Saturday, January 14, 2017

Problems at Caddo Animal Control Gaining National Attention


Elsie: broken leg. January 2017. CPAS
UPDATE: This post is apparently becoming fluid as I am hearing about more and more examples of abuse and neglect. If you have a story to share please email me. If you know someone that has a story or experience to share, please encourage them to email me. 

In early December, a stray dog wandered into a man's yard in Shreveport. She was not leashed, had no known owner, and was just looking for something to eat or a pat on the head. The property owner went inside his house, got his own dog, and rather than just chase the stray away or call animal control, he instigated an attack on the stray dog who would then die from the injuries she sustained in the attack.

No charges were filed on this man for this inhumane and cruel action.

This is the event that prompted me to write a letter on December 21 to the Caddo Parish Commission who oversees the Caddo Parish animal shelter. The purpose of my letter was to draw attention to the problems at the shelter and in our perception of animals in general. I made four very basic suggestions although there are many, many more things that need to happen as well. I realize the changes that need to be made can not happen overnight.

I mailed a copy of my letter to twenty-seven city and parish officials and leaders. Only one city leader, Caddo Commission President Matthew Linn, bothered to respond. He offered no answers, but he was gracious and I appreciate that he took time to answer me.

I received one other response: Lex Talamo from The Shreveport Times. Her report is here.

I also verbally shared concern with Amanda Atwell at KTBS when we were discussing another issue, and she has now run two stories on the shelter.

After the attack on Ellie, the stray dog, many advocates became outraged primarily because no charges were filed against the property owner. This is infuriating because it reflects the "animals as property" mentality that exists in this city. "It's just a dog," right?

I refer back to the Ellie story because that was the spark that ignited animal advocates to once again seek change at CPAS.

Consider the revelations that have come out in just the weeks since the Ellie attack in December:

Rascal: tagged for rescue. Euthanized.Jan. 9


No reason was ever given for the decision to euthanize Rascal who was a young dog in perfect health:
"I get a message that the dog had been euthanized. And um, they didn't know why," said Mandy, who preferred to remain anonymous. She volunteers for a local rescue, and regularly picks up dogs from CPAS, and fosters them until transporting them to other dog rescues in North Texas. She was supposed to pick up Rascal, a small Boston Terrier mix on January 9. Instead, she received a message saying the shelter opted to euthanize him, with no immediate explanation given.

The same thing happened with Roxie, a four-year old dog


Roxie:headed to rescue. Euthanized Dec. 21

CPAS said in a statement to KTBS that Rascal was not tagged for rescue and that Roxie was aggressive.  She doesn't look very aggressive to me in that picture.

Along with the accidental or inadvertently euthanized dogs, there is growing concern over feeding protocol at CPAS.

Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, located in Nashville, came to CPAS in January to pull two dogs. They left with seventeen:

January 4, 2017

So now we're getting national attention. This rescue has over 720,000 followers on their Facebook page. The rescue posted a follow-up a couple of days later:

January 6, 2017

One of the dogs they pulled on a previous visit in December is a St. Bernard named Barton Fink.  This picture on the left is what he looked like when they pulled him: wet from being hosed down in his kennel at CPAS, pneumonia, miserable. On the right is the same dog in a photo posted by BFDR on January 6:
Barton Fink: December to January

Yes, it's the same dog.  Now, why would CPAS leave that dog in that kennel without medical attention?  If a citizen treated a dog this way, it would be animal cruelty.  Not, of course, that anyone would prosecute that charge -- we don't seem able to prosecute the animal cruelty laws in this city very often.

Another out of state rescue, American Boston Terrier Rescue and Rehabilitation, in Texas, is also shocked at the conditions in our shelter:

Posted January 9, 2017

And a few days later:

Posted January 13, 2017
This is Marley, the dog they pulled:

Marley

To be fair, this dog was emaciated on intake - CPAS did not cause this, however, to feed this dog in the same way as you would dominant, healthy dogs, is inadvisable. This dog needed immediate medical care.  This dog, and many of the emaciated dogs you see on social media right now at CPAS, likely have Refeeding Syndrome and simply can't be cared for in the same way as healthy dogs.  To do so is tantamount to abuse.

Lex Talamo's story in The Shreveport Times documents the following euthanasia numbers at CPAS:

From The Shreveport Times: January 14, 2017


The improvement is due primarily to the new director, Chuck Wilson, working with rescues and allowing more dogs to be pulled than the previous director, however there still remains a fear among rescues and volunteers that speaking out about abuses they see will hurt their ability to pull more animals. This is a justifiable concern but isn't something wrong with that?  Doesn't that sound punitive?  

I will allow that Mr. Wilson inherited a terrible situation. I'm thankful he is working with rescues and allowing more animals to be saved. And to be fair, he can't do one thing about the people in this town who won't spay/neuter their animals. They just keep pouring into the shelter and there is literally no end to it.  

Section 8-63.(h) of the animal control ordinances under which Mr. Wilson must run this shelter states:

"Any person adopting an unspayed or unneutered animal from the department must sign an agreement to have the animal spayed or neutered within 30 days or by six months of age for a female or nine months of age for a male, and must leave a deposit in an amount established by the director with the department to be applied toward such veterinary services...The department shall perform follow-up investigations to confirm compliance with this section, and failure to comply shall constitute a waiver of all rights of the adopting party and in and to the animal, returning full custody of the animal to the department ..."

