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Where did donations to Charlie go?


David Gizzarelli took in more than $17,000 in donations from big-hearted dog lovers in what he described as an attempt to save his dog Charlie, who was deemed dangerous after attacking a National Park Service horse.

But his attorney says Gizzarelli is unable to help out with the $9,000-plus tab for veterinary care, feeding and shelter that Charlie, an American Staffordshire terrier, has received since last August, when he was taken into the custody of animal control in San Francisco.

Apparently the $17,000 that was donated was spent on attorney fees, paying for the horse’s vet bills and “other living expenses.” That’s what Gizzarelli’s new attorney says, adding that his client can’t afford to help pay the bill and is currently sleeping in his car.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins ordered Gizzarelli to pay  anyway — specifically, half of the costs for boarding and treating Charlie since the incident.

Gizzarelli is still raising money to “help save Charlie” — via a Facebook page and his Help Save Charlie website — even though he has relinquished ownership of the dog, who is now in foster care and will likely end up in an adoptive home or sanctuary.

Until his court appearance, he had not provided any accounting of where the donated money went, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

Charlie has been in the custody of Animal Care and Control in San Francisco since August, when he was  deemed “vicious and dangerous” by the police department. The cost for housing  him and providing veterinary care for an earlier injury totaled $9,808 as of Monday’s hearing.

Gizzarelli, in an earlier settlement, agreed to give up custody of Charlie and attend a hearing to discuss payment for Charlie’s care.

But he kept selling “Help Save Charlie” merchandise and collecting donations even after that. And while Charlie could probably still use help — he hasn’t been deemed adoptable yet — it appears little if any of the donated money has gone for the dog.

Questions during Monday’s hearing revolved around the amount of legal fees Gizzarelli paid to two attorneys, and $3,000 his attorney said was spent on ”food,  transportation and housing” — apparently for the human, not the dog.

Gizzarelli’s attorney, Orestes Cross, said his client has no money. “My client is on social welfare, living on $422 a month and sleeping out of  his car,”  told the judge during the hearing. “He fought the fight because he cares about his dog.”

Rebecca Katz, director of Animal Care and Control, says some donors to Charlie are likely upset. “I don’t believe those who contributed expected that money to go toward personal expenses,” she said. Since the settlement, Charlie has been in foster care. According to Katz, he needs several more months of training before he can be considered for adoption or placed in a sanctuary.

Gizzarelli faced federal assault charges after the attack on the police horse, but according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office those have been dropped.

(Photo: Help Save Charlie Facebook page)

Another picture you don’t want to see

All the wonderful things dogs do for humans is one recurring theme of this website.

All the terrible things humans do to dogs is another.

ohmidog! – as regular readers know — is not all fluffy, feel-good dog news all the time. We think it’s important not to turn a blind eye to animal abuse, in any of its forms, because only when the public fully knows what is going on can steps be taken to do something about it.

A case in point: Patrick, the starving New Jersey pit bull tossed down a trash chute at a high-rise apartment in Newark.

His reprehensible treatment, and subsequent resiliency, is not just tugging at the heartstrings of dog lovers everywhere, it’s uniting them to demand that those who abuse dogs be subject to punishments more in line with the ones received for violent crimes against humans.

If no one had seen those disturbing pictures of what Patrick looked like when he was taken in by Associated Humane Societies, there probably wouldn’t have been the outcry that has ensued. Publicity about his case has led not just to donations for his care, and that of dogs similarly abused, but to the sprouting of grassroots movements aimed at strenghtening animal abuse laws.

Patrick’s story, amid signs he’s continuing to recover, appears headed for a happy ending.

There was one in North Carolina this week that didn’t:

A female retriever mix, believed to be about 4 years old, was found wandering in the 6500 block of Lake Brandt Road in Greensboro on Tuesday after apparently being scalded with boiling water.

She was wearing a collar and a rabies tag, but the numbers could not be read, according to Marsha Williams, the animal shelter’s director. The nameless dog was responsive when she arrived at the animal shelter, but she was emaciated and suffering third-degree burns on her face, ears and legs. She died 30 minutes later.

The Greensboro-Guilford County Crime Stoppers is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest or indictment of those responsible. The Crime Stoppers number is 336-373-1000.

