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Ace, and a few hundred other friends, surface during my fundraiser to honor Joe


My quest to honor my son’s memory by having a kennel in my local humane society named after him has almost reached its goal, thanks to the kindness of friends, family and a lot of people I’ve never known.

Sure it’s only a plaque, just like a condolence card is only a card, and words are only words, and, from the giver’s point of view, none of them really seem sufficient to honor a loved one who has passed — especially one who dies such an early death.

But people do what they can at times like these. And the $10,000 (maybe more) donation Joe will be making posthumously to the Forsyth Humane Society will go a long way in terms of caring and finding homes for the dogs who end up there.

thermometer-red-90-percent-hiThe plaque is one of several commemorative opportunities the shelter, like most, offers to those wishing to make a donation in the name of a loved one lost, be they cat, dog or human.

Forsyth Humane Society, in North Carolina, offers commemorative bricks, engraved with the loved one’s name, from $100 to $250, based on their size; bench plaques, for $750; annual sponsorships of individual kennels for $300 a year; and the big one — sponsoring a kennel for a lifetime — for $10,000. As part of the kennel sponsorships, the Humane Society sends you the stories of three of the dogs that occupy the kennel each year.

(You can check the website of your local humane society or SPCA to see the commemorative opportunities it might offer.)

For my son Joe, 26, who died two weeks after an accident on an Interstate highway in Mississippi, I had to shoot for the perpetual sponsorship.

When Joe visited me in the summer, he volunteered at the Forsyth Humane Society a few days a week, and at special events, where he most enjoyed donning the dog costume of its mascot.

So the choice for a memorial to him seemed a good fit — and a much-needed something to keep me busy.

I started a Facebook fundraising campaign, which is now more than 90 percent of the way to its goal and has left me marveling at the kindness and generosity of my friends, most of whom I’ve done a poor job of staying in touch with over the years.

Former colleagues at the Philadelphia Inquirer responded, as well as many from the Baltimore Sun. College friends kicked in. Dog park buddies came through, as did lots of you ohmidog! readers, some I know and some I don’t.

And I can’t remember ever being so touched. Thanks to you, Joe, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, will soon have his name on a kennel that, over the course of each year, will probably house one or two dozen homeless dogs (one at a time) awaiting that happy outcome.

Each and every donation, large or small, has lifted my spirits.

One of the gestures that moved me most came from a friend in Baltimore who was mourning the death of her dog.

Carey Hughes once fell really hard for me, but let me explain.

bm3We’d met when we were both out with our dogs at some sort of function in the Inner Harbor. We got together a few times after that, since our dogs hit it off so well — usually at a dog park, or a bar that allowed dogs.

Once at an outdoor restaurant near the harbor, I asked her to hold Ace’s leash for me while I went inside for more beer. Her dog, Bimini was tied to the table, but given Ace, at 140 pounds, could drag a table pretty far, I asked Carey to hold on to him.

When I came back outside, Ace bolted toward me, toppling Carey’s chair and dragging her a foot or two across the pavement (something he’d done with me a few times, so I knew it hurt, despite her assurances).

The fact that she didn’t let go of the leash says something about her. So does what she did this week. Bimini died last week, and friends were asking Carey how they might contribute to some sort of memorial for him.

Instead, she asked those friends to donate to Joe’s fundraiser, in a Facebook post, and many of them did.

She’s planning gathering in Bimini’s honor in the days ahead during which she will bury Bimini’s ashes in a whiskey barrel behind her house, then plant flowers on top.

bim2Having some of Ace’s ashes still remaining from my two spreadings of his ashes — one in the Atlantic Ocean, the other in a creek along a trail we used to hike regularly — I asked her if I could send some of those to be in the whiskey barrel with Bimini.

Given Bimini never liked to be alone (neither did Ace, who died two years ago), she thought it was a great idea.

Unless postal authorities became suspicious of the powdery substance inside and tore the package open, the ashes should have arrived yesterday.

Little things like that, all piled on top of each other — the reuniting with friends, the generosity people have shown, the support I’ve received — have, along with keeping myself as busy as possible, have made this week tolerable.

