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Tag: death

Malfunction indicators: Despite them, the Acemobile lives on to drive another year


It’s not up there with losing a family member, or a dog, but the the thought of losing a car — inanimate as it may be — can sometimes be a little painful, too.

This year, as the time came up for a state inspection, my red 2005 Jeep Liberty — best known as the Acemobile, and filled with memories from the last 13 years — things were not looking good.

The engine light, aka the check engine light, or the malfunction indicator light, would not go off.

That’s been a problem, off an on, for years now. It comes on. I generally ignore it. It goes away. Fortunately, it never happened at inspection time, but this time it did — and it stayed on.

Decades ago, the check engine light was just that — a warning that you should check the engine. Now though it serves as the beacon for the automobile’s entire computer system, and it could be a sign that virtually anything is wrong.

Absolutely, it is a bit of a scam. The light goes on. You take it in for an expensive diagnostic test, meaning they hook your car’s computer up to yet another computer, and it spits out some vague information about where problem area might be.

As with doctors and their testing machines, guesswork is still involved, and often a long process of eliminating other possibilities. At least with human health problems, though, you can go on with life, coping with your ailment until, just maybe, it gets figured out.

It’s a good thing humans don’t have to pass inspection to hang around, and probably a good thing (given they are not all that reliable) that we don’t have malfunction indicator lights.

In North Carolina, you can’t pass an inspection when your engine light is on. You can unhook a battery cable, which resets the car’s computer and makes the light go off for a while, but that doesn’t fool them. They know when it’s resetting.

Having until the end of September to get the inspection, I took it in at the very beginning of the month. They ran the diagnostic test, found some alleged problems, replaced some parts and a couple of tires, handed me a bill for more than $800 and told me to take it home and drive it until the computer reset.

When the computer reset, the light came back on.

By then I was already worrying about investing too much in an old car that might not even be fixable. Virtually everyone I spoke to about my car trouble said sell it and get a new one.

I couldn’t.

I took it back to the same place and they looked at it again. They believed they pinpointed a problem, but it was not the sort they could address. They thought that, somewhere in the wire that ran from my speed sensor (one of the parts they replaced) to the speedometer, there was a short.

Herein lies one of the ironies, or at least it struck me that way:

You are not required to have a working speedometer to pass inspection in North Carolina. But you are required to have that check engine light off.

So even though my light was on due solely to the speedometer issue, they could not pass it.

At this point, I am thinking a well-placed blow with an ice pick, right into the bulb, might be the answer. Instead, at the suggestion of the mechanic, I took it to another garage that specialized in electrical matters.

I explained to two people there what the first garage thought the problem was and handed over all the paperwork.

The next morning I got a call informing me I needed a new power train control module; the price $1,990. I asked how they knew that. They said because the computer said so. I asked about the faulty wire issue that had been diagnosed earlier. They said all they know is what the computer is saying.

I got a little angry. I tried to understand the situation, but face it: Most of us do not understand what computers are saying, or, even more difficult, what humans are saying that computers are saying.

Again, true of doctors and true of car mechanics.

I asked, again, about the wiring problem that had already been diagnosed, and whether they had ruled that out as an issue. They insisted I needed the module, which had to be paid for by me before they ordered it.

I debated again, but only briefly, getting rid of the car.

And I decided the memories were worth the $3,000 I was about to put into the car with 108,500 miles on it.

For one year, Ace and I lived in the Jeep, more or less, while traveling across America. The Acemobile was my Rocinante, the name John Steinbeck gave his camper during Travels with Charley — taken from the name of the horse Don Quixote rode.

The horse — like him, like Steinbeck, maybe a little like me — was awkward, past his prime, and trying to recapture something he may or may not have had in the first place.

All the many trips I took with my son, Joe, also sprang to mind — from warming breakfast sandwiches on the dashboard defroster on a cold morning fishing trip to meandering through Texas on a ride from Arizona to Alabama, or was it Mississippi?

I lost Ace a couple of years ago. I lost my son a couple of months ago. In recent years, I’ve also lost my mother, my father, and to top it all off, a kidney.

I honestly just couldn’t stand, stomach or tolerate another loss.

So my wallet and I headed down to the second garage to pay for the module. When I walked in they told me that I was right about the wiring issue. I did not need the module after all. They just needed to replace that wire.

The next day I picked it up, paying another $500-something, and took it directly back to the first garage. It passed inspection. I was so grateful that I instructed them to fix two other problems — the hydraulic bars that keep the hood up when opened and the hydraulic bars that keep the back window open.

Maybe I was tired of getting bonked in the head by both. Maybe I was showing my car a little love. Maybe I was learning a lesson about treasuring and caring for what you have.

