Friday, August 27, 2010

Woo is Me

I guess you must be wondering why I haven't made the call for everyone's "Uncle Jack Armageddon/Celebrity Death Ghoul Pool" guesses... sigh.

For reasons yet to be explained to us, Uncle Jack will not be visiting us this year.

I know.

Seriously, I know.

I'll wait until you're done howling with abject sadness.

Uncle Jack has visited us every year since I was a wee little fluffy puppy, and frankly I have no idea what we're going to do with ourselves this year.  Oh sure, the humans are still taking the time off and all, but still, there won't be any of this:

No waiting for Uncle Jack to wake up (or for the door to mysteriously open that allows us to jump and stomp on Uncle Jack)
And yes... no Celebrity Ghoul Pool! 

For those of you who aren't a regular reader (shame on you) every time Uncle Jack visits, a famous celebrity dies.  I'm still not sure my friends in Australia (Huffle, Opy) have ever forgiven him for killing off Steve Irwin.

Uncle Jack also brings along some sort of horrific natural catastrophe (Katrina is one fine example), and something in the human house usually breaks (attic fan, telephones).

I'm not sure if the earth has been notified that Uncle Jack won't be visiting (there's two hurricanes approaching the East Coast)... hmmm.  Perhaps we should hold the ghoul pool and the natural catastrophe pool, and the what will break at the human's house pool.  Maybe all these years it really wasn't Uncle Jack... maybe the HUMANS are the cause!

Regardless, we'll miss you Uncle Jack.  Wish you could visit this year, but we understand.  We'll just save up the claw for next year.

Meeshka

P.S.  We haven't told Spineless Bionic hip/knee puppy Sam that Uncle Jack isn't visiting.  We're seeing how long he stares out the window.  For all we know, he's staring at a bug.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

The human woman's reaction that Bear-Bear's shooter only got 2 misdemeanors... well, better than nothing.

More thoughts on this on trenchant thursday.

Meeshka

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Justice for Bear-Bear - An interview with his family

While this blog is typically written tongue-in-cheek from Meeshka's point of view, the seriousness of this event compels us to temporarily break from that style.  We know that you all will understand.
 Like many of you, we have been following the tragedy of Bear-Bear, the Siberian Husky who was shot and killed on Monday August 2, 2010 in the community of Quail Run - a sub-division of Severn, Maryland.   Hearing about a meeting to show support for the family, we felt compelled to attend.  After the meeting at the park where Bear-Bear lost his life, we caught up the the Rettaliata's and asked them if they would be willing to talk to us and address some difficult questions about the incident.  They agreed - what follows is the story of Bear-Bear and how his life was tragically cut short in an instant.

The officer who killed Bear-Bear was not available for comment.

August 5, 2010
8:00pm

When asked why they brought their dog to the Quail Run Dog park, the Rettaliatas said that prior to moving to the community nearly a year ago, they had lived in an apartment. The allure of the community dog park just made them want to live here even more so.  It would enable their dogs could get proper exercise, provide an opportunity to socialize with other dogs, and enjoy themselves in a safe and secure fenced in area.  Rachel sadly recounted that “... I think it was Bear-Bear’s favorite place, so I think that’s what is really tragic” about the incident.

While not an “official” Anne Arundel County Dog Park, the Quail Run Dog park is privately owned, and considered a “dog run”.  All of the residents who bring their dogs to the park allow their dogs to run off-leash in the run.  There is reason for this - - experienced dog owners know that, generally, leashed dogs are more protective and aggressive when approached by other, unrestrained, animals.

Ryan recounted one of many occasions in which there where at least 15 dogs, including Bear-Bear, inside the run, playing, chasing, and having fun with no incidents or issues.  He further stated that his neighbor’s small child would regularly run up to Bear-Bear outside of the dog park, jump on him and hug him.  After the incident, they were told that no report would be filed by Anne Arundel County Animal Control, as neither of the dogs had received bite wounds, or scratches, and that no humans had been bitten or injured.   

