Keep Fido and Fluffy Safe When the Weather Turns Cold

Published in Pawtucket Times, January 10, 2015

According to ABC 6 News, early New Years Day, Toni Liberatore, a Burrillville resident walking her dog in the extremely cold weather, called the Town’s animal control officer after she discovered an elderly Italian Greyhound lying almost unconscious under a truck parked near her home, freezing from the frigid weather.

During the news story, Liberatore  told reporter Samantha Lavien that the severely neglected dog was in bad shape.  She described the female Greyhound as being very thin, having extremely long nails, and diseased teeth.

An emotional distraught Liberatore described the condition of the dog after finding it under the truck.  “She was like holding an ice-cube to my body.  She was frozen.  She was pretty much in and out, said Liberatore. “She couldn’t hold her own head up she was extremely emaciated, I could feel every bone in her body,” she observed

ABC News exclusive story went viral, being placed on Facebook and tweeted throughout the internet, sending the story to all corners of the world.

Burrillville animal control officials moved quickly to save the elderly animal, in need of veterinary care, states Police Lt. John Connors, who oversees the town’s animal control division.  The small Greyhound, showing signs of hypothermia, was immediately transported to an emergency animal clinic for treatment. After emergency care, using heating pads and fluids to increase the animal’s body temperature, the dog, now dubbed Elsa, was than transferred to Northern Rhode Island Animal Hospital for further medical care.

After the first day of medical treatments, the dog’s temperature became normal, noted Lt. Connors.  Elsa was released two days ago.

No Intent of Abuse

Lt. Connors stated that the owner of the dog contacted his department after photos began appearing on Face book on New Years Day.  The dog had accidently escaped from his house on New Years Eve without his knowledge, the owner reported. After a through Burrillville Police investigation, with interviews of family members, friends, and neighbors, no “intent of abuse,” was found, says Lt. Connors. The veterinarian’s report did not indicate or substantiate a criminal charge for abuse or neglect, he says.  As a result, no charges were filed against the animal’s owner.

With latest blast of arctic air approaching Rhode Island, weather reporters noted that yesterday was to be the coldest day of the winter.  Throughout the day temperatures plunged to near zero, with gusts of wind lowering the thermometers to 15 degrees to 25 degrees below zero.

Neglect, abuse or mistakenly believing your pet is inside the  house, like what occurred to the elderly Greyhound in Burrillville, will put animals in severe danger if they are left out in extremely frigid weather.

Keeping Your Pet Safe

There is no excuse to leave animals outside when you go to work especially when the media gives you advanced notice that temperatures are going to plunge below zero, says John Holmes, Pawtucket’s animal control supervisor.

Holmes was prepared to handle dozens of medical emergencies resulting from the frigid weather at the Pawtucket Animal Shelter. “We were staffed, had adequate supplies and equipped to treat animals,” he says.

Although he was prepared, Holmes, a 40-year City employee who oversees two animal control officers, was relieved that only one call came in as the temperatures dropped below zero.  He attributes the lack of calls by the warning of media not to leave pets unattended outside.  “People seem to be paying attention,” he says.

Common sense will tell you when you should not leave your pet outside, says Holmes.  “Put on a warm coat.  Wear heavily gloves and a hat.  If you are cold, it is the same for your pet,” notes Holmes, stressing that people easily think that animals are not cold in frigid weather because of their thick coats of fur.

“This is just not true,” says Holmes.

Frigid Weather and Hypothermia

According to Holmes, frigid weather can result in hypothermia, when an animal’s body is no longer able to maintain normal temperature.  Severe hypothermia can result in coma and ultimately death.  Smaller breeds, very young animals, and older pets are more susceptible to rapid surface loss of body heat, putting them at a higher risk to get hypothermia.

Holmes notes that the symptoms of hypothermia depend on the severity.  These can include shivering, a slow shallow breathing, and weakness in mild cases. Muscle stiffness, low blood pressure, a blank stare, slow and shallow breathing are symptoms in the moderate state and fixed and dilated pupils, a heartbeat that’s hard to find, difficulty in breathing or coma are seen in severe cases of hypothermia.

