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Live nude kudzu, and other thoughts


Sweeping back through the south, we’ve crossed Tennessee and made it to North Carolina, this time without the benefit of what, back in the summer, was our favorite form of highway entertainment — looking for dogs in the kudzu.

The Vine That Ate the South is naked now, having lost its leaves for winter, leaving behind only long strands of clumped-together, spindly, bare vines. I can no longer see big green animals in the leaves, only stick figures, spider webs, spaghetti and road maps.

The kudzu will be back, though, in spring — and ready to spread as quickly as “adult superstores” have through Tennessee. There are a lot of “adult superstores” in the Volunteer State. Going down I-40, it seems like every other billboard is either touting an “adult superstore” or the fact that Jesus Saves.

After crossing the Mississippi River, we stopped outside of Memphis for a quick visit with my son, checking into a Best Western, where I had reserved a room online, after seeing it touted itself as dog-friendly.

Not until I arrived did I see that there were pet fees, according to a posting at the front desk  — $15 for a dog between 5 and 20 pounds, $25 for dogs 20 to 40 pounds, and $35 for dogs 40 pounds and up.

I immediately squawked — I’ve become a bit more of a squawker in recent months — pointing out that I’d be paying almost as much for the dog as for me.

“How much does your dog weigh?” asked the desk clerk.

I thought about lying, but, having seen too many God billboards, couldn’t. Over 100 pounds, I said, adding that he’s much better behaved than a lot of 10 pound dogs, and pointing out that the whole charging by weight concept was ludicrous.

The desk clerk made a face like he’d swallowed something yukky and excused himself. Ten minutes later he was back, with a room assignment and news that they’d only charge me $25 for the dog.

Too tired to have any principles, and wanting to get off the road on New Year’s Eve, I accepted the discount and took the room. Then I seethed about the whole thing — especially the weight part — for a couple more hours.

Charging fees for dogs is not dog-friendly; its dog-greedy. I wonder how much damage dogs do to motel rooms across America, compared to that done by people.

Rather than pet fees, maybe motels should be looking at rock star fees — for they, if we’re going to stereotype, are famous for trashing rooms. Why not a fraternity boy fee? A student on spring break fee? A crying baby fee? A loud sex fee?

Only twice in our travels have we experienced loud sex — both times from the room next door. Ace and I did the only thing we could. We tilted our heads and looked at the wall the sounds were coming from, then turned up the TV.

This particular Best Western — where we neither experienced loud sex nor managed to stay awake until midnight — had another sign at the front desk that bothered me: “No Visitors.”

Is that constitutional? Even prisons allow visitors.

Depite all the control being exercised in motels, or at least the one we stayed at, Tennessee, as a state, seems less successful at reigning in kudzu, or adult superstores. (Not that I have anything against adult superstores; it’s a free country, except at the particular Best Western we stayed in.)

As we passed through Tennessee, I stopped at several huge thickets of kudzu (and at no adult superstores, though I was wondering what exactly made them “super”).

I searched the bare vines for dog shapes, which some some of you may recall became a bit of an obsession for me over the summer, but I could find none.

Instead, all I could see in the withered and weepy vines were hunched over old witches, overworked peasants and evil motel desk clerks who charged exorbitant pet fees.

Georgia man says census taker killed his dog

A Georgia man says a visit from a census worker led to the death of his two-year-old Chihuahua, Sofie.

Charles Oliver said a worker from the U.S. Census Bureau pulled into his driveway at his home in Byron Tuesday, crushing his dog.

Oliver said he had not returned census forms sent to his home this year.

“They know I’m here,” he told the  Macon Telegraph. “Why do they even need a census? Let me not pay my taxes. They’ll be here.”

Oliver said the census worker, whom he described as an older, heavyset man driving a newer model sport utility vehicle with a Vietnam Veteran tag, didn’t apologize after both men spotted Sofie in the driveway. He took Oliver’s information and left.

Sofie was normally kept inside, but was in the yard because Oliver was outside working in his garage, he said.

During the 2000 Census, 13 workers died during visits to collect information from people who had not responded to the mail-in form, including one who was mauled to death by a dog, census officials say.

Ed Davis, spokesman for the U.S. Census bureau’s Atlanta office, said the bureau had received no report about the dog’s death.

“We take very seriously the public safety and personal safety of our workers,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, things happen when we have hundreds of thousands of people in the field.”

The Peach County Sheriff’s Office took a report about the incident, but no charges are expected to be filed against the unknown census worker.

(Photo: Beau Cabell / Macon Telegraph)

Bolted down dog art disappears in Indiana

Two of the 41 decorated dog sculptures that have been placed in and around Purdue University as part of a community art project were stolen before the exhibit officially started, and a third was almost stolen early Sunday.

A student was arrested, but Purdue University police don’t believe he was responsible for the earlier two thefts, the Journal and Courier reported. Police said Adam Sachs, 20, a sophomore engineering major, was carrying a toolbox when an officer saw him at 3:30 a.m. attempting to steal one of the sculptures.

The decorated, life-sized dog statues, bolted to 600-pound concrete bases, have been placed throughout  Lafayette, West Lafayette and on the Purdue campus as part of a community art project and fundraiser sponsored by the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine and the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette.

The “Dog Days of Summer” exhibit officially opened Saturday. Artists from Indiana and other areas decorated the fiberglass dog forms, and the works will be auctioned when the exhibit ends in October.

The two stolen statues were entitled, “Give a Dog a Bone,” located outside the Veterinary school’s Lynn Hall and “Alfie the Alpha Dog,” which was in front of the West Lafayette Public Library. Whoever took the initial two statues loosened all but one bolt, breaking a leg off on “Give a Dog a Bone.”

Kevie Doerr, director of alumni relations and public affairs with the School of Veterinary Medicine and a member of the Dog Days of Summer committee, said they will offer a reward of up to $250 for safe return of the artwork.

(Photo: One of the dog sculptures is bolted down, prior to exhibit opening; courtesy Dog Days of Summer Committee)