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Tag: kindness

The homeless man and his white dog

elwoodandgladys

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.

Another unlikely friendship: A dog and a fox

dogandfox1

We humans, with our vastly superior intellects, and being the far more evolved and civilized species, don’t need no stinkin’ animals to show us how to live life.

Do we?

You’d think not — especially with Christmas approaching. Between all the peace, good will and fellowship the season supposedly brings, and all the attention, with his death, on Nelson Mandela’s legacy of kindness and forgiveness, we shouldn’t be needing, right now, any furry creatures reminding us bigger-brained, two-legged types how to get along with each other.

Yet, in the past month, they seem to keep doing so — almost as if they think the message has failed to get through.

First, it’s a goose and a dog partnering up in the UK. Then it’s an elk and a dog becoming backyard playmates in Washington state. Both pairs were shown at play, raising the question, at least in some heads, if animals of different sizes and species — like elephants and dogs, or cats and crows – can get along with each other, why can’t we?

Now comes this latest pair, a fox and a dog in Norway who met in the woods last summer and became fast friends.

dogandfox2

Norwegian photographer Torgeir Berge was out for a walk with his four-year-old German shepherd, Tinni, when they encountered an abandoned baby fox. Since then the fox, which Berge named Sniffer, has regularly met up with them on their trips through the woods, and Berge has been taking pictures of the get-togethers.

Now he’s working on a book about the unlikely friendship with writer Berit Helberg, who told TODAY.com that the fox was probably an orphan whose mother had died, and was probably seeking food, help and company.

“Not many people are privileged to see and enjoy a friendship like this, but Torgeir Berge has both seen them in action and gotten the opportunity to catch this in images that don’t need words,” Helberg wrote in post. They hope the story will raise awareness for animal rights and the conditions that some animals are forced live in as a result of the fur trade, Helberg said.

dogandfox3

Yes, animals of different species far more often kill and eat each other to survive. And these unlikely interspecies friendships, seemingly choreographed from the grave (or wherever he is) of Walt Disney, are the exception. It’s not like animals got together and said ”Let’s rethink this whole survival of the fittest thing, and live together in harmony, eating wild berries.”

It was from animals, after all, that we most likely learned that mindset — that the world belongs to the fittest, richest or whoever roars the loudest.

Heartwarming as these unlikely friendship stories are, they’re not messages being sent to humans by animals.

But, particularly at Christmas, they are messages worth receiving, and learning from.

(Photos by Torgeir Berge, via Today.com)

Squatting and plotting in Federal Hill

 

For the past week, Ace and I have been enjoying the latest in our continuing series of lodgings — digs that have ranged over the past eight months from boat to trailer, motel room to tent, friend’s spare rooms to a stranger’s air mattress.

We get to stay here, in a three-story rowhouse by Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, complete with rooftop deck and hot tub, three more weeks, until the tenants to whom it has been rented — three soldiers who’ll be coming back from Afghanistan — arrive.

It probably represents the pinnacle of my achievements in freeloading, and Ace is loving it — especially since I brought a few pieces of furniture over from my storage unit to furnish the otherwise empty house.

He got particularly excited when he saw the futon mattress arrive. He has hung out on it since puppyhood, and the frame still bears tooth marks from his gnawing on the wood. He watched me write a book while laying in it. And, at night, when he got tired of being in the bed, or possibly me snoring, it’s where he used to go and sleep the second half of the night.

I didn’t bring the frame — knowing full well I will never get it assembled again — but I did bring the mattress for us to sleep on. The second I slapped it on the floor he was on it, giving it a good sniffing and not budging for the next four hours.

He likes having three floors to wander, and having Federal Hill Park close by, though he still prefers his old park, Riverside. We try to make it over there once a day.

Furniture-wise, I have the mattress, a couple of chairs, the fold-up cot that came along on our 22,000 miles of travels, and some tray tables. I also reclaimed my microwave, coffee maker and CD player. I passed on the TV, which makes nights much quieter and a little lonelier, but ensures that I’ll do some of the reading I need to do.

Future-wise, we’re considering a few options. We’re looking for someplace cheap — not too far from Ace’s park – to rent in Baltimore. We’re also looking at heading back to North Carolina for a few months — either the beach, the mountains, or in between. 

Where we go may depend on where we get the best bang for our bark, I mean buck. This week, at the tender young age of 57, I applied for my pension, from the nearly 20 years I worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Do not call me “retired,” though, or I will sic my dog on you.

For now — until mid-February – I have a place where I can actually hang up clothes. It’s nice not having to dig through a suitcase to find something to wear.

The person behind my temporary lodgings is Nancy Dixon, the proprietor of Lucky Lucy’s Canine Cafe, on Charles Street in Baltimore, an ohmidog! reader and advertiser.

You can rest assured that her act of kindness will not influence our editorial decisions (the editorial part being what you’re reading now, the advertising being over there on the leftside rail), but if you want to patronize her shop for all your pet needs for eternity, I would have no problem with that.

Here, in the editorial part, we’ll limit ourselves to saying, “Thanks Nancy.”

