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Tag: accident

Remembering my son, Joe

babyjoe2leashes1

On May 13, 1992, a flight arrived at LAX from Seoul and three Korean babies, orphans all, were carried off the plane by their escorts to be handed to their new adoptive parents.

My wife and I were there to meet one of them, our new son whom we’d decided, based on photos, would be named either Sam or Joe, depending on which seemed the better fit after seeing him in person.

He was the last one off the plane, a tiny thing with an unruly shock of jet black hair that was shooting in every direction after the 11-hour flight. For a moment, we debated whether he might be an “Elvis.” But we opted for Joe.

Joe WoestendiekFast forward 26 years — and God, did it ever go too fast — and Joe (full name Joseph Yoon Tae Woestendiek) was lying in a coma in a Memphis hospital, his hair shaved off, and parts of his skull removed to accommodate the swelling of his severely damaged brain. The outlook was bleak, at best.

He was on his way home from work when his car rear-ended a dump truck on the interstate near Holly Springs, Miss. The truck grinded to a halt. The truck driver pulled Joe out of his burning car. And he was airlifted by helicopter from Mississippi to Memphis — to, ironically, the Elvis Presley Trauma Center.

He died 13 days later. For nearly two weeks doctors kept him sedated and fought to relieve his cranial pressure even while warning that, if he came out of his coma at all, he would likely have little to no brain function due to the extent of the brain damage. They warned, too, that lung problems had developed, and that those and the strain on his heart, were more likely to take his life. His heart came to a stop on June 18.

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I write this another week later, partly to explain why our ohmidog! posts came to a halt, but more to keep his memory alive, and in hopes that writing about it will be cathartic and make some of the numbness and emptiness inside me go away.

joetromboneJoe grew up in Orange County, Calif.; Yardley, Pa., Anderson, S.C., and Florence, Ala. He lived in recent years with his mom and stepdad in New Albany, Miss. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he earned a B.S. in computer science from the School of Engineering.

He’d recently started a job he loved — in the information technology department of Automated Conveyor Systems, Inc., of West Memphis, Ark.

His visits to my home, in Winston-Salem, N.C., had dwindled, but up until he finished college he’d come here regularly on holidays and in the summer. He loved guitars, and video games and, of course, dogs. He’d always get teary on his last day visiting; I was never sure if it was because he was leaving me, or leaving my dog Ace. He’d yet to meet my new dog, Jinjja, also adopted from Korea.

SONY DSCWhile here, Joe would volunteer with the Forsyth Humane Society, an organization I’ve also done some work with as a volunteer. He’d walk dogs at the shelter, and help out at events, his favorite role being donning the mascot costume — a swelteringly hot furry dog outfit — and working the crowd.

He had three dogs of his own at home.

Because of his love of dogs, and the joy working with humane society brought him, I’ve decided a fitting tribute would be to make a donation to the humane society in his name — one significant enough to merit a plaque with his name on it.

His name on a brick paver is one option, but I, for what are probably selfish reasons, want more.

I want to try to make a donation large enough to make him a lifetime sponsor of one of the shelter’s kennels.

That way, everyone who walks in to look at the many dogs available for adoption will see his name, and maybe more importantly, I will. I like the idea of a kid once in need of adoption sponsoring a kennel that will house dog after dog after dog in need of adoption — forever.

That requires a $10,000 donation, not an amount I have handy, or can even dream of obtaining. But, unachievable as that might be — and needing something to do right now — that’s what I’m working on.

So here is my plan.

I’ve started a Facebook fundraiser aimed at donating $10,000 to the Forsyth Humane Society in his memory.

SONY DSCA memorial service for him will be held in Mississippi this week.

But I want to do something here in Winston-Salem — perhaps a mini-concert featuring some musician friends of his and mine. I’m working now on setting that up.

I want it to be a simple and joyful hour or so, nothing somber, nothing speech-filled — just a chance for local friends to come together and say goodbye, maybe at the Muddy Creek Cafe in Bethania. We always enjoyed going there.

When Joe arrived in the U.S., my then-wife Jenny and I were living in Orange County, California. The riots that Rodney King’s beating sparked in Los Angeles were only starting to settle down. I was covering those for the newspaper I worked for at the time, the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Every morning, I would cruise through the most devastated areas, returning to a hotel in the evening to write. It was a bleak couple of weeks, the kind that make you worry about humanity and its future. Nearly every day, my rental car was pelted by rocks and chunks of concrete. At nearly every stoplight, I’d receive hateful stares and threatening gestures.

I remember wondering as I drove those streets how, and why, complete strangers could hate me so much.

Amid all that, we got the call that our adoptee was on his way. We were supposed to pick him up in Korea, but somebody goofed. My boss was kind enough to give me some time off, away from the riots, to bond with my new son.

And in the ensuing weeks, and years, I remember wondering how a complete stranger could love me so much.

And me him.

SONY DSC

That’s what he taught me, and it’s not unlike the lesson anyone who adopts a dog learns. Show a creature love and respect and loyalty and you’ll get it back — unconditionally and exponentially. Oppress, abuse and disrespect it and you’ll get … what you deserve.

