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Tag: winston-salem

Fecal responsibility: Boulder looks at DNA testing to track down poop scofflaws

poopquestionBoulder City Councilwoman Mary Young wants to know how feasible it would be to require DNA samples from dogs, and create a registry so that, through DNA analysis, poop left on city trails could be traced to dog owners.

She’s not suggesting every dog in Boulder be tested (yet) — just the estimated 35,000 with so-called “green tags” that allow them to romp off-leash on some of the city’s trails and greenspaces.

Young has asked that the issue be discussed at tonight’s City Council meeting, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. (Yes, it happens to be an April Fools Day meeting, but nobody’s joking here.)

I would hope Boulder looks not just at whether it can be done (it can), but at whether it should be — that city leaders consider, in addition to the price tag of such a venture, the ethics and implications and utter goofiness of it.

There’s a lot of dog-related technology I don’t like (click the banner at the top of this page for one example) and poop-detection technology is near the top of the list.

Not just because of its Orwellian overtones, not just because it’s heavy-handed, dictatorial, silly, creepy, intrusive and expensive.  It’s also because technology, unleashed, has a habit of oozing beyond the boundaries of its originally intended purpose — DNA-testing of dog poop being just such a case — and spreading into ever scarier realms.

The day could still come when your tossed cigarette butt, un-recycled soda can or expectorated phlegm could be traced back to you, which, come to think of it, might be a better use of DNA technology than that being offered by the dog poop sleuths.

Declaring war on poop, and bringing out technology’s big guns, is overkill. Especially when the real solution can be achieved by simply bending over and picking up what your dog leaves behind.

In case you haven’t been following our posts on this issue, here’s how it works:

Deciding unscooped dog poop is simply intolerable, homeowners associations, apartment complexes or government entities sign up with a company called PooPrints, which sends them the supplies needed for residents to take swabs from the cheeks of their dogs. Those are sent to Tennessee, and a doggie DNA registry is created.

After that, any pile of poop that is found can be gathered, packaged and sent to a lab in Tennessee, where it can be unpackaged and tested and, by comparing DNA markers, matched to an individual dog, assuming that dog’s DNA is in the registry.

The company lets management know who the poopetrator was, and the owner is fined $100 or so — or, if a repeat offender, perhaps told they and/or their dog should move somewhere else. Thereby a community is made safe from scofflaws, as well as, say, a grandmother whose back might have been hurting too much one day to pick up every last dropping left by her Shih Tzu.

Here in my current home state, North Carolina, apartment complexes in Winston-Salem and Wilmington are among the growing number of property management companies and government entities turning to PooPrints.

Yes, dog poop can be hazardous to our health, and harmful to the environment.

So can the feces of all the non-domesticated animals we live among, but don’t feel compelled to prosecute for pooping.

danriversludgeSo, too, can the dumpage of corporate entities, like the thousands of tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River by Duke Energy, coating 70 miles of the river with toxic sludge.

That’s a little harder to pick up after, and, I’d suggest, at least as deserving of society’s consternation and oversight and vigilance as dog poop — even if punishing the culprit won’t make them change their ways. (Big companies, unlike the average dog owner, can hire lawyers to avoid fines, and, if unsuccessful, they just pass the costs along to their customers.)

Finding clean sources of energy — that’s a use of technology I like. Using DNA to solve murders  (and clear the wrongly convicted) seems a good use,  too.

But gathering, packaging and mailing dog poop so technicians in Tennessee can comb through it and test it, by comparison, seems a silly use of our technological muscles.

In Colorado, Boulder officials say dog waste on public trails is one of the most common complaints the city receives, so it’s not surprising that they’d turn to a company that claims to have the solution.

Eric Mayer, director of business development for BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, Tenn., said the company’s PooPrint service is used by private property management companies in 45 states and in Canada. Franchises are popping up all over, like Burger Kings.

So far, the company doesn’t have contracts with any municipalities, but officials have been in talks with a half dozen different local governments. He said he expects to sign the first municipal PooPrints contract with Ipswich, Mass., sometime this year.

Maybe, if poop detection continues to catch on, it would be good for the economy. Maybe, you too could have a fulfilling career as a dog poop laboratory technician.

