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Archive for 'Muttsblog'

71-year-old woman and her Chihuahua survive six days in the wilderness

geerHere’s a recent real life story that deserves to be made into a movie.

It’s about a 71-year-old woman who hiked into Olympic National Park with only the Hawaiian shirt on her back, a cellphone, her sunglasses, and an urn containing her husband’s ashes.

Also at her side was her dog, a Chihuahua mix named Yoda.

After spreading the ashes, Sajean Geer and Yoda got lost, and they would spend the next six days trying to survive in the wilderness.

Of course, Hollywood would totally mess up the story, casting Reese Witherspoon in the role of Geer, and that Beverly Hills or Legally Blonde Chihuahua in the role of Yoda.

Either that or they’d go with someone even younger, say an Emma Stone or a Jennifer Lawrence, and recast Yoda as a golden retriever, and possibly throw a deranged stalker into the mix.

And in so doing they’d miss the point — one wise woman (not to mention still a babe, and in no need of being de-aged) who kept her wits about her, fashioned a shelter, ate bugs with her dog and managed to survive, in large part because of the books she read, the people she loved, and the experiences she had in seven decades of life.

And she didn’t even need a crossbow.

The Seattle Times told her story earlier this week, and it’s definitely worth reading.

On her 71st birthday, Geer set out to scatter half of her husband’s ashes near Obstruction Point in Olympic National Park in Washington.

Jack, her husband of 34 years, had died in December of a heart attack, and she’d promised to scatter his ashes there and along the Kona coast on the Big Island of Hawaii.

After spreading the ashes, she climbed a hill, hoping to get her bearings, took a fall, and dropped the urn. As dusk settled in, she realized she was lost and her cellphone was useless.

“All my outdoor experience has been hiking on trails with signs, and I hadn’t had experience in total wilderness like that. All I could see is trees. I couldn’t find anything to orient myself with,” she said.

She found a log to sleep beneath and curled up next to Yoda for the first of five nights she’s spend in the wilderness.

Geer spent the next day walking, but became no less lost.

“I did this to myself,” she recalled thinking. “I’m in a dire situation. I have a Hawaiian shirt, no jacket. I had no water bottle, no knife, nothing to start a fire.”

But she had read a lot of books about foraging and survival, and she knew — in addition to finding water and shelter — she needed to keep a positive attitude.

“You have to have something in your head, to keep you motivated and alive,” she said.

By the third day, Geer decided to stop walking, stay in one place and hope for a rescue.

geershelter

She fashioned a shelter near a creek where two logs converged, covering the top with tree branches, moss and bark to keep the cold out. When temperatures at night dropped to the mid-40s, she snuggled up with Yoda.

Geer scavenged currants for food and, after an ant bit her, realized that could work both ways.

“I go, ‘Well, I’ve got a bigger mouth than you,’ so I ate it.”

Yoda, despite being a pretty spoiled dog, adjusted to the wilderness too:
“He would sit on my lap and I had all these flies around me. He would gulp flies right out of the air,” she said.

By then, Geer’s brother, Jack Eng of Seattle, was coming to the realization that his sister was missing. Eng asked police to check on her. They found no trace of her at her Port Angeles home. Two days later, she was officially listed as missing.

On Sunday morning — six days after Geer had left for the park — Eng got word that a National Park ranger on patrol had spotted her vehicle. An air search ensued.

Geer heard a helicopter and climbed up on a log, waving her arms. Rescuers dropped Geer a note telling her to stay put and a few minutes later a rescuer appeared. Because of the rugged terrain, a Coast Guard helicopter was called to haul Geer and Yoda up in a basket.

She was thankful for the rescue efforts, but also gave herself some credit for being a self-reliant sort.

As a child, shortly after World War II, Geer and her family moved to the United States from China. She grew up in a hut in the back of the laundry business her dad owned. At school, she was ridiculed — both for being Asian and being a “tomboy.”

“I had a tough childhood. I learned to discipline myself and to have a positive attitude,” she said. “I was brought up to take care of myself.”

Getting lost in the wilderness taught her a little more.

“When you’re by yourself up in the wilderness with nobody to talk to except your dog, you learn a lot about yourself,” she said.

She said she felt her late husband’s presence in the woods — but at the same time came to terms with him not being around anymore.

