Influence Positively Interview - Zak George

We are coming up on the one year anniversary since I started the Influence Positively interviews. Where has the time gone? They have been a wonderful success. I am still amazed and impressed by the fascinating people highlighted every week.  If you have missed any, check out the interview archives.

I feel like a cross between Barbara Walters and a Pinkerton detective. Sometimes people find me and sometimes I need to dig around before I uncover the next fascinating person in the wide world of pets and animal welfare.

Our goal has been to inspire action in our readers, as well as simply share common motivations and traits we all have inside when it comes to pets.  Read my March post about what the interviews are all about and what prompted me to start them

Zak-george-venus Today we continue the interview series, with our first video interview, submitted [unedited] by Zak George. If you are into teaching your dog tricks, you may know him already from his successful stint on Animal Planet as the host of Super Fetch!

Zak George has always been intrigued by dogs, but his true talents for working with these amazing animals went undiscovered for more than 20 years. Little did he know that playing with his older brother’s German Shepherd, Levi, would change the course of his life and bring these skills to the surface. 

It all began during a hot summer in Georgia when Zak’s brother asked him to throw a Frisbee® to Levi. Years later, after the hours spent playing with Levi had sunk in, Zak had a dream where he saw a dog spring boarding off his back to catch a Frisbee®. This is when it all clicked together for Zak and inspired him to bring Venus, an energetic and intelligent border collie, into his life. With very little formal training, Zak used his instincts to guide him and developed a positive training method in which Venus excelled. Together, they won five extreme dogs competitions in their first five years! 

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Influence Positively Interview: Cindy Bruckart

Cindy Cindy Bruckart is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer and a Professional Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She is an evaluator for the AKC Canine Good Citizen program and a Licensed Dogs & Storks Presenter.  

Cindy's training company, Regarding Rover, offers group and private training as well as workshops for dog owners and professionals.  Cindy hosts the Regarding Rover training podcast on and is a long-time blogger for  

Cindy lives in Oregon with her husband, Roger; five dogs, Russell, Rodie, Izzy, Emma & Suzi; four cats, Cleo, Ginger, Simon & Moxie; three Nigerian Dwarf goats, Sandy, Willow and Madrona; five un-named hens and approximately 30 un-named Koi. She also has two grown daughters and a granddaughter.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Perfect happiness is that time of the day when my dogs, cats, goats, chickens and granddaughter have all been cared for and are content and peaceful.  It never lasts long, but it's what I look forward to every day.

If you could come back as a dog or a cat, which one would it be & why? I think I would come back as a cat.  Expectations of cats are so much lower than those for dogs.  Even though, as a cat, I could be trained and socialized, no one would expect it.  I would be allowed to be moody, reclusive, lazy and demanding while still being loved dearly. 

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Influence Positively Interview - Debi Boies

Brock Debi Boies Pilots N Paws Co-founder of Pilots N Paws, Debi Boies says she’s always had a deep connection with animals.”I feel strongly that it is our responsibility, as humans, to be the guardians for animals others have abandoned, abused, or simply can no longer care for,” she says. “If we don’t, then who will?” Debi is a retired nurse, horse breeder and long-time rescuer. Before Pilots N Paws, Debi was one of the founding members of Doberman Assistance Network, Inc, a national Doberman rescue group. 

Pilots N Paws is a 501c3 charitable organization who through the help of general aviation volunteer pilots, transport rescue animals by air. The mission of Pilots N Paws is to provide a user-friendly website communication venue between those that rescue, shelter, and foster animals and pilots and plane owners, willing to assist with the transportation of these animals. It launched in February 2008 after Boies’ Doberman pinscher had died.

She wanted her next dog to be a rescue. One issue that came up was adopting a dog from afar. Among animal groups there are calls for transporting pets to new homes. These “road warriors,” as Boies calls them, man a route with volunteers donating time and wheels to get an animal home. Boies was familiar with these pet caravans, and with the troubles they face – whether it’s an antsy animal or if a car breaks down – when a pilot friend, Jon Wehrenberg, suggested flying the new dog home. “Pilots look for reasons to fly,” he told her, and as a result, Pilots N Paws was born.

