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Tag: teaching

Stumped: How I turned my dog into a decorative lawn ornament

stump 006

It has been a year now since Ace and I moved into a little house in Bethania, North Carolina, and we’ve made a home improvement or two – even though we just rent.

One issue I hadn’t figured out though was what to do with the big tree stump in the front yard – which many might view as an eyesore.

Two years ago the whole property was an eyesore. The house was heavily damaged by a fire – a fire that, I’m told, killed two or three of the dogs that lived with the person who rented it then.

The little white house on Main Street sat vacant – amid a neighborhood of historic, pre-Revolutionary, mostly meticulously kept homes in Bethania, a community settled by Moravians in 1759.

It was purchased and renovated by the man who’s now my landlord, and since I moved in – and without spending too much of my own money – I’ve tried to make some little improvements here and there to the grounds.

As for the tree stump, I contemplated hollowing out the center and turning it into a decorative planter, but that would be a lot of work.

I thought about putting a plaque across it, the sort that a lot of the truly historic homes in town have. Mine’s just 1940s vintage, though.

I considered carving a Moravian star – sort of the town symbol – on the top of the stump. But that would be a lot of work, too.

For a good long while, I was stumped. Then it came to me. Rather than cover it up, I should use the big ol’ stump as a focal point – as the foundation, or pedestal, if you will,  for some artwork.

And that’s how my dog became a decorative lawn ornament.

You know those big mansions you sometimes see – the ones with big cement lions on either side of the driveway? I’m not sure what message those big cement lions are supposed to send – other than “Yes, I’m rich enough to afford big cement lions.” Or maybe, “Enter at your own risk; this area patrolled by big cement lions.”

Having no big  cement lions myself, and having a pedestal on only one side of my driveway, I decided upon a variation of that theme, and called upon my big ol’ dog.

It took only a day to teach him, with help from treats, to “Get on the stump,” and then sit still, and then stay there when I walk away.

(Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks, and even learn some your old self.)

Now, I can sit up on the front porch and command him to get on the stump, and then watch as people in cars whizzing past my otherwise nondescript house do double takes and point.

(Just as a reminder the speed limit is 35 in front of my house.)

Being a living lawn ornament, and given he has come to expect some treatage for getting on the stump, he’s not entirely motionless. If you watch carefully you can see the flow of drool that often cascades from his mouth while he’s up there, knowing that, in exchange for his toil, there’s a treat in his near future.

He’ll sit there for 10 minutes or more, though I usually don’t make him stay that long.

Of all the yard improvements I’ve made – flower boxes and flower beds and distributing pine needles to cover up the weeds on the front bank that’s too steep for me to mow – I think the Ace lawn ornament is by far my biggest achievement.

He is after all, the finest work of art I own, and I like to think – whether he’s up on his tree stump pedestal or just hanging out in the yard – he makes the bucolic little town of Bethania even more beautiful.

(Photo and video by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

 

First graders bid their mascot goodbye

murryA first grade class in Florida has bid farewell to Murry, the fluffy white dog who served as their class mascot. 

For 10 years, Murry, who belongs to teacher Karen McGehee, had served as mascot of her classes at Astoria Park Elementary School in Tallahassee.

Adopted from the Tallahassee animal shelter, Murry only visited the class a few times a year, but his picture was displayed prominently in the classroom, where McGehee would warn misbehaving students, ”Remember, Murry is watching,” or “I don’t think Murry would like that, do you?”

She stamped his doggy image on the children’s especially good papers. His face was on the cover of her students’ sticker books. And he was the subject of a book, written by the class, called “Our Class Pet,” according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

“I think all kids, or at least most kids, love animals, especially dogs,” said Karen Hollenbeck, whose four children all passed through McGehee’s class and bonded with Murry. ”They accept you as you are — they ask no questions and give no criticisms.”

When Murry died, in December, ”we all cried,” said McGehee, who’d prepared for the dog’s demise.

She’d talked with  a grief counselor who provided tiny heart-shaped pillows with paw prints on them, enough for every child when she told them of Murry’s death. Murry’s vet donated dog-angel pins for each child in the class, as well as cards bearing Murry’s paw print and locks of his white hair.

McGehee also wrote a personal letter to parents about losing Murry and sent her students home with handouts on children and pet loss that Mezzina had given her. Because Murry had been adopted from the animal shelter, McGehee set up a box for donations for animals at the Tallahassee shelter — toys, treats, old towels and blankets.

McGehee, who is nearing retirement, isn’t sure if she’ll get another mascot for her classes.

“Murry was one of a kind,” she said. “He was special,”

Owner saves her dog from dissection

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At least two stolen pet dogs were found in an operating room used for dissections at the medical school of South America’s oldest university.

Carmen Valverde’s dog Tomas was stolen by two men while she was walking in the working-class Brena district of Lima, and a friend who works at the University of San Marcos spotted him by chance in a surgery room where dogs are dissected.

Valverde donned a lab coat and snuck into the hospital to rescue Tomas. Video her friend shot a week ago, aired on local television, shows him sedated, splayed, and strapped to a stainless steel table.

After local newspapers published the story, other people missing dogs rushed to the hospital’s door and one owner found her dog Chico.

“The University of San Marcos still hasn’t apologized for what it has done,” Valverde told Reuters  Thursday. According to the article, The University of San Marcos does not have access to enough human cadavers for its students, so they sometimes cut open dogs instead.

Ricardo Rubios, dean of the medical school, acknowledged that stolen dogs had wound up in the surgery room, but said the school only uses strays for classes.

“I assure you we would have returned the dog. All our experimental surgeries are done to dogs that don’t have owners,” Rubios told Reuters.

Romila Briones, a member of ASPPA, a Peruvian animal rights group, said the law does not protect strays. “In Europe, they don’t kill animals for education, they use dummies. Unfortunately, animals are just property in the eyes of the law here, like furniture,” Briones said.

Dogs, cats still commonly used in college labs

Despite easily available alternatives, more than half of American colleges and universities are using live and dead dogs and cats for teaching and training purposes — including animals that were once pets, according to a new report.

The report, “Dying to Learn: Exposing the Supply of Dogs and Cats to Higher Education,” is the result of a two-year investigation by the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS). The report was released today by Animalearn, the education division of AAVS.

You can download the full report, learn how to take action, and explore alternatives to animal dissection at the new AAVS website, dyingtolearn.org.

The report says 52 percent of the colleges and universities covered in the study still used dogs and cats to teach and train students in life science, veterinary, and medical education.

According to the report, former pets are also ending up in the mix — either obtained by universities directly from shelters, or sold to universities by an animal dealer. With more pets ending up in shelters due to the economic downturn, the likelihood of that happening is growing.

“The numbers of pets being relinquished to shelters is drastically increasing. This puts an ever increasing number of former pets at risk of ending up in labs,” said Animalearn Director Laura Ducceschi.

The report traces the route that sent dogs like Cruella, a shepherd-mix from Michigan to end up being used in a college laboratory. Once someone’s pet, she was purchased from a shelter and sold to a university. The dogs and cats are used for live surgeries and other procedures.

The reported looked at animal acquisition procedures at 92 public colleges and universities in the U.S.

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