Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Not your parents' camp!

If you are like me, when you hear 'camp' you think of kids in canoes on a lake and letters from home sick first timers. Not this camp. This is Pit Ed Camp.

Pit Ed Camp is going on right now. Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of welcoming the campers, a small group of shelter staff and rescuers from around the country. The week long program conducted by BAD RAP, sponsored by Animal Farm Foundation and PetSmart Charities, provides attendees with a variety of information to help improve pit bull adoptions in their communities. In this session we have special guests from Hillsborough county Florida, the home of Little Man (see April 8 blog entry), sponsored by the ASPCA as part of their Mission Orange Program.

We keep the group small so that everyone gets individual attention and lots of hands on with the dogs. They'll visit a variety of shelters in the area but spend most of their time at the East Bay SPCA learning about the breed and Pit Bull Hall. Campers spend the whole day talking about and working with pit bulls - I can't imagine a better way to spend the day. I can't wait to see the group on Saturday as they practice their newly acquired skills in our pit ed training class!


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Crew in Corning

This weekend we took some time to visit a small group of dedicated folks waaay up in the north of California. Past big cities such as Red Bluff, you'll find a little town called Corning. We flew in a small plane and the view as we approached the airport was pure farm country.

With a population of around 7,000 people, and maybe that many cows, Corning has a pit bull overpopulation problem. Rather than try to find more populated areas to send these pit bulls, the shelter staff - one employee and three volunteers in total - transfer out the smaller dogs so that they can focus their efforts on placing the pit bulls.

The shelter is a city facility, operated by the non-profit rescue organization, Second Chance Pets. It is a small, older facility with some kennels indoors and some outside. During our visit, there were approximately 10 pit bulls and 3 non pit bulls. The pit bulls were all very similar in appearance, leaving us wondering if they weren't all coming from the same back yard breeding operation.

The Corning pit bulls showed us their best manners. These fine examples of the breed parade around town and visit local schools demonstrating what excellent dogs they are. In the coming weeks, the shelter will hold its first CGC test. The crew in Corning impressed us. With just a few dedicated individuals, they are not only cleaning kennels, exercising dogs and teaching them basic obedience, they are CGC preparing and certifying them!

Yup. The crew in Corning impressed us.


Friday, April 13, 2007

AB 1634 Hearing Report - A Guest Blog

Tina V - a tenacious champion for common sense compassion - represented BAD RAP in Sacramento this past Tuesday to voice our support for AB 1634. She reports on her experience in the capital:

When it comes to our pets, we are an emotional lot. Passions run high, and rightfully so, as they are more than ‘animals’ to us, they are friends, confidants. They comfort us when we are down and no day is so bad that a wagging tail, a sloppy kiss, or a silly antic can not bring a smile to our face.

On this, everyone at the hearing on AB 1634 was in complete agreement. Where opinions diverged was on how we, the lucky recipients of this unconditional adoration, could best help THEM.

For myself, the hearing was a very surreal experience. Back to that same room where SB 861 was originally heard, back to that very circus-like atmosphere of high running emotions. This time, it was so nice not to have the day tempered by fear, as it was back in summer 2005. That not-so-distant dark day of the past did help to remind me that the people who were there in opposition might be feeling a little like I was back then.

So, what happened? Well, we get to do this all again on April 24th. A couple of things in the bill need clarification before it goes to vote. (This, is a GOOD thing, since there sure was a LOT of misinformation flying about!)

We already know that nearly a MILLION pets enter California’s shelters each year, and of those nearly 500,000 are euthanized (in other words, KILLED - albeit humanely - at tax payer expense) forcing state and local governments to spend a quarter of a billion dollars each year to intake nearly one million unwanted animals, ultimately killing over half. Now, if you are like me, and spend most, if not all, of your money on your pets, this number is pretty mind-boggling. Imagine what we could do if we had that amount to spend on responsible dog ownership education.

