There is an ancient Indian legend that believes "In the eyes of the speechless animal is a wisdom that only the truly wise can understand"...and that person, truly, is Bash Dibra.
A whirling dervish with boundless energy and irrepressible enthusiasm, highlighted with a perpetual smile, Bash has an engaging and enigmatic pedigree: part playful Labrador puppy; part noble, soulful Newfoundlandthe kind Sir Edwin Landseer immortalized in his paintings and art critic John Ruskin proclaimed captured the spark of divinity we share with all animals.
For although Bash is best known as "Dog Trainer to the Stars" (his celebrity clientele includes Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Mariah Carey, Kim Basinger, Calvin Klein, Henry Kissinger, S.I. Newhouse and countless other movers-and-shakers), and, indeed, he and his animals are celebrities in their own rights (appearing in countless television shows, movies, commercials and print ads)those of us who know him and who have enriched our relationships with our dogs through his many books and videos, TEACH YOUR DOG TO BEHAVE, DOG TRAINING BY BASH, SIMPLE SOLUTIONS, and, now, his most recent, DOGSPEAK) know he is all that and so much more...
I first met Bash many years ago when I was editing Soap Opera Digest, and his dog, Muffin, was making history as the first dog ever to have a front-burner ongoing story line on a daytime drama, "The Edge of Night." I'd worked with many trainers, behaviorists and animals in show business, but I had never, ever, met anyone like Bash. He not only spoke to the animals and they listened; but they spoke to him, and he not only listened, but he understood; and he vowed
to make their voices heard, and to alleviate their suffering through teaching better behavior, and, thus, fostering better relationships with their human families.
How does he do it?
A kind of Darwinian Dr. Doolittle, Bash learned "DOGSPEAK" from a wolf, the ancestor of the dog. As a very young boy, imprisoned in a Yugoslavian refugee camp, Bash somehow befriended the guard dogs, allowing him and his family to escape, ultimately ending up in New York. The dogs were left behind, of course, but not the gift they'd given him, and Bash knew then and there that he wanted to work with animals. He had the divine spark of canine communication; but how to light the flame to be a candle in the dark?
Every artist has his muse, and Bash's muse would be Mariah: a beautiful young timber wolf he adopted and trained for the ABC After School Special, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf". Mariah proved to be the Rosetta Stone Bash needed to fully comprehend the language of dogs, since dogs are directly descended from wolves. By living one-on-one with Mariah and painstakingly observing her behavior over many years, Bash was able to interpret what a dog is "saying" through finely nuanced facial expression, body language and vocalization. (In an act of supreme cosmic Kismet, Mariah became the official symbol of the 1984 Winter Olympics in Yugoslavia, and, later, a "cover girl" model for Revlon's "Gypsy Gold" perfume!) As with all his working animals, Mariah became a philanthropist, her "show biz" earnings helping Bash care for homeless and unwanted pets.
Now fluent in "DOGSPEAK", thanks to Mariah, Bash has become a sort of canine conduit, crusading for the dog's place and understanding in his relationship with man and the modern world. Indeed, Bash has understood and put into practice what one of history's greatest naturalists, Comte Georges de Buffon, merely observed. Buffon, whom King Louis XV appointed to his court as "Naturalist Laureate" to officially report to the French people on animal behavior, wrote:
"It can be said that the dog is the only animal whose fidelity is put to the test; the only one who invariably knows his master and the friends of the house; the only one who realizes when a stranger arrives, who hears his name and recognizes the voices of 'his' family. More docile than man, the dog adapts himself to the gestures, the manner of all the habits of those who give him orders. He takes on the tone of the house where he lives. The pleasure of attaching himself to a man and the desire to please; he lays his courage, his strength, his talents at his master's feet. He counsels and questions: one glance is sufficient, he understands his master's will. The dog has all the warmth of feeling, and, even more than man, the dog has fidelity and constancy."
Keenly attuned to the dog's intuition and sensitivity to the human condition, Bash configured Buffon's 18th century observations into 20th century practice. In the forefront of the pet-facilitated therapy movement, Bash has been instrumental with his New York Council on Pet Therapy in framing groundbreaking laws to allow therapy and service dogs in nursing homes, hospices, hospitals, schools and prisons. He has created, tirelessly raised funds for, and served on the boards of "Pets, People & Parks", "Paws Walk 2000", "Paws for a Cause" (with the American Cancer Society and The Animal Medical Center of New York to fight cancer in both people and animals), the ASPCA Dog Walk, and the Delta Society (training dogs for the disabled and providing access to, and recognition for, therapy and service dogs) and has promoted and developed many programs that use the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen® program. Bash has also consulted for the ASPCA, Bide-a-Wee, and the Humane Society of New York. A recipient of the prestigious New York State Humane Association Award and the New York City Veterinary Medical Association Unsung Hero Award, Bash was recently bestowed The North Shore Animal League of America's premiere Legendary Bond Award, for his commitment to the humane cause and his extraordinary measures to improve the lives of companion animals. But despite the front-line battles he's fought, and the honors he's received, Bash hasn't forgotten the playful puppy that exists in all pets and their people: He also founded "Canine Court", the world's first pooch playground, located in New York City's historic Van Cortland Park.
Undeniably, Bash has come to symbolizeto embody, evenwhat I call the "Canine Covenant": Eons ago, the dog gave his paw, his trust, his service to mankindthe only species to step away from his own kind and align himself with man. This ancient, symbiotic relationship allowed the two species to survive, and, for man, at least, to flourish: The dog has served us as watch dog, sled dog, war dog, rescue dog, medical and space exploration, education, therapy dog and service dog.
But now, as we enter the new millennium, Bash is painfully aware that the covenant has been broken, and he is calling on all of us to help repair the Canine Covenant: "Each year, 15 million dogs are abandoned, and, ultimately, destroyed, because of behavioral problems," says Bash. "It's an overwhelming and tragic statistic, and, even more heartbreaking, because it doesn't have to happen. Dogs are abandoned because they are 'unruly' dogs, 'problem' dogs. Only the "best' dogs have a chance at adoption. A dog who is understood, well-trained and well-behaved will remain with a home his entire life and never be abandoned. If people are thinking of getting a dog, they should visit their local shelter and adopt one. No dog is untrainable, and all dogs deserve a good and loving home."
Towards this end, Bash has created "Paws Across America"a national campaign to promote responsible pet ownership and to help us learn about proper care and training for our pets. "Too often, the reason behind the heartbreaking statistics is simply that the pet owners don't know their options. By connecting people and petshands and pawsacross America, our goal, on a grassroots, regional and national level, is to create a positive message (backed up with a viable help line and action) that pets are wonderful friends who deserve the best treatment we humans can offer them!"
In tandem with "Paws Across America", Bash has lent his wholehearted support to NY S.A.V.E.. (Save Animals in Veterinary Emergency), and hopes you will, too: "This is a wonderful philanthropic organization to provide funding for emergency medical care for pets whose owners are unable to pay the costs of such treatment, and thus alleviate unnecessary suffering of these pets and their people. This is made possible by the largesse of the wonderful veterinarians at local veterinary hospitals who are members of the Veterinary Medical Association of New York City."
Over the centuries and around the world, philosophers and statesmen alike have opined that the measure of a nation's greatness is how it treats its animals. 18th century France anointed Buffon its "Naturalist Laureate." And as we enter the 21st century, a wise and far-sighted U.S. president would do well to give America's two-legged and four-footed citizens their own "Pet Laureate": BASH DIBRA!