If hypothermia occurs, Holmes recommends that the animal be wrapped in a warm blanket and quickly transported to a veterinary emergency clinic where treatment can be provided.

It is easy to protecting your pets from the cold weather, adds Holmes. Don’t take elderly, young or sick pets, especially small short haired breeds outdoors unprotected in below zero weather, for long periods of time. Just let them go out in the back yard for a few minutes if necessary. “A short walk around the block won’t hurt your animal,” he says.

Holmes asks that all concerned neighbors who notice dogs being left outside in inclement weather to call his office at the City of Pawtucket’s Animal Shelter.  We would rather be safe than sorry. . “Each and every call is taken very seriously and checked out,” he warns. After an investigation, if it is found that someone knowingly abused or neglected an animal, that person will be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions

Frigid weather is hazardous to your animal’s health. With winter’s temperatures now dipping into single digits, even below zero, make sure you keep your pet safe and warm in your home.  Be responsible.

To report a complaint about alleged animal cruelty: City of Pawtucket, contact John Holmes, Animal Control Supervisor, at 401 722-4243. Or write Animal Control Division, 121 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket, RI 0286. Web site: http://www.pawtucketanimalshelter.org.  Or call 401-722-4243.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer that covers medical, aging and health care issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

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Job Hunting No Easy Chore as You Grow Older

Published in the Pawtucket Times, November 29, 2013

Last Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics brought bad news to over 57,000 job-less Rhode Islanders. According to the federal agency, Rhode Island’s unemployment rate of 9.2 percent is the nation’s second highest, followed by Nevada’s rate that is one percent higher. Compare this to 7.3 percent, the national jobless rate for that month.

When hearing about the Ocean State’s national distinction of having one of the highest unemployment rates among fifty states, Henry Rosenthal, an Oak Hill, Pawtucket resident since 1955, who has been unemployed for 16 months, called it a “real disgrace. The dismal statistics released only confirmed what the older job hunter personally knows from sending out hundreds of resumes, it’s an extremely tough job market.

Older Job Seeker Can’t Find Work

But, to make matters worse, 63-year-old Rosenthal, and other aging baby boomers, will bluntly tell you that age discrimination is derailing their efforts of finding meaningful work that pays a decent wage and benefits.

Even if you totally believe that your age keeps you from getting a job, it is not always easy to sue because it is tough to prove, says Rosenthal.

In April 2012, his Dallas-based employer downsized, which led to Rosenthal losing his sales job of selling loan origination software to banks. Throughout his 45 year employment career, he had a very stable employment record. He only recalls two other jobs that were lost due to his lack of seniority when corporate mergers occurred.

Rosenthal, a graduate of Temple University, had always been able to find a new position quickly when losing a job because of his “skill set and previous work experience,” he says.

But today things are different.

Rhode Island’s puttering economy has kept Rosenthal from easily landing a new position. In the few times he was able to get his foot in the door for an interview, he was told afterwards that he was “perfectly qualified” for the position, in some instances even over-qualified, but ultimately he received no job offer.

“I honestly believe that jobs have not been offered to me because of age,” charges Rosenthal, who believes that ”younger people who oversee the hiring tend to be intimated with the older job applicants and feel threatened.”

Although it is against federal law [The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967] to ask applicants how old they are, “it’s easy to figure out how old a person is,” notes Rosenthal. “By asking when you graduated high school and college a company can figure out your age,” he says.

It’s About Who You Know

During his ongoing job search, Rosenthal quickly realized that in many cases it might just take a personal relationship in a company to get an interview. With all of his previous employers based either across the nation or located all over the world, he has very few contacts with the local business community, he notes.

“Unless you get a direct reference or have a personal connection with a potential employer, they just might hire a younger applicant because they can pay less money or think they won’t take time off because of health issues,” he quips.

