If you're a pet-loving Houstonian, you might have heard the tale of Harley the dog. A black Lab mix, he was found wandering around after Hurricane Rita, his back badly burned.
Houston's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took him in and sent him to a medical facility for his injuries. He returned to the shelter, where he became a symbol of the agency's efforts after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Harley made a splash at such events as the annual Mutt Strut, where the HSPCA puts its best foot forward. He was ready to be adopted.
How's Harley doing now? He's...ummmm...dead. And not from the back burns, or post-hurricane traumatic stress. The HSPCA euthanized him -- by mistake.
We'd heard rumors of Harley's demise, so we called Alice Sarmiento, the HSPCA's vice president of development and community outreach. And all we can say to budding journalists out there is -- kids, it's important to ask those follow-up questions:
Sarmiento: I did call into the shelter. Harley was euthanized. He got sick while he was at the shelter.
Hair Balls (thinking "Gee, I guess the rumor was wrong" but double-checking to be sure): Was he meant to be euthanized?
Sarmiento: (thinking, no doubt, "Damn, I stayed on the phone one question too long"): My understanding is that it was a mistake and actually the person that was responsible for that is no longer with the organization. It's just a huge mistake that was made.
Yeah, especially from Harley's viewpoint.
Sarmiento says Harley developed kennel cough, but that shouldn't have put him on the kill list. "It was a mistake everyone extremely regrets," she says. "I mean, he'd been through a lot."
Hurricanes, fire -- that's child's play compared with the HSPCA.
The former employee who tipped us to Harley's demise says HSPCA director Patricia Mercer requested workers to tell anyone who asked about Harley that the dog had been adopted out. Sarmiento denies that.
"We're honest about the fact we're not a no-kill facility," she says.
We're sure Harley, up there in Doggie Heaven, appreciates that. (For our special edition of Ken Hoffman's Pethouse Pet of the Week, click here.)
Houston Rockets forward Juwan Howard played a nice part in the utter dismalness of the team's season, and it looks like his off-season won't be much better. He's under investigation for shoplifting a $2,000 pair of sunglasses from a Miami store. He has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged as of press time.
We called Dimitry Logins, owner of South Beach's Eye Q store, to talk about a six-foot-nine black guy trying to be inconspicuous enough to shoplift. We half expected to get no more than a terse "no comment," but Logins is one chatty son of a gun:
Q. Do a lot of NBA players visit your store?
A. I'm not into remembering all the names. I don't watch the NBA or all the sports...Occasionally, because I don't know who the player is, I'll ask them and double-check the ID. So I get sometimes, what do you call it, like an attitude from these guys.
Q. What is it about your store that attracts celebrities?
A. Most likely because we carry all the top-quality, popular, exclusive items...And the way we handle people, we don't ask for autographs, we don't run to take pictures. And if we see somebody who is a VIP we'll often lock the doors and make sure no one comes in to distract them.
Q. Who have you done that for?
A. Sylvester Stallone. Mike Tyson. Alonzo Mourning. Spewel -- what's his name, [Latrell] Sprewell?...Who else, who else? P. Diddy, on a regular basis. A whole bunch of rappers. 50 Cent. Snoopy Dogg. People basically from all walks of life. [Hair Balls note: "Snoopy Dogg" apparently raps about the Red Baron and the little bald-headed kid.]
Q. Were you surprised about Juwan Howard? Here's a six-foot-nine black guy. How can he not stand out?
A. Well, first of all, the color makes no difference. We respect every person who walks through that door.
Q. Well, then, he's just a muscular six-foot-nine man shoplifting?...Why would he think he could get away with it?
A. I don't think he was thinking...The surveillance video is pretty incriminating.
Again, Howard hasn't been charged with anything. "I will vigorously defend myself and am confident I'll be cleared of these baseless allegations," he said in a written statement.
Seeing how few steals Howard had this season, he might just be right.
The Halls of Academe
Disgruntlement reigns among the faculty of Houston Community College. It's just that it's not always clear who the disgruntlement is aimed at.
HCC Chancellor Bruce Leslie is widely expected to be stepping down after more than five years. One faculty member spoke with Leslie and says, "his comment to me was that it is obviously going to happen and he has several good years left and he will find a job somewhere else."
Leslie, who declined to comment, still has three years on his contract. But he's been ensnarled in the ongoing HCC mess for a while (see "Gift Basket Bonanza," August 12, 2004). Board members recently told him they would not block him if he got a better job offer elsewhere, which is odd because some faculty see him as a board puppet. (He commissioned an investigation against a high-ranking HCC employee while ignoring allegations against a board member, for one thing.)
Stepping into the fray has been the faculty senate. They met May 3 and debated as only faculty members can.
And then they passed a resolution. One heavy on the "whereas," such as "whereas lack of public confidence in the stability and integrity of the governance of HCC will threaten our college." And so the resolution thundered that the Faculty Senate "strongly urge[s] the Board of Trustees to act in such a way as to reinforce student, employee and public confidence" in the school.
That was it. No further details were given as to what they were complaining about or wanted to change.
"We didn't want to get into the politics of a vote of no confidence in the board, because the board can retaliate," says one faculty member. "We still have to work with them. So how do you do that delicate dance?"
Only by putting your balls in hock, apparently.
Senate president David Wilcox wrote faculty members that some attendees supported the board and some the chancellor, and that the resolution had been described as "well crafted, politically astute and something all faculty could ultimately support."
Which, we guess, is one definition of "useless."
Tales of the BBB
There are a million sad stories in the files of the Houston chapter of the Better Business Bureau. Well, maybe not a million, but there are quite a few. And here is one of them, SAO Marketing Listing Service on Westheimer Road.
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