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Tag: homeless

A modest proposal: Let’s lose “control”

I have a simple and modest proposal — one that would involve only a name change, a slightly new way of thinking, and maybe some new stationery.

It has long been in the back of my head, but was brought to the forefront by recent cellphone videos gone viral — one (it used to be above but was removed from YouTube) of a dog being dragged through the halls of an animal control department in California; one (below) of a police officer slapping and otherwise berating a homeless man in Florida.

Both are examples of what can go wrong — and often does — when you give one group power over others. Both are about control.

Seeking, seizing and holding “control,” necessary as it sometimes seem in a so-called civilized society, almost always leads to bad things, including most of the dog abuse that occurs in our country. We get a little too caught up in the whole idea of having control — over our fellow man, over other species, over other nations, over nature itself.

Those put in control, as today’s videos show, tend to lose control when they see their control being threatened.

Hence, I propose that we do away with the term “animal control” and rename all those county animal control offices “animal protection” departments — protection being what they are mostly about, or should be mostly about, in the first place.

I’m not suggesting doing away with regulating and enforcing in the dog world — only that those doing it go under a different moniker, which, just maybe, would allow them to be seen by the public, and see themselves, less as heavy-handed dictators, more as noble do-gooders.

And animal control offices do do good. They operate shelters, find dogs new homes, rescue strays from the streets and abusive situations. The new name would put an emphasis on that, and take it away from “control.”

The term “animal control” is archaic — not much better than the even more outdated “dog warden” — yet most counties continue to use it. Employees see it on the sign when they pull into the parking lot, when they walk through the front door, on their memos and their paychecks. It’s a constant reminder, even though most of their duties are aimed at helping dogs, that they are, above all, strict enforcers and inflexible bureaucrats.

A simple name change could help fix that.

I, for instance, would love working as an animal protection officer; I’m not sure I’d want to be an animal control officer — even though most of what they do is about protecting animals. The name change could attract job applicants who see the mission as helping dogs, and possibly help weed out those who see all dogs as nuisances, and control as paramount.

In addition to improving employee self-esteem, it could help change the negative public perceptions that come with being the agency that tickets dog owners for leash-less or unlicensed dogs, euthanizes dogs when their facilities get too crowded, and sends the “dog catcher” out on his daily rounds.

There’s no reason — assuming a stray dog is being captured humanely, and treated humanely in a shelter, and put up for adoption — that the “dog catcher,” traditionally portrayed as a villain, can’t become a dog savior in the public view.

Having “Animal Protection Department” written on the side of the truck, instead of “Animal Control Department,” would go a long way toward that.

A simple shift in emphasis, and in how some agencies present themselves to the public, is all I’m talking about. It wouldn’t be only a matter of spin, though. Being an animal protection department would require actually protecting animals — and seeing that as a primary mission.

It wouldn’t make the world a kinder place overnight, and it wouldn’t keep cranky police officers from slapping homeless people — like I said it’s a modest proposal — but it could be a start, at least in the dog world, to a new way of thinking both about and among the government employees we entrust those duties to (and pay the salaries of).

They would be more about helping and educating, less about controlling.

A handful of agencies have at least worked “animal protection,” or “animal care” into their names, but most can’t quite bring themselves to let go of the term “control.”

Thus you have, for instance, the Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control.

Maybe they think losing “control” would be a sign they are losing control.

The term “control” might be appropriate when it comes to those agencies dealing with things like disease and traffic.

But not for those dealing with our family members.

Homeless man finds shelter — for his dog

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Disliking all the rules that come with staying in a homeless shelter — especially the ones that prohibit dogs — Bernard Holland chose homelessness over doglessness.

He’d arrived in indianapolis a few weeks before Thanksgiving, stayed with family until that turned sour, then — as temperatures plummeted — pitched a tent in what’s known as The Jungle, a homeless camp just east of downtown.

That’s where a social worker ran into him and his two-year-old mutt, Oreo, on a night temperatures were dropping below zero.

Now, one of them, at least, is staying warm.

oreoIf you guessed the dog, you’re right.

When Ben Bierlein, owner of Wigglebutt Doghouse, heard of the pair’s plight, he offered to take Oreo in and foster her at the daycare and boarding facility.

“To us, the real story here is about a man, although down on his luck and living in a tent, who would not give up on his dog,” Bierlein explained to the Indianapolis Star.

“The fact that he was willing to gut it out in sub-zero temperatures because he didn’t want to leave his dog — that’s pretty powerful. With the myriad of reasons people surrender their dogs to shelters, Bernard would have had a very valid reason, but he loves Oreo; she means the world to him.”

