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Tag: truck

Remembering my son, Joe

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On May 13, 1992, a flight arrived at LAX from Seoul and three Korean babies, orphans all, were carried off the plane by their escorts to be handed to their new adoptive parents.

My wife and I were there to meet one of them, our new son whom we’d decided, based on photos, would be named either Sam or Joe, depending on which seemed the better fit after seeing him in person.

He was the last one off the plane, a tiny thing with an unruly shock of jet black hair that was shooting in every direction after the 11-hour flight. For a moment, we debated whether he might be an “Elvis.” But we opted for Joe.

Joe WoestendiekFast forward 26 years — and God, did it ever go too fast — and Joe (full name Joseph Yoon Tae Woestendiek) was lying in a coma in a Memphis hospital, his hair shaved off, and parts of his skull removed to accommodate the swelling of his severely damaged brain. The outlook was bleak, at best.

He was on his way home from work when his car rear-ended a dump truck on the interstate near Holly Springs, Miss. The truck grinded to a halt. The truck driver pulled Joe out of his burning car. And he was airlifted by helicopter from Mississippi to Memphis — to, ironically, the Elvis Presley Trauma Center.

He died 13 days later. For nearly two weeks doctors kept him sedated and fought to relieve his cranial pressure even while warning that, if he came out of his coma at all, he would likely have little to no brain function due to the extent of the brain damage. They warned, too, that lung problems had developed, and that those and the strain on his heart, were more likely to take his life. His heart came to a stop on June 18.

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I write this another week later, partly to explain why our ohmidog! posts came to a halt, but more to keep his memory alive, and in hopes that writing about it will be cathartic and make some of the numbness and emptiness inside me go away.

joetromboneJoe grew up in Orange County, Calif.; Yardley, Pa., Anderson, S.C., and Florence, Ala. He lived in recent years with his mom and stepdad in New Albany, Miss. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he earned a B.S. in computer science from the School of Engineering.

He’d recently started a job he loved — in the information technology department of Automated Conveyor Systems, Inc., of West Memphis, Ark.

His visits to my home, in Winston-Salem, N.C., had dwindled, but up until he finished college he’d come here regularly on holidays and in the summer. He loved guitars, and video games and, of course, dogs. He’d always get teary on his last day visiting; I was never sure if it was because he was leaving me, or leaving my dog Ace. He’d yet to meet my new dog, Jinjja, also adopted from Korea.

SONY DSCWhile here, Joe would volunteer with the Forsyth Humane Society, an organization I’ve also done some work with as a volunteer. He’d walk dogs at the shelter, and help out at events, his favorite role being donning the mascot costume — a swelteringly hot furry dog outfit — and working the crowd.

He had three dogs of his own at home.

Because of his love of dogs, and the joy working with humane society brought him, I’ve decided a fitting tribute would be to make a donation to the humane society in his name — one significant enough to merit a plaque with his name on it.

His name on a brick paver is one option, but I, for what are probably selfish reasons, want more.

I want to try to make a donation large enough to make him a lifetime sponsor of one of the shelter’s kennels.

That way, everyone who walks in to look at the many dogs available for adoption will see his name, and maybe more importantly, I will. I like the idea of a kid once in need of adoption sponsoring a kennel that will house dog after dog after dog in need of adoption — forever.

That requires a $10,000 donation, not an amount I have handy, or can even dream of obtaining. But, unachievable as that might be — and needing something to do right now — that’s what I’m working on.

So here is my plan.

I’ve started a Facebook fundraiser aimed at donating $10,000 to the Forsyth Humane Society in his memory.

SONY DSCA memorial service for him will be held in Mississippi this week.

But I want to do something here in Winston-Salem — perhaps a mini-concert featuring some musician friends of his and mine. I’m working now on setting that up.

I want it to be a simple and joyful hour or so, nothing somber, nothing speech-filled — just a chance for local friends to come together and say goodbye, maybe at the Muddy Creek Cafe in Bethania. We always enjoyed going there.

When Joe arrived in the U.S., my then-wife Jenny and I were living in Orange County, California. The riots that Rodney King’s beating sparked in Los Angeles were only starting to settle down. I was covering those for the newspaper I worked for at the time, the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Every morning, I would cruise through the most devastated areas, returning to a hotel in the evening to write. It was a bleak couple of weeks, the kind that make you worry about humanity and its future. Nearly every day, my rental car was pelted by rocks and chunks of concrete. At nearly every stoplight, I’d receive hateful stares and threatening gestures.