The money isn’t the issue for me, as it may not be for you. The fact that 500,000 companion animals die each year for lack of a home in our state IS. Can you even picture how many dogs and cats that actually is? It’s 4 times as many as the entire population of the town I grew up in. These 500,000 dogs and cats - faceless and nameless to some - are our own pets, or were someone’s at some point. At one point, many of them waited eagerly to lick away those frustrations of a hectic day. Somewhere along the line, they became lost, or too much of a nuisance, or the people who were supposed to look out for them decided to move, get married, or have a baby. They became, somehow, disposable. Somehow, they no longer seem to matter.

They matter to me, and if they matter to you, I urge you write to Assemblyman Lloyd Levine and let him know that you care. Please tell him that you agree we need to stop using euthanasia as an acceptable means to control pet overpopulation.

Assemblyman Lloyd Levine
State Capitol
PO Box 942849
Sacramento, Ca 94249-0040

Tina V
News Report from April 10
More Info on the CA Healthy Pets Act Bill

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Little Flood Dog Does Good

In case you heard a loud whimpering sound coming from the direction of the SF bay area on Wednes afternoon, that was just me, driving away from dropping our foster dog Taz off in his new home. I did my best to look stoic for this photo but it wasn't easy. Taz has been near and dear to my heart since April of last year, when we met him in Louisiana as a 'left over' from the Katrina chaos. He's the best of old world Southern-style pit bull genetics: Small, spirited and shamelessly addicted to people.

We came a long way with this guy, plane flights and heart worm treatment and all. He had to accept being bottom of the totem pole around here with our personal dogs and put up with all the ill-mannered foster dogs that came and went. He charmed the neighbors in a big way, and even did a stint at Pit Bull Hall - which he actually enjoyed until the morning it flooded (Floods are b-b-bad). He became the perfect gentleman in all situations and turned from a grumpy dog-reactive brat to a flirty anything-goes socialite. Go figure.

It started to feel like he might never get a home. But then, his golden application arrived. He gets his very own person now in a warm Berkeley home with all the one-on-one attention a wonderful dog like him deserves.

I can't guarantee I won't get a little choked up tomorrow morning when it's time to tickle him awake and call him for breakfast. This one got under my skin. Welcome to your new life Taz. And, thank you. Your year in our home brought a lifetime of memories.


Many thanks to all the people who made saving Taz's life possible: Randy Covey for sending us to the prison project, Auntie Pam from Bermuda and V from Ontario for the toys that kept him happy, PBRC for heartworm treatment help, Pat for petsitting favors, Carolyn and Penny for being his best friends, the Pit Bull Hall crew for your devotion and everyone who donated to help our Katrina pit bulls find a second life!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A pit bull at preschool.

Each morning, my son, Parker, goes to a preschool which is only two blocks from my house. Dad usually takes him, but some mornings, I do. Today was one of those days. I loaded up my twins and we (Parker, the girls, and my mom who is visiting) all headed out. Right when we arrived at the school, a dog ran up to us on the sidewalk. It was a black mix of some sort. Probably with some sharpei. There was no owner in site. I kept one eye on the dog and one eye on my girls, still sitting peacefully in the stroller. Then a huge, brown and white, cropped ear pit bull came charging up the street. My mom was horrified. Another parent who was just coming out from dropping their kid off was horrified. I was, however, not horrified. When the dog came running up to me and the stroller, I said, in my firmest, but calmest voice, “Sit!” giving the sit hand signal at the same time. And you know what? He did.

You see, I had seen this dog on walks in the neighborhood. He is kinda hard to miss in my neck of the woods. So I knew he was well behaved and trained. And even if I hadn’t, I could tell almost immediately, this was not an aggressive dog. The sharpei mix was still running around and just then the owner came out of his house. He yelled at both dogs to “GET BACK IN THE HOUSE!” and they both jogged off back home.

While my mom was taking Parker into the school, the other parent, who was now in her car, pulled over and said, “I was very impressed how you handled that.”

“Handled what?” I said, thinking she noticed my smooth hand off of my son to grandmother.

“The dog,” she responded. “I was terrified. If my child had been down there, I don’t know what I would have done. I was soooo scared.”

I said, “Oh, that. That pit bull is a good dog. Most are, you know.”

