He goes by the nickname “Wolfdog.” Lives in Alabama’s great outdoors. And he spends most of his time, along with his dog, Bandit, picking trash — copious amounts of trash — out of the waterways.
It’s not a job. He doesn’t get paid. He says he does it out of his love for the planet and its wildlife.
“I’m not asking anybody for anything. I’m not a charity case. I ain’t a bum. I’m not a mooch,” says 55-year-old Cliff Skees. “But I do care about the environment. I care about wildlife. I care about human beings, but human beings, they take one look at me and they say, ‘Well, he’s just a piece of trash, you know.’
“Maybe I am. But then again, maybe I ain’t. I can look myself in the mirror and say I’m trying.”
We’ll go so far — despite the hard times he’s gone through in life — to cast a vote for “ain’t.”
And to point out that, most likely, a lot of those people who see him as “trash” are the same ones who so casually discard it, cluttering the waterways around Mobile, Alabama.
Skees is an unpolished gem, first discovered four years ago by Ben Raines, an environmental reporter for the Mobile Press-Register.
At the time, Skees was living the woods and was commonly seen with Bandit, gathering garbage from the shores from a canoe with these words painted on the side, “Be a critter, please don’t litter.”
Raines wrote a story back then about the man and his mission. He followed along as Skees — and Bandit, too — scooped up trash from the water and returned it to their base, where 140 bags full of garbage, stacked and numbered, sat.
“It was a startling sight, and a testament to just how trashy we Alabamians are, for even with that much trash picked up, so much more remained along the river banks,” Raines wrote.
Recently, Raines ran into him again — and found out that, while Skees’ mission remained the same, his situation has improved somewhat. You can read that second story here.
After the first story appeared, someone donated a pontoon boat to Skees, and he turned it into his base of operations.
Raines happened upon Wolfdog and Bandit again last week at a boat ramp on Chickasabouge Creek.
“They both looked prosperous and had a certain spring in their collective step. I immediately had the feeling some good fortune had come their way,” Raines wrote.
“Mr. Ben!” Wolfdog shouted, “You’ve got to see my rig. Things are different these days.”
Wolfdog then showed off the houseboat he had fashioned from the pontoon boat — one complete with solar panels, an electric motor, and other features that he fashioned out of recycled materials and some “backwoods hillbilly ingenuity.”
“The woodwork is top notch. Glossy marine varnish shines from every surface. There’s a bed, a table, a propane stove and several small windows. The framing for the insulated walls is aluminum, to better resist rotting. Everywhere you look, the craftsmanship is meticulous,” Raines reported.
An anonymous donor gave Skees the old 1979 pontoon boat after the first article appeared, apparently to support his one-man cleanup mission.
While friends donated items to the houseboat project, Skees receives no support for his efforts to keep the waterways clean — except that which Bandit supplies. When they are out in the canoe, Bandit will leap off to collect cups and plastic bottles in his mouth.
Wolfdog says he hopes to set a Guinness World Record for picking up trash, and he still dreams of finding some support from the local environmental groups.
“I can’t get nobody to help me. That’s what breaks my heart the worst. I can’t even get a thank you,” Wolfdog said. “I think they look at me and they see trash…
“I won’t give up. Get discouraged sometimes. But my best work, the best of my work, don’t come nowhere close to what I leave behind … There’s just no comparison. No comparison. Not nowhere close.”
Skees says it was on his first canoe ride that he fell in love with the solace of canoeing.
That trip is also when, seeing trash in the water, cleaning it up began his calling.
“For certain for sure,” he said. “There aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to talk about it.”
If you are interested in helping Wolfdog and Bandit with their mission, contact Raines at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo courtesy of Wolfdog)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 2nd, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: alabama, animals, bandit, ben raines, canoe, clean, cliff skees, dog, dogs, environment, garbage, guardian, homeless, houseboat, litter, mobile, pets, pollution, reporter, rivers, trash, waterways, wildlife, wolfdog
A group of inmates picking up trash along a road in south Alabama came together last week to give a stray dog something they don’t currently have — freedom, specifically freedom from the large plastic jar stuck on his head.
Cpl. Joshua Myers with the Geneva County Sheriff’s Office says a road crew was picking up trash on the side of East County Road 4 Thursday morning when they spotted a dog motionless on the ground.
As the inmates approached, the dog got up and began blindly running around, Myers told WSFA. The inmates were able to catch him, hold him down and free his head from the jar.
Once his head was freed, the dog ran off and the inmates couldn’t catch him.
Myers said the dog looked healthy.
WSFA reported one person has called the sheriff’s office to say they believe it’s their dog that has been missing for about a week.
Inmates in the Geneva County Jail with minor charges are allowed to work on road crews picking up trash as community service.
In addition to saving the dog, Meyers said the work crew on the same day found someone’s missing wallet. It has been returned to its owner.
