It’s easy to ignore statistics. They’re cold and dry and lack soulful eyes. And when the numbers are overwhelming — like the 5,500 unwanted dogs who are put to death daily in U.S. shelters — we tend, as a rule, to find life is more comfortable and less depressing when we don’t do the math.
Louisville artist Mark Barone is an exception to that rule. Rather than ignore the problem, he decided to put a face on it — 5,500 of them, in fact.
For two years now, he has been painting portraits of dogs who have been put down at shelters across the country, and he’s more than halfway to his goal: 5,500 portraits that he hopes will someday — unlike their subjects — find a forever home.
Their hope is the works will someday be displayed in a permanent memorial museum, which — between its emotional impact and the funds it would help raise for no-kill rescues and shelters – could help lead to their larger goal, a no-kill nation.
Mark, a well-established artist, had moved to Santa Fe when, about three years ago, he lost his dog of 21 years, Santina.
“It was kind of a sad time, and I thought it would be therapeutic for Mark to go to the dog park,” Marina recalled. “I thought it would be helpful for him to get some dog love, and it was. It was really great. It got me in the mood to think about adopting another dog. Mark wasn’t at that stage, but it didn’t stop me from looking.”
Looking for adoptable dogs online and at local shelters, she quickly learned the sad reality that she says neither she nor Mark, up to then, were aware of — that millions of dogs in need of homes are put down at shelters every year.
“Instead of finding a dog, I found out all these horrifying statistics,” she said. She shared them with Mark, along with images and videos of dogs who had been, or were on the verge of, being put down.
He asked her to stop sharing, but she kept up.
“If we don’t look at it, nothing will change,” she said. “So he looked at it, as painful as it was, and day or two later, we were standing in the kitchen and he asked me the number of dogs killed everyday in the country … I gave him the number 5,500, based on statistics from Best Friends.”
It was then that the idea of honoring shelter dogs by painting 5,500 portraits of those who had been killed was born, and along with it, the longer term plan of a memorial museum, along the lines of the Vietnam Memorial and the Holocaust Museum.
Santa Fe wasn’t interested. Louisville was among about 30 places that were.
That’s where the couple lives now, and where Mark has completed about 3,200 of the portraits — some of them life- sized, some of them larger.
“It’s the big ones, 8 feet by 8 feet, that slow things down,” Mark said.
Only one of the 8×8-foot paintings depicts a dog who died a natural death — Mark’s dog, Santina. According to Marina, Santina will serve as the gatekeeper of the exhibit. Other large portraits feature Batman, a 10-year-old pit bull who was left outside in 21 degree weather, and was found dead at a shelter the next morning, and Grant, who was deemed unadoptable due food bowl aggression and put down.
The large paintings — there will be 10 of them — will include the individual stories of those dogs, representing the most common reasons shelters give to put animals down.
Mark and Marina are still looking for a permanent place to house the works, and for sponsors and benefactors for the museum, and they have some promising leads, both in Louisville and around the country. In addition to being an educational center, the museum would also be an outlet for selling merchandise that features the images – shirts, cards, and other products. An Act of Dog, which is a nonprofit organization, would pass on all profits to no-kill facilities and rescue groups.
The dogs in the paintings come from shelters all around the country. Their photos are submitted by rescue groups, volunteers and shelter employees. They have all been put down.
Mark and Marina object to the use of the term “euthanized” when it’s applied to healthy animals. “Deliberately ending the life of a healthy and treatable pet is killing. Deliberately ending the life of a medically hopeless and suffering pet is euthanasia,” Marina said. They don’t much like “put to sleep,” either.
“Semantics are a powerful way to keep people from the truth and our mission is to show reality without the candy wrapping,” she added.
Mark paints everyday, from sunrise to sunset. At night, he and Marina work on the An Act of Dog website. They’re both foregoing salaries at this point.
Mark has served as a consultant to cities interested in using the arts to revitalize blighted areas, among them Paducah, Kentucky, and its Paducah Artist Re-locaton Program. Marina worked 20 years coaching corporate executives.
“We could turn away and pretend like we didn’t see what we saw, or we could do something about it,” she added. “If that means we have to live poor, we’re OK with that, because we know we did something.”
They’re working now in studio space provided by the Mellwood Art Center in Louisville, where they did end up adopting a new dog, named Gigi, from a local shelter.
What drives the couple, though, are all the dogs who don’t get out alive — the thousands put down each day.
