Since January of 2010, Houston police have gunned down 187 dogs, killing 121 of them.
And last year alone, law enforcement officers in Houston and Harris County shot more dogs than New York City police officers shot in 2010 and 2011 combined.
All of those shooting were deemed by police to have been justified, but it’s not too hard to find families that disgree with that.
The KHOU 11 News I-Team did, and its report this week is more evidence that, across the country, requiring police to be trained in dealing with dogs could save dogs, and their families, a lot of pain.
Colorado passed a law requiring that, and it was signed by the governor this week.
The KHOU report, when it looked at the police-involved dog shootings for all of Harris County found at least 228 dogs had been shot by officers and deputies since 2010, 142 of them fatally.
“If the dog turns and comes at a citizen, or the deputy, they have all right to use lethal force,” explained Dpt. Thomas Gilliland of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Records show Harris County deputies shot 38 canines in the last three-and-a-half years.
When asked if all those shootings were justified, Gilliland said: “The justification is, in that matter, and at that moment the deputy had to choose the decision to use lethal force against that animal.”
Sgt. Joseph Guerra, who works as a cruelty investigator for the Houston Humane Society, said it teaches some officers how to safety interact with threatening dogs. But the training isn’t mandated for all officers.
“A lot of times, officers are not sent to training to get that type of certification to feel comfortable enough to deal with these animals,” he said. “We need to get those officers involved in some mandated training in how to defend before going to deadly force.”
The Arlington and Fort Worth Police Departments started mandatory dog training for officers last fall, and state lawmakers are considering a bill that would require the training for officers across Texas.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 17th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: aggressive, animals, arlington, behavior, canines, colorado, dangerous, deputies, dogs, fatal, fort worth, harris county, houston, interact, killed, law enforcement, new york, officers, pets, police, police shooting dogs, shoot, shot, texas, threatening, training
Barkitecture Houston, a two-day fundraiser that features some innovative interpretations on that old standard, the dog house, will begin Oct. 26.
This year’s benefit, for Pup Squad Animal Rescue, promises to be bigger than ever, with more than 20 dog house designs being featured, along with a full slate of activities for dogs and humans.
The fundraiser calls on local artists, designers and architects to create stylish and functional dog houses, which are then sold at auction. It’s in its fourth-year running, according to the Houston Press.
Last year’s event brought in $18,000 for the animal rescue group.
“Houston is definitely a dog town, but there’s also a huge problem of overpopulation,” said Julie Landry, co-founder of Pup Squad. “It’s just a matter of getting the message out, to spay and neuter your pets.”
This year, the festivities kick off with a “yappy hour,” on Friday, October 26. On Saturday, the dog houses will line the two blocks of the Houston Pavilions. Attendees can bid on their favorites, or buy them for $500. Judges will select the “Best in Show.”
The Houston Press previewed this year’s entries, which included a giant rescue chopper that lights up, a doghouse with a roof drainage system that collects water, and a colorful fan of a dog house that folds up like a briefcase.
We’re pretty sure none of them, though, have what a dog house in Houston needs most — air conditioning!
Here’s where you can find more information.
(Photos: Some of last year’s entries; Rachel Bohanan / Houston Press)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 11th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, architecture, art, barkitecture, barkitecture houston, benefit, design, dog, dog house, dog houses, doghouse, doghouses, dogs, fundraiser, fundraising, houston, innovative, neuter, organization, pavilions, pets, pup squad animal rescue, rescue, responsible, spay, unusual
“…What I found out is, when you check your pet, you run the exact same risk of them not showing up as you do with your luggage. That’s kind of sobering,” said Michael Jarboe, whose dog, a Neapolitan mastiff named Bam Bam, died during a late August flight.
Jarboe decided to share his story days after model Maggie Rizer blamed United for the death of her two-year-old golden retriever Bea on a flight last month.
“We have been in contact with Mr. Jarboe and are saddened by the loss of his dog, Bam Bam. The safety of the animals we transport is always considered first and foremost when making decisions regarding their routing and carriage,” United said in a statement to NBC News.