Stephen Kurinij, brother to Rachel, was at the park with Bear-Bear at the time of the shooting.  Stephen regularly brought Bear-Bear to the park and was a regular at the nightly 6:30pm gathering of dog owners.  Stephen told us that he was already in the fenced dog park with an unleashed Bear-Bear when a couple with their leashed German Shepherd approached the dog park.  The couple asked if Bear-Bear was friendly, to which Stephen replied that he was, and the couple stated that their dog, Asia, was also friendly and entered the fenced in area, with Asia still on the leash.  Stephen was approximately 7 feet away from the couple, and saw Bear-Bear running up to greet the new dog in the enclosure and initiated play.  He said that the rough-housing, which was common and expected in Stephen’s experience at the dog part escalated quickly, with both dogs rearing up on their hind legs.  Stephen said that he felt the wife panicked as Asia, the couple’s German Shepherd, began tugging her as she held on to the leash. 

It was at this point, the man, yelled at Stephen to “go get your dog, break them up”, and as Stephen processed that information, then began to retrieve Bear-Bear, the man took two steps back, drew out a Glock 17 9mm pistol, aimed, and shot Bear-Bear.  It was only after the man called 911 that he inform Stephen of his status as an off-duty Federal Police Officer.  Stephen refutes the shooter’s claim that the he had tried to break up the “fight” and was subsequently attacked by Bear-Bear prior to the actual shooting.

While it is not uncommon for two parties to dispute the facts of any legal incident - it is important to note that the officers report clearly states that there were no other witnesses to the event.  To the knowledge of the Rettaliata’s and their neighbors to whom we spoke - the investigating officers apparently failed to check any of the homes which border on three sides of the park to determine if anyone else had seen the event.  However, after only a few short minutes ABC2 News was able to discover an eye-witness who, in a video interview, corroborated Stephen’s side of the story - that the officer did not attempt to break up the dogs before drawing his weapon and firing.

The family later learned from other residents that it was apparently the off-duty officer’s first time at the park.  According to other residents it was the officer’s wife who typically  brought the shepherd to the park alone, and always on leash, as it seemed skittish - that the off-duty officer, her husband, had not accompanied her in the past.

Once the Anne Arundel County Police and Animal Control arrived, Stephen informed the officers that Bear-Bear was not his dog, and he was instructed by the police to retrieve Bear-Bear’s owner.  A member of Animal Control also told Stephen that if the dog wasn’t taken to a vet for treatment, he (Stephen) would be charged with animal cruelty ... as Stephen rushed home to get Ryan, leaving Bear-Bear alone in the run, bleeding, both the police and Animal Control remained outside the fenced in area.

When Ryan arrived and rushed to attend to his wounded pet, an Anne Arundel County Police Officer instructed Ryan to stop.  Ryan, visibly upset, insisted several times that he wanted to go to his wounded dog, at which point an Anne Arundel County officer reportedly pulled and pointed a taser at Ryan’s chest and ordered him to stop.  Ryan knew that if he was tased, he would not be able to help Bear-Bear, so he complied, at which point the officer lowered the taser and told Ryan to go to his dog, but not to move him.

When Ryan approached Bear-Bear, his dog rolled onto his back as he always did to receive belly scratches, the same officer that pulled the taser yelled to Ryan that he was told not to move his dog.  While Animal Control and Ryan moved Bear-Bear onto a stretcher, the County police officers were talking to the now identified Off-duty Federal Officer and his wife and were also petting the German Shepherd.

The family is not sure of what procedures were followed, or not followed in regard to the off-duty officer firing his weapon.  Newly passed legislation HR-218 (also known as the “Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act”) allows off-duty officers to carry weapons under certain conditions.  However, a number of questions remain unanswered:
  • Under this legislation, are off-duty officers required to identify themselves prior to taking any lethal action?
  • Are officers who are involved in off-duty shootings required to undergo blood alcohol and drug testing?
  •  Following a such a shooting, is the firearm in question confiscated until the investigation ends?
  • Wouldn’t it be standard procedure to suspend or place such an officer on suspended leave until the investigation was over?
  • Whether HR 218 (which specifically states that it does not supersede state laws which prohibit the carrying of off-duty weapons to certain locations including public parks) even applies in this case. 
  • How are citizens who are obviously not allowed to carry weapons into dog parks expected to react in such situations - and why didn’t the off-duty officer respond in that way?
None of these procedures, except for initial inquiries of HR 218, were addressed in the initial “final” report, opened and closed on 8/2/2010  nor the supplemental report of 8/3/2010 - each of which clearly stated that “this case is closed”.

