Thursday, February 19, 2015

Dear Neighbors: We Have a Dog Theft Problem

Dear Shreveport-Bossier and neighbors:

We have an animal control problem.  There is an epidemic of pet theft and dog-napping happening right under your nose.  It seems like every day I hear of someone whose dog has been stolen right out of their own yard or car.  What in the hell is going on?

Yesterday, a woman in Highland let her dog out into her fenced backyard and in ten minutes someone opened the gate, snatched the dog, and drove off.

In September a woman's Pomeranian was snatched in Highland:
Lindsey Combest says she didn't see the abduction herself, but a witness tells her that someone in a white 4-door truck pulling lawn care equipment picked her dog Wesson up near the corner of College St. and Centenary St. "It happened in about 15 seconds."
Also in Highland:
Joe Young says he put his 3-year-old terrier Dixie outside on a clip in his Highland neighborhood yard last week, and "45 minutes later the dog was gone." He asked neighbors in the area, thinking that the dog had just gotten loose, and learned there might have been something more sinister behind his pup's disappearance. "I found out that my dog had been picked up by a woman in a reddish-colored Jeep-type vehicle." He says a neighbor told him that they saw the dog-napping happen. "It makes me angry mostly. A dog-napper has got to be one of the worst kinds of person, I mean that's next to kidnapping as far as I'm concerned."
In Bossier Parish five boxer puppies were stolen.

There are countless reports of stolen -- not lost -- dogs on social media.

The Shreveport Pets section of Craigslist has at least a dozen pitbulls for sale right now; those ads often include a photo of the worn out, over bred mother to prove the dog's "champion blood line." There are other breeds there too: Chihuahuas, German Shepherds, an Akita....

There is a huge dog fighting problem in our area and almost certainly the rash of stolen pets is linked to this problem.

In January 2014 Jody Lowery with KTBS reported on the local dog fighting epidemic:
 Just last November, the SPCA found 16 pit bulls at a property in Gregg County, thought to have been used in dog fighting. Those dogs are said to be linked to an August multi-state bust involving Texas. It was the second largest in history where 367 dogs were originally rescued across the South. Then in March, two people were arrested in East Texas and nearly 100 dogs seized.
Lowrey points out that this area is perfect landscape for dog fighting because of all our rural areas and piney woods.  Lots of places to hide.  This is a nasty business that the perpetrators would like to keep hidden; it comes with a variety of other crimes.  Drugs, gambling, theft top the list.

Just two months after Lowery's report, a dog-fighting ring in Sabine parish was discovered:

Ten people were arrested in Sabine Parish over the weekend, accused of dog fighting. 
Saturday, around 11:00 p.m., the Sabine Parish Sheriff's Department along with several deputies from the DeSoto Parish Sheriff's Departed, executed a raid on a suspected dog-fighting operation on Hicks Drive. 
Two pit bulls were reportedly in the pit at the time of the raid. The dogs were taken to the Sabine Animal Shelter. Their condition as well as the condition of other animals on the property are unknown at this time. 
According to the Many Police Department's Facebook page, ten people, from as far away as Gibsland, Louisiana, were arrested and two juveniles were also at the scene. 
What police found there was horrible.

This is a real problem in our area and it's past time we faced it and did something about it.

There seems to be a number of factors contributing to this problem:

1.  The laws and penalties are not severe enough; the laws on the books are not clear enough.

2.  Dog-fighting is so secret and so hidden that not enough of the right people know it's a problem.

3.  It's a horribly unpleasant subject and any article about it often comes with graphic photos of abused and mutilated dogs; nobody wants to see that.  (How often do you change the channel or mute the TV when those poor shelter dogs look at you through cages while Sarah McLaclan's ASPCA commercial comes on?  Hell, even she changes the channel!)

4.  It's dangerous to get too involved in exposing these rings; this is big money.  These people are serious.

So, what can we do about this?

First, learn about what's going on. Pay attention in your neighborhood and learn who your neighbors are and their pets.