Bierlein, after being contacted by the social worker who came across Holland and Oreo — Melissa Burgess of  Horizon House – offered to care for Oreo during the cold snap. He also paid to get Oreo up to date on shots and to be spayed.

Normally, that would allow Holland to get a slot at a homeless shelter. But he’s still living outside — at least partly by choice.

Holland says he’ll continue to make his home in a tent, unless the nights get too unbearably cold. He says he’s put off by the early curfew and other rules of homeless shelters, and considers them a last resort.

He has enrolled in Opportunity Knocks classes through Horizon House, and he hopes to find a job as a painter or janitor. Horizon House is also trying to help him find affordable housing where Oreo, who he has had since she was four months old, would be welcome.

Holland, 53, said he once operated his own drywall business in Chicago, but in 1992 he was shot at random by two teens as part of their gang initiation and had to undergo multiple surgeries.

Now, he says, he just wants to “get Oreo back, have a roof over my head and have a job and do the right thing in life. I’m not looking to be rich, just live a happy life.”

He plans to hop on the bus and visit Oreo regularly until they are reunited.

Meanwhile, ”Oreo is putting smiles on all of the faces here,” the owner of Wigglebutt said. “She is adorable, the biggest sweetheart — and she has made lots of new four-legged friends. She’s very dog-social. If you could watch her during the day, you’d think she’s been coming to doggie day care for years.”

(Photo: Mike Fender / The Star)

Homeless man who surrendered his dog to shelter still walks him every day

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Out of work and out of money, Pete Buchmann could no longer pay his rent. So the Claymont, Del., man and his dog Buster moved to the back yard of a vacant home nearby and pitched a tent.

Even during the warmth of July, the novelty of that wore off pretty quick — perhaps quicker for Buster, who is nine and arthritic, than Pete, who is 54 and able-bodied.

“It was kind of fun for about a week,” Buchmann said, “but it wasn’t good for Buster.”

Buchmann moved to Delaware less than two years ago from Long Island, where he cared for an ailing mother and sister until their deaths. He got by on part-time jobs, but when even those ran out he was forced to sell his car, then give up his $800-a-month pet-friendly apartment.

Realizing life in a tent wasn’t going to be good for him or his dog, Buchmann asked police for the name of animal shelter where he could take Buster — and maybe get him back once he was on his feet and employed again.

He was given contact information for Faithful Friends Animal Society in Wilmington.

After leaving a couple of phone messages, and details on where he and Buster could be found, Buchmann received a visit from a shelter official.

“We drove out and found them,” Lou Henderson, manager of the shelter’s dog department told the  Wilmington News Journal. ”We also took Pete a goodie bag with some food and things in it to help him.”

Buchmann said his goodbyes and Buster, a Rottweiler-boxer mix, was taken to the shelter.

But neither the story, nor Pete and Buster’s relationship, ended there.

buster2Buster, who was very attached to Pete and not especially social with other dogs, now has his own room at the shelter.

While Buster is enjoying the hospitality of Faithful Friends, Buchmann is now residing (though not in a private room) at the Sunday Breakfast Mission.

And every day, he walks five miles to visit with and walk Buster.

He helps out with the shelter’s other dogs, too

“I am just amazed at his attitude,” Executive Director Jane Pierantozzi said. “He walks two-and-a-half miles each way every day to see Buster, and then he spends two or three hours helping us walk the dogs. Most people in his situation would be depressed and angry, but he isn’t.”

Pierantozzi says she has been so impressed with Buchmann, she’d hire him if the non-profit shelter had the money. Instead, she’s reaching out to her contacts in hopes of finding him a full-time job.

buster3“Pete has been so resilient through all his trials,” she said. “It’s bad enough to lose your home, but to not know what’s going to happen to your pet is horrible. I just hope there are people out there that can help.”

While the organization commonly helps find new homes for pets surrendered by financially-pinched owners, Buster wasn’t adoption material.

“He’s old, he has arthritis, and he’s protective of and attached to Pete. Dogs like that can go down fast in a shelter. We knew if he went to a kill shelter he wouldn’t survive.”

Meanwhile, at the Sunday Breakfast Mission, Buchmann has been getting to know his fellow shelter dwellers — many of whom, like him, don’t fit the homeless person stereotype

“I don’t drink, and I don’t do drugs. There are a lot of very smart people living at the mission who are just down on their luck,” he said.

