As we near the end of an unprecedented year for all of us, I’ve been thinking a lot about the good we found in 2020. Yes, there were good things even if it doesn’t feel that way sometimes. Thinking back to my animal welfare advocacy, I had to stop and reflect on how very fortunate I am that I have friends in the music industry who allow me to use their songs either directly or by helping me navigate the process of licensing music legally. It really is quite amazing that I know people with so very much talent who graciously help me so I can help animals.
I first tried to legally clear music a couple of decades ago and quickly learned it is a daunting process. My first effort was a complete failure. I had hoped to use a song called “Take it to Heart,” co-written by Michael McDonald and Diane Warren. I got permission from both of them, but got stuck at the label which really didn’t have time for someone who could not pay to use the song and who wanted to use it to help animals. All that changed once I figured out the best way to use music legally was to make personal connections with the people who own the music. I want to thank them in this blog and tell a little about how it all came together. I’ve listed them in the order in which I began using their music.
Fisher. We were channel surfing one night in the late 1990s when I heard part of a song on a talent show which I think was actually the version of “The Gong Show” hosted by Arsenio Hall. A young couple was doing a modern dance to a quiet and haunting song which immediately caught my attention. I wrote down some of the lyrics and later learned the song was “Ordinary Moment,” by Fisher – the pop duo of married couple Kathleen Fisher and Ron Wasserman. I was hooked. I found a Fisher message board, began interacting with other fans and ultimately connected with both Ron and Kathy directly by email.
When Fisher released their 2002 double CD called “Uppers and Downers” (true creative genius, by the way), I just had to ask. Could I please use a couple of the songs in video projects to help animals? I knew Kathy and Ron had left the label they were working with in order to have more freedom over their music and knew they owned all of the music themselves. The answer was not only yes. It was a yes to what is called "free use license" which means I can use any of the songs for any purpose to help animals. I can’t speak for them, but I think they both understood this was a mutually beneficial arrangement. I would help animals using their music and they would reach people who may not know about them, much like I didn’t know about them until I heard part of "Ordinary Moment." (This song is still a favorite of mine and is very much suited to our lives in 2020; I hope you'll take the time to listen to it).
As an aside, I like to tell a story about Fisher to help people understand how grounded they are. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, the family of a co-worker of mine relocated to Alabama. I think it was 12 people in all. They loaded up all they could in a few cars, hit the road and it took days to arrive. They had very little to sustain them. Our office collected clothes, dishes, furniture. The items they would need to live until they figured out what would come next. After I posted about them on Fisher’s message board, Kathy called to talk about what they needed. She and Ron not only donated money, but sent boxes and boxes of supplies from baby clothes to dishes just because they wanted to help. It's just the kind of people they are.
I’ve since used countless Fisher songs over the years from a variety of CDs - Uppers and Downers, The Lovely Years, Water, Stripped and 3. I’ve done projects for animal rescue groups, animal shelters, on certain animal-oriented subjects and for PSAs for television. I’ve even used some which were never released which I’m fortunate enough to have in my box of musical treasures. My most recent was a project for Shadow Cats, Inc. in Texas using "Different Kind of Wonderful." I cannot thank them enough. Kathy now has this platform on Facebook and Ron has a website that is focused on his composition work. Their music is available on Amazon and iTunes.
Martin Page. Much like my introduction to Fisher, my connection with Martin Page began with a single song. In “In the House of Stone and Light” was released in 1996 on a CD by the same name. I was not yet an animal advocate and the time, but always loved the song. As time went on, I forgot the name of the song but had parts of it stuck in my head over the years. I was driving to work one day in 2014 when it came on the radio and I was thrilled. The whole song came back to me and I quickly wrote down the title so I wouldn’t forget it. I connected with Martin through Diane Poncher who handles his Music Management. I told him how thrilled I was to have “found” him again after all the years in between and asked if it would be possible to use some of his other music in my animal welfare projects, much like my arrangement with Fisher. I knew Martin handled his own music production also and I would not need to interact with a label. Diane and Martin said yes, no doubt after consulting with Martin's cat, "Bootsie." I now have a relationship with them in which I ask to use a particular song, describe the project I have in mind and get approval. I continue to be astounded by this connection, primarily due to the library of Martin’s work. He’s written songs with and for some of the most notable names in the music industry and I am in awe of his talents. My first project using one of Martin’s songs was for National Mill Dog Rescue in Colorado. We used a beautiful tune called “I Can’t Get There Without You.” The video quality is lacking a bit, but this is a personal favorite for me for a couple of reasons: we used footage of people slow dancing with dogs and it includes both Harley Taylor and Teddy Burchfield, both of whom have since left this Earth. I used "All For the Love of You" in a popular project for Esther the Wonder Pig who lives in Canada and has a huge following. Many thanks to both Martin and Diane, both of whom I consider friends. Martin’s music is available on iTunes.
