Hope on the range

Animal Angels Rescue provides unwanted beasts a chance at a better life


ANGELS IN AMERICA | A Jacksboro animal sanctuary benefits from, from left, Matt and Beth Kelley, Carole Sanders and Nita Burgoon, who serve 300-plus dogs and horses. (Photo courtesy Rodrigo Orta)

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer

There are dog lovers, and then there’s Carole Sanders. With 300 dogs and counting under her roof, Sanders’ Animal Angels Rescue, Rehabilitation, Adoption and Sanctuary represents a last chance for many unwanted canines. But unlike the fate of many other homeless animals on this 38-acre ranch in Jacksboro, Texas, these dogs (and 18 horses) have a place to live out the rest of their lives with food, shelter and most of all, love.

Sanders, now 72, loved dogs from a very early age and knew that somehow her life would end up in the service of animals.

“I just didn’t know I was going to do anything at this level, but I’ve always seen the need out there and I have the will and determination to do what I had to accomplish. You have


OVERRUN WITH DOGS | The author, above, learns first-hand how friendly a rescue dog can be — and how adorable they are just being themselves, below. (Photos courtesy Rodrigo Orta)

to take time,” she says. “If you try to do too much too fast, you can’t do it well. That’s why some rescue groups burn out and fail.”

It was vitally important to Sanders that the sanctuary, which she started in 1992, grow slowly and that everything was in place to sustain it. In 1993, Animal Angels received its non-profit 501(c)3 tax status. Then in 2001, Sanders retired after 40 years of serving a completely different yet equally unruly animal — the airline passenger.

“After being a flight attendant for so long, I figured out that I’m a giver,” she says.

Thankfully, she’s not alone in the giving department. Along with her life partner, Nita Burgoon, Sanders continues to buy up surrounding land — not just to provide more space for the dogs, but to keep neighbors far, far away (300 barking dogs could lead to complaints that might jeopardize the entire mission).

In the cozy lodge that Burgoon had custom-built for the couple, more than a dozen smaller dogs have graciously allowed the two women to share their space, though it’s difficult to find a chair, sofa or any other soft surface without a furry face staring up from it.

More recently, former Operation Kindness intake coordinator Beth Kelley, her husband Matt, and three children have moved into a house on the property and are in charge of many of the daily chores and upkeep that an organization like this entails. Serving the needs of the animals has created a unique situation for Kelley and her family.

“When making the decision to all work at the sanctuary as a family and not having to commute to an outside source of income we feel that we not only have enhanced the upbringing of our children, but the lives of animals that are in great need while educating the community that we live in,” she says.

Part of that education is in-your-face messages that appear on every Animal Angels vehicle. “Only and idiot would let a dog ride in the bed of a truck” adorns their pick-ups; a gestured middle finger from bubbas who drive past isn’t uncommon.

Other messages are less provocative, though no less thought-provoking — like the fact that one female dog and one male dog can be responsible for 67,000 more dogs in just seven years. (For cats, that’s 420,000 in the same time frame.) These statistics are just one of the many reasons that every dog at Animal Angels is spayed or neutered by a vet who comes to the on-site medical facility at least once per month.

With all the dogs spayed or neutered, there is no threat of breeding, thus presenting opportunities for less restrictive doggie interaction. When Kelley first came on the scene in February of last year, most of the dogs were in chain-link “neighborhoods,” large fenced-in areas where dogs could socialize with each other in like-minded packs.

“We couldn’t let them roam the whole property at the time because we didn’t have a full perimeter fence,” Sanders says. “So the best solution was large neighborhoods with dogs that got along. We’ve now taken it a step further. Other sanctuaries still have a lot of pens, but here we have a lot out and I think that’s the best place for them. Thanks to Beth, she started turning dogs loose left and right.”

PAWS-3Now there are more than 170 dogs that are lovingly called “free range.” Dozens of shelters dot the landscape under large trees and among rocks and low-lying bushes. Huge containers of dog food are available on-demand for any dog with an appetite. And baby pools serve as the drinking bowls necessary to quench the thirst of so many active animals.

What’s immediately noticeable after spending any amount of time at Animal Angels is how sublimely happy the dogs appear. With little hope of adoption, they’re still able to get the human interaction that many (though not all) crave. Even more importantly, they benefit from the instinctual bonding with fellow dogs. Throughout the grounds, packs have formed naturally and few dogs within any of them venture into the territory of others. Occasionally they fight, but little more than a growl or a quick nip is needed to keep the peace.

