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Tag: dallas

Recipients say agency’s diabetic alert dogs aren’t performing as promised

Three North Texas families say the diabetic alert dogs they received from a Virginia-based nonprofit aren’t alerting them to anything, and have turned out to be nothing more than expensive house pets.

The three families are among 30 that have filed complaints against Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, according to NBC 5 in Dallas.

Each of the three paid up to $20,000 for what they were told were specialized service dogs trained to alert them to spikes and drops in blood sugar and help them manage Type 1 diabetes.

Mindy Guidry said the dog she received to help her daughter manage her diabetes has failed to detect any blood sugar spirals. On top of that, the dog is afraid to go out in public.

“I cannot take her out in public at all. Even in our own household she’s scared,” Guidry said.

Krista Middleton told NBC 5 that her dog doesn’t alert her when her blood sugar is dropping dangerously low.

“And then I’m passing out. I’m going into comas. My kids are finding me in seizures,” said Middleton. “It gets to the point where, as a mom, I wanted to make sure my kids weren’t the ones to find me convulsing.”

Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers says it offers a one- to two-year training program with initial in-home sessions of up to five days, long-distance training and education and up to seven more multi-day visits.

Middleton and Guidry both failed to complete the training program, a spokeswoman for the agency said, and both still owe the agency money.

Middleton said when she informed the non-profit her dog wasn’t working, she got no response.

But Warren Retrievers spokeswoman Jennifer Bulotti told NBC 5 when a dog isn’t working “instant intervention and training is provided.”

Dan Warren, founder and president of the nonprofit, was convicted of passing forged documents in 2008, before he started his service dog agency. While working at a car dealership, he had someone prepare phony tax returns to help customers get loans for cars, NBC 5 reported. He was sentenced to five years’ probation

Tax records from 2012 list his salary from the service dog agency as $157,411.

The Virginia Attorney General’s office has received 30 complaints against Warren Retrievers, but declined to discuss the details of any of them.

Providers of service dogs operate relatively free of government regulation or required standards, and some think it’s time for that to change.

“This is an industry that’s fraught with fraud,” said Brent Brooks, president of The Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance (DADA). “It angers me to have to say it but you have to be skeptical.”

Vick dog gets key to the city of Dallas

Earlier this year, Michael Vick was given the key to the city of Dallas.

Now, Mel, one of Michael Vick’s former dogs, has one, too.

As for who’s more deserving, well, you know how I feel.

Those of you who follow Travels with Ace may remember our meeting with Mel in Dallas last July.

Mel was only about a year old when he was seized from the Vick estate and dogfighting operation  in Virginia, where he was believed to have been used as a bait dog. He was one of 47 survivors, and one of the 22 who, deemed most hopeless, were sent to Best Friends, the animal sanctuary in southern Utah.

After spending nearly two years at the Utah animal sanctuary, Mel was adopted by Richard Hunter, a Dallas radio personality and his wife Sunny, manager of VIP services for a swanky gentlemen’s club called The Lodge.

When our travels took us through Texas we met up with Hunter and Mel, joining them for a ride around town because Mel seems most comfortable in the car. Ace piled in the back seat with Mel and the Hunter’s older dog, Pumpkin.

The next time we heard from Richard Hunter, was in February, after he confronted Vick during a Dallas appearance.

Hunter, one of many who were outraged that Vick was being presented a key to the city by interim Mayor Dwaine Caraway, got as close as he could to him and offered him a chance to see his former dog Mel. Vick didn’t take him up on the offer and Hunter was shoved away by the quarterback’s entourage.

Now we get word that, over the weekend, Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt surprised  Hunter by presenting him the John LaBella Award at an Eastlake Pet Orphanage banquet — and presenting Mel with a key to the city.

During the presentation, the Dallas Morning News reports, Hunt had some choice words for Caraway.

“One of my colleagues in the city of Dallas showed a grave lapse in judgment by awarding the highest honor our city an bestow – our key to the city – on someone who was entirely undeserving and someone who has shown serious cruelty and inhumanity,” she said.

Hunt then awarded Mel with a key to the city — an edible one no less.

Another dog thrown from moving car in PA.

Twice in the last month, dogs have been tossed from fast-moving vehicles in central Pennsylvania.

The most recent case was Monday night, when someone threw a blue-nose pit bull named Dallas from a brown Cadillac, Harrisburg police said.

Cpl. Deric Moody said a witness saw the dog thrown from the car and called police. The dog suffered an apparent broken leg and other injuries, and was being treated at a veterinary hospital near Mechanicsburg, according to the York Dispatch.

