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Who's a Good Duck?

Ranny Green in the Westminster Kennel Club press room
Ranny Green in the Madison Square Garden media room for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Green served as the dog show's media co-coordinator for eight years.

To get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, former San Diego Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts, BS ’77, threw for 43,040 yards and 254 touchdowns, was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player once, and appeared in six Pro Bowls.

To get into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, former New York Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon, BS ’39, won five World Series rings and the 1942 American League MVP Award, and played in nine All-Star Games.

To get into the Dog Writers Association of America Hall of Fame, former Seattle Times columnist Ranny Green, BS ’61—hold on, there’s a Dog Writers Association of America Hall of Fame?

Yes, and they don’t let just anyone in. Green had to be a very good boy—er, writer—to make the cut.

Green’s story began in similar fashion to Fouts’ and Gordon’s—representing the Ducks as a student-athlete. Green, a Seattle native, enrolled at the UO to run track under head coach Bill Bowerman and major in journalism, and was encouraged to join the Daily Emerald sportswriting staff by fellow track athlete and aspiring journalist Phil Knight, BBA ’59.

Daily Emerald staff in 1959
The Daily Emerald's sportswriting staff in 1959 included Green (far right) and Nike co-founder Phil Knight (second from right).

Green was a better writer than sprinter and left the track team after only one year, but remained with the Emerald through his sophomore year before going to work as an assistant sports information director in the athletics department, only a few blocks from the Theta Chi house where he lived.

After graduating in 1961, Green returned to Washington and began working for the Tacoma News Tribune, where he covered, among other things, the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the 1969 Indy 500, and the expansion Seattle SuperSonics, who joined the NBA in 1967.

“We were still carrying typewriters,” Green said of his years covering the new NBA franchise. “I still remember my old Olivetti typewriter that I lugged around the country—that was before computers by quite a while. We traveled on the same flights with the [Sonics], dealing with flight delays due to weather, changing from a flight to a Greyhound bus, and getting in and out of places due to the NBA’s tight schedule.”

But a non sports story ended up changing the trajectory of his life, and the promising sportswriter literally saw his career go to the dogs.

Green and his wife, Mary, lived with their three young children on an acre in Federal Way, Washington, though he was occasionally gone for extended periods while traveling with the Sonics. He had the family’s German shepherd-collie mix, Cindy, trained to be a guard dog to protect the family in his absence, and watched her develop from a playful puppy into a loyal guardian of the family.

“I was really intrigued by the psyche of this, and decided to interview Walt Daughtry, the trainer, and do a story on dogs and how this happened—this blossoming of this young puppy into a finished guard dog in a couple of years,” Green said. “Throughout the process, Mary and I took her to weekly training and were involved in the training, too. The Tacoma News Tribune ended up running it on the cover of its Sunday magazine section. After that ran, I had more letters and more phone calls about that story than anything I’d ever written about in sports. I shook my head and said, ‘Geez, maybe there’s something here.’”

Two years later Green left the Tribune for the Seattle Times, and after researching how much money pet food companies spent on advertising, how many dogs and cats were licensed in the city, and how many pet owners there were in Seattle, he submitted a proposal to write a column about pets. The newspaper agreed to publish it monthly on a conditional basis, but overwhelming response from the public made it a permanent part of the paper within a few months.

“The first one ran, and as I recall they got several hundred letters and phone calls saying, ‘We really love this idea.’ Eventually I was called into the office after the third month, and my editor said, ‘Let’s try this on a weekly basis.’”

Green wrote his weekly column about pets for the Times from 1973 until 2000—when it ended due to a strike—helped manage the media center at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show from 2008 to 2016, and from 2005 to 2007 even served as the president of the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA). “I get a lot of flack for that,” Green said. “People say, ‘Is there really a Dog Writers Association of America?’ But there were 450 members across the country at the time.”

Writing about pets involves a lot more than just discussing breeds, walks, and treats, though. A 2015 column covered an animal abuse trial where a Rottweiler suffered 13 broken bones, lost 16 teeth, and had cigarettes put out on him; a 2009 feature looked at the development of canine influenza vaccine H3N8.

Green’s columns often tugged at heartstrings, and two in particular brought attention to dogs during the aftermaths of tragedies—one natural and one very much man-made.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, killing more than 1,500 people along the Gulf Coast and doing more than $100 billion in damage. Some residents refused to leave ahead of the storm unless they could take their pets with them, so accommodation had to be arranged at the shelters that sprang up throughout the region to house the evacuees. Not all furry members of families were as lucky though, and many were simply left behind to fend for themselves as the floodwaters rose.

“The day it hit, my wife and daughters were at home watching it on TV, and it hit us how many animals were suddenly homeless,” Green said. “Both of my daughters and my wife looked at me and said, ‘Dad, you need to get down there and write something.’”

