Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Heroes among us - An award for a brave group in Ohio

Last winter, we learned about an incredible crew of people who make up the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County Ohio. There are shelter staff all over the country doing great things for animals. This group is extra special because they showed the world how to save dozens of pets including 162 dogs - most of them pit bull type dogs - after a horrible hoarding case in the midwest. The kicker was, AWL is sitting smak dab in the middle of BSL-hell in Ohio, where dogs that look like pit bulls are labeled "dangerous and vicious" based on nothing but appearance. So helping a large group of homeless pit bulls would be no small feat ... especially for a tiny org that operates on a shoestring budge in an antiquated facility.

AWL proved to everyone that doing the impossible is possible, and created safe housing for all the dogs, organized their vet care, evaluation and promotion, reached out to rescue groups around the country, and celebrated each dog who made his or her way to a new life. As a result of their resolve, they were selected for one of three awards presented by Partners in Shelter Services for outstanding efforts in 2010. Partners is a collaboration between BR and Animal Farm Foundation, and focuses on helping shelters get the information they need to build solid programs that support pit bull type dogs in their community. Each of the three award winning organizations will receive a monetary gift to help them advance their work with pit bulls.

One of the dogs they took in from the hoarding case was a boy they named Buck. Before he was Buck, he was known as Niko, and he lived with another dog and a man named Scot. Scot loved his dogs dearly but fell on hard times and was unable to care for them, so brought them to a place - called "Humane Sanctuary" - that many said was safe. He was no fool - even desperate animal control officers in Ohio have told us that they brought dogs to this place rather than have to put them to sleep in their own shelters. Desperate times. Unfortunately the sanctuary turned out to be a hell-hole for animals, as we reported back in March.

Top 3 Photos - Buck's intake photos on the day AWL rescued him.

Scot told us: "I took them there because it was the only no kill shelter that I found and there was no way I could care for them safely anymore. I still have both Sam, and Niko's bed, pillows, blankets, and a few of their toys. The Shelter said I should keep them because what they had there was fine and the bed would just get messed up. I love these two. They where my only friends."

When Scot learned that the sanctuary had been shut down by authorities for cruelty/neglect, he feared his dogs were dead or on their way to being dead. You can just imagine his relief when he read in the papers that every surviving animal had been rescued and was being re-homed by AWL. Who does that in Ohio? Scot followed their progress, found out that Buck had come to live in CA, then tracked us down so he could tell us Buck's story. He didn't want us to think that he was a bad dog owner for taking his dogs there or that he didn't care.

When we connected, Scot outlined the dogs' life story to us; their likes and dislikes and the training he had done with them. "They where both accustomed to Nutro and one nice high protein whole meat treat once a week. Two medium meals a day. 3 walks. 1 hour of play/workout time. With about a handful of treats in moderation. Bath time every two weeks and sleeping in bed. King size is best. Niko runs in his sleep and tends to kick. Sam just sleeps. They were well socialized with adults, kids, and other dogs in social environments, forests, dog run parks, and in city streets. They both walk on the right side normally. Sam doesn't pull, Niko does. I am so happy Niko is ok. I am wondering about Sam because he has had the harder life. they are both great dogs." (Note: Sam also found a home thanks to AWL)

When Buck arrived here to join BR's adoption program, he had the good fortune to find a foster home with Jaime Allen (Standing, right). Some might remember her as the adopter of 'Buzz' - the big bodacious blue who helped Jaime present hundreds of programs as part of the Humane Society Silicon Valley's humane education mission. Jaime was still hurting from the loss of Buzz when Buck arrived, and fostering him offered a sweet distraction from her grief. She noted the good manners that Scot had already built into the silly pit mix and shined them up enough to do demo work during summer camps for teens at the shelter. During training, the kids learned about animal welfare topics like overpopulation and adoption, proper care of pets, and practiced teaching some of the activities they will do with their campers. Buck helped with a special dog program called “My Dog Said What?” In this program, students are introduced to the importance of learning how to “read” your pet. Buck’s job was to not only entertain the kids, but also to show them how a well-behaved, happy, trained dog should act. Kids got to practice commands like “sit,” “wait,” “shake” and “down” with him.