Shortly after officers arrived to interview the witness, Dallas’ owner showed up at the scene. He told police that the dog disappeared after he let him out earlier. Police believe the unattended dog was likely stolen.

On March 5, someone threw a dog from a speeding silver or gray pickup truck on Route 30 in East Hempfield Township, Lancaster County, near the Marietta Pike overpass. That dog, a shiba inu later named Sherman (pictured above), was taken to the Humane League of Lancaster County and is recovering from his injuries.

Vick turns down chance to see former dog

 

Richard Hunter, the adoptive parent of one of Michael Vick’s dogs, confronted the Eagles quarterback in Dallas after a ceremony Saturday in which Vick received the key to the city — and asked him if he wanted an opportunity to see one of his former dogs.

Instead of getting an answer, Hunter, a local radio personality who we met this summer in our Travels with Ace, got pushed out of the way by Vick’s entourage. He put together this video of the event afterwards.

Hunter and his wife, Sunny, VIP manager for a Dallas gentlemen’s club, adopted Mel about two years after he was seized from the Vick estate in Virginia. He was one of 47 survivors, and one of the 22 who, deemed most hopeless, were sent to Best Friends, the animal sanctuary in southern Utah. He spent nearly two years there before trainers pronounced him adoptable.

Ace and I got to meet the whole family during out visit to Dallas, which included a car ride in which Ace shared the back seat with Mel and the Hunter’s other dog, Pumpkin.

Michael Vick showed little interest in learning more about Mel, despite Hunter’s persistent offers, and at one point a member of Vick’s security team told him, “We don’t care about the dogs.”

In presenting the key to the city, Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway told Vick, “You deserve it, you earned it.”

Hunter’s response to Vick getting presented the key? Maybe, he said, it’s time to change the locks.

Newt’s strip club VIP card is in the mail

Newt Gingrich has been issued a lifetime VIP card by an upscale Dallas strip club, entitling him to free admission, preferred seating, free auto detailing, steak and lobster dinners and access to the the club’s “intimate members-only lounge.”

The owner of The Lodge, Dawn Rizos, thought it was the least she could do after Gingrich — who awarded, then snubbed her last year — got in touch with her again through American Solutions, his conservative “citizens action network,” sending her an unsolicited membership card and requesting a $2,000 donation.

But let’s go back to the beginning.

Last year, Rizos was informed that her gentlemen’s club — doing business as DCG, Inc. — had been selected to receive one of the American Solutions “Entrepeneur of the Year” awards for is efforts to stimulate the economy.

Gingrich invited Rizos to a private dinner in Washington to receive the award, provided she made the requested $5,000 donation, which she did.

The week before the event, though, American Solutions realized they had accidentally bestowed the award on a strip club, and rescinded the invitation. The organization refunded the $5,000 to Rizos, who donated it to an animal rescue organization — specifically to create a shelter for pit bulls, which was dubbed “Newt’s Nook.”

This week, apparently not having learned from the mistake, American Solutions, under the signature of Gingrich, sent Rizos an unsolicited membership card and again asked her for money.

The letter referred to Rizos as “a key member of our American Solutions family of supporters” and added, “Will you enclose a special year-end contribution of $1,000, or even as much as $2,000, to American Solutions, Ms. Rizos?”

The letter said the money would go toward American Solution’s mission — more important than ever since “the resounding rejection of Barack Obama’s leftist ideology and governing policies on Nov. 2.”

“Thanks to  members like you, American Solutions played a critical role in helping create this year’s sea-change election,” the letter said. ”But our most important role now lies ahead of us … helping our newly elected officials lead the country to a future of jobs and prosperity.”

The letter, which carried Gingrich’s return address, included a facsimile of the membership card he said was on its way. Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, is general chairman of American Solutions.

Rizos said she will hold off making a new donation to Gingrich until they can discuss last year’s disinvitation. Instead, she said, she is sending him, at no charge, a Lifetime VIP membership card to The Lodge – with all the perks and privileges – which the club says is worth $2,000.

“His letter included an American Solutions membership card with my name on it, so I’m very happy to reciprocate,” she said. “It’s just a temporary card right now, but I promise we will have the permanent one waiting for him at the door.”

(Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be construed as suggesting Newt Gingrich has ever been to The Lodge. But Ace and I have.)

Vick dog finds happy home in Dallas

I never expected our “Travels with Ace” adventures would include Ace riding in the back seat of a car with a former Michael Vick dog.

