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Tag: adoption

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.

“Good Home Only” written on head of abandoned dog found in Ohio

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One thing is clear about the dog found crated at a park in Ohio with the words “Free” and “Good Home Only” written on her in permanent marker.

She certainly wasn’t in a good home before.

The dog was found abandoned and in a crate in a park in Chillicothe, according to Brittany May, of the Ross County Humane Society.

The female Lab mix, estimated to be around six months old, had “Free” written on one of her sides, “Good Home Only written on her head” and something unintelligible on her other side

mARV2leashes1The humane society named the dog Marvella, according to ABC6.

May said in a Facebook post that most of the permanent marker had been gotten off the dog’s coat.

May posted the photos to her personal Facebook page, adding that whoever had done this to the dog had reached “a whole new level of LOW!”

Anyone interested in adopting Marvella, can find out more information about the Ross County Humane Society website.

She will be available for adoption Wednesday.

(Photos: Courtesy Ross County Humane Society)

Thief snatches trailer New Mexico rescue group used for adoption events

The theft of a trailer loaded with pet supplies Saturday means some dogs will wait a little longer for homes, and that an Albuquerque rescue group called the People’s Anti-Cruelty Association is going to have to rebuild.

The trailer was parked at a street corner where the nonprofit volunteer group holds adoption events every Saturday.

Sometime during the night, thieves hauled it away, along with the paperwork, leashes, pet food and other supplies inside, KOB in Albuquerque reported.

“When they stole our trailer it has greatly, greatly hindered our ability to (help animals) because if we can’t find it and its contents, we’re going to have to start all over,” said Arnielle Fernandez, a volunteer with PACA. “And that is very pricey.”

“Everything that was in the trailer was like crates that we set up for our dogs, our collars, our leashes, some dog food. Puppy pens, blankets, you know, towels – everything we need to function,” Fernandez said. “Ordinarily we, throughout the years, we have found permanent loving homes for thousands of dogs and cats.”

The group is now asking the public to keep an eye out for the trailer, which is white and has paw print decals, along with the PACA logo.

“Ask them to bring it back. That would be wonderful. It would be like Christmas in May,” Fernandez said.

While the group works to plan another event this weekend, Fernandez said it will be more difficult to pull off.

“Anybody that is in such a horrible state, on a personal level, that would do something like that to a non-profit rescue organization – they’re of very, very little character,” she said.

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)

Are dog rescue groups helping support big time breeders? It sure looks that way

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Are animal rescue groups actually helping keep big-time dog breeders — both good ones and bad ones — in business?

That’s the question raised in this blockbuster report that appeared in The Washington Post this morning.

The newspaper’s investigation found that rescue operations, traditionally the nemesis of puppy mills, have been buying dogs from breeders at auction, using donations from their supporters to buy dogs in what it described as a “nationwide shadow market.”

The result is a river of rescue donations flowing from avowed dog saviors to the breeders, two groups that have long disparaged each other. The rescuers call many breeders heartless operators of inhumane “puppy mills” and work to ban the sale of their dogs in brick-and-mortar pet stores. The breeders call “retail rescuers” hypocritical dilettantes who hide behind nonprofit status while doing business as unregulated, online pet stores.

But for years, they have come together at dog auctions where no cameras are allowed, with rescuers enriching breeders and some breeders saying more puppies are being bred for sale to the rescuers.

Bidders affiliated with 86 rescue and advocacy groups and shelters throughout the United States and Canada have spent $2.68 million buying 5,761 dogs and puppies from breeders since 2009 at the nation’s two government-regulated dog auctions, both in Missouri, according to invoices, checks and other documents The Post obtained from an industry insider.

Most rescuers then offered the dogs for adoption as “rescued” or “saved,” and charge adoption fees that range from $50 to $1,000 per dog.

The article reports that it is likely the success of rescue groups in reducing the numbers of dogs needing adoption that has led to an increase in such organizations turning to buying dogs offered at auctions by commercial kennels: “As the number of commercial kennels has decreased, so has the number of shelter animals killed in the United States: A February 2017 estimate put the total for dogs alone at 780,000, a steep drop from estimates for all shelter animals that were as high as 20 million in the 1970s.”