But there are far better ways to spend our time and money, and far bigger problems more deserving of our rage. Between all the emotion, and all the technology, we seem to forget that we can simply …

Pick it up!

(Top photo, fake poop question mark, from Big Mouth Toys; bottom photo, sludge from the Dan River spill, courtesy of Dan River Basin Association)

The Ace Files: What to do when your dog won’t let his claws be trimmed

Ace was born and raised a city dog, and however mean one might consider the streets of Baltimore, they (and its sidewalks) always did a good job of keeping his claws filed down to a less than deadly length.

That was a good thing, because, when it comes to a toenail trim, Ace will have no part of it.

Groomers, vets and I have all attempted it, only to receive the clear message from him that — as much as he likes to have his paws played with, as much as he likes to hold hands — bringing any sort of grooming tool near his claws is a declaration of war.

Ace’s claws, for that very reason, have always been too long.

That poses problems, to himself and others. Ace is quick to shake hands, and sometimes does so unsolicited. In Baltimore, when he was working as a therapy dog, I feared he might inadvertenly and with all good intentions rip apart the small children reading to him, and I monitored him accordingly.

They were too long when we pulled out of the city, for a year-long, John Steinbeck-inspired tour of America. But by being constantly on the go, his claws remained at least at a tolerable length during our travels.

They were too long, despite daily walks around the block, after we ended up in Winston-Salem, N.C. and moved into the apartment of my birth.

ursula 053And since becoming a country dog, when we moved to a little house in tiny Bethania, N.C., they’ve only gotten worse — to the point they may now be described as a tad freakish, if not lethal weapons.

Once again, I went out and bought some expensive clippers, having  misplaced several old and never-used ones. But the latest attempt didn’t work either. No brand, no style, no method of claw trimming seems to work on Ace.

He doesn’t snarl, or bite, he just bucks and flails and, at 115 pounds, overpowers anyone attempting to trim his nails. What’s much scarier is the immense stress it seems to cause him. His heartbeat speeds up. He pants and drools and squirms. His eyes get a frightened look. Maybe I just imagine it, but he even starts to exude an odor. The smell of fear?

Once, back in Baltimore, I asked Ace’s vet to trim his nails. Ace resisted. The vet muzzled him and tried again. Ace resisted more. Then the vet called two burly men into the room to usher Ace upstairs.

From below, I heard the ruckus. It sounded like a professional wrestling match was underway, and about two minutes later they brought Ace back down, saying they’d been unable to accomplish the task — despite their muscles and whatever implements of restraint were upstairs.

It was concluded then that the only way to do it would be by sedating him. The idea of that scares me at least as much as how stressed he gets.

For my my most recent effort, I bought the most expensive professional nail clippers I could find. I let them lay around the living room for a week so Ace would get used to them. Then I recruited a friend, and had her feed him treats as I attempted the deed. Despite even that incentive, he balked. By the time it was over, I was almost fully sprawled atop him while whispering sweet nothings into his ear. He bucked me off, and not a single nail got trimmed. (Anybody need some expensive professional nail clippers?)

I described all that to Ace’s most recent veterinarian, here in North Carolina, at his check-up last month.

He suggested we start jogging on sidewalks. Then, seeing my reaction, he suggested I find a young and energetic friend to jog with Ace on sidewalks.

He also suggested a complete blood work-up that, in addition to checking for any health problems, might also help determine how well Ace would handle sedation.

We didn’t take him up on the second offer, deciding to wait until Ace turns 9 for that.

We did consider his  other suggestion — though not to the point of taking up jogging.

Since moving to historic Bethania, and having our own back yard, Ace doesn’t go for a walk every day. Bethania doesn’t have a lot in the way of sidewalks.  Three or four times a week we take a short walk — mostly on the street — to the little post office where I pick up  my mail. Two or three times a week we walk the dirt trail that meanders through Black Walnut Bottoms, behind the visitor center.

Once in a while, Ace will hear a hunter’s gunshot there, prompting him to turn around and head home. Ace also fears loud, cracking noises — anything from a bat hitting a ball to the crackle of the fireplace. His fears, as he grows older, seem to become more pronounced, but then maybe that’s true of all species. Whatever little fears we have turn into big looming nightmarish ones. Probably, there is a drug to help deal with that. But I am increasingly fearful of pharmaceuticals.