“Research findings will tell you that older workers are more responsible and loyal than their younger colleagues, and have a better work ethic, too,” Rosenthal is quick to say. Don’t believe that older workers take more time off then younger employees, he adds.

As Thanksgiving approaches, Rosenthal keeps plugging along sending out resumes hoping to reel in that full-time job. With being two years shy of age 65, he says, “I am just not interested in retiring because I don’t have enough hobbies or interests to keep me busy.”

Like many other long-term unemployed Rhode Islanders, Rosenthal just tries to keep the faith, realizing that “sooner or later something will turn up. To survive, “you don’t look backward you just look forward.”

What Some Polls Say

It seems that Rosenthal is not alone in his belief that age can make a job search more challenging to find full-time employment. According to an Associated Press-NORC Center poll results, detailed in “Working Longer: Older Americans’ Attitudes on Work and Retirement,” 55 percent of those 50 and over who searched for employment in the past five years viewed their search as difficult, and 43 percent thought employers were concerned about their age.

The poll found that 69 percent of the older job seekers reported few available jobs 63 percent say the jobs did not pay well, nor did they offer good benefits (53 percent). Around one-third of the respondents were told they were over qualified [like Rosenthal].

But the October 2013 poll also revealed that some employers do value older workers. Forty three percent of the older respondents seeking employment in the last five years say they encountered a high demand for their skills, and 31 percent say there was a high demand for their experiences.

According to the poll’s findings, “unemployed people aged 45 to 54 were out of work 45 weeks on average, those 55 to 64 were jobless for 57 weeks and those 65 and older an average of 51 weeks.”

Meanwhile, an AARP poll also released last month, found age discrimination “rampant” in New York City for those age 50 and over. The researchers found that when an aging baby boomer loses a job it may take them about 4 months longer than younger job seekers to find another one.

Forty eight percent of the survey respondents claim they either personally experienced age discrimination or witnessed it directed at a family member or friend who has turned fifty years old. Almost half of these respondents either personally or witnessed a person not being hired because of their age.

Increasing Your Odds of Finding Work

Kathy Aguiar, principal employment and training interviewer at West Warwick-based Network Rhode Island Career Center. agrees with Rosenthal’s personal observations and the above cited poll results that indicate that older job seekers can be blocked from gaining meaningful employment by age discrimination. However, Aguiar, who has 25 years of assisting Rhode Island’s unemployed get work, tells me that there are job hunting skills and techniques that you can use to increase your odds in finding that job.

“It’s not the 1980s and with a 9.3 percent unemployment rate you must change with the times,” urges Aguiar, stressing that the 80s way of writing a resume is totally outdated today.

If your resume is not formatted correctly, computer systems, called Applicant Tracking Systems, won’t identify you as a potential candidate, says Aguiar, who says that “75 percent of the applicants applying by internet will be thrown out of the selection process because of this problem.”

Applicant Tracking Systems will skip over employment history if you put that information under “career development” instead of “work experience,” on your resume, adds Aguiar. “Always put the company’s name first, followed by job title, and employment dates.”

Aguiar warns applicants not to save resumes as PDF files because Applicant Tracking Systems cannot read this documents. Save it on a word file, she recommends.

Today, one resume does not fit all, notes Aguiar. Especially in Rhode Island you have to target your resume to the position you are seeking. You have to revise your resume to the position you are seeking. .

A well-written resume combined with using Social Media, including Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter, and good networking skills can lead to a successful job search, adds Aguiar.

Finally, one of the best ways to get an interview and ultimately becoming gainfully employed is by finding someone within a company to be a personal reference. “Who you know is still important, especially in Rhode Island.” You may even get extra points when your resume is reviewed because of the internal reference, she says.

National polls tell us that ageism is running rampant in the employment sector. You can not deny its existence when you continue to hear stories from those age 50 and over unemployed family members, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, who tell you about their frustrating and very challenging experiences of seeking gainful employment.

