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Tag: baltimore

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He was the subject of a five-part newspaper series examining his roots, a book (unpublished and unfinished), the inspiration for this website, and my reason for being.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

Baltimore police officer who cut dog’s throat is found not guilty of all charges

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There was no justice for Nala in Baltimore this week.

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge on Thursday acquitted a former city police officer charged with animal cruelty, misconduct and mutilating an animal after he slit the seven-year-old Shar-Pei’s throat in the summer of 2014.

Judge Melissa M. Phinn said the state did not present adequate evidence that proved Jeffrey Bolger, 50, was responsible for the death.

That despite the fact he pulled out a knife and drew it across the throat of a dog already restrained by a catchpole — after uttering, at least according to one witness, “I’m going to gut this thing.”

Phinn noted that the verdict might not be popular, but said the evidence indicated the officer was acting in the interest of public safety and putting the dog out of it’s misery.

She also noted that Maryland’s Chief Medical Examiner David R. Fowler testified that the dog likely was dead before her throat was cut.

Phinn said that Bolger would not have the expertise to know the dog was already dead when he slit its throat.

Bolger’s attorneys — attempting to cover all the bases — had argued both that the dog was already dead and that Bolger was attempting to euthanize the dog in the most humane way possible.

“Rather than have a dog suffer needlessly, a dog that was going to be tested for rabies, he decided to make an incision,” said Bolger’s attorney, Steven H. Levin, said as he left the courthouse with his client on Thursday.

An incision???

bolgerApparently, at least according to the defense arguments the judge bought, Bolger — or should we call him Dr. Bolger — decided to euthanize an already subdued dog he wasn’t sure was dead or alive out of the goodness of his heart with his trusty pocket knife.

Contrary to the state medical examiner’s findings, a necropsy performed by a doctor working for the city’s animal control determined a cut artery led to the dog’s death.

The state medical examiner said those findings were faulty, and while some witnesses said they heard the dog whimper and that her eyes remained opened before Bolger cut her, the medical examiner testified that both signs are not uncommon even after death.

The judge noted that, while one witness said they heard Bolger say, “I’m going to gut this thing,” another person within earshot did not recall him use the phrase.

Prosecutor Paul O’Connor had argued the Bolger had no reason to slit the dog’s throat, saying she was already restrained when Bolger cut her.

Bolger’s attorneys argued that the officer did not have proper equipment to sedate the dog, that the dog choked “itself” to death while on the pole, and that Bolger used the knife to protect the public.

Both that pole and Nala’s collar “disappeared” long before the trial started.

Nala escaped from her yard last year and was spotted roaming the streets of a Highlandtown neighborhood. Police were called after she bit a pregnant woman who was trying to rescue her from traffic.

Bolger had no comment to reporters at the trial’s conclusion, other than to thank his attorneys. The dog’s owner, Sarah Gossard, 30, left the courtroom in tears.

In a Facebook post Thursday, she said she was “heartbroken,” by the judge’s verdict.

“I do believe that just because this judge didn’t find the evidence sufficient, that doesn’t mean that he didn’t kill her. I don’t feel that justice was served but I can only hope that Nala’s death has raised animal cruelty awareness.”

After the trial, Bolger’s attorneys talked about their client’s suffering — that’s right, Bolger’s suffering.

Levin said the case drew nationally publicity, negatively affected his client’s life and forced him to retire early from the police department and suffered after having been suspended without pay.

State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Rochelle Ritchie said her office was disappointed by the judge’s decision. “It will not deter us from pursuing and prosecuting those who commit heinous acts against animals,” she said.

Katie Flory, who heads the Mayor’s Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Commission and is director of Community Affairs for the Maryland SPCA, said she was also disappointed by the verdict.

“We are very sad and frustrated to hear that a guilty verdict was not given today. It shows us that we have a lot more work to do when it comes to the egregious acts to animals in our city,” she told the Baltimore Sun.

“We are very sad for Sarah’s family,” Flory added. “It’s not going to bring Nala back and we hoped for justice for Nala, and for her family.”

Former Steeler’s dog has spent the past nine months in a Baltimore kennel

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A former Pittsburgh Steeler, who made feel-good news last year when his Baltimore Raven brother donated a kidney to him, has let his dog languish in a Baltimore kennel for more than nine months.

Chris Kemoeatu, the former Steeler, and his brother Ma’ake Kemoeatu, a Raven whose decision to donate a kidney ended his career, moved back to their home in Hawaii to open a family gym.

