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Archive for July 2nd, 2010

Overlooked: Scenic but deadly Glen Canyon

It took eight years to build the Glen Canyon Dam — far less to construct the scenic overlook that sits on the edge of the canyon, about a mile south.

Unlike the dam itself, a massive and complex project, building the overlook was a simple matter of putting in a road and parking, adding some steps to make the sandstone trail down to the overlook easier to negotiate, and putting up a stone wall at the base — to keep tourists from plunging from the top of the sheer canyon walls to the river 400 feet below.

The wall is short enough to look over, but its actual height varies, depending on where the wind blows the sand. Yesterday it was about four feet high in some spots, with one tiny section that, for reasons unknown, was built shorter than the rest — only about two feet high. Above the short wall, there’s a steel grate that rises vertically — bolted and cemented firmly into place.

And hidden on that grate — visible only if you look closely — are two names, scrawled with a soldering iron: Cisco and Sadie.

As you might guess, there’s a story behind that grate – previously untold, and very sad.

The ballad of Cisco and Sadie began in Idaho, which is where Dail Hoskins was living before he decided on a change of scenery and moved to Page, Arizona in 2000, bringing his two dogs with him.

Page, less than 50 years old, had emerged as a popular recreation spot by then, thanks to construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, which allowed — or forced, depending on your point of view — the Colorado River to back up and form Lake Powell.

Construction on the dam began in 1956. It’s the reason the town of Page exists, and it provides water and electricity to much of the west. It was also very controversial, and still is. While completion of the dam in 1964 allowed water and electricity to be harnessed, it also represented a huge disturbance to the ecosystem and meant the loss of much of the beautiful scenery of Glen Canyon. The controversy surrounding the building of the dam is viewed by some as the beginning of the modern-day environmental movement, and it still sparks debates pitting nature against industrial progress.

Partly to showcase the government-built dam — one of the largest in the U.S. — the overlook was built later. It’s part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, falling under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

The trail down to the overlook is less than a mile. The view, minus the power lines, is magnificent. To Hoskins, who after arriving in Page had bought a little motel, the overlook seemed a good place to take his dogs, Cisco and Sadie, for a hike.

It was about ten years ago that he took the dogs there, and let them both off their leashes. They were generally good about sticking close by and not wandering off.

But, after a few minutes, when Hoskins looked around to find Cisco and Sadie, both had disappeared. He feared the worst, and what happened turned out to be just that. One of the dogs, not being able to see over the wall, had — maybe in pursuit of wildlife — leapt over that shorter section, plunging hundreds of feet to his death. The other immediately followed.

Hoskins blamed no one but himself, and watching his face as he retells the story, it’s clear he still lives with the guilt. In the days after losing his dogs, he hired a river outfitter to take him to retrieve their corpses, then gave them a proper burial.

Hoskins later learned that at least four other dogs had met the same fate, plunging over the same short section of wall. When he called government bureaucrats to tell them what happened to his dogs and see if that short section of wall could be built up, he was told that his dogs should have been on leashes.

He agrees that much is true, but the hazard remained. So he decided to handle things himself. He welded together slabs of steel, forming a large, barred grate, about five feet wide and five feet high. And without getting anybody’s approval, he snuck down to the site with a friend in the dark of night, carrying along the grate, cement, water and tools.

Amazingly, this being just after 9/11, and amid a period of heightened security at the dam, no one noticed he was there. He secured the grate deep in the ground using concrete, filling the gap that existed over the short section of wall. It took a few hours.

No one has ever traced the work to him, and apparently no one was angered by his addition. The park service has affixed a sign to the grate that reads: “Defacing natural features destroys our heritage. Graffiti is unsightly and illegal.” 

It appears Hoskins got away with his dark-of-night, do-it-yourself construction project.

“I did it so it wouldn’t happen to any more dogs … or kids,” he says, though one gets the impression the covert project also served as both an outlet for his grief and a tribute to his dogs.

On one rail of the grate, he inscribed with solder the names of Cisco and Sadie.

Ten years later, the blowing sandstone has yet to brush their names off, and the grate still stands firmly in place, solid as a rock.

