Thursday, January 31, 2008

THIS is the Drug

I know that look.....The smile on this guy's face says EVERYthing. This is Dennis McCullough, finalizing a pit bull adoption at Hillsborough County Animal Services in Tampa FL. The same overcrowded place where we pulled Little Man last year. The same shelter that - despite all odds: perennial BSL threats, way too many pit bulls, never enough good adopters, depressingly high euth numbers, few resources and a tired staff - they're still trying to make a difference and keep a few good dogs alive.

Dennis is one of the backbones of the shelter. He has the crappy job of busting dog abusers and bringing their oft-damaged dogs into already crowded kennels. It must suck to be Dennis some days. But his shelter has made a commitment to put a handful of breed ambassadors in the Available ward. It's a brave new focus and it helps heal hurting hearts on days when so many good dogs run out of options.

So, Bravo to Hillsborough for selecting Brock (photographed) and for getting him into a home. Dennis' smile says it all, "Good luck little buddy. You beat the odds. Get out there and have yourself a life."

HCAS vet Dr. Roese wrote me this week with a plea for bully-tough toys for their custody dogs (Think: Vick-like dogs in longterm confinement with nothing to do. All. Day. Long). She says,

The budgets in Florida governments are put to the test and finding money for special projects is getting harder and harder...
Kelly works very hard with our Pit Bulls and we all want to improve the life of our long-term stay dogs (mostly Pit!!!). I appreciate your support ! - Dr. Roese

Hillsborough County Animal Services
440 N. Falkenburg Road
Tampa, Florida 33619

Wanna make a huge difference? Consider starting a Toy Drive for this under-resourced shelter. Or, for your own local shelter. We gotta stay busy helping the good guys help the animals that are counting on us.

In other news...

Luisa's wicked smart Lassie, Get Help Blog ponders the emotional state of infamous naysayers this week. It must be embarrassing to see scary fighting dogs get nibbled on by adoring foster parents.

The media's interest in the dogs hasn't waned. Some juicy opps for the dogs are coming up, including an interview with Kimberly Guilfoyle on FOX News this Saturday at 7pm PST.

Please remind your skeptical brother-in-law to watch for that pit bull guy (Tim, left) and his funny little fightin' dog on the telly.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hector de Ham

We had no idea that Hector was going to be such a media darling, but every other reporter that calls has been wanting more info about the handsome heart throb from Cheryl Wittenauer's wonderful AP article.

On Sunday, Hector's presence was requested at the KGO studios for a live interview with host Christine Craft. So Leslie and I chugged down coffee and made our way across the bay bridge to chaperone his date with radio fame. It didn't dawn on us until halfway up to the 3rd floor that Hector had probably never been on an elevator before. We did a quick check to see how he was doing: No problem. Hector was Mr. Cool, cocking his head and quietly studying the ding ding sounds, blinking lights and funny-stomach feeling of his first elevator ride. Huh. Such a pit bull.

In case you need to see him again (I do), take another look at Hector in this short video clip. Best line: "He likes to be upside down like a baby."


One of the prettiest little dogs from the Lucky Ten was unable to get to the press conference on Friday, so she's been missing out on some of the airtime. We look forward to helping her get her 15 minutes.

For now, here's her movie. Grace is a small, sassy, exuberant little love machine. What the hec was she doing on Vick's property? We'll never know. Enjoy.

Love those details

The writer of this article has been paying close attention to the nitty gritty details of the rescue operation. He suggests that we drop the label 'Vick dogs' (fine by me) and call them something different. Getting away from that label will be hard, though - Just as 2005's flood dogs will forever be branded 'Katrina dogs.' At least the dogs don't seem to care that we're stuck in a naming rut.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

All the News That's Fit to Print!

We never dreamed the media would offer up such positive press for the Vick dogs. Never! After biting our tongues for months 'til they were raw, letting the story go has been a HUGE relief. It's ping-ponging its way from paper to paper in various incarnations and with a variety of photos. The shot above (taken by Eric Risberg for the AP) happened last weekend in class. The brave idea was to get all the Vick dogs huddled up for a shot, but it would've been easier to get a dozen over-sugared pre-schoolers to sit still for school pictures. The laughs were worth it.

Below, a listing of publications and television stations that covered BR's dog launch. And come Monday, Best Friend's report will add a whole new layer to the tale. Wow. Just, WOW.

