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Jinjja gets temporarily rehomed, and ohmidog! is taking a health-related hiatus

DSC06491 (2)By the time you read this — our last post for what will likely be a while — I will have parted ways with one dog and one kidney.

The kidney, which doctors suspect contains a cancerous mass, is being removed in a surgery today and will be gone for good.

Jinjja, the Korean dog I adopted five months ago, will be staying with a friend who has offered to care for him for as long as it takes, which could be a while, between the hospital stay, a six-week recovery period, and whatever other treatment may follow.

So the purpose of this post is to inform those of you who may be following Jinjja’s story of this latest twist in the life of a dog who was rescued from a meat farm in South Korea, transported to the U.S. for adoption, and has been making progress — slow as it sometimes seems — in becoming social, and trusting, and having the kind of life a dog deserves.

And to let you know that there won’t be any new reports on ohmidog! for a bit.

I dropped Jinjja off Sunday at the home of the Kirkeengs. It was his second visit there, and during both he seemed to enjoy everything about it — from the spacious fenced back yard to the pack he’ll be sharing it with: a small and playful dog named Luigi, and Olivia, a lab mix.

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He immediately hit if off with Darla, who is director of development for the Forsyth Humane Society, and with her daughter Katie, who I best remember as the person inside the humane society’s mascot’s suit during various fund raising events.

I’d already informed Darla’s husband, Eric, that Jinjja would be slower to warm up to him, as he’s skittish around men he hasn’t gotten to know.

DSC06479But, all in all, the situation — disregarding the medical stuff — couldn’t be more ideal. The yard seems pretty escape proof, and Jinjja has shown a tendency to get free, take off, and resist efforts — even with treats involved — to recapture him.

It will be interesting to hear how Jinjja handles being one of three dogs in a house. Upon entering it, his first inclination was to make his mark. It’s something he never felt much need to do inside my home, but did when he visited the home of my neighbor and her five dogs.

The Kirkeengs had three dogs, but recently lost one of them, Oreo. The other two seemed happy to welcome a new member.

As an added bonus, Darla has arranged for the humane society’s trainer to drop by from time to time to work with her dogs and Jinjja.

DSC06460And Jinjja does still need some work, especially in learning to come when he is called — something he’ll do inside. Outside, asking him to come often has the opposite effect.

We’d managed to complete one class together at the Winston-Salem Dog Training Club (during which he performed magnificently) before I started ailing in April.

The progress he has made, the progress he still needs to make, the need for him to get more exercise than my small courtyard provides, and the lengthy recovery period I’m facing made figuring what to do with him during all this a huge stress producer.

I’m told that, after getting out of the hospital, I shouldn’t lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for six weeks, which also means I shouldn’t be tugged by a dog who sees a squirrel and can’t help but lunge in that direction.

I contemplated returning him, for his own good, to the Watauga Humane Society, where I adopted him after his arrival from Korea. But then I heard from Darla. I knew she was a friend, but how good a friend she turned out to be left me kind of stunned. And highly relieved.

Now I suppose we should get back, just briefly, to my right kidney. (I plan to keep the left one). All of it will be removed, as well as a hunk of my renal artery, as the mass appears to have made inroads up into it.

After that, what they’ve removed will be tested, allowing them to make a definitive diagnosis and have a better idea where all this is going.

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I apologize for the details.

Ironically, it was just last week that I complained about surgical details, scar photos and graphic health complaints of people I don’t really know taking up so much of my Facebook feed, and all those other annoying Facebook posts I get tired of. Let’s just say I was a little cranky.

I promise to try and keep you informed — while sparing you any gross details — both here and on my Facebook page.

Meanwhile, thanks to the Kirkeengs. Thanks to my brother, Ted, who I’m sure I’ve only just begun imposing on. And thanks to my readers — be they old friends, new friends, Facebook friends, or strangers.

Protecting animals just got a lot harder

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For journalists, animal welfare activists and all Americans, accessing information that can help protect animals just got a lot harder.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday abruptly removed inspection reports and other information from its website that keeps tabs on the treatment of animals at research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said court rulings and privacy laws were responsible for the decision, though many suspect President Trump or members of his transition team are behind it.

APHIS said the removed documents, which included records of enforcement actions against violators of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act, would now be accessible only through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Those can take up to a year or more to be approved.

