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Tag: chicago

Zombie dogs invade Chicago suburb … NOT!

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“Zombie dogs” are invading a western suburb of Chicago.

Makes for a catchy headline, if not an entirely true one. As you might guess, the creatures in question aren’t really zombies, aren’t really dogs, and aren’t really invading.

What they are is coyotes, infected with a type of mange that affects their vision, making them more likely to be active during the day.

The police department in Hanover Park, warning the public to stay away from the animals, characterized their appearance as that of “zombie dogs.”

On its Facebook page, the police department said it has received calls from citizens who have seen the coyotes and think they are neglected, malnourished dogs.

“Recently we have received several messages and posts from citizens concerned about what appear to be malnourished or neglected stray dogs. These are NOT lost pets, but are in fact coyotes. There is unfortunately an increase in sarcoptic mange in the urban coyote populations which has caused these normally noctural animals to become more active during the day.

“Infected animals will often appear “mangy” – which looks just like it sounds. They suffer hair loss and develop secondary infections, eventually looking like some sort of ‘zombie’ dog.

“The infections affect their vision, causing them to look for food during the daylight hours. These infected animals are not normally aggressive, but should be avoided at all times. Please DO NOT approach these animals or allow your pets to approach them.”

There’s some argument over whether the photo police posted is that of a coyote with mange. One comment-leaver insists it’s a dog; another says its a coyote, photographed in California.

Police warned residents to secure their garbage cans and not leave food out, or for that matter, their dogs.

Coyotes are abundant in the southern, southeastern and west-central areas of Illinois, but there hasn’t been a case of a human bitten by a coyote in 30 years, according to the University of Illinois.

New TV series features talking dog

You regular readers may know already I am not a fan of the talking dog.

That’s partly because I feel we have no right to be putting words in their mouths, thereby further humanizing them, which, in my view, is not just a mistake, but an insult (to dogs). But mostly it’s just plain creepy.

So I’m going to refrain from predicting whether ABC’s “Downward Dog” will be the blockbuster hit of the season, or gotten rid of quicker than a used poop bag.

The New York Times called it “hard on the ears,” while USA Today described it a “delightfully amiable summer companion.”

Martin, the dog character, sometimes talks with a moving mouth, sometimes as a (far less creepy) voice-over, but he can only be heard by us viewers — not the other characters or dogs in the show.

Gimmicky as it sounds, the show does feature some talented creatures, beginning with Ned, who plays Martin. Ned was discovered at PAWS Chicago, a no kill shelter he was shipped to after becoming homeless in Mississippi.

Martin is the narrator of the show, offering wry philosophical comments on both being a dog and the behavior of his human, a “struggling millennial” named Nan, played by Emmy-nominated Allison Tolman of “Fargo.”

IMBD describes the plot as “a lonely dog navigates the complexity of 21st century relationships.” It started out as a web series of short videos. A year and a half ago, producers got clearance to make a pilot out of the concept and started looking for a dog to play the role of Martin, who is a rescued dog in the show.

They took one look at Ned’s photo from PAWS and hired him immediately, according to DNAinfo.

Upon arrival at PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) from Mississippi, Ned was an anxious, skittish dog — a bit under-socialized, said PAWS Director of Training Joan Harris. “He was seeking a lot of attention from people, but then he didn’t know how to receive it.”

nedHe was adopted, but later returned and ended up being fostered by Crystal Dollinger, a PAWS volunteer who cared for him for four months before he was chosen for the role and moved to Hollywood.

Ned belongs now to his trainer, Nicole Handley, who made a return visit to the shelter in Chicago with him last week — partly for his 4th birthday party, more so to promote the new show. It premieres tonight at 8:30 before switching to Tuesdays. The shelter will waive adoption fees today in his honor.

“Ned’s life is very different now than it was a year and a half ago,” Handley said. “Ned is definitely the diva on set. Pretty much whatever Ned needs, Ned gets.”

(Photo: Ned with Allison Tolman, who plays his owner on “Downward Dog,” trainer Nicole Handley and PAWS volunteer Crystal Dollinger, who fostered him for four months; by Ted Cox / DNAInfo)

A neighborhood reunites with a former stray

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If you’re going to be a stray dog, you might want to be one in Oak Brook, Ill.

It’s one of Chicago’s wealthiest suburbs — the kind of place with well-manicured lawns to pee on, porches and gazebos offering some shade, and handouts from humans that might include pork tenderloin, or steak.

At least that was Rusty’s experience.

For four years, Rusty roamed the Forest Glen neighborhood of Oak Brook, keeping a certain distance from its residents, but happily accepting their offers of food.

“I would leave pieces of steak and pork tenderloin at the end of the driveway,” said one Forest Glen resident.

“We thought we were the only people taking care of him,” said another, who fed him steak and bacon.

