2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • HONEY BOO BOO WANNA-BES RAISE HANDS

    Mon, May 6, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Honey Boo Boo

    Honey Boo Boo

    Turns out there are more Honey Boo Boo wannabes in Colorado Springs than I ever would have guessed.

    Recently, I wrote about a television producer, Bert Klasey of Zodiak USA, who emailed me seeking ideas for a new reality show.

    Klasey is on a constant search for the next “Honey Boo Boo” reality star.

    Quite a few readers wrote me to volunteer ideas of their own reality shows.

    Xterra triathlete Will Kelsay in a 2012 race. Courtesy willkelsay.com

    Xterra triathlete Will Kelsay in a 2012 race. Courtesy willkelsay.com

    Cathy Kelsay suggested a series on triathlon racers, focusing on her son, Will Kelsay, a pro Xterra triathlete living in Boulder.

    “Over the last several years he’s had lots of exciting adventures, traveling around the U.S. for several months in an old RV doing races,” she said.

    Will also had six races in six countries in six weeks, which sounds like a marathon of its own.

    “I’m not the only one who thinks he’s quite the character,” she said.

    Kim Bierbrauer suggested the U.S. Olympic Training Center as the focus of a reality show about athletes striving for gold.

    Others offered radical departures from the formulaic warring housewives, alligator-hunting freaks and moonshining hillbilly mutants who typically star in reality shows.

    Val Tenhaeff proposed “Colorado Springs Lives” with cameras visiting the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region as well as following street crews on their daily routes.

    Senior Julia Jones plays Juliet and junior Vincent Bracett plays Romeo as drama students from University School of Colorado Springs practice Friday, Jan. 6, 2012, at the Springs Reformed Church for their upcoming play competition at Disney World in February.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    Senior Julia Jones plays Juliet and junior Vincent Brackett plays Romeo as drama students from University School of Colorado Springs practice Friday, Jan. 6, 2012, at the Springs Reformed Church for their upcoming play competition at Disney World in February. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    Jim Brackett suggested cameras follow his son, Vincent, as he attends college after a stellar high school career as an award-winning basketball player, student and actor.

    The most elaborate story pitch came from a neighbor, Brad Keating, who I met when he was serving as our homeowners association president.

    Keating is a PGA teaching pro and high school golf coach. He proposes to star in a series with his 12-year-old daughter, Arielle, as they challenge pairs of golfers at courses around the country in nine-hole matches. Keating believes viewers would watch to see if he and his daughter could beat all comers.

    Actually, I’m thinking he should tweak his pitch. Call it “Deadliest Golf” in which he and his daughter carry shotguns in their golf bags and play for pink slips on repossessed golf carts which they pawn to the Amish mafia.

    That could be a real hit!

    Arielle Keating, 12, is a golfer whose father, Brad Keating, hopes will star with him in a reality TV show someday. Courtesy photo.

    Arielle Keating, 12, is a golfer whose father, Brad Keating, hopes will star with him in a reality TV show someday. Courtesy photo.

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  • CHANGE COMES QUICKLY TO HUMANE SOCIETY

    Wed, June 22, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    This is the approximate route taken by Luna, a dog owned by Daryl and Cindy Anderson. Luna escaped a relative's fenced yard and made her way about three miles toward home before she was killed on railroad tracks near Rockrimmon.

    Luna

    Some good is coming from the sad story of Luna, the dog who escaped a fenced yard and tried to make her way home only to be killed on the railroad tracks along Monument Creek in Rockrimmon.  

    Luna’s remains were found by Tom, a Rockrimmon resident, who removed the collar and called Luna’s owners, Daryl and Cindy Anderson, to inform them of Luna’s death.  

    Tom called the Andersons himself because he said the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region refused to take a “deceased animal” report.  

    He said HSPPR staff told him to call the Colorado Springs street department to report a dead animal. Tom was outraged and feared Luna’s owners would never know what happened to their pet.  

    Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region

    So he called The Gazette and Luna’s story was the subject of Monday’s Side Streets column. That’s when things happened at HSPPR.  