Then again, I never expected we’d be hanging out in a strip club, either.

But our visit to The Lodge in Dallas led us to meet Mel, a still meek and fearful, sad-eyed, mostly black pit bull — small in stature, short on confidence, and sweet as pecan pie.

Mel was adopted from Best Friends by Sunny Hunter, manager of VIP services at the swanky Dallas gentlemen’s club, and her husband Richard Hunter, a talk show host whose outlook on life isn’t as bleak as his goth appearance may lead you to think — especially since Mel came into their lives.

Meet Mel and the low esteem in which you may already hold Michael Vick — and, yes, we know he served his time — plummets even lower.

For one thing, you see – in his fearful eyes, his tentative stride – the effects of the torture Vick inflicted; for another you see a true innocent; a mild-mannered dog whose lack of killer instinct led him to be designated a bait dog, a living chew toy.

But you also see a dog who, despite all that humans did to him in his first year of life, seems to hold no grudge against the species.

Mel was only about a year old when he was seized from the Vick estate in Virginia. He was one of 47 survivors, and one of the 22 who, deemed most hopeless, were sent to Best Friends, the animal sanctuary in southern Utah.

He spent nearly two years at Best Friends, where trainers worked to help him overcome his fearfulness and eventually pronounced him adoptable.

Richard and Sunny already had an application in by then — starting off a process that would take more than a year. Sunny had grown interested in adopting a Vick dog after seeing a documentary. Richard had one of Best Friends’ trainers on his talk show.

The couple waited for nine months, then underwent a criminal background check, and a home visit. Finally, they were invited up to Best Friends to spend a week living on the grounds and getting to know Mel. They brought their dog Pumpkin, a terrier mix, along as well.

Pumpkin immediately became friends with Mel, and became his guardian — a role he continues to fulfill.

Last fall, the adoption having been approved by the same judge who sent Vick to prison for two years, Mel was delivered to the Hunter’s home in Dallas by a Best Friends trainer and caregiver, who stayed in town for a week, visiting daily.

Richard describes the adoption process as “daunting,” but worth it. Mel slowly came out of his shell, and though he still quivers at first when strangers show up, or when he’s in new surroundings, he’s getting more used to meeting people. It used to take three visits before he was comfortable with a stranger, now it takes only 20 minutes or so.

Pumpkin, who is 13, has been a huge factor in his transition.

“At home, when a new person shows up, Mel sits in the corner with his back to the wall, like a statue. Pumpkin gets in front of him and screens him. Pumpkin has been instrumental in getting him to relax,” Richard said.

Mel has never barked, or made any sound, in the time they have had him. At night, if Mel needs a trip outside, Pumpkin takes note of him standing by the door and barks for him.

Mel seems most comfortable when he’s in a car, Sunny and Richard said — so we decided that’s how we all should meet. We greeted Mel and Pumpkin through a window, then loaded Ace into the backseat with them — a tight fit, but no one seemed bothered by it. Pumpkin shielded Mel the whole time, allowing him to be sniffed and petted, but never leaving his side.

After a spin around Dallas, we all got out and sat in a patch of grass outside The Lodge. Mel skulked and quivered at first but within a few minutes grew at ease.

Richard says Mel was used as a bait dog, due to his small size and mild temperament. He was likely muzzled when he was thrown into the ring with other dogs being trained to fight. He was not one of those that Bad Newz Kennels terminated — sometimes by drowning or hanging.

“Most people really didn’t take the time to look at the details of the case – the jumper cables, the hanging, the drowning, the distance throwing contests. That’s just bizarre. It’s diabolical,” Richard said. As for Vick’s return to the NFL, he said, “It was very disappointing to me that the American public stood for it. He’s psychopathic, like a serial killer.”

While Vick’s dogs were, in most cases, rehabilitated, Richard is among those who doubt the same was truly achieved by Vick, despite his appearances in an anti-dogfighting campaign.

Mel’s tail, which was broken in his youth, stayed between his legs for the first few months, Richard said. ”Now, he smiles and he walks with his head up. His tail was broken, so it doesn’t really wag.”

“When he plays, he plays in secret,” said Sunny. “At first he would just sit there and shake. Now he waits on the couch for me and gives me a kiss when I come home.”

“His resilience is amazing to me,” Richard said. “He really has changed my life. It’s amazing to me that he’s willing to love us — that he’s still able to judge people individualy when for the first year of his life, if he saw a human being, it meant something terrible was going to happen to him.

