Get back to where you once belonged
— The Beatles
You can’t go home again
— Thomas Wolfe
The Beatles had more memorable lyrics — “Ob-la-di, ob-la-da” notwithstanding — but Thomas Wolfe (and here we mean the “Look Homeward Angel” one, not the modern-day, white-suited “Right Stuff” one) is probably best remembered for that one phrase, which also served as the title of one of his fine books.
“You can’t go home again” — meaning, of course, not that you can’t physically return, but that, if and when you do, what was there then isn’t likely to be there now, or how you remembered it isn’t how it is now, or maybe even how it was then, or that time has a way of erasing your past, just as it will one day lay claim to your future.
Whether one can go home again has been a recurring theme of Travels With Ace. In our journey, we’ve revisited the places of my youth — in Houston, in Tucson, in New York, and in Raleigh. (I had a lot of homes, both in my youth and since — 28 in 16 different towns.) Sometimes the reconnection has been strong; sometimes it has been faint. But you can go home again.
And I am.
A week from now I’ll be settling into the modest little apartment unit in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in which my parents lived when I entered the world — not with with a bang (though obviously that occured at some point) but with a whimper.
Now, in the denouement of, if not life, at least this blog, it’s back to John: Chapter One, Verse One.
(Note: At 57, I’ve found I prefer my metaphors mixed. So I run them through the blender, on puree, sometimes with an added pinch of Metamucil, ridding them of the hard to digest lumpy bits. They are both tastier and easier to swallow that way.)
In the beginning was the word — and I was born of two wordsmiths. I followed their footsteps into the newspaper industry, put in 35 years or so, then — as newspapers became glimmers of their former selves — jumped ship to write a book, and write these blogs, and find a new identity to replace my old one.
Now, I’ll be stringing them — words, I mean — together in the same room where I once rattled the rails of my crib, documenting the denouement, or the final resolution of the intricacies of my plot, if indeed I have either plot or intricacies.
It will be — at least for a while — the somewhat circular ending of my year on the road with my dog Ace, who has helped me reach the decision.
We came here to spend a couple of months close by my mother, and to reconnect with my own roots, much like I sought out Ace’s several years ago.
It was on the way home from one such reconnection, a family reunion, that my mother showed me the house she and my father lived in when I was born. In the window was a “for rent” sign. There was only one step up to enter.
I signed a lease — as is my style, and given my lack of a plot — on a month-to-month basis.
So next week, given my birthplace is unfurnished, it’s back to Baltimore to reclaim my stuff, now nested in a storage unit on Patapsco Avenue.
Then we’ll lug it all back to College Village, a spanking new apartment complex when my mother and father moved in 60 years ago. Now, it’s far less upscale than its surrounding neighborhood, a collection of mostly squat brick units that look like something you’d see on an Army base.
I, having only lived there one year, and it having been my first, have no real memories of it, but it was interesting to see, when I brought her over for a visit, how it triggered some for my mother.
Ace, too, seemed to like it better than the basement. When we dropped by to sign the lease, his tail was up and wagging. He visited the tiny kitchen, then sniffed out the two bedrooms, paying far more attention to the front one. Did my baby smells still linger after 57 years? Only then did he walk up to meet the landlord and his daughter.
As the landlord ripped the “for rent” sign off the front window, I think my dog and I came to the same conclusion — that one intricacy at least, at last, had been resolved, and that we were home, for now.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, birthplace, childhood, college village, dog inc., dogs, heritage, home, homes, homeward, journey, memories, mixed metaphors, north carolina, pets, reconnecting, return, reunion, road trip, roots, the beatles, thomas wolfe, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, winston-salem, wordsmith, writer, writing, you can go home again, you can't go home again, youth
Breed: Boston terrier
Age: 14 years
Encountered: At Heart of Gold, a jewelry store in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Backstory: Ace and I were sitting outside a coffee shop when suddenly I felt my seat start moving. I’d looped Ace’s leash over the back of my chair, and he moved it a full inch before I turned around to see what he was trying to get to.
It was a Boston terrier. She did her business in the pine needles and disappeared as quickly as she had appeared.
Despite the situation, she was happy to talk about her greying old dog, Betty, who comes to work with her every day.
She got Betty as a pup in Florida, part of a litter sired by a pedigreed Boston terrier who went by the name Willie B. Cute.
Betty’s owner, who’s moving to Texas after the shop gets packed up, happily agreed to me taking Betty’s picture, but — not wanting to be in any pictures herself — handed the dog off to her employee.
The result was a photo that captured — if I do say so myself — both the quiet dignity of old age and the joyful energy of youth.
After our quick photo session, Betty, who’s going deaf, was returned to the floor, where she immediately began scooting her butt across the carpet. She was scolded only mildly and continued scooting. That’s one of the things that comes with the dignity of old age — when you have an itch, you scratch it.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 13th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: age, animals, betty, boston terrier, boston terriers, breeds, closing, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, economy, encounters, gold, heart of gold, jewelry, north carolina, pets, road trip, roadside, roadside encounters, travels with ace, winston-salem, youth
As the case against two brothers accused of setting a pit bull named Phoenix on fire unfolds in a Baltimore courtroom, a cat named Mittens is nursing both her kittens and the wounds she received after being set on fire in the city.