The remaining 130 or so dogs are segregated into neighborhoods for good reasons. For one group, they’re too small to roam freely and safely among a majority of large-breed dogs. Others have been in the neighborhoods too long to adapt to a life outside their fences. The rest simply can’t be trusted to be loose because they don’t get along with people.
With other dogs, however, they’re right at home.

Not all dogs that come to Animal Angels are immediately lifers, either. Puppies, small breeds and other more “adoptable” dogs are given to rescue groups that will give them a much greater chance of finding a forever home. If that doesn’t work out, they always have a place at the sanctuary.

Yet keeping the sanctuary operational takes more than the 24/7 dedication of Sanders and her crew — it requires consistent monetary donations. Animal Angels is able to purchase food, medication and other supplies at such deep discounts that they can stretch a dollar — an important skill given that they need approximately 10,000 pounds of dog food per month just to feed their current residents. That doesn’t include any other operational or medical expenses.

But one look at the loving eyes, happy faces, and spastically wagging tails and it’s clear that these dogs have found heaven on earth. And Sanders, Burgoon and the entire Kelley family truly are angels to each and every one of them.

“You can’t save them all, but you try. That’s what counts,” Sanders says.  “You do the best you can.”

To learn more, or to donate, visit AnimalAngelsTexas.org.  

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Taken for a ride?

Oak Lawn man says cab drivers were taking advantage of people looking for rides home after Halloween block party


Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor

An Oak Lawn man this week said that taxi drivers at the Halloween Block Party on Cedar Springs Saturday, Oct 29, tried to take him for a ride — but not to where he wanted to go.

Michael Truan and his partner live near the intersection of Maple and Inwood avenues. When the two decided to go to the Halloween Block Party on Cedar Springs on Saturday night, they knew they would be drinking, Truan said, so they decided to do the responsible thing and take a cab to and from the party.

“I usually do take a cab when I go out. I don’t want to drink and drive and get in trouble with the cops, or worse, end up hurting myself or somebody else,” Truan said. “Plus, taking a cab means you don’t have to bother with trying to find a parking place.”

That, and the fact that Truan is a flight attendant, means that he is familiar with taxi cabs.

The fare was $12, and he tipped the driver another $2 for a $14 total. Truan said the driver was friendly and courteous and the trip quick and hassle free — the kind of service he has come to expect from Yellow Cab, the company he always uses.

But when it came time to go home, it was another story altogether.

Truan said about 1:30 a.m., he and his partner decided to leave and walked down the block to the area between ilume and Kroger where cabs were lined up, waiting for fares. He approached the first cab in line, and when he told the driver where he wanted to go, the driver quoted him a flate rate fee of $30.

Angry that the driver was trying to charge him more than twice what the trip to the party had cost, Truan approached the second driver in line, who said it would cost $25, again more than twice the original fare.

The third driver wanted even more — $40 — and the fourth driver in line said he wasn’t allowed to let fares “jump the line.”

Truan said he and his partner finally ended up just walking the nearly two miles home, through a neighborhood not considered to be all that safe for a 2 a.m. stroll.

“I was wearing high-heeled boots, and let me tell you, those boots were not made for walking!” Truan said.

The next day, Truan said, he called Yellow Cab and spoke with a supervisor, who was “sincerely apologetic” and said drivers were supposed to only work “on the meter.” He said he also intended to contact Dallas City Councilwoman Pauline Medrano, in whose district he lives.

When Dallas Voice contacted Yellow Cab for comments, however, the supervisor who answered said that drivers are allowed to “go off the meter,” but wouldn’t comment further.

“If you’re a newspaper, we don’t speak to you guys unless you want to hire a cab,” the female supervisor said. “We don’t deal with you guys.”

But Gary Titlow with the city of Dallas’ public works and transportation department was willing to talk, and his version of what is allowed was a but different.

“They aren’t allowed to do that,” he said of the taxi drivers’ Saturday night fee offers. “The only flat rates allowed are the ones outlined in the city code, and even then, the drivers are supposed to have the meters running.”

The only times drivers are allowed to offer a flat rate fare, according to the city code, are when they are taking passengers from the Dallas Central Business District or the Market Center area to either Dallas Love Field Airport or DFW International Airport, or from one of the airports to the Central Business District or the Market Center area.

The flat rate from the business district or Market Center area to Love Field is $18; the flat rate from Love Field to either of those areas is $15. The flat rate to or from the Central Business District for DFW International trips is $40, and the rate to or from the Market Center area is $32.

