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Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Blog is on the Road

So I have to hit the road for a story and won't be blogging again until Tuesday. Please check back then. Thanks.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Big Day for Dogs

Tomorrow, Sept. 16, is the American Kennel Club's fourth annual Responsible Dog Ownership Day, to be marked by events like microchip clinics, therapy-dog and obedience demonstrations, and fun 'n games.Click here for a list of activities nationwide.

A Fowl Deed...

...landed two idiots in jail this week in Broward County, accused of murdering a muscovy duck that had - horrors! - stolen the bread they were using as fish bait. Eyewitnesses saw two men lakeside in a residential neighborhood laughing as they clobbered ducks with tree branches, and called police.

Now they're facing third-degree felony animal abuse charges. Guess they're not laughing anymore. Click here to read the story in the Herald.

God Save the Hedgehogs!

And never underestimate the power of a vocal minority, in this case, members of the - I'm not making this up - British Hedgehog Preservation Society. The group has convinced McDonald's to redesign its McFlurry containers because hedgehogs attempting to slurp from discarded cups were getting stuck inside and starving to death (the only aspect of this item that's not hilarious).

The actual quote from the company: "The smaller aperture of the lid has been designed to prevent hedegehogs from entering the McFlurry container in the unfortunate incident that the lid is littered."

Of course they have a website, so click here to visit (and see many amusing photos of hedgehog, as well learning how to build that hedgehog house you've always wanted).

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Woodstock Redux (With Dogs)


When you think Woodstock, you probably think long-haired hippies, mud, music, and the '60s. But for eight years, there's been another event in that bucolic burg that's apparently equally festive: the Woodstock Annual Pet Parade.

South Florida's own Pomo - mascot of the Woof Patrol - placed second in the talent competition, reports proud mom Yvonnc Conza.

And what is that talent? Says Yvonne: "Sneezing on cue." (I have no idea how that was discovered or cultivated, but it's certainly unique in my experience). His prize: A lint brush. How exciting.

These glamour shots from the event come courtesy of Yvonne (and Pomo).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Beautiful Story

This is called "The Kiss," and my friend Lori sent it to me in an e-mail. Enjoy.

He had just saved her from a fire in her house, rescuing her by carrying her out of the house into her front yard, while he continued to fight the fire. She is pregnant.

When he finally got done putting the fire out, he sat down to catch his breath and rest. A photographer from the Charlotte, North Carolina newspaper, "The Observer," noticed her in the distance looking at the fireman. He saw her walking straight toward the fireman and wondered what she was going to do.

As he raised his camera, she came up to the tired man who had saved her life and the lives of her babies and kissed him just as the photographer snapped this photograph.
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Founder of a Great Cause Needs Support NOW!

I've just taken a look at the Dogs Deserve Better website, and I highly recommend a visit there. This organization is dedicated to improving the lot of dogs tied, chained, and confined outside or in garages, a cruel practice that not only deprives pets of human contact but also of safety and protection.

Such animals often grow frustrated and hostile, and because they lack socialization to humans, may attack strangers who get near them. There are documented fatal maulings by chained dogs.

Tammy Grimes, the group's founder, was arrested on Monday for trying to help a dying, chained dog on private property. Rather than prosecute the negligent owners in the ironically named town of East Freedom, PA, law enforcement has charged Grimes with several serious criminal counts, forcing her to post an absurd $50,000 bond after she refused to return the dog.

So please visit dogsdeservebetter.org to learn more about this humane and worthy project, and maybe buy a t-shirt or make a donation toward Grimes's legal fees.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Feline Furor in the Keys

From the Keynoter, this story about outrage surrounding the deaths of 15 cats at Ocean Reef during a building fumigation. A cruelty investigation is underway, as it should be. Click here to read about it.

The Sad Fate of Unwanted Older Pets

On Sunday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution carried a story about a local radio DJ who gave his 9-year-old dog, Stoli, to a rescue group. For most pets that age, being booted from the family is usually the end of the road; few people adopt elderly animals. Stoli got lucky and was adopted, no doubt because there was publicity. That's not the norm.

Click here to read the story.

Pets on the Job

Yesterday's Herald business section had a story about workplaces that permit pets, written by local pet photographer and one-time Herald writer Wendy Doscher-Smith. Pet-friendly jobsites are still in the vast minority, but maybe someday more employers will be enlightened to the advantages of welcoming humankind's best buddy into the office (lower stress, among them).

