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Tag: bloggers

Last month’s feel-good story takes bad turn

Luke the K9 solo (Courtesy of Joel Fields)

A suburban police officer who made national headlines for rescuing a doomed shelter dog and training him for police work has been fired from his job — and his whole story is now being questioned.

On top of that, the Bel-Ridge Police Department, outside St. Louis, is asking that officer Joel Fields return the dog that taxpayers, at least in part, paid to have trained, at least in part, as a police K9.

The total truth about the story is still unraveling, but the untruths unearthed so far indicate the heartwarming account Fields gave the news media wasn’t entirely accurate — including the claim that the dog, named Luke, came from a shelter and was scheduled to be euthanized.

As a result, and as has happened before, all across the Internet, thousands of hearts were falsely warmed.

As usual, we can blame lazy news media, and even lazier bloggers, for the misinformation — as well as the officer whose account of saving the dog from death’s doorstep was initially accepted on its face as truthful.

fieldsFields was praised by PEOPLE and pictured as a savior by numerous dog websites after the story broke in April.

(Fortunately, ohmidog! wasn’t one of them. We’d like to say it’s because it didn’t pass our special sniff test, or get approved by our crack team of fact checkers, but it was probably more dumb luck.)

Still, there were clues — like how hard Fields seemed to be seeking publicity, the professionally made photos he supplied of him and Luke, and the boasting about all the drug busts Luke nearly immediately made as a rookie on the job.

“He made seven drug busts in less than a month and a half of working the road with me,” Fields told Fox2 News.

How true that is — as well as the rest of the story Fields gave about the retriever — are now under suspicion.

News4 in St. Louis is now reporting that Brad Croft, the owner of Universal K9, the company that helped train Luke, is saying the account Fields gave the news media was mostly lies.

“I was a little upset, because Joel was told from the day I handed him the leash of the dog that this was not a shelter dog,” said Croft.

Croft told News4 he suspects Fields was lying about the dog’s background in an effort to gain fame and “get people to back him and give him money.”

Officials are also now investigating whether Luke was fully trained and certified as a police dog.

City prosecutor Sam Alton says Fields initially told them the dog was certified as a K9, but he says they have learned that is not true. That fact could complicate any criminal court cases Luke played a role in.

Alton says Fields is now refusing to give up the dog, whose training was funded at least in part by taxpayers.

“We would like to see the taxpayers not lose money, we would like the dog to live a happy and productive life and we would like to see the dog in service as it was meant to be,” Alton said.

“Everything legally from our point of view shows that the dog belongs to the city of Bel-Ridge,” he added. “It’s unfortunate for the city, it’s unfortunate for the residents, it’s unfortunate for the dog and it’s unfortunate for him (Fields).”

Fields told News4 over the phone this week that he quit and wasn’t fired, and wouldn’t comment anymore until talking to his attorney.

KMOV.com

Vote for ME! Vote for ME! Vote for ME!

mobbiesI was honored to learn today that ohmidog! is in the running for a “Mobbie” — a new series of awards for the best blogs in Maryland, sponsored by the Baltimore Sun.

I’m even more honored to learn that we are in the category “misfits.”

Click the link on the top of our leftside rail to vote for us, though I should point out it does requiring logging in and setting up an account with the Sun — meaning not that you have to subscribe, only that they will probably bug you to later.

As I am a good week late learning of this competition, and as dogs don’t get to vote, I don’t hold out much hope of  besting the other “misfits.”

But a respectable showing would be nice — at least topping, say, “The Baltimore Sewing Examiner.”

Getting tripped up by facts, and dogs

 You can’t consume media these days without tripping over this story — roughly 240 Americans wind up in emergency rooms every day for sprains, fractures or other injuries from a fall caused by a dog or cat.

Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said dogs and cats account for about 1 percent of the 8 million fall-related injuries that end up being treated in emergency rooms each year.

Yes, 1 percent. Why, then is it such a big story? I’ll tell you why. Partly because newspapers are becoming less likely to do their own work these days. They want to fill their newsholes as cheaply as they possibly can — so they rewrite, or use wire stories, which are often already rewrites. And bloggers? They’re even worse, rewriting the rewritten rewrites.

Just as a sentence gets screwed up the more times it’s repeated from one person to the next, so can news, or alleged news.

Here’s what Reuters reported: “Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said dogs and cats account for 88 percent of all fall-related injuries in emergency departments.”

Some simple math: 87,000 falls a year is not 88 percent of 8 million.

What the CDC did report was that 88 percent of reported pet-caused falls were caused by dogs, but that’s entirely different from saying 88 percent of all falls were caused by pets.

If 88 percent of all falls leading to hospitalization were caused by pets, that would be a big story. One percent? That’s barely a story at all. Yet it’s everywhere.

Words, math, dogs –they’re all easy to trip over. But before we start portraying pets as a health hazard — and at this point I would ask how many of those falls were caused by dumb humans, as opposed to dumb animals — we might want to take steps to get the facts right and put them in perspective.

(Photo courtesy of ihasahotdog.com)