I picked my car up Wednesday.

When Hurricane Florence comes my way, probably Friday, my car will be parked far away from any trees that might fall on it.

The Acemobile lives!

(Photos by John Woestendiek, from Travels with Ace)

Who killed Evie: Dog dies while being trained in Ohio prison program


A rescue group’s German shepherd has died while participating in a prison program intended to bring out the best in both the dogs in need of adoption and the inmates who are caring for and training them.

Members of the dog rescue group Joseph’s Legacy said one of its dogs, Evie, died from blunt force trauma, while housed at the Warren Correctional Institution, a state prison in Ohio.

The program — similar to many operating successfully and without incidents across the country — was operated for years in partnership with 4Paws for Ability, whose primary mission is to train and provide service dogs to the disabled.

But in a comment sent to ohmidog!, officials of that organization say the have not been involved in the program at Warren Correctional for several years.

“4 Paws For Ability is not associated with WCI at all …. We pulled out of WCI a year ago due to a change in the prison inmate population. They simply have not removed us from their website. We are not involved in this incident in any way,” the comment )below) reads.

Joseph’s Legacy had been sending dogs for about a year to the program, which is one of more than 30 operated in conjunction with different nonprofits in the Ohio state prison system.

The rescue told WLWT none of their dogs will return after this incident.

Authorities are questioning the two inmates Evie shared a cell with.

Similar programs are up and running in at least 159 prisons in 36 states — most house the dogs they are working with in kennels, some let the dogs share cells with inmates. Most, like the one at Warren Correctional, require that inmates not have a violent past.

In a Facebook post, Joseph’s Legacy wrote:

“We have lost one of our own animals who we feel needs justice and her story told…

“These programs are meant to be great for the dogs and the inmates. These programs are supposed to be closely monitored by the prison staff. We were invited to join this program at Warren Correctional institution. Like most, we were excited to have our troubled dogs get their training and excited to help the program. Many dogs came, got trained and headed out to their forever homes…

“These programs are more risky than we had originally thought. Please use our Evie as an example to think twice if you are in a rescue considering these types of programs. We know it’s not everywhere but please keep Evie in mind.”

While questions about the two inmates working with the dog, and the prison’s supervision of the program, are mounting, it’s probably worthwhile to take a look also at what outside monitoring of the program took place — namely by the rescue organization which so willingly donated dogs to be trained and whatever outside organization, if any, was running it.

On the Ohio prison system’s website, 4Paws is still listed as the official partner in the program at Warren State Correctional, but 4Paws that is old information that has not been updated.

What organization is behind the prison program is not clear.

The rescue organization, in calling for “Justice for Evie,” says in its Facebook post that “we had volunteers regularly on site and observing the dogs progress and how the handlers were working with them.”

“Regularly” is open to wide interpretation.

Evie the German shepherd came under the care of Joseph’s Legacy in 2015 after getting hit by a car and breaking a hip. About that same time, she had babies and nursed them through her recovery.

After that, she was adopted, but because she was prone to escaping, soon was returned to the rescue.

“…We had thought maybe trying to get some more training, it would be safer for when she was adopted again…”

They enrolled her in the program at Warren Correctional and last week got the call that the dog had been found dead in her cell.

According to the Facebook post, a necropsy showed Evie died from blunt force trauma to her abdomen, causing her liver to hemorrhage and damaging a kidney.

The organization also stated that its concerns about the program had recently risen — but not to the point that they had removed Evie from it.

“Last week, we got a dog and she was all of a sudden fearful, so we were investigating and just making sure everything was good, but you’re talking just a few days later, this happened,” Joseph’s Legacy President Meg Melampy said.

The State Highway Patrol is investigating the death, and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction will hold its own investigation at the prison, as well as review animal programs at other prisons, JoeEllen Smith, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, told The Associated Press.

Most likely, prison authorities will quickly solve the mystery of who killed Evie. It is likely one inmate, or the other. But that inmate, directly responsible as he may be, is not the only one who deserves some scrutiny.

The state prison system needs to also ask some questions about itself, and the supervision it provided, keeping in mind that it’s not the concept behind the program that is at fault, but shortcomings in administering it. Those outside organizations involved in the program might be well served to take a look at themselves as well.

That would be justice not just for Evie, but for all dogs.

(Photos: From the Joseph’s Legacy Facebook page)

An understandable, but still wrong, case of dog cloning

Most people who get their dogs cloned — whether they are Barbra Streisand or a non-celebrity — do so in a misguided attempt to hang on, if not to that dog, at least to its memory.