I posted a remembrance of Joe on ohmidog! Monday. On Tuesday, my local paper, the Winston-Salem Journal, ran a beautiful front page story by columnist Scott Sexton about Joe and the fundraising campaign. Those, combined with the Facebook fundraising campaign, have led to it nearing it’s $10,000 goal.

As Sexton noted, say what you will about all the cons of Facebook — and I frequently bash it — it leads to some pretty marvelous things.

“Facebook has earned every last bit of criticism leveled at it for helping to sow discord and divide people through dissemination of fake news and paid manipulations by bad actors overseas. It, and other outlets, are easily manipulated and should be viewed in many cases with healthy skepticism and an eye toward fact (and source) checking.

“The flip side is that social media can be extremely useful. It can help connect lives, share news and has the power to bring people (and communities) together. It also has the ability to pass word of tragedy, and spare people from having to repeat over and over and over the unfathomable.”

Joe WoestendiekIt is mainly through Facebook that old friends have gotten in touch and complete strangers have decided to donate. Thanks to those who shared the posts, and to all those who sent comforting words.

My friends are mostly fellow writers, many of whom pointed out that words just aren’t sufficient at times like this.

But they tried anyway and, for the record, they do help. A lot. Words, gestures, hugs — they mean everything right now.

So will Joe’s plaque. It will probably take a while before it goes up on one of the kennels at the humane society, which opened its new facility two years ago. It takes time for the donations to be funneled through and for the actual making of the plaque.

I can’t wait to see it.

And if that last name isn’t spelled right, as often happens, believe me I will let them know.

(Photos: Joe Woestendiek and Ace, by John Woestendiek; Bimini and Ace, courtesy of Carey Hughes)

Remembering my son, Joe

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On May 13, 1992, a flight arrived at LAX from Seoul and three Korean babies, orphans all, were carried off the plane by their escorts to be handed to their new adoptive parents.

My wife and I were there to meet one of them, our new son whom we’d decided, based on photos, would be named either Sam or Joe, depending on which seemed the better fit after seeing him in person.

He was the last one off the plane, a tiny thing with an unruly shock of jet black hair that was shooting in every direction after the 11-hour flight. For a moment, we debated whether he might be an “Elvis.” But we opted for Joe.

Joe WoestendiekFast forward 26 years — and God, did it ever go too fast — and Joe (full name Joseph Yoon Tae Woestendiek) was lying in a coma in a Memphis hospital, his hair shaved off, and parts of his skull removed to accommodate the swelling of his severely damaged brain. The outlook was bleak, at best.

He was on his way home from work when his car rear-ended a dump truck on the interstate near Holly Springs, Miss. The truck grinded to a halt. The truck driver pulled Joe out of his burning car. And he was airlifted by helicopter from Mississippi to Memphis — to, ironically, the Elvis Presley Trauma Center.

He died 13 days later. For nearly two weeks doctors kept him sedated and fought to relieve his cranial pressure even while warning that, if he came out of his coma at all, he would likely have little to no brain function due to the extent of the brain damage. They warned, too, that lung problems had developed, and that those and the strain on his heart, were more likely to take his life. His heart came to a stop on June 18.

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I write this another week later, partly to explain why our ohmidog! posts came to a halt, but more to keep his memory alive, and in hopes that writing about it will be cathartic and make some of the numbness and emptiness inside me go away.

joetromboneJoe grew up in Orange County, Calif.; Yardley, Pa., Anderson, S.C., and Florence, Ala. He lived in recent years with his mom and stepdad in New Albany, Miss. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he earned a B.S. in computer science from the School of Engineering.

He’d recently started a job he loved — in the information technology department of Automated Conveyor Systems, Inc., of West Memphis, Ark.

His visits to my home, in Winston-Salem, N.C., had dwindled, but up until he finished college he’d come here regularly on holidays and in the summer. He loved guitars, and video games and, of course, dogs. He’d always get teary on his last day visiting; I was never sure if it was because he was leaving me, or leaving my dog Ace. He’d yet to meet my new dog, Jinjja, also adopted from Korea.

