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Tag: mystery

Why do dogs keep jumping off this bridge?

overtounbridge

For some strange reason, dozens of dogs have jumped to their deaths off Overtoun Bridge, a 50-foot high span near the Scottish town of Dumbarton.

Some claim the bridge is haunted. Some postulate (ridiculously) that dogs crossing it are suddenly overcome with suicidal urges. Others blame the minks who live below.

It is believed between 50 and 100 dogs have jumped to their deaths from the bridge in the last five decades — five during one six-month span in 2005.

cassie1The latest to make the leap, a springer spaniel named Cassie, survived, the Daily Mail reported this week.

Alice Trevorrow, 50, was walking Cassie across Overtoun Bridge when the dog jumped over a parapet and disappeared from her sight.

“I will never forget the awful whine she made as she leapt,” said Trevorrow, a nurse. “My heart just dropped. I have no idea how she survived, the bridge is so high. I was almost certain that she had died.”

Trevorrow and her son Thomas ran to the edge, looked over and saw three-year-old Cassie struggle to her feet.

She said the dog suffered only a pulled muscle in a hind leg.

Only one other dog has been known to survive after leaping off the 19th century span that some, including the makers of a documentary about it, have dubbed “Dog Suicide Bridge.”

The Daily Mail says the Scottish SPCA has sent an animal habitat expert to investigate why dogs leap off the bridge, which about as high as a four-story building.

The most logical sounding explanation is that dogs are detecting the scent of  the minks who live below and, in their enthusiasm, leaping off the bridge to investigate.

Who is this dog, and why was he carrying an old black and white photo?

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Animal control officers who picked up a stray last month in Greenville, S.C., face a double mystery as they try to track down the identity of a dog, and of a man pictured in an old black-and-white photo found inside the dog’s collar.

soldierThe friendly brown pit bull-type dog was found wandering through a neighborhood on Monday, Jan. 13.

Susan Bufano, community relations coordinator with Greenville County Animal Care, said the dog was not neutered or microchipped.

There was no identification on the dog’s collar.

Under the collar, though, a wrinkled black-and-white photo, carrying no name or date, was found.

photoIt pictures a smiling man, possibly in a military uniform, seated on a railing.

The stray dog, described as skinny and well-behaved, was given the name Soldier.

Bufano said the dog’s is about two years old, and the collar appeared relatively new.

“It’s so bizarre,” she said. “Absolutely anything is possible.”

Bufano told ABC News that the collar was an unusual one — extra wide, with a built in pouch.

The shelter posted photos of the dog, the collar and the unidentified man on its Facebook page, but no substantial leads had surfaced as of last night.

Bufano hopes that publicity about the dog and the mystery photo could lead to some answers, including who owned the dog.

“This photo should mean something to somebody,” she said.

Soldier  is, as of now, available for adoption.

But the shelter has limited space, and it’s possible Soldier could be euthanized if he goes unclaimed.

Anyone with information about Soldier is encouraged to contact Greenville County Animal Care at 864-467-3990.

(Photos: Courtesy of Greenville County Animal Care)

Talking to animals: What Ace had to say

If I had to guess what was on Ace’s mind at a given moment, here’s what I think it would be:

“Food. FOOD. How about some food? Got any food? Gimme food. I really like food. I like you, too, but I really like food. Is that food I smell? Perhaps you’d like to give me some. Is it time for food? Food. Food. Food.”

Don’t get me wrong. I think he’s a far more complex being than that – more than a creature with a one-track mind. He loves and fears and empathizes and, I think, ponders more than his next meal.

But, when it comes to the mysterious song that plays in his head — and I’m guessing it’s a song, for all I know it could be haiku – food would have to be the repeated refrain.

When, during our weeks in Cave Creek, Arizona, we sat down with animal communicator Debbie Johnstone of Listen 2 Animals – I sat down, anyway, Ace kind of wandered –  I was hoping that he wouldn’t be so stuck on the chorus that the other lyrics couldn’t come through.

But they did. According to Debbie, Ace spoke to her – sometimes in words only she could hear, also by conveying images and feelings. Only a minute after we sat down, she’d gotten her first impressions of him:

“He’s one  happy dog, and he’s very passionate.”

