Showing posts with label dogs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dogs. Show all posts

02 May 2024

Where's the Documentary?: RFK Jr. Edition - and Kristi Noem

It's amazing how many people here in South Dakota do not know that on September 28, 1983, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. was arrested in Rapid City, South Dakota for possession and ingestion of heroin.

Some backstory: After being sworn in in 1982 as assistant district attorney in Manhattan, RFK Jr. failed the bar exam and resigned in July 1983, saying he needed a rest. Apparently he hadn't shared with anyone, including his employers, the fact that he'd been doing heroin since at least 1969, when he was 15 years old. (He later told the New Yorker (July 7, 2023), “I was a heroin addict for fourteen years. I’m lucky to be alive. People have plenty of reason to write me off forever because of the way I conducted my life during that fourteen-year period.")

Anyway, in September, he ended up on a Republic flight to Rapid City, where he either

  1. got into a spat with another traveler on the flight, and went to the toilet where he did some heroin, OR
  2. fell sick on an airplane (most likely from doing heroin in the toilet) on the way out there.

In any case, when the plane arrived in the airport, the Rapid City police met the plane at the airport and arrested him for possession of a small amount of heroin. Who also met him at the airport was Bill Walsh, the prior owner of the Franklin Hotel in Deadwood a state congressman, ex-priest, now in the SD Hall of Fame, and strong Democrat, allegedly to help Robert Jr to a rehab center. (Anonymous source)

"Heroin possession is a Class 4 felony with a penalty that may include a fine of up to $20,000, up to 10 years in prison, or both.
The maximum penalty for the unlawful ingestion of a Schedule I or II controlled drug or substance is 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine." (South Dakota Law Code)

Being from a famous, wealthy, and white family, RFK Jr. did not get either of those sentences. It probably also helped that his defense attorney was John Fitzpatrick Sr, who'd moved from Boston to Rapid City after the mob injured his leg with a car bomb. (At the time, he was representing a mob hitman who the mob feared was about to become an informant. He later became a SD judge.)

Now I admit, this steams me up: For one thing, instead of jail time pending trial and sentencing, RFK Jr. got to go to a drug treatment center. (I have no idea which one.) That doesn't happen for poor folk. Or even "middle class" folk. For one thing, inpatient drug treatment centers cost a lot of money. Try between $10,000 and $30,000 on average for a 30 day program, and not all health insurance will cover it. (Source) And I know far too many people who have been sentenced to the full 10 years plus 5 years, and been slapped with the $30,000 fine, which they can only afford to pay off if deal drugs as soon as they get out to raise the cash. That or win the lottery.

Anyway, finally, at the last moment, RFK pled guilty to a single felony charge of possession of heroin in February 1984, and got two years' probation and community service. Kennedy did his community service working as a volunteer for Riverkeeper, an environmental organization in the Hudson Valley (not in Rapid City) founded by Robert H. Boyle (SPOILER ALERT: This will be very important in a few moments!) and was required to attend regular drug-rehabilitation sessions. His probation ended a year early. Chances are, his record has been expunged as well. (Wikipedia, UPI.)

First of all, good for RFK, Jr., that he got clean and stayed clean.

Secondly, this is not the story that would make a great documentary.


A while back, Washington Post did a story on Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s tenure at Riverkeeper, from his volunteer year of commnity service (see above) to becoming their senior attorney in 1985, to his dramatic resignation in 2017 where he said (completely falsely) “It is extraordinarily difficult to leave the organization which I co-founded thirty-three years ago, built from the ground up and to which I’ve devoted most of my career."

As I said before, Riverkeeper was founded by Robert H. Boyle, a renowned environmentalist, was the founder of the original organization, Hudson River Fisherman's Association (HRFA) in 1966, which later changed its name to Riverkeeper. HRFA and Riverkeeper's purpose was to clean up the Hudson River, and to continue to fight environmental pollution in the Hudson River Valley. They were very successful. (Wikipedia)

So what happened?

