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Unusual Woman. Unusual Life.

The Willawoman's Blog

Living with a Disability.
Living with, working and training Wheelchair Service Dogs.

Q&A: for more info about The WillaWoman! (UPDATED 4-16-08)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Now you get mad?!

You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate
energy policy.

You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn't get mad when the president ignored the clear and timely warning that terrorists were going to hijack planes and fly them into the WTCs.

You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn't get mad when we spent over 600 billion (and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn't get mad when the weapons inspectors, who said there were no WMDs, were ignored.

You didn't get mad when hundreds of thousands of people died in Iraq.

You didn't get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn't get mad when we didn't catch Bin Laden.

You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn't get mad when we let a major US city, New Orleans, drown.

You didn't get mad when we gave a 900 billion tax break to the rich.

You didn't get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark (under the Bush/Cheney administration).

You finally got mad when the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick.

Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, are all okay with you, but helping other Americans...oh hell no.

Side note: I assume now if you're against the new "socialist" health care bill, that, to prove your point that you are against "socialism", you will be returning all your Social Security checks or SSI Disability checks whence they came from.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

New Rule

If you ask if you can pet a Service Dog, and the handler says "no, he's working", then...

  • start making kissy noises
  • talk in a high sing-song voice to the dog
  • squat down and talk to the dog
  • whistle at the dog like he's a ranch dog wrangling sheep


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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Here Doggie!

While shopping at Sprouts today, I had a guy in the next checkout lane actually whistle at Frankie.


He whistled to him like he was calling the hounds back from the barn.

Then he went to reach for him.

I actually placed my hand on this guys chest and said: "He's not a ranch dog, you shouldn't be distracting him, he's working."

Mr. Cowboy didn't even apologize... but he got schooled!


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Monday, August 03, 2009

Old dog

An older, tired-looking dog wandered into my yard.
I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home and was well taken care of.

He calmly came over to me, I gave him a few pats on his head; he then followed me into my house, slowly walked down the hall, curled up in the corner and fell asleep.

An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out.

The next day he was back, greeted me in my yard, walked inside and resumed his spot in the hall and again slept for about an hour.

This continued off and on for several weeks.

Curious I pinned a note to his collar: 'I would like to find out who the owner of this wonderful sweet dog is and ask if you are aware that almost every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.'

The next day he arrived for his nap, with a different note pinned to his collar:
'He lives in a home with 6 children, 2 under the age of 3 - he's trying to catch up on his sleep.

Can I come with him tomorrow?'

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dog honoured for tackling burglar

Toby the Labrador
Toby suffered a punctured lung as he fought off the intruder

A Labrador who fought to protect its owners from a knife-wielding burglar has been honoured for his bravery.

Toby was stabbed four times in the chest and legs by the intruder but still managed to chase him out.

The Morton family, from Barnoldswick in Lancashire, had been staying at Leconfield Barracks in East Yorkshire.

They awoke to find their pet in a pool of blood. But the eight-month-old survived and has been awarded by the animal charity, PDSA.

The armed burglar, who attacked Toby with three knives taken from the kitchen, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years for the offence.

Toby suffered a punctured lung in the attack, in June 2007, as he fought to stop the offender going upstairs to the sleeping family.

After succeeding in chasing the offender out of the building Toby then woke his owner, Jonathan Morton, by barking.

Had it not been for Toby's determined barking and lunging at the intruder, Mr Morton would not have been aware of the threat to his family.

Mr Morton and his wife Samantha praised their pet's actions.

He said: "Toby is our hero. I dread to think what could have happened if he had not intervened that night."

The Labrador has been presented with the PDSA Certificate for Animal Bravery by the charity's senior deputy chairman Chris Heaps.

He said: "Had it not been for Toby's determined barking and lunging at the intruder, Mr Morton would not have been aware of the threat to his family.

"Toby is indeed a worthy recipient of the PDSA Certificate for Animal Bravery."

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Smartest Dogs: Moscow Stray Dogs


Russian scientists say that Moscow stray dogs became much smarter. The four legged oldest human’s friends demonstrate real smartness such as riding the Moscow metro every morning to get from their suburban places of living to the fat regions of Moscow center. Once they arrive to the downtown they demonstrate different new, previously unseen for the dog skills. Those skills can include “the hunt for shawarma” for example, the popular among Muscovites eastern cuisine dish. This hunt scene can be seen as this:

Regular Moscow busy street with some small food kiosks. A middle-aged man buys himself a piece of hot fast food and walks aside chewing it without a rush. Then just in a second he jumps up frightened - some doggy has sneaked up on him and barked out loudly. His tasty snack falls out from his hands down to the ground and the dog gets it. Just ten minutes later, on the same place, the teen youngster loses his dinner in exactly the same manner. The modern Russian dogs are on their urban hunt.


“This method of ambushing people from their back is widely exercised by Moscow dogs”, saying A. Poiarkov, working in Ecology and Evolution Institute of Moscow. “The main point here is to define who would drop the food scared and who won’t, but the dogs are great psychologists they can do it better than us”.

Moscow ecologists think that dogs started acquiring this habits in 1990s, when the Soviet union collapsed and Moscow has fell into the hands of new class of Russian capitalists. They understood the true value of the downtown realty underestimated by previous Communist owners and became removing all the industrial complexes Moscow had in its centre to its outskirts. Those places were used by homeless dogs as a shelter often, so the dogs had to move together with their houses, so they had to learn how to travel Moscow subway - first to get to the centre in the morning then back home in the evening, just as us people.

“Sometimes dogs are doing mistakes adapting in metro, but they are studying.”

The commercial revolution of Moscow made their usual feeding places like trash bins out of direct reach, so they had to get to know new ways of getting their piece of food. That’s how appeared those “Shawarma hunts”. Sometimes though they use more gentle methods. Young girl sits on the bench to eat her hot dog - a big cute looking dog appears from the surrounding bushes and puts her head on her knees. The girl can’t help herself sharing the hotdog with a dog.

