Whatever happened to ... ? Five-legged puppy, six-foot gorillaUpdates on the most memorable stories of 2009.
By: Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune
"The best dog we've ever had"
Molly O’Neill was coping with a bout of puppy fever even before she heard about the abandoned litter allegedly left on the side of Martin Road, found by a do-gooder, and delivered to Animal Allies in June.
By the time she got to the shelter, all that was left was Gabriel — a German shepherd-husky mix that had been born with two left front legs.
Of course, later it was discovered that the puppies hadn’t been abandoned and that the do-gooder knew the dog that had birthed the five puppies. Tarnished facts or not: O’Neill had found the next addition to the family.
And now? Gabriel is 7 months older, one surgery wiser, and living the normal life of a three-legged pet with O’Neill, her husband Mike Sengbush, three sons, and a 2-year-old black Lab-husky named Oliver. Gabriel hikes, he is playful, enjoys snow and has never met another living being that he doesn’t immediately love.
“He’s the sweetest,” O’Neill said. “It’s the best dog we’ve ever had. He gets along with all dogs and people and kids. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t get a good vibe from him. He doesn’t do anything wrong at all.”
It was a rough three weeks between bringing Gabriel home and getting him in for surgery. O’Neill said he had one toe on his bad leg that he could use, but it would become bloody and sore. Gabriel couldn’t walk far, and would scream out in pain.
“I just felt so bad for him,” she said. “I was hoping he’d make it through and see life isn’t always going to be pain.”
His double leg was amputated at the socket, and a touch of morphine helped him through the early post-surgery period. The operation was expensive — O’Neill said about $1,000, and that they received some donations. Less than a month later, Gabriel recovered.
“He can run as fast as our four-legged dog,” O’Neill said.
Gabriel still has some tenderness at the spot of the amputation. His hair has grown over it, but he will yelp if it is touched. This is expected to eventually subside. Meanwhile, his other front leg is especially strong. Aside from that, he has no other special needs. He can manage a 6-mile walk, but tires more easily than his four-legged friends.
Gabriel attracts a bit of attention when he is out and about. O’Neill said a few people recognized him in the aftermath of the story being in the news.
“He’s a bit of a dog celebrity,” she said.
Radio as usual for Lew Latto
What looked like it was going to be retirement turned out to be more of a spring break for Lew Latto.
The longtime radio talk show host on WDSM-AM 710 was let go from the station in mid-March, a dismissal that came even earlier than he had expected. Instead of broadcasting his final show, his last hurrah was canceled hours after completing what was supposed to be his second-to-last show.
On June 1, Latto was back behind the microphone — soon after then-marketing manager Ron Stone left Midwest Communications, which owns the station.
Since then, it has been radio as usual for Latto, who is on-air from 7-9 a.m. weekdays, sometimes broadcasting from his home in Florida, sometimes from his home in Duluth.
“I’m back, and I’m glad to be back,” Latto said. “Everything is basically the same as it was. I just got a couple of months off.”
Latto said he received hundreds of supportive e-mails during his time off, and he responded to every one of them. Latto, 69, started his radio career in 1958, after his senior year at Duluth Denfeld.
He organized and emceed the famous Winter Dance Party show at the Duluth Armory that featured Buddy Holly in 1959. Latto is the longest-running radio talk show host in the area.
Latto has no plans for a real, self-imposed retirement any time soon.
“As long as I’m mentally and physically capable of doing it,” he said, “I’m going to do it for a while.”
Denfeld grad lands "Mama Mia!" role
For David Raimo, part of the past summer was spent lunching with the likes of Jessica Biel and Scott Bakula while he was in the ensemble of the musical “Guys and Dolls” at Hollywood Bowl.
It was a major gig for the 2003 Duluth Denfeld grad, who has continued to make his way as a working actor living in Los Angeles. The next big thing for the 24-year-old actor-singer-dancer: In early 2010, he will be playing one of the main roles in the Broadway Tour of “Mama Mia!”
The musical, set to songs by the 1970s-’80s Swedish pop band ABBA, is about Sophie, a young woman who is about to be married. In the days before her wedding, Sophie tries to find out the identity of her father, digging into the journal her mother kept from the summer when Sophie was conceived. She hits a hitch when she finds three men in the running.
Raimo will star as Sky, Sophie’s fiancé.
“I’m so excited,” Raimo said. “It’s good getting to the place I need to be.”
This is the first Equity production for Raimo, which means he will be part of the union of musical theater performers and directors. It means more than just earning a more significant paycheck and benefits.
“It’s a huge boost to my career,” he said.
Raimo will begin rehearsing for “Mamma Mia!” in January. The show opens in St. Louis in February, and swings by the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in March.
“Guys and Dolls” got solid reviews, and answered a question on the minds of theater-goers: Can the Ely-born actress Jessica Biel sing? Yes, it turns out:
“Jessica Biel has a lovely soprano voice. It was clear as a bell in ‘I’ll Know,’ ‘If I Were A Bell,’ and her duet with Sky, ‘I’ve Never Been in Love Before.’ This gal can sing and she certainly has comedic talents as well,” wrote a reviewer for the LA Independent.
Raimo said everyone he met was really nice, especially considering plenty of them had enough cred to be divas — if they wanted to.
“It was an amazing experience working with people of that kind of stature,” Raimo said. “They all had Broadway credits ranging back from before I was born. It was an exciting time, and I learned a lot.”
Big gorilla finds a home at PBS
Bridger Prime 8 might not be a name that rings a bell, but how about this one: “highway gorilla.”
Brian Carl of Duluth was transporting the 6-foot-tall stuffed animal across the Blatnik Bridge when it flew off his trailer in April. He didn’t feel safe stopping his vehicle, so he continued home.
Enter John Bray, a spokesman for the Duluth District of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, who saw the animal escape and retrieved it from the road. Bray brought it back to his office, where it was cleaned up, and had it checked for illicit substances by the Duluth Police Department.
Carl later heard news reports about the gorilla and called MnDOT to report that it was his.
After a wild ride, that gorilla has gotten a dose of domestication. It now lives at the public television station WDSE-TV, and has been given the name Bridger Prime 8.
What was once a prize from Valley Fair has now been given to the station, along with a 4-foot banana, to be a part of a membership event for kids. The gorilla also has been part of a membership drive and on the station’s monkey-themed float during the Christmas City of the North parade — making it a highway gorilla once again.