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Tag: alabama

Lazarus: The dog who couldn’t be put down

lazarus

Three weeks after he was surrendered by his owners, an unwanted four-year-old mixed breed dog received what was supposed to be a lethal injection.

An animal control worker at the Ozark City Animal Shelter in Alabama watched as a contract veterinarian inserted the needle. The dog became still and quiet, and was presumed dead when everyone went home for the night.

When the time came, the next morning, to remove his body from the pen he was left in, the dog was up and about, had moved to an outdoor pen and, while a little wobbly, had helped himself to some water.

“He was back up and breathing and going right about business like it’s nothing,” said Ozark police Capt. Bobby Blankenship, who supervises the city shelter.

The police captain’s daughter, who works as a volunteer at the shelter, explained it this way: “His body overcame and he had a will to live,” said Cortney Blankenship, “and somehow, someway he made it through.”

The dog arrived at the shelter on Aug. 19 after being dropped off by his owner, who Blankenship said was moving and could no longer care for him. The animal was cut and bloody after being struck by a car and a pad on its left rear foot was missing.

Blankenship tried to find an adoptive home or rescue group that wanted him, but when no one stepped forward, the lethal injection was carried out on Sept. 10.

Shelter staff don’t know what kept the dog from dying, and they declined to release the name of the veterinarian who performed the injection, according to an Associated Press report.

Possibly an improper dosage was used, or the needle missed the vein.

In any event, the dog — since named Lazarus — recovered, and found a home after Cortney Blankenship posted the story of his survival on Facebook.

Lazarus was picked up from the shelter by Two by Two Animal Rescue, and later delivered to Jane Holston who lives in a suburb of Birmingham suburb.

He has heartworms, and one leg is in a cast from the car accident, but Lazarus is over the effects of his lethal injection.

“He’s not skittish, he’s not afraid of anything, anybody, any sounds. I mean, it’s just amazing what all he has been through,” Holston said.

(Photo: Lazarus, with his new owner, Jane Holston, in Helena, Ala.; by Jay Reeves / Associated Press)

Alabama town bans pit bulls after sheriff shoots what he thinks might have been one

claycouncil

Citywide pit bull bans are often knee jerk reactions — maybe even more so when a county sheriff”s knees are involved.

One week after Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale was approached in his yard by four dogs “acting aggressive and looking like pit bull breeds” — and fired a shotgun at them, grazing one — the Alabama city of Clay passed a “vicious dog” ordinance banning pit bulls and pit bull mixes.

sheriffhaleThe sheriff, according to a spokesman, fired a warning shot into the ground, then another round of ”bird shot” in the direction of the dogs, leading them to turn away. Animal control arrived to round up the dogs, and their owner was charged with letting them run at large. The dog hit by Hale’s shot survived, AL.com reported.

That incident prompted the city council in Clay, with a speed seldom seen in government affairs, to pass an ordinance banning pit bulls and other “vicious” or “dangerous” dogs. 

The ordinance bans new pit bulls and mixes that include pit bull. Such dogs already kept in the city limits are grandfathered in but must be registered with the city in the next 60 days. The ordinance requires they be kept indoors and mandates owners post a prominently displayed ”beware of dog” sign. Owners are also required to have $50,000 in liability insurance. Violations can be punished with a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail.

Having sought little public input before passing the law on June 3, the city council has gotten some since, AL.com reports.

A standing room only crowd filled Monday night’s meeting of the Clay City Council, with most citizens arguing the breed is not “inherently dangerous” and criticizing the law for unfairly penalizing responsible owners. Many, including a representative from the Birmingham Humane Society, urged the council to consider a non-breed specific dangerous dog law instead.

One speaker continued to voice his concerns after his turn to speak was over. When told he was interrupting, he continued his comments, leading Mayor Charles Webster — perhaps deeming him to be inherently dangerous — to ban him from the room.

“You are turning us all into criminals,” the man, identified as Mark Lawson, said as a deputy led him outside.

City Attorney Alan Summers said he would try to have a new or modified ordinance for the council to consider at its next meeting on July 1.