    I received an email Monday from Jan McHugh-Smith, president and CEO of the humane society.  

    She told me she was changing policy immediately to accept dead pet reports and log them in a notebook available for viewing at the society’s Lost and Found Pet area.  

    Here’s the text of her note to me:  

    Dear Bill,  

     After your story was published our currently policies on lost and found pets were reviewed, and we would like to update you and make some corrections to your article entitled: SIDE STREETS: Neighbor helps family get closure for lost pet, questions humane society policy.  

    Jan McHugh-Smith, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region

     From this point forward, the City of Colorado Springs Street Division will directly email their finished work logs (recording dead animal description and location) to our lost and found email. We will be publishing all of the logs in a notebook in our Lost and Found Pets area. This will allow owners to read the logs, and hopefully be able to identify if their pet has been found deceased in the city. We will also match the city work logs with lost animals that have been reported to HSPPR to try to reconnect additional stray pets

     Our call center will also be taking found reports on deceased animals, and will try to combine logs and reports if efforts are found duplicated. 

     The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region works diligently to reunited owners with lost companion animals; we reunited 4,199 stray animals last year alone. Tom should be commended in his actions, and his Good Samaritan efforts will bring positive changes in our policies. 

     Sincerely,   

     Jan McHugh-Smith 

    President and CEO  

    I should note all the good work HSPPP already does on behalf of pets and their owners in the region. 

    According to the 2010 annual report, the society had 21,100 pets in its care in Colorado Springs

    It handled 7,700 adoptions in addition to the 4,199 reuinted pets and fostered 450 pets

    It’s animal law enforcement unit responded to 24,000 calls for service and conducted 3,800 cruelty investigations

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  • A LESSON IN LUNA’S SAD DEATH

    Sun, June 19, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 2 comments

    This was Luna, the beloved pet of Daryl and Cindy Anderson and their family.

    Luna

    Luna was a pound puppy, adopted by the Andersons from a humane society shelter in Las Vegas about 10 years ago.

    A couple weeks ago, Luna was visiting a relative’s house near Flintridge and Dublin. She apparently panicked when left in a fenced yard, dug her way out and vanished far from her home near Garden of the Gods Road and Centennial Boulevard.

    Daryl said he and his sons put 100 miles on their car searching for Luna.

    They reported Luna to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, checked its kennels daily to see if Luna was among its captured strays and they scanned reports on the society’s lost pet website.

    Then, late last week, Daryl received a call from a stranger who said he had Luna’s collar.

    Tom, who declined to reveal his full name, had taken the collar off the dog’s remains, which he found on railroad tracks that run past Rockrimmon.

    Tom had noticed Luna’s remains as he walked his own dogs along Monument Creek near Mark Dabling Boulevard in Rockrimmon.

    Luna had died trying to get home from the relative’s house. (See map of Luna’s approximate route at the bottom of this blog).

    She had crossed Academy and Union boulevards, Interstate 25 and the creek. But she’d failed to cross the tracks safely.

     I’m guessing she made it a few blocks north to Cottonwood Creek, followed it west to Monument Creek and then a bit south along Mark Dabling before she strayed onto the tracks.

    I’d guess she’d gone about three miles!

    Daryl tells me Tom and his wife not only showed him the location of Luna’s remains, they helped him retrieve the remains. He described it as “a very messy and unpleasant task.”

    “Tom’s a wonderful person,” Daryl said. “That gentleman was the best ‘Good Samaritan’ that I could have run into.”

    Tom said he braved the decomposing remains because he, too, had lost a pet cat, Barney, a few years ago and never learned its fate.

    He didn’t want Daryl’s family to wonder about Luna, the chow mix they had adopted from a humane society in Las Vegas.

    “They needed closure,” Tom said. “We never got closure with Barney.”

    Normally, the story of Luna, Daryl and Tom would would end there. But this incident raised questions in Tom’s mind about how the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region deals with dead pets.

    Tom was surprised to learn he could not make a “deceased animal” report after he saw Luna’s remains.

