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At last, Ace gets some beach time

After two and a half months on the road, Ace and I finally landed on a beach. We love the mountains. We love the desert. But, all in all, there’s no place we’d rather land than at the beach.

No other place — and I’m just speaking for myself now — is, at once, so stimulating and soothing. Give us the sound of pounding surf, the sight of gliding pelicans and the smell of salt water and, of course, access to some air conditioning, and we are happy souls. All my senses, and perhaps even my brain, seem to to work better at the beach.

And this wasn’t just any beach. This was — in what was perhaps my biggest freeloading coup to date – a gated beach community, part-time home to North Carolina’s rich and famous, good old boys like Andy Griffith and not-so-good, not- so-old ones like John Edwards.

Figure 8 Island near Wilmington is a private paradise – not accessible to the beach-going hordes, private enough that celebrities (usually) find solace there, and dotted with mansions that seem to think they’re big enough to defy hurricanes.

Exclusive is what it is — the sort of place I’d be prone to make fun of, unless of course, I was invited in.

Once Ace and I were, we didn’t want to leave.

Ever.

I’d made a point to time our continuing travels so that we’d be able to take advantage of an invitation to visit my former University of North Carolina classmates Steve and Louise Coggins, year-round residents of the island who were holding a mini-reunion for some college friends, most of whom I hadn’t laid eyes on in — as someone felt it necessary to point out — 35 years.

Steve, a lawyer, and Louise, a psychotherapist, are hard core dog lovers, and hard core people lovers as well. Earl, their Cavalier King Charles spaniel, is the latest in a long line of rescues. If rescuing dogs weren’t enough, Steve has also hauled some humans out of the ocean, and I’m guessing Louise, in her job, has pulled a few humans back from the riptides of life they were caught in as well.

They, and the other old friends I reconnected with, seem to remain just about as wacky as they were in college — Louise, who once tracked down Paul Newman on the island and talked him into posing for a picture, in particular. They seem to remain — despite all you hear about the vanishing idealism of my greying generation — just as idealistic and committed as they were then, too. Maybe even more so. If there’s a liberal cause, or a Democratic candidate, you can probably find its, his or her bumper sticker on the back of Louise’s car. (“Who would Jesus execute?” was my favorite.) And, beyond lip service, both she and her husband seem still up for a fight when it comes to what they think is right.

That, to me, was even more refreshing than getting slapped and tickled by a cold ocean wave, though I must report that the ocean is not cold at all. It’s the warmest I’ve ever felt it. (This continues to be the summer I came to believe in global warming.)

Ace and Earl hit it off immediately — Earl being a low key little dog who likes to sit in a lap, or other comfortable spot, and observe the humans, often with a quizzical stare that makes you think he’s still trying to figure out the species.

Ace — though he’s not big on swimming in the ocean, prefering to wade, was in his element, too.

Meaning he had humans with whom to bond — there’s nothing he likes better than having lots of people around to lean on, lay atop and hold hands with.

He seems most content when among multiple friends, kind of like Steve and Louise. Their beach house — rebuilt after Hurricane Fran claimed their first — seems to have a steady stream of visitors coming and going. If it were a bed and breakfast, it would be doing a thriving business. I think there are long stretches between the times only they and Earl are there.

I hung around for two days, evening out my one-sided driving tan and pondering how I might extend my stay. I offered to become Steve and Louise’s live- in gardener — especially appropriate because, at their wedding, I, having gone attired in blue jeans, was mistaken for a gardener. I considered altering the dates of my visitor’s permit, or stowing away on the island, sleeping on the decks of unoccupied mansions during the night, frolicking in the surf by day.

But finally, and with great effort, I tore myself away.

Ace was even harder to tear away. For the first time on this trip, he didn’t come when I called him to jump in the car. Instead he walked up to the front door of the beach house and sat down — not the momentary, ready-when-you-are-sit, but that determined, try-and-budge-me sit dogs do.

