Wednesday, April 23

Justice for Gage!

Gage's Story

March 12, 2008 was a cool morning (45 degrees) as I drank my coffee on the way to work. Peaceful and calm, with what should have been a great day. The phone rang and my world exploded. My wife was babbling and screaming incoherently into the phone "Gage is dead". "Gage has been shot”.

Shortly after I left for work, my wife had let our Yorkies and Gage out for a quick "potty" break. My wife was at the back of the house when she heard a loud noise come from the back yard. She immediately ran to the back door but Gage was not there. The Yorkies were standing at the door frantically trying to get inside. You could see the awful look of fear in their eyes. She opened the door and yelled for Gage, but for the first time in his life he did not obey. He could not...for he was dying. (Keep in mind, our backyard is over an acre-fenced in)

Where to start? Gage came into our life seven years ago. Newly married and having almost grown children from previous marriages we found the house was getting quite (despite our loving Yorkies) so we talked and decided that we wanted to add another dog to our family. We were deploying overseas and I work nights mostly and I wanted my wife to feel safe. So precious little Gage came into our lives. Gage was not just a "dog" or just a "pitbull" to us. He loved everyone; cats, puppies, bunnies and kids. He made friends easy. He would endure great pain from a small child "as long as he was the center of attention" he was happy.

Gage was about two months old when we moved to the Azore Islands in Portugal. We worked so hard at teaching him proper social skills. We made sure that he knew what "NO" meant and we always had him in large groups so that he would be used to being around people. A stranger was never a stranger as long as he knew we approved. He was taught what his boundaries were, where he could and could not go. The house in Portugal had a three foot high wall and Gage never left the yard unless he was told he could and then he was on a leash. He never showed any interest in trying to escape the safety of “his” backyard. By the time he was six months old I knew my family was safe while I was at the base.

Gage traveled the world with us. He loved everywhere he went. Gage was an adopted brother to my troops and companion to my friends when they were lonely. The cable guy even loved him. He was loved by everyone who knew him except one person, my neighbor.

Ray Stanfill, the neighbor who had a tree cut across my fence and did not fix it. Ray Stanfill, the neighbor who asked for permission to keep his boat on my property because he did not have access to the lake. Ray Stanfill, the neighbor who asked for permission to build a small fishing pier on my land which I had no problem letting him. It was later that I learned that Ray Stanfill, overheard by my brother in-law, taunted Gage on many occasions telling him (Gage) that he was going to shoot him if he did not stop barking.

Mr. Stanfill's story for the day he murdered Gage was that he had seen a snake on his property and went to get his shotgun to shoot it. Keep in mind it was 45 degrees and snakes are cold blooded. On the way to shoot the snake he say's that Gage jumped the fence into his yard and then jumped back into our yard. He said that he was "scared" that Gage was going to jump back into his yard so he shot him. "Sorry I had to shoot your dog." was all he said to us "after" he came back outside when he saw me home. Gage had never attempted to jump our fence. In the seven years Gage was on this earth he never bit anyone, never even tried.

Looking at the crime scene, Gage was dead on our side of the fence, shot through the neck, collar blown off and blood was everywhere. He did not die instantly, for my wife was holding him, trying to stop the bleeding as he breathed his last breath. He was shot at close quarters; the shotgun wadding did not separate from the shot before it entered Gage. Gage was burned from the blast. The fence was not hit from the blast. The only angle the wounds could have been made were for Gage to be standing, all four paws on the ground and Mr. Stanfill kneeling at the fence sticking the barrel of his shotgun through the fence and firing into my yard, into Gage. There were suspicious marks on the back side of his collar that led me to believe either before or after Mr. Stanfill shot him he tried to pull Gage over the fence to his yard to try to prove his story that Gage had jumped the fence. No one gets that close to an animal that they are "scared" of. They would shoot from a distance. The Sheriff's Office issued Mr. Stanfill a summons for Animal Cruelty and told him to get his boat and pier off my property.

The rest off the 12th was a blur spent building a coffin, digging a grave, and laying Gage to rest. We answered over one hundred phone calls as the word spread to former troops and friend in far off places. Everyone wanted to know what happened to the lovable goofball that was always the center of attention. There was a lot of anger and tears all over the world. A lot for a dog, especially a pitbull, but Gage was no ordinary dog to us. He did not have a mean bone in his body.