Given the lack of options, I decided Ace needed to spend more time pounding the pavement — and at a pace quicker than the slow one at which I prefer to move along.

So we took some of the vet’s advice, and reshaped it to fit our lifestyle (OK, my lifestyle). We headed down to the golf course where I work as a bartender a couple of nights a week. (Ace not having appeared in a movie in a while, I took my new camera along, too, to test out its video capabilities.)

I’m thinking of making it a twice-a-week routine. The mile-long trot seemed to make an immediate difference. His claws weren’t really any shorter, but they were much less sharp and pointy.

Ace slept great that night, but then he sleeps great every night, with only occasional scary dreams that makes his paws flutter as he emits little whimpers. I don’t think he’s chasing rabbits in his dreams. More likely, he’s running away from scary monsters that want to clip his nails.

(Ace has appeared in one professionally made movie, and several unprofessional ones. You can see some of the latter here.)

Doggin’ it at the Black Walnut Festival

blackwalnutfestival 039

Ace dragged me down to Bethania’s annual Black Walnut Festival over the weekend, but I don’t think the nuts were the reason he was pulling so hard on the leash.

More likely it was the smell of barbecue that had been wafting up the street since the night before.

blackwalnutfestival 046On the two block walk to Bethania’s Visitor Center, he exhibited more determination in his stride than usual. Once we got there — nowhere near quickly enough for him — he got his reward.

We both ate well, him especially.

In addition to getting half of my barbecue and half of my cole slaw (but none of my macaroni and cheese), Ace worked his magic to get frequent hand-outs from the crowd of festival goers — everything from Moravian sugar cake, to slow-cooked pork and beef, to hamburger buns, four of the latter from one table alone.

He got to meet a few dogs, including Roxy, shown above, who is the mascot for Pooch Couture, one of the vendors on hand for the festival.

Wearing sunglasses and a tutu, Roxy immediately attracted Ace’s interest.

blackwalnutfestival 051So did a poodle, at least until Ace realized she was made of wood — one of many arts and crafts on display.

Walking through the crowd, his eyes would latch on to anyone carrying a plate. Every time someone stopped me to ask what breed or breeds he was, he’d get tired of hearing the explanation — it takes a while – and tug me toward the barbecue tent.

blackwalnutfestival 058Bethania, the second oldest Moravian settlement in North Carolina, holds the Black Walnut Festival every fall.

Based on the amount of food and attention he got, I’m sure Ace will want to go back next year.

Why don’t more dogs play golf?

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Last weekend, I went out to take some photos of golfers and ended up with mostly photos of a dog.

His name is Rufus, and he’s a very well-behaved six-year-old boxer.

A tournament at the golf course where I’ve started working, part-time, as a bartender seemed a good opportunity to test my new camera and try to take some photos of people (instead of dogs) for a change.

gsgt 249Then Rufus caught my eye, and wouldn’t let go. He was riding along patiently in the golf cart with his owner, staying there on command, and galloping along on the fairways when his owner gave him permission.

It made me wonder why there aren’t more dogs on golf courses. They would seem — were country clubs not such stuffy places — to go together nicely.

My bartending job is at Long Creek Golf Club — a not at all stuffy place. It’s a public course just down the road from my house in Bethania.

Last Saturday a charity tournament was being held there to raise funds for Green Street United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, in memory of parishioners Neena Mabe and Justin Mabe.

gsgt 229

I proclaimed myself official photographer for the event, commandeered a cart and started taking photos of golfers — at least until I saw Rufus.

By morning’s end, I had about 150 photos of golfers, and about 50 of Rufus. I couldn’t help myself.  Boxers, it seems to me, have among the most expressive of all dog faces — including that one that seems to say, “What, you’re not going to take me along?”

That may or may not be why the owner of Rufus, who was competing in the tournament, brought him along. Rufus had perfect manners, didn’t bark once and seemed to totally enjoy the outing. As far as I could see, he bothered nobody, and charmed dozens.

gsgt 026

I’m sure those who take golf ultra-seriously would probably be averse to dogs on the course. Dogs could be distracting, or slow down play. But with one as well-behaved as Rufus – or, generally speaking, Ace — I see no problem with them tagging along with their owner, on a slow day, assuming their owner is cleaning up after them.

