Monday, December 31, 2007

OH Eight!

Happy 2008 to everyone who reads this blog and is looking forward to better days for the dogs.

It's going to be a good year for pit bulls....We feel it, we KNOW it. Not without a lot of hard work and relentless educating and ambassadogging and rescuing and debating and scheming and hammering and networking and partnering up to get things done and staying awake at night worrying over individual dogs or small towns with stupid BSL proposals or being incensed at media crap or planning next steps. But, it's going to be better.

This is the best photo I could think of to celebrate the new year. It's actually from the Tuff Love event, which made its way into the Society page of the SFChron. Not bad. And a reminder that, in more ways than one our dogs have arrived. Move over, naysayers.

Be safe. Be strong. And remember to take the dogs' advice and do your best to keep your tail wagging in '08.

WOOF!. ( * More Tuff Love party photos HERE * )

Friday, December 28, 2007

Target much?

We didn't avoid tragic dog-related incidents in 2007. There was enough bad news to keep Karen Delise very busy with her in-depth research on the circumstances that add up to tragedy.

One reporter in Killeen Texas decided to do his own expose of dogs in the news today. The Vick story was his perfect (unrelated) opp to rehash one family's horror, and spin it into a year end review on pit bulls. He tossed in some dog-on-dog anecdotes and wove in some irrelevant news about distemper to spice things up. Apparently disease is scary too, although it's not clear if we're blaming the pit bulls for that....

'Pit bulls played a big part in local, national news'

Really? And why is that?

Let's be kind and call it an oversight, but his research side-stepped these sad Texas tragedies in 2007:

- German Shepherd & Doberman Kill Woman - Lower Valley TX
- Golden Retriever & Australian Shepherd Kill Woman
- Friendswood, TX

- German Shepherd Severely Mauls Boy - Alice TX
- German Shepherd Attacks Woman - Lubbock TX
- Golden Retriever Attack - "The worse bite ever seen" - Dallas, TX

Are these bad breeds? Hell no. Randall Lockwood, a senior VP of the ASPCA reminds us in Malcolm Gladwell's classic article: "A fatal dog attack is not just a dog bite by a big or aggressive dog. It is usually a perfect storm of bad human-canine interactions - the wrong dog, the wrong background, the wrong history in the hands of the wrong person in the wrong environmental situation."

I couldn't help myself and wrote to the Killeen Herald news team, reminded them of their oversights, and put in a plug for less targeting and more bite prevention articles in the new year. (Please join me.)

Let's hope they bite.


We do believe Motor City Stella is finally getting her groove on.

What a difference a coupla months can make!

Four Paws Up to the gorgeous gals who made news by creating the PinUps for Pit Bulls Calendar Their calendars are making waves and they donated part of their sales to BAD RAP. Thank you girls! Get your calendar here. After all, there's no such thing as having too many pit bull calendars.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Santa, take note.

The elves must be getting lax: We accidentally ended up with someone else's Christmas gifts yesterday. It seems Santa forgot to pick up and deliver them to their rightful homes. (Or maybe their homes don't celebrate Christmas?)

Either way, these unclaimed gifts are ready and waiting to be delivered, as soon as we figure out who they belong to.

Gentleman Bug (the best kept secret at Pit Bull Hall). Bug Clip

The Girls. Josie Kat (left) and Texas with the Texas-sized ears.
Tex & Co. Score Cookies and Josie Kat Clip

Santa keeps telling us that this Rascal was delivered to the right address, so I guess we're stuck with him. Rude Boy

Meet Bug, Josie Kat, Texas and friends at Pit Bull Hall

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Scrappy Doo finds her way...

Some time ago, we brought you the story of Millie (seen here in her favorite position - upside-down soliciting belly rubs from people of all shapes and sizes).

I wasn't ready for a foster at the time, but as her luck would have it she's the Doublemint Twin of my personal dog, and since her temperament was also super-fab I had a sucker moment and took in the chewed-up, overbred, filthy, hand-shy street urchin.

Part of the reason for this sucker moment, of course, was her story - this was her fourth trip to the shelter, and her most recent home was an adoptive home of that same shelter. Unfortunately, that adoptive home had given her away to a friend as a guard dog, and in that situation there were fights with the other yard dog - also a female pit bull.