And while Boies lives in South Carolina, her organization is national, with pilots from all over – donating time and resources for a good cause. “It’s almost as if they understand that this is their chance for life,” Boies says. Pilots N Paws continues to make a difference in the lives of innocent animals. We have flown thousands of rescue animals, military working dogs, service dogs, and dogs soldiers have adopted from war zones to safe havens provided by rescues and families.

Volunteer pilots have worked together and flown animals outside the U.S. We have also assisted with dogs who have been adopted by our soldiers overseas in Afghanistan after they fly to the U.S. on commercial airlines. We then pick up the final leg of the transport and fly them to the soldier’s home. This is extremely rewarding!! Honors and Awards: Broadway Barks Award/Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore, The American Dog Magazines 1st Annual Humanitarian Award, The Augusta Humane Society’s Casie Ritchhart Memorial Award, Co-Founder Debi Boies listed as one of the “25 top Pet People of 2010” at and most recently the Humane Society Naples Animaltarian Award.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? ** A world where kindness abounds.

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Influence Positively Interview - Anna Bettina Johnson

Anna and Eros Anna Bettina Johnson is a professional with over 12 yrs experience creating well-behaved, happy, healthy companions. She has an Animal Sciences degree from the University of Hawaii, with a focus on clinical small animal nutrition. While living on the islands she was able to experience the training and handling of many different types of animals, including captive dolphins, sea turtles and tortoises. Her love of animals also led her to start a non-profit rare breed mastiff rescue where she worked to rehabilitate and place these giant dogs.

She has worked with a variety of animals in zoos, animal sanctuaries and even the World Center for Birds of Prey where she cared for and handled large captive birds. She takes her unique experiences and combines them to help you understand your companion on a completely different level.

Anna is a CAP certified instructor (which is currently the only professional certification that actually assesses the skills, abilities and knowledge of the handler). She has a Best Friends Animal Sanctuary certified training center, and is a founding member of the Never Shock a Puppy coalition. She has also been approved by the Truly Dog Friendly association and as a recommend trainer.

She very much enjoys educating people about holistic remedies and healing nutrition. She is a Certified Flower Essence Practitioner, a Holistic Animal Practitioner and Canine Nutrition Consultant. Anna has been featured in the prestigious Utah Business Magazine as well as the local paper, IN This Week. She is locally known and recommended by well-known veterinarians and many well-respected nonprofit rescue groups. Anna has a soft spot for rescue and ran her own nonprofit rescue for six years. She currently sits on the Board of Directors for Utah's pitbull rescue, Have Pittie.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? I LOVE dogs! I work everyday to help people better understand them. Perfect happiness for me is a world of happy, healthy, confident companions. A world where fear, pain, intimidation and force have no place in dog training, and overall health and nutrition includes natural, organic & conscious decisions. 

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Influence Positively Interview - Betsy Banks Saul
Betsy Banks Saul, co-founder of, harnessed the power of the Internet in 1996 with a vision to change the way the public views shelter pets and ensure no pet is euthanized for lack of a good home. As the largest database of adoptable pets, Petfinder is a unifying force for homeless pets online, making them easier to find (and adopt), and is responsible for having found homes for over 17 million pets. Additionally, Betsy's initiative allowed smaller adoption groups without a physical shelter a free way to get the word out about their organizations. Betsy was named by Woman's Day magazine as one of fifty "Women Who Are Changing the World." She holds an advanced degree in forestry resources from Clemson University and serves on the boards of the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs (bringing about non-surgical solutions for sterilization), the Foundation, and Asparity Business Solutions. She shares her life with 10 different species, ranging from box turtles to horses -- and humans

What is your idea of perfect happiness? The little slice of time I sometimes find on a Saturday or Sunday morning when I know all 23 inhabitants of my farm are fed and feeling good and I get to spend a little time doing nothing but enjoying green grass below me and a blue sky above. Then, for just a little while, my mind empties and all the challenges of the world slip away so I can feel deliciously small and inconsequential! I suppose this is just a momentary fantasy of the real perfect happiness I hope for -- when love and respect rule everyone's hearts and minds.

