Every month the Spotlight series highlights another Dirtbag Paddler who paved the way for the world we live in, with posts each Throwback Thursday here on our Facebook page. February is TOP DOG Month here at DBP… What better way to celebrate than with a story of heroism and true companionship?
Cheers to Dojie!! She was a true Dirtbag Doggy. If we all could live our lives like her our world would be a better place indeed. Parts 1 & 2, which tell of her career as a River Rescue Dog, ran on 2/12/15. Please enjoy the rest of her story!
Part 3: Dojie the river dog- A good dog beaten
2/25/2014. I remember the day so very well…
I awoke to a stormy morning, dark clouds and rainy, with high winds that lasted all day long. I remember getting off work early thinking, “Oh it’s amazing to be off work before the sun has gone down.” I had taken the train into town that day to go to work; from where I live the mass transit Max train is a 10 block walk from home, and drops me off about six blocks from work. Like many guides in the United States, I work more than one job, which is necessary here because most customers do not want to go rafting in February. I also am a licensed massage therapist. I remember walking home and thinking how nice it would be to take the dogs to the park. Exercise is a must in order to make happy puppies and happy puppy parents.
Arriving home everything was normal… except for the orange flyer on the door. I picked it up, reading WASHINGTON COUNTY ANIMAL CONTROL. Scrolled across the bottom it simply read, “Your dog might be injured.” As quickly as I could I pulled out my keys, walking to the front door calling, “Dojie! Lucy!” Lucy is my roommate’s girl, a black and brown mix, who came trotting up to me with her usual hello, but a little off. There was no Dojie. Again I called. I was getting scared. I called to her again, “Dojie I’m Home!”
Out she came, slowly limping, her head down. I ran to her and asked what happened. Dojie hovered close to me, shaking with pain, her eye oozing. There was no pupil, it was all red, leaking and dripping. I grabbed a leash and ran to the truck, and we raced to the vet’s office and rushed in. Everyone looked at me with alarm as I asked for help. “The soonest we can get you in Mr. Starr is in one hour.” Ok, one hour it is.
As I finishing making the arrangements, I received a phone call from Supervisor Randle B Covey, informing me that there was an incident at my house that we needed to discuss. I told him to meet me at the Sheriff’s office, which was kitty corner to the veterinarian office. As I walked across the street with Dojie, I realized that I did not want the Sheriff’s office investigating the crimes of animal abuse, brutality, and trespassing which had been carried out by the same department that did the abuse to my river rescue dog. I walked into the Sheriff’s office and asked for the phone number for the Hillsboro, Oregon Police Department. “Can I please have the number?” I said through the glass. I called and asked them to send out an officer to investigate a crime of animal abuse; my dog had been brutally beaten. The dispatcher said she would send an officer right away.
As I waited for the officer to arrive to take my statement and pictures to start an investigation, a man in a polo shirt wearing a Sheriff’s badge walked up to me. “My name is Randle B Covey and I know you are upset, but first you have to understand that dogs act differently when their owners are not around.” Not sorry for the injury to your best friend, to your child, no. “The officer did what he had to as your dog was aggressive.” Are you fucking kidding me? Somehow I managed to keep my cool. I tried to explain to him that I understood that that may be the case with some animals, but Dojie is not your average dog. She is a river rescue dog trained to be kind and gentle and to help others. “Well that was my concern also,” he responded. “I heard that she was a service dog. So I wanted to help you understand what happend and how animals act when their owners are not there.”
I looked at him and said, “No. You are wrong. In some cases I could accept that, but in this case you are not correct! Your officer beat my dog!”
A red headed man in the same clothes pulled up and started to walk toward us. Dojie got up and walked from one side of me to the other as this man approached, putting herself between him and I. I looked from him to his supervisor, asking, “Is that the man that abused my dog?” When he didn’t answer I asked again. As Stepp was walking up he sneered an evil smile at me. I looked at him and said stay back. As he kept walking, I again said, “Stay away! Stay back or I will be forced to defend myself,” in a commanding voice that shook the walls of the covered entryway where we were standing. A look came over his supervisor and he turned to Stepp saying, “Maybe it would be best if you waited by the truck.” Just then a city of Hillsboro vehicle pulled up.