Does that happen? Is any follow-up EVER done?  Does he have the manpower for that? Does anyone really want CPAS to go out and "reclaim" adopted animals?!  We need a spay/neuter program. Mandatory spay/neuter.

The list of things we need is long: a feral cat program, mandatory heartworm prevention, an active social media presence from CPAS to network adoptable dogs. The shelter apparently needs more space because kennels with five and six dogs in them who must then fight for food is unacceptable. We need a public education program. CPAS needs a veterinarian on site at all times. One of my suggestions in my December letter was to install a tag making machine in the lobby at CPAS; no dog should leave the shelter without an ID tag. Many of the strays could be reunited with owners if they only had identification.

Although many things need to be done, the most critical needs right now is to ensure these animals are properly fed, that they aren't sitting in kennels with broken limbs or in pain, that they receive veterinary care, that kennels aren't hosed out with dogs in them (bleach or other chemicals must be used to combat disease - simple compassion would suggest taking the dogs out during this process). 

It just seems to me that with a budget like this...

Caddo Animal Services Budget 2016


....that we can do better.  Any rescue in town would love to have a budget like this.

While I strongly disagree with any social media voices that come across as unhinged ranting, I agree with their intent. Our quest to effect change at CPAS should not be a witch hunt. Calm, rational communication is needed and specific facts and documentation. 

That being said, I think it is clear that Mr. Wilson has lost the trust of the public and should perhaps step down and the Caddo Commission should recruit a new leader with bonafide credentials in humane and compassionate animal shelter management who will then employ compassionate kennel directors and other staff members who will clean this shelter up and foster a reputation as a low-kill, humane shelter for our animal population.

Added:
As long as this post is documenting neglect and abuse, I was remiss in failing to record Tini, the dog who was hit by a car and picked up by CPAS on December 30:

Tini

The owners were told they could not reclaim their own dog until January 3, five days later.  After picking Tini up, the owners discovered she had been housed in a filthy outside kennel with a broken jaw, untreated:

Posted January 3, 2017

Tini's owner rightfully wants to know why if someone was answering phones at the shelter on Friday and Saturday that she could not pick up her own dog. They told her she could not get the dog until January 3. Simply unacceptable.

Outside Reading:
Caddo Commissioner on Animal Shelter: "I Need First-Hand Facts" (The Times: 1/18/17)
Local Animal Advocates in Uproar... (KTBS 1/9/17)
Two Pets are Dead...(KTBS 1/13/17)
Animal Rescue Groups: There is Something Not Right at this Shelter (The Times: 1/14/17)
Animal Activists Still Looking for Answers... (KTBS: 12/9/16)
Facebook Post About Dog Attack Triggers Social Media Storm (KTBS 12/5/16)

Previously:
An Open Letter to Every City and Parish Public Official (12/21/16)
A Call for Change: Animals are Not Property (12/20/16)
Save Spot the Stunning Super Dog (8/14/16)
The Lucky and T-Bone Story Gets Personal and Nasty (3/18/15)
Change is Needed at Caddo Animal Services (3/15/15)
Snapshots from the Braveheart Trial (1/29/15)


Monday, December 26, 2016

Can the Violence in NOLA Be Alleviated With "Equity Circles"? Mitch Landrieu Thinks So.

This blog post is a revised and updated one from my November 28, 2016 column at DaTechGuy blog. With the decision from the 5th Circuit imminent on the Confederate Monuments, I wanted to bring my work at DaTechGuy over to this blog so it is available both places. At the bottom of this post I've linked previous columns on the subject. You can read today's post at DaTechGuy.


“It will be back to business as normal. Nobody cares.” That statement from a woman who has worked in the French Quarter for six years is simply tragic.

 “Nobody cares.”

 Early Sunday morning, November 27, around 1:40 a.m., ten people were shot near the intersection of Bourbon and Iberville in the historic French Quarter. The gunfire sent tourists and locals running in panic. Some of the clubs closed their doors to keep out the violence. One of the reported shooters is dead and there are several arrests. It’s a tragedy all around but the sad thing is that this happens in NOLA more often than not – it’s only when it gets close to the tourist areas that you hear about it.

 New Orleans is a beautiful, culturally diverse, fascinating city. Under the guidance of mayor Mitch Landrieu it has degenerated into a violent, lawless disaster. I hate to say it because I love New Orleans. It’s a city that gets in your blood and lures you back. The food, the music, the eclectic street vendors, and the people above all, are for the most part intoxicating.

Sadly, the policies of Mayor Landrieu are going to kill the tourist trade if something isn’t done. Landrieu is more focused on things of lesser importance than the blood in the streets, things like removing monuments, for example. Landrieu spent much of 2015 fighting against the four major Confederate monuments in the city. I’ve written about that issue here, here, and here on DaTechGuy blog. Once that issue was safely nestled into the lengthy court dockets and appeals process, Landrieu moved on to gun control laws. A decision on the monuments is imminent from the U.S. Court of Appeals and tensions are already high.

