As they did after the Boston Marathon bombing, the Sandy Hook school shootings and the Charleston church massacre, comfort dogs are headed to the scene of an American tragedy — this time, the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history.
About a dozen dogs from seven states were headed to Orlando yesterday to provide comfort and encouragement to the relatives of the dead, surviving victims, their families, first responders and a stunned community.
Forty-nine people were killed and 53 were injured when what authorities are describing as a “home grown extremist” opened fire inside the crowded Pulse nightclub with a semi-automatic weapon.
Lutheran Church Charities, which began its comfort dog program in 2008, said a dozen dogs and 20 volunteers arrived in Orlando yesterday, where they will work with local hospitals and churches.
“They help people relax and calm down,” Tim Hetzner, president of the LCC Comfort Dogs, told ABC News.
“Your blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog, you feel more comfortable, and people end up talking,” Hetzner said. “They’re good listeners, they’re non-judgmental, they’re confidential.”
The program has more than 100 dogs in 23 states.
Yesterday, many of them, along with handlers and volunteers, sprang into action.
Gracie, a 5-year-old golden retriever in Davenport, Iowa, who was little more than a pup when she went to the Sandy Hook shootings that killed 26 in Newtown, Connecticut, was aboard a flight to Orlando out of Chicago.
“Her purpose is to share love and compassion with those who are suffering,” Jane Marsh-Johnson, one of Gracie’s handlers, told News 10.
“The dogs do more for those suffering than human beings can do.”
Sasha, a 19-month-old golden retriever left Hilton Head Island with her handlers, Brenda and Phil Burden. It was Sasha’s first comfort mission, though the Burdens brought comfort dogs to Oregon last year after a gunman killed nine people at Umpqua Community College.
The Burdens told the Island Packet they will likely visit with the first responders who are dealing with the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in American history.
Other dogs were responding from Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Nebraska and Texas.
While in Orlando, they will be based in Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Orlando.
Travel for the dogs and volunteers is funded by donations.
(Photos: At top, a comfort dog at Sandy Hook, by Allison Joyce / New York Daily News; below, Gracie, a comfort dog from Iowa / Lutheran Church Charities)
Posted by John Woestendiek June 14th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, church, comfort dogs, dog, dogs, families, first responders, florida, golden retrievers, gracie, hospital, lutheran church charities, mass shootings, orlando, pets, pulse, sasha, shootings, survivors, victims
Whether it’s art, propaganda, or a combination of the two, a memorial to victims of fatal dog attacks is creating controversy as one of dozens of entries in a public art display in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The work is called “Out of the Blue,” a reference to how dog attacks — and particularly pit bull attacks, the artist repeatedly points out — usually happen.
The display, created by a woman identifying herself as Joan Marie Kowal, consists of more than 30 decorated crosses, representing the number of people killed in dog attacks this year, and images of the victims, many of them children.
The artwork is rubbing some dog lovers, and particularly pit bull lovers, the wrong way, which has led to some demonstrations and the kind of heated, everybody’s an expert debate that follows pit bulls around wherever they go.
Joan Marie Kowal, we suspect, has more experience in badmouthing pit bulls than she does in creating art, but then again artists don’t need credentials in this competition.
Every year, for 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids is opened up to artists in ArtPrize, a competition that awards $200,000 to the grand prize winner.
Downtown becomes “an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters,” according to the ArtPrize website. “Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown … It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike.”
This year, “Out of the Blue” has proved among the most disruptive.
A week ago, perturbed pit bull owners brought their dogs to Calder Plaza, where the entry is displayed, in hopes of presenting their views and showing that pit bulls — the breed most often mentioned in the memorial — aren’t vicious killing machines.
When they sat down in front of the memorial, Kowal complained they were obstructing the public’s view.
Kowal told MLIVE.com in an email that “visitors can’t even see the art and many have told me the bully breed owners, sitting on the ledges blocking the view of the victims’ biographies and refusing to move, makes them unable to enjoy the piece.”
Grand Rapids Police Lt. Pat Dean said Kowal filed a complaint in late September about people sitting with pit bulls on the stone wall in front of her ArtPrize entry. Police found nothing illegal at that time, he said, and members of the group, while on public property, moved at the request of officers.
Kowal describes the work as “an opportunity to Pay it Forward, and show the good side of humanity. Visitors are encouraged to express their sympathy, respect, and support for the victims and their families by leaving teddy bears, flowers, or memorial decorations in the designated heart-shaped memorial space.”
According to a brief biography listed on the ArtPrize website, Kowal is an animal lover, who has feral cats and pet squirrels. She attended Grand Valley State University.
Not a whole lot can be learned about her through searching her name on the Internet, and there’s no mention of any previous artistic pursuits.
There was a 2011 MLIVE.com article that mentioned her name, and quoted her as being a supporter of a proposed pit bull ban in Wyoming, Michigan.
Perhaps she became an artist “out of the blue.” Perhaps her anti-pit bull passion needed an outlet.