As abruptly and prematurely as Joe’s life ended, I will always be thankful for the joy he brought me and the lessons he taught me.

I’m thankful, too, for all the prayers and expressions of support I’ve received from friends (and even strangers). I am overwhelmed by the response to the Facebook fundraiser. I posted it three days ago, and it’s already more than halfway to its goal.

Thanks also to the caring staff at Regional One’s Elvis Presley Trauma Center, and to that truck driver, Michael Simpson of Memphis, whose actions gave Joe a fighting chance.

Those wishing to contribute to Joe’s plaque can do so through the Facebook fundraiser.

Contributions can also be made through ohmidog!, or directly to Forsyth Humane Society. Please specify they are for Joe Woestendiek’s memorial plaque.

Seeking pancakes, dog starts house fire

A house fire in Massachusetts has been blamed on a pancake-seeking golden retriever — and home surveillance footage seems to confirm the dog was the culprit.

Footage from the family’s Nest home monitoring system shows the dog, one of two living in the home, getting up on its hind legs to scarf down some leftover pancakes on top of the stove.

In the process, some items slide off the stove top and the gas stove’s ignition button gets turned on.

A few minutes later a flame can be seen rising from the stove, growing larger. As smoke fills the house, the two dogs can be seen lying on the couch as an alarm sounds and the system alerts emergency responders.

Fortunately, they arrived within minutes and, after the dogs greeted them, proceeded to douse the blaze before too much damage occured.

The Southwick Fire Department posted the footage on its Facebook page last week, the New York Post as a warning to homeowners.

Pit bull reunited with owner’s loved ones

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A dog who ran off after a car accident in Alabama that killed her owner was found after a three-day search and driven more than 700 miles home to be reunited with the accident victim’s family in Arkansas.

Sgt. Jonathon Whaley and another officer were at the scene of the single-car accident that killed the driver and injured the passenger when they learned that the victim’s dog — a pit bull named Kai — had also been in the car, but ran off after the crash.

Police in Dothan, Alabama, said Mckenzie Amanda Grace Catron, a University of Arkansas student, was driving the car when it ran off the road and into a telephone pole last Saturday. Catron, 19, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her passenger, also 19, was rushed to an area hospital.

The two were on a spring break trip.

Once hearing from witnesses that there had been a dog in the car, too, Sgt. Whaley said, “We felt we needed to find the dog. We were going to do whatever we needed to do to reunite this dog with this family.”

Dozens of community members felt the same way, Fox 5 in Atlanta reported.

For days, police, firefighters and volunteers searched the area around the crash for Kai. They posted flyers, and started a Help Find Kai Facebook page, through which they stayed in touch with Catron’s family in Arkansas.

One of the volunteers was Benjamin Irwin, a Dothan attorney and animal lover. He and his wife offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who found the missing dog.

“We just really wanted this family to have this piece of their family back, something to help remember their daughter,” he told Al.com.

kairescueKai was found Monday, after two days of searching.

Irwin and another volunteer spotted her from afar.

Joined by others, they pursued her for more than a mile before capturing her in a shed.

“Over the city blocks and miles of both running and driving we found mutual friends who eventually jumped in and helped as well,” Irwin said. “Once our number was up to eight people we were able to get Kia to relax enough … to grab her collar.”

After Kai was taken to an area vet, Sgt. Whaley and his wife Ashley, offered to take her back to Catron’s family in Bentonville, Arkansas — a 12-hour drive.

Kai was reunited with Catron’s family Tuesday, and Kenzie Catron’s funeral was held Thursday.

No one collected the reward money, and Irwin said it would be donated to the animal shelter in Arkansas where Kai was originally adopted.

(Photos: From the Help Find Kai Facebook page)

Woman and her guide dog are reunited

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A legally blind woman and her guide dog have been reunited after recovering from injuries they received when they were hit by a school bus in New York.

“Oh, my good boy. You’re home, finally,” Audrey Stone exclaimed upon greeting her golden retriever, Figo, in the driveway of her home in Brewster, about 60 miles north of Manhattan.

Figo got in between Stone and an oncoming minibus in June as they crossed a street a block from her home.

Stone spent months in a rehabilitation hospital. Figo underwent surgery and went back to his trainers for a determination of whether he could work as a guide dog again.

As of Monday, he is back on duty.

Figo, who had been Stone’s guide dog for more than six years, leaped to put himself between her and the oncoming bus, then stuck by her side until help arrived.

“Basically, he would have died for me, doing what he did,” said Stone, who suffered a broken ankle, elbow and ribs and needed stitches in her head. Figo had a serious gash in one of his legs, according to the Associated Press.

On top of being reunited with Stone, Figo will be receiving the Dog of the Year award from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“We’re tremendously proud of Figo, who really did show a great deal of bravery,” said Wells Jones, of the Smithtown-based Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. Figo was the third dog the organization had placed with Stone.

Stone says she’s happy to have him back.

“You feel better with a dog,” she said.

(Photo: By Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

Trying to save his dog, man in wheelchair is killed by train in California

    A man in a wheelchair who witnesses say was trying to save his dog was struck by a train and killed Friday.