In April 2016, Landrieu proposed a new series of gun control laws which was passed and signed into law in September. Most of the ordinances are already on the books so it was an exercise in redundancy at best. New Orleans had 165 murders in 2015, up from 150 in 2014. As of October 17, 2016, NOLA is on pace to meet or exceed that number with 134 murders. Note that number does not include shootings that don’t end up as murder statistics, such as those nine non-fatal victims in this most recent shooting. As of today, December 22, that murder number is now 172.

Recently a commander of the police department issued a warning to women not to travel alone after dark in the city due to a rising number of robberies and car jackings:

 “I would suggest to any female, if they can prevent it, do not travel alone overnight,” said Second District Commander Shaun Ferguson. “If you absolutely have to, stay on the phone with someone and let them know where you’re going. Keep them abreast of your whereabouts.” A female college student from Tulane was carjacked early Tuesday when another car struck hers from the rear. As she got out of the car, three men from the other vehicle got out and one of them pushed her to the ground. That man got into her car, while the other two jumped into their vehicle and fled. 

The Confederate monuments are clearly not the problem; the problem lies in Landrieu’s failure to address the violence in the streets in any meaningful fashion. In recent protests at Lee Circle after Trump’s election, vandals were tagging the monument and other prominent buildings with paint, setting fires on the lawn at the circle, blocking traffic, and running rampant through the streets. Unconfirmed reports were that Landrieu told police to stand down and let them “peacefully protest.”

 There is a small group of private citizens who watch over the monuments in New Orleans. They patrol nightly to ensure that no vandalism is occurring and should someone tag one of the monuments, the group removes it quickly. Citizens are policing their own city because the mayor has ginned up such hate and divisiveness that it’s the only way to protect the history and culture of the city.

And the locals are worried: with Mardi Gras season just around the corner, how will the increased violence affect tourism? Will it be safe to go into massive crowds to attend parades? The comments on news reports of the most recent shooting indicate people’s anxiety:

 “And this is why we no longer stay in NOLA…..Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his city council need to concentrate on crime and not on tearing down history….We will be staying in Biloxi next weekend for the Saints game! So sad……” 

 “New Orleans is out of control. Our Mardi Gras is going to be a blood bath if things don’t change and I don’t see a change coming.” 

Landrieu's latest plan to combat the violence? Equity Circles. No, I'm not kidding:


On Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, the Carrollton Circle of the Welcome Table New Orleans (WTNO)—Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s citywide initiative focused on race, reconciliation and community building—will unveil a newly-constructed seating area on the neutral ground at Jefferson Davis Parkway and Cleveland Avenue called the Equity Circle.
At 2 p.m., the entire community is invited to participate in the unveiling of the Equity Circle. In collaboration with the Department of Parks and Parkways, the Equity Circle is designed to bring together diverse groups of New Orleanians to share stories and experiences, build relationships and learn from each other. The Equity Circle will create a more attractive neutral ground for the community and enhance the beauty of one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city. It will bring residents of all backgrounds and experiences together for one reason—to create a better, stronger New Orleans. 
 
 New Orleans is stuck with Mitch Landrieu until 2018. That’s almost 200 more lives in the balance.



Previous Posts at DaTechGuy blog:
Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Solution to 172 Murders: Equity Circles (12/26/16)
Removal of Historic Confederate Monuments in New Orleans Thwarted -- For Now (12/21/2015)
Report from Louisiana: Update on the Confederate Monument Removal Controversy (1/18/2016)
The Lives of My Ancestors Mattered Too (2/1/2016)
The Ongoing Battle of the Confederate Monuments: An Update (4/18/2016)
Confederate Monuments and Unintended Consequences (6/27/16)
Report from Louisiana: Revisionist History and Confederate Monuments (9/19/2016)
Report from Louisiana: Mass Shooting in New Orleans While Landrieu Fiddles (11/28/2016)

Previous Posts on This Blog:
Shreveport Work of Art Still Needs Funding for Restoration (10/22/16)
Can You Help Clio? Restoration Fundraiser is Now Underway (9/5/16)
Epperson Demands UDC Remove Confederate Monument Within the Year (7/6/16)
Epperson's Continued Attack on the Confederate Monument (6/22/16)
Report from the Caddo Commission Meeting in Which Ken Epperson Blasts "Jake-Leg Bloggers" (6/9/16)
Caddo Parish Confederate Monument Under Attack (5/19/16)
Joseph Welsh Texada's Life Mattered Too (1/31/16)
The Heartbreaking Removal of the New Orleans Confederate Monuments (1/17/16)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

An Open Letter to Every City and Parish Public Official

Update (12/23/16): Matthew Linn responded to my letter via email; he said (in part) :

"Please reach out to your friends that live in each commission district and get them to send the same effective letter you sent me to the other eleven commissioners. This type of statement from you helps us make the correct decision. A few of us on the commission need as much help as we can get in changing policy and procedure within the Animal Shelter, I am 1 vote out of 12."

He encouraged me (and others) to come speak at Caddo Commission meetings on this issue.

I thank Mr. Linn for his response.



Following is a modification of yesterday's post in the form of a letter which I'm sending via USPS to every city official I can find. Feel free to copy/paste or modify as you wish and do the same. Unless there is some public outcry over the animal problem in this city nothing will change. Be the change.