SONY DSCWhile here, Joe would volunteer with the Forsyth Humane Society, an organization I’ve also done some work with as a volunteer. He’d walk dogs at the shelter, and help out at events, his favorite role being donning the mascot costume — a swelteringly hot furry dog outfit — and working the crowd.

He had three dogs of his own at home.

Because of his love of dogs, and the joy working with humane society brought him, I’ve decided a fitting tribute would be to make a donation to the humane society in his name — one significant enough to merit a plaque with his name on it.

His name on a brick paver is one option, but I, for what are probably selfish reasons, want more.

I want to try to make a donation large enough to make him a lifetime sponsor of one of the shelter’s kennels.

That way, everyone who walks in to look at the many dogs available for adoption will see his name, and maybe more importantly, I will. I like the idea of a kid once in need of adoption sponsoring a kennel that will house dog after dog after dog in need of adoption — forever.

That requires a $10,000 donation, not an amount I have handy, or can even dream of obtaining. But, unachievable as that might be — and needing something to do right now — that’s what I’m working on.

So here is my plan.

I’ve started a Facebook fundraiser aimed at donating $10,000 to the Forsyth Humane Society in his memory.

SONY DSCA memorial service for him will be held in Mississippi this week.

But I want to do something here in Winston-Salem — perhaps a mini-concert featuring some musician friends of his and mine. I’m working now on setting that up.

I want it to be a simple and joyful hour or so, nothing somber, nothing speech-filled — just a chance for local friends to come together and say goodbye, maybe at the Muddy Creek Cafe in Bethania. We always enjoyed going there.

When Joe arrived in the U.S., my then-wife Jenny and I were living in Orange County, California. The riots that Rodney King’s beating sparked in Los Angeles were only starting to settle down. I was covering those for the newspaper I worked for at the time, the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Every morning, I would cruise through the most devastated areas, returning to a hotel in the evening to write. It was a bleak couple of weeks, the kind that make you worry about humanity and its future. Nearly every day, my rental car was pelted by rocks and chunks of concrete. At nearly every stoplight, I’d receive hateful stares and threatening gestures.

I remember wondering as I drove those streets how, and why, complete strangers could hate me so much.

Amid all that, we got the call that our adoptee was on his way. We were supposed to pick him up in Korea, but somebody goofed. My boss was kind enough to give me some time off, away from the riots, to bond with my new son.

And in the ensuing weeks, and years, I remember wondering how a complete stranger could love me so much.

And me him.

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That’s what he taught me, and it’s not unlike the lesson anyone who adopts a dog learns. Show a creature love and respect and loyalty and you’ll get it back — unconditionally and exponentially. Oppress, abuse and disrespect it and you’ll get … what you deserve.

As abruptly and prematurely as Joe’s life ended, I will always be thankful for the joy he brought me and the lessons he taught me.

I’m thankful, too, for all the prayers and expressions of support I’ve received from friends (and even strangers). I am overwhelmed by the response to the Facebook fundraiser. I posted it three days ago, and it’s already more than halfway to its goal.

Thanks also to the caring staff at Regional One’s Elvis Presley Trauma Center, and to that truck driver, Michael Simpson of Memphis, whose actions gave Joe a fighting chance.

Those wishing to contribute to Joe’s plaque can do so through the Facebook fundraiser.

Contributions can also be made through ohmidog!, or directly to Forsyth Humane Society. Please specify they are for Joe Woestendiek’s memorial plaque.

My dream about selling out

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When a dark-colored sedan slows to a halt beside you as you walk down the sidewalk, and a tinted window powers down, it’s usually not a sign of good things ahead.

Especially not when all you can see inside is a gun barrel pointing out at you, and a face in the shadows that says only, “Get in.”

Such was the somewhat cliched opening of an actual dream I had the other night.

I got in, as instructed, and the grim and leathery-faced man in the passenger seat beside me told me were going for a ride, in a tone that suggested I neither disagree nor ask too many questions.

windowWhen we arrived at a cabin in some remote woods, he ushered me inside, sat me down and explained the situation.

He was a hit man, hired by some people whose identities he was not allowed to divulge, as that, too, would necessitate killing me.

His working orders were to convince me to sell my website to those people, and to kill me if I refused.

