Topaz, the pit bull who lost a leg after being caught in a barrage of police gunfire in Inglewood more than three years ago, is in need of a home in the Los Angeles area.
The health of her human, a formerly homeless man named Michael Reed, has deteriorated to the point where he can no longer care for her, and can barely care for himself, say those trying to help out the once inseparable pair.
I met the two of them three years ago in Los Angeles, after spotting Reed, his shopping cart and his three-legged dog walking down the sidewalk.
They were homeless at the time, and just recently reunited.
He told me their story: how police opened fire on another homeless man they thought was pulling a gun in Inglewood. The gun turned out to be a toy, but that wasn’t discovered until, 47 shots later, Eddie Franco had been killed, and Topaz had been struck by four or five bullets.
Reed, by virtue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, was taken into custody, and his possessions, Topaz included, were confiscated.
He was later released – but he was given no information about his dog. Having watched as she went down in the hail of gunfire, he presumed she was dead.
Two days later, though, a message was relayed to Reed that his dog was alive.
Months before the incident, Ingrid Hurel-Diourbel, founder of Streetsmarts Rescue, had seen Reed and his dog on the street, collecting recyclables, and stopped to talk to him. She placed one of her organization’s rescue tags on Topaz, who otherwise had no identification, and Reed gave her his stepmother’s phone number.
When the animal shelter in Carson — where Topaz was taken after the shooting — saw the tag, they called Ingrid and she relayed the news to Reed.
Ingrid started trying to raise money for the pair then, to cover the cost of Topaz’ veterinary care, and — because of their additional misfortunes – she hasn’t stopped since.
For a while, things were looking up. Michael got off the streets and moved into a trailer, but not long after that he learned he was terminally ill with cirrhosis of the liver, and that Topaz had cancer.
Topaz had surgery again, and Michael has been in and out of the hospital. During one recent stay, another member of the rescue was caring for Topaz when he noticed a mass around her vulva, which led to yet another operation for Topaz.
Ingrid – that’s her narrating the video at the top of this post — says that operation went well, and early signs, though biopsy results are still pending, indicate Topaz may be cancer free. Her hospital stay, surgery and treatment cost more than $3,500, which Ingrid is still trying to raise.
Michael, meanwhile, has continued to decline, mentally and physically – so much so that the man who so graciously let me take photos of him and his dog three years ago, isn’t allowing his photo to be taken anymore.
He gets incommunicative, and neglects to take his medications, friends say.
“We have no more money for rent for him,” Ingrid said, “and unless his SSI kicks in soon, he will need to move out of the trailer … He has no family and he really needs care every day to maintain him.”
That’s led the rescue to intensify its efforts to find Topaz a new home, preferably one that will allow the dog to continue to make visits to Reed.
It’s also still trying to pay off the veterinary bills. Donations can be made via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by jwoestendiek November 21st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, animals, california, cancer, care, cirrhosis, costs, dog, dogs, donations, expenses, health, home, homeless, illness, inglewood, ingrid hurel-diourbel, liver, los angeles, michael, michael and topaz, michael reed, needs, pets, pit bull, police, rescue, shooting, shot, streetsmarts rescue, surgeries, terminal, three-legged, topaz, update, veterinary
Topaz had surgery earlier this month to remove a cancerous tumor in her neck, an operation that involved removing part of her jugular vein.
Michael, meanwhile, has been in and out of the hospital since being diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and Hepatitis C.
But, for now, both, when they’re not under the care of doctors, are still living together in the trailer in Torrance that Michael — once he confirmed Topaz could stay there, too — moved into after years on the streets.
Michael and Topaz were homeless when police opened fire on another homeless man they thought was pulling a gun in Inglewood. The gun turned out to be a toy, but that wasn’t discovered until, 47 shots later, Eddie Franco had been killed. Topaz was struck by four or five bullets and would lose her leg.
Ingrid Hurel-Diourbel, the founder of Streetsmarts Rescue who helped reunite Topaz and Michael, reports that Topaz has been spending days at the home of a Streetsmarts member, and nights at the hospital.