    “They said they don’t do that,” he said. “They just wanted me to call the city to get it hauled away. I was more interested in reuniting it with its owner.”

    So he didn’t call the city street division to retrieve the remains. That was a mistake, the society says.

    Crews would’ve picked up Luna’s remains and called the society promptly.

    “Every day, the city gives us detailed reports of the deceased pets they pick up,” said Erica Meyer, society spokeswoman. “If there’s a collar, they remove it, and give it to us with the report so we can call the owner.

    “If there is no collar, they give us breed information, size, color, location. Then we try to match it with the lost pet reports we have.”

    Allowing folks like Tom to report animal remains would cause duplication and confusion, she said.

    And deceased pet reports are not displayed online, as Tom proposes, to protect owners from shock.

    “Rather than putting it on the web, we have a department that notifies owners personally,” Meyer said.

    “We work really hard to reunite people with their lost pets, whether they are alive or deceased.

    “We have an entire unit that works on it every day.”

    Meyer reminds everyone to call the Humane Society immediately if they see an injured animal or suspect it may be suffering. Don’t always assume an animal that has been struck by a car, for example, is dead.

    The number is 473-1741.

    To report a dead animal in the city, call the street division at 385-5934.

    n El Paso County, call 520-6460.


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  • NEIGHBORS OBLIVIOUS TO BARKING . . . THEY ARE DEAF

    Sun, September 26, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with 2 comments

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    The most consistent complaint I’ve heard over the years from neighborhoods is about barking dogs.

    Dog poop is a close second.

    But barking dogs top the list. My Sept. 26 column is about barking dogs and one neighbor’s reaction to it. In this case, the dog owners are deaf and didn’t realize the frustration it caused neighbors.

    It’s also a lesson about how to deal with barking dogs. The fellow most upset by the barking,  Rainer Steinbauer, never approached the dog owners about his issue. He didn’t even know their names. I suggested a knock on their door might have solved the problem before it escalated into hurt feelings all around.

    But I also wanted to raise awareness to the issue.

    Did you know it is illegal to allow chronic barking in Colorado Springs and in El Paso County

     Incessant barking is considered disturbing the peace of a city neighborhood. And it violates county ordinances to harbor such a disturbance. If your neighbor’s noisy pet is habitually disturbing you, please call the Humane Society at 473-1741 to learn about possible courses of action.

    Folks with dogs often say “dogs are going to bark” as if there’s nothing they can do about it. They typically describe complainers at hyper-sensitive.

    Victims often get very frustrated. Some of the nastiest neighborhood feuds I’ve seen over the years center on barking dogs.

    In fact, the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region gets upwards of 2,000 complaint calls a year about barking dogs.

    Experts have all sorts of advice to stop the barking. Some attribute chronic barking to boredom. They say the cure is more human interaction, toys or a companion dog.

    Some advocate barking collars, which administer an electric shock each time an animal barks. There are variations of the collar that allow the owner to administer a shock by remote control, as well.

    The marketplace also offers anti-barking devices that sense barking and emit an ultrasonic noise in response. Dogs hate the noise and the theory is that they will associate barking with pain and stop.

    A few recommend “debarking” surgery to remove a dog’s vocal cords. The Humane Society and other experts, however, denounce the surgery because it robs the animal of its voice.

    Still others suggest hiring an expert to diagnose the reason a dog is barking  to get solutions. There are certified applied animal behaviorists available to consult with dog owners.

    But it’s best not to ignore a barking dog complaint. They can lead to summons, covenant violations, lawsuits and even violence.

    Informal complaints will bring the Humane Society to your door. Formal complaints will initiate deeper agency involvement. 

    A victim who has witnesses and videotape of a chronic barking dog can land you in court.

    Then a judge may order the barking corrected. Or else.
    Here’s an interesting blog on the issue of debarking surgery. And this is an interesting debate of the question.
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  • EVEN DEATH DOESN’T END SOME NEIGHBORHOOD DISPUTES

    Sun, July 25, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    In 2004, I met Jean Raubolt. In 1982, she bought a new house on Silent Rain Drive in a neighborhood sandwiched between Mountain Shadows and what is now Peregrine on the city’s northwest edge.

