He goes by the nickname “Wolfdog.” Lives in Alabama’s great outdoors. And he spends most of his time, along with his dog, Bandit, picking trash — copious amounts of trash — out of the waterways.
It’s not a job. He doesn’t get paid. He says he does it out of his love for the planet and its wildlife.
“I’m not asking anybody for anything. I’m not a charity case. I ain’t a bum. I’m not a mooch,” says 55-year-old Cliff Skees. “But I do care about the environment. I care about wildlife. I care about human beings, but human beings, they take one look at me and they say, ‘Well, he’s just a piece of trash, you know.’
“Maybe I am. But then again, maybe I ain’t. I can look myself in the mirror and say I’m trying.”
We’ll go so far — despite the hard times he’s gone through in life — to cast a vote for “ain’t.”
And to point out that, most likely, a lot of those people who see him as “trash” are the same ones who so casually discard it, cluttering the waterways around Mobile, Alabama.
Skees is an unpolished gem, first discovered four years ago by Ben Raines, an environmental reporter for the Mobile Press-Register.
At the time, Skees was living the woods and was commonly seen with Bandit, gathering garbage from the shores from a canoe with these words painted on the side, “Be a critter, please don’t litter.”
Raines wrote a story back then about the man and his mission. He followed along as Skees — and Bandit, too — scooped up trash from the water and returned it to their base, where 140 bags full of garbage, stacked and numbered, sat.
“It was a startling sight, and a testament to just how trashy we Alabamians are, for even with that much trash picked up, so much more remained along the river banks,” Raines wrote.
Recently, Raines ran into him again — and found out that, while Skees’ mission remained the same, his situation has improved somewhat. You can read that second story here.
After the first story appeared, someone donated a pontoon boat to Skees, and he turned it into his base of operations.
Raines happened upon Wolfdog and Bandit again last week at a boat ramp on Chickasabouge Creek.
“They both looked prosperous and had a certain spring in their collective step. I immediately had the feeling some good fortune had come their way,” Raines wrote.
“Mr. Ben!” Wolfdog shouted, “You’ve got to see my rig. Things are different these days.”
Wolfdog then showed off the houseboat he had fashioned from the pontoon boat — one complete with solar panels, an electric motor, and other features that he fashioned out of recycled materials and some “backwoods hillbilly ingenuity.”
“The woodwork is top notch. Glossy marine varnish shines from every surface. There’s a bed, a table, a propane stove and several small windows. The framing for the insulated walls is aluminum, to better resist rotting. Everywhere you look, the craftsmanship is meticulous,” Raines reported.
An anonymous donor gave Skees the old 1979 pontoon boat after the first article appeared, apparently to support his one-man cleanup mission.
While friends donated items to the houseboat project, Skees receives no support for his efforts to keep the waterways clean — except that which Bandit supplies. When they are out in the canoe, Bandit will leap off to collect cups and plastic bottles in his mouth.
Wolfdog says he hopes to set a Guinness World Record for picking up trash, and he still dreams of finding some support from the local environmental groups.
“I can’t get nobody to help me. That’s what breaks my heart the worst. I can’t even get a thank you,” Wolfdog said. “I think they look at me and they see trash…
“I won’t give up. Get discouraged sometimes. But my best work, the best of my work, don’t come nowhere close to what I leave behind … There’s just no comparison. No comparison. Not nowhere close.”
Skees says it was on his first canoe ride that he fell in love with the solace of canoeing.
That trip is also when, seeing trash in the water, cleaning it up began his calling.
“For certain for sure,” he said. “There aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to talk about it.”
If you are interested in helping Wolfdog and Bandit with their mission, contact Raines at email@example.com.
(Photo courtesy of Wolfdog)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 2nd, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: alabama, animals, bandit, ben raines, canoe, clean, cliff skees, dog, dogs, environment, garbage, guardian, homeless, houseboat, litter, mobile, pets, pollution, reporter, rivers, trash, waterways, wildlife, wolfdog
It may make your dog look like he’s a mix of punk rocker and porcupine, but otherwise we won’t poke too much fun at this protective vest, aimed at keeping dogs — especially smaller ones — safe from coyotes and other predators.
It was designed and is being marketed by a San Diego couple that lost their dog to a coyote. They started the business last year.
“Our goal is to help prevent others from experiencing the heartbreak we suffered when our beloved Buffy was killed,” Paul and Pam Mott say on the website for the Coyote Vest.
The basic vest goes for $70. It is made of Kevlar and has a spiked collar area.