For the next few weeks, we’ll be extremely busy with continuing interviews for my new book, “Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend,” keeping ohmidog! fresh and updated, doing our taxes, and a few other writing projects. And, of course, our continuing quest to figure out where home is.

If you can’t reach me immediately, check the hot tub.

Mayor Dixon takes the Oath of Kindness

Mayor Takes Oath 3Mayor Sheila Dixon, during her appearance at BARCStoberfest Sunday, agreed to take the Karma Dogs “Oath of Kindness,” administered on the spot by Karma Dogs co-founder Kelly Gould.

Karma Dogs (of which Ace is one) are primarily rescued dogs who, having been given a second chance, now work to improve the lives of others through relationships with therapy dogs. Karma Dogs work to improvie literacy skills among students, and also works with children and adults with developmental disabilities to improve their communication and socialization skills.

After the death of Phoenix, a pit bull set on fire in Baltimore, Karma Dogs instituted its “Oath of Kindness.” program.

Karma Dogs believes, as research suggests, that people who are unable to bond or empathize with animals have trouble developing and sustaining bonds with people. “It is our intention that by giving children something to be proud of, to be a part of, they will think twice before participating in violence towards any living thing,” the Karma Dogs website explains.

The Oath of Kindness is intended to make children stop and think about how important it is to be kind to all animals and resist the pressure to go along with those who might harm animals, whether in the guise of childhood pranks or dog fighting.

Children are sworn in, by a Karma Dog, as they recite the pledge, and receive a certificate which shows they are pledging to be kind to animals, which is pawtographed by the dog.

Reading to dogs at Catonsville library

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After a nearly year-long hiatus, Ace went back on duty as a Karma Dog over the weekend, attending the first HEARTS (Help Encourage All Readers to Succeed) session of the season at the Baltimore County Public Libary in Catonsville.

The program runs for the next eight Saturdays, and starts at 11 .a.m.

Nine books (three of them Curious Georges) were read to Ace, who – from the moment I put on his special Karma Dogs harness and bandana — seemed happy to get back in the program.

He was one of three dogs at the library Saturday morning. The program is aimed at helping children grow more confident about their reading skills. Dogs don’t judge or criticize young readers when they make mistakes, which can often unintentionally cause them to become discouraged readers. When a child is more confident, they can learn more easily and are able to increase their vocabulary and become better readers.

The sessions are aimed at children who can read or are learning to read, and are usually in grades 1-5. To get the most out of the program, Karma Dogs recommends that children attend a session weekly.

Karma Dogs is a non-profit organization that seeks to improve the lives of others through relationships with therapy dogs. Its various programs are aimed at improving literacy skills among elementary school students and working with children and adults with developmental disabilities to improve communication and socialization skills.

Karma Dogs was also in the news recently for its “Oath of Kindness” program, which was developed in response to the recent violence against animals in Baltimore. Children take an Oath of Kindness with a Karma Dog, where they promise to be kind, tell their friends to be kind and tell an adult if someone isn’t treating an animal properly.

Karma Dogs introduces “oath of kindness”

karmadogsKarma Dogs, a nonprofit organization that rehabilitates rescued dogs into therapy dogs, has announced the launch of its Oath of Kindness (OK) program — a way for children and teens to pledge to be kind to animals, to tell their friends to be kind as well and to promise to tell an adult if they see animal cruelty.

The program was formed in response to the recent news about Phoenix, the Baltimore pit bull that died after being set on fire. Two 17-year-old boys have been arrested in the case.

“We hope the Oath of Kindness program helps stimulate conversation between children and their parents regarding the treatment of household pets and other animals,” said Kelly Gould, executive director of Karma Dogs. “We work primarily with rescued dogs and it has been our goal at Karma Dogs to teach adults and children that animals have an intrinsic value.”

Participants in the Karma Dogs OK program will be sworn in by Karma Dogs and receive a “pawtographed” certificate by a Karma Dog as well as a ribbon. Karma Dogs will also launch an e-newsletter that includes positive stories about other children being kind to animals. Children are encouraged to submit their own stories via OK@karmadogs.org. Read more »

Six kids honored for kindness to animals

Six kids from across the nation — including a Maryland girl who volunteers at Frederick County Animal Control — have been named winners in the American Humane Association’s Be Kind to Animals Kid Contest.

Be Kind to Animals Week, established in 1915, is being observed May 3-9 this year. It is the oldest event in the nation to celebrate the companionship, friendship and love that animals bring into people’s lives.

Annie Lee Vankleeck, 6, grand prize winner in the age 6 to 12 category, was honored for helping Out of the Pits, a non-profit pit bull rescue in Albany, New York.

After she and her parents, of Shokan, New York, learned that the organization needed blankets and towels, Annie went to work. She collected blankets and towels at the town’s annual Olive Day festival, then went to yard sales and persuaded people to donate. She also collected blankets and towels at school. She’s still at it: For her upcoming 7th birthday party, she is asking her guests to forego bringing her gifts, and bring towels and blankets for “the doggies” instead.

Read more »