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Tag: texas

Bear dogs once roamed Texas, or, why it’s important to check that miscellany drawer


Every home has at least one — that drawer in which you place things that have no assigned place: rubber bands, soy sauce packets, take-out menus, the owner’s manual to that extinct VHS player you bought in the 1980s.

Such drawers become a crypt for things you mostly didn’t need to keep in the first place, but often there are some forgotten treasure mixed in with them.

The importance of revisiting the miscellany drawer from time to time is displayed in this story — about a researcher at the Field Museum in Chicago, new on the job, whose opening of a drawer of miscellaneous and not fully identified carnivore fossils led to the establishment of not just one new genus, but two and, in doing so, a better understanding of the evolution of dogs and other mammals.

“I had just started at the Field, and I was getting the lay of the land, exploring our collections,” Susumu Tomiya said. “In one room of type specimens, the fossils used as a standard to describe their species, I stumbled across something that looked unusual.

“There were beautiful jaws of a small carnivore, but the genus the specimen had been assigned to didn’t seem to fit some of the features on the teeth. It made me suspect that it belonged to a very different group of carnivores.”

That specimen, and a similar one Tomiya came across, had both been found 30 years ago in southwest Texas.

beardog-jawBoth had been labeled as belonging to a genus called Miacis, but Tomiya’s suspicions — based on the apparent sharpness of their teeth — turned out to be right.

The findings were revealed last week in a paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Tomiya and his coauthor used a computed tomography (CT) scanner to create 3D visualizations, and determined the specimens were those of amphicyonids, and the oldest known members of that family, which went extinct 2 million years ago.

Amphicyonids, commonly called bear dogs, are believed to be the ancestors of both bears and dogs.

“Ever since amphicyonids were given their common name, they have been overshadowed by the bear and dog families, which are more widespread, better known today, and less extinct! Our study provides a renewed sense of identity to a group that left their own mark during their 38-million-year history,” Tseng said.

Amphicyonids ranged from the size of a Chihuahua to the size of a brown bear.

They tended to get larger throughout their evolutionary history, which might have contributed to their extinction.

(At top, artist’s reconstruction of a 38 million year old amphicyonid, by Monika Jurik; lower photo, the jawbone of an amphicyonid; both provided by The Field Museum)

One last snowfall for Spunky

Spunky always loved the snow.

But when the German shepherd-husky-chow mix and his owner moved from Wisconsin to Texas in 2008 that — with flakes being rare in Austin — became a thing of the past.

Ashley Niels, who works as a behavior and enrichment specialist at the Austin Animal Center, says she promised Spunky, who she’d adopted in Wisconsin, that he’d see snow again someday.

When she learned earlier this month that the 12-year-old dog was dying, and made the appointment for him to be put down, she regretted that promise would go unfulfilled.

ashleyandspunkyWhen she shared that regret with friends at the animal center, they got together to make it happen.

They rented a snow machine and brought to her home.

Last week, Spunky got his snow.

Niels sat in her front yard with Spunky and experienced one last snow storm — albeit an artificial one. He didn’t frolic in it, like he used to, but Niels thinks he enjoyed it.

“To be honest, he was like ‘I’m not really sure what this is.’ It wasn’t cold snow. I think he could see how excited I was, so he thought it was pretty cool,” Niels told Inside Edition Tuesday night.

“I think he felt all the love we were trying to show him.”

Spunky’s appointment with the vet the next day was canceled, and Niels hasn’t rescheduled it yet.

“As long as he’s happy, I don’t really want to take that from him,” she said. “It makes me happy to be able to spend more time with him.”

She adopted him from a local shelter in Wisconsin when he was a puppy. They lived there for four years before moving to Austin.

austinanimalcenterAfter creating the snowstorm for Spunky, animal center staff brought the snow machine back to the shelter to let a few more dogs experience a snowfall.

As of late last week Spunky was still hanging in there, according to Ashley’s Facebook page, and she was doing her best to not think about his death and savor the time together they had left.