Buchmann said he’s grateful to be able to visit his dog, and looking forward to living together with him again.

“He’s my buddy; he’s been with me through everything,” he said. “He seems content here, and he knows now that I’m coming back, that he hasn’t been deserted.”

(Photos:  Jennifer Corbett / The News Journal)

The homeless man and his white dog

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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.

Hopeless dogs? Think again

There are plenty of rescue groups that likely do as good a job saving, rehabilitating and re-homing stray dogs as Hope For Paws.

But there is probably none better than that Los Angeles-based non-profit at documenting what they do on video.

Above is their latest rescue video — that of a pit bull, since named Bunny,  found abandoned on some government property. Shy, skittish and — even we’d admit — looking a little intimidating, she was lured in with hamburgers and trapped in a crate.

Not until she’s transported to safety and let out of the crate do we get the answer to the question that — in addition to the beautiful camera work — keeps us watching: How is she going to react, close up, with a member of the species that treated her so rudely?

Therein lies the beauty of the Hope For Paws videos, and the beauty of dogs.

Bunny, who apparently experienced little kindness in life — with the exception of one good Samaritan who would drop her off some food while she was living in the wild — doesn’t just give humans a second chance, she becomes an instant, gentle, trusting and tail-wagging friend.

After a few shy sniffs, she was resting her head on the laps of her rescuers.

Bunny is now up for adoption through Sevadog, an Oregon organization that helps dogs find forever homes. Hope For Paws often teams up with other rescues. In Bunny’s case, three were involved, including the group Rescue From the Hart, which notified Hope For Paws about the dog’s situation.

Hope For Paws went to the site, found the dog and got her veterinary care — shooting video the whole time.

The videos, which get millions of views on YouTube, help raise funds for the organization, and melt our hearts in the process. But they also bring attention to the issue of stray and homeless dogs, and remind us that, no matter how rough shape a being might be in, hope and love can conquer all.

The Internet age has seen us all become more adept at touting ourselves — as individuals, as non-profit organizations, as corporations. There are downsides to that. One is how easy it has become to mislead the masses. Another is the danger that we all end up spending 10 percent of our time on a project, and 90 percent of our time touting what we’ve done.

On the other hand, for a non-profit organization, showing the public what it does, in a way that touches the heart, can be a key to survival.

So, all things considered, we hope the Hope For Paws videos keep coming, and we urge you to take at some of the others by clicking the link in this paragraph.

You’ll see some dogs in pretty horrid shape, like this one found living in a landfill, but you’ll also get transported from sad to happy on your way to the final destination — hope.

Homeless woman’s dog shot to death in park

First she lost her job, then she lost the home she shared with her son — a temporary motel room.

Last Thursday, Tina Lambert lost her dog, too, when, while staying in a park, a stranger shot and killed her Rottweiler mix after the dog growled at him.

Lambert has been staying in Memorial Park in Sumter, S.C., with her son and two dogs, WLTX reported.

They were gathered by a bench Thursday when a man walked up, leading her dog, Ayakashi, to growl. The man fired one shot, killing the dog. Lambert said her dog was on a leash.

“There was my dog, she had a hole in her chest this big” said Lambert. “He blew a hole in her, she was gone. She took a couple breaths and that was all there was to it.”

Lambert says the man made a remark, laughed and ran to is car.

He later went to the Sumter Police Department to file a report saying he acted in self defense. The man, who police haven’t identified publicly, told officers the dog was unleashed.

Residents living near the park say Lambert’s dogs are friendly, and always on their leashes.

Sumter Police say because of the man’s concealed carry permit, and his claim that the dog was unleashed, no charges will be filed.

Lambert said she plans to dispute that decision.

Exhibit depicts Houston’s homeless dogs

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Houston’s homeless dogs are the subject of a photo exhibit opening this weekend.

The two-week exhibition, entitled, “No One’s Dog,” is aimed at bringing attention to the animal overpopulation crisis in Houston, where shelters generally operate at capacity and an estimated 1 million dogs and cats are living as strays.

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Three non-profit agencies are supporting the project – DiverseWorks, Barrio Dogs and Box 13.

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The public was invited — and supplied with disposable cameras — to capture images of homeless dogs. The images were uploaded to Flickr (you can see them all here) and the best were chosen for the exhibit, according to the Houston Chronicle.

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The exhibit runs from July 26 to Aug. 9 at DiverseWorks, 4102 Fannin Street in Houston.

(Credits: Top photo by Emily Crossley; second photo by Page Moore; third and fourth photos by Gina Damian)

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