The last bad fight seemed to be the last straw for the yard owner, and Millie was called in as a "stray" and carted off to the shelter. Pit bulls that come into the shelter are up against astronomical odds to survive; pit bulls that come into the shelter with fight wounds and occasional fence reactivity stand no chance at all, so we feel very lucky that our Pit Ed campers happened to bring us out to find this little girl.

In addition to having fresh wounds all over her neck and head, Millie had some old scarring - but her mellow nature and intense desire to please her people made her more than willing to settle in and play nicely with the resident dogs.

My own Bitchy Queen female quickly established her world domination, and Millie was only too happy to join the pack as one of her loyal subjects. Once that was settled, the two became pals - something that most wouldn't expect between two mature females, one of whom had a history of yard fights with another female pit bull - but something that can happen if the chemistry is right between the dogs and good direction is set by the people.

Millie had many fans within the group, and we really hoped that someone "in the family" would adopt her and help her achieve her true calling as a Therapy Dog.

In addition to the resident foster dog pack she found a special friend in Bad Rap alum Booker and his human mom. (Who can blame her, really? Booker looks so nice in seasonal metallic bling...) Unfortunately, Booker's Mom wasn't ready for a second dog - much to Booker's dismay.

We decided that Millie should be placed with a second dog - she really comes out of her shell when another dog's around - and so, despite some good applications from single-dog people, we hadn't yet found the right people for this special gal.

Then, we got an app from a young couple with a family home and two resident dogs - a large male Rottweiler and a young scrappy Rat Terrier/Chi mix female. We figured that Millie might find the Rott's similarity to Booker reassuring, and knew that any Rat Terrier/Chi mix would provide her with the Reigning Canine Bitchy Queen rule she'd come to expect.

Just to make sure that everything worked out, we put her in a foster-to-adopt contract and - despite her already having a CGC - made her new folks come to Pit Ed classes.

Millie is still in her foster period, and we're pleased to report that she's doing great! As expected, she's most often found playing with Cesar, her Rottie heartthrob, or hanging out in obeyance of mighty mix Cleo.

This street urchin has come a long way since she landed at the shelter, chewed up and filthy and there for the fourth time, all of which meant she was unadoptable. We're looking forward to moving her story (and the above photo) to our Happy Endings soon - fingers crossed that this last mile in her long tale to forever home is the shortest!

Note from a Friend

Blog Buddy Jen from Indiana sent on these photos and holiday notes.
Thank you Jen! We hope Santa brings a happy home for the very handsome Elton in 2008!

With your recent blue addition, I thought that you might appreciate the following greeting from our "earless" foster dog, Elton. Happy Holidays and thank you for all that you do! - Take care, Jen in IN

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is my two ear flaps back.

Bully Love,

Dear Elton,

While next year I would prefer sugar cookies and milk to milkbones and a bowl of water, I have left something special for you under the tree.

Be Good,

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

When Mother Nature Has the Final Word

In summer 2007, in New Jersey, a police dog named Rommel was let off leash to do his business and ended up killing a chihuahua who was walking by with its owner. One quick shake and the tiny pet was gone. Needless to say, it was a tragedy for the chi's owner. The police called it "a horrible accident," apologized to the owner and sent the german shepherd back to training. As far as we know, Rommel has gone back to his life and - we can bet - he won't be let off leash around small animals anytime soon.

At around the same time this summer - here in the SF bay area - a similar scene played out when a dog named Lucy escaped from her yard during an exciting squirrel-chase. Unfortunately, she too came across a chihuahua on a walk. (Insert expletive) As you can guess, Lucy ended up killing the chi just as Rommel had done on the other side of the country. And in front of its horrified owner, no less. In both cases, the owners of the attacking dogs were tragically negligent. The only difference being, Rommel was allowed to live while Lucy - a pit bull - has been sentenced to death. The gray muzzled girl has lived incident-free with her family for over six years, so we can all imagine the anguish her owners are feeling over the outcome of this tragic first offense.