Click here to read it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Another 9-11 Story

Thinking about that week, I went back to the Herald files and found this wonderful picture of Mollie the border collie and her "mom," Catherine Redmond. We met in her neighborhood near Ground Zero, as she and her neighbors were trying to figure out how to live something like a normal life.

It ran on Sept. 14, and I'd like to share it:

STICKING TOGETHER

BY ELINOR J. BRECHER, ebrecher@herald.com
Dateline: NEW YORK
Memo: AFTER THE ATTACK

Not far from Ground Zero, a place called Morgan's Market still sells flowers - orchid stems, African daisies and gladiolas.

They're not destined for dinner tables, since dinner in this fashionable section of Manhattan called TriBeCa is coming off the back of relief trucks. Rather, neighborhood residents and volunteers are placing them on the bombed-out vehicles lining Hudson Street, where the market occupies a corner at Reade Street.

``Rest in peace,'' someone has written in the ash covering the window of a gold Mazda Protege.

But the main attraction on the block is the charred hulk of what once was a four-door sedan pancaked atop a flattened white Cadillac Sedan DeVille as if dropped there by a car crusher.

Concrete chunks and broken glass fill the car. Mangled mini-blinds trail from the sedan's trunk.

This is the prime residential territory south of the 14th Street line of demarcation, beyond which only residents, relief workers and construction and demolition crews are permitted to go.

LIFE GOES ON

Life goes on here, but within heavy breathing distance of the acrid ash still billowing out of the blast site.

The end of the work day brings people back to the neighborhood, even though most dwellings lack basic utilities.

Watching the goings-on in the James Borgardus Triangle, where Salvation Army volunteers are dispensing everything from Gatorade to burn kits to disposable flashlights, has become the evening's entertainment.

Yuri Alter, a 40-year-old Israeli fashion designer's agent, was walking his boxer, Baby, and talking on his cellphone headset to friends in Tel Aviv. ``It is surreal,'' he said. ``Israel has never seen anything like this,'' and he served in the Israeli army in Lebanon. He said his children, ages 8 and 10, watched the disaster from their school, P.S. 324. ``They were traumatized the first 24 hours,'' he said. ``The twin towers were their best friends.''

If they ask why it happened, he said, ``I will tell them people are bad.''

At least three buildings are still burning in the late afternoon on Thursday.

The doors of fashionable restaurants like Scalini Fedeli remain shuttered, the grilled boneless breast of squab carved over vanilla-braised endive with a toasted coffee bean and calvados sauce and foie gras ravioli are served only on the posted menu.

Displaced residents pass the days seated on plastic milk crates watching those who have come to salvage their worlds.

``We've got no electricity, no water, no air-conditioning,'' said Aaron Gelvan, leaning against the crutches he's had to use to navigate 10 floors of his building at 121 Reade St. twice a day: once down, once up.

The textile company sales manager is recovering from hip surgery. He praised the meals served by the Salvation Army in ``very liberal portions. . . . the fried chicken was great.''

Rita Morris occupied an adjacent milk crate. She is the building's superintendent.

``Twenty-five of our tenants work in the World Trade Center,'' she said. ``We still don't know who made it and who didn't.''

GUARD ON PATROL

The Hudson-Reade intersection borders a staging area patrolled by National Guard troops. Countless times a day someone approaches a uniformed guard asking for access to an apartment farther south.

James Cheung, a 36-year-old advertising copywriter, his girlfriend and their dog are staying with friends on the Upper West Side, but he thought he'd try getting into his apartment at West Broadway and Park Place. He was turned away at the barricade. He had left on Tuesday, grabbing little more than his girlfriend's dog, as bodies rained from World Trade Center windows.

``I didn't want to watch that,'' he said.

He accepts his current logistics with gratitude: ``I don't think anybody's upset; there are people dying. Our families and friends are safe. This is just an inconvenience.''

DOGS ESSENTIAL

In a very real sense, the area has gone to the dogs: Dozens of K-9 units brought in from across the country are being housed in an animal MASH unit, not unlike the one established in Homestead during Hurricane Andrew, at West and Chambers streets.