December 21, 2016

Mr. Matthew Linn President, Caddo Parish Commission
615 Rutherford
Shreveport, LA 71104

 RE: Caddo Parish Animal Ordinances

 Dear Mr. Linn:

I'm hoping for some positive change in our area in 2017 with regard to our unwanted animal population.

You are no doubt familiar with the story of Ellie, a stray who in early December wandered into a man’s yard perhaps looking for a bite to eat or a drink of water. The property owner went inside his home, brought out his own dog and ordered it to attack Ellie because she was in his yard. This was captured on video by a brave young woman and was reported to Caddo Parish Animal Services and other officials. Ellie died of her injuries despite an heroic effort to save her. CPAS declined to press charges on the man for animal attack because he was in his own yard and Ellie was not leashed. Ellie's owner has never come forward.

The point of that story is this: Ellie is not an anomaly. There are hundreds of Ellies throughout our area. All you have to do is look in our animal shelters which are overflowing with unwanted dogs and cats despite the very best efforts of several strong, dedicated local rescue groups who work diligently to pull and adopt out these animals. The cycle is never ending, though. The shelters remain filled.

The problem exists on several levels: first and foremost is that too many people in this part of the country see animals as property rather than sentient creatures who need love and companionship. Too many people think dogs are just something to put in the backyard and feed once a day. But hey, at least those dogs have a home, right? No: it's not good enough. That is the basis for the "dogs as property" mindset.

Then you have the segment of our population who will refuse to spay or neuter their animals. Their excuses run from not wanting to change the dog's personality to a conviction that the animal will never reproduce or breed with another animal so what's the point? With organizations like Robinson's Rescue, who offer low-cost spay/neuter procedures, cost is not a valid excuse. And before you know it, here comes another litter of unwanted puppies. Who follows up on those vouchers when animals are adopted to ensure they are in fact spayed or neutered?

The third factor contributing to our unwanted animal population and overflowing shelters is the backyard breeders. Go on Facebook or Craigslist and you can find hundreds of people hawking puppies born of some poor kenneled female used only for breeding and then discarded when her productivity is done. These people have no compassion for the animals whatsoever but are only interested in the dollars they will receive after finding someone to buy these poor puppies (who will probably also then be used for breeding).

And finally, a fourth factor we must consider is the lack of enforcement of our existing animal abuse laws and the slap-on-the-wrist justice doled out on the cases that ever actually do get prosecuted. The most egregious that comes to mind is the Braveheart case where after a three day long trial and agonizingly clear evidence that this dog was left by the defendant to starve to death in a storage locker in a Louisiana August, the verdict was a misdemeanor. A slap on the wrist. An animal's life does not matter. It's just a dog.

So what is the answer? How do we change this? Why is our community willing to stand by and watch hundreds of animals euthanized each month because the shelters have to make room for incoming animals? Why does our community tolerate backyard breeders, people selling animals in parking lots and on Craigslist, when so many in shelters need homes? Why does our community accept a verdict like that in the Braveheart case or in Ellie's case? Why is it acceptable for a man to kill another dog because it wandered into his yard just looking for a bite to eat or a drink of water? Why do our fine, upstanding city leaders not get outraged when dogs are chained to trees, porches, fences, and left out in all of the elements with inadequate shelter? Why are the meager laws that do exist not properly enforced?

I think changes need to be made. These are just for starters:

Number 1: Existing laws need to be strictly enforced and the laws we do have need to be either clarified or made stronger. For example, in the Braveheart trial – the distinction between felony animal cruelty and misdemeanor was so indistinguishable to the jury they simply opted for the lesser charge.

Number 2: Pet owners should be required to have identification tags on their pets. This in itself would reduce the pet shelter population. Install a tag making machine in the lobby of the shelter and the parish could even make some money from it. Just as we require pets to have a rabies tag, no pet should leave the shelter without identification.

Number 3: Get tough on spay/neuter laws. Reduce unwanted animals and backyard breeders. Enforce laws that prohibit puppy sales in parking lots and on the roadside.

 Number 4: Any pet owner who brings their pet to a shelter as “owner surrender” because it no longer fits their lifestyle should have to tour the kennels and pick which animal will be euthanized to make room for their animal.

It’s true that nobody wants to see the sadness. Nobody wants to watch the video of Ellie being attacked or laying on the driveway bleeding to death. So why do we continue to let this happen?

We have got to have tougher laws and we have got to have consistent enforcement on these laws. We have to educate our children that animals are not property to be discarded when you're tired of them, when they aren't cute anymore, when you move to a new house, when it no longer fits your lifestyle. It starts with the children. We need to run PSAs and educate them.

It's time for our community to change perspective with regard to our animal population. We owe them that much.

And finally, I challenge you and every member of city government to walk the kennels at Caddo Parish Animal Services and look into the eyes of those animals. Spend some time with them, walk a couple of dogs, show up on euthanasia day and look into the eyes of the selected, watch a couple of adoptions. Look into the eyes of the rescue workers and volunteers who are burning themselves at both ends to save these animals. Then tell me things are okay the way they are.

Sincerely,

 Patricia Austin Becker

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Call for Change: Animals are Not Property


Rudy: currently needs a foster family. Details below.
I'm hoping for some positive change in our area in 2017 with regard to our unwanted animal population.