Among some more amazing skill those Moscow dogs are the ability not to miss their stop while going on the subway train. Biologists say dogs have very nice sense of time which helps them not to miss their destination. Another skill they have is to cross the road on the green traffic light. “They don’t react on color, but on the picture they see on the traffic light”, Moscow scientist tells. Also they choose often the last or the first metro car - those are less crowded usually.

It’s funny but the ecologists studying Moscow stray dogs also tell the dogs don’t miss a chance to get some play while on their travel in the subway. They are fond of jumping in the train just seconds before the doors shut closed risking their tails be jammed. “They do it for fun, just they have enough food”, they conclude.

continued below…


“Traveling first class, compared to this human”

“Practice makes perfect, true.”





“Just a regular member of busy day underground stream”


“Waiting for the right train”


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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The castaway dog who swam SIX miles through shark-infested waters, then survived FOUR months on a desert island

When Jan Griffith's beloved dog, Sophie Tucker fell overboard from her family's yacht she feared her pet had drowned.

But Sophie Tucker, a grey and black cattle dog, wasn't going to give up that easily.

The determined pet swam six miles through ferocious shark-infested seas to an island, where she survived for more than four months by hunting wild goats for food.

Sophie Tucker fell overboard in rough seas and swam through shark infested waters to safety

The extraordinary story of the castaway hound emerged today when Miss Griffith was reunited with her beloved pet.

'I thought I'd never see her again, but she's proved to be a dog who can really look after herself,' said Miss Griffith.

Sophie Tucker, named after the American vaudeville comedian, fell overboard from the family's yacht when they ran into bad weather off the Queensland coastal town of Mackay.

Miss Griffith and her friends searched the area, putting their own lives at risk in the rough seas, but there was no sign of Sophie Tucker.

Unknown to them, the dog swam towards remote St Bees Island, a quiet volcanic strip of land fringed with reefs.

Sophie Tucker swam six miles to reach St. Bees Island

On land there are rainforests and dense grasslands where koalas and wild goats live.

A handful of people living on the island reported seeing a dog running around, but assumed it was a feral animal.

When the bodies of several young goats were found, locals contacted wildlife rangers and word of a dog on the island reached the ears of Miss Griffith and her family.

'We wondered whether it could be Sophie Tucker but thought 'No way'.

'She would have had to have swum through five miles of sea to get there and then work out how to survive.

'It just couldn't be her, we decided, but when we were told the dog had been caught and they were bringing it to the mainland we thought we should have a look.'

They waited at the marina as the rangers' boat came in - and there in the cage was a grey and black dog.
Queensland coast

Sophie survived on an island off the Queensland coast inhabited by wild goats. File picture

'We called her name and she went crazy - whimpering and banging on the cage, so they let her out and she ran over to us and almost knocked us over with excitement,' Miss Griffiths said.

'She's settled in well back at home now. I think she's appreciating the air conditioning.'

Locals said it was astonishing that Sophie Tucker had not been attacked by sharks.

Even though she was lost inside the Great Barrier Reef, which tends to keep sharks away from the coast, tiger sharks and hammerheads do swim through the coral - and dogs are at particular risk.

'The smell of a wet dog is irresistible to a shark,' said a fisherman.

'You don't often hear of dogs surviving if they decide to go for a bit of a swim. Even a big fish will have a go at their legs.

'So for this dog to swim for five miles or so, and then swim a bit between islands, is incredible. She's a very lucky animal.'

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dogs (not chimps) most like humans

Man's best friend serves as model for understanding human social behavior

Chimpanzees share many of our genes, but dogs have lived with us for so long and undergone so much domestication that they are now serving as a model for understanding human social behavior, according to a new paper.

Cooperation, attachment to people, understanding human verbal and non-verbal communications, and the ability to imitate are just a handful of the social behaviors we share with dogs. They might even think like us at times too, according to the paper, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Advances in the Study of Behavior.

While there is no evidence to support that dogs and humans co-evolved their laundry list of shared behaviors over the past 10,000 to 20,000 years, the researchers believe adapting to the same living conditions during this period may have resulted in the similarities.

Lead author Jozsef Topal explained to Discovery News "that shared environment has led to the emergence of functionally shared behavioral features in dogs and humans and, in some cases, functionally analogous underlying cognitive skills."

Topal, who is based at the Institute for Psychology at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, is one of the world's leading canine researchers. He and his team argue that dogs should serve as the "new chimpanzees" in comparative studies designed to shed light on human uniqueness.

"In my view, pet dogs can be regarded in many respects as 'preverbal infants in canine's clothing,'" he said, adding that many dog-owner relationships mirror human parental bonds with children.

In one of many recent studies conducted by the team, Topal and his colleagues taught both a 16-month-old human child and mature dogs to repeat multiple demonstrated actions on verbal command — "Do it!," shouted in Hungarian.

The actions included turning around in circles, vocalizing, jumping up, jumping over a horizontal rod, putting an object into a container, carrying an object to the owner or parent, and pushing a rod to the floor.

The dogs "performed surprisingly well and at a comparable level to the 16-month-old child," Topal said.

Multiple studies mentioned by the authors also support that dogs exhibit all three primary types of social behavior that humans evolved when they split from chimpanzees 6 million years ago. The first is "sociality," or organization into groups where members are loyal to each other and display reduced aggression.

The second is synchronization, where following shared social rules and even taking on each others emotions helps to strengthen group unity. The researchers, for example, say that, "when approached by an unfamiliar person showing definite signs of friendliness and threat in succession, dogs show rapid changes of emotional and behavioral response in accordance with the human's attitude."

The third is "constructive activity," where individuals within a group cooperate and communicate with each other to achieve goals. Dogs can also distinguish rational from irrational human communications, Topal said.

