Tag Archives: mascot

Ace, and a few hundred other friends, surface during my fundraiser to honor Joe


My quest to honor my son’s memory by having a kennel in my local humane society named after him has almost reached its goal, thanks to the kindness of friends, family and a lot of people I’ve never known.

Sure it’s only a plaque, just like a condolence card is only a card, and words are only words, and, from the giver’s point of view, none of them really seem sufficient to honor a loved one who has passed — especially one who dies such an early death.

But people do what they can at times like these. And the $10,000 (maybe more) donation Joe will be making posthumously to the Forsyth Humane Society will go a long way in terms of caring and finding homes for the dogs who end up there.

thermometer-red-90-percent-hiThe plaque is one of several commemorative opportunities the shelter, like most, offers to those wishing to make a donation in the name of a loved one lost, be they cat, dog or human.

Forsyth Humane Society, in North Carolina, offers commemorative bricks, engraved with the loved one’s name, from $100 to $250, based on their size; bench plaques, for $750; annual sponsorships of individual kennels for $300 a year; and the big one — sponsoring a kennel for a lifetime — for $10,000. As part of the kennel sponsorships, the Humane Society sends you the stories of three of the dogs that occupy the kennel each year.

(You can check the website of your local humane society or SPCA to see the commemorative opportunities it might offer.)

For my son Joe, 26, who died two weeks after an accident on an Interstate highway in Mississippi, I had to shoot for the perpetual sponsorship.

When Joe visited me in the summer, he volunteered at the Forsyth Humane Society a few days a week, and at special events, where he most enjoyed donning the dog costume of its mascot.

So the choice for a memorial to him seemed a good fit — and a much-needed something to keep me busy.

I started a Facebook fundraising campaign, which is now more than 90 percent of the way to its goal and has left me marveling at the kindness and generosity of my friends, most of whom I’ve done a poor job of staying in touch with over the years.

Former colleagues at the Philadelphia Inquirer responded, as well as many from the Baltimore Sun. College friends kicked in. Dog park buddies came through, as did lots of you ohmidog! readers, some I know and some I don’t.

And I can’t remember ever being so touched. Thanks to you, Joe, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, will soon have his name on a kennel that, over the course of each year, will probably house one or two dozen homeless dogs (one at a time) awaiting that happy outcome.

Each and every donation, large or small, has lifted my spirits.

One of the gestures that moved me most came from a friend in Baltimore who was mourning the death of her dog.

Carey Hughes once fell really hard for me, but let me explain.

bm3We’d met when we were both out with our dogs at some sort of function in the Inner Harbor. We got together a few times after that, since our dogs hit it off so well — usually at a dog park, or a bar that allowed dogs.

Once at an outdoor restaurant near the harbor, I asked her to hold Ace’s leash for me while I went inside for more beer. Her dog, Bimini was tied to the table, but given Ace, at 140 pounds, could drag a table pretty far, I asked Carey to hold on to him.

When I came back outside, Ace bolted toward me, toppling Carey’s chair and dragging her a foot or two across the pavement (something he’d done with me a few times, so I knew it hurt, despite her assurances).

The fact that she didn’t let go of the leash says something about her. So does what she did this week. Bimini died last week, and friends were asking Carey how they might contribute to some sort of memorial for him.

Instead, she asked those friends to donate to Joe’s fundraiser, in a Facebook post, and many of them did.

She’s planning gathering in Bimini’s honor in the days ahead during which she will bury Bimini’s ashes in a whiskey barrel behind her house, then plant flowers on top.

bim2Having some of Ace’s ashes still remaining from my two spreadings of his ashes — one in the Atlantic Ocean, the other in a creek along a trail we used to hike regularly — I asked her if I could send some of those to be in the whiskey barrel with Bimini.

Given Bimini never liked to be alone (neither did Ace, who died two years ago), she thought it was a great idea.

Unless postal authorities became suspicious of the powdery substance inside and tore the package open, the ashes should have arrived yesterday.

Little things like that, all piled on top of each other — the reuniting with friends, the generosity people have shown, the support I’ve received — have, along with keeping myself as busy as possible, have made this week tolerable.