(Photo: Geneva County Sheriff’s Office)
Posted by John Woestendiek November 3rd, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alabama, animals, crew, dog, dogs, free, geneva county, head, inmates, jail, jar, litter, pets, prisoners, sheriff, stuck, trash, work
Given this dog’s situation — dumped inside a plastic bag at a recycling plant that processes 400 tons of debris a day, loaded by bulldozer onto a large conveyor belt, and on her way to a chute that would have dropped her 20 feet into a landfill — you might think nothing short of a miracle would save her.
While there may have been some of that involved, the three-month-old, five-pound poodle puppy has some alert workers to thank as well.
Just yards from the chute, one recycling worker noticed the bag moving. He slammed on the conveyer belt’s emergency brake as another worker climbed onto the belt to remove the dog.
Since named Gem, the dog, rescued — and we do mean rescued — the Friday before Christmas, is recovering from her injuries.
“It’s difficult to imagine how the dog survived this ordeal,” said Robert Reed, a spokesman for Recology, a recycling program in San Francisco that sorts through heavy debris from construction projects, such as concrete, metal and lumber. “Nothing like this has happened before.”
Reed said the dog was likely thrown, inside the bag, into a bin for construction material, picked up by a garbage truck and hauled to the dump. Once in the dump, the dog likely had large amounts of debris dumped atop her, only to be later scooped up by a bulldozer and end up on the conveyor belt.
While riding along the conveyor belt, Gem went through a shaking process, aimed at removing excess dirt from the debris, and she was yards from passing into the chute when workers stationed along the conveyor belt noticed her.
“I was on the line working on the conveyor belt and there was a black trash bag coming down the line,” Gregory Foster told ABC News. “It had a hole in it and I could see it moving.”
After he activated the belt’s emergency brake, another co-worker climbed up on the belt and pulled the dog — wet, bloody and shaking — out of the bag.
The San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control was called, and Gem is now in its care.
“We’re getting a lot of people calling, wanting to adopt her, foster, and offer donations for her care,” a spokesperson said. The agency received more than 100 telephone calls inquiring about the dog in three hours.
Many remain mystified how the dog survived what she did.
“It’s a miracle, it’s a Christmas miracle. That’s what it is,” Pena said.
But we’d give some of the credit to assembly line workers who managed, amid the monotony of their jobs, to stay alert.
And we’d give at least an equal amount to Gem, one plucky little dog.
(Top photo, CBS News; bottom photo, Arturo Pena)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 27th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoption, alert, animals, animnal care and control, assembly line, bin, bulldozer, christmas miracle, conveyor belt, dog, dogs, dump, dumped, gem, landfill, miracle, pets, plant, poodle, puppy, recology, recycle, recycling, rescue, rescued, rescues, san francisco, saved, shelters, trash, workers
Once a week, Meredith College art professor Shannon Johnstone takes a homeless dog for a walk to the top of what used to be a landfill.
The Raleigh area landfill has a new life now, as a park.
The dogs she photographs there are still waiting for one.
They all come from the Wake County Animal Center, where, after being abandoned or surrendered, they’ve been living anywhere from a couple of weeks to more than a year.
The park, located atop a 470-foot peak formed from 20 year’s worth of Raleigh’s trash, serves as a scenic backdrop, but also, for Johnstone, as a metaphor.
Johnstone has photographed 66 “landfill dogs” so far — either on her climb up or atop the hill, according to a column in the Raleigh News & Observer.
Shot at what’s now one of the highest points in Wake County, the pictures of throwaway dogs playing atop a hill made from other things people threw away are sometimes haunting, sometimes hopeful, sometimes a little of both.
Some of the dogs she photographed have found homes right away; others remained at the animal shelter. Five have died.
Johnstone has photographed shelter dogs before. While she declined to name the city, one project she was involved in photographed animals before, during and after euthanasia.
She said the idea for the current project came from Wake County’s former environmental director, who envisioned dozens of dogs at the park.
Instead Johnstone brings them there one at a time, and doesn’t remove their leashes (except later with Photoshop).
Landfill Dogs, according to its website, is a project with three overlapping components: fine art photographs, adoption promotions, and environmental advocacy.
The project was made possible by a year-long sabbatical granted by Meredith College’s Environmental Sustainability Initiative, and with cooperation from the staff and volunteers at Wake County Animal Center.
(Top photo by Shannon Johnstone; bottom photo by Corey Lowenstein / News & Observer)
Posted by John Woestendiek November 14th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoptable, animal welfare, animals, art, dogs, environment, hill, landfill, meredith college, mountain, north wake, park, pets, photographs, photography, professor, raleigh, shannon johnstone, shelters, trash, wake county, wake county animal center
Patrick, the dog found starved nearly to death after he was dumped down a high-rise apartment building’s trash chute in Newark, now weighs in at more than 35 pounds.
And that’s without the petrified hairball that was surgically removed from his stomach this week.
