Lead Stories

According to a December report in the Washington Post, the Olde Towne Pet Resort in Fairfax County, Virginia, charges up to $230 a day to let pooches use its hydrotherapy pool, state-of-the-art exercise room, beauty parlor, and luxury suites–which feature satellite TV, piped-in classical music, original artwork, and a mustard-and-olive color scheme designed to appeal to the canine eye (even though dogs are basically color-blind). Upscale pet hotels are also open in New York and Hollywood, among other cities, and the high-end “companion animal” market has recently generated innovations like heated dog beds, herbal flea collars, water bowls with built-in purifiers, and (according to a December Reuters dispatch from Tokyo) therapeutic Dead Sea mud packs for dogs.

In November federal judge Robert H. Hodges Jr. ruled that the U.S. Department of Justice must pay its attorneys overtime–which for close to two decades it has openly denied them, in violation of federal law. (The department estimates that its lawyers currently work overtime hours worth $40 million a year.) The attorneys who brought the suit claim that a tacit “standing order” required them to put in more than 40 hours a week, but the department disputes this, saying its employees work overtime out of “dedication and professionalism”–though it admits it maintains two sets of time sheets, one to determine pay and one to track actual work done on cases.

Readers’ Choice

In December in Oak Park, Michigan, unemployed engineer and Taiwanese national Shuo-Shan Wang, 29, pleaded guilty to practicing medicine without a license–specifically, to performing a kitchen-table castration on a 48-year-old man who’d found Wang’s “service” on the Internet. Wang told police he’d pulled off 50 such surgeries without complications, but that this patient began to bleed uncontrollably after bursting into laughter while eating a postoperative piece of pie at Wang’s house. Officers found the man sitting on the curb outside in bloody blue jeans, and a subsequent search turned up two testicles in a Tupperware container in Wang’s refrigerator.

Bright Ideas

In November incoming Colombian defense minister Marta Lucia Ramirez, the first woman to hold the post, rescinded the army’s policy of air-dropping photos of bikini models on the country’s communist rebels, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who have been fighting a civil war for nearly four decades. The photos bear captions like “Desert! And obtain benefits.” (About 70 percent of FARC’s soldiers are men, and they’re reportedly not allowed to have sex with female comrades unless they get permission from their commanders.)

In November, the city council of Soap Lake, Washington, an economically depressed town of about 1,700, approved a project it hopes will bring back the tourist traffic that supported the local economy in the 1950s: building a functional 60-foot lava lamp on Main Street. The architect of the campaign, design consultant Brent Blake, said, “I just for some reason thought of [a] lava lamp.”

Animals Being Animals

At the International Professional Rodeo Association show held in October at South Carolina’s Hardeeville Motor Speedway, the performers included Tim “Wild Thang” Lepard and his three sheepherding border collies. This is not so novel in and of itself, in that border collies are often bred to herd sheep, but each of Lepard’s dogs was ridden by a small, screaming capuchin monkey. Said Lepard, “I [wanted] to put an act together that people [would] always remember.”

Least Competent People

According to a December report in the Merced Sun-Star, an unconscious man was taken to a hospital in Modesto, California, with his head apparently split by a brick. Police called to the scene had been warned about a “potential gunshot victim,” but once they arrived they were told by witnesses that the man had been trying to see how high into the air he could throw the brick, and that on his third or fourth attempt he’d lost track of its flight in the dark. Alcohol was involved.

First Things First

In Springfield, Massachusetts, firefighter John S. Marrero, 25, was fired in October, but not because he’d been charged with possession of crack cocaine and Oxycontin (he may yet be acquitted of those charges). Rather he was fired because he’d been smoking a cigarette when pulled over by a state trooper, and smoking, even off the job, is a violation of state law for any firefighter or police officer hired since 1988. (A police officer in Plymouth was fired for the same reason in 1993, and the state supreme court upheld his dismissal.)

In the Last Month

In Morayshire, England, 15-year-old Freya McDonald and her family said they would sue the girl’s high school, claiming it had contravened the European Convention on Human Rights by giving her 11 after-school detentions in nine months….Following an exhaustive four-month search by Florida’s child-welfare agency to find 393 kids entrusted to it but whom it could not locate, Governor Jeb Bush proudly announced that the agency had found all but 88….And the head of a government health agency in Thailand proposed that a leading national oil company offer massages to tired motorists at its gas stations, to help reduce traffic accidents.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.