drawn cartoons about man's best friend, our wonderful dogs. Dave's book is a real joy.” ~ Patrick McDonnel MUTTS cartoonist
Cartoonist Dave Coverly with his precious pup Macy. 42 | coastalcaninemag.com | Winter 2022
The Little Terrier Who Captured the Hearts of a Nation
Betty White: A Lifetime of Love for Animals In Memoriam – Betty White January 17, 1922 – December 31, 2021 Betty White was one of the best-known celebrity animal advocates in the world. Her love of animals was instilled in her from childhood. Her parents were animal lovers and took care of many pets during the depression. Betty’s love of animals blossomed in the 1970s on the set of The Pet Set, which highlighted celebrities and their animals.
and was often featured on Betty’s Instagram page. After Pontiac passed away in 2017, Betty said she didn’t want to bring in somebody new because she didn’t want to leave them behind when she died.
Betty and her late husband, Allen Ludden, purchased a home in Carmel in 1978. She enjoyed spending time on the Central Coast and was a supporter of our local SPCA for Monterey County.
In honor of Betty White, animal lovers were encouraged to donate to their favorite animal charity in her memory. Dubbed the #BettyWhiteChallenge, the virtual event started within days of her death at the age of 99 and led up to her 100th birthday celebration. The movement was a huge success. No one has the total figure donated in honor of Betty White, but local rescue groups report an overwhelming response. The #BettyWhiteChallenge will continue to inspire animal lovers to remember Betty and help support the causes that were so dear to her heart. It is never too late to give and to make a difference. That is how Betty would have wanted it.
Over the years, Betty shared her life with many dogs. It is reported that she had welcomed 26 individual dogs into her life throughout her adult years. Her last dog was Pontiac, a Golden Retriever. Pontiac was a career-change guide dog
Rest in Peace, Betty. You have left your mark on the world, and the people and animals who loved you will never forget you. We will carry on your advocacy for those who can’t speak for themselves.
Betty worked with and supported many animal welfare organizations and lent her voice and her celebrity to many animal causes. She was best known for her involvement with the Los Angeles Zoo, the Morris Animal Foundation, the African Wildlife Foundation, and Actors and Others for Animals.
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cc | dog of the day
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© Isabelle Groc
Wildlife’s Best Friends: How Dogs Help Find and Protect Endangered Species
By Isabelle Groc ndangered species are hard to find. Their numbers are small. Their habitats are hard to navigate. They hide. In the race against extinction, some researchers are calling out the dogs to help.
A nose for conservation Alli, an energetic nine-year-old Australian cattle dog, moved swiftly over the spongy earth, cutting a sharp path through the knee-high grass of a wetland near Vancouver, British Columbia. Behind her, Monica Pearson, a conservation biologist, and Heath Smith, Alli’s partner, followed in hot pursuit. But Alli paid them no mind. Nose to the ground, she was focused on a mission.
spirited game of fetch. Pearson, meanwhile, focused on the frog, measuring its body length, checking its weight, and with an assist from another biologist, attaching a small transmitter belt.
Just as she approached the edge of a nearby pond, Alli stopped suddenly and lay down. She looked over at Smith, fixing him with a gaze that radiated both intensity and expectation. Smith and Pearson approached the dog, and Smith knelt down and started digging through the grass. Within a few seconds, he uncovered what had made Alli stop—a small, golden-eyed frog. “Yeah!” Pearson exclaimed, turning to Alli. “Good girl.” Mission accomplished. Smith reached into his pocket, pulled out a ball, and rewarded Alli with a
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© Isabelle Groc
“It was one of the most pivotal moments in my career. I realized that Alli knows more than me. What I have learned from her and other dogs is that if you open yourself up, they will show you a completely different world.”
This was no ordinary frog. Alli located an Oregon spotted frog, one of Canada’s most endangered amphibians. Historically, the distribution of the Oregon spotted frog extended from the southwest corner of British Columbia to the northeast corner of California. Today, it is endangered throughout its North American range. In Canada, just 400 to 700 frogs are left, distributed in six isolated populations in British Columbia. To conserve the frogs, it is critical to understand where they live and how they are using their habitat.
