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Tag: adopted

Remembering my son, Joe

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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.

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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.

Happy ending turned bad, new one needed

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That blind dachshund and his pit bull guide dog we wrote about last week are both back in the Richmond animal shelter after the person who adopted them failed to keep her promise to keep the bonded pair together.

Richmond Animal Care and Control Shelter (RACC) proudly announced last week that the pair — surrendered by an owner who had become homeless — had been adopted together.

But a few days later, the happy story took a turn.

OJ, the blind dachshund, was found separated from his friend, about 100 miles away from where they were adopted in Richmond, WRTV reported.

The pair were originally surrendered when their owner became homeless, according to posts by Richmond Animal Care and Control. A picture of the two animals went viral on social media and they were quickly adopted.

OJ., the elder of the two, relied on Blue Dozer, the pit bull, and they would need to be adopted together, according to the posts.

After releasing the dogs to what they thought was a responsible owner, RACC got a call from the Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center, reporting that OJ was in their custody after being brought in by someone who claimed to have found him as a stray.

Page Hearn, who runs the rescue group Virginia Paws for Pits in Augusta County, said OJ was found wandering and taken to the shelter, where his microchip was traced back to RACC.

The adopter, Hearn said, declined to take back the blind dog, and declined, at least intitially, to surrender Blue Dozer. Later she agreed to return the pit bull.

In an interview with WWTB, the adopter, identified only as Colleen, said she never intended to keep the dogs separated.

But, she said, OJ bit several people within the first two hours after she brought him home, leading her to ask a friend to temporarily take care of the dachshund.

She said she didn’t know OJ was missing from that friend’s home until the shelter called her.

RACC Director Christie Chipps Peters said in an email that they “are very upset over what has transpired.”

Robin Starr, CEO of Richmond SPCA, noted, “There is no shelter that doesn’t have an adoption not turn out well from time to time because people are not totally predictable.”

(Photo: Blue Dozer and OJ, from RACC Facebook page)

Blind dog and guide dog adopted together

A blind 12-year-old dachshund and his guide dog — a beefy looking pit bull named Blue Dozer — were adopted together from a shelter in Richmond.

The two were surrendered to the Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC) shelter last Thursday after their owner became homeless.

ojanddozerThey were adopted – together – before the weekend was up, WWTB in Richmond reported.

RACC said it tried to help the owner of the dogs find other accommodations without putting them in the shelter, but there were no other options available.

The shelter promised the owner they would try to place the dachshund, named OJ, and Dozer, together in a good home.

The shelter said the animals were adopted by a family that will “keep them together forever.”

WWTB’s original report can be found here.

(Photo, from the Richmond Animal Care and Control Facebook page)

Army did dismal job of finding homes for discharged bomb-sniffing dogs, report says

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It’s not unheard of for a war hero to return home without much of a welcome.

But to return home and face more than a year languishing in a kennel?

Such was the case with 13 of the more than 200 bomb-sniffing dogs discharged from the military after service in Afghanistan when the Army ended its Tactical Explosive Detector Dog program.

Despite its promise to find the dogs good homes — and Department of Defense policies requiring as much — the Army spent less than two months to find homes for the canines and, in the end, failed miserably.

That’s the conclusion of an investigation by the Defense Department’s Inspector General’s Office, released last week.

In return for their combat service, the U.S. Army mistreated the dogs who served between February 2011 and February 2014 detecting improvised explosive devices during Operation Enduring Freedom.

The report says the Army failed to properly vet those adopting the dogs, failed to neuter the dogs, as required, and did not accurately track them after their discharges.

In one instance, the Army signed off on allowing a family with children to adopt a dog that possibly had undergone biting training. The Army also allowed a dog with “canine PTSD” to live with another family with children, Reuters reported.

“In its haste to transfer dogs to law-enforcement agencies and to adopt other dogs out to civilians, the Army failed to vet some potential recipients,” the report said.

The Army did not always follow the recommendations of veterinarians at Fort Bragg, who screened the dogs for medical and adoption suitability, according to the report.

It allowed 13 dogs to be adopted by a private company that then abandoned them at a Virginia kennel for more than a year — until two nonprofit canine rescue organizations helped to reunite them with their military handlers.

The investigation was started in 2016 after soldiers who had handled the dogs complained about not being able to adopt them, or even determine their fate after discharge.

The Defense Department reported to Congress last year that the Army had found placements for 229 dogs in the program.

The Army says it is working to comply with the inspector general’s recommendations to better track and vet adoptions for any future military working dog programs.