    She was unhappy with the condition of the neighborhood. She believed it was deteriorating and hurting her property values.

    She wanted to form a neighborhood association to police the area and enforce covenants and city codes for appearance, noise and overall quality of life.

    Raubolt was unable to rally neighbors to join her. So she became a one-woman army dedicated to reporting and filing complaints for every code violation she could find.

    She was known to walk the neighborhood, pen and pad in hand, writing down violations she then reported to Colorado Springs Police, or the Code Enforcement agency, or the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region.

    Neighbors told me they hid from Raubolt, avoiding using their front yards or porches to avoid her wrath. Some told me they moved to escape her harassment.

    Then came Bridget Weyer, who moved in next door in February 2007.

    Soon, she was the subject of complaints about her dog, her daughter’s drumming, right in a 2008 photo, and music at a barbecue she hosted.

    Here’s a link to a previous column and a blog I wrote about the conflict.

    Weyer ended up in court three times over Raubolt’s complaints. Two were dismissed but the third stuck and she was fined $70. Weyer considered moving until the complaints suddenly stopped.

    Raubolt died last August. Weyer said it’s sad, but the neighborhood is all “peace and tranquility” ever since.

    It’s a different story on North Foote Avenue where neighbors have been dealing with a condemned house since 1998.

    They had grown hopeful, recently, that the house was finally going to be repaired and occupied. The work started after a column I wrote in April. The owner, Ruth “Fire” Hendricks had come to me, begging me to write about how the city had wrongly condemned the place. Alternately angry and tearful, she told me how her hateful neighbors wouldn’t help.

    Of course, the city and neighbors told a much different story. City Code Enforcement Administrator Ken Lewis said Hendricks as refusing to cooperate with his officers. He said they had tried for years to help her.

    In fact, Lewis said his officers had volunteers and materials lined up to start work on the place, if she would only cooperate.

    Hendricks was enraged by my column. But in a short time a contractor began work on the house and the roof was replaced. A large trash container was brought to the house and some of the moldy junk inside was pitched until Hendricks intervened.

    Then everything stopped. Hendricks died May 15, leaving the house in limbo. (One of her daughters, Julia Groves, angrily claimed the stress from my column killed her.)

    Neighbors are glad its collapsing roof has been repaired and broken windows fixed. But they fear it could sit even longer as probate court sorts out Hendricks’ estate. Here’s a link to my earlier blog on the house.

    Lewis said the city will stay on the case and, if necessary, will make any urgent repairs and mow weeds, bill the estate and even lien the property if necessary.

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  • ACHILLES IS FREE, sort of

    Wed, May 27, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with 2 comments

    Remember Achilles the pit bull? I wrote about the 5-year-old dog in April. Here is a photo of Achilles taken by its owners, Danny and Susan Polston:

    achilles2

    For seven months, Achilles sat in dog jail, confined at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region at $10 a day awaiting trial that would determine if it was a dangerous animal.

    Achilles was set free on May 21, released to his owners.

    OK, free is overstating it a bit.

    Achilles is not allowed to run with other dogs. Even inside a six-foot-tall wooden privacy fence. It must remain on leash under its owner’s control, or confined in an “escape proof” kennel — the kind with a roof and secured at the bottom so the dog can dig or climb out.

    Why such precautions? Because the last time Achilles ran loose in the yard, he launched himself over two fences, about four-feet tall, and mauled Moonbear, a 12-year-old mixed breed dog owned by next-door neighbors Michael and Diane Elmore. Moonbear is seen relaxing below in a photo submitted by the Elmores. 

    Moonbear

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Already, Achilles is causing heartburn on Nokomis Circle, an unincorporated neighborhood on Colorado Springs’ eastern edge.

    The plea agreement called for Achilles to be on leash or in an escape-proof kennel whenever he is outside. But Diane Elmore said Achilles was running loose inside its fenced backyard the first night home.

    Danny Polston denies it and calls it a “big misunderstanding” and warns Elmore to mind her own business.

