It may be a dog in Japan who is most famous for demonstrating the true meaning of loyalty, but the vigil of a Montana dog, named Shep, is at least equally heart-wrenching.
The story of Shep’s vigil begins, almost eerily, the year after the death of Hachiko, the Akita who, after his master died, famously waited for him every day at a train station for nearly 10 years.
Hachiko would accompany his master, a university professor, to the train station every morning, and be waiting for him when he returned. When his master didn’t get off the train one day, having died while at work, Hachiko continued going to the train station every day for nine years and nine months, until he died in 1935.
In 1936, a sheep herder in Montana took ill and was taken to St. Clare Hospital in Fort Benton. His dog followed him into town, and waited outside the hospital.
A nun who ran the kitchen at the hospital brought the dog food as he stood vigil for the next several days, until the sheep herder, whose name has been lost to history, died.
His body was put into a coffin and taken to the train station in Fort Benton to be shipped to his family back east.
As it was loaded onto the train, Shep was there watching. Reportedly, he whimpered as the door slammed shut and the train pulled away,
The dog chased the train for a while, then turned back.
For the next five and a half years, Shep, believed to be a collie mix, never left the train station. He lived underneath the train platform, and would greet each train that stopped — about four a day — in hopes of seeing his master.
According to FortBenton.com, Shep “eyed each passenger hopefully, and was often chased off as a mongrel but never completely discouraged. Neither the heat of summer days nor the bitter Montana winter days prevented Shep from meeting the next train.
“As Shep’s fame spread, people came from everywhere to see him, to photograph him, and to try and make friends and possibly adopt him. All of the attention was somewhat unwelcome; after checking the train he often retired quickly to get away from those who came to see him. Most people missed the point that Shep was a one-man dog.”
Railroad employees fed Shep, and the story of his vigil was carried in the old “Believe it Or Not” newspaper feature, and picked up by other news media of the day.
As time went on, though, Shep was slowing down, probably arthritic, and he had grown hard of hearing.
One day in 1942, unable to hear an arriving train and too slow and frail to get off the icy tracks, Shep was struck and killed.
His death made headlines and thousands of people sent in condolences.
Hundreds attended his funeral, at which a boy scout troop carried Shep in his coffin up to a bluff and buried him.
An obelisk and sign mark the spot of his burial, and 50 years after his death the town of Fort Benton commissioned a statue memorializing Shep, which now sits alongside the Missouri River.
NBC’s Dateline carried a short report about Shep last week:
Posted by John Woestendiek January 12th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, dateline, dog, dogs, fort benton, hachiko, loyalty, master, memorial, missouri, montana, pets, sheep herder, shep, statue, train, train station, vigil, waiting
Concerned and frightened residents of an Atlanta suburb have created a memorial to a pit bull found hanged from a bridge nearly two months ago.
They’ve covered the guardrail on the overpass with stuffed animals and reward signs in hopes the dog’s killer will be brought to justice.
Volunteers met at the bridge along Kelly Lake Road Saturday and attached hundreds of stuffed animals — mostly dogs — to the handrails.
Police in DeKalb County continue to investigate the case, and a $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to a suspect, according to WSB-TV in Atlanta.
A woman walking her 2-year-old son to day care found the dog hanging by a chain from the bridge on May 20.
Many residents believe the killer lives in their neighborhood.
“You don’t have to be a dog lover or even have pets to understand what a vicious crime this was committed right here across the street from where people live, right next door,” explained Johanna Falber, who organized the event.
Falber said the group has been posting reward signs on the bridge, but someone keeps removing them.
“It’s about a vicious killer that’s out here somewhere, that keeps ripping down our signs so they’re not caught,” Falbert said. “We want attention. We want this to stop. We want that dog killer found.”
Police described the dog as a brown and white, female pit bull.
Anyone with information about the dog or the crime can call the police tip line at 404-294-2645.
Whether it’s art, propaganda, or a combination of the two, a memorial to victims of fatal dog attacks is creating controversy as one of dozens of entries in a public art display in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The work is called “Out of the Blue,” a reference to how dog attacks — and particularly pit bull attacks, the artist repeatedly points out — usually happen.
The display, created by a woman identifying herself as Joan Marie Kowal, consists of more than 30 decorated crosses, representing the number of people killed in dog attacks this year, and images of the victims, many of them children.
The artwork is rubbing some dog lovers, and particularly pit bull lovers, the wrong way, which has led to some demonstrations and the kind of heated, everybody’s an expert debate that follows pit bulls around wherever they go.
Joan Marie Kowal, we suspect, has more experience in badmouthing pit bulls than she does in creating art, but then again artists don’t need credentials in this competition.
Every year, for 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids is opened up to artists in ArtPrize, a competition that awards $200,000 to the grand prize winner.
Downtown becomes “an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters,” according to the ArtPrize website. “Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown … It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike.”
This year, “Out of the Blue” has proved among the most disruptive.
A week ago, perturbed pit bull owners brought their dogs to Calder Plaza, where the entry is displayed, in hopes of presenting their views and showing that pit bulls — the breed most often mentioned in the memorial — aren’t vicious killing machines.
When they sat down in front of the memorial, Kowal complained they were obstructing the public’s view.
Kowal told MLIVE.com in an email that “visitors can’t even see the art and many have told me the bully breed owners, sitting on the ledges blocking the view of the victims’ biographies and refusing to move, makes them unable to enjoy the piece.”
Grand Rapids Police Lt. Pat Dean said Kowal filed a complaint in late September about people sitting with pit bulls on the stone wall in front of her ArtPrize entry. Police found nothing illegal at that time, he said, and members of the group, while on public property, moved at the request of officers.
Kowal describes the work as “an opportunity to Pay it Forward, and show the good side of humanity. Visitors are encouraged to express their sympathy, respect, and support for the victims and their families by leaving teddy bears, flowers, or memorial decorations in the designated heart-shaped memorial space.”
According to a brief biography listed on the ArtPrize website, Kowal is an animal lover, who has feral cats and pet squirrels. She attended Grand Valley State University.
Not a whole lot can be learned about her through searching her name on the Internet, and there’s no mention of any previous artistic pursuits.
There was a 2011 MLIVE.com article that mentioned her name, and quoted her as being a supporter of a proposed pit bull ban in Wyoming, Michigan.
Perhaps she became an artist “out of the blue.” Perhaps her anti-pit bull passion needed an outlet.
We support the right for just about anyone to call themselves an artist, assuming they are making some form of art. We don’t have a problem with Kowal expressing herself — either vocally or through her “art” — on the streets of Grand Rapids. By the same token, we have no problem with pit bull owners and their dogs sitting down squarely in front of it, as long as it’s public property. They have the right to express themselves in public, too, whether they’re ArtPrize contestants or not.
So do we. And our opinion is Kowal is pushing her personal agenda under the guise of a non-profit organization’s art competition, and that it’s likely part of a well-plotted effort by those forces intent on painting all members of the breed with the same brush, reinforcing negative stereotypes while playing fast and loose with the facts.
Kowal says she plans to add three more crosses this weekend in remembrance of three other people who died from injuries she says were caused by pit bull attacks.
“That is not my fault that they were all killed by pit bulls,” she said. “I’m just showing the facts.”
Posted by John Woestendiek October 6th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, art, artist, artprize, artworks, attacks, breed, breeds, contest, discrimination, dog, dogs, downtown, fatal, grand rapids, joan marie kowal, memorial, out of the blue, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, victims
It’s easy to ignore statistics. They’re cold and dry and lack soulful eyes. And when the numbers are overwhelming — like the 5,500 unwanted dogs who are put to death daily in U.S. shelters — we tend, as a rule, to find life is more comfortable and less depressing when we don’t do the math.
Louisville artist Mark Barone is an exception to that rule. Rather than ignore the problem, he decided to put a face on it — 5,500 of them, in fact.
For two years now, he has been painting portraits of dogs who have been put down at shelters across the country, and he’s more than halfway to his goal: 5,500 portraits that he hopes will someday — unlike their subjects — find a forever home.
Their hope is the works will someday be displayed in a permanent memorial museum, which — between its emotional impact and the funds it would help raise for no-kill rescues and shelters — could help lead to their larger goal, a no-kill nation.
Mark, a well-established artist, had moved to Santa Fe when, about three years ago, he lost his dog of 21 years, Santina.
“It was kind of a sad time, and I thought it would be therapeutic for Mark to go to the dog park,” Marina recalled. “I thought it would be helpful for him to get some dog love, and it was. It was really great. It got me in the mood to think about adopting another dog. Mark wasn’t at that stage, but it didn’t stop me from looking.”
Looking for adoptable dogs online and at local shelters, she quickly learned the sad reality that she says neither she nor Mark, up to then, were aware of — that millions of dogs in need of homes are put down at shelters every year.
“Instead of finding a dog, I found out all these horrifying statistics,” she said. She shared them with Mark, along with images and videos of dogs who had been, or were on the verge of, being put down.
He asked her to stop sharing, but she kept up.
“If we don’t look at it, nothing will change,” she said. “So he looked at it, as painful as it was, and day or two later, we were standing in the kitchen and he asked me the number of dogs killed everyday in the country … I gave him the number 5,500, based on statistics from Best Friends.”
It was then that the idea of honoring shelter dogs by painting 5,500 portraits of those who had been killed was born, and along with it, the longer term plan of a memorial museum, along the lines of the Vietnam Memorial and the Holocaust Museum.
Santa Fe wasn’t interested. Louisville was among about 30 places that were.
That’s where the couple lives now, and where Mark has completed about 3,200 of the portraits — some of them life- sized, some of them larger.
“It’s the big ones, 8 feet by 8 feet, that slow things down,” Mark said.
Only one of the 8×8-foot paintings depicts a dog who died a natural death — Mark’s dog, Santina. According to Marina, Santina will serve as the gatekeeper of the exhibit. Other large portraits feature Batman, a 10-year-old pit bull who was left outside in 21 degree weather, and was found dead at a shelter the next morning, and Grant, who was deemed unadoptable due food bowl aggression and put down.
The large paintings — there will be 10 of them — will include the individual stories of those dogs, representing the most common reasons shelters give to put animals down.
Mark and Marina are still looking for a permanent place to house the works, and for sponsors and benefactors for the museum, and they have some promising leads, both in Louisville and around the country. In addition to being an educational center, the museum would also be an outlet for selling merchandise that features the images — shirts, cards, and other products. An Act of Dog, which is a nonprofit organization, would pass on all profits to no-kill facilities and rescue groups.
The dogs in the paintings come from shelters all around the country. Their photos are submitted by rescue groups, volunteers and shelter employees. They have all been put down.
Mark and Marina object to the use of the term “euthanized” when it’s applied to healthy animals. “Deliberately ending the life of a healthy and treatable pet is killing. Deliberately ending the life of a medically hopeless and suffering pet is euthanasia,” Marina said. They don’t much like “put to sleep,” either.
“Semantics are a powerful way to keep people from the truth and our mission is to show reality without the candy wrapping,” she added.
Mark paints everyday, from sunrise to sunset. At night, he and Marina work on the An Act of Dog website. They’re both foregoing salaries at this point.
Mark has served as a consultant to cities interested in using the arts to revitalize blighted areas, among them Paducah, Kentucky, and its Paducah Artist Re-locaton Program. Marina worked 20 years coaching corporate executives.
“We could turn away and pretend like we didn’t see what we saw, or we could do something about it,” she added. “If that means we have to live poor, we’re OK with that, because we know we did something.”
They’re working now in studio space provided by the Mellwood Art Center in Louisville, where they did end up adopting a new dog, named Gigi, from a local shelter.
What drives the couple, though, are all the dogs who don’t get out alive — the thousands put down each day.
“The no-kill movement is making strides, but not fast enough,” said Mark who, on those days he doesn’t feel like painting, reminds himself of the bleak numbers, and the 5,500 reasons — every day — he must continue.
(Photos and video courtesy of An Act of Dog: At top, a collage of Mark’s paintings; Mark and Marina in their studio; some of the larger paintings, with Mark’s former dog, Santina, at left; and three shelter dogs dogs Breeze, Freckles and Sky)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 10th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: act of dog, an act of dog, animal welfare, animals, art, artist, death, dogs, euthanasia, faces, holocaust museum, kentucky, killed, killing, louisville, marina dervan, mark barone, mellwood art center, memorial, museum, no kill nation, no-kill, painting, paintings, pets, portraits, project, put down, put to sleep, rescues, santa fe, shelter, shelter dogs, shelters, statistics, vietnam memorial
About 150 people gathered for a memorial service at the Thomasville Funeral Home.
Police Chief Jeffrey Insley said before the service that an autopsy determined that Cheko — a drug-detecting dog who also was trained as a tracker — had been poisoned, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. He was one of four dogs in the K-9 unit.
Cheko died in March, just a week before he was scheduled to retire, at the Randolph County home of his handler, Thomasville Police Sgt. John Elgin. Elgin found Cheko dead inside his kennel, about two days after the dog started acting sluggish.
The Randolph County Sheriff’s Department is investigating how the dog ingested the poison. Elgin said additional tests will be conducted to determine what chemicals or poisons killed Cheko.
“It could have been an act of retaliation from a past arrest, but we are not going to point any fingers until we complete our investigation,” he said.
“Any new dog who takes Cheko’s place will have big paws to fill,” Insley said at the service.
Among those paying tribute to Cheko was Thomasville Mayor Joe Bennett told the audience, Cheko had gone to heaven. “I doubt there are drugs there, but he is looking for something and having fun.”
Posted by John Woestendiek April 9th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cheko, dead, detecting, died, dog, dogs, drug, funeral, john elgin, K-9, k9, killed, law enforcement, memorial, north carolina, pets, poison, poisoned, police, randolph county, sniffing, thomasville, tribute
A makeshift memorial was constructed Sunday night in honor of a California woman who was struck by a car and killed after rescuing a dog that had wandered into traffic.
Mara Steves, 48, of Laguna Niguel, had coaxed the dog off the highway and was kneeling with it on the corner when two cars collided nearby, one of which went off the road and struck her.
Friends and family decorated the corner with flowers, candles and notes in memory of Steves, a mother of two.
The dog, who wasn’t believed to be the cause of the accident, was not injured and reportedly made its way back home, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Steves was a former PTA president at a local elementary school, was jogging when she saw the dog in the road, a sheriff’s department official said.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 14th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: accident, animals, california, car, dog, hit, jogger, jogging, killed, laguna niguel, mara steves, memorial, news, orange county, pets, rescue, rescuing, saved, saving, traffic, woman
Target, the dog brought to the U.S. from Aghanistan by one of the soldiers whose lives she was credited with saving — only to be accidentally euthanized by an animal shelter — was remembered in a memorial service last night.
The candlelight vigil was held at the Pima County Animal Shelter in Tucson.
In Afghanistan, Target, a stray befriended by a group of American soldiers, kept a suicide bomber who was trying to enter a building on a military base from gaining access. Instead, the bomber instead set off his bomb in a doorway. Five soldiers were injured, several of whom credited Target with helping save their lives.
Phoenix soldier Terry Young brought Target back home to Arizona. Last month, the dog escaped from Young’s yard and ended up in at the Pinal County animal shelter in Casa Grande, where she was accidentally euthanized the next day. The employee responsible for the mistake has been suspended.
Young said his son, Tavius, and the rest of the family is still working to get over the dog’s death, according to KGUN9.
“It’s been a few weeks already and Tavius still says, ‘Where’s Target?’ It’s heartbreaking.”
Posted by John Woestendiek December 4th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accidentally euthanized, afhganistan, animal shelter, animals, bomb, dogs, euthanasia, euthanized, hero, hero dog, memorial, military, pets, pima county animal shelter, pinal county, shelters, soldiers, stray, suicide bomber, target, terry young, tucson, vigil