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Influence Positively Interview - Nancy E. Hassel

  Nancy E Hassell - Long Island Pet Professionals

Nancy always felt there was a huge disconnect with pet professionals on Long Island. After years of networking with other really great organizations, she decided to start a group solely for pet professionals – alas Long Island Pet Professionals was born and currently has over 120 members.

Nancy also created and teaches Free! Responsible Dog Ownership Classes (education and training) in the Towns of Islip since 2008 and taught it in Huntington from 2008 – 2010, currently starting the 4th year with Islip. Working with dogs for over 20 years, she is dedicated to educating and teaching people about dogs. In June of 2009, she was awarded an “Outstanding Citizen” award by Supervisor Phil Nolan of the Town of Islip for her work with the Responsible Dog Ownership Classes.  In May of 2010 she was honored as one of the Fortune 52 Women by Long Island Press for her work in the pet community.  She is also a committee member for Special Needs Dobermans and consultant with Uniting Against Lung Cancer and has worked on both “Kites for a Cure” events in Southampton for the past 4 years.

Nancy owns an awesome American Pit Bull Terrier, Max, who she adopted as a puppy from Out of The Pits. Max is now 9.5 years old.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Right now would be a vacation I am always very busy, which I love, but a getaway, road trip or discovering a new place would make me very happy right about now. But seriously, perfect happiness is so different to everyone; it could be in a small moment of success, seeing a loved one you haven’t seen a while, having that “aha” moment or the absolute joy of uncontrollable laughter with a friend over the silliest thing. :)

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Influence Positively Interview - Kelly Gorman Dunbar

Kelly GD DogStar Daily
Kelly Gorman Dunbar is a cofounder and the executive editor of the and a contributing editor at

She is the President of Open Paw, a non-profit organization devoted to addressing the unwanted animal problem in a whole new way, arming communities worldwide with valuable user and animal friendly training and behavior information with the goal of keeping cats and dogs out of shelters by keeping them in their original homes. Kelly lectures internationally on the principles of Open Paw and consults for animal shelters regarding layout, and staff-and-animal training protocols and procedures.

She is a Director of the Center for Applied Animal Behavior, a multi-faceted business that focuses on teaching people how to train their dogs to be the best canine citizens possible. She is a Director for the K9 Games Corporation, a venture dedicated to bringing fun and games to the process of dog training in order to make it easy, entertaining, and accessible for all people, including children.

Kelly is also a Certified Nose Work Instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Hiking in the northern California hills in the misty morning fog with my dogs, having fields and forests all to ourselves. Taking in the smell of the salty sea air, while I enjoy watching them romp and run, their finally tuned, well muscled bodies doing what they were born to do.

If you could come back as a dog or a cat, which one would it be & why? Believe it or not, probably a cat. Cats are so graceful, agile, and independent. I also love how they can lounge unashamedly for hours and then spring into lightening fast action in the blink of an eye.

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Influence Positively Interview - Sparkle

Sparkle_Cat Sparkle is an author, blogger, advice columnist and supermodel. She is also a cat. Her blog,, was a 2010 Dogtime Media Pettie winner for "Best Cat Blog" and Cat Writers Association Muse Medallion winner.

Her latest book, Dear Sparkle: Cat-to-Cat Advice from the World's Foremost Feline Columnist, was a first-place winner in the 2010 USA Book Awards for the Animals/Pets: Novelty and Best Interior Design categories.

All this recognition has not changed her at all, considering that she was a diva to begin with. Sparkle lives in Los Angeles with two cats, two humans, and a dog that she does not particularly like.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A world where every cat has a home. And of course, that home would include high-quality, organic, grain-free food, dozens of cat toys, fresh catnip, at least one or two cat towers, a fancy cat scratcher in every room, and an assistant (i.e., a human) who scoops the litter box on an hourly basis.

If you could come back as a human, would you?

Nooooo! No-no-no-no-no-no. Nope. Uh-uh. You guys have it too tough.

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Influence Positively Interview - Michele C Hollow

MCH-PR-Head-Shot-WEB_2054 Michele C. Hollow created the blog Pet News and Views, a blog that focuses on animal welfare—mostly the positive side of animal welfare. She believes that by opening readers to the positive side of animal welfare, they can get the whole picture of the issues. 