Monitor social media sites such as Shreveport/Bossier Lost and Found Pets or Lost and Found Pets Shreveport/Bossier on Facebook.  If they're stealing dogs in your neighborhood, you'll probably hear it there first.

Do not leave your dogs unattended outside.  If you work and you have a dog that stays outside during the day be sure your gates are locked and your neighbors can help keep an eye out for suspicious activity.

Be part of your neighborhood - help watch for suspicious vehicles or suspicious activity.  If you see someone stealing a dog, call 911 just like you would if you saw someone breaking into a house.

Educate yourself.  The Animal Legal Defense Fund is an excellent resource and has a great section on Pet Theft.  Follow them on Facebook.

Many of these stolen dogs are used for bait dogs.  Like many people, I knew what a bait dog was, but it wasn't until a few months ago when I helped rescue a starved, abandoned dog that I learned what really happens to bait dogs.  This dog had odd indentions on his tail that looked like a rubber band had been left on it for too long.  I assumed someone had tried docking his tail with a rubber band; the vet tech told me that dog fighters tie the dog's tail to a stake in a dog fighting ring so he can't get away.

This dog had defense wounds all over his face and legs; his ears were chewed all along the edges, and he was starved.  His feet were flat because he had never the proper nutrition necessarily for the bones in his feet to develop properly.

And still this dog was full of love and trust for the human that rescued him.

This dog was a bait dog in Bossier City.

We must do something about this problem in our area.  We have to lobby our legislators to strengthen the laws and up the penalties.  I firmly believe that the jury in the Braveheart trial came back with a verdict of "Simple Animal Cruelty" against abuser Gabriel Lee because the difference between "Simple" and"Aggravated Animal Cruelty" was just one word - intent.  The distinction between the misdemeanor and the felony was too close to distinguish.

This must be changed.  The language must be rewritten.

Not everyone is a dog lover; I get that.  But this is a real problem in our community and has ramifications for us all.  The thieves that steal dogs are horrible people that will go to any lengths to protect their cash source.  They are dangerous.

Go here and get started.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Take a Trip to the Barkus and Meoux Parade 2015

Here are a few photos from the Barkus and Meoux parade today:

Grand Marshall Braveheart was quite the celebrity!  Very cool under pressure.

He met many fans today.

This is Angel:

And Mrs. T:

Of course we had lots, and lots of dogs but there were also pigs, goats, cats, rabbits, and chickens.

We had dogs dressed up as people and people dressed up as cats.

And people dressed up for the Bone Appetite theme!

People and dogs dressed alike...

Dogs dressed as bones...

Goat tacos...

And, of course, Blue Dog...

This event has grown so much since the days when it was a little neighborhood thing at A.C.Steere park!  The turnout each year is huge.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Cane Juice: One of Louisiana's More Interesting Scandalous Novels

In the course of my research on Cammie Garrett Henry, I've come across some truly wonderful, all but forgotten literature by Louisiana writers.  I've lived in this state my entire life and was at least in my thirties before I ever heard of Lyle Saxon.  I never heard of Ada Jack Carver until I began my research on Mrs. Henry.  And now, there's John Earle Uhler.

Mr. Uhler was an English professor at LSU and in 1931 he published a book:  Cane Juice:  A Story of Southern Louisiana.  

And then he got fired.

Mr. Uhler was a native of Pennsylvania but came to Louisiana in 1928 to teach freshman English at the university.  His book centers around the "Cajun Gorilla," Bernard Couvillon, who was born and raised on Bayou Lafourche.  Bernard's father runs a sugar plantation and as the novel begins, sugar in Louisiana isn't doing very well.  The borer and the mosaic are taking their toll and the cane is no longer producing much juice; the mills that used to run constantly are falling quiet.