Very little is known about the dog, or what happened to her — and given as she has no known name, given that she didn’t survive — she’s not likely to emerge as a poster child or Internet sensation.

We share her story — or at least the sparse details known – for the same reason we passed along Patrick’s story; and that of Phoenix, a pit bull burned in Baltimore; and Susie, a puppy tortured in Greensboro;  and Louis Vuitton, burned and beaten in Alabama; and Buddy, dragged to death behind a truck in Colorado.

And that’s because the public needs to know — the non-sugar-coated truth, unfathomable as it is, painful as it may be to see and hear.

That’s the only way change happens. Our hope would be that change would involve more than just harsher sentences for animal abuse. More severe sentences will send a message, serve as a deterrent and satisfy our need for vengeance, but they don’t address the underlying causes that, without making compassion for animals part of every school’s curriculum, ensure such incidents will continue.

ohmidog! tries not to be one of those websites that shoves animal abuse down your throat daily (sometimes the days just don’t cooperate, though). Similarly, it tries not be one of those blissfully ignorant websites that look only at the happy dog news, pawsing only for bad puns.

If you want to be totally shielded from the sad and gory, the depraved and the troubling, don’t come here.

Because when humans sink this low, whether they be punks in an alley, breeders at a puppy mill, or scientists in a laboratory, we will make note of it and, if we can, more than likely include a photo, too — not for the purpose of sensationalizing, but to inform and spark action.

That said, to see the photo, continue. To avoid it, don’t click, don’t scroll, just go back to our main page.

Read more »

Techno-whipped? I pity the fool

In our eighth month of bouncing about this expansive and expensive country, Ace and I seemed headed for our most frugal stretch yet – thanks mainly to lucking out and finding some free housing upon our return to Baltimore.

For the first time, in our continuing effort to see America while spending less than what we were while sedentary and housed – about $1,500 for rent, food and utilities – we were looking at a three digit number instead of four.

Now, thanks to my stupidity, and with an assist from Verizon, we’ve blown it, and somebody has some explaining to do.

Before we left on our journey, I canceled my home Internet service (through Verizon) and signed up for wireless mobile broadband (through a different part of Verizon), allowing us to get online no matter where we were for $59 a month – the package they suggested for a heavy user.

It worked pretty great. There were only two or three locations in our 22,000 miles of travels, where service was non-existent or spotty.

I was so pleased, I even eventually sent Verizon the payment they were seeking from me for home Internet service for the month following the date I moved out of my house. It was basically a choice between paying the money I didn’t really owe, being regularly harassed by the credit agency to which they turned the matter over, or spending far too much time on the phone, holding and then some, to try and straighten it out.

All was going smoothly with my wireless mobile broadband — or so I thought until last week, when Verizon informed me that for the past two months I’d gone over monthly limit, and that I owed them more than $400. Read more »

Couchsurfing in Albuquerque

At 56, it’s not every day I spend the night with a 25-year-old woman, and if it ever did happen, you’d normally be the last person I’d tell.

But, on Thursday night, that’s exactly what I did.

A “complete stranger” invited Ace and me into her home in Albuquerque, went out to dinner with us at a dog-friendly restaurant (Kelly’s Brew Pub) and, though still a kid (relative to me, anyway) taught me a few things about trust and keeping the doors to one’s life open enough that new people can get in.

And she saved me a few bucks, as well.

For this, I can thank couchsurfing.org, a website that, realizing not all of us have money to spare for mint-on-the pillow accommodations, unites people looking for a place to stay with local people kind enough to offer one — on a global scale.

I first heard about it through a comment left on ohmidog! — offering me, a penny pinching traveler with a dog at my side, some advice on finding dog-friendly, cheap, even free, lodgings.

I went to the website, created a bare bones profile, paid a $25 verification fee (though they — see comment below — prefer to call it a donation), and explored the options, especially those members who lived along my somewhat fuzzy route who were open to opening their homes not just to travelers, but their dogs as well.

Jen Walker in Albuquerque was the first one I found. Through the website, I sent her a message, told her a bit about myself, and what Ace and I are up to, and inquired as to whether I might crash — a word I haven’t used in 25 years or so — on her couch.

Sure, she wrote back. She was cool with that.

She’s got a charming little dog of her own, an Italian greyound-Chihuahua mix named Cali who likes to hang out on the roof of the apartment that joins hers, and a cat named Autumn, who likes to crawl into suitcases and more than once has almost been accidentally abducted by a departing couchsurfer.