I could see no reason to debate any terms and I was about to agree when he told me I would get two days to think about it.

For the next two days, he sat in a straight-backed chair with a gun in his hand. He put it down only to make meals. He was mostly quiet, seemed to lack any emotions at all, and every once in a while he would hit me, slap me, kick me or verbally abuse me.

Yet, for a few minutes both days, he would let some humanity show through. We’d actually talk a little and make jokes and a tiny part of me came to actually like a tiny part of him, but that’s all beside the point, I think.

Still, I spent more time thinking about him than I did about selling the website. I’d never considered it, and as far it’s value, I figured that was up to the man with the gun to decide.

Coping-With-Anxiety-and-Depression-722x406As he had requested, I withheld any decision until he announced that the deadline had come.

“What is your decision?” he asked. “I will sell the website,” I responded, suspecting I was going to die either way.

At this point, you need to know two things.

First off, I’ve never really thought about selling ohmidog!, and don’t expect it would be worth much. My website, back when it ran advertising, once brought in a tiny bit of money, but now it operates at a loss. Now it is officially a hobby — because the money-making side of a website, as opposed to the creative side, all involves work that either bores me to tears or violates my outdated journalistic principles. For the purposes of writing this I checked a couple of those websites that profess to tell you what a website is worth, and they estimated $6-$7,000. (Interestingly both of those websites, when you typed their own domain name, in, were unwilling to estimate the value of themselves.)

Maybe it’s worth even more than that, I like to sometimes think. I’m not one to overestimate my worth, or my website’s. But I am a bit of a dreamer and this was, after all, a dream.

Just last week, the company that makes dog food with Rachel Ray’s name on it had just sold for $1.9 billion — and who’s to say her kibble is worth more than my daily writings?

You also need to know now about my fear of large bills, for I suspect it is from those anxieties that this dream sprung. I do not like possessing anything larger than a $20 bill.

The currency-holding part of my wallet is divided into two sections. In one I keep twenties, in the other I keep smaller denominations. I rarely go to a bank anymore, instead getting my cash via the cash back option at my grocery store. I usually get one hundred dollars, insisting on nothing larger than twenties.

On a few occasions, though, they have run out and had to give me fifties. I put those in with my twenties. And before I know it, they are gone. I will struggle to remember using one of them, and I’m unable to recall handing anyone a fifty. I can’t remember ever getting change back from a fifty. Handing over a $50 would be act of some significance for me. Surely I would remember that.

I suspect I unwittingly hand over fifties, thinking they are twenties, and that the cashiers, equally unwittingly, hand me back change for a twenty.

Where else could they be going?

So whenever I have a fifty in my wallet, I am anxious. I have to check on them frequently

Just as I am no high roller, I had no high hopes that my website would fetch big bucks, so I was greatly surprised when, in my dream, the hit man informed me that I was to be paid $2 billion. One catch, it had to be cash.

I signed the paperwork, in triplicate, and he handed me two $1 billion bills. I nervously stuffed them in my wallet, in the twenties section.

He told me I could leave.

Ninety percent of me expected that I would be shot in the back as I left, and that he would retrieve the $2 billion, along with my twenties and tens and such. A small part of me thought, just maybe, despite his cruel streak, he was a man of his word.

Turned out he was. I walked out, through the woods, back to the highway and started hitch-hiking.

It took three different rides to get me home, and during each I worried that the driver would somehow sniff out the large bills held in my wallet and rob me.

But I returned home safely, the bills intact, telling myself that tomorrow I would deposit them in the bank.

Tomorrow came and, even though I had nothing to do, nothing to write and post on the website anymore, I didn’t go to the bank. I kept putting it off. And the rest of the dream was just a series of anxious days each one just like the previous one.

It got to the point that I was checking my wallet every 30 minutes. Are they still there? Should I put them somewhere safer, or will I forget where I put them if I do?

As for investing the $2 billion, that didn’t even enter my thoughts. Nor did how I might spend it.

Eventually, the dream became so boring — just me continuing checking my wallet — that I woke up.