(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” from the beginning, click here.)

Third graders bring a dog park to New Jersey

Glassboro, N.J. has a group of third graders to thank for its new dog park — expected to open next year.

More than a dozen students from Dorothy L. Bullock Elementary School showed up at a borough council meeting in March, taking turns reading from a prepared statement, urging the council members to consider creating a dog park. It was signed by all their classmates.

Three months later, and even amid serious cuts elsewhere in the borough budget, the dog park, students recently learned, is a go.

Just before the school year ended, Glassboro Council President Tony Fiola and Councilman Ed Malandro went to the children’s classroom to deliver the news, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Malandro and Fiola had spoken to their class earlier in the year, and they invited the students to the next council session, encouraging them to present their thoughts on how their community could be a better place. After that their teacher, Shelly Petrozza, had the students nominate things they thought would improve Glassboro. It ended up a tie, with half the students favoring a dog park, half choosing a skate park. The children presented the council with a case for each proposal.

After research, the skate park was ruled out because of cost – at least $75,000, Malandro said. The dog park idea, on the other hand, appeared to be possible.

“We said, ‘This is something we can afford to do,’ ” Malandro said. “It lets us do something for the kids, and it lets them see government does work in the right ways.”

The dog park will likely be in East New Street Park, next to the Bullock school, and plans call for a plaque commemorating the role the third graders played.

“We all said to them, ‘Boys and girls, look at what you did. You’re only 8 and 9 years old,’ ” said their teacher. “I think they realized you do have power no matter how little you are.”

(Photo: Philadelphia Inquirer)

Pets on Parade at the Visionary Museum

“The best dog-gone parade” in Baltimore is coming up this weekend.

That’s how the American Visionary Art Museum is billing its annual “Pets on Parade” event at 10 a.m. this 4th of July Sunday (with registration starting at 9:30 a.m.).

Participants are invited to dress their pet and compete for trophies that will include Best Costume, Most Patriotic Pet and Most Visionary Pet. Honors will also be given for best pet tricks and owner and pet look-alikes.

Pets of all kinds (on leashes) are welcome and the event is free.

The museum promises plenty of shade and water.

With temperatures in the mid-90s predicted, lightweight costumes — such as this Elvis outfit Frankie wore a few years back — might be a good idea. And, cute as your dog might be in his get-up, removing the costume after the competition and allowing him a dip in the baby pools might also advisable.

AKC recognizes three new breeds

There are now 167 breeds of dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club.

The AKC has announced that the Icelandic Sheepdog will join the herding group, and the Cane Corso and Leonberger will both join the working group.

The new breeds became eligible for AKC registration on June 1, 2010 and, as of yesterday, became eligible for competitions.

The Cane Corso is a muscular and large-boned breed — one of two native Italian mastiff type dogs that descended from the Roman canis Pugnaces. The Cane Corso is known as a watchdog and hunter of difficult game such as wild boar.  According to the AKC, the breed is intelligent, easily trained, and affectionate to his owner while loving with children and family.

The Icelandic Sheepdog is a playful, friendly and inquisitive breed, the AKC says, known for being hardy and agile — helpful traits when you live in Iceland.

Slightly under medium size with pointy ears and a curled tail, the breed has two coat types, long and short, and is Iceland’s only native dog. 

The Icelandic Sheepdog adapted its working style to Iceland’s terrain and farming techniques since its arrival to the country more than 1,000 years ago. Today, the breed is increasing in popularity, and while still small in numbers, is no longer close to extinction. 

The Leonberger, despite its lion-like looks and large size, is a calm and non-aggressive breed. The Leonberger was originally bred as a family, farm and draft dog.  Today the breed excels as a multi-purpose working dog but the most important task is being a reliable family companion.  In fact, Leonbergers are often called the “nanny” dog because of their affinity for children. 

Breeds trying to gain full AKC recognition must first be recorded with the AKC Foundation Stock Service (FSS).  While there is no established timetable for adding new breeds, dogs typically compete in the “Miscellaneous Class” for one to three years before gaining recognition.

More information on the process can be found at the AKC’s website.