Dogged by the canine flu

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Photo by Jeff Vorva

The gates are locked at the Happy Bark Park and EP officials hope to open them up again next week but it will depend on the status of the dangers posed by the canine flu.


By Claudia Parker

and Tim Hadac

Reporter News

         You won’t hear any happy barks at Evergreen Park's Happy Bark Park because for now as it remains closed.     

            The park, which had been locked up for most of April, is one of several services or businesses that have been affected by a national outbreak of canine flu that is hitting close to home. Earlier in the week, the flu reportedly killed a dog in McHenry County so dog owners in the Chicago area are not out of the woods, yet.   

            Evergreen Park was one of the first to shut down its dog park, a facility that was opened July 31 at 91st Street and California Avenue.

“LaPar Animal Hospital’s veterinarian, Dr. Matt Bauer, advised us to close the dog park as a precaution,” Mayor Jim Sexton said after Monday’s board meeting. “According to our knowledge, none of our local pets have been affected by the dog flu.”

            Village Clerk Cathy Aparo said an e-mail from Bauer suggested keeping the park closed for another week until the dog flu passes.

            Bauer said Tuesday that if he sees minimized cases of the flu for 10-14 days, he will recommend the park be reopened.

            “The surge is dwindling,” Bauer said.

In a move that officials hope will keep stray animals away from the park, the village will tighten entrance security when the park opens again.

Those who register for the park will receive a fob card, which works similar to a hotel swipe card. When waved in front of the reader, it will provide entry. Aparo said that each fob card ID number is registered to the owner and their pet. The pet license is $5 and the fob card is $20, Aparo said.  

Aparo is a doting dog owner herself. She said she wants everyone to feel safe bringing their dog into the park when it reopens. “There’s a large enough space where the dogs can move around comfortably,” said Aparo. “There are sections for small, medium and large dogs but they aren’t isolated to those areas. Big dogs can move into the small dog space and vice versa.” 

Aparo cautions owners not to bring their dog into the park if they aren’t social, to avoid doggy quarreling. “We encourage owners not to bring their pet’s toys in. Other dogs will see them and want to play with them too. Dogs are like kids, they’ll fight over things.”  

Subhead – Bo knows safety

In Oak Lawn Bailey’s Crossing Dog Park is still open for business but last Thursday afternoon, just one customer, Bo, a Cocker Spaniel/Bichon mix, was romping around.

His owner, Oak Lawn’s Joanne Niemiec, said that if another dog came to the park, she would remove Bo from the facility because of the flu epidemic. She also discouraged her pooch from drinking out of a bowl that other dogs have used at the park.

Bauer said that he recommends the same precautions.

Meanwhile, the flu’s ripple effects are causing damage as it sweeps through the area.

            “This is normally my busiest season, and I usually groom at least 40 dogs a week with a waiting list of about two weeks,” said Pam Barnett, owner of Pack Leader Academy, an all-breed dog grooming and training business in Palos Heights. “But last week? Just 13 dogs. Person after person called and cancelled appointments.”

            Dog owners are cancelling or at least postponing such visits based on the advice of veterinarians.

            “Due to the high risk of canine influenza virus spreading from dog to dog, pet owners should not allow their dogs to either socialize with other dogs or participate in any group dog training activities,” the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) said in a recent statement. “Pet owners are advised to not board their dogs at kennels and to avoid doggie day care, dog parks, and grooming facilities at this time.”

Symptoms include persistent, hacking cough, lethargic behavior, a poor appetite, nasal discharge, trouble breathing, or a fever. Testing for canine influenza is available, and best results are obtained from samples taken very early in the onset of the illness.

SUBHEAD – Fido looks healthy but…

Part of the dilemma, however, is that dogs that appear healthy can carry the virus and spread it to other dogs—and even cats—days and even weeks before they show flu symptoms.

            “You see, it’s everywhere,” Barnett said.  “It’s not just a dog park or a dog day care or a grooming establishment. A dog could become infected just walking outside to go to the bathroom.

