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Culture Corner

Scribblings and Screenings for the Animal Set

A Touch of Grey

Sure, they move more slowly, and their muzzles may be going grey, but photographer Garry Gross saw something special in senior dogs: wisdom, history, sadness, and, most unexpectedly, beauty. “Senior dogs are often the ones that get overlooked on the street or in a shelter, but Garry saw a lifetime of experience in their old and wizened faces,” writes celebrity dog trainer and TV host Victoria Stilwell in Beautiful Old Dogs: A Loving Tribute to Our Senior Best Friends. The book collects striking portraits of older pooches by Gross, a veteran fashion photographer who also worked as a professional dog trainer before his death in 2010. Beautiful Old Dogs, edited by David Tabatsky, also features short essays by a range of authors—from Gross’s friends, family, and co-workers to such well-known figures as bestselling author Dean Koontz and actress Marlo Thomas—on the joys and sorrows of owning dogs, watching them age, and saying goodbye. “Ultimately, Garry wanted to make people see the beauty, dignity, and character of these senior dogs,” writes Leslie Jean-Bart, who assisted Gross at his photography studio. “He wanted all of us to be as excited about these dogs as we are about puppies.” In his introduction, Tabatsky describes Beautiful Old Dogs as a call to action that he hopes will inspire shelter visits and adoptions.

Sad Tale at SeaWorld

“There’s a dead person at SeaWorld,” a caller informs the emergency dispatcher. “A whale ate one of the trainers.” Thus begins the story of the death of Dawn Brancheau, a veteran SeaWorld Orlando trainer, and Tilikum, the long-suffering orca who brutally attacked and killed her following a public performance in 2010—his third fatal victim in 27 years of captivity. Fast-paced and emotionally charged, the documentary Blackfish—now available on DVD—juxtaposes industry spin against interviews with former SeaWorld trainers and evidence from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation following Brancheau’s death. (The investigation resulted in a fine and limits on physical contact between trainers and orcas; OSHA recently slapped the marine park with an additional fine for failing to implement the safeguards.)

Eyes Wide Open

Lil Bub might be one of the Internet’s favorite felines, but much about this diminutive cat remains shrouded in mystery. Did you know, for instance, that Lil Bub is a she? That she comes from outer space? And that she lives with a bearded dude, and is always on the lookout for “fishes”? All this and more can be discovered in Lil Bub’s Lil Book: The Extraordinary Life of the Most Amazing Cat on the Planet. The book is a brisk and amusing read, relating the adventures of the heart-melting kitty with the wide green eyes and perpetually present rosebud of a tongue—from her crash landing on Earth in a space pod, to her chance meeting with her dude and caretaker (Mike Bridavsky of Bloomington, Ind.), to her eventual conquering of the world with her tiny magnificence. Though born with a variety of genetic abnormalities (including extreme dwarfism, a short lower jaw, and extra toes on every paw), it hasn’t stopped her from acquiring 302,000 “likes” on her Facebook page, and starring in Lil Bub & Friendz, a 2013 documentary that won the Tribeca Online Film Festival award for Best Feature Film. Plus, it’s her priority to raise money for animal welfare charities, and spread awareness about spaying/neutering, rescuing, and adopting pets.

Doing a Hard Job Well

As a movement, we are now, thankfully, closer than ever to the day when euthanasia will be necessary only for animals who are suffering or are too aggressive to live safely in our communities. But whenever euthanasia needs to be performed, it’s critical that it’s done as humanely as possible. The updated Euthanasia Reference Manual from The HSUS is designed to be the definitive basic education tool for understanding the methods and techniques of performing humane euthanasia. This newly updated volume includes advice on managing rabies-suspect animals, the latest changes to “dosing for effect” recommendations, and other improvements. A PDF of the manual is available, and the print version can be ordered at

Read the rest of this issue from Animal Sheltering magazine

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