This changed when Alli—then a member of the Conservation Canines program at the University of Washington in Seattle—came along to help find the shy frogs. Dogs are nimble and fast and cover large areas in a short period of time, and their powerful nose can catch
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© Isabelle Groc
Trying to discover new populations in pockets of wetlands through traditional surveys is a time-consuming and unreliable process, particularly as it is difficult for people to move through these habitats. Surveyors walk slowly in knee-deep mud during the short frog-breeding season and can easily miss the frogs. “You need to send out an army of people to cover every inch of these wetlands,” Pearson says.
the scent of a species very quickly. “While you are walking on a straight trail, the dogs are just reading the newspaper all across the landscape,” says Pearson.
One of the benefits of using dogs for conservation is that the process is noninvasive compared with traditional wildlife detection methods such as radio collars or trapping. For example, radiotelemetry studies of Oregon spotted frogs are expensive, labor intensive, and damaging to the amphibian and its habitat.
© Isabelle Groc
Dogs like Alli are increasingly assisting in global wildlife conservation projects. In addition to tracking elusive or rare endangered animals and plants in rugged terrain, they find invasive species and fight wildlife trafficking by sniffing out illegally obtained animal products such as shark fins and elephant ivory. They can also be trained to detect scat samples from many different species, which can tell researchers everything from the animal’s diet and stress levels to their reproductive health and exposure to toxins and population abundance.
“There is almost unlimited use for the dogs,” says Smith, co-founder of Rogue Detection Teams, a Washington-based group that works with conservation canines. “So far there hasn’t been a project too big for the dogs.” Over the years, Alli located the scat of many cryptic species such as the Pacific pocket mouse, whose scat is as tiny as a grain of sand, and she has even found the scat (called frass) of the Oregon silverspot, an endangered butterfly that lives in coastal meadows from Washington to northern California. In 2021, Pips—another Rogue Detection Teams dog—detected the actual Oregon silverspot caterpillars, the first scientific observation of the species’ larvae in the wild in 40 years. Conservation canines can even sniff out scat in the water, and they have helped advance the scientific
understanding of the endangered southern resident killer whale population in Washington State. Thanks to the dogs, scientists have collected hundreds of scat samples, and discovered that the orcas went through unsuccessful pregnancies due to malnutrition and high stress. These findings were vital to advocate for better protection of Chinook salmon, the orcas’ main food source.
A job for unwanted shelter dogs Not any house pet qualifies to become a conservation canine. The ideal dog is highly energetic, intensely focused, and ball obsessed. Because of their unique personalities, detection dogs are not suitable as family pets and usually end up in shelters. They have little hope of being adopted unless they cross the path of
Winter 2022 | coastalcaninemag.com | 47
discovery to the handler. For a wildlife mission to be successful, the two-legged partner must understand what the dog is saying and support them in their search. While the canine’s job is solely to smell, the handler pays attention to changes in the environment and considers things such as wind speed and direction that can affect the dog’s ability to locate the odor. “Just like not every dog is a conservation canine, not every person is a bounder,” warns Jennifer Hartman, a bounder and field scientist for Rogue Detection Teams. PHOTO COURTESY OF ROGUE DETECTION TEAMS
The Dog Knows Rogue Detection Teams refers to the handlers that work with the dogs in conservation as “bounders” because they are bound to their dogs and to the ecosystems in they work in. For this group, the first rule of becoming a bounder is to trust the dog.
someone like Heath Smith, who is looking for these specific traits as the perfect match for working on wildlife search missions in rugged conditions for long periods of time. “We find an outlet for these dogs and give them a second chance,” says Smith. In the field, the dogs are happy to work all day, motivated by the expectation that they will get to play with their ball if they find evidence of their target species. Communication and teamwork are critical. Once the dog has identified the wanted scat or species, they will lie down next to their find and signal the
Hartman learned this as she was working with Alli on a marten-scat survey. That day, Alli was working fast. She suddenly stopped, turned, alerted, and waited for her partner to come over and inspect the spot. Jennifer looked and could not find anything. She called Alli away. But the dog stood her ground. In doubt, Jennifer went back to the spot, got down on the ground and started digging. To her shock, she found an underground cavity. She put gloves on, reached out into the dark hole, and found twelve marten scats. “I would have never found that without Alli,” she says. “It was one of the most pivotal moments in my career. I realized that Alli knows more than me. What I have learned from her and other dogs is that if you open yourself up, they will show you a completely different world.”