City Of Hillsboro hadn’t sent a actual officer out to a felony animal abuse call, rather, they sent their community parking officer out to investigate a felony case. The man was less then concerned and did not even take thorough pictures and a statement of less then 30 seconds. At that point I knew that I was not going to be getting anything other than the brush off. I told him that I had to go back across the street to the vet. He said, “Yes, I will go talk to the officers.”
As I was crossing the street to the parking garage to go to the vet Covey rushed over to me, explaining how he was required to give us infraction tickets for dogs at large. He tried to explain to me again how it was necessary for them to brutally beat my dog with a billy club. I told him I had to go to the vet. We passed an animal
control vehicle, officers kicking it with their feet on the bumper, laughing and joking as if nothing was wrong, with no concern whatsoever about the animal that they just abused. I knew then that this would not turn out well, that they would cover it up, that they would lie and do anything they could to make the abuse of a kind river rescue dog OK.
We entered blessed Dr. Healey’s office to see how much damage there was. As we went into the examination room my phone rang. It was the code enforcement officer from Hillsboro saying that he was wrapping up the investigation, that there was no wrongdoing done by the officer, and that he would be filing the investigation as closed. Now City of Hillsboro and Washington county were attempting to work together to cover a crime. I got extremely pissed… I guess you could say I was a papa bear whose child had just encountered evil. At the same time the examination of Dojie was going on in the next room.
When I came back in my roommate looked at me and said it’s probably a good thing that you were not here. When the doctor opened Dojie’s eye the ocular lens fell out. The doctor looked at us with a tear in her eye and said, “This is out of my hands. You need to go to an expert.” She sent drugs home to make Dojie comfortable. I felt numb.
I couldn’t sleep that night. Rage boiled inside me. How dare they injure my child, my river rescue dog! I used social media to get the word out to tell people about Dojie and about what had happened, made easier because Dojie had her own Facebook page. At the time she had well over 600 friends. Using my phone I started making memes. I had noticed earlier that day how nonchalantly and very inaccurately the investigator had taken pictures, so I thoroughly shot pictures of Dojie and her injury. It was about 4 o’clock the next morning when I came up with the first meme. It said simply, “Dear animal control officer Hoytt Stepp Washington County Oregon don’t worry I’m not mad that you beat me. Anytime you need help I will still put my life on the line for you with my one eye and all my heart. Dojie the River rescue dog beaten 2/25/2014 3pm.” Over the next week that one picture literally made it around the globe.
The next two weeks were a blur. It took no time at all for Dojie’s story to spread like wildfire. Friends found out that evening when I told the world. “Animal control officers entered my property and used a billy club to explode Dojie’s eye. We have an appointment tomorrow to go to the animal hospital for a thorough workup.” The question started flying. I explained what I could. In no time friends started contacting friends. The very next day I got a phone call, and I did over 10 interviews with local radio stations, which continued for the next month. I received a phone call from Kim Singer, news anchor on the most popular TV station in Portland. For the next three months we kept in constant contact as she gave me a crash course on media relations, public speaking, and how to win when you’re up against the government. A friend got a hold of Jesse Spongberg from Fight Church TV, who suggested I start a phone bombing campaign, a well scripted message to the departments from the citizens of the state asking that there be an investigation and a conviction for an act that is a crime in all 50 states. I said, “That sounds great, but let’s give them the opportunity to do what is correct and right.”
When I called the city of Hillsboro and tried to reach a captain to try to work with them, I never received a phone call back. I did get one phone call from Washington County Sheriff’s office. “I just want to inform you and help you get your facts straight.” He informed me the Washington County Animal Control is not associated with The Sheriff’s Office in any way, shape or form. “Wait wait wait hold on here… So you’re telling me that a man that is dressed in the same colors as a Sheriff’s officer, with a Sheriff’s badge insignia embroidered on his shirt, with a business card that starts off – hold on one second, Sir… let me get the actual card so I can read it to you. It says: limited duty deputy sheriff Washington County animal control – has nothing to do with you? Goodbye!” and I hung up. You see, I thought that all people are created equal and that there are lots of good people left. I Found out quickly that yes, there are these people in this world but they do not work in government or city offices.