The records that had been available were frequently used by animal welfare advocates to monitor government regulation of animal treatment at circuses, research laboratories, zoos and puppy mills.

lolitakillerwhaleAnimal welfare organizations say the removal of the information will allow animal abuse to go unchecked.

“The USDA action cloaks even the worst puppy mills in secrecy and allows abusers of Tennessee walking horses, zoo animals and lab animals to hide even the worst track records in animal welfare,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society’s Stop Puppy Mills Campaign.

“This move makes it IMPOSSIBLE to find out where animals are located, their treatment and any violations, essentially giving carte blanche to anyone to hide animal violations, and violate animal welfare laws, among other things,” the Beagle Freedom Project said in a statement on Facebook.

The lack of immediately accessible inspection reports is expected to cause problems in seven states that currently require pet stores to source puppies from breeders with clean USDA inspection reports. No longer will they have a quick way to check on that.

In a statement, Kathy Guillermo, the senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, called it “a shameful attempt to keep the public from knowing when and which laws and regulations have been violated. Many federally registered and licensed facilities have long histories of violations that have caused terrible suffering.”

Whether President Trump is directly responsible for the website purging isn’t clear, but one member of his USDA transition team, Brian Klippenstein, has a long history of fighting animal welfare organizations.

Klippenstein is executive director of Protect the Harvest, a group that, among other things, has opposed legislation to regulate puppy mills. The group was started by Forrest Lucas, an oil magnate, cattle rancher and arch nemesis of the Humane Society of the United States.

The change came two days after U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert, a California Republican, introduced a bill calling for more transparency and a reduction in testing on animals at government research labs.

beagle-5The bill is backed by an advocacy group, the White Coat Waste Project, which has been using the USDA-APHIS database to gather much of its information on animal testing at hundreds of federal laboratories.

“There was already a troubling lack of transparency about what happens in government-funded labs,” said Justin Goodman, the group’s vice president for advocacy and policy. “This was a very important resource for us, and for every animal organization, in terms of tracking patterns of animal use and compliance, whether it’s in labs or other settings.”

The USDA web page where the information was located now brings up the announcement about its removal.

The Humane Society of the United States has threatened to sue the Agriculture Department if the decision to block Internet access to the database isn’t reversed.

“We intend to sue them unless they take remedial action here,” Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle told TIME. “The clock starts ticking immediately.”

monkeyThe searchable database allowed anyone to check government regulation of how animals are treated at about 9,000 zoos, circuses, research laboratories, dog breeding operations and other facilities.

Up until late last week, the site also allowed dog buyers to look up specific breeders by license number and see any possible violations under the breeder’s name before buying the animal.

“I’m very concerned that there will be no incentive for breeders or research labs or any of these facilities to comply because the public won’t know,” said Elizabeth Oreck, national manager of puppy mill initiatives for Best Friends Animal Society.

“It’s going to impact every species of animals,” she added. “There shouldn’t be any reason to hide inspection reports for a dog breeding facility or a research lab. There shouldn’t be any need to keep from the public how many animals you have [in] your facility or whether or not you’re complying with care standards. That alone is a big red flag for everybody.”

“The posting of these documents has been an invaluable tool in rooting out some of the worst abuses that are occurring,” HSUS CEO Pacelle said. “Essentially, this is now going to give a bit of a get-out-of-jail card to horse soring, puppy mills, delinquent roadside zoos and animals research labs that are flouting the law.”

The Humane Society says the Agriculture Department is required to make its inspection records at animal research facilities public under a court order.

HSUS sued the government in 2005 over public access to the reports and won a settlement in 2009 that directed the Agriculture Department to post certain data on its website related to research on animals. That information, the Humane Society said, was among the data that was just purged from government website.

The USDA did not comment on the Humane Society’s threat of legal action.

In a statement explaining the change late last week, APHIS cited a year-long “comprehensive review” of public information on its website.

“Based on our commitment to being transparent, remaining responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs, and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals, APHIS is implementing actions to remove documents it posts on APHIS’ website involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act that contain personal information,” the statement said.

