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Tag: baltimore

Retrievers bring back unforgettable win

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Undersized, unknown, and underdogs in every meaning of the word, the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) made history this weekend as the first 16th seed ever to beat a one seed in the men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament.

The 20-point victory over top-seeded University of Virginia was an inspiring thing to watch, leaving some fans with brackets smashed and hopes dashed; some celebrating a Cinderella story that, just maybe, outdid the original; and still more scratching their heads over the upstart team’s unusual (in the sports world) name — the Retrievers.

As golden as they were Friday night, the team’s not named for that type of retriever, but after the Chesapeake Bay retriever, the state dog of Maryland.

cbrThe Chesapeake Bay retriever has been the mascot of UMBC since its founding in 1966.

The costumed mascot was known as “Fever the Retriever” in the late 1990s. Later, the school had a live mascot, called Campus Sam.

At the beginning of the 2008 fall semester, a Chesapeake Bay retriever puppy was chosen as a new mascot. He attended many athletic events and an online poll was held to give him a name, Gritty, or True Grit, as a statue of a retriever that stands in front of the Retriever Activities Center.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of UMBC in 2006, the University held the “March of the Retrievers,” a procession of 40 Chesapeake Bay Retrievers from the True Grit statue to the University Commons and then on to the UMBC Soccer Stadium.

umbmemeAfter UMBC’s startling win, the meme postings began on social media — most of them featuring golden retrievers or Labrador retrievers.

More than a few new fans of the team just assumed the mascot must be a golden retriever, but maybe that was because they’ve watched too many Air Bud movies.

Only a few dog breeds show up commonly in the names of college sports teams — huskies, of course; bulldogs, for sure. Southern Illinois University has the Salukis. Boston University has the Terriers.

And UMBC, the college with a long name, chose a breed that honors the state dog, but shortened the name — maybe out of consideration for the cheerleaders.

“Go, University of Maryland Baltimore County Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, go!” is a bit of a mouthful.

The Retrievers had their chance to get to the Sweet 16 last night, facing Kansas State University (whose mascot is, yawn, yet another Wildcat). Despite another gutsy effort, they fell.

On the bright side, though — one I’m sure that will be featured heavily in the “One Shining Moment” montage that always concludes the tournament — they had their history-making night, and what a night it was.

Baltimore brothers give … and receive

Will and Harris Morgan thought they were going to Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS) Friday morning to drop off donations they had gathered for homeless dogs.

But their parents had a Christmas surprise in store for them.

Watch and see.

Paraplegic employee quits after Baltimore hospital says he can’t bring his dog to work

Before the well-known Baltimore institute hired him as an employee, Marshall Garber had been a patient at, supporter of and spokesman for Kennedy Krieger’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury.

Now he has left them after being told he can’t bring his dog to work.

Garber, who has been dependent on a wheelchair since being paralyzed by a spinal cord injury six years ago, said he needed the dog to help him get around.

“If you’ve never sat in a wheelchair and pushed a wheelchair around you are going to realize how difficult that is,” Garber told WBAL.

“If I didn’t go anywhere else. Just my office, I’m rolling 200 yards from car to elevator to ground to desk to the fourth floor and do that five times a week twice a day that’s going to accumulate quite a bit,” Garber said.

In a statement, the institute, affiliated with Johns Hopkins Hospital, said the dog was not necessary for Garber to perform his job duties.

Garber was paralyzed from the waist down after surgery to remove a fibrous mass that developed on his spinal cord. He was a teenager when his family started making regular trips from Ohio to Baltimore so he could receive restorative therapies.

As a patient, Garber appeared in several videos produced by the institute, such as the one above.

garberHe wrote an account about how the insitute had changed his life for a hospital publication called, “Potential.”

And he was also featured in a report on WBAL last year, during which he mentioned his plans to participate in an upcoming marathon, and his hopes of taking part in the Paralympics.

His athletic conditioning may have played a role in the institute’s judgment that he didn’t need a dog to pull him around the workplace.

So too might have a lack of clarity on whether his dog, Scooby, was a certified service dog.

Garber said he got Scooby last year and trained him to pull his wheelchair.
Scooby proved so helpful that Garber started bringing him to work.

“They basically said that Scooby is a pet and he is not essential to my job, and I am not going to be able to use him,” Garber said.

Several months after Garber started using his dog at work, he was told the dog would no longer be allowed. Since then, he has quit the job and left the state.

Kennedy Krieger said in a statement, “We determined that his pet, which may or may not have been a service animal, was not a necessary accommodation for him to complete his job-related responsibilities. However, we did over the course of his employment make reasonable accommodations, at his request, to help him perform his work duties more comfortably.”

