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When what can go wrong does

Here’s a scenario that — even before I saw this frightening video — has flashed through my mind often since I became a dog walker.

As a natural-born worrier (I suspect it’s in my genes), I’m prone to assessing the situation I’m in — even when it’s an entirely pleasant one — and picturing the worst thing that could possibly happen, no matter how unlikely it is.

After six decades, I still haven’t totally gotten over my fear of being sucked under the escalator grate as the step I’m standing on flattens out and disappears.

In my dog walking job, I visit three small dogs at an assisted living center, take them down the elevator, out for a walk, and then back up the elevator to their masters’ rooms.

The possibility of this happening, or something like it, popped into my head my first day.

What if, as the elevator doors closed, a dog darted out, ending up on the opposite side as the elevator went down?

I’ve kept a firm grip on the retractable leash — and kept it in the locked position — ever since having that mental image. After seeing this video, I’ll keep an even firmer one.

Tamara Seibert, a college student in Toronto was riding the elevator March 2 with two dogs — hers and a friends. They were heading from her condo unit down to the parking garage. As the doors closed, the end of her dog’s leash was caught outside the elevator.

Vado, her five-year-old, 110-pound Rottweiler, was violently jerked upward as the elevator descended, and Seibert struggled to remove his collar, breaking two fingers in the process, she told the Toronto Sun.

“I thought I was going to watch him die,” Seibert said.

Thankfully, the clasp on Vado’s leash snapped under pressure, and he fell to the floor about the same time the elevator came to a stop and the doors opened. Thankfully too, Vado’s prong-type collar had been put on with the prongs on the outside.

Seibert, a student at Ryerson University, obtained video from the surveillance camera and posted it on her Facebook page as a warning to others.

It was reposted to YouTube, where it’s drawing all sorts of insensitive comments from people who would rather get in a good jab than learn something from someone else’s experience.

Painful as it is to watch, it’s a teachable moment, and one that proves not all my unnatural fears are that unnatural.

I, for one, have become even more cautious on the elevator, and I’m contemplating switching to the stairs — especially if I’m ever taking two dogs with me at once.

As for Vado, he’s fine.

“I can’t believe its been almost a month since I went through one of the most traumatic experiences of my life,” Seibert wrote in a Facebook post. “I thought I was about to lose the love of my life (my puppy) and seriously mangled my hand in the process … I want to warn people how fast something so simple can go horribly wrong.”

Did police officer laugh about killing dog?

cali6

Did an Oklahoma police officer laugh after he shot and killed a family’s pit bull?

That’s what at least one witness reportedly told the dog’s owner.

Sarah Brown says a neighbor witnessed the March 19 shooting of her dog, Cali, by an officer with a shotgun.

After the shooting, she said, the neighbor heard the officer remark to an animal control officer at the scene, “Did you see the way her collar flew into the air when I blew her head off? That was awesome.”

The officer laughed after making the remark, the witness said in a statement provided to KFOR.

A Change.org petition identified the officer as Brice Woolley, of the Ardmore Police Department.

Police were responding to a call about a loose dog behaving aggressively near a park, and officials say the dog was shot to protect the public, KFOR reported.

“It was determined that the dog had to be euthanized for the safety of the nearby park and neighborhood as the dog’s owner could not be located, nor could it be captured,” a police report on the incident stated.

That — minus any immediate danger — would seem to make the police officer animal behaviorist, judge, jury and executioner, for what he dispensed surely can’t be described as “euthanasia.”

And his comment afterwards — if reported correctly — should earn him a desk job, far away from the public he says he was protecting.

Brown said her two-year-old dog, while she’s jumped over the fence and gotten loose before, has never behaved aggressively.

Family and friends have started a Justice 4 Cali Facebook page, and launched a petition on Change.org.

Police Capt. Eric Hamblin said that the officer has received death threats since the shooting, and that a review of the incident showed he acted according to protocol. He remains on duty.

“I don’t think it’s prudent, I don’t think it’s wise to wait until a dog who’s acting aggressive to actually bite somebody,” Hamblin said.

