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Tag: news

Last month’s feel-good story takes bad turn

Luke the K9 solo (Courtesy of Joel Fields)

A suburban police officer who made national headlines for rescuing a doomed shelter dog and training him for police work has been fired from his job — and his whole story is now being questioned.

On top of that, the Bel-Ridge Police Department, outside St. Louis, is asking that officer Joel Fields return the dog that taxpayers, at least in part, paid to have trained, at least in part, as a police K9.

The total truth about the story is still unraveling, but the untruths unearthed so far indicate the heartwarming account Fields gave the news media wasn’t entirely accurate — including the claim that the dog, named Luke, came from a shelter and was scheduled to be euthanized.

As a result, and as has happened before, all across the Internet, thousands of hearts were falsely warmed.

As usual, we can blame lazy news media, and even lazier bloggers, for the misinformation — as well as the officer whose account of saving the dog from death’s doorstep was initially accepted on its face as truthful.

fieldsFields was praised by PEOPLE and pictured as a savior by numerous dog websites after the story broke in April.

(Fortunately, ohmidog! wasn’t one of them. We’d like to say it’s because it didn’t pass our special sniff test, or get approved by our crack team of fact checkers, but it was probably more dumb luck.)

Still, there were clues — like how hard Fields seemed to be seeking publicity, the professionally made photos he supplied of him and Luke, and the boasting about all the drug busts Luke nearly immediately made as a rookie on the job.

“He made seven drug busts in less than a month and a half of working the road with me,” Fields told Fox2 News.

How true that is — as well as the rest of the story Fields gave about the retriever — are now under suspicion.

News4 in St. Louis is now reporting that Brad Croft, the owner of Universal K9, the company that helped train Luke, is saying the account Fields gave the news media was mostly lies.

“I was a little upset, because Joel was told from the day I handed him the leash of the dog that this was not a shelter dog,” said Croft.

Croft told News4 he suspects Fields was lying about the dog’s background in an effort to gain fame and “get people to back him and give him money.”

Officials are also now investigating whether Luke was fully trained and certified as a police dog.

City prosecutor Sam Alton says Fields initially told them the dog was certified as a K9, but he says they have learned that is not true. That fact could complicate any criminal court cases Luke played a role in.

Alton says Fields is now refusing to give up the dog, whose training was funded at least in part by taxpayers.

“We would like to see the taxpayers not lose money, we would like the dog to live a happy and productive life and we would like to see the dog in service as it was meant to be,” Alton said.

“Everything legally from our point of view shows that the dog belongs to the city of Bel-Ridge,” he added. “It’s unfortunate for the city, it’s unfortunate for the residents, it’s unfortunate for the dog and it’s unfortunate for him (Fields).”

Fields told News4 over the phone this week that he quit and wasn’t fired, and wouldn’t comment anymore until talking to his attorney.

KMOV.com

Trump-defending news analyst now doing his own damage control — thanks to a dog

tweet

Mark Halperin, a senior NBC political analyst known as a frequent defender of President Trump, has suffered his own Twitter-related embarrassment — and is taking some hits for the disrespect he seemed to show a therapy dog on a cross-country Delta flight

It all stems from a in-air tweet Halperin posted after finding himself seated next to a bow-tie wearing support dog named Charlie. Halperin posted a photo of the dog with the caption, “Seriously, @delta??!?”

Some took that to mean he was taking umbrage to his seating companion, and dog lovers — as is their way — commenced to deem him an apparent snob, asshole, douchebag or worse.

Halperin then — sincerely or not — went into damage control mode.

He tweeted that the main purpose of the original tweet was to show a photo of a cute dog:

“This dog is cute & service, companion & emotional support dogs=best souls on Earth.Point was,on long flt Delta sat dog apart from its owner.”

He elaborated the people were reacting incorrectly to his original tweet, and that he was trying to do too much good at once — delighting followers with photos of a cute dog while pointing out a flaw in Delta’s procedures for not seating Charlie with his owner, a Delta employee who was seated across the aisle.

He said he offered to switch seats with the owner but that doing so was prohibited by “LAX traffic, TSA, redeye logistics & overhead bin issues.”

Then that pesky second side of the story came out.

The dog’s owner says Halperin made no such offer to switch seats.

Anthony Pisano, a Delta flight attendant who paid full fare for both his and Charlie’s seats, gave this account of what happened in first class.