  • PHOTO GALLERY from the AP photographer's file of V-dogs in BR's class and with foster parents.

  • This wonderful AP story was picked up by over 200 papers and websites around the world. Thanks to Cheryl Wittenauer for creating such an artful piece.
  • Inside Bay Area did a beautiful Video Clip with Hector & Teddles, captured at the news conference. (I just LOVE this clip!)
  • KPIX did two nice News Clips with great quotes.
  • John Sasaki of KTVU did a very positive story, too.
  • A 3 minute story from NPR
  • And nice piece from --- Take that, C.W. Nevius
  • From the Mercury News.
  • And yet another article from Mercury News.
  • The Oakland Tribune wrote a positive.
  • A nice story with a photo of Stella, who traveled to CA in our RV trip, with Justin Phillips, a well respected peer and fellow Vick dog evaluator.

    And best of all, an appearance on CNN thanks to the good people at - who've been so very supportive. Tim was only too happy to get in that studio chair and outline what animal caregivers in the United States need to do to create a more humane society. Watch the report: CNN.

    If you like these positive stories as much as we do, please thank each and every writer and publication when you get a chance!

  • Friday, January 25, 2008

    Jan 25 - Last Defendant Sentenced

    Thank you for your patience and your support all these weeks. These
    'Vick' dogs are alive today because you imagined it as fiercely as we did.

    See the Dogs

    (the site may not work in Internet Explorer)

    Video Stories from!

    Introducing Jonny Justice, a survivor of Bad Newz Kennels...

    We are eternally grateful to Mike Gill and the U.S. Attorney Staff, Eastern District of Virginia, for saying "Yes"... to Special Guardian Master Rebecca Huss for losing sleep over the the staff of the USDA Office of Inspector General for working so hard to get the dogs to better the ASPCA for believing in the rights of all the rescue groups who brought them home,

    ...and to Rose - who taught us how to do it better the next time.

    Donna, Tim, Nicole, Steve
    & the rest of BAD RAP

    Sunday, January 20, 2008

    In the Farallones

    What do pit bull people do when they're not obsessing about pit bulls? At least one of them obsesses on other amazing creatures far from the maddening crowd. BR volunteer Sarah Chinn is 20 miles west of San Francisco this winter, interning with the elephant seals (and whales and great white sharks and cold cold winds) on the Farallon Islands.

    Thanks to the Internet, we've been getting a daily peek into Sarah's big adventures through her beautiful photos. What a treat. The pit bulls better mind their manners once Sarah comes home - We're guessing that tagging two ton elephant seals all day has taught her a thing or two about wrangling rowdy bulls.

    Saturday, January 19, 2008

    Are you or Aren't you a pit bull?

    In some towns, you don't want your pit bull to look like a pit bull for fear that the law will take him away from you. So you might convince yourself that he's a boxer mix. You know who you are (and we don't blame you one bit). In other places, you might convince yourself that your lab-mix is really a pit bull, because he's much too cool to be a lab - and who wants a lab when you can have a pit bull? (Yeah, we know who you are too)

    In Oakland, we want our dogs to look like pit bulls. I'm trying to decide if this dog is pit bully enough to qualify for the seal of pit bull approval. In other words, could someone who adopted this dog brag about having a pit bull, or would they be forever defending their right to own a rottie-mix?

    This one is tough. He's the perfect example why breed ID is a big joke....

    ...American Bulldogs can look like pit bulls can look like boxer mixes can look like chessies can look like mixed-breed anybody's-guess dogs.

    I liked this orphaned boy so much that I tried to convince myself that he's a misrepresented tri pit bull so he could come home with me.

    We live, sleep, eat and breathe pit bulls and we still scratch our heads over half the dogs we meet - like this one. He could be a full breed tri-color pit bull ... or 50/50 rottie/pit mix ... or he might not have one speck of pit bull in him at all. Who's to say?

    I was doing a pretty good job of it until an animal control officer at the shelter guffawed and said, "What are you doing with that dog?"

    Um...well...He could be a pit bull you know! Maybe.

    At the end of the day, all we have to fall back on is personality. Is it a solid dog with a penchant for staring you deep in the eye and declaring you the one and only most important human being on the planet?