Well, RFK Jr. had risen through the ranks to become Riverkeeper's primary attorney and a very important fundraiser for the organization. He also co-founded an environmental litigation clinic at Pace Law School in 1987 that worked primarily on cases for Riverkeeper. John Humbach, a former Pace law professor and associate dean, said Kennedy quickly became famous among students as a dazzling instructor. And he had, as they say, connections with the rich, famous, and politically active.

But not everyone was dazzled:

Alex Boyle, son of Robert H. Boyle, became wary of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. following an incident when they were collecting samples from Quassaick Creek. “I said to my father, ‘You have a pet rattlesnake. Eventually he’s going to bite you.’” (Jeenah Moon for The Washington Post)

And then in 1999, he hired William Wegner. "Kennedy described him as a skilled scientist, but Riverkeeper had not been looking for a scientist. As Boyle later described it, he became suspicious — and then horrified — as he began digging into Wegner’s background. Wegner, then 49, had been released from federal prison just a few months earlier, after serving about 3½ years of a five-year sentence for tax fraud, perjury and conspiracy to violate wildlife protection laws. The charges all sprang from his roughly decade-long run as the alleged kingpin of a smuggling ring that trafficked in Australian cockatoos.

Richard.Fisher derivative work: Snowmanradio,
originally posted to flickr at Major Mitchell's Cockatoo
at Australia Zoo
and uploaded to commons at

"According to prosecutors, Wegner recruited a team of at least 10 “mules” who raided tree hollows in Australia to steal the birds’ eggs. The mules incubated the eggs using Styrofoam and hair dryers and then hid their contraband in special vests as they flew back to the United States. If the eggs hatched en route, Wegner’s couriers had instructions to flush the chicks down the airplane toilet."

"Boyle was livid when he learned about Wegner’s past and ordered that he be fired. Kennedy objected, taking his case to the board. Among other things, he argued that Wegner was an experienced scientist who would come cheap because of his inability to find other work and that his crimes had involved birds so common in Australia they were considered agricultural pests. 'Every species that he smuggled was a vermin species that the Australian government was paying people to destroy,' RFK Jr. said. But that was a lie: Today at least three of the species targeted by Wegner’s ring are listed as endangered by the Australian government.'

RFK Jr. also said that Wagner had been working for "environmental consulting firms" in the Hudson River Valley for years. That also was a lie.

What RFK Jr. didn't say was that he and Wagner had an old bond, an obsession with raptors: “We weren’t friends,” he said in an interview. “I mean, we’re friends in terms of — you know, I’m kind of a friend with anyone who’s flying a hawk. You have an instant basis for friendship.”

But the two did share a close mutual friend and fellow Hudson Valley falconer, Thomas Cullen III. Cullen, whom Kennedy described to The Post as “one of my best friends,” appears in a November 2023 campaign video about the presidential candidate’s love of falconry.

Now this is interesting: Cullen himself was also involved in bird smuggling: in 1984, he was arrested by Australian authorities, who alleged he had been climbing a tree with a hatchet in a wildlife sanctuary in Western Australia, trying to steal eggs from a cockatoo’s nesting hollow. He pleaded guilty to charges in Australia and paid a fine. Cullen was never charged by U.S. officials in connection with Wegner’s smuggling conspiracy, which according to federal records involved several falconers from the Hudson Valley. But in 2006, Cullen was sentenced to four months in prison and a $1,000 fine for importing black sparrow hawks in violation of the Wild Bird Conservation Act and making false statements to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Anyway, there was a board meeting over the whole Wagner hullabaloo, and RFK, Jr. managed to turn enough people to his side that he won by 13 to 8. Boyle, and his supporters, quit immediately.