    Jim Boswell, an amputee who lived at a mobile home park in Wheatland, Calif., was said to be a quiet man in his 60’s, and a good friend to his dog, who was also killed.

    Boswell had left his prosthetic leg at home and taken his wheelchair to a store down the road, his dog at his side.

    “He had just come in,” said Rachel Sewell, an employee at Big Al’s Market. “We had literally just helped him less than five minutes before it happened.”

    After he left the store, around 7:45 p.m., she and others in the neighborhood heard the squeal of train brakes.

    While no one witnessed the accident, CBS 13 in Sacramento reported that they think the dog got away from Boswell who then tried to catch him before the train roared through.

    Neighbors say Boswell and a female relative who acted as his caretaker had been living in the mobile home park a few months.

Outlook good for guide dog who tried to shield blind woman from oncoming bus

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An anonymous benefactor has come forward to pay the veterinary bill for Figo, the 8-year-old guide dog dog who leapt in front of a school minibus Monday to shield his blind handler.

Figo (pronounced “FEE-go”) suffered trauma, tissue damage and a slight break to his right front leg when he stepped in between Audrey Stone and an oncoming bus Monday in Brewster, New York.

Hopes are high that he will make a full recovery.

The dog was walking on Stone’s right side but switched sides and jumped between Stone and the vehicle, witnesses said.

Stone, 62, broke an ankle, ribs and an elbow and has a head wound. She is being treated in a Danbury, Connecticut, hospital, where she told The Journal News on Tuesday that Figo “deserves the Purple Heart” for his actions.

Dr. Angela O’Donnell of Middlebranch Veterinary said Figo came out of surgery well, and is now receiving pain medication and antibiotics. His fractured leg could take up to six weeks to mend.

“He’s doing really, really well,” O’Donnell said Wednesday. “I have no concerns at this point about a long-term issue for him.”

The decision on whether Figo will be able to resume serving as Stone’s guide dog will be made by the Guide Dog Foundation, which provided Stone with the dog.

Andrew Rubinstein, marketing director for the foundation, said that once Stone and Figo are home, a trainer will visit them for an assessment.

“Once they’re well enough, the work of the team will be assessed by one of our certified trainers,” Rubenstein said. “Is Figo a little timid around traffic? Is he scared to be around traffic? Or is he ready to go back full-time?”

“If the dog is a little timid, we’d talk with Audrey about maybe retiring Figo and maybe coming back to the foundation to get a new dog,” Rubenstein said. “Or if the dog feels good and works well in traffic and doing their typical routes, they might need a refresher to get all their skills fine-tuned again.”

(Photo: Middlebranch Veterinary)

Why you won’t be seeing the Kardashians on dog sleds this season

Kim-and-Khloe-Kardashian-5When a front woman for the Kardashians emailed the owner of a dog sled adventure company in Montana, asking him to arrange a half-day trip for Khloe, Kim and eight other cast members — all while being filmed by 20 or so crew members — he quoted a price.

It would be $390 per sledder, or $3,900 total, Jason Matthews, the owner of Bozeman-based Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures, told her in an email.

Ashley Warner, the production release coordinator for “Keeeping Up with the Kardashians,” emailed back, suggesting — rather than cash — “an exposure trade out.” The publicity Matthews’ company would receive being on the reality show was worth at least that much, she told him.

Matthews responded to her email saying, in effect, that kind of math didn’t fly in Montana, and requesting payment in advance.

The email exchange continued after that, with the Kardashian representative continuing to talk about a “trade” and explaining the value of “exposure” and Matthews — who has never seen the show — insisting on payment in the form of currency he was familiar with.

At one point, when his message seemed to not be getting through, he made a comment reflecting his own reality: “Look,” he wrote, ” my dogs don’t eat trade.”

The discussion continued until he was sent a confidentiality agreement. He declined to fill it out, saying “I’m not going to sign this until you agree to pay my rate.'”

Warner stopped emailing after that, and Matthews assumed the Kardashian sled ride was off.

On Sunday, Matthews heard the Kardashians had been in a car accident near Bozeman on Saturday. Their car slid off a road and into a ditch. No one was injured and no citations were issued. But it was still very dramatic, Khloe said the next day, when she was interviewed at the Oscars.

“We were in Montana, hit some black ice, car spun out of control, like a big rig got ice all over our car … It was really scary … but we’re all good, all safe, thank God.”

The Kardashians, while they didn’t get their dog sled adventure, did get some skiing in while visiting Montana.

Matthews, after learning of their misfortune — and that no one was injured —  got on Facebook and wrote a post titled “Montana Karmic Justice.” explaining his experience with the family’s representatives, LastBestNews.com reported.

In it, he said he didn’t feel the $3,900 fee he was going to charge was exorbitant, considering that — at least according to what he read on the Internet — the family is being paid $60 million this season. He said he was glad they never showed up.

His Facebook post was shared widely, bringing him and his company some major (you guessed it) exposure — all while steering clear of the Kardashians.

And you can’t put a price on that.