Ryan transported Bear-Bear to the Anne Arundel Veterinary Emergency Clinic, where veterinarians subsequently performed exploratory surgery to determine the severity of Bear-Bear’s wounds.  The officer had fired on 9mm HydraShok round into Bear-Bear's abdomen.

A HydraShok is similar to a hollow-point round, except that the tip of the round is sliced during manufacturing so that when it is used - the round not only spreads out to a much wider width than the tip of the round, but actually peals open into a star-like shape, or shatters completely sending fragments through the target’s body.  It is designed to inflict maximum damage, and that is exactly what it did to Bear-Bear. 

One round from the off-duty officer’s personal weapon resulted in a ruptured colon and kidney, it  completely severed the pancreas, and perforated Bear-Bear’s intestines five times.  Severe blood loss would require many blood transfusions, and there was doubt that the pancreas could successfully be reconnected.

Some readers to the many articles covering this incident have speculated that  the dog could have been saved, but money was an issue:

“... we would have spent more...” Rachel said.  “... they did exploratory because they said if they had gone in, there might not be a chance, but if [the] exploratory surgery [revealed]  there might be a chance, we would have paid... we would have paid $10,000.  I would have never gone back to school, I would have taken a second job, and we would have done all of the physical therapy possible.  I could never have lived with myself if we had just said it was too much money.”  Ryan added that they just couldn’t go home not knowing they hadn’t given Bear-Bear every chance to survive.  “It took a $1.00 bullet to rip all of this away from us.” Ryan added sadly.

With his survival at a minimum, the family was allowed just a few minutes alone with Bear-Bear.  A few last moments to convey their love and grief for a dog who’s life started so horribly; whose future looked so bright thanks to a rescue organization and subsequent adoption by two young newlyweds; a life cut short after only 3 years in a split second of what appears to be a senseless act. 

At 12:15 A.M on August 3, 2010, Bear-Bear’s suffering ended as the veterinarians put him to sleep, a little more than six hours after the shooting.

Tuesday morning, August 3, 2010, when the couple arrived at the Anne Arundel County Western District Headquarters - they encountered a vacant building and a red phone with poor reception.  They just wanted some answers.  What was being done?  What was their recourse?  Could they get a copy of the police report?  Were they required to file charges?  They found that a police report wouldn’t be available (standard procedure) for 3-4 days, but that the case had already been closed.  When they asked to speak to someone in person, they were told that officers at the scene were not on shift, but after insisting on speaking to an officer, one came out to speak with them.  He informed them that the case was closed,  and that their only other recourse was a civil charge.  They were also told that Stephen was evasive during questioning.  “I actually have neighbors telling me that when they were watching them talk to Stephen, it looked like they were interrogating him, they weren’t even talking to him like a human being...” Ryan said. 

Rachel, and her brother Stephen, come from a law enforcement family.  Their Grandfather was a Baltimore City Homicide Detective, and from a young age they were “raised with the utmost respect for police officers, fire fighters, anyone that gives to civil service” according to Rachel.  “... but there’s always going to be a bad apple, so this is just about bringing out [the fact] that he can’t hide behind a badge, that he did wrong and its not ok.”

“From what I’ve heard, when he identified himself as a Federal Officer, they absolutely went with the assumption that the HR 218 Act, which allows all Federal officers carry arms across the United States, they thought he fell under that jurisdiction...” Ryan responded when asked why he felt the county closed the case so quickly.  “... so they didn’t bother to investigate, because alright, that’s your word, great.”  He further feels that this on-the-scene determination ruined their chance to accurately investigate.  “They didn’t even know there were witnesses.  There were a couple of kids sitting on this green box...” he points to a small green utility box on the edge of the park “... and one kid on a bicycle that a TV station found” who corroborates Stephen’s story.  “... it amazed me that how could you not go to these houses and ask if anyone was looking out their window, was anyone in their backyard, no one was walking through?” Rachel stated incredulously.  “Yes, Stephen, Bear-Bear and this German Shepherd were alone in this park, but look at it now, there’s people everywhere, driving and walking their dogs.”

