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Monday, August 6, 2001

Kratz and dog

  2001 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.


Jordan Kratz kneels on the floor of his stiflingly hot attic apartment in Portland, gently strapping a small corgi dog to a two-wheeled cart.

One strap goes around the dog's chest. Another loops around her belly. Two smaller straps support her disabled hind legs.

news photo
Staff photo

Jordan Kratz walks his dog Sadie. The 11-year-old corgi suffers from hip dysplasia and uses a wheelchair to support the back end of her body. "I think she understands that she has to use her cart for the rest of her life," says Kratz.

At 32 pounds, she looks like a fat brown fox hooked to a chariot.

"Sadie's wheelchair," Kratz says quietly, talking more to his dog than to those watching his usually private morning routine.

Then Kratz lifts his dog in both arms, cradling the animal and metal cart as he walks down three flights of stairs leading to a tree-covered walk on Emery Street.

Sadie the dog, 11 years and 7 months old, her elderly face fixed in a dog smile, suddenly turns active. Her front legs give her momentum. Wheels that replace her useless rear legs spin.

Kratz, 45, holds her leash while walking happily behind his dog.

A familiar presence in the city's West End, where he lives alone, and in the Old Port, where he works as stock manager and shipper for Videoport, Jordan Bruce Kratz and his 32-pound dog on wheels are an odd couple.

There's the brown-and-white corgi pausing to bark at pigeons or chase other dogs. And there's Kratz, a slightly built man of 115 pounds who usually dresses in black basketball sneakers and tattered black shorts or jeans. He dyes his Einstein-like massive curly hair pinkish-red.

His interests and creative projects are as unusual as his appearance. And like his elderly corgi, Kratz bounces back from disaster.

The worst took place in 1987, when he was arrested in Portland on a charge of trafficking in cocaine. That charge resulted in a year at Lewisburg Penitentiary in Pennsylvania, and six years of supervised relief.

Except for marijuana use, Kratz says he has been clean since leaving prison.

Today he's the leader of a longtime punk rock band called Big Meat Hammer. He maintains an approximately 800-volume personal library of science fiction and horror stories dating back to the 1930s. He's a self-taught videographer and recording artist.

Kratz's most ambitious creative work is completion of a 5 1/2-hour documentary of the Jewish population who lived in Carpathia (a part of Romania) before and after the Holocaust. Among those interviewed is his father, a survivor of four death camps.

People familiar with Kratz's videogaphy and recording talents call him very skilled.

"I admire Jordan," says Fraser Jones, owner of Independent Audio, a recording studio that hires Kratz to do professional audio restoration.

"Jordan is a tremendously loyal and genuine friend," says Jones. "He supports the arts. He's always trying to help people."

Kratz's devotion to his corgi began in 1998, shortly after he met Jennifer Lunden of Portland, a 33-year-old social worker and master's degree candidate at the University of New England.

Sadie was Lunden's dog, adopted 10 years ago from the Cleo Fund. The dog had no physical problems at the time.

Kratz and Lunden became a couple and, during the year and a half they were together, Kratz took a lot of interest in the personable corgi. He helped feed and care for her. He posted pictures of the dog on his Web Site (See Sadie's page)

"Jordan absolutely adores Sadie," says Lunden. "She's a feisty little thing. I think Jordan identifies with her because he's small and feisty."

Even after they split up as a couple, Kratz and Lunden continued as friends. Sadie was the subject of a custody agreement that gave Lunden the dog for half the week. Kratz had Sadie the rest of the time.

By late 1999, Sadie showed signs of old age disability. Her hind legs gave out unexpectedly. Sometimes she would drag her rear end.

According to Kratz, a veterinarian diagnosed the problem as hip dysplasia and degenerative arthritis. Sadie had to be carried up stairs and lifted into the car. By January 2001 she had practically lost mobility.

"We talked about this," says Lunden. "I was ready at that point to let her die. I feel that sometimes people hang on to dogs for their own needs. Sometimes it's best to let a dog go."

Kratz disagreed. He told Lunden he would build Sadie a wheelchair with help from his lead guitarist, Bob "Skummy Man" Farington.

But before they got far with the project, Lunden spotted an ad for a canine wheel chair in a dog breed magazine. Its $300-plus price tag was a problem.

Kratz had no significant savings. He asked the owner of Videoport, William P. Duggan, if he could put a collection jar for Sadie on the counter.

"He told me not to worry," says Kratz. "Videoport would pay for Sadie's wheelchair."

According to Kratz, the dog quickly adjusted to her new device.

"I think she understands," says Kratz, "that she has to use her cart for the rest of her life; at least when she's out on the street."

As she changed from a four-legged dog to a two-legged, two-wheeled dog, Sadie's custodial status also changed. Today, Kratz has primary care of Sadie, which is fine with Lunden.

"Jordan is a great doggy daddy," she says. "He's able to give her the attention she needs as a disabled doggy. I know Sadie is happy, and I know Jordan made the right decision about the wheelchair."

Kratz and his dog have their daily routine.

Mornings and evenings, Kratz walks Sadie along tree-lined West End streets. Then he takes her by van to Videoport, where she sleeps on a dog bed.

During Kratz's breaks at work, Sadie walks with him to Bagel Works, where she is the only non-service dog allowed in the restaurant.

Why go through such trouble for an old dog?

Rusty might have had something to do with it.

That was the name of a mixed-breed dog Kratz doted upon when he was a kid growing up in Lynn, Mass., the son of an immigrant traveling salesman who sold clothes in northern New England.

"I still have Rusty's dog tags," says Kratz.

The year Kratz spent in a federal prison, following years on the street in Boston and Portland, may have influenced the way he cares for his dog.

At the very least, it taught him something about endurance, and not slipping up.

"People are people in or out of prison," he says.

Regardless of his background, Kratz has been good luck to a 32-pound brown corgi.

"She has a smiley face," he says. "I think these dogs smile to the end."

Copyright Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.