A permanent home for the 6-year-old dog is still being sought, as Michael’s illness is considered terminal.
In the photos provided by the rescue (above), I can see how Michael has physically declined since I met him three years ago and took the photo to the left.
To contribute to the care of Topaz, visit the ChipIn page that Hurel-Diourbel established.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 20th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, dog, dogs, homeless, hospital, inglewood, los angeles, michael, michael and topaz, michael reed, pets, pit bull, police, shooting, surgery, three-legged, topaz
It’s not often that I share the personal frustrations of being a dog-blogger — especially one who tries to stand out from the crowd by keeping a lid on the pablum and fluff, and presenting from time to time some stories of depth about important dog-related issues.
Yesterday was a case in point.
I posted three items — about the daily average for ohmidog!
One was a mention of an upcoming motorcycle ride, sponsored by a motorcycle club and Baltimore’s Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force, to raise money for abused and abandoned dogs.
One was a story about a day of global protest against eating dogs in South Korea.
One was an update on a story I wrote a few years back after meeting in Los Angeles a homeless man and his three legged pit bull (her fourth leg was lost as a result of a police shooting). Both have fallen ill and need help.
I was especially proud of the latter two, as they both contained some original reporting, and original photographs, and displayed a little first hand knowledge I had gathered, mostly during the year and a half I was working on my book.
Checking my Google Analytics, as I do from time to time, I saw this morning that the dog-eating post (of global significance) drew 116 views; the post on Michael and Topaz (of national significance) got 46 views; and the post on the fundraising motorcyle ride (of local significance) got 16 views.
What drew most readers to ohmidog! yesterday — 676 of them — was a post, nearly 50 days old, about Jennifer Aniston getting her dog Norman’s name tatooed on her foot.
Thereby showing you the significance of celebrities. It blows my mind.
How people try to remember and memorialize their dogs is a legitimate story — and a large part of the book I wrote — and the fact that more people are going the tattoo route, as the New York Post reported this week, is worthy of note.
But let’s face it, it was Jennifer Aniston that brought me those readers — and while I appreciate her, and those readers who dropped by, it bugs me that her foot tattoo so overshadowed two stories of deeper importance and deeper humanity. But, despite all that’s in the bowl, they chose only that.
My little corner of the universe, or the Internet, serves it seems as a microcosm of what’s happened to the news media, which, to survive, has caved in to the pressure to give readers easily consumable, barely newsworthy bits of what they want, rather than fully fleshed out stories on topics of greater importance to the species, be it human or dog.
Looking at my Analytics — and I think it’s OK to share this proprietary information, given that I am the proprietor — a total of 435 pages and posts were viewed yesterday, 1,941 views in all.
The vast majority, though, were focused on Jennifer Aniston’s foot.
For those consumed with numbers, and getting them to increase, and paying the bills, the thinking would reasonably follow: We need more Jennifer Aniston, more tattoos, more feet, or more of whoever or whatever else is, at this given moment, “trending.”
Here’s one of the things that has happened. News organizations, and bloggers, see what’s “trending” and base their coverage on that, thereby making it “trend” even more, while items of higher significance — worth some digging up — fall unseen by the wayside.
Add to that the fact that those who write strictly for the Internet, often, are no longer writing for humans. Instead of writing for quality, instead of writing, even, for readers, they’re writing for robots — those search engine Peruse-a-trons that scan our words, mathematically determine their import and influence how many readers come our way.
Add to that the fact that average online writer now spends more time touting what he has written via social networks and elsewhere than actually writing what he has written. Time once spent on research and the craft of writing is now mostly absorbed by shouting about and hyping what one has written, even if that “writing” was little more than a cut and paste job.
We’ll even admit to doing some of that — what is now called “aggregating,” what was once called plagiarism. We’ll admit to touting stories we’re proud of on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll even admit to, once in a while, posting a story because we think it will draw a crowd.
Were ohmidog! a true money-making venture — which in some ways would make more sense than being poor and principled — we might follow the route that so many have, bringing you a steady diet of the cute, the happy, the adorable and the celebrity-related.