“Going forward, APHIS will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication,” the statement added.

rabbitYesterday, the USDA released another statement, saying the change had nothing to do with the new administration:

“In 2016, well before the change of Administration, APHIS decided to make adjustments to the posting of regulatory records. In addition, APHIS is currently involved in litigation concerning, among other issues, information posted on the agency’s website. While the agency is vigorously defending against this litigation, in an abundance of caution, the agency is taking additional measures to protect individual privacy. These decisions are not final. Adjustments may be made regarding information appropriate for release and posting.”

Criticism of the change has not been limited to animal welfare activists.

Speaking of Research, an international organization that supports laboratory use of research animals, said in a blog post:

“When information is hidden … the public wonders what is being hidden and why, and researchers must devote even more resources to combating the public perception that they are not transparent.”

Feel-good story about homeless man’s reunion with dog took some strange turns

patrick

Getting your Huntsvilles confused is one thing, but one website really screwed the pooch when they published a story about a good Samaritan who helped reunite a homeless man and his dog.

In September, in Huntsville, TEXAS, Wilma Price was driving through a Walmart parking lot when she saw a homeless man holding a sign that said, “Dog in pound. Need help.”

Price, who runs a rescue called Mr. K’s Pet Shelter, stopped to find out his story. She learned the homeless man, named Patrick, had been arrested and jailed for trespassing, and that, because of that, his dog ended up in the animal shelter.

She took Patrick to the shelter, and paid the $120 necessary for him to get his dog — named Franklin — back.

The story was picked up by the website Life with Dogs, CBS News, People.com and many more.

Dozens of other websites reprinted or rewrote it — most of them doing a decent job of passing along the facts.

Then there was the Alabama Observer.

patrick2It reported that the story took place in Huntsville, Alabama, that the dog’s name was Wilbur, that the homeless man’s name was Mark Spencer, and that the good Samaritan’s name was Elizabeth Masterson.

The story had no links to actual news sources, and little attribution.

It wasn’t the only website to get the facts askew, but it was the only one that appeared to be making up entirely new names for everyone involved. At least three other websites published versions of the story with those erroneous names.

One wonders what might be the motivation for substituting illegitimate names into a legitimate story.

Might the exact same story have happened with different people at a Walmart in Huntsville, Alabama? Clearly not. Might the website be trying to cover its rear, legally? Maybe. Might there be something more nefarious going on, such as diverting donations intended for Patrick (whose last name isn’t Spencer) to some guy named Mark Spencer? We hope not. Might a computer program be doing the website’s writing? Highly possible.

Apparently, a bogus Go Fund Me campaign to raise funds for Patrick was launched by someone neither Wilma nor Patrick knew, and, using photos from Wilma’s Facebook page, it raised $3,000 before the page was removed from Go Fund Me.

That’s $3,000 Patrick and Franklin didn’t get. Wilma Price, meanwhile, started a campaign for him too, and it has raised more than $15,000 for Patrick on GoFundMe.

Price said Patrick has been helping her organization with rescue efforts since the two met, and her Facebook page documents their adventures together.

Snopes.com looked into the story and couldn’t figure out how or why the Alabama Observer version had new names inserted into it.

There is no contact information on the Alabama Observer’s web site, and no description of who operates it. Snopes reported it appears to accept stories submitted by users, as opposed to having its own reporters or freelancers.

We think there’s a good possibility it’s one of those websites that runs news stories through computer programs that rewrite them (with mixed results, or should I say “stirred outcomes?”).

How else could you explain the opening of this recent Alabama Observer story about clown sightings in Ohio?

“The developing rash of reported dangers including clown-faced villains has law authorization offices crosswise over Ohio and somewhere else attempting to recognize true blue dangers while cautioning deceptions are no giggling matter.”

(Photos courtesy of Wilma Price)

Dog owners less likely to cheat on spouses, according to website that arranges affairs

illicitencounters-umbrella

If we can trust the source of this study — and sleazy as the source may be, we probably should — dog owners are less likely to cheat on their partners.

IllicitEncounters.com, a dating website in the UK for married people, has found that of all the pet owners using its service to start an affair, dog owners are the least represented.

The website surveyed members, finding only about 10 percent of them own dogs — a far smaller portion than in the UK’s overall population.

“There has already been a plethora of scientific studies that claim that owning a dog, or dogs, makes you happier and healthier, and now you can add loyalty to that list,” said website spokesperson Christian Grant.

