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Local dentist takes care of toothache - in a cheetah

WINSTON — A Wildlife Safari cheetah is walking around with less pain after a tooth fixed on Thursday afternoon.

Mchumba, a 6-year-old cheetah, serves as an ambassador for the animal park in Winston. Once his handlers noticed a suspect tooth, the cheetah was taken to the Safari clinic Thursday where a local dentist, Dr. Ron Tribble of Umpqua Community Health Center, checked out the cheetah to see if a root canal was needed, after handlers had noticed something appeared to be wrong.

“With her being one of the ambassadors, we check them every day and we noticed a black spot on that tooth,” said Sarah Roy, carnivore supervisor at Wildlife Safari.

Tribble and Safari veterinarian Dr. Benji Alcantar determined that it was a cracked tooth that appeared to be causing the pain for the animal. So Tribble put in a filling, which appears to have taken care of the problem.

Tribble has done several of the animal dentistry projects over the years. He did a root canal on Mchumba a couple of years ago, and he’s also done dental procedures on a bear, a lion, a hippopotamus, a tusk repair for an elephant, an extraction for a fox and did some dental work on a hippo. He also plans to do a root canal on another lion later this month. He likes working on people, but taking care of animal teeth is an experience he relishes.

“My time at Wildlife Safari is very special for me, I love working with the animals and working with the team up here, and it just allows me to come in and just be a different guy,” Tribble said. “That’s the really cool part to be able to interact and do something that you rarely get an opportunity to do.”

Alcantar says the value of having someone like Tribble donate his time to do the procedures on the animals at the park, has been a big asset for them.

“It’s great, it’s just super valuable, having a dentist like Dr. Tribble to help us with this because he has the experience for it and he’s good at what he does and he’s willing to do it,” Alcantar said.

Tribble and Alcantar had assistance from a group of students from Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California, who came to Wildlife Safari to assist with the dental work.

Tribble checked out the X-rays of the Cheetah’s teeth, and after a thorough examination, he decided that the cracked tooth could be fixed with a filling. Tribble said he does everything he can to keep from having to pull a tooth in a wild animal like a cheetah.

“I think I have a good track record, I think the root canals have been pretty much 100 percent successful,” Tribble said. “That means the animal is able to go back to normal functions. I’ve been doing this for 20-plus years now but just being able to give them a better day and not have a toothache is a pretty positive thing.”

One of the helpers at the cheetah dental appointment Thursday was Amy Barkhurst, who is an exotic animal practitioner at Santa Clara Animal Hospital in Eugene. She grew up in Myrtle Creek and has volunteered at Wildlife Safari since she was 13 years old. Barkhurst, who is a volunteer veterinarian at the park, wants to get certified in zoo medicine and being able to take part in the crew that worked on Mchumba was another step toward that goal for her.

“I want to be a wild conservation zoo vet someday,” she said. “I need to get into a specialty residency program and research, and this will help.”

Mchumba and her brother were actually born on Leap Day, Feb. 29, 2012, so they’ve only had one true birthday, but they’ll celebrate their seventh birthday on Feb. 28.

Roy takes Mchumba, whose name means “sweetheart” in Swahili, to schools and other events around the state of Oregon, to take the message of the endangered cheetah. It also allows Wildlife Safari to highlight the fact that it is considered the top cheetah-breeding facility in the world outside of Africa, with 214 baby cheetahs born at the park since it opened.

“She’s a great cat that a lot of the community is very familiar with, and it’s really neat that we can take care of this, because in the wild something as simple as a toothache can end up killing an animal if it goes untreated,” Roy said.

Police detain suspect after reports of shots fired

SUTHERLIN — Marie Munro-Pautot became concerned when she heard what sounded like a shot near her home late Friday night on Sunny Court.

When she heard what sounded like a popping noise minutes later, she wasn’t taking any chances. Munro-Pautot called the police around 10:45 p.m., locked her doors and got her gun out.

“I got my gun out,” Munro-Pautot said. “I didn’t know what was going on so I wanted to protect myself.”

Sutherlin Police Capt. Kurt Sorenson said the gun shots in the area of Sunny Court, including some heard by the first responding Sutherlin police officer, appeared to have been fired indiscriminately.

But for nearly 90 minutes, police took every precaution, with heavily armed officers from multiple agencies surrounding Sunny Court while searching for the source of the gun shots.

Police blocked off Sunny Lane near East Central Avenue while members of the Sutherlin Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Police located a possible suspect and began negotiating with an adult male to come outside his home.

At around 12:25 a.m. Saturday, the suspect, Jeffrey Howard Jones, 49, was detained by officers without incident.

“Officers were able to make telephone contact with Jones and determined he was highly intoxicated,” Sorenson said in a press release. Officers determined Jones accidentally shot himself at his residence in October of 2018, according to the press release.

Sorenson confirmed Jones fired multiple rounds, but not at anyone. Officers said they believe he was shooting into the wooded area behind his house. No injuries were reported.

Witnesses on scene, watched from afar while authorities investigated.

Munro-Pautot’s son, Richard Munro, stood at the intersection of Sunny Lane and East Central Avenue with a radio in his hand, unable to advance further until police determined the area was safe.

Both are members of Sutherlin’s Community Emergency Response Team, a volunteer group set up to assist police when needed.

After waiting at the perimeter set up by police, Richard Munro contacted his mother on the radio one more time. Munro-Pautot, who installed home security cameras after some recent thefts, kept watch for any threat with her gun in hand.

“Keep your radio clear for now,” Richard Munro told his mom. “Just let me know if you see anything.”

Jones was lodged at the Douglas County Jail on charges of unlawful use of a weapon, reckless endangering and disorderly conduct.

Hayden sponsors bill to create mental health respite centers

Roseburg could have a shot at becoming home to a respite center for people suffering from mental health crises.

House Bill 2831 was introduced last week by Rep. Cedric Hayden, R-Fall Creek, who represents North Douglas and South Lane Counties. It would create a pilot program to operate three respite centers, one in Portland, one in Eastern Oregon and one in Southern Oregon.

If it passes, $2.25 million in general fund dollars would be allocated for the centers. Local nonprofit organizations could submit bids to operate the Southern Oregon pilot facility, whose location has not yet been selected.

Hayden said each center would be small, with six bunks, and house mental health patients for two weeks. The respite centers would provide peer counseling from people who have themselves weathered mental health crises, either from their own illness or that of a loved one.

Without such a facility, a 9-1-1 call can lead to a person in the middle of a mental health crisis winding up with a short stay in the county jail or a local hospital.

If they are put in jail, their health care coverage continuity is broken, and they aren’t able to stay connected to whatever mental health services they were receiving, he said. They might ultimately wind up with an expensive stay at a state mental hospital, which pulls them out of their communities and costs the taxpayers lots of money.

“When it comes to mental health, these people just need somebody to lean on. Basically, they need a friend. They don’t need a county jail or a state hospital stay. They need to get ahold of what the immediate problem is and get back into services and get stabilized. That’s what these peer respite centers are intended to hopefully do,” he said.

Hayden said three new centers won’t take care of the entire problem across the state, but would serve as a pilot project and generate useful data. If they could reduce the number of people going to the county jail or the hospital by 30, 40 or even 50 percent, he said, that would mean a significant cost savings.

He said currently Oregon spends $3.2 billion a biennium on mental health, but has poor results.

“There’s a big mismatch between how we’re spending that money and the results we’re getting,” he said.

There are about 13 states that have similar programs, and Hayden said he’s optimistic the Oregon legislature will approve the pilot project here.

“It’s an idea that some other states are trying that looks very, very promising, and we’d like to bring it to Oregon,” he said.