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Archive for August, 2010

Dog dies in car while owner visits museum

A tourist from Michigan was charged with animal cruelty Monday after leaving his two dogs inside a minivan while he visited the the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

Rosie, an 8-year-old Chihuahua, died of heat stress after being inside the minivan for more than an hour, said Sabrina Fang, a spokeswoman for the Washington Humane Society.

Pebbles, Rieff

Rosie had been left inside a plastic storage bin. A second dog, a 15-year-old beagle mix named Pebbles, was kept inside a crate made for dogs. She was treated for heat stress at an animal hospital, and was expected to be released today, according to the Washington Post.

Washington Humane Society officials say more tourists seem to be leaving pets inside cars, unaware of how quickly the temperatures can rise.

Police arrested Kenneth Reiff, and his daughter was taken into custody by Child Protective Services, Humane Society officials said.

In praise of the dogged American worker

Some of you might remember Darcy — the too cute to strangle Boston terrier for whom I’ve served as babysitter while her mom and dad were away.

Twice, I took Darcy into my home for multi-day stays, where she proceeded to test my patience half the time, and be adorable the other half.

That was back when I had a house. Now, upon my return to Baltimore — having given up my home for the purposes of our continuing road trip — the tables have turned, and Darcy and her humans have most graciously taken Ace and me into their’s.

Where, as you might guess,  I proceeded to test their patience half the time (going so far as to clog up their toilet yesterday morning … the house guest’s worst nightmare), and attempted to be adorable (once I had my coffee) the other half.

And all this just before the start of school, no less.

Here in the city of Baltimore, yesterday was the first day of school — so,  with both Darcy’s mom and dad being city schoolteachers, it’s all the more impressive that, with everything else that was on their minds and agendas, they agreed to house one road-weary man and his 130-pound dog over the weekend.

There, in addition to the hazards of using too much toilet paper, this is what I learned:

Teachers — or at least teachers like Dan and Marite — should be appreciated much more. I say this not because they gave us shelter, but because in the days I spent with them I’ve seen how much of themselves, their own time, their own money, their hearts and souls, they pour into what they do.

Yesterday, as Ace and I sat drinking coffee on their front stoop after they left, I watched as children headed down the sidewalk for the start of a new school year, many of them tightly holding the hands of their parents. And I thought how fortunate they were — even in a school system as troubled as Baltimore’s — to have teachers like Dan and Marite. And how much worse things would be if they didn’t.

Dan spent the bulk of the weekend on his computer, finalizing his lesson plans, sweating the details. Marite cooked up some do-it-yourself orange Play-doh out of flour, water and food coloring. When we walked with the dogs down to the shopping center for lunch, Dan and Marite hit the Goodwill store, and came out with a full bag of classroom supplies.

They spent most of the weekend copying, printing and working away on their laptops, sitting side by side and sharing the couch with Darcy and Ace, who generally makes for a pretty jam-packed couch.

But Dan and Marite take chaos in stride. They seem to have mastered patience, which I guess all teachers must. They are so easy going that she probably won’t mind that I — lacking the technical know-how — am writing her name without the accent thing over the “e”.

While their home has plenty of clutter — I would describe their decorating scheme as contemporary-tornado — Ace and I only added to it, what with our leashes and dog bowls and dog food and camera and laptop and dirty laundry. We just wedged ourselves and our stuff in, and felt right at home. (Virgo that I am, I will admit I feared putting anything on a counter for fear it would disappear immediately under a stack of paperwork, laptops and school supplies. By the way, have you seen my glasses?)

The clutter, though — I’d say it’s 85 percent school related — is just another sign of their commitment.

One of the things that has struck me in our travels across America — and maybe it’s because I don’t at the moment have a “real job” — is how commited American workers are.

Most people seem to truly cherish their work — though not always their jobs. And there’s a difference. One’s “work” is doing what they got into a career to do, whether it’s teaching kids, righting wrongs or driving trucks, whether it’s lawyering or newspapering. One’s “job” is what that work has evolved into — thanks to managers, supervisors, corporate chiefs and stockholders.

We the workers, in a way, are their Play-Doh, and they tend to mold, bend and stretch us, sometimes to the point of snapping.

They take your one job and squeeze two more jobs into it; then shovel layers of bureaucracy on top, burying you under piles of  seemingly meaningless paperwork, and doing away with anything that might serve as support. They tell us to do more with less, and, at times, seem to be doing everything in their power to prohibit us from doing our jobs right. Then they — those at the very top — reap the benefits of the more, while we scrape by on the less.