Jamie told us: "My job as a humane educator is to give kids opportunities to practice citizenship, responsibility, and compassion because I believe doing that in a structured way can help save animal’s lives. Buck’s story is a perfect example of this – when we show compassion, beautiful and profound things can happen. The kids were amazed at how calm he was and that he had a “glass-is-half-full” attitude. They connected with Buck’s story, and they were imagining what it would have been like for their dog, and I think that was scary for them. If Buck hadn’t been rescued, no one would have been able to experience his gentleness, his silliness, and his ability to help kids understand what empathy looks like and how it feels."

Congratulations to the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County Ohio for earning the Compassion for Ohio Victims of Cruelty Award. We can't thank you enough for setting such a strong example and spreading the joy by saving the animals from the 'Humane Sanctuary' cruelty case. Ohio's animals are so lucky to have you on their side! Below: Buck gets into the swing of educating on his very first visit.

More photos of Buck at at work at camp. And, just being silly when he's not working. Compliments of photographer Tom Becker.

With many thanks to Jaime Allen and Buck for reminding us how important it is to let the dogs tell their stories.

According to the Animal Rescue League's website, the owner of "Humane Sanctuary" was found guilty of a second degree misdemeanor of animal cruelty with five years probation, fines, a ban on pet ownership for five years and a mandatory psychiatric evaluation. Hoarders are typically treated as people with a mental illness. More info including photos of the conditions of the sanctuary.

Ohio's statewide law that condemns pit bulls and dogs that look like pit bulls as "dangerous and vicious" at birth is still on the books, and dog owners like Scot who fall on hard times are currently left with only the most heart breaking of options for their pets. A sign of hope: Toledo, Ohio recently stepped out in front of the crowd by overhauling its dog regulations with new rules that do not discriminate by dog breed. The country holds its breath in hopes that the rest of Ohio follows Toledo's enlightened example.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday communion: Chicken strips and a boy named Chunk

To lift our moods on this crap-tacularly rainy day, new boy Chunk and I went for a little walk on a local golf course. It's usually empty during rain, so I looked forward to getting better acquainted with our new charge in a quiet, albeit soggy setting. We're designing best foster options for our new boys right now, and everything they can tell us about themselves makes the matching that much easier.

This lovely boy walked at my side like an old pro. Nice. He's a wee tiny thing, similar to Linda Chwistek's boy Audie in size. As cute as he is, Chunk hasn't wanted to take treats from our hands since he got here. It seems to be part of his submissive nature ... He's just trying to be a respectably polite doggy, since - in his mind - polite dogs don't dare take food from big tall hu-mans. While that's super sweet, we want to get him passed that so we can help him learn cool new manners and tricks that will help the world adore him. Plus, we want him to enjoy the fun of getting tasty treats from friends.

To help him feel more at ease, I chortled to him all around the golf course, especially during those moments when he looked up at me (which was often). Me, trying to read funny little him and him, looking up and trying to read funny strange me.

We got back to the barn and I laid chicken strips on the floor while he was feeling especially perky from his hike and stepped back ("I'm not looking"). Hmm? Then ...Slurp.

Then, chicken strips laid out on my outstretched hand on the floor. Careful nosing, then - Yes. Then, a choice morsel in my palm raised up closer to his face. He stared at me, questioning. Can I? 'Yes Chunk. Good boy.' He braved up and licked it from my hand, ever so careful not to use a tooth. Then, several more went down the hatch. A small hurdle for a dog who will soon learn that the world is a wonderful place full of welcoming, outstretched hands, treats and praise.

We always say that fostering is all about problem solving, working to soften those caveman behaviors and help streamline dogs from crap beginnings into real life: The barking, the poo dancing, the shyness, the over-exhuberant greetings. Every new dog has a pocketful of behaviors that need fine tuning. We take note, we puzzle, we compare notes and, with some luck, we solve. It's not rocket science to polish up a new dog, but it helps to bring a fresh eye to each individual. Who are you? What does the world look like to you? How can we help you find your way? I guess the rain was good for both of us tonight.

More pix of Chunk and Robin here.