“I try not to think about it because he’s my boy,” she said. “I get to spend this extra-special time with him.”

(Photos: Courtesy of Ashley Niels and Austin Animal Center)

About 70 dogs die in Texas shelter fire


About 70 shelter dogs were killed in a fire at the Humane Society of Southeast Texas.

About 200 animals were being housed at the shelter and, according to various reports, anywhere between 67 and 74 of them died in the Tuesday night fire, all of them dogs.

Beaumont Fire Department Captain Brad Penisson told KHOU the fire was apparently sparked by malfunctioning dryer.


The Humane Society of Southeast Texas reported what happened early yesterday on its Facebook page.

“It is with heavy hearts that we must inform you of the great loss we suffered tonight. Earlier this evening our facility caught on fire. Though the fire and police department did everything in their power to save all of our animals a total of 67 dogs died in the fire.

humane1“There are no words to describe the pain we are feeling right now. Thank you to all of the staff, volunteers, veterinarians, and service men and women who came and assisted us tonight. We will be walking through the shelter in the morning to assess the damage and to make decisions on the best way to move forward.”

While foster homes have been found for the cats and the 11 dogs that survived, the society is taking names of those interested, and it is accepting donations to help in recovery efforts.

Donations of money can be made through The Humane Society of Southeast Texas website.

These scenes of the fire’s aftermath are from a Beaumont Enterprise photo gallery.

(Photos: At top, one of the surviving dogs; at center, the dryer where the fire is believed to have started; at bottom, two shelter staff members console each other; by Ryan Pelham / The Beaumont Enterprise)

100 rescue dogs survive truck accident

They might not admit it, but sometimes even rescuers need to be rescued.

A truck from the rescue and transport organization Tall Tails jackknifed on Interstate 70 in Colorado Thursday, but no one — including the 100 dogs aboard — was injured.

The organization was transporting the dogs from high-kill shelters in Texas to animal rescue centers in the Seattle area, where they have a better chance of being adopted.

The truck jackknifed and ran off the highway on snowy Vail Pass, but what could have been a tragedy turned out to have a pretty happy ending.

Between Eagle County Animal Shelter and Services springing into action, and an outpouring of help from volunteers, all the dogs were kept warm and fed and exercised until a new truck arrived to transport 84 of the dogs to the final destination.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The others were adopted during the unexpected layover in Eagle County.

After the accident, the dogs were taken to the Eagle Fairgrounds’ Eagle River Center where 150 volunteers came out to care for the animals during their 36-hour stay.

Many more donated food, towels, and toys.

“The response was unbelievable when we put up a brief Facebook post asking for folks to come help,” Daniel Ettinger, manager of Eagle County Animal Shelter and Services told KOMO News. “We actually had a line out the door of people that wanted to come walk or clean. It was just unbelievable.”

At least 14 of dogs were adopted while at the fairgrounds.

The rest safely finished the journey to Seattle in a heated horse trailer.

(Photo: Eagle County Animal Shelter and Services)

Pleeeeeeeze don’t leave me here …


Two days before Thanksgiving, a woman brought this dog to the Collin County Animal Shelter in McKinney, Texas, saying she’d found her on the street.

The woman later walked out, but not before the young pup wrapped her front paws tightly around her leg, as if to say, “No, please don’t leave me here.”

The gesture was captured in a photo.

It hasn’t gone as viral as those hugging death row dogs, but give it time. It’s one of those photos that says so much more than mere words ever could.

Given the kill shelter is full, the fearful dog’s outlook wasn’t too good when she arrived.

But the League of Animal Protectors (LAP), an animal rescue organization, has promised to pull the dog — said to be a Great Pyrenees/Australian shepherd mix — before her time at the shelter before her time runs out.

(She doesn’t have a name yet, but we’d suggest Corporal Clinger.)

LAP posted the photo on its Facebook page with a note saying the “sweet terrified” dog needed a “Thanksgiving miracle.”

The organization is trying to find her a foster home, and a forever home, as well — assuming she doesn’t get adopted while still at the county shelter.