I posted a remembrance of Joe on ohmidog! Monday. On Tuesday, my local paper, the Winston-Salem Journal, ran a beautiful front page story by columnist Scott Sexton about Joe and the fundraising campaign. Those, combined with the Facebook fundraising campaign, have led to it nearing it’s $10,000 goal.

As Sexton noted, say what you will about all the cons of Facebook — and I frequently bash it — it leads to some pretty marvelous things.

“Facebook has earned every last bit of criticism leveled at it for helping to sow discord and divide people through dissemination of fake news and paid manipulations by bad actors overseas. It, and other outlets, are easily manipulated and should be viewed in many cases with healthy skepticism and an eye toward fact (and source) checking.

“The flip side is that social media can be extremely useful. It can help connect lives, share news and has the power to bring people (and communities) together. It also has the ability to pass word of tragedy, and spare people from having to repeat over and over and over the unfathomable.”

Joe WoestendiekIt is mainly through Facebook that old friends have gotten in touch and complete strangers have decided to donate. Thanks to those who shared the posts, and to all those who sent comforting words.

My friends are mostly fellow writers, many of whom pointed out that words just aren’t sufficient at times like this.

But they tried anyway and, for the record, they do help. A lot. Words, gestures, hugs — they mean everything right now.

So will Joe’s plaque. It will probably take a while before it goes up on one of the kennels at the humane society, which opened its new facility two years ago. It takes time for the donations to be funneled through and for the actual making of the plaque.

I can’t wait to see it.

And if that last name isn’t spelled right, as often happens, believe me I will let them know.

(Photos: Joe Woestendiek and Ace, by John Woestendiek; Bimini and Ace, courtesy of Carey Hughes)

Remembering my son, Joe

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On May 13, 1992, a flight arrived at LAX from Seoul and three Korean babies, orphans all, were carried off the plane by their escorts to be handed to their new adoptive parents.

My wife and I were there to meet one of them, our new son whom we’d decided, based on photos, would be named either Sam or Joe, depending on which seemed the better fit after seeing him in person.

He was the last one off the plane, a tiny thing with an unruly shock of jet black hair that was shooting in every direction after the 11-hour flight. For a moment, we debated whether he might be an “Elvis.” But we opted for Joe.

Joe WoestendiekFast forward 26 years — and God, did it ever go too fast — and Joe (full name Joseph Yoon Tae Woestendiek) was lying in a coma in a Memphis hospital, his hair shaved off, and parts of his skull removed to accommodate the swelling of his severely damaged brain. The outlook was bleak, at best.

He was on his way home from work when his car rear-ended a dump truck on the interstate near Holly Springs, Miss. The truck grinded to a halt. The truck driver pulled Joe out of his burning car. And he was airlifted by helicopter from Mississippi to Memphis — to, ironically, the Elvis Presley Trauma Center.

He died 13 days later. For nearly two weeks doctors kept him sedated and fought to relieve his cranial pressure even while warning that, if he came out of his coma at all, he would likely have little to no brain function due to the extent of the brain damage. They warned, too, that lung problems had developed, and that those and the strain on his heart, were more likely to take his life. His heart came to a stop on June 18.

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I write this another week later, partly to explain why our ohmidog! posts came to a halt, but more to keep his memory alive, and in hopes that writing about it will be cathartic and make some of the numbness and emptiness inside me go away.

joetromboneJoe grew up in Orange County, Calif.; Yardley, Pa., Anderson, S.C., and Florence, Ala. He lived in recent years with his mom and stepdad in New Albany, Miss. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he earned a B.S. in computer science from the School of Engineering.

He’d recently started a job he loved — in the information technology department of Automated Conveyor Systems, Inc., of West Memphis, Ark.

His visits to my home, in Winston-Salem, N.C., had dwindled, but up until he finished college he’d come here regularly on holidays and in the summer. He loved guitars, and video games and, of course, dogs. He’d always get teary on his last day visiting; I was never sure if it was because he was leaving me, or leaving my dog Ace. He’d yet to meet my new dog, Jinjja, also adopted from Korea.

SONY DSCWhile here, Joe would volunteer with the Forsyth Humane Society, an organization I’ve also done some work with as a volunteer. He’d walk dogs at the shelter, and help out at events, his favorite role being donning the mascot costume — a swelteringly hot furry dog outfit — and working the crowd.

