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.