Police Dogs of Danville – The Wow of the Bowwows!

The Danville Police Department, besides having an impressive complement of Contra Costa County’s finest, spearheaded by Chief Steve Simpkins, also has the devoted protection of two Patrol-Certified K-9 Unit super dogs that faithfully assist their partner/handlers in tracking and catching the bad guys.

I met the two Belgian Malinois shepherd dogs and their intrepid K-9 Cop partners, Officers Mike Ireland and Tom Rossberg while attending the 2012 Town of Danville Citizen Police Academy course.

The interactive instructional program, coordinated by Sergeant Jason Haynes not only builds bridges, but also familiarizes local residents with Police Department methods and the behind-the-scenes routines that support and protect our community, and the myriad of law enforcement challenges that face the officers in the field. Sergeant Haynes will conduct another popular and instructive Citizens Police Academy series in the fall.

It was coincidental that one of our instructors for the evening class, Officer Ireland and his 10-year old partner police dog Donna had just returned from a neighboring city emergency call. The hardworking canine cop had just sniffed out the place of an armed robbery, got an odor hit on the would-be robbers, and followed the scent trail to where the getaway car was parked. Top Cop Dog Donna is a super canine sleuth, who graduated from the KNPV Canine Academy in Holland, and is certified with honors.

Officer Ireland explained that K-9 Units are among the first to be called to the potentially dangerous situations; known as the “point of the spear.” The most danger in any emergency situation is usually at the onset until the problem is evaluated and the perimeter contained.

I wasn’t quite prepared for my excited admiration at meeting the two highly-intelligent furry Danville Police Department dogs, Donna and Chef, and after learning about their 500+ hours of Schultzhund protection-dog training in obedience, specific-object detection, handler respect and patrol work, I decided to learn more about the relatively unknown Belgian Malinois breed.

What I learned about the brave Super Dogs was eye-opening; their multiple abilities include the tracking of missing persons, tracking and taking down felonious suspects on Bark and Hold commands, or finding drug stashes within minutes. I researched the Belgian-bred working dogs, now popular in Europe and the United States, and doggedly discovered dog piles of surprises.

The social animals have a long working history with humans, first introduced in Belgium in the early 20th century as deterrents for police on the beat, and were later trained in nose work. The friendly dogs constantly show their need for human company, work-for-reward activities and playful socialization. In most cases they are loyal to their masters, and do not bite handlers or their families. They are hard-wired with unbounded energy, curiosity, the desire to please, and work for nothing more than verbal praise or the simple reward of a tennis ball throw-and-fetch game or rubber kong toy.

The Malinois breed is a cousin of the German shepherd, in that they are both sheep herders bred mainly for function over form. Their snouts and ears are black and their square-proportioned bodies have mahogany and tan short coats. The dams are 55-65 lbs., the sires 65-75 lbs., and their height should be 24 to 26 inches, about the same dimensions from breastbone to rump.

A 500-hour work-specific trained Malinois costs about ten thousand dollars, are usually in service for six to seven years, and have an expected 14-year lifespan. The dogs are not cross-trained in specific disciplines; such as bomb-explosive detection, drugs or dangerous substances detection, or human search and rescue. Each dog is trained for a specific job to prevent confusion, example; a search and rescue animal’s tracking mission is more time-sensitive than that of a cadaver dog.

Military War Dogs, called MWDs, are trained in CTD, Combat Trackers; EDD, Explosive Detectors; or SDD, Specialized Small Dogs, such as the feisty nose-worthy Fox Terriers that work on submarines. SAR, Search and Rescue soldier dogs are specifically trained to find humans lost in battle zones or under bombed buildings.

The Malinois dogs have a high prey drive, protective traits and are very obedient, making them perfect for object-specific detection, police work and search and rescue. A detection dog is nose-trained to find objects by a sample smell and a search and rescue dog is able to track a person with the scent of a piece of clothing. Dogs can find dope, bombs, explosives, and people in dangerous situations, but the high-value working animals are never sent on suicide missions.

The K-9 Unit dogs have so proven their worth in the field, that in recent years, the New York City Police Department has cut their manpower and doubled the ranks of the canine units. The super dogs also play a significant part in airport security.

The Malinois’ claim to fame is that they are obedient, alert, active and happiest when working; they do their job well to please and have a high drive to receive a reward. They may show some neurotic behaviors if they do not get enough exercise and stimulation, and they need constant obedience training for new, challenging tasks. They have supersonic hearing, and as detection dogs, their glory noses have a super sense of smell with olfactory factors 250 times stronger than humans.

When police dogs, certified in narco-detection, are set to sniff out drug stashes, they can differentiate multiple odors such as marijuana, methamphetamines, heroin and cocaine, even though the drug dealers may have attempted to confuse the super sniffers by camouflaging drugs with coffee beans, air-fresheners or fabric softeners.

The dogs’ noses can so powerfully detect specific odors that they can even isolate and identify single compounds within a scent—like defining the individual spices that season a pot of minestrone soup, or categorizing the multiple ingredients on a single pizza—one at a time. The sniffer dog squads can smell out a single odorous needle in a giant haystack, and their super noses never make mistakes, even when identifying explosives, firearms, fire accelerants, narcotics or finding a drowning person in moving water.

The K-9 Unit dogs are considered such important assets to the Police Force that many canines are sworn officers and have their own ID numbers and badges. An attack upon a police dog can have the same serious consequences as the attack on the person of a police officer. According to California Penal Code 600, the statute states that anyone who willfully tries to kill or inflict bodily harm to a service animal—horse or K-9 Unit Police dog—is committing a felony punishable by fines and prison.

In potentially dangerous situations the dogs are fitted with ballistic protection vests. In many cases, if a beloved police dog is killed in the line of duty, it is given a full honors funeral as a loyal and dedicated member of the Police Force.

