Douglas Anthony Cooper has written bestselling novels, and recently wrote a series of articles highly critical of PETA and in support of the national No Kill movement.
This work, “PETA’s Death Cult,” appeared in the Huffington Post, and was a finalist for the Canadian Online Publishing Awards, in the category of “Best Online-Only Article or Series of Articles.”
Douglas Anthony Cooper has also written for various magazines and newspapers, including Wired, the New York Times, and Rolling Stone. He won a National Magazine Award in Canada for a travel essay in Saturday Night. A piece in Travel + Leisure won the Lowell Thomas Gold Medal from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation in 2004, and was collected in The Best American Travel Writing 2004.
In his newest project, Douglas Anthony Cooper is working on a Seuss-like picture book that is suited for children as well as for adults. It is about the life and adventures of “Galunker”, a Pit Bull type dog.
His partner on this is Dula Yavne, a fabulous illustrator from Tel Aviv, whose work has been shown around the world.
No Kill Alegany County (NKAC): How and why did you get involved in animal welfare and the No Kill movement?
Douglas Anthony Cooper (DAC): Well, it started when I fell in love with dogs. I was always keen on animals, but not really obsessed with dogs until my girlfriend insisted that we get one — and now we have four. A friend alerted me to the mass slaughter of dogs by PETA; I was furious, and decided to write a piece about it. While researching that I came across Nathan Winograd’s article about Newkirk. And it just took off from there.
NKAC: You have become a fixture and outspoken Advocate for the No Kill movement: you have written several articles for the Huffington Post condemning PETA and the mass killing of companion animals in animal shelters. What does the No Kill movement mean to you, and in what way has it changed your life?’
DAC: Well, to me it’s just a no-brainer: once you realize that some three million adoptable shelter animals are being killed annually — for no reason — it’s pretty hard not to get involved. And for me, the most effective way to contribute is through writing — that’s what I do. Once I started covering this, it snowballed: partially because I realized just how many enemies that No Kill has, and just how vicious they are. It’s crucial to stand up to them. This is one of the most important political campaigns in the nation — a revolution in animal welfare.
It’s completely changed my life. Not simply because I have all sorts of lovely new enemies across the continent, but because I’ve never really had the opportunity to devote myself completely to an unambiguously good cause.
NKAC: Your newest project is a picture book about a pit-bull-type dog with the name “Galunker”. Tell us a little bit about it. Who is Galunker, how did you come up with the idea, and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
DAC: Partially it’s an effort to make up for my own bigotry. For years I swallowed all the misinformation about pit bulls: that they had locking jaws, were uniquely dangerous, etc. My girlfriend finally convinced me — after presenting me with all of the statistics and studies — that I was just wrong. Completely wrong. And this kind of widespread error is responsible for a million pit bulls killed every year in shelters. It’s not a trivial mistake.
One of the things that inspired me was the story of Michael Vick’s pit bulls. The rescuers had been told that these were some of “the most dangerous dogs in America”. Not only were they NOT dangerous, but one went on to become a therapy dog in a hospital.
So I came up with a children’s story about a rescued fighting dog, Galunker, who terrifies everyone — and who is scheduled for execution at the shelter — until one small girl, Blinky, discovers that he’s in fact harmless and completely lovable. So it’s her against the world: she’s determined to save this dog from the evil woman who runs the city’s shelters. The woman’s name is Ms. Breezy Pacifical Ooze (a take on Breed Specific Laws). Blinky is, like Galunker, a misunderstood outsider: a tiny girl with an eye patch, who has questionable social skills. They become this heroic pair.
And then I stumbled over the work of this fabulous illustrator, Dula Yavne — I thought she’d be perfect for the project, so I approached her. She dove right in, and has come up with fabulous illustrations. Really great.
NKAC: Today, May 27th 2014, is the start of the Galunker Kickstarter project. Can you tell us what Kickstarter is and how it works?
DAC: Dula and I were both aware that there was no way we were going to get a traditional publishing house to release a kids’ book about a pit bull. Both of us have had our work distributed worldwide, but we were told that with regard to Galunker, “we might as well create a children’s book about meth.” The misconceptions are just too widespread. So we decided to turn to Kickstarter.
Kickstarter is a so-called “crowd funding” organization — it’s a way of raising funds for various things, including artistic projects: indie CDs, books, etc. What happens is that you put together a complete proposal, describing the project in detail, and you invite people to “pledge” funds. Depending upon how much money they give, they become entitled to certain rewards: say, a signed first-edition, or a t-shirt with Galunker printed on it, etc. For people who pledge a lot, we’ll have Dula paint a portrait of their dog. (This will be available to only a few people — it’s a lot of work, and she’s a perfectionist.)
NKAC: Do you have any plans for more picture books? Perhaps more Galunker adventures or any other projects you have in mind and would like to share with us?
DAC: If this takes off, we’ll certainly contemplate a series. Either a sequel to Galunker, or more books devoted to misunderstood animals. Dula and I have discovered that we love working together.
And we have strong reason to believe that it will take off: pit bulls have a hugely committed community of activists, and they’ve shown real support for this book. These dogs need all the help they can get.
NKAC: Anything you would like to add?
DAC: Just that the first few days really matter. If people could pledge this week, we’d really appreciate it: Kickstarter projects require momentum, and then they just keep rolling. Also, it would be stunning if animal advocates were to mention Galunker on their blogs, etc. Anything to get the word out. That’s how crowd-funding works: it’s all about making as much noise as possible. And we think this is a truly important project.
Thank you, Douglas Anthony Cooper, for this interview.