Icebreaker Speech

Tonight at a local Toastmaster’s meeting, I gave the following icebreaker speech. I imagine many of you would enjoy it, along with the slides (pictures) I used. Check it out friends and let me know what you think. 🙂

Thank you Mr. Toastmaster.
Fellow Toastmasters and honored guests.

One Hound and His Human

The story of one hound dog and his human. Photo by: © Johnny Ortez-Tibbels |

Rufus. This is the story of one hound dog and his human. Together the dynamic duo goes from aloof private citizens to K9 socialites in the LA market and beyond.

Moving from Fort Worth, Texas to Los Angeles, California was a transition for me. As the second largest city in the union, I’ve often described LA as a large and lonely place full of bright lights, big stars and lots of indifferent people.

JC the betta fish

JC the betta fish. Photo by: © Johnny Ortez-Tibbels |

In May 2003, my partner got me a betta fish, and we start the conversation of possibly getting a dog. The joke was if the fish lived for a year, I’d be ready for something a little more substantial. (Pause) It may seem silly starting with a fish, but I wasn’t a really a pet person, or a people person for that matter, at the time. The idea of dog hair on my designer clothes, picking up poop and being responsible for another living being was a little intimidating for me at first.

We named the fish JC, and the act of regularly cleaning the bowl, feeding him daily – just the right amount of food – and making arrangements for someone to look after him when we traveled was an excellent preamble for what was to come. And for anyone wondering, JC and I did have a strong bond; he was a real good listener. (Pause) He also lived under my care for 5 glorious years, and taught me the importance of consistency and routine when caring for a pet.

Rufus, as a puppy

Rufus 1st picture ever. Photo by: © Johnny Ortez-Tibbels |

On October 30, 2004, my world changed forever when I met this precious puppy. After living in LA for 22 LONG months and caring for JC the betta fish for 15 of those months, we were finally ready to move from a possibility to action. We woke that Saturday morning, checked the newspaper for any breeders selling dachshund puppies and found two. We made the hour long drive from the familiar West Hollywood to somewhere foreign for me in the San Fernando Valley.

When we finally arrived at the breeders, it was dust and we were presented with three puppies. The first two were carried in and looked like picturesque model puppies – like something you’d see in a book about dachshunds. As I held the first one, he pooped on me. (Pause) The second one was shy and nervous, but the third came into the room on his accord, marching in tail wagging, curious to meet us and inspect his surroundings. The decision was easy, this was our dog. We could just tell there was lots of personality and confidence in this small and sweet package. He reminded us of a little Napoleon.

I held that dachshund puppy all the way home, and at the end of that hour drive, we were bonded and I was in love. We just had to pick a name; and after trying a few others we finally settled on Rufus, which means red-haired. And with that, the adventures of Rufus, the red smooth miniature dachshund begins.

Rufus, 10-week old puppy

Rufus, 10-week old puppy. Photo by: © Johnny Ortez-Tibbels |

Caring for a 10-week-old puppy is a huge undertaking, and on the fifth day I knew I needed help. Some of the best money we ever invested was hiring our trainer for Rufus. He came to our home and honestly trained us. He spent the whole afternoon teaching us how to properly feed, walk and crate trained our hound. Zach outlined the work we had to do to create the perfect dog for us, and now with laser like focus and armed with knowledge, I was ready to meet the challenge head-on.

Training Rufus

Training Rufus. Photo by: © Johnny Ortez-Tibbels |

One of the basic fundamental truths Zach bestowed on me was the importance of regular socialization for our dogs. We defined socialization as introducing Rufus to a variety of people, places and things. Most importantly, other dogs – both big and small. With that gem of information, I immediately and aggressively looked to schedule a few play dates for Rufus. I used Craig’s List Pet Community and to find other doting dachshund dads and moms. This was before Facebook and Instagram.

Rufus & Benny

Rufus & his best bud Benny. Photo by: © Johnny Ortez-Tibbels |

Since I worked from home as an assistant production accountant, I had the freedom to host other hounds during the day, and quickly found a friend living walking distance from our home that had a chocolate smooth miniature dachshund named Benny. Benny’s mom was a single mom, and an elementary school teacher; she would bring him over two to three days a week for play dates. She would drop him off in the morning and pick him up after school. It was the perfect situation for us. We also took turns watching each other’s pup when we travelled.

