“Blue Bear and Snow Toad”: Pre-Order a Copy on Kickstarter


The Blue Bear and Snow Toad Kickstarter campaign has officially launched!  Please help turn this dream into reality and pre-order a copy today for a child in your life.

The campaign only has 20 days to fully fund, so don’t delay. There are lots of goodies to thank you: a copy of the book (of course), bookmarks, winter hats, embroidered fleece blankets, puzzles, and limited edition giclee prints. There are reward levels for everyone.

I thank you in advance. And so do Blue Bear and Snow Toad.

Dreams Do Come True: Kickstarter to Kick Off

Blank book cover vector template isolated on white background.Some years back, I wrote Blue Bear and Snow Toad, a rhyming children’s picture book about a young bear and toad who resist hibernating, so they can experience the sights and sounds of winter. Like every child, they just want to stay up a bit longer, just in case they miss out on something exciting.

My dream now is to see it in print.

I’ve paired up with a talented illustrator who brings the words to life with his charming, playful art. Richard Svensson, an artist from Sweden, brings a long list of publishing and film credits to the table, and you can see why. His illustrations are beautiful, and many make me laugh.

Blue Bear and Snow Toad is now ready to go out into the world. We’re currently planning a limited run of 1,000 copies of the 8.5″ X 8.5″ hard-bound picture book to be available in time for Winter 2017 and holiday gift giving. The picture book will be full color, coffee table quality. After all, it will be a work of art, in the vein of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Toward that end, I’m setting up a Kickstarter page, complete with some fun goodies at various reward levels, including copies of the book.

As you may already know with Kickstarter, it’s all or nothing. If the goal is met, the project goes forward. If not, your money is refunded.

Hopefully, there is a reward level right for you or a child in your life. So, watch out for news in the next few days of this project going live, and please, please help the dream come alive.

In Our Sights: Police Dog Shootings Every 98 Minutes

In mid-July*, a Salt Lake City police officer encountered a family dog in a fenced backyard. When the dog, Geist, approached—presumably to defend his property from a stranger—the officer shot and killed him.

While dog shootings often receive little attention, the dog’s owner, Sean Kendall, recorded his initial encounter with the police. The posted video went viral, and the pet community rallied.

picture4The SLC police department defensively reacted with arguments that the dog was “extremely close,” “the officer felt threatened,” the officer was “a hero” on another case, they were searching for a child, and—my favorite irrelevant red herring—that they’ve seen less public outcry “when certain human beings have lost their lives” (which simultaneously implies that the dog’s life was not valuable).

No apologies. No condolences.

Turns out that police shootings of pets are common. No government agency keeps statistics on such, but the U.S. Department of Justice acknowledges that the majority of intentional firearm discharges involve animals, with dogs being the primary victims. According to the ASPCA, most reports involve family animals in their own yards.

Animal abuse activists have tallied a conservative count by tracking news stories: a pet is killed by law enforcement every 98 minutes in the United States. Often those animals are lying down, wagging a tail, or running away. Their owners are also prevented from intervening. The officer only has to “feel” threatened, a low bar for justifying lethal force.

The prevalence of the problem across the U.S. is quickly illustrated with a Google search (see inset).

The standard, consistent reasoning behind these shootings: the dog was “aggressive.” This is where we, the public, are supposed to roll over and blithely accept the “necessity” of killing the animal.

Sorry, not buying it.

While some of these cases may have been justified, the majority of these killings reflect ignorance about dogs, at best, and cruelty at worst. Basic training and revised policies and procedures concerning dog encounters would have avoided most of these incidents. Even if a dog barks, snarls, and even postures to intimidate, danger is not necessarily imminent and can be mitigated. Postal deliverers deal with this issue all the time, and they aren’t killing off dogs on their routes. Alternatives are available if an officer is nervous: yelling, backing up slowly, tasers, batons, pepper spray, and, as a last resort, a shooting a leg.

Some police departments and officers, like “Cops for Canine Compassion,” are recognizing the issues and stepping up. However, the momentum seems to be building too slowly. Just the sheer number of potential animals in officers’ sights, let alone the changing attitudes toward animals, should incite all police departments to revise their tactics. In the United States, 37-47 percent of households have canine companions, numbering 70-80 million dogs. That’s a lot of dogs, and that’s a lot of people who care.

Back to Geist. It’s doubtful that the officer will be held accountable. However, at a minimum, the SLC police department needs to implement the training tools already provided by the Community-Oriented Policing Services within the Department of Justice. Their printed materials and free video training services, entitled “Police and Dog Encounters: Tactical Strategies and Effective Tools to Keep Our Communities Safe and Humane,” address, among other topics:

  • Assessing the Situation
  • Communicating with Dogs: Police and Dog Body Language
  • Using Force Considerations

An apology would be nice too.

Our dogs are more than “personal property,” despite the legal definitions. We emotionally connect with them as we would a friend or family member. And, unlike an inanimate couch, when destroyed, a life is gone. A dog’s death hurts us to the core.

The SLC Police Department, as well as departments across the country, need to recognize this. Otherwise, they will continue to face increased scrutiny, litigation, and loss of community trust.


picm_aug2014First published in Pets in the City Magazine, August 2014