Thursday, January 14, 2010

Prisoners train dogs to serve community

The offenders at the Shakopee women's prison who train future service dogs hope their work will give back to the community.

By PAT PHEIFER, Star Tribune

Last update: January 13, 2010 - 8:29 AM

Jen'ea Weinand's eyes sparkle as she puts Scout, a 3-year-old golden Lab, through his paces in the visiting room at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Shakopee.

Weinand, a petite 28-year-old from St. Paul, is serving a 31 1/2-year sentence for murder and assault in the shooting deaths of two roofers at an Austin, Minn., motel in 2000.

Scout has been at the prison on and off since he was about 6 months old. He is one of three Labs currently being trained by eight offenders at Shakopee for Sunshine Service Dogs Inc., a nonprofit organization in Luck, Wis.

"I really enjoy this," Weinand said as she walked Scout in a wide circle, practicing sit, down and stay and dispensing treats from her fistful of kibble. "It gives me a chance to show what I can do. It gives me a chance to show I can give back and can make a change in other people's lives."

The dogs ultimately will be adopted out to help people with mobility issues or hearing loss, to do seizure-detection or become therapy dogs at schools, hospitals or nursing homes.

There's no cost to the prison. Lori Peper-Rucks, executive director of Sunshine Service Dogs provides the food, veterinary care and other supplies that the dogs need.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) also has a dog training program at the Faribault prison, which houses male offenders, although it is not affiliated with Sunshine Service Dogs. At least 16 other states also have prison dog programs.

At Shakopee, the only women's prison in the state, each of the three dog has two handlers. Two other assistants help out where needed.

The dogs come to the prison when they're about 6 months old and stay anywhere from a year to a year and a half, sometimes longer. They live with the offenders 24/7 and accompany them to meals, to work and even to the bathroom. The offenders teach the dogs everything from house training and basic obedience to tasks such as helping clients take off their shoes, pick up fallen items, turn on lights and answer the phone.

The offenders know from the start that the dogs aren't pets; they're being trained to do a job. Still, there are "big-time tears" when it's time to let a dog go, Peper-Rucks said.

K-9 teachers

The dogs teach their humans a lot, too.

"Being in prison and being able to give something so honorable, it's an amazing gift, said Heather Ecklund as she worked with Koudos, an 11-month-old chocolate Lab. Ecklund, 30, is serving a 36-year sentence for second-degree murder. "To have somebody take that chance on you is an amazing gift also."

"I came in here at 18 and it taught me a lot about responsibility," said Amanda Anderson, 24, who is serving time for second-degree unintentional murder. "Taking care of a dog, I never realized how much work it was until I was actually doing it. When you're having a bad day, you still have to have a good attitude. It helped me keep going, to grow up in lots of different ways."

Peper-Rucks approached the Shakopee prison about training future service dogs in 2004 and in September of that year brought the first dogs to the facility. She placed six dogs last year and is always on the hunt for more funding so she can do more.

Cindy Lee Galvan, 54, is a transfer from an Alaska prison, serving a 60-year sentence for murder. She's been involved in the dog-training program since it started and has trained seven dogs. She currently has a rambunctious 11-month-old chocolate Lab named Kit, who last week came bursting into the visiting room barking and straining on his leash.

"He is totally a handful," Galvan said. "He's got a couple of issues, as you can see. But being a challenge makes it a little more of a challenge for me.

"I guess the story is the same for a lot of us," she said. "You do things that you know are really bad and you don't know how to fix them. And at the time, you don't really care because that's who you are then.

"Then you grow up and you mature ... and then you have the opportunity to maybe, maybe, help somebody else out a little bit. We know that one dog and one program isn't going to do that but that's what we can do right now. That's what we can do today, so that's what we do."

Galvan helped train Max, a 129-pound black Lab who lives with Steve Drewek in Green Bay, Wis. Drewek, 26, has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.

Max helps Drewek stay active, pulling his chair through the snow or along hiking trails that might not otherwise be accessible, fetching items in their apartment and providing unconditional love and friendship. Last month, Max saved Drewek from death or serious injury when he braced himself in front of Drewek's wheelchair when he saw it sliding into the path of a car that ran a red light.

"I can't see living without him," Drewek said.

K-9 therapy

Maddie, a 3-year-old golden retriever therapy dog, also was trained by the women at Shakopee. She now goes to work everyday with Christy Johnson, recreation/therapy director at Parmly LifePointes in Chisago City, Minn.

"If a resident is having an off day, she just goes and sits with them," Johnson said. "We've seen dementia patients remember her name. It's not supposed to happen, those types of things. They don't remember our names, but dementia patients call out her name."

Sandy Hand, transition coordinator at the Shakopee prison, said the dog training program fits well with the DOC's philosophy of restorative justice.

"One woman went to Lori [Peper-Rucks], and said I've taken almost every group there is to take here at Shakopee, anger management, resiliency, victim impact, but it wasn't until I was in the program that I got to utilize some of these skills.

"They're contributing to the community even while being here," she said.

See video.