On Friday I told Jesse that I was going to give it through the weekend to see if the Police Department would contact me, telling me they have opened an investigation. By Sunday night we hatched plans to call seven government offices on Monday. The news of Dojie’s story had spread like wildfire. We went into the vet on Monday while the phone bombing campaign was going on, and on the way we got a phone call from city of Hillsboro police. The detective on the other end of the line told me how sorry she was about Dojie. She stammered and stuttered for approximately two minutes, trying to figure out a way to tell me what she had to say. Finally she got around to it. “Mr. Starr your message has been heard. I am calling you on my cell phone because the phone lines are so jammed with people calling, asking what are we going to do about Dojie. I had to call you on my cell phone. I’m calling to tell you the chief assigned me to the case. Could you please call off your people?” I told her I would see what I could do but I wasn’t guaranteeing anything. Thousands upon thousands of people called the commissioner’s office, the DA’s office, the Sheriff’s office, the animal control office, Bonnie Lee Hayes Animal Center, City of Hillsboro police, and the Mayor’s office of Hillsboro. I feel blessed to have so many people care about one dyslexic rafting hippie and his dog.
In 10 days the investigation was concluded. They never thoroughly interviewed the five witnesses, and never talked to the attending physician. They had already closed the case, or so they thought, until public outrage forced them to reopen it. Facts began to emerge. I found out that this man had lived in Alaska just three months prior to trespassing on my property and beating my dog. He had stomped a dog to death and shot a dog to death in front of its owner who was handcuffed in a park. The lady called me and told me that her son had been badly beaten and kicked while in handcuffs by Capt. Stepp, the very same Stepp who had beat my dog. He attempted to become a police officer at more then two departments and was denied before being hired by a friend at animal control.
I learned about animal abuse in the United States and became extremely thankful to still have my precious puppy. Every 48 to 56 minutes a dog is killed or maimed by animal control and law enforcement in the United States. The number one reason an officer discharges his weapon is to shoot at a dog, and the number one reason given is: I was in fear of my life. The number one fear in departments is dogs, not men or guns.
At the end of the investigation it was turned over to the DA, who did not charge this animal abuser with anything. The three reasons given for not charging him with a crime were 1) Even though there were five witnesses no one saw the actual strike. 2) the DA said that there was no way to tell whether it was one or more than one strike. By now we know they exploded her eye, cracked her skull, and damaged her shoulder. 3) and this one is the worst of all and is a reflection of the United States as a whole and all of its 50 states. The DA said there is no law or precedents saying that it is not okay for a law enforcement officer or animal control officer to beat or kill your dog. Ladies and gentlemen what we are dealing with here today in the United States is a reenactment of the 70s and 80s when it comes to police brutality, and animal control brutality.
PART 4: Dojie’s Legacy
As you read this article it is been one year and one day since Dojie was beaten 2-25-2014. Directly after the beating the media started wanting to do interviews, and Dojie being the loving dog she was had to greet and give a kiss to each reporter and camera man. They all loved her and commented on how well behaved and kind she was. All who met her said the same thing, “This dog? No Way! Not This Dog!” I would agree with them all and shake my head.
I called the governor, knowing that to get an appointment would be next to impossible. I spoke with a staff member. I asked him who investigated crimes agents the police and animal control, and he told me, “The county that it is in. We at the state have no say in this matter.” “Hold on a minute,” I said, “so what you are telling is that the state has no control whatsoever over the county and the animals within the county? Are you telling me I am living in the Wild West for our Pets? So where do I go to get this fixed.” “I don’t know,” he said, “Make a Law….”
After the conversation I was bewildered. How can this be? How can there be nothing to be done at the state level? By now I had many people from different walks of life following Dojie’s story, with witnesses and families that had been abused by this man calling me, rescues and animal abuse lawyers from across the country calling me, and one reached out saying, “I know a Congressman in Oregon.” “Yes yes, please please help in any way you can.” Through that I was able to get more information. Another person said, “I have ran a campaign for a potential mayor and know a thing or two about how politics work.” Another told me she had written the bill in the 80s and 90s that had to do with animal abuse, and helped me learn about how laws were made. Former law enforcement and current law enforcement and animal control officers contacted me. I remember very well one said, “I have been a animal control officer for 30 years and have had some vicious dogs attack me and never shot or beat any of them. This did not need to happen. I do not have lots of influence, money or power. All I have is my voice, my passion for truth and honesty, and Dojie’s passion for a better tomorrow.”