Given golfers have to bend over at least 36 times anyway — between teeing up and getting their ball out of the cup — what’s one or two more squats to pick up a little doggie waste?

Having a dog along could even be helpful — at least for me. I generally need a search party to find where my ball landed. (Usually it can be found in the ruff.) Plus, I could blame all my bad shots on him.

I don’t play golf much because it can lead to me getting very frustrated. With a dog along, that might be less likely to happen, given dogs tend to both help us keep things in perspective and soothe us when we get ourselves frazzled.

gsgt 298I’m not sure Ace would be as good as Rufus is at riding in the cart — or whether the two of us can even fit in one — but I’m determined to give it a try. (Yes, we could walk, but to me driving the golf cart is far more fun than the actual game.)

Sometime in the next month or two, on an afternoon I’m not behind the bar, we’ll put a few bottles of water in a cooler, and perhaps a beer or two, pack up a bowl and some poop bags and hit the links. Rest assured, we’ll give you a full report.

And we’ll prove, maybe — or maybe not — that dogs and golf are made for each other, assuming the dogs can learn a few simple rules:

– Don’t pick up the golf ball, unless you’re improving my lie, or moving it closer to the pin.

– Be quiet, and courteous to other golfers.

– Stay with your group and, at least until they’ve hit the ball, behind them.

– Don’t pee or poop on the greens.

– And, of course, always tip the bartender.

(Do you golf with your dog? Know any dog-friendly golf courses? If so, please feel free to share your tips and experiences — good, bad and ugly — via a comment.)

Getting up close with Elwood

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Ace, a friend and I were sitting outside at a bar downtown over the weekend when Elwood came by.

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I being of the belief that one should never pass up an opportunity to meet a dog, especially a puppy, and Ace being of the belief one should never pass up an opportunity to meet anyone or anything, we stopped the young couple and asked to meet their dog.

Elwood quickly got over any camera-shyness, or Ace-shyness, he might have had.

Elwood is 9 weeks old, and a mix of dachshund and pit bull.

Some flowers on Mother’s Day


Here’s a mother — or at least an expectant one — who made sure she’d have plenty of flowers on Mother’s Day, building her nest of pine needles under this budding bush.

I came across her Sunday while visiting my own mom, who has a view of the nesting duck from her living room window and reports that’s she’s been dutifully sitting atop her eggs — about ten of them — for weeks now.

It’s baby duck season at Arbor Acres, the retirement community in which my mother lives, where residents eagerly await the appearance of the year’s first ducklings.

Nobody’s sure who the father is, but many suspect it’s the fellow to the left — he of the poofy hairdo –  who is well-known for his amorous behavior and apparently considers himself quite the ladies man.

Then again, if I had hair like that, maybe I would, too.

He is believed to have fathered many of the baby ducks that were born last year, and indications are he’s at it again.

Yesterday, as the nesting mother sat atop her eggs, amid the blooming flowers, it appeared to me — though I’m better at interpreting dog behavior than duck behavior — that poofy head had moved on to new interests.

The dog who thinks he’s frame-worthy


My dog Ace is always pretty cooperative — you might even say a ham — when it comes to having his picture taken.

But last week he went so far as to provide not just the photo op, but the frame.


We were wandering around historic Reynolda Village in Winston-Salem, where he generally checks each shop’s doorstep for water bowls or treats, then peers inside to see if anything of interest — i.e., food related — is going on.

When we came to Village Smith Galleries, an art and framing shop, it was closed, but Ace hopped up on a bench at the entrance. Both sides of the front step were surrounded by lattice, allowing opportunities for him to present his good sides (and there are many) in a pre-framed manner.

In case you can’t read it, that bandana he’s wearing — he got it as a going-away gift — says “I’m smarter than your honor student.”

Sometimes I wonder how true that might be.

Reynolds: The man, the smokes, the legacy

So he played a big role in getting a nation hooked on cigarettes. So he was the richest man in the state of North Carolina. So he was the sort of fat cat businessman from whom I tend to initially withhold respect — based on my automatic assumption that they had to crush a lot of butts on their way to the top of whatever heap they are on.

I wanted to hate him — for being the father of my addiction, for the fact that I can’t finish this blog entry without taking a break for one of his products — but, after a little research, I think I almost like R.J. Reynolds, and, even more, the estate he left behind.

