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Last month’s feel-good story takes bad turn

Luke the K9 solo (Courtesy of Joel Fields)

A suburban police officer who made national headlines for rescuing a doomed shelter dog and training him for police work has been fired from his job — and his whole story is now being questioned.

On top of that, the Bel-Ridge Police Department, outside St. Louis, is asking that officer Joel Fields return the dog that taxpayers, at least in part, paid to have trained, at least in part, as a police K9.

The total truth about the story is still unraveling, but the untruths unearthed so far indicate the heartwarming account Fields gave the news media wasn’t entirely accurate — including the claim that the dog, named Luke, came from a shelter and was scheduled to be euthanized.

As a result, and as has happened before, all across the Internet, thousands of hearts were falsely warmed.

As usual, we can blame lazy news media, and even lazier bloggers, for the misinformation — as well as the officer whose account of saving the dog from death’s doorstep was initially accepted on its face as truthful.

fieldsFields was praised by PEOPLE and pictured as a savior by numerous dog websites after the story broke in April.

(Fortunately, ohmidog! wasn’t one of them. We’d like to say it’s because it didn’t pass our special sniff test, or get approved by our crack team of fact checkers, but it was probably more dumb luck.)

Still, there were clues — like how hard Fields seemed to be seeking publicity, the professionally made photos he supplied of him and Luke, and the boasting about all the drug busts Luke nearly immediately made as a rookie on the job.

“He made seven drug busts in less than a month and a half of working the road with me,” Fields told Fox2 News.

How true that is — as well as the rest of the story Fields gave about the retriever — are now under suspicion.

News4 in St. Louis is now reporting that Brad Croft, the owner of Universal K9, the company that helped train Luke, is saying the account Fields gave the news media was mostly lies.

“I was a little upset, because Joel was told from the day I handed him the leash of the dog that this was not a shelter dog,” said Croft.

Croft told News4 he suspects Fields was lying about the dog’s background in an effort to gain fame and “get people to back him and give him money.”

Officials are also now investigating whether Luke was fully trained and certified as a police dog.

City prosecutor Sam Alton says Fields initially told them the dog was certified as a K9, but he says they have learned that is not true. That fact could complicate any criminal court cases Luke played a role in.

Alton says Fields is now refusing to give up the dog, whose training was funded at least in part by taxpayers.

“We would like to see the taxpayers not lose money, we would like the dog to live a happy and productive life and we would like to see the dog in service as it was meant to be,” Alton said.

“Everything legally from our point of view shows that the dog belongs to the city of Bel-Ridge,” he added. “It’s unfortunate for the city, it’s unfortunate for the residents, it’s unfortunate for the dog and it’s unfortunate for him (Fields).”

Fields told News4 over the phone this week that he quit and wasn’t fired, and wouldn’t comment anymore until talking to his attorney.

KMOV.com

Beagle B&B is a sight to see

beagle3

During our year traveling across America in search of all things dog, Ace and I missed this place — a B&B in Idaho that resembles a giant beagle.

The Dog Bark Park Inn is located in the city of Cottonwood, population less than 1,000.

beagle2It serves as home base for husband and wife artists Dennis J. Sullivan and Frances Conklin, who opened the B&B in 2003.

Sullivan, a chain saw artist who specializes in dog designs, built the dog shaped unit, named Sweet Willy, and his smaller sidekick, Toby.

You can’t sleep inside Toby, but Sweet Willy contains two bedrooms and a bathroom, and rents for about $100 a night. (Pets are welcome for an extra $15 fee.)

The two-acre property also includes a sculpture garden featuring other works of art, including a 12-foot fire hydrant with a portable toilet inside, the Huffington Post reports.

It reminds me a bit of Dog Mountain, the park-like Vermont complex featuring the art of its creator, artist Stephen Huneck.