I don’t think that makes me a Communist, just a pissed off worker — or a pissed off former worker, to be precise. (I kind of like the boss I have now, who looks a lot like me.)

As a nation, we fail to show enough appreciation for those doing the heavy lifting. And yet the heavy lifters keep lifting — they, and teachers especially, manage to stay fired up about the work, if not the job, despite shrinking benefits, paltry salaries and all the forces that seem intent on extinguishing that fire.

So, a little early for Labor Day, I salute the American worker, who, like the American dog, keeps at it — leaping obstacles, heeding commands, summoning up energy even when exhausted, snapping at and shaking off all the annoying little bugs that come down from above, buzzing in our ears and getting on our backs.

(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America.)

Rolling back into Baltimore

Ten thousand miles and three months later, we’re right back where we started.

Ace and I rolled into Baltimore Friday, and he couldn’t be happier about it.

He sensed we were home about the time Raven’s stadium came into view. In the rearview mirror, I saw his head pop up. He sniffed the air, got up, stuck his head out the window and looked around. When we passed BARCS — Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter, where he once resided — his suspicions that we were home seemed confirmed.

By the time I pulled up to Riverside Park, his old stomping grounds, he was raring to go. He bounded out of the car as if he were ready for an extended gallop, then seemed to realize that, in his absence, there was much new to smell in the grass. For the next hour or so, that’s exactly what he did, sort of like a human with three months worth of newspapers to catch up on.

Then he saw his old friend Stan the biscuit man — recognizing him even though, while we were away, Stan had switched from walking to the park to riding in a motorized chair. Stan, as always, came through with treats, pulling a handful of biscuits from his large sack and tossing them to Ace and his own dog, Louie, who remains as enormously fat as ever.

After that, we kept running into more old friends at the park and, later, at Ace’s favorite bar, where we idled away the rest of the evening

Though we are back where we’re started, whether we’re “home” is another matter.

For one thing, we moved out of the house when we started this trip, seeking to live on the road for what we once paid in rent  (Two months, we came close; the third remains to be tallied, but I’m sure we went over budget). Finally getting home and not having a home is strange — a rather insecure feeling — but with offers from friends to stay awhile, we’ve yet to resort to camping in the park.

The urge to nest — to have my own place, with my own stuff, where I can flop my own self down on my own couch — has grown stronger; and, in all honesty, I think Ace would prefer a return to routine. But the road is still calling. It’s saying “three more months.” It’s saying “keep running free.”

My economic situation is disagreeing, saying “don’t do it!” Running free isn’t exactly free.

Of course, neither roads nor economic situations can verbalize — though both can still slam a point home wordlessly.

In the days ahead, we’ll be trying to figure our immediate future out — and probably sharing our thoughts on it all with you, for in putting it down in writing, choices often become clearer.

As of now, we’re leaning — well I’m leaning — to sticking with the original plan: a few weeks in Baltimore, a visit to Philadelphia, then going to Long Island and, starting the same day he did 50 years ago, following the northerly route west that John Steinbeck took with Charley.

Ace might disagree. He has loved reconnecting with old friends — dog and humans. He has loved revisiting the old haunts. Yesterday, standing outside his favorite coffee house, Ace watched as a familiar pickup truck pulled up and the driver passed him a soup bone.

“See,” he would say if he could talk. “Where else does that happen? I’m telling you, this is home.”

Of course, Ace can’t talk. Nevertheless, we’ll be having some long and wordless ones in the days ahead.

Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six (we’re pretty sure) months criss-crossing America. 

Old dogs and undying love

Puck’s family thinks their aging dog has lost most of his senses. He’s deaf. He’s blind in the one eye he has left. And if you put a treat on the ground in front of him, he can’t seem to hone in on it by sniffing. It’s more of a random search. He may or may not taste his watered down food.

But at least one sense remains — not one of the big five, but an important one all the same — his sense of dignity.

At 17, Puck doesn’t run anymore. In recent years, his three block walks shrunk to two block walks, then one block walks, then no block walks. He can’t do the stairs anymore. He has epilepsy, an enlarged heart, a hacking cough. He goes through long periods where he seems to zone out – standing motionlessly like a mini-cow in pasture — possibly the result of mini-strokes. He wears a diaper around the clock.

These days, Puck doesn’t jump, doesn’t play – instead he spends his days asleep or in quiet reflection.

And that’s just fine with George Fish and Kathleen Sullivan.

Puck can cuddle as well as he ever did; relishes a scratch behind the ears as much as he ever did – maybe even more.