Grant noted that, in a way, pet owners seem to reflect the personality of their pets, at least when it comes to dogs and cats.

Dogs are generally viewed as loyal, he said, while “a cat’s loyalty is a little more unclear. Often lazy, they’ve been known to drift to whomever is offering them more food, so it’s of little surprise to see that lack of loyalty reflected in our study.”

Fidelity is rarer among cat owners, if the study is to be believed. They make up 25 per cent of the website’s membership.

According to The Telegraph, the website surveyed 700 members of its members.

Apparently, even while juggling spouses and paramours these cheaters had time to take the survey. (We’ll assume they didn’t cheat on it.)

Of those member surveyed about 16 percent said they owned fish, 13 per cent hamsters or gerbils, 11 per cent rabbits and 11 per cent reptiles.

But the biggest disparity between the spouse cheaters — or at least hopeful spouse cheaters — and the general population was how few had dogs in their homes.

“Man’s best friend is the UK’s most popular pet, and has been for a very long time, but not among this particular community it seems,” Grant said.

The website claims it has had more than 1 million users since 2003, and it issues the following disclaimer on its opening page:

“WARNING: NOT EVERYONE IS SUITED TO HAVING AN AFFAIR. THEY ARE NOT AN ALTERNATIVE TO WORKING ON OR ENDING A MARRIAGE. NOT ALL AFFAIRS HAVE A POSITIVE EFFECT ON A MARRIAGE, SOME CAN BE VERY DAMAGING. ALWAYS CONSIDER OTHER PEOPLE AND IF YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE AN AFFAIR, PLEASE SELECT YOUR PARTNER WISELY.”

(Photo: IllicitEncounters.com)

A farewell to advertisers

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If you notice ohmidog! has a slightly different look as of today, it’s because I’ve purged the site of advertising.

Except for a brief period when I first fired this website up, eight years ago, advertising has never brought in enough money to cover expenses.

That was the plan, but I never invested much effort in it. And what little effort I did put into it — much like my efforts at “search engine optimization” — was not an enjoyable use of time.

Life is too short to spend it wooing Google.

So, as of today, ohmidog! — while still planning to dazzle you daily, and remain your most trusted source of dog news — takes another step away from being a business, and another step closer to being a hobby.

That said, we are forever grateful to those advertisers that have been with us from the start and helped get us off the ground. We’re hoping the fact that we haven’t charged you for four years makes up for the abrupt break up.

I’ve come to the realization that I’m not a businessman; I’m more of a storyteller. And while the two can mix, I’m not good at mixing them.

Of course, I will still advertise myself (as any self-respecting blogger must) and tout from time to time the words I string together.

Those mentions — and who knows what else — will now move to the right side rail. (The ad for Bark magazine, as I sometimes write for them, falls under that category.)

All those shelters, humane societies, rescue organizations, animal advocates and doggy do-gooders that do what they do for something other than profit are now on the left side rail.

(There’s room for more. If your group would like its logo to appear there, write us at ohmidog@triad.rr.com.)

There is, of course no charge for that and, as promised long ago, there will continue to be no charge to read our daily posts, no registration required, no annoying pop-ups, no hidden links and no advertising disguised as editorial content.

If you’d like to donate to ohmidog’s continuing operation, I won’t stop you. But I won’t twist your arm, either, and I promise we won’t have a week-long fundraising drive — at least not yet.

We’re back, rehomed, and all wired up

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To those of you who visit ohmidog! daily – as you are supposed to – we apologize for our recent interruption in services.

We were moving our corporate headquarters, and not a single person on our staff – from the president (me) to our director of tech support (me) to our janitor (me) – was able to get our Internet hooked up.

So in addition to not bringing you a dispatch on the 4th of July (which is a holiday after all), we failed to publish on the 5th, 6th, and 7th.

When it comes to moving, the best laid plans can get, well, mislaid.

The way it was supposed to work, after closing on the new condo a week ago Wednesday, was for some needed new flooring to be installed Thursday, and for the movers to move me in on Friday.

The carpet layers didn’t show up though, and after calling Empire (that number, in case the jingle has managed to escape your head, is 800-538-2300) I learned they weren’t going to arrive until about the same time the movers were supposed to on Friday.

