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Tag: tennessee

Mystery rescuer of dog was a firefighter

WSMV Channel 4

A man rushed into a burning home in Tennessee to save a dog, then disappeared as quickly and mysteriously as he arrived.

The only clue to his identity was a remark he uttered before going into the house — “I do this for a living,” he told a neighbor.

The man arrived before firefighters did at the home in White House, about 20 miles north of Nashville, and was gone before they got there.

“This guy in a gray Mustang pulls up, says ‘I do this for a living,’ and he runs in and he comes out about two minutes later with this beautiful dog in his arms, and it was incredible to see,” Jimmy Nichols, who shot the video on his cell phone, told WSMV in Nashville.

“He got in his car and he left; it was so weird, he just took off,” said Nichols. “Literally 30 seconds after that guy got out, that roof collapsed.”

“He’s got the love and respect of this whole community,” Nichols said.

Not until later was it learned that the man was a Nashville firefighter who lived nearby and noticed the smoke and flames.

Tim Tawater, a 20-year veteran of the Nashville Fire Department, said he was concerned someone might be in the house. He entered the home and found no people, but when he heard barking he looked again and found the dog.

Tawater threw a blanket over the head of Sampson, Brandon and April Gourley’s one-year-old Bouvier, and carried him outside.

“Around here dogs are family,” Tawater told News Channel 5 in Nashville.

Tawater said, even though he was out of his jurisdiction, he was just doing his job.

“To me the heroes are the volunteers who show up to put the fire out and don’t get paid to do it,” he said.

Tawater said the family, on vacation when the fire broke out, has thanked him for his actions.

The Gourley family’s three cats were also inside the home. Two were found alive, but one is still unaccounted for.

The rescued dog was being cared for by neighbors until the family returned from vacation.

Shelter break-ins leave four dogs dead

Animal shelter breaks ins — one in Tennessee and another in California — have left four dogs dead and more than a dozen missing.

Three dogs were found dead Sunday – two in a bloodied Jurupa Valley animal shelter, and one on the side of the road – after an apparent break-in at the facility, according to the Riverside County Department of Animal Services.

And an East Tennessee animal shelter became the scene of a dogfight last week when a burglar broke in and placed a pit bull and a boxer, both up for adoption, in the same cage.

Shelter staff believe the two normally docile dogs were provoked into fighting by whoever broke in.

The boxer’s injuries were so severe that, after staff discovered him the next morning, he had to be put down.

Sharon Cravens, shelter president at Best Friends Sanctuary in Jamestown, said she believes someone hopped a fence, then unlocked the cage of a pit bull named Sam and placed him in a pen four cages away with a boxer named Bucky.

Volunteers left the shelter around 7 p.m. Thursday. When they returned Friday morning they find both dogs in the same kennel, covered in blood.

“It’s just sad to see that someone would be that evil and put two dogs to watch it for a show, you know, to put them through that,” Cravens told WBIR.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the Jamestown Police Department at 931-879-5871.

Over the weekend, in Riverside County, California, shelter staff arrived to work Sunday morning to find a bloody scene.

“We found blood spatter everywhere,” animal control spokemsan John Welsh said. “There were some blood markings that were about 3 feet off the ground. We don’t know exactly what caused that, but we don’t suspect that an animal jumped into the air and caused that blood spatter.”

Two dogs were found dead of undetermined causes. They were described as a 5-year-old Chihuahua who had been recently brought to the shelter and a 6-year-old Yorkshire terrier mix that was brought in the previous night.

A necropsy was expected to determine the cause of their deaths.

About a mile from the shelter, the body of a third dog was located. It was described as an adult German shepherd, and Welsh said dog tags showed it had been from the Jurupa Valley shelter.

At least a dozen other dogs remained missing as of Sunday afternoon.

Several cut locks were placed in a pile inside the shelter, and investigators believe it had been broken into between Saturday night and Sunday morning, KTLA reported.

Some 22 kennels were “essentially busted open, probably with bolt cutters,” Welsh said.

Shelter employees were working with Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigators and reviewing surveillance footage.

Live dog found in county shelter’s freezer

A county animal shelter in Tennessee was shut down and an investigation is underway after a dog was found alive in a freezer used to store the carcasses of dogs the shelter puts down.

