He goes by the nickname “Wolfdog.” Lives in Alabama’s great outdoors. And he spends most of his time, along with his dog, Bandit, picking trash — copious amounts of trash — out of the waterways.
It’s not a job. He doesn’t get paid. He says he does it out of his love for the planet and its wildlife.
“I’m not asking anybody for anything. I’m not a charity case. I ain’t a bum. I’m not a mooch,” says 55-year-old Cliff Skees. “But I do care about the environment. I care about wildlife. I care about human beings, but human beings, they take one look at me and they say, ‘Well, he’s just a piece of trash, you know.’
“Maybe I am. But then again, maybe I ain’t. I can look myself in the mirror and say I’m trying.”
We’ll go so far — despite the hard times he’s gone through in life — to cast a vote for “ain’t.”
And to point out that, most likely, a lot of those people who see him as “trash” are the same ones who so casually discard it, cluttering the waterways around Mobile, Alabama.
Skees is an unpolished gem, first discovered four years ago by Ben Raines, an environmental reporter for the Mobile Press-Register.
At the time, Skees was living the woods and was commonly seen with Bandit, gathering garbage from the shores from a canoe with these words painted on the side, “Be a critter, please don’t litter.”
Raines wrote a story back then about the man and his mission. He followed along as Skees — and Bandit, too — scooped up trash from the water and returned it to their base, where 140 bags full of garbage, stacked and numbered, sat.
“It was a startling sight, and a testament to just how trashy we Alabamians are, for even with that much trash picked up, so much more remained along the river banks,” Raines wrote.
Recently, Raines ran into him again — and found out that, while Skees’ mission remained the same, his situation has improved somewhat. You can read that second story here.
After the first story appeared, someone donated a pontoon boat to Skees, and he turned it into his base of operations.
Raines happened upon Wolfdog and Bandit again last week at a boat ramp on Chickasabouge Creek.
“They both looked prosperous and had a certain spring in their collective step. I immediately had the feeling some good fortune had come their way,” Raines wrote.
“Mr. Ben!” Wolfdog shouted, “You’ve got to see my rig. Things are different these days.”
Wolfdog then showed off the houseboat he had fashioned from the pontoon boat — one complete with solar panels, an electric motor, and other features that he fashioned out of recycled materials and some “backwoods hillbilly ingenuity.”
“The woodwork is top notch. Glossy marine varnish shines from every surface. There’s a bed, a table, a propane stove and several small windows. The framing for the insulated walls is aluminum, to better resist rotting. Everywhere you look, the craftsmanship is meticulous,” Raines reported.
An anonymous donor gave Skees the old 1979 pontoon boat after the first article appeared, apparently to support his one-man cleanup mission.
While friends donated items to the houseboat project, Skees receives no support for his efforts to keep the waterways clean — except that which Bandit supplies. When they are out in the canoe, Bandit will leap off to collect cups and plastic bottles in his mouth.
Wolfdog says he hopes to set a Guinness World Record for picking up trash, and he still dreams of finding some support from the local environmental groups.
“I can’t get nobody to help me. That’s what breaks my heart the worst. I can’t even get a thank you,” Wolfdog said. “I think they look at me and they see trash…
“I won’t give up. Get discouraged sometimes. But my best work, the best of my work, don’t come nowhere close to what I leave behind … There’s just no comparison. No comparison. Not nowhere close.”
Skees says it was on his first canoe ride that he fell in love with the solace of canoeing.
That trip is also when, seeing trash in the water, cleaning it up began his calling.
“For certain for sure,” he said. “There aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to talk about it.”
If you are interested in helping Wolfdog and Bandit with their mission, contact Raines at email@example.com.
(Photo courtesy of Wolfdog)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 2nd, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: alabama, animals, bandit, ben raines, canoe, clean, cliff skees, dog, dogs, environment, garbage, guardian, homeless, houseboat, litter, mobile, pets, pollution, reporter, rivers, trash, waterways, wildlife, wolfdog
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.