So where else do these super dogs work? What other daunting tasks are they given? Where do their strengths lay when it comes to working for a living?

In short, the extraordinary Belgian Malinois are Bionic Super Dogs. It was one of these fabled furry four-legged fabulous members of the MWD Elite Canine Team, who, working with Special Ops on Operation Neptune Spear, was the first paws-on-the-ground rappelling out of the high-tech Stealth Black Hawk helicopter, and first into the Abbottabad compound to take down the world’s highest-value-target, Osama Bin Laden.

The elite canine units are an integral part of the legendary Navy Seals most impressive arsenals. Soldier dog Cairo, canine sniffer extraordinaire, stealthily led the raid with the Navy Seals into the bull’s-eyed building, checking for explosives, and then like a night jackal, giving a silent all-clear to proceed to the specified target.

We know how that 40-minute glorious take-down raid ended, and the incredible bravery and heroism of the 24 elite Navy Seals. I wonder how the Super War Dog Cairo was rewarded for his courageous work with the Navy Seal heroes in bringing down the most hunted man on earth. My best guess for the canine’s work-for-reward job would be a lifetime supply of tennis balls and a giant rubber kong toy!

The Malinois shepherd dogs are so obedient, intelligent, trainable, and said to be able to do ten men’s work, that the four-legged warriors are employed in the U.S. Military Forces, Navy Seals, Border Patrol, Police Force Drug Investigations and Bomb Squads, Secret Service, CIA, FBI and SWAT Teams.

The Armed Forces call upon the services of the intrepid canines in multiple disciplines, and it is estimated there are about 4,000 such soldier dogs in their ranks. They are trained for many jobs, including the Airborne dogs that jump from planes alone or with handlers in parachute deployments from as high as 30,000 feet.

The MWD units deploy bionic dogs of war that parachute into dangerous situations wearing canine protective night goggles and tactical assault K-9 Storm Vests with infrared night-sight cameras and intruder communication systems with earbuds to hear their partner’s commands. The dogs parachute from high-tech helicopters; their legs running before they hit the ground, land acrobatically on rough terrain, and immediately rappel into action. Canine tactical assault vests protect the dogs against shrapnel, gunfire and knives, making them truly super-natural soldiers.

The Belgian Malinois protective dogs are daring, loyal, and likeable, unless they are commanded to attack and subdue identified targets. Their 600-pound jaw pressure can do just that. According to Officer Ireland, most men are more afraid of dogs than bullets; under command, dogs can disable most bad-guys in seconds. In short, with a handler’s hand-voice bite-hold commands, a dog can single-footedly stop a perpetrator in his tracks.

The Danville Police K-9 Units are valued assets to the department, while adding their playful canine expertise and furry fun to the job of keeping the peace in the town of 44,000 residents. Officers Ireland and Rossberg are dog handlers extraordinaire who love their loyal best friend canine partners, Donna and Chef, who go home to their families after working their shifts.

The Malinois shepherd dogs are pinnacles of personal protection with a loyal willingness to work and please, adept with endurance and remarkable courage. They stand bravely foursquare and elegant; ears pricked for the happy shrieks of children or the hand-voice commands from their human colleagues, with tails wagging and mouths open in unmistakable canine smiles.

Officer Ireland’s Top Cop Dog Donna was honored at her retirement ceremony for valiant service to the Department by Chief of Police Steve Simpkins at the July 3rd Danville Town Council Meeting.

Contact www.danville.ca.gov, ssimpkins@danville.ca.gov, Phone: 925.314.3701

A Whale Tale

Karma – A small word with a huge impact on our lives.

All my adult life, I have felt an attachment to those majestic creatures of the sea called whales. To me, they seem more “civilized” than a few people I’ve met! Not the least of which is the patience they’ve shown towards humans over the course of written history. During the whale days of yore, it’s amazing that more of them didn’t rush headlong and crash into the chase boats to disrupt the sailors who were sharpening their harpoons and preparing to slaughter numerous fellow whales.

My English ancestors, three brothers from Northumberland, landed in Massachusetts in 1630, just ten years after the initial group of Pilgrims scrambled onto Plymouth Rock. Over the next few decades, my branch of the family tree migrated to Connecticut and settled in towns along the north shore of Long Island Sound. One of these villages, called Fishtown, was located on the west side of the famous Mystic River. It was renamed Noank in 1840 for reasons I don’t know, although their cemetery is still called Fishtown Cemetery and it contains many of my ancestors. Just across the river was another village of seafarers called Mystic Seaport, which now houses one of the best maritime museums in the United States. For many centuries, people along the seacoast of New England made their living from the ocean – whether fishing, commerce trading or whaling. Many of my forefathers were whalers, which is where the karmic part comes in.

Whaling was an exceptionally dangerous business – both physically and economically. For those who chose this profession, injury and death were commonplace on the multi-month ocean voyages. Due to raging storms often encountered in whaling areas, many vessels and crews were lost at sea. Few individuals got rich and most of those were owners and agents, not the brave men who battled the elements in small boats.

So, why did they do it? Before the advent of gas and electric energy sources, oil from whale blubber was highly prized for house and street lighting as well as making high quality soap. Baleen was commonly used for fishing poles, buggy whips and women’s corset stays. Whales died by the hundreds each year to provide everyday conveniences for American life in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Much of my family’s history during this period involved interactions with whales.

Hence, for that reason, I have always wanted to meet a whale, eyeball-to-eyeball. My fascination (obsession?) has led me to many places in the world, from New Zealand to the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii to Mexico, and Maine to Alaska. Each time, my wife and I saw some interesting sights, but none really met the “bucket list” experience I was seeking.