The Lauderdale County shelter is located in Ripley, about 53 miles northeast of Memphis.

asherA citizen found the dog, named Asher, inside the freezer and videotaped her discovery, according to

The shelter reopened today after being closed Tuesday pending an internal probe, and the sheriff’s department is also investigating.

The woman entered the freezer looking for another dog and saw Asher.

He was barely moving and his eyes were open. She videotaped the scene, then took the dog to a veterinarian, where he was administered IV fluids. His condition is improving. said sources told them that lab tests on the dog showed no evidence of the drug the county uses to euthanize dogs in his blood, suggesting that he was put into the freezer alive and left to die.

One shelter employee has reportedly been suspended.

The county animal control office had previously been criticized for shooting dogs and illegally putting dogs in a gas chamber.

In the wake of the incident, Lauderdale County Mayor Maurice Gaines has proposed cameras be installed to monitor employees at the shelter. The proposal will be discussed at the April 13 meeting of the County Commission.

Fatcat finally catches some breaks


For eight years, Fatcat led a life that was the opposite of her name — in many ways.

For starters, she wasn’t a cat.

And, as bulldogs go, she wasn’t too awfully fat.

And, from all appearances, she definitely did not enjoy the kind of  lifestyle the term Fatcat name might connote — she wasn’t idly resting in the lap of luxury. Far from it.

Instead, in the eight years after she was stolen as a puppy from the backyard of a home in Memphis, it’s believed she was used to produce puppies, by a less than ethical breeder who dumped her once she got too old.

fatcatasapupThe English bulldog was stolen in 2006 from the yard of LaShena Harris. She searched high and low for the dog, and though Fatcat had been microchipped, she was never found.

Until two weeks ago, when she was picked up as a stray and dropped off at a shelter in Arkansas.

There — at  the West Memphis Animal Shelter — she was scanned for a microchip, and Harris was tracked down, even though she’d long since moved to the Phoenix area.

Along with the good news, Harris received some bad news. Fatcat was in sad shape due to the years she spent as a baby-making machine —  and getting her to Phoenix was going to be a problem.

Fatcat was too big to ride in the cabin of a plane, and between her health problems and her breed — it’s risky to transport short-snouted dogs in a plane’s cargo hold — flying her home wasn’t going to work. Harris, a working single mother, wasn’t sure she could take time off to make the drive.

“I went from the highest high to the lowest low,” she said. Putting Fatcat down was discussed, but before consenting Harris asked the shelter for an extra 24 hours to make the decision.

When she called back the next day to authorize the shelter to euthanize Fatcat, the director of the shelter stopped her short, and offered a suggestion.

A friend of the shelter director who worked with a local rescue group was moving to Scottsdale, and offered to drive Fatcat there.

Harris and Fatcat were reunited last Thursday in a motel parking lot, and between media coverage of the reunion and a campaign, donations have poured in — about $6,500 so far — to help pay for Fatcat’s mounting medical bills.

“I am overwhelmed. It is just amazing. People don’t even know me and they are helping me out,” Harris, 34, of Glendale, said. “I’ve even gotten e-mails from the (United Kingdom). … I just don’t know what to say.”

On Monday, Fatcat was checked out by a local veterinarian who found she has heartworms, dental problems and masses around her vulva and anus that need to be removed, according to

Harris launched the GoFundMe page with a $5,000 goal, and says she plans to donate any surplus to the shelter in Arkansas.

“How do you show gratitude to someone you’ve never met?” Harris wrote on her page. “Even if I don’t have Fatcat home for as long (in terms of her entire lifespan), I feel like the luckiest person in the world right now. I’m just glad she’s finally home.”

(Top photo: Patrick Breen / The Arizona Republic; bottom photo, Fatcat as a puppy, from LaShena Harris’ GoFundMe page)

ER, dog adopted by sheriff’s office, dies


It was more than 10 years ago that a stray dog showed up in the emergency room of a hospital in Hamblen County, Tennessee.

The sheriff’s office in Morristown took the lab mix in, named him ER, and in 2002 assigned him the rank of captain.

He never sniffed out drugs, or chased criminals, but ER became a goodwill ambassador, roaming the halls of the county justice center.

“He made his rounds to the courthouse and he made his rounds out through the yard here with inmates accompanying him and lot of people don’t understand about this, but ER was not just a dog. He was the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department mascot,” Sheriff Esco Jarnagin told WBIR.

er1ER wore a deputy’s badge on his collar and, except for service animals, was the only dog allowed inside the building.