“The no-kill movement is making strides, but not fast enough,” said Mark who, on those days he doesn’t feel like painting, reminds himself of the bleak numbers, and the 5,500 reasons — every day — he must continue.
(Photos and video courtesy of An Act of Dog: At top, a collage of Mark’s paintings; Mark and Marina in their studio; some of the larger paintings, with Mark’s former dog, Santina, at left; and three shelter dogs dogs Breeze, Freckles and Sky)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 10th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: act of dog, an act of dog, animal welfare, animals, art, artist, death, dogs, euthanasia, faces, holocaust museum, kentucky, killed, killing, louisville, marina dervan, mark barone, mellwood art center, memorial, museum, no kill nation, no-kill, painting, paintings, pets, portraits, project, put down, put to sleep, rescues, santa fe, shelter, shelter dogs, shelters, statistics, vietnam memorial
Firefighters rescued a dog Sunday from an icy pond in Florence, Kentucky, after the one-year-old husky fell through the ice.
Brandon Kilby, of the Union fire department, is shown here pulling the dog, named Ali, to safety.
According to the Kentucky Post, six fire departments responded to the call at a trailer park near Mount Zion Road.
Fire officials said the rescued dog was treated and returned to her owners.
(Photo: Kentucky Post, courtesy of William Fletcher)
Posted by jwoestendiek February 4th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ali, animals, brandon kilby, ce, dog, dogs, falls, firefighters, husky, icy, kentucky, lorence, pets, pond, rescue, rescued, safety, through, union
Kentucky, North Dakota, Iowa, South Dakota and New Mexico are 2012’s five best states to be an animal abuser, according to the latest report released by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).
The national nonprofit organization compared animal protection laws of every state in the country, analyzing more than 4,000 pages of statutes, to reveal the state’s that are strongest on animal protection and those that are weakest.
The weakest of all? Kentucky, which the ALDF says was the worst state in the nation for animal protection laws for the sixth year in a row.
The report ranks all 50 states, and top honors went to Illinois, for the fifth year in a row. ALDF has been releasing the annual analysis for seven years.
Rounding out the top five states were Maine, California, Michigan, and Oregon, all of which demonstrated strong commitments to combating animal cruelty.
States that ranked poorly either lacked or made limited use of felony penalties for the worst types of animals abuse, had weak laws covering basic standards of care for animals, and no restrictions on convicted animal abusers getting news pets and animals.
In the survey, Kansas saw its ranking drop from sixth to 13th, primarily due to its “ag gag” law. Such laws, now existing in five states, make it illegal to covertly take photos or videos at factory farms and other animal facilities as part of undercover investigations.
Idaho was the fastest rising state, moving up from 52 to 44 due to its enactment of felony provisions for animal cruelty.
Since the first rankings report in 2006, more than half of all states and territories have experienced a significant improvement in their animal protection laws, ALDF says.
“We look forward to further progress in the upcoming year,” said Stephen Wells, executive director for ALDF. “Regardless of ranking, each state and territory has ample room for improvement. We hope lawmakers will recognize the need for immediate improvement in animal protection laws across the nation. Although animals do not vote, those who love and protect them certainly do.”
Posted by jwoestendiek December 19th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aldf, analysis, animal, animal legal defense fund, best, best and worst, bottom five, california, cruelty to animals, felony, illinois, iowa, kentucky, laws, maine, michigan, new mexico, north dakota, oregon, protection, report, south dakota, states, statutes, top five, worst
A bloody and dirty blob of fur found in a sealed plastic trash bag in downtown Louisville this week has been cleaned up enough to reveal he is a Maltese, treated for fleas, anemia and pelvic fractures, and given the name Karma.
Authorities suspect, based on his injuries, that the 3-1/2-pound dog was thrown from a car window.
A $2,500 reward is being offered by the Humane Society of the United States for information leading to an arrest.
Wave3 News reports that the dog was dumped Tuesday at the intersection of Chestnut and Louisville streets.
A woman stopped at a traffic light heard a noise, got out of her car, ripped the bag open and found the dog inside.
Rebecca Eaves of the Shamrock Pet Foundation said the dog was “”absolutely covered in flea nests, severely anemic, parasites inside and outside, the whole nine yards.”
Dr. Scott Rizzo of Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners said Karma has pelvic fractures, likely the result of being thrown or dropped onto the concrete.
