Friday, April 18, 2014
By Maureen Milliken
When David Rosenfelt goes to the PetSmart store in Augusta, they’re ready for him. After all, it takes a while to pile 300 pounds of kibble on a cart.
David Rosenfelt with his golden retriever.
That’s an impressive amount of dog food.
But then, dogs have played an impressive role in the writer’s life for some time now.
For instance, how impressive is moving 27 dogs from California to a new home in Maine, which he and his wife, Debra Myers, did two years ago when they moved to the inland mid-coast area?
Rosenfelt, a former Hollywood movie executive who writes mysteries and thrillers, takes dog loving to a new sphere. And the dogs have loved him right back.
“I’m a moderately successful writer,” he said last week over breakfast at The Senator Inn in Augusta after a Petsmart visit. “But in dog culture, I’m a rock star.”
Rosenfelt and Myers years ago founded the Tara Foundation, named after the couple’s first golden retriever.
When Tara, “an unbelievable dog,” died of cancer, it was life-changing, Rosenfelt said.
After Tara’s three-month decline, Myers wasn’t ready for a new dog. So she and Rosenfelt volunteered at a Los Angeles shelter in order to get their dog fix.
It was a sobering experience to watch as dog after dog was euthanized simply because there was no one to give them a home.
Rosenfelt said he once saw a family bring in a dog they had adopted as a pup. It was no longer cute and cuddly and they didn’t want it anymore. The dog was put on death row and the family went back to the cages to find a new puppy.
Shortly after that, the couple started their foundation.
“And it’s been downhill ever since,” he said.
The plan was to take in dogs that were otherwise going to be killed — mostly goldens — and find them homes. A lot of those dogs stayed with Rosenfelt and Myers, though.
And so the rock star status blossomed.
Rosenfelt found out several years ago just how special dog culture is when he and Myers, still in California but building a retirement home in Maine, were chased out of their home by a wildfire. Don’t worry; they got all the dogs out. But fearing the home was lost, the couple decided to move to Maine earlier than planned. Rosenfelt sent an email to a friend in the Midwest, asking for ideas about how to move 3,000 miles with 27 dogs.
Within days, he’d had responses from across the country offering lodging for the family, including the dogs.
His home was spared and the move wasn’t necessary after all, but it didn’t take long before they decided not to wait until retirement to become Mainers.
It took three RVs and 11 humans to get here.
Rosenfelt has turned that story into a nonfiction book that comes out in July.
He writes two books a year, so Rosenfelt makes a lot of appearances, such as the one tonight at Augusta’s Lithgow Public Library to promote his new thriller, “Airtight.”
But what he really likes to do is combine a book signing with a benefit for rescue dogs.
They are down to 19 dogs now. Rosenfelt has found that dogs don’t stay in shelters as long in Maine, and there are more people willing to adopt.
The New Jersey native is one of those people who came to Maine for a visit, felt its magic and had to live here. “It’s like ‘Brigadoon,’” he said with a laugh.
The dogs think so, too. They love the snow, for instance.
He and his wife have rescued more than 4,000 dogs over the years. They’ve given all of them — not just the 19 rolling in this winter’s snow — new lives.
Dog ownership has been good not only for Rosenfelt’s soul, but also his book sales.
Remember the part about the dogs giving back? It all comes around. Call it doggie karma.
Several books into Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series, the publisher put a golden retriever on the cover of “Play Dead,” a book in which a golden plays a very important part in solving the mystery. Sales skyrocketed.
His Carpenter books have had a dog on the cover ever since.
“People have told me they buy my books just because there’s a dog on the cover,” he said. He doesn’t mind that at all.
Carpenter has an awesome golden retriever, Tara, named after the original, of course.
Rosenfelt said readers have told him before they buy one of his books they thumb through to the end to make sure Tara hasn’t been killed off.
Will she ever be?
Spoiler alert: Rosenfelt doesn’t hesitate.
“No. No way.”
Maureen Milliken is news editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kennebec Tales appears the first and third Thursday of the month.