Pat Pheifer • 612-741-4992

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Senior dog saves neighbor

A Pine County hunting dog led her owner to a 94-year-old neighbor who was lying unconscious on his driveway.

By ABBY SIMONS, Star Tribune

Last update: January 12, 2010 - 10:06 PM

Brett Grinde and his German shorthair, Effie, hadn't made it far on their typical late-afternoon walk on Monday when the old hunting dog suddenly began pulling to the right.

Grinde, a Pine County sheriff's investigator, let Effie lead the way as she strained with her nose to the ground along the road along Pokegama Lake. He let her off the leash and she tore away and turned into a driveway 40 yards away, stopping at the body of Grinde's 94-year-old neighbor, William Lepsch. He was unconscious and frozen to the ground.

"I ran after her and when I turned into the driveway I couldn't believe it," Grinde later wrote in an e-mail to Lepsch's family.

"He had some serious exposure and blood underneath him. I have seen plenty of deceased people and thought he was dead."

So did Lepsch's wife, Marjorie, who said she peeked outside several minutes after her husband of 67 years disappeared at about 2 p.m. to retrieve the mail without telling her. She saw him lying in the driveway bleeding "from head to toe." She couldn't go outside and struggled to dial 911, but repeatedly misdialed out of panic. Marjorie, 88, who uses a wheelchair and walker, was unable to help him. Several more minutes passed until she was able to dial a niece who promised to get help and head over. In the meantime, Effie approached.

"Nobody's around and I'm out there hollering 'Somebody please help me!' but there was no one," she said. "In the meantime this dog ran up and began licking his face."

Grinde kept Lepsch's airway open and called 911 while the dog nuzzled his arms and shoulders as he worked on Lepsch. The dog then ran to the house where medics and deputies heard Marjorie Lepsch yelling from inside.

William Lepsch survived, thanks to Effie's instincts and the training and quick thinking of her master. Lepsch is in serious condition at North Memorial Medical Center with broken ribs and other ailments, said Chief Deputy Steve Ovick of the Pine County Sheriff's Office, who said Grinde declined to speak to reporters in favor of letting his dog take the credit. Ovick was quick to praise both.

"Effie's a happy-go-lucky hunting dog," Ovick said of the 16-year-old dog named after the tiny Minnesota town where Grinde has a hunting cabin. "She's out and about, chasing and running, and just to be remarkably calm like that. At the time, how did that dog know, and whose will was it that Brett decided to take the dog out at that time?"

Marjorie Lepsch, still shaken by the incident, chastised the "best husband in the world" who she said continues to insist on fetching the mail. She was near tears as she remembered the sight of the brown dog who seemed came out of nowhere.

"I've seen this man walk his dog every day on our road," she said. "I am so grateful to them, I am. Because I couldn't get out there. I was stuck."

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

Dog leads master -- a Pine County investigator -- straight to unconscious man
Updated: 1/13/2010 12:16:53 AM

Pine City, Minn. -- A Pine City dog may not have the energy of a puppy anymore, but she mustered up enough of her skills to lead her master straight to an unconscious man. Police believe the act saved the man's life.

On Monday evening, Brett Grinde took his 15-year-old dog, Effie, out for their usual walk. But within a couple minutes, Effie started pulling on the leash -- she was insisting on a different route.

"She basically started pulling to the right and 99 percent we go left," Grinde said from his Pine City home on Tuesday.

Effie then took off running -- causing Grinde to follow behind. Eventually, the 15-year-old German shorthair dog came to an abrupt stop in the driveway of a neighbor.

"So I'm running, and I cut the corner of the driveway and I look, and she's standing by an older gentleman that's laying face down," Grinde said.

Effie started licking the man's face and then turned to her master -- who just happens to be a long-time investigator with the Pine County Sheriff's Department.

"Twenty-eight years as a police officer, you know how to do the first response, the CPR, the abcs," Grinde said.

Grinde was able to clear the 94-year-old man's airway. Within seconds, that man started to groan and regain consciousness. All the while, Effie the dog just watched.

"She laid down on his other side and then came and knudged me on the elbows and just kind of stood over him," Grinde said.

On Tuesday night, the man remained in serious condition at North Memorial Medical Center. Police believe he went out for the mail or to take out the garbage, slipped on the ice and may have been outside for hours. His family asked we not release his name.

But relatives did call Brett to thank him for what he did. Brett's response? Thank my dog.

"I never thought in a million years something like this would happen, but it was meant to be. It was in God's hands and somebody turned her that way," he said.

Effie, by the way, also got a few bonus treats on Monday. Brett said she's also likely due for a porkchop or plate of spaghetti -- which she loves.

(Copyright 2010 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)
All Material Copyright 2010 KARE-11. All Rights Reserved.

Reward in glued cat case up to $10K

Reward in glued cat case swells to $10K

PAUL WALSH, Star Tribune

A reward fund has grown substantially in the effort to find out who left a seven-month-old cat glued to the side of a southern Minnesota highway, leading to the animal's death.