Dr. James Shorter, a veterinarian, talked about how the dogs' role was becoming more important every hour. ``We're going to be dealing with disease very seriously and very soon'' from trapped corpses, which many of the dogs have been trained to detect. Others are looking for live rescues, several of which took place Thursday, including two firefighters trapped in an air pocket for several hours.

``We treated a shepherd that fell down three floors,'' Shorter said. ``We treated the same bloodhound who sniffed out the bombs in the car that was caught headed for the George Washington Bridge the other night.''

Veterinary workers emerged from the rescue area improbably toting four miniature poodles left behind by an evacuee. They were headed for safe kenneling on the Upper East Side. Mollie, a black-and-white border collie, was headed home with her owner, Catherine Redmond, an artist, when they stopped to buy sodas, cat food and popcorn at Morgan's Market. But they couldn't get home to their loft on Chambers Street between West Broadway and Greenwich Street.

New fears about collapsing buildings Thursday barred their entry, so they headed back north to a friend's loft on Moore Street.

TALKING AND CRYING

``How do you cope?'' Redmond asked behind her paper surgical mask. ``We're all Americans sticking together. That's how,'' she said.

She had managed to ``sneak back'' into her home Wednesday to rescue Albert, her 31-year-old blue-fronted Amazon parrot, and one of her cats, hauling them out on a luggage dolly.

She and the friend who is putting them up spent most of the day ``just talking, although last night we cried.

``I just want to go home.''

Remembering 9-11

Dear Readers,

On Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, 2001, I was in New York City at my parents' apartment. I'd been there for a few days following Hadassah Lieberman, wife of the Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, for a story.

Because my parents are not TV watchers, and the radio wasn't on, we had no idea what was going on downtown until my brother called from Boston.

"A plane hit the World Trade Center," he told me.

I flipped on the TV and watched for a few moments. Then I jumped into some clothes, grabbed my cell phone, tape recorder, notebook, and a bunch of cash, kissed my mom goodbye, and dashed down to the street.

Five days later, I wrote the following column for the Herald, after filing live from Lower Manhattan every day after the attack.

This photo ran with a story on the 14th, about how people living in Lower Manhattan were coping with the terrible conditions.

I have been in tears on and off this morning, recalling what I heard, saw, smelled, and felt that day and that week. I can still see the grim faces of firefighters massed outside Ground Zero, anxious to get in and save lives after the towers collapsed. But conditions were too dangerous, and it was not until afternoon that they were permitted on the actual site. I went with them, and at 4:30 p.m, began stepping gingerly over piles of collapsed rubble in flimsy sneakers, having no idea what was underneath or how far down the ground was.

By then, the staggering realization had hit us all: There was no one to save.

Through some incredible accident of fate, I happened to run into one of my oldest childhood friends that afternoon, the famed Magnum agency photographer Susan Meiselas, known for her fearless Latin American war photography. We hadn't seen each other in years, and suddenly there we were, together, at Ground Zero. Her dramatic photos of that day ran in publications all over the world.

Search-and-rescue dogs - and cadaver dogs - played a crucial role in the Ground Zero operation, and I remember how late at night, under makeshift shelters near the site, their burned and battered feet were treated. But these brave animals would not give up. In their exhasuted and worried faces I could see the same determination to save lives that was so evident in the faces of their handlers. But once again: There was no one to save.

What I experienced was a tiny fraction of what the heroic rescuers went through that week, but it will stay with me forever, just as the notebooks I used still smell faintly of the toxic dust that now is causing so many of them serious health problems.

So today, as I'm sure most of you are doing, I remember 9-11, praying that somehow, someday, that dreadful event will yield a global consciousness that leads not to more hatred and war, but to peace.

Here's what I wrote:

REPORTERS' NOTEBOOKS - N.Y. RULES CHANGE IN AN INSTANT

BY ELINOR J. BRECHER, ebrecher@herald.com
Dateline: NEW YORK
Memo: AFTER THE ATTACK

A plane hit a building and suddenly, all the rules had changed.

I was on Manhattan's Upper East Side on Tuesday morning when kamikazes slammed into the World Trade Center's north tower. It was rush hour, when it's difficult to get a cab under normal circumstances. I jumped into York Avenue traffic and flagged down a southbound limousine.

