He goes by the nickname “Wolfdog.” Lives in Alabama’s great outdoors. And he spends most of his time, along with his dog, Bandit, picking trash — copious amounts of trash — out of the waterways.
It’s not a job. He doesn’t get paid. He says he does it out of his love for the planet and its wildlife.
“I’m not asking anybody for anything. I’m not a charity case. I ain’t a bum. I’m not a mooch,” says 55-year-old Cliff Skees. “But I do care about the environment. I care about wildlife. I care about human beings, but human beings, they take one look at me and they say, ‘Well, he’s just a piece of trash, you know.’
“Maybe I am. But then again, maybe I ain’t. I can look myself in the mirror and say I’m trying.”
We’ll go so far — despite the hard times he’s gone through in life — to cast a vote for “ain’t.”
And to point out that, most likely, a lot of those people who see him as “trash” are the same ones who so casually discard it, cluttering the waterways around Mobile, Alabama.
Skees is an unpolished gem, first discovered four years ago by Ben Raines, an environmental reporter for the Mobile Press-Register.
At the time, Skees was living the woods and was commonly seen with Bandit, gathering garbage from the shores from a canoe with these words painted on the side, “Be a critter, please don’t litter.”
Raines wrote a story back then about the man and his mission. He followed along as Skees — and Bandit, too — scooped up trash from the water and returned it to their base, where 140 bags full of garbage, stacked and numbered, sat.
“It was a startling sight, and a testament to just how trashy we Alabamians are, for even with that much trash picked up, so much more remained along the river banks,” Raines wrote.
Recently, Raines ran into him again — and found out that, while Skees’ mission remained the same, his situation has improved somewhat. You can read that second story here.
After the first story appeared, someone donated a pontoon boat to Skees, and he turned it into his base of operations.
Raines happened upon Wolfdog and Bandit again last week at a boat ramp on Chickasabouge Creek.
“They both looked prosperous and had a certain spring in their collective step. I immediately had the feeling some good fortune had come their way,” Raines wrote.
“Mr. Ben!” Wolfdog shouted, “You’ve got to see my rig. Things are different these days.”
Wolfdog then showed off the houseboat he had fashioned from the pontoon boat — one complete with solar panels, an electric motor, and other features that he fashioned out of recycled materials and some “backwoods hillbilly ingenuity.”
“The woodwork is top notch. Glossy marine varnish shines from every surface. There’s a bed, a table, a propane stove and several small windows. The framing for the insulated walls is aluminum, to better resist rotting. Everywhere you look, the craftsmanship is meticulous,” Raines reported.
An anonymous donor gave Skees the old 1979 pontoon boat after the first article appeared, apparently to support his one-man cleanup mission.
While friends donated items to the houseboat project, Skees receives no support for his efforts to keep the waterways clean — except that which Bandit supplies. When they are out in the canoe, Bandit will leap off to collect cups and plastic bottles in his mouth.
Wolfdog says he hopes to set a Guinness World Record for picking up trash, and he still dreams of finding some support from the local environmental groups.
“I can’t get nobody to help me. That’s what breaks my heart the worst. I can’t even get a thank you,” Wolfdog said. “I think they look at me and they see trash…
“I won’t give up. Get discouraged sometimes. But my best work, the best of my work, don’t come nowhere close to what I leave behind … There’s just no comparison. No comparison. Not nowhere close.”
Skees says it was on his first canoe ride that he fell in love with the solace of canoeing.
That trip is also when, seeing trash in the water, cleaning it up began his calling.
“For certain for sure,” he said. “There aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to talk about it.”
If you are interested in helping Wolfdog and Bandit with their mission, contact Raines at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo courtesy of Wolfdog)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 2nd, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: alabama, animals, bandit, ben raines, canoe, clean, cliff skees, dog, dogs, environment, garbage, guardian, homeless, houseboat, litter, mobile, pets, pollution, reporter, rivers, trash, waterways, wildlife, wolfdog
A group of inmates picking up trash along a road in south Alabama came together last week to give a stray dog something they don’t currently have — freedom, specifically freedom from the large plastic jar stuck on his head.
