Author and self-described ‘dog lunatic’ tells ‘tails’ of his dog rescue work

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 7, 2013

 Author and dog rescue founder David Rosenfelt signs copies of his books for attendees of a fundraiser July 29 at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial.

Author and dog rescue founder David Rosenfelt signs copies of his books for attendees of a fundraiser July 29 at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

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GROSSE POINTE FARMS — By his own admission, author and animal activist David Rosenfelt had a “relentlessly normal” childhood growing up in Paterson, N.J. Now, he and his wife live in Maine with 21 rescued dogs, most of them older.

“I’ve had three careers,” Rosenfelt told a rapt audience at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial July 29. “I was in the movie business, I’m a writer and now I’m a dog lunatic.”

Rosenfelt, with his wife, has rescued nearly 4,000 dogs since the couple started the Tara Foundation 14 years ago, named for their late, beloved golden retriever. He’s currently touring the country in support of one of his latest books, “Dogtripping,” which recounts their experiences transporting 25 dogs from their former home in California to their current home in Maine a number of years ago, taking three recreational vehicles and seven reader volunteers along for the challenging — and often unintentionally funny — ride. Rosenfelt is making appearances nationwide to raise money for animal rescue organizations, and his stop in the Pointes was a fundraiser for the Grosse Pointe Animal Adoption Society and the Friends of the Grosse Pointe Public Library.

“I’d give it three paws up,” said attendee Sue Steiger, of Grosse Pointe Park, after the talk.

A former Hollywood film marketing executive, Rosenfelt’s first novel was published just over a decade ago. He has 17 books to his credit, most of them mysteries.

His most recent works include the thriller “Airtight,” the Andy Carpenter mystery “Unleashed” and “Dogtripping.”

The witty and unfailingly honest Rosenfelt said that after a series of huge cinematic flops featuring big stars like Meryl Streep and Bruce Willis, he left movie marketing to become a screenwriter. He said he penned 10 screenplays that never got made, even though studios bought them.

“You can actually be a successful writer in Hollywood and never get a movie made,” he said.

Rosenfelt was then hired to write movies for television. Of the 10 TV scripts he wrote, three were made for the small screen. It wasn’t until he’d written a courtroom drama that his career as a novelist started. When he couldn’t get that one produced, he said he turned it into what became his first novel, “Open and Shut,” which features his most beloved character, attorney Andy Carpenter.

“I didn’t even know I had written a mystery. … And I didn’t know it was a series” until the publisher ordered two sequels, Rosenfelt said.

The author discovered his real passion in life when he and his wife began taking in large dogs that otherwise would have been euthanized, because their age and health conditions made it unlikely they’d ever be adopted. Prior to his dog-rescue days, Rosenfelt said he assumed dogs in shelters came with problems passed on from previous homes.

“‘Dogtripping’ is really special to me,” he told the crowd. “What I want people to understand … (is that) if dogs are in shelters, it’s because of problems with the owners, not with the dogs.”

GPAAS Executive Director Corinne Martin drove home the importance of this event by holding Ivana, an adorable, nearly 3-month-old Spaniel mix puppy, as she spoke. Ivana was one of a litter of four strays treated by GPAAS; only she and one of her brothers survived.

“I brought a friend,” Martin said as she cradled the dark-furred pup. “This little puppy came in (to our shelter in Harper Woods) with a serious case of parvovirus. The funds (raised tonight) go to help dogs like this.”

About 120 people attended the benefit. Vicki Granger, of Grosse Pointe Woods, who serves on the Friends of the Grosse Pointe Public Library Board, said the event raised about $900 for each of the nonprofits. Granger submitted the winning live auction bid to have a character named after her — or someone else of her choosing — in an upcoming Rosenfelt book.

“That was all possible because we had so many very nice merchants donate items for the raffle … and also because David Rosenfelt was so generous in doing a book tour to benefit animal adoption groups,” she said.

Rosenfelt even bought raffle tickets, Granger said.

“As far as we know, this is the first time our two organizations have collaborated, and we look forward to more (in the future),” Granger said of GPAAS and the Friends group.

For more information about the Friends or GPAAS, visit their respective websites at gplibraryfriends.org or www.gpaas.org. For more about Rosenfelt, visit www.davidrosenfelt.com.

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