In November, 2014, they dropped Chris’s dog, Zeus, at a kennel intending to retrieve him later.

But the six-year-old Cane Corso hasn’t been picked up from Pooches and Purrs on Holabird Avenue, and the kennel owners are getting tired of footing the Super Bowl veteran’s bill for room, board and veterinary care.

While several have offered to adopt the dog, Chris Kemoeatu has repeatedly asked the kennel owners to wait a little longer for the dog to be picked up.

The situation was described yesterday in a report by WRAL’s I-Team. You can watch the report here.

Pooches and Purrs owners Keith and Renee Mason say the former Steeler’s bill has grown to nearly $10,000 since the dog was dropped off last November, about three months after the transplant surgery.

Renee Mason said she last spoke to Chris Kemoeatu three weeks ago.

“He said he was coming back in about a week or two and then we were going to move forward, and then I didn’t hear from him,” she said. “Technically, I could have found a home after 10 days, but I’m trying to do the right thing for the dog.”

“I have two perfectly good homes for this dog and I said, ‘They really want the dog, just sign the dog over or whatever. I can find a home for your dog. I have two people waiting.’ And he said, ‘Please don’t get rid of my dog,’ and the dog is still here.”

We won’t suggest the Baltimore kennel owners might be more patient if the dog belonged to the former Raven brother — because we think they have been plenty patient already.

“I know that he had medical issues, so I was trying to be understanding, but, I mean, he’s taking advantage, completely,” Renee Mason said.

(Photo: The Kemoeatu brothers at a press conference after the 2014 kidney transplant; by Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

What the Raven did to the gator and the dog

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Once there was a Raven, an alligator and a dog, and the latter two were allegedly abused and neglected by the former.

Apparently that’s all the information officials think we’re entitled to as the curious case of Terrence Cody continues not to unfold.

Even with news of his indictment — the former Baltimore Raven faces 15 charges — what is alleged to have transpired in the Baltimore County home of Cody isn’t being shared with the public.

The charges include two counts of aggravated animal cruelty with a dog, five counts of animal abuse or neglect with the same dog, five counts of abuse or neglect in connection with alligator, and one count of illegal possession of an alligator, according to Deputy State’s Attorney John Cox.

But what exactly Cody is accused of doing, or neglecting to do, in connection with both animals is being left to our imaginations.

That, especially given he was in the NFL, leaves us free to picture the worst — as in staging fights between the two species, as in maybe the alligator went unfed until it tried to eat the dog, as in maybe Cody used them both to attack a girlfriend on an elevator, as in who knows what.

That’s a disservice, to the public and to Cody.

“Ban Terrence Cody From the NFL for Allegedly Feeding His Dog to His Pet Alligator!” says a headline on the website Care2. Clicking on a link to a petition, though, readers are informed  “Terrence Cody did not feed his dog to his alligator as the author of the petition has falsely indicated. New info reveals that his dog passed away as a result of worms, after being severely neglected by the ex-Ravens player.”

When there is an information void, our imaginations, and sometimes our websites, are only to happy to fill it.

Once an indictment is revealed, some details should be released by authorities that go beyond “he did something illegal to this animal and to that animal.”

Imagine if law enforcement and prosecutors had taken that no-details approach in the Michael Vick case. Imagine if they had said, “We seized all these dogs because something bad was going on, but we’re not going to say what until the story unravels in court — if it even goes to court.

News that Cody, 26, was being investigated for animal cruelty came out the same day the Ravens announced he was being released from the team.

The Ravens didn’t go into the allegations, and coach John Harbaugh, in announcing Cody’s termination, said only that the “threshold of tolerance” had changed in the NFL. “It’s a privilege to play in the National Football League. It’s a privilege to be a part of the Ravens. There’s a standard to uphold there, and we expect them to.”

Cody was officially released from the team Monday — the same day the indictment came out.

The indictment says the felony aggravated animal cruelty charges (they carry a maximum three-year sentence) stem from the death of his Presa Canario.

Through the indictment, the public learned there was an alligator involved as well — though not necessarily in connection with the dog’s death. In addition to five counts of abuse or neglect of the alligator, Cody was also charged with one count of possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia and one count of possession of marijuana.

The investigation was started after Cody took his dog to a veterinarian.

Peter Schaffer, Cody’s agent, told the Baltimore Sun that Cody took the dog to a vet for treatment of worms, and that the dog died there. He didn’t share any additional details, either.