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)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 25th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accident, alabama, car, community, dog, dothan, facebook, found, help find kai, jonathon whaley, kai, killed, lost, mckenzie catron, pit bull, pitbull, returned, reunion, reward, search, spring break, student, university of arkansas
In Elkmont, Alabama, on a Saturday earlier this month, April Hamlin let her big ol’ hound out the door to pee.
Prone to wandering a bit, the dog, named Ludivine, ended up about a quarter mile away, at the starting area of a half marathon.
She mingled with the runners and, when the race started, she ran the entire 13.1-mile course.
Ludivine came in seventh, with an unofficial time of 1:32:56
Then she started receiving texts and photos of Ludivine at the finish line.
“All I did was open the door, and she ran the race on her own accord,” Hamlin, 43, told Runner’s World.
“My first reaction was that I was embarrassed and worried that she had possibly gotten in the way of the other runners.”
Her second reaction was that marathons aren’t normally Ludivine’s style.
“She’s laid back and friendly, so I can’t believe she ran the whole half marathon because she’s actually really lazy,” Hamlin said.
Ludivine — the name is a shortened translation of “divine light” in French — often strolls around Elkmont on her own. The town has about 400 residents, most of which know Ludivine.
“She came bouncing up, and I petted her on the head,” said Tim Horvath, one of Ludivine’s fellow runners in the inaugural Trackless Train Trek Half Marathon. “… Elkmont is a small town where everyone knows everybody, so it didn’t strike me as unusual.”
Ludivine managed to place seventh despite detouring to romp through streams, sniff the grass in a few yards, check out some mules and cows in a field and investigate a dead rabbit, runners said.
Once she crossed the finish line, she slowed to a walk. Volunteers put a medal around her neck and started taking photos.
The race was held to raise funds for the cross country team at Elkmont High School.
“It’s the first half marathon in Elkmont, and the people who started it are parents of the kids who run cross country … Our school system doesn’t have a ton of money for cross country, Hamlin said.
“Because of this dog, they are getting so much publicity, and I think that’s the best part.”
(Photos: Ludivine approaching the finish line, and showing off her medal, from the Elkmont Half Marathon Facebook page)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 26th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alabama, animals, bloodhound, completes, dog, dogs, elkmont, finish line, half marathon, hound, ludivine, marathon, pee, pets, race
A group of inmates picking up trash along a road in south Alabama came together last week to give a stray dog something they don’t currently have — freedom, specifically freedom from the large plastic jar stuck on his head.
Cpl. Joshua Myers with the Geneva County Sheriff’s Office says a road crew was picking up trash on the side of East County Road 4 Thursday morning when they spotted a dog motionless on the ground.
As the inmates approached, the dog got up and began blindly running around, Myers told WSFA. The inmates were able to catch him, hold him down and free his head from the jar.
Once his head was freed, the dog ran off and the inmates couldn’t catch him.
Myers said the dog looked healthy.
WSFA reported one person has called the sheriff’s office to say they believe it’s their dog that has been missing for about a week.
Inmates in the Geneva County Jail with minor charges are allowed to work on road crews picking up trash as community service.
In addition to saving the dog, Meyers said the work crew on the same day found someone’s missing wallet. It has been returned to its owner.
(Photo: Geneva County Sheriff’s Office)
Posted by John Woestendiek November 3rd, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alabama, animals, crew, dog, dogs, free, geneva county, head, inmates, jail, jar, litter, pets, prisoners, sheriff, stuck, trash, work
Another police dog has died after being left in a police vehicle — this time one in Alabama whose purpose wasn’t law enforcement, but “community engagement.”
Mason was left by his handler in a hot patrol car without its air conditioning turned on June 18, and died the next night.
His handler, Corporal Josh Coleman, said he forgot that he’d left Mason in the car after attending a hurricane preparation conference in Gulf Shores.
A city press release offered little explanation of how that happened.
“On Thursday, June 18th, while transitioning between duties, Mason’s handler Corporal Josh Coleman forgot that Mason was still in the back seat of his patrol car. On discovering Mason’s absence Cpl. Coleman located him in the vehicle.”