Harry Peters, president of the Forest Glen Homeowners Association, said Rusty, a chow-sheltie mix, eventually developed some discriminating tastes: “I put a hot dog out there once — I’ll never forget it — and he lifted his leg and peed on it. My neighbor was giving him steak.”

Despite all the handouts, Rusty kept his distance. He’d play with neighborhood dogs, but avoided getting too close to humans. When residents walked their dogs, Rusty would follow behind — again at a distance.

While residents were enjoying his presence, and fattening him up, many of them worried about how he was able to survive the harsh winters, and able to avoid becoming a victim of street traffic.

For four years, any attempts to catch him were in vain, up until 2010 when he was captured in a back yard and turned over to the Hinsdale Humane Society.

There he was treated for a heartworm infestation, and thousands of dollars were donated to help pay for his care. Attempts were made to make him more sociable with humans, so that he could be adopted out to one of the many expressing interest in doing so.

But Rusty, who maintained a preference for living outside, never reached that point, shelter officials told the Chicago Tribune.

Instead he was sent to Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, where he’d have room to roam.

Before taking him to Utah, Jennifer Vlazny, operations manager for the humane society, brought Rusty back to the neighborhood he once roamed for one last visit. Residents petted him and photographed him, and some cried when he left.

After some time at Best Friends, Rusty was adopted by a Kanab resident, Kristine Kowal, a retired school nurse who once lived in the Chicago area.

Kowal made a Facebook page and posted regular updates on it about Rusty, by then renamed Rusty Redd.

Peters, the neighborhood association president, visited Rusty and Kowal in January, while on a business trip to Las Vegas. He mentioned to Kowal then that, if she was to ever come to Chicago for a visit, he’d arrange a gathering so residents could have a reunion with the dog.

That happened this past weekend.

Kowal drove Rusty 1,800 miles from Utah for the reunion.

“I just thought it was something that I needed to do — to take him back, and kind of make it a full circle,” Kowal said.

Residents gathered Sunday in a gazebo in the Forest Glen subdivision, where they were able to pet him, many for the first time.

Vlazny, the Tribune reported, was amazed at his transformation from feral dog to pet.

Rusty seemed to remember the old neighborhood, and residents — even some who had since moved out of state — came to the reunion to see an old friend.

“The closest Rusty would ever get to me was 40 feet,” said Frank Manas, feeding the dog a chunk of mozzarella cheese. His family had moved from Forest Glen to Wisconsin, but returned Sunday to see Rusty.

“We said, if Rusty can come all the way from Utah, we can come from Eau Claire,” said Julie Manas, his wife.

“Oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh — I’m petting him!” said Julie Gleason, who used to feed Rusty when he visited the nearby office park where she works.

“It’s a real-life fairy tale.”

(Photo: Julie Gleason weeps as she pets Rusty; by Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)

Chicago dog owners warned to not let their dogs socialize with other dogs

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Dog owners in Chicago are being warned to keep their pets away from the city’s dog-friendly parks and beaches to help control the spread of the dog flu, which has killed five dogs in the area and sickened more than 1,000 more.

On Friday, the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control urged pet owners to avoid not just dog parks, but group training activities, doggy day care, groomers, boarding facilities and other environments where dogs congregate or socialize until the outbreak — or epidemic, as some are calling it — subsides.

Signs posted at dog-friendly parks and beaches read:

“The Canine Influenza Virus (the Dog Flu) is causing illness throughout the Chicago area. All unvaccinated dogs may be at risk. Even dogs showing no sign of illness may carry this virus.

“PLEASE ENTER THIS DOG FRIENDLY AREA (DFA) AT YOUR OWN RISK.

“The virus is extremely contagious. Unvaccinated dogs exposed to the Dog Flu are more likely to contract the disease.”

The signs go on to list the symptoms of the dog flu: coughing, lethargy, difficulty breathing, nasal discharge and lack of appetite.

While people can’t catch it from dogs, the dog flu is is extremely contagious between dogs that come into close contact with each other.

Forty states have experienced outbreaks of the dog flu since the virus was discovered in 2004.

Experts say nearly every dog exposed to it will get the virus. About 25 percent of those don’t show signs of the sickness, but can still pass it on to other dogs.

Limiting socialization with other dogs is the best way to fight the illness, said Dr. Cynda Crawford, who helped discover the virus in 2005.

Crawford, with the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, told Steve Dale’s Pet World, a blog on ChicagoNow.com, that owners often aren’t aware their dogs are ill.

She advises limiting all socialization, including letting your dog be walked by a dog walker who takes dogs out in groups.

While there is a vaccine for dog flu, it is new, expensive, requires multiple shots and, as with the human vaccine, fails to guarantee a dog won’t catch the virus.

Chicago animal control officials said the outbreak could last several more weeks.

(Photo: from ChicagoNow.com)

Lotsa bark, little bite: Chicago crackdown on unlicensed dogs fizzles out

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Was all that talk about a crackdown on unlicensed dogs in the Windy City just bluster?