Woman who took Boh from cemetery turns herself in; says she was trying to rescue him


A 36-year-old mother turned herself in Friday, but told reporters she was trying to help the German shepherd she took from a cemetery, thinking he’d been abandoned.

“I saw the dog almost get hit on the side of the road and I stopped to see if he was okay. And I picked him up thinking he didn’t have an owner. And I was trying to help. I took him to a vet to have him checked for a microchip. I was trying to help him, that’s all,” Dana Hartness told WCNC as she arrived at the Lincoln County courthouse with her lawyer.

Boh — wearing a collar, but no ID — was seen getting into a car on Feb. 28 at Forest Lawn Cemetery, which his owners live next door to. He became a social media sensation in the weeks after his disappearance as cemetery visitors posted remembrances online of how he had comforted them there.

He was found Thursday night wandering around Birkdale Village in Huntersville, about 25 miles away. Two sisters took him home from the shopping center and posted his photo on a Facebook page for lost German shepherds.

His owners, who had created their own Facebook page, Bring Boh Home, were told about the photo, checked it out, and knew immediately it was their missing dog. They picked him up Thursday night.

hartnessOn Friday, Hartness turned herself in after learning the Lincoln County sheriff’s office obtained warrants for her arrest of charges of felony larceny of a dog and possession of stolen goods.

According to the Charlotte Observer, investigators had determined that Hartness, after stopping with Boh at an animal hospital, took the dog home — contrary to her claim that he ran away when she stopped her car to let him go to the bathroom.

“We know she took the dog home,” Lt. Tim Johnson said. “She had the dog there where she lives, then he got (away) the next day.”

The Observer reported that Hartness has been convicted in the past of larceny and attempted larceny, according to court records.

(Photo: Lincoln County sheriff’s office)

Boh’s home: German shepherd who comforted cemetery visitors is found

bohhome

Boh, the German shepherd who comforted visitors at a cemetery next door to his home, has been found — one week after his disappearance.

The dog was found Thursday night, safe and unharmed, about 25 miles away from his home in Lincolnton, according to the Bring Boh Home Facebook page.

His owners say it was a post on the Facebook page that led them to the dog, according to WCNC.

Boh was last seen at Forest Lawn Cemetery on E. Hwy 150 in Lincolnton, N.C., on Feb. 28, when a worker saw a woman wearing scrubs put the dog in her car and drive off.

His owners, Tina Kennedy and Brad Beal, had been looking for him ever since, and they turned to Facebook for help. While, at first, no definitive tips came in on the dog’s whereabouts, the couple learned, through responses to their posts, just how much Boh had come to mean to cemetery visitors.

“I can’t tell you how much he comforted me when I have been alone over there,” read one. “I remember him just sitting by me…I thought that was so cute. I will say a prayer he is returned.”

Another post called Boh “God’s shepherd watching over loved ones gone, but not forgotten.”

Many others shared personal stories on how Boh comforted them in their time of need.

After his disappearance, and through Facebook, his owners learned that Boh would escort cemetery staff members arriving for work to their offices. He’d greet those who arrived to visit departed loved ones, sometimes accompanying them to the graves.

“He just started going over to the graveyard and hanging out with the guys as they were working on the graves out here and he just kind of became a part,” Beal told WCNC in Charlotte. “He would walk the ladies from their cars to the office every morning. He’d console the families.”

“It is heartwarming to know what we knew was special to us has turned out to be, or maybe to be, more special to some other people because he’s helping them through a hard time,” said Kennedy.

It was also through Facebook that they managed to track Boh down.

The dog was reunited with his owners last night.

Police have questioned one suspect, WCNC reported today. She told officers she picked up the dog to take him to a shelter in Greensboro, but that the dog jumped out of the car in Cornelius. No charges have been filed.

Now that he’s back home, Boh might not be visiting the cemetery anymore, Beal said. He said he’s reluctant to let Boh go back there on his own, but added that Boh’s frequent visitors are welcome to come visit him.

(Photo: Boh reunites with owner, from the Bring Boh Home Facebook page)

New home found for scrapbooking dog

collar

That stray dog who was found toting an old black and white photo in his collar has a new home.

But there’s still no answer to who the mystery man in the photo is, or was.