Isabelle Groc is an award-winning writer, conservation photographer, book author, and documentary filmmaker focusing on wildlife conservation, endangered species, and the relationships between people and the natural world. With masters degrees in journalism from Columbia University and urban planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she brings a unique perspective to documenting the impacts of human activities on threatened species and habitats. She is the author of Conservation Canines: How Dogs Work for the Environment, Gone is Gone: Wildlife Under Threat, and Sea Otters: A Survival Story. Her photography and stories have been published in magazines and news outlets all over the world, and she has written and directed a dozen films on wildlife and nature. Isabelle grew up in France and now lives in Vancouver, BC. To learn more, visit her website: isabellegroc.com and follow her on Instagram: @isabellegroc.
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cc | fern watt
DOGS ON DUT Y! “A beautiful book, filled with stunning images, on how our best friends are working to make the world a better place. Conservation Canines takes us from British Columbia to Namibia, following the work these incredible dogs and their human handlers are doing to guard some of our planet’s remaining wildlife. A joy to read for both children and adults.” —Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, authors of the New York Times bestseller The Genius of Dogs
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cc | tamar gellar
Tamar Gellar: Inspired by By Belinda Jones
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I do not see dogs as lower consciousness than us. If anything I can argue they are way more enlightened - they don’t care about money, politics, or how many followers you have on social media. They are steadfast in their desire to love and connect, so I admire dogs and honor dogs. My purpose is to help dogs be understood as the angels that they are in our lives.”
There are many ways you can describe Tamar Geller - Oprah and Lady GaGa’s dog trainer, author of The Loved Dog, former Israeli intelligence officer, petite blonde firecracker with a distinctively husky voice and a passion for helping dogs and humans reach optimum levels of communication. All of these apply, but to talk with her, to be in the presence of her quicksilver mind and radiant heart, and then witness her creating miraculous transformations with supposedly troubled dogs in a matter of minutes, it really takes things to a whole new level!
PHOTO COURTESY AHMAD QARMISH12
It is incredible to think her game-changing work began with a chance encounter with a wolf pack in 1987… Tamar was observing birds at a wildlife reserve set below the Edom mountain range in the Israeli desert when she got the opportunity to ride along to deliver an ibex carcass to a wolf pack. What she witnessed would change the course of her life and prompt a series of dreams telling her she must pursue dog training as her life’s calling. And yet… the experience was way more of a slow burn than it first appears. “The wolves in Israel do not look like the majestic wolves we are used to seeing depicted, they look more like coyotes. Nothing profound took place that first night. It was all very technical, no affection or
emotions on my behalf, I was simply observing the behavior. Today I compare it to going on a date and not realizing how amazing the person is until after you get to know them. I fell in love with them more and more over time, and it has become a long-term marriage.” To further explain this, Tamar quotes Tony Robbins who she describes as “one of my greatest teachers and now a dear friend.” “He says, ‘Replace expectations with appreciation.’ When I was observing the wolves I was participating without agenda and it guided me to my life’s calling without resistance.” Tamar says she still reflects on her months spent observing the wolf pack, which led to her signature theory that dogs are best understood as “part wolf, part toddler”. Interestingly, she notes that the balance of that mix is entirely based on each dog’s individual personality, as opposed to their breed. “I’ve known Poodle mixes to be super wolfy!” Tamar laughs. “It took me time to understand what I saw there in the desert, especially the whole concept of being alpha. Now I look back with three decades of experience in dog behavior and I see that when you are in a position of leadership - whether that is of a country, of your child as a parent, or of your wolf pack - you have the option of what kind of leader you want to be. One alpha way is ego-driven and fear-driven - these alphas are heavy-handed and try to control everyone. That’s the Sad-dam Hussein school of leadership. The other type is service-driven - instead of wanting people to be submissive, you want everyone to be the best version of themselves. That is the Gandhi school of leadership. You want to ask yourself, ‘If I am an alpha, which type do I want to be?’ You see this in animals too - the fear-based dogs Winter 2022 | coastalcaninemag.com | 51
Taking into account these two types of alpha, Tamar now curates the dynamic for her dog playgroups. “Right now I have a little Labradoodle puppy - 12 weeks old, about 15 pounds - and oh boy is he a Saddam Hussein type! So I put him with a very chilled group of older dogs, much bigger than him physically. If he becomes too much, they will put their foot down but there will be no fighting.”