With Boyle gone, RFK Jr. was President of Riverkeeper, until 2017, when he resigned for two reasons: "the toll on his family by his cross-country commute from California and the demands of his work with World Mercury Project, the anti-vaccine group that would soon become Children’s Health Defense. Under Kennedy’s leadership, the annual revenue of Children’s Health Defense would balloon from a half-million dollars to more than $23 million, placing it in the vanguard of anti-vaccination advocacy groups."

The man who had discovered an already successful environmental group while doing court-imposed community service now falsely claimed to have founded Riverkeeper, which he said had “a budget of zero” before he arrived. “It is extraordinarily difficult to leave the organization which I co-founded thirty-three years ago, built from the ground up and to which I’ve devoted most of my career,” Kennedy wrote.

In an interview with The Post, Kennedy said his resignation letter “was certainly accurate as to what I believed at that time.” He added, “I have no memory of writing that letter, and I have no memory of anybody disputing anything that I said about my role at Riverkeeper.”

The Boyles did.

(The full source article from Washington Post is HERE: WaPO)

So, when is the Netflix or Hulu documentary coming out?


Congratulations to everyone who managed to NOT spend the weekend killing a pet dog, or a smelly billy goat, or reading about any of this. (All you have to do is look up "Kristi Noem Killed Dog" and you will be flooded with websites and memes, saying everything more eloquently, sarcastically, and profanely than even I can.)

What I will say is that many people did not realize that our Governor has done other peculiar things:

On April 6, 2019, she gathered her family around a caged raccoon and they proceeded to kill it as good family fun. She posted the pictures on her very public Governor Kristi Noem Facebook page, which you can find easily, and the date, as I said, is April 6, 2019. The pictures are still there as is this blurb:

"Love seeing kids this excited about being outside!! Our nest predator bounty program launched this week, and we’re seeing great results. Let’s get kids away from the X-box and out with the live box!"

Scared raccoon, live in a box.   Dead raccoon out of the box.
Scared raccoon, live in a box.   Dead raccoon out of the box.

This was all part of her Predator Bounty project, which pays people $10 per tail to kill animals that (could) eat pheasant eggs. It has become a habit up here for locals to stop when they see roadkill of a possum or raccoon to stop and cut off the tail. It's an easy $10. If you have a hatchet or a sharp enough knife.

She asked for a flamethrower for as a Christmas gift the next year, and her staff gave it to her. So of course she made an Instagram photo with it: (LINK)

Also, she's been the centerpiece of a national workforce recruitment campaign, with herself in various job uniforms saying, basically, come to South Dakota and find jobs and freedom (the ad company was paid $2.9 million for this is out of Minnesota, not South Dakota, so ironically, there's no ad jobs here, at least not for state government). Hilariously, Sen. Michael Rohl, R-Aberdeen said, “I certainly hope the next phase isn’t highlighting a need for veterinarians."

I can see it now: Kristi dressed as a veterinarian, while a wire-haired pointer tries frantically to scrabble its way off the examination table... Jobs and freedom, people.


My brand new story, "At the Dig" is in Black Cat Weekly #138. (HERE)

And let's not forget the wonderful anthologies, Murder Neat and Paranoia Blues, both available on which have, respectively, my "Bad Influence" and "Cool Papa Bell" in them:


07 January 2024

Caesar and the Hotbox

Kaiser Henry J (1951)
Kaiser Henry J (1951)

Last week, RT wrote about his family’s Christmas, which shared touchpoints with my family. Among other things, both families owned Kaisers, supposedly a bit ahead of the pack in styling. Of interest to mystery fans, Kaiser sponsored early Dumont Network Adventures of Ellery Queen television shows.

We experienced a somewhat different Christmas Kaiser story. I was too young to know details, but Dad scrapped one of the Kaisers. I think he swapped engines or something, but the vehicle disappeared leaving only its rugged windows which he used to make hotboxes.

Hotboxes or hotbeds (sometimes confusingly called cold frames) are miniature greenhouses, bottomless wood frames with glass lids. They trap heat, moisture, and sunlight, allowing seedlings to get an early start and extend the growing season through autumn.