Ace, once spotting Autumn behind a pillow, immediately hopped in Jen’s bed to better stare at her. Jen was cool with that.

Jen, as she has been with the 67 previous couchsurfers she has taken in, was the consumate host — and even supplied an air mattress for me to sleep on instead of the couch. She’s working, and going to school at the University of New Mexico, and is a delightful young woman — God, how old do I sound? — with a laid back aura, a kind heart, and a curious and open mind.

Taking new acquaintances into her home, she says “allows me to meet people I probably otherwise would never meet.”

It occurs to me that, by hosting couchsurfers, she’s doing what I’m doing — both by taking this trip, and when I made the career choice to be a journalist: ensuring I would see new things, meet new people, keep learning, and not live the insulated life.

She’s made some lasting friends, and — one of the big side benefits –  accumulated a long list of places to stay around the globe. As with those who stay with her, she knows those she stays with will offer her much more than any hotel, or even hostel, ever could. Staying with a local person or family provides much better insight into local culture, far more tips on where to go and what to see and allows one to make a more intimate connection with the place they are visiting.

The concept is based on a slightly hippyesque, pay-it-forward kind of philosophy — taking in others leads others to take in others, and so forth. And it gives credence to the belief that in this world there are no complete strangers, only partial ones … friends we haven’t met yet, as I like to think — at least when the cynical journalist, untrusting, worst-case-scenario side  of me doesn’t get in the way.

Jen, in her two years as a member, has only couchsurfed once, in Durango, Colorado, but she’s hosted close to 70 times, many of those being visitors from other countries. They might stay a day, or even a week. (Jen is cool with that.) For her, it has led to many long term friendships and not a single negative experience.

In college, and even afterwards, she notes, she had a core group of friends — all with similar backgrounds and interests. Through couchsurfing, she has expanded her friend horizons, and met lots of different types of people.

Jen grew up in Hastings, Nebraska and at first was hesitant to tell her parents about her involvement in couchsurfing. When she finally did, “they thought it was great,” she said. “Some of my friends think I’m crazy, but I’ve met a lot of cool people.”

She’s now averaging two to six visitors a week, and I — who am sitting, not surfing, on her couch right now, Cali on one side of me, Ace on the other (Jen is cool with that) — am number 68.

As couchsurfing.org explains on its website mission statement: “For one reason or another, some of us may not have the opportunity to explore. There could be any number of obstacles that keep us from venturing as freely as we might otherwise, whether it’s economic limitations, cultural constraints, or simply fear of the unknown … If we could address and overcome those barriers, more of us would naturally tap into our own curious nature and actively explore the world.”

That philosophy, too, is sort of similar to the one behind my current journey — having no money is no reason not to travel; maybe, even, it can be a reason to travel. (Bear and his famiy notwithstanding.)

Couchsurfing.org got its start when founder Casey Fenton bought a cheap ticket to Iceland for a long weekend. Rather than stay at a hotel or hostel, he came up with idea of e-mailing over 1500 Icelandic students in Reykjavik and asking them if he could crash on one of their couches.

That led to numerous offers from Icelanders offering to show “their’ Reykjavik.” After his week in Iceland, he vowed to never again get trapped in a hotel and tourist marathon while traveling.

Originally, I planned to stay two nights, but after one I’m heading to Santa Fe to see an old friend who — assuming her three dogs get along with mine — might let me house/pet sit when she and her veterinarian husband are out of town for a week in July.

I’ll send Jen an email, and leave her a note — in case she’s not back from work by the time I have to leave. I’m sure she’ll be cool with that.

(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” click here.)

ohmidog! is hitting the road

Restless, poor, unemployed and finished with THE BOOK, I — along with my two co-dependents, Ace and ohmidog! — am hitting the road.

Maybe for a month, maybe for two, maybe for more, we’ll be traveling the country — or at least those parts of it that are dog-friendly and in the red zones of that Verizon wireless map.

In the week ahead, we’ll be putting our stuff in storage, moving out of our house, leaving Baltimore, at least for a while, and exploring.

Basically we’ll take what we are spending on rent, and spend it on gas instead, see some America, visit some family members, camp out a lot, mooch off friends, continue to blog and job search and keep an eye out for places that are particularly dog friendly.

