Monday, October 15, 2012

Kayaking in the Chittenden Reservoir

On Friday afternoon, Peter and I took to the waters of the Chittenden Reservoir (Vermont) in kayaks. The weather was crisp and clear, and the water was clear and smooth (until we got to the middle of the reservoir where the wind was making it quite choppy). We paddled around for about 45 minutes and enjoyed the views of the Green Mountain National Forest. We're guessing we missed peak autumn colors by a couple of weeks. The trees were still beautiful, but much more subdued in color than we were expecting.

I thought this photo was hilarious -- Peter drifts behind me, on the phone!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Building them up just to knock them down

While on a long vacation weekend in Chittenden, VT, we took full advantage of the second-floor bookcase stuffed with games and puzzles. One of our favorites was a stacking game called Jumbling Tower. You start by building a 3x3 tower of brightly-colored wooden blocks. Then, taking turns, each player has to remove one block from the tower and add it to the top. Play continues until someone makes the wrong move and the tower falls over. You need a steady hand! Here are some photos of mom and Aunt Martha giving Jumbling Tower a spin.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

An autumn getaway in Vermont

We drove up to Chittenden, Vermont, today for a long weekend with my folks and my mom's cousin, Martha. It was about a 3.5 hour journey northwest of Boston, and it's abundantly clear that it's autumn in New England -- sunny but very chilly. The house where we're staying is a beautiful place right on a quiet lake with a private dock. No major plans - Peter is perusing some maps and brochures of some local attractions we'll probably hit tomorrow, but tonight, we're staying put, eating mom's homemade chili, and playing some games.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Hero Dog Awards - let the show begin!

After my official red carpet duties were completed, and I got to pose for photos with a few celebrities, we were escorted inside the Beverly Hilton ballroom for cocktails, dinner, and the evening’s events. We were seated way over at the extreme left side of the stage, but it was actually a great vantage point. Just 15 feet from my chair was the “staging area” where all of the celebrity presenters would wait for their cues to go onstage. It was also really cool to be in the room where the Golden Globes are handed out each year.

Singer-songwriter Jewel, a three-time Grammy nominee, performed several of her best-known songs at the event. Amazing talent. 

During the evening, the eight dogs who had been nominated to be crowned the 2012 "American Hero Dog" were each brought on stage and honored with a beautifully-produced video tribute. Each canine had already been voted "top dog" in their particular category; some 3 million votes were cast in an online contest. Now we were just waiting to see which dog would win the big prize. Here were the nominees (photos and write-ups from the American Humane Association website):


Entry Category: Emerging Hero Dogs

Charity Partner: Pine Street Foundation (Canine Cancer Detection)

Location: Nutley, New Jersey

“Gas chambers” represent an outdated method of destroying homeless animals. Many people do not realize that such methods of destroying homeless dogs and cats are still employed today. Each year, millions of homeless dogs and cats are euthanized through this cruel process. Rarely has any animal survived a gas chamber. However, in October 2011, from a gas chamber in an Alabama animal shelter, this unbelievable survival story became reality for Daniel the beagle. Through improbable odds, Daniel was still wagging his tail after the gas chamber that he was locked in killed eighteen other dogs. The animal control officer responsible for operating the gas chamber could not bear the thought of a second attempt at ending the life of this remarkable little dog. More.

Entry Category: Military Dogs

Charity Partner: United States War Dog Association
Location: Columbia, South Carolina

Gabe began his service to the United States of America as a Military Working Dog in 2006 and as such has had an impact not only on the life of Charles Shuck, his handler, but indeed American soldiers around the world. Gabe has been stationed from Fort Lewis, Washington, to Fort Bliss, Texas, to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Fort Hood, Texas. More.


Entry Category: Service Dogs
Charity Partner: International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP)

Location: Magna, Utah

Holly is my amazing 11-year-old seizure alert and response service dog. The bond and partnership with Holly has changed my life, and saved it on multiple occasions. Because of having Holly, I was able to graduate from college. Together we have traveled the country. I am so thankful for Holly every day we find ways to give back to the community by supporting charity fundraising efforts. Together, Holly and I have raised over $6,000 for different causes and charities in the past year alone. We have also gone to elementary schools to teach children about Service Dogs. Holly is beyond amazing, she is my Hero Dog! More.

Entry Category: Law Enforcement/Arson Dogs

Charity Partner: K9s4COPs

Location: Shillington, Pennsylvania

On June 29, 2011, Berks County Deputy Sheriff K-9 Handler Kyle Pagerly was shot and killed while attempting to execute a warrant. As they ascended a mountain to locate the suspect, Deputy Pagerly and his K-9 partner Jynx, came upon an elevation in the terrain. The suspect, who was dressed in full camouflage and possessed multiple weapons, lay on the ridge undetected by the human officers. Jynx alerted to position of the suspect and ran up the hill, ahead of the Deputy Sherriff, forcing the suspect to abandon his cover. As he stood, the suspect pointed a rifle at Deputy Sherriff Pagerly. Gunfire started and Deputy Sherriff Pagerly was fatally wounded. More.