She replied, “But you were so calm and handled it so well.”

Again, I said, “No reason not to be calm with that dog. Now…the sharpie mix was another story…”

She thanked me again and went on her way.

With Parker all checked in, my mom and I started home. She also said how scared she was and asked how I knew what to. I told her, “Mom, I’m not worried about well-behaved pit bulls. It’s the small off-leash dogs that terrify me.”

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Mob Scene

We barely finished giving our permission to touch when eight little hands mobbed our foster dog in a Berkeley parking lot this weekend. It was like witnessing the ecstatic revelry of a junior rave....Little Man was thrilled to be sucked into a sea of pink and treated like a rock star by four cooing, love sick fans.

These are those blessed moments we live for. No need to dissect breed myths or explain breed traits; we get to shut our trap, stand back and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

Monday, April 02, 2007

'Do Pit bulls belong on cafe patios?'

What could go wrong?

Plenty! according to reporter, Steve Blow, who uses the power of pen to warn cafe patrons in his revealing Dallasnews.com column. Mr. Blow uncovers a "legitimate cause for concern" when certain breeds saddle up for latte hour at hometown cafes. Read his investigative report on a suspicious pit bull recently spotted in a Dallas eating establishment (Warning: Graphic depiction of tongue yielding human): Cafe Crimes.

We've noticed similar disturbances in SF area cafes. Hidden cameras captured these shocking images:

Below Left: Lulled by the sports page, an unsuspecting cafe patron is clearly unaware of potential dangers. Right: Seconds later, predictably unpredictable, the canine is crazed by an unsatiable lust for low-fat foam.

Unable to stop the madness, the cafe patron recoils in horror; his beloved refreshment a victim of unstopable carnage.

Do YOU have photo evidence of pit bulls lurking in your local cafes?

If so, please send to contact@badrap.org for publication. We're committed to getting to the bottom of this latte... Er, this disturbing trend.

BAD RAP Ground Crew

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Fool's Gold


We were shocked and overjoyed this morning when we woke up to Sunday front headlines. In an unprecedented move, major media outlets joined in a public apology to American Pit Bull Terriers and their owners for years of biased and overly sensationalized reporting. It seems an anonymous reporter finally got down to hard science, researched the breed and found the APBT was actually the breed most likely to sit on one’s shoe, lean into a leg, and grin from ear to ear, among other lovely talents.

Plans are underway to report real information that all dog owners can use. To launch their dedication to this new perspective, mobs of news crews converged on a local convalescent home to record five pit bulls at work as certified therapy dogs.

April 1, 2007, actually marks the eighth anniversary of BAD RAP’s first meeting. Over margaritas (top shelf, of course), we layed out a rough road map for building this group. We had a good laugh at ourselves when we realized the significance of birthing a non-profit on this oddly auspicious date. Only a fool would step off a cliff into the unknown and decide to help pit bulls in this kind of climate. What kind of strange cosmic force did we inadvertently align with for such an effort?

From a Tarot deck (hey, we’re Californians after all):

(One) interpretation of the card is that of taking on an action where the circumstances are unknown, confronting ones fears, taking risks, and so on. Although it cannot be seen in all modern cards, The Fool is often walking off a cliff. This raises the question "Is The Fool making a mistake, or is The Fool making a leap of faith?" He is ruled by Uranus, the planet of revolution and liberation.

The fool is traditionally scorned and mocked by society although he holds a significant role: In Shakespeare, for example, it’s the Fool who speaks the most profound truths.

Well. Maybe not such a bad role model after all. And it's true that we didn't quite know what we were getting into eight years ago, and every pit bull owner knows about scorn. Appropriately, a dog accompanies the Fool in most versions of the tarot. The dog symbolizes the natural world, a path to knowledge, and a valuable ally.

Maybe the Fool is actually a mentor for any and all dogs owners who are willing to champion for their underdogs? After all, during our toughest times, who among us have not gained courage, insight and understanding from the counsel of our dearest four legged friends?

(designated BR margarita maker and occasional blogger)