“It’s time to let go and let your own light shine, and stand up,” she said she realized. “This situation forced me. I realized I had to be on my own and move on to my life.”

(Photos: At top, Geer; lower, the shelter she made from fallen trees, moss, bark and tree branches; courtesy of Jack S. Eng, via Seattle Times)

Bali governor calls for crackdown on vendors and others selling dog meat

(Warning: This video contains graphic images)

The governor of Bali has called upon government agencies to stop the sale of dog meat after a news report showed that street vendors were selling cooked dog on a stick to unsuspecting tourists.

The report that shocked visitors to the island, and much of the rest of the world, was produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program 7.30 and aired in June.

The program showed, often in graphic detail, the brutal methods used by dog meat traders, and how street vendors often lied to tourists, sometimes telling them the meat they were selling was chicken satay.

Drawing on a four-month undercover investigation by Animals Australia, the report showed how dogs were stolen, strangled, poisoned, shot, and bludgeoned to death before being butchered, barbecued and served on a stick to tourists enjoying themselves on the tropical island’s shores.

ABC.net reported this week that Governor Made Mangku Pastika — acknowledging the trade for the first time — has sent a letter to Indonesian ministers, police officials, veterinary and agriculture departments, calling for an end to the practice.

That dog meat is being sold, by vendors and in restaurants, is common knowledge to most locals — but it is kept low-key, and tourists are often not aware they are purchasing dog.

To protect “the image of Bali tourism”, the Governor’s letter called for a crackdown “against the sale of dog meat because it is not inspected and guaranteed to be healthy and can potentially spread zoonotic diseases, especially rabies and other fatal dangers.”

sateThe governor’s letter also ordered information be collected on where and by whom dog meat is being sold and a community education program to teach “that dog meat is not a food for consumption, especially for foreign tourists.”

After the report aired, Animals Australia launched a petition calling on Bali’s governor to immediately ban the dog meat trade and pass laws to outlaw extreme cruelty to all animals.

The governor’s letter may be more about protecting the tourist industry than safeguarding animal welfare. There have been calls for boycotts, and bad publicity threatens to tarnish public perceptions about the tropical island paradise.

“It is important to end the trade in Bali, especially to protect our culture and tourism industry, as well as to apply the national animal welfare law,” said Dr. Nata Kesuma, the head of Bali’s Livestock and Animal Health Services.

“I am sure we will be able to stop the dog meat trade if all relevant stakeholders are willing to cooperate and have the same vision, although it may take some time,” he added.

Others noted that much more could have been done.

“[It’s] a good first step but there’s a long way to go … the consumption of dog meat must be stopped,” said Janice Girardi, founder of Bali’s Animal Welfare Association, which estimates more than 70,000 animals are killed a year for food in Bali.

“This is not actually a ban on dog meat,” she added. “What is allowed and what is not allowed needs to be defined by government …”

Animals Australia’s Lyn White applauded the governor’s steps.

“While fueled by a small section of the community, the dog meat trade has been increasing rapidly in Bali, so the Government’s decision comes at a critical time,” she said.

“It’s a more than appropriate response to a trade that involves significant animal cruelty, presents a serious human health risk, and undermines rabies eradication programs.”

(Video showing highlights of the investigation and photo of a street vendor supplied by Animals Australia)

Researchers say the hyper-friendliness of dogs results from gene mutation

Researchers say they have pinpointed a gene mutation that explains why dogs are so hyper-friendly — one they believe could have played a role in their domestication.

The scientists say they have isolated two genes, variations in which lead to the hyper-friendliness and tail-wagging sociability that most dogs exhibit.

When I read the headlines I had two reactions. First, I didn’t want to believe that the love dogs display resulted from something as stark sounding as a “mutation.” Second, I decided I wanted those genes, and those mutations, inside me — and all humans.

Imagine how much better a place the world would be if we all got so excited we nearly peed when we greeted each other, covered the faces of friends and strangers with licks, and had that unconditional love and loyalty that dogs possess.

Interestingly, though, similar variations in those same genes are already inside a small number of us. The genes at issue — GTF2I and GTF2IRD1 — are the same ones that have been associated with a human disease called Williams-Beuren Syndrome (WBS), which causes developmental disabilities and many other health issues.

The condition is characterized by mild to moderate intellectual disability, unusual facial features, cardiovascular problems and other health issues. But it also can often lead to affected individuals having highly outgoing, engaging personalities and extreme interest in other people.

