Pet Tales: books honor special dogs




In the aftermath of the horror of Sept. 11, 2001, heroes emerged, and some of them were dogs. As many as 300 search and rescue dogs were deployed from all parts of the United States to search the smoldering rubble in Lower Manhattan and the Pentagon.

Not as well known are uncounted numbers of therapy dogs who comforted police officers, firefighters and the families of people who died in the terrorist attacks.

Thirty-three canines are memorialized in the new book, “The Dogs of Ron Burns: A Tribute to the Dogs of 9/11.”

Mr. Burns is a well-known artist who uses a wide palette of colors to paint dog portraits. Perhaps the most famous dogs of 9/11 are yellow Labrador retrievers named Sirius and Roselle, who are rendered in bright shades of orange, aqua, blue, green, red and purple.

That’s Sirius on the cover of the book. The explosive detection dog worked every day in the World Trade Center and was killed when Tower Two came down. His handler survived.

Guide dog Roselle was working on the 78th floor with her partner, Michael Hingson, when a plane hit Tower One. Trained by Guide Dogs for the Blind, Roselle led Mr. Hingson down 1,463 steps to safety -- just moments before the building collapsed.

Search and rescue dogs worked 12-hour days to recover body parts that could be identified and returned to the families of victims. Some dogs and handlers worked for weeks and even months.

And then there were the therapy dogs. A basset hound named Molly made 100 therapy visits at Ground Zero from September through May. For many months, a former street stray named Woody rode a police boat with people traveling from the Family Assistance Center to Ground Zero. If you’ve ever wondered what therapy dogs actually do, here’s a description from Woody’s handler, Lynne Lerner: 

“People would rush up to him and hug him and hold him. Some family members told Woody about their loved one. Some held him and wept ... Woody knew that his job was to be brave and to be strong for these grieving families, and he was. ... He was proud and I could see it in his eyes ...”

Though the dogs are painted in rainbows of colors, Mr. Burns is a master at capturing the facial expressions and eyes of the dogs, including sweet-faced Sky, a FEMA-certified search and rescue dog whose eyes are slightly crossed in the portrait, as they are in real life. Sky and Everest, another FEMA search and rescue dog, are black Labrador retrievers painted in dark shades of red, purple and green.

Mr. Burns, a former Arizona resident who lives and works in Fort Collins, Colo., self-published this book. It costs $19.95 and is available in the gift shop at the new 9/11 memorial, at www.ronburns.com/book and at Amazon.com

Another dog book

Tuesday is another dog who serves. The golden retriever is the constant companion of Louis Carlos Montalvan and the subject of a new book, “Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond Between a Soldier and his Service Dog” (Roaring Brook Press, $16.99). The 40-page book is billed as a children’s book, but adults are likely to enjoy it, too. It portrays a day in the life of the dog and his partner. It’s long on photographs by Dan Dion, with brief text by Mr. Montalvan and Bret Witter. 

Mr. Montalvan and Mr. Witter also wrote “Until Tuesday,” which was a New York Times bestseller in 2011. Mr. Montalvan served 17 years in the Army, retiring as a captain. Deployments to Iraq left him with a traumatic brain injury as well as post traumatic stress disorder.

Mutt Strut

The Animal Friends Mutt Strut 5K and Dog Walk presented by VCA Animal Hospitals is Sunday at Edgebrook Field in South Park. Registration starts at 8:45 a.m., the Run for Compassion 5K starts at 9:30 a.m. and the walk starts at 10 a.m.

The 5K run is for people only. The walk is for the dogs and their people. Registration is $25 for adults, which includes a T-shirt and goody bag. Kids age 15 and under get in for free. There’s a pet-friendly vendor fair and people can help organizers go for the largest dog selfie.

The event is on Corrigan Drive near the Allegheny County Fairgrounds. Look for directional signs and arrows. Proceeds benefit animals in the Ohio Township shelter. Go to www.ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org for more information.

Free pet fair

Dogs will get free “doggie soft serve” and other giveaways Sunday at Petagogy’s third-anniversary Party and Pet Vendor Fair. There’s lots of other things going on noon to 4 p.m. in the parking lot across from the Pittsburgh store at 5880 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside. Street parking is free on Sundays.

Pets are “encouraged to attend” and guests can meet adoptable pets from the Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center. Petagogy is a natural pet supply store and the fair will included representatives from more than nine natural pet food and treat companies, including Grandma Lucy’s and The Honest Kitchen. Petagogy customers will get 10 percent off their entire purchase.

Doggie Delights is doing “pupcake decorating,” Jenny Karlsson Photography is doing pet portraits and gift basket raffles will benefit Animal Rescue League.

For more information, go to www.petagogypgh.com or call 412-362-7387.

Museum event for dogs

Here’s a chance for dogs and their people to be exposed to culture. The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, is having a free event 11 a.m to 3 p.m. next Saturday called “Who Let The Dogs Out?’

Art and art-related activities will be held inside and outside the Westmoreland@rt30, 4764 State Route 30, Greensburg 15601. Dogs can only attend outside events, including meeting adoptable dogs from Pet Friends of Irwin. Although the event is free, it’s suggested that guests donate pet food to benefit homeless dogs.

There’s a dog gallery, and visitors are invited to bring a favorite pet image to add to the wall. Bring a T-shirt and make a screen print -- or buy a blank shirt from the museum. There will be stencil and spray paint art with artist Brian Gonnella, and people can make origami dogs, buttons and paw prints. There will be hot dogs and kielbasa.

Go to www.wmuseumaa.org for more information.

Therapy dog recognition

All the wonderful people who volunteer many hours with their therapy dogs can now get official American Kennel Club titles for their multitalented dogs, and that includes mixed-breed dogs.The AKC already awards a ThD title to therapy dogs, but this gives owners a chance to add more titles.

Therapy Dog Novice (ThDN) is awarded after 10 visits, Therapy Dog Advanced (ThDA) after 100 visits, Therapy Dog Excellent (ThDX) after 200 visits and Distinguished Therapy Dog (ThDD) after 400 visits.

Owners of dogs registered and approved by recognized therapy dog organizations can go to www.akc.org/dogowner/therapy/index.cfm to apply. Mixed-breed dogs are eligible for these titles if they are listed with AKC Canine Partners or enrolled in the Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program.

Dogs can earn these titles for therapy visits they’ve made in the past -- as long as the owner can document the visits. Applications for the new titles will be accepted beginning Sunday and titles will be awarded starting July 1.

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Contact Linda Wilson Fuoco on her Facebook page, lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064. 

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