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Tag: truck

500 dogs in China saved from slaughterhouse

More than 500 dogs being trucked to a slaughterhouse in China were freed from that fate when an animal activist spotted the truck transporting them on the highway, went on line and used social media to arrange an impromptu blockade.

Around 200 people helped block the truck at a toll booth for 15 hours — until they were able to negotiate the dogs’ release for $17,000, saving the dogs from being slaughtered and served as food.

While farm-raised dogs are traditionally eaten in China and some other Asian countries, the man who arranged the spontaneous road block over the Twitter-like social media site Sina Weibo, in addition to being an animal activist, reportedly suspected they were stolen.

After spotting a truck packed with hundreds of whimpering dogs on a Beijing highway, he put out a call begging fellow animal lovers to come and help him force the driver to release the animals.

Many of the animals were dehydrated, injured and suffering from a virus; at least 68 have been hospitalized, and one has died, the Associated Press reports. Video footage taken Tuesday showed the animals barking and whining in cramped metal crates.

“They were squeezing and pressing on each other and some were biting and fighting, and I saw some were injured or sick,” said Li Wei, manager of Capital Animal Welfare Association and one of the people who participated in the rescue. Li said at least one dog had died in the truck.

The rescue was remarkable on several levels. It was a rare successful case of social activism in China, a sign that new sensibilities are rising when it comes to dogs, and that the traditional practice of eating them is, for many, intolerable.

China has no animal protection laws for dogs or livestock, but animal welfare movements are growing there and in much of Asia.

The activists reached an agreement with the driver to purchase the dogs for about $17,000 dollars — most of which was contributed by a pet company and an animal protection foundation, Li said.

AP reports that dozens of volunteers have flocked to the Dongxing Animal Hospital in Beijing where they are helping to clean cages and mop floors. Sixty-eight dogs were at the hospital, many of them bandaged and hooked up to intravenous drips. Most were severely dehydrated and some had parvovirus.

The rest of the dogs have been taken to a property on the northern outskirts of Beijing where Li’s group is caring for them.

“When I saw the poor dogs on Twitter, I cried and cried, but I thought there was no way they could stop the truck. So I was very surprised when they did it and I wanted to help,” said Chen Yang, 30, a woman who tended to a dog that had given birth to four puppies just after the rescue.

The volunteer response indicates a growing awareness for animal rights, said Lu Yunfeng, a sociology professor at Peking University.

“Dogs were historically on the food list in China and South Korea, while they were loved in Western countries,” Lu said.

But in China, “as people became well-off, they had money to raise dogs, and while raising these dogs, they developed feelings for dogs,” he said.

Where there’s a Will, there’s a way

So here’s where we are now: After 11 months of having no home, we now have two — the mansion basement we are leaving and an apartment unit less than a mile away that we are moving into, it being the very unit my parents lived in when I was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

I’m paying double rent in April, giving me time to make the transition to the new place from the basement, which we’re leaving because of Ace’s recently diagnosed herniated disc, and the 11 steps required to get in and out.

As fate would have it, not long after Ace’s problem flared up, my mother, who lives in this town, was showing me the first place I ever lived — not counting the hospital — when we spotted a “For Rent” sign in the window of the apartment unit.

On top of its reasonable rent and two small steps to get inside, it seemed a somehow symmetrical place — it’s not where our trip started, but it is where I did — for Ace and me to end our year on the road.

We’ll move in this weekend, and begin unpacking all the belongings I left in storage when Ace and I pulled out of Baltimore 11 months ago to see America.

Said stuff was packed into the truck Monday in Baltimore, with help from Will Weaver and some other friends, all of whom made a daunting task slightly less so.

Will followed me back down to North Carolina in the rental truck Tuesday. And on Wednesday, Will and I — that’s him (top photo), with one of my prized possessions, a painting of Ace — lugged everything into the new place.  That’s me (above left) testing the two small steps into the new place to make sure they are structurally sound.

Then we drove the truck down to Charlotte to pick up a box spring and mattress my cousin and her husband offered me. We stopped for breakfast at a Waffle House, and I picked up a job application (It has always been a fantasy of mine to be the grill person at a Waffle House — though, for now, it remains Plan B.)

