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War hero dog saved soldiers in Afghanistan only to be killed in Arizona: Wrong dog euthanized at Pinal County pound – UPDATE: Employee fired

A dog named Target, who not only survived the war in Afghanistan but also saved soldiers from a suicide bomber, was taken home by her soldier owner to Arizona – only to be killed in the Pinal County pound.

War hero dog Target was mistakenly euthanized in Arizona/Photo courtesy AZ Republic

A Pinal County Animal Care and Control employee euthanized the wrong dog Nov. 15, says a county news release. The employee was placed on paid administrative leave.

Some solace.

Target, a female shepherd mix who gained national recognition and was even featured on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” was one of three dogs credited with saving the lives of several soldiers, including that of Sgt. Terry Young, The Arizona Republic notes.

Young bonded with the dog – for obvious reasons – and was able to bring her to his home in San Tan Valley in August, where she became part of the family that includes Young’s wife and three children.

All was dandy until the morning of Nov. 12, when Young saw the backyard gate was open and the war-hero dog was gone. She had neither tags nor a microchip. Reports did not note if she had been wearing her usual pink camouflage bandanna.

Young called local media and sent out his own online announcements in a bid to find his missing dog. Target was eventually located at Pinal County pound’s Casa Grande location, where she was taken after a man found her and called animal control.

“She’s in the pound. At least she’s safe,” Young told the Republic.

“When it comes to euthanizing an animal, there are some clear-cut procedures to follow,” the release quotes animal control Director Ruth Stalter. “Based on my preliminary investigation, our employee did not follow those procedures.”

Young also told the Republic his 4-year-old daughter is having an incredibly hard time with Target’s death. “She’s saying we need to get the poison out of her so she can come home. She can’t grasp the idea that she’s gone.”

Definitely a reminder to keep our pets contained, tagged, microchipped and under close watch at home where they’ll get love and protection – not a deadly needle.

UPDATE 11/23:

Update from Pinal County: Animal Care & Control Employee Terminated

FLORENCE – A Pinal County Animal Care & Control employee was terminated today following an investigation into the accidental euthanasia of a dog on Monday. Pinal County launched an investigation on Monday, on the same day that the dog was euthanized. The dog in question was “Target,” a street dog from Afghanistan who became a lifesaving hero when she thwarted an attack by a suicide bomber. She was later brought to the US by volunteers and private donors to live in San Tan Valley with a soldier’s family.

“We are continuing to look into management practices and procedures at Animal Care & Control to ensure that something like this cannot happen again,” said Lisa Garcia, Assistant County Manager for Health & Human Services

Pinal County is declining to name the individual due to threats made against the employee in online article comments and in telephone calls to the county.


What do you think?

Should the dog’s owner sue?

What’s the worst mistake you’ve made at work?

Has your pet ever gotten away? What happened?

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Potentially deadly SWAT standoff ends with PepperBall arrest, dog bite

A Tucson police SWAT standoff between about 80 police personnel and a Tucson man holed up in a midtown home containing weapons could have easily turned deadly.

Tucson police dog with officer/file photo

It instead ended with minor injuries and an arrest of the suspect, according to a Tucson Police news release.

Suspect Ronald Zimmer, 55, faces charges of second-degree burglary, criminal damage and weapons misconduct, all of which are felonies. He also suffered a small laceration to the head and a bite from a police canine.

Good dog.

The two-hour ordeal began when a 50-year-old woman called police around 2 a.m. Oct. 2 from the Bashful Bandit bar, at East Speedway and North Dodge boulevards, to report her boyfriend had just assaulted her and was now on his way to her nearby home at Third Street and Dodge.

Police were at the Bashful Bandit within five minutes of the call, noted the woman had minor injuries from the reported assault, and learned the woman’s 20-year-old son was home alone.

Zimmer also knew where the woman kept her weapons.

While police were taking her report, Zimmer was allegedly busy forcing his way into her townhouse in the 3700 block of East Third Street and grabbing at least one gun.

The woman’s son fled from the house with no injuries.

Police arrived at the townhouse to find Zimmer standing in the driveway with a rifle, which he shot into the air before returning to the house and barricading himself inside.

The negotiations began.

Officers on the scene as well as an on-duty Hostage Negotiations Unit member from another patrol division tried to negotiate with Zimmer on the phone and through a public address system.

No go.

Rather than respond to negotiations, Zimmer instead reportedly fired several shots inside the house.

By this time a K9 team and SWAT personnel were also on the scene and a call went out for addition SWAT members.

Before more members arrived, Zimmer suddenly came out of the house with a handgun pointed at his head.

“Several minutes of tense standoff ensued until the officers were able to convince the suspect to set the gun down briefly,” the release noted.

Police then unleashed PepperBall “less-lethal munitions” and a K9 to stop Zimmer from grabbing back the gun.

Zimmer was taken to the hospital to treat his injuries, with his hospital stay followed by a booking into Pima County Jail.


What do you think?

Have you seen other SWAT standoffs in action? What was the outcome?

Have you ever been hit with a PepperBall?