Although we only had one dachshund to start, I knew in time we would want more so socializing Rufus with other dachshunds was something I took very serious. Play dates with Benny were great, but I wanted to give Rufus more.

I also wanted to take advantage of the beautiful and dog-friendly backdrop of Los Angeles.

LA Doxies Meetup Group

LA Doxies Meetup Group. Photo by: © Johnny Ortez-Tibbels |

In less than a year, I went from a member of an informal public meetup group to its leader. And in the course of 12 years, we went from a laissez-faire attitude to structured and regular meetings at 12 different off-leash dog parks all over the greater LA area – while also organizing and participating in a variety of other dachshund centric special events. To date, LA Doxies is one of the oldest and consistent FREE meetup groups of its kind in the country. We have partnered with every notable LA dog store at one time or another, and have proudly pioneered the way for other meetup groups – including Ojai Doxies.


ROTW / DOGS. Photo by: © Johnny Ortez-Tibbels |

Rufus has inspired his own photo blog –, and the charity DOGS – which stands for Dachshund Outreach Giving and Socialization. Our DOGS’ Facebook page has 1.1 million likes. Rufus has been the catalyst of much good in my world.


Rufus. Photo by: © Johnny Ortez-Tibbels |

Rufus will be 13 in August, and he has already visited over 20 different states, at least 50 different cities including New York City, Chicago, Austin, San Francisco and Las Vegas. He has been to the Grand Canyon twice, met a tortoise at Joshua Tree, visited Mount Rushmore during its fame Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, barked at a bison in Yellowstone National Park and posed for a picture with Elvis at Graceland.

Rufus at Graceland

Rufus at Graceland. Photo by: © Johnny Ortez-Tibbels |

Rufus has traveled by car, plane and boat. He has played on many beautiful beaches in Southern California, walked in wintery white wonderlands like Mammoth Mountain, and swam unexpectedly in the lake at Big Bear. If a man can be a reflection of his dog, I feel good by our long list of accomplishments in a relatively short amount of time.

Rufus in Mammoth

Rufus in Mammoth. Photo by: © Johnny Ortez-Tibbels |

After 7 years of being an only hound, we decided to expand the pack and rescued Emily our smooth black and tan in January 2012. 18 months later we were foster failures and got our red smooth female Lily; a shier version of Rufus.

Rufus & Emily

Rufus & Emily. Photo by: © Johnny Ortez-Tibbels |

Rufus & Lily

Rufus & Lily. Photo by: © Johnny Ortez-Tibbels |

Los Angeles is no a longer lonely city for me. In fact, it’s truly one of my favorites. And, I can thank Rufus for much of that experience and state of mind. Rufus introduced me to a world of people and places that I would have never known if it wasn’t for him. Rufus helped me to step out of my comfort zone, pushed me to meet strangers and motivated me to get up and get out.

I Heart Rufus

I Heart Rufus. Photo by: © Johnny Ortez-Tibbels |

Today, I have more friends than I did when I first moved here. But whenever they’re all too busy with work or their own lives, I know I always have a constant companion in Rufus. He never says no and is always eager for whatever is next – whether it’s visiting an art gallery, lunch at a café or running errands around town.


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14 Responses to Icebreaker Speech

  1. Perri Kimono says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this with me! It is truly a wonderful speech! And the puppy pictures were great to see, I have always wondered what Rufus looked like as a pup.
    My day is brighter after reading this.

  2. Jackie Sikora says:

    Loved your speech!! Thanks for sharing it, it’s encouraging and hearwarming!

  3. vkpretz says:

    Loved this! Rufus, Emily and Lily are just darling. Love them all ❤

  4. Marilyn Lyon says:

    This is terrific, Johnny. A really good Toastmaster talk and such fun to hear Rufus’ story and see the great pictures of Rufus, Emily and Lily. I look forward to the next Ojai Doxies meet up at the dog park!

  5. Mayree Lowman says:


  6. Denise Beard says:

    Wonderful! Isn’t it amazing how dogs ( doxies!) improve our lives, our health, everything!!! Life without them would be no life at all. So glad that you were able to go on this journey & know what all of us crazy doxie people learned years ago!!!! And thank you to JC for getting you started!!!

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