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Tag: fundraiser

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)

Remembering my son, Joe

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On May 13, 1992, a flight arrived at LAX from Seoul and three Korean babies, orphans all, were carried off the plane by their escorts to be handed to their new adoptive parents.

My wife and I were there to meet one of them, our new son whom we’d decided, based on photos, would be named either Sam or Joe, depending on which seemed the better fit after seeing him in person.

He was the last one off the plane, a tiny thing with an unruly shock of jet black hair that was shooting in every direction after the 11-hour flight. For a moment, we debated whether he might be an “Elvis.” But we opted for Joe.

Joe WoestendiekFast forward 26 years — and God, did it ever go too fast — and Joe (full name Joseph Yoon Tae Woestendiek) was lying in a coma in a Memphis hospital, his hair shaved off, and parts of his skull removed to accommodate the swelling of his severely damaged brain. The outlook was bleak, at best.

He was on his way home from work when his car rear-ended a dump truck on the interstate near Holly Springs, Miss. The truck grinded to a halt. The truck driver pulled Joe out of his burning car. And he was airlifted by helicopter from Mississippi to Memphis — to, ironically, the Elvis Presley Trauma Center.

He died 13 days later. For nearly two weeks doctors kept him sedated and fought to relieve his cranial pressure even while warning that, if he came out of his coma at all, he would likely have little to no brain function due to the extent of the brain damage. They warned, too, that lung problems had developed, and that those and the strain on his heart, were more likely to take his life. His heart came to a stop on June 18.

joefishing

I write this another week later, partly to explain why our ohmidog! posts came to a halt, but more to keep his memory alive, and in hopes that writing about it will be cathartic and make some of the numbness and emptiness inside me go away.

joetromboneJoe grew up in Orange County, Calif.; Yardley, Pa., Anderson, S.C., and Florence, Ala. He lived in recent years with his mom and stepdad in New Albany, Miss. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he earned a B.S. in computer science from the School of Engineering.

He’d recently started a job he loved — in the information technology department of Automated Conveyor Systems, Inc., of West Memphis, Ark.

His visits to my home, in Winston-Salem, N.C., had dwindled, but up until he finished college he’d come here regularly on holidays and in the summer. He loved guitars, and video games and, of course, dogs. He’d always get teary on his last day visiting; I was never sure if it was because he was leaving me, or leaving my dog Ace. He’d yet to meet my new dog, Jinjja, also adopted from Korea.

SONY DSCWhile here, Joe would volunteer with the Forsyth Humane Society, an organization I’ve also done some work with as a volunteer. He’d walk dogs at the shelter, and help out at events, his favorite role being donning the mascot costume — a swelteringly hot furry dog outfit — and working the crowd.

He had three dogs of his own at home.

Because of his love of dogs, and the joy working with humane society brought him, I’ve decided a fitting tribute would be to make a donation to the humane society in his name — one significant enough to merit a plaque with his name on it.

His name on a brick paver is one option, but I, for what are probably selfish reasons, want more.

I want to try to make a donation large enough to make him a lifetime sponsor of one of the shelter’s kennels.

That way, everyone who walks in to look at the many dogs available for adoption will see his name, and maybe more importantly, I will. I like the idea of a kid once in need of adoption sponsoring a kennel that will house dog after dog after dog in need of adoption — forever.

That requires a $10,000 donation, not an amount I have handy, or can even dream of obtaining. But, unachievable as that might be — and needing something to do right now — that’s what I’m working on.

So here is my plan.

I’ve started a Facebook fundraiser aimed at donating $10,000 to the Forsyth Humane Society in his memory.

SONY DSCA memorial service for him will be held in Mississippi this week.

But I want to do something here in Winston-Salem — perhaps a mini-concert featuring some musician friends of his and mine. I’m working now on setting that up.

I want it to be a simple and joyful hour or so, nothing somber, nothing speech-filled — just a chance for local friends to come together and say goodbye, maybe at the Muddy Creek Cafe in Bethania. We always enjoyed going there.

When Joe arrived in the U.S., my then-wife Jenny and I were living in Orange County, California. The riots that Rodney King’s beating sparked in Los Angeles were only starting to settle down. I was covering those for the newspaper I worked for at the time, the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Every morning, I would cruise through the most devastated areas, returning to a hotel in the evening to write. It was a bleak couple of weeks, the kind that make you worry about humanity and its future. Nearly every day, my rental car was pelted by rocks and chunks of concrete. At nearly every stoplight, I’d receive hateful stares and threatening gestures.

I remember wondering as I drove those streets how, and why, complete strangers could hate me so much.

Amid all that, we got the call that our adoptee was on his way. We were supposed to pick him up in Korea, but somebody goofed. My boss was kind enough to give me some time off, away from the riots, to bond with my new son.