But, Jennifer Aniston aside, we plan to continue to vary our fare — presenting the cute, from time to time; the uplifting, as often as we can find it; but also the cruel and depraved acts of humans that lead to animal suffering.
If, in the three years we’ve existed (did I mention we’ve just turned 3?) and in the 3,000 posts we’ve posted, ohmidog! has shown anything, it is this: the depths to which humans can sink and the heights to which they can rise when it comes to dogs.
We’re going to keep doing that.
And you can tattoo that on your foot.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggregating, analytics, animal rights, animal welfare, animals, blogging, blogs, cute, dog, dog inc., dog stories, dogs, eating dogs, facebook, fluff, foot, google, internet, jennifer aniston, korea, michael, news, news media, newspapers, norman, ohmidog!, online, page views, pets, readers, robots, search engines, social networks, tattoo, topaz, tout, touting, trending, trends, twitter, visits, websites, writing
It has been nearly three years since ohmidog! brought you the story of homeless (at the time) Michael Reed and his three-legged pit bull, Topaz.
I ran across them during a visit to Los Angeles, where I first saw Michael pushing a shopping cart down a sidewalk in Inglewood, with Topaz in tow.
Suspecting they had a story, I followed them to a vacant lot next to a gas station, where, sitting on the sidewalk with a bottle of King Cobra malt liquour — Topaz, as always, at his side — he graciously consented to share it.
The story, that is.
A couple of months earlier, on August 31st, 2008, Topaz had gotten caught in the middle of a barrage of gunfire. Police were shooting at another homeless man named Eddie Franco, who they thought had a gun. Franco was killed. His gun turned out to be a plastic toy.
Topaz, shot 4 times, was taken away by animal control — leaving Michael without the dog he’d grown to depend on, or, for that matter, any idea whether she was still alive.
Through a stroke of fortune, he managed to get Topaz back.
Months before the incident, Ingrid Hurel-Diourbel, founder of Streetsmarts Rescue, had seen Michael and his dog on the street, collecting recyclables, and stopped to talk to him. She placed one of her organization’s rescue tags on Topaz, who had no identification, and Reed gave her his stepmother’s phone number.
When the Carson Shelter’s animal control unit — where Topaz was taken after the shooting — saw the tag, they called Hurel-Diourbel, who got the message to Reed, and helped raised the funds needed for surgery.
Topaz would lose one of her hind legs, but she and Michael would be reunited, resuming their life on the streets for several months. Then, with more help from friends, Michael and Topaz moved into a trailer park, almost two years ago. Things were looking up.
Now comes word from Los Angeles that both Michael and Topaz have fallen victim to some serious medical problems.
Streetsmarts Rescue in Hawthorne reports that Michael is terminally ill with cirrhosis of the liver and Hepatitis C. Topaz has a cancerous lump on her neck — a round cell tumor that will require surgery.
Hurel-Diourbel is trying to raise funds again — about $1,000 for the operation Topaz needs. She’s also trying to find a home for Topaz, for when the day comes that Michael can no longer care for her.
Hurel-Diourbel says she recently spent the day with Michael, who she says has no family to speak of, at the Veteran’s Hospital in Long Beach.
“Michael, homeless at one point, now was being treated with much respect and dignity. It was wonderful to witness,” she said. She added that, during his hospital stay, he told anyone who would listen about his dog.
He has since returned to his trailer in Torrance, which he moved into only with the assurance that Topaz could live there, too. Michael, who acknowledges he has some mental problems, had been looking for work, but without success.
Because it’s not known how much longer Michael will be able to live on his own, Hurel-Diourbel is trying to line up a new home for Topaz, who is 6-years old.
As an outsider, here’s my hope, based on our short visit, and the connection I saw between man and dog: That whoever adopts Topaz — if that occurs before his death — might be willing to let Michael share time, lots of time, with her during his final days.
To learn how to contribute to Topaz’s surgery, visit the ChipIn page that Hurel-Diourbel established.
(You can find a subsequent update on Michael and Topaz here.)