We depart with no real destination and no firm plan. We’ll be stopping in North Carolina for a quick visit with (Ace’s) grandma, tool on down to Alabama for my son’s high school graduation, and, proof of citizenship in hand, drop by Arizona, where my father and brother live.

Beyond that, it’s pretty wide open, and we are, of course, open to invitations, especially if you know of a good place to pitch our tent.

If you run an especially dog friendly — not dog tolerant, dog friendly — institution, program or business, feel free to drop us a line (muttsblog@verizon.net). The same holds true if you run a rescue, shelter or dog-related organization that’s doing new and exciting things. Depending on where you are, and how close we’re passing by, we’d love to come see and document your efforts.

In part, our journey will be a search for dog friendliness — and by that we mean the true and sincere form, not dog friendliness based on breed, weight, or a non-refundable deposit.

What prompts the trip, more than anything else, is being finished with the book I left the Baltimore Sun to write, and my guilt about all the family members and friends I’ve ignored during the research and writing of it.

As for the book, it’s a behind the scenes account of the quest to clone a dog and the subsequent marketing of that service. It’s title will be “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”

It’s scheduled for release in December, but don’t worry, I’ll remind you.

Texas teen “werewolf” under investigation

werewolfA San Antonio teenager who believes she’s a werewolf has admitted to beheading a dog in her kitchen, but says the dog was already dead.

Sarah Rodriguez, 18, who prefers to be called “Wolfie Blackheart,” was contacted by authorities after a photo of the dog’s severed head appeared on the Internet.

“I didn’t kill any animal,” Rodriguez told the San Antonio Express-News. “I wouldn’t, like I said. I’d be more likely to hurt a human than a dog any day. And even then not really possible. I’m pretty friendly.”

Investigators are waiting to find out exactly how the dog, whose family said it went missing two weeks ago, died.

Rodriguez, who wears a tail, said the dog was found dead, and that she used a pocketknife in her kitchen to decapitate it.  “I severed the head, boiled the head.”

Before boiling the head, someone held it up and snapped a photograph of it that ended up on the Internet.

Within days, the photo had spurred an animal cruelty investigation by Animal Care Services and the San Antonio Police Department.

Rodriguez says she’s guilty of nothing more than a love for taxidermy: “I would never kill a canine,” she said. “I am a canine.”

Lisa Rodriguez, Wolfie’s mom, said she supports the career goal of her daughter, who has two dogs of her own, both huskies. She said her daughter has Tourette’s syndrome, which causes her to “yip” — a result of head trauma suffered in a car crash about a decade ago.

Police served a search warrant at the Rodriguez home and confiscated the head of the dog.

The black-flecked chow mix, Rigsby, went missing from a family’s backyard on Jan. 5. Two weeks later, on Jan. 20, a neighbor showed the dog’s owner a website with the photo of a dog’s head. “My heart pretty much sank,” the mother of four daughters said, “because when I saw that picture, I said, ‘That’s Rigsby.’”

Where well-informed dogs go for their news

bimini

 
Carey Hughes, a longtime friend of ohmidog!, sent along this photo of her dog Bimini, whose attention has been drawn to something on the computer.

Look closely and maybe you can see what website Bim is so caught up in.

It leads us to wonder — how many of the 50,000 visits we’ve been getting a month are actually dogs, logging on after their humans have gone to bed?

Do they visit websites other than ohmidog!?

Do they Google their own names, or if they’re Irish setters, perhaps Doogle them?

Do they enjoy some cyberfetch? Order treats delivered? Go on Facebook and post the trivial details of their lives for all to see:

Rex is looking out the window watching the snow fall. Can’t wait to play in it. I love snow. Rain, not so much. I’m glad I’m not a cat. OMG, I’m so hungry! And I just ate three hours ago. I think I’ll order some treats.”

Maybe that dog who ordered Xbox points via a remote control is just the tip of the iceberg, and dogs around the world are evolving to the point that they understand computers, or at least understand them as much as humans do.

Or maybe not.

In any event, they’re all welcome here.

Keep reading, Bim.

