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Man Rescues Dog – Dog Rescues Man The Result… Two Incredible Lives Saved By Lori Golden
Ken Howard should be a familiar face to many. The star of stage, screen, and television, he most recently appeared semi-regularly as Jill Hennessy’s retired detective father on NBC’s Crossing Jordan. These days he keeps busy making numerous guest appearances on TV as well as playing, what he says are “small, but kind of wonderful parts in feature films.” Often linked to actress Blythe Danner because they appeared together in so many things, it was actually that relationship which led to one of his most memorable roles, that of the basketball coach on The White Shadow, a series that aired on TV in the late 70’s. (Ken brought the original idea to Danner’s husband, the late Bruce Paltrow, based on his own experience of being the only white player on his basketball team.) Ken never experienced the joy of living with dogs during much of his life, but all that changed when he married his wife Linda, a retired stuntwoman and major animal lover, who had seen some pit bull puppies that were in need of homes. In 1996, while living in Brentwood, Linda would pass by a little shop called The Pet Stop on her way to get their mail. “On Saturdays I would always look at the animals they brought in that needed homes,” Linda explains. “I loved them but we weren’t allowed to have a dog in the building where we lived. Then one day when I was in the elevator in my building I ran into Bonnie Hunt, who lived there briefly, with a dog. I said, ‘Bonnie, we can’t have dogs here, can we?’ And she said, ‘no, but it takes nine months for them to evict you.’ I love her to this day for that! “Then, right before Valentine’s Day, I passed by the store and saw the most beautiful puppies up for adoption. On February 14, Ken and I had gone out for lunch and then went to pick up our mail. So Ken got to see how gorgeous these puppies were. There were two mixed-pits that hadn’t yet been adopted. I looked at Ken and said, ‘if they fall into the wrong hands it can be awful for them. I suggested that we take the puppies for a week or so because these women were so overwhelmed. So on February 17, 1996 we brought the two puppies home. Having them in the apartment for about an hour we knew we were screwed and that we were going to keep them. We ended up finding a home for the one we named Redford, and kept the other one who we named Shadow… and about six months from that day we were evicted from our apartment.” “We learned that June Roberts, the head of the NEVA Foundation, had rescued Shadow’s mother Madison, when she was brought to the pound on Christmas Day, and shortly thereafter gave birth to a litter of pups,” continues Linda. “Because she was a Staffordshire terrier they were 45 minutes away from destroying her and her babies because they didn’t have time for that breed and her puppies. So June and her partner raced to the pound and took all the puppies and Madison. From day one Shadow was in really good hands until he was old enough to be adopted at eight weeks old, which is the right thing to do.” It turned out that Madison had a fractured back leg, but her rescuers never noticed it because the new mom never complained… except to always sit on one side. “She was the best dog with everyone coming over to see her puppies,” says Linda. “And she seemed to have such a sense of
gratefulness about her that the women ended up keeping her because she was such an extraordinary animal.” Like mother, like son. “Getting Shadow was completely Linda’s idea,” says Ken. “She told me she thought that pit bulls, mixed breed American Staffordshire terriers were very misunderstood creatures because in reality, they’re great dogs and they’re loyal, but very powerful. They are also wonderful with children and other dogs, IF they are trained correctly, right out of the litter. So we got Shadow, and everything she said came true. But that’s because she knew how to train him and how to socialize him with other dogs. Shadow has always been great with everything – little babies, other dogs, – because he has this great sensibility. It’s just that they’re such powerful, loyal, tough dogs that if you get them and turn them into fighters, if you make them into something else, they can become really dangerous killing machines. If you did that with a Chihuahua, they can’t do the same damage but the attitude is there.” When Shadow was a few months old, he was sent to a wonderful trainer Linda swears by named Paul Moran. “I knew Paul and his wife Laura offered only love and affection training, totally. Nothing more,” explains Linda. “Paul had told us ‘if anyone tells you that it’s not upsetting for a puppy to be taken out of his environment that he’s just gotten used to, they’re lying. It’s going to be very hard on him for the first few days, so we don’t do any training at all in the beginning. All we do is love him for the first three days and then we start to train him.’ And it worked out great.” “Paul told us a few times what a great dog Shadow was, but he showed us how you can bring out the worst in a dog… or not. In the kitchen when he met Shadow for the first time, Paul made eye contact with him, and then he backed away like he was afraid, like he had done something wrong. Shadow immediately started growling, as if to say, ‘why are you backing away?’ Paul told us that was the natural reaction for these dogs. ‘We can bring that out in him,’ added Paul, but because he was just a puppy he was able to train that behavior out of him.” Ken recently celebrated his 63rd birthday, but that almost didn’t happen, were it not for Shadow. In June of 2000, Ken knew he needed a kidney transplant and decided to share his experience with the public by doing a story for People magazine. Despite knowing that his numbers relating to his condition were off the charts, he finished a photography shoot on what was a very hot day. When they returned to their then home in Malibu, Ken told Linda he was feeling tired and was going upstairs to lie down. “I had let Ken out at the door,” continues Linda. “He took the groceries in and put them on the table, while I parked the car. When I walked in, Shadow was standing on the stairs. So I thought I would take Shadow out for a walk. I went to the door and called him, but Shadow wasn’t following me. He was still inside standing on the stairs, in the same position, staring at me. I began putting the groceries away, but Shadow started to growl at me. Not a vicious growl, but like he was trying to talk to me. And I thought, well, this is just the strangest thing. What’s wrong with you? I tried to ignore him but he did it again. So I walked to the bottom of the stairs and I said, ‘honey, are you ok up there?’ “Shadow then turned around and raced up the stairs. I still didn’t get it but I walked up the stairs, asking again if Ken was ok. As I entered the bedroom, I saw that Shadow had his nose pushing against the bathroom door as hard as he could. The door wasn’t completely closed. As I got
closer, I heard this horrible gurgling sound. I looked in the door, which was only open about five inches, and I could see Ken’s feet as he was lying on the floor. He had obviously fallen and his head was wedged back and his body was behind the door. I found him face down, suffocating in a massive pool of blood. He was completely unconscious.” “Had Shadow not convinced me to go up there,” adds Linda, “Ken would have died, because it would have been an hour and a half before I would have gone up to check on him.” After calling 911, the fire department came and helicoptered Ken to UCLA. “Throughout all the turmoil with these firemen running up and down the stairs, getting Ken on a backboard and hooking him up to an IV, Shadow just sat quietly and watched. He absolutely knew these guys were there to help.” That night Ken had emergency kidney dialysis, and not long after, underwent successful kidney transplant surgery, thanks to the donation of a kidney by Ken and Linda’s good friend, stuntwoman extraordinaire Jeannie Epper. After Ken recovered they visited the Malibu fire department to thank them for their help. “One of the guys commented, ‘that dog was unbelievable. He was incredible and he wasn’t even on a leash.’” “I explained,” said Linda, “that he was the reason I called you. He’s the reason that Ken is here!’ Shadow has had his own share of medical problems. A few years ago he had to have emergency disc surgery, which he recovered from very well. Following that, this special dog who is allergic to everything, was stung by a bee. His reaction was so severe, he was rushed to an animal emergency hospital suffering from kidney failure. (Like father, like son.) “Our vet told us he had never seen Shadow that sick… we really thought we were going to have to let him go,” explains Linda. “But miraculously, by the time we met up with our vet the next morning, he told us that Shadow was doing better and that his levels were coming back up.” But this past December 21st, Shadow had problems once again. “Ken was out of town when Shadow went down and couldn’t get up. He kept trying to get up but his front feet were turning under. I’m very good in an emergency situation,” explains Linda. “But if it’s my dog, forget about it. I was hysterical because I couldn’t move him to the car by myself, and it was 8:00 in the morning.” “The only person I thought to call was my neighbor Susan Duff, whose daughters are Hilary and Hayley Duff. I knew that they often have production meetings at her home early in the morning with their wonderful president of their production company named Troy Brown. He’s the sweetest person on the planet and he’s BIG! I called Susan’s cell phone and when Troy answered, I just started crying, and said, ‘can you come and help me? It’s Shadow.’ The next thing I knew Troy, Susan, and little Hilary, who was having breakfast with her mom, all came running over. Although Susan had told her stay at home, Hilary said, ‘no, if it’s Shadow I want to go.’ They helped me wrap Shadow in a rug and they carried him out to the car and got him in the back seat. Because of them I was able to get Shadow over to the Animal Emergency Center where he had his second emergency disc surgery and spent another two weeks in the hospital. Shadow is recovering beautifully and turned eleven years old this past Christmas Day.” The fact that Shadow is a Staffordshire terrier makes this story even more compelling. Linda and Ken always knew that Shadow had to be better than any other dogs out there because if anything did happen, it would automatically be his fault. Because of his breed.
“Linda is right,” says Ken. “They’re great dogs…. if they’re not messed with. I think you can say that about people, too. But there is terrible abuse, and that’s also the story of pit bulls. If they are trained correctly, they’ll respond how they’re supposed to. Shadow is absolute proof of that!” (Ken Howard can soon be seen in the feature film Michael Clayton, starring George Clooney, as well as Smother, where he plays Diane Keaton’s husband. He’ll also be in the latest version of Rambo with Sylvester Stallone.)
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