He had three dogs of his own at home.

Because of his love of dogs, and the joy working with humane society brought him, I’ve decided a fitting tribute would be to make a donation to the humane society in his name — one significant enough to merit a plaque with his name on it.

His name on a brick paver is one option, but I, for what are probably selfish reasons, want more.

I want to try to make a donation large enough to make him a lifetime sponsor of one of the shelter’s kennels.

That way, everyone who walks in to look at the many dogs available for adoption will see his name, and maybe more importantly, I will. I like the idea of a kid once in need of adoption sponsoring a kennel that will house dog after dog after dog in need of adoption — forever.

That requires a $10,000 donation, not an amount I have handy, or can even dream of obtaining. But, unachievable as that might be — and needing something to do right now — that’s what I’m working on.

So here is my plan.

I’ve started a Facebook fundraiser aimed at donating $10,000 to the Forsyth Humane Society in his memory.

SONY DSCA memorial service for him will be held in Mississippi this week.

But I want to do something here in Winston-Salem — perhaps a mini-concert featuring some musician friends of his and mine. I’m working now on setting that up.

I want it to be a simple and joyful hour or so, nothing somber, nothing speech-filled — just a chance for local friends to come together and say goodbye, maybe at the Muddy Creek Cafe in Bethania. We always enjoyed going there.

When Joe arrived in the U.S., my then-wife Jenny and I were living in Orange County, California. The riots that Rodney King’s beating sparked in Los Angeles were only starting to settle down. I was covering those for the newspaper I worked for at the time, the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Every morning, I would cruise through the most devastated areas, returning to a hotel in the evening to write. It was a bleak couple of weeks, the kind that make you worry about humanity and its future. Nearly every day, my rental car was pelted by rocks and chunks of concrete. At nearly every stoplight, I’d receive hateful stares and threatening gestures.

I remember wondering as I drove those streets how, and why, complete strangers could hate me so much.

Amid all that, we got the call that our adoptee was on his way. We were supposed to pick him up in Korea, but somebody goofed. My boss was kind enough to give me some time off, away from the riots, to bond with my new son.

And in the ensuing weeks, and years, I remember wondering how a complete stranger could love me so much.

And me him.

SONY DSC

That’s what he taught me, and it’s not unlike the lesson anyone who adopts a dog learns. Show a creature love and respect and loyalty and you’ll get it back — unconditionally and exponentially. Oppress, abuse and disrespect it and you’ll get … what you deserve.

As abruptly and prematurely as Joe’s life ended, I will always be thankful for the joy he brought me and the lessons he taught me.

I’m thankful, too, for all the prayers and expressions of support I’ve received from friends (and even strangers). I am overwhelmed by the response to the Facebook fundraiser. I posted it three days ago, and it’s already more than halfway to its goal.

Thanks also to the caring staff at Regional One’s Elvis Presley Trauma Center, and to that truck driver, Michael Simpson of Memphis, whose actions gave Joe a fighting chance.

Those wishing to contribute to Joe’s plaque can do so through the Facebook fundraiser.

Contributions can also be made through ohmidog!, or directly to Forsyth Humane Society. Please specify they are for Joe Woestendiek’s memorial plaque.

Tiny Texas town’s barbecue eating dog, Jake, passes away on Easter

The Circle H Bar-B-Q & Grill in the tiny east Texas town of Emory has lost its best non-paying customer.

Like clockwork, an elderly yellow Lab named Jake would show up daily at the restaurant’s drive-thru window, take a seat and patiently wait for handouts.

Why? Because it was convenient for one thing. Jake lived at an auto repair shop right next door. Plus, he just flat out loved barbecue.

jake“Everybody else does too, he just gets his for free,” said Tyson Thompson, a waiter at Circle H.

“Everybody knows Jake,” said Josh Hines, the man who provided Jake with all his favorite food at the drive-thru. “He’s definitely the town mascot.”

He may have gotten all sorts of treats from customers, but Hines knew to provide him only with rib bones,according to EastTexasMatters.com.

“He loves the rib bones … I think that’s all he’s allowed to have cause all of the other stuff is bad for him,” said Thompson.

