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 email@example.com.
(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
The National Federation of the Blind in California has filed a lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc., saying its drivers have refused to transport blind people who use guide dogs and, in one instance, forced a guide dog to ride in the trunk of a car.
One registered Uber driver in Sacramento put a passenger’s guide dog in the trunk while transporting her, and refused to pull over after the customer realized where the animal was, according to the lawsuit.
Other blind riders with service animals have been refused service and harassed, the National Federation of the Blind of California alleges in a civil rights complaint filed this week in San Francisco federal court.
Uber is a ride-hailing app that connects its registered drivers with riders. It is up and running in more than 70 U.S. cities.
While the company does set guidelines for the drivers — and pretty much any schmo can be one — it points out those drivers are independent contractors, and that the company cannot be expected to be able to fully control their behavior. (Or, it follows, be held legally liable for it.)
Uber, like Lyft Inc. and other car-booking companies, are seeking to crack open the $11 billion U.S. taxi and limousine market, according to Bloomberg News.
Through the app, they hook up people needing rides with registered drivers offering one, and take a cut of the fares collected — in effect collecting money while doing none of the actual physical work, and avoiding any actual responsibility.
The federation filed the lawsuit based on complaints from more than 30 blind customers nationwide who have been denied rides because they had guide dogs — a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and California civil rights laws.
The advocacy group says the company monitors and controls interactions between drivers and customers, and should adopt and enforce policies to prevent discrimination against blind people with service animals. It is seeking a court order declaring the company discriminates against blind customers with guide dogs, and measures that would ensure that drivers don’t refuse rides to the vision-impaired.
“The Uber app is built to expand access to transportation options for all, including users with visual impairments and other disabilities,” said Eva Behrend, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Uber. “It is Uber’s policy that any driver partner that refuses to transport a service animal will be deactivated from the Uber platform.”
What action, if any, was taken against the driver who allegedly put a guide dog in a car trunk wasn’t specified, but we think he deserves a lot more than being “deactivated.”
Posted by John Woestendiek September 11th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: application, apps, blind, california, car, civil rights, disabilities, discrimination, guide dogs, mobile, national federation of the blind, ride, service dogs, taxi, technology, transport, uber, uber technologies, vision impaired
The app was released in response to Google’s Android app “Dog Wars,” which PETA says promotes illegal dogfighting by allowing users to participate in “a digital version of the cruel blood ‘sport.'”
PETA’s new app, available for free, is aimed at “mobilizing anyone who values compassion over cruelty to speak up not only for dogs who are maimed and killed in staged fights but also for animals who are abused on factory farms, in laboratories, and in circuses.”
PETA sugggests subscribers start putting it to use by urging Google to pull “Dog Wars” from the Android Marketplace.
“Dog Wars promotes felony cruelty to animals, plain and simple,” said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA’s new app allows iPhone users to employ consumer pressure to prevent dogs from being torn to shreds in dogfights and to nip other violent acts of abuse against animals in the bud.”
Users can participate in “action alerts” against specific products that cause animals to suffer as well as donate to PETA’s causes, all while earning points and badges. The more actions that users take, the higher their PETA rank will rise. Every alert is worth 10 points, and 10 additional points can be earned if the alert is shared on Facebook or Twitter.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 28th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: action, alerts, android, animal cruelty, animal welfare, animals, app, application, cruelty, dog fighting, dog wars, dogfighting, dogs, google, ipad, iphone, ipod, mobile, mobilizing, peta, pets, pit bulls
In our eighth month of bouncing about this expansive and expensive country, Ace and I seemed headed for our most frugal stretch yet – thanks mainly to lucking out and finding some free housing upon our return to Baltimore.
For the first time, in our continuing effort to see America while spending less than what we were while sedentary and housed – about $1,500 for rent, food and utilities – we were looking at a three digit number instead of four.
Now, thanks to my stupidity, and with an assist from Verizon, we’ve blown it, and somebody has some explaining to do.
Before we left on our journey, I canceled my home Internet service (through Verizon) and signed up for wireless mobile broadband (through a different part of Verizon), allowing us to get online no matter where we were for $59 a month – the package they suggested for a heavy user.
It worked pretty great. There were only two or three locations in our 22,000 miles of travels, where service was non-existent or spotty.