Jarboe and his partner flew from Miami to San Francisco with Bam Bam on Aug. 28, with a layover in Houston. The two-and-a-half-year-old dog had flown four times before without any problems, Jarboe said.
Jarboe, who lives in Miami Beach, Fla., said he chose United because of its “PetSafe” program, which promises compartments in the cargo hold are pressurized and climate-controlled.
He said the layover in Houston was about three hours. Temperatures that day rose to 95 degrees.
When they arrived in San Francisco, they were told the dog had died. United paid for a necropsy, which determined the cause of death was acute cardiovascular collapse.
Before his death, Bam Bam had flown four times before — twice on United — without any problems.
United said Bam Bam was transported to a holding area during the layover, but according to Jarboe, employees did not use the climate-controlled vehicle dogs are usually transported in.
The airline has refunded the dog’s fare ($650, each way), and is working with Jarboe on additional compensation.
Between January 2012 and July 2012, 17 pets died and another 17 were injured on commercial airlines, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 2011, 35 pets died while flying, but only two of those were on United, which had the lowest number of animal deaths that year.
(Photos: Michael Jarboe)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 1st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: air travel, airlines, animals, bam bam, cargo, death, dog, dogs, heat, hold, houston, layover, mastiff, michael jarboe, neapolitan mastiff, necropsy, pets, travel, united, united airlines
When a Hollywood movie goes over budget, it’s no big deal.
When one being paid for by taxpayers — or even toll violators — does, it is.
So, as snarky as this investigative report by the 13 Undercover team at Houston’s KTRK is at times, it makes some valid points.
The Harris County attorney’s office hired director Fleming Fuller to produce a public service documentary about the dangers of dogfighting, offering $10,000 for the finished product.
The movie was intended to show the horrors of dogfighting, and get across Ryan’s message that he was going to be tough on people who take part in it.
Normally, we’d applaud something like that, but the movie went 10 times over budget, the county attorney seems to be taking credit for a previous county attorney’s dogfighting bust, and the movie’s director was a good friend of the Harris County attorney’s top assistant.
As the report points out, County Attorney Vince Ryan campaigned as an ethics watchdog: “So you’d figure his office would the first to make sure your money wasn’t wasted, reporter Wayne Dolcefino says. “Instead, they spent money like they were in Hollywood.”
On top of that, the report says there hasn’t been a big dogfighting bust since Ryan took office.
And, in yet another criticism offered by the news report, the documentary includes scenes of Ryan frolicking with his dog at the beach, which gives the film the appearance, at times, of a campaign ad.
The director charged $500 for his time on an overnight trip to Galveston — apparently just to obtain that beach footage — and expenses there included multiple hotel bills and a pricey dinner.
Fuller is a North Carolina-based director who has made a few horror movies, including Prey of the Chameleon and Stranded.
While the county’s contract specified $10,000 would be spent on the film, and that it would be completed in one month, the final pricetag came out to more than $100,000 and the film took nearly a year to make.
The movie was paid for from a special fund consisting of fines imposed on drivers who fail to pay tolls.
Ryan said the video has been used to train law enforcement officers and to show high school students and others that dogfighting is inhumane and illegal.
KTRK says the documentary ended up costing cost $13,000 a minute, and that only 171 people have watched it in on YouTube.
The original documentary, as it appears on YouTube, is in three parts, which, combined, add up to nearly 30 minutes, not seven minutes, as the news report says. (The version being distributed for education purposes has been shortened.)
Here’s part one:
To see all three parts, click here.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 30th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 100000, animal cruelty, animals, budget, county attorney, cruelty, cruelty to animals, dangers, director, documentary, dog fighting, dogfighting, dogs, education, fleming fuller, fund, harris county, heart of texas, horrors, houston, investigative reporting, journalism, media, move, news, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, public education, toll, video, vince ryan, watchdog
Here in the waning days of Travels With Ace – it has been just about a year since we pulled out of Baltimore some 27,000 miles ago — our journey is going in a different direction.
