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Tag: winston-salem

Ace, and a few hundred other friends, surface during my fundraiser to honor Joe


My quest to honor my son’s memory by having a kennel in my local humane society named after him has almost reached its goal, thanks to the kindness of friends, family and a lot of people I’ve never known.

Sure it’s only a plaque, just like a condolence card is only a card, and words are only words, and, from the giver’s point of view, none of them really seem sufficient to honor a loved one who has passed — especially one who dies such an early death.

But people do what they can at times like these. And the $10,000 (maybe more) donation Joe will be making posthumously to the Forsyth Humane Society will go a long way in terms of caring and finding homes for the dogs who end up there.

thermometer-red-90-percent-hiThe plaque is one of several commemorative opportunities the shelter, like most, offers to those wishing to make a donation in the name of a loved one lost, be they cat, dog or human.

Forsyth Humane Society, in North Carolina, offers commemorative bricks, engraved with the loved one’s name, from $100 to $250, based on their size; bench plaques, for $750; annual sponsorships of individual kennels for $300 a year; and the big one — sponsoring a kennel for a lifetime — for $10,000. As part of the kennel sponsorships, the Humane Society sends you the stories of three of the dogs that occupy the kennel each year.

(You can check the website of your local humane society or SPCA to see the commemorative opportunities it might offer.)

For my son Joe, 26, who died two weeks after an accident on an Interstate highway in Mississippi, I had to shoot for the perpetual sponsorship.

When Joe visited me in the summer, he volunteered at the Forsyth Humane Society a few days a week, and at special events, where he most enjoyed donning the dog costume of its mascot.

So the choice for a memorial to him seemed a good fit — and a much-needed something to keep me busy.

I started a Facebook fundraising campaign, which is now more than 90 percent of the way to its goal and has left me marveling at the kindness and generosity of my friends, most of whom I’ve done a poor job of staying in touch with over the years.

Former colleagues at the Philadelphia Inquirer responded, as well as many from the Baltimore Sun. College friends kicked in. Dog park buddies came through, as did lots of you ohmidog! readers, some I know and some I don’t.

And I can’t remember ever being so touched. Thanks to you, Joe, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, will soon have his name on a kennel that, over the course of each year, will probably house one or two dozen homeless dogs (one at a time) awaiting that happy outcome.

Each and every donation, large or small, has lifted my spirits.

One of the gestures that moved me most came from a friend in Baltimore who was mourning the death of her dog.

Carey Hughes once fell really hard for me, but let me explain.

bm3We’d met when we were both out with our dogs at some sort of function in the Inner Harbor. We got together a few times after that, since our dogs hit it off so well — usually at a dog park, or a bar that allowed dogs.

Once at an outdoor restaurant near the harbor, I asked her to hold Ace’s leash for me while I went inside for more beer. Her dog, Bimini was tied to the table, but given Ace, at 140 pounds, could drag a table pretty far, I asked Carey to hold on to him.

When I came back outside, Ace bolted toward me, toppling Carey’s chair and dragging her a foot or two across the pavement (something he’d done with me a few times, so I knew it hurt, despite her assurances).

The fact that she didn’t let go of the leash says something about her. So does what she did this week. Bimini died last week, and friends were asking Carey how they might contribute to some sort of memorial for him.

Instead, she asked those friends to donate to Joe’s fundraiser, in a Facebook post, and many of them did.

She’s planning gathering in Bimini’s honor in the days ahead during which she will bury Bimini’s ashes in a whiskey barrel behind her house, then plant flowers on top.

bim2Having some of Ace’s ashes still remaining from my two spreadings of his ashes — one in the Atlantic Ocean, the other in a creek along a trail we used to hike regularly — I asked her if I could send some of those to be in the whiskey barrel with Bimini.

Given Bimini never liked to be alone (neither did Ace, who died two years ago), she thought it was a great idea.

Unless postal authorities became suspicious of the powdery substance inside and tore the package open, the ashes should have arrived yesterday.

Little things like that, all piled on top of each other — the reuniting with friends, the generosity people have shown, the support I’ve received — have, along with keeping myself as busy as possible, have made this week tolerable.