The 2-year-old pit bull mix, nicknamed Soldier, was found in Greenville, S.C., on Jan. 13. He was adopted by a new owner Sunday, Fox News reports.

soldier2Back in January, the dog was picked up and brought to Greenville County Animal Care. While checking him for ID, animal control officers found an old black and white photo stuck inside a pouch in his collar.

The photo was of a man, possibly in uniform, leaning against a fence post.

Animal Care staff named the dog Soldier, posted the old photo and photos of the dog on its Facebook page, and hoped to find some answers.

Instead, they mostly got questions – as in “can I adopt him?”

Hundreds of calls were received — none identifying the dog or man, but many from people interested in adopting Soldier.

The best fit was determined to be Julie Hensley, who saw him on Facebook and drove from her home in Virginia, in the snow, to pick him up.

Pet Rescue Saga: How I single-handedly saved hundreds of pets from being crushed

petrescuesaga

I rescued dozens, possibly hundreds, of pets from certain death the other night.

But before you call me a hero, or saint, you should know I only did it on Facebook, and only in a video game.

Pet Rescue Saga is the popular new puzzle game, downloaded more than 150 million times and playable on Facebook and through apps. It’s free, at first,  but then, like a drug dealer who has handed out samples to get new clients hooked, it starts charging you to play more, or play more effectively, or to reach greater highs.

The game comes from King.com, the makers of Candy Crush Saga, which is similar and reportedly equally addictive.

When invitations to play Pet Rescue Saga first started showing up on my Facebook page, I wrongly assumed — given most of my Facebook friends are die-hard, do-gooding animal lovers — that it was a game that somehow was related to, or benefited, animal welfare causes.

It’s not, and it doesn’t.

There might be some unintentional similarities to the real world of animal rescue, such as walls being put up in front of you, and things piling up faster than you can handle them. But “Pet Rescue Saga” isn’t about rescuing pets in the animal welfare sense of the word. It’s mainly about busting blocks, and then more blocks, and then more blocks, by clicking on them to ensure that the “adorable” little pets atop them don’t get squished.

Given video games have a reputation for catering to our basest instincts — chopping off heads, running people over in cars and the like –  I had hopes, especially when Facebook friends kept inviting me to play, that this one might actually be about a noble pursuit, or might even be educational.

No such luck. What it teaches us about pet rescue is that we can save animals by matching two or more blocks of the same color.

Still, I ended up spending an hour playing it on Facebook, which annoyingly notified me to “share” every time I passed some friend’s record, before it got to the point where further play would require an investment of money. (That — having to fork up some money — generally prevents and/or cures any addictions to which I might fall victim.)

There are hundreds of levels of the game, and the higher you go (or the more you spend) the more tools you get to “save pets” – like sizzling rockets, hammers and exploding bombs.

In playing it, one becomes so focused on the blocks that he forgets about the animals. The endangered animals really seem a well-contrived afterthought, as if the gamemakers thought putting pets in need of rescue atop the stacks of blocks — as opposed to pots of gold or damsels in distress – might give it some relevance, or, pet rescue being a popular cause, add to its popularity.

“Wait! Don’t forget about the animals! ” says a review of the game on gamezebo.com. “Some levels of Pet Rescue Saga have dogs, pigs, and pigeons trapped on stacks of blocks, or wedged in columns. When you successfully clear away blocks, said animals drop safely to the ground. However, since many levels of Pet Rescue Saga scroll vertically, the animals on tall columns are in constant danger of getting squished on the top of the screen. Nothing ruins your day like the anguished squeal of a piglet.”

Squishing aside, it’s nice to see a game that’s seemingly about rescuing and saving, as opposed to killing and maiming.

It would be much nicer to see a game that was really about rescuing and saving animals, or that really taught compassion, or at least tried to.

I’m not necessarily saying the makers and marketers of the game are trying to capitalize on tender-hearted pet lovers, or that they mislead people to think the game might have some legitimate connection to the actual world of animal rescue.

But, after playing the game, I did start receiving emails from the gamemaker — far too many emails — with subject lines like: “Pets in danger. Help them now!” Clicking on the link in the email took me directly to the game’s Facebook app.