We’re heading to the past, for multiple reasons.
One: Oftentimes you can get to the past pretty easily — without burning a lot of gas. Sometimes it can be a matter of letting your fingers do the walking through a dusty box of photographs, digging up that family tree your uncle once assembled, asking questions of your parents you never asked before, or getting in touch with a relative you’ve never met. While visiting the past we will, of course, continue to live in the moment (Ace insists upon it).
Two: We humans, in addition to getting too busy to live in the moment, also get so rushed to get where we’re going that we fail to appreciate where we’ve been. And even though the pace of our travels across America was more full dawdle than full throttle, life before that, jammed as it was with deadlines and pushy editors, is in some ways a blur. Sometimes the only thing that slows us down to a reasonable pace – enough to appreciate life, smell the roses, all that crap – is our dog.
Three: Our travels triggered memories, many grown hazy. That, along with the return to the state of my birth, to the town of my birth, to the exact same house of my birth, has sparked my interest in how I came to be on the planet. Realizing that I probably know more about the heritage of my dog than I do my own, prompts me to put at least a little effort into investigating the latter.
Not long after I got Ace six years ago, I decided – because I was constantly being asked what kind of dog he was, and since almost everything about him was a mystery, from his age to his breed to how he ended up in Baltimore’s animal shelter – to find out what I could about his roots.
The result was a seven-part series in the Baltimore Sun about his heritage. In addition to being lengthy, it had a lot of those hanging thoughts set off between dashes — like in the paragraph above, and, hey, now this one, too — because that’s the way I think and because I like making dashes.
The investigation included searching records, pestering the shelter he came from, consultations with veterinarians, at-home DNA tests to determine his breed, wandering the zip code he came from in hopes he would be recognized, and even turning to an animal communicator — an attempt to get the story from the horse’s mouth, which in this case was a dog.
I learned Ace had been a stray, wandering the streets, spotted by a citizen who called animal control. He was picked up in southwest Baltimore and taken to the city’s animal shelter, where he was labeled a hound mix, and where he’d stay a couple of months.
I met him while visiting the shelter for research on a story about volunteerism. Three days later, I was back to fill out the paperwork and adopt him.
I’ve had three DNA breed tests conducted on Ace — not so much because I was dying to know what he’s made up of, but for the purposes of that story, and subsequent ones that tested the tests that were hitting the market.
All three had slightly different results — but the breeds that showed up were Rottweiler, Akita, chow and pit bull (unless you are a landlord or insurance company or other form of breed nazi, in which case he is a, um … cat.)
Tracking down Ace’s heritage gave me more than just an answer for the dozen people a day who asked what kind of dog he was. By using methods scientific and spiritual — and neither of those is foolproof — the project gave me a better understanding of what made him him, convinced me that environment plays at least as large a role in a creature’s development as genes, and showed me that being pure of breed, unless you’re the AKC or a breeder, isn’t the most important thing in the world, or maybe even desirable.
The four breeds, all of at least some ill repute, joined together, in his case, to produce 130 pounds of gentle, mellow sweetness, enabling him to serve as a therapy dog for others, ward off evil humans by his size alone and keep me sane on the side.
I’m a mutt, too — the product of a mother whose roots are Welsh, a father whose are German and Irish, not to mention I’m a cross between a southerner and a Yankee.
Those are my parents at the top of this entry, youthfully frolicking it appears, in the yard of my father’s father’s house in Saugerties, New York.
Here they are again — not frolicking.
The photo of my father was taken while he was serving in the Army in Korea (and, yes, the typewriter is mightier than the sword, or at least it used to be.)
The photo of my mother — though she appears to be multi-tasking before it was called that — is a staged one, shot to illustrate a 1950s era newspaper story about newfangled kitchen appliances. While homemaking was among her skills, she was not a stay-at-home housewife, but among those groundbreaking women who stepped into newspaper work when journalism was still mainly a boys-only pursuit.
