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Tag: death

The homeless man and his white dog

elwoodandgladys

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.

elwoodgladys2Then, about a year and a half ago, they disappeared.

No one has seen Elwood since last May, though some people still think they see his 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 died last May 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 Towers for grooming Gladys, Walls reported, just like some local veterinarians cut him a break when Gladys needed shots or medical treatment.

An obituary 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.

gladysBenedict, 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.’”

While Elwood has been dead for a year and a half, donations can still be made in his memory to the organization specified in his obituary: The Humane Society of Wicomico County, 5130 Citation Drive, Salisbury, MD 21804.

World’s tallest dog dies of “old age” — at 5

zeus

Zeus, the world’s tallest dog, is dead.

The Great Dane passed away earlier this month — two months shy of his sixth birthday — from “symptoms of old age,” according to his owner.

Great Danes have shorter life spans than most dogs — most likely the result of breeders intent on making the breed larger yet, and the strain that size puts on their organs — which only makes the death of Zeus doubly sad.

“We’ll really miss him,” said Zeus’ owner, Kevin Doorlag, of Otsego, Michigan.

Doorlag and his wife, Denise say Zeus was a “wonderful dog” — famous both for Guinness World Record-setting size, and for his work as a therapy dog in their hometown.

He stood 44 inches at the shoulder — 7 feet, 4 inches on his hind legs. He claimed the Guinness World Record in 2012, and still held the title in the 2013 and 2014 editions.

The previous World’s Tallest Dog was Giant George, a Tuscon, Arizona, Great Dane. He died at age 7.

Kevin Doorlag said one of the things he will miss most is seeing the joy Zeus brought to others.

The death of Zeus is, first and foremost, a time to remember and celebrate Zeus.

But if it makes us question why, in the name of seeking extremes, we accept purebred breeding practices that lead to ill health and short lives, that’s fine, too. They’re in need of questioning.

What there’s less need for — whether it’s in pursuit of ribbons, world records, or sales — is making fluffy dogs fluffier, long and skinny dogs longer and skinnier, short snouted dogs even more shortly snouted.

We don’t need (sorry, Marmaduke) cartoonish dogs, or dogs that, through breeding them with close relatives, become exaggerated caricatures of their breed.

Healthy dogs will do just fine.

(Photo: Kalamazoo Gazette)

The last living 9/11 search and rescue dog?

TrakratGroundZero

A golden retriever named Bretagne is all over the Internet today — today being 9/11 — looking much grayer around the muzzle than she did in 2001 and being described as the only search and rescue dog at the World Trade Center who is still living.

Whether that’s accurate depends on how you define “living.”

Not to pick nits, but there’s another dog, a German shepherd named Trakr — said by some to have found the last human survivor of the World Trade Center attack — who lives on … in a way.

Trakr was cloned in 2009, after his owner, a police officer turned actor, won an essay contest seeking the world’s most “cloneworthy” dog.

Five little clones of Trakr were born, after Trakr’s death at age 16 in 2009, and arrived in the U.S. from the Korean laboratory in which the procedure took place.

It’s a long story, one you can read about in the book, “DOG, INC.,” which recounts how dog cloning became a commercial enterprise.

Here’s the short version: Trakr was the partner of  James Symington, a Halifax, Nova Scotia,  police officer. When Trakr was retired, Symington claimed him as his own. On Sept. 11, 2001, after seeing news reports, Symington, without authorization from his department, took Trakr to the World Trade Center.

There, as Symington recounts it, Trakr discovered Genelle Guzman buried in the rubble — the last survivor found.

Others dispute his account.

Symington later moved to California to pursue a career in acting, taking Trakr with him. When an American company called BioArts announced it was holding a “Golden Clone Giveaway,” Symington submitted an essay, and won.

BioArts footed the bill (about $150,000) and sent samples of Trakr’s DNA to South Korean veterinarian Hwang Woo-Suk, who was on the team at Seoul National University that produced the world’s first canine clone, Snuppy. He’d since been fired and opened his own laboratory, Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.

Trakr’s DNA was inserted into five “surrogate” egg cells, each of which was zapped with electricity and implanted into a different female dog.

SONY DSC

In June 2009 five clone puppies were born and, a few months later, delivered to Symington. He named them Trustt, Solace, Valor, Prodigy, and Deja Vu, and said he planned to train them all as search as rescue dogs who would carry on Trakr’s legacy.

They seem to have fallen out of the limelight since then, and their Facebook page hasn’t been updated for a couple of years.

Earlier this year, the man who pushed dog cloning and sponsored the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” in an apparent turnaround, said cloning dogs — a service still offered in South Korea — was not a viable, profitable, or humane pursuit, noting that it took up to 80 dogs to clone just one.