(Photos by John Woestendiek)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 15th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal control, animals, bond, cancer, cirrhosis, dogs, health, hepatitis c, homeless, homelessness, ill, ingrid hurl diourbel, liver, los angeles, michael reed, pets, pit bull, police, rescue, shelter, shooting, sick, streetsmarts rescue, surgery, three legs, three-legged, topaz, tumor
Neighborhood Pit Bull Day — a day to love on and learn more about your pit bull — is coming to Baltimore this Sunday (July 10).
The one-day event provides free resources, products, education and services to pit bull owners. It’s one of many being held around the country by Best Friends Animal Society, aimed at defusing the negative stereotype and helping communities “understand what loyal members of the family pit bulls can be.”
The Baltimore event will take place, rain or shine, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Carroll Park.
It’s free, and it will offer leash and collar trade-ins, microchipping and low-cost vaccinations, spay and neuter vouchers, a photo booth and advice from trainers and vets. Kids and families and pit bulls are welcome.
The events kicked off June 4 in Tampa, and are being scheduled in communities whose shelters see large numbers of pit bulls.
Upcoming events are also scheduled in Carlsbad, Calif., on August 27; Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., on September 10; Salt Lake City, Utah on October 29 and in New York City and Los Angeles on October 30.
“This is a day of celebrating the community and family pet owners. We would like to see all pit-bull-type dogs and their families have a fun way to gain access to the resources that are out there, that’s what this event is all about,” explained Jamie Healy, manager of Best Friends’ Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls program.
Made possible by a PetSmart Charities® grant, this Best Friends program is dedicated to promoting responsible guardianship of pit-bull-terrier-type dogs, as well as reducing euthanasia and improving the pit bulls public image.
Best Friends currently has five shelter partner programs across the country in Tampa, Florida; Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C. and San Diego and Rancho Cucamonga, California.
(Photo by John Woestendiek: Mike Reed and his three-legged pit bull Topaz, who I met a couple of years ago during a trip to Los Angeles)
Posted by jwoestendiek July 5th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal shelters, animals, baltimore, best friends, carlsbad, carroll park, collars, dogs, education, event, image, leash, los angeles, mike reed, neighborhood pit bull day, neuter, new york, perceptions, pets, photos, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, public education, rancho cucamonga, resources, salt lake city, shelters, spay, stereotypes, tampa, topaz, trainers, vaccinations, veterinarians, vets, vouchers
I was driving down Century Boulevard when I spotted them — a homeless man, judging from the Vons grocery cart he was pushing down the sidewalk, and a three-legged pit bull in a service dog vest, hobbling alongside, her leash tied to the cart.
I made a u-turn, saw him walking down Hawthorne and, after one more u-turn, pulled my rental car alongside the man and dog as they turned down 101st Street.
His name is Mike Reed, and his dog’s name is Topaz, and as we sat on the sidewalk and talked — next to his bottle of King Cobra malt liquor in a black plastic bag — Topaz, weary from a just completed walk, snoozed on the concrete, wearing a service dog vest that said “Don’t Touch Me, I’m Working.”
Reed has had Topaz for five years. He takes care of her. She takes care of him, helping him cope with life on the streets — the kind of life that can turn violent at any second, and on Aug. 31 did just that.
On that day, he and Topaz found themselves standing innocently in the middle of a confrontation between another homeless man and officers from the Inglewood Police Department.
Reed had just met the man minutes earlier — after the man entered a store and an employee noticed what appeared to be a gun in his pants. Police were called, and tracked the man down. Not knowing whether Reed was an accomplice, officers put Reed in a squad car. Topaz remained on the sidewalk, leashed to Reed’s grocery cart.
As Reed decribes it, police told the suspect to put his hands in the air. The suspect raised and lowered his hands two times. The third time he lowered them, he reached for what police thought was a gun, and a barrage of shots followed.
The gun turned out to be a plastic toy.
Four or five shots struck Topaz, one shattering her hip bone.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 14th, 2008 under Muttsblog.
Tags: amputation, california, dog, dogs, found, grocery cart, homeless, inglewood, killed, los angeles, lost, mike reed, missing, pets, pit bull, police, recovered, relationships, service dog, shooting, streets, streetsmarts rescue, three-legged, topaz, violence, von's