The scientists additionally believe dogs are good models for human social behavior because studies can compare and contrast domesticated dogs with wolves, and then with humans.

Marc Hauser, a professor and director of the Cognitive Evolution Lab at Harvard University, fully agrees that dogs offer a good model for understanding human behavior.

"The dog has come into its own as a great new model for understanding the mind in general, and the evolution of the human mind in particular," Hauser told Discovery News. "Not only have we lived with dogs for thousands of years, but because of this relationship, we have acted as an agent of selection to modify aspects of their behavior and minds."

"Now, perhaps for the first time, students of animal behavior, psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, philosophy and veterinary medicine will unite to provide deeper insights into the evolution of dogs and the evolution of humans," he added. "I for one am very excited about this opportunity, which is why we have followed the lead of other labs, and started our own dog lab!"

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Monday, March 23, 2009

And remember that "God" spelled backwards is "dog".

"This is one of the kindest things I've ever experienced. I have no way to know who sent it, but there is a beautiful soul working in the dead letter office of the U.S. Postal Service. "

Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month.

The day after she died, my four-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could, so she dictated these words:

Dear God,

Will You please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with You in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that You let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.

I hope You will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when You see her, You will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.

Love, Meredith.

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith, and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it, then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven.

That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office.

A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet.
I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, 'To Meredith'. The handwriting was unfamiliar.

Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers titled 'When a Pet Dies'. Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope.

On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith, along with the following note:

Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away.

Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with Me just like it stays in your heart.

Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don't need our bodies in
heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter, and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to Me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you.

I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I'm easy to find. I am wherever there is love.


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Friday, March 13, 2009

Paraplegic Man Suffers Spider Bite, Walks Again

"I closed my eyes and then I was spinning like a flying saucer," explains David Blancarte.

A motorcycle accident almost killed David 21 years ago. At the time he might have wished he was dead.

"I asked my doctor, 'Sir what happened? I can't feel my legs'," said David.

Ever since, David's been relying on his wheelchair to get around. Then the spider bite. A Brown Recluse sent him to the hospital, then to rehab for eight months.

"I'm here for a spider bite. I didn't know I would end up walking," says David.

A nurse noticed David's leg spasm and ran a test on him.

"When they zapped my legs, I felt the current, I was like 'whoa' and I yelled," he says.

He felt the current and the rush of a renewed sense of hope.

"She says,'your nerves are alive. They're just asleep'," explained David.

Five days later David was walking.

"I was walking on the bar back and forth," he said.

Now David is out of the hospital and on his feet and walking.

David basks in his glory and gives a ray of hope to other hoping to walk again. The 48-year-old former boxer and dancer is taking it in stride, knowing his best days are still ahead.

David's dream is to see his 14-year-old twin daughters grow up and get married so he can walk them down the aisle and have that first dance.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

I just heard the most profound statement on TV (regarding a woman who is in an abusive relationship):

You believe you don’t deserve to be in a relationship with somebody who will treat you with dignity and respect...

You believe you don’t deserve to be in a relationship with somebody who will treat you with honesty and integrity...

You believe you don’t deserve to be in a relationship with somebody who will protect rather than attack you...

and you don't believe you're entitled to peace instead of chaos and turmoil...

so you settle...


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Guide dogs trained to handle plane emergencies

DENVER, Colorado (CNN) -- Guide dogs for the blind go everywhere with their human partners, but when their destination is a plane ride away, it's not always so easy.

Gilligan, a 10-month-old Labrador retriever, calmly sits aboard the Boeing 767 fuselage.

Gilligan, a 10-month-old Labrador retriever, calmly sits aboard the Boeing 767 fuselage.

To make the skies a little friendlier, and safer, a pack of guide dogs in training gathered at a United Airlines training facility to take a simulated flight -- a flight with a surprise ending.

"The main purpose was to get our dogs used to boarding and deplaning and to getting into a seat and curling up into the space allowed for them," says Danny Henderson, who volunteers raising puppies to become guide dogs for the blind.

Henderson volunteers with Have Paws Will Travel, the group that organized the trip to the Denver training facility.

At her side is Gilligan, a 10-month-old yellow Labrador retriever puppy. Henderson takes Gilligan everywhere with her: shopping, sporting events, even to church. All the while she is preparing the pup to work as a guide dog by exposing him to all of the experiences a guide dog will have.

If Gilligan does well, he will be matched with a blind partner and the pair will go through four to five months of more extensive training on the California campus of Guide Dogs for the Blind, a non-profit that supplies blind people with guide dogs free of charge.

Inside the United Airlines facility sits a real fuselage from a Boeing 767 jet. About 20 dogs and their handlers file in, the dogs nestling under the seats. Gilligan is curious at first but quickly loses interest in his new environment and rests his head on the floor with a sigh.

A few aisles up sits Annette Bossert and her year-old dog Ludlow. He nervously looks from side to side between Bossert's legs, not too sure what's going on.

"He's what we call a 'soft dog' in that he is very sensitive to certain environments," says Bossert. "He might react a little bit more than some dogs, showing a little bit of fear, a little bit of anxiety."

If a dog is too easily spooked it might be "career changed," and instead of moving on to work with a blind person they will be adopted, often by the volunteer handler.

The doors of the fuselage close and the familiar rumble of an airplane taxiing begins. The dogs stay in place, seemingly disinterested in the mock flight.

And then out go the lights! Video Watch the dogs in action aboard the plane »

"Brace! Brace!" shouts a flight attendant. The plane is crash landing. The alarm blares, the cabin jolts from side to side.

"Get out! Leave everything!"

Everyone must evacuate the plane as quickly as possible, dogs included. One by one, the dogs lead their handlers to safety. Amazingly, not a single dog panics, or even barks.

"I noticed a lot of the dogs probably did better than the people. They were very relaxed, business as usual," says Danny Henderson with a laugh while Gilligan stands obediently at her side. "He's been doing great. He's a very smart dog, he's learned very quickly. I think he'll do great."