I posted a remembrance of Joe on ohmidog! Monday. On Tuesday, my local paper, the Winston-Salem Journal, ran a beautiful front page story by columnist Scott Sexton about Joe and the fundraising campaign. Those, combined with the Facebook fundraising campaign, have led to it nearing it’s $10,000 goal.

As Sexton noted, say what you will about all the cons of Facebook — and I frequently bash it — it leads to some pretty marvelous things.

“Facebook has earned every last bit of criticism leveled at it for helping to sow discord and divide people through dissemination of fake news and paid manipulations by bad actors overseas. It, and other outlets, are easily manipulated and should be viewed in many cases with healthy skepticism and an eye toward fact (and source) checking.

“The flip side is that social media can be extremely useful. It can help connect lives, share news and has the power to bring people (and communities) together. It also has the ability to pass word of tragedy, and spare people from having to repeat over and over and over the unfathomable.”

Joe WoestendiekIt is mainly through Facebook that old friends have gotten in touch and complete strangers have decided to donate. Thanks to those who shared the posts, and to all those who sent comforting words.

My friends are mostly fellow writers, many of whom pointed out that words just aren’t sufficient at times like this.

But they tried anyway and, for the record, they do help. A lot. Words, gestures, hugs — they mean everything right now.

So will Joe’s plaque. It will probably take a while before it goes up on one of the kennels at the humane society, which opened its new facility two years ago. It takes time for the donations to be funneled through and for the actual making of the plaque.

I can’t wait to see it.

And if that last name isn’t spelled right, as often happens, believe me I will let them know.

(Photos: Joe Woestendiek and Ace, by John Woestendiek; Bimini and Ace, courtesy of Carey Hughes)

Remembering my son, Joe

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On May 13, 1992, a flight arrived at LAX from Seoul and three Korean babies, orphans all, were carried off the plane by their escorts to be handed to their new adoptive parents.

My wife and I were there to meet one of them, our new son whom we’d decided, based on photos, would be named either Sam or Joe, depending on which seemed the better fit after seeing him in person.

He was the last one off the plane, a tiny thing with an unruly shock of jet black hair that was shooting in every direction after the 11-hour flight. For a moment, we debated whether he might be an “Elvis.” But we opted for Joe.

Joe WoestendiekFast forward 26 years — and God, did it ever go too fast — and Joe (full name Joseph Yoon Tae Woestendiek) was lying in a coma in a Memphis hospital, his hair shaved off, and parts of his skull removed to accommodate the swelling of his severely damaged brain. The outlook was bleak, at best.

He was on his way home from work when his car rear-ended a dump truck on the interstate near Holly Springs, Miss. The truck grinded to a halt. The truck driver pulled Joe out of his burning car. And he was airlifted by helicopter from Mississippi to Memphis — to, ironically, the Elvis Presley Trauma Center.

He died 13 days later. For nearly two weeks doctors kept him sedated and fought to relieve his cranial pressure even while warning that, if he came out of his coma at all, he would likely have little to no brain function due to the extent of the brain damage. They warned, too, that lung problems had developed, and that those and the strain on his heart, were more likely to take his life. His heart came to a stop on June 18.

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I write this another week later, partly to explain why our ohmidog! posts came to a halt, but more to keep his memory alive, and in hopes that writing about it will be cathartic and make some of the numbness and emptiness inside me go away.

joetromboneJoe grew up in Orange County, Calif.; Yardley, Pa., Anderson, S.C., and Florence, Ala. He lived in recent years with his mom and stepdad in New Albany, Miss. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he earned a B.S. in computer science from the School of Engineering.

He’d recently started a job he loved — in the information technology department of Automated Conveyor Systems, Inc., of West Memphis, Ark.

His visits to my home, in Winston-Salem, N.C., had dwindled, but up until he finished college he’d come here regularly on holidays and in the summer. He loved guitars, and video games and, of course, dogs. He’d always get teary on his last day visiting; I was never sure if it was because he was leaving me, or leaving my dog Ace. He’d yet to meet my new dog, Jinjja, also adopted from Korea.

