A 40-year-old DreamWorks animator – one who worked on animal-themed children’s movies such as “Kung Fu Panda” and “Madagascar 2″ — has been arrested on an animal cruelty charge after a surveillance camera videotaped him beating a neighbor’s muzzled dog with a hammer.
Young Song pleaded not guilty in court yesterday and faces a preliminary hearing next month. He allegedly climbed a fence into a neighbor’s yard in Pasadena. Surveillance camera video shows the 16-month-old dog being beaten but does not reveal what Song did with the dog.
Authorities say the dog is missing and presumed dead.
Song was being held on $40,500 bail, according to authorities, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“When our officers first viewed the videotape, one of our officers had tears in his eyes. He’d never seen anything like this before,” said Steve McNall, who heads the Pasadena Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “In my 31 years at this animal shelter I’ve never seen anything like this.”
McNall’s agency, which is licensed to investigate crimes involving animals, is conducting the probe. It made the arrest in conjunction with Pasadena police.
According to authorities, the suspect shot the dog with a pellet gun, then returned with a hammer and began chasing and striking the animal.
The Times reported that Young works as a “surfacer,” an artisan who creates the look and surface qualities for animated characters, props and environments. Young’s credits on animal-themed films also include “Shark Tale” and “Bee Movie.”
The motive for the attack is not clear. “It might have originated as a barking issue, a noise issue, and then escalated into something else,” McNall said.
If convicted, Song could face more than four years in prison, the district attorney’s office said.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 29th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animals, animator, arrested, beaten, bee movie, california, charged, dog, dogs, dreamworks, german shepherd, hammer, kung fu panda, los angeles, madagascar 2, movies, neighbors, pasadena humane society, pets, shark tale, shot, steve mcnall, surfacer, surveillance, video, young song
That was back in the fall of 2009 when the dog was pulled from a Gardena auto shop that had been set ablaze in an apparent suicide.
Over the weeks he received treatment for his burns at the Affordable Animal Hospital in Torrance, dozens of people expressed interest in adopting him — but no one followed through. About a year ago, Hachi — after surviving the fire, after prolonged and costly medical treatment — appeared headed for a sadly ironic end.
When Faith Summerson, founder of Pal Rescue, heard Hachi was about to be euthanized by the county shelter due to lack of space, she stepped forward, and Hachi was rescued again.
She picked him up and sought to find him a forever home – keeping him in one of her kennels and later at her own home.
Pal Rescue was founded in 1995 and has helped find homes for over 3,000 cats and dogs. Hachi, though — despite gaining notoriety on the Internet, because of his unusual appearnace, as the “Terminator” dog — didn’t appear destined to become one of them.
Until last month, when his year and a half wait ended.
After his story appeared on the news, Pal Rescue reports, they heard from a man who had recently lost his own dog. While many had offered him dogs to fill the void of his previous dog’s death, he had turned them all down, opting to wait instead for a dog who truly needed him — one not everybody else would want.
Call it rescue No. 3 for Hachi, a dog named, after his first rescue, for the legendary Akita, Hachiko, who waited every day at a train station in Japan for his master to return from work — and continued to do so for another 10 years after his master’s death.
The rescue organization reports that Hachi’s new dad is “a very dedicated and experienced dog owner that has had many beloved dogs in his lifetime, and always gravitated to the ones most in need.”
“The two hit it off immediately when we home delivered Hachi yesterday … Hachi was at ease the moment he walked in the door.”
You can find Hachi’s full story at petfinder.com
Posted by John Woestendiek April 4th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adopted, adoption, affordable animal hospital, akita, animals, burned, california, chow, dog, dogs, fire, forever home, hachi, hachiko, home, mix, pal, pal rescue, petfinder, petfinder.com, pets, rescue, shelter, the pal rescue, waiting
Diamond is a documented hero — credited with saving the lives of her California family and named one of the nation’s top ten “Valor Dogs” — but landlords only see her as trouble.