And how did Ludlow, the sensitive "soft dog," do?

"He did great," says Bossert. "This is awesome. I may not have a chance to fly with him so for him to just see the cabin environment and know he has to go into a confined space and be calm is good for him."

According to Guide Dogs for the Blind, about 10,000 blind people in the United States use guide dogs, and many of them are frequent fliers.

"The first time they fly they are like: 'This is a little odd,' " says Aerial Gilbert, who is blind and flies with her German shepherd Splash several times a month. She thinks the training will help the pups become better guide dogs.

"Things they learn as a puppy are no big deal. It's harder when they get older."


At the helm of the mock 767 is Capt. Robert Mackay. He's in charge of training for United Airlines and still flies regularly. He watches the exercise carefully. He says the odds of a plane crash with a guide dog and human partner on board are rare, but preparing for the unexpected is the name of the game.

"Having dogs on board the airplane and blind people on the airplane represent a special challenge for us," he says. "This is all about the 'what if,' risk management, being ready in the unlikely event that this would occur."

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ok folks, time for a boycott!!! Miley Cyrus in a handicapped spot... oy

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Police dog remembered

More than 50 law enforcement officers pay respects to Ringo

A grieving Jesse Ray Jordan, who became acquainted with K-9 Ringo at Anderson County High, is comforted by his father, Spartacus Jordan, during Friday's memorial service for the police dog.

A grieving Jesse Ray Jordan, who became acquainted with K-9 Ringo at Anderson County High, is comforted by his father, Spartacus Jordan, during Friday's memorial service for the police dog.

Ringo, the Anderson County Sheriff's Department K-9, died of kidney failure Feb. 20.

Ringo, the Anderson County Sheriff's Department K-9, died of kidney failure Feb. 20.

Sherri Prewitt, with Samuel Franklin Florist, places a wreath atop the cruiser where K-9 Ringo traveled with his handler, Anderson County Deputy Rick Coley.

Sherri Prewitt, with Samuel Franklin Florist, places a wreath atop the cruiser where K-9 Ringo

CLINTON - During an elaborate memorial, Ringo the police dog received a final send-off Friday befitting canine aristocracy.

A motorcade of 30 police cruisers rolled slowly beneath a giant American flag stretched between fire department ladder trucks.

A floral arrangement spelling out the dog's name was put across the windshield of the cruiser in which the Belgian Malinois traveled with his human partner, Anderson County Deputy Rick Coley.

Taps played softly outside the Clinton Community Center, where more than 100 people gathered to pay their respects.

Among the mourners: some 50 law enforcement officers - Clinton police, Anderson, Scott and Campbell County deputies, state troopers and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers.

A multimedia slide show with pictures of Ringo in action, training and posing with his master or just cavorting, was flashed on the center's Great Room wall.

Poster-sized photos of Ringo and awards he had won flanked the urn holding Ringo's cremated remains.

More than one griever dabbed tears with tissues or fingers as Rio Diamond's song "I Believe'' played.

Ringo, described as fun-loving and hard-working, died Feb. 20 of kidney failure.

The highly trained police dog was 10 years old.

Ringo worked from 2001 to 2008 with the Clinton Police Department and finished his career with the Anderson County Sheriff's Department.

"He worked up until his last days," Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Mark Lucas said.

"Ringo was second to none in his abilities to find illegal drugs or seek out a wanted felon."

To law enforcement officers, Ringo was one of them.

"The way we feel about it, they (police dogs) are no different from an officer," said Matt Forsyth, the department's K-9 unit supervisor and trainer. "They're one of our partners and another officer."

Speaker after speaker paid tribute to the centuries-old bond between people and dogs and the selfless dedication and bravery of working K-9s.

"These are not junkyard dogs," veterinarian Will Roberts said. "These animals communicate with their handlers in a manner allowing fine, precise control of behaviors in a variety of circumstances."

Without Ringo, Roberts said, Deputy Coley's job "will be tougher. His back will be less well-covered. His negotiations with criminals missing an important bark."

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Saturday, February 28, 2009


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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Worthwhile Cause


CLICK HERE to read up on and donate to a very worthwhile cause!

"Save-A-Vet nfp Inc is an organization dedicated to the caring and well-being of all military and law enforcement working animals. Help us take care of "THE OTHER FORGOTTEN SOLDIER""


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When police park at HQ, regular rules do not apply

Illegal parking in a handicapped spot is no trifling matter. Boston issues 11,000 tickets a year, each of which carries a $120 fine and often a $93 towing charge. And it is not uncommon for passersby to loudly rebuke able-bodied drivers who use parking spots reserved for the disabled.

But violators who use the 11 handicapped-designated spaces in front of Boston Police headquarters are immune from any sanction at all - or even a sidelong glance from the scores of police officers who enter and leave the building every day, according to Globe observations over the past two months.

One repeat scofflaw: the driver of a Toyota Corolla registered to Irene Landry, the city's supervisor of Parking Enforcement, who oversees the 194 parking enforcement officers who write 1.3 million tickets a year.

When a Globe reporter called Landry's office on Feb. 10 to ask about the Toyota, Landry was stunned. "I will investigate," she said. "Trust me when I tell you that."

Within five minutes of that call, her son Anthony, a police dispatcher, and three other police officials hastened out of Police Headquarters in shirtsleeves, got into their illegally parked cars, and drove away.

Most often, all prohibited parking areas around police headquarters on Tremont Street are a penalty-free zone - scores of unmarked detective cars, police evidence vans, and personal vehicles of patrol officers and sergeants are ensconced for hours at a time in spots earmarked for the disabled, and at fire hydrants, crosswalks, day-care drop-off, and MBTA bus stops - virtually all of them marked "tow zone."

And then there are those who park where there is no signed prohibition - on sidewalks. Or those who double-park.

