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Tag: london

From homeless heroin addict to popular artist, with help from a dog named George

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A formerly homeless man who once sold his sketches for pocket change on the streets of London’s now sells them for thousands of dollars at exhibits — and credits his dog for turning his life around.

Up until a few years ago, John Dolan, 43, had been a heroin addict whose life had seen more than 300 criminal convictions, 30 stints in prison and long stretches of homelessness.

He was living on the streets when he took in George. The young Staffordshire bull terrier had been living with another homeless couple who had had acquired him in exchange for a can of beer. They’d found housing, but not dog-friendly housing, and George needed a home.

Dolan, who hadn’t exactly been living a life of responsibility, was worried about whether he was up to having a dog.

“How was I going to cope with him? I couldn’t even cope with myself,” he told the Guardian.

georgeBut George, he noticed, had a way of looking him in the eye when he talked, and the two quickly bonded. Dolan says it was the fear of losing George if he went to prison again that led him to give up crime.

“He’s like my child in a sense and I feel obliged to keep a roof over his head and keep him warm,” he said.

Of course, George was helping Dolan out in other ways, too. Dolan made more money panhandling when George was at his side. Still, Dolan says, he felt embarassed by begging.

“Sitting there holding out my hand was so embarrassing, so degrading. I didn’t like to look at people as they went past. I picked up the pen mainly so I could bury my head in a drawing pad.”

He started drawing the buildings, and drawing George, and, sitting with his dog on the sidewalk, he would sell the drawings for whatever he could get.

Then he was discovered. First he was commissioned to do some drawings for a book. Then a gallery director, Richard Howard-Griffin, asked if he would draw some large streetscapes for him.

dolanbookLast fall he had his first exhibit. His second is now underway at the Howard Griffin Gallery in London, with proceeds being donated to The Big Issue Foundation and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. 

Another exhibit, in Los Angeles, is in the works. And Dolan has published a book, “John and George: The Dog Who Changed My Life.”

Dolan has a home now, but  still sits on the street and draws, with George.

“I feel like he’s a guardian angel. If it hadn’t been for him I’d have never picked up my pen.”

(Top pPhoto: David Levene / the Guardian)

Dog’s DNA leads to owner’s murder conviction

His own dog’s DNA helped convict a reputed gang member in south London of the murder of a 16-year-old.

Oluwaseyi Ogunyemi was killed in a “vicious” attack by a gang of youths who set upon him and his friends with their dogs. One of the dogs,  a Staffordshire bull terrier-bull mastiff cross called Tyson, brought Ogunyemi down as he tried to climb over a fence, after which the youth was stabbed six times by its owner Chrisdian Johnson.

Johnson was arrested as he fled the scene of the murder last April, bare-chested and covered in blood.

New DNA technology proved by a billion-to-one probability that some of the blood on Johnson came from his dog Tyson, who had been knifed during the fighting. The rest came from Ogunyemi.

Johnson was also found guilty of the attempted murder of Seyi’s 17-year-old friend Hurui Hiyabum, whom he stabbed nine times.

Scientists used DNA profiling to prove that samples collected during the investigation were a billion times more likely to come from two specific dogs involved in the attack than any other animals, the BBC reported.

Police  hailed the dog DNA technology, which had just been developed at the time of the murder, as a “hugely powerful investigative tool”.

The birds greatest hits

French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot creates works by drawing on the rhythms of daily life to produce sound in unexpected ways.

For his installation in The Curve in London, Boursier-Mougenot created a walk-though aviary for a flock of zebra finches, furnished with electric guitars and other musical instruments. As the birds go about their routine activities, perching on or feeding from the various pieces of equipment, they create a captivating, live soundscape.

The exhibit runs from Feb. 27 to May 23.

Dogfighting sees big surge in England

dogfightA new wave of dogfighting is sweeping England, resulting in a 12-fold increase in dogfights since 2004.

And most practitioners — about two of every three — are youths, the Royal SPCA says.

A BBC report quotes RSPCA officials as saying a ban on four breeds, including pit bulls, has done little to slow the spread of dogfighting, or dogs biting people, and that a change in the law is needed.

The new wave of dog fighting, known as “chain fighting” or “rolling,” involves fights held in inner city public parks, on private estates and even in apartment elevators where  ”young people, often gangs of young people … put two dogs in a lift at the top of the block of flats and will press the button and let the dogs fight until they get to the bottom,” the RPSCA’s Claire Robinson told BBC News. Read more »

Elle’s dog Bella follows in her model footsteps

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Elle Macpherson’s labradoodle is starring in a national advertising campaign as the face of Dogside.com, a dog fashion brand.

The brand boasts that five-year-old Bella is ideal for showing off its leads, coats, scarves and bowls for “today’s stylish urban dog.”

Macpherson, 46 – known as ”The Body” during her modeling days, known as a millionaire businesswoman now — has her own lingerie and cosmetics lines, and has often been photographed walking Bella near her Notting Hill home, according to London’s Daily Mail. Bella is being promoted as “The Dog’s Body.”

Macpherson is said to be receiving a  five-figure sum for her dog’s work.

Chihuahua survives 2 days with fork in brain

A 12-week-old Chihuahua named Smokey survived two days with a barbecue fork in his head.

Smokey was being fed some table scraps at a backyard barbecue in London, Kentucky, when the person scraping scraps into his dish used the fork to shoo away another dog. The handle broke, sending the prongs flying into the dog’s skull, said veterinarian Mark Smith.

Smokey immediately ran off into the woods, where he hid for two days. When Smokey finally returned home, he was alive, and the large fork was still stuck in his head.

He was rushed to the Cumberland Valley Animal Hospital where Dr. Smith, after taking X-rays, anesthetized Smokey, disinfected the area around the fork, and simply pulled it out.

Smokey is recovering. “His nerve endings around the eye still seem to be a little slow but I think that will heal over time, he really is a little miracle,” a second veterinarian said.

Dr. Smith ordered six weeks of bed rest for Smokey, most of which will be spent in a crate.

Vermont record falls to London barkers

A group of dogs in London set a new world record for the loudest collective bark.

The 30 dogs emitted a group bark of 115 decibels in Finsbury Park, breaking the record of 111 decibels set by 224 dogs in Vermont last year, according to the BBC.

A German shepherd dog called Daz Lightning set the loudest individual bark record at 108 decibels.

The Guinness World Records confirmed both new records.

The 30 dogs were given three chances to break the group bark record, succeeding on their final attempt.

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