    Well then, that would make him a pit bull. Maybe.

    Please tell me what you think. Yay pit bull? or No way Jose?

    EDIT: Thankfully, this boy was adopted from the shelter so we never had to come up with a label for him - although we might've done his DNA just for yuks. Here's a blog post about another tri-color dog that did come through our program. With tri-s being a new sought after coat color - Read: FAD - dogs that look just like this are turning up fairly regularly in shelters now. Unfortunately nothing seems to change: No matter the look, fad coat colors still tend to attract buyers who lose interest as soon as something different comes into fashion. And so it goes... Tri-fad Boy

    Can't decide? You're not alone. This poster from the National Canine Research Council might explain why people (including the media and shelters, too) have never been able to identify dog breeds based on their appearance. POSTER

    Monday, January 14, 2008


    This is one of those news clips that'll make anyone with a real heart in their chest break down and weep. God bless that dang dog and his people, Andrew and Clara.

    See the story and video HERE

    Tuesday, January 08, 2008

    Thank you, Missouri

    You know you're spending too much time away from home when your dog falls over and exposes his belly when the suitcase comes out of the closet. So sorry, Simon. Tim is in Missouri right now, working with the Humane Society of Missouri to assess 25 pit bulls from a recent fight bust; MO's biggest bust ever.

    We knew we were going to like these folks when we saw the slide show in this news article. The people of HSM are kind, realistic and they have that practical Midwestern sensibility that makes evaluating fight bust dogs seem as normal as trying out a new casserole recipe - Except it's certainly NOT normal to give abused pit bulls a fair chance in this part of the country, where breed prejudice is high and pit bull bans are dotted all across the state. Scary times in Missiouri.

    Did I mention how much we like these people? Brains AND balls. They understand that the odds are stacked against dogs like these, but they wanted to give them a fair chance. Unlike custody cases in so many shelters, 'their' dogs get environmental enrichment and a walk each day. Not easy when the shelter's already crowded, but I believe they would tell you that humane care is a right that every animal in their care deserves. They've even worked out some breed-savvy foster care should some of the dogs come out of this okay. (Tim's not allowed to stuff any in his suitcase before he leaves - Simon's orders)

    How do they look so far? Tim and the staff are still in the middle of the evals, but he told me today that the types of personalities and temperaments he's seeing are no different from the Vick dogs -- And that's a very good sign. We'll offer more info later, once shelter staff has the opportunity to review the findings and ready their report to their community.

    For now, we're just so damn glad to know that one shelter in the middle of BSL nightmares is willing to rise above the status quo. Keep your fingers crossed that - like the Vick dogs - these victims' stories bring new lessons and changed hearts in the heartland.

    PHOTO from St. Louis Post-Dispatch News on intake day.

    Saturday, January 05, 2008

    What trauma?

    We always love hearing from our adopters, especially from those that adopted years ago. This email was an especially nice surprise. When we boast about true-grit pit bull temperament, Pele always comes to mind. Her little body told all sorts of terrible tales when we met her over six years ago: She'd been overbred, fought, she was malnourished, and she had a fresh chemical burn down her back that split her skin wide open. When animal control found her, her chain had been wrapped around her neck so tightly that she was losing consciousness and on her way out of this world.

    Pele pulled through and lived on to be a well loved companion to a big hearted guy named Rick. What an optimist...Her story always reminds me to stop complaining when times get tough. From her person:

    Pele is still doing very well. She is very willful, athletic and loves sleeping next to her brother of 1 year (a 9YO Scotty rescue). Pele had to have a Cell Mast tumour removed August 2006. As a result her spleen became infected and was removed in November 2006. She has fully recovered and doing very well. Her muzzle is becoming very white, but she is very happy and very loving towards everyone - people, pets, etc.

    I just wanted to let you know that she is doing very well and that I am very thankful for the opportunity that your organization afforded me by letting me adopt her. I am been thru some ups and downs in the past 2 years, and Pele truly has been the best part of my life. Again, Thank you.

    No, Richard. Thank you.

    Friday, January 04, 2008

    Who cares if it's raining?

    Miso's adoption is official and that is all that really matters. A Pug, a Frenchie, and a squishy faced Pit Bull Terrier - easy to see why new mom Stephanie is all smiles. Happy New Year to bullys and bully-lovers everywhere!