If you aren't familiar with the story of Ellie you should go here and read about her.  In early December, Ellie wandered into someone's yard and the property owner went inside his home, brought out his own dog and ordered it to attack Ellie because she was in his yard. This was captured on video by a brave young woman and was reported to Caddo Parish Animal Control and other officials. Ellie died of her injuries despite an heroic effort to save her. CPAS declined to press charges on the man for animal abuse because he was in his own yard and Ellie was not leashed. Ellie's owner has never come forward.

The point of that story is this: Ellie is not an anomaly. There are hundreds of Ellies throughout our area. All you have to do is look in our animal shelters which are overflowing with unwanted dogs and cats despite the very best efforts of several strong, dedicated local rescue groups who work diligently to pull and adopt out these animals. The cycle is never ending, though. The shelters remain filled.

The problem exists on several levels: first and foremost is that too many people in this part of the country see animals as property rather than sentient creatures who need love and companionship. Too many people think dogs are just something to put in the backyard and feed once a day. But hey, at least those dogs have a home, right?  No: it's not good enough. That is the basis for the "dogs as property" mindset.

Then you have the segment of our population who will refuse to spay or neuter their animals. Their excuses run from not wanting to change the dog's personality to a conviction that the animal will never reproduce or breed with another animal so what's the point? With organizations like Robinson's Rescue, who offer low-cost spay/neuter procedures, cost is not a valid excuse.  And before you know it, here comes another litter of unwanted puppies. Who follows up on those vouchers when animals are adopted to ensure they are in fact spayed or neutered?

The third factor contributing to our unwanted animal population and overflowing shelters is the backyard breeders. Go on Facebook or Craigslist and you can find hundreds of people hawking puppies born of some poor kenneled female used only for breeding and then discarded when her productivity is done.  These people have no compassion for the animals whatsoever but are only interested in the dollars they will receive after finding someone to buy these poor puppies (who will probably also then be used for breeding).

This is what a "misdemeanor" looks like.
And finally, a fourth factor we must consider is the lack of enforcement of our existing animal abuse laws and the slap-on-the-wrist justice doled out on the cases that ever actually do get prosecuted.  The most egregious that comes to mind is the Braveheart case where after a three day long trial and agonizingly clear evidence that this dog was left by the defendant to starve to death in a storage locker in a Louisiana August, the verdict was a misdemeanor. A slap on the wrist. An animal's life does not matter. It's just a dog.


So what is the answer? How do we change this? Why is our community willing to stand by and watch hundreds of animals euthanized each month because the shelters have to make room for incoming animals? Why does our community tolerate backyard breeders, people selling animals in parking lots and on Craigslist, when so many in shelters need homes? Why does our community accept a verdict like that in the Braveheart case or in Ellie's case? Why is it acceptable for a man to kill another dog because it wandered into his yard just looking for a bite to eat or a drink of water? Why do our fine, upstanding city leaders not get outraged when dogs are chained to trees, porches, fences, and left out in all of the elements with inadequate shelter? Why are the meager laws that do exist not properly enforced?

When will our community have enough of this and demand something be done?

I'm the person who changes the channel when those ASPCA commercials come on with the sad shelter dogs looking desperately through the cages. Nobody wants to see the sadness. Nobody wants to watch the video of Ellie being attacked or laying on the driveway bleeding to death. So why do we continue to let this happen?

We have several excellent rescue groups in our area working to pull dogs from shelters and send them to homes in communities with tough spay/neuter laws where there are low numbers of unwanted dogs. Some of these rescue volunteers have been known to jump out of their beds in the middle of the night to rescue a dog stranded in the middle of an interstate or sit for hours in a field behind a building working to gain the trust of a terrified stray who won't come to anyone. These people are burned out at both ends and cannot be expected to continue to carry the responsibilities of an entire community on their own shoulders when it comes to looking after the animals in our city.

As a community: Shreveport, Bossier, Springhill, Minden, Mansfield, Keithville, all of us -- we have got to stand for change. We have got to demand change. We have got to have tougher laws and we have got to have consistent enforcement on these laws. We have to educate our children that animals are not property to be discarded when you're tired of them, when they aren't cute anymore, when you move to a new house, when it no longer fits your lifestyle. It starts with the children. Educate them.

What can you do? Educate yourself. Visit the shelter. Go to Caddo Animal or go to Bossier. Visit PetSavers.  Do some research. Learn what the kill rate at the shelters is. In Caddo it used to be almost 80%. That number is down because Caddo is working harder with rescues these days, but there is still so much more room to improve.

Write your city officials. Write the mayor. Write your representatives. Demand change. Otherwise, cases like Ellie's and like Braveheart's will continue to be a source of outrage and tragedy. I'm going to print out the Shreveport animal control ordinances (linked below) and annotate changes that need to be made and then I'm going to send a copy of that to every city council member and every Caddo commissioner, and the mayor.

It's time for our community to change our perspective with regard to our animal population. We owe them that much.


Contact the City Council.

Contact the Caddo Commission.

Contact Mayor Ollie Tyler.

Caddo Parish Animal Control.

Bossier Parish Animal Control.

Shreveport Animal Control Ordinances.