A Michigan woman had a slightly different reason: She cloned her daughter’s dog to hang on to her daughter’s memory.

And, however much sympathy that might evoke, however difficult this is to say, that’s still every bit as misguided.

Photographer Monnie Must, who has spent her career capturing memories, lost her eldest daughter, Miya, to suicide almost 11 years ago.

Must took over the care of Miya’s two dogs, Henley and Billy Bean.

As the 10th anniversary of Miya’s death approached, Henley passed away. Billy, a black Lab, was about to turn 14.

“Billy was her (Miya’s) soul and the thought of losing her was more than I could possibly bear,” she said.

“I thought, I am going to clone her,” Must told Fox 2 in Detroit. “I don’t know where it came from. It wasn’t like I was reading about it, I just thought I am going to clone her.”

Must began researching what it would take to clone Billy, and ended up in contact with a U.S. company called PerPETuate, the only U.S. company offering the service. The cloning was accomplished in a lab operated by Viagen, a company that primarily clones livestock.

Two vials of tissue were taken from Billy, and scientists merged Billy’s cells with egg cells of of another dog, creating an embryo with Billy’s exact DNA.

That was implanted into a surrogate dog at a Rochester, N.Y., lab operated by Viagen.

Last October, they called to tell her they were going to do an ultrasound on Oct. 11 — Miya’s birthday.

“It’s like, really? Of all the dates?” Must said.

Eight weeks after the birth of the dog, named Gunni, Must, who lives in Sylvan Lake, Mich., flew to Rochester to pick her up.

“There was like an immediate bond between us, this dog. I just adore this dog.”

Now eight months old, Gunni’s appearance and personality strike her as identical to those of Billy.

“Billy was kind of a wild, crazy, happy dog – and Gunni is kind of a wild, crazy, happy dog and she is smart,” she said. “So all I can see so far.”

And here is where I need to stop and point out a few things.

Cloned dogs don’t always have the exact appearance as the original, and a “personality” match is even less likely. Often, when they do, it’s because surplus dogs have also been cloned. Souls, I’d respectfully argue, are not transferable. How many puppies have you known that aren’t wild, crazy and happy? What did Must really pay $50,000 for, and could not an equally similar dog been found at her local shelter?

Grief can lead us to do strange things — and that is what those who invented and marketed the service have counted on since the bump-filled beginning.

(You can read about that bumpy beginning in my book, “Dog, Inc.”)

PerPETuate reported on its that Facebook page that the dogs are physically similar, but that Gunni was not initially getting along with Billy Bean, the donor dog, who is still alive.

gunniandbilly“Billy Bean was envious of Gunni and would like to have had her out of the house! After weeks of sensitive management Billy and Gunni are sharing space and beginning to form a close relationship.”

Must says Gunni is “perfect” and that having her in her life has reduced her anxiety.

“A lot of people have feelings – is this right, is this wrong?” she said. “For me, this is what was going to make me function.” Those who would criticize her, she said, “are not in that position. You can’t walk in someone’s shoes. I hope no one else has to walk in those shoes.”

One never feels fully whole again after losing a child, she says, but with Gunni at her side she is able to feel joy again.

As one who can relate to that, I’m happy she found a pathway to joy, even though — sadly — it was not the right one.

FDA investigating legume-based dog foods

legumes

Pet food containing potatoes, peas, lentils and other legumes might be causing heart disease in dogs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a warning to pet owners.

Citing “highly unusual” reports about canine dilated cardiomyopathy, the FDA said last week it is investigating a link between the food and cases in which dogs have been diagnosed with the disease, which can cause an enlarged, weakened heart and eventual heart failure.

Large breeds have always been prone to the disease, but the new cases include a Shih Tzu, a bulldog, and a miniature schnauzer.

Canine DCM is a disease of a dog’s heart muscle and results in having an enlarged heart. As the dog’s heart and chambers become dilated, the heart becomes unable to pump normally, leading valves to leak and a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen.

It often results in heart failure, but can be improved if caught early.

Breeds more prone to the disease include larger breeds like Great Danes, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards and Doberman Pinschers.

Among those reported cases, the dog’s diets frequently included potatoes, multiple legumes like peas, lentils, other seeds of legumes, as main ingredients, the FDA said.

Foods labeled “grain-free” typically have higher levels of legumes or potatoes, but it is not yet known how the ingredients are linked to the heart disease.

Medical records for four atypical DCM cases revealed three Golden Retrievers and one Labrador Retriever, showed low whole blood levels of the amino acid taurine. Taurine deficiency is well-documented as a possible leading factor in the disease.