Lou Hawthorne headed BioArts, and spearheaded the earliest (unsuccessful) efforts to clone dog at Texas A&M University. That research was funded by University of Phoenix founder John Sperling, who died last month.

While some of the main characters involved in dog cloning seem to be fading from public view, from Trakr’s clones to Sperling, dog cloning is not — Sooam Biotech is still carrying out clonings for customers who want duplicates of their dead or dying pets, at a price that has dropped to about $100,000.

But back to the dog who is in the news — Bretagne. She returned this week to the site of the former World Trade Center complex with her longtime handler and owner, where they were interviewed by Tom Brokaw for NBC’s Today Show.

Bretagne (pronounced “Brittany”) is one of eight finalists for the American Humane Association’s annual Hero Dog Awards, and later this month she’ll travel with her owner to Beverly Hills for the awards ceremony.

My hunch, and hope, is that Bretagne is not destined to be cloned, and that her owner realizes what many customers of dog cloning have not — every dog, and every person, is one of a kind. And one of a kind means one of a kind. That special something inside your dog can’t be re-created in a laboratory.

Duke’s last day

duke

When a friend had to put her dog down a week ago, Houston photographer Robyn Arouty joined her to provide some moral support, and to document Duke’s bittersweet last day with her camera.

Arouty, who is also an animal rescuer and advocate, joined her friend Jordan Roberts on July 7 as she let Duke feast on hamburgers and visit a water park before he received a lethal injection — all while surrounded by friends.

Duke, a black Lab, was diagnosed a few years ago with osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor, and had his right front leg removed. The cancer came back, though, and was spreading.

“His tumor was growing rapidly and we were out of options,” Roberts said. “He would rally during the day, but his nights were increasingly uncomfortable as his tumor started to separate his ribs. We struggled with the decision to let Dukey go, but ultimately did everything in our power to protect him from further pain.”

duke2She made an appointment with a vet to have him euthanized on Monday, July 7. Then she called Arouty, who had taken photos for her before. She told her about her plans for Duke’s last day and asked her to photograph it.

Arouty’s photos show Duke and friends eating hamburgers in the morning, visiting a water park, and cuddling with friends.

Along with the photos, Arouty told the story of Duke (narrated from his point of view) on  her blog . (Note: At the time of this writing, it was having some technical difficulties.)

“Jordan let me know she had scheduled the appointment with the vet and the words just came,” Arouty told KSL.com. “See, I have lost three of my own dogs in the past year and a half.”

“With the help from our friends, Dukey had a beautiful day filled with love and happiness,” his owner said. “We should all be so lucky.”

duke4

(Photos: From Robyn Arouty’s Facebook page)

“Dig ‘em up and move ‘em out”

greenmounds

When is a “final resting place” not so final?

When it’s a pet cemetery in Florida.

The owner of Green Mounds Pet Cemetery in Pinellas County says she can no longer afford to maintain or pay taxes on the property, and she is urging owners of the thousands of pets buried there to “dig ‘em up and move ‘em out,” according to a recent report by WFLA.

“In another year the county will most likely take possession of the property due to back taxes owed,” Laura Fletcher, president of Fletcher Enterprises, Inc., told a Channel 8 reporter.

She advised pet owners to move their animals to another cemetery before someone else takes the property and decides to bulldoze and develop it.

Seems all those promises the cemetery’s previous owners made about perpetual care, and all the fees pet owners paid for it, mean nothing now — if they ever did in the first place.

The former owners of the cemetery sold the property in 2000 to Fletcher Enterprises, Inc., which owned a Harley Davidson dealership next door. The company purchased the cemetery, but never operated it as such. They planned instead to use the land to expand their parking lot.

When the motorcycle dealership went out of business, Fletcher Enterprises stopped fully maintaining the property, which is now overgrown with weeds, with a mausoleum that serves as home to at least one otherwise homeless man.

Those who buried their dogs and other pets there over the decades — reportedly 6,000 of them — have watched the cemetery get covered up with weeds and brush so dense that any headstones have become hard to see.

“I get angry at this place not being maintained, because I did pay for perpetual care,” said Joann Vaught, who buried her poodle Martini in Green Mounds in 1979. “I think it’s deplorable, it’s such a disgrace to the memory of our beloved pets.”

Green Mounds sits off U.S. Highway 19 near the Largo city line.

The WFLA reporter who visited found a mattress in the mausoleum building, apparently used by the same man whose underwear was seen hanging on a railing.

Customers have complained to Pinellas County officials about conditions at the cemetery, but they said all they could do anything about was the weeds. The county has ordered Fletcher to cut them several times, and she has complied.

