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from the Charlotte (Florida)


Elderly man trapped by dogs

September 21, 2001

An 84-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor with bad knees found himself trapped on his front porch by a pair of hefty Rottweilers Friday afternoon.

Joe Kleiss was relaxing on a plastic deck chair in his Lakemont Avenue home in Port Charlotte around noon when the black dogs with brown faces joined him on the patio and plopped themselves down a few feet away from him.

"He did feel threatened because of his frailty," said his wife, Mary Kleiss. Joe Kleiss has trouble walking because of arthritis in both knees.

The dogs had collars but no owner's tags.

"They looked like they weighed about 80 to 100 pounds -- and Joe's only 120," his wife said.

Mary Kleiss said she petted one of the dogs and it growled at her. In a placatory gesture, she gave the dogs a bowl of water and tossed each of them a country-fried steak left over from Thursday's dinner -- but the dogs weren't satisfied and refused to budge.

"Get a leash," Mary's husband told her.

She advised him of the implausibility of that suggestion.

Mary Kleiss called Charlotte County Animal Control. About 40 minutes after the ordeal began, the dogs wandered away and Joe was able to go back inside the house.

A few minutes later, around 1 p.m., the dogs loped back, but Animal Control officers soon arrived and leashed them. The dogs were released back to their owner, Meosha Kelly, around 3 p.m. She wasn't given a fine.

Kelly said she has owned "Caine" and "Diggs" since they were 6-week-old pups. Friday, the two 80-pound, 8-month-old Rottweilers broke out of a screened enclosure in back of Kelly's home on Grove Street and set off on a breakneck exploration of the neighborhood.

"They like to run because they don't get a lot of exercise," said Kelly. "They like to think they're people; they want to sit at the dinner table. They know how to open doors, and they've even locked me out of my car."

Animal Control's Lt. Brian Jones said the same tips he gives to kids to prevent dog attacks apply to everyone else.

"Keep your legs and chest covered, and if it attacks you, lay flat on the ground like a log with your face down," Jones said. "Don't make eye contact and don't run. It's best to sit still, and hopefully they'll go away."

Mary Kleiss said she's glad her husband, who was aboard the U.S.S. Dobbin during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, didn't fall and break a hip or worse during the canines's stakeout.

"I was thinking, he made it through Peal Harbor," she said. "Let's hope he doesn't go out with the Rottweilers."

You can e-mail Garry Overbey at


Staff Writer

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