Dad built a row of hotboxes between the grape arbor and the orchard. The salvaged windows were sturdy and couldn’t be broken under ordinary use. The last garden vegetables were harvested late in the year and the hotbox was tucked into its, er, hotbed until next spring. Snow came and covered the landscape, but heat retention melted it over the hotboxes, exposing the glass.

Rat Terrier
Rat Terrier ©

Did I mention our farm dogs? We had two, our venerable samoyed who looked like snow itself, and a ranch terrier named Caesar. It’s unfair to say Caesar was dumb just because he never studied Newtonian physics.

Ever watch a dog catch a frisbee? To calculate the launch point, speed, angle, curvature, and interception point requires an astonishing degree of calculus, and yet our dogs execute that program routinely. Just because Caesar skipped the class on heat conductivity and expansion would not normally have impacted his life. But miss that lesson he did and therein lies the flub.

So I’m outside in the snow and the terrier is out in the snow and the samoyed is out in the snow, and the fields and forests are beautiful on that gloriously cold day where temperatures hovered near zero Fahrenheit. Although I really wanted to tramp through the woods with my Red Ryder BB gun, I milked and fed and watered the livestock trailed by the dogs.

Last step was to feed the rabbits, stationed near the hotbeds. One of the hutches housed a peg-legged Bantam pullet that other poultry tormented. Thus Peggy lived amid the much nicer Easter bunnies.

So I was tending the rabbits and Caesar nosed along the hotboxes. He sniffed, and sniffed again. He raised his leg. Did I mention Caesar hadn’t passed the science section on heat expansion? In this case, ignorance was not bliss.

So he snuffled a box and raised a hind leg. He hovered. Some of you know what hovering is all about. His nose twitched. His bladder tickled. That signal in his canine brain switched on and, well you know, the tanks pressurized and began to expel warm body temperature liquid in a hot stream against cold glass and– here comes the physics lesson– it exploded.

Not like a cannonball, not like a bomb, but it exploded like tossing gasoline onto a fire with a deep, vibrant Whumph! Like a bull rider tossed from the back of a steer, the dog levitated sixteen feet in the air.

Caesar yelped an ancestral scream that harked back to Brutus and Cassius, a baying to end all bays, a yowl that echoed across the frozen landscape. Like a Tex Avery canine, his wheels were churning before he hit earth again. He shot through the orchard, ricochetting off trees and bouncing into sheds crying pitifully, not merely because his morning ceremony had been interrupted. The terrier was terrified.

Hotbox BC (before canine) Hotbox AD (after dog)
Hotbox BC (before canine)
Hotbox AD (after dog)

For the next week, he crossed and recrossed his legs, his eyes turning yellow from water retention. He slunk under one of the barns, peering out in fright.

Raccoons eventually evicted him and the day came when his urinary tract could bear no more. The samoyed and I politely turned our backs for the next twelve and a half minutes whilst Caesar drained the reservoirs and then collapsed in the snow.

The skittish dog could not be persuaded to attend our rabbits in the orchard. These were pre-cellular days, so he didn’t have to worry about anyone posting embarrassing videos on the Web. Still, word got around and squirrels would sneak up behind him, clap their paws and shout, “Bang!” and then laugh and laugh.

While he never fathered a pup, there’s no truth to the rumor Caesar went all friends-with-benefits with the cute spaniel in the next county or that her doggy-style birth control was a sharp bark.

Philologists might note that Kaiser is rooted in the word Caesar, but no one dared tell the dog. And that is the tale of Caesar and the Kaiser hotbox.

12 February 2023

Lost puppies and the consequences of silence

I often write about the lost puppies – the issues that impact our lives but are lost in silence.

I’ve written a few articles on grief following the death of Carol, my dearest friend. The immense loss and prolonged grief of losing a friend is not on most people's radar, so many don’t ask, don’t talk about this and leave it in the realm of silence.