(Top photo by Jeremy Gray / AL.com)

Parole denied after dog attends hearing

Louis then

Louis now

An Alabama state board denied parole this week to a man convicted of spraying a dog with lighter fluid, setting him on fire and beating him with a shovel.

The star witness at the hearing? The victim himself — Louis Vuitton, an 8-year-old pit bull who, now in the care of a local couple that adopted him, still bears burn scars over much of his body. The dog was led into the hearing room, consenting to being petted along the way.

The board voted 3-0 to deny early release to 23-year-old Juan Daniels of Montgomery, who was sentenced in 2009 to nine years and six months in prison, according to the Associated Press. The sentence was a record in Alabama in an animal cruelty case.

It’s believed to have been the first appearance by a dog at an Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles hearing. “I don’t recall every having one here before,” said Cynthia Dillard, the board’s executive director.

Daniels’ family and supporters aruged that he had been sentenced far more harshly than criminals who harm human beings.

After the September 2007 attack on the dog, the Montgomery Humane Society got as many as 50 calls a day about the case, some from other countries.

The dog was named “Louis Vuitton,” in honor of another abused dog, named “Gucci,” whose torture case in Mobile in 1994 led to passage of “Gucci’s law,” which made animal cruelty a felony in Alabama.

More than 60 law enforcement officers, animal rights advocates and other supporters of Louis crowded into the hearing, where Montgomery County District Attrney Ellen Brooks asked parole board members to make Daniels serve his entire sentence.

She said he tortured the dog, which belonged to his mother, because he was angry at her for not letting him use the car.

Daniels will be eligible for another parole hearing in July 2012.

Dogs and the fine art of freeloading

It occurs to me – tooling down the highway tends to make things occur to me – that in my current journey, with my dog, across America, mooching off friends and family and, given the opportunity, complete strangers, I am, in ways, taking on the role of dog.

(When things occur to me, there are usually a lot of commas involved.)

Since Ace and I pulled out of Baltimore, two weeks ago, we’ve only spent two nights in motels – thanks to my mother putting me up two nights, and my ex-wife and her husband putting up with me for ten days, a most gracious gesture and an arrangement that barely felt weird at all.

More important, it allowed me to spend some time with my son in his last summer before college, get to know his family dogs, suck in plenty of air conditioning and take part in recreation real and virtual.

We played some Frisbee golf (Wii and real), tennis (real), ping pong (Wii), regular golf (real), made side trips to Memphis, Tupelo and Oxford, and over the weekend gave the dogs baths.

Ace has gotten along famously with both Molly, a two-year-old beagle mix, and Huey, a scruffy little terrier who’s 15, and, on walks, squirts his pee straight sideways, to amazing distances. One must always remember to walk behind Huey.

Ace immediately became part of the pack and adapted to our temporary quarters, but then that’s what dogs are best at, adjusting.  I’m not entirely sure he wants to leave. Nevertheless, the time has come to move on.

We’re thinking south, towards New Orleans, but we’re not sure.

In the days ahead we’ll probably be spending more nights in motels, and, once we get to cooler climes, camping – but we still plan to mooch when the offer is made, avoiding motels whenever possible.

(Two good things about friends: They don’t impose weight limits, or require non-refundable security deposits. At least none have yet.)

I’ve gotten a few lodging offers, even a couple from strangers. More often, they are from friends and family – some from people who want to see me so badly, they will tolerate my dog, more yet from people who want to see my dog so badly, they will tolerate me.

Traveling with dogs, though it can be restrictive and inconvenient, can also open doors. My ex and her husband, I’d guess, after 10 days of me sleeping in their den, won’t be too sad to see me go, but they’ll miss Ace. Although she informed me upon arrival that Ace is overweight (correctly, I realized), she then went on to treat him to, among other things, pancakes, bacon, cheesecake, hamburgers and hot dogs.

All of which, being a mooch himself — both when it comes to food and affection — he gobbled up.

I’m learning a thing or two from my dog about the fine art of freeloading — not surprising, given dogs are probably society’s ultimate freeloaders.