I don’t keep up much anymore with the latest developments in video games. So I don’t know if phony altruism is the latest video game trend: Bust up the blocks and find a cure for cancer. Bust up the blocks to feed the starving children.

Maybe there are some truly altruistic video games out there. The Game Show Network came close to that last month when it introduced Pet Pals Slots, a limited-edition game on Facebook. It earmarked a portion of money made from gameplay in November — up to $30,000 — to go to Best Friends Animal Society, providing food, medical care and shelter for animals at the organization’s Utah sanctuary. In other words, while playing a mostly mindless game, those who played Pet Pals Slots, at least in a way, were saving pets.

Video games, with exceptions, are rarely educational, and I don’t really expect them to serve as our moral compass. (More often they seem aimed at sending that compass haywire.)

And of course they’re not obligated to share the wealth they make with any deserving causes they borrow their themes from.

But how cool would it be to see — in addition to less squishing — more of that?

Some brotherly love goes viral

jeffreyandjermaine

A story of brotherly love — canine style — has spread from Philadelphia across the world after a shelter volunteer posted a photo of two snuggling pit bulls, one of whom helps his blind brother get around.

The photos of Jermaine and his blind brother Jeffrey have received more than 3.2 million views.

Kimberly Cary, a volunteer with the Chester County SPCA posted pictures on Facebook late last week of the  8-month-old puppies, their legs wrapped around each other as they slept at the shelter.

“It has just touched the hearts of people all around the world,” Tom Hickey, a board member with the Chester County SPCA, said Sunday

jandj2The 35-pound strays were rescued from the streets of West Philadelphia Oct. 5 and placed in Operation Ava’s no-kill shelter on North Third Street, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Jeffrey is completely blind in one eye and probably sees only shadows in the other. He leans on Jermaine and follows him around when they are in unfamiliar territory. The pair is considered inseparable.

“These guys are bonded, and Jeffrey really is dependent on Jermaine at this point,” said Ray Little, lifesaving director of Philadelphia’s Operation Ava animal shelter. “When they are separated, they get really insecure.”

As of Sunday afternoon, no one had completed an application to adopt the brothers, but people from as far away as the U.K. were expressing a desire to take them in.

“I wish people realized that just because you’ve seen them doesn’t mean they’ve been adopted,” said Cary, 28, who posted the Facebook photos Thursday and Friday on the request of Operation Ava. “They still need somebody to come rescue them.”

Jermaine and Jeffrey both had mange when they were rescued, but they are “happy” and in “very good health now,” Little said.

The dogs will be held at Operation Ava until they are adopted as a pair.

“They obviously have some sort of innate bond,” said Emily Simmons, executive director of the Chester County SPCA, “and it will be wonderful to see them adopted together.”

To learn more about adopting the pair, contact Operation Ava at 215-240-1240.

(Photos:  Chester County SPCA)

Homeless man reunited with his pit bull

handoverJames Bryan says in recent years he has lost his farm, home, wife and most of his personal belongings.

The only real piece of his previous life the homeless Florida man still had was his dog, a blue pit bull named Handover.

On the morning of May 8, he woke up — along U.S. 19 in Hudson — to find Handover was gone, too.

The dog was gift, five years ago, from his now ex-wife. She was holding the dog and asked Bryan what they should name him. Bryan said, “Hand him over.”

“He is my best friend. He’s my heart and soul,” Bryan told ABC Action News, which last week picked up on the story about the missing dog. “If anybody sees him, please bring him home.”

As word spread about the missing dog,  Carolyn Texter, who knew Handover and Bryan from her work with animal rescues, decided to help.

Texter started a Facebook page to find Handover, and a reward fund established for his safe return grew to $1,000. Yesterday, Handover was found and, after a visit to a vet for a check-up and microchipping, reunited with Bryan.

 Texter described him as “speechless” and thankful for all the help he’d received.

(Photo: Facebook)

Obie 4 and Obie after: Dachshund down to 35 pounds after excess skin removed

Like that light at the end of the tunnel, there’s now some light underneath Obie, the overfed dachshund.

And that’s even more the case after surgery yesterday to remove 2-1/2 pounds of loose skin from the dog who once tipped the scales at 77 pounds.