The press release gave no indication of how long Mason was left inside the car.
Al.com reports that the dog had entered the conference with Coleman, and had his picture taken at the event.
WISH-TV quoted a police sergeant as saying that Coleman left the dog in the car after the conference.
“He was going to take care of some paperwork in his office and he straight up forgot him,” says Woodruff. “Left him in the car.”
At some point, Coleman “discovered” him in the car. Mason was rushed to a local veterinarian, then transported to a vet in Penascola.
His condition seemed to be improving Friday morning, but died later in the evening.
The Gulf Shores Police Department acquired Mason on November 17, 2014, and had celebrated the dog’s third birthday on June 9.
While it was reported by some news outlets that Coleman would not face criminal charges, WISH reported the case will go to a grand jury. Coleman also faces “sanctions” from the police department and city.
According to the city press release, the department’s K-9’s usually travel in vehicles equipped with remote heat alarms, water bowls, and other protective measures.
“Because Mason’s duties did not include long periods in a vehicle, those protective measures were not available in his handler’s car,” it said.
The Gulf Shores Police Department might want to give that policy a second look — so its next “community relations” dog, if they get one, doesn’t turn into another public relations nightmare.
(Photo: Gulf Shores Police Department)
Posted by John Woestendiek June 24th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alabama, animals, car, community engagement, community relations, dead, dog, dogs, gulf shores, heat, heat deaths, K-9, killed, law enforcement, mason, patrol, pets, police, summer, vehicle
They say everything has a beginning, a middle and an end, but when it comes to an Alabama dog named Pig, she seems to have gotten short-changed on that middle part.
Between her sizable head and her rear end, there’s not much real estate, and as a result of her abbreviated torso, taking her out in public has always led to a lot of stares, and a lot of questions — chief among them, “What kind of dog is that?”
What accounts for Pig’s unusual appearance is called short spine syndrome, a birth defect that prevents the spine from fully forming and often makes everyday tasks — like running, jumping and eating — difficult.
Dogs with the disorder — though it can compress their organs and lead to health problems as they grow — generally can lead normal lives, and reach their full life expectancy.
They can also, as in Pig’s case, become international celebrities.
Pig developed a large following after appearing at this year’s Do Dah Day festival in Birmingham. She was featured in a story on AL.com, and her Facebook page, “Pig the Unusual Dog,” created in June, has more than 76,500 followers.
Now, following up on just what it is that makes Pig Pig, AL.com reports that her owner, Kim Dillenbeck of Helena, has received the results of a DNA test she had conducted on the dog to determine what breeds are in her.
A Wisdom Panel test says Pig is a Boxer, Chow Chow, American Staffordshire Terrier mix.
Dillenbeck who has heard guesses ranging from her dog being half rabbit to half not there, was surprised by the results.
“Everybody thought Akita,” Dillenbeck said. “I was was thinking something like a smaller dog, but I was wide open … Pig has all these interesting traits, and there are so many breeds out there.”
Other breeds showing up in the test results as possibilities include Portuguese Water Dog, Alaskan Klee Kai, Scottish deerhound, Lakeland terrier and Maltese.
Pig weighs in at just 16 pounds, much less than one of her siblings, who doesn’t have the disorder and weighs just under 40 pounds.
Dillenbeck’s experience with Pig led her to form the nonprofit Pig’s Foundation to help raise funds for people and organizations rescuing animals. Another mission of the foundation is to raise awareness that animals who look unusual can still have a happy life.
“Pig is her own breed,” Dillenbeck said. “To me, she is just one in a million. As much as I can see her potential in all these breeds, she is still just Pig.”
(Photos: Mark Almond / AL.com)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 31st, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alabama, american staffordshire terrier, animals, birmingham, birth defect, boxer, breed, breeds, chow chow, dna, dog, dogs, helena, pets, pig, short spine, short spine syndrome, shortened, spine, test, wisdom panel
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)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 7th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopted, alabama, animal shelter, animals, dog, dogs, euthanasia, lazarus, lethal injection, ozark city, pets, rescued, shelters, survived, survivor