Her owner says that despite being named one of the nation’s top ten “Valor Dogs” by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), dozens of landlords are turning away “Diamond” because she’s a pit bull, WBIR-TV reports.
Darryl Steen, Diamond’s owner, says she woke him up when his apartment caught fire last October. He was able to get one of his daughters to safety by dropping her out of a window, but couldn’t reach the second child.
When firefighters finally got to her, Diamond was laying on top of the girl in an effort to protect her from the flames.
The dog suffered severe burns, but has recovered.
Steen says that several landlords have told them that pets are welcome, only to renege when they learn that Diamond is a pit bull.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 17th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, banned, california, darryl steen, diamond, discrimination, dogs, family, fire, hayward, hero, humane society, landlords, pets, pit bull, pitbull, rentals, saved, valor
A makeshift memorial was constructed Sunday night in honor of a California woman who was struck by a car and killed after rescuing a dog that had wandered into traffic.
Mara Steves, 48, of Laguna Niguel, had coaxed the dog off the highway and was kneeling with it on the corner when two cars collided nearby, one of which went off the road and struck her.
Friends and family decorated the corner with flowers, candles and notes in memory of Steves, a mother of two.
The dog, who wasn’t believed to be the cause of the accident, was not injured and reportedly made its way back home, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Steves was a former PTA president at a local elementary school, was jogging when she saw the dog in the road, a sheriff’s department official said.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 14th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: accident, animals, california, car, dog, hit, jogger, jogging, killed, laguna niguel, mara steves, memorial, news, orange county, pets, rescue, rescuing, saved, saving, traffic, woman
A 200-pound mastiff fell into a 25-foot-deep sinkhole in the backyard of a California home, prompting a rescue effort that used ropes and pulleys to hoist him out — dirty but uninjured.
It took rescuers more than three hours to get the dog — named Cedrick — out of the hole, apparently the home’s old septic tank, which had been exposed by heavy rains, KION reported.
Nick Rollins’ call to 911 resulted in more than a dozen fire fighters and members of the San Luis Obispo County Technical Rescue Team responding to his home in Nipomo.
They spend hours rigging a pulley system, then lowered Morro Bay Fire Department paramedic Todd Gailey into the hole.
He spent about 30 minutes strapping the dog into multiple harnesses. Moments after Gailey was hoisted out of the hole, Cedrick, 6 years old, was pulled up, hosed off and, after being checked by a veterinarian, pronounced to be in good shape.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 9th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, california, cedrick, dog, dogs, falls, fell, hoisted, hole, mastiff, morro bay, nipomo, pets, pulleys, rescue, san luis obispo, saved, septic tank, video
Between the Salton Sea and the Chocolate Mountains — in what may sound, and look, like a space you’d land on in the old board game Candyland — there was a man, and a mountain, I needed to check in on.
About 12 years had passed since I first visited Salvation Mountain — Leonard Knight’s massive, hand-painted monument to God. I was a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, fond of seeking out stories in the middle of nowhere. He was 67 by then, and had spent almost 15 years constructing his mountain out of hay, tires, adobe and more than 100,000 gallons of paint.
What struck me then was his incredible commitment to the task. What struck me this time is how, even after finding a modicum of fame, what with his own book and DVD and his appearance in the movie, “Into the Wild,” his determination and focus remain — not on himself, not on getting rich, but on the mountain, its maintenance and its continued survival.
Leonard, at 79, is still at it.
He can’t hear too well. His eyes are going bad. He walks with a pronounced limp, and he can no longer lift the hay bales he uses as bricks, or to mix up adobe, to fashion his ever-expanding monument.
While volunteers still drop by to make donations and help with the labor from time to time, on this particular day — Thanksgiving — he was alone.