Globe correspondents who kept watch at headquarters never saw a ticket written, much less a tow truck, despite a stern order in August 2007 from a senior commander who ordered that illegally parked cars be ticketed hourly.

"As a law enforcement agency with the responsibility to enforce parking regulations for the general public, visible and blatant violations of parking restrictions in the vicinity of Boston Police Headquarters are unacceptable," read the directive from Deputy Superintendent John F. Daley.

Eighteen months later, nothing much has changed. The only ticket books seen by the Globe over the six weeks' observation were those that officers left on the dashboards of their cars - a time-honored signal to fellow officers. Others left uniform shirts hanging in back windows.

Last Wednesday, the day after police officials learned of the Globe's interest, a handful of tickets were tucked under the windshield wipers of some of the illegally parked vehicles - though those cars sat all day in tow zones. One, a 2003 black Lincoln Town Car registered to patrolman David M. Fitzgerald, had a police ticket book on the dashboard just under the real ticket.

On Wednesday and again on Thursday, two days after police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll called such behavior unacceptable, several cars were illegally parked in handicapped-designated spots, without tickets.

What Driscoll called unacceptable, Myra Berloff, director of the Massachusetts Office on Disability, characterized as "a flagrant abuse of the law." All motorists, Berloff said in an interview, should be aware that people who illegally use handicapped-designated spots are making life more difficult for those with disabilities. For police officers to use such spaces, she said, is outrageous.

As the 2007 police directive suggests, what the Police Department has is a chronic condition, perceived parking immunity, for which there may be no cure. Many police officers will park where they choose at headquarters and around some of the department's district stations, with little risk that their colleagues will treat them like ordinary motorists.

If a single phone call from Irene Landry can frighten four scofflaws into instant compliance, why not have her traffic enforcement officers, who are known for taking guff from no one, write tickets around Police Headquarters?

Not possible, said Thomas J. Tinlin, the city's Transportation Commissioner and Landry's boss. Under longstanding policy, he said, police officers are responsible for enforcing parking rules outside their own buildings. And, Tinlin asserted, the creation of that policy was unrelated to concerns that ticketing police officers would lead to friction between the two departments.

"It would be redundant and inefficient for our parking enforcement officers to write tickets at Police Headquarters when they have a building full of people who can write tickets as well," said Tinlin.

An estimated 600 employees work at police headquarters, a 12-year-old building constructed a stone's throw from the Ruggles MBTA Station, but with a parking lot that accommodates only 104 vehicles. Initial plans to construct a parking garage were abandoned as too costly, Driscoll said.

The blocklong curbside along Tremont Street has spaces for fewer than 40 vehicles, all of them subject to various parking restrictions and signs designating them as tow zones.

Some cars, like Landry's, were regular offenders. Another frequent user of handicapped spots, David McClelland, an Emergency Medical Services dispatcher who works at Police Headquarters, acknowledged in a call he returned to a reporter that he has never been ticketed there, and said he took the risk because there is so little parking in the area.

Although the Globe saw no tickets at all during the six weeks' observation, Driscoll said officers at headquarters wrote about 200 tickets last year in front of the building and on a side street, Prentiss Street, with many of those written for department-issued unmarked cars.

Driscoll acknowledged, however, that tickets issued to city-owned vehicles are dismissed.

"This is a consistent and complicated issue, and we're doing our best," Driscoll said. "There's always room for improvement."

On Friday afternoon, after interviewing Driscoll, a Globe reporter counted six cars illegally parked in handicapped-designated spots in front of headquarters.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

'Dancing chair' for disabled

See Video here

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Disabled man: Dog barred from eatery

Thomas Brent Mowrey and his service dog, Lady, were denied service at a Baton Rouge Waffle

A disabled man who uses a dog for assistance was denied service at a Baton Rouge restaurant last month and said ignorance of federal disability rights law was probably the reason.

Thomas Brent Mowrey, a former Arizona resident who has lived with his wife in an RV in Baton Rouge for two months now, said he was denied service Jan. 26 at the Waffle House on Siegen Lane near Interstate 10.

Mowrey said a cook and the restaurant’s manager both said he had to leave because he had a dog with him.

Mowrey, who said he is deaf in his left ear, uses a service dog to assist him.

Mowrey provided documentation showing his dog, Lady, is certified as a service dog.

Staff members at the Waffle House, however, told Mowrey that state health laws prohibit dogs from going inside restaurants, he said.

“My dog has been on airplanes, inside Wal-Mart, CC’s (Community Coffee) and I’ve never had a problem,” Mowrey said Tuesday.

Frank Miller, owner and operator of Miller Properties Inc., owns the Waffle House where the incident happened as well as 25 other Waffle Houses in southwest Louisiana.

Miller confirmed the incident occurred, said it shouldn’t have and emphasized his company has “apologized profusely” to Mowrey.

“We handled it wrong,” Miller said. “We asked him what we could do and he said he just wanted compensation.”

Miller, who said he has not had a complaint like this in his 35 years in business, said he has implemented some training for his staff members about the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mowrey said Miller is lying and said no one with Miller Properties Inc. apologized to him. Mowrey said he did not ask for money.

“This is not about money. I don’t want their money or need their money. It’s about justice,” Mowrey said.

According to ADA materials, most service animals are dogs and are not legally required to wear special equipment or tags. Under the law, businesses cannot require proof or certification of the service dog’s training.

Mowrey said he did show the Waffle House employees his dog’s certification after he called the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office to file a complaint.

The ADA ensures that people with disabilities can go into taxis, buses, trains, stores, restaurants, schools, parks and other public places with their trained service animals.

The federal law trumps state and local health codes that prohibit animals from certain establishments.

Jolie Adams, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Hospitals, said there is a clause in the state’s sanitary code that addresses service animals and the code closely mirrors the federal law.

Although the department does not keep records of complaints from the disabled about service denial in restaurants, Adams said the issue rarely comes up.

