(In memory of Gladys, who passed away Friday, we’re reprinting this story from two years ago about the fluffy white dog, the homeless man that took her in and the Maryland town that showed them both some love.)
For more than a decade, they were a familiar sight around downtown Salisbury, Maryland — the homeless man and his silky white dog.
You could often find them stationed outside Benedict the Florist, or located in what was an even shrewder spot to panhandle — behind the Dunkin Donuts, where cars lined up at the drive-through.
Elwood, the homeless man, and Gladys, his dog, weren’t shooed away too often in Salisbury. That, likely, was in part because of Elwood’s friendly demeanor, maybe in larger part because of his highly sociable dog, who he found as a pup in a box by a Dumpster, or in a bag in the middle of Highway 13, depending on who’s telling the story
In any event, the troubled man and the Wheaton mix became partners in homelessness, and for more than a decade survived off the kindness of friends and strangers in Salisbury.
No one saw Elwood, though some people were pretty sure they had spotted the dog at various locations around town.
Edna Walls had that feeling when she saw a silky white, mid-sized dog at a groomers recently, asked about it and learned it was — sure enough — Gladys.
Elwood Towers had died in May, 2013 of cancer, the groomer explained to her, and since then his dog has been living with the owner of the flower shop outside of which Elwood and Gladys once panhandled. She recounted the encounter in a reader-submitted column published on Delmarva Now.
The Lucky Dog Pet Salon never charged Elwood for grooming Gladys, Walls reported, just like some local veterinarians cut him a break when Gladys needed shots or medical treatment.
An obituary for Elwood on Legacy.com makes note of the kindness the two received. Submitted by his “adoptive family,” it thanks “the business and professional community and the thousands of people that took the time to help him, say a kind word, or give Gladys a pet. Those things are what made his life meaningful.”
The obituary continues, “He leaves behind his dearest and closest companion, Gladys. The ‘homeless man and his white dog’ were well recognized from their travels throughout the Salisbury area in the last 15 years. Elwood loved the outdoors and his ‘WORK;’ the proceeds of which were often shared with others in need.”
George Benedict, who took in Gladys after Elwood’s death, agrees that Elwood was known for being poor, but also for being a giving sort. Once, he got kicked out of an apartment for refusing to get rid of a stray bird he was nursing back to health.
“He was a generous man,” Benedict told ohmidog! “If he took in $100, he’d give half of it away or buy groceries for friends in need.”
Elwood, before he died, took steps to make sure Gladys would be cared for. He asked George Benedict to take ownership of Gladys.
In years of writing about homeless people, and homeless dogs, and homeless people with homeless dogs, it’s something I’ve noticed. A homeless person may not know where their next meal is coming from, but they know where their dog’s is. A homeless person may have no roof over his head, and no plan for tomorrow, but likely they’ve made contingency plans for what will happen to their dog when they’re gone.
Benedict, who had always been fond of Gladys — who’d never suggested the pair move on when they lingered outside his shop — agreed. He’s retired now, and the floral shop — a local institution for 130 years — closed in 2011. Benedict still works with homeless people, though, through an organization called Hope, Inc.
He knew Elwood for almost 15 years, and remembers when Elwood found Gladys — in a box by a Dumpster, he says — and decided to keep the pup. Some people told Elwood that was a mistake, Benedict recalls, pointing out to Elwood that he could barely take care of himself.
Elwood had spent much of his life in prison, including his teens. He looked down on drug use, and while he enjoyed a beer or two, he wasn’t a heavy drinker, Benedict said.
Still, after taking in Gladys, Elwood never had another drink, Benedict said. “She was pretty much his whole life.”
For a while, Benedict said, Elwood lived in an unheated garage, paying $300 a month for it. About the time city inspectors asked him to leave, Gladys had a litter of pups. Elwood gave them away, including one to Benedict.
Benedict said that dog died at age 6, from lymphoma.