To add insult to injury, Mr. Stanfill now claims he owns the land and will not move the boat or pier from my property. The sheriff is unable to do anything about the property dispute because they cannot decide the lines without a court order. The legal deed shows none of his property comes close to the lake. If I remove the items from my property I could be at fault. He is going to tie this up in legal fees that I can not afford.

I have warned the neighbors on the other side of Mr. Stanfill to be careful. He has complained about their dogs as well. They said they have had numerous run-ins with him about their dogs.

I want him to pay for what he has done to Gage and my family. Don't take that the wrong way. I don't want money. We only want to see the right thing done. My kids can't sleep and my wife is a mess. My children want to move and I may have to get them counseling. What was a home is now a scary nightmare. If he will do this to an animal what would stop him from doing it to a human or child he does not like.

This morning I watched my wife let the little ones (Yorkies) out and saw her cry at Gage's grave. I stood there watching the scene from the backdoor not sure if they were safe to be out there. Worried about what might happen. No one should have to live this way. No one should have to die the way Gage did.

Please sign the petition to bring this murderer to justice!

Tuesday, April 22

It's time for frisbee!

Okay, technically, it's not supposed to be called frisbee - it's "flying disc." Frisbee is a trademark held by Wham-O corporation. Silly, isn't it? I was under the impression that when something became a common use name like that the trademark disappeared. But what do I know?
Anyhow, Roofus is already a "flying disc" dog. He's caught frisbees for as long as I can recall. He's pretty good, too, especially if he's shaved and can see where the darned thing is. I've been teaching Popper, though not with the kind of dedication I did with Roofus, and I'm working on Merlin, too. Once I had them consistently catching from a stand-still with the heavy nylabone frisbee (which falls too fast for learning), I got out the cheapy plastic one and low and behold - frisbee dogs! I can throw it about fifteen feet away from me, they'll scurry after it and snatch it out of the air. We're going to practice that for a while, then go for more distance. After that, it's weaning onto the nylabone frisbee. The bad thing about the more durable flying discs is that they fly faster and fall quicker, being heavier. But the good thing is, you buy one $15 frisbee, and it'll last at least a year. I left Roofus's outside all winter, and we're still using it. it's got a slit in it, and it's pretty gross, but it still flies as well as it did new. Can't say that for $1 plastic ones! Those last me about a day. Unless Roo gets ahold of it. Then they last about 30 seconds.

Thursday, April 17

Renaming Popper "Pooper"

At noon yesterday, I went into the backyard to play with the dogs, when I noticed Popper was behaving pretty strangely... He'd go out to poop, and then as he pooped, he'd suddenly jump up, tuck his tail between his legs, and run to the door, and sit down looking scared. I saw that his poop was liquid and black. Where he sat on the deck, there was more. And it trailed off as he ran off the deck. He would not retrieve his ball at all (a SURE sign something's wrong!!).

I looked black diarrhea up on the internet - and made an emergency appointment at the vet. (not our regular vet, nor our backup - BOTH were unavailable!) Turns out, Popper has colotis, which is inflammation of the colon, probably from eating something (he eats everything). He's on two different meds and a special bland diet. I'm very upset with the brand of the prescription diet, it is something I swore I would NEVER allow into my house, it's so crappy. I would have been happier feeding him some California Natural canned, at least it doesn't have corn or soy in it (and never used BHT in its food either).

Popper was enjoying all the attention his illness got him, and last night he produced a semi-firm poo. YAY!

Tuesday, April 15

Another example of owning a bird...

This morning I got my Severe Macaw, Havoc, out for a little TLC before we had our shower together. I had been rubbing her belly through the cage (tickle tickle tickle!) and rubbing her head (at her request, I might add), so I got her out and told her what a pretty girl she is (she tries to anticipate what I'm going to say - but usually goes with "Pretty Boy" instead). As I was withdrawing her from the cage, she suddenly lunged upwards and grabbed my bottom lip.