My father’s parents met in Newark — the New Jersey one — when both were working at the laundry that my great grandfather, who immigrated from Germany, owned. They married and later moved to Saugerties, N.Y., where they’d raise three boys in a big white farmhouse.
My mother, meanwhile, grew up in Asheboro, N.C., where her family dates back to Revolutionary War days. Her father owned a furniture company that, seeing how well coffins sold, made the transition to full-fledged funeral home and, later, a chain of them.
So, in one way of looking at it, I owe my existence to dirty laundry and dead bodies — those being the lifeblood of the industries that enabled my parents’ respective families to make enough money to send them off to college.
They both ended up at the University of North Carolina, studying journalism — a pursuit that traditionally draws its practitioners from those with egos too big and egos too small; people with a desire to change the world, or at least see it; the nosey, the gossipy, the terminally curious, the perpetually suspicious, and those who lack any truly marketable skills.
After graduation, getting newspaper jobs, getting married and moving to Winston-Salem — eventually into the apartment I have recently re-occupied — they had their their first child, my sister.
She was about three years old when my father got called upon to serve in Korea.
Upon returning from his stint there, pretty immediately as I understand it, I was conceived, in the room I now sleep in.
Not long after his return he was off again — one of the journalists invited to witness atomic bomb tests in Nevada.
Unlike area residents and, possibly, him, I was not subjected to any fallout from that, for I was already forming in the womb by the time he left. While, in subsequent years, I would have to hide under my elementary school desk during bomb drills, I was otherwise unaffected by the Cold War’s psychological shrapnel, I think.
A few months after my father witnessed that spectacle, there came another one — me. For one year, I slept, peed, cried, spit up and crawled here in the apartment I moved into last month.
Being here hasn’t automatically rekindled memories. There is only the vaguest sense that I’ve been here before. The doorbell, and it’s actually a bell — you turn the crank and it rings — struck me as familiar. The first time it rang, I did a dog-like head tilt (but didn’t start barking). Was it stirring an infant memory, or just my imagination?
At the age of one, I’d be moved — temporarily — to Boston when my father was selected to be a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. Instead of returning to North Carolina after that year, my parents moved to New York, where my father had gotten a job at Newsday.
After 10 years there — we lived in Huntington, where my parents would have another son — we moved to Houston, where my father would work at the Houston Post, and my mother at the Houston Chronicle.
Their marriage would implode about the time I was 12, After their divorce, I lived with my mom in Houston and later Raleigh, spending summers with my father in Connecticutt and Colorado.
I, like them, would end up at the University of North Carolina, and, like them, in journalism — and as a result I would see both dead bodies and dirty laundry, but plenty of joyous and inspiring things as well.
I, like my father, would have the privilege of getting a fellowship (a Knight Fellowship, at Stanford University), be involved in winning my newspaper a Pulitzer Prize (Philadelphia Inquirer, 1987), bounce around to a lot of different newspapers and get divorced twice.
After about 35 years in newspapers, I left to write a book, and produce my own website. And a year ago, in a rare show of spontaneity, I put my belongings in storage, moved out of my house and hit the road with Ace, to see America, and its dogs, and blog about it.
During those travels, we made some stops at places of my past — my grandfather’s house in New York, Houston, where our house in Raleigh used to be, and Tucson, the site of my first real newspaper job — and doing so sparked a desire to remember more and learn more about my past, and about my family roots, whitebread as they may be.
Among the many things I learned, or had reaffirmed, on our trip were not to take my dog for granted, or my friends, or my family.
Since coming to Winston-Salem, I’ve been rummaging through old boxes of family stuff, reconnecting with relatives, and learning more about my family history and working on better remembering my own life as well — all those memories that got shoved aside to make room for new ones. For the next few weeks, we’ll continue doing that, including taking at least two more trips, the kind that do burn gas, before we wrap things up.