    Ouch. Sounds like the humans are doing as much barking as the dogs. 

    Here is a link to my previous column on Achilles.

    Any bets on how this one ends?

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  • PIT BULLS — a next-door nightmare?

    Fri, April 17, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with 24 comments

     Want to start a fight? Suggest that pit bull-type dogs are dangerous and should be banned. Folks who love the dogs will trumpet all their outstanding characteristics and, probably, accuse you of animal racism.

    Diane Elmore, who lives in an unincorporated neighborhood just east of Colorado Springs, never looked down on pit bulls. Until last August when Susan Polston moved in with her 8-year-old son and two pit bulls, Achilles, below, and Asia.

    achilles1

    Soon, Elmore said she and her family were afraid to use their backyard because of the dogs lunging at them through a fence. They didn’t even feel it was safe to let their 12-year-old mixed breed dog, Moonbear, below, out in the yard alone.
    moonbear

    Then, in October, Achilles confirmed their fears when it jumped over the fence and attacked Moonbear. Elmore’s 16-year-old son, Matthew, witnessed the attack and managed to free his pet, which suffered cuts to the ears and neck.

    An animal control officer from the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region investigated, found probable cause to cite Polston for a misdemeanor charge of owning a dangerous animal and impounded Achilles.

    Trial is set May 21. In the meantime, Achilles has been stuck at the animal shelter, which charges Polston $10 a day kennel fees. Polston has spent more than $2,100 in fees, spent $1,500 on an attorney and is angry that her dog does not get exercise while stuck at the shelter.

    Elmore is upset at the prospect Achilles might be returning to the neighborhood. Especially after a second incident involver her and Asia, Polston’s female pit bull. Elmore said Asia tried to jump the fence and attack her, a couple weeks after Achilles bit Moonbear.

    Ever since, things have been tense between the neighbors. Here’s a look at the neighborhood, south of Springs Ranch, from www.FlashEarth.com.

    achillesflash

     Wes Metzler, president of the humane society, said it’s unlikely a judge will order Achilles destroyed since the attack ended with relatively minor injuries to Moonbear, below.

    Moonbear

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    But he said a judge likely will order Polston to build a secure enclosure to prevent Achilles or Asia from getting out by jumping, climbing or digging.

    And he’s surprised how long it has taken for the case to reach trial. He said Polston could have petitioned the court to allow her to move Achilles, below, to a private boarding kennel where the dog could have daily exercise.

    achilles2

    Achilles, the pit bull, relaxes at home. He has been locked in a kennel at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region since attacking a neighbor dog, Moonbear, last October.

     
     
     
     
     
     

    As for the debate about pit bull-type dogs and whether they are safe, here are a few things to consider . . .

    In January 2009, the Pentagon banned from Army housing all dog breeds it deemed “aggressive or potentially aggressive” pit-bull types such as American staffordshire terriers and bull terriers, as well as rottweilers, doberman pinschers, chows, wolf  hybrids and any others that display a dominant or aggressive behavior.

    The Pentagon memo, dated Jan. 5, 2009, exempted those dogs already living on Army bases. If a soldier with a banned dog transfers bases, however, it would be subject to the ban. The Air Force also has enacted a breed-selective policy and the Navy is expected to do the same.

    Consider statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control. According to the CDC, between 1979 and 1996, 279 people in the U.S. were killed by dogs. Of these, 60 were killed by pit bulls. Rottweilers were second most-deadly with 29.

    In a 2000 study, the CDC reported at least 25 breeds of dogs were involved in 238 human dog bite-related deaths during the previous 20 years. Pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers were involved in more than half of
    these deaths.

    Many nations have breed-specific laws banning the import, sale or breeding of certain types of dogs, such as pit bulls, according to Dogsbite.org, a group dedicated to reducing serious dog attacks by creating laws.

    According to information on the group’s Web site,  250 U.S. cities have some sort of ban on pit bull-type dogs.

    In addition, some states are considering tougher restrictions on them and debating whether to require their owners to carry extra insurance on them. That’s because many insurance companies will no longer insure homeowners who keep the dogs.

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