Having written about people with developmental disabilities for eight years as a reporter, I met more than a few people like that — in institutions, group homes, and living with their families. They’d come up and hug a complete stranger. They’d follow me around, paying attention to everything I did and said. They seemed to indiscriminately love everybody. They were hard to say goodbye to.

I didn’t know it was a result of their Williams-Beuren syndrome, or that there even was a Williams-Beuren syndrome (this was the 1980’s), just that they possessed an innocence and trust uncommon in our species. I can’t remember if, at the time, I saw that behavior as “dog-like.”

But some researchers did.

vonholdtBridgett vonHoldt, an evolutionary geneticist at Princeton University, and Monique Udell, who studies animal behavior at Oregon State University, met three years ago and started talking about dogs.

In an earlier study, vonHoldt had identified a gene that’s mutated more often in dogs than wolves — one that possibly led to their domestication.

Together, Udell and vonHoldt decided to examine the social behavior of a group of dogs and a group of wolves and then analyze their DNA in the region that included the genes in question.

The study they co-authored, using a combination of genetic sequencing and behavioral tests, pinpointed a couple genetic differences that seem to track with friendliness.

Using 16 dogs and eight captive, socialized wolves, they were able to establish that the dogs showed a greater variation, or mutation, of those genes. Animals with these mutations appeared to pay more attention to the humans than those without, the researchers said.

“We find that hyper-sociability, a central feature of WBS, is also a core element of domestication that distinguishes dogs from wolves,” the study concluded.

brubaker

The findings, in addition to providing new insights into the human disorder, could explain a large part of what led wolves to become domesticated, and how dogs evolved to become man’s best friend.

To learn more about the study, check out these reports from the
Los Angeles Times, Science and Princeton University.

(Photos: At top, Bridgett vonHoldt, an assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton and the study’s lead co-author, cuddles with her Old English Sheepdog, Marla, by Chris Fascenelli, Princeton University Office of Communications; at bottom, Lauren Brubaker, a graduate research assistant in the Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences at Oregon State University and one of the study’s authors, interacts with a gray wolf, by Monty Sloan, via Princeton University Office of Communications)

Inspired by Michael Phelps and that shark, I arrange an inter-species race of my own

phelpsshark

Some of you might have caught Michael Phelps in his dramatic and courageous race with that great white shark, shown in a Discovery Channel special the other night.

It was yet another inspiring moment in the career of the Olympian, who is a close personal (Facebook) friend of mine.

So inspiring it was that it led me to challenge some creatures from another species to a fully legitimate, no trick photography, race of our own.

Since I write about animals, and am a pretty major celebrity myself, it seemed worth doing, or at least as worth doing as your typical Discovery Channel, Learning Channel, History Channel program.

And humans racing animals has a long and stupid history. Jesse Owens raced a horse. Several athletes have tried to outrun cheetahs. Others have gone up against dogs and ostriches.

True, I am not exactly at my athletic peak these days. I’m still getting over having a kidney removed and, as a result, I’m moving a little more slowly and with a little more discomfort than usual.

satireBut — being a competitive soul (like Mike) — I wasn’t about to let that stop me. I carefully researched and chose the creatures I would competing against.

To capture the contest on video, I hired someone to film it. Being a little strapped for funds, what with hospital bills and all, my videographer was actually a wino I found downtown who, once he got the camera pointed the right way, seemed up to the task.

Unfortunately, he framed the shots in such a way that I don’t appear in them as I glide down the asphalt at what is now my full speed. Don’t let that make you doubt the authenticity of all this though, for my journalistic ethics are every bit as solid as the Discovery Channel, or for that matter, the History Channel, or the Learning Channel.

To further uphold the integrity of the event, I arranged for four judges with unimpeachable reputations to oversee the race — Ryan Lochte, D.B. Cooper, Yeti and Amelia Earhart.

I won’t put off the suspense any longer, because I know you are all dying to see it. Here is the footage:

While the snail broke out to an early lead, the slug managed to stay right behind it, and I was right behind the slug, though out of the camera’s frame.

Eventually I passed the slug — you’ll just have to take my word for it — and pulled even with the snail. I had opened up a pretty good lead when, realizing one of my sneakers had come untied, I bent over to re-tie it.