A little further down the road, we’ll be visiting a battlefield and a cemetery and seeking to shed some light on this question:
Why, on June 19 (which is also my sister’s birthday), 1771, was my great great great great great great great grandfather hung?
Posted by jwoestendiek May 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, atom bomb, atomic bomb, author, background, bill woestendiek, birth, book, breeds, dead bodies, dirty laundry, dna, dog inc., dog's country, dogscountry, family, heritage, history, home, homeplace, houston, jo woestendiek, john woestendiek, journalism, korean war, memories, mix, mixed, new york, ohmidog!, past, pugh, road trip, roots, testing, travels with ace, tree, unearthing, university of north carolina, what kind of dog is that, winston-salem journal, woestendiek, writer
According to statistics released yesterday by the Postal Service, 62 Houston letter carriers were “attacked” by dogs in 2010 — almost 20 more than the second place cities (a tie between San Diego and Columbus, Ohio).
Nationwide last year, 5,669 postal employees were bitten in more than 1,400 cities, leading to medical expenses of $1.2 million, the Postal Service said in a press release issued in connection with National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 15-21).
Among the entire population, about 4.7 million Americans are bitten annually — and dog attacks accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claims paid out in 2010, costing nearly $413 million, the press release added.
“Given the right circumstances, any dog can bite. Dog attacks are a nationwide issue and not just a postal problem,” said Matthew Lopez, Houston’s postmaster.
Rounding out the top 10 cities for dog bites among postal carriers were Los Angeles (44), Louisville (40), San Antonio and St. Louis (tied with 39 each), Cleveland and Phoenix (tied with 38 each), Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon (tied with 35 each), Denver and Philadelphia (tied with 31 each), Sacramento (30) and Seattle (28).
(Photo: Ace greets my postal carrier almost everyday, and likes to follow him, even though he doesn’t carry treats and has never given him one.)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 13th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, attacks, bites, delivery, dog bite prevention, dog bites, dogs, houston, letter carriers, mailman, mailmen, national dog bite prevention week, pets, post office, postal carriers, postal service
Yesterday, I took Ace to the largest and most amenity-laden dog park he’s ever been to — with 13 acres to romp and two cool blue lakes to swim in.
And here’s what he did: Sniffed. Sniffed some more. Peed. Pooped. Waded, zombie-like, into to the water twice, for about two seconds each time. Approached strangers to be petted. Then he found some shade and collapsed.
Millie Bush Bark Park in Harris County was by far the most impressive dog park we’d ever been to, and Ace — rather than frolicking, merely peed and sacked out. After five days pretty being limited to motel rooms, and spending limited time (his choice) outside on tiny patches of grass, I was expecting him to go nuts, make friends, splash around and have a gay old time.
Instead, it was like taking your kids to Six Flags only to find they wanted to spend the entire time in the restroom.
While Ace, probably for reasons heat related, was uninspired, Houston and its surrounding areas have been quite the opposite when it comes to dog parks.
Millie Bush Bark Park, located in George Bush Park and named after former President Bush’s dog, was Harris County’s first dog park, opening at the end of 2003.
The City of Houston announced the planned opening of its first dog park in 2004; today, in the city alone, there are six, with still more in the planning and fund-raising stages. Throw in the surrounding area, and the number of dog parks jumps to around 20.
Millie Bush Bark park features large and small dog areas, doggie swimming ponds, doggie water fountains, doggie showers, shade areas, benches, scattered trees, walking paths, fake fire hydrants, and a huge parking lot.
It makes Baltimore’s dog parks look like postage stamps.
You can find a complete list of the area’s dog parks at the website of the Houston Dog Park Association, a non-profit organization founded in 1998 to help establish and support a network of off-leash dog parks in the Houston area.
I’m impressed with my former hometown’s performance when it comes to dog parks.
As I’m sure the Basset Hound below would agree, it’s pretty darn cool.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 14th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ace does america, america, animals, cities, dog friendliness, dog friendly, dog park, dog parks, dog's country, dogscountry, george bush park, harris county, houston, millie bush, ohmidog!, parks, pets, recreation, road trip, towns, travel
In Houston and Philadelphia, sad stories emerged at the end of the last week of humans who, while trying to save the lives of their dogs, lost their own.