Our sympathy goes out to the heartsick chi's owner for the loss of her companion. And while we can't condone the irresponsibility of Lucy's owners, based on the behaviorists' evaluations, the declarations on her behalf, and the shelter staff's own adoration of her, we're concerned that Lucy was condemned to the most severe and ultimate decision because of her breed.

Despite the mismanagement of her owners for not maintaining their fence, chasing small animals is NOT a "pit bull thing." And contrary to popular belief, it's not even a "dog aggression" thing. (Note: Lucy's lawyers misfired and called the incident a "dog fight" - OUCH.)

Rommel and Lucy are certainly not alone. The wolf-kin Malamutes and Huskies, the bred to-lure-course Greyhounds, and even those cute little Westies ...All breeds are encoded to exhibit prey drive in select situations. This canine behavior is as natural as shedding fur and it demands a good old fashioned dose of common sense management from dog owners especially in an age when living spaces are getting squeezed and small squirrel-sized dogs are heeding Paris Hilton's bidding and arriving by the tens of thousands into our neighborhoods. (In two recent Shots Fairs in Oakland, chihuhuas outnumbered the pit bulls by 6 to 1!!)

Above: The primordial wolf. Simon taught us early on that thousands of years of hunt drive were not erased with the invention of kibble.

We have to wonder: If a german shepherd with no previous complaints had been involved in killing a chihuahua in Sunnyvale, would he have been ordered to death as a result? Time will tell.

These sad situations beg a larger question: How can we support dog courts to hold irresponsible owners accountable without causing their people-safe dogs to suffer the most dire of consequences? It's a difficult time for cities that are encouraged to "get tough" on owners who set their dogs up to fail, especially when a pit bull is involved and worse yet, when the pit bull paparazzi is watching. From a judge's perspective, miscalculating a home's intentions and letting a dog return only to possibly fail again is every court's worst nightmare and can cause the bravest to buckle under a deadly dose of breed bias, peer pressure and misinformation. It's not fair, but it's the reality that dogs - our breed especially - is facing right now.

So how do we find any balance in this chaos? It's not going to be easy. Recently, we absorbed a new dog into our program that had been deemed a "dangerous dog" by the courts and condemned to death by the shelter for allegedly biting a dog's ear while running at large. It was made clear to us that she'd been set up to fail several times by clueless owners that neglected to contain her. In this surprising case, an open-minded judge reviewed video tape of our evals (which revealed a highly manageable, people-safe dog) and a dog-savvy city attorney convinced him to remove her "dangerous dog" label so she could be saved. (Rescues can't absorb dogs with "dangerous dog" or ''potentially dangerous dog" labels since they render a dog essentially unadoptable).

The judge's decision and the dog's liberation was a first, and a sign that with education and cooperation, we can work towards helping dog courts make decisions that are fair for all involved -- especially to those people-safe dogs that are only guilty of acting like dogs when their owners fall asleep at the wheel. But of course, that can only happen if dog owners stop howling and start building those bridges needed to change the minds and hearts of the powers-that-be in our city councils and especially, our dog courts.

Please, PLEASE remember to practice defensive driving with your dog during this difficult time of breed bias, and know your rights, your responsibilities and your dog laws. Your dog's life may depend on it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Where's the Love?

Not surprisingly, my 18month old daughter, Piper, has a cold. I say not surprisingly because as a pediatric nurse practitioner I knew that her once a week preschool program would happily team up with cold and flu season to bring us a series of upper respiratory infections. Actually, I’m surprised that it took until mid December for it to start. Now that the first one has hit, I have a toddler who cannot sleep, doesn’t want to eat and is generally an unhappy camper. Before you parents out there conjure up sweet images of a sick baby cuddled up in momma’s lap, I refer you back to the title of this blog post. Where’s the love?

Apparently, the love is crated. Piper, who loves me and generally likes to cuddle, has, during this illness, often forsaken me for the comfort offered by the dog. The last few days, I’ve sat back and watched as my little girl made her way to my bedroom and curled up with her best friend inside his crate. Sometimes, the dog looks to me as if to ask if she’s OK, other times he lets out a large relaxing breath and falls back asleep with her draped over his back. It seems that there is something soothing about curling up in a crate with a pit bull. Actually, it doesn’t have to be in a crate, as far as Piper is concerned anywhere will do as long as she has her pit bull.