Pit Bull Awareness Day

Thank you to everyone who attended our heavy-weather Open House at training class this weekend.

The rain held off just long enough for us to have an enjoyable couple of hours greeting the visitors and showing off the dogs. Jonny, Uba and Audie were a big hit of course. Not sure what they thought of the pawtographing part of the day, but our guests sure seemed to like it. Photo: Beth Cannon snapped Jonny signing "The Lost Dogs" for a fan.

Channel 26, a news station that serves SF's large Asian American community, came out and did a nice story on the dogs. If you're curious to see what Jonny, Uba and Pinky look with Cantonese subtitles, double click on the graphic to the right to see what the KTSF26 archive page looks like, paste the url in your browser, then fill in the fields as shown in the jpeg to get you to the story. I can't be sure, but the tagline next to the pit bull image seems to say, "Bulldog bite cases. Easy to generate fear of this dog, whether it be misunderstood Bulldogs." If you speak better Cantonese than my online translator, please share.

We were thrilled when some of the visitors who watched shelter dogs working in class applied to adopt them once class was done. We always love when that happens at our Open Houses, and it seems to be a pattern now! Many thanks to Patsy who stationed herself at the Berkeley shelter to handle impromptu tours. It paid off: A longtime resident who'd been at the shelter for nine long months (Ruby) found her people this weekend and is sleeping in her new home tonight. As part of our commitment to Berkeley's pit bulls, Ruby's owners will get free training in BR's classes, so we're thrilled to be able to help them transition. Stay tuned: Video junkie Becky Correia is preparing a fun video of the day with little snippets of interviews from guests who attended the event this weekend, so check back soon for that.

Below: Photo by Rob McNichols of Ruby with her new people, saying good-bye to a shelter volunteer. Congratulations Ruby and new family.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

welcome Ohio dogs

We welcomed two new guests to the rescue barn this past weekend. They're straight from a large cruelty case in Ohio that netted two hundred pit bulls. This case was special in that the survivors were moved to a local riding arena where HSUS staff and local volunteers worked long days for several weeks to keep the dogs going until they could be evaluated and moved to appropriate rescue.

You may see news blips pop up here and there as various orgs announce the dogs they took in - groups on the east coast especially. This rescue was particularly successful in the number of rescues and shelters that participated and the number of dogs that were saved as a result. A very happy success for the cruelty victims of Ohio.

Before "the boys" arrived, we combed a local Salvation Army for second hand leather chairs that can serve as cozy dog beds in the kennels. Twenty bucks a pop and our kennels are looking very homey and spiff.

You know how pit bulls love their creature comforts: when nothing much is going on, the boys are usually camped out in one of the chairs, snoring away. Ahhhhhh ... this is the life.

The newcomers are named Chunk and Rockin' Robin. Chunk - the black dog with the round head and Halloween pumpkin smile - is a middle aged stud muffin. Emphasis on stud. We think he's had a lifetime of making puppies based on his - ahem - behavior with the girls. A neuter will help square that away.

Chunk's got the Velcro-dog thing all worked out. When he's not in his chair, his favorite place is at your ankles. He does an amazing job winding in circles while looking up and begging eye contact. It's pretty impressive considering he doesn't have much in the way of a neck.

His sidekick Robin is a happy kid of a dog with crazy party boy eyes. He's our new favorite comedian dog. He's got a muscley little body, a low center of gravity and a big appetite for the flirt pole so we're having a great time with him already. We love us some Robin.

Sad to say, but it's already time to prep for the winter rains that will be here soon, so we're game-planning around weather proofing the barn, securing the fences and will be adding a healthy layer of gravel around the perimeter to keep the mud to a minimum once the rains take hold. After the barn puppies left, we tacked the star pattern tin ceiling panels on the walls to protect them from hose splash and busy diggers. We're rather fond of how it looks now.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to our photo contest last month. Your entry fees and votes helped us bring the Ohio boys here and are making it a whole lot easier to house them in comfort until they can move to foster care. Stay tuned as they work their way into our program, and our hearts. Below: Chunk discovers the joy of a butt scratch.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

PB Awareness Day - Join us in Berkeley Oct 23!