Adams said every Louisiana restaurant is issued a copy of the state sanitary code.

“People need to be better informed about the ADA law,” Mowrey said.

Although he has not filed a civil lawsuit, Mowrey said, he has sent written complaints to the U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office and the state Attorney General’s Office.

Mowrey received a Jan. 28 letter from the state Attorney General’s Office saying officials there will send the complaint to the company and “ask the company to review the problem and respond.”

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Chesapeake student, school mourn death of service dog

Entering their freshman year at Oscar Smith High School, Adam and Wessley Amick did most everything together.

If Adam dropped a pencil, Wessley picked it up for him.

Whenever Adam's wheelchair moved through the crowded school hallways, Wessley always lumbered right behind him keeping an eye out.

And when a class got rowdy, Wessley stood up to get between Adam and the noise.

Adam, 17, has moderate cerebral palsy. Wessley served as Adam's service dog, accompanying the boy through middle school and nearly four years at Oscar Smith High.

Wessley died Jan. 21.

He had lymphoma.

The flat-coated retriever left behind a young man who is much more independent than when the two first met.

"Wessley helped Adam gain his confidence," said Terry Langdon, the guidance secretary at Oscar Smith. "Adam and Wessley weren't just a dog and a boy. It was just amazing the bond that these two had."

The bond began when Adam was 10. He and his parents, Kevin and Tammi, went to Fort Knox, Ky., to find a service dog from a now-defunct program called AIM HI, or Animals in the Military Helping Individuals. Adam first had his eye on a golden retriever, his mother said, but a 2-year-old dog named Wessley kept his eye on Adam. "Apparently, Wessley was the right one for me," Adam said.

'We were almost like twins'

Wessley started with Adam in fifth grade at Truitt Intermediate School, and then moved on with him to Greenbrier Middle School. Administrators weren't sure what to make of the situation. "A dog in school? I was thinking of all kinds of problems," said former Greenbrier Middle School principal Rick West, who is now a city councilman.

It didn't take long for West and others to change their minds. Wessley wore a red vest with the words, "Do Not Pet - Working Dog" written in bold white letters. At Oscar Smith, school officials have seen the dog pick up water bottles and books, as well as open doors for Adam.

The trust went much farther than that. Adam said Wessley seemed to know when he was having a tough day at school. The dog would cheer him up by putting his whole face in Adam's hands. It was like Adam and Wessley were telepathic, the boy said. "We were almost like twins," Adam said. "We could read other's minds."

Wessley was the perfect companion as Adam adjusted to high school. Adam, his family, and Oscar Smith faculty all say that Wessley helped the boy come into his own during these last four years. "Adam was already very different. He doesn't blend," said his mother, Tammi. "Wessley really broke the ice. A lot of kids think it's pretty cool to take your dog to school."

Often, because of a teacher's warm reaction to the dog, it helped Adam feel more comfortable in his classes. At the mall, Adam joked that Wessley was his babe magnet. At Oscar Smith football games, Adam and Wessley sat near the end zone, where the players could talk to them on the way out to the field.

Many of Oscar Smith's 2,300 students had come to know Adam and Wessley. Weighing about 85 pounds, the dog looked like a black bear moving among the students, Langdon said. Wessley stayed after school with Adam to help with homecoming decorations. On Fridays before home games, Adam put blue- and gold-colored gel in Wessley's hair. "Wessley was very much a part of this school," Langdon said.

Adam feels that he and Wessley played a role in educating the community about the rights of disabled residents. When Adam went to get his driver's license at the DMV office on Greenbrier Parkway, a guard wouldn't allow him in with Wessley. The Amicks called the police.

Adam also had to advocate for his right to enter the Saudi Arabian embassy with the service dog in 2006. More recently, Wessley was with Adam in Richmond as the boy lobbied to have October designated as Disability History and Awareness month in Virginia.

'He always wanted to work'

Students noticed when Wessley stopped coming to school with Adam for much of senior year. Wessley seemed to be slowing down. The noise at pep rallies and the lunchroom started to be too much, and the dog would sit under Langdon's desk when he couldn't tolerate it.

Kevin and Tammi Amick also thought it might be a good idea to separate the dog and boy, because Adam was headed to Virginia Wesleyan College. Wessley, who was 9 years old, probably wouldn't go with him, they thought.

Adam also didn't need Wessley as much; he could pick up his own pencils. He had also started physical therapy in October to begin walking. His goal was to be able to walk across the stage for graduation, a crutch on one side and Wessley on the other.

Wessley's demeanor began to change as he saw less of Adam last year, family members say. Tammi Amick noticed Wessley seemed to have some anxiety when he couldn't put on the red vest and leave in the morning with Adam.

"He always wanted to work," she said. "The vest made him feel extra special."

Wessley made his last visit to Oscar Smith near Christmas break with Adam's mother. As they tried to leave the school, Wessley ran down the hall and into one of Adam's old classes looking for him. The dog had to be dragged away from the school before Adam returned.

"The minute Adam came around the corner, no one else existed," Langdon said. "He was this dog's whole world."

The Amicks found out Wessley had lymphoma on Jan. 12. As word spread Wessley was sick, students and faculty quickly raised more than $1,200 to pay for his chemotherapy.

The dog's first chemo session was Jan. 16. In the final days, Adam told Langdon he thanked the dog for his service. "He's done everything he's supposed to for me," Adam told Langdon. "It's my turn to take care of him now."

Wessley lost his appetite before the treatment began. When the dog refused to drink from his bowl one day, Adam took the bowl to his own face. Wessley followed.

On Jan. 20, he collapsed on the back porch. He was given two blood transfusions, but it was too late.

As Wessley was being put to sleep, he never lost sight of the boy who was his life for seven years.

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Police sniffer dog dies of nose cancer after sniffing cocaine

A police drugs sniffer dog has died of a rare nose cancer after years sniffing cocaine during his work.