At the Dog Bark Park Inn, guests check in at the owners’ studio and gift shop, located nearby.

dennisandfrancesDennis is a self-taught chainsaw artist who has been carving for over 30 years. Frances joined him twenty years ago and also carves, according to the studio’s website.

They say their “big break” came in 1995 when their carvings were featured on QVC. With the fame came more hard work.

“We did nothing but carve wooden dogs for 18 months (our children barely remember seeing us during those days!), made what seemed like a bundle of money, invested it all in developing and building Dog Bark Park.”

bernese_mountain_dog_jpgTogether, they carve more than 60 different breeds and poses of dogs, and will take custom orders on request, carving dogs based on photos provided by owners.

In 2003 they received the Take Pride in Idaho Cultural Tourism Award for a large carved art exhibit depicting the story of Seaman, the dog who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their exploratory journey to the Pacific two hundred years ago.

(Photos: Dog Bark Park Inn)

A coldhearted cold cut prank on Facebook

hamdogIn retrospect, it’s hard to see how a photo of a dog with ham on his face left so many people with egg on their’s.

And yet, thousands of good-hearted souls were apparently fooled by a Facebook post of a dog with a slice of ham draped over his eyes and snout.

Two days before Christmas, the photo was posted on Facebook by a man — equal parts grinch and troll, we suspect — who offered this description:

“This poor dog was badly burned and disfigured trying to save his family from a house fire. One like = one prayer. One share = ten prayers.

Many of the animal lovers of Facebook — and their numbers are legion — went on to like it, share it and leave comments voicing their best wishes for the pooch.

Perhaps it’s because the ham slice does look a little like bloodied gauze. Perhaps it was the prayer request that accompanied the photos. Perhaps Christmas spirit had a little to do with the outpouring of well wishes that followed the posting.

With many dog lovers, compassion kicks in immediately — reflexively, even — and long before their cynicism does.

(We’d only hope that none of the well-wishers went so far as to send any donations to the jerk who wrote the post.)

Stephen Roseman, a few days after posting the photo and desciption on Facebook, explained in a comment that it was all a joke:

“People, people this isn’t even my dog, I found this picture on fascistbook, stole it, and decided to use it in a prank to fool these religitards.

“So I did, and low and behold idiots left and right fall for it, and those that didn’t, seem to think they have a superior intelligence or something, for pointing out the obvious.

“Keep in mind, I never told a single soul to like this, that is their choice, I don’t give a f*ck either way.”

Apparently Roseman was trying to pull a fast one — not just on those sensitive and soft-hearted types who fell for the story, but on those more cynical ones who voiced the opinion that the story was clearly fake.

Roseman apparently has no use for either of those.

Fortunately, for him, soliciting prayers (and shares) under false pretenses is not a crime (a sin, maybe, but not a crime). So it’s likely his only punishment — assuming those death threats against him are idle chatter — will be losing some Facebook friends.

“I’ve literally lost count on how many death threats I’ve accumulated because of Ham Dog,” he said in a subsequent Facebook comment. “I’m not concerned, but rather amused, regardless, I’m armed everywhere I go anyways. I find it motivating…”

The prank has since been exposed and straightened out by Snopes.com and several news media outlets.

But not before thousands had responded, many of them voicing sympathy and passing on their prayers. Using his own, shares-to-prayers formula, the dog got 1.3 million of them.

We have only one of our own to pass along: That lo and behold (that’s lo, Stephen, with no “w”) Stephen Roseman might one day grow up.

(Photo: Facebook)

Siberian “dog-girl” likely to go back home

Here’s a report from Russia Today on Natasha Mikhailova – the five-year-old Siberian girl who walks on all fours, and barks, meows and eats like the dogs and cats she was raised among.

Natasha, who is only the size of a two-year-old, was removed from the unheated three-room flat she lived in with her dad and grandparents after neighbors complained to authorities.

The girl’s mother, according to the report, says she was taken away by her husband two years ago and that she hadn’t seen her since.

The father was fined for neglect, according to the report, and the girl is expected to be sent back home.