Have you ever used non-lethal weapons to defend yourself?

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Pigs are people, too: Animal abuse, haters and worldly woes quashed in debut cartoon video by two Tucsonans

Tucson talent rocks. Evidence includes funky trash cans on Fourth Avenue, mosaics on highway overpasses and now an animated music video produced by Tucson’s own Eric Heithaus with art by yours truly, Ryn Gargulinski.

Please enjoy watching “Everyone I Know Needs Love” as much as we enjoyed creating it.

Main character Dollie is a cartoon I drew years ago, inspired by Quint’s line in “Jaws” about a shark’s eyes being like a doll’s eyes.* Doggy is my standard dog image that resembles my dog Phoebe yet also works to embody every dog in the world.

Dollie and Doggy/Art Ryn Gargulinski

This is my first illustrated animation project and one on a long list of Eric’s successful music – and other – productions.

The only other time my artwork has moved around on its own was during a horrific nightmare where all creatures in my house and backyard started attacking me.

It is much more pleasant when such critters are captured in a little box on the screen.

Thanks! Eric for working with me and coming up with this idea while vacationing on a San Diego beach. The video, all told and in between day jobs, took about a year to complete.

I’m posting the full press release that goes with the video below, which gives you more on the story and where we’re both coming from.

P.S. If you cannot tell from the video, we are both avid animal lovers. The partnership mentioned at the beginning of the clip, “Sawyer and Mr. Angel Association,” is named after our dogs.



Animal abuse, haters and worldly woes quashed in debut cartoon video

Animal abuse leads to people abuse – we don’t need a rocket scientist to tell us that. We don’t need a rocket scientist to come up with a way to stop it, either. We just need a wacky artist working with a creative music video producer to come up with a funky, fanciful story of two cartoon characters bent on saving the world.

Oh, yeah – we also need a bomb.

The story

Haters are everywhere – and our heroic cartoon duo of Dollie and Doggie make it their mission to stop it. The sweet team starts off thrown in a garbage can, from whence they scamper only to witness a litany of animal abuses. Horses pureed to pulp in a glue factory. Pigs slaughtered for sausage. A puppy mill. The animal abuse works as an analogy for the people abuse, maltreatment and general hatred that saturates the world at large. The video’s song, “Everyone I Know Needs Love,” offers a hint of the solution in store.

The cartoon video collaboration

Dollie and Doggie star in the video, a project born from the twisted collaboration between two Tucsonans. Producer Eric Heithaus worked on the music and animation end of the project. He produced the catchy “Everyone I Know Needs Love” song with pianist Sly Slipetsky and vocalist Angel Diamond, as well as toiled long hours making a stuffed pig fly. Artist Ryn Gargulinski worked equally as hard creating a cast of cartoon characters that always seem to look like they just got hit by a truck. We think it must be one of her trademarks.

The producer

Tucsonans Eric Heithaus and his wife, Amy, are the masterminds behind Heithaus Productions. While their company has produced everything from documentaries to news and features, it is now focusing on music videos. Eric’s music video production tops competitors as he not only produces the video portion, but he’s a talented music producer. His successes include Tucson’s colorful and creative street musician Black Man Clay, vocalist Laura Ward and his band Children of Gods. More at

The artist

Ryn Gargulinski, Tucson resident, Michigan native and longtime New Yorker, has her own list of successes and talents. Writing and art have long topped the list, but this video marks her premiere animated project. Other credits include two illustrated humor books: “Bony Yoga” and “Rats Incredible,” both published by Conari, dozens of news and feature articles, a weekly column and myriad artwork published in a variety of newspapers and journals from New York City to India. Her current gigs include writing four blogs for and her art business of RYNdustries. More at and

WATCH the video on YouTube at at  Heithaus Productions at or on Rynski’s Blogski.

Contact producer Eric Heithaus at and Ryn at

*Quint’s doll’s eyes quote: “And, you know, the thing about a shark… he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be living… until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all the poundin’ and the hollerin’, they all come in and they… rip you to pieces.”


What do you think?

Are you a fan of music videos? Of cartoons?

Is is just me or are today’s cartoons quite lame compared to the cool ones we used to get?

P.S. A cashier at Best Buy yesterday looked confused when I mentioned “The Flintstones.”

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A tale of two Tucsonans: One nice neighbor, one nasty stranger

Tucson is packed with some of the coolest folks. But like anywhere else, the cool folks are balanced out by some real pieces of work. We recently ran across two shining examples of both.

The nice neighbor

A Sunday morning knock on the door is not something many of us are particularly raring to answer. But it’s OK when our neighbor at the door, one of the neighbors we like in the first place, who gives us reason to like him even more.

Nice neighbor greets Phoebe (left) and Sawyer/Illustration Ryn Gargulinski
Nice neighbor greets Phoebe (left) and Sawyer/Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Next door neighbor came to ask if it were OK for him to trim my mesquite tree that was heavily invading his yard. “Of course you can,” said I, “You didn’t even have to ask.”