(Photo of Rudy courtesy of POLA Foundation. If you can foster him contact POLA.)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Time to Fill Up Your December Calendar

Having now survived Thanksgiving and my food coma, we are looking forward to that busy last month of the year.  We've already got some events penciled in that look fun and at least two of them support local charities!

First up is the annual Battle of the Bloody Marys at Nader's Gallery on Saturday, December 3.

This year the good folks at Naders will donate a percentage of their sales for the day to Holy Angels and Gingerbread House.  We went to this event last year and sampled terrific Bloody Marys and took care of some Christmas shopping at the same time.  I am usually #teamedward on the Bloody Marys but willing to try new things!

The next event on my list is The Spirit of Christmas Brassed at the Broadmoor Presbyterian Church on Grover St. at 7:00 on Saturday, December 3.  This event is $10 at the door and will benefit The Salvation Army.  I love a great brass section so I'm really looking forward to this.   Here is a sample from Vimeo of the brass quintet:


The I-49 Brass Quintet at Broadmoor Presbyterian Shreveport from Frank Moore on Vimeo.

And then there is the classic It's a Wonderful Life at Shreveport Little Theater, this time as a radio play. This production runs December 1-11 and is sure to sell out, so order tickets ASAP if you want to see this.



We went to see The 1940s Radio Hour last year which was fabulous and I think (but don't know) that this will be the same sort of format - It's a Wonderful Life as a radio play.  Can't wait!

Finally, Stage Center on Common Street in downtown Shreveport is performing A Christmas Story through December 3.



It's not Christmas without A Christmas Story.

This Saturday, November 26, the annual Rockets Over the Red begins at 3 with fireworks closing the evening. If you're into crowds and fireworks this is a fun show.

I'm sure there are many more cool events going on that I haven't discovered yet; if you know of something please post in the comments and I'll follow up.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Okay Jerry, I Updated my Blog


A picture of Grumpy Cat. Just because.
I was chastised last night for not updating my blog more frequently (I'm looking at YOU, Jerry...) and it's true; it's been too long. I have some really good excuses though.

Excuse number one, and I know you will appreciate this, is that I'm so sick of election blather, political jibberish, and intolerance on both sides that I just could not make myself post anything on the election.  I did try...I posted on early voting, sort of, but really, I just couldn't.

Excuse number two: I have a real job. I've got three preps this semester (one of which I have not taught in fifteen years), and I've been working really hard trying to find strategies to improve the reading level of my kids and to get them EOC ready. (EOC is the state mandated End of Course tests).  My class begins testing on December 7 and I hope that's not an omen.

Excuse number three: I've been finishing my book on Cammie Henry. It is now once again in the hands of my editor. This will be her third read-through. The last one had very few suggestions and edits for me to make, so I'm hopeful that we are getting close to the end of this part of the process. We still have some things to do before publication that include getting maps made and selecting photographs. The index needs to be done. First we have to get the words right so I've been focused on that for several months. I'm SO ready to get Cammie's story out there. Her time has come.

Excuse number four: I've recently undertaken Administrative duties on the new Facebook page for the Shreveport Chapter #237: United Daughters of the Confederacy.  I've had to do a little research on the best way to set that page up, and put together a presentation for our group. The page has now launched and we are dedicated to using the page as a place to educate and share history.  It is non-political and non-controversial, so if you'd like to follow the page, please do! I feel like it is a huge responsibility that they have entrusted me to run this page and I want to do well for them.

Anyway, that's enough excuses as to why I haven't been up to date here as I should be. But add in to that the fact that I have a life outside of the keyboard (sort of) and that I also have a weekly blog post at DaTechGuy, and well, anyway...

We are out this week for Thanksgiving break and I plan on getting rested up for the final three weeks of the semester. I'm making as few plans as possible this week!  Thanksgiving dinner will be simple and small. On Wednesday you can find me at Flying Heart where growler refills are half-price!  We might make a run to Jefferson, Texas one day this week (Jerry, you in?). Other than that, I will be sitting outside on the swing reading a book with a fire in the fire pit and a cat beside me.

And maybe I will do better on updating my blog.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Time to do the "Thriller Dance"


I've been reading Shelby Foote's The Civil War trilogy which is excellent. My only regret is that I wish he had recorded the audio book; I love his voice.

As I was reading over the weekend, and with Halloween looming, I did a little research on Halloween during the Civil War period.

There's a really interesting article here, by Caroline Davis.  She notes a couple of images that suggest a spooky, autumnal theme to her: one of Jefferson Davis reaping skulls, and Ohio born politician, and Southern sympathizer, Clement L. Vallandigham, as a pumpkin.

Poor Jefferson Davis looks a little like a character in Michael Jackson's Thriller, doesn't he?  Terrible!

I'm not sure if those images were meant to evoke Halloween or just Fall and harvest time, but they certainly can be perceived as spooky.

Certainly the soldiers didn't have time to worry about Halloween!

Blogger Thomas Ruys Smith notes the same two images on his blog and makes the association of pumpkins and Halloween and records its publication date as October 31, 1863.

In truth, Halloween wasn't even a holiday back then and if anyone was aware of the date at all it would simply have been All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day and unless you were Catholic you probably wouldn't have even thought about it.