Obie was recovering at the Emergency Veterinary Clinic of Tualatin, in Oregon, after surgery to remove the excess skin that remained after he lost 40 pounds in 8 months.

Obie’s caretaker, Nora Vanatta, says the surgery went well and that she hopes to bring him home today, according to KGW in Portland.

Obie weighed 77 pounds when he was given up by his former owners in Puyallup, Washington, last year and assigned to a foster home by a rescue organization.

Oregon Dachshund Rescue placed Obie — that’s him to the left in his beefier days — in Vanatta’s care. But after his girth garnered national attention the organization asked for the dog back, claiming Vanatta — by publicizing his crash diet and seeking contributions to his care — was exploiting him.

When Vanatta refused to turn him over, they filed a lawsuit, accusing her of using the “sensationalistic promotional value of his unusual obesity” and “earning money off of his public exhibition on national and regional television shows,” while not taking care of his condition.

A settlement in the case was reached in January, allowing Vanatta to keep the dog.

Before the Tuesday surgery, Obie was down to 37 pounds and four ounces. 

“We haven’t weighed him since the surgery, but he lost 2 1/2 pounds of skin” Vanatta said. “So he should be around 35 pounds now. I figure his healthy weight is between 28 and 30 pounds.”

For now, he’s resting comfortably at the veterinary clinic (left), from which he’s expected to be released today — a few pounds lighter and his skin much tigher.

Vets will evaluate Obie to determine if more surgery is needed after he loses the last five pounds, a goal Vanatta hopes will be achieved late this summer.

Obie’s fight with obesity can be followed on the Facebook page Vanatta created on his behalf.

(Photos: KGW)

Where did donations to Charlie go?


David Gizzarelli took in more than $17,000 in donations from big-hearted dog lovers in what he described as an attempt to save his dog Charlie, who was deemed dangerous after attacking a National Park Service horse.

But his attorney says Gizzarelli is unable to help out with the $9,000-plus tab for veterinary care, feeding and shelter that Charlie, an American Staffordshire terrier, has received since last August, when he was taken into the custody of animal control in San Francisco.

Apparently the $17,000 that was donated was spent on attorney fees, paying for the horse’s vet bills and “other living expenses.” That’s what Gizzarelli’s new attorney says, adding that his client can’t afford to help pay the bill and is currently sleeping in his car.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins ordered Gizzarelli to pay  anyway — specifically, half of the costs for boarding and treating Charlie since the incident.

Gizzarelli is still raising money to “help save Charlie” — via a Facebook page and his Help Save Charlie website — even though he has relinquished ownership of the dog, who is now in foster care and will likely end up in an adoptive home or sanctuary.

Until his court appearance, he had not provided any accounting of where the donated money went, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

Charlie has been in the custody of Animal Care and Control in San Francisco since August, when he was  deemed “vicious and dangerous” by the police department. The cost for housing  him and providing veterinary care for an earlier injury totaled $9,808 as of Monday’s hearing.

Gizzarelli, in an earlier settlement, agreed to give up custody of Charlie and attend a hearing to discuss payment for Charlie’s care.

But he kept selling “Help Save Charlie” merchandise and collecting donations even after that. And while Charlie could probably still use help — he hasn’t been deemed adoptable yet — it appears little if any of the donated money has gone for the dog.

Questions during Monday’s hearing revolved around the amount of legal fees Gizzarelli paid to two attorneys, and $3,000 his attorney said was spent on ”food,  transportation and housing” — apparently for the human, not the dog.

Gizzarelli’s attorney, Orestes Cross, said his client has no money. “My client is on social welfare, living on $422 a month and sleeping out of  his car,”  told the judge during the hearing. “He fought the fight because he cares about his dog.”

Rebecca Katz, director of Animal Care and Control, says some donors to Charlie are likely upset. “I don’t believe those who contributed expected that money to go toward personal expenses,” she said. Since the settlement, Charlie has been in foster care. According to Katz, he needs several more months of training before he can be considered for adoption or placed in a sanctuary.

Gizzarelli faced federal assault charges after the attack on the police horse, but according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office those have been dropped.

(Photo: Help Save Charlie Facebook page)