Michael Krasny, local authors to share stories about beloved pets at Best in Show

Volunteers Chieh Wang (left) and Jansen Oblena (right)  help a potential adopter meet one of Berkeley Humane’s adoptable puppies. The Best in Show live event Friday is a fundraiser for the nonprofit. Photo: Polina Gupaliuk

Michael Krasny is a dog lover, which may be why he agreed to host Best in Show: Stories from Beyond the Shelter, what promises to be a fun evening Friday at the Freight & Salvage in which two noted local authors, as well as winners of a storytelling competition, will tell tales of their pets.

The evening, which kicks off with a reception at 7 p.m., is a fundraiser for Berkeley Humane, a local private nonprofit that has operated in one way or another in Berkeley since 1895.

The KQED Forum host will talk with Julie Barton, the New York Times bestselling author of Dog Medicine, How My Dog Saved Me from Myself, and Steven Winn, the award-winning arts journalist, fiction writer and City Arts & Lectures interviewer whose book, Come Back, Como: Winning the Heart of Reluctant Dog, is based on a ten-part series originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jeffrey Zerwekh, Executive Director of Berkeley Humane, said the live event is a new departure for the organization which has, in the past, tended to organize outdoor events such as beer festivals and ‘adoptathons’ to raise much-needed funds. Speaking to Berkeleyside last week, he said he if was being candid, the nonprofit had “a strong desire to host something indoors” to alleviate the work of securing permits and “stressing about the weather.”


Pulling together the show has proved to be an interesting journey in itself, he said.

“It’s often a really hard job to be working in animal welfare — there is a lot of emotion involved and sometimes sadness; so often you place animals into what you hope are loving homes, but you never know what happens to them,” he said. “Now people are coming out of the woodwork telling touching and funny stories. And to hear about animals becoming members of a family and them helping families communicate with each other is so positive and life-affirming.”

The Best in Show organizers received 80 story submissions for the community contest, and have picked three finalists who will share their stories on the Freight’s stage. Judges will crown one of them Best in Show and they will receive a cash prize from an anonymous donor, among other goodies.

Berkeley Humane, which is staffed by volunteers as well as a core team and is located on Ninth Street, takes animals from municipal shelters around the Bay Area that are often in need of medical care, improved nutrition, enrichment and “lots of love.” Last year Berkeley Humane conducted over 1,000 adoptions and touched almost 1,000 additional pets through related services.

The nonprofit does not get any funding from the city or outside organizations, and is particularly in need of new funds at the moment, as it has been a busy time, Zerwekh said. It has been supporting municipal shelters and transporting animals from about eight counties in the past year or so, including saving displaced animals from the spate of recent wildfires.

“Because we have a hospital and medical operation we take animals that others can’t take,” said Zerwekh. “We’ve been packed to the gills with our highest population ever.” “It’s been an extraordinary kitten year in particular,” he added.

Zerwekh has also seen a change in giving from regular donors. He doesn’t know whether it relates to tax changes made by President Trump, but people seem to have started skipping a year with their donations. Unfortunately, the bills for kibble or PG&E don’t skip a year, he said wryly.

Meanwhile, Zerwekh has heard through the grapevine that Krasny may be in the market for a new dog — needless to say, Zerwekh is hoping the radio star will visit Ninth Street to find his new four-legged friend.

Staff members at Berkeley Humane — Sarah Gray, Dr. Crystal Heath and Jana Hughes — give a medical examination to a new arrival. Photo: Polina Gupaliuk

Best in Show: Stories from Beyond the Shelter, Friday Oct. 19, reception7 p.m., program 8 p.m. General admission tickets: $75. Berkeleyside is a media sponsor of Best in Show.