We learned that this was not just a problem in Oregon, this was a problem in all 50 states. The connection slowly started being made and soon the stats started coming in. I was appalled at the numbers in the stats. No officer has ever been convicted of a crime. They will fire the officer and then charge them so they are charging a civilian instead of a police officer. I really do consider myself to be lucky because I got to love my dog for another year.
We need a oversight committee at the state level to oversee the 36 counties to allow NACA (National Animal Control Association) to certify the state who would then certify the counties. This oversight committee must be a combination of civilian law enforcement and animal control along with medical veterinary professionals. We can no longer have the Wild West, so when something like this happens the victim has a place to appeal to beyond the cover-up within the county. We must have body cameras on all law enforcement officers and control officers so we can have the truth, instead of the fractured truth and lies that allows the City the county or the state to cover up crimes.
I found out that any citizen can make a law by writing one and have senators and congressmen sponsor a bill and take it through the House and the Senate, or get 1000 signatures which says that the law is important to the people. Then gather a large number of signatures; this number varies from 30,000 to 100,000 signatures. Well I’m not influential enough to know any congressmen on the state or the federal level. So let’s start gathering signatures. In order to have a law you must attach it to a political action committee or pac for short. We didn’t really like any of the pacs that were out there so we put together our own pac SAFER OREGON PAC. We then created Dojie’s Law and started gathering signatures. We would go everywhere, Dojie at my side. People recognized and instantly wanted to love on her.
We looked for signatures at the Portland Rose Festival. The Festival Parade every year is amazing! This is a time when Portland is alive with people. We would walk the parade route and every few feet folks would stop us, thanking us for doing this, “this is so important,” they would say. “You’re so brave to stand up for what is right. Thank you for standing for the rights of my dog and me.” This would be an all day process for us. The parade is televised and in the center of the street they paint the logo for the Rose Festival Parade. I wanted a picture of Dojie by the Rose Festival Logo in the street. I placed her in front of logo and had her sit I put the Dojies law sign leaning against her front leg. I took the picture and turned around to find the three news anchors from the biggest stations all looking at me wanting a picture with her. They all told me how much her story had impacted them. “It’s not just about Dojie. It is about.” After all the cameramen from all the new stations had taken their photos and videos of Dojie we contenued on the parade route.
The stories I heard were incredible. People were asking me to help them. One of our war veterans approached me about Dojie, asking if I knew how he could get a service dog to help with PTSD and depression. That right there is proof enough that dogs are more the property. It was very special to me.
2014 was an election year, and the politicians wanted to meet with us. Sen. Jeff Merkley and VP Joe Biden were going to be in Portland at a rally and we were invited to attend. Dojie and I found ourselves at the back of the line approximately two blocks away from where the senator and the vice president would be speaking. Security was extremely tight. Standing at the back of the line I was wondering if I’ll get in at all, when a lady approached. “Excuse me, Sir. Could you please go to the front of the line and talk to the gentleman up there ?” “Okay,” I stammered, bewildered as to what was going on. I walked to the front of the line, and the man said, “Please come on in,” holding the line as I entered.
As I approached the security station I stopped and had Dojie sit, so I could remove her leash as instructed. The Secret Service watched, quite amused at how well behaved Dojie was. We walked through the security to the other side without a problem. A security lady on the other side practically screamed, “Why doesn’t that dog have a leash on? That dog should not be loose!” “Because we were going through your security. If you will hold on I will get it back on.” The Secret Service agent behind me said, “it’s okay, don’t worry about it. Take your time, she is quite well behaved.” I turned and said thank you very much, and thank you for your service.