Jake would station himself just underneath the drive thru window and take a seat. When a customer pulled up, he would limp out of the way, resuming his position as soon as the car pulled out.

Jake’s owners operate Parmer’s Automotive, where he serves as shop mascot too.

jake2“Everyone loves Jake. In the parking lots, they’ll come up and pet him, they’ll just talk to him and give him treats. One person even bought him a whole sandwich,” said Keldon Parmer, the son of the auto shop’s operator.

After downing some barbecue, Jake would traipse back to the auto shop and wash it down with some toilet water before climbing into the back of a truck bed for his nap.

The Parmers say Jake died on Easter, at age 13. He’d been diagnosed with cancer in January. Surgery was performed, KXAN reported, but he was diagnosed with only months to live.

Plumber fired after video posted on Facebook of him kicking a dog

An employee at a Winston-Salem plumbing company was fired after a video of him kicking a dog inside a house was posted on Facebook Wednesday.

The employee, who hasn’t been named, worked for PF Plumbing, a company that features a bulldog named Cooper in its advertising.

On the company’s website, Cooper is pictured holding a wrench in his mouth, next to the company’s promise that its employees are “drug tested, background checked and highly professional.”

A woman with the Facebook profile name Kelly Nicole posted a 34-second video clip showing two men from the company coming into a living room on the way to the kitchen, with a barking dog following them.

plumbers

One of the men kicked the dog before continuing into the kitchen.

The video was captured by the home’s Nest, a security and monitoring system.

The Facebook post, before it was taken down, had more than 1,800 shares and more than 550 comments Wednesday evening, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

Initially, Nicole posted, “see the video below of what this scumbag did to our completely harmless dog this morning,” along with a screenshot of a PF Plumbing truck.

In a subsequent post, Nicole wrote that the company had expressed a “heartfelt sincere apology and made sure our dog was OK” in a phone call, and that, despite the incident, she would still recommend it.

Teresa Freer, corporate secretary and owner of PF Plumbing, told the Journal that the longtime employee — a pet owner himself — had been fired.

“PF Plumbing is not taking this lightly and is taking the appropriate steps,” she wrote in a post on the company’s Facebook page.

“We have terminated the employee and have been in contact with the company attorney throughout the day for advice on further steps to take, PF Plumbing will release the details at which time it becomes available. Again PF Plumbing sincerely apologizes. Please … keep an open mind and do not allow one employee’s actions to misconstrue what our company stands for!”

Freer told the Journal that the employees were surprised to find a dog in the new house, because they thought it was empty.

The visit was scheduled by the builder of the house, who told them no one would be home, she said.

Kelly Nicole said on her Facebook page that one of her dogs stays in a crate when no one is home, but the other one does not.

She said she was unaware anyone was coming to the house Wednesday.

“Had we known they were coming, we would have put the dog away beforehand or came home and done so,” she said.

UNC baseball team starts season with a service dog in the dugout

The University of North Carolina baseball team has welcomed a new teammate this year — a 2-year-old golden retriever named Remington.

Remington isn’t there to be a mascot, though he has learned some mascot-like tricks, like holding his cap for the national anthem, taking balls to the ump, and high-fiving his teammates.

But his larger role is as Carolina’s first athletics training room assistance dog (and the first in the ACC).

UNC reports that the dog’s official title is “psychiatric medical alert facility rehabilitation service dog,” which sounds like a lot of responsibility.

But, cutting through the mumbo-jumbo, what Remington does is help players recover from injuries.

He works with Terri Jo Rucinski, coordinator of the physical therapy clinic and staff athletic trainer for the team.

remingtonRucinski says student athletes who underwent surgeries in the fall seem to be bouncing back more quickly since Remington joined the team. “I’d like to think he had something to do with it,” she says.

Rucinski, who has worked with the team for 12 years, met Remington through paws4people, a Wilmington, N.C., nonprofit agency that places customized assistance dogs with clients at no cost.

He began his training when he was just 3-days-old. By 16 weeks, he was learning obedience and disabilities skills training. He also learned basic command sets, and knows more than 100 commands, including written commands from cue cards.

He joined the team last August after passing a series of certification tests.

