Friday, April 25, 2008

Happy Alive Day

A group of disabled Iraq war veterans is calling the date of their brush with death their Alive Day. It's a compelling way to reclaim a tragedy and use it as a point of power.

Today is the Alive Day of the Vick dogs, who were taken away by police and animal control just 12 months ago. It's worth a smile in our corners. Major kudos to our volunteer crew (not all shown here, unfortunately) for sticking it out and dealing with the chewed shoes, caveman-like dog manners (at first, anyway), Saturdays lost to training class, vet appointments, poop clean up, endless emails, prying reporters and a hundred other little surprises that come along with adventures such as these.

This photo is from People Magazine's photographer Tim Archibald. (Thanks again, Tim). I should prolly address his other photo that's on our home page now, because I know it's going to get me some grief. I've heard that some are concerned that images of our bust dogs in close proximity are going to incite trouble by giving Joe Public the green light to build up his own sofa-full of __fill-in-the-blank__ (fight bust dogs/game bred dogs/pit bulls). Is that true? I dunno.

If it is, please Joe Public, understand that our V-dogs are often shown together because 1) we cherry-picked them during our evals, in part, for their dog tolerance, 2) like good dog owners, we know their individual limits and 3) we manage and direct them well when they play so they give us their best manners. It just goes to show what's possible, given a little common sense. We're practicing what we're preaching, in other words.

Here's the sermon: Monitoring Play ...Socializing ...Multi-Dog Homes

Back to the Alive Day news, we look forward to reporting on a big rescue case in another state that isn't getting nearly the attention it deserves. Please check back soon. We're sorting through photos and news and organizing it nicely.


Rachel said...

congates on your ALIVE DAY and all to come. I love seeing their pictures. it's always a wonderful start to my day. i wish you luck with everything to come and I hope they are able to change at least a few people's minds about pits in general.

Pam said...

What a way to start the day out here in the Atlantic!!! Woo Woo Woo!! Happy Alive day to all of the BadRap crew for your love and dedication to the cause of the beloved bully breed. You're an inspiration to all who come to know of your heartwarming stories of determination in getting our favorite breed back where it belongs, with a loving family. I just wish I was there to kiss'em all on their bully chops!!!

Anonymous said...

It absolutely is a double-edged sword.

Depicting the Vick dogs as able to have normal relations with other dogs (not to mention people) has been a huge PR plus for them, and for other seized "fighting" dogs. No doubt your efforts HAVE saved other dogs and started to normalize the breed's image. This is awesomely positive.

Nonetheless, it is ALSO incredibly dangerous, because while the Vick dogs themselves will be/are with safe responsible responsible owners, many other pit bulls rescued because of your efforts will NOT be.. and will get in trouble.

Responsible pit bull people live in a state of paranoia about what trouble their own dogs might get into, and what trouble other people's dogs might get into...

Donna said...

I can respect your concerns, anon, but I do think the term 'incredibly dangerous' is a little strong. The Vick dog population is no different from the population we see in our shelters - and the dogs listed on PBRC, for that matter. They're 'just' pit bulls. Even more, our dogs have passed extensive evaluations and are being managed by everyday people who have common sense.

The 'true' fighting dogs are in Best Friends, and public has been made aware of why they're kept very separate from each other.

To be honest, I'm far* more concerned with people who rescue dogs with people-issues, although it does seem that novices are starting to get it that pit bulls should be aces with people.

As far as dog tolerance levels? We need to encourage a larger discussion about that in broader dog circles. If we're so afraid of animal aggression in pit bulls, then does that mean rescuing greyhounds from the track is wrong? What about the other breed people who deal with animal aggression issues on a daily basis?

If it's an unforgivable trait in pit bulls, then it's unforgivable in dogs in general -- and THAT kind of thinking is what I would call incredibly dangerous.

Viva dialogue!

yoonamaniac said...

Happy Alive Day!!!!!

Sasha said...

Happy Alive Day to all you fantastic pibbles and your Nice Men & Nice Ladies! We love reading about your adventures and look forward to news of your forever homes.
What a great day to be Alive.