David Hodges. Although David Hodges has been in the music industry for decades, I didn’t have an awareness of him until I heard a song called “Shattered” from a 2011 release called More Than This. I looked for information about David and discovered that he had been around for years and had become one of the most prolific songwriters on the planet. He had released a series of CDs under the name “The December Sessions,” and I was hoping to use some of the songs in my video projects. I had a hard time finding out how to connect until a long-time Fisher contact in Tennessee (thanks, Melissa!) did some sleuthing for me and learned he was managed by Milk & Honey Music Management, led by Lucas Keller. David’s music is with a label (it was Sony and is now Kobalt), but Lucas graciously helped me navigate the process of legally clearing songs and continues to do so to this day (along with help from his rescued dogs Kilo and Graham). I’ve used two of David’s songs this year – “A Song for Us” for House of Little Dogs in Arkansas and “The Only Story” for Harley’s House of Hope (I’m particularly proud of this one since we decided to incorporate American Sign Language into the video). David has so many wonderful songs that I find myself thinking of projects even before I have a target organization in mind. Thank you so very much to David, Lucas and the folks at Kobalt. David’s music is available on Amazon, iTunes and Spotify.
Jim Gaven. Most of my video projects are created using a Photodex software program called ProShow Producer. Before the company stopped supporting the program, it came with a music library and that’s how I found Jim Gaven. A few of his songs were in the library and although I was allowed to use them from having purchased the software, I connected with Jim to let him know I was using the music. I’m so glad I did. Jim has a wide variety of music released on his own through the Bandcamp platform. In addition to creating wonderful music, Jim leads a nonprofit organization called Key of Awesome Music, Inc. which improves the quality of life for people with disabilities, addiction, the elderly, and children - with music. What amazing work. I used “Make this Moment Last” in a project for the Lake County Florida Animal Shelter and very much look forward to using more of Jim’s music in the future to help animals. Jim’s music is available on Bandcamp and Soundcloud.
Cristina Lynn. Cristina and I met through a common contact who calls her "cous" (they both share the last name Lynn). I had heard she was a singer-songwriter from my area and thought it would be interesting to connect with someone local. After I lost my parents to cancer, I ended up with some songs in my head, one of which was from the perspective of a rescued animal called, "Just No Looking Back." I knew it was not a chart topper, but also thought it might be able to help some animals. I reached to to Cristina and she graciously agreed to record the song for us both after improving on the lyrics and melody. I've used in in a few different projects and each time I learn she will perform locally, I make a request for her to "sing our song." Cristina is a wonderful talent and I look forward to a very bright future for her in the music industry!
I hope you’ll take a break from a very difficult year to enjoy some of the video projects. You can them on my Paws4Change channel on Youtube. If you are an aspiring artist who is looking for some exposure to your music in a feel-good, let's help animals kind of way, let me know.
Fingerprints. Footprints. Pawprints.
I first learned of the concept of a Soulprint a few years ago, thanks to the incredibly talented Martin Page. Martin and his manager, Diane Poncher, allow me to use Martin's music in my animal welfare projects. When Martin released his "In the Temple of the Muse" CD in 2012 and I first heard the song, "Soulprint," I knew I would try to use it some day. I just didn't know at the time that I would end up using it to honor a loss.