Two years ago, a friend of my brother-in-law informed us about a scuba diving boat in the Caribbean that gave her an opportunity to swim with whales. Three small boat operators have permits that allow guests to get into the water and snorkel with humpback whales in the Silver Bank area of the Dominican Republic for three months every year. This is a small, shallow area with a unique formation of coral heads that provides protection from the pounding winter seas for mother whales and their calves. It is now a sanctuary where all North Atlantic humpback whales are protected from hunting. Less than 500 people can be accommodated each year since the dive boats only carry 16 to 20 guests per week-long trip. Though the waiting list was more than a year long, we signed up immediately with that same dive boat operator, Aggressor Fleet.

In mid-March of this year, we flew to the Dominican Republic and boarded our boat, the M/V Turks & Caicos Aggressor II, at Puerto Plata. We sailed in the evening and woke up the next morning as the boat was being moored to a buoy in the Silver Bank. We immediately saw several whales spouting at various distances around us. After breakfast, we boarded two small Zodiak chase boats and, armed with digital cameras instead of harpoons, we zoomed off to find some friendly whales.

Within an hour we found a mother and her calf resting on the bottom in 20 feet of water. Several of us, following a prescribed procedure, carefully entered the water and slowly approached their resting area. Within two minutes, the 15-foot calf nuzzled it’s mother as if to say “ma, can I go play with those silly-looking creatures” and swam up to greet us. For ten minutes, it did loops, swirls and head stands in front of us, hamming for the cameras. After completing each gymnastic move, it returned to mom as if to gain approval. Finally, the 40-foot long mother glided slowly up to our group and looked at each one of us from only an arm’s length away. Even though she was as big as a large truck, with powerful fins and a tail that could smash us into eternity in a second, she was as gentle and calm as any “wild creature” could ever be. After satisfying herself that we were no threat to her calf, she surfaced, breathed in new air, and returned to her resting position on the seafloor. The calf, of course, was now really excited to have his playmates “approved” by mom and its antics continued unabated for more than half an hour.

And there it was – just one hour in the water, and my lifelong bucket list desire had been fulfilled!

So it went for five more days. There were lots of whales spouting, spy-hopping, breaching, singing, and otherwise showing off for the other whales (as well as us humans) in their winter-time rest and recreation area. We even saw a few street brawls, as a few rowdy males vied to win the right to mate with a fertile female, slapping each other with pectoral fins or smashing one another with a tail smack to the head.

To those people who would say “well, I can see all this in an Imax theater,” let me say it’s not the same experience at all. For instance, we encountered a singing whale and swam with him for over an hour. When you are in the water with a loud sound source, it does not enter your “hearing” consciousness via the ears but via the entire body. In this case, the sound waves activated every cavity in our body so it feels like being inside a giant speaker – we became “one” with the whale’s song.

Even more so, I’m pretty sure that mother whale not only looked into my eyes but into my soul. When a 40-foot long, 45-ton creature swims towards you in the water, there’s a natural instinct to flee – fast! But I felt a great sense of calmness and peace that allowed me to stay where I was and let the whale swim right up to me and stop. I knew she meant no harm. It’s one of those experiences that defies explanation, but you know it when it happens! I wanted to apologize for the harm my ancestors had done to hers, but it’s very difficult to speak with a snorkel in one’s mouth. At the end of the encounter, however, I think she got the message anyway.

“Freedom is Precious” Says Bob Whitworth, Author of Through My Eyes: A Story of Hope

Bob Whitworth was twenty years old when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in June of 1967 to fight in Vietnam. Forty years later, he sat down to write a book about his experience as an army grunt in the American Division, 21st Infantry, 4th Battalion, 11th Brigade in the Republic of Vietnam from April 1968 to April 1969. Through My Eyes is a detailed account of a “boots down” soldier carrying out orders in the toughest of conditions that would claim the lives of many of the men he knew well and considered friends. Bob’s unwavering faith and trust in God were ever present as he and his brothers in arms were engaged in heavy combat, ambushes, unrelenting heat and humidity, leeches and the threat of malaria. Through My Eyes chronicles how a young man from Delano, California, a small farming town in the central valley, learned to push through his greatest fears in order to survive under unearthly conditions.

I read Through My Eyes at the suggestion of one of my colleagues, Bob’s son-in-law Chris, who was obviously very proud of his father-in-law’s literary effort. While I had known uncles, cousins and many family friends who had served in Vietnam, Bob’s book gave me a first hand account of what day to day life was like for these brave young men fighting an unpopular war, half a world away. “There have been numerous books written by officers who gave orders to ‘grunts’ who carried out the orders. I wrote about the ‘in your face’ happenings of a field soldier,” Bob shared with me while we talked over coffee in Danville one morning. “Writing this book forced me to revisit my time in Vietnam very closely and that wasn’t always easy.”

Several years ago, Bob received a call from one of his Vietnam buddies looking for information about one of the men killed during a battle in which Bob had fought. That battle, as well as his other war experiences, was not something Bob normally discussed. Several people who read Bob’s account of that time near Tam Ky encouraged him to write more about his service “in country.” Through My Eyes is a beautifully crafted book, full of rich text and photos taken during his year of active duty. Additionally, Bob has filled the pages with maps of the areas of South Viet Nam where his unit patrolled and letters he sent home. Finally, there is a glossary of military terms and a collection of Bible passages that brought Bob comfort during his darkest times. Bob’s candor and honest perspective spoke to me about friendship, courage and faith amidst the hardship of war.

“Once I decided to write the book, I looked for a potential publisher. What I found was the timelines and budgets were going to limit what I wanted to do. Thankfully I found other resources, including editors, format and layout consultants that were available to me. My wife was also a huge help taking over quality control of the project.” Additionally, Bob talked with other authors and ultimately chose to self publish the book.