“I never imagined I would actually wind up with Gladys,” Benedict said.
In his final years, Elwood was fighting cancer, too. His lower jaw had to rebuilt after one surgery. He called off the fight in 2012, deciding not to seek further treatment.
In Elwood’s final months, Benedict spent a lot of time with him. He died May 17, 2013, at age 75 at Coastal Hospice at the Lake.
Benedict took Gladys to the groomer just before Elwood’s funeral, and she attended the service, along with about 35 humans.
“They were sort of unique in Salisbury,” Benedict said. “I guess it was the combination of him and Gladys. People gave him a lot more tolerance than they might some other folks.”
Gladys is 14 now.
“She’s an amazing dog,” Benedict says. She just instinctively likes to be with people … My wife and I are convinced she has some sort of aura about her. She goes with me wherever I go, and all the stores let her in. Wherever I go, people get out of their car and say ‘what kind of dog is that?’ I tell them she’s a Wheaton mix.
“Some of them say ‘I used to give food to a man who had a dog like that.'”
Donations in memory of Elwood and Gladys can be made to the organization specified in his obituary: The Humane Society of Wicomico County, 5130 Citation Drive, Salisbury, MD 21804.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 28th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, benedict the florist, compassion, dead, death, dog, dogs, elwood, elwood towers, george benedict, gladys, gladys and elwood, homeless, homelessness, maryland, pets, salisbury
Up to now, DNA testing on dogs has been used mostly to satisfy owner curiosity over what breeds are in their mutt, or by apartment managers who want to identify dogs whose owners didn’t pick up after them.
Now comes a chance to put it to more noble use. (Cue up the “Law & Order” theme.)
A district judge in Michigan ordered Jeb, the Belgian Malinois, to be euthanized after hearing the evidence against him on Sept. 19.
But Jeb’s owners, Pam and Kenneth Job, have filed a motion for DNA testing to be conducted on the dead dog, a Pomeranian named Vlad.
Vlad died Aug. 24, and his owner, St. Clair resident Christopher Sawa, says he saw Jeb standing over his dog’s body. Both dogs were inside his backyard.
St. Clair County Animal Control took possession of Jeb after that.
Vlad was found with severe bruising over both shoulders and a puncture wound on his right front leg. There was another deep wound found on his left side that penetrated his chest and broke two ribs, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Ed Marshall, the lawyer for the Jobs, is asking the judge to allow them time to have an independent lab test conducted on Vlad’s body — to see if traces of Jeb’s DNA can be found in his wounds.
A hearing on his motion is set for Monday.
The Jobs say Jeb is an unofficial service dog who helps Kenneth with a condition that causes his muscles to deteriorate.
They say Jeb is a gentle soul and that Vlad’s death could have been caused by a fox or coyote, both of which can be seen from time to time in the rural area in which they live.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 30th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal control, animals, belgian malinois, bitten, crime, dead, died, dna, dna testing, dogs, euthanasia, guilt, innocence, jeb, michigan, pets, pomeranian, science, shaken, st. clair, test, testing, vlad
Until then, outraged owners and an outraged community will try to work through their anger — much of which is being expressed on the Facebook page of the Playful Paws Pet Centre in Saskatoon.
“You better lawyer up,” one irate owner warned. “The fact you knew that overheating occurs and have no temperature monitoring, what the **** is wrong with you. You better get a lawyer because I will make it my personal mission to shut your negligent business down. Absolutely unforgivable my dog dies under your watch. By Christ I will never forgive you.”
The kennel’s post about the deaths has drawn close to 600 comments — some from families of the victims, nearly all expressing outrage.
Despite having knowledge of a faulty heater, the kennel — which boasts of providing 24-hour supervision — left the dogs unattended in an upstairs kennel room overnight Friday.
Though a mild evening, the heater pumped hot air into the room all night and the dogs all died of suspected heat-related causes.