We support the right for just about anyone to call themselves an artist, assuming they are making some form of art. We don’t have a problem with Kowal expressing herself — either vocally or through her “art” — on the streets of Grand Rapids. By the same token, we have no problem with pit bull owners and their dogs sitting down squarely in front of it, as long as it’s public property. They have the right to express themselves in public, too, whether they’re ArtPrize contestants or not.
So do we. And our opinion is Kowal is pushing her personal agenda under the guise of a non-profit organization’s art competition, and that it’s likely part of a well-plotted effort by those forces intent on painting all members of the breed with the same brush, reinforcing negative stereotypes while playing fast and loose with the facts.
Kowal says she plans to add three more crosses this weekend in remembrance of three other people who died from injuries she says were caused by pit bull attacks.
“That is not my fault that they were all killed by pit bulls,” she said. “I’m just showing the facts.”
Posted by John Woestendiek October 6th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, art, artist, artprize, artworks, attacks, breed, breeds, contest, discrimination, dog, dogs, downtown, fatal, grand rapids, joan marie kowal, memorial, out of the blue, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, victims
One hundred and twenty-seven human lives were lost, but a dog miraculously survived a massive bombing in Baghdad Tuesday — even though the building she was chained to collapsed.
The dog was first spotted chained to a roof railing after the Tuesday bombing, standing on a wall ledge over the collapsed home.
The owner of the dog, Farouq Omar Muhei, returned to his destroyed home and was reunited with the ginger-colored mutt today, the Associated Press reported.
“Lots of neighbors thought I was dead,” he said after his dog, Liza, was carried down to the street.
Officials initially said Muhei and his family were among the victims. But, to the surprise of neighbors, already marveling over the dog’s survival, he returned with his 14-year-old son, Omar, after being treated for cuts and other injuries. They were the only family members home at the time of the attack.
Only a few portions of the home remained standing — including one section of the roof where Liza was chained. The dog’s water bucket was by her side, but was empty when Muhei’s brother, Fuad, climbed over the rubble to unchain the dog. The dog, waiting calmly, yawned as Fuad approached.
Once carried down to the street and reunited with Muhei, 46, the dog — who he purchased as a puppy six years ago in Baghdad’s main pet market –shook with joy and lapped water from a puddle, according to the AP report.
“After we crawled out of the rubble of our home, I said to my son, ‘the dog is dead’,” said Muhei, who sells candy and small items in the local market. “But my son said, ‘No, I saw her.’ I came back today to rescue my dog.”
Posted by John Woestendiek December 9th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: baghdad, bombing, chained, collapsed, dog, family, farouq omar muhei, home, iraq, killed 127, ledge, leveled, liza, miracle, reclaimed, rescued, reunion, reunited, roof, rubble, saved, survived, survives, victims, wall, war
The New York Daily News reports that jailed dog-fighter Michael Vick is looking for a book deal.
According to the newspaper, the former Atlanta Falcons star has a literary agent, Scott Waxman, founder of the Waxman Literary Agency, who is shopping a proposal for a Vick memoir.
Waxman didn’t return the newspaper’s calls, but the article raises the possibility that Vick could use the book as an opportunity to “demonstrate sufficient remorse” for his actions, which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said would be required before allowing Vick to return to professional football would even be considered.
Too, if it were to sell well, a book could help Vick, who is now in bankruptcy proceedings, crawl out of the financial hole his conviction left him in .
The Daily News article says that, since his victims were dogs, it is “unlikely” that Vick’s book would be subject to the “Son of Sam Law” — though I don’t see why not. The law, designed to keep criminals from profiting from their crimes through book deals, authorizes the state to seize profits and use it to compensate the criminal’s victims. Seizing any profits from a Vick book, and passing them along to animal welfare organizations, strikes me as a perfect exercise of the law.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 29th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: book, book deal, daily news, dogfighting, law, literary agency, michael vick, profits, publisher, publishing, son of sam, vick, victims, waxman
Having convicted dogfighter Ed Faron of cruelty to animals, Wilkes County, N.C. officials, as planned, proceeded to execute about 145 pit bulls — both those seized from Faron’s Wildside Kennel operation and the puppies born in the months before his case came to trial.
If that’s not hypocrisy, what is? In the case of Wilkes County v. Ed Faron, Faron will serve his time and get out of prison, even the paperwork will be maintained in dusty courthouse archives, but the dogs were instantly terminated. When do we execute the victims? When the victim is a pit bull.
Few people see that irony more clearly than Shelia Carlisle — a dog lover, blues singer, and Facebook friend of mine who was one of the few volunteers allowed to help care for the many dogs taken from Wildside Kennels.
“It’s so crazy and insane that there’s just a blanket rule to kill all these dogs. When we look back on this we’re going to say that our attitudes were prehistoric,” Carlisle said.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 26th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal control, breed specific legislation, burke county, courts, dangerous dog, dogs, ed faron, euthanasia, executed, execution, law, legal, north carolina, pit bulls, victims, wildside kennels