Believed to be 2-3-years old, the dog was originally thought to be a brown terrier mix, but once cleaned up he was revealed to be white.
“He’s a little Maltese and he’s white,” Dr. Rizzo said. “You never would have thought that when he came in.” He said Karma’s fractures may be able to heal without surgery.
Anyone with information is asked to call Metro Animal Services at (502) 363-6609.
The Shamrock Foundation’s Arrow Fund (P.O. Box 24033 Louisville, KY, 40224) is collecting donations for Karma’s medical care.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 26th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal cruelty, animal welfare, animals, arrow fund, bag, blue pearl veterinary partners, car, cruelty to animals, dog, dogs, dropped, fractures, hsus, humane society of the united states, karma, kentucky, louisville, maltese, metro animal services, pelvic, pets, reward, shamrock foundation, thrown, trash, trash bag, window
The mail carrier has been suspended with pay, WLWT reported.
Nelson Hamm said his three-year-old golden retriever, Nala (or Nayla, according to some news reports) was struck and run over by a postal vehicle last week, and that he witnessed it.
Nala, he said, was sniffing the mail truck’s tires when the postal worker drove the truck over her neck.
“When he ran up on her, he knew he was on something, and her legs was going like this, and he kept going, gunning it and gunning it and gunning it,” Hamm said.
The postal worker then made his next delivery before speeding out of the neighborhood, according to the Kentucky Post.
“She laid down in the foyer, base of the steps. My dad was crying, he kissed her on the nose. She looked him right in the eye, she licked him, and she just died,” his daughter, Lisa Hamm, said.
Covington City Commissioner Steve Frank said the postal service told him they extended their sympathies to the family and are investigating. Officials could not say how long the investigation will take.
“We made a strong suggestion that the postman not carry mail in the city of Covington for a while,” Frank said. ”Our message to the public is you will not abuse animals in the city of Covington.”
The family has retained an attorney for a possible civil suit. Nala has been buried near some trees where she used to play.
(Photo: Kentucky Post)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 12th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, carrier, covington, crushed, died, dog, dogs, family, golden retriever, investigation, kentucky, killed, mail man, nala, nayla, neck, northern kentucky, over, pets, post office, postal, postal service, ran, runs, truck, usps
All three products were made at a Gaston, S.C., plant — the same one that made mold-contaminated food that killed dozens of dogs nationwide in 2005.
Production at the plant was halted April 8.
In a statement Monday, the Missouri-based company said the latest recall involves its Diamond Puppy Formula dry dog food. No canine illnesses have been reported.
The product was distributed to customers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
The company announced in April that it was recalling batches of its Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Adult Light Formula and Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 2nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adult, adult light formula, alabama, animals, chicken soup for the pet lovers soul, company, concerns, diamond, diamond naturals, diamond pet foods, dog food, dogs, florida, food, formula, gaston, georgia, health, kentucky, lamb meal and rice, light, maryland, michigan, missouri, north carolina, ohio, pennsylvania, pet, pets, plant, recall, safety, salmonella, south carolina, tennessee, virginia, voluntary, warning
According to a company news release Friday, no illnesses have been reported and no other Diamond products are affected.
The product was distributed to customers in 12 states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia.
Consumers who purchased bags of the recalled food should stop using it and discard it, the company said. Consumers can obtain a refund by contacting Diamond Pet.
Pets with salmonella may have decreased appetite fever and abdominal pain.
People who handle the pet food can become infected with salmonella.
The recalled products are 6-, 20- and 40-pound bags of Diamond Naturals Lamb and Rice, with a “best before” date of Jan. 3 or Jan. 4, 2013, and the following production codes:
Posted by jwoestendiek April 7th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alabama, animals, consumers, contamination, customers, diamond, diamond naturals, distributed, dog food, dogs, dry, florida, formula, georgia, health, kentucky, lamb and rice, lamb meal & rice, lamb meal and rice, list, maryland, michigan, naturals, new york, north carolina, ohio, pennsylvania, pet food, pets, production codes, recall, safety, salmonella, South Carolina and Virginia, voluntary, warning
This one’s a lot like the story we told you last this week — about a German shepherd in Baltimore named Jerry Lee — but in our view it’s the sort of thing that can’t happen often enough.
Bear, a two-year-old Labrador retriever mix who months ago was just another mutt in a Kentucky animal shelter, is the newest addition to the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office in Alabama.