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE LOVED DOG
snapping and acting in an aggressive way, while the other type of alphas are so confident, so chillaxed, that they don’t sweat the small stuff - but if push comes to shove they’ll let you know they are in charge.”
Addressing fear-based behavior is the new priority for Tamar. “Previously with my training methods I was building a good house but I realized I needed a stronger foundation. Impulse control training has become the first step to my method. I work with the dog one-on-one to develop a new neural pathway in his brain where he can let go of the fear. And when he lets go of the fear, he’s no longer trying to run the show. Now he can enjoy the camaraderie and his whole life more.” Tamar’s Golden Retriever Oliver perfectly exemplifies this relaxed approach. He is sitting beside her as we speak and she credits him with one of her most vital lessons in life. “As women, we are taught that it’s not okay for us to get angry. I see Oliver as a true leader because he is so peaceful and doesn’t get rattled but he does have boundaries and if necessary he will engage and defend himself. I think that as women we need to
learn it’s okay for us to say, ‘Don’t cross that line or I will become the wolf!’” It is exciting to hear Tamar talk about her ever-evolving inspirations and projects - as well as working on a third book, she’s creating a collection of herbal tinctures and toys to address the rampant anxiety she sees as the aftermath of the covid lockdown. “To be physically part of a pack at all times is in line with a dog’s DNA but then suddenly they have to be alone… I am trying to address that but I don’t think we can completely rid the dogs of anxiety as long as we as a people and a society are so anxious.” Tamar also laments that so much of dog training is frozen in the 1950s with five commands. “Sit, stay, come, down, and heal - and supposedly this is enough
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for a dog to live in our human society?” She shakes her head. “My goal is not to have the dog be submissive to me. I have a deep desire to see each dog become the best version of themself. Because that is where the magic is.” When clients come for a session with Tamar she begins by telling them to forget everything they know. “I don’t want you to give commands to your dog, I don’t even want you to use this tone of voice on your dog! Within minutes they see the dog they have problems with responding with a Ph.D. level of understanding without me giving a command or correction. It brings them to tears. They confess their frustration hearing themselves constantly saying no and making corrections. They say, ’We had a feeling there was genius in our dog, we just didn’t know how to get it out!’” Tamar beams: “For me to see the tears and the smiles in the people, and to see the dog look at them saying, ‘Now I can be safe with you now you understand me!
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Oh my god, that’s what I’m here on earth for!” It is incredible to think how a chance encounter with an Israeli wolf pack now impacts dog families all around the world. Tamar concludes by saying, “I do not see dogs as lower consciousness than us. If anything I can argue they are way more enlightened - they don’t care about money, politics, or how many followers you have on social media. They are steadfast in their desire to love and connect, so I admire dogs and honor dogs. My purpose is to help dogs be understood as the angels that they are in our lives.” Angels indeed. And when it comes to Tamar, it takes one to know one.
Belinda Jones is a dogbesotted British magazine journalist and bestselling author of eleven romantic comedy novels and a feeelgood road trip memoir titled Bodie on the Road - Travels With My Rescue Pup in the Dogged Pursuit of Happiness (Skyhorse Publishing). Her Instagram handle is @bodieeontheroad
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A Little Boy with
a Big Heart By Pam Bonsper
n the late summer of 2017, back-to-back hurricanes hit the Caribbean and the Gulf Coast causing widespread destruction, floods, and fatalities. Millions of people were affected and thousands of animals including wildlife, livestock, and pets were lost in the aftermath.