Springer spaniel Max, aged nine, may have caught the disease because of the effect of cocaine and other drugs he was taught to detect.

Police Inspector Anne Higgins, the dog's owner, fears the training may have led to the disease which led to him being put down last week.

Max worked as a drugs dog with the Avon and Somerset police but lived with Insp Higgins, who is based at Tiverton police station in Devon.

She said: "It is ironic the wonderful organ that made him successful in his work has been his demise.

"It may or may not have been connected with what he used to do. Up until a couple of weeks ago he seemed fine and was doing well but it was an aggressive tumour.

"It was very hard to have him put down but we had to do it.

"I took him to the police station which he usually loved and was his favourite place but he did not show any reaction to being there and we knew he was not right.

"He was a fighter until the end and always very dignified. He has had a good life and a successful one as a police dog. Just think of all the bad people he managed to put away."

Max retired from police work last year after arthritis in his back legs led to him being fitted with a trolley so he could still run around.

Inspector Higgins said the cancer caused an infection in his front legs which threatened to leave him completely immobile.

Kate Fairclough, the dog's vet, his work may have caused his death from nasal cancer, which is rare in dogs.

She said: "Sniffing drugs may well have been a factor. I certainly cannot rule it out.

"Nose cancer in dogs is not at all common. It represents only one or two per cent of all cancers.

"It is difficult to know what caused it as there are so many different factors involved. Environmental factors can plat a part.

"He had done so well since 2006 when it was thought he would have to be put down so he had an extra three years of life.

"It is always hard to do and he was such a lovely dog."

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This is awesome!

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Parrot mimics owner's voice to boss around her other pets

A parrot that learned to mimic his owner's voice is using the skill to issue orders to her other pets.

BArney the African Grey Parrot: Parrot mimics owner's voice to boss around her other pets
Margaret Sullivan: 'Barney's a really bossy parrot. He even chats back at me and swears when I'm talking sometimes ? he's so cheeky'

Barney, an African Grey Parrot, calls Margaret Sullivan's three dogs – Harry, Tilly and Bluey – by name.

The bird, 10, squawks out orders like "come here" and even offers praise to his favourites such as "good dog".

Mrs Sullivan, 65, who lives in Tredworth, Gloucestershire, with partner Ken Kersey, 62, admitted that Barney has a "very high opinion of himself".

She said: "Barney's a really bossy parrot. He even chats back at me and swears when I'm talking sometimes – he's so cheeky.

"He's always tried to learn how to speak in my voice but he has got better and better at it ever since I bought him.

"Barney's got a really high opinion of himself and he certainly likes to think he's my favourite out of the pets. He's not – but I would never tell him that."

Mr and Mrs Sullivan own three dogs, Alsatian-Collie cross Harry, 12, Cairn terrier Tilly, three, and her son Bluey, eight-months.

Mrs Sullivan, a grandmother-of-seven, bought Barney as a young parrot in 1998 and he has been perfecting her voice and accent ever since.

His favourite games is calling out to a cat named Shadow. He then praises him when he does as he is told and sits on top of Barney's cage.

Mr Sullivan said: "He always says 'come here', 'come on' and 'good dog' to the pets and gives out orders to all the animals in Margaret's voice.

"It's uncanny. He mimics her perfectly and when the dogs come over to the cage as if they are following his orders.

"The animals all think he's Margaret when he speaks. He loves ordering them around and commanding them – it's very surprising. He's not frightened or scared of them at all."

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Service-dog fiasco stirs family to act

A teen who felt cheated after fundraising to help his brother starts a charity.
By Felisa Cardona
The Denver PostMechanism of insulin release in normal pancrea...Image via Wikipedia

Mark Rinkel, 13, of Aurora started Red Alert Dogs for Diabetics to train canines such as Lucy, the puppy he is holding, to be service dogs. (Karl Gehring, The Denver Post )

By selling his secret recipe of regular and sugar-free lemonade, 13-year-old Mark Rinkel raised enough money to get a service dog to help his little brother Jason cope with Type 1 diabetes.

But Mark says the dog he worked so hard to get did not detect serious changes in his brother's blood sugar, as was promised, and the dog also bit Jason's hand when he tried to pet him.

"It turned out to be a scam," said the boys' mother, Marisa Rinkel. "After he bit my son, we gave him back."

The story of Mark's lemonade stand was featured in summer 2007 on ABC's "Good Morning America" and CNN, helping him raise $17,000, more than the $6,000 needed to buy a service dog that was supposed to be trained to detect when his 11-year-old brother's
blood sugar was dangerously low or high.

Jason has hypoglycemic unawareness, which means he may not know that his blood sugar is out of control until he gets violently ill.

Mark, who lives in Aurora, obtained the dog named Jedi from Heaven Scent Paws, a company based in Missouri, and donated the leftover money to the company so other families with diabetic children could get their own service dogs.

Now the Missouri attorney general has filed a lawsuit against Heaven Scent Paws after receiving 28 complaints from consumers, including one from Mark Rinkel, who say they were scammed.

David G. Bandre, an attorney for Heaven Scent Paws, said the Rinkels' allegations are false and that Jedi has been a successful service dog with the family he lives with now.

"A core group of about 10 families who are unhappy with Heaven Scent Paws never followed through on their contractual relationship with the company, including the follow-up care and training at home," Bandre said. "These are people who expected to get home with the dog who alerted 100 percent of the time right away, and frankly, that defies logic after a one-week class in Missouri."

The dogs are supposed to respond by barking or making some kind of commotion when they smell the child's blood-glucose level dropping or rising — which puts the diabetic at risk for seizures and blackouts. The dogs can sometimes detect a rise or fall in blood sugar before a monitor can, Marisa Rinkel said.

The Rinkels took Jedi to seven experts who told them he was an ineffective service dog and that he was prone to bite people when scared.