Back in the truck, Will drove, while I, aching by then, put my feet up. Thanks to his GPS device, there was no need for my navigational skills, which was good because my knowledge of Charlotte’s roadways had grown foggy in the ten years since I lived there.

At my cousin’s house, as their cat Manny watched, we loaded the bed, and a coffee table, too, on the truck. We were almost halfway back to Winston-Salem when we realized I’d left the dolly that came with the truck back in Charlotte.

Since you can’t clone that kind of dolly (subtle advertisement for my book), I drove back to Charlotte yesterday to pick it up, then back here to square things away with the rental company, which was also wondering what happened to the truck’s front grill. (It came without one.)

For the next few days, I’ll be unpacking, cleaning (a coat of greasy grunge somehow glommed on to all my belongings while they were in a locked storage unit), arranging furniture and decorating, being sure to do some accessorizing to really make things pop.

In the days ahead, we’ll be bidding farewell to the mansion basement, which — except for its stairs, and somewhat depressing lack of sunlight — served us nicely.

Ahead, too, are all the annoying little hassles and choices I gleefully avoided during our near-year as roaming vagabonds — cable or satellite, utility bills, vacuuming, doorbells, and the ongoing dilemma of too much stuff.

We’ll be doing some downsizing, since a lot of my junk is just that, and since the new place doesn’t have much in the way of storage areas. Fortunately, there’s a Goodwill donation center right down the road.

I’m thankful, as Ace and I enter a new phase, for that Goodwill — and for the other good Will, the one from Philadelphia, for helping to carry my load.

(Cat photo and John-testing-the-steps photo by Will Weaver)

Old friends, new friends & Vietnamese soup

If this week’s move out of Baltimore taught me anything, it’s that I probably shouldn’t be moving out of Baltimore.

Three friends showed up to help me load my rental truck, along with a fourth, from Philadelphia, who also followed me the 400-plus miles back to North Carolina in the rental truck.

There are two types of friends in the world — those who say they’ll help you move, and those who help you move. And while they’re all worth keeping, one must take special care never to take the latter type for granted. A friend who helps you move is right up there with the person who pulls you from the path of an oncoming bus: You are forever in their debt — at least until you help them move, or save their life.

Will Weaver of Philadelphia flew down from Baltimore, did most of the heavy lifting and masterminded the loading of my Budget rental truck in such away that the contents would not be crushed — at least I think so, we haven’t unpacked yet.

Three Baltimore friends showed up to help load, including the couple who, as they have before, let us stay at their home, which they occupy with a Boston terrier named Darcy. They even saved us a space to park the truck on the street in front of their house.

All the shows of friendship gave me second thoughts about departing the city — even if it’s only temporary. And as for Ace, he was thrilled to visit, reconnect and suck in the smells of Riverside Park. Despite his herniated disc, he frolicked as he hasn’t frolicked for at least two weeks.

But just as we when we left Baltimore 11 months ago to start our journey, the city made leaving a little easier, slapping a parking ticket on my rental truck sometime during the night. Though it was otherwise parked legally, apparently “commercial” vehicles aren’t allowed on the street. Cost of the ticket: $250, almost as much as the truck rental.

That pretty much crushed my efforts to move as frugally as possible — assuming I pay it.

The ticket was one of only two moving mishaps (so far). The other was when I stopped at my ex-girlfriend’s home (the real one, not the cardboard one). I was picking up a few items I left in her care, and Will and I grabbed lunch to go at the eatery across the street. We sat at her picnic table to eat, and, just after I took my last bite — as if it somehow that last swallow of cheeseburger put me over the limit — the legs on the bench cracked, sending me falling over backwards.

I was fine. The bench is not.

As for the cardboard girlfriend, I passed her on to another male friend, leaving her on his doorstep.

Yesterday, we pulled out of Baltimore in the rain, and arrived seven hours later in Winston-Salem, also in the rain.

That allowed us to put off unpacking until today. Instead, Will and I went out to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant, where we got soup in bowls bigger than my bathroom sink. I, the ever-frugal one, got what remained of mine packaged to go.

As we walked back to my car (which thankfully had no parking ticket this time), a large man approached me and said he wanted to shake my hand.