The cover of the book utilized a photo taken of Bob by Dana Stone of AP Worldwide Photos on September 25, 1968 following a battle near Tam Ky Vietnam. In addition to the photos Bob took while serving his stint, he also carried a Fujika 8 mm movie camera. Capturing some incredible footage of his time in the field, Bob sent the footage home along with letters that helped him recreate memories when putting the book together. Short clip videos are available to view on Bob’s website www.throughmyeyesthebook.com.

When Bob returned home and discharged from the service, he married his longtime sweetheart, Beth. Despite prospering as a general foreman in the heavy construction field for the UA Steamfitters Local 342, he continued to struggle with nightmares and haunting memories of combat. This was in addition to the continuing effects of malaria. During this time, Bob depended on the Bible for answers to his deep questions. After 30 years and much persuasion from his wife, Bob visited the Concord Veterans Center where he found someone running a program that truly cared about the Vietnam vet. Since then, Bob has been an active mentor, spending time with soldiers returning from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Combat experience is the same regardless of the generation, the war or the terrain. Guys want to talk to other veterans who have been through it,” Bob tells me. “We help them to assimilate back into civilian life by talking with them about the effect their experiences have on their lives in groups or one on one sessions. Truthfully, it’s enriching and beneficial to the volunteers too.”

Bob says certain noises will trigger a sensory recall of his fighting time. “My wife always told the kids not to surprise me, but it was the guys that he worked with who enjoyed having a little fun at his expense. “A soldier is trained to appreciate that the first place to be is usually down on the ground to assess the danger when there are nearby explosions, incoming bullets, mortar fire or incoming artillery. It was not uncommon for me to hit the ground on a job site when someone intentionally dropped a heavy load nearby or triggered a loud noise just to watch my reaction.”

Bob speaks occasionally at local area high schools, where he gives mostly history class students a true understanding of what a soldier experiences, living life out of a backpack. He is also in discussions to present the book through readings and book signings at a variety of clubs and venues. The above referenced website is as sharply designed and professionally laid out as the book itself. One link that caught my attention was Bob’s Principals for Living. This collection of common sense basics are principals for living a good and decent life from someone who has been to hell and back with a cherished perspective on life.

Bob, who is now sixty-five, lives in Concord where he and wife raised their two children and enjoy spending time with their four grandchildren. Bob is relaxed and easy going in his retirement after leaving the construction industry for health reasons. He is a man who exudes honor, integrity and a strong moral compass. “My dad placed a lot of emphasis in his faith and I deeply admired him,” Bob says. Following his father’s example, God gave Bob guidance in a time of need. “When we’re faced with challenges in our lives, some of us choose to embrace a higher power. Our country’s freedom of religion is nothing to be taken lightly.”

Bob feels strongly that we should all be willing to give something back to our country. “It’s easy to take life for granted when you’re safe and comfortable. However, those who are willing or obligated to teach, counsel, labor or serve in the military do get a chance to see the world. Big lessons are learned when you observe what other countries don’t have and how lucky we are here at home.” He should know, he’s seen it through his own eyes.

My Interview with Me

It was a wet and dreary Saturday afternoon when I finally got a chance to sit down with author Mike Copeland, on the eve of the release of his first book, Alive and Kickin’: Sideways Views from an Upright Guy — a collection of his humor lifestyle essays. Although I had been warned that Mr. Copeland could be a naracistic DB, I actually found him to be relaxed and jovial, perhaps he was even mildly inebriated. While we sat in the den of his Danville home, he sipped a piping hot mug of Chamomile tea, likely mixed with bourbon based on the whiskey scent of his breath. He seemed to be enjoying his new found celebrity status.

Mike is both heavier and balder in person than his photo in ALIVE Magazine would lead one to believe. My guess is that the head shot, found on the Contributing Writers page, is at least ten years old. Mike has spent the last five years writing monthly humor lifestyle articles and personality profiles for ALIVE Magazine and is the self-proclaimed master of bathroom writing. I was curious how the partnership with ALIVE Editor Eric Johnson began and what led to the creation of the soon to be released Toilet Tank Book by ALIVE Independent Book Publishing. For those of you unfamiliar with the term Toilet Tank Book it is a similar concept to the hugely popular coffee table books, but without the pretty photos and prestige. A Toilet Tank Book contains writings that a reader can get through in the amount of time it takes them to “do their business” in the bathroom.

Mike tears up when he proudly recants the time Mr. Johnson told him that his literary contributions to ALIVE were the perfect bathroom ready material, both in length and substance. Once Mike changed into his pajamas, UGG® boots and fedora hat our interview began.

MC: Mike, Where did you and Alive Magazine Editor Eric Johnson first meet?

Mike: First, please call me Mr. Copeland. I believe it was a MENSA meeting (Tri Valley chapter) back in the winter of 2004. We both quickly realized we were way smarter than everyone else so we snuck out and started our own exclusive secret society of the USD&Cs – Uber Smart Dudes and Chicks. Our first meeting was at Forli Ristorante on Danville Boulevard in Alamo. We choose Forli because really smart people love Osso Buco.

MC: How did you gain inspiration for your monthly humor pieces that make up the Alive and Kickin’ book?

Mike: Did you not hear me say USD&Cs? Say it with me, G-E-N-I-U-S. However, when I do need the occasional idea it often comes from my kids, my friends, memories of growing up, things that are relevant to living in the East Bay or the local and national media. I suppose my medical marijuana induced dreams are also helpful. JK—Just kidding. I don’t use drugs, unless they are prescribed by my chiropractor for treatment of a gluteus maximus strain, but I digress. Inspiration can be found anywhere, anytime if you’re truly gifted. I’m inspired right now.

MC: Why did you decide to publish a collection of your favorite humor pieces from your magazine writings of the last five years?