I was so pleased, I even eventually sent Verizon the payment they were seeking from me for home Internet service for the month following the date I moved out of my house. It was basically a choice between paying the money I didn’t really owe, being regularly harassed by the credit agency to which they turned the matter over, or spending far too much time on the phone, holding and then some, to try and straighten it out.
All was going smoothly with my wireless mobile broadband — or so I thought until last week, when Verizon informed me that for the past two months I’d gone over monthly limit, and that I owed them more than $400. Read more »
Posted by John Woestendiek February 14th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: a team, access, baltimore, bills, broadband, budget, chat, communications, device, dog's country, dogscountry, expenses, free, frugality, gigabytes, giggedtybyes, hold, hot spot, house, household, hulu, internet, limits, maryland, mobile, money, on hold, overages, savings, techno-whipped, technology, television, travel, traveling, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, tv, tv on the internet, tv watching, verizon, verizon wireless, website, wi-fi, wireless
Say you forked over $650 to spend the month in a trailer in the desert – actually one of those big pull-it-yourself RV campers with popouts – and when you arrived the next day to move in, a little earlier than expected, you saw that not only were the pop-outs popped in, but the trailer was hitched to a truck, appearing as if it was ready to hit the highway.
(A) Immediately assume you’d been scammed?
(B) Shoot first and ask questions later?
(C) Politely inquire as to what might be going on?
Fortunately I chose (C) when Ace and I pulled into Petite Acres last week to move into what, after six months on the road, we’d arranged to be our home – we presumed, a stationary one – for a month in Cave Creek, Arizona.
As it turned out, my landlady wasn’t hauling the trailer away, only moving it a few feet over so that I might enjoy my entire concrete slab patio, as opposed to just the half of it that the trailer wasn’t resting on.
After a week of trailer life, Ace and I (though I shouldn’t speak for him) couldn’t be happier.
I can sit at the dinette (across from the kitchenette — midway between the bedroomette and the living roomette) and blog while looking out my windowette and enjoying a view of the mountains, strutting quail and rabbits everywhere. At night, I hear whinnying horses and howling coyotes and a few other sounds, and soundettes, I haven’t identified yet.
He has learned, somewhat, not to wander off to visit other trailers, though twice I’ve caught him at the homes of my two closest neighbors, where he tends to venture when they are cooking or eating.
One of them, who introduced himself as Romero, informed me that he didn’t mind Ace dropping by, but asked that I pick up any poop he might leave there, which, unknown to me, he had done yesterday. I apologized, and Romero, who was slow cooking some pork on an outside stovetop, was very nice about it.
Romero’s dinner smelled so good that I couldn’t be too hard on Ace for the transgression. Besides, it had happened hours before.
We’ve yet to encounter any javelina, those wild pig-like creatures who roam in the desert nearby, but I thought one morning I heard some snorting outside the trailer. We have a woodpecker friend who hangs out on the telephone pole in my dusty yard, and other birds — since I generally keep the trailer door open — have wandered inside to look around.
Yesterday, I went outside to absorb some sun — not to tan, just to bake out the morning chill. I’d just about dozed off on my lounge chair when a bird landed on me. Feeling little webbed feet on my thigh, I jerked awake, scaring him off before I could see what kind it was.
I found my temporary home on Craigslist, and, though it’s a trailer, it’s actually wider than my former rowhome in Baltimore — at least when the pop-outs, in the living room and bedroom, are popped out. I worried a little bit about hitting the wrong switch while in bed and getting compacted — hydraulically turned into a John-ette — but it turns out keys need to be inserted for the pop outs to move.
My landlady, Tami, has been wonderful, jumping on any problems that arise, showing me the ropes of RV life, and intent on making sure — though I’m only here for three more weeks — that I feel at home.
She took me to the library to get a library card, introduced me to some of her dog-loving friends and left me stocked up with movies on DVD, since there’s no TV reception. She invited me to join her and some friends at the American Legion Hall last night.
Ace and I have checked out the biker bar next door, The Hideaway Grill, enjoying some nice time there before being informed that, because of a recent incident involving a customer tripping over a leash, dogs are no longer invited to sit on the patio, at least not on busy nights. Last night, I visited the next closest bar, The Buffalo Chip, where Wednesday nights feature bull riding. Not mechanical bulls. Real ones. Dogs are welcome there, but not on bull riding night, or Friday nights, so Ace stayed home. I didn’t ride a bull. Maybe next week.
