Hallmark’s Pet Project & “Duke” dog film; plus worthy events

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“Duke” stars Steven Weber.

Man’s best friend gets the spotlight in a worthwhile show. A stray border collie helps a homeless veteran find purpose in life in Duke, a great new Hallmark Channel movie premiering Saturday, April 28. Steven Weber (Brothers & Sisters, Wings) stars in the story inspired by true events. The touching tale focuses on the special relationship between a good but broken man and the dog who becomes his constant companion. After returning from war, Marine Sergeant Terry Pulaski (Weber) and a dog named Duke both take a journey that binds them as soul mates and helps the healing process.

The movie makes an effort to understand the struggles of our soldiers and their families. Terry wants to be a good father and husband, but PTSD and a disabling injury from serving in Iraq has him deeply depressed. His wife Bethany (Kendal Cross) reluctantly brings home a stray dog knowing that Terry and their daughter will immediately fall in love with Duke.

A pivotal moment comes when Fourth of July fireworks give Terry painful flashbacks of the war, and only Duke can comfort him as they huddle together. After that Duke and Terry are inseparable, even when he decides to leave his home after doctors order him to take a medical discharge. Odd jobs and homelessness fill ten years for Terry. But when Duke gets seriously ill, a visit to a veterinary clinic changes everything.

Also featured with Weber and Cross (Caprica) in the film are Sarah Smyth (50/50), Allison Hossack (Reaper), and Martin Cummins (V). And two Border Collies, Zeek and Tanner took turns at playing the amazing dog Duke. Kudos to Hallmark putting the spotlight on the healing powers of pets.

There was also the recently announcement of the launch of “Hallmark Channel’s Pet Project,” a campaign celebrating pets and the many ways they enrich our lives as cherished family members. The project aims to raise awareness of the epidemic of pet homelessness and encourage pet adoption through public service announcements and programming elements, such as this Fall’s American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. Plus a resource and pet-finder website www.hallmarkchannel.com/petproject, and a partnership with PetSmart Charities will further the goal of helping families find their new best friend.

Worthy Events

Speaking of animals: The Sunset Safari, an after-hours visit to the LA Zoo for Safari Club families is being hosted by the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) on April 21. In addition to “animal walkabouts,” there’s a buffet dinner and music as part of the festivities. The Safari Club is the non-profit GLAZA’s giving society in support of the Zoo and its various wildlife programs.

On a different night, the stars are lined-up for the Survivor Mitzvah Project “Celebrity Reading,” Sunday, April 22, at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance. Among those scheduled to appear are Ed Asner, Frances Fisher, Elliott Gould, Lainie Kazan, and Valerie Harper, who explains it is a fund-raiser to help the elderly and forgotten Holocaust Survivors in Eastern Europe. “We are all familiar with movies like Sophie’s Choice and Schindler’s List, but the Survivor Mitzvah Project puts names and faces to those isolated Holocaust survivors living in poverty. I was thrilled with the chance to help in a way that would directly support these people. For those who truly want to offer a mitzvah [a kindness]to another human being, this is a golden opportunity,” says Harper.

The Beverly Hills Bar Association Barristers are dishing up the 24th annual Vintage Bouquet on April 29, from noon to 4 p.m. at the historic Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills. It is open to the public and the popular food and wine festival benefits the BH Bar Foundation’s pro bono legal services programs.

Another worthy event is the 10th annual Bogart Wine Aficionado Dinner on May 10, set up at The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel. It is to benefit the Bogart Pediatric Cancer Research Program, and is themed “Going out in Style: 10 Great Wines for 10 Great Years,” with world-class wines matching the gourmet cuisine. It should be the connoisseur’s dream evening.

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