It may not be raining abused cats and dogs, but this — one case entering the public consciousness before the other has a chance to clear it — is how a reputation gets made. And if Baltimore doesn’t do something — something big, something quick — it stands in danger of becoming known not as the city that reads, or even the city that bleeds, but the city that torches, and tortures, its pets.
Whether it deserves that label more than other cities is arguable. It’s also not the point. The point is the torture of animals is a big flashing neon sign, reading “Address This Issue.” It’s a highly visible symptom of an illness in society that, even though it has been diagnosed, is largely being ignored.
Baltimore has no monopoly on animal torture — and it’s not the only city that’s failing to fully address it. In cities across the country there are pockets of misguided youths who have either failed to develop any compassion, may never have been taught any, or have had it snuffed out of them.
Attacking the problem is something that should be done not just for reasons of image, but, much more importantly, because it has been well documented that children who take pleasure in torturing pets often grow up to inflict harm on fellow humans. Pick a serial killer and you can, almost always, find animal abuse in his past.
If how a society treats its animals is a barometer of how civilized it is, Baltimore needs a massive injection of civility — stat — some large doses of empathy and compassion, best administered during childhood.
The saddest irony of it all is that animals are one of the best ways to administer that, to teach children a respect for all living things. Instead, dogs and cats, who we have so much to learn from about life, love and happiness, time and again in Baltimore are serving as the victims for those seeking sick thrills or acting out their inner hostilities.
Mittens, according to officials at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS), was placed into a milk crate by a juvenile who doused both the cat and the crate with lighter fluid, struck a match and threw it into the crate.
In flames, the cat broke free from the milk crate and ran from the yard, running in circles until the fire was extinguished, BARCS said. She then returned to the kittens she had recently given birth to at a home on Saint Ambrose Street. (St. Ambrose, for some more irony, is considered the patron saint of domestic animals.)
That incident came to light after the first day of testimony in the trial against teenage brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson, who are accused of dousing Phoenix, a pit bull, with accelerant and setting her on fire on May 27, 2009.
On Friday, Baltimore city police detective Syreeta Teel tearfully described finding the pit bull on fire on a West Baltimore street and running from her squad car to smother the flames with a sweater.
Despite her quick and heartfelt response, one thing that’s becoming evident during the trial is that the police department doesn’t take torturing and killing animals as seriously as some other crimes.
Teel, according to testimony, left the sweater, which might have provided traces of accelerant, on the sidewalk. The scene was never secured, and the police crime lab was never called. “The Baltimore City Police Department completely botched this,” said Assistant Public Defender Karyn Meriwether, who represents one of the brothers.
The death of Phoenix drew national attention, leading to thousands of dollars in donations to a reward fund and the creation of a city-wide Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force, which issued a report last year that found numerous flaws in the city’s response — particularly that of law enforcement — to incidents of animal abuse.
According to a Baltimore Sun report, the prosecution’s evidence is limited in the Phoenix case, and relies largely on unclear surveillance video and the word of witnesses — including a woman who the defense says came forward once the reward topped $25,000.
Phoenix was burned over more than 95 percent of her body. Veterinarians would later find that her corneas had melted, and the inside of her mouth was scorched. She’d lost her footpads to the flames, but she kept fighting until, with her kidneys failing, she was put to sleep five days later.
“On a scale of one to 10,” her pain level was “10,” said a Pennsylvania veterinarian who treated her. Phoenix also had puncture wounds on her neck and leg, indicating she might have been in dog fights, but throughout her treatment she showed no aggression.
The Johnson brothers both were initially charged in juvenile court, but were later indicted as adults on the animal cruelty charges, which carry a maximum prison sentence of three years. Testimony is expected to continue this morning.
Animal advocates in Baltimore are watching the case closely, and hoping that, if found guilty, the twins receive the most severe punishment posible.
But as the weekend’s developments show, as Mittens reminds us, a strict sentence is not the entire solution. It’s reactive, and while it may send a needed message, the city needs to do more, in a proactive way. Investigating, arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning animal abusers all need to be done, and done properly, and taken seriously, but what’s even more vital is preventing it from happening in the first place.
Our favorite reader comment: “Kindness and concern for animals is going to have to be taught in elementary school. It’s the only way to stop this problem in its tracks.”
To see all the comments on this post, click here.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 31st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, abusers, animal, animal cruelty, animals, arrest, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, cat, cats, children, compassion, cruelty to animals, dogs, fire, image, juveniles, law enforcement, mittens, pets, phoenix, pit bull, prevention, prosecution, punishment, set on fire, task force, torture, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial, youth
The cat, and the kittens she recently gave birth to, were taken to Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) after police responded to a call in the 3300 block Saint Ambrose Street.
The cat, who has been nicknamed Mittens at the shelter, is suffering from burns on most of her body.
Witnesses told police that, earlier this month, a juvenile placed the cat in a milk crate on the back porch, doused the milk crate and the cat with lighter fluid and then struck a match and threw it in the crate.