Although the Rinkels returned Jedi, Mark won't get his money and donation back. Bandre says the family benefited from the company's training and materials while they were in Missouri.

"I suppose if the Circuit Court of Cole County (in Missouri) directs them to give it back, but absent that, no," Bandre said of the money.

The lawsuit filed by the attorney general says Heaven Scent Paws took thousands of dollars from consumers who purchased dogs that did not perform as promised and refused to return customers' money.

It also says Heaven Scent Paws misrepresented that its trained dogs could alert diabetics for low and high blood sugar when some of the dogs could not.

A hearing to set a trial date is scheduled Jan. 22.

Meanwhile, Mark's story of raising thousands to help his brother won him a $5,000 award from Prudential that required him to give the money to the charity he was working with.

Mark did not want to turn the prize over to Heaven Scent Paws and decided to start his own service-dog charity.

Mark named his charity Red Alert Dogs for Diabetics to raise money for other families who can't afford to purchase a scent-trained service dog.

The Rinkels eventually got Jason another dog from a different service-dog provider. The dog is a fox red British labrador they named Red.

Red starts to pace, wildly wags his tail and begins to bark when he detects that Jason's blood sugar is out of control.

"Red has saved Jason's life at least three times," his mother said.

Mark also is training a puppy named Lucy to detect the glucose scent so she can work for another diabetic child.

He hopes Lucy and the family she goes to can be used in a scientific study so that a device to detect changes in blood sugar through a person's breath can be developed.

Dr. H. Peter Chase, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, has expressed interest in helping Mark with the research, but they need to raise $30,000 in grant money to do the work.

"I want to figure out what the dogs are smelling and work with the scientific community," Mark said. "It would change the lives of thousands of people."

Felisa Cardona: 303-954-1219 or fcardona@denverpost.com
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Excellent article: "Broken Government: Social Security Disability Backlogs"

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 15:  Kathleen Casey-Kirsc...Image by Getty Images via Daylife The number of backlogged disability claims at the Social Security Administration (SSA) more than doubled over the past decade, with those pending at the hearing level reaching 760,800 as of October 2008, according to an agency spokesman. The spike in applicants from an aging baby boomer generation, staff cuts, and management problems all contributed to a cumbersome operation; individual cases took an average of more than 500 days to process in 2007. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of people pursuing disability claims have been forced to wait as long as three years, with some going into bankruptcy, losing their homes, or even dying while waiting for a result. As far back as 2001, the chairman of the Social Security Advisory Board acknowledged that “unless there’s fundamental change, we will soon see disruptions of service. The Social Security agency lacks the ability to handle existing workloads, and those workloads are bound to increase in the next decade.” The situation continued to deteriorate, despite continuous warnings and recommendations for improvement from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), especially in regard to issues with the SSA’s electronic claims processing system. A lack of funding compounded the problem; Congress appropriated an average of $150 million less for the agency than the Bush administration requested between fiscal years 2001 and 2007, while giving the agency a heavier workload. In an attempt to reform the system, the agency introduced its so-called Disability Service Improvement in 2006, but the GAO found that poor management, rushed rollout, and short staffing ultimately stunted the initiative, resulting in additional costs. Finally, in May 2007, Michael Astrue, the Social Security commissioner, appealed to Congress for additional funding to refine the disability program’s electronic systems and hire more judges to hear cases.

Congress appropriated $150 million more to SSA than President Bush requested for fiscal year 2008. As a result, the agency was able to hire 190 new disability judges, open the National Hearing Center, eliminate more than 135,000 cases from its backlog, and implement a streamlined disability determination process.. The backlog total grew by 14,000 cases in FY 2008, but that was far less than the recent average growth of 70,000 cases a year. Additional money remains critical for continued success. As Commissioner Astrue pointed out in October 2008, “Many things we need to do, such as increase support staff and add new hearing offices, will not happen if Congress fails to pass an adequate appropriations bill by March.”

Original article

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Woman repeatedly slashed after confronting gang 'as young as 13' who stabbed her dog to death

Yorkshire terrier

Killed: The gang stabbed the woman's Yorkshire Terrier to death before turning on her

A disabled woman was slashed repeatedly with a knife after confronting a gang who had stabbed her dog to death in her garden.

The mother-of-three, who has not been named, discovered the mutilated body of her Yorkshire terrier Willow lying in a pool of blood outside her door.

Seconds later she was confronted by four men who threatened her, forced her back into the house, in Knotty Ash, Liverpool, and then attacked her with a knife.

The 38-year-old suffered 'numerous' cuts to her body and had to be treated in hospital.

Police have arrested a 13-year-old boy on suspicion of carrying out the assault, which took place at around 2pm on Sunday.

The woman, who has a disability which means she is unable to walk without crutches, is now staying at a relative's home with her three children, a girl aged 14 and boys 10 and nine.

Police said she was still deeply shocked by the attack.

Detective Inspector Rob Hill, from Merseyside Police, said: 'This was a particularly vicious attack that resulted in a woman being both physically and verbally assaulted.

'We are trying to establish the motive for the attack and speaking to as many people as possible in the area to catch the offenders.

'I would urge anyone with information regarding the incident or the offenders to come forward.

'We are acting on every bit of information we're getting, no matter how small.
"We will not rest until we find those responsible for this incident.'

No items were taken from the property.

Crime Scene Investigators have been to the scene and police have carried out house-to-house enquiries along with high-visibility patrols.

Mr Hill also said CCTV footage was being examined.

Merseyside Police is liaising with the RSPCA as a result of Willow's death and a post-mortem on the dog is due to take place.

It is believed he died after being slashed across the torso.

The 13-year-old was arrested today on suspicion of assault and causing cruelty to animals.

He remains in custody for questioning. An 18-year-old man, who was arrested on the same charges yesterday, has been bailed pending further enquiries.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Dog lovers enjoy!

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