Pet News and Views is a source for pet owners and admirers of wildlife. Her blog focuses on pet care, wildlife issues, profiles of people who work with animals, laws affecting animals, and stories about pets and wildlife. Michele takes a journalistic approach to these stories. 

Michele wrote the book, “The Everything Guide to Working with Animals,” (Adams Media), and has worked as a journalist for 15 years. Her byline has appeared in the NY Times, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Star-Ledger, Pet Product News,, and other national publications. She is listed as an expert at

Michele lives in South Orange, NJ, with her husband, Steven; son, Jordon, and their cat, Mr. Earl Gray. 

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Oh, there are so many things. On a day-to-day level, I love spending time with my family and friends and being surrounded by animals. We often go to the dog park for fun. On a global level, I would love to see a world with respect for all creatures. 

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Grouchy Puppy Archive: Do you know these people?

Animal lovers. In 2010 we started an interview series called Influence Positively. I felt that for every sad story in the media about a pet or animal, someone needed to share an uplifting one.  For each depressing pet adoption video, I felt compelled to share a funny or happy dog video.  In what you might call my Northern California way, I wanted to even out the cosmic balance.

Spotlight. I began posting short interviews with people who had answered five simple questions.  Five universal questions that gives the interviewee freedom to approach their answer from dozens of angles.  This freedom I believe assures us readers that what we read will be at the least, a thoughtful answer and at best, a meaningful personal moment they are willing to share.

IMG_3726 Shining a spotlight on people from all walks of life who devote time, energy, thought and love to animals has to be a good thing. These people often give of themselves without measurement. They go forward in their work with animals because an internal motive is pushing them.  Being the bossy, nosey person that I am, whose first word my mother swears was "why", these informal interviews are meant to shed light on that internal mechanism. Don't you want to know why they do what they do? I want to know why!

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Influence Positively Interview - Paris Permenter


Paris Permenter publishes along with her husband and writing partner, John Bigley. Since the late '80s, Paris and John have been professional writers, specializing in travel writing and authoring numerous magazine articles and 26 guidebooks. Concentrating primarily in Caribbean and romantic travel, the couple launched their first website In 2000. However, it wasn't until 2008, with the adoption of two shelter dogs, Irie and Tiki, that Paris and John switched their focus to dogs. Their newest book, Barkonomics: Tips for Frugal Fidos, combines their love of dogs with a lifetime of frugal living and Paris' academic background in Economics. 

Paris and John live out in the country in the Texas Hill Country with their two dogs and four cats. When not at the keyboard, Paris enjoys long hikes around their property with the dogs, wading in the creek, and photography.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I think my idea of perfect happiness is to wake up every day and feel excited about the day ahead, whether that day is going to be spent working or playing. Being self-employed, sometimes it's difficult to find a dividing line between "at work" and "off work" time but recently I came to realize that it doesn't matter. I'm really lucky that the line between work and play is blurred so an afternoon photographing our dogs is fun...and "work" at the same time!

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Influence Positively Interview - Deborah Flick

BoulderDog_Sadie_Deborah Deborah‘s life changed four years ago when she brought Sadie home. Deborah was consumed by Sadie’s fear and helping her to overcome it. She was two and a half years old when Deborah started blogging about the joys and heartache of loving a fearful dog. Deborah soon discovered a community of smart, compassionate, and very knowledgeable dog bloggers. What started out as a blog exclusively about their journey soon evolved into a vehicle for improving the lives of animals in community with other like-minded bloggers. Deborah has a Ph.D. in Communication and a M.A. in Psychology and resides in Colorado.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Hiking in the foothills west of Boulder on a cold, sunny day after a snowfall. I love to watch Sadie confidently dancing and prancing down the trail, invigorated by the feeling of snow between her toes. She's so joyful, jumping and spinning in mid-air between forays into the brush to sniff out new scents that the moisture of the snow has amplified.