Entry Category: Search and Rescue Dogs

Charity Partner: Sage Foundation For Dogs Who Serve

Location: Charleston, West Virginia

Lorrie adopted Soot, a black Labrador, and quickly realized he needed a job. Lorrie never dreamed finding Soot a job would lead the dog to rescuing a lost 78-year-old, diabetic hunter one cold December morning. Soot is an air scent, scent discriminating, certified search and rescue dog trained to find lost subjects in the wilderness. The hunter left early November 30th for a day of hunting with his son, they separated and planned to meet back at their truck around noon. The dad failed to return, the son searched for hours, until near dark the son called 911 for help. Soot and Lorrie arrived on site late November 30th. More.

Entry Category: Therapy Dogs

Charity Partner: Angel On A Leash

Location: Mt. Kisco, New York

Stella, a standard poodle, was certified by Therapy Dogs International in July 2011. Stella began volunteering soon after at our largest residence that houses 76 people who have significant intellectual, medical, and physical disabilities. Stella brought about many smiles and stimulation not otherwise available. Stella is impervious to disabilities and diseases – befriending and with time, unconditionally loving everyone she meets. More.

Entry Category: Guide Dogs

Charity Partner: Leader Dogs For The Blind

Location: South Bend, Indiana

Tabitha was my first Guide Dog, I obtained her from Leader Dogs for the Blind in 2004. Although now retired, she was and always will be my Hero Dog. Tabby Girl, as I called her, was the one that not only comforted me through the shock and depression of losing my sight, she welcomed me into a new life. By her love and skills, she showed me that life was still the same, I could still go and accomplish things, I just needed to go about some things a bit differently. It was with the new found courage that I gained from Tabby Girl’s guidance that I continued to experience so much in life. More.

Entry Category: Hearing Dogs

Charity Partner: Dogs for the Deaf

Location: Plantation, Florida

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary when I went to sleep on a sweltering South Florida night. But at about 2 a.m. I woke up, struggling to catch my breath. Moments later, I wasn't breathing at all. My hearing dog, Tatiana, sprang into action, alerting my family that something was terribly wrong. My mother found me unresponsive after what was a severe asthma attack and she called paramedics. I have a history of struggling with asthma which is exacerbated by frequent ear infections as a result of Meniere's disease. That night when the paramedics arrived they said that Tatiana had saved my life. Tatiana is truly a Hero Dog. More.

What a bunch of great dogs! All of their stories were so compelling. But I must admit, I fell for the spirited Stella, who is a certified therapy dog who volunteers at a local organization that serves people with developmental disabilities and critical health problems. Maybe because with her curly hair, she reminded me of Otis. And maybe because she is a therapy dog, and Otis was certified as a therapy dog two years ago. And just maybe it was that video they showed of Stella working with residents of one of the homes she regularly visits. This paragraph was from her nomination form: 

“As Stella lay on one gentleman’s lap, he began to pet her and answered yes to questions including: Is Stella soft? Can you feel her heartbeat? Does he enjoy Stella’s company? When Stella moved to another room, this gentleman began to cry, surprising the staff, who said they have never seen him cry before. Stella returned to him, jumped back into his lap and he began to kiss her, saying “mine”. No more tears were shed.”

Except at my table.

Betty White presented the tribute to Tabitha, who was nominated in the “Guide Dogs” category. “Although now retired, she was and always will be my hero dog,” said her handler. “She was the one who comforted me through the shock and depression of losing my sight, and welcomed me into a new world.”

So who won the American Hero Dog award? Nominated in the “Military Dogs” category, Gabe has served his handler, Chuck Shuck (pictured below with Olympic swimmer Ricky Berens) and American soldiers around the world since 2006. While deployed to Iraq, Gabe completed more than 210 combat missions with 26 finds of explosives and weapons. He also visited elementary school children and wounded troops in Army hospitals.

Want to watch the Hero Dog Awards on TV? Everything on Saturday night was taped live, and will be broadcast on The Hallmark Channel on November 8 at 8:00 pm.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Up close and personal with Edie, Naomi, and Candy

After the red carpet event for the American Humane Association's "Hero Dog Awards", we ventured out onto the second-floor patio overlooking the pool on our way into the Beverly Hilton ballroom. Everyone seemed a little more relaxed, away from the glare of the lights out front. It was a perfect time to ask if I could get a couple of photos with the stars!

Edie McClurg has performed in countless films and TV shows, most notably "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", and "7th Heaven". She also worked with Paul Reubens in his original stage production of "The Pee Wee Herman Show".