Breathing new life into Goldberg

1919-armory-dogHe was never among the most famous of military dogs, but a terrier named Goldberg who served in World War I and went on to stand guard at an Illinois National Guard armory for 60 years is garnering some attention again.

Goldberg was taken in as a pup by members of Battery B of the 122nd field artillery, and was smuggled inside the sleeve of the bugler’s overcoat when the unit was sent in 1917 to England, and from there to France.

According to old Chicago Tribune reports, he was gassed at Argonne in 1918 and went missing, later reuniting with this unit. He’d also see battle in St. Mihiel, Toul Sector and Verdun, suffering shrapnel and other injuries before newspapers reported he, upon returning home with the unit, had been given an honorable discharge.

He was not an official military dog, more of a mascot, but it is said he did his part to help keep morale up, right up until he and his unit came home.

After that point the historical record gets a little fuzzy.

A Chicago clothing manufacturer named Joseph Bach advertised Goldberg as available “for sale or booking” in 1919 in “The Dog Fancier.” He put a $350 price tag on what he said was his son’s dog, and listed the many honors Goldberg had received.

forsalegoldberg

In the early 1930s, members of the artillery unit took it upon themselves to track the dog down, and he ended up in the custody of one of its members, William McKieghan.

McKieghan announced the dog’s death in 1933, saying he and his fellow unit members planned to have him “stuffed.”

After death, Goldberg’s mounted pelt went on to stand in a glass case near the entrance to the armory in Rockford — except for when he attended reunions of the unit.

When the armory was demolished in 1993, Goldberg survived that, too. He was moved to the the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield, where he has been on display since.

According to WAND, Goldberg, who has been called an Irish terrier and a Skye terrier over the years, is now getting a much-needed refurbishing.

Sgt. Justin Lutz, currently serving in the Illinois National Guard, runs a taxidermy business on the side and the military museum called him in to handle the project.

goldberg

Time — all tolled, nearly 100 years, counting life and death — has taken its toll on Goldberg, and Lutz is handling his makeover.

“It’s pretty exciting. I’m pretty honored,” Lutz said. He hopes to have the project finished by December.

ohmidog! has a new mascot … It’s Jinjja

gettingboone3

Meet … Jinjja???

Yes, Jinjja!

It’s a Korean word — sort of the equivalent to our “Really???”

He’s a Jindo, or more likely a Jindo mix, rescued from a dog farm in South Korea and transported to the U.S., where he ended up at the Watauga Humane Society — one of five humane societies in North Carolina that recently accepted 31 dogs that were saved from ending up as meat.

The shipment was the latest in a continuing series by Humane Society International, which works with animal welfare groups in Korea to obtain the dogs by persuading the farmers to forfeit them and go into a new line of work.

jindolJinjja, who is the color of ginger, will be the new mascot for ohmidog!

He came home with me Thursday, and has becoming a little more sociable and playful everyday since.

He spent the first day pacing, and giving me wary sideways looks. The second day he began approaching me without too much hesitation. Saturday was the first day he sat down — at least within my view. Sunday was the first day I actually saw him lay down.

As his shyness recedes, his personality comes forth — playful, loving (once he gets used to you), ultra alert, and I suspect, once he comes entirely out of his shell, highly energetic.

Several times I tried to sneak into the room he has chosen to sleep in — he has opted not to bed down with me so far — but he always hears me coming, gets up and meets me as I enter.

He is fearful of sudden movements and unexpected noises, and seems unfamiliar with things like TV sets and running water — but each day, less so.

The humane society in Boone sent two of the four Korean dogs they accepted home with new owners Thursday. A third is awaiting adoption. And a fourth will stay there a little longer for additional training through the shelter’s Diamond Dogs program.

A video of the turning over of the leashes — it was live streamed on Good Morning America as part of its Mission PAWsible series — is at the bottom of this post.

The woman in charge of the shelter’s Diamond Dog program gave me a few pieces of parting advice — give him a couple of weeks just to get accustomed to his new surroundings, always bring my hand up to pet him from beneath his line of vision, not from above, and don’t try to manipulate or maneuver him. He has shown he doesn’t like that.

gettingboone1He’s now in a period of just getting used to things, so for a couple of weeks I won’t attempt anything much discipline-wise other than politely informing him where not to pee.