Dr. Jason Pintar, an internist at Garden State Veterinary Specialists, removed the long flat hair mass from Patrick’s stomach using a video endoscopic procedure while Patrick was under anesthesia.
After the hair mass was removed, Patrick was transferred to another surgery suite for neutering, Associated Humane Societies in New Jersey reportsAfter surgery, he’ll still need treatment for mange, and physical therapy for weak rear legs, AHS says.
The non-profit organization says it’s receiving thousands of emails a day — and that it has been contacted by several people who say Patrick was their dog. Some say he ran away, some say he was stolen, and one told AHS they’d contacted an attorney.
Also casting a cloud over Patrick’s story is the emergence of people hoping to profit off his name and image.
The number of Internet sites related to him — some well-intentioned, some not — has steadily grown, and some are selling “Patrick” items such as t-shirts, keychains and posters, and using his story to “solicit funds for their own use,” AHS says.
(Photos: Courtesy of Associated Humane Societies and Popcorn Park Zoo)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 21st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandoned, animal cruelty, animal welfare, animals, associated humane societies, chute, cruelty to animals, discarded, dog, dogs, hair mass, hairball, neutered, new jersey, newark, patrick, pets, recovery, scams, surgery, trash, treatment, update
Newark Mayor Cory Booker is asking the public for a birthday present — a new animal shelter to be built in honor of Patrick, the pit bull dumped down a high rise apartment building’s trash chute and left to starve.
Booker called the act “one of the most heinous incients of animal cruelty that I’ve seen since I’ve been mayor” and he noted that it has led to outrage across the country.
But, he added, “This is a time that, instead of blame, we all take more responsibility for what’s going on to animals in Newark, New Jersey and around the world.
“For my birthday wish … we would like you to join our cause” — a state of art animal shelter that can be No. 1 in honor of Patrick but also in honor of those many other animals in our larger Newark community that face severe problems and challenges. We must be there for them, too.”
The mayor’s YouTube video refers viewers to a website where donations be made.
The campaign seeks to raise $50,000 towards construction of a facility that would serve Essex and Hudson Counties. Already, Booker said, a site has been identified and architects are working on the design.
“By working to build a modern, state-of-the-art shelter through public and private funding, and by employing innovative policies to improve responsible pet care, decrease birthrates, increase adoptions, and help keep animals with their responsible caretakers, we believe that Newark’s animal shelter operations can become a model for the rest of the nation.”
Patrick is now in the custody of Associated Humane Societies and is receiving treatment at Garden State Veterinary Specialists, both of which say they’ve received enough public donations to cover his care.
Kisha Curtis, with whom Patrick lived, has entered a not guilty plea to charges of abuse and abandonment.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 4th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abandoned, abuse, animal cruelty, animals, apartment, associated humane societies, chute, cory booker, discarded, dog, dogs, garden state veterinary specialists, high rise, kisha curtis, mayor, neglect, new jersey, newark, patrick, pets, pit bull, pitbull, starved, trash
A not guilty plea was entered Friday on behalf of Kisha Curtis, the Newark woman accused of animal cruelty charges stemming from the discovery of a dog who’d been tossed down a trash chute and left to die in a garbage bin.
The 1-year-old pit bull, whose rescuers named him Patrick, continues to recover at an area animal hospital.
Public defender Regina Lynch entered the plea in Superior Court in Newark on behalf of Curtis, 27, the Newark Star-Ledger reported. She appeared at the hearing via a video hookup from the Essex County Jail.
Curtis faces two counts of tormenting and torturing a living creature by failing to provide sustenance and two counts of abandonment, said Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Cheryl Cucinello.
After the hearing, Kisha’s mother, Tammie Curtis, said her daughter didn’t discard the dog, but only left him tethered at the high-rise Garden Spires apartments in Newark — while she went on a trip to Albany. She implied that the dog was stolen.
“Anybody would take that dog,” the mother said. “If she tied the dog, she didn’t leave the dog to die.”
A security guard at the 520-unit complex told the Star-Ledger that the dog had been seen tied to a railing with a leather leash, and had been the subject of resident complaints for more than a month.
“It would whimper, and it would yelp when you would come up to it,” Ortman said.
A custodian found Patrick on March 16, inside a trash bag at the bottom of a 22-story garbage chute.
Judge Amilkar Velez-Lopez kept Curtis’ bail at $10,000 bond or $1,000 cash and forbid her to have contact with pets. If convicted, she faces 18 months in prison, a $3,000 fine and community service.
Patrick has been recovering at Garden State Veterinary Specialists in Tinton Falls, where he has gained two pounds since being found.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 2nd, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, bail, bin, bond, charges, chute, courts, entered, essex county, garbage, garden spires, hearing, justice, kisha curtis, neglect, newark, news, not guilty, patrick, pit bull, pitbull, plea, sentence, tormenting, torture, trash, video