And in the ensuing weeks, and years, I remember wondering how a complete stranger could love me so much.

And me him.

SONY DSC

That’s what he taught me, and it’s not unlike the lesson anyone who adopts a dog learns. Show a creature love and respect and loyalty and you’ll get it back — unconditionally and exponentially. Oppress, abuse and disrespect it and you’ll get … what you deserve.

As abruptly and prematurely as Joe’s life ended, I will always be thankful for the joy he brought me and the lessons he taught me.

I’m thankful, too, for all the prayers and expressions of support I’ve received from friends (and even strangers). I am overwhelmed by the response to the Facebook fundraiser. I posted it three days ago, and it’s already more than halfway to its goal.

Thanks also to the caring staff at Regional One’s Elvis Presley Trauma Center, and to that truck driver, Michael Simpson of Memphis, whose actions gave Joe a fighting chance.

Those wishing to contribute to Joe’s plaque can do so through the Facebook fundraiser.

Contributions can also be made through ohmidog!, or directly to Forsyth Humane Society. Please specify they are for Joe Woestendiek’s memorial plaque.

Dogs as artists, dogs as art

shake2leashes1

The idea, or so it seems, was to have dogs serve as artists — covering the canines with pet-safe paint and having them shake it off, creating Jackson Pollock type canvases in the process.

Pawsitive Ohio, a non-profit group whose mission is to end the euthanasia of dogs in Northeast Ohio shelters, was behind the effort to raise funds by auctioning off the resulting artworks at an event to be held in April.

But, at least from what has been revealed so far, it looks like the dogs — all seniors and all rescues — might have become the art, moreso than they became the artists.

Photographs of the dogs during their creative process turned out to be art in themselves, and they were recently posted on the Pawsitive Ohio website. None of the paintings the dogs created were.

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According to Cleveland.com, both the photos and the artworks will be on display at three upcoming events.

The dogs created their works in the photography studio of David Baio.

“David is a dog lover who graciously and patiently allowed our artists to create their art in his studio,” said Jennifer Harrington, director of Pawsitive Ohio. “We originally thought the canvases would be the stars of the show, but David’s photographs are incredible … the photographs alongside the canvases truly complete the collection.”

The photos show dogs dripping paint, shaking off paint and licking paint — made of corn starch and food coloring — from their snouts.

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Both the paintings and photos will be on display March 9-23 at the Massillon Museum, 121 Lincoln Way, Massillon. Then the artwork will be on display April 10-20 at the Canton Museum Of Art, 1001 Market Ave., Canton.

After that, the canvases and photography will be auctioned at the “SHAKE! Shades Of Gray” fundraising event on April 21 at the Canton Cultural Center For The Arts, 1001 Market Ave., Canton.

All funds raised will go towards Pawsitive Ohio’s mission of ending needless death of homeless dogs in Northeast Ohio. The organization raises funds for adoptions, spay and neuter programs and educational materials.

How a dog named Scout avoided becoming dinner and became the life of the party

scout

Talk about your culture shock.

One week, this chow mix appeared destined to become somebody’s dinner. The next — after being rescued from a dog meat market in Yulin, China — he was mingling with celebrities and members of congress at a Humane Society of the United States’s (HSUS) gala in Washington, D.C.

Just two nights after arriving in the U.S., the dog, since named Scout, was the life of the party at a fundraiser that brought in more than $100,000 in pledges for Humane Society International (HSI) to open an office in Vietnam that will work to end the custom of eating dogs, according to HSUS Chief Program and Policy Officer Mike Markarian

The event was part of last week’s Taking Action for Animals conference.

Dog meat for sale in a shop in Yulin city, Guangxi province June 20, 2014.Scout was one of 200 dogs recently rescued by Chinese animal protection activists from a dog meat market in Yulin.

Peter Li, Humane Society International’s China specialist, was in Yulin with other activists protesting a dog meat festival.

He came across Scout and another pup, sharing a small cage on the back of a motorcycle, and purchased them from a vendor, according to a Humane Society blog. Li kept one of the dogs and shipped the other to the U.S.

Days later, rather than being dinner, Scout attended one, where he was showered with attention, according to Animal Issues Reporter.

While the 12-week-old dog has landed in the lap of luxury, Scout will likely be earning his keep, becoming a poster boy in the campaign to end the consumption of dogs by some humans in some Asian countries

“I would really like to make sure he’s an ambassador to the community” said Leslie Barcus, HSI board member and executive director of VegFund, who adopted Scout. “We could use his help for educational purposes about the plight of street dogs and of dogs used as food —  for human consumption –across Asia and other parts of the world. He’ll be in the community a lot, and he’ll be a friend of everybody.”