Only in this country do we not value the wisdom and knowledge that our elders provide us. It is time for a change in our thinking and attitudes.

If an employer is worried about his bottom line, just consider hiring an older worker. You will most certainly will get the bang for your buck by bringing in an aging baby boomer who is loyal, dependable, and brings a skill set and life experience that most certainly will benefit your company. To me, it’s a no brainer.

Herb Weiss LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com

So, Who Was Harry Weathersby Stamps

Published in the Pawtucket Times, March 22, 2013

         Once upon a time, the New York Times was reputed to publish the best, the most colorful obituaries that wove resume-like facts and personal stories together, to concisely sum up a person’s life and death.  Now the legendary daily newspaper has competition.  With the passing of Harry Weathersby Stamps on March 9, 2013, his obituary was printed in the Sun Herald, his hometown newspaper.  The daily paper, covering South Mississippi, called it “the best obit ever.”  I totally agree.  More interesting to me is that the obituary, written by his daughter, has gone viral on Twitter and Facebook, and emails, receiving rave reviews around the world. .   

             During a very long drive to Long Beach, Mississippi, where Stamps had died at home, surrounded by family, daughter Amanda Lewis, an attorney at Irving, Texas-based TRT Holdings, penned the obituary  [edited by her sister Alison Stamps] of her eighty-year old father, a former educator at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College at the Jeff Davis Campus.

             Lewis’s colorful, light-hearted and humorous 841 word obituary, detailing her father’s extreme quirky, likes and dislikes, has now caught the attention of the nation through the news media, even the entire world via the world-wide web.

 So who was Harry Stamps?

             According to Lewis, her father was a “ladies’ man,” “foodie,” “natty dresser,” and even a “accomplished traveler.”  He disliked phonies, she noted, especially “know-it-all Yankees, Southerners who used the words ‘veranda’ and ‘porte cochere’ to put on airs, eating grape leaves, Law and Order (all franchises), cats, and even Martha Stewart. That is in reverse order, she quipped.

            But he did love his 1969 Volvo. 

            As to the important women throughout his eight decades, there were many, Lewis reveals in the published obituary.  Almost 50 years ago her father married his “main squeeze, Ann Moore, a home economics teacher, raising two girls, Amanda and Alison, she said.   

            Lewis fondly remembers that her father taught her along with her sister how “to fish, to select a quality hammer, to love nature, and to just be thankful,”  taking “great pride in stocking their tool boxes.”

            The obituary notes that Stamps beloved mother, the late Wilma Hatzog, raised him in his teenage years with the help of her sisters and cousins in New Hebron.“He worshipped his older sister Lynn Stamps Garner (deceased), a character in her own right, and her daughter Lynda Lightsey of Hattiesburg,” Lewis said.

             More over, Lewis says that her father loved his grandchildren. “He took extreme pride in his two grandchildren Harper Lewis (8) and William Stamps Lewis (6) of Dallas for whom he would crow like a rooster on their phone calls, she said.

 Who Says Politics and Religion Don’t Mix?

             As to politics, “One of his regrets was not seeing his girl, Hillary Clinton, elected President,” adds Lewis, who noted that her father was a former government and sociology professor.  She shared that Stamps, with an interest in both politics and religion, “enjoyed watching politicians act like preachers and preachers act like politicians.”

             Lewis remembers him often saying, “I am not running for political office or trying to get married” when he was “speaking the truth.” .

             The obituary noted that over Stamp’s lifetime, he had developed culinary tastes for particular delicacies.  Her father made his “signature” bacon and tomato sandwich with “100% all white Bunny Bread from Georgia, Blue Plate mayonnaise from New Orleans, Sauer’s black pepper from Virginia, home grown tomatoes from outside Oxford, and Tennessee’s Benton bacon from his bacon-of-the-month subscription.”   

            He even openly had “a life-long love affair with deviled eggs, Lane cakes, boiled peanuts, Vienna [pronounced Vi-e-na] sausages on saltines, his homemade canned fig preserves, pork chops, turnip greens, and buttermilk served in martini glasses garnished with cornbread,” she admitted.  