As cold and flu season wears on, when you find that you or your child isn't feeling well and Tylenol isn’t doing the trick, you might want to follow Piper’s lead and look for a pit bull to cuddle. Remember, as a parent you may have to occaisionally put your foot down and demand to be included.
I look forward to a day when medical research shows the health benefits of pit bull cuddling and pediatric providers start prescribing the practice for sick kids everywhere....

The holiday season really brings out the optomist in me. Wishing you, and pit bulls everywhere, health, happiness and peace in the new year.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Blues Club

BooBoo Divine and Deja Blu get acquainted......

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hope this

Hope feels like a radical notion some days. Here are five things that made us perk up and contemplate the possibility of better days this weekend....

1. This editorial out of NJ makes some very good points. 'Opening eyes and hearts - Vick case has shed welcome light on animal cruelty.' ...Yes.

Just as good is this photo of the town's police chief getting slobbered by a shelter pit bull. You gotta love it.
Photo Credit Tanya Breen Ashbury Park Press. (Nice job, Tanya)

2. Vick's former home failed to attract a buyer this weekend. You'd have to wonder who in their right mind would ever feel at home in a place that holds such bad juju. The country's least desirable address (Make sure and read the last line suggesting the property would make a nice B&B for pet owners. Yuk.)

3. The ASPCA and Animal Farm Foundation are working together to reward animal shelters for creating perfect 'Adopt-A-Bull' adoption matches. They hope to use the stories of happy homes and their smiling pit bulls "to highlight the positive attributes and merits of the American Pit Bull Terrier" Press Release Here. Nice perk for your local shelter's adoption program...Big bucks too. Let them know!

Of all ills that one endures, hope is a cheap and universal cure.
- Abraham Cowley.

4. BSL was rejected in one town in Colorado on Friday. Very happy news from this same state that's been shamefully enforcing a breed ban in Denver. Parachute, CO

5. Finally, a small personal victory in the middle of bigger news, but very happy nonetheless.

BR alum Bailey recently transplanted to sub-zero Chicago and jumped right into earning her Canine Good Citizen certificate. Bailey - formerly known as Holly - was one of the last of 13 unclaimed Katrina dogs that found homes after coming to CA via our big bad 2005/06 flood dog project.

As we ready a whole new group of dogs from a whole different kind of disaster, it's SO nice to reflect on the Katrina dogs and see them doing so well. Bailey spent her summer as a much-loved mascot to a school with special needs super kids, and her mom has more mascot plans for her in Chicago.

Congrats Andy & Bailey!

Of course, having a CGC title doesn't mean Bailey's not capable of being a lovable BRAT. I bet we all can relate to this: Naughty Dog Movie

Deja Blu

Guess what? Today's call was from the East Bay SPCA - Shelter employee Lenny watched as a parked truck pushed a dog out while trying to close the door quickly. He couldn't get the entire license number while trying to keep an eye on the dog, knowing it could run into traffic. Of course the truck sped off and Lenny grabbed up the dog. At least the driver made it most of the way to the shelter - right?

A twin to Boo Boo Divine, Deja Blu could be a littermate, or more likely, from the last litter of this prolific breeder - she might be six months older. The photo distorts their sizes, they are actually near identical. Same colored amber eyes, same color coat, same long top line, same slightly straight back legs, white feet, wrinkle face, only slightly taller, same temperament. Oh ya, she also had to have her own deformity - a nice, long, 14 inch nasty scar down the middle of her back.

We have seen this in photos so often now that we need to research this phenomenon. We took it for granted that it was meth-lab chemical spills. We're well aware that tweakers are using pits to "guard" their labs, but these spills don't look accidental. They all go down the middle of their backs along the spine. Some are so bad that they need plastic surgery to repair, hers is all healed, but there forever. Is it some kind of branding used to identify their dogs and quicker than a micro-chip? Or is it to "make them mean" like the idiots who still believe that a little gun powder in the diet will do the trick? We can't figure it.