“Everybody loves dogs, everybody pets dogs, people are getting dogs, picking up dogs on the street and bringing them home,” she added. “People can’t help themselves, but that adds to the problem.”

About three weeks ago, Barnett said she was not seeing any flu-related effects on her business “because the flu cases seemed to be clustered well north of here.”

She said most of her customers “take unbelievable good care of their dogs, better than they take care of themselves, even—and a few of them wanted a guarantee that their dog would not get sick by coming here, but how could I guarantee that? Granted, I’ve handled dogs professionally for 34 years and I run a very clean shop. I don’t accept dogs I don’t know, and I take every precaution—hey, my own dogs are here—but no one can absolutely guarantee anything in a situation like this.”

SUBHEAD – ‘Yes, I’m worried’

Other owners of dog-related businesses have expressed similar concerns.

            “We haven’t had a huge amount of cancellations yet, but it’s still very early, and yes, I’m worried,” said an Orland Park groomer who wished to remain anonymous because she was concerned that adverse publicity could cause panic and make the collapse of her three-year-old business “a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

While influenza in dogs is nothing new, the current outbreak is caused by a strain previously unseen in the U.S. It is common in Korea and other parts of Asia, and some believe it was accidentally imported into the U.S. in January, when a group of dogs that were being bred in South Korea as livestock for human consumption were rescued and brought to America.

            Since January, literally thousands of dogs in the Midwest—especially Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio—have taken ill. There is a flu vaccine for dogs, but it offers limited protection since it is not matched to the strain newly circulating in the Midwest.

While many more cases are anticipated, the silver lining in the cloud is that the mortality rate appears low, and just a handful of dogs have died this far. “But if one of those dogs is yours, well, you get the idea,” Barnett added.



--Reporter editor Jeff Vorva contributed to this report


This SXU pitcher did WHAT?

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Pitcher Perfect

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Nicole Nonnemacher had one of the greatest individual accomplishments in NAIA history as she threw a perfect game and struck out all 15 batters in a 9-0 five-inning win over Trinity International University on April 14.



At 3 p.m. on April 14, St. Xavier pitcher Nicole Nonnemacher walked onto the mound at her school and began throwing warmup pitches before a battle against Trinity International University.

An hour and 13 minutes later, she made history.

The junior pitcher, who was named NAIA Pitcher of the Year as a sophomore, not only threw a perfect game against TIU, she struck out all 15 batters she faced in the five-inning, 9-0 victory.

She threw just 57 pitches and 50 were for strikes. Trinity made contact just five times -- all foul balls.

Nonnemacher, a native of Bloomington, is just the second pitcher in NAIA history to throw a perfect game and strike out all 15 batters in a five-inning game. Emily Guess of Central Baptist Arkansas fanned 15 in a 27-0 victory over Hillside Free Will Baptist (Okla.) on April 18, 2011. Guess also fanned 15 in a five-inning game against Crowley’s Ridge (Ark.) in a 13-0 win four days later.

It was Nonnemacher’s second career perfect game for the Cougars. Mathematics, however,  prevented her from breaking her own school record for strikeouts as she fanned 18 neighboring Trinity Christian College batters On March 17 in a one-hit performance during a 5-0 victory.

For the full story, see sports.


Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Van Poppel lasts a long time despite not living up to huge hype

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col Impressions

Parents of youth league baseball players, what if I proposed this scenario to you?

If I told you that your kid would pitch in 11 seasons in the major leagues and make millions, you would likely tell me “Great!” and maybe turn a cartwheel or two.

If I told you, he might not be a superstar and might bounce around the league a little, including a couple of years with the Cubs, you might not want to turn that cartwheel, but you would have to admit it’s a pretty sweet scenario.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

For a dude named Todd Van Poppel, it wasn’t all that special.

A few weeks ago, my daughter was playing volleyball at this massive national qualifying tournament at McCormack Place and there were thousands of players, coaches and parents milling about. While I was chatting with another parent, a long distance away in this sea of humanity, there was former major league pitcher Todd Van Poppel purchasing some tournament shirts.

I wanted to chase him down and say hello to him, but he was too far away.

He played with the Cubs when I covered the team in 2000 and 2001 and he may or may not have remembered me.  Arguably, those were the two best seasons of his career as the setup man and racked up ERAs of 3.75 and 2.52 in his pair of years on the North Side.

By the time he reached the Cubs he was 29. He wasn’t the friendliest guy in the locker room but I was able to have a few decent conversations with him. By that time, he was beaten over the head over and over by fans and media about what a failure he was.

See, when he was in high school, he was supposed to be the next great thing.

He was going to be another Nolan Ryan.

He was a “can’t-miss” prospect.

In happier times, he was 11-3 with a 0.97 ERA and 170 strikeouts as a senior in Arlington, Texas. The world was his oyster.  

The Atlanta Braves were so geeked about him, they were all set to draft him in the first round. But legend has it that Van Poppel told the Braves no and they looked in another direction. They picked up an infielder named Larry Wayne Jones, Jr.

His nickname is “Chipper.’’

Chipper went on to have a pretty good career.

Van Poppel?

He signed with Oakland, made his debut at age 19 and became one of the top 10 “Can’t miss prospects that missed” according to one website. A Facebook wiseguy who writes “Ricos Funny Quotes” said “My retirement plan is just a shoebox filled with Todd Van Poppel rookie cards.’’

When Van Poppel signed with the A’s in 1990, the team selected four pitchers with their first 36 picks and people started calling them the “Four Aces.”

Despite people thinking he was a bust, Van Poppel was the ace of the Four Aces. The others were Don Peters, Dave Zancanaro and Kirk Dressendorfer. Dressendorfer lasted a month in the majors and the other two never made it.

It’s so dangerous to play the Potential Game. So many athletes in all sports have been the victims of too much hype before they even perform at the highest level. When they don’t live up to that hype, people resent them.

Look, I don’t remember Van Poppel telling the world he was going to be the next great thing. He wasn’t bragging that he would be a Hall of Fame pitcher. He was just a great high school pitcher whose career was seemingly mapped out by others. And it didn’t work out like they thought it would.

Here’s what I like about Van Poppel – he didn’t flame out at a young age and go home. He took all of the demotions to the minor leagues and from being a big-name starter to a near anonymous reliever and still put the work in and did what it took to spend more than a decade in the majors.  

That’s not a glorious accomplishment, but it’s a pretty difficult one.

At 6-foot-5, he can hold his head high, literally and figuratively.

He was in Chicago to watch his daughter, Halee, play for the 16 Mizuno Ray team out of Texas, which finished 14th in the 16-year-old open division. His daughter is getting a lot of positive press and will likely get a lot more before she graduates from high school in 2017.

If she gets a little too much love from the media and her head starts filling with thoughts about her greatness, her old man should be able to give some good perspective on that topic.

Parking issue solved

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

Palos Hills residents will use Southwest
Central Dispatch again for overnight parking

Palos Hills is turning to a familiar source to solve its overnight parking issues.
  Mayor Gerald Bennett said at the city council meeting last Thursday that Southwest Central Dispatch has agreed to once again field calls from those Palos Hills residents who plan on parking their vehicle overnight on a city street.
  Southwest Central Dispatch had been taking those calls from residents for the better part of the last five years, but this past December they notified Palos Hills Police Chief Paul Madigan that the task had become too cumbersome and they would no longer be able to provide the service.
But Bennett and Madigan recently revisited the idea with Southwest Central Dispatch and the agency said it would take the job without any cost to the city.
“We showed them the call log sheet [of those who requested overnight parking] and there really wasn’t many people so they said they could help us,” Bennett said.
Previously, residents were asked to call the Palos Hills Police Department to request permission to park overnight. When the police department was closed residents were then allowed to call 911 and a Southwest Central Dispatch operator would answer the call and then relay the information to police officers.
Once Southwest Central Dispatch stopped taking the calls in December, residents had to contact the police department during its normal business hours of 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday or risk receiving an $80 ticket.
Residents are now asked to call 708-598-2151 whenever they are seeking permission for overnight parking. The police department or 911 should not be called regarding overnight parking requests, Bennett said.
Overnight parking is not allowed in Palos Hills between 2-6 a.m. any day of the week. The city does allow residents to park overnight for three consecutive days up to three times of year. Bennett said the city will be keeping track of how often a resident calls.
“This is only supposed to be for emergency situations,” he said. “We will monitor those who take advantage of it.”
Overnight parking has been a hotly debated topic of late with one alderman at the previous meeting even proposing a moratorium on tickets while a solution is reached. Other ideas from residents and city officials have ranged from setting up an answering machine for citizens to call to allowing homeowners to print out a one-time use parking pass from their computer.
After nearly four months of discussion, Bennett believes the best solution has been found.
“We looked at whether we could use a non-emergency phone [answering service], but with different officers on the street and shift changes it would be too hard to keep track,” Bennett said. “I think we’ve come up with the best idea.”
Alderman A.J. Pasek (3rd Ward) agreed this was the best option.
“This is easier than having the answering machine,” Pasek said. “It’s very similar to what we had [before Southwest Central Dispatch stopped taking calls], but we’ll just have to reeducate people on what number to call.”
To do that, Bennett said the new number will be posted on the city’s website and included in the upcoming water bill and newsletter.

Sexton tries to shed light on vacant building

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Let there be light?
It’s not welcome in some circles in Evergreen Park.
Neighbors of the former Walgreen’s located at 3541 W. 95th street stopped by Monday’s village board meeting to raise concerns about the prospective plans for the building.
When Walgreen’s was open, it posed an inconvenience to some residents.
“We don’t want to see a restaurant in that building.” said one resident at the meeting. “I don’t want to deal with headlights shining through my house like I did with Walgreen’s drive-thru.”
Mayor James Sexton said the building was acquired by the village at a great bargain. “As of right now, we don’t have plans for the building,” said Sexton.
Another male resident stood up and said: “I’ve spoken to several residents in the area. None of us want a restaurant in there because of the rodents they bring.’’
Sexton responded, “I won’t commit to what will or won’t go into that space. However, let me assure you, when the time comes, we will consider the interests of the entire community.”
The mayor hoped to ease concerns when he added, “We’ve brought in several businesses and we’ve only heard positive responses for our community. We haven’t had any reports of pests from Pete’s Produce or Tavern on The Green. Again, we intend to keep everyone in mind.”

Trees make great neighbors…
 Area students in kindergarten through eighth grade participated in an Arbor Day creativity contest. The theme was Trees Make Great Neighbors. The categories included writing a song or essay, making a poster or creating a video. And the top three place winners were displayed during the board meeting.
Public Works Deputy Director and village certified arborist Gavin Yeaman said the environmental benefits of planting trees are endless. “Not to mention they’re aesthetically very pleasing,” he added.
Pleased was also the look on the parent’s faces as their children posed with Yeaman and Sexton.
Essay winners were: 1st place, Savannah Lesauskis, Southwest (Grade 6) 2nd place, Grace Murphy, Northwest (5) 3rd place, Heidi Burke, Northwest (6).
Song winners were : 1st place Mateo Vela, Northwest (4).
Video winners were: 1st place, Noah Flores, Northwest (4) 2nd place, Tess Lee, Southwest (1) 3rd place, Siobhan Power, Northwest (5).
Poster winners were: 1st place, Alyssa Rossi, Northwest (4), 2nd place, Alexander Peralta, Northeast (6) 3rd place, Peyton Schwarz, Northwest (2).
The tree planting ceremony – the village’s fifth -- will take place Friday.

…but stalled trains don’t
Sexton has been critical of CSX’s railroad trains halting and stalling traffic in his village in past meetings, but he called the company out again Monday night for a recent incident that happened on one of EP’s main roads.
“Our fire department was blocked by a train for 13 minutes trying to get to a pregnant woman who had been in a car accident.” said Sexton. “I don’t want to see my prediction come true but if CXS doesn’t fix their issues, someone is going to get hurt!”