His story, as they always do, followed: Just got out of jail three hours ago, trying to raise $14 for a cab ride to his aunt’s house, already had $10, needed $4 more.

I informed him that, with his $10, he was in possession of more cash than me, but — feeling his pain and smelling his breath, and realizing I should probably stay on his good side – I offered up what I had.

“How about some soup?”

He thought about it and, while it was clearly his second choice, accepted the plastic vat before moving on to his next mark.

Being new to town, and not having my protector, Ace, with me, I figured it was better to make a new acquaintance than to have soup tomorrow.

For me, the choice was simple: Friend or Pho.

Where Steinbeck’s saga began, and ended

The ashes of the man who inspired our — as of today — six months on the road are buried in the town where he was born, at the Garden of Memories in Salinas, where another funeral was underway when Ace and I pulled in.

There was a trumpet playing on the other side of the cemetery as Ace and I sought out John Steinbeck’s final resting place. Members of the Garcia family were — in a ceremony that included the sounding of some joyous notes – sending off one of their own.

As trumpets played a peppy tune, and with help from a sign, we found the short, flat grave marker of the author whose legend looms large as redwoods, and we stood there silently.

Not all of Steinbeck’s ashes are here. Some, after his death in 1968, were spread by his family at Point Lobos, a state reserve in Carmel, where, one can only imagine, they scattered in the wind, caressed the rocks, and made their way to the churning sea.

Our gravesite visit — along with scoping out Steinbeck’s boyhood home, now home to the Steinbeck House restaurant and gift shop — was sandwiched between the highly informative four hours we spent at the National Steinbeck Center.

In the morning, my dog waited in the car while I spent two hours talking to Herb Behrens, a curator there who I could have listened to all day.

Then Ace and I walked around downtown Salinas, grabbed lunch and drove out to the cemetery, where I explained to him that urination, or any other bodily functions, would not be permitted. Between making sure he was well-drained beforehand, keeping him on a short leash, and uttering a few “No’s” when he got to sniffing, that was easily accomplished.

Back at the center, Ace waited in the car again as I spent some time wandering through exhibits based on Steinbeck’s books, ending with “Travels with Charley.” That’s where we finally spied Rocinante — the camper, named after Don Quixote’s horse, that Steinbeck and Charley toured the country in.

It sits behind protective plastic shields, restored and gleaming, with a foam Charley in the passenger seat. Of course, I had to reach over the barrier and touch it, likely leaving a greasy fast food fingerprint on its well-polished green surface.

Rocinante ended up at General Motors headquarters in New York City after Steinbeck’s trip with Charley, where it was displayed in a window.

A New York banker named William Plate saw it there and bought it, using it for hauling hay and other light chores at his farm in Maryland.

After putting another 10,000 to 15,000 miles on it, Plate donated it to the center — a museum and memorial to Steinbeck that opened in 1998.

Steinbeck opted to travel the country in a camper mainly so that he could remain anonymous. Staying in motels and hotels — though he ended up doing that more than the book lets on — might have led to someone identifying him, which he wanted to avoid. He wanted to experience regular people being regular, not fawning over or trying to impress a famous author.

So he wrote to General Motors.  “I wanted a three-quarter ton pickup truck, and on this truck I wanted a little house, built like the cabin of small boat.”

The truck he received was a new GMC, with a V6 engine, an automatic transmission, and an oversized generator. The camper was provided by the Wolverine Camper Company of Glaswin, Michigan.

The decision to take his poodle, Charley, along, was actually an afterthought — one that was encouraged by his wife, Elaine, who reportedly had concerns about her husband traveling alone.

Inside the camper, Steinbeck had a pretty sweet set up — a refrigerator and stovetop, lots of wooden cabinets and a big table to write on, though most of what he wrote during the trip consisted of letters to family and friends

Rocinante is probably the ultimate, and definitely the heaviest, piece of Steinbeck memorabilia that has ended up at the center, where items continue to arrive.

Behrens showed me two of the more recent acquisitions – a chair and globe from Steinbeck’s apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where Steinbeck was living at the time of his death in 1968. His widow remained there until 2003, the year she died. Some of the apartment’s contents were put up for sale at an auction this year. The globe and chair were purchased by a man whose father lived in Salinas, and he donated them to the center in his father’s name.