But what we know for sure is that we will now target the West Oakland neighborhood these gals came from, and we know the address since Boo Boo's peeps posted her lost info. We'll do our next shot's fair there and hand out as many free pit spay/neuter vouchers as possible. We'll also track down the breeder and let them know where their dogs are ending up. Can't hurt.

I can't forget to mention that Deja and BooBoo got in a quick play session and mirrored each other beautifully - quite a match. One big blur of blue - raaaaaaaaaaare blue!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Today, people suck.

Ugly title, I know. I think we've all been there though. Maybe people won't tomorrow, but today, we sure do suck.

We took a trip to Oakland Animal Services today to look at a female Megan told us nobody would want since some kids chopped her ears off, all the way off, with scissors. I call most of the dogs "mystery dogs" since we never really know their exact story. This one was different. She was reported missing from a back yard (please don't leave your pits out unattended when you are gone), then one month later, was spotted running from two kids. The guy who chased off the kids took her in, but was later turned in by a neighbor for not providing vet care for those bleeding ears. Dog bless OAS for responding to the call and taking her from him. He thought she was rightfully his, so they reminded him that that would mean an animal cruelty charge for not seeking vet care. He acquiesced.

The scan for a microchip located the original owners. Wow, hurray for microchips! But let's not get too excited - remember the title of this blog...

No ears and now she's spayed? "No thanks. Keep her. How can we breed her if she is spayed?"

Now here comes the part where I suck. I thought, "This gal better be perfect, because we're going to have a hell of a time placing her with those butchered ears." And she is. She's the perfect little angel of a dog that is so forgiving that she hasn't shown any sign of fear towards people. None. And she still has sutures. Only ten months old and a little thin, but she is going to clean up beautifully.

She's also found a great little guy friend with a dog that we're holding onto from a custody case. They belong to the Mutual Admiration Society and we considered for the first time that maybe these two should be adopted out together - who knows? But watching their crazy antics together sure has changed the tone of my day.

The Letter

Here we go. The media is running wild with a handwritten letter from MV to Judge Hudson, outlining his regret "for dog fighting activities" and request for mercy.

Let's back up. Knowing what you know now, that in a report to the courts the team of ASPCA-led dog experts noted that, after extensive evaluations, a number of the dogs "showed no sign of aggression or threat to (either people) OR DOGS." That several have since been taken in by foster families - foster homes which typically include kids and other pets. Well, it contradicts everything the general public has been lead to believe about these horrible fighting dogs. Hec, it contradicts everything most pit bull owners believe about fight bust dogs. Admit it, weren't you surprised?

"Bred for generations for their unstoppable violence" ... "Ticking time bombs" ... "Killers"

Or so we were told.

So now. Knowing that dogs that didn't perform well...that they were tortured for being "no threat to other dogs"...can you just imagine the scene in this horror movie? A dog that "showed no threat to other dogs" wasn't just cleanly dispatched by a needle full of blue juice. It was made to feel unspeakable terror at the hands of his most embarrassed, most outraged best friend. Torture isn't designed to kill, but to punish, humiliate, and terrify.

We know these dogs, we know the dogs that were tortured. As much satisfaction as we've gotten from seeing the wonderful rescue outcome, I think it's safe to say that most everyone who's worked on the case has been privately tortured to some extent by the details. I can't talk, but I do need to talk, and I know I'm not alone. We've lost sleep, broken down in tears, raged inappropriately at odd moments, cursed the victims' critics...And we're only on the fringe of those Virginia woods looking in. The torture was that twisted.

Michael. Torture is not a fleeting lapse in judgement or "bad decision." We all make bad decisions and we all regret them and struggle to make them right. But you haven't begun to deliver yourself from this thing. Don't fool yourself...You're hanging from a tree, along with your beautiful, terrified dogs right now. Own it.

As far as the letter goes? Read it to your dogs.