“I had purchased 6A and 6B and Halperin was in 6C. The dog and I fly back and forth from California to NY 2–3 times a month. I am always aware to make sure to get the dog her own seat (she lays on the floor and sleeps) to ensure she doesn’t encroach anyone’s personal space. So I put Charlie (the dog) in 6A where she was great. She was in arms reach and everything was cool. Right before we took off the dog came and sat in between my legs for take off so she was secured. At this point halperin (I had no idea who he was) calls for a flight attendant and tells her that he refuses to sit next to a dog.

“Those were his exact words. At that point I noticed he took a picture of the dog which I just ignored. Next thing you know the lead flight attendant asked if I minded giving halperin 6A. It was so strange he wouldn’t even look or speak to me about it. If he would have asked me I would have obliged, no big deal. I couldn’t believe how rude this guy was carrying on as I sat right next to him. So I obliged, he moved into 6A and left his shoes and a mess in his little first class cubicle area. I politely brought him his shoes and belongings to which he literally looked the other way and that was that.”

(Except for a parting tweet on Pisano’s Twitter page:)

charlie

Apparently, Halperin (some call him a Trump lap dog) got the separation he desired from Charlie, the emotional support dog.

As for which version is the most accurate, I can’t say, but I will rank the believability of the subjects involved:

1. Charlie the dog
2. The flight attendant
3. The political pundit

(Photos: At top, Charlie, as pictured in Halperin’s tweet; lower, Charlie, in a parting tweet on Pisano’s Twitter page)

Pickle may have to be renamed Cheese Puff

A dog who may have spent three days with his head stuck in a jar is recovering at Fort Worth Animal Control.

The 1-year old terrier mix was found wandering the streets of Fort Worth’s Meadowbrook neighborhood last week.

Because the call came in as a dog with his head stuck in a pickle jar, he was nicknamed Pickle by animal control staff.

pickles-rescue-e1492463103920Actually, though, it was one of those large plastic jars that round puffed cheese snacks come in.

Which might explain what led to said head getting stuck in said jar.

Animal control officer Randall Mize was the first to respond, and said he discovered the dog laying down, and likely suffering from oxygen deprivation and dehydration.

He estimated that the dog’s head had been stuck for three days, according to CBS in Dallas-Fort Worth.

They were able to pull the jar off his head, and Pickles, or Cheese Puff, will soon be available for adoption.

To see when he shows up as available, watch this page.

Feel-good story about homeless man’s reunion with dog took some strange turns

patrick

Getting your Huntsvilles confused is one thing, but one website really screwed the pooch when they published a story about a good Samaritan who helped reunite a homeless man and his dog.

In September, in Huntsville, TEXAS, Wilma Price was driving through a Walmart parking lot when she saw a homeless man holding a sign that said, “Dog in pound. Need help.”

Price, who runs a rescue called Mr. K’s Pet Shelter, stopped to find out his story. She learned the homeless man, named Patrick, had been arrested and jailed for trespassing, and that, because of that, his dog ended up in the animal shelter.

She took Patrick to the shelter, and paid the $120 necessary for him to get his dog — named Franklin — back.

The story was picked up by the website Life with Dogs, CBS News, People.com and many more.

Dozens of other websites reprinted or rewrote it — most of them doing a decent job of passing along the facts.

Then there was the Alabama Observer.

patrick2It reported that the story took place in Huntsville, Alabama, that the dog’s name was Wilbur, that the homeless man’s name was Mark Spencer, and that the good Samaritan’s name was Elizabeth Masterson.

The story had no links to actual news sources, and little attribution.

It wasn’t the only website to get the facts askew, but it was the only one that appeared to be making up entirely new names for everyone involved. At least three other websites published versions of the story with those erroneous names.

One wonders what might be the motivation for substituting illegitimate names into a legitimate story.

Might the exact same story have happened with different people at a Walmart in Huntsville, Alabama? Clearly not. Might the website be trying to cover its rear, legally? Maybe. Might there be something more nefarious going on, such as diverting donations intended for Patrick (whose last name isn’t Spencer) to some guy named Mark Spencer? We hope not. Might a computer program be doing the website’s writing? Highly possible.

Apparently, a bogus Go Fund Me campaign to raise funds for Patrick was launched by someone neither Wilma nor Patrick knew, and, using photos from Wilma’s Facebook page, it raised $3,000 before the page was removed from Go Fund Me.

That’s $3,000 Patrick and Franklin didn’t get. Wilma Price, meanwhile, started a campaign for him too, and it has raised more than $15,000 for Patrick on GoFundMe.

Price said Patrick has been helping her organization with rescue efforts since the two met, and her Facebook page documents their adventures together.

