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Larry Levin  

Lawyer & Animal Rescue Advocate

Nothing could have prepared Larry Levin and his twelve-year old sons Noah and Dan for what happened that Autumn day in 1992 when they took a beloved cat to Ardmore Animal Hospital to be put down – and a small white pup literally came bounding into their lives. Levin’s first thought was that the dog must have been in a fire: it was missing an ear and the left side of its lopsided face was raw pink scar tissue. As he soon learned, the pup had been used as bait to train fighting dogs. The police had found the pup in a drug raid. Its cheekbone had been pulverized and part of its jawbone broken off. Cast aside and simply left to die, without food, water, blood, or medical treatment of any kind for five-seven days, the dog somehow survived. The police took him to the animal hospital where, against all odds, the staff saved him.

It was love at first sight --for all of them. The Levins named their new pup Oogy, an affectionate derivative of “ugly”. A Dogo Argentino, Oogy quickly grew to be ninety pounds of dog that didn’t know he was a dog at all. Whatever Noah and Dan did, Oogy wanted to join in, and he soon became known as “the third twin”. His exuberance and unadulterated joy daily reminded the Levins that one can go through the most horrific experience and come out on the other side with love and dignity intact. With a face as grotesque as any gargoyle’s, Oogy’s looks never impeded the love he shared and with which he was daily showered.

Levin’s heartwarming and poignant first book, Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love, interweaves Oogy’s remarkable story with that of Noah and Dan, who were adopted when they were three days old. A true story of second chances, Oogy explores the experiences of adoption and rescue, and how both helped Levin overcome the long-repressed death of his sister when he was three years old. A New York Times and Publishers’ Weekly bestseller, Oogy has been recommended by many magazines including O, People, and Dog Fancy; was named to a number of top ten lists following its publication in 2010 including being named one of People’s Best Books of 2010, and an Indie Next Pick; and was included in the 2010 Readers’ Digest compendium of the year’s best non-fiction. Published in six other countries, Oogy has been an inspirational tale for people the world over. Several school districts have made Oogy required reading for students.

Levin’s talk, infused with candor and humor, tells how Oogy came into his family’s life, what it was like to have to accommodate his mischievous, energetic and unfailingly cheerful spirit, and describes both the growth of his family and the deep bond he and Oogy have developed within the broader context of the human-canine experience. He relates how Oogy came to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show, which in turn led to the book, describes the writing experience and how the publication of the book has changed his life, and explores some of the lessons his family has learned from Oogy.

Levin and Oogy have appeared before groups at fund-raisers, literary clubs, senior citizens’ clubs, and at libraries. Volunteers with New Leash on Life, an organization that trains prisoners to rehabilitate fighting dogs, he and Oogy also make frequent appearances at fund-raisers for shelters and rescues, for which they have helped raise thousands of dollars, and regularly visit schools, where they talk to children about their experiences, dog fighting and breed prejudice. They always emphasize the lessons they have learned from Oogy about perseverance and the importance of what is on the inside. “We are both grateful for what we have overcome and try to encourage others. We feel very lucky,” Levin explains. “It’s nice to be able to give back”.

Levin has spoken frequently at AA meetings and has addressed young men and women struggling with addictions. He has been on the Board of Directors of Golden Cradle Adoption Service for almost two decades and has served as vice-president of the Agency for the past four years.

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