Mike: The money of course. People have the misperception that you get rich writing monthly 1,200 word essays for a regional magazine with a circulation of about 40,000. Not so. After my screenplay, Allen and Allen, wasn’t purchased by a major motion picture studio and my collection of children’s bedtime stories entitled, “Would Someone Please Read Me a Story” were rejected by every publishing company south of the Mississippi River, I decided to release a book that I could strategically peddle through a combination of network marketing, direct mail ads and garage sale book signings. Can you say, “Cha-Ching”?

MC: Who are your favorite humor magazine writers?

Mike: Rick Reilly is boss. He writes for Sports Illustrated and other two-bit rags. Dave Berry used to be crazy talented, but now I think he’s just crazy. I still enjoy Tony Hicks, although he still works for a newspaper which is nowhere near as prestigious as a magazine. Just check out the paper stock. I am also a big fan of Scott Osler, but no one knows who he is other than me. I may one day invite these gentlemen to a swanky conference or brilliant writers, but since it would be a no host bar they probably wouldn’t come.

MC: Do you remember the first humor piece you ever had published?

Mike: The year was in 1980 and I collaborated with my buddies Jeff Morales and Derek Sousa on a gritty (and hilariously sarcastic) expose for the Mountain View High School Eagle Gazette entitled, The Future of the Around the Tree Gang. The three of us were part of a really dangerous scholastic gang being forced to dissolve by the administration, the police and our parents. Or was it summer vacation? The article chronicled our rise to power and each member’s blood oath to give up gang-banging in pursuit of higher education at a variety of community colleges and universities. I think it won a high school Pulitzer Prize.

MC: What other publications have you written for before you were signed exclusively with ALIVE East Bay Magazine?

Mike: Too many to name really, but let me try. Going back to the beginning it was the MVHS Eagle Gazette, followed by the Foothill Community College Gazette and the Sigma Chi Fraternity Gazette. I loved those Gazettes. Over the years I’ve scribed for the San Jose Business Times, the California Real Estate News, the Country Music News, Floyd’s Ordeal Newsletter, Valley Lifestyle and The Patch. I must say that my best work may have been the intensely hard hitting reporting I did by having total access to the incredibly popular rock cover band Floyd’s Ordeal. Their wildly popular newsletter (pre blog) allowed me to expand into areas such as show reviews, the Up Close and Personal expose` and an advice column. Our readership was up to eleven when the band broke up amidst rumors of eating disorders and necrophilia.

MC: How do you respond to critics that categorize your writing style as juvenile, sophomoric, lame and sucky. It’s been said that your articles are filled with grammatical errors and factual inaccuracies?

Mike: I don’t. Next question. Who says that? I want names. Was that you? Let me just say to my detractors that the writers of the Simpsons, Family Guy and South Park have made a fortune utilizing that style and my writing is much better. Wait one second. I just realized I’ve been wasting my time all these years. I should have been writing for an animated network show not print magazines. I feel so deflated, so empty, so broke. You’ll have to leave now. I need to be alone with my thoughts.

I never have understood why pseudo celebrities insist on bidding farewell to their guests with a two-handed handshake and air kisses on both cheeks, but I’m not one to judge. For all his eccentricities and egotism, Mr. Copeland does have some talent. From time to time, his wordy ramblings have even given this hardened reporter a chuckle. I wish Mike well with his book and encourage everyone reading to contact ALIVE Magazine at www.aliveeastbay.com to order an autographed copy today.

When Creativity Calls—Answer the Phone!

One of the wonderful things about the creative process is that when we’re fully in “it,” we focus deeply on the present moment. The world around us quietly recedes as we are transported into our creative expression; be it a painting, a sculpture, or something written. In fact, as I begin composing this article, I feel my energy settling into a peaceful rhythm … that allows words and ideas to begin spilling out.

I’m grateful to say that creativity and art have always been a safe haven for me. When I was a kid, I grew up in a home that felt emotionally and physically unsafe a great deal of the time. As a result, creating art and reading became a “safe zone” and a lifeline for me. Reading a book was a treasured escape — into someone else’s story.

Of course movies were another great escape that I savored. I’ll never forget my reaction to seeing The Wizard of Oz for the first time on a big screen. Vicariously going “over the rainbow” to an incredibly colorful and magical world was amazing! And, being able to return home with courage, confidence, and a warm heart…made the adventure even more endearing.

Now, if you’re also a fan of The Wizard of Oz and you appreciate brilliant artistry, then be sure to check out the 2012 Academy Award Winning Animated Short, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.” The Wizard of Oz, Buster Keaton, Hurricane Katrina, and a heartfelt appreciation for books inspired the film’s story.

In addition to a good story, this is the kind of film you can view several times and still not see all the beautifully crafted details. If you’re curious, you can watch the 15-minute animated film online at: www.youtube.com. From You Tube’s home page, simply search: “Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.”

This inspiring film reminds us how important it is to share “our personal stories.” On that note, have you ever wondered if you have a book buried somewhere inside yourself? If so, then you may be hearing or feeling the creative call stirring from within you.

Unfortunately, some people try to override their creative energy by listening to an Inner Critic who continually reminds them of what their fifth grade teacher once blurted out: “You certainly are no artist.” Or, maybe your sibling’s creativity blossomed early and he or she became known as “the artist in the family.” Well consider this:
~ It is NEVER too late to express your creativity ~

A creative call can descend upon anyone without the slightest provocation. And, a creative call can even whisper to people who believe they don’t have an artistic bone in their bodies. In my private practice, I’m happy to say that I work with many creative souls—and I love it! Some of these clients need support in finding their “creative voice” for the first time, while others are seasoned artisans who feel stuck in the mire of a creative block.

So, whether you are a curious soul, hearing the creative call for the first time, an intermediate level writer or artist, or an established writer or artist who wants to dig deeper, I have numerous tools that may be of help to you. And, to take that first step into your creativity, know that you don’t need a beret or a paint-splattered smock—you simply need a curious mind and a willing heart. Finally, remember that when creativity calls, take a deep breath … and answer the phone!

Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author and illustrator of Stress Reduction Journal: Meditate and Journal Your Way to Better Health. Trina’s artwork and bio are included in Outstanding American Illustrators Today 2. She currently has a private practice in downtown Danville. Trina soulfully shares her creative approach to personal growth and passionately supports her clients in reaching their goals. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or info@TrinaSwerdlow.com.

Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.

How Fast the Markets Recover

As we find ourselves in the middle of yet another market downturn I thought it would be a good idea to review the incredibly resilient history of the stock market. You might be surprised at how fast the stock market can change … for the better. Let’s look at how the market has recovered remarkably – and quickly – from some notable downturns.

2008-2009. The collapse of the subprime mortgage markets triggered a recession and made 2008 the poorest year for stocks since 1931. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 10% in June 2008 and fell 10% again in October 2008, losing 19.12% for the year. On March 9, 2009, the major U.S. indices closed at 12-year lows with the S&P 500 at 676.53.1,2,3

Then the market took off. Investors who swore off stocks in early 2009 lost out on one of the great rallies. From the March 9 lows to the end of 2009, the S&P 500 soared 64.83% while the NASDAQ gained 78.87% and the Dow gained 59.28%.4

2001-2002. After the four-day closure of the stock market following 9/11, the Dow fell 685 points to 8,920 on September 17. It kept falling, losing 14.26% in a week to close at 8,235 on September 21. But what happened next? A huge gain. The Dow closed 2001 at 10,021 – a 21% rebound in less than three months.5

There were more challenges ahead. On October 9, 2002, the Dow had fallen to 7,286. But on Halloween, the Dow sat at 8,397 – a 10.6% gain in 22 days.5 As for the people who panicked and bailed out of the stock market, they ended up kicking themselves: in 2003, the DJIA gained 25.3%, the S&P 500 26.4%, and the NASDAQ 50%.6

1987. October 19 was Black Monday: in a contagion of selling exacerbated by unchecked computer technology, the Dow lost 22.6% in one day, falling to 1,738, a 508-point loss.7 (That would be akin to a 2,400-point one-day drop today.) The S&P 500 lost 20.4%.8 By comparison, the initial “Black Monday”, the stock market crash of 1929, represented a 12.8% market loss.9

Then the recovery kicked in. During the next two trading days, the Dow gained nearly 300 points – and it closed 1987 at 1,939, gaining back all of the loss and ending up 2% for the year.10 By January 1990, the DJIA was at 2,800.11
1974. With investors fretting over rising inflation and the energy crisis, the Dow loses 30% of its value during the first three quarters of the year. Suddenly, the Dow gains 16% in October.12 In early December 1974, the Dow is at 577; in July 1976, it hits 1,011.5

1982-2000. On August 12, 1982, the Dow was at 777. On January 14, 2000, it was at 11,722.98. That’s a 1,500% gain in 17½ years.13

The “two steps forward, 1 ½ backward” environment we find ourselves in has been extremely frustrating, particularly for short-term investors. Long-term investors, however, are in a position to take advantage of the drop in stock prices. Take comfort in the fact that, while there are always periodic descents, history is definitely on a patient investor’s side.

1. cnbc.com,12-31-08 2. allheadlinenews.com, 1-3-09 3. money.cnn.com, 3-9-09 4. cnbc.com, 12-31-09 5. the-privateer.com, 6-30-08 6. upi.com/Business News, 12-31-2003 7. sfgate.com, 10-18-07 8. foreignpolicy.com, 10-2007 9. money.cnn.com, 10-26-0
10. articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/Dispatch/BlackMonday20YearsAfter,10-19-07 11. answers.com/topic/closing-milestones-of-the-dow-jones-industrial-average, 7-3-08 12. money.cnn.com/2008/06/27/markets/bear_market.moneymag, 6-27-08
13. answers.com/topic/closing-milestones-of-the-dow-jones-industrial-average, 7-3-08ww.montoyaregistry.com, www.marketinglibrary.net

Damien helps individuals invest and manage risk. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and a principal of Walnut Creek Wealth Management. These are the views of Damien Couture, CFP® and should not be construed as investment advice. Investors cannot invest directly in an index. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Not all recommendations are suitable for all investors. Each investor must consider their own goals, time horizon and risk tolerance. Your comments are welcome. amien can be reached at 925-280-1800 x101 or Damien@WalnutCreekWealth.com.

Process Serving Pit Bull

Research, lurk, hunt and strike. Whether you are an archbishop about to say mass, a taxi driver or a deadbeat attorney, if you have legal papers coming to you I will ensure you get them.

I take pride in finding people and serving them with legal process. My pulse races when I see the “Oh crud!”-look on someone’s face the second before I tell them they are served. After more good serves than Roger Federer, I still feel the adrenaline of the work.

Process servers are officers of the court, whether private investigators or sheriff’s marshals. The legal system would fall apart were it not for the court’s power to compel witnesses and defendants to appear to testify or to produce documents. It doesn’t matter if you live in Blackhawk or in East Oakland, no one is above the law.

Private investigators are exempt from having to register as process servers. Private investigators who are not registered process servers may serve all documents except bank levies and similar documents. (My rule of thumb is to use a registered process server if the document is to take money or property.) Private investigators cost more than process servers but usually are more dogged, resourceful and effective. Use a private eye when it absolutely, positively, has to get served.

If people were honorable I wouldn’t have a job. I try to be direct with those I need to serve but if they are being evasive it’s “game on.”

Several years ago I served former Archbishop of San Francisco, William Levada, just before he said his final mass before leaving permanently for Rome as the Vatican’s top-ranking American. The papers were in connection with sexual abuse lawsuits in Portland, where Levada had also been archbishop. He was a witness in that he knew about the priests involved and the diocese’s finances.