One golden retriever rescue group turned to the auctions after seeing 40 percent fewer dogs coming in as of 2016. At the auctions, such rescuers describe buying purebreds and popular crossbreeds such as goldendoodles and maltipoos as “puppy mill rescue,” the article notes.

Some rescue organizations have paid more than $1,000 for a single dog.

Animal-welfare groups, including the ASPCA, HSUS, say rescuers are misguided in buying dogs at auction because the money they pay only encourages more breeding on a commercial scale.

While they may be keeping some individual dogs from being purchased by breeders for a life of breeding, they are also lining the pockets of breeders and helping to create a “a seller’s market.”

JoAnn Dimon, director of Big East Akita Rescue in New Jersey, says that buying breeding-age dogs at auctions makes it harder for commercial breeders to profit in the long run: “That breeder is going to make thousands of dollars off that [female dog] if he breeds her every cycle. I just bought her for $150. I just took money out of his pocket. I got the dog, and I stopped the cycle.”

The majority of the $2.68 million The Post documented was spent since 2013 at Southwest Auction Service, the biggest commercial dog auction in the country, with some additional spending at its smaller, only remaining competitor, Heartland Sales.

As the last remaining government-licensed auctions, they let buyers and sellers see hundreds of dogs at a time and are a legal part of the country’s puppy supply chain. They are regulated by the U.S. and Missouri Departments of Agriculture and open to the public.

“I’m not going to lie about this: Rescue generates about one-third, maybe even 40 percent of our income,” Bob Hughes, Southwest’s owner, told the Post. “It’s been big for 10 years.”

“I honestly think there are very good, responsible rescues that just love the dogs and want to get them out of the breeding industry,” he added. “And I think there are malicious, lying, cheating rescues that are in it for the money and the glory and the funding.”

Rescue groups generally are organized as nonprofit charities and raise money through fundraisers, adoption fees, grants and bequests. Shelters and rescue groups connected to the auction bidders have annual revenue that runs from $12,000 to $1.5 million.

Hughes told the Post that what happens at auctions shows that nobody has the moral high ground in America’s puppy wars.

“In their minds, the rescuers think they’re better,” he says. “The industry is all alike. We’re all supplying puppies and dogs to the general public in some form or fashion.”

(Photo: Dogs being sold at an auction in Michigan))

Homeless man gets help after video plea for his dog, Meaty

Robert wasn’t homeless when he adopted a pit bull named Meaty from Sacramento’s animal shelter a few months ago.

But not much later, after an eviction, he found himself in that situation, and he returned to the animal shelter for help — specifically, in hopes of finding someone to foster the dog until he got through his rough patch.

Gina Knepp, manager of Sacramento’s Front Street Animal Shelter, thought a video about Robert and Meaty, posted on its Facebook page, might lead to someone stepping forward.

“My name is Robert, I’m 47 years old, I have a family, a career, a master’s degree, a pet – and I’m homeless,” he says in the video, pausing frequently to compose himself.

“I came here in hopes I could find a foster family to care for Meaty until we get on our feet again and get into transitional housing …”

Knepp was so moved by his story — common a situation as it is — that she paid for three nights at a dog friendly motel after the video was made.

“Because few homeless shelters allow dogs, he’s been sleeping in his car with Meaty laying on his chest,” she said in the post. “He refused to take shelter, because he didn’t want Meaty to be cold and alone.”

“I think that pets are very important to homeless people,” Robert says in the video. “They’re their companion.”

Still, he had decided it would be best for everyone if they parted ways until housing was found, and in making the video he was hoping to find someone to care for the dog temporarily.

“I mean, who could resist a big lover like that?” he says as Meaty jumps up to give him kisses.

Within a week of the posting, Robert and Meaty were still together and the outlook was good. Amid an outpouring of support from the community, a rental home was found.

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)