Ace and I hang out there at least once a week — roaming the 130 acres that were part of his 1,000-plus acre country home, known as Reynolda.

The mansion is an art museum now. There are formal gardens, and a one-time village that’s now home to galleries, shops and restaurants.

But what we like best are the hiking trails that take you through thick woods and open meadows, rich with wildflowers and wildlife, past beds of pine needles and vines of  honeysuckle so pungently sweet they penetrate even a smoker’s jaundiced nostrils.

I got my start in cigarettes at, probably, age 16, pilfering Salems from my mother. Then I moved on to unfiltered Pall Malls — also a R.J. Reynolds brand, and also pilfered, in this case from a neighbor.

I remember my mother used to put her Salems in little ceramic holders. The little cups with a dozen or so cigarettes in them could be found around the house, serving almost as decorations. She didn’t smoke them that often, and when she did, she didn’t inhale.

I did — first her throat-searing menthols, then the neighbor’s filterless Pall Malls, before working my way up to Marlboros; those, after all, were perceived as the most manly, and didn’t leave you spitting out little pieces of tobacco.

Like most smokers, I ponder quitting at least weekly, most recently last week as I walked the trails of Reynolda, past a vine of honeysuckle that was leaning out into the path, the tiny tendrils of its blossom waving in the wind, like beckoning index fingers.

If only I could be hooked on honeysuckle, I thought. If only its sweet essence could be inhaled. Then I realized that’s exactly what I was doing. As I wondered if honeysuckle might be my salvation, I realized, if somebody studied it enough, honeysuckle could turn out to be bad for us too (though I don’t see how something with “honey” and “suckle” in its name possibly could).

Then too — even if honeysuckle did satiate that urge, and even if I harvested my own and came up with a smokeless way to imbibe it — it would still lack that ease of use that plays such a big role in getting us hooked.

It was R.J. Reynolds who made smoking so convenient.

In 1913, Reynolds developed the pre-rolled, packaged cigarette. He priced them low, called them Camels, because Turkish paper was used, and they helped propel him to the top of the tobacco heap.

Reynold was born in Virginia to a tobacco-growing, slave-owning family. He attended two colleges, one of them in Baltimore, and went to work for his father before striking out on his own.

In 1874, he moved to what’s now Winston-Salem to start his own tobacco company.  He started his own tobacco company in what was then Winston. There were 15 other tobacco companies in town, but his outgrew them all.

Reynolds was an astute businessman and a hard worker, and he quickly became a wealthy man. He married a woman 30 years his junior, his former secretary Mary Katherine Smith, who, historical accounts suggest, helped bring out his progressive and philanthropic sides.

She successfully urged him to shorten the work hours of employees, pay them more and provide them with meals, schools and nursery services.

When he built what would become Reynolda House, he also had a village constructed nearby where workers could live. It’s now called Reynolda Village, a collection of restaurants and shops. Also on the grounds, golf being his passion, he commissioned a 9-hole golf course, which now serves as the grassy meadow where Ace likes to romp, or just rest.

Before he died, in 1918 of pancreatic cancer, Reynolds served as a city commissioner and helped get both property taxes and income taxes approved.

He also granted endowments to Guilford College, the Oxford Orphan Asylum, and the Baptist Orphanage, in addition to a lot of  other charities and churches in the Winston-Salem community. He became the first southern man to establish a hospital serving African-Americans. He donated as well to establish the Slater Industrial School, which became Winston-Salem State University.

R.J. didn’t get to enjoy Reynolda House too long. He died the year after it was completed.

His daughter, Mary Reynolds Babcock, would donate it for use as an art museum, and the Reynolds’ philanthropic ways would continue. About 300 acres of the Reynolda estate was donated to Wake Forest University, which moved from the town of Wake Forest to Winston-Salem in 1956.

Today, the Reynolds family name is stamped on much of Winston-Salem, including the library at Wake Forest, the airport, a high school, a park and an auditorium, and the various components that make up Reynolda — Reynolda House, Reynolda Village, Reynolda Gardens.

(Having recently returned to my ancestral homeplace in Winston-Salem, moving into the modest apartment in which my parents lived when I was born, I thought about naming it and its adjoining patch of grass after me. But I’m only renting, and Woestendieka doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like Reynolda.)