I’m not sure what it means, or what I learned, but the next day I took that check that has been lingering around the house to the bank — a state income tax refund of $25.

The dog park is working wonders for Jinjja

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Jinjja’s transition from a dog destined for the butcher block to a trusting family pet continues to slowly but steadily move ahead — sometimes, so gradually that major breakthroughs probably go unnoticed, even by an observer as astute as I.

(“Stop observing me so astutely,” he’d probably say if he could talk. “And check that grammar. You’re nowhere near as astute as you think you are.”)

journeyAt the dog park, he still gets a little bit growly (but not aggressive) when dogs larger than he approach him too rambunctiously. He still spends some of the time going to a remote corner by himself.

But gradually (like everything else with this dog) he is coming to frolic with other dogs in the park, to approach a select few people and sometimes (with females of the human species) even let them pet him.

And last week, for the first time, he went a little farther than chasing and running with other dogs. He full on played with one, with hardly any of the growliness, with actual body contact, as in nearly wrestling, for at least a full minute.

DSC06712Her name is Moro, a Siberian Husky pup who is about Jinjja’s size — though that will change quickly.

With dogs smaller than he, Jinjja exhibits none of the growly behavior. And with Moro, for some reason, he was enamored — enamored like he is with any new dog entering the park. But this time, it lasted a while. He followed her everywhere she went.

DSC06747In addition to being the right size, Moro was the right temperament for him. She didn’t charge in and get in his face, didn’t attempt immediate wrestling. Instead she scurried under the bench for humans and observed what was going on, coming out after she felt comfortable, and taking her time getting to know other dogs.

She’s also soft and fluffy as a powder puff, and sweet smelling, though I’m guessing neither of those things matter to Jinjja.

In any event, it was the first time I’d seen him go into a play stance while off the leash — and proceed to play.

I’d have to say the dog park may be responsible for the biggest strides he has made in terms of socialization since he was rescued from a farm in South Korea where he was being raised as a farm animal to be slaughtered for his meat.

DSC06773We started going right after I was recovered enough from a surgery to check out the new dog park that opened just down the road — actually a little before it opened.

We go nearly every day now.

Jinjja, while he has grown totally comfortable with me, remains skittish around most people. Maybe upon a third meeting, maybe after you’d given him a treat or two, he’ll let you pet him, but he generally avoids the touch of humans until he gets to know them.

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Moro’s owner was an exception to that rule. She seems to hold a special appeal to Jinjja. He’ll approach her far quicker than any other human in the park, and make it clear he wants to be petted. Maybe it’s because he has met her three times now, or because she smells like Moro, or because she smells like other dogs from working at a doggie day care. Or maybe she just has a way with dogs.

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Connections like that — new dogs, new humans — go a long way in helping Jinjja with his transition.

His stay with another family during my hospitalization and recovery also led to improvements in his sociability. After living for two months with three other humans and two other dogs, I noticed a big change in him he came back home.

Last week there was a second breakthrough as well: Jinjja let my brother, who has known him for almost a year now, reach out and pet him, which is generally followed by “please, scratch away, especially right here in the butt region, which I will now shove toward you.”

He has never growled at humans, but he does generally growl, and raise his hackles, when a new dog, or even a large familiar one, attempts to play with him.

I’m not sure of the best way, training-wise, to address that, and I guess it’s more a matter of more time with more company. We hope to get back into the training class we had to drop out of due to illness.

But overall, his growliness has gone way down. (Unlike mine, which remains about the same.)

DSC06800A few days ago, Jinjja even met another Korean dog at the park — or at least one whose owner suspects he came from there. Toby, who he got from a shelter, appears to be a Sapsaree, a breed produced primarily if not exclusively in South Korea. (And yes, though he was way bigger, with waaaaay more hair, they got along fine.)

With Jinjja, the biggest factor of all, I suspect, has been simple time —
time spent being treated like a normal dog, as opposed to crated or chained as he was at the farm in Korea.

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It’s all about earning his trust, and sometimes he makes you work very hard for it.

So we’re spending lots more dog park time, and more me getting on the floor time (arduous task though it is) for that is when he really warms up.

And, dare I say it, he is, if not on the verge, at least getting very close to being a regular old happy go lucky dog.