“Have a seat,” he said, shifting over to the next chair. A blanket was stretched across posts to block out a relentless wind. For the desert, in November, temperatures were chilly. Leonard, wearing paint-spattered khakis, kept his hands stuffed in his jacket as Ace sniffed at the conglomeration of items in the back of his pick up truck.
Salvation Mountain looked much like it did 12 years ago — bright, bold and scripture-laden. But it’s far more famous now, with everyone from National Geographic to Ripley’s Believe it or Not finding it worthy of note. And after Leonard and the mountain were featured in ”Into the Wild,” the 2007 movie based on the travels and eventual death in the Alaskan wilderness of Chris McCandless, interest in his monument rose again.
Even so, he said, maintaining the mountain, much less working on more recent additions — including a “museum” area that wasn’t there the last time I dropped by — has become a strain. The volunteers seemed fewer this year. Leonard blamed the weather. “The summer was too hot, the winter’s too cold, or it’s just too windy, like it is today. You can’t paint on a day like today.”
Crazy as the weather has been, it’s still better than his native Vermont, he said.
Knight was one of four children, born in Burlington, Vermont. He never liked school, got teased a lot, and dropped out in the 10th grade. In 1951, he joined the Army, was trained as a mechanic and got sent to Korea.
Upon his return, he worked as a mechanic in Vermont, supplementing his income by picking apples, which helped him raise enough money to make trips to Caliornia to visit his sister. He treasured the trips, except for the fact that she would make him go to church.
During one visit, after an argument with his sister, he stomped out and sat in his truck. There in the driver’s seat — for reasons he can’t explain — he found himself saying, “Jesus, I’m a sinner, please come into my heart” over and over again. Jesus, he says, did.
For the first time in his life, Leonard had a sense of direction — and it would be, as it turned out, a very strange direction.
In 1971, still in Vermont, he noticed a hot air balloon one day, advertising a brand of beer.
What if, he thought, he could market God similarly? He began researching and seeking materials to build a hot air balloon, and praying to God to help provide them, but for nine years it remained a distant and unreachable dream.
On a cross-country trip in 1980, he had engine trouble in Nebraska, and had to spend several days there. The mechanic working on his truck offered to help with the balloon project. They got a bargain on some material, and, for three years, Leonard stayed in Nebraska and sewed.
The balloon never got off the ground, though. When he came to the desert in Niland, California to make a final attempt to launch it, he discovered the material was rotted.
It was then, in 1985, his 14-year quest to launch a God is Love balloon over — that he decided to build a small replica of the balloon, in the middle of the desert, out of adobe. He planned to stay for a week in Slab City — a makeshift community of desert-dwelling loners, snowbirds, RV’ers and on-the-verge of homelessness types.
But what started as an 8-foot sculpture would become Salvation Mountain, rising about three stories high, an accumulation of tires and other junk salvaged and donated, coated with adobe and brightly painted with flowing rivers, budding flowers, a yellow brick road and Bible scripture –all topped by a big white cross.
It’s a constantly evolving work, and, as you might expect, it has fallen victim to both structural collapses and government bureaucracy, at both the county and state levels.
Leonard had his own tests done that proved otherwise.
County supervisors backed off their threats to shut him down, but by then all the free publicity from the controversy had added to the mountain’s legendariness.
Today, the mountain is more likely to be referred to as a work of folk art than an environmental hazard, and even though the mountain is a squatter — an unauthorized work on public land — Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2002 afforded it some protection when she entered it into the Congressional Record as a national treasure.
Leonard lives on the grounds of his masterpiece. He beds down for the night in a small cabin mounted on his 1930s-era fire truck, which like every other vehicle in his compound, be it tractor or bus, is covered with painted-on Bible scripture.
He works on it everyday, weather permitting. A newer ”museum” wing, still under construction, features a tree whose base was created from tires and adobe, and whose branches he cut from dead and fallen trees nearby. He hauled them to the mountain, and bolted them on, painted them and added flowers, which he says are easily made by punching your fist in a mound of adobe not yet dried.