In a statement on its Facebook page, Playful Paws said “staff and management … are devastated to acknowledge the loss of life of 14 dogs on early Saturday morning. We are incredibly saddened by this travesty of life and cannot express enough our sympathy to the families of these dogs…
“A mechanical failure on one of our roof top heating units caused it to continuously push heat into one of our upstairs kennel rooms, to the point that the dogs being kept there passed away.
“We love our dogs and each of our team is trying to personally cope with this terrible loss. Having said that we understand that our pain is small compared to the loss that is being experienced by our dog’s owners. Our sincerest of sympathy goes out to all of these individuals and the family and friends who loved these dogs.”
A former employee of the kennel said management was well aware of ventilation problems and other health issues.
“A proper kennel exchanges its air four to six times an hour. They did not have any type of fresh air exchange for the entire building,” dog trainer Fred Glawischnighe told CBC.
Among the 14 dogs being cared for at the kennel was an autism service dog named Ardie who belonging to 6-year-old Easton Irwin, who waited three years to get him.
Kelsey Friesen said she was informed on Saturday that her four-year-old daughter’s dog, a catahoula mix named Kali, was one of the 14 dogs that perished.
“It’s her best friend and now we have to tell her that her dog is not coming home,” she told CBC News.
Acadia McKague’s Funeral Centre will be holding a public memorial for the families Saturday.
(Photos provided by families)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 14th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 14 dogs, animals, autism, boarding, canada, dead, deaths, died, facility, faulty, fourteen dogs, health, heat, heat related, heating, ignored, kennel, malfunction, pets, playful paws, playful paws pet centre, safety, saskatchewan, saskatoon, service dog, system, ventilation, warnings
Thirteen golden retrievers and a Brittany spaniel scheduled to take part in an Indiana dog show over the weekend died Friday from heat related causes.
The dogs, in town for Michiana Kennel Club AKC Dog Show, were spending the night inside the back of a truck, parked in a lot at the Quality Inn in Roseland.
The truck’s air conditioning, powered by an extension cord plugged into the exterior of the hotel, shut down when a circuit breaker in the truck tripped during Friday’s heat and humidity, according to WBST in South Bend, Indiana.
A kennel operator from Ohio, who was caring for the dogs during the trip, found them dead when she went to check on them Friday night.
The dogs — three of them puppies — were supposed to be a part of the weekend show at St. Joseph County fairgrounds.
“To have something this tragic happen, it affects everybody,” said Cheryl Crompton, of the Michiana Kennel Club. “It’s been very solemn all day. I’ve cried, just at the loss of life.”
“It was an unfortunate incident, that was not in any way the fault of anybody,” she added. “It was an accident, just like a car wreck. An unfortunate car wreck, where lives are lost.”
“It appeared it was just a very tragic accident,” said Lt. William Redman of the St. Joseph County Police Department. “It was difficult, no question.”
Some of the dogs belonged to the woman caring for the dogs, Cortney Corral of Lakesyde Kennels; at least eight of them belonged to other people who entrusted her to care for them during the show.
Necropsies will be performed on some of the dogs this week as part of an investigation by the St. Joseph County Humane Society.
National officers with the American Kennel Club will also be investigating the incident, Crompton told the South Bend Tribune.
The annual dog show, which began Thursday and concluded Saturday, is hosted by three AKC clubs — Michiana, LaPorte and Berrien Springs.
(Photo: Michael Caterina / South Bend Tribune)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 25th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: air conditioner, akc, american kennel club, animals, dead, deaths, die, dog, dog show, dogs, golden retrievers, heat, humane society, indiana, investigation, kennels, lakesyde, michiana kennel club, pets, show, st. joseph county, truck
I promised myself long ago that, when Ace’s time came, I wouldn’t make too big a deal of the big dog’s death on these pages.
Unlike many dog websites, this one has always tried to avoid blatantly tugging on heartstrings — and to eschew all those mushy sounding and unnecessary words like “beloved” and “adorable” and “fur baby.”