SONY DSCWhile here, Joe would volunteer with the Forsyth Humane Society, an organization I’ve also done some work with as a volunteer. He’d walk dogs at the shelter, and help out at events, his favorite role being donning the mascot costume — a swelteringly hot furry dog outfit — and working the crowd.

He had three dogs of his own at home.

Because of his love of dogs, and the joy working with humane society brought him, I’ve decided a fitting tribute would be to make a donation to the humane society in his name — one significant enough to merit a plaque with his name on it.

His name on a brick paver is one option, but I, for what are probably selfish reasons, want more.

I want to try to make a donation large enough to make him a lifetime sponsor of one of the shelter’s kennels.

That way, everyone who walks in to look at the many dogs available for adoption will see his name, and maybe more importantly, I will. I like the idea of a kid once in need of adoption sponsoring a kennel that will house dog after dog after dog in need of adoption — forever.

That requires a $10,000 donation, not an amount I have handy, or can even dream of obtaining. But, unachievable as that might be — and needing something to do right now — that’s what I’m working on.

So here is my plan.

I’ve started a Facebook fundraiser aimed at donating $10,000 to the Forsyth Humane Society in his memory.

SONY DSCA memorial service for him will be held in Mississippi this week.

But I want to do something here in Winston-Salem — perhaps a mini-concert featuring some musician friends of his and mine. I’m working now on setting that up.

I want it to be a simple and joyful hour or so, nothing somber, nothing speech-filled — just a chance for local friends to come together and say goodbye, maybe at the Muddy Creek Cafe in Bethania. We always enjoyed going there.

When Joe arrived in the U.S., my then-wife Jenny and I were living in Orange County, California. The riots that Rodney King’s beating sparked in Los Angeles were only starting to settle down. I was covering those for the newspaper I worked for at the time, the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Every morning, I would cruise through the most devastated areas, returning to a hotel in the evening to write. It was a bleak couple of weeks, the kind that make you worry about humanity and its future. Nearly every day, my rental car was pelted by rocks and chunks of concrete. At nearly every stoplight, I’d receive hateful stares and threatening gestures.

I remember wondering as I drove those streets how, and why, complete strangers could hate me so much.

Amid all that, we got the call that our adoptee was on his way. We were supposed to pick him up in Korea, but somebody goofed. My boss was kind enough to give me some time off, away from the riots, to bond with my new son.

And in the ensuing weeks, and years, I remember wondering how a complete stranger could love me so much.

And me him.

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That’s what he taught me, and it’s not unlike the lesson anyone who adopts a dog learns. Show a creature love and respect and loyalty and you’ll get it back — unconditionally and exponentially. Oppress, abuse and disrespect it and you’ll get … what you deserve.

As abruptly and prematurely as Joe’s life ended, I will always be thankful for the joy he brought me and the lessons he taught me.

I’m thankful, too, for all the prayers and expressions of support I’ve received from friends (and even strangers). I am overwhelmed by the response to the Facebook fundraiser. I posted it three days ago, and it’s already more than halfway to its goal.

Thanks also to the caring staff at Regional One’s Elvis Presley Trauma Center, and to that truck driver, Michael Simpson of Memphis, whose actions gave Joe a fighting chance.

Those wishing to contribute to Joe’s plaque can do so through the Facebook fundraiser.

Contributions can also be made through ohmidog!, or directly to Forsyth Humane Society. Please specify they are for Joe Woestendiek’s memorial plaque.

Plumber fired after video posted on Facebook of him kicking a dog

An employee at a Winston-Salem plumbing company was fired after a video of him kicking a dog inside a house was posted on Facebook Wednesday.

The employee, who hasn’t been named, worked for PF Plumbing, a company that features a bulldog named Cooper in its advertising.

On the company’s website, Cooper is pictured holding a wrench in his mouth, next to the company’s promise that its employees are “drug tested, background checked and highly professional.”

A woman with the Facebook profile name Kelly Nicole posted a 34-second video clip showing two men from the company coming into a living room on the way to the kitchen, with a barking dog following them.

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One of the men kicked the dog before continuing into the kitchen.

The video was captured by the home’s Nest, a security and monitoring system.