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(Photos: By John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

No more kissing: An urgent and newsworthy life-or-death warning to all dogs everywhere

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Dear fellow dogs,

It is with great sadness that we issue you this urgent public health warning, but evidence is mounting that licking the face of a human can lead to deadly consequences.

After careful consideration, we are advising that you cease the age-old practice at once: What has traditionally been viewed as a gesture of love and loyalty now clearly poses a direct and immediate threat to our species.

The slightest licking of a human face can lead to mumps, ringworm, salmonella, swine flu, Giardia, MRSA and more.

satireWe know it is hard to resist licking the hand that feeds you, much less slurping that human face leaning towards you in hopes of receiving a good tongue-lashing.

But resist we must, no matter how tempting. That sweet toddler face crusted with remnants of spaghetti dinner? Avoid it. The master who wants you — for some reason — to snag a treat from his or her mouth? Politely decline.

They are germ-filled creatures, and germs must be avoided at all costs.

For now, our concern is with human faces, because they are home to mucous membranes, the path many transmittable disease follow. Human faces are veritable germ factories, but human hands could be even worse.

Do you have any idea where those hands have been?

In an average day, the typical human has wiped his own hiney, scooped up our poop, picked his own nose, scratched his own groinal area, and turned a dozen or so door knobs. And that’s just the beginning.

We, at this point, are beginning to have doubts whether we should continue to allow them to even pet us. We now have that under study and will issue an additional advisory if necessary.

We realize this warning to you is vastly different than the reports your owners are receiving from their so-called news media and studies by their so-called scientists. Those reports tend to only address the dangers we pose to humans, ignoring the dangers they pose to us.

For example, take this week’s New York Post: “The Deadly Reason You Shouldn’t Let Dogs Lick Your Face.”

And those reports tend to snowball, thanks to the Internet, getting blown way out of proportion and repeated by anyone who knows how to cut, paste or share.

So you may have already noticed your human has developed a sudden revulsion to being licked.

Our warning, though, which you will only read here, is based on solid science and sources as respectable as PetMD.

With humans not wanting us to lick them, and us resisting the urge to lick them, we can only wonder how the bond between humans and dogs will play out in the future.

The lick, after all, is the most powerful item in our toolkit, and it is is difficult to imagine how, without it, we will be able to complete our mission — namely, to provide the affection and reassurance humans so desperately need.

While, for now, we can continue to shake hands, cuddle and nuzzle, anything involving the tongue, effectively immediately, is out. Given this void, humans, most likely, will turn to other sources of reassurance, such as Facebook friends who tell them they are beautiful/awesome/loved/in their prayers/etc.

You can’t get germs from a Facebook friend, assuming we don’t count computer viruses.

The Facebook friend could well end up replacing the dog, and that would be a disaster, sending us back to our wolfen days and throwing the entire ecosystem out of whack.

We, the board members of the Department of Human Control, debated long and hard over issuing this warning. There were those among us who felt we should continue licking the faces of people, no matter the health risks. They, however, were a minority and members of the smaller breeds.

As we enter the lick-free era, it is vital that we come up with new ways to endear ourselves to humans — maybe learn to take out the trash, do the dishes or find other ways to make them feel they need us.

For the truth is we have grown to rely on this curious species that wipes its own hind quarters and, often, doesn’t wash its hands as often as it should.

As disgusting and needy as they can be, we’ve grown to love them — germs and all.

(At top, my former dog Ace with my former neighbor Mike; at bottom, Ace’s kissing booth, 2009)

Jinjja gets temporarily rehomed, and ohmidog! is taking a health-related hiatus

DSC06491 (2)By the time you read this — our last post for what will likely be a while — I will have parted ways with one dog and one kidney.

The kidney, which doctors suspect contains a cancerous mass, is being removed in a surgery today and will be gone for good.

Jinjja, the Korean dog I adopted five months ago, will be staying with a friend who has offered to care for him for as long as it takes, which could be a while, between the hospital stay, a six-week recovery period, and whatever other treatment may follow.