“This is all a result of the NFL allowing players to be convicted before they’re tried,” Schaffer said. “If Terrence wasn’t a public figure, they wouldn’t have ever charged him. It’s just ridiculous.”

Cody, having played in only one game last season, wasn’t too major a public figure, and maybe that’s why law enforcement and prosecutors think they can get away with providing virtually no information about what transpired.

He was a nose tackle, not a quarterback, and possibly authorities thought the case could pass quietly under the radar.

The alligator twist probably kept that from happening.

Other than informing us that Cody turned himself in and was released on $10,000 bail, and dutifully reporting the few details officials have released, there hasn’t been much digging, it seems, by the news media.

The NFL has said it would look into the case only if Cody signs with another team, according to a Baltimore Sun report.

Manwhile, the news media, and the animal welfare community, should be demanding some details.

One, because we have a right to know. Two, because animal cruelty cases shouldn’t be swept under rugs. It is through exposure that problems can be addressed and changes can occur.

What, exactly, is Terrence Cody alleged to have done? Why, exactly, aren’t law and order types letting us know? And, while the dog died, and while Cody will be a Raven nevermore, what has become of the alligator?

Baltimore cop who slit dog’s throat was being heroic, his attorneys say

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Lawyers for a Baltimore police officer who slit the throat of a sharpei on a city street in June tried to put a new spin on his actions in court last week, entering a not guilty plea and suggesting Officer Jeffrey Bolger was heroically trying to save the unborn child of the pregnant woman the dog had bitten.

Fortunately, the judge didn’t immediately buy it, and declined a request from defense lawyers to dismiss the animal cruelty charges filed against Bolger.

The pregnant woman, meanwhile, is calling bullshit.

“Don’t try and make yourself a hero when you made a grave mistake,” she said in a a radio interview last week, after Bolger’s initial court appearance. “Try and say I’m sorry.”

In court on Thursday, lawyers for the 22-year veteran of the police force said Bolger was “legally authorized” to kill the dog, named Nala, and that he was acting to protect the unborn child of a woman the dog had bitten.

He entered a not guilty plea to two counts of animal mutilation, one count of animal cruelty and one count of misconduct in office. Both Bolger, 49, and a second officer, who held Nala while Bolger slit her throat, have been suspended.

His attorney’s reasoning went like this: Had the dog escaped from police, the woman would have had to undergo a series of rabies shots, putting her baby at risk. Due to that, and the dangers the attorney said the dog posed to citizens nearby, Bolger made the decision to “euthanize” Nala in the safest manner possible.

“Bolger considered using his firearm, but he determined that there was too much danger of a ricochet bullet injuring bystanders,” his lawyers said. “Instead, he used his knife in a fashion intended to cause the dog the least amount of pain and place the public in the least amount of danger.”

What’s underplayed in attorney’s brief is that, when that decision was made, the dog had already been subdued with a catch pole.

The attorneys said Bolger and other officers struggled with the dog for more than an hour, the Baltimore Sun reported.

And they said Bolger didn’t say “I’m going to gut this (expletive) thing,” as some witnesses reported. Instead, they submit, he said he was going to have to “cut” the dog because of the lack of other available options.

Among those who found the attorney’s statements ludicrous was Sandy Fleischer, the pregnant woman who was trying to help the dog and keep police from harming her. She spoke out after the incident — and she did so again after Bolger’s hearing.

“To say that you were helping me and trying to save my life? I was there to help the dog,” Sandy Fleischer said. “I can’t believe they are using me for the defense.”

In an interview Thursday on WBAL Radio’s C4 Show, Fleischer said she was upset that the fact she was pregnant — something she confided only to the paramedic treating her — had made its way to police and into the courtroom.

Fleischer was nipped by the dog as she tried to get a look at her collar, so she could get in touch with the dog’s owner.

When she first recounted the incident on the radio show, months ago, Fleischer said the officers who first arrived on the scene used sticks to try and corral the dog, which only served to intensify the situation. She said officers calling the dog a pit bull.

She said police had her ushered to the ambulance “because they didn’t want me seeing the dog being killed.”

A second officer, Thomas Schmidt, 53, is accused of holding the dog down while Bolger cut her throat and is scheduled to appear in court later this month.

The judge, while declining to immediately grant the request for a dismissal requested by Bolger’s attorneys, didn’t rule out further arguments and consideration of the motion.

Bolger’s trial date is scheduled for Nov. 7.

(Photo: Ian Duncan / Baltimore Sun)