Detroit. Scrappy, messy, unrelenting, unapologetic. I love it as much as I hate it: It's where I was born and raised until my early twenties and a big part of my heart is still there. We just returned from a visit as part of a trip to the MPAW Conference in Lansing - a gathering of bright animal welfare minds hosted by the Michigan Humane Society (think: Animal Cops).
MHS wants to re-visit their policies that now ban pit bull adoptions. Right now, their pit bulls don't leave their Detroit shelter alive and the shortest coats you'll see in their surburban shelters belong to beagles. We were greeted with smiles after our morning presentation on lessons learned in BAD RAP. Many of those smiles were wearing suits; a good sign. We told the audience that Oakland is a lot like Detroit. Same gritty spirit...maybe a little less messy. If Oakland can make things better for pit bulls that need help, so can greater Detroit. After all, adoptable dogs are counting on us.
Later, we left the sweetness of the MSU conference grounds to take a peek at two of their three shelters. The newer facility in Westland was impressive, although a very lonely place for a pit bull nerd...None to be found in their cheerful kennels. We couldn't wait to hop in the car and take off to our old stomping grounds in da ghetto of their downtown facility. This shelter looks like a building from modern day Baghdad. But the people inside are warm and ... real. I always think of Detroiters as the ultimate urban pioneers. We got the hec out of that city years ago, but the people that stay somehow make it work.
You'd imagine that the dogs from Detroit would reflect their surroundings - beaten down and edgy. But just the opposite: We were greeted again and again by beautiful tail-wagging bullies, pressing into their kennel bars, smiling and ever-hopeful. Amazing. It was too hard to walk away knowing all were lost, so we asked if we could take home a lovely chocolate brown female. A tiny gesture in the middle of an enormous problem. They said yes!
It turns out the chocolate girl was a staff favorite. (I love that they even have staff favorites, since opening your heart means you're going to be disappointed in the end.) We just got word today that she passed her health check, so is ready to fly. Stay tuned for news and photos as our Detroit Lady gets her muscley butt on a plane and heads to Oakland to start her new life. We can't wait.
In case any of the Detroiters we met are reading: Thank you for not giving up. We so admire your cautious optimism for better days. You're a lot like your dogs -- and I mean that in the very best way.
Thank you to Dina for sponsoring our Detroit Girl in Gary's name. You've got some heart, girl.