A fun day to look forward to. We'll be opening our doors from 11:30am - 1pm on Saturday, October 23. At BR's training grounds at Second St. & Addison Street in Berkeley. (Double click on poster to upsize)

Come out and meet Jonny Justice, Uba, Audie and friends next Saturday! Badrappers and Berkeley Shelter volunteers will be training dogs while you take in the sights and peruse our educational materials. There will be refreshments, games, mini-tours, an auction of paw-tographed copies of "The Lost Dogs" and some wonderful dogs to snuggle, including dogs that are looking for homes. Bring your camera!

HAPPY BRIBES: To encourage visitors who might not otherwise come to an event like this, we're giving a FREE GIFT to everyone who brings a guest who is not a pit bull owner. Grab your neighbor, dentist, work-mate or local politician and LET'S DO THIS THING!

Since this event takes place during our training classes, we have to ask that you leave your dogs at home. Thank you. See you soon!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

trading cards for your ambassadog

So your dog is a super star and changes minds wherever s/he goes, but how do you make sure that the impression she or he has made on the public lasts? One great way to give people something they can take home to ponder is a trading card with your dog's name, photo and accomplishments listed. They're small enough to tuck into wallets and pockets and relatively affordable and easy to create using online trading card websites.

Pit Bull celebs Jonny Justice and Hector both have them, but your dog should too, especially if you've both worked hard to create ambassador style manners.

As an example, here's the card that Jackie Gunby created for Salvador. He's the BR alum who found his niche doing therapy work in psyche wards, where he's helping soothe the most frazzled of nerves. (In case you missed this classic post, the story of Sal at work will give you chills.)

Sal's card lists his life philosophy ("Life is an Adventure"), his talents, a photo of his person Jackie, a list of his titles and accomplishments (Delta Partner, Canine Good Citizen cert, American Temperament Test Society) and website links to BR as well as the Delta Society, who sponsor the therapy work. But your dog doesn't need a packed resume to deserve a card. Just being a wonderful dog with nice street manners is a great reason to make your own.

You can list things like your dog's favorite activity, his nickname, where he came from and most definitely - list a website so your dog's most curious new friends can go home and do some research.

From Jackie's reports, it seems Sal has been turning heads and winning hearts everywhere he goes - both on the job and off. And we're betting that his trading card is being put to good use as new fans go home to brag about their chance meeting or dig up more info on the Internet. You gotta love it.

Do you have a favorite online resource for creating trading cards? We'd love to check them out! Please share here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

tearing down the BSL wall in Toledo

Toledo Ohio, a town that used to be a death camp for pit bulls - even going so far as to pay its former animal warden's office a bounty for every citation it wrote against pit bull owners - has decided to do away with its breed specific policy that once labeled dogs "vicious" based on looks alone.
Toledo City Council Tuesday approved a broad overhaul of regulations concerning dogs and their owners that establishes steep fines for dog bites and considers behavior rather than just breed when classifying a dog as a threat.

The regulations will replace the city's “vicious dogs” law, which a Toledo Municipal Court judge found unconstitutional in January. - Toledo Blade
It's a new day, friends! We're eternally grateful to the diehards who've been working against enormous odds to turn the tide in Toledo and all around Ohio. Bless you, good people!

Photo credit: The Berlin wall being torn down, published in The Washington Times.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

BADRAP at Florida Animal Control Conference Nov 20

We're being drawn to Florida again to present a talk on pit bull adoptions at the Florida Animal Control Conference in Orlando next month. If you're in the field of animal control in this state, we know how many challenges you face and how many wonderful pit bull type dogs you encounter in your work. Please join us on Saturday, November 20 for this presentation.
FACA Conference
One of our celebrated shelter partners in Florida is Hillsborough County Animal Services. They were recently recognized by Best Friends for their kick ass breed ambassador program, which has saved nearly 500 pit bulls since its inception in 2007. We credit a supportive shelter management and diehard volunteer crew for helping turn some major tide by the Tampa Bay.

Our friendship started when we visited HCAS with Animal Farm Foundation to brainstorm ways to help them increase their adoptions. We met Little Man there, and the rest is history.