But after taking in two days of good friends, good food, good sun, good surf, and a breezy oceanfront porch swing nap that — until Ace came over and started licking my hand — was perhaps the most restful nap ever in my entire history of napping, we forced ourselves back in the hot old car and headed north, headed in search of another piece of my past.

That story is coming soon. Suffice to say that — unlike my college friends, and their principles — it didn’t hold up so well.

Off base: Fort Knox won’t help return dog

A Kentucky mother of seven wants to gets something more precious than gold back – her dog — but Fort Knox is standing in the way.

Kim Church, of Radcliff, wants the army base to return her family’s 2-year-old Weimaraner, Riley, who was impounded in mid-June after either wandering onto, or being taken to, the secure base.

Fort Knox’s stray animal facility sold the dog to a new owner 11 days after she was picked up by military police, according to the Press-Enterprise, in Hardin County, Kentucky.

The dog disappeared from the family’s yard. Her tags — but not her pink collar — were found in the yard.

Church said she searched all over town for Riley, called city and county pounds and put an ad on Craigslist. A caller notified her that she saw a dog that looked like Riley at the Fort Knox PX, where the post was hosting a pet adoption fair.

The post’s animal shelter is not open to the public –  like much else at Fort Knox. Instead, it adopts out animals through PetFinder.com and adoption fairs.

Church said she called the facility, but post officials cited HIPAA — the same federal law which prevents hospitals from disclosing patient information – and refused to shed any light on Riley’s whereabouts.

A spokeswoman told the newspaper that a Weimeraner was found by military police and was taken to the pound, bu twould not release any information about the new adoptive owner.

Church filed a report with Radcliff police, claiming her dog was stolen. She’s launched a Facebook page to rally support for her cause and posted an updated advertisement on Craigslist, explaining the details of Riley’s disappearance and subsequent adoption.

“The vet told me I’d have to take this to the Pentagon,” Church said. “If that’s what it takes. …”

(An update on this story can be found here.)

Follow the bouncing celebrity guard dog

floydYou might want to have your pencils and celebrity scorecards handy for this one:

“West Wing” actress NiCole Robinson is defending the reputation of her dog Floyd, a German shepherd who was accused of attacking a woman on a private jet, back when he belonged to Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony.

Lopez and Anthony purchased Floyd for $39,000 in 2005 from a South Carolina breeder and trainer of security dogs.

In 2006, a flight attendant named Lisa Wilson claimed Floyd attacked her on a private jet, and filed a lawsuit in federal court in Brooklyn.1024-jennifer-lopez8marcanthony

Not too long after that, Lopez and Anthony returned to the dog to the breeder. Whether they got a refund, I do not know.

In 2007, Robinson and her husband, political consultant Craig Snyder, bought Floyd from the same  K-9 security outfit in South Carolina, after a robbery scare in their Manhattan apartment. They paid $35,000 for him.

Upon reading that, in connection with the Lopez lawsuit, an animal behavior expert had branded Floyd a menace, Robinson apparently felt the need to speak out.

nrobinson“He’s the biggest, sweetest baby,” Robinson, who played Margaret Hooper on The West Wing,  told the New York Daily News. “I will go to court to defend Floyd’s honor.”

While Floyd growls when strangers approach family members, Robinson’s husband said the dog — whose full name is Floyd vom Meierhof — allows the couple’s 4-year-old daughter to ride on his back. “He’s under very strict rules of engagement,” Snyder said.

“You can get security dogs for half or one-third the price, but to me those dogs would pose a risk to my family,” he said. “Cheaper dogs are not trained to distinguish between a real threat and a kid who pulls their tail. The dog is 100% peace of mind.”

Robinson and Snyder were informed of Floyd’s past – including the alleged incident on the plane – when they made the purchase.

My dog poop, your trash. Is there a problem?

Dog-Poo-Trash-Can

 
Dear Abby tackled one of the finer points of dog poop etiquette yesterday, but I’m going to have to disagree with her advice on this one.

“My wife and I were walking our terriers one evening when one had to answer nature’s call,” a reader wrote. “Being responsible dog owners, I picked up the ‘deposit’ with a bag we carry for such occasions.