Leonard urged me to go take a look at the addition, and apologized for not making it a guided tour. His leg was bothering him. Ace wasn’t sure what to make of it. He explored its nooks and crannies, and, back at the main mountain, climbed up the yellowbrick road path to near the top.
When I returned and took a seat next to Leonard, he gave me a DVD of a documentary about the mountain, “A Lifetime of Childlike Faith,” and a Salvation Mountain magnet. I asked him what his plans were for Thanksgiving dinner and he said some friends were bringing him some turkey.
Leonard gave Ace a final pat on the head, and we said goodbye to the old man who lives in the desert, having learned, or relearned, at least two things.
One is that there’s a thin and sometimes not immediately discernable line between visionary and nut job, so be careful who you call a nut.
The other is that — however eccentric Leonard Knight may be, and no matter what your feelings are on God — faith can indeed move mountains.
Or even build them.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 29th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, adobe, america, balloon, bible, bureaucracy, california, chocolate mountains, commitment, desert, determination, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, faith, flowers, god, god is love, government, hay, hot air, imperial county, into the wild, leonard knight, mission, monument, niland, obsession, paint, rivers, road trip, salton sea, salvation mountain, scripture, slab city, state, tenacity, thanksgiving, tires, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, visionary, visit
John Steinbeck would have loved Slab City.
It wasn’t on his route. It’s rarely on anybody’s. But on an abandoned military base in the desert of southeastern California, there are some highly colorful characters among the snowbirds and squatters who call it home, for now.
Dubbed “the last free place,” Slab City is a collection of loners, losers and lovers, of the freewheeling and the freeloading, of people on the run or simply on vacation, of vagabonds and vagrants, of the rebellious and the rebounding, of dreamers and drifters.
It is full of tumbleweeds — and many of them are human.
Steinbeck — between his compassion for the destitute, his distaste for bureaucracy, his sense of social justice and his love of a good story — would have found the barren desert fertile ground.
Here’s how another author, Jon Krakauer, described it in his book, “Into the Wild:”
“The Slabs functions as the seasonal capital of a teeming itinerant society — a tolerant, rubber-tired culture comprising the retired, the exiled, the destitute, the perpetually unemployed. Its constituents are men and women and children of all ages, folks on the dodge from collection agencies, relationships gone sour, the law or the IRS, Ohio winters, the middle-class grind.”
There was no teeming when Ace and I rolled through on Thanksgiving; likely, most residents were inside enjoying the same big dinners people in real houses have. We spent most of our time — after driving around the community of RV’s, campers, trailers and live-in school buses — trying to coax what appeared to be an abandoned Chihuahua, laying on a huge pile of help-yourself clothing, into taking a treat.
Slab City is named after the concrete slabs and pylons that remain from the days that the land was part of a World War II Marine barracks, called Camp Dunlap. After it shut down, some servicemen remained, and others — seeing it as a place where one could both be free and live free — arrived.
It’s estimated that several thousand campers use the site during the winter months. Several hundred people live there year-round — tolerating the brutally hot summers in exchange for free rent. There is no charge to park a rolling home in Slab City. There’s also no electricity, no running water and no toilets, portable or otherwise.
To Imperial County, and the state of California, it has been a thorn in the side, but at the same time — because of the tourists it and neighboring Salvation Mountain attract — it contributes to the economy of surrounding towns.
At one point, the state considered turning it into an official state camping area, and charging fees, but because it includes Salvation Mountain — one man’s unauthorized monument to God — that was seen as too much of a link between church and state.
Instead, the county and state seem to be taking a hands-off approach — not kicking anybody off the land, but not going so far as to supply even portable toilets.
Meanwhile, Slab City has managed to cement itself into American culture.
In addition to appearing in the book and subsequent movie, “Into the Wild,” Slab City served as a setting for one of Sue Grafton’s mystery novels, “G is for Gumshoe.” The Shooter Jennings music video, ”Fourth of July,” was partially shot there, and British photographer Leon Diaper focused on it for his documentary series, ”The Last Free Place.”