Last week, a decade after he wandered into the emergency room of Morristown-Hamblen Hospital, ER passed away.

A crowd came out to pay their respects to ER at his funeral, and he was buried in front of the justice center.

(Photos: Hamblen county Sheriff’s Office)

Fairy tails: A Cinderella story

Check out Cinderella: Not too long ago she was one of numerous dogs living lives of neglect with an animal hoarder in Tennessee. Tonight, she’s going to be the belle of a ball in New York City.

Specifically, it’s the ASPCA’s Annual Bergh Ball, the theme of which is “Fairy Tails,” which takes place at the Plaza Hotel. The ball draws a crowd of animal lovers, including community leaders and celebrities, who come to dine and dance in support of the ASPCA’s mission: “To provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.”

Rescue by the ASPCA from a hoarding situation, Cinderella, now about 4 years old, went on to be lodged in a New York City shelter before being adopted by a New York City resident. She now lives in a penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park, which she visits every day.

Yesterday, Cinderella received the royal treatment at the Ricardo Rojas Salon in preparation for tonight’s big event.

(Photos: Courtesy of the ASCPA)

Live nude kudzu, and other thoughts


Sweeping back through the south, we’ve crossed Tennessee and made it to North Carolina, this time without the benefit of what, back in the summer, was our favorite form of highway entertainment — looking for dogs in the kudzu.

The Vine That Ate the South is naked now, having lost its leaves for winter, leaving behind only long strands of clumped-together, spindly, bare vines. I can no longer see big green animals in the leaves, only stick figures, spider webs, spaghetti and road maps.

The kudzu will be back, though, in spring — and ready to spread as quickly as “adult superstores” have through Tennessee. There are a lot of “adult superstores” in the Volunteer State. Going down I-40, it seems like every other billboard is either touting an “adult superstore” or the fact that Jesus Saves.

After crossing the Mississippi River, we stopped outside of Memphis for a quick visit with my son, checking into a Best Western, where I had reserved a room online, after seeing it touted itself as dog-friendly.

Not until I arrived did I see that there were pet fees, according to a posting at the front desk  – $15 for a dog between 5 and 20 pounds, $25 for dogs 20 to 40 pounds, and $35 for dogs 40 pounds and up.

I immediately squawked — I’ve become a bit more of a squawker in recent months – pointing out that I’d be paying almost as much for the dog as for me.

“How much does your dog weigh?” asked the desk clerk.

I thought about lying, but, having seen too many God billboards, couldn’t. Over 100 pounds, I said, adding that he’s much better behaved than a lot of 10 pound dogs, and pointing out that the whole charging by weight concept was ludicrous.

The desk clerk made a face like he’d swallowed something yukky and excused himself. Ten minutes later he was back, with a room assignment and news that they’d only charge me $25 for the dog.

Too tired to have any principles, and wanting to get off the road on New Year’s Eve, I accepted the discount and took the room. Then I seethed about the whole thing — especially the weight part — for a couple more hours.

Charging fees for dogs is not dog-friendly; its dog-greedy. I wonder how much damage dogs do to motel rooms across America, compared to that done by people.

Rather than pet fees, maybe motels should be looking at rock star fees — for they, if we’re going to stereotype, are famous for trashing rooms. Why not a fraternity boy fee? A student on spring break fee? A crying baby fee? A loud sex fee?

Only twice in our travels have we experienced loud sex — both times from the room next door. Ace and I did the only thing we could. We tilted our heads and looked at the wall the sounds were coming from, then turned up the TV.

This particular Best Western — where we neither experienced loud sex nor managed to stay awake until midnight — had another sign at the front desk that bothered me: “No Visitors.”

Is that constitutional? Even prisons allow visitors.

Depite all the control being exercised in motels, or at least the one we stayed at, Tennessee, as a state, seems less successful at reigning in kudzu, or adult superstores. (Not that I have anything against adult superstores; it’s a free country, except at the particular Best Western we stayed in.)

As we passed through Tennessee, I stopped at several huge thickets of kudzu (and at no adult superstores, though I was wondering what exactly made them “super”).

I searched the bare vines for dog shapes, which some some of you may recall became a bit of an obsession for me over the summer, but I could find none.

Instead, all I could see in the withered and weepy vines were hunched over old witches, overworked peasants and evil motel desk clerks who charged exorbitant pet fees.