So the purpose of this post is to inform those of you who may be following Jinjja’s story of this latest twist in the life of a dog who was rescued from a meat farm in South Korea, transported to the U.S. for adoption, and has been making progress — slow as it sometimes seems — in becoming social, and trusting, and having the kind of life a dog deserves.

And to let you know that there won’t be any new reports on ohmidog! for a bit.

I dropped Jinjja off Sunday at the home of the Kirkeengs. It was his second visit there, and during both he seemed to enjoy everything about it — from the spacious fenced back yard to the pack he’ll be sharing it with: a small and playful dog named Luigi, and Olivia, a lab mix.

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He immediately hit if off with Darla, who is director of development for the Forsyth Humane Society, and with her daughter Katie, who I best remember as the person inside the humane society’s mascot’s suit during various fund raising events.

I’d already informed Darla’s husband, Eric, that Jinjja would be slower to warm up to him, as he’s skittish around men he hasn’t gotten to know.

DSC06479But, all in all, the situation — disregarding the medical stuff — couldn’t be more ideal. The yard seems pretty escape proof, and Jinjja has shown a tendency to get free, take off, and resist efforts — even with treats involved — to recapture him.

It will be interesting to hear how Jinjja handles being one of three dogs in a house. Upon entering it, his first inclination was to make his mark. It’s something he never felt much need to do inside my home, but did when he visited the home of my neighbor and her five dogs.

The Kirkeengs had three dogs, but recently lost one of them, Oreo. The other two seemed happy to welcome a new member.

As an added bonus, Darla has arranged for the humane society’s trainer to drop by from time to time to work with her dogs and Jinjja.

DSC06460And Jinjja does still need some work, especially in learning to come when he is called — something he’ll do inside. Outside, asking him to come often has the opposite effect.

We’d managed to complete one class together at the Winston-Salem Dog Training Club (during which he performed magnificently) before I started ailing in April.

The progress he has made, the progress he still needs to make, the need for him to get more exercise than my small courtyard provides, and the lengthy recovery period I’m facing made figuring what to do with him during all this a huge stress producer.

I’m told that, after getting out of the hospital, I shouldn’t lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for six weeks, which also means I shouldn’t be tugged by a dog who sees a squirrel and can’t help but lunge in that direction.

I contemplated returning him, for his own good, to the Watauga Humane Society, where I adopted him after his arrival from Korea. But then I heard from Darla. I knew she was a friend, but how good a friend she turned out to be left me kind of stunned. And highly relieved.

Now I suppose we should get back, just briefly, to my right kidney. (I plan to keep the left one). All of it will be removed, as well as a hunk of my renal artery, as the mass appears to have made inroads up into it.

After that, what they’ve removed will be tested, allowing them to make a definitive diagnosis and have a better idea where all this is going.

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I apologize for the details.

Ironically, it was just last week that I complained about surgical details, scar photos and graphic health complaints of people I don’t really know taking up so much of my Facebook feed, and all those other annoying Facebook posts I get tired of. Let’s just say I was a little cranky.

I promise to try and keep you informed — while sparing you any gross details — both here and on my Facebook page.

Meanwhile, thanks to the Kirkeengs. Thanks to my brother, Ted, who I’m sure I’ve only just begun imposing on. And thanks to my readers — be they old friends, new friends, Facebook friends, or strangers.

Remembering another dog, cat and rat

Last week’s ohmidog! post on the tightly bonded dog, cat and rat who managed to get adopted together from a Wisconsin shelter reminded me of another dog, cat and rat team.

These three — Booger the dog, Kitty the cat, and Mousey the rat — belonged to Greg Pike, who, eight years ago, was showing them off for crowds on State Street in Santa Barbara.

He’d come up with the act years earlier in Colorado when Booger, just a pup, was given to him. Not long after that he took in Kitty — part of a litter found under a house. (Mousey’s role was played by several different rats over the years, but not because anything bad happened.)

Together they traveled the country giving street performances, and spreading the message “if these three can get along so peacefully, why not humans?”

Booger, a Rottweiler-Lab mix, died in 2012 at age 13 from kidney and liver failure — but not before becoming, along with his co-stars, some of the most often viewed animals on YouTube.