I think all of us want to make a difference in some way. All of us want to be remembered. Only some of us are truly able to change the world or society or even a community. Most of us do well to be good people who love our families and our friends, who work hard and who try to help others when we can. Also universal is the reality that the longer we live, the more precious time becomes as we lose those we love. Death is a part of life. I have my own beliefs about God and death and The Other Side which I don't force on anyone. Although I believe that there is an After, I feel incredibly strongly that we must all do our very best to be grateful for the time we have here and the time we share with the people we care about. It is easy to let ourselves assume that we will have X amount of time based on how long other people in our family lived or based on how hard we try to eat well, exercise and avoid bad habits. The truth is that no one is guaranteed any more time than today and we are well served to do our very best to treat each day as our last.
Losing beloved animals over the years taught me about death at a young age. Losing my parents in a 6 month window of time to cancer taught me to leave no words of love, apology or advocacy unsaid and to do my very best to appreciate the blessings in my life. I have always been outspoken and I attribute part of that to my military background. Your tax dollars at work, I guess. Losing Snake put me on a path of animal welfare advocacy. Losing my parents simply honed my focus on my advocacy and allowed me to cast away some of my fears about what others think.
I've crossed paths with a lot of wonderful and passionate people over the years in my animal advocacy and we all lost an incredible person yesterday. Dana Kay Mattox Deutsch. I think I was just lucky to see the post about her passing in my Facebook feed. Had I not looked at the right moment, it may have been weeks before I heard the news. It took me a while to process. Surely she was not gone. I had just talked to her a couple of months ago and she sounded fine. I am told she had lung cancer even though she had never smoked, which is the case with many people. I am also told that it moved to her brain, as was the case with my dad back in 2010.
Dana. I first met her in 2004. I was working on some slide show to promote animal adoption and I ran across her photostream in Flick. I emailed her to ask if I could use some of her images and of course she said yes. I went on to use countless images of hers over the years. At one point I did a slide show specific to the shelter where she worked at the time. We used "Ordinary Moment," by Fisher, a song which has always held a special place in my heart since it was the first Fisher song I ever heard. We kept in touch when she moved on to her new job in North Chicago. I was kind of surprised that she had chosen to become an animal control officer. It is a hard and often thankless job in which you see a lot of neglect and tragedy. I knew from talking to Dana that she took an incredible amount of pride in her work. It was her life's passion. I could hear the energy in her voice each time we talked and I always felt empowered after speaking with her. When I later did a project for her about Ralphie (her beloved dog she rescued after Hurricane Katrina) I felt closer to her. I had seen so many images of him, and of all the animals she had helped for so many years, that I felt a tight bond with her.
We will never really know how many people Dana helped. How many animals she saved. The numbers are surely staggering and for that I am grateful.
Dana's Soulprint was, and is, deep. She is gone from this place far, far too soon. I am so very happy to call her friend. I am honored to have walked Life's Path with her for a while, even if from different physical locations. She was a kindred spirit and I have to believe her legacy will be strong as she inspires others to live with the type of passion she showed each and every day.
I read something yesterday to the effect that Dana will still making calls to try to place animals from her hospital bed in the days prior to her passing. I had to smile when I heard that. Of course she was.
I miss you, friend. I love you, I will honor you as I move forward by using your images and remembering how very hard you worked each and every day to make a difference. How deeply you loved.
I feel your Soulprint, even though your light has gone. I feel your Soulprint on me.
(images courtesy of Dana Kay Mattox Deutsch; "Soulprint" courtesy of Martin Page)
My advocacy involves a lot of keyboarding. That isn't all I do, but it's what takes up most of my volunteer time. I have pages and blogs here which cover topics I think are important to most animal loving Americans. And even to people who don't consider themselves "animal people" but who are interested in how municipalities function related to animals.
The aspect of my advocacy I enjoy most is creating slideshows and videos for specific nonprofits or on general topics which can be used by any nonprofit. I work in the legal field doing a job that calls for a lot of investigative work and analysis and really no creativity at all. It helps me to have a creative outlet to help people who help animals while honoring my own animals and human family members who have moved on.
Probably my longest "client" relationship is with National Mill Dog Rescue based in Peyton, Colorado. I can still recall the very first conversation I ever had with Theresa Strader many years ago while we were working on "Believe in Something" using a Fisher song by the same name. I have never been to the National Mill Dog Rescue kennel and have often thought how wonderful it would be to quit my day job and just become a full time volunteer there. It's just an ongoing joke, of course. Aubrie Kavanaugh - Poop Removal Specialist. Some of my closest contacts in the rescue community are the people who help manage this nonprofit; they work incredibly hard to not only help dogs but to help educate the public. There are no days off. I dare say that their advocacy is not just part of what they do. It is part of who they are.