Louisiana dog graces Ohio license plate

In this cut and paste world in which we’ve come to value getting it done quickly and cheaply over getting it done with class, style or individuality, maybe it’s not all that surprising that Ohio’s “dog-friendly” license plate features the image of a pooch who’s not from from Toledo, or Dayton, or Cincinnati, or even Cleveland or Akron.

lab_license_woof-226x108No, Ohio’s steel-stamped icon for dog friendliness hails from … Louisiana … by way of Missouri, and the Internet.

How Mac, a 9-year-old yellow Lab from Monroe, La., ended up as the face of dog-friendliness on Ohio’s license plate is a story that began when J.J. and Mary Linda Huggins sent a photo of Mac to Missouri artist Debbie Stonebraker for the purposes of having a portrait painted.

Mac’s picture joined hundreds of others on Stonebraker’s website.

The good folks at The Ohio Pet Fund, rather than going into their own dog-friendly backyard, went online looking for a dog, browsed Stonebraker’s website, and chose Louisiana Mac as Ohio’s dog, according to an Associated Press story — one that ran in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette  under the headline “Apparently the dogs in Ohio aren’t friendly enough … Louisiana pooch ends up on Buckeye license plates.”

Louisiana Mac is the latest addition to the Ohio Pet Fund’s pet-friendly license plate line. The dog-friendly plate joins a cat-friendly plate and a generic pet friendly plate, illustrated with a cartoon. Proceeds from the sale of the plates go towards low-cost spay and neutering programs.

ohmidog! Having fun with Google Analytics

usa-map

 
Based on my Google Analytics — the service that tells me how many people are reading ohmidog!, where they come from and what they have in their refrigerators — I thought it might be fun to make some gross, unfair and highly non-scientific generalizations.

(I don’t really know what you have in your refrigerators, though a certain someone in Dayton, Ohio might want to check the expiration date on that raspberry yogurt on the lower left hand shelf, behind the dill pickles.)

Looking at the past two months, I see that ohmidog! has had 57,912 visits. Of those, 47,547 were “absolute unique visitors,” meaning, I figure, that more than 10,000 visitors who stopped by were not unique at all. That’s OK, you are welcome here, anyway.

Together, our unique visitors and our run of the mill ones perused 78,153 pages. Most of you landed on our main page. As for specific entries, Baxter the therapy dog (featured in our “best of” section, above) drew the most views.

Outside of the U.S., Canada (2,574) and the UK (1,097) sent the most visitors, along with some place called Not Set (1,434). More than 100 visitors each came from Australia, Japan, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Philippines, New Zealand and India.

As for the good old USA, looking at the last two months, I was surprised to see that Californians (5,394) are the most frequent visitors to ohmidog!, holding a slight edge over residents of Maryland (5,385), our home base.

After California and Maryland, the states most prone to visiting ohmidog! in the past two months were, in this order: Texas (3,398), New York (3,251), Pennsylvania (2,927), Florida (2,159), Virginia (2,089), Illinois (1,874), North Carolina (1,721, but most of those were probably my mother, who is absolutely unique) and Ohio (1,685, and, you in Dayton, don’t forget to check that yogurt.)

From our Google Analytics figures, we are able to extrapolate  (always keep an extrapolate, in case you lose your original polate) the following  conclusions about our readership:

Most loyal readers: Maryland.

Bounciest: Florida.

Most depth (meaning they stay on the website the longest, and I’m pretty sure it’s because they read more, as opposed to more slowly): Maryland.

Shortest attention span: California, New York, Florida.

Least likely to read ohmidog!: South Dakota.

Dirtiest refrigerators: South Dakota.

Shelter Pet Project aims to up adoptions

There’s a new national campaign underway aimed at increasing the rate of shelter pet adoption in the US.

Every year, of the 8 million dogs and cats that enter animal shelters, 3 million of them are euthanized.

The new campaign, called the Shelter Pet Project (SPP), is sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States, Maddie’s Fund, and the Ad Council. It’s aim is to reverse the trend through education and public service announcements, and find more homes for homeless pets.

Specifically, it plans to give shelter pets an image make over — and clear up any misconception that abandoned animals are more unpredictable, or prone to illness or bad behavior.

We know how wrong that conception is, but apparently not everybody does, so the Shelter Pet Project, with help from a talking dog, is out to set the record straight.

The project has created an interactive website that has some great pet adoption resources, Pet Personals and an Adopt-A-Grams. We’ve added them to our list of non-profit rescue and shelter organizations. (See our rightside rail).