Other cases include a mini Schnauzer, Shih Tzu, and two Labrador Retrievers. The FDA is working with the Veterinary Response Network, a collaboration of government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories investigate the potential association between these ingredients and DCM.

The FDA said it is in contact with pet food manufacturers that make the foods.

The FDA is encouraging pet owners and veterinary professionals to report any cases of DCM in dogs that are suspected of having a link to diet. To report a case, click here.

Newest “World’s Ugliest Dog” dies at age 9

Sixteen days after winning the title of “World’s Ugliest Dog,” Zsa Zsa, a 9-year-old English bulldog, has died.

Zsa Zsa won the 30th annual contest on June 23. She passed way in her sleep Monday night, her owner, Megan Brainard, told the Star Tribune.

With her floppy tongue, crooked teeth, pronounced underbite and squished in face, Zsa Zsa captured the hearts of the judges at the annual contest at the Sonoma-Marin County Fair in Petaluma, California, which bestows the dubious honor annually.

zsa-zsa-today-tease-180625_f6982e248fea6a466e6e3f64763a2512.fit-560wThe contest describes itself as “all in fun,” and a way to promote dog adoption.

It has some hard core fans, some hard core contestants, and some critics, too, who say the competition has become a little too cut-throat, and too often features unhealthy, sickly and deformed dogs.

Some years, winning dogs have been expected abuse victims, or been given points for an “oozing sore.”

Nevertheless, it is greeted every year by the news media with puns and laughs.

After winning the annual contest in California, Zsa Zsa was flown to New York for an appearance on the morning shows, including NBC’s “Today Show” and “Fox & Friends.”

Brainard, of Anoka, Minnesota, adopted Zsa Zsa after spotting her on Petfinder. The dog had previously been rescued from a puppy mill in Missouri when she was five years old.

Brainard said she named Zsa Zsa after the Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, as the pup enjoyed lounging on the couch “like a beautiful model.”

Dog who played Duke, that sarcastic golden retriever in Bush’s beans commercials, dies

Duke, the Bush’s Baked Beans dog, has died — one of them, anyway.

Just before the July 4 holiday, Sam, a golden retriever from Florida, passed away. He was one of several dogs that appeared as “Duke” in television ads.

His death became known when a neighbor of his owner, in Apopka, posted the news on Facebook.

Subsequently, the bean company expressed its sadness on social media.

“We continue to be overwhelmed by fan interest and their love of Duke. The relationship between Jay and his beloved dog Duke is the embodiment of the BUSH’S brand, and has been a part of our family story for more than 20 years,” the company wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “During that time, we’ve worked closely with several dogs who portrayed Duke in our commercials, including Sam. While Sam has not worked with us in years, we are saddened by the news of his passing and are grateful to have had him depict Duke. Because Duke is iconic to BUSH’S and so adored by our fans, we will continue to use him in our ads.”

Sam’s owner, Susan, who trains animals to work in commercials, had him put down. He was suffering from cancer, CBS reported.

dukeOdom shared a photo of Sam sitting in the grass, with an American flag flying behind him. “Here is a photo from his better days. He was a very special dog to all who ever knew or had the pleasure of meeting him. He is and will be missed,” Odom wrote.

Sam’s character “Duke” is known for making sarcastic comments to his “owner,” Jay, in the company’s commercials. A human voices his lines in the ads, many of which deal with dog’s seeming willingness to divulge the the Bush’s secret family recipe.

Give the Fourth of July is a major bean-eating holiday, his death hit home with many, who took to social media to express their sorrow.

Ace, and a few hundred other friends, surface during my fundraiser to honor Joe


My quest to honor my son’s memory by having a kennel in my local humane society named after him has almost reached its goal, thanks to the kindness of friends, family and a lot of people I’ve never known.

Sure it’s only a plaque, just like a condolence card is only a card, and words are only words, and, from the giver’s point of view, none of them really seem sufficient to honor a loved one who has passed — especially one who dies such an early death.

But people do what they can at times like these. And the $10,000 (maybe more) donation Joe will be making posthumously to the Forsyth Humane Society will go a long way in terms of caring and finding homes for the dogs who end up there.

thermometer-red-90-percent-hiThe plaque is one of several commemorative opportunities the shelter, like most, offers to those wishing to make a donation in the name of a loved one lost, be they cat, dog or human.

Forsyth Humane Society, in North Carolina, offers commemorative bricks, engraved with the loved one’s name, from $100 to $250, based on their size; bench plaques, for $750; annual sponsorships of individual kennels for $300 a year; and the big one — sponsoring a kennel for a lifetime — for $10,000. As part of the kennel sponsorships, the Humane Society sends you the stories of three of the dogs that occupy the kennel each year.