If you could come back as a dog or a cat, which one would it be & why? Well, it depends. If I could come back as my sister-in-law's cat, then a cat, definitely. On the other hand, if I could reincarnate as my friend's dog, I think I'd rather be a dog. I'd have fresh food prepared for me daily. We would hike, off-leash, on a different trail everyday with my doggie BFF. Then I'd go to work with my person where I would make the rounds of her colleagues offices and soak up 'ear scritches' and goodies. After that I would be tired and take a nap in my comfy memory foam bed next to her desk. 

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Influence Positively Interview - Kyla Duffy

Kyla Duffy and Bill
Kyla Duffy, Founder and Co-Editor of Happy Tails Books. Kyla fell in love with dogs after becoming an emergency foster for a Boston Terrier with kennel cough. She lives in Boulder, CO with her husband, two rescue kitties, ex-puppy mill breeder Bill, and a perpetual stream of foster dogs. She enjoys rehabilitating the tough cases, and helps them build up muscle and confidence on long hikes through the beautiful Colorado Front Range.

Kyla is an entrepreneur and athlete, who retired from professional snowboarding in 2001 to pursue more “leisurely” activities, such as adult gymnastics, high-flying trapeze, and aerial fabric. She holds a BS in Marketing, a BA in Spanish Translation, and an MPS in Organizational Leadership. After years of business ownership experience, she founded Happy Tails Books to raise awareness of and funding for dog rescue efforts. She enjoys the creative and philanthropic nature of Happy Tails Books, and is always excited to share the passionate stories written by dog-lovers whose animals have clearly changed their lives.

Kyla has recently also founded Up For Pups!, a non-profit (pending) organization that promotes good pet ownership and responsible breeding practices through unforgettable community lectures. Visit the Up For Pups! website to learn more or to book Kyla to come to your organization and give a presentation.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Anything with my dog, Bill. He spent two years sitting in a cage as a puppy mill breeding dog, and for many months he wouldn't move at all. I never thought he would be much of a dog, let alone a dog who hikes off-leash. But these days 2 1/2 years later, Bill is a mountain goat. It brings me infinite joy to watch him climb the rocks on our favorite hike or leap through the snow like a gazelle. We call him a "carabill." His story is at

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Influence Positively Interview - Hilary Lane

hlanddoggies Hilary Lane owns Fang Shui Canines ( a canine coaching business that helps people and their dogs live harmoniously. Hilary co-founded Rocky Mountain Border Collie Rescue, where she trained rescues to be more adoptable. Currently, she volunteers with the Humane Society of Boulder Valley in their STAR programs, puppy socialization classes, and other shelter events; evaluates potential canine candidates for a Search and Rescue organization; is a co-founder of the new American Treibball Association; writes blogs and writes articles for pet publications, including Cornell and Tufts veterinary newsletters; and co-moderates Bark Out Loud Radio, a weekly, dog community oriented show that discusses specific pet issues. Her two rescue Border Collies, Frisbee and Luna, reside with her in Louisville, Colorado.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Living in a sunny climate with the ocean and wooded trails nearby. Immersing myself in creative endeavors. Helping others solve problems. Being with people who are open, compassionate, easygoing. Learning from those who can teach me more about animal behavior, politics, the arts, and the facets of life I don’t understand. Being in wonderful health. Hanging out alone with my dogs and thoughts when I want to. Traveling the world. Obviously, I don’t have all of this, but I treasure the parts that I do have.

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Influence Positively Interview - Dee Bogetti

DeeandMurphyV Dee Bogetti is a full-time dog trainer, specializing in Diabetic Alert Dogs. She is a therapy dog handler and founder of Life's Journey Therapy Dogs, as well as co-host of Internet radio's Bark Radio, publisher of Woofs n Wags magazine and author of Puppies chew shoes, don't they?.

Dee volunteers with Lab Rescue of Greater Richmond and sits on the board of Many Paths Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation.



What is your idea of perfect happiness?   The day that a service dog I have trained passes his final test to become certified.

If you could come back as a dog or a cat, which one would it be & why? When I come back as a dog I will know the joy of living in the moment. AND … I will have the ability to be asleep the second my eyes close.

What is your pet’s most treasured possession? Their pack: five dogs, two humans.

Your proudest achievement so far? Walking away from a 30-year career to become a full-time dog trainer.

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