“It was garbage pickup day and the neighbors’ trash cans were out at the curb, so at the next house I placed the bag in the trash can. My wife, family and co-workers all think this was not appropriate — that I should have carried it home and disposed of it in our trash can.

“Abby, we were 15 minutes from home, but given the choice, I would rather not carry that bag and figured a garbage bin is a garbage bin. I’ll abide by your answer and admit I was wrong if you say so.”

It was signed “Pooped Out in North Carolina.”

Abby’s response: “As long as the bag was securely sealed, I don’t think adding it to someone’s trash bin was a social no-no.”

Had he written Dear ohmidog! we would have told him this — after first asking, “How can you be in front of a neighbor’s house and 15 minutes from home?”

Since it was garbage day, and the event occured at night, that means the poop bag would remain in the neighbor’s trash bin for several days (a week in my Baltimore neighborhood), until the next collection. While a person’s trash may no longer be their property, their bin is, and thus you have no right to put your dog’s poop in it — no matter how securely sealed it may be.

While there are some neighbors that might be cool about this, myself included, it’s bad form, and gives the anti-dog crowd something to complain about. If there are no public trash receptacles available — or even a community dumpster — pack your poop all the way home.

That’s my take. What’s your’s?

(Photo from the flickr page of left-hand)

Vick makes first anti-dogfighting appearance

Michael Vick, in the first of what he hopes will be dozens of appearances around the country to urge low-income youths to avoid dogfighting, spoke to a small gathering  in Atlanta yesterday — but most press was banned from the event.

Vick’s visit to a suburban Atlanta community center was largely off limits — both to the news media and most members of the neighborhood it was supposed to be helping. Only 55 people and a crew from “60 Minutes” were allowed to attend, the Associated Press reported.

An Associated Press reporter, videographer and photographer were among the media banished from the property by police. Most people who live in the largely black neighborhood southeast of Atlanta were unaware of Vick’s appearance.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said the group wants to be open and reach as many people as possible with its anti-dogfighting message, but Vick’s handlers insisted on tight controls on the meeting.

“We don’t want this to be a flash in the pan,” Pacelle said. “We are committed to transparency over the long run and having Michael involved in many community-based events to speak about the issue. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but he wants the opportunity in a controlled setting to make his first statement on the issue. But I’m sure he’s going to be speaking out more based on what he had to say today.”

“We’re giving him an opportunity to plug into our community-based forums,” Pacelle said. “But he obviously has his own set of individuals who are working with him and want to present things in the way they want.”

Read more »

Now parents can get drug-sniffing dogs

Just in time for school — and just a little bit creepy  — a New Jersey company has announced what it says is the first enterprise of its kind: making drug-sniffing dogs available to parents concerned their children might be using drugs.

Launching to coincide with the back-to-school season, Sniff Dogs, LLC offers a confidential drug detection service — police aren’t involved at all – in which dogs specially trained to locate drugs discreetly sniff out Junior’s room or workplace.

The company’s website explains how it works.

“You set up an appointment with Sniff Dogs when you’re going to be home by yourself. A search performed while the party-of-concern is not present is a critical success factor — as not only does it reduce conflict and anxiety, it also helps to retain discretion, should a subsequent search be warranted.”

The website says the dog doesn’t actually locate the drugs, or specify what type, but just gives a sign that they are present.

It’s up to parents to ransack Junior’s room after that.

Founded by a Union County woman, Sniff Dogs uses dogs trained to locate marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methadone, xanax and ecstasy –- “as a private service with no law enforcement or government affiliation.”

In a press release, the company says the discovery of drugs can lead to a “fact-based conversation with their loved ones regarding drug use, allowing for early intervention.”

Sniff Dogs was founded by a Summit, N.J. mother, who thought other means of drug detection were “extremely limited and universally intrusive,” and that drug-sniffing dogs “fosters a more supportive and family-friendly solution for intervention.

Branches in Ohio and New Jersey have already been established and additional Sniff Dogs operations will be launching soon, the press release says.