Cpl. Joshua Myers with the Geneva County Sheriff’s Office says a road crew was picking up trash on the side of East County Road 4 Thursday morning when they spotted a dog motionless on the ground.
As the inmates approached, the dog got up and began blindly running around, Myers told WSFA. The inmates were able to catch him, hold him down and free his head from the jar.
Once his head was freed, the dog ran off and the inmates couldn’t catch him.
Myers said the dog looked healthy.
WSFA reported one person has called the sheriff’s office to say they believe it’s their dog that has been missing for about a week.
Inmates in the Geneva County Jail with minor charges are allowed to work on road crews picking up trash as community service.
In addition to saving the dog, Meyers said the work crew on the same day found someone’s missing wallet. It has been returned to its owner.
(Photo: Geneva County Sheriff’s Office)
Posted by John Woestendiek November 3rd, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alabama, animals, crew, dog, dogs, free, geneva county, head, inmates, jail, jar, litter, pets, prisoners, sheriff, stuck, trash, work
And one kitten.
Esperanza, as she’s been named (Spanish for “Hope”), was found on a central Alberta reserve by Criss Gerwing, who runs a small animal rescue group. The dog, a white shepherd mix, led Gerwing to her pups, and a kitten that, somehow, ended up nestled in with the rest of the litter.
“I cried because she was in such bad condition with her leg, but she was obviously nursing her puppies and this kitten,” Gerwing said.
The Winnipeg Free Press reports that Gerwing took all the animals to the Edmonton Humane Society, where veterinarians thought they’d have to amputate the mother dog’s bad leg. But a local veterinarian, Dr. Milton Ness, saying she was “a special soul” volunteered to perform surgery to save her leg.
“She is such a sweet, sweet dog,” Shawna Randolph at the humane society said. “She has such a wonderful personality.”
Posted by John Woestendiek December 21st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alberta, canada, car, cat, criss gerwing, dog nursing cat, dr. milton ness, edmonton, edmonton humane society, esmerelda, injury, interspecies, kitten, leg, litter, mother, news, nursing, ohmidog!, puppies, pups, rescue, saved, shelter, struck, surgery
The proposal to establish a DNA database of every dog who resides in Baltimore’s Scarlett Place Condominiums — all in hopes of figuring out who’s not picking up their dog’s poop — appears to have been dumped.
At a meeting of the condo’s board this week, the proposal was tabled and the decision was made to to pursue more “realistic and acceptable” alternatives.
While the meeting was closed to the public, a resident correspondent reports on the Baltimore Sun’s Unleashed blog that the board chairman said that other alternatives to finding the culprit would receive further study.
Under the proposal, every dog in Scarlett Place would have had to provide a DNA sample. Any unpicked-up poop found at the building would then be sent to an out of state laboratory for comparison. The owner of the dog linked to the poop would then face fines.
Unleashed author Jill Rosen wrote that, after breaking the story, she was originally invited to attend the meeting, but uninvited when the story developed legs, appearing in publications and on websites across the globe, thereby, in my view, bringing the luxury condominium the embarassment it deserved.
Richard Hopp, a Scarlett Place resident, reported to Unleashed that the condo board, in a standing room only meeting, “tabled the proposal.” Not a single resident spoke in favor of it, he said, and the board member who came up with the idea wasn’t present.
“For what it is worth, my take on this is that the board members realized they had really ‘stepped in it’ with their doggy DNA proposal,” Hopp reported, “and in order to save face, they tabled the matter, rather than just vote it down and move on…”
Posted by John Woestendiek May 21st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: analysis, animals, baltimore, board, condominium, database, dna, feces, inner harbor, laboratory, litter, news, not picked up, ohmidog!, pets, poop, proposal, richard hopp, sample, scarlett place, testing, unleashed, unscooped, waste
A dog seen wandering around Danville, Virginia last week with a plastic container stuck over his head — in the fashion of a spaceman or deep sea diver — has been captured and relieved of his involuntary helmet.