The Facebook post, before it was taken down, had more than 1,800 shares and more than 550 comments Wednesday evening, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

Initially, Nicole posted, “see the video below of what this scumbag did to our completely harmless dog this morning,” along with a screenshot of a PF Plumbing truck.

In a subsequent post, Nicole wrote that the company had expressed a “heartfelt sincere apology and made sure our dog was OK” in a phone call, and that, despite the incident, she would still recommend it.

Teresa Freer, corporate secretary and owner of PF Plumbing, told the Journal that the longtime employee — a pet owner himself — had been fired.

“PF Plumbing is not taking this lightly and is taking the appropriate steps,” she wrote in a post on the company‚Äôs Facebook page.

“We have terminated the employee and have been in contact with the company attorney throughout the day for advice on further steps to take, PF Plumbing will release the details at which time it becomes available. Again PF Plumbing sincerely apologizes. Please … keep an open mind and do not allow one employee’s actions to misconstrue what our company stands for!”

Freer told the Journal that the employees were surprised to find a dog in the new house, because they thought it was empty.

The visit was scheduled by the builder of the house, who told them no one would be home, she said.

Kelly Nicole said on her Facebook page that one of her dogs stays in a crate when no one is home, but the other one does not.

She said she was unaware anyone was coming to the house Wednesday.

“Had we known they were coming, we would have put the dog away beforehand or came home and done so,” she said.

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.

Magdalene comes back … as Dixie

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I was visiting the Forsyth Humane Society yesterday when word came back to the administrative offices that “Magdalene was back for a visit.”

Everyone rushed out to the lobby to see the dog who, before she was adopted about four months ago, had become a staff favorite (at least among those who admit to having a favorite).

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The name rang a bell, and when I saw her I remembered that I was among those she had impressed — to the point where I was considering adopting her.

About the time I became the humane society’s volunteer archivist, Magdalene had entered the shelter. And I — who took the position partly so I could visit dogs — must have gone back to see her four or five times, each time leaning a little closer to taking the big step.

DSC06165She is half white, half black, with each side of her face having seemingly chosen a completely different color, and ears that somehow couldn’t decide and came out speckled.

Big and gangly, she’s a classic mutt, who, while playful, seems to have the peaceful temperament that often goes along with a mix.

Alas, I (as I’ve done once or twice before in life) spent too much time thinking about it.

My dog, Ace, died last spring, and by the time fall came around, I was just about there, but apparently not quite.

One day, Magdalene wasn’t around anymore.

I adopted my new dog, Jinjja, about a month later from the Watauga Humane Society.

Magdalene went home with Amber Fuller, of Mocksville, who renamed her Dixie and, judging from her Facebook posts, couldn’t be happier about the dog she ended up with.

She was visiting Winston-Salem with Dixie yesterday and stopped by the shelter, where the staff seemed thrilled for a chance to see her again. And vice versa.

DSC06135 (2)She greeted everyone, curled up under the feet of the front desk receptionist for a while, and gladly submitted to some belly rubbing.

Fuller reports Dixie is doing great. If the video below is any indication– the humane society posted it on its Facebook page — Dixie is pretty relaxed in her new setting.

A party in the Bay of Dogs

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The townhouse community in which I live is divided into bays.

On my bay — Bay 8 — there are 20 housing units. There are two or three children. And there are 27 dogs.

DSC05942(Let me repeat that for your burglars: There are 27 dogs.)

Every once in a while when the weather gets nice and the neighbors get coordinated, a dog party is scheduled — held at the bay’s dead end, right in front of my house.

Everybody brings beverages and appetizers and lawn chairs and their dogs.

And then the festivities begin.

With only a few exceptions, the dogs behaved exceptionally well.

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One (not mine) got into the apple pie somebody brought. Another (mine) peed in the middle of the seating area. Otherwise, they behaved in an exemplary manner.

The humans did OK, too.

DSC05915The only rowdiness came when a couple of cars pulled up in front of a home recently listed for sale.

Based on their luxury cars, some neighbors assumed they were investors, who would buy the house and rent it. (Owner-occupied homes are preferred.) So there was some talk of sending all the dogs to that house to bark and poop and generally create a bad impression. (The dogs did not oblige.)