The light-up globe lights up no more. Its electrical cord is still attached but there’s no plug on the end of it. On the globe, there are lines either John or Elaine drew, indicating the trans-Atlantic trips they had taken.

But the trip Steinbeck remains best known for was the one with his dog.

Almost every year, Behrens hears from someone who is repeating it — with a dog, without a dog, on a motorcycle, in an RV.

When I asked Behrens why — what moves people to retrace the path of “Travels with Charley,” moreso than they do Jack Kerouac’s route in “On the Road,” or William Least Heat-Moon’s in “Blue Highways” — he answered the question with a question:

“Why are you doing it?”

I hemmed and hawed — it being a question I’d pondered silently, in my own brain, over much of the 18,000 or so miles Ace and I have traveled thus far.

A complete answer might have taken another two hours, given all the variables: My respect for, and interest in, the author. To see America’s dogs. To further bond with Ace. To feed the blog. To revisit places and people of my youth. To retrigger memories. To maybe someday write a book about it — a “Travels with Charley” for modern times. But I gave him the condensed version:

“I guess because I’m unemployed, and it gives me something to write about,” I said.

And maybe the real answer is as simple and gramatically incorrect as that: A writer’s gotta write.

Clearly, considering the body of his work — fiction and non — that was the case with John Steinbeck.

For him, it was an obsession, and a private one. He valued his privacy so much that, when he lived in Sag Harbor, Long Island, where he wrote “Travels with Charley,” he built an eight-sided shack to write in, and  built it in such a way that only one person could occupy it, Behrens said.

Selling books was never Steinbeck’s strong point, Behrens said. “He felt his job as a writer was to write, and not go on book tours. Nowadays he would be a failure because he wouldn’t go on tours and talk shows.”

His last complete book – not counting those compiled by others — was “Travels with Charley,” not his most powerful work, but clearly his most beloved.  Unlike “The Grapes of Wrath,” which was burned in several locations, Salinas included, “Charley” was, for the most part, adored by America. And it still is.

Behrens — and I agree with him — gives Charley most of the credit. “Without Charley, I don’t think Steinbeck would have sold 10 copies,” he said. He was exaggerating, but only to make a pretty valid point. The author’s skills and fame aside, there’s one reason the book was such a hit, one reason its popularity hasn’t wilted:

The dog.

Charley is buried back at Sag Harbor, beneath a tree in the yard, in a grave with no marking, at the opposite of the continent from where Steinbeck’s ashes rest and are still visited by flower-bearing friends and fans, and once in a while, a dog.

Is new Chevrolet ad pawlitically incorrect?

Remember the old Chevrolet commercial — baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet?

Well, decades later, the car company has, for the sake of selling motor vehicles, gotten around to acknowledging another piece of Americana — the dog; specifically, the dog in the pickup truck; more specifically, the dog in a Chevrolet pickup.

And that, they will find out as the new ad airs, if they haven’t yet, is some tricky ground.

It’s one of those topics that raises the hackles of animal welfare activists, some of whom who say under no conditions should a dog be riding in the bed of a pickup , some of whom say it’s acceptable if the dog is crated or restrained, all of whom say riding in the cab would be preferable.

And they are right. For safety’s sake, it probably would be.

Last week, in “Travels with Ace,” the continuing saga of the trip Ace and I are taking across America, we showed you Jake, a golden retriever in Oregon still sporting injuries he received when he tumbled out the back of a moving pickup. We did so without casting judgments or getting preachy, because our road trip is not about how dogs should live in America, only about how they do live in America.

In much of rural America, dogs are still dogs. They roam their property, and perhaps that of other’s, at their will. They chase and sometimes kill wildlife. Some even live, gasp, outside. And they ride in the back of pickups, which virtually all animal welfare organizations will tell you is a bad idea.

The Chevy ad, to its credit, doesn’t show any dogs in the beds of moving pickups, but, even so, I’m predicting it will lead to some lively debate if it airs widely.

On YouTube, it has already started — through Internet comments, gracious and civil as  always.