I remember wondering as I drove those streets how, and why, complete strangers could hate me so much.

Amid all that, we got the call that our adoptee was on his way. We were supposed to pick him up in Korea, but somebody goofed. My boss was kind enough to give me some time off, away from the riots, to bond with my new son.

And in the ensuing weeks, and years, I remember wondering how a complete stranger could love me so much.

And me him.

SONY DSC

That’s what he taught me, and it’s not unlike the lesson anyone who adopts a dog learns. Show a creature love and respect and loyalty and you’ll get it back — unconditionally and exponentially. Oppress, abuse and disrespect it and you’ll get … what you deserve.

As abruptly and prematurely as Joe’s life ended, I will always be thankful for the joy he brought me and the lessons he taught me.

I’m thankful, too, for all the prayers and expressions of support I’ve received from friends (and even strangers). I am overwhelmed by the response to the Facebook fundraiser. I posted it three days ago, and it’s already more than halfway to its goal.

Thanks also to the caring staff at Regional One’s Elvis Presley Trauma Center, and to that truck driver, Michael Simpson of Memphis, whose actions gave Joe a fighting chance.

Those wishing to contribute to Joe’s plaque can do so through the Facebook fundraiser.

Contributions can also be made through ohmidog!, or directly to Forsyth Humane Society. Please specify they are for Joe Woestendiek’s memorial plaque.

Dog show goes on, despite 14 dog deaths

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Thirteen golden retrievers and a Brittany spaniel scheduled to take part in an Indiana dog show over the weekend died Friday from heat related causes.

The dogs, in town for Michiana Kennel Club AKC Dog Show, were spending the night inside the back of a truck, parked in a lot at the Quality Inn in Roseland.

The truck’s air conditioning, powered by an extension cord plugged into the exterior of the hotel, shut down when a circuit breaker in the truck tripped during Friday’s heat and humidity, according to WBST in South Bend, Indiana.

A kennel operator from Ohio, who was caring for the dogs during the trip, found them dead when she went to check on them Friday night.

The dogs — three of them puppies — were supposed to be a part of the weekend show at St. Joseph County fairgrounds.

“To have something this tragic happen, it affects everybody,” said Cheryl Crompton, of the Michiana Kennel Club. “It’s been very solemn all day. I’ve cried, just at the loss of life.”

“It was an unfortunate incident, that was not in any way the fault of anybody,” she added. “It was an accident, just like a car wreck. An unfortunate car wreck, where lives are lost.”

“It appeared it was just a very tragic accident,” said Lt. William Redman of the St. Joseph County Police Department. “It was difficult, no question.”

Some of the dogs belonged to the woman caring for the dogs, Cortney Corral of Lakesyde Kennels; at least eight of them belonged to other people who entrusted her to care for them during the show.

Necropsies will be performed on some of the dogs this week as part of an investigation by the St. Joseph County Humane Society.

National officers with the American Kennel Club will also be investigating the incident, Crompton told the South Bend Tribune.

The annual dog show, which began Thursday and concluded Saturday, is hosted by three AKC clubs — Michiana, LaPorte and Berrien Springs.

(Photo: Michael Caterina / South Bend Tribune)

Recycled Chihuahua survived compactor

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Here’s a Chihuahua that has every right to tremble.

He arrived at a Maryland recycling center last week in a truck whose contents — cardboard and paper — had been compacted en route.

Mark Wheeler, an operations manager at the Montgomery County Recycling Center, said the dog fell out as the truck was unloaded.

“The route drivers pack trucks to get every little last bit of paper in them,” Wheeler said. So those who found him were amazed to see he was alive.

“If he’d been commingled with bottles and cans, he wouldn’t have fared as well,” Wheeler told the Washington Post.

Wheeler said the box the dog was hidden in when he was disposed of might have protected him, or provided him with an air pocket. The box was among the first items loaded, so it wasn’t compressed as tightly.

The six-pound dog’s only injury appeared to be a cut on his nose.

Wheeler took the dog home to live with his family.

They named him Packer — in honor of the truck he arrived in.

Wheeler’s wife, Johnna, is a veterinary nutritionist. She suspects the dog was discarded by a breeding operation. Packer is about six, isn’t housebroken, and shies away from human touch.