Bernard, as it turns out, is a pretty intelligent fellow and because of his excellent grades in school, (well, except for English - most people around the bayou still spoke French then...), the local police jury awards him a scholarship to LSU.  Bernard dreams of going to the university sugar school in order to learn just enough to save the sugar production in Louisiana.  His father is torn; he wants Bernard to stay and work with him.  "We don't need no book learnin' to raise sugar," Bernard's father said.  "This boy work wit' me in the mill...".

But, Bernard packs his $2 suitcase and walks down the levee to the university where he is promptly met with the ritual hazing of freshmen ("dogs") by upperclassmen and his temper is tested.

The book is filled with local color and Uhler's plot moves quickly.  As a piece of regional literature, it's as good as anything I've read.  It lacks the syrupy moonlight and magnolia prose that so many books of local color seem to have.  The protagonist, Bernard, is beautifully drawn and you pull for his success from the very beginning.  The dialect is just enough without being over done.

"Sugar-raisin's dead in Loosana," Bernard is told, but he refuses to give up his dream of saving the industry.

At the university, Bernard meets an assortment of characters from his mentor, Professor Paul Gatz, to the lovely Juliette Filastre who dates Morgan Fairchild, the star quarterback on the football team.  We also meet Bernard's sister with the dubious reputation, who lives in New Orleans.

When Mr. Uhler's book came out in 1931, it ignited quite the controversy.  The powers that be at LSU rather objected to the portrayal of the university - the hazing, the wild parties on the levee or at abandoned plantations in the countryside.  Chapter 25 describes a party at a deserted plantation house, Shadowlawn, which was now "waiting for the tragic end that has befallen so many of the old Louisiana river houses...within a few years it will go into the Mississippi."  At this party there is an abundance of drinking and more than a few intoxicated young women, one of whom makes very direct advances toward Bernard which the boy gently refuses because he doesn't want to take advantage of her in her intoxicated state and notes as well, "You' only a babee."  Bernard, in fact, takes measures to protect the young lady's reputation before he leaves the party.

Scenes like this one, while quite tame by our standards today, led to vigorous objections about Uhler's book by the Right Reverend Monsignor E. L. Gassler of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Baton Rouge.  Monsignor Glasser objected to the young people in the novel "seeking out dark corners" at these parties, insisting that none of the fine ladies in southern Louisiana would act in such a way.  Scandal!

He also highly objected to the portrayal of university boys (and sometimes ladies) "breaking the Eighteenth Amendment" and consuming (sometimes in great quantities) alcohol.  There is one scene where at a party in a hotel where Bernard is challenged to a drinking contest - a challenge that actually Juliette Filaster finds offensive, not so much for the use of alcohol but that it targeted and was mean-spirited to, Bernard.

As it turns out, Huey Long (who never actually read the book) was displeased that an employee of "his university" would write and publish anything that would damage the reputation of the school and so Professor Uhler was fired.  Whether or not Huey Long actually had anything to do with the firing is still a matter of debate, and it, as Thomas W. Cutrer points out in Parnassus on the Mississippi, "cannot at this late date be verified."

In response, Uhler enlisted the aid of the ACLU to get his job back.  He was reinstated within the year.

In Cammie Henry's Scrapbook no. 12, housed at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, there are pages and pages of clippings from newspapers around the state as this controversy unfolded. There is also a letter from Mr. Uhler to Mrs. Henry in which he thanks her for her letter of support and promises to send her an autographed copy of his novel which was sold out all over the state.  Otto Claitor, a frequent correspondent with Mrs. Henry, noted that he simply could not keep the book in stock.

While Cane Juice is probably not considered "fine literature" by the literati, I found it to be a jolly romp through the LSU of old and through the cane fields, levees, and plantations of the old south.  At the very least it is one of the more colorful controversies in our state's literary history and one that is worth preserving.

And how did Bernard Couvillon fare at LSU?  Did he save the sugar industry?  You'll have to read the book for yourself!  I found my copy on the third floor of an antique shop in Minden, Louisiana, a nifty little first printing, hardback edition with a tiny bit of water damage to the cover.  It's got a few pages breaking loose from the binding, but to me, it's a treasure.