This 1923 photo of a boy and pit bull saying prayers together was sent by Seth, a fellow vintage photo lover. It seems appropriate to share it now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

From the Courthouse to the Cemetery

A Blog from Tim Racer about his impressions of the courtroom and street scene on sentencing day:

Jumping off a redeye - sans sleep - and into a courthouse line to see the biggest pit bull-related case of the millenium is a sure way to catch a dose of the surreal. Although it was Vick who was the bad guy and American Pit Bull Terriers were - for once - understood as the victims in this drama. All the events of this day were oddly juxtaposed to create a very dreamlike quality: It was gorgeous weather and excitement filled the air, but people were gathered to witness a superstar sports hero lose everything he had...PETA volunteers held posters of tortured pit bulls, however none of them that I asked, realized their own organization's stance of advocating for the extermination of the breed....Answering a reporter that "Yes, I want to see Vick receive the maximum sentence," yet I don't believe in our failed penal system... And listening to a federal judge so kindly refer to Vick's pit bulls simply as "dogs." I really must be dreaming.

Above ESPN set up a stage for the day's big sports event. Peta supporters carefully positioned themselves in front of their cameras.

The only thing that made complete sense to me was Vick's attorney's assertion that "Michael is depressed" (which is why he self medicated). That's okay Michael, you just go on right ahead and be depressed, because you have every right to be depressed. You pissed your life away because you couldn't give up your dog-fighting addiction. At least you won't be stuck behind bars for eight solid months in an overburdened shelter without getting out once to see the light of day. At least you will have a toilet in your cell and won't be forced to live in your own filth until someone comes and hoses it out with you in it. At least you will be able to take a walk.

Michael Vick said he was sorry, but words are just words, and people who really work with dogs understand body language. Vick was not remorseful about his actions, he was just upset that he got caught. Like the day months ago that he made his public apology, again, Vick mentioned his apologies, but failed to include the dogs. He again never even mentioned the word "dog." So how can he be remorseful? Judge Hudson gave him near the maximum recommended sentence because he too recognized that Vick was "not taking responsibility for his actions." However he did knock off one month due to the fact that Michael gave money to his church.

Back to surrealism. Nicole and I decided to end the day by taking a trip to Moonlight road. Vick's house is up for auction - just call us curious. When we got there, we saw that directly across the street from the house was a church. A church! The boys were fighting and killing dogs across the street from a chapel for six years. Wow!

Dogs were baying in the woods and metal was being thrashed around and echoed in the trees. We needed to get away from the creepy feelings we were both having, knowing how many dogs were unearthed on that property and wondering how many more tiny skeletons might still be there. We will always be haunted when pondering how many dogs never made it out alive, because we all know that the eight dogs that they killed in April were just the tip of the iceberg. Then our car alarm started randomly triggering (eek!) so we decided the best way to shake it was to go work some dogs.

We've been providing interim care for many of Vick's dogs (but they really aren't his anymore), so we headed over to pay a visit and run a dog. It was the best way to close a strange day, because after all - it is and always will be about the dogs. ~ Tim Racer

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Trying to Talk Without Talking

Speaking with the press is nerve-wracking, especially when the feds are watching to make sure we don't overstep our bounds by saying too much. Saying too much means endangering the case that's still open, and endangering the case means they may be less likely to work with rescue people in the future. And that would be bad.

Reporters on the other hand can be pushy and downright demanding about getting their story. Last night, a television news crew all but insisted on coming to our house for an interview, never mind that it was getting late and dinner was on the table. I sent them away, even though they were clearly unhappy about missing out. Sorry guys.

But we happily gave stories to these writers because they were patient, kind and they were truly interested know ...the dogs, not the drama. The Contra Costa Times writer was the first to recognize how landmark the case has been for abused dogs, abused pit bulls especially.

Contra Costa Times Article on Vick's Sentence

And FINALLY, a published mention of a formerly abused dog that we really can talk about. I can't tell you how many times we've offered Sophie's story to the media in place of the Vick dogs, and up until now every reporter has just yawned. Hmph!

Dogtime is a promising new website with a very gifted writer. We wish them the best success. on Sophie

Into the Ether

Well. Tim flunked out of journalism school today by losing his first person account of the Vick sentencing scene to cyberspace. Surreal days like this will do that to you. After screaming at the computer, he gave up and collapsed into bed. So here's a thousand-words-peek into their day with vague details supplied by spotty cell phone conversations. The full scoop is following - once he and Nicole both get some sleep.

