You may know Jon Taffer as the in-your-face, no-holds barred host of Spike TV’s wildly popular Bar Rescue. He is also a best-selling author (Raise the Bar: An Action-Based Method for Maximum Customer Reaction) and is credited with creating the NFL Sunday Ticket while serving a three-year term on the board of NFL Enterprises. As a successful bar and nightlife consultant, Taffer also created an app for bar managers and owners.
What you may not know about Taffer is that he is a huge dog lover and animal advocate. His tough talking-demeanor immediately goes away just as soon as he opens up about his two dogs. Dogster recently caught up with Jon and he told us all about Winston and Moxie and how dogs have played such an important role in his life.
Dogster: Jon, I am a little nervous that you are going to shut this interview down.
Jon Taffer: [Laughter] To be honest with you, I would never shut anything down that has to do with dogs.
You have a pretty big personality. Dogster readers might be surprised to learn that your dogs, Winston and Moxie, are on the smaller size. Tell us about them.
Winston is 10 years old, and he’s a Miniature Schnauzer. He came from a breeder, and his parents were award-winning dogs. He is my incredible best friend, as he should be. People say that he is a little like me in that he is an extremely belligerent dog with an exceptional personality. For example, if I ask him to come here and he is in a bad mood, he will turn his back toward me and sit down. Then, he will turn his head, look at me, sort of smile, and come over anyway.
We had a terrible health scare with him about a year ago, with cancer. We thought we were going to lose him. We sent him to an oncologist. He had three surgeries. But now, he is cancer free and he is just doing great.
Moxie is a rescue dog, and she is a classic case of rescue. We rescued her about a year and a half ago. She is a sort of a Border Collie mix and is a wonderful dog.
Tell us how you came to rescue Moxie.
Because of Winston, we would go to pet stores every Saturday and let him pick out treats and stuff.
When we went, Moxie’s rescue, Friends for Life Humane Society, was set up. Moxie was there for a week. She was emaciated, half of her hair was missing, and she was a very unattractive dog. The next Saturday, Moxie was still there and she was not looking good.
Clearly, this is a dog who no one was going to take. When we went home that night and talked about it, it broke our hearts, but we didn’t think we were in a position to do it (adopt her).
Then, the third week, we go back and Moxie is still there, skinnier and shaking. We had to take her because we knew that nobody else was going to.
How did Winston handle the new addition?
Winston was a little resistant. Moxie was 6 months old and was found on a street. She didn’t really have good social skills. She would sort of snap at Winston, and he’s never experienced anything like that before.
It was interesting to watch over the six months how he evolved to be sort of her big brother, and now she mimics him and follows him and adores him.
Moxie had some adjustment issues and social issues, as a rescue dog does sometimes. But people need to recognize that when you get past those issues, that’s what makes a rescue dog more rewarding than anything you can ever do. Moxie had never been in a family environment before. There were housebreaking issues, and we got past it. When you rescue a dog, in some cases you do it because of your heart, not because of logic. She has turned into one of the prides of my life.
Are you involved in rescue work?
I used to be close to (actor-comedian) Buddy Hackett. He used to have a charity called Signita, and it was a no-kill animal shelter. I sat on the board of Signita for Buddy for a number of years. Buddy has since passed, and they couldn’t raise money, and, unfortunately, Signita is no longer operating. But being on the board of a no-kill animal facility and being able to see rescue not in terms of one or five dogs, but hundreds, is very moving. It has impacted me for the rest of my life. Anybody who rescues a dog, to me, is a hero.
I am on the road 40 weeks a year shooting Bar Rescue, and I am a big believer in supporting locally. I feel that if we all focus locally and take care of the animals locally, we can solve this (pet overpopulation problem). I don’t like costs going to administration, I like everything getting right to the facility and the animals.
My wife, Nicole, and I will do things all the time, like buy bags of food and toys and drop them off at shelters. We try to do what we can.
Did you have dogs growing up?
I grew up with dogs, and I’ve had dogs my whole life. I am guessing that every child who ever had a dog will say this: “When I was growing up, my dog was the most intelligent dog who has ever lived on this planet.”
My dog’s name was Sampson, and he was a Miniature Doberman, a Mini Pinscher, and he was an amazing dog.
When I was younger, I had a German Shepherd named Caesar, and he got hit by a car and had to get his jaw wired closed so he could heal. So for six weeks, I had that dog tied to my leg, and I had to feed him soft food. That happened to me when I was about 18 or 19. It wiped me out financially and cost me thousands and thousands of dollars. That was one of the most important things that defined me in my life, when I had to sacrifice to come through for Caesar.
Dogs have had profound effect on who I am and what I believe in. Dogs have added much compassion to my life and accountability. I couldn’t imagine not having one; it would be a real hole in our hearts.
Do Winston and Moxie come to work with you?
I have a tour bus that I bought a few years ago because of my dogs. There is nothing greater than traveling with your dogs. By having a tour bus, I can go anywhere with them. Winston and I are the boys of the family, and Moxie and my wife, Nicole, are the girls of family.
Sometimes, Winston and I go off on the bus on our own and we do guy stuff and the girls stay at home. Sometimes, I will take them both. There are a lot of ways we have fun with the dogs.
The daddy-doggy trips in the bus are something that I look forward to every year. Maybe twice a year, I go away for three or four days with just Winston alone. We call it the “daddy-doggy” trip, and it’s just for the guys. He might get that extra bone that my wife doesn’t want him to get. (When this runs, I am going to be in big trouble. And that’s okay!)
Winston and I have this guy-guy bond. The private time I get with him means very much to me.
When you do a bar rescue, do people ask for Winston and Moxie?
When I have them on the road, everybody sees them and pets them, and they come out and say hello. I learned over the years that I don’t like to put dogs in kennels. We found that is extremely disruptive. We will take them on the bus because that is a second home. Really, the best thing you can do is not disrupt their lives.
Can you share with us your thoughts on dogs?
You don’t own dogs. You live with them. Dogs are part of a family and a real commitment. They are in my soul and are a part of our lives, intertwined with us. I couldn’t imagine my life without dogs.
Dogs and cats also have souls. When a dog is abused, we need to remember that it is a soul and it has eyes, ears, and a nose. It smells. It feels. It senses. It knows when it’s disliked, and it knows when it’s disrespected. They want peace and love, no different than us. They don’t want to be terrorized.
Do you have any final words for Dogster readers?
Anybody who is reading this: If this has made you smile, then do something for your local shelter. Drop off a bag of food, drop off some toys, grab a dog, or talk to a friend about rescuing a dog. If you are reading this, then you are a dog fan. Take action.
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About the author: Anne Forline is a freelance writer in Bellmawr, New Jersey. She is an unrepentant foster failure. Her three rescue bunnies, JoJo, Bennie, and Nibbles, allow Anne, her husband, Steve, and daughter, Cara, to share a home with them. Anne likes to run 5Ks and has placed a few times in her age division. She is also a certified teacher who homeschools Cara. Anne makes friends with all of the neighborhood dogs and keeps treats handy to give out when they pass by on their walks. See more of her work at anneforline.com, check out her Facebook page – Anne Forline – Writer, and follow her on Twitter at @AnneForline.