Prompted by their parents, Rachel called the news desk at WBAL and the Baltimore Sun.  “The Baltimore Sun has been vastly instrumental in getting this whole thing out there” Ryan said thankful for their assistance in spreading the word.  Once word spread from the Sun article, the family then appeared on WBAL Radio with C4 and other local media outlets.  Word also spread when a post from a member of Tails of the Tundra cross-posted the article on Facebook and ignited a fire of angry dog owners.  Two Facebook groups; “Justice for Bear Bear”, and the similarly named “Justice for Bear-Bear” were started.  Combined the pages now have thousands of international members, and membership continues to grow daily. 

The family is overwhelmed and thankful for all of the support they have received, stating that it gives them the strength to continue.

The public outcry reached the office of John Leopold, Anne Arundel County Executive, - himself a dog owner - on Wednesday morning and he demanded the case be re-opened and thoroughly investigated.  Within hours of that announcement, the Anne Arundel County Police Chief released a statement that the investigation was ongoing.  The National Humane Society is now working with the Anne Arundel Police Department to investigate the matter.  The family reached out to PETA, but their automated voicemail states that they do not become involved in matters of police involved shootings because it is far too common.

Later that evening the Fort Meyer Police Department. where off-duty officer who shot Bear-Bear is employed, issued a press release.  In that release the FMPD stated that the officer had been on annual vacation during the incident, and that he had been cleared of any wrong doing by the Anne Arundel County Police Department who had jurisdiction over the incident - and that the officer was returning to work the following day (Thursday).

When asked how this matter would have been handled if the shooter had been a civilian, the family stated they were convinced it would have been handled much differently.  “They would have come out and confiscated the weapon, which they did not take his weapon, they probably would have taken him to jail, they probably would have given him a breathalyzer... there were a lot of things that would have been handled differently had it been civilian-based.” said Ryan.  “And we probably would have been treated, or at least my brother, as victims rather than someone that needed to be interrogated.” added Rachel

It should be noted that it is unknown whether or not the off-duty officer who shot Bear-Bear was tested for drugs or alcohol, but that a standard checkbox on the police report (which is now publicly available online) indicates there was no drug or alcohol use involved in the incident.

As to readers comments that charge the Rettaliata’s are using this incident as a catalyst for financial gain through a public lawsuit of the officer or his department the family again strongly disagrees.  Breaking down into tears, Rachel stated that “... financial gain will never bring Bear-Bear back, no amount of money will ever bring him back to us ... its about claiming responsibility.”  They feel strongly that Bear-Bear deserves a fair investigation, the officer needs to face up the split-decision that he made on Monday night - a decision that left a beloved family member dead.  They feel that he doesn’t deserve to carry a weapon or be relied upon to serve on a police force, whose purpose is to protect and serve the people. 

The community also expressed a lot of concern for their safety with the off-duty officer in the area.  Residents were shocked by their new neighbor after the shooting, stating that he and his wife were yelling at them saying things like “what would you do if you dog were attacked” and “you didn’t see anything”.  They also state that he was strutting around acting like a hero. 

Some residents are now hesitant to come back to the park knowing that the off-duty officer lives in the area.  “Its not the place it was anymore, it won’t be for a long time...” Rachel said sadly, “... but it is a safe place, not everyone runs to the dog park with guns on their hips...”  Ryan added that the dog park is the community meeting place for dog owners, reminiscing how his dog played joyfully with the other dogs and even children, citing how his neighbor’s 2-year old child “... just runs up to my dog and jumps on his neck and hugs him, so ... bringing him down here was a very safe situation for us, and I would really, it would break my heart if people stopped showing up and that part of the community stopped to exist... that would be a travesty.”