I was able to reschedule the move for Sunday, which meant I had to reschedule my visit from the cable/Internet technician for Wednesday.

On top of all that, there were 48 visits to Home Depot — OK, maybe it was only three — to buy things that were the wrong size, and then return them, and then buy new things, and then return them.

The new place shortens my commute from about 12 paces to about four, and brings an end to a search that lasted so long my dog died in the process.

Ironic, because it was in large part for Ace, and his ever-stiffening hind legs, that I began seeking an affordable condo or townhome, where he and I could spend our old fartage – a place all on one floor, with no steps for him (or me) to climb to get in and out, with a little green space (mowed by others) to romp, in the event we felt up to romping. Above all, a dog friendly place.

When Ace died, I thought about calling off the search, but I’d realized by then that by owning, as opposed to renting, I could save money in the long run – assuming there is going to be long run.

movein 012I assumed Ace was going to have one, but he – an ultra large dog — died before age 12, of heart failure. His ashes sit about three feet from me, in my new little office – but some of them will be doing some traveling soon, because Ace loved to travel, and he had some favorite places.

Some of them will go back to Bethania, where we lived for three years, to be spread along the trail at Black Walnut Bottoms. Some may be going to the beach later this month. Some I think I’ll keep.

Absolutely, there will be a new dog. Soon. Give me time. Meanwhile, there are tons of dogs in my new neighborhood I can get my fix from, including five in the unit next door.

When selecting my carpet, I made a point of choosing a color that looked like it would hide most any color of dog hair. I opted for “oyster.”

So far, I’ve encountered only one downside to the new place. There’s a tree that overhangs my little back patio, and it drops thousands — and this time I’m not exaggerating — of little purple berries every day.

movein 015To the left, that’s about half a day’s worth. The berries fall on my head. The berries fall in my coffee. If you can identify them, let me know. I may have swallowed one or two, so I’m hoping they are not poisonous.

They get tracked into the house, and purple may be the one color that my oyster carpets can’t disguise.

My patio is also surrounded by bamboo, and I know I will have to regularly wield my machete to keep it from encroaching too far, but it does add some major serenity to my surroundings, especially when the wind rustles through it.

Those are trivial details, though, and I’m sure, between our janitor (me) and our assistant director of trivial details (me), we’ll figure something out.

So that’s the reason behind the absence, and I apologize for not providing a better explanation in advance — both here on ohmidog! and on my Facebook page, where I announced last week I was moving, but didn’t say where.

That kind of Internet teasing — popular as it is among websites — tends to drive people crazy, but I didn’t intend it that way. I try not to resort to cheap gimmicks like that.

Our return to daily-ness will resume next week, after I accomplish a little more decorating, and make a few more visits — assuming our director of procurement (me) approves — to Home Depot.

There is one other small life-changing development that began to take shape this week.

But I’ve got berries to sweep, so, not to be a tease or anything, I’ll have to wait and tell you about that next week.

Rapid Paws: A limousine service for dogs

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There’s a new taxi service for dogs in the nation’s capital.

Launched earlier this month, Rapid Paws will transport your pooch (or cat) wherever he or she needs to go — be it vet, groomer, day care, airport, or even to another state.

The on-demand limousine service for animals has a fleet of two climate controlled, high-roofed vans, and they’re even equipped with cams should you want to check in and take a look as your dog gets from here to there.

Customers can schedule a a door-to-door pickup and local delivery to anywhere in Washington and its burbs, and they can do that by phone, via the Rapid Paws website, or through a smartphone app.

While the service may sound over the top, owner Paul Ozner says it’s filling a need.

“It’s an excessive service for some, in terms of basic necessities. But some of the people in this area, they’re time-constrained, and they do have pets. So what are you going to do? You have to treat them right,” he told the Washington Post.

So far, he said, most clients are middle aged professionals too busy to take off work to run their pet to the vet, or disabled, ill or elderly pet owners seeking a little help.

Rapid Paws has teamed up with one real estate company to transport the dogs or cats of people who are relocating.

Ozner said he and his partners came up with the idea based on their experience with a company that delivered meals to schools and the elderly.

Fares typically run from $25 to $60, depending on the length of the trip.