Animals have spoken to Debbie since she was a toddler, she says. At first, she figured everybody could hear them. Born in West Virginia, and raised in Ohio, she didn’t have pets of her own, but she had long conversations with neighborhood animals – until her mother told her at age 7 that she was a big girl now and it was time to stop doing that.

So, for several decades, she did. She stopped acknowledging that she could hear what animals were thinking, and went on to become a computer programmer.

Her job with a major corporation brought her to Arizona in 1992,  and she took on new responsibilities as she rose through the ranks — including laying off people. After 9/11, she found herself doing more and more of that, to the point it was making her physically ill.

“I said, ‘I can’t do this any longer,’” and with that she began searching for a new calling. While trying to figure out what that was, she started doing volunteer work at Arizona Equine Rescue, where she  met a Shamanic healer who sensed she had the gift. With his help she enrolled in a course in animal communication and resumed talking to animals.

In 2003, she started her own company, Listen 2 Animals, where, in addition to serving as a translator between the human and animal worlds, she helps find lost animals, resolves animal-related conflicts and coaches humans on how to better communicate with their animals. Her sessions, with horses, cats and dogs, usually range from 15 minutes to an hour and run $30 to $90.

Debbie says the messages from animals come to her in different ways.

Sometimes she senses it. ”I’m empathic I can feel what the animal feels,” she said. Other times she  might see a picture, experience a taste or smell, or hear a noise. Some of the information is conveyed to her through what she calls “thought drops,” which made me think of the comic strip device, where what one’s thinking appears in a cloud with dots leading down to the person’s head. Sometimes she hears words, as if they are actually talking. “Sometimes they just come right out and tell me. Sometimes animals know exactly what’s wrong and can tell you, other times they don’t know.”

Her clients range from people who want to know why their cat stopped using the litter box, to what the old dog thinks of a new dog in the house, or — most commonly — people seeking some guidance in making the decision to put an old, sick animal down.

Amost half of her calls are from people whose animals are “getting ready to transition” and want to know how the animal feels about it. More often than not — despite all the human angst – the dog or other animal in question is ready to proceed. “They’re not afraid of death,” she said.

Debbie met Ace and me in a fenced yard behind a store in Cave Creek. It was Ace’s second meeting with an animal communicator. (You can read about the first at the Baltimore Sun.)

The first thing Debbie did when Ace approached was seek permission from him. She says she always asks an animal first if she can communicate with them — “otherwise, it would be like walking into somebody’s house without knocking.”

Right away, she said, Ace told her “he knows why he’s here.” Ace sat at her feet for a few moments, then took off to explore the yard we were sitting in.

I’d explained to Debbie that Ace had been traveling for seven months, and that I wanted to know what he thought of our nomadic lifestyle.

After relating her initial impressions, Debbie said Ace was communicating to her in words: “I actually heard the words, ‘This is what I was born to do.’

“He takes this very seriously,” she continued. “He really feels this is an assignment, or a job, if you will. He’s sharing a feeling of always moving, moving a lot … moving and freedom.” She compared how Ace feels with the feeling she had when she got out of the corporate world and started doing what she really wanted to do.

“Passionate, energized, that’s the feeling he gives me — that his life is about more than just going through the motions. He finds it joyful to met new people, go new places, see’s new things. He’s not tired, he finds it energizing … He likes doing different and new things … What’s really important to him is being with you.

“But still,” she added, “he’s looking forward to the day you get in one place, in a home.”

Debbie passed on some other information as well:

  • Ace likes the color red.
  • The chain link fence around the yard we were sitting in reminded him of his days in the shelter. She saw him as one of a litter of three, who was dropped off at the shelter by someone who didn’t speak English. 
  • Ace has some achiness in his left hip joint, but it’s not painful.
  • Ace “thinks everybody really, really likes him.”
  • Ace likes eggs, and would like to be served them more often.
  • When I asked Debbie if Ace would prefer to eat twice a day, as he used to, or once a day, as he now does, she responded, “He wants to know if there’s a third choice.”
  • Ace enjoys being a dog, she says, as most dogs do. “If we could feel about ourselves like our animals feel about themselves, we would be very, very free. They’re just pleased about who they are.”