In addition to not getting TV reception — maybe a good thing — we don’t get mail delivery, and I have to walk my trailer trash down to the Dumpster next to the biker bar.
We’ve had some minor plumbing issues — the trailer, not me — but they were quickly resolved. (Oh, and that missing dental crown? I found it on the car floor while unpacking, and have reinstalled it in my mouth.)
I couldn’t imagine pulling this trailer — it’s a late 90’s Sea Breeze — down the highway, getting it leveled and hooked up at every stop, but, sitting still, it makes for a cozy little home that sways only slightly when Ace jumps on or off the bed or the couch.
I’ve thought I should give it a name, like John Steinbeck did with his camper, Rocinante. (Feel free to submit nominations.) There’s one I like — it’s both modest and Spanish-sounding — but it isn’t original. I saw it etched into a sign at a gift shop:
Posted by John Woestendiek December 9th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, almosta ranch, america, animals, arizona, bars, buffalo chips, bull riding, camper, campers, cave creek, desert, dogs, english bulldogs, hideaway, javelina, john steinbeck, mobile, monthly, name, neighbors, petite acres, pets, pop=outs, quail, rabbits, rental, restaurants, road trip, rv, steinbeck, trailer, trailer life, trash, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley, wildlife, woodpecker
Gucci, the dog who helped make animal abuse a felony in Alabama, died Wednesday.
Doug James — Gucci’s rescuer and owner — said he made the difficult decision to euthanize the dog, who recently turned 16.
“I had dreaded it, and put if off for two or three days,” James, who lives in Mobile told the Times Daily. “His kidneys were failing him.”
James caught some youths torturing the chow-husky mix one night in 1994. The youths hanged the dog by his neck and set him on fire.
The incident triggered a campaign for animal rights that resulted in the Pet Protection Act, better known as the “Gucci Law,” in Alabama.
The act , making animal cruelty a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, was signed by then-Gov. Don Siegelman on May 19, 2000 – the sixth anniversary of the attack – as Gucci looked on.
Gucci’s celebrity continued after that, with appearances at schools, on “The Maury Povich Show” and “Inside Edition.” He also played played “Sandy” in Mobile theatrical productions of “Little Orphan Annie.”
The dog was only 12 weeks old when he was beaten, hung in a tree by his neck, doused with lighter fluid and set on fire. Two of the three abusers received sentences of community service, while a third — the lone adult — was sentenced to six months in jail.
“If ever there was a dog that should hate people it should be Gucci, but he loved everyone,” said Brenda Cashdollar, vice president of Friends of the Mobile Animal Shelter.
Cashdollar told Al.com that Gucci was unable to walk by the time of his 15th birthday, but still wagged his tail in response to those who greeted him. A party planned to mark his 16th birthday Saturday at B&B Pet Stop in Mobile will now serve as a memorial event, organizers said.
Gucci will be cremated, James said, and his ashes will be placed in a memorial garden planned at the Mobile Animal Shelter.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 26th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abused, alabama, animal abuse, animal cruelty, animals, chow, cremated, dead, death, died, dogs, doug james, euthanized, felony, gucci, gucci law, hung, husky, memorial, mix, mobile, mobile animal shelter, mutt, news, ohmidog!, pet protection act, pets, set on fire, tortured
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians has purchased controlling interests of dog racing tracks in Mobile and Pensacola, according to at least one racing official.
The purchase still requires approval by the National Indian Gaming Association, according to Al.com.
The tribe owns two casinos in Alabama — the Riverside Entertainment Center in Wetumpka and the Tallapoosa Entertainment Center in Montgomery.
Gov. Bob Riley has been strongly against gambling in Alabama throughout his two terms, and has stirred controversy in recent months with his opposition to so-called bingo machines. Riley’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling has confiscated a number of gambling machines.
The tribe had long been one of the primary opponents of allowing gambling machines at the dog tracks in Mobile and Pensacola.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 25th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alabama, creek indians, dog, florida, gambling, greyhound, mobile, national indian gaming association, pensacola, poarch band, racing, tracks