I believe you need to pursue your happiness,” said Jay Herzog, 62. “Not everyone gets to be happy, but everyone should be able to pursue their happiness.”
Herzog, a liver transplant and prostate cancer survivor, teaches lighting and sound design at Towson University. He is also involved with an organization that rescues dogs from Kuwait.
Herzog was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and, as a child, attended Shore Park Jewish Center in Brooklyn. Herzog’s father, Erwin Herzog, was a lawyer and federal judge, and his mother, Ruth Herzog, was an artist, a painter whose works hang in Herzog’s home.
Herzog has a master’s in theater from the University of Massachusetts. He moved to North Carolina to teach at East Carolina University before settling in Baltimore 26 years ago to teach at Towson. At Towson, Herzog was chair of the theater department for six years. He also worked for Everyman Theater in Baltimore City for 24 years.
He is married to Donna Fox, an actress who teaches acting at Towson, and has two adult children, Asher — named for the protagonist in Chaim Potok’s “My Name is Asher Lev” — and Seth.
Herzog keeps busy. When not teaching, the Parkville resident serves on the board of Wings of Love, Kuwait, a Baltimore-based nonprofit created in 2014 by Patricia Galofre-Riska to rescue dogs from bad conditions in Kuwait. The nonprofit has saved 600 dogs to date.
“I began [volunteering with Wings of Love] almost three years ago after finding our dog Tahini on their website,” Herzog said. “After going to a few of their events, I really enjoyed everything about the people and the mission.”
But why help out in Kuwait, and not with the SPCA or BARCS?
“I get asked this all the time,” Herzog said. “The answer is in your question. In Kuwait and other countries, there are no organizations like BARCS and the SPCA, both wonderful. In Kuwait, the dogs are left on the streets and in the very hot desert. The survival rate is horrible. Starvation, dehydration and animal cruelty are their only fate. Although there are the same issues here in the USA, there are things in place. As well, neutering is not done by owners in Kuwait. Dogs are more disposable in Kuwait. If they no longer want their dogs, [owners] drive them to the desert to abandon them. Hence, many puppies.”
Herzog had been to Kuwait three times before COVID-19. But even a pandemic has not stopped the all-volunteer group from rescuing more dogs in need.
“We are not allowed [to] travel with COVID, so we rely on people flying to the USA to bring them to us,” he said. “The last flight took three months, and 43 dogs, our largest import to date, landed in February.”
When not rescuing dogs or teaching at Towson, Herzog encourages his two sons to pursue their own passions.
“You can be passionate about anything. Passion is anything that drives you, be it an artist, a doctor, a lawyer,” Herzog said. “I didn’t stand in my kids’ way to pursue their passion because they are the ones who have to be happy.”