Naomi Judd along with her daughter Wynona have sold more than 20 million country music albums. She is also a spokesperson for the American Liver Foundation and uses her celebrity to raise awareness about Hepatitis C, a disease she was diagnosed with more than 20 years ago.
Candy Spelling keeps busy on several charitable boards, including "L.A.'s Best", a reading program for city schoolchildren. She's a writer herself, contributing often to The Huffington Post, and released her autobiography, "Stories from Candyland" in 2009. I'm not sure who the "photo bomber" lady behind us is.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Betty White and I attend the Hero Dog Awards ceremony in Beverly Hills

Now this was an assignment I could sink my teeth into. On Saturday night, I attended the American Humane Association’s “Hero Dog Awards” ceremony in Los Angeles. You see, my company’s mascot, Sparky the Fire Dog, was named “official spokesdog” for this star-studded event, so when I got offered the opportunity to work the red carpet at the Beverly Hilton, I jumped at the chance.

Getting ready for my assignment...gotta make sure that camera works!

The award ceremony recognized America’s most courageous canines – ordinary dogs who do astonishing things: saving lives on the battlefield, lending sight, hearing, or medical assistance to their human companions, unselfishly aiding law enforcement, arson investigators, and search and rescue workers, or providing uncompromising love and compassion as therapy dogs. (And before you ask – no, Otis was not nominated this year. But there’s always 2013.)

Media gather alongside the red carpet.

OK – so it's an event that celebrates the amazing ability of dogs to take on extraordinary tasks, and who regularly befriend and comfort us, combined with a chance to get-up-and-personal with some real-life Hollywood celebrities? Did this night have my name written all over it, or what? Truly, it was a thrill to be there at the Beverly Hilton, (home to the annual Golden Globe Awards), jostling for space with dozens of photographers, camera crews, and other media types awaiting for the red carpet entrances. 

My assigned spot was near the end of the carpet, and there was a big concrete pillar to my left, so I couldn’t see who was approaching until they got pretty close. But I could hear the shouts and the whirring camera clicks from the big media representatives stationed near the front door. It was all really exciting, not knowing who was coming around the corner. Organizers provided us with “cheat sheets”, handouts featuring color photographs and the names of the celebrities who were scheduled to appear, just in case we couldn’t match up names with faces.

And when the march down the carpet began, it all happened fast and furious. 

John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of the Paul Mitchell hair empire, and owner/operator of many other businesses, including The House of Blues.

Lois Pope, of the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, a longtime supporter of the American Humane Association. 

Sparky the Fire Dog hits the red carpet.

Jake Austin from Disney’s “Wizards of Waverly Place”.

Swimmer Ricky Berens, who together with Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, and Michael Phelps, won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London in the men's 4x200 freestyle relay.

Bailee Madison, the young star of the film “Just Go With It”.

Michael Vartan from the television series "Alias" and “Hawthorne”.

Lou Wegner from the films “Doughboy” and “Trouble with the Curve”.

The lovely and talented (and very nice) Naomi Judd. Naomi makes up one-half of the mother/daughter country singing act The Judds”. She was two feet in front of me, being interviewed by a video crew, and admittedly, I was a little starstruck. I took a few photos and then stood there smiling like a kid on Christmas morning. I caught her eye and she gave me a big grin. 

Oh my god! Edie McClurg! Who doesn’t love Edie McClurg, one of America's best character actresses? 

Lots of shouts from the front end of the red carpet meant somebody really important was coming my way. Suddenly, I caught sight of the blonde and tiny Kristin Chenowith, who was hosting the evening’s events. 
You may know Kristin Chenoweth for her turn as the original “Glinda” the good witch in Broadway’s “Wicked”. She’s also been on a bunch of TV shows, including two seasons on “The West Wing”, “Pushing Daisies”, “The Good Wife”, and in the Emmy-nominated role of April Rhodes on “Glee”.

Megyn Price from the TV series “Rules of Engagement” and “Grounded for Life”. This photo doesn’t do her justice – she is really gorgeous. 

Jake Pavelka, best known from the reality TV show “The Bachelor”.

And what’s a Hollywood party without Candy Spelling? Married to uber producer Aaron Spelling until his death in 2006, and mother of actress Tori Spelling, she’s also famous for having owned one of the largest and most elaborate mansions in Los Angeles, with more than 120 rooms. She sold it in 2011 for $85 million.

Lisa Vanderpump from the reality TV series “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” arrived at the event carrying her dog.

The very funny and down-to-earth Pauley Perrette from the TV series NCIS, who was more than happy to chat and pose for photographs.

Mark Steines, longtime co-host of TV’s “Entertainment Tonight”.

 The heroes of the evening were certainly the eight canines vying to be named top dog, but in my eyes, the real hero was Betty White, who was on hand to receive the American Humane Association’s “Legacy Award” for her tireless efforts to protect the welfare of animals.

Now really, who doesn’t love Betty White? Everyone was going crazy when she arrived, and she was hustled down the red carpet pretty quickly by her handlers. Funny and vibrant at 90 (did you know we share the same birthday? Different years), it was a real treat to see her in the flesh.

OK -- that's probably enough photos for one post. More coming soon!


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