For another $20, you can get additional hard plastic spikes running down the sides of the vest. For another $20 you can get the attachable nylon, quill-like “whiskers,” designed to poke the face and eyes of any attacking predator.
And for $60 more, you can add on the “CoyoteZapper,” allowing you to use a remote device to send an electrical jolt to any creature that might be trying to run off with your small dog in its mouth.
“The CoyoteZapper utilizes a dog training collar capable of delivering a painful shock. But instead of shocking your dog in the neck, it shocks the coyote in the mouth,” the website says.
While marketed as coyote protection, the website points out that the vest, and zapper strips, can also protect your dog from dog park bullies — or even another larger dog at home that may not be treating the smaller one with proper respect.
“…Zapper Strips are attached to either side of the CoyoteVest in such a way that it is practically impossible for a larger dog to pick up your small dog without his mouth touching both of them at the same time. If you push the button on the remote to activate the shock module the voltage will be directed though the Zapper Strips directly into the mouth of the attacker. The shock is harmless, but painful enough to make the attacker let go.”
We’ve never been fans of zapping dogs with electricity, for whatever purpose, and using them as conductors thereof is a little problematic, too — though we’ll admit to briefly wondering whether similar protective wear might be effective in keeping school bullies at bay. (In reality, the outfit would likely only lead to more teasing.)
Effective as the Coyote Vest might be in saving a small dog from a coyote or hawk, we’re not sure — for similar reasons — whether the protective vest, or at least its attachments, belong in a dog park. It could end up drawing attention from curious dogs, including a few who might mistake your little one for a chew toy.
The Motts say the fully equipped vests do draw attention, at least from humans.
When they took their dogs Cody, Scooter and Sparky (yes, Sparky!) to the 2015 Carmel Poodle Day Parade dressed in their vests “everybody thought they were the most adorable ‘punk rock’ costumes created just for fun. They really are a lot cooler looking than we expected.”
Posted by John Woestendiek March 2nd, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, armor, attacks, california, coyote, coyote vest, coyotes, coyotevest, dog, dogs, kevlar, pets, porcupine, predators, protection, protective, quills, safety, small dogs, spikes, vest, wildlife
For some strange reason, dozens of dogs have jumped to their deaths off Overtoun Bridge, a 50-foot high span near the Scottish town of Dumbarton.
Some claim the bridge is haunted. Some postulate (ridiculously) that dogs crossing it are suddenly overcome with suicidal urges. Others blame the minks who live below.
It is believed between 50 and 100 dogs have jumped to their deaths from the bridge in the last five decades — five during one six-month span in 2005.
The latest to make the leap, a springer spaniel named Cassie, survived, the Daily Mail reported this week.
Alice Trevorrow, 50, was walking Cassie across Overtoun Bridge when the dog jumped over a parapet and disappeared from her sight.
“I will never forget the awful whine she made as she leapt,” said Trevorrow, a nurse. “My heart just dropped. I have no idea how she survived, the bridge is so high. I was almost certain that she had died.”
Trevorrow and her son Thomas ran to the edge, looked over and saw three-year-old Cassie struggle to her feet.
She said the dog suffered only a pulled muscle in a hind leg.
Only one other dog has been known to survive after leaping off the 19th century span that some, including the makers of a documentary about it, have dubbed “Dog Suicide Bridge.”
The Daily Mail says the Scottish SPCA has sent an animal habitat expert to investigate why dogs leap off the bridge, which about as high as a four-story building.
The most logical sounding explanation is that dogs are detecting the scent of the minks who live below and, in their enthusiasm, leaping off the bridge to investigate.
Posted by John Woestendiek July 3rd, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bridge, cassie, dog suicide bridge, dogs, dumbarton, haunted, minks, mystery, overtoun, pets, scotland, scottish, springer spanie, strange, suicide, suicide bridge, wildlife
Here’s Zeke, a recently rescued pit bull, and his new friend.
Zeke’s owner said the deer approached their backyard fence one day.
After the animals checked each other out, the dance began.
She was able to capture the scene on her cell phone.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 30th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, deer, deer and pitbull, deer and pitbull video, dogs, friends, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, play, unlikely friends, video, wildlife
The North Carolina couple that was told their dog would have to be quarantined for six months because he had been sprayed by a skunk has gotten the decision reversed.
Eleven-year-old Simon is back home in Kernersville.
Forsyth County animal control officials gave no reason for reversing the decision, according to Fox News.