Snopes.com looked into the story and couldn’t figure out how or why the Alabama Observer version had new names inserted into it.

There is no contact information on the Alabama Observer’s web site, and no description of who operates it. Snopes reported it appears to accept stories submitted by users, as opposed to having its own reporters or freelancers.

We think there’s a good possibility it’s one of those websites that runs news stories through computer programs that rewrite them (with mixed results, or should I say “stirred outcomes?”).

How else could you explain the opening of this recent Alabama Observer story about clown sightings in Ohio?

“The developing rash of reported dangers including clown-faced villains has law authorization offices crosswise over Ohio and somewhere else attempting to recognize true blue dangers while cautioning deceptions are no giggling matter.”

(Photos courtesy of Wilma Price)

Let Bob Dylan be Bob Dylan

Why is everybody doggin’ Bob Dylan?

So what if he didn’t visibly display excitement, didn’t jump up and down and wag his tail, upon learning he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

So what if he’s not exactly yapping and scratching at the door to attend the upcoming Stockholm awards ceremony to receive the prize from King Carl VI Gustaf.

It really seems to bother people — respected journalists, less respected journalists, and lowly drama-seeking bloggers — that Dylan has not reacted like a “Price is Right” contestant who just won the showcase round.

To those people — those who demand effervescence from a man who, until he puts pen to paper, chooses to holds most things inside — we say, first off, don’t expect everybody’s personality to be the same as your’s.

Let Bob Dylan be Bob Dylan. And respect, as well, the privacy he seems to treasure.

dylananddogAfter the prizes were announced by the Swedish Academy, Dylan had no public reaction for weeks, which, for some reason, became news. He reportedly “refused to pick up the phone” to speak to representatives of the Nobel committee.

How does anyone know he was refusing to pick up the phone? Why is it assumed he was being petulant?

Perhaps he was not home, or was otherwise occupied, or was under the impression he can live his life at the pace he chooses, talking to who he chooses when he chooses.

How dare he? How dare he not give the news media what it was looking for?

Well, he never really has. He has always been more of a wandering, independent stray than a mindless lap dog.

For all those who were fretting over his lack of a reaction, The Telegraph reported Friday that yes, he hopes to attend the ceremony, and yes, winning the prize was “amazing, incredible … Whoever dreams about something like that?”

So much for the theory that he was going to pull a Jean-Paul Sartre, the novelist who famously declined the award in 1964.

He has said he will be there “if he can,” but many find that unacceptable as well and have deemed his behavior “impolite and arrogant.”

Maybe. Or maybe not all of us are wired for public displays of enthusiasm.

I have been accused of lacking enthusiasm, because I’m generally quiet. For my part, it was a matter of realizing if I am constantly flapping my jaws, my brain can’t process the things it needs to — be it writing a story, solving some mystery of life, or locating the items on the grocery list.

I’m just one of those people who mostly celebrates without fireworks, and on the inside. I would never be chosen to compete in The Price is Right. I’m more likely to bare my soul, if I bare it at all, to a dog.

dylananddog1Maybe Bob is that way, too. Maybe, at home, he has the curtains drawn and is running around the house high-fiving his dogs.

Interviewers, the smart ones, have found dogs to be the one topic that can get Bob Dylan going.

In any event, I’d guess the dogs in his life — and he has had many — have served to help him be a loner without being lonely. I’d guess he tells them more than he tells most friends, and definitely more than he tells the news media.

One of his first poems, written when he was 16 and in summer camp, was about a dog (Little Buddy) who died a tragic death.

bob1He once credited “a dog lying on the floor” (his name was Hamlet) with helping create the relaxed ambience in which he and The Band put together “The Basement Tapes,” while living outside Woodstock in the summer of 1967.

In addition to the song featured atop this post, “If Dogs Run Free” (which he turned into a children’s book in 2013), Dylan refers to dogs in at least 30 of his songs, according to an article in Bark a while back.

“They seem to inhabit his world, his thoughts, and, ultimately, they come to life in his music,” the article notes. “…Dylan uses dogs as a messenger for mood, as set for the stage. You can picture them wandering down dirt roads, or collapsed on creaky porches. They’re dustbowl dogs and prowling alley dogs, dogs with no collars, dogs with no homes.

“It’s a hungry, lonesome quality about them that he touches upon, a sense of being, all at once, tired and restless. They speak to the human condition that surrounds them, suggesting what really doesn’t need to be said.”

Bob Dylan has always been very good at saying what needs to be said, and even better at not saying what doesn’t need to be said.