Outside the courthouse. All that's missing is the balloons.

Getting ready to read a statement from BR. It looks like he's feeling that old familiar stomach knot that comes along with talking to the media.

Above - Name Drop Opp: That's Randy Lockwood in the background.

Left - Tim learned that Peta volunteers have absolutely no idea that their organization wants to ban pit bulls. Like, NO idea. This looks like an intervention.

Tim and Nicole then escaped the circus to visit a very special dog (Darn. Can't show those pix).

Below - Then, a quick trip to stare at the soon-to-be-auctioned Vick property just as it was getting dark. There's a ghost story that goes along with this photo. I'll let them tell.

How weird is this? A baptist church is literally a stone's throw across the street from the Vick residence.

We all felt pretty blase about Judge Hudson's sentence today. A bigger disappointment was that Vick never once mentioned the dogs in his statement.

He expressed regrets for disappointing his family and fans, but not a flash of regret for the creatures that brought him into this courtroom in the first place.

Did you notice that too?
Did Jesus?

Check back tomorrow night to see if Tim is inspired to re-blog about his many adventures in Richmond VA today. I hope he is.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

For the Victims

What does tomorrow hold?

Monday morning, 10am Eastern time, Judge Henry Hudson will hand down his sentence to Vick. Tim will be at the courthouse along with BR diehard Nicole Rattay. They hope to read a statement to the press on behalf of he victims and report back with a blog Monday night, so please check in.

In the meantime, please hold warm thoughts for justice for the victims. Even though cruelty/neglect charges were not filed in this case, we're keeping our fingers crossed for a stiff sentence from admitted dog lover Hudson and good messaging from the media (Dare we hope?).

As always, celebrity abuser or anonymous thug, it's about the dogs.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Let's have a dog party! (Pit Bulls not invited)

Pit Bulls love to party.

Our dogs are in their finest hour when company's over - the louder and rowdier the better.

So when we decided to attend an author reading in a Berkeley bookstore - one that invited dogs in for the event - for a new book entitled "Let's Have a Dog Party," you'd think we'd find some common ground with the author.

Except that in this case, the author was Ingrid Newkirk. Would we find any common ground with a woman who has most recently been making noise about the Vick dogs as unpredictable and dangerous, and recommending that the pit bulls be killed - but that the deserving Beagles be saved? (Not that her public condemnation prevented PETA from raising money on behalf of the Vick dogs, of course...)

So I set out with Tim Racer, our fearless founder and resident rabbler-rouser. We of course brought Honky Tonk and Gunther in tow, since both of them have been known to enjoy a good dog party. We even dressed them in their finest - Honky wore his Therapy Dog vest, and Gunther was dapper in a striped sweater (he gets cold, after all). Hey, it's Berkeley.

To our surprise, Ingrid began her talk by talking about the Vick dogs. The very Vick dogs that she hasn't met but wants destroyed, the victims of abuse that PETA has publicly vilified and exploited as a fundraiser, and the same dogs that BAD RAP helped assess. She used these dogs again as an opening attention grabber, and to segue into a story about PETA's invitation of Michael Vick to their headquarters. She then named the various celebrities that had contributed to her book, talked a bit about what compelled her to write the book, criticized Paris Hilton for her irresponsible and ongoing collection of dogs as accessories (hey - something we agree upon!) - including a comment that insulted dog sweaters, which made Gunther feel a bit awkward (really, he gets cold) - and then read us a few delightful passages about dog parties.

After the reading, Ingrid opened it up for questions. Nobody raised a hand. So Tim raised his hand.

Tim mentioned that he was from Bad Rap and that it was interesting that Ingrid mentioned the Vick dogs, since she was publicly advocating that all the dogs be killed. He explained that we've been rescuing fight bust dogs for years and that some of them have been the best dogs we've ever met, and wanted to know how she could advocate that all the dogs be killed when she'd never met them.

Ingrid didn't really answer Tim's question. Instead, she began talking about Michael Vick being famous and about him funding the dogs, and said that she felt that the resources going to these dogs would be better spent on spay/neuter programs for all the dogs out there.