There were big dogs and small dogs, puppies and elderly dogs, the vast majority of them having come from shelters and rescues.

At least two of my neighbors have five dogs. They would bring one or two to the party at a time, return them to their houses, and then come back with more.

The plethora of pooches is one of the things that attracted me to the community, and Bay 8 in particular.

DSC06038If ever a neighborhood needed a dog park, it is this one. There’s enough demand that the homeowner’s association recently gave the OK, at least unofficially, to letting people and their dogs use the fenced-in tennis courts, which are seldom used for tennis.

Everybody knows socialization is good for dogs, and good for humans. In communities like mine, where residents can often keep to themselves, dogs are probably the main way that people come together. And — though I’ve only been to one — dogs are far less boring and far more fun than homeowner’s association meetings.

If you’d like to see more photos of the dog party, you can check out the album I posted to the ohmidog! Facebook page.

When Jinjja met Roscoe, and the family heirloom that keeps on giving

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Jinjja met Roscoe this week, and it was a mostly peaceful exchange.

In what was his first real outing since learning to jump in the car by himself, with help from a family heirloom, Jinjja had his first meeting with my brother’s dog at Winston-Salem’s Leinbach Park — neutral ground as neither had been there before.

They touched noses, sniffed each other out, and did well together — at least for the first 30 minutes.

dsc05619-2So far, despite his unusual background — Jinjja was rescued from a farm in South Korea where dogs were being raised for slaughter — he has gotten along with every dog he has met, from the flirtatious basset hound who lives across the street to rambunctious poodle (one of five) who live next door.

We haven’t tried a real dog park yet, but I think he is ready for that. (And I almost am.)

Leinbach Park is semi dog friendly. Leashed dogs are allowed in the park. But dogs, leashed or unleashed, are not allowed on the hiking trail.

“Dogs are not allowed on the sandstone walking trail at any time. The reason should be obvious,” the city’s director of Parks and Recreation told the local paper a couple of years ago.

(Sorry, but the reason isn’t obvious to me.)

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Still, we mostly heeded the warning, staying to the side of the path as much as possible, Jinjja sniffing for squirrels and Roscoe barking without provocation, which he’s prone to doing.

It wasn’t until we stopped walking and took a seat on a bench that, for no apparent reason, there were snarls and growls exchanged, followed by another brief confrontation. There was no real contact, and they seemed to make up afterwards.

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Ace (my previous dog) and Roscoe never became the best of friends. They reached a certain detente after a confrontation that also seemed to have erupted out of nowhere, and left both a little bloody.

On the way back to our cars Jinjja and Roscoe got along fine. I was a little worried about getting him back in my Jeep. I was advised by shelter he came from that it wasn’t a good idea to try to move his body or pick him up. Even though he has almost totally let down his defenses with me, I still haven’t tried to lift him up yet.

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Instead, to get him loaded, I used an ottoman from my living room, which my mother passed on to me. It has a cushion that was embroidered by a great aunt we all called “Tan.” When I back my car up to curb, the ottoman, along with a dangled piece of bologna, makes it easy for Jinjja to step up and jump in.

This was our first time without a curb. He hesitated a bit, but on the third try, just as the bologna ran out, he went for it, back paws getting a good grip on the carpet-like embroidery, and made it.

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I’ve been leaving the footstool in my car, until I buy some kind of sturdy box to replace it.

(That will probably be about the time he realizes he doesn’t even need it.)

I still have Ace’s old ramp, but it’s pretty cumbersome, and Jinjja might resist climbing up it even more than he has jumping in.

Once Jinjja masters the leap into the back seat — with or without a step up — the footstool will return to the inside of the house, and I will continue to prop my own feet up on it, even if it is a work of art.

“No feet on the footstool” would be a stupid rule, much like “no dogs on the trail.”

tanTan, whose real name was Kathleen Hall, was a teacher for many years and later a principal. There’s a school nearby that is named after her. She died in 1983. But I’m guessing what she shared with students lives on in them, their children and their children’s children.

The same can be said of her embroidered footstool, which is helping a South Korean dog who had no future hop into a car and see a little more of the world.

It’s one of those gifts that keep on giving.