Several months back, Lou discovered that our story and GIMME SHELTER had been featured on a website called ‘Dog Bless You’. We thought it odd but, ever since the book debuted, things like that have been happening on a regular basis. Recently, we learned the story of the man behind the site and how one amazing dog transformed his life. Sound familiar? Here’s their tale (tail?) courtesy of the LA Times.
MAN, DOG, CREATE A NEW BREED OF PHILANTHROPY (Associated Press)
When Charlie Annenberg adopted an abandoned golden retriever named Lucky, a new breed of philanthropy was born. Lucky was 4 in 2001 when he teamed up with Annenberg, scion to a wealthy family known for giving money away. Annenberg incorporated Lucky into all his projects. They were on the road more than they were home as they traveled around making documentaries about people who were making a difference.
Lucky became Annenberg’s sidekick and soul mate, and would eventually inspire donations to dog-focused causes from the $8 million or so that the philanthropist controls annually. Whether it was a chef at the White House or coal miners 100 feet underground in West Virginia, Lucky made documentary interviews easy because he made everyone comfortable. The workload for both man and dog grew with the website explore.org. Using state-of-the-art cameras, Annenberg brought wildlife to stunning life for millions of Web watchers. He and Lucky traveled to every installation in North America, and everywhere they went, Annenberg filmed Lucky interacting with people and places.
In 2010, Annenberg decided to use his Lucky photos and films for a travel journal on Facebook, telling the story of their trips. Annenberg called the journal Dog Bless You, he said, because several years earlier Lucky had befriended a homeless man in San Francisco. They shared time and a sandwich with the man. As they were leaving, the man said, “Dog bless you.” The Facebook page was all about Lucky, but it captured the fervor for pets that was growing around the country. “Today we have an audience of 505,000 fans,” said Courtney Johnson, explore.org’s community relations manager.
|Annenberg & ‘Lucky’
When an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011, killing more than 18,000 people, Annenberg used Dog Bless You to send six search dogs. Then war veterans started returning home in large numbers, with wounds including brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of them needed service dogs. Passion for the cause on Dog Bless You soared. Service dogs cost between $2,000 and $50,000 each, depending on how much training they need, Johnson said.
Annenberg, grandson of the late publisher, ambassador and philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg, is a vice president and director of the grant-making Annenberg Foundation. In just three years, he has donated 170 guide dogs, search-and-rescue dogs or service dogs for veterans. Most of the dogs funded by Annenberg have been for veterans. Because there are waiting lists at almost every training school and experts say thousands of veterans would benefit from a dog, Annenberg plans to accelerate the dog grant program.
Warrior Canine Connection in Brookeville, Md., is just one of the dog training schools Annenberg uses, but it’s also unique because dogs are raised for, by and with veterans. The latest group of nine puppies is even named after veterans, Warrior Canine Executive Director Rick Yount said.
“It’s a good way to say, ‘We are not forgetting about your sacrifices.’ And [the namesakes] get to spend time with the puppies and get therapy themselves,” Yount said. Trained veterans teach the puppies for the first eight to12 weeks. Then the dogs go live with volunteers from military or veterans’ organizations.
“By the time a dog is fully trained, over 500 vets and servicemembers have been involved in getting it ready,” Yount said.
As Lucky aged and slowed down, the format of Dog Bless You changed, becoming a tribute to every dog. And Lucky had to retire from traveling. Annenberg misses Lucky at work. “He was my partner on all these trips,” he said. “It’s not the same. He would open the door and make me look good. People always stopped and petted him. Everyone wanted to keep Lucky, especially the coal miners. Isn’t it interesting that every day was a new day for Lucky? And he just wanted to be petted? It’s been a great ride.”