City code also allows drivers to offer a discounted rate or charge as long as the driver and the passenger agree in advance and as long as the discounted rate is less than the regular fee.

Titlow also said he would be contacting Yellow Cab officials, and that he was “really surprised” to hear such a complaint about Yellow Cab drivers.
Truan said he was also surprised at what happened.

“I use Yellow Cab all the time, and I have never had a problem with them, but if this happens often, then this crap really needs to stop,” Truan said. “We put a lot of money into this area, and to have those cab drivers try to take us for a ride like that — no pun intended — it’s just not right. I think it’s really B.S. I hope no one else fell for it, but I am sure some people did.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Memorial service set for Bettye Pepper

Bettye “Pep” Pepper, 1945-2011

Longtime Dallas resident and my good friend Bettye “Pep” Pepper died this morning at Hearthstone Hospice in Irving following a courageous battle against cancer.

A memorial service and celebration of her life will be held tomorrow — Saturday, April 30 — at Joe’s/The Brick. Everyone who knew and loved her is invited to attend. Pep’s body will be returned to her hometown in Benton, Mississippi, where funeral services are pending.

Pepper worked many years as a flight attendant for Delta Airlines. She then worked several years as a bartender for Joe Elliott at Jugs, then later for Howard Okon at Joe’s Place. The last several years, she worked for Home Depot on Lemmon Avenue in Oak Lawn.

There are so many things to say about Pep that there’s no way to say it all here. She was a true Virgo: Ask her what time it was, and she would tell you how to make a clock. She held a treasure trove of trivia in her mind and loved to tell stories and recite poetry. She also loved to tinker with things, to take things apart when they were broken and try to fix them and put them back together. And a lot of the times, when she put them back together, they did work, even if she had parts left over. She had a great laugh, and an excellent sense of humor. Her favorite TV channel was PBS.

She was a true and loyal friend, fierce about standing up for the people she loved and the causes she believed in.

Pep loved her family more than anything, and there were so many friends she thought of as family. Rest in peace, Bettye Pepper. We will miss you very much.

—  admin

Frugal flirting at 40,000 ft.

Are there ethics to scoring free booze mid-air? One flight attendant weighs in

BOBBY LAURIE  |  Special Contributor llifestyle@dallasvoice.com

COFFEE, TEA OR ME  |  Being an IFB (in-flight boyfriend) is OK as long as the flirting is harmless — beware the spurned steward.
COFFEE, TEA OR ME | Being an IFB (in-flight boyfriend) is OK as long as the flirting is harmless — beware the spurned steward.

The airline industry is nickel-and-diming travelers to death: We pay extra for checked luggage, carry-on bags, a window seat (or aisle seat!), early boarding and food. Back in the day, alcohol was the only thing you had to pay for.

And, if you handle it right, the one thing you might still get comped.

Flight attendants often use alcohol as a bargaining chip or a token of appreciation. They’ll offer it to someone willing to change their seat, someone whose in-flight entertainment system is inoperative, to compensate for a spill or as a way to say “thank you” (it’s very, very, rare).

Some passengers have become wise to cozying up to flight attendants for free stuff. And such boozy flirtations are common among gay men. While traveling, I came across this tweet by @MrSeventyTwo: “Boarding now. Gay flight attendant. Let’s see if I can get hooked up with free drinks.” I sent him a message: “So, it’s that easy huh?” He quickly responded: “Is flirting with gay flight attendants acceptable for drinks? Is it offensive? What’s a sure way to win their hearts over?”

That got me thinking, Carrie Bradshaw-like: Is flirting for Frangelico acceptable? Or would I trade a few moments of self-esteem for a mini-vodka?

As a flight attendant myself, I’ve fallen victim to frugal flirting. Once working a cross-country flight, I noticed a guy laughing with his two female seatmates and looking in my direction. When I reached his row to pick up his cup, I asked, “Are you enjoying yourself?” “No, but I would be if you stayed and talked with us for a bit.”

I did. He was cute and a captive of the middle seat. He complimented me a few more times until I had to get back to work. “I enjoyed chatting with you — come back and visit,” he smiled, looking in my eyes. Blushing, I asked if I could get him anything. “A vodka tonic would be great.”

I happily gave it to him free of charge. Did I stop at his row because he caught my attention? Yes. He actually had my attention and interest from the moment I saw him look in my direction. Did I offer him a drink because he was gay? Yes. Would I have offered to get him anything if he didn’t flirt with me? Yes, but I wouldn’t have given it to him for free. We engage passengers and they engage us in conversation all of the time. But he gave the illusion of being interested in me. (It was just an illusion — although he asked my number, he never called.)

This same situation happened to my friend Nathan. Nathan’s interaction with the frugal flirter went as far as him sitting down next to the passenger to keep the conversation going. A few drinks later, they exchanged phone numbers. The passenger sent a text message after deplaning but was never heard from again.

Investigating this trend further, I asked an airline passenger if he’s ever flirted with the crew for a free drink. “Yes,” he said, ”male and female.” He added that he believed the crew knew that he was only after a free drink.

So the question remains: Is this unacceptable or offensive? The consensus among my fellow flight attendants is that it is acceptable — with a stipulation. The passenger should make clear he just wants to be the flight attendant’s IFB (in-flight boyfriend) and not lead them on.  If you do want to make your flirtation more, well, grounded, exchanging numbers is OK … just be sincere.

Remember, though, that flirting will not always guarantee a free drink. Sometimes, it can land you in hot water. It’s sometimes difficult to balance tomato juice while serving during turbulence, and you don’t want it to end up on you.

For travel ideas, visit GayTravel.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Flight attendant Steven Slater appears in court, will undergo mental health evaluation

Treatment could be part of deal to avoid jail time; attorney cites client’s HIV-positive status as one source of stress

COLLEEN LONG  |  Associated Press

NEW YORK — The flight attendant accused of onboard antics that captured the nation’s attention when he told off a passenger and slid down the plane’s emergency chute with a beer will undergo a mental health evaluation with the aim of avoiding jail time in a possible plea deal.

Steven Slater, dressed in a trim blue suit, appeared in a Queens courtroom Tuesday, Sept. 7 for a brief hearing on charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing after last month’s meltdown aboard a JetBlue Airways Corp. flight from Pittsburgh that had just landed at Kennedy International Airport.

He was working Aug. 9 when, he said, an argument took place with a rude passenger. After landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, he went on the public address system, swore at a passenger who he claimed had treated him rudely, grabbed a beer and exited via an emergency chute, prosecutors said.

Attorneys on both sides said a deal was being discussed. Slater will be evaluated and may qualify for an alternative sentencing program, which means he could face community service and counseling instead of jail.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said Slater’s willingness to be evaluated shows he’s taking the charges more seriously than he had in the past. Slater had spoken out after the incident, as his public opinion swelled and hundreds of thousands of fans online cheered him for standing up to the inhospitable world of airline travel.

The district attorney, speaking to reporters after the hearing, said it would behoove the public to take the Aug. 9 incident more seriously, noting the slide cost $25,000 to repair and the plane had to be taken out of service afterward, causing passenger delays.

“It’s no laughing matter,” he said.

Slater’s attorney, Daniel J. Horwitz, said his client was taking the matter very seriously and said he had been under tremendous pressure because of his terminally ill mother, recently deceased father, and health problems of his own. (Slater is HIV positive.) He said he was hoping prosecutors would take into account Slater’s “long-standing and well-regarded reputation in the industry.”

Horwitz said he hopes they can come to an agreement that favorably resolves the case, but he wouldn’t specify what he was looking for. Brown said if Slater is admitted for alternative sentencing, he could undergo a treatment program lasting weeks, but he said it depended on the outcome of the evaluation and he’s not ruling out the possibilty of jail time yet.

Slater, his head held high, left the court without speaking to the swell of reporters surrounding him. His publicist and attorney said he’s in good spirits and has spent the past few weeks in California with his ailing mother.

Slater resigned from JetBlue last week after about three years there; JetBlue said only that he was no longer an employee. Slater has spent nearly 20 years in the airline industry, but it’s not clear what he’s going to do now.

“Right now we want to get past the criminal issues. Then we’ll worry about the future,” publicist Howard Bragman said. “Obviously he will be unemployed until all this is resolved.”

JetBlue suspended Slater after the incident. It told employees in a memo that press coverage was not taking into account how much harm can be caused by emergency slides, which are deployed with a potentially deadly amount of force.

—  John Wright

If you need a Steven Slater reenactment, NextMedia Animation has taken care of it

I try to keep it local, but I have to hand it to China’s NextMedia Animation. Within the 48 hours of flight attendant Steven Slater’s exit heard round the world, NMA has animated their version of Slater’s altercation with the passenger and his escape. They even follow him home to find comfort in the arms of his partner.

It’s pretty great.

—  Rich Lopez