(Photo: Garber during an adaptive sports ski trip in Colorado, Kennedy Krieger Institute)

Ace, a pit bull, serves as groomsman at wedding of Baltimore Ravens center

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The bride was lovely. The groom, turning in his Baltimore Ravens uniform for a tux, was dashing. And the groom’s dog, a pit bull named Ace, walked down the aisle just as he was supposed to.

zuttahRavens center Jeremy Zuttah and his new wife, Heran, planned to have a wedding ceremony last month at Baltimore’s City Hall.

But when they learned Ace wouldn’t be allowed in the building, they changed plans, according to BaltimoreRavens.com.

“He’s awesome,” Heran said. “I just could not imagine getting married without him. He’s with us every day everywhere we go.”

They switched venues to 10 Light Street in downtown Baltimore and exchanged vows in an Under Armour Performance Center gym that had been festively decorated for the occasion.

bridedogZuttah and the former Heran Haile met while in college at Rutgers and adopted Ace back then. They have long been advocates for dogs. Jeremy is one of many Ravens who have been involved with the city’s “Show Your Soft Side” campaign.

Though they live in Hoboken, N.J., they wanted to get married in Baltimore.

“We decided to get married in Baltimore because it’s been the headlines recently for not great things, which we think is a shame because the city is beautiful and the people are beautiful,” Heran said. “This is a great city that people should not knock down.”

After receiving some extra training at Baltimore’s Downtown Dog, Ace pulled off his role as groomsman perfectly.

Here’s a video snippet showing how well he did his job:



(Photos: BaltimoreRavens.com)

Saying goodbye to Ace

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He was a well-traveled dog who loved the road more than anything, except maybe you and me.

He was a survivor of Baltimore’s less tender side who was picked up as a stray, placed in a city shelter, found a home with some writer guy and went on to become a therapy dog and minor celebrity.

He was the subject of a five-part newspaper series examining his roots, a book (unpublished and unfinished), the inspiration for this website, and my reason for being.

SONY DSCHe was an ambassador for mutts, and, more particularly, for all those disrespected breeds his sweet, gentle self was made up of — Rottweiler, Akita, Chow and pit bull.

And now the hardest words I’ve ever written: Ace is dead.

Last week, he was frolicking in the woods. This week, he slowed down to a state near lethargy and showed little interest in eating, and in the past two days he began swelling up — mostly in the belly region.

Having recovered from his recent bladder surgery, he was the same dog he always was — until Monday night when he came inside showing no interest in his nightly treat.

The vet’s diagnosis was congestive heart failure and possible tumors — hemangiosarcoma.

Blood was not getting to his liver, and fluids were pooling up inside.

Based on Ace’s age (nearly 12, a good 90 in human years for a dog of his size), based on the poor outlook in either case, or the even worse outlook in the case of both, and based on his apparent discomfort, the vet recommended putting him down.

When I asked for some time to think about it, the vet said that wasn’t a good idea. When I asked to take Ace home and bring him back today, he said that wasn’t a good idea, either.

So we took an hour before the deed was to be done. We started walking. It started raining. It was taking all of his effort to keep up with me, and I (being a fellow member of the congestive heart failure club) walk pretty darn slow.

brendanfinnertyWe only walked a few hundred yards, yet in that time I was asked twice what kind of dog he was, and thanked four people who complimented him on his good looks.

We stopped at a Domino’s and sat on the pavement under an overhang. I bought him a small cheese pizza — his favorite food. He took two bites, but only because I insisted.

We stopped in the rain on the way back. I briefly debated whether I was doing the right thing. I held his head in my hands, rested my head on his and looked into his eyes. I could still see the love in them, but not the joy.

Back at the vet, on the floor with his head in my lap, the vet administered a sedative. Ace was soon snoring. Once the lethal injection was administered, his heartbeat slowed within minutes and then, around 6 p.m. Thursday, stopped.

I’ll get his ashes in a week or so, and I’ll spread them in Black Walnut Bottoms, the trail in Bethania he loved.

Having written a lot about dogs and death, I thought I’d be better prepared for this. But I’m a wreck.

In answer to one of the questions asked a lot over the years, no — a resounding NO! — he will not be cloned. Having written a book on dog cloning, people ask that of me. Clearly, they never read the book.

SONY DSCIn answer to another — whatever happened to that book you were writing about Ace? — well, 95 percent of it exists, but only on the Internet.

In 2011, Ace and I set off on a trip duplicating the route John Steinbeck took in “Travels with Charley.”

It ended up lasting a year, and covering 27,000 miles. I think I speak for both of us when I say it was the time of our lives.

Travels with Ace” didn’t interest any publishers, but it will hang around on the Internet — at least until my time comes.

I still need to finish the last chapter, but I can promise you this:

In the book, Ace won’t die.

(Photos: Top, Ace at Salvation Mountain in California; Ace at the Bandera County Courier in Texas; Ace and John (photo by Brendan Finnerty); Ace with a bust of John Steinbeck in Monterey, California)

Not just any dog can be a bar dog

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There’s nothing, in my view, that can make a neighborhood bar more homey than having its own dog.