My latest project for National Mill Dog Rescue came at a perfect time for me. We had just had our dog euthanized under terrible circumstances and I was a disaster. When Michele Burchfield asked me to do a project using a Little River Band song in advance of their August 14th concert at Lily's Haven, I was thankful for the distraction from my grief. It gave me something positive to do. As I searched for and saved the images I needed to fit the vibe I was going for, I couldn't help but to smile at all those precious faces, both canine and human. Putting the project together helped heal some of the broken places in my heart.
I consider this type of advocacy people helping people helping animals. Thanks so very much to Little River Band for allowing us to use this song. I am sure it won't be the last time we use one of the band's songs. I look forward to more projects in the future using music which belongs to Little River Band, Fisher and Martin Page, my "go-to" music sources.
If you are anywhere near Peyton, Colorado, I hope you'll go to the concert. I'm sure it will be a wonderful combination of terrific music and just great people. If you can't go, I hope you enjoy "Love Is" and that you will learn more about the life-saving work of this incredible organization. I do believe theirs is a Higher Calling. And I am simply happy to be associated with such devoted and passionate advocates.
I lost a very close friend of mine yesterday. He was covered with fur, was pretty short, walked kinda crooked and only had one eye, but I loved him dearly. And still do. His name is Harley Taylor. We never met in person, but that doesn’t really matter in the end. . .
I first started doing volunteer work for National Mill Dog Rescue back in 2009. I learned about the organization through something I read back on the former message boards for the Best Friends Animal Society about some puppy mill dogs who had been saved. I knew back then about what puppy mills in rather general terms, but my education had a long way to go. It was due to my association with NMDR that I really began to learn about the origin of mills, how they function and how we perpetuate their existence through our own choices. The reality is that all puppies are cute and we allow ourselves to be blinded by that cuteness we see when we tell ourselves it is okay to buy that dog from the pet store or the internet. It is not. And it must stop.
When I heard about a new player on the scene who was working as a “spokesdog” for NMDR, I marveled at the genius of the concept: Harley and his faithful sidekick, Teddy, began orchestrating “Harley to the Rescue!” missions to save other mill dogs. It was just perfect. Who better to not only speak for the mill dogs but to encourage all of us to help those dogs while educating the public to make better choices?
I did a number of projects involving Harley over a period of time, not because he or NMDR needed my help but just because I felt compelled to do something to be part of such wonderful, life-saving work. I wanted to be part of something I felt was magical. Our project called “A Dream to Call My Own” went semi-viral and is still one of my most popular projects I have ever done. When you combine the face of an irresistible dog with the music of Kathy Fisher and Ron Wasserman (my friends “Fisher”) with the voice of a child, who can stop smiling? No one. My other projects for Harley are less well known, but I think they still affect many people in many ways. Looking back, I am profoundly grateful that I came to know Harley and his family through our projects.
I think the most any of us can hope for, human or canine, is that we make some difference in our time here. Most of us will never cure a disease or invent something revolutionary, but we can all strive to change the world in some small way. Harley Taylor did just that. And while we all mourn the loss of this wonderful little soul, I hope our focus will be more on his remarkable life and how very many people he touched in such a very short period of time. He was a puppy mill survivor who led a truly purpose-driven life as he helped save other mill dogs and helped educate the public about the insidious nature of the commercial dog breeding industry. He was named the 2015 American Humane Association Hero Dog of 2015 and in the end, he Changed the World.
I cry for a dog I never met. I smile with pride for a boy who likely did more to change the national discussion about the commercial dog breeding industry than most people could ever hope for.
I will miss you, Harley. I am so very, very sorry you could not stay. I am so very, very grateful to have known you at all. Godspeed, little man. Your work here is done. And now we must continue it in your honor.
I am an animal welfare advocate. My goal is to help people understand some basic issues related to companion animals in America. Awareness leads to education leads to action leads to change.
image courtesy of Terrah Johnson