We’ve always made it a point not to pander to your love for dogs with adjectives — just to cultivate it with truths.
For that reason, and others, we’re not going to be writing about Ace’s death a whole lot more.
Already, there have been more words written about him — between ohmidog! and Travels with Ace — than probably any other dog around. To keep going on and on about him (which in life I always viewed as “sharing”) would become something more like exploiting.
In other words, having made such a big deal out of his life, my plan was to refrain making a big deal out of his death.
But look what you went and did.
You’ve clogged my emailbox, you’ve kept my phone ringing, you’ve commented on my Facebook page and put up your own posts, often with your photos of Ace.
Since Ace’s death, I’ve heard from friends in Baltimore, Philadelphia and North Carolina, friends in — to name a few — Seattle, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, Montana, California, Arizona, New Mexico, New Jersey.
And those were just the ones who actually met him.
Hundreds more, from across the country and even overseas, who came to know Ace through our websites, left comments here and on Facebook — many of which made me cry all over again.
I guess that’s a good thing.
Thank you is what I’m trying to say, in a non-sniffly way, to those who touched Ace and were touched by him.
“Folks who don’t believe that dogs have souls have never met Ace,” a North Carolina friend wrote on her Facebook page. “I saw the effect he had on people everywhere he went. People were very drawn to Ace, it was amazing to watch. He was pure LOVE.”
“Ace was loved by so many all over the country … our hearts break for you,” wrote another, who put Ace and me up for days in Seattle during our year long “Travels with Ace” journey — and helped him overcome some stomach distress. (He arrived there with a bad case of diarrhea, probably the result of too much fast food.)A Baltimore buddy wrote, “Today is one of those days where something comes across your newsfeed that you dread seeing. Many moons ago Bim and I met a big guy of a dog named Ace at Canton Dog Park. Unlike some other big dogs, where Bim felt intimidated, he and Ace were very content to just “be” together … Ace was one of, if not THE, most amazing, chill, coolest, sweetest dogs I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.” This from a woman who Ace once pulled out of her chair and dragged across a few feet of pavement after I asked her to hold Ace’s leash for a minute.
“You will be so very missed by so many! Thank you for teaching us how to love every minute of life! The original bar dog, park dog. I am so sorry HB (Honeybun) tried to eat you the first time she met you.”
Another friend, who spend some dog park and bar time with Ace here in Winston-Salem, wrote: “Lauren and I first met Ace five and a half years ago on an assignment for the Winston-Salem Journal, and when we arrived at our interview, we saw him, a giant black-and-tan dog, gliding through the trees. We joked that he probably weighed more than 5’2” me. (He did.)
“…I watched Ace break up dog-park scuffles with the kindness and wisdom of a compassionate cop, moving his massive body between the offending parties. I saw him snack on peanut shells at one of my favorite Winston dive bars. Once, Lauren and I shared some beers with him in a booth (still one of my all-time favorite photos). He was the most gentle dog I’ve ever met … I’ll be hugging Stringer extra-tight tonight, and I hope y’all do the same with your pets. Rest easy, Aceface. The world will miss you.”
A former neighbor here in Winston-Salem whose two dachshunds were close friends and dog-walking buddies, sent this email:
“I don’t know what to say. I was thinking of what to say and then of all the things I would not like to hear… I guess I just wanted you to know that while I cannot understand what you are feeling right now … I am constantly thinking of all the many, many great times I had with you and Ace. I don’t think I knew how many until I really thought about it.”
Then she brought up Ace’s most shameful day — when he (always exceedingly gentle with every creature from baby kittens to baby ducks) took off, along with the dachshunds, after a baby bunny in College Village.
“The memory that stands out to me is the one involving the very unfortunate bunny in CV. Watching Ace actually grieve over the fact that he accidentally stepped on one, while the doxies went nuts for blood. I am grateful for having Ace in my life …”
Some of those who got in touch had only known Ace for minutes.