“Well, it’s just common courtesy,” said he. If that wasn’t enough, he agreed to meet the dogs for the first time face to face. He did not even flinch when Sawyer went zooming at his, um, belly area. And he even petted the pooches, asking their names.

Nice neighbor showcasing mesquite efforts/Illustration Ryn Gargulinski
Nice neighbor showcasing mesquite efforts/Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

The neighbor got even better when, once he was done trimming the mesquite, he called me over to make sure I liked what he did with it. I don’t know about you, but I have the sudden urge to bake some neighborly cookies or something.

Anyone who thinks I am perhaps over-reacting by falling backwards with joy because of such a courteous chap has probably neither lived in New York City for 17 years nor worked in journalism for even a day. The nice neighbor has asked to remain anonymous.

The nasty stranger

The nasty stranger, for sure, gave us a dose of Big Apple respect, or lack thereof, right here in Tucson. Nasty stranger shall remain anonymous, too, mainly because we don’t know who he (or she) is.

One of my friends experienced the nasty stranger incident. She had been shopping at Home Depot, using the cane she’s been carrying after her hip replacement surgery. She’s well on the mend, but still travels with it for support. While shopping, she puts the cane in the shopping cart and uses the cart for support.

My friend realized she forgot her cane at Home Depot/Illustration Ryn Gargulinski
My friend realized she forgot her cane at Home Depot/Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Alas, about 20 minutes after leaving Home Depot, my pal realized she no longer had her cane. She surmised she left it in the Home Depot cart, which I colored with orange wheels so you would know it’s from Home Depot.

She rushed back to the store, checking all the carts, inquiring at the counters and asking other employees if they had seen hide or hair of her cane.

"There's a hot spot in hell" for the cane thief/Illustration Ryn Gargulinski
"There's a hot spot in hell" for the cane thief/Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Double alas, the cane was gone. “Someone stole my cane,” my friend lamented. “Do you believe that? That’s low. Do you honestly think it was someone who needed a cane and happened to run across it, knowing it could help them. I doubt it. Someone probably took it for a Halloween costume or something.

“There’s a hot spot in hell waiting for that inconsiderate S.O.B.”



What do you think?

What would you do if you found a cane in a shopping cart?

Have you ever taken something someone left in a shopping cart? What?

Did you steal a steak?

Would you ask your neighbor’s permission before you trimmed his or her tree hanging in your yard?

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An open letter to the person who abandoned a pet hamster in the ditch

Dear Sir, Madam, Child or Otherwise Heartless Being:

Rendition of the abandoned hamster/Ryn Gargulinski
Rendition of the abandoned hamster/Ryn Gargulinski

I met your pet hamster Monday evening while I was walking my dogs through the alleyway near a ditch.

We were incredibly surprised to see a small, defenseless domesticated pet cruelly abandoned in the wild and, although I am not too particularly fond of hamsters, we found this one quite cute.

She was a black and white hooded with sweet dark eyes.

She was also very tame and ambled halfway up to us without any qualms.

We were wondering why you would dump your hamster in the ditch rather than try to find her a suitable new home. The Humane Society of Southern Arizona takes in small animals and hamsters make great classroom or young people pets.

While it was quite thoughtful of you to leave a small mound of colorful foodstuff mixed with peanuts near the edge of the ditch, that meager pile of provisions would not surely not serve as the key to her survival.

In fact, a domesticated hamster is not going to survive at all in the wild. Although Tucson is done with its 100-plus temperatures for the year, you did happen to abandon your hamster on the eve of a massive cold front and storm warning.

Cold, dank rain does not do well for small rodents, which are already prone to respiratory infections.

Coyotes, pack rats and other wildlife may also not look too kindly on your abandoned hamster. After all, she had that soft, clean white coat which would make the ditch’s grungy denizens a little wary, if not jealous.

Starvation would come too, as the colorful foodstuff mixed with peanuts would not last too long and may be eaten by others. And I didn’t note any water bottle attached to the nearby mesquite trees.

But don’t be alarmed.

Although you surely do not care about this hamster, or you would not have heartlessly dumped her in a ditch, please know she is no longer in danger.

As an animal lover, I could not bear to leave the hamster out alone in the cold, and I was planning to go get a shoebox and take her home.

Before I could resume our walk, however, my dog Phoebe suddenly lunged and dragged me halfway down the ditch to get at your hamster.

Rendition of Phoebe's dog chomp/Ryn Gargulinski
Rendition of Phoebe's dog chomp/Ryn Gargulinski

A single dog chomp through the middle murdered your hamster in one fell swoop.

The ditch drag also banged up my knee, which I am currently elevating and putting on ice to alleviate the pain and swelling. I am walking with a cane.

At least your hamster did not die alone.

I covered her with a blanket of scratchy dried leaves once Phoebe obeyed and let your hamster fall from her jaws.

Thus your hamster will no longer suffer.

I hope that makes it easier for you to sleep at night.


Ryn, Sawyer and Phoebe


wb-logolilWhat do you think?

Have you ever had to get rid of a pet? What did you do?

Have you ever saved one that was heartlessly abandoned?