You’ve likely met the bar dog. Though not a breed, he or she has particular characteristics: A laid back, borderline lazy demeanor; a 100 percent friendly disposition; a tendency to be large and situate him or herself in such a way to block the maximum amount of traffic.

The bar dog happily greets customers, but does not jump on them. The bar dog lusts after what you might be eating, but does not snatch it out of your hand. The bar dog is sociable, generally well behaved and not the least bit hyperactive. He goes with the flow.

My dog Ace (on the left in the picture above, taken at a bar in North Carolina) served as a surrogate bar dog for a while at a corner bar in Baltimore. (Bar dogs must also love bars, and Ace, being a reflection of his owner, does.)

At the Idle Hour in South Baltimore, Ace unofficially filled in after the owner’s dog, Higgins — now there was a bar dog — passed away.

Ace, it seemed, was born to be a bar dog. At the Idle Hour, there was no one he didn’t want to meet and greet and spend a while sitting next to, but he wasn’t prone to jumping up, or licking faces — unless such action was requested.

Not every dog has what it takes to be a bar dog.

vaughnThe jury is still out, for instance — literally and figuratively — on Vaughn, a hyperactive Doberman who frequents two Washington, D.C., bars operated by his owner.

Mark Thorp, who owns Vaughn — and who owns Little Miss Whiskey’s on H Street and Jimmy Valentine’s Lonely Hearts Club on Bladensburg Road –says his dog is big, and active, and harmless.

But two customers have sued Thorp, claiming otherwise.

Kathleen Moran says she was sitting on a couch at Jimmy Valentine’s one night in July 2015 when Vaughn bit her face, causing “gashes to the outside of her eye, cheek, and lip.”

In an earlier lawsuit, a customer at Little Miss Whiskey’s claimed Vaughn bit her face.

Thorp said both the lawsuits and other legal troubles stem for an ongoing neighborhood feud.

Thorp was arrested in February of 2015 on drug and animal cruelty charges — both of which he claimed were trumped up charges he thinks stem from his beef with a neighborhood official he successfully sued for libel for remarks she made about one of his establishments.

It’s a long, involved story that’s not too related to our point, but you can find a synopsis in the Washingtonian.

Numerous legal matters are still pending, but Thorp, who temporarily lost custody of Vaughn, now has him back.

And, legal issues aside, maybe it would best to not allow him to freely roam the bars — at least not until he becomes better schooled in how to be a bar dog.

A bar dog, like a bartender, should be compassionate, calm, patient and mellow. He must show up when you want him to. And go away when you want him to.

Unleashing just any dog in just any bar is a mistake — and one that might come with costs.

Ace never had a problem — or caused any, at least that I’m aware of — at the Idle Hour. A lot of that was because it was among, since puppyhood, his top three places to be.

When, years later, I did a little bartending myself, and brought him along to the golf club where I worked, his behavior was always exemplary.

So, yes, I’m all for bar dogs. They can make a place seem like home. They can make a laid back bar even more laid back. They can promote bonding and conversation and help lower an entire room’s blood pressure.

But they should be chosen carefully, have the right personality, and be able to stay within certain boundaries.

Then and only then can they do what they were meant to do — make us all chill out, get along, and not sue each other.

(Photos: Top photo, Ace and friends at Recreation Billiards in Winston-Salem; bottom photo of Vaughn from his Twitter page)

Officer who killed Nala will get back pay

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Former Baltimore police officer Jeffrey Bolger will receive $45,000 in back pay for the time he spent on unpaid leave after slitting a dog’s throat.

Bolger, 50, was acquitted last year of animal cruelty charges after killing the dog — a Sharpei who had wandered away from her home.

The Baltimore Sun reports that, pending approval today from the Board of Estimates, Bolger will get payment for about 10 months of paychecks.

bolgerBaltimore Circuit Judge Melissa M. Phinn ruled in November that prosecutors failed to prove Bolger was criminally responsible for the death of 7-year-old Nala when he took her life in June 2014.

Despite police commanders called the killing “outrageous and unacceptable” — and witness who claimed to have heard Bolger say, “I’m going to (expletive) gut this thing” — Phinn ruled the officer was acting in the interest of public safety.

Bolger was forced to retire early from the Police Department, but under the police union contract, he is entitled to receive back wages for the period he was suspended.

Steven H. Levin, who defended Bolger, said his client was unnecessarily charged and suspended from the department. “The evidence was overwhelming that Mr. Bolger acted appropriately,” Levin said Monday.

Nala escaped through a gate in her Canton backyard, and bit the hand of a woman who was trying to rescue her.

Witnesses told police that fellow officer Thomas Schmidt held down the dog while Bolger slit her throat. Charges against Schmidt were later dropped.

(Photo: Nala and her owner, Sarah Gossard)