I had called his office for about three weeks prior to the mass, trying to do business discretely. There was no response. When I found him preparing for his final mass I told him that I would prefer to serve him now rather than interrupt mass. He grumbled. I told him that he was served and left the papers next to him. (For a legal serve, the person does not have to take possession of the papers. The factors are “awareness” and “proximity.”)

A Nigerian taxi driver once jumped me at his San Bruno apartment. He did not grasp the finer points of jurisprudence but he sure did grab me. Fearing he was armed with a knife, I countered with a bear-hug to pin his arms. A few seconds later I unclenched and ran for it. It taught me to never let my guard down.

A couple weeks ago I couldn’t find a witness in a wrongful death case. He had been served prior with deposition subpoenas but ignored them all. I had to serve contempt papers on the 6-foot, 280-pound bar bouncer and Raiders fan. I checked his name in family law court and saw that he was due for a court appearance. I zapped him in the court hallway. He looked like a wounded elk.

Everyone comes home. Holidays and Sunday evenings are good times to hunt. I looked for one guy for two months once before finding him Easter dinner at his parents’ house in Union City. A couple weeks ago I served a summons and complaint on a deadbeat attorney in Walnut Creek. He was using a mail drop but I learned his parents were locals and served him at their house.

I’ve never had to resort to disguises or do too many other pretexts. But as an old friend in the business warns those who might be dodging service, “Look out for little old ladies in track suits.”


The July farmers’ market is a paradise of seasonal produce. Between peak-of-perfection corn; crispy cucumbers; colorful summer squash; plump eggplants; fragrant peaches and nectarines; juicy plums and pluots; an extensive variety of flavorful melons; sweet-tart raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, and strawberries—not to mention those much sought-after vine-ripened tomatoes—a girl can go a little overboard shopping. And I do. Every week. And I never regret it.

After loading up on farm-fresh produce on Saturday mornings, lunches and dinners practically plan themselves for the rest of the week. It’s easy—and fun—to eat these delectable, healthy foods without spending a lot of time in the kitchen. But whenever you’re in the mood to play in the kitchen, there’s probably no better time of year to do it.

I was recently asked to judge a number of culinary entries at my local county fair; the first competition I attended was in the preserved foods category. Six judges were divided into teams of two, so we could taste our way through the almost-200 entries in one day. I paired up with a chef I know professionally, and we immediately high-tailed it over to the jams and jellies division, where the risk of botulism seemed less likely. (Just kidding, folks!)

As we systematically made our way down the long tables laden with glistening jars—holding each one up to the light to check appearance, popping lids, and madly scribbling tasting notes—I began to have serious doubts about my sense of taste. The overwhelming sensation I was getting was from sugary-sweetness—no fruit, and no acid. While gnawing on my tenth cracker in an effort to cleanse my palate, I mentioned this to my partner, who seemed almost relieved that I had spoken up. He not only agreed wholeheartedly, he added that if we were tasting these items blind, he’d be hard-pressed to identify the type of fruit that was used to make many of these jams. All we could assume is that the majority of the entrants began their preserving process with unripe or otherwise inferior fruit.

It was such an incredible waste, when you consider the time and the money spent preparing these products. So I think the message here is pretty obvious: canners and preservers beware. Your finished product is only as good as the ingredients you put into it. If you really want to capture the flavors of summer in a jar, start by using organic or other high-quality produce at its peak of ripeness. Chances are, you’re not going to find it at the warehouse store.

And when it comes to eating fresh summer fruit, simpler is usually better. I mean, is there anything better than a juicy, tree-ripened peach eaten out of hand? But granted, there are certain special occasions when you may want to glam things up a bit for your friends and family. For those times I’ve provided an easy recipe that looks appropriately showy, yet comes together without breaking a sweat. And in deference to the pastry-phobic, it relies on frozen puff pastry for its delicate, flaky crust. Use your favorite berry, or a mixed jumble of whatever fresh fruits you have on hand. If you’re interested in saving calories, substitute plain Greek-style yogurt for the mascarpone.

Jumbleberry Tart

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of a 17.25 ounce package), thawed as package directs
  • 1 tub mascarpone cheese (about 8 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, well chilled
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or more, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 6 cups ripe berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, or blackberries
  • Confectioners’ (powdered) sugar, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Unfold the cold puff pastry sheet onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With the tip of a sharp knife, score a 3/4-inch border all around the pastry. Use the tines of a fork to prick the pastry all over within the border. (If the pastry has become soft, refrigerate or freeze it on the baking sheet for a few minutes until firm.) Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden and baked through, about 15 minutes. Lift the parchment to transfer the pastry onto a wire rack. Let cool completely, at least 15 minutes. (Pastry can be baked several hours in advance and left to stand at room temperature.)
  2. Combine the mascarpone, cream, honey, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Taste, beating in more honey if you like.
  3. Just before serving, spoon the cheese mixture into the crust, spreading evenly. Pile the berries on top and dust generously with powdered sugar. Cut into squares with a serrated knife. Serves 6. This tart is best eaten the same day it is made.

For more entertaining recipes, check out Peggy Fallon’s upcoming class at Draeger’s Blackhawk cooking school on Wednesday, August 8, at 6:30 p.m. For more information go to www.draegerscookingschool.com, or call 1-800-642-9463 ext. 261.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad and Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM or visit their web site at www.pcfma.com.

Remove the Roadblocks to Exercise

At Koko, we know fitness must fit into your life. Eighty percent of adults will never spend an hour and a half a day working out at the gym, no matter how great the health benefits. You have other priorities more demanding of your time, energy and intellect. The developers of Koko Smartraining realized that unless the roadblocks to fitness were removed– which, besides time, includes confusion (“what the heck should I do?”) boredom and the health club “scene” – the majority of adults will never make exercise a habit for the long haul.