Before I was able to get upright, I was swallowed whole by a giant anaconda. I thought escape would be impossible, as if I was in Al Capone’s vault. But, a few minutes later, I managed to reach up and tickle his throat until he coughed me up.

By the time I was able to get back on my feet — not without a few groans — both the snail and the slug were way in front of me, leaving trails of slime behind them that made getting my footing difficult.

I reached deep down inside, near where my kidney used to be, and summoned up the strength for a final burst. Sadly, as I caught up with them, the camera still didn’t have me in the frame.

Now I could have played with the video, and used CGI, so you’d see all three of us in the race, but how honest would that be?

Documentaries should be honest, after all — a straight recounting of the facts with no misrepresentations, deceptions, schmaltzy staged reenactments or trick photography.

I am nothing if not honest, and far be it from me to manufacture drama where none really exists, or to drag out any suspense.

Suffice to say the results of that historic race — John vs. slug vs. snail — left many with their jaws dropped, their hearts pounding and the realization that they had seen something truly special. Some say it will become a legend for the ages. The winner was …

Fade to commercial.

To purchase the CD of John’s race with the snail and the slug, moderated by Morgan Freeman, send $89.99 to Phake Newz Documentaries, 8999 N. 8999th St., NY, NY. Do so in the next hour and you’ll also receive the envelope it comes in.

Oh yeah, you’re wondering who won. The truth — trust me — is that I pulled out a come-from-behind victory that left the thousands, no make that tens of thousands, of spectators all on the edge of their seats, cheering wildly, including a recently paroled O.J. Simpson, a contingent of leprechauns and more than 100 members of my mermaid fan club.

(Photo representation at top from The Washington Post; video from YouTube, posted by M77174)

Officer: “I’ve dispatched both of them;” Body cam: Maybe he fired too quickly

Body camera video released by Minneapolis police last week seems to confirm that the two pit bulls an officer encountered in a family’s backyard weren’t posing an immediate threat to him when he shot them both earlier this month.

“I’ve dispatched both of them,” officer Michael Mays can be heard saying on his radio after he shot one dog that approached him with tail wagging, and then fired multiple shots at a second one that ran in his direction.

The officer was responding to a security alarm that had been accidentally set off. One dog suffered a bullet wound to the jaw. The other was hit in the body by several shots. Both dogs survived and are receiving treatment.

The officer said in a report he filed after the shooting that both dogs were “charging” at him, but the body cam video — in addition to footage from the family’s security camera — have fueled complaints that he was not in imminent danger when he fired the shots.

After shooting the dogs, the officer climbs a fence out of the backyard and walks down an alley before going to the front door of the home to let the residents know he had shot their dogs.

The full video can be seen in this CBS Minnesota report.

Mays said the dogs barked and growled at him, but the earliest parts of the video are missing audio that would confirm that.

rockoThe body camera footage was released Thursday afternoon by Michael Padden, the attorney for the dogs’ owner, Jennifer LeMay, who says the animals are service dogs for her children.

The day after the shooting, LeMay posted surveillance video taken by a backyard camera to Facebook, where it went viral, garnering hundreds of thousands of views.

The body camera video shows Mays encountering LeMay’s daughter, who accidentally set off the alarm.

“I don’t like shooting no dogs,” the officer explains to 18-year-old Courtney Livingston before inquiring if the dogs are OK.

“I don’t know,” she answers. “I have blood all over my house and they’re both walking that I know of.”

Livingston accidentally tripped the alarm and was the only one home when the incident took place.

rockocirocandlemayAt the Thursday news conference where the video was released, Jennifer LeMay said both dogs — Rocko and Ciroc — are having difficult recoveries:

“Rocko, physically, is probably at 75 percent; emotionally and mentally, he’s not there.”

She said she doubted the dogs were behaving too aggressively when the officer shot them. Her lawyer questioned why there was no audio in the earliest portion of what was recorded. It does not come on until after the shots were fired.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau described the video as “difficult to watch,” offered to assist the family in paying vet bills and promised to start providing training to officers on dealing with dogs.

(First photo, a recovering Rocko, Facebook; second photo, Rocko and Ciroc with LeMay at home, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Dachshund sign in San Pedro to be rescued in hopes of finding it a new forever home

bonel

A dachshund that towers above an empty restaurant on a busy intersection of San Pedro, California, is coming down, but it has avoided being put down by a wrecking ball.

Instead, in hopes of finding it a new home, the sign has been rescued by a group seeking to preserve the gentrifying harbor town’s history.

The Daily Breeze reported yesterday that, rather than being destroyed as part of a redevelopment project that includes a new drive-thru Starbucks, the sign for Bonello’s New York Pizza has been procured by the local historical society.

The project’s developer agreed to sell the sign to the society for $1.

The sign has hung over Gaffey Street for 75 years, originally to beckon diners into The Hamburger Hut, one of San Pedro’s oldest burger joints when it closed almost 20 years ago.

hamburgerhut

Over the years, it has lost its neon outline, and the dachshund lost its tail, and the dog was painted the colors of the Italian flag when the business became home to Bonello’s New York Pizza.

The San Pedro Bay Historical Society will pay to have the sign carefully removed. It wants to refurbish it and put it on display someday in a hoped-for local museum.

“It’s the only sign that’s been hanging over Gaffey Street for like 70-plus years,” said Angela Romero, the historical society board member who led the effort to save the sign.

“The feeling was let’s get it before it goes away or leaves San Pedro,” said Mona Dallas-Roddick, president of the board. “I’m telling people it’s a preservation move right now — we don’t know if we could ever (raise) the money for restoration.”

The sign will make an appearance next weekend at a wine tasting benefit for the society at Muller House, an historic home in San Pedro.

The dachshund first appeared in 1941, atop a sign for The Hamburger Hut — we can only guess it sold hot dogs, too — and the establishment went on to become a hot spot for teenagers and a fixture for generations of residents.

After Hamburger Hut closed, neighboring Bonello’s New York Pizza expanded into the closed Hamburger Hut space and restyled the Hamburger Hut sign, keeping the dachshund but adding its own name and a distinctly Italian color scheme.

Bonello’s, still in business, recently moved to another building on the block to make room for the new development.

indian roomWith massive redevelopment projects underway along the harbor, in downtown San Pedro and on its outskirts, word that the dachshund sign was coming down prompted members of the historical society to vote to save it.

Many still lamented how another sign, the one from the Indian Room at the corner of 10th Street and Pacific Avenue, had vanished when that bar was gentrified.

It saddens me to see old school places disappear — even if they’ve become pretty worn around the edges. So I applaud any effort to hang on to pieces of the past, even if it’s just an old school sign, and especially if it’s a dog-themed old school sign.

No matter how shiny and Starbucky San Pedro becomes, its working class roots should remain within grasp — even if it’s a wiener dog who somehow ended up on a New York pizza place sign in Los Angeles.

(Top two photos from Pinterest; middle photo from That’ssoPedro.com; bottom photo from LAEastside.com)

Mom misses son’s wedding after church refuses to admit her PTSD service dog

A church in Michigan refused to admit the mother of the groom to his wedding, saying its rules prohibited dogs inside the church — even service dogs.

Mary Douglas says her PTSD service dog, Stella, wasn’t allowed into the Word of Life Outreach Center in Quincy, causing her to miss the ceremony.

According to its “statement of faith,” as presented on its website, the non-denominational church believes in “One True God” and “Divine Healing” and “speaking in tongues.”

But apparently it does not believe too strongly in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As a result, Douglas was left saddened and angry about missing her son’s wedding.

“I’ve sacrificed as any single mom, any mom really, does for their children. For that not to be reciprocated, that honor not to be due to a mom on her son’s wedding day, it’s heartbreaking,” Douglas said.

Douglas has had the service dog for almost two years, and says she feared having a “relapse,” if she entered the church without Stella, according to WWMT in western Michigan, which first reported the story.

“I’ve cried a lot. It was a very sleepless night last night,” Douglas said.

Douglas has filed a civil rights complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

Pastor Robert Montgomery said the church tried to work with Douglas in the weeks leading up to the wedding, giving her “three options” to attend.

He didn’t specify what those options were, and neither did the news report.

It also didn’t address why the son and his bride-to-be held the wedding at the Word of Life Outreach Center, given in all likelihood they — or at least he — should have learned at some point that his mother would have difficulty attending.

Montgomery says the church has a “no animal policy” and that the policy that includes service dogs.

“The difficulty we find in letting animals in, so people know, if you have people that have a fear of animals or an allergy to animals, it makes it very difficult,” he said.