Juggling Many Hobbies in Retirement

            What does Stamps’ obituary say about his many hobbies and leisure activities?

            Her farther, having green thumbs, “excelled at growing camellias,” says Lewis. His knack for carpentry, were just the skills needed for “rebuilding houses after hurricanes [like Katrina],” she notes.

            Because history was important to Stamps, he would read any history book he could get his hands on, Lewis said. As for his love of cable programming, the history buff “loved to use his oversized ‘old man’ remote control, which thankfully survived Hurricane Katrina, to flip between watching The Barefoot Contessa and anything on The History Channel,“ she added.

            “Rocking,” eradicating mole crickets from his front yard,” composting pine needles,” living within his means,” and even “outsmarting squirrels, never losing a game of competitive sickness,” also tweaked his interest, too, in his later years, Lewis observed.  

            As to military service, “he also took pride in his service during the Korean conflict, serving the rank of corporal–just like Napoleon, as he would say,” Lewis penned in the obituary. .

            Lewis acknowledged that her father “took fashion cues from no one.”  Usually his daily dress, was a “plain pocketed T-shirt designed by the fashion house Fruit of the Loom.  Black-label elastic waist shorts were worn above the navel and sold exclusively at the Sam’s on Highway 49.  He sported a pair of old school Wallabees.  But most will remember his wearing of a grass-stained MSU baseball cap, she said.

            On his many family vacations, Lewis remembered her father “only stayed in the finest quality AAA-rated campgrounds, his favorite being Indian Creek outside Cherokee, North Carolina.”   The avid outdoorsman always upgraded his tent rental to have a creek view.  Later in life he would purchase a used pop-up camper for “his family to travel in style, which spoiled his daughters for life,” she said. 

            The obituary concluded by noting that a private, family only service would be held, because of Stamps’ “irrational fear that his family would throw him a golf-themed funeral despite his hatred for the sport.”  A “theme” free funeral was held.

            The family urged friends, and colleagues of Stamps to “write your Congressman and ask for the repeal of Day Light Savings Time.”  Why?  Stamps wanted “everyone to get back on the Lord’s Time.”  

Stamps Obituary Goes Viral

            On a very slow news day, the “finely crafted words of this loving tribute” published in the Sun Herald quickly spread, from one person to another by Facebook postings, Tweeting, and emails, sending the heartwarming obituary viral, from Long Beach to all corners of the world, noted Vice President and Executive Editor Stan Tiner, in his March 14th column touching on Lewis’ “seamless” obituary.

            “In the days that followed, the tsunami-like power of the Harry Stamps obituary washed away records on our website, with only Hurricane Katrina remaining above this viral surge of page views,” said an amazed Tiner in his column, who noted within days the company’s website recorded a whopping 530,000 page views with the obituary drawing a considerable part of that traffic. Even the following day visits exceeded 500,000 page views, he said. 

            Meanwhile, a front page story in the Sun Herald about the previously printed “well crafted” obituary attracted reader interest, in the next days becoming the newspapers “all-time single-story record-holder with more than 100,000 page views,” added Tiner.

            “Untold thousands heralded the late college dean and the perfect obituary. One tweet called him “the most interesting man in the world,” said Tiner in his column, noting that Stamps “everyman common sense, taste and humor brought to mind a modern-day Will Rogers.”

            Yes, Lewis’ colorfully-written obituary clearly details her father’s total persona, his spirit, most certainly, his uniqueness.  In life, he chose to march to a different drummer, his family knew this and accepted it, too. In death, his life story told by his obituary keeps his memory alive in the hearts of his wife, Ann, daughters Amanda and Alison, and to the millions of people, including this columnist, who now know him.

            To see the original obituary, go to http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sunherald/obituary.aspx?pid=163538353#storylink=cpy

            Herb Weiss, LRI ’12 is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers health care, aging and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.