Debbie said Ace doesn’t mind riding in the car (which is red, by the way). “It’s not something that bothers him because he likes to be with you. But he would like you to stop more often so he can get out and sniff and stretch. He likes to investigate and see new things.”

The last seven months have provided ample opportunity for that, and it was good to hear that — in her opinion — he didn’t consider our trip a total drag.

Debbie didn’t say that Ace was eager to get back to Baltimore. Even though he doesn’t speak to me in words, I think that’s a safe bet. I’m not certain whether that city will become home for me again, but according to Debbie, Ace already has that part figured out.

“Where you are, that’s home to him.”

Where to next: In search of Chupacabra?


As we ponder where to go next on our road trip to nowhere, we’re feeling drawn to Texas — where two stories this week have piqued our curiosity.

First is the tale, told yesterday, of the Methodist pastor who’s calling for a stray dog hanging out behind his church to be shot, and the ire that has raised. Second are the two recent sightings — and subsequent terminations — of alleged Chupacabra, the legendary dog-like creatures who, according to myth, suck the blood of goats (which is what Chupacabra means in Spanish).

In the past week, two of the coyote-like creatures were spotted within 10 miles of each other, outside of Dallas, one of which was bagged by an animal control officer. The other was shot by a rancher. News reports seem to give no reason behind the shootings, other than the fact that the animals were “ugly.”

“All I know is, it wasn’t normal. It was ugly. Real ugly,” said Frank Hackett, the animal control officer who killed one of the creatures.

Reports of Chupacabra sightings are fairly rare; there’s one about about every year — including this one, where a law enforcement official followed and videotaped what he thought could have been one.

Of course, there are plenty of modern-day theories — ranging from them being pets left here by extraterrestrials to them being the result of government experiments gone awry. More often than not, though, they turn out to be coyotes with skin problems.

News reports say neither of the two slain creatures has been identified, though the DNA of at least one of them is being analyzed.

There is no documentation that the species or sub-species exists; instead the word ”Chupacabra” has become a catch-all term for anything dog-like, but not immediately identifiable, kind of like Bigfoot is for anything hairy, human-like and not immediately identifiable.

This won’t be the first alleged Chupacabra to have its DNA tested. In 2007, Texas State University biologist Mike Forstner performed a test on what turned out to be a coyote.

Another strong possibility, I’d suspect, is that some of the ”beasts” that have been spotted are actually Xoloitzcuintle, a Mexican hairless dog breed.

In any event, we’re headed east, and Dallas is on the way. If that’s where we end up, we’ll let you know what we find out.

By the time we got to Phoenix again …

It was 117 degrees.

Which normally would be a good argument for not going back to Phoenix, after completing our swing through northern Arizona and Utah. But, as it’s home to my brother and father, and I’d left some of my baggage there — the physical kind, with zippers and handles and pouches in which to put things and then forget them — we returned.

Also, I had to pick up some ohmidog! materials I’d ordered online and had sent to my brother’s home — some new business cards and magnet signs that allowed me to turn my regular old, overloaded, as of yesterday officially paid off Jeep Liberty into …

The ohmidogmobile!

I figured, with all the ground we’re covering, why not do a little advertising for the old website? Now my fellow motorists can see my ohmidog! sign, maybe even remember that it’s spelled o-h-m-i-d-o-g, and look it up online when they get back to the comfort and convenience of their homes — if not sooner.

In hopes of keeping my big magnet sign from being ripped off, I also attached some little magnet cards to which people can help themselves.

We’re giving the ohmidogmobile! its first test this week, as we drive back to Santa Fe for a weeklong pet-sitting gig at the home of some friends. I’ll be taking care of their three dogs in exchange for getting to use their home, and hold wild parties in it, while they’re gone on a trip to New York.

We’ve made a few decisions — holding wild parties not actually being among them – regarding our continuing journey. We still have no solid plans — that would be wrong — but we’ve decided to try and stay on the road for six months. We’ll start heading back east after Santa Fe, work our way to the Atlantic Ocean, dip our toes in it, maybe check back in on Baltimore, and then head back west again on a more northerly route, zigging and zagging — but mostly zagging — across the U.S. for another four months, plus.