This from a woman we bumped into five and a half years ago at a rest area in Montana, and spent maybe five minutes with:
“John, my heart breaks for you. I remember meeting you and Ace at that rest stop in Montana during your Travels with Ace road trip. He was sweet and gentle and willingly accepted my St. Bernard Charlie’s clumsy attempts for attention. As I lost Charlie just over a year ago, rest assured Charlie is now helping Ace settle in wherever special dogs go after their time with us.”
Dozens more who passed along their condolences were people who never met him at all — knowing him only through the Internet.
“My deepest condolences to John Woestendiek, whose eloquent journey with his beloved Ace has come to an end. Thank you for opening our eyes to BARCS (Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care, the shelter Ace was adopted from) and for showing us what love looks like,” wrote Baltimore attorney and animal welfare activist Caroline Griffin.
It is greatly comforting to know he lives on.
Sure, I’m still doing all those things that people who have lost dogs do — steering clear of the dog food aisle at the grocery store, getting used to returning to an empty house, marveling at how less often I have to empty the vacuum bag, thinking about the next dog, in a while, and worrying how unfair it might be to put a dog in a position to be his follow-up act.
Like most readers of this website, I can’t imagine a dog-less life.
Like a lot of you, I probably have a more admiring view of dogs than I do of humans.
But your response to Ace’s passing — the eloquent words you shared with me at a time when it’s so hard to come up with the right thing to say — has moved me more than I can describe (without getting sappy).
Let’s just say humans can be pretty decent, too.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 23rd, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ace's death, animals, best friend, comments, dead, death, dies, dog, dogs, facebook, friends, grieving, loss, mourning, ohmidog!, pets, photos, thanks, travels with ace, tributes
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.
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.
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.
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)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 20th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ace is dead, animals, baltimore, baltimore sun, barcs, dead, death, died, dies, dog, dogs, goodbye, heart failure, hemangiosarcoma, inspiration, lethal injection, muse, obit, obituary, ohmidog!, pets, put down, stray, therapy dog, travels with ace, tumors, veterinary
Police were called to the pet supply store in San Mateo Sunday evening by the dog’s owner.
The owner, a 47-year-old San Mateo man, told officers he brought his 1-year-old male dachshund, Henry, to the store to be groomed, police said.
About three minutes later, an employee came out of the grooming office holding the dog, who was bleeding from the mouth and having trouble breathing, police said.
The employee, Juan Gustavo Zarate, 38, of San Francisco, then took the dog to an on-site veterinarian. Despite the vet’s attempts to treat the animal, the dog died within minutes.
A post mortem X-ray of the dog concluded Henry suffered two broken ribs and a punctured lung, the San Mateo Daily Journal reported.
Officers determined that Zarate likely contributed to the dog’s death and arrested him on suspicion of felony animal cruelty. He was booked into the county jail and released later Sunday evening, according to the District Attorney’s office.
“It’s definitely a sad and sensitive case for everyone involved and we take any animal neglect case seriously,” said San Mateo police Sgt. Rick Decker.
The Peninsula Humane Society will conduct a necropsy to confirm the nature of the injuries and the specific cause of death, police said.
In an email to ABC7 News, PetSmart wrote:
“We are heartbroken by the loss of Henry. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of pets, and we take full responsibility for the pets in our care.
“We are conducting an internal investigation and will take immediate action based on our findings. Additionally, we are working with the local authorities. The individual involved has been placed on suspension pending the outcome of this investigation.
“Any incident of animal cruelty goes against everything we believe as a company and as individual pet parents. No words can express our deep sorrow for the family, and we will continue to work with the pet parent during this difficult time.”
Posted by John Woestendiek May 18th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal cruelty, animals, broken, california, care, charged, dachshund, dead, died, dog, dogs, grooming, henry, lung, necropsy, pet, pets, petsmart, police, punctured, ribs, san mateo