For the Love Of Animals
Jana Kohl, daughter of the family that founded Kohl's department store chain, says she wasn't born and bred to be an activist of
any sort, no matter how worthy the cause.
"I was raised in comfort, privilege, and with traditional values," she says. "If someone had told me I was destined to become an animal welfare advocate, I would have told them they were crazy."
But when she rescued Baby, a toy poodle who lost a leg after living in a wire-bottom cage for nine years in a puppy mill, Kohl's life was turned upside down or, she says, "right-side up, depending on how you look at it."
Friday, Aug. 22, at 4 p.m., Jana Kohl, and celebrity "spokesdog," Baby, who are traveling across the country to raise awareness of animal cruelty, will stop at The Country Bookshop in downtown Southern Pines to share their book, "A Rare Breed of Love: The True Story of Baby and the Mission She Inspired to Help Dogs Everywhere."
"Anyone who comes into the shop knows everyone on the staff is a dog lover," says Bobbie Bicket, owner of The Country Bookshop, "as do most of the dogs in town. So we were delighted when Jana offered to bring Baby here to discuss how everyone in our community can help put an end to puppy mills by adopting pets from local animal shelters, and by asking Congress to enact legislation to combat puppy mills. Jana is donating all her profits from the sale of the book to The Humane Society of the United States, and The Country Bookshop is donating a portion of our sales to The Haven-Friends for Life, the nonprofit no-kill animal rescue shelter in Raeford."
"A Rare Breed of Love" tells Jana and Baby's story, as well as the story of millions of dogs that are horribly mistreated and exploited by "millers," owners of inhumane breeding factories known as puppy mills, who keep dogs like Baby locked in cages for years, breeding them over and over until they are "used up," and then euthanizing or selling them at auction for medical experimentation.
The book also includes original essays by writers such as Alice Walker and Gloria Steinem, and more than 50 photographs of Baby with dog-loving celebrities. These include politicians, animal rights activists like radio personality Paul Harvey; actor James Cromwell; TV personalities Montel Williams, Bill Maher, and Judge Judy; players from the Mets, White Sox, and Cardinals; and politicians from both parties including Senators Elizabeth Dole and Barack Obama.
"We're going to photograph Jana and Baby with anyone who buys the book or makes a donation to The Haven and post it on our Web site, www.thecountrybookshop.biz; so we hope everyone will want to be in our version of 'A Rare Breed of Love,'" Bicket says.
Jana Kohl grew up in Fox Point, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee, attended Nicolet High School, and spent time at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in the mid-1970s before transferring to UCLA. It was there she heard Rabbi Marvin Hier, who was in the process of founding what would become the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights organization headquartered in Los Angeles. Kohl dropped out of college and volunteered at the center before joining the staff. In the early 1980s, she opened the organization's Chicago office. She eventually went back to school, earning a doctorate in psychology.
Kohl began to learn about inhumane factory farming practices by reading literature from the Humane Society and by watching a documentary about the fur industry that her friend, Mary Max, wife of artist Peter Max, insisted she see.
"If someone in our circle would have mentioned that something we enjoyed was produced in a cruel and inhumane way, such as veal or foie gras or fur, most of us wouldn't have paid attention, so faithful were we to whatever was fashionable and in keeping with our lifestyle," she says. "I simply didn't allow myself to think about it."
After her dog died of cancer, Kohl found a puppy to buy on the Internet, but a friend told her about puppy mills, something Kohl had never heard of and couldn't believe was true; so she decided to find out for herself.
"The moment I saw the hell of a puppy mill, the torture and misery of innocent creatures locked away for their whole lives, I was forever changed," Kohl says. "As I tried to come to terms with the horror that surrounded us, my only thought was: You must stop this. However long it takes, however much it costs, you must stop this. I was determined to let every American know about the misery in those windowless sheds in countless backyards across the nation, and in doing so I would try to change the laws. I knew that taking on the dog-breeding industry would be no easy task, but I didn't care how tough the opposition might be or how great the cost or the sacrifice. I simply couldn't turn my back on those tortured animals."
A few months later, in 2003, Kohl spotted a picture of a rescued nine-year-old toy poodle on Petfinder.com. Number 94 (Baby didn't have a name at that time) -- underweight, coat filthy and matted, vocal cords cut by the breeder, had been rescued from a California puppy mill by the "Drive-by Angel" who paid $200 for the "spent" breeding dog who had reached the "expiration date" tattooed in her ear. She named her Baby because "everything was a first for her. Grass. Toys. Furniture. She didn't know about anything, just like a baby."
At her foster home Baby jumped off the sofa and shattered her left front leg. For a normal dog this wouldn't have posed a danger, but for a dog who has been deprived of exercise, proper nutrition, and who was overbred, osteoporosis occurs. The vet tried to set the leg three times, but the bones were too thin and brittle to mend, and he had no choice but to amputate.
It didn't matter to Kohl that Baby was an older dog with no voice and only three legs. They were meant for each other.
"I wish everyone could know the sheer delight of rescuing a dog," Kohl says. "There is nothing so gratifying as witnessing a dog's happiness over having found their forever home."
Baby seems to agree.
For information about the Meet the Author event, call The Country Bookshop at (910) 692-3211.
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