He has raised mountain lions and wrestled a Burmese python from a toddler's throat. He has found homes for thousands of neglected pets and raised millions for wildlife and land preservation.
Along the way, pet and wildlife columnist Gary Bogue has read and responded with heart to letters from readers for the past 42 years. He receives up to 200 letters a day from Berkeley to Botswana and everywhere between. Today marks his retirement.
Those who know Bogue, who is 74 and lives in Benicia with his wife, Lois Kazakoff, describe him as a local treasure.
"For four decades, he has been the environmental voice of our region," says Seth Adams, lands program director for Save Mount Diablo. "He has always been
Bogue has been such an important fixture in the Contra Costa Times -- the paper where his column began -- it's hard to imagine not seeing it on Page 2 every morning, says David J. Butler, editor of this newspaper.
"He connected with readers because of his personality and his extraordinary expertise," Butler says. "That will surely be missed."
If you wanted to know why your cat was depressed or what to do about turkeys tying up traffic in Moraga, Bogue had the answers. When a feral cat ran loose at the Oakland Coliseum in the middle of an A's-Yankees game in 1990, A's manager and animal lover Tony La Russa rescued it, and made plans to take it to a shelter.
"(Bogue) legitimized the need for a nonprofit shelter and even became our interim director for a while," says La Russa, who launched his Animal Rescue Foundation the following year. ARF will honor Bogue with a Lifetime Achievement Award on Sept. 8.
In addition to ARF, Lindsay Wildlife Museum, Save Mount Diablo, and Muir Heritage Land Trust credit their organizations' success and impact to Bogue and his dedicated readers. They estimate that he has single-handedly helped to raise several million dollars for the four groups.
"We'd get donations of all kinds but the attached note was always the same: 'Gary told me to send you money,'" says Adams. "When the paper used to do polls on columnists' popularity, I remember Gary would beat out Dear Abby."
Some of Bogue's most engaging stories were the result of the 13 years he spent as a curator of the Lindsay Wildlife Museum where he established one of the country's first wildlife rescue programs and raised or worked with raccoons, foxes, coyotes, otters, golden eagles, owls, and mountain lions. But he was just as skilled with pet snakes, puppies, and knew what to do about the spiders that invaded homes after the winter rains.
"It's unusual to be an expert in wildlife and domestic animals," says Loren Behr, executive director of Lindsay Wildlife Museum, which will honor Bogue at a gala on Oct. 13. "His work at the paper has created an encyclopedic knowledge."
Executive Director Linus Eukel of Muir Heritage Land Trust credits Bogue with helping to save large swaths of East Bay open space. "It's one thing to bring in dollars but it's another to help people understand what is critical and imperative for our land," says Eukel, who's read Bogue's column from its inception when he was in high school.
Bogue began his column in 1970 while working at the Lindsay museum and joined the Times full-time in 1982 as a columnist. It was there that he met his wife, an editor in the Business section at the time.
In 2004 the New York Times profiled Bogue, describing him as "the Ann Landers of California wildlife." In 2008, his column, which has appeared five days a week for decades in the Times, expanded to run in the Alameda Newspaper Group, which includes the Oakland Tribune and the San Mateo County Times. In 2011, it also began running twice weekly in the San Jose Mercury News.
Bogue is the author of five books, the first two which were compilations of his column, the other three are children's books, illustrated by Times graphics editor Chuck Todd, and published by Heyday.
He says retirement will allow him time to write more books, including one about the early days of the Lindsay museum. He also plans to get back to his art -- Bogue is a sculptor -- and spend time with his grandchildren.
He says he's going to miss his readers and colleagues.
"It's my home away from home," he says. "Still feels like that."
Next week on Page 2, readers will find "Best of Bogue" -- repeats of columns from years past. After that "Best of Bogue" will continue on Mondays and Fridays. Joan Morris' "Animal Life" kicks off on Aug. 7 and will appear Tuesdays-Thursdays every week.