It’s a dogs life

By Dagney C. Ernest | Jan 29, 2014
David Rosenfelt

Rockland — There are a lot of dog lovers out there … and then there are David and Debbie Rosenfelt, who currently have 20 dogs — large dogs, most of whom are long in the tooth — sharing their home on Damariscotta Lake.

“We work a lot with the Lincoln County shelter, and I think right now we have more dogs than they do,” said David Rosenfelt.

Thursday night, Feb. 6, David Rosenfelt will be working with Pope Memorial Humane Society of Knox County, which serves towns in both Knox and Waldo counties, to increase its capital campaign via a fundraising evening at the Strand Theatre, 345 Main St. Rosenfelt will share the adventure chronicled in "Dogtripping: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on a Canine Cross-Country Adventure” beginning at 7 p.m., following a 5:30 p.m. VIP reception.

The trip chronicled in “Dogtripping” took place in 2011. The couple, who had been rescuing dogs for years, had decided to move to Maine and had purchased a home five years earlier. The logistics of moving their canine household were sobering and took a number of volunteers. It was a success, if not one David revels in.

“It was the most difficult trip! They loved it, but I was completely miserable,” he said.

“Dogtripping” was an unplanned result of the five-day trek but has turned out to be Rosenfelt’s most successful book so far. A motion picture marketing exec turned mystery writer, Rosenfelt produces two novels a year, one in his popular Andy Carpenter series and a stand-alone. He had not planned on writing about the trip, so hadn’t taken notes or deliberate photos along the way. But it was a story too good not to be told … and telling it didn’t hurt his other work one bit.

“’One of the Andy Carpenters came out the same day and that sold 40 percent more than expected,” he said.

Truth is, dogs have been helping sell Rosenfelt’s books for some time. Andy Carpenter has a dog and in “Play Dead,” which Rosenfelt refers to as Book 6, the canine companion is crucial to the plot, so the publisher put a golden retriever on the cover.

“It sold twice as many as usual, so now every one has a dog on the cover,” said Rosenfelt.

It’s no surprise that dogs — mostly goldens — worked their way into Rosenfelt’s literary universe since they play such a large role in his home. It began when he and Debbie met; she had a beloved golden named Tara. When Tara approached the end of her days, she set a new course for the couple.

“It took her three months to die, and it was a transforming experience for us,” said Rosenfelt.

They dealt with their grief by volunteering at animal shelters and quickly discovered that in California, companion animals were in a bad way. Shelters in the Los Angeles area where the couple lived had hundreds of would-be pets in danger of being euthanized any given day. Older, large dogs were particularly at risk if not placed in a home quickly. To help address the need, the Rosenfelts created the Tara Foundation, which rescued almost 4,000 dogs, many of them goldens.

The couple also practiced what they preached. At one point, they had 42 large-breed dogs.

“If you have two dogs, it seems like a big deal to have three, but once you have 26, well … but I do think 40 is eccentric,” Rosenfelt said.

When Debbie retired, the couple, both of whom are from the East Coast, decided it was time to return. Their son had gone to a wedding in Maine and came back with glowing reviews, their children had located in the New York area and “we wanted real weather,” Rosenfelt said. The ability to buy a fairly big piece of land was a factor too.

“You don’t want neighbors when you have a lot of dogs,” he said.

The property in Jefferson fit the bill, but bringing two dozen large, old dogs cross- country was a daunting prospect. Rosenfelt said he really didn’t know how it could be done, so he brought the problem to his readers by mentioning it at book signings. They helped the couple come up with a plan, and more than half a dozen of them volunteered to be part of the trip.

“We flew them in from all over the country, it was really something. We still hear from them,” said Rosenfelt.

“Dogtripping” has proven so popular that Rosenfelt’s publishers want him to write a follow-up, but the author isn’t sure that’s going to happen.

“Everything I know about dogs is in that book … and I’m enjoying sitting on the couch, watching football,” he said.

General admission tickets are $10, with doors opening at 6:45 p.m. Holders of the $40 VIP tickets will receive an autographed copy of "Dogtripping," invitation to the appetizer reception with the author and a reserved seat. The evening also will include a live auction led by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries owner and auctioneer Kaja Veilleux. The auction will feature, among other things, the opportunity to have one’s name used for a character in one of Rosenfelt's future books.

For tickets, visit rocklandstrand.com. Proceeds benefit the shelter, which serves the Knox County towns of Rockland, Thomaston, Warren, Owls Head, St. George, Port Clyde, Martinsville, Tenants Harbor, South Thomaston (including Spruce Head), Hope, Union, Appleton, Cushing, Matinicus, North Haven and Vinalhaven; as well as the Waldo County towns of Montville, Stockton Springs and Morrill.

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Staff Profile

Dagney C. Ernest
A&E editor for Courier Publications, LLC
(207) 594-4401/4407, ext. 115
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Dagney has been providing Courier coverage of the local arts scene since 1985 and has helmed the multi-paper A&E section since it debuted in 2003. She has been a local performing artist, community and professional, for almost 30 years and spent a decade writing, producing and announcing on-air for several Midcoast radio stations. When not in the NewsNest, Dagney likes to be in motion.

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