During those months, a young boy named Darius Brown (nicknamed Sir Darius) witnessed the horrors of the hurricanes and thought a lot about the animals who ended up in shelters. He wished he could do something to help them. But Sir Darius was only ten years old. A little boy who had been diagnosed at age two with speech comprehension difficulties and fine-motor delays, he was hardly in a position to do much. He lived with his mom, Joy, and his older sister, Dazhai, in an apartment in Newark, New Jersey. Although he kept thinking about the dogs in shelters who had survived the storms and craved having a dog himself, pets were not allowed in their apartment and it seemed impossible to do anything to help. There was something Sir Darius loved to do, and he had been doing it since he was eight. He loved to watch his sister sew and he enjoyed the sound of the sewing machine. He would pull up a chair and sit right beside Dazhai as she busily zipped through yards of fabric, sewing items for her cheerleading team and later making items for her own little business. His therapists encouraged his eagerness to engage with his sister; he would learn by mimicking her. After many months, Darius started bugging his mom to let him use a pair of scissors. So, she got some safety scissors and Dazhai began teaching him to use the sewing machine. “She taught me to make bows,” he explained to me during a phone interview. “But I’m a boy! I couldn’t wear bows in my hair. So my sister sewed the bows to straps and turned them into bowties. Then I started doing what she was doing: I started my own little business of selling bowties. And that’s when the hurricanes hit.” Darius drops his voice. “I was really hurt when I saw how terrible things were and how the dogs were being transferred to shelters in New York. I started to think—I was making bowties for people— maybe I could just pivot and make them for dogs. If people can look better with bowties, then why can’t dogs?”
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Sir Darius began sewing away and taking his bowties to animal shelters. “It really hurt me when I heard the dogs might be euthanized if no one adopted them,” he explained. “So I made it my mission to help as many dogs as possible to look their best. I know a bowtie makes me look better and it works the same way with dogs. Maybe they’d have a better chance of getting adopted.” Fast forward to today, and Sir Darius’s mission has not only become a reality but has catapulted him into international fame. His focus has always been on the dogs and making them look their best. “When I go to shelters and play with the dogs, my heart becomes a heart of joy,” he explains. “It inspires me to make more and more bowties and donate them. I love seeing the dogs in their bowties. It’s important how adorable and fashionable it makes them,” he continues. “The shelters tell me they really help; they have a big effect on people. I know they work because all the dogs with my bowties get adopted.” Because it matters so much, Sir Darius puts great thought into the bowties themselves. He uses bright colors and unique prints, tries different patterns, and does silly things like “putting really big bowties on tiny dogs.” When Sir Darius says, “the shelters,” he means the many, many shelters he has donated his bowties to.
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In the past four and a half years he and his mom have gone to numerous shelters in four states. In 2022 they will go to 25–27 shelters in 15 states. He can barely keep up with the demand and is looking for a manufacturer to help him out. I was interviewing him while he was home from boarding school for a few days in November. As soon as I hung up, I knew he would be right back at the machine sewing away. I asked Sir Darius about his future plans. “I want to make sure to finish high school and go to college. I’d like to be a business lawyer to help minority businesses. I’d also like to have a boarding house for dogs so people can come and spend some time with the dog they want to adopt. And I want to keep spreading awareness. And someday I look forward to having my own dog. I want to have lots of dogs!”
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“I was really hurt when I saw how terrible things were and how the dogs were being transferred to shelters in New York. I started to think—I was making bowties for people—maybe I could just pivot and make them for dogs. If people can look better with bowties, then why can’t dogs?” Here are just a few highlights of Sir Darius’s life since he began his project less than five years ago. In 2018, President Obama wrote him a letter of congratulations. In 2019, his mission went viral on social media, and he set up a Go Fund Me account and started Sir Darius’s PAW-SOME Mission. In 2020, he was recognized as the Go Fund Me Kid Hero and went to California to donate his bowties to The Barking Lot Shelter. Also in 2020, he was named an ambassador to the ASPCA. He has sent his bowties to every one of the fifty states and even to the UK and Thailand. He is now beginning to work with a shelter in Greece. It doesn’t stop there. Sir Darius has received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, the Daily Points of Light Award, the Hero to Animals Award from PETA, the (Princess) Diana Award, the New Jersey State Prudential Spirit of Community award as an honoree, and many awards from shelters.
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Two days before our interview, Darius’s mom received word that he was just selected to be one of 100 Global Child Prodigies of the World and will receive his award at a celebration in 2022 in Dubai. All this in less than five years! From a kid with learning delays. From a kid who loved dogs but couldn’t have one. From a little kid with a big heart who saw a need and did something about it. If only all of us could pivot and do a fraction of what Sir Darius has done. Perhaps helping him in his mission is a place to start: Go to Gofundme.com and search for Sir Darius.
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cc | the final word
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