(I did look up the Korean word for “sit,” just to see if he’d respond. He didn’t.)

He has shown no destructive tendencies so far, and has declined, even when invited, to jump up on the sofa or bed. He has emitted only a few barks — usually only upon seeing squirrel or cat out the window. He has been good with the handful of people and dogs he has met.

I do my best not to have Ace expectations. It would be unfair to him, especially given his background, to hold him to the standard of Ace, the gentle giant I traversed the country with.

Could Jinnja become a therapy dog, like Ace did, despite Ace’s being the size of a small pony and made up of four breeds commonly labeled “dangerous” — Rottweiler, pit bull, Akita and chow? I think there’s a good chance of that.

Just as I found Ace while reporting a story, I met Jinnja (then Jindol) when I went to Boone to meet the dogs who had arrived from Korea. You can find those stories here and here.

The shelter let me spend 15 minutes inside the kennel of each one, even though they were still under quarantine at the time. One came nowhere close to me; two got close enough to give me a sniff. The fourth, Jinnja, was the only one to let me pet him.

Underneath all the fear, I saw something in him, as I did with Ace when I bumped into him at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care. Don’t ask me to put my finger on it, but it was enough for me to apply to adopt him.

My hope is that just as Ace became an ambassador for pit bulls and all wrongly labeled “dangerous” breeds, Jinjja will show that “farm dogs” despite all the cruel treatment they are subjected to and the cruel fates they usually face, can be great pets, too.

Jinjja has a ways to go to become the traveling dog Ace was. Leaving the shelter, he refused to jump into the back of my Jeep. Picking him up, it was decided, should be avoided. So the shelter loaned me a crate. Once inside it, we lifted him aboard, and he was calm and quiet for the whole 90-minute ride home.

Of the four Korean dogs at the shelter, Lucy went home with a Raleigh woman, Jindol (his shelter name) went home with me. Princess is still available, and Murphy will stay a little longer to work on his socialization skills.

Jinjja was supposed to be neutered the day before I picked him up, but when the shelter brought him to the vet it was discovered he already had been. It’s not likely that happened at a dog farm, so speculation is that before that he was someone’s pet and was either stolen or strayed before ending up at the dog farm in Jongju.

It is taking him some time to get used to my house. He gets startled when he sees his reflection in the sliding glass doors, the fireplace doors or the front of the oven.

For three days he avoided being in a room when the television was on.

Based on our time together so far, though, I have the highest of hopes. He still has sides to his personality I haven’t seen, I’m sure, but he’s doing a great job of adjusting — and those who freed and sheltered him deserve all of the credit for that.

Let’s get that part straight right from the start. He’s a rescued dog, but if you ever hear me say I “rescued” him, slap me in the face.

As is the case in any dog adoption, the human is getting far more out of the deal. And any truly noble acts took place before he came to me — by the activists who made efforts to get the dogs off the farm, by Humane Society International, which transported them, by the shelters in the U.S. that took them in.

Those were the noble deeds. Me? I’m just getting a dog, though I do admit to feeling good that I’m a small part of getting one dog off a dog farm.

It was while I was in Korea, researching my book on dog cloning, that I first saw in person some sides of the dog meat trade. I visited an outdoor market where they were on display, packed together in crowded crates, while alive, and butchered on site. One can’t see that sight and not want to do something about it.

So expect more reporting about the campaign to end the practice in the months ahead on this website, and expect more photos and stories about Jinjja’s adjustment.

Given he’s a dog with a story to tell, I will assist in that.

One more thing I cannot take credit for — his name. Looking for something that sounded a little like Jindol — but didn’t remind me of the Louisiana politician I’m not a fan of — I contacted a friend from Korea, who presented the matter to her family.

Among those they came up with were Ginger, which perfectly describes his color (not to mention the way he walks) and Jinjja.

Really??? It’s the reaction most common among those with whom I’ve shared some of his story. Astonishment. Disbelief. Not entirely unlike the phrase “ohmigod!” from which this website derives its name.

So it will be Jinjja, with an optional question mark or exclamation point.

Jinjja?

Jinjja!

Oh there he is, laying at my feet as I type, just like Ace used to do.

Even though the TV is on.

(Photos by Ted Woestendiek)