My honeysuckle encounter, and the hours I’ve spent slow-walking with Ace around Reynolda, have got me thinking I need to do more walking and less smoking, more pursuing of health and less feeding of urges. They’ve gotten me thinking too about how times change, and how things we were told were OK turn out not to be –  like slavery and smoking, which, not to diminish the massive evil of the former, have much in common.

I don’t blame R.J. Reynolds for inflicting the scourge of cigarettes on society. He was a product of his times, peddling a product of his times, and pouring some of the profits back into his community. Far more devious, I think, were the subsequent generations of tobacco pitchmen and the marketing techniques they used, aimed as they were at young people (Camels) and women (Virginia Slims and Eve).

Light up — if you want to be cool, if you want to be sexy, if you want to be liberated, or if you merely want to be a rugged Marlboro man.

Most of us — though it took decades — wised up and saw through that. Smoking is bad, and bad for you — always has been, always will be.

At least, maybe, until they come out with All Natural Smokeless Honeysuckle 100′s, which would have the added benefit of leaving you smelling sweet.

Then, and only then, will we have come a long way, baby.

(For more about visiting Reynolda with your dog, see our next entry.)

Something to quack about

A new generation of Woestenducks entered the world Saturday, when the eggs laid by the duck named after my mother cracked open and at least eight — maybe more — ducklings emerged.

I was visiting Arbor Acres, the duck-crazy retirement community where my mother lives, and by the time I left that evening, eight of the eggs had hatched, and four more were about to, according to Bo Bowers, a resident who monitored the nest all day long from a nearby folding chair.

It was Bo who, when the Arbor Acres flock was dwindling last year, ordered 16 ducklings of various breeds, raised them in cages at his home until they were old enough to survive on their own, then released the newcomers — each named after a resident of the community — into the Arbor Acres pond.

The duck named after my mother was the first one to become pregnant. She built herself a nest of pine needles in which to lay her eggs under an azalea bush just outside the window of my mother’s room.

Bo counted 13 eggs in her nest last week, but when he later found one had been stolen and destroyed, apparently by a crow, he saw a need for increased vigilance.

He put a little fence around the nest, then watched and waited all Saturday — getting up from time to time to chase off the geese and other ducks who approached.

Once all the ducklings emerged, Bo gently gathered them, placed them in a box and took them home, ensuring that, for the next six weeks, they won’t become the victims of predators. Those include coyote, fox, crows, herons and at least one good-sized turtle who lives in the pond and, attacking from below, is believed to have pulled a few baby ducklings, bobbing along behind their mothers, into its depths.

On Saturday, I stepped outside my mother’s room and asked Bo how many eggs he was sitting on, and whether he’d like to borrow my tent for the night. Despite my teasing, he let me get close enough to take a picture.

Mother duck sat firmly on her nest, protecting the unhatched eggs, and making sure none of the ducklings ventured off. I was able to see one who poked its head out (that’s it under the hosta leaf, in the bottom right corner of the picture atop this post).

As news of the births spread, the crowd grew outside the window of my mother’s room. Other residents, staff and even a security official showed up to take a look.

Bo was still sitting sentry when I left. One could argue that he’s interfering with that whole “survival of the fittest” thing. But (being not particularly fit) I’ve never been a big fan of that. Besides, Bo, having brought the ducks to Arbor Acres, feels more than a little responsibility for them, and the second generation they are producing. He sees nothing wrong with giving them a headstart — at least until they’re big enough to avoid the snapping jaws of the turtle that lurks beneath.

I agree. Long live the Woestenducks.

Why drinking and bricklaying don’t mix

We don’t see either Jesus or the Virgin Mary in this — and nobody else does, either.

While strolling in downtown Winston-Salem, Ace and I came across this seeming testament to how not to lay bricks.

It’s the side of what’s known as the Pepper Building. Whatever adjoined it was torn down,  revealing this strange patchwork of bricks and mortar that apparently dates back to its construction.

We can only think of three possible explanations:

1. A bit too much bricklayer partying the night before.

2. Somebody didn’t want to haul the extra bricks back to the truck.

3. The Pepper Building sneezed.

I moved over to the little seen of the frame.
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