Silence is the worst prescription for healing. I say this as a doctor with expertise and decades of clinical experience in mental health. Yes, I’m that kind of doctor and that is exactly why I write about the lost puppy issues – to bring them out of the dark, silent places into the chatty, healing light.

Here I am again, on a lost puppy issue and this one is literally, and not just figuratively, about puppies.

Let me introduce you to Kai, my 100 pound Bouvier.

We met her as a tiny 15 pound puppy and, when flying her home from Toronto, Carol met us at the airport because she was always the first to meet all my dogs and children. Carol held Kai and, when she saw my look of longing to hold the pup, Carol responded by saying, “You have a lifetime to hold her, let me have this.” Yes, Carol was that kind of friend who could read my mind.

When Kai came home, she refused to be crated or even lie on the floor quietly. Unlike any other dog I’ve had, she wanted to be carried. At some point that night, out of sheer exhaustion, I carried her onto the bed and fell asleep with her. She slept the whole night, didn’t wet the bed and our nightly routine of sleeping together began. Kai was the first dog in 30 years of living with dogs that had done this. 

From the start, Kai was a calm but ardent student of language - a true kindred spirit. She listened carefully and developed an understanding of many words and phrases. As a family, we have had to modify our conversations so that Kai didn’t get excited about things we talked about in the past. We tried spelling words, but she soon picked up spelling too so woe to anyone who mentioned or spelled ‘car’ because that’s where you’d end up taking her.

Kai proved to a dog who not only remembers language but also music, so watching TV became difficult. She would rush into the room if she heard a familiar tune for an ad with a dog and then bark at the intruder. Kai also understands the meaning of music, so any music that sounded violent or frightening during a film would elicit barking. Luckily, I'm happier reading than watching TV.

When Kai went to obedience classes, she progressed so quickly that she was kicked out of advanced obedience because of boredom and put into a more challenging therapy dog course at the age of seven months. She sailed through that. She was a natural student, curious and calm.

When Carol got a cancer diagnosis, I flew back and forth to Toronto and Kai knew when I was leaving and that displeased her. She’s a bouvier, so her displeasure was signalled not by whining or acting out but by a calm, sad look. When I got back, I was often gutted, more so as it became evident that Carol was dying, and Kai was there by my side. Refusing to leave me even for a minute. Bouviers are work dogs and I suspect she was trying to fix me. I appreciated the effort. 

In my mind, Carol and Kai are forever linked. I spoke to both of them constantly and both understood the important things I felt. 

 The last few weeks have been difficult. Kai was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy - the normal prognosis is six months to a year - much shorter than our expectations of having her for 5 years more.

We’re working off the hypothesis that this may be food related and reversible but it may not be. Regardless, I will lose this dog one day - sooner or later.

All the research on loss of a beloved pet shows that it can impact us as much as any loss with one important difference: the ability of those around us to understand the extent of this loss. When we experience grief, our brains undergo physical changes that can affect our thought processes and emotions. If the individual who is sick and dying is a husband, wife or child, people understand more easily and allow us to speak. This social support is a crucial ingredient in recovering from grief of all kinds but, as we know, many people think that pets are less important than people so many pet owners grieve in silence. 

If we stay silent, then all sorts of things grow: loneliness, bitterness, cynicism and anger. The consequences of silence are not merely unpleasant - they can be dangerous if they blossom into mental health issues like depression and suicidal ideation or even anger management issues.

There are consequences to silence on all issues of import and that is why we should all be brave – speak up.

22 October 2022

A Look Behind the Names

Well, only a little bit is by me today.  Instead, it's my pleasure to welcome friend, colleague, and fellow Canuck Judy Penz Sheluk to these pages.  Judy hits on a topic particularly dear to my heart. I'll tell you why after her post.
— Melodie

A Look Behind the Names

by Judy Penz Sheluk

If you follow me on social media, you'll know I'm the owner of  Golden Retriever named Gibbs (after Leroy Jethro Gibbs of the long-running TV show NCIS). Gibbs, who will turn seven on October 15, is a good dog who lives up to the stubborn streak of his namesake and the Semper Fi (always faithful) motto of the marine corp.