Michael and April McQueen’s dog was quarantined last week after being sprayed by a skunk — even though his owners insisted he had not been bitten by, or come in contact, with the animal, other than getting sprayed.
After the incident, April McQueen took Simon to a veterinarian who told her the dog was three weeks late on renewing his rabies booster vaccination.
The vet contacted animal control officials, who informed her Simon had to spent six months in quarantine or be euthanized.
That decision struck many as harsh, including the McQueens — given their dog wasn’t actually bitten.
North Carolina law requires pets exposed to animals prone to carry rabies like skunks, foxes, coyotes, bats and raccoons be either euthanized or quarantined at the owners expense if their rabies vaccination isn’t up to date.
Rabies isn’t transmitted through a skunk’s spray, and Titer tests — as several ohmidog! readers pointed out — can be used to assess a dog’s antibody levels.
Simon’s owners appealed the decision and Simon was released on Thursday with no reason given.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 14th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal control, animals, april mcqueen, decision, dog, dogs, forsyth county, kernersville, michael mcqueen, north carolina, pets, quarantine, rabies, reversal, reversed, simon, skunk, skunked, titer, veterinarian, veterinary, wildlife
We humans, with our vastly superior intellects, and being the far more evolved and civilized species, don’t need no stinkin’ animals to show us how to live life.
You’d think not — especially with Christmas approaching. Between all the peace, good will and fellowship the season supposedly brings, and all the attention, with his death, on Nelson Mandela’s legacy of kindness and forgiveness, we shouldn’t be needing, right now, any furry creatures reminding us bigger-brained, two-legged types how to get along with each other.
Yet, in the past month, they seem to keep doing so — almost as if they think the message has failed to get through.
First, it’s a goose and a dog partnering up in the UK. Then it’s an elk and a dog becoming backyard playmates in Washington state. Both pairs were shown at play, raising the question, at least in some heads, if animals of different sizes and species — like elephants and dogs, or cats and crows — can get along with each other, why can’t we?
Now comes this latest pair, a fox and a dog in Norway who met in the woods last summer and became fast friends.
Norwegian photographer Torgeir Berge was out for a walk with his four-year-old German shepherd, Tinni, when they encountered an abandoned baby fox. Since then the fox, which Berge named Sniffer, has regularly met up with them on their trips through the woods, and Berge has been taking pictures of the get-togethers.
Now he’s working on a book about the unlikely friendship with writer Berit Helberg, who told TODAY.com that the fox was probably an orphan whose mother had died, and was probably seeking food, help and company.
“Not many people are privileged to see and enjoy a friendship like this, but Torgeir Berge has both seen them in action and gotten the opportunity to catch this in images that don’t need words,” Helberg wrote in post. They hope the story will raise awareness for animal rights and the conditions that some animals are forced live in as a result of the fur trade, Helberg said.
Yes, animals of different species far more often kill and eat each other to survive. And these unlikely interspecies friendships, seemingly choreographed from the grave (or wherever he is) of Walt Disney, are the exception. It’s not like animals got together and said “Let’s rethink this whole survival of the fittest thing, and live together in harmony, eating wild berries.”
It was from animals, after all, that we most likely learned that mindset — that the world belongs to the fittest, richest or whoever roars the loudest.
Heartwarming as these unlikely friendship stories are, they’re not messages being sent to humans by animals.
But, particularly at Christmas, they are messages worth receiving, and learning from.
(Photos by Torgeir Berge, via Today.com)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 10th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, book, cat and crow, christmas, dog, dog and elephant, dog and elk, dog and fox, dog and goose, elephant, elk, fox, fox and dog, friends, goose, humans, interspecies, kindness, love, man, mandela, norway, pets, photographer, photography, relationships, society, torgeir berge, unlikely friendships, wildlife
This one — between dog and elk — looks to be a joyful one, at least if we humans are reading it right.
Elk have attacked dogs and dogs have attacked elk.
But these two certainly seem to be playing. Check out the dog’s wagging tail, and the seemingly playful gait of the elk.
Joe Fleck says his dog Clara played with the elk for a good 10 minutes last month in his back yard in North Bend, Washington.
“We’ve never seen it before,” Fleck told KING5. “We’ve heard her barking before but this is the first time we looked to see what she was barking at.”
“They kept running back and forth with each other. It struck me that it was like two dogs playing with each other,” he said.
Posted by John Woestendiek December 9th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, behavior, dog, dogs, elk, encounter, inter-species, pets, play, playing, species, video, washington, wildlife, yard