On August 5th, at 6:30 pm under storm darkened skies and rain, local supporters gathered at the Quail Run dog park, an impromptu meeting arranged through one of the Facebook groups.  Citizens brought
their dogs, children, flowers, and signs to show their support and condolences for Bear-Bear.  Three local law enforcement officers stood at a respectful distance from the gathering.  Local media had earlier reported a “police presence” for the event, as it was expected to be a very emotionally charged gathering.  Those fears however were ill-formed, participants simply gathered near the fenced in dog run and talked amongst themselves and comforted the Rettaliata family despite the continued rain.

 At one point, Ryan strode across the park and shook the hands of each of the three officers - thanking them for coming.


Most of the participants were regular visitors to the many Maryland dog parks,
and discussed how they were prepared to deal with some unruly dogs, possible issues, even fights during their visits, but none could fathom the possibility that an armed person could simply shoot their dog, no matter what the circumstances.  Some explained their methods for peacefully breaking up dog fights.  How leashed dogs can feel constrained and vulnerable when approached by an unleashed dog and how it was the sometimes written and always unwritten rule of dog park etiquette to immediately remove the leash after entering.

 In the rain, as unleashed dogs playfully ran within the confines of the dog run, with their excited yaps, and sometimes growling rough play, Ryan spoke to the crowd and expressed his family's thanks for the outpouring of support and condolences.





A representative from the County Executive's office reiterated Mr. Leopold's promise of a full and thorough investigation of the matter.





At one point, Ryan was asked to identify the shooter.  His response was to emphasize that due to high tension and comments made online, he would not release the man's name, adding that we all needed to allow the justice system to run it's proper course.  Retaliation against the man or his dog isn't an acceptable option or a solution Ryan stated.


Behind the Rettaliata’s, in the dog run where Bear-Bear had been shot, a dog stopped and sniffed at the spot where Bear spent his final moments in the dog park he loved as the rain slowly came to an end and rainbow appeared in the distance.

More Outpouring of support for Bear-Bear (and a Mutatoe Incident)

As we wait for the slow wheels of justice to grind, I wanted to share the outpouring of concern and support from the Dog Blogging community. This is just a small example of those who support Bear-Bear:

Indy’s Corner

Khyra’s Khorner

The Thundering Herd

Jan’s Funny Farm

The Magicsleighdogs

Cyber Sibes

Stumpy’s Daily Dose ‘o’ Dirtville

Biloxi’s Blue No More

Holly’s House

Juniorbabee and Orion

Ozzball or Ozzie


I’d post more, but my paw was cramping from all the cutting and pasting.

On a lighter note, the humans have been very distraught over Bear-Bear’s death. They’ve been a bit on edge and sleep deprived, but paying a LOT more attention and lavishing us with goodies because they know even more how precious life is (we dogs keep trying to tell them, but do they listen? NOOOOO!).

Anyhoo, yesterday the human woman was out back with the Mutatoe and from Mutatoe says, he cornered a 4-foot long vicious reptile. He told me that he subdued it, but it escaped and slithered away like the coward it was.

Here is an actual picture of the not so evil Maryland Black Rat Snake:


















Here is what actually happened when Mutatoe encountered the Maryland Black Rat Snake:
Luckily, the snake was unable to swallow Mutatoe because of his ample ass.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Keep your eye on the ball (Justice for Bear-Bear)

Hey everypup, kit, hamsterrier,

My humans had the opportunity to go to the community gathering for Bear-Bear last night at the Quail Run Dog Park. It was stormy, so I opted not to go, as we all know how much I like thunder and lightening (not). From their report, there were a lot of pups and humans there, joined together to honor our fallen Husky (he will receive a posthumous membership in the Husky United Liberation Army - HULA soon). It was also reported in the news that there would be a large police presence as this issue was very emotional. There were three uniformed representatives of the Anne Arundel County Police department in attendance. Calling them a large police presence is a bit... over dramatic I would say, which brings me to my point:

We need to keep our eye on the ball. Although not something a lot of huskies are interested in (you throw the ball, you can go get it yourself), it sounds a lot better than: keep your eye on the fledgling bird, and we all know how that usually turns out, especially if Mutatoe is involved, and that's NOT the point I want to make.