So whether he shows up to claim his Nobel Prize, whether his speech consists of “thank you” or he jumps up and down and says “ohmigod! ohmigod!” — those are questions we will just have to keep asking in the months ahead. Or not.

The answer, my friend, is … well, you know.

Numbers of dogs in the workplace is rising

ginger

Thanks to the millennials, the percentage of American workplaces allowing dogs is increasing — up to 8 percent, from 5 percent five years ago.

NPR reported on the phenomena yesterday, citing examples of how employers — in an attempt to lure new employees by providing them with a low-cost benefit — are opening their doors to dogs.

Millennials (born between 1982 and 2004) are expected to make up half the work force by 2020, and they are expected to surpass baby boomers as the largest pet-owning generation around that same time.

Millennials tend to look at their pets “as practice families or substitute families and seem to be more verbal in their wants and needs for their pet and for making sure their pet is well tended and well cared for,” Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association, told CNBC, which reported on the increasing numbers of dogs in the workplace last fall.

“Employers are starting to realize that having a millennial bring … a pet to work, you wind up getting a more focused employee, you get someone more comfortable at the office and a person willing to work longer hours,” Vetere added.

Some companies, CNBC reported, go to greater lengths than others to make those dogs feel welcome, offering play areas, free pet training, pet walkers, pet health insurance, offsite pet sitters and grooming services.

More than 2,000 dogs are brought in by employees regularly to Amazon’s main campus in Seattle, where about 25,000 employees work. The company provides doggy treats at all of its reception desks and each of the nearly 30 buildings on the campus has spaces for pet exercise.

replacementsxThe NPR report focused on Replacements, that dog-friendly North Carolina china warehouse we told you about back in April.

It has about 400 employees, and about 30 animals who come to work with them regularly.

“… The interesting thing is that we have never had a pet break anything here,” said public relations manager Lisa Conklin. “We’ve had people, myself included, who have broken a number of these delicate pieces. But we have never to our knowledge had a pet break anything.”

Conklin says the pets-at-work policy costs the company nothing, and staff often say it’s their favorite perk.

On top of boosting morale and productivity, as studies have shown it does, it lets workers feel they are achieving a work-life balance — something a lot of baby boomers I know weren’t the best at.

Having a successful dogs-in-the-workplace program requires some planning, and some patience, and some resourcefulness, say those who have instituted them.

The NPR story cited the case of Buchanan Public Relations, a company located outside Philadelphia, where Lacey, a Rottweiler mix, was regularly being terrorized by Romeo, a toy poodle with “a bit of a Napoleon complex.”

Company owner Anne Buchanan — instead of reneging on the pets-at-work policy — hired a dog trainer who managed to restore workplace harmony.

(Photos: At top, Ginger, an English bulldog, at work with owner, Will Pisnieski, at Authentic Entertainment in Burbank, Calif., by Grant Hindsley / AP; bottom photo, Charlie rides along with employee Kim Headen at Replacements, by Peter Taylor / AP)

Dog rescues hummingbird? All it takes is faith, trust and a little pixie dust

Ed Gernon never suspected the German shepherd mix he adopted last year would be featured in one of those inter-species friendship videos.

Rex left the shelter with a reputation. He “fought other dogs and killed cats,” Gernon said. “He was dangerous. He was an animal that had learned to live on the streets and to survive on his own hunting ability, I guess.”

So Gernon was surprised when, a month after he took Rex home, the dog paused when he came across what Gernon thought was a dead hummingbird.

“He suddenly stopped and he would not move,” Gernon CBS Los Angeles. “I mean it’s tiny and it’s dead as far as I’m concerned. It’s covered in ants. It’s got no feathers.”

Given his dog’s seeming concern for the bird, Gernon checked it more closely, saw it was still alive, took it home, cleaned it up, and it has been living inside his home ever since.

And it even drinks out of Rex’s water bowl.

hummingbirdGernon describes it as living “with Tinkerbell,” even the the bird now goes by the name Hummer.

Gernon initially had to hand feed the bird a special formula every 15 minutes.

“You find yourself doing stuff you never thought in a million years you would do,” he said.

“It was this little creature. This fragile creature that the whole world wanted to kill and he was trying to protect her so I thought I’d go the distance,” Gernon said.

“I rescue this dog. He rescues the bird. The bird rescues all of us in a weird sense and it’s just a miracle,” Gernon said.

After living with the bird for a year, Gernon says it’s probably time for her to be free, and he’s started leaving the doors and windows of his home open, in case Hummer wants to go back out in the world.

So far, she hasn’t.