But the Wheelers say, with help from their other two dogs, Packer seems to be becoming more comfortable.”

“Based on his behavior, I can tell he was in a cage with a concrete floor, and he was taken out to breed, and put back in,” Johnna Wheeler told WJLA.

(Photo: WJLA)

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)

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

thor

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)

Brad Pitt dies after being left in hot truck

Brad-PittA basset hound-bulldog mix named Brad Pitt died of heat-related causes after a Georgia animal control officer picked him up and left him in his truck all day, police say.

To make matters worse, the officer claimed the dog had been been hit by a car and was dead when he found him.

The atrocious behavior and blatant lie likely would have never come to light if not for a family’s persistent efforts to find out the truth about their dog, who they named after the movie star.

Brad Pitt ran away from his home in Kennesaw in July, and the family launched an extensive search, driving around the area, posting flyers and reporting the dog missing to Cobb County Animal Control.

Animal Control employees told them repeatedly that no dog matching Brad Pitt’s description had been there.

Then a neighbor called the family and told them he had seen Brad Pitt being loaded into a Cobb County Animal Control van.

Brad Pitt’s owner, Holly Roth, called Animal Control again, and learned the dog had been found dead — at least according to the officer who picked him up, Matthew Cory Dodson. Dodson had told his supervisors the dog had been hit by a car and was dead when he found him.

Roth, doubtful of the account, continued looking for the truth.

Police investigators questioned Dodson, and he confessed to what happened, according to his arrest warrant.

dodsonDodson told police he put the dog in a compartment of his county truck around 9:40 a.m. July 18 after picking him up in the Kennesaw area. He finished his work day without bringing the dog back to the shelter.

“Failing to do so in a timely manner resulted in said dog’s death, likely from a heat related illness,” the arrest warrant states.

Dodson was charged with cruelty to animals and obstruction, both misdemeanors.

He was arrested Thursday afternoon, but released from jail on his own recognizance about an hour later. A Cobb County police spokesman said Dodson has resigned from his position.

Holly Roth said the 17-month-old basset hound and English bulldog mix had been a gift for her daughter after her elementary school graduation.

“I’m still so sick to my stomach about it,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He would’ve gotten away with it if I hadn’t been prying.”

Tibetan mastiffs going out of style in China

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Tibetan mastiffs, which once fetched hundreds of thousands of dollars each in the Chinese marketplace, are going out of style.

The New York Times reports that the lion-like dogs — all the rage among the wealthy in China just two years ago — are quickly becoming yesterday’s trend.

The reasons? A slowing economy for one, coupled with “an official austerity campaign that has made ostentatious consumption a red flag for anti-corruption investigators.” On top of that, the fad is doing what fads do — fade away, often, when it comes to dogs, with disturbing consequences.

About half of the country’s mastiff breeders have left the business, and those that are left are dealing with a surplus so severe that members of the breed can now be spotted on trucks laden with dogs headed to slaughterhouses.

About 20 mastiffs were on one such truck, with 150 other dogs, when it was stopped by Beijing animal rights activists who purchased the entire load from the driver and sent the surviving dogs to rescue organizations.

The Times says that, amid decreasing demand, the average asking price for mastiffs, which have reportedly sold for as much as $1.6 million, has dropped to around $2,000.

“If I had other opportunities, I’d quit this business,” said Gombo, a veteran breeder in China’s northwestern province of Qinghai. “The pressure we’re under is huge.”

Since 2013, about half the 95 breeders in Tibet have gone under, according to the Tibetan Mastiff Association.

“In some ways, the cooling passion for Tibetan mastiffs reflects the fickleness of a consuming class that adopts and discards new products with abandon,” the Times reported.

“Fads are a huge driving force in China’s luxury market,” Liz Flora, editor in chief of Jing Daily, a marketing research company in Beijing, told the Times.  “Han Chinese consumers have been willing to pay a premium for anything associated with the romanticism of Tibet.”

Other factors in the trend’s demise include unscrupulous breeders who mated purebred Tibetan mastiffs with other breeds, and the breed’s reputation of being aggressive.

Tibetan mastiffs are fiercely loyal, increasing the likelihood of attacks on strangers, experts say, and in the past couple of years some Chinese cities have banned the breed.

(Photo: Nibble, a Tibetan mastiff, was checked by veterinarians after being saved from the slaughterhouse by a group of animal rights activists; by Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times)