 “We just want to make him as happy as can be.”

The strip club with a heart of gold

How did Ace end up next to the stripper’s pole at a gentlemen’s club in Dallas?

It’s a long story, but the main factors are these: The decline of American journalism, Newt Gingrich and dogs.

Dallas doesn’t have more strip clubs per capita than any other U.S. city, it only seems that way. In some parts of town they are pretty hard to avoid. Most are big and glitzy, and they advertise heavily on billboards featuring scantily clad women with come hither looks.

But that’s not our excuse.

No, our connection to The Lodge — an upscale gentlemen’s club modeled after a Rocky Mountain hunting lodge — goes back about eight months when, while compiling an article for ohmidog!, we got in touch with the strip club’s public relations man, or, as his business card puts it, the club’s “Writer-in-Residence.”

Michael Precker — like me, I learned then — had devoted the bulk of his life to newspapers, serving as a Middle East correspondent for nearly seven years, covering a wide variety of stories across America and ending up, like me, as a feature writer.

Our career paths were similar, as was our dissatisfaction with the way newspapers were heading. Both of us, seeing the ships we were on seemed to be sinking — at least in terms of quality and depth — had recently jumped off.

Both of us took buyouts — the captains way of helping staff make the decision to go overboard — he from the Dallas Morning News, me from the Baltimore Sun. I ended up writing about dogs. He, after meeting the club’s owner at a charity event, ended up in a strip club.

Life’s funny that way.

I got in touch with Precker — whose unusual job transition made the pages of the Wall Street Journal — last October. I had called to get some details and a photo of “Newt’s Nook,” a sanctuary for pit bulls that was being established with funds provided by the owner of the gentlemen’s club, Dawn Rizos.

Rizos had donated $5,000 to the cause — the amount being a refund of what she paid in advance to attend a private dinner in Washington to receive an “Entrepreneur of the Year” award from Newt Gingrich’s organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future.

It seems American Solutions had mistakenly bestowed the award – “in recognition of the risks you take to create jobs and stimulate the economy” — on Rizos and the Lodge, which does business under the name DCG, Inc.

They’d sent the fax to the wrong DCG — though, as Precker points out, The Lodge does stimulate the economy (among other things), and it has created a lot of jobs, not to mention helped a lot of its dancers pay for college and move into more “respectable” careers.

Realizing their flub, American Solutions rescinded the award – just a week before the ceremony Rizos had made arrangements to attend. But they did at least offer her a refund.

Rizos donated that money to an animal rescue organization seeking to build ”Newt’s Nook,” named in honor of the former speaker of the House.

But that, it seems, was neither the first nor last time that the Dallas gentlemen’s club and its staff have done their bit, and then some, for animals.

Earlier this month they held a charity car and bike wash and buffet, with all proceeds going to the Metroplex Animal Coalition. Over the years, The Lodge’s car washes have raised more than $160,000 for local animal causes.

Also this month, the club’s manager of VIP services, Sunny Hunter, and her husband Richard Hunter – adopters of a Michael Vick dog — were among those who tried to help catch a stray dog that was holding up traffic for days on the LBJ Freeway. Once the dog, nicknamed Alley, was caught, Rizos adopted it, and now brings it to work along with her Chihuahua, Pedro.

Richard Hunter, a local talk show host, caught the dog with help from comedian Hal Sparks and Operation Kindness. Hunter has also been involved in trying to capture the elusive stray that has been hanging around a Dallas church whose pastor has threatened to have it shot.

According to Precker, who I’d agreed to look up if I ever came to town, The Lodge has a lot of dog lovers, in addition to its owner, on staff.

He and Sunny even went so far as to invite Ace for a visit. While I had lunch and an interview with Precker, Ace stayed upstairs in the office under the supervision of staff. He was more enamored with a stuffed bear — one of numerous mounted animals in the club — than the dancers.

The next day, before business hours, Ace was allowed to climb up on a stage, check out the stripper’s pole and pose for pictures with Carrie, one of the dancers, and Vanna, who works the front desk.

Dawn Rizos, who has been honored for bringing class and flair to an industry often viewed as seedy — and here we’re talking strip clubs, not journalism — was out of town, so we didn’t get to meet her, Alley or Pedro.

But Ace and I did get to meet Michael Precker, who’s found job security in a strip club;  and the Hunter’s and their Vick dog, Mel, whose found some security as well. We’ll bring you that story — unless some gentlemen’s club hires us as writer-in-residence in the interim – tomorrow.

(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America.)