Why? Because we gave up the old homestead. Because job offers aren’t pouring in. But mainly because we love it — I’m sure I do, I think Ace does – and I’m thinking it might be worth writing about someday in a form other than blogging.

Not that we have anything against blogging. I wonder though. Would John Steinbeck — our inspiration for this trip — have blogged? As he crossed America with his poodle Charley, would he — were the technology available — have sought out power sources, logged into his computer and jumped on Facebook? Or would he have viewed it all as a massive waste of time — time that could have spent connecting face-to-face with fellow humans? How shameful would it have been, in retrospect, if John Steinbeck, rather than writing “Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men,” was spending his time composing html, fighting off hackers and Tweeting what he ate for dinner?

(Which reminds me, I had some excellent dim sum the other day, including several dishes I couldn’t identify, at C-Fu Gourmet, a Chinese restaurant opened in Chandler by Ron Lou, a former professonal football player.)

In 1961, when Steinbeck made his three-month trip with his dog, he was marveling at things like vending machines that dispensed soda with ice, and hot cups of soup and coffee, and at a cutting edge form of housing known as mobile homes. Technology has dizzyingly and exponentially advanced since then, not so much saving us time and effort as giving us new headaches and making us more dependent on that which we don’t really understand.

John Steinbeck, for instance, didn’t have a malfunction indicator light on Rocinante, the name he gave his camper truck. He couldn’t Google in search of dog-friendly lodgings. He couldn’t check in with loved ones by cell phone, order pizza online, or turn to Mapquest to figure out how far he could get by when. On the other hand, he didn’t have to worry about Internet connections, or keep track of what needed recharging. Something always does — cellphone, camera, voice recorder, computer, myself.

I don’t fancy myself a modern-day Steinbeck.  I’m not traveling with a bottle of applejack to share with those I encounter on the road. I’m not even sure what applejack is. (I could Google it, and get an instant answer. But instant answers, on top of often being wrong, can suck the mystery out of life. What fun is going over that next hill, around that next curve, when you already know what will be there?)

But I am a huge Steinbeck fan. So I was pretty excited when, on a return visit to my father’s house, he managed to dig up a letter he once received from Steinbeck — in connection with an article Newsday was doing at the time. It was mailed the year before Steinbeck and Charley departed on their trip.

In re-reading the book for the fourth time — like driving a familiar road, I get something new out of it each time — I’ve come to the conclusion that, while I’m no John Steinbeck, my dog Ace is a far more interesting canine than Charley.

 This week we push on, eastwardly — though we’ll definitely be back this way again to see some people and write about some things we missed. Meantime, we’re in search of new hills, new vistas, new dogs, new folks, new mystery, new people to freeload off of  … and maybe some applejack.

(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” from the beginning, click here.)

Wonderfully mysterious? That’s my dog

In my current nomadic phase, as in my previously still life, Ace — my “Big Ass Dog” — draws a variety of responses from humans. There are those who experience love at first sight, those who cross to the other side of the street to avoid him, and, most of all, those who want to solve the ongoing mystery … What Kind of Dog is That?

It’s a question we answered years ago, and have been answering daily since.

Putting the curiosity factor aside, Ace provokes some pretty visceral reactions — my past two motel stops being a good example of that.

At the Motel 6 in Biloxi, the staff couldn’t get enough of him. Everytime we passed through the office, Ace stood and put his front paws on the counter, got petted and praised and generally adored. They bestowed him with a nickname, the notorious B.A.D. (for Big Ass Dog) and begged us to come back and visit again.

At a Motel 6 on the outskirts of New Orleans — from which we departed yesterday — the staff, while friendly and accepting, didn’t want him anywhere near them.

“That things a horse,” a desk clerk said, asking me to hang around while she called a fellow employee to come see him. “She’s a real dog lover,” she said.

When that employee came around the corner, she shrieked and then ran behind the counter. As it turned out, she was afraid of dogs, and we’d been roped into a practical joke.

Sometimes I wonder what Ace makes of it all — if he wonders why some humans have an irrepressible desire to meet and pet him while others can’t get away fast enough? He can sense, I think, which are which. Rarely will he approach a human who isn’t urging him to, unless that human has, say, an open bag of Fritos. Those he bonds with, meanwhile, will get leaned on and, likely, have their foot sat on, as if to say, “I like you. Stay a while.”