“Cute video, but I wish Chevy wouldn’t advocate the dogs in the back unless in a crate. Since I have seen a dog fly out of the back of a truck on a busy highway, I am traumatized for life. It should be illegal and is some places for your dog to ride loose in the bed of your truck unless you are on your own dirt road on your property with no other cars around and are willing to pay the vet bill if your dog falls out…”

“If I thought for a second my dog would ever jump out, he wouldn’t ride back there. And he doesn’t on the interstate. But on going into town, on rural country roads, and on my ranch, he will always ride in the back and he wouldn’ t have it any other way. MIND YOUR OWN F***ING BUSINESS FAG…”

“Greatest commercial! Too bad liberal know it all’s have created laws against dogs riding in truck beds! Apparently (like most libs) they know what’s best for us, and will make laws accordingly. My dog will ride in the back forever though, they can suck his hairy nuts…”

Besides reflecting how crass anonymous internet banter can get — how Internet commenting has replaced the punching bag as man’s default mode of venting hostilities — the discourse shows the cultural divide that exists in this country, one that’s not so much conservative versus liberal as it is rural America versus the rest.

It’s a generalization, but many denizens of rural America don’t want the rest of America making rules that govern their access to firearms, or how they raise their dogs — from whether they spay and neuter to letting them ride in the back of pickups.

There’s something to be said for letting a dog being a dog — as opposed to spending life on a leash or in a handbag – but is putting Rover in the back of a pickup letting a dog be a dog? In my view, it’s courting disaster.

Yet, while many experts also advise that dogs in cars be crated or restrained, Ace is traveling acoss the country unrestrained in the back of my Jeep.

Maybe that’s why I don’t come down harder on dogs in pickups; maybe it’s a degree of respect for rural ways; or maybe it’s because the surest way to make people become more entrenched in a bad habit is to tell them they can’t do it anymore.

Is 3-year sentence justice for Buddy?

040110_Buddy_the_dog_2_680x480Steven Clay Romero, the man who dragged a dog named Buddy to his death at the Colorado National Monument, received the maximum sentence of three years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Friday.

Romero, 38, of Grand Junction, will spend three years in federal prison, followed by 12 months of supervised parole for aggravated animal cruelty in the dog’s death Dec. 30, 2009, the Montrose Press reported.

He also was fined $500 and ordered to pay $343 in restitution to Buddy’s owners.

The dog, reported stolen from the back of a pickup truck in Delta, Colorado, was found with a rope tied around his neck at the monument. Surveillance photos and marks in the snow indicated Buddy had been dragged behind a pickup truck while still alive.

Romero’s sister, Melissa Lockhart, 32, is charged as an accessory after the fact to aggravated animal cruelty for allegedly attempting to cover up Buddy’s death. Conviction could bring up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

A theft complaint filed against her for stealing the dog was dismissed June 10, court records show.

The torture and killing of Buddy triggered a Facebook site, Demand Justice For Buddy, which as of Friday had 267,713 members.

John Travolta’s two dogs killed at airport

John Travolta’s two family dogs were killed after being struck by an airport service vehicle at Maine’s Bangor International Airport.

Both dogs were being walked on leashes while Travolta’s jet was parked on an airport tarmac for refueling.

In a statement released to the Bangor Daily News, city officials said, “An airport service pickup truck was approaching the airplane to service the airplane and did not see the dogs. Unfortunately, the dogs were struck and killed. The airport is investigating the accident. Out of respect for the family’s privacy the city will make no further comment.”

The death of the two dogs comes a little more than a year after Travolta and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, lost their son, Jett, who died after suffering from a seizure while vacationing with them in the Bahamas.

Travolta is a licensed pilot and owns a home in Islesboro, a small coastal town in Maine. It was unclear who was on the plane or if Travolta was in the cockpit, CBS News reported.

Miley trucking her way to a new home

My temporary cat Miley has found a new home. She’s on her way to Oklahoma, once her new trucker owner drops off a load in Bedford, Pa.

She’ll make the journey with her new human — a woman who calls herself “Gipsy Kitten,” and who regularly drives her routes with her other cat, a Persian named “Chuzzle.”

Kitty, for short, emailed me a couple of weeks ago. She’d scene the original video I did about Miley, back when I took her — though I thought she was a he — in off the streets.