At the same time, it has evolved into a community, with its own social organizations — people that get together in real life, as opposed to on the internet. It’s not all peace and harmony. Conflicts arise between the year-round permanent residents, and those just passing through, especially those passer-throughers prone to leaving their garbage behind.
Some think it needs more rules; others say that’s the sort of thing — like taxes and rent and police — that they came there to get away from.
It’s a fascinating little social experiment — every bit as unplanned as the formation of the nearby Salton Sea, and every bit as impromptu as Salvation Mountain, which we’ll tell you about tomorrow.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 28th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, california, camp dunlap, campers, campground, community, dogs, free, into the wild, john steinbeck, jon krakauer, military base, pets, popular culture, road trip, rv, salton sea, salvation mountain, slab city, the last free place, trailers, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley, unauthorized
Breed: Chihuahua mix
Encountered: Atop a scattered pile of discarded clothing in Slab City, outside of Niland, California.
Backstory: During my visit to Slab City, I stopped to take a photograph of a pile of clothing spread across, what else, a concrete slab. It serves as a drop off point, where denizens of and visitors to the makeshift community can discard unwanted clothing that others might be able to use.
I saw something move in the pile; then saw that it was a dog.
He lay there trembling, and wouldn’t come when I called. Nor did he get up when I tossed a dog treat, even though it landed just inches away.
There were two bowls, one that held water, one that had held food, but both were empty.
I looked around for some humans, but no one was in sight. I approached a couple of trailers to see if they might be the owners of the dog, but nobody was home. When a woman with a Chihuahua of her own walked by, she said she, being new there, didn’t know anything about the dog and left.
I tossed some more treats, refilled his water bowl, and anguished over what to do. Report him to animal control as a stray? But what if he wasn’t? What if he’d just wandered over there from his owner’s trailer or RV to take a nap in the sun? What if animal control picked him up and did what they often do before any owners had time to claim him?
He had a slight bump on his lower jaw, and he seemed well fed, but the bowls led me to think he’d been abandoned, and he just kept trembling.
Mind your own business, the voice on my left shoulder said. Take him with you, said the voice on my right.
Unable to just drive away, I called him again. He didn’t budge. But when I went to pick him up he did, jumping off the slab and heading toward a trailer. He seemed to have a destination in mind, and, though he stopped a couple of times to look back at me, he kept walking away.
And, after watching him disappear around a corner, so did I, wondering if I had been on the verge of being a do-gooder doing wrong, or if I hadn’t done good enough.
If you know anything about him, let me know.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 28th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandoned, ace, america, animals, california, chihuahua, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, encounter, pets, rescue, road trip, roadside, roadside encounters, shelter, shivering, slab city, stray, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, trembling
Driving down a two-lane highway whose dips send your stomach somewhere in the vicinity above your lungs, alongside an accidental lake that is saltier than the ocean, through a landscape that can only be described as lunar, you know there’s a good chance things might turn weird — if they haven’t already.
There are, I’m convinced, certain little pockets of America that attract the eccentric — the sort of people who march, to use a cliche, to the beat of a different drummer, or, given how alien and variable their rhythms may seem, perhaps to no drummer at all. They are like highly spicy food: You can avoid them and play it safe, or you can dive in, which could leave you dazzled, or possibly being asked for some spare change.
Which brings us to the Salton Sea.
It wasn’t the first oasis of oddness we’ve encountered on our cross country (twice) journey. Butte, Montana was surely one; along the southern coast of Oregon we unknowingly stepped into another. But unlike those places, the Salton Sea gives you fair warning.
Heading south on Highway 111, the salty lake stretches out to your right, while to your left there’s the jagged outline of bald and craggy mountains. It’s a bumpy, bouncy road, dotted with boarded-up businesses and lonely trailers, punctuated by small towns, recreational areas and wannabe resorts, and populated, in large part, by people who moved there to either get rich or be left alone.