Due to budget restraints, the Seattle Times did not have the money to send Green to Louisiana; however, the newsroom took up a collection that helped pay for his airfare, and, with his wife’s words—“Don’t bring a dog back with you”—ringing in his ears, left Seattle for Slidell, on the north side of Lake Ponchartrain opposite New Orleans.

He spent the better part of two weeks with the now-defunct pet disaster relief organization Noah’s Wish, helping hundreds of employees from across the country clean cages, unload trucks, walk dogs, and care for animals including dogs, cats, pet snakes, birds, and even a duck (the winged kind) that was found stuck in the mud in a waterway.

“It was one of those life changing experiences that you have,” Green said. “I won’t ever forget it.”

While in Slidell he continued to file feature stories back to the Times, writing about the devastation, the volunteers— some of whom were hospitalized due to exhaustion after working 12-hour days in 95-degree heat—and the rescued animals themselves, hundreds upon hundreds of them in the Slidell shelter alone.

“[A sheltie-corgi mix] was found in more than a foot of water and muck and rescued by animal control when a nearby apartment manager called to say, ‘Come get her in 30 minutes or I’ll shoot her.’” Green wrote in one dispatch.

Ranny Green with Abbe 

As Hurricane Rita set its sights on Louisiana mere weeks after Katrina wreaked havoc, Green was among those who had to pack up and return home to work. However, he wasn’t alone—returning to Seattle with him was the sheltie/corgi mix, now named Abbe, who lived two more years before dying suddenly at home of a heart ailment, the result of heartworm she'd developed in Louisiana after the hurricane.

Seven years after Katrina, a 20-year-old in Newtown, Connecticut, who had researched mass murders and posted online about “reforming the system” through violence, killed his mother with a rifle before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary with four guns and murdering 20 children and six staff members before turning a gun on himself.

In the months following the shooting, the survivors were reassigned to a neighboring middle school and therapy dogs were brought in to help them cope. A private investigator named Brad Cole, and his Akita named Spartacus, were regular fixtures at the school, and several months later he arranged to get Green into the school to interview students, teachers, and parents about the role of therapy dogs and the assistance they rendered to the survivors for months following the shooting.

“(A) child, Cole recalled, had a panic attack upon hearing the school’s public-address system,” wrote Green in a column. “The girl apparently thought there was another shooter in this building and that the school was going into lock-down. She was sitting alongside a dog and noticed it was not concerned. ‘Then she gave the dog a big hug and was able to calm down and unexpectedly opened up about the morning of the shooting,’ Cole described.”

It wasn’t only the students and teachers who needed the dogs, either—the first responders found comfort in their new four-legged friends while trying to process what they had seen. Bill and Laura Gordon, police officers and Canines Helping Autism and PTSD Survivors organizers, took their Saint Bernards Rosie and Clarence to Newtown and found firefighters and fellow police officers needed the dogs as much as the shooting survivors did.

“’What some of them saw will affect them for a lifetime,” Green quoted Bill Gordon as saying. “Taking a few minutes to decompress and pet Rosie and Clarence was a signature moment for all of us. I saw a relief on the faces of police officers and firefighters who just took five minutes out of their important work. The healing that a dog can provide in five minutes during or following a critical incident is just as important as the long-term healing it can offer.”

The community became so attached to the therapy dogs that one classroom held a party for a dog and its handler; one child used his pocket money to buy a present, while another got a canine-shaped cake. And in the middle of it all, documenting the entire process, was Green, who was told by a school administrator in Newtown—though he has been unable to verify this—that he was the first reporter allowed into the school to talk to students following the shooting.

While writing about the therapy dogs, Green befriended a young survivor, Samantha Kuruc, and her mother, Jill. The DWAA gave Green the Maxwell Award, its highest writing honor, for his Sandy Hook coverage, and during his acceptance speech he announced he “wanted to give the award to a special little girl.” Two months later he was back in Newtown, presenting his medal to Samantha.

“I came back and surprised her,” Green said. “I flew back from Seattle to Newtown and stayed with Brad [Cole] for a couple of days, and took the medal to present it to her at her home. You build friendships; it’s amazing how these things work out.” A local newspaper covered the surprise presentation that was helped set up by Cole and Jill Kuruc. "They have become my Sandy Hook family," adds Green.

Ranny Green being inducted into the Hall of Fame 

In 2012, Green, a five-time DWAA columnist of the year and six-time DWAA feature writer of the year, was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame for his five decades spent writing about dogs. “I am totally humbled at being one of the two inductees, particularly when I look at the others on the list ahead of me,” said Green when the announcement was made.

Though he retired from the Times in 2008 and his term at the Westminster Kennel Club ended last year, Green is still active and continues to write two features monthly for the American Kennel Club. Earlier this year, the Hall of Famer was the featured speaker at a Duck Biz Lunch in Seattle, and he still resides in nearby Tacoma with Mary and their Pembroke Welsh corgi rescue, Maggie.

- Damian Foley, UO communications (and proud father of Bourre, a miniature schnauzer)

Cover image courtesy Jerry and Lois Photography.