Love and belly rubs,
Sasha & Hana

Caveat said...

What a great picture!

Congratulation, you guys, good job well done.

As for concerns about other 'pit bulls', well those concerns can be generalized to any breed/shape of dog that is overly popular and acquired by unsavoury or incompetent owners. Popularity is a curse for dogs, no question.

The intense advertising campaign by media, which has been running for about 20 years, has made certain shapes of dogs attractive to the wrong kind of people. It's not the dogs' fault.

Every dog is an individual no matter what his breed or mixed breed ancestry and needs to be treated with respect and concern for his wellbeing and safety.

But you knew that.

Happy Alive Day!

Donna said...

More good common sense. Thank you, caveat.

Anonymous said...

well, there are pit bull people like the estimable Brent of KCDogblog who get very upset when people talk about pit bulls as dog-aggressive. They don't want pit bulls to be portrayed as dog aggressive, because they believe it's 1)untrue and 2)plays into the hands of the pit bull haters. THAT'S an incredibly dangerous notion too. What needs to happen is not this kind of denial about dog aggression (which sadly is enabled by your photo's, if not your sensible words), but more acceptance of the trait as normal and manageable.

I don't see that happening in today's environment, though. I think we're sc***ed either way.

Social Mange said...

Happy Alive Day! That picture made me a bit weepy, all those lovely dogs saved....and so many others lost to unfounded, unjust breed-specific legislation.

Caveat said...

There's a huge problem with buying into the common belief that there is a 'gene' for species-specific or worse, own species-specific antisocial aggression.

This is not supported by the science to date. It's also not supported by prominent game dog breeders such as Colby, who said in his book that he would get litters where not one pup could be trained to fight, or where only one or two could be conditioned for that purpose.

It would be theoretically possible to breed a line of dogs that are sociopathic; however, since most 'pit bulls' are mixed breed, lookalike dogs of unknown ancestry, it is incorrect to presume that they share a common ancestry or, more improbably, like behavioural traits.

You can breed for heritable traits, no question. These include physical characteristics, intelligence, prey drive and other things necessary for survival.

It is also possible to pass on disorders and syndromes such as those seen in some lines of Springer and other spaniels, Golden retrievers, Dalmatians, Australian shepherds and other breeds.

However, until science proves me wrong, I'm convinced that it is owner behaviour - either intentional or unintentional - that fosters habits such as territoriality, neophobia, resource guarding, escalating antisocial aggression, etc.

While most dogs exhibit these kinds of personality traits naturally to a greater or lesser extent, the degree to which they are expressed is the responsibility of the owner. Training, socialization, commitment, early handling - these activities can contribute to a wide range of behavioural characteristics both positive and negative.

I'm not saying it's impossible, I just haven't seen any evidence to support this common belief even though I spend a lot of time poring over the scientific literature and studying the subject in general.

And I've said for years, and as Donna has pointed out, if people are worried about dogs chasing and killing other animals then one would expect them to be concerned about the Hound and Terrier groups as a whole, not individual members of those groups (which were created for the convenience of dog show people).

Dogs are social animals with a well developed hierarchical sense. They are predators and scavengers (their actual preference). I think people, especially the non dog-savvy, often forget that.

chelsea said...

I totally cracked up when I saw all those Pibbles on one couch. I just adopted my first APBT from a local Pit Bull rescue and I can't get ONE picture of my bouncing baby girl ... homegirl is an obedience pro, but she can't see a camera without showering it with kisses. I don't know how they managed to get all these wiggle-butts in one frame.

I got all teary-eyed and dorky over Alive Day, in part because of the overall awesomeness of peeps and pitties that it represents, but also because, not coincidentally, it marks the time I adopted Violet. Until the Vick story broke, I was a huge animal lover who was afraid of pit bulls. When the Dick, ahem, Vick, thing came about, I decided to take the bull (dog) by the horns and do some real research; of course, I fell in love. I devoured everything I could find about APBTs and became involved in a local rescue group.