You can find a fairly complete history of Halloween in America here.  Another history can be found here, and yet another here.

Have a happy Halloween, do the Thriller dance, and grab some candy!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Early Voting in Downtown Shreveport

Early Voting: October 29, 2016
I voted.

This post will be a sort of preview for my post coming up Monday for DaTechGuy, but hopefully Pete won't mind too much. It won't be exactly the same so I should be okay.  ;)

Steve and I have election fatigue We are sick of it all.  I am, anyway. It's gone on too long and I've been sick of the Clintons for decades.  This has been one of the most absurd, most unpredictable, most irrational elections that I can ever remember. I don't have a good feeling about it at all. Not one bit.

So the weather was gorgeous yesterday and although it still feels like summer, it was nice to stand in that forty-five minute line, visit with neighbors, and make some new friends as we all waiting to exercise our American right to vote.

The line was literally a block long, extending all the way to the Hallmark store and reports are that earlier in the week it wrapped around onto Texas Street.  We didn't care. We got in line.

This really got me: there was an older gentleman wearing a face mask and his wife behind us. We visited a little, talking about the proposed Amendments mostly, and the man stepped out of line to sit in one of the folding chairs placed along the line.

"He's got Stage Four lymphoma," she said. "That's why he's wearing that mask. He was supposed to have surgery Friday but his platelets were to low."

It took no time at all for us to expedite these people to the front of the line.  I am so filled with love for this man who is so ill and so obviously felt terrible and all he wanted to do was vote.  God bless him!

We also met a very nice couple in front of us and before we reached the end of the line we determined our Six Degrees of Separation: she grew up in my neighborhood and her mother was my kindergarten teacher. She had her mother's absentee ballot in her purse.  She invited us to a Veterans Day concert at her church and we plan to go!

Veterans Day Concert

I was so busy visiting that I forgot to keep up with my Pokemon game - I was in the absolute middle of Pokestop heaven - with Gastlys and Haunters everywhere.

We voted, I got my Blue Dog sticker, and we walked down to Blind Tiger to eat. (They still do not have onion rings or any other craft beer besides Great Raft - shameful; support local beer!).
Blue Dog

After we ate we walked the length of Texas Street to the church so I could work the Pokestops and I noted that the voting line was still just as long as when we were in it; it was equally as long on our return trip back down the street later.

I am pretty confident as to how Louisiana is going to vote in the presidential race, but we have several other local races and a senate race that are all very important.

The Constitutional amendments are all gibberish - go here to decipher them before you go vote.  For example:

Act 677 (2016 Regular Session) amends Article XI, Section 5. “Do you support an amendment to provide that the manner of appointment for the registrar of voters in each parish is as provided by law and to require the qualifications of the registrar to be provided by law?”

Translation: Should there be standards for registrars and transparency in the hiring process?

We need a constitutional amendment for that?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Shreveport Work of Art Still Needs Funding for Restoration


Clio, the Muse of History
One of the great things about Shreveport/Bossier area is our love of art and our support of the arts. Another great thing is our love of history and our support of the many individuals, organizations and groups who both preserve and work to spread knowledge about our history.  Shreveport/Bossier has a fascinating history and many, many interesting characters have passed through our area.

The Caddo Parish Courthouse is in itself a work of art with a fascinating history.  Standing in front of the courthouse is a monument that is a true work of art and which is ignored by probably ninety-percent of the people who pass by.

Frank Teich, a Texas sculptor, created the Caddo Parish Confederate monument which was dedicated in 1906 before a crowd of thousands of residents and dignitaries.  It's a stunning work of art and my favorite part is the classical beauty, Clio.

Clio is the Muse of History who stands at the base of the monument in all of her classical beauty, holding a scroll in her left hand and with her right she is pointing to a memory book for the war dead.

As it turns out, Clio's arm was broken this past summer by a trespassing trumpet player who climbed over the decorative fence that encloses the monument, and then climbed the base of the monument. scaling his way up, he grabbed Clio's outstretched arm for support, and sat on a ridge just above her head to play his instrument. He rested his leg on her arm, and the arm shattered.

Clio's damaged hand

Just a few weeks after that, a vandal armed with paint filled balloons approached the monument in the dark of night, his face covered by a hood, and threw the balloons, thus dashing the monument with red paint and causing thousands of dollars in damage.  The photos below show some of the paint damage but trust me when I tell you it is much worse in person.

Paint damage

The artist, Mr. Teich has several other monuments in the city, including work at Greenwood Cemetery. It is a 30-foot tall granite and marble centaph depicting not just Clio, but also a lone soldier at the top of the column, and four busts of four Confederate generals. While Confederate monuments are present in many towns across the South, ours is unique in its beauty and composition. There is not another one like it.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

The Caddo Parish Confederate Monument 1905

The monument now needs our help.

The Shreveport Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy has obtained two estimates from reputable restoration experts to repair Clio and to remove the paint. It isn't as easy as going to Home Depot, getting chemical, and a water hose. The estimates are both very close and both very expensive.

The UDC is raising money to restore this monument. The estimates are in stages - one is to repair the hand, another for the paint removal and that includes overall cleaning from the pollutants that are eating away at the stone.

We need to raise $6,000.