The cat was discovered Dec. 18 near Mankato by a woman traveling to Sioux Falls, according to the city's Second Chance Rescue Center, where the orange and white male tabby was brought by the traveler and died five days later.

At first, a man from Yankton, S.D., offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the person or people responsible, the rescue center said. The reward total has since grown to $10,000, the center said Wednesday, with pledges of money coming from around the country.

TIMOTHYTimothy, as the cat would be named while at the center, was spotted by a Sioux Falls woman as she drove on Hwy. 60, about 30 minutes west of Mankato.

The motorist brought the cat to the rescue center the next day. Glue was found on several parts of the animal's body.

--Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

Reward grows in case of cat glued to road
Updated: 1/13/2010 9:28:28 AM

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- The reward fund in the case of a cat found glued to Interstate 90 in southwestern Minnesota has grown to about $10,000.

The reward is for information leading to a conviction in the case, which ended with the cat's death.

Travelers found the cat on Dec. 18 and brought it to the Second Chance Rescue Center across the South Dakota border in Sioux Falls. The 7-month-old orange tabby had been glued to the road by its feet and nose, and it died five days later.

The reward fund started with a $1,000 donation by an anonymous Yankton man. Rescue Center Director Rosey Quinn says donations have been coming in since from "all over." She says she even received a call from Florida.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
All Material Copyright 2010 KARE-11. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Reward offered to find animal abuser

Cat dies after being left glued to Minnesota highway
By PAUL WALSH, Star Tribune

Last update: January 11, 2010 - 10:58 AM

A reward is being offered in the hopes of finding whoever glued a seven-month-old cat to the side of a southern Minnesota highway.

The cat was discovered Dec. 18 by a woman traveling to Sioux Falls, said Rosey Quinn of the city's Second Chance Rescue Center, where the orange and white male tabby was brought by the traveler and died five days later.

A man from Yankton, S.D., has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the person or people responsible, Quinn said.

Timothy, as the cat would be named while at the center, was spotted by Joyce Borgen as she drove on Hwy. 60, about 30 minutes west of Mankato. Borgen, 62, was on her way back to Sioux Falls after visiting relatives.

Borgen, with her two dogs and a bird already in tow, said that as she drove by, "the cat lifted up its head and looked at me" from the white line along the highway's edge.

After a quarter-mile to think about the cat's fate on that cold and blustery afternoon, Borgen said she decided, "I have to go back and get it. I couldn't let it stay there."

Borgen pulled over, picked up the cat and placed him on the floor on the front-passenger side, covering him with a blanket and turning "the heater on full blast," she said. "He was just like a little ice cube."

After a night in a plastic basket and wrapped in blankets in Sioux Falls, the cat "looked up, meowed and ate dog food. He seemed to be recovering." Borgen then turned over the cat to Second Chance.

Quinn, who opened the animal rescue center nearly four years ago, said that the remote location of where the cat -- without tags or identification chip -- was found has her convinced that he was purposely glued to the road. "I think some kids did this," she said.

She said Timothy's nose was glued to the surface and he lost "layers of skin" from elsewhere on his body when removed.

The "extremely stressed-out" cat was treated by a veterinarian, only to die the next week, Quinn said.

--Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

Reward offered in case of cat glued to road
Updated: 1/11/2010 10:50:21 AM

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- An animal rescue center in Sioux Falls, S.D., says an anonymous Yankton man is offering a $1,000 reward in the case of a cat found glued to Interstate 90 just across the border in Minnesota.

Second Chance Rescue Center Director Rosey Quinn says travelers found the cat on Dec. 18 and brought it to the center. She says the orange tabby had injuries to its feet and nose and was thin, and it died five days later despite the efforts of veterinarians to save it.

Quinn says in her 13 years she's never seen such a horrific case of animal abuse.

The reward is for information leading to a conviction in the case.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
All Material Copyright 2010 KARE-11. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Owners are responsible for welfare of dogs

MY COMMENT: If you have a dog, you are responsible for its well-being. In fiercely cold weather like we have been having, like it or not, you need to supervise your dog's trips outside. Perhaps these two dogs need better homes.

Minnesota dogs survive bitter cold, returned to owners
Updated: 1/5/2010 2:33:17 PM

DULUTH, Minn. -- Two family pets who disappeared in the freezing Minnesota weather survived the elements and have been reunited with their grateful owners.

A Twin Cities couple, Kevin and Meegan Holubar, were visiting family in Duluth when they lost their bulldog, Ham, in a Christmas Eve blizzard. After an extensive search and 11 days, Ham showed up on the doorsteps of a Duluth resident, frostbitten, 30 pounds lighter, but alive.

CINNAMONAnd in Rochester, Rue and Rob Wiegand's dog, Cinnamon, wandered away Nov. 29. The Wiegands posted hundreds of fliers and took out newspaper ads, but were doubtful their 16-year-old pet would survive the freezing weather. Then they got a call Christmas night.

Cinnamon was found in a neighbor's window well, half-buried in mud and snow. The dog was taken to a local veterinary hospital and survived.

Information from: Duluth News Tribune

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
All Material Copyright 2010 KARE-11. All Rights Reserved.