This of course made me wonder where PETA's money raised by mentioning the Vick pit bulls is going, since it's not going to the dogs. PETA hasn't been shy about sending out newsletters about the Vick pit bulls and soliciting money, so if PETA's objection to saving any of the pit bulls is that resources are better spent for spay/neuter, why don't they use some of their collected resources for this program?

While I was having this brief internal monologue, Ingrid went into a tangent about resources and the shelter system in general (the "deserving dogs" needing resources that shouldn't be wasted on pit bulls was the vague theme here), and Tim pointed out that the Berkeley shelter just down the street is 80% pit bulls. He clarified that, if she was saying that shelters shouldn't adopt out pit bulls, that she was eliminating 70-80% of some shelter populations.

Ingrid then said that she felt that the theft risk of the Vick dogs was too great to risk adopting them out.

Tim mentioned that this objection was no different from what she's been saying about pit bulls in general for years but that we've never had one stolen, and then we had what I like to call "A Berkeley Moment."

This Berkeley Moment was a large, long and creatively-haired dog owner across the aisle who randomly leaned in at Tim bellowed, "Hey, you ever hear of Darwinism? You believe in Darwinism?"

At this point too many people started talking at the same time, and the bookstore manager became noticeably agitated. She asked Berkeley Guy to hold his comments, and tried to end Tim's commentary as well. Tim asked if he could just get an answer to his question, and Ingrid said something to this effect:

"We can debate all day and we will still have the fundamental difference of opinion as to whether a pit bull should be taken out of a shelter and given to someone on the street."

Whether the audience had just noticed that the head of PETA had just told them that she doesn't feel that pit bulls are adoptable and don't deserve any shelter resources is unknown, as the book store manager was quite obviously uncomfortable at this point and cut Tim off.

After this exchange, people asked nice polite questions about neglected Pugs and such. I raised my hand 3 times, but apparently I had become invisible.

In addition to my question about PETA's fundraising allocations, I did want to discuss Ingrid's ongoing claim that her desire to eliminate pit bulls stems from her belief that if they didn't exist, they wouldn't be abused. Hey, I just wondered if she also advocates the extinction of Greyhounds so that they won't be raced, or children so they won't be exploited...

But these questions would go unanswered, because I was now the teacher's second least-favorite pupil (was it the dog sweater?), and she wouldn't call on me. Darnit.

The Q&A ended shortly thereafter and we had a short chat with Ingrid.

The short of it: she "fundamentally disagrees" with us on our viewpoint that pit bulls are adoptable pets. She feels that, should a Cocker Spaniel and a pit bull both be competing for resources, that the Cocker should get them because it's smaller and therefore less likely to do any serious harm if it "goes funny."

We mentioned that any defective dog with that size differential could do damage, and she said "Oh yes, them too." Tim then told her that, if we eradicated pit bulls tomorrow, we'd see the same problems with Mastiffs and other breeds. Ingrid eagerly agreed with this.

So listen up, non-Cocker-people: the pit bulls may be in the crosshairs now, but your breed is potentially PETA's next target.

Ingrid also made sure to pet my dog and tell me his sweater was perfectly ridiculous (which sounds remarkably less rude in a British accent). Gunther tried to tell her that he gets cold, dammit, but the store manager was fussing about again - if she'd had a stage hook, we would have most definitely been yanked outta there.

That a Berkeley bookstore manager was so uncomfortable about an honest exchange of conflicting opinion was somewhat ironic given that: (a) We were in Berkeley, and (b) the person speaking is the head of a group known for throwing paint on people and terrorizing children with fake buckets of dead chickens.

I guess I should have left the sweater at home and outfitted Gunther in more appropriate attire for the event...

So, we left - but not before the canine boys earned several fans by being their joyboy selves.

I have to say that I find it just baffling that an organization as large and influential as PETA can make so many policies and statements condemning a dog breed simply because its founder has a personal bias - and can continue to be influential in spite of it.

But hey - at least this founder knows how to throw a dog party.

Then again, my dogs have never had trouble getting down to party. Heck - they even have their own dog party invitations.

For more info: PETA's Call for a Pit Bull Ban