The driver - who otherwise would have regarded me as little more than a traffic hazard - motioned me in. By then, the second plane had found its target. He'd get me as close to the blast site as possible, he said. He never mentioned money.

During the next four days, this stereotypically callous city would rise to an unprecedented occasion with empathy and grace, indulging its most generous impulses. I'd hitch rides with school-safety employees, air-conditioning contractors, hospital van drivers, even out-of-town police officers weary after a long-day's shift at the epicenter. The disaster has erased every traditional boundary of suspicion and distrust, transforming a huge city of congenitally wary people into a neighborly small town.

Strangers allowed me into their apartments to make phone calls and wash up. One left me alone while she walked her cocker spaniel, offering ice water on the way out. Rhode Island firefighters let me work from their SUV after they marched into the blast zone.

On Tuesday morning, inching down the FDR drive along the East River, we could see the wounded towers spewing black smoke the way a knife gash gushes blood. A thick band of it streaked the downtown sky, blowing east to Brooklyn, easily visible from the Upper East Side. A radio announcer was talking to a woman eyewitnessing the event from a building adjacent to the towers. In the moment we turned a corner and lost sight of the towers, the woman shrieked. The north tower was collapsing. I leaped from the car, flinging bills at the driver, and ran toward the hole just torn in the New York sky.

On Broadway, 15 blocks northeast of the blast site, thousands clogged the streets. Most hurried north, heads down. Others stood still and gaped at the smoke-and-dust cloud boiling into the air. People wept in each other's arms.

As I reached Reade and Church streets, seven blocks north of the remaining tower, the human wave surged toward me. Joe, a building engineer who had escaped from the north building lobby moments before it came down, stumbled forward, hacking and spitting into his wadded-up yellow windbreaker. Tan mud covered him from head to toe, crusting his hair and eyebrows. His inflamed eyes poured tears as he tried to talk.

``I saw the plane, and I dove into a basement,'' he said. ``Then the building fell and I said: `I'm not going to die in a basement,' and I started running.''

I turned around. Seconds later, gravity joined evil in erasing the remaining tower from the skyline. The building's skin slid earthward, engulfed in a volcanic debris cloud. It sounded like a million empty Dumpsters hitting the pavement under Niagara Falls. Its tall steel mast pitched forward, javelining toward the earth. Police officers screamed at people to run. But I couldn't move. Couldn't take my eyes off the advancing tidal wave. It weakened to a drift as it reached me, carrying a blizzard of singed paperwork and khaki-colored grit. I plucked a May 1997 Bloomberg Magazine page from the ash, an ad for a financial seminar. It featured two flaming red dice, plummeting meteorlike toward the reader. ``Ask yourself,'' the copy reads, ``Do I feel lucky?''

Then it was quiet, as if the explosion had sucked all sound from the world.

Since then I have been to Ground Zero as the fires raged, secondary explosions popped and skyscraper-window shards crashed like shattering ice cubes. I've called the hysterical wives of Brooklyn firefighters to reassure them their husbands are safe. I've sat with hospital workers waiting for the injured who don't come.

I've been with cops on loan from the Miami Police Department manning barricades outside a New York police precinct where grim-faced officers worried about two missing colleagues.

I've been small comfort to frantic relatives distributing missing-persons fliers. I've scratched the ears of exhausted search-and-rescue dogs as volunteer vets bandaged their torn footpads. The sounds of silence quickly turned to sounds of sirens. Now military helicopters chop the sky. Dump trucks haul off incalculable tons of rubble.

Across Lower Manhattan, voices mesh and collide. At a church service, pacificists despair of certain violent retaliation. Outside, pedestrians plot nuclear attack as a medical examiner's van screams past. A boa-wearing Israeli artist/bar owner offers dazed firefighters a bed on her leatherette banquettes. A frightened Egyptian cab driver removes his mandatory name tag from the dashboard. The Stars and Stripes flies from hard hats, tenement windows and car antennas. It begins to rain.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

New England's Own Chupacabra?

Seems that a strange creature was sighted in Maine. Might it be a relative of South Florida's own mythical beast, the Chupacabra? Um, apparently not. Here's a hint: Woof woof.

Click here for the story.

Pet Ban in Saudi Arabia

Women can't drive or vote. Now you can't buy a cat or dog. "Too Western," apparently. GIVE ME A BREAK!

Click here for the story.