Ace seems to be getting used to motel rooms. He stayed at the Motel 6 while I went to St. Bernard Parish for interviews, then took advantage of time without dog to stop for something other than fast food — a Chinese buffet around the corner from the motel. I’d avoided it the first day because its name was R P Buffet, and I thought maybe an “I” between the “R” and “P” had fallen out during a hurricane, and who wants to eat at the RIP Buffet?

It had a dazzling array of food, though, and I loaded my plate repeatedly before leaving with my fortune cookie. I decided Ace, being room-bound, deserved both the cookie and the fortune.

As it turned out, it was a fitting one.

(To go back to Day One of “Dog’s Country” and read all the entries, click here.)

“John: The Man in the Window”

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My outlaw art exhibit, a scheme dreamed up in a bar two months ago, came to its last-minute but highly successful fruition, in that same bar, last night.

Here’s the story. Two guys own a bar on Fort Avenue in Baltimore. Long ago it was called the End Zone. When they bought it five or so years ago, they reopened it as the Idle Hour, a more upscale — but not annoyingly so — establishment. I passed by it everyday on my way to the park, and the owners became friends with my dog Ace. I became a semi-regular customer.

As a semi-regular customer, I, like a lot of other customers, noticed that a man often appeared in a window across the street — staring out, often for long periods of time, from his second-floor room above what was until recently a hardware store.

While nobody knew much about the man — commonly referred to as The Window Guy  — he became, among customers, an instant legend, and a source of intrigue. His frequent appearances at his window led customers, who could see him through the Idle Hour’s front window, to start speculating — both on what he was up to and what his story was.

Often, he’d appear in his T-shirt or no shirt at all. While a lot of upscale establishments might be mortified and embarassed by such a spectacle, in full view of their customers, the owners of the tavern, though part of the gentrification that has and continues to take place in the neighborhood, took it in stride. As they’d shown by giving the bar, which had been through several incarnations, its original name back, they’re they types that have some appreciation for the neighborhood’s history, for its traditions, and for the curious mix of textures — from polyester to silk, from knit Izod to “wifebeater” T – that is south Baltimore

They also have an appreciation for art, and every month or so they feature the work of a new artist on their nail-hole riddled, wood-paneled walls.

How cool would it be, I thought to myself, and then shared with a select few others, to sneak in an exhibit, without the owners’ knowledge, in which every picture on every wall was one of The Window Guy?

For the next couple of months, I took my camera with me, and surreptitiously photographed the Window Guy when he was at his window, and out on the street. Conspiring with the bartending staff, I learned there would be a lull between exhibits — Lindsay Petrick was taking her work down, and agreed to do so a couple of days early, leaving a small window of opportunity until Jes Contro puts her art up.

On Friday, while the owners were out, I put up more than 30 framed photographs of The Window Guy, managing to get them up in an hour thanks to help from some friends — particularly the Baltimore Sun’s Sam Sessa , who I’d invited to see the exhibit but instead ended up hanging much of it, and Beau Seidel, who earlier Friday helped build the set for Bruce Springsteen’s concert.

As a practical joke, it went off without a hitch. Both owners walked in to see the previously bare walls covered with Window Guy art. While I was a little worried about how they might react to the unauthorized exhibit, both seemed to get a good laugh out of it. More surprisingly yet, it was a major hit, with about a third of the photos being sold on opening night — almost enough to recoup my investment.

One person even called it “very post modern,” which, since I’m not sure what that is, I will take as a compliment.

The exhibit is entitled “John: The Man in the Window.” Other than knowing his first name, I intentionally didn’t research John’s background, or talk to him, because the exhibit was more about mystery, speculations and assumptions than about the reality.  But I’m thinking the reality — learning about the man behind the enigma — might make for a good sequel.

Though I intended it as a one-night-only exhibit, the owners decided they will keep it up for a few more days — so feel free to drop by and see it. Chances are, while looking at the photos of The Window Guy, you’ll see the actual Window Guy as well, who, at this point, isn’t aware that there is an exhibit hanging in tribute to him across the street.

The Idle Hour is located at  201 E. Fort Ave.


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