Volunteering with the breed confirmed my suspicion that this was the breed for me, but I wanted to wait for the dog that "felt" right. Violet, nee Muffin, slunk into our rescue terrified of people but great with other animals. I met her four days after getting engaged and one day after I stumbled across a rare rental that not only welcomed pit bulls, but had a private yard with a beautiful garden in a great part of town. Serendipitous much?

Vi fits right into our family of two rabbits, a cat, and a bossy little parrot. The magic of obedience lessons and a lot of patience is coaxing our pretty girl out of her shell. Now if only we could get a picture of something besides her tongue ... her flying nun ears, perhaps? Or maybe her bully grin?

THANK YOU Bad Rap for being a key resource in bringing me to this breed, and ultimately to my girl. When she chewed up my favorite pair of shoes last night, I finally felt like a real dog owner. ;)

Donna said...

Hey thanks so much for that nice story, Chelsea. It made my morning.

Getting the dogs to sit still for one nano-second while trying to look relaxed and smiley for the cameras was insane. They were like greased piglets on Christmas morning with all the attention and excitement in the air. 'Woo people! And they're all staring at us!'

Nice to hear that Vi found her person and is now finding her place in the world. You're on the right track to use obedience to help build her self esteem. Have you considered doing something like agility to bring her out even more?

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a great photo. Tim Archibald deserves kudos for capturing such a great shot. Hopefully, this photo brings a smile to anyone who happens to browse this blog. To all bully lovers, Happy Alive Day indeed!

Doc Sinister said...

I love the photo... but where are the lady-dogs? Not available or not thrilled with the close-quarters picture taking?

Donna said...

Hey DS, Each of the girls would be fine in this setting but schedules and travel distance conflicted: the lovely Grace was in San Diego with her foster dad that day and Zippy was at a birthday party. Dog social Spider (now at Best Friends) would've loved to have all these fun dogs to play with, but alas, is too shy for scary one-eyed cameras.

Willie said...

I agree that all dogs are individuals, but to pretend that breed of dog has little do with predicting a dogs behaviour totally insults all the breeders out there that have worked so hard to create dogs that excelt at certain things. Breed does influence behaviour and ignoring that is dangerous for the APBT.

Donna said...

Hey Willie. Nobody's pretending anything here. The dogs that can live reliably with other dogs went into foster homes, and the group of dogs that couldn't handle being around other dogs went to a sanctuary. *Shrug* I don't know what else to say. They're just your average run of the mill pit bulls, and tons of pit bulls live with other dogs. How well they do depends on the individual dog and, especially, the people who set the rules. Even the old timey dogmen will tell you that.

Kellie said...

Whooohoooo! Happy Alive Day!
I love that...thanks for the blog as it is a warm reminder of the wonderful work Bad Rap and rescues in general are doing for pitties.

And what a wonderful comment above about your newly aquired pittie...thanks for learning about the breed, adopting a beautiful girl, and sharing the story! tear...tear...(of joy of course!)

PsyQuark said...

I have to agree with caveat, from a genetic, scientific and fighting perspective there is little evidence to support the idea that "dog aggression" is either the sole right of pit bulls or even that pit bulls are markedly different than the average dog.

From genetics one must remember the basic concepts: "Select against, not for", "Intentions and desires mean squat",
"not everything is genetic".

From a scientific view there has been little few studies on dog behavior, the fixation on animal behavior as the end-all and be-all has seen to that. Observer bias and the lack of good protocols and definitions doesn't help.

And finally from a (human) fighter perspective, aggression is a flat out liability. To win you need drive, doggedness (heh), and to get off on the adrenaline high. Hate and anger only clouds the view.

Sadly this focus on breed is hurting the dog species. From the damning of pit bulls as more aggressive ("They can turn at any time!" as pit bull advocate site often say) to the veneration of other breeds ("Labs are perfect! We don't have to teach it any doggy manners"), the very idea of observing their dog is treated with disgust.

If people would at least attempt to follow the rules bad rap gives for pit bulls then my neighbor and his dog might not have been mauled. But hey, those problems are only for pit bulls not Golden Retrievers.