We feed them, shelter them, teach them, groom them, entertain them and sometimes go to far more ridiculous extremes. They get, pretty much, a free ride.

Unlike your average parasite, though, they give far more back in return — unwavering loyalty, unconditional love, companionship, affection, better health, smiles, laughs, serenity, comfort, exercise and, oh yeah, that sense of purpose and fulfillment that they add to our lives.

Since I’ve hit the road, I’ve been offered shelter, fed meals and found companionship (family variety) – everything a dog gets, except maybe a scratch behind the ears. I, in turn, try to be amusing, refrain from barking, not drool when dinner is served and avoid shedding on the couch.

In reality, I don’t uphold my side of the freeloading bargain as well as dogs do. I’m not quite as loyal and steadfast, as dependable or entertaining, as cute, soothing or stimulating. But I try.

Not wholeheartedly, like a dog – I won’t be licking any hands, for instance — but I try.

Paying respects at the Coon Dog Cemetery

 
Ace stepped lightly between the tombstones, paused to sniff a clump of artificial flowers, then moved on – past Flop, Train, Daisy, Black Ranger and Bear. He paused at the final resting places of Patches and Preacher and Bean Blossom Bomma, then sauntered by Smoky, Squeek and Easy Going Sam, whose rusting collar is looped over the cross marking his grave.

We were alone at the Coon Dog Cemetery in Cherokee, Alabama – except for the 215 dogs buried beneath us — on a hot and drizzly Friday, silent except for the chirps of birds and the whining hum of mosquitos sizing up my ears.

I’d long wanted to visit the Coon Dog Cemetery. We’ve featured it on this website before. But those were long distance, second hand dispatches. Being there, especially when no one else is, is another story.

Between the bursts of color provided by the fake flowers on almost every grave; the eclectic mix of memorials, ranging from engraved stone, to etched metal to carved wooden crosses, and the homey epitaphs and monikers, the cemetery is at once haunting and inspiring – a Southern icon, and a reminder of the powerful, difficult to relinquish, connection between dog and owner.

Especially when that dog and owner were hunting buddies.

Located in a grassy meadow in the wilderness of Freedom Hills, the cemetery permits only coon dogs – 215 of which are buried there, according to Susann Hamlin, executive director of the Colbert County Tourism & Convention Bureau, which now maintains the property.

The cemetery got its start when Key Underwood chose the spot – not far from where coon hunters gathered to share stories – to bury his faithful coon dog Troop. On a dreary Labor Day in 1937, Troop was wrapped in a cotton sack and buried three feet down. Underwood marked the grave with a rock from an old chimney. He used a hammer and screwdriver to chisel Troop’s name and date.

After that, other hunters started doing the same – first those from Alabama and Mississippi, later from all around the country.

 
We found it after driving 15 miles down a winding road through the gently rolling hills of northwest Alabama, and for an hour had it all to ourselves. Then another car pulled up, driven by Hamlin, who was escorting a photographer working on a project about Alabama for the National Archives.

Hamlin said about three dogs a year are buried at the cemetery nowadays – a reflection of the declining popularity of the sport, in which the dogs track raccoons and chase them up trees before the hunters … well, you know the rest.

How much pride those hunters took in their dogs still lingers though, in tall tales, folklore and, most of all, at the cemetery, where heartfelt tributes are hammered, carved and burned into grave markers:

“He wasn’t the best, but he was the best I ever had.”

“He was good as the best and better than the rest.”

“He was a joy to hunt with.”

Every year on Labor Day, a festival is held at the cemetery, hosted by the Tennessee Valley Coon Hunters Association. The cemetery is spruced up and decorated, and the event features bluegrass music, food and a liar’s contest.

For more information, visit Coondogcemetery.com and Colbertcountytourism.org. Caps and T-shirts can be purchased online, and proceeds help support the cemetery.

Better yet, check it out in person. Admission is free, but the mosquitos do take up donations. I added about a dozen more bites to my ongoing collection – a small price to pay for such a big, colorful and moving sampling of southern culture.


To read all of Dog’s Country, click here.