Chicago’s much publicized threat to conduct sweeps at dogs parks and beaches, track down scofflaws and issue tickets carrying fines of up to $200 — all in effort to get more of the estimated 653,000 canines living there registered — never really got rolling.

City Clerk Susana Mendoza said Tuesday that, despite publicity, free rabies clinics, contests and other citywide events aimed at encouraging dog registrations, licenses  rose only from about 30,000 to 40,000 this year.

Mendoza , who testified this week at City Council budget hearings, said her office followed through on creating incentives for dog owners to get licenses, but the city’s Commission on Animal Care and Control “dropped the ball” when it came to the enforcement side of the campaign.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that was likely  “either because it is inundated and understaffed or because Mayor Rahm Emanuel changed executive directors just when a ticket blitz was supposed to begin with stings at dog parks and beaches.”

For years, dog owners who failed to purchase dog licenses were all but ignored by the city.

That changed in 2005, when software was put in place allowing a county list of dogs who had received rabies shot to be compared to a much shorter list of licensed dogs in the city.

Warning letters were mailed to those whose names appeared on the county’s list, but not the city’s.

Those produced only a small surge in registrations. Two years ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel endorsed the planned crackdown — with fines for violators — but that produced only another small surge, and the stiffer enforcement that was promised never took place.

Licenses are $5-a-year for spayed and neutered dogs, $50 for those that are not, and $2.50 for dog owners who are senior citizens. Fines for unregistered dogs run from $30 to $200. (You can learn more about registering your dog in Chicago here.)

Mendoza estimated Chicago’s dog population at more that 500,000 but others say it exceeds 653,000.

Despite the “tremendous job” her department did, Mendoza said, the crackdown “was really predicated on a strong enforcement effort, which we’re not responsible for . . . I have not seen a crackdown that I would feel comfortable with in terms of really getting people to license their dogs. I’m very disappointed in it.”

“I ain’t gonna let no dogs punk me”

wilkersonA Chicago man charged with beating and stabbing a neighbor’s dog to death told police he did it because the dog tore his $3.78 shirt.

Damien Wilkerson, 34,  was being held in lieu of $80,000 bail and faces felony animal cruelty charges, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Witnesses told police they saw Wilkerson beating the dog near his home Saturday while holding a knife. Police found the dog’s body in a trash can in nearby alley.

“Yeah I killed that … dog,” Wilkerson told police, according to court documents. “I don’t give a (expletive),” Wilkerson said to police. “The dog tore my shirt. This … cost $3.78.”

Wilkerson said he went after the dog after it bit and tore his shirt through a fence, according to court documents. He said he hopped the fence and began beating the dog with a milk crate, then “choked the dog out” when the animal went for his neck, according to officers.

Authorities say Wilkerson is a member of the Insane Vice Lords gang.

According to court documents, he told police, “I ain’t gonna let no dogs or no (expletive) punk me.”

Counseling students, one lick at a time


There’s a new counselor on the staff at Loyola University in Chicago, and he’s helping students cope with everything from homesickness to the stress of final exams.

He’s a 5-year-old black Labrador retriever, named Tivo, and he’s on duty every day at the university’s Wellness Center.

Seeing a need for a therapy dog, Loyola last year asked Tops Kennels in Grayslake to help find a candidate. The kennel suggested Tivo, who, after some additional training, became a certified therapy dog.

He’s on duty from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m, and lives with the Rev. Justin Daffron, Loyola’s associate provost for academic services.

Already immensely popular with students, college officials expect Tivo to stay busy in the week ahead, the Chicago Tribune reports. Final exams start today at Loyola, and Tivo has a way of helpling students, at least for a moment, shed some of the stress that builds up.

“They’ll come in, pet him, he’ll wag his tail, lick their faces, if they want their faces licked,” said Joan Holden, associate director of the center. “If you’re a dog lover, being with a dog makes you feel better. He’ll show his tummy, wag his tail — all the things to make you feel good.”

But Tivo doesn’t just sit in an office all day, according to an article about him in Inside Loyola.

“We use Tivo with patients for calming, for outreach in the residence halls, and to be sent out with a human counselor in hopes that students can come and pet the dog as a way to connect with the Wellness Center outside the office,” says Diane Asaro, the center’s director. “It is our first time trying it, and he has already gotten such a positive and wonderful response.”

Tivo also serves as a surrogate pet to the many students who are missing the dogs they left behind, noted David deBoer, associate director and clinical psychologist at the Wellness Center.

“Tivo really serves as a comfort, pleasure, and joy for college students; a friendly reminder of the comforts of home,” he said.

Students can keep track of where “Talk With Tivo” sessions are being held through his Facebook page.

(Photo: Tivo gives some counseling to student Marc Rosenbaum; by Mark Beane / Loyola University Chicago)