In flames, the cat broke free from the milk crate and ran from the yard, running in circles until the fire was extinguished, BARCS said. She then returned home and hid under a table.
Police have not reported whether any arrests were made at the residence, which they said still smelled of singed skin when they arrived.
The cat and her kittens are residing in “Critter Care” at BARCS. Mittens has third and fourth degree burns. She is expected to survive, but will need long term treatment. It will be months before she is healed and her fur may not grow back
“This is another horrible case of animal abuse in Baltimore City, ” said Jennifer Brause, BARCS’ Executive Director. “Mittens is a wonderful cat, who despite her injuries is still caring for her kittens and is very affectionate to the staff.”
Mittens’ medical bills will be covered by BARCS’ Franky Fund, a fund that relies on donations from the public to pay the veterinarian and medical bills of injured animals that come to the shelter for care.
Donations to the Franky Fund are accepted through the BARCS website, or at the shelter, located at 301 Stockholm Street in South Baltimore (near M&T Bank Stadium).
Posted by John Woestendiek January 30th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, bills, burns, care, cat, cruelty to animals, degree, donations, doused, fire, fourth, franky fuknd, fur, juvenile, kittens, lighter fluid, mittens, mittens the cat, police, set on fire, skin, third, torture, veterinarian, veterinary, youth
I’m all for giving dogs a voice, I just get a little creeped out when it’s a human one.
Talking dog movies, for example, strike me as another example of making them (dogs) more like us (humans), when they are perfect just as they are — and when they’re not, it’s usually because of something we humans imposed on them.
Nevertheless, this public service announcement from KnockOutDogFighting.org is so well done, and rings so true, and is for such a good cause, it’s worth a look.
The Knock Out Dog Fighting program is an award-winning anti-dogfighting campaign that makes use of professional athletes — professional boxers and fighters who partner with schools, juvenile detention facilities, community centers, community-based organizations, dog trainers, law enforcement agencies and gang prevention task forces with the goal of stopping cruelty and abuse.
The program identifies the underlying reasons kids and young adults are fighting dogs and provides resources and youth intervention programs to address those issues, working to help at-risk youth make better choices and develop empathy for animals.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 7th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abuse, animal welfare, animals, anti-dogfighting, campaign, crime, dog fighting, dogfighting, dogs, empathy, knock out dogfighting, knockoutdogfighting.org, pets, psa, public service announcement, talking dogs, torture, video, youth
Dogs, among all the other things they teach us, show us how to live in the moment — to see the snow as something to be played in as opposed to something to be whined about.
Then again, they don’t have to shovel it.
Part of me, upon confronting two feet of snow, wants to go to sleep in that moment and wake up in a future moment when it has all melted, and then proceed to live in that moment.
Which brings us to this weekend’s momentous snow.
Like most dogs, Ace loves the snow. A good covering of it seems to take years off his age. Snow, for dogs, is a fountain of youth. It brings out their inner child, which, with them, is already pretty close to the surface anyway.
That said, even Ace was briefly flummoxed by 25 inches of it — the most he’s ever seen. When I opened the front door, there was a two-foot wall of snow. He stared at it for a few seconds, then busted through and down the steps.
Even for a big dog like him, the only way to move forward was with a series of bunny-style hops — and, unlike with me, each hop served to invigorate him more. “Let’s go! Let’s go!” his entire body said. With me trudging and him hopping, we worked our way to a plowed road and to the park, where other snow-invigorated canines frolicked with abandon.
Even among more elderly dogs at the park, the snow seemed to have made them young again, bringing more spring to their steps, more sparkle to their eyes. It made me reflect back to my New Year’s resolutions — to look at things, including burdensome ones like two feet of snow, and see the joyous opportunities they present.
Like dogs do.
(Photos by John Woestendiek)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 7th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 2010, 25 inches, ace, age, animals, blizzard, bulldog, dog, dogs, dogs in the snow, fountain of youth, frolic, invigorate, joy, living in the moment, old dogs, park, pets, photography, photos, play, rottweiler, shovel, snow, snowfall, two feet, weather, youth
A new wave of dogfighting is sweeping England, resulting in a 12-fold increase in dogfights since 2004.
And most practitioners — about two of every three — are youths, the Royal SPCA says.
A BBC report quotes RSPCA officials as saying a ban on four breeds, including pit bulls, has done little to slow the spread of dogfighting, or dogs biting people, and that a change in the law is needed.
The new wave of dog fighting, known as “chain fighting” or “rolling,” involves fights held in inner city public parks, on private estates and even in apartment elevators where “young people, often gangs of young people … put two dogs in a lift at the top of the block of flats and will press the button and let the dogs fight until they get to the bottom,” the RPSCA’s Claire Robinson told BBC News. Read more »
Posted by John Woestendiek October 5th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: attacks, ban, bites, breed, breeds, chain fighting, dog, dogfighting, dogs, elevators, enforcement, england, fighting, gangs, increase, law, london, parks, rolling, royal spca, rspca, surge, uk, young, youth