In Philadelphia, a woman was struck and killed Friday night as she ran onto a set of railroad tracks to save her dog from an oncoming commuter train, police said.
The woman, who police described as in her 40s and from out-of-state, was standing on the platform of the Bryn Mawr station about 6 p.m. when her dog got loose and bounded onto the rails, according to Lower Merion Township police.
The woman was waiting for a train when her dog got loose. She chased the black Chihuahua onto the tracks as an eastbound SEPTAtrain pulled into the station. She was killed instantly, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The dog was recovered without injuries and taken to an animal hospital.
The 51-year-old officer had pulled up to his home in his patrol unit and was told by neighbors his dogs were running loose near an industrial canal.
Wotipka saw his English bulldog go into the canal and plunged in after her. He resurfaced once then went under again. Wotipka’s body was recovered the next morning about 150 feet from where he entered the canal, the Houston Chronicle reported. The dog also died.
Wotipka joined the department in 1993 and was known as a lover of dogs. While in his patrol cruiser a week ago, he slammed on his brakes to avoid a stray dog in the middle of the road, then ended up bringing the dog, who he named Skidmark, home.
The police officers’ union is planning a fundraiser for the Wotipka family on July 31.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 14th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bryn mawr, canal, chihuahua, dead deaths, deputy, die, dog, drowned, drowning, eddie wotipka, english bulldog, harris county, houston, killed, news, officer, ohmidog!, owners, pets, philadelphia, rescue, rescuing, save, saving, septa, sheriff's, train
Today –19 days and 1,750 miles since our journey began — Ace and I pull out of Houston, destined for Bandera, Texas (population 975) and points west.
We’re over budget, sick of fast food and a bit weary and leery of cheap motels — though thankful for the air conditioning they have bestowed upon us. I don’t want to say our most recent motel was a fleabag, but both Ace and I are scratching more than usual, and I know for a fact that at least one spider and one roach were still there when we left.
On the other hand, it did have a crack security squad — one 61-year-old man who left Baltimore after a nasty divorce 16 years ago and circles the parking lot at night in a beat up old van, at least until next April when he plans to retire. As you might guess, he’s now an official Friend of Ace, and by the time I left, I almost had him talked into going to the shelter and adopting a big but friendly dog to assist him in his job duties.
Searching for inexpensive dog-friendly lodgings is a pain — even with the convenience of websites like Bringfido.com and dogfriendly.com. Before heading to Houston we perused both, only to find most motels listed in our price range had weight limits and required non-refundable deposits.
Question: Is it really a deposit when you don’t get it back? I think not. It’s a fee, giant motel chains, and you should call it such. Non-refundable deposit is a contradictory term.
Normally, we stay at a La Quinta, knowing that almost all of them allow dogs, with no fee and no weight limits. This trip though — frugal trek that it is — we’ve opted for Motel 6′s (generally dog friendly and slightly cheaper), and have stayed at a few motel 5′s, 4′s and 3′s, at least on a scale of 1 to 10.
We found our last stop on Bringfido.com — where it turned out to be one of the few whose rate was actually what the website listed. It turns out their “as low as” price and the motels actual prices were most often two different things, leading me to waste hours on the computer.
It’s a good thing John Steinbeck didn’t have Internet, or he and Charley wouldn’t have covered nearly as much ground.
Our goal when we left Baltimore — well mine at least, Ace doesn’t really care — was to spend no more money on the road than I was at home. Less than 20 days in, though — and despite 12 days of free lodging mooched from family — we’ve spent close to $300 total on motels and about $350 on gas, our biggest expense.
We probably should start using that tent rolled up atop my car, which has yet to get unrolled. Before leaving New Orleans, we looked into the possibility of volunteering to help rescue and clean up oily wildlife, especially after we heard trailers were being provided for volunteers. But my phone calls didn’t get returned and the websites I checked all were accepting only trained wildlife rescue professionals.