(Photo: Reuters)

Chloe 2.0: Woman adopts the dog that her family surrendered when she was a child

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When a Pennsylvania woman saw a pomeranian-poodle mix up for adoption in a Facebook post, the dog reminded her so much of her childhood dog that she decided to look into adopting her.

That’s when she found out it was her childhood dog.

Nicole Grimes said the photo of her dog, reminded of her beloved childhood puppy, named Chloe, who her family surrendered to a shelter seven years ago because she was too “yappy.”

It was until she met the 11-year-old dog, also named Chloe, that she began suspecting the new Chloe might also be the old Chloe.

The dog bounded over to her and began licking her face.

“Then I knew in my heart that she had to be the same dog,” Grimes told the BBC.

Grimes husband was skeptical, but a check of the dog’s microchip determined it was the same Chloe.

grimes2“We couldn’t believe it. It’s just crazy,” Grimes said.

Grimes got Chloe on her tenth birthday — a gift from her grandmother.

Four years later, though, after her father began working at home, he found the dog was too loud. Grimes remembers the day her dad picked her up from school with the dog in the back seat and they drove to the shelter.

Grimes said Chloe is toothless now, but “still loves to run around” and spend time with her four-month-old daughter, Violet.

“They love to play with each other. Chloe is very gentle with Violet and it warms my heart to see them together.”

(Photos: At top, Grimes with Chloe then and with Chloe now; Chloe with Grimes’ daughter, Violet; courtesy of family, via BBC)

Squish appears on Rachel Ray show

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Squish, an Ohio dog whose face was left twisted and contorted by what veterinarians believe was a severe beating, will be a guest on “The Rachel Ray Show” today.

Appearing via a video call with the once-abused dog will be the woman who rescued him and to whom he now belongs, a veterinary intern at the time who now practices in San Antonio.

Squish was a four-month-old stray when he ended up in the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter in 2016, with a fractured jaw, fractured skull and missing one eye.

After two months, given his appearance made him unlikely to be adopted, and given he was barely able to eat, the shelter added him to the list of dogs to be euthanized, but sent him to VCA Great Lakes Veterinary Specialists for a second opinion.

squishdog2When intern Danielle Boyd was sent to carry him into the exam room, she was taken with his friendliness and trust. “I was enamored by this little one-eyed pup who clearly endured so much pain,” she told the dodo.

Boyd decided to bring him home that night, just to give him a break from the shelter.

He has been her’s ever since.

Even though she was just a week away from a scheduled to move to Texas to finish her veterinary residency, she adopted the dog and a series of extensive surgeries began.

Less than 36 hours after Squish’s surgery, they drove from Ohio to Texas. “That became the beginning of our many adventures together,” she says. Boyd had lost her dog just days before she met Squish.

After several surgeries, Squish — who had difficulty seeing out of his one eye and whose injuries prevented him from being able to eat — is chewing on tennis balls, munching dry dog food, and apparently carrying around sticks as crooked as his face.

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Vets suspect blunt force trauma led to his misshapen head. Both his skull and upper jaw had been fractured by a blow, or a series of them.

Squish now spends his time being the mascot for the veterinary hospital where Boyd works.

“Employees come visit him in my office when they need a little Squish love,” Boyd said. “Squish also shows clients whose pets are facing eye removal surgery how happy he is with one eye.”

Ray gave Boyd a lifetime supply of products from her Nutrish pet food line, and, along with everyone else in the studio audience, a $100 PetSmart gift cards.

(Top photo by Kin Man Hui /San Antonio Express-News, bottom photos by Danielle Boyd)

Cola gets his fizz back

A dog that had his legs hacked off in Thailand is making great strides on his continuing road to recovery.

Cola’s front legs were sliced off with a sword by a neighbor in Bangkok angry over the dog chewing his shoes.

He was later adopted by John Dalley and his wife, who run the Soi Dog Foundation.

He received his first set of prosthetics about a year ago, but recently was fitted with the types used by paralympic runners.

The Soi Dog Foundation, an animal welfare group based on the resort island of Phuket, brought in a human surgeon to fit Cola with the high tech carbon fiber racing blades.

Now, Dalley reports, Cola is bounding on the beach with the rest of his pack, and he has no fear or distrust of humans despite what happened to him.

“It’s actually quite amazing how adaptable dogs are and how forgiving they are,” he said.

You can learn more about Cola’s inspirational recovery in this Reuters report.