Mark Spicoluk not only appeared in the Finding Fido PSA, but he also acted as the emcee for the launch event on Oct. 23.

YTV judges speak out for shelter dogs

Mark Spicoluk and Tara Oram appear in ad for animal adoption

A year ago, Mark Spicoluk, a host of the television show The Next Star, purchased a Rottweiler puppy and named him Prince. Over the next few months, Prince’s training from the vet ended up leaving him with trust issues and Spicoluk with a mission.

Spicoluk has appeared in a public service announcement called “Finding Fido,” supporting the adoption of animals.

He got Prince at four months from an ad on Kijiji. Spicoluk and his girlfriend had tried looking in shelters, but when they met this puppy they wanted to get him. The dog wasn’t in the greatest environment with its previous owners, Spicoluk said.

“We met them next to Wonderland,” he said. “They had this little doggy running loose — not on a leash — and he ran right up to me and … he just started licking my leg. He reminded me so much of my last rottie, Brando.”

When Prince was only 7 months old he was abused by a veterinarian that Spicoluk paid to “behaviourally train” him. The “training” involved the puppy being poked in both of his eyes, and then when he reacted aggressively, the vet beat him, “like a kung fu movie in a vet office,” he said.

Spicoluk did not go back because after that his dog was never the same and he even ended up biting Spicoluk’s mother a few months later.

There was pressure from his friends and family to put Prince down, but he was determined to find another answer.

“It’s a really sad story when people treat dogs like pairs of shoes. This pair of shoes doesn’t fit right; I have to get rid of them.”

So he and his girlfriend travelled all across the province looking for the right solution to the situation, keeping their dog only to themselves.

Spicoluk says that after he had his eyes opened to how many dogs there are in the shelter system and the fact that not all trainers have one path of suggestion after a dog bites, he came up with a portion of the Finding Fido code of “dogs are for life.” He says that by speaking to trainers and shelters, reading training books and watching every single Caesar Milan episode, he has finally found a combination of techniques and training that worked for him and his dog.

The two main techniques are the use of a pressure collar that makes the dog feel pressure when pulling away and also having Prince physically attached to his hip. By attaching himself to Prince for a minimum of two hours a day while he goes about his daily business, Spicoluk says Prince is able to burn off excess energy and this helps further their bond.

While on tour with country singer Tara Oram, who is also a judge on his YTV show, she mentioned to Spicoluk  she was going to be working on an initiative with her friend from Pragmatic Conferencing and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.

Tara Oram sang two songs at the PSA launch.
Tara Oram sang two songs at the PSA launch. (Robin Dhanju//Toronto Observer)

Immediately, while they were having dinner, he dropped his utensils and said “Tara, I’m in,” and asked what he could do to help.

Like Spicoluk, Oram became an animal advocate because of her dog, Jake, a Havanese Yorkie that she purchased in Chicago. He came from a puppy mill and as a result has a number of issues she has had to deal with.

“I think the reason I have him in the big picture, he’s a voice for dogs from puppy mills,” she said.

Spicoluk said that had Oram mentioned the PSA at any other time in his life, he probably would have brushed it off and said “Yeah, that’s cool,” but since he had spent months obsessing over his dog, he was more than happy to be a part of it.

“My experience inspired me that I could make a difference,” he said.

Barbara Steinhoff, the executive director of the Toronto Humane Society with Tanner, a hound puppy from THS that actually got adopted during the event.
Barbara Steinhoff, executive director of the Toronto Humane Society, with Tanner a hound puppy from THS that actually got adopted during the event. (Robin Dhanju//Toronto Observer)

Barbara Steinhoff, from the Toronto Humane Society, helped to organize the release event for the public service announcement and said the celebrities that are involved are there because they volunteered their time.

“They are true animal lovers and they’re true animal advocates,” she said. “It has always amazed me since my time that — I’ve been with the Toronto Humane Society for about two years — there are people out there that are passionate.”