There’s still some hope of meeting my goal of spending less than $1,000 a month on the road. We’ve finagled some free overnight stays this week, which you’ll be hearing more about in the week ahead.
By the time you read this, we’ve departed Houston — after a planned stop at the Millie Bush Dog Park, west of the city. Assuming my Internet connection works in Bandera, and all else goes well, you’ll be seeing our report on Houston’s dog parks tomorrow.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 13th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, bandera, bringfido, deposits, dog friendly, dog's country, dogfriendly, dogscountry, hotels, houston, lodging, lousiana, motels, non-refundable, ohmidog!, pet friendly, pets, road trip, texas, travel, websites
Well it’s lonesome in this old town
Everybody puts me down
I’m a face without a name
Just walking in the rain
Goin’ back to Houston, Houston, Houston
You can go home again – whether you’re Thomas Wolfe or Dean Martin — just don’t expect it to look even vaguely like it once did.
That’s the case with Houston, where I spent my puberty – from 1965 to 1970. (It was a long puberty.)
Since then, Houston has spread even more than I have. Its rich have become richer, its poor have become poorer, its hot has become hotter, its freeways – weren’t there just two? – envelop the city like a mound of spaghetti.
And the Astrodome, that behemoth “modern-day” marvel where I would watch the lowly Astros — the eighth wonder of the world, they called it — now sits empty and unused, an antique that’s dwarfed by even larger Reliant Stadium. (I vote for making the Astrodome the world’s largest dog park.)
I drove by it yesterday on my way to meet an old friend – more than a friend, really. Houston is where my parents got divorced. While I’d spend summers with my father – here, and there, and then somewhere else – from 12 on, I grew up mostly with my mom.
I don’t know if she made a conscious effort to provide me with a male role model, but a co-worker at the Houston Chronicle, the newspaper’s editorial cartoonist, ended up being just that.
He cartooned under the name C.P. Houston, though his real name is Clyde Peterson. And as many of my memories that have faded away, I can still semi-clearly recall sitting in his office and watching him conjure up biting editorial cartoons, tennis outings during which we would sweat buckets, Astros games that we’d usually leave disappointed and – yes! — professional wrestling, even, with its absolutely good guys and totally bad guys and never anybody in between.
All that was 45 years ago, and what little we have stayed in touch has mostly been through reports relayed by my mother. He went on to get married, have children, then grandchildren, and test the waters of retirement.
I don’t know if I’m a part of him, but I’m pretty sure he’s a part of me, to digress back to one of the songs we mentioned yesterday. He – at a time in his life that he probably had far better ways to spend his time than hang around with a snot-nosed pubescent — shaped what I became. (A snot-nosed adult?)
He is honorable, witty and unafraid, a hardcore storyteller, a full-time pursuer of curiosity, the type who, were he a wrestler, would definitely be a good guy, the sort who’s willing to set off on a trip whose destination is to be decided later.
I don’t claim to be all those things, but I think I am some of them, and – not to totally discount genetics or anything – I think he may be a big reason why. (I don’t hold him liable for my numerous negative traits; I think I’ve managed to develop them on my own.)
The point, other than waxing nostalgic, and thanking Clyde the only way I seem able to – at a distance — is this: I think we are shaped by the people who come into and out of our lives, and by our experiences, to a far greater extent than we are shaped by our genes.
Yesterday, in what was probably the second time I’ve seen Clyde since my boyhood, we shared a tale or two, or six, and ate some breakfast, after which we stepped back into the humidity and headed to our cars. As I started up my bright red SUV, I glanced into my rearview mirror to see him pulling out.
Suddenly, it wasn’t so lonesome in this old town.
To read all of Dog’s Country, click here.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 13th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, astrodome, cartoonist, cartoons, childhood, clyde peterson, cp houston, dog friendly, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, editorial, freeways, friends, houston, houston chronicle, mentors, road trip, role models, travel