This high volume shelter is one of our favorite examples for what a motivated group of people who want to help pit bulls can accomplish.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

And now, the Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar!

Calendars will be coming at you from every angle soon, which is a lovely thing indeed. They're an affordable way to support favorite causes and of course there's no better way to start conversations with your friends and workmates than a gorgeous new photo flashing at them every month from your wall. We're so pleased to announce that, not only is the Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar back in all its glory, several BADRAP dogs and kids will be making an appearance in this year's edition. Including this darling pair ...

Can you stand it? That's Christine Allen's daughter Natalie with Honky Tonk at the barn, surrounded by the barn puppies. Photographer Laura Moss spent a few days here in CA with our crew and captured some wonderful moments to add to the calendar.

Pre-order now and save 10% off the retail price. Inside the 2011 Calendar: Jonny Justice at work as a reading program dog, fight bust dog Daisy now living the California life, Eva and the barn puppies and even our girl Sally snuck her way into a freeze frame. They're keeping good company with several other gorgeous pit bulls and their people.

The founders of the Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar volunteer all their time to create this work, then generously donate 100% of the proceeds to rescue groups. It's a true labor of love. The kennels in our Rescue Barn were paid for by this calendar, for example ... That's recycling at its best. We'll sneak other photos from the calendar here onto the blog in upcoming posts, so check back later to see what some of the inside spreads look like.

Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar - Pre-Order Now

Buy it, love it, share it with everyone who needs a blast of these hardcore happy images. Many thanks to Jyo Buyyala, Laura and the rest of the UPBC volunteers for pouring so much of your hearts into this project and the dogs who benefit from it. Below, the talented Laura Moss at work, shooting Daisy with her adoring adopters, Jeanne and Neil Nutter.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

our cover stars represent

And our cover for the 2011 My Dog is Family Calendar goes too ...

... Tozi, the lovely senior brindle photographed by Anna Patterson of Gainesville Florida!

It was nearly impossible to pick just one photo. Our heads were spinning with all the winning shots that came in, including, a handful of sweet naked baby shots (gah!), flower sniffing dogs, arty shots, cuddle shots, action shots and a phethora of sofa surfing shots.

We kept coming back to Tozi's image though - in part because the photo has such beautifully rich color and crisp focus ... But it was the warmth and comfort of the boy & dog's relationship that bowled us over. They embody the theme of our contest: My Dog is Family. These two are all that.

Tozi's story sealed the deal...
Anna wrote, "Tozi is the perfect family dog. She was left at our county shelter nursing four puppies and missing a few teeth. When she and our then three year old son Rafael met, it was love at first sight. Now she is a Canine Good Citizen and a library reading dog. Mostly she is Rafael's best friend."

And all this, in Florida .. where dog owners bust butt each and every year to push back BSL threats and keep their dogs safe.

We'll announce the sale of the calendar in about 2-3 weeks (depending on how quick the design fairies pull the twelve images together into a sweet design). So hold tight. And thank you Anna Peterson, Rafael and Tozi for representing everything that makes us so proud to call these dogs family.

HolyMoly! A great finish to a great contest.

Picture a group of rowdy, enthusiastic pit bulls wrestling for primo spots on a too-small sofa. That's what the last hour of the photo contest felt like yesterday as last minute votes poured in, pushing images up and out and back in again to the final twelve calendar slots. I know we weren't the only ones howling as favorite images moved in and other favorites lost their seats. It was crazy!

Congratulations to EVERYone who played. You brought over 320 images and stories of pit bulls as family members to the public eye and helped educate and delight thousands who visited the contest every day. You also helped raise 20K for BR's rescue fund - which we use to help dogs in crisis get back on their feet. This ding-dong boy is in Ohio right now after surviving a large scale cruelty case. We can't wait to get him here to CA - and he has you to thank when he does!

We're currently reviewing the photos that made the top twelve slots to ensure that they're large enough to print in the 2011 My Dog is Family Calendar, and are going through the tortuous process of choosing a cover shot from the hundreds of fabulous images that were entered. (Heeeeelp!) The Photos

Thanks again to everyone who made this such a success! Below: Laura Rogers' boy Truman is coming to a wall near you.