Friday, March 22, 2013

Fido and Friend in Five: Jane Paley and Hooper!

Jane Paley
We all remember those heartbreaking images in the days following hurricane Katrina: stranded people perched on rooftops surrounded by rising water, desperate for rescue; bodies floating in the water, and people frantically trying to leave the city any way they could. And then there were the animals. So many left behind either because their people were sure they'd be back the next day, or because authorities would not allow owners to bring their animals along. As a result, hundreds and hundreds of dogs and cats were left homeless. The lucky ones were eventually rescued by the various groups (Humane Society, Best Friends Animal Society) who came in the days after Katrina. Some were eventually reunited with their people, but many were not.

Jane Paley is many things: an Emmy award-winning television producer, an assistant professor at St. John's University in Queens, New York, a writer, and a dog lover. It is the collaboration of the writer and dog lover in her that produced her first novel for middle graders, Hooper Finds A Family, which I read a couple of months ago. Can I just say I loved the book? I mean, you have to love a happy, goofy, plucky golden lab who loves to play games with his bone in his back yard somewhere in New Orleans, right? But then the hurricane comes and, like so many animals, Hooper is left behind. Suddenly, he is in a dramatic, can't-put-the-dang-book-down fight for his life. And even when he finally does get adopted, it's not exactly smooth sailing. I really admired that about the book, because often in adoption situations, it's not all rainbows and sparkles at first. But love and patience find their way, and Hooper did find a family to love.

TV Star!
I googled Jane Paley to find out more about her. I was stunned and excited to discover that her book (although fiction) is based on her own Hooper who she adopted from Labs4rescue, and he had been orphaned by hurricane Katrina! In the years since his adoption by Jane and her family, Hooper has become quite the celebrity. He's been on televsion several times (including CBS Early Show!), been written about in the New York Post as well as several other magazines, and has become a much beloved therapy dog.

Given all his star power (he has been called the Brad Pitt of labs), I'm very honored to have Hooper and Jane on today's Fido and Friend in Five!

Therapy Dog!
1. How did you and Hooper find each other? We met on-line. Days after the death of our previous dog, Hammer, I poured my heart out on-line, desperate for grief counseling. In minutes, I heard from compassionate rescuers, one of whom sent a photo of Hooper with a note about how he was a healer. My husband was skeptical. Moreover, he wasn't ready for a new dog, especially one who was sick (heartworms) and far away in New Orleans (Jane and her family live in New York). Many tears and entreaties later, he could no longer buck my force-of-nature determination and made all the travel arrangements. The rendezvous took place late at night in Richmond. From that moment on, Hooper was a healer, as advertised.

Tennis Ball Hoarder!
2. What makes Hooper's tail wag?  We play a game called 2-ball with tennis balls. Hoop won't do traditional toss and fetch because once he gets the ball, he doesn't want to give it up. So we show him the second ball so he'll drop the one he's retrieved. This can go on for 15 minutes or so until he tires. At that point, he simply trots to the back door believing he's won the U.S Open.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  I suppose it's de rigeur to say Old Yeller, or one of the other classics, but the truth is, I love Stanley's Party by Linda Bailey. When Hooper and I visit libraries (we're a Pet Partner team), I always read Stanley to the kids and we laugh ourselves silly.

4. If Hooper could change just one thing about you, what would that be?  Nothing. He thinks I'm perfect. What a rush.

The Dog of Her Dreams
5. In five words, tell us what Hooper means to you:  The dog of my dreams.

Thanks so very much to all that Jane and Hooper do to make a positive (and pawsitive) difference in this ol' world of ours. You really must check out their website to read all the fun things they're doing!


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