George was once my college roommate; and my overnight visit with them last week at their home in Fredericksburg, Virginia, was the third time I’d seen Puck – the first being when he was a youngster, the second about two years ago. When I reconnect with George on the phone, I’m usually afraid to ask about Puck, fearing the worst. But George generally volunteers the information: “Puck’s still alive.” Or “Puck’s still around.”

George and Kathleen’s daughter, Elizabeth, was 7 when they got Puck, and she came up with the name — as in pucker up — based on how much he liked to kiss. She’s 24 now and living in California.

A neighbor across the street called one night 17 years ago and asked if they wanted a puppy – as he described it, a poodle.

The dog – part of a litter that resulted from an unauthorized get-together between a poodle and a terrier — didn’t look anything like a poodle, Kathleen notes. “But it was cute.”

She called her husband to let him know: “We sort of have a dog now.”

“George came home and I think in three seconds he was in love,” she said.

Nearly a generation later, Puck remains – less lively, less mobile and diaper clad. It attaches with Velcro and holds a sanitary napkin, a regular one during the day, a maxi pad at night. It’s removed for his trips outside, where he mostly stands motionlessly, his tail periodically going into bouts of wagging.

Every night, they tote him to his upstairs bed. Every morning, they carry him to his downstairs bed, which they call his “office.” Next to it is a family portrait, a toy fax machine,a stapler and a collection of Puck’s other favorite things.

George says he has learned a lot from Puck – both about patience and grace.

“Puck never complains; it makes me hope I can be that way when I’m old and decrepit,” he said.

Puck has had to put up with eye ulcers, which led to the removal of one of his eyes a year ago, and after that he lost sight in the remaining one. Vet bills amounted to about $4,000 for the eye problems alone. He also has been on medication for epileptic seizures since he was a pup. He’s probably had some small strokes, and his cough has led to more vet bills and interrupted sleep.

How much does all that matter in the big scheme of dog-family love? Not a bit.

Some friends tell George it’s time to put Puck down, but George can’t see doing that – “not as long as his tail keeps wagging.”

Buddy system: Labrador and dolphin

On an island off the coast of Ireland, a Labrador retriever and a dolphin have become swimming buddies.

This footage, from a television program (or programme, in this case) called Countryfile, shows the dolphin, named Doogie, and the dog, named Ben, frolicking in the harbor (or harbour).

Tory Island, accessible only by boat, is off the coast of County Donegal. Ben, it’s reported, resides at a hotel on the island and trots down to the water regularly to meet up with Doogie, who, on the Internet at least, is sometimes referred to as Dougie.

Reporter Adam Henson managed to captured the moment of interspecies play.

Nacho Mama’s, but very dog friendly

Heading north from Richmond, and doing our best to stay off I-95 (sorry, NPR), we stopped a Mexican restaurant called Nacho Mama’s — not be be confused with Baltimore’s — where Ace was brought the biggest bucket of water we’ve ever been served.

He was far more interested in the tortilla chips, though — at least until my pork enchiladas came. That’s when the serious salivation began.

Ace drooled some, too.

This is nacho Baltimore Nacho Mama’s, but, with two locations in the Richmond area, it’s serving up some pretty fine food, and both welcome dogs to their outdoor areas.

As soon as we sat down, my waiter, who has three pit bulls, brought out a big black bucket, halfway filled with water. My portion of food was equally generous, leaving me, once I polished it off,  wanting a nice nap.

But instead we followed U.S. 301 up to Bowling Green, and state highway 2 into Fredericksburg, where we’d been offered overnight accommodations by an old college roomate with an even older dog. (You’ll meet Puck tomorrow.)

From there we kept to the backroads, stopping for the night in Waldorf, before reaching Baltimore Friday. Our first stop was Ace’s old stomping ground — Riverside Park — where Ace reunited with some old friends.

It was a little strange coming home to a place we no longer have a home.

But we’ll talk more about that Monday.

(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America.)

Jelly Belly, a starved dog in need of rescue

Jelly Belly, as he has been named, looks like he arrived just in time at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS).

Severely emaciated, the three-year-old dog was abandoned at BARCS after being, from all indications, nearly starved to death.

BARCS has issued a call to rescue organizations, seeking one that might take him in and care for him until he gains some weight.

Staff at BARCS describe Jelly Belly as a “sweet soul.”

“He is so forgiving of humans … what happened to him just isn’t fair.”

Rescue organizations interested in taking in Jelly Belly should contact BARCS adoption counselor Kathleen Knauff (kathleen.knauff@baltimorecity.gov)