(Photos: HSUS)

Another N.C. county retires its gas chamber; invites the public to come give it a whack

clevelandcounty

Another North Carolina county has abandoned use of the gas chamber to kill unwanted dogs — and it said goodbye by allowing critics of the ghastly contraption to take a few whacks at it with a sledgehammer.

Animal advocates from Cleveland County rallied against use of the gas chamber last summer, and the county ceased using it a couple of months ago, switching to lethal injections to “euthanize” dogs.

(We put euthanize in quotes because the word means mercy killing, and, as we see it, killing animals due to overcrowding isn’t really merciful.)

Especially not in a gas chamber — a device still used in eight North Carolina counties.

In Cleveland County, where hundreds petitioned to end its use, the gas chamber met its doom Saturday, when, as part of a fundraiser at Tractor Supply in Shelby, residents were invited to take a whack at it with a sledgehammer.

One whack was $5; three whacks ran $10, the Shelby Star reported.

A balloon release was held to close the event, commemorating dogs and cats that lost their lives in the gas chamber.

“We talked about a lot of different things but it seemed to be that the most common thing in different places was that they used a sledgehammer,” said Deb Hardin, a volunteer with the Clifford Army Rescue Extravaganza (CARE), a nonprofit animal assistance organization in Cleveland County.

All proceeds from the fundraiser support the care of animals at Cleveland County Animal Control.

North Carolina is one of about a dozen states still killing shelter animals in gas chambers, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Eight of the state’s 100 counties still use gas, the Charlotte Observer reported last week.

Iredell and Cabarrus stopped using gas last year.

(Photo: Shelby Star)

Paws4ever: The Walk for Animal Protection

p4ePaws4ever is holding its 8th annual Walk for Animal Protection next month.

The event raises funds for the guaranteed-adoption animal shelter and sanctuary, located on 50 acres in western Orange County, N.C.

Paws4ever is dedicated to improving the lives of cats and dogs through adoption, training and education.

The event starts at noon on Oct. 6, with the 2-mile walk scheduled to start at 2 p.m. It is held at Southern Village in Chapel Hill.

Other activities include live music, agility and flyball demonstrations, a blessing of the animals, over 20 vendor booths and performances by the Paws4ever Canine Drill Team.

Walkers pledge $30 and kids under 10 are free. Each walker receives a gift and all proceeds benefit the lifesaving work at Paws4ever.

Paws4ever’s Waggin Wagon, the only food truck for dogs will also be on site.

Here’s where you can pre-register.

The walk is hosted by Southern Village and sponsors include Animal Hospital of Carrboro, Auto Logic, Carrboro Plaza Veterinary Clinic, Chapel Hill Mobile Veterinary Housecalls, Copperline Books, East Coast Veterinary Imaging, Erickson Advisors, Falconbridge Animal Hospital, Hillsborough Veterinary Clinic, Lucky Dogs Daycare and Grooming, Phydeaux and Saratoga Grill.

A matter of Faith: Girl, 5, gets service dog


A family in northern Maine says it is “overwhelmed” by the generosity they saw from friends and strangers who donated enough money for them to get a service dog for their 5-year-old daughter, Faith.

Faith has spina bifida and experiences seizures. The new dog — a black Lab named Dandy — has been trained to detect when they might be coming.

Bruce and Beverly McNally, of Island Falls, took Faith in as a foster child, then as their adopted daughter. They quickly realized they needed help monitoring her for the seizures, which could be deadly if not addressed.

“The family became very worried, which is why they wanted to get the dog,” Michele King, Faith’s aunt, told the Bangor Daily News.

King is also the chief administrative officer for Brave Hearts, a nonprofit Christian home for young men in Island Falls, and that organization sponsored a fundraiser last month to try and raise the $2,500 that was needed.

King said that donations came from the more than 100 people who attended a benefit supper, and from people as far away as North Carolina.

“We just couldn’t believe it,” Beverly McNally said. “We eventually had enough money and we had to gently turn people away. We had to tell them that we had enough for the dog, but that we wanted them to donate the money to a charity of their own choosing.”

Dandy came from CARES — Canine Assistance Rehabilitation Education and Services — a nonprofit organization in Concordia, Kansas, that trains and matches assistance dogs with owners.

“Dandy has just been wonderful for Faith,” McNally said on Friday. “She picks up on a chemical change in the body when a seizure occurs. One day when we got back, Faith was very lethargic. She was in the chair with me and needed to be snuggled a lot more. And the dog got up in the chair and started whining. And I didn’t realize what was going on. And 45 minutes later, Faith had a seizure. Then I realized what the dog was trying to tell me.”

(Photo: Michele King)