Now, you might be asking what any of this has to do with Before There Were Skeletons, the latest book in my Marketville Mystery series, and I'm getting to that. You see, I've long been a supporter of Golden Rescue, a wonderful Canadian non-profit that connects Golden Retrievers of all ages in need of a home with folks hoping to adopt one. And like so many charitable organizations during the height of Covid, Golden Rescue's primary annual picnic and auction fundraiser was cancelled.

Enter Wanetta Doucette-Goodman, a tireless behind-the-scenes worker who organized more than one Facebook silent auction to raise those much-needed funds.  When I saw the one in the Fall of 2020, I thought, I could donate a book copy or two, maybe even a "name the character" in my next book."

I floated the idea of a "name the character" by Wanetta and she loved it.  In fact, she loved the idea so much that she became the winning bidder.  But Wanetta is the giving sort.  She didn't ask for a character to be named after her, but rather, her daughter-in-law, Kathleen "Kate" Goodman, nee Lindsay.  She also sent me photos of Kate, and told me she had two older sisters, Kelly and Kristine.

I could have stuck to the original bargain - a character named kate Goodman--but what fun would that be? Besides, it's not as easy to come up with character names as you might think.  And so, Before There Were Skeletons has several nods to Wanetta's winning bid:

Kathleen “Kate” Goodman: a twenty-eight-year-old woman who hires Callie to find her mother, who disappeared on Valentine’s Day 1995, following her shift at a local bar in Miakoda Falls. Veronica Celeste Goodman was 18 at the time, and by all reports, a devoted single mom who’d just signed a one-year lease.

 Lindsay Doucette: Veronica’s older sister and Kate’s aunt. Lindsay raised Kate after Veronica disappeared, and, having been duped in the past, is not entirely on board with Callie’s investigation.

  Wanetta Georgina Bulmer: Last seen in Miakoda Falls on January 17, 1995, Wanetta was twenty years old and new to town.

 Kelly Anne Acquolina: Last seen in Miakoda Falls on January 31, 1995, Kelly Anne was twenty at the time.

Kristine Paris: An important character with a secret past.

Of course, Callie’s first instinct upon reading the missing persons profiles of Veronica, Wanetta and Kelly Anne is that they are linked, though the police have never formerly reported that connection. Is she right? Ahh… you’ll have to read the book to find out. But at least now you know what’s behind the names.

Melodie here again: After I read this post, I talked to Judy and we both got a kick out of the fact that I had done something similar — that is, five years ago, donated a character name to a charity auction.

The charity was the Burlington Humane Society, and the winner was a pug called Wolfgang!  (Yes, his good buddy/owner may have put him forward.)  If you look on the cover of Crime Club, you will see Wolfgang in all his glory.  He plays an important part in the investigation as well.



Check out Judy's latest mystery!

About Before There Were Skeletons

The last time anyone saw Veronica Goodman was the night of February 14, 1995, the only clue to her disappearance a silver heart-shaped pendant, found in the parking lot behind the bar where she worked. Twenty-seven years later, Veronica’s daughter, Kate, just a year old when her mother vanished, hires Past & Present Investigations to find out what happened that fateful night. 

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is drawn to the case, the similarities to her own mother’s disappearance on Valentine’s Day 1986 hauntingly familiar. A disappearance she thought she’d come to terms with. Until Veronica’s case, and five high school yearbooks, take her back in time…a time before there were skeletons. 

·       Universal Book Link:

·      About the Author:

A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the bestselling author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including the Superior Shores Anthologies, which she also edited

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she served as Chair on the Board of Directors. She lives in Northern Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Find her at