Big mane on campus

 
Lots of sports teams call themselves Lions, but the University of North Alabama boasts the only live lion mascots in the country — two of them.

I dropped by to see them– Leo III and Una — Friday. Ace, because I didn’t want to start a roaring contest, especially after our gas station run in with the big yellow dog, stayed in the air conditioned car with my son, who, living in Florence, had seen the lions many times before.

While I was all ready to lambaste the university for keeping captive lions in this way too hot and humid (for my taste) state, I quickly saw that Leo and Una have it better than many Alabamans.

Now 7 years old,  they reside  in the climate-controlled, 12,764-square-foot George H. Carroll Lion Habitat, which was built with a waterfall, babbling streams, two observatories, private dens with skylights, beamed ceilings and a shaded area provided by a thatched roof. The habitat cost $1.3 million. Feeding and caring for the lions cost $35,000 annually, all of which, like the habitat’s construction, is covered by charitable contributions. The habitat also boasts what it describes as the “largest kitty litter box in this part of the state.”

UNA‘s live lion mascot tradition began in 1974, when then-President Dr. Robert Guillot acquired a 12-pound lion cub, Leo I, from a Knoxville zoo.

Leo I lived 14 years, becoming a locally beloved mascot, and the outpouring of support after his death led to Leo II being brought to UNA in July 1988. Leo II, who Sports Illustrated once named the second best college mascot in the country, died in 2000. 

Leo III and Una, born on November 18, 2002, were the first residents of the new habitat, which opened that year.

You can also see them via a university lioncam.

Tomorrow: Coon Dog Cemetery

To read all of Dog’s Country, click here.

Beware the sleeping gas pump dog

Hopelessly lost in Alabama — a road map might have been a good investment — I pulled over at a sad- and sleepy-looking gas station, just north of I have no idea where, to ask directions.

A big yellow dog was sound asleep at the foot of a gas pump. He didn’t wake up when I walked by. Nor, when I opened the door and walked in, did the proprietor. He was in an easy chair, facing the door, sound asleep as well.

I cleared my throat, and gradually his eyes opened — the proprietor’s, not the dog’s.

“Hep ya?” he asked from his chair.

“You sell maps here?” I asked.

“Nope,” he answered.

“Can you tell me how to get back to Tuscumbia?” I asked, not entirely sure he would be willing to do so.

“Go up to Russville and turn left.”

“Go up to where?”

“Russville.”

I thanked him, complimented him on his fine looking dog, and walked out. The big dog was still asleep. The gas pump dog being too bucolic a photo opportunity to pass up, I got my camera out of the car, took a few steps closer to him, and took a picture.

Though slamming car doors hadn’t awakened him, the subtle click of the camera did. He opened his eyes, looked at me, turned his head and looked at my car. That’s when he saw Ace, whose head was poking out a half open, or half closed, depending on your point of view, window.

His hackles rose and a growl began to form, though he still hadn’t gotten up. As he began to rise, I walked slowly back to my car, then not so slowly back to my car. He followed, slowly at first. I was in the car by the time he ran toward us, barking first at Ace’s window, and then, by the time I got the car turned around, at mine. He chased us down the highway a bit before turning around and going back to the station.

I proceeded in the direction the gas station proprietor had advised, for miles and miles, but didn’t hit Russville. So I stopped again, and got the same directions. “Go up to Russville and turn left on 43.”

A few miles later, I came upon the town of Russellville, which — its three syllable name apparently requiring too much effort to say — is locally known as “Russville.” Kind of like Rutherfordton in North Carolina, where locals drop two, maybe two and a half,  entire syllables when pronouncing it … “Ruffton.”

Eventually, I reached my destination, Tuscumbia — a lovely little town where residents pronounce all four syllables of its name, and home of the Helen Keller birthplace — having relearned an old but valuable lesson:

Let sleeping dogs, and sleeping gas station owners, lie.

Tomorrow: Big Mane on Campus, the lions of the University of North Alabama.

Monday: Coon Dog Cemetery.

For all of Dog’s Country, click here.