A police officer captured the dog Friday morning, after a resident spotted him and called for help.
He’s now in the custody of the the Danville Humane Society, which has named him “Jughead.”
The Humane Society had been trying to catch “Jughead” all week because the plastic container — similar to one cheese puffs might come in — was preventing him from eating or drinking. They’d offered a $500 reward to anyone who could capture him.
Danville Police Officer Mike Smith captured the dog Friday after a woman spotted him resting on a porch on Colquhoun Street, the Danville News reported.
“He was eager to drink. He seems to be doing better now. He seems to have come around a little bit. He was very scared and very shy when we first saw him but he seems to be doing better now, Danville Humane Society Director Paulette Dean said.
The Humane Society says it will put Jughead — believed to be a pit bull-chow mix, about four years old — up for adoption if no owner is found.
Dean said Jughead wasn’t the first animal to get entrapped in litter. The society has had cases of stray cats, a fox and a raccoon getting their head stuck in containers.
“There are dangers of littering,” she said. “People need to keep their trash contained.”
And their dogs, too.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 10th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, captured, container, danville, danville humane society, dog, freed, head, humane society, jug, jughead, litter, paulette dean, pets, plastic, reward, stray, stuck, virginia, wandering
An eight-year-old dog is being credited with saving the life of an abandoned newborn baby in Argentina, carrying him from a field and placing him safely alongside her own puppies.
The country’s media are calling him “the miracle baby,” according to the BBC.
The baby boy was born prematurely to a 14-year-old girl, who apparently panicked and abandoned him in a field in a shanty town outside the capital of Buenos Aires.
The dog, named La China picked up the baby and carried him from the field to join her litter. The dog’s owner reported hearing the child crying. The baby had some slight injuries, but no bite marks.
La China, worried about her own puppies, is reported to be petrified by her new found fame, and her owner says he is worried that she is not eating.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 21st, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abandoned, animals, argentina, baby, dog, finds, found, hero, la china, litter, miracle, pets, puppies, rescue, rescues, saves, video
National Geographic Channel’s critically acclaimed “In The Womb” series returns this month with two new one-hour specials — including one that follows the fetal journey of four litters of canines.
Featuring some amazing visual images, the show follows the development of litters inside a Neapolitan mastiff, golden retriever, chihuahua and wolf — from fertilization through the remarkable 63-day journey that takes them from a single cell to man’s best friend.
“In the Womb: Dogs” airs Jan. 4 at 8 p.m.; followed by “In the Womb: Cats” at 9 p.m.
I screened the dog special last week, and can report that it’s both a visually riveting hour of TV and a highly informative account of what’s happened in the 15,000 years since wild wolves began making the transition to domesticated dogs — and of what man did to them after that.
The show intersperses dog history with visits inside the womb, showing how all breeds (more than 400 of them) stemmed from wolves, thanks to selective breeding of them by humans. So hunters wouldn’t have to go pick up the birds they shot, we made retrievers. To scare off intruders, we made mastiffs. To rid our land of varmints, we made short-legged dogs that could burrow into holes. It wasn’t always in dogs best interest — sometimes quite the opposite — but as a result, dogs became the most diverse species on earth.
Despite all that diversity, the four canines tracked in the womb are remarkably similar for the first month or so in the womb — both to each other and any other vertebrate, including us. Even then, though, they practice behaviors they will need once born, like running and panting.
After that, they begin to take on distinctive shapes. By day 39, the ears are formed. Floppy ears are a sign of the submission humans have bred into dogs, but erect wolf-like ears persist in a few species, including the Chihuahua. Snouts, too, develop relatively late. After 55 days of development, the wolf, mastiff, golden retriever and Chihuahua all exhibit traits particular to their breeds.
Sixty-three days after the eggs were fertilized, the puppies make their debut, leaving the solace of the womb for the real world.
For more information, on the series, click here
(Image courtesy of National Geographic Channel)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 2nd, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: birth, cameras, cats, chihuahua, dog, dogs, embryos, fetal, golden, in the womb, litter, mastiff, national geographic, photography, retriever, television, wolf, womb