Dustain Vance, head trainer for Advance Canine Academy in Scottsville, Ky., adopted Bear from the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society. Bear had been adopted earlier, but returned by a family who had difficulty controlling the dog’s energetic behavior.
“For a drug dog, that’s what we actually look for,” Sheriff Ted Sexton, who swore in Bear as a deputy Wednesday, told Al.com. “We’re looking for a dog that has drives and instincts primarily in play and prey and hunt, and he excels in this particular area.”
The Sheriff’s Office purchased the dog from the training center, and he’s been assigned to a partner, a deputy attached to the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force.
Bear has been trained to sniff out marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
Last week, Bear and his new handler returned from training to Tuscaloosa, where the dog immediately found a pound of marijuana in a FedEx package. He has since made another bust.
Deputy Nick Lolley said he and Bear are getting along well in their first week on the job. “He has to trust you and you have to trust him,” Lolley said. “That’s — I say 50 percent of it, because if a dog trusts you, then he’ll work for you.”
(Photo: Chris Pow / al.com)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 6th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: academy, adopted, advance canine academy, alabama, animals, bear, bowling green, canine, county, department, detection, dog, dogs, drug, drug-sniffing, humane society, k9, kentucky, labrador retriever, mix, narcotics, pets, shelter, sheriff, task force, training, tuscaloosa, warren county, west
I’m as absorbed with taxidermy and its variations as the next guy (unless that next guy is Charles “Speedy” Atkins), especially when it comes to using it to preserve our pets.
I was fascinated enough to make it a chapter in my book, and curious enough to take a peek at “American Stuffers,” Animal Planet’s new series that each week follows people who are getting their pets, to use the common but erroneous nomenclature, “stuffed.”
But do I want to watch it every week? No.
“Stuffers,” I think, falls into the ever-expanding category of shows we watch to see humans behaving bizarrely — so strangely that we, by comparison, feel normal. You know the ones I’m talking about, those that focus on dysfunctional, obsessive, extreme behavior, like hoarding, kiddie beauty pageants, excessive tattooing, or just the travails of being a punk on the shore of New Jersey.
Flipping the remote these days, it sometimes seem as if Jerry Springer is choreographing what’s on every channel.
The Learning Channel, despite its name, has become one of the worst offenders — offering nearly a steady diet of human dysfunction. Animal Planet, despite its name, is getting more that way too.
I’ll admit that I’ve always been drawn to the bizarre behavers among us, but what makes them interesting to me is why they’ve become that way and the ramifications of it. Those aspects, and any context at all, are almost always missing from these shows, be they weekly series or pseudo-documentaries. Rather than advancing knowledge, they simply gawk. They just put the camera on the oddballs, and we learn nothing except what we already knew: People are weird.
Net gain: Zero.
“American Stuffers” centers on a taxidermy shop in Romance, Arkansas — one the show incorrectly describes as the only one of its type — where Daniel Ross freeze dries dead pets for bereaved owners.
Ross is founder and owner of Xtreme Taxidermy, which he operates with assistance from his wife LaDawn and his three sons. There seems a steady, sideshow-like stream of customers, and a steady stream of drama — real and manufactured — as he freeze dries pets and unveils them in their finished poses to their owners.
The show airs Thursdays at 10 p.m.
“While nothing can bring back these animals, Daniel and his artistic team attempt to come as close as science and art can allow,” Animal Planet says on the show’s website. “They recreate the illusion of life, and clients return home with their pets for eternity.”
That science these days allows much more than freeze-drying is shown in my book, “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry.”
But the book also looks at how, through history, our inability to part with our pets has led us down some other strange roads, including stuffing them.
“Stuffing,” in the 1800s, was an apt name for the process. Almost every town had a tanner, who would cater to hunters seeking to memorialize their kills. They would remove the innards and sew up the carcasses, filling them with rags, straw, paper and cotton, then use sticks and brooms to beat the animal into something resembling its original shape.
By the early 20th century, taxidermy had become far more sophisticated. Mounts of the original animal were made of wood, wire and later plastic, and the animals pelt was stretched over it.
Freeze drying, an invention of the 1970s, began being used by some taxidermists by the late 1990s, including one in West Virginia, Perpetual Pet, who was featured in my book. The process involves removing the animal’s organs, posing it in the desired position, freezing it and then putting it in a vacuum chamber that removes all the moisture.