That's a lot of money and the UDC does not have it.  The UDC is a non-profit group that gives its money to charities, so writing a $6,000 check is out of the question. Your help is needed.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation to the repair of the Caddo Parish Confederate Monument. Your support is needed now, more than ever. Your donation can be sent directly to the Shreveport Chapter of the UDC:

United Daughters of the Confederacy
Shreveport Chapter #237
P. O. Box 52083
Shreveport, LA 71135-2083

No amount is too small.  And those end of the year tax deductions are coming up!

Please share this post on Facebook and via email; I'm hoping a wonderful philanthropist will see our need and help save this priceless work of art in our city.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Take a Trip to the Mansfield State Historic Site and Civil War Battlefield


The hint of fall in the air Saturday lured people outside in great numbers this weekend.  While most people headed downtown to the Red River Revel, Steve and I went south, to the Mansfield State Historic Site, to hear a presentation by Dr. Cheryl White of LSUS who was speaking on ghosts and folklore around the Civil War battle site in Mansfield and the surrounding area.

Dr. White said the same thing Steve Smith said a few weeks ago when we did his walking tour of downtown: basically, if you talk about ghosts, people will come.  Smith told us that evening, "Do you think if I just said we're going to do a walking tour of downtown that people would come?"  Nope.  But if you throw in a few ghost stories, you get a crowd.

Dr. White had a standing room only crowd yesterday.

Her presentation was brief; about thirty minutes.  Dr. White recounted the basic history of the battle, and told of a few ghostly encounters people have had while walking the Mouton trail at the battle park.

The thing that she said that sticks with me that I found really interesting is that she said she had a conversation with a colleague about spirits one time.  This colleague is an astrophysicist who explained it this way.  She said you can't separate time from space. "Think of it as transparencies on an overhead projector," she said. You lay one transparency down over another, over another, over another...you can get glimpses of the one on the bottom, the one that was there first, but there are these other images on top of it.  Basically, we are occupying the same same space as those soldiers on that battlefield that April day in 1864.  Are they still here?

She explained it more eloquently, and it's interesting to think about in those terms.

After the presentation the audience had questions, which she addressed, and then Steve and I toured the museum and grounds.

It's been several years since I've been out there, something that I regret.  The place is a real treasure and I'm interesting in visiting more often.

Here is one of the most beautiful pieces in the museum: The Rose Mantle that stood in the White House through several early presidencies until renovations demanded a different color scheme.

The Rose Mantle

The museum itself is arranged chronologically; when you enter, go clockwise through the room, following the information panels and display cases which take you through time.

Mansfield State Historic Site Museum

The display cases are filled with relics both gruesome:

Medical tools used during the Civil War

and fascinating.

Belt buckles and other relics

There are also displays in the center of the room; this one illustrating hospital conditions.

The Mansfield Church as hospital

A closer look:



There are many text display boards with maps and photos to guide you:



I am fascinated with the shelves of books and documents in the presentation room; how wonderful it would be if this museum also functioned as a library and research center (and it may - I didn't ask).  I envision this room filled with large library tables for scholars to research and learn on the very site of this most definitive battle. I can see students of history examining books, diaries, letters, maps, periodicals of the time...simply fascinating.



After Dr. White's presentation, Steve and I took advantage of the beautiful afternoon to walk the grounds.  They do a wonderful job here in community education and in presenting many ongoing programs.  Recently the site hosted a program on baseball during the Civil War era (sadly we missed it) and each April there is a reenactment of the battle which draws thousands of people.

As you enter the park, the monuments are on the right. There are four: the Polignac Monument, the Colonel Beard Monument, the Captain Field Monument, and a monument placed in honor of General Taylor's victory at Mansfield.

The monuments

There is also a marker for the park itself placed by the Kate Beard Chapter 397 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.



As you walk the trails behind the museum, there are text markers to guide you.



Be sure to pick up a paper copy of the text of these markers in the museum before you begin your walk; the sun has damaged some of them rendering them unreadable, so the paper copy is quite useful.

Be sure to get a paper guide!

There is also a nature trail with markers along the way for various trees that are growing along the way.


Is Dr. White right?  Are there voices whispering through these pine trees?



The rail fence fascinates me for some reason...


A closer look at that marker:


Note the rise in the landscape: that slope that basically hid the Confederate forces from Union soldiers; as Union soldiers marched up that slope they suddenly became visible.  The Union soldiers knew the Confederates were there because there had been skirmishes, but imagine their surprise at the numbers of Confederates as they approached the crest of that slope, rendering visible their opponents.

Hwy 175 is on the left; the visitor's center on the right. The monuments are on the other side of this hill.

It's hard to get a sense of that unless you're actually walking that hill, but if Dr. White is correct and there are still "voices" there, I can hear them at that moment.

Here are a couple of good maps of the battle.

Here is the Facebook page for the Mansfield State Historic Site.  Follow their page to keep up with upcoming programs.  On October 29 the site will host their 23rd Annual 'Ghosts of the Past' tour with a tour of the battlefield conducted by authentically costumed guides who will act out various scenes along the trail. This program begins at 7:30 p.m.

Fall is a wonderful time of year to visit the park; the trees and grounds are beautiful and the air crisp with the promise of fall.  Take a trip!

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation