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Tag: memphis

Dogs and the fine art of freeloading

It occurs to me – tooling down the highway tends to make things occur to me – that in my current journey, with my dog, across America, mooching off friends and family and, given the opportunity, complete strangers, I am, in ways, taking on the role of dog.

(When things occur to me, there are usually a lot of commas involved.)

Since Ace and I pulled out of Baltimore, two weeks ago, we’ve only spent two nights in motels – thanks to my mother putting me up two nights, and my ex-wife and her husband putting up with me for ten days, a most gracious gesture and an arrangement that barely felt weird at all.

More important, it allowed me to spend some time with my son in his last summer before college, get to know his family dogs, suck in plenty of air conditioning and take part in recreation real and virtual.

We played some Frisbee golf (Wii and real), tennis (real), ping pong (Wii), regular golf (real), made side trips to Memphis, Tupelo and Oxford, and over the weekend gave the dogs baths.

Ace has gotten along famously with both Molly, a two-year-old beagle mix, and Huey, a scruffy little terrier who’s 15, and, on walks, squirts his pee straight sideways, to amazing distances. One must always remember to walk behind Huey.

Ace immediately became part of the pack and adapted to our temporary quarters, but then that’s what dogs are best at, adjusting.  I’m not entirely sure he wants to leave. Nevertheless, the time has come to move on.

We’re thinking south, towards New Orleans, but we’re not sure.

In the days ahead we’ll probably be spending more nights in motels, and, once we get to cooler climes, camping – but we still plan to mooch when the offer is made, avoiding motels whenever possible.

(Two good things about friends: They don’t impose weight limits, or require non-refundable security deposits. At least none have yet.)

I’ve gotten a few lodging offers, even a couple from strangers. More often, they are from friends and family – some from people who want to see me so badly, they will tolerate my dog, more yet from people who want to see my dog so badly, they will tolerate me.

Traveling with dogs, though it can be restrictive and inconvenient, can also open doors. My ex and her husband, I’d guess, after 10 days of me sleeping in their den, won’t be too sad to see me go, but they’ll miss Ace. Although she informed me upon arrival that Ace is overweight (correctly, I realized), she then went on to treat him to, among other things, pancakes, bacon, cheesecake, hamburgers and hot dogs.

All of which, being a mooch himself — both when it comes to food and affection — he gobbled up.

I’m learning a thing or two from my dog about the fine art of freeloading — not surprising, given dogs are probably society’s ultimate freeloaders.

We feed them, shelter them, teach them, groom them, entertain them and sometimes go to far more ridiculous extremes. They get, pretty much, a free ride.

Unlike your average parasite, though, they give far more back in return — unwavering loyalty, unconditional love, companionship, affection, better health, smiles, laughs, serenity, comfort, exercise and, oh yeah, that sense of purpose and fulfillment that they add to our lives.

Since I’ve hit the road, I’ve been offered shelter, fed meals and found companionship (family variety) – everything a dog gets, except maybe a scratch behind the ears. I, in turn, try to be amusing, refrain from barking, not drool when dinner is served and avoid shedding on the couch.

In reality, I don’t uphold my side of the freeloading bargain as well as dogs do. I’m not quite as loyal and steadfast, as dependable or entertaining, as cute, soothing or stimulating. But I try.

Not wholeheartedly, like a dog – I won’t be licking any hands, for instance — but I try.

A tribute to a dog named Cujo

While we’re on the subject of paying tribute to dogs passed on — here’s one man’s memorial to his dog that I came across Saturday.

It’s a plaque installed on a water fountain near the soccer fields at Rhodes College in Memphis.

David P. Granoff, a member of the school’s class of 1980, had the memorial installed after the death of his dog Cujo in 1993.

Rhodes College, with about 1,700 students, occupies a 100-acre wooded campus in an historic neighborhood near downtown Memphis.

Here’s a closer look at what the plaque says:

Memphis opens first dog park this weekend

It might not have all the fancy features some doggie playgrounds do — or for that matter even running water — but the city of Memphis is finally getting around to opening its first official dog park this weekend.

The Division of Park Services announced they will open their first dog park Saturday. It’s located at 2599 Avery Avenue, behind the Board of Education.

The off-leash fenced in park has an area designated for dogs under 25 pounds and an adjoining one for dogs over 25 pounds.

Hours of operation for the park will be 6 a.m to 8 p.m. in the summer, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the winter.

“The Memphis Dog Park is something that we have been wanting to provide to the citizens of Memphis for some time,” said Cindy Buchanan, Director of Park Services.

The city’s first dog park will serve as a test site for future projects, Fox News in Memphis reported.

All dogs must be licensed and vaccinated, and each owner is responsible for the behavior and action of their dog.

Neglect in Alaska, new questions in Memphis

There’s not an animal shelter around — public or private — that isn’t entering 2010 overloaded, overworked and overwhelmed. Some are handling the burden better than others.

Six dogs died of neglect in Alaska — while in a city animal shelter. And the troubled city-run shelter in Memphis, raided and closed in the fall, recently euthanized a dog scheduled to be adopted — again.

The six Alaska dogs represented the entire dog population of the Dillingham animal shelter, opened by the city five years ago and staffed by a single officer whose job duties also included picking up drunks.

The city suspended the animal control officer after finding the skeletal, partially eaten remains in early December, the Anchorage Daily News reports. An examination of the dead dogs by a veterinarian determined they died from dehydration, starvation and neglect.

dillingham“I’ve never seen animals desecrated quite to this extent,” said Jim Hagee, a Chugiak veterinarian who frequently practices in Dillingham. “The cannibalism is really what got to me.”

The city closed the shelter and state troopers are now investigating.

Police found the dead dogs Dec. 8 at the unheated shelter. Garbage, tools and feces covered the floor. Decomposed dog carcasses were in cages or curled on the plywood floor, among them a black husky found inside a plastic bag and a 14-week-old Rottweiler puppy wearing a pink camouflage collar.

Hagee estimates the dogs had been left alone for four to six weeks. 

Dillingham’s mayor is Alice Ruby (mayor@dillinghamak.us), and its city council members are Steve Hunt (dealernt@nushtel.com), Carol Shade (cashade@starband.com), Bob Himschoot (bhimschoot@gci.com), Keggie Tubbs (tubbs@dillinghamak.us), Sue Mulkeit (mulkeit@dillinghamak.us) and Tim Sands (sands@dillinghamak.us).

Meanwhile, in Memphis, a worker mistakenly euthanized a dog last week that was set to be adopted – the second time that has happened since  authorities raided the facility Oct. 27, and cameras were installed to allow the public to monitor the shelter on the Internet.

“I do not condone, I do not accept, I do not seek to excuse what happened to that pet,” said Mayor A C Wharton. “I accept responsibility for it, and I hope our city will say we collectively take responsibility for these innocent creatures.”

He added, ”When you’re in there and you’ve killed 25 dogs, and that’s what you’re doing, sometimes you lose sensitivity and you’re not as alert,” said Wharton. “What’s the difference, the fifteenth dog, and the sixteenth dog and the twenty-sixth dog? That’s the culture and somehow we have to break out.”

Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputies raided the facility in October after reports of abuse and neglect. An investigation continues into the shelter’s finances and whether euthanasia drugs are missing. Criminal charges are expected.

One can contact the Memphis mayor and city council members here.

(Photo: Dillingham Police Department)

Shelter conditions lead to firing in Memphis

memphisdogThis photo helped authorities in Shelby County, Tennessee get the search warrant that was used in a predawn raid that led to the temporary closure of the Memphis Animal Shelter two weeks ago.

The raid followed allegations of mismanagement, mistreatment of animals and improper euthanizations.

The mayor of Memphis, A C  Wharton, fired Animal Services Director Ernest Alexander Friday — a day after residents held a candlelight vigil at the facility.

“I am not an expert on (animal shelters), but I tell you what, I can walk in here and tell you whether it is clean or dirty,” Wharton said Friday during a news conference at the shelter. “I can tell you the difference between a pet that has been fed and cared for and loved and not loved.”

Wharton’s decision to fire Alexander came after shelter employees improperly euthanized a dog and preliminary results of a city investigation showed the facility had been mismanaged, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported.

In addition to Alexander’s termination, three other shelter employees remain suspended with pay until the city investigation is complete.

Last week, Wharton established a committee to review the shelter’s operations and installed surveillance cameras that the public can access online. Members of the committee will monitor the shelter daily.

Public pressure for Wharton to take action at the shelter — long criticized by animal rights activists — has been building since Shelby County sheriff’s deputies raided the facility last week.

The puppy in the photo was admitted to the Memphis Animal Shelter Aug. 18, and died Sept. 4.  A necropsy showed the dog hadn’t eaten in at least 72 hours.

Tennessee removes ban on dogs in restaurants

Effective tomorrow, dogs in Tennessee’s largest cities can legally join their owners for dinner in restaurants with outdoor dining areas — assuming, of course, the restaurants permit it.

Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen signed the measure into law on last Thursday. A previous state law had banned all but service dogs from restaurants.

The law is limited to cities with a population of at least 100,000 — and a handful of smaller jurisidictions which sought, through amendments, to be added.

Under the law, business owners still have the power to decide whether to allow dogs at their establishments.

The state house approved the bill, in a 64-21 vote, on June 11,according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Amendments adopted in the House would allow Blount, Sevier and Fentress counties to allow dogs in restaurants even though the counties do not meet the population requirements.

Karma and the angel in a paramedic’s uniform

Back in October, a registered nurse at a Memphis hospital handed a paramedic a folded-up note she had removed from the wallet of a patient whose identity she was trying to learn.

The patient had been hit by a car and was unconscious.

The note said: “I have two dogs that need to be taken care of. You will need animal control because one of the dogs is a Rottweiler. She is a good girl. Her name is Karma, six years old. The other dog’s name is Jasmine, 10 years old.”

The note also listed three contact names, and had a hand-drawn map showing how to get to his house. It concluded: “Thank you. Someone please take care of my babies.”

The patient’s name was Michael Short, a loner with no family in Memphis. His coma would last for weeks. And as it turned out, the note he scrawled on notebook paper and stuffed in his wallet couldn’t have landed in better hands.

Paramedic Pamey Hunter, 46, an animal lover, worked the nightshift at The Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

When her shift ended at 7 a.m., Hunter found Short’s home. She was greeted by Karma, the Rottweiler, who barked, snarled and lunged at the chain-link fence. Hunter left, returning a few minutes later with dog treats. At first she tossed them to Karma. Before too long, she had Karma eating out of her hand.

Then she ran out of treats and went to get some more food.

Karma greeted her with a wag of the nubby tail when she returned, let her in, and permitted her to go check on the other dog, Jasmine.

Hunter found the older dog in the hallway. She fed both dogs and promised to return that evening before she went to work.

And that’s exactly what she did — for two months.

She also  bought them dog beds, fresh hay for a doghouse and treats, took Jasmine to the vet for an ear infection, and gave her arthritis medicine every day. Hunter checked several times on Short, the 34-year-old man who spent weeks in a coma. It turned out to be his second major head injury, the first occuring when he was hit by a van at age 17. He couldn’t hear her, but Hunter assured him the dogs were being cared for.

When Short awoke from his coma, he asked about his dogs right away, and Hunter told him she’d bring them for a visit.

After Short went home, Hunter stayed in touch, and on Christmas, Short told her that Karma and Jasmine had been shopping and bought her a gift. She stopped by and Short handed her a small wrapped box. Inside was a necklace and a cross.

Hunter said she cared for Short’s dogs because didn’t want to call animal control. That’s what she told Cindy Wolff, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal reporter who unearthed this story – the kind we don’t hear about nearly often enough.  

“I knew because of the note that these dogs were the most important things to this man,” Hunter explained. “These dogs were all he had in the world and he wasn’t going to lose them if I could help it.”