The point, as with Victorian-era pet portraiture (sometimes painted after an animal was deceased), as with modern day “digital photo urns,” and as with the most technologically advanced method of all, cloning, is the same — to keep at least a semblance of a departed animal around.
It was while researching “DOG, INC.” that I came across the story of Charles “Speedy” Atkins, who, though he died in 1928 in Paducah, Kentucky, remained above earth, intact and upright (when leaned against a wall) well into the 1990s.
Atkins was an active 50-year-old bachelor. His nickname was said by some to have stemmed from his work habits at a local tobacco factory, but others maintain it described his way with the ladies. He drowned one day while fishing on the Ohio River.
His body was taken to the black-owned funeral home in Paducah operated by A.Z. Hamock, who, inspired by methods the Egyptians used on mummies, had been experimenting with ways to preserve bodies for longer periods.
Speedy wasn’t stuffed, but he was pumped full of Hamock’s secret long-lasting embalming fluid. Hamock’s motivations were practical: Preserving a body with the fluid would allow him to wait for the families of his clients, usually poor, to raise enough money for the funeral.
No family ever came for Speedy, though. And time didn’t reclaim him either. Hamock died in 1949, taking his secret formula with him. But Speedy Atkins stayed above the ground, pickled and preserved, for the next 66 years, most of which he spent stashed in a closet, though funeral home operators would sometimes put him on display for tourists.
He was finally buried in 1994. It was time, Hamock’s widow, Velma, decided. “Sixty-six years is a long time to be with somebody,” she said in an interview with Jet magazine, which covered the funeral.
“It was all an experiment, but it was a success,” she said. “Speedy’s never been duplicated, he’s the only one that we know of. He’s not stinking, nothing. The amazing thing is he hasn’t lost all of his features. He doesn’t look like a corpse laying up in the casket for 66 years.
“I never saw a dead man bring so much happiness to people.”
(Freeze dried pet photos of Tiny and Cisco, courtesy of Perpetual Pet.)
Posted by jwoestendiek January 25th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: american stuffers, animal planet, animals, arkansas, behavior, bereavement, bizarre, bodies, cadavers, charles atkins, cloning, corpses, customes, daniel ross, death, dog death, dogs, dysfunction, grief, human, kentucky, loss, memorials, memory, paducah, perpetual pet, pet death, pet preservation, pets, preservation, preserving, semblance, speedy, stuffed, stuffers, stuffing, taxidermist, taxidermy, television, xtreme taxidermy
(Did I just say that?)
U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky, took time out of his busy schedule to rescue a stray dog over the weekend, according to the Madisonville Messenger.
The veteran lawmaker was driving along U.S. 41 between Hanson and Madisonville on Sunday afternoon when he spotted a reddish colored mixed breed on the road.
“The dog was running down the middle of the highway and almost got hit by two trucks,” said Whitfield, a Hopkinsville Republican who grew up in Madisonville. “His tongue was hanging out as far as it could go.”
Whitfield stopped his vehicle and called the dog, but it ran off, disappearing into some bushes. Whitfield followed.
“I walked down there and started calling him in a real gentle voice. He stuck his head out and ran up to me.”
Whitfield put the dog in his car and stopped to get him some water and food before calling Hopkins County animal control officers, who transferred the dog to the animal shelter.
The dog was in good condition, but was missing hair from part of his neck, possibly from being chained or wearing too tight a collar.
“He was a beautiful dog and quite friendly,” Whitfield said. “I told (the officer) that if they would take care of him I would make a contribution.” On Monday, he delivered a personal check for $1,000 to the county Humane Society.
Whitfield has rescued dogs before, including one he saw on the highway several years ago when he and his wife, Connie Harriman-Whitfield — a former assistant secretary of the Interior who now works as a senior adviser for the Humane Society of the United States — were driving back to Washington.
They saw a dog dodging in and out of traffic on Interstate 64 near Mount Sterling, coaxed her into the car and still have her. A mixed breed, her name is Julep.
Whitfield also owns a Scottish terrier named Bosley and a Jack Russell terrier named Nigel, according to the Washington Post.
Nigel (left) often goes to work with Whitfield “because our dog walker can’t really deal with him,” he said.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 10th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal control, animals, bosley, congress, congressman, connie harriman whitfield, dog, donation, ed whitefield, highway, hopkins county, hsus, humane society, julep, kentucky, news, nigel, pets, politics, rep, republican, rescued, rescues, shelter, stray