Pet cemeteries are not regulated by the state.

Fletcher told WFLA in an email that she is willing to donate Green Mounds to another pet cemetery or anyone who will maintain it.

“We are within our rights to sell, donate or build on the property as we see fit. We chose not to do any of these until pets could be moved. It has been a year and a half. Plenty of time to move them. Do it soon or you may not get a say in what happens to them once we no longer own the property.”

Here’s the WFLA report:

WFLA News Channel 8

Creator of “Where’s Spot?” dies at 86

hillEric Hill, whose children’s books about a mischievous dog named Spot sold more than 60 million copies, died last Friday at his home in central California.

Hill, whose first book, “Where’s Spot?” was published in 1980, passed away after a short illness, according to Adele Minchin, a spokeswoman for his publisher, Penguin Children’s Group.

The book told the story of Spot’s mother, Sally, as she searched for him around the house, finding a hippo, a lion and other creatures along the way.

Hill was born in England. His career as an illustrator began when he became an errand boy at an illustration studio during World War II, which led to a position at an advertising agency, according to the Associated Press

While freelancing as a creative marketing designer in the late 1970s, he drew a picture of a puppy using his now-famous flap innovation, which fascinated his 3-year-old son, Christopher.

He was so pleased with his son’s reaction to his work that he invented a story to go along with it, which, eventually, became the highly successful “Spot the Dog.”

wheresspot

That came after countless rejections from publishers who were wary of  his use of paper flaps to hide parts of his illustrations — such as a flap in the shape of a door that is lifted to reveal a grizzly bear.

“Familiar as we are today with a children’s book market where flaps, pop-ups and all kinds of novelty and interactivity are taken for granted, it is hard to recall what an extraordinarily innovative concept this was in the late 1970s,” Minchin said in a statement.

“At that time, Eric’s idea was so different that it took a long while before anyone was brave enough to consider publishing his first book about Spot,” she said.

“Where’s Spot?” was followed by “Spot’s First Walk,” “Spot Goes to the Beach” and many others.

Hill, who moved with his family to the United States in the 1980s, is survived by his wife, Gillian; his son, Christopher; and his daughter, Jane.

Miley sings to giant statue of her dead dog

This video loses its audio about two-thirds of the way through, but it’s enough for you to get the point.

Which is either (A) Miley Cyrus misses her dog, or (B) Miley Cyrus wants to be sure everyone knows how much she misses her dog.

Floyd, an Alaskan Klee Kai that Cyrus had owned since 2011, died April 1. While repeatedly tweeting about the pain that has caused her,  Cyrus has been hesitant to describe what caused the dog’s death. It is now believed to have been a coyote attack.

floydAt a concert Saturday at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Cyrus sang “Can’t Be Tamed” to a giant, glowing-eyed,  inflatable likeness of the dog.

Afterwards, Cyrus told the audience, “That was the hardest song of the night to do … as y’all know, because I lost my Floydie this week … Sometimes I just can’t stop from breaking down crying.”

It was the second appearance Cyrus has made with the statue, the first coming in a performance in Boston last week.

I sympathize with the singer, and offer my condolences, but I can’t help but notice in her all the same traits I noticed in customers of dog cloning, when I wrote a book on the subject.

She has yet to seek to bring back a laboratory-created copy of a dead dog, as far as I know. But, like most of the early customers who did, she’s wealthy, eccentric, perhaps a tad selfish, wants to control the uncontrollable, and seems to think her grief is somehow larger than anyone else’s.

I can’t help being turned off by those who need to shine a spotlight on their mourning. Call me old fashioned, but I think that should mostly be done in private. Cyrus, it seems, has decided to take her grief — like her navel and tongue and other body parts — public.

In recent years, the singer has gone through dogs at a rapid pace.

In 2012, Cyrus rescued a dog she found abandoned outside a Walmart, and named him Happy. He joined her other three dogs, Floyd, Lila and Ziggy.

A few months later, Lila died of initially undisclosed causes, though Cyrus’ mother later revealed Lila died of injuries received when she was attacked by Ziggy, and that Ziggy had been gotten rid of.

mileyfloydAs she was then, Cyrus was very public, but offered few details, when it came to Floyd’s passing.

The facts behind the dog’s death weren’t revealed until one of her backup dancers posted some photos on Instagram, along with the explanation that Floyd had been the victim of a coyote attack at home while Cyrus was on tour.

Since Floyd’s death, her mother has given her a new puppy, named Moonie.

(Photos: Top, Miley in concert in Brooklyn; bottom, Miley with Floyd;  via Twitter)


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