"This Has Become Our Calling"

When Rangers head coach John Tortorella is committed to something, he is all in. There is no grey with Torts. Black or white. In or out. It is how he is with his family, his job, and his team. All in. Never a doubt.

And now Tortorella is stepping forward with a cause he is equally as passionate about and committed to: the humane treatment of animals---dogs in particular.

"I just think animals are so vulnerable to people, and to see how some people treat animals is just inexcusable," Tortorella said earlier in the week. "So that's where it all has started for me. My wife brought me in and with our foundation we want to accomplish three things: make people aware of what is going on out there and educate them as well about spaying and neutering, raise money for shelters and humane organizations, and get people to adopt pets."

To that end The John and Christine Tortorella Family Foundation has teamed up with the Rangers and the national organization Best Friends Animal Society to host the Rangers Dog Walk on Sunday morning September the 9th at Riverside Park in Manhattan.

With a monetary contribution, fans and dog lovers alike will have the opportunity to stroll with their pets in a beautiful setting with Coach Tortorella, his wife Christine, and their dogs. In addition Rangers captain Ryan Callahan and alternate captain Brad Richards are expected to attend, and Torts will interact with the fans in a Q&A session. The chance to adopt shelter dogs on site will also be a part of the day, with all proceeds benefitting the The Westchester Humane Society and a local shelter in Harrison, NY that has been in a state of disrepair.

"My position is being a public figure, and I don't always enjoy being in the public's eye, but in this type of situation I would like to use being a public figure to raise awareness for these dogs and for these great organizations," explained Tortorella, who currently has four dogs in his household--not including the two owned by his daughter. "But it's not only awareness. We need to raise some money because we are in dire need---all shelters in our area and nationally are in dire need of money. And I also want people to go to shelters to adopt. There's no reason to go anywhere but your nearest shelter or humane society because there are beautiful dogs there. There are too many loving animals without homes."

"We are just trying to help. That's all we are trying to do."

Tortorella's love of dogs---and empathy for those who are mistreated---has been fostered through the years by his wife. She has been active with humane groups and has educated the Rangers bench boss as to the many and various atrocities that take place on a regular basis. And that has stoked the fire within Torts.

"It is estimated that over 9,000 dogs and cats are euthanized every day, every day," stated an emotional Tortorella. "We have always been animal lovers in our household, and it's my wife's passion to be involved in various charities, and being involved in this is just the right thing for us to do. It has just evolved for us. And the biggest thing for me has been going into the back of certain shelters and seeing what these dogs are living in---it's just awful---and just wanting to volunteer and help out in any way I can."

Alerted to the poor conditions at the Harrison shelter, the Tortorellas recently became very involved with other volunteers in rebuilding the shelter and making the living conditions more humane for the dogs--many of whom remained caged in their own feces for long stretches and were almost never let out to be walked. Now conditions are cleaner, a walking area is being built adjacent to the shelter, and other improvements are under way.

But as Tortorella stated repeatedly, more volunteers are needed. More money is needed. And the Harrison shelter is just one of many in need of proper and immediate help.

"My wife is on the Board (of Directors), but I just consider myself a volunteer, a dog-walker," said Torts. "I think that is the best thing for the dogs---get 'em out, get them exercise, and get them socialized. So I am happy to just volunteer and walk the dogs. But our foundation is interested in trying to make that place better, and that's why we are hosting the dog walk on Septemeber 9th with the generous help of the Rangers, Madison Square Garden, the Westchester Humane Society, and the great people at Best Friends Animal Society."

The Tortorellas adopted Blaze---three of their four dogs are those adopted from shelters---from the Harrison Shelter six weeks ago. Blaze had not been out of his cage regularly in three years. In the past six weeks Blaze has gained 18 pounds and, according to Torts, seems amazed to be able to run free with the other dogs on the Tortorella's property.

Blaze has been brought into the Tortorella household, but he is far from the only dog Torts and his family want to help and save. It is what is at the heart of the Rangers Dog Walk on September 9th, as well as the Tortorella's daily volunteer work at the shelter and with their foundation.

"This has become our calling."

Jim Cerny-August 17, 2012

To join John Tortorella and his family at the Rangers Dog Walk at Riverside Park on September 9th, or to find out how to volunteer or make a donation, click here