But, our health, happiness and longevity depend on it. So, Koko FitClub exists to be fitness you can live with forever. Created to be roadblock-free so exercise finally becomes a great habit for the long haul.


Time: It’s precious and it feels like we never have enough. So, Koko designed the Koko Smartrainer, an incredibly effective strength training workout that takes 30 minutes. And, Koko Cardio gives you the aerobic benefits of a typical 30 minute cardio work out in just 15, using high intensity interval training. If you have time for both, you can be in and out of Koko FitClub in under an hour having completed a serious workout.

Confusion: Even for those of us who are pretty adept at finding our way around a gym, confusion about the best use of our exercise time can stop us in our tracks. No one wants to wander around aimlessly wondering what to do next. (Didn’t we just determine we don’t have time for that?) A personal trainer can solve this problem, but the good ones are expensive. Each Koko Smartraining program is designed by Koko Chief Fitness Officer Michael Wood, CSCS, a world-class personal trainer and exercise physiologist. Koko Smartraining Technology customizes the programs to your specific needs and ability. Koko Cardio programs are guided by Wood, who ensures that you work out at an intensity level that will provide maximum aerobic benefit.

Boredom: No one wants to feel like a hamster on the treadmill. Nor can we stomach the same strength routine over and over. *YAWN* It’s boring, and worse, its ineffective. Koko programs are interactive and engaging and – go figure – different every time! You are also rewarded with positive feedback that updates you on your progress. It is hard to be bored when there is so much to keep you motivated!

The Gym Scene: It’s just overwhelming for most of us. The over-socializing. The sweat marks on the machines. Tons of exercise equipment you can’t decipher that, frankly, looks like medieval torture devices. The smell of … ok, let’s not go there! There is so much NOT to like about gyms, it’s a wonder people use them at all. In contrast, Koko FitClub has been described (by an especially eloquent member) as a “fitness oasis.” A welcoming, clean, spa-like space that smells good. Everyone is fully focused on their workouts, not each other, and you have your own (non-sweaty) machine to use for the entire workout.

The simple truth is the exercise regimen you can make a habit of for the long haul is the most effective exercise regimen for you. By figuring out the things that prevent you from making fitness a habit and removing them from the picture, Koko FitClub will help you be successful at getting fit and healthy.

Koko FitClub Danville is owned and operated by Val and Mike Rogers, local Danville residents. Koko FitClub is conveniently located in downtown Danville at the Iron Horse Trail Crossing.

Will Football Concussions Give Parents a Headache?

By any measure, football is the most popular sport in the United States. It generates the highest television ratings, the most revenue, inspires breathtaking levels of legal and illegal gambling, and has by itself created quasi national holidays every Super Bowl Sunday and BCS Championship Game.

Unfortunately, none of that is making football-related news right now. Thanks to the recent suicide of Junior Seau, the career-ending concussions of several players including ESPN’s Merrill Hoge, and the dementia related deaths of well known players like John Mackey, football concussions are front and center in the media. Two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner even went so far as to say that he would resist the idea of his sons playing football because of the danger inherent in the game.

Of course very few people are ever faced with a go-no-go decision when it comes to NFL Football. In a typical season the league runs through about 2,000 players which is just a tiny fraction of those who start out in youth leagues. The real decision for most occurs around ninth grade when a young boy, with his parents, decides whether or not to play high school football.

As with most youth sports, high school football is in part a race to puberty. By age 15 a few boys have become young men physically. Players can often weigh well over 200 pounds and run the 40-yard dash in under five seconds. That is a combustible combination that can lead to injuries, including concussions. Still, there are few things as exciting for an adolescent male as running through the goal posts on a Friday night with thousands of people cheering as he and his teammates pursue a testosterone addled common goal.

What is a parent to do? Summer training camps are underway at local high schools and players began preparing before school let out last spring.

For Dave Sarver of Danville, the decision regarding whether or not to play football was thought of more in the context of an impediment to his son’s opportunities in baseball. Sam Sarver was a junior on Monte Vista’s varsity baseball team this past season. Dave Sarver held Oakland Raiders season tickets with his father before the team moved to Los Angeles and remembered the violence of those games.

“I wasn’t going to let Sam play in high school and affect his chance to play baseball. I was concerned about injury, but more about having a knee blown out, not a concussion,” explained Dave Sarver. “My decision not to allow Sam to play football was formulated decades before increased awareness of concussions. When I saw the “Jack Tatum” approach (dirty knockout vs. clean hard hit) start to permeate the game in the 70’s, I decided then I wasn’t going to risk it.”

Other parents are raising multi-sport stars and football is just part of the picture. Mason Melin is a junior at Monte Vista who has played football, soccer and baseball for the school; starting at tight end for the varsity football team and in the outfield for the varsity baseball team. His father, Barry, sees injury risks in all the sports but believes that participation has value despite the injury risk. The Melins have seen more severe head injuries in soccer than in football, but take the risks in all the sports seriously.

“For me it is weighing the positives and life lessons of sports, versus the potential for head trauma. I do not think the concern is overblown,” Barry Melin said. “I am glad that the coaches and doctors are looking at it. It is making them make small decision early like taking kids out for one or two games for a small concussion that I think is helping to raise awareness and prevent injuries. And I also think the heightened concern is helping parents make the call earlier to stop their child from participating in their sport when he/she has suffered head trauma.

“The days of sucking it up are gone.”

News relating to football concussions is not going away. More former pro and even college players will discuss how their post-playing lives have been affected by football injuries. Autopsies of those players often show significant brain damage. The ultimate showdown might not involve individual parents making decisions for their sons. More likely, youth and high school football might become uninsurable within a generation or two and fewer and fewer schools and youth organizations will be able to accept the risks inherent in the game.