(You can check the website of your local humane society or SPCA to see the commemorative opportunities it might offer.)

For my son Joe, 26, who died two weeks after an accident on an Interstate highway in Mississippi, I had to shoot for the perpetual sponsorship.

When Joe visited me in the summer, he volunteered at the Forsyth Humane Society a few days a week, and at special events, where he most enjoyed donning the dog costume of its mascot.

So the choice for a memorial to him seemed a good fit — and a much-needed something to keep me busy.

I started a Facebook fundraising campaign, which is now more than 90 percent of the way to its goal and has left me marveling at the kindness and generosity of my friends, most of whom I’ve done a poor job of staying in touch with over the years.

Former colleagues at the Philadelphia Inquirer responded, as well as many from the Baltimore Sun. College friends kicked in. Dog park buddies came through, as did lots of you ohmidog! readers, some I know and some I don’t.

And I can’t remember ever being so touched. Thanks to you, Joe, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, will soon have his name on a kennel that, over the course of each year, will probably house one or two dozen homeless dogs (one at a time) awaiting that happy outcome.

Each and every donation, large or small, has lifted my spirits.

One of the gestures that moved me most came from a friend in Baltimore who was mourning the death of her dog.

Carey Hughes once fell really hard for me, but let me explain.

bm3We’d met when we were both out with our dogs at some sort of function in the Inner Harbor. We got together a few times after that, since our dogs hit it off so well — usually at a dog park, or a bar that allowed dogs.

Once at an outdoor restaurant near the harbor, I asked her to hold Ace’s leash for me while I went inside for more beer. Her dog, Bimini was tied to the table, but given Ace, at 140 pounds, could drag a table pretty far, I asked Carey to hold on to him.

When I came back outside, Ace bolted toward me, toppling Carey’s chair and dragging her a foot or two across the pavement (something he’d done with me a few times, so I knew it hurt, despite her assurances).

The fact that she didn’t let go of the leash says something about her. So does what she did this week. Bimini died last week, and friends were asking Carey how they might contribute to some sort of memorial for him.

Instead, she asked those friends to donate to Joe’s fundraiser, in a Facebook post, and many of them did.

She’s planning gathering in Bimini’s honor in the days ahead during which she will bury Bimini’s ashes in a whiskey barrel behind her house, then plant flowers on top.

bim2Having some of Ace’s ashes still remaining from my two spreadings of his ashes — one in the Atlantic Ocean, the other in a creek along a trail we used to hike regularly — I asked her if I could send some of those to be in the whiskey barrel with Bimini.

Given Bimini never liked to be alone (neither did Ace, who died two years ago), she thought it was a great idea.

Unless postal authorities became suspicious of the powdery substance inside and tore the package open, the ashes should have arrived yesterday.

Little things like that, all piled on top of each other — the reuniting with friends, the generosity people have shown, the support I’ve received — have, along with keeping myself as busy as possible, have made this week tolerable.

I posted a remembrance of Joe on ohmidog! Monday. On Tuesday, my local paper, the Winston-Salem Journal, ran a beautiful front page story by columnist Scott Sexton about Joe and the fundraising campaign. Those, combined with the Facebook fundraising campaign, have led to it nearing it’s $10,000 goal.

As Sexton noted, say what you will about all the cons of Facebook — and I frequently bash it — it leads to some pretty marvelous things.

“Facebook has earned every last bit of criticism leveled at it for helping to sow discord and divide people through dissemination of fake news and paid manipulations by bad actors overseas. It, and other outlets, are easily manipulated and should be viewed in many cases with healthy skepticism and an eye toward fact (and source) checking.

“The flip side is that social media can be extremely useful. It can help connect lives, share news and has the power to bring people (and communities) together. It also has the ability to pass word of tragedy, and spare people from having to repeat over and over and over the unfathomable.”

Joe WoestendiekIt is mainly through Facebook that old friends have gotten in touch and complete strangers have decided to donate. Thanks to those who shared the posts, and to all those who sent comforting words.

My friends are mostly fellow writers, many of whom pointed out that words just aren’t sufficient at times like this.

But they tried anyway and, for the record, they do help. A lot. Words, gestures, hugs — they mean everything right now.

So will Joe’s plaque. It will probably take a while before it goes up on one of the kennels at the humane society, which opened its new facility two years ago. It takes time for the donations to be funneled through and for the actual making of the plaque.

I can’t wait to see it.

And if that last name isn’t spelled right, as often happens, believe me I will let them know.

(Photos: Joe Woestendiek and Ace, by John Woestendiek; Bimini and Ace, courtesy of Carey Hughes)