We all get very angry when a breed of dog goes rogue and does something bad and the humans call for a breed ban, and new laws, and blah blah. Placing blame on an entire police force (Anne Arundel County, or DoD Federal Police) is the same thing.

There are MANY good police people out there doing good for humans and dogs, cats, etc., and we can't just lump the actions of one human into the whole of the law enforcement community. Even though the initial investigation was handled... not very well at all, we can't blame the entire police force for that either. The investigation is ongoing, thanks to the wonderful support of pups like you, and it will be done thoroughly, honestly, and completely, and only then can we lay the paw of blame (if any).

We must focus on the human that shot Bear-Bear. He will be investigated and the human justice system will determine what (if anything) happens to him. Whether we agree or not, we must not jump to conclusions (it just wears you out, all of that jumping), we must not pre-judge (because I wouldn't like it if people thought I might be a killer wolf based just on my stunning good looks), and we must continue to insist that justice be served, without being totally obnoxious or evil about it. In Mutatoe's own words: you catch more fledgling birds if you sit there and be patient until they fall into your mouth, or something equally weird like that. The lesson is: we let them know that we are sitting under the nest with our mouths open, its up to them to do the right thing and fly straight out of the yard. Yeah, I know its a strange analogy, but how else do you make sense of what the Mutatoe says?

Meeshka

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Justice for Bear-Bear

Everypup, kitty, hamsterrier... I have something very serious that I want all of you to do.

On Monday, 2 August 2010, in my community, a wonderful husky named Bear-Bear was shot and killed in a local community dog park.

Bear-Bear was adopted from Tails of the Tundra Siberian Husky Rescue, which is where Sam the Spineless Bionic Hip/Knee pup, and Loki came from.

On Monday, while Bear was playing in the fenced in dog park, like he did most nights at the same time, an off duty DoD officer arrived with his wife, and his German Shepherd, Asia, on leash. According to Bear's caretaker, the dogs were playing, when the Officer felt they were playing too rough, demanded the caretaker get Bear, then stepped back, pulled a 9mm handgun and shot Bear.

Anne Arundel County Police and Animal Control arrived and proceeded to stand outside the fenced area questioning the officer and Bear's guardian, while Bear lay on the dirt dying. Witness accounts say that they treated the officer like an old friend, while they held a taser on the guardian and wouldn't let him enter the pen and help Bear. Eventually he was allowed in, Bear was loaded on a stretcher and taken to the Annapolis Emergency Vet. Nothing could be done to save Bear, as the bullet (a hollow point) had pierced several of Bear's internal organs. He was put to sleep.

The Officer stated that Bear had jumped on his dog and bit him, then when the Officer tried to get Bear off his dog, Bear lunged and tried to bite him then bit his dog a second time. Witnesses, who the police did not interview say otherwise. Animal Control did not file a report because they found no bite marks or injuries to either dog, except for Bear's lethal gunshot wound.

County police closed the case and stated that there was no criminal charges.

We need your help! A massive social network movement is underway to get justice for Bear-Bear! We have succeeded in informing the County Executive to re-open this case. We want you to keep the pressure on the county, the county police, and the Federal Officer's workplace. His employer currently states that no charges will be filed and he will be returning to work tomorrow (5 August 2010).

It doesn't matter if you live in Anne Arundel County Maryland, please call and demand justice for Bear:

John Leopold, Anne Arundel County Executive
(410) 222-1821
jleopold@aacounty.org

Anne Arundel County Police Western District
(410) 222-6155
P02438@aacounty.org


Fort Myer Public Relations (Officer's workplace)
(703) 696-0596
Director of Public Affairs
(703) 696-4979


John the facebook support page:
and the Justice for Bear-Bear support page on Facebook


If you would like to contribute to Bear-Bear's medical expenses go to paypal and send your donation to k.rettaliata@gmail.com

Everyone has permission to cross post this blog posting to the world!


Sunday, August 01, 2010

I want a raise

Its food time, and I want food.  What do I get?  I get this crap:
video

I mean, good GAH!  How much do I have to put up with before I get out the claw!

Meeshka