If you ever saw “Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea,” a documentary narrated by John Waters, you have some idea of the place.
I was in more of a hurry than usual — so much so that I didn’t have time to stop at the Fountain of Youth.
I wanted to visit Slab City (that story tomorrow), catch Leonard Knight, founder and builder of Salvation Mountain (tune in Monday), and make it to the Arizona line and get something for Thanksgiving dinner, other than the Reese’s Cups and Orange Crush that served as breakfast and lunch.
So I sped along the highway, from Indio to Niland, portions of which were like a roller coaster ride on the moon. A powerful wind sent me drifting in and out of my lane, and with each dip, Ace issued a “harrumph” from the back seat.
We didn’t see the roadside nudist or the Hungarian revolutionary depicted in “Plagues and Pleasures,” but we did see Lawrence of Arabia, or at least a guy that looked a little like him when he galloped by.
We stopped only once, at a gas station/convenience store where a bearded man walked up to me, but said nothing. He just stood there, for a minute or so — leading me to pop open the back window of the Jeep, at which point Ace stuck his head out and the man left.
Later, we’d get stared at by some recently-shorn sheep, though, in fairness, I had stopped to stare at them first, wondering if they, like me, always think they look funny after getting a haircut.
Much of the trip, though, was along California’s largest lake, which is at once an environmental disaster and a recreation area, drawing about 150,000 visitors a year who engage in boating, water-skiing, fishing, jet-skiing, hiking and birdwatching
The Salton Sea is basically a basin that filled and dried up over the ages, until 1905 when flooding on the Colorado River crashed the canal gates leading into the Imperial Valley. For the next 18 months the entire volume of the Colorado River poured into the below-sea-level basin By the time engineers were finally able to stop the breach — shades of BP! — two years later, the Salton Sea was 45 miles long and 20 miles wide, with about 130 miles of shoreline.)
If that weren’t weird enough, it’s also located directly atop the San Andreas Fault.
To fully understand the Salton Sea, you have to go back three million years, and I’m not willing to do that.
Suffice to say, the accidental lake, by the 1920′s, had developed into a tourist attraction, and was even referred to as the California Riviera. Since then, its salinity has steadily increased, primary because of agricultural runoff. Wastewater inflows have added to its problems, leading to high bacteria counts, massive fish kills and subsequent bird deaths.
I stopped alongside it only briefly. I didn’t dip my toes in, and didn’t allow Ace to, either.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 27th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, california, desert, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, eccentric, ecology, environment, fountain of youth, imperial county, john waters, lake, niland, odd, outcasts, pets, plagues & pleasures, salinity, salt, salton sea, salvation mountain, slab city, tourism, travel, travels with ace, vortex, weird
Breed: Brooding rebel
Age: 24 at the time of his death. Were he alive today, he’d be 79
Encountered: The James Dean sign is at Blackwell’s Corner, a gas station, nut dealer and memorabilia shop in Lost Hills, California that bills itself as “James Dean’s last stop.”
Backstory: An icon of 1950s Hollywood, Dean was killed in a head-on collision in 1955 — the same year the movie version of John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” came out, in which Dean had a starring role. Steinbeck reportedly didn’t like Dean personally, but thought he was perfect for the role of Cal Trask.
After the movie’s release, Dean was driving his Porsche to Salinas for a car race. About 20 minutes after he gassed up at Blackwell’s Corner, an oncoming car struck his vehicle. He would posthumously receive an Academy Award nomination for best actor.
Today, Blackwell’s Corner specializes in pistachios and almonds, and also sells 1950s memorabilia. It offers a free pack of James Dean trading cards with a purchase of $75 or more.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 26th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: actor, animals, blackwell's corner, california, death, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, east of eden, hollywood, james dean, john steinbeck, killed, movies, pets, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley