Monday, August 13, 2001

Animals delight recovering toddler

Couple visit boy who was shot

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Devonte Ross enjoys the company of a llama with his dad Alfonso Williams.
(Steven M. Herppich photos)
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        Much has been written about the healing power of laughter and animals. Two-year-old Devonte Ross got a dose of both Sunday when a petting zoo made a house call.

        Pat Brickweg of Lebanon and her neighbor, John Stegemoller of Oregonia, brought a horse, donkey, llama, goat, rabbit, two chickens and two pigeons to visit Devonte.

        The toddler was shot July 20 in the crossfire of an Over-the-Rhine gunbattle — a horrifying moment in Cincinnati's dramatic upswing in shootings and other crime since the April riots.

        Since his release from Children's Hospital, Devonte and his family have been temporarily staying with his grandparents in Mount Healthy.

Devonte rides a donkey accompanied by Chuck and Monene Kamm.
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        Devonte smiled Sunday as he rode a horse for the first time. His father, Alfonso Williams, rode with him down the sidewalk while Ms. Brickweg walked ahead, holding Zephyr's reins.

        “I love this,” said Devonte's mother, Carmaleetta “Coko” Ross. “This is so nice for them to do this for my son. He hasn't been able to see or do anything since he came home from the hospital. He really loves this.”

        Devonte is doing much better, she said, but he can't stand or walk for long because he tires easily. She doesn't let him play with other children yet because she worries he'll get hit in the chest.

        On Sunday morning, Devonte discovered his wound for the first time while his mother was cleaning it.

        “He cried, "Mommy, look. I got shot.' I said, "I know. You're better now. You're OK.' He was trying to wipe off the scars, but they won't leave..”

        A few hours later, the focus was on happier moments when two trailers carrying animals pulled in the driveway. Ms. Brickweg and Mr. Stegemoller routinely take their animals to churches, nursing homes and day care centers.

        “I had this real strong feeling that this is something I needed to do for this family,” said Ms. Brickweg.

        It was hard to tell who was having more fun — the adults or the children — as about 25 relatives and neighbors took turns riding the horse and donkey, and leading the llama and goat around the yard.


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