For more information, contact LAP at lapdogteam@gmail.com, or Collin County Animal Services at animalshelter@collincountytx.gov. The shelter is closed today and over the weekend, but will reopen Monday.

(Photo: From LAP Facebook page)

After floods in Texas, a pit bull named Thor ended up in California; now he’s back home


A pit bull separated from his family when they evacuated during the summer floods in Texas miraculously surfaced in northern California in September.

And as of yesterday, Thor was back home — thanks to help from strangers who heard about his story.

Eddie Hurtado and his family evacuated their home in San Marcos during the floods in late May, planning to return for their three dogs.

Two were found shortly after they returned, but not Thor.

Somehow, he ended up more than 2,000 miles away.

A police officer picked Thor up in Crescent City after seeing him jump from the back of a pickup truck. The officer brought the dog to the local animal shelter, where he was checked for a microchip.

That confirmed the dog was Thor, but Hurtado didn’t have the money to bring him home.

“We’re having to replace all the furniture and all the appliances and right now we don’t have any extra cash to try to get him down here,” he said.

After Thor’s story was aired on KEYE in Austin, and shared on social media, people stepped forward to help cover the cost.

“We ran the story on Thor at 6 p.m. and by 10 p.m. we had a shipper offering to ship the dog at a third of what Eddie had been quoted and we had viewers lined up to cover the cost. So Thor is coming home,” said Fred Cantú, a KEYE reporter.

“Most police versus pitbull encounters don’t have a happy ending,” he added. “Nice to be able to share this one.”

More offers of help came from California after the The Daily Triplicate published a story about Thor — enough help to get Thor a ride back home.

Hurtado had said he was hoping that would happen before Christmas. “Ever since my grandson found out that he was out there, he says that’s what he wants for Christmas. He wants to get his baby back.”

Thor left Crescent City Saturday, aboard a truck driven by Bruce Heinichen, a driver for Orange County Transport who is hauling a boat from Portland to Laredo, the Triplicate reported.

By Monday afternoon, the truck carrying Thor had crossed into Texas, the Los Angeles Times reported. By Wednesday, Thor was back with the Hurtados.

Hurtado said the transportation cost is being covered by two Austin benefactors, who will split the $665 bill.

The Hurtados, while still recovering from the May floods, are now dealing with a new round of flooding near the Blanco River.

“We probably need to get into a new house pretty soon,” said Hurtado. “But this time we’re keeping the dogs with us if we ever have to leave the place.”

(Photo: Del Norte County Animal Control Director Justin Riggs takes Thor for a walk; by Bryant Anderson / Del Norte Triplicate)

Deeming its behavior aggressive, Texas man shoots pit bull three times at dog park


A man who shot a pit bull he thought was behaving too roughly with his dog at a Texas dog park was briefly detained but released by Harris County sheriff’s deputies.

Deputies were called to the Bay Area Dog Park in Pasadena Sunday after the pit bull, named Dieisel, was shot — reportedly three times.

The man said he was defending himself and his dog, but witnesses interviewed by news organizations afterwards said the pit bull was only playing roughly with the man’s dog and at no point seemed aggressive.

The two-year-old pit bull was taken to a veterinary hospital, where, due to the severity of his injuries — a shattered front leg and two bullet wounds to the back —  he was put down, Click2Houston reported.

The man told investigators the pit bull was trying to attack his dog, and he was afraid it would turn on him. Witnesses said he kicked the pit bull first, then drew his weapon, firing at least three times.

“His dog was not in danger… He was not in danger,” one witness said. “I don’t understand how they are not pressing charges. I witnessed everything. No one was in danger.”

“I just can’t believe somebody would do that when the dog wasn’t even being aggressive,” said another.

The man, who authorities declined to identify, told others at the dog park that he had a concealed carry permit for the weapon, witnesses said.

Deputies initially placed him handcuffs, witnesses said, but he was later freed.

The Harris County District Attorney’s office said reports saying it was declining to prosecute the man were incorrect, and that detectives have been asked to investigate the case.

(Photo: KPRC in Houston)