Long story short, she pierced both my inside lip and the outside of my chin. It bled pretty good for a while, and now I have a fat lip. I had been expecting a serious bite for some time (though this still isn't what I'd consider serious, since many bird owners get sent to the hospital if their bird feels like it). A lot of avian behaviorists will tell you that it's the owner's fault for not correctly interpreting the bird's body language and other tells. Having now experienced the bite myself (and I've been bit other times, just not on the face), I can tell you that's USUALLY true. But keep in mind that animals are capable of deceit. There are plenty of books on ethology that will give many examples of animals lying, most noticeably, of course, in primates. Owning as many pets as I do, I can assure you that lying, cheating, and scheming occurs in nearly all animals.

I do not let Havoc near my face, ever, and she knows it. She is NOT a shoulder bird (though she tries to sneak up there) and she wasn't what I considered close to my face as I removed her from the cage. She purposefully leapt up at my face with the intention to do SOMETHING. Perhaps it wasn't ill-will, I don't know. Maybe she just wanted to grab my juicy looking lip. Maybe she wanted me to shut up. Maybe she just was so overcome with wanted to do something she lashed out. And it doesn't particularly matter to me - I do not harbor any bad feelings towards her. Granted, I did not take my shower with her today - but I think that's understandable. I was a little worried about stemming the blood flow at the time. She is a bird, and birds bite.

I think that's a HUGE part of bird ownership that most people don't understand. There are NO domesticated parrots, no matter what the pet store tells you. Some of the larger birds are only a few generations removed from the wild. You can't expect them to act like a dog or a cat, not only because they are NOT a dog or a cat (and are many times smarter), but because they retain pretty much all of their instincts and behaviors. Parrots allow us to live with them - but every day is a challenge. Body language is a big thing, learning to interpret it correctly can help you tremendously in bonding more closely with your bird, as well as avoiding a lot of bites. But one day, when you're not expecting it, your bird will bite you. It will hurt. You may be bit again. You might have had your pet for years, and you're saying, "This chick's crazy, Baby would NEVER bite me." Toots, you're wrong. It might not have happened yet - but it will. The trick is to minimize the damage by keeping your bird away from your face at all times. And, as I said in my story, even that may not protect you. But it was better for my lip to get bitten than, say, my eye.

You cannot effectively punish a bird for this behavior, though it is conceivable the bird may feel "regret" (I apologize for my anthropomorphizing). Birds are pretty emphatic, and pick up on your emotions fairly easily. Yelling at the bird is also pointless, and may encourage further acts of "aggression." I put quotes around aggression because while we may interpret it as aggression, as I stated early, there are any number of reasons why Havoc might have bitten me. Frustration, rough play, just being Havoc....

My point is, always be cautious when playing with your bird. Do not intentionally allow it around your face and head. Remember that your bird may injure you at any time, it simple chooses not to. This doesn't mean your parrot is a jerk, or aggressive. It means it is a PARROT!

Friday, April 11

Dogster's GOFA Contest Over

We sponsored the prize for 8th place in the Annual Go Orange For Animals photo contest on Dogster! We are pleased to present our prize to Luckee who won 8th place with a really groovy photo. Congratulations Luckee.

Wednesday, April 9

Flyball at Home

We've stopped going to flyball classes for several reasons, and now we are doing this great dog sport only at home. It's going VERY well! The dogs will completely do it all on their own - including triggering the box. At classes, they wouldn't even do a dead retrieve, which they do marvelously at home. Merlin, because he was terrified of everything, Popper, because he is a bit ADD and was constantly worried about where Merlin was. We tried having Merlin and Mickey both leaving the room, but then Popper ran over to the door and would not focus on anything.

So we've been doing it at home, with just three jumps because of the room issue, and they love it. If it can stay dry for more than a day at a time we will move all the jumps outside and do it there. Our backyard is a big mud pit when it rains (and sometimes a pond!) so I CURSE THIS BAD WEATHER!

Tuesday, April 1

Happy Adoption Day!

Which just happens to also be April Fool's Day. :) Six years ago I brought Blossom home from the Capital Area Humane Society. She had been waiting for someone for two months, passed over for younger dogs (she was seven at the time) and many were wary of her dalmatian side. I, however, enjoy the company of older dogs, have no problem handling bad doggie behaviors, and brought her home with me.
She's now 13, almost totally deaf, but still as active and spry as she was those years ago. I found her on, so if you are looking for a dog, purebred or not, look there first! They even have puppies. One might be waiting there for you!
So Happy Adoption Day Blossom! She has a bully spring waiting for her to celebrate. :D