Miley was living under the stairway of an empty south Baltimore rowhouse, and reportedly getting mistreated. I didn’t want a cat, but between that and the big snow that was on the way, we decided she’d come home with me until suitable accomodations could be found.

Three months later, Ace and I had bonded with her, but some upcoming life changes (I’ll fill you in on later) required a new home be found, which was the original goal anyway.

Out of the blue, Kitty wrote, and after exchanging emails for a week, we made a plan. She’d sign up for a load in the area. I’d meet her with Miley.

This morning, Ace, Miley and I drove to Frederick and gave Miley to her new human, who also had her two dogs — Havoc and Bonkers — aboard the truck.

Kitty — obviously an animal lover herself — said she was moved by Miley’s story and wanted the cat to keep her husband company. He was disabled in a farming accident and spends most of his time at home in Waynoka, Okla.

This morning’s exchange went smoothly. Miley, who is known to hiss and moan at strange dogs and anything else she doesn’t like, didn’t hiss a bit.

Kitty says, if everybody gets along, Miley will have the run of the truck cab on the ride home.

For Miley, it should be an excellent adventure. For me, it’s a little sad but we shan’t dwell on that. My video tribute (above) will suffice.

Ace, I think, senses the loss as well. The two were cohabitating nicely, though they weren’t exactly snugglebuddies. I think he’ll be glad that the bed will go back to holding just two species at night.

Kitty said she’d keep us posted as she makes her way back home, and I’ll be passing on what she has to report. Safe travels Kitty, and Miley, and Chuzzle, and Bonkers, and Havoc.

Memorial erected for Buddy in Colorado

040110_Buddy_the_dog_2_680x480A stone marker in memory of Buddy, the dog dragged to death behind a pickup truck at Colorado National Monument, was erected Thursday at the entrance to the Roice-Hurst Humane Society.

In a quiet ceremony Thursday, the dog’s owners, the Leber family of Delta, again said goodbye to Buddy, whose death touched thousands, and later toured the humane society, according to The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction.

“It’s pretty cool to see people think about animals the way we do,” Sasha Leber said.

The stone, etched with paw prints heading toward a setting sun, was donated and placed in a bed of flowers by Snyder Memorials of Grand Junction. It reads, “In memory of Buddy, and all the animals who have no one to weep for them.”

Steven Romero, 38, is expected to change his plea to guilty to a charge of aggravated cruelty to animals in connection with Buddy’s Dec. 30 death. A hearing is scheduled April 29 in federal court in Denver.

The Lebers plan to attend the court hearing, and in the days before, a candlelight vigil at the humane society.

Buddy was cremated and his ashes are in an urn at their home, Sasha Leber said.

After more than three months since Buddy was stolen from the back of their pickup in Delta, the family still questions why Buddy, and their other dog, Max, a black Labrador retriever and pit bull mix, were taken. Neither knew Melissa Lockhart, 32, of Fruita, who is accused of taking the dogs.

Lockhart, who is Romero’s sister, has pleaded not guilty to stealing the dogs and is slated for trial Aug. 16.

(Photo: Christopher Tomlinson / The Daily Sentinel)

Sister of alleged dog dragger arrested

The sister of the man accused of torturing and killing Buddy, a German shepherd who was dragged for miles behind a pick-up truck, now faces charges of stealing the dog the day before it died.

The sister, Melissa Lockhart, 32, told police she took the dog and another one because she thought they had been abandoned, the Denver Post reports.

Lockart, of Fruita, faces felony theft charges. Her brother, Steven Clay Romero, faces animal cruelty charges after Buddy was found dead Dec. 30 at Colorado National Monument with a rope around his neck.

Investigators say the dog was dragged about two miles before it died.

Police say Buddy and another dog were taken Dec. 29 from the bed of a truck in downtown Delta. A witness wrote down Lockhart’s license plate number. 

In federal court Monday, Romero told U.S. Magistrate Judge Laird Milburn that he has been harassed in jail by other inmates since his arrest Thursday. Romero is being held without bond in the Mesa County Jail and has been appointed a public defender.

Lockhart, who surrendered to police Saturday, was released on a $5,000 bond.

An online petition demanding the maximum three-year penalty be imposed on Romero if convicted has gathered nearly 16,000 signatures.

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