If you’re going to be a stray dog, you might want to be one in Oak Brook, Ill.
It’s one of Chicago’s wealthiest suburbs — the kind of place with well-manicured lawns to pee on, porches and gazebos offering some shade, and handouts from humans that might include pork tenderloin, or steak.
At least that was Rusty’s experience.
For four years, Rusty roamed the Forest Glen neighborhood of Oak Brook, keeping a certain distance from its residents, but happily accepting their offers of food.
“I would leave pieces of steak and pork tenderloin at the end of the driveway,” said one Forest Glen resident.
“We thought we were the only people taking care of him,” said another, who fed him steak and bacon.
Harry Peters, president of the Forest Glen Homeowners Association, said Rusty, a chow-sheltie mix, eventually developed some discriminating tastes: “I put a hot dog out there once — I’ll never forget it — and he lifted his leg and peed on it. My neighbor was giving him steak.”
Despite all the handouts, Rusty kept his distance. He’d play with neighborhood dogs, but avoided getting too close to humans. When residents walked their dogs, Rusty would follow behind — again at a distance.
While residents were enjoying his presence, and fattening him up, many of them worried about how he was able to survive the harsh winters, and able to avoid becoming a victim of street traffic.
For four years, any attempts to catch him were in vain, up until 2010 when he was captured in a back yard and turned over to the Hinsdale Humane Society.
There he was treated for a heartworm infestation, and thousands of dollars were donated to help pay for his care. Attempts were made to make him more sociable with humans, so that he could be adopted out to one of the many expressing interest in doing so.
But Rusty, who maintained a preference for living outside, never reached that point, shelter officials told the Chicago Tribune.
Instead he was sent to Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, where he’d have room to roam.
Before taking him to Utah, Jennifer Vlazny, operations manager for the humane society, brought Rusty back to the neighborhood he once roamed for one last visit. Residents petted him and photographed him, and some cried when he left.
After some time at Best Friends, Rusty was adopted by a Kanab resident, Kristine Kowal, a retired school nurse who once lived in the Chicago area.
Kowal made a Facebook page and posted regular updates on it about Rusty, by then renamed Rusty Redd.
Peters, the neighborhood association president, visited Rusty and Kowal in January, while on a business trip to Las Vegas. He mentioned to Kowal then that, if she was to ever come to Chicago for a visit, he’d arrange a gathering so residents could have a reunion with the dog.
That happened this past weekend.
Kowal drove Rusty 1,800 miles from Utah for the reunion.
“I just thought it was something that I needed to do — to take him back, and kind of make it a full circle,” Kowal said.
Residents gathered Sunday in a gazebo in the Forest Glen subdivision, where they were able to pet him, many for the first time.
Vlazny, the Tribune reported, was amazed at his transformation from feral dog to pet.
Rusty seemed to remember the old neighborhood, and residents — even some who had since moved out of state — came to the reunion to see an old friend.
“The closest Rusty would ever get to me was 40 feet,” said Frank Manas, feeding the dog a chunk of mozzarella cheese. His family had moved from Forest Glen to Wisconsin, but returned Sunday to see Rusty.
“We said, if Rusty can come all the way from Utah, we can come from Eau Claire,” said Julie Manas, his wife.
“Oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh — I’m petting him!” said Julie Gleason, who used to feed Rusty when he visited the nearby office park where she works.
“It’s a real-life fairy tale.”
(Photo: Julie Gleason weeps as she pets Rusty; by Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 20th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, best friends animal society, bond, bonding, chicago, chow, dog, dogs, food, forest glen, handouts, hinsdale humane society, illinois, kindness, mix, mutt, mutts, neighborhood, oak brook, pets, reunion, rusty, rusty redd, sheltie, steak, stray dog, strays
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.
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.
Benedict, 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.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 25th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: benedict the florist, cancer, death, dunkin donuts, elwood, elwood and gladys, elwood towers, george benedict, gladys, homeless, homeless dogs, homeless people, homelessness, kindness, lucky dog pet salon, maryland, mix, new home, panhandling, salisbury, tolerance, wheaton
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.
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.
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.
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)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 10th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, book, cat and crow, christmas, dog, dog and elephant, dog and elk, dog and fox, dog and goose, elephant, elk, fox, fox and dog, friends, goose, humans, interspecies, kindness, love, man, mandela, norway, pets, photographer, photography, relationships, society, torgeir berge, unlikely friendships, wildlife
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 21st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, baltimore, decisions, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, federal hill, federal hill park, home, hot tub, housing, inner harbor, kindness, lucky lucy's canine cafe, pets, rent, rental, riverside park, road trip, rooftop deck, south baltimore, travel, travels with ace
Mayor 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.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 27th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, barcstoberfest, children, cruelty, dogs, karma dogs, kindness, mayor, oath, oath of kindness, sheila dixon, therapy dogs
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.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 14th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, baltimore county public library, catonsville, children, dogs, encourage, hearts, help, karma, karma dogs, kindness, literacy, oath, readers, reading, therapy dogs
Karma 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 »
Posted by John Woestendiek June 11th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: andrew gould, animals, burned, coloring book, dirk's guide to safety, fire, hearts, karma dogs, kelly gould, kind, kindness, library, nonprofit, oath of kindness, OK program, organization, pets, phoenix, pit bull, reading, towson