As we approach the auditorium there was two doors: one said VIP, the other said general. I stood in the general line. In Portland Oregon you can tell who are Secret Service agents, they’re the only ones a three-piece suit. Everyone else at the rally was in khakis, jeans, shorts, and sandals. An agent then escorted me to the VIP entrance and Dojie and I walked in, finding ourselves right next to the podium where all the speakers would be giving their speeches!
I was leaning against the barricade that separated the podium from the crowd. A Secret Service agent approached me, “what is that in your hand?” he asked, pointing at Dojie’s leash. I pointed at Dojie, and told him feel free to pet her, she is quite friendly. He reached over, Dojie licked his hand and he scratched her head. “Did you know the Vice President has a German Shepherd? He loves dogs.” After the speech the vice president went to the other side and started shaking hands and kissing babies. The crowd was pressing against the fence except for around me and Dojie. I looked around to find two Secret Service agents standing behind me. I turned back around and the agent in charge stepped up and said I put those two agents behind you to make sure that you and your dog have room and are not squished, and I felt really safe after that. I got to speak with senators, the Mayor of Portland, and the Vice President, and it felt good to make them aware of what was happening.
I tried that summer to see if I could put Dojie back on the river in a professional capacity. I remember sitting by the river with friends, all of us crying as we watched Dojie miss stick after stick because she could not see them. I knew then that there was no way that I can ever put her back into the job that she loved. I had to face the fact that she must be retired.
The end of the summer we always spend a weekend on a river that only runs four weeks of the year. There is always a huge party for the guides that work all year, who get to play with their friends and have a good time. The Tieton River is not huge but is a blast. Sadly Tieton never will be the same for me. It was our last river together.
Dojie had just been to the vet where they ran tests and told me that she had an acute infection of the lymph glands, or possibly large cell lymphoma. The doctor told us it was hard to tell which it was. We put her on antibiotics which helped, and continued to work on Dojie’s Law, participating in events in the community. Over the course of that summer Dojie won 4 first place awards in 4 different competitions for “best trick, best trained” in different events. We would go to these events to raise awareness, gathering signatures and meeting some great people, like Portland Pitbull Project, Portland Pitbull Parade, the Boxer Rescue, the Blind Dog and Deaf Dog Rescue, and others. I still keep in contact with many of them today and will continue to work with them as much as I possibly can.
Dojie was diagnosed with lymphoma and quickly declined in health. Watching her lose strength and energy was so difficult. Finally the doctor said it was time to make her comfortable for as long as possible. I knew what I had to do. So I posted on social media that for the week after Christmas and New Years I would open my home to any and all that wanted to come say thank you and goodbye to our special friend Dojie. Once again I was amazed at the amount of emails, phone calls, messages from people across the USA saying how much this little puppy had affected their lives. “You rescued me from the river,” some said, “you comfoted me and gave me hope,” “because of how you handled getting beat I was able to handle my divorce better.” One man messaged me saying because of how Dojie handled the evil that was done, he had made the choice to live and not commit suside. We had well over 50 people come to the house to say good bye to our friend. Each person that came through the door had to throw the ball once to Dojie before she was satisfied.
Dojie crossed the rainbow bridge in her home with her family by her side. Her ashes will be spread on her four favorite rivers: the Middle Fork of the Salmon river in Idaho, the Rogue River in Oregon, the Deschutes river in Oregon, and her favorite place on Earth: the place where the people loved to throw the stick, the White River.
It is up to you and I to make Dojie’s dream of a better tomorrow become a reality for all of our animals. We must come together as one to make this happen. Dojie and all dogs give their energy and their love selflessly, humbly and gratefully. The least we can do is to make a better tomorrow for all of our pets by doing the same. Until then animal abuse by law enforcement animal control will continue. Let us pass laws in each state to protect our loved ones from the terrorism of police and animal control who have not been properly trained. The departments need training, rules, regulation, department policy, and laws for offenders, to make sure that this does not happen again. Together we can stop the stat, every 48 minutes a dog is killed or injured by law enforcement and animal control. The genocide of our animals must stop. Please take a look at the department of justice videos on nonviolent ways to be able to handle animals. Get involved! It is up to you to turn the tide in your state. Together we can create a better tomorrow for all of our family members that they call pets.
Dojie Face book